Friday, August 31, 2007

How to start a car with a dead battery

We've all been there. You arrive to your car, turn the key, and hear nothing. Perhaps a clicking sound if you're lucky. Either way, your car battery is dead and this is wholly bad for what ever plans you had to drive some where.

Last night, as we were leaving the pool, two young guys had just this problem. I thought they had it handled, pushing the car apparently to get it started. But moments later they were opening the hood and staring blankly at the engine.

So I walked over and offered "help getting it started" to which they said "we don't have cables". I asked if the car had a manual or automatic transmission and they said automatic. Yep, they were DOA and going no where fast.

But wait, I looked inside the car and pointed out to the owner that it was actually a manual transmission. He looked at me like I was an engine... blankly. I asked why we don't just use the five guys still there and push it started? More blank. Finally his friend caught on, asked if I knew how to do that, then handed me the keys and opened the driver's door for me.

On the second attempt the engine sputtered. On the third try it coughed, sputtered, wheezed then slowly woke up and came to life. Problem solved.

The confusion over the type of transmission I take as a Dutch-English language thing. But not only did the car owner not know how to start his car, no one else did either. My students were shocked and asked me how I learned "so much about cars". LOL! This ignorance must end.

So, for your future use, I present the steps to starting a car without a battery.

  1. You'll need one car with a manual transmission, one driver, and two strong people.
  2. You'll also need a straight, short (50 yards) space to push the car through. Any parking lot or side street will do.
  3. Have the driver sit in the car with the key turned to "run", the gearbox in first gear, and the clutch pushed in.
  4. Have the human battery substitutes push the car forward to a jogging pace.
  5. The driver should yell for the pushers to stand clear and then drop the clutch while giving a small bit of throttle. As soon as the engine catches, put the clutch back in and give it the gas. It's started and will begin charging the battery immediately.
There are variations on the technique. If you can only push the car backwards, put the gearbox in reverse rather than first. If you have a hill, this can be done as a solo project. Pushing the dead car with a running one isn't recommended. Leave this for drunken rednecks.

If your battery was dead and started by cables or push starting, take it for a 30 minute drive to charge the battery back up. Idling for 30 minutes does not do the same thing.

Sadly, automatic transmissions, manu-matics and other variations don't work. But hopefully the next time you or a friend has a dead battery, you'll be able to help by using the push start technique.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Busy Busy Home and Happy!

If tonight's pool dive had been recreational, I would not have gone. Tonight, however, I had students expecting training and no amount of lack of sleep, train lag, or headache was going to stop me. And five minutes after I was in the water, I was happy. Five minutes after.

We used the outdoor pool. A balmy 23C calls for a slightly thicker wetsuit than I own. So moments after I demonstrated a giant-stride entry my face expressed way more than I wanted to. "Flibbity gibbits that's cold!" or something similar quickly left my mouth.

But true to form, just as a wetsuit should, within five minutes the cold water in my suit warmed up, my breathing slowed, and I relaxed, happy to be underwater.

I'm pleased to report that the lesson went well! We used every moment of the allotted hour but managed to cover all the requirements for confined water dive 2 and while we didn't have have for play, we all had fun. My students impressed me, working smoothly through some of the most difficult skills.

I'm also pleased, but surprised to report that work today went well too! It started so really poorly.

I awoke at 06:15 this morning inside a freezing cold medieval stable. The thick brick and stone walls (with thick wooden beams) along with the modern appointments and renovations made for an incredibly beautiful hotel room! But it was 10C when I awoke and crawled out of bed. It felt much like the giant stride later.

(Centuries old construction and vaulted ceilings blended with antique lamps and modern touches.)

I really thought work was going poorly when we finally made it to the meeting 40 minutes late. And when the security guard told me I couldn't take my laptop computer into the building to do my software sales presentation, I was pretty sure I had made yet another international (barely) trip for naught.

And yet it went really well. It left me time to talk with the customers about what they had and what they wanted. I could describe what our software was supposed to do without it being there to contradict me. (Nice!) I honestly came away with a positive feeling.

We'll be back in the water tomorrow. The warm water, indoors. And I'm off to bed now. My own warm bed. So it's been busy, really busy, but right now I'm home and happy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Busy Busy Busy

*panting* Oh hi there! Good to see you, but I can't stop for long. I'm literally running amok trying to get it all done. As you know, it never all gets done. But I'm trying.

So yeah, tons of diving, thanks. It's been awesome. Friday, Sunday last week, Thursday, Friday, Sunday next.

Belgium. Yup, just for a night, but I leave tomorrow.

Oh really? Great to hear you stopped by. Sorry, yea, that was an old post. New ones are taking backseat to the 3 projects at work and my new passion for emailing lately. Oh don't worry, I'll be blogging as soon as I feel my mind has returned. Been running around so much I've left it behind somewhere.

Oh good to hear. Yeah, I'm sorry I missed that {birthday, wedding, graduation, party} but I'll make it up to you, some how.

Well yeah, it was great to see you again! Okay, until then.

*runs off into the distance* (Quietly repeating," amok amok amok.")

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Students! I've taught my first students!

I've got a lot of emails to write. I've been planning this for a couple of months but the time is upon us when I finally feel like a scuba instructor. And now I want to send emails to all my past instructors to let them know that I'm thankful for all they've taught me.

Last night I took my first two Open Water students to their first pool session. In a few weeks they'll be certified as PADI Open Water (OW) Scuba Divers. And they'll be my first "certs", a major step in my diving career.

I've been a bit nervous this week. I didn't have the time I wanted to prepare but did read a review quite a bit. I think no amount or preparation would have made me feel truly calm and prepared. But the moment we hit the pool, I felt like an instructor. We went through the processes that are now familiar to me. The skills we covered were the first and simplest and we all did a good job with them. Underwater I was comfortable and truly enjoying everything.

But it was the teaching and briefing that shocked me. The words flowed out and they were mine. But the voice that said them was the sum total of the voices of my instructors. The people who trained me were all right there last night, and in the echos of the indoor pool my voice was precisely theirs.

There has always been an incredible confidence and sense of authority in every lesson my instructors have ever given. And dive students, especially brand new (still dry behind the ears) dive students stand and listen like sponges ready to absorb the whole pool. They're too afraid to miss important information, and desperately excited to get into the water at the same time. And last night, after a lot of help from a lot of great people, two students stood at the pool and listened to me. And I took them diving.

I finally feel like an instructor. And I really enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sidewalk Chalk

This past weekend was a flurry of.... surreal activity. So it was only fitting that I should stumble across a 3D chalk painting as I moved about the city. Julian Beever is world famous for his sidewalk chalk drawings. Or more accurately, the photos of his work are world famous.

By Sunday afternoon, the ground in Amsterdam's Beursplein was covered with a beautiful image of tulips and the stereotypical bowl-of-fruit.

But it was the process that created this image that was the interesting part. Starting Friday, Julian worked for three days. He used a small table with some tulips and a bowl of fruit. This was his model. And he had a digital camera on a tripod. This was his view of the "canvas". He chalks a little, inspects the work in the camera's view screen, then chalks a little more. He works right from the very start of his project to ensure that the finished art (photographs) will match his precise desire.

One of the most interesting parts of such work is how the actual image on the sidewalk needs to be completely distorted in order for the camera lens to see the finished product properly.

Looked at from the side opposite the camera you'd be hard pressed to say what it was. But from just the right angle, Wow!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pics for Mom

My new glasses have arrived! I took advantage of working from home today and used my "lunch hour" to go down the street to get them. (And a few bags of groceries.)

I'm also happy to report that the new phone is fabulously fun! Here's a picture of the phone browsing the blog post about the phone. (Does anyone here suffer from vertigo?)

The new screen is so bright is was difficult to photograph this picture.

Yesterday I had a great time on the train reading and posting comments to blogs. You can see the whole thing, although slowly. I don't think I'm missing any functionality other than a full keyboard... and as an SMS master this isn't a big problem for me.

And RSS tells me when a blog has been updated. It isn't instant, but the phone scans the RSS feed every hour and reports back with a tiny bing sound and a screen icon if new posts have arrived.

For days I couldn't figure out how to set up the RSS. But I put the browser to my own blog and suddenly the option to capture the RSS feed was presented to me automatically. Too easy!

And for those curious about the phone's camera features... well they're a hit too! The FaceWarp software is super silly. But you can take any bad photo of someone and turn it into a terrible photo of what they would look like as an alien or an insect. Good times!

What I think is the main feature is the convenience. I got a last moment invite to a coworkers wedding reception recently. I didn't have time to think about a camera, and didn't need it. When shedding backpacks and baggage to look appropriate for such a nice event, a phone is about the only accessory you're likely to keep with you. And when the camera built in is as good as all the digital cameras around and as quick and simple to use... well this is just a marvelous age we live in. :-)

Congratulations to Rudi and Min!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Other people's stuff...

Something strange happened this weekend. I was playing with You Tube when one of my favourite shows came on TV. For the first time ever, I continued on with You Tube which I actually found more entertaining.

This series of videos needs to be shared with the world! is a commercial website selling boring old kitchen blenders by posting hillarious examples of things you can and cannot put into a blender. With production values as high as any local TV or cable programming you'll spend hours amazed at what can be put into a blender... and successfully blended. Oh, but be careful, as you may feel very strong urges to actually buy one of their whirling chipping chopping blending crushing monsters!

Don't do this to your iPod... or your home blender!

Sunday's Dive

For the second weekend in a row, the weather in Holland was perfect! Summer is upon us, and this past Sunday I and 3 friends took advantage of it and blew bubbles.

Adam, Carlos, Tobias and I arrived at the parking lot at Vinkeveense Plas at 2pm. Perfect timing to find a spot left empty by early morning divers. By 3pm the spots were all gone again as a second wave of divers and sunbathers moved in. But by then we were almost suited up and in the water.

My computer recorded 15:35 as the time we finally dunked our heads and stayed down. Adam had already been cooling in the water for 20 minutes. Tobi was busy arranging his equipment until that last moment. And Carlos was just happy he made it into the rented wetsuit. It was a tight squeeze, but it kept it warm (and almost dry) throughout our dive.

We started by walking down the stairs into the water and dawning masks and fins. From that point, it's 330 degrees magnetic to meet up with the first rope that leads around the dive park. We paired up and I watched the compass as well as Carlos and Tobias while we swam to the sunken bus.

I love the bus. It's great training for becoming comfortable with small spaces and confined openings. The windows and doors have been removed, and three large holes take half the roof. Inside, seats have been removed, except for the drivers seat which is occupied by a manikin. Beside the "driver" stands a large garden gnome, looking unusually cheery for such a dark dirty place. In case the gnome isn't incongruent enough, on the dash sits an old VHS VCR.

We left the bus and went east to the skiff. Half barge, half boat, this sunken treasure is a step darker and tighter inside than the bus. A step more fun to be inside. Although as the leader of our group I didn't think it was appropriate to duck inside.

A specific goal of our dive was to spend a bit of time in the colder, darker waters below the thermocline. So I turned away from the ropes and sunken toys and brought the group into deeper water. At about 11m the thermocline, a stratified division between water at different temperatures, became visible. A ghostly line of silt hovers just above the line that divides the two layers of water. During summer months, the denser cold water doesn't rise and mix with the sun-heated water above it.

Not only can you see it, but the moment you pass below a thermocline you can feel it on every bit of exposed skin. For me that was my hands, my face beyond the mask, and my entire head. In seconds the temperature changed from 19C to 13C.

We hung out and enjoyed the refreshing darkness. For both Carlos and Tobi is was the first time they'd dove in properly "cold" water. It's a shock at first. But you quickly realize that while some bits of skin are cold, your body is kept warm by the suit. Intrepid divers are rewarded for their tolerance of the cold by clearer waters and better visibility. The diminished daylight, due to all the silt in the warmer water above, adds an interesting touch. My light was useful, although not necessary.

Two minutes was about all it took for the "experience". We turned around and swam upwards and towards the ropes again. Passing back through the thermocline is like stepping into a shower. The water feels so warm it instantly relaxes and comforts. And above the suspended line of silt the sun returns. It is a definite point above you in the sky, rather than a diffuse glow.

We ended up near the giant drain pipe. Nearly 2m wide, round, and 5m long, the concrete sewer pipe is a great "swim through cave". No entanglement worries or true dangers, it helps divers build their confidence and skills by swimming the length of it without touching the sides.

Carlos and I enjoyed swimming through the giant pipe.

But then it was time to head back. We weren't far from the exit and following the ropes back past the skiff and bus makes it so easy to pop up in just the right place. Navigation is one of the skills I hope to soon teach to Tobias and Ingrid for their Advanced OW Course. At this dive site students can not only practice compass work, but clearly and immediate see it's value in becoming a better diver.

Popping up at the stairs, we'd spent 41 minutes in the water and had been to a depth of 13.5m. Our summer weather was fading quickly, being replaced by clouds and rain, but our spirits were sunny! Packing was surprisingly organized (given the logistics of 4 divers, two cars, and wet gear) and then we headed up the road to Het Duikerje (the little diver) cafe were we ate heartily and signed each others' log books.

An incredible way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Titanium Eyesight

Coming soon, to a Morgan's face near you, titanium eyesight!

I just got back from the eye doctor where I had my perscription checked for the first time in... oh perhaps five years. As it turns out, my eyes are getting better. I'm now at a L 1.00 and R 1.25 which is amazing considering my last perscription was 1.25 & 1.25 and was 1.5 & 1.5 before that!

Even cooler, my new glasses (ready in about a week) have frames made from titanium!

Titanium is my all time favourite metal. It's the most beautiful metal I know. Not as shiny as gold but is as resistant to corrosion. And it's so much stronger than the best steals. Titanium gives under pressure, but always bounces back to its original shape. And it's super light! The whole pair of glasses weighs 5 grams (less than 1/5th of an ounce) including the lenses.

The ironic part, however, is that I've gotten used to not wearing my glasses. So once I've got my new titanium beauties, I'll probably rarely wear them.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shiny New Toy

A blog phone! SonyEricsson has a model (810i) that is specifically designed to work with Blogger(tm). You can take pics (3.2 megapixel camera) and upload them with comments and text in full real time.

So when the lady at the phone company told me this was her favourite phone it didn't take much arm-twisting for me to say yes to it. I know that "her favourite phone" means "has the best bonus if you sell it" but it really does seem to have/do what I want my next phone to do. So I'm getting it.

The only trouble is, this glorious new device is only entering my life because my trusty old Nokia is sick. Let's not mince words. My phone is dying. I have to reboot it 2-5 times a day. Any time I set it down I risk scrambling its brains and causing it to freak out. It's a mobile phone that no longer likes moving.

I've always enjoyed the label "retro grouch" as it applies to rejecting new technology that is simply and only "new". If the old stuff works, why change? But the phone company just dangled a carrot before me that includes a phone (I need a new one), MP3 player (I'll have music on the train), two cameras (I love my digital picture achrives), 3G high-speed data (after all I did help build the networks), and it is aimed to work specifically with Blogger(tm) blogs! Like this one!

All this and more, for free. Excluding the year commitment and whatever portions of my soul I'm giving up by moving back into tech-geek territory.

I think I'll go wait downstairs by the mailbox.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Tragically Hip

I've been busy lately. Really really busy. So how have I chosen to deal with this? Why I've bought concert tickets of course! Why slow down when going this fast is so much fun?!?

I'm going to see the Tragically Hip!!! "The Hip" are a sensation in Canada. They've been one of the top bands for two decades... the decades that most influenced my tastes in music. So when I heard (read) they were coming to my favourite intimate (~1,500 people) concert venue in Amsterdam I had to immediately buy two tickets. Even funnier, I just told a coworker with a Canadian boyfriend about the concert. One phone call to the Canadian and 3 minutes more and they have two tickets too! It was an old colleague of mine from another job who emailed me about the concert to begin with, so that's six of us so far.

But that's not until September 25th. In the mean time the craziness continues. I've got 3 dates / social appointments with friends this week. It might be a bit crazy before I can settle into a nice "quiet" rock concert. :-P

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A weekend with divers!

This is way too early to be awake on a Saturday. Thankfully there's good reason to be up! I just got back from the dive shop were I helped Tobias get all the rental gear he needs to join Adam and me for a dive tomorrow. And tonight I'll be meeting up with Adam and Ingrid and her boyfriend at a food festival in Haarlem. It'll be my first meeting with the boyfriend, who will hopefully take up diving this summer as my student.

So it's a weekend with divers, starting early Saturday morning at the dive shop, proceeding to social events with divers, then on to actual diving Sunday. Woohoo!

Last week Adam and I cancelled our dive plans. This weekend we've got Toby in tow, with all his accumulated rental equipment, so there won't be any temptation to cancel. Indeed, the weather forecast is for a glorious warm and sunny weekend!

Alas, for now, cancelling all Saturday afternoon plans and returning to sleep is temping. Will it be sleep now, so that I can better enjoy tonight? Or will I choose to do my grocery shopping so that I can be well fed before tomorrow's dive? Hmmmmm.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rabbit Rabbit

Rabbit rabbit it's August first!

That's all I wanted to say right now. I've just never done "rabbit rabbit" properly before. Just work up and realized it wasn't the 31st. :-)