Getting [Stuff] Done

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Past couple of days have predictably been a bit of a blur. Back and forth between the ship and station so many times that I often forget whether I am on ship or shore. The nearly constant “dock rock” doesn’t make it any easier to remember. The confusion has been a running source of mirth for folks around me, as I’m constantly grabbing things left out on a table and looking for a way to secure them against going flying when we hit heavy weather… Only to remember that I’m in the station lab, fixed to solid rock by steel pilings.

Not that the weather doesn’t lend itself to thoughts of things going flying. The forecast today is for continued winds in the 40-50 knot range, with gusts up to 65 (that’s 75 mph for the non-nautical among you). And the sky has alternated between bright shreds of rainbow against a dark gray sky and lashing rain that almost feels like it’s coming up from the sea to pelt us.

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But there’s an understandably stark beauty in these dire conditions, especially when contemplated from behind the Station’s double paned glass, while nestled beside its cozy little woodstove. (Because you’re going to ask: it’s fed by scraps left over from construction and carpentry projects.) And I do finally have some time to sit and contemplate. You know that story about the industrial specialist who is summoned to fix some misbehaving behemoth of a machine? He contemplates it for a minute or so, then leans over and presses a button, and the machine jumps back to life. When he presents his bill for $1000, the customer balks: How can he justify so much money for such a simple action? The specialist responds with an itemized bill: Pushing the button: $1. Knowing which button to push: $999.

I have worried about this trip of mine turning out to be a manifestation of that story – how much is it costing the US Antarctic Program to send me all the way down here to just to ostensibly plug in a $35 computer?

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Thing One – the new experimental waterwall computer

Four days in, I no longer worry about having to justify my passage. While everything initially seemed to come up and start chugging data as intended, it wasn’t long before things were clearly departing from expectations. And it took a good couple of days of thinking and poking, and the “$999 worth” of knowing the innards of the system to realize what was going on: the live data feed included an assortment of unexpected non-printing control characters that weren’t in the sample data it had been built up for. Once we figured that out, the “$1 worth” of button pushing fixed it, and now it’s working as intended.

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There is still a lot more I need to do, both on ship and shore, before we pull away and head north, but for me, the crux of what I came here to accomplish is done. The rest is cleanup and help out. Amid the carefully choreographed chaos of station closing, there are plenty of opportunities to help out. And when the work is done, it seems there’s still more to do – open mic one night, salsa lessons the next (spoiler: I still have two left feet, but nobody died). Milk and cookies in the galley. And stories – oh, there are so many stories here, whenever you sit down and start talking. Seems everyone has put in a few winters at one station or another. Or done something equally otherworldly. I picked up the conversation in the dishwashing line as Josh was explaining “..but the first time I shaved my head was when I was living in the jungle in Borneo…”

That kind of thing.

I’m out of here on Friday, taking the summer crew north, but there’s already so much here calling me back…

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3 responses to “Getting [Stuff] Done

  1. It looks very comfortable where you are sitting next to the stove! Glad you found a wee challenge to make your job more interesting to you. I still think you should write a murder mystery in that setting. It’s the perfect isolated country house environment…


  2. Again, as a relatively new reader, until today I didn’t really understand what you did down there — but then, I always had to call someone else for tech support. 😀


  3. Very cool Pablo. I’m glad you were able to exercise your brain and fix the problem. Enjoy what time you have left there and safe travels home.




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