Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cheers to the Park City High Schoolers

The congregation from Westboro Baptist Church (in Kansas) came to town to protest at the Sundance Film Festival. These self-righteous douchebags travel the country, preaching hate about everything that isn't white, baptist, and heterosexual. It is amazing to hear people from a Christian church speak so venomously about other humans. Jesus would disown them all.

The first good news is that there weren't that many of them. The best news is that 200 students from Park City High School came out to do their own protest. They shouted cheers and sang songs, all in the name of love and tolerance. That became the story for the press instead of the attention-craving fanatics.

To those that say our current youth aren't active enough in shaping the world around them, I have to disagree.

Local's ski race

Back in the 80's, Park City used to have regular ski races for the locals. It was a big event and lots of people turned out to race or to cheer people on. After a few decades of inactivity, the Town Races have started back up.

Having just had surgery and not actually knowing how to race, I have no immediate plans to partake, but who knows.

Of course, in a town like Park City, the competition can be a bit above average. At the first race, the women's division was won by three-time Olympian Heidi Voelker. Sometimes living in a town full of Olympic skiers can be intimidating.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why I got my hernia fixed during ski season

... because my doctor warned me this could happen. From today's news.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Actor Charlie Sheen was in "stable" condition after being taken by ambulance from his home to a Los Angeles hospital for severe pain, related to a hernia Thursday morning, his representative said.

"Charlie has had a hernia condition for some time," representative Stan Rosenfield said. "I was told by the person who made the 911 call that it was hernia-related."

Reporters and paparazzi converged on Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after reports hit the internet that Sheen was at the emergency room there Thursday morning. The hospital refused to give any information about the actor, giving rising to rampant media speculation about Sheen's condition.

Tensions eased later in the day when Rosenfield announced that his client was in stable condition and was being treated for the hernia.

If your hernia becomes incarcerated, the lack of blood supply can kill parts of your intestines. Then you have a surgical emergency instead of a comfortable planned day.

Skied a little faster today, but still no black runs, trees, bumps or speed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another step back to normal

I went out today to do my Mountain Host job over at PCMR. This was my first day of skiing since my hernia surgery. The doc told me that I could start after two weeks and today would be exactly 14 days. The good news is that I was able to ski all day without much discomfort. The downside is that I accomplished this by avoiding black runs, bumps, trees and speed. Pretty much all the things I enjoy. It was truly a slow, easy groomer day.

Gorgeous weather. Thank goodness we were skiing above the socked in clouds.

Oh well, it's a step in the right direction. Now I need to stick with the slow recovery program and not push things too quickly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another excellent Sundance winner

On Sunday, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to do some snowshoeing. Even thought the temperatures had just cracked 15, the exercise and brilliant sunshine made it quite comfortable.

From left to right, Patti and John Steigerwald, Julie, and of course, Jasper.

Between snowshoeing and the football play-offs, we managed to get up to Stein Eriksen's for their incredible Sunday Brunch. I am fairly certain I consumed 30,000 calories. Yummmm!

This morning we got up and went to see Cedar Rapids. It was a wonderful comedy that also highlighted how you can make friends in the oddest of ways. It is already being distributed through Fox SearchLight, so you will get a chance to catch it in theaters. Another 4 of 4 stars movie.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My worst Sundance movie ever

Julie and I have been doing the Sundance Film Festival every winter for seven years. We have seen movies that ranged from mediocre to awesome. Last night we went to see the movie Meek's Cutoff. Quite simply the worst Sundance movie I have ever seen. It was about a handful of people trying to take their wagons out west during the 1840's.

It was painfully slow and boring. Julie kept leaning over to me and saying "make this end". When the movie finally ended, it was abrupt and left most everything unresolved. I'm not sure anyone cared. In a movie, leaving out the wrapped up ending can be an interesting style, unless the movie also lacked a beginning and a middle.

One hour and 45 minutes of my life wasted. At least we got to see Win-Win in the morning.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sundance begins

The Sundance Film Festival got cranked up on Thursday evening. On the starting day, Julie had someone bump into her Subaru (no damage) and I had to pull out into a lane of traffic to stop a car from cruising through a pedestrian crossing (with pedestrians). Such is the film festival. Fill a small town with 40,000 visitors who all want to move from place to place all week, but have little idea of where they are going or how to get there. For the next week, we have no parking in the city and can make no left turns.

Our plan was to enjoy visits from John and Patti Steigerwald (from Raleigh) and Bill and Kathleen Donnelly (from Michigan). These two couples were out here together for Sundance three years ago. Unfortunately, Bill and Kathleen's daughter Meghan had gone from having something flu-like to pneumonia. As much as I support giving children a lot of responsibility to make them stronger, leaving her alone seemed unreasonable. At the last second, they had to cancel. We all miss having them here.

So far we are having excellent luck with movies, and terrible luck with stalking stars. Our only star sighting has been Ryan Seacrest, of American Idol fame. He is also doing the American Top 40 Countdown on the radio. They were shooting something with him in it. He's the one on the right.

Instead, we have been eating, drinking and seeing movies. The Highwest Distillery had a really cool ice sculpture bar outside. It was cold though, so we grabbed a photo and went in for a drink.

Our movies so far:

The Last Mountain: this was a documentary about the coal mining in West Virginia where they rip the tops off of mountains and dump all the non-coal earth down into the valleys. It is a terribly destructive process and the land never recovers. It was well done and very eye opening. I gave it 3 out of 4 stars. Most documentaries never make it to the big screen, but this was a good one.

Win-Win: this movie is about a lawyer who volunteers as the local high school wrestling coach. He, his family, and his friends all get tangled up with another family. It is wonderful and clearly gets 4 out of 4 stars. It will be in theaters and you should definitely see it. Funny. Great acting. Great character development.

We have another movie after dinner this evening. So far, no losers!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tourists in Chile held hostage

I read a photography web site run by Thom Hogan. He leads trips and does photography around the world, but still manages to update his blog. The past two or three weeks, it has been completely silent. He finally updated it with his story, which I am happy not to have been a part of. Several thousand tourists basically became hostages down in southern Chile.

It an interesting read and guarantees that I will be thinking twice about any trips to South America, and Chile in particular. His story.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Elk in Park City

I like to think I have become at least a fair photographer. Thinks picture stinks, but it is actually very significant. Bad light. About to snow. Very long distance, zoomed in, but hand held. A power line running right through the shot. So why share it?

In six years in Park City, I have seen hundreds or even thousands of deer and many dozens of moose. Elk? Not a one. I heard over and over again that there is a herd that winters in town. I was losing faith in the stories. Back in September, I went on a surefire trip to find some elk. Six moose, but no elk.

Out of frustration, when Julie and I opened an account at a new bank, I chose a picture of an elk to go on my Visa card. I figured that was as close as I would come.

Chad, the guy who took me on the last elk hunt, called and said the herd was visible from the highway. I went to see them even though the weather was terrible for photography. Sure enough, there were at least 15 up on the hill. I can now officially stop complaining about the invisible elk. I hope to catch a nice sunny afternoon to snowshoe up to get some better shots, but they are apparently very shy when it comes to humans.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Views of the mountains

OK, sitting around healing sucks. At least I don't have any urge to ski today. We have actually had some rain (mostly drizzle) since yesterday afternoon. Weather this year has been too weird. Record snows? Rain in mid-January? Instead of skiing, I am wandering around the house getting lots of little tasks done to some blaring Eminem. What a mouth on the boy.

A cold front is coming in and it is creating interesting lighting up on the mountains. If you look along the ridge line, you can see how much snow is getting blown around. 65 mph gusts do not a ski day make. Half of the lifts are PCMR are currently on wind hold.

Jupiter Peak is always pretty.

In November they opened a new hotel at Empire Pass in Deer Valley. The Montage is part of a three hotel chain (also Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills). It was built to be a 5-star hotel and everything there is just over the top. I thought the St Regis that opened last year was nice. The Montage is a huge building, but it is so far up a canyon that you really can't see it from anywhere. Unless of course, you live at our house. I think we have the clearest view in all of Park City.

This is a picture I took the other day when we were skiing at Deer Valley. With a top-down view you can see how big the complex really is.

Julie's DV job normally has her working at Snow Park, the main facility at the base of the mountain. For the next few days, she is working at the Montage, filling in for someone. Perhaps she will get to see some early stars visiting for Sundance. A room with a pair of queen beds starts at $700 and goes on up, depending on dates, so you probably need to be somebody to stay there.

By big project for the day is getting groceries. Did I mention that healing sucks?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surgical healing

So far I am doing better than I expected. I have a big purple area, about 4" round, under the laparoscopic hole in my belly button. Other than that, the only visual clues are the swelling. I've never had six-pack abs, but right now I have a puff belly. I gave a moments thought to posting a picture, but I figured hernia surgery porn might be too much.

I am trying to let myself heal without going stir crazy. I finally went for a drive today to pick up some Local's tickets for the Sundance Film Festival. I was nice to get out of the house. I have been very good about not lifting anything heavy (or actually much of anything at all). The odd little pain is that it takes too much core strength to bend over and touch my toes. To pick something up off the ground, I have to kneel. I guess this is what life is like if you wear a short skirt.

The big pain is when you cough or sneeze. Ever notice how a good sneeze can project a spray of yuck for yards? Now I know the physics behind that. Apparently every single muscle in your abdomen suddenly contracts in the blink of an eye. Not terrible for a sneeze, but when someone has been surgically wandering through your abdominal wall, it really stings. No more coughing!!

My doctor's appointment on Tuesday should give me a better feel for important things like rehab exercises, hot tubbing, green slope (beginner) skiing, ....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hernia be gone!

Yesterday morning we got up at before the crack of dawn and headed over to the Poshpital. This is the nickname for Park City's very nice new hospital. I was happy to be the first surgery of the morning because it means less chance of delays. Notice I said "less" and not "none". Sure enough, my surgeon had an emergency appendectomy, but the delay wasn't bad and most important, it wasn't me getting the appendectomy.

My surgery was laproscopic, so I have several little holes that have to heal. In general, everything seems to be going well. No nausea from the anesthesia. No known uh-oh's from the surgery. Now I just have to cope with the recovery, which I am sure will take longer than I want it to. Right now I feel like I did a few hundred sit-ups and then someone gave me a swift kick in the stomach. Muscular soreness, but limited to the abdomen and pelvic areas. I'm wandering around the house, eating and sleeping without any problems.

I guess this will give me a chance (force me) to stay home and catch up on some house things I normally put off. At least I can't push the monster snow blower for a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A winter wonderland

Tomorrow I go for hernia surgery (outpatient) and it will put a serious damper on my skiing for a few weeks. I was going to get one last ski day in, but the temperatures were around 0 in Park City. I opted for a photography romp instead.

I pondered where I might find interesting things to shoot. I'm either good, lucky, or both. I headed down towards Heber City and the Jordanelle dam, hoping to snag some shots of fly fishermen in a winter scene. What a gorgeous discovery! The Weber River was running a bit warm, at least compared to the -10 degrees in Heber. That made for a lot of fog along the water, and frozen fog in all the trees.

Of course I can't shoot pictures without my talented assistant Jasper. He was in charge of scaring off all the ducks before I could get a picture.

Almost all of these pictures are some combination of river, ice, fog, and frosty trees, yet the variation from view to view was a treat.

There were interesting ice formations in the river, but the fog kept getting in the way.

Tried getting artsy with this one, but the long exposures simply gave the fog more time to wander around in the picture.

I guess at this point you may have noticed the lack of photos of fishermen. Well, -10 is a bit cold to fish, but I actually saw two of them. However, if you can imagine how tough and angry you must be with life to go fish in this weather, that was these two guys. They looked like they might eat my camera if I took a shot. I waved and trudged off.

From the dam I went for a drive along the reservoir, slamming on the brakes when I saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. I admired him through binoculars before changing to a very long lens. They say "bird brain" as an insult meaning "stupid", but I know that damn eagle was watching me in the car. The moment I slowly, quietly opened the door, he flew off. I was a good 100-150 yards away.

On my way through Francis, Kamas, and Oakley, I saw little of photographic interest. In my last little town, Peoa, I saw this fenced in group of horses with a pretty red barn.

Horses? That's no horse. How did he get in there? At least they seem to get along.

Hey, those aren't horses either. Three bison, seven horses, and two llama/alpaca/sheep things. Quite the group.

A cold day to be handling a camera, but the serious cold makes for some nice scenery.

On to surgery tomorrow.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Cheap lift tickets

Friends of ours are coming to town in a few weeks and they scored a great discount on ski lift tickets. I thought I would share their source and one other.
  • Liftopia - you can get good deals on both the Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort. For PCMR, it seems to change by day of the week, but you can get a 3-day pass as cheap as $147. Compare that to the $90 per day you pay at the mountain.
  • Costco - they sell 5-packs of lift tickets for PCMR for about $53 per ticket. These are bad because they only come in 5's. They are good because you can use them any way you want: five people one day, one person five days, without any concerns about some number of days in a row.
Takes a little planning, but can save you a few hundred dollars on your vacation. Want to ski Deer Valley? Then you pay list price. If you need a discount, you obviously aren't DV material.

By the way, as you drive to Park City from the airport, you go right past a Costco.

Cleaning house

After getting many feet of snow back in December, we have had about a week of nice weather. This gives the city workers a chance to catch up. The next storm is a smaller one, but it comes in tonight. You could see workers rushing to get as much snow out of the way before it starts piling up again. There was a line of dump trucks behind this one, waiting for their snow load.

Deciding how much to haul off is an interesting financial decision. Haul more than you needed to and you are wasting money. Haul off too little or start too late and you can create havoc in the streets, slowing down business at a peak time of the year.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Those painful traditions live on

Some traditions, like a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, are great and should be continued forever. Other traditions are ugly, nasty, and should also be continued forever.

Today's topic is the ceremonial passing of fruitcake from family member to family member on Julie's side. We don't give each other fruitcakes for Christmas. We give each other THIS fruitcake for Christmas. I'm not sure I can remember how long ago this started, but this fruitcake has gotten passed around over and over again. It's a good thing fruitcakes last forever. It has no expiration date, or even a creation date for that matter.

The handoff is important and can't be done as a gift in the mail. This year, our house guest Kelly brought it and quietly left it in a drawer in her bedroom for us to discover later. Nicely done Smale family! The fruitcake is now in our court.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Why is hunting hard?

I was driving home from the Friends of Animals Ranch today when I ran across quite a few deer. Jasper was disappointed that he didn't get to give chase.

It led me to wonder why people think of hunting deer as sport. I stopped the car, rolled down one window for me and another for the dog. I got out the little camera and took a few shots. Jasper stared at the deer who simply stared back at Jasper. I'm pretty sure I could have taken a deer down with a shotgun full of bird shot. Is that sporting?

Maybe it is like how I golf. You can call it a sport, but it needs to be done on a sunny day and with beer?

A visit from Kelly Smale

We have a fairly small direct family. I am an only child and Julie only has one sibling, her sister Sue. Sue and her husband Marty have three wonderful daughters, Kelly, Laura and Jackie. You can see pictures of the family from Kelly's high school graduation.

Kelly is on her winter break from Gonzaga and came to see us for a few days. Most people who visit Park City in the winter either ski or board and Kelly was no exception. Her first day was skiing, which she hadn't done since her entire family visited us a few years ago. Like most boarders, she decided ski boots were uncomfortable and unreasonable. She did well skiing, and notice how easily she posed with Julie.

The next day she chose to go with her experience: boarding. She got down harder slopes, more easily, but notice how hard it is for boarders to simply stand still on a slope.

Kelly, showing her form as we head down to the King Con lift.

On Wednesday, I had to head to "work", my hosting job at PCMR. Kelly, Julie and Jasper did some snowshoeing up the mountain behind our house.

We had a great time and wish she could have stayed longer, but it is almost time for Kelly to head back to college.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Big day for the Utah Food Bank

Walmart had a program where you could vote for your favorite Food Bank. Salt Lake City's got the most votes and will be given $1,000,000. Wow! People say a lot of bad things about Walmart, but this is pretty impressive. Ogden, Utah was one of the next five food banks, which earned them $100,000.

The Utah Food Bank is very impressive. They move 31 million pounds of food a year.