Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I'm sitting around my grandparents' house, having finished the morning unwrapping-of-the-presents, and the family has now broken down into familiar routines -- some cooking the turkey for dinner, some calling other relatives not present, but most sitting around and reading. Art and Leanne gave all of our family gift certificates to Borders. They know us so well.

Heading back to our motel room shortly. My sister flew in last night, but unfortunately her luggage did not arrive with her, so one of her presents this morning was a delivery from the airline, which she was most excited to receive.

Shannon got a PSP from her parents, and we haven't seen her since. May need to borrow that for a bit to see just how cool those things are. My dad got a GPS unit, and my sister got a Creative Zen MP3 player. It's tiny, about twice the size of the AAA battery which powers it. Greg and my dad exchanged bottles of port, as is their tradition.

Oh, and chocolate. Lots of it. It will be months before I can look a truffle the same way again...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Massachusetts Debates the future of Documents

Andrew Updegrove has been covering much of the debate in Mass about it's decision to use the OpenDocument format as a standard instead of the Microsoft Office format. For those of you that haven't followed the drama, shortly after that decision, MS stirred up a lynch mob to go after Peter Quinn, the state CIO.

The comment that caught my eye, and really put the whole debate in a nutshell, was this one:
It is vital that our national records are not saved in a format owned by any single company. Ask yourself the question: what would we do if we needed vital documents created on a Wang processor 20 years ago.

Most people reading this will never have heard of Wang (that's the point), but 20 years ago they were where Microsoft is today -- Wang sold desktop computers and word-processing software, and they owned the majority of the word-processing market. Five years later their computers weren't worth their weight in scrap metal, leaving users with a bunch of Wang-format documents that needed to be converted to the format of the new market-leading word processor.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Adam and I went riding the day after Thanksgiving. Since we had the day off and all. Well, Adam had the day off at least, and I made an executive decision that the day would be a holiday.

It was raining lightly when we loaded up the bikes, but we figured that wouldn't be a problem. By the time we got to Metcalf, it was actually raining. Nonetheless, our bikes are built for this weather, and we'd never actually ridden in mud before, so off we went.

This is how we looked before we started riding:

And this is how we looked after three hours of playing in the mud:

Unfortunately, the downside was that after all that, it took about an hour and a half to wash/scrape all the mud off our bikes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

90th Birthday

I went to visit my grandparents last weekend to attend my grandfather's 90th birthday. We had a good-sized party that my mom arranged, with almost all of my grandpa's grandchildren in attendence. This was pretty cool, since there were a couple of them that I hadn't seen in over 10 years.

My mom put together a slide show covering my grandfather's life and accomplishments. It was pretty impressive, and contained a few surprises -- apparently he started out his working career as a miner in Nevada.

All in all a good trip, except that I forgot my pillow and had to have it mailed back to me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

News Visualization

I was reading an article on the adoption of ODF as a document format by Massachusetts, and found this tool on the CNet news site.

The tool is a fascinating visualization tool, that creates a map of the subjects and stories that are related to this story -- a topic landscape, if you will. Bringing up the page shows the Mass story at the center, a number of other related stories around it, and also shows links to Microsoft, Novell, IBM and Sun, which are all companies that have been involved in the ODF discussion (Microsoft against, everyone else for), as well as some general topics: Standards, Government, Politics, State Government, etc.

The idea for this has been around a while -- I've seen it used before to create maps of the Linux kernel code -- but this is the first time I've seen it used to concisely describe a topic.

Given that one of the major topics of dinner the other night (with a couple other engineers) was "information overload" and what technologies can be used to help people deal with today's volume of information flow, this is a promising direction: it takes search to the next level, by describing the relations between the topic you're looking and and other relevant topics.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Time to Boycott Sony?

It's been clear for a while that content owners are willing to go to some fairly extreme lengths to protect their content from copying (fair or otherwise), but this article illustrates how far they're willing to go, and how much they respect you and your rights in the process.

In case you didn't read the article, or it all looks like techno-babble to you, let me break it down: If you play a new Sony audio CD in your computer, it will install a virus on it.

That's right, a virus. The article doesn't call it one, but it meets criteria of a "Trojan Horse" virus: It installs itself without any action on your part, it does not announce its presence, it takes active measures to prevent its removal, and it impairs the functionality of your computer. The big difference is that this wasn't written by some angry teenager in his basement, but by a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday is Adrenaline Day

Woke up early today, thanks to daylight savings time and convinced Adam that we should go dirt biking instead of playing Civ all day. Our original plan was to start at 10AM and meet a couple of friends there, but friends flaked, so no point in waiting.

Arrived at Metcalf at around 9AM (which really is 10AM, if you think about it), unloaded the bikes and geared up. We warmed up by taking a few laps around the GP track, then headed out to the hillside track. The hillside track has some neat features to it, and is mildly difficult to get to, which means its never very busy. This morning a tractor had torn some gouges out of the downhill that leads to to track, which was exciting because it's steep enough that you can't really stop or slow down much on the hill.

We spent a while working on jumping our bikes at the hillside track, and then Adam wanted to try some trail riding. I said I was game, let's go find a trail.

Some of you may hear the theme music change around this point.

Neither Adam or I have ever done any trail riding at Metcalf before, so we had no notion of how easy or hard any of these trails are. All the single track is marked "Most Difficult" (black diamond), so the park really didn't help us out there.

We started out by just taking trails we knew existed, but hadn't been down before. Went down a drail that runs next to the creek, and then up a short hill climb, which were both "blue" (medium) trails, but we noticed a number of entrances to a trail called "Snake". At the top of the trail, we saw an entrance (looked like a big rabbit hole), and Adam said "let's go in there".

The trail was pretty cool, and not too bad for the most part. There was one hairy right-hander early on, where you have to make a tight right-hand turn, and if you leave the line, you're pretty much going to slide down the hill into the creek bed. But we kind of tip-toed our way through that. Then, later in the trail, we came around a corner and suddenly we have to do a climb up through a small gulch. Adam punched it and powered his way through, I tried but got off-line and my front wheel rode up the side of the gulch.

I knew I was in trouble at this point, but figured my only chance was to gas it out and hope I got somewhere better than where I was. My XR has a big, torquey motor, so it just drove right up the side wall of the gulch until I lost my balance and the bike fell.

Adam noticed that I hadn't followed him, so he came back to help out. I managed to muscle the bike around so it was pointed downhill, but couldn't get it started (four-strokes do not like being tipped over). The hill climb we did earlier was only a short distance away, so I rode it off trail over to the hill climb, then went down the hill climb and used the hill to compression-start the bike.

I rode around to meet Adam at the top of the trail. He had managed to get through all the difficult parts without dropping his bike, but then hit a rock in the straight-line part as he was coming up to the top of the trail. He had picked up his bike by the time I got there, but, naturally, it wouldn't start. We took turns talking and trying to kick-start his bike (no convenient hill), then went back to the parking lot for a water break.

We had had a couple minor mishaps, but were having fun trail riding, so we decided to pick a couple more trails and then call it a day. We saw there was a trail that did a little loop around a hill, so we went to try that one out. As Adam rode past the trail head marker, I noticed that in addition to the "Most Difficult" icon, there were "Steep Uphill" and "Steep Downhill" icons on the marker I had never seen before. However, at this point we were pretty much committed, so off I went.

Right off the bat it was clear this trail was much more difficult than the others we'd found that day, but there wasn't much we could do about it. There's nowhere to turn around on the trail, so we pretty much had to plow forward. At one point I heard Adam yell out and his bike stopped moving, so I turned my bike off and leaned up against the hill and went to check it out. He'd had to make a tight left-hand turn into a rut, and a root of a Manzenita tree had caught the footpeg on his bike was holding up the entire bike by the footpeg. That was a tough tree.

A little shoving got him off of the tree, so I followed him past the tree without incident, but just down the hill from there the trail was a bit washed out. My rear tire got off the trail into the wash, and the whole bike started sliding down the wash at that point. We quickly figured out there wasn't going to be any way to get the bike back on to the trail, and so decided to just let the bike slide down the wash to where there was another trail. It fell a couple times on the way down, which wasn't a big deal -- the wash was basically sand.

I slid and pushed my bike down to the lower trail and took a breather while Adam got his bike started, then I started up my bike (kick, kick, kick) and started heading up the new trail. I met Adam about 50' down the trail -- turns out it was the lower part of the same trail. Adam had to ride through a four-foot drop to get there, and had broken his clutch lever on the way down.

We saw a bail-out point on the trail, where we could see the creek side trail, so Adam managed to get his bike started up and running in first gear, then rode it on to the trail and out. I followed him out to the parking lot, and we loaded up the bikes.

Despite the multiple falls, we didn't feel too bad about the day of trail riding. Had we known the trail was that difficult, we wouldn't have taken it, but once we were on it we did the best we could. Next time, though, maybe we should ask the ranger what the "easy" black trails are.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Today is a Good Day to Blog

Apparently I'm not the only one having a tough time concentrating on work, because Mark just posted a lengthy description of the work he's been doing in his basement.

It must be something about Fridays.

I'm also trying out the "BlogThis" feature, which does seem pretty convenient, as well as the backlinks feature. Of course, for backlinks to work, someone else actually has to link back to my blog. Could be a while.

On the blog spam front, I can report success since turning on word verification. Apparently the bots aren't smart enough to figure that one out yet.

Bike For Ash

I helped Ash pick up his new (2001) XR400 last monday, so he can join our little dirt-riding crew.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Gone Ridin'

Jon called me last night and wanted to know if I was up for a ride sunday morning. He said the meet time was 11AM, which I thought was reasonable, especially since I had a hockey game saturday night (tied, 5-5).

I woke up at 10AM, which was a tad late considering I was supposed to be at Jon's place at 10:45. Clearly I was entirely awake, since I found myself in Los Gatos on highway 17, and thought to myself, "Los Gatos? But I'm supposed to be driving to Menlo Park..." Turn around, back on 17, up 85 to 280, and I arrived at Jon's place not too late.

Met Ash, Amy, Ethan, and a couple of their friends at Peet's Coffee, then rode up 84 to Alice's restaurant. We spent about half an hour there chatting, as we waited for Warren to show up, then contintued down 84 to Pescadero. The original plan was to stop at Duarte's for lunch, but they had a 45 minute wait, so we decided to continue on to Davenport. Apparently we had a communications failure at this point, because it was not clear to Ethan quite how dire Jon's gas situation was -- he drove to Davenport on reserve.

After a rather overpriced cheeseburger, Jon and I headed back to stop at the next gas station. It turned out to be 15 miles away, not 11 as Ethan claimed, and unfortunately Jon had about 14.9 miles of gas left in his tank.

Jon hopped on my bike and we rode the 0.1 mile to the gas station, bought a vastly overpriced 1-gallon gas can (apparently they've got this drill figured out), then rode back to Jon's bike. When we got back, we realized that it was all downhill to the gas station, and he probably could have coasted in...

But, Jon got to the station, and was fuelled up and one gas can richer for the experience. Got back home, milled around for a couple hours, then went to tonight's hockey game, which we won 1-0. Yay!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Computer Recycling

The original plan for the day was to take a trip to Metcalf and spend a couple hours riding. However, due to minor technical foibles, the plan switched to spending some time working on the bikes, so we could go riding... some other day.

Adam decided he needed new tires, so we went to Cycle Salvage and priced out some dirt tires (pretty reasonable, apparently all dirt tires cost $75), and then we went home to go yank the wheels off his bike. Being cheap as we are these days, naturally we didn't actually buy a bike stand, but instead utilized the nearest handy device of approximately the right size:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dirt Biking

Adam and I went to Metcalf last sunday to go dirt bike riding. It was the first time in a couple years for each of us, but the main reason we hadn't gone riding more in the past was a lack of someone to go riding with. Since we're both around the same skill level (almost none), we're also well-matched riding partners.

First run of the day was a little hairy -- most of my experience is in street riding, and it's a little unsettling to have the bike start wandering and drifting underneath you. Managed to shake that off after a couple laps and get back up to my previous comfort level.

The day went well, I even successfully did a hill climb towards the end of the day. We mostly stuck to the green and blue trails, as well as spending some time on the GP track, which was pretty fun. I liked the track because it helped me practice my skills, and spend less time worrying about what's around the next corner or over the next hill.

I dumped my bike on the last run of the day (naturally), which broke one of the brush guards and bent my clutch lever. Went to Road Rider to pick up a replacement, figuring it had to be cheap -- it's just a piece of molded plastic, and dirt bikes crash all the time, so there's lots of volume. Brake and clutch levers are $6-$7, after all, despite the fact there are dozens of different types of them for different bikes.

The brush guards turned out to be $90 for a set. Surprise. You can get them online for slightly cheaper, but it still feels like highway robbery. I bought them anyways, because I'm still not entirely used to low-cash-flow living, but next time they break I think I'll be repairing them.

Other than the breakage, it was a good trip, and we've decided we'll have to do more of that. As low-cost entertainment, it's hard to beat -- it's $5 to get the two of us into the park for the day. The bikes didn't even go through half a tank during the 4 hours we were there, so the main expense for the day (aside from the brush guards) was the gas it took to drive the truck there.

Oooh baby, change my track

Sometimes you run across applications of technology which are, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit strange. This article talks about a researcher who wants to use wireless technologies and implants to enable people to carry around portable electronic devices.

The storage location? Breast implants.

Yes, under the why-let-space-go-to-waste theory, someone figured that a set of aftermarket headlights would be a great place to embed a portable MP3 player. The marketing spins on this are just too good to pass up. iBoob, anyone?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Parental Units

My parents stopped in last weekend on their way to visit my dad's brother and my grandparents. Had a good time while they were here, showed them the house and the new office. My mom's comment: "It looked bigger in the photos."

I had a hockey game saturday night, so I took them to watch that. The rink somehow forgot to provide a scorekeeper, so my mom ended up in the scorekeeper's box running the scoreboard. She had the best seat in the house for our 2-2 tie game (I was also happy that my parents got to see a good game; I think the last time my parents watched one of my games we lost. Badly).

Lots of work to do these days, since we've started doing development of a new product. We haven't even finished the old product yet. Wheee.

The Blog Spam Strikes Back

Oh, the irony. I changed the posting policy to only allow registered posters to post, and what do I get? A flood of people I've never heard of all saying "oh, I love your blog, come take a look at my blog at XXXX".

So apparently I need to make my posting policy, or just turn it off... After all, since only two people that I know have ever actually posted to my blog, the spammers have the real posters beat by a wide margin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blog Spam

Or, Why I Changed My Posting Policy.

I've gotten a couple comments recently on my blog recently urging me to check out some biotech stock or purchase a summer home in Hawaii or some such rot. This was pretty clearly an attempt by certain entities (I will reserve "unscrupulous" for later, although the stock posting smelled suspiciously like a pump-and-dump) to game their page rank.

And, since my blog is read mostly by people who know me personally, and are quite capable of sending me email directly to let their feelings be known, I decided I wasn't missing much when I restricted posting to registered Blogger members.

So, if you really have a burning desire to respond to one of my diatribes, you'll just have to sign in.

Happy Natal Day To You (to the tune of )

This page quotes a couple of articles about a little copyright spat that happened back in 1996. Most people probably think this is ancient history, but it's worth pointing out that a) this was less than 10 years ago, and b) this clearly represents the agenda of the media industry -- get royalties any time copyrighted material is used anywhere, for any purpose. And if it means that the Girl Scouts can't sing "Happy Birthday" to someone because they can't afford it, well, shucks, it's not our fault you don't have the dough.

Although they ostensibly back off from suing the Girl Scouts in their "retraction", reading the fine print reveals they have no intention of backing off of anything. Who defines what "profitable" camps versus "unprofitable"? See any mention of an explicit revenue cap under which you won't get sued? I didn't either.

Happy f****** ********.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The New Blue Collar Worker

I was reading this article about NASA's new focus on returning to the moon, and the different vehicles that will be required for moon travel. The author sounds like something halfway between a crank and an armchair quarterback, but the part that really gave me a laugh was as his rant is winding to a close:

Therefore, the United States will have to come up with a 21st century replacement for Saturn V or a reasonable facsimile thereof. And the boost in basic engineering skills and domestic production capacity this will require will demand some degree of reorientation away from the white collar, intellectual skills of the software designers back to the hard-hat, blue collar, iron, steel, and volatile fuel technologies of the old Huntsville and Cape Canaveral rocket engineers.

Excuse me??? For the last 30 years, "rocket scientest" has been synonymous with most extreme form of geeky egghead. Now all of a sudden they're Ford-driving, lunch-pail-toting blue-collar workers? Gimme a break.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Broadband and Bullets

A couple interesting links. Congress is contemplating a new bill regulating broadband. Seems to be pretty fair so far (hard to say what the final version will look like) in that it forces providers to give unhindered access to the internet (i.e. no disabling the services of your competitors). Also has provisions making it legal for municipalities to do broadband build-outs.

Another link is one Jeff sent me. This guy is a hard-core journalist following U.S. forces in Iraq. His most recent entry has photos of a squad leader taking fire and getting hit three times, and still returning fire. Definately worth a read.

Designer of IE switches to Firefox

In a posting on his blog, the designer/project manager of IE 5.0 (and several previous versions) recently switched to using Firefox as his browser. He had some comments about how he thought it could be made better, as well... Hopefully he ends up impressed enough to join the Firefox crew.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Gun Safety

I was searching for some good phrases to use for a gun-safety lecture, and ran across this article on why Japan has such a low rate of violent crime. The author is associated with the conservative Cato institute, but the article presents a reasoned counter-argument to the idea that eliminating guns would eliminate violence.

Instead, the unstated conclusion is that the violence in American culture may be a byproduct of our national values of independence and empowerment. If you tell people that they're special and equip them with a can-do attitude, one of the things they can-do is attack people.

The article also contains a number of other observations and history about Japanese culture that make it worth reading by itself. One that surprised me was that the Japanese police force requires 90 hours of training in judo, and that over 60% of their officers are highly-ranked judo competitors.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Random Links

No real rant for today, just a few random links that caught my eye:

Man eventually caught by police after fleeing a burglary with the loot in a wheelbarrow.

Google search on keyword "failure" returns biography of George Bush.

Massachusetts chooses OpenDocument as document format for official records.

Friday, September 02, 2005

File Sync Tool

Saw this article about a tool called "tsync", for keeping files on multiple machines in sync. This is one of the things to come out of Google's "Summer of Code" initiative.

Tsync's major advantage over existing synchronizing tools like rsync is that it automatically detects when peer computers are connected and synchronizes them, and that it can synchronize computers that are never in contact with each other -- my desktop at work and my desktop at home could be synced via my laptop.

Movin' In

My friend Adam was looking for a way to lower his rent, I had a spare room, and I could use a little extra cash, so this weekend we're rounding up the suck^H^H^H^Hvolunteers and moving him into my house. Adam's a gear-whore like me, so figuring out how to pack all of his stuff into the house could be challenging. I predict we'll spend some quality time rearranging the garage.

I'm also considering disconnecting the battery from the truck and just letting it sit for a while... I had been starting it up once a week so the battery doesn't die and the cobwebs get cleared out, but with gas prices over $3.19/gal, now I'm trying to figure out how to strap my hockey gear to my bike.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cops in Kirkuk

This CNN article talks about a show running in Kirkuk, which is basically an Iraqi vers ion of "COPS". The show runs segments of local police officers in action, and is followed by a community call-in segment where callers get to offer praise or voice gripes.

This seems like an excellent way to introduce media transparency to a nation with almost no concept of the subject. The material is local news, so people can check the facts through the rumor mill, and the call-in portion gives direct feedback to the chain of command. Hopefully this will introduce Iraq to the idea of a free press (before their press gets bought out by some American media giant).


I'm sitting in bed with an ice pack on my knee as I type this -- the results of our first playoff victory. We finished up our regular season of ice hockey last week, and the better of my two teams made it in to the playoffs. Not a huge accomplishment in itself -- 8 of the 10 teams in our division made it in -- but we were ranked 2nd headed in, so we were expecting to have a relatively easy win.

Apparently the other team was not filled in on the plan.

They were skating in playoff mode from the first puck drop, and it took us a little time to get warmed up and realize if we didn't play a good game we'd be in trouble. In the middle of the first period Andrew sent a nice slapshot into the net; unfortunately my knee was in the way at the time. The unpadded, back of my knee. I immediately went back to the bench for a shift change to wait for the pain to subside and the adrenaline to kick in. After that I was good until around third period.

We had a scary moment when Alan, our leading scorer, got taken out by the goalie, did several spins in the air, and hit the ice holding his knee. He stayed down for a couple minutes, but eventually got up and limped back to the bench. He ended up skating the rest of the game, but at a reduced level. Hopefully he's feeling better for our next game tomorrow night.

Hopefully I'm feeling better, too...

We won the game 4-2, but it was a lot closer than it should have been, considering that we beat the same team 8-2 in the regular season.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fuel Cell Bike

Apparently a new Fuel Cell Motorcycle is going to arrive in the U.S. soon. It's fairly expensive considering its performance (top speed ~50mph), especially since early adopters would have to spring another $1500 for a fuel reformer to create the hydrogen the beast runs on... Nonetheless interesting to ponder. It looks like a dirt bike, interesting to see how well it would actually fare off-road.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Security Research Ethics

Jeff and I had an interesting conversation over lunch regarding a recent disclosure about a flaw in Cisco's IOS operating system by security researcher Michael Lynn (Wired Article). Cisco tried very hard to make sure the presentation never happened, and it's obvious to everyone, in retrospect, that the attempted cover-up did far more damage than the original disclosure. From the Wired article:

[Michael Lynn] said he conducted the reverse-engineering at the request of his company, which was concerned that Cisco wasn't being forthright about a recent fix it had made to its operating system.

Jeff's position (and Cisco's position) was that the original disclosure of the information by Lynn was unethical, and that he should have given the company more time to respond to the information and tell users to upgrade their firmware. My position was that if a firmware update already exists (it does) to cover the vulnerability, then disclosure is acceptable.

Further complicating the issue,
Cisco's Press Release implies that Lynn revealed Cisco-proprietary code in his presentation:
... ISS and Cisco had prepared an alternative presentation designed to discuss Internet security, including the flaw which Lynn had identified, but without revealing Cisco code or pointers ...

I downloaded the presentation (available from, among other places) to see what information he actually revealed. He outlines the general procedure one would follow to create a remote-code exploit on IOS. He has some source code examples, but they're all of dissassembled MIPS assembler code. One can argue about whether disassembled code is Cisco property, but it's clearly code he created and not code that Cisco provided to Lynn. A few C function prototypes are also in the presentation, but only the most wildly paranoid would call a function prototype a code disclosure.

Finally, Bruce Schneier came down firmly on the side of disclosure.

I tend to think that Lynn got a raw deal for basically doing his job, and when told to present an alternative (read: sanitized) presentation instead of the one he originally created, he opted for disclosure instead of job security. The real question in my mind is why Cisco went ballistic over it.

Track Day

Spent a day at Thunderhill last week, in my first-ever track day in a car. The event was put on by the Golden Gate Lotus Club, which was a fairly relaxed group. For those who have never seen (or heard of) Thunderhill, here is a satellite view of the track (Google apparently doesn't have hi-res imagery of Willows area).

There was plenty of track time available -- drivers were split into a "Fast" group and a "Faster" group; the "Fast" group was restricted to passing mostly on the three straightaways, whereas the "Faster" group was limited to drivers with multiple days of track experience, and had unrestricted passing. Sessions ran for half an hour and alternated between the two groups, which was pretty nice, since you could just glance at your watch and figure out how long until your next session was going out.

Getting out on the track was a blast. I took it pretty easy for the first couple sessions, especially after the driver's meeting comments about not spinning out in the first session, then started to push the car harder. The STi proved to be a very easy car to drive fast -- it has a basic tendency to push, even with the center diff unlocked, and towards the end of the day when I was sliding the car through turn 2 it transitioned cleanly from hard cornering into a gentle four-wheel slide.

I learned an incredible amount as the day went by, and I was going much faster by the last session than I was at the beginning of the day. My progress was marked by my gas consumption -- I burned two full tanks of gas at the track, going through an indicated half-tank of gas alone in my last session (although I must point out that it was the first half tank, which is smaller than the second half).

Tire wear was less than expected, but I think the stock tires are now nearing the end of their useful life anyways. I'll probably have to start shopping around for a new set soon, although finances being what they are, I may just throw the winter tires back on and run on them for a while.

I didn't really feel the need for any more power out of the car after the day -- certainly I was full on the gas in many parts of the course, but I had to feather the throttle through at least half the course, so I would say I am tire-limited (and skill-limited) rather than power-limited. One modification I would like would be some sort of four-point or five-point harness. I saw one of the (eight or nine) Mitsubishi Evo drivers had a harness put in his car that was pretty low-impact. The other thing is that I want a video mount for my camera...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rice One-ups MIT on Being Open

Inspired by the MIT Open Courseware project, Rice university has created a site (article) where colleges and professors can provide their own course materials for free.

Unlike MIT's program, which simply takes the material they use already and publishes it on the web, the Rice program is much more ambitious -- they aim to be the Sourceforge of educational materials, a central repository of courses that anyone can contribute to, where users can examine, review, and rank the material.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The War on Bugs

My house has been invaded by ants. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these little pests are crawling around the corners of my house, making little trails to and fro, and generally interfering with my freedom to live in an ant-free household.

I made a run to Home Depot today and loaded up on various implements of insect destruction -- some ant bait traps, to Kill Them Where They Live(tm), and some anti-ant spray, for that immediate, visceral feeling of total ant annhiliation.

They may have me outnumbered, but I have Freedom, Justice, and Ortho on my side.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The End of U.S. Engineering

Read this interview with Steve Mills, IBM's VP of software sales. The interviewer asked about the U.S. education system and whether it could meet the demands of the industry. What Mills doesn't say is the most interesting part:

Q: Some tech executives have raised concerns about the quality of the U.S. education system and the supply of potential employees in the pipeline, relative to the talent other countries are producing. What are your thoughts on this issue?

A: There are good people all over the world. We're a global company and have been for many decades. From our perspective, nothing has changed. There are good universities around the world and lots of talent out there. Of course, IBM is a diversified technology company, both by product as well as by location. We do software development in dozens of locations around the world and have for many decades.

See that part where he answers the question about the U.S. education system? Yeah, neither did I. It sounds like now that IBM has committed itself to globalization, they're not worried about not being able to hire U.S. graduates.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Big Brother is Sorting You

An article on The Register regarding the Sorting Door project, a feasability study on examining and tracking individuals based on the RFID tags contained in their clothing and carried goods.

The name of the project comes from the magical "Sorting Hat" from the Harry Potter books, proving that a) anything can be twisted to evil purposes, and b) everybody on the freakin' planet has read Harry Potter.

Some of the projected capabilities of the Sorting Door project are:
1) Generate targetted advertising based on what a customer is wearing
2) Track individuals as they pass within range of a reader
3) Generate personality/risk profiles based on what an individual is wearing
4) Detect anomolous behavior in clothing choices (overcoat in Florida, bikini in Alaska)

I predict a booming business in RFID readers to get rid of these little buggers (2007-2008), to be followed shortly by legislation making the removal of an RFID tag illegal (circa 2010).

Most Specialized Fetish Award

Dave sent me a link to this site, which he said was the wierdest fetish site he's seen so far.

The basics of the site seem to work like this:
1) Find a really hot girl
2) Dress her in skimpy clothes
3) Give her a car utterly unsuited to off-road travel
4) Have her drive car off-road
5) Watch as she tries to get car un-stuck

And you thought naked midget wrestling was wierd.

Get Out Of My Driveway

Part of my ongoing house saga is that the clients of the daycare next door keep parking in my driveway, so every now and then I'll back down my driveway in the morning to find the exit blocked by a minivan or Volvo. This morning not only did I catch a repeat offender (I've asked this same woman to move before), but to make her look extra-stupid, there were two parking spots open in front of the daycare, including the 5-minute spot effectively reserved for their use. So I put on my I'm-not-happy face and loudly pointed this out to her as she was scurrying into the driver's seat of her car.

I felt a sense of accomplishment this morning. We'll see if it had any effect.

Last night's hockey game didn't go as well. Our goalie had a bad night, and the other team had a good night, so the resuling slaughter was predictable. I was playing defense, so I did my best to stem the tide, but I got caught flat-footed on one play where their player got around me to score, plus two more goals that our goalie should have caught.

Then I watched Jeff's team get beat by a similar margin, although it was more excusable in their case; their goalie was subbing in from a lower division. At least his girlfriend finally saw him score and broke the curse.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Weak Attempt at Political Humor

So, Katie was reading an article about the press battering Scott McClellan regarding Karl Rove, who, it now appears, was the source of the Plame identity leak. One reported questioned him on Bush's statement that anyone involved with the leak would be let go:

Q After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the President's word that anybody who was involved would be let go?

McCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.

We at the office feel that people who heard the original quote perhaps didn't pay enough attention to the subtext of what Bush said.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No Software Patents

Saw this
article reporting that the European Parliament has rejected the proposed patent law. The proposal would have "harmonized" European patent law with law in the U.S. by allowing patents on computer-implemented inventions, or software patents.

This is despite the fact that software patents were strongly argued against in the U.S. by such little-known players as Autodesk, Adobe and Oracle.

So, here's hoping for harmonization. It's just that the harmony that I'm holding out for is revoking software patents here, not introducing them elsewhere.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th

Another 4th rolls around... Busy weekend for me. Had two BBQs to go to sunday -- Jon's birthday for lunch, and then up to Oakland for dinner at Dave's. Dave tried to start up the booth and give people a ride but neither battery seemed to be happy.

Called up Adam today and went for a ride through the mountains, then washed our bikes. Couldn't muster up the effort to actually go somewhere to watch fireworks, so I cooked dinner and watched "The Incredibles" with Adam.

No work this weekend -- decided to take the whole weekend off, to rest up for a big coding push next week.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Defended by Jesus

A recent TIME article talks about Evangelicals in the military, specifically in the Air Force Academy. With the tacit permission of the administration, the academy is turning into a subtle Christians-only club.
Yet religiosity infiltrated the school's unofficial vocabulary--cadets who did not attend chapel were known as the "heathen flight"--and presented some with down-the-rabbit-hole conundrums.

The fact that they have a term for non-Christians is significant -- assigning a label to a group of people is generally the first step towards marginalizing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Unexpected Consequences

A couple interesting tidbits from this article talking about Dell being willing to sell PCs running OSX. Personally, I think it's just a negotiating tactic to beat down MS on price -- Dell is famous for it's one-processor (Intel), one-OS strategy.

The stumbling block could be product-tying laws that have plagued Microsoft recently. From the article:

"If you sell software that can run on hardware that you do make and hardware that you don't make, you cannot require people to buy your hardware to run your software," Brookwood says. If Dell really wanted to sell Mac OS X hardware, it could force the issue through the legal system, he says.

It would be ironic if Apple were forced to ship OSX for PCs by court order.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

News of the Wierd

Apparently Britney Spears is famous for more than creating a really bad reality show -- she's also the celebrity most frequently used for spreading viruses. So when you get that email with a link to "Britney and Kevin Making Out!!!", just pass it by. Either way, you don't want to see it.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Saw "Mr and Mrs. Smith" last night with Jeff and Somala. We all thought it was entertaining. They had a fun time with the concept of a stale marriage between two secret agents, and they have some amusing suburban-spy humor as well. The movie is mostly light-hearted except for the last ten minutes or so, which feel more like they were lifted wholesale from a John Woo movie.

I was entertained, although at $10 for a movie now, I feel that I certainly should be... Forget renting, it's now cheaper to buy a movie than it is to see it (with a date) in the theater.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Buying Off a Generation

An interesting article in Time about the youth of Iran. The ruling mullahs have effectively bought off the overwhemingly young (median age: 24) population by allowing them social freedoms while denying them political ones.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Just finished watching my own private episode of "Cops". I was awaked from a dead sleep to the sounds of "Wee-oo-wee-oo-wee-ooo! Screeeeech! CRUNCH!" and part of my brain goes, "This must be good, time to get up."

I go to the front of my house, and right in front of Mio's I see a white Astro minivan has nosed itself into the building, and four or five cops are standing around it pointing their guns at the van and yelling variously in English and Spanish. The impressive part was that it can't have taken more than about ten seconds for me to wake up and walk to the front of the house, so all four cruisers must have been right behind him...

The two guys in the van wisely exited without incident and were quickly stuffed in the back of cruisers, so the excitement was short-lived. Now the problem is that I'm awake and it's going to be tough to get back to sleep.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Interview with Eqbal Ahmed

Mark was on my case recently for not posting anything for the last two months or so, so I decided to throw up something news-worthy. As for other developments, much of what I'm doing I'm not ready to talk about yet, and when I am, it will be here.

I just read an inteview with Eqbal Ahmed about types and causes of terrorism. This came about after some discussion with a Pakistani friend of mine regarding causes of terrorism. This is a particularly personal topic for him, since he and his family are subject to an Unusual Degree of Scrutiny whenever they fly.

The other thing that's come up recently (more tech related) is that Apple announced that future Macs will have Intel processors in them. I was kind of dissapointed by this, not because I think it's a bad move for Apple, but because it means that once they've completed the switch, there will no longer be any competition for desktop processors. Intel and Intel-clones will control the entire desktop market, and I think it's a sad day when competition in any market dies.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Me gusto la cena italiana

A few drugs helped me over this morning's “indisposed” feeling (it's amazing what you can get over the counter here), so we acted on our plan for the day, and rented a car.

We drove around the island, or around the part that is paved, at least, which was probably 20-30 miles. We stopped at a couple points to take pictures, and at San Gervasio in the middle of the island (just off the appropriately-named “cross-island road”) where there is a Mayan ruins site.

We spent about an hour poking around the ruins, which aren't nearly as impressive as those at Chichen Itza, but had interesting history. Apparently the site was a major destination for religious pilgrimages during Mayan times, giving the island an over 800 year history of being a tourist trap. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

We're having dinner tonight at Prima's, which serves northern Italian food, then heading to the airport tomorrow morning for our return flights.

Yo no sento bueno

We've been busy the last few days. We checked in to the hotel Patio last wednesday, in Cancun, which was small but charming, just like the guidebook promised. Ate in downtown Cancun at Rosa Mexicana, which for some reason our cabbie couldn't find. Nice restaurant, and we had it almost to ourselves.

On thursday, we took a cab to one of the local beaches, Playa Tortuga (tortoise). Unfortunately, I did not apply my sunscreen with sufficient diligence, so after a few hours at the beach, I had a couple spots of nice deep red sunburn.

By this point we had figured out how to keep from getting overcharged by the cabbies (Cancun was the only area where we had this problem). When we got somewhere in Cancun, the driver wouldn't tell us how much the fare was. This isn't as unreasonable as it sounds, as there are no meters and the fares are generally fixed price by zone. However, if you asked how much the fare is, the driver felt free to name any figure he felt like.

So, if you hand him (we never saw a female cab driver during our trip) approximately the right amount of money, he would charge you the right amount. Or at least not charge you more than you gave him. We did run into a few honest cab drivers while we were there, but for the most part I didn't worry about it – when you convert to dollars, our cab rides were $2-$5 in downtown.

Thursday night we signed up for an organized bar crawl, which ended up being a pretty good deal. They took us to four different bars – Pat O'Brien's, Dady Rock (sic), Congo, and Coco Bongo – but the part we figured was worth the money was that they ended up at the Coco Bongo, and they skipped you past all the lines. And given that our group was about 200 people, I'm guessing that the line could have been pretty long.

The group (“Party Hoppers”) overwhelmed the first three bars we were in, but Coco Bongo is pretty big. Our handler, Juan, was very good to us, so we gave him a nice tip at the end of the night.

I got some decent photos of the club, which was impressive not only in scale, but in the show that they put on. They had one guy wandering around that was part mini-me, part Beetlejuice, as well as Madonna and Michael Jackson work-alikes, and a trapese show, and they transitioned between them seamlessly. Then again, I had had a few drinks by this point, so I probably wouldn't have noticed any little hiccups.

On friday we made our now-familiar trek to the bus station, took a bus to Casa Del Mar, and took the ferry to Cozumel. Spent friday poking around town, since this is the major shopping part of our trip (as opposed to the buying-things-we-forgot-to-bring shopping we've done on the rest of our trip).

On saturday we took a submarine ride. The actual dive took about 45 minutes, but with the ride out to the sub and back to the harbor the whole trip took about two hours. We dove down to just over one hundred feet, and saw the drop-off where the shelf Cozumel is on ends. We saw lots of reef-life, including a shark and a group of scuba divers. We took pictures of them taking pictures of us.

After the dive we spent some time souvenir shopping. Shana hit a bunch of places looking for Blue Agave brand tequila for a friend of hers, which looks like a red herring so far – lots of tequilas are made from blue agave, but as far as we can tell, none of them are called that.

Spent an hour or so listening to the Cuban band (two guys) playing in our hotel lobby, then went to bed early. Plan for today was to rent a motorcycle and tour the island, but I'm not feeling well and apparently you can only rent scooters or cars, so we may just switch to a car.

And we have to figure out where our laundry went to.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Qiero dos boletos, paro no tengo pesos

A little chat with the bus driver and our remaining $49 in U.S. Currency managed to get us on the bus to Cancun. The bus ride is almost seven hours, so we have a lot of time to kill before we get there.

We skipped breakfast this morning, since after the hotel bill and the tickets for the bus, we have 50 pesos and some pocket change left. We went shopping yesterday at a small market that seemed to be some sort of minature Costco. They didn't carry many products, but everything they had, they had a lot of. We picked up a one-liter Coke and a king-size box of assorted cookies, which are substituting for food until we get to Cancun.

I may never look at a cookie quite the same way again.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Es lo un cambio de moneda aqui?

We're spending the night at the “Restaurant and Hotel Calakmul,” which is the nicest hotel (and restaurant) in the town of Xpujil. It is also the only restaurant in town with an enclosed dining area, so that should give you some idea of the competition.

Xpujil is the definition of a sleepy little Mexican town. Everything of note in the town is on the main street (also the highway) – the bus stop, pharmacy, army barracks, grocery store. We spent a few minutes walking around town and taking pictures.

Our room is a cozy little unit, with nicely-made wooden furnishings and two beds on concrete frames (standard in the hotels we've been in so far – if you can't build it with concrete and cinder block, it doesn't get built around here).

I have now achieved a tourist-survival level of Spanish. I've got my basic numbers down, and I can belt out “la cuenta” with authority. Still haven't quite gotten to using verbs, but a basic set of nouns seems to go pretty far. And it's not like we're in danger of being mistaken for locals. In addition to our pale skin, Shana is on the tall side here, and I easily tower a head over the natives.

Spent most of today on the bus. Merida to Xpujil is 7 hours on 2 different buses, so it was 5pm by the time we got to the hotel. Going to spend tomorrow checking out nearby ruins, then it's off to Cancun.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

La cuenta, por favor

Pool turned out to be cold this morning, so we passed on it and checked out. We took the second-class bus to Merida and checked in at another hotel in the same chain -- “Hotel Delores Alba.”

We walked around town for a bit today, then went back to the hotel. After lunch, we took a nap for a few hours, watched TV for a bit (we watched whatever was on the WB 'cause it was in English), then went to dinner. This proved to be a bit of an adventure, because the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed.

We consulted with our cab driver – an interesting discussion, since he spoke about as much English as we spoke Spanish. We settled on the Hacienda Xcanatun, which turned out to be about 10km away. As compensation, it is one of the best restaurants in the area, according to our guidebook.

Tomorrow is festival day in Merida, so we'll see what that's all about.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hola, yo soy un tourista

Got in to the hotel late last night, after a minor travel adventure. Both Shana and my planes were late, so we took a little while to find each other, and then we had to convince a shuttle driver to give use a ride to the bus terminal.

We showed up a little before 8PM, and the girl at the counter looked at us a little funny when we said we wanted a 2nd-class bus ticket to Chichen Itza – she asked “Manana?”

We've noticed that drivers here tend to have the A/C cranked, all the time. Had to put on my fleece for the bus ride here.

Woke up late enough this morning to miss breakfast, so we had to hang around until they started serving lunch (noon). After that we caught the hotel shuttle to the ruins of Chichen Itza.

We walked in past a couple hotels right next to the park entrance, a long a trail leading to the main pyramid. The pyramid itself is pretty impressive. We climbed the 91 steps to the top, which is the first challenge – the steps are fairly high, and very narrow. Each step is only slightly wider than my foot – maybe 6” - which makes the pyramid fairly steep. Enough so that while climbing up was merely strenuous, getting back down is more of a challenge.

The park has fixed a knotted rope that runs down the middle3 of the steps, and many people were either clinging to the rope, or going down on butt-and-hands. Shana and I ended up walking down sideways. We deduced that the Mayans must have had small feet.

After seeing the pyramid, we visited the rest of the site. There were a number of temples, and a very large ball court. The ball game was some variant of putting a ball through a hoop, called “pelota.” We also say the “temple of a thousand columns,” the bath house, a “cenote” called “the well of sacrifice,” and the observatory – which looks very much like a modern observatory.

Had dinner at the hotel (after cocktails, of course). The hotel has a respectable kitchen; I had thinly-sliced pepper steak, and Shana had fish which she guesses was cod. Both were served with potatoes which must have been at least half butter.

Plan for tomorrow is to get up early, breakfast, have a quick dip in the pool, and head in to Merida to do some shopping.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

Went to Vegas last weekend with a big group of friends to celebrate Nate's birthday. Unfortunately, in addition to my baggage and some cash, apparently I packed a virus to Vegas as well.

The weather friday when everyone was leaving was bad -- it was pouring down rain in San Jose, and more importantly, as we would later learn, it was also raining at the Las Vegas airport. Apparently, because it never rains there, their ILS is a little on the antique side, so it severely limits the number of planes that they can land. To make it all work, they assigned each plane a time slot it can land in, and the planes were held at their take-off airports until their slot came up.

Which meant that Mike, Ash and I spent two and a half hours sitting on the floor in SJC playing poker with Ash's candy supply. At one point I knocked out both Ash and Mike with one really good hand and ended up with all the candy, but those commies nationalized my candy and divided it back up.

The flight was quick, once they finally let us on the plane, although the takeoff was a bit rough as we climbed through the storm.

We met up with everyone who managed to get in friday night, had dinner late (10:30), then went and partied for the night. Up to that point I had a minor cough, but I was pretty tired after dinner, so I "rallied" with a couple Vodka RedBulls. This may have been my downfall. RedBull can keep me awake even when I'm dead tired, so I didn't sleep well that night, and by saturday I was decidedly sick.

Saturday night was the big organized dinner, which around 25 people showed up for. I was not one of them, as I was in the hotel sleeping. I'm such a party animal.

As for the Imperial Palace, where most of us stayed, I misquote Winston Churchill: "Never have so many paid so much for so little."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

RSA Security Conference

Went to the RSA security conference yesterday, which was pretty interesting. Lots of vendors selling basic stuff, like stand-alone firewall boxes and whatnot, and management software to tie security devices together. Big trends for this conference were two-factor authentication (some sort of keychain-like physical token, combined with either a biometric -- fingerprint -- or password), VPN over SSL for more firewall-friendly VPN, and intrusion prevention systems (blocking virus-like behavior instead of scanning for specific viruses).

From a consumer product standpoint, the hot giveaway this year was an iPod -- every third booth had some sort of free drawing for an iPod or an iPod mini. Coolest giveaway I saw was a chance to win a ride in a MiG fighter.

The NSA also had a booth there, presumably for recruiting. They had one of the enigma machines recovered in WWII on display on loan from the museum of cryptography (another booth also had an enigma out in front of it, so I'm guessing that the machines aren't terribly rare).

Most annoying part about the conference is that there was no free wireless available -- apparently the Moscone center charges an arm and a leg for internet access over their gold-plated wires. Ironic when you consider that San Francisco is planning on putting in free wireless over the whole city... Are these two run by the same government?

Science Proves What You Already Knew

Recent research showing that there are structural differences between men's and women's brains. Fun example:

"That doll becomes life-like to that girl, but you give it to a two-year-old boy and you are more likely, not all the time, but you are more likely than not to see that boy try to take the head off the doll," he said.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Take A Hike

Had a nice relaxing weekend. On saturday I took a hike with Keith, Katie, and Jon on a short loop trail off of highway 84. Took some pictures which should make their way on to my website one of these days.

Had hockey games on both saturday and sunday, which is unusual, and won both of them, which is even more unusual. Didn't score any goals in either game, which unfortunately is not unusual -- I'm thinking I may try my hand (stick?) at defense instead. I can skate backwards most of the time...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Middle East Peace Summit

Interesting op-ed piece talked about the situation inside Palestine and some of the internal tensions. One thing the article pointed out was this:

The fact remains that according to international law people living under occupation have the right to use any means available, including armed struggle, to resist occupation.

Although the article goes on to say that any "military adventurism" would be counter-productive at this point, because it would undermine Abbas' authority.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Superbowl Sunday

It's that day again -- the day when all of America, save for a few oddballs like me, gets really excited over the chance to see Janet Jackson bare her boob ornament on national TV. And, in between the commercials and the halftime show, maybe watch a little football.

Most years I have to create and excuse to not hang out at someones house for 5 hours watching a football game that would be much more entertaining to watch on fast-forward on my Tivo in about 30 minutes, but this year I have been spared that ordeal, because my hockey league has scheduled a game for 4:30PM today, smack dab in the middle of the superbowl.

A couple people I talked to about this were horrified, but for me it couldn't be better -- I can show up at Katie & Keith's party, hang out for an hour or so, then just about the point that the boring football part is starting up, I have to leave to make it to my game on time. Not only that, but I'm sure a bunch of people on both teams have bailed, so I should get lots of ice time, too.

So, everyone enjoy Superbowl Sunday, because I'll be enjoying mine -- if for an entirely different reason.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Dinner with Katie

Spent an evening shopping and having dinner with Katie, who was on the verge of a breakdown. K&K just put an offer in on a house this afternoon, and she was anxiously awaiting a phone call to see if the offer was accepted. Actually, "anxiously" is a wild understatement. To put things in perspective, shopping just barely took her mind off checking her phone every 10 minutes...

After dinner at Pizza Antica we headed over to B&N to pick up Gwen Stefani's new album. She got the phone call just as we were walking through the door, and she was deliriously happy after that (Not that I don't understand -- it's a really cool house).

On the way back to my house, we popped the CD in the player, and listened to track 2 -- "Rich Girl". 'nuff said.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Instant Messing Worm Hits the Net

A new worm has showed up with a new infection vector -- instant messaging. And it's no surprise who's network proved vulnerable to this, it's Microsoft's MSN. It's unclear from the article if this requires the user to do something (like run the attachment), or if it's a true worm taking advantage of a security hole. The latter is pretty scary, since it can rapidly spread by hitting everyone online in IM's contact list, instead of needing to scan for targets.

Monday, January 10, 2005

White Out Reloaded

Jeff, Somala, Rachel and I drove up to his house in Tahoe last friday, and saturday morning we had a sense of deja vu -- the cars and the driveway were buried in snow, and once again, highway 50 was closed. We had breakfast at a little hole-in-the-wall, and then went back to the house. At that point Dean, who had met up with us on the drive up, suggested jumping off the roof.

We looked at the roof, and at the deep snow banks off to the side, and it seemed reasonable, so we got multiple people filming as Dean and Jeff climbed up on the roof, strapped on their snowboards, and rode down the roof and off the side.

After a few runs, we retired inside to variously read (me) and watch football (everyone else). Jeff, Dean, and Somala went out later for another run at jumping off the roof, but couldn't convince Rachel or I (who were now warm and dry) to venture back out.

Saturday night we went into the casinos for dinner, which were indescribably dead. There were a few players around the blackjack tables and a person every now and then playing slots, but overall it felt like we were about to get kicked out by the cleaning crews.

Sunday morning we got up and got packed just in case the road (which was closed) opened up at some point. At around 9:30 Jeff walked up to me and said something like "El camino es abuerta", which I eventually figured out meant highway 50 was open. We packed everyone into Jeff's new Tundra and Dean's unstoppable lifted F150, drove to Sierra, and parked in the nearly-empty lot D.

Someday, when there are old snowboarders, they will sit around on the porch and swap stories that start something like "I remember the storm that hit in the winter of 2005..." Sunday was that good. It was still snowing pretty good, and there was a little wind, but not enough of either to detract from the conditions. We rode continuously from 11 until 2, cutting fresh tracks down the middle of every run. We broke for a quick lunch, then went back up (sans Somala, who was having a tough time with the powder on her short board). Our first run after lunch was dissapointing, since the front of the mountain was bumpy and choppy, so we headed back to West Bowl.

By the time we got there, we were almost burnt. We took one run down to the bottom, and afterwards Dean, Rachel and I were all spent. On my last run I was in danger of getting buried because my right quad was about to give out. Jeff wanted to do one more run, so I took the truck keys and we headed back to the lodge.

I started up the truck and managed to peel out of my snowboarding gear without getting the truck filled with snow. Jeff showed up 15 minutes later saying his legs almost gave out on the last run, and he had to ride the trees because the chopped-up main run would have worn him out.

We pulled out of the lot at 3:30, and managed to get back to San Jose by 7:30, which gave me just barely enough time to drive home, pull out my snowboarding gear, pack my hockey back, shove the bag and my sticks in the car, and drive to the ice rink for my 8:15 game -- only to find that the game was cancelled (no ice).

Probably better that way, because this morning my right leg is so sore I was having trouble walking up stairs.

Friday, January 07, 2005

New Year's Eve

After finally getting up to the slopes to enjoy the fresh powder, we were pretty happy. After getting home and cleaning up the driveway (again), we made plans to go out for New Year's Eve. My passengers warmed up with some shots of Petron at Jeff's house, and then we bundled Jeff, Shana, Somala, Rachel and I into my Subaru and Ben took his three girls in his (well, not actually his, but his problem, which is close enough) CRV. Lucky guy.

We got to downtown a little before 11PM and found a parking spot in one of the casino lots by virtue of making our own row. We wandered from casino to casino in search of $5 limit blackjack tables (no luck) and free drinks (no problem, as long as you don't mind them being a bit watered down). We bounced back and forth between Bill's and Harvey's until it got close to midnight, then headed out onto main street for the midnight festivities.

For those who aren't familiar with this drill, South Lake Tahoe shuts down the portion of highway 50 in front of the casinos for New Year's Eve, and it fills up with people. There were fewer people this year than in the past, because it was actually snowing significantly that night, but there were still enough people to pack the street.

We lost Ben and his crew at some point, and moved out into the crowd to get into the spirit of things. None of the casinos run a countdown, so we didn't get a Times Square-esqe countdown, but instead a series of random cheers over a ten minute period, as people's various watches, cell phones, pagers, and other timekeeping devices told them it was now midnight. A couple of random guys snuck in to steal kisses from Somala and Rachel, and a girl behind Jeff flashed her boobs a couple times, which Jeff missed because he was off contemplating the state of the universe or something.

As the random Happy Newyearness died down, we headed back into Harvey's to feed the Nevada gambling industry a bit more, then decided to head back to Jeff's house. When we got to the parking lot we realized the snow that had been falling for the last few hours had actually been piling up, and there was 2-3 inches of new snow in the parking lot. Accordingly, I was volunteered to go find and fetch the car, although Somala graciously wandered around the parking lot with me. After a few minutes of orienting ourselves ("oh yeah, this is where the bus tried to back in to us"), we found and started the car, and dumped ourselves into the mass of people trying to get out of the parking lot. I can't really describe this process except to say that apparently snow melts people's brains.

As we were bumping along Pioneer Trail (the road surface at this point being ice with a couple of wheel-troughs in it, covered with a light dusting of snow), Jeff made his first prediction of 2005: "I bet Ben got stuck getting on to my street." Sure enough, we get up to Jeff' street, which hadn't been plowed for 2 days and was covered with between 6 inches and 2 feet of snow, and there's Ben's CRV stuck at the head of the street.

There's no way we can get around him, and everybody's currently dressed in their going-out clothes, so Jeff suggests we drive around to the other end of the street, park my car in the driveway, then hike back with shovels to get Ben un-stuck. I sign up for this mainly because I'm having a lot of fun driving my car in the snow.

We get back on Pioneer Trail, head up one block, and duck back into the maze of streets heading for the other end of Jeff's street. We immediately sense trouble, because all of these streets have not been plowed recently and are covered with about 6 inches of snow, and Jeff is having a hard time figuring out where we are and how to get to his street. Every time we have to stop at an intersection and look for signs we get nervous, because in snow, "stop" is frequently the same thing as "stuck".

Finally, after a couple false turns, we get to Jeff's street, only to find that there's another car stuck at the end of that street, parked with its flashers on. We stop to ponder this situation, and unfortunately this time, we're stuck, too. I try to work the car out of it and only manage to get the car turned sideways and thoroughly stuck.

At this point we're pretty much out of choices, so Jeff, Shana, and Somala hike back to the house to get digging equipment, and Rachel and I stay with my car (which now has its flashers on, so the next guy doesn't run into us). We sit there for about half an hour until the owners of the second car show up, get their car unstuck, and then come help us get our car unstuck.

After that, I'm a man on a mission; I gas the car out and vow that I will not stop until I'm in the driveway. I manage to find my way back to Pioneer Trail by following my own tire tracks back, slide out on to Pioneer Trail, hop back one block, and get back to the head of Jeff's street. Ben's progress has knocked down a little snow, but we're still looking at huge amount of snow to go through with my car's fairly low clearance. I turn in back up in the plowed street, line myself up with the wheel ruts, and punch it.

I hit the street in second gear with all wheels spinning, but the car slows and starts to bog, so I drop down into first and floor it. There's not really a concept of "steering" at this point, as the car is just bouncing down the previous vehicles' wheel ruts at about 6000 RPM. I get to Jeff's driveway, which is a few hundred feet down the street, and try to turn, at which point I get stuck again (can't get out of the ruts). A bit of shoving suffices to get clear of that, at which point I'm told to parallel park behind two other cars in the driveway. I finally manage something close by pointing my nose in and giving it a bit of gas, which slides the rear in.

By the time we get inside, it's after 2AM and everyone is pretty tired, so we pass on the after-party in favor of catching some Zs.

Happy New Year!