Sunday, February 27, 2011

2-27-11: "A Canny Approach" - Episode 2 (Video)

I quickly realized that my podcast is exceedingly boring without visuals, so here is Episode 2 from back in late December, with visuals.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2-14-11: Skiing, an update

I haven’t chimed in on my burgeoning skiing career in a while. I was looking at some of last winter’s posts, and figured I’d try to catch up on this year’s progress.

So far this season I have spent 5.5 days on the mountain and have gone night skiing twice: two days each at Sugarbush and Jay Peak, 1.5 days (story to follow) at Killington, and night skiing at Mount Wachusett and Mohawk. I got new boots, the Dalbello Proton 8 model, which have been great. My goal going into this season was to be able to do black diamond trails on a regular basis by the end of the season. So far, so good.

I’ve only taken one lesson so far this year, which I took at Jay Peak a couple weeks ago. It was my first Intermediate lesson, and I got more out of it than most Beginner lessons I took last year. Instead of focusing only on race-style “S” turns, the instructor had me doing quick slide turns on steeper terrain, which have come in quite handy. He also had me work on turning more smoothly by not forcing turns; I’d been throwing my hips over too early and not shifting my weight very smoothly. We worked on throwing my weight down the hill to initiate turns, which was a simple and easy way to practice my turns. I haven’t had a lot of time on my own to work on the fundamentals, but have been able to work on some things here and there.

This weekend we headed up to Killington for two days. Saturday was awesome. We started off at the top by doing Blue Heaven and cutting over to Skye Peak to what I believe was Skyeburst, which was a good warm-up run. I like to have a nice warm-up run on a blue square trail to get the legs going, otherwise my mechanics are terrible for the first hour or two. Once we got to the bottom, we took the Bear Mountain Quad up. I’d never been on Bear Mountain, but I know it has a bunch of black diamond and double black diamond trails. Turns out, they’d flattened out some of the tougher stuff (including Outer Limits, which was very crowded), but I stuck to Bear Claw, the only blue square, for a couple runs. We then met up with our buddy Rob and hit the Skye Peak Express Quad to do a bit steeper terrain.

The steep stuff started with Skyelark, which starts off as a blue square then turns into a black diamond towards the bottom. This is where my recently learned quick turns came in handy. I had a lot of fun going down that one, and was feeling brave enough to try Superstar from top to bottom.

Superstar is the longest, steepest trail I’ve ever been down. The top is steep, and the bottom is just as steep and even longer. After a significant pause, I finally mustered up my limited courage, pointed the skis downhill, and made it to the bottom of the first section in one piece. Feeling good about myself, I followed the lady and Rob down to the bottom. I avoided all the bumps, and made it down in reasonably smooth fashion. The lady was proud of me, and I was exhausted. Legs were burning pretty good when I made it down.

We went back up to the top of Superstar to the top section again before cutting over towards Bear Mountain again. This time: no problem. I had to wait for Ski Patrol to pass by, then nailed the top section. My confidence was quite high at that point. We went over to Bear and did Wildfire, a reasonably steep black diamond run, and stuck around there for a bit before heading back to Snowshed for lunch. After lunch, we headed over to Ramshead with our friend Taylor and did Squeeze Play, a blue square glade run. Trees are my next frontier. I enjoy them, but I’m very much a novice when they show up. Rob gave me a good tip: pick a path, and stick to it. That seemed to help, but I still panicked a lot and kept my weight back too much. By the end I was doing better.

After a significant snowfall, we split up briefly before the end of the day. I did Mouse Trap (my first black diamond run ever from last season) and headed over to Snowshed just before 4:00PM. Great day of skiing.

Sunday was a bit different. The mountain was significantly more crowded (CSC Awareness Day), and the conditions were a bit crunchier; “frozen granular” I was told. Not ideal. I was skiing OK, not great, for the first couple runs. Legs were still tired from the day before; they needed another run or two to get in shape and start responding to my mental commands (“weight forward!”). The lady and I were going to hit Squeeze Play again, and were planning on cutting down via Mouse Trap. All was going well until I saw her tumble over on a bump. When I checked to see what happened, she opened her mouth to show at least one missing tooth. I yelled “Oh shit!” and began to freak out a little bit.

We were able to find the tooth immediately, and she was able to get up and ski down to the K1 lodge. We went in, found First Aid, and ended up having to leave for the emergency room in Rutland. That ended the day quickly. She knocked out one of her front teeth almost to the root by kneeing herself in the face after losing her balance. Lots of blood. She took it extremely well, never crying or whining or anything.

It turns out she broke her upper inner jaw. Right now she has a wire support (similar to braces) to help line her teeth up while the jaw heals. After 4-6 weeks, she'll be able to get a tooth implant put in. It will take several visits and several weeks of soft food, but she'll be just fine. Expensive, and painful, spill. Fun weekend overall, though.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2-6-11: Michael Lewis - "When Irish Eyes Are Crying"

I finally got around to reading Michael Lewis' piece in Vanity Fair on the Irish Crisis. "When Irish Eyes Are Crying" walks through the cast of characters and moods and trends surrounding the current economic crisis in Ireland. Lewis, of Moneyball fame (though Liar's Poker came first), is an excellent journalist, and I was looking forward to seeing what he'd found during his time investigating the piece.

As usual, Lewis covers a lot of ground while neither boring nor patronizing the reader. The structure of the piece seemed familiar: he starts with a central character (in this case economist Morgan Kelly) and dabbles in with a few side characters who, though not as prominent as the central character, reinforce his point from a different angle. It feels almost like he's writing a play sometimes, but I like the style.

Lewis does well to explain the differences between the Irish, Icelandic, and Greek crises. A lot of people think, due to the timing, that they were all caused by some widespread Eurozone crisis that hit the weakest economies hardest. Lewis explains that the three countries shared similar behaviors leading up to their respective crises, but each had their own style. He paints Ireland as a sort of teenager with money burning a hole in its pocket from a spectacular run of baseless luck. Ireland got caught up in its own hype, and refused to believe it could fail. It was "new money" David trying to distinguish itself in a world of wiser Goliaths.

Ireland suffered, and still suffers, from a case of over-indulgent self-investment. The Irish banks lent out billions of Euros to property developers with the hope that the booming housing market, which even well before the bust showed signs of structural frailty, would keep on going without end. Economists, who should have known better, refused to listen to history, and called for a "soft landing" instead of the inevitable housing crash.

Lewis then goes into the role of the Irish government, which consisted of disbelievers, liars, and drunks. The only political figure for whom he devotes and sort of limited mercy is Brian Lenihan, the finance minister. Lenihan, who had earned the pity of the Irish people through an unfortunate illness (very Irish behavior, as Lewis points out), was, if anything, duped, according to some. He's been made to be the fixer of an irreparable systemic problem, and seems to have the confidence to do the impossible.

As a person of Irish descent, I like what Lewis does with the piece. He doesn't portray the Irish as innocent victims. They got greedy, and invested poorly in a housing market that couldn't house the current population. Sure, there are some innocent victims here and there, but, as Lewis points out, few people have protested. Those who have don't always want the attention. Perhaps it's just that people were still hungering for the pre-boom days, and weren't too distraught when things crashed back down. The economy boomed and fell within a decade - most people in the country vividly remember life beforehand. I strongly doubt any deliberate attempt at sabotage was made - the market itself was just unstable. I just think people might think of it as just a dream - and are still waking up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Behind The Scenes: Cowboys Stadium's Massive IT Infrastructure

Super Bowl XLV is on Sunday, which is big for the NFL and huge for the host Dallas Cowboys. I read an interesting article today in IT World about the massive IT infrastructure at Cowboys Stadium. Truly ground-breaking and amazing. The first video is pretty much an advertisement for CDW, the chief consultant in the IT development for the stadium. The second video is more amateur-style journalism that goes into more detail about some components of the IT system.

2-3-11: A Canny Approach Podcast, Episode 3

Here's another installment of "A Canny Approach", a podcast I'm fooling around with. This episode covers tech-savvy parking meters, professional roller hockey, and my non-Super-Bowl-related sports picks. Have a listen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2-1-11: IBM Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Case Study Video

This kind of stuff really gets my geeky engineering mind going ga-ga. I love watching videos like this. IBM is one of a handful of companies for which I watch their commercials while fast-forwarding through all the others for a show I have DVRed.