Monday, March 14, 2005

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball

Well, imagine standing on the inside of a giant, seamless ping pong ball of inestimable diameter and you have our weather conditions at the moment. It is dimmer than the white-out days when the sun lit the fog to a blinding white, now it is kind of an Old-Mans-Undies Grey. We are only a week or so from the sun kissing the horizon, and it is very atmospheric to walk outside at the moment (sorry, very bad pun).

On the few days this week when the sun was out, it is a big ball of orange, giving the place a sepia-tone when it pirouettes behind the clouds. It makes you feel like you are in one of those old Antarctic documentaries, where the film is browned with age, and all the men had moustaches... I am working on mine, but it hasn't come in yet...

This week was blissfully without major incident. I have had a big long chat with my telescope, and we are on much better terms at the moment. An interesting conversation among some of the beakers here and we admitted to each other that in addition to all our experiments having personalities, they also have definite genders. AMANDA, the neutrino experiment is, according to her (male) operators, a lesbian because she starts misbehaving if she doesn't get enough loving attention (apparently a female trait) but behaves absolutely perfectly if there is a woman around...

We have decided that both QUAD and VIPER are male. This is because VIPER was behaving fine for me until QUAD got a ground-shield extension, and then VIPER didn't have the biggest one. He promptly dropped his bundle and has had a tantrum ever since. I have now had a long chat with him and explained that it isn't the size of one's ground shield, its the science you do with it...we are still working through these issues, but I believe he is beginning to deal with it all. In the meantime, I don't mention QUAD around him (spelling it out works though as it's not his strong point, a bit like saying you are taking the dog for a W-A-L-K)...

AST/RO, the third telescope, is either a transvestite or a haemaphrodite - we can't decide which. With five different experiments that can be strapped on the back of it, sometimes running two at a time, the poor thing doesn't know if its coming or going...erm to coin a phrase.

I know this sounds strange, but I promise I'm not going mad yet. It's just that when you work so closely with big, complicated machinery you tend to see personality traits in them after a while (anyone who has ever named their car knows what I mean), and it helps to talk to them - or swear at them, sometimes for your own sanity... ;)

Last week I attended a refresher course on CPR and Defibrilation in Medical, which was quite good. The Doc, Christian, is happy to help anyone interested in updating and extending their medical training, and I hope to get a fair bit accomplished this year. The defibrilation was new, and it is something to get to shock the life (into) an unsuspecting dummy on the floor a few times. We had some drills at the end, and me and my partner Vicky, a cool Kiwi chick were last, and got the 'hardest' drill set up. We came running in, and when we opened up the 'fellow's jacket, discovered a rug there - literally! - to simulate an incredibly hairy chest. This is a big problem for defibrilation as you need the electric pads to stick to the skin. The method for this is to give them an on-the-spot wax! You first stick on the pads and if they don'twork, you tear them off very fast, leaving two nice pad-shaped hairless spots on the blokes chest, before replacing them with a new set. I guess its good they are comatose...Vicky had done a bit of waxing before, so she got that job...

Tomorrow we are outside most of the day, laying the first of the flag-lines between the station and MAPO. These are life savers in the winter dark, placed every five to ten metres apart, with ropes in between, as on a cloudy, fogged in day in the dark, you can often not see your hand in front of your face. Luckily to date, no one has been badly injured or died after getting lost, but every year someone gets disoriented and spends a very cold, dangerous half hour outside in -80C degree temps. Not good. Don't worry mum, I'll be fine.

The band is coming along well, we are playing our first gig at the April two-day weekend, which is not far now. We have taken to playing and practicing in the laundry room, as its close, so a lot of people doing their washing get unlooked-for serenades. Funniest was when Larry our guitarist jumped up to sit on one of the machines, as I was doing, not noticing that the lid on his machine wasn't down - he's a pretty small guy and managed to fall almost entirely in...but then they discovered that I fit entirely too well into the dryers - which is fun, as you can get some good spin up, so long as no onec loses the door...Anyway, the gig should be fun. Looking forward to it, I'll hopefully send you some photos. There will be photo update on the site soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

hope you are all well, and you Darwinite family and friends are not getting too battered by Ingrid,


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