Archives » August, 2004

August 29, 2004

Tahoe Fire Reports

What I’ve been working on at work for the last couple of weeks: Lake Tahoe Wildfire Hazard Assessments. One for North Lake Tahoe, and one for Tahoe-Douglas around the Stateline casinos. They’re part of the million-dollar, state-funded project we’re in the middle of, to look at every inhabited part of the state and figure out how high the risk of wildfire is. I was handed these final reports as 22MB PDF files, each with a dozen additional PDFs at 1.5MB each. My task? Convert to HTML for our website. And since Acrobat produces some of the worst HTML I’ve ever seen (yes, worse than MS Word), it basically came down to creating templates from scratch and just copying and pasting in 150 pages of text. Twice. The result is 300kb of valid HTML.

The reports themselves go into more detail about what a tinderbox Lake Tahoe really is. Of the nine neighborhoods the report covers, three of them are rated as extreme fire hazard and five are high. The culprits are always the same: a hundred years of drought, beetles, disease and firefighting has turned the Tahoe forests into a dense tangle of dry, dead, and dying trees and brush. Any fire that starts on the ground would quickly find its way into the treetops, where it could quickly spread, especially if it’s being driven by high winds, and drop down onto houses from above. This plan calls for going into these areas of extreme hazard, clearing out the brush, removing dead trees, and restoring the forest closer to what it was before the white man came.

Further down this page are a couple of photograph, taken 120 years apart, that show how bad things have gotten. The Tahoe forests are naturally thin, with trees spaced far apart. But in the late 1800s every tree at Tahoe was cut down and sent to Carson City and Virginia City, to be used to build houses and shore up the mines. So the forest we have now only dates back to then, and without the natural thinning that comes from periodic fire it has grown into a dense tangle.

The same problem is happening all over the West. We’re trying to find the right balance between putting fires out, which is our instinctual reaction, and letting them burn, which is essential for healthy forests. When you have places like Lake Tahoe, where the houses are literally in the middle of the forest, things become really tricky. And that’s why my company hires a lot of really smart foresters and ecologists to find solutions, while leaving me to make the websites.

August 25, 2004

In-N-Out Photos

Another new project page: In-N-Out construction photos. Patterned after the Ormsby House page, but hopefully not as long-lived. A lot of people seem to find my site by Googling “in-n-out carson city”, so why not give ‘em something good to look at? Keep the people happy, you know.

Also in the North Douglas news, another big shopping center is on the drawing board right across the street from the In-N-Out: Riverwood Center. I say bring it on. Carson City’s transformation from big town to small city is well underway. No point stopping it now.

August 23, 2004

Ormsby Procrastination

Yes, this is probably the latest in the month I’ve done one of these updates. Today is the 23rd, for a gallery that should have been posted on the first. Oh well.

More Ormsby House goodness this time around. The casino had been reduced to a big empty skeleton with cold winds howling around inside. Now they’re finally starting to put its skin back on. It looks like they’re hoping to get everything enclosed by the time winter starts. Apparently they don’t feel rushed, since not much has changed in the three weeks since the last of these pictures was taken. If they don’t get hopping this week, the August update will be very quick to put together.

Two pages: OneTwo.

August 14, 2004


Another Windows XP tip, from the dark corners of my own personal experience.

The problem: You turn on your computer, but Windows doesn’t start. All you get is a blue screen that says UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME. What, oh, what do you do?

The solution: Boot into the Recovery Console. For this you need your XP CD, and go through the motions like you’re going to reinstall Windows, but look for the Recovery Console option instead. The Recovery Console is a command-line interface with diagnostic and repair tools. Once you’re in the console, enter these three commands in turn:

chkdsk /r
chkdsk /p

The first one can take half an hour or longer, the others zip by really quick. After that, reboot your computer, and you should be golden!

August 12, 2004

Morton’s What?

Not much posting of late. I’m at home being nurse for my wife, who had surgery for a multitude of foot problems, including a festering suture and a Morton’s Neuroma. Nasty stuff. She’s bedbound, I’m taking care of her and the baby. Computer time is spent converting PDFs to HTML for the company website. That leaves little time for you, gentle readers, and the stack of photos I might one day want to post. Photos like this.

Oh well. All in good time.

August 4, 2004

The Visible In-N-Out

After writing about In-N-Out Burger the other day, I drove around the building and took some pictures of their progress. That’s why it was a big shock to me to watch the Channel 2 nightly news from Reno tonight, and hear this quote:

The location in Douglas County has been picked but construction hasn’t started.

Gosh, good to know the media is always on top of the story!

Here are some pics. Click to see larger.

The front entrance, with the highway barely visible in the background.

The main side entrance. This store looks like it will laid out just like every other one I’ve been in; walking through this door will take you straight to the counter.

The view from the highway. On the left is the Coming Soon sign. On the right is a Grand Opening sign for the new Quizno’s Subs.

A closeup of the long-awaited Coming Soon sign. Bonus: some guy on a ladder!!

You know, maybe we don’t want the people in Reno to know that it’s about to open. If they think it hasn’t been built, it might cut down on the opening week crowds.

August 3, 2004

The Jethro Blues

In the panoply of aging TV stars who refuse to let go of the characters they played in the 1960’s, Adam West is surely king. Some of you may have seen the cable commercial where he’s hawking public internet terminals, and as he looks over the list of 21st century technology the kiosk carries, he bitterly mutters, “I never had half that stuff in my old belt.” And although Adam West is king, he does have many subjects. The line of succession travels far and wide, and it passes by the doorstop of Max Baer, Jr.

Max Baer, Jr., may not be a household name like Adam West, but that’s only because he mostly sticks by the name of Jethro Bodine. Max played Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies for several years, and he had the foresight to do what a lot of fleeting TV stars didn’t, then or now: he invested his paychecks instead of spending them. Which turned out to be a smart move, because after the show ran its course Max couldn’t get a job to save his life. After directing a couple of movies that were quickly forgotten, he retired from show biz and instead started looking for ways to make his nest egg grow even more. That eventually led to him buying the merchandising rights to the Beverly Hillbillies, and stretching that franchise as thin as it could go.

A longtime part of his Hillbillies quest has been building a casino based on the show. He tried to make it happen in Reno, but it fell apart. Now he’s trying to bring it to Carson City, by buying an old Wal*Mart building and promising to transform it into “Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino.” I have a whole part of my site devoted to the project, which has yet to break ground.

The reason he hasn’t broken ground yet (or one of them at least) is that when he bought the Wal*Mart building, he became a tenant in a larger shopping center that includes a JCPenney and a few small stores. The shopping center has a set of covenants and restrictions that prohibit entertainment ventures like bowling alleys and theaters. The owners of the mall (Glenbrook Co.) claim that casinos are also prohibited, and they won’t allow Jethro to build. Jethro claims the rules don’t apply to him, since he never signed or agreed to them. Glenbrook claims the restrictions are part of the property, and he agreed to them by buying the building. They went back and forth on this, and eventually went to court over it. The fate of the Beverly Hillbillies Casino rested in the balance.

Yesterday the judge’s ruling came down in favor of the shopping center owners. The restrictions do apply to Jethro, and he is not allowed to build a casino on the property without Glenbrook’s permission, which they insist they will never give. Jethro vows that he won’t give up the fight.

“My plans for a casino have not changed based on the judge’s ruling. I have no other plans, and I don’t want any other plans. I do not intend to sell it. I don’t owe anything on it. It’s all mine. The only people who are hurting are Carson City (people) because of this, because I can wait in perpetuity.”

How long will the standoff last? Will Carson City be graced with Granny’s Shotgun Wedding Chapel and Ellie May’s Buns, or will we have an empty Wal*Mart building forever? Stay tuned!

August 2, 2004

Happy Dance

They’ve been working on the building for a couple of months, and giving hints to the media, but now they’ve put up a “Coming Soon” sign and confirmed it. In-N-Out Burger is coming to Carson City. An article in yesterday’s paper (I couldn’t find the article online, but Sean Harding found it at the Record Courier) also mentioned the one in Reno that’s being built, and is actually a few stages ahead of ours. That one’s set to open a couple of weeks ahead of the one in Carson, sometime in September.

It’s a little misleading to say the burger joint is “in” Carson City. It’s actually on the other side of the county line, in one of the shopping centers that led to the feud I wrote about last year. So being on the outskirts of Carson, it will probably be called the “Carson City In-N-Out”, but it’s actually in Douglas County. (More confusingly, it’s being built in the “Carson Valley Plaza”, which isn’t actually in the Carson Valley. You’ve got a couple of hills to go over before you get there. The newspaper kept up the confusion with their headline “In-N-Out Burger coming to Carson Valley.”)

While reading a sidebar in the paper (paraphrased from the official company history) along with this article from Los Angeles Magazine, I was reminded me why I love the place so much. It’s not just the taste (which is great), it’s the company itself. It’s still family owned and operated. There are no franchisees and no stockholders to please. All their advertising is done by word-of-mouth. There are no freezers or microwaves on the premises. If you look in the kitchen you can watch whole potatoes being sliced into french fries. There are no kid’s meals or chicken nuggets or Six Dollar Bacon Macs with Soy Cheese or Caesar Oriental Salad with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Applesauce on the menu. Just burgers and fries. Made by people who are paid more on their first day then most managers are after working for years at the other places. Sure they reference bible verses on their wrappers, but you know what? They’re so good, I can forgive them for that.

And when I can forgive someone for pushing religion on me, you know that’s something special.

A month and a half to go.