James Garrett's Blog

Weekend in West Virginia

This weekend Kaitlin and I hopped on a JetBlue flight from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Dulles Airport (IAD), grabbed a rental car and headed towards West Virginia for some horseback riding and whitewater tubing.  We stayed at a cheap hotel in a small town near Harpers Ferry, WV, which turned out to be a dump in the middle of a town with nothing to do…live and learn, I suppose.

The following morning we woke up early to grab breakfast and head towards Elk Mountain Trails in Knoxville, MD where we had scheduled a 90 minute horseback ride.  At first we thought 90 minutes would be too short, never having rode horses, but as it turns our my rear end was sore around the 45 minute mark, so 90 minutes was longer than I would have done if anything.  The horses were all well trained and for the most part we didn’t have to steer them, they simply followed the horse in front of then, with our guide being the leader.  The trails were pretty, with a variety of wildlife along the way.

After finishing up there, we headed to River Riders where we changed our Kayaking reservation to Tubing due to the extreme heat index (over 110) that day.  We were able to eat a quick lunch on site, then get our life jackets and board one of their many renovated school buses that they use to transport rafters back and forth between the drop and pickup sites.  The tubing was fun, however it wasn’t nearly as wild as the website made it look, with only a few short drops scattered along the river.

Posted 8 years, 11 months ago at 2:27 pm. Add a comment

Fireworks at Lake Eola

Tonight Kaitlin and I went to “Red Hot and Boom” at Lake Eola, and annual event hosted by the City of Orlando.  I took some video, which should hopefully give those of you who find this while Googling next year an expectation of what you’re going to see.  I would suggest parking as far away as possible and walking there, because it took us over 1 1/2 hours to exit the area and get onto 408. The fireworks were excellent, way better than any of the other local shows that I’ve been to.

Posted 9 years ago at 11:59 pm. Add a comment

Diving off the Fort Lauderdale, FL coast

After a late night drive down to Fort Lauderdale, we woke up early to stop by Brownies dive shop to get my doubles filled, then headed to the dock, where we met up with Bill Mee, George Irvine, Matt Cain and Dan Volker for some recreational scooter dives.  For our first dive, we headed out to the Goodyear reef area, a place where someone thought that dumping used tires would make for an artificial reef.  There really weren’t many fish here, just tires in the sand, so we scootered east towards the 3rd ledge, but along the way a gear failure caused us to have to abort the dive a bit early.  After loading back up in the boat, we headed towards the 2nd ledge so the kids could swim and snorkel.  We grabbed our scooters and headed to the water, enjoying almost an hour of scooter free diving before heading in due to a storm.  All in all a fun day on the water with excellent company.

Posted 9 years ago at 4:33 pm. Add a comment

My first time at Eagles Nest

We decided to stay local at the Best Western the night before so that Heather and Brian could hit the road quickly, as they had a very long drive ahead of them, and it was nearly 3 hours back to Orlando for me.  Up at 7am, we were able to grab snacks for breakfast from Winn-Dixie and then be at the dive site before the heat.  The basin visibility wasn’t great, but once we dropped down the chute things got quite a bit better, visibility was easily 50-75ft!  I had heard all the noise, but didn’t realize how amazing this system really is.  Huge white walled rooms and large breakdown litter the cave.

Posted 9 years ago at 9:11 am. Add a comment

Visiting NYC – Sneaking in some fun with work

As most of you know, I recently joined on with jetBlue as a Learning Systems Analyst, and my primary role of support will be the BlueGuru project, which is a MarkLogic based content management system for all of the company’s documentation.  Our corporate publications office is based out of Forrest Hills (FSC), so I took a flight to JFK and stayed a few days to meet the staff, as they are the primary people that I’ll be writing to support.

As a team field trip, we went to Long Island Cradle of Aviation Museum, which the Corporate Publications manager had setup.  This museum was excellent and filled with knowledgeable tour guides who gave you an introduction to the museum, and from there on out there were several people at each station in the museum willing to answer any questions you might have about the area.  For a lesser known place, it certainly had a ton of exhibits.  Not as full as let’s say the Smithsonian, but honestly it was much better staffed.

The following day I got off earlier and was able to explore the city.  My first subway destination was to the World Trade Center Memorial, which had quite a bit of construction going on and wasn’t really much of a sight to see. It did put it in perspective how huge the two towers must have been, and I couldn’t help but envision what NYC looked like as they came crashing down.  After the World Trade Center stop, I headed uptown to 42nd street, better known as Times Square.  I roamed the streets for about 2 hours, looking at the various things to do.  Getting hungry, I stopped for some authentic NY pizza, which was as delicious as advertised.

Posted 9 years, 1 month ago at 2:18 pm. Add a comment

Washington DC Getaway

Since I had been in Washington DC all week for a MarkLogic training event, I decided to talk Kaitlin into flying into Dulles Airport (IAD) to meet me for a weekend of sight seeing.  There was a jetBlue flight out of Orlando at 1:15pm with plenty of seats open, so she was able to fly standby and even got a legroom seat!  Since I didn’t have a whole lot to do that morning, I went over to the airport and did some freelance work while waiting for her at the terminal.

After the plane arrived, we rode the courtesy shuttle to the Hertz rental car location slightly off airport property and picked up our Nissan Versa.  Hertz is great for travelers under 25 because they have a gold club membership which waives the age fee.  We then headed to Chevys for an appetizer while waiting on some of her friends to get ready to go to dinner.

The next day, we got up a bit early and toured the monuments, then headed to Vapiano for lunch in Chinatown.  Vapiano is a newer chain restaurant that is gaining popularity in the DC area.  You  get a menu, and after deciding what you’d like to eat, you walk up to the chef line and tell them your order.   They’ll ask you how spicey, what extras, etc you want, and then cook your meal right in front of you.  To pay, you simply tap a RF card against the computer and it adds the items to your total bill.

After lunch, we were off to see the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which I had been to a few times, but Kaitlin hadn’t.  The museum offers several rotating exhibits, so even if you’ve been there before, there’s always something new.  The oceans exhibit is excellent, with lots of video, as well as fossils and preserved marine animals.  Most famous, the dinosaur exhibit is good as well, but that’s never been one of my key points of interest.  Once the museum closed at 5:30pm, we walked around the National Mall and took photos in front of all the monuments.

Posted 9 years, 1 month ago at 11:29 am. Add a comment

Fun with Manatees at Crystal River

Since I had never done a manatee tour, I thought it would be a fun weekend getaway.  Kaitlin and I booked reservations with Florida Manatee Tours in Crystal River, FL.  Because the weather had been warmer recently, the manatees were hanging out in the bay, where visibility is low, and weren’t in the spring area like they traditionally are.  We did catch one in clear enough water to film, so I embedded the video.

If you turn up the volume and listen carefully, you can actually hear the manatee chomping away at the sea grass. Manatees are almost always eating, as they get over 1500lbs, and need to eat 10% of their body weight each day. Since baby manatees are fed milk form the mother, they don’t have to worry with eating such large amounts of food, so they’re more likely to play, since they have all this spare time on their hands!

Posted 9 years, 2 months ago at 9:28 am. Add a comment

Seeing what all the fuss is about…the “New Ginnie”

Having resisted the temptation for several months now, I finally decided to venture beyond the old end of line at Ginnie Springs and see the new section.  For those of you who have been living in the dark for the past two years (or don’t cave dive), the “New Ginnie” refers to a newly explored section of the cave.  Ginnie was believed to have been walled out years ago, but Swiss cave diver Marius Frei discovered a no mount lead through clay which opened into a new, reasonably large passage.  Over time, Mark Fyvie would extend this line (and survey, which Marius isn’t known for), but passed away in a diving accident in the process.  Shortly after, UCLA professor Andrew Ainslie added additional line (5600ft at that time) and provided Anita Berman with an extension of the existing map that her husband produced.  Agnes Milowka added some line, and also produced photos in the NSS-CDS journal.  Finally, James Toland came along and as he seems to do literally everywhere he dives, he extended Ginnie’s end of line out to 7100ft, which only a few have managed to even follow his line, which is currently EOL at this time.  Bob Schulte is in the process of surveying the section and will produce a map in the future.

Anyways, enough with the history of the section…Andreas and I had talked about going here for a decent amount of time, but never went due to other sites taking priority.  Ginnie is pretty hard to motivate me to do a “big” dive in, due to the substantial amount of damaged cave that you have to go through to get to anything pretty.  I typically consider it a training cave with a few pretty sections, but this was different.  Scubaboard hosts an annual megadive event, where close to 100 divers invade the park to camp, eat, and throw one massive bonfire party.

Our plan was reasonable simple, 3 stages, using helium to make them easy to carry, sidemount gear configuration (due to the rock restriction) and DPVs.  Because of the high flow, a 6 man team taking forever to exit while we held on for dear life (cave courtesy is to allow exiting teams to pass), and drag from the stages, my SAC was abnormally high and I burned through my first stage by stage bottle rock at 1800ft.  The next stage got me to just beyond the Heinkle Restriction, and the final stage got me to the end of the old gold line.

Beyond the old end of the line, you’ll find somewhat pristine cave (this tunnel is no secret– and traffic shows), with a few large rooms where the rock alternates between jet black and a very unique tan color.  We made it to the third T, which was right at 5000ft penetration.

Posted 9 years, 3 months ago at 1:00 pm. Add a comment

Theming WHMCS – It’s EASY!

After reading several people struggling to theme WHMCS, I decided that I would write a brief tutorial to attempt to emphasize how easy this is if you read the directions and think it through.  First off, modifying the default them is *not* the easiest way to do it, you’re going to beat your head against the wall trying.  WHMCS has setup their system very simply.  Imagine the following php file-


This is an oversimplified version of how WHMCS works.  So here are the steps

  1. Setup a static design that you would like to use.
  2. Split the file around the main content area
  3. Copy/Paste everything above the main content into the header.tpl file for your skin
  4. Copy/Paste everything below the main content into the footer.tpl file for your skin.
  5. Replace meta variables (these can be found in /templates/default/header.tpl)
  6. Use FireBug to fix any minor issues in your css.

WHMCS uses the smarty template system.

Posted 9 years, 3 months ago at 12:38 pm. Add a comment

Jug Hole – A cave too short…

Today Andreas and I headed off to Ichetucknee Springs State Park to dive Jug Hole.  Since this cave has a few restrictions, we had to dive side mount.  Andreas brought his camera along and got a few good photos, which I’ll try to post up here later.  We were hoping to explore a few going leads that we had heard about, but found that the 50w HID battery packs were simply too large to manage going through tight restrictions and will have to save those leads for another day :(.  Once beyond the lead, we had plenty of time to see the entire cave and poke around everywhere we could find on the way back, but Jug simply doesn’t have many side passages, or really even any potential leads at all.  It is however, a beautiful cave with some very pretty clay banks, as well as black and white layered walls.

Posted 9 years, 3 months ago at 10:21 am. Add a comment