Archive for: ‘March 2007’

Freshman Year – Part 9, Scuba Class

March 28, 2007 Posted by suefairview

I guess that mom felt bad about what happened and decided to spend some money ($60) to assuage some of that guilt, so she popped for me to take some scuba lessons at college. I was super excited about that. I had all these dreams about going to the Caribbean and diving underwater and seeing colorful fishes and shells and blue, blue water going on forever. It would be a dream come true for me if only I could learn how to dive. Plus, it would be worth one full physical education credit to pass the course and you had to be able to swim to graduate, and this course would ensure one met that requirement also.

So, I showed up at the school’s Olympic sized pool, and to get into the course one had to swim a kilometer without stopping, in other words, 20 lengths of the 50 meter pool. That was not a problem for me so long as it was not timed. With all of my synchronized swimming training, I was certainly not the fastest, but surely the most graceful swimmer in the pool. A huge number of swimmers started, and many finished. More swimmers finished than they expected, because the class was huge, with 50 students, and the number of students to teachers was ten to one. I made the distance without any trouble whatsoever; it was just a good workout.

The class was broken up into pool and class time. We would learn something in class and then go and do it in the pool. We chose buddies and I got paired up with a guy named Doug. I was pretty happy with him, as he was blond and really cute. He had a swimmer’s body and his hair was naturally blond, thick and lustrous, and he had a full soft beard. He wasn’t really very tall though, at about average height.

I enjoyed the course and it was pretty easy. I remember the first time we put our tanks on and submerged to the bottom of the pool. It was just so cool to sit on the bottom and be in the water able to breathe and look around at everyone. My thought was, okay, take me to the Caribbean, I am ready to see those fish!

Swimming with the tanks on was a rush. They were very heavy for me. Consider when you only weigh 100 pounds and you have these tanks on your back. Then try to swim on the surface. The tanks kept turning me turtle, so that my belly was up in the air. It took lots of arm movement to keep the tanks up. Plus, when we learned entries, the one where you do a flip into the water, I didn’t realize that the momentum of the tanks would spin me so fast. That was interesting.

I had one close call during the course. Doug and I were doing an exercise where you have to dive to the bottom, take off all of your equipment, come to the top, then go back down again, put all of your equipment back on and resurface. So, I go back down to put my equipment back on and somehow I put my tank on backwards. Now my regulator is not on the side it is supposed to be on. So I reach for it with my right hand and it is not there. So I give Doug my out of air signal because I would like to buddy breathe, and he gives me a confused look, because he can see my regulator on my left and doesn’t understand why I can’t find it. So, there we are at a stalemate. I am signaling out of air and he is looking confused. Thank god we weren’t in too deep a water, because I just surfaced, exhaling as I rose through the water. Okay, so he wasn’t a very good dive buddy. But, he did ask me out.

So we went out. I don’t remember what we did, but we ended up in his dorm room, making out. His roommate was also there with his girlfriend. We could hear them really getting down to it and maybe even having sex. Doug and I were kissing. His beard was really soft and I was getting very turned on and thinking that this could go further. He was feeling my body through my clothes. Then he said, “You know, it is a good thing that I am a gentleman, or you could be in big trouble right here.”

I just sighed. I thought to myself, yeah, I suppose I could be. So, we wrapped it up and never went out again. What did it take to get these guys to see that I wanted to have sex? That I didn’t want to be a good girl all the time. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t love him. So I just gave up on him.

One day as I was returning to my dorm and walking up the many flights of stairs to my room, a tough looking guy called out to me from above, “Hey! Tiffany stiffed me on my shit! Where the fuck is she?” I was terrified. But not for long. A male voice came up from not far below me and said, “You leave Sue alone. She’s a nice girl and doesn’t know anything about that shit.” Then he looked down at my face and smiled at me.

It was Ray, my floor’s Resident Assistant who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Ray was very tall and thin and was a very successful African American miler. He used to say things like all he needed to do was clip his toe nails, put on his sneakers and he was ready to race. He came up even with me on the stairs and put his arm around me and we walked together to my room. He was such a nice guy. I just couldn’t figure out why he didn’t do anything about my roommates dealing drugs if he knew about it. He must have known as he had just seen this episode. It was a conundrum. At least he stood up for me this time. That was good of him.

Back at scuba, we were told that our open water dive was going to be in Skaneateles Lake before the ice melted. We were going to rent wet suits, cut through the ice and do our dive. Shit. No way, I thought. It just wasn’t worth it to me to get my card by freezing my butt off like that. I had heard that the wet suits didn’t fit small bodies like mine so well. So asked if I could still get a good grade if I didn’t do the open water dive and they assured me that I could. So, I opted out of it and got a B in the course figuring that later in life, when I was in the Bahamas I could get my card in no time in balmy aquamarine waters.

Skaneatles Lake in Winter

I completed the course and found out later that one person had burst and ear drum surfacing too quickly and not clearing their ears properly. Scuba is really dangerous if one is not careful.

Koi Pond News March 2007

March 27, 2007 Posted by suefairview

Or, everything you ever wanted to know and more about my pond.

On Friday, March 23, I measured the water temperature in my koi pond and it was 47˚F (8.3˚C) already! Last year at around this time it was only 41˚F. It really has been a warm year. The fish were up and looking really hungry. They had eaten all of their food from last year, so I had to run out and buy more. I forgot how expensive koi food is. A ten pound bag of Kaytee was $25 at the local Petco. That was the least expensive of the brands they carry which include the uber-expensive Hikari and my fall back brand Tetra Pond. I don’t like Tetra Pond, because it does cost a bit more and you have to drop it into the pond instead of throwing it in as the pellets weigh less. I prefer to toss it in from my porch; I’m too lazy to walk down to my pond. So that is the low down on food.

Two years ago, Sean came up with a great idea for keeping an opening in the ice on the pond. We have two ponds, a big pond and a little pond. They are connected by a waterfall. What we used to have was a sump pump on a shallow shelf under the waterfall in the big pond and have it pump the water into the little pond and then down the waterfall back into the big pond. For the new idea we took a smaller pump and put it into an opaque plastic box with lots of holes drilled in the sides and placed that on the shelf in the big pond and left it running. The top of the box was in the air. The ice could freeze right up to the box, but that didn’t matter, so long as the water in the box didn’t freeze and the water below the ice didn’t freeze. Also, we got the action of the sun on the contents of the box. This system worked very well for two years.

Until we got that flood last month and the pond flooded its banks and the pump was totally submerged and leaked oil into the pond, shorted out and stopped pumping. Disaster!!!

Then we got subzero temperatures for a week or so, and I had to use the old fashioned method of making a hole in the ice. I put a hot teapot on the ice in the morning with a rope on the handle, so when it fell in, I could pull it back out. It is an old Japanese trick that one learns from knowing an old Japanese person. Kidding, I learned it from reading books.

So, we went out and bought a Beckett waterfall pump. Anything made especially for a fish pond is expensive. We will try our brilliant method with a smaller box and the fish pond pump that really is submersible.

But this late in the season, and we will resume running our regular waterfall pump from the basement. That runs from an underground line from the pond to the well pump in the basement to the waterfall in the pond. We need to do a water change this year. Ah, spring. You gotta love it.

The Curacao Cure – Part 3

March 26, 2007 Posted by suefairview

There were two boat dives the first day. The first one was to Cas Abou. Cas Abou (or Lower House) is one of the nicest beaches on Curacao and worth visiting with the whole family. Located directly off the beach, this site offers a nice, sheltered wall dive appropriate for all levels of divers. To reach this site by car, head west towards Soto. Shortly after passing the turnoff to Willibrordus, turn left and follow the road past the land house where you pay a small fee at the gate on your left. The beach is sandy, clean, and quite large, with facilities including bathrooms, showers, snacks, chairs, and shade. The areas along the cliffs bordering the beach to both sides provide some good snorkeling.

The dive site lies 100 yards straight out from the beach and is marked by a mooring buoy in 20 feet of water. A heavy rope runs along the sandy bottom from the mooring and down along the drop-off to a depth of 70 feet, making it easy to find your way back without having to surface for a peek. Currents are usually light and both directions are nice. To the right the reef runs from 30 feet to 100 feet, ending in a sandy plane where large groups of Garden Eels can be seen swaying back and forth. To the left the reef wall is steeper and drops to 120 feet. Fire Coral, Sea Rods, Tube Sponges, and Flower Coral are all found in abundance. Also look for large Green Morays, Spotted Morays, Porcupinefish, Scorpionfish, Cowfish, Sting Rays, and Eagle Rays.

The second dive of the day was to Porto Marie.

This is a wonderful site for all levels of divers and snorkelers alike, offering a quiet scenic beach to relax before and after your dive. Located about 2 miles past St. Willibrordus, just follow the signs and the dirt road to the parking lot, where you pay a small fee to park and use the beach. Facilities include beach chairs, parasols, and a snack bar. You can gear up in the parking lot, a very short walk from the water.

Enter at the beach and swim straight out towards the mooring buoy, a hundred yards from shore. Currents and swells here are light and the visibility averages 80 feet. In the shallows you’ll see what look to be giant hollow golf balls, called reef balls. These were placed to help speed the reef’s recovery after the devastating effects of Hurricane Lenny in 1999. The reef balls seem to be working well; they’re placed along a snorkel trail, making for an interesting snorkel experience.

Porto Marie offers a unique double reef dive, with a hundred foot wide, fifty foot deep sandy valley separating the inner and outer reefs. Novice divers should consider staying inside this valley, diving the outside of the first reef and the inside of the second reef.

Spotted Snake Eels can often be found buried in the sand, with Triggerfish, Squirrelfish, Goatfish, and Gobies populating the reef.

The outside of the second reef runs from 30 feet to below 130 feet; it’s in very good shape with Gorgonians and Stony Corals competing for space. It’s intersected by two wide sandy channels that run 120 feet deep; keep an eye on your depth gauge while crossing. Barracuda, Groupers, Sting Rays, and Eagle Rays are often seen in this area.

This is a developed beach. In the past you could park your car on a strip of sand (and rocks) along the water, but since then the beach has been much improved. There are huts that provide you with the necessary shade and there is a nice restaurant. Even under water some things have changed.

Some dive summaries are taken from here.

Sunday Comics – Oliver Frey Winner Takes All

March 25, 2007 Posted by suefairview

Above is a detail of an Oliver Frey drawing. To see the full drawing titled “Winner Takes All” you need to click here which will take you to Pete of Finland’s blog. Enjoy!

Small Town News – Town Spins Out of Control

March 22, 2007 Posted by suefairview

Town Hall Expansion Committee

An informational meeting was held at town hall last night to discuss the findings of the Town Hall Expansion Committee. This was the first anybody in town had heard about this committee. Of course, our little concerned citizens’ group had the inside scoop, including drawings of the plan and costs as well as other alternatives explored. Sean and I grabbed some Chinese take out and attended the meeting.

Actions of the committee were presented by the chair who has been a local architect for 30 years. The committee was comprised of residents including the chair of the planning and zoning commission. The following was his presentation:

They began by having each Town Hall resident complete a questionnaire indicating how much space they would like to have. Then they made a table of how much square footage each resident has and next to that the “wish list” square footage. The next question was where to build. Then the chair presented a drawing of the floor plan of town hall with a good sized addition coming off of the side and closing off the cut through road, and this side of the building is not thought to be off historical value since it does not have a curved edge and is not currently very nice to look at. This drawing is not available electronically, but I have used and old drawing from the Walgreen’s Pharmacy project and boxed in the new addition in black. As you can see, the planned addition would cover the town hall parking spaces, so the original spaces planned to be in front of the curved part of town hall are back in the plans. Architects have been working on this plan for a year.

Then he went into space allocation which was arrived at with “bubble” design and planned square footage was added to actual and wished for.

A consultant architectural firm was hired to maintain the historic character (“vocabulary” – geesh) of the town hall in the addition and she showed how this had been successfully accomplished in other projects.

My cobb job of representing the town hall addition. Town Hall in red, addition in black. See how it overlaps planned parking, where the cut through was, and new parking is now in front of the curved part of the building. Front view photo (above) taken from acute angle in street.

The presentation was then opened up for questions.

I asked if alternatives would be discussed as had been mentioned in the card mailed to all residents of the town. For example, the town had looked at buying a local funeral home and a local residence as town hall annexes, plus there was an option to rent a large local business with 43,000 square feet of office space for $8 a square foot. Had the committee looked at those possibilities? The answer was that no, they were only charged to develop this expansion. I answered that the mailer was misleading to residents then.

The citizens’ group’s eloquent architect had figured out a way to gain all of the square footage without an addition (by squeezing in a second floor – see explanation below) and wanted to present that, but he was disallowed and told it wasn’t his meeting.

Squeezing in a second floor – The town hall has a first floor with a high ceiling and an auditorium with a 17 foot ceiling. There is plenty of room to squeeze in another floor and still have a usable auditorium space.

A fireman with 35 years on the force indicated that closing the cut through could be a major problem as each foot of hose laid cuts water pressure and he wasn’t sure that the fire department could service down town adequately and keep the town’s high fire protection rating. That issue will be looked into.

One resident stood and said that she was appalled that any addition to our historic town hall was being considered at all. There was applause for her (myself and Sean included).

Sean stood and said that the town should really take a step back and look at other alternatives to building a major addition to town hall. Also, he wanted to know if any costs for the project were available. The chair acknowledged that costs were available and passed out the handouts with the costs. The bottom line was $2.6 million hard costs. Joe, the first selectman, said that the committee had looked at other alternatives first including the funeral home and the private residence. Then, the planning and zoning chair piped up and went through her litany of why they had turned down those other alternatives. I just couldn’t stand it that they had said that they didn’t look at this, and then did. So I interrupted with, “Did you consider renting at the industrial complex for $8 a square foot? Did anyone look at that?” Then I looked at Joe, and said, “I don’t understand why people on these committees don’t have any imagination when it comes to spending our tax dollars and protecting our town hall. I’m sorry, I am interrupting.” And then I shut up.

Someone asked what the next step was and the chair indicated that it was schematic design at 15% of the architectural fee or $25K. This would have to be decided by referendum. There is $100K in grants available to the town for this purpose.

Then, one of the committee members stood to sing the praises of the members of the committee and while doing that she mentioned that they had looked at squeezing in a second floor, but found it unworkable because of the cost of structural work. I thought that the eloquent architect, who was sitting next to me with his drawings of those very plans, would rocket out of his seat in replying to this. Again, they had said that hadn’t done something, but then did. And worse for him, they wouldn’t let him speak. He said, “I have those very drawings here. It is possible and if you would like to see how, I would be glad to show you.” As he rushed the stage, the meeting broke up.

Everyone was very frustrated and nothing much was accomplished. I honestly don’t know what will happen next. By the way, a Dunkin Donuts is being built behind a house right next to the new Walgreen’s. At least it won’t be on the street and won’t have a drive through. The citizens’ group is not going to fight it. We have bigger fish to fry with our court case ongoing.