Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Goodbye my family

Cully will probably be killing me tonight in my sleep.

He was super excited about getting into the National Geographic Daily Dozen competition where you are allowed to send in one photo each month of competition to see if the judges will select your photo.

Here is the link to the site, where you can see the photos;

If they select your photo, then the world votes on it through their website at:

Now after I went to the site to check his photo out I discovered you can vote for the photos, he didn't think you could do that yet. So i sent him an email letting him know how and where folks needed to go to vote for his pic and that I voted for him with the highest mark.

While checking out the site, I got to thinking well, maybe I'll send in a photo just to see what would happen. With no notion of ever making it, Cully's damn good at what he does, I'm an amateur at best.

Well today as I came back to check on some panos I was building I noticed I had an email from Cully. This is very odd he RARELY even responds to my emails, he generally just ignores them/me. Well the subject line was "I hate you by the way". Hmm seemed even more odd now, apparently he was mad that I sent in another photo of the south pole. Hmm, how did he know this, then it clicked I discovered that my photo was on today's chosen slot for the Daily Dozen. Oops. So the first and only picture I've ever sent into them got selected, what are the odds of that?

So voting wraps up in two days, all voting has to be done by the 1st of august. I don't think he needs to worry too much, I have basically a day and a half to get folks to vote for the thing. I'm not too worried about it really, it would be cool to win but whatevs.

So now I'm afraid Cully is going to kill me in my sleep, just joking, maybe a little. Gotta see about getting that lock fixed on the door ;}

Do I feel bad, no. He didn't tell anybody that you could do this until after he made it into the selection, had I known about it prior I would have sent the photo in long ago.Now that I know about it, I have each months submission planned and ready. The competition has arrived Cully, the competition has arrived.

Small Planets

So to start the deploy of the insane number of pictures I have to put up I will begin with something called small planets. They're very cool IMHO (in my humble opinion) and I've been trying to get as many shots as I can to create them. To make them you need to start with a 360 degree panorama, or sometimes good wide angle shots will work, from there you do some fiddlin in photoshop and voila you have your small planet. Here are the few I've created so far.

This is McMurdo, the large protruding building there is the church. This was taken the first day I arrived on "Antarctic" soil. Technically McMurdo is on an island and not on the continent, but whatevs.

This is the South Pole outside of my Jamesway J-12 during the summer a few days after I arrived.

This is a shot from SPT, it's not a complete 360 hence the odd line. But the colors and makeup of the original Pano were awesome so I went with it.

This was a few nights ago 7-28, the pano this came from is pretty amazing if I do say so myself, and this small planet isn't so bad either ;}

This was around 2am the next day 7-29, the sky wasn't as cool then. There wasn't much of an aurora and with the moon getting brighter each passing day it blows out the stars, but still pretty cool I spose.

Here are two very small versions of the night panos the small planets above were created from. They will either eventually be uploaded to my flickr account while I am here, or after. We will see, the originals are huge. I tried making a 16bit tiff, but figured it was probably not worth it when the file size was going to end up being 4GB...

Anywho, here they are:

This one is from 7-28 around 2:30pm

And this one is from 7-29 around 2:30am. One of the nice things about the moon coming out fuller and fuller is that the sky turns to a very beautiful dark blue in the shots. I'm really going to miss the darkness, the sun should start coming up in 3ish or so weeks :{

Stupid sun who needs ya? Well maybe me if the sunrise is even has as beautiful as the sunset was. I've seen some auroras with a sunrise so that would be pretty sweet, we will see though.

More photos to come...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Magnum P.I. Party Tonight!

Well my little lady turned 30 yesterday/today. Yesterday here at the pole but officially today in the US. That's right got me a cougar, seeing as how I am only 27... ;} (I wonder if she will let me keep this post...)

Yesterday she won the race to McMurdo, beating out some major competition. The race to McMurdo is a little historic event down here at the Pole where you have the option of biking/rowing/running the equivalent distance from the station here back to McMurdo, 840 miles I believe it is. She accomplished this in 5 months. The closest person behind her, Brian, is 150 miles away still. She kicked some major butt. And now to finish off her birthday weekend we will be having a Magnum P.I. Party at the Limey Beaver Pub tonight. Hawaiin dress is highly recommend along with a MUSTache as she put it. If you refuse to shave one, then you have to wear a paper one. We'll see how many people will do this, I hope everyone goes along with it, should be fun. This will be the first and absolute last time I will EVER sport a mustache. The facial hair's not too long right now so I should only look completely ridiculous instead of absolutely.

Went climbing today at the little bouldering cave we have down here with Mark, wow am i out of climbing shape.

I'll try and get caught up with the aurora pictures I have here tomorrow, we'll see. Not sure if I should spread the pictures out over a few days or just drop em all down in on looong post. hmm

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frakkity Frak Frak

So walk all the way out to ICL (very long walk).

Setup the tripod/camera in an ideal position.

Turn on said camera remove lens cap, don't want to be forgetting that thing on!

Notice rear lcd is staying on and lit, hmmm.

Rear lcd says, No Card.

Jeremy says, well my grandparents read this, so let's say I yelled out shucks.

Not too upset at this point it was a good little walk, and no auroras in the sky.

10 minutes into walk back, see 4 large bright falling stars in the direction I would have been shooting, sky EXPLODES with an amazing aurora.

Aurora continues to get brighter and brighter and bigger and bigger.

Call in aurora to station on aurora channel.

Get back into station confirm with folks location and best possible locations for shooting one of the largest brightest auroras I've ever seen.

Grab card, plug into camera.

Sigh as the camera is now frozen meaning I get zero photos of amazing aurora.

Tear off gear in office, and sit here typing this.

Probably the fourth of fifth time I have done this, lame.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Proof of Alien Civilizations on the Moon

Here at the South Pole, I was able to use one of our super telescopes to view a secret hidden Moon society. That is right, a civilization living on the Moon!

Here's the proof.

Some sort of base camp, with what would appear to be a housing for a high powered laser

An attack on the station!

It looks to have survived

Some form of rover tracks can be seen heading over a hill

Eek! An alien's shadow! They knew we were watching!

It's entirely possible that I am getting weirder every day I am down here. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

Anywho, about to go outside and finish my snow stakes, current weather is only -92.2F, a bit warmer from the -96.7 we saw earlier today. Will it hit -100?? I hope so, and for no reason in particular ;}

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 14th auroras

There was again a pretty good showing of auroras on the 14th. I didn't get out until the afternoon and missed out on hours of good shots, but the ones I did manage to get will suffice. I liked the ones I got last month better, but you do what you can. The first hour I was out there with Krissie I took a bunch of really cool shots, I then walked inside after being too cold to continue and noticed my focus ring was nowhere near where it was supposed to be... I apparently bumped the dang thing while I was heading out causing all the shots to be completely out of focus. They were tossed immediately preceded by an emphatic "Dammit!" I froze my hands for nothing... Well I suppose it was a lesson well learned, always check the focus ring.

We then went back outside to a different spot to take some more photos, and this time I made sure that the focus ring was where it was supposed to be. The shots were alright, nothing special. I just have too high of expectations now I suppose. Here are the shots from the second outing. *Note that for the 4 people who read this blog, I have changed the way I comment on photos. I now comment beneath the photos rather than preceding the photo; it just felt wrong before.

The red alien orbs and line you see there in front of the station were, well aliens naturally. I caught the little buggers doing some sort of recon on the station. They immediately fled after the shot, or it may have just been Krissie walking towards me with her headlamp on. If you look to the left of the station you can see both a bright red orb, and a yellow triangle. The bright red orb was either Nathan, or Jude with their headlamps on or a combination of both and the yellow triangle you see is the Scott tent with some form of light in it.

This shot if you look closely at the stairs you will see a very bright white light in a sort 7 shape. This was again the little aliens, only a different group with a very different lighting schema to their ship, or this could have been Ella walking back into the station with her headlamp on (white I might add, tsk tsk tsk)

This shot you can see someone going out onto the upper deck, well you see the light from the open door anyway.

Just a station shot

Same basic shot as above only shifted to center the station a bit to also show the warm glow from the alien spaceship that just landed, or the VMF. There is a theme here if you haven't noticed ;}

Krissie and the station. Two problems with this shot according to her: one she is lit up, two the station is in the shot and she for some reason doesn't like the station in the photos. It's unnatural she says. My retort, well you're unnatural so there!

She apparently only wanted to be silhouetted, and not lit up for all of these shots. Something she failed to mention when we started taking photos. I blame her! Yes you, I know you are reading this, I blame you :P This shot you can see the two different shadows from the two different lights I used.

I finally agreed to get shots without the station, sheesh.

Same pose, a pose she apparently hates and is contemplating a redesign to, but a different shape in the aurora.

The shot that she wanted, all silhouetty.

And a good ol shot of the aurora. You can have your summer heat, I'll take the purdies.

So we then went back in the station. After the camera warmed up a bit I decided to go out and try and take some shots of the tent to see how they would turn out so that Krissie and I could go out there and get some shots in front of it. While I was heading out there I ran into Francis who was also going to the tent. We both then ran into Cully who was taking shots with the tent. Now Cully was supposed to be in dishpit, but apparently some folks just don't care about dishpit duties! Not really I just want to give him crap since he always gets AMAZING photos, jerk... So we all were taking photos, Cully threw his white headlamp into the tent so it would show up all nice and purdy in the photos. There wasn't much in the way of auroras at that point compared to earlier when Krissie and I went out, but they did start to come out over the station. I was getting very annoyed while out there because all the photos I was taking out there were very dark, and I couldn't figure out why. When I got inside I noticed while out there trying to turn on the light on the camera displays I ended up changing the F-stop on the camera to a smaller value (larger number, smaller iris) which naturally made the photos much darker than normal. This meant that when I upped the EV value when I got in they were incredibly grainy, I was not pleased. Thankfully I was able to remove the majority of the noise post processing. You have to be careful when you do this, because you can really ruin a photo if you go overboard. Here is what I ended up with, meh.

As you can see it is a very dark photo, I could have upped the EV more but it just turned into a grainy noisy disaster.

Another supper dark image :{

This was Francis' headlamp shining on the tent while fiddling with his camera.

The person in the red light is Cully, and Francis is the dark silhouette next to him, the red light in the background is ARO (atmospheric research observatory, i think anyway)

Uber dark still, the lights in the background are ICL, and building 61 which is across from MAPO

Decent photo, Krissie likes this photo because the aurora looks like a sombrero or the spaceship from Independence Day.

This is one of 3 of these photos I actually liked, Krissie's Silhouette, the solo aurora, and this. Francis and Cully were packing up shop to head back in the station, when I asked if Cully would walk around the tent with his head lamp on. This is how it turned out. You can see ghosts of Cully making it around the tent which is awesome and you can also see in the left of the image, the path that Francis took with his headlamp walking back to the station. It took me a while to first, notice the red light on the left, and then to figure out what it was. Pretty freaking sweet. Though still too dark, grrrrrrrrr

This was another pretty cool shot, though way too dark for my tastes. This was a shot of the little devilish aliens shooting Cully in with a tractor beam from inside the tent! We had no idea they were in there the whole time we were shooting the photos, thankfully the aliens misjudged Cully's weight and were unable to bring him in. They then flew off in utter shame, as they should, or this was Cully entering the tent to retrieve his headlamp.

I am very disappointed with these photos, I really debated whether or not I should post them, or even add them to our internal server where some of us place our photos for all to see. I have the unfortunate personality of an absolute perfectionist. Unless whatever it is I do is perfect it is total crap in my eyes, like these photos. I unfortunately have to be amazing or the best at whatever I try to do and if I'm not then I'm not satisfied. Now I suppose I could say that this is only the sixth time I've ever photographed anything with something that wasn't a point and shoot, and only the sixth time I've ever tried to photograph anything at night. And I'm currently practicing with a professional's camera, the Canon EOS 1D Mark II, not exactly your typical point and shoot. Even though this may all be true I still think I should be able to shoot the exact same photos as Cully or better preferably. It doesn't matter how many years he has been doing this. I only target Cully here because personally I think he is the best photographer we have on station, and I would kill to take the shots he does. I spose the only way to get better is to first make mistakes, and second practice...

Oh and a lot of us are getting quite spoiled out here now, we only want to take photos of "good" auroras. We don't really care to even go outside to look unless it's something worth taking a photo of. Marc was telling me the other night he heard over the radios someone call out an aurora with a reply from someone else, well is it any good? When we first got here many of us, myself included ran out to see any aurora we could. I was so excited to see a barely existent blip of color in the sky at first, and now I simply go out to see if it is photo worthy.

And on a side note having noting to do with the auroras, I've recently found something slightly disturbing about myself. I've been spending a lot of time figuring out what Krissie and I are going to do when we leave here, and well nothing excites me like it used to. I used to look at photos of New Zealand, and any place remotely tropical and dream of going there. Oh how I would have done anything to be able to go to Hawaii. Now that I've been here, a year at the South Pole by the time I leave, nothing is remarkable anymore. They are simply places I could go hop on a plane and see. And what I see may very well be a carbon copy of every other beach I've seen, every other lake/forest I've seen. It's hard to explain, and just well very weird. I wonder if this is how people who travel all the time feel. Now don't get me wrong, it's not like I've lost all interest in the outside world, I still am incredible excited to be in Sydney for New Years, and I can't wait to see Sydney and Auckland and the like at night, but the old things I used to crave are gone. I don't know if this will change when I leave, or if everything will be compared to my experiences down here at the pole.

I suppose this is what you call one of those life changing experiences and I welcome it with open arms. I've never really been happy before, and now I am. I've always felt like I've simply been existing, not living. And now I feel like for the first time I am living my life. Life's pretty cool once you start living it...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Me no likey VB

*preface* Do not bother reading this unless you are into long technical geeky stuff like programming.

Man I have a new found appreciation for languages that don't suck...

I just finished* writing a program that will automate a very tedious and mind numbing portion of my job. It took me a very long time to get everything working, not because the program was overly complicated, but because I had to teach myself the language as I went. The language--the dreaded Visual Basic...

I know, I know. Why would I choose to go that route when there are so many more far superior options? Well basically I landed in it on accident. I was working on trying to do some macros in excel by using the record macro option when I ran into a snag and asked Jonathon Miller (the Aurora tech) offhandedly, "don't suppose you know anything about excel macros". I wasn't seriously asking because I didn't think anyone here on station would know how to work with them, but as it turned out he is an excel wizard. So I had him come over and help me with a problem I was having when he revealed to me I could just write the macro instead of using the record option. This was actual code... Holy crap, I just didn't realize that! So many ideas then flooded into the ol noggin. And thus I started my little adventure into the VB world. Jonathon was a big help initially with the first part of what I was trying to do. He was able to show me how to cut my 30 line recorded macro into about 6 lines of actual code. Man that recorder is handy but very inefficient. The other reasoning for sticking with VB is that I needed something that would just work on all of the computers without needing to install anything special. This current prog (macro) can just be dragged into anyone's excel startup folder and simply work.

So here was the problem I was trying to solve. Every weekend I have to go into out networked drive and create new timecards. To do this I have to first open up my computer, navigate to the drive, traverse the folders to get to the timecards. Then I have to open each person's individual timecard folder make a copy of the current timecard and save it to their individual "Old Timecards" folder. Then I have to open up the first timecard that I made a copy of, change the date of the timecard, and also go through and delete all the old entries from that week. Then I save the timecard, then I rename the timecard to match the date I just changed for the following week. Then I do this for every person on station who turns in a timecard. This process is by no means difficult, it's just mind numbing, tedious and a waste of my time. This is something that a program can and should be doing for me. The only question now was how...

I had never seen VB prior to that first realization that an excel macro was actually vb code. So to say the least I had a bit to learn. The program ended up taking me about 48 hours worth of actual time to get to this finished* state. I say finished* because it's functionally complete, but still needs a bunch of polishing yet, such as error handling, modifying it so that any ol person can come up and click a button and have it work, etc. The code that I have written right now, had I known VB prior would have taken me maybe an hour to write. Man it is a painful process trying to learn a new language with limited internet access. The internet was generally down when I would code, which made things very difficult. Microsoft's help is semi-useless.

I broke the problem up into pieces like any good little programmer. I had a bit of code I could open each timecard and use to save a copy to their old timecards spot, change the date and delete the contents. I then worked on a bit of code to traverse the folders of the respective employees. I then worked on a bit of code to change the file date of the new timecard file. This last step consequently caused me to lose 7 hours worth of work and all of my prior code. It was late and I just threw in a function without saving or backing up my work, and it ultimately permanently deleted the file that stored all the macros(my code). I tried a file recovery on it but the file had already been over written by the time I got through the recovery. Thankfully I had an earlier backup that was just missing the 7 hours worth of work. This isn't the first time I've done this either, I remember while in my Computers and Components class deleting 12 hours worth of assembly code, now that is painful. Once I had all these modules working standalone I began adding them together piece by piece until I had a completed little app.

I ran the program on the live server for the first time last night and it barfed, even though it worked perfectly on all the "test" servers! well the problem was a couple of people had their timecards open which caused some major issues. This was sort of a blessing in disguise, after I got over the annoyance of the timecards being open I realized this was a very normal thing that could happen all the time and the code needed to be able to cope with it. So I wrote some error handling for this type of event. And now what once took me I don't know how long, takes a matter of seconds. And now that I have a better loathing-understanding for VB the next item on the todo list should go a bit easier, well in theory anyway...

Is it a bad sign when you get all tingly with excitement when you realize that you can do something with the program? Last night while I was finishing up the code I was going through the earlier mentioned websites I had saved to the drive when I came across something that got me incredibly excited. I could add a function to my code that would check to see if the persons timecard was complete (54 hours or greater) and have the code send out an email to the person letting them know if it wasn't complete! Oh my goodness I was excited. I believe I was saying, "oh, god, oh god this is awesome, oh god oh god". I then immediately emailed myself about this so I would not forget. And an hour later I had forgotten, I noticed an email from myself in the ol inbox and couldn't for the life of me remember what it was for. Then I opened it and got excited all over again. God it feels good to be a nerd! Now the question is do I set it to spam the crap out of their inbox, or send a friendly reminder... Every mailbox has a size limit here, once you reach it you can no longer get any emails, so if I send out a 5K message in a loop of say 1 to 6000 that should fill their inbox completely blocking all incoming and outgoing email traffic, hmm yes then set a filter on my machine to autodelete any message sent with given subject... You know speaking of inboxes that reminds me, I got in "trouble" earlier this year when Tripp was trying to trim down server space and came across my mailbox size. We have a limit of 30MB I think it is, well during the summer as IT I removed my limit, and was sitting at a little over 600MB when he came to me ;} Man I miss being in IT...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Krissie and I are now officially going to be in Sydney Australia for New Years Eve! I started poking around the interwebs looking for hotels close to the Sydney Harbor Bridge (where the fireworks are fired on New Years) and happened across something called the Harbour Parade of Lights. The Harbour Parade of Lights is a select few boats who get invited to light up their boats with ropelights/etc and sail down the harbor prior to the fireworks on New Years. Some of the photos i have seen of it are incredible. They have pirate ships! Krissie calls them tall ships or something ridiculous, they are obviously pirate ships. Anyway moving on...

So these boats not only sail down the harbor prior to the fireworks show, but they also sit on the water next to the bridge the entire time fireworks are going off. There are two fireworks displays, one at 9pm for families, and then of course the event at midnight for New Years. And we will be there for both as close as any bystander can possibly be! We will also be served dinner and cocktails the whole time on the boat! It is going to be awesome. Here is the official confirmation!

And here are photos of the boat and what we will be seeing that night, oh god this is awesome.

The boat is called the Starship Sydney, the largest all glass boat in the world (all-glass is what they call it though obviously this is not quite true)

This is inside, I have no idea what it will look like on the night we will be on it, they change the interior around depending on the occasion.

Side deck?

Another side deck shot, this one though you can see the Sydney Opera House (something I've wanted to see my whole life, well at least as long as I can remember (which lately isn't saying much)) and the Sydney harbor Bridge, where the fireworks will be shot. Can you even put something in parenthesis, inside of a parenthesized statement. I'm at the pole I can make my own words/grammar up if i want to!

This is an amazing shot from the top deck, I can only hope I will be able to get shots like this while there!

Top deck still, with the bridge in the background

And this is what we will be seeing...

Look how close we will be, look at those dang boats in the water. This is how you do New years (though Times Square is still on the to do list...). Look at those poor saps NOT on the boats watching the fireworks ;}

Yup it is going to be awesome!

Oh and side note unrelated to this post, I've recently discovered I am going through Polar T3 Syndrome, thanks Francis for making me look that up, jerk! I don't really feel like writing about that in this post, just thought I would throw that out there and give my mom something else to worry about :}. Let's just say I now understand what it means to be toast, suck...