Thursday, November 26, 2009

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Normally, Lake Louise, Alberta is one of the best places in the world for ski racing at the professional level. The weather is amazingly consistent (either very cold or unbelievably motherfucking cold), and so when it snows, the snow comes down as pixie dust and doesn't accumulate much.

Counterintuitively, fresh snow is bad for ski racing. Race courses are injected with water to make them almost as hard as ice, so any snow that falls after the course is injected must be removed from the course, either manually or by snow blowers.

Yesterday we got in a really smooth training run with 95 competitors. Very high number for a World Cup "speed" event.

It snowed all last night, and oddly, the temp is barely below freezing, so big flakes fell from the sky, and the accumulated snow on the course was knee-deep in places this morning. The race jury called it a day by 8AM, so we had nothing to do except clean up a few details in The Batcave and then go powder skiing.


The powder skiing wasn't that great, as there's very little snow under the fresh powder, so I gouged up my "work skis" pretty good on the rocks. But that's what work skis are for.

It's supposed to snow all day and then really snow hard tonight, so tomorrow might be another powder day.

Very unusual for Lake Louise. In all the years I've been doing races here (since 1994) I can only remember one other day off due to too much snow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

There's a Great French Joke In Here Somewhere

The script of Risky Business meets reality, and reality bites back.

"Who's da U-boat commander?"


Or maybe it's a Texas joke?

Or maybe it's a joke about guys with way more money than sense?

Or maybe it's a joke about engineers who spend millions trying to cut a few kilos out of a supercar's design, and then said supercar is bought by a middle-aged fat guy carrying 100 extra kilos around his middle.

Enzo Ferrari had nothing but disdain for the people who bought his cars. He considered them all poseur idiots, a means to an end. The people who bought his road cars were poseurs with too much disposable income, and the people who bought his old race cars were even bigger idiots, because he'd since built a better one.

And so forth.

Here a video of the aftermath:


Monday, November 09, 2009

First iPhone Virus

Hoo boy. Here we go.


Winter is on our doorstep. Now that the gauntlet has been dropped, look for iPhones to be attacked relentlessly by 16 year old be-pimpled hackers all over the world, sitting around in their underwear with nothing better to do.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Windows 7 Doesn't Suck Too Badly

"Doesn't Suck Too Badly" is about the best we can hope for from Microsoft. Honestly, if Gates and Ballmer had to pay for the lost productivity we all suffer every time they totally change the Windows UI, then they'd be driving around in 1976 Pintos and living in crappy apartments instead of living large as arrogant fuckwad douchebag billionaires.

I installed W7 on one of my Dell ATG D630s. To my utter astonishment, I discovered there actually is a benefit to W7: Every single device installed perfectly, right out of the box. That, in and of itself, was amazing. I wasn't left with a Device Mangler full of question marks. Right off the bat, I saved an hour of futzing around on the Dell web site, downloading drivers and playing an infuriating game of "guess the hardware".

The default UI blows, of course. It took me about an hour of Googling around and futzing around to get the UI as close to "Windows Classic" as possible.

Start -> Control Panel -> All Control Panel Items -> Personalization -> Basic Themes -> Windows Classic will get your windows to look reasonably like XP.

Then you have to futz with the firewall and the Start menu.

Start Menu:
Notification Area: OFF
Taskbar Buttons: Never Combine

To get most of the M$ crap off your Explorer windows, open up a window and click -> ORGANIZE -> LAYOUT.

Unfortunately, the only way to get a Classic start menu is to install a free program called CSMENU.

-> Control Panel ->All Control Panel Items -> Performance Options -> Visual Effects turns off all the bullshit eye candy screen stuff like animations inside Explorer windows, fade effects on the menus and other assorted, needless crap.

Unfortunately, a lot of the hard-coded locations of vital stuff have changed, an unfortunate annoyance that has carried over from the hopeless Windows Vista. For example, you can't get to C:\Documents and Settings because it basically doesn't exist.

But the performance is pretty good, I can live with it. I'll wait for at least Service Pack 1 (if not Service Pack 2) before I use it for anything important.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

News Flash: The French Are Good for Something

OK, I admit it. I was wrong. The French are good for something.


The next time I am falling-down drunk and find myself with no corkscrew, I will think of how brilliant and creative French people are.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Three Weeks 'Til Downhill Season

Three weeks till the World Cup DH season kicks off in Lake Louise, Alberta. Winter doesn't even start for 7 weeks, but I'm sure The Sled Dogs will pull the races off. The Sled Dogs are a hard-working, hard-partying, loose confederation of course workers (most of whom are volunteers) who have been together since the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. They work their asses off literally around the clock to prepare the DH and SuperG pistes at LL.

A lot of people dread downhill season - the interminable weather delays, the changing snow conditions, innumerable course holds, the monstrous courses requiring huge infrastructure and setup. I, for one, love downhill season. You will not find a more entertaining display of athletic prowess, presented in a better natural venue. In short, downhill is the ultimate in sport theatre, at least as far as I'm concerned. As a fan, I simply dig downhill.

Another reason to love downhill season is, well, downhillers. To wit, they are (as a group) not screwed down too tight. Excepting the mostly straight-laced Austrians, your Kristian Ghedinas, your Tommy Moes, and your Todd Brookers are a batshit-crazy bunch.

Let's have a look at the basic concept. Go to the steepest, iciest, most dangerous mountain you can find. Snap a pair of devices to your feet, devices designed not to arrest your momentum, but to maximize it. Point the slippery devices straight down the hill. Shove off. Go like hell. Try to go faster than all the other guys, without killing yourself.

Perhaps now you can understand why downhillers aren't screwed down too tight.

My favorite ski racer currently competing on the World Cup tour is a guy named Rainer Schoenfelder, whom I've never met, but who became my favorite skier after I saw a video of him blasting through a slalom training run at Wengen last year buck naked. On a bet. Anybody that wacked has got to be a cool guy.

One of the best ski racers in the world, the defending World Cup Overall champion in fact, is a Norwegian named Aksel Lund Svindal. I've met him briefly a few times, and he didn't seem to have much personality. Just goes to show you.....first impressions can be deceiving.

Check out this video of the Norwegian DH team, shot at Portillo this past summer, about three weeks after I skied there.

And that's just one of many reasons why I love downhill.