Friday, February 29, 2008

So, a buddy and I recently went up for a day of snowmobiling in the mountains near Whistler, B.C.
We decided to do the drive from Seattle to Whistler the evening before, to get a better headstart in the a.m.. It was getting dark, we were less then 15 miles from our destination, when ...."POP!!!!" I looked behind, to see the trailer listing to port.
We pulled off as far as possible. " Where's your jack?" I said. " I loaned it to a friend and it's at his place.".....
Flat trailer tire in the dark, no jack. Macguyver, lookout....

The freely flowing Canadian beers and a long day consipered against us. We left the hotel several hours later than hoped, nursing the fruits of the pitchers of the night before. We headed to the trailhead....
We paid the fee, unloaded the sleds onto the convenient banks. Unfortunately I left the choke on the 800 a bit too long, it'd come back to haunt me. The sleds...
Followed a trail up the mountainside, switchbacking up and up, track sliding around in the soft , freshly groomed snow. Halfway up, just about to cross up into a cloud band...
The first bowl, called metaldome, socked in with fog....
We passed a tour group, turned left, and climbed up several steep pitches to summit above the clouds, enjoying the beautiful blue day. Remember the "choke on' comment? I'd fouled the spark plugs, the machine would intermittently bog during these long, full throttle technical climbs, making it much more interesting than usual. I kept expecting it to clear up, but it never did. Live and learn. The pic...

Climbing up onto the peaks....Sunny and beautiful....
Terrible scenery, though....
Cliumbing on, we were the only tracks that had ventured out so far today. Endless fields of white, all unmarked, gentle curving hills, scale unable to be comprehended as everything was so massive. We ventured towards the glacier fields, we were the only humans around for miles. Fresh powder, no tracks but our own. Nice.
The trail to the actual ice cap. We stopped and turned here. Little too avalanche-prone conditions to continue. If you look at the hill front and center, you can see all the little slides. We also had a mini slide 100 feet away, set off by our voices. As much as we wanted to ride the glacier, we stuck to the partially sane theory of living to ride another day. Discretion over valor and all that....
180 from the last photo, you can see the hardpacked chute we came down....
This hardpacked beast was fun to run up. No sense of scale here, everything's huge.The small first ripple, for instance, was enough to throw my sled near vertical. For some idea of size, the track width you see in the lower right is 15 inches or so.
The top of a chute called the Gauntlet. Relatively easy to climb with the big hp and long tracks/big paddles, it's way too steep to even consider being able to stop when coming down. You just roll over the edge, modulate the brake to keep the track turning, ( a fully locked track actually accelerates down steep corridors) , pick your line and ride it out.

Sunny and a great day, my bud at the top...

Yours truly....
Driving home after finding a replacement trailer tire, thereby ensuring we wouldn't need it. Beautiful sunset, relaxed, just beginning to feel the soreness from a hard day on the mountain. A Great day .

Here's the video. ( I really need a helmet cam mount )(~ 9minutes or so)

Or the Youtube version....(it's the same)

Labels: ,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Beach pics...

Labels: ,

Ummmmm, you're doing it wrong.


Bank Of America Won't Let You Access Your Money

Silly Bill. He thought Bank of America would let him spend $5,800 on a home theater system just because he had over $10,000 in the bank. He tried to charge the system to his Bank of America Visa Platinum Check Card but was declined. Confused, Bill called Bank of America customer support for an explanation and had the sort of conversation that makes you want to drive a fork through your ear....

So tonight I went to my local Best Buy, planning on surprising the wife with a new bigscreen TV.

We get there and, believe it or not, the Best Buy people are helpful, friendly, informative and DON'T try to push Monster cables on me. (I know - I nearly fainted too).

Having done my homework, I picked out a receiver, speaker system, wall mount, some blue ray movies , and a 58" plasma TV. Total cost : $5870.69

So I head to the register to pay for my newly acquired goodies and my card - despite having a few grand more than the total in my "available funds" is declined.

Puzzled - I call Bank of America , wait on hold about ten minutes, go through countless adverts for bank services, double authorizations etc and FINALLY I get to a human. Of course in spite of all of this the woman wants my information all over again even though I just typed it in. She wont even help me til I provide it and so I do.

I explain that I am in the store, at the register, and that I know I have available funds.

She puts me on hold about 5 minutes , then comes back and says "Im sorry - that's over your daily limit. There's nothing I can do. Was there anything else I can help you with?"

Remembering to keep a cool head, I ask about a supervisor giving me an override on the limit. She says "let me transfer you to the ATM department." And before I can explain that this isn't an ATM problem, she disconnects me.

Frustrated - I dial again, more menus, get a human, get transferred, get another human, get transferred, (every time re-verifying my ID)finally I get to the FOURTH person who apologizes 10 times and says "don't worry sir - I can help you!"

I think I'm getting somewhere but then a supervisor comes on and explains to me that "Everyone in the United States that uses Bank of America has a daily spending limit of 5000.00 no matter what."

Stunned, I ask for an exception and in a parent-giving-me-a-cookie tone he says "well, I suppose we can up that to 6000.00 just this once."

At this point I am over an hour on the phone but we try the transaction again. Declined.

More hold time. He comes back and says that he is sorry but 6000. is the limit and buying gasoline and dinner earlier in the day is going to put me at more than 6 grand for the day and so I can come back tomorrow and buy the TV or I can go to my branch and get a money order.

Fuming, and doing my best to remain calm, the conversation goes like this:

"Let me get this straight - I have an "available" balance of nearly 10 grand in my account?"

"yes sir"

"And its not pending or a deposit waiting to clear, that's my money, confirmed and in your bank?"

"yes sir"

"And you have kept me on the phone for over an hour, asked me multiple times to verify my identity and are satisfied that I am who I say I am?"

"yes sir"

"And you are going to deny me access to MY money?!?!"

"No sir - we are not denying you your money, your're just over your daily limit."

"My daily limit? This isn't a credit card. It's a PLATINUM Visa checkcard. I understand that you have to put limits in for my protection but I need to make this purchase"

"Im sorry theres nothing I can do"

At this point, after nearly an hour an twenty minutes on the phone, I lose my cool. I am embarrassed, have essentially shut down a register lane on a Friday night at Best Buy and am obviously the talk of the store both from employees and customers.

I ask to speak to a supervisor and am told that I am speaking to one. I ask to speak to HIS supervisor and am told that's not possible.

Out of desperation I ask again and he says "wait just a moment"

More hold. Ten more minutes. I am fuming. He comes back and excitedly tells me "try it now."

So for the umpteenth time I swipe my card. This time it comes up "authorization code needed"

I relay this to the BoA guy and he says "well, we are making progress"

A few more minutes of hold time later and he comes back with the code and makes my purchase go through.

I have NEVER experienced such shoddy customer service ever. Im sure Im preaching to the choir when I say this, but Monday morning I am cancelling my BoA account, and fellow consumerists - Stay the heck away from Bank of America!

As a side note, after the transaction was completed I said to the supervisor, "So, what if I was say, Donald Trump and wanted to spend 30 grand on something?"

His response, " Well , for Mr Trump we would have made an accommodation ahead of time."

I said "And if I'd decided tonight to buy the $14,999.99 71" plasma TV in here this evening?"

"You wouldn't not have been allowed to do that."

At that point I hung up.


From here.

Labels: ,

Social collective sites' popularity by region....


Better than their old slogan...

Labels: ,

Now, some news that should surprise no one....

Enzyte Maker Found Guilty of Fraud

A federal court jury on Friday found the owner of a company that sells "male enhancement" tablets and other herbal supplements guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Steve Warshak, whose conviction was reported Friday by The Cincinnati Enquirer, is founder and president of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, which distributes Enzyte and a number of products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid restful sleep.

Television ads for Enzyte feature "Smiling Bob," a goofy, grinning man whose life gets much better after he uses the product, which allegedly boosted his sexual performance.

Warshak, 40, could face more than 20 years in prison and his company could have to forfeit tens of millions of dollars.

Messages seeking comment from Warshak's Boston attorney Martin Weinberg and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Porter were left at their offices Friday night.

Prosecutors claimed customers were bilked out of $100 million through a series of deceptive ads, manipulated credit card transactions and the company's refusal to accept returns or cancel orders. They said unauthorized credit card charges generated thousands of complaints over unordered products.

Warshak's mother, Harriett Warshak, also was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.

The government also alleged the defendants obstructed investigations by two federal agencies.

Some former employees, including relatives of Warshak, pleaded guilty to other charges and cooperated with prosecutors. They testified that the company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer-satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back claims about Enzyte's effectiveness.

Defense lawyers characterized that testimony as tainted because it was forced by the threat of prosecution.

The defense contended in the trial that Berkeley suffered from customer service that didn't keep pace with the company's rapid growth from a one-person startup in 2001 to 1,500 employees in 2004.

Weinberg also had told jurors that Berkeley had been targeted by the government in "a relentless criminal investigation."


Labels: ,

Relax, it's a lamp.

Labels: ,

Labels: ,

We blew hole in fuselage with mix of easily disguised liquids

Researchers for Channel 4's Dispatches programme and the Evening Standard blew a 6ft hole in the side of an aircraft fuselage, something that would probably bring down any aircraft in flight.

The test exposes potentially disastrous loopholes in the security regime introduced after the alleged "liquid bomb" plot in August 2006.

The explosive was made by mixing two easily obtainable chemicals that can be carried through security in the permitted 100 millilitre containers.

To a security guard, the chemicals - which the Standard is not identifying and cost only a few pounds - are colourless and odourless and seem like water. They can be easily disguised, if necessary, as toiletries.

Dr Sidney Alford, the leading explosives expert who made the bomb for us, said: "Terrorists could easily make this device. They could obtain access to the chemicals without too much difficulty. They're not particularly tightly-controlled liquids."

Dr Alford's company, Alford Technologies, specialises in manufacturing improvised explosive device countermeasures that have saved many lives in Iraq. The company won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2004.

Only about 400ml in total of the liquids would be needed to make the bomb, meaning two or three terrorists could carry it through security in the permitted quantities without raising suspicion.

The liquids were mixed in a 500ml water bottle bought in an airport departure lounge.

Our explosion was initiated with a commercial detonator, but Dr Alford said a home-made one, which could also be carried through security in an electrical item such as a phone or iPod, would produce the same effect.

We tested the bomb at Lasham airfield in Hampshire on a section of fuselage from a decommissioned passenger jet that was still fitted out with seats and other cabin furniture.

The explosion caused a large fireball, a massive hole in the side of the aircraft and blew seats out of the cabin.

The bomb snapped the ribs of the aircraft - the structure holding it together - and in the air would have led to rapid depressurisation and a loss of control.

At altitude, Dr Alford said, the damage would have been even greater.

The test comes as a leading airport security expert Philip Baum tells the Dispatches programme tonight that much airport security is "theatre" that fails to address the real dangers.

Mr Baum, who edits the International Journal Of Aviation Security and has advised the Government, said airport X-rays and metal detectors were ineffective against many threats.

"I cannot cite a single example of a bomb being found using an airport X-ray machine alone," he said. "X-rays were introduced to identify dense metallic items, not bombs. If you've got a well-concealed bomb, it's possible to get that through many an X-ray machine."

Mr Baum described a deeply disturbing trial he had run for a European government. "We took a woman through 24 different airports. On her body were the complete components of an improvised explosive device," he said.

"At each of those airports, she alarmed the metal detector and was subject to a pat-down search on her body. But not a single item was identified in any of the 24 searches."

Further tests leaked to Dispatches show that, even using more easily- spotted, fullyassembled weapons and bombs, British X-ray security operators failed to see them in hand luggage 27 per cent of the time.

Mr Baum said X-rays had identified bombs in conjunction with intelligence or passenger profiling. He called for the emphasis of airport security to change from identifying suspicious objects to identifying suspicious people.

"We are currently guarding against business travellers with penknives, not international terrorists," he said. "We should be looking more for behaviours. The person who has negative intent will show signs of stress and nervousness."

Mr Baum adds that trained spotters should be deployed in terminals to watch for suspicious behaviour, passengers who do not fit the normal traveller profile for a flight should be flagged and software such as voice stress analysis should be used to select certain travellers for more thorough checks that stand a better chance of detecting a weapon.

The technique, called behaviour pattern recognition, is controversial because of fears that it will be used in a racist way.

But its supporters say the idea is to target particular behaviour, not skin colour. To single out, say, all young Asian men would be failing to implement the technique properly.

Norman Shanks, a former head of security for BAA, operators of Britain's largest airports, tells Dispatches that he trialled behaviour pattern recognition at Stansted, but the experiment was ended by the Government.

"We used a process not unlike the one that Customs officers use to spot potential smugglers," said Mr Shanks. "It worked quite successfully. But we hit a brick wall when the worker bees in the Department of Transport responsible for inspecting the security process couldn't find a way of satisfying themselves they could test it correctly.

"The real definition of success is surely something we cannot measure - a lack of attacks. We know from elswhere, for instance in Israel, that this technique prevents attacks."

New hand luggage screening machines recently introduced at British airports have a greater chance of detecting explosives than the previous machines, the Government says

Aviation security minister Jim Fitzpatrick added that the 100ml limit for carrying liquids through security was determined as "appropriate" by safety and risk assessments".

He said: "Nobody is absolutely protected, but we need to put in place staff and equipment to protect people as best we can and ensure the terrorist doesn't get an easy ride."

Oh My God!! You mean that taking off our shoes and making us pour out our water isn't a failsafe way to ensure no more terrorism on planes!!!! What will I DO!

Actually, one good thing 9/11 did was to virtually put an end to hijack attempts. Think about it. Would you sit idly by and let yourself be flown into a skyscraper? Not me. I think a planeload of angry passengers would be a match for two or three terrorists. Might even be fun.


Labels: , ,


Labels: ,

So, "Chewie" over at Conceptart forums has been painting these on sidewalks, concrete, etc. Uses the natural features to incorporate into the art well. Here's ten examples...

Lots more Here.

Labels: ,


Labels: ,