hiking, New Jersey, Personal, Uncategorized

Off the turnpike: Hiking the Garden State

I am not normal. I am destined for a desk job in an air conditioned office, writing code all day, but on the other hand I love being outside in nature.  Hiking (Or short trekking, as if I had my way, the map and GPS would only be backup), rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, fishing, camping (Which I don’t get to ever do it seems) and now I’ve added geocaching to the list. I’m also damn proud of my state as I state here, the state is not everything people say, there are no toxic waste dumps, and everything is not off the turnpike, and there are hundreds of miles of hiking.

I recently moved into an apartment for college. If you follow me on twitter or know me, then you know more details about that and maybe the area. It’s in the New Jersey Skylands, or the Highlands, depending on your discipline., which is a prime spot for hiking. Just a dozen or so miles from the Appalachian trail (AT), which provides 72 miles of trails coming from New York State into New Jersey slightly North if High Point in Montague, down to Mt. Tammany, a 1526 foot peak. Across from Mt. Minsi, it ends the southern portion of the AT in New Jersey, and its a popular short day hike. Easily done in a day, even coming from points as far as Cape may, it’s one of the better hikes in New Jersey, but as I’ve come to find, not the best. I’m sure you may want maps and more info on these hikes, and I’ll list info for all hikes mentioned here at the very button of the page. Continue reading

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Personal, rant

New Jersey!

This is an essay I wrote for a History Of New Jersey Class. It’s mine, if you find it online while grading my homework, it’s because I put it there. Please enjoy it either way.

“New Jersey has it all. If you want something, look for it in Jersey. The best parts of New York in actually in New Jersey, the Giants and Jets play here, the Statue of liberty is ours, the our food will actually pass a health inspection. We’re the dinner capital of the world, and if you’re looking for a quick bite of each anywhere south of I-195, every town has a Wawa, which are magically places filled with amazing food, inexpensive coffee, and subs the New Yorker’s would kill for.

We have the shore, or beach as you probably know it, and the mountains, and a large pine forest called the Pine Barrens, and a third of the state is state or county parks. You’re never more than 20 minutes from somewhere to fish or hike and places to kayak or hunt aren’t too much further out of the way. In a long day, you can go from hiking in the mountains, to swimming at the shore, and still have time to sit down and eat at a 24 hour diner for dinner and take a trip down the scary Shades of Death or Clinton Roads on the way back home. And I guarantee between the music on at the diner or the radio in the car, you won’t go a day without hearing from any of the musicians from New Jersey, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, or even the Jonas Brothers.

The parkway and turnpike will not get you everywhere and most people couldn’t tell you “what exit” they live near. Largely the State Highways are the preferred routes. Some like 57 are mostly scenic while others like 38 are built up. The roads have names but no one ever uses them. And it is never socially acceptable to say “The 57”. It’s 57, 295, 38. We’re in too much of a hurry to add the extra “the” to the roads. No matter where in the state you are, you’re never far from 206, which will get you to and from the beach area easily.

We also drive better than anyone else. Yes we might drive a bit fast, but the Stateys generally leave us alone for reasonable speeds, and some of us do forget an occasional turn signal, but when it comes to using jug handles and we always know what exit gets you where you want to go, usually be name and by landmark of the closest fast food restaurant.

As for the “Real” housewives and the ‘shore, most of them are New York transplants. New Jersey has everything, hoodlums and fist pumping jackasses are included in that, but are by no means a majority. Guess they came here because we really do have everything. If it weren’t for all the tolls to leave jersey and their inability to get a real job, they’d have left the state already.”

I’m from New Jersey and proud of it. Don’t like it? Get out of the state. This guy has the right idea.

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Gmail@EDU saves college students money

College kids don’t have money, and most companies know and respect that we’re poor, but still want to learn and grow. Most offer student discounts, sometimes very generous ones, like Adobe. Others offer free stuff, or unbeatable deals, like the Windows 7 Ultimate steal.

Gmail has a trick where many “ghost” email addresses go to the same place. It’s useful in gmail, but when coupled with the power of a @Edu email address, it can save students a fancy penny or two. Continue reading

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Darktable is open source darkroom (Adobe lightroom clone) for linux.

After switching my major to graphic design, I was looking for linux software to replace the standard expensive adobe suite that is the standard of design.  While searching around ubuntu repos and my favorite resource, software.opensuse.org I saw a program with a promising description. Darktable, who’s website describes it as

darktable is a virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers: it manages your digital negatives in a database and lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable. it also enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

It reminds me of Adobe Lightroom, my favorite piece of the adobe suite I could never convince myself to buy, because it lacked the linux support I so desperately need. Darktable, right off the bat, meets 2 of my most important needs. One of course, is linux support, specially my favorite distro, openSUSE (But I also found it in repos for Ubuntu, which I am giving another try), and it is Free, and open source under the GPLv3 or above.

In ubuntu, it, there’s a PPA and .debs listed on their Launchpad, and sure enough, openSUSE had rpms in a standard repo (multimedia:photo/openSUSE_11.3)

Installer for openSUSE 11.3.

It is not in the 11.1 or 11.2 repos, however, it has made it into the factory repos. I’d be willing to bet the current release would work on older versions of openSUSE, but if they don’t please sound off in the comments, and I shall fix it appropriately. Source and git snapshots are also available, as well as Fedora, Gentoo, arch linux, and even some (outdated) Mac OSX builds. Their sourceforge page says a windows version is in the works.

Now let me just say, darktable is awesome. Just awesome. It is just what it claims to be, a digital darkroom, contrast, temperature controls, lighttable, tonecurves, exporsure. Think of anything Adobe Lightroom can do, and I’d bet a days’ wages that darktable can do it. (Ok, pick a day, any day…that I’m not working 😉 )

I’ve been playing with darktable quite a bit for my many graphic design classes, But as I have to turn all that work in, You can see my test screenshot below, or visit their screenshot gallery.

Among its little bonus feature is the ability to save to Picasa web albums, a good replacement for the wine-cannibalized version of picasa provided by google.

As their Main developer,henrik, pointed out in a comment on the original post, Darktable is non destructive. It saves the changes to text files, not actually editing the original image. This also allows you to take snapshots of changes, and apply the history stack to multiple images, so your perfect changes using darktable’s 20 plus tools, can be reapplied to any image you want to.

To export the changes to an image, you double click the image your editing, which sends it back into the album view, where you can select one or many images, and then use an export tool, to save the changes.

Just one small example of darktable’s abilities, not particularity good, but I can safely say, this has becomes a permanent part of my  linux photo toolkit.

Original Image

Darktable edited Image, color distortion, Vignetting, and a few other minor distorts just to show darktable's power.

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Open Letter to Governor Christie on the funding for REBEL

Dear Governor Christie and whomever else it may concern,

I know you are in a tough position with the budget, but there are somethings that just should not be cut, because the good they do much outweighs the price to keep them running.

REBEL, is just such an organization. Mainly funded from the fruits of many tobacco lawsuits, REBEL takes money from the tobaccos companies and and uses it to help enlighten people to the evils they cause. REBEL is a great help to the people of New Jersey.  Through REBEL, teenagers get to have fun on the trips and retreat, be involved in a program they can directly contribute to, and get to see the differences they make, in the lives of smokers, and young people who tobaccos companies illegally target.  They also get to talk directly to their peers about it, see their reactions, and are trusted as friends, instead of corny overpaid TV and Radio ads, or sad attempts like the WE card to cut back on tobacco use.

That’s the bonus. The kids involved enjoy this, as well as being able to have a direct impact, without paying for Ads and won’t work anyway.  I personally have done 10 mini-MTLS (Mini tobacco learning symposiums) Teaching freshmen in high school the dangers of smoking, not sounding like a corny advertisement, but talking to them, as they would ask an older friend for advise on college. They listen, and they respect our voices, because we are people their age talking to them are their friends and peers. We Talk, they listen. I believe we have a better effect on them than parents, ads and counselor do, because we know our stuff, provide relevant, interesting and up to date information, and deliver in in such a way that we grab and hold their attention, but are still respected as their friends and peers.

The teachers also listen when we talk. After my school added its zero tolerance tobacco policy, teachers were no longer permitted to sneak smoke breaks. A Teacher who had a lot of influence on me, switched to gum and has quit, because of the rules several of us have gotten enacted. Several other teachers have, last I saw, but back on how often they smoke, and are trying to ease into quiting. This was also done, because of REBEL and two students who helped enact a comprehensive tobacco policy at our school with the help of our moderator and Burlington county REBEL adviser.

I am a strong believer in the anti-tobacco movement. I picked it up from my dad, who smoked on and off for several years, never became addicted, but eventually realized it effected his breathing, his running, and overall mentality. He told me from an early age what it did to him, even for the very little time he smoked. He quit as soon as he made the connection between his health problems and smoking, and was one of the lucky ones that was able to quit. Its a good thing he did, because my mothers always told him, if he had smoked when they met, she would not have acknowledged his existence.

I’ve been a rebel member for 3 years (From the time my school started rebel until I graduated), and even thought my college does not have a REBEL chapter, I still help out and support rebel at every chance. I have 3 brothers who are active in rebel as well, two of which spent some time in REBEL 2 in grade school. I was proud to, as a new member be included on signing a petition that helped pass the New Jersey Clean air act, and have gone to several REBEL conventions, county meeting, and help out for out school meetings.  Most of those mini MTLS’ I did, were coming back as a alumni, to help teach these kids about the dangers of tobacco.

REBEL plays several roles. One, teaching the members about anti-tobaccos so they know better for use later in life. Two, teaching fellow students and being active in the youth community promoting tobacco free lifestyles and showing the harm it does in order to keep young people from ever trying it to begin with.  Members are also included on helping to reform rules in schools to create a comprehensive tobacco policy. And lastly, We take the knowledge and skills outside of the youth and school community to our older friends, family members are others that we care about, and try to get them to quit by teaching them, what they were never taught growing up.

In my school REBEL worked with another club, that promoted generally healthy lifestyles, free of drinking and drugs. When we formed rebel,  most of us in the other club, joined REBEL because it promoted the same ideals were were already living, and allowed us to help others as well as have fun.  Some of my best memories of high school came from trips and events that involved REBEL, from rocking climbing, to hiking and camping, to teaching a class of 30 freshmen about smoking and seeing their faces as the come to the realization of how back it actually is for them.  It has also given me a chance to meet a lot of new people from other schools, who I never would’ve meet otherwise, as well as grow closer to some old friends through the time we spent together and common interests.

From a monetary standpoint just think of what little REBEL costs to run. Compare that to the money saved from health bills further down the line. You’ve got the statistics, take a look at what it costs a person to smoke for a lifetime, both in cost of tobacco, and health care, its more than it costs to have a few preventative measures in place. Then again, health care costs may not actually be too high, the tobacco will probably kill them before it gets to that point.

So Governor Christie, I’m asking you, leave some funding in there for REBEL, You get your money’s worth. Free spokesmen and women, who believe int he message and work better than any paid advertisement ever does, who take their time and effort to help smokers, the young people who are targeted by tobacco companies, and people in general, who no longer have to sit in a diner and smell cigarette smoke polluting the air. This is one investment you can’t afford to turn down.

If I didn’t believe in the cause, do you think I would’ve taken my time to write you this letter?  Help us make New Jersey a better place by funding REBEL, and promoting a tobacco free, not just smoke free, lifestyle starting at an early age.

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Shit is fucked up-Lets Fix it: Kayleigh’s Law

Dear Governor Christie and other lawmakers of The great state of New Jersey,

I know you are not entirely to blame for Kayleigh’s Law, but your office seems content to use it as a way of discriminating against young people and new drivers, whether or not they are a perfect driver with no previous record, or a reckless, cell phone using drunk driver. I take offense at being targets by this law, and with it, becoming a quite literal, cop magnet, when in my few months of driving, I have done nothing wrong, have no record, no accidents, and now, I am being singled out, because I am young. While we have drunk drivers, murderers, child predators and habitual cell phone users, with records both on and off the road.

These are dangerous people, some who have caused trouble off the road, but use driving a means to evade the authorities, or have caused crashes and deaths on the road, be it their fault or not.

So Why, in anyone’s mind, should I, a young driver with no record, paying more for car insurance than anyone else in the world, be discriminated against and force to be an easy target for police, who may or may not have a reason to pull me over, and will use it as an excuse to nit pick. When there are drivers who habitually drive drunk, have records for it, who are allowed to drive on the roads like anyone else (Of Course now, Like everyone else who’s over 21).

Now for the record, I have nothing against being pulled over if there is something wrong, or something looks wrong, its a cops job to investigate, but these stickers are a free pass for cops to pull over kids, who have done nothing wrong. Not to mention alerting other drivers will avoid us as if we’re from P.A.

In my mind, If your going to pick us out of a crowd for being young, and assume young means unexperienced, but yet, you let known trouble maker, many being repeat offenders, drive drunk, without any kind of warning label to other drivers, as you do with us. Lets make it mandatory to put a sticker on every driver who’s had an accident before, and big bright letters to label drunk drivers as such. What about old people, and child predators and car thieves, why don’t we just label them all?

While we’re at it, lets Give Former Governor Corzine a big bright sticker, so next time he passes someone doing 90 on the freeway without a seatbelt on, we know to avoid him too

EDIT May 1st, 2010:

As of Today, Kyleigh’s law has take effect. 17 year old drivers and older drivers with their probationary (formerly provisional) licence can no longer have 2 guests in their cars, besides from family members, have been restricted to 11 pm instead of the 12 PM it once was.  All drivers who have their 17 year old licences or their permit must have 2 stickers on their car, one on the top left corner of each the front and the back licences plates. The cost is $4 per set, one set per car and they cannot be switched (Its Velcro) Decals should be removed when the student is not driving. They are a metallic red-orange and highly reflective. There is a 100$ fine for not having them on your car if you should.

There is one protest asking all drivers, underage or not to buy and display the decals, as to make the law worthless. I am in favor of this move, as a way to hold off this wrongdoing until someone comes to the senses and it’s repealed.

There was a law passed in a Florida long ago, that has special licences plates for rental cars. Someone rammed 9 drivers off the road, targeting tourists who didn’t know the roads. 9 people were murdered, and the law was repealed.

I hope Kyleigh’s law does not come to murder or rape before it is repealed, but I’m afraid this ‘feel good law’ will result in horrible tragedy before anything is done to fix this.

For people asking, it is spelled Kyleigh, not Kayleigh.

She was a 16 year old in Washington township who got into a car with someone she barely knew, and he crashed and killed them both. Its a tragic story, but not a reason for restricting all drivers, she made a stupid mistake and he fucked up. She should’ve been smarter than to get in a car with someone who she didn’t know well, and he should’ve driven the speed limit and more carefully.

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