Monday, December 29, 2008

Road trip - Hoover Dam, Sedona and Monument Valley

Last week I went on a road trip to Sedona and Monument Valley in AZ.

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First stop Lake Mead, Nevada. Looked like rain. Thankfully it didn't. Not for another 2 hours. Hoover dam was next. It was packed with tourists, cold and overcast skies. Looking down the dam from the top, I wished I had a bicycle or something to slide down the slope of the dam.

Just a few miles out of Hoover dam we were treated to some truly wonderful, jaw dropping light play. The sun dove from behind the clouds just before setting, over a river (probably Colorado River) and behind mountains. That was the first time I ever saw such rays of light that made it look like the sets of a fairy tale - dark clouds above, quickly swallowing the last golden rays of the sun.

That evening we drove through sheets of rain. We were lucky we didn't miss anything because of the rain. We were already on our way towards Phoenix.

The next day we headed towards Sedona. We stopped at Montezuma's Castle for about an hour.

Sedona is where the Red Rock Canyon is. A nice city nestled between the Mountains, on the Canyon floor. I loved the city more than the Canyons. We regretted not doing the Hot air balloon ride over the Canyons. Next time perhaps. It starts early in the morning at 6 AM. It was too late by then for us.

After watching the sun set over the Canyons, we headed north towards Monument Valley. We stopped for the night at Kayenta.

The first thing you get to see as you drive towards Monument Valley is El Capitan, the solitary formation that greets all visitors.

Monument valley is almost close to the place where 4 states meet - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. This is quite similar to the formations in Bryce Canyon but no way near it in terms of sheer number of such structures at Bryce. At Monument valley, there are a few stand alone structures spread across a vast plain. Certainly worth a visit if you loved watching MacKenna's Gold.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road trip - Sequoia and Death Valley

I went to Sequoia National Park and Death Valley this long Thanksgiving weekend with friends.

Here's our route map:

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We started on Friday evening from the Bay Area and reached Three Rivers, near Sequoia and stayed at a motel there. The drive up to Sequoia was covered in a thick fog that you could almost cut with a knife. Well that's how it looked to me because I'd never driven through fog before.

Anyway, the next morning we were up and about in Sequoia and the first thing we saw was a pair of Black bears (one was brown in color) feeding on berries or something, on a tree right next to the road. What luck!

Black bear feeding on a tree - Sequoia Natl Park

Sequoia was disappointing because everywhere we went, there was fog. We could barely see the top of "General Sherman" - the star attraction at the park. This was obviously not the right season.

On the way to Sequoia Natl Park

All we did there was hike around Crescent Meadow.

Crescent meadow - Sequoia

On our way back, we drove past a wandering Coyote. At first, I thought it was a dog, because it was standing on the road, staring at us and hoping we'd throw something to eat. We didn't. Obviously - "Don't feed the animals".

Coyote on the highway - Sequoia

By evening, we had already left the Park and we were well on our way to Death Valley. We stayed at Beatty, NV because that was the only place we could find a vacancy.

The next morning, we had breakfast at a nice little Mexican joint in Beatty and headed to Death Valley.

Death Valley has basically 2 circuits - the northern leg and southern leg. We did the north stretch - Titus Canyon, Scotty's Castle and Ubehehe Crater. The Racetrack was too far away and we were driving a rental car with mileage problems (Yes, it was an American 4x4). So, we had to skip it. Northern circuit was so so, except for the Crater.

Titus Canyon - Death Valley

Ubehebe crater at dusk - Death Valley

Day 2 - the southern circuit was very good. The Sand dunes, Devil's golf course, Badwater, Artist's drive and Dante's View were wonderful.

Devil's Golf Course - Death Valley

Badwater Basin - Death Valley

We were on Dante's View during sunset and it was very windy but beautiful. Zabriskie point is probably a nice spot to watch the sun set like Dante's.

Death Valley from Dante's View

Sunset at Dante's View - Death Valley

Sunset and Moonrise at Dante's View - Death Valley

Food at Lone Pine was good - Pizza Factory and a Mexican place called Bonanza.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Camelus dromedarius (Apache Camel - for lack of a witty title)

If you still haven't heard of Apache Camel or seen how elegant the concept is, you should stop and have a look.

I think a lot of credit should also be give to the authors of the Enterprise Integration Patterns book. I wouldn't consider the book to be ground breaking, but a worthy reference book. Just like the old GoF Patterns book.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Point Mugu, Malibu

Last weekend I went hiking in Point Mugu near Malibu with some friends. The weather was great, although it was raining all the way. Thankfully, there was no rain near the trails. Inspite of it being a 9 mile hike, the trail was quite gentle. The last part of the hike where it runs right along the coast was beautiful. Cool winds, cloud cover and to top it off, we could see it rain in the distance on the ocean! Wonderful!

Some photos..

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red vented Bulbul

red vented bulbul, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Indian Gaur

Indian Gaur, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Tawny costers

tawny coster, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Monday, October 06, 2008

Great rally car driving

Two of my favorite Rally car videos. The speeds they're driving at and on those roads just seem incredible.

Ari Vatannen doing Pike's peak:

BMW hill climb:

Friday, September 05, 2008

An evergrowing list of open source Distributed computing projects

It's incredible. The list of Java based grid/distributed computing software keeps growing. And...they are all open source. Some of the latest ones: Facebook's Cassandra and bigdata.

Some of the older ones: Got cache?

Java for HPC

An recent publication on the performance improvements in modern day JVMs. More details posted by (Sir?...Lord?) James Gosling.

Monday, August 04, 2008

StreamCruncher source on Google Code

I uploaded StreamCruncher version 2.3 source code to Google Code a few weeks ago. If anyone is interested in maintaining it, you are most welcome.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Windy Hill

Last weekend I hiked for about 5 miles in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. Just a few miles off of 280N - Alpine Road. I simply loved this place. Although I missed the (Hamm Gulch) trail I had intended to take on my way back, I didn't mind coming down the steep Spring Ridge Trail again. The beautiful view of the Bay Area from up there should not be missed. The best part was the bench that faces the Bay. To be able to sit there and take in the view alone was worth the effort.

The trail markers are confusing, especially if you start from Portola Road. I couldn't find the route to Hamm Gulch. Instead, I went up Spring Ridge and then at the summit, I went down Anniversary Trail, thinking that I'd be able to find the other end of Hamm Gulch. But I missed it completely and found myself trundling down Spring Ridge again! Strangely, I learnt from my co-worker the next day that he too had got lost there before.

Oh yeah, there's a reason why it's called "Windy Hill".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Small green bee eaters

Small green bee eaters, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Small worlds

12x9-P1010562, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore


P1010579, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Purisima Creek Redwoods

Last weekend I did a 7 mile hike in Purisima Creek Redwoods. It's almost across the street (CA 1) from Half Moon Bay Beach. It's quite nice. You get to see the Ocean at times while hiking.

I did the Purisima Creek - Soda Gulch - Harkin's Ridge loop. Mind you, the last bit of Harkin's trail is very steep, although it's wide enough to be a Biking trail and it probably is. It might be good fun to ride a bike downhill. We had to hike downhill. It would've been quite tough had we come the other way around.

You might also find a Quail nest where Harkin's Ridge and Soda Gulch intersect. Be careful not to disturb the birds though!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

ConcurrentLinkedQueue has performance issues on multi-core machines

Recently, I was experimenting with a few thread-safe/concurrent linked-list implementations available in the JDK. The performance of some of them were strangely, counter-intuitive. I posted this question on the Sun forums. You can find more details there.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Misty mountain hike (Point Reyes)

Point Reyes - the best hike I've done so far. It was hard to believe that summer had already started. We spent most of the first half of the hike 12-12.5 mile hike from Five Brooks Trailhead to Alamere Falls, in mist so thick that it was precipitating as big droplets in some places. It was a magical feeling to hike alongside moss covered trees, spring flowers and a beautiful water fall into the ocean at one end of the hike.

The waterfall (Alamere) is situated at the end of a hard to reach trail. Be sure to wear a full sleeve shirt and trousers. You can also climb down the slippery cliff face to the beach with the final level of the falls, if you are up to it - probably one of the most secluded beaches on the West coast.

Be sure to carry a map with you as the directions/signs are a little confusing (but correct) at many places. Stewart trail (the one we took for the most part) crisscrosses many other trails. You will find this one and the Ridge trail meeting at many places, so much so that you can end up hiking in circles.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hiking in Big Basin Redwoods Park

Summer solstice. 11 mile hike. Insufficient drinking water. can imagine how it must've been. This was my first "long" hike. I've been doing 4-5 mile hikes. This was a little unplanned. That's why we ran out of water midway. Ouch! Not a good thing but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

The highlight was Berry Creek Falls (pic below) which was exactly midway. A refreshing stop considering that the trail took us up-down..up-down..Sore feet and knees were inevitable at the end of the day. All in all, I'm glad I did this trail (Skyline-to-the-Sea -> Berry Creek -> Sunset). The best part was Kelly Creek that flows along the Skyline trail. At some points there are small rocks on which you can relax and dip your feet in the cool water.

Gopalaswamy Hills

Gopalaswamy Hills, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sam MacDonald County Park

There are a few decent trails here. I did the Towne Trail - Heritage Grove Trail loop. It must've been a 4+ mile hike.

The Towne Trail is wide enough for horses. There is also a horse camp on the hills. Naturally, you'll find the whole trail to be littered with manure. A little too much, I thought. I found myself dodging piles of .... This trail is up on the hills, covered with grass. A welcome change compared to dark forest floors with Redwoods towering over you. At this time of the year - the tall grass looked like fields of gold.

Towne Trail leads to Heritage Grove Trail, which you can take to get back to the Parking Lot/Ranger Station. This half of the trail is mostly downhill, in the shade and thankfully, horses are not allowed.

Over all - it was quite good, considering there were just 4-5 people I during the entire hike. The drive up to the park on CA 84 was good also pretty good.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Woodpecker & chick

wood pecker & chick, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Brown fishing owl

Brown fishing owl, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Muir Woods and Muir Beach

If you are planning to do a serious hike and get away from it all - avoid Muir Woods park. It's very crowded at this time of the year. It's more like a showcase for Redwoods and naturally, it's very tame - meaning fit for families with kids, to take to a park on Sundays.

Well, anyway, we continued further along - quickly crossing the boardwalk and onto Fern Creek Trail, then Lost Trail and back to the Visitor Center via Ocean View Trail. The Trail guides suggest that you do this the other way round - i.e starting from Ocean View. But I found it more rewarding to climb up Fern Creek Trail than down. It's quite steep.

Since I was in that area, I thought of driving down to Muir Beach. It's not worth spending time at the small beach. But don't miss the Coastal Trail that starts from the Beach entrance. Again, it's quite steep but you keep climbing until the edge, where you finally get a glimpse of SF City in the distance.

Muir beach (SF in the backdrop)

Muir beach

Muir beach, originally uploaded by ashwin.jayaprakash.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Castle Rock Park 2

Castle Rock Park 2, originally uploaded by ashwin.jayaprakash.

Castle Rock Park

Castle Rock Park, originally uploaded by ashwin.jayaprakash.

Picnic at Castle Rock

My hike left me in a much lighter mood than the "Hanging Rock" movie. I went there on a Friday afternoon (Yup, had the day off) at around 2 PM. This place is just 35 mins away from my place. But then, aren't most parks in the Bay Area just 35 mins from where you live ;-) It was a bright, sunny afternoon. Very few people around. I couldn't have asked for more. I did the Falls -> Goat rock loop. I didn't venture into the Ridge trail. I'll do it another time.

If you are driving down 85S, use Saratoga Ave instead of 17 - which is what most Maps suggest. Saratoga (CA 9) is a more peaceful drive, quite narrow roads and you'll enjoy it if there aren't many cars on the road.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Blue tailed bee eaters

Blue tailed bee eaters, Naguvana halli, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Monday, May 12, 2008

Memory - don't forget it hurts

I as a Java programmer have often wondered, don't long running programs/servers written in C/C++ have issues with memory allocation at all? I'm not talking about very special programs that you really wouldn't care writing in any language other than Assembly like - bit transferring or blitting or something low really level. I'm talking about medium to large scale applications with lots of business logic, decent concurrency requirements ... the kind of programs Java and .Net are used widely for.

It turns out that leaving memory allocation completely to the programmer is a pain in the backside. Without a managed runtime, any good engineering team using C/C++ ends up either developing their own memory allocator or buying one, because most of the allocators that come with the standard compiler kits have problems with scalability on multiple-cores/cpus/threads and over a period of time the heaps become fragmented.

And this is not just ordinary software - I'm talking about Video Games written in C/C++. It's interesting to read this - GameDevBlog: STL & Memory allocation on consoles and about efforts going on to make FireFox 3 better.

Now Java, on the other hand, which is supposedly (to the semi-ignorant folk) slow has a great choice of allocators - many of which work well on multicore platforms. The other advantage (depends on which way you look at it) is that fragmentation is less of a problem with "Copy collectors". And with the new Generational GCs rapid, consecutive allocation of temporary objects is actually very fast in Java. Plus there are other GC settings to choose from. Agreed, there is plenty of room for improvement - which is why Sun is working on the G1 Collector and let's not forget the Real-time JVM.

Before you go, here are a few more articles to read in your next coffee break. Just to understand how well Java's HotSpot has improved over the years:

# Java running faster than C

# Compiler Intrinsics

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blue-tailed Bee-eater pair

Blue-tailed-Bee-eater pair, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blue-tailed-Bee-eater, originally uploaded by SRJP.

Pic taken by my dad - Dr Jayaprakash, Bangalore