Debugging Ruby, The Hard Way

Normally when you encounter a bug with Ruby, or any other interpreted language for that matter, using the language’s provided debugging tools are all you need to diagnose the problem and find a solution. Indeed that works 99% of the time. But what about when it doesn’t? What about when your program is so hosed that the typical debugging tooling doesn’t yield any fruitful information?

This was the situation I found myself in recently while debugging a low-level bug with Ruby. I didn’t know it when I started, but the problem lie down in glibc and all the Ruby-land debugging tools in the world would not help me. So what’s one to do? Well, if you’re running the C implementation of Ruby, MRI, then it’s GDB to the rescue. However, figuring out how to access the data needed through GDB presents a host of new challenges. Armed with the proper knowledge though and it becomes entirely feasible to debug a Ruby program through GDB which is what this post aims to explore.

Five of the best fly-in camping airports in Washington

Airplane camping in Washington is a far cry from the meccas of Idaho, Utah, or Alaska. Despite all of the forested and mountainous terrain in Washington there are no true backcountry airports in the state. Nevertheless, there are a healthy amount of fly-in camping options on the more beaten path for pilots to enjoy. The tradeoff for this accessibility being, unlike the aforementioned backcountry playgrounds like Idaho, the best airport campgrounds in Washington don’t require planes capable of 500ft takeoff rolls and tundra tires.

The airports listed here are (arguably) the best camping spots in Washington. They are all public airports and have long and smooth enough runways for those flying trikes to operate from. All the while still being some incredible destinations that make flying GA worth all that time, effort, and money. Although if you’re looking for something marginally more challenging, take a look at my most accessible Idaho backcountry airports list.

The feasibility of electrifying Mt. Baker

On those rare clear winter days, waiting in the morning lift line for Chair 1 to open at Heather Meadows provides a beautiful view of Mt. Shuksan. Before opening time at 9am it’s common for the lift to start and stop multiple times as the lifties prepare for the day’s operations and ski patrol heads up the mountain to complete avalanche control. Each time the lift starts again the engine revs up providing a guilty reminder that, while other ski areas in the Washington Cascades are electrified, Mt. Baker’s are all powered by burning diesel fuel. The juxtaposition of a frozen Mt. Shuksan looming over the ski area with a diesel engine belching blackened exhaust into the air feels odd at best. Enough so that it made me wonder, what would it take to electrify Mt. Baker? Is it feasible? And should it be done?

Five of the most accessible Idaho backcountry airports

The Idaho backcountry is an intimidating place, and rightly so. Many of the destinations there are unforgiving airports with little to no margin for error. The reward for developing the needed skills to fly here is operating in one of the most scenic and remote areas in the continental US. The most challenging strips are generally not accessible to those without a STOL plane and a good amount of experience, but for pilots looking to dip their toe into the backcountry, there are some options that are accessible to your run of the mill GA plane in addition to a reasonable amount of mountain flying training.

The airports listed here (in no particular order) are some of the more accessible airports in the Idaho backcountry. This means those with longer runways and more forgiving approaches that you don’t need tundra tires and a 500ft takeoff roll to land at. All while still being some incredible destinations that makes flying GA worth it.

The case for reestablishing winter access to Mt. Pilchuck

Last year I wrote extensively about the politics of ski areas in Washington and a vision for the future of skiing in the PNW. One of the topics that came up in both of those posts was Mt. Pilchuck. Namely its history as a ski area and the potential it has for the future. This made me want to explore more on the possibility of reestablishing winter access to Mt. Pilchuck.

First off, for readers who know the history of Pilchuck, this is not a post about re-opening the lift-served ski area that was once the Mt. Pilchuck ski area. The proposal being made here is more modest: specifically reestablishing winter access to the previous ski area parking lot and current summer trailhead. Yup, that’s it. Doing that alone could have a material impact on expanding winter recreational access in the Snohomish county area through expanded high elevation snow access for ski touring, snowshoeing, sledding, and general snow play areas for families.