Back in the middle of October 2004, Sol and I went to Battad (I'd link to something there, but I don't see anything good in the first few links in Google, and there aren't that many hits). I'd been there before (in 1997, with danilo and kim, if they develop websites or blogs I'll have to come back here and link to them) and had been raving to her about how great it is there. Of course, this was in hindsight, and years after the difficulty of the hike up the mountain had receded into a pleasant memory.

This trip, we took the overnight bus to banaue, had breakfast there, took an overpriced (PHP 300) tricycle to the jump off point at Battad (long ago, we took a jeepney to I forget where, maybe Bangaan, got off at the junction and walked up the mountain). They've been building a road so the hike is much nearer if you jump off from the end of the road, and much nicer if you start walking from the junction. Here's a view

of the walk from somewhere around the end of the road down to the ridge that has the hostels where tourists can stay (click on the image for a larger version).

From the end of the road, it's still something like 45 minutes or more to battad itself. It's mostly downhill (and you can shave some time off that by taking the much steeper route, we didn't though since it was drizzling and slippery when we got there).

When you get to the ridge with the hostels, there are a whole range of choices. Most of them are about the same. There are slight differences in hostel "personality", but they're generally all good. This trip, we stayed at Simon's. We were going to stay somewhere else, but there were other guests there. Simon's is a bit out of the way (only a really little bit, it's just beyond Rita's I think it was, and beyond Simon's there aren't any more hostels). The rooms are basic. There are no 3 star hotel amenities here (although the bathrooms are very good, much better than they were during our last trip). There's not even any electricity in Battad (maybe in a few years there will be, there isn't now though, although I think one of the other hostels had solar power or similar, not sure what they used it for though). The room was very comfortable though. Everything at Simon's was great. I'm sure at the other hostels it's much the same.

I artistically disarranged the pillows there :). It's neater than that.

Here are views of Battad from Simon's. Click on the images to view larger versions.

a view of the village of battad from Simon's dining area
Battad from our bedroom window

The food in Battad is nutritious and good, but there's not that much choice. For the
sake of adventure, we had the pinikpikan chicken. It's interesting to think about, but I'm not having that again. It's not just because of what they do to the chicken, but also the fact that the soup is bathed in the smoke of the chicken's feathers. That gives the whole thing a strange bitter taste that I don't much enjoy. Last time I went to Banaue, Battad and Sagada, I had a lot of omelette. You can still get omelette wherever you go, that's probably the safest food choice for most people. You can work off the cholesterol walking up and down the mountains.

Simon's has reasonable pizza and pita (well, actually, they use the same flat bread for both).

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. To be honest, the walk down wasn't that much fun. And the problem with staying in Battad is that one should leave early in the morning

to walk back up the mountain to the junction point. There are always great sights

along the way though.

We had contracted with our tricycle driver to pick us up at 9. We were a bit late, he waited for us and told us that he had some other passengers but he arranged for us to take a jeepney back to Battad instead.


normal distribution

I had to write a program that needed to simulate random data that was normally distributed (bell curve distribution).

Fortunately, I was able to grab a copy of Numerical Recipes in C and found some code on p. 217. The code produces a normal distribution in the range -1.0 to 1.0 with a standard deviation of 1.

My program was PHP, so i translated it from C (K&R!, boy that's old :)

The PHP source is here

Unfortunately, I'm not a mathematician and I'll need to find ways to adapt that code or find some other code where I can adjust kurtosis, standard deviation, etc.

I'd look in Knuth's Seminumerical algorithms, but it might not be there. And anyway, my copy is in Mindanao. I won't be able to refer to that until I go in May.


Email from idiots is spam

I use gmail, and the spam marking feature, and the fact that it's so easy to use, is very nice.

Every once in a while I see vacation messages posted to mailing lists. Every single one of those I mark as spam in gmail. Partly I do that because people who don't know enough to set selective filters on their vacation messages are too dumb to listen to.

The gmail filter will learn from vacation messages which words score high as spam and perhaps future vacation messages will be marked spam and I'll see less of them. Also, the authors may start to score higher as spammers. That's a good thing too, for me. I'll see less of their mail since their mail will automatically go to the spam mailbox, and when I go in there to confirm which emails are spam, I get a chance to despam those emails which are important.

I don't think I've seen gmail do that yet though (filter mainly on the sender's email address), I've seen Bob Reyes' spams about his hosting service end up in the spam mailbox, but that's just because the email was spam, not because the emails were from him.



Sol and I were lucky enough to go on CamiguinAction's Katibawasan Rapelling and Canyoning tour. She was supposed to do her confined water exercises and open water diver qualifying dives. That didn't happen though because of the weather. She did all that when we came back after New Years day instead.

On the 31st though, we were supposed to go back to Cagayan de Oro on an earlier boat, but we took the last boat instead (and lucky to have made it :) because Diggi had some guests who wanted to do the rapelling tour and it was a great opportunity for Sol to go on the same tour. I've done the tour several times, it's neat,

The tour is composed of a hike up to a point above the main falls, walking along the stream to the first wall, and rapelling down the first wall.

She slipped once, but the ropes and harness and the safety setup were excellent and she didn't fall. She just got back up and walked down the wall until she got to the ledge, disconnected the rope and jumped the five feet or so to the water below.

The second (or third,stage, I forget exactly) is a slide. The water wasn't very strong this time, even though it had rained the previous two days or so, but the slide was cool anyway. Everyone else did the slide, except me. I preferred walking down the wall :).

There's another wall, and some walking down the stream and finally we got to the top of the main waterfall. That's too high to rapell down, at any rate, it is for non-professionals. So we just enjoyed the view (there was a slight drizzle, making for a beautiful cool day) and Sol looked over the edge.

After walking down walls and sliding down canyons, of course, we had to do everything in reverse :). So we walked up the walls and back down the mountain.

At the end of the tour, everyone is exhausted, exhilarated, glowing.


Sol is taking her PADI open water course with my favorite dive shop, CamiguinAction. She studied theory (DVD and book) for several days and then took her basic exercises, exam and qualifying open water dives in the last four days.

I went diving with them on dive #1 (Tangub bay) and dives #2 (Old Volcano) and #3 (Tangub bay again).

I missed dive #2 since I was sick that day (something I ate didn't agree with me).

All the dives were great. I don't think I've dived Camiguin this late in the year before (I lost my dive log around when I had my latest and most serious motorcycle accident, I need to find that, it's got to be around somewhere), and the diving is surprisingly good.

Of course, these are qualifying dives, so it's not like I was sightseeing. I was keeping an eye on sol and her classmate all the while, and dive #1 was only to 12 meters. Dive #1 was pretty good, even though only at a maximum of 12 meters. Tangub bay is great even at shallow depths. And while they were doing some buoyancy control exercises I was looking at four nudibranchs, all less than a centimeter long, but walking along the sea floor as if they owned it.

Dive #3, Old Volcano, is always great. There are pillars and canyons from the last volcano eruption, and the sea life is very rich (I saw my first turtle there, during one of *my* qualifying dives in May 2003). I saw a lionfish immediately, and there were large triggerfish, a tuna (in the depths, diggi and dodong saw it, but sol and i didn't), several different kinds of sweetlips, batfish, and lots of other fish which make camiguin diving incredibly beautiful. It's commonplace at all camiguin divesites (incredibly electric blue fish, brilliantly electric violet/purple fish, clownfish, nudibranchs, everything else) but it never palls.

Sol was a bit tense since I mentioned a current. But she calmed down (diggi is a really great instructor, divemaster, and knowing that i'd be around, that diggi was guiding, and that we've got trained boatmen who keep a watch out for us helps a beginning diver's confidence a lot) and we had a great dive.

Dive #4, Tangub bay again, was more interesting than the first dive since we went deeper (18m) and further out. There were still exercises (additional buoyancy exercise, swimming without mask, etc), but they didn't take too long. There was a flutefish much like this one. I thought it changed color to match the color of something it moved close to when we approached it. But sol didn't see that, so maybe I was imagining things. We need to get an underwater case for the digicam :).

There were also incredible nudibranchs, and all the standard fish, lots of triggerfish and it might have been that this was where we saw the batfish and not Old Volcano :).

Incredibly fun dives all around. The last dive at Tangub bay was pretty cold, but it was worth it.

Hay, I hope we can dive in May :).


TSA experiences and impressions

I've seen a lot of ranting and negative reporting on the difficulties and indignities of TSA screening in the United States. I'm sure some of that negative reporting is on target. Something so new and (because it's so new, mostly) ad-hoc is going to cause problems for a bit. It may improve. In fact, I think it certainly will improve, although, like the US war in Iraq, it will always generate negative publicity because it is (although less so) still inherently weak.

That said though, I also have to say that, during my most recent trip to the U.S. (2002), I didn't really have anything to complain about. Things may be different now. Certainly I'd be severely bent out of joint if my name (or something similar to my name) were on a watchlist and I couldn't find a way to explain to the TSA that that was just someone else with my name. On the other hand, I doubt if there *is* anyone else out there with my name, so, unlike Senator Kennedy, I'm probably not going to have to ring up my (non-existent) high level friends to get my name off the list.

In any case, I didn't have any TSA problems at all when I was travelling. To be sure, I was flagged for the extra search just before boarding the plane at every single flight I was on. But I figured that was because of my age, gender, and country of origin. I thought it was kind of a stupidity to choose me, but they also choose little old ladies and 3 year old children, and I didn't mind much since I never missed any flights.

There's a lot of online and news ranting about rude TSA personnel, but I never encountered any of that. If anything, I was extremely impressed with the politeness of one older gentleman at Dulles airport. And everywhere else I found service pretty good. Of course, I don't feel the need to talk about bombs and chemicals and security stupidities in TSA lines. No doubt that helps. I'm sure that there are TSA stupidities that are due to rule inflexibility. But that's a general failing in the US, and it's not necessarily the TSA personnel's fault. Personal rudeness by TSA personnel is their own personal fault, but as I say, I've just never seen any of that.

Of course, the situation has changed a bit since I was last there. If (or when) I go to the US in a year or two, I won't be surprised to notice a few occasions of TSA rudeness, but I don't really expect to. I figure they're pretty rare. They just get blown up in the press (as they should be, so that individual abusive TSA personnel can get the sack, or at least reprimands).