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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Y2K + 10

How's this for an amusing trip down memory lane? Ten years ago, on the eve of the millennium, the big "Y2K," I was reporting for work in the basement of Gilchrist Hall at the University of Northern Iowa. I was to staff the university's "Y2K Command Center," the strategic hub of UNI's efforts to thwart any disasters due to Y2K.

As we now know, very little happened due to Y2K. The fear was that any digital device that recorded dates with only two digits wouldn't know how to properly handle a year "00" and would behave unpredictably. This was a valid concern, but not a surprise so almost all such problems were fixed months ahead of time.

Midnight came and went, and things were pretty quiet around UNI. One of our maintenance staff discovered a ventilation fan not working properly (for non-Y2K reasons) and that was it. All the professional staff went home a couple hours after midnight, but Robert Shontz (great student, individual, and co-worker) and I stayed on until morning. Even though it was pretty evident that nothing bad was going to happen, we and some other ITS associates worked in shifts to keep the command center open for a couple days. All we did was watch TV, surf the net, play video games, and eat on the university's dime, but it was nice that the university stuck to their schedule and gave us the hours we had been promised.

It would have been a more exciting story if we had somehow actively warded off a disaster, but I'm still glad I was there. What's your story? Out partying? How dull. You'll get another chance to be the hero for Y10K. Five digit years are going to require software updates. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I should have asked for ski karma for Christmas

Talk about your epic fail today. I decided several days ago that I wanted to ski Christmas day. I got close, but never made a single turn. Let's look at what turned out to be a waste of a day:

I was up before 7, checking the weather and road reports, and it's not exactly great. Chain restrictions at the tunnel and Vail Pass make me think twice about going. All I have is my car, as I don't trust my truck with its bad clutch and oil leak. At about 8:45 I get a positive road report from Lubin, who is headed to Vail from the west. I check some more reports and leave about 9:15. Way too late, but I've left late before and had great afternoons.

The roads are certainly passable, but I take it slow and arrive at Vail just after noon. I've heard from some that free parking is hard to find in Vail, but others have assured me that it exists and a bus will take you to the lifts. I explored all of Vail's three exits, and none have signs that clearly point to free parking. My GPS is no help. I check out a few of the pay areas, and each would cost me $25 just for the afternoon.

I stop in a 15-minute parking area and try to search for parking information on my phone. Vail's website clearly has parking information, but they've formatted their site in a way where it's not readable on my mobile browser. Phone crashes and reboots. I go to another site and it says parking is free at the golf course, if spots are available.

I get to the golf course lot about 1:00 and put on my boots, grab my skis, and walk to the bus stop. Ugh. The bus schedule is posted at the stop, and during midday the buses only run once an hour. The last one was leaving as I arrived. I seriously don't want to wait another hour for the next bus, the bus ride, the walk to the lifts, and the ride on the chair before I can actually ski. It would probably be 2:30 by then. There's gotta be something else.

I explore other parking lots along the bus route and all are either pass-only or pay-to-park. With snow (and travel back to Boulder) getting worse, I decided that it's not worth using one of my 10 precious Vail/Beaver Creek days to ski less than two hours. Upset at myself that I didn't do proper parking research beforehand and left so late, I turn the car east and go home.

In hindsight, pancakes at my sister's house probably would have been a better plan. I'll just have to make up for today with some really good days at Vail later in the season, assuming I get parking figured out by then.