March 23, 2011

Antarctica TMI: My penguin toilet-training mission & visit to Port Lockroy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 10:19 am

“And what did you learn from your recent trip to Antarctica?” someone asked me the other day. I learned that penguin colonies smell really bad and that penguins have no indoor plumbing. So I dealt with this problem as best I could — rented a penguin costume, made a toilet-training video for penguins and posted it on YouTube. It was the least I could do.

“And how did that work out? Are penguins now using the potty-chair regularly or at least wearing diapers?” Who knows! And I’m not about to go back down there to find out. It’s COLD in Antarctica! After spending time in to Antarctica, I’ll never feel cold here in Berkeley again — no matter how many hail-storms we have and no matter how bad climate change hits the Bay Area.

PS: Here’s my penguin toilet-training video. Penguins, listen up!

PPS: Speaking of climate change, apparently the Berkeley Bowl produce market is not selling tomatoes any more — or at least not very many. You used to be able to walk into the Bowl’s vegetable section and find bunches of shelves and bins filled with tomatoes. But not any more. Not since the big freeze of 2010-2011. Now they only gots a few shelves devoted to selling big reds and Romas, and the price of cherry tomatoes from Mexico is now $3.69 a basket.

Between the price of gas now hitting four dollars a gallon, the various ice sheets hitting our tomato supply line and our deficit hitting new highs due to the cost of our new “war” on Libya, it’s apparently time to resign ourselves to the price of stuff that we need going up — and up and up. But who the freak can make spaghetti without tomatoes?

But if America actually really is seriously broke and has as huge a deficit as the governor of Wisconsin and Rush Limbaugh claim that we do, then America could never afford to continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan — let alone up and bomb Libya. Lord knows that bomber fuel ain’t cheap!

PPPS: While down in Antarctica I also stopped at Port Lockroy, which used to be a British intelligence-gathering radio outpost during World War II, but is now a museum and gift shop. And I have the bumper-stickers, calendars, post cards, T-shirts and key chains to prove it. Sorry, but they were all out of refrigerator magnets.

Imagine six or eight Brits huddled in a flimsy wood hut for several years, trying to spy on enemy battleships and U-boats that might try to sneak through the Drake Passage — and you’ve pretty much got the idea of what Port Lockroy was like. Talk about your last outpost of Empire!

It was interesting to see how the old British spies lived back in the day — the place was completely preserved right down to its tin bathtub, radio room, bunk beds, boxes of Marmite stored in the pantry and pin-up drawings of Diana Dors on the dorm wall, painted back in the early 1950s. I guess that the spies liked it there so much that they decided to stay on after the war? No accounting for tastes.

Anyway, the hut’s major attraction was this huge vintage-1943 radio called The Beastie, which was one of the largest radios in the world at that time. I took lots of photos. Here they all are, in a fabulous new YouTube slide show exclusive:

PPPPS: While at Port Lockroy, I also mailed a post card to my three-year-old granddaughter Mena. However, I’ve been back home in Berkeley for almost a month now and the freaking post card still hasn’t been delivered.


February 26, 2011

Corporatists & penguins: Both poop in their own nests

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:18 pm

I just got back from Antarctica and it was the Commute from Hell! First I had to endure three-and-a-half horrible days almost solely devoted to seasickness and fear while crossing back to Ushauaia through the infamous Drake Passage in a boat originally designed to cruise up and down the Danube. It was like being trapped in a washing machine 24/7. Terror in a Maytag.

Next came my air transportation nightmare. I mean seriously. How long can you spend in a succession of faceless terminals while trying to sleep on plastic chairs or limping from wrong gate to wrong gate on swollen feet and bad knees while living on airplane food and watching grade-B Hollywood movies through loop after loop in order to try to take your mind off of turbulence that sounds like the wings on your plane are about to fall off — without going crazy?

And now I know the Lima (Peru) airport and the Santiago (Chile) airport and the Buenos Aires and Ushauaia (Argentina) airports intimately — after spending three days sleeping with them, waiting for my delayed luggage and trying to find out which gate I’m supposed to be hobbling off to next.

But that’s okay. The experience was worth it because of Antarctica’s majestic untouched beauty, my renewed sense of urgency regarding global warming, marching with the penguins, scoring multiple souvenir T-shirts and having gained much deep knowledge learned the hard way.

So. Exactly what kind of deep knowledge did I acquire down there?

“An ice shelf is a glacier that extends out into the sea. Glaciers in Antarctica are 100 times larger than glaciers in Alaska and after they reach the edge of the land, they continue on out into the ocean and create enormous ice shelves the size of New Jersey. And two of these gigantic ice shelves have recently broken off from their bases as a result of pressures on them caused by global warming.”

And these two huge ice shelves the size of New Jersey are now happily melting and floating our way. Why? Because in the last ten years alone, global temperatures have spiked up more than 800 percent higher than from their original documented baseline, set approximately 150 years ago when temperatures first started getting recorded.

And as a result of these gigantic new post-industrial temperature increases, Antarctica is melting, water levels all over the world are rising and Americans are all stuck in what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross calls the “First Stage of Death — Denial”. And instead of trying to bail out our poor planetary ship before it’s too late, we just sit around on our hands while our global Titanic goes down — hit by an iceberg.

While on this trip, I also learned something about penguins that I had never known before. Penguins are rather smelly birds. When visiting a penguin colony, you first start to get unpleasant whiffs of it from miles away out at sea. Penguins have no latrines. They poop in their own nests. Yuck!

“Wanna go ashore and look at penguin colonies today, Jane?” No thanks.

And after coming back to America, I also discovered that the corporatists and oligarchs who now own my country are like penguins too — pooping where they live, heaping excrement down on the workers who support them. And just how long do the corporatists actually expect this situation to last? Penguins can always migrate elsewhere. Corporatists cannot. Corporatists have pretty much pooped in every nest here in America and have also moved on to poop in every nest in the rest of the world too. And now they have nowhere else to go.

“Wanna go visit Wall Street and K Street and the Cayman Islands and the Federal Reserve Bank today, Jane?” No thanks to that either. Can’t stand the smell.

PS: In every single airport that I was stuck in on the way home to Berkeley, I could always count on seeing hundreds of flashy, elegantly-designed, glamorous and fabulous posters and displays and billboards that advertised all kinds of useless consumer stuff that nobody really needed — so much stuff!

I must have seen over a thousand ads during my five flights toward home.

In every airport I waited (and waited) in, glossy in-your-face hard-sell ads campaigns and marketing blitzes covered almost every square inch of their walls, ceilings, counter-space and aisles. “Buy this! Buy that!” Then you too will be happy.

And the oligarchs and corporatists (and us too) continue to sell and buy all this stuff and to poop in our own nests just like the penguins — while silent, white, deadly icebergs float closer and closer to New Jersey.

PPS: If you want to donate a pizza to the heroic protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, first click here for more information:!5765822/egyptians-are-buying-pizza-for-wisconsin-protestors. And then click on Ian’s Pizza FaceBook page to actually purchase the pizzas:

In America today, our government and our media have been almost completely bought out by corporatists and oligarchs — and our unions are the only real organized voices we have left that are strong enough to stand up to these creeps. But if we silently stand by and watch our unions go down too, then we will obviously get what we deserve — a nest filled with corporatists and oligarchs, happily pooping on us.

To see a photo of penguin poop and me trying to toilet-train a penguin, click here:


February 19, 2011

Update from Antarctica: Drake Passage, busted generator, gale-force winds….

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:09 pm

The boat I’m on is having technical difficulties with its main generator, we’re running on an auxiliary shaft generator and heading towards gale-strength weather in the Drake Passage. Are we having fun yet?

Who would have thought that I would be so susceptible to seasickness. Not me. Word of the day? “Drama-mean!”

Our captain says that we will get back to Ushauaia okay, going nine knots an hour in bad weather, and will be there in only two or three days. But still. I HATE being seasick. Seasickness sucks eggs.

PS: Today’s scheduled tour of the ancient caldera at Deception Island is off. But that’s okay. Penguin poop stinks anyway.

February 17, 2011

Antarctica: The only continent where WAR is illegal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 7:29 pm

Now that we have officially outlawed war, banned war and made war illegal on the continent of Antarctica, now we only have six more continents to go.

What ever became of all those high-sounding human ideals that we all used brag about — such as religious morality, Thou shalt not Kill, turning swords into plowshares, Democracy, the stuff that they taught us in kindergarten about sharing and/or “Peace in Our Time”? What ever happened to the freaking United Nations’s ideals?

All empty promises, apparently — except in Antarctica.

If in order to get a little peace in this world, we have to drop the temperatures all over the planet to 10 degrees below zero then, hey, bring it on! Perhaps after the blizzards in New Jersey this year, then Peace may actually be possible, eh?

In any case, I did manage to survive the dread Drake Passage on my way to Antarctica this week — but just barely. The only sure cure for seasicknes I could find was to keep my eyes closed as much as possible — so I stared at the back of my eyelids for 48 hours and only puked three or four times. And then our ship entered the land of enchantment:

And now there came both mist and snow; And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast high, came floating by, As green as emerald.

And now my feet are cold as ice cubes, but Antarctica’s intense beauty has warmed up my soul.

PS: It turns out that there actually IS limited wi-fi available in Antarctica — but it’s really expensive.

PPS: How about those penguins? They have NO fear of humans, none at all. Plus I took an actual photo of my boot so that I could actually prove that I really did set foot on the seventh continent today. Plus I have approximately 50 penguin witnesses to this event and they will all gladly testify to that fact on my behalf.

PPPS: If there is one thing that I have learned from the Tunisians and the Egyptians and the penguins recently, it’s this: That if enough of us want peace badly enough, then peace really IS possible.

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