Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jasper versus the snowballs

I lack a bit of coordination, but this is my best take.  In one hand I am hucking snowballs to Jasper, trying to put them in a spot so that he has to jump to get them, but not so far that he just runs after them. In the other hand I have my iPhone running the SnappyCam Pro app.

First try... a good effort, but a definite miss.

Looked like he had this one, but it seems to have escaped.  I think he got a fairly good twist in there.
And finally, a clear catch.

It's all about positive attitude

You have to like some people's positive thoughts!  We've had two bad snow years in a row and everyone is hoping for a big improvement this winter.  We would like it for the skiing but we need it to replenish our water supplies.
People throughout Park City put PVC pipes up along the edge of the road so the plows know where push and where to stop.  Otherwise you might find your bushes or lawn plowed into rows for next year's crop.  Most of us use half an 8 foot pipe and that is more than sufficient.  Apparently this guy thinks we are going to have the snow year to end all snow years.  He has 10 foot PVC pipes along his yard.  I'm hoping he's right and those of us with four footers are going to be wondering where the hell they went.

Think snow!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Park City Planning Commission

In Park City, the City Council is the most important and powerful group.  They make the real decisions for what the city does and doesn't do.  They are elected by whatever small portion of the populace shows up on voting day.  The Planning Commission is probably the second most important group.  Our town is so dependent on a mix of:

  • Mining history, including it's protected historic buildings
  • Winter and summer resorts
  • Full time residents
  • Tourists
  • Non-resort businesses
These things tend to tug in different directions, making it difficult to improve the town for locals, tourists and business all at once.  The planning commission is where a lot of that starts. Planning commission members are appointed by the mayor and the city council.

A few years ago I threw my name in the hat to fill a local planning commission vacancy.  I wasn't well connected and was just settling in as a full time resident.  I wasn't selected and certainly shouldn't have been.  Then a year or so ago, I tried again.  This time I knew more people and more people knew of me.  I still wasn't selected, but this time I was at least a moderate candidate.   Well, third time's the charm. This time I was chosen and I will start my four year term in January.

It should be a great learning opportunity for me, both the details of zoning and the broader happenings and government of Park City.

By the way, this is a PAID position.  I get $100 for each meeting and a pass to the local Park City rec center (the MARC).  Given how many hours the commission puts in, I think I am well below the average new employee at Burger King.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dragster acceleration is obscene

My friend Doug Drexler emailed me this.  I would point back to the original source, but I think this is something that has been passed around over and over. Thanks to whoever wrote the original.

Ever wonder why a Top Fuel dragster gets a rebuilt engine after each run?  Stay with this - even if you aren't a 'car nut', this is stunning.

  • One Top Fuel dragster outfitted with a 500 cubic-inch replica Dodge Hemi engine makes more horsepower (8,000 HP) than the first 4 rows of cars at NASCAR's Daytona 500.
  • Under full throttle, a dragster engine will consume 11.2 gallons of nitro methane per second. A fully loaded Boeing 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate but with 25% less energy being produced.
  • A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to merely drive the dragster's supercharger.
  • With 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lockup at full throttle.
  • At the stoichio metric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane the flame front temperature measures 7050 degrees F.
  • Nitro methane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.
  • Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. Which is typically the output of an electric arc welder in each cylinder.
  • Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After 1/2 way thru the run, the engine is 'dieseling' from compression and the glow of the exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow.
  • If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with enough sufficient force to blow the cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half !!
  • Dragsters reach over 300 MPH +... before you have completed reading this sentence.
  • In order to exceed 300 MPH in 4.5 seconds, a dragster must accelerate an average of over 4 G's.
  • In order to reach 200 MPH well before reaching half-track, at launch the acceleration approaches 8 G's.
  • Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load.
  • The redline is actually quite high at 9500 RPM.
  • THE BOTTOM LINE: Assuming all the equipment is paid for, the pit crew is working for free, NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run will cost an estimated $1,000 per second.

Let's now put this all into perspective:

Imagine this...........You are driving a new $140,000 Lingenfelter twin-turbo powered Corvette Z-06. Over a mile up the road, a Top Fuel dragster is staged, ready to 'launch' down a quarter-mile trip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the 'Vette hard, on up through the gears and blast across the starting line, pass the dragster at an honest 200 MPH....
The 'tree' goes green for both of you at that exact moment. The dragster  starts after you. You keep your foot buried hard to the floor, and suddenly you hear an incredibly brutally screaming whine that seares and pummels your eardrums. Within a mere 3 seconds the dragster effortlessly catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter-mile away from where you just passed him. Think about it – from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you 200 MPH.....and it not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the planet when he passed you within a mere 1320 foot long race !!!!

THAT, my acceleration.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Muscle Shoals

I went and saw the movie Muscle Shoals on Sunday.  It is a Sundance-selected documentary about Muscle Shoals, Alabama and how the music studios there had an enormous impact on the entire industry.  Not being aware (at all) about the history of the music industry, I was stunned that this little town was so significant.

The recording studios were the original home of little songs like Freebird and Aretha Franklin's RESPECT.  People who record there include The Stones, Leonard Skynard, Wilson Pickett, Elvis Costello, Bono, The Osmonds, Steve Winwood, and dozens (or hundreds) more.  The number of Gold and Platinum records that came from there is mind numbing.

Watch the preview here:

But more important, if you get a chance to go see it, please do. It is an artsy movie, so you may have to hunt for it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Winter seems to be here

I think winter is finally here, for good.  We got about 6" of snow here at the house and they had closer to a foot over at the resorts.  The temperatures were down around 20 and the snow making equipment was blowing full blast.

I had to blow the driveway for the first time.  We have had snow a few times but you could tell that it would warm back up and melt everything. This time it feels like it's for real.  With the house on the market, I can't leave a half foot of snow in the driveway.
Things I have either done or am about to do:

  • Clean and put away the lawnmower
  • Check the snowblower.  Adjust everything and change the oil.
  • Clean all the chair cushions and put them away
  • Turn on the driveway snow melt system and make sure it works.
  • Turn on the five 220V heat tape circuits
  • Get the snow shovels out
  • Put the ski rack back on top of the truck.
  • Find all my winter and ski clothing.
I wonder what I am forgetting about. This is a non-trivial change.

Friday, November 15, 2013

World Cup Speedskating

I've mentioned before how cool it is to be able to see world class sports competitions for free in Park City. Today I had to drive all the way down to Salt Lake City and pay $5 to watch the speedskating competition. What dedication!

I had fun watching quite a few national and world records fall, but I was mostly just enjoying taking pictures.  Last time I went, they were really slack about letting me into the press areas.  Today they had much better guards so I had to take these from less than perfect locations.  Still decent results.
If you like strong thighs and butts wrapped in spandex, both men and women, then speedskating is a great spectator sport.  They are moving too fast during the competition, but I noticed a lot of male and female spectators ogling the athletes as they walked by.

I don't remember much about who was who, so I will skip to the end for a bit of commentary.

 This is Shani Davis, the famous American speed skater. He ended up winning the 1500m.  How can you tell?
 Because with about 300 meters to go, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Not only did he win, but this was the fastest 1500 anywhere this year.

World class entertainment for only $5!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our first trip to Cabo

Julie and I have been to dozens of countries, but neither of us has ever ventured down into Mexico. This past week we broke that streak with a trip to Cabo San Lucas.  Cabo is on the very southern tip of the Baja California peninsula.

We made this trip with our friends Chad Rexroad and Cathy Clark.  I play golf and look for elk with Chad and Cathy runs the Furburbia animal shelter where we got Jasper and Cosette.
Chad and Cathy had done a trip to Cabo back in the spring and really enjoyed it.  We stayed at the same resort, the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica.  We booked through Expedia and managed to get some great prices for the hotel and airfare.

The one disappointment with our reservations was that we weren't able to get a direct flight on Delta.  They have one, but it is seasonal and apparently the season hasn't started yet.  This became more important on the trip south.  Just about the time we landed at LAX, a gunman had entered terminal 3 and started shooting.  Through blind luck, we landed at terminal 5 and walked over to terminal 6 for our departure flight.  Astoundingly, we left only 20 minutes late.  The following day we heard that over 700 flights were delayed or canceled.
The resort was gorgeous.  It's adults only, so we didn't have to contend with hundreds of kids running around the pool. It also has the option of being "all inclusive" so your food and drinks are all part of the package.
The resort is right on the Pacific ocean, which makes for some magnificent scenery, especially in the evenings.
I mentioned that the pool was peaceful because of the lack of kids at the resort.  Apparently those rules don't apply to pelicans.  This one flew right into the pool, swam around for a bit, and then got out to dry over by the cactus.  I was a bit worried about taking my new iPhone 5S into the pool to get this shot.
The  beach was fairly steep, which made for some pretty dramatic waves. It also meant that you weren't allowed to venture out into the ocean.  At all.
You can get a little sense of why there is no swimming on these beaches.  What you can't see is the wicked undertow caused by the angle of the beach.
Almost every evening, we walked barefoot on the beach before dinner to watch the sun set.
Even the cloudier evenings were still pretty. Of course, Julie is always pretty.
One of the big adventures was the deep sea fishing trip that Chad and I went out on, but only barely.  We started on Sunday morning at 7:00.  We took a cab ride from the hotel with two guys from Houston on a calm, but cloudy morning.  When we got to the marina, we discovered that all the boat trips were cancelled. A tropical storm was off the coast and heading our way.

By hooking up with a couple from Myrtle Beach, we ended up booking a bigger boat for all six of us on Tuesday. Here we are on Tuesday morning, in much nicer weather, all ready to go.
Except our boat wouldn't start.  Who has a commercial fishing boat that doesn't have charged batteries?  They worked on this for over an hour, but it clearly wasn't going anywhere.  They desperately need AAA for boats in the Cabo marina.

There were lots of boat alternatives, but we had to get lucky to find one that:
  • was available
  • at a reasonable price
  • with a captain and a mate
We finally got lucky.  We got on board a 45 footer that actually started and took off for the ocean.
We took turns when something hit the fishing lines and Chad was first.  He managed to haul in this striped marlin.  I kept telling Chad to hold it out further in front of him so it would look bigger, but it weighed about 120 pounds.
The  mate filleted the marlin and packed up about 60 pounds of fish. The rest got thrown over to feed the sharks.  That might sound like a joke, but earlier on the ride we had two young killer whales swim right under our boat.  We got a nice view of them in the water, but my photos didn't come out at all.  Perhaps with a polarizer on the lens?  Even young killer whales are huge.  My mind quickly went back to the movie Jaws.  "We're going to need a bigger boat."

We ended up catching two more marlin, but I didn't take a turn hauling one in.  Three marlin is a great fishing trip!
On the way back into the marina, the sea beggars show up.  The first were the pelicans. This one rode on the back of the boat, but there were 20 more in the water swimming along behind us.
Then came the sea lions.  One followed us for a bit and then left.  The second was Paco, well known around the marina.  He hopped up on the swim platform, looking for any leftover bait we might have. What a great life he leads.  Once he mooched all our bait, he just hopped down and waited for the next boat to come by.
We had fish packaged up for everyone on board, including the captain and the mate.  I'm guessing they ended up with 20-30 pounds of marlin.  We took ours back to the resort.  The guys from Houston had theirs prepared for lunch at the pool bar, some grilled and some cooked tempura style.

We had ours for dinner. This was an incredible chili-based sashimi.
Then we had some prepared three other ways: grilled, blackened, and broiled.  Delicious!
All in all, the fishing trip had a lot of hard knocks getting started, but ended up being well worth it.

One morning I went out to take some photos of the waves in the morning sun.  I had missed sunrise, but thought it could still be pretty.  Then I noticed a security guy standing guard over a little mesh area in the middle of the beach.  It turned out that a turtle's nest was hatching.  They are endangered and are protected along the coast.  I got to watch all the little guys struggling to get down to the water. Sometimes the waves would carry them out to sea.  Other times they would throw them back up the beach, losing all those hard earned gains.
They were cute, but pretty clumsy. The good news is that the humans, as disastrous as we tend to be for the ecosystem, were there to protect them.  When the pelicans and seagulls saw what was happening, they came for some breakfast.  Instead, they got handfuls of sand throw at them.  In the end, all of the turtles made it into the ocean.  Of course, many of them were probably eaten by something out in the water.  The survival rate is extremely low.
One day we kayaked from the marina area over to El Arco and its nearby beaches.  We were in calm, protected waters on the trip, but as soon as we got close to the arch, we get close to the waves from the Pacific.  We were immediately herded back by the local harbor patrol.  I guess an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of water rescues.
If I had more than just my little S100 pocket camera, I could have been happy shooting wave pictures for hours.  The water is a gorgeous blue, but the waves pick up sand which makes interesting patterns.
Another one of our evening sunsets, just before we walked in for dinner.
Our last night in Cabo brought all sorts of color on the water.
The people out on this sunset cruise were really getting their money's worth.  That might be something fun to do on a future visit.

What a fantastic trip.  While we were enjoying the 80 degree weather in Cabo, it was cold and snowing back in Park City.  Great timing (other than the LAX shootings of course).

Chad and Cathy are great travel companions.  We have friends that are easy to travel with and some that are more high maintenance.  These guys were as easy and comfortable as it gets.  Having a nice resort with good food and drinks included made it so easy to just relax and enjoy the stay.

We will definitely be heading back to Cabo.  Now we just need to figure out when that direct flight runs.