Thursday, December 27, 2001

At Snowshoe

We had a fun 3-day trip to Snowshoe. Winter came late this year, so we only got one day to ski. But we made our own fun, and it was a nice opportunity to "get away from it all." I figure it was the first vacation from work I took that didn't involve somebody's wedding, or bunking at somebody's house.

Snowshoe as a resort was not exactly ready for visitors. The person who checked us in needed help to do so, the staff told conflicting stories about the availability of night skiing, the snack bar person had to ask for help ringing people up, a waitress was unfamiliar with the menu, the ski instructor didn't know what to do with our lesson tickets, etc. Each thing was minor, but it added up to an overall impression. Also, you'd think the lack of snow would lead them to arrange more activities, but the new aquatic center did not open until the day we left, and the comedy club opened up right after Christmas.

The snow itself they didn't have much control over. (Well, except for the fact that they made it, but they couldn't start until the week of our visit due to unseasonable temperatures.) As a result, they only had one trail top to bottom. (And one at the Silver Creek area, which we should have visited, but didn't.) After a few runs on the very crowded bunny slope, we headed to the top-to-bottom trail. Unfortunately, it was icy and not all beginner (green) terrain. More unfortunately, all the idiots on the mountain were zooming down it. (Not strictly true: some guy in a Jaguars jacket backed into me while we were in the lift line on the easy slope. Later, we saw him fall over trying to walk in the snack bar door.)

Here's something I realized: most people zooming down the mountain weren't good skiers. They just didn't know how to stop.

After a 2nd discouraging run down the mountain, Christina and I decided we needed a lesson to bring our skills close to where they were last season. It was a pretty good two-hour long affair, but by the end we were exhausted. The night skiing question was moot. On my last run on the bunny slope, my goal was to exercise all my newly acquired technique, but I ended up as the recipient of a snowboard in the shin. So I skied the last half straight toward the lodge yelling, "Ow."

The two best things that Snowshoe did were Saturday night fireworks and dinner at the Junction. But the overall best thing about the trip was hanging out with friends and throwing our cares to the wind.

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Merry Christmas from Arizona

Merry Christmas from my parents' house outside of Tucson. We had a nice day. We opened lots of presents, then we had a nice dinner with my Aunt Pam and Uncle Bill. Earl and Claudia were over for a while.

My trip out wasn't too bad. I got to the general vicinity of BWI slightly more than 2 hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. The BWI parking radio station advised me that satellite parking was closed, and I was to head to the BWI rail station for "overflow parking". The roadside signs, by contrast, pointed me towards the Gold Lot. I chose the Gold Lot. Oops. Gold Lot closed. So I turned around, parked at the rail lot and took the shuttle to the terminal.

For this trip, I forsook United, my airline of choice, for the less expensive flight on Northwest. I consoled myself by using most of my remaining Northwest frequent flier miles to upgrade the outbound portion of my trip to first class. This seemed an even better idea after I heard the horror stories of long waits at BWI -- at least I would be able to get in the first class line. I needn't have worried. There was one person in the regular check-in line, and none in the first class line.

So I had 1.5 hours to wait for my flight. As I lined up to take advantage of early first class boarding privleges, I attracted the attention of a security screener who thought I was in line for an extra search. Upon discovering that I wasn't, she selected me for a "random" search. I can't complain about being singled out; I just hope they also perform searches on people they have to walk a bit farther to get to. I know I have a right to a same-sex frisker, but she explained he had "wandered off" to another airline. Whatever. I'm not sure which gender would be more invasive, but it was a mild frisk in any case.

So I boarded the flight not with the early first class boarding, but with everybody else. As I settled into my seat, I noticed there was some unusual amount of to-ing and fro-ing with one or more of the passengers, but didn't take much notice of it as I started to nod off. After we had pulled away from the gate, the captain announced that a passenger had been removed from the plane after she had gotten "contraband" past security and assured us that all of her luggage had been removed from the plane. OK...

The rest of the trip proceeded without incident, unless you consider taking 45 minutes to get my luggage an "incident". Both the flight out of BWI and the connecting flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix landed ahead of schedule. I used the flights to finish reading Fellowship of the Ring, in preparation for seeing the movie.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Random Task

Well, I'm back from West Virginia, and what has happened in my absence? Nothing much, except...what the? Somebody tried to blow up a transatlantic flight?

Am I the only one who thought, paraphrasing Austin Powers, "Who tries to blow up a shoe? Honestly! You fight like a woman!"

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Off to Snowshoe

Christina and I are heading off today to Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia where we'll meet up with my fellow Georgia alum Margaret and her husband Derrell. It's supposed to be the best ski resort in the Mid-Atlantic. Only...there's not a lot of snow this year. So the slopes aren't open yet. They project opening some very limited terrain on Saturday, so I guess we'll get to enjoy that. And Snowshoe is supposed to be a lot of fun off the slopes, too, so...we'll see.

I did get to do some skiing last Thursday at Afton Alps, which is supposed to be one of the better ski areas in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. They were also just getting into gear for the season, so it involved skiing over some barely covered grass at times, and through the snow-making equipment. Fortunately, it was a cheap experience. $15 got me a lift ticket, and another $15 procured rental equipment, with a free lesson thrown in. In keeping with their theme, the lesson was given by a 15-year-old.

No, I'm exaggerating. He wasn't that old. Still, I figured he could ski a lot better than me, and I tried to behave as I would have wanted someone to if I had taught them math at that age. He was a better teacher than I would have been, but then again I probably knew more about math at that age than he did about skiing, so let's call it a draw. His advice helped me get back into the swing of things for the season, and get the most out of the limited terrain -- let's face it, even with all the slopes open, the Twin Cities don't provide an excess of vertical distance to ski.

So as we head off, I ponder this story.

Federal authorities investigating anthrax attacks that have killed five people are examining the activities of a senior research scientist who was twice fired from a company that produces the deadly bacterium, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

Citing federal authorities, the network said the scientist, once employed at the Battelle Company, a secret anthrax-producing facility in Columbus, Ohio, made a threat to use anthrax in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Sounds promising, no? But somewhere out there Richard Jewell is saying, "Not so fast..."

Friday, December 07, 2001

Notes on the News

There are a few news stories that have caught my eye in recent days that I thought I'd say something about.

Americans Enjoying Balmy Weather

No I'm not. This AP article talks about this week's unseasonably warm temperatures. I'd just like to go on record as saying that what I dislike about winter isn't the cold temperatures (as long as my heat is working). It's the short days. The warm weather does nothing about that. I had hoped to offset the depressing sight of coming out of work to a darkened parking lot by the excitement of being able to go skiing. Not yet, at least.

September 11th Fund helps AIDS, arts groups

"A loan of $33,000 went to the Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness, a $25,000 loan to a modern dance group, Jennifer Muller, and a $6,000 grant for the arts group 3 Legged Dog."

"Another criticism of the fund is that it appears to be in no rush to give away the $337 million it has raised. To date it has given away $51 million, or 15 percent of what it raised.
The group said that it has no timetable for giving away the rest and that it will continue to evaluate requests and disburse the money based on what it sees as the needs of victims and their communities."
---CNN story

The "and their communities" part is a pretty big loophole, isn't it? Some of the victims were from my town; should we ask for a new playground set at the elementary school? I'm not saying that the money isn't going to worthy causes. Most, if not all, undoubtedly is. But when people gave money to this fund, I don't think that's where they expected it to go. To me, it's sort of sad, but you have to watch what charities, even the well-intentioned ones, do with your donations. Otherwise you may get a bad taste in your mouth at the end.

I got a little bit worried when they were collecting money and never gave an estimate of how much money they'd need. If there's "extra" money, I'd rather decide myself how to fund it. I thought about sending my tax "rebate" to Sept. 11th funds, but ended up splitting it between Habitat for Humanity and the DC Area Food Bank instead. I figure with the economic disruptions to the local tourist industry, they can use it.

Leaders of Divided Cyprus Move Toward a Settlement

That's cool. It sounds like the European Union is pushing the Greek and Turkish sides towards a settlement.
When I was there in '94, I bought a can of Coke, I decided I'd open up and drink when Cyprus was reunited. That's going to be one old Coke. Also, while my parents and I enjoyed seeing most of the south (Greek) part of the island, I decided there wasn't enough to see to merit a return trip...unless the north was opened. (You can take a separate trip there, but since nobody but Turkey recognizes the north as a separate country, that's a dodgy enterprise.)

There are a lot of obstacles to reunification. I'm not popping the tab on the Coke or booking flights just yet. But I'm glad to see they're making progress.

Ashcroft Defends Anti-Terrorism Steps

Hoo boy. What to say about Ashcroft's testimonty yesterday? When I first heard it, I felt it was outrageous enough to be included here for criticism. Fortunately, other people have already done so. I'll just quote them and add, "What a jerk."

"As someone who was actually prepared to listen to Attorney General John Ashcroft's defense of military tribunals and other security measures, I have to say that I was completely disgusted by his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday....the very worst of it was the way that the attorney general cast defenders of civil liberties as witting or unwitting traitors."
---Jacob Weisberg, Slate

Have some of Mr. Ashcroft's critics exaggerated the danger to liberty? Have they -- have we? -- been wrong in some judgments? You'd have to be awfully arrogant, or foolish, or both, to deny the possibility. But if American political history stands for one solitary point it is that democratic debate is good and makes the country stronger...Mr. Ashcroft may not like the criticism. But his job is to defend dissent, not to use the moral authority of his office to discourage people from participating in one of the most fundamental obligations of citizenship.
---The Washington Post

Thursday, December 06, 2001


I wish I had something more pleasant to post, but the big news is that Christina's apartment got broken into yesterday. Sigh. What a world we live in.

Monday, December 03, 2001

Sanctimonious Frauds

I know disliking and demonizing the other team is part and parcel of any good rivalry, and I certainly still smart from a Michigan loss or two to Notre Dame. But the puffery Notre Dame boosters engage in is particularly galling and makes them more insufferable than other bastions of evil.

So I allowed myself a little schadenfreude to hear about the firing of Bob Davie, their football coach, a few days after I heard him say,
``It's not true. I believe in Notre Dame and its integrity and honesty. It might happen somewhere else, but not here. It's the first time I've been confronted with it. That story is not true.''

Let me emphasize this. Notre Dame has no more "integrity and honesty" than any other college football program. The main thing that makes it have less (since Lou Holtz left, anyway) is the pretension that it has more.

Think Notre Dame has trouble because academics matter so much there? Here is how much it factored in the decision to fire Bob Davie:
The players posted the two highest semester grade-point averages the past two semesters of any other team since the school started keeping track in 1990, and the team was honored by the American Football Coaches Association for having a 100 percent graduation rate last year.
As the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey puts it:
Left to its own devices, the Irish Nation would ask for 4.0 grade-point averages and 4.3 speed, though not in that order, and on second thought, never mind the GPAs.

CR-V pictures

I posted some pictures of me with the CR-V that Christina took on Saturday for those of you who would like to see more detail than in the one above.