Friday, December 12, 2008

And yet again, penguins!

Just a quick hello to those of you who've found this blog from the "Happy Gentoo" video that I put on youtube :) I'm always surprised when people comment on this blog; I always assume that no one besides my grandmother reads this, so when people leave notes, it's a bit of a happy reminder that there's someone else in the world that thinks Antarctica is awesome. Hello world!

So, without further ado, I present you with what you undoubtably came here for; more pictures of penguins :)

I took these actually a day or two before I left station (a month and a half ago, or so), so in the commotion of getting packed, getting these sorted didn't take very high priority.

Sadly, penguins are not usually this clean and pretty. With summer coming, and the snow melting away, they spend most of their time on land lounging around on rocks, mud and piles of penguin poop. So most of them end up with fairly dirty bellies.

And, in the case of this guy, finding the tallest pile of rocks he could, so that he could stand on top of them and look sullen. Sort of reminds me of a grouchy old king or something.

God they're funny looking. These are the smaller Adelie penguins, they've got a slightly different head shape that gives them a sort of cross-eyed look when you're looking at you straight on. I happen to think they're a bit cuter then the Gentoos, at least up close.

It really is amazing just how many of them there were, and how they just seemed to come out of nowhere. One week, there were just a few, then the next, we had hoards.

There were no penguin babies yet, not nearly. This was still find-a-partner and build nests time. And while their version of a nest is just a pile of stones they've arranged into sort of a doughnut, they do take the most amazing care and put lots of precision in it. For creatures who on land seem so un-coordinated and goofy, the delicatness with which they select, pick up, and place the stones for the nests is very suprising, and in a way, very sweet.

Nomrally, when they're walking around, they waddle about at a slight-slower-the-frantic pace, bumping into things and falling over a lot. When they're carrying the little stones, though, it's like they're moving in slow motion. It's actually very neat to watch, just how important this next building seems to be to them.

Of course, occasionally this leads to fights. Probably over who's got the nicest-looking pile of rockts to lay on or something. Usually, these fights just involved them squaking and jawing at each other a bit, but sometimes they get really into it and start running around and smacking each other with their little wings. It's just about the funniest thing to watch ever.

Anyway, yeah. Penguins! More videos coming in a bit, so check by in a few days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why I quit the world

At this time last year, almost exactly this time, in fact, I had an apartment, three cars (although one of them was in many parts), multitude of powerful computers, all sorts of expensive little toys and gadgets, full-time job, and a long-term girlfriend. Well, sorta. That was always complicated.

And now I've got roughly two duffel bags worth of clothes, a laptop, and . . . that's about it.

Some people will never be able to understand why I did what I did. They're the same people who asked "Why the heck would you want to go to Antarctica?!?! Isn't it cold and horrible!?" (to which I'd reply "Well, yeah.") The people who have to ask that question, they could never understand the answer.

But I had my own reasons for it. And it all started one day when I took a shower.

I've always been a skinny guy, my whole life. Anyone who knew my in high school remembers how rail-thin I always was, at one point I was six feet tall and 112lbs. Of course, being a guy, I don't keep a scale or really have any idea of how much I weigh day-to-day or even year-to-year. But one day, when I was taking a shower, I looked down, and I realized I couldn't see part of my feet.

I was getting fat. I was getting the little skinny-guy pot belly. My girlfriend confirmed this.

To me, someone who's been a scrawny guy since always, this was just . . . this was shocking to me. And in that instant, I realized that everything I was doing was wrong. Sure, I hated the idea that I was getting fat, but more then anything, the getting fat was a symptom of all the wrong choices that I was making. This wasn't the life I wanted. The life I was living wasn't making me happy. At least, it wasn't fulfilling. Everything I had, everything I was doing, the way I was living, it wasn't what was important.

Well, that and I'm shallow and vein, so being fat sucked.

But scarier then that is that in that instant, I could also see where it was going. And I could understand exactly how, and why, people get stuck in dull little suburban lives, how people never leave the town or city that they grow up in, and not notice it until it's far too late, they're too deeply entrenched to get away, and they have a mid-life crisis and buy a sports car or something.

It's not a decision that they actually made. It's the lack of making decisions that left them there.

And it was where I was headed.

The next day, I started working out again, and paying a little bit of attention to how much and what I was eating. But also, that night, I logged onto Raytheon's website and started applying for jobs on the ice. The rest is . . . well, you know.

Do I miss what I had?

Well, I miss the girlfriend a good bit. And often, I miss the convenience of a highly tweaked home network with a bunch of specialty systems, and a reliable, fast internet connection. But save for some bright spots, I don't miss that life. Sometimes it's temping to go back. Maybe I will someday, but . . . not now.

I suppose I was lucky. I was able to get out. I have a skill set that's easily marketable, I realize what was wrong before I'd put down roots, before I'd gotten too attached to anything.

But it was close. Another couple of years, and I don't know if I'd have been able to leave.