You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.

Well, I succeeded. Congratulations to everyone out there who did the same, or even tried. It’s impressive regardless.

The internet is still sporadic at our new digs–it didn’t work until late last night, when it suddenly started up. This morning, it worked long enough for John to check the Sharks game stats from last night, then for me to check my email, then shut down about the time I started checking the news. Bah.

So I’m stopping by home on the way back from work. Plus, this way, I can let the bunny out for awhile. Though it would help if he would leave his cage, but you know, you can’t have everything, and if he just wants to sit and glower, that’s fine with me.

I’m off back home to hang out with John on a weekend day we both have off, but I’ll be back sometime. Maybe not every day, but I still owe you all the end of Fiji stories.

Happy last day of the holiday weekend!

So we’ve sat on the dog for three days now, but he hasn’t hatched into anything else…

No, in all seriousness, the dog sitting is going well. The cats have decided they just don’t care about the dog, the dog is still wary of the cats, and we’re all getting along well. Walks have been fine, no more bowel accidents have occurred, and we’re enjoying have a large house to lay around in, as well as a large TV to watch.

The only low point is that the internet has ceased to work at this house. And I, for one, do NOT approve of this. Not when I’m so damn close to the end of NaBloPoMo. I mean, seriously?

So I’m back at home to use the internet, letting the bunny run around for awhile. He didn’t make the trip since the dog has been known to not play nice with the local wild rabbits, and I figured it was better to just give him a little less attention each day than to let the dog near him.

So, yes, life is all good except for this. Deprived of email, blogging, blog reading, poking around on the internet, reading the news… It’s sort of like being on vacation, only not.

At least the dog is comfortable to sit on.

I got up ass-over-tea-kettle early yesterday to get what I needed to get done, done. Cells, unfortunately, don’t observe holidays and stop needing attention.

Most of the reason for getting up so freakishly early was to get to James F and Cara’s place by 10am so we could all go see the Sharks open practice.

I planned on either (a) having words with Joe Thornton about his ill-timed goal or (b) seeing if he’d kiss my boo-boo better. Sadly, there were a number of children around wanting autographs, so I did neither.

We did, however, see a good chunk of practice, and James F got most of the remaining signatures that he needed on his Sharks hat in order to have the whole 2008-9 team. He’s only missing two now.

Afterwards, we sat around at their place waiting for the time to head to James F’s parents house.

We normally go to the North Bay to my relatives house for Thanksgiving, but given the dog-sitting situation this year, we were reluctant to leave the dog alone for as long as we’d be gone. It’s a 2+ hour drive up there, so easily 10-12 hours. His dog bladder is not that big, apparently. So James’s parents invited us over when they found out we were staying in the area. We dubbed it the “Stray’s Thanksgiving” as they ended up collecting quite a few people who had nowhere else to go. Nate and Shelly were included, and had their first real American Thanksgiving, instead of celebrating with fellow Brits like they have in the past.

James’ family is quite lovely, and we had a great time playing pool, hanging out with the dog, or playing with their brand new baby turtle. We also ate. And ate and ate and ate. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans and mashed potatoes (different dish), cornbread muffins, creamed onions, salad, cranberry jelly, brie and crackers (Dear Brie, where have you been all my life? Or did I only now develop a taste for you?), beer, wine, etc, etc, etc. For dessert, there was chocolate mousse, pumpkin pie, apple pie, ice cream, cookies, and probably more, but about then my stomach gave out and I exploded.

But it was all worth it.

We came back to our new house, moved in, took the dog out again, and went to bed–and promptly remembered how hard it is to sleep with our cats. They demand attention at all hours of the evening. Unfortunately, the dog will apparently break the door down if we try to kick him out, and I’m worried about shutting him in, so this means that he and the cats are free to come and go. We did not sleep particularly well, although I’m relieved to note that the bed is comfy.

John had to work all day today, so it was up to me to take care of the dog, run back home and get the stuff we’d forgotten, go to the store to stock the fridge, and run by work to check on my cells again. Well, not that John could do the last part, but still.

I managed to avoid all shopping locations with the exception of the grocery store, which is an endeavor I try to undertake every year. My sleep and well-being is far more important to me than being in line at Walmart at 5am. Or, heaven forbid, camping out on Thanksgiving afternoon instead of stuffing myself silly and being among friends and family. But to each his own, I suppose.

So now we’re lazing around, looking forward to two whole days off together with nothing to do but walk the dog and relax. Luckily, the cats and the dog seem to get along well–if you can call studied indifference on one side and anxious blindness on the other “getting along”. So far no fighting, so it’s all good.

Yet another thing to be thankful for, as that could make the week verrrry loooong.

I’m thankful for my family, for their presence in my life, especially my mom, for their love and support, for their warmth and friendliness. I’m thankful for my extended family–I always have a large safety net, and they are all loving and welcoming.

I’m thankful for my friends–for the laughter and love, and again, the support. I’m thankful for their companionship and the fun we have together. I’m thankful for all of you who drop by to say hi from the void, to let me know my inane ramblings are enjoyable.

I’m thankful that I have a good job, one that pays me enough. I’m thankful for John’s job, one that he enjoys. I’m thankful we have enough money in our bank account to buy what we need, but also occasionally what we want. I’m thankful for the roof over our heads and the pillows under our heads. I’m thankful for our health, and for our access to health care. I’m thankful for our well-being, and the many things we’re able to enjoy in life.

Perhaps most of all, I’m thankful for John, for his love and strength over the years. For the shoulder he lets me lean on, for the self-confidence he gives me, for his belief in me when I need it. There’s no one I’d rather share the rest of my life with, both the laughter and the tears, than him. I’m so thankful to have found the love of my life.

I’m thankful for so many things, large and small. I hope you are, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is not a good idea to be holding a jumpy cat while watching the OT of a Sharks game.

It is also not a good idea to then cheer when the Sharks score a goal and win the game. With said jumpy cat in your arms.

The cat may or may not dig his claws in for purchase and flee.

Thus, I may or may not have a claw mark on my stomach, and three more on my thigh.

Thus, I may or may not have a band-aid on my stomach and a large pad taped on my thigh.

Thus, I may or may not be bleeding a lot.

OUCH!

P.S. Go Sharks!

While I’ll admit that my first thought about what’s happening in Mumbai was “Thank goodness it’s not here”, I then realized several people I work with or know may or may not know people there. Luckily, so far, everyone they care about is safe.

But really, can’t we all just get along?? Sheesh!

Makes me feel weird to post anything trivial. Especially when I’m off to a basketball game with Sydney.

*sigh*

Does it weird anyone else out when street lights right above/in front of them go out? Because it does me.

It also doesn’t make me too happy when I arrive at work 2 hours early, but leave more or less at the same time. On the bright side, I suppose I could have left two hours later.

Two of my samples have switched identities. This throws everything up in the air.

We’re having gyros for dinner. With french fries. From the diner down the street. No dishes to do. Huzzah!

I’m so looking forward to having Thursday (mostly) and Friday (mostly) and Saturday and Sunday off. I need a break.

Basketball tomorrow night despite the freakishly long day. I’m going to try to get Sydney in on John’s ID. We’ll see how well that works. If not, she and I will find something else fun to do.

I love the days when John remembers to turn the porch light on for me. So comforting.

I just performed my last secretarial duty for a local club. Well, okay, I’ve got to run by the bank (ok, twice), and co-sign some more checks, and help with the holiday party… Damn. I thought I was done.

Why do cats prefer to lay on things other than carpet? Shoes, paper, random boxes, the mail. Wouldn’t the carpet itself be more comfortable? Or the couch? With the blankets?

Elizabeth and Mark are lovely people. They’ve offered to look in on the rabbit while we dog sit down south. Of course, it would help if I had a key to give them… Damn.

Why do I always wind up with holes in the front of my shirt, about where a belt buckle would be? That is, if I wore a belt. I can’t explain them and I don’t like them.

Homemade french bread is the best thing ever. And coincidentally, just about the only thing to eat in our house. Sadly, we’re now out of bread flour.

Dammit, that’s why I was thinking we should drive to get dinner and go get Mexican. Tasty, plus we could stop at Safeway on the way home and buy essentials like milk and cereal and food in general.

I’ve been using the word “damn” a lot. Hrm. This doesn’t bode well.

There are only two more Wednesdays in my Freakishly Long Gigantic Experiment. Oh, and the prep day Tuesdays, the follow-up day Thursdays, and the final analysis days of Monday and Tuesday.

Soon, ten weeks of the past year of my life will be wrapped up in 3 excel graphs and some pictures. One fifth of my year. I’m not sure if that’s comforting or depressing. Either way I should get a paper out of it. I hope.

We got new phones. The texting sucks. I’m giving mine about a week longer to make me happy, then taking it back and trading it in.

Is 8:30pm too early for bed??

Scuba diving? Is not the safest sport out there. It’s an activity that has inherent danger that comes with it. The ocean is a life force you have to respect. But we do our best, and we have to trust that that is good enough. It clearly isn’t always, but are you really going to live your life in a cocoon?

What sport do you think has an accident rate equivalent to scuba diving?

Hrm?? Hrm??

Bowling, that’s what.

This is a fact we often tell our Open Water students to reassure them that they are going to be safe.

But here’s the thing. If something goes wrong while bowling, I’m guessing it’s a sprained finger or wrist, or a bowling ball on your foot, or a heart attack from too many beers and pretzels. You’re in a bowling alley, and if it’s serious, EMTs can come straight to you.

In scuba? If something goes wrong, it can be just as trivial. Leg cramps. Being bitten by a sea otter (vicious, vicious rats of the sea!). Having your drysuit wear a rough patch on your neck where the latex rubs.

But if something goes wrong, it can also go very, very wrong. You are, after all, under water by anywhere from 1 to 130 feet (or deeper if you’re a tech diver–something I have absolutely no interest in doing). You may be far from shore. You may be far from the boat, which is also far from shore.

The ocean can be beautiful, but it can also be very unforgiving.

Three sad facts about most diving accidents involving deaths:
1) Most divers are still wearing their weight belt. First rule of thumb: drop your weights. This will make you instanteously buoyant, and if you’re underwater, you’re going to shoot to the surface (possibly risking an embolism, true, but that’s better than certain death). Weights are replaceable, lives are not.
2) Most divers generally make it to the surface at least once. Thus, they could hopefully be signaling for help. Or be seen by other divers on boat or on shore.
3) Most divers generally still have air in their tank. Thus, they could have filled their BCDs upon reaching the surface. Or kept breathing through their regulators.

But panic does funny things to the brain, and people are just as likely to spit out their reg, remove their mask, and go apeshit. It’s a sad fact, and generally true for most situations where people panic. And again, if something goes wrong in/under the water, it can go much more wrong than if the same accident happened on land.

So, yes, it can be a dangerous sport.

But diving is also a wonderful and awe-inspiring thing. To be all cliche about it, it’s a whole new world, something you’ll never find except maybe in an aquarium. Even then, I can guaran-damn-tee to you that it isn’t the same at all.

So what do we do about it?

Well, here’s what John and I, and most of the people we dive with, do about it.

We keep many of the rules of diving firmly in our minds–slow ascents and descents, continuously breathe, watch your air, watch your buddy, watch your depth, watch out for underwater hazards, watch where you go and know how to navigate back. It may seem like a lot, but the more you dive, the more it all becomes instinct.

We’ve taken many different classes–open water, advanced open water, deep diving, wreck diving, nitrox, drysuit diving, night diving, etc, etc, etc. We aren’t going to do something that we haven’t been trained to do underwater. If a new experience comes along, we’re going to get trained first.

We’re only certified to 130 feet. With a few exceptions, we’re never going to go below that depth. If we do, we’re going to watch our computers and our air ridiculously carefully to make sure we either don’t go into decompression time, or that we follow our computers to get out of decompression. And we’re likely not to dive if we go into decompression. Or at least dive much more shallowly so as to avoid nitrogen build up in our blood.

We’re never going to go inside a wreck unless we know what it’s going to be like. Even then, we’re going to have extra lights, and we’re going to have reels so that if we kick up too much silt, we can feel our way back out. Again, reels are replaceable, lives are not.

We’re also not going to dive a site we’re unfamiliar with without getting a briefing from someone who knows, and potentially, hopefully, diving it with someone who knows. We know how to navigate underwater to find our way back. For example, from shore, if it’s a new site? Straight out and straight back is my general mode of operation. It’s hard to miss the shore when you do that. Worst case scenario, we’ll pop up and swim in. Yes, surface swimming sucks, but hey, we get by.

Aside from general training classes, we’ve taken a number of safety classes. Emergency first responder, rescue diving, diving emergency management preparation–administering oxygen, first aid for hazardous marine life, etc, etc. We haven’t yet taken Neuro–a class designed to deal with the potential neurological aspects of dive accidents–or BLS Pro–Basic Life Support Pro, which is the last class before you’d start EMT training (or so I’ve been told). We’re planning on taking these classes soon. And by soon, I mean hopefully before the year is out.

We do refreshers on all these classes AT LEAST once every two years, or more often if the standards change, like they did recently for CPR. We do rescue scenarios as part of our ongoing training, both for Divemaster, and for Assisstant Instructor. We keep up with what we’re supposed to know. The club we’re part of offers days on which we can simply go to the beach as a group and practice scenarios.

If something happened, I could get John to the surface, I could strip him of his gear and me of mine, I could rescue breath him while I pulled him into shore, I could get him out of the water and onto shore, and I could then commence with CPR/rescue breathing.

I hope to God I never, ever, ever have to test those skills on anyone, let alone him, but the knowledge that I could physically do it if I needed to is always a small reassurance in the back of my mind.

Next, we always dive with extensive safety gear. We have whistles on our BCDs to call for attention. We have noise makers that can be heard for miles. We have safety sausages–tubes that can be filled with air and that stick up 5-6 feet above the water so that the boat can see us better. We dive with back up regulators–two, actually. If I ever needed to simultaneously rescue breathe two people to the surface, I could. We dive with extra masks in case we or someone else lose ours. We constantly check our computers and our air so that we know how much time left we have underwater. We dive to always reserve about a third of our air should something happen. We plan never to run out of air.

We try to stay in good physical condition for diving. We know our limits and we don’t dive past them. If we’re cold or tired or just don’t feel it, we don’t dive. One of our group rules is that ANY diver can call ANY dive for ANY reason. If you’re done, you’re done. The rest of us will respect that. No questions asked.

As a staff team, we’re constantly watching our students. We never let them get too far from us. We constantly ask how much air they have–both to train them to look frequently (several times a minute is always good) and so that we know how much they have. We watch out for hypothermia, shock, any sign of anything that isn’t right. If you can’t finish the class, that’s fine, we’ll find another weekend. We also watch out for each other with the students, constantly with the “ok” signals.

I’d trust each and every one of our dive staff with my life, and with John’s. I know they’d do their absolute best to save us if something ever happened.

So yes, there’s always a possibility there that an accident could occur, either through negligence on our part or the part of someone we’re diving with (hopefully not) or through a situation like currents, marine animal injuries (let’s face it, we dive in an area theoretically populated with Great Whites), or just freak accidents.

But that’s not going to keep me from diving. I’ll admit it took a bit of courage to get back in the water and teach another class after I had a student run out of air on me, but I did it. I’m not going to sit at home on my couch and never do anything because something might happen.

You can’t live your life in a bubble, so I’m going to keep on blowing bubbles and exploring the ocean.

Who’s with me?

The special thing about our trip yesterday, compared to many of the boat trips we go on, was that it was on a different boat, a slightly larger and more powerful boat, and thus we were able to head to farther dive sites. Our group also filled the boat, so we knew and trusted (for the most part) every person aboard.

We headed far south for the first dive, south of Point Lobos, in the Point Conception. The swells were a bit big–12ft–and they weren’t too bad in the bay when we were heading into them, but as we left Monterey Bay and turned south, they were coming at us sideways.

I went to the doctor Thursday to get the scopolamine patch to combat sea sickness, and having looked at the wave models that were predicting storm threshold-sized waves, I was very glad I did. On the way down, there were one or two moments when I had a bit of nausea, but overall I felt really normal. Also no noticeable side-effects from the drug, either.

Our first dive was at a site called Honeymoon, and it was a gorgeous pinnacle starting at about 110 feet. We meant to go down in a group with Nate and Shelly and Rae and Aaron, but Rae was underweighted and had to go back to the boat, and Nate and Shelly ended up waiting for Greg, who was helping Bob with a leaky suit. That left us sitting in the water waiting, so eventually we went down.

We followed the anchor line down to abut 110 feet–the captain had told us he tried to drape the anchor over the pinnacle, but it had clearly bumped over the pinnacle. Luckily, it had snagged a small rock and stuck. We swam around the front of the pinnacle for awhile, looking for stuff in all the nooks and crannies. The visibility had opened up beautiful below 70-80 feet.

There were a lot of rock fish out, as well as a bunch of Monterey Dorids. The kelp is fading with the oncoming winter, but there were still a good number of plants out, waving in the surge that followed us down to about 80 feet before abandoning us. There were also patches of metridiums, but they were all closed in the swell and tucked down tight.

After we got back on board, the sea sickness started to hit a number of people–there was not quite enough room along the sides of the boat at one point, which was pretty gross. A lot of these were people that don’t normally get seasick, and I was grateful to the scopolamine that I felt normal.

We motored back up the coast to Carmel for the second dive, and dove just offshore of Pebble Beach at a place called either Outer Pinnacle or Pescadero Pinnacle. About 10-15 minutes before we hit our hour-ish surface interval, I started to feel a bit queasy. Not horribly, but noticeably. As soon as the “pool was open”, John strapped me into my BCD (looking around for the buckles and what not was not something I was capable of doing) and all but threw me overboard to get me off the boat.

He followed shortly thereafter, and we descended along with Bob, Matt and Nate. Shelly was sick, as was Kasey, so there was a lot of buddy switching going on.

We dropped down onto the pinnacle around 70-80 feet, and just hung out in one little area. I saw my first Monterey cowry–a Chesnut Cowry. I excitedly showed John, only to realize, when I started looking, that they were all over. It was pretty cool. There were also some gorgeous painted greenling fish, and a beautiful Hermissenda nudibranch. More kelp filtered the light down into a greenish cathedral light setting, and the “atmosphere” of the dive was just gorgeous.

There was a lot of surge movement during the dive, but the key to surge is to just go with them. First you’re here, then you’re 6 feet to the left, then you’re here, then you’re 6 feet to the left. That’s 6 foot surge for you. And you’re not going to hit that rock, because the water will lift you up and over with it. The key is just to not fight it. And if you’re swimming with it, kick while it’s pushing you forward, then just pause while it pushes you back. You’ll get where you’re going eventually. So there was just a bit of movement during the dive, but we still could hold still long enough to look at the small stuff.

Around 20-25 minutes, I was pretty cold. The water was a balmy 51°F, and my toes and fingers were losing feeling. However, I knew going up meant getting back on the boat, and that wasn’t something I was eager to do. So we tooled around until 30-35 minutes before heading back up. Plus, the time underwater was nice.

Lunch was served back on the boat, and I think that less than half the boat ate it. There was soup and sandwich makings, and many of us, me included, kindly if forcefully requested that those with food stay down in the cabin area and leave those of us to whom food was stomach churning outside in the fresh air. Most people complied, but I did discover, much to my horror, that my chosen perch was just below where one of the boat divemasters had stashed his sandwich. No wonder I couldn’t avoid the smell of cheese and meat and mustard. Ugh.

Our third dive was just north of the second, off the rocks of the houses that are north of Pebble Beach. It was at a dive site called Lingcod reef, and this was the site that convinced me to spend the money to buy John and myself drysuits. When we first dove here, the water was a cool 47°F, and the air temp was even lower and mixed with rain. It was a beautiful dive, but we drove home with the heater on high and never even got warm, let alone broke a sweat. This was followed by turning the heater on high and piling all our blankets on the bed, then huddling. It took us hours to get warm–this was likely slightly more than mild hypothermia. So we decided we needed better exposure suits if we were going to continue this sport.

Our dive Saturday was gorgeous. Still chilly, but not as bad as the first time. We followed Bob, Greg and Nate down, exploring among the rocks. We found a small little swim-through, and lots of strawberry anemones and little orange polyps all over the rocks. I came a cross a couple of abalone shells, likely abandoned by octopi after they were done feeding on the contents. One was not much bigger than a quarter, but I accidentally broke it while I was holding it at some point. The rest survived, though, and will be run through our dishwasher soon.

We crossed a sand channel after awhile, and headed into some kelp beds, where the filtered light was beautiful. Not much to see but kelp fish and snails, but still lovely. When we turned around, Greg apparently didn’t have his bearings quite right. Eventually, about the time we all had a couple minutes left of no-deco time, we ascended despite not seeing the anchor line for the boat. Bob and Nate popped up to the surface after our safety stop, and John and I followed. The boat was only 200 yards away or so. John dropped back down to tell Greg, who was finishing his stop, and they two of them did eventually find the anchor line. In the meantime, Bob and Nate and I swam to the boat through the kelp on the surface, doing the infamous and exhausting “kelp crawl”, where you basically swim on your stomach, using your arms to push the kelp beneath you. It’s an awesome workout, let me tell you.

Magically, once back on the boat, I was fine. And thank goodness because we had to get back to Monterey. The only bit of queasiness was when the crew set our a platter of oreos and my stomach protested that while it felt fine, it wasn’t ready for food. So the journey back was fairly uneventful. The wind had shifted around to blow from the northeast enough that the ride was smoother, and even the sick people among us felt better.

We probably didn’t get back to the dock until 3pm or so, so it was a long day (we had a dinner date and didn’t get to bed until 10pm), but it was gorgeous diving, and lots of fun with a few exceptions. I love warm water diving in many ways–warm, easy of diving (not as much gear or heavy weight), many colorful things–but Monterey diving on a good day rivals anywhere else I’ve ever been. And this was one of those days. Well worth the 4am wake-up and the slight seasickness.

Was awesome. And well worth the 4am wake-up.

And I know I haven’t given you a real post nearly all week, but it’s 9pm, I’ve been up for 17 hours, done some major exercise, just eaten a great dinner, and I’m off to crash. My pillows are calling my name.

Real stuff to follow tomorrow. Hopefully. I promise.

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