Our Ski Season

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This has been a horrible year for snow what with multiple Pineapple Expresses melting whatever base accumulated. Mt. Baker is open but nobody else is.

Cliff Mass has this to say:

Desperate Ski Resorts Taking Matters into Their Own Hands
I never thought it would come to this...but it has...PINEAPPLECIDE.

Northwest ski resorts are desperate to deal with their nemesis:  the Pineapple Express.

You know what I am talking about...the current of warm, moist air that brings warm temperatures and heavy rain to the West Coast.   The generic name for such features is atmospheric river, but in our region we call it a pineapple express since our atmospheric rivers generally have their roots near Hawaii (see graphic).

20141221-pineap.jpeg

But during the last week, faced with potential closure over the profitable Christmas break, some Northwest ski operators have turned to severe and unprecedented measures to deal with the threat. Hearkening back to approaches more appropriate to shamans or voodoo witch-doctors, crazed representatives of various Northwest skiing organizations are shooting, decapitating, and sacrificing pineapples in a display of desperation rarely seen in our region.

Below is  a video of the carnage, one not appropriate for the squeamish or those under 18 years old.

Pineapple Shakedown 2014 from Crystal Mountain Resort on Vimeo.

Meteorologists generally oppose such interventions regarding unwanted meteorological phenomena, but with recent attempts idealized in popular movies (e.g., Sharknado I and II), one can hardly fault the Northwest ski industry for taking matters into their own hands.   I will be the last person to criticize them if they succeed in bring back bountiful snow to our mountains.

The Ski industry is our second biggest tourist draw throughout the year (hiking and camping is the biggest). For it to be so delayed is really cutting into our business...

A fun bit of serendipity - Arvid's Woods

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In putting in the new flooring, I had to remove the old molding. I can re-use a lot of it but some sections are really beat up - deep dents and scratches as though some furniture was pushed up against it repeatedly.

I want to replace this but I cannot find anything that matches at any of the home builder places in town. Lots of people are willing to make it custom for me but it would come at a custom price. Not willing to spend that much for a simple piece of molding.

There was a maker's mark on the back of the molding: Arvid's Historic Woods and for the hell of it, I googled the name and they are still in business - now named D & D Millwork. From their about page:

About D & D Millwork
For more than 25 years D & D Millwork, formerly operating as Arvid's Historic Woods, has been the number one choice of contractors and homeowners when it comes to custom millwork materials. D & D Millwork carries a wide variety of hardwood and softwood lumber, moldings, and plywood materials.  Additionally, we supply our customers with options on standard and custom doors, stair systems, columns, mantles, moldings and millwork.  Our 9,000 square foot on-site shop located in Lynnwood, WA provides the space needed for any size job, large or small.

20141221-arvid.jpg

 

Very cool - our house was built about 40 years ago - it will be fun to see if they still stock the same molding. Mailing off a sample to them for a quote on Tuesday.

Shortest day of the year

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Today, the days start getting longer - winter is still here for a while but it is giving way to the rebirth of Spring.

We went out for coffee and got our tree from Red Mountain Tree Farm (been buying from them for the last ten years or so).

Finishing off the flooring today - the synthesizer cabinet has already been pre-cut and painted so assembling it should not be too long of a project.

The truth about compact fluorescent lights

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They reference a Mythbusters episode - that is here:

Much more here: CFL Fluorescent Light Bulbs: More Hype Than Value

A mediation on shipping pallets

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A wonderful history of the shipping pallet from Cabinet Magazine:

Whitewood under Siege
There are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the United States. They are in the holds of tractor-trailers, transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of: sweaters, copper wire, lab mice, and so on. They are piled up behind supermarkets, out back, near the loading dock. They are at construction sites, on sidewalks, in the trash, in your neighbor’s basement. They are stacked in warehouses and coursing their way through the bowels of factories.

The magic of these pallets is the magic of abstraction. Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a “unit load”—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency; the gains are so impressive, in fact, that many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century. Studies have estimated that pallets consume 12 to 15 percent of all lumber produced in the US, more than any other industry except home construction.

Some pallets also carry an aesthetic charge. It’s mostly about geometry: parallel lines and negative space, slats and air. There is also the appeal of the raw, unpainted wood, the cheapest stuff you can buy from a lumber mill—“bark and better,” it’s called. These facts have not escaped the notice of artists, architects, designers, or DIY enthusiasts. In 2003, the conceptual artist Stuart Keeler presented stacks of pallets in a gallery show, calling them “the elegant serving-platters of industry”; more recently, Thomas Hirschhorn featured a giant pallet construction as part of his Gramsci Monument. Etsy currently features dozens of items made from pallets, from window planters and chaise lounges to more idiosyncratic artifacts, such as a decorative teal crucifix mounted on a pallet. If shipping containers had their cultural moment a decade ago, pallets are having theirs now.

A long and fascinating article.

Birdbrains - warblers and tornadoes

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From BBC:

Birds 'heard tornadoes coming' and fled one day ahead
US scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers "evacuated" their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.

Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, ecologists suggest these birds - and others - may sense such extreme events with their keen low-frequency hearing.

Remarkably, the warblers had completed their seasonal migration just days earlier, settling down to nest after a 5,000km (3,100 mile) journey from Colombia.

A bit more:

After disappearing to Colombia for the winter, 10 of the tagged warblers returned in April 2014. The team was in the field observing them when they received advance warning of the tornadoes.

"We evacuated ourselves to the waffle house in Caryville, Tennessee, for the one day that the storm was really bad," Dr Streby said.

Elsewhere in the US the storm had more drastic consequences. At least 84 tornadoes caused 35 fatalities and more than $1bn (£0.6bn) in property damage.

After the storm had blown over, the team recaptured five of the warblers and removed the geolocators.

These are tiny devices weighing about half a gram, which measure light levels. Based on the timing and length of the days they record, these gadgets allow scientists to calculate and track the approximate location of migratory birds.

In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm's arrival.

"The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total," Dr Streby said.

They escaped just south of the tornadoes' path - and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area.

Amazing behaviour - to sense an impending storm and to fly over 900 miles to avoid it.

Data breaches in the news - now Staples

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Target, Home Depot, KMart and now Staples. From Fortune:

The office-supply retailer gave new details about a breach at more than 100 of its stores
Staples said Friday afternoon that nearly 1.16 million customer payment cards may have been affected in a data breach under investigation since October.

The office-supply retailer said two months ago that it was working with law enforcement officials to look into a possible hacking of its customers’ credit card data. Staples said in October that it had learned of a potential data theft at several of its U.S. stores after multiple banks noticed a pattern of payment card fraud suggesting the company computer systems had been breached.

Check your receipts and your credit card statements every month - this crap is going to get worse before it gets better. We are going to need a new system for point of sale and that is going to take time to roll out.

Our magnetic field

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Say goodbye to magnetic compasses for a while. From the University of California at Berkeley:

Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime
Imagine the world waking up one morning to discover that all compasses pointed south instead of north.

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped – though not overnight – many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

Now, a new study by a team of scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that the last magnetic reversal 786,000 years ago actually happened very quickly, in less than 100 years – roughly a human lifetime.

“It’s amazing how rapidly we see that reversal,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Courtney Sprain. “The paleomagnetic data are very well done. This is one of the best records we have so far of what happens during a reversal and how quickly these reversals can happen.”

Sprain and Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and a UC Berkeley professor-in- residence of earth and planetary science, are coauthors of the study, which will be published in the November issue of Geophysical Journal International and is now available online.

The discovery comes as new evidence indicates that the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing 10 times faster than normal, leading some geophysicists to predict a reversal within a few thousand years.

This will be interesting - it is the Earth's magnetic field that shields us from a lot of the ionizing radiation in space.

From the Bellingham Herald:

Bellingham’s Haggen to acquire 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores
Haggen is about to become a much bigger player in the grocery industry.

The company announced on Friday, Dec. 19 that it is acquiring 146 stores as a part of the divestment process brought about by the Federal Trade Commission’s review of the Albertsons-Safeway merger. With the acquisition, subject to FTC approval, Haggen will expand from 18 stores and 16 pharmacies to 164 stores and 106 pharmacies across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.

This is great news for a really fine company. Their prices are a little bit higher but the quality is a lot better.

Quite the local business too - from their Wikipedia article:

Haggen Food & Pharmacy is the largest independent grocery retailer in the Pacific Northwest. Haggen operates twenty stores under the Haggen and Top Food & Drug name primarily on the I-5 corridor between the Canadian border and the Portland, Oregon metro area. Haggen is currently headquartered in Bellingham, Washington and got its start there in 1933 when Ben Haggen, Dorothy Haggen, and Doug Clark opened the first store on Bay Street in Bellingham.

Haggen, Inc. began in 1933 in the midst of the great depression by Benett and Dorothy Haggen, along with Dorothy's brother, Doug Clark in downtown Bellingham, Washington. The Store was first called the Economy Food Store. Business did well enough that they moved to a larger location downtown at the corner of Railroad and Magnolia Streets and renamed it The White House Grocery. An in-store bakery was opened in 1941 and proved to be very popular. By 1947, the store was ready to expand again. The Haggens closed the White House and built the Town and Country Shopping center on Meridian Street between West Illinois and Maryland streets with Haggen's Thriftway, the store's third name, as the anchor tenant. This store still operates today.

Several years later, they would change the company's name to Haggen Inc. The store continued to prosper and by the 1960s, Haggen was ready to expand beyond Bellingham. A store was opened in Everett, Washington in 1962 and a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) store in Lynnwood, Washington in 1968. Two more stores were opened in Lynnwood in 1971 from the acquired Grocery Boy chain. Expansion for the company would be slow because, unlike other grocery stores who expanded through acquisition, Haggen mostly built stores from the ground up. In 1979, the flagship store in Bellingham was expanded to over 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2), creating the chain's first superstore format with full-service departments which it still uses today.

In 1982, the TOP Foods division was created by converting existing stores in Snohomish, Washington and Wenatchee to the superstore format. This proved to be a huge success and the Top Brand was expanded greatly throughout the Puget Sound Region but avoiding Seattle because QFC, upscale Larry's Markets, Albertsons, and Safeway saturated the metropolitan area. Haggen became the first grocery store in US with an in-store Starbucks coffee store in 1989. In 1995, they expanded to Portland, Oregon opening stores under the Haggen moniker.

Growing from 18 stores to 164 is quite the expansion. They have an excellent management team so this should be a piece of cake.

Our Small Business Administration at work

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From The Washington Free Beacon:

Billions in Taxpayer Funded Loans Going to Companies that Serve the Rich
The Small Business Administration exists to help Americans “start, build, and grow” businesses, but an analysis of more than $67 billion worth of SBA loans finds that much of the taxpayer funds went to “wealthy lifestyle” businesses such as members-only country clubs and luxury auto dealers.

Open the Books, a project of non-profit group American Transparency, found that more than 35,000 loans and loan guarantees ranging from $1 to $5 million have been granted by the SBA since 2007, and that the recipients are not your average “small businesses.”

One major beneficiary of the SBA has been exclusive clubs across the country, ranging from private golf clubs to yacht clubs. $160.867 million in loans have been granted to private clubs since 2007, including $2 million to the Pequonnock Yacht Club in Connecticut, $5 million to the Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Georgia, and $3.282 million on the Frisco Gun Club in Texas.

Open the Books writes that “these country clubs built new golf courses, pools, clubhouses, banquet facilities, outdoor waterfalls, and bridges” with the loans, and that the taxpayers were the “backstop” for the risk.

The SBA also supplied $760 million in loans to companies that provide “luxury indulgences,” such as $3.497 million to Lamborghini dealerships and $3.296 million to BMW Motorcycle dealerships.

$18.890 million was also granted to helicopter tour companies, such as Maverick Helicopters in Nevada, which offers VIP trips straight to the Las Vegas strip on the “newest and most advanced fleet in the world.”

Amongst the most “posh” recipients identified by the study were “extreme luxury resorts for pets.”

“$75.946 million of SBA loans flowed into 49 high-end, luxury pet resorts across America,” writes the report. One $2.14 million loan went to the Forest Shadows Pet Resort, which notes on its website that it offers “extras such as anal gland expression.”

The Open the Books report was made possible by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, a bill cosponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.).

Wasn't this supposed to be the most transparent administration ever?

Hidden treasures

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Remember that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant is being stored in a huge warehouse?

A place like that exists - Buzz Feed has quite the amazing story.

Impossible to excerpt - just go and read.

The best of MSNBC in 2014

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Heh...

From reNews, the “electronic newspaper” and real time news website tracking the renewable energy market.

Vattenfall to scrap Yttre Stengrund
Vattenfall has abandoned plans to repower its 10MW Yttre Stengrund offshore wind farm in the Kalmar Sound, Sweden.

The company announced this week it is planning to decommission the project, which was brought online in 2001 and features NEG Micon 2MW turbines.

Vattenfall said it would not be "worthwhile" to replace the machines, which would also require a new export cable to be installed.

“Vattenfall invests in wind power wherever it is profitable. We have chosen to decommission this wind farm prematurely and restore the sea bed and ground installations in an ecologically correct way,” said head of Nordic operations Torbjörn Wahlborg.

A bit more:

Most of the wind turbines, foundations and cables will then be sold or recycled as scrap.

Permission was granted in 2009 ago to repower the wind farm but as of last year the company was describing the erection of updated turbines as only one of "several solutions".

Only one of the five turbines is currently in operation. Difficulty finding spare parts was a long-running problem at the wind farm.

Without government subsidies, all these projects would just dry up and blow away.

alt.energy is not profitable. Nuclear is.

Sony is caving to a bunch of hackers who threatened violence. From FOX News:

Sony’s surrender will strengthen hackers, experts say
Sony’s shock decision to scrap the Dec. 25 release of its controversial movie “The Interview” will strengthen hackers, experts warn, fueling debilitating cyberattacks on other high-profile firms.

Still reeling from a crippling Nov. 24 hack, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Wednesday that it had canceled “The Interview’s” Christmas Day release after a number of movie chains said that they would not show the film. “The Interview,” which pokes fun at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is believed to have prompted last month’s devastating attack on the studio and subsequent threats to movie theaters.

A bit more:

“Capitulation to cyber extortion will incentivize other actors to achieve political gains via cyber intrusions and threats,” Sean Doherty, president of security firm TSC Advantage, told FoxNews.com, in an email. “This situation is not dissimilar to what we’ve seen with kidnapping situations, where paying ransoms to terrorists and criminal actors has increased the threat to potential victims.”

Nir Polak, CEO of big data security company Exabeam, agrees. “Sony's capitulation to these government-sponsored attackers means, in this case, they've allowed another government to censor freedom of expression,” he explained, in an email to FoxNews.com. “This sets a bad precedent.”

“It looks like the North Koreans have been able to intimidate [Sony] into buckling under, and that’s a big thing,” added Roger Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies. “It’s a big loss of face for Sony, quite frankly.”

Another perfect example of how critical decisions made at the top of a corporate food-chain are almost always wrong. If I were head of Sony, I would do this:

Sony makes it's money by taking a percentage of the ticket sales. Sony and its distributors take about 70% of the gate (this is why popcorn is so expensive). I would take the usual 70% but rebate $700 per screen in cash to the theater owners for them to hire three armed guards for each screening. I would make it the theater owners' (not corporate) decision whether or not to screen the film.

Problem solved...

Bill Clinton doing what Bill does best

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From several sources:

20141218-bill.jpg

Media outrage in 3... 2... 1...

Good news from Mt. Baker

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We may finally be getting enough snow to open. It has been a dismal year for everyone in the Northwest.

From the Mt. Baker Ski Snow Report for Noon today (7" of new snow in the last 24 hours)

Come on Santa, keep working your magic! We've gotten a nice hit of snow since yesterday and we should get another nice dump tonight with freezing levels expected to remain around 3-4000 feet.

And so far it looks like we could luck out this weekend. Forecasts are looking fairly dismal down south but remain pretty darned good for Mt. Baker.

We're expecting a very strong jet stream pointed right at us Saturday and Sunday with snow levels rising a bit but staying in the snow range for mid-mountain. So we could get a lot of heavy base-building snow at the mid and upper mountain. There's supposed to be a short spike in the temperatures Saturday night, but it's not supposed to go too high and should lower back below Heather Meadows by Sunday morning. The mid and upper elevations of the ski area could see two or more feet of snow and that would allow us to open!

So we are looking at a possible Sunday or Monday opening at this point, but of course that's dependent on how things shake out this weekend.

The extended forecast for Christmas week is looking good, with cooler temperatures and precipitation expected. Stay tuned!

All we want for Christmas is a good cold jet stream!

The businesses in our area (including mine) live or die by recreation and when the county's primary winter recreation area is closed, nobody is happy.

email spam

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Been seeing a very large uptick in email spam over the last couple of months.

I am on a few high-traffic email lists so 100+ emails/day is not uncommon.

What is uncommon is the 40+ spam emails/day that accompany the legitimate packets.

Three months ago, I would get maybe ten. Now it is a lot more.

Must have pissed someone off :-P

Got a nice little PERL filter for this blog but looking for something to plug in for Outlook 2003.

Words fail - the picture on the wall

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American hostage Alan Gross returned home from five years of imprisonment in Cuba.

He is sitting on the right with his lawyer, Scott Gilbert and spokeswoman Jill Zuckman and what the fsck is that picture doing on the wall?

20141218-che.jpg

From The Washington Post:

Alan Gross returns to the United States, is greeted by an image of Che Guevara
Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor released Wednesday after five years of captivity in Cuba, was greeted with a, well, surprising art choice while preparing to make a statement on U.S. soil this afternoon.

Visible in the background of a widely circulated photograph of Gross, his lawyer Scott Gilbert and spokesperson Jill Zuckman: An image of Che Guevara, the divisive revolutionary figure.

“Why is there a Che Guevara pic in background?” National Review Online’s Andrew Johnson tweeted.

Others responded with sympathy: “Poor guy gets to his lawyer’s office and has to look at yet another Che glamour shot,” Andrew Grossman tweeted.

Zuckman told The Post via e-mail that the photograph was taken at the Gilbert LLP law firm.

Got to say though, the blaster on the desk is a nice touch...

That's it until much later

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Busy working on some other stuff and then off to town at 3:00PM

I'll be surfing later and will post then.

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