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It’s been an interesting week. Lots of random stuff going on, and all I want is a good night’s sleep.

All my co-workers are away for a conference, so it’s been mostly just me in the lab, with the exception of one or two other people. It’s been nice, but I’ve gotten some cool data that I need to talk to people about. And I have a kick-ass experiment in the works that, if it works like I hope, will be super kick-ass! But I have to wait until next week at least to get the results.

Also, the reviews came back for my paper, and provided I can answer the reviewer’s concerns and change/correct/whatever what they had problems with, it should likely be accepted. But there’s been no one to celebrate with in lab, even if the celebration would be for a not receiving an out-right rejection as opposed to an acceptance. Such is life. In any case, HUZZAH! Not rejected! (Yet.)

On the flip side of work, we’ve got a weeknight scuba class going on right now with a bunch of kids in it, which I’m super excited about. So lots of fun there, although I’m discovering more and more that I love working with our staff when Greg and James lead things, but Ben’s lack of logistical planning makes me want to climb the walls. Luckily, he doesn’t do much leading.

The sticky part of this class comes in when all these kids, and the other students, get in the pool tomorrow night and the staff could really use the four extra hands and eyes that John and I provide. Especially with Shelly ill and James out of town for a week.

However!

My parents are coming to town tomorrow and staying for a couple days during their Great Road Trip of Western America 2009!

As Amy pointed out, this is probably the first time they’ve been able to wander where they want and stop and look at all the little brown jobies (i.e. non-descript birds, or LBJs if you’re in my family) with Amy and I in the back seat fighting or being bored or complaining about something. Or at least for the last 25+ years or so. So I hope they’re enjoying it.

So far they’ve visited a lot of the northern states, and angled into California yesterday and today. They’re staying with my grandparents tonight, then coming down here tomorrow. So part of me feels an obligation as a staff member to be there in the pool and help out, and part of me feels that my parents are only in town through the weekend, and thus I should spend time with them.

Either way, I’ve been working on cleaning the house like mad. And either way, I’m super excited.

I know some of you were or are getting pounded with blizzard conditions and beyond-freezing cold, and I don’t mean to brag, but we had lovely weather this past weekend.

Saturday in Monterey was sunny and beautiful and warmish (60’s, maybe?). It was a perfect day to be outside–not so hot that our students risked heat exhaustion in their wetsuits (and we in our drysuits) on land, and not so cold that they kept freezing when they got out of the water. Our winter classes are often very hit-or-miss: either beautiful or horrible. Luckily, this one was beautiful

Three years ago this class, John and I helped with our first class ever. It’s a class we kindly refer to as “Bowling for Students”. The waves were rolling in and crashing into the breakwater, causing reflection waves that kept rolling in, but from a different angle. Waves were crashing up onto the steps we normally seat our students on. We attempted an entry with our three students, but the waves came rolling in. You can guess what happened from how we refer to this class, I’m sure. Needless to say, we all changed into street clothes and went out to breakfast.

Upon arriving at the ocean Saturday (at 6am, I’m listening to John next time about when to leave–better to be a bit late than half an hour early!), we found the exact same conditions. Rolling waves paired with a predicted extra-high tide. We had 11 students, 3 instructors and 3 divemasters. Piece of cake, sort of.

James M, luckily, anticipated the needs of his instructor and DIDN’T show up. Ah, bliss. Especially since last weekend, he showed up at the pool several times but failed to do anything but stand there, despite the fact that Shelly and I were lugging around tanks and trying to help students and whatnot. I snapped at him at one point–“Nice of you to show up just in time to not help”–to which he replied–“I’ve got a cold.” I walked off without pointing out that Ben was so sick he wasn’t in the water, but was there nonetheless helping on the topside, or that I had a cold and couldn’t clear but was still in the water doing what I could. He just made me so angry. I think we’re all getting to the point where we just don’t want to interact with him at all in a scuba situation, and possibly just don’t want to be friends with him at all. Bah.

Anyways…

James F and I took four students–two little girls and two women, one of whom had to be done by noon in order to fly to Cancun the next day. John went with Greg and three other students, one of whom was our obligatory idiot. And that’s putting it nicely. John always seems to get stuck working with the idiots, no matter who he pairs up with. I tried to switch with him, but he was being all gentlemanly about it.

The entries into the water went fairly well–the girl I was holding had to be hauled to her feet at one point, but she muscled through, which was pretty much the theme of the day. (I think most of the students made it in and out okay–maybe a few went to their knees, but no one got bowled over.) Both little girls had problems on the first dive, which was fine with me as my ears were pretty uncomfortable once I got down. Instead of pushing it, I took the two of them into shore. Luckily, John had been “babysitting” students on the surface and was available to help me get the two of them into the beach. I spent my surface interval getting them warm and comfortable and sorting out all the students.

For the second dive, I did the obligatory “babysitting” on the surface, since I wasn’t going down again, and John got to go down and swim around with the girls and James F. Apparently there were lots of crabs out and about, but not much else. Good visibility, 20 feet or so, and beautiful weather made for good diving, and the waves calmed down after the high tide peaked around 8:30, but apparently no sea life was out and about.

After lunch with our staff and a lot of students, John and I headed home to wash gear and take a nap, then spend the evening doing nothing at all, which felt marvelous.

On Sunday, John had to work and I was off to help Cara shoot our friend’s wedding. She’d picked a super-small venue, and thus had a limited guest list, so she’d snuck in a few extra people by having them be “staff”. Now, Cara’s a pro photographer, so she makes sense, but I was there as her assistant purely to attend the wedding. We had another beautiful sunny day, and the view from the winery we were at was gorgeous. It was a bit windy, but Cara got some beautiful pics of our friend’s veil blowing out behind her.

I mostly did a lot of people herding to get them ready for group pics that Cara was taking, as well as a certain amount of small things–carrying extra cameras and film (backup to the digital, smart girl!) and taking a few group candids with Cara’s small camera. All in all, helpful, I hope, and it was so lovely to see our friend get married. She had a beautiful location and ceremony and reception, and we were both so happy for her.

There was a bit of sadness–this is the same friend who’s little brother was killed back in August, and I handed out tissues to various people for both happy tears and sad tears. I know it was hard on my friend to get married without her brother present, but I’m sure he was there with her in spirit. That may not have helped a whole lot, but she got through the though moments.

It was a long day, as we were there from 11:30 to 6 (not including the drive there and back!) to capture her getting ready all the way to getting in the car and driving away at the end. I can see why Cara says it’s such a good workout! Plus, Cara and I got in a nice amount of gossip time both on the drive there and back, and at the points in the day when we took small breaks.

So that was my weekend–long and full, but I got to be outside in the beautiful weather quite a bit. The weather is nice all this week, though I’ll be mostly enjoying it via the windows at work, but I’m hoping for a bike ride or something fun this coming weekend. Best of all, I may finally be kicking this cold’s butt. Cross your fingers for me, eh?

All it takes is one or two asshats, some rain, and some massive motion sickness. For details, read on:

When you go to bed at midnight and your alarm goes off at 4:45am, life doesn’t seem particularly rosy. That said, it was our fault we went to bed so late–we spent the evening with James F and Cara, talking and hanging out. They let us sleep at their place most nights before diving. Means the alarm goes off at 4:45am instead of 4:00 or 4:15am. And, really, we probably wouldn’t have gone to bed much earlier at home. We never seem to, despite the best of intentions.

We arrived at Breakwater beach around 6:45am and began to prep for the day. The staff (ourselves, James F, Greg, Ben, Nate and Shelly) all sorted out the plan of attack for the day. Then we spread out the tarp and began to direct students to set up gear and to prep for the dives.

The plan for the day was pretty ambitious. We were supposed to just be teaching Advanced Open Water, which is a fun class. It’s 5 dives long, and is basically composed of the first dive of five different specialties. Navigation and Deep are required dives, and in addition, we almost always do Peak Performance Buoyancy, Night, and Boat. All in all, it has less skills and more fun diving than most other classes.

However, Ben had invited along 2 Open Water students to come and finish up their ocean dives. As we were going to have to teach the two of them anyway, James F agreed to take on 3 additional open water students from another instructor. Open Water is a much more rewarding class-getting to introduce students to the wonder that is scuba diving, but it’s a lot more work (both for us and them) and a lot less fun diving, mostly because of the “more work” component.

Ben, additionally, had talked one of the AOW students into taking Drysuit, since one of the 5 dives could be his first drysuit dive, and if he did a 6th additional dive over the weekend, he could also be certified to dive a drysuit.

Finally, Greg, as one of the instructors for a local dive club, had agreed to finish supervising the two remaining certification dives for some club members for Night diving.

So, in the grand scheme of things, three instructors and four divemasters were teaching four different classes.

Ben took Nate and Shelly and went off to do the first two dives with three of the four AOW students. He’d (conveniently) told the fourth guy that he didn’t have to show up until noon. (WTF?)

Greg and James F took myself and John and the five open water students and set off to do their dives. We were planning on doing three on Saturday to lighten the load for Sunday. That, among other things, may have been mistake number one.

Dive one went fine. After covering the surface skills required, we took off on a dive. James led and John and I looked after the three students, mostly making sure they didn’t wander off or shoot to the surface or anything. James F found a couple of nudibranchs, a cute little white one and a hermissenda. There were also lots of sanddabs out, and plenty of decorator crabs. All in all, a fairly pleasant twenty minutes or so. The students, however… One liked to star (and stare and stare and stare) at creatures in the sand, and while I’m all for having them enjoy things that they see, we usually like our students to, oh, say, respond, when we signal “follow me” and start swimming. Another showed classic signs of impending panic–he constantly was trying to clear his mask although it wasn’t flooding. The third was okay, for the most part.

Afterwards, we talked amongst the three of us–consensus was that it had all the signs of a Very Long Day about it. But off we went on Dive 2. And miraculously, our students seemed to have woken up or returned to awareness or something, because all of them did well on the skills and on the tour afterwards. Maybe Dive 1 was a bit of a “good gracious this is all new hey shiny lookee” thing, but it was a nice turnaround. Not much to see on this dive other than more crabs and sanddabs, but good visibility (about 20 feet) and pleasant lack of swells or currents or surge or anything.

We sent our students off to get their tanks filled while we wandered down to the deli on the dock. If you’re ever in the area and want some fairly good food from a very angry Russian lady, that deli is the place to go. We were surprised to learn that someone must have mentioned the words “customer” and “service” to her since our last visit, as we actually got smiles to go with our bagels and cream cheese. AND they were homemade bagels–delicious!

I hung out with Cara for a bit–she was trying to do homework, as well as planning on wander the beach locations in Monterey for wedding spots. Mostly I think she was sleeping. I was a bit envious. Rae and Aaron were also there fun diving, and we chatted with them for awhile. We’re all wishing that they’ll decide to do Divemaster and will come work with us, which would be awesome.

Dive 3 was a bit longer and bit more tricky. Ben’s AOW noontime student showed up, and instead of taking him out himself, Ben foisted him off on Greg and James F. So we had 5 OW students and one AOW student. And a float to pull in from the dive site. But we had fun. I pulled up the float while the instructors did the skills, and then took two students off on a tour of the area. We most found lots of crabs and snails out, nothing new and exciting, but I’m sure it was all new and exciting to the two students, and they enjoyed it.

After the dive, around about 2:30pm, we changed into street cloths (just as it started to pour rain, so much for DRY street clothes) and went down to the deli for lunch. Greg had told the Night Dive students to meet at 3:30 so we didn’t have time to go elsewhere. I ate about five bites of clam chowder, a good chunk of breadbowl, and then headed back to the car to curl up in the drivers seat for a cat nap. The car wasn’t warm, but it was out of the wind and rain, and I had a couple jackets on/over me to keep warm.

It came time for the night dive with both the AOW and Night classes, and I’d reached my limit. Despite the coats and the nap, I was shivering and exhausted. John and Greg pretty much ordered me back into the car, and I was pretty happy to sit out the dive. Of course, whenever I don’t do a night dive, John sees fabulous things on it, so that may have been part of his rationale.

It also worked out, as one of the AOW students was pretty distraught about an argument with her boyfriend, and she sat out the dive and we talked and I calmed her down. *sigh*

When I’d gotten her talked through it all and feeling better, I encouraged her to go out on the second night dive with the Night class students. Ben and Nate hadn’t gone out, with the rationale that they’d help Greg on the second dive, and they ended up taking this student out on a private Night dive. I don’t think they’d have gone out otherwise, but oh well.

In the meantime, Greg and John and James completed the first night dive, then James took the students back out for a second one while Greg went to pull the float.

It was a looong day. We finally left the beach around 8:45pm. FOURTEEN hours after we’d arrived. Loooooong.

John and I were delegated the task of buying a bunch of cheap pizza at Little Caesars and Nate and Shelly were given the task of buying lots and lots of water and other drinks for everyone. The instructors, meanwhile, finished debriefing the students.

Back at the hotel, we all met up and crammed ourselves with pizza and crazy bread, followed by a long soak in the hot tub. Ahh, warmth.

The only marring of the evening, other than the late hour and exhaustion and rain, was James M. James M is an assistant instructor, and theoretically on our staff. However, he hasn’t worked a class with us in probably over a year and half. He keeps saying he’s going to come back and help, but he keeps finding excuses. This time, it was that he’d agreed to help another instructor, which was pretty much the last straw for most of us. I mean, we had four classes and all those students, and he’s not helping? This is pretty common–he can’t say ‘no’ to anyone but us. And then he had the nerve to come to us and complain about having to do three damn dive. And how tough it was to work with someone else.

To which I wanted to reply, I’ve done three, John and Greg have done 4, and James F has done five. Shut up. And it was your choice to go work with someone else.

But in the spirt of playing nice, and the fact that we were all sharing the hotel room, I just kept my mouth shut and pretty much didn’t acknowledge his existence most of the evening. Interestingly, Greg was pretty much the only one who did, and as Greg, being the Head Instructor, has always been the peace keeper, that’s pretty normal. *sigh*

Sunday dawned at 7am, thanks to the race being run in Monterey, and it was a drizzly dawn. We packed up the cars and headed down to the beaches, aimlessly driving around the Monterey downtown area until 8am when the barricades preventing us from getting to the beaches were taken down.

John and I had pulled rank and chosen to go on the boat with the AOW students and Ben, leaving Nate and Shelly to help Greg and James F with the OW students on their last dive.

Big mistake. While Saturday was flat and calm and beautiful, Sunday was rockin’ and rollin’ out on the bay. We didn’t even attempt to go down to Carmel, although since the boat crew couldn’t make it to the ramp any earlier than we could, I don’t think we’d have had the time even if it had been good weather.

That said, I’d have been fine diving in the damn harbor. The moment the boat started moving, I was staring fixedly at the horizon. I can handle the up-down or the side-to-side, but when you mix them? I go all green. And not in an eco-friendly way, even if the end result does attract more fishes.

We had two dives to do–Deep and Boat–and I don’t remember much of them. I did both, as it was preferable to be off the boat than to be on it, but there were other people on the boat who weren’t teaching and thus took their sweet time, so we ended up waiting post-dive each time. Nothing spectacular on either dive, and nothing horrible beyond a completely ADD student who’s attention was seemingly focused on anything but the staff who was trying to get his attention. Repeatedly. GAH!

On the way back, Ben started complaining about having to do another dive to catch up AOW student who’d showed up at noon (Ben told him he could, thus it was Ben’s fault he was a dive behind) and to finish off the drysuit student (again, it was Ben’s suggestion for him to take the extra class/dive). I was a bit tired of all of James M’s “eh, eh, life is hard” act and wasn’t feeling good enough to placate Ben, and pretty much said so. GAH! AGAIN! Especially when he started ragging on Greg and doing the Night diving class. First of all, despite his suited-up state, Ben wouldn’t have done that dive at all if the girl student hadn’t needed some consolation over her argument with her boyfriend and had missed her own dive. Second, Greg offered to do all the work himself–it was kind of James F and John to help out. Third–James F and John had already done 3 dives, while Ben had only done 2. WTF? Fourth, Greg had a responsibility, and he took care of it. That’s commendable, not something that should be ridiculed. GAH!

After we got back, Ben bailed on the dive (of course) and Greg had to do it all by himself, meaning he was teaching two students two different sets of skills on one dive with no help. James F was already out of gear, I was too sick, John was trying to get me out of my drysuit and into the car, and Nate and Shelly had already left. Sorry Greg! It was about par for the course for Ben, who’s a great guy, but not much fun to teach with. He’s a poor planner when it comes to logistics, he can’t make a decision to save his life, and he’ll opt out of any work given the choice. Not that he’s lazy, but he’s just lacking the authoritarian manner that’s necessary for an instructor to make people pay attention. It’s frustrating to work with him at all, especially compared to the competence that Greg and James F both display.

To top it off, James M was hanging out at the docks–turns out his instructor had cancelled the class. There was 2 foot visibility along the beaches, so this was probably prudent. Although why he was hanging out and annoying us by STILL NOT HELPING, I don’t know.

Between the motion sickness and the pissed-off-ness at Ben and James M, I just wanted to get the hell out of there. My day had pretty much been ruined at that point.

It was salvaged a bit by some seafood burritos with James F and Cara and James F’s parents, followed by a nap all the way home, followed by a three hour nap, followed by awareness long enough to unload the car, rinse the gear, put stuff away, eat chicken noodle soup and toast while watching the end of the Giants game, followed by 11 hours of sleep.

Ahh, sleep. In a warm bed. That can make anything better.

So it was a good weekend of teaching in the sense that we got all the students through all the classes and most of them had a good time. Not so good in the sense that most of us wanted to murder James M, several of us wanted to murder Ben, and it was an exhausting experience.

It will be a long time before I pull rank again to get on a boat. Nate and Shelly can have it for the foreseeable future. And I may not be willing to talk to James M or work with Ben for quite awhile. Gah.

To go to the football game or not to go to the football game?

It starts in 10 minutes, and we have tickets. John gets home in 30 minutes or so, and we’ll easily be an hour late to the game. And there’s parking to deal with. And I’m on the couch, in comfy pajama pants. And I’ve been up for 12 hours already. But it could be a good game, and we’ll get to see our friends, so it’s worth it. Sleep can wait a few more hours.

It’s been a long week, with work every day, and then scuba stuff every night. Last night we taught the free class the shop offers to entice people to come learn, and we had about 15 people (maybe more–that was the number when I went off to collect and assembly gear for all of them and the staff) show up to take it. That’s a gratifyingly large number, given the usual turn out of a handful or so.

A girl from work came and took it with me. I don’t think we’ve yet brought her to the dark side, as she’s a bit apprehensive about being in the ocean with sharks and all (a respectable reluctance, I’ll admit), but she was super excited about the pool stuff. We’ll see. I meant to work with her in the pool, but ended up working first with a woman who was clearly terrified of the whole experience, then with a little kid. Being a small female, I tend to work better with those sorts than James or Ben or Greg.

The woman kept needing extra reassurance that she could stand up out of the water at anytime, or redo skills, or have them re-demonstrated, or ask questions. Despite the chorus of “I’m not sure I can do this”, she did every skill. After each, she kept pointing to her husband and saying how he didn’t think she’d be able to do it–my response was, “Isn’t it nice to prove him wrong?” She even came and swam around the deep end, although she didn’t stay long. But she still did it!

She was, in the end, justifiably proud of herself for having done it all. It’s always a super nice feeling to help someone face a fear–even if she never takes a class, she’s shown herself that she is capable of swimming around in 10 feet of water on scuba, or clearing her mask, or her regulator. It’s very rewarding.

The kid, on the other hand, was just cute and fun all rolled up into a sweet little 11 year old package. He was adorable and very shy, and I ended up working with him privately since everyone else in his group was an adult. James led them, and the kid and I did our own thing over on the side of the shallow end. He mastered all the skills quickly, with few if any words, and off we went to the deep end.

It took some coaxing to get him down, and we ended up holding hands quite a bit around the pool–you’d be surprised how often I end up holding hands with people in the pool or in the ocean, and not just women and kids, but grown men. It’s a comfort thing, and scuba can be a bit overwhelming at first. Someone had dumped a couple little rubber torpedo toys in the deep end, and he and I played with those for quite awhile, and that really helped him see he could play and swim and still breathe. Eventually, the rest of the people entered the deep end, and we headed out to be first in line for the hot showers.

It was one of the best free classes I’ve ever helped with, I have to say. And having Thai food afterwards (though the waitress took my “mild, little spice” to mean “maximum heat level danger will robinson”) was super tasty, given the way my stomach had been growling in the pool.

If it hadn’t been for my work friend, John and I might have stayed south last night, as we had to be back down there ridiculously early, but coming home meant our own beds.

We met up with James F and Cara freakishly early this morning–we were running late, but she was still curling her eyelashes (to look good for the players), despite James’ insistence on leaving (and that’s pertinent later on). We all headed out for coffee and donuts, then John went off to work while the three of us headed to a public practice for the San Jose Sharks.

Upon arriving, we followed Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek into the parking lot. Hence, the good timing about not leaving when James wanted to, but when we were all ready. James got their autographs (potentially elbowing a couple kids out of the way to do so) and was incredibly excited for the rest of the morning. The practice was actually pretty cool–we watched 3 teams practices (they’ve split up for training camp), a goalie practice, and a skirmish between two practice teams. There was even a fight! We were standing right up against the rink, near the goals, and every time a puck smacked, the entire wall would shake. I kept waiting for it to shatter, but it never did. Too bad. A lot of adrenaline was induced, let me tell you!

Cara and I had a blast looking over the players–most of them are really good looking, although I do wonder how many of them have their real teeth still. James was just like a little boy in a candy store. It was pretty cute, really. And totally worth the 6am wake-up call. Which, you know, got us out of bed at 6:30. Okay, okay, 7. No wonder we were late. But if we hadn’t been, James wouldn’t have had two more autographs.

But John just called and he’s on his way home, so we’re off to see Stanford potentially, hopefully wallop San Jose State. May or may not happen, but might it’ll be a good game.

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, whether from the fact that I won’t be going home again to see my mom until Christmas (damn airlines trying to squeeze money out of us) or from feeling like science isn’t what I want to do with my life (if I could find a well-paying and fun job in the scuba industry, I’d be gone in a flash just as soon as they handed me my degree), but I don’t like this feeling of oppression and impending bullshit, so I’ve decided I need to be happy.

Grand statement, eh? We’ll see how well it works.

I did get an escape this past weekend–we had a scuba class to teach, and for the first time in quite a while, our entire staff was there, and, almost more importantly, it was just our staff. Greg, Ben, James F, Nate, Shelly, John and myself. It was pretty awesome. Well, and another divemaster candidate who will eventually be staff.

Saturday was bright and sunny. (And why didn’t anyone tell me to put on sunscreen? Bah. I’m not enjoying the current peeling trend.) The water was calm and pretty clear, although what we affectionately refer to as a “student bloom” kicked up by midday. When you’ve got a ton of new students, their buoyancy isn’t the best, so they spend a lot of time kicking up sand, which eventually dulls the water column a bit. But we rocked through skills, the students did well, and we even saw some neat creatures. I found an 18-inch cabezon (tasty!), two fishing lures (they may or may not have been attached when I swam by, but they’re now in my collection of ‘shit I don’t like to find underwater when I’m in a puncturable drysuit’), a Monterey dorid and a San Diego dorid (shell-less snails), rockfish up the wazoo (very technical amount of fish, that), and lots of crabs.

I love being able to find stuff for students. I always worry that they’re going to think Monterey is just cold and dark and dreary compared to places like the Caribbean. In some ways, it is, but on it’s good days, I love it. I did have one student point out to me that just being underwater was the coolest thing ever, so I shouldn’t worry about finding things to look at. Point taken, but I’m still on the lookout.

Post-dive, we stuffed our faces with Pizza My Heart and Chipotle, then headed for the hotel and its hot tub, where we made friends with a new open water student who was taking a class from someone not affiliated with our shop. She was pretty cool (and works here in the hospital like me), so we as a staff have decided to steal her. It’ll be nice to have another person here at work to hang out with, and also someone to “geek out” on scuba with. Good times.

There was the obligatory Chinese food dinner and Dove bars to round out the evening, though Greg didn’t insist on watching Cops, which, I have to admit, was a bit sad. I’ve gotten used to our routine. Ah well. We ended up watching Transformers instead, which wasn’t that great. Might have helped if I’d known the story and/or seen more than the last hour.

Sunday dawned foggy and misty, and the water was pretty fully of particulate matter, so the viz dropped from 15-20ish feet to 5-8ft. I had a bit of an issue with the divemaster candidate I was trying to train when he was leading our student out on a tour, so that’ll have to be addressed, but it was a good dive. Bit colder, but we found the cabezon again, and a lot of egg yolk jelly fish.

Then it was off to Grandma’s Kitchen for breakfast and paperwork. There’s something about lugging around all that gear, swimming in 54°F water, and getting up freakin’ early in the morning that results in numerous large plates of food being consumed.

Somewhere in the briefings for all this diving and classwork, it was declared that I was James’ sidekick. His point: I’m the smaller of us two, and I help him out. Thus, Sarah=sidekick.

I’m all right with this. James is the instructor I was with a year and half ago on The Class Dive That Shall Not Be Spoken Of. He’s also one of my best friends, as is his girlfriend Cara. Additionally, with the Chinese food (which he and I went to pick up, where we talked about the approaching anniversary of That Class) came fortune cookies, and mine read: There is a true and sincere friendship between you both.

His point? “Yeah, because no one died, and we’re the only ones who can laugh about that.”

Amen.

Thanks, guys, for the words of encouragement. I don’t know where this funk is coming from, but I’m doing my best to shake it. Part of it is work (it’s lovely to find out some coworkers think your work is crap and not worth doing), part of it is stress, and I think part of it is just a sort of nebulous “something isn’t right in my world” feeling that is probably just my own psychosis having some off days.

Anyways, this weekend has helped, I think.

John had the weekend off, the first he’s had in awhile. I haven’t gone into work at all, though I may have to this evening if Steven reports back that my viruses are about to take over the incubators. Mwahaha.

Instead, I’ve been lazy. And it’s felt good.

Yesterday, John made his version of huevos rancheros for breakfast. While not all that authentic, they were damn tasty. Then I spent about 4 hours loading music onto my computer.

In the Great Logic Board Replacement of 2008 (4th logic board in 3 years–Apple, take note!), I managed to somehow backup my iTunes preferences folder instead of my iTunes library folder. Brilliant, right? So I loaded CDs onto the computer while sitting on the couch reading. Only problem was that my (new, right?) disc drive only recognized about 1 in 10 CDs, so I had to reboot 9 out of 10 times. Hrm. Apple, you may be getting a call on your 90-days warranty for work. Oh, and the touchpad you replaced? The mouse click button only works on the left, and my thumb rests on the right. Convenient, that. Just don’t wipe my computer clean and give it back to me with Tiger on it, when I gave it to you with Leopard on it. Hrm? Mmmkay then?

We did some grocery shopping, and made a casserole for dinner, but mostly just spent the day doing nothing in our separate ways. I did practice my talk (committee meeting Tuesday, where I justify my existence and paycheck to my boss and 3 random people) a couple times, but also finished my book. It was lovely.

We were supposed to help with a scuba class, which also would have been lovely–compressed air therapy is always nice, and I love working with students. But with 10 students, 4 instructors, and 4 divemaster candidates in the pool, it was pretty packed. Greg and James F and Ben and John and I decided it would be better for the divemaster candidates to get some experience rather than for the guys to have our PADI-certified help in the pool. Ah well, it was nice to do nothing, too, instead of spending 6 hours in chlorine.

Today was a little more productive. More music loading, more cooking (Honey-Mustard BBQ shrimp with pinapples and peppers is being prepared as I write), more hanging out, but we also worked on the backyard. A bike ride was supposed to occur, but the backyard ended up taking more time. The porch was pretty piled with crap, mostly ours but some of Amelia’s, too. We threw away a lot of our crap, took a bunch of stuff to storage, and cleaned off the rest. It’ll theoretically be restacked nicely and neatly in a way that allows more use of the room on the porch. I’m trying to talk John into doing a July 4th BBQ, but we’ll see if that actually happens. Don’t hold your breathe.

I think the laziness and doing fun stuff has helped to get over some of the work-related stress and committee meeting stress, and the comments from the coworker. (Surprisingly, the best “get over it, it’s not worth it” came from the Lab Manager, who didn’t even know the comments had been made, but managed to say just the right thing anyway.)

I’m not sure about the nebulous “WTF is wrong” feeling, but since I can’t figure out what it is, I think I just need to get over it. If there’s anyone out there sending anti-Sarah thoughts my way, cut it out, would you?

Now I’m off to ransack the pineapple that’s being dissected. It smells too tasty to pass up.

4:45am dawns gawdawfulearly when you go to bed after 12. I’m just sayin’. James F’s float sprung a leak, so we had to take a field trip to Greg’s house late Friday night to get his float, and between that, John getting off work at 10, and having to figure out if we could fit James’ stuff in our car (no) and then packing his car (bah), it was a late night.

But we were off. This class was Advanced Open Water, with 4 students, 3 guys and a gal. Advanced class is basically the first dive of five different specialty courses, with mandatory navigation and deep. I think. Maybe mandatory boat? There used to be a mandatory night dive, but they nixed that awhile ago. Dive plan for Saturday was to do Peak Performance Buoyancy (PPB–where you learn not to smash critters on the sea floor or shoot to the surface like a missile-propelled grenade), then Navigation (can you swim a square with a compass?), and finally either Search and Recovery (there’s a weight belt out there, kids, go find it or you owe us one) or Night (ooo, dark! hope you’ve got your lights to see the octopi!).

For staff, it was myself and John as Divemasters, Nate and Shelly as Divemaster Candidates, and James and Ben as Instructors. James and I were going to take Nate and two of the students, and leave the other two to Ben, John and Shelly. Brilliant plan. We were all off to have fun, right?

Then James threw his back out putting on his BCD. He thought he’d be all right in a minute or two. Nope. Then he thought he’d be all right if he could just get into the water (no weight from the BCD). I told him to sit on his tailgate and move his legs like he was kicking. His expression? Priceless. You use your back muscles for a lot of things, apparently. Including deep breaths–he could only breathe shallowly, which isn’t so good for diving.

So he was left behind with copious amounts of ibuprofen, and students were rearranged. I got Nate and Shelly and two students, John got two students, and Ben watched us all. We went down to do our skills, Nate and Shelly each taking a student, and then Nate toured us all around. (By default, whoever looks the least comfortable, leads the tour–it’s good practice, and instills confidence in the leader that s/he can do it. And I was following right behind, no worries.)

We saw nothing, and had chunky viz. Lots of big particulate matter. However, it was beautiful day for diving–sun was out, it was warm, light breeze, very nice. The lack of wind and water movement meant the particulate matter just hung in the water column. Thus, sucky viz.

The second dive wasn’t much better. It was navigation, and the student’s had to swim lots of lines and squares and whatnot. Same plan as the first. The viz was, if possible, even worse. Like pea soup. Fun. And John and I were left behind to pull up the augers that we’d used to tie down all the guide lines. That’s not easy underwater. At least there wasn’t much to look at to distract us. Bah.

We went off to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, and crammed our gullets full of clam chowder. Mmmmm. Then back to do Search and Recovery. The viz was such that we’d nixed a night dive. However, by the time we got in the water, it was late, late afternoon. 6ish. And the light was coming down at such an angel that in the upper water column, we had beautiful rays of light lighting up all the pea soup. And in the lower water column, it was just dark. There was some minor confusion with the students (when we tell you to come down the anchor line, we mean come down the anchor line, not swim 25 feet away and sit there until someone finds you by freak happenstance), but eventually everyone did what they were supposed to do and found what they were supposed to find.

So, after 13 FREAKIN HOURS at the beach, we packed up and headed out. Some hot tubbing, gallons of water to drink and dinner later, and life was looking pretty good. Except for James and Ben being all tetchy with one another, which may have been partially due to James’ back. Poor guy. End of the day summation: beautiful day to be on the beach, and great diving if you don’t mind being able to see anything.

Sunday was the boat dives, so we got up at the not-quite-as-early hour of 6:30, and were at the docks by 7 to prep the students and ourselves. We headed down to Carmel, and did our first dive off of Pebble Beach. Yes, that Pebble Beach. There’s some good diving there. Anyways, it was a bit…choppy…on the way down, to say the least. I took dramamine the night before and that morning, and still ended up staring fixedly at the horizon for the second half of the trip down.

However, the dive was amazing. Beautiful 30-50 foot viz, nudibranchs out (we saw a San Diego dorid), kelp blooming, just lots of neat stuff. Our first dive down was the deep dive. I took Nate and the same two students, and had them do a “stupid human trick” at 88 feet–we demonstrate nitrogen narcosis by showing them how difficult stuff becomes at 88 feet.

I was a bit nervous, since the second-to-last time I did this dive, students got low on air and had to be taken to the surface on James’ and my octos, and James wasn’t there. New ground rule: when a student’s used up 1/3 of their tank, we’re heading up. No ifs, ands or buts. The dive is done. And we actually hit a decent amount of time underwater. All in all, it was definitely an awesome dive, despite the shortness.

At that point, some storm was sweeping into the Monterey area, and faster than predicted, so the boat people made the decision to head back into the bay before the second dive, hopefully resulting in less waves on the way in than their might be in an hour. We were glad they did–if it had been an hour worse, we’d probably have had more than 2 people feed the fish. Ugh. I stared fixedly, and basically refused to talk to anyone, and made it in safely.

The only exception came when John wiped the powdered donut powder from his hands on my drysuit, leaving white finger prints. I managed to get up, get a donut, and smear it all over his legs. Yes, we’re 6 like that. Good thing we love each other. (Side note: Diving does not remove powdered donut powder from drysuits. Bah.)

The second dive was the opposite of the first dive in many respects. We were diving in emerald green pea soup, with very short viz. I led my students around, with Shelly following close behind them. We saw some more nudibranchs, a huge anemone, and lots of other creatures on the rocks we were on, so long as we were within a foot or two of them. One of my students was not having a good dive–mask leaking, disoriented, just not having fun. So about the time we hit 20 minutes and found the anchor line, I called it good.

There was, however, one more obstacle. Stinging jellies. They get blown in on the wind (which we had) and they feed on the plankton that make the water so emerald (which it was). They’re actually very pretty–yellow mushroom tops, long red tentacles that sting, shorter clear ones that may or may not sting.

Last 4th of July, we went out, and there was pretty much a solid mass of them from the surface down to about 20 feet. This time, there were enough to cause problems, but not so many that you couldn’t dodge them. We still spent the safety stop whacking them away from one another. At the surface, while letting all the students get back on the boat, I realized that what I was holding was not my regulator, but was, in fact, a jelly. And I now had tentacles all over my gloves. Bah.

We made sure to rinse everyone off in fresh water–makes the singers fire–and made it back into harbor without incident. All in all, again, good diving out at Carmel but a crummy trip there and back, and good diving in the bay, but crummy viz.

Ah well, Monterey is never going to be like tropical diving, but it has it’s own rewards. Especially the teaching part.

I handled last week fairly well. Amelia and John may have different perspectives, but I think I did okay, all things considered. Up to a certain point, that is.

I made it through Thursday, and Friday was much easier once I knew that all the brouhaha over my mom was a false alarm.

This weekend, we had scuba class. 4am wakeup call and a drive to Monterey. On the way, there was fog and drizzling rain. Not exactly auspicious. Also, when we got to the beach at 6:30, it was crawling with students.

Turns out it was a Sacramento weekend. It’s such a long drive from Sacramento to Monterey that the instructors there save up classes and bring them down all at once. Then they dive come hell or high water, because, dammit, they made the drive and nothing’s going to stop them from getting in the water. More on that later.

There were 9 students and 8 staff. Would have been 9 if James M hadn’t decided to go off and fun dive. By himself. Wonderful example for the students, to be sure. Oh well, we didn’t need him. We had Nate and Shelly, who are working to become Divemasters like John and I, as well as Greg, Ben, James F, Alisa (boo) and John and myself.

James F and I worked together like we always do. We had 2 girls, ages 12 and 15. I love working with the kids. They’re so much fun, and they’re so much closer to my size. Plus, they just usually kick ass when it comes to learning. We rocked out the first dive with them, and then sent them up to strip out of the top part of their wetsuits and get into every dry warm thing they owned. It was a balmy 50ish degrees on land, and about that temp in the water.

In between the first and second dives, we rescued people. All fun, let me tell you. They were mostly Sacramento people, and a lot of them weren’t prepared for the “washing machine on low” that was Breakwater on Saturday morning. The problem with Breakwater sometimes is the waves come in towards the junction of the breakwater and the beach, so you get waves, but then you also get the waves that hit the wall and change direction–reflection waves. Also, the tide was going out but the wind was pushing in, so there was both an undertow outward and waves coming in. Fun, fun.

My favorite of all the people I hauled out of the water, which mostly consisted of holding them still in the surf long enough to get their fins off and then helping them stand up and get in, was one guy who was FACE DOWN in the water with NO REGULATOR OR SNORKEL, and thus no way to breathe.

He was obviously trying to get his fins off, but having problems. When I hauled him up (and keep in mind he was probably double my size), one of the guys (I’m assuming a certified professional (for the love of god, people, help your students)) who was JUST STANDING THERE told me, don’t worry, he’ll be fine.

My reply? To keep doing exactly what I was doing.

Does anyone else see a problem with this scenario? Seriously!

So that was fun.

We went off to do the second dive, but both girls were pretty cold so we kept it short and sweet. The younger one was also having problems clearing her ears, so she and I went in early. After getting her settled and in the process of changing into warm and dry clothes, I waded back out and hauled more people in.

At least it was good exercise.

The weather was still gray and nasty, and the wind and waves were still moving around, so we canned the third dive, had lunch and debriefed the students, and headed to the hotel. Complete with hot tub. Woot! Favorite part of diving right there, people. Oh, I’ll say I love certain things, but if you ask me when I’m cold and wet and tired? The hot tub afterwards.

From there, we moved on to dinner and a movie. In this case, Pirates of the Caribbean III. I was in the back bedroom of the hotel room, watching the Elite 8 for the first part of the movie.

I returned just in time to see Elizabeth Swan have a conversation with Will Turner’s dad about saving the dad v. being able to have Elizabeth.

And the whole losing a parent thing?

Well, let’s say my facade cracked a bit. It probably didn’t help that James F and I had had a long conversation in the back room and I’d filled him in on what the past week held. So I crawled into bed, unfortunately in this case the one in the main room, and tried to keep it together, since I was in the same room with all the staff, two random other people associated with our staff, and the girls and their parents.

And then the whole Will Turner dying thing?

Umm, didn’t go so well either.

Maybe I just really needed to cry. I dunno. I think I’d been holding it in so long, and last week sucked so much, and I was so tired (see above, re: 4am wakeup call plus crazy work hours plus insomnia lately) and I was so stressed (see above, re: mom, work, life in general), that it just all broke through.

And really, I felt so much better when I woke up that it was probably all okay in the long run, although I’d have definitely chosen a more private setting to do it in if I could have. As it was, I couldn’t even get John’s attention, although there wasn’t much he could do, and after the movie ended, he did come comfort me.

Sunday’s day of diving was fine, although I was exhausted. It was colder–a toasty 49 degree water temp at one point–but maybe a bit less water movement. In the break between dives 3 and 4, I bundled the girls into the hot pay shower in the women’s restroom, then bundled them into all their warm gear, then put them in John’s and my boat coats, then into my car. And thus they made it through dive 4 without turning into little blue girls, which would have been fun to explain to their mother. We did have to tow the younger one out and then in, since she had bad knees and was a bit lacking in energy by the time we made it to that point of the morning.

Definitely got a “thanks so much for working on their confidence” from their mom, and a “thanks for taking care of them”, both of which made me feel really good, and illustrate some of the reasons I love to work with kids.

So that was that, and we made it home warm and safe and sound. I had to run into work, and John washed the gear, and then we celebrated living through another class by heading to one of the restaurants around here where we know the bartender. It was his last day, and Amelia and I have been going by to see him somewhat regularly, so we went to have “one last drink”. By which I mean, 4ish. But, you know, it’s all good.

And hey, boy did I sleep well Sunday night.

The last three days have been crazy at work again, with The Big Experiment 3/4s of the way done. It’s been keeping me busy, which is probably good.

The only drawback? I’ve been wearing my iPod while working, and “Prayer for the Dying” needs to be removed from my playlist sometime very soon.

Because really? It’s a good song, but there’s only so much tearing up in lab I’m willing to do.

Last night we were scheduled to practice our Assistant Instructor classroom presentations for knowledge development with James F. Before leaving, Greg asked for our outlines.

Outline? What outline?

So then we got the whole nine yards lecture about not winging it and all.

Winging it? Weren’t we going to practice it tonight? Doesn’t that mean not winging it?

Anyways, so we’ve (I’ve) written outlines and we’ve (I’ve) practiced them, and we’re (I’m) hopefully all ready to go tonight. I can’t vouch for John on any of these. He’s supposedly done it at work today, but we all know how well that plan is likely to go.

I’m nervous.

I can get up in front of people and talk. I can do scuba. So it goes to reason I should be able to get up in front of people and talk about scuba.

I’m not worried about the pool or ocean sessions–we’ve done that enough in real life with students that I think it’ll just be fun.

The skill circuit? Done it before, I can do it again, dammit.

The 800 meter swim? Ugh, but same as above.

The standards exam? Frankly, it’s how well you can look the information up in the Instructor Manual, so again, not real worried. We may actually do this tonight.

But the classroom presentation? I’ve never done it before. I’ve watched Greg and James F and Ben countless times, as well as other instructors, but I’ve. Never. Done. It. Myself.

So I’m feeling better now than I did last night, and we are definitely more prepared with our outlines in hand, but I’m still nervous.

Especially since, if I screw this one up, the other thing I have to teach is 7 slides instead of 2. Ugh.

Stick to the outline. Stick to the outline. Sticktotheoutline!!!!

Get it? Got it! Good!

Let’s hope I don’t pull to many and unravel!

*****

John, apparently, just needed a weekend off. He’s fine now, and has even said he’ll continue AI training with me prior to our next schedule class, which is the end of September/October. Part of it is, apparently, that he didn’t want to train with Jeff, since he felt a heck of a lot more comfortable with Greg and he’s a little worried about the politics involved. This is absolutely a-okay with me, as I’m wary of said politics, too.

I’m a little ticked off that I spent so much time worrying about him and it was something so small, but I guess that’s why I care. He could have just said he needed a weekend off, but maybe he didn’t know for sure until he took it. Who knows.

I’m just relieved that it seems to be over, he’s recharged, and ready at least to get on with the AI training. Good stuff.

*****

The class dives this weekend went well. It was warm, sunny, clear, and with no noticable waves orsurge. Which meant, of course, that the plankton were out in force, and viz was about 5-8 feet. It cleared up as the day progressed, to about 10-15 feet.

We actually, amazingly enough, did three dives Saturday, which we always say we’ll do and never actually do. The students did well.

I had the two teenager-ish boys and their dad to work with. The dad did excellent, and so did the sons, especially when it came to air consumption and buoyancy. I managed to find two giant rainbow nudibranchs and another small white one that I haven’t figured out what is yet.

I also did a bunch of tours in the kelp with the boys, who seemed to like swimming in among the kelp. Sometimes students get nervous, as it can be really pretty dark, but they enjoyed it.

Decorator crabs were out in force, and they had fun putting crabs on one another and seeing how long it took for the other to notice or the crab to fall off.

I got some more experience touring and doing surface skills, and it went well.

My drysuit was awesome, and I was just as excited for the third dive as I was for the first, which is a new occurrence. It was too hot to be standing around in warm fuzzies in the sun, and it’s tough to quickly get out/into a drysuit before and after using the bathroom, but that’s all made up for in the water.

It was a great time, even if John wasn’t there to share it.

*****

Alisa has finished her AI training. I helped out this weekend, doing some dives as her “student” and messing up on certain skills to see if she’d notice and correct me.

She passed, of course, and very well, too.

Now I’ve just got to get done before the next class so we’re at equal level whenever Greg needs us, which is basically the next class.

*****

I drove Greg to and from Monterey both days, and we did some talking that was very nice. He said I have the right mix of confidence in myself and caution in the students, and he thinks I’m doing a great job. That was a great picker-uper. I mentioned that I’d felt a little left out lately and we addressed that, so hopefully it will get better.

I think he’s aware of the “world revolves around me” personality that Alisa has, and that she’s overshadowing the rest of us. There’s not much we can do about that, but he knows that I, at least, wouldn’t mind a little more attention.

We talked about Alisa and Jeff a bit, and training and John’s and my issues with that, but that was mostly a private conversation. Sorry.

Let’s just say that most problems at this point have been addressed and Greg is aware of them and is likely to do his best to remedy the situations. I’m feeling pretty good about my relationship with him at this point, and my abilities and training, plus my future as an AI by the next class (cross your fingers!).

*****

Amelia has asked me to do another bike ride with her, this time a 100-mile, 5000-foot climbing one in Sonoma. I’m a little wary, based on last time, but I figured we’ve gone biking once and survived, and this might be a good way to exercise any remaining ghosties.

We talked on the phone a week or so ago for about 2 hours, which was excellent. We’ve kind of drifted apart recently, and I think that potentially a chunk of that can be laid at my door, as I’ve been reluctant to do too much reaching out, both for it being taken the wrong way and to protect myself from being hurt again. Plus, she’s obviously become close friends with some other girls in my absence, which is all well and good, but I’ve got some jealousy issues. I’m working on it, though.

Anyways, so the ride. I don’t have time to train, let alone train at a level close to 100-mile rides or for giant hills in the coming weeks, but I figured I’d do what I could and just do the ride and hope it wasn’t too bad.

*****

Except that I then realized that the next ocean session for the next class, where I plan to be AI, and the bike ride are on the same day. D’oh!

I feel like my responsibilities to a larger collective lay with Greg/Ben/James F and helping with the class, especially in light of my talks with Greg about my goal to be AI by the next class and our vague training agenda to achieve that.

So I’ve been given a tailor-made excuse not to do the ride, which the paranoid part of me is very, very relieved to have happen, but the rest of me is bummed about.

I wanted to prove to myself that (a) I could do the ride and (b) I could do it with Amelia, and (c) everything was okay with Amelia. I’ll be doing the class, since I have a responsibility to do so with those guys, but still.

If it was something else, something not for personal fun, I think Greg would understand, but he’s made some sticky comments lately about staff missing critical portions of classes (pool, ocean) to skiv off and do fun stuff.

Not much I can do at this point, but I haven’t told Amelia yet.

She’s currently got a lot on her plate with a sick friend and work and all, but we’ll get there eventually.

*****

And finally…

Quite randomly, not connected to the above.

We’ve started our search for a house, as we were actually approved for a loan. The places within our budget, of course, are not great. They’re kind of dumpy or don’t have room for people who need lots of outside space for lots of scuba gear and bike gear and whatnot.

However, our realtor did show us a place that’s $150,000 over our budget (yeeaaahhh, no problem there) that she’d talked about to us prior to us getting the loan.

The place was last updated/decorated in my grandmother’s era, right down to the appliances, the paper lining the shelves, the linoleum patterns, and the (thankfully now replaced) blue carpet. Wow.

It would require probably $20-40,000 worth of work and new everything in the kitchen, and a significant portion of the bathrooms, and all the lights and doors and whatnot to modernize it so we could resell it for a reasonable amount, but it’s got a ton of potential.

There’s a huge yard, fenced in, so it’d be great for gear and bikes and everything, and the possibility of a dog in the future. The house size is perfect. There’s a two-car garage. The HOA dues aren’t bad. It’s close to John’s work. It would give John a project to redo it, since I know that’s something he knows how to do and likes to do and sounds like he wants to do.

It’s just way out of budget, and if we’re going to try something like that, there might be a lot more and better options.

But it’s a start.

This is going to be a very scary and trying process, but I figure if we (and our marriage) survive, we’ll be that much stronger.

*****

So I think that’s about it. Now I’m wrapped up in learning two new procedures at work, doing a bunch of other first-time experiments, and having a meeting with Dr. M tomorrow where I’m planning on proposing to make a bunch of changes to our current plan for a manuscript. Hrm.

Wish me luck!

At the very least, I’m taking Rhiannon and Sam to the airport this afternoon, which lets me be home in time to go on a bike ride (for fun) with John, as he’s got the day off.

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