Resolutions – March Update

1. Reading

Still making good progress on the reading resolution for 30 books. I finished some massive books this month : 1080 pages for Words of Radiance, 1007 for The Way of Kings, and 585 pages of Android Programming (where I actually programmed all the examples). The android programming book was really good although I don’t think I’ll use much of what I learned. I was originally thinking of making my own hiking/gps app since I’ve never really been happy with the ones I’ve used but my interest in doing that is waning. Anyway, that brings up the year-to-date total to 19 which puts me well ahead of where I need to be (7-8 books) to reach 30 by the end of the year.

  • The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention  (William Rosen)
  • Words of Radiance (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Brian Hardy and Bill Phillips)

What’s next? Well I bought a textbook on Bayesian statistics today so that may be my next big project. We’ll see how the first chapters go – working through a statistics textbook for fun seems daunting for even me (who is really nerdy).

2. 365 Ideas or Opportunities

Good news on this resolution. I picked up the pace this month and added 23 more ideas in March. I now have 62 ideas. I’m still far from the 90 ideas I should be at but hopefully I can crawl my way back so that I will have 365 ideas at the end of the year.

3. Exercise More Consistently

I fell behind in this resolution. I hardly exercised at all in March. The cold and rainy weather is one possible excuse although in reality I am just lazy. Temperatures are rising and the weather is improving so I don’t have an excuse in April. I’ll start tomorrow (that’s what I said a month ago).

4. Online Classes

I am still progressing in my Embedded Systems class. I have complete all the labs and quizzes that have been posted and have a 100% so far. I have two more weeks to complete the class. Overall, I’m really happy with what I’m learning and the workload. It usually takes me 4-6 hours on Sunday to get through the lectures and finish the lab.

5. Build Something

I did build quite a few things but they were all related to either the class or the android book. For the class, I built a few things including:

  • UART communication
  • digital piano (system interrupts)
  • traffic light system (finite state machines)

For the android book, I built

  • Flickr photo application
  • Run Tracker
  • Office Crime  application

Resolutions – February Update

Here’s the February update on my 2014 resolutions:

1. Reading

Still making excellent progress on my goal of reading 30 books. In February, I completed 6 new books, which are listed below. More information is available in my book list. Of these 6 books, my favorite two were the Michael Sullivan books (Fantasy Fiction). So I’m already 50% of the way to my goal of 30 books this year… at least this resolution is going well.

  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (Burkeman, Oliver)
  • The Forever War (Haldeman, Joe)
  • The Rose and the Thorn (Sullivan, Michael J.)
  • The Crown Tower (Sullivan, Michael J.)
  • Emperor of Thornes (Lawrence, Mark)
  • Embedded Linux Primer – A Practical Real-World Approach (Hallinan, Christopher)

2. 365 Opportunities

This is really tough. I currently have a list of 39 ideas / opportunities. In theory I should have a total of 59. No real amazing ideas although I am thinking I will start working on one of the ideas from February as I move into March. It has to deal with an Android app that I would like to use.

3. Exercise More Consistently

Well, I have mixed results for February. I did get out and start hiking a lot more. The hikes have kicked my butt so I’m hoping they are getting me in better shape. However, I did end up gaining 1.4 lbs over the month. I think exercising once a week and eating whatever I like isn’t working out in terms of weight loss. Hopefully, March will warm up a little so that I can get outside and do some running and bicycling.

4. Online Classes

Well, I dropped all but one class from January. It was taking up way too much time trying to do four classes. I think in the future I will plan to only take one class at a time.

  • UT.6.01x Embedded Systems – Shape the World (

5. Building Something

Absolutely nothing. As I mentioned earlier, I do have an idea for an Android app that I hope to work on in March.

Hardscrabble Knob

Today, Jade and I did a 7 mile hike called Hardscabble Knob. The hike started out quite steep. After awhile the trail was covered with 4-8 inches of snow. This made the trail really difficult to follow as there were no markings on the trees. Fortunately, the GPS track I downloaded prior to the hike helped me find my way to the summit. The snow was pretty rough on Jade’s paws too. She had a few scratches and was favoring one of her front paws toward the end of the hike. I bought her a 6″ ham sub to reward her for her efforts. She seemed appeased.

The next two photos were taken of Jade on our way up to the summit.

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The following photo was near the “hardscrabble” part of Hardscrabble Knob. Jade was whining when this photo was taken because she could not follow me on these boulders. She actually did really good. I think as she has gotten older she has become much smarter where she would have darted along as a pup. Can’t fault her for being smart.


The obligatory picture of a sign along the hike. Oooh… exciting.

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The following photo is from the summit.

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Roaring Run

Took Jade on a 11 mile hike called Roaring Run. The creeks were definitely full from the recent snow melt. The hike even had a little history on it – an old furnace from the Civil War (see the historical marker below). This was a great hike. I think it would be even more scenic once spring arrives.

JadeCreek JadeTrail


Fortune’s Cove Hike

Fortune’s Cove is a Nature Conservancy Preserve located near Lovingston, VA. I spent approximately 2.5 hours this morning hiking in the preserve. Here’s a GPS track of the hike.

The hike starts at 840ft but you quickly ascend to a maximum elevation of nearly 2300 feet for approximately 1500ft of total elevation gain. Today was a cold day for a hike with temperatures below freezing (maybe 30F). There were even some flurries on the way up. The following photo was taken on the way up to the hike’s apex. 20140208_120905_HDR copyThe following photo was taken near the top of the hike. There were a lot of areas with this rhododendron, which might look really awesome when they are blooming in the spring. All these photos are taken with my cell phone as I didn’t want to lug around the behemoth Nikon D600 for this hike.

20140208_125547_HDR copyAbout 30 minutes before completing the hike, the sun finally came out. Here’s a picture of one of the mountain streams adjacent to the trail.

20140208_133526_HDR copyOverall, I thought Fortune’s Cove was a very nice hike. It may be interesting to try this again in the spring when the rhododendron blooms are out. Although there were a few overlooks on this hike, I think many would be obscured during the summer with all the tree cover.

Resolutions – January Update

Here’s my monthly update on my 2014 resolutions. I’m hoping that by periodically “checking in” I can keep myself accountable and continue pushing myself to achieve my resolutions. Here we go:

1. Reading

I’m well on my way to achieving my goal of 30 books. In January, I completed 9 books. The January books are shown below. More information is available in my book list. Of these 9 books, my favorite was Destiny of the Republic about the assassination of President Garfield.

  • The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (Brynjolfsson, Erik)
  • The King of Thorns (Lawrence, Mark)
  • Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (Millard, Candice)
  • The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Ries, Eric)
  • Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data (Wheelan, Charles)
  • The Prince of Thorns (Lawrence, Mark)
  • Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (Schlesinger, Leonard A.)
  • The Fountainhead (Rand, Ayn)
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Cain, Susan)

2. 365 Opportunities

Falling behind a little on this goal. I have come up with 27 opportunities. To meet my goal, I should have 31 opportunities. Most of the ideas are pretty bogus although there have been a couple that have some potential. Ironically, the two ideas I like are optical based technologies (my specialty) but, as usual, they cost so much to develop and/or manufacture. For example, one idea would require me to plop down $5k. The initial investment to feasibility index is way too high for this idea.

3. Exercise More Consistently

Doh! I started off the year well doing a combination of running, long dog walks, and FitStar workouts. FitStar is a pretty cool app where the program adjusts to match your fitness progression. Unfortunately, about a week ago I got a cold that took me out of commission until a day or so ago. After getting the viral nastiness out of the way, I re-started the workouts. I’m definitely eager for warm weather to return so I can take my exercise outdoors.

I’m did lose about 2 pounds in January by some miracle. For February, I need to come up with a metric or two to help better track this exercise goal. I’m thinking weight change, total calories burned, % of days with a workout, etc.

4. Online Classes

Off to a good start with the online courses. The whole MOOC (massive open online course) movement is awesome, particularly for broadening your horizons in fields outside your specialty. For example, there are no classes that I can take to build on my optical background. However, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more in areas such as programming, finance, electrical engineering, nutrition, astronomy, etc. I’ve actually started four courses although I may have to drop one or two depending on how how much time I need to commit.

  • Learn C the Hard Way (lcthw)
  • UT.6.01x Embedded Systems – Shape the World (
  • Algorithms Part I (
  • Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights (

5. Building Something

Doh. I have done absolutely nothing on this front. I have a few ideas but haven’t acted on anything yet. I hope to have a more productive update by the end of February.

My Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions

The following are my personal resolutions for 2014. These are my goals for guiding my focus and energy expended outside of work. Work has a whole different list of resolutions. So let’s get started:

1. Read More Books

In 2013, I read 33 books easily exceeding my goal of 20 books. In fact, this was pretty much the only 2013 resolution I achieved. For this year, I want to continue this reading streak. For 2014, my goal is to complete a minimum of 30 books including audiobooks.

2. 365 Opportunities

For 2014, I want to work more specifically on skills related to inventing and entrepreneurial endeavors. I believe one of my weaknesses is that I am not always receptive to potential opportunities when they present themselves. More specifically, I want to be able to identify problems that could benefit from technical solutions. The goal with this resolution is not necessarily to find a new venture, but rather to train myself to view the world differently – to identify opportunities for entrepreneurial endeavors. I will keep a running log of opportunities with the goal of coming up with 7 ideas each week for a total of 365 at the end of the year.

3. Exercise More Consistently

As I am getting older, I recognize that my fitness level deteriorates much faster. A few months off can result in dramatic decreases in my fitness level. For example, I was quite active this past summer (running, hiking, cycling) but after taking most of the autumn off, I found myself 15lb heavier and more out of breath when exercising in December. I have very basic goals when it comes to fitness. I want exercise to become more routine – that’s it. I don’t care for running races, doing more hikes, the intensity of the exercise, etc. I just want to set a goal of doing something active each day. I am going to use my fitbit device that my sister and brother-and-law gave me for Christmas to help me keep accountable. I might be able to use this exercise time to listen to audiobooks (resolution #1) or brainstorm on problems needing technical solutions (resolution #2).

4. Online Classes

Towards the end of 2013, I completed Andrew Ng’s class on Machine Learning. This was an awesome class and I learned many fundamental algorithms used in machine learning that I can use at work and in future endeavors. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll start becoming complacent as I get older and lose the desire to continue learning. For this year, I would like to complete a minimum of 4 online courses. I set no limits on the subjects covered. This should be a good substitute for TV. Where do you take these classes, you ask? My favorite sties are:

5. Build Stuff

Many of my resolutions are geared to improve my skillset for future inventive or entrepreneurial activities. I want to balance many of these intellectual pursuits (reading, identifying opportunities needing technology solutions, courses) with applications. So I want to take the knowledge I learn and apply it to little hobbies or side projects.


Day 6: Winthrop to Seattle

The day started with a drive to the Northern Cascades National Park. After about 30 minutes, we reached the boundary of the park. The following overlook was located just off Highway 20. I believe the jagged mountain is Early Winter Spires South

Overlook of Highway 20

Continuing east on Highway 20 took us to the center of the North Cascades National Park – specifically Lake Shannon and the Skagit River. The following photo was taken near a campsite between these two bodies of water.

Lake Shannon

We continued on to the main hike for the day. Following a single-lane road for 23 miles, we arrived at the Cascade Pass trailhead parking lot. Unfortunately, the weather at this elevation was quite poor – foggy and drizzling. In fact, we heard thunder once as we were ascending the mountain. Fortunately, this was the only time we heard thunder otherwise we would have returned to the trailhead before reaching the treeline.

We reached the Cascade Pass after ascending 1500 feet. At this point, I thought the chance of getting any good photos was lost. The fog was so dense you could only really see maybe 20 feet in any direction. I was also soaked and chilled to the bone. My motivation for continuing was (1) generate my own warmth and (2) increase the important GPS metrics (elevation gain and distance). We continued to our max elevation of 6826 feet. At this point, we took a quick break to eat lunch (Powerbar and Gatorade). At this point, I asked Russ to take my picture and commented to that this would be my only photo from the hike – my tone dripping with disappointment. Here’s that photo:

The Foggy Hike up Sahale Peak

Shortly after turning around and heading downhill, we started to see some land through the fog. I was thrilled to see a 1000 feet ahead of us, instead of the 20 feet visibility typical on our ascent. Here’s a picture shortly after the fog started to clear.

Clouds Start To Clear

At this point, I was ecstatic but the clouds continued to clear even more showing the landscape around us. It was simply amazing to see the massive peaks and deep valleys around us, since these had been hidden in the fog for the last couple of hours. I got some amazing photos as we descended in the clearing weather.

Cascade Pass
The View without Fog

Cascades and Doubtful Lake

The Sahale Trail

Cascade Pass 4
Overlook from Sahale Trail

Trail to Sahale Peak

Eventually, I put the camera away and concentrated on my descent down the mountain. The GPS track for the hike is shown below.

Here is the hike profile.

Final GPS Stats:

  • Distance: 10.25 miles
  • Maximum Elevation: 6799 feet
  • Minimum Elevation: 3538 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 3202 feet

Day 5: Hope BC to Winthrop WA

The day started in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park just a few kilometers outside of Hope, British Columbia. We hiked a short trail that was converted from train tracks. The trail passed through a series of tunnels as it followed a nearby river. The trail was maybe 2-3 miles long – not long enough for me to capture the GPS track.

Coquihalla Trail
Coquihalla Trail

Coquihalla River
River Adjacent to Coquihalla Trail

After departing Coquihalla, we drove for several hours to EC Manning Provincial Park. We drove a steep, winding road up the mountain to arrive at the trailhead of the Three Brothers Hike. The trail initially descends 800 feet from the parking lot. Unlike the previous parks, this area of the Rockies was quite dry.

Near the bottom of this descent, we heard some rustling in the nearby bushes. On the other side of some trees, we saw this large bear about 50 yards away. It looked at us for a few seconds before continuing into the forest. This is the fifth bear I have encountered while hiking! For this trip, I went ahead and purchased bear spray (think: industrial strength pepper spray) so I was a little more prepared. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it.

I still don’t know whether this was a grizzly or black bear. The lack of a large front shoulder hump and the knowledge that most bears in the area are black bears suggests to me that this is a large black bear (with brown fur). The picture quality is poor because I only carry a wide angle lens on my hiking trips – the telephoto lens adds too much weight for something I usually never need. And I wasn’t about to run up to the bear to get a better picture with the wide angle lens.

Bear Alert

After climbing out of the forested area where we saw the bear, we entered a meadow with scenic views of the nearby mountains.

Three Falls Trail Vanishing
Three Falls Trail

The following photos shows the trail as it follows the ridge up to the first brother (peak) of the hike.

Trail to First Brother
Trail to First Brother

After a pretty steep climb, we arrived at the summit of the first brother and were welcomed by a cloud of flies. It was so bad I had to photoshop some of the flies out of the photos below.

Top of First Brother
The Summit of the First Brother

Panorama at the First Brother Summit

After completing the first brother, we had to return back to the car in order to arrive at the hotel in Winthrop, WA at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, the 2nd and 3rd brothers will have to wait for another day.

The GPS results for the hike are shown below:

Final Stats:

  • Total Distance: 11.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2472 ft
  • Minimum Elevation: 5873 ft
  • Maximum Elevation: 7455 ft

Just prior to passing back into the US, we stopped at the Sage Pub to grab a quick dinner. Nothing spectacular. I had another burger (I was starting to get burger-ed out by this point). We crossed back into the US shortly after 9pm and arrived at Winthrop, WA after 10pm. By the way, the hotel in Winthrop was called Hotel Rio Vista and it was really nice and would definitely recommend.

Day 4: Whistler to Hope

The temptation to bungee jump was too great for Russ to pass up. He scheduled his jump for 11am, as soon as they opened. To burn some time before then, we walked around Whistler looking at the shops. The only thing we bought was some gelato. I had mint chocolate chip – it was awesome.

We then drove the 20 minutes to the Bungee Jumping bridge, arriving before any of the workers were there. Once they arrived, the bungee jumping began. Russ jumped with no hesitation. I stood on an opposing cliff to record a video of the moment (below).

Russ Bungee Jump from Garret Bonnema on Vimeo.

After bungee jumping, we returned to Whistler. Parking was crazy. We eventually found a parking lot up the mountain and walked down to Whistler. Once there we purchased tickets and took the ski lift up the mountains. Once we were up on Blackcomb Mountain, we took the Peak2Peak Gondola ride over to Whistler Mountain. The gondola holds some of the world’s records for longest unsupported span (1.88 miles) and greatest height (1427 feet). We actually waited in line for 20 minutes to ride in a cab that had a glass window on the floor. It turned out not to be worth the wait but at least we can say we did it.

Ski Lift

From Inside Peak2Peak Gondola

From Inside Peak2Peak Gondola

After getting back down to Whistler, we stopped by the Wizard Grille. I got a bacon and blue cheese burger. This thing was tremendous. I ate about 75% of it. It was one of my favorite meals from the trip. I ended up buying an orange cream gelato for dessert – trying to recreate the magic of the morning’s gelato – but it wasn’t the same. Overall, Whistler was ok. It reminds me of Aspen. It’s interesting to visit once but I definitely don’t fit in with that crowd.

Burger at the Wizard Grille

After departing Whistler, we visited Nairn Falls for some waterfall photography. It turned out to be a difficult subject as the afternoon sunlight proved to have too much contrast for any amazing photographs. Here’s a picture of the falls.

Nairn Falls
Nairn Falls

We continued driving to Hope, British Colombia stopping at Seton Lake for some photos. I didn’t really get any photos worth showing. We arrived in Hope around 9:30pm and had a quick sandwich at Tim Hortons.