Starting with Ruby

Recently I was digging through the many PDF and other ebooks that I have purchased and found Learn to Program by Chris Pine. The book has a publication date of 2011, but I have no idea when I bought it, so I started looking into it. Rather than a philosophical approach to programming, it introduces the reader to programming with Ruby. As with nearly all introductory books, this one is easy to get moving with. The concepts are almost universal, so I have been making nice progress. However, Python is what I really need to be working on.

A blurb I read somewhere claimed that Ruby draws on the best of Perl, a language I never touched, but I once read it was developed by a linguist, which explains some of its quirks. Since I once studied linguistics, that made me chuckle. All the same, the linguistic basis might explain some of the nifty string methods in Ruby.

Oh, I also upgraded the default Ruby installation on Mac OS X to 2.5.0. I picked up some nice gems, too.

Atop Pikacho Peak

On Sunday some friends and I decided to go up Pikacho Peak, a peak that stands alone along Interstate 10 and is notably tall with sheer faces. When driving past it on your way between Tucson and Phoenix, you can't miss it. It is now an Arizona State Park. But you might wonder what it looks like from the top, and whether anyone can get up there.

We started about 8:45, later than we wanted but fortunate on an oddly chilly morning. The lady at the entrance collected our $7 fees and reminded us to wear hiking boots and carry two or three liters of water. I went with Chuck Taylor high top sneakers and six liters.

The start seemed not too worrying but soon it was uphill and the water began to weigh.

Once we got to the base, the wheezing and pounding hearts stopped. Things levelled off for a while, but we were soon near edges, seeking footholds and toeholds, and pulling ourselves up on steel cables.

The pictures that can do the most challenging parts of the ascent justice are those where you least want to free a hand or set down a backpack to fetch a camera or phone.

The climb took almost two hours for me, although others in better shape clearly go up in less time. Near the top, you might be pleased to note you are higher than most of the birds living on the peak fly at. There is some satisfaction in looking at hawks from on high.

There are actually two peaks, the shorter of which was far less crowded. Regardless of the peak, you can see entire trains, areas watered and not, and more.

The return was not the knee killer I had feared. However, it was turning almost crowded with all the people coming up. We had to stop in places to let others pass including some older people with what looked like ski poles and a surprising number of foreigners. There were also pairs of young people carrying no water whatsoever. They were not going to be very comfortable. I ended up drinking about two liters, but I should have drunk more.

Sure enough, I wound up with two blisters on my toes, but my shoes are now broken in for the next excursion.

The next day my calves were very stiff, but it was well worth it. That said, I don't know whether I will be in a rush to go up Pikacho Peak again.

A Student to Marry

I greatly enjoyed most of my Japanese students and colleagues, but I have retained contact with only a few of them. Most of my acquaintances are from my Tokushima University days, during which my Japanese ability began to improve and the size of the city, smaller than Sapporo and Tokyo, helped me get to know people better. My last unwed student recently sent photos of the man to whom she is now engaged, who proposed by writing "Please Marry Me Rie" in fruit syrup on a dessert plate at dinner.

Congratulations Rie!

Display non-Roman Script in Seasonality Go v4.0

One of my favorite applications for Apple products is Gaucho Soft's Seasonality, which I have been using for years. It is a great weather monitoring application, with the particularly nifty animation of particles indicating wind temperature, direction, and velocity.

The iOS version is Seasonality Go, which is well worth buying if you monitor multiple weather locations. If you want to see your locations' maps in the local languages' scripts—e.g., see Tokushima City in Japan as 徳島市—the app itself does not (currently) offer a language display setting. You must flip the following setting for Maps, which you find by going to:

Settings : Maps : Always in English and switching it off, as shown below. Turning it on (green) leaves you with the Roman alphabet.

Settings : Maps : Always in English

Now we can see the weather in the language where it's happening.

Not Tokushima weather but 徳島市のお天気

Suicide of an Acquaintance

Last night I was very saddened to learn that a young man I knew at IUPUI had killed himself three days prior. He was a few semesters behind me, so I first met him when he was in ECE362, a required course on assembly programming, that I taught with my friend Nathan. He was a hard worker, often coding away in the lab, but he never seemed to get angry about it; the frustration he showed seemed quite minor. Indeed, I had contacted him about coming to work with me after he graduated.

It was a real shock to learn of his suicide.

Trip to the Northwest

Recently I made a trip to the Northwest to see a friend who runs two restaurant franchises. He and his wife welcomed us warmly! Since they work long hours, we were left to our own devices, which mainly meant our rental car and my GPS unit. Despite the haze from the many forest fires, the skies were pleasantly overcast, the air was refreshingly moist, and there was green everywhere but in the grass.

We drove around the Bremerton area but visited just two state parks: Scenic Beach and Illahee. Both had ample forest filled with tall trees and curious ferns. Views across still bodies of water are plentiful, but I did not smell the omnipresent faint turpentine that marked my first trip up there. We strolled the short main drag of Poulsbo and bought tasty breads at its Scandinavian bakery. The tiny town's Safeway has a fireplace!

After a few days we were ready for the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. Just two hours long, the ferry was very dull as the weather left little to see. There was also minimal space in the hold, so getting in and out of my car was miserable. However, Canadian immigration was speedy and we made our way to our hotel at the foot of Craigdarroch Castle with no trouble. We visited the Royal Museum after a tasty late seafood lunch downtown. The next day we visited the Castle and chatted with a well-travelled photographer. That was followed with a trip to Butchart Gardens, which was truly delightful and loaded with international visitors. After dinner at Fishhook, where our waitress was a sweet lass from Regina, an odd fellow asked if I would continue being loud on his bus, to which I replied I would not. He then asked if we were tourists and apologized on the behalf of Victoria. The next day we drove about until it was time to queue for the ferry back. A trio of women from Astoria, Oregon, made the 90 minute wait go quickly. Our return trip was under a blue sky with broad views of the Sound and its encircling mountains. US immigration was astoundingly fast!

Soon we were in Port Townsend, with its nifty Victorian buildings and superb views over the Windmere Islands. I was miffed at missing the Hoosier owner of the 1020 Café but we did eat a bit at Aldritch's before returning to my friend's house.

Construction and accidents did not prevent our making our flight home to Arizona.

No Python

While I have been busy writing Python code, I have not had time to get any well documented for posting here or even on StackOverflow. There is so much going on that I forget the neater bits in the pursuit of various tasks.

However, I have acquired a new Cosmonaut stylus for writing on my tablet. It feels nice in my hand, with a pleasant heft to it.

Checking in with WordPress

Work has kept my busy, but WordPress has been updating itself. My new iPad needed to have various accounts updated, so that is what I am doing. Some Python posts might appear in the near future.