Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Roatan Roundup: Months 40 + 41

It's no surprise to me by now that whenever things seem to be humming along here, something will inevitably show up to shake things up!

What's new?

The last couple months have seen a lot of changes here on Roatan, especially in regards to the diving industry. Crackdowns on dive instructors working illegally (this is a can of worms I'm not interested in arguing about today - but to all the hecklers: I have my residency so save your diatribes for someone else), massive fee increases and new requirements for operating permits for dive centers, and a new tax plan from our illustrious mayor which currently includes a $10,000 USD permit fee for foreign course directors and tec instructors just to be able to train dive pros (not counting the $2,500-3,000 that residency costs, and you need to get that first to be allowed to work, which can take upwards of a year). I don't even make $10,000 USD a year as a dive instructor here and I can't imagine these guys are making 10x what I'm making, so that number seems pretty creative. Local course directors and tec instructors (of which there are none) have a $2,000 USD fee. There seemed to be a bit of backpedaling my the municipality as the original interpretation was ALL dive professionals including instructors and divemasters, which was not corrected publicly until well after the plan was released. The backlash in the community was massive, and now they have clarified (after witnessing an uproar) that it isn't for instructors and divemasters.

Perhaps the municipality is forgetting that these course directors are the ones training the dive pros on Roatan, local and foreigners both, who bring dive tourists to Roatan to spend money in our local economy. They also train numerous Hondurans as dive pros for free as part of giving back to the community. The course directors here are already legal residents and pay tax, so this is really an affront. Course directors and tec instructors located on the east end of Roatan in a different municipality pay ZERO as this is a municipal law. I foresee a lot of people moving their business east, or leaving altogether for a friendlier island, or course prices going way up so they can cover these fees. The low prices are one of the reasons that people come to Roatan to get trained, so that will dissuade potential pro candidates, who come here for months and spend a lot of money on rent, bars & restaurants, groceries, utilities, etc. I also doubt the course directors will be able to continue to train locals for free as they will have to take on more paying students to cover the fees. Not good.

These numbers are absolutely outrageous for locals and foreigners alike. No one here makes that kind of money. Targeting the largest tourism activity on the island and issuing these 'fees' which penalize the people helping to bring tourists to the island and having them return again and again (and these tourists also rent hotels, eat at restaurants, go fishing and ziplining, take tours, etc.) is one of the stupidest moves I've seen here on Roatan, and that's saying a lot. No permit fees for bartenders, fishing guides, zipline guides, etc. all of whom work in tourism and make decent money and tips. There are 150 pages of new taxes for the municipality and this is only the beginning - many other sectors are affected.

I normally try to keep quasi-political stuff off my site as I end up receiving threats online and in real life, but this latest batch of efforts that seems to aim to expunge foreigners from Roatan or penalize them for bringing money to the island is getting to the point where I want people to know about it - I want TOURISTS to know about it - so people can make an informed decision about visiting the island and what activities they're going to participate in. Right now the businesses on Roatan have formed a committee and are pursuing legal action against the municipality on various grounds to try to get these new changes revoked. The mayor has also allegedly just decided to give himself and his councilors a large raise which is ludicrous. Some hotly contested items with the new taxes have been put on hold for two weeks while they try sort it out. The mayor has agreed to have a meeting in two weeks with affected sectors. In the meantime, their social media person has blocked anyone voicing a disagreeing opinion about the taxes or a less-than-stellar opinion of the mayor on their Facebook page, myself included. (Uh, guys? That's not really how free speech works. We aren't in Cuba or China here...or are we?) Thankfully I have more platforms to speak on than just their Facebook page :)

While Roatan and the diving industry sort out their battle, I'm taking some time off the island to see where it all ends up. I don't want to be somewhere where I'm putting in so much time and energy to promote the island/diving industry and help visitors have the best time so that they come back again and tell their friends, and having it returned by essentially trying to force my fellow members in the dive industry off the island (or at least out of the west side where they have been established for many years), which in turn will affect the entire diving industry here.

I'm heading to Canada this week for a couple months and then I'll see what's happening here after that. If they've sorted it out, I'll be back. If not, I won't. It's a slap in the face to the diving industry by Roatan, especially after I and many others have spent time and energy helping to train locals in diving for free.

I haven't been 'home' for about a year and a half, so I'm really looking forward to seeing my family and friends. And, obviously, eating EVERYTHING. I have some other career paths that I'm going to be looking into while I'm there, and I am taking some time off work to complete some courses that I've been trying to work on for months. I will also be trying not to freeze into a solid block, as it's the dead of winter in my hometown and I don't even own any pants.

So, with all that being said, let's get on to the roundup for months 40 + 41:

1. Gratuitous diving photo:

Let's be clear - if you give me your camera underwater to take photos of you, you're gonna end up with a ridiculous Rika selfie somewhere on that camera. Guaranteed.

2. Posts from the last month(s):

I managed to squeak out quite a few, and was really happy with the quality of the posts I've been producing lately. I hope you guys enjoyed these. All were shared extensively on social media and are quickly becoming my most popular posts!

3. Coolest thing I've found on the internet this month:

Um, kitchen island with a tiny ocean? Yes, please. Take my money.

Remember, you can see all my roundup posts by clicking here or on the 'roundup' label below!

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Unfortunately, this post has been edited several times as new information becomes available about the new taxes on Roatan. I'm always trying to update it based on current info, so I apologize for the changes but it's important that I post accurate information, as slander and libel laws in Honduras are taken much more seriously than in North America and I've already been threatened. Bet you guys are excited to read all I'll have to say once I leave the island for good :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Roatan Review: Blackwater Night Diving with West End Divers

Sometimes, things that happen are just "so Roatan", and if you've ever been here you know what I'm talking about.

I was walking to meet my friend for ice cream one evening when I passed West End Divers, and co-owner Gary (more commonly known as Bugs around these parts) stopped me in the street.

"Have you been drinking?" was the first thing out of his mouth.

I wondered if my (100% sober) gait was deceiving people, and responded with a, "no I haven't, thank you very much!"

"We're doing a blackwater dive in 5 minutes. Wanna come?"

How do you say no to an offer like that? I had heard rave reviews from the first few trial runs of the dive, and I was seriously intrigued. Of course, I called my ice cream date and said sorry, can't go, and ran to my house to change into a swimsuit and grab my mask. I was back at the dive shop in 5 minutes flat, out of breath and a little anxious about what I had just gotten myself into.

Blackwater dives are very different from the traditional night diving on Roatan. Instead of heading out at sunset, jumping off the boat and exploring the reef, you leave much later (at 7pm) and the boat goes 1-2 miles OFF the reef, out into the blue - which is out into the black at night. West End Divers has developed a unique and safe tethering system, so that the divers are attached to the boat via an individual 40ft anchor line and personal tether at all times during the dive. Your 10ft tether rope can swing 360 degrees around your anchor line, but you can't pass 50ft down and the divers spend the dive neutrally buoyant between 20-40ft.

What's the point of a blackwater dive? Well, it's mostly for the insane little creatures you can see that far off the reef! At night, many deepwater marine creatures come up to feed on the phytoplankton that lives near the surface. Lots of little weird gelatinous/jellyfish-type things, tiny squid and fish, larval eels, and generally just bizarre things that we don't see during a night dive on the reef. No big guys (mantas, sharks, etc.) have been spotted yet, but the emphasis is on the yet - I am confident that the more blackwater dives West End Divers does, the more divers will see! [Edit Jan 9: silky sharks were spotted on the latest blackwater dive! YEAH!) The bioluminescence in the water is also much, much more visible during the lights-out part of the dive than it is during a reef night dive, just due to less light pollution (when we night dive on the reef, the lights from resorts, etc. on shore affects us underwater because it's so close).

As West End Divers large boat Delfin rumbled us away from Roatan, my fellow instructor dive buddy and I sat together quietly with a little bit of apprehension as we weren't quite sure what to expect. The other three dive pros with us had all done a blackwater dive before. The boat had several extra staff on it as this kind of diving requires more surface support than a regular night dive. The speakers were pumping happy music and there was a definite air of excitement as the divers got their underwater camera setups ready. When we got to the spot, the boat dropped a sea anchor and each diver was given an individual line-handler and a high-intensity underwater torch. After a thorough briefing from cheery divemaster Courtney, our line handlers attached our anchor line over the gunwhale of the boat and our tether lines were clipped to our BCDs. We dropped in and our line-handlers directed us to the correct position on the sides of the boat (there is a max of 6 divers, each on their own line about 10 ft apart). We got the ok to descend, and down the lines into the dark we went.

It's definitely a weird and disorienting feeling the first few minutes. Not having the reef around you for any reference was a new thing for me, and I remember thinking, "wow, I'm really breathing hard - I must be nervous!" and checking my dive computer constantly because I had no idea what depth I was at. There was a little bit of current, so I just got myself neutrally buoyant and let the tether line hold me in one spot so there wasn't any resistance and I didn't have to kick. You can see all the other divers around you because everyone has lights, and you can see what they're seeing in their beams which is kind of cool if they've spotted something. I was able to reach my buddy by kicking over to her and scare her by grabbing her leg (we had an emergency hand holding plan in place in case we got scared, but we didn't end up having to use it - haha). With the current, my buddy and I were in front of the other three who all had cameras, so if we noticed flashes going off behind us we just turned around to see what they were looking at. I spent a lot of time just resting with my beam pointed out into the dark, seeing what creatures were whizzing by me. I squealed with excitement when I spotted a tiny squid, and my buddy and I caught a few things that were cool but we had no clue what they were. As dive pros with thousands of dives on Roatan's reef, it's a lot of fun for us to see new things.

The time passed quickly for my buddy and I as we figured out the best positions to get in and tried to make sure we weren't bothering the photographers with our lights. We showed each other weird jellyfish. We watched the camera guys doing their thing. We did somersaults on our lines. We bravely turned our lights off and hung out in the residual light from the other divers. We pretended we were Superman flying around. I spent a while picturing giant squid or a mako shark suddenly coming at me out of nowhere but sadly I have to report neither happened. At the 55-minute mark, we received the audible signal from the boat that we had 5 minutes left and to turn our lights off for a truly dark deepwater experience. As the camera strobes and torches turned off, we were in complete darkness....for about one second, until our eyes adjusted and the bioluminescence started. If you haven't ever seen this, picture everything being completely black, and then anything moving (us, our tether and anchor lines) having millions of green sparkles coming off of it. All five divers were waving their hands around, kicking and doing spins, so with our lines moving and us too, it was like seeing a sea of tiny fireworks EVERYWHERE. It was beautiful. I've never seen that much bioluminescence, even during the darkest of reef night dives. Absolutely amazing.

Finally, we got the audible signal for 60 minutes and to come up. My dive buddy and I slowly surfaced and started WOOHOO-ing - we still had an incredible adrenaline rush going. As our line-handlers got us back on the boat and unclipped, everyone was talking animatedly about what they had seen and the photographers immediately got their cameras out and started showing photos of the strange and wonderful little things we had found down there. Our captain, Nelson, started maneuvering Delfin back to shore as we all happily chatted about our dive.

Of all the things I've done diving around Roatan - night dives, seamount dives, well over a thousand reef dives - this was by far the most interesting one I've ever done. What a way to start off 2016! (And for someone who is still kinda scared of the dark, that's saying a lot!)

 West End Divers is currently the only dive shop on Roatan offering this exceptional experience. To participate, you must be an advanced open water diver with an absolute bare minimum of 25 dives under your belt (personally, I would recommend more but just chat with the staff there so they can assess you) and previous night diving experience. Blackwater diving is not for inexperienced divers, or divers with anxiety or claustrophobic tendencies. It's also definitely not for anyone who has trouble with vertigo. You can read more about West End Divers blackwater diving here, and their terms and conditions here. For those adventurous divers who tick all the right boxes though, I highly recommend you check this off your bucket list! Tell 'em Rika sent you, and say hi to the deep for me. I hope you see a shark!

me and lanita on our lines - by mickey charteris
 A massive thank you to Shawn Jackson, Mickey Charteris and Courtney Blankenship for letting me use your photos for this post. Thanks to Bugs for catching me on the street with the best invite ever, and to the shop for loaning me gear. Also thank you to Lanita, my favorite dive buddy of all time who didn't question me when I called and said "get your ass down here in five minutes dude we're going blackwater diving" - always good to check off another adventure with you my friend!

Disclosure: West End Divers generously hosted me for this dive but it was not in exchange for a review. I just happened to be walking by the shop after people canceled last-minute so I was offered the spot. Right place, right time. You guys know no matter who is taking care of the bill that I'll always give you my honest opinion!

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Dream Underwater List

Hi guys - so this is the busiest week of the year, dive-wise, around here. I'm taking a little time off to be underwater. In the meantime, Ankit from AlienAdv is sharing his dream underwater list that any diving enthusiast would envy! Enjoy!

My Dream Underwater List

Having stalked the best scuba divers online, I've got a glimpse into the lives and dives of the best. I couldn't help myself feel irresistibly drawn to the underwater world. Never the same, it's utterly beautiful landscape is constantly evolving. It has way too much variety and even after diving for a lifetime, still remains a woefully incomplete experience. In the spirit of getting the best out of the underwater world, here's my list of the items to tick off my bucket list!

1. Hitch a ride alongside the Whale Sharks

by scuba04 - flickr
One of the most famous and instantly recognizable creatures in the world, diving with the whale shark is on most Scuba diver's bucket list. It is also the most commonly cited number 1 dive experience. Just looking at these majestic creatures sends a thrill down my spine. They are about the size of a Double Decker bus and are known as the gentle giants of the ocean. Their spots are unique to each (like fingerprints) and make them incredibly attractive. Unfortunately, they're a threatened species and unethical tourism in places like Oslob, and illegal fishing are rapidly declining their already fragile numbers.

Places to spot: You can often spot the whale shark diving in Belize, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and Tanzania

2. See a Hammerhead Shark school pass from above

Each year hundreds of Hammerhead sharks migrate to the islands in the north of the Galapagos Islands, which lends a fantastic opportunity for divers. These schools of sharks, frequently more than 300, move like a dark cloud and sometimes blot out the light completely from the surface. It's a dive experience that the lucky few rave about.

Places to spot: Galapagos Islands

3. Become a part of a Barracuda school

by berniedup - flickr
Frequently featuring as one of the best places to dive in South East Asia, Barracuda Point has crazy shoals of fish, primarily the barracudas that congregate in massive schools, making it an epic sight to behold. This is also a favoured location for spotting turtles and white tipped sharks.

Places to spot: You can often spot barracuda schools in various diving spots in India, and Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia

4. Watch the Sea Cows - Dugongs

by earthraceconservation - flickr
These gentle sea mammals have a close association with humans and are considered as the inspiration for mermaids. There are even cave-paintings of them, dating to thousands of years old in Malaysia. Though gentle, they are a threatened species, and are thought to be extremely vulnerable to extinction. Dugongs are the only (strictly) herbivorous marine animal, mainly feeding on sea grass, thus earning them the name of sea-cows.

Who wouldn't want to dive with the mermaids?

Places to spot: Andaman Sea, Indonesia, USA

5. See an Octopus camouflaging

This is one of the favourite animals on my wish list. Ever since I was a kid, I've grown up watching cartoons of octopi, in shows like Tom and Jerry, and even the imaginary ones do not do justice to the this incredible creature. They have 8 arms lined with suction pods, one of the only creatures with such a body structure. They also have three hearts making them even more awesome. This is aside from the cool part, where they have no internal skeleton or shell, thus giving them the ability to take almost any shape and squeeze through surprisingly narrow openings. Add to that intelligence and an unbelievably accurate ability to camouflage and you have all the ingredients to a super- creature. An incredibly awe inspiring 8 legged, 3 hearted, camouflaging, marine animal with amoebic flexibility. I'm surprised that there isn't a comic called Octopus Man.

Just in case you missed out on how utterly amazing the octopus is, it can also ink predators and regrow lost arms with no permanent damage.

Places to spot: Pacific Ocean, and off the coast of most countries with a coastline

6. Dive with a Sunfish

The Mola-Mola/Sunfish is a strange looking fish. The vertically flattened shape, the ghostly look and its peculiar fins contribute to its odd appearance. Quixotically, the sunfish is also known as the moonfish, and is known to enjoy sunbathing. Wildly popular amongst divers due to its rarity, witnessing a sunfish in its natural environment is pretty high on my list of dive experiences to be had.

Places to spot: These are found all over the world but famous mainly off the waters of Europe and Thailand

So, how many of these have you experienced? What's on your dive bucket list?

Author Bio: Hi, I am Ankit. I love adventures and the outdoors and am the go-to guy if you need a sparring partner in adventures or sports :) I write about my travels on AlienAdv with a mission to inspire thousands to get off the couch and get going on lifetime experiences. I share my own travel stories (in the South East Asia and internationally) and my best tips and advice on issues like road-trips, scuba-diving nuggets, surfing, sailing and paragliding. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Roatan Review: Barefoot Cay & Barefoot Divers

There's only one place I recommend to travelers looking for the absolute ultimate in luxury during their stay on Roatan, and that's Barefoot Cay Resort. A private cay? A gourmet restaurant only open to resort guests? The highest staff-to-guest ratio around? A spa, marina and private palapa + house reef? A 5-star PADI dive shop on site with high-end gear, boats and facilities? Yes, please!

Barefoot Cay is a four-acre private cay on the south shore of Roatan. With the dive shop + gorgeous loft accommodations on the shore side, plus luxury villa accommodations and the pool, restaurant, marina and palapa on the cay, this little jewel is as private as it gets - one of the reasons celebrity visitors and major Central American politicians can be spotted here during their time on Roatan.

When I had the opportunity to stay in one of the villas with the lovely Alex, I jumped at the chance! When we arrived at the resort we quickly completed the check-in process and were given bracelets that showed we were resort guests - non-guests are not allowed to cross over on the barge to the private cay. We felt very important!

Obviously, the first thing we had to do upon settling in was celebrate on our deck with a boozy Caribbean welcome cocktail. (Duh!)

After relaxing and taking in the view of the sea, we got to work dutifully exploring and photographing and Instagramming our beautiful suite. I managed to lose every single photo I took on my real camera because I am awesome, so please excuse the iPhone photos. You can check out Alex's post for some fantastic pics that she snapped.

I loved the decor and the kitchen that was better-equipped than my own at home! (Not that we used it - read on for more about the food - but on a longer stay I would have loved to cook in it.) I'd have to say my favorite part of the villa was the bathroom. I've been 'nice-bathroom-deprived' ever since I moved to Roatan, and this one was such a treat. Big fluffy towels, L'Occitane en Provance toiletries and the biggest walk-in shower with a bench and a screened skylight... so fancy!

We did spend some time in the room, with Alex working at the built-in desk and me lounging on the deck or trying to watch documentaries on the Apple TV + Netflix without falling asleep in the comfy beds (note: not much success). But for the most part, we spent our time in the water, whether it was at the pool, the private palapa and house reef, or underwater with the dive shop. Can you blame us?

We had a couple amazing dives with Barefoot Divers one morning. This shop provides valet dive service, so we pretty much just rolled out of bed and onto the boat where all our gear was set up for us. Short rides to the sites were a bonus, and Roatan's signature dive site, Mary's Place, is right at Barefoot's front door. If you want to see some pretty pictures of seahorses, dolphins, squid, and me (!), have a peruse through Alex's rundown of our dives.

When we weren't in the water we were eating - we ended up eating all our meals at the resort. We could have gone off-site but it was so convenient and the food was amazing (Alex got hooked on the Barefoot Salad and ordered it for pretty much every meal!) so we stayed put. All my meals were delicious, prepared and presented well and I loved the selection. My favorite was this epic shrimp and grits that I had for breakfast on the last day:

The dining room was friendly and had a nice calm atmosphere. I really liked the cheerful and colorful Caribbean decorations. Service was impeccable, and that is seriously tough to find on this island. Major kudos to the staff and management for training and expecting a high level of service.

All in all, this resort is perfect for anyone looking for a quiet, private, stunning getaway. It would be great for a small intimate destination wedding, or a honeymoon/anniversary, solo retreat or a relaxed dive trip. (It wouldn't be my first choice for people looking for a lot of nightlife [try West End], or families with noisy kids who need a lot of entertainment [try West Bay].)

When you email the resort, all the staff signatures have "It's a great day at Barefoot Cay!" on them, and I couldn't agree more. This is such a lovely little gem and I highly recommend this resort. Thanks Barefoot!

Disclosure: many readers know I had a professional involvement with Barefoot Cay/Barefoot Divers until 2014. However, all opinions are my own and Barefoot Cay/Barefoot Divers did not ask me for a review and they will probably be surprised by this :) This review is based on a stay in 2015 that I tagged along with Alex for, and the lodging was generously hosted by Barefoot Cay. Barefoot Divers also hosted Alex for diving but since I did all my training with them back in the day, I dive gratis there. We took care of our (fantastic) meals, (delicious) drinks and (well-earned) tips. You can check out Alex's version of the events here and here. You guys know by now that I say whatever I think no matter who is taking care of the bill. Cheers to the Barefoot crew - keep up the good work!

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Diving Christmas Wishlist

Happy Holidays from the Caribbean!

It doesn't feel much like Christmas here at the beach with the sun shining and diving in 81F water. That being said, if Santa is making his rounds tonight and wants to stop in Roatan, I've put together my diving Christmas wishlist for him (and maybe it will help you divers with your Christmas lists too).

Here's what I'd love Santa to bring me:

Dive Torch

 My last underwater light died on me and I've been doing a lot of night dives lately. True story: I'm a little bit afraid of the dark, so I want a nice big bright light! One of my fellow instructors here has this light, and it's super bright with rechargeable batteries - a huge plus on an island where batteries are prohibitively expensive.

LavaCore Rashguard

This is the actual worst - I'm getting so cold on my dives now that I'm wearing a FULL 5MM WETSUIT in the friggin' Caribbean. That's embarrassing and I hate how much weight I have to wear. I want to get a LavaCore top to wear with the 3mm wetsuit...I think that would keep me just right. Fleece-lined rashguard? Yes, please!

Torid Pulse

I just basically need this to get my divers attention underwater when they aren't listening to my shaker. This little gun thing shoots out bubble rings in the water. Handy!

Toy Shark

People, please stop asking me to find you a shark on our dives. Sharks are exciting but sightings on Roatan are rare. I'm gonna hope Santa brings me a little toy shark because I'll sneak it out of my pocket on the dive and set it in the sand, and then call you over to see the 'shark'.

Name Tags

I recently bought the same mask as a co-worker and have been thinking about what to do to mark mine. I had divers a couple weeks ago who had the most badass personalized tags on all their dive gear. I would love to have a big RIKA all over my stuff to make sure it doesn't get mixed up or stolen.

Boat Coat

Okay, this might be reaching - I know it's the Caribbean but in rainy season, these coats are lifesavers on the boat. If you haven't driven around on a boat in the rain and wind while wearing a wet wetsuit... well... you'll never know why a dry, fleecy, windproof, knee-length dive parka is the best thing ever.

Underwater Camera

The biggest and best for last! I love underwater photography and would like to be able to take photos of my divers for them. One of my divers let me borrow her Olympus TG-4 camera a while back and it was incredible! (Check out some sample images here.) I love taking photos of macro stuff and this camera can do it without extra lenses. It has a fantastic custom underwater housing, and I like that the camera itself (without the housing) is waterproof to 50ft, as well as shock/drop/crush-proof. The combination of the heat, humidity, my clumsiness and propensity for adventures means a tough camera is a good fit for me.

I hope Santa delivers whatever is on your list! Merry Christmas from Roatan!

No affiliate links or anything because I have no idea how all that shit works. Just a legit list of stuff I actually want.

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.