Sunday, December 30, 2007

First Break Through

Well, it seems that this isn't gong to be as difficult as it first appeared.....or at least thats the way it reads....we shall see. Havn't done any of it yet, but the following links certainly look useful:

http// - a forum for the whole OSX on PCs - is a page with good tips on the whole Tiger in your tank thing.

and there are there are lots of techy spod nerds out there that have done a lot of the hard work and created their own versions of MAC OSX which is pre-tinkered to work. And these are mentioned in the forums.....but i won't list them here as they are probably in all likelihood totally illegal and naughy......which makes them all so much more fun.

Tiger in my Tank

For those who know me you'll know I am a MAC lover (that's Apple MAC - not the flasher veriaty). And why do i love the MACs, afterall they are over priced by comparison to the PC. Simple reason - THEY JUST WORK!!

Now I am not a computer buff by any means, I know how to turn them on, I know how to type and I know how to check fact I only know how to write this blog because the Grumpy Goat showed me how simple Blogging is through Blogspot. My brothers are both pretty whizzy with computers and I have frequently had conversations with them about MAC vs PC. Both being whizzes and loving tinkering with computers they really can't understand why on earth i would want something like a MAC which is taken out of the box and used in one way and thats it, whereas they prefer to tinker for hours just to get their sodding PCs just to start because it has so many in-built and inherrent 'glitches' and 'quircks' with the aim of doing nothing more than making a stupid penguin wiki'ing a word for them.

But to this I would answer, "If I wanted to by a dyson I wouldn't expect to be an expert in cyclone vortex theory, so why would I expect to need a degree in computer science juts to be able to turn on my PC".

Anyway, this isn't intended to be a rant about MAC vs PC. I recently made a purchase that at first impressions may appear a step backwards into the unnecessary heartache of PC ownership - I bought an eeePC.

But fear not, I had good reason for this - during my Christmas holidays away from the sand pit and back in blighty I got talking to my whizzy brothers and was shown Techy Spods new toy, the eeePC. Its very small, its very robust and, so i learn, can run MAC OSX......that was it, I was interested!!

Following a bit of reading around it seemed that while it was not completely straight forward (i.e. plug in and go) but was doable and sounded quite cool little project (although I am reliably informed that it is also far too anoraky to be admitting but hey ho). I therefore decided to buy Techy Spods eeePC off him to embark upon the project.

And with such an anoracky project I decided an anoracky blog should go along with in this blog I shall keep a record of what I've tried, what I've succeeded at and what I have had to throw away and start again.........which if all goes well will be a VERY short blog ;0)

So here goes - a technophobes first furry into the weird, nerdy and inherently dull world of computers.....wish me luck

Oh and by the way, for those not versed in the MAC thang - Mac OSX comes is the MAC operating system and comes in many versions. OSX Tiger was the previous incarnation, which has recently been upgraded to OSX Leopard. I opted for Tiger because its a bit older and therefore presumably more likley to be 'make workable'.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gulf Fun Drive - Marshaling

I was going to write a long and whitty write up about my adventures assiting grumpy goat on teh gulf news fun drive but as ever Mr Goat has already done a sterling job of this which can be found here:

Other things of note from the day would be taking on the mantle of "Honourary Cynthia" for the day, learing all about Cythia's copious draws (which are available to be viewed at any time round the back of Mr Goats garage), notching up 14 rescues (including one incident of rescuing another marshall and ME4x4 member) and having a generally spiffing long day out in the sand helping the "punters" put their toys to good use.

So here are some pictures:

The Grumpy Goat Bus

And here are some of the great looking machines out and about on the day

The battle of the Somme

And of course that car of the marshal we rescued.....after the days the tyre inflation centre:

YBOD3 - Brumm Brumm

Well since I have decided to stay in Dubai I decided to treat myself and blow all my Australia funds on a new car.....and bright yellow FJ Cruiser, and she is a beauty:

Why I love my FJ:
  • She's yellow
  • She looks like something out of a Manga film
  • more than capable off-road
  • well priced
  • she's yellow

YBOD2 - The mobile smoker

As those of you who know me know that I was planning to leave the sand pit and head off to the Land of Opportunity. In preparation for this big move I did a bit of searching around and decided the car for me when I got over there had to be the that icon of Australian-ness....a VW Camper!!!

I did a whole load of searching on the net and through such excellent forums as aussieveedubbers and kombi connection and asked for help from the other forum members.......and through this end up at the door of Coast to Coast Kombis. I would like to say that I chose the Kombi but I'm sure you will agree given the bright yellow paint job this little baby really chose me:

The Kombi was under restoration and refit by Ian and so I was able to choose internal fit out.....which was that involves my imagination kicking in!!!

Once Ian confirmed that mechanically the kombi was sound and excellent I unleashed my idea upon Ian - a mobile smoking lounge!!! We are talking (fake) chocolate brown leather upholstery and wall panels, (fake) wooden floor and for those special occasions a rock and roll sofa bed!!

When passed these ideas of C2CK were happy to go for it, but first wanted a 50% deposit...perhaps an indication of what they really though of my idea ;0)

C2CK did a grand job and produced for me the YBOD2 - mobile smoker:

However, it wasn't all a rosey story...sadly I never actually left the sand pit and had to sell the project on. Thankfully C2CK were brilliant and found a new buyer for the YBOD2 and she is I understand now living in Queensland. She can be seen at C2CK's blog.


As those of you who know me know that I was planning to leave the sand pit and head off to the Land of Opportunity. In preparation for this big move I did a bit of searching around and decided the car for me when I got over there had to be the that icon of Australian-ness....a VW Camper!!!

I did a whole load of searching on the net and seeking advice through such excellent forums as aussieveedubbers and The Kombi Connection. Through these searches I came across this little beauty which given the old yellow box of doom connection this kombi kind of chose me rather than me it:

The Kombi was with Coast to Coast Kombies and is a 1972 low lights and given its bright yellow it seemed perfectly matched to be the second yellow box of doom.....and so became the YBOD2.

With the kombi part way through renovation Ian let me decide on the internal finish......big mistake because that means my imagination kicks into action. The theme chosen was mobile smoking lounge - Chocolate brown fake leather seats and wall panels, fake wooden floors and for those special evening.....a rock and roll sofa bed.

Spain, Planes and Autoair Seals

This entry is based on a post on the DSDC Blog from Thursday 26 April 2007.

Following the "investment" in the YBOD the next step in the process of putting it to good use is to undergo the training course. For this Richard and I (the bastard sons of satan) headed of to Gibraltar to meet up with Steve and complete the TDI CCR Course......

....and so here goes a potted travel-log of what I think I remember, although as anybody who has suffered my wittering will know, there could be some poetic license (and PADI 'licenses') used to help the story along.

Day 1 - Getting there
Its late at night, Richard and I drive down to Abu Dhabi Airport to catch the just after midnight flight to London and then on to Malaga. A clothes bag each and a our lovely shiny new Units safely tucked away in their travel cases, zip locked closed and secured. However, no sooner had we entered the airport and not evn got as far as the check in and we have to go through a security check. Units go through the scanner and the man doesn't like/understand what he sees. I can't really understand why, it is only a plastic canister with wires and a ticking clock coming out of it, just because it looks like a Hollywood bomb.

"OK, but they are locked, do you have anything we can use to cut the cable ties?"
"Cable ties, need to cut, don't have pen knife with me cos you don't allow them"

and our helpful (and I will admit he was more helpful than expected) customs guy produces a lighter and stars trying to burn through the box!! After much protestation he disappears off and comes back with a pair of tie wire snips and I have images of a very confused steel fixer somewhere who has been forced stop work while his snips are taken away for a matter of national security.

Anyway, boxes open and then the dreaded task of trying to explain to a land lubber customs guy what a rebreather is; him being of limited English and me being of limit patience. He then proceeds to rummage through the box and the unit while I attempt to prevent him reducing my new toy/investment (Helen and I will eventually agree on which of these it is) to an expensive lego set. I continuously explain it is for scuba diving, you know, diving under the sea. He doesn't look convinced........then, joy of joys, he spots something familiar and plunges his hand in, holds up with some pride a snorkel and says

"Ahhhh I know this!! Ok, you divers, you go"
Hurray, bags half re-packed and then the dreaded "But wait"
I roll my eyes and ask "what now". He looks inquisitorially at me again
"You have license for this? Let me see License".
"License? There is no such thing"
"There must be, you must have License, License, license license"
"What sort of License, what do you expect it to look like"
"Like License, you must have License"
"Believe me there is no such thing....."
but patience kicks in and an idea forms "Oh you mean this"
And throwing all sense to the wind I reach in to my wallet and pull out the trusty Padi Open Water Card
"Here you go, look, it says diver right here"
"Ahhh, yes, see you did have a license, I knew you did"
"Yes of course you are......erm....right".
On the plane and off we go, Malaga here we come.

After a 9 hour transit in Heathrow, during which the only highlight was buying a camera and then deciding to leave my boarding pass in Dixons safe hands followed by a PA system announcement request for me to come back and collect it as they are sure I will need it far more than they will, we have an uneventful journey on to Malaga - unless you find listening to Richard snore eventful.

Upon arrival at Malaga we waited for all the baggage to come off the plane and only actually received our two clothes bags. Then with horror we see the rebreathers circulating on their very own exclusive carousel three belts down.....behind a glass screen with some words eteched into the glass which I can only assume translated as "Stuff which looks expensivo which we will claim looks suspcisousio and keep it io"

We dash over and, after the now familiar ritual of opening the boxes up, explaining that they were dive equipment, having them prodded and poked I stepped forward and produced the Ace Card - THE SNORKEL!!
The smile of comprehension appears on the officials his face and he makes a call to his superiors.
"Ahhh, Eth ethth theth theth Scorchio theth theth Divingio."
Phone gos down "
Eba Eba underlay underlay".
"What, you want to see my License?"
I reach for the PADI card but wait, he is waving us on:
"No, No, Eba Eba underlay underlay".
And its out of the airport, meet Steve and Lou, dodge the Spanish Taxis hell bent on running us down and off to Chez Gould for a shower, tea and a good nights sleep.

Day 2 - Strip it down, build it up and hide the three spare screws left over.
As Richard rightly says, the Rebreathers are considerably more complicated bits of kit and have decidedly more "stuff" to look after, so the course starts with us getting up close and intimate with our units. And so starts a very pleasant day sat in the Spanish open air, taking stuff apart, putting it back together, taking it apart again because you found that hose that should have gone in first, reassembling and finally turning it all on and finding it still works much to our relief. - apart from those cursed autoairs, which I have yet to see why people like. Great idea in principle but I couldn't get the cursed thing to stop leaking.

The day then ended with a jug of sangria, watching the sun go down over the mountains and a discussion of the rest of the course itinerary - and I have to mention that Steve was so well organized and methodical on that the intinary even had slot in it for what Lou had to do each day. Good to see all that military training has taught Steve excellent organization skills, and a total disregard for danger that allows him to feel brave enough to give instructions to the wife!!

Day Three - Bubbles and Beached Wales

Our third day saw the bit we had been eagerly waiting for - Dive 1!! As we were staying with Steve and Lou in Malaga, but the best diving was in Gib, each days diving started with a hearty breakfast from Lou then an hour and a bits car journey down to Gibraltar, although as the days progressed this became an extra hours snooze on route.

We arrived at Rosia bay at about 9am and parked up on the quay side and step outside.......and it COLD!! Now OK it may only be March, and therefore balmy by UK diver standards, but to this tropical diver who did all his previous training in the UAE, starting a dive with a cold wind wiping around is an alien concept. But what can you do except tog up, kit up and shut up. Well, you can bitch and complain continuously of I ably demonstrated.

First dive (of the two planned for that day) was a sheltered water dive in the bay, max depth 6m for an hour. But what is it they say about mice and men (never feed them cheese before bedtime, it gives them nightmares). All kitted up we headed down to the little shingle beach and, buddy checks done, waded in. Bu&%er me, it was cold!! My good friend Mr Fikree had been very kind and lent me his spare dry suit for the trip, but even with this it still felt cold on the face and head....and through the hole I then found I torn in the ar&e of the dry suit (no holes really, but that should test if Mr Fikree is reading this).

And so began the dive - of sorts. We swam out to a suitable depth, gathered together and the OK and DOWN signals are exchanged by all. Then Steve goes down and Richard and I stay exactly where we are. No, we hadn't frozen with fear or the cold of the water, it would simply appear that gravity has taken the day off and we are not sinking. Now come on, think back to your dive training - to sink you let all the air out of your jacket and breath out. So why is it not working in Gib? Think, think think......Steve has resurfaced and gives some well thought advice to the newbies - "breath out over the mouth piece you numpties!!"

There then proceeds a 15 minute period of Richard and I blowing raspberries to Rosia Bay (which seems very disrespectful given her heritage), getting our heads below water and immediately popping back up to the surface. Squashing the lungs are tried, finning down is tried, duck dives are tried and after 15-20 minutes of this the waves have washed two tired and frustrated divers up on the shore, rolling about in the surf and trying to win back a bit of dignity, like a pair of beached wales. Steve (who I am sure is laughing is head off but hiding it by keeping his mask on and mouth piece in) helps us to our feet and up the beach.

Now a word of explanation here for the reader: With the rebreather, when you breath out the air passes in to a counterlung on your right had side, goes through the system and comes back to the left hand counterlung. As such the air never leaves the system. Therefore the trained scuba diver action of controlling buoyancy by breathing in and out is lost because your buoyancy doesn't change. Even when you breath over the mouth piece you need to then remember to get a few meters below the surface before then breathing in again, otherwise the unit simply detects that the volume has dropped and reinflates the lungs from the diluent cylinder and you are back to square one. Richard and I spent a lot of time in square one, and it ain't nearly as interesting as we would have hoped.

So, we return to our intrepid heroes to see they have slat their fins, marched up the beach and decided they are never going to use those f@#$ing yellow boxes again. Steve takes the hint, stops laughing, and agrees that the intended lesson has been learn't and we can head back to the car. Lou serves up hot coffee while we strip down and pack up with that wind still whipping around. Explain to me again why people dive in cold places?

Day 4 - Divers Down!!
The second days diving was much more of a success as we returned to Rosia and, following a long debreif and general chat about things the night before, had a much better appreciation of what is going on. We were then able to get straight down this time. A fantastic day of two dives in the bay with the highlight being getting VERY up close and personally with a few octopus who, with the lack of bubbles, where happy coming right up to us, and in my case putting a tentacle on my mask. Sweet.

Over the two dives we ran through all the drills required, clocked up 120minutes bottom time and made a max depth of a lofty 9.6m!! We are hardcore. Although with everything being alien all over again I now have the utmost sympathy for the trainee divers trying to master buoyancy control for the first time. I take back all the unsympathetic expletives I have muttered into my regulator as I have watched a student crash into the seabed or had to grab an ankle as they float off to the surface.

Day 5, 6 and 7 - The wrecks of Gib
I won't bore you with all the details of the next three days training suffice to say there were lots of drills, tests and good diving. We progressively built up depth as we dived the detached mole, the Arc Wreck and the Roslyn Wreck. If you want good vis, great quality wrecks and short boat journeys you should seriously think about a trip to Gib.

The only noteworthy (i.e. amusing part) was the surfacing after the Roslyn dive. And I'll admit it I was the source of the amusement. One of the drills is the deployment of an SMB which, even if I say so myself, I did expertly bring us all to the surface safely etc. However, as Steve may have mentioned earlier in the training (I'm not quite sure) he hates the Halcyon style spools as the line can have a habit of coming off the spool after it has been wound away.......and low and behold mine did just that. It proceeded to wrap itself around my legs and ankles to the extent that by the time the boat picked us up Richard and Steve had to unceremoniously cut my legs free so I could climb the ladder.

Now Mr Claridge and Mr Jenkins may recall this same thing happening to me about two years ago in Oman, except Mr Claridge was not so sympathetic/helpful and did insist I wait hanging on to teh side of the boat while he finished his sausages before he freed me. So lesson learnt and the spools have been retired in favor of a nice Custom Divers hand the hand combat reel.

Day 8 - Bottom Time!!
Day 8 showed us just why rebreathers are fantastic. We dived the wreck of the excellence which lies a very short boat journey off Gib harbor. The dive was fantastic with the highlight of a PAIR of sun fish passing through. This dive took place at the weekend and so we were joined on the boat by six local open circuit divers. Richard, Steve and I were first in the water on the dive site and were joined about 5 minutes later by the submersible soda streams. After about 25minutes bottom time we then bid them farewell and carried on to complete our planned 60 minute dive (with no deco and only using 80bar of gas - god I love these units).

After a few laps of the wreck, our sun fish encounter and a few more "extra" drills, which I won't details in case yo plan to do Steve's course, we surfaced on a run time of 59miniutes. We swam over to the boat with quite a chill wind blowing and lots of spray around. As we boarded the ladder the boat hand asked how the diving went "Brillant, and we saw sun fish" I proclaimed at top of my voice "I love this rebreather diving lark". Funnily enough none of the miserable open circuit divers were around to help us up the ladder or take our fins to we struggled aboard to find them all huddled in a corner in cold wet suits trying to stay warm and keep out of the wind and they had been for the last 30minutes while they waited for us!! I kept quite about how great my rebreather is for the journey back to harbor.

Day 9 & 10 - Going through the drills
The rest of the diving was great with a return to Roslyn ( a fantastic wreck), plenty of octopus encounters and eventually the best hand signal Steve has at his disposal - miming a pair of scissors on the prompt slates to indicate no more tests, no more drills you are done!!

All in all the trip to Gib was a long journey to get there and colder than this fair weather diver was used to, but it was all well worth it. The diving is first rate, the training was of course excellent and the discussions/explanations both interesting and informative. The accommodation and catering was the best around and Gib is full of history and interest for post dive wanders. Thanks go to Steve and Lou for their time, patence and tour guide skills

The units are the mutts nuts to dive and if anybody is even contemplating going down the rebreather route I would urge you to throw caution to the wind and do it. Sell your car, your wife/husband and even your house if necessary because you won't look back.

But most importantly of all, forget the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy's insistence that the well seasoned traveler always knows were his towel is. The seasoned rebreather traveler is well advised to always have a trusty snorkel at hand as well as the universally recognized "PADI everything license".


I guess I should start my blogg with an explanation of the Yellow Box of Doom (YBOD).

I'm a diver. And I'm a gadget freak.......

So after a few years of diving Open Circuit with the bubbles I decided to combine my two loves and "invest" in the greatest dive gadget there is - a rebreather.

The rebreather I went for was the APD Evolution and it comes in a bright yellow case. The Inspiration/Evolution rebreathers have over the years become affectionately known as the yellow box of doom, owe in some part some people claim to the early fatalities associated with the unit.

With the years of research and development APD have made the unit much better and much safer but the name has somewhat unfairly stuck. When I then made the plunge into the world of rebreathers i did a quick search on GMAIL and discovered that the name was available and snatched it up.

From this simple beginning YBOD was "born". I've since kind of taken it on as a theme in lots of other think, such as my last two car selections, email address and blogg page. So, welcome to my little Yellow Blogg of Doom.....