Antarctic Diary: November 22, 2002

And then there was light

So today there's corporate politics, Antarctica style.

I asked for a hub. The four port kind. And I got sucked into a miasma of politics to rival any big company. Something happened, something prior to my arrival. It makes asking for hubs a big issue, apparently. People want to know whose side you're on, and at the time they ask you don't know what the sides are.

It's Antarctica. I'm on everyone's side.

I ran back down the hill to the Puzzle Palace to see what they had to say about it. It was going to take a couple of beers and a quiet place to explain. Doesn't involve me, but could involve me and my project if I step in the wrong place, and nobody's going to tell me where those places are.

So I went to the galley for lunch tisking and cursing under my breath. I thought I left the corporate life behind and here it was on the ice.

Had a nice lunch with the MegaDunes guys again. One of their guys has been working up to some kind of full-blown relationship with a cute lady biologist. They sat together like high-school kids, thigh to thigh, saying stupid lovey things to each other. I'd been watching this develop since Christchurch.

I was pretty grumpy because of the unforseen whacking I'd taken that morning, and now I had to watch two perfectly normal adults play almost-kissy-face in a fever of ice-borne libido when the love of my life was 10,000 miles north wishing I was home for Thanksgiving.

And for the first time I was completely homesick.

Ron, the MegaDunes mountaineer suggested a climb of Ob Hill and I was all over that like dust on a freshly varnished deck. The unattached MegaDunes guy stayed back with his new ice love while the rest of us met in front of 155 in multiple wind-proofed layers and hiking boots.

The Ob Hill climb takes about an hour. It's reasonably vertical, well worn trail to follow. The sides of the hill are a combination of volcanic dust, sharp breccias, and hardpacked snow. Climbing is not difficult, but you have to watch every footfall because the rocks are all loose.

We made the top in about an hour. I hadn't been paying attention to the landscape till we reached the top.

From the top of Ob Hill you see what Scott, Shackelton, and the rest of the men at McMurdo saw100 years ago. Mt. Erebus is a smoking god. Castle rock is dwarfed at its feet. Cape Armitage is off to the north east. Black Island and White Island to the a little further to the east with the Royal Society Range across the sound. Arrival Heights to west. Minna Bluff to the south--the way to the pole.

McMurdo below looking like some infernal oil cracking plant, belching steam rather than petrochemical pollutants. (We're all so so clean now.)

The weather was frosty, only about 0 degrees F. The wind was about 30 knots, and so we had a wind chill of somewhere around 30 below.

Sweat from my forehead froze instantly and fell from my face like snowflakes.

I was not cold in my gear even though I'd worked up a pretty good sweat. My boots performed well.

We all posed for pictures, and then looked around in silence.

And then no words to describe that feeling, except that perhaps for once in my life I was prepared to believe there was a God, and at that moment, he'd looked up from all his paperwork and saw me standing at the foot of his desk.

So he remembered me. Something like: "There you are, dude. What's up?"

When we got down I met my lady biologist friend on her way back from the dorm room where she'd just had her lunch-time tryst. She was in that smiley, glowy sort of mood one has after those moments of existence outside real life.

"How are you liking McMurdo?" I asked her.

"Oh, I like it a REAL lot," she answered, nearly giggling. There is no hiding anything in town. She knew I knew she knew I knew....

Then she said, "I know what you're going to say..."

"Well I don't," I replied.

I didn't wait around to hear her story. Don't need to.

She'd had her orgasms. I'd had mine.

So like I said to God on the top of Ob Hill.

Having a great time.

Wish you were here.




True friends just might surprise you. Or themselves.

It has been rare in my life that I've really admired anyone I knew. Of the people I've loved, only Edward falls into that category. A couple of people who've dedicated their lives to the struggle for liberty for all do also. And over the past two days, I've been astounded that the CEO of the company I work for has joined this esteemed group.

Yesterday, a coworker came into my office and asked if my digital camera would be available over the next couple of days. I said yes, and asked what she would be needing it for. She said that she wanted to take a picture of Tony on Friday, and then again on Monday. Naturally, I asked her what would be happening over the weekend, and she said that Tony had said that he would be shaving his head then. The obvious "Why?" was proffered; she said that he had a friend with cancer who has recently started on a chemotherapy regimen, and who has lost (or will shortly lose) his hair. A group of his friends have decided that they will shave their heads in a gesture of support for him.

I was blown away. It is practically idiomatic that much of a man's vanity is wrapped up in his hair — and Tony's Italian for Pete's sake. Unsurprisingly, I immediately found myself wondering for whom I might do such a thing, coming up with only Edward, but even at that, I'm sure that it never would have even occurred to me to do such a thing.

Today I told Tony how very impressed I was that he's doing this for his friend. This evening, I went out for some drinks with a small group of people from work, and Tony was there also. After most people had drifted off, it was only me, Tony, and one other guy, who happens to be bald himself, left. Tony turned the conversation to what he might expect (being understandably apprehensive about the prospect). After some discussion of the practicalities, Greg also mentioned what a great thing he thought Tony was doing. Tony demurred, mentioning that, of course, what his friend was going through was much worse (which I said does not devalue his action), and certainly in a relative sense, what he was doing was little in the grand scheme of things. Though he admitted to a question in his own mind as to whether, once doing this, he might think that he's not doing enough. (Which, I believe, has the same roots as the quandary of the soldier in the foxhole who feels guilty that it was his buddy who got hit rather than him.) And also, a natural wondering as to whether, if it's ever him in that situation, he would have such friends who would do such a thing for him. He fears that he would not, but I still have enough faith to believe that he would probably be greatly surprised, on the upside.

I asked a few questions of Tony, one of which came up after he mentioned that he was going to a Father/Daughter dance tomorrow evening, and that he might be bare-pated by that point. I asked if that might cause his daughter some problems among her peers (not that I didn't believe that he hadn't thought of that), and he answered that, among recent events that had made him very appreciative of his family, was that his daughter was perfectly accepting of the plan.

It was too late by that time, but here I am home, lifting a glass of my favorite port, and saying

Here's to you, Tony. I admire you.

i love you through osmosis. i love you through the movement of my heart through my skin, and into your body. i see your eyes widen when i do this; you are surprised, but not shocked.

sometimes you frown when i enter you in this way. you do not think that i have enough, to keep the flow moving. but i am sure that i can just keep touching you, close, near, and i can keep this up forever.

i have very smooth hands, and i rub them down the front of my face, palm out, to feel them. i think this is perhaps what it feels like to run my cheeks over your back; and how beautiful to lay my head on your shoulder blades and feel your heart beating through the bone.

i love you through osmosis, we make love through diffusion, and hold on to each other in the full force of physics.

So yeah. I found a pattern in the stockmarket today.

This would be an astounding and revolutionary leap forward in mathematics and an incredible revelation to the financial world if it wasn't for the fact that I can't tell anybody what it is.

Think about it. If I did tell someone, they'd change their investment strategy to take advantage of what's going to happen. Then the real market values would be different from the predicted values because of the new investment. And as we all know, small changes add up. The model would diverge from the real world - in a week, the pattern would be useless. Even telling someone that there is a pattern - like I'm doing now - might be enough to sway the market very slightly and destroy the pattern forever; if they dare believe me.

Well, hey ho. On January 3, 2005, don't say I didn't warn you.

Secret recording techniques bring you this transcript of my school headteacher and his meeting with the school nurse.

Mr. Stuart*: So, Janice, have you any ideas on exactly when to schedule the booster vaccinations for tetanus, polio and diphtheria?

Janice*: Well, Mr. Stuart, I was thinking perhaps the week beginning Monday the 18th of November.

Mr. Stuart: Let me get this straight - these are the vaccinations where we give the pupils less harmful forms of 3 killer diseases? All at once?

Janice: Yes, Mr Stuart.

Mr. Stuart: But what if the children's immune systems take a while to fight off the diseases? The GCSE mock examinations are only two weeks after the date you've set! A child could miss a week of school, and with all that revision time lost, they might do very badly on their exams! They might be re-set into a lower group, and not get the GCSE qualifications they deserve!

* * * There is a long silence. * * *

Janice: Yeah, but who cares?

Mr. Stuart: Well, when you put it like that...

So, yes, I had my vaccinations, and I swallowed the polio stuff that tasted like shit, and I was ill all week. How much coursework have I missed? How much class revision have I not had chance to do? I just can't wait till my mock exams.

Like, thanks a bunch Sir.

* - the names have been changed to protect the innocent guilty.

Last Daylog * * * Next Daylog

Last night went a little later than usual, because Amelia just wouldn't go to sleep, all she would do if fuss and nurse. After trying everything we could think of, I had the brilliant idea "maybe she's hungry?" Amelia and I went down to the kitchen where she ate an substantial amount of food, then took me by the hand and led me back upstairs where she climbed into bed and went to sleep. I had a harder time getting to sleep as I was busy kicking myself.

I updated the script available at E2 node tracker to improve the formatting a little bit, and to explicitly show the new votes, rather than just the delta. E.g. when I used to say "Rep = 9 (+12/-3), Change = +2", I might now add (+4/-2) to reflect the votes that went into the change. With the way people vote on daylogs, such a thing is essential.

In my continuing efforts to make E2 the definitive Unicode information center, I noded CJK Symbols and Punctuation, and continued my updating of other code blocks.

All packed and ready to head to Lexington for the Swan Salon pot luck, after which we'll spend the night at Ross and Danby's house and drive home in the morning.

Amelia was the Belle of the Ball, as usual. We were happy to find two dogs living at Ellen's house, where the pot luck was held. Amelia loves dogs. The first time we tried to give Amelia some food, she instantly turned around and fed it to the dog. She had never given food to a dog before, but I guess some things are instinctual. Danby made same amazing sweet potato pudding, and there were some spinach balls with enormous amounts of cheese that were also excellent. My ginger thins were a big hit as well.

Some videos were shown of previous Swan Salon performances; some really stunning choreographies. The son of one dancer taught Amelia some new ways to fall down the stairs. Everyone brought their spouses, and it really pointed out to me how almost all members are married to people who don't much dance. I'm so lucky that way.

Amelia wouldn't go to sleep until we got in the car, at which time she fell asleep instantly. She was up till 10:15, which is really really late for her. The rest of us stayed up till 12:15, which is only a little bit late.

Fun with audio files

Last night, Braunbeck needed to finish recording himself reading one of his stories; a magazine he's working with is giving out CDs of the story as a freebie prize. He needed a quiet office for a few hours to finish the recording. Conveniently enough, Transitional Man had invited me to go with him for a late dinner to try out a new Mexican restaurant, La Costa, which is up in Worthington, Ohio. So, TM and I went off and left Braunbeck to his microphone and computer. La Costa was very tasty, and between eating and yakking about the job market and politics we killed a couple of hours there.

So I didn’t get that job I interviewed for a few weeks ago. Well, that’s not one hundred percent true -- it looks like I didn’t get it. Through the grapevine back where I used to work, I found out that they offered it to someone, but that person never responded to them. Which is why I never got any notice of my rejection.

“Maybe you’re an alternate,” Pantaliamon optimistically suggests to me. Yeah, maybe. But I’m a pessimist, a cynic, a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy. I also suffer from a huge case of pride and ego -- I don’t know I’d even accept it if I was the alternate pick. I’ve never liked being number two -- I prefer to be number one. Fuck number two.

I really wanted that job. There is a bright side, though -- at least I have a job. That’s the bright side. At least I’m not unemployed in this economy. I know that a lot of people are jobless, so I shouldn’t be depressed that I didn’t get a job I really wanted when I already have one. There are worse positions to be in.

But I’m selfish. So please excuse me while I seethe for a moment.

4:30 AM this morning brought a fire alarm in the residence hall where i live. As if being up til 1 AM working on my Eng236 portfolio wasn't enough, my blissful (read drug induced) sleep is interrupted in it's third hour. By 6, i was back asleep, but not for long. Every night i dream, i dream of her. It's been months now, but i still don't know how to put her behind me. There have been others since, but they haven't even worn away the surface of my longing for her. I woke today with a hollow feeling that hasn't gone away, so I've been crabby all day, my apologies to anyone who knows me.
But I see her now sometimes when I'm trying to sleep. I see her somewhere out beyond the edge of all the cities and smoke, and it's like she's a hologram stuck behind my eyes, in a bright dress she must've worn once, when I knew her, something that doesn't quite reach her knees. Bare legs long and straight. Blonde hair, streaked like oak, hoods her face, blown in a wind from somewhere…

…and I see her wave goodbye.

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