Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Six Weird Things About Me

I've not been tagged/memed/what-have-you in quite a while, so here goes.

Six weird things about me. Only six? I don't know, I'm pretty weird...

1) I eat hamburgers in a circular fashion. I have to eat all the way around the outside, then I can eat the center. Except In-n-Out burgers, which are too messy to take out of the wrapper. But it drives me a little nuts to have to eat them in the "regular" way.

2) I hate loud chewing, gum smacking and/or excessive popping, and open-mouthed crunching. It drives me beyond the point of annoyance to a total psycho freakout. I wish I could chill out about this stuff and not let it bother me, but I have thus far been unsuccessful in every attempt.

3) I think that cheese and chocolate are a wonderful pair. I like eating Doritos dipped in Nutella. I frequently have the urge to eat a chunk of cheddar after I have a chocolate bar.

4) I used to be able to name the title and season in which it aired of any X-Files episode based on only a two- or three-second clip. I'm out of practice now, but I can still get most episodes within about ten seconds.

5) When I was ten, I wanted to be a jockey. When I got too tall for that dream, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer instead. Totally natural transition, that. (Never mind how sad it is that 5'4" is too tall to be a jockey.) Then I discovered The X-Files, and a forensic scientist was born. ;)

6) I am generally not very superstitious, but I have the overwhelming need to place my hand on the side of a plane, right next to the door, as I step onto it from the jetway. And when I step off the plane again after landing. I thank the plane at the end (usually in my head), too.

Now let's find out what's weird about Tom, Amy, Raul, Dana, Neil & Sunny.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Who does number 3 work for?

Sometime last month, we went to the shooting range, and the range master pointed out this target they have that, if shot correctly, will win you a t-shirt. Of the ten or so targets available for purchase, it is identified as number three. It's got ten small bulls-eyes around the edge of the paper and one medium sized bulls-eye in the middle. Here's an approximate representation.


You have to score 100 points with 11 shots--ten points for hitting the exact center of the bulls-eye, nine points just outside of it, etc.--at 21 feet, in the presence of a range master in order to win the shirt.

Winning the shirt has become my new obsession at the shooting range.

I've shot number three targets on the last three shooting trips. I'm getting better at it; tonight, for example, I got eight of the outside bulls-eyes on the first try. But a perfect sheet still eludes me. I'm fairly certain I could pull it off with a .22 caliber pistol, but I am determined to do it with a 9mm. I'll let you know when I succeed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The First Scarves of Los Angeles

I love winter clothes. Fluffy sweaters, knit caps, fleecy mittens, and most especially scarves. Since I moved to L.A., I have not had nearly enough opportunities for scarf-sportin. (Read: no opportunities whatsoever*) That all changed with the cold snap we've had here of late. I wore a scarf to work every day this week. I alternated between my fleece horse-print one and the super-soft knitted one that Yaya made me for Christmas this year, depending on which one matched my outfit on a given day. No one can say I don't attempt to be at least marginally fashion conscious at work.

The fact that I spent just about the entire week indoors, in a days-long meeting, is irrelevant. The long walk across the parking lot each morning, the wind whipping my hair into some kind of crazy modern art sculpture, completely justified my scarf-wearing.

Fortunately for California's citrus crops, but unfortunately for my scarfophilic tendencies, the temperature has been steadily increasing for the past couple of days. This morning, I really didn't need the scarf, but I wasn't ready to believe that yet. However, when the scarf then spent the whole day draped over the back of my office chair, I knew I had to accept the truth. Back to the closet they will go, awaiting a return to use once we move to cooler climes. Scarves, it's been a good week. We've had a nice time together, and I look forward to collaborating with you in the future.

*Actually, that may not be right. We had a pretty cold and wet winter the first year I was here. I may have worn a scarf once or twice during that time. I can't remember for sure.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unexpected sushi is the best sushi*

I stopped on my way home from work on Wednesday afternoon to visit with a friend whom I hadn't seen since before Christmas. As we were getting caught up, her husband (a Caltecher like Tom) called to say he was going to be stuck in the lab until quite late and wouldn't be able to meet her for dinner as they'd planned. I've been on the receiving end of similar phone calls more than once. My friend didn't feel like going home and cooking something, so I called up Tom to see if he'd be up for us going out to dinner with her. It turned out that he was also going to be stuck at work later than usual, so my friend and I made it a girls' evening out. We went to a sushi place near the school (just in case the boys were able to escape earlier than they feared and could join us) and got ourselves some tasty raw fish. Mmm...omega-3 fatty acids...

I don't often do the spontaneous-dinner-with-friends-on-a-weeknight thing, and it was nice. I hadn't planned on eating sushi that night, but I'm glad I did. It might be a small, silly thing, but it made me happy.

In the spirit of sushi (bitesize morsels that are ultimately quite filling), here are some of the things that have been on/in my mind this past week:

  • We just finished watching Firefly, via Netflix. The first couple of episodes weren't all that spectacular, but the show and characters really grew on us after that. It was unfortunate that it got cancelled before the first season even finished. How is it that shows like Firefly get cancelled after half a season while Survivor has been on the air for 7 years (and 13 seasons!)? This is really a rhetorical question; I know the actual reason is that these stupid reality shows are dirt cheap to produce and make boatloads of money, and that's why they persist in fouling the airwaves. But come on, networks. You can't give clever and well-written shows more than a few episodes to find a fan base and earn you some potentially big money? It saddens me.

  • This morning on NPR, they kept talking about a "Frost Advisory" that would be in effect until 9am. I know it was probably intended for citrus farmers and such, but I just thought it was really funny. Be advised! There might be frost outside!

  • Apparently some football player's wife just gave birth to a 16 pound baby. Sixteen. Pound. Baby. I shudder at the thought. What's more, I tried googling for a link to this story, but couldn't manage to find one. However, I did find this. And this. And (oh my dear god) this.

  • Leo must have slept on my pillow the whole time we were gone. Since we've been home, I have had to fight him for space on it every single night.

  • I went on a four hour drive this morning for nothing. I got up early and went down to San Diego to do some lab work at the school...except that the school was closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Which isn't until Monday, but they decided to give their office staff the whole weekend off and not, you know, email the students. And my professor didn't have a key to the lab. You can imagine my grumpitude. In the end, I made the best of the day, getting some important stuff done at home, but still. Allow me to just punch Mother Earth in the belly by needlessly spewing four hours worth of automobile emissions into the atmosphere. At least I don't drive an SUV...

  • On a happier note, Tom & I are going on another dive trip next month, to Anacapa Island. Can't seem to get enough of the scuba! I am quite excited.

All right. That should tide you over for a little while. Don't worry, I'll write something else in an hour or so. ;)

*Tom thinks I should clarify that I don't think it would be awesome to be assailed out of the blue by a barage of nigiri...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thwarted

I've been trying to write a post for two days now, but I keep having to deal with other things instead. And then it gets to be bedtime. Or, as it is now, past bedtime. So no post. Hopefully soon though. I have stuff to say, even if it isn't particularly profound or really all that interesting. ;)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Diving in Mexico

After the wind thwarted our dive plans two days in a row, we woke up at seven on New Year's Eve morning to relatively calm conditions outside. We had a light breakfast and made our way over to the dive center. Checked out gear, put on shorty wet suits and walked as a group (there were five or six other divers, plus two guides) over to the marina, where we boarded the dive boat. Even though the wind had settled down considerably from the past few days, the ocean was still quite choppy. We were hitting 3 or 4 foot waves as we bounced our way out toward the reef. (I recall thinking that if we'd been on a plane instead of a boat, I'd have feared for my life...)

It took about 5 minutes to get to the dive site, and we entered the water by rolling backward off the side of the boat. The waves were still rather...wavy...which made it difficult to breathe with the snorkel (breathe, splash, sputter, cough, clear, breathe, splash, etc.), but soon enough everyone was in the water and ready for descent.

The reef itself was pretty cool. Well, neat. The water itself was almost absurdly warm. I wasn't at all uncomfortable in the short suit. There was interesting coral, some of which looked like brains.


There were also plenty of little, colorful fish, and we even saw a small baracuda. There were sections of amazing, furrowed white sand, and the visibility was probably about 50-60 feet. I kept clunking the back of my head with my tank, which was less than thrilling, but other than that, the dive itself was quite nice. Honestly, the sights were not as mind-blowingly awesome as I had been expecting (I think we saw more interesting things on our Catalina dives), but you really can't beat that water temperature. Not at all.

Back on the surface, we bobbed around a good deal more than was pleasant while waiting for the boat. When we were doing our boat dives off Catalina, the boat had stayed in one place and we'd returned to it at the end of the dive. This time, we resurfaced wherever we happened to be when it was time to be done, and one of the guides sent up a safety sausage so the boat could see where we were and come fetch us. Seemed like kind of a silly way to do things, but maybe they're not allowed to drop anchors at the reef or something. Anyway, it took a little while to get everyone back on board, so between the bobbing in the ocean and then the pitching and rolling back on the boat, I was quite queasy by the time we headed back and was actually relieved that we wouldn't be doing another reef dive that day.

Back to the hotel, just in time to log our dive and meet up for the cenote trip. There were only 3 of us going this time, plus the guide, so it was a nice small group. We hauled our gear to the truck and were on our way to the Chac-Mool cenotes, which were almost right across the highway from the hotel.

It turns out that a lot of the cenotes are privately owned. These ones belong to a family that used to run a papaya farm. When they discovered the cenotes on their land, it didn't take long for them to decide to go into the dive business instead. Admission's about $5 USD per person, and our guide said they can make upwards of $300 per day. Not a bad deal! Anyway, the two caverns we dove were called Kukulkan and Little Brother.

Interesting cenote fun facts: 1) All the cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula are connected by a vast network of subterranean rivers. 2) There are no above-ground rivers on the Yucatan Peninsula.

We had our briefing and then splashed into Kukulkan. The water was cooler there than in the ocean, but still quite comfortable. And as clear as the day is long. Absolutely incredible. In the cenotes, you dive single file and follow lines that have been run along the bottom - established, acceptable paths. We never went deeper than 50 feet, or further in from the entrance than 200 feet, which meant that technically speaking, we were doing cavern dives, rather than cave dives. Even so, we were surrounded on the top and sides by rock, so semantics aside, we were in caves.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of our first cenote dive was actually the opposite of what we came for. If you go deep enough (about 30 feet), you hit what's called a halocline, where there's a mixture of fresh and salt water. It's really bizarre and looks almost oily. Above or below, it becomes clearer, but right in the middle, I could barely make out Tom's fins in front of me. So strange! It was really novel at first, but it got old pretty quickly. I mean, you really couldn't see anything. What's the point of diving in a place with such cool sights if you can't see them? Fortunately, I eventually discovered that I didn't have to go too far below the halocline to get into the salt water, where the visibility of course improved dramatically. (The salt water, being more dense than the fresh, is the bottom layer, but it's also slightly warmer. So it's completely counterintuitive, but the deeper water is warmer. Again...strange!)

The caves are made of limestone, which readily chips, so the cave/cavern floors are carpeted with little chunks of the stuff. Below is a blurry photograph that sort of gives you a general idea of what that looked like.




Anyway, I saw a lot of that on the first dive, and once we were back in shallower waters and nearer to the entrance, the light slanting through the crystal clear water was just stunning.


Taken in about 20 feet of water.


After we finished with the first dive, we went back to the truck to have some lunch and let off some residual nitrogen. About ninety minutes later, it was time to go again, this time to the other cavern. The stone steps down to Little Brother were wet and freaking treacherous, but I managed to make it down them uninjured, even with a full air tank on my back (whew). Once down, we entered the water by doing a backflop off the rocks. Odd, but fun. Unlike Kukulkan, Little Brother was chock full of rock formations. They were absolutely amazing. My only regret about the dive is that the camera crapped out on me after six photos, so I wasn't able to get any shots of the salactites/stalagmites, but they were just awesome. The guide took us into an air dome where the ceiling was just covered with stalactites. We all floated around for a while, just staring up and taking it all in. It was dead quiet in there, except for the occasional drip of water. Really quite incredible.

We descended again and completed our circuit, scrambling back up the rocks from which we'd splashed in an hour earlier. Packed up our gear and returned to the hotel, where the residual nitrogen in our blood made us both extremely cheap dates (tipsy after one beer, fairly well soused after two). We had some dinner and caught the New Year's Eve fire show out on the beach, but the day of diving had left us too pooped to even ring in the New Year. We were out by 11:00. Such old fogies. ;) Nonetheless, I can't think of a better way to have ended 2006.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Aaaand we're back

Mexico was amazing. Pictures are up here , with more to come (have to get the film from the underwater camera developed and compile the panoramas). We spent a good six days doing not much at all aside from lounging and reading--I got through 5 books and Tom finished 8--then did three dives on New Year's Eve day and visited Mayan ruins two days later. I haven't felt so relaxed since...well, I can't even remember when I last felt so relaxed.

I'll post about our day of diving in a little while; I want to get those photos developed first. I do have to say it's nice to be home though. The cats were absolutely beside themselves with joy when we first walked through the apartment door. Leo's tail puffed up like a bottle brush and stayed that way for twenty minutes, his little purr motor running on overdrive. Loki apparently didn't attack either of the cat sitters (good boy!) and was also very happy to see us.

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I'm planning to enjoy my last day and a half before returning to work.