Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Back Smashin'

Back on the ship. In the same cabin, even. Halley is behind me. Next stop: Signy, in the South Orkney Islands.

The last few days were slightly hectic, but finished on a good note. One interesting development: no sooner does one mention a Norwegian, and suddenly poof! They materialize in your midst. Suddenly, Norwegians asserted their treaty rights to a base inspection.

As stated in the treaty, any signatory nation is allowed to spot-inspect any other base, to make sure they conform to the treaty - mostly on the environmental end. So we had a Norwegian ambassador and his entourage come to Halley for a couple hours visit.

Of course, the visit is fairly social as well. The Norwegians are our neighbours - their base, Troll, is one of the two closest bases to us, and our science overlaps quite often. We actually have a few of them on the ship now, as well.

But the visit was a good excuse to clean the Simpson building, which we did thoroughly. Then, they moved on...and we started moving people down to the ship on Saturday. I was one of the last to go, on Sunday morning, with last year's winterers.

One of my last Halley tasks - shave off my beard. I was quite proud of it - I can grow a damn good beard.

After this crucial task, we took off for the coast, where the new winterers saw us off with the traditional firing of flares...

and they are now on their own until next November. They weren't the only ones to see us off...there was an honour guard of emporer penguins there as well. Although they got bored eventually and wandered off to go for a nice warm swim (at -10C).

And now, here I am. Internet is even patchier than on the way down, as the path between the satellite dish and the satellite happens to be blocked by the crane, whenever we travel northwest. And that happens to be the direction we'll be travelling in, for the next two weeks.

With a bit of ice smashing along the way.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Halley tour III: The Drewry

Well, one week to go. It's been a short season - we got in late, and we're leaving early. And, as you may have read between the lines, it's been busy. I may have dropped the occasional hint to this effect, like entries titled "busy busy busy"!

And it's not letting up much yet. I'm giving a talk tonight, and have been busy packing and labelling equipment to go back to Cambridge. And there's still code to write. But the bulk of it is done, and if I was hit by lightening tonight, it would be a successful science season.

Actually, if I was struck by lightening at Halley in February, we'd have a hell of a good science paper to publish.

Anyway. I shall continue the Halley tour - started last year with the Simpson and the Laws - by introducing you to the Drewry, which is my current home. The Drewry is a building for summer staff only, and is decommissioned every winter.

The outside:

Note that the Drewry can actually be dragged around by a tractor. On the inside, the decor is a plywood motif, marked with plywood accents:

It's the only two-level building there (the garage, to be fair, is 1.5), with the bedrooms upstairs...

...and one big main room downstairs:

One can eat breakfast here, or watch a movie at night. The social dynamic of the Drewry is interesting. One can choose to socialize here, or back over at the Laws. Everyone who lives in the Drewry does a bit of both, but some people lean towards one or the other. Myself, I spend most evenings at the Simpson, wander through the Laws for a Guinness, keep going to the Drewry, and poke my head in this room for a second before wandering off to bed.

And that's the tour. Again on a different note - this week's chuckle (more of a smirk, really) was at a phishing e-mail I received on my BAS account. Here it is:

Kjære uio.no konto Bruker,

Det vil være en generell oppgradering i systemet mellom Februray 2 til 20
2009.På grunn av anonym registrering av uio.no kontoer og antall
av sovende kontoer, vil vi kjøre denne oppgraderingen for å fastslå
nøyaktige antallet abonnenter vi har i dag.

Du blir bedt om å logge deg inn på uio.no og bekrefte hvis
Kontoen er fortsatt gyldig og sender umiddelbart den folowing:

Brukernavn: :................................( Obligatorisk)
Passord :...................................( Obligatorisk)
Fødselsdato :..............................( Valgfritt)

You don't necessarily need my rusty Scandiwegian language skills to pick up that this is a password-phishing scam to users of the University of Oslo. Sent to my British Antarctic Survey account. Replying to this e-mail sends your info to a Lithuanian address.

Now, as a fellow Baltic citizen (or, at least, passport-holder) I'd like to offer some advice to these aspiring Lithuanian identity thieves about phishing.

The idea of phishing - and any e-mail scam - is to send out mail to a large number of people, and hope that some of the recipients are naive enough to send their personal information back via e-mail to the wrong address. This is best done by impersonating a large public institution - like a bank - where a significant chunk of the general populace has a reasonable chance of being a member.

Sending out a e-mail from the University of Oslo in Norwegian to British e-mail addresses is not a good example of this strategy. And even if it was, a university-enrolled expat from Norway - arguably one of the most computer-literate nations in the world - should not be your target demographic.

Get your feet wet first with some good-old "male-enhancement" e-mails. Then maybe move up to stock pump-and-dumps. Then, once you've got a bit more experience, maybe you're ready to tap that lucrative Norwegian university student segment of the population.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mast raising. And economists.

On one of my recent trips, we brought the new Halley doctor, Susanna. The Halley base doctor gets some strange responsibilities...like, fueling the plane. She fuels the plane for most trips, because she has to be at the skiway anyway, in order to revive our burned carcasses in the event of a fiery inferno upon takeoff or landing. So she has to sit and watch us go off on adventures, day after day. Until this day, when Mark the pilot said "Get in the plane, you're coming with us." She proved to be a helpful companion on this trip, to a place called HH00.

HH00 is my furthest site from base that has daily radio modem communication. 40km away. Accordingly, I issued a challenge to Rich, my long-time field companion: let's build the tallest antenna we possibly can. Here's our team:

Me, Mark the pilot, Rich the field assistant (i.e. mountaineering/ice expert), and Susanna the doctor.

We began with a 14m antenna. It didn't work. Bent 90 degrees, actually. The pole is 1 inch and hollow, so it's pretty bendy. So, we tried again...

We removed the bent segment and went with a 12m mast. And it worked.

We were all pretty proud of it. Rich was our foreman...and he just came off a night shift, so he did it half-asleep. Not that we could tell. But the mast is transmitting back to base 40 km away at 115 kbps. I could get passable Internet over it if I so chose.

Anyway, that's that - I just got Susanna's pictures so I thought I'd share them (with her permission).

Something else I'd like to share, on a completely different note, is more copyrighted material that I've been chuckling at lately. I've never been a huge Terry Pratchett fan, but in the Halley library I picked up a book he published in 2007 called "Making Money". Very prophetic - it's about a crook who gets in charge of a central bank and switches it to a fiat currency.

The excerpt below is an exchange between the guy in charge, Moist, and the bank's economist, Hubert, who has a mechanical-hydraulic contraption that models the economy. I find it hard to believe that Pratchett wrote this before everything went down the toilet!

"Show me...show me what happens when people get fed up with banks," Moist said.

"Ah, yes, a familiar one! Igor, set up program five!' Hubert shouted to some figure in the forest of glassware. There was the sound of squeaky screws being turned and the glug of reservoirs being topped up.

"Igor?" said Moist. "You have an Igor?"

"Oh, yes," said Hubert, "But don't let that worry you. Just because I'm employing an Igor and working in a cellar doesn't mean I'm some sort of madman, ha ha ha!"

"Ha ha," agreed Moist.

"Ha hah hah!" said Hubert. "Hahahahahaha!! Ahahahahaha

Moist slapped him on the back. Hubert coughed. "Sorry about that, it's the air down here."