26 February 2007

[insert generic title here.]

It's not that I don't want to write, it's just that every time I sit down to write, I get all blocked and my mind becomes completely blank. So perhaps just quick updates here and there, until I'm feeling back up to blogger snuff.

I'm finally feeling healthy again, and am no longer sleeping all my days away. Classes continue to go well. Last Tuesday was the last in-pool session for the scuba techniques class, and amazingly, I successfully completed the skin diving ditch and recovery. I do think the instructor was being kindly in passing me, because I've heard stories from those who've failed the exercise, and my attempt was actually a bit shoddy in comparison. But, I shan't argue, as I'll walk away with an A. For the same class, Saturday was our first day in open water at Leadbetter Beach, just a stone's throw from the college. We worked on free diving, configuring equipment, determining weight, and demonstrated some basic skills underwater. Towards the end of class time, the instructors cut us loose to dive on our own, with a buddy. Due to a receding tide and swell and surge, visibility was about 6 inches or so. At one point, I completely lost sight of my buddy Dave, truly and honestly could neither see him nor distinguish the outline of his body, when he was no more than 2 feet away from me. I ended up holding on to part of his kit for most of the dive. Fortunately, for the remaining 2 classes we'll be diving from a boat, which should make for far lovelier conditions.

Friday was the first day (of 2) of a Nitrox diving class.

Quick background: Your average scuba cylinder contains compressed air, composed of (essentially) 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen. This combination works perfectly at saturation (ie under a constant pressure, ie at the surface, or at a constant depth underwater), but the high concentration of nitrogen can cause the bends if pressure decreases too rapidly (again, think bottle of soda, shaken: opened slowly [replicating slow gradual ascent], bubbles dissipate without much drama; opened quickly [replicating bolting to the surface], bubbles come out of solution too quickly, and spill all over ever'thing. "The Bends" is caused by pesky, though initially tiny, nitrogen bubbles not being able to gradually dissolve from within the tissues back into the blood stream and out through the lungs, but rather coming out of solution quickly, increasing in size, and shooting willy-nilly into tissues, joints, veins, arteries, etc.).

So, Nitrox is a breathing mixture with an increased percentage of oxygen (typically 32% or 36%, as opposed to the 21% in compressed air/scuba cylinder breathing mix), which is overall safer for a diver to breathe, because less inspired nitrogen means less chance for errant and wayward nitrogen bubbles. I actually earned this cert in Thailand, but I don't remember any of it. Plus, what diver doesn't want another plastic card in her wallet? We have another in-class session for the class, and then hallelujah, we get to do checkout dives, which means a glorious day of diving from the Spectre.

19 February 2007

o street.

My body is still doing battle with some kinda somethin, and I'm not yet sure who's winning. I started taking antibiotics last week, and felt good enough to actually do stuff all weekend, but yesterday and today I feel super tired again, like maybe the mean bugs ravaging my sinuses came back stronger after a brief respite. I can't say I've ever really had sinus issues before, but I have a world of sympathy now for those who deal with this regularly. I have a *sinus headache. I never really knew what that was, and I had no idea how painful and persistent they are. The nurse practitioner I saw last week told me infection in the sinuses is especially difficult to eradicate.

What's interesting about being sick is the way it affects a person. Most of the time I feel ok, if a little tired. But I can't really sleep very well, even though I'm always tired. And my mind is a bit fuzzy. For example, I'm usually pretty good about remembering where I put things, and it's not too terribly often that I misplace things. Last week, however, during a visit to the Ross Dress For Less (SB's version of Marshall's), I purchased a pair of cheap sneakers for use at school and work. I have no idea where the shoes are now. I'm pretty sure I didn't leave them at the store (but I keep forgetting to call and ask), but they are nowhere to be found here in my room. I've searched high and low. No clue. The possibilities I've come up with so far have been that I either dropped them on the way into the house from my car, or that I accidentally put them in with the garbage and threw them away. It's not a huge loss, really, they cost about $9, but I'm totally disturbed by the whole episode.

Halfway through the module now. Tomorrow is the last in-pool session for my scuba class. I'll have one last chance to do the skin diving ditch & recovery, but the state of my sinuses doesn't bode well for accomplishing the feat. Fortunately, I should still be fine on scuba, when I can de- and ascend as slowly as necessary, and so should be able to fully enjoy the obstacle course.

The weather here has been a bit insane for February, even in SoCal. Saturday I was on the beach in a bikini, playing frisbee with my friend Rob, who was so gracious to invite me and assorted MDTers to join him and his parents for beach & BBQ at a beautiful spot called Jalama.

Jalama Beach, toward Point Conception.

It was lovely and serendipitous that I was feeling good and had the day off to enjoy the 84-degree February day. The drive was lovely, and lovely drives are especially good for the likes of my antsy-pants, which tend to be especially antsy in the dead of winter, no matter how amazing that winter might be, with the exception of amazingly resilient viral annoyance. We sat on the beach and talked, threw the frisbee for the dog, threw the frisbee to one another, watched the waves, ate burgers and dogs, sat around the fire, and marveled at the millions of stars in the sky.

16 February 2007

the chronic.

It's been a rough couple of weeks. Rough in the way that a person can sort of make it rough on oneself, as in becoming too attached to possibilities, but I've also continued to be sick, and that hasn't helped much. I don't get sick very often, but it tends to get pretty ugly and quite dramatic when I do. The cough and cold that presented itself a few weeks back has escalated into some kind of chronic discomfort and sinus pressure, so today I had an appointment at the school's health clinic. Amazingly, an appointment with a nurse practitioner and a 10-day course of the antibiotic amoxicillin was all free, owing to my status as a full-time SBCC student.

08 February 2007

winter is winter is winter.

No matter where it happens, winter is winter. The days are short, the overall health of the general public isn't so great, temps are lower, clouds more frequent. Winter is winter is winter is winter. I'm not at my best during the winter season. I've been sick for weeks and weeks, it seems like. Actually it's been about a week, but it feels like forever and ever. What makes it worse is that I can't seem to get sick only once around here, but take multiple hits when the system is already ailing, and so must weather several different species of cold/flu during the span of a few weeks. I poo-poo'd the idea last semester that somehow this one-two punch is bred deep in the bowels of the MDT facility, passed around from student to student and back again, but I think I'm finally starting to believe.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining my friend Xima (pron. SHE-ma) at a delightfully ratty establishment called the Old Town Tavern (OTT for short). For those of you who joined me for my 30th at the Otter Stop, you'll have a good sense of Wednesdays at the OTT, which offer the added bonus of being karaoke night. I had no intention of singing, but after a few screwdrivers, I took up the mic without a second thought (and for those of you who joined me for my 30th, you know how painful this can be [with the exception, of course, of my rousing Don Henley vocals on "Leather & Lace," accompanied only by the fair Michaela P.]). The set list included "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Proud Mary" (in the style of Ike & Tina), and backup vocals/ dancing to Troy and some other random guy's rendition of "Paradise City." The one that per't near brought the house down was "Don't Stop Believin'" in the style of Journey. The karaoke-meister referred to the song as the *true karaoke anthem, and asked us to follow it up, immediately, with another timeless Journey classic, which I can't remember at the moment, but which might have been "Any Way You Want It."

Before arriving at the OTT, Xima mentioned that she'd never gone there without running into someone she knew. Sure enough, right as we walked through the door, someone tapped her on the shoulder to say hi. I certainly didn't expect to run into anyone I knew at the OTT, but not more than 5 minutes after walking in, someone tapped me on the shoulder to say, actually, to slur, hello: one of the first semester MDT students. Coincidence enough, no? Later in the evening, after finally relinquishing the mic for the night, I looked across the room and spied a vaguely familiar face. Sitting at the bar was none other than chronic-cough Lisa from down the hall. Slovenly though she can be, she's a decent enough girl (and it came out in the conversation that she does have some sort of chronic cough, which belies no real infectious concern).

Third week of the semester this week, which means we're almost half-way through the first module. I have only one more week of First Aid, which I'm pleased about. It seems we've gone over the heimlich and chest compressions and rescue breathing about 230 times, and have watched about an equal number of poorly scripted/acted/costumed video segments. I haven't the faintest what I'm certified for now, but I will definitely be more comfortable and prepared should I be witness to an emergency situation.

Scuba class is going really well. Last week we worked on new exercises: skin diving ditch & recovery of fins and mask, and ditch & recovery of scuba gear. This week we continued working on the skin diving ditch & recovery (mastery of this skill, plus swimming 880 ft. in under 18 minutes will earn an A in the class), plus the bailout and buddy breathing exercises. The bailout is an exercise that's only performed in a closed water environment (i.e. a pool), but it's a fun challenge. Underwater and in full gear, we move to the pool ladder, remove fins and completely deflate BCD, then climb the ladder, exiting the pool. Topside, we remove the rest of our gear and turn shut down our air supply. In reverse order of importance (BCD, fins, mask, weight belt, regulator), we stack gear up the right arm, and jump back into the pool. Once back in the water, we: turn on air, stick regulator back in mouth, step into weight belt, replace mask and clear of water, place fins on feets, don BCD using over-the-head method, and finally check that everything's in place and properly adjusted. We went through the exercise twice. I hope we get to do it again. The buddy breathing exercise was also really fun. The skill (2 divers alternating breathing from the same regulator) is a bit arcane and outdated, but is still widely taught, for whatever reason. For this exercise, a donor diver, in full gear, leads an out-of-air maskless recipient diver around the perimeter of the pool. Being the donor and swimming my hapless partner around the pool was a bit stressful. Being the oblivious recipient was sheer bliss. I barely had to kick, as my surroundings glided past in lovely, blurry shades of turquoise.