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2013/03/31 Putting on a few miles on Calaveras
π 2013-03-31 00:00 in Cars
I had to break in my new car before going to the track with it, and Brian's Easter Party in pleasanton happened to be that weekend, so it was a good excuse to go drive on Calaveras both ways.

The brakes did need some bedding, so my first times braking, it didn't quite stop where I expected, but apart from that, the handling was good, and the power definitely on tap. Way more than I needed for that road :)




2013/03/28 Time for a New Car: McLaren MP4-12C
π 2013-03-28 00:00 in Cars
Wait, a new car you're asking? But don't you have one already?

Well, turns out my F430 is actually 6.5 years old. Yes, really :)

It's served me well, but it was getting a bit old, and some punks with GTRs groceries and baby seats in the back where starting to get faster than I could keep up with.

So, why not a F458 you say? Well, I did drive it on the track, it is a nice car, really, but

  • 1.5 year wait for a convertible. 1.5 years? Really?
  • I got a custom ordered McLaren Spider in 4 months flat, including a 1 month boat trip from England and trucking across the US from New York.
  • Well, the McLaren is really a better car than the F458.
  • Why is it better?

  • It has better stability control, active brake steering.
  • It has more power than a F458.
  • It has independent active geometry for each wheel, keeping wheels flat in turns. This is a big deal, see the picture of why my tires get shredded sideways on my F430 in just one track day:
  • Look at the left wheel not on the track. That's bad :)
    Look at the left wheel not on the track. That's bad :)

    Anyway, here are a few pictures of the new car:





    Storage space is limited, even less than the F430
    Storage space is limited, even less than the F430

    When the roof is up, you can store small luggage where the top is supposed to go
    When the roof is up, you can store small luggage where the top is supposed to go

    I'll be honest, the entertainment system is a custom designed thing on top of Windows CE, and it's far from good or finished. The car itself however has been quite good so far :)

    Ah yes, the numbers: 3.8L V8 twin turbo with 25 to 28psi of boost (!), giving a nice 616hp. 204mph top speed for the convertible and 0-60 in 3.1sec. The DSG gearbox is nothing short of amazing.

    2013/03/17 A Quick Day at Durango Mountain Resort
    π 2013-03-17 00:00 in Snow
    Due to our flight on sunday afternoon, we had to leave a bit early, and it didn't make sense to do one more day at Silterton. Turns out, conditions had turned to crap anyway, so that was a good decision in hindsight.

    Instead on sunday morning we drove towards Durango and spent a quick day at the Durango Mountain Resort. We had an inch or so of fresh snow in the morning, but that wasn't enough to cover the ice crud under it.

    The weather got sunny pretty quickly, which gave us some softer snow just after lunch, but again, it was chasing spring conditions in March: from ice to slush, kinda sad.










    In hindsight, I'd have been happier waiting in durango, the conditions were just poor and Durango Resort not that exciting (would have been fine with 1ft of powder, or ok enough with real snow, but with ice, it kinda sucked, especially the part where I managed to mess up my thumb with my ski pole while sliding on ice).

    Oh well, such is life :)

    2013/03/17 Four Years of Solar Panels
    π 2013-03-17 00:00 in Solar
    Our 4th year was still a bit weaker with a total of 8402Kwh for the year, but it still beats the estimated 8114Kwh yearly by Cobalt Power.

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

    The good news is that our PG&E net consumption is still going down:

    Year #	       PV Kwh  PG&E Kwh
    2010 - #1	8503	1602
    2011 - #2	8813	1209
    2012 - #3	8402	 674
    2013 - #4	8366	 486
    2013/03/16 Picture Size Upgrades Thanks Rig3 And Shell
    π 2013-03-16 00:00 in Linux
    So, I started my blog about 10 years ago now (not counting some old html posts that I backported to the blog with some fancy scripting at the time).

    Back then, my pictures were 640x480 because of available bandwidth and screen width, but eh, things have improved. Now 1024x768 is not a big deal, and soon even bigger will be fine.
    Thanks to Ralf's rig3, all my blog entries after August 2008 were trivial to change since all rig3 takes the original pictures and resizes them to the requested size. All I had to do was to change 640 to 800 and later 1024. It took mere minutes.

    It however got complicated for anything before that. Those posts were done on blogger with pictures I hand resized, and named. Sometimes unfortunately the names didn't quite match the name of the picture of the gallery they came from, sometimes not all all, or sometimes the picture was 101_Flight.jpg and I have 7 pictures called that and no easy way to know which one the snapshot was taken from. So, I wrote some heuristics to use the blog date and try to match that with the picture directory date when there is one (they don't always match, but they're often close enough that a match is possible).
    After doing that, looking for all the corner cases, hand renaming files that I didn't name right the first time, and running my script more times, I got to resize around 98% of the older pictures and blogs so that they are also 1024 for almost everything. Yeah!

    While I was at it, I also got do redo my burning man posts that had measly 640x480 pictures and look much better with 1024 pictures:

  • BM 2002
  • BM 2003
  • BM 2004
  • BM 2005
  • BM 2006
  • BM 2007.
  • I'm also happy that all my older pictures from hiking and diving are in higher res now, like:

  • John Muir Trail backpacking trip
  • Old pictures of my first flight to Mammoth, my first trip to Whistler
  • Best of best of snow pictures
  • Paris Air Show at Le Bourget 2006
  • My first flight to Oshkosh in 2007
  • Dives from Malaysia/Sipadan
  • My first trip to the great barrier reef
  • My second trip to the great barrier reef
  • 2013/03/14 3 More Days in Silverton
    π 2013-03-14 00:00 in Snow
    I had been buggy Arturo to go to Silverton with me ever since I went in 2008.
    We made this the end of a trip in Colorado, which gave us more than enough time to acclimatize, but like I was fearing, we didn't luck out on snow. They had snow, but in the few days prior to our arrival at Silverton, temperatures got unseasonably warm (above freezing at 13,000ft), causing the otherwise nice high altitude snow to turn to ice or other unpleasant things :-/ Snow as actually better than the very low bar I expected on thursday and friday, but saturday, it was just bad almost everywhere: it melted and froze overnight but it wasn't warm enough during the day to become soft. No fun...

    As a second unfortunate event, Silverton decided to send their Heli away a few days before we arrived, removing all options for Heli skiing, something we were quite looking forward to, especially for those who had never done it. Silverton looked at the weather forecast, and decide to just break their contract with us and other folks who had made advance bookings, and sent their Heli to Alaska earlier than planned. Obviously we weren't thrilled about this, so they gave us a private guide to try and make up somewhat for what happened.

    Regis and Bill flew in the day before and met us in Silverton. Unfortunately, that meant they didn't have much time to acclimatize to the altitude, and while Bill did ok, Regis had problems with the altitude unfortunately, and it did affect his ability to ski. He ended up spending the last day in Durango instead of Silverton, to be at lower altitude without any crazy hiking.

    A few pictures from Silverton and the house we rented:


    the house we were in
    the house we were in

    geeks at work :)
    geeks at work :)

    Anyway, here are some pictures for Day #1:

    Calvin, our guide, giving us a primer on using avalanche probes
    Calvin, our guide, giving us a primer on using avalanche probes

    Nice bus to pick up skiers at the bottom of some slopes :)
    Nice bus to pick up skiers at the bottom of some slopes :)


    The lodge tent and ski bus rental store are still there :)
    The lodge tent and ski bus rental store are still there :)








    when given the chance, I went to play in the trees, jumping tree trunks :)
    when given the chance, I went to play in the trees, jumping tree trunks :)


    don't ask :)
    don't ask :)

    Day #2, was still decent thanks to the sun softening the otherwise hard snow, although it's sad to work in spring conditions mode in early March...


    Concussion Woods sounds like a fun run, or how about Horsecock Basin? ::)
    Concussion Woods sounds like a fun run, or how about Horsecock Basin? ::)



    thanks to having been there for a week, and diamox, I did quite well with hiking :)
    thanks to having been there for a week, and diamox, I did quite well with hiking :)



    A few videos from that better day:


    (heavy powder)


    (tree run)


    (another tree run where I botched a landing after jumping a tree)

    Day #3, was tougher. By then the snow had gotten pretty iced up, and there wasn't much snow (even an inch of snow) to soften up the layer. Our guide Calvin talked the rest of the group (minus Regis who went to Durango to ski at lower altitude) to hike up to the billboard. It was a long 1h+ hike of 1000ft or so, to a total of 13,050ft give or take. The hike wasn't as bad as I remembered it, but the end is still dicey, and holding on to a rope when climbing:

    the so called billboard is on the right. A long hike...
    the so called billboard is on the right. A long hike...


    many folks did the same hike than us, since the snow otherwise sucked
    many folks did the same hike than us, since the snow otherwise sucked


    we actually climbed to the very peak, most people stopped just a bit short
    we actually climbed to the very peak, most people stopped just a bit short

    top of the world! (kinda)
    top of the world! (kinda)

    a bit of snow
    a bit of snow




    And that was it for day #3. We only got 4 runs (instead of 5 the other days, or a possible 6-7), but considering we went to the billboard, the lift closed for a while due to lightening, and the snow was far from stellar, it didn't really matter much.

    That was it for our day. Our guide Calvin did a great job getting us the best he could considering the finicky snow and difficult weather. The overall conditions, as well as lack of Heli were disappointing, but the folks who came had fun, so that's what matters in the end.

    A few shots from Arturo, Karl, and Bill:




    going down the rope
    going down the rope


    See more images for 3 More Days in Silverton
    2013/03/11 Boulder
    π 2013-03-11 00:00 in Google
    Since I was in Colorado for some skiing, Arturo had the great idea to combine a trip at Vail/Keystone/Beaver Creek with a trip to Silverton and go work at the Boulder office during the week between the 2 trips.

    So, we did, along with Suwei who was there with us too, and as usual I did a little photo tour to share with others:





    nice conference room :)
    nice conference room :)


    very cool idea, climbing ropes in Colorado
    very cool idea, climbing ropes in Colorado


    clockwork orange room
    clockwork orange room

    apres ski fireplace, nice :)
    apres ski fireplace, nice :)


    nice climbing wall
    nice climbing wall

    great view from the 2nd floor patio
    great view from the 2nd floor patio


    equipped for warfare :)
    equipped for warfare :)

    It was a nice little office, well worth the visit.

    See more images for Boulder
    2013/03/08 Start of Colorado Trip: Snowboarding Keystone, Vail, and Beaver Creek
    π 2013-03-08 00:00 in Snow
    Arturo and I flew into Denver, where Karl and Suwei met us and drove us their Condo in keystone.

    We got there a bit late on thursday night, but didn't have to go far on friday, we just walked to the lift :)

    The snow on friday wasn't stellar, but eh, it was a good day to warm up (although a bad day for me since I had a brand new board that was totally unwaxed it turns out, and it took me a while to fix the stance of the bindings until I was reasonably comfortable with them on not so good snow, and mogul fields)

    time for work :)
    time for work :)






    Day #2 finally had some fresh snow, not gobs of it, but it kept falling during the day, so that was good. On the wrong slopes, it was still brutal: sheets of ice with a bit of powder on top, but thankfully Karl and Suwei got us to north facing slopes that were much better and fun:






    A few videos from that better day:

    For the 3rd day, we went to Beaver Creek. There was a little bit more snow that fell since the previous day, so it wasn't half bad :)










    Arturo got it right, that's the best way not to fall :)
    Arturo got it right, that's the best way not to fall :)




    2013/03/07 Skiing/Snowboarding Trip of Colorado
    π 2013-03-07 00:00 in Trips
    This started with Arturo and I flying to Denver, where Karl and Suwei were nice enough to pick us up so that we could drive together to their Condo at Keystone for skiing the next 3 days:

    Denver Airport _is_ nice
    Denver Airport _is_ nice

    Made it to Keystone, although late...
    Made it to Keystone, although late...





    after a hard day of work :)
    after a hard day of work :)

    thankfully the 2nd day we got snow
    thankfully the 2nd day we got snow

    You can go to the pictures of our 3 days on the slopes of Keystone, Vail, and Beaver Creek.

    On Monday, Arturo, Suwei and I went to the Google Boulder office (pictures here) to work a couple of days. Arturo and I had a quick walk through downtown Boulder. I also got a few pictures on my walking commute to the office:





    On Wednesday, Karl picked us up for a long drive from Boulder to Silverton via Gunnison and Ouray. It was actually a very nice drive with some picture stops, a visit of the ice climbing park and natural hot springs in Ouray.




    We finally made it to South Park, Colorado :)





    We then reached the continental divide at Monarch pass. The only way to get to the top was hiking in the snow though :)


    gondola probably only opens later in the season :)
    gondola probably only opens later in the season :)

    then we ground Arturo :)
    then we ground Arturo :)


    Next, we arrived at Gunnison for a late lunch. It was nice for me since I had scored a landing at their airport last year, but never seen the town.




    Later on the road, we found a nice frozen lake and bridge to take pictures around:







    This was found a bit later. I like the barb wire to stop you from getting on top of the fence :)



    Finally, after that, we made it to Ouray, with its cool ice park. Ice is made with big tubes of water that leak a bit:








    We finished at the hot springs (no pictures from there), and made it to Silverton. That was a very nice drive, thanks to Karl for getting us there.

    I have a separate page for pictures of Silverton.

    On Sunday, we drove to back to Durango for a quick day at the local ski resort and flight home: Skiing in Durango.

    2013/03/03 Dinner at Alexander Steakhouse
    π 2013-03-03 00:00 in Dining
    Due to a billing screwup, we were due to go back to Alexander Steakhouse, so we went to make good on that.






    It's probably a good place if money is absolutely no object, they also have many different kinds of caviars, but since I remember being disappointed by some in the past, I'm a little bit hesitant now considering the price. I suppose it's like getting a very old and expensive bottle of wine: it could be great, but also pretty disappointing.

    I remember that the last time the wagyu sampler I got wasn't actually that stellar, whereas this time I have to admit that the 3 ounces of Miyazaki Wagyu did melt in the mouth. It's still pretty horribly overpriced, but it was quite tasty.

    Jennifer's dry aged split bone ribeye was quite good too. All in all a good dinner.

    See more images for Dinner at Alexander Steakhouse

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