Thursday, 28 October 2010

Look what I found...

Ok, so I should really be sitting, focussed, reading my Adventures in Diving tome and answering the Knowledge Review questions on Dry Suits, Underwater Navigation, Naturalist Diver, Deep Dives and Peak Performance Buoyancy before Saturday...... but I was directed to the Kidzeco shop in Bathgate yesterday so I thought I'd share.  I've seen the shop in the passing quite a few times over the last few months but assumed it was only a shop selling children's clothes.  As my 'kids' are now aged 25 and 23 (on Monday) I decided it held nothing to interest me and never actually went in to see what was on offer.

As you can see if you click on the website link, they are a non-profit making organisation that recycles children's clothes, furniture and associated bits and bobs.  As well as selling recycled items they also sell products that have been hand made by local artists, such as quilts, bags, bunting, jewellery and other gifts.  They run workshops for jewellery making, sewing etc and have plans to do much, much more.

I spent an hour or so yesterday talking to Tracy, who runs it all and she is a very friendly, intelligent, enthusiastic person who is determined to make it all work as a community project.  If you live in the West Lothian area you might want to pop in and have a look.  If you have a facebook account you will find the shop Fan page here:

KidzEco fan page

Go and take a look.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

I think my eyes are going to shrivel up and fall out

Ok, this is a short one tonight.  The reason is my eyes are worn out.  It seems like everything I want to do these days requires me to use my laptop to do internet based things or to read books, or do both at the same time.

I suppose a lot of it is my own fault.  I refuse to write an actual letter and post it unless there is absolutely no alternative.  I do all my correspondence by e-mail or internet.  I have been selling on eBay clothes that don't fit any more and gadgets that have been sitting all sad and lonely and unwanted so, obviously they have to be physically packed and posted but all of the activities leading to the packing and posting involves my laptop and the internet: taking photos, uploading them to my laptop, editing them, creating an eBay listing, writing all the blurb, printing a packing slip, printing a postage label, leaving feedback for buyers, not forgetting paying my eBay fees..... and it all takes time.

I spend the first wee while after I get out of bed drinking coffee while I catch up with e-mail, FaceBook, forums, check my internet banking, read the latest Dilbert comic strip, etc. and attempt to wake up.  During the day if I want to look up any kind of information, like train times, product information, weather, maps, anything, I Google it.

As many of you know, I have my own website which is very basic at the moment and I'd like to learn how to turn it into a well laid out, properly managed site.  Even in it's present form it requires maintenance, so more staring at computer screens.  Yesterday Amazon delivered a new book - PHP 6 and My SQL 5 by Larry Ullman.  This is the reason I have been reading and using my laptop simultaneously.  Someone recommended it to me as a good instructional book for learning web programming.  I've reached page 15 (it's a fast starter) so only 600 more pages to go.  So far the pattern has been -  read a couple of pages, type the commands I've learned into my laptop, test the code to make sure it works, debug it if it doesn't, go on to the next page in the book if it works OK and go round the loop again.

Then there's the scuba diving education.  Who said scuba was all about getting into the water?  To become PADI certified you have to complete the recommended learning and then do the knowledge reviews (tests) for each topic.  I was going to be a really good girl and start doing the studying and  knowledge reviews for my Advanced Open Water tonight but by the time I'd found all the knowledge review pages and photocopied them (so i don't have to rip pages out of my books) my eyes were protesting.  I think I will leave the actual reading and doing tests until tomorrow night.  I have to hand them in on Sunday, plenty of time, maybe....

I do actually enjoy reading books as relaxation but I think my eyes would just shut down altogether if I tried to do any recreational reading.  I have loads I want to do but my eyes are objecting.  I suppose I should listen.  Does anyone out there have a spare pair of eyeballs I could borrow?  Preferably ones that don't need glasses  for seeing with like my own ones do.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I've been certified...

... as a PADI Open Water Diver.  Woo hoo!

Thank you to my very patient instructor, Martin, from Aquatron in Glasgow.

This was a bit of a trauma for me.  I should have completed my certification 4 weeks ago but for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with, I didn't even though The Boy completed his.

First of all I'm really not that keen on water unless it's warm, in a bath and covered in bubbles.  Secondly, I'm perfectly happy to dive if the water conditions allow me to wear a swimsuit or a shorty wetsuit.  Unfortunately, in Loch Long in October you need to wear a drysuit, fleecy undersuit, hood and gloves to keep warm.  Here's the reason why:

When we arrived there just before 9am it was almost sunny and the water was as smooth as glass.  As the day progressed, the mist rolled in and the rain started.  Thankfully the water stayed fairly calm, for which I am eternally grateful.

Dive number 1 was fine.  I got into the water, used my compass to navigate to the buoy (skill #1) that marks the underwater platform and managed to descend to the platform.  Normally, you kneel on the bottom while everyone takes turns to do their skills.  I found kneeling a problem as I kept tipping forward and had to be held up.  Not a great start.

I did my full mask flood and clear (skill #2) without any issues.  I even did my fin pivot using manual inflation (skill #3), eventually, once I worked out what I was supposed to be doing.  The instructor must have thought I was thick.  Basically you lie on your stomach, breath in through your regulator, remove the regulator from your mouth and use most of the air to breath into your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device - ie, the inflatable waistcoat thingy divers wear) through a tube.  Unfortunately, you have to press a button to open the valve on the tube and my fingers were being feeble and seemed unable to actually press the thing hard enough.  I got there in the end so big tick for skill #3.

Next we went for a swim around the platform and had a look at the wildlife.  There were velvet crabs, tiny little fish, starfish from tiny ones to huge ones and sea urchins.

Say hello to a velvet crab (photo courtesy of Google search):

Last skill for this dive (skill #4) was a CESA - that is Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  That means you have to pretend you're out of air, take one final breath and swim to the surface breathing out very slowly as you go.  No more breathing in allowed.  Then you have to inflate your BCD on the surface by breathing into it.  The ascent was easier than I expected as I thought I would run out of air.  On the surface I was able to use my not so feeble right hand to press the button on the tube and inflated my BCD without problems.  Big tick in that box.

We had a break for lunch and then had our second dive.  This is where my trauma started.  We swam out to the buoy and descended.  All the while my mask (which I had borrowed as own one had been leaking a bit) was filling up with water.  On it's own I could have coped with that but my mouth was filling up with water as well and no matter what I did I just couldn't spit the water out.  So, I panicked.  I managed to stay calm long enough to signal to the instructor that I needed to surface and up we went.  Dive time 6 minutes.  I explained my dilema and the instructor very kindly swam to the shore and got me another couple of masks to try.  Eventually I found one that seemed to be airtight(-ish) and we descended again.  Meanwhile The Boy was sitting patiently on the bottom with another Open Water student and a dive master.

So we had to start on the skills again.  Mask removal and replacement, then clear (skill #5 and the one I was dreading due to my leaky mask problems). Tick. Next up was reciprocal navigation (skill #6) - basically use your compass to navigate to a point on the sea bed then navigate back to where you started.   Tick. :o)

We had another swim around the bottom.  This time The Boy had borrowed a flashlight so he was able to point it at some of the wildlife on the sea bed so that we could get a better look at them. There was a huge hermit crab running around the sea bed and loads more velvet crabs, star fish, sea urchins and tiny fish.  Where have all the big fish gone?

Most of the star fish seemed to be this variety, I think (photo courtesy of Google search):

After our swim, it was back to the surface and on to the last 2 skills.  Remove / replace weights (skill #7).  You need to be able to remove weights in an emergency to ascend.  As I was wearing a harness rather than a weight belt I only had to do the remove part.  What a faff that was!  One of the weights was determined to stay exactly where it was but I won in the end and dropped it to the bottom.  Tick! Then it was remove / replace BCD on the surface (skill #8).  This skill would have been completed a whole lot quicker if my gloves hadn't kept getting stuck to the Velcro on the cummerbund thingy that's part of the BCD.  Boy that's strong Velcro!  Tickety-tick-tick.

All skills successfully completed it was time to get out of the water.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  Try trudging up a rocky shore, trying to avoid tripping over rocks, carrying a metal cylinder on your back and 42 pounds of weights.  You suddenly get a clue what Atlas must have felt like carrying the world on his shoulders.

So.... now I am a certified PADI Open Water Diver.  Look:

We have our first Advanced Open Water dive in two weeks so new skills to learn.  Martin assures me I won't need to take my mask off under water again, which is good.  We might even manage to see a different dive site this time, maybe Loch Fyne, famous for it's great seafood :o)

Here are a couple of photos I took of The Boy at Loch Long in September:

Waiting to go in .....

You can see there isn't much room for masks and regulators when you're wearing a diving hood.....

Saturday, 9 October 2010

How hard is it to take your own photo?

I will admit I'm not at my best today. My cousin Geri had her pre-opening do for friends and family at her shiny new Curves gym in Broxburn last night and the alcohol was flowing at a speed that has left me feeling slightly less than bright today even though I must have eaten half of the lavish buffet all by myself. The official, presumably alcohol-free, opening is on Monday.

I've tried to have a gentle day today. Unfortunately, The Boy went off into Edinburgh this morning to have a day out with the other boys and his parting request was for me to return wonky a Guitar Hero guitar that he ordered from the Game website to the Game store in Livingston and see if I could get a replacement. Stupidly (probably because I killed too many brain cells with Jack Daniels last night) I said yes.

WHAT WAS I THINKING ABOUT???? I avoid Livingston shopping centre like the plague, especially on a Saturday and even more especially when people are starting to get excited about Chrstmas shopping, like now.

At my third attempt I managed to find a car park with a space. It was probably the furthest car park from Game but it was still (just) in Livingston. My unhappy feet trudged through one and a half phases of shopping centre to find Game and then stood in an almighty queue. On finally managing to speak to an assistant to explain the reason for my visit I discovered the receipt had escaped somewhere between the car park and the shop. I was devasted. The shop assistant very kindly gave me the customer services phone number so that I could request proof of purchase and I headed back out the door, eyes to the ground, hoping to spy the receipt. It was right outside the door! Result! Did a little dance. YAY!

So, to cut a long story short, I got the guitar changed and then fled back to the car park and home. And I've been trying to take it easy since then. I have a few clothes that don't fit me any longer so I spent a couple of hours listing them on eBay, along with a couple of pairs of trousers that The Boy hasn't been able to squeeze into for a while. My body has been craving sweet stuff so dinner was a Snickers bar followed by a tiramisu. After that I felt fit enough to start thinking about making some jewellery. I made an illusion necklace for myself a while back and have been meaning to make matching earrings. I finally did it this evening and tried to take photos of myself wearing necklace and earrings to post on here. Here is the only photo that shows both, doesn't show the camera and also doesn't make me look like a complete retard. :o)

Did I do good?  Please say yes, I couldn't cope with starting over.