Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

2009 Utah Ski Trip

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

That's some deep powderFinally, time to write about the ski trip. Here is the quick story I’ve already told pretty much everyone:

The trip was excellent. It snowed maybe 10 inches the first day we were there, with some more the previous night. This, however, didn’t cause us any trouble with our flights. So the first day was cold, windy, and snow. But we were determined to ski anyways, and it wasn’t so bad. All the snow did make for excellent fresh power for the next two days, which were both clear and cold. On the fourth day it warmed up a bit to above 40, at least at the bottom of the mountain. Also, there may well have been places where we could find untracked powder on the fourth day, but I was far to tired to venture beyond the groomed stuff.

PaulSome extra tidbits and details:

  • We went to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain as per usual.
  • My bed was a nest constructed of two identical couches.
  • There was satellite Internet that stopped working about 12 hours into the trip due to 20 second power outage. Eventually we were told the router needed 15 minutes to reset – WTF?
  • I much prefer lunch at the base of snowbasin, which features stir-fry, to the top which features meat and potatoes.
  • Powder Mountain totally failed at lunch by tuning their cafeteria style lunch hall into an order and then have your name called system, which is far less efficient. But I think the food was better, mmmm sweet-potato-fries.

Cleveland 2009: The Rest of It

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The rest of my Cleveland trip was just as fun as the first afternoon. Lets call cover it in parts:

We're team 677. In the Center.
There is a lot to be said for being a spectator and not actually a member of the team. Although, most of it involves being able to skip out on most of the opening and awards ceremonies without setting a bad example. Although I later felt a little bad blogging through one I did go to, although; I did finish before Mr. King, Dublin FIRST teacher and mentor extraordinaire won the Woody Flowers award. As far as the rest of the competition results are concerned Dublin and Homeschool both lost in the semifinal round. That is, there was a 75% chance (ignoring skill) that one of OSU FIRST’s three teams would be in the finals and the other 25% happened. CSG came in 48th of 59 teams, but I have confidence they will do better in Torronto. I’ve told EC I’ll go to Atlanta for nationals if they team wins the chance. By told, I mean I said yes when she asked if I would.

Binary Note
Thursday before lunch one of the girls, Lauren, received a note in binary encoded ASCII from a boy on another team. The boy, had overheard how much she liked his teams button, which included something in binary on it; although, I never got a good enough look to figure out what it was beyond what appeared to be a 24 bit number with at least bits 0 and 23 set (meaning its not a team number). This reminded EC of the troubles we had a few years back with some girls who were at the competition primarily to flirt, but that was clearly not the motive here so we helped Lauren decode the message. Unfortunately we did have to call someone to look up what the values for ‘A’ and ‘a’ were. I remembered 65, but I forgot what base that was in, and well as if it was for ‘a’ or ‘A’. It said “Hey What’s up? I’m from team ” which was significantly more benign that we were expecting. Some girls from the boy’s team came and explained/apologized to our team, and Lauren, as far as I can tell refrained from humiliating the poor guy. Hey, at least his note got read; cause, yeah, that’s unlikely to happen even at the segway/geekfest that FIRST competitions are.

Good Answers
The Robot in the Pit
Josh and I visited the pit once on Friday afternoon. This is in stark contrast to our years on the team, when I lived in the pit, and even last year when we helped the girls do some real time debugging. We went down and found about 5 girls preparing to work on the robot, which had just finished it’s last match of the day, if I recall correctly. Josh and I corned a freshman, Ann, and started asking questions. The following is like how the conversation went:

Me: What’d you do on the robot?
Ann: Software, but for the JV robot
Me: Oh, how is the software for that robot different from this one?
Ann: They are the same
Me: How does that work?
Ann: They use the same mechanism and controls. We designed it that way.
Me: How do you deal with constants related to the motors themsevles or other bits that do vary from robot to robot?
Ann Well, we’ve actually got two copies of the software each with the different tweaks, but otherwise they’re the same.

I was impressed. I’m pretty sure that the robot controller doesn’t have a use accessible file system, so the only next best idea I could think of is impractical. So, not only is it a good design for something that is not actually a robot problem, but a meta problem caused by having two robots, but one of the freshmen was able to speak intelligently to the design and implementation.

Team Dinner and Nightlife
At the team dinner I sat near EC and three other freshmen girls from the team. These girls were huge Gilmore Girls fans; much larger than me. This served a good conversation starter, although; they did not like my answers to the standard questions. I think they are pretty good answers, I didn’t like theirs either. I guess its somewhat comforting that I’ve got a different outlook on it than they do. Moving on from that topic, it was a really fun dinner, and talking to the girls all night brought back at lot of the vibe I remember from being on the team. After dinner the mentors went out to a posh bowling ally/ bar on the same block. The previous night we’d bowled a few games there. I came in second until we had to finish the third game before they closed the lanes down in five minutes and things got sloppy. These reminded me of the great team parties we used to have, and complimented the vibe I had from dinner.

The Only Nice Block in Cleveland
My college room mate George, who loathes living in Toledo every day, came to see Josh and I in Cleveland for a three hour reprieve from looking outside and seeing Toledo. He made it just in time for the final match of the competition, which I’m sure made the trip more exciting. Afterwards we skipped out on the awards to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Jersey. We again went back to the one nice block of restaurants on 4th street for dinner. Before we left, I forgot to give EC back her phone charger, which had been left in our hotel room along with her chap stick, which was returned successfully. Over a text conversation during dinner we decided she’d simply have to come to Boston to get it back…

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I’m blogging from the Friday awards ceremony at the FIRST Buckey Regional, but when I arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday my first stop after the hotel was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is, of course, the only thing I thought there was to do in the city. Josh and I were surprised at how un-interactive the exhibits were. Most were simply clothes, cars, notes, posters, or records sitting in glass cases. Well, the cars were not in glass cases. It did have quite a lot of exhibits, but since we’re not very well versed in music many of them amounted to, “so who’s that?”

Afterwards we went out to dinner. We were surprised to find a pedestrian only street lined with all sorts of restaurants, Mexican, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Irish, American. We gave the Mediterranean one a try. It was called La Strada. We started with a free fried eggplant appetizer because they were out of the one we actually wanted. I had a chicken and cuscus dinner. Everything we had there was excellent. However, after dinner they kept offering us all sorts of things. Desert, coffee, complimentary fruit, then later tea, and a wet hand cloth. It was a little too much, made me feel sort of bad that all I wanted to do was pay and leave. Actually, I didn’t have to pay because Josh owed me a dinner since the Red Sox & Yankees tied the season series last summer at 9 games apiece (we decided due to extenuating circumstances that I would win ties).

Cranmore and Saddleback

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This post is about my two (so far) local ski trips this winter.


On January 24th Mary and I drove to North Conway, NH to give Cranmore a try. We mostly went because it would be cheap. That day they were running a deal where driver’s of hybrid cars get free lift tickets. Oddly, since passengers of hybrids didn’t get free lift tickets it actually discourages carpooling, which, given the distance, makes a larger environmental impact than the hybrid. For the curious, they asked to see the car’s registration to prove it is a hybrid; note that my registration doesn’t have any indication of such a status, but they were not concerned. It also came recommended by Kelly, who skied there frequently in her youth.

I was disappointed with the runs there. The vertical was 1200 feet, which seems respectable, and they had some nice lifts to keep the lines moving, but we took our warm up run on a blue and diverted to a black. We mostly diverted to get away from the crowd, but it was not difficult at all. The conditions were pretty good. It was clean and ~25 degrees out, but there was a howling wind, that was blowing snow up the mountain. This was not a problem as far as seeing, but it did manage to keep the slopes well groomed, as any tacks you made were covered back up by the snow you loosed. It was fun to spend all afternoon (we skied from 11:30-4pm) speeding down the relatively tame runs, but we did manage to do just about every black and blue there in that time frame. In short, it was a fun time, and it was cheap due to the free ticket, but I wouldn’t go back unless I was teaching someone.


Eleven people somewhat loosely associated with Wednesday Night Dinner went to Rangeley, Maine from February 6 – 8 to ski at Saddleback. Saddleback was a small, local place until recently when it was purchased and greatly expanded. They expanded their trials by 40% since last year, and they have plans to continue this kind of growth. When they are done it will be huge, at least as fat as New England standards go. It was also exceedingly cheap and not at all crowded. Of course, it is almost five hours drive to get there. That is why we spent two nights there. Also the lodging was part of a package deal that left us with $28 lift tickets. Since its so new and expanding everything, but most importantly the equipment was all brand new.

The skiing here was excellent and challenging. There were some glades and slopes that looked downright scary, some of which I did and some of which I skipped. The weather was warm, topping out at ~36 degrees, with little wind. Although it got overcast in the afternoon. Here are some icture highlights from the trip to continue the story:

The Cabin. There were 3 rooms (with an open kitchen/living space). There were 9 beds in the place and we slept 11. It was cozy, but cheap.

Breakfast was eggs and toast.

Before we could get the slope we first had to climb this ice covered hill between our lakeside cabin and the road. It was well below freezing in the valley (it was warmer up on the mountain by a lot) and so we ended up pushing all of the cars up the hill. I don’t recall having ever needed to use low gear on my car before, but clearly it helped here. What didn’t help is that due to the lake, we didn’t have much chance to get a running start. Luckily Sunday morning was much warmer and so it wasn’t a problem.

The view was pretty spectacular from the top of the ~4000 foot mountain. The lodge was at ~2000 feet. This view looks west down towards our cabin and New Hampshire. Looking north one could see Canada as well.

We rode a lift up with an instructor and we discussed these two trails that looks like there was all kinds of debris in them. He said that it was only the tops that had the debris and that bottoms were clear, and of course ungroomed. He told us how to cut over safely. There we found the best conditions of the day; although, they were not untouched power by any means. I found I was able to cope (and have fun) with the natural, soft moguls that had developed. It was great. Of course, the story with the trail is that they didn’t finish cutting and clearing it all before the first wave of snow; this picture looks up at the debris field of course.

In closing:

  • Don’t take my word for how great this place is.
  • Don’t ever give it a try.
  • Continue to take your slight shorter drives to your much pricer, smaller, and more crowded resorts of choice.

My Third Geohash

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Last Saturday, October 11, 2008 I went on my third geohash expedition. Geohashing has been dead in Boston for about two months now, but we decided to go anyways. The hash was in Canton, MA near where my friend Sparky, whom I met at the first geohash meetup in Hopedale, grew up. It was also near the Blue Hills reservation, which has an abundance of hiking trails and a great view of Boston from the top. The plan was to go to the hash around 2pm, go hiking, and then get some dinner. Sparky and I joined our usual Thursday Night Social Gaming compatriots Mary and Whitney for the expedition. At the hash we met a xkcd forum user, Greg, who was also at the hash where I met Sparky. The hash was in front of a suburban home, and the residents of that home were there, outside, so were not able to get closer than about 120 feet to the hash, which was well into their yard.

The hiking was more successful. It was a popular activity in the nice weather, so much so; that the parking lots were full. But the trails were not. The hike up the hill was very rocky, as in walking on large slabs of rock making up the hillside. Whitney pointed out that it was decidedly different from hiking in Michigan, where the rocks live under the ground and there aren’t any hills. The hike up didn’t seem to cover all that much elevation, but the view from the tower at the top was worth the hike. The hike down took much longer, but took a more circuitous, less rocky route. All and all it was a great use of a beautiful October day. For more info on the trip, check the meetup page.

Las Vegas Trip Five

Monday, October 13th, 2008

In September I went out to Vegas for work again. This time I got three nights all in the city and none in the middle of nowhere, which was sweet. This meant more time for touristy stuff. Having done the same thing, namely watching the Belagio Fountain all night, many many times before I struck out in search of something new. I did stop by the fountain. I took the above new version of the same panorama I took last time. This one came out much better thanks to hugin. I stayed in a different hotel this time. It’s a high rise and I had a fun view from my room.

I discovered that at MGM they have a Viacom affiliated network test audience place. You go, you watch whatever tv show they tell you too, all the while giving them constant feedback on a little dial, and they give you a bunch of useless buy one get one free coupons for your trouble. I’d gotten off work early on Monday so I decided to try it out. I got there at 7pm, when there should have been a showing, but there weren’t enough people for it so they delayed till 7:30. There is not much you can do in the MGM in thirty minutes. It’d take 80% of that time to just walk to the slots and back. That seems like a design problem, but it is true. I was looking at the lighted map, like in a mall, for something to do having already decided that the nearby arcade was not worthwhile, when I noticed the old lady who was also planning to do the 7:00 show was doing the same. She recognized me as well and I spent the time making painful small talk to her and her husband. Not nearly so painful was that as watching the third episode of “The Ex-List.” It is a new CBS show that is like “My Name is Earl,” which I don’t watch. The premis is that instead of winning the lottery and going around righting wrongs from his past, this time it’s a girl who had a psychic tell her she must be married to one of her ex-boyfriends within a year. Each episode focuses on one of the ex’s and clearly you know it will never be the one. This is similar to the premise for “How I Met Your Mother” but it sucks a whole lot more. The show is a drama, not a comedy to start with, and the back story for this episode was the main character’s sisters’ wedding. It was painful, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Another night I decided to check out the Chipotle on the strip. There is one now! My buddy Matt informed me of this wonderful new location. It shares a dining area with a Panda Express and a New York City Pizza by the Slice. After Chipotle I check out The Venetian hotel. I wanted to take some pictures to compare to my parent’s recent trip to Venice, and someone told me there were some interesting free shows, living statues and the like, inside. I got the pictures but I saw no living statues. It is an impressive place. On the second floor there is blatant rip off of the forum shops at Caesar’s Palace, but with a canal through the middle, on which there are gondolas with pollers who sing in a non-english language.

Outer Banks Trip

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

This year my family’s annual trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with one of my best friends from back home’s family was in August. I got back about a week ago but I’ve been too busy with moving to write up a post. The trip was fun, but I was too busy flying my new kite, watching the Olympics, and playing some Diablo 2 to take out my camera. I did take out the camera during my flights there and back.

First things first, in the Boston airport under some of the seats they now have new electric sockets for charing phones and laptops. They also have usb charging ports, so those of us with the right cable can use those and free up the electric socket for someone else:

Now on to the flight. Cape Cod:

Martha’s Vineyard:

Week of fun at the beach.

On the flight back I got a great view of New York City. The harbor:

Manhattan Panorama:

New Haven, CT:

I didn’t get any nice shots of Boston due to our approach pattern, but I did get a nice one of a lighthouse in Boston Harbor right before we landed:

Kennebec White Water Rafting

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

On July 27th a bunch of us from my Wednesday Night Dinner group went white water rafting on the Kennebec River in Maine. It was a great time, we camped, kayaked, rafted, and cooked dinner over a fire. We drove up Saturday, stayed overnight, rafted Sunday morning and then drove home. It was a long trip, we were only ~35 miles from Canada. This was the first time I got to use my tent or otherwise come anywhere close to camping since moving it to Boston. The weather was perfect – it was 70 and partly sunny, although; it did rain a bit during the night, which eliminated the chance to do some star gazing.

Kayaking was on a nearby lake, and included an encounter with a loon. We came upon a what appeared to be a duck, at least until it opened it’s mouth to make a sound – then we knew it was no duck. After a few minutes worth of calling by the first loon, a second arrived. This one had a baby loon on its back. It seemed to be about 1.5 times the size of a baseball. It climbed off, presumably, its mother’s back and into the water. We had two kayaks approaching in on it from different directions, on a line running right through the family’s present location. They made a dash, as fast as the little one could swim in the perpendicular direction. We did not follow, it was very cute.

The surprising thing was that the water was also ~70 degrees. It is a damn controlled river, but they must release from the top of the lake or something to get those temperatures. The river was also strange in some other ways. First, we put in within sight of the damn, maybe only 100 meters downstream. To get to the put in there was a huge stairway to take down fully inflated rafts, carried by us. There were immediately 3 large rapids – two class 3’s and then a class 4. The class 4 was a ~6 foot waterfall. The water was big and it was hard to paddle so hard so close to the start of the run. It was also interesting, going over the waterfall they actually told us not to paddle but instead get the paddle away from us and hold onto some rope in the raft. It was quite the departure from the never stop paddling mantra I’ve learned.

The rest of the river, however, was quite different from the first, say, 30 minutes of it. There were only a handful of class 2 rapids the entire rest of the 4 hour trip. So here we are in these enormous 10 person rafts, which were needed to get through the big water upstream, but which make class 2 rapids super lame. It appears the company was well aware of this problem. After lunch they trucked in a double ducky raft for each raft, so that people could trade in an out of a smaller boat (where the smaller rapids would be more fun). They also let us swim pretty much the entire rest of the river. It was ok, but I would not go back to this river unless I was either in a smaller boat, or only did the top few miles (and did them multiple times).

Also, the lunch on river was simply amazing. A pre-trip choice of chicken, steak, or salmon with rice, pasta salad and cookies. There was also gorp, lemonade, ice tea, and water while we were waiting for the real meal to cook.

My Second Geohash

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Today, July 7th, 2008 the geohash was in Concord, MA. The actual spot was less than 10 miles from work, so I figured I would leave early and check it out. On the way there I rolled my car past 9900 miles. I’ll hit 10,000 this week, probably on the way to Wed. Night Dinner, which is way out in the boonies this week, but offers the chance at real Texas barbque. See the link for more story and more pictures. Here’s a map:

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First Boston Beach Trip

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Last Sunday I went down to the beach with some of my room mates and some friends of there’s. We went to Quincy on the south shore. As you can see from the panorama it was not very far from Boston, but it took us over an hour to get there. The South Shore Expressway was closed one exit before the one we needed to take so we ended up getting off of it 2 exits before we needed and winding our way through the city. We didn’t have a gps or a detailed map so we tried to stick to the big roads on our non detailed map, but we failed at that. It was quite the adventure. I got see a whole new side of Boston including Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and Hyde Park. This is the route we took on the way there.

View Larger Map

It wasn’t the best beach, but it was perfectly good for kite flying. There was a good bit of clouds moving through the area brining with them enough wind to break my strings, again. But it was a lot of fun. It was my first really successful kite flying near Boston. I’ve taken my kite and attempted to fly it around here before but I failed because there wasn’t enough low to the ground wind to combat my shortened strings. Yesterday I found, after some running around, a local store that sells kite string like items. I picked up 150 yards of 36 lb. nylon string. I’m not sure exactly how strong my old string was, it was what came with the kite, so I’m guessing 30 or 50 lb. The store was closing so I just got what the shopkeeper recommended. I know the old stuff wasn’t nylon. I hope this stuff will be strong enough, at least to get me through till August when I’m going down to the Outer Banks. The $25 fee for a second checked back makes bring a kite down there too expensive, so I’m going to buy a new nice one there and mail it (or pay the $25 to fly it) back home. Here is another view of the beach because I really enjoy playing with making panoramas: