Mount Evans, fastest supercomputer

Happy Monday to everyone. Did you have a good weekend? Is you new week getting off to a positive start? Looks like were in for some cooler weather, still really nice, just not quite as hot. It was 109 degrees yesterday were my sister Marsha lives, in Amarillo, Texas.

Last Friday I took a drive to the top of Mount Evans. I had a nice lunch with my dad, he then graciously helped me fill my gas tank, so I thought it would be a good time to take that drive. There is still quite a bit of snow, but the road is open. I parked my car in the parking lot at the top of the mountain, then took a hike the rest of the way to the official summit. The view is just spectacular. You can see Long’s Peak to the north, Grey’s and Torreys Peaks, South Park, the Collegiate Range, Mount Bierstadt, the Sawtooth Ridge, the plains – just awesome. To view a four minute slide-show of my pictures, click here. I threw a snowball or two just for the fun of it. There were quite a few people up there, the parking lot was full. There were also some bikers, some riding from Echo Lake to the summit. Just a day after I was there, I read a sad news article about a woman in her twenties falling from Sawtooth Ridge. Click here to read the article. I am very blessed to be so close to something as awesome as the Rocky Mountains. Adventure is just a few hours drive away.

Today in the online algorithm class we learned about the quicksort algorithm. This is recursive partitioning. It is generally faster than insertion sort or merge sort. The mathematics part of this class is way over my head, but I am getting the gist of the algorithms and how they work. The math is about how long it takes the algorithm to run, there is a worst case scenario – the longest it would take to run, the average case scenario, and and a best case scenario. Usually in this class, they deal with the worst case. This is to get a ‘guarantee’ on how long the algorithm would take to run. I suppose computer time is a big commodity when dealing with large amounts of data, such as with phone companies, grocery stores, government entities, the electric company and so on.

The other day I read that Japan now has the fastest supercomputer in history, nicknamed K – a play on the Japanese word kei, meaning 10 quadrillion, the number of operations per second it is designed to perform when it is completed next year. It has performed 8.16 quadrillion operations a second, making it 3 times faster than China’s previous record holder.

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Poudre River Trail, Greeley rodeo, tomato wars

I just got in from a bike ride on the Poudre River Trail, and am sitting down with my laptop and an ice tea. 1:00pm and it is already 88 degrees. Sure is a nice day.

Although the bike trail is open, I did get a little wet on my ride. There were four or five places with standing water on the path. One place was 6-8 inches deep, so my feet got wet. No sooner did I pass through that part of the path when I saw a big bull snake sitting in the middle of the trail. He was not bothering anyone, so I left him alone. The river is still running real swiftly and has not receded very much. There were several other people on the trail, so for all practical purposes, I suppose most of the trail is open. It will probably remain closed were the path goes under a bridge. The water is probably still too high in those areas.

This time of the year is rodeo time. The world’s largest 4th of July rodeo starts tomorrow, June 24th, and goes through July 4th. We will probably start to notice some of the ‘cowboys’ and their trucks and horse trailers in town. There will be a flapjack feed, nightly concerts, a carnival, a demolition derby, and a daily rodeo with the finals being won out on July 4th. The 4th of July fireworks are a neat thing to see. People park their cars within viewing distance of Island Grove Park and are treated to a pretty spectacular show. In the morning of July fourth is the parade. Sixty-thousand or more people line the streets of the parade route and see: marching bands, hot-rod cars, lots of horses and civic leaders, beautiful floats, clowns, street sweepers, tons of American flags, and a jet fly-over at the start of the parade.

During a quick trip to get some more ice tea, I saw 40-50 horses riding thru town. Riding them were sheriffs and local officials of Greeley. I suppose it was to kick-off the Greeley Independence Stampede. I read that the Independence Stampede is losing money, and has done so for the last three years. I wish them well and hope they have a great turn-out this year.

Today for my algorithms class, day 2, there was a young guy, really smart; however, he was not as good of a lecturer as the day one professor. He just lectured on the math of algorithms, most of it was over my head, but I understand that mathematics plays an important role in developing algorithms – in trying to find out the best solution as far as the time it takes your program to run. I’ll probably continue to watch each day’s lesson. When I was in school, a long time ago, I did not have the chance to take an algorithm class. I know algorithms and data structures play an import role in programming, so I think it is good to have some sort of understanding about them.

The tomato wars are back. During the 1980’s and 90’s, Twin Lakes was the site of Colorado tomato wars. People would throw tomatoes at each other and get all covered in tomato juice. The wars were stopped in the early 1990’s due to some legal requirements. I remember driving by the 1987 war in Twin Lakes, they were really going at it. They’ve been brought back to Copper Mountain, Colorado. They will have a tomato fight this Saturday. There is a charge of $39 to participate in the days activities.

How about the Colorado Rockies. After starting out the season in the top spot in their division, they are now in third place, three and a half games behind the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks. If they can get some consistent pitching, and some good batting they may work their way back into first place.

I just got done applying at a work-at-home company. VIPDesk is looking for customer service professionals to service an outdoor audio company. They cater to snowboarders, skiiers, and surfers. The company sells audio products to 18-35 year olds. They sell headphones and things you can wear while participating in one of these ‘action sports’. VIPDesk calls the position a Brand Ambassador. Who knows maybe I’ll get through the application process, which includes a background check. Their background check consists of a credit check and a criminal check. I just recently completed the bankruptcy proceeding so my credit should be fine, and I have no major criminal history.

Have a great day!

Online learning

Hi, How is everyone today. The first full day of summer is pretty warm here in Greeley, about 82 degrees.

If you are into online learning, you might want to check out youtube.com. Today I watched a video class on algorithms. It was a recording of a Fall 2005 class at MIT – Introduction to Algorithms. The whole semester’s worth of classes is all online. Of course you don’t get the personal interaction, course hand-outs, and you also don’t have to take any quizzes or tests. What you learn is kind of up to you. I am going to start “attending” this class. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what is available on youtube. There are a lot of amateur instructors, I have watched quite a few of these videos on python programming, usually these videos are about 5 to 10 minutes long, with the classes from MIT, Stanford and Google, lasting for up to one hour and 20 minutes – a whole class period.

In the introductory algorithm class, I learned two ways to sort a list. The insertion sort and the merge sort. As far as efficiency – (computer time to solve the problem) – the merge sort is more efficient when the number in the list is about 30 or more items. The only time an insertion sort is effective is when you have 30 or fewer items to sort. You can have a mainframe working on a insertion sort and a personal computer working on a merge sort, and the personal computer will out – do the mainframe eventually. Python has a built in function to sort lists, sort() and sorted.

Did you happened to read about the young penguin that got lost and ended up on a beach in New Zealand. The emperor penguin is the first spotted in the wild in 44 years. He will probably be lonely without other penguins to interact with.

Biking, Mt Evans

Greg on his mountain bike

Hello on this Tuesday afternoon, the first day of summer. Hope all are doing well and life is treating you good. I just got in from a bike ride and sat down with my ice tea and laptop.

Earlier today I took a drive up to Mt Evans; however, when I got the the turn-off, a sign said that the road was closed. Today was free access day, so I thought I would get in free, but to no avail. I guess the snow the mountains got yesterday was too much to keep the road open. I should have known it would take a while to re-open. I had a nice drive anyway and enjoy those kinds of day drives to locations around our great state of Colorado.

On my bike ride, I conquered the ‘Windsor hill’, a .4 of a mile hill near the town of Windsor. I have tried it 3 times on my mountain bike and have made it 3 times. It is a good warm up for the rest of the ride. After topping out I pedal on towards the Wal-mart distribution center about 4 miles away. So in total, I went about 8 miles today. The other day as I was topping the hill, I looked over to my left and a road biker was also just topping the hill. I said ‘Hi’ and went on. It is more difficult to reach the top on a road bike, the last time I tried this hill with my road bike, I had to get off and walk it to the top.

"Windsor Hill"

That reminds me of the last time I drove the the summit of Mt Evans. There were a group of about 50 -100 bikers all pedaling their way to the summit. None of them had mountain bikes they all were riding road bikes, what we used to call 10 speeds. When I got to the top in my car, I asked one of them where they were from – Boulder. Boulder, Colorado is one of the biking capitals of the United States. These bikers were in such great shape. They were some of the best conditioned athletes in the world. I have a challenging time walking three steps at that altitude, let alone biking for 15 miles, all above timberline. The Mt Evans summit is 14,264 feet in elevation or about 4348 meters.

For my next ride, I will check out the Poudre River Trail to see if it is open. Sections of it may be accessible for riding.

IMAX, working virtually from home

Hello all. How is everyone doing? Hope you had a restful weekend and are ready for the week ahead. I got my dad a nice card and a tie for Father’s day. He wore it today. He’s already received a compliment on it from one of his co-workers – Helen, she said it looked pretty good on him!

My mom and I drove to the Denver museum of Nature and Science on Sunday to watch an IMAX movie. We saw ‘Born to be Wild’. It was in 3D so we had to wear some 3D glasses. The movie was about orphaned orangutans and elephants. The tropical rain forests are being destroyed and leaving the orangutans with no living environment. The babies are brought to a sanctuary where they are hand fed and raised by a human mother. Then when they are able to fend for themselves they are released into the wild – a protected area with plenty of rain forest for the animals. The baby elephants are similar, usually a poacher kills the mother and the baby would die if it were left to fend for itself in the wild. The movie shows a baby elephant in a herd of bull elephants, usually the babies are found in a herd of female elephants. The wildlife rangers know something is wrong because it is with the males – it’s mother probably killed by poachers. The rangers catch the young elephant and bring it to a refuge where there are other baby elephants to start raising it at the refuge. At first the young elephant is apprehensive towards humans, but after a little fighting he settles down and is ready to be a part of the sanctuary elephant group. Elephants won’t eat if they are not happy, so the workers take them out and play with them all day. Elephants can play soccer and can actually run very well. At night, since baby elephants are never left alone in the wild, they will actually sleep with a human. In their small cabin, the elephant gets the straw floor and the human, a small cot.

The 3D was kind of neat. When the elephants and humans were playing soccer, the ball was kicked towards the camera. Everyone in the audience quickly moved their head so they would not get hit by the ball. There were only a couple of times when this happened. Through out the movie, the 3D makes you feel as if you were right there with the humans, elephants and orangutans.

I had been going through the application process with a home-based customer service company. The company was called Cloud10. They had me take an aptitude and personality test. Those went well. Then they wanted a test result on my computer. My new 64-bit computer did not pass. They said they have tried to make their software work on 64-bit computers but they have not done it yet. So that computer was out of the question. Then I submitted the test results for my 32-bit laptop computer, that did not pass either; because, they do not accept laptop computers. I still think my 64-bit computer would have worked – it can also run 32-bit programs. Anyway, I think working at home would have it’s advantages – no commute, freedom of working independently, take your breaks at home, and so on.

Some of the virtual companies I have had contact with recently include: HigherOne, Talk2Rep, Arise, Cloud10, and Arvixe, to name a few. In the past I have done some work for Tier 3 support, Telvisio, Butler Hill Group, Cha Cha, Amazon Turk worker, Clickworker.com. Virtual workers are growing in the United States. These American companies hire Americans who speak great English and are able to understand where an English speaking customer is coming from. I am all for it as long as these companies treat us fairly and maintain a standard of work.

Telecommutejoblist.com, virtualvocations.com, and craigslist.org are some of the websites I’ve used to investigate virtual work. Craigslist has openings in and around Northern Colorado while the other two websites have telecommuting jobs listed.

Just for the fun of it I am going to fill out an application for Liveops (liveops.com). Here is the message I just got from Liveops: “Unfortunately, LiveOps will not be able to qualify your business at this time since we are not currently qualifying Independent Agents from your state”. So they are not hiring from the state of Colorado right now. I know that some of the virtual companies are only able to hire workers from certain states, probably for some kind of legal reason.

750words.com

Hi, how is everyone today? I hope all are well. I have tried a new website the last couple of day, well, new to me. It is called 750words.com. It is about writing at least 750 words each day. You earn points and can see some fun statistics on your writing. You can write about anything you want to. Some people use it to sort out their feelings, or you can write on a particular topic, the possibilities are unlimited. I have had fun writing about some of the things that interest me, and while I’m at it, I’ve posted the results to my blog.

Today, I have been working on Project Euler problem 62. So far it has been kind of challenging. The last few problems have been difficult. The solutions I’ve come up with take too long to run, and/or the algorithm is not sufficient to solve the problem. I really have to admire the experts who have worked out some of these problems. There are the really elite group that has conquered all of the problems up to 342. Then there are people like me that have solved the first sixty or so problems and then only a few more after that. I admit some of them are real easy and take only 15 minutes or so to solve, and some of the problems can be solved in a day or so. There are a few of the problems that have stumped me and I am still working on them after several weeks of intermittently trying to solve them.

Another project that I’ve been working on is a python program to create a photo-mosaic. It takes a .JPEG picture and divides it up into many smaller pictures, then takes the average color of the small picture and replaces it with another small photo of similar color. I think the directory of replacement photos has about 100 pictures to choose from. This program has also been very challenging, I am still on the part that divides up the original photo. The challenge being to divide up the original photo, keep track of where the smaller parts go in relation to the whole picture, and then be able to reassemble it into a whole picture. A 375 x 210 pixel photo will have 1024 small pictures, I can’t imagine working on a regular size photo yet.

Update: Just solved Project Euler problem 62, Yahoo! It took less than 10 seconds to run. The goal is to have your solution run in under one minute, of course the speed depends on your computer. I have a pretty modern system, so the problems that I do solve, run fairly quickly.

Greeley is under a sever thunderstorm watch again today. The skies have become a little darker, we might get a shower later on tonight. It is kind of interesting when we have a lightning storm. There is a tall cottonwood tree in the field next to our home, and it seems to attract the lightning strikes. They are really loud, you see the lightning strike then just an instant later, boooooom. Two summers ago, in 2009, we had quite a few of these lightning storms, last year, not too many, how will this summer turn out? I hope we have some good storms, they are fun as long as you are safely inside your home.

That’s all for now.

Just about summer time

So here we are, it is just about summer time in Colorado. Officially next Tuesday is the first day of summer. What will summer bring? Record breaking temperatures? Flash flooding? Lots of thunder and lightning? Or just hot long days. We will probably have a bit of each of these things.

The spring run-off has already peaked in Northern Colorado. The Cache la Poudre River is now receding, all be it, just a little bit. Most of the Poudre River bike trail has been barricaded off and continues to be so today. 83rd and 95th avenues are now open after being closed for a few days. There is still a lot of snow in the mountains, so we will continue to see a full river for several weeks. I don’t think the run-off was as bad as some thought it would be. There was just some minor flooding in the low lying areas. The duration of the run-off is what will probably last well into July this year.

For me, it has only been a minor inconvenience. I’ve just had to alter the places I go for my daily walk to an open section of the Poudre River Trail. Also, I’ve had to choose an alternate place to bike. No big deal. For those who use the trail to bike commute between Greeley and Windsor or Fort Collins, I am sure it has been more than an inconvenience to them. Riding on the shoulder of most roads is risky at best; although some roads have an adequate shoulder for bikers – with all the automobile traffic in Northern Colorado these days, those are the only kinds of roads I take when biking.

I have seen quite a few pelican’s this spring as I go for my walks. I read that they are coming to Northern Colorado to nest. They nest on islands, which of course has to be near a body of water. I like to watch them fly – they like to catch an updraft and glide in big circles. Bald eagles are also prevalent along the Poudre River Trail. In January I saw a few of them sitting in the trees along the river, they would fly from tree to tree. Now I only see them as they are flying very high over the lakes and fields. They probably have been nesting.

The trees, lawns, and vegetation sure are green this year. We were blessed to finally get some rain in May. I feel sorry for the folks in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Their drought has not ended yet, so there have been numerous fires in these places. The big Arizona fire has been the largest in state history, the Southern Colorado fire has closed Interstate 25 near Trinidad. Fire crews continue to try to extinguish them. They may just have to burn themselves out in areas where the fire crews are unable to work on putting them out. I hope and pray that these areas will get some substantial rain soon. Up until we got the rain in May, the front range of Colorado had what seemed like a forest fire in every season. It was not just the dry season of fall. I would still make sure I had fire insurance if I lived in the foot hills or mountains of Colorado – or anywhere else for that matter.

Tuesday, June 21st is a “free day” for all national parks – we don’t have to pay an entrance fee. Each year the National Parks Service has a few of these “days”. National Parks are still a very popular destination for visitors. I am blessed to be within an hour’s drive of Rocky Mountain National Park. I plan on doing some hiking this summer when the snow melts. There are many great trails in RMNP. One of my favorite is the Bierdstadt Lake trail. It starts at Bear Lake, is fairly level, and goes for about two miles to Bierdstadt Lake. Another favorite is the Deer Mountain trail. This is a climb of Deer Mountain. The trail goes for about 3 miles and has an upward grade, not real steep, just a steady upward climb. Some of the more serious climbs I would like to do this summer include: Mt Chiquita, Twin Sisters, the Fern Lake trail, and part of the Lawn Lake trail. I will have to wait until the latter part of July due to the snow that will still have to melt.

What ever you are doing this summer, may you be safe and have enjoyable adventures.

7 things to do instead of following pro football this year.

So what’s up with the NFL lockout? Are the players and owners any closer to an agreement? It has been going on now for over two months, and I don’t know if either side is any closer to the kind of understanding necessary for the 2011 season to be played. Anyway, I hope and pray that they resolve the situation soon. After all, what could the owners possibly want that they have not had up until now? New stadiums, a great fan base, with most of the games being sold out each week. It seems as thought the owners have enough money to contract with a few star players, several millions of dollars each season. One thing that had been mentioned about the owners was free agency for every player regardless of their situation – after three years of playing with a team. I don’t think that is such a bad idea, why don’t they try to get it through negotiations.

Americans are just too hooked on the NFL. It is a part of our culture to watch a football game on Sunday afternoon, and root for our favorite team. A great American pastime. What will all the fans do without football? Let’s try to think of some things we might be able to do instead of watch football on Sunday afternoon:

  1. Get outdoors and walk for 30 or more minutes. Exercise is great for the cardiovascular system, increases mental stability and it is always good to be close to God’s creation. Weather it be watching birds, the weather, the trees, the lawns or whatever you see in the great outdoors.
  2. You could go for a bicycle ride. Most metropolitan areas have bike trails that are to be utilized by you and me. Get that bicycle out and air up the tires, and get a workout.
  3. Learn to cook. Spend some time in the kitchen and bake some cookies. If you are more adventuresome, try a new recipe. This can be a wonderful way to do something enjoyable and have some fun too.
  4. Clean house. Every Sunday would be a great time to get your weekly cleaning done. Dust off the furniture, clean the light fixtures, then get out your vacuum cleaner and clean the carpets. It is good for a carpet to be vacuumed often. Next you may want to give your kitchen a clean over. Wash and dry all dishes and utensils in the sink, clean the sink, clean the counters, spot clean the top of the stove, mop the floor, organize the refrigerator, dust off the top of the refrigerator. There are all kinds of things to clean in a kitchen, and in a home in general.
  5. Just relax and spend your time doing something you enjoy. Reading magazines or a good book, taking a nap, spending quality time with your spouse or loved one. Utilize the telephone to call someone in your family, near or far.
  6. Get interested in another sport. Fall is for baseball. MLB has it’s play-offs and World Series in September and October. Maybe your area has a pro baseball team you can follow. Baseball is not all that boring. There is a lot going on during a game. The pitching and batting are the focus of a game. The pitcher throws the ball, tries to get the batter to strike out. He may throw a fastball, curve ball, splitter, slider, or a knuckle ball. The batter has practiced hitting these kinds of pitches. His goal is to get a base hit and get on base. Anything more is icing on the cake. There is the occasional home run, home run with runners on base, and once in a great while a grand slam – a home run with the bases loaded.
  7. Follow college football. This can be more exciting than the pro-football season. College fans are very loyal and get real excited about their team. The plays are just as exciting as pro ball. There are the awesome catches, fabulous runs, and great tackles. There is also the Heisman trophy that is awarded to the most outstanding college football player. Some people argue that college football should have a play-off system like it’s pro counterpart. I think the bowl games and voting system is just fine for college football and nothing should change.

What ever you decide to do instead of follow pro football this year, enjoy yourself and stay safe in all that you do.