Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dream Lake

A few days back, my sister mentioned my 'Dream Lake' story in a comment. The story took place on a family trip out West many, many years ago. It wasn't really all that fantastic of a story, but over the years it started creeping towards mythological proportions because I used it in English papers year after year in school.

I managed to turn the story in for an assignment every year (sometimes twice a year if teachers changed) from about 7 or 8th grade all the way through college. Theoretically each of these papers was slightly different depending on the exact assignment requirements, but in reality they were just slightly more polished versions of the same paper with a different introduction and/or conclusion. By the time I used the paper when I tested out of Freshman composition in college it was a well-honed A-earning machine.

Unfortunately I seem to have lost the actual paper. The computer file was lost in a hard drive crash years and years ago, and the last paper copy was turned into UMD for the test-out process and never returned. That makes this entry a lot more work then I thought it was going to be, when I was thinking I could just cut and paste the venerable story.

Anyways, I'll do my best to re-tell the story of Dream Lake.


Many years ago my family took a two-week vacation out to the western United States. We looped through a number of states, including South Dakota, Wyoming, the corner of Utah, Colorado and Nebraska. We drove a big loop, stopping for a few days here, driving a ways further, and then stopping for another few days.

During the trip we spent a number of days in Colorado, visiting Estes Park, Colorado Springs, and a number of other places. One day we decided to do some hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had gotten it in my head that trout fishing in the mountains would be fun, so Dad, Sarah and I all brought our fishing poles with on the hike.

After driving a ways up in to the mountain, we spent the morning hiking up one of the trails. Around lunch time we reached Dream Lake, which looked like a perfect place to stop, take a break, and eat the lunches we had brought with. Once we had eaten we decided that the lake looked just as good as any other for catching some of those elusive trout.

Initially we tried fishing from the lakeshore. The lake was fairly shallow and pretty rocky and so caused all sorts of trouble with our lures. We didn't get any bites and eventually started looking for a new place to cast from. The obvious place seemed to be a large rock a little ways out into the lake. It was big and flat and looked like it might be far enough out that we could avoid the rocks. The only problem was how to get out to it.

Since no one was clothed for swimming, we decided to use a second, smaller rock in between the shore and the large rock to hop out to our desired fishing spot. The rocks were a little farther apart then the two kids could step across, but they were close enough we could sort of step out to the first rock and then leap onto the side of the larger rock and haul ourselves up.

Having managed to make it out to the rock, we felt obligated to spend a while fishing from it. To be honest, the fishing wasn't much better then the lakeshore was. The lake was still shallow, and extremely rocky, and to make matters worse we didn't see even a hint of a fish. Eventually even a stubborn teenage son was willing to admit that perhaps it would be a better idea to hike further up and see if we could find a better lake. The only problem was how to get off the rock.

On the way out, we could step onto a small rock just big enough for two small feet and leap all out towards the big rock. Coming back, we would be trying to leap back onto that tiny little rock. And it was looking smaller and more slippery, the longer we looked at trying to jump to it.

My dad, being much taller, was able to just barely straddle between the two rocks. The idea was that he would stand between them, sort of 'boost' us as we jumped across, and guide us onto the smaller rock.

Sarah went first, and being very small and nimble, was easily lifted across the gap back to safety. That left me, who was neither quite as small nor anywhere near as nimble. There was some discussion of exactly how this was going to work, and eventually it came down to the old countdown. 1..2...3.

I jumped, straight up.

Dad started heaving me across before he realized my error. In a heroic effort, he got me about halfway across. I was not a particularly light child, and Dad was straddling two wet, slippery rocks. The inevitable happened, and we both tumbled backwards, in seemingly slow-motion, right into the lake.

Now, this was a lake high in the mountains. And while it was summer, it was early summer. So that lake was cold. Really cold. I'm pretty sure there was still ice on the lake. In fact, it might have been an iceberg that we were fishing from.

We staggered out of the lake embarrassed and soaking wet. Since we weren't dressed for swimming, we decided to just head back down the mountain and call it a day. The walk back down the trail was humiliating, soaking wet, carrying fishing poles, only to find out that somehow the story had preceded us down the mountain: "Are you the guys who fell into Dream Lake?".

Later that day my Mom was in the gift shop of the place we were staying. Somehow the topic of our falling into Dream Lake while fishing came up. Incredulous, the proprietor exclaimed 'But everyone knows there's no fish in Dream Lake!'.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Books: Ringworld Engineers

While writing up my post on Master of the Cauldron, I was thinking it had taken me an awfully long time to finish what I termed 'pretty short'. Looking back at older posts, I realized I had missed mentioning the book I read in between The Hunter's Blade trilogy and MoTC, Ringworld Engineers.

I was a bit nervous about Ringworld Engineers because, even though I enjoyed Ringworld, it didn't really strike me as needing a sequel. I've read lots of really terrible second books, where they tried to a sequel onto an unexpected hit. Also, it had been over a year since I read Ringworld (which I forgot to get signed at Convergence last year, BTW).

It turned out that these fears were somewhat unfounded. I didn't have any trouble picking the story back up, primarily because there were very few characters in the first book so it was easy to remember them. As far as feeling tacked on, Ringworld ended with a resolution to the primary story line, but it left enough questions opened to facilitate another book without it feeling like the revisionist history of bad serial movie.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Ringworld Engineers. I was expecting much worse. It was certainly a bit of a drop-off from Ringworld, but that was to be expected, if nothing else because it didn't present as dramatic a world idea as Ringworld did.

One advantage Ringworld Engineers had was that it was a sequel, so the universe was already partially fleshed out. That allowed RWE to spend more time making the Ringworld seem like a living world with lots of varied races of creatures and a variety of environments. Similarly, two of the characters from the first book returned, allowing more character development time.

I enjoy the character of Louis Wu, I think he is interesting and fun to read. Speaker-to-Animals also made a return, but Larry Niven didn't spend much time developing him as a character. He was there, contributed to the story, but I don't really think I know anymore about him then I did after the first book.

The plot of Ringworld Engineers was interesting, especially since, after reading the introduction, it sounds like the book came about at least partially to answer some complaints/issues people had with the physics of the first book. Larry tells a story about how on a visit to MIT the whole room was chanting "The Ringworld is unstable" when he took the stage for some speech. I thought it was pretty cool that an author would take feedback on his universe so seriously that he felt compelled to answer some of the questions by writing another book.

I do have a few minor quibbles with the book, mainly having to do with rishathra (basically casual sex between alien species to 'seal a deal'). That aspect, coupled with the particulars of the 'vampires' lent a slightly sleazy quality to the book that didn't really need to be there (IMHO).

All in all I enjoyed reading Ringworld Engineers, and was glad I picked up the Ringworld books somewhere along the line. I'm reading the follow-up, The Ringworld Throne, now.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Moo Juice

I was driving home the other day when I noticed the vanity plate on the car in front of me was 4MRMLKR.

After a bit of head scratching, I eventually decided it had to be 'Former Milker'. But what the heck is that supposed to mean?

  • Perhaps the owner was Soft Hands Susie, who used to be the star milkmaid of the farm, the only one who could get that elusive last gallon of milk from Ol' Bessie?

  • Maybe they were a proud alumni of some school whose nickname was the Milkers? [ No colleges on this list had that name ]

  • Perhaps she was an out of work milkmaid bitter over losing her job to an impersonal robotic milking machine?

  • Maybe they had owned a dairy farm outside of the Twin Cities, sold it to a developer for a quadzillion dollars, and RCHRTHNU was too long to fit on the license plate.

  • Perhaps they were formerly milking the system, felt guilty about it and stopped, but didn't feel so guilty about it they didn't want to brag about how it used to be.

  • Maybe they were the purveyors of all those naughty milkmaid pictures that were unavoidable when I innocently tried to find a picture to link in this entry.


I guess I'll never know...

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Monday, June 27, 2005

T is for Tigger

It was a sad weekend for the Hundred Acre Wood, I saw that the person who did the voice of Pigglet, and the person who did the voice of Tigger both died (on Saturday and Friday respectively).

When I first saw the two headlines (as the top two headlines for 'Entertainment' on CNN), I thought it was a duplicate. I was thinking that the same person did both voices and they had entered the story twice with two different titles. It seemed wierd that both people would die within days of each other, but I guess one was 80 and the other 82, so maybe it isn't that strange.

Linzy loves Tigger, so I've watched more than a few Winnie the Pooh movies, including The Tigger Movie and, as soon as we work down to it in the Netflix queue, The Heffalump Movie. It will be wierd to hear someone else do the voice of Tigger.

TTFN.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Books: Master of the Cauldron

Last week I finished David Drake's new book Master of the Cauldron. It is the latest book in the "Lord of the Isles" series, which I've been reading ever since Linzy found the first book as a $3 hardcover clearance item. The series is not necessarily my favorite, but it is definitely one that I enjoy reading.

The Lord of the Isles series is based on an idea similar to The Wheel of Time, that is, that the overall flow of time and events goes in cycles. In this case, it is cycles of roughly 1,000 years, so the lead character in the books (Garric) is linked to the dead king of the isles from 1,000 years ago.

Similarly, the power of magic rises and falls over the same cycle. As magic gets more powerful, it becomes easier for anyone to use extremely powerful spells. Along with these more powerful spells comes a lot of (potentially) unintended consequences. Basically spells going awry and doing more/different things then what the person was trying to do.

These unintended consequences end up resulting in an interesting aspect to the Lord of the Isles books. There has not really been a consistent 'bad guy' across books. Instead it tends to be random evil magic users hatching plots from spells they wouldn't normally be able to cast (occasionally through the nefarious influence of magicians from 1,000 year ago). Inevitably these overly powerful spells result in some sort of crisis/danger to the nation of isles.

While it seems like this would not make for a particularly interesting book, usually the exact nature of the threat is disguised in such a way that it isn't immediately obvious what is happening. And the 'good guy' characters are interesting enough that you don't mind the fact that for the most part they are traipsing through the books putting down evil plot after evil plot for no particular overarching reason.

There isn't much about the books that I don't like, but if I had to pick something it would be that almost all of the Lord of the Isles books use the same contrived multiple-paths-leading-to-the-same-end-place plot vehicle. David Drake seems to be a fan of the style of book where the whole group of characters gets split up, ventures through their own private little adventure of some sort, and in the last hundred pages or so all end up meeting back up/combining to defeat the evil plot.

After all that, there isn't much to say about Master of the Cauldron other then it was a pretty typical Lord of the Isles book.

I did enjoy the book, it was an interesting story and I really do enjoy some of the characters in the book (Cashel, Garric, and Chalcus in particular). One of my favorite things about the books is that with the exception of one character there are no woe-is-me characters. I don't particularly care to read a couple hundred pages of a character moping around blaming themselves for something no one else is blaming them for, or spending the whole book shuffling around sighing over the fate the world has put on their shoulders. Even Ilna, who is a woe-is-me type character, manages to contribute to the general cause and has interesting powers, even if she does spend a lot of her first-person time beating herself up about something that happened three or four books ago (and didn't really seem all that horrible, other then showing her the price of hubris about how 'good' you are).

The story in Master of the Cauldron was good enough, even if it didn't really advance the overall storyline much (not that there is any real overarching storyline to advance). In fact, I thought MotC did a pretty good job in terms of making you not exactly sure what was going on with each of the characters mini-adventures. I honestly thought at least one mini-adventure was not related to the others, and I was pretty sure for 80% of the book that two of the other mini-adventures were being told from opposite viewpoints of the same alternate reality.

If I had any complaints about Master of the Cauldron, it was that it was pretty short, or at least a pretty quick read. It was 428 hardcover pages with fairly big type. I read it in a little over a week and a half (although admittedly I read a bit more then normal while out in Salt Lake City). I would have been a bit more satisfied with the book if it had been just a bit longer, and made some progress in the overall story. Instead, they pretty much just landed on an island, went off on their various adventures, and ended up back together (more-or-less).

Overall I enjoyed the book, and will certainly pick up the next book in the Lord of the Isles series.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Angry Again

While I was sitting in the waiting room on Thursday during Linzy's surgery, I overheard a pretty funny exchange between the mom of a patient and a doctor. The Mother's 4-year old (I think) son was in for surgery on a broken arm. Apparently it was the second one he had broken in his short life.

The conversation went like this:

Doctor: ..and here's the prescription for some Tylenol with Codine, for the pain. He can have....

Mom: Ok, and what is the alternative to the Tylenol with Codine for pain?

Doctor: Huh?

Mom: Well, the last time he had that...it made him really angry. Like he would have some, and then stomp around the house all angry and eventually fall asleep about 30 minutes later. He's not normally like that.

I couldn't help smiling, imagining a little 4-year old with a cast on his broken arm stomping around the house with a scowl on his face, angry at the world. And then after 30 minutes of rampaging around, collapsing sound asleep wherever he was.

But then again, I didn't have much to do in the waiting room, so maybe I was just easily amused.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Salt Lake City: Restaurants

When I travel for business, one of the worst things for me is always eating by myself. I don't really care for fast food, and I hate sitting in a regular restaurant to eat by myself. I always end up having nothing to do but sit and stare off into space and/or watch all the people around you who have friends to eat with. And that makes me feel creepy.

The end result is that I obsess a bit over where to eat, what is going to have good food, but not be so fancy that I feel like a knob eating there by myself, how much places will cost so I don't have to submit a ridiculous bill for reimbursement, etc.

Should you happen to visit Salt Lake City, and you are looking for good Mexican food, you should definitely hit the Red Iguana. It looks like a bit of a dive from the outside, but they had terrific food. Fittingly, the whole wall behind the cash register is filled with awards from various organizations. The other plus was that it wasn't very expensive.

I also ate at Brewvies (a pub that shows first-run movies), and was quite happy with their barbecue chicken pizza. It was really tasty. The side salad was huge, and pretty good too. The only downside was that it was a bit expensive (as pizza and a salad goes), but if you average it in with the cheap ticket prices to see a movie, it wasn't too bad.

One night I went to Red Rock Brewery. It was a real nice place, with nice atmosphere, but it was a little awkward eating there alone. The meal I had (an Organ Grinder, which was an Italian sausage sandwich thinger) was OK but nothing fantastic. They have some fancier meals that looked like they might be good, but they were pretty expensive.

The only other memorable thing I ate in SLC was actually at a more-or-less fast-food restaurant, named after their namesake menu item, The Apollo Burger. What is an Apollo Burger you ask? That is what I asked too.

Turns out it is a hamburger with pastrami on top. I can honestly say I've never heard of that combination. It was a bit crazy, but was OK I suppose. The strange thing is apparently there are three local chains of restaurants specializing in hamburgers with pastrami on top. All run by brothers from the same family. Apparently they had some horrible feud over the One True Way to make a hamburger with pastrami on it, and ended up splintering into separately owned and operated restaurants. That amused me.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Picture Uploading



Well, it's about time Blogger offered inline picture uploading. I'm not real sorry to kick Hello to the curb.

I did have to click reload on the 'Create Post' page, before the upload image picture changed and pointed to the new uploading interface. But otherwise everything worked like I would have expected.

Interestingly they claim a limit of 300M worth of pictures. I don't think I've uploaded quite that much in the year since they started hosting images, but I'm probably getting there (especially since the new camera produces ~3M jpgs). It will be interesting to see what happens when I have uploaded that much. Hopefully by that time the limit will be upped.

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Salt Lake City: Miscellany

A few days before I left for Salt Lake City when Linzy jokingly asked if I was going to get her a souvenir, I said that I would, but it would be a T-shirt that said "My husband went to Utah and all I got was another wife". I was therefore highly amused when I turned on the morning news for the first time and saw the lead story was about a scandal where a polygamist sect in Manti, Utah wasn't being prosecuted. Apparently the local police force were all members of the church, and the attorney general was bringing in a task force to investigate, everyone was trying to act surprised, etc.

On a different note, one of the first things I noticed while driving around Salt Lake City was that running a red light is apparently a sport. There's going through a light while it's yellow, then there's going through when it is 'pink', then there is running the red light, and there is what people do in Salt Lake City.

One evening I amused myself by counting the number of people who ran each red light (as in it wasn't even close to yellow when they entered the intersection). The average was three cars per red light; it was completely insane. You certainly didn't want to be quick off the line on a green light. I shook my head later that night when I saw an accident at an intersection when a guy ran a red light and smoked someone else who was tooling down the opposite way and happened to have timed the green just right.

I was also surprised at how aggressive people were about turning in front of other cars. It was worse because most of the roads had dips on the edges between the road and the various surrounding parking lots. So people would turn right in front of you, and then slam on the brakes to slow down so they wouldn't scrape the front end of the car on the big dip. But of course while they did this, they blocked a lane or two of traffic.

Similarly when exiting the parking lots, most people would pull out right into the chicken lane, ride there for a car length or two before merging with traffic. It usually felt like they were going to pull right out into you, up to the last moment when they would turn into the middle lane. This happens in MN as well, so it wasn't totally shocking, but we don't have as many roads with that extra lane.

Driving in SLC wasn't all that bad though, they have a very sensible grid system for their roads, which makes it really easy to find most places just by address. Also even though I drove all over the place, I never really encountered much traffic. I think as you get further down the valley there is a bit of a rush-hour, but in the evening and on the weekend there was very little traffic at all.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wanna Buy a Ticket?

Last Saturday I drove over to Park City, Utah to see what there was to see there, and found out, not a whole lot. It's a fancy town with little shops on a main street. That is OK I suppose, but not exactly what I am into. Especially when a good portion of those shops are fancy art galleries, something that I am not exactly going to be buying and transporting home in cattle class on my flight.

Anyways, on my way to Park City I stopped at the Olympic Park to see what there was to see. As I got out of my car and walked up to the entrance, the greeter stopped me and asked if I was there for 'the show'. 'What show?'. 'The freestyle show'. 'What? Oh, no, I just wanted to take a look at the ski jump and bobsled track'. She said that required paying admission ($14!)

From outside you couldn't really tell what exactly there was to see inside the park. So I walked inside to try and see if you could see more, to judge whether it was worth my $14. There was a window on the far left side of the room looking out over the park, so I started walking over to it.

Immediately the guy behind the counter started yelling and asking if I was there to buy a ticket. The conversation went like this:

Him: Hi, are you here to buy a ticket!?!

Me: Well, I don't know yet, I wanted to go look out that window first.

Him: You can't go over there without paying first.

Me: What? I just want to look out that window and see what I am paying for, I can't do that?

Him: No, you have to pay first.

Me: But I don't know what you have here, I just wanted to take a look.

Him: You have to buy a ticket to look out that window.

Me: You're joking right? You won't let me see what I am paying for? That seems stupid.

Him: Nope, you have to pay before you can go to that side of the room.


Note that 'that side of the room' wasn't like behind a gate, or even behind a counter, it was just the left side of a room where you entered on the right side of the room, and the ticket counter was along the rear wall.

At that point I got sort of mad, and left over the principle of the matter. Why shouldn't I be able to go look and see if there was anything at the park besides the two ski jumps you could see from the road? Probably because there wasn't anything else in the park. Instead I took my pictures of the bobsled track and ski jumps from the road outside the park, mentally stuck out my tongue at the overzealous sales people, and went on my way. That showed em, I'm sure.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Salt Lake City: Pictures (Part 2)

I took hundreds of pictures on my trip to Salt Lake City, but mercifully pared down what I uploaded. Although I still uploaded quite a few. Some from my venture to the Kennecott Copper Mine, and a bunch from downtown Salt Lake City.

These are of the Great Salt Lake and the Park City area.

The Great Salt Lake looks exactly like Lake Superior, the ocean, and/or any other really large body of water where you can't see the other side. It smells like the ocean, FWIW.

It was really windy, and thus choppy the evening I was there.

Where were you on your 28th birthday? I was living the wild life.

..taking pictures of the waves.

The sunset.



Olympic Park, just outside of Park City. Home to the most aggressive ticket sales people I have ever met.

The Bobsled track, I was expecting it to be bigger.

Park City Main street.

Your typical row of parked cars, Park City style. That is, a Mercedes, Acura, and VW SUV, along with an Escalade for good measure. I'm not sure who let the Subaru wagon in town. Someone's probably going to get a talking to.

A sculpture outside the Kimball Art Center.

The valley, as seen from halfway up the Park City Resort mountain.

The top of the Alpine Slide, which turned out to be a total bust.

It was a gorgeous day, this was the patio outside the Baja Cantina at lunch time.


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Salt Lake City: Pictures (Part 1)

I took a lot of pictures on my trip to Salt Lake City, and not just during my jouney up to the copper mine. These are pictures taken near downtown Salt Lake City. Part 2 are pictures taken near the Great Salt Lake and Park City.

It's a good thing they put that 'No Hanger' warning on all the sprinkler heads. Otherwise I would have broken out the 10-foot step ladder and hung something on them.

The Red Iguana was a total dive, but had terrific Mexican food. So good I ate there again later in the week.

Salt Lake City is in a valley, so mountains were everywhere you turned.

The Salt Palace (SLC Convention Center) has a rare paddleboat attachment.

The Mormon Temple.

Another cool-looking church building in Temple Square.

The front of the temple.

The reflecting pool in front of the temple.

The whole temple. It is hard to get a feel for just how huge the building is.

There was softly running water all over the place in temple square. You can almost make out the start of this waterfall way off in the distance.

Some crazy trees next to the temple. Just after I took this, a wedding party came along to take pictures and I got shooed away.

Did I mention the designer liked waterfalls?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Convention Center also got into the waterfall act. In this case with a four-tiered one.

Franklin Covey Field, apparently home to the Stingers.


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Monday, June 20, 2005

Off-Roading: Pictures

Last week, when I wrote about a co-worker sending me up an unpaved road to the top of a mountain outside of Salt Lake City, I didn't have the USB cable for my camera with, so I couldn't post all the pictures I had taken of the adventure. If that dissapointed you, today is your lucky day.

Follow the full post link for pictures of my trip up Butterfield Canyon to view Kennecott Copper Mine.

That orange band off in the distance is where we are headed.

Our map, page 1.

Our map, page 2.

That is one huge pile of tailings (and this is only part of the excavation).

Uh-oh, the paving is ending.

We're still OK at this point, it's nice crushed gravel.

And the view is pretty nice, even if the road is getting a bit narrow.

We're at the pass, time to turn off onto something even less deserving of the name 'road' (it's out of frame to the left, in this picture. You are looking back down the way I came from).

One turn in, and already half the road is jagged rocks.

Just how big were those rocks in the last picture? Here's one of the smaller ones.

Need an extra muffler? What you can't tell from this picture is how steep this particular turn was. It was probably 30 degrees, and you can just barely make out the ridge in the road that claimed the muffler.

One lane, steep, and windy road? Check.

Snow!?

Whooo! We made it in one piece, muffler still intact.

The Kennecott Copper Mine. Part of the world's largest man-made excavation.

Just how big is the pit? 3/4 of a mile deep. That dark blob in the lower right corner of the last picture is a several story tall building.

The view from the top was pretty cool.

The idiot tourist, in the fading light of the setting sun.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Off-Roading

Last night I went out to dinner with one of my co-workers here in Salt Lake City, before we had to return for some scheduled work later that evening. While we were talking about things to do and see, he mentioned that I should drive up and check out the Kennecott Copper Mine. Except not through the visitor’s center, where you would normally go. Instead, he suggested taking a mostly-paved road up Butterfield Canyon that eventually wound its way to the top of the mountain where you could look down on the largest man-made excavation in the world (so large you can see it from space). He drew me a rough map, and sent me on my way.

By the time I left work, changed clothes and headed out, it was around 7pm. That seemed sort of pushing it to get 28 miles out of town, drive up a more-or-less paved road, and check out a huge hole in the ground before it was too dark to see anything. But, I didn’t have anything better to do, so I decided to go anyways.

Despite that several of the roads on the map had no names, and no real distances from anything, I was able to find my way out to the Wild Horse preserve without too much trouble. As I started getting further into the canyon, the road started getting steeper, rougher and narrower. But my trusty Ford Focus rental car was managing without any trouble.

Then the road started getting somewhat less and less paved. This was expected, and even though eventually the road wasn’t paved, it was pretty packed down and reasonably smooth. Further along the road started getting rougher and rougher, and I started having visions of getting a flat tire and being stranded all alone way up this stupid mountain. But I persisted and continued my trek up the mountain.

When I reached the pass at the top, I was to turn off on a side road that would wind around the peaks and get me above the copper mine. Now, I use the term road loosely. It was more like a steep car-width path built on a collection of various sized rocks.

I started getting really nervous when I started driving through areas with sharp, jagged rocks the size of my head. And the road got steadily steeper, rougher and narrower. As things got worse, those visions of a flat tire also started including a broken-down car, which would have been a hundred times worse. The few cars I passed (going the other way) were all of the monster-truck variety, or Jeep Wranglers, all who waved to me while probably mentally going ‘Stupid Tourist’. This was looking like a worse and worse idea.

I contemplated turning back at least 2 times, but both times the road was so narrow and littered with boulders I wasn’t really sure how to do it without tumbling over the side of the road. So I drove further up the road looking for the next corner where I could more safely turn around. Each time the road would ever-so-slightly improve to the point where I just decided to push on.

At one point, I even passed a broken off muffler lying in the middle of the road, apparently broken off by going up a particularly rough section of road (which I avoided). Then, shortly after that, the snow started appearing. Luckily, it was sufficiently melted so that it only took up half the road and I could drive past if I hugged the side.

Eventually I safely made it to the top, and looked down on…a big hole in the ground. Yep, it was big, and copper colored. And yeah, I knew in my head that it used to be a mountain, which had now been reduced to a big, fat, ridged hole in the ground. But still, it was just a hole.

Okay, I am exaggerating a bit; it was actually kind of cool to see. And the view from the peak was pretty impressive, as was being able to lean over the edge and look down an entire mountain plus 3/4 of a mile of hole (somewhat disconcerting though for someone who doesn’t like heights, while the wind whipped at my back).

By that point it was getting pretty late, and the ride back down the rock strewn path was pretty much as nerve-wracking as the ride up, so when I got back to the pass I decided to forgo part two of my mapped out trip which was to continue over the mountain to some town and come back on the far side of the mountains, back to the Great Salt Lake. Instead I settled for the known quantity and went back the way I came.

Today at work, I was relaying my tale of adventure and excitement to the other people at the office, and they were like ‘He sent you where?! In a Ford Focus? By yourself?’ ‘Of all the things to see in Salt Lake City, he sent you up an unpaved road to the mine? That is stupid.’.

When I talked to my co-worker today to tell him the story about the trek, he said 'So, where do you want to go tonight, I'll draw you a map'. I replied 'I think I'm done with the unpaved roads. It's nothing but highways for me, from here on out.'

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Pigs Fly

After years of making snide remarks about each other in the media, suing each other over the use of the band name, claiming to be 'sick' as an excuse for missing the induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and just generally not getting along, Roger Waters and David Gilmour finally made up.

Pink Floyd is reuniting at Live 8, the next Live Aid concert.

I was legitimately shocked when I saw the article, because up to just a few months ago people were still giving interviews about what bums the other guy was. I guess time )twenty-two years in this case) can heal anything.

Too bad I don't live in England.

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Bad Luck

This week is both Linzy and my anniversary and my birthday. Originally we had planned to make a day trip to a nearby scenic town, have a fancy dinner, etc. Then work decided I needed to travel to Salt Lake City.

My 'choices' were traveling the day after Memorial day for that short week, or traveling this week and screwing up all our plans. I actually found out about the trip just a day or two before Memorial Day weekend so tickets to travel the next Tuesday were ridiculously expensive, we already had some plans for that week and it just seemed dumb to go all the way out there for two partial days and two full days.

So we decided instead to be flexible and change our plans. I would travel this week, and instead of doing something around Minnesota for our anniversary, Linzy would fly out to Salt Lake City on Thursday and we would stay over that weekend. Linzy has never seen the Rockies (or any mountains), and neither of us has been to SLC, so it sounded like fun. Until last Monday when Linzy herniated two disks in her back.

Now, our plans are basically in shambles.

Linzy can't travel obviously, leaving a $330 plane ticket collecting dust. She'll have to suffer more-or-less alone all week while I am stuck in Salt Lake City for the week and the following weekend (when I'll only want to be back here). Plus I won't be able to be there for the Tuesday appointment with the specialist to find out if Linzy will need more back surgery (she had a discectomy 2.5 years ago). And any surgery they do decide on will have to be delayed until the following week when I am back, leaving Linzy in pain for a whole additional week.

Oh, and it is finals week for Linzy this week, so she had to be a trooper a few days last week and attend classes where the instructor was a jerk and insisted that she would lose points if she didn't come to class despite the fact that sitting caused her severe pain. And she'll have to go to at least a few more classes to take the finals. Oh, and the next quarter (which was to be the last) will have to be delayed, so at best Linzy will finish school in December instead of September (at a higher tuition rate).

I'm trying to be accepting of the fact that the for whatever reason the universe decided to fart in our general direction and recognize there is nothing I can do about it. But it still makes me angry. So it's probably better for you that I'll be gone for a week, so you don't have to read seething rants day-after-day.

Luckily we live close to my parents, and they are nice enough to volunteer to bring Linzy some meals and offer some company. And if I am reading Delta's site correctly, it looks like we can pay $50 and redeem an unused non-refundable ticket towards another ticket in the next year. So maybe when this is all over we will take a longer trip to somewhere more fun then Salt Lake City.

BTW, not that I am keeping score, but this is the second of two wedding anniversaries that my work has had a hand in screwing up. Last year I spent the entire evening on the phone with Microsoft support helping them debug our IA64 file descriptor problem because someone higher up decided it was a 'Severity 1' problem that needed to be worked 7x24.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

That One Looks Different

For the last few weeks I've been inadvertently running an experiment in human nature at work. You see, on a Friday afternoon about three weeks ago, one of the Unix System Administrators at work wanted me to help her investigate a problem they were having. When she came up to my cube she brought a peppermint hard candy with, for me.

I happen to have a jar of peppermints sitting on my desk for visitors to my cube, so she was like "Oh you already have a bunch. I'll just put this one in the jar." Thus the new peppermint was now sitting on the top of the jar, looking ever so slightly different from the rest of the peppermints in the jar (different manufacturer I suppose).

And there it sits as of today.

Now, I've refilled the jar a number of times as it has gotten empty. Each time people taking mints purposely avoided the different mint to take one that looks the same as the majority. Eventually the only mint remaining is the gift mint, and I have to refill.

Why no one will take the different looking mint I don't know. A wide variety of people come and take mints periodically, so it is not like just one person has something against slightly more red peppermint candies. Once we are down to only one or two mints remaining, there isn't even anything to compare the gift mint to, to identify it as 'different', but still it is avoided.

Very strange I thought, but interesting.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Bargain DVDs

When did DVDs get so cheap?

I've been making lots of trips to Target lately to pick up various things we need, and I'm continually surprised by the number and variety of under $10 DVDs they have. It's not just a few titles, but a significant portion of their selection.

Just yesterday I picked up The Mummy and Pitch Black as a gift for Linzy, for a mere $17.50. I don't recall which was $10 and which was $7.50, but I thought it was a pretty good deal regardless. Especially since they weren't even crappy full-screen versions, or some crazy censored Wal-Mart cut.

My mental price range for DVDs was still $15 on sale, $20 regular price. I'm more then happy to revise that downwards to $10 and $15.

The only bad thing is that TV series boxsets aren't following suit quite as quickly. The Sopranos sets were still $60-$70 which is way too steep for a mere 13 episodes (especially episodes I already have recorded).

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Seared to Perfection

When I was over at my parent's house on Sunday I was flipping through my Dad's latest Consumer Reports magazine. It was filled with the usual outdated electronics reviews, reviews of various household appliances, and also a review of some light-duty trucks.

My dad pointed out the review of the Chevy Colorado. It was scathing in a way that is normally reserved for forum posts on the Internet.

At the top of the review they have a quick list of pluses and minuses. The plus for the Colorado was 'Moderately Sized'. The minuses were something like 'Ride, Acceleration, Turning Radius, Fit & Finish, Reliability, Seat Comfort'. Also one of the sections of the review was titled "The little engine that couldn't".

The best thing they could say about the vehicle was that it was moderately sized?! And then they put as minuses pretty much everything else that makes up a vehicle? Ouch.

Not surprisingly the Colorado was the lowest rated light-duty pickup out of all that Consumer Reports has ever reviewed (although not by as much as you might think). The highest-rated truck was the brand-new Honda Ridgeline, which already had a predicted reliability of 'better-then average' versus the Colrado's 'significantly worse then average'.

Granted they are targeted towards different markets (the Ridgeline starts at 27,700 versus 15,780 for the Colorado), but I still think I would still be embarrassed if I was a Colorado designer.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mohawks

Way back in High School when I worked at Best Buy a decree came down from upon high that a new dress code was to be abided by. This dress code included things that were already required, like khaki pants and overpriced Best Buy polo shirts, etc. It also required all employees to wear black shoes. Completely black shoes. Black shoes without even a speck of white.

I have wide feet and had a rather tight budget back then. Do you know how impossible it is to find cheap all-black shoes in triple or quadruple E widths? I eventually gave up on finding compliant shoes and tried 'forgetting' about the all-black shoes requirement. That lasted about a week before I got pulled aside and reminded how serious they were about the new dress code.

That sort of backfired on them, since my solution at the time was to color in the white swoops on my black Nikes with a magic marker. That looked just as bad as you can probably imagine, and certainly looked worse then having a little white on my shoes. But that's what you got for trying to tell a high-school aged Steve what to do.

Anyways, I was in Target this afternoon and noticed not one but two employees sporting mohawks.

Apparently retail dress codes aren't what they used to be.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Dishwasher Part 2 & 3

Several weeks ago, I complained about the unwillingness of my dishwasher repairperson to actually investigate problems. Instead he gave rather vague, hand-waving answers to what the problem was, and went on his way. Not surprisingly, the problem didn’t magically go away, so I made a follow-up appointment for last Wednesday.

This time it was a different repair person, and I filled him in on the problem (water collecting on the bottom of the dishwasher when it wasn’t running) and my theory that the problem was a leaky water inlet valve.

This guy skipped the official ‘shine a flashlight under the dishwasher’ inspection, instead jumping right in and saying the problem must be the ‘catch’ valve in the bottom of the dishwasher that prevents the waste hose from draining back into the dishwasher. Five minutes later he had replaced a $0.50 rubber part and was on his way out the door with promises that this fixed the problem in 95% of the cases.

Never mind the fact that the water collecting in the bottom was significantly more, volume-wise, then what the waste hose contains. Just ignore the fact that the water would steadily collect day after day, where as the waste hose water would be pretty much a one-time issue. Forget, for now, that the ever increasing supply of water was perfectly clean in appearance; where as the waste water is probably sudsy and/or dirty looking. This will fix the problem, really.

Okay, so that didn’t fix the problem.

I was completely unsurprised the next morning when I woke up and water was still collecting in the bottom of the dishwasher. This being my third call to Sears for an issue that I could diagnose myself, my patience was wearing pretty thin. After some ‘discussion’, they scheduled a follow-up appointment the next morning.

On Friday morning, the same repairman who had been out two days earlier to replace the catch valve and ignore my input returned. This time he took one look inside the dishwasher and said (I quote):

Ahh, yep, the water is still collecting.

Oh yeah, look at that. Water is dripping out of the fill valve, you can see it right there. Yep, there it goes again.


What?! 15 seconds of actually looking for the problem could have reduced three trips into one? It was ridiculous. Why didn’t the first guy notice the leaking water? Why didn’t the second guy notice the fact that water was dripping on his hand from inside the tub, while he replaced the catch valve.

I was somewhat upset. Okay, actually I was pretty upset. It would have been one thing to have the guy come back the third time and say:

Well sorry about that, I really thought the catch valve would fix the problem. I guess the only other thing it could be is the water inlet valve. You were right, we’ll replace it and that should take care of the problem. Sorry about the problems.


Instead he said (or at least what I heard):

That catch valve was easy to replace and cheap. The water inlet valve is expensive. We don’t care about you, or your time, so we won’t bother to do any investigation into your problem. We prefer to just take wild-ass guesses until eventually we stumble across the solution.

Oh, and you’re an idiot, don’t try to suggest what the problem might be, we don’t care what you think. Loser.


Despite the insults, the repairman replaced the water inlet valve, which actually requires a whole pump assembly to be changed. It still didn’t take very long, but the part certainly cost a lot more then replacing a rubber valve in the bottom of the dishwasher.

The good part of the whole ordeal is that we don’t have water slowly collecting in the bottom of the dishwasher anymore, and that is all I really wanted in the first place.

It just took several weeks and many more appointments then I thought would be necessary.

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Red Tie

I thought it was my turn to wear the red tie.



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