Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Excerpt from Yahoo News

By KATA KERTESZ, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Bouquets of flowers lined the stairs and walkway leading to the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia on Wednesday as groups of people signed a condolence book and mourned the tens of thousands of lives lost to an earthquake and flooding.

People in the affected areas don't need flowers or a fucking condolence book! Am I taking crazy pills or does anyone else see the idiocy in that? If someone sent me a condolence book on Sept 13th this year, I would have used it to start a fire from wood we scavenged to boil water. Food, Water, Shelter. Maybe not in that precise order, but decorating my destroyed home or stopping to take in the lush floral scent or smell the roses would be about 15,433rd on my list of things to do.

 Take that $20 and instead of giving it to FTD (No link on purpose) try sending it to one of the aid agencies. Today's editorial in the Caymanian Compass said something to the effect of “Everyone helped us out in September when Ivan hit, and now it's time to repay some of that kindness and generosity“

Derek has a link to a guy who's accepting donations via paypal and Peechie has gone to the trouble of finding contact info for all the major relief agencies to take your pick from.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:33:49 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Rants#

Call it a whirwind tour if you like, but eight days is a pretty short time to go from Cayman to Vancouver. It takes a day (and an overnight usually) each way to get there, there's three hours difference, and you have to go through customs and immigration twice.

That said, I had an absolutely fab week. Sunday the 19th I left and had dinner with Shannon (but no Bella this time) in South Beach and the freakin Gipsy Kings were playing at the lounge/bar/restaurant where we were eating. Way cool!

Monday I flew into Vancouver, Ork picked me up, missed a connection with Fedde, headed to my parents place and crashed.

Tuesday I drove out to The 'Wack to see Scott and pick up the bag he carried back for me a month ago or so and then had dinner at Montana's Cookhouse in Coquitlam Center. Pretty good bbq chicken & ribs.. best I've had outside of Texas, anyway. My Dad didn't like his burger, he thought it was too dry, but that's what you get for ordering a burger at a bbq joint. It's almost as bad as ordering a steak in IHOP and not having a good experience. :)

Wednesday Rich and I had lunch at Burger Heaven, in what seems to be turning into a tradition and then I had probably one of the best steak dinners I've ever had at Gotham Steakhouse. The whole evening was great: the company, the cocktails, the wine, the oysters and of course, the steaks.

Thursday night Rich & Stacy had me over for dinner and a little geekfest afterwards. w00t!

Friday was Christmas Eve, so I went out to the mall and finished my shopping. Not really, I already had everything, but I wanted to witness the capitalistic commercial orgy for my own eyes. It's kind of like watching Jerry Springer or a train wreck, you know you shouldn't look, but you just can't help it. I met up with Bob and my cousin for lunch and hockey talk (Just call, we'll talk hockey with Paul Baldwin) at the Red Onion in Kerrisdale. I don't know if it's on any Vancouver City Guides or anything, but it should be. Burgers and Dogs, done to perfection, and their dill-based dipping sauce for chips is goooood too.

Dinner with the fam at White Spot in what's another sorta newish tradition, and then it was off to the 8-Ball cafe for Kelly's birthday. Saw the old gang together again for the first time, then came home and was in bed by 1:00 so Santa could come.

The rest of the weekend was a big blur of family, eating, running around and not having time to see everyone or do everything. I think I'll try and get home in July or August for a longer trip, like two weeks or something to try and fit everything in.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 11:05:25 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

You're in the mall and you go to the store you used to buy 'cool' clothes at, and they don't sell mens clothing anymore, and the salesgirl directs you to some other stores in the mall... You go walkabout and wander the earth like Kane from Kung Fu going through the racks of clothing, don't find anything you like and end up looking in the menswear section at The Bay.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004 12:20:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | #
Between flying 3000 miles, seeing The Gipsy Kings, vowing to strangle the person in front of me with his inflight headphones, -20c terminal transfers and having to wear four layers of clothes, it's been a busy week.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 10:07:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Travel#
Saturday, December 18, 2004

OK, so I'm packed and ready to go, aside from the stuff that I'll need in the morning (bathroom stuff, this laptop, etc) Im packing light. I have a 24” pullman that has my carry-on pullman inside it. I have 5 t-shirts, 5 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of undies, one pair of PJs, a pair of jeans, one sweatshirt, a pair of shorts (to go to the gym in) and a pair of sneakers. Aside from what I'm wearing on the plane, that's all I'll need.

The morning flight tomorrow is full, and there's three people on the standby list ahead of me. The afternoon flight has space available on it and the evening flight has about 20-odd seats on it as well. I'm going to try for the afternoon flight, and if I can't get on, then I'm going to catch the evening flight. So long as I get to Miami tomorrow night, it's all good.

In all the times I've ever been to Miami, I've never actually gone down to the beach. My friend Shannon is driving down from Ft Lauderdale tomorrow night to meet up with me and we're going to head down to South Beach and get some dinner and do some people watching. Of course, the one time I have a plan to go to the beach in Miami, there's a cold front coming through. Temps are supposed to drop into the 40s in Miami Sunday. Wonderful. At least it will give me a 12 hour acclimatization before I fly north to Canada.

I don't really have any plans for the week, other than xmas day with the family. I'm going to play it all by ear, especially since I really only have a week. A few times when I've gone home, I've ended up parceling out my time in “appointments” to make sure that I saw everyone and did everything on everyone else's list. Didn't make for a very relaxing holiday. I get in Monday night, Im gonna pop down to the Irish Heather on the way to my parent's house and raise a glass with Fedde, and at some point during the week I'm making a road trip out to The 'Wack to pick up a bag at Scott's that he brought home for me last month.

Unless something... NOTABLE happens between now and then, I probably wont be posting anything, so consider yourself wished a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or a freak-nasty Kwanzaa!

Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:56:19 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Travel#
Wednesday, December 15, 2004

My boss told me today that I could have next week off, and then the mon & tues we're off in observance for xmas and boxing days, so that gives me a 10 day window to get off the rock, get home, eat turkey, give pressies, hoist a round with the 'West Coast Crew' (that means you too, Feddy. I'll be heading to the Irish Heather straight from the airport) and get back again with Jeep parts to get my ride fixed up nice-like.

I will have a cell phone while I'm there, I just don't know the number yet, as I'll have to pick up a SIM card when I get there. I will have email access at my parent's place, so shoot me a line if you wanna get together and I'll fill you in with the deets when I have 'em.

The good news is that I'm only using up my five pro-rated vacation days for this, and I still have my five Hurricane Ivan relief days, plus one in the bank that I can use for goin up to Miami in January with Johnny-boy.

I tried to get off the rock right away friday night or saturday, but holy carumba are the flights FULL! I bought a ticket from from Miami to Vancouver round-trip for $380 which was a pretty good price, and I put in for a pass to get to Miami Sunday and home again in a couple weeks.

Better dig out my woolies. As cold as it is here right now (gotta be down around 70f outside and it's 78f up in my loft... it usually doesnt get this cold when the aircon is on!) it's gonna be a whole lot colder when I go home. Maybe I'll even get to see some snow!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 8:56:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | #

OK, so it's been 16 hours now since the quake. It was reported on the radio this morning (surprise surprise) and google news turns up 63 hits on it (as of this morning) and even MSNBC picked it up from the newswires and ran with it.

The good: No damage or injuries were reported

The bad: People have finally stopped asking about the hurricane

The ugly: People wont stop asking you where you were during the earthquake

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 8:01:29 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman#
Tuesday, December 14, 2004

We just had a 6.7magnitude earthquake about 40 minutes ago.

Info here

I was on the elliptical trainer at the gym, and suddenly I lurched into the console and then had to hold on as I swayed back away from the machine. I thought maybe I was pushing too hard and slowed down, and then it happened again. About the same time I noticed other people looking around with confused looks on their faces, so I looked around for a ceiling fan or lights and saw them swaying. I took my headphones off, and just then the Manager came through the workout area and asked everyone to orderly evacuate the building til they could figure out what was going on.

That building took some major damage from the hurricane, so maybe they thought because the gym was full, the load bearing walls were buckling or something. As soon as we got outside and people couldn't put cell phone calls through because the network was so busy, I knew it wwas bigger than just the gym.

My next thought was “oh my god, I hope there's no tidal wave” and so far there hasnt been. I came home and got online right away and checked out and found the link above. They hadn't even had a chance to report on it yet, the last one (of the 7 so far today) was jut off the coast of El Salvador, but someone pointed out to me that it was 18:22 UTC which was noon here, so that wasn't it.

Then they updated the page with the link I posted above, and it was 21 miles south of Bodden Town. That's more or less where the Cayman Trench is, and it's 26,000 feet deep out there.

More later

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 4:16:38 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Cayman#
Finished Halo 2 last night. The ending sucked. No spoilers if you haven't finished it yet, it's safe to read on.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 5:33:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Gaming | Microsoft#
Thursday, December 9, 2004

Here's a final breakdown of what it cost me in US dollars to get my jeep here, legal, and on the road.

Subscription to Carfax $25
Packet8 Phone Calls to Miami FREE
Flight to Miami $91
Rental Car $78
Hotel Room for the night $90
1995 Jeep Wrangler Rio Grande $4395
Towtruck to take it to Port Everglades $80
Shipping from Port Everglades to Grand Cayman $975
Reduced Rate Import Duty (17.5%) $995
Environmental Disposal Fee on Imported Cars $312
Dock, Cargo & Trucking Fees $57
New headlights that are aimed the opposite direction $95
Roadworthiness Inspection $32
Insurance (incl 50% No Claims Discount) $662
New License Plates fee $62
Vehicle Registration (6 mos) $100

Finally getting my own transportation again:



The total came out to about $8000 US dollars. In Cayman Dollars, it's 6720. Now I know intimately why Jeeps in particular are so expensive down here. There was a '92 in the paper for $6000 CI last week, and it was rusty, had no top and was ugly. Chopper sold his '89 Wrangler with no top, and no power steering pump and a whole bunch of other issues for $1200 CI. At the “going rate” mine's gotta be at least $8000 CI down here. If I sold it for that today, I'd stand to make a 25% profit.

That $8000 US total does NOT include 3 days of standing in lines and queueing up for customs, port authority, insurance, inspection and plates. Plus then I'd have to go and find another Jeep as clean and in as good condition as this one and then start the whole process all over again. Thank you, but no thank you.

I'm still optimistic about going to Vancouver for xmas, so I'll be sure to prowl the wreckers on Scott Road for a new tailgate, bumperettes, drivers side door closer and maybe a back seat. At least those prices are in Canadian dollars. I'll bring the parts back as luggage and have them installed and painted here with the claim from the shipping company whenever that check arrives.

Last thing I need to get now, aside from a Maple Leaf bumper sticker (there are 2 other Jeep Rio Grandes on the island and ya gotta be able to tell when it's ME parked outside Lone Star and come belly up to the bar :)) and a center console from Tuffy Products. Nat has two of them, one in his jeep and one in his Land Rover. They're pretty cool, they're 16 guage steel, and bolt directly to the floor giving you secure storage space, a little flip-down lid that secures/holds a standard DIN stereo and even has cup holders! They're also a bit pricey, so I'll probably wait til February to get one of those bad boys.

Stay tuned for pictures, I'll give it a wash this weekend to get the three weeks of sitting at the port and on a ship dust and dirt off of it.

Thursday, December 9, 2004 8:17:20 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman#
Tuesday, December 7, 2004
If you ever need to import a car to the Cayman Islands, email me first and I'll try and talk you out of it.
Tuesday, December 7, 2004 8:12:26 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Jeep | Rants#
Monday, December 6, 2004

Rich tweaked me to this article in the Vancouver Sun last week. It has a pic of Freya and Pammy from Legendz in it and also has some quotes from Brad (the owner of Legendz) and even one from Fede!

I've been in contact with them via email (I was at the airport working the week after the hurricane and saw em when they were waiting/leaving on a jet plane, not knowing when theyd be back again...) so hopefully I can round up my West Coast Crew (you know who you are) and go have a beverage or two when I get home for xmas (IF I get home for xmas)

Monday, December 6, 2004 6:43:33 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links#

Normally Monday's are a bad thing. I think I picked that up from reading too many Garfield comics when I was a kid.

Monday started off not-to-good, I got stopped by traffic about 1/4 mile from home, just before the West Bay public dock on Northwest Point Road. It was bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic all the way through West Bay, down Seven Mile Beach and really didnt clear up at all until I turned at the bypass to go to Texaco and then Cafe Del Sol. 40 minutes to go about 8 miles.

I decided to stop at Thompson Shipping on my way in to work this morning, just because Im a sucker for punishment. My Jeep was supposed to arrive (damaged) yesterday, so I thought I'd pop in and take a chance and see if the paperwork was there. It was! w00t! $972.76 cents US for shipping a car down here from Florida. 738.50 was the freight charge, 139.26 in bunker surcharge (I assume that means fuel), 55 for documentation and 40.00 security charge. Next stop is Customs, but after digging out and making a point of grabbing my documentation, I forgot it at home, so I need to do a little apple polishing this mornigng and see if I can get some personal time to run home and get it and go out to Customs... then insurance, then inspection, and then licensing. I'll probably wait and do the licensing tomorrow, go stand in line before they open and be one of the first ones in.

After that I was heading down Eastern Ave and heard the end of “broken” that song by some band I don't know and the girl from Evanescence. The DJ came on and said that was song 1 of “what do these songs have in common?” and then played Shiny Happy People by REM. I took a chance, dialed them up and they answered right away. I said “Are they duets?” and TA-DA! I won lunch at A La Kebab! “Sweet!” I said “free Kebab and I don't even have to get drunk first!”. They said my name wrong when they announced me as the winner (after playing the third song, the one with Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow) but I'm SO over people pronouncing my name wrong, I got over THAT about 25 years ago.

Monday, December 6, 2004 5:51:45 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Cayman#
Sunday, December 5, 2004

Joanne with egg-yolk

Scuba Steve shooting French Angelfish

Baby Hawksbill Turtle

Facing astern from the bow of the Oro Verde

Flame Scallop hiding out during the day

I went out with John & Jo from Rivers Sport Divers again this morning. I planned ahead and wore as sweatshirt and packed my Chammy in my backpack, as well as taking the Sun Shower for some hot water to rinse with aprs-dive. We went to Trinity Caves for the first dive and then followed that up with a dive on the Oro Verde. I've done this combination of dives many times before, and even since the hurricane. The good thing about that is I can take similar pictures to what I've taken before and compare the results.

Im shooting with a Canon Powershot S70 now, in a Canon WP-DC40 Underwater Housing. This housing has a diffuser over the flash, and a specific white balance setting for Underwater. Don't use it. Custom White Balance is still the best way to go. I tried messing around with both settings, with and without the flash, and with and without the flash diffuser plate installed too. Couldn't find Kermit today on the OV, which would have made a good subject for some toothy portraits but oh well, next time.

Joanne was teaching an Advanced Open Water Course (Adventures in Diving) for Steve the Insurance guy (who bought my old camera off me) so on the first dive, to illustrate the effects of pressure, we took a 20oz soda bottle down with us, so you could see the air space getting smaller and smaller and making crunchy noises as it collapsed in on itself. Once we were down 100 feet, we opened the bottle and re-inflated it to normal volume and filled it with 4x dense air from 100'. I also pulled out my slate and wrote on it Convert this number from binary to decimal: 10 and showed it to Steve. He gave me the finger, which shows me that he was still in complete control of his faculties even at 100 feet :) Joanne had a couple eggs with her as well. When you crack open an egg underwater, it stays intact and the yolk stays a perfect yellow sphere (until a fish inevitably bites into it, tearing the yolk sac)

Once back on the boat, we took out the 20 oz bottle and it was well swelled. It was also rock hard. there was about 3 inches of water in it, so we put our hands on the bottle and cracked the top open. PSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHT! the air that comes out is extremely cold, which is a function of air decompressing. I think that's Henry's Law, but I can't be arsed to look it up at the moment.

We moved them to the Wreck of the Oro Verde. Actually we were at Peter's Reef (sometimes called Paradise Reef and sometimes called Lone Star Reef depending on which operator you're out with) and swam over to the wreck. Right after we dropped into the blue, two French Angelfish came up to see if we had any handouts. I teased them a bit, Im not sure if Steve got any shots of them swirling around my face, but soon they realized that I didnt have any food for them and they went to see if Steve had any. Right after that, as we turned towards the wreck again, I spotted a little baby Hawksbill turtle making his way down from the surface. We followed him for a bit and shot some images of him. I took a bunch with the Underwater White Balance setting, and they're too blue. Luckily I shot one on Custom White Balance that I had just evaluated, so I got this one good picture of it.

We noodled our way over the reef to the wreck and nosed around the wreckage looking for Kermit. When I got here in 1998, this wreck was still a relative ship-shape. It wasnt shipshape, just a ship shape. :) Hurricane Mitch that year tore her open amidships, and then Michelle in 2001 scattered her around. I think it was Michelle that scrapped the stern area as well. Ivan finished the job. There's an entire debris field now of metal bits & pieces. The engines are now visible, as they were inside before. The bow section that was intact before is still intact, however it's been picked up and moved 50 yards away from the reef towards the wall. We're talking about a 40-odd foot section of a ship, 16-20 feet wide, picked up and moved by the waves and storm surge. 50 feet down. That's some powerful weather.

We were approaching our turnaround time, and on the way back, in a little hole/socket thing near where the stern used to be, I saw some angel hair-like tentacles protruding. I looked closer and saw that it was a Flame Scallop. They look pretty cool when they're swimming around, but it also makes them rather vulnerable to predation during the day, so I let him(her?) be and shot some pictures of her. I tried about 6 combinations of white balance and flash and none of them really turned out ok except this one, but it still required a little levels and brightness work in Photoshop when I got home.

We got back on the boat, and the wind was sooooo cold. I strung up the Sun Shower, got some hot water into my wetsuit to warm up and then stripped down quickly, dried off quickly and put my Chammy on (my woobie) and wrapped the towel around my waist and put my ballcap on. I was pretty toasty after that.

So even though Canon has recognized how big a market segment there is for their digital camera users shooting underwater and has gone so far as to make an underwater preset for white balance, it's not enough. I suppose it's good for snorkelling, where you're so close to the surface that there's enough light penetration that you don't really need to mess with it all that much, but down below 30 feet and lower, you still need to use the Custom White Balance to bring the best colors out.

Sunday, December 5, 2004 6:56:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Underwater#
Thursday, December 2, 2004

MSN Music has an RSS Feed to their “top downloads” chart. It's beta, of course (or maybe I just have an old feed) so you get some weird instances.. usually it has to do with songs popping up with weird dates on them. Maybe it's because that was the date it was added to the Music Store, or whatever, but it shows up funky in my RSS Reader because I have them arranged by publication date.

This morning after my feeds all updated, there were two new songs on the MSN Most Downloaded chart. One was by Kelly Clarkson, and the other was Blue Oyster Cult's (Don't Fear) The Reaper.

Why on EARTH would an old song (but a good one) by Blue Oyster Cult be on the top downloads at the MSN music store in December, 2004? I guess a lotta people gotta have more cowbell, baby!

Thursday, December 2, 2004 6:10:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Microsoft | WWW#
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

For some, December 1st is the start of Christmas Season (or Channukah, or Kwanza, or whatever... whatever you want to celebrate, have a good celebration) For others, December 1st is when they start holiday shopping (preferring to avoid the crowds of Black Friday) For me, December 1st means the end of hurricane season.

This year especially, I'm glad to see the end of hurricane season. Every year that I've been down here, we've been affected to one extent or another. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch ripped out the dock and the tank-filling room from the Lobster Pot. 2000 brought Helene which managed to blow itself out and passed between the Cayman Islands as a tropical wave. In 2001, Chantal passed by Cayman right when I got back from Texas (where I had to deal with the rain/flooding from TS Allison) and then Iris was looking like it was coming right for us, but didn't have too much effect on us. Just when we thought we were all in the clear, Hurricane Michelle passed by to the west of us and the southwest corner of the island took a beating from waves. All that hard work we did rebuilding the dock & tank room after Mitch was removed and we had to do it all over again. Hurricane's Isidore and Lili came a-knocking in 2002 but left without doing any significant damage and last year, 2003, was fairly light with just Claudette to come into our area.

This year, however was another story. We started off with Charley, the storm that wasn't. Somehow it managed to pass by us by about 30 miles. 30 miles away from the eye of Charley, and we had nothin. Jenny went in to work an hour late and I went to work in the afternoon. Charley later gave Florida a serious ass-beating. Earl was headed for us but fizzled out into an open wave as it got into the Caribbean. Then came Ivan (pictures). Ivan was so big that the National Hurricane Center hasnt finalized and posted it's post-storm analysis and report yet.

This spring, we had a tropical storm in April, out of season. It didn't go anywhere, but it was classified as a tropical storm because of it's characteristics. Yesterday the NHC started issuing advisories on Tropical Storm Otto, but it was way out in the ocean and heading in the wrong direction (ie not west!). Otto is out-of-season as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 8:56:35 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Hurricane | Links#
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