Saturday, March 04, 2023

15,000 to 1

No, not our odds of survival, that's Indonesian rupiah to dollars. This looks like a lot of money, right?

Each bill is 100,000 Rupiah (IDR) - in US dollars, that's about
... wait for it ...
7 dollars. Yikes.

Did not have a lot of opportunity to use my new wise card. We tried to use it to pay at Thalassa Dive, but it was denied. I figured it was because we had not set up a IDR acccount in the Wise card yet. It took me a while to figure out how to do that.
But we did get to use it at the ATM in Bali. Worked great. Got 1 million Rupiah! That's about $70. And, it didn't need to come from the IDR account. It used that up, then took the rest of what it needed from the USD account.

I also used it in the Turkish airport to buy snacks. I didn't have to set up anything to use Turkish Lira.  Here's the info from my account:

That was easy - it's great, but our Chase Saphire card works just as well. And, it's credit. With the Wise card, it's like cash. You add $ to the card direct from my bank account and it's taken when you spend.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Togian islands, days 5-7

Tuesday 2-21 
It's day 5 of the trip and I'm getting into the swing of things. I'm up and ready to go when I hear the singsong "Good Morning" at 6:30am. "Little breakfast is waiting for us: yogurt, fruit, bread. Then comes dive briefing and first dive. We are anchored by the volcano island called Una Una and the first dive is on a pinnacle. You can swim all the way around it at a depth of about 75 feet. We go slow and take about an hour. The site is called fish mania and you could see why. All the same corals we saw at the other sites but add an explosion of fish. Alvin put it well when he said " I never thought my visibility would be compromised because of so many fish."

After the first dive is "big breakfast" - eggs prepared to your specifications, fruit, bacon sausage and more. Then the second dive was right next to the first and with a similar profile. 
I skipped the afternoon dive with the thought that I will go on the night dive at 7.
I finished my book, City of Girls, and decided to read it over again from the beginning with an eye on the authors technique. I liked the book so much I want to pay attention to how she did it. Maybe I can emulate her to write a book about Mom.

I did go on the night dive. It was pretty boring, just over sand, but I was warm and comfortable. Good to know since it has been so long since I've done a night dive. 
Dinner at 8:30? I don't think so. I'm staying in my room and reading.

Wednesday 2-22
The morning dive was a deep dive. I skipped it. Jim and Alvin went, saw some barracuda. I did the second dive. We're still at Una Una. This was a pinacle and it was beautiful. Name of the dive site was Hong Kong.  So many coral, lots of anemones with their Nemo's. Jim got a good photo of me next to one. We learned about an app called Dive+. It knows just how to edit underwater photos for color correction. Wow. It does a great job of getting rid of the green and/or blue cast making the photo look so much better. 

We're leaving Una Una so I made sure to leave some of mom here to dive in this beauty.  
Next dive was a wall at Togean island and of what a wall it was. Taipei wall was the name. Sheer vertical wall down to forever with beautiful gardens on top. I was impressed with the tunicates. 
I'll bet the night dive tonight will be good. Just a feeling. But I'm skipping it. My knee hurts and I just feel the need to pace myself. I am an old lady now y know   I do believe I am the oldest driver on the boat. Not sure how to feel about that. Proud? Sad?

Thursday 2-23 , day 7
Jellyfish Lake. We've done a jellyfish lake before, on our Borneo trip in 1999. I was not expecting to be impressed, but I loved it! The water was 88 degrees, no wetsuit, no fins, just snorkeling. I felt so warm and free. Then looking at those jelly fish and feeling that I must be on mars because they look like little spaceships where the whole ship is involved propulsion. Then, noticing the plethora of them moving  this way and that made me think of the Jetsons and their flying cars. I started looking for George, Jane, and Leroy-I don't remember the daughters name. But they were still little spaceships, not flying cars, so I figured they were on vacation on mars! 

A screenshot from Epcot "Spaceship Earth" - just seems appropriate here!

I understand that jellyfish get nutrients directly from the sun thru photosynthesis. Such evolved creatures, we should learn from them. I thought this would be a quick dive-once you've seen some jellyfish there's nothing more to see, but I loved it. I was one of the last people to get out of the water and I could have stayed longer. 

Second dive was another beautiful wall on an atoll. We went straight down to 75 feet and could have gone to at least 200! I got low on air after 45 minutes. I wanted more time, so I think I'm going to change back to the full size tank. I've been using the smaller 63 cubic inch? Tank because I like the smaller size and I'm good on air. I'm used to coming up with 1000-1200 psi when everyone else is at 500. With this tank, I'm right with them and maybe even less.
Third dive was the wreck of a B24 bomber that crashed in 1942 during world war 2. Awful visibility but still a cool experience.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Book report

A live aboard dive trip is a great place for getting some reading done. When you're not underwater, there's not much to do. You can only chat with your fellow divers so much!

I love to read but not enough to make much time for it, so I take advantage of the boat time. Also there was no internet connection half the time so I was not distracted by Facebook, twitter, or current news items.
I read 5 books
That may be a record for me - 5 books on one month.  It makes me happy to know I can still read books. How did I fit all these books in my luggage? Yeah, right … you know better! I use Kindle, but not even a separate kindle device. I use my phone that I always have with me, my little iPhone SE with the kindle app. It fits in one hand. I can turn the page with my thumb on that same one hand. I can read it in bed. I can make the text as large as I want. I make the screen black with white text so it's not too bright at night. I have a book at the ready at any time! Just take it out of my pocket. And I can highlight passages and take notes. I buy my books rather that rent from a library or other free service. That way I can go back and find important passages from any book I've read. 

For example, from AI Superpowers

A discussion of AI in the classroom really piqued my interest, I highlighted it so I can find it later and remember. Here is an example:
During in-class teaching, schools will employ a dual-teacher model that combines a remote broadcast lecture from a top educator and more personal attention by the in-class teacher. For the first half of class, a top-rated teacher delivers a lecture via a large-screen television at the front of the class. That teacher lectures simultaneously to around twenty classrooms and asks questions that students must answer via handheld clickers, giving the lecturer real-time feedback on whether students comprehend the concepts. 
During the lecture, a video conference camera at the front of the room uses facial recognition and posture analysis to take attendance, check for student attentiveness, and assess the level of understanding based on gestures such as nodding, shaking one's head, and expressions of puzzlement. All of this data—answers to clicker questions, attentiveness, comprehension—goes directly into the student profile, filling in a real-time picture of what the students know and what they need extra help with. 
But in-class learning is just a fraction of the whole AI-education picture. When students head home, the student profile combines with question-generating algorithms to create homework assignments precisely tailored to the students' abilities. While the whiz kids must complete higher-level problems that challenge them, the students who have yet to fully grasp the material are given more fundamental questions and perhaps extra drills. At each step along the way, students' time and performance on different problems feed into their student profiles, adjusting the subsequent problems to reinforce understanding. 
In addition, for classes such as English (which is mandatory in Chinese public schools), AI-powered speech recognition can bring top-flight English instruction to the most remote regions. High-performance speech recognition algorithms can be trained to assess students' English pronunciation, helping them improve intonation and accent without the need for a native English speaker on site. 
From a teacher's perspective, these same tools can be used to alleviate the burden of routine grading tasks, freeing up teachers to spend more time on the students themselves. Chinese companies have already used perception AI's visual recognition abilities to build scanners that can grade multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank tests. Even in essays, standard errors such as spelling or grammar can be marked automatically, with predetermined deductions of points for certain mistakes. This AI-powered technology will save teachers' time in correcting the basics, letting them shift that time to communicating with students about higher-level writing concepts. 
Finally, for students who are falling behind, the AI-powered student profile will notify parents of their child's situation, giving a clear and detailed explanation of what concepts the student is struggling with. The parents can use this information to enlist a remote tutor through services such as VIPKid, which connects American teachers with Chinese students for online English classes. Remote tutoring has been around for some time, but perception AI now allows these platforms to continuously gather data on student engagement through expression and sentiment analysis. That data continually feeds into a student's profile, helping the platforms filter for the kinds of teachers that keep students engaged. 
Almost all of the tools described here already exist, and many are being implemented in different classrooms across China. Taken together, they constitute a new AI-powered paradigm for education, one that merges the online and offline worlds to create a learning experience tailored to the needs and abilities of each student. China appears poised to leapfrog the United States in education AI, in large part due to voracious demand from Chinese parents. Chinese parents of only children pour money into their education, a result of deeply entrenched Chinese values, intense competition for university spots, and a public education system of mixed quality. Those parents have already driven services like VIPKid to a valuation of over $3 billion in just a few years' time.

The AI Superpowers book was some thought-provoking stuff! Check out this Ted Talk by Kai-Fu Lee, the author of AI Superpowers.

But, my favorite book of these was hands-down City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. It was in the style of a memoir. It was so well done that I determined to emulate the style if I ever get around to writing that book about my Mom. I figured the first thing to do is to re-read it and make even more notes the second time around. I got a start, but just couldn't do it - re-reading is not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Day 4: Whale Sharks

We knew that whale sharks were a possibility on this trip, hey the cover photo for the trip is of a whale shark! But we were supposed to see them in the Maldives last year and didn't, so I wasn't counting on it. 
Well today was the day. We're at Garantolo What I didn't  realize is that they feed them here, just like the shark dives in the Bahamas, so it is pretty well guaranteed that we will see one of them.
This morning we saw not one, but two, majestic whale sharks. They obviously are accustomed to divers. There were 15 of us in the water and they paid us no never mind whatsoever. In fact, you had to work at it to stay out of their way. Their eyes are on the sides of their head, so when you're right in front of them, they can't see you. If you don't get out of the way they'll bump right into you. They are not scary at all. They are more like whales than sharks. They were being fed buckets of little shrimp. We could get close enough to see the whole process. They opened their huge mouths and let the ocean water pour in like a waterfall, or a whirlpool. Then you see their bodies flutter s the water is pushed out thru their gills while filtering the shrimp.

That's me!

Second dive was another gorgeous wall and reef. More of the rose coral. Lots of sweet pyramid butterfly fish, anemones with their Nemo's and other pretty tropicals in this 83 degree water. I figured mom would have loved these dives, so I scattered some ashes here and added a photo to her album.

Garantolo whale sharks and nice reef - Mom should like it here.

What we don't see is any bigger fish. No snapper, no grouper, no sharks, no barracuda. Overfishing has depleted the area.
I skipped the third dive and got a massage from Anita. She did a great job. The memorable part was being outside, on the top sun deck with a warm ocean breeze.

I'm in Heaven. I'm sure Anita wishes for a proper massage table - but she did sit down much of the time on the adjacent lounge. 

On the boat, days 1-3

2-17 Friday
We left Lembeh Dive resort and transferred to the boat which was anchored just offshore.  The Lembeh folks used one of their boats to take us over. 

The first order of business on board the Mermaid 1 was to take off your shoes. Get welcome drink-fruit juice because we're going on one dive later.

Dive still in Lembeh - hair ball. Nothing but black sand, muck. Supposed to see hairy frog fish here but we didn't, just muck. At very end Alvin spotted a mimic octopus. Here's a bit of Jim's video:

Jim and I shared one bottle white wine before and during dinner.
Night crossing a few hours west.

2-18 Saturday
Woke up to see sunrise. We're the only boat around. Beautiful. 

Dinghy takes us to dive site. Gorgeous reef, clear water. Lettuce coral, plate coral, table coral. Anemones are so healthy. I'm using a smaller tank, less cumbersome but also less air. I'm used to coming up with 1,000 lbs, now 500. Using 6kg of weight: 12 lbs. water is 83 degrees. Just wearing my 2-3 mil wetsuit.

Second dive is a sea mount. Lots of surge. Same beauty. Saw  cuttlefish ! 

I sit out the 3d dive. Can't tear myself away from the book City of Girls. Knee is hurting a bit. Being very careful walking around. Aleve helped me sleep.

Only had one glass red wine.

2-19 Sunday
At 6:30 a crew member walks around the decks singing out Good Morning! This alerts you that it is time to get up and go to the main salon for coffee, little breakfast, and dive briefing. Todays first dive is Wonder Wall, and they weren't kidding. A totally vertical wall with an overhang at the top. Lots of barrel sponges, schools of bright blue fish, and a swim thru! Wow,wow,wow.

Photo by Anna Barnes

But wait, it gets better! The second dive was as full of life as I've ever seen. It could go down as my best dive ever. Or at least the best dive … today ­čśâ it was another wall. Saw a turtle, a monstrous school of gobies, several trumpet fish, moorish idols, anemones and Nemo's, and a Dali barrel sponge. but the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance was the field of coral. Cabbage coral that looked like roses completely covering the top of the wall. I sure hope Jim got some good photos cuz I can't describe just how beautiful it was.

Third dive oh my another drop dead gorgeous wall.
We skipped the night dive, had a glass of wine, as the others went muck diving in Garantolo.