(This is from a "travelogue" e-mail sent out Mar 7, 2008)
Work has gotten a lot more interesting in the last couple of days. Brian and Brian, the regular Comms Techs, have been kind of ignoring me while they do their real work, and I've just been doing the menial things like reprogramming people's pagers when they drop by the office. Yesterday, B&B had to fly over to the other side of the Ross Sea to fix some radio equipment that has been giving us trouble lately. One of the places they went is called 1882, which you can see here http://www.sethwhite.org/images/dry%20valleys/peak%201882/taylor%20valley%20entrance%203.jpg. If you look at the tallest peak, you will see that there is about a 3000' drop-off into the valley below. It is supposed to be spectacular. They needed me to be up on top of a hill here on the island, with some diagnostic gear, to help them set up a link. "T-site" is a clean room with racks of NASA servers and radio gear-- you wouldn'tknow from inside that you were in a remote place. Here we use the same technology that powers wireless internet to provide data service overlong distances. Basically the WiFi hot spot you use at the localStarbucks can be extended for miles across sea ice and valleys. Beakers(scientists) living in tents in remote parts of the dry valleys can surf the web just like they were at home. Some links have been slow lately, so we've been trying some different things. I got to set up these data radios (Cisco 1310 802.11g wireless bridges) on a test bench, hook them up to laptops, and make them talk to each other. I'm learning how to use hyperterminal and telnet and things like that, which may not ever come in handy in my life, but at least I feel like I'm learning something. Brian and Brian are typical Comms Techs-- they came to doing this after many years of doing it in the service. Since the whole Antarctic support system is a civilian replacement for the old Navy support, they fit right in. I've been feeling pretty self-conscious about my ignorance,but hey, someone decided to hire me. The season has been a lot like I expected it to be, and it's good. I have had a ton of time to read. So far, I have finished The Power of Now, read How the Irish Saved Civilization, How on Earth Did JesusBecome a God: Historical Questions About Earliest Devotion to Jesus, and I'm halfway through a book called Jihad vs. McWorld that I picked up ata garage sale. (See:http://www.amazon.com/Jihad-vs-McWorld-Globalism-Tribalism/dp/0345383044) It's really good, and extremely well written. It's about the rampant spread of American Cheese-Whiz culture (Disneyland, MTV, Starbucks...)all over the world, and the cultural backlash to it. It was written in the mid-nineties, but it's dead-on accurate to what's going on now. To balance the sitting around reading, I've been getting out, too. I went over to the NZ base and played darts with some interesting charactersuntil about 11PM last night. I think I mentioned the Italian diving instructor from Ohio, and the plumber who just finished working in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The Kiwis also have some interesting things going on. They are going through the supplies in the old explorers' hutsover the winter, cataloging and studying them. They will then return them to the original huts, where they are kept as more or less a museum.I took some pics of the inside of the Discovery Hut here at McMurdo,which I'll send along when I can get access to a computer with photo-editing software, so I can resize them. Well-- better get back towork now.
Talk to you soon,