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June 25, 2007

The Hits Keep on Coming for the Supremes

Nothing I love more than talking about the "Bong Hits for Jesus", "Faith Based Initiatives", and the Supreme Court... Well, except for talking about skiing. And now with the SCOTUS hopefully to review the case of Arizona Snowbowl, low and behold, I get to talk about some politics on my little ol' ski-blog.

The Roberts-Alito court is discovering their identity:

Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia supported an Alaska high school principal who forced a student to take down a banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." They also blocked taxpayers from challenging President Bush's faith-based initiatives...

While three of the five decisions Monday arrived on a 5-4 majority, they showcased what has become an ideologically conservative and business-friendly, if narrow, majority.

Since last October, in Roberts' second term as chief justice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has claimed 11 victories and seen only two defeats on business-related cases.

"We always thought the (Chief Justice William) Rehnquist court was a good forum for business," noted Maureen Mahoney, a lawyer who has argued 18 cases before the court, "but the Roberts court is even better."...

"This is a victory for a ... commonsense approach to environmental regulation," said Damien Schiff, an attorney with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, based in Sacramento, Calif.

Even more than in previous years, the court was skeptical of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the nation's most liberal. With Monday's decisions, the Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit on 17 out of 19 opinions issued since October.

OK, commonsense view of environmental regulation. Check. Pro-business environment. Check. Doesn't like the 9th Circuit. Check.

My thoughts--the folks at Snowbowl, the Mayor of Flagstaff, and the pro-skier folks like myself better prepare for a shitstorm from Navajos when they get shot down on appeal. (I thought the term "shitstorm" was appropriate because this case specifically involves making snow from treated wastewater.)

Posted by Justin at 06:09 PM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2007

New Templates for Gallery and Ski Forums

The Gallery and Ski Forums site templates sucked. I had applied the site color schemes, but they had a hokey feel to them. The templates that I used for both of them were pretty generic.

Gallery and phpbb are very configurable and have pretty easy to decode and understand template files. For phpbb, I went through and modified the table attibutes for phpbb to set the width to 890 and to center the pages (like the home page for the site). In addition, I added the main site header javascripts to stick the main pictures up and randomize them.

For Gallery, pretty much the same process. I left the individual photo pages the same as they were since the pictures are of varying size and the ones that are 1024x768 don't display well in the table format and the headers don't look right unless the tables are sized to 890 wide.

Check out the Gallery and Ski Forums pages and let me know if you find any glitches or gotchas... especially if you use a browser other than IE.

Posted by Justin at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2007

Robot Chicken Star Wars

Last night's RC Star Wars was awesome. As expected from Robot Chicken and Adult Swim in general. Adult has all the clips online and available for embed on your site. Two quick clips:

UPDATE: I had to move the clips to the extended entry due to slow page loads. Check them out.

The second one is slightly more "wrong".

Posted by Justin at 09:17 PM | Comments (1)

USS New York (h/t Kevin)

Never forget. Got a story from my cousin Kevin via e-mail today. First thing I always do is Snopes anything that sounds too good to be true. Well, it is true. From the AP article on the USS New York (LPD-21):

NEW YORK - With a year to go before it even touches the water, the Navy's amphibious assault ship USS New York has already made history - twice. It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center, and it survived Hurricane Katrina...

The New York is about 45 percent complete and should be ready for launch in mid 2007. Katrina disrupted construction when it pounded the Gulf Coast, but the 684-foot vessel escaped serious damage and workers were back at the yard near New Orleans two weeks after the storm...

The USS New York is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines.

Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, La., to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003, "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."

I would have named it the USS George W. Bush since it is clear according to Charlie Sheen that George W. Bush was either directly behind 9-11 or was aware of the conspiracy.

Actor Charlie Sheen has joined a growing army of other highly credible public figures in questioning the official story of 9/11 and calling for a new independent investigation of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it.

"It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

But 9-11 Conspiracy Nuts aside, here is a picture of the ship dedicated to those close to 3,000 souls that perished that day. May we all hope that the New York and the 700 Marines that it carries to the front lines of the War on Terror have the opportunity to add as many Jihadi martyrs to the 19 from 9-11 that are keeping the fires of hell warm.

USS New York (LPD-21)

Posted by Justin at 02:29 PM | Comments (3)

Hokey Websites for Resorts

The whole Interweb thing is gettin' awful popular nowadays. But 2003 was a long time ago. In web years, which work kinda like dog years, 4 years is about three lifetimes ago. But 4 years ago was the last time Sunrise updated or redesigned their website and their design pretty much sucked 4 years ago too. I actually think their design was done about six years ago because I remember the page being roughly the same as far back as 2001.

I want to use my forum as a quick shout out to the worst designed and oldest web pages for resorts that I have found. Maybe encourage them to hire some college kid for $10 an hour (which is almost double what they pay their lift operators and ski instructors) to do some updates. I mean it ain't expensive to do some site updates every once in a while. And adding a webcam isn't really a site update. I am not talking crazy flash animation like Vail, but rather some simple, clean site design.

Some are much worse than others, and the last two really aren't that bad. Not meant to offend anyone, except for the designers of the first two sites because I consider it personally offensive that they can go around calling themselves "Web Designers". Here are the worst two with a couple of other suggestions (but I will update with reader input):

  • Sunrise - oh, where to start. The use of tables with thick borders that serve absolutely no purpose. Then you have randomly sized pictures and announcements that have absolutely no theme. The background is just the same image over and over that serves no purpose either. In short, this looks like a web page that some kid taking Web101 at the local high school designed as a pet project. I hope that he got a D or F for it. I have a 10 year old and a 12 year old brother that collectively could do a better job. And since it is the 5 year anniversary of the 500,000 acre Rodeo-Chediski fires, I will suggest that the tribe hire Leonard Gregg who should be learning some good vocational skills in prison after he felt the unemployment situation on the rez was so bad that he decided to start the largest wildfire in Arizona history to secure some part time employment as a firefighter. How about creating a non-casino job for one of your tribe members?
  • Wolf Creek - not nearly as bad as Sunrise, but still in major need of an overhaul. What is up with the color scheme? Whoever signed off on these colors needs shot. But at least the links work. I don't like the redundant use of navigation on both the sidebar and the bottom of the page, especially that the links are not in the same order.
  • Rock Dodge - not a bad site, for having a copyright in 2002. I don't really like their use of tables and I hate them using white text in colored table cells. But they have a consistent color theme. Their navigation links are too small to see and get around on and the white text contributes to that.
  • Brian Head - Their new summer site is not much to look at. They did a redesign last year of their winter site and I am not a huge fan of the light green text against a dark green background. Again, minor quibbles. Their navigation is easy to use. This site was just redesigned this last year, but their old site was not bad at all. I really wish the site had more information about the new ski lift improvements.

The last two don't even belong in the same category as the first. Brian Head's and Red Lodge's sites are well laid out and well designed, except for the color schemes. And even at that, they could be much worse.

Please Wolf Creek and Sunrise, fix your crappy sites. There are lots of folks that design web pages for a living and do it pretty cheap. Give it to a college class as a class project. But it is time. Well past time. Sunrise can afford to pay lawyers to put their competition out of business (Snowbowl) with all their casino money, why not spend a little on the resort website?

Posted by Justin at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2007

Snowmaking Article in WSJ (h/t Jon at Steamboat)

The Wall Street Journal has an article on Arizona Snowbowl that presents a great summary of the ruling. This is probably the most balanced and complete piece that I have read:

But in March, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals killed the scheme. The reason: The mountaintops are sacred to the Navajo and 12 other tribes, even though the land is not part of their reservations...

At issue is the interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which Congress passed in 1993 with almost unanimous support after the Supreme Court upheld a government decision to deny unemployment benefits to two Native Americans fired for using illegal drugs in a religious ceremony. In the past, courts denied that the First Amendment's religious-freedom protections extend to American Indians who challenge federal land-use decisions. RFRA changed that by requiring the government to demonstrate a compelling interest when considering any action that would substantially burden a religious practice. The Snowbowl case is the first to successfully apply the law to a sacred site, says Howard Shanker, the Flagstaff attorney who represented several of the tribes before the court.

It is important to note that the 9th Circuit is delving into new territory here with their ruling. Note that the RFRA has never been interpreted to apply the law to American Indians challenging federal land use decisions. The 9th Circuit went out on a huge limb here. The scary part is that the 9th Circuit set a precedence that other tribes are now using:

Since the March ruling, the Quechan Tribe in Yuma, Ariz., has sued to stop a public land swap for a new oil refinery, the first to be constructed in the U.S. in more than 30 years. The tribe says the land is culturally significant. The ruling could also boost the Snoqualmie Tribe's long-standing bid to block the permit renewal for Puget Sound Energy's 109-year-old hydroelectric power plant at the Snoqualmie Falls, the tribe's most sacred site.

Tribe members hail the 9th Circuit decision as a major victory. But is it really a long lasting victory? The 9th Circuit has some ominous numbers on appeal to the Supreme Court:

From time to time these columns have noted the out-of-step jurisprudence of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Circuit, with headquarters in San Francisco and jurisdiction over nine Western states, is heavy on Democratic appointees: Of its 27 currently active judges, three were appointed by President Carter and 13 by President Clinton. They are frequently overruled by the Supreme Court, but this term may set a record.

So far the Justices have reviewed eight Ninth Circuit decisions, and the Circuit is 0-8. The High Court has reversed four decisions and vacated four more. In Ayers v. Belmontes, a 5-4 Court reinstated a death sentence that the Ninth Circuit had overturned. In U.S. v. Resendiz-Ponce, a criminal procedure case, Justice Antonin Scalia cast a lone dissenting vote in favor of the Circuit's position.

The six other cases were all unanimous. That means -- for those keeping score -- that the cumulative vote against the Ninth Circuit in Supreme Court reviews since October is 67-5. Keep in mind that this is an appellate court that is supposed to heed Supreme Court precedent.

Snowbowl is in the process of appealing the decision now along with the US Department of Agriculture that controls the US Forest Service. In reality, all the 9th Circuit ruling did is delay the snowmaking at Snowbowl for another season or two and further inconvenience the skiers of Arizona.

Posted by Justin at 12:08 PM

June 13, 2007

20 Years Ago

Probably the most pivotal speeches of our generation.

Posted by Justin at 02:45 PM

June 09, 2007

Jeep Trip to Turkey Creek

Jarrett and I went out jeeping with Tom and Ray at Turkey Creek (Black Canyon Wash) in the Bradshaw Mountains between Phoenix and Prescott. I posted new pics of the trip in the gallery.

I posted a couple weeks ago about the new skid plate and oil and tranny pans. Well, thankfully, I didn't get to test the oil pan because the skid plate did its job. I did get to test the rock sliders, diff skids, oil pan skid, and the flex of the suspension.

Grinding on the rocks

Testing the articulation of the Rubicon Express lift:

And another:

Great trip. The weather was in the low 90's in Phoenix and the mid 80's at the trailhead when we got there at 9:00 AM. It was a dry winter and it is a drought to begin with, so there was no real water in the wash like there normally is, but the run was still great. A good way to spend a Saturday.

Posted by Justin at 07:01 PM | Comments (3)

June 04, 2007

Final Season of BSG


The official announcement didn't come until June 1, but "Battlestar Galactica's" executive producers had an idea that the show was nearing its end point several months ago.

"I think it was somewhere around the midpoint of (last) season, when we were working on the story where we'd gotten to the algae planet and discovered the temple" devoted to the final five Cylons, executive producer Ron Moore told reporters Friday. The discovery of the temple led to Cylon D'Anna Biers (Lucy Lawless) catching a glimpse of the final five, and that in turn triggered a beacon that pointed the way to Earth for the human fleet.

"And by the end of the season, we had taken that moment and moved it to the revelation of four of the five Cylons, and one of our characters had actually been to Earth and seen it," Moore notes. "But that was sort of the moment where we started to feel like, if we don't start to pay this off and don't really reveal those secrets and move in that direction, we'd get to a place where it would feel like we're jerking (around) the audience."

Not wanting to do that, and feeling like they could wrap things up in one last batch of episodes, Moore and fellow executive producer David Eick told the Sci Fi Channel that they wanted to bring the Peabody Award-winning, critically hailed "Battlestar Galactica" to a close.

Ironic that this came out today. This entire weekend, I was pretty much lazy and bored with no jeeping and Tera taking finals for school so we were stuck at home. I finished the entire mini-series, Season 1, and all of Season 2.0. Last night I started Season 2.5. Just got bored and there is no new TV on, plus when you buy a TV show on video, you gotta watch it occasionally or you just wasted money. What a great series and it makes it even better when you know who 11 of the 12 Cylons are. In August, Heroes Season 1 comes out and I can take it off the iPod and buy the DVD's.

Now some philosophy on digital media and content. First, I don't pirate music or tv shows or movies. I figure if it is something I like, part of the feedback mechanism to show what we like is TO PAY FOR IT. If quality programming dies because it is not economically viable and trash like Two and a Half Men and Let's Make a Deal and American Idol and Dancing with the Stars is, then I won't have anything worth stealing. I buy what I like. And what is $40 for an entire season of a tv show that I love, uncut, with no commercials worth? Here is my math:

15 minutes per episode worth of commercials = 1/4 of an hour. 1/4 of an hour times $1.99 per episode = $8 per hour. That is what I save by spending an hour watching crappy commercials. Or worse, spending 7 minutes fast forwarding through them and having to rewind because I pass the spot on the TIVO. Or worse, trying to download stuff off of bittorrent and worrying about spyware and hackers and all the other problems with file sharing. $1.99 for a TV show on iTunes is a steal in my mind. Plus it is instant feedback of the sort that worked for both Futurama and Family Guy to get them back on the air (and I own DVD sets for all episodes of both). I have Arrested Development (all episodes), The Office S1-2, Earl S1, BSG 1-2.5, Robot Chicken, and so on on DVD. I loan them out often and it keeps my TIVO from filling up with old episodes that I can watch any time I want plus it saves hard drive space for other stuff. That said, buying music off of iTunes is a ripoff. Paying $.99 for a 4mb MP3 file is retarded, but $1.99 for a 640x480 digital rip of a 45min TV Show compressed down to 500mb is a whole different story.

Just my $.02... or more appropriately my $1.99.

Posted by Justin at 10:15 PM

June 01, 2007

Snowbowl Press Release

I rec'd the following Press Release today from Reclaim the Peaks--not yet posted on their site:

Flagstaff, AZ - June 1, 2007 - As anticipated, the Dept. of Justice representing the Dept. of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service as defendants filed their petition on May 31, 2007 for rehearing to the 9th Circuit.

The Arizona Snowbowl, as intervenor in the lawsuit, also submitted a petition for rehearing on May 29, 2007.

The 9th Circuit has discretion over granting a rehearing and the timeframe of such a decision.

The ruling made by a three judge panel, if it stands, will fundamentally alter the law, much for the worse, in two critical areas: under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The panel's RFRA analysis radically limits the government's ability to manage millions of acres of federally-owned land considered sacred by some Native American religious practitioners. The panel's interpretation of RFRA would allow anyone to challenge any federal action that causes them spiritual disquiet, including actions involving the management by the federal government of its own property and force the government to defend the challenged action under strict scrutiny.

The panel's opinion with respect to the NEPA claim substantially undercuts the NEPA process and discourages reliance on the expertise of other regulatory agencies. The Forest Service should be able to rely on regulatory agency rulings in it's analysis during the NEPA process. In this case the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality - the state agency specifically vested with the authority and responsibility to analyze water safety issues - has concluded that reclaimed water is safe under the conditions proposed here.

The panel's decision conflicts with a contrary decision about the same Arizona Snowbowl rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1983 that allowed for the expansion of the ski area and improvements consistent with the upgrade proposal.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, all public land use and access could be challenged including hunting, camping, mountain biking, ATV use, and other recreational opportunities.

Arizona Snowbowl has made the determination to continue to invest in securing the future of the ski area rather than fund improvement projects. The enormous environmental approval and legal costs incurred by the ski area currently exceed $4 million dollars. Without snowmaking the ski area will never have a predictable business cycle or make major capital improvements to the 69 year old ski area, and will ultimately go out of business.

Arizona Snowbowl believes that the Forest Service has a responsibility under the multiple use doctrine to ensure that the Snowbowl has the same opportunities as the many of other ski areas that operate on federal land, most of which have snowmaking. The proposed A+ reclaimed water from Flagstaff is of better quality than the natural water sources used by other ski areas that include ponds, lakes, rivers, and mountain streams.

Arizona Snowbowl occupies just 1% of the San Francisco Peaks. The plaintiffs in this legal challenge are unwilling to share the Peaks and want the Snowbowl to close. Yet the Snowbowl has always made accommodations including free chairlift rides for medicine men and tribal members to conduct their ceremonies at the top of the Peaks outside the ski area boundary.

If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does not grant a new hearing we are prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Just FYI. We shall see where this ends up, but the USDA and Forest Service are pissed about the ruling too because it means that they have to consult with God, Allah, the Kachinas, Buddha, and possibly David Koresh and Jim Jones before they can make any ruling regarding any Federal Lands now according to the 9th Circuit opinion. Jerry Falwell was unavailable for comment or consultation, but Pat Robertson is trying to reach him for information on Intelligent Design Theory from the other side.

Point is, if you have a religion, you have rights to stop any land use that offends your deity no matter how big or small said deity is. Snow Gods do not count.

Posted by Justin at 07:21 PM | Comments (2)