Ramblings of an itinerant rocket scientist...

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Friday, October 10th, 2014
5:03 pm - Rule of thumb...
My latest vehicle purchase ( a 2005 Kawasaki EX250 motorcycle) is once more reaffirming the rule of thumb that any used vehicle I buy will incur in the first two months of ownership, maintenance and repair costs greater than or equal to the purchase cost of the vehicle. In this case, the guy who sold me the bike had done his own valve adjustment a few months earlier. He apparently badly botched it, ruining the valves and valve seats (one cylinder had zero compression). Then offloaded the bike to me, saying that it ran rough because the carbs needed cleaning and it needed a $10 mixture screw. Sigh.

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Sunday, August 10th, 2014
12:04 pm - For Ara Easley, today
Daring and challenging
red-haired dancer
Fearlessly yourself, unworried.

Quietly holding together
many strands, many times
Our quiet joyful bubble.

You wrestled me
Pushed my boundaries
Loved me meanwhile
I grew up.

Vibrantly taught me
being here in the moment
playing, creating
Loving facets, differently.

The bubble goes on
Somewhere.

--Jay Glass, 8/10/14

current mood: grieving

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Sunday, July 27th, 2014
8:08 am - En route to Devon Island, 2 days in Iqaluit...
This itinerary is taking awhile to get to HMP this year... I left SFO on Wednesday, arrived in Ottawa, spent a full day there buying food and supplies and coolers, which accompanied the five of us (myself, Pascal, Jesse, Bolek, and April) Friday to Iqaluit for our connection there to Resolute.

Which didn't happen... Resolute was fogged in, so our flight was cancelled. Same thing yesterday. Hopefully we make it today to Resolute, possibly all the way to Devon Island... although Iqaluit is growing on me. It has aspects of Arctic village, frontier town and city. And a cash economy and even some paved roads. :-) And sits in a stunningly beautiful landscape...

Still, I want to get our tasks going, to get started, to know something of what other challenges are waiting ahead. This will be my first time (in 17 seasons) going in the first plane that opens up base camp. Two years ago the main dining tent was discovered to have been crushed by a huge snow drift. In the past, the first arriving had to clean up after polar bear damage. So there is uncertainty as to the condition of the camp when we arrive.

Today's 9:30am flight has been delayed, again, to 1:30pm. That makes it unlikely we will make it to Devon Island today, as we need at least 3 hours in Resolute to locate and move the equipment in our pre-shipped air cargo over to the Kenn Borek hangar for loading. But, who knows...

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Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
12:35 pm - One decade ago...
Ten years ago, tenacious_snail and I had our first date... we clicked, it was my first local poly relationship, and I had a steep learning curve (apologies again to those splashed by the ripples of that, years ago). It was intense, with really high highs and some pretty ugly lows. But even though we haven't Dated in years, she is still dear to me, a partner-without-benefits, and I am very happy, a decade later, that she is still in my life. In whatever capacity. :-)

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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
1:52 pm - 31 years...
31 years ago, patgreene and I nervously walked down the aisle at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, in St Petersburg, FL. And afterwards had to hitch a ride with the photographer, as the best man had my car keys and he absent-mindedly left with them for the reception 5 miles away. (Without cellphones then, there was no way to contact him.)

Recently Pat and I went back to the same church... after her mom's funeral. Very bittersweet overlay of feelings.

When I first asked Pat's father for permission to marry her, his response was "well, it won't be boring." It hasn't been. And has been loving and joyful and sometimes stressed and turbulent (like any relationship) and overall quite a success. (The priest after the ceremony told a bystander that he predicted it wouldn't last, and he'd be doing an annullment within 2 years.) And we have three bright and ethical and handsome sons. Congratulations to us! :-)

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Monday, May 12th, 2014
7:54 pm - Missing Eloise...
Yesterday my mother-in-law, Eloise Greene, died unexpectedly in her sleep, at age 87. She was a compassionate and loving and playful person, a joy to be around and a great in-law... like another parent figure to me. I will miss her a lot. It just seems so... weird that she's gone, that she's not going to banter with me on the phone again or ask about her grandsons or how Pat is doing. Or go with her motorhome to Disney or Ft. DeSoto.

Right now I am still kind of in shock and trying to lose myself in logistics and plans for the next week. And supporting and holding close Patricia Greene and talking to the boys. I was supposed to be in Washington, DC right now... on business. I went to SJC at 5am, got my ticket canceled and refunded, and returned home. It felt like the right thing to do. Wednesday Pat and I will head East to St Petersburg, FL for the memorial service.

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Monday, April 7th, 2014
10:01 pm - A thought from a FB thread tonight...
Solitude is desolation.

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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
10:39 am - Proposal submitted...
Since last summer, I've been part of a group that is proposing a life detection instrument in response to the call for potential 2020 Mars rover mission instruments. My part would be to lead the development of the sample acquisition and transfer subsystems, getting Mars dirt into an inlet funnel. As well as the ground software to talk to/from our instrument from/to Earth. Given project experience, I also wrote the sections on project organization and management, procurement regs compliance, past relevant flight experience, and rewrote our initial-phase task plan and our implementation plan.

This collaborative effort, spanning the US, Spain, UK and France, has consumed most of the past six weeks. Not only did I not get time to relax during the holidays, we were meeting and working on weekends and evenings. Hence few LJ posts. The past few days built up to a crescendo of effort spanning the Atlantic, and by 6pm PT yesterday it appeared we were done. The proposal had to be submitted by CAB in Spain, by midnight today ET. So we had margin. I went out for dinner and contra dancing with tenacious_snail while others finished the final tweaks and their corrections. When I returned home at 11pm, there was an email saying that the final version was complete and had been uploaded.

But not submitted yet, as it was still night in Spain. Because I'm a bit obsessive or paranoid (take your pick), rather than go to bed I started reading the final version. Which... had two sections that in reformatting had extended over their required maximum page length limits, by two pages. It was noncompliant, and would be disallowed or at least penalized if submitted as-is.

So I called our proposal manager, woke him, and we looked at it. Everyone else was non-reachable at that hour, so he and I fixed the issues and I re-uploaded a now-OK proposal around 2am. And then at 5am (here), the principal investigator in Spain hit "submit" and it was done.

Now, to catch up on everything left back-burnered, like my home mortgage refinance or neglected friends and sweeties...

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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
6:07 pm - 2013's overnights...
Places where I spent the night over the past year (including places where there was only daylight ;-) :

Christchurch, New Zealand
McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica
University Valley, Antarctica
Akaroa, NZ
Oamaru, NZ
Te Anau, NZ
Fairlie, NZ
Parramatta, Australia
Brisbane, Australia
Mountain View, CA
San Leandro, CA
The Woodlands, TX
Harbin Hot Springs, CA
Santa Clara, CA
Arlington, VA
Annapolis, MD
Alexandria, VA
Quincy, MA
Windsor Locks, CT
Minneapolis, MN
Stillwater, MN
Pasadena, CA
Carmel, CA
Yellowknife, NWT, Canada
Resolute, Nunavut, Canada
Devon Island, Canada
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
East Palo Alto, CA
Fresno, CA
New York City, NY
Tyson's Corner, VA

31 places, 5 countries, 3 continents. Both polar regions...

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5:31 pm - Overtime!
I am into 2013-overtime! Meaning it has lasted for me more than a standard year in duration, thanks to travel... I celebrated last New Year's Eve in Christchurch, New Zealand.. 21 hours ahead (it is already Wednesday afternoon there now).

So my 2013 will have an extra 21 hours added... which is not a bad thing overall for me, as it has been a good year.

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Friday, December 20th, 2013
1:20 pm - Celebrating a win :-)
Yay! A proposal I submitted in August from the field on Devon Island, "Life-Detection Mars Analog Project," working with our Spanish friends at the Centro de Astrobiologia and with Honeybee Robotics, has been selected by NASA Headquarters for four years of (modest) funding.

It will support testing of "dirt to data" with sample acquisition, transport, and biomarker detection at Pasadena (in 2014 and 2016) and the Rio Tinto, Spain analog site (in 2015 and 2017). This keeps us in the game, so to speak, for another four years.

And with 8-10% selection ratios in these competitions, I had not had a major win in five years, probably 20-25 proposals submitted meanwhile. So I feel lucky today!

(high-fives my team members :-)

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
9:10 am - silliness...
Happy 09:10 11/12/13...

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Friday, October 18th, 2013
6:36 pm - quilting question
Does anyone on my FL have advice on how to get an heirloom patchwork quilt repaired? It was hand-sewn by my grandmother as a wedding gift for patgreene and I, thirty years ago, and after swaddling three kids and lots of use it has a number of torn or loose patches, as well as a stain on the backing. I can barely manage to sew on buttons, myself, but want to preserve and repair the quilt. Ideas?

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Saturday, October 12th, 2013
4:31 pm - Happy birthday!
To my dear friend and colleague dangerpudding, I hope you are having a fun and relaxed day!

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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
10:08 am - Shutting down, may be hard to reach
Closing up my office, putting in "out of office messages" due to government shutdown. FYI, I will not be reachable on my NASA cellphone number after today (including texts), and online access may be sporadic. My home landline may have a use after all...

Anyone expecting a reply to voicemail or text or email (to my work account) may have a long wait; if something is urgent, please contact patgreene or cyan_blue or tenacious_snail as they all know other ways to reach me locally.

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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
9:42 pm - The Wall...
Going to polar regions to work, the immersion in coldness and interruption in day-night cycles causes the thyroid to change its output… the amount of free T3 and T4 in the bloodstream decreases with weeks to months of residence, leading to "polar T3 syndrome", colloquially called "Ice brain". My own very limited-duration Antarctic stay of five weeks, or a past Arctic stay of about a month, were enough to give me some onset experience… kind of scattered thoughts, easily distractible, almost induced-ADD-like. Departments in McMurdo rely heavily on ritualized procedures and checklists, to combat this effect and make sure no one goes out missing something vital.

While it may take weeks to manifest and months before it seriously reduces one's capabilities, there's a noticeable transition for me about 5-7 days after I arrive at a polar environment, and another transition after I return to someplace warmer with day-night cycles. I call it, unoriginally, "the wall." Arriving in the field, I spend my first few days frequently shivering, cramming carbs to try to stay warm, and prone to frequent headaches (not due to dehydration, as forcing fluids doesn't help). Then around Day 5 to Day 6, the headaches stop, I'm comfortably warm in my parka and don't need the carbs anymore, I'm generating more body heat. And… my emotions crash, I often feel cranky or despondent. In a day or two my mood lifts, and then I'm fine physically and emotionally for the rest of the field season. Other than finding it a bit harder to concentrate and focus on any one thing.

Coming home, the return to crowds and civilization after living in a desolate wilderness is disorienting, and it is hard to follow all of the threads and figure out what should be done next. And I'm sweating even more than usual (and still burning 3500 kcal/day without gaining weight). After 5-7 days, again, a reverse Wall effect: my appetite plummets, I'm not as warm, I can think in longer bursts… but again my mood crashes, I feel despondent or cranky. Or like I need to push back on *something* just to prove I still exist. And I've typically just gone from action-filled long 18-hour days with strenuous physical activity, to long periods without much to do except catch up on reading. So… I often feel useless post-field, and if I haven't set up lots of return-home socialness, feel alone and aimlessly unwanted. Again, in a couple of days my mood improves and then I'm in a new equilibrium. As a male, I'm unaccustomed to my emotions being tweaked noticeably by my endocrine system (wry grin).

This past Arctic season, I hit the first Wall around Thursday the 15th at Haughton Crater. Just in time for news of a couple of disquieting bombshells from home, which I didn't handle well. It didn't help either that the weather was worsening and we'd just left a broken drill string stuck. (Kudos to tenacious_snail for emotional support online, and dangerpudding for putting up with me in person then.)

On Friday the 23rd, I left the Arctic and headed for Yellowknife and Edmonton and home. The return-Wall hit me around Wednesday-Thursday of last week, leaving me feeling useless and depressed and wary. I was not an easy person to be around, and a crashy venting on FB Friday night led to 30 comments (now made private). This has coincided with a local event that adds stress in one of my relationships, plus another sweetie with a sudden influx of new dating relationships in the past 2 weeks. One of whom stayed over in my house last Friday, so I needed to play friendly-host when I really just wanted to flee.

It hasn't been an easy Wall-transition… usually bumpy, hopefully now things will re-ground and find their new equilibrium.

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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
5:05 pm - The past two weeks of field testing, in pictures (part 2)
nine more photos from the past two weeks in the Arctic…Collapse )

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4:34 pm - The past two weeks of field testing, in pictures (part 1)
eight photos from the past two weeks in the Arctic…Collapse )

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Saturday, August 24th, 2013
9:17 am - Daily notes...
Every time I open one of these daily cards and little gifts in a distant place, it lifts my spirits. :-) Thanks, cyan_blue and everyone who wrote one… I feel loved and seen.

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Friday, August 16th, 2013
10:05 pm - Snow and drills
The weather, coming here in August, feels like it used to be in July, in the late 90s… highs in the 30s, lows in the 20s, windy, occasional snow. A change from the 50s and sunny that we enjoyed in July, the past few years here at HMP. Climate change?

Anyway, I had to dig out this morning… there had been snow overnight, 2-3 inches but with 30-50kt winds. So the ground was scoured, but there were many drifts and piles. Including inside the vestibule of my tent, where a foot of snow was leaning against my inside door. Driving across drifts on an ATV this morning, headed to Drill Hill, I found myself whistling "Let it Snow" through my face cover...

But it looks, well, Arctic. And it is not as harsh as the Antarctic Dry Valleys were last January. Or so I repeatedly tell myself whenever I get cold or annoyed at something.

Yesterday, as the weather was moving in, we got our first stuck drill string of this campaign… the new drill hit an ice lens at 90cm, lacked enough torque to keep going, then when I tried to unjam it the threaded end of the first string sheared off completely. I think that this new small, thin drill may be lightweight, but not strong enough for drilling hard rocks or ice. Anyway, after a couple of hours excavating around it yesterday and this morning, we recovered the stuck drill string, then resumed with a different one. Total depth thus far is a bit over 2m cumulative.

Tomorrow is the halfway point of this deployment...

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