Sunday, December 30, 2007

Racial choices in ski resorts?

I just got back from a ski trip last week. The snow was a bit sparse and the temperatures never got out of the teens on the slopes. Still, it was good fun. But I'm not remarking on those subjects. What struck me this time was how at one resort, Mt. Rose in Nevada, there were large numbers (I'm talking like 50-70% of the people I saw) of Asian-Americans. By contrast, the next day at Squaw Valley, my brother and I were actively searching for Asian-Americans but could see only very few - I'm talking maybe 20-30 out of the hundreds if not thousands of other skiiers we encountered.

Let me reemphasize: there was a huge disparity between Asian-American attendance at Mt. Rose ski resort v. Squaw Valley USA. It was completely mystifying.

As the American Way(TM) would have it: In times of uncertainty, fall back on gross stereotypes. (Just kidding!) A family member of mine postulated that, based on the stereotype of Asians as "cheap" or at least bargain hunters, the Asian American attendance disparity could be explained by the pecuniary savings associated with staying in Reno, which provides (1) cheap lodging because of casinos, (2) cheap food, and (3) shorter drive from Reno to Mt. Rose v. Squaw Valley. However, I am skeptical of this explanation because Squaw is not inconvenient from Reno at all and is probably only 20-30 minutes further. As point of fact, we ourselves stayed in Reno and enjoyed the savings!

Squaw Valley is of course more expensive (I payed 62 for my ticket at Squaw v. 45 for Mt. Rose), but it's a much more extensive resort with more varied terrain (imho).

And of course, Squaw Valley charges for non-skiing family members to get to some of the more convenient lodges (cable car and/or funitel rides), whereas Mt. Rose's major lodges are easily accessible. I know that some Asian matrons don't ski themselves but like to stake out tables in the super-crowded Mt. Rose lodge.

Even with these various factors, I am still curious about the day and night difference between the two resorts. The disparity is just so crazily glaring.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is it that obvious?

So, I was talking to a police officer the other day, and within 10 minutes he looks at me, head askew, and asks me, "Are you a lawyer?" Apparently just the way I was answering his questions triggered that suspicion in his head. He said that I never answered anything in absolutes and seemed to consider what I was saying longer than most.

Is that police officer particularly astute? Obviously he's probably dealt with more lawyers than the average guy on the street, but it's not like I was being uncooperative and asserting arcane rights. I wonder if he's ever accused non-lawyers of talking like lawyers?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Burning for the 21st Century

The Vatican and many religious groups in the U.S. are urging Christians not to watch "The Golden Compass," a movie based on the first book of Phillip Pullman's trilogy, "His Dark Materials."

OK, so I admit the movie was not particularly engaging (although it looked amazing and some of the acting was quite good), but it seems that the Catholic Church should have bigger concerns than a children's book. Besides, far from advocating atheism, it specifically celebrates the soul and its gift of free will to humanity. Still, it definitely does bad-mouth organized religion as an attack on that free will and exploration of the human experience.

I'm just rambling here I guess. I found the books quite interesting, but the schizophrenia the movies seem to show between being a mature fantasy and a child's adventure is definitely evident and hampers the movie. I watched the movie a week after it came out and the 9:30pm showing had like only 20 people in it... I'm hoping the future installments (if there are any) will be more exciting.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Commodore 64, aye aye!

I was munching a hamburger and reading the Palo Alto Daily News on Monday and I saw an article reporting that a discussion panel marking the 25th Anniversary of the release of the Commodore 64 would be meeting that night at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View! Naturally, my mind raced and my bite of hamburger balled up in my mouth as I mulled the idea of 25 years (!) of Commodore 64.

Now I've never actually owned a C64 (my dad got me an Atari 1600, which I mainly used to play Pac-Man), but I recall it being a pretty big deal. I HAD to go to this event, if only because I wanted to hear stories and perspective from the pioneers of the personal computer business. We heard from Jack Tramiel (founder and head of Commodore), Steve Wozniak (the Wizard of "Woz" from Apple), Adam Chowaniec (who led the development of the Amiga), and William Lowe (who led the team doing the IBM PC).

Although much edified and entertained by these stars of the computer industry, I was perhaps most impressed by the benefits of Museum membership! I was thinking I would just head to the event and go listen to the people. But there were hundreds upon hundreds of people at the event, and apparently Museum members and their guests who RSVPed got reserved spots! AND they get access to the reception with posh food/appetizers.

It's a good thing my good friend is a member of the Museum. I called him up, hamburger still unchewed, and told him about my Nerd Emergency and he replied that he was already fully apprised of the Nerd Alert, and, in fact, he could add me to his "member guest" RSVP. Thanks, man, I owe you one. That reception was da bomb. I think I ate about 5 pounds of seared tuna (mercury be-damned!) and washed that down with a bushel of olives and a forest of chicken satay skewers.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The cake is a lie!

I love the end credits to this game, Portal, part of the orange box of Half-life 2. I don't really like puzzle games so I've never played this, but they take the cake as far as end credits that I've seen go (pun so totally intended). As far as I can glean from cursory readings of descriptions of the game, you are some sort of guineau pig at the mercy of an AI computer that is convinced it is doing important research and breaking a few "eggs" in making its omelette. Along the way, the AI baits you with the promise of cake, but graffiti left from (presumably) earlier subjects insists that "The Cake is a Lie!" In the end, you break the AI into pieces and incinerate those pieces. The song is just so catchy!