Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I want one

Pretty damn cool: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/projects/wii/

Shows how to use a wiimote for a virtual moving desktop, an interactive whiteboard and more.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Things to pack part 1 and random other things

I did a lot of research before my recent Europe backpacking adventure, especially considering it was my first big trip. Everyone has their own opinions on what to bring, but generally if they spend the time to write it down they only talk about the big things. Even when people discuss the nifty little things that will save your life, you don't listen or don't process the information because you get so caught up in what sort of pack or jacket you are going to bring. Well, at least I did.

So since I'm such an upstanding sort I figured I'd list the smaller, seemingly more insignificant things I brought that I really came to appreciate and often still carry around now that I'm back home. Keep in mind these are things I recommend you bring if you're living out of a bag, not necessarily if you're hotel hopping or heading off for a nice weekend.

1) A lanyard. Hitchhiker's Guide preached the towel, I preach the lanyard. I won't lie, it's not the most useful thing you'll bring, but I at least didn't appreciate the value of a lanyard. I generally used it to keep track of keys, as it was designed for. Considering my life is locked up with a padlock, I valued the key, and when you're living on a very low budget, lost key charges will kill you (especially when you go out drinking on a nightly basis and things tend to get misplaced). Of course the value goes oh so much further. They're particularly great for securing things to your person in countries known for pickpocketing, whether it be a wallet or a camera. Then there are the more obvious uses for what is basically a piece of string. Could you actually use a piece of string for this? Yeah, but it's not as sexy. I'd like to think my Whistler/Blackcomb lanyard didn't make me look as ghetto as a piece of string around my neck.

2) Tide pen. Pretty simple really, traveling you have a limited wardrobe and are pretty likely to wear things a few times before they get washed. A tide pen will help you stay clean, especially in Europe where it either costs you up $7-10 per load or the countries don't even have laundry and you have to rely on a cheap hostel's laundry service.

3) A padlock. Something you should have, and if you don't you'll end up buying one pretty quick. You'd think it would be an obvious thing to bring but there were a surprising number of people without them. Worth the money to invest in a good one, but keep it as nondescript as possible. The fancy lock is probably locking something equally if not more fancy.

More to continue when I can think of them...


As for my daily stupidity? I pulled the center console out of my truck to see how much room I have to update my stereo system and install my CB there. Unfortunately I accidentally disconnected my driver heated-seat switch and the lights for the left half of the console. Poo.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Trail


To get to Red Mountain, as I've talked about before, you've got to pass through the town of Trail, BC. Trail is a pretty interesting town; whereas most of this region is comprised of quaint mountain towns or farm communities, Trail is quite clearly an industrial town. On driving in the first thing you notice is the ginormous Lead/Zinc smelting factory built up on a pedestal of slag from a lead mine. Despite all the snow, the Columbia river, and the cute little buildings, it really reminded me of an Eastern European city from my recent trip. I was asking my relatives who have lived in the area for a while about it, and they said that up until recently nothing at all would grow in a 20 mile or so radius. Even today there isn't a whole lot of growth in the valley and everything looks sort of dead. Apparently they did a study on children growing up in the town and found they had a higher than usual lead count.

Oh, and while doing some quick research for this post on my favorite site, Wikipedia, I found out that as part of Canada's contribution to the Manhattan Project they stuck a Heavy Water plant in Trail. Kind of scary.

More skiing and gear woes


Never got around to posting this last weekend, so I'll stop procrastinating and do it now.

Last weekend was the last in which my cousin was in town before he had to head back to school so we went up for a couple days of skiing. On Friday Red Mountain had their annual free day so of course we had to head up for that. My bosses were nice enough to give me the day off work to go up, but I rather attribute that more to one of them being my Uncle and the other skipping work as well to do the same as I :). I've never been to Red before so it was a great chance to try out a new mountain. The mountain itself is quite nice, a good combination of modern ski lifts while still offering the old crappy ones for the harder terrain that keeps all the beginners away. It wasn't however a very nice day to go skiing. It had warmed up for the last few days so the snow itself was pretty heavy. Morning conditions weren't bad and we got a few good powderish runs in through the trees. However as the day wore on the weather turned to shit (sleet!) and after our first post-lunch run we decided that we were too soaking wet to keep going and headed home.

On Sunday we headed down to Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho. I had been to Schweitzer once before when I was younger and was looking forward to going back. It's a much more modern mountain than those in the Kootenays where I live, featuring the only 6 person chair I've ever been on. Weather was much nicer than Red, though it was pretty socked in up top (which I hear is the usual for Schweitzer). The snow was pretty heavy though, so after doing some tree runs in the morning I headed over to do a few groomers after lunch which happened to be where I had my major spill of the day, and right under the chairlift to boot.

What I haven't really mentioned yet is that I've got some ongoing problems with my gear that have put a dampener on the last few days skiing. First one of my bindings isn't set right so I'll step out of my ski mid turn at least a couple times a day. This hasn't been a big problem so far this year as I've almost always been skiing powder when it happens so even when my falls are spectacular they are in soft snow. However the bindings are the reason I had my nice fall on Schweitzer ultimately causing a nice faceplant and skidding down the hill about 30 yards. Of course this keeps happening because I'm simply too bloody lazy to fix the problem. All this requires is spending 10 minutes in the shop adjusting my bindings.

The other problem I've been having is with my boots. I've got weird shaped feet and for the last ten years or so have never been comfortable wearing ski boots. Generally "not comfortable" means my feet burning to the point where it hurts to stand and I want to rip them off. About 3 years ago I decided I'd had enough and went to a great little shop in Vancouver called Snowcovers. These guys do custom boot work and came very highly recommended by everyone I know that has been to them. Generally they'd fit you boots that match your weight and size, but I'd bought a new pair of boots the year before from Comor, a store that I'll never go back to for anything I need advice on again, that turned out to not be strong enough for my weight. They were pretty good about it though and did a lot of work putting screws through the back to stiffen them up, plane the bottom to make me stand straight, and punching them out to accommodate my ogre width feet. The last bit was the problem though. Know when you go to the eye doctor and he keeps flipping the lenses asking which one is better but you don't really know because they're almost the same but are actually pretty different? Well thats kind of the same thing and I ended up getting them to punch out the heel too much, something that you can't undo. ANYWAY, what that all means is that now I have way too much movement in my boots, a great way to break your ankle and something that makes skiing quite challenging. Usually to compensate I wear a second pair of thick socks, but the toe of my boot is the right width so that generally means either my heel moves or my toes don't have circulation. Bottom line is I'll be dropping another wad of money into new boots for next season as these make baby jesus cry.

Anyhow, won't make it up to the mountain this weekend but I'm going to try for next given good snow conditions. I'd like to try Fernie mountain which I've heard great things about but have never actually been to.

Digging a hole

Note: Copied the text over from a pathfinder forum, hence some of the references.

Forgive the lack of pathfinder pictures, I was more worried about digging at the time and all the latter pictures don't include my pathy as it was happily sitting on the road in the background. Guess it's a testament to the pathfinder that I managed to get it out with good old muscle while the GMC ended up needing a tow from a tractor.

I went for a burn around under the power lines on my way to my Grampas house today and got my truck dug in deep. I didn't take many pictures since I was busy digging, whole thing took about 3 hours.


Up to the bumper with a few inches packed under the tires. This is before I spent half an hour on my own digging and another half hour later on.


Ended up walking to my Grampas house to ask him to help me. His truck ended up getting stuck about 10 feet from mine while he was trying to turn around.


Victory! A lot of digging and a few minutes of rolling my truck back and forward got it out.


GMC still dug in, went back to get the tractor.



Huzzah.


Final damage.


In hindsight it was real stupid to be rolling on my own, but a week of desk work and half an hour of doughnuts and driving up sand piles in a quarry got the better of me. Guess now it's an excuse to invest in a lift and bigger tires smile.gif