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it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas…

…if by Christmas you mean giant wooden candy canes and penguins wearing Santa hats hung on utility poles over rivers of mud under the blinding sun. Welcome to the land of the Anti-Santa, who steals toys from the good children and delivers them to the bad ones; where snow melts instead of accumulating and the tap-tap of reindeer feet on the roof is replaced by the whap-whap of helicopter rotors outside the window.

Nonetheless – today was Christmas day! For me, anyway. As with Thanksgiving, I will have to work on the holiday itself, and instead get to celebrate with an extra day off, two weeks early. I’m not complaining, though. Having two days off in a row is like having Christmas come early. Oh, wait…

So today, Christmas day, found me engrossed in work – constructing toilet seats for science! I spent the day volunteering in the carpentry shop. The key to successfully lining up a better job for future Antarctic deployments (yes, I am considering coming back) is spending time in the work center in which you are interested, meeting the people in charge and showing them what you can do. One benefit of working in the galley is having odd days off – which means that I can visit other work centers and scope out future jobs. I’m trying not to put all my eggs in one basket, but if I was to pick a favorite basket, the carp shop would be it. The sweet smell of sawdust, the squeal of the band saw, and the satisfying whirr of the screw drill kept me in a happy, productive mood all day. To be working with my hands, creating and building and then seeing the results stacked up next to me at the end of the work day – ahh, awesome.

But, back to the toilet seats. Years of experience in answering the call of nature in the Antarctica has resulted in a unique and excellent toilet seat design: a plywood base with two inches of hard styrofoam adhered to it. Cut out a hole in the middle, use a rotor to turn hard edges into streamlined curves, and voila! A toilet seat that will never, ever get cold. These foam fabrications top the royal thrones (read: holes in the ground/ice) of scientists and laborers at work in the field. They’re used in areas that are more remote and can be more freezing than the South Pole – and yet, when folks get down to business, their bared bottoms are met not with wince-producing cold, but with warm, inviting foam. Thus it was that I spent today using band saw, skill saw, jigsaw, pneumatic adhesive gun, putty knife, clamps, grips, screw drill, rotor and sander, all to create comfort and luxury for that which I am here to support: science! The guys in the shop found my enthusiasm rather amusing – they’re hard at work at building important, complicated things like crane platforms, staircases, cabinets, shelves, tool boxes, crates. But at the end of the day, looking at my hands – splintered, dirty, scraped, covered in adhesive residue – and using an air hose to blow sawdust and styrofoam bits out of my hair, I was happy. Merry Christmas to me!

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