Jan-Mar 1986

Hello, folks! It's time for yet another form letter describing the life and times. If I remember correctly, we left our intrepid adventurer (that's me) in the month of January. Car...Ski Condo...New Job....ahhhhh, lets see Big thinqs first: I've quit my job at JPL. A woman I just started dating insists that 1 got her pregnant. $5,000 worth of stereo equipment and a significant portion of my house went up in flames due to a drunken moron dropping a lit cigarette in a trashcan. How are these items related? Only in that they are all completely untrue.
What is true? Since January I've gone out with Charlene, Alice, Carolyn, Lori, Lisette , Liz, Lynn, Lauri (lots of "L"s), and Yuki. End result of all this activity; not much. I and Char are still the closest to a "thing" that I've gotten involved in. Yuki is a new commer and an as yet unknown quantity (I've only gone out with her once, but it did seem to go well). Everyone else is either unavailable, uninterested, or trouble.  Lynn was reasonable in most catagories, but it was such a high stress date that I've been putting off going out with any others (or with her, for that matter). This may seems strange to the point of stupidity; the reason is that it is stupid, of course. But life has been so busy recently that it has been easy to blame it on schedule.

Non work related activities in January could be summarized by a single word; skiing. My younger brother and his fiance came out for a visit, the only other thing that could be considered even remotely interesting. Skiing at Mammoth was outstanding. I didn't even stay at my condo; I went up with Jim Hlavity and a bunch of his Air Force friends. Alex Simmons flew down from San Fransisco, and we enjoyed five days of the best skiing Mammoth had to offer. There were huge snowstorms on Friday and Saturday, not enough to shut down the mountain, but enough to close the roads so the weekend warriors couldn't make it up for the weekend. About three, four feet of powder dropped altogether, and with the short lines I did more skiing in those few days than the entire previous season combined.

Work related activities included a very significant change; I left ASAS (my old project) and Section 331 for a new job on JESS (the Joint Exercise Support System) and Section 363. The new job is considered by JPL to be a management position, although it does require a significant amount of technical capability and background. My official job title is "Technical Group Leader" (TGL). I have ten people working for me. The best part of the deal; JESS is a giant (you guessed it!) WARGAME!!!!!!!! It is used for training Corps level officers in how to fight an integrated Army/Air Force battle in a variety of locations. This has included Korea, Europe, and Central America previously; by strange coincidence, we are supposed to support a game fought in South West Asia in the near Future (SW Asia is the Persian Gulf and Iran). TGL has been fun and interesting although I'm still suffering from the "new job blues" --1 hate not being on top of everything, and when you start on a 300,000 line of code software project you don't know enough to be on top of everything.

The only real complaint I have about the job is the travel. When I interviewed for the position, I told my new group supervisor (Gary Paine) and the person I replaced (John Dundas) that the only thing that might keep me from taking the job would be excessive travel. They insisted that some travel would be necessary, but that it would be no more than two weeks out of every three or four months. Unfortunately, I spent three weeks in February and am currently spending two weeks in April at the Joint Warfare Center (our sponsers) supporting exercises with the JESS 1.1 software. This lead to the obvious question of whether Gary meant three of four weeks out of every two months instead of the inverse. But no; this current splurt of travel is supposed to be a fluke that will average itself out over the next year.

Hmmmmmm Other February activities.... I went to see the play "UTAMARO" with Char. It was billed as a Broadway Style Musical about UTAMARO, a wood block artist that was considered trie best of the 1790's period when this art form reached its peak". True, but they forgot to mention one significant point... the play was all in Japanese. Fortunately, they had subtitles (yes, it was a play, not a movie ... they had small screens on the side of the stage and projected the subtitles on them). Unfortunately, a typical scene would consist of ten minutes of conversation followed by a single slide that would say something like "Utamaro was angry". Sort of lost something in the translation. I managed to make it skiing in February for a weekend, this time with Charlene, Jeff Stern, and Carolyn Racho. The skiing wasn't quite up to January's standards, but having Char along added its own unique advantages....

I travelled up to Boston to visit my brother Bill for his birthday on the 20th. It was fun, but his two cats almost killed me because of my allergies. It almost makes me think it would be worthwhile getting the anti allergy shots, except that I can't make time to get to the doctors for a physical once a year, never mind once a month for the shots!!!!!

I also went scuba diving one weekend. It was a very memorable dive. I and Jeff Stern decided to do a night dive on friday night. We hadn't been diving in a while and wanted to a last Bug Hunt Before the season ended. Bugs, by the way, are lobsters; they are nocturnal and protected for most of the year. I and Jeff had dived for the little buggers early in the season with zilch success. This time, we decided, it would be different. We fought our way through the rush hour traffic that afternoon, arriving in Laguana about 7:00 pm. Laguana is our favorite diving area; lots of little, isolated coves with rocky bottoms. It has several underwater parks because of the variety of life in the area. We started at the top of a cliff overlooking Moss cove.

Our standard procedure was to don scuba equipment at the top, leaving our clothes locked in the car (this ever since someone stole my t-shirt during a dive!), and using a stairwell to climb down to and up from the cove. In one way the darkness would be a blessing; one of the strictest rules of scuba diving is the requirement to smile while climbing a steep staircase with a hundred pounds of diving gear on after fighting surf, current, and water resistance for an hour. It is necessary in order to convince other people that scuba diving is fun. Under the cover of dark, we would be able to curse and groan as we scrambled up the stairs. The only change we made was the decision to put our tanks on without assistance (normally your partner helps you) in order to get back in the swing of things. To put your tank on yourself, you usually place the tank in front of you, grabbing the backback that is attached to the tank. The backpack in turn provides straps that secure the tank to the diver. You swing the tank up and over your head; it lands on your back and hopefully slides down into place with the straps over your shoulders. It is in theory one smooth, coordinated action. It was in reality a jerky, barely successful attempt that left me staggering for a few moments. Fortunately, I made it, and bent over to fasten the buckle at my waist that would secure the tank in place. Just about the time I bent over, Stern, who was standing all of three feet away from me, swung his tank up in one smooth, coordinated action, bouncing the eighty pounds of aluminum and steel off the side of my haad in the process. Once again, I staggered around for a few moments, regaining my balance due to a snort suspension of the laws of physics. I coufd feel the warm trickle of blood pouring down my face. Stern rushed over, examining the wound carefully. In a concerned tone of voice, he exclaimed "its only a flesh wound"! "In that case, we should clearly continue" I replied. We returned to donning our gear, while I wiped the occasional slick of sweat and blood off my forehead.

I noted a problem with my tank; there is a U clamp that holds the tank to the backback; the clamp has a rubber divider that ensures the tank does not slip out of the clamp. My rubber divider was missing. I tightened the U clamp as much as I could to compensate, hoping that this would keep the tank in place. We got almost twenty feet before the tank slipped completely out of the U clamp, slamming into the ground behind me and whipping the regulator hose across my face. Unlike the previous few times when a similar shift in wieght caused me to staggered around, this time I staggered in one direction as the tank dragged me backwards. It was a nice night for staggering.

I stared at Stern. Stern stared at me. We both turned io stare at the tank. "Looks bad" said Jeff. "Yep" I answered. After a while we both concluded that staring at the tank wasn't particularly useful. "Jam it back in the U clamp, and I'll hold it in place while we walK down to the cove" I said. Jeff looked doubtful. "What about when we get in the water?". "You follow me, and if you see it slipping, jam it back in again". I could see Jeff considering the ridiculousness of the concept and wieghing it against the potential for drowning in the pounding surf below. "OK" he replied. We started off again, while I kept both hands behind me grasping the bottom of the tank.

At the bottom of the stairs, we paused long enough for Jeff to do a little more jamming, and headed for the water. The surf was moderate, three to four foot peaks with long flat intervals. We checked our equipment, both the diving gear, the flashlights, and the necessities for bug hunting. Bugs have limitations on the size you are allowed to legally keep; you buy a caliper to measure them. You also need a "goody bag" to hold the lobsters while you swim around; mine was a large nylon net bag, clipped to my wieght belt, and just long enough to brush the ground. Jeff had a shorter, canvas bag that held the caliper and a diving license. "Good thing you have the caliper so we can stay legal" I mentioned to Jeff. "My license has expired" he replied. "Huh?" I alertly replied. "My fishing license has expired". I stared at Jeff. Jeff stared at me. We both stared at the now defunct fishing license. "Looks bad" I commented. "Yep" said Jeff. We headed for the water.

We crashed into the surf, making it past the breaking waves with few problems. As planned, we swam out about a quarter mile with Jeff following me and watching my tank. It didn't slip at all, and we finally decided that it would hold. I picked out a few landmarks so we could find our way back to the cove; my eyesight is alot keener that Jeff's. We deflated our bouyance compensators, switched from snorkles to regulators, and headed for the bottom.
After a number of successful catches but unsuccessful caliper measurements, I finally caught a bug that was legal size. I held it out triumphantly to Stern. He held his hands put ancfgaye an unmistakable "pretty shaky" sign. Hard to believe; the first lobster in three dives that came even close to being legal size, and the two of us without a license, and he was nitpicking. I put the bug in my bag, and decided that his name was Al.

A short while later, Jeff found a bug in the open. It looked small, but it might have been legal. He held it out to me so I could keep it while he dragged out the caliper. While I was holding the lobster, I suddenly noticed that my goody bag had gotten tangled on something because the bag was looped over my back, dragging me around to my side. I reached down to untangle it, and felt the end of the bag. It seemed clear of snags. I shined my flashlight on it; it was free. Puzzled, I started feeling around the other side of the bag. About one or two feet down, I felt a large steel ring. What could it be? The only ring attached to my bag was the one holding the bag to my wieght belt. A sudden suspision dawned. I pointed my flashlight around to my other side, and in the beam was the yellow and dull gray of my wieght belt hanging down into the water. The buckle apparently popped open, allowing the wieghtbelt to disassociate itself from me. The only thing keeping me from bobbing to the surface like a cork was the goody bag looped around my back, providing a tenuous link to the twenty six pounds of lead on the belt.

I managed to maintain my parities; first order of business was to save the lobster. I waved it frantically in Jeffs face; he looked up, signaled "just a minute more", and went back to fishing out the caliper. Finally, he pulled it out of the bag, looked up, and noticed that I had a problem. I thrust the bug in his direction; Jeff, one hand full of flashlight and the other full of the caliper (joined with another, smaller flashlight), promptly dropped the caliper to grab the lobster. I watched the cafiper sink into a crevice and realized that if I paused to put my wieght belt on, we would never find it again. I let myself sink down, grabbed the caliper, and handed it to Jeff, who finally let the lobster go (he didn't have his priorities straight!). That's when the shark attacked.... no, only kidding. I managed to get my wieght belt back on, despite a sudden, painful leg cramp, and we continued the dive.

The rest of the dive was fun but uneventful; we did see one Moray Eel that must have been six feet long and a foot wide, but no more legal sized bugs wandered our way. Finally, we reached about five hundred pounds of air and headed for the surface.

When we finally come up, I took a look around for the landmarks that would identify the cove we came from. The primary one was a large, flood lit american flag. I couldn't see any of them. Finally I concluded that we had swum down one cove during our time underwater, and I and Jeff swam for the next cove up. Fifteen minutes of kicking later, we made it. Jeff looked up, panting from the swim. "Dave, I don't recognize any of these buildings". I looked around. He was right. I looked down the coast to the cove we had just left. There was a huge American flag sitting in plain sight. Whoops. "Jeff, you know how you clouted me on the nead with your tank? Well, paybacks are hell". We rested for a few moments (with an occasional curse from Jeff) and started kicking back down the coast.
About half way there, I took a look at Jeff. Something was wrong, but I couldn't quite figure out what. Jeff suddenly started struggling and I realized what the problem was.. Jeffs tank had fallen out of it's U clamp. I used the old adage about "doing unto others" and jammed the tank back in its place.

We finally made it to shore a short time later. The surf had picked up, but we were determined to make it quickly, and headed for the beach. I punched my way through the waves without too much trouble, taking off my fins just past the surf. Jeff, however, had a little bad luck with his timing, and a few tons of water crashed down on him in the form of a large wave. Jeff went down hard. I rushed out into the surf to help him up and out of the water, grabbing the fins that he had already removed. We dragged ourselves on all fours out onto the beach. I looked down and noticed that I only had three fins. "Sorry Jeff, I think I dropped one of your fins in the surf". He looked over. "Nope. You've got both of mine". I looked more carefully, and he was right; I had dropped one of my fins. I wandered back put into the surf to find it. Five minutes of searching with the flashlight revealed nothing. Defeated, I headed back for the beach when suddenly something wrapped itself around my leg. Reaching into the foaming surf, I pulled out my errant fin.
We dragged ourselves up the stairs after a short rest. Getting to the car was a welcome relief; we both immediately dropped our wieght belts and started to take our tanks off. Unfortunately, my goody bag was a little top long, and in the middle of removing my tank I stepped on Al the bug with a sickening squish. I pulled my leg up quickly, and for the umpteenth time that evening staggered around until I regained my balance. Al was not in good shape, which is a real problem with a lobster; they secrete an enzyme when they die that makes them inedible if they are not cooked immediately. "Better get this guy on ice fast" I said to Jeff. Jeff replied hesitantly "Ahhh....Dave, I hate to say it, but we didn't bring any ice. Or a cooler, for that matter". There was no way Al would survive the trip back to Pasadena.

We finally ended up stopping at my cousin Margaret's place. She offered to cook him up and let us take trie cooked lobster back with us, but I said no; I don't trust any food that doesn't come out of a supermarket.

March was mostly a "catch up on life" month. I returned from a three week JESS excersize on the 11th at 7:00pm. At 9:00 pm the same night I and Char headed for Mammoth to do a little skiing. It was a burn out skiing trip, and between jet lag and the 12 hour workdays of the previous three weeks my body just didn't have the stamina it should have; I caught a cold. On my return, I picked up the myriad overdue bills and almost total lack of personal letters (hint, hint). Then I started to dig into my USC Database systems class; I nad a midterm in seven days and had missed over a months work of classes. I was fortunately rescued from the tedious task of actually studying, however, by visits from Larry Finkel and Eric Haines. Both visits were fun, and I finally started studying for the midterm on Monday night, the day before it was to be given. Just like good old RPI days! Unlike RPI, however, USC grad classes are for twits, and I managed to ace the exam easilly. The other aspect of the class, however, was the term project. I was supposed to have been working on it for five weeks. Of course, I had actually but in about five minutes work on it. I did have to put in some serious hours on the program, but seven days later I had 3000 lines of C code that worked...mostly.

I headed for San Fransisco with Jeff Goldsmith the last weekend in March, visiting Alex Simmons, Jennifer Stern, Jeffrey Pugh, Larry Finkel, Lisette Gerald and others. We toured the wine country and generally had a good time.
That almost brings me up to date. The most serious thing that occured in April was my father's transplanted kidney finally biting the dust; not a life threatning situation, since dialysis has gotten to the point were it can completely replace the kidney, but not good news. Or so it seemed; I've been in close touch with my father and there have been some definite advantages to the kidney loss. Apparently the kidney was not working well at all in the past few years, and the dialysis is cleaning his blood up much better, with the result that he feels better than he has in the last two years. Additionally, he doesn't have to take the immunen (a drug to prevent the kidney from being rejected) any more, and the high blood pressure that occured as a result of the immumen, requiring blood pressure medicine, has also disappeared; end result is that he is taking about 2 pills a day now vice the twenty or so he used to have to take. Finally, Dialysis has gotten to the point where they can use a chemical solution to clean out the blood instead of pumping allthe blood in your body through a machine. It requires three or four liters of the stuff a day, which puts a cramp on travelling, but it can be done at home with little or no fuss.

I also went (you guessed it!) skiing for a weekend.

Now I'm on another JESS exercise. I've been put on the graveyard shift (10 pm to 7 am) which is bad, but I'm on as the lead system engineer which is very, very good. In some ways, even though I hate travelling, it has been nice to be out here in Florida. I ve settled into a routine that includes running 6 miles, reading alot, watching a little moronic television for varieties sake, and work. The night shift is so quiet that little actual supervision is necessary, so I've had a chance to do a few other things (like write this letter) that I can't do very often in LA.

That sort of concludes the "recent evens" column of my life. I have more to say, but not enough motivation to keep typing after 5+ pages!!!! Keep in touch!