Monday, July 31, 2006

Proud Papa

Here is the first picture of my son/daughter. I think he/she looks like me, no? Especially the belly. So, the only sure things today are birth and taxes.

Paying the Piper

Got back from the picnic last night around 6pm. It was a long drive through bucolic Pennsylvania. I have been thanking the gods for the invention of air conditioning many, many times this summer and this week should be no different with temperatures expected to be near 100 degrees most days this week. I got seriously banged on NY State income taxes this year (well, for the last couple of years actually); A few minutes ago I had to hold my nose and send George Pataki an inordinately large amount of money for the privilege of residing in this shit-hole. It’s bad enough actually having to live here, never mind shelling out thousands of dollars for the privilege. I guess I wouldn’t mind if the government wasn’t so corrupt and the money was spent intelligently. I suppose that is too much to ask of any government, especially here in the epitome of dysfunctional local government. My sympathy for libertarian ideals increases in direct proportion to the amount of money the government steals from me each year. I’m no Astor, just a simple country lawyer, yet the government refused to waive the usurious penalties assessed to my late tax payment, stating that “inability to pay” is not a sufficient hardship to warrant waiving the fees. Clearly, going to law school was a financial disaster whose reverberations are still echoing through my financial life.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Terrapin, I Can't Figure Out

After searching the web over I have finally located a few pictures of Jerry in the briny deep. Here he is playing with a turtle. Jerry was quite a diver and he and Billy would often spend the down-time between Dead tours diving off the island of Kona.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bluemont has to be one of the prettiest places on earth. Steeped in civil war history it is unfortunately on the verge of being built out like the rest of Loudon County and turning into a Washington DC exurb. You can still feel the old south when you wander through town though. A brief history of the town, excerpted here, can be found on the web site. I recommend a trip to the fair; last year I spent an hour speaking to a woman about spinning wool and also had a great time discussing the trials and tribulations of raising llamas and alpacas. Mark Zalewski, my father-in-law and his brother Andy put together a model train exhibit that recreates in model form the exact train line that ran to town from the Civil War up until the 1950s. There is also a chili cook-off, a tractor pull and an invite only kegger/BBQ on Saturday night in the middle of town. Usually a live blues band plays on the porch. Yeee haw!
“In 1769, the land on which Bluemont lies was conveyed to John Augustine Washington, from George Carter who had received a land patent from Lord Fairfax. Washington, in turn, conveyed 624 acres to Edward Snickers. Snickers sold to Richard Wistar of Philadelphia in 1777, and Wistar sold to William Clayton whose son Amos Clayton built splendid Clayton Hall at the side of the Snickersville Turnpike in 1797.

In 1807, when Snickers operated a ferry across the Shenandoah River, the area was called Snickers Gap. The settlement became known as Snickersville as an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1826. In 1853, Snickersville contained “fifteen dwelling houses, one house of public worship, one common school, one Masonic hall, two factories, one tailor, one wagon maker, three blacksmiths, and one copper and tin plate worker.”

When the Civil War descended, a skirmish occurred right in the village when the Yankees, in search of some good home cooking, met up with a Confederate band. Then, by the late 19th century, the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad extended its service to Snickersville. As part of its promotion of the town as a vacation resort at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the railroad initiated a name-change to Bluemont, capitalizing on the cool ridges away from the Washington heat.

Between 1900 and 1905, the E.E. Lake Store was built to accommodate an ice cream parlor, a general store, a barbershop, the post office, and a meeting and dance hall upstairs. Buggy rides transported visitors to Bear’s Den to view the valley. Drummers took meals at Mrs. Weadon’s: fried chicken, country ham, fresh vegetables, hot rolls, pies, buttermilk or sweet milk – all for 50 cents.

The Bluemont Citizens Association was organized in 1955 and the Fair in 1970 to celebrate those eras of our history. An industrious, innovative people, Bluemonters are looking to the new century with renewal in mind while also glancing back to appreciate the contributions of those who found life close to idyllic here at the foot of the Blue Ridge. “

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Tomorrow we’ll be heading down to Bluemont for the annual Harrington family reunion. I took a look at and its supposed to exceed 90 degrees for the entire week-end. Because there are 35 people staying at or around the farm, Becky and I will be sleeping in our tent which, at 92 degrees, is similar in temperature to sleeping inside of a zip lock sandwich bag. Other relatives are, intelligently in my opinion, staying in nice air-conditioned hotel rooms in Leesburg. Becky frowns on anything which would detract from the summer-camp atmosphere of the reunion so looks like it’s the sauna for both of us.

The party itself is always a good time; lots to eat and drink and quite a bit of lolling around by the pool. The big question is whether we break the news that she is expecting. I say yes, she’s a little more hesitant. On August 10 it will have been three months so I say what the hell. Of course, I defer to her in this regard. The expectant father books I’ve been reading for free at the Strand during lunch all recommend deferring to the expectant mother on a variety, well, actually, all decisions. (Plus, after 10 years of marriage I am a champ at agreeing to things). I’m not looking forward to driving in week-end traffic but I can’t really take a day off in my first three weeks, especially considering that they are moving us across the street to 160 Water Street tomorrow.

Whenever I go to these family things that are heavy on the children I always am amused by the fact that the fathers all get totally bombed; I suppose the opportunity doesn’t arise too often during the rest of the year. Are the pressures of having kids so great that such a pressure release is necessary? I wonder. My personal view is that if you like your lifestyle it is better to try to integrate the kids into it rather than try to change into some socially accepted father role. My kids are going to canoe, hike, swim, dive, and will probably never go to Disney world. My main objection to bringing children into the world was always the fact that I couldn’t bear the thought of providing this sick society with more drones for the hive. If I thought it feasible it would be home schooling in the compound for me. No television. No constant exposure to advertisements and lies from the media and the politicians about how great America is and how much better we are than the French, or whoever we are disagreeing with at a particular moment.

Frankly, I fear patriotism. The emotion is so easily manipulated by our rulers. This inept and illegitimate administration has managed to learn at least one lesson from history:
“Naturally the common people don't want war…That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command, Nuremburg trials, 1946

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Dreaded Shark River Inlet:

From NJ "Shark River Inlet in Avon, New Jersey, is used by boaters to reach the Atlantic, by fishermen to obtain a fresh dinner and by scuba divers to explore a new and exciting world. People who stroll the beaches and boardwalks are awed by the inlet?s beautiful panorama. Hidden beneath the surface of the water, however, is another world, a world foreign to the majority of surface dwellers. In this undersea world of everyday conflict, the weak and wounded soon become part of the food chain."

Day Two

We got on the road from Kutztown a little late the next morning despite the fact that we got a solid night’s sleep. Kutztown on a Sunday morning in the summer is dead quiet; no traffic in town besides the occasional Mennonite in suspenders and a straw hat cycling to church, and the only store open is the Letterman Diner. After a few cups of strong farmer’s coffee we slipped out of town, driving the winding country roads back to route 78 and waving at the Amish in their buggies as they clip clopped down the road in the opposite direction. The sky on Sunday was azure blue, the temperature was in the mid 70’s and the wind was calm; perfect weather for diving.

While Dave and Lauren set about listening to Ryan’s briefing about the skills required for their second dive, Arthur and I made plans top visit the Sikorsky helicopter at the far southern end of the quarry. (See picture). The route was the same until you got to the bus. From that point to locate the helicopter you have to navigate due south from the front of the bus and swim along the bottom for about 75 yards because there was no line running to the copter. Again the water was pretty snotty and cold and the hardest part was getting far enough away from the bus so the compass worked while still keeping it in sight as a point of reference. (For the non-divers, compasses are useless on metal wrecks because the metal screws with the magnetic field giving an inaccurate reading). After swimming along for a few minutes I noticed a line running up from the bottom. We had successfully navigated to the helicopter which was not in the sand, but suspended from the surface and the bottom so it appeared to be hovering at around 40 feet. Many large openings in the fuselage allowed for easy penetration; it was a good opportunity to practice buoyancy control in a wreck environment. We headed back at 1200 psi and finished the dive looking for crayfish to feed the bass back at the platform. It was an awesome dive and really whetted my appetite for more wreck diving. Our second dive was a simple out and back along the wall running the northern edge of the quarry. The dive was pleasant enough but kind of blasé. Max depth was 42 feet though we stayed at about 25’ for most of the trip.

I think I’ll probably accompany the advanced open water students for some dives in August but I am really looking forward to the night dive in the Shark River Inlet which is scheduled for August 24, 2006. I find buoyancy to be so effortless in salt water, even with the 7mm Michelin Man wetsuit one has to sport up here to stay warm. Ryan also mentioned that the tides were right on August 10 so we might steal down there to scoot from the intake out to around the jetty; either that or do some bug (lobster) hunting.

Tomorrow I will post on some non-diving topics, I swear.

Monday, July 24, 2006

You're Either On The Bus or Off The Bus

Well folks, what a fun week-end. As per previous entries I accompanied Dave to Dutch Springs for his check-out dives. Saturday was hot, humid and overcast, but the water was very nive. 80 degrees on the surface gave way to a chilly 47 degrees at 61feet. The visibility was pretty bad, attributable, I think, to the series of torrential downpours that came through the eastern Pennsylvania area last week. Present for the dives were myself, Ryan, Dave, Lauren (his classmate), John (Lauren’s boyfriend), Father Frank, Siobhan and Arthur. I had never met Arthur prior to Saturday but he proved to be a reliable and competent dive partner. I ended up doing most of my dives with Arthur since John wanted to tag along with Lauren. While Ryan took Dave, Lauren and John through the skills required for Open Water certification, the rest of us planned a couple of fun dives to see some of the vehicles that have been sunk throughout the quarry by the Dutch Springs owners. Our first excursion involved a lengthy surface swim to a white ball attached to a down-line leading to the fire truck at about the 18 foot mark. From there, we took the line running from the front of the truck, past a sunken 25 foot boat, past a platform to another line. Our intent was to get to the water tanker sitting at about 60 feet. We set the turn-around for 1200psi which Father Frank reached before we got to the tanker. It was very cold and very dark. What viz there was, was obscured by a lot of floating snot-like green things. We turned around and headed back to the fire truck. Once there, Siobhan had ear problems and she and Father Frank went up while Arthur and I navigated back along the wall since we didn’t want to have a long surface swim. Unknown to me Sioban took this as some kind of personal affront and expressed during the surface interval that we all should have gone up together. Ryan shot her down right away since I was buddied with Arthur and why should we have to cut our dive short because her and Frank can’t navigate and therefore use up all of their air too soon. Siobhan had also been out very late the night before which probably contributed to her ear problems. Screw it. If Arthur said go up I’d have been right there but when I drive 1.5 hours to dive in what is basically a big bathtub, I’m not going to terminate a dive because someone I’m not even paired up with has to ascend to the surface from 25 feet. Fr. Frank was right there with her; not my problem.
The second dive also ended with Fr. Franh and Siobahn, despite briefing the dive in detail before we went down, starting off on the wrong line. I pulled everyone back once it became clear that we were all headed the wrong way. This time our destination was a sunken schoolbus. While Frank and Siobhan had to turn back, again, for unknown reasons, Arthur and I made it to the bus, penetrated it through the back emergency exit door and came out through the roof. After playing around for a while we headed back. I didn’t have my gloves on and the water temp was in the 50’s. Brrr. We got some good bottom time.
Dave and Lauren had a good first days diving, although Dave's first act of the day was to yank the purge valve on his BC so hard that he pulled out the cord. Hehe. After packing up the cars, Powiee and I headed out to Kristin’s, got a steak at the brew pub and collapsed into bed around ten, primed for day two.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Captain Tony

Tomorrow we head out to Dutch for two days of diving. I’ll be getting my Nitrox books from Ryan and will hopefully have that specialty nailed within a month or so. When I dove on the Captain Tony down off Boynton Beach I was the only one on the dive boat on air, the rest were on Nitrox. That dive was also my first with a new computer, the Aeros Atmos 2. I almost ran out of air because I was so preoccupied with monitoring the computer and keeping an eye on my no-deco time that I neglected to keep an eye on my SPG. I suppose in the back of my head I thought that I would just head up when I saw other divers making their way up the anchor line, not fully realizing that I had less bottom time due to me sucking more air at 89 feet than my Nitrox friends. Of course If I had a buddy this wouldn’t have happened but I was down in Florida on my own and the DM said we should all just “dive as a group”. I thought that irresponsible and I guess I should have opened my mouth at the time. I stuck relatively close to an instructor and student so if I had run into any serious problems I think I’d have been ok. Still, I did not like hitting the boat with 250psi in my tank. I left myself a very thin margin of error. The bright side? I got long bottom time and on every subsequent dive I check my SPG every minute. Every dive teaches a lesson.

The wreck itself was incredible; the ship is sitting upright in about 85 feet of warm water. There was an abundance of marine life and the superstructure was covered with colorful coral and sponges. The viz was at least 100 feet and the water was about 82 degrees. I was completely comfortable in a 3mm wet suit with no hood or gloves. Seas were calm, the sun was out and I was totally narced at the bottom. The accompanying picture is the Captain Tony when she was still known as the M/V Becks just prior to her sinking.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dutch Springs

Just got the word that Dave will be heading out to Dutch Spring for his check-out dives this week-end after all. In the early 1930's this area was nothing more than three farms in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. From NJ

"The National Portland Cement Co. surveyed the area and purchased the farms to begin excavation. The area is rich in limestone that is used in the manufacture of cement. As they began to remove the limestone and dug deeper the quarry began to flood. Pumping of water had to begin almost immediately to keep the quarry operational. During World War II most of the employees were needed for the war effort. To save money the pumps were shut off and the quarry was allowed to fill.

After the employees returned the pumps were turned back on and the removal of limestone continued. The depth of the quarry now reached almost 100'. In the 1970's the quarry went out of business the pumps were shut off for the final time and the quarry became a lake. Purchased by 5 partners whose intent was to develop the lake for diving, Dutch Springs opened for business Labor day of 1980. Crowds flocked in the single digits to experience a small entry area and 1 submerged platform. Fifteen years later there are 15 platforms and a variety of entry areas with ample parking." Indeed.

I am psyched as I finally have someone to carpool with. Best of luck Dave, I'm sure you will kick ass! Here is a picture of what Dave will be doing on his second check-out dive.

Foreign Brides

Lots going on today folks. Work was, again, uneventful. However, after work I retired to the Heartland Brewery down at the seaport where I was supposed to meet Becky for a spot of dinner. Well, Becky got held up at the discount store (to be fair she was buying me a shirt) and didn't show up until 6:30 or so by which time I had struck up a converation with a 50ish man who was sitting with a 20 year old Chinese woman for whom English was obviously not a primary language. He broke the ice by inquiring whether the "Grateful Red" beer I was drinking was "anything like Bass". When I answered in the affirmative, he ordered one as well as a glass of water for his Chinese friend. After a few more beers and some conversation about the best pizza in New York (Denino's on Staten Island), he confided that he had recently gone to China to take his bride, whom he met on the internet, back to the United States. Now, I've seen a lot of screwed up relationships since I've been in New York, and this one was no better or worse, except for the fact that his fiancee was licking her lips and giving me a flashy smile over his shoulder while I was holding forth on where to get the best Cannoli on Staten Island. Clearly she didn't think the best Cannoli was to be found in Edison New Jersey where he brought her after he Shanghighed her (sorry) in China. You know, I'm a sucker for love in all of its forms, especially May-Decemner relationships between 50 year old electricians and farm girls from China, but I'll bet my last renbi that this relationship lasts as long as it gets her to secure a green card. She said that New York, "reminded her of China" and I don't know whether that says more about China or the present state of New York. Anyway I wish them well.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Not Much to Report

Kind of an uneventful Wednesday. Settling into the job and all. The heat finally broke last night. When I got home yesterday it was 98 degrees, 24 hours later its in the low 70s. Summer in New York.There's something wrong with the new Staten Island Ferries. They've been trotting out the Lehman and the Kennedy to fill the gap. Those ships were supposed to be decomissioned a year ago but the new boats are apparently beset with mechanical problems. The ferryboat John J. Marchi died in the middle of the harbor yesterday. The lame new ferryboats are simply another example of New York City taxpayers being ripped off and then being told that they are getting a great benefit. Am I alone in thinking that the new ferry terminals are constructed out of crappy materials that look like the place is going to fall apart within five years? The City has got a great PR machine but it is so short on substance. Not only are the new boats crappy mechanically but they also seem carefully designed to strip any any warmpth or pleasure out of the daily commute. The JFK class boats were designed with wooden benches positioned so that the maximum number of seats faced the water. No matter how crowded those boats got they always felt spacious. The new boats have cold metal seats haphazardly plopped down so as to make one feel as if they are riding in a large waiting-room at the DMV. Its tragic that people with no sense of asthetics are allowed to make lifestyle choices for the rest of us. And as long as I am ranting about the ferry, who on God's green earth is responsible for giving out the food service contract on those boats. The only, and I mean only redeeming virtue of the snack stand is that the beer is reasonably priced. Ok, in the interests of full disclosure I have occasionally choked down a "hotdog" on the late boat and didn't end up in the hospital, but com on, the quality of the food wouldn't even meet the standards of a 7-11 in Newark. Shame on the DOT for having no quality control oversight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Someone Actually Reads This Thing

From: Michael Sande
To: Mark Rutkowski
Subject: Re: My blog
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 09:34:43 -0700 (PDT)

Your blog is very interesting and professional. I'm
impressed. And I didn't know you had taken up scuba
diving and were now hanging out with diving TV stars.
You're leading quite a fulfilling life. By the way,
that will all come to an end when the baby is born.

You know, I was wondering if you had a going-away
party at C&D. For some reason, no one told me
anything about it, and I suspected that you might be
the kind of person who would refuse to allow such an
event to occur. I'm sorry that I was wrong -- I would
have liked to be there.

How's the job transition going? And how is your wife

Hey Mike,

In fact, I did have a going away party which I had absolutely nothing to do with arranging. I thought you were away that week so I didn't e-mail you. Sorry! It would have been nice to have you there. It was a drunken mess, as all of those affairs tend to be. The new job is surprisingly like it appeared on paper; 9-5 with an hour for lunch. I tried going to see my supervisor at 5:05 the other day and I was told by a bemused porter that he had already left. Evaluating coverage, liability and damages for construction defect claims in California is about as interesting as watching grass grow but I only have to do it for seven hours a day. My hope, and from what I've heard this is not an off the wall hope, is that I'll be able to transfer to the international division and my child will then be able to grow up speaking Chinese, Vietnamese or French. I think I have a couple of years parsing policy exclusions ahead of me though before that happens. You would be amazed at how low the stress level is compared to litigation. I now actually sleep on Sunday nights.

Becky is ok, although she is tired much of the time. Fortunately she not too crazy. Yet. In a spurt of panic precipitated by upcoming fatherhood I have been trying to get our financial situation in order but it is like herding cats.

I realize my dream of diving on the Andrea Doria will probably be superceded by diper changes and trips to Hershey Park (I will never, ever go to Disney World, that place seriously creeps me out), so I am cramming in as much diving this summer as possible. I'll be heading to Dutch Springs, an old quarry in PA that has been turned into an amusement park for divers; they sunk a few old helicopters and boats and its an amusing (not to mention refreshing) place to spend a hot summer day.

How is your wife? How far along is she? Since our kids are going to be around the same age we should all go to the park and do whatever 38 year old men do in the park with their kids. I'm posting your letter and my response on my blog because I only have the energy to come up with one witty bit of prose per day and this was it.

Peace in the Middle East

Today I'm giving guest blogger status to someone who clearly knows more about the middle-ease that I do. I won't identify Mr. X unless he gives permission but here is his take on reccent events:

"I think you are wrong about the U S Israel connection as per
your blog.

Israel gets more military aid from the U S than any other
country, but there has been an unwritten agreement, going
back half a century or more, that the U S would never intervene
militarily. I don't know what would happen if Israel was really
thereatened with an overwhelming invasion, but Arab military
power has til now been so inept, and there has been much
bluster and cowardice, and little action by them.

What has happened is that Shiite Iran is emboldened by the
presence of a Shiite led government in neighboring Iraq. Oddly
enough we have given Iran, a much greater threat to U S and
world security than Iraq, a present of a Shiite led government
that will align itself with Iran as soon as the U S leaves. So Iran
has played its card with the Shiite-led Hezbollah which it has
been bankrolling for a very long time, and probably overplayed
it. The Lebanese government is really a Syrian puppet, and has
never reigned Hezbollah in. The U S went after the Taliban
government in Afghanistan because they harbored Al Kaida
(sp?), so Israel's invasion is not that different.
Israel has never hesitated in going after its enemies if it
perceives itself as being threatened, with or without U S cover.
I don't know how public opinion in Israel feels about the
situation in Iraq, but most commentators on the American left
feel that the U S presence weakens, rather than strengthens
Israel's security, and they could point at the current situation
and say 'I told you so". I have to add that the intellectual
architect of the Iraq war, Paul Wolfowitz, was a religious jew
and a staunch zionist, and part of his thinking was that the U S
presence in the middle east would strengthen Israel's security.
When this was proven wrong he walked away, went to the world
bank, and is now raising money to feed starving children in

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Morning

Well it turned into quite a week-end. Louise’s party was great fun and I’m glad I got out of the house for it, even though the Ratdog show burned off all my energy the night before. I had a very pleasant conversation with Stephen Harrison who is running to replace the corrupt Republican Vito Fossella. Harrison gave a well-received speech about retaking congress and requested financial support for his campaign. Harrison may be a med-mal plaintiff’s lawyer in Brooklyn but I don’t hold it against him. I tried a case in front of the med-mal Judge Levine so we talked shop for a little while. Apparently his wife works for AIG. I sent the campaign an e-mail yesterday volunteering my time but as yet I haven’t heard back from them. The party had a succession of great bands; everything from rockabilly to salsa. I stayed too late, but not as late as Dave. I walked home around three am and he was still chugging along. We both spent quite a bit of time recovering on the couch. God it is so freaking hot out. I can’t wait to go diving this coming week-end if only to escape the 97 degree heat which is slowly spit-roasting the City. “Cooling sea breezes” my ass. Staten Island, like Long Island, tends to be more humid than the rest of the City. This creates grumpy Staten Islanders. The only place it is appreciably cooler is on the ferry ride itself, which I highly recommend as a way of beating the heat. Although the boats aren’t air-conditioned, the breeze in the harbor is always 10-15 degrees cooler than the ambient air temperatures on shore. It’s all relative though. It is supposed to hit 100 degrees today. Meanwhile the middle east continues to burn and the Israelis continue to bomb Lebanon. Clearly this has nothing to do with kidnapped soldiers and everything to do with the US troops in Iraq providing cover so Israel can try to get rid of Hezbollah. We made a real mess of things over there.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Well the show was great; I got the 1:00am boat last night so I'm a little slow getting started today. Weir was in good form. Unfortunately we missed the first few songs because Mook had to eat a shwarma before we went in. We came in at the tail end of Brown Eyed Women. The sound at Radio city was excellent, even in the upper balcony where we perched. Other pluses for the venue: no long lines for the bathroom or bars. The set list follows:

Jam > Casey Jones, Minglewood Blues > She Belongs to Me, Brown-Eyed Women, Crazy Fingers, Big Iron@, Victim or the Crime@, Uncle John's Band > The Other One > Stuff > Sugaree > Throwing Stones > Liberty*
E: Black Muddy River*+
*-w/ The Persuasions; +-a capalla; Kenny sat in with SCI on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," then the whole band besides Robin sat in on "Jam > I Know You Rider"
(with String Cheese Incident [SCI closed])

Friday, July 14, 2006

Am I the Victim, or the Crime?

Tonight I am going to see Ratdog, Bob Weir’s band/post Grateful Dead retirement fund. When the band gets to jamming, you drink enough beer and you close your eyes really tight it almost sounds like the Dead at the end of a long tour. Phil’s shows are a bit more psychedelic, but Bobby’s rock a little harder and Weir mixes up the set list to include songs from the latter part of the Dead’s career. There is also something more compelling about Weir doing post 1980 Jerry tunes. I head some tapes from 2002 and thought they sucked but the last two years they have found their groove. Weir, by most accounts, has been hitting the bottle a bit lately and it shows in his choice of facial hair if not his playing. I always liked Weir’s voice although he was a lazy wordsmith and at the end was writing one song every three years. The ones that came out at the end weren’t my favorites, either (Anyone remember Corrina, Corrina?)

Vive La Republique

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Me, John and Richie at Beneath the Sea 2006

They are actually very nice guys who aside from being the hosts of the Deep Sea Detectives and the subjects of the book Shadow Divers, have done a lot for technical diving.

This picture shows me exhibiting excellent buoyancy control on Molasses Reef at an approximate depth of 26 feet.

A Picture of me on the Spiegel Grove

This was just after fixing my buddies tank. I think I was a little narced.

Peace in the Middle East

3:15pm and still no sign of the IT department. I suppose if they want to pay me for surfing the internet its ok with me. I’m sure it will be busy enough before long. The situation in Israel and Lebanon appears to be spiraling out of control. Again. I was walking around at lunch thinking about how little I know about the history of that region and how that lack of knowledge is inexcusable considering that our future as a country is inexorably entwined with the middle east. In an effort to banish my ignorance I picked up a copy of Thomas Friedman’s book, From Beruit to Jerusalem which I’m looking forward to reading on the ferry on the way home while the rockets fall around Beruit.

Sinking Down to the Lusitania

I was listening to a scuba related interview from the excellent (though irregularly broadcasted) pod-cast Bottom-Time Radio yesterday. Bottom-time Radio follows the scuba adventures of two divers from Michigan, whose names, curiously I cannot locate on the podcast’s webpage. One is an instructor and the other a divemaster and they interview various scuba luminaries and goof around on air, exchanging light-hearted banter about diving and imparting their collective wisdom about technique and equipment.. Both are experienced wreck divers and as you all know, the wreck diving in the Great Lakes is quite spectacular. Anyway, in their most recent show they interviewed Hal Watts a/k/a Mr. Scuba. Hal has been diving since 1964, is a well-regarded instructor and holds various depth records for diving on air. Watts also bears the distinction of having been the person who invented the Octopus as well as the slogan “plan your dive and dive your plan”. He most recently, at age 70, dove the Lusitania which rests at 300 feet at the bottom of the Celtic sea, (12 miles of the coast of County Cork), on air, with his student, the 76 year old Greg Bemis. Bemis apparently bought the wreck from the Irish Government 35 years ago but only got around to diving it last March. Hal put a lot of hours in training Bemis to make the historical dive and from what he said it wasn’t that easy. Bemis dove on tri-mix while Watts went down on air. Watts teaches deep diving with a sort of progressive penetration philosophy; start at 100 feet, then to 130, then 170 and so on. Your comfort level determines how deep you go. From Hal’s web-site:

"Hal's experience with scuba had begun in 1955 while he was attending college, earning a Master's Degree in law. During the 1960's Hal became devoted to extended range diving and developing proven, effective diving techniques for dives to depths greater than the normal recreational range of 40 meters (132 feet). In 1967, using methods he developed, Hal set the World's Depth record by diving to 119 meters (390 feet) on air and was recognized in the Guinness Book of records. It should be noted, that as time went on, it was accepted that extremely deep air dives were indeed hazardous and the current records represent remarkable achievements. Unfortunately, the record is also at the very extreme edge of human physiological tolerance and so Guinness no longer publishes deep air records or attempts."

390 feet on tri-mix would be impressive to me, never mind on air.

Fancy New Blog

Hope you like the new blog design, the last one was so 2003. Becky is off to Greyfox today. I am somewhat loath to let her wander off into that seething mass of rednecks and hippies without me but her job has been getting her down lately so a few days on the hill and in the swimming hole will probably do her good. I am half contemplating taking the Amtrak to the town of Hudson on Saturday and meeting her, but with Louise’s party scheduled for that afternoon and the fact that I’d have to get up at 5am to catch the train, I’m just as happy to stay home.

They still haven’t given me my password for the computer so it looks like another day stuck in the cube. I haven’t worked in a cube since 1997; I’ve always had my own office. The lack of privacy is annoying but hey, I can put up with anything for seven hours a day. Anyway, the managers here are like ghosts; rarely seen.

It occurred to me last night that I can’t plan any solo scuba ventures this week-end because I don’t have a car. Doh! I was looking into diving at Lake Minnewaska in upstate New York, somewhere different from the quarry. I feel myself getting rusty after two weeks out of the water.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Too Many Beers, Too Late at Night

Today was my third day at work and...nothing happened. Instead, I went out at 5pm after work and had a few beers at the local branch of The Heartland Brewery. As much as I'd like to go it appears that Greyfox will go on without me this year, although Becky is going. I love Bluegrass music, almost as much as I love SCUBA. Almost. On a completely disconnected vein, I was thinking last night about the nature of existence and the role of the individual in a society that seems random and cruel. I came up with no great insights except the realization that what we do with our lives, the magic tapestry that we weave has little or nothing to do with our daily routine, but is all about what we do to fill the empty spaces. You can read the Times every day and be caught up on the latest news and information and that is admirable, in a way, but it isn't living. Amassig information is no substiture for creating your own news, your own story. 100 years form now, who will be reading about you? Not that life's journey should be an exercise in ego, but at the end of your life I think you should be fulfilled because you were different from the herd, not because you excelled at herd activity. The captains of industry will fade into the mists of time while the adventurers and innovators fill the history books . No one gives a shit if you fill your role, you have to destroy all roles. The risk, of course, is that if you fail, most people will think you either a madman or a fool. Since you won't be remembered either way, who cares? Insurance claims certainly don't matter. If you are a successful lawyer, at the pinnacle of the profession, at best someone will quote your words to stand for a principle. This, there at last, is a measure of immotality. It is humbling though, to realize that the most ancient civilization, the Summmarians, are remembered for general moral principals, not for the innovative thought of their philosophers. Five thousand years form now what will American society be remembered for?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Of Cats and Crackheads

I almost forgot... the cat came back last night looking slightly shaggy and confused like she'd been trapped for a couple of days in a hot garage. She staggered into the house, ate a big meal and threw up all over the house. Just like her papa after happy hour. We've decided to keep her incarcerated until we get her a collar. Her picture is up all over the neighborhood but surprisingly I haven't received any crank calls yet. Speaking of lost animals wandering in the dark, some crack heads apparently went through the car last night as the contents of the glove were scattered about the front seat. Silly crackheads. They completely missed the stuff in the trunk and even left the NYC parking card in the armrest. I assumt they were the same crackheads that broke into the car a month ago, the ones I was shaken out of bed at 1am to go identify by the police. I should have pressed charges then, but I didn't. I won't make the same mistake next time.

Excess Policies and Ice Cream

Today was my first day as a Claims Analyst III at AIG. I spent the morning in a hot room with a bunch of disinterested new hires who struggled to stay awake during the obligatory corporate cheerleading coming from a peroxide blond with a southern accident. I am impressed with the possibility of advancement as well as the travel opportunities (more diving!) and the hours. (9-5, more diving!) I went over to my unit and was shown to my cubicle by my new supervisor. There were manuals to read and files to review. Who knew Califormia construction law could be so complex? I suppose the Califormia lawyers know. I ran into S. an ex-C&D attorney in the subsidized corporate cafeteria. The cafeteria sports a panoramic view of the East River including the Brooklyn Bridge. They have an ice cream machine and a pizza bar. All the lunches cost $5. S and I had lunch together and compared notes on why we left the firm. It was nice to see a familiar face. Tomorrow I actually start working so I'll reserve judgment until I figure out exactly what I'll be doing. It is nice to be sitting at home at 5:45pm; the extra hour over the course of a week makes you feel as if you actually have a life. Thank God.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bears and Blueberries

Well that hike we (Becky, I and her friend Julie from work) went on yesterday was fantastic. Just about a half mile up the trail from the parking lot right on the old logging road past the berry picker's cabins we saw a mother bear and her two cubs standing in the roadway giving us the once-over. She was about 50 yards away up the trail. She stood there, looked at us over her shoulder and then high tailed it into the woods with the cubs right on her heels. It was the forst time that I saw a bear in the wild and I was absolutely thrilled. The whole hike was filled with wild-life from the deer that ran across the road in front of my car on the way in to the grouse that we startled coming up on high-point. The other great thing about this hike was a swimming hole about 3/4 of the way through the hike just about 100 yards upstream from the waterfall. The water rushing to the falls created a pool of crystal clear water about 7'deep and 10 yards across. The water is *cold*! Cold enough to leave you breathless, but it was quite refreshing after the humid sweat soaked slog we had already done. The first part of the hike goes up a long unused roadway past a bunch of derilect berry-picker cabins. In fact, the entire 9 mile hike went through enormous patches of blueberry bushes. I would like to return in a few weeks wn=hen the berries ripen; should see a lot more bears then!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dive, Dive, Dive!

Here is a picture from my recent Florida trip. This was on Molasses Reef after the Spiegel dive. This dive was considerable more relaxing with no current to speak of, but numerous fish including a few barracuda. Max depth was around 30', bottom time was about an hour.

The Buddy System

Well, I am off to the mountains for a little hiking today; a decidedly non-scuba way of passing some week-end time. I'm looking forward to diving in two weeks when Dave has his check-out dives for his open water. Hopefully he'll get some equipment so we can do some New Jersey shore diving before the end of the summer. I was thinking last night about what in the sport of SCUBA inspires such passion in its adherents. I think the fact that the sport is technical at the same time that it is meditative and relaxing allows it to attract a wide range of personalities with whom you interact and bond. The buddy system, the collegiality of the dive boat situation, the fact that a lot of diving is done while on vacation, all engender warm feelings. Or something like that.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Last One to Leave Turn Out the Light

Today is my last day at C&D and I am appropriately hung over from the going away party last night. It was nice that Laura and Anna came out to bid adieu. I'll miss the people here, if not the work itself. Poor Becky had to carry my drunken ass home last night; suppose I should do something nice for her this week-end. I got scuba gear as a going away present; an excellent light as well as a nifty knife and the ever- important safety sausage, all nicely packaged in a mesh dive bag. Thank God one of my co-workers is a diver and knows what to get. A thousand thank-you's to all. None of the partners showed which I suppose is par for the course although that tradition should probably be changed to at least give the impression of an egalitarian work-place. My post of my misadventures on the Spiegel Grove has been getting a good response on the scuba board. The original can be found here. Well I'm not feeling particularly creative today so I'll just slink off to nurse my hangover.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hanging Up the Shingle

Well after some careful consideration I decided not to take the rescue course now but to wait until the end of the summer when I've logged a few more dives. My scuba instructor, Ryan Heaney on Staten Island is a very high energy, dedicated and competent instructor and he is all about proceeding at ones own pace so hopefully the last minute cancellation won't upset his apple cart too much. I realized on my last few dives in Florida that I was often one of the few divers on the boat not diving Nitrox. I think that would be a better certification to get before rescue.

Tonight is my going away party from Cullen and Dykman, the law firm in Brooklyn I have been working at for the last two years (almost). What an odd group of characters there. I wish them all well, although I never really felt that I fit in with the law firm mentality; maybe I'm too old or something but I found all the litigation posturing and firm culture to be kind of silly. If being a lawyer means behaving like a stuffed shirt buffoon then I'd rather do something else. Granted, the law is "adversarial" but that doesn't mean it has to be nasty. Unfortunately, the judges in Brooklyn and the structure of the Unified Court System in New York make it impossible for any real justice to be meted out. The system confuses process with results and that isn't fair to litigants or their clients, no matter what side you're on. I don't want to spend the rest of my working life running helter skelter from one emergency to another. If I wanted to do that I would have become a fireman.

Yesterday I registered a formal complaint to Adrian Benape, the head of the New York City Parks Department. Apparently you are not allowed to swim at City beaches with a mask, fins, or a snorkel because the lifeguards have trouble telling the difference between someone swimming face down and drowning. This rule smells to me like the result of a lawsuit filed because someone's kid drowned with a mask on. In typical New York City fashion, rather than doing an accident analysis and creating a well-reasoned way of dealing with the issue, the City issued a blanket rule which strips even more fun out of the beachgoing experience, not that the NYC beach-going experience is a real treat to begin with. I think if a lifeguard can't tell the difference between a swimmer and a drowning victim then perhaps the training cirriculum for lifeguards should be revisited. If and when I get a response from Parks, I'll post it here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Some facts about me. I am a 38 year old native New Yorker who recently discovered a passion for diving. I got certified last spring at Dutch Springs, a quarry in Pennsylvania and since then I've logged 24 dives. Most of those dives have taken place at Dutch Springs although several have taken place in Florida and one night dive in Shark River inlet in New Jersey. After getting certified I immediately enrolled in the Advanced Open Water (PADI) course and I am set to start the Rescue Diver course tonight. I have spent a lot of money (probably too much money)and a lot of time seeking underwater experiences over this past year. After the initial honeymoon period I am working on a way to integrate the diving experience with the rest of my life. This is especially important in light of the fact that my wife is pregnant. I am ecstatic about it but I realize that my life is about to change in a big way.
Funny, I just did a search for this old blog and found it languishing away in this forgotten corner of the internet. The last entry I posted was three years ago and much has gone on in the intervening years. Just to bring you all up to date, first I suppose I ought to change the name of the blog since I am leaving the practice of law and therefore couldn't give two shits about what the judge ate for breakfast. Over the last three years I have been mercilessly beaten down by every civil court judge in this god forsaken town and the stress level of this job has caused me to gain 20 lbs and sent my blood pressure through the roof. Second, I no longer work for the City but have been grinding it out at an esteemed law firm which requires billable hours and a high level of compentence. Third, Becky and I have largely put the past behind us, moved to Staten Island and are expecting our first child. Fourth, I am leaving the aforementioned job in three days to go to work for AIG which I assume will be about as exciting as practicing law but with better hours and without the historonics.

I have also discovered a heretofore unknown passion for scuba diving and this blog will be as much about that as about anything else. Over the next seven months I will be attempting to balance work, diving, being an expectant father and being a New Yorker, I am sure with varying degrees of success. I will write about all of it. The writing will be for myself although any of you all can read it and post comments about anything.