Thursday, April 30, 2009

More yard beauty

No more dead birds this time. Just a few pictures of the flowers in the yard.

Ever wonder what happens to asparagus if you forget to pick it when you should. It gets quite tall and looks like a naked tree. I don't have my size comparison dog in the picture, but these are all about 6 feet tall. Oops.

Now, off to Pinehurst for three days of golf. Hoping the rain is polite enough to only come at night.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The X-Files come to Duxford

WARNING: ugly, sad pictures in this post.

Fox Mulder will probably be stopping by any time now. I went down to get the newspaper this morning and saw a lump on the driveway. After chasing Jasper away from it, I saw it was a dead Blue Jay. You couldn't tell what killed it, but it definitely hadn't been eaten. We have hawks, owls, fox...

Then things got weird. I looked about 30 feet away and saw this.

and 10 feet from that one was the third and final bird.

I can't tell what happened to them. It is just too weird for three birds to be dead in such a small area, in one night, and yet it doesn't look like it was a predator. I checked for signs of alien space ships, but found none. I looked for secret defense weapons, but none there either.

Just weird.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beauty and the beast

I planted this azalea a few years ago. It was a spare plant, a runner from an azalea in front of our house. All I wanted was some year-round greenery to block the ugly electric utility box. Now it has become one of the prettier bushes we have.

As is often the case, Jasper was brought in as a size reference. He is sitting on the utility box, although he wasn't quite sure why.

When I resurfaced the deck with Trex last year, the Carolina Jasmine took a big hit. I generally just ripped it off the old decking and then just stuck it back up when I was done. It certainly seems to be quite happy with its new Trex environment. Now that most of the blooming is done, it is growing its new vines at a rate of about an inch a day.

And now for a #%*&!!(# lesson in physics. A few years back, I put in this fountain. Very pretty, but quite the challenge at 800 pounds. Filled the fountain. Started the fountain. Very pretty, but very splashy. If you let it run for a day or three, it slowly, relentlessly splashes out enough water to be a problem. If you let the water get too low, the pump can burn out.

No problem for me. I are smart. I had an irrigation system and figured it would be handy for the plants around the fountain. I ran a few of the little irrigation lines into the fountain. This means that every few days, the irrigation system kicks on and the fountain should refill.

Even after doing this, the fountain was emptying quickly. I figured I must have a leak where the electric line runs into the base of the fountain. It's underneath so you can't look to check.

Before filling the fountain after the winter, I sealed around the electric cord. Fill the fountain. Start the fountain. Watch the fountain drain again. How can this be?

I sit down on the front porch and stare angrily at the fountain. It takes me a good while, but I finally get it. When the irrigation starts, it fills all the pipes with water. When it turns off, the lines downhill from the fountain act as siphons. They slowly, imperceptibly, suck water back out of the fountain. Not enough to see unless you already know exactly where to look and what to look for.

The answer was to hook the irrigation lines to the side of the fountain so they can pour water in, but not siphon it all back out. Perhaps this lesson will help someone, somewhere, somehow. If not, just enjoy my suffering.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Logging my first marathon

Since I have been back to Raleigh, I have started running again. My goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I have to start slowly (being part slug). Today I logged my first marathon of the spring. Of course, it took me the last 17 days to accomplish this feat. On my 4 mile run this morning, I brought my total to 29 miles so far.

Now all I have left to do is cut 16 days, 20 hours and 30 minutes from my current "best" and I will be golden!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The damn dam is now damned

I went over to my dad and Colleen's place today to help destroy a dam that Mother Nature built. Drop a tree across a creek and after a while, lots of wood piles up behind it. In the lowlands around their house, even a small dam can cause flooding. This one wasn't that high but had built up about five feet thick.

We attacked the dam with a chain saw, one of man's greatest inventions. It was a bit awkward trying to run the chain saw, standing on top of wet logs and piles of debris, hoping not to step down into several feet of water.

The idea was to break up most of the support of the dam so that when the next big rain comes, it floats the lumber and the dam travels down the stream in small chunks. We shall see. Colleen promised to send me a picture.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My business hero

Just outside of Park City there is a very large subdivision called Promontory. About a year ago, the developer was suffering from the housing market downturn. He went to Credit Suisse and tried to renegotiate his $275M loan. They weren't interested.

So, he declares bankruptcy. Credit Suisse can't find another owner so the bankruptcy court holds an auction. There is only one bidder, the original developer. He buys the whole thing back for $75M.

Builder: shrewd
Credit Suisee: "What the hell just happened?"

Showing the house

Wow. Two showings in two days. That means that both home buyers in the Triangle have now seen the house. Now we just wait for a third buyer to enter the market.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The pains of owning multiple homes

It has been nice getting to live where the weather is best. We spent the last five springs and falls in Raleigh and the summers and winters in Park City. We love coming back to Raleigh to see friends and family, enjoy golf, NCSU football, and blooming flowers. However, there are lots of downsides:
  • You have to do all the repairs at both ends. Neither house seems to feel obligated to take care of itself while you are gone.
  • Traveling with pets is awkward and very expensive. We are very limited flying Jasper because it can't be too hot or too cold at either end. Flying them costs more than our airline tickets.
  • They canceled our direct flight from Salt Lake to Raleigh.
  • Every time we leave a house for a few months, we have to go through a long cycle of clearing out the pantry, fridge and freezer. This means that we are always coming back to an empty house.
  • You never can remember what you have where.

So, it is time to try and sell our house in Raleigh. Click the picture of the house to go see the sales info on

Anyone want to buy a house?

We will miss living in Raleigh, but after 25+ years, it is time for us to wander on and have a full time house somewhere else. Without the house, we will be able to get back to Raleigh more often, without pets, and without a house to work on. Sounds like vacation!

Now maybe I can work at being the mayor of Park City. :-)

Unbelievable bike riding

This simply shouldn't be possible. This video lasts about five minutes but it is worth watching. It is some of the most incredible bike riding I have ever seen.

Click on it once to watch it here. Double click and you will go to Youtube where you can see it a bit bigger.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red and White game

The NC State spring football game was held today. I went with Tony Hudson and his son Jackson. It was either a fairly slow game or a good defensive showing. It was nice to see a few guys make some star plays but it is hard to judge the team based on such a controlled game.

The spring game was played in the honor of Kay Yow, NCSU's long time coach of women's basketball. She recently lost her battle with breast cancer. You can see the pink breast cancer ribbon on the field. The crowd was asked to make donations to the Breast Cancer fund on the way into the game. We had a great turnout and they raised over $28,000.

At the end of the game, the players stayed around to talk to people and pose for pictures. Lots and lots took advantage of the opportunity.

I like what coach Tom O'Brian is doing with this team. They show some promise. My biggest hope is that we can avoid so injuries to so many key players this year.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The flowers are flowering

It's nice coming back to Raleigh in the spring. While Park City is snowy and muddy, Raleigh is just blooming everywhere. These are just a few quick shots of some of the color in the yard.

By the way, Park City had 31 inches of snow in the past two days. Alta closes on Sunday, but they still have a base of 170 inches (about 14 feet). Seems like they could build a huge snow man for the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sergei Rachmaninoff plays live

OK, so he died in 1943. That wasn't really much of a problem. My good friend and ex-business partner John Q. Walker started a company called Zenph. The company takes old piano recordings and analyzes them to figure out exactly how they were played. They play them back on very high-end player pianos and record the results. What you get is a famous recording with perfect audio, instead of the 78 recording done in the 1920s. Sony has a contract with Zenph to keep cranking out these reperformances.

Last night Zenph put on a "live" performance by Sergei Rachmaninoff. They had recorded a new CD for Sony the night before. It was a great performance, both the choice of music and the quality. My favorite was the incredible speed of Flight of the Bumble Bee. The instrument was a rebuilt 1909 Steinway concert grand with the automation added. It is one of only two Steinway grands in the world with the high-resolution playback automation and is one of the prettiest pieces of furniture you will ever lay eyes on.

We went with Anne and Tom Schick and ran across some ex-Ganymede employees including Susan Pearsall, Chris Lombardo and Kim Mayton. Nice to get to see people.

You can hear and buy the first two albums Zenph reperformed at Amazon:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yep, still bad at golf

I went out on Saturday for a round of golf with John Steigerwald and Darrell Baber. We played over at John's home course, Lochmere. It is a fairly easy course, but you wouldn't know by the way I played it. Chalk up another 101 score. Yuck!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Running lessons

Now that I am back from Raleigh, I have to start taking my running seriously. Here are some lessons I quickly learned:
  • Taking five months off from running is bad
  • Returning to sea level from 7400 feet is good. Yeah oxygen!
  • Worn out joints and tight muscles and tendons don't seem to care about being at sea level. That's bad.
  • Putting on seven pounds during the winter is bad.
  • Pollen floating everywhere and coating your lungs as you gasp for air is bad.
So, looks like the "bads" have it so far.

Monday, April 06, 2009

End of the season

A mishmash of things at the end of the ski season....

As we prepare to head back to Raleigh, we wanted to get together with a bunch of friends. We had everyone over for the final four basketball games. Loris Benson brought a wonderful salad. We decided it was worth a photo, but she refused to pose with her creation. Bruce, with no hesitation, decided the salad was pretty enough for him to pose with.

Now we head into a Michigan State versus UNC game tonight. Should be a good one.

On our very last day of skiing, we hooked up with Bill and Loris Benson and my mountain host locker mate Russ. Russ was selected as the "host of the year" so I am hoping some amount of that rubs off. Bill was working so he is wearing his ugly orange host outfit.

And finally we returned home to hang the skis up for the summer. After all the injuries going on around us, we were very happy to have stayed healthy.

Yes, it does look like we have more than two skiers in the house. In Park City you build what is known as a "quiver of skis", a ski for every occasion. I guess it would be unreasonable to have a pair for every type of snow the Eskimos bothered to name. Here we have seven pairs of skis, three pairs of snow shoes, and a box of dog toys on the floor.

Winter is over. It's time to move on.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

One last snow comment, I promise

Two days ago I detailed the enormous amount of snow that the Alta ski resort had lately. Today is sunny and gorgeous. In the two days in between, Alta had another 49 inches of snow. That puts them at 15 feet in 15 days.

We head back to Raleigh on Tuesday. After quite a few days in the 70s, they are calling for a high of 49 for our arrival. Perhaps we are bringing it with us?

Friday, April 03, 2009

New drinking laws in Utah

Utah has finally stepped into post-prohibition era by relaxing some of its bizarre drinking laws. Here are a few of the laws that have been changed in the past year:
  • Mixed drinks can be made with a full jigger of alcohol (1.5 ounces) instead of 1.0 ounce. If you had weak drinks here, this could be why.
  • Utah legalized home brewing beer. There are still four states where it is illegal (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma). I thought everyone in Kentucky had a still???
  • No more of the "Private Club" idiocy. If you have ever walked into a Utah bar, you were probably asked "are you a member?" You were supposed to pay a $5 fee to join the club for a year. This was true even for a tourist who just wanted a single beer. This was the stupidest law to deal with.
  • Bartenders are now allowed to serve drinks to people standing at bars. You would think this would make complete sense, but it was not the case. The "Zion Curtain" was a separation of bartenders and customers. You had to have a waiter or waitress bring the drink to you.
Just so you don't think Utah is too progressive, there are some things left:
  • Beer sold in grocery stores is limited to 3.2% alcohol. This eliminates lots of better beers. The state sells the stronger beers in their ABC stores.
  • Restaurants can't serve anything above 3.2% before noon. This isn't just Sundays, it's every day. So, stop for lunch at 11:30 and want a beer or a glass of wine? Dopey you. Find another state.
  • A brand new stupidity: if you build a new restaurant (existing ones are grandfathered), you have to make sure those little Mormon children don't see drinks being mixed. Apparently, if children see drinks being made, they will become alcoholics. Now, the same children are allowed to see people drink the drinks, even at their table. That's OK. The new restaurants have to build a wall so that children can't see bartenders mixing drinks. ARGH!!!
Congrats to the Utah government for making some positive changes. Shame on them for letting the LDS church have such an active role in the legal process. Separation of church and state is something that Utah completely ignores. Ninety percent of the Utah legislature is Mormon and they openly, actively go to the church for input on bills.

Spring skiing in Park City

A few weeks ago, the temperatures here in Park City were in the 60s, even up in the mountains. The snow was slushy and melting fast. Everyone was convinced that the ski season would die a quick death. Then winter came back with a vengeance and it has been snowing fairly regularly ever since.

Last night we got yet another foot. Julie and I got over to Deer Valley not long after first chair.

It wasn't Utah's fluffy dry powder, but it sure wasn't spring snow either.

Notice the huge crowds as you look down a beautiful snow field. There was hardly anyone skiing!

Bruce Kahn joined us for some romps down the mountain.

I think this says it best. Bruce was recovering from heavy duty physical therapy to heal his calf. Julie had done a lot of lunges and other thigh exercises yesterday. I skied Tuesday and then did eight hours of mountain hosting on both Wednesday and Thursday. We were all dragging after a few runs.

For an ideal ski trip, people tend to like to see fresh snow every few days. Here are the snowfall reports from Alta for the past two weeks:
  • March 22nd - 9"
  • March 23rd - 18"
  • March 24th - 9"
  • March 25th - 19"
  • March 26th - 11"
  • March 27th - none
  • March 28th - none
  • March 29th - 21"
  • March 30th - 10"
  • March 31st - 6"
  • April 1st - 14"
  • April 2nd - 1"
  • April 3rd - 13"
That's roughly 11 feet of snow in two weeks. Even the locals are shaking their heads in disbelief.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Clown Day at Park City

April 1st is "Clown Day" over at Park City Mountain Resort. I am sorry to have missed this event decades ago. It apparently involved dressing like clowns, skiing and having a monstrous party on the mountain. Kegs, liquor, and advanced pharma all played a part. While I can't confirm this as fact, I have been told that PCMR went so far to to print on the back of your lift ticket that "you are not allowed to dress as clowns".

Things have relaxed a good bit since then. People are dressing as clowns for skiing again, but things are much more restrained. I had to work today as a mountain host, but I was proud of our Wednesday team. Since the resort is 100% specific about how we dress, our only flexibility was wigs.

Dick met up with his wife, who works at the information desk. Dick chose to go with a lovely Victorian style.

Derrick is one of out two snowboarders. The rasta look was perfect.

Our team heading up early to put up all the signs. The two hot chicks on the left are guys, then Cindy, then two very patient team leaders.

... and of course, I had to strut my stuff. I started with this lovely blond wig but ended up wearing a Harpo Marx style gray afro.

I wish I had been able to take pictures of the numerous clowns, pirates, beer cans, ballet dancers and such, all of whom seemed to be having time out in the sunshine and fresh powder. (That is "whom", right?)