Monday, August 27, 2007

There and Back Again

Becky is home. Hooray.

Monday, August 20, 2007


This past Wednesday I went under the knife to have a fatty mass removed from my neck. I asked the surgeon about a month ago if I it wasn't removed would it eventually look like a goiter - he said no. Nonetheless I decided to have it removed. The surgery went well, but how do I know, I was under general anesthesia. Thankfully I didn't have any side effects from being in lala land. My recovery has gone quite well, I really haven't had any pain to speak of just some minor discomfort for the first day after surgery. The incision looks good so I won't have to go to my follow up appointment on Wednesday, which is good, one less copay. The surgeon used internal dissolvable stitches with some dermal glue, he said the scar should disappear over the next six months but I'm not too concerned about looking like a tough guy.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I've settled into the groove of the island: work, relax, sleep; work, relax, sleep. Occasionally, on days like yesterday, our most recent hard down day, it is simplified to just: relax, sleep. I'm enjoying aspects like the local sunrise and the unbelievable sea of stars that fill up the night sky. I'm marvelling at the first shooting star that I've ever seen in the daytime, falling out at sea in the early evening yesterday while I sat on the beach with some friends before dinner. I'm happily becoming friends with the local animal population.

That's Penta on the left and Graham on the right.

I would tell you more, but I need to go have a shower and get ready for today's flight, which deviates from the schedule that we had planned because there was a possibility of rain yesterday (it went to the east of us). Thus, we swapped our hard down for the 5 AM flight day, and because yesterday was a hard down, we can't take-off until 8 AM today. We are still gunning for a 2 AM take-off in a couple days. Cross your fingers... it depends on whether or not we can organize fuelinng at midnight. Anyhow, I need to get to the airport earlier than usual today, because I want to switch out my inlet pressure controller to see if one with larger fittings will help to regulate the pressure better between sea level and 6000'. I know, "blah blah blah".

Until next time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


There is something to be said for dissociation and ignorance. And for a lack of internet connectivity. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased as punch to be able to communicate with you via this ingenious medium that Al Gore designed, and even more pleased to be able to communicate with Keith via said medium, but I think there is something to be said for not knowing the perils of the outside world.

Most of my biggest issues nowadays are tied to my work:

a) is my instrument running?


b) does the data look good (aka reasonable? low signal to noise ratios? bumps and wiggles occur when they're expected?)

Actually, today's flight was the best that I think I've ever seen the instrument run, not just for the study, but the entire time I've worked with it.

c) when do I need to get up tomorrow?

Ummm... work at the plane at 6:45, leave for the plane at 6:30, breakfast at 6:00... set alarm for 5:30*.

*she sets her alarm clock to 5:30, and concurrently adjusts the current time forward 10 minutes, knowing that the brown-outs cause the clock to lose about 30 minutes per day.

d) Do I need to bring my lunch tomorrow?

hopefully not... I should be finished up most of my work by noon and thus I'll be able to eat back at the hotel with the majority of the folks here.

and so on.

But I still feel the need to check in on the outside world. And so I have been randomly (once every couple days or so) looking at the online newspapers to see if I'm missing something important. After all, what if something happened to the (Canadian) dollar? What if my home was washed away in a 100+ year flood? What if the US just signed a peace treaty with Iran? What if there was a major hurricane headed for North Carolina? I should be aware of that, shouldn't I?

And yes - we were all somewhat aware of Flossie - but we were also told well in advance by our own meteorologist that she was headed FAR north of us and that we needn't be concerned. (Remember, it's all about work.)

But the thing is: what if there was some huge news event that I need to know about? So I check the news online just to establish that we're still at the status quo out there. Which I think we are. But you know what? Status quo is pretty horrid. I give you the first few headlines that I just saw online:

"Iraq attack toll may reach 500"
"Deadly earthquake strikes Peru capital"
"Noise raises hope for trapped minors"
"Teachers to be taught to spot domestic violence"
"Ripped glove forces early end to spacewalk"
"New Leaf gets 6-month sentence"

...and so on.

I couldn't bring myself to read any of them. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Besides, I have to get some sleep. I have work to do tomorrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Buzzing the hotel

I'm having a low-key day today. It turns out that when you spend all day in the sun, snorkeling your little heart out, that even if you use a lot of SPF 30 waterproof sunblock, you can still get a mild burn and sun poisoning. I've never said I was infinitely wise.

Thus, today I am in recovery mode. I'm feverish, nauseated, and have had absolutely no appetite all day. I did manage to drag myself out of bed around 12:30 to go get some after-lunch ice cream, though. And iced tea. That's about it for the day.

In brighter news, we had our second research flight a couple days ago, and at the end of it our pilots had it organized that they'd do a fly-by of the hotel, complete with cameramen alert and at the ready. I believe that someone said we were flying at 85 feet! Here are a few of the shots they got. They might not seem that interesting, but to all of us who work on the plane, they are wickedly cool. They are going to try it again tomorrow, flying in lower and slower, to see if we can get the shot.

Hmmm... I'm actually feeling hungry. That's a good sign.

Keeping Busy

Becky has been gone for a week and an half at this point and we have been very busy. We have been camping, I have been working during the day two days a week, Kai has been having play dates with friends from the rec centre and from church. Our big adventure so far occurred last friday.

After finishing work at the rec centre last Friday afternoon Kai and I went on an overnight backpacking trip. We went to the James Peak Wilderness area for a fun little excursion into the woods. We hiked in about 1.5 km (1 mile) and we found a campsite beside South Boulder Creek. Since there was a fire ban on at the time I knew that the best thing would be for us to eat dehydrated meals. The plan was to have some mac and cheese for dinner but first we had set up the tent because it looked like we were going to get some rain. Lo and behold just after I had poured the boiling water into the container of our high calorie, high sodium dinner the skies opened up. We quickly ran to the tent and proceeded to have a fun wrestling match for about ten minutes. Once out of the tent I noticed that it hadn't rained as much as we thought or had heard hitting the tent. We were able to find a dry spot under a nearby tree and munched on our dinner. After dinner I hung up the food bag while Kai played in the tent again. I had forgot my watch so I had no idea what the time was during this whole trip but i figured it was probably getting close to bed time so after spending a fair bit of time throwing rocks into the creek we headed for bed.

Kids and flashlights have always been a good match in the outdoors. Kai was insistent that the headlamp that I had packed was going to be his for the night. As we lay in our sleeping bags we made hand shadows against the wall and ceiling of the tent, listened to the sounds of the night and talked about the animals that live in the woods. The next thing I remember I was waking up to loud claps of thunder and pouring rain. I have no idea how long I had been asleep but at least Kai had fallen asleep and was currently sleeping through the storm. Oh, wait no he's not, you know when you have a thought about something and the opposite happens. Well he had been asleep but now he was awake. He told me that he was scared of the storm but that he was going to play with the headlamp and he would feel better. Once again I fell asleep and he stayed awake. I woke up again later only this time he stayed asleep until what I can only guess was about 5:30am.

After having a breakfast of instant oatmeal and and apple we packed up camp (because it looked like more rain) and hiked back to the van, arriving at 9am. No sooner had I put my pack in the van and started down the road towards home when Kai asked "Can we go camping again Dad?"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A flight plan and more critters

This is for Kai:

Note that the green bottle in the foreground is my little miniature travel-size Fructus shampoo. Teeny. No more than an inch from nose to tail. Generally these wee guys have been so quick that our encounters are as follows:

I walk into the bathroom.
Sometime catches my eye from the corner.
I stop.
I focus into the corner, and realize that it's a little lizard.
I twitch one of my muscles ever so slightly.
The lizard is gone.

Thus, this morning's encounter was very different. This time I turned the shower on, and he was a little stunned. I thought there was a chance he might remain in place long enough for me to get my camera, and to my surprise he allowed me to get within about 6 inches of him to take this. (Sadly, most of what I took was terribly out of focus, thanks to the poor bathroom lighting and the shower being rather... uh... reflective.)

An aside about the shower - my first shower here was (a) cool, and (b) very weak. I also learned during that shower that the "slightly warmer water" is on the right hand side. I have since learned that if you just take the shower head off the shower, that you can have more of a hosing off, but at least it makes you feel like you are getting cleaner. Speaking of which, I've also realized that I am gradually getting dirtier, regardless of my showering. I'm pretty sure that 75% of the conditioner I've put in my hair since I arrived is still there. The water is well water, which we have been given VERY SPECIFIC instructions not to drink.

Thou shalt not consume the water.
Thou shalt not rinse with and spit the water.
Thou shalt not use the water to do dishes.
And thou shalt DEFINITELY not use the water to brush thy teeth.

My point being that since the water isn't potable, it may have other things that negate the rinsing.

But whatever. We're all in this together.

Okay. I've digressed enough. The next photo is for Scott. It's the promised Where's Waldo photo for the wee crab.

What about the flying, you ask? Yep. Had our first flight today. It involved taking off, reaching about 10k' (10,000 feet), "ferrying out for 60 minutes" in the free troposphere, in-line profiling down to 100 feet and then back up to 2.5k' where we did the first of a series of 30 minute circles at progressively lower altitudes. Those are big circles. We couldn't do a circle at the lowest leg (~100 feet) because when your wingspan is about 50', you don't really feel comfortable dipping one wing to fly in a continuous turn, so instead we flew two straight lengths with a small turn in the middle. The plan is to investigate the emissions of sulfur compounds from the ocean by looking at the gradients up through the atmosphere. It's all very interesting, I promise.

My stuff worked, for the most part, which is always good. Of course, we (my group) did manage to break another pump, so that is on the list of tasks for tomorrow. Well, not break really - we just tripped one of our 28V breakers, but we need to reroute some of our power supplies so that it doesn't happen again. (So see? I am working.)

Anyhow, the best part of the flight was that the air conditioning in the "ceiling" kept condensing water and dripping (read: spitting/spraying) it all over the instruments and the operators. Good times. That's what you get when you work in the tropics, though.

And yet, in hindsight, I likely shouldn't complain. It might be a cleaner shower than the hotel can offer.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The one where I go on and on about the island

So I've been here for three (three?) nights. See I can't even really remember, because the days really just blend together. We haven't flown yet, save for flying in, but we are supposed to have our first research flight will be tomorrow from 8 AM to 5 PM (local). They (the mighty powers that be) are going to save the 2 AM take-offs for the following week. In the meantime, the no-fly-day schedule is pretty much access and power to the plane from 6:30 to 2. Theoretically, we are trying to avoid the "heat of the day", but I think the real reason is that there are just too many other nice things do do in the afternoon than sweating on the plane or in the seatainers.

...such as the bathing lagoon. The bathing lagoon is a little piece of heaven about a 10 minute drive from here towards the center of the island. There is a beach with sand, water for swimming, and plenty of sunshine... what more could you ask for?

I took this next photo while standing in the water. (Don't worry Keith, the camera didn't get wet.)

Looking in the other direction from the beach, off across the flats:

Of course, you do have to watch out for these guys, but that doesn't take much work. They just float with the current. I've never seen a jellyfish quite like this - it's just a big floating stringy beige water balloon. And no - I didn't touch it to find out if it stings.

What is really wonderful is the local culture. We are staying at the Captain Cook Hotel, which is pretty much the only hotel on the island. I even took a photo of it as we were flying in on Sunday.

There is a main house "h" shaped building of rooms (in the bottom of the "h"), a little store, and a dining room. There are also a number of tikki-hut-like duplexes (each with two rooms), that are completely comparable. The building near the bottom of the photo with the peaked grey roof is our ops center. Thankfully, my room, which is on the ops center side of the "h", has a straight shot to the satellite dish, because apparently I'm one of the only people in the main house that has internet in my room.

This is likely the closest thing to an all-inclusive hotel that I've ever stayed. We get breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is amazing - there is sushimi almost every night, and the tuna steaks are to die for, as is the lobster. (!!!) Wow... I've never had popcorn lobster before, but I do recommend it. But apart from the food, the people here are just lovely. Last night there was a big hurrah for the people who were leaving on the commercial flight (only once per week), and the staff sang a lovely set of Polynesian/Gilbertese songs for us at the end of dinner. Absolutely beautiful. During a couple of the songs, one of the ladies did a little dancing. They have a luau once a week, complete with a roasted pig, and apparently they will be doing more dancing then. It makes me sad that we missed luau night by one day when we arrived.

Alright. I suppose I've gone on long enough about the island, so I'll end here. I do have a meeting in a little while...

Monday, August 06, 2007

The secret life of island crabs

(This one is for you, Scott.)

Even crabs have important things to do and places to go, and an assortment of crabs live here on the island. Here, for your perusal, I present "the crabs I saw yesterday".

This little dude was on a serious mission.

And these little guys are almost invisible. (Can you see him? If not, try clicking on the photo to get a full screen shot.) They flit around the beach, and unless you're watching where they go when they stop, it's almost impossible to find them.

Unfortunately, the only reason this guy was willing to pose for a close-up was because he is dead. The road is a dangerous place for land crabs. Fortunately, he wasn't squashed beyond recognition like most of the other crabs on the road.

This ends the education portion of our day. Back to work, y'all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Live from Santa's Tropical Science Camp!

Sunday, 11:25 PM.

Good news! I've got an internet connection!

And I'm in my very own room on a wireless connection, no less. You'd almost think this place was a five-star hotel!

Oh wait - we stayed at a 5-star a couple nights ago in San Jose (the Marriot, of all places), and the internet cost an extra $12.95/night there.

I'm not sure how many stars to give this place, but the food I had for dinner was great, it's right on the ocean, and so far I've only seen one lizard in my shower. There are crabs outside, but none have made it into my room. (Mind you, they're awfully cute.) Anyhow, it does seem like camp, but with only one person per room instead of 8.

I'm so tired. We've been flying for 5 days in a row, including the last test flight and the short flight where we had to turn around and return to San Jose because the cabin wouldn't pressurize. However, I'm so thrilled by the novelty of being in such a primitive place, and having wireless in my room that I thought the least I could do is share some pictures with you.

I found a sea anemone on the beach.

I also found this little teeny tiny hermit crab wandering around the beach near the hotel. Isn't he cute?

Speaking of the beach... wow.

And then there's the water. Crystal clear. I can't wait to go snorkling.

I promise, I am here to work. Tomorrow is a "down day", and then I'm going to be working on the plane on Tuesday and maybe even Wednesday, with a likely flight on Thursday, so there will be science to report, I promise.

In the meantime, I've been almost falling asleep as I have been waiting for these pictures to upload, so I'm packing it in.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Just stopping by for a minute to say hello and that I'm on my way south within the hour to fly to Christmas Island. I'm currently in Honolulu in a little airport lounge, drinking guava-passion fruit juice from a can and eating chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

A little bit of luxury before science camp.

Hope you're all well. I'm not sure how strong the bandwidth will be, or how reliable internet access will be once we're on the island, so if you don't hear from me for a while, rest assured that I'm doing well, flying around, possibly doing some bone fishing or scuba diving on my off days, and sweating on the plane on my on days.

I'll leave you with a couple of the sights we saw while flying into HNL:

Diamond Head

Pearl Harbor

Friday, August 03, 2007

Not quite there, and back again

Greetings from San Jose...

That was supposed to be "from Honolulu", but we had to come back to San Jose yesterday. We took off Honolulu-bound in the morning from San Jose, climbed to 18000+ feet over the ocean, and couldn't get the plane to hold pressure. At 18000 feet, the air is almost half as thin as it is at sea level, and that's not exactly enough oxygen to feel good. So we returned to San Jose (about an hour and a half total flight), and sat and sat. It turns out that the back door hadn't closed properly in Colorado, and although it had popped itself shut during the flight from Colorado to San Jose, it didn't fix itself yesterday, and we couldn't hold pressure.

Oxygen is a pretty necessary.

Anyhow, the problem was solved, but limitations on crew hours kept us here in San Jose for another night...

And in an hour, we SHOULD be on our way to Hawaii. But I'm not making any predictions this time...

In the meantime, here are some of the photos I've taken so far on the trip:

That was little Valerie there in the first shot - my cousin Mike's little girl. What a sweetheart! It was great to see you guys again!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Starting Early

Tomorrow after I finish working at the local rec centre Kai and I will be heading out on a camping trip. My plan is to get to the trail head by 4pm, hike in about 2 kms, set up camp and do some exploring. We have taken Kai on a few car camping trips in the past but this will be his first backcountry experience. My idea is to pack as light as possible since I will have to carry everything. If everything goes well we will pack up after lunch and head home.

On the menu - Dehydrated mac and cheese, noodles and chicken, and ice cream sandwich (this should be fun) and lots of peanut butter, instant oatmeal and finally Kai's staple - apples and cheese.

Let the adventure begin.