3/31/2003 - 6/29/2003: Even Older Blog
These are my original blog entries, pulled from my pcisys.net page.
Hangin' in Colorado
Been hangin' with the family for a month now; it's been great! The house got a little shaggy over the past year, so we've been cleaning up. I like working around the house with Sherry; we work so well together.
Class B Bachelor No More
Well, in a few days I head for Colorado. I'll live with my family again, working for two months in the states, then bringing Matt and Sherry out to Kwajalein on the 17th of May. It's been tough living between the two camps; can't hang with the single folks, feel like a third wheel hanging with the married folks. It's been a long road, but very much worth it seeing how much Eric has recovered. But the price has been high; I have missed so much of Matt's maturation. When I left, girls were slime; now they hold his rapt attention. Sherry and I will reconnect as if we'd never been apart, I'm confident of that. But I sure have missed hanging with her, still my very best friend. Note that I have gotten some good time to myself, time to do hobby projects, learn to dive. But I'd trade those things in a heartbeat to have lived with my family this past year.
Been a While
Haven't posted in a while; thought I'd record some random stuff.
Eric had his throat resection operation last Friday. This was a major thing; kinda dangerous and not totally certain of its success. So far, it appears to be okay; it is so good to hear him talk again. He's also breathing through his mouth and nose again; no more trach! If this works, this'll be his last hurdle to recovery - go Eric! I love you, bub...
I've been diving a couple of times since my last post. Once more on the Prinz Eugen, then a dive on Troy's Coral Head, followed by a two-dive day, one on the "K5 Upright" followed by a dive on another coral head in that vicinity. I was starting to worry about my motion sickness, but I think I have it licked now. Troy's was neat; there's a large school of fish there, shepherded by a bunch of sharks. We came upon the school swimming by the coral head, a river of fish that lasted a good 2-3 minutes, right behind them a couple of sharks "riding herd." Sharks left us alone; according to Julio, they're well-fed and we're too big.
K5 Upright is a sunken tanker in about 130 feet right outside of the channel coming into Kwajalein Harbor. We tied up at a mooring buoy fastened to the top mast of the ship, then descended to the deck about 100 feet below. You can just about see the ship from the surface; it's a surreal experience to descend on it from above like that. At the next coral head there's a lot of old litter from ships; Julio found a 1944 Coke bottle on our dive. All this within a 2-mile radius of the harbor.
Also went to Bigej with friends last weekend. It's an uninhabited island on the east reef about 10 miles north of Kwaj, nice snorkeling and beachcombing. The Boy Scouts sometimes camp there. We pass it every day on the catamaran to Meck; was interesting to finally visit.
I'll try not to be such a stranger...
I'm So Proud of Eric
Sherry tells me that Eric is eligible for aid that could eventually pay for two years of college. Sounds kinda average, but you need to consider where he's been the past year.
Eric, my 20-year-old stepson, had a bad accident last April; took a nasty blow to the head. Since, he's been recovering from an almost fatal brain injury. That he has the chance to go to college is just so amazing considering how badly he was hurt - it reflects well on his effort to get better and Sherry's help. He's living at a place called Spruce House now, a transition home that helps folks with injuries like his to transition back to the workaday world. I'm really proud of the progress he's fought so hard to attain; keep going, Eric - you're doing great!
Ralph in the Surf
Went diving on the Prinz Eugen again last Sunday. Julio had told me to keep Sunday afternoon open, and I thought he'd call to confirm. The next I heard, Craig Dawson was calling me from the marina, they've got a boat and they're waiting for me. Rush-rush, gathered my gear and sped down on the bike.
Well, it was rough out on the lagoon, winds just below small-craft warning. Greg and I rode the bow, slamming into waves. That was actually quite fun, once you get over the sense of impending disintegration. The rough part came when we anchored; we were in the lee of the Eugen, but the waves were still high. I started to feel it then, so I geared up and dropped in the water quickly. Then, we had to snorkel a bit to save air before we descended, so that added to the feeling. The dive was nice, same sort of tour as last time except we went all the way to the bow, 110ft max. When I surfaced, I found myself aways from the boat on the windward side of the wreck, and I just lost it there. I did manage to keep from puking in my regulator. Once on the boat, it just got worse. I had to beg off the second dive, go home, and crash - bad bouts just debilitate me.
Lesson learned - Short-notice diving isn't good for me; doesn't leave me the time to prepare for rough seas.
Julio arranged a night dive last Wednesday. We went in at the "ski area wreck," a sunken LCM off the lagoon shore 1/2 way between the pier and Emon beach. The sunset beforehand was one of the better ones I've seen, spectacular reds.
I paired with Wayne Thomas; we both found out shortly after getting in the water that we had small leaks in our low pressure hoses. We weren't going deep, so we decided to keep an eye on our tank pressure and continue. Also, when I got to the bottom, my regulator was "breathing wet," so I swapped for the other regulator hanging off the valve and went on. This was significant to me; it told me that I'm becoming comfortable in the environment and can handle things that come up.
The rest of the dive was neat, but not as neat as the Prinz Eugen during the day IMHO. The wreck is interesting; less imposing than the cruiser, seemed easier to look inside. It was a little creepy to come up on a rusting hulk in the dark, but curiosity quickly overcomes that feeling.
Wayne and I came back early to avoid problems with our air leaks, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Yesterday Matt and I each downloaded STSPlus, a satellite tracking program. We got the current TLE file, and each got to see the International Space Station in our respective locations using this program. This was funner than shootin' girls with rubber bands (no, I don't do that anymore :-). The most fun was enjoying this activity with my boy, even with 7,000 miles between us.
Diving the Prinz Eugen
Did two boat dives today. A very different experience from riding my bike about thirty seconds to the beach where the dive shack is located and just wading in. Gotta rent the boat, coordinate participants, shuffle gear, fill up with gas, etc. etc. etc....
The Prinz Eugen is a German WWI cruiser they were going to use in the Bikini Atoll nuk tests, but it sank in the lagoon at Kwaj before they could get it out to sea. It's on its side off the lee beach at Carlson, the next island up the west reef from Kwaj, about a 15 minute boat trip. It's butt end sticks out of the water about 100y off the beach, and the prow is down over 100 feet. We started on the lee side of the stern and worked our way forward on the hull to a place where it separates fromt he bottom. We went under that and followed the superstructure back around to the stern and our waiting boat. Max depth: 101ft, time: 38min. I sucked up a whole tankload of air quickly and had to head back early, but it was a fine dive: clear-as-a-bell bathtub-warm water, interesting features. Saw a shark, but they leave you alone unless you're carrying a raw steak or something...
Second dive was on a coral head just northwest of Kwaj. Another nice dive - pretty fishes, large coral formations.
All this before noon on Sunday, cost per person: $10. Can't beat this with a stick. I'd never have considered taking up diving, but it's too easy here not to.
I replaced Hong Kong in the World Clock with Baghdad, since we have suddenly become very interested in events there. At Kwaj, we never get live TV programming; we are now, of CNN, ABC, and Fox news, continuous coverage of the war...
Going To War
For the two or so folks who will read this, I have the following to say:
Whatever your concerns about our engagement with Iraq to this point, now is the time to put them aside and rally behind our President and support him in this endeavor. People we know and love are now in harm's way, and we cannot chop their legs out from under them at this critical time. So there...
Turning the Tables
Ha! Matthew asks today, "What's a blog?" Finally, I know about a "hot thing" before he does... :D
Chicken 'n Sausage Gumbo
I cooked a batch for a few guys this afternoon. Been doing this ever since college, when my Cajun mom taught me to cook via 5x7" cards in the mail. It's cheap, and good food. 'Course, college guys are perpetually hungry and will eat anything, so they would tolerate my adjustments while I found the best combination of spices, etc.
Making gumbo on Kwaj was my baseline; I figured if I could scrape up the ingredients here, then the place was okay for living. I've done seafood gumbo; they bring in the same sort of shrimp from Bangledesh you find at Wal-Mart, but my favorite is still plain old chicken and sausage, just like in the recipe elsewhere on the site. They have Hillshire Farms smoked sausage here, which I've always preferred over other more esoteric fare. It provides a nice complement to the chicken, 'specially after the ingredients have gotten a chance to know each other overnight.
Now, I have a pot of food to make lunches from for the week....
Evening at the Richardson
The Richardson Theater on Kwaj tonight was venue for a AFE show featuring a magician who apparently knows when I was born (yes, he divined my birthdate in front of the audience without any clue I could determine) and a musician who used "looping" to lay down successive instrumental and vocal tracks to make rather complex music. Arthur Lee would start a song by playing a measure or two of some sort of rhythm. Once he was satisfied with the track, he'd stop playing it and let the loop take over, then he'd start on the next track. He'd work his way up from percussion to bass lines to harmonies, and then let this conglomeration accompany him in verses. So damned simple, so damned effective. At the end, he had different parts of the audience simultaneously singing choruses from eight different songs, along with the original. One of his original songs was titled, "My Love is Constant As The Sun," words I'd like to offer to my honey in Colorado... :-)
Afterward, the night was brilliant. The starry sky and wind-driven cumulus clouds were various shades of deep dark blue, lit by an almost-full moon. Beautiful...
Riding the Reef
The catamaran captain took us back to Kwaj hugging the lagoon shore of the east reef today. He usually does that for folks who are leaving, a last hurrah. It's a nice ride, very different from the straight track we usually take just 1/4 mile to the west. It's easy to make out the buildings and other landmarks, and some of the submerged coral heads are visible as dark shadows in the turquoise shoals. We were an hour late going home, so the light was really nice too. The boat commute sounds neat, is much less than that, but days like today make up for it.
...I've started a weblog. This may be one of the fastest-deleted features of any web page in existence. I wrote this code myself; I looked at blogger.com, and I didn't like the fact that they wanted to ftp stuff into my site. Well, the code is useful elsewhere...