November 11, 2005

The advantage of being overtly psychotic

Thanks to Primate Brow Flash for showing me the website Big Dead Place, a guidebook for new Antarctic workers. Excerpts:

Science is the process of describing the universe through physical observation. Here are some things that are not science: distributing money to scientists, dispersing press releases to the media, inviting Congressmen to stay at Building 137 (that's a nice apartment for DVs, or Distinguished Visitors), and influencing your contract or your contract-completion bonus. Science is a rational approach to existence, and its true practitioners are, for lack of better words, on the right track. However, to unconditionally bestow respect on scientists is like emptying your wallet for each street musician. And to bestow respect on an agency that funds scientists is like giving your wallet to a bus driver with instructions to give it to a street musician.

The Winter Psyche Eval
1. Four out of five biologists regard psychologists as jibbering baboons, and you should too. If other scientists had their way, Psychology would not be considered a "science" at all, but would be ranked somewhere above Creationism and below Performance Art.
3. Nearly every paper worth its salt written on the selection of winter-over personnel at isolated polar bases has come to this conclusion: psychological profiling is not an accurate method of determining who will or will not successfully integrate themselves into a polar community. Questionable introverts have flourished because of their tolerance of personal idiosyncracies, and shoe-in extroverts have been shunned at bases for their relentless neediness. Psychological profiling can help weed out the claustrophobic, the hypochondriac, and the manic-depressant, but when July rolls around and the station manager with nothing to do begins peering out his office window to monitor a lonely stop sign for infractions on deserted roads, or as the winter plods on and the human resources rep begins a campaign of sexual policing, one begins to wonder whether there is as much to fear at the winter base from the overt psychotic as there is from the covert neurotic, that is, the "normal" member of society. Though apparently both of these types have no trouble passing the USAP Psyche Eval, the psychotic at least provides the community a few laughs and occasionally a little excitement to spruce up the daily grind, while the controlling neurotic is the daily grind.

If You Almost Die or Something
If you almost die or something, either at a field camp or by industrial havoc in town, people will be quite fascinated. Restrictions on 'complaining' or on 'acting all badass' may be safely discarded, within reason.

Frequent Flier Miles
You may believe that you are only going to Antarctica for one season. Though that may be true, it is not. Antarctica will pierce you in the heart, and even if you don't come back, you will think about it off and on, probably for the rest of your life. North America to New Zealand is one hell of a long round-trip, so do yourself a favor and start a frequent-flier account so that when you do come back, you will accumulate free airline tickets.


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