Jan 062013

Back in November, I took a two-week vacation down to Argentina and Patagonia.

I’ve finally uploaded the photos online.

Please go view the full album here!

Some selected ones below:
Butterflies in Iguazu:

Iguazu Falls Panorama:

Perito Moreno Glacier:

Torres del Paine:


Recoleta Cemetary:

Sep 212012

It’s pretty annoying supporting both Windows and Linux systems. One of the things that comes up over and over is line endings. You’re about to run a script, and immediate get an error about the bash command not found or something bizarre like that.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to fix this.
(note, in the following, to type the ^M character, you’ll actually be typing ^V^M)

Solution 1: use sed

sed s/^M//

Solution 2: use the same replacement string in vim


Solution 3 (the really easy way): Use the dos2unix command that comes with most *nix distros:

Feb 252012

Continued from Part I.

(For the complete set of photos, see the SmugMug gallery.)

On one of the days, we headed over to Mono Lake for the sunset. We were hoping to catch sight of some of the brine flies that we saw on Life (or was it Planet Earth?), but the main visitor center and local interpretive centers were closed, so we ended up going to the southern tufas, where none of us have been. Driving down the road to the lake, it looked like this:

You can see the tufas near the edge of the lake off in the distance. Tufas are these vertical mineral structure that are built up over thousands of years of underground mineral springs bubbling up through the lake. Over the thousands of years, the water level has also dropped dozens of feet, exposing these large white structures. They are gorgeous, especially in the light of a mountain sunset.

The sunset created a spectacular mix of oranges and warms from the sky, and the blues from the lake and tufas:

There were some ancient plants too that had been covered in dissolved and crystallized minerals:

Some more pictures of tufas:

We ended with a long hike in the ancient bristlecone pine forest. The Methuselah grove visitor center burned down in a fire two years ago, and was still in the process of being rebuilt. The elevation here was about 12,000ft, so the air was thin, the temperature was below freezing, and the wind often pushed 30mph. We jumped around a bit to warm up. Katie said she could touch her toes:

And off we go! We were panting for breath 10 minutes into this. Yay elevation!

Bristlecones are considered some of the oldest trees in the world, with the Methuselah pine, in this grove, the oldest living tree in the world, at 4,483 years old. They are highly resilient to all kinds of environmental conditions, including fires, cold, lightning, and erosion. They can adapt their vascular structures depending on destruction and water sources, and have giant roots that hug the surface to collect the rare near-surface water.

Nearing the top of the mountain, we took a lunch break:

Speaking of age, can you guess which is older?

Yes, in fact, that tree is about three times Jessa’s age. It also requires no jacket or gloves or hat. And is growing through straight rock. That’s actually one of the most amazing things you notice as you see these trees–so often, they are growing through, around and into solid rock. They are totally the honey badgers of trees. Bristlecone pine don’t give a shit:

This is the definition of gnarly:

A whole forest of these gnarly trees!

They’re called bristlecone pines because they form these purple bristly pine cones (thanks Ilya for finding one!):

Windswept and wizened:

At some point, we were all freezing, even in our winter coats, and were hurrying to get back to the car:

Another awesome tree:

With the elevation though, we still took breaks:

Group picture with an SLR?

What’s crazy is that trees like this are actually alive:

We ended the day parking for an hour or two, waiting for the sky to get dark, then looking at the stars:

Katie and Ilya stayed in the car since it was too cold. Look what you missed!

Feb 252012

(The complete set of photos can be found in my SmugMug gallery.)

After the disastrous 2nd annual Mammoth Lakes ski trip, we embarked on our third one this year over MLK weekend. The problem was that there wasn’t any snow in Mammoth Lakes. Well, no problem, some of us said; we’ll just go hiking. And so we hiked through terrain for five days that’s usually completely impassable this time of year save on cross-country skis or snowshoes or crampons.

Tioga Pass was open this time of year for the first time since the 1930s, which cut an hour or two from our drive from the Bay Area to Mammoth. Tioga Lake was frozen over though, so we had a bit of fun (and a cold picnic) on the open ice.

The buckling of the ice as the lake heats up and pushes new ice outwards is incredible:

On our first day of exploration, we headed over to several volcanic craters that were formed in the creation of the Sierras. This required driving the Outback on a forest road, which, despite the serious lack of snow, was still covered in a thin layer of packed snow and ice. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity of both low ground-growth, and low snow, we walked around the crater.

We saw this tree that was quite a fine specimen of its species:

Our next spot was hiking around Obsidian Dome, an enormous deposit of volcanic rock, including, unsurprisingly, quite a bit of black, shiny obsidian. The approach was another sketchy drive on a forest road, followed up a very steep (and very sharp) scramble up volcanic boulders:

There wasn’t exactly a top–the terrain was highly variable–but once the steep part ended, we felt like we were on a foreign planet:

Even in this rather inhospitable environment, the moss and lichen still thrive:

Many of the rocks look like they had been carved and patterned by rainwater, then readjusted by erosive forces:

Quite incredibly, there were even a few rare firs popping out of the ground. Other hikers have taken the liberty of protecting these young trees with a bit of a human touch:

After about two hours of walking aimlessly, trying to follow one of the winding trails, we were mystified by where the obsidian part of Obsidian Dome was. All we were seeing was this much lighter rock–rhyolite?–and occasionally, there was some granite. Though, after rounding a turn, we saw in front of us huge formations of much darker rock:

Indeed, we had found column after column of shiny, glassy, black obsidian:

An hour later, as the sun was setting, and temperatures were quickly plummeting below freezing again, we found the winding trail down to the forest.

In part II, Mono Lake tufas, and Bristlecone pines.