First time scuba diving

Dolphin swimming by near surface for a photo
Dolphin swimming by for photo near surface

On the island of Roatán, this summer, I finished a research project that I’d started five years ago. Having some well-earned down-time, I visited Coconut Tree Divers in the town of West End to earn my PADI Open Water Scuba Diver certification. Having snorkeled in Roatán, I found the colorful aquatic life found in the coral reef to be quite enchanting and only yards from the beach; however my excessive buoyancy prevented me from exploring more than several feet below the surface. I thought that Scuba Diving would enable, at the very least, descending more than a few feet beneath the surface.

I was surprised by how comfortable I felt under water. I’d always been rather anxious snorkeling because, mostly due to ill-fitting rental gear and poor technique—both of which contributed to swallowing a lot of sea water. With scuba diving, I still had floppy rental gear, but having your air always available, drinking sea water was no longer a problem, and that anxiety disappeared.

The instruction for this course covers the basic techniques to stay alive while underwater, practiced to the point that we could take care of ourselves within limits that minimize risk. Being next to the beach and boat dock, and having many deep diving sites less than 10 minutes away, certification took only a couple of days leaving time for “fun dives.”

After the certification, however, there is still more to learn and much more to practice. The next week I went back for the PADI Advanced Open Water certification.  With the Open Water Scuba Diver certificate, you can dive without an instructor to a depth of 60’ (18m). In Roatán, staying above 60’ deep will barely cramp your enjoyment as you can see most of the coral and many reef animals in this area. Also, as you descend, the color spectrum becomes only shades of blue and green, your air consumption increases, and the time you can spend underwater due to Nitrogen absorption decreases. Bottom line: there is much to see in the 30-60’ depths around Roatán, so the Open Water Scuba Diver certificate is the ticket to a lot of interesting sites and sights!

Looking at the bow of a sunken ship from above and behind.
An example of what you can see while in Roatan at 100′ underwater

The Advanced Open Water certificate does open up greater depths (up to 120’); however, it also includes additional skills—buoyancy and navigation, for example. After my advanced certification, I felt much more comfortable finding my way around underwater. While I wasn’t particularly stressed out under water after my initial certification, after my Advanced course, I could now relax. I’ve described it as doing yoga with fish and sea turtles.

At neutral buoyancy, you’re weightless, for all practical purposes. At neutral buoyancy you can ascend and descend simply through breathing. As an added bonus, the more you relax, the less air you use, letting you stay underwater longer. Watching the pro divers (dive masters and instructors) on our dives, you could see how they moved as little as possible while still getting to where they wanted to be. Us newbies, however, were another story.

I’m now hooked on it and strongly recommend Coconut Tree Divers in West End, Roatán, if you’re looking for your ticket to another world!

What’s with the radio silence?

Tropical beach with sunny sky and plapapas
Summer in paradise

I’m finally catching up with myself after an action-packed summer. I’d intended to share much of my summer activities through my blog because, well, it was action packed. However, one of this summer’s actions was the disappearance of my website (more on that later). So, as my site updates its version of WordPress, I thought I’d start catching things  up.


In a nutshell, my wife and I went to Honduras for the summer to finish the research on the piClinic Console I’d started a few years ago. Thanks to a Fulbright Scholars Grant, we were able to travel to Honduras for the past two summers to see if I could disrupt healthcare information systems technology in rural clinics.

Short answer, yes.

Of course, many other things happened as well. I’m not sure how many of those adventures will fit in here, but these are some of the things I’ve done since my last (currently published) blog post.

  • Spoke at the API the Docs conference in Chicago in April.
  • Read a few good books:
    • Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World and What We Can Do to Fix It by Mike Monteiro
    • Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More by Mark Graban & Donald J. Wheeler
    • Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  • Wrote some thoughts about them in my blog.
  • Woke up to find this site had disappeared.
    • Got chewed out by my hosting company for not reading the various email they claimed to have sent (but that never arrived).
    • Spent the next two weeks on Skype and my slow Internet connection dealing with the aforementioned hosting company trying to find my site.
    • Learned they migrated my site using a backup from two months earlier (sending my last two months of posts into the bitbucket).
  • Hosted 10 undergraduates on a Mercer On Mission trip to Honduras, in which they conducted research on the piClinic Console and got a taste of Caribbean culture on the Honduran island of Roatan.
  • Spent three weeks on the Honduran mainland during some political demonstrations.
  • Learned how to SCUBA dive.
  • Attended SIGNAL 2019.

So here I am; doing my best to get caught up.

Back from Honduras

The field hospital in Rus Rus, Gracias a DIos, Honduras
The field hospital in Rus Rus, Gracias a DIos, Honduras

I’m finally getting back online after being in Honduras for two weeks and then spending the next two weeks catching up to the life I left behind.

For the last two weeks of February, my wife and I were in Honduras working as members of a brigada medica (medical brigade) with the International Health Organization of Minnesota (IHS of MN). We worked as a part of a medical & dental team—my wife was an interpreter and I was a radio operator. The organization deployed eight teams to various parts of Honduras. Our team went to a field hospital in Rus Rus, a small village in the jungle, 60-some miles inland from the Caribbean coast of Honduras and just five miles north of Nicaragua in La Mosquitia.

IHS of MN has brought medical brigades to Honduras for 33 years. This was our second trip with them and our second time at the field hospital in Rus Rus. Last year, I filled in as an interpreter for the medical staff when I wasn’t on the radio. This year, we had a surplus of interpreters, so when I wasn’t working the radio, I mingled with the local people who came to visit the clinic and got to know more about them and their lives.

As with our trip, last year, it was an amazing experience. We had the pleasure to work on a dedicated team of volunteers who provided health and dental care to people who would otherwise not have access to these services.

More stories, photos, and videos to come!