Author Archives: jhorna

About jhorna

After growing up a naked child in the mountains of Colorado, Jhorna moved to the heart of Bohemia in the Czech Republic and learned to say 'you resemble a hedgehog'* in Czech. Later in life she spent a year trying to avoid being run over by rickshaws in Dhaka, Bangladesh. An avid performer, she prefers to only participate in dances that defy the laws of physics. She is very interested in incorporating improvised movement into a structured dance form and is especially intrigued by the various ways in which one can 'walk the edge' of dance. That's because, some days, she takes an envelope out of the box and she PUSHES IT. (*Vypadas jako jezek.)

Death Valley Pretty-Good Bloom

Death Valley Pretty-Good Bloom

The word “chill” is not the first term that would usually come to mind when thinking of “Death Valley” but it definitely captures my experience there. In most national parks, erosion caused by hikers is a real concern, and there are signs everywhere imploring people to stay on the developed paths. Not in Death Valley! In fact, there are only two developed trails in the entire park, and rangers explicitly encourage you to find your own way. It was refreshing to see people following their hearts’ desires as they sought out the ideal picnic spot, or went looking for the perfect photo op.

Not that they’d have to go far for either… You could have taken a picture of the view from any window in my car at any moment in time and have captured a spectacular vista.

Golden Canyon from Zabriskie Point

Now, I seem to love the desert more than the average person, but I think most people would be hard-pressed to say that a view like that is anything but gorgeous. Technically I was visiting for the Super Bloom, but since we were pretty late in the season most of the flowers were already gone. It was still a Nice Bloom though. A Pretty Good Bloom, even.

Since we arrived late at night (10:30pm on Friday night), we chose Stovepipe Wells as our first campsite. Arriving was confusing, because there is no little “tent camping” sign like there usually is for tent-friendly spots. Well, it turns out that this site barely qualifies as a campsite. It’s more like a parking lot that you put a tent in.

Stovepipe Wells Camparking lot

Not my favorite option, but still acceptable as a place to sleep. And at $12 bucks (payable by credit card via a kiosk that’s available 24 hrs a day!), and a loosely-enforced 126 spots, you’re guaranteed some place to stay, which is always a load off my mind. The “campsite” is also directly across the street from the charming Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel, which is very conveniently open 24 hours a day.

There are lots of other camping choices in the park, and you can camp anywhere as long as you’re 2 miles away from the road. Emigrant was directly next to a road with cars zipping by at 65 miles an hour. Furnace Creek, Sunset, and Texas Springs were all of the “parking lot” variety. Thorndike and Mahogany Flat are only accessible by 4×4, high-clearance vehicles, so I don’t know what they’re like. The second night we stayed at Wildrose, which was much smaller and nicer. Looking West:

Wildrose Camping Site

Views in both direction were incredible. Looking East:

View of the mountains from Wildrose Campsite

We put our tent up on the hillside, overlooking the entire campsite. It was lovely!

Wandering around the first day we hit a few incredible spots. Early in the morning, we stopped at the Mesquite Sand Dunes, hoping the morning sun would make it more bearable. The temperature showed about 62 degrees, but the sun still felt scorching hot.

Mesquite Sand Dunes

Even though everyone pictures sand dunes when they think of the desert, this was actually the only spot we saw in the park that was like this (there are other sand dunes, but they’re much farther away). The majority of the park was low shrubs and variegated hillsides with incredible rock formations.

After that, and a quick stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, we drove up to Zabriskie Point, stopping to walk up the gentle, paved slope to the breathtaking view over the canyons. Continuing on, we eventually made it to Dante’s View. This spot provides an amazing vista over the Badwater region.

From Dante's View

After seeing the salt flats from ~5,000 feet up, we decided it would definitely be worth heading down into the valley to see the salt flats up close. I’m so glad we did…not only was it beautiful and informative, but the salt tasted delicious!


On the way out, we did the drive down Artist’s Palette. Somehow I didn’t take any pictures, but it was one of the most colorful regions of the park. The colors were incredibly rich and varied. Next we stopped and hiked a bit up into Golden Canyon.

Golden Canyon

We ended the first day with this hike. The whole day was basically little short hikes separated by time in the air-conditioned car. The park is so huge, and the sun so intense that it’s nice to take breaks from the great outdoors. The second day we drove up to Ubehebe Crater.

Ubehebe Crater

Another mindblowingly beautiful spot. Walking up along the crater rim the path gets pretty narrow. Might not be comfortable for those who are afraid of heights!

The only part of the park I would have wanted to visit and didn’t get a chance to was the Racetrack, with the mysterious sailing stones. It’s something I’ve dreamed about visiting since childhood, but the 27 miles of rough road would have been too much for my little Prius.

Speaking of the drive, within the park there were only a few spots that were unpaved road, and all of those were well-marked on the map you can get at any visitor center. To get to the park from San Diego, we took the 395 through Trona, turning left to avoid Panamint Springs. Next time I’d probably try taking the Eastern route around the park, since you might avoid the LA traffic/construction issue.

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Posted by on Monday, March 21, 2016 in fractally weird


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Python csv parsing

A collection of links that helped me figure out how to parse a .csv file using python:

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Posted by on Saturday, September 26, 2015 in fractally weird


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Pin Change Interrupts on Arduino

A collection of links that helped me figure out Pin Change Interrupts on Arduino

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Posted by on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 in fractally weird


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Cedar Springs Trailhead

Hiking in Southern California isn’t always easy. It’s mostly desert, which means very few trees. That can make for some very hot hikes. Fortunately, it can also make for some gorgeous vistas if you can get up high enough.

This is a beautiful hike that takes you up on a ridge in the Santa Rosa mountains. At the top, you can look down towards the West, and see over Highway 74 to Thomas Mountain, or down towards the East, over Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. It’s a very comfortable 2.2 miles one-way, but more than half of that is on the side of the mountain with little shade. Still, if you have enough water and sun protection, you can make it to the beautifully windy ridge at the top for some lovely views.

View from the ridge

We checked out the maps in the Idyllwild ranger’s station, and spotted this beautiful little squiggle on our way home. The trailhead is marked “Cedar Springs”
Map of the area.

Right at the trailhead, there’s nowhere to park. We drove a little further down the road to where the gravel shoulder widened out a bit and left our car there. Here’s the first gate:

The first half mile is directly in the baking sun, but the next ~1.2 miles wander through tall brush and trees that shade the trail nicely. The trail goes through 4 gates and past one more. Here’s the first gate you go through:
First gate

A bit later you’ll pass by this sign. We were very curious about who would use those picnic tables!

This lower part of the trail went past a stream bed, winding through trees and meadows. It was very pleasant. We passed a group of deer that bolted at our presence, and a little tub of water they were probably drinking from. This gate was held closed by barbed wire:
Another gate

1.5 miles to go! Not pictured: The sign warning about hazardous conditions beyond this point.
Actual trailhead

Maybe .25 miles beyond that sign, we went up a steep section of the trail and emerged into the direct sunlight. It was very hot from this point on with almost no chances of shade.
Desert hiking

The remaining stretch to the top was just endless switch-backs heading up the mountain. Even though we were in direct sunlight the whole time, the constantly-improving views and deliciously cool breezes made for a lovely hike.
Switchback #32

There’s a shady tree right at the top, with a little makeshift bench under it. We sat there for a few minutes, reapplying sunscreen before continuing a few 100 yards south on the PCT to find a spot for lunch. Looking south and slightly East. We could see Salton Sea in that direction:

The PCT continues South along this ridge:

And North along this one, but this section has been closed for a while recovering from a forest fire:

When we got back to the car, we discovered that our Adventure Pass hangtag had melted in the sun!
Melted adventure pass

We estimated that our total hike had been around 5 miles round trip. I drank 3 liters of water, and none of us got sunburned! All in all a lovely hike. I highly recommend it!

Two panoramic views:

Quick facts
Length: ~4.4 miles round-trip to the shady tree at the top. Hikers could continue on down the PCT to the South, but the other trails (to Cedar Springs or North on the PCT) are closed to recover from a forest fire.
Difficulty: Easy trailwise, but challenging conditions, so better for more experienced hikers.
Views: 4/5

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Posted by on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 in fractally weird


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Projects for the future

Dip-dyed ballet flats:

Geometric chain necklace:

Ridiculous pom pom tiara:

Adafruit crown:

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Posted by on Saturday, August 29, 2015 in fractally weird


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Stone Creek Campground in San Jacinto State Park

Camping camping camping!

We went to the ReserveAmerica site and just searched for open tent-friendly sites in the San Jacinto wilderness. There were a few in Stone Creek, and a few in Idyllwild. It took us a while to understand what was available. The ReserveAmerica site says this:

“Stone Creek and Idyllwild are separate campgrounds. Idyllwild is within walking distance of the town of Idyllwild, and Stone Creek is 6 miles north on Hwy 243.”

But their map looks like this:

If they’re separate, why are they on the same map? And there are a few sites that look like they’re right on the border…which campground are those in?

I don’t know why they’re on the same map, but I *can* tell you that the sites on the border are all sites in Stone Creek Campground. Here’s a better map:
That's better.

We never did find the Idyllwild campground, so I can’t talk about that. But Stone Creek was pretty nice! We picked spot #23:


We were lucky with our spot. It’s right on the edge, so slightly more private than a lot of the interior sites. Also, no one was at spot 22, which would have made things MUCH less private. Some of the sites (#17, #19) are nestled in manzanita shrubs, which lends both privacy and shade.

There’s also a bathroom that’s not on the map between sites 16, 46, 14 and 44. Walking to it felt like you were walking through other people’s campsites, so if you can use a different bathroom that would be better.

This whole area felt very ADA accessible! The parking near the nature trail was poured concrete, and the trail itself felt doable in a wheelchair.

We wanted to hike, so the next morning after we woke up we headed off to Devil’s Slide! We knew you needed a permit, and luckily* the campground host had some that she gave to us. Driving to the trailhead was surprisingly tricky. This was the map we wished we’d had (it was only posted at the trailhead, not at the campground):
Yeah, this would have helped.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures from the TOP of Devil’s Slide, because we got kicked off the mountain by a ranger! It turns out that our campground host had given us the incorrect permit.

If you want to do the Devil’s Slide hike, be sure to get the *correct* permit. The safest route is to get the permit from the Idyllwild Ranger Station.

It was still a beautiful day, though:
Just lovely.



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Posted by on Sunday, August 9, 2015 in fractally weird


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Arduino fatal error: SoftwareSerial.h No such file or directory

I’ve been working with Arduino a lot lately, and ran into an extremely bizarre error:

Usually, when you’re adding a new library, you need to follow specific instructions[1] about how to install that library in the Arduino IDE. So, if you’re getting this error with a non-standard Arduino library (like the Neopixel library, or something you’ve downloaded from the Internet), this error makes perfect sense. But SoftwareSerial is included with the Arduino IDE: It’s a built-in library[2]. So how on earth could it not be found? I was especially confused since I had uploaded this code not two days ago!

Here’s what I tried:

  1. Checking that SoftwareSerial was indeed installed in my Arduino IDE application (These instructions are for a Mac, since that’s what I own):
    1. Select the Arduino application
    2. Chose ‘Show package Contents’ – a new window will appear.
    3. Now navigate to:
      1. Contents
      2. Resources
      3. Java
      4. hardware
      5. libraries
    4. All the standard libraries will be there.
  2. Moving the entire SoftwareSerial directory from that standard location above, to the location where all installed libraries are installed on my Mac (other included libraries were installing fine):
    1. Documents/Arduino/libraries
  3. Restarting Arduino IDE multiple times.
  4. Downloading a completely new version of the IDE.
  5. Restarting my computer.

Nothing worked: and the fact that downloading a completely new version of the IDE didn’t solve the issue meant that it was some issue with the way my Arduino/libraries folder was set up. Finally, I remembered that for another project I had edited SoftwareSerial so that it didn’t use any pins on PortD, and included that in my libraries as SoftwareSerialNoPortD. I thought that might be messing things up. A forum post taught me that if you open up the Arduino IDE and go to Sketch->IncludeLibrary… the IDE will automatically generate the import statement:

When I tried to automatically import SoftwareSerial, this is what showed up in my sketch:

Somehow, the IDE had linked SoftwareSerial with SoftwareSerialNoPortD, and couldn’t find SoftwareSerial anymore. I checked through all the files to make sure everything was named properly, and eventually found this file called

I edited it so that it had the correct name for SoftwareSerialPortD:

Quit and restarted the Arduino IDE, and now I’m able to compile fine!


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Posted by on Saturday, July 25, 2015 in fractally weird