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Fun thing one: Birthdays!

We’re entering that time of year when the birthdays pile up. Greg was a week ago, Rae and Cara were this past weekend, and upcoming over the next two-three months are Amy, Ella (who will go from my favorite 1-year old to my favorite 2-year old!), Nate, Shelly, John and all sorts of other people.

Makes sense when you think about it–9 months after Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day!!

We had dinner at Greg’s sister’s house for his birthday last Monday night.

Saturday was Rae’s party, with a private catered chef and vodka infusions and everything. Super classy, and tons of fun, though it always reminds me when we hang out with her and Aaron about things like that that John and I are definitely in a lower tax bracket. Still, nice to enjoy it for an evening, and mixed berry vodka infusion is amazingly good!

Cara’s party was Sunday, with sushi followed by seeing a local cover band at a local bar. The two guys in the bad were really good, and really funny. They’ll be playing at James and Cara’s wedding, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. Not quite in the same league as Rae’s party, but Cara’s was very familiar and fun.

Now I’m trying to come up with some fun things to send Amy for her birthday this Friday, other than what she’s asked for. It’s always nice to have some surprises, don’t you think? Any ideas on small, light weight stuff that a person living on their own for the first time could use?

Fun thing two: Vacations!

Man, tons of people are taking vacations at this time of year. Elizabeth and Matt went off on their honeymoon (well, yes, more than a vacation, but still), and Sydney and her boy went to New York and Puerto Rico–I didn’t even get to see her in between her trips, but I’m hoping to catch up with her before we leave soon! James and Cara were up in the Pacific Northwest, and Nate and Shelly are about to head off to Greece.

And where are John and I going? Well, two weeks from Thursday, we leave for 2-3 weeks involving sun, sand, and diving. Here’s a hint: We’re not going to Australia, but we’ll have two 24-hour layovers in Brisbane on the way there and back. Any suggestions for places to eat, things to do, sights to see?

From there we’re off to Papua New Guinea–the last frontier in diving, theoretically. Everyone we’ve ever talked to has said it’s the best diving we’ll ever do. We’ll be at a very remote resort for a handful of days, then 11 days on a luxurious live aboard, diving to our heart’s content. At the resort, we’ll have access to the world’s best “muck diving”–diving to see all the little creatures that live in the silt at the bottom–plus skull caves, amazing hikes, and all sorts of cool birds and animals and fish. My goals, above water, to see a bird of paradise and an echidna–my dad has never even met anyone who’s seen a PNG echidna, so I want to try!

It should be an amazing vacation, full of as much relaxation or as much go-go-go diving as we want it to be. I can’t wait, and there’s still more than two weeks to go!!

Oh well, I’ve got some birthdays between now and then to tide me over. 🙂

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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.

Thank goodness because we were teaching another scuba class, and if something had gone wrong, that’s a lot of paperwork to file!

Especially good because I didn’t break myself, which I’ll get to.

I didn’t even break anything Friday, unless you count breaking my broken dish streak. 🙂

Anyways, the class rocked. Seven great students, a new instructor for Greg to keep an eye on (he’s a QA guy) who did pretty well, and good things to see.

4:30am came awfully early, as it always does, but Monterey this past weekend was a nice mix of gray clouds and bits of sun, and not to warm but not to hot. I never remember to put on sunscreen, so this at least saved me from looking like a beet. Plus, just fun times and friends.

My students spent most of the first two dives working on just figuring out the whole “I’m under the sea” thing, which is pretty typical. The did well on skills, enjoyed the dives, and had a good time. We did have one who got horribly seasick (underwater, even), but she handled it well and made it back to land safely.

We didn’t see much other than some decorator crabs. Above water, it was pretty clear that it was sea lion pup weaning time, as the little ones were everywhere. There was a lonely little pup up on shore, where most of them end up if they’re hungry/stressed/tired/sick. Of course, it’s where people can easily harass them. Sad. Animal rescue people came and got him eventually, but he was cute to see from a distance.

Shelly and I kept an eye on him whenever we were on or near the beach, and had to ask several people to not get up close and personal with the little guy, which is against the law here in sunny California–it’s harassment. One guy was pretty rude about it, and told me I was breaking the law too by being within 10m (or whatever the distance is) to the pup (I’d say I was 15ft away, about as far as I could get with students exiting the water), but he was within 1-2 feet. Idiot. James defended me, but the guy’s response?

“I’m an experienced diver!”

My response, had I not walked away in a huff, would have been, “That doesn’t mean you can be an asshat!”

Bah. Thank goodness the pup was taken into animal care. We saw a ton of them out on the rocks along the breakwater wall, but only the one sick one on the beach.

The only downside to the day was that both times I exited the water, I had students but no staff, and since I couldn’t leave the students alone, I had to head out with them, carrying my gear. All 80-ish lbs of it. Which I’m still pretty much forbidden to do by all sorts of people with medical training. Thankfully, not a lot of pain, and I only went as far as I absolutely had to. Here’s to not making the problem worse! (Sunday, James and John both forbade me from giving a repeat performance, but we all surfaced with our students at about the same time, so it worked out.)

The afternoon was filled with pizza, hot tubs, the usual Safeway run to buy gallons of water and Dove bars, plus some free chinese food from one of the other guys who dives through our same shop. Nice! We had a student stay with us in the room, but he didn’t seem to mind all our strangeness, which Greg pointed out made him good staff material. Plus, he was pretty damn good for a new diver.

We also watched “Pineapple Express”. Can’t say I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I suppose it had it’s moments. It also had it’s low points. Maybe I’m just not cut out for that kind of humor.

Sunday was also cloudy and about the right temperature. We were sort of hoping that the dense cloud cover would trick all the little octopi into thinking it was dark enough to come out and hunt, but alas, none were to be found.

My student and I had two pretty good dives. Not anything specific on the first dive other than just a good dive. On the second dive, however, we saw a good number of rainbow nudibranchs, these big reddish guys that climb up the tube anemones and eat them. Some were perched on top of stalks, having already eaten, and some were on the sand, but none were in the process of “hunting”. Or at least as much as a snail-like creature can hunt a non-moving creature. It’s apparently pretty cool to see the moment of capture.

We also saw a frilly white nudibranch that I’ve been trying to identify for a year or two, but to no avail–he’s still around, and frilly and white, but still without identification. Also lots of fish, as well as people. Tons of people out kicking around, specifically kicking the sand around. The visibility wasn’t as good as the day before. Just as we finished the sun came out, which made for a beautiful afternoon on the beach.

All in all, a great weekend, and John and I agreed it was really nice to be down there teaching with the whole staff, just like old times. I may have even convinced him to start Assistant Instructor training sometime soon!

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?

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.

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.

It’s not as if I’ve fallen off the planet (although if the Republicans win the election or Prop 8 or 4 passes, I may try), but more just been sucked into the vortex that is work, and every time I manage to climb out for a reasonable amount of time, I use that time to lay down.

Le Sigh.

I will return you to Fiji stories soon, I promise, and I will be back more often soon (I signed up for NaBloPoMo AGAIN, WTF was I thinking?!?!?).

In the meantime, here’s a smattering of my random thoughts lately.

*****

My childhood best friend got married two weeks ago. Financially, I couldn’t go to her wedding. She understood. It was the same reason she couldn’t come to mine. But when she posted pictures on Facebook for all to see, I felt a sense of nostalgia for the two little girls who planned to be each other’s maids of honor, live next door to one another, raise their children together, and live happily ever after with our guys-of-the-moment. I wish I’d been there. Damn plane ticket prices. Damn economy.

Speaking of Facebook, Sydney has gone AWOL. When I got back from Fiji, we exchanged emails along the lines of planning to get together, then suddenly Facebook announced to the world that she was no longer in a relationship, and as far as I can tell, she’s now gone underground. Or is avoiding me. Or is on her nursing mission in Mexico. I’m hoping it’s the last one, since I can’t remember the dates, but I’m a bit worried. Break ups suck. Poor girl.

Fall is officially here in the bay area. It has been for awhile, maybe, but between the few trees turning colors, the brisk mornings, and the RAIN today, it’s definitely here. In all it’s BRRRRness. I do not appreciate this.

Last Thursday, we spent the day in Las Vegas at a scuba trade show, DEMA. It was a lot more interesting for John, but we both schmoozed away and came home laden with a ridiculous amount of brochures. Plus we saw the guys from Fiji, which was awesome.

On the way home from DEMA (we flew there at 6:30am and flew home at 9pm), disaster struck. The flight didn’t go so well for me, but I made it off the plane with my cookies intact. Then came the bus ride to the car park. Again, I made it off the bus with my cookies intact. I made it into the car, John backed up about a foot, and then I made it right back out of the car. And lost said cookies. First motion sickness I’ve had in many a year. Famous following words were, “I believe, for the second time in my life, I’m no longer eating shrimp.”

Or is it motion sickness? Ever since then, I’ve had vague rumblings of nausea creep up on me almost daily. It sucks. I’ve basically stopped eating, since smells make it worse. I pointed out to John that an unintended side effect of this was to lose about three pounds in only a couple of days. He pointed out that they have a name for that–bulemia. I pointed right back out that it would probably be considered anorexia, since it was “not eating” and not “inducing nausea”. We joke, but never fear, I love bacon too much to ever be one, and hate throwing up enough to never be the other. That said, this feeling can go away right damn now.

John’s birthday was Monday, and we had a party for him Saturday night, with all sorts of assorted scuba people over: James and Cara, James M, Rae and Aaron, Nate and Shelly, Greg, etc, etc. Killer Bunnies was enjoyed by all. It was a blast, aside from the food smells and nausea. And this was his Golden Birthday–27 on the 27th. Happy Birthday, love!

For his birthday evening, I met him at the door when he got home with a candle in a Fig Newton. This goes back 10-15 years when my mom didn’t have time to make me a cake (I think, due to a track meet or choir concert of mine), and thus my birthday was celebrated with a table candle (not a birthday candle, a table candle) in a Fig Newton. I’m trying to start a tradition here, people. I also made him Chicken Parmesan, served him his dinner, and promptly went to bed. Stupid sick. Alas, there was no celebrating in the vein that Brat mentioned…

We had a potluck on Tuesday with all the people who’d gone to Fiji with us. It. Was. Awesome. I’ll tell that story at the end of the Fiji stories.

We also had dinner last night with Elizabeth and Mark last night. We took them to a restaurant near our house to repay them for taking care of the cats while we were gone. We had a blast catching up with them, and hearing all about their wedding plans. Can’t wait to celebrate that one!

I met with Dr. M on Monday, and we’ve set tentative deadlines for Paper 1 submission, Paper 2 submission, Last Committee Meeting, and Thesis Defense. AHHHHHH!!! WHEEEE!!!! Graduation is theoretically… Nope, not jinxing myself here. Sometime. Within reason. WHEEEE!!!! In the meantime, I’m working my buns off to meet those deadlines. And this does not allow for nausea. Sorry, it’s a common theme the last couple of days.

Last, if I’m feeling up to it, what should I dress up for for Halloween tomorrow? Got two parties to go to, one with Nate and Shelly, and one with the nursing folk that Sydney has introduced me to (I’m hoping she’ll be there and I can see for myself she’s doing okay). Both require costumes. I don’t particularly believe in Halloween costumes that require work.

*****

And now my timer has gone off at work, so I’m off to play Mad Scientist again for an hour or so, then drive home just in time to eat a piece of toast (maybe) and go to bed, then get up and do it all over again.

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.

We went, we mourned, we cried.

We picked up James F and Cara on the way there, and met James M, Greg and numerous other people there. The church was gratifyingly full of people who clearly loved this kid. We saw our friend just before the service started, and although we didn’t get a chance to talk, she waved and knew we were there.

I don’t want to say too much about the service–just that I hope it was what his parents and sister wanted. That in it, they found a measure of peace, a way to say goodbye, or something to comfort them. Hopefully our presence helped my friend in some way.

It made me think that when I die, be it weeks or years or decades from now, I want a party. I want people to celebrate my life, not commemorate my death.

When my cousin died 4 years ago (also in a car accident), we had a ceremony led by my aunt, where lots of people got up and told funny stories or touching stories, or just talked about my cousin. Then, we all sat around and ate his favorite foods, played his favorite games, and talked about him. Although it was still heartbreaking, I left with a sense of peace–I knew he was loved by many, mourned by many, but I also knew we were all together in our remembrance of him.

That’s what I want, should something happen–a party. But whatever it is, more than anything, I want it to help those I leave behind find peace with the situation.

*****

Thanks so much to all of you for your comments over the last week. They were greatly appreciated.

Also, the Big Boss is doing fine–he’s out of the hospital, but not back at work yet. He’ll likely be on blood thinners the rest of his life. But for now, the immediate crisis is over. Here’s hoping he’ll take care of himself enough that this won’t happen again.

Well, you were all right. My friend and I spent a decent amount of time catching up, with very few lags in the conversation. It was nice to hear how she’s been doing, and what she’s up to now, as well as to catch up on some mutual friends.

We had a lovely lunch, and then I took her by Elizabeth’s place. Elizabeth was actually home, since her class was cancelled, and they invited me to stay and hang out, but I had to throw together social hour for my department. It was my lab’s turn, and no one in my lab cares much, so I always end up doing. It’s not a big deal–that way I get to pick the beer and food (found a lovely apricot ale) AND I get to take home all the opened food that won’t last two weeks until the next social hour. It has it’s own rewards, most of which I took to John’s work place to feed his staff, as they’re having a sale weekend and were running around like crazy.

I actually ended up spending almost the whole of my Saturday at his work place, helping out for free but also getting to gossip with friends who stopped by and schmooze with the reps who came by. It was pretty productive, and the sale was good. I did run home for a few hours to write a character reference for James F, who’s going to be looking for substitute teaching jobs shortly, but that was it.

Right after work, John and I met up with James and Cara and headed to that all-american restaurant, Hooters.

Let me just say, I’ve never been to Hooters before, and it was both better and worse than I imagined. It was Cara’s birthday, and she wanted to go somewhere friendly that served beer and wings. I’m not sure why Hooters came up, but we even managed to talk James into going. Nate and Shelly came, as did the other James and Greg, so we had a nice little scuba gang to hang out with in among all of Cara’s work friends and non-scuba friends. Everyone mixed fairly well, but in the end we all sort of gravitated to the people we knew, so Cara spent a lot of time running between groups.

They did have very good beer and wings, as well as shrimp and onion rings, although their garlic fries left something to be desired. Cara’s parents even picked up the entire tab, as well as ordered 3×50 wings for about 20 people. That was way more than we could eat, but was super generous of them.

Cara had a blast–the tequila shots saw to that–and James managed to get the Hooters girls to sing to her and the other birthday people there. They did the Hooter Pokey (or some such thing)–it appeared to the rest of us as an excuse to wiggle and hopefully improve tips. All I can say is that I hope those girls want to be working there. I wouldn’t, but if they do, good for them.

I haven’t talked to Cara yet today to see how she’s doing, but she was a pretty happy girl when we got back to her place, and James finally put her to bed not to long after. The rest of us continued to celebrate for her in Guitar Hero-style for an hour or so, then went our separate ways.

John’s back at work today, and doesn’t get a day off until next weekend, at which point he gets a 5. day. break. I’d like to take some time off there, too, but I’m waiting to see how radiation goes for my mom this week. If it goes well, I don’t think there’s much reason for me to go home to help, so in that case, I may take a day or two off with him. We’re going camping on Friday and Saturday, then diving Monday. I may need Tuesday to recover, frankly.

And while I’m sure my boss would give me the time to go, I don’t want to abuse that trust and take a week off unless I’m really needed at home. I’ll probably save the time and use it to go to the wedding in October if I can find plane tickets that are cheap enough–my friend who’s getting married will understand the “poor student who can’t afford plane tickets” reason for not coming to her wedding, but if I can make it there, I’d really like to.

The other alternative is to go visit Amy after she moves to Boston, especially if she’s having a hard time settling in. She’s been working in a cooking store, so she has more than enough kitchen gadgets to choke a horse (but thanks for the idea, Renn!), but I’m thinking that a funny care package will be good for just after she gets there, followed possibly by a visit from a friendly face.

At least gas prices are coming down a bit. Now if only plane ticket prices would, too.

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