Barn Dancing

This past weekend was the annual NCC barn dance. This is an event my family and I, and often friends have been attending for the past 5 years or so. Or rather hoping to attend, since due to Covid it was not held the last 2 years. This event raises money for the Northeastern Cave Conservancy to help them acquire and maintain caves in this area. So if nothing else, it’s a good cause.

But it’s more than that, it’s a lot of fun. As a fund raiser, it is important to attract a good crowd of people. I also like to think longer term and realize that as many of us local cavers age, we need to draw in more younger folks to the community and this has been a great way to do so.

Getting ready for the next dance

I think it was 4 years ago that I first mentioned it at an RPI Outing Club meeting. I initially received the response I expected, “oh look at this old guy trying to get us to a square dance. Man he’s the one that’s square.” (ok, I realize no one uses the term “square” in that sense these days, but it works here, go with it.) But I figured even if just 2-3 students showed up that would be good. The night before the dance, I stopped by the ROC “Pit” (equipment room) and checked to see how many would be going. I was told the number was up to 14. I was very impressed, but honestly a bit skeptical they’d all show up.

Well the next night at the dance, sure enough 4 cars full of RPI students showed up. One was very excited too after she won a door prize (with your entry you get one raffle ticket. You can buy more if you want and your budget allows.)

A year rolled around and again in the fall I announced the barn dance at a meeting. Again I got a few eye rolls and the like. These stopped immediately as soon as one of the students who had danced the previous year said, “Oh, you have to go, it’s a lot of run, really!” I forget how many showed up that year, but it was was probably in the 20s.

RPI Outing Club students and many others dancing

Of course the last two years there was no square dance. But again I gamely announced it at a meeting this year and at the Orientation to Cave Rescue last weekend. Well this year exceeded all expectations. 35 students from RPI showed up. Plus, by my account at least 3-4 recent alumns, plus 4 alumns with families (including me and my family).

A sitting “dance”

Several of the students won raffle prizes and they all appeared to have fun, which of course made me and the organizers happy.

As I said above, the money the dance raises goes to a good cause, but the event is a good thing for another reason: it helps sustain a community.

Oh one last tidbit on “how things have changed.” After the dance was over, I caught a number of the students apparently exchanging links and the like using their phones.

Barn Dancing in the modern era

Transitions and Regrets?

I was originally going to write a bit on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and reflections of mortality in general but thought I’d talk about a bit more about a more personal change.

It’s not news to my readers that I’m working to get into PA School. If all goes well, this means eventually I’ll move completely out of being a DBA and purely into the medical world. But this is not a quantum leap (which I have to say, I was pleased with the premiere of the new series last night). Things are not happening over night. I still have course work and patient contact hours to get in. The process is somewhat gradual. But, due to a biological need to sleep, it does mean I need to balance my obligations and in some cases turn my back on certain things.

I was reminded of one of those yesterday: PASS Summit. I’ve written about my previous experiences here and here and more. I’ve really loved my time visiting Seattle to attend it. I also enjoyed presenting, albeit it virtually. Besides being a great opportunity to meet with vendors and to attend a LOT of great sessions, it’s a great place to make friends and to catch up with friends. And yet, I’m not going this year. Under the old scheme, I had the advantage of being a User Group leader and as such getting a free pass. This helped me cost-wise, which as an independent consultant was a bonus. That wasn’t available this time around, so that figured into the decision a bit. But perhaps far more decisive was that I really don’t feel like I can take the time off from school.

What makes this doubly tough on me is that there are a lot of friends I really was hoping to catch up with in person and the fact that for the first time, I’d be an actual Friend of Redgate, an honor I’m proud of and with Redgate being the folks in charge, something I wanted to be more a part of than in the past.

I also did not put in to speak this year, because I knew I’d have classes during this time. I had been excited to be picked in 2020 to speak. The impact of Covid forced the conference to go virtual which dampened my excitement some.

So at the end of the day I had decided not to go and pushed the decision to the back of my mind. I figured I had no real regrets.

Then yesterday, a client asked me some questions about Summit and asked me to suggest some sessions that his people might get value out of and to give him some other notes about Summit.

So I had to pull the scab off the wound and to look at all the sessions. I of course saw a lot that applied to my client, but also some I knew I’d be interested in. And of course I saw easily a dozen names of people that I knew. This reminded me how much I’ll miss the social aspect of Summit. So it hit home. I’m going to miss Summit. The regrets are there.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last 9 months about how my decision to apply for PA School would impact my life. Slowly pulling away from the #SQLFamily is one of them.

This doesn’t mean it’s going to be a complete break just yet. I actually have hopes of applying to speak at Summit next year since by then I should have all my pre-reqs done and have the time to attend. But in the meantime, I have to sometimes pull back from #SQLFamily events to focus on school and I’d be lying if that didn’t hurt a bit. What smooths this some though is exactly how much I’m enjoying my work to move towards PA School. So, on the balance, it’s worth it so far.

Fall Semester

Just a quick update for those who have been following my career change. Two weeks ago I started the fall semester of classes. This time around I’m taking a slightly lighter workload than last spring, only two classes instead of the three I took this past spring. They’re also full semester classes, not the 6 week accelerated O-Chem class I took over the summer. This makes the work load a bit easier.

On the other hand, my A&P II Lab is at 8:00 AM on a Monday morning! That’s not the ideal way to start the week, but it could be worse. Fortunately the professor is fairly dynamic and it’s not a snooze fest. I mean where else can I spend a Monday morning digging around in a pig’s heart trying to pick out stuff like chordae tendineae (the literally “heart strings” of a heart) and the bicuspid valve and other valves. Yeah, that’s the way I roll on a Monday morning!

Sadly, the worst part of the schedule is actually Wednesday afternoon between the A&P II lecture that ends just before 4:00 PM and the Bio II lab that begins at 6:00 PM. It’s not worth it in my mind to hop in the car to pop home, grab food and drive back to campus so I’ve been exploring the food options near the campus. The first week found me getting two slices of pepperoni pizza and can of soda for about $6.50. I couldn’t complain in the price. Unfortunately I had forgotten my water bottle and the salt levels were high enough I was pretty thirsty during lab. The second week found me checking out the Chinese food place nearby. I hadn’t eaten there in years. Let’s just say their Sesame Chicken is no match for what I get at Lee Lin’s! We’ll see what this week brings.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention an actual Bio II lecture. Well that’s because there is none. It’s more of an online class. My General Psych class in the spring was hybrid, one in-person lecture and one recorded. This is more self-study, with review the PowerPoints and readings and other links. This does concern me. It’s not that the topic is all that hard, it’s more I have to remember to actually set aside time to go through it and actually take notes like I would in an actual lecture. I found myself realizing last night that the homework and quiz were due at midnight last night, not 6:00 PM Wednesday (like the prelab) is and was hurrying through them. I’ll have to do better for next week.

Meanwhile I still wait to hear about the tech position I’m supposedly in the running for.

So that’s where things are. This week. We’ll see in a few more weeks!

That said, I do think I’m fully prepped for the first A&P Lab practical quiz next week, though I should bone up on the coronary blood vessels! (side note, the arteries have cool names like the Anterior Interventricular Artery, while the veins, like the one parallel to the AIV is simply the Great Cardiac Vein. It’s almost like someone got bored naming the veins.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Ok, wasn’t so much stormy as much as just raining, but I was headed towards Knox Cave again. People often ask me what my favorite cave is. Honestly, there is no answer. I have some caves I like less than others (cough, Parks Ranch Cave in New Mexico) and some I like more than others. Knox is in that latter category. It’s what I could call an “optionally vertical” cave. By that I mean it has a ladder at the bottom of the entrance sinkhole. Some adults prefer a belay (and under 16 it’s basically mandatory).

The brief amount of vertical is one of the reasons I like this particular cave. The other is that geologically, it’s fairly interesting. For one thing, it passes through three distinct layers of limestone, though I’ve only really seen two of them, the Coeymans and Manlius. Below the Manlius is the Cobleskill-Brayman. There’s a brief spot this can be seen from the main part of the cave, but otherwise, getting to it is quite difficult and I haven’t done it.

Besides seeing distinct types of limestone, the cave is basically a series of parallel fissures that give the cave a certain geometry that I like. As a result of these fissures, there’s a section I call the “Foundation of the Gods” since it’s almost like large foundation blocks were put in a 2-3 rows parallel to each other. Only I really call it that, but for those curious to the area I mean, I’m referring to the passage that leads back to the so called “Mudroom”.

This part of the cave I rarely get back to these days for a variety of reasons, but one in particular is interesting to note. Getting into the Mudroom is not necessarily easy. It requires a bit of contortion to navigate a tight crawl that ends in a passage where one has to rotate to a sitting position before standing. We’ve determined the limiting factor at getting in or out is femur length. It’s not easy, and I’ve found my cave suit often sticks to the cave mud in the crawl so I find myself crawling into the shoulders of my cave suit, but not really moving. It’s frustrating. One ends up breathing a bit heavily and feeling stressed.

Well over a decade ago a buddy of mine and my son and I decided to go into Knox and get at least as far as the Mudroom. My friend’s intent was to collect some gas level data for a project he’s been working on. One of the gasses measured is CO2 levels. His monitor immediately started to alarm as soon as he started to measure the level. This had never happened before. In other words, the CO2 levels here were higher than any other cave he had measured things in up to that point. Well, funny enough CO2 levels are correlated to hyperventilation and can induce feelings of stress. For once I could honestly say “it’s the cave, not me.” (ok, honestly, it’s partly me, I’m larger than I was as a freshman college student cave so that has made this a bit harder to get into.)

One last detail that makes this area interesting, is if you can get into a crawlway past the Mudroom, after about a dozen feet, with a bit of further contortion one can get into a decent sized room that has a unique feature in it: a well pipe from the surface that goes right through it. It’s been even longer since I’ve been into this room though.

Another area I haven’t been too in decades, but hope to get back to is an area called “The Alabaster Room”. To safely get back there a climb needs to be rigged and then a tight crawl followed. This room is the first place I gave very serious thought to what might be involved in a rescue. The crawl sort of comes into the top of the room and you have to lower yourself down into it. While doing that the one and only time I was there, my foot slipped and I slid about a body length down the wall onto the floor. I had to sit there for about 30 seconds while I tested moving my feet then legs then arms to make sure nothing was broken. Fortunately nothing was otherwise I realized that getting me out of there would have been a very serious issue. This is one part of the cave I do hope to get back to someday again soon.

In any event, it last night was a rather short, uneventful trip where I got wetter outside the cave than in due to the rain, but it was good to be back underground again.

Two last notes: Knox Cave is closed from October 1st through May 15th. Please do not enter the caving during this time.

In addition if you lack proper training or equipment, please do not go caving on your own. I’m always more than willing to take beginners and teach you how to safely cave. I can also provide equipment.

A third note: Knox requires a permit (which is fairly easy to obtain, but please make sure you do!)