Winter is definitely here! It’s been averaging around -85F for the past week, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. The sky has been extremely clear which has led to a really great sunset. We had a contest down here where we had to guess the exact time that the sun would be seen for the last time, and I happened to win. I was off by about 10 hours, but that was still close enough to emerge victorious. I got a travel coffee mug, a french press coffee maker, and a bag of Starbucks beans. Talk about luxury! My work partner, Sarah, and I are both caffeine fiends, so we’re really enjoying this.

So we didn’t have an actual sunset party this year. Instead we had a casino night. I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea, but people seemed to enjoy it. I ended up losing about 10 bucks before I called it a night. To make up for the lack of a party, we’re having a twilight party this weekend. The Aussies on station are BBQing, the band is making its debut perfuming, and we’ve got two days off. It should be a lot of fun!

Hmm, other social activities…The folks that live in the upper berthing area threw a great party last weekend. It was basically an open house, where each room served a different drink. I think it was the best party we’ve had all season. There was just the perfect combination of conversation, silliness and alcohol. It was a different crowd than normally shows up in the bar, probably due to the fact that there wasn’t any smoking.

Last Wednesday I threw a “Big Lebowski” party in the old station. I’d been wanting to watch the movie again for a while, and I figured that we may as well have some fun with it. The rule for the evening was that if you wore a bathrobe to the movie, you got free white Russians all night long. We actually had a great turnout…there were a lot more bathrobes than I’d expected, but luckily this was moderated by the fact that it was a work night, so a lot of people didn’t want to drink TOO much.

Work is going great as well. The biggest challenge we’ve been facing is that the 9 meter dish for two of our satellites has been out of commission since the day after station closing. Well, we finally got data flowing thru it again two days ago. It’s still being tuned, but it seems that it might give us an extra three hours of data coverage every day. Another big project is that the NSF has hired an outside firm to do a complete security audit of the Antarctic network. Some of you may recall that last year (not my year!) the Pole fell victim to a hacking attack. The FBI was called in, and eventually traced the preparation’s to an internet cafe in Romania. I don’t know the eventual results of the criminal case, but the results down here are striking. We’re locked down a lot tighter than the last time. Very few applications are allowed thru the firewall, which has made it tougher to stay in contact via instant messaging and webcams. Anyway, because of the upcoming security audit I’ve gotten to play with a lot of new toys. I’ve built an intrusion detection sniffer, as well as a bunch of other security tools. I’m actually looking forward to the upcoming audit, just to see how well I’ve done.

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