Thursday, December 13, 2007

So long, and thanks for all the...chicken

In a few short hours, I'll be hopping on a C-17 cargo plane and heading home by way of New Zealand. Leaving is somewhat bittersweet as I don't know when or even if I'll be back to Antarctica again. People often ask me "Why Antarctica?" It's such an amazing and intense place. You end up living and working in such close quarters with people that you can't help but get to really know them. The quality of friendships forged down here amazes me the most. I feel very fortunate to be walking away from this experience with a bunch of really great friends. The other great thing about Antarctica is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to learn a lot about myself and the world. And you can't beat the scenery. I've seen landscapes that take your breath away.

With all that said though, I'm really excited to get home and settle back into life. Hopefully I'll be able to relax for a few days before starting back to work. There's also a lot of work in the coming weeks and months to get Elizabeth and my wedding and reception arranged. She's been handling all of the details while I've been gone so it's about time I go back and start lending a hand.

Some of you may remember that I had a bet going about not eating Frosty Boy. I'm proud to say that I made it the whole season, as did Cara. So yesterday we met at dinner and each had a bowl. It was delicious, but I'm still glad I held out.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

A harrowing journey

Yesterday I barely returned from a traverse to a geological feature called Castle Rock. The conditions were appalling. The sun beat down from a clear blue sky and a cold wind howled down the ridge. It was like hiking across a mirror under a full afternoon sun. My face bore the brunt of the sun and wind's assault. My sunglasses were the only thing that saved me from snow blindness.

In all seriousness, though, it was pretty foolish of me to forget to put sunscreen on while out hiking for 4 hours. The sun down here ravages your face if you're out for any length of time. And I'm paying the price today. It's been a rather hard season on my face, with frostbite early on and sunburn now. I'm going to come home and be pretty leather faced. The trip yielded some nice photos, though:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Final Week

This marks the start of my final week on ice. We got up early this morning and saw a large group of ANDRILL folks off. With this mass exodus, our numbers are cut in half. It was hard seeing people go, but there's still a lot of work to be done and I will see many of them in Florida in a couple of months.

The last couple of days have been alternating between full on and relaxed. I'm sitting in an office with Rich, Laura, and Leslie, so there is always something going on or someone coming and going. Fortunately, when things do get stressed, someone busts out a joke and breaks the tension.

I'm looking forward to getting home and some R&R. This season seems to have taken it out of me more than last, but last year everything was new and novel. Anyhow, no pictures this post. Hopefully I'll have some for the next post. Cheers.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Antarctic Vehicles 4: Tucker Sno-Cat

Yesterday I added another vehicle to my repertoire, the Tucker Sno-Cat:

We had to get out to the drill site for a video conference and the only vehicle available was this trusty Tucker. It's slow like a Pisten Bully--our hand held GPS unit had us clocked in at 11 knots, which is just over 12 mph--but the ride was fairly smooth since it actually has a suspension. The Tuckers must be quite durable as this one was manufactured in 1984--only 2 years after I was born.

On the way out to the site, we ran into some pretty dicey weather. The snow was blowing so bad you couldn't see the next flag on the route until you were almost on top of it, so we had to drive by GPS. It's frighteningly easy to get lost in conditions like that if you lose the flags.

When we were leaving the drill site, there was a group of penguins that came to check out the Tucker from a distance:

This may be the end of the Antarctic Vehicle series. I think I've driven most of the ground vehicles available to the scientists, and I didn't have much luck convincing the helo pilot to let me fly it. This is Tucker Trucker 072 signing off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wright Valley

Things have been busy since I last wrote. I made the transition back to the day shift. It wasn't too terrible. I did 18 hours up, 4 hours of sleep, then 24 hours up before the transition, so I just passed out for 12 hours from exhaustion and was on day shift schedule.

The first couple of days on day shift were a bit rough. I was fairly tired and there are a lot more people and a lot more going on during the day. I felt like everyone was coming at me and getting in my way in the Galley. Things are better now, though, as I integrate more fully with the hustle and bustle of days.

Yesterday, I went on a fam trip to Wright Valley in the Dry Valleys. The vistas were enough to take my breath away. My pictures don't do them justice, but I've included a few here:

This is a shot of the Air Devron Six Icefalls from our banking helicopter. The icefalls were spectacular. It looked like a waterfall frozen in time. The ice that is spilling over is from the Polar Plateau, the ice sheet that covers most of the continent.

Here's another shot of the icefalls from the Dais. In the foreground, you can see a feature called the Labyrinth.

This is another shot of the Labyrinth. If you didn't see the snow in the background, you might think you were in the American southwest.

This is down in Wright Valley proper. You can see some alpine glaciers spilling down the valley walls.

There's got to be worse places to sit down and take a rest.

This is an aerial shot from the helo on the flight back to McMurdo.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Pictures

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanks to all of you that sent me Thanksgiving wishes. I hope everyone had a good meal, especially if it was turkey. We don't get turkey dinner until tomorrow, but if last year is any indicator it will be good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

We officially terminated HQ drilling last night at the depth of 1011.08 meters below sea floor (mbsf), just below our target depth of 1000 mbsf. Hats off to the drillers!

A picture from the drill site to commemorate crossing the 1000 mbsf mark and one from the Crary night shift:

Even though we've hit our target depth, there is still a lot of work to be done. A group of scientists went out to the drill site today to do measurements on the bore hole. Over the next couple of days, they will be sending various instruments down the hole to collect data about the physical properties of the rocks.

Back here at Crary, we still have ~200m of core to log and sample. About the time we get caught up, the drill site is going to be drilling another 50m or so to perform an experiment at the bottom of the hole, so we'll have to log that. That should bring us to the beginning of December or so, where the focus will shift to writing up the results and on-ice report. When that's done, we'll have to pack up all of the gear and get it ready to ship home. Busy, busy, busy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Snarky Jar

We reached the point in the season where people, myself included, are getting tired and short tempered with people. To combat this, Laura and I decided to create a "snarky jar" in our office:
If someone comes into the office and complains or makes a snarky comment, then they have to pony up some money to put in the jar. The rules are the same for Laura, Rich, Leslie, and I. The general going rate is $0.25/snarky comment or $1 for a particularly good rant. I've already contributed almost $5. At the end of the season, we're going to take the contents of the jar and treat ourselves at the bar. And to protect the snarky jar from any thieves, we've got a guard:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vehicles 3: Skidoo

This is my third post in an unofficial series about the vehicles I've driven while down here. I had to test some video conferencing hardware from the drill site, so Rich, Christina, and I hopped on skidoos and headed out there:

The skidoos are a bit inconvenient if you have a bunch of stuff to carry, but they make for a nice and quick ride. If the weather is nice and the trail is in good condition, you can get moving at a pretty good clip. We had full face helmets, which I'm obviously not wearing in the picture, so the wind and cold is not a problem. The helmets also make you feel a bit safer, but I'm pretty sure if you fly off your skidoo at 60mph and hit the ice, the ice will win helmet or no helmet.

The drill site was pretty much same old, same old. The VTC hardware worked on the first try. A core came up while we were out there, so we got to watch the process pulling the core barrel up and extracting the core. We were lucky to be there at the right time. I also got a nice shot of Mt. Discovery illuminated by the sun:

Monday, November 12, 2007

One Month Left

Sorry for the long time since the last post, it's been pretty busy around here. We've had good weather these last couple of days, so the core has really been flowing in. We're down to about 670 meters below sea floor. With our current drilling pace, we're poised to reach our target depth in the next two weeks. The season seems to have flown by. There's less than a month left for most of the science team. I'm leaving on the 14th, so I've got just over a month left.

I haven't had much time to do anything other than work, but I did sneak out the other morning and take a few pictures from hut point. I particularly like this one:

It's of Vince's Cross, a memorial to George Vince who died in an accident nearby in 1902.

Tomorrow night I'm heading out to the drill site to test some VTC equipment. It'll be on skidoo, so that should round out my Antarctic vehicle blog series. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Scott's Discovery Hut

Well after the excitement of Condition 1 last night, today was bright and clear. The same system that produced the storm last night is supposed to move back in tomorrow. We took advantage of the break in the weather to go tour Scott's Discovery hut. I've walked by in a hundred times but this is the first time I actually got to go inside it. The hut was used primarily for storage, and as you can see in the photos below, they liked their biscuits:

While I was waiting to get into the hut, a plane was taking off from the ice runway headed to the Pole:

Ann Curry and her crew were on the plane. If you look real close, you can see her waving to me.

Finally, when I was walking back to my room last night, I saw something that made me giggle:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Condition 1

The helos were able to get out to the drill site and bring some core back this morning. It's a good thing, too, because the weather turned nasty again:
This is the same view out my office window as the picture in the "A Cruel Mistress" post below. We're officially in Condition 1, so we can't go to lunch until things clear up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Not too much going on here. The Today Show had a live broadcast yesterday and this morning. We've been working away, though we've been hampered by the weather. There have been no core flights the last two nights so now the sedimentologists are caught up. If there is no flight today, we may not have much to do tonight. They've been making great progress out at the drill site so they're getting pretty backed up. At least the temperatures have been much warmer than last week when I froze my ears off.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Cruel Mistress

Things have been cold the last day or so, but I didn't realize how cold it was until I had to make an emergency dash down to the skidoo berm (don't ask, it's a story best told over a beer). The berm is a fairly decent jaunt out onto the sea ice:
In my haste to get down there, I threw on my wool hat and big red and headed off at a run. I remembered it being cold out when I came to work but I was totally unprepared for how cold and windy it was out on the ice. I was only down there for 15 minutes or so but in that short amount of time I frost nipped both of my ears and one of my fingertips. It's no surprise, either, considering it was -50F in the wind and I was running into it on my way back. I've got feeling back in my fingertip and the swelling in my ears is subsiding. They are quite red, so I look pretty comical, but I don't think they will blister. Antarctica is a cruel mistress.

UPDATE: My ears are still pretty red, but doing better. They look and feel like they've been severely sunburned. This whole incident has given me a healthy respect for how quickly frost nip and frost bite can happen, even if you're wearing your hat, parka, and gloves.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drill Site Visit, Part 2

Last night we went out to the drill site for a tour of the drill rig. There were only 4 of us on the trip so we got to skip the Pisten Bully and got to drive in style:

This badboy is a Ford pickup that's been outfitted with tracks. It's a faster and much smoother ride than the Pisten Bully. The only downside is that you can't turn the tracks when it is not moving, so backing up can be a tricky, especially in a tight space.

The drive out to the site was pretty uneventful. There was a bit of blowing snow and drifting, which kept things interesting. The transmission was also running a bit hot so I had to call into Mac Ops Out at the camp, everything is pretty exposed so the wind was quite nasty.

Alissa gave us a nice tour of the drill rig and camp. Even though I made a bunch of trips out to the drill site last year, this was the first time I got to go inside the rig. It was pretty interesting, though a little anticlimactic since all you can see is a dirty hole in the ice with a pipe sticking out of it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's not all computers

I spend the vast majority of my day in front of a computer doing various things, but I also like to pitch in and lend a hand, especially for the curators who work their tails off. Here's a shot of me and Phill bringing down some core for the sedimentologists to describe:

As you can see I'm keeping up shaving. My boyish good looks drive the ladies down here crazy. Ok, so I made that last bit up.

In Frosty Boy news, I almost broke down and had some the other night. It was Chris's 50th birthday party so Leslie baked a decadent chocolate cake. It was just begging to be topped with a dollop of Frosty Boy. However, I held strong and settled for a glass of milk.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Condition 2 Blues

We had a storm blow in Sunday night that made things nasty to be outside on Monday. McMurdo was in condition 2 and everywhere else was in condition 1 for most of the day. The drill site reported it was like living in a marshmallow--they couldn't even see the rig from camp. The storm kept the grounded the helos, so the core was backed up at the drill site until this morning when they were finally able to fly. They brought back over 60 meters of core. From this you can probably guess that the drilling is progressing well. The core has also been pretty interesting to my untrained eye. There's been a fair amount of variability in the lithologies and it seems like every night yields some thing new and exciting. I need to head back to it. Cheers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Still fighting the good fight

I'm still fighting the good fight against Frosty Boy. I wavered, just for a moment, when Kurt brought a brownie topped with Frosty Boy and slathered in hot fudge. But I held strong and skipped dessert altogether.

The weather has been pretty variable. We'll have a couple of nice days (>0F temps with not much wind), strung together and then followed by some downright nasty days. It's never so much the temperature as it is the wind. Today we had 30mph sustained winds which plunged the temperature to well below zero.

I think I'm fully adjusted to the night shift. I've been less and less tired in the mornings. I've even made it to the gym almost every day this week, which is no small feat because I've been working some long, 16 hour shifts. Some of this is due to an increasing amount of core coming in and some due to some work back home. Hopefully in a week or so things will settle down into a steady routine.

I've been working on some new Corelyzer plugins which I hope to be able to roll out soon for people to check out. Corelyzer is a visualization system that we use to look at our high-resolution core imagery. Last year we were able to pull up the core images and some line graphs. This year we've improved things by bringing in the lithology strip from PSICAT. I'm working on visualizing other core data and imagery we are capturing.

Anyhow, I need to head to bed. I've been up since 8PM last night (it's 2PM now) and I need to get up again in another couple of hours. Cheers.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

150,000 in ODM

Well, in some non-Antarctica-related news, I got an email from my good friend Bill Ryan today. He sent me a note to let me know that the ODM software him and I wrote when I did an internship at the Mayo Clinic just surpassed 150,000 CDs. The purpose of the software was to incorporate outside digital media, such as digital x-rays, MRIs, etc., from other hospitals into the Mayo system. So if a patient had some exams done elsewhere and the results were available in digital form, he wouldn't need to have the same exam re-done when he was referred to Mayo.

The actual ODM software isn't all that sophisticated--suck in the contents of a CD, make a digital archive copy, fire off the images to be processed by the imaging services. All of the magic is done behind the scenes by the imaging services Bill wrote. Nevertheless, it was a great experience to be able to work in a diverse team and I learned a lot. And we must have done something right--they are rolling out the ODM software to Mayo's other two locations in Jacksonville and Scottsdale.

On the Antarctic front, things are starting to ramp up. The core recovery has been steadily increasing. Last night we had ~15m with 97% recovery. The sedimentologists have been able to stay on top of the incoming core, and haven't run into too many problems, so I've been able to focus on getting a bunch of other stuff, like sample requests from the drill site, sorted out. I'm looking forward to it slowing down some. I'm averaging about 16-18 hours of work. Sprinkle some gym time most days on top of that and you can quickly run yourself down. And that's the last thing you want to do with all the bugs going around. They've taken to quarantining people to their rooms to stop the spread of the flu. So far I've been lucky.

Anyhow, I had better grab some shut eye.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pastels over Black Island

Here's a shot of the sunrise over Black Island:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Switched Shifts

Well, I survived the shift switching process. Yesterday was difficult. I ended up doing a 30 hour stretch awake. By the end I was exhausted. Last night was easier because I had started adjusting and there were more people around. It turned into sort of a long day, though. We had some last minute problems that kept me in the lab for an extra 4 hours. So now I'm ready to collapse. Tonight I'm going to try and catch a few pictures of the moon and the sunrise. This morning there was a particularly beautiful sunrise but I couldn't be bothered to go out and take a few pictures of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Switching Shifts

Things are progressing well down here. Nearly all of the computers are setup, there's just a few loose ends to take care of. The drilling is also progressing well. The riser has been embedded and core should start arriving tomorrow night. The arrival of the core means it's time for me to switch shifts. I prescribe to the "stay up for 30 hours" method of switching shifts, so I'm going to try to make it to at least 10AM tomorrow before I go to bed.

In other news, I'm still Frosty Boy free. It's actually easier than I thought it would be. Cara doesn't appear to be wavering, so I suspect we'll end up splitting a 6 pack at the end of the season.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drill Site

A couple of days ago I drove out to the drill site to set up some computer systems. The drill site is about 25 miles outside of McMurdo on the sea ice. Because I was bringing a bunch cargo and a couple of people out, I took a Pisten Bully:

The Pisten Bully has a top speed of 13 mph with a tail wind and rolling down a very steep hill, so the 25 miles took over 2 hours. It was pretty nice to get out of town and see some of the scenery. In the picture above, Mt. Erebus, an active volcano, is over my shoulder. It is too bad that there was some clouds obscuring the mountain. The picture below shows the "road" out to the drill site:
That black speck on the horizon is the next flag. It's a pretty desolate route.

Condition 2

Today we woke up to condition 2 severe weather in Mactown. Condition 2 is declared when one or more of the following conditions are met:
  • Sustained wind speed 48 knots to 55 knots
  • Wind chill temperature -75°F (-60°C) to -100°F (-73°C)
  • Visibility 1/4 mile to 100 feet
In our case, there was a lot of blowing snow causing very limited visibility. Condition 2 is unpleasant to be out in, but it doesn't really affect us in the base. We can still go about our day to day business. I find the definition of Condition 2 rather telling--basically it says that wind up to 55MPH and wind chills up to (or rather down to) -75F are considered "normal". I've thrown in a few pictures to give you an idea of what a storm looks like when it is blowing in:

There are mountains out there...somewhere. And this is what it looks like with some mildly unpleasant weather in town:

It is still Condition 3 (normal) in the picture, but it wasn't too fun to be walking around in.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Just Say No to Frosty Boy

Those of you who followed the blog last year may recognize this picture of me with a bowl of Frosty Boy. This season I've decided to abstain from Frosty Boy. It's oh so good, but not all that great for you. For incentive, Cara and I have a bet going to see who can hold out the longest without having Frosty Boy. The person who gives in first has to buy the other a six pack of beer. Poor Cara, I don't think she realized the extent of my resolve when she bet me. I'll blog about it when the inevitable happens and she gives in.

Besides avoiding Frosty Boy, I've also decided to groom myself (aka shave and get haircuts) this season. This is mainly because I looked like crap most of the season last year. Surprisingly a lot of people want me to grow it out again, but I have to pass because it won't even be filled it out by the time I leave.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


One of the perks with being down here so early in the season this year is that I actually got to see a few Antarctic sunsets:

The picture doesn't really do the sunset justice. The pastels are gorgeous, especially when you get them reflecting off of the clouds. The sun is still setting but it's getting later and later. Soon enough it will be light 24 hours a day.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm not dead (yet)

Despite what my lack of posting might suggest, I'm not dead. I actually arrived in Antarctica on Tuesday afternoon. It's kind of spooky being back here because it feels like I left just a week ago. We had absolutely gorgeous weather--only -10F--for our flight down and for our first couple of days on base. I was able to walk around in just my jeans and Big Red parka for the first two days. On Friday, the wind picked up and things got a lot colder around here. I'm back to wearing my long underwear underneath my jeans and heavy fleece.

Things have been busy since we arrived which is the reason why I haven't been blogging--just too much to do. As you can imagine, a lot of work goes into to setting up and running a fairly large (~60 person) science operation in Antarctica. I'm happy that I only have to deal with the computer stuff, which is just a tiny part of the overall workload. Most of our cargo arrived today, so I suspect I'll spend tomorrow setting up computers.

Next week, I have to do a vehicle training so I can drive the various vehicles (trucks, mattracks, pisten bullies, and snowmobiles) down here. I am also heading out to the drill site to set up a Corelyzer system out there so the drill site scientists can look at the core images we generate in McMurdo. The other thing I'm hoping to do is test our video conferencing hardware. We brought down a Polycom system for doing video conferences with groups back home. The camera works, but the big concern is whether it will consume too much bandwidth. I guess only time will tell.

I've got a few pictures that I wanted to include in this post, but I forgot my camera cable in my room. So I'll include them in the next post, which will hopefully be tomorrow. Cheers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Botanical Gardens

We went and got our gear on Tuesday. Since I knew what to expect, the gear issue was pretty straightforward this year. They simplified the number of things you have to wear on the plane. So I can actually wear my own underwear-type of gear and then just throw on the wind pants and coat. I also opted for some Carhart overalls rather than the standard issue wind pants. I didn't have any problems with the wind pants last year, but the Carharts seem a bit more comfortable. We'll see, though. I shouldn't have the occasion to use them unless I make a bunch of trips out to the drill site on skidoos (which I'm hoping to do).

After the gear issue, we had a spot of tea and then headed back into town. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around the botanical gardens and the Canterbury museum. I snapped a few shots of flowers. Actually, I snapped many shots of flowers, only a few turned out. The first one is just a picture I liked:
And here's another...see if you can spot the hidden bird:

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I made it to Christchurch, NZ after a surprisingly uneventful trip. A little Benadryl helped me sleep 8 of the 12.5 hours from LA to Auckland. All of my bags arrived, which was a big relief.

Christchurch is just as I remember it and I instantly fall back into old, familiar habits: making dinner plans with people to meet at the Dux for dinner, strolling along the Avon river on my way over to the fish and chips place, wandering around Cathedral Square watching the tourists snap photos. The only change I've noticed is that one of my old haunts, the Asian food court where you could get a ton of food for a very reasonable price, appears to be under construction. There's no indication of where it moved, so it looks like I'm S.O.L.

Tomorrow morning we head out to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) and try on our gear. We're scheduled to fly to the ice on Wednesday. There is a flight going out tomorrow morning. I really hope they make it because if they boomerang, then our flight gets pushed back. The more backed up we get, the less time we have to set things up when we get down there. I'm starting to realize that time is of the essence.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Down to the wire...

I'm back in Minneapolis after successful trips to Phoenix and Lincoln this week. Phoenix was a personal trip. The Bogotron invited me down for some R&R and let Mike and Margie cook for and entertain me. Lincoln was a work trip. We got a lot of stuff sorted out, and also ended up realizing there's a lot left to do. That's OK, though. As the Kiwis are fond of saying: "No worries." On the vaguely work-related front, PSICAT has been getting a lot of attention recently so that's rewarding.

Tomorrow Elizabeth and I have a fair amount of packing and errands to run before we head our separate ways on Saturday. Tomorrow is also my last chance to get some decent food. I'm going to miss my Chipotle burritos, so I'll probably have to stop and have one for lunch. I also think I'm going to cook some halibut steaks with a pineapple salsa for a nice, romantic dinner.

On Saturday I fly to Los Angeles by way of O'Hare, so that will be about as fun as a kick to the head. Last year I almost missed my flight to New Zealand because nothing ever gets out of O'Hare on time. I hoping for better luck this year. I'm also hoping I win the seat lottery on the flight to New Zealand. If I get stuck middle-middle, you can bet I'm going to be taking advantage of the complimentary beer and liquor.

In Christchurch, I'm staying at the Windsor Bed and Breakfast. I stayed there last year and it was great. The owners are really nice and it's centrally located for easy walking to places. My two planned stops are this hole in the wall fish and chips place I found on my first visit to NZ and the Dux De Lux for a few beers.

I know a lot of people are following the blog again this year. If there's something you're curious about or want to see, drop me a line via email or the comments and I'll do my best to put it in a blog post. I also have a few invites for Dopplr, so if you do a lot of traveling yourself or have an intense burning desire to know where I am, let me know. Cheers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the road again

Today marks the beginning of my 3 month traveling tour. The North American portion is making stops in Phoenix, Lincoln, Minneapolis, and the always lovely LAX. The abroad portion includes stops in New Zealand and Antactica, my home during October, November, and half of December. If you need to get a hold of me before the 29th, email and cell phone are your best bet. After the 29th, email or snail mail. This blog should receive regular attention, so if you're just interested in what I'm up to, check back. Cheers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dr. Dobbs in Print!

I got a welcome surprise today--they ran my article in the print version of Dr. Dobbs as well! My two copies arrived this morning. I had to snap a few photos:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Antarctica Bound (almost)

Where has the summer gone? I walked outside this morning and shivered because the temperature was in the 40s. Which is rather silly considering where I'm going in two weeks, the weather will be far colder.

It's been a long time since I last posted here. I've been doing a lot of traveling recently for work, so I haven't been home all that much. In the last month and a half, I've been in Lincoln, Tallahassee, and Germany. And then next two weeks are shaping up to be no different. I'm heading out to Phoenix to see my uncle on the 20th. I return to Minneapolis on the 24th and then turn around and head to Lincoln for the 25th through the 27th. I'm home on the 28th and then leave for Antarctica on the 29th. Fortunately Elizabeth has been and continues to be a good sport.

Work has been progressing at a fast and furious pace. There's a lot of stuff that I'd still like to get done before I ship out. Every one, particularly in the Science Management Office, has been working their tails off to make this season even more successful than last year. I'm just thinking we shouldn't have set the bar so high with last year's success! :)

In other news, Dr. Dobb's Journal published an article I wrote about PSICAT. It's a good introduction to the internals and technology behind PSICAT.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

It Lives!!

Today I bought and installed a draft beer tower on to the refrigerator that I converted to a kegerator. Previously I was just dispensing the beer with a picnic tapper hanging on the inside of the door. Now there's no need to open the fridge up unless you need to change out the keg inside.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Josh: 0, Bees: 1

I had a little run in with some bees this weekend. Elizabeth and I were walking through the woods on the northeast side of Cedar Lake yesterday morning. I was messing around down in the water and Elizabeth had walked up some wooden stairs built into the hill. All of a sudden she came running down to the water's edge yelling about bees. Before I knew it we both were getting stung. Needless to say we vacated the area at a run. The total damage: 3 stings to Elizabeth and 2 to me. All of Elizabeth's cleared up to the point that they were only a little swollen and a itchy, as did the one on my leg. The one on my arm, however is a different matter:

It's been a solid 24 hours since I was stung so hopefully the swelling starts to go down soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Moving Progress Update 1

Well it's been about a week and a half since we got moved into the new place. Things are getting settled and starting to feel a bit more like home. All of the rooms are pretty much settled with the exception of the basement living room and the office.

The office, where I spend the majority of my time since I work from home, is pretty functional at the moment. Next month when I have a bit more money, I need to go out and pick up a bit bigger desk. At the moment I've stolen Elizabeth's desk and have been using that which has forced her to use a table to set her computer up on. The room is really big so it can definitely accommodate two desks.

The basement living room currently has a few pieces of furniture in it but it isn't really set up. I think the cornerstone of that room will be the kegerator (which is still in Ames) and the bar I'm going to fashion when I get a few free hours. The kegerator should be coming up in the next two weeks, at which point I'll have to really set up my "man lair" down there.

I've been trying to remember to update my contact info everywhere, but if I haven't already sent you the updated info, here it is:
2617 Inglewood Ave S
St. Louis Park, MN 55416

Other than that, Elizabeth and I have been cooking quite a bit. She's been off this week so we've been taking turns making lunch. Last night we went to a restaurant down the street called Tryg's for our 'date night'. I had some oak grilled salmon and Elizabeth had a shrimp, pineapple, and goat cheese flat bread. Mine was pretty tasty but Elizabeth said she's had better flatbread. It was a bit on the spendy side, and since the food wasn't out of this world, we'll likely try a few more places before we go back there. Tonight I'm going to grill some gorgonzola burgers from Whole Foods (our trip to Whole Foods is worth another blog entry).

Finally, my interview on the Java Posse came out this week. Feedback has been good so far. I was a little worried that it wouldn't go over well since it was light on Java but people found it interesting.

Monday, July 09, 2007

She said yes!

Good news, she said yes. I gave her the ring on Friday when we were at the new house. It was pretty low key. And then we spent the rest of the weekend moving stuff in. Things are no where near being done, but we're making progress. Below is a picture of the living room. It's looking really nice, I think, especially with the new TV I bought :)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

PQ and Moving

Today I finished the final part in the PQ process for Antarctica. I'm officially TB-free. All that's left is to send off all of the paperwork and call it done.

In other news, tomorrow I'm starting the move up to Minneapolis. Elizabeth and I are moving into a house in St. Louis Park (south Minneapolis). I've got my car all loaded up and will be heading up tomorrow morning. I can get a surprising amount into my little Elantra. Tomorrow should also be pretty exciting for other reasons (that's foreshadowing folks :) )

More to come...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Eclipse Europa

I'm back after a particularly useful meeting in Minneapolis earlier this week. I got back just in time to download my brand new copy of the Eclipse Europa release. My first impressions is that this is the best Eclipse release yet. I'm loving the ability to remove trailing whitespace and code cleanup automatically when I save a file. And as an RCP developer, I can't wait to migrate PSICAT to the new version to take advantage of all the updates.

So a big congrats and thank you to the Eclipse community for putting together such a great product. I'm off to hack on some code and really put Eclipse through the paces.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Google Apps

Yesterday I set up Google Apps for the domain. It was a straightforward process and I've been pretty impressed with the Google Apps. I've been using the standard GMail, Calendar, and Google Docs for quite a few months now so it wasn't much of a change for me. I created accounts for the rest of the folks in the ANDRILL Science Management Office, so we'll see if they find the apps as useful as I do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Exciting News

Well there's a lot of exciting news to report. First, if you didn't catch my last post, I finally finished my Master's. It was a sort of mad dash towards the end, but I made it. I had given a couple of talks about the work I've done, so the defense/oral exam part was pretty easily. It also helped that I had Doug and Cinzia there lobbing me softball questions that made me look like I knew what I was doing. :)

Second, I signed on with ANDRILL to handle the IT operation for this year's drilling expedition. That means I'll be heading back to Antarctica in October for another two month stint. I'm excited at the prospect of going back and being part of all the hard work that the ANDRILL team is doing. I'm hoping to make this years expedition even more successful on the IT side of things than last years.

Third, I'm moving up to Minneapolis! Elizabeth and I are (99% sure) renting a house in St. Louis Park, about a block from Cedar Lake. This has been a long time coming, and I know both of us are looking forward to moving in together. It's a three bedroom with a nice screened in porch and a bit of a yard. I'm converting one bedroom into an office and will be working remotely for ANDRILL from there. I really like the Twin Cities area and it will get me closer to my family and friends in Minnesota.

With all of that going on, I've still managed to get a few other things done. I was out in Boston a couple of weeks ago (just before my defense) to attend the 2007 AccessData Workshop. The workshop was about bringing data representatives, software tool specialists, scientific researchers, curriculum developers, and educators together and developing educational activities. It was a really great time. I made a lot of great contacts and got some very valuable feedback on PSICAT.

I also gave a talk to the Ames Kiwanis. I didn't know what to expect going into it. The University PR department put me in touch with them about possibly giving a talk, so I figured if nothing else it would be good practice for my defense. It was a really great experience. Everyone was very interested and asked a lot of great questions. So much so that I didn't know if I was going to get out of there. On Thursday, I'm going to give a similar talk to some students participating in the REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program through the Human Computer Interaction department here at ISU.

The last bit of news is that Dr. Dobbs picked up an article I wrote about PSICAT. I don't know when it will run, but when I get more info, I'll pass it along. I wanted to thank Anne for her patience during the several months it took to actually get it written. It didn't actually take me several months to write, it just kept getting preempted for higher priority things like finishing the thesis and such. So anyhow, thanks Anne, and thanks Jon from Dr. Dobbs for reading it, and thanks Bill for the edits.

I'm going to make it a point to blog more often so I don't end up with these novel-esque entries. Now that the preparations for Antarctica have begun, I should also have more to blog about. Cheers.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Still Alive...

Well, I'm still alive. It's been a while since I posted here, but I finally have some time and some news worth reporting. I'm happy to announce I successfully defended my Master's on Tuesday. The defense was fairly uneventful, which speaks to how well my advisor, Cinzia prepared me. I rewarded myself with a bottle Lagavulin 16 year single malt Scotch. So tasty and well worth the money I spent on it. With the defense out of the way, things are quieting down. The next big thing on the agenda is to move up to Minneapolis here in a month or so.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Back from Phoenix

Well I'm back from Phoenix. It was great to see my Uncle since I hadn't seen him in a couple years. Unfortunately American Airlines completely lost my luggage on the way out there. So I spent the entire trip without my bag. And it's still missing even now--two weeks later. I lost a really nice pair of running shoes and a couple nice outfits. I'm in the process of filling out some paperwork to get a cash settlement from American. Hopefully they don't screw me out of too much money.

Beyond that, I've just been working on my thesis. It's coming along well. Hopefully it will be done by the end of this week and I can send it out. It's officially due on April 15th, but to make sure I get it done, I scheduled a trip to Chicago to catch a few Cubs games for Dick's birthday that weekend. That should provide enough incentive to get it done. After it's done, I have a shorter paper to write and need to schedule my defense. It won't be long and it'll all be done.

A couple blog posts back, I promised a picture of the award. I can do one better, as Anne Jacko from the Eclipse Foundation was there taking pictures of everything and she put her pictures up on Flickr. You may recognize the handsome guy in the picture below:
Oh and incidentally, I'm wearing one of my nice dress shirts that was lost with my luggage. When I get the settlement from American, I'm thinking I'll have to turn it over to Elizabeth because she likes to dress me (and I'm not ashamed to admit it). She bought half of the stuff in the missing bag, anyways.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Home for a bit

Well EclipseCon is over. It was a good time. I met a lot of really smart people there and it was nice to meet the people behind the blogs I've read. The trip home was uneventful. Now I'm home just for the weekend to put some things in order and do my laundry and then I'm heading out again. This time for Phoenix to see my Uncle. This trip is strictly for pleasure, so I'm looking forward to disconnecting a bit and just kicking back. Maybe I'll work on my tan :)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

EclipseCon Day 3

Yesterday was another good day. I attended talks all day and walked through the poster session. I was looking for a poster on the J9 VM because I've been hearing a lot of buzz about it but I haven't been able to download a copy from the IBM site. But alas, I didn't find the poster.

I think my favorite talk yesterday was by the keynote speaker, Robert Lefkowitz. He had an interesting outlook on open source, software patents, and user happiness. His funniest postulation that Eclipse is the crappiest IDE on the market...but that this is only natural since they are giving it away for free. At equilibrium, it only follows that Eclipse would be the crappiest IDE because all of the IDEs that charge money have to be "better" than Eclipse or they would go out of business. His other interesting idea was on software patents and product liability for software. His idea was to make software makers liable for bugs, just like other manufacturers are liable for their products. But what about open source, you say? Wouldn't this kill open source software. He argues that the liability should depend on how you distribute the software. If you distribute binary code, you are liable for both compensatory damages and punitive damages, but if you distribute source code, then you are only responsible for compensatory damages. He hypothesizes that we'd see the GPL version of Vista in a heartbeat :)

After the poster session, I hit my personal Eclipse saturation point for the day, so I skipped the BoFs and receptions. On the walk in yesterday, I had a really interesting idea of a cool new way to search the web. So I did some prototyping on that system and vegged out in front of the TV.

Today, EclipseCon winds down. There's a couple cool talks that I'm going to check out. After that, I'm looking forward to a little more substantial supper (perhaps some Thai) than I've had the last couple of days.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

100,000 in ODM

Well in some non-EclipseCon related news, I just heard from my buddy Bill Ryan at Mayo that the ODM software we wrote a couple of summers ago just passed the 100,000th CD processed! This is impressive news. The software is used to pull outside digital media aka digital x-ray, MRI, etc. images off of CDs and DVDs and insert them into the Mayo Clinic's image viewing system. "So what", you say? Well, what this means is that a patient that has been referred from another hospital can bring the exams that have been done elsewhere and their doctor at Mayo can use these exams to make their diagnosis. They don't have to have the exams re-done at Mayo. Obviously this saves someone, either the patient or Mayo, a fair bit of money. So that's really cool. And the best part is that the software has been running in production for the last two and a half years without many modifications. Not too shabby...

EclipseCon Day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of EclipseCon. It started with a keynote by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. Overall it was a very entertaining talk. He showed a bunch of Dilbert comics that never made it to publication or had to be modified before they could run. My favorite quote from the talk was: "Once I realized my rewards weren't dependent on my efforts, I had a lot more time on my hands."

After that I attended the Equinox talk which showed some neat, low level things you could do with hooks and adapters. Just before lunch, I attended a panel on RCP applications. The panelists were big into RCP from places like NASA, JP Morgan, and Seimens. It was a pretty good discussion, though I must admit I used the time to catch up on some emails as well.

After lunch, I spent the afternoon demoing PSICAT. There was quite a bit of interest and I talked to a bunch of people. I also chatted a bit with the RSSOwl creator. He's doing some really cool stuff, so you should check it out if you get a chance.

Today I have another full day of talks, but I'll try to hop on and write another blog entry before I hit the sack.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

EclipseCon Day 1: PSICAT Wins Community Award

Well it started off as a rather quiet day. There were tutorials going on all day, but I stuck around my hotel room and got some work done. There had been a list of things that had piled up, and since I know it's going to be busy the next couple of days, I thought I'd do a little pre-emptive strike.

The big news of the day, though, is that the 2007 Eclipse Community Awards were announced at a ceremony tonight and PSICAT won the award for the Best Open Source RCP application. All I can say is: Wow! It's a great honor considering the caliber of the other entries. And I want to take a moment to thank the Eclipse community. Without their hardwork, PSICAT wouldn't exist. So a big "Thank You" to everyone!

I recieved a nice trophy, which bears a striking resemblance to the cores that PSICAT is used to describe. Nice touch by the Eclipse Foundation, I must say. Unfortunately I left my camera to USB cable at home so I have a nice picture of the trophy on my camera with no way to get it on my computer. But I'll get a picture of the trophy up as soon as I get back.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to be demoing PSICAT as part of the Open Source Pavillion at EclipseCon. So if you're reading this and you're at EclipseCon, stop by so I can give you a personal demo of PSICAT.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

EclipseCon Day 0

Well I arrived in Santa Clara this afternoon after a fairly uneventful trip. I got checked into the hotel and tried (unsuccessfully) to grab a quick nap. The movie Gladiator was on TV, so I watched that for a bit. Around 5, I walked over to the convention center and picked up my conference registration. There's some good swag in there, including a USB flash drive. I putzed around the registration room a bit and wrote some code (sorry it's taking me so long Gary, I'll get something out to you tomorrow). And then I was lucky enough to run into Ian and Donald.
After some introductions and hand shaking, they invited me to the bloggers party tonight. Hence this blog entry--I figured I'd better earn the invitation.

I didn't sign up for any tutorials, so tomorrow should be pretty quiet. I'm going to use it to finish up some coding, do a little writing, and hopefully meet a few people at the conference.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Less than a week til EclipseCon

It's less than a week to EclipseCon and I'm really looking forward to it. Today I made a bunch of progress. I rewrote the Subversion integration service, so PSICAT data can be stored in a central Subversion repository and changes can be tracked. I also updated the ANDRILL New User Wizard so I should be able to send out the new version to the MIS science team. Tomorrow will be a writing day and doing some data analysis of the ANDRILL data.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Writing and EclipseCon

I finally outlined and started writing one of the papers for my thesis. I'm planning on submitting to a special issue of Computers & Geosciences on Geoscience Knowledge Representation for Cyberinfrastructure. I'm going to be focusing on PSICAT's data representation and data capture functionality. This will be a nice venue for the paper as it will allow me to be fairly technical in describing things. The deadline is April 15th, so I had better put my nose to the grindstone since March is going to be an pretty busy month.

I also finished an article about ANDRILL and PSICAT that looks like it is going to be published in Enterprise Open Source magazine. I've got another one in the works that I'm hoping to submit to Dr. Dobbs Journal. I'm just trying to think of a good spin or hook for the article.

Besides the writing, I'm happy to announce I'm heading out to EclipseCon! I originally wasn't going to go, but PSICAT is a finalist for a community award, so that was motivation enough to go. I haven't ever been to a conference like this before, so I'm really excited. There looks to be a lot of good talks. I'm also planning on demoing PSICAT at the Open Source pavilion. I return from EclipseCon on Friday night, and then I'm home for Saturday and Sunday before flying out again on Monday--this time to Phoenix to see my Uncle. That'll be a nice and relaxing trip.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Still plugging away...

We'll it's been a couple weeks since my last entry. I've been plugging away at work--doing a bit of coding on PSICAT and some writing. The PSICAT work has mainly been some bug fixes and minor feature enhancements that were still outstanding. I'm trying to get it ready for release to the ANDRILL MIS folks this week. I've also been doing a bit of writing on some articles and on my thesis. On a related note, John Waters wrote a blog entry about PSICAT over at Application Development Trends.

The computers arrived back from the ice, so tomorrow I'm off to Lincoln for the day to square away some stuff. I'll be setting up the server so that the core images are available to the science team. I'll also be setting up some way for them to access and work on the on-ice report. I'm undecided as to how best to go about this (perhaps WebDAV?) I also need to have a debriefing with Chris about PSICAT and plan for next year, so it should be a busy trip. But it also means Chipotle for lunch :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Post-Antarctic Life

Well I've been home for almost a week now. I didn't find the transition too bad. I've been sleeping a lot, so I guess that means I was tired (or that I'm just a lazy bum!). I'm spending this week up in Minnesota visiting Elizabeth and my family, with the plan to head back to Ames some time this coming weekend and start back to work. I've got a fair amount of work to do in the coming months. There are some updates to PSICAT that I want to get done before the sampling workshop. I also need to get the codebase sorted and released along with the data so that the ANDRILL folks can start browsing and playing with it. I need to book some tickets to go visit my uncle in Phoenix. Oh yeah, and I need to write my thesis. :)

In an unrelated note, there's been a fair amount of media interest in ANDRILL and PSICAT, so I've been talking to folks and hopefully will find some time to write a few articles for various outlets. Jon Erickson of Dr. Dobbs called me up the other day and asked me a few questions for a podcast. Thanks to the magic of editing, I sound like I actually know what I'm talking about :)

Friday, January 12, 2007


I made it home. It was a rather grueling 40+ hours on planes and in airports, but getting home and sleeping in my own bed was worth it. I slept most of the day yesterday; waking up only to move around the apartment. I had to get re-acquainted with the futon and the recliner by taking naps on them :)

Last night, Dick and I went to Cinzia's house for dinner and then we rounded up the boys and went out to drink a few beers and show off my newly acquired pool skills. They weren't near as good as I remember them being in Antarctica so it must be something about the southern hemisphere...maybe a rotation thing.

Here are a few pictures from the last days down there:

I've got a few errands to run today then it's off to Minneapolis to spend some time with Elizabeth. I'll be traveling (don't worry, just around the midwest) for the next couple of days/weeks, but I'll be in radio contact.

I just want to thank everyone who followed along with me on this journey. It was fun doing the blogging and it was great hearing from everyone who was reading along. Every time I got a comment or an email from someone who found the blog, it boosted my spirits and made for a great day. So again, thanks.