Dec 292008

During my chores today I finally caught up with This American Life podcasts. I just finished listening to episode 304: Heretics. I come from a bit of a charismatic background, so the story had a big impact on me. I highly recommend giving it a listen:

Carlton Pearson’s church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn’t have an affair. He didn’t embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell.

Dec 212008

The above video isn’t the best quality (it is taken with my digital camera and dive light), but it does illustrate just how much life is on the old Ingraham Street Bridge. The site consists of rubble piles where they dumped the bridge structure just off shore near Mission Bay in 1985. The visibility wasn’t great, but this was a really nice site to explore. I hope to be back soon.

Dec 212008

Since moving to a dry suit I had to switch from my lovely Mares Superchannels to a fin with a much larger foot pocket – drysuit boots are much larger than wetsuit boots.  After trying several without success, I settled on the OMS Slipstream fins.  They are hard paddle style fins that are neutral in water.  With some modifications I’ve become much more comfortable with them.

Adding spring straps

These are some of the best things you can add to your existing fins.  When properly fitted the fins go on and off very easily and are much more comfortable due to the spring compression.  Spring straps come in a wide variety of attachment points for all the different types of strap posts.  I own Innovative Scuba Concepts Ez Spring Fin Straps for both of my fins (wet & drysuit fins), and am very happy with them.  I don’t see any reason to buy the more expensive offerings.

Remolding the fin foot pocket

The first modification I made to the fins was simply to improve the fit of the foot pocket.  I found it a bit too wide, and not tall enough.  The material the fins are made of is fairly stiff, but with a little heat it can be manipulated a little.  I put on my drysuit boots and boiled a pot of water.  I dipped each fin pocket into the hot water for ten seconds, and then took it out and shoved my foot in the fin.  The pockets changed shape a bit and wrapped around my foot a lot better.  After cooling they retained their new shape.

Adding drain holes to the fin foot pocket.

For some strange reason the Slipstream fins only have two small drain holes on the back side of the foot pocket.  When holding the fins by the straps this means they drain very slowly and hold a few cups worth of water after draining.  I wanted to speed the process up a little, so I added three holes to the very bottom of the foot pocket.  This way, they drain fairly quickly when holding them by the straps.  To add the holes I heated the end of a drill bit up with a lighter, and then drilled three holes in the bottom of the pocket.  After drilling I cleaned the holes up with a x-acto knife.  There is probably a cleaner way to do it, but it works well enough for me.

Fin foot pocket drain holes

Adding fin keepers

When shore diving I often double check my hood, mask, or gloves as I walk to the water.  I usually end up awkwardly trying to tuck my fins under my arm, but that doesn’t work so well when I’m trying to adjust my mask or hood.  There are some commercial fin and mask holders available which are simply a strap loop on a plastic buckle.  However they unfortunately usually include a suicide clip, which is not a good idea in kelp or wrecks (a suicide clip does not require interaction to clip into something).  I considered making my own strap with buckle, but wanted something that would use existing hardware.  I finally settled on 1″ stainless steel split rings.  These rings are added to the straps, which can then be clipped off to a double ended bolt snap.  I will probably need to add the rings to the main spring strap instead of the pull tab, but it seems to work fine for now.

Split rings used as finkeepers
Dec 082008

San Diego county will be home for more artificial reefs. We already have several – The ships to reefs projects (Yukon, Ruby E, etc), and others like the old Ingraham Bridge debris.

The newest reef (though technically in Orange County) is also one of the biggest – the Wheeler North Artificial Kelp Reef is made up of 175-acres of 120,000 tons of volcanic rock two miles south of San Clemente Pier. It was built by Edison as a way to repair the damage done to an existing reef by the warm water discharge of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. It is the first artificial reef to specifically host kelp, and special care had to be taken to make sure it would take:

“There have been many failed attempts to build a kelp forest,” House said. “We learned you just can’t pile high rocks and expect a successful reef. David Kay, Southern California Edison’s manager of environmental projects, said the rocks must be large enough to anchor the kelp, which are algae that can grow 1½ to 2 feet a day to a length of 120 feet… Some of the rocks have to be light enough so the ocean can toss them about, to shake off organisms that crowd out the kelp.

LA Times reports that the Coastal Commission also has Edison doing some other projects to help repair the damage:

“Edison is also creating a $90-million, 150-acre wetland in Del Mar as part of its environmental mitigation, and has built a white sea bass hatchery in Carlsbad. In spite of a complex elevator system to help fish sucked into the plant’s cooling system return to the ocean, the power plant kills an average of 600 tons of fish each year, Kay said.”

Chula Vista is is hoping to increase local fish stocks by placing 350 structures off the shoreline of Bayside Park in Chula Vista.

Called “a-jacks,” the structures are made from concrete and are two feet wide and weigh 78 pounds each… When the project is finished, the Port says there will be about 35 artificial reefs that measure three feet tall and four feet in diameter.

An interesting aspect of the reef is the low cost – just $30,000 for the project. I suspect that is a raw materials cost and that labor is all volunteer, but that is still pretty impressive.

Dec 052008

I popped into the newly opened Halcyon Tea in South Park yesterday evening. The shop is located just a couple doors up from what used to be Santos, and a short block from Grant’s Marketplace. They have done a nice job fixing the shop up and it looks great.

Their tea selection is pretty good, prices reasonable, and they are happy to let you stick your nose in the big metal jars to check out different teas. I picked up some of my staples and tried out a new oolong. So far, I’m a fan. I wish them the best – opening a tea shop in a recession is not for the faint of heart.

Nov 182008

Anna, Pete, Paul, and myself had a great time on Catalina Island last weekend. We started in Avalon, had a nice night in the Aurora Hotel, and then took a taxi van overland to Two Harbors. The ride was a bit crazy but provided great views of the island and even a few bison along the way.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Santa Ana winds that were burning north LA were calming the seas and warming the air on the island. We did several dives over the course of the weekend, here is a quick round-up:

  • Friday afternoon we swam over to the north point off of two harbors for a nice easy dive.  Run time was about an hour due to the shallow depth.  Visibility wasn’t amazing, but there was a fair bit of life around to explore.
  • Saturday morning we dive Ship Rock with a bit of current.  Loads and loads of blacksmith in the kelp with a curious sea lion buzzing the divers.  The swim south was tough going against the current, but gliding back around the rock in the current on the way back was a lot of fun.  Visibility was decent, 25-50 feet.
  • Late Saturday morning we dove the NE side of Bird Rock.  We started to the east on the fantastic gorgonian walls – I love em.  After that we explored the north wall and the shallow kelp.
  • Saturday afternoon we kayaked over to the marine preserve and went free diving and snorkeling in the kelp.  No seal buddies were there to play, but the lobsters and horn sharks were fun.
  • Sunday morning we tried a kayak dive off Isthmus Reef.  The reef wall was interesting, but very bare.  The life at 20′ more than made up for it – lots of leopard sharks and other fish.
Nov 172008

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on what a sustained economic downturn (like the great depression(s)) would look like in modern times:

We are separated from the 1930s by decades of profound economic, technological, and political change, and a modern landscape of scarcity would reflect that…

By looking at what we know about how society and commerce would slow down, and how people respond, it’s possible to envision what we might face. Unlike the 1930s, when food and clothing were far more expensive, today we spend much of our money on healthcare, child care, and education, and we’d see uncomfortable changes in those parts of our lives. The lines wouldn’t be outside soup kitchens but at emergency rooms, and rather than itinerant farmers we could see waves of laid-off office workers leaving homes to foreclosure and heading for areas of the country where there’s more work – or just a relative with a free room over the garage.