Archive for 2008



Swaner EcoCenter

Just before we left Park City, we stopped for a tour of the Swaner EcoCenter. This past weekend was supposed to be the center’s grand opening, but construction and other delays have pushed back the gala event until 2009. Nevertheless, we sought out (in advance) and received a private tour of the unfinished building. 

After two beautiful and mostly sunny days, we were greeted by a very rainy and raw Monday morning. The center was a perfect refuge from the storm brewing outside. A pre-tour visit to the center website showed a really cool video of the construction process. I was immediately drawn in and wanted to learn more. The center sits on the 1200 acre Swaner Nature Preserve

The video seemed to imply that the center was in the middle of nowhere, or at least somewhere deep in the wilderness. When we realized that it was a stone’s throw from a hotel, a Best Buy, a Whole Foods Market, a bunch of other gussied up strip mall shops, and the freeway…then we appreciated the center and preserve even more. I guess they could have just paved all that grass land and built more luxury condominiums for well heeled ski bums. I don’t mean to be harsh. Development happens, but smart development rarely does. 

At least this one building is making an effort to do things a little bit better. It was sited properly, powered by a solar PV system, loaded with recycled materials (e.g. beams reclaimed from the Great Salt Lake, denim insulation, sunflower seed counters, coal combustion by-product floors, bamboo floors, nice windows, etc.), and meant to be light on the environment. Even the rain water pouring down on the roof during our tour was being collected in a giant cistern to be used again. The center is well on its way towards achieving USGBC LEED Platinum certification. It seemed as if cost was no object.

We were suitably impressed with the building and the mission of the center, which now includes educating the public about green building techniques and other eco-friendly practices. Apparently, when it is done, it will be the “greenest” building in Utah and one of the greenest in the world. Like great art, our society needs more examples like this so that the rest of us can draw inspiration and apply a little bit of the knowledge gained in our own little world.

Park City

It has been nearly 10 years since I last set foot in Park City. My last visit was in winter and this latest visit began at the absolute tail end of summer. It was a perfect time to return to Utah, and especially Park City. We drove up from Salt Lake City via the Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway. I was extremely jealous of all the cyclists riding from SLC up to Brighton Ski Resort and beyond. Utah is an endurance sports mecca and a drive up one of the canyons into the Wasatch-Cache National Forest offers a lot of proof. The road was dotted with numerous trail heads that were packed with vehicles indicating a lot of folks had gone hiking and mountain biking in the wilderness. We stopped on one of the switchbacks and got out for a pottie break. Shep spotted a climber way up on one of the rock faces, confirming that this area is awesome for rock climbing to. The drive was technically challenging, especially in a rental, and was a bit sketchy going through Guardsman Pass where the road changed to dirt (mud) for a while. We had stunning views east just before descending into Deer Valley.

Our first stop in Park City was at the The Canyons resort to catch a bit of the 48straight Falling into Cross race. I still haven’t figured out what 48straight is all about, but they did have a cool race vehicle that ran on 100% vegetable oil. Jon Gallagher, a long time friend and former teammate, was the race director. Jon has been in Utah since 1998 and is a fellow Boston College alumnus. I raced bicycles all over the Northeast with John in the early-1990’s. We even spent the summer of 1994 racing bikes in Belgium, the first time racing abroad for both of us. He returned to Belgium several times and went on to to have a fabulous amateur and age group road cycling, mountain biking, and cyclocross career. He now makes his living as a cycling event promoter and as the owner/operator of Sports Base Timing, a cycling event timing and finish line logistics service.

The race was the kickoff event of the Utah cyclocross season and a warm-up for the Utah Cyclocross Series which begins in October. For the second time of the weekend, I was envious of those with bikes. Summer officially wasn’t over, but the leaves were already changing in Park City, further proof that cross season is here. It is likely that I won’t get on my cross bike until November, but I’m already looking forward to it. We checked into our Park City inn, relaxed a bit, then met up with Jon and Ellie Gallagher again for dinner. We had fun walking the strip of Historic Park City.

On Sunday, we rose early and hit the trails for a long hike. Shep woke up a little under the weather (altitude sickness), but he soon recovered in the fresh air of the mountains. He was a trooper as we trekked a little more than 12 miles, covering 3000+ feet of elevation and topping out around 8800 feet. The trail network in Park City is unmatched. The singletrack was amazing. We were walking it, but it was evident that it was supremely ride-able. Sure enough, by 10 A.M., the mountain bikers were out in force and for the third time, I was regretting not bringing my bike to Utah. The weather was gorgeous and we explored many of the trails that are part of the Park City Mountain Resort. A $2.00 donation to the Mountain Trails Foundation had gotten us a detailed map of the trails, which proved invaluable because there were like a thousand trail junctions.

After the nearly six hour hike, we descended back to Historic Main Street in Park City and walked through the Park Silly Sunday Market on our way back to the inn. This has to be the most irreverent market I’ve been too. It was a combination craft fair, farmers market,  and advocacy fair with a Mardi Gras atmosphere. I was disappointed to learn that last week’s market was the second to last of the season and that this coming weekend’s will be the last. The disappointment is mainly because the last one is going to end with a blow- out Oktoberfest.

All week, Park City environmentalists were on a campaign to communicate the wastefulness of plastic bags. It was cool to see that there was a strong message being sent during this fun filled fair. 

Park City was a fun trip. The upscale nature of the place is very obvious. It was also clear that the ski season drives all the growth and that most folks coast through spring, summer, and fall in anticipation of the big white out. The place is all about tourism with loads of hotels, restaurants, and chi-chi shops. It doesn’t get much more ski town posh than at the Stein Eriksen Lodge at the Deer Valley Resort. It was a beautiful spot to check out knowing that a lot of folks would never get to see a building like it. In summary, Park City may not be as cool as Chamonix, but it has a lot more going for it than a lot of other mountain towns.

Salt Lake City

This past Saturday, I got to explore Salt Lake City with Deb and Shep. They had scouted out the downtown and planned our morning run. Running is a great way to see a city. It was a beautiful time of year to visit Utah. I think the highlight of our SLC visit was going to the Dowtown Farmers Market. The market, in Historic Pioneer Park, is one of the largest that we have ever been to. First, we spent some time on the beautiful grounds of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The morning light was fabulous and the Salt Lake Temple was positively glowing. The flowers and gardens were stunning. We had an action packed agenda, so I had little time to dilly dally. I took a few photos, and we were on our way. 

After walking around the temple and then stopping by the Tabernacle, we headed over to Historic Pioneer Park. There were tons of vendors. We tested food samples, bought vegetables, shopped for crafts, and visited with some of the not-for-profit organizations who had set up booths. We were running, but there was a bicycle valet for those who came on two wheels. The vegetable bounty indicated that harvest time is here. The park was jammed with happy people enjoying the wonder of nature.

  

Debbie even got to try her hand at a few tricks, compliments of an illusionist dressed like a chef. 

It wasn’t too busy downtown. Salt Lake City was very clean and it was apparent that the authorities had everything under control. 

Utah

Debbie, Shep, and I journeyed to Utah last week. I took advantage of the opportunity to attend a supplier conference hosted by a Horst Engineering customer located just south of Provo, Utah. This particular customer has been very successful in the aerospace parts business and it was enjoyable to see a bit of their operations. 

Debbie and Shep got to explore Salt Lake City while I was attending to business. They walked, ran, and took the train all over downtown. They found a great vegetarian restaurant, Sage’s Cafe; and explored the Discovery Gateway, the Utah Children’s Museum. They also planned out the remaining two days of our trip.

Pisgah Mountain Trail Races

Debbie and I ran the Pisgah Mountain Trail Race today. I did the 23km baby version and she did the full 50km version. The race started/finished in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, USA, and wound through Pisgah State Park

Conditions were tough. It rained all night last night and was raining again at the start. The heaviest downpours were in the first hour before stopping. However, many of the trails could have doubled as streams. To make matters worse, the last section (3 miles or so) of trail was being widened/cleared for snowmobiles. Bulldozers and excavators had made a complete mess of things and it was real muddy. 

There were no views (other than of the fog and clouds) on Pisgah Ridge. Debbie had a good race, winning in 5:19 or so. Greg Hammett was the men’s winner. He was slightly ahead of David Herr. In the short race, Ben Nephew took off at the start and won going away. Ruthie Ireland took top honors for the women. I ran 1:54:03 and felt pretty good for most of the race.

Interestingly, more people ran the long course than the short course. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. The post race food and beverages were great. The volunteers (many from the Red Clover Rovers Running Club) did a fabulous job with marking the course, manning the aid stations, and serving food at the finish line. It was a great day. 

23km GPS data

50km Race Photos

I’ll post the results and more photos when they are available.

Chicago

I had to pull out my copy of The World Almanac to confirm that Chicago is the third largest city in the US, behind New York and Los Angeles. Of course, we have been hearing a lot about #4 on that list, Houston, in the past few days. 

Chicago, with 2.9 million residents, is quite a town. I flew to Midway Airport on Wednesday to begin my three day visit. The main event was IMTS, but I also had two plant visits and a meeting scheduled. On Wednesday night, I was treated to a fabulous sunset. The weather was beautiful for late summer in the Midwest and the evening light silhouetting the skyscrapers, particularly the Wrigley Building, was stunning.  

My downtown location was great. I had easy access to the Loop, where I could catch trains in all directions. I was only a few blocks from Lake Michigan and was close to the lakefront parks that stretch south from downtown. I was also very close to the main shopping district, known as the Magnificent Mile. I did a lot of walking over the past three days. Cities like Chicago are great for stretching out the legs. I used mass transit as much as I could but had to grab the occasional cab. I had a few bus rides that were memorable for the wrong reasons (traffic), but enjoyed the trains. I made good use of my $12 Chicago Transit Authority train/bus visitor pass.

 

I went running twice in the mornings. Once, I ran north and then east along the Chicago River to Navy Pier. Another time, I ran south, through the string of parks that eventually go past Soldier Field and McCormick Place, on the way to South Chicago. I saw a lot of fellow runners and cyclists too. 

It was fun to attend IMTS and cool to visit Chicago again. I spent five years living in Boston from 1990-1995, and miss my city days. Visiting Chicago and feeling the urban vibe brought back some good memories.

International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS)

This week, the 2008 International Manufacturing Technology Show took over McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, USA. IMTS is a biannual trade show for the manufacturing industry, and it is massive. Nearly 100,000 visitors descended on the Windy City to walk the convention center floors and see the latest in manufacturing technology. I flew to Chicago on Wednesday and it seemed as if everyone on my Southwest Airlines flight was headed to the same place. Before hitting the show, I took a train/cab combo to visit Montana Metal Products in Des Plaines. MMP is a precision fabricating and machining company that is run by a friend. I got a great tour from a 48 year veteran of MMP. He knows the place even better than the owner! It was a fruitful visit and I learned some best practices that have helped make them successful for many  years.

 

Following my visit, I reversed course, returned to downtown Chicago, and checked into my hotel. Then, it was another cab ride to the south side. Once I reached McCormick Place, one of the largest convention centers in the world, I registered and met up with a couple of my colleagues from Horst Engineering. Art Roti and Jim Bowtruczyk had flown out the day before and they were wrapping up their visit as I was beginning mine. We toured the Abrasive Machining hall together and evaluated centerless grinding equipment.

There are four major buildings at McCormick Place and IMTS was using all of them. I first attended in 2004, but I was still blown away by the size of this year’s convention. I returned to McCormick Place both on Thursday and Friday, spending a good part of both days looking at machining equipment, grinding equipment, software, gauging, and other examples of the latest manufacturing technology. 

I connected with my friends (and editors) from Today’s Machining World magazine and discussed story ideas. In chatting with them, we agreed that the overall atmosphere of the show was positive. Despite having a strong Midwest oriented automotive influence, attendees were still upbeat about the overall manufacturing economy. Automotive may be really weak, but other industries like aerospace, wind turbine, power generation, farm/construction equipment, medical device, commercial construction, and oil/gas drilling are still strong, especially outside the US.

 

All of these industries need precision manufactured products. To make those parts, you need a lot of heavy equipment and tooling. Those are the folks who were selling their stuff in Chicago this week. I’ll be curious to see the post show statistics in order to get a sense from the sellers, who spent huge amounts for their exhibits, employees, and travel; if they are happy with the 2008 IMTS. 

A few other observations:

1) Putting on a trade show of this scale is a massive undertaking. 

2) The food and beverage vendors were gouging the buyers. 

3) Big machines were all the rage this year. Industries like oil/gas require very large components. Those parts need to be made on very large machines. 

4) The automation is really insane. Everyone is auto-loading their machines with the latest generation robots. Also, the cost of automation is coming down quickly. 

5) Inflation has had a big influence on current machine tool and accessory pricing. There really aren’t a lot of deals right now. 

IMTS will be back in 2010.


Livingston Photo & Word

Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

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