2005-12-27

Hiking Blodgett Peak 12/25/2005

So Christmas day Sunday, but we don't do Christmas. And a day off Monday. No real plans until Sunday evening for Channukah. My toe finally feels well enough for a hike. Blodgett Peak has been calling to me for months - especially since I learned there was a geocache on top. So I get up a bit early - early for a day off from work - and head out for a hike. I don't know how far I'll get - but I want to at least get to the top of Blodgett Peak. I've got about 8 geocaches I can try for, depending on how I do. A couple are up in Pike National Forrest, past Blodgett Peak.

It is slower going than I expected. I spend more time than I wanted looking for the first 4 geocaches - I only found 2 of them. The trail is Icy and muddy. It is not a great trail - it is not well prepared like the trail going up Pikes Peak. It is very easy to lose the trail - subtle paths seem to go off in many directions. In many places, the trail seems to go up very steep, loose gravel. Step up, slide back 1/2 way. And then I get to a rock scramble. It reminds me a little of Mohonk. I notice a cairn. At first I think it is an oddity, but then I notice another. I suddenly realize that they mark the trail. The trail the curves around the side of the peak, and climbs very steeply up a boulder field. It is hard work, and takes me much longer than I expect. But I keep going. The peak is calling to me. I've got to make it.

After many, many hours, I make it to the top. I decide I need to rest and eat a bit before I try to find the cache on top. I've noticed that the exposed rocks in Colorado seem to make the GPS jump around a lot. But I try a few times, and finally find the cache. Interesting stuff in the cache, but nothing I want to trade for. I sign the 3rd and final log of the day, and head down. I figure there has to be a better way down than the boulder field. I head West, in the opposite direction I need to head, and find a nice trail leading down the back side of Blodgett Peak. The trail quickly curves around, and is much easier than the boulders. Even with the GPS, I managed to lose the trail when I was most of the way down, adding another half hour or so to my day.

But it was worth it - even the being really sore 2 days later - I did it! I made it up Blodgett Peak! It showed that I've lost a bunch of conditioning I had when I did Pikes Peak. But not too much. I'm amazed and glad at how far I can keep going. I hope to get some more hikes in this winter. Thanks heavens for the mild days we get during the winter here most of the time. I don't think I'll go out as long again, at least not until I try Pikes Peak again - but I'd like to keep up the level of the hike.

Heading out early in the day for Blodgett Peak:


A view up the foothill I was to climb:


Part of the way up, looking aback down:


I still had on my sweatshirt here:


Frozen Stream:


Getting up there - view down:


Imposing rock face:


The Earth certainly does not look flat from up here:


Climbing up a steep, narrow boulder field:

The cairns and pink ribbons guided me up this trail

Here I am at 9,000' and still a ways to go:


First peak of Pikes Peak - must be near the top:

It is about 4,000' higher - but it doesn't look more than a few hundred feet higher from this angle.

Where Black Forrest meets Briargate in Northern Colorado Springs:


A very different view on the quarry:


View of Pikes Peak (14,110') from Blodgett Peak (9,460')


I had a 360-degree view from Blodgett Peak:

Those rocks on the hill to the bottom right are the rocks I was looking up at in the earlier pictures.

Looking West into the Rockies - Snow capped mountains in the distance:


Heading down - view of Downtown Colorado Springs:

2005-12-22

Electirc Zoo


This weekend we went to the Light Zoo in town. It was snowing, as it had for over a day, lightly, and one of the sets of friends who was supposed to go with us wimped out.
It was cold - but we were smart enough to bring along hot chocolate, so that helped.
It was fun to go to again. It seemed like there were a few more lights, but a few less electric animals.

Harry Potter

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I've been reading it to my eldest son for the last month or so. A half-chapter or a whole chapter a night, a couple of times a week. We got near the end last night. So tonight I started reading a little early. Luckily, they are off school, so he was able to stay up a little later so we could finish the book.

I won't say much about it, to avoid spoiling it for anyone.

I enjoyed reading/listening to the earlier books. This is the first one I've read. I must say, I do not like the writing style for reading out loud. Almost all the cues for character and intonation come halfway through a quote, or at the end. Very hard to know how to read a line. I must imagine that the people who make the professional recordings must have to pre-read and re-read a lot to get it right.

Microwave Popcorn - Light/Mini

I like popcorn.

Microwave popcorn is fine by me, but I prefer the light popcorn. The regular is too greasy.

But when I'm at work, I like a mini-packs - I don't need a full regular-sized bag.

But they don't sell light-minis. I wish they did.

So I have to eitehr get the minis or the light. Greasy, but the right amount, or the right flavor/texture, but too much for an afternoon snack.

I supposed I could just eat some of the regular-sized, light bag. But when the popcorn is there, it is hard to resist finishing it. Dangerous food!

Popcorn manufacturers: I want light, mini microwave packs!

2005-12-21

RIP Palm

Yesterday I dropped my Palm PDA into water.

It flickered on and off. The screen got this glitch that spread out from the middle. Eventually it turned off and would not turn back on.

I dried it as quickly as I could. I spent a bunch of time opening it up so I could dry out the insides. It was really hard to open, as the screws were this special hex screws. I managed to work them out with my Swiss army knife. But it seems it was too late. I could not get it to work. I am not sure it is worth having it repaired.

I looked online for a new cheap palm. But the one that was on sale a year ago, with MP3 playback ability, was sold out everywhere. It looks like I'd have to pay at least twice as much for a Palm with MP3. The one I killed didn't have MP3, but I'm determined to have MP3 in my next one. And I use my palm a lot - for tracking my hours at work at a minimum. So I'm feeling kind of lost without it. But E-Bay to the rescue! Same model as the one from last year, new in the box, and it even costs a little less (before shipping at least) than the prices last year!

So while I'm feeling really stupid for killing my palm, it looks like I'll be getting an upgrade out of it. I don't want to spend the money - but I admit I really use it, so it is a valuable tool. And with the MP3, I have a more convenient MP3 player for things like hikes. Although, I may have to invest in a bigger SD card. And I wonder about battery life. How long can I get playing MP3s on a charge - and it there any way to extend the charge? I mean will it last if I use it hiking up Pike's Peak - like I did my CD/MP3 player this past summer?

Well, even if I don't get it right away, I still hope to get out for a real hike soon - I could use the exercise!

And this is my second Palm PDA. The first was the IIIC - the first color Palm. That one died when the rechargable battery stopped recharging. I'm wondering if I can use the battery from this newly deceased Palm to bring the old one back to life. Well, the old one doesn't have an SD slot - and I really like the idea of the MP3 ability of the new one - so even if I can Frankenstein the old one back to life, I still want the new one. Hm - maybe the old one, with it's serial port instead of USB might work directly with the GPS?! That might be fun!

Geocaching - My RAID-5

Well, I've spent quite a few weeks with this idea about doing a puzzle cache. Where seekers have to solve a puzzle to find the final cache. But it was more than just a puzzle - it also teaches how some computers can store data in a safer, faster way, called RAID-5.

So I made a RAID-5 cache. I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out the best way to do it - and making charts and tables to go with it.

And today, I was rewarded by the first person to find it. He said he even learned from it! Yay!
The only problem is that the coordinates were a little off - and now I either have to put a note to that on the website, or recalculate all the clues and replaces the 4 clues! Yikes!

Outlook + Outlook Express Archiving

I just wrote up a bit about archiving emails:
Techchatter Entry

I also talk about Outlook seeming to have a memory leak when doing a bunch of Drag-and-drops.

2005-12-12

An Open Letter to Circuit City and Best Buy

Dear Circuit City,

I wanted you to understand why you lost my business the other day.

We came in for a new set of cell phones. It was our second time in. The first time we had met a woman who answered all of our questions politely. When we came back in, the man at the cell phone area seemed to dismiss whatever we had talked about before with the woman who worked there.

We still had a number of questions. Most of them had to do with cost. We wanted to make sure that the phone and services of the plan covered our needs without costing a bunch more. We were interested in the phones that cost a little more that to lowest-end, free [after rebate] model.

I looked closely at the features and costs, and tried to understand the deals. It seemed that the listed prices of the phones were not the cost, but how much the end price of the phones, if you took a 2-year plan, and after you got the rebate. The actual cost of the phone, if you did not take the 2-year plan was in much smaller print, it was nearly hidden. And of course, that did not include tax.

So we finally selected the phones and the plans. The salesman took my credit card, and started placing the order. After a minute, he then asked for my drivers license. He wanted to copy all sorts of contact information. After spending about 5 minutes putting in the information into the computer, right near the completion of the transaction, he mentions an activation fee.

An activation fee? What activation fee? There was nothing posted on the cost of the phone, or the 2 year plan about an activation fee. This was getting to be a bit much. When we said this was the first we were hearing about the activation fee, we were informed by the salesman and his manager that the fee was listed in the brochure by the phones.

This sounds like bait and switch to me. First you get my credit card, then you tell me about extra costs? We made if very clear that we were very concerned about the total costs when we were asking lots of questions. But then to tell me about extra costs after you are ringing me up is not a good idea.

And the truth is, you might still have made the sale. Except for one small factor. You seemed to have forgotten who was the customer. You treated us badly when we were upset by hidden costs. Instead of being apologetic or supportive about our being upset, you were discourteous and dismissive.

The way we were told that the cost was listed - as if we were stupid for not seeing a number hidden inside a closed brochure - is what finally lost you the sale.

I do not like hidden costs. I want to know the full up-front cost in bold print at least as large as any other number on the [shelf] price-tag. I want any minimum monthly cost, and length of term also printed in at least the same size font.
The only cost I will accept as implied, and I accept it only grudgingly, is sales-tax.
If you want to list the price-after-rebate, make sure you list the price-out-of-pocket in at least the same size print - and make sure the values are clearly labeled.

If you are going to have all sort of hidden costs - it is going to look like bait-and-switch to me, and you will create an unhappy customer.

If you give me an attitude about my being upset at hidden costs, the you have changed me from an unhappy-customer, to a missed-sale.

And when I turn from being an unhappy-customer to a missed-sale, you can count on my being a lot less likely to come back. And not only will I be less likely to come back, but I will be willing to tell people about my bad experience. Such as right now on my blog - for anyone and everyone to see.

And in case you think my recommendations will have little impact on you, let me tell you about Best Buy.

Best Buy sold me a digital video camera. The salesman promised me that this video editing package rebate was part of my sale. But the rebate was not obvious when I checked out. So I went to customer service. They took a huge amount of time to say, 'I don't know', and eventually they said the rebate counted.

When I got the rebate back, rejected from the manufacturer, I realize just how much Best Buy took advantage of me.

I have not bought anything from them since.

But that is not all. I had a friend ask me about buying a new computer. They wanted my advice, because I am known for being very good with computers, and helping my friends. She told me she was interested in getting the computer from Best Buy because they had a good financing deal - no interest for a nice period of time. She seemed pretty set on getting it from Best Buy. But I remembered being lied to by the salesman at Best Buy. And I remembered the poor customer service. So I seriously suggested she look at CompUSA. She did. And she changed where she bought the computer. CompUSA had a better financing deal. I believe she wound up paying more for a much better computer, that she will get much better support, from CompUSA.

So, Best Buy, for treating me wrong, you made one sale, and have lost me as a customer and have lost other customers I influence.

So, Circuit City, for treating me wrong, you lost that sale of Cell phones, and possible future sales from me and other customers I influence.

May you can have me back as a customer some day. If I see you change your shoddy methods. But it won't be any time soon. And it won't be by my recommendation.

2005-12-07

Thanksgiving Road Trip

We went to Salt Lake City for thanksgiving. My step-mom moved there this year.

We drove up I25 and over on I80. We had 2 laptops, a DVD player and a game console. The DVD has the ability to be a TV for the game console - but the wires did not connect. So when we stopped at the halfway in Rawlins, WY - we hit a Radio Shack for an adapter. The trip over went pretty smoothly. The kids took turns watching movies - sometimes 2 movies at the same time. You would think that would be a problem - but we kept the volume down.

We stayed at my step-mother's. The only problem was my allergies to fur. You see, she has 2 dogs. But I've learned I can kept it under control with anti-histamine. The problem is that anti-histamines make me sleepy. But I've learn by taking smaller doses of liquid, I can try to balance sleepiness and beating getting sick. I managed not to get sick from allergies this visit - but I did take a few naps.

Thanksgiving was nice, but not too busy. We were the only guests. It made it a smaller than average thanksgiving, but it was nice.

Friday we drove out to the Great Salt Lake. We went out to Antelope Island. We went to the visitor's center. We had a picnic outside. It was a bit cold. But we enjoyed it anyhow. Then we went to find a geocache nearby on the island. First my youngest found a letterbox (similar to a geocache) right nearby the spot. Then I found the geocache in a cave around a rocky corner. It was my step-mother's first time. She seemed to enjoy it. I thought that was great! We grabbed the travelbug to bring back with us.

Saturday we had plans to ride a steam train outside of the city, up in the mountains a big. The report said some snow, but now snow at the train. The train was still planning to leave on schedule. So we headed up route 80 into the mountains. The snow was building up on the road - and on the signs. Then the electric sign said chains required. Not just chains required for trucks, but just chain required. As in chains for all. And quickly we found ourselves in very slow moving traffic on very snow-packed roads. After about 20 minutes we go off at the first exit. It turns out we had chains - new by my suggestion for this trip. We learned how to put on the chains. By the time the chains were on, there was no chance of making the train. So we headed back and took it easy.

We hoped the road was clearer for our trip home Sunday. We head back up the hill early in the morning. This time it was pretty clear - no chains needed. We stopped for breakfast after we got up the valley. Then we moved on. As we approached the halfway mark a little after noon - Rawlins, WY - the snow started falling and blowing. When we got to Rawlins, the signs were flashing: road closed ahead. We tuned into the advisory radio. Roads East and South were closed. We stopped in the truckstop an exit back to have lunch and try to figure out what we were going to do.

The rumors flying were not good. Roads closed. Massive accidents. Giant snow drifts. Roads closed for a day or more. We were told that if we were around after 4, we should find a room.

We finished lunch about 2:30, and we out to the car. We got online to try to find out the chance of moving on. No chance. So we start calling around for a room. Things are looking bad. After calling all the hotels in town, there was only 1 room - a single too small for the 5 of us. We are looking at spending the night in the car. Not the worst news, but not good.

I turn back on the advisory radio, hoping to hear they announce they were opening the road. No such luck. I just listen to the radio talk about the things in the area. Including bed-and-breakfasts.

Bed-and-breakfasts.

!

So I say - what about a bed-and-breakfast?

We call the only one listed.

2 rooms left. We ask for the first. We help out another 2 people from Colorado passing our car at the right time.

We head over to the bed-and-breakfast. Wow, it was a nice place! We wound up going from the bottom of the barrel to the best place in town.

The next day we got back on the road. They said the road was open overnight. But not all the way East - just an hour or town down the road. But by the time we got on the road, it was open all the way. It was very icy, snowy and the wind was really blowing. For 3 hours of driving like that. The it started clearing - but was still very windy. As we drove down we hear that I70 was closed coming into Denver. And the next day I70 was closed going East from Denver. Bad weather.

I managed to get into work for 3 hours on Monday. Overall it was a nice trip for thanksgiving. And a bit of an adventure.

Pictures from Salt Lake Trip