This is the second instalment of the yearly Spring Break Snowboarding series. Last year's was about the West Coast, this year it was all in the Rockies. I went with my amazing friend Michael again, and we had an absolute blast!
The Mountain Collective, for those of you that joined this time around, is a loose group of ski resorts that all banded together to combat the evil empire, a.k.a. Vail Resorts (VR). VR owns a large number of places on the West Coast, including many of my favorites (like Heavenly and Kirkwood). Their passes are relatively cheap and suck up a lot of the snowboarding that could be going to the resorts in the Collective.
It seems impossible that I've had the Unibrow for just two months! It's grown on me so fast, it feels like we've been best buddies for a very long time. So here my impressions of my new BFF in the ocean.
I wrote about the Unibrow briefly when I mentioned Firewire Demo Days. They hold them frequently enough that I got a chance to form an opinion. Not a good one at first: the board is very narrow and it takes a while to get used to it. Because of the form factor, it tends to like some types of waves better than others. Since I couldn't pick the waves on demo day, my experience with the Unibrow was so-so at best.
Basically, this board underwhelms on small days, where its salient features can't shine. Also, it feels a bit unstable at first. The combination can be quite toxic, and it took me a while to catch a good wave on the demo days. Granted, I was mostly demoing the Baked Potato (that I then bought) and had to split the remainder of my attention between the Unibrow, the Vanguard, and the Spitfire.
I never did a good demo on the Unibrow, and my guess is that not a lot of people do. Still, every time I tried it out, I liked it more. It felt radically different from the Baked Potato to which I was starting to get used. It was less forgiving, but more precise. If the BP is a micro-aircraft carrier built for small waves, the Unibrow felt like a precision tool meant to dissect large open waves.
I wavered for a long while. As with the BP, the price turned me off: it's a piece of foam with an epoxy shell, how could it possibly cost $800 bare? But then I realized how much fun I had with the BP, and that I wouldn't want to go out on overhead days with it. I needed a winter board, and the BP wouldn't cut it.
I love my Y50. The 4k screen resolution gives me both a chance to see a lot more on a single page and much better and crisper text if I want to see it normal size. The only downside? Software that assumes pixel sizes.
It doesn't really matter what I am looking at: anything that comes with predefined pixels turns into a microscopic smudge. It's completely impossible to realize what the buttons do in the Gimp, for instance. Checkboxes are so small, it's virtually impossible to tell whether they are checked or not.
I can deal with everything else, though. The one thing that is an eternal pain is the web. In particular: sites that define their content in pixels.
User interface design has always been caught between two extremes: on one side, the desire to make everything predictable by forcing it to look exactly as it looks on the designer's screen; on the other, the desire to make everything work universally on all screens. The former is epitomized by PDF and iOS; the latter by HTML and ... the Web.
A PDF document is many things. Most importantly, though, it's a blob that looks the same no matter where you are and how you look at it. The part where it looks the same everywhere is very useful in certain cases - like if you want to shuttle an official document around, or if you need to ensure that elements don't get moved out of place.
Research for the new novel is almost completed. There are going to be twists and turns that will make a helicopter spin, and I decided to keep with the strength of In the Mission: a novel about a deep mystery wrapped in a conundrum, where science parallels art which parallels the otherworldly.
Somewhere in the depth of the research (and it goes very deep), I found myself mired in a strange story. It was originally reported in the year 2000. Given that it was about something in the Nazi period, it seemed very odd we could still unearth something of fundamental importance 50 years after the fact.
But people gobbled it up. By "people," I mean UFO researchers, science fiction authors, and alternate reality scientists. Unsurprisingly, the story made its way into Ancient Aliens, the show that consistently rivals Fox News for the most outlandish interpretation possible of actual things.
This is about Die Glocke, or "The Bell." A device whose function seems to have been lost in time. The secrecy surrounding it was so total that the only evidence of it is the report in the book, The Truth about the Wunderwaffe. In fact, there is no hard evidence of this bell at all. All we have is what the author says in his book.
The Wikipedia page on the matter is a little vague; the crackpot sites with blinking GIFs are full of outlandishness. But as soon as I read the description of the thing, I had a theory fully formed in my mind. It seemed so self-evident that I wondered why nobody mentioned it. But of course it was too self-evident for a world more interested in outlandishness.
So I bit the bullet and bought the book. It arrived today, and I started perusing. The Truth is fairly long, the English version a little too close to the Polish original, making it sometimes closer to a Google Translate rendition than an actual translation. While the writing, for that reason, sounds a little off, the research is spectacular. The author spent a ton of time putting together data on the Wunderwaffe project, and the tome is evidence of effort and care, as well as skill and acuity.
There is an interesting principle in biology, named Haeckel's Recapitulation Theory: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. In simple terms, that means that you can read the whole evolutionary tree leading to a species just by looking at successive development stages of the fetus. We start looking like single-cell individuals, "evolve" into bunches of cells, eventually "turn" into fish, then lizards, then monkeys, etc.
It's not as simple as that, and the principle/theory has been refuted/rejected. But the idea has wider applications than just in evolutionary biology. In general, I'd say, the notion is that the behavior of the (averaged) individual allows reconstruction of the group's creation/formation/development.
Humans are a weird bunch. We have all sorts of odd characteristics that make us stand out even with respect to our closest relatives, The size of our brains is what we are most proud of, but there is hairlessness, too; upright walking and long-distance running; our opportunistic digestive tract, not specialized for anything, and unable to digest anything that requires complexity; and more.
The picture that emerges is fairly clear: we evolved in a temperate climate with little seasonal variation, with a diverse food supply, none of whose components could be counted on in the long term. The ability to run indicates that we were group hunters, since we are not fast enough to outrun prey or hunters.
One of the things that is strangest about humans, though, is our sexuality. You see, life usually has two strategies: continual mating, where offspring is generated indiscriminately throughout the year; and seasonal mating, where sex happens at a specific time of the year.
Typically, the strategy picked indicates the environment in which the life form lives. If there is strong seasonal change, it is advisable to time pregnancy and birth so that it matches availability of food and environmental protection. If there isn't, then it is smarter to have any sexual encounter be a chance for reproduction, since you don't know whether there is going to be another day.
Humans, though, have the strangest method: our females are fertile for a few days every month, and infertile otherwise. That seems to be the stupidest combination possible: it limits the chance to reproduce without giving any obvious advantage in timing of offspring.
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