Monday, November 26, 2012

Football gone bad

I spent a lot of the weekend watching football, mostly college teams.  What a miserable weekend.  Almost everything I could hope for, failed.
  • Michigan lost to Ohio State
  • Florida State, the ACC's leader, lost
  • Clemson, the ACC's second team, lost
  • Notre Dame, who I hate, won and locked in a place for the national championship
  • UNC won (Teach your kids the ABC's:  Anybody But Carolina)
The only thing that went ok was NC State beating Boston College.  Of course, the Park City high school team might go toe-to-toe with Boston College.  This win gives us a better bowl bid, perhaps.  Should we celebrate?  Nope.  The next day our Athletic Director fired our coach.

Tom O'Brien spent 6 years coaching NC State's football team. He came in to take over Chuck Amato's little disaster.  He rebuilt the program and created some real discipline. Unfortunately, he just didn't create enough wins or enough excitement.  Some people look at the fact that the team has gone to bowls the last three seasons and wondered "how can you fire that guy?"
  • We have a losing ACC record
  • We having a losing record against Boston College, Wake Forest and Maryland, the worst three team in the ACC
  • We barely beat Maryland this year, making us 1-14 on the road against  teams in our division
  • We finish in the bottom half of the conference in recruiting every year.  Last year we were dead last.
  • Season ticket sales are down 1,000 since Tom took over
He's a great guy.  He cleaned up the program, but it just doesn't look like he was ever going to be the guy to take us to the next level. Now we just have to wait and see who we can talk into coming.

What a nasty football weekend.

Thanksgiving weekend

We just finished up a very nice Thanksgiving weekend, except for the total lack of snow.  PCMR and Canyons are both open now, but with only a few runs and no fresh snow in sight.

The pets are loving the change to the winter holidays.  Jasper gets cold weather to go out and play in and Cosette gets a fairly frequent box update from Amazon.
Thankfully, she doesn't actually play with any of the low-hanging Christmas ornaments, but she does like napping under the tree.
For Thanksgiving, Julie cooked up a wonderful meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green beans.  Then Bill, Loris and Seth Benson came over to join us, bringing some appetizers, a wonderful mushroom soup and a salad.  Tons and tons of glorious food topped off with Julie's pumpkin pie and some Deer Valley carrot cake. Needless to say, I have gained several pounds over the last few days.

While my photographic skills are improving, I have one fatal flaw as an event photographer.  Once the event starts, I get distracted and forget to take pictures. I walked around before dinner taking pictures of the Christmas decorations, the table setting, the pets, ...  The beautiful turkey was done, but wrapped up tightly.  Once everyone arrived and we started eating, I forgot to take pictures of the people, the turkey, or anything for that matter. Maybe next holiday I will just walk around with a Gopro camera strapped to my head.
Julie's mom sent us a pretty floral arrangement. I think was part Thanksgiving and part Happy Birthday.  Today's is Julie's birthday! No huge plans but we are doing dinner and a movie (Lincoln).
On Saturday we journeyed up to the Montage Hotel for their tree lighting.  In the lobby, they have a huge Gingerbread House.  They also have two Gingerbread Dog Houses for Monty and Jonas, the hotel's pets.
What does it take to build such a large creation, besides many, many hours?  480 pounds of flour, 165 pounds of sugar, 135 pounds of butter, ...  Now I understand why they charge over $800 per night for a hotel room.  Someone has to pay for this place!
Julie, in her younger days (two days before today's birthday).  You have to get up around 9,000 feet to have all that snow in the background.
The Montage was also serving Smores, with about 10 different flavors of marshmallows.  Hannah seemed to be loving hers, although her marshmallow never got toasted, or even very warm. Although this misses the true pleasure of a Smore, apparently a graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow sandwich was just fine.
It got surprisingly cold as the sun set, so everyone was getting quite impatient for the tree lighting.  They had some fires out for warmth, but I think they could better be described as smoke pots.  When the trees finally did light up, they were very pretty.
Other than our fabulous Thursday dinner and the follow-up leftover meals, it was a fairly mellow weekend.  We watched a lot of football, because that's what you're supposed to do. We avoided Black Friday, Grey Thursday, and every other form of panicked shopping.

Next we are off to Florida for Seth Benson's wedding.  Hoping for warm sunny weather!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No elk, again

Chad Rexroad, a friend of mine, texted me a blurry phone photo of a herd of elk meandering along the Jeremy Ranch golf course.  I went out early this morning to see if I could find them for some pictures.  Elk seem to both sense me and hate me, so of course they were no where to be found.

I did get a view of a Bald Eagle. Not the best of photos, but decent considering it was early morning light and he was about 1/4 mile away.
Kind of makes me wonder what the hell Benjamin Franklin was thinking when he proposed the turkey as our national bird.

A fairly serious oops

Our Park City neighborhood has about 40 condos and 30 single family home lots. Most of the lots are built on, but a few of the remaining ones have recently been sold and construction is starting.  What you see below, isn't that.
This is what happens when someone buys the lot next door and has it surveyed, only to discover that you built your driveway and retaining wall a few feet onto their lot.  You have to tear down the wall, cut back your driveway, and rebuild the wall. Ignoring the expense, I wonder how long it will be before someone backs out of the garage and goes over the edge. Can you say 11-point turn?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kindle vs Tablet

Tim Huntley, a close friend and business partner of mine, knew that I had both an iPad and a Kindle.  He asked "If you were doing it again from scratch, what would you buy?"  It seemed like a question that a lot of people might have, especially at Christmas time.  Here is a cleaned up version of my response:

  • Hard core book readers: get a Kindle Paperwhite. Very light. Very easy to read. The battery lasts eight weeks. Much cheaper than a tablet at $139.  You can also get a version for $119, but it shows you some ads.
  • Everyone else: get a tablet. My choice would be the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. For pure reading, it is heavier, shines a light in your eyes, and the battery only lasts about 10 hours. However, it does everything else. I almost never take my laptop when I travel. A tablet is enough. I read lots more news and magazines than I do books, at least right now. Applications like Flipbook make this incredibly simple. Throw in everything else a tablet does: games, maps, sports, ESPN streaming, movie watching, web browsing, …
Most people seem to discover they use them more than they thought they would. For any brand of tablet, get at least 32GB, not 8 or 16. I wouldn’t bother getting the cellular modem support unless you will be traveling a lot with it. Both Julie and I have WiFi versions and we are quite happy with that.

Tim said he is leaning towards the Kindle, but made a good point.  At just a bit over $100, if you decide you don't like it, it's not the end of the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I Won't Touch Windows 8 Yet

Microsoft did its big launch of Windows 8 a few weeks ago.  I am normally on the bleeding edge of technology, but this is one I won't touch for six months or a year.  Windows 8 runs on three separate platforms, and here is where I think it is for each:
  • Phones:  It's getting decent reviews on phones and I think that the only things missing are some new phones and a few more key applications.  As much as I "must" have an excellent phone, I would give this another 3-6 months.
  • Tablets:   Much like the phones, Windows 8 seems well designed for tablets and I really like the systems with integrated keyboards as covers.  Still needs more apps, but if I was buying anything with Windows 8 today, it would be a tablet.
  • Laptops and desktops:  Simply put, don't do it.  Not all your apps will run.  Not all your drivers will work.  The main interface is really designed for touchscreen and is much harder to use with a mouse.  You will spend a lot of very frustrating time doing the most basic navigation.  If you buy a new computer, definitely, without a doubt, get Windows 7.

Monday, November 19, 2012

2-Man Bobsled at the Utah Olympic Park

Yesterday I wrote up the Women's Skeleton event.  Today I'll describe the other competition I saw on Friday, the Men's 2-Man Bobsled. There were 28 teams from around the world, including 3 from the US. I'm sure this has been solved long ago, but it has to be interesting shipping something as large and important as your bobsled between Europe and the US. I've seen what the airlines, UPS and FedEx can all do to a package.
Before every run, there was a lot of prep work that occurred. Sharpening. Waxing. Polishing. Adjusting.  Everything was checked and double-checked, all for a 50 second run.
These guys are fast and strong.  It looks like the guy in back is just going to pick up the rear end of the sled and run with it.
To me, it seems that the hardest thing would be jumping into a moving sled wearing track spikes without slowing down the sled, falling out, or slashing your partner. They seem to do it effortlessly though.
This guy got some great air on his way in.
Once they are both in, the last piece of work is pulling in the push arm.
Then you just ride down the hill. No problems.  Well, except for the one sled that flipped.  That had to be exciting and it hurts me to have missed the pictures, but I was way up the hill when it happened.  Both athletes were able to walk away.
In the end, Americans ended up with first and second place, with only .03 seconds separating them. The winning team was piloted by Steve Holcomb, a gold medal winner at the last Olympics and a Park City resident.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Women's Skeleton at Utah Olympic Park

I went over to the Utah Olympic Park on Friday to catch some of the World Cup events.  I was planning on going back on Saturday, but our rainy weather and some other plans prevented it.  Today I'll blog the women's Skeleton and tomorrow I will write up the men's 2-Man bobsled.

The skeleton sleds don't look all that fancy, although I am certain there is a lot of technology that goes into them.  The seem like a sled that would be owned by any kid from well-to-do parents.  That is, until you try and pick one up. A woman's sled can weigh up to 35 kg (about 77 pounds). That's no toy toboggan. The combined weight of the competitor and her sled can't exceed 92 kg.
I took pictures walking the course from start to finish and back, which means you don't get to see a lot of any one person.  Here is the progression of a run, using lots of the different athletes as my subjects.

Like most of the winter track sports, you may not win with a fast start, but you will certainly lose with a slow one.  The ladies are all serious sprinters. They push off a wooden block, but after that it's all track spikes digging into the ice.
The challenge is sprinting and managing to bring that 70 pound sled along with you. This is Kimber Gabryszak, one of Park City's locals. It was a very international competition.  Of the 23 competitors, only two were from the US.
Try this some time.  Start from scratch and run at a full sprint for about 30 yards, but keep one hand about 4 inches off the ground.  For extra credit, try it on ice.
Serious, serious power!
Then, without dropping any speed, dive onto your sled.
Quickly assume the perfect position.  They hit speeds close to 70 mph.

Trying to stay with them long enough to get a blurred background requires more practice than I have had.  It's easy to get everything sharp, or everything blurred, but mix and match is tough.
If you remember Luge, also an Olympic sport, then you might notice the main difference.  Luge is for people who are too frightened to go down head first.  I think if you had to order sanity, it would go bobsled (you get a vehicle), luge (at least you are feet first) and finally skeleton (face first, 4 inches off the track, at high speed).

This is Austrian Melissa Hoar. Notice the hands at the sides and the head down for aerodynamics. 
I wish I had spent more time trying a few more of these.  I was standing in a bad place and I hurried the shot, but I like the blur as she flew by.  At least I wasn't having to pan with her.  Here the trick is just to take the shot at the right time. She's on the right side of the picture because I was probably 1/20th of a second late.
Once you cross the line, you head uphill and drag to slow your speed.
And you finally get to look up at the clock and see how you did, although most of these competitors can probably tell within a few hundredths of a second without looking.
The event was won by American Katie Uhlaender with a totally dominating margin of victory, .01 seconds. Go USA!

If you live in Park City or Salt Lake and haven't seen one of these competitions, you're really missing out.  These are Olympic caliber competitors. You can watch them from a few feet away, and the event costs absolutely nothing!  There's another big skeleton event at the Olympic Park on December 7th. Mark your calendars.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Need a new printer?

I frequently write my opinions about good products and bad ones.  This is some happy news.  We have found a printer that we really like and I can easily recommend to others.

First, we have been heavy computer users for decades and we are pretty demanding.  We buy all-in-one's so that we get a printer, copier, fax and scanner.  Some history:
  • We owned a couple of HP's.  The hardware is decent but the software is huge, nasty, poorly written bloatware.  I vowed never to buy another. It caused problems on every computer we installed it on.
  • We switched to Canon.  Much cleaner software, but we had some problems with the print heads getting gummed up and having to go through way too much expensive ink to clean them.
A few months ago, we bought an Epson WorkForce 645.  It runs about $120 and was highly rated.  Having used it for a while, I have nothing but praise.  It is blindingly fast with good print quality.  The scanning, copying and faxing all work fine with easy setup.  The print cartridges seem to last a lot longer than Canon's and the software is small and reliable.

Just passing this along for anyone who is shopping.


Julie's Play Date with Hannah

Sally, our next door neighbor, is out of town and Monty has to work so Julie volunteered for a play date with Hannah.  She picked her up at school and in addition to the normal "play with Jasper" entertainment, Hannah got a cooking lesson: homemade pizza.

The first lesson is working the dough.  After making sure the yeast was still good, they worked up a big ball of dough.  I was busy watching NCSU basketball, so I had the traditional male dinner role of making sure no one stole the couch.
 Half the fun of making dough is making a mess. Sally, you might want to give this dress an extra pass through the washer.
The results were excellent.  Julie made one for the two of us and Hannah made her own.  Her flavor choice was light cheese and turkey peperoni.
The after dinner event was some Jenga. Hannah was pretty proficient but clearly felt the stress of the game.
Deep in thought, planning her next move.
You may already know that I went to an Engineering school, so naturally I was the Jenga champ.  Any other 7 year olds should take heed!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Back to Raleigh

Julie and I took a trip back to North Carolina to visit with family and friends.  We managed to hook up with a lot of people, but the time just flew by so quickly. 

From a weather standpoint, we couldn't have timed it better if we owned the Weather Channel.  The day before leaving Park City, I was playing golf in shorts, which is very unusual for our early winter that most people refer to as fall. Meanwhile, Raleigh was damp, chilly and windy.  When we got to Raleigh, the temperatures warmed up to 70 with glorious sunshine.  Back in Park City, a storm rolled in and dumped 2-4 feet of snow, depending on where you were.  The day we left Raleigh, it was drizzling and the temperatures were diving down.  This kind of luck doesn't happen very often.

We stayed busy visiting people for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day.  On Sunday, we went to Simply Crepes with my cousin Sara, my aunt Martha, my dad and Julie. 
We have such great friends in Raleigh and many of them are kind enough to offer us a place to stay.  This trip we stayed with Ken and Jennifer Polleck for part of the time and Jim and Carmella Saunders the rest.  Thanks!  Ken left us for a day to go run the Richmond marathon and knocked 12 minutes off his PR. He did that while recovering from some hip problems!

This is the lake/pond right behind the Polleck's house.  Quite the scene to wake up to every morning.
Last year we didn't manage to get back for an NC State football game.  This year we caught the Wake Forest game and got to tailgate with lots of people from our old neighborhood.
While tailgating, this thing "drove" by.  It is a pub, with a bartender and beer taps.  The downside is that it is driven by pedal-power.  I'm not sure how these people ended up on the Trolly Pub.  Perhaps it is something you rent. I'm not sure I want my tailgating to involve a spin class though.  I'm good with chicken and beer. 

I was whining to Julie that we weren't having Bojangle's chicken with our tailgating.  I ended up stopping by some State fans I had never met before, telling them I now live in Utah where there is no Bo's, and asking for a piece of chicken.  My faith in southern hospitality is still intact.
After a miserable no-show game last week against Virginia, a different NC State team came to play.  They basically kicked Wake Forest up and down the field.  Wake's one touchdown came on a nicely executed trick play.  Other than that, they had nothing.  Now State has to play Clemson, one of the top teams in the country.
Judy and Alex Plavacos joined us for the football game.  Julie is sporting the wolf ears from her Halloween costume.

After 10 or 15 years, for no reason I can determine, my parking space was changed.  I haven't given the Wolfpack club any extra money, but our space is now about 100 feet from the stadium, right near the gate we go in. Awesome for popping out for a halftime drink.
Julie and I got to go to the first NC State basketball game of the year.  State's team is ranking 6th in the country, which makes all our fans nervous but excited.  They have a good returning squad plus three new McDonald's All Americans.  It could be an exciting year.  I'm not sure how much you can take away from beating Miami of Ohio, but State managed to whomp them by about 40 points, even after playing the entire bench.
I tend to save the weirdest for last.  Outside the Saunders' house was one of the biggest Preying Mantises I have ever seen. Unfortunately, my iPhone is not the best choice for macro photography. I could have sat there for 30 minutes if I had my Nikon with me.  For those of you in my photography class, this is insufficient depth of field.
Thanks to all our friends and family that offered up places to stay and changed their calendars around so we could get together.  We think about you every day and wish we could get back more often.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jasper loses a friend

Just a month or two after Jasper became friends with Ace, Park City's local zebra, he died.  He was only four years old, so it was quite unexpected.  He leaves behind Miss Billy the buffalo, Chip the mini donkey, and two goats.  The owners hope to find a replacement zebra.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Last try before ski season

After the big snowstorm a week or two ago, the weather has been fairly nice.  That's about to change again so a couple of us got together to play one more round at Park City.  From left to right: Derick Loyola, Chad Rexroad, and Chad's friend Spencer.
The weather was great, although I was the only one in shorts.  I managed to shoot 100, which probably isn't that bad for me.  I haven't played in about 2 months.
I did ponder an idea to extend the golf season here.  I haven't worked out all the details yet, like finding your golf balls or even finding the hole.  Just the same, it could be a lot of fun.  Park City is an odd place.  This snow mobile was parked right outside the golf course pro shop.  My golf bag fit well behind the seat.
They are calling for a decent snow storm this weekend with temperatures plunging 30+ degrees.  We have it planned well and are heading for North Carolina, where it look like we should have highs in the 60's all week.Yeah!


Monday, November 05, 2012

Why FedEx sucks

NC State sent my basketball tickets by FedEx.  I want to make sure I get them before we leave on our trip, so I have been watching the tracking info.  The predicted delivery date was Nov 6th, tomorrow.

On Nov 3rd, at 5:24 in the morning, my tickets land in Salt Lake.  By 7:18 they are at the sorting facility in West Valley.  On the 3rd, which is a Saturday, they simply flag the package as "Package not due for delivery".  OK, I get it.  You pay extra for Saturday delivery. They could have thrown it on a truck, but they chose not to.

Two days later, on Monday the 5th, they once again tag the package as "not due for delivery" and leave it sitting over at the sorting facility.  Apparently with FedEx, they refuse to perform any better than their estimated delivery, even if the package has been sitting around for  a few days, 40 miles from being delivered.

I have had a number of UPS packages arrive early.  Seems they like exceeding expectations or at least getting the packages out from under foot. I won't be using FedEx any time soon.


Volunteering for RINS.

I like volunteering.  I like nature and photography.  When they come together it's nice.  I met some interesting people in my Leadership Park City class and one of them, Colleen, is a birder.  We were talking about birding in the area and she mentioned that she used to volunteer for RINS, Raptor Inventory Nest Survey. They use volunteers to track the nests and babies of eagles, hawks and owls.

Between kids, work, and a territory that was a long ways off, she stopped volunteering for them a while back.  Now we have partnered up and taken a territory that didn't have an owner.  It's about 30 miles from Park City, but it is an area where I have already made numerous trips to doing my photography including the Sage Grouse.

We did a first trip to the territory yesterday, knowing that a lot of the hawks had migrated south, but hoping to find the nests before leaves on the trees make it almost impossible. We saw lots of nests and found the edges of our territory, but we need to do a more serious GPS mapping later this winter. The happy surprise was seeing three Bald Eagles.  I wouldn't have expected them for another month or two.

 This younger eagle flew right over us.
 As soon as I moved to get into a better position, this one flew off.  Bastard!
I think this work will be a lot of fun.  It will be nice to have someone along on my photo trips (no offense Jasper).  I also think that we will find lots of excellent subjects for photos.  I think hawks will be easy, but owls and falcons will be the best finds.

You probably won't hear any more about this until summer.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Leftover Halloween

Got to like the sense of humor, unless of course you are his wife. I saw this in a tiny town while looking for hawks and eagles.