So, who the heck am I and why should you vote for me?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

As the blog title says, my name is Sharon, and I want to go to Antarctica!

I’m not one of those people who’s wanted to go there since they were a kid. My obsession started about 5 or 6 years ago. That is when I started following the journal of a guy working there who goes by the name McPenguin online. He was working over the winter at McMurdo Base. Through his writing about the place and photos he posted online (both his, and ones from the shared drive down there) I discovered that there was more than I thought to Antarctica.

I’d always pictured it as being just cold and dark (winter) or cold and white (summer). But no, I was wrong. The dark? It’s not just black. With no light contamination you can see more stars than you thought possible, and the Aurora Australis? Puts every Northern Light show I’ve ever seen to shame. In the summer, the ice down there can be so beautiful. Shades of blue & turquoise that I thought was reserved for the tropical waters of the Caribbean. And it’s not lifeless. There are whales & seals & birds. And yes, penguins.

My thirst for knowledge about Antarctica and the people who live there grew. I started reading blogs of people stationed at Amundson-Scott (aka the South Pole). I read books, and news articles. And I knew, I wanted to go there!

By chance I happened upon Quark Expedition’s last contest, “Blog Your Way To Antarctica.” Alas, the winner was determined solely by vote count and had little to do with actual blogging ability. Still, I tried. Out of almost 600 entrants I managed to climb to 22nd place.

The contest running now, Adventure With Julie To Antarctica, is pretty much the same thing except that they will take the top five vote recipients and choose from them. I’m still sitting at about 25th place, slowly gaining votes, but not getting any closer to the top five. If you’re reading this because you took the time to click on my blog link, but haven’t voted yet, PLEASE vote for me, and tell your friends.

I don’t have a cool picture of me with a dolphin or orca or other marine mammal, because I’ve never been close enough to one. I don’t have a picture of my kid and a story about “I’m not entering for myself” because I don’t have kids yet and I am entering for myself. I don’t have a cool picture of me with with an exotic cat because the only time I’ve ever gotten to pet one I was only 2 years old so that picture doesn’t even look like me (and I don’t even remember it!). I don’t have a picture of myself on top of a mountain because I’ve never climbed a mountain. Heck, we don’t even have mountains here in Minnesota!

Yes, all those people probably have more travel cred, or experience, and they will love the trip. But me? Winning this trip would quite literally be the trip of my lifetime. There is no possibility of me getting to Antarctica any other way. If I make it there I will look at it through the lens of my camera, and share it with my blog readers every step of the way.

Do you want to see Antarctica? Vote for me and if I’m selected to go I will produce a PDF for download that chronicles my journey, as inspired by the great Kyle Cassidy:
Arizona iPhonetography, In the Desert Without Fancy Equipment (Or A Signal)
Never Been Lost, A Wyoming Travel Diary
California Velocity, Five Days on the Right Coast 

Gratuitous picture of me with an exotic cat:

I'm on the left, dad in the middle, my sister on the right, 
and the lion cub belonged to our neighbor.

Ugh. I hate begging.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

As much as I really really really want to win this trip to Antarctica, it's pretty easy to get frustrated.

Because getting into the top 5 is based just on votes, I feel like I have to keep posting about it to get my Twitter, Facebook & LJ friends to vote. But I hate feeling like I'm a pest. There are only so many of them that are willing to go through the registration process to vote even though I assure them that Quark Expeditions doesn't share their email and doesn't spam them. You get maybe one email a month, and it's easy to unsubscribe.

I think the only way I will get more votes is if I can get some celebrities to tweet about it. Or maybe even some local media. The problem is that whole I hate feeling like a pest thing. I don't want to send bulk emails asking, and doing individual ones takes time. Also, if it's someone I just connect with on Twitter, I have to convince them with only 140 characters.

I just need to find a way to get more people to spread the word! I did make an easy to remember custom short url for voting: so it will be easier to give out the link. I know, /FrozenSharon would make more sense, but I used that one last time, and it was actually the inspiration for the blog name!

D'oh! It just occurred to me as I typed that last paragraph that since the links are case sensitive that I can make the link and also So I just did.

As for how I'm doing so far in the contest? Well, I started campaigning for votes seriously on Aug 9th and at that point I was down in 36th place. Right now I am tied in 24th. Unfortunately I need 419 votes to hit 5th place. On the bright side, of the 23 people above me, only 8 of them have received more votes than me in the 10 days since Aug 9th.

I've got 11 more days. I need to average 40 votes per day if I'm going to hit the top 5. Probably more like 50/day since I'm sure other people will still be getting votes too. I've got to figure out a way. If any of y'all have ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them.

What animal do you think of when you think about Antarctica?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yep, that’s right. Moose!
What? That’s not what you were thinking about? Penguins?
Yeah, penguins are pretty darn cool and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. But when I think of travel to anywhere, my first thought is of Moose. If you are confused, you haven’t met my little buddy yet!

This is Moose Snyder.
California Dreaming

He has a Facebook account. I feel I can safely say that he *IS* the world’s most traveled Moose.

We already know that I’ve never left North America, despite my desire to see the entire world. There are two ways I travel vicariously through others – I collect postcards, and I send Moose. In his short lifespan (I got him in 1996) this little guy has traveled to six of the seven continents. He’s sat on the equator, and he’s sat on the South Pole. He’s been to the Galapagos Islands, Paris, England, Italy, Croatia, Ecuador, Australia, and Ethiopia, just to name a few of the places he’s been. When friends or family are going someplace fun I ask if they’ll take him along.

Cruising the Caribbean

He also loves meeting new people. He is a bit of a celebrity stalker. He’s met tv chefs (Alton Brown), authors (Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fford, LA Banks), graphic designers (Chip Kidd), magicians (Penn & Teller), astronomers (Phil Plait), skeptics (The Amazing Randi), comedians (Chris Hardwick, Maria Bamford), comic artists (Jon Kovalic, Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson), musicians (Jonathan Coulton, Sunspot) and many actors (James Marsters, John Schneider, Adam Baldwin, Aaron Douglas, Wil Wheaton). And that’s not even the whole list!

Moose at Dragon*Con - 2009

As I said, he’s already been all the way to the South Pole, but he still wants to go back to Antarctica. Besides, I want to go!
South Pole!

So remember, a vote for me is a vote for Moose!

Here are some photos of his adventures, and a map of where he’s already been!

Phoenix ComiCon 2010

In Cardiff, Wales

View My Adventures in a larger map


OK everyone, let's make this blog title accurate. Get me to Antarctica!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Despite all my traveling earlier this spring, I really don't get to travel much. I have NEVER left North America. Until June 2004 I had never left the United States! My total international travel is one day trip to Vancouver, BC, Canada and about 48 hours in Toronto, ON, Canada.

As a kid looking at travel posters & wallpapering my room with them I always assumed that when I was a grown-up I'd be able to go to all the fantastic places. Unfortunately I've never been able to afford to.

Way back in 2005 or 2006 I discovered the LiveJournal of a guy, McPenguin, who was working over the winter at McMurdo Base in Antarctica. Just reading about it awakened a fascination with Antarctica in me. I'm now also following two other Antarcticans on LJ, one currently at the South Pole and one currently at McMurdo. I've picked up books about Antarctica. It became an obsession - an awesome place, but one that I would most certainly never in my life experience.

Then, in August of 2009, I discovered that Quark Expeditions was giving away an all expenses trip for two on one of their cruises to Antarctica. It was called "Blog Your Way To Antarctica" and the winner was determined solely by the number of votes. I posted on LJ & Facebook & Twitter lobbying for votes. And I did ok. I ended up placing about 22nd out of several hundred competitors. I even started this Frozen Sharon blog as a place to expand upon the 300 character limit.

I was so hopeful that I would win that contest that I even finally got a passport! Yes, at 39 years old I got my first passport. I have 10 years to use it! So when I did not win that first Quark Expeditions contest this blog also became a rarely updated log of my attempts to win other trips, and also updates of the little bit of traveling I've done here in the US.

Now, Quark has another contest going. It's pretty much the same where you have 300 words to convince people to vote for you. This time though, they will look at the top FIVE entrants and choose from there. So, I only have to make it to the top five this time! Of course they'll pick me, right? I'm currently in 39th place and less than 400 votes will get me to the top 5.

Please vote for me!

Please tell your friends, family, and everyone else to vote for me!

Please put it on your Twitter! Shorter custom link:

Please join my Facebook group and invite all your friends!

Thank you!

Time to try this again!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quark Expeditions is sponsoring another contest to win an all expenses paid trip to Antarctica. 

The details:
Turn Your Love of Wildlife and the Environment into a $45,000 Trip of a Lifetime.

Share your passion for the environment in 300 words or less and you and a guest could Travel with Julie Scardina on a Snow Island Hill Safari to see Emperor Penguins in Antarctica!

Join Julie on one of the final sailings of the legendary icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov. As Animal Ambassador for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, she will share fascinating behind-the-scene stories of animal training and conservation.

Tell the world why you should Adventure with Julie and encourage people to vote for you. On August 31, 2010, if your entry has received the most votes, you could win! This October 2010 voyage is already sold out, so winning is the only way you can get onboard.

Turn your love of conservation into the trip of a lifetime!

So of course I entered! I got 258 votes last time. This time I plan to exceed that. The judges will choose the winner out of the top 5 vote getters. I've got 2 1/2 months to do this. 

My entry:
I'm passionate about Antarctica & want to share it with you
In high school I was convinced I would have a career working with animals. I attended an animal behavior summer school at the Minnesota Zoo, and earned a trip to the International Science Fair based on my study from that summer. I even attended college majoring in Zoology. But, life got in the way, as it tends to do. Because of various struggles in my life I ended up dropping out of college, never to realize my dream of working with animals. 
I’ve also wanted to travel the world since I was a child, with camera in hand documenting nature. I feel that one of the best ways to get people passionate about saving the environment is to show them what is out there, and the beauty of it all. Unfortunately, I have never yet left North America although I did just get myself my first passport and it needs some stamps in it. I don’t know how yet, but I WILL travel internationally sometime in the next ten years. Wouldn’t it be great if that first trip was to Antarctica? 
If you vote to send me to Antarctica, I’ll be sharing my adventure with you online. I’m a passionate amateur photographer, focusing mainly on nature, wildlife and zoo photography. I’ve had a journal on the internet since 2002, blogging about all aspects of my life. I have active accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Through these, you will be able to read about the trip as it happens.  I already have a blog for my Antarctic obsession, and I’d love to use it to show the world Antarctica’s wildlife and untamed beauty!

To vote for me, click here:

NASA Tweetup, part 2

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Space Shuttle launch story.

Now we're on to the second half of day 1.

After lunch we boarded buses for a tour of KSC.

We stopped & spent about an hour & a half at the Apollo Saturn V Center. It was really cool. They showed a short movie on the history of the Apollo program, and then moved us into the control room. It wasn’t a reproduction either. They had taken the entire control room that was actually used for the launches and reassembled it at the Apollo Saturn V Center. Then, as part of the tour, they went through a simulation of the launch from there, with details right down to rattling the windows.


When you left the theater from that simulation the very first thing you saw was the rocket end of a Saturn V rocket. It’s a real full size one that was built, but then was never used. It is MASSIVE. They have all the parts of it hanging from the ceiling end to end and it goes the entire length of the building. All that rocket power just to get a little capsule that 3 men barely fit into up to the moon.

Saturn V Rocket

And here's a picture with me in it to give an idea of the scale:

Saturn V Rocket

They had some other cool stuff at the center too. They have a piece of moon rock that you can reach in and actually touch. There is an “Apollo Hall of Treasures” where they have things like the Apollo 14 capsule and Alan Shepherd’s spacesuit that he wore on the moon’s surface.

Moon rock

Apollo 14

After the Apollo Saturn V Center we went to the International Space Station Center. This is the building where they assemble and load the modules used to take stuff to the ISS. Not as much stuff to look at as at the Apollo Saturn V Center, but it is an actual working facility. You look down through glass windows at the people working in the clean room environments. While we were there one of the modules they were working on was being reinforced because it’s going to become a permanent part of the ISS.

International Space Station Center

International Space Station Center

As we drove to the different stops we also got to see a lot of parts of the base. We drove by the Orbiter Processing Facility, Mobile Launcher Platforms, the Crawler-Transporter, and, of course, the Vehicle Assembly Building. You can’t go anywhere at Kennedy without seeing the VAB!

This is the Crawler-Transporter which moves the shuttle around.

Shuttle Crawler

The gravel to the right of the road is the Crawler's track.

Crawler Track

And the track leads, of course, to the Vehicle Assembly Building.


One of the buildings we drove past on our tour was the hangar used for the Columbia Reconstruction Project after she was lost on re-entry.


After the tour we took a short break and then boarded the buses again for the highlight of Thursday - the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure!

We were out by Launch Pad 39A just a few hundred yards & one fence away from the shuttle! The RSS is the structure surrounding the shuttle during the time she’s on the pad up until just less than a day from the scheduled launch time. It is how the crews access the shuttle to check systems, load it, etc.

Of course, we couldn’t actually see the shuttle herself yet, just the tops of the big orange external tank and the solid rocket boosters. This was the first place I hauled out The Monster, my 400 mm 2.8 lens. We were TOO CLOSE for me to really use it! I could get some super close-ups, but it was too close to get any kind of good composition. This is a problem I can live with!

RSS retraction

Taken with the big lens:

At Launchpad 39a

OK, so the RSS retraction? Happens slow enough that you really don’t see the structure move. We were taking pictures & talking and then all of a sudden, “Hey! I can see Atlantis!”

At Launchpad 39a
At Launchpad 39a
At Launchpad 39a

Once the structure was fully retracted we were all getting pictures of ourselves in front of it.

At Launchpad 39a

We got a picture of all 4 of us Minnesotans in front of it too.
The girls from Minneapolis: me, Liz (@LizStrand), Melissa (@melissagerman) & Mauria (@MoBea)
At Launchpad 39a

Then we did a big group shot of the entire Tweetup group in front of Atlantis.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers) Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
We were herded back onto the buses after that. Our view of the launchpad from our little area was a side view of the shuttle. As our buses drove off we pulled around her and got a beautiful full on view. These pictures are taken through the bus windows.

At Launchpad 39a

At Launchpad 39a

After getting dropped off at the press site, we were done with scheduled events for the day. Melissa, Matthew & I took advantage of that time to get our required “I’m by the countdown clock!” pictures.

Cheesy self portrait.

Cheesy self portrait

Countdown clock

After hanging out for a little while longer I was going to meet up with my friends Mark & Sarah for dinner but decided I was just too wiped out. I went back to my resort with the intention of napping, but I learned that the pool & hot tub were open until 11:00. Since the flight my husband Rick & my dad were on was landing at 11:12 I figured it was a sign. A nice relaxing soak in the hot tub felt so good. After running to the airport to get Rick & Dad, it was the end of a wonderful day.

Hot tub
(This picture's not blurry because of the water, it's because the phone is in a nice watertight plastic bag!)

Next: Launch day!

NASA Tweetup, part 1

My Space Shuttle launch story.

I’ve already posted about how I got to go to the launch through @nasatweetup. Now I’ve finally got time to tell you about the Tweetup itself!

To minimize time taken off work, since I don’t get paid time off, I ended up going right from work to the airport on Wednesday, and then on Monday going right from the airport back to work. So, Wednesday night Rick picked me up at work and we headed to uptown to pick up Melissa (@melissagerman), another woman from Minneapolis who was also selected for the Tweetup. Actually, out of only 150 people, 4 of us were girls from Minneapolis! Anyway, I had been tweeting with the other girls and it turned out that Melissa and I were taking the same flight down. She didn’t have a way to the airport yet so I said we’d be able to pick her up. Luckily she turned out to be really nice and we got along well.

The flight down was on Delta, formerly Northworst. Ugh. New name, no improvement. The lack of legroom on their flights can get to be downright painful for my 5’10” self! I’m actually typing this out right now while sitting on another flight, a US Airways one. MUCH more comfortable and more than enough leg room. But I digress. Delta flight. We were supposed to take off at 7pm to get to Orlando at 11pm local time. We loaded up and backed on out of the gate. And sat. We sat just there for a freaking hour without moving! After 45 minutes they announced that it was some indicator light that had come on but that they didn’t need to fix anything, they just had to wait for someone to sign off on paperwork. When we finally took off we ended up landing in Orlando an hour late at midnight local time.

I wasn’t checked into my hotel until after 2am because I had to get my luggage, get my rental car, and run to a different hotel to pick up my tripod rental before getting to mine to check in. I couldn’t even just go to bed because I had to rearrange all my bags from travel packing configuration to hotel + tweetup organization. Put all the clothes in the suitcase & carryon, put computer & cords in one shoulder bag that had been packed empty in the suitcase, and put camera gear in my beloved Tom Bihn bag. I have never in my life traveled with so much camera & computer equipment.

I ended up finally going to bed at 3am with two alarms set to make sure I got up at 6am.

It’s here! The first day of the tweetup! I had enough adrenaline in me that it didn’t even matter that I’d only had 3 hours sleep. I loaded the SUV and headed over to Melissa’s hotel to pick her up. We were on our way! The drive out to Kennedy was nice. We had enough to chat about the whole time, and I might have possibly maybe seen the eyes & snout of an alligator in the water in the ditch. We did definitely see a cow in a swamp. Yup, one cow, all by itself, standing knee deep in water. We’d recently passed a field with a herd so our theory was that this one cow had gone on walkabout.

Because the route to Kennedy was so well marked, in our excitement we didn’t read the email w/directions close enough. At one point we weren’t supposed to take the highway veering to the left to Kennedy, we were supposed to stay on the one we were already on. But we didn’t. We got to Kennedy and then spent over ½ hour trying to find the press registration area. Turns out that had we followed the directions we would have been approaching the base from the south side rather than the west. We figured it out eventually & got where we needed to be. We got our tweetup & access badges, our swag bags, a vehicle permit, and a map with directions to the press site.

Moose is ready to register

Woo hoo! We went just a little ways up the road and hit a secure gate. After showing our IDs (I’ve finally used my passport!) we got to go through and we were officially in NASA restricted space. And hey, look up there. It’s the Vehicle Assembly Building right in front of us.

Driving towards the VAB

That’s where we’re headed, turning just a couple roads in front of it. FIVE MINUTES LATER, we’re still approaching it, and have finally gotten close. The VAB is one freaking HUGE building. When it looks like you’re maybe ½ mile or a mile from it, you are really still 5 miles away. It’s just so unbelievably big that it throws your sense of perspective off. A quick turn where we’re supposed to go, another checkin at the gate to the press area, and we’re parking.

We were so excited. There were the permanent press buildings on our right - CBS, Floriday Today, some unmarked ones. On our left - the freaking countdown clock! You know what I’m talking about. The one you always see on news coverage of the launch. And it was right there!

Countdown clock

There was water behind it. And across that water, pretty tiny to the naked eye, the launch platform. The only identifiable part of the shuttle was the very tip of the big orange external tank. But still, there she was, “our” shuttle, Atlantis. And past the press buildings ahead on the right, a big white tent. That was our home base, the NASA Tweetup Tent.

The Tweetup Twent

Big enough to hold 150 people, air conditioned, big flat panels up front to air NASA tv, powerstrips for every table and wi-fi. They had hooked up a dedicated fiber for us to have wi-fi. It was so cool. They had everything a techno-addict needed.

Tweetup tent

This is the first tweetup I’d ever been to. I’d never even been to any local ones. There’s a weird thing about tweetups. Everyone introduces themselves with two names. It’s either “Hi, I’m HellZiggy. My real name is Sharon.” or “Hi, I’m Sharon. My Twitter name is HellZiggy.” Thanks to the STS-132 Tweetup list that @NASATweetup had put together of all the confirmed attendees, there were already some familiar faces and familiar names.
Melissa and I met our fellow Minnesotans, and we also found Twitter friend @MatthewJLB. Our tweetup badges all had both our Twitter name and our real name, so sometimes you’d just catch a name as someone walked past.

Oddly enough, there were two other people at the tweetup that I was just 2 degrees of separation from. A guy named @Oblivion is friends w/one of my local geeks, Kami, and @AndyKilgore from Madison is friends with Sunspot’s drummer Wendy & knows the rest of the band. Out of 150 people from 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and England, what are the freaking odds of that? Also, there was one person that wasn’t quite a friend of a friend. More like a nemesis. Twitter user @ErikHess was there, and his user name caught my eye because I know an Erik Hess on twitter, but his Twitter name is @fivesixzero. When I told “my” Erik he said to tell the one at the tweetup that he stole his name.

So, while everyone was setting up their equipment, we were all also chatting and getting to know each other. For a large group who didn’t know each other for the most part, it was really easy to just start conversations with people and get to know them. Of course, we were all used to talking to strangers via Twitter.

At shortly after 10am we were greeted by @NASA team members John Yembrick and Stephanie Schierholz. We had a bunch of really great speakers before breaking for lunch:
Robert D. Braun, NASA chief technologist, NASA Headquarters
Astronaut Janice Voss
Jon Cowart(@Rocky_Sci ), Kennedy Space Center
Stephanie Stilson, space shuttle Discovery Flow Director, Shuttle Processing Office, Kennedy Space Center
Ron Woods, equipment specialist, who has been a space suit designer from Mercury to now

I could write up all the cool stuff they told us, but I have a crap memory for the details, so I’m going to just point you toward the Ustream video they shot! :)

Oh hey, that saved me a lot of writing!

We broke for lunch then, and I joined the herd that was heading toward the cafeteria. You know that crappy cafeteria food service you have at most companies? Yeah, NASA may have brilliant scientists, but they get the same average food as everyone else. It was AWESOME though since I hadn’t eaten ANYTHING that day, because I was too excited and too dumb to stop at a convenience store even. When got back from lunch it was pretty much time to get on the buses for our tour.

And that was the first half of the first day.