Monday, June 26, 2006

Open Water Weekend

The night before my first ever open water dive, I fell asleep immediately, despite nervousness and excitement.  Being prone to anxiety dreams, I was pleased to note that my only dreams of diving centered around getting the wetsuit put on correctly.  Then I dreamed that I swam out alone into the ocean just a small way and floated a bit before coming back and thought it felt pretty OK.  Then I had a lengthy anxiety dream about double scheduling a dinner date with my mom and an outing of some sort with Dag and a bunch of high school friends.  I couldn't find the restaurant mom was at and the group of friends was following me but I really wanted to just have dinner alone with mom.  I woke up and kept sressing about how to solve it and had to tell myself "it's not real - you do not have to think about this!"
Continental breakfast - sugar, carbs and caffeine - sigh.  I had an apple then a bunch of nuts from my personal stash on the way to the beach.  By 10am, the first group, of which I was not a part, entered the water and began practicing their skills. 

Suiting up

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, even at 9am so it was nice to sit on the beach and wait our turn. 

Waiting to dive

I was shocked by how tight and claustrophobic the wetsuit felt, especially that infernal hood! 

Geared up and cranky

I, of course, was happy to have its warmth in the water, but it was like some kind of torture device on the surface.  And the pressure of the inflated BC on my ribs made it difficult to breathe even at the surface.  I felt so confident in the days and hours prior to the dive, that I was surprised to have a baby panic attack once we got down about 20 feet.  This happened because I couldn't control my extremeties or direction of my body and the sea floor below us was crawling with crabs and flounder and poor defenseless starfish that I felt very strongly about not stepping upon.  But since visibility is so poor, we basically go at negative bouyancy and crawl along the floor on our knuckles, dragging our fins and octopus behind us.  It bugged me a BUNCH.  But once I got the knuckle crawl down, I stopped being so flustered and could do a better job at not destroying the wildlife.
I was really woozy and tired after that.  The second dive was much better.  Since I already knew how to navigate, I didn't worry so much and could just swim around and look at stuff.
Because the weather was so nice I never got cold between dives and surprisingly, not during dives either.  It pains me, but I'm sure I have that awful hood to thank for it.
By that evening, I had developed a major crick in my neck so that I could not actually turn my head, an echo inside my head because my left ear was still full of water, and a migraine.  I popped a codeine during the video showing after dinner that evening and slept like a baby.
The second day I had slight trouble getting my breathing under control at the beginning of the second dive.  I am still getting used to the wetsuit and gear so my butt descends first leaving my legs flopping about above my head until I start to tip over to one side.  This is so frustrating I start to breathe weird and my left ear won't clear so I get all worked up worried that everyone is going to swim off before I get myself under control.  But they don't.  And I do get myself under control and then have lots of fun looking at stuff.  On the first dive of the second day, I spotted a wolf eel hiding nearby but couldn't get anyone's attention.  They saw it when it got freaked out and swam off ahead, though.  The last dive was short as my buddy was getting cold, but that was fine.  I was ready to stop carrying tanks around and to get out of the torture suit.  Despite what it must sound like, I am totally looking forward to the warm water diving we have planned!  Visibility will be good and I won't have to wear a hood and someone will be employed to carry the gear!  And whatever I have to pay for that, it will be worth it!
So now I am a certified Scuba Diver!  Hooray!


Students & Teacher

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Post-Ashland Post

A couple more things I couldn't leave the Ashland topic without mentioning...

The baby ducks in the pond at Lithia Park! So Cute!

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Also, since Dan is a self-proclaimed Train Geek, we made a couple of stops at train yards (yards?).

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According to Dan, and I think he knows, Ashland has some of the last standing Semaphores.

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Also, on Saturday before we left town, we checked out an original Shakespeare folio they have on display. One of the more interesting things about the printing of the time was that the only proofreading took place after the first sheets were printed and drying. If a mistake was found they could stop the presses and make corrections but the pages with the errors were still used. So there is no official correct version of the folio and no two copies are identical. According to the brochure I'm currently half-plagerizing, 235 copies of the first folio exist today in various collections and the one we viewed is one of the two finest.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Theater!

Friday started out with Breakfast at a cafe in downtown Ashland. Dag and I split a Chilaquiles scramble and a big plate of fruit.
We took a walk through the park, keeping eyes out for the bear that, according to the signs posted everywhere, has been spotted in the area recently. In case any of you run into a bear, I want you to know you should not look it directly in the eye, but back away facing the bear without blocking its escape route. If you just see cubs, it's probably Ok to just run like hell.

Bear Caution

Dag spotted a long skinny tree branch (still attached to the tree) that would be carried down the river to the point where the end of it would break the surface and it would snap back 180 degrees only to be caught again by the current. I could have watched that all day. We also happened upon a cairn forest right about the time my camera battery died (GAH!) but I think I got a couple of goodies. As we stood admiring the sculptures, one of them reached its breaking point and came crashing down around itself.

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After the walk we had smoothies and iced tea to get us through the Importance of Being Earnest. Unfortunately, the fruit smoothie I ordered ended up being a syrupy mess of sugar and I had a lot of trouble staying conscious during the play. I'm probably bruised from pinching my side. The play was fantastic! Very funny and superbly acted. And I understood everything when I wasn't being confused by the accents.
Afterwards we shuffled through the gift shop and then went in search of a recommended restaurant, which ended up being a bit too pricey for our collective comfort and went back to the brewpub for nachos and salads.
We caught an outdoor dance performance before Merry Wives started at 8:30. Creativity just oozes out of every crevice in this town.
Merry Wives was incredible! I only struggled a little with the language. Having read the synopsis helped a ton. The costumes were indescribable. Everything was bright bright colors and tulle and sequins and fishnets and hairspray. Three of the actors were also from TIOBE.
Here is a photo I took of the outdoor theater the next day as they were changing the set for another play. I'm not sure which one but maybe this is the one J & K saw on Monday!

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I will try to add some more details when I get home. It's time to get packed up and check out and head into town for more chilaquiles scramble. We'll be headed for home sometime after noon.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Medford

Dag has a sattelite navigational device on loan at the moment so we mounted it up to the windshield and it told us how to get to our hotel in Medford. I mean, we knew how, but it is fun to watch this machine tell you what you already know. "Keep left to go on ramp" "She's RIGHT!!!". Once she finished narrating our journey onto I-5, her voice said "drive for two hundred and sixty three miles" and was quiet. Except for when we'd pull off for bathroom or ice cream when she'd calmly tell us how to immediately get our asses back on the freeway for the LOVE OF GOD!
But back to ice cream. If you're ever driving south on I-5 somewhere between Eugene and Roseburg, you MUST take the Rice Hill exit to the K&L drive-in! There, a small ice cream cone consists of two scoops (you can get something called a "baby" which is one scoop and only fifty cents less than the small) the medium has four scoops and you guessed it, the large has six!

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I had a baby peanut butter and chocolate - Umpqua. But if you're not in the mood for ice cream, they also have jalapeno poppers, korn dogs, pb&J...really, most anything you'd like that can be fried. Not that I would eat a fried pb&j. Aside from the food, the people watching is exquisite and they have a really awesome "Diner" sign! Just go!

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Much to the calm chagrin of our navigator, we decided to pass the hotel and have dinner in Ashland. Dan gave us a quick tour of the town and where we'd be seeing our plays. I was wrong about the order in my last post. Earnest is at 2pm and Wives is after dark. We settled on an Indian place.

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The food was excellent. The service was stoic and then just tanked. I was annoyed because I had talked everyone into sharing a dessert that consisted of a syruped version of that homemade cheese that I love in so many Indian dishes. When the waiter dropped off our check (without ever having come by to ask if we wanted anything else) and I asked if we could get some of that, he said NO, that the kitchen was closed! NO he didn't want our money! Fine, mister frowney.
We got back in the car and really intended to use the satellite lady to find the hotel in what was now the dark. As it turns out, she got very confused and we ended up having to do it without her. In her defense, there is a giant concrete maze making it more or less impossible to drive straight to the Reston, but we had the advantage of being able to actually see the place so we eventually turned her off because there were already three people in the car all discussing what the next turn should be. She just added more chatter.
We got checked in and spent a couple hours chatting in the lounge attached to the Elmer's Pancake and Steak House across the parking lot: The Purple Parrot. When I worked at Elmer's, the lounge did not have its own name or its own entrance, I don't believe. But then I was too young to go in there so I could be mistaken.
Now it is 8:30AM and we are awake. Breakfast will ensue shortly.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Road Trip!

Today Dag and I are headed off in the backseat of our friends J and D (same J & D from the Vancouver trip last winter!) on our way to Ashland, OR to see some theater!
D, our most excellent cruise director, found an affordable hotel in Medford and on Saturday we will be watching The Merry Wives of Windsor in the afternoon followed by a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in an outdoor theater under the stars.
For all the time I've lived in Oregon, I have never been to Ashland (that I recall - Mom, you may be able to correct me here). It's such an Oregon thing to do - I'm really glad to be getting it under my belt. Since Shakespeare tends to leave me in the dust, even on paper where I have the benefit of being able to re-read paragraphs when necessary, I have read over a synopsis of MWOW beforehand. I'm not sure if Wilde also speaks in ways I can't comprehend, but just in case I also read a complete synopsis of TIOBE. They both sound quite jolly and wacky, which are traits I admire in most anything!
JD & the K thought Ashland sounded like a great idea but since they had Monday and Tuesday off instead, we will be passing them on the freeway as we head home - SAD! But they will have a great time too and will have different plays to review.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Another trip bites the dust!

...This is what Dag sang as our plane started its descent into Portland. Ah well. It's always a little disappointing to come home and never a joy to open an inbox with 300 emails in it at work, but at the same time, it's nice to have your routine back. Although this time it's taken me two days to really feel human again.
I would like to say one more thing about Chicago. I am really impressed by the way they incorporate nature into their city. It is not what I expected but what a pleasant surprise!

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Also, I would like to say CONGRATULATIONS Eileen and Carla! Thanks for a lovely time and I look forward to seeing you in July!!! Much love to you (although you seem to be quite full of the stuff these days! How splendid!).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wedding day!

I am much more willing to post now that I have stopped continually pushing the button that makes all the keys type Japanese characters, which is aggrivatingly close to the spacebar and my right thumb!
Dag and I took a lunchtime road trip out to a little community called Monticello today.

Oops!

Now Mark is here and we're going mini-golfing before dinner!

Post post:
So we made a second trip to Monticello on Saturday in hopes of getting to ride in a glider like we'd read about in a flyer (har) the day before while having lunch at the bistro that served real cheese! It took us quite a while to locate the airport and once we did, I became instantly 1000% shy. I'm pretty sure we were the only two people on that field that did not know every other person there and who voted for Kerry. I was certainly the only girl there with colored hair and too much cleavage showing. So we tiptoed around not seeing any big sized gliders. There were a ton of radio controlled ones being launched and then released by little motorized planes. That was cool.

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Finally, Dag got up the nerve to ask some guy where the big people glider rides were but he didn't know. He thought maybe they weren't happening simply because no one had asked yet. That seemed quite plausible so I got up some nerve too and asked one of the guys in the official red shirts. As it turns out, the tow plane had some part go south and they couldn't get a replacement in time for the event. Ah well. By then it was time to go back and get suited up for the wedding.
We got there on time to not be called "Bitches" by Eileen's best friend and usher, who was chomping at the bit to lay that title on any latecomers. The wedding was very sweet and there were lots of tears.

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The pastor also quoted Xtina a TON to the shock and awe of the brides. The mother of the bride captivated me with her reading of scripture. I'm not sure what she read (I don't have good recall for scripture type things) but I could have listened to her read it all night. The reception was lovely. The food was incredible (hummus, risotto, lamb, spinach salad, lentil cakes). I also loved the Oatmeal tier of the wedding cake!

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we finally got to play badmitton, although we hit most of the birdies over the fence into the neighbor's bushes. It was hard to leave since we will not be seeing those girls again for quite some time probably. I know they both had to go back to work this week but maybe they can get some real rest this coming weekend.

Where'd the Cheese go???

Thursday we walked around campus in the rain and read our Gunslinger books in a coffee shop (only I got a chocolate milkshake from the Potbelly next door). Dag is catching up to me since he skips the parts he finds annoying to read. I'm on the fourth book and he's just started the third. Shigeru wasn't feeling well and Eileen and Carla called off our get-together due to lack of sleep so Dag and I went out for dinner in downtown Champaign. The menu said "monterrey jack cheese" but the nachos also had Cheeze Sauce on them! I guess the rule is: No nachos outside of Oregon! Why is everyone so afraid of real cheese???

This morning I had a swim after breakfast and soon we will meet Mark and possibly Shigeru for mini golf. Shigeru and Carla have both come down with some yukky illnesses and Mark has also been to the emergency room since arriving in Champaign due to some derma-malady. The only trauma-free zone seems to be the immediate surroundings of Dag and I. Looking for lunch, Dag and I drove through 18 miles of farmland to a cute little town called Monticello. We chose a bistro that did not have nachos on the menu, but I feel confident that if they had, they would definitely have used real cheese! In fact, I believe they put real cheese on my sandwich!

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We got back later than we'd anticipated because it was too tempting to drive around looking at everything. But we decided we could not pass up the mini-golf. Shigeru was still in the beginning of his 36 hour sleep but Mark joined us.

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We got to hole 8 before the hail/thunderstorm and unfortunately we didn't have time to wait it out as we had a 6:00 date for Eileen and Carla's family pre-wedding dinner. Dag and I shared goat cheese ravioli and a salmon plate with morels, spiral fern and roe.
Afterwards, we all went over to L & J's house, which is being packed up for the big move. I helped out by purchasing all of their X-files episodes on VHS! Dag also picked up the original Poseidon Adventure and My Own Private Idaho, which reminds me of a joke: Why were there only 49 contestants in the Miss USA contest? Because no one wanted to be miss I Da Ho! Har har! Anyway, it was really cool to meet all of the people who Eileen has been so close to in Illinois. I have known them briefly on Live Journal but you can't beat face to face.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sea of Happiness

Tuesday was the hottest yet. We had to stop halfway to the Museum for iced teas and ice cream or we'd have never made it. We chose the Museum over the Aquarium this time. They have the largest, most complete T-Rex skeleton here as well as a temporary exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. We paid $3 extra apiece for the Underground Experience or something like that, which I thought would have bugs in it (I like bugs), but which turned out to be foot after foot of fake dirt with giant plastic bugs glued to it with the occasional animatronic spider or crawdad.

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That day's nap didn't do a lot for me. We went into the Sea of Happiness and asked where the nearest movie theater was and not only did they tell us, but one of the regulars gave us free tickets to see Poseidon, which we found when we got to the theater, was starting in only 20 minutes. Crazy! It was certianly not a great movie, but it was far from the worst, and the price was right!

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Afterwards at the Sea of Happiness, the owner bought us a round. I bought a tank top and 10 minutes later he came by the table and said in his thick Greek accent "go in the office and pick out a red one! You'd look good in the red one!" He made me go in there and put it on (hope those cameras were all set up-har) and then showered us with matchbooks and free drink cards. We love Chicago! Despite my earlier fatigue, we stayed until 1:30am chatting him up about Greece.

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Wednesday we checked out, picked up our rental car and drove to Champaign. It's been raining a lot, thwarting our plans of badmitton and croquet! Bah! Today we may take a train ride. Now, I need to return Mark's laptop.

Walking after midnight (way after)

We've been sleeping in like crazy every morning, which is atypical, but has been lovely. Sunday we spent some time in Millenium park with the rest of the city and its tourists. The giant bean shaped mirrored sculpture is as cool as you may have heard!

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We shuffled (it was SO HOT) from there down to the pier and back over the river and to the Rainforest Cafe. It's a horrid piece of corporate crap, but I just LOVE themed decor and they really go all out with the periodic tropical rainstorms and animatronic wildlife. But calling our meal an "adventure" and our waitress our "safari guide" or whatever, made me cranky. Or maybe it was the processed cheese on our nachos.

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After another nap, we met Mark and Shigeru, who had been in the city for a couple of days already. We tried a different Thai place, which as it turns out, is exactly the same as the first one only a few blocks away! We steered clear of the spring rolls and had a tasty dinner. We spent the rest of the evening talking and laughing at the Billy Goat.
Monday was the same but substitute a walk around Lincoln Park and on the beach for Millenium Park and the Pier. Also, it rained and thundered! But it was still warm. It was tank top rain!

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That night we found one blues club open (it was Memorial day, you know): Chicago Blue. The band was great and on the way home we made up our own blues songs, mostly about my cat, Chloe, and how she meows in Dag's face when he's trying to sleep but then if he barks at her like a dog and scares her away, he gets in trouble. Yeah, he's got dem kitty kat bluuuuuuuesss!

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When I went up to pay the tab, I said over the noise of the band "I'd like to settle up". The bartender put a glass on the bar and filled it up with a fizzy clear liquid and a straw. I looked at him quizzically and he said "Ooohhh! You want to PAY!" and went to get my credit card. I then realized that what was in front of me was a fizzy glass of SEVEN UP. When he came back we both had a giggle over it.

Cheezeborgers!

3AM came awfully early the morning of our departure to Denver, the halfway stop between Portland and Chicago Midway Airport. Of course I had been up late tweaking my packing system only to have Dag call to remind me we might need to dress up a bit more for some of the blues clubs in Chicago. So there I was, at 10:30PM, five hours before I needed to wake up, safety pinning the front of the most ridiculously impractical (but oh-so-lovely!) little black dress. Reason overcame me and I brought a dress that did not need an additional independent closure system to remain decent and finally got about four hours of sleep. Despite the Holiday weekend, the airport was desolate at 4:45 in the morning, yet our plane still filled up. I don't know where all those people came from, because they weren't at the gate, but they ALL had children under the age of 1. Seriously, we were surrounded! On both flights!
In front of the elevators in MDW airport, they loop the song "Working in a Coal Mine". I guess they figure you will never be standing there long enough to hear the song more than once, so why play more than one? (We just happened to arrive at the doors to hear the end of one loop and the beginning of the next).
We arrived at our miniature hotel room in the mid-afternoon. It's the kind of hotel room that makes you really want to get out and see the city!

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We started out with Thai food, a welcome break from the salted nuts we'd been surviving on for the past twelve hours. But I have to wonder if I could have eaten those icky spring rolls if I'd not been starving to death. They had this odd congealed sugary oyster sauce on top of them and the wrapper seemed kind of chalky. But we ate them all up.
Afterwards we checked out the famous Billy Goat tavern, of Belushi's Cheezborger skit. I haven't seen it myself, but I've now heard several different people's renditions and feel that I have a pretty good grasp on the intricacies.
After a nap, we stopped in at the Sea of Happiness, the bar attached to the hotel. It's your classic teeny dive bar. Very comfy and friendly and cheap and smelling of smoke. We walked down to Navy Pier and caught the fireworks display.
Why would someone think that a fireworks display would require a soundtrack? Are colorful explosions in the sky not majestic enough without Neil Diamond's "They come into America"? I then paid almost four dollars for a sad little scoop of ice cream while Dag followed the constant stream of signs indicating a nearby restroom (yet not actually being nearby a restroom and seeming to be designed only to lead you by all of the vendor booths!). We hightailed it out of there and had a late night breakfast at the place our bartender at the Sea of Happiness had recommended.
The weather was hot hot hot and humid...the restaurants air conditioned beyond belief. So we had alternating shots at comfort.