Monday, August 03, 2009

Another perspective on Healthcare Costs

In my opinion the true issues regarding the costs associated with health care in the USA are not being addressed. As is usual in these politically charged debates, the true issues are not being addressed. Issues that fit ideological biases, or which seem to be populist are pursued without really taking the time to dig down to the root issues. It is almost like the old joke about "don't confuse me with the facts".

The crux of the current debate about health care seems to be about the large number of people in the USA who do not have health insurance. Some might argue that the uninsured to not have access to health care. Obviously everyone have access to primary health care. The emergency rooms treat anyone who walks in. The issue is not whether you can get treatment, but whether you can pay for it.

Unfortunately, emergency rooms are being abused by many people who do not have legitimate emergencies. Often, the patients in the ER are there for routine treatment because they do not have a insurance or are illegal aliens etc. In many situations, the ER has become a health care clinic.

An anecdote: A friend who is a nurse at a local ER told me of a situation where a patient used the emergency services (ambulance etc), to have a pregnancy test done. The person did not have the money to get a pregnancy test done elsewhere, but since she declared an emergency, the ambulance was used and the test was done. The cost for this incident was probably around $2000. This kind of abuse or the ER (in my view) is not an isolated case. People will find loopholes in every system.

Often hospitals treat uninsured patients in the ER at a loss. The loss is usually borne out by paying patients. As I mentioned in a previous post - altruism and the profit motive do not make good bedfellows.

The solution to the problem of uninsured patients is not giving everyone insurance and creating a huge (and expensive) bureaucracy to administer the insurance system.

A starting point for thinking about a solution must involve providing affordable primary health care (free in some cases) to those who cannot afford their own insurance. Primary health care should be easily available. People should not have to abuse the emergency system to get primary health care.

In a next post I will write about the cost of training doctors. After 11 years of medical training, the student loans could reach $300,000 in some cases.

Friday, July 24, 2009

universal health care?

The debate keeps raging about universal health care in the USA.

The problem with the debate is how the questions are framed.

No right thinking person would assert that anyone should be kept from primary health care. Obviously nobody should be turned away from an emergency room because of the inability to pay.

In the USA at least, there is no shortage of emergency rooms and primary health care facilities. One could not honestly say that most of the population is not within easy reach of primary emergency treatment.

However, the ability to pay for treatment has become the crux of the issue (in my understanding).

People who do not have health insurance in the USA faces some real financial issues if they need any kind of definitive health care. Any serious medical care will cost more than the average person could afford.

Let's say for example that you step on a rusty nail and go to the ER for treatment. According to the figures released by a Consumer Health Organization the average cost for the treatment will be $1081. If I did not have health insurance, I would most likely NOT go to the emergency room for treatment. I would probably have elected to treat the issue at home until I probably developed a serious infection and then would have had some really serious financial issues. For the average person, spending $1000 on an unplanned issue is a huge problem.

In my opinion, the issue of universal health care is more complex than making sure everyone has access to affordable insurance.

In the USA, health care is a huge business. As long as health care is a profit driven business there will be no end to the ever escalating costs. It is a self fulfilling prophecy in a way. Costs will increase in relation to the need to show a profit. Altruism and the profit motive do not make good bedfellows.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Off Topic - movie review

Last night I watched a movie called Breach.
The movie is based on the true story of the Robert Hanson who according to the movie was the highest placed Russian spy ever in the history of the USA.

I had a vague memory of the Hanson affair from the press reports at the time. All I could remember was that he was a rather intense person with a penchant for a stripper who he supported. I also remember that he tried to lecture the Russians about OODA loops.

The movie portrayed Hanson as a driven man who eluded capture and exposure for many years. The movie portrays him as one of the best to elude detection. Perhaps his quirky personality and intense interest in religion and family kept him off the RADAR.

The movie is not a blockbuster but was interesting to watch and to know that a lot of what was portrayed in the movie actually happened.

It seems that Hanson was part driven to prove that he was smarter than his colleagues and part a flawed man with an inner conflict to prove that he was right.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

51 Weeks

Last week I spent a glorious week of diving and enjoying life. The week consisted of diving eating and sleeping (in that order). Everything was right with the world.

I was not ready for the return to the real world.

It has been a week back at work and I still cannot get back into the regular routine. I feel an emptiness and find my mind drifting back to the carefree days diving and laying in the sun during the surface intervals.

The diagnosis: a bad case of post-vacations blues.

Usually I find it easy to get back into work and the routine of life. For some reason, on this vacation, I almost feel like I left a part of my heart in the ocean. I know this will sound odd - but I feel a similar emptiness to when I got dumped by my previous girl friend.

A thought occurred to me today. Taking one week off to do what I live for seems like I have to endure 51 weeks of tedium for one week of bliss. Not only that, but I spend about 200 hours a year doing a part-time job just to pay for my SCUBA trips. Every minute of that is worth it for the sublime bliss of descending over the wall in the crystal clear water Roatan.

Only 50 weeks to go...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

All up in knots

In some classes we teach the fine art of knot tying. Unfortunately, I have not been blessed with the knot tying gene, so I have to work at my knot tying skills. Tonight, whilst scanning around the net (mainly via Stumble Upon) I found some excellent videos in YouTube that demonstrate the knot tying very clearly and simply.

Here is a quick example of the bowline.

Here is a longer video with a longer demonstration and slightly different technique.

Here is an example of the double sheet bend

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Diving the Spiegel Grove

Recently, I had the privilege to dive the Spiegel Grove. The wreck is located approximately 6 miles from Key Largo. We were fortunate to dive on the wreck 4 times during the week that we were in Key Largo. We did not plan to dive on the wreck so many times, but the alternate (the Duane) was not safe to dive in the opinion of the boat captain (due to strong currents on the day).

At first I was disappointed that we did not get to dive the Duane, but after diving the Spiegel Grove 4 times, I realized that we had so much to see that 4 dives were barely enough to just do one lap around the top deck of the ship. Because I take lots of photos, we tended to stay in one area longer and tried to take in as much as possible. On each dive we covered approximately a quarter of the ship. I would recommend that if you want to cover the ship from stem to stern then 4 dives would be the minimum. We did not do any deep dives (deeper than 100feet), or do any penetration dives. There are issues with both types of diving, that would have affected our photo taking activities.

I guess I was not really prepared for how large the ship is. I had read that the ship was large, and people told me that the ship was large, but actually diving the wreck, one gets to take in the expanse of the ship firsthand. The most impressive to me were the size of the cranes, and the gigantic dock in the stern of the ship.

The Spiegel Grove should be on any diver's to-do list. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

IDC teaching presentation: introduction

There are two kinds of presentations that you will need to give during the IDC. This post will deal with "micro teaching" presentations. The other type is called a prescriptive teaching presentation. The next series of post will deal with how to develop knowledge presentations. Knowledge presentations consists of the following three sections:

Introduction – introduce the topic by saying what you will be talking about.

Body – explain the topic

Summary – restate the main points to emphasize learning.

This post will focus on developing the INTRODUCTION section of the IDC teaching presentation. The introduction creates a readiness to learn and informs the listener about where the presentation is headed and motivates the learner to pay attention and tells the listener how to interact.

The introduction consists of 4 sections:
  • Contact
  • Value
  • Key points
  • Contact

1. Contact – gain attention the attention of your audience by relating the topic to an experience the students may have had.

2. Value – The value statement gives the student a reason why they want to listen and learn. Create a need to know.

3. Key points – Give a brief overview of what you will be covering in the main body. Hint: use the key points listed in your instructor manual.

4. Conduct – Tell the students to turn in their books to a specific page, take notes etc.

Monday, April 07, 2008

PADI IDC - classroom presentations

A few days ago I posted an entry about my initials thoughts about how to make the IDC (instructor development course) more relevant to the real world. In this continuing series, I would like to make some more observations on the IDC and give some suggestions for improvement.

The IDC curriculum is intended to expose the candidate instructor to a lot of information and hopefully he/she will come away with enough to make them good instructors. At times it seems like you are drinking information from a fire hose. There is a lot to absorb and for those who do the intense seven to ten day course will be able to identify with the fire hose analogy.

The main focus for the IDC is to develop and sharpen the candidates presentation skills. There are classroom, pool and open water presentations. Each type of presentation has its own set of challenges. For the most part, the pool and open water presentation training is good and equips the candidates well for the real world teaching situation.

The classroom presentation development however leaves a lot to be desired. The way that PADI teaches its instructors is to develop presentations following a set outline. The candidates are then judged (by course directors and sometimes staff instructors) on how closely they follow the outline. The problem is that the outline does not translate well to the real world teaching situation. I could go into details here, but the key point is that there is too much redundant information required in the various sections of the presentations that really to not add to the value of the information conveyed.

However, having said all that, in the next post, I will detail a method that you can follow that will ensure that you will consistently score 4.5 or better on your presentations. Unfortunately, the method feels a little rigid, but with practice you should be able to knock out one of these presentations in 10 minutes or less.

Friday, April 04, 2008

IDC - training inadequate?

The Instructor Development Course (IDC) is something that every instructor has to endure. The course is fairly demanding and tries to cover many different areas, ranging from legal to marketing to presentation skills. Generally, I think that the PADI curriculum works well and prepares instructors adequately.

However, I have some suggestions and thoughts of how to make the IDC more relevant and appropriate to what we will be doing as instructors.

Some background: for the last three years or so I have been a staff instructor assisting in teaching IDC's at our local dive store. So my experience is from both sides of the IDC - first as a candidate instructor and later as a staff instructor.

My major problem with the IDC is that it does not seem to equip the candidates adequately on how to conduct classes. By the time I completed my IDC I knew how to prepare and deliver a skill presentation and how to teach a topic in the class. The thing is that we do not equip the candidates to conduct a class as it is going to be delivered in the real world situation.

When I started teaching classes, I really did not feel ready to teach the class. Technically I was ready and able to deliver the information, but did not feel confident about presenting a class from start to the end on my own. For example, I did not even know how to complete the student folders (instructor's portion).

Obviously we all learn on the job, and get through the initial jitters. However we can make the IDC's a little more practical and ensure that the instructor candidates are ready for the real world teaching situation.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Oxygen kits

My Local Dive Store (LDS) has a number of the Divers Alert Network (DAN) oxygen kits that are available to the instructors for use during classes. We make a point of taking the kits with us every time we use the pool or the lake for teaching and sometimes even for fun dives. The kits comes in large watertight green cases and are easy to transport. Personally I appreciate the LDS having so many kits available to us to use. I think it speaks highly of the store owner that he has invested in having the kits available to us.

I wrote recently about attending a Emergency First Responder (EFR) instructor update class and a DAN diving emergency management provider class. The DAN class focused on treating divers whereas the EFR class was a general first responder and first aid class. A part of the DAN class was training in using the oxygen kits. I have taken the training a number of times before, but this class covered some new territory. We learned to use the bag valve inflators that can be used instead of doing mouth to mouth resuscitation.

One of the instructors, who seems to be fairly flush with cash, indicated that he personally owns a number of oxygen kits. I guess I have not really thought about owning my own kit since the LDS kits are always available to me when I teach classes. However the instructor made the point that he carries one in his car and has a few others for family emergencies. My question to instructors is "do you own your own oxygen kit and what is your opinion on having your own kit?"

I think that it is a really good idea to have your own oxygen kit, and I will be investing in one in future. Of course there are some issues to consider with owning your kit. The first is that pure oxygen is regarded as a prescription medicine in some states and should be treated as such. The second is that the tanks need the same inspection as regular SCUBA tanks (annual visuals and hydrostatic testing every five years).

One of our instructors is also an EMT (emergency medical technician) at a local fire department. He has said on many occasions that we do not use oxygen enough. He feels (and I think he is correct), that we should use oxygen as a first recourse instead of a last recourse. Because of my training, I guess I always considered oxygen to be used only in the case of heart attacks, near drowning, and the like. He suggested that we should be more liberal with the use of the oxygen and that it is probably a good idea to use it even then the person is not feeling too well and you not sure of the exact symptoms. For example the student might be very fatigued after the 200 yard swim and has some risk factors (smokes, over weight etc), then the prudent thing might be provide oxygen.

Being well prepared (trained and equipped) for the emergency that you hope will never occur is something we need to strive for as instructors.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Shock me once, shock me twice

Over the past few days I have taken some refresher classes to maintain my emergency first response (EFR) instructor rating. At the same time I thought it would be a good idea to take the new DAN diving emergency management provide (DEMP). Both courses spend a lot of time on how to perform CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) and how to use the AED (automated external defibrillator).

To those of you who have taken the new CPR training that includes AED use, you will probably be familiar with how easy it is to use the AED. It is really very easy and intuitive. AED's are being installed just about everywhere you go now. In the building that I work in, they have one on every second floor. In the city that I live in, I understand that every police squad car is equipped with an AED. I also heard that there is a city in Colorado that has equipped every single city owned vehicle with AED's.

This morning I read an article in our local newspaper that the latest guidelines from the AHA is that mouth to mouth rescue breaths are falling out of favor. Instead the focus is on chest compressions to keep blood moving to vital organs. The article mentioned that doing rescue breaths takes up around 16 seconds that could have been used for doing chest compressions. I guess it is a balancing act, but I think that if it a question of someone being freaked out by the idea of doing rescue breaths then the new guideline is a good change.

A thought occurred to me while we were playing around with the AED. We are so focused on Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib) and getting an AED to the victim that we might miss other problems that might be going on with the victim. The problem that I have with the extreme focus on AED's is probably summed up by the old adage "when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Obviously I am totally in favor of using AED's and would like to see even more available in public places. I am just concerned that an over emphasis on the technology will make for poor first responders.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shark attack fatality - Bahamas, part II

I purposefully waited before writing my opinion on the matter of fatality in the Bahamas. I think it is disrespectful rushing to judgment and spouting knee-jerk reactions before the facts are in. I am sad for the loss of Markus Groh and no amount of finger pointing and pontificating will change what happened.

What I would like to do is write more about some general feelings that I have about some aspects of shark tourism. I have written about this a number of times. For example here is a link to my latest entry on the subject.

Personally, I am not in favor of creating an artificial situation (chumming) to attract sharks to a dive site. It is entirely possible that what happened in the Bahamas was an unfortunate accident of mistaken identity. If the bull shark (as is reported) wanted to, it could done much more damage to the diver (Markus Groh). However, we need remember that we are dealing with wild animals, in their environment. We as humans are visiting their domain and have to act accordingly.

The most important aspect of diving with dangerous animals is to know their behavior and not create a situation that could lead to an accident. For example, bull sharks are known to be very aggressive hunters that attack without fear - mostly in murky water. With bull sharks, an attack of mistaken identity is a real danger and possibility. The more you know about the species, the better equipped you will be to dive with them, AND truly appreciate their grace and beauty. In my opinion, sharks are some of the most beautiful animals on earth.

An article on the National Geographic website has the following information about the Bull Shark. Note the last sentence of the quote below (italics mine).

They are found cruising the shallow, warm waters of all the world’s oceans. Fast, agile predators, they will eat almost anything they see, including fish, dolphins, and even other sharks. Humans are not, per se, on their menus. However, they frequent the turbid waters of estuaries and bays, and often attack people inadvertently or out of curiosity. (

The point is obviously that shark diving should not be a hunt after adrenaline without respecting the apex predator of the ocean. I believe it is not respectful to the animals to treat them as a carnival ride at a theme park. Perhaps I have a minority opinion in the matter, but I trust that we will thoughtfully consider how we interact with the marine animals.


Link to one of my previous posts on chumming.
Link to a fact sheet on the Bull Shark.
Wikipedia page on the Bull Shark

Shark attack fatality - Bahamas.

Sadly, an Austrian diver, Markus Groh, died after a shark diving in the the Bahamas. (See the article in the Wiener Zeitung)

The details are still unclear, but it appears that Markus was mistakenly bitten on the leg (probably calf), and either died from loss of blood, or died as the result of lung overexpansion injury (alternatively called arterial gas embolism. Wikipedia article on AGE). The exact cause will probably become known in the days to come, but my sincere condolences go out to Markus's family - especially his daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Link to my follow-up post on "shark tourism"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside

The annual insanity hosted by my local dive store (LDS) took place over the last weekend. Every year around this time of the year (early to mid February), the LDS holds an Ice Diving class. The spring fed lake that we use is ideal for the class since the water is fairly clear and within easy reach of store.

This year, the ice was the thickest that I have seen. The crystal clear ice was around two foot thick. The way that the holes are made is interesting. Ice augers are used to drill six inch diameter holes into the ice. The holes are drilled in the shape of a equilateral triangle. Chain saws are then used to cut the ice between the holes. The end result is a hole in the shape of a triangle.

The way we conduct the ice diving is to tether three divers to a safety line. On each dive we have an instructor and two students. The class consists of various activities, but to get the certification, students have to complete three ice dives. On the second and third dives, each student gets the opportunity to be the lead diver. On the first dive, the instructor is the lead diver.

This year we had an eclectic mix of divers participating in our ice diving event from all over the country. It is always fun to have visitors from other states visit us - especially from those that come from the warm weather states. For some reason when you tell some folks that it is cold here they do not totally grasp the idea of how cold zero Fahrenheit is (before wind chill etc.). Fortunately, most of the people who were here we adequately dressed.

The weekend before, we had temperatures below zero with wicked wind chills. Fortunately for the ice diving event the temperatures were moderate. Some years we luck out. I remember one year when the actual air temperature was minus five. When I completed my dive, my hair and face were still a little wet from the water, and when I left the tent to get changed, my hair froze. That made for an excellent photo.

One of the minor annoyances of the weather forecasters and newspapers here is that they like to dramatize the weather. I suppose it is good for ratings. They never fail to accentuate the wind chills. "It is going to be minus 30 to 40 tomorrow so bundle up" they would proclaim on the evening news. But then they would say that would be the wind chill temperature, and the actual temperature will be say minus 15. Ok, I know I am splitting hairs, but can't the weather people treat us like adults and just tell us the actual temperature?

Living here everyone, and I mean everyone, knows how to dress for the weather and wind. For example, it is around zero Fahrenheit today, and here at the coffee shop where I am writing this post, there are people here with light coats and even one person with shorts on (however, I think he might need some therapy). The secret to keeping warm is layering. Everyone here wears at least three layers of clothes on the really cold days. The other thing is that the human body is wonderful at adapting to the conditions. I guess we just get used to the cold living here. You just learn to deal with it. Today I am just wearing a light fleece jacket and jeans. I am just so tired of the heavy coats, gloves and hats. However over the weekend I was completely bundled up with many layers or clothes (fleece and down jackets), since I knew that I was going to be outdoors all day.

One of the interesting features of the water temperature is that at the surface the temperature is around 33 or so. At the bottom of the lake the temperature was around 36 to 37 over the weekend. The unexpected thing is that the water is warmer at depth than at the surface. Of course this makes sense when you think about it in terms of the air temperature, but things that people are surprised by is that the water temperature is warmer than the air temperature by a fair margin. So theoretically if they are comfortable in zero degree Fahrenheit then they should be ok in 37 degree water. This idea seems to calm the students a little.

Thinking back to my first ice dive, I am reminded about how happy and surprised I was that the equipment (dry suit, thermal underwear etc.), actually kept me warm and safe. I think the most
important lesson for me was to trust in the equipment.

There is an entry on Wikipedia about ice diving for those who would like to learn more about it.

For some more pictures take a look at this site. Note the picture with the radials that point to the hole.

There is a 484 page book on Google Books called Ice Diving Operations with more information that you probably need.

Link to the PADI ice diving specialty class information.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shark Tourism

Shark tourism seems to be gaining popularity all the time. I think it might have something to do with people having a sense of adventure and wanting to meet face to face with the apex predator of the ocean. An article in the Daily Telegraph in the UK mentions that approximately 50,000 people visit Gansbaai South Africa to participate in some form of shark tourism. The article does not make it clear how many of the 50,000 actually go out on cage dives, but there is no doubt that the impact on the local economy of Gansbaai is huge.

Every year about 50,000 people travel to Gansbaai for a close encounter with the area's great whites, drawn in by the presence of a huge colony of Cape fur seals, and each day boats set out to sea to give tourists a closer look. Dangling bags of "chum" - usually mashed fish - a scent trail is created, and pieces of tuna on a line are used to draw the sharks towards divers in a cage on the side of the boat. (

The article's focus is that there is fear among locals that the chumming to attract the great whites could cause the animals to start associating humans with their natural food (tuna in this case). As far as I know there has not been any scientific evidence that chumming might influence the sharks to associate humans with a food choice. However, it is my opinion that it is truly a sad reflection on our society we would play this dangerous game with an endangered species.

Lets say for example that there is some truth in the idea that the chumming could condition the great whites to start associating humans with food. And lets say that humans (as is claimed by most experts) do not "taste" well to great whites (in other words, great whites do not like how humans taste). The problem is still that sharks will take bites out of humans to be sure that nothing has changed.

I don't know if it is fair to make this comparison, but as most know, there is a bit of a parallel with the behavior of the apex predator of the bush - the lion. Lions do not typically see humans as part of their food, but once a lion has crossed the line and attacked and perhaps killed a human they then learn a new behavior that humans are a food source. These lions are most often killed because of their "man hunting" behavior.

I know that I am speculating a lot in this post. The hypothetical question that I am posing is what if cage diving and chumming causes some great whites to change their behavior and start attacking humans on a larger scale? I think that the natural reaction from humans will probably be to hunt the great whites out of existence.

I have done my share of diving with sharks (not great whites). It is my opinion that it is best to observe marine animals in their natural environment. If that means waiting a little longer for an awesome photograph then so be it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Go free little turtle

One of the unexpected highlights of my visit to Roatan last September occurred while staying at The Reef House Resort. The owner , Larry, participates in a program to rehabilitate injured turtles. Injured turtles are nursed back to health in a rock pool adjacent to the resort. The rock pool is quite large. So large in fact that I was able to conduct confined water training in the pool on a previous visit.

Larry told me that the turtles are often accidentally caught by fishermen. The turtles are tagged and when they are judged to be healthy enough are released back into the ocean. Larry invited me to be part of a trip to release two turtles and it was the first time that I had the honor to be part of something like this.

We gently loaded the two turtles into tubs with water, got them on the boat and headed south - way away from the regular spots where people dive. My job was to get into the water ahead of the turtles and capture the moment of release. The picture at the top is the moment after the first turtle was released. I was surprised by how fast he moved.

The second turtle was smaller and moved a little slower and I was able to follow him for about 10 minutes or so. In the photo below you can see the tag on the bottom of the right front fin.

If you are interesting in helping the Turtle Awareness Program (TAPS) that these turtles benefited from, you can find more information at the TAPS page of the Loma Linda University. Below is a description of the program from the TAPS page

Our TAPS seek to increase awareness and understanding of juvenile hawksbill and green sea turtles in Honduran waters initially by documenting the movements, habitat usage, and migratory onset of a cohort of turtles 'reclaimed' from local area fishermen by tagging then mapping their locations as they move through the water column and across the sea surface.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Utila Hyperbaric Chamber and hydration

One of the interesting surprises that I had on Utila was visiting the hyperbaric chamber facility. The chamber is located in the same complex as the Bay Islands College of Diving. The chamber seems very well equipped and the staff seem very knowledgeable and current on diving medicine. The chamber staff graciously spent about an hour with my friend and I explaining all the various facets of their operations.

From what I understood, the chamber is funded, at least in part, by a small fee that is levied on each dive. I believe it is called a reef fee, but I am not sure. The chamber is run as a non-profit under the direction of a local doctor.

One of the interesting tidbits that I learned while talking to the chamber techs was that they have had a number of divers who presented with symptoms of decompression sickness, that were dehydrated. It seems that in the very hot and humid climate like Utila divers have a difficult time staying properly hydrated. To me, this again underscored the importance of hydration before and after diving. Interestingly, Dr Campbell describes some factors that contribute to diver fluid loss (

1. Scuba tanks have extremely dry air inside. As this air is taken into the lungs and saturated--nearly twice the normal amount of water is lost from the body.

2. Negative pressure breathing causes divers to lose about 350 cc/hour from their circulating blood volume, a phenomenon called immersion diuresis and seen also in snorkelers and swimmers.

3. Cold inhibits anti diuretic hormone, causes peripheral vasoconstriction, driving fluid back into the core and stimulating diuresis resulting in losses of plasma volume.

Consequently it is easy to see how one can become dehydrated during a dive.

Personally, I like to drink at least a glass of water before each dive. It is different for everyone of course, but as divers we sometimes forget about how important hydration is.

The following excerpt from Dr Ernest S. Campbell, M.D., FACS ( eloquently describes the importance of proper hydradation.
The importance of entering a dive well-hydrated cannot be over-stated. Prehydration of divers should include regular ingestion of fluids several hours before, 15-20 minutes before and between dives, particularly if multiple dives are to be made each day. The urine should be "clear and copious", the urine test for divers proposed by Dr. Jeff Davis

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Say it with pride - say it like you mean it.

This morning we had three IDC (instructor development course) candidates in the pool who were doing teaching presentations. Some of the candidates presented their topics with great skill and confidence. However, as in most of these courses we had one candidate that just did not present his topic with any confidence.

I understand that it is difficult presenting to a group of instructors and your peers, but consider what it will be like presenting to a group of new students. What we need to remember as instructors that a lot of what students learn is from the non-verbal communication as much as from the verbal communication. Some people say that a lot more is "caught rather than taught". How true this is I do not know, but I do know that when we teach a class we should convey the information with confidence and enthusiasm.

If the instructor is half-hearted then the students will tune him/her out and I bet that you will have a lot more problems/challenges with the students. If the instructor is not enthusiastic/passionate about the class, how can we expect the students to be? I believe it is up to the instructor to set the pace and lead by example.

Another pet-peeve of mine is when candidates perform skill demonstrations half-heartedly. No matter how many times we tell some candidates that the skills should be demonstrated at presentation quality level, it seems that they just perform the skill to get it done. For example, in the mask remove and replace skill, I look for the candidate to first flood the mask and pause a second before removing the mask from his/her face. It is a subtle thing, but I feel that if they make the skill look easy then the students will be able follow what the instructor is doing and perform the skill correctly.

Instructor Candidates should remember that you need to model good skill demonstration abilities to your future students. Say it with pride, say it like you mean it and perform your skill demonstrations with style and exaggeration.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reflection on Utila

It has been a few months since I visited Utila and Roatan. I purposefully waited to make note of my impression of Utila. I want to be objective and hopefully the passage of time will help keep things in perspective.

I spent about one week on the island and came away with very mixed feelings. The weather, mosquitoes and roads were much like one would expect from the region. The weather was consistently hot and humid. Walking even short distances resulted in profuse perspiration. The mosquitoes and sand flies were everywhere and it was hard to keep enough Deet/repellant on your body at all times. Being a diver, means that anointing yourself with toxic chemicals multiple times a day (after every dive/shower etc). I got so tired of the itching and scratching that by the end of my vacation I could not wait for the sweet relief of going home to no mosquitoes. Luckily this time I did not come away with malaria, but apparently they have not had much malaria on the island so at least that is a good thing.

The diving was interesting, but as I mentioned in my previous post there was not much marine life. It seems like most of the marine life has been caught by the locals. There was only one dive site that had descent marine life. That dive was really pleasant and I came away with lots of great photos. Some of the other interesting dives were the wrecks and swim throughs at the old airport. Don't misunderstand - the diving was good, but don't expect to see much marine life.

The food and accommodation on the island vary a lot. There is a wide variety of really inexpensive accommodation that is very basic, and cater to backpackers and student divemasters etc. The accommodation rates are really a great bargain compared to other places. Food is also fairly inexpensive and you can pick up fried meat filled pastries along the main street at a very affordable price. Filling, cheap and really good. There are a few good restaurants that range in price and style of dining. My favorite in terms of price and quality is seafood place on the main street called Evelyn's. For the equivalent of $5 I had a wonderful meal including beverages. The food was really fresh and they grilled the food right on the street in front of us.

There are few grocery stores around and if you want to keep to a low budget you could probably get by for a few dollars a day. However, the street food is cheap and good. It will probably cost more or less the same in the end.

The overall impression I have of Utila is that it is an interesting place to visit, but if you are looking for a quiet peaceful vacation with awesome diving then this is not the place you. If on the other hand you want to party and meet people from all over the world, then you will probably have a great time on the island.

Here is a link to a post with reviews of the various restaurants and night life venues.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A new adventure on the Bay Islands Honduras.

Recently I had the good fortune to visit Utila and Roatan. My initial plan was to spend my entire vacation on Utila, but after about four or five days I decided to move over to Roatan for the rest of my two week vacation. The coral reefs on Utila are in very good condition, but unfortunately there is not much sea life left at most of the dive sites. I am sure there are some dive sites that I didn't visit that have good marine life, but I only saw one site that had reasonable marine life on Utila.

On Roatan I stayed at a dive resort that took us to sites that were not used much by the other resorts, which made for good diving. The marine life on Roatan (at least the sites I visited) was abundant and varied.

I will write a lot more about my trip to the Bay Islands over the next few days. In the meantime, I am going to post a few pictures I took on my trip.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Clear Springs Scuba Park

A while ago I had the opportunity to do a couple of open water certifications in the Clear Water Scuba Park near Terrell Texas. This was my first time at the scuba park and I did not know what to expect. Getting there was an adventure, but I will leave that adventure for another post. We got to the park around 11am or so and there were already about 100 people at the park. DUI was having one of its dry suit days there and it was quite "festive".

Of course being from the Midwest we were fairly used to diving in cold water so we dove in our regular 7mm wetsuits and did not wear gloves or hoods. The water temperature was aound 65f which was really quite comfortable for a regular Midwest diver. However as we were preparing to enter the water, at least two of the local divers asked us where our gloves and hoods were and offered up their own (thinking that we had forgotten ours).

The one impression I came away with was how absolutely helpful and friendly the local folks were. All in all we had excellent dives and enjoyed our time there. Hopefully we will be able to visit Terrell someday soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Interesting book.

On Friday afternoon, I spent a few hours with the owner of the local dive store (LDS). I dabble in some web based software and developed a prototype storefront for the LDS so that people can sign up for classes via the Internet. After I spent time at the LDS I decided to go to the local Barnes and Noble to read a few magazines and relax for a while until the rush hour traffic died down.

After I had a great cup of coffee and chocolate cheesecake, I decided to check out some of the new books that are on sale. I picked up a book to scan through, and could literally not put it down. The book had me totally captivated. The author is Eric L Haney and it is called Inside Delta Force. The book is very well written and provides a first person account of Haney's experience inside Delta Force. There was one scene in the book that had me laughing till I had tears in my eyes. Haney's description of his selection interview with the famous Col Beckwith had me in the room there with them almost hearing and seeing the reactions of Haney and Beckwith.

Interestingly enough, I found that I learned a valuable lesson from the book that I applied to my divemaster class today. It was time for us to work on the rescue skills today and I remembered Haney's description of how they were taught to perform a hostage rescue. At first the students were walked through (in slow motion) the steps of clearing a room. Gradually the tempo was increased until the students could do a room clearing at full running speed.

The rescue skill is not all that hard to do, but a lot of students have trouble do a rescue to demonstration level. So what I did was start the candidate divemasters on the shallow end of the pool by talking through the rescue. We broke down the rescue into a number of phases and practiced each phase until the candidates mastered the sub skill. We then ramped up the tempo slowly until the candidates performed the full blown rescue by putting together all the steps. This approach seemed to work well for the candidates and they appeared much more confident in their ability than I have observed with candidates in previous classes.

We will be practicing the rescue skill until the candidates can perform the skill almost by second nature. As I wrote above, the rescue skill is not all that hard to do, but there are a number of things that can (and often do) trip you up.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Yesterday, I had one of those deep and soul searching conversations with a very good friend. We were talking about work, the meaning of life and so on. In the course of the conversation we spoke about what brought us to diving.

In my case, I happened to get into diving by a series of unplanned but fortunate events. I signed up to do the open water class with a number of colleagues at work and just kept on doing classes. For one thing, I really enjoyed being in the water. I feel very comfortable and at home in the water. I think that the reason is that when I was a kid I spent many summer days at the local community pool trying to see how far I could swim underwater. I don't know why I had this desire to swim underwater, but I got fairly good at swimming underwater. However, the idea of SCUBA didn't cross my mind in the least. The closest I got to SCUBA was the fact that there was a small room in the pool complex with the sign "SUB AQUA CLUB" on the door. SCUBA just seemed so far out of reach.

The other factor that caused me to continue the classes was that I found the learning aspect challenging and opened up a whole new world to me. I have always enjoyed science and technology, so when I had to start learning about physiology and physics for diving, I was hooked.

In trying to explain what exactly it was that made me enjoy diving as much as I do, caused me to think about the my motivation and reasons for liking diving. The way I tried to explain it to my friend was to describe a man who walks down the street and unexpectedly finds very valuable article that changes his life. He didn't know the valuable article was there and was not looking for it, but having found it, caused him to experience many new things. I know it is an awkward word picture, but there are elements that are true for me.

My friend's experience was a little different to mine in that she got into diving in a more planned and organized way. She felt that she was not spontaneous enough in her approach to diving. Personally, I don't see her as being all that concrete and structured, but I guess she knows herself best. Everyone is different of course, so I am sure every diver has his or her own story about why they love diving.

The point of this post is that for the first time, I really sat down to think about why I am so passionate about diving and what keeps me so interested in the field.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Squeeze the gas

Disclaimer: more dive master physics to follow. May not be suitable for the easily bored ;)

Today, we are going to take a brief look at what happens to a gas when you apply pressure to it.

The first thing to remember is that as the pressure on the gas increases, the volume of the gas will decrease in relation. In SCUBA diving we are very familiar with this from our very first open water classes. Most classes start off by talking about what happens when you take a flexible container of air down to 100 feet or so. Of course as every one probably knows, the air in the container will compress and the container will look like most of the air has been sucked out of it. Of course the air is still there, it is just that is has been compressed (squeezed by the pressure of the water).

Remember that the pressure multiplied by the volume is the same for a given container at any depth.

P1 x V1 = P2 x V2

The pressure multiplied by the volume at the surface will be the same answer as the pressure times volume at depth (for the obvious reason that as the pressure increases, the volume decreases).

Lets do a simple example to demonstrate the relationship and how it is used in dive master physics.

You take a container with the volume of 2 cubic feet (at the surface) to a depth of 66 feet. What will the new volume be.

Remember that 66 feet is equal to 3 atmospheres. So the 2 cubic feet at 66 feet will be compressed by the water pressure so that the gas inside the container will one third of that at the surface - 2 cubic feet divided by 3 (0.67 cu ft)

However, for the dive master exams the examiners try to be a little tricky so you have to read the questions very carefully. For example they might throw in the words "fresh water" into the question, which means you need to use 34 feet instead of 33 feet per atmosphere etc. Be sure to read the questions very carefully.

To make these pressure calculations more challenging, the examiners will ask you to determine what happens to a given volume of gas when you take it from one depth to another. It is not that the work is much harder, it is just that they seem to try to see if you are paying attention.

Lets do an example of a potentially trickier question. Note that we are now starting at depth and not the surface.

You need to take a volume of 20 cu ft from 99 feet to 66 feet in sea water.

First we need to calculate the original pressure at 99 feet - which calculate as 4 ata (p1).
Next we need to calculate the pressure at 66 feet - which is 3 ata (p2).

Remember the formula: p1 x v1 = p2 x v2
We have p1, v1, p2 but not v2. What we need to do is find out what v2 is. So to calculate the new pressure we use a ratio calculation

v2 = p1 / p2 x v1 (the slash is shorthand for divided by)

4 ata / 3 ata x 20 cu ft = 26.67 cu feet.

Of course in the dive master exams they will not give you easy numbers like these, but the principle is the same. Lets do a more realistic example.

15 cubic feet at 105 feet to 41 feet in fresh water.
v1= 15 cu ft
p1 = 105 ft / 34 (3.09 + 1 ata = 4.09 ata)
p2 = 41 ft / 34 (1.2 + 1 ata = 2.2 ata)

So lets plug the numbers into the ratio we used above

v2 = p1 / p2 x v1

v2 = 4.09 ata / 2.2 ata x 15 cu ft = 27.88 cu ft

The calculations are not difficult, but do remember the following key things

Make sure you know whether you are working with fresh water or salt water.
Make sure that you add in the surface atmosphere to get the ata pressure at depth.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A little off topic

Earlier this week I listened to an interesting podcast on grammar (that statement sounds like a contradiction). What makes the podcast interesting is the way that it is presented. The podcast is called "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing". For transcripts and more information take a look at her website. Grammar Girl has a fun and upbeat way of presenting her podcast. She has the wonderful ability to take what could be a dry and boring subject and actually make it interesting and memorable.

I have been listening to the grammar pod casts for a while and have picked up some good ways for remembering some grammar rules. For example, grammar girl gave a very memorable way of how to remember when to use whom (as opposed to who).

I am not sure how other blog writers go about writing their blogs, but as for me I try to make my blog entries interesting and informative, without being too dry. When I started writing this blog, I had a number of funny anecdotes that I wanted share. At first, I thought that the blog would be a good vehicle to sharpen my writing skills and be a place where I could write some of the interesting, and perhaps off-beat things that I notice in my little part of the world.

However, what I found was that I ran out of funny anecdotes and sometimes found it hard to come up with fresh and interesting topics. Last winter I went through a dry patch and had no desire to write blog entries. For one thing, I did not do any open water diving, and for another, just had no inspiration.

One lesson that I learned was that I need to pace myself. Too many blog entries in a short period of time has the effect of causing me to get burned out from writing. Although I really enjoy writing the blog, I find that if this becomes like a job or obligation, then it takes the fun and enjoyment out of it. I want to keep my entries fresh and interesting (at least to me).

So all this rambling brings me back to grammar girl. She mentioned something on her last pod cast about proofreading that actually gave me a fair amount of comfort and relief. Grammar girl wrote "So, given my long history with typos, it has become my belief that it's nearly impossible for someone to accurately proofread their own writing and be consistently successful." I have spent hours reading and re-reading my blog entries to try to catch the dumb typos that I know I make. I often forget to write your and write you etc. What grammar girl wrote helped me understand that I am not alone in the proofreading battle.

The thing is that I don't want to produce a perfect blog entry. That is not my intent at all. My intent is to make sure that I communicate clearly and don't have typos in my post that confuse the meaning of what I am trying to convey. My intention is to have fun with the blog and try to help other divers wherever I can. Hopefully the information I convey from time to time is useful and helpful. I try to walk a fine line between being informative, without giving so much information that it becomes boring.

Monday, October 23, 2006

can you handle the pressure?

Disclaimer: these posts might not be suitable for people who have physica-o-phobia ;)

This is the next installment in the series on dive master physics. Today, I am going to write about how calculate pressure per at specific depths. There are some important things to remember when working with pressure. There are two types of pressure that is referred. There is absolute (ATA) and gauge pressure. The two very similar and it is very easy to confuse. Be very careful when reading the question to ensure that you know whether you are working with ATA or gauge.

The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is to think about what a gauge is. The gauge pressure is what you see on the pressure gauge. The other takes ambient (surrounding pressure) into account. So when the question asks you to determine ATA remember to always add in the ambient air pressure at sea level. Lets do a simple example to demonstrate the difference.

How much ata pressure is at 90 feet/30 meters?

90 feet divided by 33 = 2.73 atm + 1 atm = 3.73 ata
30 meters divided by 10 = 3 atm + 1 atm = 4 ata

Note that you always add the ambient pressure of 1 atm to the answer to calculate the ata pressure. So when you see "ata" think "add 1 atmosphere".

Gauge pressure is the same except that you don't add the 1 atm. The answer is what you see on the gauge. So when you see gauge - think what I see on the gauge.

Some other things to remember:

33 feet / 10 meters of sea water = 1 atm
34 feet / 10.3 meters of fresh water = 1 atm

Lets do another example.

What are the gauge and absolute pressures 67 feet / 22 meters in fresh water?

First calculate the atmospheres at depth

67 feet / 34 = 1.97 ata
22 meters / 10.3 = 2.14 ata

Remember that gauge pressure is what you see on the gauge so therefore the gauge pressures those we have just calculated.

To calculate the absolute pressure (ata) remember to add 1 atmosphere (the effect of the air column on the water). There the absolute pressures are

1.97 + 1 atm = 2.97 ata
2.14 + 1 atm = 3.14 ata

To add a little complication to the matter, the questions sometimes ask you to determine the psi or kg/cm2.

To do that you need to remember that 1 atm is equal to 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch) and 1.03 kg/cm2.

Imperial: 2.97 ata x 14.7 psi = 43.66 psia (pounds per square inch atmosphere)
Metric: 3.14 ata x 1.03 kg/cm2 = 3.23 kg/cm2

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Water weighs how much?

Yesterday, I bumped into one of the dive master candidates who recently completed his dive master classes. He was having all kinds of problems with the physics portion of the course and was lamenting his travails in trying to pass the exams. We will be getting together next week sometime to work on his physics and try to get him over the hurdle.

In the interim, I am going to review some of the most salient points in the physics for dive masters. What I would like to do is boil the issues down to the most critical ones. My intention is not to cover the entire physics portion, but to go over the parts that most students seem to have problems with. If anyone is interested in learning more about dive physics, physiology, equipment, I would highly recommend the PADI encyclopedia of recreational diving. There is a printed version and a version that you can install on your computer that includes videos etc. Again, the ERD is highly recommended.

So, why do we need to know how much water weighs? After all we are not going to haul water around.

Just about everyone knows that things seem to weigh less when submerged in water. So what is the reason and why is this important.

Water has the odd effect that it "pushes things up" to the extent that you are "pushing" water away for an object. For example if you put a SCUBA tank weighing approximately 40 pounds in the water it may feel like it only weighs a fraction of the actual weight. The reason is that the SCUBA tank displaces (pushes water away) to make place for the object.

So to determine how much the SCUBA tank weighs (or seems to weigh) in water, you have to know how much water has been displaced (pushed away). The amount is called the displacement volume. For example if the object we are putting in the water is one foot by one foot by one foot (a cube) then we know that the displacement volume is 1 cubic foot.

Next we need to know how much a cubic foot of water weighs. For example one cubic foot of sea water weighs 64 lbs and one cubic foot of fresh water weighs 62.4 lbs.

Now that we know how much the water "pushes back" we can determine what the effect of the push back is on the object we are putting in the water. Lets say the 1 cubic foot object weighs 100 lbs on the surface, we can find out how much the object will appear to weigh in the water. So the apparent weight is 100 lbs - 64 lbs = 36lbs.

This means that the effect of the sea water "pushing back" on the object will make it seem to only weigh 36 lbs.

Does this make sense?

Say for example you were asked by a friend to recover this 1 cubic foot object from the local quarry that you dive in. To do this, you will need to know how much lift you need to use to lift the object (how large a lift bag to use).

Right now the object is negatively buoyant by 36 lbs. Therefore we need to add extra lift to the object of at least 36 lbs to make it neutrally buoyant. To lift the object we will have to use a little more lift to make it positively buoyant to make it rise to the surface.

So we must again ask ourselves how much does water weigh to find out how much water we must displace (push away) to cause lift of 36 lbs. We know that 1 cubic foot of sea water weighs 64 lbs, so to displace 36 lbs we have to displace 36 divided by 64 which is approximately 0.56 cubic feet. So to make the object neutrally buoyant, we need a lift bag that can be inflated with at least 0.56 cubic feet of air. In other words we need to displace at least 0.56 cubic feet of sea water to provide enough lift to make the object neutrally buoyant.

I hope that this is fairly straight forward. I tried to boil the issues down to the most essential in calculating displacement and how much lift is needed.

Lets do another example for practice.

Lets say you need to recover a motorboat engine that weighs 400 lbs. The engine displaces 3 cubic foot of water.

So lets see what we know. The engine displaces 3 cubic feet of water and the weight of the displaced water is: 3 cubic feet x 64 lbs = 192 lbs. To find out what the apparent weight is we subtract the weight of the displaced water from the weight of the engine: 400 lbs - 192 lbs = 208 lbs. In other words the object appears to only weigh 208 in the water (or: it is negatively buoyant by 208 lbs).

Next we need to determine what size lift bag we need to lift the engine. Since we need to provide at least 208 lbs lift we need to displace 208 lbs of sea water: 208 lbs divided by 64 lbs = 3.25 cubic feet.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


As I write this post, I am sitting at the local lake that we do all our dive training in. A kind soul as left a wireless port open for us to use and fortunately I able to get Internet access here.The weather turned out to be fairly nice for this time of the year and right now it is sunny with a light cool breeze. The air temp is probably around 50f or so, and that is the best it has been all week. I didnt plan on coming out to the lake today, but was talked into it by a dive buddy who has an out of town friend visiting.

The out-of-towner have never used a drysuit and and has also not experienced our bracing temperatures at this time of the year. So I duly brought out my drysuit, thermal underwear etc. and help my dive buddy and her friend get set up etc. I think the out-of-towner will either love the cold water or hate it. I guess there is no real way to prepare someone for the cold bracing water. So far they seem be having a good time. They came back for extra weight, since the out-of-towner could not descend. I think it might be a case of the breathing too hard, but, but I got him squared away with an additional 6lb.

It is so serene out here. I lit a large fire and we are going to grill some meat when they come out of the lake. Even though the conditions are not ideal by a long shot, it is still good for the soul be out here, enjoying a late fall day.

The lake is placid surrounded by trees on all sides. The leaves have started to change color and there is an explosion of color all around us. In the lake there are three dive flags reflecting the warm afternoon glow and a few pontoons around with some fisherman trying to coax a few fish to take their bait.

What an excellent day this has turned out to be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stingray City

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that tourism to the world famous Stingray City has dropped by at least 40%.

"Watersport operators on the Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, are
reporting a drop in tourist numbers of up to 40 per cent with many locals
attributing the decline to the death of Steve Irwin (Sydney
Morning Herald

In August of this year (2006), I was fortunate enough to visit Stingray City. I was able to be the first one off the boat and got to spend at least 10 minutes with the Stingrays on my own while waiting for the rest of the divers. It was one of the most memorable experiences of all my dives. The Stingrays were so graceful and gentle and the visibility was excellent since no-one had kicked up any sand as yet.

As the dive progressed, the dive master started to hand feed the Stingrays and the other divers started to touch and pet the Stingrays. Personally, I do not like to touch the marine life so I just observed spellbound.

Like all things in this world, perception is almost as important as fact. The fact is that one is more likely to be injured by all kinds of things than being injured by a Stingray. What happened to Steve Irwin was a complete freak accident. However, I do understand the apprehension of casual divers and snorkelers toward Stingrays.

On the one hand, I am opposed to hand feeding the Stingrays, but on the other hand, Stingray City was one of my most memorable dives. I am a little conflicted about the interaction with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman, but since they have been doing Stingray City dives, there has been an excellent safety record.

The bottom line: lets continue to dive safely and responsibly, taking all reasonable precautions, but let us not stop enjoying the wonders of the sea because of one isolated incident.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last open water class for the season

This past weekend, I conducted two open water classes at the local spring-fed lake. The visibility was the best that I have seen all year and the water temp was on the cool side, but not too bad. I actually managed to enjoy the dives. Once you get used to the cooler water (let's say south of 60f) its not all that bad. I know that folks who are used to the 80f plus temps of the warmer climates will probably think that I have lost my mind, but I find the colder water oddly comforting. I cannot explain it, but I actually enjoy the sensation of the cold water against my skin. I suppose it is a matter of mind over matter.

The students did exceptionally well. I was one happy instructor. Even though the water was cold for the students, and the weather not too great, they did not complain and completed the certification dives and I believe had some fun along the way.

Today, as we came out of the water after the fourth certification dive, I noticed that the wind had picked up significantly and it looked like it might rain. So I asked the students if they would be willing to go over to a local Perkins restaurant to have some hot chocolate and complete the paper work. Everyone thought that it would be a good idea to go, so after packing up all the gear we headed over to the Perkins in a long convoy of vehicles.

What I did not consider was that the after-church lunch-time crowd would be there too. The manager was quite grumpy and was rather unfriendly and brisk. I did not really care for his attitude. No matter what I asked him, he would shake his head and come up with with a reason why what I was asking for would be a major inconvenience for him. Too bad, since I have taken a number of groups there before.

However, for the future, I have found a much better option. One of the students suggested that we go down to the local Target store and sit in the cafeteria to do the paper work. I was disappointed since I wanted to drink something hot (like hot chocolate) and wanted to buy everyone a round of hot drinks. In any event, we convoyed to the local Target and I was very happy and surprised to see a Starbucks inside the store, co-located with the cafeteria. I could not have been happier. We got to have a round of lovely hot drinks while I signed logbooks etc. We had a great time chatting, drinking our hot drinks and getting to know each other a little better.

What a wonderful way to end the open water diving season!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Divemaster fun

There are two students in my current divemaster class. They are naturals in the pools and it has been a lot of fun working with them on the various skills that we have cover. Last night, I sprang a surprise on them. I have a non-diving friend who was visiting me and I suggested to him that he accompanies me to class and be a discover scuba student for the evening.

The two candidate divemasters had to walk my friend though all the steps of setting up the gear. He didn't have to set up any of the gear himself, but just had to watch and learn. The candidates did a fantastic job. One of the candidates has a great way of explaining concepts in every day terms and makes even seemingly complex things seem easy and understandable. They seemed to really enjoy the unexpected challenge.

The advantage that I could see was that they had an actual person to demonstrate the skill to which probably made it more realistic for them. In any event, they will make excellent instructors one day.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Caught rather than taught?

There are two course directors that teach at the same store as I do. The senior of the two course directors has been teaching for many years and has encyclopedic knowledge of dive theory, local dive sites, people in the industry etc. He is really one of a kind. However, the senior course director (SCD) has not taught confined water skills in any of the classes that I have attended so far. The two course directors divided up the work and each chose to teach a different component of the IDC (instructor development course).

The course director that taught me most of what I know about instructing is excellent and I have written previously about how I still feel like a student around him. However with SCD, I have not really built up that kind of relationship and was a little curious about what his teaching skills would be like in the pool.

In the current IDC that is being held, SCD is the only course director since the other CD has work commitments that prevented him from attending. So last week, I got to work with SCD in the pool and I must say I enjoyed the experience. His style is unique to him of course (like everyone), but I both found that I learned some new ways of explaining the same skills and also found that I found his style familiar. By being familiar, I mean that I could identify with how he was conducting the class and found that even though we were taught by different people in different generations, there were enough similarities that I felt that we were on the same page every step of the way.

The casual observer might say that since we are both certified by the same agency one could suspect or expect that we would be on the same page. But I would counter that although we are expected to perform up to the same minimum certification, there is a huge component of "stuff" that is only "caught" rather than "taught". This intangible quality could variously be referred to as culture, oral learning, affective behavior, etc. I am not a trained educator, but I know that in any organization there are written and unwritten rules, procedures and methods. The same could be said of how one conducts SCUBA instruction.

Sometimes as instructors we convey just as much by our behavior, dress, demeanor, enthusiasm, professionalism, patience, etc. as we do by the actual content of the lectures. This is obvious stuff really, but as instructors we need to always pay attention to the intangible aspects of working with students - for example by trying to get them to be as passionate as we are about diving. (ok - I made a big assumption about passion here, but I sincerely hope that each and every instructor is passionate about diving and has not lost the fire and passion for diving.)