All posts by wrlee

Ski Roadtrip: Day 3, Sun Peaks

From Whistler, I made it to Cache Creek after a long 4.5 hours of dark, sometimes foggy, narrow, country roads. IMG_3015Canadians who know, call it “Trash Creek”—it is where Vancouver sends its trash—seeing how small it was, the next morning, I was surprised it warranted a nickname at all). I would have stopped earlier if there had been a motel sooner. That put me within a couple hours to Sun Peaks.

So day 3 starts with a drive to Kamloops. Kamloops is a city. It has an airport. And it has a CostCo, which, of course, had the cheapest gas in the area.

Roadtrip tech tip: I use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas prices nearby, an app which is available for Android and iOS (and probably other platforms). Fortunately, it works in Canada too. If you don’t have a smart-phone, you can go to GasBuddy.com.

And Kamloops is only an hour from Sun Peaks. I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to make arrangements for a place to stay. Then I was on my way to Sun Peaks, an hour’s drive from Kamloops.IMG_7156

Roadtrip tech tip: I never take as much time to plan my trips as I ought to. Fortunately, Orbitz (or Expedia, Travelocity) exist. Since I often don’t know where I’ll be next, or when, I’ll often book a reservation sometimes just minutes before my stop via Orbitz. It lists options and is often cheaper than booking directly. The reservation goes through to the hotel/motel system immediately. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Google.

I only need a relatively comfortable place to sleep (relative to my car, that is), so the cheaper the better. I couldn’t find anything under $100. I had to dig deeper and go for the $130 entry. I only mention this because I was shocked to find it to be the fanciest ski accommodations I’ve stayed at. IMG_3021Ski in/out, ski valet, free wifi, pool, sauna, jacuzzi and fitness. The Sun Peaks Grand.

They took my skis to valet and I took my stuff upstairs. I quickly dressed, got a $44 late-afternoon ticket (less the Canadian discount), picked up my skis from valet and headed out for a few runs in the days’ last hour and a half, trying to hit as many lifts as I could. I ventured into a hazard marked narrow black-diamond run which would have been pretty good with coverage; as it was, I had to navigate around rocks and logs as my still-new boots began to hurt my feet (ugh… I hate new boots).

A "sweet onion soup" preceded my rib-eye dinner
A “sweet onion soup” preceded my rib-eye dinner.

Apres ski involved a walk around the small village—sort of a micro version of Whistler’s village, maybe about the size of Squaw’s, but prettier.  I decided on a the Steakhouse because it had a rib-eye on the menu. I first had used the hot tub and a quick sauna to dry off before dinner.

I got a lot done that day.

Ski Roadtrip: Day 2, Whistler

It was a 2.5 hours from Vancouver to Whistler. I almost bypassed Whistler because getting from there to my next stop would have meant backtracking back to Vancouver in a “normal” winter, but it looked to be clear, so stopping at Whistler meant I would get to ski on day 2 and it would break up the long drive to Sun Peaks.

It took a while to get out of Vancouver, so I didn’t start sliding down the mountain until noon. My Squaw season pass gave me $25 off, leaving with a $98 CAD ticket for the few hours. Right now, we Americans get almost a 20% discount because the CA$ has been dropping.

I was going to ski the Whistler side, but there was a crowd because one of the gondolas had almost fallen off or something, so they’d shut it down for a while (something about kids getting crushed or something… but I probably have that wrong). So I headed across the plaza to the Blackcomb gondola.

They were supposed to have had some snow a couple of days earlier but, like everywhere, it’s been warm. I headed up as high as I could as quickly as I could. Getting up to Jersey Cream for a warm up and Glacier to get to the very top, I used the T-bar(!! There are two or three of them up there) to get to the sunny Blackcomb Glacier side to ski 7th Heaven a few times.

The snow report said “packed powder.”—any condition with the word “powder” in it is better than Tahoe these days. Nothing in the west is getting the amount of snow it should and Whistler-Blackcomb is no exception; most everything was covered, but some off-piste areas were a bit thin over the rocks. Considering that it had been a couple of days since they’d had snow I was surprised that there was still soft, loose snow to be found, off-piste. And you might manage to find patches of untouched in the trees. I found the soft stuff slightly warmed over… I’m probably being overly critical since I wasn’t on my fat skis—it wasn’t even what I’d call sticky or heavy, just not fluffy 🙂

So I managed to get in bumps (the good, well-formed kind), trees, (short) steeps, nice off-piste chop, and groomers. And, as expected, icy and crusty towards the bottom 1/4 of the run to the bottom.

And, I didn’t know this, Whistler closes at 3p until the third week of January! So that cut another hour of my day! (Although my legs appreciated the early retirement—it was only my 2.5th day this season).

All-in-all, a good first day of my trip. I love mid-weeks; the longest line of the day had two people in front of me.

IMG_3014I took a break for some food at Earls (because I remember they have really cute waitresses) and to try to figure out how long I might be able to drive and to know where my options for sleeping may be.

Click the pictures below

Roadtrip: Skiing 2015 the prep

Over the past three years, I have spent a 4 or 5 weeks in Truckee (Lake Tahoe), armed with a season pass to Squaw Valley. Last season one of my ski buddies, my dad’s cousin Brian, seemed a bit surprised that I haven’t explored more ski resorts. My contract ended early this season, so that opened up time to expand my ski horizons: a roadtrip through Canada ski resorts became  my for this season, before ending up in Tahoe.

After consultation with many of my ski aficionados I’ve come up with the following ski playlist:

  • Vancouver (visit Nann’s) 2 hrs to
  • Whistler, Jan 20, 5 hrs to
  • Sun Peaks, Jan 21–23, 4 hrs to
  • Revelstoke, Jan 24–26, 2.5 hrs to
  • Kicking Horse, Jan 27, 2 hrs to
  • Lake Louise, Banff, Jan 28,  45 min to…
  • Sunshine Village, Banff, Jan 29,  2.5 hrs to…
  • Panorama, Jan 30, 31,  2.5 hrs to…
  • Drive  to Fernie and Seahawks-Superbowl day
  • Fernie, Feb 2, 2 hrs to…

  • Whitefish, Feb 3, 4
  • drive day, Feb 5, 6.5 hrs to
  • Big Sky, MT, Feb 6–8?, 2.5 hrs to
  • Yellowstone (tour, no skiing) Feb ?, 5.5 hrs to
  • Grand Targhee?
  • Jackson Hole
  • Powder Mountain?
  • Truckee/Lake Tahoe, Feb 15
  • Seattle, end of Feb/beg of March


I tried to keep driving stints between resorts to less than three hours. If distances seemed too far, I tried to find a resort to break up the drive. Mapping out the initial route allowed me to make sure that the trip would be achievable fun and not a tiring chore. And that I could leave a couple of weeks to ski in Tahoe before the third week* of February… assuming the snow is any good.

I didn’t know what the snow conditions will be like I didn’t know how long I would be at each resort; planning would have to be somewhat ad hoc, adjusting as I go. Despite the long time, I found that there time to squeeze all this in would be pretty tight.

Travel Tech Tip: In the US, if you have an unlocked GSM cell phone (I.e., not a Sprint or Verizon phone), T-Mobile offers no contract subscriptions. For an extra $10, you can get free calling within many foreign countries and unlimited slow speed Internet data. This is a great deal. You can make necessary reservations and use navigation and other smart phone apps. If you don’t need the services once you return home, you can simply deactivate your T-Mobile account.

*

End of Feb/beginning of March is out… I have a job that will take me traveling and I have to start that job before the last week of February.

Windows 8.1 Tiled “Metro” Apps Stopped Working! Here’s a Fix

I own both Macs and PCs. I try not to be too much of a fan-boy and stay religiously neutral.  Both operating systems start to feel their age after being subjected to accumulation of apps and use.  I can run both for weeks on end without rebooting. But I have only been running Windows 8.1 for less than 2 months and I already ran into a severe quirk for which there was no obvious solution, none of the new, “Metro”, tiled applications would run. Trying to untangle this led to frustrating dead-end after dead-end. This kind of bad behavior is what gives Windows a bad reputation.

Jump down to the solution if you don’t care about the back-story. Continue reading Windows 8.1 Tiled “Metro” Apps Stopped Working! Here’s a Fix

Bring the Quick Launch Back (no need for “pinned” TaskBar Items)

Quick Launch Win8.1When I get a new product, I like trying out new features long enough to be able to evaluate whether they might be useful. Windows 7 introduced the “Pin to Taskbar” feature to replace the Quick Launch toolbar of prior versions of Windows. I found that the “Pin” feature provides no advantages over the Quick Launch toolbar and some disadvantages. If you have not used this feature before—in some XP installations, Quick Launch was not activated by default—you might try this out to see if it improves your efficiency in using Windows. Windows 7 and 8 have made this more difficult, so you’ll need to follow the instructions, following the break, to bring it back. Continue reading Bring the Quick Launch Back (no need for “pinned” TaskBar Items)

Resell My iPad

I’m really bad about replacing my gadgets while they still have value (anyone want a top-of-the-line Sony 36″ Trinitron XBR TV?). The issue is, the existing one still works well, so I don’t need to upgrade. But the downside of holding onto devices for too long is that they become completely worthless to anyone else.

So, while I don’t need to replace my 3rd Gen iPad, it’d be nice to resell it to subsidize the cost of the new iPads… with that I looked around to see what I could get for it.  I thought it might be worth enumerating the places where you can sell easily; so with that, I excluded eBay and CraigsList. The following shows a point-in-time (18.Oct 2014) anecdotal example of the variation in price offerings:

Source Offer
Apple $115 credit
Gazelle $120 30-day price-lock
BestBuy $185 credit
NextWorth $125 30-day price-lock
Glyde $187.54
Amazon $182.65 credit
SellYourMac $140 30-day offer-lock
BuyMyTronics $135
SellYourCell $120
iSellMyiPhone $144  14-day offer-lock
uSell $136.80
CashforiPhones iPhones only

How it Works

All the sites, listed here work, more or less, the same:

  1. Rate your device (“like new” means, would you give it as a gift?)
  2. Print out a pre-paid shipping label or wait for shipping materials.
  3. Send the device in.
  4. Receive payment (assuming your description was accurate).

Apple

Apple uses the services of Brightstar to handle its buy-back program. You pack your device with your own or packaging sent; they pay the shipping in either case. Once they receive the device you’ll receive an Apple store credit.

Gazelle

This is the most advertised of the buy-back sites. Gazelle allows you to submit and accept an offer, after-which they send you a self-addressed, postage paid box for you to ship the device to them. You normally have 30-days with the offer price locked in, to do that. Once they receive the device they send you the money in various forms, PayPal or check. You can also elect to receive an Amazon credit and get an extra 5%. Or you can have the amount donated to charity.

BestBuy

You have the convenience (or inconvenience) of bringing your device to a BestBuy for a credit. You can also send your device for credit that will be emailed back, after they receive the device.

NextWorth

NextWorth is similar to Gazelle, with a 30-day offer price lockin and free shipping. Payment distributed via PayPal, a Discover prepaid card, check, or Target gift-card. They partner with Target to allow you to bring your device into a local store for immediate payment.

Glyde

Glyde provides an easy way to sell your device—an easy alternative to eBay or Craigslist. They present a recommended price that you can adjust higher or lower. After setting your price, they provide you with a shipping kit to send them the device and they sell at your price and keep >10%. The $187.54, shown above, is based on their $212 recommended selling price. You can use your payment to purchase other items from Glyde, transfer to your bank account or, for $2., have a paper check sent.

Amazon

In addition the eBay-like way that Amazon allows you to sell goods, they are providing a specific way to sell your device directly to Amazon for credit. You’ll need to pack the device but they provide free shipping.

SellYourMac

Despite their name, SellYourMac buys all sorts of Apple devices. They lock their offer price for 30-days within which you print the shipping label they provide and package your device. They pay via PayPal, check, or credit.

BuyMyTronics

Pays via PayPal or check once they receive the device, with theirs or your own packaging—paid by BuyMyTronics.

SellYourCell

SellYourCell is a simple site. Pack your device, slap on their pre-paid shipping label and they send you a check or credit your PayPal account.

iSellMyiPhone

After submitting your offer, you’ll be required to submit photos of the device to confirm its condition after which iSellMyiPhone will send a FedEx label to cover shipping. They will lock their offer price for 14-days to allow time for them to receive the device—short, but their offer is higher than  those offering 30-day lock-in. Once they test the device, they send payment via check or, for a 3% fee an instant PayPal credit.

uSell

uSell coordinates the selling of your device to commercial buyers. You are shown the offering price for your device. Once you accept, they will send pre-paid packaging. Payment is via check or PayPal, upon receipt.

References

http://www.imore.com/how-sell-and-get-most-money-your-old-ipad-upgrading-ipad-5-or-ipad-mini-2

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2425805,00.asp

Real Programmers Don’t Eat Quiche

Thinking more about programmers’ lack of understanding about how computers work and their inability to program in C, that I alluded to previously, makes me say to myself “Real Programmers Use C” or “Real Programmers Don’t Use Interpreted Languages”.

I hear of no calls for C, while there are lots of call for the inefficient, interpreted languages—PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, and Python—which drive most of the “web”. These languages insulate programmers from having to know too much about how computer hardware works. Because of this, programmers never develop the innate sensitivity to computer performance. This results in our needing increasingly powerful computers to do, essentially, the same amount of work (the amount of useful work done is not proportional to increasing computing hardware performance).

Real Programmers Don’t Eat Quiche

Way back before the web was programmable, like it is today, there were a list of “facts” defining real programmers:


Variations of this list were passed around via company mail (snail mail, mail-kart, and pre-“email”). Posters of this list hung on the office walls of developers who considered themselves “real programmers.”

This, of course, was triggered by the 1982 book, “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” An essay appeared in Datamation magazine, “Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal,” extrapolating on the geek version of this list (it isn’t clear whether the lists spawned the essay or vice versa).