1. Backpacking: Guadalupe Mountains

    Weekend after labor day, leaving the family at home (thanks and sorry family), I set out to  Guadalupe Mountains National Park with a college buddy of mine, for 3 days of backpacking in the mountains.

    The decision to go was mostly just spontaneous, we have never gone backpacking in the wilderness before, and wanted to try. We finally arrived at the park after 8 long hours of driving and set up camp in the dark.

    You often forget how beautiful the night sky is, without all the light pollution of the city, the view was spectacular.

    The next day we started our hike from the Pine Springs base camp, took the Tejas Trail, up to Pine Top camp. This was the most challenging part physically, since we were carrying around 40 pounds in our backpacks (most of it water) and climbing 2500 feet.

    When we finally reached Pine Top camp, ate lunch (first time I tried an MRE, it was very cool, but not very tasty), my friend threw in the towel, he could not go on any longer. He ended up pitching tent there and going back down to the base camp the next day.

    So I continued on alone, on Bush Mountain Trail, and arrived at Bush Mountain camp. It started to rain lightly as I finished setting up the tent. I quickly heated up and ate dinner, and hung up my food sack on a distant tree. Light rain turned into a thunderstorm, gusty winds, heavy downpour, and the temperature dropped. I hardly slept that night due to the cold, I put on every article of clothing that I had brought and cocooned inside the sleeping bag, yet still half froze to death.

    I was so miserably cold and lonely at some point in the night, I had decided that if it continues to rain in the morning, I will wait out the rain in the tent and make my way back down to base camp. I felt very small and insignificant against the grand forces of nature, and realized that all our modern conveniences back home had simply given me an illusion of control.

    The rain had stopped early in the morning, although it was still cold and windy, I ate breakfast, tore down camp, and started again on my way. Soon I was atop Bush Mountain the second highest mountain peak in Texas. Long day ahead, I continued on Bush Mountain Trail, as rocky desert mountain terrain turned into mossy alpine forest, to grassy meadows.

    Walking alone in the mountains, with the inexperience of the wilderness, first came the paranoia of life threatening dangers — feeling stalked by a mountain lion and hallucinations of rattlesnakes on the trail (upon second inspection, just a twig or a root). I eventually hit a stride cadence, similar to runner’s high or cycling in the zone, that almost seemed like a spiritual experience — endorphin, fresh mountain air, and beautiful landscape ..

    I finally arrived at Dog Canyon, the north-most part of the park. I checked in with the park ranger, to let him know that I made it out of the mountains alive. I cooked an instant pasta for dinner, which was heaven sent, the tastiest thing I’ve ever had in my life.

    The next day I hitched a ride back to Pine Springs base camp and met back up with my friend. The day was still young, so I convinced him to climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas, with me. We got back well before dinner time, so we decided to pack up and head back home early.

    It was an experience of a life time. It was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done. I utterly underestimated how strenuous trekking a mountainous terrain all day with a 40 pound backpack would be. Of course, it was rewarding, as I felt that I emerged from the mountains, back into civilization, as a new being. Close encounters with nature perhaps enthrals my ancestral DNA that once resonated harmoniously with the earth in its circle of life.

     
  2. How To Find Just About Any File Using Google Search

    This age old trick plays on apache web server’s mod_autoindex's auto generation of list of files in directories. All you have to do is prepend “intitle:Index of” to your search query.

    For example, if I’m looking for an eBook, I would google something like:

      “intitle:index of art of war epub” — try it

    Another example, an Android app:

      “intitle:index of aldiko apk” — try it

    Yet another .. mp3:

      “intitle:index of canon in d mp3” — try it

    You get the idea ..

     
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    Free $25 towards Kiva!

    Free $25 towards Kiva!

     
  4. I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen — I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.
    —  Excerpt from American Gods by Neil Gaiman
     
  5. Taming Python

    .. reverse engineering the web, and breaking captcha .. for fun and profit

    While working on a not-so-proud-to-mention personal project some time back, in order to create a [mostly] autonomous website, I chose python as my server side scripting language of choice. I must say that I am pleasantly surprised that I fell in love with the language.

    I crawled and data mined targeted websites with ease by impersonating a browser via mechanize and urllib; “reverse engineering” them using FireBug and HttpFox; and breaking their [not so sophisticated] captcha with ImageMagick and Tesseract OCR.

    I actually enjoyed deploying LAMP stack and postfix/dovecot on my free Amazon EC2. I even tinkered with WordPress [php] source code. It’s such a shame that I utterly-do-not-care-to-waste-my-time-at-all on the graphic design/aesthetics, otherwise I would’ve made an awesome-super-cool-trendy-edgy-macbook-pro-using web 2.0 developer. [Instead I hack away at OS and Hypervisor code for living.]

     
  6. 11:37 9th Aug 2011

    Notes: 1

    Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
    — Native American Proverb
     
  7. [I]f you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
     
  8. Estimated percentage change since 2000 in the U.S. defense budget, not including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan : +80
    Number of American civilians who died worldwide in terrorist attacks last year : 8
    Minimum number who died after being struck by lightning : 29
    —  Harper’s Index, March 2011
     
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