Antarctic Diary: December 11, 2002

No more negotiation

Now that everyone is gone, it can be told.

When the megadunes team went out into the field a combination of weather delays and cargo system gaffes prevented their gear from reaching them. They wound up on the polar plateau, five hundred miles from McMurdo, with no gear other than two scott tents and a few cans of kerosine.

They were at a camp called TAMSEIS -- Trans Antarctic Mountains SEISmic station. A small camp populated by eight transient geologists living in a small jamesway and a couple of tents. The plan was they'd stage there. Planes would arrive within hours with all their cargo. They'd set up a temporary camp beside TAMSEIS, and then more planes would come in to take them and their gear to their final location, several miles away from TAMSEIS.

They arrived with minimal cargo.

The outside air temperature at TAMSEIS never exceeded -38F. The winds never slowed below 30kts.

There was physically no room for the megadunes team in the jamesway when the TAMSEIS team was in there.

Their stove, the primary source of heat, had been crushed by an overzealous loadmaster under cargo straps in the outbound herc.

There was no funnel for the kerosine.

The expedition-grade boots they'd been issued at the CDC, advertised to work to -100F, got wet immediately and were impossible to dry.

Their satellite phones failed immediately. Their GPSes failed in the middle of a traverse.

They broke out their HF radio, set it up, and called McMurdo cargo ops. While I was pinned down at Lake Hoare by weather, enjoying the 70F interior of the hut during thanksgiving, they were stuck digging trenches for warmth.

Cargo wasn't moving. The megadunes team would have to make due with what they had and with what they could skua from the TAMSEIS folks.

The hospitality of the TAMSEIS team wore thin when supplies got low.

The megadunes folks fashioned a funnel from duct tape and cardboard, and were able to donate their fuel to the TAMSEIS camp facilities. They shared food, but as most of their food was still in USAP science cargo ops back in McMurdo, they were eating more than they provided.

Surely the flights would resume and all their supplies would arrive. Then they could replace the TAMSEIS stock and continue onward with their own expedition.

For six days all cargo flights were halted. Supplies ran low.

On the seventh day, a single Twin Otter got through. It had bits of their scientific gear, but not enough of any one experiment to be put together completely. Some more fuel was provided. There was a box containing a couple days food. The box bore the note about Karla. Cargo ops wanted her back. She wanted to go back. The megadunes group felt they might have a better chance at securing their shipments if Karla stayed at TAMSEIS and said so jokingly during one radio transmission.

One box of food bore the hastily scrawled words: NO MORE NEGOTIATION. It was a joke. It wasn't a joke.

Karla is the head of cargo ops. She had been visiting TAMSEIS camp to check their condition when all operations had to be stopped.

The cargo ops team was apparently hopeless without her. Cargo shipments were FUBAR all over the continent.

Karla went home on the Twin Otter that brought out the message.

No further cargo was to be seen for two more days.

By the time the next plane arrived, the megadunes field season was in jeopardy. They'd taken out a snomobile to try to get to one of their locations. Five miles out, with the camp tiny on the horizon but still in sight, their GPS'es gave out. They decided to turn when the weather threatened to take them out of sight of camp.

Then one snowmobile sprung a leak. When they lifted the seat, a fountain of fuel hit their mountaineer in the face.

They tied one snowmobile to another and dragged it home as the plane arrived.

On board was a replacement for their crushed coleman stove. Unfortunately, it too had been crushed under a cargo strap and was inoperable. There was more fuel--cans lacking funnels, and boxes of their science cargo, still not enough to complete any one of their several experiments.

The team leader had to call a halt when the TAMSEIS team had to ask them to stay away from TAMSEIS supplies. That meant they coudn't have access to the jamesway -- the only warm building in the area. For warmth they'd have to retire to their tents and huddle in their sleeping bags. Their stoves were not working. It was never warmer than 20 degrees inside the tents, and that only from a level of about four feet above the ground to the tent roof. Below, the ground effect kept the temps well below freezing.

They could not dry out their boots.

Their team leader got second-degree frostbite on his face.

Continuing was a threat to survival. Cargo ops couldn't guarantee them the delivery of the rest of their food and supplies. The system had become so munged up it would take Karla weeks to repair. The small Twin Otter left with the message the megadunes season was finished before it could get underway.

With only two spotty days of science out of two weeks planned, they struck camp and waited for the plane to take them back. And as with everything else in Antarctica, the herc was late in coming. Four hours late.

Now they had no tents for warmth. They had to rotate through the jamesway, one at a time, huddling in a corner to get warm by the preway while their teammates lay in hastily dug snowcaves outside.

The official megadunes outbrief meeting with the National Science Foundation in McMurdo lasted hours. In a slightly politically charged meeting, megadunes acknowledged their mistakes and the unavoidable weather circumstances. Megadunes might have staged their cargo better. They might have been better served to not heed the suggestion of the transport people who suggested they go out to camp ahead of their cargo. They might have planned a "heavier" camp.

For it's part, McMurdo operations has still not acknowledged it's part in the debacle, choosing rather to foist the blame completely on the scientists who had no control over their situation from the moment they arrived at TAMSEIS camp. Damaged equipment. Poor choice of items to deliver on limited cargo flights. Failure to notify the TAMSEIS team of the visitors they'd have to host, and to stock their supply larders appropriately for such an emergency. For these items there seems to be no accountability.

Two years of planning and preparation dissipated completely on the plateau.

Fortunately, with the exception of the leader's patch of frostbite, no one sustained serious injury.

For more information see:

Well, there's no place like Rome for the holidays...

This is my third day in Italy, and we crossed through Florence two hours ago on our way from Pisa to the capital. It feels about forty degrees, but anything is balmy compared to how it must be in New England right now (Yahoo! Weather tells me that it's 17 degrees back home.) I can't adjust to Celsius, but I've got this handy pocket thermometer. It practically never snows here, though; it's a shame I'm leaving Thursday.

It's hard to adjust to Italian, since I don't speak the language. As it turns out, Spanish doesn't convert like us filthy Americans assume it does. The country's remarkably beautiful, though, and I don't mind sharing a sleeper car with my girlfriend for a week in pleasant, romantic Europe.

Take that, Antarctic Log! I'm in frightening, bizarre, desolate, uninhabited, penguin-infested Italy!

For the holidays, you can't beat Rome, sweet Rome...

If you only take one piece of advice from me for the rest of your life, let it be this: When making use of a public restroom, lock the door on the stall.

While at work today I found myself in need of a bathroom break, so I made my way to the Men's Room, found a stall (all facilities in my office's restroom include stalls, including urinals), and gave a light push on the door. It swung open, being that it was unlocked. That's when I found the guy inside making use of the facilities.

"Oh, excuse me," I said as I swung the door closed again. I moved down to the next stall, dumbfounded. "That's the reason those doors lock, ya know," I said to the stall's occupant.

Why would someone not lock the door if he planned to take care of business? I would assume the guy wanted privacy, and I sure as hell didn't want to see certain deeds. Lock the friggin' door!

Whoever the guy was, he quickly flushed and fled the room before I exited my own stall, leaving me to wash my eyes in silence.


six months later, I have scanned the drawings, watercolors, and collages that made of the visual part of my journals from the time I spent in Bhutan. The following are the best images from the journals.

All images were made using acid free materials. The first volume is on Rives BFK paper, the second, on handmade Bhutanese paper. All dimensions are in inches, with width following height.

The images are in chronological order, and correspond to the journal entries listed.

Higher resolution scans are available if needed.

Oh, yes, all works are for sale. See scratch pad for details.

1. Bangkok
2002, ink and collage on paper, 9 x 7
23 Days in Bhutan - 13 April

2. The Paro Valley
2002, india ink on paper, 7 x 9
23 Days in Bhutan - 14 April

3. One Side of the Druk Hotel, Paro
2002, india ink and collage on paper, 9 x 14
23 Days in Bhutan - 14 April

4. By the Clocktower, Thimphu
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 14
23 Days in Bhutan - 15 April

5. After the Paper Factory - Conversations Unspoken
2002, india ink and handmade paper on paper, 9 x 14
23 Days in Bhutan - 16 April

6. Hotel, Gangtey Valley
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 7
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 17 April

7. Common Room, Hotel, Gangtey (Wood Stove and Wall Paintings)
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 8
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 17 April

8. Conversations by a Wood Stove, Evening, Hotel, Gangtey
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 17 April

9. Gangtey Gompa
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 7
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 18 April

10. More Conversations, Late Afternoon, Gangtey
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 18 April

11. Gangtey Valley
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 12
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 18 April

12. At the Edge of Town, Jakar
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 19 April

13. Outside the Swiss Lodge, Jakar
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 20 April

14. Camp, Early Morning, the Swan Valley
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 21 April

15. Inside the Dining Tent
2002, watercolor on paper, 7 x 9
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 21 April

16. Jakar Gompa
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 23 April

17. Camp, Ura Valley
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 23 April

18. Inside the Dining Tent, Ura
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 23 April

19. Temple, Ura
2002, india ink on paper, 6.4 x 7.6
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 24 April

20. Dancers, Ura Festival
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 24 April

21. Dancer, Ura Festival
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 7
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 25 April

22. Dancers, Rain, Ura Festival
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 14
Old Growth Forests, 13th Century Temples, and Rites of Spring - 25 April

23. At the Base of the Trek
2002, india ink on paper, 4.25 x 7.75
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

24. Walking Up the Valley, Two Views
2002, india ink on paper, 9 x 7
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

25. Trees, Valley Wall, Lunch Break
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 7
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

26. Inside the Dining Tent, Night
2002, india ink on paper, 6.6 x 7.3
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

27. Looking Up the Valley from Camp, Late Afternoon
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

28. Looking Up the Valley from Camp, Evening, Cloudy Sky
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
The Trek To Jomalhari - 28 April

29. Aproaching Snowstorm, Mountain Pass, Lunchtime
2002, watercolor on paper, 9 x 14
The Trek To Jomalhari - 29 April

30. Mountains, the Morning After the Snowstorm
2002, india ink on paper,
The Trek To Jomalhari - 30 April

31. A Bend in the River
2002, india ink on paper, 6 x 8
The Trek To Jomalhari - 30 April

32. Jomalhari Base Camp
2002, watercolor on paper, 8 x 12
The Trek To Jomalhari - 1 May

33. Prayer Flags, Jomalhari Base Camp
2002, watercolor on paper, 8 x 12
The Trek To Jomalhari - 1 May

34. Mount Jomalhari
2002, watercolor on paper, 8 x 12
The Trek To Jomalhari - 2 May

35. Prayer Flags, Caretaker's House, Old Guardhouse, Jomalhari Base Camp
2002, india ink on paper, 6 x 8.5
The Trek To Jomalhari - 2 May

36. Snowcapped Mountains, Valley
2002, india ink on paper, 4.5 x 6.25
The Trek To Jomalhari - 4 May

37. Telephone Line, Path, Camp
2002, india ink on paper, 6.3 x 9
The Trek To Jomalhari - 4 May

38. Tiger's Nest Monastary
2002, india ink on paper, 7.5 x 6.25
The Trek To Jomalhari - 6 May

39. Bangkok Skyline
2002, india ink on paper, 6.25 x 6.45
How can one ever go home? Bangkok, Tokyo, Chicago, then Cleveland - 7 May

Thank you, Everything

My sixth wedding anniversary is this month, and I wanted to give my wife something extra-special. I'd been racking my brain about it for a couple of months. My budget is fairly limited, especially with Christmas in the same month. Finally, while softlink surfing through the site, I came upon bookbinding.

I've always thought the art was fairly interesting, so I started reading through the related nodes. With each node, I came more and more to the realization that I could do this. I could make a book with my own hands. My wife does like journal writing, so a blank book is always a good gift for her. And one I made myself is special indeed.

So, for the past several weeks, working exclusively in the late night and early morning hours when I am sure she'll be asleep, I did it. Since I wasn't sure how well it would work, I mostly used materials I already had, such as plain white inkjet paper for the signatures and heavy-duty button thread to kettlestitch them together. I surgically removed the cardboard from a three-ring binder to cut the boards for the front and back covers. I bought a couple sheets of pretty, pale blue scrapbook paper for the endpapers, and a sheet of heavy, dark blue art paper to cover it.

I was amazed at how well it turned out. I had only minor problems when I put it together. Some of the signatures weren't perfectly aligned, and I didn't manage to exactly center the book block vertically inside the covers, but everything still looks pretty good. After I'd covered the case, I discovered that I'd mismeasured, and the spine was too wide, so I added a few more signatures to the book block before I attached it to the case. I had a lot of fun at it too, and can't wait to start on one for myself.

Tonight, with the present all wrapped and waiting until our anniversary (which is at the end of the month), I finally couldn't wait any longer. I gave it to my wife early to see her reaction. She was happy to receive a new journal, but puzzled as to why I'd chosen to buy one with such a plain cover. Her whole face lit up when I told her I hadn't bought it, that I'd made it. She told me it was the best present I'd ever given her, except for her engagement ring.

So I just wanted to write up a huge thank you to all the noders who unknowingly helped to make me a hero (in no particular order): evilrooster, cbustapeck, Jongleur, Pseudo_Intellectual. I apologize if I left any names off. You guys all rock.

Chinese have many hells, I certainly do not know them all, yet I have stumbled into one of my own free will.
A hell of living with your ex-girlfriend who you love so much it hurts watching her without touching her.

Do not mistake this for a sexual thing, for it is not.

It is a case of Wertherian weltschmertz, that Goethe has coined. I am aware of the insanity of the situation, alas, I cannot be helped. Looking at her hurts.

"I averted my gaze. She ought not to do it, ought not to excite my imagination with these scenes of divine innocence and bliss, or awaken my heart from that sleep which the indifference of life lulls it to!--And why not?--She has such trust in me! and knows how much I love her!" as Goethe would put it.

I invoke the ancient gods of self help for the low self esteem tribe: Dr. Ruth, Dr. John, Oprah and fellow TV print deities...assist me. save my soul from eternal damnation of a lovers spurn. Yet they stay silent.

I spend nights sighing and looking at the white ceiling coloured by cadmium street lights. And it is my third day without sleep.

"And now, I am a great pretender, pretending that I am doing fine. My need is such I pretend too much..." as Mr.Mercury would put it.

And look. A tiger as a has been.

GCSE Mock Exams Diary: Week 2

Although technically I haven't finished my exams (I have French listening this afternoon) I feel that when you have four hours to kill and the school's T1 connection to play with, noding is the only real option.

Exams taken this week:

I am currently still amazed that my brain has not imploded with the stress of these damn things but hey, they are almost over now, with the exception of the French Listening, which comprises in it's entirety, a whole load of people saying "You should listen, think, listen again, think again, and write down your answer". Because of course I am stupid, and I cannot listen to the teachers telling me the exact same thing five minutes before.

Still, hilarity once again ensued this week as I forgot to go to my French speaking test. This happened yesterday.

"What, Miss? I could've sworn it was tomorrow...

"No, Malcolm, it was today. About an hour ago to be precise.


Luckily, I got another slot to do it this morning.

Unluckily, I screwed it up, forgot my vocab, and spoke more German than French. It would appear that fate only shines brightly on me once a week. Some might say that I should have done more revision. They are probably right.

Oh well, I guess it could have been worse. The exams are nearly over, I have a four day weekend which I will inevitably spend sitting at home bored, and I have the Christmas holidays to look forward to. And I have a perfect first commandment if I ever want to start a religion: THOU SHALT NOT TAKE EXAMS.

Highlight of the week:

Q: What are some possible reasons for a person to take drugs?

A: People take drugs to make dance music bearable.

Last Daylog * * * Next Daylog

Tanis Nikana

The Fine Art of Self-Adventuring


Why I Don't Like Water


I. Fear of Flying

At about 9:45 PM, we, meaning my mother, brother, grandmother, and myself, arrived at the airport in Portland, headigt Walt Disney World. We planned a decent route that wouldn't be very long, and it was to run through Dallas before going to Orlando. No sooner than when we unloaded our luggage, the man on the curb in charge of the luggage asked if we were headed to Dallas, and then announced that it would be delayed for two hours because of thunder storms. We weren't even inside the airport yet.

So we proceeded inside, and there was a huge, massive line that we had the fine privilege of standing in. There was probably more luggage than people, and if you took out all the luggage and brought the people to the front of the line, it might be twenty feet long. It still doesn't change the fact of waiting for two straight tireless and tireful hours in that line. Evenually we got to the front, and through another hour of waiting, we were able to go to Chicago.

The security gates were right before us, and before I walked in through the metal detector, I said "I'll bet you I'll beep.". And I did. The security guards told me to empty my pockets, which were full of batteries, house keys,and a few coins. They forced me to take off my shoes, they x-rayed them, and used the metal detector on me. I was wearing a metal belt, a wrist watch, glasses, and it took about 10 minutes just to get me through. Then they repeated the same process to my brother, my mother and my grandmother. She looks like a real terrorist, I'll tell you that. This was all because we were randomly selected.

It was about 11:40 and our flight left in fifteen minutes. We got to the gate, and there was another security station and security guards. Repeat. After I had barely managed to get my shoes on, we were rushed through that little instant hallway that leads to the plane, and we rode. Flew. There was a rather boring in-flight movie and some rather boring in-flight pre-recorded television. Now, we were sitting in what they call Coach, where they attempt to cram about eighty percent of the plane into a very small space, amounting to about half a porta-potty apiece. Not only that, but it felt like I was sitting on steel. Once we hit O'Hare, I could not feel my butt.

At O'Hare, we discovered our gate was on the other side of the airport at 3 AM. That was about two miles away, and my mother was wearing dress shoes. When we finally arrived at our gate, we found out there was a shuttle to take us there instantly. We boarded and got to Orlando without incident.

At the baggage claim, six bags were recovered. There should have been seven, and we waited around for about half an hour trying to recover the bag, and it never came.

There was a Towncar waiting just outside the airport, with a driver named Hugo. Very polite, very good driver, and according to my ears, very un-understanable. He had a thick cuban accent, but that didn't stop him from getting us to where we needed to be.

II. Fear of Small Rooms

We arrived at the All Star Music Resort around 1 PM EST. At the desk, we were issued litle blue cards. They looked like credit cards, and in addition to acting like credit cards, they allowed us to go to our hotel room(Calypso 1, #1651) and to go everywhere besides the room, like the theme parks.

III. Fear of Sharp Pointy Objects

The front lobby, called Melody Hall, had a store, called Maestro Mickey's, which sells a variety of various Disney related souveniers. The vacation plan that our group paid for allowed us a trading pin each. Four little flying Mickey pins were doled out. The cashier educated us about a unique purpose these pins had: If any Disney Cast Member possesses any of them, they will trade with you if you ask. There were also about nine or ten spots in the World where they had every type of pin for sale at $6.50 and tax. I figured that was pretty cheap to just buy your own pin, so I didn't until very late in the vacation. Almost every Cast Member had a lanyard, a little necklace that could hold up to twelve pins. I figured that I could quite possibly get any one of these pins, which there were about 350 of, just by trading and not buying.

IV. Fear of Actually Being in Small Rooms

By the time we actually got our pins, the room was ready and our luggage was delivered there. Mom walked in, and the first thing that she noticed (and she only noticed it first because she went in first), is how tacky the room looked: Music curtains, both shower and regular. Music bedsheets. Music ceiling trim. Music wallpaper.

I noticed six luggage. Six. Not seven. That reminded me that mom's all-important suitcase was missing. I pretended like I didn't notice it. All of us then went to Downtown Disney.

Just outside of Melody Hall there were six little posts coming out of the concrete, with busses nearby that would take us to the destination on the post. Had things on them like: MEARS, the airport busses to and from, signs for all the theme parks and the water parks, and a sign for Downtown Disney. That was the one we were waiting at.

V. Fear of Overstimulation

All of the busses have a top speed of a whole 28 MPH. It was a fairly long ride to Downtown. We arrived in the Marketplace, and the old people let us young people go wherever we wanted. A long trip through the Marketplace, and I didn't really notice much in it on my way to Disney Quest. After the Marketplace came Pleasure Island, an artificial island full of clubs, raves, comedy warehouses and the like. Now, this was worse walking through than the Marketplace, because it wasn't flat. There were huge hills, and I think the whole island was kind of sloped. After Pleasure Island, there came the Westside, and that was where Disney Quest was situated. Westside contains many celebrity based restaurants and shops entirely devoted to a group of 250 (at most) supposedly famous people.

After the Virgin Megastore, which was quite a ways down the road, there is a huge, omnious, five story greenish turquoise building with the logo 30 feet high, said "Disney Quest". Cool. When we got in for free, there was a "cybrolator" that has this neat mirror-screen, and it shows Genie from Aladdin trying to make the elevator work. Eventually it did work, and Shaun and I arrived at the third floor.

I went to my left toward a zone called Score, and I nearly had a heart attack. Left: 8 consoles of Daytona USA connected together. Right: Many other physical arcade games. Dead Center: A massive twelve player, forty foot tall pinball machine with only a balancing platform to control the ball with they call "Mighty Ducks: Pinball Slam".


You know that empty lot across the street from the school in Dundee? They should build a Disney Quest there.

Downstairs: A Design-Your-Own-Coaster-Lab, complete with eight simulators, with freaky unbuildable track, like the Knot.

Upstairs: Ride the Comix, a virtual reality lightsaber game.

Breathe harder. Oh, yeah: The exit is nowhere to be found except in a small corner at the bottom of the buiding. Interesting. I find the exit, and I didn't know it was the exit. I go back inside and ride the cybrolator back up to the third. About an hour and a half later, I purposefully left.

Outside, on the Westside, my mother and my grandmother (the old people) were doing something, I don't really know what, but it involved Aunt Dory, because she was there, too. Now, this was the first time I had ever seen her, and I really didn't know what to say. Apparently Mamaw noticed that Shaun wasn't with me, and they said that I wasn't allowed to leave Disney Quest until I had him with me. That really stinks. The one time that I actually want to leave a big massive arcade, I can't. I went back through Disney Quest again, and this time I actually looked for him. I did not see him. I looked for about twenty minutes. Eventally I found him, and I brought him home, where my mother and Mamaw were waiting.

It was about 8 PM, and everyone wanted to rest. Not me. I got along fine with this resting thing, for about an hour. Then, about 9:30, I really wanted to leave and go back to Disney Quest, and so Mom and Mamaw made sure I had money, I was safe, and all that other stuff.

I left. I found out that the busses don't stop running til 2, and that Quest closes at 11. I played for a while, and then it closed. Mom told me earlier that she really wanted a Tinkerbell pin, so I set out and tried to get that. I explored Downtown Disney, both the Marketplace and the Westside, looking for trading places. There were some, yes, but I could not find a Tinkerbell anywhere. However, this one girl who works across the street from the Magnetron store (about halfway down the Westside) had one, but she said that she only had one, and that she would only give it up for a Test Track pin. It was about 11:30(that was when my watch happened to stop), and I was too bushed to carry on.

I fell asleep on the bus back to the room about twenty times, about half a minute apiece. Got to the room at midnight, and when I opened the door I thought Mom would be worried sick, but she wasn't. So I just fell asleep as soon as I got my shoes off.

VI. Fear of Water

Friday. The first actual day of going to a theme park. Seeing the world. Until Mom said that we were going to Typhoon Lagoon this morning. That means water park. Including water. I don't like water. Can't swim in water. Can't float in water. Can't even breathe in water, and that is what scares me the worst. Most especially: Can't Function, Live, or Otherwise Survive in Water.

I tried every option I could think of. Everything from 'I'm afraid of water' to 'I can drown in water'. My mother bought it, and I didn't have to get in the water. Mamaw gave me a digital camera, money to buy a locker for all of their clothes, and they told me to take pictures of her whenever we saw them. I got a few pictures, then when they came back I gave them the key and the camera.

It's time to do the theme parks proper.

VII. Fear of Fat Comedians in the Dark

Here I am. At Disney-MGM Studios. Gonna play some Millionaire. Gonna ride the Tower. Gonna laugh at Drew Carey. Gonna ride the Aerosmith coaster.

These were all the things I planned on doing. And I'm going to do them. Not just the Millionaire and the Drew show, but the other stuff that I really thought I could handle. I'm a man. Not a wussy. Chris is going to laugh at me if he finds out that I pussied out of things.

I walked in the gates, and the first thing I notice is that I'm being kicked out because I forgot to scan my card. The second thing I notice is that MGM is big, with lots of downtown, kind of like old 50s or 60s buidings everywhere, kind of like Old Hollywood.

Many things to do here. I decided to start with the Tower, and I looked at it, and I moved on to Millionaire.

With two exceptions, the game was exactly like the TV show. The first is that there is no money awarded, and the second is that Regis Philbin doesn't want to do the show. So a Cast Member does it. Takes about half an hour, and for some reason they have the show set up so that there is no way to go past 32,000 points (not dollars). But, if the one million points can be achieved, then the winners get a trip for two to New York to see the real thing.

After seeing this, and participating in it, I went back to the Tower. I liked their lobby. I really did. In fact, I liked it so much that I couldn't bear to see the rest of the Hollywood Tower Hotel's fine building.

I remembered that Mom still wants her pin. There's actually a Trading Station around here, so I went there. I found out that it was under the hat. Now, each cast member has their own private collection of pins in addition to the regular lanyard, and they'll only trade for certain pins. If I need to get the ever so elusive Test Track pin, she told me that I would need a Big Thunder Railroad pin. You can see where this will end up.

After having realized the massive, repetitive, burden of this task placed upon me, I thought I'd forget this for now. The ABC Radio building wasn't far away, and that was wher they were holding a show called Sounds Dangerous, staarring Drew Carey. Now this is what I came to see. I walked in, after going through yet another line, and sat in the front row of what looked to be a foley artist's stage. There were headphones to my left, and I wore them as instructed, with the pad on my right ear.

The basic premise of the show is this: ABC is creating a new reality secret agent show with regular ordinary people, and that this is just the pilot. Drew Carey plays Detective Foster, who is really not a bright guy. Managing to swallow his camera, totally losing track of the case, and getting shot in the face with elephant snot. At that point, water came from the ceiling and sprayed everyone in the room. Cheap. Very cheap. The sounds through the headphones sounded exactly as they would in real life, though.

The show being over, I headed out and looked for more trading areas, and there weren't any. I decided to go to Epcot and look.

VIII. Fear of Corporate Advertisements

Epcot contains the most round and large advertisement I have ever seen, called Spaceship Earth. I thought it would be a cool roller coaster. It was actually a 6 MPH ride that says that communication is good, by AT&T. I sat. I watched. I had thoughts about depression. I had thoughts about the shamefulness of Disney.

Then I went to Innoventions. Instead of having one advertisement, It was two buildings packed to the gills with them. Evil. I left Epcot, disgusted, at that point.

IX. Fear of What the Future has in Store For Us

I went to MGM looking for another game of Millionaire at 6:30. I have to be quick, because the park closes at seven. I don't make it, so I headed to the Magic Kingdom, summoning Courage (and quite possibly, the Lord) to guide me through what happens next. I had to ride Space Mountain. Which is in Tomorrow Land. As I walk through Tomorrow Land, I look everywhere and I see it looks like Star Trek. Now, as I write this 4 weeks later, it looks more like Rouge City from AI, but where there should be sex, there's other planets. And one big tall white building in the background known as no other than Space Mountain. Insert gulp here. Entering line, heart pounding. Half an hour later, more line, heart bored. Ten minutes later, heart looking for a way out of chest as I get put into the front seat. The ride goes forward. Legs shaking, and the ride stops, about 8 feet away. It moves again, and stops, I'm sitting there thinking if the whole ride's going to be like this. I'm wrong.

Fast downward turn to the left, followed by a large blue tunnel that nearly broke my back, and then a really big hill with screaming people going in the other direction. Then the ride actually starts, and I put my hands up. The coaster goes into the main structure when I realize, from the slight pain in my hands, the girders were less than a foot overhead. Ouch. It goes around a bunch of turns, and it goes pretty fast. Now, Space Mountain goes the same speed the busses do. 28 Miles. There was also a 20 foot drop near the end, the coaster goes down and I didn't. It felt cool. A sort of spinal surge. Then the ride ends, and I walk along one of those conveyor deals like they have at the airport. And I see: "Presented By FedEx".

The ride was still cool, so I rode it about six more times. Park closes at 9, and that is what it was, so I left. Along the way out, I saw a jeweler's store, and I wondered how much it would cost to get my watch fixed. I stated the problem, proposed a solution(replace the battery), and the clerk said he'd do it for free. No hassles there. With that done, I went to Quest until it closed, then I went home.

X. Fear of Being With Shaun

The next morning, we went to Magic Kingdom as a group. I laid out some objectives for myself, as well: One: Ditch Shaun. Two: Ditch everyone else. We went on Space Mountain without a hitch, and then off to Buzz Lightyear's Ranger Spin. I managed (Without really knowing what I was doing) to attain the highest possible score: 999,999 points. According to the sign posted atthe end of the ride, I was a "Galactic Hero". That was the first time I was ever a hero. After that, things went downhill. Shaun started being a real pain, and the adults weren't in sight, so I ditched him outright. And I went, once again alone, to the Studio.

XI. Fear of Being in Falling Elevators that Shouldn't be Falling

The Studio. Gonna play Millionaire. Gonna make it further in the Tower, even if I don't ride. It's gotten to the point now the attendants just show me the next way out, until I was standing at the doors, with no way out. I took my seat, in the front row, far left side, and the doors closed. I'm gonna die, or I'm gonna die trying. The elevator had a real musty smell, and it went up. So did my heart. Into my throat. The doors opened again, and we were faced with a long hallway, with shadowy figures inside. Then the whole hall went dark, with nought but a few stars, and a window that had bluish-orange light shining through it. We moved toward the light, and the doors closed once more. We went up, or I think we went up. The Hotel Ushers told us that part of the ride went sideways, but it looked like we were going up. The doors open. The shadowy fighures were everywhere. We were in a room with some walls made out of grate material. The elevator went around them, and it suddenly got very dark. It stayed dark for about three seconds, then lightning bolts struck the walls around us, I saw a brick wall, the wall moves up, and I'M GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!! The elevator goes down, way down, and I feel this surging feeling of raw power run through my back. And the elevator stops. Everyone goes up. I like up, because up is good, and down is bad. Down can kill you, and up can't. It goes back down. And up. Then we see the entire studio. I take out my camera, ready to take a picture, and it goes down again. I get hit in the head with the camera, and I didn't get to take the picture. I'm hoarse, and I can't scream. How am I supposed to let people know that this Elevator From Hell is about to kill me? The elevator goes all the way down, which did kill me, and then out. The doors open, and here's the scary part. I walk across the room, look at monitor 3, picture #633A, front row, far left. AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH in my head. "Crap." out loud.

XII. Fear of Comparing Roller Coasters to the Way Mom Drives

Felt I could take it, so what the hell. I rode the Rockin' Roller Coaster afterwards. The pamphlet dealy said it could go from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds, to a speed of 60. Just like a car, I told myself.

Thanks to the Magic of Fastpass, I was able to cut ahead of about a couple hundred people. They glared at me, like I commited the worst taboo possible. The attendants put as many of us as it could hold into this tiny room, where we saw Aerosmith late to another comcert, and they supposedly wanted to take us along. Now, they let us out into a dark alley (which was inside the building, something about Special FX.). I saw a counter that counted from 5 to 0, and then I heard screaming. It looked like the coaster took of just like a ship from Star Trek, long and blurry. The attendant in front of the coaster placed me about halfway down the coaster, and, what a surprise: I end up next to Shaun. Dammit. The coaster rolls forward, and comes to a halt in front of this dark tunnel. Apparently the coaster had a radio, because that came on, and counted down. Five. Breathe, Travis. Four. Make sure glasses were mounted firmly to face. Three. Stop fussing. Two. Compare this to how Mom drives. One. You will not die. Zero. DAMMIT! I'm gonna die! And the sheer force pressed my lungs against the back of my body. A bright white flash, a lot of wind, and it was like riding in a car. It goes upside down. It honestly didn't feel too bad. After the first shot at being upside down, I couldn't determine any directions. I couldn't find up. Hell, I would have been screaming the whole time, but "Dude Looks Like a Lady" was playing, so I was singing that (at the top of my lungs) along with the rest of the coaster (and they were singing at the top of their lungs too.). Pulled up to something that looks like valet parking, and it stopped. I walk down the little hall, and I find out exactly what the bright white flash was for. Monitor 2, Picture #251b, and not again. It was not like a car.


In order to finish this list I brought with me (the one that says what I'm supposed to ride, and how many times) I had to go to The Animal Kingdom. And, simply put, I wasn't going to spend much time there. Wanted to get in ride one ride twice, and get out, because the whole place looked like it was just for liittle kids. I checked the map that I picked up at the entrance, and to find the ride I had to ride, called "Dinosaur", I had to go to the far corner of the park.

The ride had the usual: a long line with plenty of opportunities to get out (which I did not feel like abusing), a briefing about meteors and dinosaurs and what to do if you get hit on the head with either. Then I got on the ride, and after it starts moving, it doesn't stop. The effects team went way overboard on the hydraulics. Get tossed around left and right. On top of that, the ride was in the dark, except for those tenths of seconds when the lights come on and I get blinded.

That isn't the end of it; there's more to come! Check my home node for updates.

A thought occurred to me today: I love stealing. I don't steal from equals, but from moral lechers. I take from people who don't deserve what they have.

I'm no Robin Hood, I have no desire to give to the unfortunate the spoils of the rich. I feel good when I do it. This stems from my condescending nature. I have to look down my nose at every person I see; why not take from them?

I don't take money. I take dignity. I take self-respect. I expose people as the purposeless fools they are. Empty shells, if you wish. I am a usurer; I charge exorbitant mental rates in exchange for the service I provide. What exactly that service is, I cannot name. Maybe my stripping them of their weapons will allow them to step back and ask themselves, "What am I doing? Do people really live like this?"

Maybe I just take because I like to. Maybe I'm no better.

coming from one place the words come into that place
they take me from there and into my mind i go
wondering the wandering and wondering where to go next
as its been done before but who can tell you that?
lossssst its been a horrible pace to this ride this trip
rides are lonely when you sit alone alone alone is next to
nothing at all or something that isn't real and it is it was
meant to be this way or so whatever see your eyes
they turn towards the sky and up towards the sky the sky
goes crashing down and the stars shine like fire from closer
where they burn brighter which is enough is enough to flame
and ignite the wicks that are my clothes and i burn i burn
i burn like a candle in the dank of the basement and i lose my way
and it doesn't matter it doesn't how matter how much
i write i write about it i can't it won't i can't bring it back.

I Will Find You. Keep Looking.

What a crappy day today is.... I woke up with a huge migraine headache, so bad I could hardly move or think. SO I sent an email to my boss saying I would be using a sick day. He called later in the day with a couple of basic questions. Its been awhile since he has had to be involved in the daily routine of the network.

Its now early afternoon and I still have this stupid headache. Hopefully it goes away soon. It almost hurts to bad to node. Oh well back to the couch to relax and try to get better.

Sydney's bushfires have been temporarily muted by almost a day and a half of blessed rain, and as I walked to work this morning I was continuously aware of the strange absence of the smell of woodsmoke in my nostrils. The smoke has been part of our lives for several weeks, sometimes distant and sometimes all too close, just as it is nearly every summer. To walk through a world of clear blue sky and clean air seems almost unreal.

The lab is hectic, with everyone struggling both to make up for time missed over the last week (many of us were either protecting our homes from the fires or unable to get to work due to fire-related roadblocks) and to wrap experiments up before Christmas. Conversation is stilted, unusually for a lab that is notorious for its boisterous atmosphere. This is fine by me, and I make the most of the lack of distractions.

My major aim today was to complete the generation of my knockout construct, a piece of DNA which will be used to delete a specific gene in a breed of mouse. The effect on the mouse of deleting this gene will give us information about the gene's function, adding to the information my lab has already gathered on its role in humans. Due to unforeseen complications, making this piece of DNA has taken me much longer than anticipated - almost an entire year - but the final steps in its generation have been comparatively straightforward. Two weeks ago I introduced the completed construct into bacterial cells via the rather Frankensteinian technique of mixing DNA and bacteria together and then subjecting the cells to a brief but powerful pulse of electricity. I then selected cells which contained a copy of the construct and allowed them to grow in very large numbers. Each bacterial cell in the resulting bacterial culture contained a faithfully replicated copy of my construct, which I then extracted by dissolving the cells using a combination of detergent and osmotic pressure. Finally, I purified the DNA from the rest of the bacterial debris using salt and ethanol, leaving me with a small volume of solution containing a very high concentration of my desired DNA molecule.

My task today was to take this molecule, which was present in a circular form (allowing it to be replicated by bacteria), and convert it into a linear molecule. To do this, I needed to cut the molecule at a single site (imagine taking a rubber band and cutting it in one place, turning it into a rubber string). I did this by using a commercially available enzyme which cuts DNA molecules at a highly specific sequence, CCGCGG, which is present at only one site in my construct. After a year of toil and heartbreak, the generation of my construct was completed in one pathetically easy step: the addition of DNA, enzyme and a few chemicals to a plastic tube, which was then incubated at 37 degrees Celsius for two hours. And then - hey presto! - a linearised construct.

Now there is just the final, tedious task of confirming that my construct has indeed been cleaved by the enzyme, which I am doing as I write this daylog. I took a small sample (only five microlitres) of the completed reaction and loaded it onto an agarose gel, then applied an electric current to it. The DNA, being negatively charged, will migrate through the gel towards the positive electrode, and the speed at which it migrates will differ depending on whether it is circular or linear. By staining the gel with a chemical which emits visible light when exposed to ultraviolet radiation I will be able to identify how far my DNA has migrated, and thus whether all (or even some) of it has been successfully linearised.

And what's the point of all this? Well, the next step in my project will be to take my linearised, purified construct and introduce it into mouse embryonic stem cells using the same technique I used to get it into bacterial cells (electrocution). I have designed my construct so that it binds specifically to a particular region of the genome of these cells - the gene I want to delete. In a small fraction of the embryonic stem cells, the construct will bind to this region and undergo a process known as homologous recombination, which will delete the target gene and replace it with another gene which makes the cells resistant to a toxic drug. When the cells are grown in the presence of this drug, only those which have undergone the required gene deltion (and thus contain the resistance gene) will survive. I will take these cells and inject them into early mouse embryos, and then implant the embryos into mouse foster mothers where they will develop as normal, but will contain a few mutant cells derived from my embryonic stem cells. If I can find a few mice where these cells have been incorporated into their germ cells (sperm or eggs), then I can breed them to produce mice who have the mutation in every cell in their body.

But that's all in the future. This afternoon I will focus on confirming that the construct has been successfully cut, and if it has I will then purify it and prepare it for its introduction into embryonic stem cells on Friday next week.

Beyond the sterile, uncluttered benches, outside the sturdy lab windows, the sky is still clear blue and free of both smoke and clouds. In a few minutes my beeper will sound, indicating that my gel is ready for inspection. The repeated failures and disappointments of this year have left me cynical about even the simplest experiment, but today - perhaps due to the weather, the temporary relief from the bushfires, the proximity to my Christmas break or a combination of all three - I feel curiously optimistic about success. I guess it's time to go and see if that optimism is justified.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.