Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Snowboarding at Yosemite

Mabel and I spent a long weekend at Yosemite, mainly trying to snowboard at Badger Pass. We like the place because it's small and relatively inexpensive, so we don't spend too much money just to realize we'll never learn to snowboard.

We were supposed to leave early on Friday, but earlier in the week Mabel had taken the car to the shop for me, and a needed part couldn't make it in until Friday morning. It was about 3:00 pm when we actually left, and quite dark when we got to Curry Village in the valley. Curry Village is a small city of tents, and one of the most affordable ways to stay inside the park. The one we got was one of the few equipped with a heater, but it's basically a small wood-frame covered in white sheets.

I am, by the way, very attached to my creature comforts. This means that having to walk two minutes to the toilet, and maybe five or seven to the bath house, makes me whine. Suffice to say, the tent was small, the beds were squeaky, and if you have the misfortune of inconsiderate neighbors, very noisy. We didn't get good sleep at all the first night.

We woke up at 6:00 am the next day, had breakfast, and caught the shuttle bus to Badger Pass. We arrived at about 9:30 am, and headed straight for the slopes after renting our gear. I basically spent the whole day going straight downhill and trying not to die. Mabel spent the day practicing what our teacher at Squaw taught us last year. Needless to say, we were quite sore from having to prop ourselves back up from falling all the time. It's very clear to us now that snowboarding is the kind of sport that is hardest on beginners. I also remembered my snowboarding lessons much more vividly, and realized that I was doing all the don'ts. The good news is, we were able to sleep much better that night, although some shuffling sounds did wake Mabel up. We found out the next day that the sound was snow falling off the tent, and the valley had gained a thin white carpet.

We decided to take Sunday at a more leisurely pace to go easy on our sore muscles, so we went on a Ranger-led snowshoe walk near Badger Pass. A snowshoe, for those of you in the tropics, is like a skinny tennis racket you attach to your boots. As Ranger Dick told us, it doesn't actually prevent you from sinking into the snow, but it prevents you from sinking as much. Now, to get to our real starting point, we'd have to cross the ends of the ski runs, which consists naturally of packed snow from everybody walking on it. However, I was panting by the time we crossed the "easy part", before we headed uphill in fresh snow. Again, for those who don't know, it's hard to walk uphill, and fresh snow is very soft and fluffy. I lagged the group, beating only a family from Florida suffering from the flu, while Mabel was keeping up just fine with the Ranger. She waited for me a few times, looking at me with loving pity.

Anyway, we eventually made it up the hill, and it turns out that the payoff was that we'd get to race downhill. Some people slid and tumbled, but it was a lot of fun for everybody. Except possibly the poor ill Floridians. The feeling of stomping on snow so soft you sink into it up to your knees - and that's wearing snowshoes - is really indescribeable. We left Badger Pass early, and spent the rest of the day walking around the valley. Unfortunately, it was still rainy and visibility was very poor. We decided, however, that we'd try to snowboard again on the last day of our trip.

So we were up even earlier, because we had to load our stuff back in the car and check out. We got to Badger Pass a bit later, and discovered that unlike the fluffy snow that impeded us the first day, the slopes had been groomed and were much slicker. But we were finally getting the hang of it, and despite being impeded by not having well-fitting boots, Mabel was very much in control of her descent. In other words, we were only falling down because we were trying to practice something specific, which is a huge leap from just falling down randomly.

I'm afraid I can't say much about Mabel's snowboarding, because we generally went down the hill together, and I was concentrating on my own runs trying not to get killed. I did manage a clean run on the second to the last attempt, but was promptly rewarded with a bad fall (don't worry, no injuries) the next time to remind me how alert I would have to be. I must remember that.

And then we headed home, as the afternoon rain began to move in. It's still raining now.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Check Out the Big Brain on Dubya

President Bush weighed in on the controversial Terri Schiavo case, noting that the courts "should have a presumption in favor of life" in such matters. Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, and her husband and guardian says she would've preferred to die. Her parents disagree, and thinks she can be rehabilitated.

All else aside, Bush is also the man who said that the federal government can't be trusted to invest social security funds properly, which is why he is pushing for private accounts where taxpayers can select their own investments. Listen carefully: the government isn't smart enough to invest properly.

But it's smart enough to override the assuredly painful decision of a husband, who turned down million-dollar offers so that he can properly execute what he said was his wife's wishes.

But It's Digital

You know how some books are overly specific these days? I used to think that computer books were the worst, basically putting two buzzwords (say, Java and XML) together and resulting in a waste of paper that covers neither topic adequately. But I probably just saw the ultimate one. What is so different about using a digital camera to photograph nudes I didn't bother to find out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Please Play Again

We like the Pepsi-iTunes promo, and did pretty well the last time they ran it. This time around, we've gotten two free songs out of 18 bottles, which is only a third of the expected average winnings of one in three. The sample size we have is approaching statistical significance.

Has somebody figured out how to read the inside of the bottle caps without opening it? Is Pepsi cheating? Surmise!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Dragons, Pig, Microsoft, and Me

Much as I like to make fun of Microsoft, I actually have some respect for some of their products, and plenty of respect for their people and ex-people (that is, ex-Microsoft people, not Microsoft ex-people). It amuses and saddens me how we can be individually intelligent and upstanding, but as a collective end up corrupt or generally harmful to society. Even the one or two people I know who have been involved with the much hated Internet Explorer are not sociopaths.

I'm not just talking about Microsoft. I'm talking about my 401(k) retirement investments, for example. I'm not the type to look at how much I have to retire on every week, but I do get antsy if I seem to be buying into funds that are not making a lot of money. The problem is, I don't know why those companies aren't making money, and I don't know how the ones who are make their money. I don't have the time or inclination to find out where the faceless mutual fund manager decides to put my money, as long as it gives okay returns. That makes me part of the problem, but there must be plenty of people like me around. We are the facelss stockholders in whose name corporate executives do shameful things to their employees, not to mention use to rationalize their own decisions so they can look their children in their eye.

The Chinese deprecate themselves jokingly as "individually each little dragons, collectively a giant pig" to describe how they can't work together. Something like that.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Eight Dot Three

I'm not completely sure whether this falls under "technical" or "general", because while it is about computers, it's also about common sense.

I'm the type of person who keeps copies of installer programs that I download in a separate directory. If I actually get to it, I would burn them onto CD-ROMs so that if I ever need a specific version of something I can still reinstall it. This means that my "Downloads" directory piles up after a while, and I'm now spending a few minutes sorting through it.

Can people not think of the obvious advantages of naming their installer programs properly? I've now looked at programs named gdnUS871, js56nen, tmsetup, PureWin132, and several others, and I couldn't figure out what they were without trying them. Just because the acronyms make perfect sense to you doesn't mean it does to anybody else. If memory serves, even Windows supported long file names of up to 255 characters by 1995, so cut it out already.