15 December 2008

Cozumel 2009 - Part III - Hotel & Dive Package

Ok we booked our dive package and hotel stay.

For diving we decided to go with Dive With Martin. I read an article in Scuba Diving magazine about Cozumel and there were about 4 operators at the end that they recommended. Dive With Martin was one of them. I looked at the others and we liked Dive With Martin's packages best. We chose a 3 day package of 2 dives per day and added 1 night dive. The whole deal came to $205.00. The package includes BC, mask, fins, snorkel and gauges. I have all that but my buddy does not.

While emailing with Paddi from Dive With Martin I mentioned we hadn't settled on a hotel yet and asked if they had any suggestions. They sent me a great list that answered all my questions. We were looking for something clean and nice, not to expensive, not to far from downtown San Miguel but far enough south that the dive operator would pick us up at the hotel dock (oh yeah a dock would be nice). We got all that at Hotel Cozumel. In fact it's ranked as a 4 star resort. $91.oo a night for the room split between the both of us.

03 December 2008

Cozumel 2009 - Part II - Plane Tickets

Oh yeah! My Cozumel trip is a little more secure. Clifford and I purchased our airline tickets. We have got to be the worst travel agents ever. We probably spent 2 hours talking to each other, on the phone, while trying to co-ordinate flights to Cozumel via the Internet. The trouble is that a) we are coming from two different parts of the US, b) we want the cheapest tickets but mostly c) airline schedules. No matter how we looked at it one of us was going to have either a long ass flight to some out of the way city or like a 20 hour layover somewhere.

Now during my last trip Christine and I landed in Cancun and rented a car but our hotel was along the mainland (Akumel). Clifford and I were trying to avoid having to take a bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and then a ferry to Cozumel by just flying directly to Cozumel, but that's exactly what we are going to have to do. It solved the long layover/long flight problem and saved us (at least me) a few hundred bucks on airfare. Some of that difference will be spent of shuttle service from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and ferry fair but it still comes up less then flying direct.

Next - Purchase hotel and dive package.

04 November 2008

Cozumel 2009 - Part I

My friend Clifford finally got scuba certified and if all goes well the two of us are heading to Cozumel in Januray for a week of diving. I keep nudging him to get his Advanced Open Water cert before we head down there. Hopefully this doesn't fall through. If so I'll use the money for a drysuit course and possibly the Rescue Diver class.

25 August 2008

Review - DAN Surface Signal Kit


I picked up the DAN Surface Signal Kit yesterday. Just as stated on their website it includes - 6’ orange safety sausage (with lpi attachment, dump valve and reflective strip), Wind Storm whistle, signal mirror and chemical lightstick. Accessories are incorporated into sausage’s base; clips to BC. Dimensions: 7.5” wide x 3.0” high (rolled); 7.5” wide x 72.0” high (unrolled).







As
also stated the tube can be inflated with the low pressure inflator hose from your BC or by mouth. It just took me 4 deep breaths. A small threaded fitting on the tube is then adjusted to keep the tube from being accidentally deflated. There is also a tiny dump valve near the base for deflation. Update - It can also be inflated via octo through the bottom.


One side of the tube (sausage) has a reflective strip and a small clear plastic
sleeve near the top which is most certainly for inserting the glow stick. The glow stick is nice but hopefully if I was stranded at night, at sea, I would still have a working dive light with me. But, again the more light the better your chances of rescue.

The signal mirror is small but I believe would be effective. There is a small hole in the middle of the mirror with a grid in it. Somehow, while looking through this hole from the back, you can see the reflected spot of sunlight even while aimed at the sky with nothing to shine it on. This is a great advantage if trying to aim at (signal) aircraft. Instructions for use are also printed on the back of the mirror.

The storm whistle is light and loud. I took it out of the kit and clipped it on the right shoulder of my BC.

The kit sells for $75.00 from DAN but I picked it up at Underwater Sports, here in Seattle, for $32.00. Must have been a sale or something.

15 August 2008

How Hawaii became a second Cozumel

We were going to go to Hawaii in January with Christine's sister and her husband, Eric (my main dive buddy so far). They had rented a condo and asked us if we wanted to join them. We agreed. Christine and her sister worked out a deal that if we joined we would chip in some of the price. I won't go into details but it was a lot of money which we would have coughed up anyway except our expenses, lately, are a little to much then our income and we wanted to catch up. So, sadly, Hawaii is out for now. I work for a hotel so we'll go another time and get a hot rate on a hotel.

Another friend of mine just got certified however. Knowing how much I am yearning to go diving, Christine agreed to let me go with him on a 'cheap' dive trip somewhere with money I've saved in a little personal spending account I have set up. We decided on Cozumel. He's never been there and I want to do some more in depth diving off the island. Plus the price is right. Christine could have gone but not being a diver and having been there already she decided she would be a little bored while we were out to sea each day. She's not a lay in the sun, beach bum, kind of person.

Thus is how the Hawaii trip became Cozumel II.

03 August 2008

Peppermint Mead Update #30

On July 25th I tasted the peppermint mead. It tasted like a plain mead until I saw what looked almost like a halocline or a thermocline. The mead was clearly stratified with the peppermint flavor up in the top half of the carboy near the tea bags. I removed the tea bags and racked. The racked mead, having been mixed together, tasted wonderful. It had been sitting on the peppermint tea bags for about 11 days.

19 July 2008

Peppermint Mead #30

Peppermint Mead
(Birthday/Harvest Moon Mead)
# 30
1 gallon removed from the 3 gallons of #28.
September 24, 2007

Ingredients (Original 3 gallon Harvest Mead recipe) -

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
Wyeast Labs Dry Mead yeast in the smack pack

1 5/8 teaspoon Superfood

1 teaspoon DAP


Additives included after the 3 gallons were divided –

11 oz honey

Dried Peppermint l
eaves – About 1 cup
20 oz filtered tap water


Specific Gravity –
OG – 1.104 or 13 ½%
October 3, 2007 - 1.068 or 9 ½%
Late December – 1.048 or 6%
February 9, 2008 – 0.996 or -1% After racking and adding 11oz of honey and peppermint tea – 1.010 or 2%
July 14th, 2008 – 1.021 or 2 ½ % before racking and adding 12 oz of filtered tap water.
I think we’re looking at about 10% alcohol here. 11% before the addition of the 12 oz water.

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. It took 36 hours for an active fermentation. Just the amount of time Wyeast Labs web site says this strain can take up to. The lag time always scares me.On September 29th, active fermentation, I added ½ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.On October 6th, I added ¼ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.Somewhere around 8% the fermentation slowed to a crawl. After Christmas vacation I took another reading and the gravity was 6% or 1.048.On January 20th I added some Wyeast Labs Dry Mead yeast and fermentation resumed within hours.February 9, 2008. This mead has now been split into 3 – 1 gallon meads. A plain mead, Lavender and Peppermint. The process for the Peppermint mead will continue here. The Plain Mead will stay #28 and the Lavender #29. The dry mead yeast worked well and the gravity was -1% or 0.996. A tea made with about ½ cup of dried peppermint and 8oz of hot water was poured into a 1 gallon carboy. 11 oz of honey was added and enough of the mead to make up the full gallon. The new gravity after these additives is 2% or 1.010. The taste is ok but more peppermint will probably need to be added. I taste little to none now. Maybe steeped in the carboy. July 14th, 2008. Racked and topped off carboy with 12 oz filtered tap water. Good flavor. Peppermint hits you after you swallow. I am steeping 6 more tea bags of peppermint in the carboy. Should be excellent. Will probably add some acids.

Peppermint mead update.

17 July 2008

Lavender Mead #29

Lavender Mead
(Birthday/Harvest Moon Mead)
# 29

1 gallon removed from the 3 gallons of #28.
September 2
4, 2007

Ingredients (Original 3 gallon Harvest Mead recipe) -
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
Wyeast Labs Dry Mead yeast in the smack pack
1 5/8 teaspoon Superfood
1 teaspoon DAP

Additives included after the 3 gallons were divided –
11 oz Honey
1 ½ cups of Dried Lavender Flowers
20 oz filtered tap water

Specific Gravity –
OG – 1.104 or 13 ½%
October 3, 2007 - 1.068 or 9 ½%
Late December – 1.048 or 6%
February 9, 2008 – 0.996 or -1%
After racking and adding 11oz of honey and lavender tea – 1.010 or 2%
July 14th, 2008 – 1.010 or 2% before racking and adding 8 oz of filtered tap water.
About 11% alcohol at this stage.


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. It took 36 hours for an active fermentation. Just the amount of time Wyeast Labs web site says this strain can take up to. The lag time always scares me.

On September 29th, active fermentation, I added ½ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.

On October 6th, I added ¼ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.
Somewhere around 8% the fermentation slowed to a crawl. After Christmas vacation I took another reading and the gravity was 6% or 1.048.

On January 20th I added some Wyeast Labs Dry Mead yeast and fermentation resumed within hours.

February 9, 2008. This mead has now been split into 3 – 1 gallon meads. A plain mead, Lavender and Peppermint. The process for the Lavender mead will continue here. The Plain Mead will stay #28 and the Peppermint #30. The dry mead yeast worked well and the gravity was -1% or 0.996. A tea made with 1-1/2 cups of lavender flowers and 12oz of hot water was poured into a 1 gallon carboy. 11 oz of honey was added and enough of the mead to make up the full gallon. The new gravity after these additives is 2% or 1.010. The taste is pretty good. Semi-sweet with good lavender flavor.

July 14th, 2008. Racked and topped off carboy with 8 oz filtered tap water. Good flavor. Nice lavender taste and bouquet. I will probably add some acids.

15 July 2008

Harvest Mead Update #28

Here's a little update on my Harvest Mead, which I started back in September. This I took straight out of my note book -

On September 29th, active fermentation, I added ½ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.

On October 6th, I added ¼ teaspoon of Superfood and ¼ teaspoon of DAP.
Somewhere around 8% the fermentation slowed to a crawl. After Christmas vacation I took another reading and the gravity was 6% or 1.048.

On January 20th I added some Wyeast Labs Dry Mead yeast and fermentation resumed within hours.

February 9, 2008. This mead has now been split into 3 – 1 gallon meads. A plain mead, Lavender and Peppermint. The process for the plain mead will continue here. The Lavender will become #29 and the Peppermint #30. The dry mead yeast worked well and the gravity was -1% or 0.996. After adding 11oz of honey the new gravity is 2.5% or 1.022. Tastes perfect. Not to sweet, almost a semi-sweet.

July 14th, 2008. Racked, added 8 oz of filtered tap water to top up the carboy. Still good flavor. Will probably add some acids.

27 March 2008

Allergies

Every year since moving to Seattle I've been plagued with seasonal spring allergies. Pollen. I suspected tree pollen. At work I'm the canary in the coal mine. The last week in February my eyes turned red, itchy, mucusy and feel like someone poured sand in them. I also get a cough and congested. Medication didn't really seem to help. A little but not much. I kept meaning to get tested and see about getting shots - immunotherapy. They find out what you are allergic to and then give you a shot, starting with a small dose and gradually increasing it, of that substance until your body says,"Oh hey, yeah, we really don't have to react to this stuff, it is no harm to us." The shots start weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly when a control dose has been figured out. At which point, as I understand, your body doesn't react anymore. Every year I get the referral, then allergy season passes and I end up not going. This year was to much. Enough is enough. I'm not going through this again if there is an alternative. Plus two people at work had bad allergies, did the shots and loved the results. I'm sold. So today I went for my testing. They tests really weren't that bad. Not the torture that everyone told me. They do them on the forearms now not the back. I had them do food allergies while I was there. I knew I'm allergic to crab, lobster, shrimp, and crawfish and you can see the results for crab here on my right arm standing out against the other allergies. Here are some pictures of the results -














On my left arm you can see all the tree pollens standing out.






So they rate the reaction on a scale of 1 - 4 with 4 being the worst. It would appear I'm allergic to a lot of fraking sh*t!
  • crab - 4 (we knew that already)
  • soybean - 2
  • walnut - 2
I'm not putting up anything with a 1, but there were quite a few. Also food allergies can't be helped with immunotherapy. You just avoid the food. On with the show -
  • 4 different types of molds got a 3 rating
  • 2 other molds got a 2 rating
Ok keep mold out of the house.
  • 2 different types of weeds got a 4 rating
  • 5 different weeds get a 3
  • and one more with a 2
Stay out of the weeds.
Now for my terrible spring tree allergies -
  • Alder - 4
  • Birch - 4
  • Cottonwood - 4
  • Elm- 4
  • Oak - 4
  • Walnut - 3
  • Pussy Willow (hee hee) - 3
  • Ash - 3
  • Maple - 3
  • Poplar - 3
They only tested one grass as usually if you are allergic to one you are allergic to many.
  • Orchard grass - 3
That one reacted after like 4 minutes and she just whipped it off right away.

  • Cats & dogs, pet dander - both a 2
Who knew?!? I've had cats all my life and Bailey had pretty bad dandruff sometimes. He said not to worry about the cat since it didn't really bother me to much. Our cat, Capella, doesn't get up on the bed anymore anyway.

  • One type of house dust (dust mite) -4
Vacuum. Get anti-dust mite covers for the pillows and mattress, wash blankets, sheets weekly in hot water. We do that washing anyway but will get covers.

I knew I had allergies but nothing like this.

24 March 2008

Smart - Fortwo


Our friend Nicole (standing) Christine in the car. This is a first generation Fortwo.


Christine has been wanting a new car for . . . well just about as long as we've been together. First we didn't have the money. Then we had the money and almost bought a Mini Cooper. What stopped us? Christine found out Smart was coming to the US. We first saw the little cars in Germany about 4 years ago. Christine fell in love with them and once she found out they were coming here she held out for one. We even got on a waiting list for a refundable 100 dollars. Christine was able to order everything she wanted and now we are one of the first to have them.

In many ways they remind me of the 1969 VW Beetle I had. It's small, the engine is over the drive wheels in the rear. The engine is a 1000cc (1 liter) fuel injected 3 cylinder in line, now produced my Mitsubishi, yielding about the same horsepower (71hp) as my '69 Beetle's 1600cc (1.5 liter) engine and getting close to twice the gas mileage. Doesn't sound like much power but the Smart weighs close to 1/2 that of a regular sedan. About 1600 pounds. My old Beetle was about 100 pounds more. A 2008 Honda Civic weighs about 2700 pounds. The suspension is stiff. The people won't like it because of the "rough" ride. Those much over 6 foot probably won't feel comfortable in it but it fits me well and I'm 6'1". Unlike my old Bug, the Smart Fortwo has front anti-lock disc brakes, a steel roll cage duel front airbags, and all the comforts of most modern autos. And these 2008 Smarts are actually 7 inches longer and 2 inches wider then previous years. They are the second generation. Smart has been in Europe since 1998 and has sold more then 770,000 cars. They are owned by Daimler AG which was Daimler/Chrysler until they sold off Chrysler sometime in 2007. They are the world's thirteenth largest car manufacturer.

Edmunds had a pretty good article here - http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drives/FirstDrives/articleId=119682#26

Another review from Automobilemag.com - http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/hatchbacks/0704_2008_smart_fortwo/index.html

Yet another review from Newcartestdrive.com - http://www.newcartestdrive.com/sneakpreview.cfm?ReviewID=124

Yet yet another from Theautochannel.com - http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2007/11/07/069937.html

The Fortwo has lovers and haters as do all cars. One of the most common comments we hear is "I'd be afraid to drive it. I wouldn't feel safe" What I have to say to that is then don't. I would feel unsafe driving a motorcycle and for that reason I don't. But that doesn't mean I don't like motorcycles. The other big comment we get is,"Do you drive it on the highway, do trucks blow you away?" Yes we drive it on the highway all the time. No, trucks don't blow me of the road. It cruises fine at 70. I've had it up to 80 with no problems. Would I drive it across the country? Probably not. Would I drive from Seattle to Portland or Canada? Sure I would, without a second thought. If you're someone like us, living in an urban environment with narrow streets, residing in a condo not a farm, with no kids and never planning to have any then the Smart might just be for you. Personally I prefer to rent a 10 mpg pick up when I need to do some DIY work around the house and keep my nimble Fortwo for daily use.

Here are some pictures of our little car with only 100 miles on it. Already dirty.







03 March 2008

Cape Bees, Africanized Bees, European Honey Bees, Mason Bee

I saw a fascinating show on the Discovery Channel last night about bees. I caught the show about halfway through and I believe the main subject was Africanized honey bees and how they have invaded the Americas. I was drawn into the show being a fan of honey bees all my life, a mead maker, and growing up in the southwest United States where the Africanized bee has recently (last 15 years or so) invaded.

The way I understand it the African honey bee is fairly aggressive although people have been living with them and using them for honey for hundreds of years. The Africanized is a cross of the European and African Honey bee and slightly more aggressive. (See "History" in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_bees.) These Africanized honey bees were accidentally released in Brazil and have made their way up into the United States. They have dominated the European Honey hives which were previously used for honey and as a result they are now being used for honey production in Central America and in the Southwest US.

Going back to Africa - The African Honey bee is used in most of Africa but on the Cape they use the Cape Honey bee. What really blew my mind is what happened when they accidentally placed Cape Honey bees hives near African Honey bee hives. Some of the Cape bee workers would invade the African bee hives. Most would be driven out but a few would make it in and be undisturbed. Once inside the Cape bees were not under the influence of the African queen bee or their own queen and thus their reproduction organs turned on making them, in a sense, also queens. They would even get the African bees to feed them. Now I'm not sure of the specifics but all the workers and the queen in a hive are female. The hive only produces males during certain times to fertilized new queens which go out and start new hives. So the invading Cape bees could not be fertilized but they somehow produced eggs which were complete clones of themselves!! The African bees would take care of the eggs. More Cape bees would be born into the African bee hive and the problem would worsen. Less and less attention would be given to the African queen and she would eventually be driven out. Now no more African bees are being produced. All or most of the new Cape bees are acting like queens. The African bees die from old age and there are no workers to produce new comb for the eggs or to take care of the queens. Finally the whole hive collapses.

I believe the problem has been taken care off by keeping the two types of bees separate. Cape bees back on the Cape, African bees to the rest of Africa. The thought may arise could we introduce these bees to America to eliminate the aggressive Africanized "killer" bee? The answer is Yes and No. Yes we could but the Cape bees wouldn't stop with the Africanized bee. They would move on and destroy all the European honey bee hives we currently use.

Many of our European honey bees are currently suffering from CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). As much as 25% or more of hives in the US have died because of this. No one is really sure what is causing it. The latest thing I read is possibly a virus which is been found in many of the affected hives. Although there are several factors such as poor nutrition, bees are trucked around the country to pollinate crops and only get one type of flower then the honey is removed and the bees are fed corn syrup for the winter. Fraking corn syrup. During the off season the colonies that have been trucked all over the country are stored together, thus allowing disease to spread. Plus I don't think I even have to speak about pesticides being sprayed on crops. Pollinating honey bees help produce 1/3 of all the food we eat. Which brings us to . . .

Wild bees. There were flowers in the Americas long before Europeans brought over honey bees. What pollinated them? Well, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bats, but also wild, solitary, non-honey producing bees, such as leaf-cutters and Orchard Mason bees. These bees are non-aggressive. You can help them by building or buying their homes to place around your garden. Examples are here - http://www.pollinatorparadise.com/Solitary_Bees/mudholes.htm
Or the photo on this page. A single female bee will nest in one of the holes, lay up to 10 eggs, seal them up with mud and then die. The larvae will grow, hibernate over the winter and hatch in the spring to do the whole thing all over again, pollinating all your flowers in the process. Large be houses/boxes are used to pollinate whole orchards. Different size holes will attract different types of bees. For more information see the above link.

28 February 2008

Lunar Eclipse

I took some photos of the Lunar eclipse on the 20th. Here they are. The first two are from out at Duwamish Point on Alki. The last two are from the West Seattle Alaska Junction area.



30 January 2008

1:20-23

1:20-23 Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

09 January 2008

Hawaii

Looks like in about a year we are going to Hawaii. Of course while we are there I expect to be doing some diving! I'm going to have to go somewhere before that. Maybe the Caymen's are still in.