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  • 14 Days and Counting

    Two weeks from today I'll be sleeping in an American Airlines seat destined for Honolulu. (Even with two layovers, American is the only airline that can get you from Bermuda to Hawaii on the same date.) I'll arrive at 10:50pm, pick up a rental car, and start the actual madness of our Operational Readiness Test.

    The ORT is exactly what it sounds like: a test to determine if field operations are running smoothly enough to perform. All three science teams will be on the water in conjunction with flyovers by the Tempus airplane containing PRISM. The focus is to work out any kinks in methodology, but the hope is to collect accurate, usable data on the first try.

    I've been working my butt off the last few months trying to organize documentation and logistics for 15 people across North America to come together and get some gosh darn work done. So let the countdown begin!

  • Self-Made

    I did stuff this weekend!

    On Friday night I finally got my favorite fish sandwich: Art Mel's Spicy Dicy with "the works" on raisin bread. Just living the dream.

    On Saturday I ate the other half. I spent the evening binge-listening to this year's Serial while crafting up some throw pillows out of these amazing thrifted cloth napkins.

    On Sunday I weeded out a garden bed and made a compost bin in the hellish rock jungle that's next to the apartment building.

    On Monday my body is not going to be happy. But I'm totally on that farmer's high where a solid day of physical labor, combined with the knowledge of future self-sustenance, is existentially rewarding.

    And on that note - want to hear something crazy? Rabbits produce a second type of fecal pellet called cecotropes. They are manufactured in the bunny's caecum, which contains highly nutritious bacteria that can ferment any undigestible fiber into a tasty little snack.

    So yeah. Rabbits eat self-made granola bars that happen to exit through their own anus. The ultimate sustainably local organism. 

  • Moon Rabbit

    There's a rabbit hutch on campus that currently houses almost 20 "accident" bunnies looking for good homes. I made the giant mistake of stopping by every day to visit.

    Meet Mochi! My new sweet lil' bun.

    He's about 8 weeks old and ready to leave the family, so I'm suddenly in a hurry to collect rabbit supplies and build an apartment hutch. I decided to use an idea from pinterest and convert an old dresser. Lo and behold, the very first thing outside the thrift store today was a supply cabinet! With an extra deep bed! In decent condition! It was clearly a sign of deliverance from the bunny gods.

    My plan is to pull out the drawers, nail in a thick shelf for the second floor, build a little chicken ladder, put down ceramic tiles (non-porous, easy to clean, help stay cool), and put grid wire across the front openings. The left side will swing open as a latched door. I've clearly got my work cut out for me this weekend.

    ...And so begins my life as a pet owner. I've already accepted the unfortunate side effect of annoying everyone around me with excessive baby photos. But just look how cute his gray paws are! Eeee!

  • Ugh, Valentine's Day

    I spent Valentine's Day completely alone on the uninhabited campus of a solitary island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I deep-cleaned my couch cushions, set up an international phone plan, stitched upholstery covers for my throw pillows, and watched a PBS documentary on Prohibition.

    I've long since given up on "caring" about the validity of this holiday. My Sunday solitude was great. And you know what? Periodic checks into social media made me really happy. I read adoring odes to family members. My high school best friend announced a secret marriage to her lifetime best friend. I saw flattering photos of people I barely even know anymore - flattering not because they look like models, but because they just look fucking happy.

    Whether it's inspired by commercialism, tradition, social expectation, or personal obligation... who cares? Valentine's Day is a nice excuse to think about the things we love. 

  • Look Ma, I'm a Functional Adult!

    Relocating to an island is not easy. Bermuda is a particuarly rough place to move because it's really small, immigration is tight, there's no natural resources, the salt ruins everything, the humidity ruins everything, and the bugs ruin everything. There's no Target. Everything at the "dollar" store costs at least $2.50. And buying overpriced, barely-fresh groceries every week is painful. Please note: I am fully aware of how privileged my American life is.

    Luckily, I absolutely love my apartment! I got a corner studio with a full kitchen, bathroom, and closet. It's big enough to hang out in and small enough to keep my living style simple. It has a ton of natural light, full privacy, and there's some fruit trees nearby (avocados, loquats, starfruit).

    I spent most of my first week on a quest for affordable basic living supplies. The institute lent me some bedding and linens, my shower now has hot water, and there are actually utensils in the kitchen drawer. I'm finally starting to feel like a normal person! I have a lot of DIY design ideas, so I took a couple BEFORE pics this morning, for posterity. We'll see how long it takes to make it adorable.

  • Kona Post 2: The Work

    I know this post is long overdue... thank you for being patient while I scrambled, prioritized, and totally uprooted my life. Now let's get back to the topic at hand: moray eels!

    Eels are such a regular occurrence in Hawaii that the usual diver reaction is boredom, if not slight annoyance. But to me (being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Kona water), having an eel curiously tag along on field work is the most exciting part of the day. This guy followed me around for a good 15 meters, diving in and out of the reef and swimming a little too close for comfort. I think I saw a total of 4 eels that day!

    This fine piece of machinery is called a Profiling Reflectance Radiometer (PRR). There are sensors facing out of each end that measure the amount of light in the water column. We'll be deploying it everywhere to amass a gigantic data set about ocean optics.

    The team was lucky enough to hire an incredible boat driver that had pimped his ride perfectly for our style of field work. Seriously - I have never worked on a boat so comfortable or well-formatted. John was hilarious, accomodating, smart, and gave great local food recommendations. (Not to mention that whole bag of homemade breakfast musubis he brought us.)

    Then we discovered reefs have fish. Crazy, right!?

    ...And this is a great shot of when we desperately attempted to dry all of our scuba gear on the hotel balcony less than 24 hours before traveling halfway around the world with crammed, salty luggage. Welcome to airplane life.

  • Kona Post 1: Poke, Poke, Mocha

    No trip to Hawaii is complete without lots of poke and spam. Eric and I quite literally went straight from airport to marina for fresh ahi poke and fish tacos. Tuna was the catch of the day at every restaurant on the island this week, and boy, do I love me some raw tuna.

    From top to bottom: fresh poke from Bite Me! Bar and Grill, fried poke balls with spicy mayo and pickled cucumbers, and teriyaki poke with furikake rice, kim chee cucumbers, and crazy delicious mac salad (not pictured) from Umeke's.

    I found it strange that spam treats were harder to find on Kona (as opposed to the other islands). Our boat driver responded to my grievances by bringing a huge paper bag of homemade musubis one morning. AHHHHH! <3

    I also discovered Lillikoi Hi-Chews (seriously, best flavor) and Royal Mills iced Island Mochas. The canned coffees contain four different milk products plus sugar - which is my favorite way to drink caffeine. Thank god these aren't in the states, or I might get fat and hyped.

    We also visited the original Kona brewhouse, which, albeit being poorly set up as a restaraunt, had surprisingly good pub food and duh-licious beers. The Hula Hefe sealed a perfect end to every exhausting boat day. God. I. Love. Hawaii.

  • First Up: The Big Island of Hawai'i!

    Some field work on Kona was abruptly dropped into my lap last week. I pulled some organizational acrobatics and get to fly out early Saturday morning for my first NASA research site. Unfortunately, I'm a little out of date on the AAUS diving requirements and can only perform dive work up to 30 ft. Boats, 78°F, and volcanoes - totally sucks, right?

    If you haven't used Google's new My Maps, it's brilliant. I'm going to start logging all of our field sites here, adding in foodie stops and hangouts along the way. The key is pretty easy:

    • Home Icon: My home base for the duration of the work
    • Red Drops: Targeted field sites
    • Airplane + Path: Target airplane flyover routes

    The work will go something like this... Eric's colleague is going to fly an airplane along the west coast, taking consecutive high-res images that we can use to map portions of the reef. Our team will trail the flight path by boat, taking various environmental measurements with both handheld instruments and probes deployed over the side. The next couple of days will be diving and snorkeling to collect underwater imagery and spectral measurements of the actual corals.

    I'm doing my best to rack up 12 dives, so I can level up by the time I get to Bermuda. (Or should I say level down? Eh? Eh?)

  • Gifts From Gonzalo

    I made it through a category 2 hurricane shortly after my dad survived a massive heart attack. As my brother noted this morning, "The Peltiers are on a roll this month!"

    The 36-hour lockdown was slogged through as the storm raged outside. We had yelling matches through 4 games of Avalon (super fun), watched too much TV before the power went out, and drank out Kings as the floor tiles in reception slowly filled with leaking water. Every so often debris smashed into the building and shaking doors had to be roped shut, but ultimately nothing particularly terrible happened. In fact, the scariest part was being jolted awake by a flood of light and piercing fire alarm at 5 am... and all that meant was the campus emergency generator had been turned on.

    By morning the weather was calm and beautiful outside. Perfect for grabbing a bagel and taking a stroll through the aftermath! Every road was blessed with a new chaotic tree sculpture and every building a fresh coat of pulverized leaves. The air smelled amazing from all of the cracked, fresh wood.

    Wright Hall probably accrued the most damage with much of the roof blown off, broken windows, and large holes in some of the top floor rooms. It's no longer legal to construct buildings with such wide eaves for this exact reason.

    Every tree in our side yard was either broken or yanked clean out. The giant palm that sits in between two houses and a series of power lines managed to fall in the ONLY possible direction where there was a safe, open space to land. Our house was virtually untouched except for a little flooding in the kitchen and my room. And there wasn't even enough water to damage any furniture!

    Finally, there used to be a working mesocosm behind the laboratory buildings... "used to" being the operative words now. You can see how many cinder blocks are still attached to the frame and hanging in the air, while those white buckets in the background are filled with cement. The wind was literally strong enough to move buckets of cement.

    Wind speeds maxed out at 110 mph and most of the island is still blacked out. Our toilet doesn't seem to be running any longer. But I'm alive! And so is my hippo. Nothing quite like sleeping on the ground in an old library for two days.

  • Hurricane Status

    I'm about to be in my very first hurricane! I'm super excited to have a sleepover in the library while eating granola bars, playing cards, and supervising the student group. It's the kind of stuff I used to daydream about when I was little. (Yeah, you heard that right. Making it through a major natural disaster was one of my childhood fantasies.)

    I bought some essentials in preparation, aka candy, cheddar goldfish, and Gatorade. Stay tuned for more updates!

  • Polyp Noms

    I am terrible at taking care of living things. Plants, mice, humans... if I'm required to be responsible for something, I auto-rebel by treating it as an awful chore and (almost purposely) neglecting it. Except for corals. I love corals! I love their polyps, their geometry, and their weird colonial lifestyle. I am magically amazing at tricking corals into thinking their miniature glass prison is a wonderful place to be.

    So. Part of my job each year is to nurture up to 100 coral babies for months at a time in preparation for student laboratories. Laboratories for which my adorable little hatchlings are each raped, killed, and prodded in the name of science. Go figure.

    Today was my first time ever actually watching and analyzing how a coral eats. I've understood the theory and seen textbook illustrations, but looking at polyp mouths under a microscope is a whole new ballgame. We pumped unhatched shrimp brine through the tank, which the coral instinctively ingests, but can't actually digest. Then we baked them in an oven (death by heat and dehydration) and counted all of the cysts in each cute little microscopic polyp mouth.

  • Presence in the Present

    Somebody once told me that a good portion of Bermudians don't know how to swim. I can't find any solid statistic on the statement, but let's face it: no matter how low, ANY percentage of splashing illiteracy here would shock and appall me. They live on an island! Surrounded by the ocean! I would kill any day of the week for a full backyard of Davy Jones' Locker.

    ...Or so I thought. I've come to realize that it's the easiest thing in the world to take your dreams for granted. The longer I live in Bermuda, the less I swim for kicks. I have a million excuses: my 9-5 is on the water, I have other hobbies to fulfill, I don't feel like carting my beach gear 0.5 miles, the sun's too hot, the waves are too big, the palm trees don't bud ice cold champagne and hundos.

    Ergo, last Sunday I woke the fuck up, carted my shit out, and swam like crazy around Whalebone Bay. Just for kicks. It was a wonderful reminder to keep my grass green and my polyps extended, and boy, do I love the ocean.