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March 17th, 2015



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News, Updates, & Rants...

     March 17th, 2015

Finished reading HBase: The Definitive Guide by Lars George. This book has been in my safari folder forever---it starts out quite well, then slows down quite a bit, and then picks up speed during the architecture chapter. This book is quite dated... I'd expect the API has evolved, especially around the rough edges---for example, Cassandra is more polished. Outside of cursory examples, I haven't used HBase for anything serious yet---so this is just a noobs opinion. Still, this book explains how stuff actually works, which parts of HBase are efficient, and which parts aren't, etc.---those parts I wouldn't expect to date as quickly.

...and there'll be a 2nd edition of this book this July :-/

- Alex; 20150317
March 17th at wikipedia...

     March 14th, 2015

Happy PI day! 3/14/159265359 :-D

- Alex; 20150314

     March 13th, 2015

Finished reading Predictive Analytics and Data Mining: Concepts and Practice with RapidMiner by Vijay Kotu and Bala Deshpande. Well, this book was pretty bad: absolutely nothing original nor in-depth. For literally everything, the book uses RapidMiner, a GUI software thingie to build machine learning thingies---it's about the same level of excitement (and frustrating) as programming lego mindstorms using the GUI tools. You draw what you want to do using a UML-like box diagram, where graphical artifacts represent data or various algorithms, with connections between to pass data around. If that's what you're looking for, then this book is it... but you don't learn WHY nor HOW that stuff works---you just get a short description of the problem, and then a guide on how to do it in RapidMiner. Sorry, I hoped for more---so, I don't recommend this book---to anyone.

- Alex; 20150313

     March 10th, 2015

Watched the whole Fixed Income Conference in which lots of fixed income stuff was discussed. It's amazing how broken that whole market is... spreads of 5-25%, comissions of 5% or more, and markups that are damn hard to detect. Most of it caused by no liquidity and no information---exactly the things that have been fixed in equities.

Also (related), Gallagher: Mandate GASB Standards, Possibly By Linking to Tax-Exempts. He also said something along the lines of: if industry doesn't fix fixed income markets, then the government will be forced to step in...and fix it in a way nobody will like.

- Alex; 20150310

     March 9th, 2015

Finished reading Data Science at the Command Line: Facing the Future with Time-Tested Tools by Jeroen Janssens. I really had great hopes for this book, but it's a complete waste. It should have been more appropriately titled "advanced shell scripting" or something along those lines. Yes, it does show you how to do stuff via the command line---and yes, a LOT of it is some useful command line kung fu, but it has like zero "data science", except calling some other programs that actually do stuff.

In other words, for "data science", seek out another book. If you want to learn how to manipulate CSV files via the command line, this book rocks. (I should add that "big data" would chocke many of the utilities presented in the book, but they're still useful ideas). For example, the csvstack utility presented in the book is damn useful---except I wrote mine in Perl, and call it "unionall.pl" (takes a buncha .csv files and applies "union all" on all of them).

In other news, had lunch at NYC facebook offices.

- Alex; Mon Mar 9 01:15:56 EDT 2015

     March 8th, 2015

Walked up Bear Mountain. It's still very snowy there... weather was great, but it did snow just a bit on the way there. Pretty neat hike. Probably the last snow of the season (hopefully!).

[Bear Moutain pix]

- Alex; 20150308

     March 4th, 2015

Finished reading Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett. This book is much better than doing data science. It's not techy enough for my taste, but it does have the important general things, so... would definitely recommend if you dunno where to start in this field.

- Alex; Wed Mar 4 02:47:46 EST 2015

     March 1st, 2015

Drove to Niagara Falls---never been there in winter time. Apparently there's a ton of snow, and most of the walkways are closed...

The drive back was...fun. Heavy snow, backed up traffic, etc. The I87 was not moving, so took an exit and used county roads---unplowed county roads. It was great!

[Niagara Falls pix]

- Alex; 20140301

     February 28th, 2015

Went for a hike in Adirondacks, walked up Mount Marcy and across two frozen lakes :-)

[Mount Marcy Hike pix]

- Alex; 20140228

     February 27th, 2015

Company I work for, FINRA is mentioned in the in hbase blog... along with Apple and Facebook :-)

- Alex; 20140227

     February 22nd, 2015

Apparently going to backpack around Death Valley area for Good Friday weekend :-)

In other news, spent the day at the dentist :-/

- Alex; 20140222

     February 21st, 2015

Finished reading Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline by Cathy O'Neil and Rachel Schutt. Not a bad book, but not a great one either. Mostly a summary of an assortment of things, without any depth in any one thing. I'm not a fan of hearing backgrounds of folks I don't care about, and this book is full of that :-/ For example, the book is a series of chapters mostly contributed by various authors, each chapter begins with a background of the contributor, then talks about their problem, their contributions and overall summary of concepts, etc. It would've been just as good to say "such and such company had this problem, and here's how they approached it" as opposed to spending a page or so doing a background of every engineer to contribute a chapter.

- Alex; Sat Feb 21 14:46:47 EST 2015

     February 8th, 2015

It's about time I did a review of GeekDesk. About 6 months ago I got one of those, and started using it every day.

During the 6 months, I hardly ever sat down in front of it. Maybe once or twice. I do use a regular "sitting" desk at wr0k, so I'm moslty talking about the few hours a day/weekends---the development stuff I do at home. I use it for over 12 hours a day from time to time (when I work from home), and it's not a big deal.

I even played World of Warcraft with it (yes, those long raids... all standing :-)

You can read about the health benefits elsewhere. Yes, they're all true---you'll feel great, leg muscles and everything, etc.

What I'd like to mention is productivity increase: I've noticed that I'm a lot more productive in front of a standing desk. (well, ignore World of Warcraft bit)

You really can't idle in front of a standing desk---you can't watch a 2 hour movie in front of a standing desk. In fact, whenever I'm standing, I feel the urge to get something accomplished---as opposed to just sit and pointlessly browse the web. So as a productivity tool, it's amazing! (if you find yourself wasting hours browsing the internet, get one of these desks, and throw away the chair... and whenever you're on your computer, you'll actually be productive on whatever).

- Alex; Sun Feb 8 22:53:47 EST 2015

     February 6th, 2015

Got Google Chromecast. Not sure why... I have a "tv" computer (dedicated Intel NUC that drives the TV), but, eh, it's a toy.

What it gets you is the capability to 'cast' youtube (and other) videos from your phone/tablet to your TV. That's pretty much the use case. It works great. Setup was super simple, etc., it "just works".

If you don't have a compuer driving your TV, this thing is great---use the phone as a remote control, etc. That's pretty much it.

I used it for a bit (to watch a few MIT OpenCourseWare lectures), but quickly went back to using the PC---it's just more convinient to click and find stuff to watch using a computer with a mouse, as opposed to one-at-a-time youtube app on the phone.

So great product... but not terribly useful compared to a computer... but for $30, not a bad toy :-)

- Alex; 20150206

     February 5th, 2015

Went to visit the new FINRA office in Chicago. Ref: CBOE to pass regulatory duties to FINRA. This is nearly identical to when FINRA got NYSE regulation back in 2010---the CBOE folks are just settling in as FINRA employees.

- Alex; 20150205

     February 4th, 2015

Replaced the disk in my Thinkpad x201 with Samsung 850 Pro SSD. Apparently the old thinkpad came with a 1.8" SSD (I didn't know this). Anyways, I bought a 1T disk to replace the old 120gig drive, and during the switch, discovered that the new disk wouldn't fit into the same plastic thingie that holds the old 1.8" disk :-/

I thought "they were all the same"---but apparently not :-/

Luckily, I had another old laptop that I could use to salvage the 2.5" disk holder-plastic-thing. After the switcheroo, everything worked great. I even reused the old 1.8" SSD in that old laptop---which got new life (the SSD made it 'fast' again).

- Alex; 20150204

     February 3rd, 2015

Eh. RadioShack in Talks to Sell Half Its Stores to Sprint, Shutter the Rest. This was long overdue, but it's kind of sad to see them go... I haven't been in a radioshack in YEARS, but this was the place I got my first soldering iron, capacitors, transistors, etc. (and books on electronics).

In other news, might be going to Chicago this week :-)

- Alex; Tue Feb 3 07:37:46 EST 2015

     January 30th, 2015

A year later: celebrated by 2nd b-day :-)

Just about fully recovered from my adventure last year. The toe nails kinda grew back, the sensation to toes hasn't returned, but I don't really miss that. I'm also a lot more paranoid about safety now---but that's just normal paranoia, everyone in the universe has that.

- Alex; 20150130

     January 28th, 2015

Well, the snow storm disappointed (NYC didn't get much snow---eh). Also, apparently school starts today...

- Alex; Wed Jan 28 01:06:45 EST 2015

     January 26th, 2015

Yey, back in NYC.

Uh, oh, everyone panic, huge snow storm on the way!

- Alex; 20150126

     January 25th, 2015

Day 9

This being the last day on the island, decided to give snorkeling another try (now that I know what I was doing wrong).

Besides the Kealakekua Bay (Capt.Cook place), the other nice area is Kahalu'u Beach Park, so drove there first thing in the morning. It's supposedly shallower, which would be great for a flotation swimmer like me. Anyways, it turned out all the beaches were closed due to unusually high surf---I came there early morning, and thinking they'd open at 9am, sat in car waiting and waiting, and then when they didn't open, started asking around... and geh. So much for snorkeling plans.

The other experiment I did during the trip involved air-pressure in gatorade bottles. I opened and closed a bottle at "sea level", and brought it to the summit of Mauna Kea. The bottle expanded. I then opened and closed another bottle at Mauna Kea summit. When back at sea level, the Mauna Kea bottle got squished, while the "sea level" bottle went back to its shape.

[Air Pressure Experiment pix]

With nothing better to do until the flight, went to Honokohau Marina to look at turtles. Walked along the shore for about two tours, but didn't see any :-/

- Alex; 20150125

     January 24th, 2015

Day 8

I really didn't have anything more planned for this vacation---so decided to do something crazy: Waimanu Valley via the Maliwai trail. This is supposedly one of the three tougheset hikes on the Big Island (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa being the other two).

This trail starts in Waipio, with the 25% grade road leading down (you walk that, if you have a crappy 2wd like me). Then there's a friggin river going into the ocean, that you got to cross by walking right into it.

No joke. The height apparently depends on the tide, and rainfall. After crossing (barely not fallin a few times), it turned out to be privates deep. After mentioning that to another hiker, he said `oh, that's easy, sometimes it goes all the way upto your neck'... (how does one protect the car keys/phone from that???).

I then started wondering whose neck. I mean, if it's a basketball player's neck, then one could drown, as opposed to say a midget's neck. That worried me a lot, since it started raining later, and who knows if the tide changes in 9 hours or so it takes to do the hike.

Anyways, after crossing the river, you hike up perhaps 1000 feet or so on the opposite side of Waipio valley, and enter a jungle, filled with the usual assortment of trees you'd expect of jungles---and some not so expected, like huge pine trees. You walk walk walk for hours, and reach Waimanu Valley, which is a carbon copy of Waipio, except there are no people---only camp sites.

Waimanu also has a river, but here they actually put a rope across it, so you can hold onto something while crossing. This one was also privates deep. Anyways, walked along the beach, to the end, ate a snack (I brought Mayday 2400 Calorie Food Bars; they're horrible if you eat them every day for 8 days), and turned back.

On the way back, slipped on the rock, and fell into the Waimanu river. There *is* a current pushing out into the ocean---it's not a very fast current, but it's still there. Good thing for the rope.

With everything (literally, everthing---not a single thing was dry) properly soaked (with sea water no less), started up that hill... and guess what... it started raining. Hard. And it didn't stop. It's still raining as I type this (many hours later, in the car).

So before I was "soaked" from the fall into the river, then I was soaked from the downpour that they call rain.

Eventually got to the Waipio valley, and either the tide changed or something, but there was noticebly more water in that Waipio river. Being a bit scared of the whole thing (falling into this thing, again!), I watched another hiker find a shallower spot, and cross... then I just followed in their footsteps, as in, with boots and all, since everything was already so fully soaked it hardly mattered.

Good thing I was smart enough to put cellphone and car keys into a plastic bag, that I also placed into plastic bag. Weird thing is that it *still* got wet (both phone and keys were wet, but both functioned fine---probably surface wetness and not fully submerged wetness).

[Waimanu Valley Hike pix]

After the adventure, drove to Mauna Kea visitor's center to look at stars. This is my last night on this island, so might as well make full use of it. But without any dry clothing (I don't have many more spares!), I could only stay so long in shorts and jacket; damn cold weather :-/

Drove to Volcano NP to look at the Volcano (and take some more long exposures).

- Alex; 20150124

     January 23rd, 2015

Day 7

Started day with a morning hike to Green Sand Beach (that's right off the south point). It takes ~40 minutes to talk from the parking place to the beach---and I just went there and back quick---since... snorkeling!

What better place to snorkel in Hawaii than Captain Cook's? Apparently that's the place to go for this kinda stuff... so went there, again.

Another reason to go Captain Cook's place was to find the plaque of where he died. First time there, I didn't find it, so will look for it agian.

On the way to Capt. Cook's Memorial, around trail marker 4, a HUGE "cow" on short legs runs across the trail, perhaps 20 feet or so away. A few seconds later, it runs back. Very fast. I then realized it was a HUGE feral hog. It moved fast...ignoring the plants, or anything in its way. It just slammed through the bushes on the side of the trail. And that was it. I had the camera in my hand, and in shock didn't even realize to take a picture :-/

Anyways, back to snorkeling. What I didn't realize was that the Kealakekua bay (capt. cook memorial) is pretty deep. It *looks* shallow, but is in fact deep. I know how to keep myself afloat (that's the extent of my swimming abilities), so put on the snorkel, and very carefully went into the water.

The left side of the memorial that's in the water, has a rock under it that lets you descend into the water---if it wasn't for that, there wouldn't be a safe place to hop in/out of the water---the waves are pretty brutal against the rocky beach.

After a minute or so, my facemask filled up with water. So naturally I did the sane thing and breathed in the sea water with my nose... that ended badly. I tore the mask from my face, paddled to the memorial rock, and got out of water to get a grip.

Decided to try that again (without the distraction of the camera), and got the same result... either I dunno how to snorkel (which is VERY likely---but what's there not to know?), or there's something wrong with the fancy snorkel mask (it has a valve that's supposed to get water out, but apparently that valve is letting water in (!). So in other words, I don't know how to properly use it. Will shelve the idea for now.

Update: After watching a few youtube videos, I now relize I need to exhale throught he nose (that way valve gets rid of water), and inhale through the tube---if you attempt to `inhale' (with nose and tube), then the valve will pull sea water into the mask. Eh, who knew? Weird thing is that the simpler cheaper mask would've worked out just fine for me.

Drove back to Volcano National Park (I didn't want to waste have a day). Went to the end of Hilina Pali road, and attempted to hike to Kaaha. Got to within a mile or so when had to turn back due to setting sun.

Decided to get dinner at the Volcano House again---this time got in without reservations :-)

Then spent the evening watching the volcano at the Jagger Point.

[Jagger Point Volcano pix]

- Alex; 20150123

     January 22nd, 2015

Day 6

Got to Mauna Kea visitor's center and started hike by 8am. About 4 hours later, was at the summit. (last time I hiked Mauna Kea it took me 6 hours up, and 3 hours down), this time it took 4 hours up and almost 3 hours down (probably aclimated from Mauna Loa hike).

Anyways, amazingly clear skies, and a pretty enjoyable hike.

It's like being on Mars!

Placed the Mauna Loa rock on the Mauna Kea summit cairn. That sure is going to confuse geologists one day---when they find a mauna kea rock that has mauna loa rock chemistry---and vice versa :-)

[Mauna Kea Summit Hike pix]

Spending evening looking at stars at Mauna Kea visitor's center. This never gets old. Well... maybe a bit.

Thing is, in Hawaii, everything closes at 4pm (and everything that doesn't close at 4pm, closes at 6). In other words, after dark, there's virtually nothing to do. Sure you can hang out at bars, etc. (many of which close at 8 too!), but I'm not a fan of those places. The very few entertainment "to do" things for me is Mauna Kea visitor's center (stars!), and watching the volcano at Volcano NP (I do that every day---taking long exposures with DSLR, to get smoke and stars just right).

Decided I wanted to do some snorkeling during this trip (I don't actually know how to swim, so... this is gonna be interesting). How hard can it be? Anyways, stopped by Walmart and got a fancy snorkel kit.

- Alex; 20150122

     January 21st, 2015

Day 5

Apparently in Volcano NP there's a hotel called "Volcano House", which apparently has a restaurant, which serves breakfast. So went there for waffles---great breakfast. Highly recommend it when you're there.

Afterwards drove to Halape trailhead (chain of craters road, first stop after 8-mile marker; Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu stop).

Halape is ~8 mile hike, descending 2.5k feet. It's an amazing beach, with an inlet where you can actually swim (without worrying about big waves). Well, if you like `swimming' in knee high water---which I do, since I'm a terrible swimmer.

The hike is very neat---filled with very tall grasslands (like 6 foot grass that you're walking through).

Got there by 1-ish, and apparently I'm the only one on that beach. Soaked for about an hour---it gets old pretty quickly. Thought about spending the night there---the "shelter" is essentially a roof over sand. I didn't realize I'd be sleeping on the actual sand---I didn't bring the sleeping bag, nor towel with me.

Anyways, decided to go back (it took me ~4 hours to walk there, so if I hurry I can just make it in time before the sun sets).

On the way back, went through Keauhoa, which apparently also didn't have anyone staying there.

Got to within 1 mile of the car when it became impossible to see anything. Had to navigate by GPS to get out of that lava field (black lava rock trail markets don't stand out on top of black lava rock).

Since I cut the Halape trip short, decided to hike Mauna Kea the following day.

[Halape / Hilina Pali Hike pix]

Decided to get dinner at the Volcano House hotel. Didn't realize that it was "fancy" enough to require a reservation---had to wait about 30 minutes before they managed to get me a seat.

- Alex; 20150121

     January 20th, 2015

Day 4

Drove to Mauna Loa Observatory. Apprently it's a single-lane paved road that goves all the way to 11k feet on Mauna Loa (right to the...Observatory).

Started hike towards the summit... many many many hours later, got to summit. Even found the USGA seal (gps), which is apparently NOT at the highest point.

There's plenty of snow on that mountain and trail. Luckily all the snow is packed or is iced---in other words, you can walk on it without falling through. Some parts of the trail were actually quite easy due to the snow---the lava-rock terrain is often much worse than the flat smooth surface of ice.

Placed the Mauna Kea rock on the Mauna Loa summit cairn, and picked up an average (white lava!) rock to transplant to Mauna Kea summit.

Visited the place I nearly froze to death last year. This was the primary reason of this hike.

The road back was... interesting. It's a road of ups and downs, that isn't particularly steep in any spot (very easy for a 2wd car). Now, when going uphill, those ups and downs work out just fine... you can coast down the hill and roll up the next hill a bit. When you try to do that down the hill (coast down, and roll up the next hill) you end up flying off the road (since the 2nd hill is much lower elevation than the first hill you're rolling down on). First time the car bounced I thought I was just going too fast and hit a pothole or something---second time it bounced (with literally everything in the back of the car going weightless for a fraction of a second) I realized what was happening... and started breaking hard when rolling down the hill.

[Mauna Loa Summit Hike pix]

During the Mauna Loa hike, I apparently forgot my floppy hat and sunscreen in the car----so after hours outside at 13k feet, I got a pretty bad sunburn. Went looking for a "cure"---but apparently no such thing exists. Damn you science!

Anyways, got some aloe gel thing that supposedly makes things better. Now skin peeling all over the face and neck :-/

Also went looking to buy pants. Tomorrow is the Halape hike, and I really don't want to do it in shorts, or my winter pants---and my summer pants apparently b0rked (well, I mistakenly took the b0rken pair---the one with the broken zipper).

Apparently in Hilo, where temperatures of 100 or so degrees are not that uncommon, EVERYONE only sells jeans or shorts. That's it. I went to 4 stores (Walmart, Sears, Macys, and Sports Authority) looking for "hiking pants" and nothing! I was shocked.

In the end I ended up wearing my b0rken pants (got some stuff from the drug store, and permanently shut the zipper line).

Drove to Dan's Grill (in Hilo), for yet-more-of local hawaiian beef (this time got a "New York strip", of hawaiian beef :-)

- Alex; 20150120

     January 19th, 2015

Day 3

After taking some pics of the area around Red Hill, headed down towards the parking lot. That was it. No summit, nothing. Just up to the cabin and back---spending one night at 10k feet to get aclimated.

[Mauna Loa Red Hill hike pix]

Upon returning the permit, learned that a permit is only needed for overnight stays. (meaning I can go summit Mauna Loa, and I don't have to plan anything---as long as I'm back within 1 day). Also, got a permit for Halape.

Drove to Pahoa Lava Viewing Area, this time seeing the damage recent lava flows caused---no flowing lava there. Apparently that's too important, and the whole area is being guarded :-/

[Pahoa Lava Viewing Area pix]

Drove to Mauna Kea Summit. Yes, it's possible to do that on a crappy 2-wheel drive---but it's not a good idea. Had a few instances when front wheels were spinning and back wheels standing still... In one case, it seemed getting out and pushing would've been called for, but it worked itself out. Never driving 2-wheel drive up that Mauna Kea road again.

At the summit, walked around the lake, and watched the sunset---then back down the road and more stars at the visitor's center.

Got a crazy idea: transplant a Mauna Kea summit rock to Mauna Loa summit, and vice versa. So grabbed an average looking rock into the backpack.

[Mauna Kea Sunset Drive pix]

Towards the end, drove to Kona, and went to dinner at "Huggo's" restaurant (another one of those places that serves local hawaiian beef).

- Alex; 20150119

     January 18th, 2015

Day 2

Drove to Mauna Loa Access Road (from the NP side). Packed up, and headed out towards Red Hill. After a rather uneventful 5-hour walk, reached Red Hill, and went for a nap.

Another hiker also showed up at Red Hill (apparently someone I passed as I was driving up the access road).

- Alex; 20150118

     January 17th, 2015

Day 1

Arrived in Kona around 8am, walked to Budget rental, got car (Ford Escape), and headed to Walmart for supplies.

Got food/water/booze and headed to Captain Cook's memorial. The ``short'' hike from highway to memorial turned out to be a rather hard hour long hike down (and another hour up) the hill.

[Capt. James Cook Memorial pix].

After the unplanned hike went to Annie's Burger for lunch---that's the place that serves burgers from local Hawaiian grass-fed cattle.

Drove to Volcano National Park, got permit for Mauna Loa Red Hill cabin for the following day.

On the way, saw dozens (!!!) of Humpback whale. There's an overlook on the sothern side of the island, and they were all over the place.

Drove to Pahoa Lava Viewing Area---but it was closed (4pm!), and apparently being guarded by "civil defense" (folks in military uniforms). Why would they defend lava??? Anyways, will have to come back later.

Drove to Mauna Kea to watch stars until 11pm-ish.

Drove back to Volcano NP, to take long exposures of the volcano---managed to snap a picture of Southern Cross.

- Alex; 20150117

     January 16th, 2015

...and I'm off to Hawaii :-)

- Alex; Fri Jan 16 11:57:39 EST 2015

     January 8th, 2015

Replaced my dash cam with Garmin Dash Cam 20. My old dash-cam Smarty 1500 was driving me nuts---since it has no display, and it would beep (not the regular kind of beep, but continuous beep), and there was no way to know what was going on since there's no screen---had to take SD card home and use Windows running in Virtualbox just to read stuff that's on the card... and then there would be nothing strange on it, and back in the car, it would do the same weird thing, etc.

Smarty 1500 is just annoying due to lack of a screen. So... upraded to this Garmin model with a tiny screen---you can actually *see* what it's recording, can replay it right there on the device---can even take still pictures. So far my only complaint is that the power wire is a bit short (couldn't mount it in the center of the windshield), but other than that, it's a pretty good upgrade.

- Alex; 20150108

     January 1st, 2015

Happy New Year!

- Alex; Thu Jan 1 14:09:37 EST 2015

     December 23rd, 2014

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

     December 22nd, 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

     December 21st, 2014

Learned how to change a car battery...by changing it in my car :-)

- Alex; Sun Dec 21 23:29:16 EST 2014

     December 8th, 2014

Ping... is this thing on?

- Alex; Mon Dec 8 02:06:41 EST 2014

     November 28th, 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

     November 5th, 2014

Republicans seize Senate, gaining full control of Congress. Well... if the opposite of "pro" is "con", then the opposite of Congress is...

- Alex; Wed Nov 5 07:42:59 EST 2014

     November 2nd, 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.

Update: [False Kiva pix] [Islands In The Sky pix] [Dead Horse Point State Park pix] [Arches pix]

- Alex; 20141102

     November 1st, 2014

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

     October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween...

Flying out to do a hike in Canyonlands, and a few other places.

- Alex; 20141031

     October 25th, 2014

Doing bbq in Harriman :-)

- Alex; 20141025

     October 19th, 2014

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

     October 18th, 2014

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

     October 15th, 2014

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

     October 13th, 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

     October 10th, 2014

Urgh, I think I got a cold :-/

- Alex; 20141010

     October 8th, 2014

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

     October 7th, 2014

Taking the Acela to DC... visiting FINRA's Rockville office.

- Alex; 20141007

     October 5th, 2014

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

     October 4th, 2014

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

     October 3rd, 2014

Flying out to Phoenix---will run across the grand canyon :-)

- Alex; 20141003

     October 2nd, 2014

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

     September 30th, 2014

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

     September 29th, 2014

...and back in NYC. Next weekend: adventures in Arizona :-)

- Alex; 20140929

     September 28th, 2014

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

     September 27th, 2014

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

     September 26th, 2014

Flying out to Salt Lake City :-)

- Alex; 20140926

     September 21st, 2014

And back in NY... walked around a bit on Saturday, and spent most of the day Sunday driving back :-/

- Alex; 20140921

     September 18th, 2014

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

     September 17th, 2014

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

     September 11th, 2014

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

     September 7th, 2014

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

     September 4th, 2014

Uploaded pix from the weekend trip:
[Olympic National Park], [North Cascades National Park], [Mount Rainier National Park].

It's hard to believe it's all from this last weekend :-)

Eh, apparently the Rainier pix are quite similar to [my 2012 trip there] :-)

The rest of the albums are [here].

- Alex; 20140904


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