nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
Remember when I had a diving blog? Well I just posted in it! (Twice!)


May. 13th, 2013 01:59 pm
nycmermaid: (dinersmile)
I finally watched it and have gotten through Season 1. I know that's really far behind so I don't have anyone to talk to about it who isn't aware of where the show has gone since then. I liked the first 9 episodes, but the 10th one, the season 1 finale, bothered me a bit. I know Jessa is supposed to be adventurous and crazy, but I didn't like the complete shocker of her marrying that yuppie dude, with absolutely no foreshadowing. It just felt lazy, writing-wise.

And I know this is a small thing, but if I fell asleep on the train and woke up in Coney Island at sunrise, with nothing to my name but some wedding cake, my first thought would be finding the police or getting in touch with someone who could pick me up. I would not be sitting on the beach eating cake.

Otherwise, I like the show so far. I like Hannah, I appreciate all the Woody Allen-esque humor.
nycmermaid: (dinersmile)
So even though I write here occasionally I really haven't paid attention in awhile to who is actually on my friends list. In doing so, I found that someone with whom I am not close, but interact quite a lot with on other social networking sites, had unfriended me. I'm confused by it, and while it really doesn't matter, I'd kind of like to know if I offended the person somehow. I'm going to guess not since they haven't unfriended me on Facebook. Oh well.

But anyway, I decided that I do often post very personal things here, and even though they probably are no longer reading, I was sharing those things with several strangers. So I've let them go. It's nothing personal, they're very nice people, but LJ isn't what it was and I no longer feel like sharing those things with former acquaintances/strangers with whom I no longer interact.
nycmermaid: (yummy)
Yesterday, Phil met me outside my office after work. We were supposed to go out to dinner in the area, but when we met he informed me we had to go to my house right away. I knew he had been shopping for my present, so I wondered if it was something perishable. No, he said. Just heavy. And he stepped aside and revealed the box containing this:


I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, I said "Oh my god" about 20 times. I was not expecting a gift anything like this one. I have wanted one of these for years. I go into Williams Sonoma stores and pet them. When I discovered that Macy's had a display of about 25 different colors of KitchenAid stand mixer, I was in wonderland. I didn't imagine I would own one of these till I got married, or moved into a house with a decent-sized kitchen. I had asked for an ice cream maker, and really I was expecting that Phil would get me that or some sort of camping-related thing. Never this. This most beautiful piece of kitchen equipment. I know, love does not equate to how much a guy spends on you. But I think I'm going to stop being so insecure about Phil's feelings for me now.

He said he thought about getting me the ice cream maker, but then thought why do that when there's an ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer? (For the record, I have to get the ice cream attachment on my own, but that's fine by me!) He talked to his friend who had just purchased one and apparently his friend helped him look for the best price (I think TJ Maxx had them for cheap, but only in basic colors -- so Phil ended up going to Macy's). He knew what color I wanted because it was on my wish list. And he bought it! For me! I can't believe it! He said I had been so generous and given him so many amazing gifts for his birthday, and this was the one thing he knew I'd really love. Well he couldn't be more right. 

So we went home, and had a lovely Indian dinner in my neighborhood, and then bought ingredients. The first thing we made was butter. All you have to do is whip heavy cream until the curds separate out. Then you rinse it and squeeze out the water and you have delicious fresh butter! And then we made Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. And Phil ate all the batter off the paddle and then he felt a bit ill, haha.

I always said choosing the color would be the hardest part, but this was a great choice. It matches many things in my kitchen. I will keep it shiny and clean and polish it every day! I can't wait to use it to make more things.

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world!

New Blog

Mar. 31st, 2011 09:50 am
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
You may have noticed that scuba diving is almost all I post about anymore. Most of you aren't divers, and a lot of what I write about diving is the kind of thing I'd like to share with others. But I don't want to direct just anyone to a private LJ I've been keeping for years. So I have decided it is finally time to start my own blog, which for now is titled "Stories from an Urban Mermaid." I plan to make my dive-related posts there, including aquarium stuff. I may cross-post sometimes, but basically this LJ will be for personal stuff and the blog will be for anything I want to talk about that is related to scuba diving, oceans, sea life, or aquariums. I'll also be adding old posts and backdating them, so it's not totally empty to start with. I hope you'll visit!
nycmermaid: (Default)
The guy who runs Oceanblue Divers has offered me a "regular" spot on the website blog. I like the idea of it but am afraid I lack the discipline to write regularly about my experiences diving. And yet I enjoy talking about my diving so much, maybe I should. So I want to get some notes down about yesterday's experience at the aquarium.

As a member of a NY Aquarium dive team, you get an assignment every 2 weeks on your designated day. Most of the time the assignment is diving in and cleaning an exhibit, for instance, the sea otter exhibit or a coral reef tank. Another possible assignment is surface support, which means you don't dive but keep track of the divers in the water and communicate with keepers and the volunteer coordinator. A third possiblility is being assigned to work in the coral lab, which I had the pleasure of doing for the first time yesterday.

I was asked to help Mike, who is one of the coral lab keepers. One of his many responsibilities is maintaining the aquarium's coral nursery, a room of about 12 large tanks that house baby corals, coral-dwelling fish (Nemo!), and even sea monkeys (aka brine shrimp). [Note to self: Sea Monkeys would be a great name for a dive club.] The aquarium grows the corals for use in smaller exhibits, particularly the ones in the part of the aquarium known as Conservation Hall.

Every day the water temperature of each tank must be taken and each night, calcium must be added to the water for the health of the corals. You may already know that corals are very sensitive to changes in water temperature. But did you know corals like a very low nutrient environment? That's partly why coral reefs are such great places to dive -- the water is clear because of a lack of nutrients. At the aquarium, plants are sometimes added to the tanks to soak up these nutrients. The water up around here, in contrast, is loaded with nutrients, which makes the water green and murky. Coral also need calcium to survive. In the ocean this comes from disintegrating seashells and sand, but at the aquarium it must be added to the water. Water must also be occasionally added to the tanks to compensate for the water that evaporates. This is also why the salinity of the water must constantly be measured.

My task was to go around and take the temperature of each tank. Then, with Mike's help, I filled the calcium drip buckets on top of each tank with RO water, which has been cleaned by reverse osmosis. At night this calcium solution is allowed to drip slowly into each tank. My third task was to check the salinity of each tank using a tool called a refractometer. After calibrating the tool with RO water (zero salinity) I went around to each tank and put 3 droplets of water on the "screen" and then looked through the other end like a kalidescope, where I could see a display telling me how much salt is in the water in parts per thousand (ppt). If the salinity was too low I called Mike over and he showed me how to add salt into the tank's filtration system.

Another fun part of being on coral lab duty is mandatory break at 10 AM every day. I now know the Aquarium cafe serves cheap breakfast before the park is open to the public. :)

After our break Mike took me on a brief tour of the Conservation Hall filtration systems. Mostly this involved Mike talking a lot about backwash and semi-closed versus open systems. I nodded a lot and asked just enough questions to make it seem like I knew what he was talking about. The filtration systems for that exhibit are all brand new and computer-controlled, and I can tell Mike is really excited about them. He also showed me the frog room, where there are several small tanks of different types of frogs. There was a White's tree frog, a tomato frog, and a tank of African bullfrogs, among others.

At around noon, just when we were about to feed bloodworms to the fish kept in the room next to the coral lab, the volunteer coordinator came around to collect us and call it a day. Mike told me the aquarium is understaffed and that just those small tasks that I helped do saved him a lot of time for other things he's responsible for, like payroll. He told me I'm welcome to come volunteer at the coral lab any day, and I get the sense that if I had the time and the inclination, I could basically be an aquarist's apprentice.
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
Today I officially started as a member of the NY Aquarium Dive Team. I wanted to write down some notes but I am not in so good a mood now as I was when I first got home. So it may have a less excited tone that it could...but it was cool, it really was. Read more... )
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
Today I finally did something I've been thinking about doing for a long time. I went to an information session for the NY Aquarium Dive Team. The main job of the volunteer dive team is get into the animal tanks and clean out all the algae and the poo. And they do this not only for no pay, but they must provide most of their own diving equipment, which is expensive.

The guy in charge of the program, a dive instructor named Dick, is 75 years old. He takes his work very seriously, and I can tell he cares a lot about the aquarium. A couple of years ago he was offered an early retirement package by WCS and he turned it down. Dick is not at the aquarium for the money. He runs the volunteer program like a sergeant. Everything is very organized and very clean. He went through a thorough checklist of the requirements of the program, as well as the perks. Unlike what I do at the Central Park Zoo, the volunteer divers do real work. They have access to more of the aquarium than we do at the zoo and they seem to be more respected; the divide between staff and volunteer seems not so rigid as it is at the CPZ. Every day you come in, you are assigned to clean a specific area. It might be the penguin tank, or a tank of tropical fish, or of permits and jacks.

Volunteers don't clean the shark tank, but we did get a tour where they took us to the top of the tank, which was awesome. Supposedly a new shark exhibit will be build that will be 10X the size of the current tank, but Dick doesn't think it will be built for at least 4 more years, if it ever happens. The Aquarium is always suffering from budget cuts. The high point of the tour for me was seeing Clarise, a sea lion who used to live at the Central Park Zoo, behind the scenes at the Aquarium with her adorable little pup, born this summer.

The NY Aquarium is not a very good aquarium, I must admit. It is small and in dire need of renovation. Compared with other grand aquariums I've been to, like Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Shedd Aquarium, it's in a sorry state. It's in desperate need of funding. So much that they have to rely on free help to keep its exhibits clean. Did you know that every coin you toss in the koi ponds at the NY Aquarium goes right to the dive team's fund? Next time you're there, chuck in a quarter, will ya?

It will involve working hard, waking up very early in the morning for a long commute, purchasing more equipment, and much learning about procedures as well as about the animals. And I will probably not be able to continue at the Central Park Zoo if I take this on. But I think I am going to. I think it will be worth it.

Sick whale

Feb. 23rd, 2010 09:04 pm
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
Just received this email from one of the scuba meetups:

As you may have heard, our friends at Mystic Aquarium are facing a great challenge and need our help. Inuk, one of the Beluga whales, has taken ill and requires very intensive medical attention. In order for him to receive the medication properly, he needs to be held by 15-20 people in the pool so that he remains calm and stationary. This effort requires that volunteers spend +/- 90 minutes in the water in a wet suit. Caring for Inuk around the clock has put considerable stress on the MA community, and they are in need of additional volunteers to care for Inuk.

If you would like to volunteer your services, please be in touch with Tracy Sullivan at Feel free to share this request for assistance with others who might like to help.

Following are the details of volunteer needs. Please indicate shift(s) you are available for (first and second choices would be helpful if possible).


Please include your contact information if it is other than by email. Tracy will respond to you as soon as possible to get you on the schedule.

:arm flail:
OMG, I want to do this SO BADLY!!! But I have no way of getting there! I would totally take off work, but I imagine they must have tons of people who want to do this who can actually get there. Still, maybe I should respond anyway!
nycmermaid: (Default)
My friend just posted this to Facebook, but I'm stealing it and reposting here, because it made me smile ever so much.

nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
(c/o Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The gray whales are migrating south past Monterey now, and the humpback whales are wintering in the Hawaiian islands, where I'm going in 2 weeks! I've wanted to go to Hawaii to see the whales ever since I got involved with the Sierra Club because they run service trips every February to see them. I hope to go on a whale watch while I'm there, or, even cooler, somehow encounter them while diving. I'm not holding my breath for the latter (ha ha) but even hearing a whale while I'm underwater would be too amazing for words. I still don't know if I'm going to do my advanced open water there or not...I change my mind every other day! I'll decide one way or the other by tomorrow, I don't want to put it off anymore.

I've been pretty obsessed with scuba diving lately. Last week I went to one scuba meetup (NY Sea Gypsies), where I met some divers who got me started on Scuba Board, and this week I went to a different scuba meetup, Oceanblue Divers. Oceanblue seemed to have more young people, but people were very friendly at both events. I even ran into my friend Andrea from the zoo at the one this week, as well as a guy Marsha and I hung out with this summer.

Last week I posted to SB looking for information about the NY Aquarium volunteer dive team. Not too many people knew much about it. Well, a guy who was at Sea Gypsies last week remembered me, saw my post, and then came up to me at Oceanblue and introduced me to a guy who is on the team. This guy, Avra, has been diving at the aquarium for 6 years and loves it. In fact, it seems everyone on the dive team loves it. He said it's a great way to get involved at the aquarium, practice diving, learn about marine environment issues, and meet other people passionate about marine life. They do expect you to have your own equipment, but apparently they do have extra things they can lend you until you get all your own stuff (scuba equipment is not cheap!). According to Avra, they ask you to commit 2 weekend days a month, just like at the Central Park Zoo.

Now, there are many things in the way of me just joining this dive team. One is the commute (over an hour each way by public transit); one is the cost of gear; and one is the time commitment. I'm already committed to volunteering at the zoo for another year since I got this animal handling gig. But the more I learn about the aquarium dive team, the more it feels like something I need to get involved with. Definitely something to consider for next year if not this one!

Good news!

Jan. 15th, 2010 02:17 pm
nycmermaid: (Default)
I just learned I was picked to be trained as a volunteer animal handler at the zoo! It's a new program that we had to apply for, and 2-4 volunteers per day were chosen. I wasn't sure I was going to get it because I have little hands-on experience with animals, but I did, and so did my friend Karina! This is so exciting, you will have to all come by and pet the chinchilla, and the Madagascar hissing cockroach! :D

This week has been so dull at work, I have been doing little but researching my trip to Oahu, which I can't believe is coming up in less than 4 weeks now. I went to my first SCUBA meet-up and met some fellow divers who introduced me to so now I have another website with which to occupy myself while at work :p. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to do my advanced open water training when I'm in Oahu, or just dive for fun. I also booked a certain activity for the morning of my birthday, and I've been having dreams about it almost every night. I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so...Jessie Spano. ;)
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
It's been awhile since I did a good "MD as wannabe marine biologist" post.

First off: We already knew octopuses are smart. They have huge brains in relation to their bodies, and they can learn. They're known for escaping tanks at aquariums, and they can unscrew jars. But now it has been documented that they are the only invertebrates known to use tools. The video is really adorable. The octopus basically picks up the coconut shell with its crotch and walks around with it.

Secondly, the IUCN released a list of 10 animals that would be most impacted by climate change. Three of the 10 happen to be animals I encountered in the wild in Australia (staghorn coral, clownfish, and koala). Another happens to be the beluga whale.

Speaking of beluga whales, but on a more positive note: Chicago's Shedd Aquarium (one of the best I've visited) had another beluga successfully born yesterday morning. You can see the video of the birth here. It's apparently rare for a beluga to give birth head-first, but everything went swimmingly, and the baby is cute as can be.
nycmermaid: (walter & perry)
Some better photos of our gingerbread "house" version of the Daily News building, where I work. Full-size photos under the cut. )

WE WON FOR BEST ART DIRECTION!!!!!!!! The only architecture team without an art director won for best art direction. Love it!!
nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
My mom asked if I was interested in seeing the new movie Amelia this weekend. I said no. Mostly this is due to the fact that I have seen Hilary Swank play so many disturbingly doomed characters, I can hardly look at her without feeling depressed. And I don't have an overwhelming interest in Amelia Earhart either. But this is pretty cool. They may have found evidence of what happened to her. She may have crash landed on a deserted island and been eaten by these guys: Now cut for the crustacean-phobic! )
nycmermaid: (bowling for nipples)
So, as I mentioned here and about a billion times on Facebook, I got my open water scuba certification this weekend. :) It's something I thought I was unable to do for years until I got the courage to give it another try this summer, and thanks to the encouragement of 2 lovely scuba instructors, I am now fully PADI certified for general open water dives. I can only imagine what would have been had that first instructor I had in college encouraged me to keep trying despite my sinus squeeze issues. Well, the fact is it is an expensive sport and I couldn't have afforded the expenses then anyway. But now at 31 I am certified!

I did my certification dives with Empire Divers, a shop on the upper east side, and my instructor's name was Debbie. Debbie is what I imagine Madonna would be like were she a scuba diver instead of a singer. Sassy, self-confident, physically fit, fashionable, wise, and warm. Needless to say, I like her a whole lot and that was a huge part of why it was such a good experience. Don't get me wrong, I liked my pool instructor, Peter, too, but I was much more comfortable with a female instructor for some reason. The dives were done in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a dive park called Dutch Springs. It's a quarry that was used until the miners hit water, then it was allowed to fill up and turned into a diving/adventure park. There are several platforms and wrecks inside at different depths. We did a total of 6 dives all weekend; the first 4 were for our certification. Basically those involved going down 27 feet to a platform and doing different skills, like mask removal and clearing, buddy breathing, and compass navigation. Since I was diving with a new mask, I initially freaked out that it was filling with water and panicked during my first descent. Debbie calmed me down, told me my mask was fine, and helped me slowly descend to the platform. (She later told me she at first thought I wasn't going to make it, and when we got out of the water she was really excited I had made it and gave me a huge hug.) On our first dive we swam around for a bit, including around a fire engine that was sitting at about 15 feet beneath the surface. There wasn't much to see in the water itself, some bass about 8 inches long, and the water was like swimming in an uncleaned fish tank. The quarry is also covered with zebra mussels, an invasive species that cover and corrode every surface, but do help keep the water cleaner by filtering it. We did 3 dives like that the first day. I didn't get dizzy or queasy once and handled it just fine. I think it helped that the weather was cool and it was drizzling all day.

I should also mention that there were 4 in our group of open water students, 3 guys and myself. There was also another instructor and a woman there to do her dives for her advanced certification. Her name was Cathy and we shared a hotel room. Her boyfriend is in Hawaii right now doing his divemaster training. I really got along with everyone on the trip. My dive buddy was named Alexei, and at first he looked like a scraggly little guy but then I realized he had ridiculous strength and he was very helpful getting me into my equipment. That stuff is HEAVY. The tank alone is about 20 pounds. Then I had 16-18 pounds of weights in my buoyancy vest. Carrying that to and from the water, along with fins, while dressed in head-to-toe neoprene, is no easy feat! Of course, once you get into the water you feel light as a feather. One of the other guys was British, from Leeds, and he was cute, but also seemed rather full of himself and didn't seem impressed at all with the fact that I've been to Leeds on several occasions. Whatever dude!

Saturday night we all went out to dinner at a restaurant called Bocca di Beppo, which was a gaudily decorated, family-style Italian place, where we sat in the "Pope room" at a large table with a bust of Pope John Paul II on it, and ordered a ridiculous amount of food, and PJPII stared at us every time the lazy Susan spun around. My friend Karen, who recently started her doctorate program at Lehigh, joined us, and she and I went out afterwards to a local bar. I had 2 glasses of wine with dinner and Debbie told me as I was leaving that I was not to drink any more alcohol or she would not let me dive the next day. Yes scuba mom! I met Karen's new boyfriend and we had a fine time even though I wasn't drinking at all. Yes, scuba diving does not go along with my alcoholic lifestyle, but anything that makes me drink less is a good thing.

On Sunday we only had one dive to go before certification. It was our compass navigation dive, and it was easy! We surfaced and Debbie said "What we have here are 4 newly certified open water divers!" Yay! Then she let us dive down again and swim back to shore underwater. Every dive you make gets recorded in a log book and basically counts as a record of your experience, so the more dives you have under your belt, the better. After lunch we went for our deepest dive yet, to a sunken helicopter. I was nervous about how I would do, since I do have still have some equalization issues, but I have found that if I go slowly I do just fine. After about 25 feet, I found that further depth didn't bother my ears at all, and I made it down to the helicopter, and swam through it, and around it, and under it! It was without a doubt one of the coolest things I have ever experienced in my life. Generally, my interest is more in wildlife than in diving wrecks, but I just loved it. Scuba diving is, in a way, like flying -- you can go over, under, through, up, down, wherever you want. I kept checking my depth gauge because I couldn't get over the fact of how deep I was. We went down to 56 feet. It was cold, but I was really comfortable in my wetsuit. That's another thing that made the experience great -- the wetsuit I rented from Empire Divers was in great condition, fit well, and was not smelly.

All in all the whole experience was great. My ears however are kind of clogged still, which worries me a little. I'm going to Empire Divers tonight because Debbie said she would get me a better mask and would take back my old one even though I didn't buy it through her. I'm going to ask her what she thinks about my ear situation. I really don't have time for another damn doctor's appointment so I really hope it goes away on its own soon.

So, now here I am, the first day of my last week of work before my trip. I am now trying to figure out what to do with my time in Cairns. A 2-day live-aboard snorkel/dive boat would be my best option, but they are expensive, and I want to know that the boat I choose is eco-friendly and well reviewed. There's so much to consider, but I feel so accomplished and excited! Now I'm probably going to want to go on dive trips in addition to all the other vacations I already want to take. :b Apparently, Eilat, Israel, is a hot scuba diving destination. Wouldn't it be funny if scuba is the thing that ultimately gets me to the Holy Land?

I did it!

Sep. 13th, 2009 10:22 pm
nycmermaid: (Default)
I got my PADI open water certification! And then I dove 55 feet to a wrecked helicopter! And I had a great time! And I am EXHAUSTED.

Will write more tomorrow. For now, a couple of silly pics...

nycmermaid: (Default)

Reading full prescribing information, eating giant peach.


Aug. 3rd, 2009 03:19 pm
nycmermaid: (Default)
Lamentations about my life direction aside...I had a pretty great weekend. I slept. I read. I cleaned. I knitted. I hermitted for 2 days as the weather outside changed from rainy to sunny to rainy to sunny again. I..wai jus one damn minue. he buon on my keyboard for he leer ha comes afer s has jus sopped workin! his pos will reurn once I have his hin fixed!

[20 minutes later]...And I'm back, with shiny new keyboard that I sort of stole...there was a miso soup incident earlier that finally caught up with me...but enough about that. Things I did this weekend. Anyway, one of the things I wanted to talk about was PBS. I watched a lot of it this weekend, so much that I actually did throw them a few bucks in response to their ubiquitous pledge drive. First was the concert for Pete Seeger's 90th birthday, which I had been interested in seeing at MSG when it happened in I think May, so it was very nice to be able to watch it on TV. Pete Seeger is not just a folk writer and singer but an activist for some really cool causes, a guy who truly practices what he preaches. He lives in a home in upstate NY that he built himself; for such a successful guy he lives very modestly and you get the sense that they make everything they can themselves. The concert itself had many great artists like Ani Difranco, the Wainrights, Joan Baez, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews. Really enjoyable. That was Saturday.

On Sunday, while cleaning my house (or making my best attempt) I was flipping channels and came across Chess in Concert, which caught my eye because of Idina Menzel, and also starred Josh Groban and Adam Pascal, in addition to some other very talented actors I had never heard of before. I had a vague knowledge of the musical Chess, like that it was a musical and it had to be a bit weird since the 80s pop hit "One Night in Bangkok" is from it, but I didn't know it was written by Tim Rice and the guys from ABBA, and I had no idea how fucking good the music in it is. Maybe it's never been done before with such talented performers, but I was quickly transfixed, and recorded it and later rewatched it with my family. If you are a fan of musical theater, it is a must-see. The actors performed the show "concert" style, which I guess means it wasn't a full-scale stage show, but it looked like one to me. The amazing thing is that they had about a week to rehearse it before this one-time performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I have never seen Josh Groban before in a theater context, I always just thought of him singing cheesy inspirational pop music, but he was amazing in this. I also recognized more songs from the show than I expected to, like "I Know Him So Well." It's on DVD; go rent it, seriously.
nycmermaid: (killyourboyfriend)
I just had to post this here too. It's a great reminder of a fantastic evening, a legendary band, and a truly bitchass chick. (This girl was lifted out of the pit when Billie Joe asked if anyone knew how to play Jesus of Suburbia on the guitar. This is no small feat as the song is 9 minutes long.)

I wish the pre-song part was on here too. I loved the moment where Billie Joe was like "Do you really know how to play this song? What key is it in? Okay get up here."


nycmermaid: (Default)

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