Dive Centers, iPhone apps and More

April 17, 2011 · Posted in news, personal, projects · Comment 

For those of you who follow, you always want to know what I’m up to.

Some might think I’ve spent all this time opening a dive center here in the New River Valley. In fact, I think I’ve only spent about 10% of my time doing that.

iPhone Apps

We have two that are completed and awaiting final testing. This is usually the longest part of creating any application. We haven’t had any of our live apps crash yet, and I prefer to keep it that way. So, we do a lot of testing. And when we think we’re done, we test some more.

Lab Work

One must think I’m getting my PhD in Environmental Engineering. I do have a degree from the College of Engineering (Computer Science), but Environmental? I would never have thought. But Ana is finishing up and I’m helping out. That means preparing batch reactors, measuring gas production and writing a thesis. Luckily I’m only helping in small quantities and the lab work is completely done. Now it’s just data analysis and finishing off that thesis. I guess it’s science, and we use a computer, so it’s kind of what I went to school for.


As I mentioned, we opened a dive center in Blacksburg. But we also created a state of the art website for it that’ll allow the company to grow into something much more than a dive center. We had the awesome team from HellowYellow design us the site, and they did an amazing job. We’re working on a ton of new features to the site like class registration, videos, etc. How hard can all that be? Well it’s part of a much larger picture, so a little harder than you think.

Part of that larger picture is this: It’s not about opening a dive center and sharing our passion for scuba. It’s about taking a business, any business, and making it the best at what it does. Most dive center websites look like theirs were created in 1996, by a dude with 10 minutes of html experience while sitting on a beach, drinking coronas.

So we started something. That something has grown to include several businesses, several partnerships, several clients and a lot of change. That change will upset a lot of people, namely those on the other side. How many, will be our measure of success.

Avalon Dive Center – Blacksburg, VA

March 13, 2011 · Posted in goals, personal, projects, scuba, work · Comment 

Ever since December of 2010, I’ve been working hard on helping to open a scuba dive shop in Blacksburg. I’ve done my fair share of retail before, but my role has largely been on the technical side.

We’ve realized that the usual way things are done are: scuba instructor opens a shop, creates a website and attempts to make a living doing what they love. The problem is, these people are usually not business people, they’re not designers, they’re not programmers, they’re not using the latest technology. Take business people, programmers, designers, marketers, and influential people who all use technology on a daily basis and have a passion for scuba diving and combine them into one package. That’s what I feel the Avalon Dive Center is. We’re many people with many talents getting together to share our passion with others in the best way we know how.


What I’ve Been Up To

April 11, 2010 · Posted in europe, goals, hungary, iphone, music, news, personal, scuba, travel, work · Comment 

I’ve been crazy busy ever since we returned from Colombia. We fell back into life in the US at full sprint and have only had a few periods since where we could rest. As a result, I don’t think I’ve been clear on what exactly I’ve been up to with my family and friends. So here’s the short version of most of the major things I’ve been up to since getting back:

iPhone Development

We started a company last year to allow independent iPhone app developers to make the transition from “wanna-be” to published developer. The model works similar to a record label, where LTZ provides the leverage, so that developers can concentrate on coding rather than the logistics of getting apps out. We wanted to start small, get a few early successes and then use that momentum to gather a pool of developers. We’re also planning a Code Kitchen, which is a class to teach iPhone and Mac programming to anyone interested for free.

Most of our early time was spent on logistics, even though we had our first app idea right from the start. It was a lot of waiting; we waited for resources (copy, data, images, feedback), we waited for Apple, we waited for the lawyers and we waited for contracts. So in a year’s time, we finally had an application ready to release. But thankfully, most of that work won’t have to be completed again since the contracts, setup and other logistics are taken care of. I’ll post a longer article on the whole process (what it took, what we learned, etc), but as I type this, our app, BarNinja is “In Review,” waiting to go up on the Apple App Store. It still might get rejected (one never knows with these processes), but we’re hopeful that it will appease the Apple review gods. We’re also more hopeful that the app will actually sell well and we can get some money into the business so we can buy “test” devices, like the brand new iPad for all our people.

Scuba Diving in Blacksburg

As many already know, scuba diving is a relatively new thing for me. However, I instantly fell in love with the sport and have tried to progress as quickly as I can. It’s been a lot cheaper than flying.

I got my Open Water (OW) certification in November of ’08 (with dives in Cozumel, Mexico in December), my Advanced Open Water (AOW) in July of ’09 (with dives in the Florida Keys and on the US Coast Guard Cutter my grandfather served on in World War II), my Rescue Diver certification (that required another certification of Emergency First Responder) and now I’m working on my Divemaster certification, which is a professional level diving certification. As you can image, this has been a long journey, with a ton of training, reading, and diving. The diving part was especially difficult due to the location. Blacksburg is not known for it’s amazing scuba diving, but diving in the local river, which has a maximum depth of 41 feet, has made it a bit easier.

We should be able to finish up the divemaster certification in May of this year. That’ll allow me to help teach some classes with Scott, who runs Avalon Adventures here in Blacksburg and the New River Valley (NRV). He’s my current instructor and I’ve helped him out with his website. The plan is to serve Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, and the surrounding NRV to provide classes, dive trips, dive refreshers and other adventures. Hopefully, we’ll also make some money in the process.


I’ve picked up my guitars again. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve picked them up in at least six months, but I’m at it again. Luckily it only took me a few minutes to remember what those six months made me forget. I am also helping my old Computer Science instructor with his business at Rocket Music. It helps me get back into music, even though its on a strictly computer programming level. Just talking about guitars, buying guitars, customizing guitars and everything guitars reminds me to go pick up one of my guitars and practice, if for only 15 minutes.

Our Foster Dog

Our foster dog Petunia has really adjusted well with us. When we first got her, she had some problems with other dogs, being generally nervous, crying when we left her home alone, etc. We weren’t surprised, since her previous owners abandoned her and she spent a long time in the shelter. Now all she does it try to cuttle up with us and never leaves us, even if that means following us from room to room.

Ana is getting attached to Petunia and I don’t think we’re going to get her adopted. Being a Pitbull mix, people are afraid of her. However, everyone that’s met her has loved her, which is another reason we don’t think we’ll let her be adopted. She never barks, is great with our cat, loves to play, never complains, and is so adorable. She’s gathered such nicknames as Petu, Petufilese and just Perrita. Dogs are a lot of work, but I think in this case, for her, she’s worth it.


My girlfriend of about a year, moved in officially a few months ago. She still has her old apartment, but the rent there is taken care of by a sort of sub-lease. Previously, we were always together anyway, cooking food, studying together, grocery shopping together. The only difference was, she wasn’t paying rent or the massive electricity bill we seemed to rack up with her presence. I have an extra bedroom in my condo, which I gave to her for all her stuff. We moved in her tredmill into that room (producing some of the first small scratches in my new hard wood floors), her desk and a bunch of other things so that she has her own space. It’s worked out extremely well and while we’ve had our fights about stupid apartment and living stuff, you don’t truly know a person until you lived with them. That goes for friends and girlfriends.


As a result of living with a native Spanish speaker, I’ve picked up a lot. I never learned Spanish. It was always the language of poor people where I lived. Instead I studied German, the language that’s most understood in Europe. While living in Hungary, I learned Hungarian so picking up Spanish was probably the easiest thing for me. With Spanish, for example, just add an ‘O’ or an ‘A’ after any English word of more than 2 syllables and translate word for word and you have a pretty good, understandable sentence.

Before I met Ana (pronounced Ah-na, not Anne-uh by the way), I probably knew less than 20 words, and that’s after having spent two weeks in Mexico scuba diving. Before that, I probably knew around 5. Now I wish I would have learned it sooner, but I’m glad I learned German since Ana and I are planning a trip back to Europe. Ana has never been, so I’ll take us around Hungary, we’ll visit Italy (which is a language both of us have studied, but she understands a lot better) and she can take us around Spain since they almost speak the same language as she does.

We have a savings account set up that we’ve been putting money in since last summer. It’s not a lot, but it’ll at least pay for the plane tickets out there. Then we plan on staying with friends where we can, and since we both have friends all over Europe, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Isla Fuerte – Bushnell Laberinto Scuba Dive

February 24, 2010 · Posted in personal, photos, scuba, travel · Comment 

Time in: 14:34
Time out: 15:16

Max depth: 51 feet
Avg. depth: 37 feet

This was the second dive on Bushnell. Our dive boat was so tiny that it only held one tank per diver, so a support boat had to follow us out to Bushnell to exchange tanks so we could do a second dive there. It was 50 minutes away, so there was no way we could have gone back to the resort like with the other dives. We had a 36 minute surface interval, which barely gave us enough time to do a 45 minute no decompression dive. By the time we got into the water however, we had enough time to do a ~50 minute dive to 60 feet, but since we only went to a max of 51 feet, we were well within the limits of no decompression diving.

The Labyrinth  was full of canyons in the reef, most of which were big enough for one person to swim through. The reefs were high and filled with some beautiful fish. Three barracudas swam by to check us out.

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Isla Fuerte – Bushnell Scuba Dive

February 22, 2010 · Posted in photos, scuba, travel · Comment 

Time in: 13:18
Time out: 13:58

Max Depth: 54 feet
Avg Depth: 39 feet

The water temperature was a warm 84 degrees (according to the dive computer) while the air was only around 80. At those temperatures it’s so nice to jump in the water. Even so, Ana gets cold while diving and wore a 3mm wetsuit.

The dive site  was a 50 minute boat ride away towards the north west part of the island where the sea floor raised up to a depth of about 60 feet. It’s basically an underwater mountain (see map below) with a gorgeous reef that sits on top of it (see the sketch by our divemaster in the photos below).

The dive yielded gorgeous reef formations with spots of white sandy sea floor. The sandy floor allowed us to set down in a place that wouldn’t harm the reef so we could get better look at some of the sea creatures such as a Caribbean lobster and various plant life.

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