Monday, April 28, 2008

The 4th Annual BF5K

We survived the 2 day weekend. For the fourth year in a row, we've had an indoor 5K race, called the BF5K, named after Kevin, whose nickname is BFK or Big F%$&ing Kevin. The course is a lap around the station, upstairs and downstairs, and it takes 18 laps to make 5 kilometers.

There are a couple of twists on the usual 5K event - all of the participants must be in costume and the runners must have sponsors. Instead of pledging a certain amount of money per lap, the sponsors must instead drink a drink of choice every 3 laps. The following photos were taken by me and Weeks.

Kevin was of course the grand judge and along with co-judges Nate and Derek, they came to the event as North America. Derek is half Canadian and had his hockey stick. Kevin is the all American red-blooded conservative so of course he was the US. Nate by default was Mexico but he just happened to have a sombrero chips and salsa bowl so his country was quite fitting. And between the US and Mexico, there was the symbolic border fence of barbed wire.

This year we had full media coverage with color commentary provided by Michael and Philip, who came as Dr. Scotch and his patient. They narrated the entire event in something that sounds like a cross between the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and the Super Bowl. When Michael finishes the podcast, I'll have links to it so that you can hear the action.
We had quite the crowd of runners, sponsors and spectators. Our population was briefly at 62 as not one but two blow up dolls made appearances.

Our trauma team became Team Trauma as we donned scrubs and surgical masks. Deb in her dragon costume opted for a simple surgical gown that would accommodate her wings and tail.

Poor Todd found his legs temporarily amputated above the knees and being the professional carpenter, he built his own rolling cart to get around. His IV bag was filled with something that smelled suspiciously like Bushmills and he evoked Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump as he rolled around bitterly haranguing people who tried to help him. He would have probably collected a couple of dollars in his change cup but folks around here just don't usually carry money around.

We registered our team at the judges table, got our jersey numbers and collected our prizes for participating, a can of beer and a pack of smokes. Don't forget, it's the 2.0 Bar crowd who's sponsoring this event.
Our competition included Team Ice Capades, or Tonya Harding's Revenge. Mandi on the left was Nancy Kerrigan with a knee brace and next to her is Jane's Tonya with a pipe. Robin was a glamour girl skater with scary streaky makeup and Sue was a hockey punk.
Team Maintenance had an elaborate pre-race show that I missed because Team Trauma took a while to get dressed, but they arrived with Tyvek suits and some circus-looking gear.
Then Adit shot out of a cannon and landed on the mattress. They then went on to win the race in the team division, sans suits.
The devilish Katie won the Women's division and she still would have easily won if there was another solo woman running. Her sponsor was Leah who was an "angel" but still devilish.

Weeks took 1st place in the Men's division but since he came in costume as our station leader, Katie Hess, some of us weren't sure if he was in the right division. By the way, Katie looks way better than that.
The best costume went to our Plumber Foreman Detroit Andy, another cross dresser. He ran the course with extra large love handles, a can of Crunchy Cheetos and a cigarette but on the final lap he miraculously shed about 150 pounds and crossed the finish line svelte and ripped. He kept the makeup and wig though.
Bill Spindler ran the entire race as a mad doctor type. Medical themes were popular this year because we probably have the most fun toys and props at our disposal.
And to prove that, as the laps went down, Team Trauma got progressively bruised and bloodied along the way. On one of my laps, I returned with a soft cervical collar. The next one I had a black eye and bloody nose, thanks to mulage makeup that we have for drills.
Andy developed a head wound then ran a lap with a leg brace and crutches. Our team got further traumatized as the race went on as team members emerged with a straight jacket, revealed real casts on arms and then for the final lap, Andy was carried into the Galley on a military litter.
What a fun day it was and the night was even better with Polestock 2008 and the debut of the bands. Photos soon to come.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ready for the weekend

We have just completed a grueling stretch of 5 weeks straight without a real weekend. Normally we only have one day off per week, Sunday, but once a month we are treated to TWO whole days off and now it's the eve of our 2 day weekend.
There's a lot in store for us. The 4th Annual BF5K race will be run tomorrow afternoon and I'll post some photos from the indoor 5K race soon. This year, we have an abundance of musical talent on station and tomorrow night five bands will be making their South Pole debut at
Polestock 2008.
While the bands were busy practicing their sets, the halls and doors of the station were plastered with concert flyers, a sound stage was constructed, security staff and roadies hired and backstage passes designed and printed up. Our unofficial historian Bill Spindler released the official media kit for the many news and wire services fighting to cover the huge event.
"Contact the promoter’s office for information regarding performer interview availability and backstage passes."
And the gym is being turned into the South Pole Coliseum.
The sound stage was constructed in pieces and put together this afternoon.
I was on the decorating commitee (OK, it was just me and Calee) and we went for a pseudo-60's theme plus white Christmas lights and mosquito netting...can't tell you how we ended up with a mosquito net down here.
The official USAP/NSF emblem in the gym now has a big smiley face.
I was also in charge of rounding up costumes and wigs for the band members and concert goers.
While Paul and BFK help out with the sound checks, the roadies will work tirelessly into the night preparing for the festival. We'd all camp outside the Coliseum tonight for the best seats if we all weren't participating in the 5K but I'm sure we'll rush the gates as soon as we finish scarfing down the post race pizza. Stay tuned for the weekend reports.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News elsewhere

This is our new Comms operator in training.
I spent this afternoon doing flight following for the McMurdo "Extended Season" flight, a single C-17 flight from Christchurch to bring in a few late arriving winter crew members and to take out 100 others who stayed beyond the usual station closing day in February. McMurdo's population has now gone from 216 to 122, if I'm doing the math correctly, which will be their official winter population.

We won't see any planes until October but they'll get more C-17 flights in August during "Winfly" where a series of usually 3 flights are scheduled to bring in more people and take out a few. This is the first year that they've done a "reverse Winfly".

Today's flight was of interest to me because it was supposed to bring in Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine which will be stored at McMurdo hospital with the plan of immunizing their winter crew a few weeks before Winfly germs arrive. And when we have our first flight, 60 doses will be sent to us so that we can do the same with our crew. I see on the flight manifest that they also received 14,365 pounds of freshies and 3005 pounds of mail...we're on the last salvagable pieces of fresh fruit but still have plenty of onions and potatoes and such. I just can't imagine that 122 people will be able to eat all of that fresh produce before it goes bad.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Save our Frosty Boy

It could be a long, hard winter.
One of the luxuries of the Elevated Station is Frosty Boy, our soft serve ice cream machine. It's been a tempermental thing ever since we moved into the new station in 2003 and people either love it (ice cream fans) or hate it (galley crew and maintenance guys, aka UT's).
Frosty Boy was a big step up for us from the old days of the Dome Galley when we didn't have an ice cream machine but had an endless supply of cartons of orange sherbet. Every Saturday night was pizza night with orange sherbet and both of those got old pretty quickly. Now with good old vanilla or chocolate soft serve at your fingertips and an impressive selection of toppings, we've been living the good life.
I'm not sure why we call it Frosty Boy...we use Eskimo Pie mix instead of name brand Frosty Boy mix. McMurdo calls their ice cream machine Frosty Boy too and as much as we'd like to be more original than them, it's still a pretty good name for an ice cream machine in Antarctica. The galley in Mactown locks down their ice cream maker so the only time you can get soft serve is at meal time. Ours is freely accessible anytime of day or night...and maybe that's the problem.
Jon and James using their expertise to try to fix Frosty Boy.

Invariably someone pushes the wrong button and the whole thing freezes up or lets the ice cream mix get too warm. It's always been a maintenance problem since the beginning. As much as we all love our boy, it's a pain in the neck to clean and always makes such a loud, horrible racquet that's hard to hear over it when it kicks on. The freezing elements seemed to not work so well on the left side for the past couple of years, then both sides and now...well, it just doesn't seem hopeful.
"Frosty Boy is in critical condition and in the middle of brain surgery. Please do not spit in his open wounds."
We can easily make ice cream out of liquid nitrogen but there's just something wonderful about having it on tap. We haven't had any major medical problems but if there's one patient I'm worried about it's Frosty Boy. Pray for his recovery.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Colbert Nation Part II

As we were getting ready to leave here last October, Michael finally got around to stepping up to TV host Stephen Colbert’s challenge to fly a Colbert Nation flag at the South Pole (see “South Pole IS Colbert Nation”).

Unfortunately when he sent the photos to the shows producers, it coincided with the beginning of the entertainment industry’s writer’s strike that very same week. Of course the strike dragged on until just recently and figuring that the shows producers were buried under 4 months worth of emails, Michael decided to send the photos again plus some new ones.

Back in early March on a fine Saturday night, the weather was nearly perfect with clear blue skies and the 12 knot winds would make the flag fly nicely. We picked 9:30pm for the photo shoot so that the sun would be positioned to directly light up the flag with the station in the background. As we were waiting around in the Galley, Michael checked his email when the satellite came up and found that lo and behold there was a message from one of the Colbert Report producers wondering what was up with him.

What timing! That news got all of us Polies fired up so we marched out of the Galley, down the Beer Can and out to the geographic South Pole following the Colbert Nation flag.

Michael took off his parka and wore just his chef coat (plus a few underlayers).
It took a few minutes to set up the camera so there was a bit of horsing around in the meantime. It was the best way to stay warm in the -65F temps out there. That's Deb in the dragon suit.
As people got into place, a few of the women unfurled a sign hoping to catch Colbert's eye.

Several group photos were taken and then some victorious shots of Michael and the flag, claiming the Pole for Colbert Nation.

Afterwards, we warmed up again in the Galley and enjoyed a Saturday night off while Andy, Weeks, Michael and Jason were looking at the freshly snapped photos.

So once again, Michael has sent off proof of the Colbert Nation flag flying at the bottom of the world, or the South F%$&ing Pole, as Colbert calls it. Michael still has yet to hear from the show's producers but we're figuring that there is so much juicy material for the writers with the upcoming election and heated Democratic nominee stalemate, they're not in dire need of filler material like the South Pole.
In the meantime, Michael finally has his website Cooking South back up and is working on reconstructing some pages and posting new photos. He's also working on a podcast so stay tuned for those and I'll let you know if he hears back from Stephen Colbert...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Celebrity Guest Chefs

We had a star-studded weekend with appearances from various local, self-made South Pole Celebrities.

On Saturday, it was Galley Appreciation Day where the kitchen crew got the day off as a thank you for the many overtime hours it took them to execute the fine Sunset Dinner. In their place, members of the community rallied together and made breakfast, lunch and dinner, hence Celebrity Guest Chef Day. I was on the dinner crew and it was pizza night!

Among the Celebrity Guest Chefs, we had our Station Manager Katie, electrician Jared and engineer Weeks cranking out the pizzas. It’s a sanitation requirement whenever in the kitchen to have your head covered…but it’s not specified as to what kind of hat it should be.

Unlike Michael, we used pre-made crusts instead of homemade dough. At first we grabbed some frozen crusts from the deck outside but the boxes must have been sitting in the Dome too long (i.e. years and years too long) as the crusts had an unpalatable fuel smell to them. Katie and Weeks made an emergency trip back to the Dome and found “fresher” boxes that didn’t smell like fuel and then we were able to assemble the pizzas in time for dinner.

Dinner was a success (or at least we didn’t hear any complaints) and Polies partied into the night long after I went to bed. Unfortunately, I left my camera sitting in the Galley and found these photos on it later:

..self-portraits by Weeks...

...and the late night musical act of Deb in her dragon costume (which she wore for her wedding a year ago) and Todd playing an accordion duet. I really need to remember to NOT leave my camera sitting around.

Then on Sunday evening, I hosted a wine tasting event, again using Celebrity Guest Chefs who made wonderful appetizers that were paired to different wines. We had more than half the station population turn out for the food and vino but what I didn’t anticipate was that some of the tasters would also turn out to be celebrities themselves.

Our equipment operator Josiah turned into Rambo, construction manager Kevin a cowboy swigging beer and whiskey at the wine tasting, Kiwi Paul as a Studio 54 cokehead and Nathan as Austin Powers. Not only do we have accordions down here, we also have a ridiculously large collection of wigs. Everyone had a great time enjoying some outstanding culinary creations that were nicely paired with a white or red wine or port. Typically wine tastings tend to be fancy, reserved events. At ours, we had an attempted scalping but there were no injuries, just a few hangovers on Monday morning.

And early on Tuesday morning, April Fools Day, I stumbled into the restroom half asleep with bleary eyes only to find all of the stalls locked but seemingly occupied by abandoned boots.

I'm just waiting for those blasted ping pong balls to show up again somewhere today.