Thursday, March 26, 2015

Whacky neighborhood construction

Not to be outdone by the people with their own personal crane, let's take a look at another project in our neighborhood.

What happens when you have a small lot, cut up by easements, but you want to build a big house? Well, you could build a tall house, but we have height restrictions that limit your roof line to 27 feet above ground. So, build down.

They hauled off 400 dump truck loads of dirt and rock to make this hole.  Now they are getting ready to pour the foundation walls.  To get a better understanding of the size, notice the two men working (middle, towards the left).  They are at the shallower end of the hole.
Digging this hole and hauling away the soil was no easy task.  There were excavators in the hole, digging dirt and handing it to an excavator on the top, which loaded the dump trucks.  Once they pour those foundation walls, there will probably be 50-100 dump trucks of gravel and fill coming back in.
The part I wished I had photographed was when they finished and needed to get the excavation equipment out of the hole.  They brought in this crane (stolen web photo), which at maximum capacity, can lift 350 tons.  That's 700,000 pounds for those who are math challenged.  It had no problem picking the 57,000 pound excavator out of the hole and setting it on the street.
Building houses back in NC was sure a lot easier.

By the way, the house with the crane and the mystery wall is getting even weirder.  More later....

Bad, bad snow year

Those who I have chatted with in the past month or two know how pissy I am about this year's terrible snow for skiing.  It is definitely on track to be our worst year in many decades.  For those out east who think that it has been too cold and snowy for global warming, they just announced that this winter has been the warmest on record for the earth.  You guys just happen to be the cold spot.

Not only has it been very warm here, it has been incredibly dry.  Here are the snow pack percentages (compared to median) for the mountain west.

This compares the snow pack in Thaynes Canyon (think Park City Mountain Resort).  You can see the median (highest) with the 2012, 2013, and 2014 (bad) and 2015 so far (atrocious).

Gonna be a tough summer for water.  Thanks God we had a fairly rainy fall.  It filled some of the reservoirs giving us a bit of a head start into what is sure to be a parched summer.

Two more quick photos.  Jasper standing on the corner during a good snow year.
A very sad Jasper at that same corner this week.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My first drone. My last?

I have to admit, I have been wanting a quad copter for years.  I tend to be a techie on the bleeding edge, a photographer, and a guy who loves cool toys.  This is nearly perfect.  Why don't I have one?  Or three for that matter?  I think I must be getting old because my tolerance for the bleeding edge isn't what it once was.  The quad copters of the past few years have become sophisticated pieces of flying science, with GPS-driven flight controls, on board cameras, auto stabilization, and more.  However....
  • The cameras were pretty crappy
  • The cameras vibrated and were very limited in where they pointed
  • Without very expensive, fragile add-ons, you couldn't see what you were photographing or filming.
  • The GPS controls went haywire every once in a while and your copter would fly off into the distance, never to be seen again.
I have been patiently waiting for things to get "good enough", whatever that means.  Well, they finally seem to be more reliable, with better cameras and easier controls. I may be getting ready to pull the trigger, spending some of my Planning Commission income. 

However, reading through the online discussions, it is obvious that these things are not simple to fly. There are thousands of stories about crashes into buildings, trees, and even people, quads lost in lakes or rooftops, and mysterious disappearances.  As much as everyone seems to warn you to get proficient using the computer-based training and start in big open fields with very simple flying, the urge is just too strong.  These are expensive toys to be crashing or losing.

I took some advice from some of the victims.  I went out and bought a little, light weight $40 quad toy.  It has a terrible little camera but the flight controls are fairly similar to the bigger systems. The idea is to learn flying on this. It is so light that even if you smack it into the ground, it doesn't do much harm.
The shoe is simply for a size comparison.  It is not used for flying. It may be handy for trying to knock the copter out of a tree though.

I have only played with it for one day, but the two complexities I have run into are wind and direction. Wind is fairly obvious.  As light as these are, even a slight breeze puts up a good fight.  Direction is the more obscure one. 

You have directional controls to go left, right, forwards and backwards, but you also rotate the quad to point where you want to photograph.  If I take it up and turn it 180 degrees to take a picture of me, now I have to remember that left is right and front is back.  That wouldn't be that bad, but now turn it 125 degrees instead.  Nothing is quite where it is supposed to be.  Now a sudden breeze starts blowing it towards a tree. You have to react instantly, instinctively.  Trust me, this is non trivial. 

This is my first photo taken from about 50 feet above our driveway.  This is really a stupid place to learn.  I am sure to put it on a rooftop somewhere. 

The goal is to get better driving and determine if I really will enjoy one of these things, both before I spend any more money.  I hope to share more adventures as I go.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Putting my education to work

It was bad getting a Computer Science degree and then never writing any code for a living. I have done quality assurance, marketing, architecture and business development.  It is worse since I have retired.  I think most of my computer related tasks are helping family with computer issues and getting the most out of my iPhone.

Recently I was able to put my advanced training to use.  Mountain West Bank was having a contest to guess how many M&Ms were in a jar.  Most people took a SWAG and wrote down their guess.  I counted the number of M&Ms in a layer, multiplied by the number of layers, and then compensated for the shape of the jar.

As a result, I won the jar of M&Ms. Better yet, I was only off by 1. I am guessing the person counting them ate it. I ate a few and them gave them to Hannah. Better to have a nine year old devour them.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ski resorts swapping hands

It is getting where you can't keep track of all the ski resort ownership.  We have seven ski resorts, all fairly large, within a few miles of us (as the crow flies).  Recently a number of them have changed hands:
  • Vail bought the rights to run Canyons.  They don't own the resort, but do have 350 years worth of lease renewals.  The earth should have dried up by then.
  • Snowbird was bought by Ian Cumming, the owner of Powder Corp, which is the company that owned Park City Mountain Resort. Powder owns multiple ski areas, but Ian bought this with his own money, which I found interesting.
  • Park City Mountain Resort was bought by Vail.  It is now being combined with Canyons to form the largest ski area in North America.
  • Deer Valley bought Solitude.
That leaves Brighton and Alta.  Now the strong rumor is that Deer Valley is about to buy Brighton, which is adjacent to Solitude (which they bought).  You hear lots of rumors floating around a small town, but this rumor is coming from lots of directions with considerable consistency. I give it a 98% chance.

Anyone out there planning to buy Alta?  Can I start spreading the rumors for you?

Friday, March 06, 2015

The mystery wall

As time goes by, the construction continues on the house in our neighborhood. I am becoming convinced that this will be the slowest, most expensive construction we have seen. They finally unveiled the giant concrete wall that took them weeks to build. It turns out it is nothing more than a thick, tall slab of concrete with some slots on top.  Perhaps those will be special?

The rest of the foundation walls also took weeks. Normally these go up in a few days.  I was half expecting art work to be unveiled when they took the boards off, but it was just a normal foundation wall.

To make life more interesting, and expensive, they have their own personal crane installed in the middle of the lot. It has already been there a week, but hasn't done anything yet.  Cranes are expensive, so normally you batch up your crane work, one drives up, does everything it needs to, and drives off.  All billed by the hour.  This one looks like it is going to be there for quite a while.
Hard to tell in this photo, but the thing to the right of the crane is a little shack.  Again, something I have never seen on a building site around here.  Perhaps they plan to be here for a very long time.