Author Topic: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me  (Read 924 times)

The Good Reverend Roger

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High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« on: August 20, 2016, 03:51:16 am »
It was a long and productive day.  I had spent most of it giving our junior electrician some on-the-job remedial training.  Three problems, two of which took less time to repair than to explain, and one absolute bastard of a problem in the solar telescope.  The solar telescope is, more or less, a mammoth computer using only technology available in 1958.  You can see my problem, here; it was so low tech, it took five minutes to walk from one component in the circuit to another, and also involved repeatedly going up and down a three hundred foot ladder.  By the end of the day, I was a winded, sweaty hot mess.

But then the day ended and everyone went home.  Well, mostly everyone.  I’m here overnight, doing some thermography with Ron (one of the senior scientists of the old school, with thinning hair and a truly glorious Einstein mustache).  Which means I am on the mountain at night.  More to the point, I was here for the opening.

The opening is one of the truly magnificent things about this place.  An hour after sunset, the domes begin to wake up, like a pack of hung over R2D2s.  There are twenty-two domes, and only two of them have people in them tonight…All of them are at least partially automated.  So all at once – because on-sky time is priceless and irreplaceable – the shutters on the domes slowly open, and begin to track whatever targets they have been assigned to observe.

Ron and I take every chance we can to stay up here to stand at the base of the four meter dome, watching machines that don’t really need us go about their business.  We always do this together, because we both understand that watching this alone carries a very real risk of driving you mad.

Then the rounds of IR photography, walking around the inside of the opened four meter dome…Which under a full moon resembles nothing less than a cathedral, with a roof one hundred and twelve feet over your head, the full moon shining down through the shutter, and the very distant city lights barely visible through the louvers that are spaced around the floor level of the control room floor.  The two Berkeley astronomers are in the belly of the structure, testing the DESI prototype, so the thermal image of the telescope itself looks like a flare on an oil rig, with a blindingly white and blue spot in the middle – the targeting camera – cooled to -55 centigrade with liquid nitrogen.

You can see how this invariably becomes a religion for people who work here.

But I will flee the mountain before dawn, before it all shuts down for the day.  Watching the shutters close and the domes stop their slow rotation is the saddest thing in the world.  It is as if you are alone in the world save for these great machines…And now they too are dying on you, leaving you at the mercy of the endless primate hordes.

So then it will be a 90 minute drive, down into the sickeningly thick atmosphere, into the heat, on a deserted road that will eventually go up through Twin Peaks Pass, and then to bed.  Until the next time.


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Q. G. Pennyworth

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2016, 10:46:25 am »
I wish I had something better to say than :mittens:
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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2016, 08:24:06 pm »
Seconded.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2016, 03:05:58 pm »
Hell yeah

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2016, 03:26:19 pm »
Quote
Ron and I take every chance we can to stay up here to stand at the base of the four meter dome, watching machines that don’t really need us go about their business.  We always do this together, because we both understand that watching this alone carries a very real risk of driving you mad.

Care to expand on this at all? I've always found large process plant and the like rather satisfying to watch, particularly the less human involvement there is. The logical result of the industrial era is barely needing any human interaction at all for a lot of things. Fully automated factories having deliveries picked up and taken away by self driving transport is closer by the day.

With all this kind of stuff being done faster and arguably safer without monkeys, it should hopefully lead to more apes with worthwhile occupations of their time. It would seem to be even more the case with anything scientific and worthwhile as it's easier to maintain and you've got more time to actually analyse the data you get.

Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2016, 02:10:48 am »
Quote
Ron and I take every chance we can to stay up here to stand at the base of the four meter dome, watching machines that don’t really need us go about their business.  We always do this together, because we both understand that watching this alone carries a very real risk of driving you mad.

Care to expand on this at all? I've always found large process plant and the like rather satisfying to watch, particularly the less human involvement there is. The logical result of the industrial era is barely needing any human interaction at all for a lot of things. Fully automated factories having deliveries picked up and taken away by self driving transport is closer by the day.

With all this kind of stuff being done faster and arguably safer without monkeys, it should hopefully lead to more apes with worthwhile occupations of their time. It would seem to be even more the case with anything scientific and worthwhile as it's easier to maintain and you've got more time to actually analyse the data you get.

It's the sense of isolation you get.  There's no one to be seen anywhere, the city lights are a distant glow, and the domes are as impersonal a thing as you can imagine.

Now, most of the domes are occupied on a given night, but you wouldn't know it.  Right now, most of the domes running remotely due to the high frequency of cloud-cover wrecking the night's work.  In the daytime, there are about 45-50 people on the mountain, and maybe twice that many tourists.  Safety is a fucking nightmare, between people driving too fast on one lane (ie, one lane covers both directions, an just try to get people to wear their seatbelts) roads, coral snakes and rattlers, mountain lions, the bear that has decided to join the party, and the occasional giant boulder rolling along on its merry way (the mountain is a heap of fractured granite).
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2016, 07:58:18 am »
I'm just fucking excited that the DESI project is moving along. You were giddy as fuck back in June showing us around and telling us about it.

That 4 meter dome though. Srsly.
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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2016, 04:51:24 pm »
I'm just fucking excited that the DESI project is moving along. You were giddy as fuck back in June showing us around and telling us about it.

That 4 meter dome though. Srsly.

It is the only cathedral I have any use for.   :lulz:
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2016, 05:16:52 pm »
Quote
Safety is a fucking nightmare, between people driving too fast on one lane (ie, one lane covers both directions, an just try to get people to wear their seatbelts) roads, coral snakes and rattlers, mountain lions, the bear that has decided to join the party, and the occasional giant boulder rolling along on its merry way (the mountain is a heap of fractured granite)

It sounds like you should get fucking danger pay just for the back and forth.

Alternatively, consider dwelling there. It sounds marginally safer than the trip up and down. It's also a great obituary waiting to happen. "Roger Lizardman, 1912-2019.

'I told you this fucking mountain would get me' "
Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2016, 05:34:44 pm »
Quote
Safety is a fucking nightmare, between people driving too fast on one lane (ie, one lane covers both directions, an just try to get people to wear their seatbelts) roads, coral snakes and rattlers, mountain lions, the bear that has decided to join the party, and the occasional giant boulder rolling along on its merry way (the mountain is a heap of fractured granite)

It sounds like you should get fucking danger pay just for the back and forth.

Alternatively, consider dwelling there. It sounds marginally safer than the trip up and down. It's also a great obituary waiting to happen. "Roger Lizardman, 1912-2019.

'I told you this fucking mountain would get me' "

While there is nice, cheap staff housing available, I still have the issue of having to be nearby my parents.  They aren't getting any healthier.
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2016, 07:02:25 pm »
If they're in Tucson or surrounding environs, I may have guessed the problem.

And when you say nice housing, are we talking contractor nice or human nice? The difference is minor luxury utilities, like occasionally having water or access to a working plug.
Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.

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Re: High Altitude Hell, #10: Ron and Me
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2016, 08:11:31 pm »
If they're in Tucson or surrounding environs, I may have guessed the problem.

And when you say nice housing, are we talking contractor nice or human nice? The difference is minor luxury utilities, like occasionally having water or access to a working plug.

Mostly human nice.  Lots of wildlife, so everything is definitely not perfect, but we've managed to drive the rats out, where the owls and big cats nom-ed on them.  We walk the unoccupied houses once a week to chase the coral snakes out.  But the utilities all work, as long as you understand there is no wifi for a reason, so don't bother with a router.
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.