Saturday, April 26, 2008

They gave me what?

So one of the things I was thankful for during my north and southbound voyage over the drake was a transdermal patch that delivered medication into my bloodstream. This seems more effective than oral medication since you don't have to worry about "keeping it down." I had saved the wrapper from one of the little patches, as I wanted to lookup what this medication was all about when I arrived home, as I had never heard of it before. A little bit of research yielded some interesting facts.

Scopsinceolamine is the name of the drug. While on the boat, I had a chance to talk to an older Doctor who had stories of using the medication on pregnant women to help them through "a procedure," whatever that is supposed to mean. He said that the dosage that was used on them was significantly higher than what is delivered via the patch though, but it often yielded a room full of crazy howling women. The drug essentially plays with your nerves and how they handle acetocholine. I'm kind of surprised that something like that would help prevent nausia, but I'm certianly not a doctor. The only side effect I really had from it was a very dry mouth and throat. During my trip I witnessed others have worse reactions. Some had blurry, vision, and mild halucinations, others had memory loss and disorientation. This is what made me extra curious about this stuff. I was surprised an EMT could have standing orders to just pass this stuff out after reading some information to you.

A little further research led me to find out that this same stuff comes from a plant family thats known to be poisonous. The Datura. Mainly the roots and seed pods are used from the plant to make the drugs. More amusingly, my wife grew these things in our backyard, back in Pennsylvania. If I only knew the potential! Just kidding. Apparently Scopolamine is also used as a drug designed soley for criminal intent, mostly in Colombia, as at the right concentration it can cause its "user" to agree to others suggestions without resistance.

Further looking around at this stuff lead me to a video segment that is produced by and can be viewed at The show is called "Colombian Devil's Breath." Please be aware that the stuff on often has a fair amount of "adult" language on it, and probably isn't suitable for all family members to view :) Its kind of ashame, since a lot of the stuff on has a documentary kind of nature to it. They also have a series on the big mass of plastic garbage in the middle of the pacific that I thought was quite interesting (and they also showed someone using "the patch, on that). Essentially though, I'm really amused that this drug doesn't seem to be more controlled than it is, considering what the film segmant had to say. Granted, the oral or transdermal routes of the medication take quite a bit longer for the effect to take (3 hours for the patch).

I imagine a lot of the worlds drugs probably have similar stories, but it was fun just kind of fleshing this one out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kayland Vertigo High - usage report

Some kind person (Thanks Bill!) made an obvious point out to me about my previous review of the Kayland Vertigo High hiking boot. To be more specific, he was looking to find out more about how I felt the boot was supporting the foot. Especially for those who may be prone to rolling on ankle on loose or rocky terrain.

Well, For those of you who don't follow my blog, and happen to stumble upon it, strictly for the boot review, the nature of my employment recently took me on a trip to the antarctic peninsula, where I happen to bring my new boots with me. The terrain on my trip varied from roads on the streets of the city, to climbing over piles of rocks the size of soccer balls, to tramping up a glacier to see what I could see. Below is a picture where you can kind of see some of the terrain I was on... picture the rocks more varied in size, and looser.

The day I decided to take my climb up the glacier I managed to pick one of the windiest, wettest days there, but I wasn't going to loose the opportunity to hike up a glacier in Antarctica. The boots preformed very well.

I have found the lacing system to work very effectively. In fact, it worked so effectively that I have found that I actually can't tighten these boots like I was used to tightening my old ones. I ended up cutting off circulation to my feet. The tops of the boots come up over my ankle and I'm able to lace the shoes up to have a good snug grip on my whole foot and ankle, all while still providing enough movement to allow me to walk very comfortably. While I myself am not prone to rolling ankle injuries, I found myself on many an odd angle hiking around the "backyard" of Palmer Station. The boot preformed well.

During the weather I also pushed through mud, puddles and a rain/snow mix flying at me in 25-35 knot winds. The boots had excellent grip on the wet rocks. While you still have to be careful of foot placement in this terrain, I didn't feel I had to test every step with my weight. Going up the glacier I encountered hard ice, where I don't think anything short of Yak Traks or crampons would have helped. The boots slipped there, as I would expect them to. I also walked through sections that were there was hard ice but it had been weathered to have pea sized nubs and channels. Mild slippage here, but nothing a little caution wouldn't take care of. Yak Traks would still be preferable here. The glacier also had some loose wet snow where my foot would sink in an inch or three. No problem with traction there. There was one section where I started to post hole a little bit, up to just beyond the top of the boot. This caused my socks to get wet and soak water down into the boot. Had I had my gators with me, this wouldn't have been an issue. Even still, I think the boot did a good job keeping a majority of the water out. I had no problems going through water, nor did my feet ever get cold. Again, I'm very satisfied with these boots. They are still the most comfortable boot I've ever had, and I'd buy them again in a heart beat.

Some Choice Photos

So I spent most of my day going through photos from my trip and playing around with Adobe Lightroom, and comparing it to Apple's Aperture. IMHO, there is now comparison, LightRoom kicked the pants off of Aperture. The reasons why are probably for another post, I will most likely never get to. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to talk about all the features or their differences. I just know I like LightRoom a lot better.

So anyway... Here are some of the pics that I felt represent my trip the best. Most of them certainly aren't post card material, but I'm happy with them. Please feel free to leave comments on them, etc.

Mind over matter, right?

So it's great to be home, and was a real joy to return to wonderful weather, in the 60's or better. Green Mountain is finally starting to show some green too. Its nice to finally experience some warming and greening. Most of my experience in Colorado to this point has only been during the winter. The only other time I was here was in July, when SunRayce97 finished in Colorado Springs. It was that experience that started my desire to live out here.

Anyhow, I live a good distance away from where I work. About 25 miles by car. My morning commute takes me about 30 minutes, and my afternoon can be upwards of an hour or more, depending on traffic and which way I choose to go. I've been wanting to commute by bike to work at least 1 time a week. Mostly for the sake of fitness and my love of riding my bike, but also to help save with gas of course. I figured riding 1 time a week would save me 1 tank of gas every 4-5 weeks, as well as the wear and tear on the car.

Looking at route options, I figured the simplest way would be to take the C-470 Path all the way down to just south of my office building the head north on mostly back roads. It would be quite long... I think encroaching on 30+ miles. I figured I'd give it a test run yesterday to see how it would work out. I didn't really occur to me that I hadn't ridden my bike for at least 2 mos. and not much before that since I moved here in November.

So I took off in the early-mid afternoon and found the trail I was looking for. I felt great, the weather was nice, and I was having fun. I was observing lots of spring wildlife and looking at some of the early flowers blooming around here. I saw an Eastern Meadowlark, and almost ran over about a dozen different prairie dogs. Well, at some point, I realized that I must have missed a turn somewhere since I was now heading North, when I should have been going East, and I was starting to fatigue a little. I abandoned hopes of making it to the office and just wanted to find a way back to trail I was familiar with. Familiar meaning I still had an idea of their location and direction based on what I remember of the map. I've not actually ridden on many trails around here yet. So I saw another trail along a river that I knew headed North and South. Got myself on that trail, and then picked up the C-470 trail back West to go home.

By this time, it had clouded over, and cooled off quite a bit. Also started to get pretty windy. On my way east, I don't think I realized just how much I was going down hill either. I certainly noticed going up hill headed West and North though. My legs were on fire. I couldn't sustain speeds any better than 10 mph and I had at least 15-20 miles to get home. Lord help me.

Obviously, I made it home. Hindsight has me kicking myself in the pants. I don't know what I was thinking, planning a 50+ mile trip with zero conditioning. At least I did get lost, and was able to shorten things up. My body was very adamant on letting me know there was no amount of "thinking" that was going to make it move any faster or hurt less.

So the details of my trip are here. Sorry I don't have the HR band going. The battery in it is dead, along with my cadence sensor. I guess I'll be working up to a commuting distance slowly. Blah. I hate being out of shape. Oh well. At least I'm well on my way to loosing the 10 pounds I gained while traveling to and from Antarctica.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tag, I'm it...

So I've been growing a little blogging network it seems of people who read my blog, and I reciprocate and read theirs. Not out of obligation, but as a means of entertainment, and joy. Also some of those I read are kind of a nostalgic link to my youth, and are a way to remain in touch with those that were so pivotal in influencing the way I think today. Anyhow, one such blog "tagged" me to describe 7 weird or random things about myself, since they themselves have already done this. I guess its the new form of "chain letter," but hey, it's brought visitors to my blog that may not have normally found it otherwise, through comments and such I've left in response on others. So without any further ado, here they are.

  1. It's a goal of mine to visit all 7 continents of this world for "free." Being sent through gainful employment counts in my book. I figure I've gotten the hardest one out of the way (Antarctica). All I have left are Africa, Asia, and Australia. I hope to have Australia out of the way within the next few years, if things go as planned. The other 2 are going to be harder. Haven't quite figured them out yet. Let me know if you see any opportunities! :) And no, the peace corp is not in my list of options. (I have a feeling my "In-Laws" can help with the Asian part, though, I suppose technically, they are in eastern europe.)
  2. My favorite Mammal (other than my wife) would be the ferret. We used to own 2 ferrets, which were an absolute blast and gave me many happy memories. Who else can say their pets randomly fell out of their basement ceiling?
  3. (So Far) My idea of an ideal retirement would be owning a small bed and breakfast in the middle of the mountains somewhere, with a loyal customer base. In addition to the B&B, I'd offer a custom seasonal based dinner menu with a limited number of seats, by reservation only. I don't think I'll ever stop working, and something like that sounds fun. Its cool to meet new people.
  4. I can probably be considered a "tea snob." I like loose leaf teas, and often find the typical stuff found in American grocery stores to be unsatisfactory. I often enjoy a fine Assam tea. One of my other favorites has recently become Lapsang Souchong. A co-worker of mine told me about it (and pointed me to a local shop to buy loose leaf) and I think its great. I've recently picked up a Mate and Bombilla from Chile as well, and hope to try out some Yerba Mate, in the tradition sense.
  5. I'm a cat person. For some reason, little yippy dogs get on my nerves, and big dogs are just to much maintenance for me at the moment. I do like big dogs, just don't see myself owning one.
  6. I have an OCD issue, where I don't like to drink from the same spot on a glass twice. Its not quite OCD, as I will circle the glass more than once if need be, its just not preferred. Don't ask me why, as I really don't know where I picked it up. Its just something I do.
  7. Well, I didn't want to use this one, since its kind of steeling someone elses idea, but I'm struggling to come up with a 7th. I'm not a glass is half full or empty kind of person... Instead, I've decided the glass is too big. I'll admit I didn't come up with that idea, but I totally agree with it.
So there's 7, Mark, Luke, and Jim, if you're reading this, its your turn. You folks don't update your blogs frequent enough.

P.S. I'm home safe in Colorado (YAY!) More to come later.

~72 hours to go.

This will probably be my last post from South America, and probably my last post for at least a little while, but not to long I hope. In just under 72 hours, I'll be landing in Denver, CO. It will be great to see the mountains rising over horizon near my house again, not to mention my family of course. Missing my family was (and still is) the hardest thing about this trip. I'd say coming in at second though, is the food. They just don't use much "flavor" here. A lot of times meat is just cooked "Al la Plancha" or Pan fried in butter. That's just not my thing.

If you were to ask me if I would ever come back here on my own dime? Possibly, but not for what this Port City has to offer. It would simply be a stop on a Journey to Tierre Del Fuego, or Torres de Piane. I had a co-worker head up to the Torres last week, and he came back and said that it was really cool there. He didn't get to hike every where he wanted due to snow and Avalanche Danger, but what he did have to say about his experience was very positive. It would be interesting to try and bike all the way down the west coast of South America or something. You couldn't stay in Chile the whole way, once you get south of Puerto Mont, you are pretty much forced into Argentina. But it might be interesting to try.

In closing, here are a few pictures of this little city.

A fire truck parked in front of one of the many fire houses around. This one is pretty typical looking of most of the apparatus. I didn't get to talk to any of the firemen around, as I never actually saw any.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to climb the science mast of the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Here's a view of part of the city. The little thing on the right of the photo is a wind sensor, I'm told they be replacing windbirds with these things... pretty cool. I'll probably crop it out of the picture once I get home.

Here's a picture of the monument of Magellan that's in the square in front of my hotel. I decided to have a little fun with night time shooting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Post for the sake of posting

Yes, I'm still down here in Punta Arenas, Chile. I've been attempting to make the dull interesting, but the reality of it is, there just isn't much for someone who can only count to 29, ask for 2 beers, or for the check, or inquire as to the location of a bathroom in Spanish, to do. I'll admit that I'm doing a lot better in Spanish that I had thought I would. I understand much more than I can speak though. I guess immersion in a language will do that to you. Its a matter of remembering the words I understand and making a sentence out of them.

The food is still mostly mediocre here. So far my previous experience at the Puerto Viejo has been the best meal I've had here as a whole. There's another restaurant called Remezon that has some amazing Garlic Soup (Soupe de Ajo). I've had garlic soup at another local restaurant, but Remezon is hands down the best so far. I also had Beaver (yes, the furry animal with a flat tail) for dinner as well last night. Its a very dark, pretty greasy, meat, which was really tender. Though the staff said they cooked it for 10+ hours, so I hope it would be. It had surprisingly little flavor, but it did seem unique and not much like anything else I've had. I'll probably not ever have it again. It wasn't bad, but nothing to write home about, other than to say I've had it. I mostly got it just so I can say I've eaten it. Some of the folks on the ship warned me that its not great. I have to agree.

On another note, I don't think I've talked much about the Boat ride North from Antarctica. There really wasn't much to it I guess. It was rough, but not as rough as the southbound trip. The highlight was the morning we left. It's tradition for Station Staff to jump into the bay after the ship leaves. Nuts if you ask me. I've got a bunch of pictures of that too. Just haven't converted from RAW yet. I'm not very happy with the tools provided in linux to process RAW images.

After that, we headed North through the Neumayer Channel. The beauty it presents is like nothing I have ever seen, even on a cloudy day. I can't imagine what its like to see in person, on a clear day. There are pictures all over the web, but they probably don't do it justice. Here's one of the better pics I took of some of the scenery there.

I converted it to Black and White as I thought it might be a little more interesting that way. The original pictures was pretty monochrome in and of itself, mostly grey and white, with a hint of blue in the water and ice. There would be an occasional seal on pieces of ice around the channel, but I was not able to get any great shots from them. Later on outside the channel we saw some Whales too.

Less than a week left here. I'll be really happy to sleep in my own bed again. Hopefully with the upcoming work on the NBP, when it gets into dock, the week should go by faster.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

the Dinner Scene Improves

So it certianly appears that the secret to finding the good food around here, is to eat when the good restaurants are actually open. Most restaurants don't open until around 1930 around here. I was quite hungry by the time we were ready to head out to eat. Its a good thing we had plans to goto a nice restaurant. Needless to say, I was finally satisfied with a meal down here. We ate at Puerto Viejo. The place seemed very clean, and the staff were super friendly. In fact ,the waiter, René, really made the evening special, telling us stories and describing the food for us. Now, I'm not normally in the habit of taking pictures of places I eat, or the food I'm eating, but I thought it would be kinda fun. I was so excited to find good food too, I had to share.

Here's a picture of the "spit" that they cook the Cordero (lamb) on. It smelt wonderful. Upon entering the restaurant, René was very happy to direct us towards the kitchen and this large spit to take our pictures of us pretending to slice up the meat. The wood smelt like it might have had some type of cedar logs in it, but I'm not 100% sure. The menu was varied, with wonderful offerings of several seafood selections, as well as filets of beef, and of course, the Cordero, which I just had to try. The Cordero was served as 3 courses, each from a different part of the beast.

The first courses was from the rib section. The meat was very moist, and had the most smoky flavor of them all. It was explained to us, to use our fingers and eat everything but the bones. I gladly obliged. Afterwards, a bowl of warm water and lemon slices was brought out to wash our greasy fingers in.

Second Course was the leg, and probably my favorite. It was the most moist of all selections. Unfortunately, it probably was least flavorful in terms of smoke and seasoning, but the tenderness and moisture made up for it. This piece was probably the most similar to lamb in flavor that I'm used to having

3rd course was the loin. This had lots of potential. My piece was a bit too dry for my liking, but it had excellent flavor none the less. Someone else was also eating this meal with me, and his portion looked a little more moist. I suspect the loins become exposed the way its splayed out on the spit thing, which is what may cause them to dry out. Its also closer to the fire.

I was stuffed by the end, but I couldn't leave this place without having dessert. It just didn't seem right. No one else wanted dessert, but I forced them all into it with my choice. A selection of 5 of the desserts offered. Don't ask me what they all where, as I don't remember. All I know is that my favorite one was the Calafate Sour Mousse. A Calafate Sour is a local drink made of Calafate juice, Pisco, and egg white, I believe. Its pretty yummy, and they happen to make a mousse out of that, equally yummy.

So that was my night, and now its past my bed time, and my food is still digesting. Not a feeling I like to goto bed on. Oh well.

Friday, April 04, 2008

On Solid Ground

I arrived back in Punta Arenas last Friday. I have to say, its nice to be back on land again. I didn't seem to have the "dock rock" like I had at Palmer Station. I figure its because the last day and a half was in calm water, though I have woken up from sleep feeling like I'm rocking, that is bizarre.

Work is work, and is still consuming a good amount of my time here, which is good, since there really doesn't seem like a whole lot to do otherwise. Last night I went to the house of the Chief Engineer for the Gould. He had just moved into it a few months ago, and has finally got it fully furnished. It was interesting to experience the social culture down here, though the Engineer is American, his wife is Chilean. Things are very much more laid back. It was also interesting to be at a party where multiple languages are being spoken. We had English, Spanish, and Philipino. I've picked up a little Spanish. I can certainly understand more than I can speak, but my understanding pretty much consists of picking out a few key words I know, listening for cognates, and trying to intelligently fill in the rest. It's not easy.

Now that I'm in a hotel, and off the boat, my meals are provided by restaurants instead of ship food. I can honestly say I prefer the ship food. The cook, pardon me, chef (I believe he is a legit chef) on board is amazing. I'm finding the food here is pretty bland. I also find the meal schedule kind of annoying too, as most restaurants don't even open until 18:30. The hotel doesn't even start serving food until 20:00. Probably has to do with siesta.

On a side note, Sue, my co-worker I am traveling with had pointed out something interesting to me. While at Palmer Station, we were invited to a dinner, which had a "happy hour." I enjoyed one of the libations offered there, which of course had ice in it. Some of the station staff went out in a boat and collected a piece of crystal clear ice floating in the ocean, this type of ice, is appropriately named "bar ice." The cool thing is, this is thousands of years old. Kinda wierd to think that I consumed something that was potentially (and likely) formed before Christ walked this earth.

I'm still messing around with my pictures, so I apologize for not posting more. I have plenty. I'm kind of holding out, as I want to mess with Lightroom and Aperture when I get home. I've also been thinking of moving to Flickr as well. There are some organization features I like over what picasa provides. I'll try and get something for y'all to look at soon.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

the "Prone" position

We are well underway on the boat again, headed back to Punta Arenas Chile. We've hit open waters as of last night. I had decided at the beginning
of the trip that I would see if I could handle the waves without drugs on the way back. I was mad at myself for getting seasick on the way down, and figured that it was mostly my fault because I was staring at a computer screen for so long when the sea got really rough. My colleague, Sue had explained to me that we are either prone to get seasick, or not, and there isn't much you can do about it, other than medicate. I had refused to accept that, and wanted to take the mind over matter approach.

I should have listened to her. I was fine all night laying down, and falling asleep for 5 or so minute intervals. It's hard to actually fall asleep when you have to hang on to something so you don't fall out of bed. I got up to try and take a shower, and didn't last 15 minutes... Back to laying down again. I managed to get a hold of the ship's EMT who has protocols for distributing scopolamine (aka the patch) and got some of that, which is what has allowed me to eat, and type this up. Being upright for long durations still doesn't present me with the greatest of feelings though. From the sounds of it though, a lot of people are a lot worse off than I am. Including my roommate. Poor guy has the patch, and he's still losing his food.

I will not miss this portion of the trip. Hopefully we'll get into protected waters late tomorrow, as we sail around the Atlantic side of the tip of South America. I have been up to the bridge to see our progress today. Oh well. I realize the formating of this post is probably screwed up, so I'll try and fix it when I get internet connectivity, again, which won't be until at least April 4th.

(Update, made it back to land safely, and fixed the formating of this post. April 4th, 2008)