Friday, October 20, 2017

And a wake up.

Servicemen have an expression they use when counting down to some day in the future, they'll say "I have X days and a wake up".  

Thirty five years ago, on the 19th of October 1982, I was down to the wake up after 6 1/4 years in the United States Navy. I was leaving NAS Whidbey Island and headed back to who-knows-what-lies-ahead.  The moving company had already come at great expense to your Government and taken all of my household effects, put them on a truck and started the drive back to my parents home in Broomall, Pennsylvania that I had left 2282 days previous. Now all that lay ahead was 3,000 miles of the continental United States and no time table other than "before the snows set in".




I had bought a 1971 VW "super" beetle in 1978 and four years later it had over a hundred seventy five  thousand miles on a rebuilt engine. The car had a stereo I had designed myself that basically turned the small car into a giant set of headphones - which may explain the constant ringing in my years today. The mission was to get me, the car and few things I didn't have the moving company haul in a giant mostly empty moving van back home.

By time I got rid of the car in 1988 it had over 250,000 miles and spoiler alert, it made exactly one trip across the US.
The VW Super-beetle

The only agenda I had was to make it to Memphis, Tennessee to visit my friend Chuck.  There were no google maps, only a giant paper US atlas with a road map of the lower 48. That meant the route taken wasn't exactly, well, direct.

Rarely in life do you recall exactly where you were at exactly a precise time, but at 0900 on the 19th of October in 1982 I was inside a wooden Government building that just had to be a left over from World War II and I was picking up a giant packet of papers that basically said I was free to go for the first time in 75 months. It sounds like I was being freed from prison but it didn't feel that way at the time. It was just "what's next" and this was what was next: hang out for a bit in Oak Harbor and then leave Washington State and spend a few days driving across the US.

I drove north to head south and I was making it up as I went. Whidbey Island had one way in and one way out if you didn't want to take a ferry. So I drove north on Washington Highway 20 for that last time to get to I-5. From there who knows where I would go next.

Highway 20 is one of the most scenic roads in all of America. It travels just about all of Whidbey Island, across the majestic deception pass bridge then winds along lakes on Fidalgo Island until it turns into a business-as-usual divided expressway that connects with I-5, the western north-south conduit sandwiched between the Cascade mountains and Puget sound.

I was now on what would be considered a common trip if you lived on Whidbey Island - a trip back to civilization. The further you drove, the stronger the radio signals and the better chance of finding a mall. No worries, I had boxes of cassette tapes and knew better that to be dependent on signal strength to be entertained, after all this was my 4th year and 900th set of wiper blades in the pacific northwest. Once you got to I-5 it was North to Canada and South to Seattle. Simple choice.

So it was south on I-5 then towards Seattle for one last time. I had been as far south as Silver Lake on I-5 on that trip my brother and I took to go see Mount St Helens, or what was left of it but that was back in the summer. After Mt St Hellens was unseen vistas and untraveled highways.

Like I said, I really didn't plan out my journey with any precision. I would drive as far as I could for the day and find a place to stay.

So, I went to Portland and I made a left.

I'd always heard that the Columbia River gorge was beautiful and it was until surprise! it started raining. Rain. Portland, October. What are the chances?

While tooling along I-84 by the river, I went wandering across the FM dial and found, for the very first time, All Things Considered on NPR. I'd never even heard of NPR but I remember just being enthralled at the depth of the stories and how unlike it was compared to all other radio news programs.  I searched NPR out for the rest of the trip.


I stayed in some mom-and-pop hunters lodge motel once i got tired enough, in Pendleton, OR I think.

The next morning I was off first thing but only drove half a day to Boise after all - I recalled - I was in no hurry. I got a nice room in nice hotel and just hung out.

It was weird.

The next day I decided to cover some ground and got as far as Provo, UT. I recall having a very odd feeling around Provo - like something was off.

The following day the idea was to meet up with I-70 and truly head east but to get to I-70 I'd have to cut through the dessert on a piece of two lane black top, UT-191. This is where the boredom caught up with me.  I decided that my foot was getting tired since all it was doing was pressing the gas pedal down and so I looked around the car. I had a squeegee with about a one  to one and half foot handle on it so I took that, jammed in front of the seat structure and onto the gas pedal.

Wha-la The Italian cruise control. I rode most of that lonely road with the "cruise" on.


This was a clear transition phase and I was now deep into it. I was leaving behind six years and three months of being constantly in motion from one base and ship to another and moving on towards consistency. I'd go back to school that next semester and finally get my bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. A week after my return the Broomall area I'd meet the Chancellor through some old friends. Life rarely has such clean lines of demarcation like this. I was done with the USN and moving on to the next chapter. In 7 more years, I'd be married and we'd be having our first child.

Oh, and why six years and three months? Because I signed up for six to get the electronics training I wanted and then had to extend another 3 months to make sure I had 18 months reserved for shore duty - other wise I'd have to to stay on my last ship, the USS Midway, for an 15 extra months. It didn't seem fair at the time but things have a way of working out. It turns out that during the 18 month shore duty assignment, I had to take a 3 month assignment working at a golf course - in the summer. So effectively, that extra three months was spent working 5 hours a day out in the sunshine. Like I said, it worked out.

But I digress.

It was onto to I-70 and Colorado. It never occurs to you today but cars with carburetors can be ticklish things - especially at higher altitudes. The VW was a simple car and simple meant carburetors. Up next, the Eisenhower and it's 11,000 foot elevation. The poor car was barely puttering along at 35 MPH in second gear by time I reached the top of I-70. I considered pulling over and adjusting the fuel mixture but I figured I'd only have to adjust it back shortly. This was my biggest concern - fouling out the spark plugs but that never happened. Besides it had started lightly snowing.

Once through the tunnel, I started back down, headed into Denver by that evening. I found a motel just before Denver and settled in for the night.

The next morning, just east of Denver I saw something I had never seen before and have never seen since. There was a Colorado State Patrolman standing in the left lane pointing and pulling people over with just a hand signal. I recall thinking he would have lasted approximately 15 seconds in Philadelphia. Standing in the lane, are you kidding me? He just pointed and pulled me over. Checked all my papers and gave me a warning for speeding. Like I'd be around long enough.

I made it to Memphis just before Halloween and stayed with my friend Chuck and his family for a few days. Then one night I decided it was time to go home. So I got in the car and left Memphis as it was getting dark. I was always going to get a place to stay overnight but never did pull over and find something. I just kept going. Which took me to Washington DC at exactly morning rush hour - not wise after driving all night long.

I was home by afternoon after pulling over and getting some sleep and suddenly it was all over.


Updated 10-21-2017, an accompanying playlist


Saturday, June 17, 2017

PURE Accelerate 2017.

I've just returned from San Francisco where I attended PURE Accelerate 2017.

Pure is one of those newer disruptive technologies which is using technical advances in storage and networking to take a bit out of traditional tech behemoths like EMC and HP just like EMC and HP did to IBM twenty years previous.

They're edgy.

One of their co-founders is known for only wearing what is outside my dress-code for normal my work from home outfits - solid colored t-shirts, basketball shorts and sneakers. He wears this same outfit everywhere. Even on stage in front of thousands at PURE Accelerate 2017.

Edgy.

They went out of their way to prove how edgy they are by reusing a former steel factory on the San Francisco water-front on a part of town where the Joker and The Penguin would normally house their lair for the conference.

The building was a shell.  No working plumbing, electrical etc. But it had big empty spaces that PURE filled with the usual conference do-dads. Vendor exhibitions, presentation rooms constructed of orange shipping containers, a room large enough to hold the key note with the largest video screen I've ever seen.

Super edgy.

It's cool.

But edgy comes at a cost.

  • All the electrical power was furnished by generator.
  • The rest room facilities were those high end portable jobs. 
  • The dining was all outdoors under the blue Californian sky. 
  • Food Trucks!
Actually the eating outside was kind of cool. 

But as an East Coast guy I was amazed that "what if it rains" never even occurred to them. 

Technically what these guys are doing with storage is amazing however. I got an update on the their newer flash blade technology. They are basically taking apart SSD drive technology and spreading it across a highly distributed multi-path architecture. 

Amazingly I only understood this after an afternoon double-espresso. I think PURE uses espresso the way the Grateful Dead used acid. One sip and suddenly you understand. 

Good conference and tow-days was just long enough. 

I was reminded how much I love San Francisco. There is just something about that chilly air and bright sunshine that seems perfect. I think most of the people that live there are nuts but I love the town. They all look like or want to look like bike messengers. I guess that's OK but the town is just beautiful with the hills against the picturesque bay.  

Since I was mostly still on East Coast time, I was up early. I mean still dark early. So I walked Market street to he water both mornings and loved it. The 53 degree air had a chill but after walking a bit I warmed right up. 

Just like it's impossible to get a bad meal in Italy, it's impossible to take a bad picture of San Francisco, especially in the early morning. 

I did notice a smell that reminded my of school bus rides in High School and smelling it reminded me where I had left a pack of smokes in 11th grade. They were in the bushes at the corner of Farnsworth and South Central.  

The whole experience had been reinforced because I was making my way through "Long Strange Trip", the Amazon documentary on the Grateful Dead.  And that suddenly made sense to me too. San Francisco is the culture it is today because of the Grateful Dead. They didn't necessarily start it or end it, but they did push it into the forefront of culture. 

Anyway I was thinking that what does PURE do next year to be edgy? I mean after you've had a conference at a compound that looked like a Zombie Apocalypse refuge,  where do you go form there? It's not like next year you go to Caesars in Vegas. 

Here's my idea:

A burning man like Storage experience in the desert. Everyone can wear wacky costumes except of the basketball shorts wearing co-founder - he can wear a suit.

On the final night they burn down a giant EMC VMAX made of sticks. 






Monday, May 29, 2017

Installing wview 5.21.7 on a Raspberry PI running Jessie.

So the very first Raspberry Pi I purchased finally broke down and wouldn't connect to the network any longer. It was an original Model B and I had unwisely decided to run both XBMC and Wview on the same unit. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was also my last pi running Wheezy.

Thanks to Amazon Prime two days later I had a new Raspi 3 Model B and a realization that I had no DR plan for the weather station. To the Internet.

The first decision: Build from sources or use Mark Teel's Ubuntu repository? Over the 9 years I've used wview, I'd done both. For the Fedora builds, I'd built my own from scratch. For the Pi I'd used the repository.

I decided on repository but the only problem is wview is getting bit long in the tooth and I guess Mark hasn't the time these days to keep the repositories up to date so there really isn't a Jessie repository.

However the wheezy build still works fine on the jessie OS so that is the way I went.

I started here for instructions and here are my consolidated notes.


Wheezy Wview on Jessie Build

1.  Add the Wheezy components to a fresh Jessie build

$ sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list

Insert the following at the top of the file:

deb http://www.wviewweather.com/apt/wheezy wheezy main
deb-src http://www.wviewweather.com/apt/wheezy wheezy main

And wview has some dependencies on wheezy components (libgl2) so add these as well:

deb http://mirrordirector.raspbian.org/raspbian/wheezy main contrib non-free rpi
deb-src http://archive.raspbian.org/raspbian/wheezy main contrib non-free rpi

Perform an update

$sudo apt-get update

Optionally you can also do an upgrade

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Install Apache and PHP components

$sudo apt-get install apache2
$sudo apt-get install php5 php5-sqlite3 libapache2-mod-php5

Reboot

$sudo reboot

Install Wview

$sudo apt-get install wview
(Respond "Y" to disk pace question and to Install these packages without verification.

Fix the Apache links

$cd /var/www/html
$ln -s /var/lib/wview/img weather
$ln -s /var/lib/wviewmgmt wviewmgmt

Go a browser and complete the wviewmgmt step as described in the manual

http:///wviewmgmt (log in with "wview" for fist time) 

From here I have my own issues with a custom built modification of Mark's alarm monitor but that's a story for different day.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Hello Fresh

Since the boys moved out and we are two outdoor bath tubs and a convertible from living a life like the people in Cialas Ad anyway, we decided to try Hello Fresh last year.

If you are unaware of Hello Fresh and it's competitors like Blue Apron and Green Chef, these services provide detailed recipes and ingredients for three complete meals in a cooler box delivered once per week.
IMG_9850

In the past year, we've found there is a huge variety of fresh fish and meats and I can't recall seeing the same recipe twice. Typically is also a one vegetarian dish per week. The recipes are written so that you need not be a sous chef to follow along nor do they require specialty tools or equipment.The best part is that if a recipe requires a teaspoon of Thai seasoning, Chipolte, or even eye-of-newt, it's included in perfect little portions but they do expect that you'll have basics like Salt, Pepper and butter.

I'm not sure we are saving any money doing this unless of course you compare it to going out to eat. Honestly I've had some meals from Hello Fresh where we've both said it was better than going out.

Some other lessons for trying Hello Fresh:
  • The weakness in the whole plan is delivery. When we first started last year, Hello Fresh must have been using the same package delivery services they had for New York City even though we are some 90 miles from NYC. This was not a service you would know by name since a man in a private car would show up with your box. A fat man whose t-shirt was too small. Sometimes he would be late and sometimes  he wouldn't show at all. It was frustrating dealing with Hello Fresh since all they knew was that he had "until 8 PM" to deliver. I can't tell you how many of the 52 weeks we were credited for non-delivery.  This all got a lot better after we said "Goodbye Fresh" and threatened to leave and they switched to UPS. 
  • Don't pick Monday delivery. It seems like a good idea at first but then you find yourself scrambling to rearrange for all the Monday holidays when they don't deliver. 
  • Buy a zester. Yes, you'll find out all about zesting. By April last year I was CZ - Chief Zester since the Chancellor was a terrible zester. This all went a lot better when I spent $4.95 on a zester. (The other day I was in Kitchen Kapers and was enthralled with the $6.99 model they had. "Look at that thick spongy handle" I said to myself. I was lusting after a zester - unbelievable) 
  • Learn how to mince garlic. Because you will mince garlic - lots and lots of garlic. Everything has garlic. My guess is that if Hello Fresh had cereal for breakfast - it would have garlic. (New Garlic Cheerios!)
  • Follow the directions and prepare everything ahead of cooking. I don't know about you, but I used to prepare something and cook it. Onions? Chop and throw in the pan. Peppers? Chop while the onions are cooking. No. No. No. Chop everything ahead of time and put it in small bowls, ready to go like they say. Otherwise you'll screw up the timing on everything. Besides, it makes it look more like a cooking show if you have lots of little bowls with ingredients ready to go. 
  • Don't be afraid of strange new things.  I can't tell you how many strange grains we've cooked and enjoyed and God-forbid kale can be good with enough spices on it. Quinoa? before this I'd have trouble picking it out of Police line up. Crazy salads? Dig in. Pistachios on chicken? Gobble it up. Cod on Couscous? Mmmmmmmmm. Ground pork hamburgers - It's all good.  
  • Buy some parchment paper. It really does crisp veggies a bit better. 
IMG_6436.JPG

Other things you can expect: 
  • The portions are right-sized. I don't know about you, but when I cooked I always made too much. Then I ate too much. While these may seem like small portions - they are actually right.
  • We've learned to stay away from the Jamie Oliver recipes. Those recipes are less thorough than the regular Hello  Fresh ones. If they are simple it's OK and they generally are but He tends to skip steps or make assumptions in my opinion.  
  • Just throw those Fake ice things that come in the box away. I kept some for a while but they leak and when they leak it is a mess. 
  • We are also up to our elbows in Hello Fresh boxes. There just always seems to be a stack of them. 
  • Pay attention when making your order. There were a couple of times when we left the default selections and it wasn't good. This led to the great windy Brussels sprouts disaster of 2016 when we accidentally ordered two meals with the cruciferous vegetables in one week. 
  • Don't be afraid to substitute the grill. If it's steak or hamburgers, I'll make it outside. Sometimes you might miss on some of the flavorings they want to leave behind in pan but to me the grill more than makes up for it. Also my grill has a side burner and all fried fish and splashy oily things gets cooked out there too. 
  • We've had some trouble with avocado recently. They haven't been ripe enough to use and so we make a trip to the supermarket and get another. Now we know to check.   
IMG_6430.JPG

Some of our favorites: 
  • Lobster Ravioli and Shrimp with Heirloom tomatoes and tarragon cream sauce. 
  • Butter Basted Sirloin.
  • Juicy-Lucy Burger. 
  • Fish Tacos
  • Sole Tacos
  • Pan seared chicken with herbs de provence - Only because I like going around the house saying "de provence" in a cheesy french accent for days. The Chancellor was not amused. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stickers

I first learned where Somerset, PA was in the 5th grade.

Technically, I didn't exactly know where it was. I just knew that STP racing stickers came from there.

From yo-yos to pokemon, every generation of 12 year old boys has their fads and ours happened to be "stickers".

Some enterprising 5th grader had figured out that if you simply knew where to ask, most marketing and promotions departments in companies that produced racing and performance products would simply mail you an adhesive logo. I'm sure the intention was for serious adults to stick these on toolboxes and garages to promote the sale of more product, but the companies didn't seem to care that the requests came in the form of hand written pencil letters that started "Dear Sir".

There were sheets of three hole punch notebook paper with hand written "addresses" that we would dutifully copy from one another with far away places in Michigan or Ohio. Some addresses worked and others were just dead ends.

The STP address always hit jackpot. Some were for products none of us knew anything about. What the heck was an oil filter? None of us knew but we knew you could trade a rare Fram for something you didn't have yet.


Some yielded multiple stickers per brown envelope, some a single but none were as treasured as the multicolored, shiny foiled fiery AC spark plug. 


Most of the stickers were just collected in large brown envelopes and brought to school to be traded. Extras were stuck to bedroom closet doors or to bedposts, much to my fathers annoyance. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Wing Bowl 25

What lies at the intersection of the WWE, Sports Radio, Competitive eating and Gentlemen's clubs?

Wing Bowl! 

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And how did I get an all access back stage pass to Wing Bowl 25? I'm not really sure.  A friend of a friend (Mr C) has had the confetti concession since Wing Bowl VII. When his regular partner dropped out, Mr C invited me to participate in what may be the possibly be final Wing Bowl as part of the early rising confetti musket brigade. 

What is Wing Bowl? The uniquely Philadelphia tradition was started in 1993 by WIP sports radio as an "alternative" celebration to the Super Bowl, Mostly since the hosts were tired of Philly never being in the Superbowl, a competition was held in the lobby of a local hotel to see who could eat the most chicken wings. A hibachi was given to the winner. Why chicken wings? I believe Buffalo was a contestant that year and WIP was tired of Buffalo being in it - again. Hence "Buffalo Wings" were consumed.

It snowballed from there, eventually being held in the Spectrum and finally the Wells Fargo center. As a measure of how large it's grown, this year's winner was given a Hyundai Sante Fe and $10,000 - far cry from a hibachi.  

There's been talk that this 25th version might be the last.

It starts early. 6 AM. So that meant leaving my suburban home at 4:30. I accidentally woke the Chancellor sometime after 4. She asked if I was going into work and what time was it. No I'm not going to work this morning, I'm going to the Wing Bowl and it's 4 AM.

There was a deep laughter out of the darkness. 

Silly or not, off Mr C and I went, proudly wearing our all access credentials.

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It turns out that the Friend of a Friend gets 12 such placards, I guessed he had 12 since it takes a lot of manpower to make the confetti machine run. 

Wrong. He gives out the placards to his friends some of whom make an effort at making it rain confetti and some who disappear into the crowd. 

I figured it was my first time in the confetti brigade so I'd better make an effort of it. Mr C did the same since we seemed to be the only sober members of the squad. 

What's the job? 

Wing Bowl makes a spectacle of the entrance of the Wing eating contestants by having them and their large entourage announced. Then they take a lap around the inside of the hockey glass. As they are announced, we spray confetti ahead of their path from the elevated stage, and thereby allow them a grand entrance. 

How do we do this? 
We use what can only be called a confetti musket. I called it a musket since it fires once and then must be taken "back stage", reloaded with confetti and recharged. The only thing missing is the big stick they ram down the barrel of the musket.

So for all 33 contestants, it's fire once, make your way through the sizable crowd on stage, go down the steps and refill you musket. Hopefully alternating muskets and refills so that each constant has confetti. It's all very loose.

Just look at that marvelous confetti shot.
I'm pretty sure that wasn't mine.

Our crack musket squad started with 3 such muskets and half a dozen active musketeers and half a dozen reserves.  The reserves are there in case one of us goes down and their primary responsibility seems to be taking pictures and getting on stage. Eventually even the active troops were reduced to Mr C, Friend of friend's brother and myself.  One formerly active troop member disappeared only to show up with a selfie with midgets ("look here's me and some midgets!) - all after the confetti had long since been spent on the floor. 

Shortly into the job, it became obvious that we should have drilled more. Or at least drilled some. No one told me one musket shot per entourage since ammunition is scarce and so the first eating contestant  got a double barrel. By the fifth one we were down a musket after one inexperienced soldier somehow shot confetti AND half the musket into the pageantry.  It was quite a scene when he had to retrieve it from the middle of the forming parade. 

Down a musket, things then got a bit frantic as we needed to run back stage, refill three canisters of confetti and replace the CO2 cartridge. In his hast, one inexperienced soldier replaced his CO2 without closing the firing valve, leading to a premature confetti firing backstage. 

Like I said, we should have drilled more.

In the end, I'm not sure anyone noticed or cared that we were less than sharp. They weren't there for the confetti. 

Oh, did I mention that every entourage has a gaggle of "Wingettes" to assist them on their journey around the arena? Well, Wingette is a more of a temporary annual position so many of the ladies are regularly employed in the dancing profession for most of the rest of the year. I'm fairly sure that no self respecting "dancer" stays home for Wing Bowl. Like I said, it is a spectacle.

During the down time, remote Jumbo-tron camera men roam the crowd sticking cameras where no camera should ever go - all to the delight of the crowd.

Backstage there seems to be common consensus that this is all just a little crazy. During my many scrambles to the reload station I can't tell you how many time the security staff and I made eye contact and just gave each other a knowing head shake as if to say, yep this all a little nuts.  

The number of inebriated crowd members isn't all that surprising since the seats are full of the same crowd that attends that other Philadelphia early winter morning  alcohol fueled circus - the Mummer's parade. This just happens to be 34 days later and indoors.

Just to give some further color to the event, one highlight of this year's crowd was a young woman walking back to the parking lot with two male friends. She held a beverage in one hand and a 3 foot trophy in the other. Yes, a three foot, multi-tiered trophy. It was green. 

Mr C and I watched in horror as she walked directly into a metal street pole. 

Beverage spilled up and out but amazingly she held on to the trophy and remained upright, seeming unmarked but woozy. Well more woozy.

Just a guess here, but I'm thinking the trophy was for some other event than "walking back to your car".

NSFW Pictures here.