Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Norm and Ginny come to visit

This week we had Norm and Ginny Andrews come out from Raleigh to ski. They own the Wine and Things store, our long-term source for all our wine in NC. They are the couple that organized each of our three ski trips to France. (Last year's trip)

We got some snow on Sunday and went skiing, but the weather was pretty windy. I guess I shouldn't complain about the free dermabrasion treatment. Monday was a whiteout. We got about 18 inches of snow mixed in with some 60 mph winds. We didn't ski but we did go catch a final movie for Sundance 2008. Tuesday was gorgeous. Nice snow. Nice sun. No wind.

Here are Ginny, Norm and Julie at Park City.

On our ski trip to France, we learned that Courcheval and Park City are sister cities. I was happy getting a picture of the Park City ski run in France. Now we have a picture of the Courcheval run in Park City. Thanks to Bill Benson for the picture taking.

Ginny, who loves the trees, bumps and deep powder.

Norman, who mostly avoids the trees, bumps, and deep powder. He mastered the love of fine dining on the mountain. Didn't take long to learn that Deer Valley has better food than Park City.

Julie, out for her first day in quite a while.

Nice powder!!

It was a great visit, even though it ended prematurely. They were supposed to head down to Salt Lake in the morning in their fine rental PT Cruiser. We are supposed to get another foot or two of snow tonight, so they wisely chose to head into town a night early to avoid the deep snow in a car without snow tires.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spectacular frost

Once or twice a winter, we have a combination of humidity, no wind and very cold temperatures (below zero). We get the most incredible frosts. If you are just walking around you might think it is all just snow. Look closely and you will find the most fragile, delicate frosts.

Every once in a while, I suggest double clicking on a picture to see it in higher resolution. This is once case that I will suggest doing to each of these pictures. Mother Nature has built the most delicate little sculptures I have ever seen.

There is even frost on the fallen snow. It has a flaky texture.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sundance - The People

As much as I enjoy photography, I did an embarrassing job of taking pictures during this Sundance. So many of the pictures in the theaters come out terrible. You are way back from the stage and the light is dim at best. I could do better if I would drag my big dSLR around, but I stick with the little pocket Canon.

First, and most important, are two of our house guests. Kathleen (closest) is Julie's cousin from Michigan. Patti is a close friend from North Carolina. Both were avid film watchers.

Isabella Rossellini was one of the actors in the miserable set of Shorts we saw. She did three one-minute pieces on how different bugs have sex. They were actually light entertainment.

Ray Ramano was at the showing of The Last Word. He seems like such a genuine, likable guy with an incredible sense of humor. It was a bit scary to learn in the Q&A that he has his shrink read through all his scripts for approval. Are all comedians troubled?

This is a crappy picture, but perhaps the most interesting star sighting. We were in a theater to watch the next movie when someone noticed that the guy sitting right in front of us was Quintin Terantino. Can't miss that forehead.

Melissa Leo, while not a huge star, was nice enough to pose.

I contrast this to Sandra Oh, who was in the same showing as Quintin. She was standing in the aisle and I walked up and asked her for a picture. She said "I don't do pictures, but thank you for asking." I was a wee bit disappointed (pissed), but then she asked me my name and shook my hand. That earned her points back.

Other sightings that I don't have pictures of (mostly because Julie saw them and I was at home):
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Paris Hilton
  • Elisabeth Shue
  • Tom Arnold
  • Sharon Stone
  • Danny Glover
  • David Boreanz
  • Alan Rickman
  • Mario Bello
  • William Hurt
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • Aaron Eckhart
  • Sean "P Diddy" Combs

Sundance - The movies

OK. I have been slack on blogging our Sundance experience. We were busy seeing movies and I just didn't get around to it. Now that our company has returned to Michigan and North Carolina and I am done seeing movies, I can try and catch up. I've listed the movies we saw and rather than try and describe what it was about and who was in it, I just hyperlinked to the Sundance site.
  • In Bruges - one of our favorites. An unusual mix of dark, a bit violence at times, comedy and character development. We figure this should get picked up for distribution. Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes as stars should help.
  • Frozen River - Good story. Almost every time you think you know what is going to happen, you're wrong. One boy (about 5 years old) who was in the movie was at the premiere. He went up on the stage and people wanted to take his picture. He was good about it, but like all stars, kept asking if he could leave. Can't see this one getting picked up.
  • Yellow Handkerchief - Deep look into the personalities of three odd characters. I enjoyed it, but it got slow in places. Could use 15 minutes pruned out of the middle. William Hurt is a tremendous actor.
  • Shorts #5 - the worst collection of shorts I have seen in four years of Sundance. There was only one short that we all thought was really good. Most were poor to mediocre.
  • Bottle Shock - Fun. Simple. Probably the closest thing we saw to normal commercial movies. Formulaic. Disney ending. Fun just the same. Bill Pullman as a lead should help get a deal.
  • Love Comes Lately - I didn't get to see this. I was with the guys seeing the crappy shorts program. The girls said this movie had no redeeming value whatsoever. It was terrible. Rhea Perlman should do a better job of picking movies to be in.
  • Sunshine Cleaning - While the guys were seeing Bottle Shock, the girls saw this. A great movie with an odd story line. Should get picked up for distribution. Make sure you click on the link to read about the story.
  • Transsiberian - Pretty cool adventure story. Starred Woody Harrelson and Ben Kingsley. Excellent acting by the female lead, Emily Mortimer. You can really feel her emotions as she gets wound into a set of unfortunate lies. Pretty awesome filming of the bleak Siberian wasteland.
  • Last Word - Another dark story with good character development. Ray Romano played a pretty serious role and did a great job with it. Also had Wes Bentley (American Beauty) and Winona Ryder (convicted shoplifter). Nice mix of a serious story with some good humor.
  • Hamlet 2 - If you liked Dumb and Dumber, you'll like this. It is a bit smarter with more clever humor, but it felt a bit like watching a Pee Wee Herman movie. We all laughed, but none of us ever care to see it again. Steve Coogan had the lead and seemed to have quite a following in the theater.
  • Escapist - John and I weren't feeling well, so we missed this late night movie. Everyone else said it was one of their favorites. We figured they were taunting us, but they swore it was excellent.
  • Sugar - This was a movie about a Dominican trying to get into the US baseball farm league. It is more about his personal life and struggles than about baseball. Most of us gave it two out of 4 stars. Not great, but enjoyable. At 2 hours, it could use some pruning. The most impressive thing was learning that the lead actor was actually a baseball player who had never acted before. He did a great job. You never would have guessed.
  • Pretty Bird - Only John and Patti caught this movie, right before they headed back to NC. They said it was a very good thing because the movie was terrible.
That was our movie list. Julie may see a few more as she volunteers over the next few days. If you want the complete list of Sundance 2008 movies. click here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sundance part 1

Sundance doesn't start until tomorrow night, but the town is already filling up and getting weird. I was walking by a sporting goods store today and heard a conversation between two people wearing Sundance credentials. One exclaimed "I can't believe you didn't bring a coat". Why is this funny? Because the high here today is 11 and the low this morning was well below zero. How stupid can you be?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ski Clinic

When we started spending winters in Utah, I suddenly got to ski a lot more than one week a year. My skiing skills improved quite a bit and I was able to do more difficult terrain and even look a bit more competent doing it. Recently I found myself in a rut. Apparently, just going out and doing something a lot doesn't make you much better at it.

I signed up for a three day ski camp over at Deer Valley. It was created and run by the twins Phil and Steve Mahre. Both are Olympians, with Phil winning gold over his brother's silver in one Olympics.

This bundled up group was mine. They took the 46 attendees and split us up into 11 groups. Each group was supposed to have people of similar skills, although some adjusting was required to make this real.

Our third morning was the only bright and sunny one. This picture gives you some idea of why to live on the mountain instead of in the valley. The white fluffy area in front of the skiers is the socked in Heber Valley. The spent all day thinking it was a dark cloudy day. Up above it was gorgeous blue skies.

Just another view looking back towards Sundance and Mount Timpanogas. It really is gorgeous scenery on a nice day.

The ski clinic was a good one. I discovered a number of problem areas to work on and got some good drills to practice. I am hoping that over the next month, things improve. The downside was skiing one afternoon with Phil Mahre. He is a very nice person and a wonderful teacher. Unfortunately, after seeing him ski, I was left wondering what to call the thing that I do. Clearly what he does and what I do can not have the same name. He was truly a treat to watch.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Man versus Nature

Today's topic is how we deal with the man versus nature issue here in Park City during the winter. First, how do you know if nature is winning? You can tell because the plowed snow is starting to obscure the stop sign. Note the almost 60 pound dog for size reference. They do road clearing in several steps. First they plow out a lane or two so that four wheel drive vehicles with snow tires can get through. Then they come later and try and get close to the road so most anyone can get through. Then trucks come along and try to widen the road. Finally, front end loaders come along and either move the snow or load it into dump trucks to haul out of town. Remember that each of these steps puts a big pile of snow in front of your driveway.

Next, you notice the ice hanging off the roofs. Here is a nice 20 footer.

While not quite as long, this one adds some bulk.

And here is our definition of an ice dam, which will almost certainly cause leaks in the house.

This one I call, man versus man versus nature. Nature comes first and dumps a ton of snow. Then a man driving the plow comes along and finds any of the big trash cans left along the street. Then another man (the loser) comes and digs out whatever is left of his trash can.

The guys next door to us have done a remarkable job framing the house through all this. Lots of shoveling, but they have a roof on. Now they just need windows. Jasper and his buddy Dozer are in the foreground.

Unfortunately, we aren't immune. When we first moved in, we had a small leak caused by ice building up along our chimney. We put up heat tape. It melted the ice as planned. Then the water ran down and froze again, lower on the roof. We had another ice dam and another leak. You can see where the roofers cleared the snow and ice. Today we added more heat tape, hopefully getting the water all the way to the ground.

When we have a lot of snow, the skiers get all excited and happy. The bummer is that it leads to an incredible amount of shoveling, water damage, ice damage and such. Then of course there is the expense of all that damn heat tape!! You really, really have to love the snow.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Now that's some snow

Although we aren't getting the 10 feet of snow predicted for some of the Lake Tahoe mountains, it sure is piling up. We got about a foot last night and it apparently snowed so fast, the snow melt system on the driveway couldn't keep up. It is hammering right now, combined with some big winds.

The snow monster machine struggles with a foot of fairly wet snow. It has to throw it up on the wall, about 10-12 feet high. They are calling for more snow on Sunday, Monday, and into next week. Gotta keep up!

And in an unrelated picture, Cosette seems to have no problems discovering the newest piece of furniture in the house and laying claim to it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Free 411

I have grown tired of having my cell phone, but not having the right phone number. You can call information, but they charge you way too much. Here is a free alternative from our friends at Google. It was announced about 8 months ago, but I missed it. Apologies if you have already seen it. I went ahead and programmed the number into my cell phone.

Apparently the beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks have been bubbling over at Google labs lately as its group of lab fiends have brought us yet another fun trick in a long stream of goodies, "GOOG-411," or voice local search. Bringing Google's powerful search mojo into yet another realm (they are, after all, bent on world domination), the free service enables voice-prompted search of local businesses and will SMS you the results and even connect your call. Various mobile and landline companies already have this feature -- including the SMSed results -- but will typically charge you for the privilege. We love when Google gets its lab coat on and brings goodies like this to us; we just hope to see it extend to home numbers, other languages, and of course other countries. Just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any handset to give it a go.