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2012/03/28 Powder Weekday at Kirkwood
π 2012-03-28 00:00 in Snow
Season was late this year, so I've been trying to take advantage of any snow day I could. This wednesday was more meant for snow than work it seems. Seongbae, a coworker, was a trooper and got us there and back. Thanks much :)






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2012/03/17 3ft+ on snow in Tahoe, and Caltrans dealing with Tahoe freeways
π 2012-03-17 00:00 in Snow
Ok, it started with getting there, we figured leaving at 15:00 would be early enough, but not so much :( When we finally got to South Lake Tahoe, it was too late and there was too much heavy wet snow for even Arturo's subaru to make it up the hill:

we didn't quite make it across i80 before it closed for accidents and cleaning
we didn't quite make it across i80 before it closed for accidents and cleaning

we almost made it to the chalet, except the snow was too heavy and too wet
we almost made it to the chalet, except the snow was too heavy and too wet

digging out didn't work, we could only go down with gravity
digging out didn't work, we could only go down with gravity

We never made it to the chalet, we had to drive back down and abandon the car in a parking lot. Thankfully Karl had a bigger truck with huge tires and was able to drive up there and take us too. Thankfully we found his car in the parking lot the next morning before it got towed:


Next morning wasn't bad. Most resort reported 3ft of fresh snow, or 4ft if you have a "Heavenly ruler".

neighbour clearing the road so that we could get out of the driveway
neighbour clearing the road so that we could get out of the driveway


The next morning, I made the call that Alpine Meadows would likely not be as busy and bad as Squaw. So, we learned one good thing to know: *DO NOT EVER GO TO ALPINE ON A POWDER DAY*. Alpine will close their own access road to the resort for 1.5 to 2H for avalanche control, preventing you from getting to the resort, unless you got in by 07:30.
We eventually got to the lifts by 10:00, but that's pretty pathetic and a lot of good snow had already been tracked by then:









it was St Patrick's day
it was St Patrick's day

ridiculous line at Scott Chair
ridiculous line at Scott Chair




line to hike to the Sherwood back side when it opened.
line to hike to the Sherwood back side when it opened.





Arturo hit a branch :)
Arturo hit a branch :)

So, how was Alpine? It wasn't bad obviously, it's difficult for any place to be bad in those conditions, unless they're so low that the snow is rain. The access road closure was pretty pathetic, especially when it's a re-occuring condition, the lifts were actually fairly crowded, and it was hard to find good runs of pristine powder as it got tracked out much quicker than I was hoping for.

That evening, we enjoyed the Chalet that Karl had found for us. It was a nice place.

snow angel
snow angel


nice dinner
nice dinner

The next morning, I made the better call to go to Northstar. Turns out it actually plenty of untracked snow, more than we had the previous day at Alpine. We went for the backside right away, and then did lookout mountain in the afternoon. They were both quite good.

















Northstar was actually a great day, and we ended around 15:00 after Karl had a (hopefully) minor injury that ended the day, but the rest of us were pretty skied out anyway.

This brings us to the drive home, and how Caltrans and CHP seem to handle Tahoe roads. Roads weren't that bad, but it only take a few drivers to screw it up for everyone else:

road wasn't that bad when we left, this was close to the pass.
road wasn't that bad when we left, this was close to the pass.



Before long, traffic was held on i80, and then it got closed, and we got stuck on 80 for over 4 hours until traffic moved again:


so much for leaving early and getting out of the snowline in daylight...
so much for leaving early and getting out of the snowline in daylight...


Long story short, I wasn't impressed with Caltrans/CHP for apparently not doing enough to slow traffic down, yielding to a few unavoidable accidents and spinouts, and then closing it down for over 4H with a lot of people trapped on it (quite bad, because people run out of gas, or cars ice up when they get stopped).
Caltrans, can't you just plow the road and block it at the same time by having plows go down at 20mph or so, forcing cars to go on a freshly plowed road at low speed? I'm dismayed that they look like they almost let accidents happen and then deal with the much harder job of cleaning it up and dealing with stranded people on the road, and a road that isn't being self cleaned by warm cars and tires.

Took 7.5h to get there, and about 8H to get back. I'm just not impressed, I think they can do better considering that the snow storm was actually not _that_ bad.

2012/03/11 Three Years of Solar Panels
π 2012-03-11 00:00 in Solar
Our 3rd year was the weakest year of the 3 years we've had so far. Our total was 8402Kwh for the year, which still beats the estimated 8114Kwh yearly by Cobalt Power.

I've also made a spreadsheet showing all the numbers I've gathered so far: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AloDTsnSvSs7dHdwS1NzcHJlRF80cVg1NUxzUlFEOFE

2012/03/08 Debian 64bit and Brtfs with Dm-crypt On Top of a 256GB SSD
π 2012-03-08 00:00 in Linux
So, after having been burned and burned again by ubuntu/canonical, I got fed up enough to ditch ubuntu and go back to debian.

I figured I'd use the opportunity to switch to 64bit userland and start clean (everyone says I'm insane for never re-installing linux and keeping year old installs, like my debian servers that I've been upgrading for the last 10 years with no re-installs).

I made a debian bootable USB key with debian testing, and apart from a small UI bug in package selection, the install was pretty effortless.

In a nutshell:

  • hibernate broke because it silently switched to uswsusp which didn't come configured properly and does not log to syslog. For some insane reason, uswsusp uses a totally different config file from normal hibernate and did not work in initramfs without that special config file (really guys? that's lame).
  • Maybe I shouldn't have installed uswsusp, but it kind of just came with the system and I didn't know it would break hibernation. Did I even mention that there was a 3rd option: tuxonice?

  • Xorg had started crashing with recent ubuntus, which did put me in a bad mood, and switching distros and to 64bit made that go away. That's good news.
  • As I expected, it took weeks to get all my customizations work again (and I'm not done still :-/). That's a bit disheartening, but at the same time re-inforces why I don't do wipe re-installs.
  • fresh-reinstall didn't really make anything work better, it just cost me a *lot* of time to get all my stuff working again.
  • and to make things fun, I upgraded to an SSD for my boot drive, with btrfs on top of dmcrypt, which just became safe/stable as of 3.2 kernels which had just come out at that time. I ended up not using DISCARD/TRIM, since I read that it. See this thread I started on SSDs and dmcrypt with btrfs (edit: turns out it's not actually a great idea, the security risk is limited, and making SSDs work without trim is sending them running with their arms tied behind the back).
  • Added 5 months later, SSDs are complicated, I had multiple failures.

    My impressions so far?
    It feels good to be with a system that I know will not randomly force crap I don't want, and that I can upgrade piecemeal. That doesn't make gnome less crappy, or network manager less unreliable, but it's debian, I've had 10 years with it, and I know they're the least likely to screw me in the future like canonical effectively has. Oh, the best part is that some of the package maintainers actually look at and respond to their bugs. How about that! :)

    Here's to the next 10 years, debian! :)
    (one year later: after the initial setup, debian has as expected worked quite well for me. I've been able to upgrade just what I needed when I needed it, and otherwise breakage was pretty much non existent).

    2012/03/07 Ditched Ubuntu and Switched Laptop to Back to Debian 64bit
    π 2012-03-07 00:00 in Linux
    5-6 years ago, I bought into the ubuntu promise of being a better debian before ubuntu was cool, and switched my main laptop from debian to ubuntu. At the time, ubuntu made sense: it was supposed to be a professionally maintained debian with freeze and stabilization every 6 months, and would contain binary drivers that debian wasn't willing to ship.

    For the first year or two, I was happy with ubuntu, maybe all the way up to Gutsy or Hardy. It delivered on what I signed up for. But then, came a quite unfinished upstart, network manager suckage, non working pulseaudio for many releases, and an ever increasing amount of half baked crap.

    Ubuntu switched from a better debian to some experimental distribution where shippping known broken stuff was ok, and even pushing experimental known unfinished stuff in an LTS was apparently ok. It became as bad or worse than Fedora Core, except Fedora Core never made a promise to be stable or make rational and generally 'safe' choices.

    First, I started writing about it, and contacted several people at canonical to let them know how bad the non gnone non desktop experience was getting (and actually even the gnome/desktop experience was riddled with bugs), and after a few years, I eventually gave up and decided that enough was enough and switched back to debian, which is also what I'm doing at work (their loss, that's *many* machines):

  • Intrepix, or when ubuntu started breaking linux networking with network manager
  • Jaunty, or network manager still being horrible
  • Hardy apparently was the last reasonable LTS.
  • Karmic, finally had network manager working, but brought pulseaudio to make sure you couldn't play sound anymore
  • Lucid, brought the wredged plymouth. That was the day I decided that I was getting tired of ubuntu, and got really pissed when I learned that they knew plymouth was broken, they knew no one wanted to test it, so they put it in an LTS and made it required with the system to make sure you couldn't remove it. Fsck you very much canonical, that's a good way to end up on my shit list.
  • Maverick, plytmouth still wasn't working and still couldn't be disabled. Also, it had virtually no documentation still. At this point I was fed up enough that I called it "plymouhtn is the worst thing that happened to linux", but I take this back. Maverick is really when I got pissed at canonical for not fixing their clusterfsck from lucid and not reversing their aweful decision to just shove unfinished crap in the distro.
  • Natty? I just got tired of breakage, didn't even upgrade to it.
  • Oneiric? I didn't write about it because I didn't keep it long enough before replacing it with debian. It wasn't horrible, but didn't bring me anything new that was worthwhile and broke network manager for me again. Oh, and for fun, you couldn't really upgrade from Maverick to Oneiric anyway, you're supposed to install each and every new version unless you jump from LTS to LTS (this is simply because Canonical chose not to support that, which is in their right, just like it is in my right to then not be interested in using it anymore).
  • At this point I drew a line in the sand, and decided to switch back from Ubuntu to Debian. Debian doesn't have an agenda of pushing half baked software or disruptive software to its users, and does its very best not to break compatibility, at least needlessly.

    2012/03/04 Caviar and Foie Gras
    π 2012-03-04 00:00 in Dining
    We had some foie gras I brought back from France, and I had just found some non sturgeon fish eggs (what americans call caviar), that actually tasted better than the usual reasonably tasty and cheap lumpfish eggs I get from france (unfortunately a lot of so call US caviar actually doesn't taste as good as said lumpfish eggs).

    So, it made sense to have them for a sunday night dinner :)
    Jennifer seared the foie gras, which was quite good with local Sauternes substitute :) and we had the caviar after that, just because :)
    (et la porsche et la blonde dans la piscine :) )



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    2012/03/03 Dear PGE We Saved Electricity And You Owe Us $189
    π 2012-03-03 00:00 in Solar
    *update*: A PG&E employee contacted me after reading this blog, and basically he agreed that the current scheme isn't perfect. He actually said that we're getting creditted a bit too much because the credits do not account for their line transmission charges. I'll admit not fully knowing the gritty details between transmission line charges since I know I do pay a small flat fee for that per month, and by offetting my neighbour's load during high demand sunny hours, I should offload their transmission lines a little bit, but effectively he said that the credits are a little bit too high, which means that you just don't get paid when they get negative.
    While I can see his point, I still don't full agree with that someone who makes more electricity than they make isn't compensated for time of use prices at all, but he also pointed out that it's difficult for people with solar to be fully compensated since they do not provide a contract and guarantee of production, like their other providers do.
    All in all, it's kind of a mess and the current program isn't ideal, but it is better than nothing.

    Dear PG&E,

    I was good, I upgraded my server hardware to be more power efficient (old dual P4 Xeon to I3 2100T lower power CPU), spin down hard drives, and reprogrammed my mythtv to suspend and use virtually no power most of the time. This saved about 200W of 24/7 baseload. As a result, our true up bill went from -$38 for the year, to -$110.
    So remind me, why is power not worth more when we have to pay for it than when you have to pay us back? Why are all my efforts to save power ending up with a further negative bill rewarded by a flat out $0 that we get back?

    For the casual reader, the longer answer is in PGE Trueing Up Encourages Electricity Wasting. Eventually if I ever manage to save enough power, I might get a few dollars back, and PG&E will pocket about $150 of spread.

    PG&E, you're supposed to encourage us to save electricity. Is it really smart to antigonize your greener customers with this unfair system?

    Here's what you owe us so far:

    .

    Kwh used in the yearDollars Balance

    .

    2009-20101602-$39.87

    .

    2010-20111209-$38.8

    .

    2011-2012674-$110.43

    .

    .

    Total Since Install3485-$189.1

    And here is the full true up bill for 2011-2012:

    .

    2011-2012Total (Kwh)FEB 2012JAN 2012DEC 2011NOV 2011OCT 2011SEP 2011AUG 2011JUL 2011JUN 2011MAY 2011APR 2011MAR 2011

    .

    Summer Peak-752-8-14-99-153-204-171-103

    .

    Summer Part Peak-622-1-100-125-130-103-114-49

    .

    Summer Off Peak810691951171251648654

    .

    Winter Peak304625968-2-226871

    .

    Winter Off Peak93421713230111224-80228

    .

    Total Kwh67427919136917081-107-158-143-199-96-12299

    .

    Total $-$110.43$29.49$20.11$36.95$14.85-$1.75-$35.68-$50.11-$55.62-$62.67-$34.76-$0.28$29.04

    And here is 2010-2011:

    .

    2010-2011Total (Kwh)FEB 2011JAN 2011DEC 2010NOV 2010OCT 2010SEP 2010AUG 2010JUL 2010JUN 2010MAY 2010APR 2010MAR 2010

    .

    Summer Peak-7620-19-124-186-156-174-103

    .

    Summer Part Peak-57211-78-100-151-108-107-39

    .

    Summer Off Peak104795332199188185471

    .

    Winter Peak35468787818-165771

    .

    Winter Off Peak11421133314481630-28115

    .

    Total Kwh1209181409526287235-25-149-79-234-15729186

    .

    Total $-$38.80$17.89$39.60$51.27$26.68$11.61-$34.95-$62.18-$32.44-$44.34-$26.49$2.30$12.25

    And here is 2009-2010:

    .

    2009-2010Total (Kwh)FEB 2010JAN 2010DEC 2009NOV 2009OCT 2009SEP 2009AUG 2009JUL 2009JUN 2009MAY 2009APR 2009MAR 2009

    .

    Summer Peak-72520-60-90-151-172-173-99

    .

    Summer Part Peak-531-1-60-106-112-119-113-20

    .

    Summer Off Peak124011028416523025713856

    .

    Winter Peak301767277-1-96323

    .

    Winter Off Peak131741144242216425-16316

    .

    Total Kwh1602487514499292164-31-33-34-148-47-10039

    .

    Total $-$39.87$32.54$34.04$33.45$20.87-$1.63-$19.71-$8.08-$45.81-$55.31-$25.83-$8.13$3.73


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