Mar. 18–25, 2006

In early January, my friend Melanie graciously invited our extended shore house group to rent her cousin’s condo in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah for a weeklong vacation. Considering that I had never skied out West before and that we were being offered a very generous discount on lodging, I quickly decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

So, here’s my story from the trip, which included my friends Mel, Greg, Kristi, Jim, Carolyn, and Christina.

Outbound flight. Five of us took the same Saturday morning flight from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City with a three-hour layover in Denver. We flew on Frontier Airlines, a surprisingly pleasant outfit with a video monitor on the back of every seat. An array of cable TV channels was available for a $5 fee, which I declined in favor of reading a novel (for once).

Accommodations. Mel’s cousin’s condo was located within minutes of all three Park City ski resorts, and the place was amazing. We had the pleasure of staying in a modern, three-bedroom end unit with stylish Western furnishings and an outdoor hot tub on the upstairs deck. When we first arrived, the seven of us must have looked like a new cast from MTV’s The Real World on their first day, excitedly wandering through the house, shouting, “This is so cool!

The town. Park City is an attractive, quaint town that’s located about 30 miles east of Salt Lake City. It’s home to the annual Sundance Film Festival and had the recent honor of hosting many of the events at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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Out of our six full days (Sunday through Friday) in Park City, I went skiing on five days at the following three resorts:

Deer Valley. We skied here on our first full day, Sunday, when off-and-on snowfall and ungroomed trails kept most of us on beginner slopes all day. But clearer weather and improved conditions during our return trip on Thursday allowed us to venture onto mostly intermediate trails. Deer Valley offered a huge variety of trails, as well as delicious but expensive food in the lodge restaurant. Their policy that prohibits snowboarders (who, on average, navigate the slopes much more aggressively than skiers) was a nice touch, too.

Park City Mountain Resort. Heavy snowfall, challenging trail conditions, and limited visibility confronted us here during our first visit on Monday, but we still managed to cover a lot of ground despite the intense weather. We returned on Friday, our last full day in town, and we certainly welcomed the contrast of well-groomed trails and clear blue skies. I even managed to survive an expert trail called Dynamite before wrapping up my last day on the slopes! Park City featured beautiful views in every direction, and I was impressed by the helpful staff. It was my favorite resort of the three, slightly ahead of Deer Valley.

The Canyons. When we arrived here on Wednesday, I was disappointed to realize that I had forgotten to bring my camera that day, but that oversight turned out to a blessing in disguise. To me, the Canyons seemed to be the most difficult of the three — I toppled over several times on Snow Meadow, an intermediate trail whose innocent-sounding name was belied by its endless field of moguls, and I suffered an embarrassing face plant on another intermediate, Kokopelli, later in the day. Don’t get me wrong — it was a fine resort, but let’s just say that I was happy to return to Deer Valley the following morning.

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Other sights and sounds from the trip:

Booze. The stringent alcohol-related regulations in Utah made the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board seem practically hands-off by comparison. In fact, at the liquor store that we visited on our first night in town, we could only buy beer by the bottle, not by the six-pack or case. When Jim and I approached the counter with a modest purchase of four six-packs and two bottles of wine (for a group of seven, mind you), the cashier gaped at us and exclaimed, “Holy cow!” — as if we were buying four kegs and two bottles of grain alcohol for a frat party.

The Viking Yurt. On Thursday evening, five of us drove back to the Canyons resort, where we had reservations for a very unique dining experience. A snowcat-driven sleigh took our group, along with about 25 others, straight up the deserted ski runs to a circular building called a yurt, where we enjoyed a gourmet five-course dinner. Since the yurt lacks both running water and electricity (lighting was provided by propane lanterns), the chef actually hopped on a snowmobile back to the nearby lodge for supplies between courses!

Return flight. My trip home the following Saturday was comprised of a brief Delta flight to Las Vegas, a few hours to kill at the airport (where I wisely declined to play a single slot machine), and a four-hour flight on US Airways back to Philadelphia late Saturday night.

This was quite an action-packed vacation, and we all had a blast. But since Utah rightly claims to have the “greatest snow on earth,” I’m a little concerned that my vacation in Park City will turn me into a ski snob when I return to the Poconos next winter!

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Make sure to check out the photo gallery related to this story.

[ No. 241 ]

Mar. 7, 2006

On the way home earlier tonight, I glanced at my rear-view mirror and noticed a pair of headlights quickly swerving through the moderate traffic behind me on Route 202 South. As the vehicle roared past me (even though I myself was moving right along at about 75 mph), I realized that I was directly to the right of the most dangerous person on the road.

Well, OK, maybe not the most dangerous person, but certainly the most dangerous type of driver — someone at the wheel of a BMW SUV while talking on a glowing cell phone.

Let’s break that profile down into its components. And you’ll have to pardon my generalizations here, but they’re basically true:

  1. BMW owners are the fastest drivers on the road.
  2. SUV owners are the most aggressive drivers on the road.
  3. Cell-phone multitaskers are the most distracted drivers on the road.

Sure, I’ll admit that I’ve used my cell phone while driving on occasion, and I’ve certainly made my share of dumb decisions on the road. But I feel genuinely threatened by the sight of a nearby driver chatting away while driving a two-ton truck at roughly the speed of sound.

It’s not a matter of whether that driver will cause an accident — it’s when.

[ No. 240 ]

Mar. 6, 2006

And now, I must direct to you to a hilarious Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.) article from January.

The story celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Bryce Jordan Center, the indoor arena that opened during my senior year at Penn State and the site of my commencement ceremony in May 1996. To my surprise, the article mentions both my beloved alma mater and one of my favorite bands:

All concert venues have had their fair share of odd requests made on behalf of touring artists, and the Bryce Jordan Center is certainly no exception. […]
Fountains of Wayne, the New York City–based rockers of “Stacy’s Mom” fame, requested a poster featuring baseball superstar Ken Griffey, Jr., as well as “a kitty.”
One can only imagine that they were fairly surprised when the Nittany Lion mascot dropped by their dressing room for a few high fives.
Source: Brian J. Stokes, “Jordan Center at 10” (Centre Daily Times,
Jan. 18, 2006)

Given the band’s well-known sense of humor, I would’ve given anything to see the looks on their faces when the PSU mascot made his backstage appearance.

[ No. 239 ]

Mar. 1, 2006

Five years ago today, I completed a significant project — but it wasn’t done for an important client, and I wasn’t paid a cent for the work.

The project consisted of six modest HTML pages that I had coded by hand, a collection of image files that I had created using my limited Photoshop skills, and a new hosting account and domain name that I had recently purchased. Together, those elements formed the first Web site that I had ever built from scratch. I called the site, and it looked like this:, version 1.0

At the time of the site’s launch on Mar. 1, 2001, I had less than nine months of full-time experience in developing Web sites. My original goal was to practice my new technical skills and try out some design ideas, and I never intended to take part in much writing on the site. But my occasional “What’s new?” updates on the home page gradually evolved into a full-fledged blog, and I soon discovered that writing on the site was a great creative outlet.

The site has certainly changed and grown over the years — I added my first digital photos after a road trip in 2003, redesigned the entire site later that year, and reorganized the archive section in 2004. And to my surprise, many of my friends have created their own sites along the way, and we can now inform and entertain each other in a way that I had never imagined.

Here’s to five great years! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

[ No. 238 ]