Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another gorgeous morning

This was the view from our deck two days ago. Nice to have breakfast looking out at the rainbows. It simply must be the start to a great day.

Mormon Tabernacle Chior

We finally got over to see one of the symphony concerts at Deer Valley. They are always pretty good, but we just didn't like this year's music choices. Two years ago we saw the symphony with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and they were wonderful, so we decided to go again.

The symphony was good, the choir was excellent, but the music selection wasn't nearly as good as the last time we saw them. This felt too much like a standard Fourth of July, "Yeah America" kind of show. Decent, but you have heard so much of it a hundred times before. Our clear favorites were a pair of spiritual songs done by a solo male with a gorgeous, deep rich voice.

And yes, it is disappointing to have to sit back with the masses after our Wynonna concert in front row center. I could have gotten used to that....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our first offer

We finally got an offer on our house in Raleigh. It was too low and had some ugly terms, but at least it was an offer. We are now waiting for the prospective buyers to get back from vacation and see if we can come to terms. Fingers are crossed.

Amazon Kindel

I have been pondering an e-book reader for quite a while. When the prices on both the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle dropped about 30%, I got more serious. I decided I preferred the Kindle, but still didn't pull the trigger.

A few weeks ago, Amazon bought a company called Woot, which offers a great deal every day, but only one, and only until it runs out. They decided to have a deal on Kindles for only $149. That crossed my gadget threshold and I bought one for Julie and I.

Having had company and a lot of things going on, the Kindle mostly just sat around unread. I checked to make sure it worked and ordered a free book. Everything was fine, but I didn't have a feel for it yet.

This weekend I felt the urge to read, so I decided to give the Kindle more of a test. I ordered a book that I really felt like reading. The billing is automatic through your Amazon account and the book only took about 20 seconds to arrive. That's impressive since it is going over the AT&T wireless network. This was one of the e-book's key selling points for me. No matter where you are, if you get the urge to read something, you can get it almost instantly, including magazines and newspapers.

It took me about 5 minutes to make the trade-off on font size. Smaller fonts are harder to see, but you get a lot more words per line and page, so reading goes faster. Kind of like baby bear and porridge, somewhere in the middle was "just right". I read in the living room, out on a sunny deck and in bed.

Thoughts so far:
  • It is much easier on the eyes than a computer screen. It is easy to read in almost any light and the fonts are very sharp.
  • I quickly decided that I liked one handed reading. It is light and small, very comfortable in one hand. They put "next page" buttons on both sides, so a quick thumb turns the page.
  • When you set it down, it remembers your page (of course). No more dog eared pages for those of us who lose bookmarks.
  • Still no color. Just wait a year or two. It's coming. My book didn't have any, but this seems like a huge problem for magazines.
  • I only used the keyboard to search for a book title. I wish the keyboard space got used for screen space, and the keyboard could be done on a touch sensitive screen. They say that doesn't work well for note taking, but I would leave the real keyboard to the larger DX model, which is aimed at students and textbooks.
So far, I like it a lot. It is easy for me to see that e-books will replace real books, and faster than a lot of people expect. I know people talk about liking the feel of a real book, but there is just too much in the e-books favor:
  • Instant access to any content
  • Cheaper books
  • Thousands of book in the palm of your hand
  • Much more efficient distribution. No shipping tons of books around. No extra stock to be thrown away. Not only is this an expense statement, it is ecologically sound. Imagine the amount of landfill that goes to the tens of thousands of newspapers every day, in every small city.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wynonna concert

Wynonna Judd was at Deer Valley last night and Julie and I got to go. If you know country music, you know who she is. She has gobs and gobs (technical term) of platinum albums, and number one hits. I'm not a big country music fan, but it is nice to get to see the stars.

What made this much nicer goes back to "It's not what you know, it's who you know, and who they know." Greg Glynis (friend and neighbor) got tickets from someone and brought us along. We knew the tickets were good, but didn't know how good.

This is Julie and Greg, waiting for the music to start.

How do you know a seat is up close? I shot this with my iPhone. That would be my feet, a little fence, and Wynonna performing.

She has a big, strong voice and seems to be able to sing most anything, from a quiet hymn to a belted out swing piece.

She put on quite a show, and watching it from front row center is special.

I have never seen a performer interact with the crowd the way she did. It was like she invited a few thousand people into her living room. This woman was back in the crowd screaming, showing her t-shirt from a 1991 Judd tour. The woman came running down to the front, like she was on The Price is Right. Wynonna was kind enough to sign the ladies shirt. I thought the woman might explode with joy.

One girl brought her a note talking about how she memorized one of Wynonna's albums at age 8. She got a signed photo. Keep in mind, these are all in the middle on a concert.

My favorite was this like girl, Kulani. She had a seat on the front row and had to go to the bathroom. In the middle of a song, she walked towards the bathroom, right in front of the stage. Wynonna made some joking comment. Then the girl came back to her seat, and again, did it in the middle of a song. The song ended and Wynonna struck up a conversation with the girl. She ended up getting on stage and having a wonderful little chat. As you might guess, her parents were over the moon.

I need to find more people who will invite us to concerts with VIP parking and seats right up front. It seems to be a great way to watch!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fun with friends

We've had quite the run on fun with friends. On Friday night we had a bunch of friends over for a lovely dinner out on the deck. Summer in Park City is great for dinners outside.

On Saturday, Doug and Joni had a lot of the Wednesday Mountain Hosts from PCMR over for a cookout. Another wonderful evening!

Julie is chatting with Steve Pierce. Steve is a host, but on Thursdays. His wife Alison hosts with me and was my buddy on the mining tour last year.

Keeping the streak going, friends from IBM and Ganymede days back in Raleigh popped into town. Younghee, Adrian and Andy Overly are in the middle of a few week trip around the west coast. They were heading our way from Yellowstone and stayed with us for two nights.

Andy is a big fisherman and he and Adrian caught a couple of nice trout in Yellowstone and brought them for Sunday dinner (along with fresh corn and a nice berry pie from the Jackson farmer's market). Awesome dinner!

We hiked, ate, and caught up on lots of things. It was great to get to see them. Adrian is definitely one of the nicest, most articulate and mature thirteen year old's I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Andy and Younghee must be doing a lot of things right.

Can't slow down. We are off to a concert in the next few minutes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Upgrading my Honda Pilot

I have a 2005 Honda Pilot. The stereo is decent, but in 2005 that mostly meant a 6 CD changer. I've gotten frustrated by the process of:
  1. Burn a few new CDs
  2. Put them in the truck
  3. Listen to each a few times
  4. Get very bored with them
  5. Repeat forever
In the next model year, the stereos got smarter. A CD can contain MP3s, so you can put a lot more music on each CD. They also added jacks for things like iPods.

I recently purchased an iPod Interface from a little company called USA-SPEC. You wire it into the radio, replacing the 6 CD changer. I can now plug my iPhone into the radio. I get excellent quality sound, access to my hundreds to albums, and the controls on the steering wheel control the iPhone's music. It even recharges my phone at the same time. List is $150 or so, but I got it on a good sale. Installation on the Honda was simple. It took about 30 minutes, and that is with the wires all neatly installed back behind the dash.

To make this even better, I have the Rhapsody music service. Instead of buying music, I can "rent" it. For less than the price of one CD a month, I can listen to almost any music by any artist. I can also download it to my iPhone or just stream it.

Now I have a virtually infinite supply of music in the Pilot, all under my control (versus something like XM radio).

Happy Steve!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bark in the Park 2010

Two weeks after Friends of Animals had the Grand Opening of the new Rescue and Rehab Ranch, they held one of their bigger fund raisers. Bark in the Park includes a 5K run, breakfast, dog races and other competitions, and lots of related booths.

This is the start of the 5K9 (a clever name meaning that you an run with your dog). I ran the race, but wandered around throughout it taking pictures. Jasper was very patient with my bizarre strategy of running real fast and then stopping for photos.

Some people brought and ran with HUGE dogs.

Others had dogs about the size of my shoe. It amazed me that these little munchkins could run a 5K.

This Jasper and I joining Franklin and his service dog in training.

The run went through a neighborhood. A word of warning: when you see lots of people coming by, assume that any one of them might have a camera.

Cathy Clark (with Moose) runs our Furburbia adoption center.

The most popular event was something called Course a'lure. The dogs chased a lure at breakneck speeds. The course made very hard turns and they could run the lure as fast as they wanted. Jasper never got a chance to try, but the clear naturals were the little Jack Russell's.

They had a best trick contest and my favorite were these two dachshunds. First, they sat up.

Then she "shot" them with a toy gun. They both dropped to the ground and played dead. Hilarious!

These Chinese Crested's were sweet and well behaved, but a dog without fur is not a pretty sight. Poor naked little dogs.

We had a bunch of friends around. Loris Benson came to volunteer (thanks Loris!). Renee ran the 5K. Stan? He just came to be in the picture.

This is Julie posing with Jim and Don, two members of the FOAU Executive Board. Don is holding their dog Ruby.

Our guest chef for breakfast and lunch was Jean Louis. He is a very well known restaurateur here in Park City.

They had face painting for the kids. This young lady was giving Jasper some well deserved hugs.

If you have a dog in Park City or the surrounding areas, this is one of the best events of the year for you and your pooch. Join us next year!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CrossFit Championships

Our gym is closed the next few days while two of our three instructors compete in the CrossFit Finals, a world competition. The competition starts tomorrow. These are some of the fittest people on the planet, but they don't even know what the competition will be.

It isn't like a lot of events where you can train at a very specific set of activities and hone those skills. They know they will compete on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but they don't know how many events there will be or what they are. Just be physically fit enough to be the best at almost anything. As an example our gym's owner, Chris Spealler, can do 106 pull-ups (yes, without stopping), dead lift 400 pounds, back squat 335, and run a 5k at just over 6 minute miles. Oh yeah, and he weighs 35 pounds less than me.

Eric O'Connor, our other instructor, can only do 55 pull-ups, but dead lifts 445 pounds and actually does the 5k under 6 minute miles. At least he's my weight.

Click here over the next few days if you want to follow the event or just learn more.

Go Chris! Go Eric!

And for comparison, I can do 7 pull-ups, dead lift a bit over 200, and seem to take forever to run anywhere right now. How exactly would one go from 7 pull-ups to 106?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where do floats go to die?

Bill Benson and his band of helpers did a great job and won Best in Show for their float in the July 4th parade. What happens to those floats after the parade. Well, it's kind of sad.

At least Bill knows how to drive a forklift.

No more float. Just a sad empty trailer.

Our latest cat attempt

We have been trying to find a kitty-buddy for Cosette but my allergies have gotten in the way. I thought we had finally one, a domestic blue named Cleopatra. We brought her home and had her for a few days before I started feeling my throat tighten up.

She had to go back to Furburbia. So sad. She was a real sweetie. We have given up finding another kitty for a while.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sarah still hasn't got it mastered

You would think that after doing two years of nothing but campaigning, Sarah Palin would have learned a little bit more about policy and positions. She was on Fox News answering questions about Immigration Reform. This really demonstrates how you can always throw out a few clever sayings and get your crowd excited, but never address the issues (not even the most obvious ones). Unfortunately, she is the norm and not the exception in today's politics.

Click here to watch on Youtube.

I just can't imagine how people support her as a presidential candidate. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, there are many, many better choices out there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A new auction site

I love eBay, both for buying and selling. I appreciate the ability to find great deals on stuff and the ease of unloading my own extras. Today a read about a new site: Quibids. The site is wonderfully clever, but I will never buy anything from it. The concept:
  • Start bids for very nice, popular items like an iPad, at 1 penny.
  • There is no minimum price. In theory, if you were the only one bidding, you could get anything for a penny.
  • Charge people 60 cents to bid.
  • Auctions can end in a fairly short time, but once you get down close to zero seconds, any bid resets the clock back to 10 or 15 seconds. This allows someone else to jump in and bid.
  • Once no one has bid to reset the clock and it drops to zero, the bidding ends and there is a winner.
The problem is that you may bid, and bid, and bid and not actually win the item. You may have spent quite a bit of money and you still have nothing. By definition, everyone who bid on it loses money, except one person. They may sell a nice iPad for $100, but the company may have made $2500 selling it.

You have no control over the timing, since the clock keeps resetting. I am certain that there is a huge human flaw that says "I've already spent $40 bidding on this damn thing. I have to stick with it and win."

I admire people with clever new approaches and this certainly fits the bill. Just the same, I'll stick with eBay where I only pay if I win the auction.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 4th Parade

Well, a week late but I am finally uploading my pictures from the 4th of July parade.

We go every year because it's one of the biggest parties in Park City. This year was especially big because the 4th fell on a Sunday. Huh? How does that work? Park City is the only town in Utah that decided that celebrating the 4th on the 4th was allowed on church day. Not only did everyone in Park City show up, it drew from all over the Salt Lake valley.

In order to get some chairs on the street in a primo location, I had already driven down at 5:30 and walked home. This not only gave us good seats, it gave us a car parked close by for the drive home. At 7:30 I returned to run the 5k with 1,000 other people including the Covaleski's and two of their guests.

Julie and I walked down that morning with our moms. You can see everyone is in long sleeves. Definitely one of the colder July 4ths, but at least it didn't snow. It has several times in the past.

Eventually the gang grew. We met the Schumacher's, the Lee's, the Covaleski's and their guests from the DC area.

Notably absent this year were the Benson's. Bill was in charge of building a float for the Park City Ski Resort. He, Loris, and numerous of my hosting buddies had spent a lot of time constructing the float and prepping for the event. This year's parade theme was "Silver to Ski" or something like that. It meant you were supposed to show the town's heritage transitioning from a silver mining town to a ski town.

This is the mining gang. They borrowed historically accurate costumes covering both the miners and the hard working saloon girls. There were lots of both back in the 1890s.

Bill and Loris, with a back drop of the skiing part of the float. If you ski Park City, you might recognize the bras and Mardis Gras beads in the tree.

Here you can see the saloon girls (Debbie and Manette). I think the theme for the ladies was to flash those fishnet stocking if you want to win "best float".

The other ladies (Loris, Alison and Cindy) from the other side. You can see the two miners (Steve and Buzz) at the entrance to the Comstock Mine. The mine was handy because they kept their coolers in there. While very family friendly, a lot of alcohol gets consumed on parade day before 11:00 am.

And then we have the skiing portion of the float including a snow boarder, two skiers and a ski lift.

The great news is that out of about 80 floats, the PCMR entry won, hands down. Yeah team!! What do you win? Mostly pride and satisfaction.

The parade included the normal bands, horse-drawn carriages, convertibles and such. I always try to find the things that are unique to Park City or just amuse me.

Here we have the Glee Club. I started by asking myself why the car is decorated to look like something killed in Texas. Worse, the girls all marched along in costume, but not once did they sing. At all. Ever. Maybe they should watch the TV show Glee and pay more attention.

Then we have the group from the Montage Hotel. If you have been to our house lately, this is the big beast being built up at Deer Valley. It is supposed to open in December and has been a huge construction project for the past two years. They dressed appropriately.

A meditation group marching in a parade just seems a little contradictory. Glad they didn't put much thought into costumes, a float, or anything else for that matter.

Our Park City High School band. We need more bands in the parade, but it was Sunday after all.

This is the part that cracked me up. Like a finely honed group of elite athletes, they had a dad walking along with squirt bottles. They would just open their mouths like a fish breathing in the open air, and the dad would come squirt them full of liquids. They never had to miss a step. Perhaps they had alcohol like everyone else?

We see the Solar Saucer around town all the time. It is a rolling DJ stand that travels around plays music powered by the sun. It is a big hit at Burning Man, which is definitely on my Bucket List.

The musical Hair is playing at the Egyptian. I guess dressing up for the parade was pretty easy.

You can't just be a spectator. Jim Covaleski joins in and gets to belly dance with one of the parade participants.

... and his wife Kathy, who has been taking a lot of karate lately, gets to smash through a board.

Rob is our trouble maker this year. He decided that the best idea was to blow up some small balloons (just air), yell "water balloon!" and toss it at someone. Since real water balloons aren't that uncommon on parade day, it gets quite a reaction.

The three parade beauties were excellent targets for Robbie's mischief. You can see the orange balloon heading at them and the reaction of the young lady on the left.

Now she realizes that the water balloon floated safely to the ground.

Julie's mom got Robbie back at the end of the day. She walked up close and just tossed a balloon. He ducked, just like everyone else.

My lovely little neighbor Hannah was also marching in the parade. Her mom, Sally, got chopped in the picture. Sorry Sally, but as Hannah will tell you, it's about Hannah.

The Curling Club (team? group? flock?) had a clever idea with curling stones on rollers and sweepers.

This guy makes it every year. I have no idea who he is or whether he lives in Park City, but he always has his big unicycle and his happy parrot.

And it can't be Park City without a giant snow groomer driving down the street. Not terribly clever or attractive, but it could be quite handy at keeping the other groups moving along.

The day was chilly, but I think it was the best parade we have seen here. I know it was definitely the biggest. The fireworks that nice were impressive as always. We found a new place to watch from that isn't quite as involved as climbing a water tower in the dark.