Olympics, Day -13

January 30, 2010

Men's Downhill Course

About two weeks to go, but this is the last weekend of “normal” life in Whistler.

Changes have been evident already.  We don’t have our normal ski-in/ski-out access to the mountain for we are next to the race course, so we’ve been driving to Creekside to get on the gondola.  Otherwise it has been a quiet January.

But come Monday morning the Creekside gondola closes, all of the parking lots are taken over by VANOC and our lives on public transportation begins.   We’ve rented a locker in the village so we don’t have to carry skis back and forth, but what is normally a short walk to get going becomes two bus rides.  And while there are grocery stores further away accessible by car, bus is the only viable transport to the nearby Creekside Grocery and the adjacent BC Liquor Store.  We’ve been stocking up.  And on Thursday security of the venue steps up a notch and the vehicle checkpoint on the road up our hill is established.

Most of our complex is empty as is typical except for weekends and holidays.   Upstairs has been occupied for a couple of weeks…IT managers for VANOC.  Our next door neighbor, one of the few permanent residents, is off to Florida soon and his place will then be occupied by two members of the Canadian women’s alpine team.  Otherwise we don’t know what to expect.  What is certain is that the underground parking in our complex has 26 spaces for 16 units and we all have two parking permits but only one assigned space.   We’ve planted one car in one of the unassigned spaces and will then use the assigned space for comings and goings.

Kindle, iPad and Me

January 30, 2010

So far I’ve not yielded to the thought that I ought to have a Kindle.  Despite usually being an early adopter, and liking to read,  in practice I barely keep up with newspapers and periodicals, much less make it through a book.  Though I did experiment.  I downloaded Kindle for iPhone about a year ago and have since assembled an odd collection of four books:  Dreams from My Father, Googled, Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, and The Chicago Guide to Your Career in Science.  I enjoyed the first, have barely started the second, and the latter two were recommended to me as ones that could help me guide contemporary grad students and so are more reference works.  The experience on the iPhone has been fine, but clearly not matching those reading on the real thing.

Then in the course of the past three weeks some unrelated triggers.  Ron blogged about the Kindle experience with Fly by Wire; I thought I would enjoy the book.  Our friend Dan Lowell received a Kindle as a Christmas gift and he isn’t quite ready to admit it, but I think he is enjoying it too.  But the iPad announcement was coming this week.  And so now the decision is more complicated.  Nonetheless thinking about the decision resulted in an impulse to get my fifth Kindle book today, Fly by Wire.  Reading it on the iPhone would be fine and if I later decided on either a Kindle or iPad, the book would be readable (for the Kindle for iPhone app will run on the iPad).

Not so fast, need to examine my assumptions.   The publisher of Fly by Wire is Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a subsidiary of Macmillan, and Amazon and Macmillan are at odds.  As of today I can’t buy the book–hard copy or digital–directly from Amazon.   Time will tell, but can you say VHS-Betamax?

Ski Helmets

January 2, 2010

Yesterday’s New York Times contained an article on “Helmets Becoming More Common on Ski Slopes”:

once used exclusively by professional and competitive amateur skiers or snowboarders, helmets have become far more common across the United States and are now widely considered to be a critical piece of equipment, even for novices

This seems like an article that could have appeared in Canada’s Globe and Mail many years ago.  Whistler became our ski resort of choice in the mid-90s and we were awakened to helmet use upon enrolling Daniel and Mark in ski school.  The first two years we were able to sign a waiver so that they could ski without a helmet, but by 1997 it was policy at Whistler Mountain and so the helmets went onto the boys.  Not surprisingly, there was great resistance to wearing them except when in ski school.  Tobae and I added helmets to our gear in 1999 so that we had some credibility to go with our authority.

The article overly focuses on whether a helmet will help prevent death.  Skiers and riders prone to running into trees will likely not benefit.   But in a sport where falls are common, a helmet certainly lessens the severity of injuries.   I was glad I was wearing mine when I was run over by a snowboarder in 2006, with one point of landing being my head.

What is missed entirely from the article is the best reason to wear one is the comfort it brings.  Hard shell, well insulated…so much warmer and drier than a knit hat.  And subtle benefits for those of us that wear glasses under our goggles which creates many issues with condensation.  And while Tobae’s first helmet is now retired, it was quite the fashion statement, worthy of the Beach Boys:

Tobae's Leedom Ski Helmet