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Antarctic Diary -- November 16th, 2002

Editors say the best place to start is somewhere in the middle of a story. Here's the middle.

It's 1:30AM on Friday the 15th in Christchurch, New Zealand. The air is clear and tepid. For the first time in my life I can see the southern sky. There are less stars. The man in the moon is lying on his side.

My hand is bleeding where I tore my finger open trying to force closed a zipper on my orange duffle. Even though I brought less gear this year, it doesn't fit in the USAP allocated duffle bags for some reason.

I can't stop the bleeding and there's no paper towels or bandaids anywhere. I make a fist and hope I can stop it that way. Blood gets all over my white bunny boots.

The loadmaster keeps looking at his watch. We're going to be late. Lets move.

I randomly take some stuff out of one duffle and put it in the other which is destined for the rear of the aircraft where I won't be able to get it. The duffle closes.

Drug dogs sniff my gear, then me.

No, I do not have drugs on my dick. Wanna see? No? Thanks for the affection, though, puppy. He's interested in the blood on my boots. I show my hand to the New Zealand customs guy. He nods and moves on, offering no help now that he understands I'm not trying to smuggle drugs or fruit.

In a couple of minutes, we're called. I'm marching under four layers of expedition-grade clothing. Heavy white bunny-boots on my feet make me look like someone who failed the Ronald McDonald stand-in contest.

A C141 looks bigger in pictures than it does in person. It's about the size of a Boeing 767 only more squat. There' are only two windows in the body of the plane. Each is the size of a fist.

I climb in through a door meant for jumping out of. Have to duck, push my bag in ahead of me.

The loadmaster leads me down an aisle formed by two rows of seats made out of kevlar webbing. The seats face each other. He positions me so that my legs fall between the knees of the person who is sitting faceing me. Takes the seatbelt and fastens it, then snugs it down in a way that compresses my colon to the size of a surgical tube.

For the next half hour he packs in people like that so we're sitting shoulder to shoulder with our legs interdigitated.

People take up half the plane. The other half of the plane is cargo. A giant propeller for a C131 is lashed to the floor to the aft of me.

I realize I'm sitting on a crack in the webbing so that half my ass is suspended in space. The engines haven't even started and I'm in pain.

The flight crew makes a big deal of us knowing where the vomit bags are. They worry there aren't enough. They make sure each one of us knows where his personal oxygen mask is and where his barf bag is. They also provide a smoke mask. Chances are, they say, they'll have to put out a fire before we either barf or lose cabin pressure.

They demo the smoke hoods, laughing as they do. Later, one of them tells me we'd be long dead before we ever got to use them. Same with the life jackets. If we ditch in the south pacific, we're better off going in nose first. That will save us the trouble of dying from exposure 2000 miles from the nearest fishing boat.

I keep telling myself I can block out the pain in my ass and legs. Think of anything else. After another half an hour the engines start. The plane taxis, then with a rush of power that shoves all of us to the rear of the plane, we lift off.

On commercial flights you'll notice the engines slow after take off. On this flight, it seemed we took off a second time--crushed to the rear of the plane, body to body.

This is how you get to Antarctica in 4 hours instead of 8.

I try a variety of methods to brace my head for sleeping. What works best is to fold my arms over my knees and lean forward. It seems I can get to sleep for at least 30 seconds a try this way.

About an hour into the flight someone decides he wants to move his leg. This becomes something that requires planning. You can't speak to each other inside a Starlifter. The noise is deafening, and so we're all wearing earplugs. So with a combination of sign language and lip reading we all conspire to move our legs to the left, allow us to put our feet under the seats opposite us.

It works. Ten minutes later someone wants to try moving feet to the right. Ok. We do.

I have to wake up for the second move. I don't know what's worse--not being able to sleep, or having to coordinate tiny shifts in body position with 9 other people.

Eventually, I learn to live with the pain. Everyone does. We stop apologizing to each other for having our elbows in each other's laps. We try to breathe normally.

I am in front of the only window on my side of the plane, so I am informally assigned the duty of scanning for ice. As soon as we reach sunrise, I see there's no ice. Only clouds below. Cirrus.

Oh my god, we're above the really high cirrus clouds. We're probably at 45,000 feet.

The C141 "porpoises". It noses up and down in oscillations like a swing. It sways from side to side. It feels like we're on a boat in a moderately choppy sea. Now I know why they left the barf bags out. People start burping, the prelim to full-fledged puke.

If I close my eyes the swaying rocks me to sleep. Then someone wants to move their shoulders, so I have to move mine. No sleep.

Outside, I see only clouds. After four and a half hours, I still see only clouds. We should be there by now. We're all getting worried we've boomeranged.

The first hint we haven't comes when I see the flight crew beginning to suit up in their parkas. Everyone starts smiling. Then we feel the plane descend. Outside is nothing but white.

Eventually, the wheels touch down. Still can't see anything but white outside.

Everyone stands and I get the feeling back in my feet. But now the effects of my last minute duffle-bag shuffle is evident. All of my hats are in the bag in the rear of the plane. My so-called "carry on" only has my camera gear and gloves. So I pull up my parka hood hoping my ears don't freeze off while I walk to the bus.

Antarctica greets me with a breath-stealing blast of air in the face as I step onto the sea ice. It's 8 degrees F with a wind chill of -28F. Not REALLY cold.

"No stopping to take pictures," says a crew member hustling me off the plane. He points to the Nikon around my neck.

As we're in a near white-out, I want to ask him what he thinks I'd take pictures for--to show my milk-afficionado club back in Los Gatos?

I hop into "Ivan the Terrabus" with the other human cargo. This is a giant Canadian-made all-terrain vehicle used to transport people over the seaice or over the volcanic mounds around McMurdo.

The woman driving the bus isn't even wearing a hat. Her long blonde hair touches the middle of her back and she's got on her wrap-around glasses Cousin It style.

"Ivan's tempermenal today," she says. "I should make you guys say a prayer or do a sacrifice to it or something."

Now I know I'm on the ice. Fixing machines requires prayer and homage to the gods of breakage.

Rob, an accomplished cold-weather mountaineer from Denver sits next to me. We'd been hanging together in CHCH, and as I'd anticipated, he was grinning from ear to ear even though we couldn't see anything.

"We're really here," he said, like a two-year old at Disney World.

This is what Antarctica is about--adults in ecstasy over killer storms and frostbite.

As we get close to McMurdo he fires off questions and I answer: That's Hut Point. That's Vince's Cross. That's Ob Hill. We'd see Erebus to the north if the weather was better.

I realize I know what I'm seeing. I'm no stranger to this place. I know where I'm going to be dropped off and how to get to my dorm. I know the roads and trails.

It feels good to be back. Among the sea ice, the herbies, chocolate-brown volcanic rock and the bunny-booted ice people I feel like I'm home.

What kind of wacko must I be to be home in a place like this?

I've been thinking about the subject of racism in our country. What I realized is that, while racism, specifically skin color, is a dying belief another form of racism is still running wild through all types of people in our country.

But this racism isn't judged by skin color, or language, but what country you come from, and your beliefs.

Take South Park for example: "Fuck Canada.", or Sand Nigger, Towel-head, Jewboy, and so on... Especially prejudice against anyone from the Middle East. The Taliban, our mortal enemies.

Now I've heard some people say that what President Dubya Bush has ordered Iraq to do is heinous, outrageous, and all these other over-exagerrated(?) words. That's protecting the American people from chemical, biological, and physical warfare god damnit. But what noone acknowledges is the racism in our country against anyone even moderately associated with our enemies, Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The misplaced anger is directed at a group of individuals, Moslims, Pakistanis, Arabs and what people don't realize is that just because you are Muslim or speak Arabic doesn't mean you make homemade suicide bombs and throw yourself into on-coming Jewish traffic.

I was feeling something powerfully, just a moment ago, the definition for a moment being within the past three days, a something special that was scraping with turpentine claws at my insides, and I thought that, perhaps, I would share these thoughts here. I don't use any of my skills to an advantage. I cannot engage. Cannot engage. Cannot engage the projects, a part of my mind that is often active while I stand idle, waiting for the bus, or transparent walking through city streets, trying to dodge the hare krishnas, those thoughts that would lead me to absolute creative automatic bliss bombastic quisitive mystery-making buddha rubarb butter. Yes, I mean those thoughts, the ones that you're always waiting for while you're ready to write, but only forgetting them in excommune.


I'm looking for magic.


There are prisoners. Their backs are turned to me, and I am their master. I nudge one with my stick, it comes out gooey. And these are my thoughts. I puncture brain cells for a living, poke them and they'll burst, the ideas get into my bloodstream and bleed from my fingers. But they don't, and that's the problem too.

I like blocks of text, centered around a few concepts. I like to see how they interact, what arises from putting creedence on their more material existence, as things that you can move around, move the sign, change the signifier, this is fun.

Sometimes I think things like these:

_____ .::. ,-:` \;',`'-, .:' .: .'-;_,; ':-;_,'. ,MMM8&&&.:' .:' /; '/ , _`.-\ MMMMM88&&&& .:' | '`. (` /` ` \`| MMMMM88&&&&&&:' |:. `\`-. \_ / | MMMMM88&&&&&& | ( `, .`\ ;'| .:MMMMM88&&&&&& \ | .' `-'/ .:' MMMMM88&&&& `. ;/ .' .:' .:'MMM8&&&' `'-._____.-'` :' .:' '::'
Have got little to do with what we think they do. I mean, looking at the micro levels of existence, things go from smallest to biggest in selfsame attributes. There's something big going on out there, and we have no idea what it is. I've dreamt of other places, but I can't live those dreams, and that is what I struggle for most of all, always.

We are all concepts error. blue pieces of fuzz stick screen, the world around me operates by a dense motion. People keep up dying, those still their tears, and He disappeared into the last few weeks, watching as if behind the creative impulses that showered lightning on us. He tried slumber. It didn't work. So he nailed open his eyes, and he looked like this.

He tried slumber. Mountains standing into that production, I thought the transmission was built. Am picking up erasure, with a stick.

((}--- though no one else can hear it, these are
the thoughts thought, the tharks thunk
some say or universal value ---{))

  ____  |  |__    ____    ____    ______  ____   _____   
_/ ___\ |  |  \  /  _ \  /  _ \  /  ___/_/ __ \  \__  \  
\  \___ |   Y  \(  <_> )(  <_> ) \___ \ \  ___/   / __ \_
 \___  >|___|  / \____/  \____/ /____  > \___  > (____  /
     \/      \/                      \/      \/       \/ 
                            .__   .__   __           
    _______   ____  _____   |  |  |__|_/  |_  ___.__.
    \_  __ \_/ __ \ \__  \  |  |  |  |\   __\<   |  |
     |  | \/\  ___/  / __ \_|  |__|  | |  |   \___  |                  
     |__|    \___  >(____  /|____/|__| |__|   / ____|
                 \/      \/                   \/     

                                                           AND STICK WITH IT!


Imagine first space at its absolute, beyond physical description. Not nothingness, because there is something to it, not somethingness because there is nothing to it, imagine this space in between, an avenue of non-Euclidean configuration, but without yet the mathematics or concept-there-of to create mathematics. This is "base-level reality," this is the grid, if you want to call it that. It is beyond the concepts of dimensions, though like an operating system kernel, it is at first abstract. At its own cosmic whim, it creates modules to supplant this base structure. These modules are what define the parameters for all the possibile realities within the grid.


Slowly a plane of existence is formed, simultaneously a few others. Let's go so far as to call the will of the grid, the creator, for ease, but recognize that the word is a placeholder for a concept it does not completely fit. Well, he makes a few planes, decides that they may compliment each other, so the creator sets them parellel with each other, ties a little metaphysical rope around the buch, but not too tight, allowing them to be hovering over each other, and though parellel, this being non-Euclidean space, they manage to touch each other, somewhere within the inconceptual space, at some point near infinity, and this happens infinite times. The points where these planes of existence do in fact cross, introduces a gateway to pass on to "another level."


These planes are directly made up by a system that I can euphamize as "pixels," I call them tharkbits. Other people have "seen" these, it goes beyond just quarks and bits, vision and sound, there is a mesh to this method of creation, it allows things to be in a flux, things just must be turned to catch a metaphorical light. You'll see. This creator though, he died a long time ago, leaving this stuff to all find a way of working on it own. The creator died in a different sense than you and I can understand it. Maybe that means the creator will come back, some day.


People used to be more aware of this structuring of reality. Some people still are, people in power, people with a different kind of power. Old people. Young people. But the people in power, and this (I believe) explains the will to power, is the thought of wielding this beast of reality, and manipulating it. My idea/concept of reality technicians is not far-off base, I think. And though I'll cloak this in a softlink, I'll go out on a limb to say that some of the questions we should be asking ourselves, and our particular frame of reference, within the planes of reality that we can see right now, are inside. Some. Not all, for sure hot damn not all, but there's something in there that will point you to some new questions that have arisen.

Sometimes I think maybe I'm creating most of my problems, my great moral confusion, my inward rebellion, that anything I have to be mad at in this world is self-created, self-inflicted. Work is a poor excuse for reality. I'll keep thinking about things.

There is an odd pleasure-- an odd satisfaction that it brings on.

Perhaps, it is a state of mind.

The rush, the quickening pulse as you continue, go on, pace deeper into the void, yes. Your writeup is almost complete, and then the final moment, place the final touches, and then...


It is done. But wait! There is an error in your HTML! The node looks skewed! Rush to get it done, rush! Rush I tell you! Good. Good. No one has voted on it yet...

Sitting in your chair, refreshing your window...avoiding that urge that sits at your fingertips, that urge to nodevertise-- that urge to enter the catbox, that destructive, that, that forbidden urge!

Something is different about the page. The first vote has come in. You have gained one XP. And no matter how much you tell yourself to go away, do something else, wait it out, you sit. And you wait. And you wait. And another vote floats in from the nodegel. No XP. But is it about the XP? Being an XP whore is bad, is it not? Must...not...think...about...the...XP...

And then you come to the undeniable truth of truths. You node, thererfore, you are. But no longer are you you.
You are Nate.
You are dem bones.
You are dragonmonkey.
You are the Initiate.
You are the Pedant.

You are Everything.

And, through the laws of logic, (Oh! Those wonderful, ever-present laws of logic!)

Everything is you.

the Faith


1 a : the act or state of wholeheartedly and steadfastly believing in the existence, power, and benevolence of a supreme being, of having confidence in his providential care, and of being loyal to his will as revealed or believed in : belief and trust in and loyalty to God b (1) : an act or attitude of intellectual assent to the traditional doctrines of one's religion : orthodox religious belief (2) : a decision of an individual entrusting his life to God's transforming care in response to an experience of God's mercy c among Roman Catholic theologians : a supernatural virtue by which one believes on the authority of God himself all that God has revealed or proposes through the Church for belief 2 a (1) : firm or unquestioning belief in something for which there is no proof b : CONFIDENCE; especially : firm or unquestioning trust or confidence in the value, power, or efficacy of something 3 a : an assurance, promise, or pledge of fidelity, loyalty, or performance 5 : something that is believed or adhered to especially with strong conviction: as a (1) : (not)a system of religious beliefs : RELIGION b : the cherished values, ideals, or beliefs of an individual

A lot of Christians I know talk. They talk to me. They STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN. Ha. That means that they tell you about the superiority of God, the healing and saving power of Jesus, what sin is and how you're committing it, and how they can help you, how their version of God can help you.

Don't get me wrong: I am a Christian. I do believe in God, in Jesus Christ, that he came, lived (which most people tend to overlook for the next parts), died, and rose. He lived a perfect life to show us how we can possibly live if we even try a little bit, because trying means to trust in him and ask for his help, and if he can do it, we can too with his help. I believe most of all in the power of the Holy Spirit. It's that gut feeling. It's that intuition. It's what gives you words and makes you say them, the right words, so right you couldn't have thought of them, and you don't even realize you're the one saying them until after they've come out of your mouth. It is our true, pure guide here on earth.

But don't preach to me about what every Christian preaches about. Tell me that God is there for me. Tell me he doesn't want me to have stress and will take it and take care of the stressor. Tell me that he loves me. Tell me that Jesus is gentle and kind. Tell me that the touch and love of God are beautiful. Tell me about the joys that God created for us, the joys of having a relationship with him. And by relationship, I mean talking and listening, I mean trusting and compromising. I mean everything that would constitute a relationship here on earth. Don't tell me that He doesn't approve of what I'm doing with my life. Don't tell me who is and isn't going to Hell, or ask who I think is going or is there already. Don't judge me. Don't ask me what God thinks I should be doing is. I'm always attempting to, well, as Paul puts it in First Corinthians 10:31, "whatever you (eat, drink, and whatever you) do, do it all for the glory of God." And don't just quote the Bible, like that, and tell me it's making a distinct point that is really just supporting whatever you want to say. The Bible is a document as a whole. Sure, it has good quotes in it. But not many Christians that I know take the Bible as a contextual book. They don't take it for its stories, for its ideas, for its philosophies as a whole. They forget it is whole and complete, and what that means is that we have to take it as something to learn from as a broad perspective.

Oh and what is up with telling me my actions are "unChristian"? You have no idea about my life, my relationship with God. I could very well be doing the holiest thing possible in the situation that I'm in, but it's not like you would know. You don't care to really get to know me well enought to make that judgement, even if it was yours to make in the first place. You're not well-informed enough to judge me within a lick of truth, a lick of justice. There's always more than one side to a story, and actually, there are billions. We all affect each other in a web, and every event affects every other one so we're all so webbed together that only God and the person in question (agent) knows anything close to the entire story. The agent knows less than God, but other than that, they are the only one that knows everything or even CLOSE to anything about his/her actions and his/her compliance with God. Sure, we can help each other, but DON'T FUCKING JUDGE ME! You're the one(s) that trust(s) every word (of the Bible), right? "Thou shalt not judge" or however it says it in the KJV is a big deal to me. No one should ever judge, Christian or not, but if you subscribe to a Christian doctrine, theology, philosophy, church, religious organization, you should be even less liable to judge.

No, not all Christians are like this. But I'm seeing more and more a sin of formalism, and a sin of forgetting what the words "in Christ's name" means. "In Christ's name we pray, Amen." What does that mean to you anymore? Nothing, it's just a way to literarily construct your prayer so that people understand it with the linguistic parts of their brains. It makes it sound good. It makes it "this type" of prayer. What happened to letting yourself go? I don't even like to pray before meals out loud anymore. It's gotten to the point where it's sinful. It's talking to God just because you feel you have to, at this point. Again, this isn't for everyone. In fact, when Tony and I used to pray before meals, I always felt in communion with God, and that the prayer was a genuine desire to be close to God and to feed ourselves spiritually before we do physically.

I will none with false religion anymore. Nothing that's not pure is going to be considered something I do for my God... I do everything for my God, and I attempt it to be the best. I will pray because I want to be close to God. If I don't want to be close to God at the moment, I will pray that I do want to. Simple, broken-down relationship with God. That's all. No societal or cultural religious practices just simply because they are what we do. Just what God prompts me to do, what the holy spirit tells me to do, what would glorify God.

6 often capitalized : the true religion from the point of view of the speaker -- usually used with "the"

the Faith

A Saturday with no plans and no commitments: a rare occurrence. Ruth Anne and I finally got a chance to get the basement of our new place into some semblance of order, or at least reduce the chaos somewhat. Our 17 month old daughter Amelia even cooperated, and mostly amused herself in the basement while we worked.

Talking about it now, it doesn't sound like much. We moved some stuff to the garage, threw a bunch of stuff out, brought another pile of stuff to Goodwill, cleaned a bit and moved stuff around. Perhaps biggest impact was made when we found a place we could both hang a florescent light fixture AND plug it in. The added light, plus the added space, make the far side of the basement hugely more inviting. We then moved things around until we could give the rugs their first vacuuming since the Truman administration. We can definitely see the the basement is going to shape up pretty well pretty soon. We did manage to make a nice corner for a small indoor workshop (since the larger one in the detached garage is not too inviting in the winter in Cincinnati).

While we're talking about the basement, let me add that the house was built in 1903, the basement ceiling is really low, and the foundation is fieldstone, so basement is always full of mortar dust and plaster dust. Redoing the walls might be more than we can handle, and there's not much that can be done about the ceiling.

That was pretty much the whole day, unless you count grocery shopping (where I was a bad kid a bought a couple cans of Sobe Adrenaline Rush) or the actual trip to Goodwill to donate stuff. Lunch was excellent, as it was leftovers from yesterday's trip to Copeland's, and dinner was likewise yummy as Ruth Anne made spaghetti sauce (this time served over spiral pasta in three colors). Much playing with Amelia, of course, feeding her and bathing her and trying to convince her that she'd really be much happier asleep. Even the usual singings of Jennifer's Rabbit and Englebert the Elephant aren't doing the trick.

P.S. -- I forgot to mention yesterday -- I got my extended edition The Fellowship of the Ring on 4 DVD's from amazon.com. I used the free shipping option, but since it was shipped from Lexington it arrived overnight anyway. Now all I need is a couple of days to watch it all; perhaps over Thanksgiving, or the next time I fly to San Francisco.

This was possibly the most nervewracking yet amazing day of my life. Y? Coz it's the day i first had sex. WOW!!!!!! I spent all day shopping for the perfect underwear and condomsand then arranging my room perfectly. Then he came round. We played around a bit, started removing eachother's clothes and got into bed. Then he put on the condom and pushed slowly into me. I groaned as he did, it was soooo pleasureable!! mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... So, anyway, he moved slowly in and out of me, getting faster and faster and we groaned and then came together. Then we snuggled naked for ages until he had to leave. OMG! The best night of my life!!

That will be all. And nobody dare try claiming this day coz its mine!!!!!

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