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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Here’s what I saw walking out into the parking lot after leaving this morning’s meeting:

carsA little bit confusing; the Beemer Z3 (middle left)  that I sold to a friend was in between where I was walking, and my new car (distance, right). If I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I’d just gotten the new car, I might have walked up to the old one and tried my key in the door : )

I still think that, from a purely aesthetic point of view, the Z3 is the better-looking vehicle. It is, to my taste, just about the best looking vehicle of all; the Z4 was definitely a step down in visual design.

But the Audi TT is more comfortable. And the older I get, the more important that sort of thing can be – I’ve found that heated seats is a luxury that I like, especially on a February morning in Park City : )

But walking across the parking lot and seeing two of my cars (three, counting Ethel’s that was also parked out there) is just the least of my head-spinning these days; it’s been a very, very busy year. Mom died just over a year ago, setting in motion a year of turmoil that has not settled down yet, and may not any time soon.

Yesterday we got a low-ball offer on the one-bedroom condo at Purgatory. We countered, and they countered, but I suspect that it’s not going to go, because I’m just not willing to lose that much money on a home that I actually am very, very fond of – and a home that is always there in the back of my mind as a paid for place to live in the mountains.

That’s actually a very consistent idea; it lives in my head, somewhere around two-thirds of the way towards the back, in between “what I must accept as present reality” and “the land of rainbows and monsters that don’t really exist” – is that awareness that I have a place to live, in the mountains, at the ski hill, that is paid for. Nobody can take it away unless I sell it; vacation rentals more than cover the upkeep and taxes. If everything goes straight down the tubes, I can go there and live on very little income indeed; if the job I get involves working at the ski hill itself, then even the expense of lift tickets disappears.

So that’s a sort of Shangi-La, but it is a Shangri-La that really exists….unless I sell the condo.

Of course, I no longer have my paid-for BMW to drive there, but the Santa Fe is still in the parking lot…

 

I can say this statement with no fear of honest contradiction, because, no matter who you are, we see things differently.

eye-chart-2In fact, that may be what “seeing” is – it’s a perception, and therefore not the fact itself, and can only be temporary and local to a particular person in a particular time (in fact, that may be what the illusion of “particular person” and “particular time” actually mean – that we see things differently is based on the belief that we are different).

Now, some things you and I see differently. And some of the things that we see differently may be about how we see things differently. I have my values and you have your values; some of my values have to do with how and when and where I think it’s appropriate to discuss those values.

I just hid a friend on FaceBook; I hid her because she wanted to post political stuff. I’ve gone to great lengths to get rid of political posters. I don’t want to hear how you think that something that somebody else thinks is “ridiculous”.

I think that a lot of things are ridiculous, but I’m not sure that it’s polite to tell them, unless we’re in a setting where the question exists as a question. And I am sure that I’m uncomfortable for someone to say such a thing in a social setting, when a good many of the people receiving the communication are holding the viewpoint that is being called “ridiculous”.

I would like to be the person who is totally cool with folks around me being just as rude as they want to be. But, unfortunately, I’m about as rude as anybody can be myself, so if I hang out in a setting where such rudeness is acceptable, then I’ll join in.

So I hide folks so that I won’t start thinking that it’s okay for ME to do such a thing

Because that’s just ridiculous : )

 

…is the penultimate novel by Nelson Demille.

rivers_of_babylon“Penultimate” in this context doesn’t mean that it’s his next-to-last novel; it means the next-to-last novel of his that I’ll read.

And I’m not sure that it’s not the last.

Last August, our friend Dr Janet turned us on to Nelson Demille, and I’ve enjoyed the ride. I’ve read everything he has written as Nelson Demille (he has some earlier novels under a penname that seem sorta juvenile) except for the last few pages of Rivers and “The Gate House”.

Gate House is a sequel to “The Gold Coast”, which was the most amoral DeMille novel that I’ve read; most of Nelson’s stories have good guys and bad guys, but Gold Coast had privileged amoral types and bad guys. That’s not the kind of thing that keeps me coming back.

I’ve been in the last 30 pages or so of Rivers for what seems like weeks now; it’s not tidying up well, but there may be a bit of not wanting to finish the novel in the list of “why is this taking so long”. What will I do after I read the last Demille?

The worst Utah winter that I’ve ever seen continues.

greengrass

That’s the municipal building just to the south of our office building. That stuff you see – that green stuff – is called grass. You’ve probably seen it before, but you just aren’t used to seeing it in Utah in February, so it probably threw you a bit.

Yesterday’s “6-12 in the mountains” showed up as a couple of inches at our house. So far this winter, the best storms that we’ve had were in November. I’ve not yet seen a two-foot day, and I don’t think we’ve had a real foot day since the ski hill opened.

This is NOT the Utah that I left. Somebody did something to it in my absence. I would not have believed that such a winter was possible in the Wasatch Mountains; heck, the year that I moved here from Vermont, Salt Lake City itself had a four-foot dump in early May.

I’m going to assume that this is an anomaly, and that next year – or the year after – will be better.

While the rest of the country – that doesn’t want snow – is getting dump after dump after dump, the ski hills of the Deseret State are on short rations.

(Disclaimer – there’s plenty of coverage to ski on, sure. And I’ve had some fun in the trees – and the bumps are always nice. But what’s missing – and what people move here for – are the deep days. The days when you ski with a snorkel. The hero days – the ski movie days – the POWDER DAYS.)

73. Seventy Three.

Those are the first words of “Ride, Captain, Ride”, inspired by the number of keys on the piano – the songwriter said “Okay, I need a first word” and looked down at his keyboard. The rest of the song wrote itself.

(strange – I always thought that it was some sort of political ballad about some specific Bay Area communists. Who knows? Maybe the Bay Area doesn’t have *specific* communists).

Ridecaptainride45
Seventy Three. It’s a Prime Number. That means that it is divisible only by itself. We can’t break it up into manageable chunks; it’s indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All (except, of course, for the aforementioned 73 men who sailed up, from the San Francisco Bay. I’m assuming that they must have gone to Russia, China, or South Vietnam, so that they could laugh their lives away, and be free once more).

Seventy Three.

That’s the number of days until the 3rd of May.

The 3rd of May is the day  of the St. George Half Ironman.

That struck me just a bit ago. I will, in no way, shape or form, be ready for a Half Ironman in 73 days. I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for a Half Ironman, actually, but if I were going to be ready, it wouldn’t be in 73 days. In fact, when I look back, I think I was in better shape 73 days ago than I am now.

Oh, well. There’s nothing else to do but go ahead and train for the next 73 days, anyway. Every once in a while, you realize that you are going to go right ahead and do that stupid thing that you said you were going to do, even if – or especially because –  the closer you get to it, the more apparent and colossal the stupidity appears.

I’m going to drown in the St. George Reservoir, or – if I don’t  – I’m going to wreck my spendy new bike on the highway, or – if I don’t – I’m going to cramp up and fall to the side of the roadway in a Dying Cockroach two miles into the run.

In Seventy Three Days.

They don’t. They really don’t.

But damned if’n I don’t feel like they do.

Here’s the new (I should say “used” but the official Audi speak is “Certified Pre-Owned” or “CPO”) car, downstairs right now in the parking garage:

TTThis is a 2009 Audi TT 2.0 Quattro Coupe.

Four years ago, when we first started spending our winters in the mountains, I realized that, even though it was built in Bavaria, my BMW Z3 was never going to be a vehicle that I could drive in snow country.

It may have been my own research, or it may have been my friend Ian, who is an Audi freak, and who seems to have undue influence over my more stupid decisions (see other blog post wrt stupid race bets, the latest being this silly half-Ironman thingy) but I learned that the Audi TT Quattro was a very good sports car for the snow, and I said something along the lines of “When the Z3 dies, if we still have a place in snow country, I reckon I might like to get one of those Audi TT Quattro thingies”.

(The suitability of anybody who says “reckon” thinking about getting an Audi is a suitable subject for another blog post that I will never write. Discuss amongst yourselves – essay question, 25 points)

At any rate, I’ve had quite a few problems lately with my car recently, as had Ethel. On Saturday we bought a new car for Ethel; on Monday, I found out that they won’t be able to easily or cheaply fix the things that are wrong with the Z3.

And even if we could keep fixing things, at the end of the day I still wouldn’t have a car that I could drive in the snow.

So when I found this out yesterday, my loving and supportive wife had me type “Best Sports Cars In The Snow” or somesuch search into Google, and the very first entry was that aforementioned Audi TT Quattro.

So we went to cars.com and took a look, and there was a great TT Quattro at a dealership four blocks away.

I called the dealership and they said that that car was not on the lot, because it was being detailed, becaues it was getting Certfied, and it should be back on the lot late afternoon, but he would call me if it was earlier.

I went ahead and did more research, and had a list of 180 cars at various dealerships around the county, but before we got going, the Audi dude called me back and said that he had that car on the lot.

I never looked at car #2.

Walking into the dealership, we passed a car and Ethel said “Is that it?” and I said “No, that can’t be it” – but that was it. Gorgeous vehicle, amazing.

The purchase was a breeze – never had such a pleasant buying experience. I did the test drive, and then the salesman took me on a test drive showing me how the car CAN be driven and SHOULD be driven. After the decision was made, I was out the door in an hour. Got the car home and took Ethel for a drive – lots of fun.

Then, this morning, I went to pick my the BMW at the shop and drove it home – and parked it in the parking lot outside the condo.

And now the Audi goes in the garage, and the Z3 stays outside until we sell it.

And that just feels so wrong – so very wrong.

MY car – the car I’ve been driving for seven years – is sitting there looking at me, wondering why it is having to stay outside while this…this…other car gets to be in the garage; gets to be driven; and I suspect that the BMW knows that something is wrong, and I’m afraid that it KNOWS what is wrong, and is hurting.

And, just like when I took Maia the Park City wolf sled dog to the desert, where she was miserable, this poor car is being betrayed by my instability; I bought the car in the desert and brought it to Park City. The problems with it showed up up here; some were caused by the cold, some were exacerbated by the cold. And the main problem – the fact that she is a rear-wheel drive vehicle in an all-wheel-drive environment – is my fault completely.

Now, when I sell this car, I’ll sell it to somebody who either has enough garage space to keep this car for the summer, or somebody who lives in the Valley and who’ll be able to drive this car all year. And then the car will be used properly, as she should be. I couldn’t do that with Maia, as she was my dog more than she was a snow dog, and it would have broken her heart for me to have given her away. I CAN do that with a car, because cars don’t have feelings.

Yeah. SURE they don’t.

I don’t even want to drive home, because when I get home, I’ll see the Beemer sitting there in the parking lot, and it just breaks my heart.

 

 

 

It sorta confused me to find out that the Olympics were being held in Sochi, a city that Wikipedia says is a “subtropical resort town” – it even has palm trees. How can you have the Olympics at a sub-tropical resort?

But then, given the weather we’ve been having lately – RAIN? in the Wasatch Mountains in FEBRUARY? 50 Fahrenheit?– I’m starting to think that maybe Park City is the new “sub-tropical”.

Still, that didn’t prepare me for the juxtaposition of Tom Hanks’ “Cast Away” on the big screen with a snow-covered hill behind it, during my morning bike ride.

snowcastI was only going to do about 45 minutes on the bike, but right around minute 43, Tom knocked out his own tooth with an ice skate, so, if he can do that, I can do another fifteen minutes.

Okay, I know that living on a desert island is no fun – that Tom’s tooth troubles would only be a small part of the various hardships that one would have to go through. Still, dadgummit, I have to admit that it seems like – once you got past the initial transitions and adjustments – that it sure would be nice to not have anything to do but sit on the beach and eat coconuts and nap.

Every now and then, vary the diet with fish or crab.

Watching this movie, it sort of rekindled the desire for us to have a beach place – either Hawaii or San Jose Del Cabo, or maybe Isla Mujeres – warm and tropical. I’m not the SCUBA enthusiast that Ethel is, so it doesn’t matter that much to me if there is good diving nearby; I like snorkeling or diving under the sea and staring at the funny critters as much as most folks, but there’s an upper limit to that; a point of diminishing returns.

But I’m not sure, right now, that there is a point of diminishing returns on beach naps. Under the palm trees.

This has, no doubt, much to do with my current levels of fatigue and stress; I’m six months into my new job, and this is the steepest learning curve I’ve ever heard of. The last year has been stressful enough, but I’ve also been trying to train for a half-Ironman that will take place in three more months. My general health and fitness are at their lowest levels in years, and right now the skiing is poor.

It’s strange – I was never a beach person, until our first trip to Hawaii back in 2002. After that I could still take it or leave it, but we then went back to Hawaii in 2009, and since then we’ve made three extended trips to Mexican beaches – two to Isla Mujeres, one to San Jose del Cabo – and I find that the idea itself has grown on me. And although the ancillary themes play well – local foods, the aforementioned snorkeling and SCUBA, surfing, cultural activities – at the center of it all is the joy and draw of just plain laziness. Laying on the beach with nothing to do.

Right now – at this very moment, while I’m trying to get an extended test case to run and hitting blockers in all directions – right now, if Ethel walked in and said “We’re selling it all and moving to a small beach house in a third-world country” it wouldn’t take me more than ten minutes to pack up my Nelson DeMille novels and running shorts.

But she’s not going to do that. So, now that that run has finished (Error – verify failed) I reckon I’ll get back to work.

Ethel and I are now on the first disk of Season Four.

season4Season 2 ended like it always ends, and I bawled like a baby for the sadness. Season 3’s penultimate episode, “The Prom”, had Jonathon giving Buffy the “Class Protector” award, and I bawled like a baby for the sweetness.

Season Four, as I recall, won’t cause any bawling until Riley takes off in the chopper and leaves Buffy running after. That’s not a “sweetness” bawling, in case you were wondering. That’s one where you just get mad, but there’s nobody you can really get mad at – it’s just the way that things are. Now stand up, put your big boy pants on, dry your eyes and get ready for Season Five.

We haven’t even watched a movie for quite some time now, and we haven’t watched any of the Olympics – we talk about watching our local girl Lindsey Van in the women’s ski jumping, but we missed it – it was two days ago. (I’m just grateful that I didn’t have to see the opening ceremonies. I have not yet recovered from the opening ceremonies in Atlanta, 1996. There is, to my way of thinking, nothing more mind-numbing than having people perform while commentators tell me what their performances mean. If I don’t understand it, don’t tell me – let the performers use symbols that we share. I don’t want to be coached up to their level, thank you very much).

No movies, and haven’t done much in the evenings except chores and dinner and watching Buffy. I’m quite content with this; I’m sorta tired these days. I haven’t been working out much; today was the first day I’ve done anything in over a week (“anything” in this context means “anything physical besides skiing”). In the evenings, I get on the couch as quickly as possible, unless we have a meeting or some other obligation, and I get under our big faux fur blanket with my smoochioochums and watch the fire and Buffy.

(for some reason, wordpress’s spellchecker doesn’t like “smoochioochums”. Sorry, WordPress. Get used to it.)

It’s been over four years now since I was first exposed to Buffy, and I haven’t grown tired of it. Like many of the works of Shakespeare, there is so much to the story – “age cannot wither, nor custom stale her infinite variety” – and there’s the added element that my memory is poor, so it’s not like I know what’s going to happen (and even when I do, it still hits me – I knew that Buffy was going to be on a bus out of town at the Season Two finale. I knew it, just like I know my name, but it didn’t help. It still hit me like a punch in the gut.)

I’m glad that I’m not too cool to love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t really suppose I’ve ever been too cool for anything, really.

This moose was on the hill above our condo this morning, and he (indefinite gender ‘he’, not masculine gender) was not getting around very quickly; the slope of the hill and the depth of the snow was making it difficult for him to maneuver. So he wasn’t making any sharp moves.

febmooseI heard him behind me as I was hooking up the battery in my Z3.

I was hooking up the battery in my Z3 because the car has developed some kind of drain such that, if I leave the battery hooked up, it drains in less than eight hours. Now, I have a brand new battery – one of those big Bosch batteries for a BMW – so there’s nothing wrong with the battery. Last Friday, I took my car in to have some speakers replaced at Best Buy. That’s all that they were supposed to do – replace the speakers. That’s all that they said that they did, so I’ll have to believe ’em. Which means that that’s not the problem.

I would take my car in to the shop to have the battery pull found and fixed, but right now Ethel’s car is in the shop being fixed; it started missing and stalling. Turns out that they need to replace all of the spark plugs, and – get this! – it costs $600 to replace the spark plugs in a Hyundai Santa Fe. They have to pull some manifold or other.

So my problems were stacked up pretty well this morning as I was hooking up the Z3 battery, and I heard noises behind me, but wasn’t sure what it was and was paying no attention, until I realized that I was hearing brush being moved about, and there was no way that any human or car behind me could have been moving any brush about, so…it’s on the HILL…oh, look, a MOOSE!

I ran into the kitchen from the garage and yelled “KIM! COME QUICK!” – but Ethel didn’t come quick because she thought that I had come into the kitchen and yelled “SH*T! I QUIT!” and assumed that there was some other car problem that had surfaced and that I had gotten disgusted. So it took her a while to come out to see the moose.

Moose are just plain cool. They are SO big, and – while they aren’t at all rare around here – they are such exotic creatures because, hey, no moose in Cleveland; you have to go to really cool places to see moose! And guess what? I LIVE in one of those cool places : ) So seeing moose is really a reminder of how cool a place it is that we live in.

Six months ago, there was a large tribe of Pucketts and Faux-Pucketts in Phoenix Metro; us up in New River, Floyd, Angela and Jackson in Sun City, and Silas and Sapphire in Phoenix proper. We left in August; Silas and Sapphire moved to Oregon in October, and Floyd and his crew moved to Alabama last month.

While I’m sad to not see Silas and Sapphire any more, I’m glad that they are in a new place; Oregon is not Alabama. I would certainly live in Oregon before I’d live in Alabama, because it has mountains and deserts and skiing and all of that other stuff that is so cool – and moose.

Utah has mountains and desert and skiing and moose. Lots and lots and lots of each. Come to think of it, Arizona certainly has mountains and desert and skiing, and I’m pretty sure that they have moose. Colorado, where we’ve lived halftime the last four years, have mountains and desert and skiing and moose.

Floyd and his bunch are back in Alabama, because that is where they want to be. I’ve written a lot just now talking about what Alabama doesn’t have, but there’s no need to say that, really, because the folks who live in Alabama want what Alabama has. So that’s that.

No moose in Alabama.

But there are in Park City!

I’ve decided that Pareto’s Rule is fractal in nature.

mandelbrot

A “fractal” is – for the purposes of this discussion – a pattern that is the same no matter what the magnification. In other words, it looks the same from far off as it does from up close.

For instance – if you look at a dirt clod, or if you magnify a mote from inside that dirt clod, they will present many of the same surface patterns.

You can’t tell by the surface patterns, when you are looking at a water surface, if you are seeing it from an airplane or under a magnifying glass. A pattern of ice crystalized on a window looks remarkably the same as a snowflake.

The idea is one of repeating patterns, and that the patterns repeat until the scale is too small to support them (or too large).

Pareto’s Rule is the 80/20 rule, which keeps showing up in all types of applications. It was initially named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people.

It shows up again and again – “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients”, “80% of the service work is done by 20% of the congregation”, “80% of the Nat’l Championships in the country come from the 20% of the teams that are in the SEC” (sorry about that : ).

I’m currently on a largish project at work, and I noticed early on that I got 80% of the work done in 20% of the time, and that the other 20% of the work is taking 80% of the time. This is so true in software development that nobody even ever has to say it; it’s just the way things are. 80% of the bugs take 20% of the effort, and the other 20% of the bugs take 80% of the effort.

But I’m starting to think that this rule is a fractal – that, when you get the first 80% done in 20% of the time, that then that last 20% has its own Pareto rule – that 80% of the last 20% will be done in 20% of the last 80% of the time, and that that 20% of the last 20% will take 80% of that time.

Let’s see how this looks – let’s say that there are 625 tasks that take 625 hours (numbers I chose after I made the following table 🙂 :

          Total 80% 20%
1st Tasks 625 500 125
Hours 625 125 500
2nd Tasks 125 100 25
Hours 500 100 400
3rd Tasks 25 20 5
Hours 400 80 320
4th Tasks 5 4 1
Hours 320 64 256

So we’d knock out 500 of those 625 tasks in 125 hours, but the other 125 tasks would take 500 hours.

And of that last 125 tasks, 100 would take 100 hours total, but the other 25 would take 400 hours – see where this is going?

Of that last 25 tasks, 20 would take only 80 hours, but the other 25 would take 320 hours –

And that last, most difficult task of all would take 256 hours by itself.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m on the last row – the last 5 of the 625 tasks that are taking 320 hours, or more than half of all of the time.

And I’ve wasted about 20 minutes of that doing this stupid post : )