05 November 2007

More on Iridium Flares

So Christine and I went outside to catch an Iridium Flare last evening. This was Iridium 57. The magnitude was -4 (that of Venus at her best). For it's 3 seconds of glory it was quite amazing. I had this strange feeling, in that brief time, that I had telescopic sight and I could see every detail on the satellite. Heavens Above showed another flare (Iridium 60) for tonight at almost the exact time and location. This one even brighter at a magnitude of -8. I took my camera out and caught the last second and a half outside a near by church in this photo. Click on the photo for a better image. The fuzzy "star" at the bottom/middle of the image is Comet 17P Holmes again.

30 October 2007

Comet 17P Holmes & more astromony banter.

Comet 17P Holmes has just brightened dramatically and can now be seen with the naked eye. I just found out about this poking around here - http://www.heavens-above.com. I took some photos of it last night. The comet is in the constellation of Perseus. Each photo takes us a step closer. Click on the image to see a larger, clearer file.
The first image shows much of Perseus and the bright star, Capella (which our cat is named after) in of the constellation Auriga, at the bottom. You will see a small triangle of stars in the middle of the image. The next image shows this more closely. The bright star at the top of the triangle is Alpha Persei or Mirfak. The bright star in the lower right is Delta Persi or Basel (the brave one). The third 'star' in this triangle is not a star at all but the comet 17P Holmes! I didn't expect to see it without binoculars. It was confusing me on my star chart. The third photo is a close up of the comet itself through my 300mm lens.
All of this was visible even though there was a near full moon out. I was observing near midnight at a latitude of about 47 degrees and Perseus was almost directly above me, slightly to the east.
Other objects to note, Mars rising in the east in Gemini along with probably my favorite constellation, Orion, Capella (as stated above), and to the west Vega.
This morning I woke up early for a chance to see a Iridium Flare but of course it was foggy to the south east. There was Mars and the Moon again, now above and slightly to the west, southwest. To the southwest Sirius was trying but sadly failing to out shine Venus who stood just above the fog, in Leo, to the east.

17 October 2007

Fall Color


We just had out 5th wedding anniversary. In celebration we took a drive up to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest. The town was way overcrowded for us to really enjoy it and there was no lodging. We should have planned this better. But the fall color in the mountains was beautiful!

27 September 2007

Mead Fermentation

My latest mead in the process of fermentation for those of you who have never seen mead, beer or wine ferment before.



Pretty exciting, eh? It took 36 hours for it to reach an active fermentation. That lag time always scares me.

26 September 2007

Royal Metheglin

Since I'm posting about mead I'll tell you a little tale about a mead I did a few years ago. It's a metheglin. A metheglin is any mead with herbs or spices added. I got the recipe from the book, Making Wild Wines & Meads: 125 Unusual Recipes Using Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & More. Or, at least, the basic recipe. I may have altered it some. Here it is -

Royal Metheglin
One of the Autumn Meads of 2003
(Apparently I prefer the start meads around my birthday)
# 22
1 gallon
September 24, 2003

Ingredients -
3 Pounds of Huckleberry/Maple Honey from Tahuya River Apiaries, Hood Canal area.
Filtered tap water
Wyeast Laboratories 3184 Sweet Mead Yeast in the smack pack
1 tablespoon Rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Fresh Chopped Ginger
1 tablespoon Orange Zest
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
3 Fresh Sage leaves
3 Fresh Bay leaves
1 teaspoon Dried Hyssop (Had to go to the Pike Place Market spice store for this one.)
4 Allspice Berries
6 Cloves
1 teaspoon Malic Acid
3/4th teaspoon Tartaric Acid
1/4th teaspoon Citric Acid
1 1/4th teaspoon yeast nutrient
½ teaspoon Tannin

Specific Gravity –
OG – 1.105 or 14%
October 6th, 2003 – Racked 1.072 or 9.5%
October 15th, 2003 – 1.072 or 9.5%
1.070 or 10% after adding water
October 21st, 2003 – 1.056 or 7%
November 17th, 2003 – 1.004 or 0% 
1.038 or 5 ½% after adding honey
January 27, 2004 – 1.038 or 5 ½%

Process –
Heated honey and water to a boil and then lowered the heat to a simmer and skimmed off the foam. Added all herbs and cooled. Added acids and 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Added yeast. This mead sounds gross but smells wonderful!
Started fermenting 2 days later.
Racked off most herbs and zests on October 6th, 2003. Fermentation slows.
October 10th, I added ¼ teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Still slow.
October 13th I added ½ teaspoon of yeast energizer.
October 15 and there has been no gravity change in 9 days so I added some tap water and a pinch of Epsom salts in case this may be a PH problem. I also aerated.
October 18th, 2003 fermentation resumes!!! One bubble through the airlock every 8 seconds. On October 19th I was getting one bubble through the airlock every 3 seconds!
Racked and added ½ cup of water and 1 cup of honey on November 17th, 2003.
Bottled on January 27th, 2004. Excellent flavor. Going to Estrella XX.
Mid Feburary, Estrella XX. Did not place in the Atenvelt brewing competition, although everyone in our camp thought for sure it would win. Judges comments were, ”Improved a lot with breathing. Spices overpowering to start but improves. Might try less spicing.”
Sometime in 2005 I tasted another bottle and very displeased in the flavor.
Decided to give it another taste yesterday. It is now 3 years old and it has a good flavor. Very complexed. All the flavors seem to be there at the same time but in a good way. The judges could have been right. There may be to much spice but I like it again. Maybe the last bottle was corked or it aged in a strange way. I will take it to my friends at next years Estrella.


25 September 2007

Harvest Mead

It was a mead day yesterday. I call it a mead day instead of a brew day because technically making mead (and wine for that matter) are not brewing. Brewing is a beer making term. But I think people use brewing to describe the process anyway because we get all our supplies from the local home brew shop. Think about it. Have you ever sampled wine at a brewery? No, you go to a winery. Likewise there are meadery's. Anyway it's been a long time since I did any mead and I was feeling the need. Plus a friend from work has a back yard full of lavender. I've done a lavender mead before and loved the result although last time I added the lavender during the initial fermentation and this time I'm going to add it after. I've also done a spearmint mead with good results. My wife loves it. But I'm not to into spearmint. However I recently saw dried peppermint in the grocery and so I'm going to give that a shot. It will also be added after the initial fermentation. So my plan is to do 3 gallons of a regular sweet/semi sweet mead in the initial fermenter and then split it up into 2 gallons of lavender and one gallon of peppermint. Here's the recipe of what I've done so far -

Harvest Mead

(Birthday Mead)

(2 days from now is the harvest moon and my birthday)

# 28

3 gallons. The intent of this mead is to become 2 gallons of Lavender and 1 gallon of Peppermint, both of which I will add after the initial ferment.

September 24, 2007

Ingredients -

8 pounds of Twin Peaks Mountain Honey from Snoqualmie Valley Honey Farm in North Bend, WA purchased at the Pike Place Market

Filtered tap water

Wyeast Laboratories 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast in the smack pack

1 1/8th teaspoon Superfood

3/4th teaspoon DAP

Specific Gravity –

OG – 1.104 or 13.5%


Process –

On the night of Sunday the 23rd I sterilized all the equipment and chilled 2 gallons of filtered tap water. At 09:45 on Monday the 24th I activated the smack pack of yeast. At 13:30 I noticed the smack pack was swelling nicely and so I started boiled 1 gallon of filtered tap water for 10 minutes. I removed this from the heat and added the 8 pounds of honey, 1 - 1/8th teaspoon of Superfood, 3/4th teaspoon DAP and brought the temperature back up to 160 degrees F for 10 minutes more. I then poured 1 gallon of the chilled water into the 3 gallon carboy with the must and enough chilled water from the second gallon of chilled water to top it off. This left my must at still over 100 degrees F so into the refrigerator it went. About 18:30 the temperature finally cooled down to about 78 degrees F so I pitched the yeast.

Here also are some photos from mead day -


Here you can see the expansion of the smack pack yeast pack as the yeast is actively working inside.







Next is one 12 pound container of honey, nearly empty now.











Aeration it the key to getting a good start.








Everything in the carboy.






Update on this mead here - Harvest Mead Update


24 September 2007

Feast Fit For A King

So as I may have stated before we have trees that grow up to the level of our balcony where I trim them off for the view. Well there has been this squirrel foraging around in those trees eating the seeds. The other day he discovered our deck and in about 2 days made quick work of all the sunflower seeds there. The place was a wreck! Seed shells and leaves everywhere. But the birds weren't eating them so at least something did. Squirrels are crazy. This one hangs upside down, by his hind legs, and picks off the seeds.

05 September 2007

Replacing our trim and the Home Depot Morons

Labor day weekend meant work would be slow this week, for me, so we decided to replace our crummy ghetto apartment baseboards with something better. Christine's still in good with the construction company that she used to work with and they had a lot of trim piling up from old jobs so they let us have some. The trend for base boards here is white and they be getting taller. The stuff we picked up is about 3 1/2 inches tall. We've seen between 3 and 6 inches in the new homes we've toured.

In Arizona my dad had all the tools I ever needed and would usually come over and help me with our projects but now that we live 1500 miles away it's not so easy. Although dad is still a great resource on the phone almost any time of the day. But I still needed some tools. So off to Home Depot to rent a miter saw. The process went well, wasn't too much money (although I've never rented tools anywhere else to compare) but I'm convinced the people working are morons. Now I know there's a lot of tools for them to have knowledge on but this is your job here. The miter saw I rented worked great. I've used a circular saw before but never a miter and frankly they scared me. But this was nothing. However for some reason my miter saw came with an extra piece. A table saw miter gauge. Well of course I didn't use it. And then I forgot it and had to make 2 trips returning the stuff. All the while thinking, "How does this fit on the miter saw?" and "It looks like it's for a table saw."

When I got back to the Homely Depot I asked the guy, (we'll call this guy HD1) (that could mean Home Depot 1, Head Dummy 1, Highly Dysfunctional 1 or what ever you see fit) "How does this fit on that miter saw?"

Well, he looked at it for a minute, scratched his head and then asked the other guy (we'll call the other guy HD2). HD2 looked at it. The you could see a light bulb go on as he realized it was for a table saw. "That's for a table saw. Must of got mixed up when the orders went out."

When the orders went out. Think about that. It sounds like there was this big order being picked up by some contractor with all these tools. Truck loads of tools. Well when I got my order filled that morning it was for one, just one, miter saw. And the best part is HD2 (the guy who just made that comment) is the one who filled the order. HD2 helped me carry it out, complete with the odd table saw attachment. I can't help wonder who got the table saw without the table saw miter gauge.

So now a day goes buy and I'm sanding and painting all the trim and it's ready. All I need is a nail gun. Back to you know where! Who should be behind the counter of the rental dept.? HD1. I go with a Paslode cordless "brad" nailer type nail gun. It's like a brad nailer but without the compressor and hoses and all that stuff to lug around. Uses these little compressed air cylinders they call fuel cells. Not that I think of when I think fuel cell but anyway. So I rent the thing, and buy some nails and 2 of the "fuel cells". HD1 gets a few kudos because he actually gave me the instruction manual with the thing. Which I proceed to read when I get home only to realize that HD1 rented me a nail gun that uses 16 gauge nails and sold me 15 gauge nails. Nails which also happen to load into the nail driving firing chamber at an angle. The nail gun I rented doesn't load nails at and angle, they come straight up from the bottom (such as the first picture here, not the second). Back I go with the nails. HD1 happens to still be there. I tell him the problem and hand him the unopened nails.

"Well, so they didn't work? Did you try them?" HD1 said.
"Ummmmmm no " said I. (Thinking now about nails jamming in the gun, injuring myself, or not going far enough into the wood, etc.) I read the instructions you gave me and they called for 16 gauge nails. These are 15."
HD1, now looking dumbfounded at the cage full of nail guns and the nails on the shelf beneath them, says, "Well all the Paslode nail guns use these nails that load at an angle and we don't have any of those in 16 gauge."
I proceed to explain what I just told all of you about how the nails load, blah blah blah. But HD1 doesn't believe me and goes looking in a file cabinet for another copy of the instructions. Finally finding one, he goes through, it page after page, looking for some thing that tells him the nails don't load at an angle but never finds such page, only the note that says 16 gauge nails. The whole time I'm looking over his shoulder as diagram after diagram go by showing the nail gun and the obvious way it loads.
"Well it says 16 gauge here but it doesn't say if they are angled or straight" says HD1.
I'm like, "It's right there! Look at the picture, the nails load this way. They're straight."
He still looks like he doesn't believe me, mumbles something about the tool tech being here tomorrow (tool tech . . . I gotta meet this person! Shouldn't you all be tool techs?!?) but gives me the box of nails and reprints the contract. I ask him is there is a difference in the price of the nails (I already know the answer is yes but I ask him anyway).
"Well you can just bring them (the wrong nails you sold me) back tomorrow and we'll take them off your bill."
That's nice, I'm thinking, since, "I just gave you the nails when I walked in!"
HD1 reprinted the contract, yet again, grumbling when he should have been on the floor kissing my shoes by now.

So the nailer worked just fine. Hmmm I guess those were the right nails after all. I guess I do know how to read directions. When I took the nail gun back I had to wait for 15 minutes while THREE of those Home Depot knuckleheads tried to figure out how to ring me up right. And there were no other customers at the time! Anyway . . .

For such a small place replacing the trim was quite a job. Picking up the trim one day, sanding and cutting on day 2, painting the on day 3 and finally today nailing in place, chalking, filling the nail holes, and paint touch up. Of course moving and ducking under all the furniture didn't help. I also painted the window sill in the bedroom and the step transition board for the sliding door to the balcony. Both of which were just a bare/finished wood and slightly weathered. I'm so relieved everything is back in place. Next we'll replace all the interior doors and door frames to match. Once that is done this place will really look less apartmentish and more condo like.

24 August 2007

Flower Garden





I haven't done much blogging lately. Not to much is going on. Mostly I've been just working. But I do spend about 20 minutes or so each day on out balcony, much of it watering and admiring out flowers. When we moved in it was so drab out there and I missed having a yard so I started planting things. On our humble 5 - 1/2 by 12 foot balcony we now have a wonderful little flower garden including but not limited to - Mammoth Sunflowers (now about 8 feet tall and about to bloom), multi-headed sunflowers, Dwarf Sunflowers, Fragrant Petunia and Alyssum, Bachelor Button (Cornflower), Coreopsis Tinctoria, Painted Daisy, African Daisies (from seed my parents gave me), Mint, Rosemary, Geraniums, Zinnia, spider plants, Sweet Pea (although planted to late and they may not get to bloom), some unknown succulents (also from my parents), and even a small Sago Palm which is growing 2 new fronds. It's buzzing with activity such as little butterflies, bees of all sorts, moths at night, even a dragon fly today. I let the spiders make their webs in the flowers until they stretch one out across the deck, then I throw him over the side onto the trees. There were several lady bugs for a few weeks but I haven't seen them lately. I've got a humming bird feeder but, unlike in Arizona, I only saw one once a few months ago. I also tease my wife that we have garden Gnomes which tend to the flowers. She thinks Gnomes are brats and that we should get rid of them but she is basing this of her Harry Potter books. What do they know?

17 August 2007

Inside

Christine and I love to travel. Well, right after we moved back to Seattle we bought a little Condo. Then we took a trip to the Yucatan. Or was it the other way around? Oh well it doesn't matter. The point is that we spent more then we should have in doing both of those things and now we are taking a little time playing catch up. Bear in mind we are in no way poor, destitute, or broke but we want to pay off some things before we plan anymore big travel plans. Well today I was on the bus listening to my I Pod and a certain song hit home by Jethro Tull. It's kind of about re-learning to enjoy life at home. Here are the lyrics -

Jethro Tull - Inside Lyrics


All the places I've been make it hard to begin

To enjoy life again on the inside,

But I mean to.

Take a walk around the block

And be glad that Ive got me some time

To be in from the outside,

And inside with you.

I'm sitting on the corner feeling glad.

Got no money coming in but I cant be sad.

That was the best cup of coffee I ever had.

And I won't worry about a thing

Because we've got it made,

Here on the inside, outside so far away.



And we'll laugh and we'll sing

Get someone to bring our friends here

For tea in the evening --

Old Jeffrey makes three.

Take a walk in the park,

Does the wind in the dark

Sound like music to you?

Well I'm thinking it does to me.



Can you cook, can you sew --

Well, I don't want to know.

That is not what you need on the inside,

To make the time go.



Counting lambs, counting sheep

We will fall into sleep

And we awake to a new day of living

And loving you so.


02 July 2007

My rap on buoyancy as related to scuba diving

It's been just a few days over a year since my blog's inception. Over this time period I've noticed a trend in the way that people find my website. Most are through search engines where people are seeking answers to all sorts of questions relating to buoyancy. Many of them scuba related -
buoyancy dive, buoyancy diving, etc. Many of them not - neutrally buoyant pets?!?, neutral buoyancy in fish, buoyancy of plywood. Since the title of my blog is "Neutral Buoyancy" it pops up as one of the first few results in the search engines. Now I've been putting this off but I feel the time has come to post something about buoyancy to slightly appease the masses.

Merriam-Webster's definition of buoyancy (at least the definition relating to this subject) is as follows -
"Main Entry: buoy·an·cy
Pronunciation: 'boi-&n(t)-sE, 'bü-y&n(t)-
Function: noun
1 a : the tendency of a body to float or to rise when submerged in a fluid b : the power of a fluid to exert an upward force on a body placed in it; also : the upward force exerted"

PADI's open water dive manual goes in to quite detail about buoyancy (as it should). Here is some of what they say -
"Buoyancy
Have you ever wondered why a large steel ocean liner floats, but a small steel nail sinks? The answer is surprisingly simple: The ship's steel hull forms a shape that displaces - pushes aside- much water. The same amount of steel reshaped into a giant nail would sink, of course, like the regular sized nail. This demonstrates that whether an object floats depends on both its weight and how much water it displaces - its volume.
You can state the principle of buoyancy this way: An object placed in water is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the quantity of water it displaces.
That means that if an object displaces an amount of water weighing more than its own weight, it will float. If an object displaces an amount of water weighing less than its own weight, it will sink. If an object displaces an amount of water equal to its own weight, it will neither float nor sink, but remain suspended in the water. If an object floats, we call it positively buoyant; if it sinks we call it negatively buoyant; and if it neither floats nor sinks we call it neutrally buoyant."

When we learn to dive we learn to control our buoyancy to stay positively buoyant at the surface and neutrally buoyant under the water. We do so using a buoyancy control device (BCD or sometime just called BC) (more on mine here - Scuba Gear Part IIII) and weight. The BC has an air hose coming from the tank of compressed air on our backs. With a few simple controls we add air to expand the BC vest and thus increase buoyancy or release air and decrease buoyancy.

But there's more to it then this. Think about all the miles of air above you, from here to space. This air, the atmosphere, as thin and wispy as it seems exerts a certain amount of pressure on our bodies. Standing at sea level this is called one atmosphere, or one ata of pressure. Water is many times more dense then air and thus the distance to equal this pressure is much shorter. Every 33 feet/10 meters that we dive under the water equals one atmosphere of pressure. On most of our body this has really no effect, (well it has a lot of effects but I'm not going to get that detailed here) as most of our body is composed of liquid and a liquid is incompressible, with the exception of certain air spaces like the lungs, inner ear, etc. In our lungs we just continue to breath in a greater volume of air to equalize the pressure. Under 33 feet/10 meters our lungs hold twice as much air as they do at the surface in the same amount of space.

Now back to buoyancy. The air in our BC has been compressed to take up half the space and so we need to add air to the BC to stay neutrally buoyant at that depth. These are generally very subtle adjustments made with the BC. To much and you will start to float back to the surface. Likewise we need to release air from the BC as we ascend to the surface. Failure to do so and you will end up shooting to the surface as the air in your BC expands. An uncontrolled ascent to the surface is something you don't want to have happen in scuba diving. I'm not going to go into all that here though, this post is just a little about buoyancy. If you are interested in scuba diving I strongly recommend training. Serious injury can occur if you are not properly trained. Scuba is extremely enjoyable when properly trained and a course is not that difficult. That said once neutral buoyancy is achieved you will tend to rise and fall with each breath. If fact buoyancy of just a few feet can be controlled in this manner. Shallow breath, deep breath, etc. But, of course, never hold your breath while scuba diving.

The other tool we use is lead weight. A certain amount of weight is needed for the initial decent from the surface. This is based on many factors. Body weight, and composition - fat is more buoyant then muscle. Exposure suit - the thicker the wet suit the more buoyant it is. And the type of water you are diving in. Objects and humans are more buoyant in salt water then fresh water. I for example in Mexico, using the same wet suit and equipment need about 12 pounds of lead to dive in the ocean and only 2 - 3 pounds to dive in the fresh water cenotes. Another point to know/remember is that your tank will be more buoyant at the end of your dive so it may be a good idea to check buoyancy with a nearly empty tank and add weight as needed.

Buoyancy in cold water as opposed to warm water should only be affected by the fact that you have to wear a thicker exposure suit which in turn makes you more buoyant.

As I understand there is also a slight difference in buoyancy while diving at high altitude such as a mountain lake. This is due to the thinner atmosphere allowing your wet suit to expand slightly more then at sea level.

Other questions people have typed into search engines to find my blog -
- the buoyancy of a ferry? Hey I'm not an engineer.
- how stingrays are affected by buoyancy? Yeeeah, I'm no biologist either.
- neutral buoyancy in fish? Ditto. I think they have some kind of buoyancy bladder.
- neutral buoyancy of plywood. Eeeeeee . . . I believe all wood is positively buoyant but maybe under enough pressure . . .
- neutrally buoyant pets?!? I hope whoever typed this is looking for aquatic pets.
- buoyancy as relating to other types of fluids. Ya got me man.

Also see - Diving one atmosphere above sea level.

Thus ends my rap on buoyancy.

04 June 2007

All American Hero - Part 2

Hmm, what got me started on this? The fact that David and I have been talking and dreaming about the Hero. That and the cheesesteaks I've been making at home. Let's see at the Hero we started with rib eye steak. The rib eye's came in, we cut them in half and then froze them. Each morning we would have to take some out of the freezer and thaw them just enough so that they would be firm, yet not too hard to slice on our Hobart slicer. Let me tell you if you are going to buy a slicer go with Hobart. Besides working at the Hero for a year and a half I also worked in a grocery store deli and I gotta say Hobart slicers rock! Anyway the meat would be sliced to about a 1/16th of an inch thick and then weighed out. The second ingredient wasthe onions. Man it sucked having to slick those onions. We used onions of some big yellow variety and usually would slice about 10 to 20 at a time depending on business levels. They would be sliced about 1/8th of an inch thick and then chopped a little with a big knife. After about the 5th onion my eyes would stop watering and I would just taste it in the back of my throat. This was the late 80's, early 90's and we didn't have to wear rubber gloves while preparing food. I think the whole time I worked there my hands smelled like onions, even when I wasn't at work. After a few hours at work your whole body would smell like cheesesteaks. I remember trying on shoes at Diamonds department store and the sales person said,"Oh man I smell food. Somebody's got something good!" Then I had to reply,"Ah no . . . that's just me." Third was provolone cheese. This was the only cheese we used, also sliced to about 1/16 of and inch thick. That and some garlic salt was everything in our basic cheesesteak. Sure we added all sorts of other stuff but that was the basic platform and a great classic sandwich. We used a big, flat, steel grill to cook on. I believe we set that sucker to about 350. We didn't use any oil but we did have a condiment type squirt bottle of water. A good scoop of onions would go on the grill (about 1/2 and 1/2 with the meat), I'd shoot some water into them and get some steam going, then slap the meat on top of that. Wait a few seconds, joke around, sprinkle some garlic salt and then go to work with the spatulas pulling the meat apart and mixing it with the onions. After this was cooked it would be pushed up into a neat little sandwich shape and the cheese would be added to the top. While the cheese is melting we'd breakout and slice the roll. Very important factor here. A good soft roll. The whole thing would be scooped up onto the bread and there you have it.

So my version at home was a pretty good imitation but not perfect. We bought some meat that was sliced to about 1/4 of an inch then I sliced this into little strips with a knife. I think that was the deciding factor, the beef wasn't sliced thin enough. I cooked the whole thing up in my 12 inch cast iron skillet which worked pretty good. For the bread I ended up buying a french roll, cutting it in half length wise and again across the middle. This turned out real nice. The whole roll only cost me 99 cents and gave me 4 sandwiches. The outside was hard enough not to fall apart and the inside was super soft. Use the same day or it will be too hard.

30 May 2007

Telescope

I found a telescope. More kookie stuff I've biked with. I'm a little bit of an amateur astronomer and tonight I got a lot of use out of it. With this cheesey little scope I could see the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and it's 4 largest satellites (moons) and what phase Venus was in plus great views of our almost full moon.

In fact I then broke out my camera with my 300 mm lens and with a little cropping in Photoshop I can show you Jupiter and it's 4 largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Now you aren't going to see any great details but with a simple telescope or some good binoculars you can see this on your own. Look again on a different day and you will see these moons change positions.

I was also able to get this shot of the moon with my camera.

29 May 2007

Recollections of the All American Hero - Part 1 - Roaches

I believe it was the year 1988 - 1989. My friend David and I got a job working in the Tucson Mall at a sandwich shop called the All American Hero. It was a franchise out of Philly and when I got hired on had recently bought by a private owner. We made, you guessed it, hero's and Philly cheesesteaks. It was a fun place to work. Sometimes busy, mostly not. The owner was cheap. For example, instead of using plastic wrap we had to start using the left over bread bags. And she would never get an exterminator. I remember a couple times while closing up as I was leaving I would have to set off the "bug bomb". And that old phrase "for every roach you see there are fifty more hiding" is true. Dave and I found the fifty . . . on more then one occasion. As I remember Dave had more of a problem then I did with this. The following is a recollection of what happened one day.

There was a partition between the ice machine and the dish washing area. The partition was made of some plywood covered with a plastic type of paneling and the whole thing stopped about a foot away from the ceiling. Well one day we noticed roaches coming from the top of the partition, or hanging out up there or something.

Dave and I were the only ones working . . .

I climbed up on top of the ice machine to see that the paneling wasn't sealed on the top and was coming away from the plywood. Well . . . in the crack between the paneling and the plywood were several little tiny antennae wiggling about. A chill went down my spine. What follows went something like this -
Me - "Ah . . . David . . . I think I need the insect spray. Oh . . . and get ready to run!"
David - "Oh no, what is it?"
I gave the top of the partition a quick spray. Immediately tons of roaches came swarming out of the top and down the sides.
Me - "AHHHHHHHHH!"
David - "GOOD GAWD!!!"
I leapt off the ice machine and both of us ran out the back door, or very close to it.

It didn't help matters that there was no set rules on how to clean the place, when to clean, where to clean. And no discipline for not cleaning things. Especially at night while closing. There were times when I would come in to open and the floors weren't mopped, or swept, slicers weren't cleaned, counters weren't wiped down. We had a grill right in front and would make cheesesteaks for all to see. During the height of the Great Cockroach Empire roaches would occasionally run right out onto the grill. Or as legend has it, while scooping ice, someone found a roach frozen in an ice cube. I was starting to convert. One day I found the holy white cockroach (later I would find out that roaches molted and were white right after doing so.) Instead of killing it I captured it, put it in a cup, feed and cared for it. This was my way of letting my boss know how ridiculous the situation had become. I named my little roach friend Rykoff, after one of the companies that brought us canned goods. Rykoff died after only a few days. Must have not had enough water or something. I don't know. I thought those things could live through anything. It must have been sabotage. I don't think the roach situation ever really resolved itself and we, the humans, just came to a mutual peace treaty with the cockroach.

But ever since we worked there Dave and I occasionally have reoccurring dreams about the place. Davids dreams usually involve not having enough food prepped, tons of customers, etc. In most of my dreams I come back to visit (even though the place doesn't exist anymore) and end up helping out. In my latest dream I told the owner that David and I have been having dreams about this place. The dreams have been coming more often lately but this is probably due to the fact that we have been talking more about them.

15 May 2007

Fantastic Fractiousness!


Bailey.

1992 - May 12, 2007

I adopted Bailey from the Tucson Humane Society in the early part of 1992. She was somewhere around 6 - 8 weeks old. Cute as can be. While other cats and kittens hid in the cages Bailey pressed her body right up against the front, rubbing back and forth, purring and meowing. She was always a very vocal cat. Her whole life. And she had a large vocabulary to go with it. The reason her previous owners gave her up to the Humane society was because they were moving. Moving. Bailey went on to live with me for 15 years in 12 different residences in 3 cities and 2 different states.

Bailey tolerated her step sister, Capella. They chased each other around the house as kittens and "play" fought many times over the years, Bailey always dominating. Never anything serious. Although once she reached adulthood she never really sought out any affection from Capella.

Bailey was my cat. Capella could be antibody's cat, enjoyed anyone who was nice to her but friends, family and guests always got the warning, "Touch the black cat at your own risk!" As a general rule it wasn't a real good idea for most people to even stand within 3 feet of her. She did scratch many people I know/knew and it seemed she disliked females more. Of course this usually gave me a bit of pleasure. "I warned you." At the vet it was night and day, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She had the deepest meanest growls and attacks I'd ever seen in a cat. Sometimes Christine would have to leave the exam room. Fractious. That is the term they use. Yet I was always able to read, approach, pet and hold her. We had an understanding. She was my cat.

I remember one day when she was a kitten/teenage cat. I was at my desk and she came into the room. She was poking around in my closet giving out little chirps and meows. I don't know how she did this but each time I looked over at her she was up one shelf. Finally she was on top of the open door. "How did you get up there!?"

Bailey didn't care much for store bought toys. When she was young she would run through newspapers opened into little tents. String and feathers provided some amusement. While her favorite toy for most of her life was half sheets of paper crinkled into little balls. She would jump for them when thrown about 3 - 4 feet over her head and catch many. Anxiously waiting the next one with full attention. She would even fetch some of them.

The first apartment I lived in with her had a leaky bath tub spout and Bailey would drink much of her water there. She wasn't afraid of getting a little wet. In many places I lived after that she would go into the shower and cry until I turned it on a trickle for her to drink. For a while I had a 45 gallon aquarium and she would jump on top of it and drink which sort of scared me since she was overweight and the whole thing shook when she did so. It worked itself out though. One day I was cleaning the aquarium and broke one of the glass panels in the lid. The next time she jumped up she got a rude, wet awakening. She never jumped up there again. When Christine and I moved in together Christine put an end to Bailey's shower drinking habits. Although sometimes I would still let her sneak into the sink for some fun.

Right after I had Bailey spayed she started gaining weight and was over weight for most of her life. I believe this was a huge contributor to her fractiousness and I think sometimes it gave her hip problems. In her full glory she weighed about 18 - 19 pounds. About 3 years ago she suddenly started losing weight and her water consumption went way up. In about 4 months she lost around 6 pounds. A few months later we would find out that she had become diabetic. For the rest of her life I had to give her insulin shots, once or twice a day, depending on the vet we had. This was a more a nuisance then anything. Giving the shot to the cat was actually quite easy and painless for her. But it had to be done at regular times. Finding someone to watch your cats when you go on vacation is hard enough but when you tell them one needs injections twice a day it is nearly impossible. We started boarding our cats on vacation. Bailey hovered around 10 - 12 pounds during this period and with the loss of weight she mellowed a little. But guests were told to still be wary. :)

Sadly about the last week of her life she started having trouble breathing. At first I thought it was a hairball but then I realized it was something more. Last Saturday we went to the vet. They took x rays. Bailey's lungs were about 1/2 full with fluid. They said it could be cancer or the start of heart disease. All options would only prolong her life for a little while longer and would add stress to an already stressed cat. We decided the humane route was to let her go. I had been mentally preparing myself for this for many months, even years when I found out she was diabetic and I wasn't even sure I would cry. I did. It was quite sad.

I try not to think to much of that last day, although I do. I'm trying to look back on fonder memories. One of my favorites is about a month back, laying on a deck chair, together with Bailey, in the sun. Purrrrrrrrrr.

Bailey is survived by Capella cat (her step sister of the same age), myself and her step mother (mother cat, Mutterkatze) Christine.

Gone but not forgotten. You truly enriched my life. Our house is much quieter without you. You are sorely missed.

21 March 2007

Day 8 - The Long Road Home

Our trip was over. The fun is gone. We got up, ate our final meal at the hotel, took our luggage to the car and hit the road. Traffic wasn't to bad and we actually found our way back to the rental car drop off quite easily. All checked in and waiting at the gate. But what gate? Our plane was to board at gate A-10. Our airline was US Air which is now owned by America West (America's Worst). About the time our plane was supposed to start boarding from said gate a Continental airplane was de-boarding there. A look at the departures screen didn't even show a flight by our number. However there was a different US Air flight leaving about 10 minutes later, to Phoenix, but with no gate assigned. Sadly there wasn't even a desk with US Air personal to ask questions. Finally I snuck up to a gate where another US Air plane had just loaded and cornered someone. I don't remember the flight number in the next scenario so I've substituted some but it went like this -

Me - "Do you work for US Air?" as I didn't even see a badge or real uniform showing this.
The gate man - "Yes"
Me - "Our flight 309 is supposed to be boarding at gate A-10 right now but there is a Continental plane there. Do you know where it is going to be boarding?"
Gate man - "Ahhhhh . . . were not sure where it is going to be boarding yet. Probably this gate (A-8). I'm going to make an announcement when they decide."
Me - "Oh . . . OK . . . ((((thinking - Maybe you should make one now for all the people wandering around like zombies trying to figure out where to go and what is going on.)))) Our flight number isn't even on the screen up there but I see there is a flight 318 going to Phoenix. Is that our flight?"
Gate man - "Ahhhh yeah. We (I'm assuming he means US Air here) changed the flight number a few weeks ago but the airport hasn't updated the board yet."
Me - "Oh OK thanks." ((((That gives me a lot of faith in this airport.))))

Our plane arrived. About 40 minutes late. We boarded. We waited. Finally someone on the plane announced that one of the doors is not showing that it is secured and the plane can't take off until the problem is fixed. We waited as maintenance worked on the plane with no updates and no clue as to when we were leaving. Finally about 40 minutes later the problem was fixed and we could leave. Now we are about 1-1/2 hours late to our destination in Phoenix and we will miss out connecting fight for sure. A few hours later we arrive in Phoenix and they manage to book us on another plane. Some people are not as lucky and have to stay the night. We get to our gate and notice that the plane we are to board is headed for Las Vegas. We don't live in Las Vegas. Fortunately we are in the US now and there are actually people who work for the airline at kiosks with computers who can answer our questions. The man there told us we had to take this flight to Vegas and make yet another connection to Seattle. This was the best employee for US Air I met. I wish I could remember his name. He was very nice, called us back up twice to juggle seats for our next two fights so we could actually sit together. We were supposed to get back to Seattle by 10:00pm but didn't make it until about 3am.

Well this is just one of the risks we take with travel. I'm glad Christine and I always plan our vacations so we have an extra day on the end to recover, unpack and sometimes for flight delays.

15 March 2007

Day 7 - Coba

Our last full day started with a little walk about on the beach for the sunrise poking around in the tide pools and taking some photos of the wildlife. Like these little birds (sand pipers?) and this colorful vulture preying on a washed up fish. The rest of our gang had already left for home so it was just us. This was my favorite time of the day for the beach. There were very few people out. All was quiet. No waiters, sunbathers, swimmers, music. The beach was ours. After our walk we did our usual breakfast buffet run. Ummmm . . . café con leche. I tell you what this hotel had some of the best coffee. I don't know where they got it or how they brewed it but it was good. We tried the coffee a mile down the road at Eric/Adriana's hotel and it was not the same. So it's not a regional thing. I may have mentioned that the food at our hotel was good although many things that we eat here tasted different down there. I suspect that this is due to what they cook the food in. Fried potatoes for example. I suspect that they are either fried in good old lard or butter as opposed to vegetable oil or some other "low fat" oil that we use here. But I could be entirely wrong. It could be in the seasoning or something else.

Christine wanted to get some souvenirs for some of her friends at work and originally our plan was to go back to Playa del Carmen but that is such a busy place and we had already been there twice this week. So we decided upon Tulum. Not the Maya ruins of Tulum this time but the actual little town itself. So we hopped back into the rental and headed down south again. As we approached Tulum we saw the signs for Coba. "Maybe we should just go to Coba." I said. "Sure, if you want to." Christine replied. We took a left at Tulum. Coba is yet another Mayan city/ruin and one that I had been interested in since this trip was just in the planning stages. It is about 30 miles inland from Tulum. If you are staying in the same area as we were and don't have time to make it all the way to Chichen Itza, or just don't want to travel that far the ruins at Tulum and Coba at your best bet. You could easily drive to both in one day, even half a day. The road narrows slightly going inland from the highway but the site of Coba is well marked. The ball court at Coba is much smaller then the one at Chichen Itza. I would have to say maybe a 5th of the size. Coba still has a feeling of being recently discovered. The jungle hasn't been cleared away as much as Tulum or Chichen Itza and thus there is more shade to walk in. Coba has the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatan and of the three places it was the only one that we were still allowed to climb on. About 1/3 to 1/2 way up you can already see over the jungle. (The jungle is still growing up the back side.) Just outside the main entrance Christine found her souvenirs.

It was close to noon or just after when when we got back to our hotel. We hit the buffet again and then did a little snorkeling. She is not comfortable in the open water. But after I went out and came back she decided to give it one more try. I took it slow with her. It helped that we were in clear, shallow water with white sand. She could always see the bottom and stand up at anytime. Most of the time it was about 5 feet deep. At first she had problems putting her head under water. Then I think it was just breathing while her head was underwater. She could breath through the snorkel while out of the water and look under while holding her breath but not do both. We worked on this slowly and she eventually could do it. Then, with my arm around her we swam and snorkeled. She was doing it! Actually breathing, not holding her breath! Eventually she could snorkel while just holding hands. And she was actually enjoying it. I saw some of the largest fish 100 feet of shore at our hotel then on any of my dives. It was a break though. She may never be a diver, but we can at last snorkel together.

12 March 2007

Day 6 - Chichen Itza

On day 6 we took a bus tour to the once great Mayan city of Chichen Itza. We would have drove but which route to take on the map wasn't quite clear, it was on smaller roads and about 100 miles away. Still it was worth it. The ruins were incredible. What our tour guide told us was absolutely fascinating. Our bus stopped for lunch along the way and drove though some beautiful little towns. The crowds at Chichen Itza weren't so bad considering how many tour buses were parked outside. Sadly for us you cannot climb the pyramids here anymore.
The Maya's were great at math and astronomy. The main pyramid here is not only aligned up with the spring and fall equinoxes but was also a calender. There are four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year. The actual Mayan calender is slightly more accurate, over the years, then our Gregorian calender.
Be warned here's some plot spoilers and things I noticed from Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. The moon is full during one night scene. During the following day (or was it the day before?) there is a solar eclipse. This cannot happen in a span of a few days. For there to be a full moon the moon must be on the opposite side of the sky as the sun. For a solar eclipse the moon will cross in front of the sun (new moon phase). The phase of full moon is half a month apart from the phase of new moon. Also at the end of the movie the Spanish appear. Chichen Itza was in ruins for about 500 years before the Spanish even arrived. From an entertainment standpoint though, I did like the movie. And if your down in the Yucatan I highly recommend a day at Chichen Itza.

22 February 2007

Cozumel Diving - Day 5

Tuesday we again got in the car, picked up the rest of our gang and headed back to Playa del Carmen. My ear was a little sore from the day before and later I would come to realize I was coming down with a cold, but this in no way affected my diving today. Playa del Carmen was jam packed. We drove down the streets where we parked on Sunday and there were no spaces so we ended up paying for parking.

A short walk later we were at the ferry terminal buying tickets. This is a passenger only ferry. I don't know if they have an auto ferry or not, maybe out of Cancun, but a car really isn't necessary over there, especially if you are just going to hop on a dive boat. While waiting in line the seas were getting a little choppy, waves were crashing on the seawall, spraying all of us and then it started to rain pretty hard. I was glad I took my sea sickness pills this morning. I saw a few people on the ferry turning green. But as we approached Cozumel the storm had already blown over and we were now on the leeward side of the island, protecting us from the wind. The sea was now calm. The sun came out.

There are dive shops everywhere in Cozumel. Although they are nothing like the shops here in the states, with their fancy showrooms and gear galore. Our plan was to walk from shop to shop and find a nice one that didn't run a cattle call boat but right on the ferry dock there were some podiums set up where you could sign up to dive. Since it was already around 11 we took a chance with one of these. It turned out to be OK. The man at the podium called up the shop and signed us up. Take a left, walked about two blocks down the street, take a right and on your left is the shop.

When you walk in Scuba Staff Divers looks more like an office then a dive shop. There is a little equipment for sale to the left, a long desk with computers to the right and straight back is where they have the rental gear and rinse tank. Although I didn't use the rinse tank as it smelled of soap, there is a waterspout just above it. We didn't want to be hauling our gear around all day so we rented much of the stuff. I just brought my reg, fins and mask. They gave me a 3mm shorty which was a little cold even though the water is 80F. I'm pretty thin but you might ask for a 3mm full.







We signed in, tried on, picked up our gear, got in the taxi (van) that they had called and all headed out to the boat. The drive was about 15 minutes. The boat, I believe was the Enigma. Their website says it holds 8 passengers and 2 crew members. Besides the crew I believe we only had 4 divers with us. Despite how it looked the Enigma turned out to be quite nice. I never felt crowded, there were nets under the canopy to hold your dry stuff and only holding about 8 it definitely was no cattle call. The procedure for entry and exit was the same as for the Akumal dives. Gear up, sit up on the side, roll off, meet at the back of the boat and all descend together. But this time we would do so as the captain told us, two at a time. Our dive guide was Julian, and assistant instructor according to their website. He was good. Friendly, informative, good pre-dive briefings.




Santa Rosa Wall, Cozumel, Mexico

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  • Dive site 1 - Santa Rosa Wall

  • Site depth - 1000+ feet

  • My maximum depth - 82 feet

  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet

  • Coldest water temperature - 80F

  • Bottom time - 40 minutes

  • From what I read on the web, the Santa Rosa Wall is an advanced dive. I didn't see what was so advanced about it but then we are "advanced" certified. It is a drift dive. We had a nice slow current taking us past the beautiful coral outcroppings and fish. They say this wall descends down below 1000 feet. We floated at about 70 - 80. We saw much of the same fish/coral I listed in the Akumal dives with the addition of one nurse shark. We focused most of our attention on the wall but I believe one should keep a lookout away from the wall for larger pelagics. Video here - Santa Rosa Wall

  • Dive 2 - Paradise Reef
  • Site Depth - 40 to 50
  • My maximum depth - 41
  • Visibility - 80 to 100
  • Coldest water temperature - 80
  • Bottom time - 48 Minutes
  • Another drift dive over reef and sandy patches. Much the same life as before.

Cozumel itself has a nice little town square, resturants and shopping for you or your non-diving friends. There are also many hotels and if I were doing a pure dive trip with no other family/friends I would probably stay here on the island.

19 February 2007

Akumal Diving - Day 4

We drove our car a mile south to Eric/Adriana's hotel and spent the day there. Christine, Adriana and Emma hung out at the beach while Eric and I did three more dives through the Bahia Principe Dive Center.

It was a short walk from the dive shop down to the beach and the awaiting boat. Our dive instructor/guide's name was Nester which really didn't fit his local appearance. Nester was a good guide, funny and informative. His 8 year old son, you guessed it, little Nester, rode on the dive boat with us. Each dive was about 15 minutes from the shore. The boat was a decent size and it wasn't overcrowded. The standard method of entry was to get into your gear, sit up on the side of the boat, back roll off, meet behind the boat and descend. Although there was little or no current here the procedure was to all follow Nester. When someone was low on air Nester took out an inflatable buoy, on a reel, and sent it up. The person low on air would either ascend, along the buoy line, with their buddy or if two buddy teams agreed they would swap buddies so the 2 lowest on air could ascend together and the other two could get some more bottom time. The boat would follow our bubbles and then the buoy to pick us all up via a ladder of the side. Weights were handed up first, then fins and the BC/tank. The crew switched our tanks for us. All the dives had some surge but it was nothing bad.



  • Dive site 1 - End of the World

  • Site Depth - 100 feet?

  • My maximum depth - 94 feet

  • Visibility was 60 + feet

  • Coldest water temperature was 81F
  • Bottom time - 39 minutes

  • This was probably my favorite of the 3 dives this day. We reached the bottom and I was surprised to see 94 feet on my depth gauge. Maybe this is because of how light it was compared to the murky waters of the Pacific Northwest. I think most of our dive was spent at about 60-70 feet. Although I didn't see any large pelagics there was still plenty of beautiful fish and reef to look at and it was just good to be in warm, open water again.

As I may have stated there had been a storm blowing in and the reported visibility 2 days before was about 10 feet. The ferries to Cozumel had even stopped running. But the storm blew over and the vis must have been returning. I thought it was quite good but I'm sure it gets better.


We returned to shore to drop off some divers, pick up some others, grab some burgers for ourselves, the captain, the deck hand (plus a cup full of jalapenos), and headed back out.



  • Dive site 2 - ? reef close by

  • Site depth - 70 feet?

  • My maximum depth - 61 feet

  • Vis - 60 + feet

  • Water temp - 79F
  • Bottom time - 47 minutes

  • As we hit the water I looked down to see about a 5 foot green moray on the reef which everyone soon proceeded to scare under the reef. Shortly after Nester pointed out a turtle, the Eric (my buddy) pointed out 2 more above us. Sadly all were fleeing away, apparently late to some very important turtle meeting. Otherwise we saw the usual beautiful fish and reef. I did experience some pain in my right ear while I was at depth for about 30 seconds. I think I turned to the left and swam into the surge while equalizing. This went away and I had no trouble over the next few days/dives.

Back to the shore for the diver exchange again. This time we lost Nester to another dive instructor/guide. This one I really didn't like at all. I don't remember his name. He seemed to have a stuck up attitude, but it in no way ruined my dive.

  • Dive site 3 - Paradise?
  • Site depth - 50 feet
  • My max depth - 41 feet
  • Vis was less here - 40 - 50 feet
  • Water temperature - 81 F
  • Bottom time - 52 minutes
  • Nothing too notable but still a good dive.

Other then previously noted sea life seen on the dives this day included french grunts, blue striped grunts, stoplight parrot fish, blue tang, yellow tail damsel fish, great barracuda, several different types of wrasse, spot fin butterfly fish, trigger fish, blue chromis, sergeant major, puffer, trumpet fish, yellow tail snapper, sea fans, sea whips, sea rod, brain coral, elk horn coral and mountainous star coral.

18 February 2007

Eagle

Just a little break from our Mexico vacation stories to show some photos of a Bald Eagle that came to visit us yesterday. The view right off our balcony looks on to the roof top of the building next door. Their roof has very poor drainage. Bad news for them, sort of nice for us as it brings various birds to drink the fresh water. Most of the time there is anywhere from 1 to 8 seagulls sitting there but for a brief 2 minutes this eagle came down. The whole time being harassed by the territorial crows.


15 February 2007

Playa del Carmen - Tulum - Day 3

On day three Eric and Adriana had something planned during the morning and so we got in our rental car, broke our of our all inclusive compound and drove 30 minutes north to the small town of Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is a small town made up mostly of one way streets. There are about 5 or 6 stop lights on 307 where you can cut into the town. The town is divided in half by the highway. There is tourist shopping on 5th, by the water, as well as supermarkets and a Walmart. This town is where the ferry runs to Cozumel. Driving here can be extremely busy, not is a fast sence but as in gridlock. Sunday was a great day to go there. Driving was easy. We did some touristy shopping on 5th for a while and headed back out.






This time we drove back south, past our hotel for about another 20 minutes and met the rest of our gang at the Mayan ruins of Tulum. I found the walled city to be facinating. Probably more so then Coba (Coming in a future post). Tulum is built on a cliff overlooking the beautiful blue Caribbean sea. After visiting the ruins one could hike down the stairs and spend the rest of the day at the beach but you won't find bathrooms or waiters bringing you drinks.

14 February 2007

Dos Ojos Cenote - Day 2



The first night that we arrived we received a message from Eric that he had scheduled a 2 tank cenote dive for us in the morning. The weather had been very windy for the last few days and no dive boats were going out. But the cenote's are fresh water cave systems unaffected by the wind. For a more complete description see my blog entry - Cozumel/Cancun trip update. We went with the Bahia Principe Dive Center that is located in Eric/Adriana's resort. They drove us from the shop, in a van, about 30-40 minutes to the Dos Ojos cenote. When we got there you walk down about 30 or so stairs to the cave/cenote opening. It's a beautiful crystal clear pool with a small wooden platform extending from the edge. You can jump off the platform, take some stairs or a ladder. Many people come just to swim in the pool but it was by no means crowded. Dos Ojos means two eyes and just below the surface on the far side are two caves. So, of course, we did 2 dives, one in each cave. What we did is "cavern" diving which means you are never very far from light or an exit to the surface. To dive deeper into the system requires full cave diving certification. Our guide, Victor M. is full cave certified. No more then 4 people go with one guide. We swam single file over a guide line that is laid out on the bottom. Keeping 6 feet between each diver. Good lights are a must and I'm glad to say mine worked out very well. The lights are also used for signaling. We used the rule of thirds with our air supply. One third to go in, one third to go out and one third only for emergency. We used the frog kick technique so as not to stir up any sediment and to protect the cave formations on the bottom. Dive one was called the Barbie Line and dive two is the Bat Cave. Halfway through the Bat Cave we surfaced in a room that is cut off from the outside. The cave formations all along the dive are fantastic. In the places where the sunlight comes through it is spectacular. There were many small freshwater fish very closely resembling the fish I used to have in my aquarium. I believe they were some sort of tetras. We also saw two fresh water shrimp. By doing these cavern dives I've come to realize I will never need to do full cave diving. That's just two much risk and what I saw is amazing enough. I do recommend these dives though to any divers out there seeking something a little different. While we were diving, our dive shop also took Christine, Adriana and Emma snorkeling in the cenote. And . . . they got to play with monkeys.
  • Dive 1 - The Barbie Line
  • Site depth - 35 feet?
  • My maximum depth - 27
  • Vis - 100 + feet
  • Coldest water temperature - 77F
  • Bottom time - 40 minutes

  • Dive 2 - The Bat Cave
  • Site depth - 35 feet?
  • My maximum depth - 32
  • Vis - 100 + feet
  • Coldest water temperature - 76F
  • Bottom time - 31 minutes

12 February 2007

Travel Day - Day 1



We woke up to the alarm sometime around 2:30 in the morning. We had only slept something like 4 hours. We figured we could sleep on the plane. I think our taxi came about 3:30 am. We were checked in by probably 4:00 and on our way to the gate, sipping our Starbucks lattes. Double, tall, hazelnut latte for me. Grande, decaf, soy, peppermint, mocha for Christine. Yeah, she has a long winded order. Our bags were checked, we made it through all the security check points. Christine laughed when I said,"I like airports."
"Why?" she said.
"I like them because when we are in them we are usually traveling someplace new and exciting." I said. My feelings for airports would change on our return trip but this was my mood in the beginning.

One Boeing 757 to Phoenix and Airbus A 319 to Cancun. Now we were going through customs and dodging the time share hustlers on the way to the Thrifty car rental. Thrifty set us up with a nice silver Nissan Altima which I somehow managed to get through our whole trip on that crazy mexican highway 307 and through crowded the one way streets of Playa del Carmen without a scratch. All in all driving in this part of Mexico was quite painless. We drove for about one and a half hours, through the jungle, 60 miles, to our hotel.

Hotel Grand Oasis Riviera Maya is an all inclusive resort. Gated. With lots of marble (marble and tile is something they don't appear to be short of in this part of the world), a friendly staff, and just about everything you could want. I believe it's owned by Italians. One wing of the resort is for Italians and the other is international although anyone is allowed to all pools, amenities, restaurants (there are like 5 restaurants here) of the hotel. It is located on the beach. They have a dive shop but the dive boat that I saw is sort of rink-e-dink. I talked with 2 of the dive staff. One of them, an Italian and co-owner, Vittorio didn't speak much english. Enough but not enough to have a good conversation with. The other one, a lady, was very friendly, and full of knowledge. Still we didn't dive with them. It was very rare that I saw anyone leave a tip at this place. I don't know if this is because most of the guests are European of something to do with the all-inclusive thing. To make matters worse, there is no where in the resort to get money. No ATM. Not even the front desk can help you. Although I believe the staff will accept them. We left some during some of our meals and for housekeeping. Ah, I did mention it is "all inclusive" right? For this reason if you are going down there with some friends or family you had better all being staying at the same resort. When you check in you will get wrist bands. If any members of your party aren't staying with you they will have a very hard time getting in to visit and will not be able to drink or dine at the restaurants. It is so obvious but we made this mistake. Our hotel was next to the hotel that Eric (my brother-in-law), Adriana (Christine's sister) and their daughter Emma were at. Both hotels were all inclusive and it made things difficult.
Anyway . . . we checked in, passed the peacocks, geckos, and made it to our second floor room. Our room had, yes, more marble, a nice shower, minibar, balcony, safe, TV, and 2 king beds. Ummmmmm . . . beds. We slept.

Mexico/Yucatan Trip

We are back. It was a great trip. We saw the ruins, we swam the seas, we shopped the shops and ate the food. The weather was good. About 85 degrees, humid. Most days were partly cloudy. The first few days were real windy so open water dive conditions weren't that good. Most every day it rained at some point during the day but then the sun would come out. Our rental car really came in handy. We were about 45 minutes drive south from Playa del Carmen. Eric and I did 7 dives. 3 of Akumal (where our hotel were), 2 in Cozumel, and 2 cenote. We visited
the ruins of Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum. I've got a ton of photos and posts to do about our trip but no time to do it right now so here's just a few pics to keep you going. I'll post more tomorrow when I have the day off.