Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

photos developed of Sequoias and San Francisco

I've added a couple of photos to the blog from our trip to see the Giant Sequoias (the largest living things on earth - by volume) and of our trip to San Francisco where we saw the tallest living things, the Redwood trees of Marin.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Moonlight Snow-shoeing to Elephant's back

snow-shoeing elephant's back

Quite tricky to take pictures of moonlight snowshoeing. This photo makes it seem quite dark but in reality we could see fine. The snow-shoes were brilliant, very easy to attach and walk in. We walked for about 3 hours and it was enough exertion to stay warm without being too difficult. Quite an awesome way to see distant views of Nevada and California. Panoramic snow-covered moonlit scenes of mountains, lakes and trees and the distant lights of various snow machinery grooming the ski slopes of Kirkwood. Closer by, the snow glittered very strangely and quite a few animal tracks were to be seen (rabbits and deer I think).

Dre and Jason camped out, Very impressive and they were very matter of fact about it too. Perhaps I'll give that a go one day too.

Another cool trip run by Bently Adventures.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dave is back!

dave is back
Dave's back in the office today. Great to see him looking fit and well. Certainly well enough for a measure of piss-taking. We had prepared a welcome by filling his cubicle with balloons, though it didnt end up as full as we'd hoped despite help from some passers by. What Dave doesn't know is how close those balloons took us to passing out, the tiny ones were awful - Scott had to sit down to inflate them and even then was significantly dodgey looking for some time. Mary showed us up a bit and blew up one of the small balloons easily! I think it is a scientific result that females cope better with G forces, so perhaps it is the same with blowing up balloons!

dave explaining what 'bumper nuts' are
With the relevant props Dave was also able to explain what bumper nuts are (a future blog entry on that one is needed)

Actually did a good bit of work today too.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Kirkwood is awesome

My legs were way too tired to ski today but I toured all over the mountain again anyway. I lost a ski on a steep section and spent ages trying to reconnect it before i remembered that you need the downhill ski attached first.

As it got cooler the runs got emptier and emptier and a huge moon popped up. Wow this place is totally amazing.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Apple upgrade - now wireless!

Dave always encourages me to buy Mac stuff. I must confess that I hadn't realised that the airport express thing and a regular cable modem was all you needed to start using wireless (well, also a little laptop card). I also hadnt realised that I could sit in the lounge using the Mac laptop and wirelessly broadcast from itunes to the airport express connected to a pair of speakers. Pretty clever that! I've only had it working a couple of hours and I'm already taking it for granted! It was pretty easy to set up too.

I've been less impressed with Mac OS 10.4 so far since it mainly seems to have slowed my laptop down. iTunes 5 looks good though.

Wireless is pretty cool!

Skiing with Scott

Scott "broke the seal" on the ski season and dusted off his telemark skis to show me around Kirkwood.

On the way, there was very low cloud around and poor visibility at times. I was ready for a difficult day of skiing without being able to see much. I've done that before and it can be a bit unpleasant. By the time we'd reached Kirkwood we seem to have driven through the clouds and the mountain was bathed in sunlight and looking awesome.

Scott was pretty thorough with showing me around - we got all over the mountain, even the back of it. To get back to the car we took chair 6 to the cornice and cruised down. It was pretty dodgey looking skiing up there as you might deduce from the 'cliff' signs...

carl kirkwood cornice

We cruised along the top until we got to a section not designated a cliff. It was pretty steep and the more I looked the more steep it looked and the more scott grinned, so we just had to get on with it. Oddly it seems easier to ski on very steep stuff than on easy stuff, the only worry is that moment when you have to point the skis down the slope to execute the turn. We got down without broken bones though.

scott kirkwood cornice

Kathryn phoned a couple of times, the last time about 4 ish. I jabbered away on the phone without realising the ski lifts were about to close. A bit of a mistake that since I ended up walking quite a way back to the car in awkward ski boots whereas if I'd got it right I could've skiied almost to the car.

A much better days skiing today. Felt a bit more confident and in control than last week. Still not too many people there and I still had runs to myself in the afternoon. Sweet.

I think I know where I'm going tomorrow...

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Sporting Rage (not "the sporting range"!) in Carson City

Finally made it to The Sporting Rage in Carson and was surprised it was called 'sporting rage' since it always sounds like 'sporting range' when someone says it! Anyhow, this is Kevin's outdoor store and it is very well equiped and he seems pretty able and willing to order anything you need from skis to kayaks to titanium knifes and forks.

I took the plunge and bought some ski boots and a helmet. Was really impressed that Kevin spent so much time helping me get the fit just right, so important with things like boots and helmets. You could probably get stuff cheaper at a volume outfit like REI in Reno but I think it's always worth getting a reliable recommendation and proper knowledgeable help with fitting stuff properly.

Kevin is a bit of a star really, he runs some excellent trips with Bently Adventures too. Although he seems always supremely well organised himself, and arrives early at meeting points, he's pretty relaxed about things, like people faffing, forgetting gear or whatever. Well recommended as a guide. Actually, if he and Sonja led a trip together you could get a bit of yoga at the end of the day to fix your aching muscles!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What would I do if I had a million pounds?

I sometimes wonder what I would do if I had a million quid (£). I find it a useful exercise, especially this week, filled with its various opportunities.

I've concluded before that I quite like the line of work I have fallen in to, which involves striving to design software products such that they genuinely meet the needs of the people who will use them, or 'User Experience Design'. I also quite like learning about various aspects of engineering, like learning about issues surrounding steam turbines. A guy at work, Gary, popped his head around the door one day and ended up doing us a half-hour tutorial on how various nuclear power stations work. Totally fascinating, far too interesting to be considered 'work' really.

So I think with a million quid in the bank I wouldnt mind doing exactly what I'm doing now but perhaps with a whole lot less of the corporate bureaucracy and politics, which can be tiring.

I suppose the other idea would be to do something environmental and shift that from a hobby to work. I reckon that could be fun too. I guess with a million I could start some kind of company in that area.

Anyhow, after these crazy ideas I sometimes realise that the lack of a million quid is no particular obstacle to doing any of these things. Quite a nice conclusion really! I wish I'd realised that at school!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Sonja was on form today and gave us a decent hammering in Yoga. Of course with yoga you really just push yourself, so I guess the hammering is optional depending on how far you go. Most enjoyable anyway, though I wish I could sit up properly! My back is a bit inflexible and my hamstrings very short.

Sonja has a new yoga studio in carson city called All about yoga. Reckon it would be worth a visit.

Here is a photo of Sonja demonstrating very nicely, something she was torturing us with today. It didn't look much like that when I did it but she was, as ever, nice about it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Traditional English Fish and Chips"

Went out to dinner with David. The Sushi bar was shut so we went to Danny's (not Denny's but it used to be one!).

Quite a meat-filled menu but I was lured by the sound of the "Traditional English Fish and Chips" and my mind filled with thoughts of fat greasy chips, a lump of battered fish, topped with mushy peas, perhaps a pickled egg, all drowned in vinegar and smoothered in tomato ketchup, perhaps even served in an old newspaper. Foolish to let myself dream so.

Said meal arrived in plastic basket. 2 pieces of fish (one too hard to chew even given my low quality standards); some coleslaw (!) and french fries. It was authentic in 2 respects: vinegar and tomato ketchup. A bit of a disappointing awaking from my food dream. :-(

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dog walk and house cleaning

Was planning to ski today but I'm knackered so I had a sleep in and then went on an excellent dog walk on the Faye-Luther trail nearby. When I pulled up at the trail head a HUGE dog noted my passenger was also a canine of similar colour so bounded up to meet us. I have no idea what it was but it looked like a double size labrador and was a bit boisterous. I hesistently opened the drivers door to confront the monster face to face. Molly seemed keen to say hello and pushed her way out of the drivers door behind me. I considered it somewhat fortunate that the big dog did not eat Molly, nor me. Turns out the big dog had a small dog companion, not to mention a mule and a horse. I took the approach of quickly heading along the trail and everything seemed to work itself out. Molly seemed to really like the trail.

Molly on faye-luther trail

Took her home and fell asleep. Got a call from David (who owns my house), which I hoped was to tell me what day he was arriving but no, he was calling to tell me he was outside the house! House cleaning plans slightly messed up by his early arrival!

Anyhow, good to see David and catch up on all things work related and get some food at Coyotes, which seemed to be the only place still open. Discovered some nice beer there called Snow Plough, quite like Black Butte!

Finally got back to dog sit and only regretted a little not skiing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Awesome skiing at Kirkwood

Arrived at Kirkwood for about 10am and tried to park. Somewhat tricky driving over a thick crust of ice in my 2-wheel drive chevy but I made it eventually. Wasn't too impressed at the drive to kirkwood either, at times the road is just one mass of ice, though it does seem to have reasonable grip for some reason (though not good enough for the speeds some people were doing, including cops, in my view).

Got my ski boots on (free hire from Bently Adventures!) and hobbled to our meeting point. Got there and forgot my googles, so hobbled back to the car. Not a great way to be reminded how awkward it is to walk in ski boots!

Kevin, who runs Bently adventures, was running a Telemark ski lesson today but was very keen for anyone to tag along, so I was on normal skis and Dre on her snowboard.

We started off on lift 5 and I was pretty nervous about falling off the chairlift at the top, having not skiied at all for 18 months but I made it ok. I was pretty surprised that the chairlift didnt have the safety bar to stop you falling off like they seem to always have in New Zealand and Europe. I would have expected it to be even more 'nanny state' here due to the US penchant for litigation but none of it. Actually it was nice to sit in the chair lift without the stupid lap bar.

Kevin gauged the situation well. Lift 5 led to an excellent gentle run which we all managed fine, apart from the bottom which was a little steep to start with (but as Kevin noted, it had a long run out!). We then headed up 11 which was much more exciting, especially as he led us down half of the slope which was not at all groomed. Quite a different style of skiing needed to get down in the early season powder and I fell over about 5 times on the first attempt. Without Kevin's suggestion I wouldnt have tried skiing on this stuff so it was great to be led in that direction. It was amazing to see him and the others weaving through the trees too, what a great way to ski.

So, early season skiing at Kirkwood? Well, it was the best skiing I've ever done. Only half of Kirkwood is open at the moment and even so, the slopes were lovely and quiet. When the sun dipped behind the mountain just after 3pm it got quite cold and the people thinned out even more. At one point I had the entire slope to myself.

Wow! Absolutely amazing skiing here and it's only early season. I think Scott's advice to get a Kirkwood pass was absolutely spot on. I can't imagine a better place to go skiing. For me, one thing that ruins the enjoyment of skiing is too many people hurtling out of control down the slopes. Didn't see any such thing, mainly because of the huge space available to ski. People were rocketing along sure enough but had plenty of space.

Somehow I think my weekends are now all taken care of from now until the snow melts (which is sometimes July!).

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Upgraded my pet - gone from spider to dog!

I've had a pet spider in the bath for a few weeks now, keeping me company (I don't use baths anyway!). Very comforting continuity to see it there morning and evening. How it survives and what it eats I don't know, I only hope it's not a brown recluse! I wonder how long it will hang around. I'm vaguely reminded of the story of the guy in a prison cell and his 'pet' spider. What was that story?

Anyhow, for a few days I have traded my spider for a dog! Fortunately the dog comes with it's own house and everything, including a TiVo and kegerator! FAB.

So, here is Molly enjoying the first day of advent last night with her biscuit filled advent calendar! She's doing the dog thing of begging by not looking directly at you and re-doubling her efforts to be 'well behaved'. I think she's also sharing my frustration at my unreliable camera and the faff required to take a picture when there is a dog biscuit at stake.

Molly enjoying biscuit-filled advent calendar

Here she is chilling out...
Molly taking it easy

I hope she doesn't mind having her picture plastered over the internet!

We had a nice walk this morning. Well, it started nice but I decided to walk back a different way. This was a bit like getting to the centre of a maze and deciding to walk back a different way. I eventually got back. At one point Molly just stopped and looked at me as if to say 'where are we stupid?'. Early on my mistake had been to follow the dog thinking she must know the way back. After a while I realised she was just pulling me toward the next interesting smell. I didn't fully realise the error of my ways until we got very close to the house, at which point only then did Molly seem to realise where we were!

However, I couldn't help noticing how nice it was to just walk. The mountains have looked fantastic today, very clear and sharp and snow covered. I may just try to ski down one tomorrow. I really must get a dog again one day.

Better go, dog to mind...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

RAIN (snow) & skiing this weekend

It finally rains in the desert! Today's weather is the kind of day my old friend Steve used to describe as 'good'. It took a long time to even begin to appreciate his perspective which was often centred around ice climbing and mountaineering. Down here today the weather, to a normal person, is pretty grim. But people who like the winter outdoor sports must be pretty happy with this miserable day because it is snowing in the mountains (see Kirkwood webcam)! Excellent! Snow depth 3-8 inches in last 48 hours with base depth 12-28 inches. Scott says, stay to head for the 'Solitude' lift.

Have got my skis hired from work and have weekend plans. Seems like I might need to learn how to use my snow chains this weekend though (perhaps Molly can help me get it figured out).

PS. Dog sitting for the weekend too, excellent!