Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Osprey Switch 26 review

(Cross posted to snow hugger)

osprey_switch_26Skiing with a backpack may be a foreign concept to some people, but it's really quite useful. In the backcountry, it's essential for carrying avalanche gear, food, extra layers, maps, and various other gear. I don't bring a back with me as much when I'm skiing in-area, but they're very useful there too. I usually pack at least some water and lunch to save myself from the wallet destroying ski cafeteria food prices.

The past couple years I've been skiing around with various backpacks that weren't designed for ski use. They get the job done but not typically in the most graceful fashion, so I decided to do some ski backpacking shopping this season. As with most gear purchases, I spent way too much time reading about and looking at various packs before I settled on the Osprey Switch 26.

Thumbs up to The North Face

I bought a North Face jacket at the REI garage sale. As with most items at the garage sales, it's there because there is some issue, and in the case of my jacket the problem was a broken zipper pull. (Normally not a big deal anyway, but the way it was broken precluded the usual fix of looping a key ring through the zipper.) The jacket was brand new and half price due to the blemish, so I decided to buy it.

I then promptly sent it to the North Face for repair. I wasn't entirely sure if it would be covered under their warranty (since it was sold as a second), but I thought it was worth the shot. Even if they charged me I figure it would be pretty minimal and worth if for the good deal I got on the jacket.

Last week I got my jacket back with the following note:

We are sorry. But this shell jacket is marked as a second. It was sold "as is" and is not covered under The North Face warranty.

Bummer. I thought they had just sent it back to me unrepaired. But wait, there's more:

But we will repair it free of charge as a special service
--The North Face Warranty Department

Nice! Thanks TNF for standing by your gear.


I left my house in Fort Collins at 5AM on Sunday to meet up with an out of town friend who was staying at Breckenridge. Rolling out of bed that early is a drag, but I made it all the way to Breck in just over 2 hours. Clear roads; no traffic; life was good.

Coming home, on the other hand, was a huge drag. I know better than to leave Summit County at 3:30 on a Sunday, but for some reason I decided to do it anyway. It took me as long to get to the east side of the Eisenhower tunnel as my entire drive in the morning. Ugh! In total, it was a 4.5 hour trip. There were no big accidents (that I know of), but the road just isn't able to handle the volume of traffic.

Heading west on I-70, once you pass the Dillon exit you are stuck on the highway. There's no other exits or turnaround points between there and the tunnel. If they decide to close the tunnel temporarily, you're stuck in a big parking lot. Inevitably, the traffic flows smoothly until you pass that point of no return. If there we some way to turn around, I bet the businesses in Dillon would see a huge increase in business. I know that if I had the choice between sitting in traffic and eating dinner in Dillon, I'd choose the latter.

The traffic on I-70 is hands down the number one reason I haven't purchased a ski pass for the past few years. Hopefully the ski resorts and towns can get creative and find solutions to the traffic problems. It's in their best financial interest. I wish I had some pearls of wisdom I could give to the CDOT and the ski industry to solve this problem, but I just don't know what to do. If I may paraphrase War Games, the only correct move is not to play.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Can Throwing

Apparently this is a YouTube classic that I've missed:

It's supposedly done without special effects (but with a lot of re-takes).

(And since I'm also on YouTube, I also just saw this Live Action Hamster Video Game. I don't know why it makes me laugh but it does.)

*updated 1/31: The hamster video moved, so I updated the link*

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Working remotely

Christine is off to Paris on Saturday for 6 weeks. (Feel free to invite me out to beat my boredom.)

I just got approval from my boss to "work" remotely from Paris for a week. :) I think I'm going to go sometime in the middle of February.

Hey mom: Not that I'm trying to compete, but that's 3 trips to France in the past 3 years.

Organic Foods

I'll follow up yesterday's hippie post with this one about organic foods.

Go to http://www.foodnews.org/ and download their Shopper's Guide to Pesticides. You can't always find organic produce, so they've created a list of the produce that contains the most and least pesticides so you know which ones are safer when organic isn't available. From their site:

Why Should You Care About Pesticides?

There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hippie bags

We have a large collection of plastic grocery bags at our house. I normally don't feel too bad that we're wasting all that plastic because we save them for re-use on dog walks (I'll spare you the details), but we realistically we have enough bags for a years worth of dog walks right now. Every time we do our weekly shop we end up with probably 10 more bags, and if we walk the dog once a day that leaves us with an increasing amount of bags in storage. Eventually I fear that they will take over the house.

A while ago Christine bought some cloth bags from the Vitamin Cottage, and they've been hanging by our door waiting for us to not forget them when we go to the store. I can't tell you how many times I walk by them on my way to the grocery store and forget to grab them. Last night I managed to remember (only because I pulled a plastic dog walking bag out of my pocket on the way out the door).

With our 3 reusable bags we were able to carry all of our week's groceries, which would have easily taken 10 plastic bags. Not only was it great not to stuff a bunch more bags into another cranny in the house, but it only took one trip to get all of the groceries into the house. It's really a win all around.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Not according to plan

Things just didn't go according to plan this morning. We woke up this morning with the intention of going skate skiing up at Happy Jack (in Wyoming). It was sort of a last minute decision last night, and we didn't plan on the fact that the gear rental places wouldn't be open until noon. As we didn't want to wait around that long, we eventually decided to go ski touring at Young's Gulch (in the Poudre Canyon) with Owen and Erin.

The trail head is located a short ways off the road. A short *snowy* way, that is. Halfway down the 100 yard road we got the Subaru stuck. The stock all-season (a.k.a. no season) tires that Subaru installs are crap. It's a good thing we brought our avalanche shovels. :) It took some work, but we eventually got the car unstuck. And then we got it stuck again as we tried to get the car out to the street for a safer parking spot. The snow was deep, but not enough to make the car bottom out. The really problem was some of the pits that were under the new snow, and the tires couldn't get enough traction to get out of them. Mental note, get snow tires if we still have the car next year.

After that, things went well. It's pretty unusual for there to be enough snow on Young's to ski, so it was fun to get out there. Kuzca had a great time running around too. Usually she gets bogged down in powder, but the trail was paked down well enough for her to run all over. That ought to tire her out for the next couple days.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Skit Touring: South Diamond Peak to Montgomery Pass

I went in to work on MLK day so I decided to make up the day on Friday and go skiing with friend and co-worker Owen. There hasn't been any new snow in the area lately, so instead of doing some laps on a slope we decided to do a little touring. We started at Cameron Pass, skinned up South Diamond Peak and toured along that ridge all the way to Montgomery Pass. I've never been up on the Diamond Peaks before, and the view is incredible. It really gives me a much better geographic perspective of the relative locations of many areas that I've been to before. The weather was great: sunny, calm, and not a cloud in the sky.

Here's Owen on South Diamond. You can see the ridge line we were about to follow.

Maybe tromping around in skis for 5 miles isn't everyone's idea of a day off, but I sure enjoyed it.

More pictures of the day here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Buy One Get Free Lift Tickets from Shell

With a 10 gallon fillup at participating Shell stations, you can get a voucher for a Buy-One-Get-One-Free lift ticket at Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Crested Butte, or Monarch Mountain. I needed some gas on my way up to go backcountry skiing, so I stopped at Shell and got my voucher. Details here. It's a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. I need gas anyways, so a may as well get a free lift ticket while I'm at it. So who wants to go to Crested Butte? :)

Participating Shell Stations

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Hey wine fans (and techies) - WineZap has a database of wine ratings, and lets you search and place orders etc. That's kind of cool, but the more interesting part of the site is that the data is accessible via SMS (text messaging). so next time you're at the wine store wondering if that wine is any good (and if you're paying too mcuh) send WineZap a text message. From their site:

Using the service
  1. 1. Send a text message or email to mobile@winezap.com
  2. Enter the vintage and wine name in the body of your message (not the subject).
  3. For non-vintage wines, omit the vintage.
  4. Optionally, include your 5 digit zipcode at the end for local retailer information.
  5. For best results, please include all relevant label information (don't forget the varietal).
  6. No other text is permitted - additional text will cause a failure.
  7. For best results, limit wine names (excluding zipcode and vintage) to 5 words or less
  8. Prices are for 750 ml bottles. For different sizes, submit the bottle size (in ml, no units): 2000 Caymus Cabernet 1500 94621
  9. Don't include any other text in the body of the message. If possible, end your message with a period (.).

  • 2000 Caymus Cabernet.
  • 2000 Caymus Cabernet 1500.
  • 2000 Caymus Cabernet 1500 94621.
  • Cristal Brut Rose.
  • 2001 Lafite 94621 (5 digit zip at end of message)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mmmm...peanut butter cups

I had a weak moment at the grocery store and picked up some of Newman's Own Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Wow, those were good. It's all organic so it's good for me, right?

(I ate more than just junk food. We made blackened tuna steaks, which were really good and really easy. Let me know if you need a blackened tuna recipe.)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

James Brown SNL joke

This was on the SNL weekend update last night:

The body of the late James Brown has yet to be buried as attorneys and his children work to settle issues surrounding his estate...including whether he will be cremated or whether his parts will be sold off to repair other sex machines.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Verizon Math

If you have 27 minutes to waste, this is worth a listen:
Verizon Math

The executive summary is that Verizon reps don't understand that 0.002 cents is not the same as $0.002. It's frustrating how dumb they are over and over and over again.

On a related note, I found a picture of this funny check:

I don't know what I like better, the amount or the memo.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Future expats?

Just like Drew Bledsoe and Ty Law, Christine and I may find ourselves to be ex-pats.

Christine's company is growing and in the near future they may want to move someone to Europe to handle customer support. We've kicked around the idea before, so Christine brought it up to her management and they sound somewhat into it. From our standpoint, it could be a cool chance to live in Europe and have someone else foot the bill of moving us. Our choice of location right now is the UK, mainly due to the fact that I am a uni-lingual loser and it would probably be easier for me to find work someplace where I speak the language (kind of). There's still a lot up in the air about this, but in preparation we've started the process of getting my dog approved to enter the UK as it takes 6 months.

It would be cool to live over seas for a little while, but I also have reservations about leaving. In no particular order:
  • Moving across town is a pain. Moving across the ocean is probably worse. At least it would force us to trim down our belongings.

  • Financially it would suck to sell our house now instead of being able to sell it for more when the Fort Collins market picks back up

  • There's a lot of fun races to miss while I'm gone. I guess I'd have to get my butt kicked by Euros instead.

  • The weather in Colorado is great for someone who likes to do things outdoors. London, not so much

  • When I try to move back, how easy will it be to find a job in Colorado?

In similar news, Christine may get to move to Paris (temporarily) to perform some customer installation and training. That be pretty sweet to have a flat in Paris, and I think I'd have to take some time off work to visit. :)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Gary Larson - Conservationist

My aunt got me The Far Side desk calendar for Christmas, which I opened up in my office today. Gary Larson stopped drawing The Far Side over a decade ago, so I guess it's a little odd that he is releasing a calendar of his work. It turns out that he is re-releasing the 2001 calendar and donating all author royalties from this calendar to Conservation International (reportedly $2 million), a non-profit group that helps protect wildlife habitats worldwide. Specifically, the money support CI's efforts to halt illegal wildlife trafficking. Gary Larson, I applaud the effort.

Read more about CI's work at http://www.conservation.org/trade

To whom it may concern (and I hope it's you),

I have this idea for a science fiction movie: Aliens arrive on Earth, and they are initially benevolent toward humans until a rumor starts among them that the human pancreas – when dried and processed into a cream – can help alleviate sore tentacles. It's a false rumor, of course, but we all know how rumors can take root and flourish. Anyway, it's a moot point on whether it's true or not, because the bottom line in my movie is that we're all – forgive me – getting creamed.

Okay, I admit it – my idea is rather unoriginal. All I've managed to do is come up with a little twist on something that's been happening to much of our planet's wildlife for some time, and at a quickening pace. Whatever our shortsighted or uneducated motivation may be, it's good old Homo sapiens that are inexorably pushing many species toward the eternal abyss. It's like watching a bad movie, and it doesn't even have any aliens in it.

For me, things have come somewhat full-circle on this subject. I've derived so much inspiration from wildlife around the globe, I feel a certain indebtedness to the natural world for my career. And, frankly, it's a little uncomfortable to get laughs about animals who in reality are facing desperate times. That's why I'm donating all author royalties from The Far Side® Gallery 2007 Off-the-Wall Calendar to Conservation International (CI), a not-for-profit group that helps protect wildlife habitats worldwide. Specifically, the money will support CI's efforts to halt illegal trafficking in wildlife. Tigers are poached for their bones to be used in traditional medicines. Turtles, frogs, and giant salamanders end up as gourmet dishes. Sharks are killed for fins, orang-utans taken as pets, elephants poached for ivory. The list goes on, and the demand is emptying entire ecosystems.

CI is training local law enforcement in anti-poaching and anti-smuggling and educating consumers and decision-makers. Local people are very much involved in CI projects, which help communities benefit from conservation. I believe CI's work will keep our non-human neighbors from becoming mere memories. To quote from an old Joni Mitchell song, "You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone." And, folks, there ain't no greater meaning to the word "gone" than extinction. And to quote from my own movie script, "Gorak! Always squeeze the tentacle cream from the bottom of the tube!"

Most seriously, please take time to learn more about CI's work and how you can help by visiting www.conservation.org/trade.

— Gary Larson