Friday, December 31, 2004

White Out

We were starting to feel like we'd never get to go snowboarding. My sister and I drove to Jeff's cabin on wednesday, which took about ten hours. We were making pretty good time until we hit the chain control checkpoint on westbound 50. This was, so to speak, an omen.

Wednesday night a storm blew in and dropped two feet of snow in Jeff's driveway. Thursday morning we spent a couple of hours snowblowing and shoveling the driveway so we could get the cars out, threw our boards in the car, and drove out to find that highway 50 was completely shut down -- white out conditions. We decided to try again tomorrow.

Friday morning we looked out the window to discover that the storm had dropped three more feet on Jeff's street. The only sign of the two cars parked in the driveway were hints of the mirrors and two very large mounds of snow. So, we spent friday morning snowblowing the driveway. Again.

Around 9AM, we checked the Caltrans report and found that highway 50 was closed, but Jeff says that they don't update the status in a timely manner, so we drive down to check it out. We get to 50 and see that traffic is moving, albeit slowly, so we zip back to the house, grab our boards and gear, and drive back to 50, only it find tha it is... stopped.

We check the radio and it mentions that 89 and 88 are closed, but doesn't mention 50. So we take some back roads to get to the head of the line and talk to the Caltrans worker there. He says that it's going to stay closed until noon, so we head back to the cabin to wait it out.

Back in the cabin, the web says that 50 is now closed (thanks), but gives no more information. The radio on the way back continues to fail to mention highway 50 in any way. We snowblow the driveway again, to get my car free (we only cleared the truck the first time), and the sun comes out and starts to melt the remaining snow.

At this point Jeff starts to go nuts. The storm has put down five feet of snow at Jeff's cabin, and probably even more than that at Sierra. The sky is clear, promising a beautiful day of snowboarding on runs of deep, fresh, untouched powder.

If only we can get there.

We get on 89, which feeds into highway 50 just shy of where traffic is stopped. At around 11:30, we get an update that the highway won't open until 1PM. Just after noon, they apparently open the highway to eastbound traffic, taunting us by implying that they'll open the highway soon. At 12:30, they change the sign at chain control from "closed for avalanche control" to "chains required", and everyone scrambles to their cars so they can be ready for the road to open.

This drill is repeated every ten minutes or so for the next half an hour, every time a highway patrol or CDF truck drives by. Finally, they open the road up at a little past one, and we drive up to Sierra behind some really slow cars. We're a little worried that all that fresh powder will be gone by the time we get there, but these fears turn out to be unfounded.

When we get to Sierra, we find that there are a little more than a hundred cars in the parking lots. Not our parking lot. All the parking lots. At 1:30, when we get there, we have the mountain to ourselves.

I spend the day teaching my sister to snowboard, while Jeff cruised down on run after untouched run. The day was probably one of the best days we've had at Sierra ever.

We boarded until close (4PM), then headed back to get ready to go out on New Year's Eve... (to be continued)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


My family went on a hike at Silver Falls state park recently, along the family of my sister's best friend when she was 10 years old, who happen to live in Oregon near where we were for Christmas.

The falls are quite spectacular. The river runs over a large volcanic slab, and the water has eaten out underneath the slab over time, so there's a ledge underneath the volcanic slab. A trail runs down underneath the slab and all the way around and behind the waterfall. I wish I'd remembered to bring my camera.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Another Christmas is past, and I have completed the traditional giving of gifts, and started the traditional post-Christmas shopping. After all, it's on sale.

My family is still at my uncle's house in Salem, so today we hit the local outlet mall. The fact that Oregon has no sales tax always throws you off a bit -- if they say it's $39.95, you get a nickel in change.

The theme for this year's gifts (and post-gift shopping) has been house furnishings, because of course there's always something more you can get to furnish your house. I got a couple of entryway rugs, some nice placemats and napkins, and napkin-ring holders for xmas, then flushed it out with some more ordinary (and more stain-resistent) placemats.

And a book. This is tradition enough in my family that my uncle Bob just gave us all Barnes and Nobles gift cards, and at least once a year, someone gets a photo of me, my sister, and my parents sitting and all reading our respective books.

We plan to spend a few more days in Salem, then my parents head back up to Washington for their New Year's Day party, and my sister and I are driving to Lake Tahoe to test out the all-wheel drive on my Subaru. And we might stop by a party while they're there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Microsoft Gives Ethics Lessons

In the latest from Bizarro world, Microsoft is attempting to convince its (would-be) customers not to purchase pirated software, because it is un-ethical to do so. Microsoft has a lot that it can teach about software engineering, user interface design, and ruthlessly obliterating your competition, but ethics? I don't think so, and neither does The Register.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Brain Power

Recent developments in monitoring brain activity could result in one of Sci-Fi's holy grail's, direct mental control of a computer. Obviously there is significant benefit for disabled people to be able to interface with computers without becoming one of the Borg, but I have a feeling that the first widespread use of this will be when Sony ships the first Mental GamePad for PS3.

Speaking of games, just when you thought you could avoid advertising by turning off your TV, a startup has realized the hours wasted playing video games could instead be spent productively watching commercials. The new company, Massive, is trying to get a lock-down on the in-game advertising market, so as you drive around the streets of San Fiero you can see ads for Maxi-Pads or Pert shampoo on the billboards.

Isn't technology exciting?