25 July 2006

Seattle Cycling Again!

During the short time that I've been back I've rediscovered my passion for cycling. With the cooler climate, scenic beauty, slower traffic and greater number of bike trails, why shouldn't I? Watching Le Tour de France everyday (Good job Landis!) and not having a car right now has helped to encourage me. I think of the bicycle as a very romantic machine. A wonderful transference of energy from the body through the pedals, cogs, chain, wheels down to the pavement. It's beauty in motion. When I lived here in Seattle before I would frequently go on 10 - 60 mile rides, and commute 7 miles to and from work. This I intend to do again.
The other day I was actually pulled over, by a cop, on my bike! I had come to a stop at a redlight. A neighborhood stoplight at an intersection that didn't have that much traffic. All the cross traffic had gone by. All clear. I decided to go. I know it was against the light, but hey some people walk against the light, some people ride. Just as I start I look up and sitting directly across from me was a cop. I don't know how I didn't see him. Well I was already starting to cross. He knew I was crossing. I knew he knew I was crossing. To late now. He gave a little chirp on the sirien. Great. Fraking great. I nodded to him and rode on. Then he actually turned around and pulled me over. I stopped and he got out of the car.
Cop- "Could you step off of the bicycle?"
Me- (((((Thinking))))) (((((This guy can't be serious?!? Like I'm going to try to make a get-a-way on my bike something.)))))
I step off.
Cop- "My name is Sargeant A**hole. Do you know why I pulled you over?"
Me- (((((Ah I guess because you are a big, fat jerk!!!))))) "Ah because I rode through that red light."
This is the point where Sargeant A**hole asks me why I would do such a thing and I try to explain that some how I didn't think it really mattered on a bike and the how intersection looked perfectly safe, there were no cars, etc, etc, without looking like a complete moron. When in realty Sargeant a**hole, I and the rest of the world know that I just didn't want to sit at that stoplight and it was perfectly safe to cross.
Sargeant 'A' (This is how we will refer to the role of 'Cop' from now on.)- How is your driving record?"
Me- "Excellent!"
Sargeant 'A'- "Can I see your drivers license or ID card please?"
Me- (((((Are you from another planet?!?))))) "Sure." (((((I bet he didn't even think I had one on me.)))))
Sargeant 'A' takes my drivers license to his car, and procedes to run it through his computer showing him that indeed I do have an excellent driving record and no warrents out for my arrest unlike most of the other people I see around me. I pretend to look at the flowers and landscape at the house I'm next to when in reality I'm looking at all the hoodlums and gangster wannabe's driving by that live in this neighborhood and still thinking "You pulled me, on my bike, over?" Sargeant 'A' comes back.
Sargeant 'A'- "Do you know that it's an 81 dollar fine for running a red light on a bicycle?"
Me- (((((Now why would I know such a thing?))))) (((((I DO NOW))))) "No."
Sargeant 'A'- "Don't ride through any redlights again."
Me- (((((What? He's actually not going to give me a ticket? I guess we can change his name from capital 'A' to small 'a'.))))) "I WON'T."
I ride away on my bike. Scene fades out.
Then, about 2 days ago, after passing 1700 miles on my bike computer odometer (yeah I got one of those things), I came as close to falling while riding as I ever have. I know it's just a matter of time. It scared the hell out of me. The culprit was a crummy section of roadway that I hit while trying to avoid another crummy section of roadway. And I must admit it has been hard for me to get used to the old saddle again, but it's only a matter of time. I'll stick with 14 to 20 mile bike rides to work or Alki beach for now.

GAH! The HMD.

Sheeesh, for about 4 days after I moved to Seattle I didn't have internet access. I took the 'hand me down' computer and left the good one with Christine until she gets up here. Now the HMD (hand me down) computer hasn't been connected to the internet in a long long time and it downloaded a million updates for windows and probably a virus or two because upon restarting it didn't work. So frustrating! Two more days spent with no internet. Soooooo many things I wanted to look up too. Bus schedules, bank locations, email, etc. The good thing is the HMD doesn't really have anything important saved on it and all that was needed was a few hours at the local computer shop for a reformatting. I also upgraded the RAM. I'm dumbfounded as to why Dell would create a 2+ Ghz computer with only 128 mb of RAM, but they did with this one and it was really bogging things down. So all in all my little computer world is good now. I'm going to get a burger!

20 July 2006

Phoenix twas but a dream

Phoenix twas but a dream
I always said while I was living in Phoenix that the years I lived in Seattle (1999-2004) seemed like a dream. Now that I’m back in Seattle, Phoenix is just a dream. My job, the desert, our house, all a distant memory. It's like I never left Seattle. My first shift at work, just like old times. Yet everything is different. The hotel has been renovated and added on to, yet many of the people and operations are the same. It’s like I was transported to an alternate universe Seattle. The bus I used to take home was the 20. Now it’s the 120. New towers have sprung up in the city. In my old neighborhood, new shopping centers have opened up and many homes have been torn down to the ground and rebuilt. Yet it’s people and operations are the same.

On another note my wife and I miss each other deeply. Her old job up here doesn't need her until mid August so she stayed to keep working in Phoenix and to help sell our house.

1500 Miles


The Task- Travel 1500 miles from Phoenix to Seattle with all our worldly possessions and 2 cats in 3 days.
The Means- a 26 foot yellow Penske moving truck.
The Sherpa- My brother, Lane.
We kept the cats in specially made containers in the back. Even if we kept them in the front, there wouldn’t have been space for the cat carriers. Each container I made was large enough to hold, one cat, a cat bed, litter box, and food/water. They were basically 2 foot by 2 foot by 4 foot boxes made from peg board. Nothing was placed on top of the containers or anywhere where it could fall on top of them. We checked on the cats at every gas station. We left at 22:00, under the cover of darkness, to escape the heat of the desert. True our truck had air conditioning but not in the back where the cats were. By about 05:00 we made it through most of Los Angeles. We made through before rush hour! We pressed on through the day until about 16:00 when we finally had to pull over for some sleep. A crummy, over priced hotel in Anderson, just south of Redding. Crummy, although they accepted cats. The plan was to get up and back on the road by 03:00 but my cell phone doesn’t have a snooze and we over slept. I think we made it on the road at 04:30. Eleven and ½ hours later we reached our destination in West Seattle. Each fuel stop took 70-100 dollars worth of diesel. The fuel cost about as much as the truck rental itself. We survived on water, Gatorade, Dr. Pepper, Coke, coffee, Starbucks Doubleshots, Chezzums, beef jerky, Combos, apples, bananas, carrots, Chinese food, burgers, gum, cookies, and more road trip crap, I’m sure. It took us almost 2 full days.

10 July 2006

X-Ray Magazine

Here's something even better. X-Ray Magazine is an online scuba diving magazine with a wide range of great content. Completely free. Download the whole magazine. There is an option to sign up and receive email notices when a new issue has just come out. But registration is not necessary to download and read the magazine. All back issues are also available for download. Looks like I got some reading to do.

Dive Zero Video Magazine

For those of you who are jones'n for a dive check this out. http://www.divezero.com/ The web site really seems to be just a big advertisment for their video DVD's. I guess they produce a new one each month. It's supposed to be a whole video magazine. It sounds quite cool. I just find myself going to the website and watching the short video clips.

06 July 2006

Mead

I got another hobby when I'm topside. I'm a wine maker of a sort. Well it's not really wine. It's mead. To those of you who have never tried it I can best describe it as similar to an ice wine or a port. Like a wine it can be dry or sweet, although the tendency with meads is sweet or semi sweet. With wine you are fermenting grapes. With Mead you are fermenting honey. In it's most basic form it is, just that . . . honey, water, and yeast. From most wine drinkers, based on my personal experience, it gets a bad rap. It is known to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest alcholic drink known to man. The honeymoon was a tradition where the bride and groom would drink mead for a month in hope of having children. Popular in the middle ages with kings and high society, it had a bit of a falling out as wheat, barly, and grapes were more common and less expensive then honey. But I believe in the last few decades it's making a come back, both commercially and with the home brewer. And why shouldn't it, there being as many different types of honey (if not more) as there are grapes. Why shouldn't any fermented fruit drink be as popular as wine for that matter. Ever hear of cider, pear cider, plum wine? But I digress. Another interesting aspect of mead is it's name changes with the ingredients. Add grapes to a mead, it's a pyment, add apples it's a cyser, herbs and spices make it a methlegin, fruit (other then fruit named above) makes it a melomel. I've been working with it for about 8 years now and have won a few small contests. Currently I have 6 gallons of a straight mead that has been fermenting for 2 months. I'm going to rack and divide it up tomorrow. In a 3 gallon carboy I'm adding peach juice, thus it will become a peach melomel. In another gallon I plan to add lavender (lavender metheglin). That should leave me with about 2 more gallons which I haven't decided what to do with yet and may just stay as it is. Below I'm including a successful recipe for a blackberry melomel I did a few years ago.


Blackberry Melomel

Ingredients

  • 13 pounds Mt.Rainier Fireweed Honey
  • 3 teaspoons Pectic Enzyme
  • 2 teaspoons Diammonium Phosphate (DAP)
  • 2 teaspoons Superfood Yeast Nutrient
  • 2 Campden Tablets
  • 2 gallons of hand picked Blackberries yielding ~ 6.5 quarts or 13 pints of Blackberry juice.
  • Wyeast Labs Vinter’s Choice Sweet Mead Yeast #3184 (Smack Pack)
  • Water
  • Holy Water
  • Malic and Tartaric acid
  • Tannin

Process

For 3 days I hand picked blackberries in my spare time. All the blackberries were crushed by hand and strained through cheese cloth. 1 gallon of crushed blackberries, strained, yielded ~ 3 quarts of juice. A Campden tablet was added to the juice for 24 hours. In the mean time I picked up the honey form the local farmers market and the Yeast from the brew shop. A yeast starter was created.
08/07/2004- 1 gallon of water (plus 1 small bottle of holy water) was heated to boiling on the stove, removed from the heat, and added to 12 pounds of honey. This mixture was poured into the carboy along with nearly a gallon of chilled blackberry juice (2 quarts remaining) and a few gallons of chilled water. To this I added the yeast starter, both now being at the same temperature. 1 ½ teaspoons of DAP and 1 ¾ teaspoons of Superfood were added. The must was aerated via the use of an electric egg beater. The gravity of this must read 1116 or 15%. The carboy was sealed and there was a strong ferment 6 hours later.
08/08/2004- When the gravity dropped to 1094 (12%) I added the remaining 2 quarts of blackberry juice. This filled the carboy to the top.
08/10/2004- Gravity 1078 (10%)
08/14/2004- As the gravity dropped to 1060 (8%) I added ½ teaspoon of DAP and ¼ teaspoon of Superfood.
09/02/2004- When the fermentation slowed and the gravity dropped to 1030 (3.5%) I racked off the sediment and added 1 pound of honey and ~ 1 quart of water to the new carboy.
11/23/2004- Gravity 1038 (4.5%) Racked 3 gallons into 3 - 1 gallon carboys. Bottled the rest.
06/15/2005- After tasting a small bottle with different acid blends I added 1 teaspoon Malic, 1 teaspoon Tartaric, and 1/8 teaspoon Tannin to 2 of the 3 remaining gallons.
06/17/2005- Bottled.

04 July 2006

Eastern Caribbean Cruise


Some cold water divers I've been talking to were wishing to hear dive reports about the warm water places I've been to so today I'm going to talk about our Caribbean Cruise. Now I haven't done to many dives but my open water classes were aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. A 138,000 ton ship accommodating 3114 guests. It sounds like a lot of people but I never felt crowded. The ship has 15 decks, a royal promanade (shopping mall) 3 salt water pools, dive center, basketball court, fitness center, track, rock climbing wall, wedding chapel, inline skating course, ice skating rink, casino, library, conference center, Johnny Rockets, several bars, resturants, buffet & clubs, not to mention the University of Miami's state-of-the-art oceanographic and atmospheric science lab. We saved up our pennies and stayed in a stateroom with a balcony. It's a real pleasure sleeping in your room, with the doors open, listening to the sea. The cruise took us for 7 days to the ports of San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Thomas, and Nassau, departing and arriving at/from Miami.

Ok ok, if you do take the open water dive class on a 7 day cruise, go out and buy the PADI dive manuel (or whatever instruction manual that ship uses) and read it first. I tell ya, it's a good thing my wife's family came with us because most of the time I was either taking the dive class, doing pool dives, open water dives, or reading that big freaking book.

As far as the dives, hmmm, let me see what I can remember since I just packed my dive log for our move. Ah I got it! My PADI online dive profile. None of the dives were to extreme. (Open water class, remember). All were boat dives.

The first 2 were in St Thomas.
  • Site - Buck Island Cove
  • site depth - 45 feet
  • vis - 80 to 100 feet
  • temp - 70 to 80 degrees
  • small wreck & small reef.
The second 2 were in Nassau.
  • Site 1 - Bahama Mama
  • site depth - starts our around 30 and they say over the wall it drops into a 6000 foot oceanic trench!!
  • vis - 80 to 100 feet
  • temp - 70 to 80 degrees
  • The dive operator was Stuart Cove's Aqua Adventures . This is a great site to see Caribbean Reef Sharks. There were almost always 1 to 4 sharks within our field of vision. Most around 5 feet in length. I understand this is where they filmed the shark scenes for Open Water and Into The Blue. Were there sharks in Into the Blue? I don't recall. In fact we sort of swam into the set for that movie. Where the plane is sunk. Oops. I remember the film crew were using something so you could hear them speak under the water. If the sharks weren't erie enough, swimming out over that trench to attain our 60 depth was. All of a sudden that sandy bottom slopes away into dark blue.
Site 2 of Nassau was a short boat ride back in towards shore. Only maybe 15-25 feet of depth here. Otherwise the same conditions. I don't remember any sharks at this location.
Of all the dives on the cruise we saw Caribbean Reef Sharks, Yellowtail Snapper, Yellow Jacks, Blue Tangs, Squirrlfish, Wrasse, Trumpetfish, Redband Parrotfish, Yellowtail Damselfish, and Nassau Grouper to name a few. I would do any and all of the dives again. But hey, I love to dive. See my scuba photos of this trip and other's here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/neutralbuoyancy/sets/72157605653051581/

02 July 2006

Legend Of The Diablo Rojo


Ok ok for today well go back to a dive topic. I saw a great show last night on the Humboldt Squid which live in the Sea of Cortez. I find octopus and squid very facinating. The Humboldt Squid are possibly man eaters. Although I'm sure we eat a lot more of them then they do us. Anyway, by chance I came across the an online article by one of the divers that was in the show. Also about Humboldt Squid. Check it out. http://www.deeperblue.net/article.php/696/3 If you're still interested, do a search for Humbolt Squid. There's a lot of information on the web about them.

01 July 2006

Modest Mouse

Here are some of the lyrics from "The world at Large" by Modest Mouse. When Christine and I listen, it sort of sums up how we feel about moving back to Seattle, or moving to any other city for that matter.
"Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day,
to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day.
Work a little harder, work another way.
Well uh-uh baby I ain't got no plan.
We'll float on maybe would you understand?
Gonna float on maybe would you understand?
Well float on maybe would you understand?
The days get shorter and the nights get cold.
I like the autumn but this place is getting old.
I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast.
It might not be a lot but I feel like I'm making the most.
The days get longer and the nights smell green.
I guess it's not surprising but it's spring and I should leave."