Monthly Archives: March 2014

I Do Not Want To Make Another Horse!!!

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Things are being good at the barn.  My fat eye is not fat any more.  I can be seeing all of the ground, too.  My food is not tasting nasty from the fat eye medicine.  My rider was making me eat a yukky paste, and I am not having to do that either.  And it is being all sunny, and you know what it means when it is getting sunny.

Grass is coming.

There is not being any grass now because there is still being snow and ice on the ground, but I am hearing it.  It is saying Huey! We will be there soon! And we will be TASTY!!!  I am knowing that I am only having to wait now.

It is also being the time when my hair is itching.  I do not want to be wearing a blanket any more but it is still being very cold at night, and sometimes during the day, so I am still wearing my blanket.

My rider was gone for a really long time.  Then she is coming to the barn, and she is saying Huey!!!  I have been missing you!!!

And I am being very happy to be seeing my rider, and so I am saying RIDER!!! YOU ARE HERE!!!!  And then I am remembering that this is not how a Dignified Horse is acting, so then I am saying And where is my treat?  Because it is being OK to be getting excited when your rider shows up if there might be being a treat.  It is not being OK to be getting excited if there is not going to be a treat.

Then we are going into the barn, and I am getting brushed all over.  Usually I am not being excited about brushing.  Usually it is just boring.  But it has been being a very long time since I am getting brushed, and my hairs are itching me.  So my rider is brushing me with the big curry and I am saying YES!! YES!! BRUSH IT THERE!!!!  And my rider is laughing and brushing me wherever I show her I am itching.  And that is being good.

Then my rider is picking all my hairs up off the ground because those are the Rules.  Horse hairs to go away after brushing in the barn!! That is important!!!!

And my rider is saying Huey! There is so much hair here I can make a whole other horse with it!!

What?!?!  Make a whole other horse?  And I am thinking about this.  Peaches has been making another horse all winter.  Her blanket is not fitting right any more because of the other horse she is making.  I am asking her about this, but she is telling me to Mind Your Business, Huey.  This Is A MARE Thing.  So it is a Mare Thing to make other horses.  I know this because I am being very smart and listening.

But my rider is saying she will make another horse.  So I am thinking about that.  My rider is making me do anything she says even when I am not wanting to do that.  This is a Mare Thing, being able to tell any horse what to do.  So I am saying Rider.  Are you a mare?

And she is saying Well, Huey, yes.  I am a mare.  But I am a Human Mare, I am not a Horse Mare.

And then I am thinking some more.  I am thinking that Peaches is making another horse, and that is what Horse Mares do.  Make more horses.  I am thinking that Human Mares should be making more humans not making more horses.  So I am saying Rider.  Are you making another human?  And she is saying What?  No.  No way.  I am not making more humans.

But then I am being confused.  How can a Human Mare being making another horse?  It is not making sense to me.  I am a smart horse, but this is being too smart for me.  I am not understanding that, but I am knowing one thing for sure.  I am not wanting another horse.  I am enough horse, just me, Huey.  So I am saying Rider.  I do not want you to be making another horse.

And she is saying What??  So I am saying I do not want you to be using my old hair to be making another horse.  I am not wanting another horse.

Then she is laughing.  And she is saying Huey!  I am not making a horse with your hair.  It is a joke!!!

Well.  I know what a joke is.  Clay is all the time making jokes.  They are stupid jokes but he is all the time laughing at them.  And Elvis is making jokes a lot too.  Clay makes his jokes on other horses, but Elvis makes his jokes on humans.  He has a very funny game that he is playing when someone is coming to get him for a lesson. He is laughing at this joke, and the rest of us horses are watching and laughing too.  It is very funny!  But I have not ever been hearing of a funny game where a person is making a horse.  I am not wanting to laugh at that.

I am just thinking that my rider should not be having more horses than me. And I am thinking that this pile of hair is not big enough for making a very big horse.  It would just be a pony.  And I am not wanting to be living with a pony, because they eat too fast and there is not being enough left over for me.  That is not being a very funny joke.

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The Irony, It Hurts Us

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Roy and I benefited from a nearly-miraculous confluence of circumstances – we’re both on sabbatical at the same time, we had an invitation to do a professional dog-and-pony show in Denver at our convenience that entailed several days in Denver and airfare paid for by someone else, and it’s winter.  Or early spring, but still winter as far as skiers are concerned.  For skiers, winter starts with the first white ribbon of death, and ends when it’s impossible to make it down the mountain without taking off your skis and hiking more than twice per run.  Roy and I never get to do travel in the spring because his spring break comes a week or two before mine.  No overlap, ever.  But at our convenience?  Free airfare to Colorado, at our convenience?  When else could our convenience be but during Ski Season?

Thus we found ourselves with several days in Denver meeting professionally with quite a few other professors who, shall we say, Place A High Value on Flexible Scheduling, Especially In The Winter.  It was the first professional event I’ve gone to where people were just as happy to talk about skiing as accounting. The Wonder Horse, I hope, continues to recover from his “fat eye” (cellulitis), and the cat is at home slutting out on the house sitter whilst planning his Acts of Revenge for when we return.  Otherwise, here we are, in Glorious Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs has a number of claims to fame.  One is the number of Olympic winter athletes who call this place home.  One is a funky town that is not insanely and creepily touristy.  One is that the ski area itself is an entire mountain range.  And one is it’s snow.  They’ve trademarked the term “champagne powder” in Steamboat.  No, really, they did.  I believe it’s what the name implies: light, frothy, effervescent.  I have to go on belief because I’ve never seen this kind of powder in person.  Only in ski videos.  New England has different kinds of “powder”.  There’s the “powder” represented by the 3 inches of new snow that is now coating the icy surface of the hill.  Then there’s New England Powder, which is 2 inches of finely pulverized ice chips created by the grooming cats covering and recovering the hill for a week or so after a melt/freeze cycle.  Then there’s the stuff that comes out of the fan guns.  It’s powder-y.  Otherwise, when New England gets a massive snow blast in a New England Special, you know that stuff started with freezing rain and sleet, then changed over to the wettest, heaviest snow possible for 18 inches before it changed back to sleet and more freezing rain.  Our “freshies” in New England are heavy and wet.  This isn’t actually a problem: it makes for a really good base, and we all know how to ski on it before, and after, it turns into ice – which it always does.

New England skiers ski on ice.  I, personally, can ski on six different kinds of ice, more if you go after the finer distinctions.    The question in New England is not “Will I have to ski on ice?” The question is “How many kinds of ice will I expect to encounter in a single run down the hill?”  If you’re a New England skier, you have skis that are specialized for skiing on ice.  They’re rigid, they have extremely hard edges, and those edges are kept extremely sharp.  The edges on my ice skis (a Volkl RTM) are sharp enough that I can shave off arm hairs with them.  Really.  That’s how sharp you keep your edges when you’re a New England skier.  It’s a matter of safety, for one, and for enjoyment, for another.

So, one of the things I was most excited about with this Steamboat junket, was the prospect of skiing on snow.  Maybe even some of this “champagne powder”, although, truth be told, I don’t think I would have the first idea about how to ski on that stuff.  I don’t think it’s even something I would recognize as “snow”.  In any event, I was all on board for some nice spring skiing under that sunny blue Colorado sky.

2 out of 3 isn’t bad.  I got the sunny sky and the blue sky.  But it’s too warm here right now, bloody polar vortex again no doubt, and we don’t have early spring conditions, we have late spring conditions.  Mountain melts during the day, and then refreezes over night.

We understand this situation better in New England, probably because we have to spend so much more time and effort grooming our mountains than they do out in Colorado, what with all that dry fluffy snow and stuff.  In New England, one understands that when this is occurring on the mountain, the best time to groom is after the mountain freezes.  That way, you’re running the groomer over ice and chewing it up to make something soft-ish.  New England Powder if you’re really lucky.  Wall-to-wall death cookies over packed powder if you’re not lucky.  At least you can still dig an edge in.

That doesn’t seem to be what goes on here, though.  Here they seem to be grooming it before the mountain freezes…which means that in the morning, one is confronted with a ski area completely covered with impenetrable and chattery corduroy-shaped-ice.  Yuk.  Even if you can ski on this stuff, and not everyone can, not even every ice skier, you don’t ever have any fun.  No edging with this.  And edging?  It’s how skiers turn, and turning is how skiers control their speed.  Ice you can’t get an edge in requires Jedi Master Ski Skillz to navigate safely, let alone have fun with.

But I didn’t know that, and couldn’t have known that, bef0re I left.  This winter, everyone agrees, is freakish – and we’ve had enough profoundly freakish weather in New England this winter that I’m prepared to believe just about anything.  In short, a bunch of us had a fairly deep pow-wow over the question, and the ultimate answer was that I should ship out a pair of my own skis, and that this not be the Volkl ice skis I’ve been riding all winter, but a ski more suited to nice soft snow.  Born for the western slopes, in fact.  Rossignol S3: 98 underfoot, twin-tipped, maximally rockered.  No edges to speak of, not at this point. Ultimate fun on soft snow.  Ultimate.  So I shipped them out to await my arrival here, and then the weather started to change.

Fast forward to my first trip down a Steamboat run.  I was checking out some novice runs for Roy to take later in the week, and started with the ski areas big green cruiser.  Usually I really love big green cruisers because they’re so easy that I don’t pay much attention to the skiing and I can take in views and stuff.

What happened instead is that I found myself on this unspeakably narrow run, maybe 20 feet wide, with a steady non-stop gentle incline (and you can gather some serious speed if you have enough distance on a gently sloping run).  With numerous hairpin (180-degree) turns.  Covered in an fully impenetrable sheet of ice that any New England resort would recognize as a total disaster.

And wait, there’s more.  The run was three (3) miles long.  A three-mile long, twenty-foot-wide sheet of ice.

And wait, there’s more.  Steep drop-offs.  Some of them cliffs.  Right at the edge of the longest, baddest White Ribbon of Death I have ever encountered.

Fortunately, as I said, I can ski six different types of ice, and this was one of them.  The skis were completely wrong for it, but I made them work for me, and did linked pivot slips for three miles to maintain a speed of approximately 5 mph, which is an absolute crawl.  Anything faster, though, and I wasn’t going to be able to make those hairpin turns and was going to shoot right off the edge of the run and down god-only-knows-how-far.  Into the trees.  And rocks.

So I did it.  The effort left my legs on fire, and cut my ski day short big time, and left me with burning quads and knees the next day. But it was controlled, it was smooth, and it was safe.  Nothing like rocking some advanced Jedi Ski Skillz on a green slope to really fry the brain.  One thing became crystal clear to me on my way down that run, and believe me, I had a lot of time to think about it all.

I was going to need a different pair of skis.

This mountain felt exactly like home, only twice as tall and 10 times as large.  And whatever I could hope, using my beloved S3s before noon wasn’t on that list.  Problem with the argument of “just go later” is that there’s a fairly narrow window of opportunity between the time the mountain starts to soften up and the time it’s totally skied off and you’re left with ice again. Not sure how long that window is, but there are plenty of people in this ski area to grind down the runs, so I’m guessing that the answer is “not long”.

So I was going to need a different pair of skis.

I dropped my skis in the rack, and hied me unto the ski shop.

“I need to demo some skis today.” I said.

“OK.” they said. “What did you have in mind?”

Good question.  When you demo skis, you pick them.  In a flash, I knew exactly what ski I wanted to have under my feet, more than anything.  My own skis.  My ice skis.

“Got a pair of Volkl RTM 84s?” I said.

They whistled.  Maybe.  Very popular ski, that.  No, they didn’t have it in the length of my actual skis, but they had the next-longer length.  Not as nice as my own skis, of course, which have been babied and pampered, and have edges so sharp they’ll shave hair off.  But close.  Almost but not quite identical to my skis.  The skis I decided I wasn’t going to ship to Steamboat, because I didn’t think I’d need to ski ice.

I had to rent my own skis on the fly.  Ouch.  But. But. But they were perfect.  This irony is a sword that cuts both ways.  My main skis really are that great.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  And, at least, the shop had them in stock.

You Can’t Cure Stupid…and You Can’t Cure Windows Either.

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AAARGH.  My computer has basically been hors de combat for nearly a week, because I had to get the hard drive replaced. I have a service that automatically creates incremental mirror images to an external hard drive…so I *should* have been able to just boot into the recovery utility, restore my image, and roll. Only the hard drive wouldn’t boot (invalid partition table!). And the recovery disk to boot into the recovery utility and get into the mirror drive wouldn’t boot either (endless nouveau errors that mean, as far as I can tell, that the linux boot utility doesn’t play well with my NVIDIA card). Had a chat with the Carbonite folk to see if they could tell me how to get into my image, but no joy: they booted it up the chain twice, eventually landing me with someone who I will talk to on the phone tomorrow (and by golly, I will).

In the meantime, I have work piling up, and bills to pay, and while the vanilla Win7 install would get me internet access, I was missing a pile of software and files. It’s all backed up into Carbonite’s cloud, and because I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of person after I lost my first dissertation, it’s backed up onto a different external HD too. No worries about that, but the software and tweaking are a major PITA. I know this because I just fucking did it in September, when I was happily installing things on to a drive that was failing from the factory. Dammit.

Jeff is gone today, which means I have some uninterrupted time. I also – thanks to the Dell tech – STILL have my old hard drive. It needs to go back to Dell at some point, but I told him I was profoundly uncomfortable with sending it off given that it’s got my accounting software loaded on it, and that software allows the computer to speak directly to my banks. I want that sucker WIPED before it goes back to Dell.

But…in the mean time…I had a hard drive loaded with the very stuff I needed to have loaded on the new one.  Only question is, how to get it over there.  It sounds like it should be easy, oh, just copy it! But it doesn’t work that way. Can’t just copy in registered software, and other operating system files, while the operating system is running.  No.  Has to be done through a back door.  Back Door Number One, the software I’d intended for this exact purpose, was jammed shut.

So I wait for two days while Amazon ships me a cable that I can’t buy at a store around here, not even Radio Shack: Home To Connectors For Anything God Never Intended To Talk To Each Other.  This cable lets me plug my old hard drive into my computer, where it looks like an external drive.  Back Door Number Two:  plug my old hard drive in, use the native Windows utilities to make an image of that drive and put it on another external hard drive, make a system recovery disk to boot into it, and roll.  Only, I don’t want to use my Real Mirror Drive in case all this goes wahoonie-shaped and I still need to get the Carbonite Guru to pull my huevos out of the fire.  And I can’t use my Other Drive, the one that has all the files and stuff backed up on it, because I need those backups, and besides, it’s too small.

This means a trip to the Staples for External Drive Number Three, and I find that we’re now operating in Terabyte Land.  That was enlightening.  The 500 G drive is too small because of some funky stuff with partitions and all that means I’m likely to run into trouble using a 500G drive to hold an image of another 500G drive.  Or this is the case according to the Web.  So I size up: one terabyte.  I’m kind of thrilled to be buying a terabyte of anything, because my first six or seven computers didn’t even have a hard drive, I’m that old.  I remember the Glory Days when you could get a hard drive that held a whole meg.  We were thrilled and dancing in the streets when that happened, let me tell you.  So, a terabyte.  That feels like Science Fiction to me.  I feel like the Star Trek transporter beam is only around the corner, buying terabytes.

Only problem is, Windows 7 seems to get funky with terabyte storage.  Or maybe it’s some kind of funky stuff with Western Digital.  Because as I’m shuttling my Terabyte between computers, trying to make sure everything is in line – and then spending three hours troubleshooting when it doesn’t work, which it rather predictably doesn’t, my computer and the Emergency Backup Box borrowed from Roy are continually failing to recognize the external drive.  It’s in Device Manager, which says everything is groovy and good to go, but it only sporadically shows up in Windows Explorer.

Good god almighty, I surely do miss the days when I didn’t have to share a bunch of exotic Microsoft Office documents and statistics files, and I could use a civilized operating system, like Linux.  You just don’t get these kinds of problems.  Life is easier with Linux.  Other than the dependency thing, but that doesn’t usually keep you from booting.

So Plan B flops like a four-day-dead fish:  I can boot from the recovery disk, but it either does not recognize that I have a drive attached to the system that contains a recovery image, or it sees the drive but not the image.

Totally random, by the way.  My BFF Google tells me that loads of people have this exact problem…and there are loads of virtually random ways to fix it.  Judging by the different approaches to fixing it, and the different success rates experienced by different parties, what I have to say is this:  Make A Saving Throw versus Loki.  ’nuff said.  I had to go for Plan C.

This involved a different piece of commercial software, a trial version, eight or ten websites offering different degrees of detail about implementing the solution, and about 90 minutes of dedicated incense-burning, psalm-reciting, and the ritual slaughtering of a few small animals and a half-dozen virgins.

In the end, it worked.  Or it seems to have done.  Sprinkle salt, spit between two fingers, make a hex sign against the evil eye, and paint the doorposts with the blood of a rolled leg of lamb.  The only thing that made me happier, this week, than the correct log-on screen for Windows, and my real wallpaper, and bookmarks and files and all that crap showing up when my system rebooted after those 90 minutes was the sight of a tiny sliver of Huey’s eyeball as the swelling starts to recede.

Looks like he got cellulitis from his beastly little face-biting fight with the other horse.  You can’t cure Stupid, but you can cure staph.  And we’re in the middle of working on that one too.