Christopher
Stoll

Climbing Trip Report: PMRP

Climbing Trip Report: PMRP

On our first climbing trip, in the still very frigid month of March, a group of six of us went to Muir Valley. For our second trip, in the surprisingly sweltering month of May, four of us made the journey to the Red River Gorge. For our last trip of the year, our group had dwindled to three. The rest of the group was, respectively, busy taking care of a new human, finishing a doctorate, and settling in to a new job. Which, from a climbing perspective, was a shame. The weather for this trip was just about perfect. It was cool with low humidity, and the remnants of Hurricane Willa passed to the north of Kentucky, yielding only mild showers on our travel day.

The only downside to beautiful weather is that everyone likes to get outside and enjoy it. I would guess that the number of climbers out on any given day is somehow proportional to the quality of the weather. Fortunately, there is so much accessible climbing in the Red River Gorge that, with a little planning, it is not hard to find a wall to climb. And, great weather opens up routes which are less desirable under cold or raining conditions. Our unofficial guide, Doug, picked some crags in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) which seemed likely to give us good climbing opportunities.


Miodomel

Miodomel

This was going to be another post in the ‘ancient mead’ series where we create modern interpretations of historical mead recipes. However, I found this excerpt to be interesting enough that I didn’t want to wait until I had come up with the interpreted recipe. I may pull out the main miodomel recipe and give my interpretation of it at some point in the future, but for now, here is an excerpt from the 1845 book “The Beekeeper’s Manual”1.

An immense quantity of honey is consumed in miodomel, which is as common as beer in this country. The numerous Roman and Greek monasteries have always their cellars well stocked with this favourite beverage. The monks, friars, priests, and nuns, of all orders and denominations, are exceedingly fond of it, and they know best how to make it. And, as there is a very numerous body of these fanatics or idlers, they help greatly to the universal consumption of the products of the earth, especially of honey; the only good they ever do render to the communities which feed them.


Plugging IOT Data into a Machine Learning Pipeline

Plugging IOT Data into a Machine Learning Pipeline

Let’s intelligently connect many pieces of legacy infrastructure to the internet, and do it in such a way that insights can be gleaned from the all data it generates. The premise sounds simple enough, but in practice such a project requires deep knowledge of a wide range of technologies. However, by breaking the problem down into discrete, logical pieces, we can prove that a working solution is possible in a relatively short period of time. We did this exact thing for a recent project, and this is the overall approach we took.


Ancient Meads: Mr. Masillon's Metheglin

Ancient Meads: Mr. Masillon's Metheglin

In this series we create modern interpretations of ancient meads. This time we will look at a circa 1660 metheglin recipe from Belgium. The original recipe says that hops can be used to help preserve the mead, and we will be making that miodomel (mead with hops) version. We are going to use Saaz hops, which we hope will help bridge the mildness of the mead with the spiciness of the clove and ginger. Our one gallon interpretation uses SafAle BE-256 yeast, paying homage to the original recipe’s Belgian roots. The original and modern interpretations are below, if you are up to it.


Changing Dev Stacks: Ruby on Rails to Elm on Feathers

Changing Dev Stacks: Ruby on Rails to Elm on Feathers

From the fourth quarter of 2017 through the first half of 2018 I was almost exclusively creating Ruby on Rails applications. After the excitement of mastering a new toolset wore off, I started to feel that I was working on a dated platform. There’s nothing inherently bad about Ruby on Rails, it is a time-tested and validated approach for creating reliable monolithic web applications. But, having just previously worked at a shop where we figured out how to build actual microservices, building monolithic applications simply felt dated.

I certainly wasn’t going to use microservices out of the gate for my side projects, but I at least wanted to abstract the presentation layer from the data access layer. So, I needed a set of tools which made creating SPAs (single page applications) and APIs as easily as it was to create views and models with Rails. Where I landed isn’t quite as easy, but it is fairly enjoyable, and I really don’t even know what I’m doing yet. The stack I landed on was Elm for the front end and, for now, FeathersJS for the backend.


Data Bias and Machine Learning

I have often heard people say, “the data speaks for itself.” This sentiment is not only naive, it is also very dangerous — especially in a world of big data and machine learning. All data is seen through a lens, and the conclusions drawn from the data will change with the perspective of the interpreter.

We know that if we give an article to one of our right-leaning friends they could give us a much different interpretation than if we gave the same article to one of our left-leaning friends. The lens that they use to make meaning of the article determines the conclusions they will draw from it. This is no different when raw data is algorithmically interpreted.


Generate PDF files from HTML and other web formats

Modern web applications are commonly split up into two major parts. The first part, called the front-end, is the part that most people interact with. The second part, called the back-end, is hidden from users and manages all of the information which is needed by the application. Splitting applications like this separates the rendering of the information from the generation of the data, which brings certain efficiencies.


From Akron to Charit Creek

From Akron to Charit Creek

Last summer we drove from Akron to Fort Collins, Colorado. Although it was a great experience, we wanted to drive a little less this summer. So we came up with a new adventure idea. We wanted to find a place which was off the grid, but had front-country amenities, like running water, toilets, and great food. And, it had to be within about eight hours of Akron. It seemed like an impossible ask, and I was fairly sure that we would have to compromise on at least one aspect. Then I found Charit Creek Lodge in Tennessee. Amazingly, it has all the desired amenities and is just seven hours and fifty minutes away. As an added bonus, it costs about the same as a stay at a major hotel chain.

Rather than driving straight to Charit Creek, we decided to break our trip up. We were going to do a mix of backpacking at Zaleski, car camping at Cumberland Lake, and lodge camping at Charit Creek.


Finding Related Jekyll Posts Using LSI, for Github pages

Finding Related Jekyll Posts Using LSI, for Github pages

On this site I write about, what I like to believe is, a diverse set of topics. The normal way of presenting posts using a sequential list does nothing to help people discover other material on the site which they may also be interested in. I wanted to provide visitors with a list of links to content which is similar to the page they are currently viewing. However, due to limitations in the platform I’m using, there was no option to simply turn this on. So, I wrote some code and implemented an algorithm to solve this problem.


Simple Microprocessor Design

Simple Microprocessor Design

This details the hardware design for a simple 12-bit microporcessor. I created it for an undergraduate class which I took a few years ago. It is not really usefull for anything besides learning how computer hardware works, but I still think that it is pretty cool. I found the documentation for it on my hard drive and remebered how proud I was to have actually completed it; I am a computer scientist, not a computer engineer. Simple logic gates are used as the basis for the creation of more complex digital electronic circuits; those circuits, including a control unit, are in turn connected via a datapath to form a completed processor. The processor datapath is designed to implement the Simple-12 instruction set.


Battleship AI Algorithm Using Dynamic Programming


(image via Wikimedia)

My boys and I enjoy playing a mobile version of the classic battleship game when we are waiting our turn at the barbershop. However, the artificial intelligence algorithm this specific game uses is so feeble that even my youngest son can consistently beat the computer player. So, I started thinking about improving the algorithm. I searched the web to see if there was already an established, dominant algorithm. Although I found several clever implementations, including one that used probabilities and another based upon a checkerboard pattern, I did not find one that I particularly enjoyed. After thinking about the problem further I came to the conclusion that this problem would be well suited for a dynamic programming algorithm.

From my perspective, the best approach to take when searching for the opponent’s ship is to target a square that is in the center of the longest line of unmarked squares. It would be even better to find a target which is at the intersection of two long lines of unchecked squares. To me, this is an effective divide and conquer approach similar in spirit to the concept of binary trees, the problem is finding an efficient algorithm. The problem seems to lend itself perfectly to the dynamic programming approach.


The Ballpoint Pen

Although their use is slowly fading due to society’s increased reliance upon computers, the ballpoint pen is still used on a daily basis by most people in the United States. What is now an inescapable piece of disposable technology began its life as nothing more than an expensive and seemingly short-lived fad. Popular media accounts from the mid-1940s track the ballpoint pen’s rapid initial increase in popularity followed by its similarly precipitous drop. After this initial popularity spike the media chronicled the ballpoint pen’s gradual rise from novelty to ubiquity.

On a trip to Argentina in the summer of 1945 a businessman from Chicago named Milton Reynolds discovered a fascinating pen that he was certain could be a commercial success in the United States. Reynolds brought some of the pens back to the United States with him, and within a few months they were being mass produced by his newly formed company.