Saturday, September 11, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

I'm pretty tired tonight...kinda numb. I spent a good portion of the last two days futzing with computers. Not recreational futzing mind you, but the "hope you can recover from this" futzing.

In the past month, my new dream machine started acting up. The previously faithful quiet Super Computer that I took delivery of in March was acting like it had a "bug". First it was the fans...even when it got to 80°F in my room at the Ancestral Digs the fans rarely came on, and then only for a minute or two. In the past couple of weeks the fans started running a lot more...and for a lot longer. Then the machine started rebooting without provocation from me. I was seeing the "Blue Screen of Death" on a laptop that's barely six months new. I never saw the BSOD in the six-plus years I ran the old laptop.

I started paying extra attention to every little thing I did on the laptop, trying to keep the workload down to a dull roar. I became hyper-vigilant...Anything to avoid the crash-avoidance blue screen bummer.

I ran all the scans...Antivirus, Spyware, Windows Updates. Results: Negative. I kept a bare minimum of tabs open in Firefox...still the crashes and recoveries came more often. Today the machine said Enough! and I had to go back to a restore point and start over.

It worked. The little Dell is purring along again like nothing ever my eternal relief!

Earlier in the week, I offered to "do the maintenance" on SturgeUrge's desktop, and I've been grinding out that chore a few hours every afternoon. That's like pulling teeth because it's an "Entry Level" desktop running Windows Vista with a Celeron D and only 512Mb of RAM. OK...I'm spoiled by my Dell running the i7 Quad Core CPU and 8Gb of RAM!

Somehow there are almost 60 programs that load on startup, so it takes a good 20 minutes to boot up...or restart like I have to do every time I remove some unused or unnecessary program. Three restarts is a solid hour. I can't tell you how smug I feel because I waited for Windows 7 to be released and de-bugged for six months in the wild before I sprung for the new Dell! I totally understand why business never bought Vista. Windows 7 is an upgrade from my beloved Windows XP.

Resting Up
So, after a hard day slaving over hot silicon, I retired to the easy chair and fired up the DVR. I watched the Friday afternoon Formula One practice from Monza, Italy before I grilled dinner on the BBQ.

After dinner, I settled into the Giants vs San Diego Padres game from San Diego. A fine pitching duel unfolded before a crowd that was at least 20% Giants' Fans. A lot of orange wearing baseball nuts were enjoying a fine evening of September Baseball, which is to say a Pennant Race!

The Giants won 1-0 and moved into a tie with San Diego for the NL West lead. Game on. I haven't enjoyed September Baseball this much since 1962!

The laptop performed flawlessly through the whole game, and through the Post-Game and some CableNews I tuned into after the baseball coverage ended.

This was part of the problem...I began seeing a lot of tweets from folks on the East Coast. 9/11 Memorial Tweets of the Never Forget/Pray For... variety. I didn't need this tonight. I was already tired.

I won't pontificate. Say a prayer as necessary. We're Americans...we'll keep moving. Game on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ski Season is Open! Who Knew?

Paradise Found?
I was reading PlanetSki while passing the time before the first pitch of Thursday Evening's Giants vs Padres game. The headline caught my eye: "First Resort in the Alps Opens" It turns out that there's some hairs being split in order to claim "First" say nothing of the parsing of the word "Open"...

The article reminds the reader that Switzerland's "Zermatt boasts of being open 365 days a year and only closes when the weather closes in." Over in France, "Tignes has just closed for summer skiing but re-opens within the next two weeks."

The resort opening Friday is Slöden, high in Austria's Tyrol and is the site of the first World Cup Ski Race each Fall. This year the FIS racers wax 'em up for October 22nd-24th. Friday, just four of Solden's 34 lifts will open for skiing 9:30AM to 3:30PM.

I noticed yesterday @borealmtn was tweeting temp and snowmaking hopes. He said they want to fire up their snowmaking guns in September. On KCRA3's Noon News Thursday, the weathergal said the weather in Sacramento was more like late October than early September.

You can count on Boreal to open no later than Halloween every year...even if they open for just Halloween. I suspect that given enough nights with snowmaking temps, and a forecast for continued cold, Boreal might find themselves with Halloween competition this Fall...that would be a first, that strangely would be right in line with all the weather strangeness we've been living with all year.

September Baseball
Well, the San Francisco Giants got off to a fine start against the San Diego Padres down in SoCal. The first Giant up to bat got a triple...and scored before the 1st inning was over.

In the 3rd inning, the Giants extended their lead to 3-1. That's about the time I noticed a swarm of tweets citing a plane crash beneath the San Francisco Airport's flight path. Intrigued, I clicked the TV to KPIX5 between innings.

It was a scene out of Dante's Inferno. In fact it wasn't a downed aircraft, it was a ruptured 24 inch High Pressure Natural Gas Line that may have been "nicked" by a backhoe digging on a waterline project. The resulting explosion and fire storm made for riveting television that held my gaze so I missed a couple of more Giants Home Runs.

The Giants prevailed 7-3 and I'm still watching the San Bruno Fire coverage as the clock strikes midnight. The explosion happened at 6:15PM...I started tuning in about 7:30PM. PG&E got the Gas Main shut off by about 8PM. The firestorm ended when the fuel was shut off. There's still fires throughout the neighborhood. These are small individual gas lines in burned out homes that are safer to let burn until daylight.

The News is reporting 53 homes destroyed, and another 120 damaged. I just saw footage of the blast crater. it fills a whole intersection. 50 feet across, easy. What a mess. Three reported fatalities, and the very American scene of civilians pouring into evacuation centers carrying bottled water, blankets, toilet paper, snacks, pizzas, and stuffed animals to donate to displaced residents. Volunteers outnumber victims by 4:1. Pulling's what we do.

The scene at first light is going to be stunning. I'll be up for a while tonight.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Raining All Over

Well...technically not all over...widely scattered is more to the point. There is some rain in the North State. Wednesday evening I heard from Chico Dupre: "Storm burst! The real deal in Chico just now. A true deluge of biblical proportions introduced by an enormous thunderclap. Un-freaking believable."

Sister Sweetly called out her rain and wind in Humboldt County. KCRA3's 11 O'clock News talked about the rain in the Big Valley and over the Foothills and the Sierra.

Here in the Inland Valley, it seemed like it wanted to start raining any minute...all day long.

Reno's ABC Afilliate, KOLO8 streams their 11 O'clock News, and they were talking about the cold, blustery conditions. I tuned in too late to hear their weathercast, so I didn't actually gaze upon their radar images.

Reno's AFD calls a snow level of 7500ft, but adds there's not enough moisture to make actual precipitation once the temps drop after the front passes.

I looked at the webcams just before sundown. Lots of clouds and fog, but no actual rain or snow.

They say that's all for a while. Good!

I hope it doesn't snow at the Reno Air Races next week! I've been going since 1982, and I've only seen it snow once...flurries really, it was freakin' cold that year...the approaching squall line actually pushed events ahead of schedule! That was the only time I've ever seen the events run ahead of schedule!

SturgeUrge and I talked about getting a Trout Fishing Trip in, combined with the Air Races. Could be epic...will be fun. Weather permitting...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another Round of Red Flag Warnings

I was minding my own business Labor Day when this showed up in @CorduroyPlanet's Twitter Feed. The Reno newspaper's story of the Reno NWS issuing Red Flag Fire Warnings for Tuesday afternoon, noon to 8PM.

A quick look at Reno's AFD assured me that there's no lightning forecast to accompany the approaching Winter-Style Low that triggered the warnings. Serious winds over the Sierra Front combined with the very dry air pulled the Red Flag tripwire. Humidity will recover with the passing of the front.

The SFO/Monterey AFD cited the Winter-Style front too. All across the West it's a winter-Style pattern this week with temperatures dropping some 20°F overnight. Some precipitation will fall, though the NWS isn't talking deluge.

It seems like every interest I enjoy is caught by this Summer's cool regime. I've been seeing lots of Green Tomato stories and recipes on the Food and Garden Blogs I read. Early Snow news from across the Northern Hemisphere, a record cold Winter in South America, and chilly SSTs around the world. Even the waters around the Tip of Baja are running cool this year.

I found the weather to be absolutely Autumnal Tuesday. Crisp was the adjective that best described my world. I finished another part of the Diggins' irrigation...without much sweat.

Next week I'll be at the Reno National Championship Air Races. That's the weekend that I traditionally see the Autumnal Light for the first time near the end of every Summer. It's my undeniable marker that Fall is at hand, and Winter is coming on fast. I start thinking about venturing my educated guess on what kind of Winter we're in for.

There's no telling this year. The only discernible weather trend this year has been cooling. In the 21st Century that means Snowmaking will be a "GO for Throttle Up" November 1st. This probably means chairlifts will turn before Thanksgiving, though I'd venture that my Mountain will open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only until Thanksgiving Weekend.

I'm not looking forward to that. Opening early on Man-Made Snow is very expensive, and there's no more fickle clients than early season skiers and boarders. The Brass from the Front Office are likely to have hair triggers when cash is flowing out of our accounts faster than it's flowing in. As with the larger economy, I suspect that the cash will be sitting on the sidelines until there's good conditions to play in. These are the times when working the Graveyard Shift is a Godsend.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Around The World in 70 Centimeters

I spent a lazy evening after a hard day of fishing on San Francisco Bay. SturgeUrge and I returned to the Richmond Marina where we'd encountered the Finn Gold Club last week. Saturday was our last shot for the season to catch a King Salmon, and the forecast and the tides were in our favor.

I checked the local buoys online at 0700 and the data said Normal...the forecast, Normal. We're all systems GO.

I unpacked my digital camera from my tackle bag and the waterproof Pelican Case so I could capture a picture of the top of the boat ramp follies with a minimum of muss and fuss. Saturday was the final day of racing the Finn Class sailboats. The World Champion would be decided on San Francisco Bay Saturday afternoon.

To my dual delight and disappointment, there was no forest of Finn Dollies cluttering the ramp (and making a great photo op) We launched the boat, deployed the coffee and cheese danish, and motored out onto the Bay.

It was a glorious day on San Francisco Bay even though the Salmon didn't come out to play...or the Halibut. Still the wind was moderate, the tides favorable, and the overcast burned off around noon, revealing a glorious day. We couldn't see the Finns contesting the Gold Cup, but we were treated to a picturesque Club Race featuring forty or more 20-something foot long sloops sailing downwind with their colorful spinnakers full.

When we returned to the Marina, there was little sign of the Finns themselves. The Gold Cup World Champion had been decided about two hours before we returned to the ramp to recover the boat.

There was a new class of clutter jamming up the works now...all the Regatta Support Boats were pulling out of the water after spending the week afloat. Judges' and Referees' Boats, Tenders, all manor of Zodaics, Boston Whalers, RIB Inflatables, Antique Yachts and Yacht Club Flagships were tied up at the ramp's docks, sitting on trailers all over the tiny bit of unused parking at the top of the ramp, getting washed down, power washed, and secured for towing...all by men seemingly oblivious to everyone else around them.

SturgeUrge backed the tow rig down "our lane" of the ramp, and I floated the boat onto the trailer. As we were pulling the boat up the ramp on our way to the Washdown Station, Urge said: "Watch me run over a $1000 Finn Mast"..."Umm, I replied, that's probably a bag with five $1000 masts in it!"

The Mast Bag was laying across the lane between the ramp and the Washdown Station...the "Main Drag"! As we drove by the bag, the fellow washing his boat (not at the Washdown Station) kinda glared at us for driving so close to "his" mast bag...

We made quick work of unloading the boat, washing the rods and reels, the boat and the trailer, as we chatted up the guy doing the same in the other washdown lane. We flushed the outboard while we ran the carburetors out of fuel mix. When we were done, I strode back towards the ramp to change into my shorts in one of the dozen or so PortaPotties set up for the event. That's when I watched GlaringBoatWashing Guy pull away and out of the Marina...the Mast Bag was still laying there, obviously not his! Still begging to be run over...right in the middle of the whole show...

Once we got the boat parked in it's spot at the SturgeUrge Compound, we unloaded the tow rig and KirkVallus sauntered in, back from a reunion get together downtown. We had a Dark&Stormy Cocktail on the deck, and caught up for a half an hour.

Back at the Ancestral Digs, my Sister K was in town and was holding dinner until I arrived. We enjoyed gnocchi and converstion, and we all turned in early.

Sunday morning I woke up and brewed a pot of French Roast, and realized I hadn't blogged for Sunday publication. I looked around the internet for some "Wrap Up The Week" items.

I'd been wondering since I heard a radio news tease about the 7.1 Earthquake in New Zealand...did the quake cause any avalanches on New Zealand's Ski Slopes? New Zeasland Ski Reasorts have been on my radar since their season started this summer and I saw a news story of a lift tower failing under huge deposits of rime ice. I wrote about the event here.

So I looked at PlanetSki online (we PlanetWhatevers stick together) and yes...12 avalanches, no reported damage, and no injuries...the temblor occurred when most Kiwis were still in bed.

While reading the NZ Avalanche story, I saw another story citing  70cm of snowfall in the Alps. My handy online Unit Converter says: 70 centimeter = 27.559055118 inches, so for my American Readers...27 1/2 inches of snow fell in the Alps...more "Early Snow"

I'm seeing lots of "Early Snow" stories this summer...that's right, it's still summertime.

On the Atlantic Hurricane Front, there's a lot of Post-Earl hub-bub over the lack of "performance" by Hurricane Earl. Resort operators across the Eastern Seaboard's Hurricane Earl Watch & Warning Areas are pretty upset with the National Hurricane Center's forecasts, and they're plenty angry with the 24/7 Cable News Channels for hyping the hurricane to the degree that the Holiday Weekend Travel Bonanza was denied the tourism sector who, at worst suffered a few hours of heavy rain while their customers were scared off by the media's over the top hurricane hype.

Ongoing hurricane coverage is the ratings motherlode for the Cable News outfits during the otherwise slow Dog Days...hurricanes mean lot's of viewers checking in over and over again...with the Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the All-Time Summer CableNews Blockbuster at hand, there were plenty of high hopes for a repeat performance of the off that charts ratings bonanza.

I can feel their pain, High Sierra Ski Resorts often suffer at the hands of overzealous weather and news outlets over-hyping the weekend forecast. At My Mountain we stand to lose a quarter million dollars a day when Holiday Crowds avoid the mountains at the behest of an overheated forecast teased all week long heading into a holiday weekend. When the "difficult mountain travel for the Holiday" doesn't materialize, it costs us...big time. All things being equal, Ski Resorts tally all their profits on Holiday Weekends, and the Christmas Holidays...period, bottom line. To paraphrase the late Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirkson...a quarter million here, a quarter million there...pretty soon you're talking Real Money!