Mud and Snow in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden came up to the Tahoe house in mid-April to get a couple of last days in before Homewood and several other Tahoe resorts had their closing weekend.  Definitely spring skiing conditions with slush (and mud) at the bottom and, up top, overnight frozen snow turning too soft mid-way through the day.  But then, as they headed back to the Bay Area, the temperatures dropped and we got another snow storm Sunday night.  Jon joined me at Alpine Meadows and then Squaw Valley to enjoy a last couple of powder days for the season!

Troy got a friendly visit from a bear overnight.  He woke to find all four doors on his truck open and the evidence of a bit of ransacking from a dirty bear – so lucky it was unlocked or the bear might have broken in:

  

A cute little video of Pan falling asleep at the wheel:

Click through for the full gallery.

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Return to Mammoth Mountain

I haven’t been skiing at Mammoth since the early nineties, after college, but it’s where I learned to ski in high school from nearby Bishop.  And I had forgotten what a great big and diverse ski mountain it is – though I’m sure I also wasn’t skiing as much of any mountain’s terrain back then either.  Anyway, driving to Mammoth from Santa Cruz/San Jose in the winter isn’t very convenient (given all the Sierra passes are closed) and  you have to essentially drive by many other great ski resorts to do it.  However, with an extended stay at our new place in Tahoe last week, it was easy to hop down to Mammoth for a couple of days (just a three hour drive) and make use of our Mountain Collective passes.

We got some nice, typical spring skiing conditions: overnight frozen snow, following the sun as the slopes softened up from east to west to north.  Plus Mammoth is so high (peaking at 11,000 ft), it was easy to avoid any sticky slush that would develop lower down.

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And Then a Lot More Snow

March really came through for snow in Tahoe!  We got one storm after another including some nice cold ones for some great light powder days.  I also closed on the purchase of a house in Tahoe Vista and with the help of Darlene, Resi, Troy and Aiden, we were able to put it to great use right away!  Troy’s brother Rick and his son Grayson also joined us for a few days at the… “Moose Haus”? “Moose Lodge”?  Even Pan and Hera came up for a couple of weeks.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures from our five various days of skiing at Homewood over a couple of weeks in mid- to late-March:

      

 

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A Little More Snow in Tahoe

Darlene and I joined Resi, Troy and Aiden at Homewood this past weekend to play in the much needed new snow.  Click through for the gallery:

  

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Another Pre-Movie Gaming Day

Roland, Clay, Mark, Steven, Troy and I gathered for another gaming day and movie night (Blade Runner 2049) this past Sunday:

  • We managed to escape the singularity after many hilariously haphazard gravitational maneuvers in Gravwell.
  • We cleverly dodged almost certain disaster on K2 by decisively turning away from the mountain entirely.
  • We successfully secured pirate booty aplenty in Libertalia despite the efforts of many mutineers among us.
  • Although many boats were violently smashed by whales, many swimmers torn apart by sharks, and several refugee-laden ships utterly destroyed by sea monsters, a handful of survivors made it to shore to tell the tale of Survive: Escape from Atlantis.

It was indeed a day of many adventures.  (And a good movie, too!)  Thanks, guys!

Click through for the full gallery:

    

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Home Theater Upgrade: 4K/HDR with the JVC RS640 Projector

I’ve been waiting to go to 4K/HDR until high-performance, laser source projectors became reasonably affordable, but it looks like that’s going to be a while yet.  (Similar to the wait for high def projectors in the early 2000’s.)  So, here we go, it’s the JVC DLA-RS640U projector (full specs here) and it’s quite the nice jump up from my older JVC RS55U projector, from early 2012.  By the way, I recommend contacting AVScience for a purchase – they offer steep discounts from the retail prices and are great to work with.  I’ve purchased from them multiple times over the years.

Both my old and new projectors are able to display video at 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels), but the RS640 can take 4K input sources while the old RS55 could only take HD content (1920 x 1080) and upscale it.  More importantly though is the ability of the RS640 to display high dynamic range (HDR) content, giving a much wider range of colors and shadow and intensity.  In addition, the RS640 provides even higher contrast ratio, even tighter spacing between pixels, more lumens, better motion enhancements, better 3D display and a low latency mode for gaming (yay!).

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First Launch of the Falcon Heavy

On Tuesday, February 6th, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket on its inaugural flight, sending Elon Musk’s original Tesla Roadster and “StarMan” on a far reaching orbit around the sun as a test payload.  Happily, I was able to fly out to Florida and experience the launch firsthand from the Kennedy Space Center’s closest available viewing location for the general public – just 3.9 miles away from the launch platform!  (It’s just too bad they haven’t removed the historic-but-no-longer-needed launch tower at LC-39A, as it was sitting between us and the Falcon Heavy.)  Still, it was quite the show with essentially three of their Falcon 9’s strapped together and all twenty-seven engines firing simultaneously!  Not to mention the amazing, never-seen-before, simultaneous return of the two outer boosters back to the nearby landing zone!

I’ve made a video of what it was like to watch (and hear) from our vantage point:

The Falcon Heavy launch as experienced from the closest public viewing area

This viewing location is part of Kennedy Space Center’s “Feel the Heat” ticket package which takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V Center to view a launch and includes a buffet, some commemorative items, and return entrance to the Kennedy Space Center on a later date to enjoy the rest of the exhibits.

You’re given an assigned arrival time some 5-6 hours before the launch to catch your bus (and told not to come earlier) but for this historic event, there were so many people that it took hours to get through the security gates, boarded on a bus (really? loading the buses serially??) and delivered to the viewing area.  By the time we unloaded from the buses at the viewing area, there was slim-pickings for anywhere on the grounds to set up a tripod with a good, unobstructed view because apparently many folks had shown up an hour or more earlier.  Anyway, I staked out a spot between others some three hours before the scheduled launch but had to skip the buffet to keep watch over all my gear.

The launch ended up being delayed several times due to high altitude wind shear and we were all getting a little nervous that they’d miss their launch window for the day (1:30 pm – 4 pm) as they rescheduled all the way up to 3:45 pm.  But then, about an hour before that, they made the call to go ahead and start fueling the liquid oxygen – meaning a go for launch!  Hurrah!

And then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, …. and great clouds of steam erupted with 27 engines firing – quite the sight!  We couldn’t see the rocket until it cleared that annoying (and unneeded!) tower, but afterwards the light intensity of the exhaust was incredible as it climbed into the sky.  You hardly notice the absence of sound from the rocket with the cheers of the crowd around you, but a few seconds later it starts to come across – and it’s an amazing, stuttering roar.

Then you get to watch it climb and roll and, higher up, begin to build a beautiful column of vapor – which it eventually disappeared into.  After a bit, it reappeared further east as a faint set of exhaust plumes still coursing away.  On the monitor, we could watch and hear announcements of each successful milestone and cheers would erupt each time – like with the separation of the side boosters and their retro-firing to return to Cape Canaveral.

Minutes later the two side boosters appeared in our sky coming down at incredible speed.  We all lost track of them though when they cut their engines again and unfortunately many of us weren’t in a position to see them again when they reignited for their final deceleration over their landing targets. We could of course see the video feed on the monitors, perfectly landing themselves (vertically!), like something out of science fiction – but it wasn’t until after they had landed that their twin sonic booms reached us.  We all of course learned later that the center core didn’t fare so well because two of the three needed engines were unable to restart (not enough ignition fuel) and it crashed into the ocean close enough and hard enough to damage the autonomous drone ship that was waiting for it.  But hey, this was a test flight!

 

The Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket in the world, with the most lifting capability – though it will soon be surpassed by NASA’s upcoming “SLS” rocket as well as SpaceX’s own future “BFR”.

Meanwhile, “Starman” continues his/her epic journey in space:

Click through for my full photo gallery from the launch and my follow-up visit to the Kennedy Space Center:

      

Here are links to more videos of the first Falcon Heavy launch:

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Long Awaited Snow in Tahoe

  

Finally got some snow to ski in Tahoe this past week.  Chased the storm up with Troy on Thursday night.  We had eighteen inches of powder to play with at Homewood, which was nice, but there wasn’t much of a base (like 25″), so still tons of obstacles to watch out for everywhere.  Creeks and rocks and trees and those sneaky, ski- and board-eating shrubberies!  As a result, lots of terrain wasn’t really accessible and you had to be pretty careful where you went, but there was still plenty of room for fun.

Here’s some pictures and a little video – though I really should’ve recorded some of the obstacle-dodging craziness and the digging of ourselves out of heavy, sun-saturated powder traps!

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Tahoe Gaming Weekend

Darlene and I joined Roland, Charles, Mark, Jon and Steve last weekend in South Lake Tahoe for a couple of fun filled days of gaming – thanks again for hosting, Steve!  We had adventures in Welcome to the Dungeon, Bang! The Dice Game, Sidereal Confluence, Raptor, Crazy Karts, Viva Java, Category 5, Chameleon, Codenames, and Ladies and Gentlemen.  Click through for the gallery:

      

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New Years Eve Gaming Day

We got a fun crowd together for gaming on New Year’s Eve day with Roland, Troy, Rachel, Dan, Kevin, Vanessa and myself:

And we got in games of Terraforming Mars, Raptor, Deception, Viral, Splendor, Bang! – The Dice Game and King of Tokyo!

Click through for the full gallery:

    

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