Archives » May, 2005

May 27, 2005

Concerts in Minden Park

Tonight we moseyed on down to Minden Park to catch the first of the Concerts in the Park summer series that the Carson Valley Inn is putting on. The music this time was provided by the John Jorgenson Quintet, a rolicking good “hot jazz” combo that reminded me a lot of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Three guitars, an upright bass, and a fiddle, playing swinging music that sounded like it came right out of the 30’s.

Minden Park, with a full crowd clustered around the gazebo.

They also played a couple of jazz standards, and a few French jazz songs. Luckily there were no words on those.

The John Jorgenson Quintet on stage. They even took the railing off to make the gazebo into a better venue.

In all they played two sets, about 45 minutes each. I overheard a couple of teenage girls talking about how good the music was, so for a bunch of old fogies playing a 70-year old set list, that’s the real seal of approval. Definitely a band to check out!

A lot of people turned out on a Friday night for the concert.

Folks brought their dogs…

…and more dogs…

…and even a talking bird!

The program for tonight’s presentation. Inside was one page about the band, and 14 pages of ads.

This Concerts in the Park series continues all summer, with four more shows to go:

All shows are at 6:30pm. So if you ever find yourself in Minden on a Friday night, you know what to do!

May 25, 2005

Hyperlocal Carson City

Hyperlocal seems to be the new buzzword, even though it’s really just a new term for an old concept. Basically, a “hyperlocal” site is a website that focuses on just one city, or town, or even a single neighborhood. It’s ideally a place for the residents to go for news and information about the place they live, and mostly it’s the residents themselves who are doing most of the writing. It’s another form of the whole “citizen’s media” things that’s going on, or at least being talked about an awful lot. Some of the examples I’ve found have been:

And all of this talk has reminded me of my own desire to build a site – I guess you’d call it hyperlocal – for Carson City and Douglas County, Nevada. So that’s why this week I bought a new domain name just for that purpose, Of course I don’t have a site built yet; I just have half-formed thoughts rattling around inside my head. So right now the site just forwards to my Carson City pages here on Computer Vet. And I don’t even know if a site like this will fly yet; like I said yesterday, I’m not seeing a lot of evidence that Carson City is ready for the interactive web. So at first I’ll try to build the site around the kind of stuff I’ve already been doing or had planned for this site: photo galleries, restaurant reviews and menus, links to stories in the local papers, and my own articles. And maybe it will grow from there, into something with blogs and message boards and classified ads, something that other people can add to when I’m not able to. Because, just like this site, I’m going to have to squeeze Around Carson’s development into that half hour every day after the family goes to bed and before I do. But it should be exciting if I can pull it off.

And given my record of procrastination in the past, look for it to launch around 2008.

May 24, 2005

Carson City Live

I just noticed that last month our local newspaper, the Nevada Appeal, started its first blog, Carson City Live. There’s not a whole lot there, about ten entries in the last month. Looks like they post about as often as I do!

But in their first post they lay down some good ideas (emphasis mine):

This is a two-way street. We hope that by opening up the news reporting process, our readers will see what it takes to produce the news you see here every day. Conversely, we look forward to all the comments and feedback we can get.

News should be a conversation, not a lecture.

It’s that last line that’s the money quote: “News should be a conversation, not a lecture.” It looks like someone at the newspaper has been paying attention the last couple of years! They’ve also added a comment form to each of their stories, but I’m not seeing a lot of submitted comments. Maybe Carson City isn’t quite ready for the interactive web yet.

Best Friends

May 22, 2005

At Disneyland, Everyone is a Reporter

I heard a really awesome podcast the other day, one that really shows what can be done with grassroots media and citizen’s reporting. And it was actually an episode of the MousePod, which I’ve been following ever since it started four months ago.

It all came about because of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration kickoff. On July 17th of this year, Disneyland will have been open for 50 years. And they’re going to be celebrating the birthday all summer, so they picked May 5th (05-05-05) to start the celebration. On that day there were ceremonies and speeches and a red carpet of Disney-related celebrities, and the unveiling of a new parade and fireworks show. The event was pretty well covered by the media, and Disney themselves even leapfrogged into the future by hiring podcaster Michael Geoghegan, of Reel Reviews, to put together an official Disney podcast about the event. That ‘cast is pretty excellent in itself, and you should go check it out if you haven’t yet.

But anyway, the MousePod is the number one unofficial Disney podcast, so of course you knew Jesse would try to do some kind of special coverage of the event on the 5th. But Jesse was stuck in San Francisco with laryngitis, so there was no way for him to get to Anaheim to cover the festivities. Instead, the stroke of genius that he had was to recruit his listeners to become a band of roving reporters, and he set up a voice mail box for them to call in with updates on what was happening at the park. This turned out to be a great idea, and the result is one of the best podcasts I’ve heard yet.

For as great as Michael Geoghegan’s offical podcast was, it was still a P.R. move by Disney, and as such it was heavily sanitized. There was nothing negative in the podcast. It was all good news, interviews with happy people who didn’t have any complaints, and a parade of celebrities that are used to putting on a good face for the press. By listening to that ‘cast, you get the impression that everything went off without a hitch and the 50th kickoff was flawless. The MousePod, however, gives you a slightly different, more realistic version of how things went down that day. Jesse played at least a dozen voice mails that he had received during the day, from different people all over the park. And the reports coming in from the men and women on the street weren’t quite as rosy. They told stories of enormously long lines, closed restaurants, no drinks, and packed walkways. His reporters were too far away from the stage to hear the speeches, couldn’t find a place to see the parade, and not in the right spot to view the fireworks. They were all thrilled and ecstatic to be there, of course, but the conditions weren’t ideal, and they ran into problems and frustrations. So, basically, by listening to the MousePod you get the feel of what it was really like for the thousands and thousands of ordinary people that were in the park that day. And it’s so different from what Michael Geoghegan, a member of the press who certainly had Disney handlers scheduling events for him, experienced.

This is what the future of reporting looks like. The stories will be told by people who are in the middle of it, who are living it. Sure, we’ll still need outside reporters to get the big picture, and PR releases to find out what the company thinks is important. But now you’ll also be able to go inside to get the real story, and it will be so much more engaging than anything else.

May 20, 2005

Windows Automatic Reboots

Windows Automatic Update has struck again. Yesterday a new Critical Update came down the wire, and Windows downloaded and installed it just like it should. But then, once again, it decided to reboot the computer after the install was finished. And so all day I was getting compalints from people all across the company that their computer was rebooting all by itself. I would think that something like this would be unacceptable to most people. I sure don’t like it. But it’s the way Windows is designed. Luckily there’s a way to change it.

I found the solution on Tim Rains’ weblog. It involves a registry entry that you have to set on each computer in order to turn off the automatic reboot. You go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU and create a DWORD value named NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers. Then set it to 1 (or download this .reg file) and, theoretically, your computer won’t reboot, but just notify you that a reboot is needed. And really, isn’t that the way it should be? I guess this is another example of Microsoft’s new devotion to security at all costs, without regard for the unexpected consequences that it brings about. Tim himself gives several cases where a reboot definitely was not weclomed:

One person’s Windows Media Center Edition system was rebooted while they were watching their favorite show on TV. Another person, who uses their laptop as an alarm clock when they travel, slept in because their system was rebooted and the alarm clock application didn’t restart. Another person said they were working on a Word doc and went to the restroom only to return to find their system rebooted and the Word doc gone.

And yet, even after all that, he still recommends leaving the reboot active, because, and this is the standard Microsoft party line, “If you do not reboot the system…your system will still be vulnerable.” Well, you know, my system’s been vulnerable for months now anyway, because you didn’t find this vulnerability until now. So I don’t think another two hours is going to hurt. Just pop up a little window every half hour letting me know a reboot is required, and trust me that I’ll do it when I’m done with the computer. Taking control of and rebooting my computer is not okay, even if it’s meant to protect me from a bug in your code.

May 17, 2005

In the Shadow of Auburn Dam

As I wrote earlier, this weekend we drove over the Sierra Crest so Viola could take her EIPA test. She thinks she did pretty well, but we won’t get the results for 60 to 90 days, so we’ll just have to sit tight on that one.

But the test itself was nearly three hours long, so while she was sitting in a stuffy room at Del Oro High School in Loomis, I had to find some way to kill some time with the kids. And since Loomis is one of those one-stoplight towns that holds nothing of interest for outsiders, I instead drove up the hill to Auburn. Auburn is one of the old gold-rush towns, but it has managed to survive through the years, mostly thanks to Interstate 80 carrying thousands of travellers through it every day. Right on the outskirts of town is the American River Canyon, and if you leave the freeway and take Highway 49 south, you soon end up right at the bottom.

The American River Canyon. The close bridge is Old Foresthill Road, and the bridge further in the background is the “No Hands” Bridge. The Highway 49 bridge is hidden behind the hill.

When you get to the bottom of the canyon, you find yourself at the point where the North and Middle forks of the American River merge. Highway 49 crosses the river here and climbs up the other side of the canyon on its way to Placerville, while the old road to Foresthill splits off, also crosses the river, and follows it for a while longer. The canyon’s easy accessibility and proximity to towns and the freeway make it popular with whitewater rafters, horseback riders, hikers, and cyclists. It’s also home to a bit of history; the “No Hands” Bridge was built in 1912 for the Mountain Quarries Railroad. It was the longest concrete arch bridge in the world when it was built, and it has withstood several floods that have washed more modern bridges away.

And if the State of California had had its way 30 years ago, all of this would be underwater today.

Postcard from an alternate universe where the Auburn Dam was actually built.

For you see, this canyon was supposed to be the home of the Auburn Dam. Conceived during the heyday of California’s Central Valley Project, which sought to control the water situation in the middle of the state, this was going to be a companion to the Folsom Dam which had been built in 1955. Together these two reserviors would put an end to the flooding that had plagued Sacramento ever since the first Americans settled there over a hundred years before. Construction actually started on the dam, with the river being diverted into a spillway tunnel and heavy equipment ripping huge scars into the canyon walls. But then, in 1975, there was an earthquake at Oroville Dam, 60 miles away. Analysis soon showed that the same faultline ran right by the Auburn Dam site, and that the Oroville quake could have been caused by the weight of the water in the reservoir. Construction at Auburn halted while the engineers figured out what to do with this new data, and as months turned into years the American attitude towards dam building slowly changed. Gone were the days of damming every canyon the government could get their hands on, replaced by a more thoughtful approach to flood control. New economic analysis was also done on the Auburn Dam, and by the time the dam had been redesigned to be structurally sound in an earthquake, it no longer looked financially sound. There just wasn’t enough water in the American River for the dam to make a profit through generating electricity.

Highway 49 crossing the swirling waters of the American River.

And so the Auburn Dam drifted through the decades, a mostly dead project. A few people, most notably US Representative John T. Doolittle, clung to the idea that the dam could, and should, still be built, but the government didn’t agree. Now it’s pretty much a given that it will never happen. But the project did leave behind a couple of interesting remnants. One is the dam site itself, where huge scars still stretch up the side of the canyon. I didn’t visit there. But I did visit the new Foresthill Bridge, which was built in 1973 to replace the old bridges that would soon be underwater.

New Foresthill Bridge towers over Old Foresthill Bridge.

Because the canyon was so steep, and Auburn Lake was going to be so deep, Foresthill Bridge had to be quite an impressive structure. It was designed to sit 130 feet above the waters of Auburn Lake. But the lake itself was going to be 600 feet deep at that point, so they had to built the bridge a dizzying 730 feet off the ground. This gave it a distinction it was never meant to keep: the highest bridge in California, and third-highest in the U.S. After the dam project fell through, what was supposed to be a very ordinary structure has turned into a tourist attraction of its own.

Foresthill Bridge. The waters of Auburn Lake were supposed to completely cover the concrete pillars, leaving only the green truss visible.

Sadly, Mr. Ed won’t be able to join you.

A bridge like this not only attracts tourists, of course, but also those looking to take advantage of high places. Specifically, it’s a favorite with jumpers. And it’s easy to see why. You always want your final statement to be a profound one; you want to go out in style. And for the ultimate in style points, your obvious first choice is the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a classic. But the problem with the Golden Gate is that it has a survival rate. It’s small, sure, but it’s still there. It’s only 220 feet high, after all, and you have a whole ocean to cushion your fall. So if you want to get the job done, really get it done well, you should automatically head to the highest bridge you can find. When you fall 730 feet, it doesn’t really matter what you land on. But the Foresthill Bridge is accomodating in that respect too. The American River is a thin little thing, and even if you somehow manage to aim just right and hit it, it can’t be more than ten feet deep. So you know when you step off that railing and start your final journey, you’re not going to be ending up in a hospital room somewhere. It’s such an attractive spot that they’ve installed suicide prevention callboxes at either end of the bridge.

I wonder if you can order pizza?

If you want to learn more about the American River Canyon, I’d recommend the book Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith. I’ve never read it myself, but it got several good reviews, so that’s enough for me. It’s written by a former park ranger that worked in the canyon for 14 years, and his stories about the people of Gold Country. And hanging over the whole book is the shadow of Auburn Dam, this looming threat that was always present in the canyon even though it never got built.

To close out, here are a few more pictures from the bottom.

The sign reminds you that it’s a wild river with a history of flooding.

Looking at the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the American River. In the background is the Highway 49 bridge.

Old and new Foresthill Bridges, two roads going to the same place.

May 12, 2005

Sacramento! Again!

It feels like we should buy a second home in Sacramento, since we’re there so much. For the third time in as many months, we’re heading over the Sierra Crest Friday to go down to the valley. This time it’s because Viola is taking an EIPA test (Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment). That’s an assessment test that will rate how good she is at sign language. The test administrator leads her through a series of exercises designed to test every facet of her signing ability. It takes about two hours. The whole session is videotaped, and then it’s scrutinized by a panel of three expert signers, who rate her on a scale from 1 to 4. She should do pretty well, since signing for deaf children is something she does day in and day out, but she’s suffering from a lack of confidence. So I’ll have all day tomorrow to build her up for the test, which is bright and early Saturday morning. The test is in Loomis, California, over two hours away from our house. So we’re making a weekend out of it, visiting friends, staying the night, and heading to Old Sacramento to ride the train.

If she scores high enough on this test, it could lead to certification and a raise in pay for her. Plus it will end the vague threats the State keeps sending down that all interpreters who aren’t officially certified won’t be able to work in the school district anymore, something we’ve been hearing for years now. Of course, none of the interpreters in Douglas County or Carson City are certified yet, so I don’t think they’ll actually go through with the threat.

Anyway, we’re off to our home away from home, Sacramento!


May 10, 2005

Reno River Festival

If you’re going to be in Reno this weekend, head downtown to the Truckee River for the Reno River Festival, taking place May 12th through the 15th. This is the second year of this kayak competition, which is being held in the new Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield. My company had a big role in designing and permitting this whitewater park, which involved dredging and reshaping the river channel to make it more friendly to kayakers, river rafters, and spectators. RCI has a whole section of our website (converted from PDF to HTML by me, of course) devoted to the work we did on that design project.

The Festival is bringing in kayakers from all over the country to participate. And the website even has set up a blog for Jay Kincaid, a several-time champion kayaker who is now based in Reno, to document his progress as he gets prepared for the competition. It’s exciting to see anybody in Northern Nevada have a blog, so keep it up, Jay!

May 8, 2005

Sacramento Part II

Last month I published three pages of photos from our trip to Sacramento in March. Those three pages covered the first day of the trip. Today I’ve got two more pages up, covering the second day.

The new pages are pages four and five. At this rate, I should have all the photos posted by the first anniversary of our vacation. What else do you expect from a procrastinator?