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News, Updates, & Rants...
Happy New Year!
- Alex; Thu Jan 1 14:09:37 EST 2015
Yey, school ended! Now it's just grading, and that's it for the semester.
Congrats to all the folks graduating, etc.
Finished reading Crusade by Taylor Anderson. The series sure slowed down... For first half of the book, you get nothing but review of first book and politics. Then you get a big battle, and then it's more politics, and then just when you think you'll get a huge battle, the book ends... all in all, an enjoyable read, but will try out other books before considering the sequel.
- Alex; Tue Dec 23 08:02:19 EST 2014
This Sony Hack thing is getting ridiculous. Sony should just own up to the fact that they had crappy security---as opposed to them being helpless victims of super hackers sponsored by a crazy dictators.
They may or may not have been hacked by NK, but that's still no excuse for crappy security.
I'm kind of curious if that's the worst `cyber-war' concept can come up with... after all, nobody died, some folks got embarrassed, no airplanes fell out of the sky, and Sony will make a ton of moneh from the movie most folks wouldn't have heard of otherwise... e.g. is this something that warrants the military spending billions of dollars on to `defend' from or counterattack?
Will the next ``attack'' be a form of defacing someone's facebook page? Or canceling monthly subscriptions on amazon? Or singing up for more? (I sure hope nuclear power plants don't have a poorly secured web-accessible RESTful API to set meltdown temperature threshold or something).
- Alex; Mon Dec 22 07:58:37 EST 2014
Learned how to change a car battery...by changing it in my car :-)
- Alex; Sun Dec 21 23:29:16 EST 2014
Ping... is this thing on?
- Alex; Mon Dec 8 02:06:41 EST 2014
Eh, apparently one of my old websites, wr0k.com, turned into a pr0n website just as soon as the domain expired :-/
- Alex; Fri Nov 28 19:04:58 EST 2014
Following the plan, went to False Kiva trailhead, and napped until dawn. I read about where it is, how to get there, saw the trail map, etc., but when I got there, I couldn't find the trailhead.
Walked down the road and spotted something that looked like a trail. It was raining last night (rain in the desert!) so ``footsteps'' washed out, so I followed that ``trail''. To make the long story short, that wasn't the trail at all. I ended up following the gps, and going in the appropriate direction, and ended up doing the exact mistake the wikipedia entry mentioned: you end up right on top of the Kiva, about 500 feet above it, with no way down.
From there, I walked along the edge, checking for a safe way down. The trail is a safe way down, so it must be there somewhere---I just didn't realize how far it is... it's a good half a mile or so from the top of the False Kiva (strangely, the way down is actually pretty close to the road).
Anyways, found the way down, and after about an hour after starting, got to the False Kiva. Took some pix, panoramas, waited for the sun to light up stuff, took some more pix. Another hiker showed up (he actually managed to follow the trail right from the parking spot). Got tired of waiting for the sun---so took some more pix and followed the trail back. It took 20 minutes to get back to the car. I figure it would've taken 20 minutes go there to the False Kiva---if I didn't do loops and bushwacking to get there.
From there, the plan was to do the rim hike at Islands In The Sky (the north part of Canyonlands). So drove there, and did that rim hike. Yey!
On the way back, there's a state park folks mentioned I should visit: Dead Horse Point State Park. I've been in this area many times, and always just drove by the ``state park'' without giving it much thought. This park has amazing scenery; perhaps more amazing than the islands in the sky (perhaps they should make this a national park too!). Though for some reason I just didn't find this location pleasant---knowing that it's named after an event where allegedly many horses died of thirst while seeing the colorado river down below. Walking around it, I pictured all those horses walking around the same places and dying a horrible death... that's just not right. All in all, great park (it should certainly not be skipped, even though it's a `state park'), but they should've named it something else (and not killed all those horses!).
After the Dead Horse park, went to Arches. Since I only had a few hours, I drove directly to the places that were `part of the plan'. That's landscape arch, and delicate arch. Each of these has a short hike---so mostly ran through those. In the rain. Got a picture of me right under the delicate arch (last time I went there, nobody was "out there"; guess everyone was scared of heights?---this time, I saw a few brave tourists, so also ran out to the arch as well---It's pretty safe, just gotta have grippy boots).
And that concludes `the plan'. Drove back to the airport, upgraded seat (so I can sit right in front of airplane), and flying back to JFK.
[False Kiva pix]
[Islands In The Sky pix]
[Dead Horse Point State Park pix]
- Alex; 20141102
Landed in Salt Lake City, rented a crappy VW jetta (?) and off to the Needles... South Canyonlands.
First, a thing about the crappy car: I never driven a VW car before, but how different can they be? Apparently, very. I declare it to be the crappiest car EVER. The cheapest chevy isn't as crappy as this! Will avoid all VWs from now on...
Anyways, got to Needles. The plan was to do the confluence hike---where green river meets colorado river. It's an amazing 11 mile hike through canyonlands---and I've done it before, so know what to expect.
The park ranger suggested an alternative. Starting at Elephant Hill (via 3 mile dirt road) hike to something called ``joint trail'', from there, hike to ``druid arch'', and then back (she suggested serveral "back" trails)---making a nice mostly-a-loop. So I decided to do that---apparently this hike goes through the key trails that made this a `national park'.
Elephant Hill is apparently also famous for being the most interesting dirt road for 4wheeling. I didn't go on that part. Anyways, got to trailhead around afternoon, and started the hike. The terrain is amazing! This is something I'll definitely wanna go back to again.
The ``joint trail'' turned out to be amazingly neat. It's about half a mile of very narrow passeges and caves. You're walking between mountains in cracks that are shoulder-width apart (there are cracks that are less than that, but those aren't part of the trail). It's amazing. I lucked out being there when the sun was mostly overhead---it was an amazing experience.
The other slot canyons in the area are Antelope Canyon and Blue John Canyon---they're more colorful due to different stone.
After joint trail, headed to Druid Arch. This involves a 2 (or 5, depending on direction) mile hike over a dry river bed, to a HUGE double (or triple?) arch at the end. I got there right as the sun was setting---so got an amazing picture of the Arch shadow on the neighbouring mountain.
On the way back it got dark pretty quickly (sunset was at 6:21pm), so walked with a headlamp much of the 5 mile walk back (via the same dry river bed).
All in all, this is perhaps the most scenic hike I've been on. A close second is Angel's Landing in Zion, followed by my usual favorites as grand canyon, katahdin, etc.
Update: [Joint Trail pix]
[Druid Arch Trail pix]
- Alex; 20141101
Flying out to do a hike in Canyonlands, and a few other places.
- Alex; 20141031
Doing bbq in Harriman :-)
- Alex; 20141025
Hiked Mnt.Washington in NH. Started out around 7am---a bit chilly, but not too cold. Around tree line, stuff started freezing. Towards the final hill before the summit... literally everything on me froze. Gloves were frozen solid. The wind froze face. The only great news is that summit is open and warm---otherwise I would've turned back.
This was the day some arctic weather system hit---it's probably much worse at Katahdin (they were also expecting horrible weather by Sunday).
About 6 hours for the whole hike. 3.5 hours up, 2.5 hours down---or so. It seemed to have warmed up by the time I started going down...
Update: [Mnt.Washington trip pix]
- Alex; 20141019
Doing a road trip this weekend. Starting with Maine; hiking Mnt.Katahdin.
Apparently Katahdin reservation system shuts off after 2nd week of October---so I didn't need to reserve anything. First come first serverd, and apparently there were plenty of available spots. Yey. That saves $5! :-)
Katahdin was nice and warm, though a bit clowdy at the summit. The main concern with the hike is that it gets dark early---so I needed to be back ``early''---which I was. The whole hike took ~6 hours. About 3.5 up, and about 2.5 down.
Update: [Katahdin trip pix]
- Alex; 20141018
Bill Gates: Piketty's inequality book has 'flaws'. Yes, it has flaws, but not the ones BillG is pointing out. It seems he didn't understand the key points in the book---wealth was highly unequal prior to WWI, then due to hyperinflation in germany and depression in the US, a lot of those "old wealth" fortunes were wiped out---everyone was equally worse off---the years since WW2 was a slow return to the inequality levels that existed prior to WWI. That's the key point in Piketty's book: the last century or so was an outlier... in general, we can't expect growth to be even 1% a year, (that would lead to crazy things very quickly), and with that kind of growth, old-dynastic-wealth wins. My guess, Gill Gates read too much into the criticism of the book to realize most of it isn't about the 1900s, or about him personally :-)
- Alex; Wed Oct 15 08:42:03 EDT 2014
Yey, passed the NYS DMV inspection---late by two months. It's such a hassle to... do that :-/
In other news, tossed the air-conditioner (into the trash, not out of the window :-)
- Alex; 20141013
Urgh, I think I got a cold :-/
- Alex; 20141010
Finished reading How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. I managed to get the `autographed' edition at the NY Penn station last week (for regular price; now I see folks selling it for $100 on ebay :-).
The book is pretty good. I don't normally get management books, but eh, it's google, and last one I read about them (In The Plex) was pretty good, so...
Anyways, How Google Works is full of great advice regarding what works and what doesn't regarding interviews, hiring, etc., what the most important traits to look for when hiring. If you're a technical manager, or striving to become one, I highly recommend this book.
- Alex; 20141008
Taking the Acela to DC... visiting FINRA's Rockville office.
- Alex; 20141007
With the whole day to go before I have to get back to the airport, decided to do a road trip around Arizona---drove to Lake Havasu City, to visit the London Bridge (yep, the one that was shipped from London England, brick by brick).
Since my last `national monument' trip went so well (craters of the moon one), I decided to drive to a "national monument" near Phoenix--and spend the rest of the day there. So drove to ``Sonoran Desert National Monument''... and well... there's a dirt road off right off the highway. And that's about it.
From there, just went to the airport, and passed out sometime before the take off---someone woke me up that we landed in JFK.
- Alex; 20141005
Landed in Phoenix, rented Jeep-something-or-other, and drove to Grand Canyon. Stopped by Wal-Mart to get supplies (specifically gatorade and gatorade concentrate mix---for electrolites).
Parked by South Rim Visitor's Center, and jogged to the South Kaibab trailhead (at night... using red LED light... mostly seeing by starlight... just amazing scenery). Saw some shooting stars on the way...
Started down the South Kaibab trail about 4am-something-ish. There are a LOT of folks on the trail: about 20 headlamps ahead of me!
This time I'm walking down the south kaibab. Running is for the flat bits near the river.
By the river, without stopping, started to lightly jog---for the next two hours or so. Stopped by the Ribbon Falls for a snack. Beyond that, can't exactly run up the north rim... at least I can't. So back to slow-pace walking-up-the-never-ending-hill.
The plan was to eat "dinner" in the North Rim Inn, and head back, but apparently they were closed---and I didn't feel like waiting for an hour or so until they opened.
Started heading down the North Rim... and about halfway down to the river, my left knee started to hurt a lot. The kind of pain where you can't put weight on the left leg :-/
For the next...amm...7 hours, walked slowly by the river until Phantom Ranch. Met other hikers---apparently I'm not the only crazy one enjoying a walk-through-the-night there.
Found out why the bats fly into my face. When you're walking there, bats seem to fly right into your face, and right before hitting your face, they fly off to the side---apparently they're feeding. The headlamp attracts insects, and bats feed on those insects. Very annoying thing that. So I walked with red LED (less insects, apparently), and mostly enjoying the moonlight for bulk of the illumination.
At Phantom Ranch ate some snacks---closed eyes, and when I opened them again, two hours have passed. I sat on the bench for 2 hours in the middle of the night! And I missed my B-day!!!
Brain wobbly (like I'm still asleep), the knee pain completely gone, all the fatigue is gone, etc., it's like I'm in a dream state. The hallucinations reset the trail for my arrival, so now I can ascend! And that's when I just got up and walked for 2 hours non-stop without getting tired or anything---the trail needs measuring, since it's been reset for my trekin (yes, I might just wake up any minute now, still sitting on that bench).
About half-way through (South Kaibab, headed up), I must've ran out of the food energy the two-hour nap provided me with... so slowed down my pace a bit... ate a candy bar, sat on a rock and looked at the stars. Saw more shooting stars.
This is the best time to hike the grand canyon. There are 0 scorpions---this is the first time I've went there and didn't see *any*. Though I'm pretty sure I heard rattle snakes :-/
A big higher up, saw hikers coming down (getting an early start, eh!)---most wearing winter coats, gloves, hats, etc. Hmm... and then I stopped for a few minutes...and realized that it's freezing! I think night-time temperatures are supposed to drop to 30f. I've walked the entire way in nothing but a thin shirt, and didn't even feel chilled.
At the South Rim, was just in time for the morning bus---which took me back to the visitor's center (a 2 mile ride)... and that's how I spent my b-day weekend :-)
Update: [Grand Canyon trip pix]
- Alex; 20141004
Flying out to Phoenix---will run across the grand canyon :-)
- Alex; 20141003
Got around to fixing the server box; now running shiny new Mint 17... also on laptop.
Also figured out what was wrong with the NAS... apparently the shiny new switch I got a few months ago burned out... the only thing I got plugged into it is this NAS thing, and didn't realize that the lights weren't blinking on the switch... the synology NAS thing was just fine... just not reachable :-/
So now it's just about re-mirroring stuff and I'll be back, technologically speaking.
- Alex; 20141002
My main server at home b0rked. The main drive apparently stopped responding :-/
This wouldn't be so bad, but a few weeks ago, my NAS (synology 8 disk one) also apparently died. So now I'm kind of computerless (well, data-less is more accurate).
In other news, going on a day trip to Rockville MD.
- Alex; 20140930
...and back in NYC. Next weekend: adventures in Arizona :-)
- Alex; 20140929
Since I'm skipping Grand Tetons, I've decided to visit Shoshone Falls in Idaho. So drove there from Yellowstone---takes about 5 hours or so. The waterfall... eh, nothing spectacular. It's big, but I'd rate the grand canyon ribbon falls cooler.
With the whole day to go, decided to drive to Craters Of The Moon National Monument. I didn't know what to expect. It was the closest "national" anything in my GPS, so...
Apparently it's a huge lava field. Similar to the ones in Hawaii (and New Mexico---except bigger).
After running up Inferno Cone, decided to do a longer hike, the "broken top" loop. Go to trailhead, and started off the trail...
Little did I know that I wasn't on the "broken top loop" trail, but on the "tree molds trail" (the loop-less one). After a bit of walking, the trail got weirder and then even more weirder, until it was completely gone. Thinking that it's a "loop", I curved left (to meet up with the other side of the trail).
Needless to say that was when I got lost :-/
Anyway, over an hour (and over 2 miles) of bushwacking later, and a tumble down the mountain (got dirty, but not hurt...), I hit something that resembled footprints... It's very hard to tell on hard-rock if there are footprints---but once in a while there's an indentation in the dirt that resembles footprints.
Apprently the "mountain" I kept on the left was apparently three mountains (not the "broken top" one). What I hit was a wilderness trail that extends off the broken top loop trail.
So unknowingly, I made a HUGE loop trail. About 8 miles, me think. Broken-top loop should've been around 1.7 miles. In retrospect, I could've been walking there for MUCH longer---got pretty lucky there. If that mountain range was just a bit bigger... urgh, I would've still walked out of there (there's only so much land if you keep the mountain on the left---eventually you come out on the other side), but... would've missed my flight.
After this little adventure, drove to Salt Lake (the one by Salt Lake City), and walked a bit on the beach... never done that before (well, not in the salt lake...).
- Alex; 20140928
Apparently Budget car rental ran out of "everything" and gave me a minivan (it was a choice of a 15-passenger van or a minivan).
Got to Grand Teton National Park... asked about various hikes with plans to actually do them Sunday. The ranger said that there are plenty of bears in the area... and me being paranoid, decided to skip hiking there. Onto Yellowstone.
My primary thing in Yellowstone is to see the "lower falls" (or Artist's Point)... the rest is just extra stuff. So went directly to lower falls, then to Mammoth, then to Prismatic, then to Old Faithful. Apparently when times are busy, they require a reservation to have dinner in log cabin lodge... so made a reservation, waited for about an hour, and then had dinner there. Caught another Old Faithful eruption after dinner, and drove off...
All in all, I got to see what I came to see (lower falls)... the weather sucked all day long (rain, etc.) but, eh.
Update: [Yellowstone trip pix]
- Alex; 20140927
Flying out to Salt Lake City :-)
- Alex; 20140926
And back in NY... walked around a bit on Saturday, and spent most of the day Sunday driving back :-/
- Alex; 20140921
Going on a wr0k trip to Maryland, and taking this opportunity to road-trip around that area; hopefully backpacking through Shenandoah on saturday/sunday.
- Alex; 20140918
Apparently the police were celebrating the 3rd anniversary of OWS (occupy wall street) today... They were out and about just about everywhere downtown area, but not a single OWS protester showed up (at least I didn't see any).
- Alex; 20140917
It's that time of the year again. I've actually started walking through the 9/11 memorial site every afternoon (my lunch walk; talking to the water). I must say I'm a bit disappointed at the whole memorial construction and presentation. Waterfalls are "nice", but I can't help feeling they could've done a much better job. Pretty much anything else would've served as a better memorial :-/
Finished reading A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy by Daniel Clery. Yep, definitely recommend it. It gets pretty depressing towards the end---the author speculates that fusion power may never be practical or useful. Even if achieved, the fast neutrons would probably kill anyone near by unless very very heavily shielded, and even then, these are fast neutrons we're talking about... a mile of concrete would probably not block all of them.
- Alex; 20140911
Reading A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy by Daniel Clery. It's certainly eye opening. I admit that I was a HUGE skeptic regarding controlled fusion: my rationale, if Jupiter (the planet) cannot do fusion at its center, while achieving weird metallic hydrogen state that we on earth can't even dream of achieving (and no matter we know of could survive the descent into Jupiter) then how could we control something that even Jupiter cannot muster?
In other words, think of the Earth, think of all the pressure of a thousand miles of rock pressing on an atom, then think of a thousand MORE miles of rock pressing on top, and yet that doesn't even come close to fusion, how could scientists say they can create and control such pressures in a reactor that sits in some lab?
Anyways, this book is changing my perspective. I now firmly believe controlled fusion will happen, soon. Essentially EM forces are way more powerful than gravity, so it might take the entire gravity of the sun to squish atoms together, but it might also be feasible using magnets and/or lasers here on earth. The book explains quite a few experiments that already achieve fusion---just not sustained nor in high enough yields to actually be useful at power generation. So we (as in, the human race) are getting there... It might not be "20 years away", but it will certainly happen eventually.
In other news, apparently I'm going to Yellowstone in two weeks :-)
- Alex; 20140907
There aren't that many ``road-trip-only'' things near Seattle. I contemplated driving 8 hours (and 8 hours back) to Crater Lake... but that's just too crazy, even for me. Perhaps wondering the city? Visit the needle? First Starbucks store? Anyways, with nothing better to do, drove to Mount Rainier National Park. It's pretty close to the airport (~2 hour drive).
My original plan (when I was conteplating this trip) was to hike to Camp Muir. About 4500 feet elevation gain, in amazingly scenic terrain. Anyways, I'll sleep on it.
When I woke up at 7am, the sky was clear, amazing time for a hike. So re-re-bandaged the foot, filled up my water blader with gatorade, and started up the trail. About four hours later, I was at Camp Muir.
Unlike last time, this time I brought microspikes (mini-crampons) with me, and those helped a LOT.
Saw a pretty big rock slide (perhaps a mile away on the mountain) that created a few minutes worth of rumble on the mountain.
The gatorade drink might've kept me hidrated, and salts in my blood, but it really sux drinking gatorade all day long. Not doing that again---at least not as my only drink.
Walking on the glacier is FUN. On the way down, mostly ran, jumped, slid, tumbled down the mountain. Hopping over crevasses (they're well marked on the trail). Towards the end, even though my pants weren't up to the task, I was just sliding on my behind. Few things are as fun as sliding down the glacier on ones behind. I ended up wet all over, but, eh, it's all quick drying anyways.
...and back to the airport. Want to get a bit of sleep, so upgraded to "Even More Space" seat, right at the head of the airplane.
Update: [Mnt.Rainier trip pix]
- Alex; 20140901
Next on my list: North Cascades National Park. Drove to the visitor's center, and asked about the best hike in the park, as well as the shortest hike in the park (foot still hurt).
Apparently the best hike is Cascade Pass trail, with Sahale Arm Trail. That's where the park's brochure pictures were taken. That trailhead is about 20 miles on a dirt-road from Marblemount (nearest town; this involves driving out of the park and entering via this dirt road from another side).
The shortest/easiest hike is by the visitor's center. About a mile something loop. Walked that one very carefully.
Then with nothing better to do (and since I coincidentally rented a semi-SUV, if it can be called that... eh, Chevy Captiva), decided to take the dirt road to the Cascade Pass trail. The road itself is pretty neat, and elevation alows to see what this park is all about.
Anyways, once there, I re-bandaged the foot, and decided to walk a bit. The map showed trailhead at 5700 feet, and Sahale summit about 8300 feet, so I figured a few hours walk to see the best scenery in the park. Perhaps it's worth it?
Without much planning, started walking the Cascade Pass trail, to Sahale summit. When I got to the "Cascade Pass", my GPS showed elevation 5700. Hmm... Apparently the trailhead was at 3700 or so. Hmm... that means the Sahale summit is... quite a bit higher than I was expecting (from the trailhead). Hmm... No problem, I'll just take it slow---I got the whole day :-)
Met a park ranger as he was descending Sohale. He mentioned ``The trail gets a bit hard to fllow, but there are cairns, something something...'' (I have short attention span). Anyways, what he actually meant to say (as I found out later) is that there are NO cairns past a certain point. Anyways, I proceeded up the mountain. At about 7500 feet elevation, the rain turned to hale and SNOW(!!!), and a bit higher, wind picked up. Visibility was crap, fogged all over... and I'm looking for cairns and not seeing any.
This is reminiscent of Hawaii. I'm 900 feet form the summit (according to GPS), no visibility, I can't find the trail (can't see any cairns), it's snowing, and I'm wearing pretty much the same clothing I wore during my Hawaii adventure... except I'm not on a volcano :-)
Anyways, at this point I decided to turn back (well, that and my hands and face were frozen).
On the way back, around "Cascade Pass", I met the park ranger again. Apparently he was concerned about me---the weather was pretty bad and I was the only one up that mountain---so he was waiting for me to come back down. He clarified what he meant (there are NO cairns leading to the summit).
After this mega-hike my foot got worse. Now I was looking for a road-trip-only plan for the following day.
Update: [North Cascades trip pix]
- Alex; 20140831
During the flight from JFK to Seattle, noticed (via that LiveMap tv channel) that we were flying over Niagara Falls... and looking out of the window, saw the waterfall from 38k feet... clear skies most of the flight :-)
Got to Seattle, rented a Chevy Captiva, and got on driving to Olympic National Park. Doing the counter-clockwise loop hitting every attraction that the park ranger recommended.
First stop, Hurricane Ridge. Did the trail out to Hurricane Hill... an easy 3-something mile hike.
Then a short hike to a waterfall at Elwha, and then another waterfall at Sol Duc. Each takes about an hour or so, they're about a mile or so from the trailhead (and it takes a LONG time to drive between places).
Next stop is Hoh Rain Forest. Did the spruce trail... a bit over a mile, with access to the river, etc.
All this walking blistered one of my feet---no big deal. Happens all the time.
Finishing off the day by watching the sunset at La Push, the ``First Beach''. It's an amazing place... walked along the beach, etc., just beautiful.
Now for the unpleasant bits: Didn't realize that the blister on my foot somehow filled up with beach sand... and a few hours later, that started to hurt a lot, with various unpleasant fluids oozing out of the wound. Urgh. This had to be handled asap---it was already showing signs of being infected.
Found a supermarket that's open (it's 3am!), bought Neosporin. But how to get the sand out? I'm no doctor, but I can probably play one on TV. Using the snake-bite-kit scalpel, I cut off the whole blister, washed with soap (urgh, that hurt!), and bandaged it up with Neosporin---at least now it shouldn't be infected. It was surprising that the scalpel was either dull, or not very good at cutting skin (or maybe I got a tough skin, eh, eh). I think a plain shaving razor would've worked better---I think that's what I'll replace the scalpel with in the snake-bite-kit.
Guess that's it for hiking on this trip :-/
Update: [Olympic trip pix]
- Alex; 20140830
Flying out to Seattle...
- Alex; 20140829
Got one of these Bluetooth OBD2 scan tool, and it's damn amazing. Now I can generate graphs of RPMs during a road trip or something. Apparently I had 1 cylinder misfire once :-/
- Alex; 20140827
On the flight to St. Louis, my co-passenger told me about Cahokia Mounds, and that being a pretty nice attraction near St. Louis. It's literally a 10 minute drive from the city! Anyways, that's the place I vited right in the morning, and it really is a very pleasant place to walk around. Very very hot though, but I'd imagine that whole area gets an unusual amount of heat. Take the worst humid summer day in New York City, and add 10 degrees to that.
After the Cahokia Mounds remembered about St. Louis Arch. I wasn't going to hang out in the city at all, but this seemed like a good exception. Took the elevator up :-) The elevators at the place are like little space pods, no windows, etc., and sit five(!) shoulder to shoulder.
Noticed a helicopter tours company right outside the Arch (based on a barge). So walked there and did the 20 minute flyover around the whole city. Apparently one of the key attractions on the city is the Budweiser Brewery :-)
Then off to the airport... which is in Ferguson, St. Louis.
- Alex; 20140824
Arrived in St. Louis, and pretty much instantly drove out to Arkansas, to Hot Springs National Park. Go there around 8am, and went on a short hike around the summit of the North mountain (where the tower is). Once the tower opened at 9am, ran up to the top... and that's it for this park.
Then walked to the visitor's center, and apparently it's an old bathhouse that's been touristified. The visitor's center is also right next door to other functioning bathhouses---so having nothing to do for the WHOLE day, I went in, bought swimming trunks, and relaxed a bit in the four hot pools while sipping ice cold water. This part of the park is particularly pleasant :-)
After the "hot tubbing" went on a short hike around the base of the mountain... wet my toe in an actual hot spring that's coming out of the ground...and that water is damn hot. Scalding hot! It's kind of weird to see boiling hot water coming out of the ground...
Drove to the peak of West mountain (that's the other mountain in "the park"), walked around a bit there too. There's very little to see in this park---just historical bathhouses and the tower on North mountain. The rest could hardly be called a "national park" any sense.
Drove to Crater of Diamonds State Park... to dig for diamonds. It's just a dirt field that you buy tickets to. A TON of folks there digging in the dirt... some very serious (with shovels, and buckets, and all that). I just walked around with a digging stick, and in about two hours found three "stones" that looked unusual. They later turned out to be calcite (they got a stone identifier in the park, which is pretty neat).
Arkansas has a TON of state parks. I wouldn't be surprised if it has the most state parks of all the states (nope, just googled, it's Michigan). Drove around the whole area... drove the whole ``Boston Mountains Scenic Loop''... visiting parks whenever those showed up on the GPS or highway sign.
Towards the end of the day, stopped by Devil's Den State Park, and went on a hike to some overlook that was recommended at the visitor's center. It was supposed to be 1 mile there and 1 mile back, so I figured an hour total--and since it was about 7pm, I figured I had just enough sunlight left. Long story short, I confused the trails, and went on the wrong one leading into the woods---a while later (by the time I knew I should have walked that 1 mile), I turned back... It got dark in the forest pretty quickly, and I ended up walking for about 30 minutes in total darkness (good thing for headlamp :-).
- Alex; 20140823
Flying out to St. Louis; gonna visit Hot Springs National Park.
- Alex; 20140822
Finished reading Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed Paperback by Ben R. Rich and Leo Janos. That is one great book. If you like airplanes, history, management, and spy craft books, then this book is for you. The writing is very good, clear, and witty. Highly recommend.
It's packed with great management, and absurd stories: e.g. SR-71 was actually named RS-71, until the President (of US) misread the name, the Pentagon then went through everything (like blueprints, etc.) to change the name everywhere from "RS-71" to "SR-71". Wikipedia claims that is only a rumor, but when the guy in charge of Skunk Works puts it in the book, I gotta go with the guy who saw it first hand.
There's also a story of Kelly Johnson having titanium shot glasses in his office---and you can find a set on amazon!. In fact, when you search for "titanium shot glass", on page 3 of results, this book shows up :-)
- Alex; Wed Aug 20 07:05:11 EDT 2014
Had a bit of a car accident, on FDR approach from Queensborough bridge. A girl in a shiny new Jeep Compass rolled into my left side, as I was waiting at a light. Not much damage, just paint scratched and the rear left bumper realigned... no-in-sewer-ants settlement of $100.
- Alex; Sat Aug 16 23:54:04 EDT 2014
Decided to look over A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram. It's been a while since I've read it, and having read some quantum mechanics stuff recently, I think this book deserves a fresh look. There's something about the game of life and locality that seems quite similar to quantum field theory.
- Alex; Wed Aug 13 02:32:53 EDT 2014
Built another release of SQLrunner. This release fixes a header display bug that showed up when using Hive.
- Alex; Fri Aug 8 01:09:19 EDT 2014
Finished reading The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces by Frank Wilczek. Another amazing Wilczek book! Below are some really neat quotes from the book:
``An ordinary truth is a statement whose opposite is a falsehood. A profound truth is a statement whose opposite is also a profound truth.'' --Frank Wilczek
``One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulae have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.'' --Heinrich Hertz, commenting on Maxwell's equations.
- Alex; Thu Aug 7 23:24:19 EDT 2014
Finished reading Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman. I got this book in February, and it took me 6 months, and three re-re-readings to claim to have "read it". I'll likely end up re-re-reading it again at some point in the future, but for the moment (for this year at least), I'm done with it.
The first "theoretical minimum" book (The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics) was very easy to read... it was tough, but you think stuff through, and it made sense. This Quantum Mechanics one... not so much. It's tough. Very tough. It reads VERY easy, but then you realize you're just reading words without actually undrestanding what's going on. It's very well written, in clear language, with occasional jokes. But the material is damn confusingly tough---and thinking stuff through just doesn't work. I didn't get a lightbulb in the end with `aha, so that's what it's all about!' thing.
The gist (the easy bits) is that quantum mechanics is just like classical physics in many ways, except there's a HUGE distinction regarding what you (or anyone) can measure. For example, in classical mechanics, you can say: this object is at x,y,z, and that's the end of it. In quantum mechanics you know the object has a state, but the measurement problem takes on a bigger role... and some measurements may screw up each other, for example, measuring the x may screw up y, so you won't measure object being at x,y,z. More on that in a second.
The state of the system (say an electron spin) is represented as a vector [of complex numbers], such as |state> That's usually a column vector. You can flip that to a row vector and change sign of complex numbers (conjugate) and get <state| vector.
Observables are represented as "operators", which are just square matrices, like M. You ``measure'' (observe) the state by applying the matrix,
e.g. <state| M |state>. This results in a vector of probabilities---where the probability is... well, the probability of being in a certain state.
...but but but... how are the observables related to the probabilities of states? It turns out that observables are actually eigenvectors of matrix M, and probability vector essentially tells you which eigenvector is most probable.
The book goes through quite a bit of detail on setting up operators, and explaining how they work, etc., but even after reading through the chapters 3 times, I still can't remember how it all fit together---but apparently it does.
Anyways, here's a 30 second explanation of the key thing in quantum mechanics: measuring position AND momenum of the particle. Let's imagine that you somehow manage to measure position so precisely, that the position function is defined on exactly one very precise point. Now, to find momenum (or velocity), take the derivative of that function. You suddenly realize that the derivative is not defined on a function that is defined in only 1 spot. So according to calculus (forget quantum mechanics), you cannot know position and velocity at the same time.
A car analogy: you can take a very sharp photograph of a car on the highway. If your shutter is very fast, the car will appear to stand still in the picture... fast shutter made the car position very precise---but you have no idea how fast it's moving! So you slow down your shutter speed---you get a picture of a blurry car, but now you can figure out how fast it is moving... but you've lost the sharpness that tells you it's exact position.
To sum it up, as much as I enjoyed the first theoretical minimum book, I wouldn't recommend Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum, unless you enjoy that sort of thing... just keep in mind that it won't come easy. This is certainly not light reading.
- Alex; 20140801
Swapping T-Mobile for GoSmart mobile... quite a bit cheaper, for similar service (I do need "unlimited" data, but don't really care how fast it is... emails don't take much).
- Alex; 20140731
Got one of them GeekDesks. Took them almost a month to ship the thing, and a mixup at the warehouse resulted in me getting two of them... now they have to send me shipping labels to send the 2nd one back.
As for the desk itself, haven't had a chance to use it yet. Assembly wasn't bad, but it did take a bit of time (the top doesn't have any pre-drilled holes, so a bit of pain there, but the rest is pretty easy).
- Alex; 20140730
Drove out to Mnt.Marcy for a day trip. Did the loop from Loj to Marcy Dam, then to Lake Colden, then to Colden Dam, then to Marcy summit, from there back to Marcy Dam, and then back to parking lot.
Got to the trailhead a bit later than usual, around noon-ish, so was starting the hike as many folks were just leaving... which resulted in nobody on Mnt.Marcy summit by the time I got there---it was great... warm, relaxing, nobody around, etc.,
- Alex; 20140726
Haven't seen this in ages: Get Quaked 3! Ah, the warm and fuzzy nostalgia...
- Alex; Sat Jul 19 22:59:26 EDT 2014
And back in NYC...
- Alex; 20140707
Of the California National Parks, my favorite is Sequoia National Park---so having a free day, decided to walk among the big trees. Got there right at dawn, and...there's nobody in the park---the entire park is empty. I ran all over the place, etc., it's great to have that kind of park all to myself... :-)
- Alex; 20140706
Joshua Tree National Park was the "primary" park to visit during this trip. I've already been to the rest of the parks before, so to visit something "new", Joshua Tree was the primary destination. Anyways, got there in the morning, and phone beeped a flash-floor warning as soon as I got there---in the desert!!! Apparently previous day there was quite a storm, and some roads looked washed out (I didn't realize desert downpours produce flash floods like that). Luckily none of those hit while I was there.
After visiting the visitor's center, decided to do the usual loop road, and hike the primary mountain in the middle of the park. And stop by every turn out, etc.
I didn't even realize what this park is all about until I got there. One thing is obviously the Joshua trees---this park is full of them. Though there are places in death valley just as nice. What really amazed me about Joshua tree were the rocks... roundish boulders just there in the middle of this desert---very out of place. They're also easy to climb, etc.
In the middle of the park, walked up the Ryan Mountain (5.4k feet). Pretty easy hike---only struggle is the heat, not the elevation.
On driving out of the park noticed another turn out labeled ``Hidden Valley Nature Trail'', so decided to do that too. This turn out to be pretty neat. Very pleasant walk. I'd label this the key hike in the entire park.
- Alex; 20140705
Arrived in Lassen Volcanic National Park, asked for the best hikes in the park at the visitor's center, and proceeded with the "best" onwards. The best, according to park rangers, was to Brokeoff Mountain... it's the longest/steepest hike in the park. The parking lot for it was full, so had to park at the visitor center and then walk to the trailhead. The view from the summit is nice, but the trail itself is average-foresty-trail, nothing spectacular.
The second hike on the list is Bumpass Hell trail. Lassen apparently still some heat underneath it, (had a big eruption about 100 years ago or so). Anyways, there are geisers kinda like in Yellowstone in one particular area in Lassen---and they're at the ``end'' of the Bumpass Hell trail. The trail is short, and ends in a viewing area where you can see (and smell) earth breathing surfur, and bubbling pools of something.
The third hike is the Lassen Peak itself. Highest point in the park. By this time I was thoroughly tired, and barely made it to the summit. There's still snow up there apparently. Got back to the car just barely before sunset...
- Alex; 20140704
Flying out to San Francisco :-)
- Alex; Thu Jul 3 15:16:24 EDT 2014
Finished reading Fantastic Realities: 49 Mind Journeys And a Trip to Stockholm by Frank Wilczek. Wow, this is an amazing book. Highly highly recommend! Good chunks of this book went right over my head, but the chunks that didn't, were crystal clear. For example, Wilczek explains the reason for fields---it's the speed of light and locality. If you don't have instant communication, whatever interactions you have with anything is via fields---which leads to generalization of these fields---the reason all particles, electrons, protons, etc., all look the same is because they're not particles, but artifacts of the same field---there is no such thing as empty space, the same field extends everywhere, etc. Supersymetry is just a mathematical trick to combine the known fields into a ``single field''. Wilczek also mentions the F=ma equation---and that there's no such things in relativity---there are no forces! There's not even a concept like force... and yet it was so useful in Newton's time. I've heard this mentioned in other places, but it's amazing to have this concept just put out there like that---there's no spoon^H^H^H^H err... force... :-)
This book is just a brain dump of really neat mind craft stuff, definitely worth reading if you're into that sort of thing.
- Alex; Wed Jul 2 01:29:48 EDT 2014
Mauna Loa, 6 months later: Well, it's been 6 months since my Mauna Loa trip... kind of like in that panda cartoon, `yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, and today is a present...' It's good to be around :-)
The only residual problems left since the trip are numb toes---I don't think I step on the right part of the toe when I walk, so if walking an extended distance (say 10 miles or so), the toes start to hurt (besides that, they're pretty numb, so maybe hurting isn't bad?). There doesn't appear anything lasting... so, yey! It took a good few months of barely walking to recover from the frostbite---at the time I didn't think I'd actually be able to walk normally, at least not in the 6 months or so, but, eh, walking rocks. Also re-started jogging regularly, and going on long hikes... And might just do Mauna Loa next year (likely as a shorter "day hike" of running up and down in one day).
In other news, made another release of SQLRunner. This new release is compatible with Hive JDBC driver (HiveServer2). The unsupported methods that throw exceptions are ignored. Also fhead2ddl utility got updated to support Hive13 datatypes such as varchar, date, and timestamp---though I wouldn't personally use them just yet (the hive implementation is kind of dumb at the moment; it only recognizes YYYY-MM-DD timestamps without any option of changing the input format---in other words, if your data is anything other than this format, you won't be able to read dates as "DATE" datatype). Also added "nocreate" option to fhead2ddl utility---to make it easier to script stuff within create statements.
- Alex; Tue Jul 1 02:01:37 EDT 2014
Went to the beach---first time this season. There's a weird pipe exposed right on the beach, A Massive Rockaway Gas Pipeline Is Being Built Right Under Our Beaches. And that's just BAD. At the very least, they should've burried it under many many many feet of sand (not "right on the beach"). But it appears to be literally "right on the beach"; there are even artificial sand dunes for folks to climb over it to cross. They ruined that beach!
- Alex; 20140629
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