Introductions - Hello World from PostickerGuru

Welcome to my first Sun blog. I had been reading the blogs from other colleagues for a while now but just never got around to putting up one of my own. The hardest part was figuring out the type of blog and picking out a handle that represented the gist of my existence.

Well, late last night, I couldn't figure out anything else more brilliant than PotstickerGuru. Afterall, my mailserver inside Sun (yes, I'm one of the few that hosts his own mail) is called Gyoza, and my main development workstation is a SunBlade 2K called Yumcha, and I have supporting backup and hot-archive systems in the office and at home named Shumai, Wonton, and Charsiu. Not that I have a food-fetish, but I think it's more appealing that say a Star Trek theme for hostnames, or stuffed-animal-disney-character theme, or smart-alec-unix-shell-command hostname theme. And after all, I am known within certain circles as a Master Potsticker maker - I even roll my own skins and I don't need a tapered rolling pin like some of the PSG-wannabees who can't pass muster with a straight rolling pin.

As some background info, I'm considered a senior engineer at Sun, going on 9 years now. Work has taken me to some interesting places around the world. I'm in the business of helping Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and some customers and partners architect and build software. After they build it, I help them tune it to make it run faster. I used to be a C/C++ guy, but for the last 8 years or so, I've been focusing on Java more, and mostly at the application level. Only in the last couple of years, management has been kind enough to put me closer to the OS/Kernel where I've been looking more deeply at platform/OS provider performance. Rarely a dull moment here, and it keeps my brain from going senile.

Prior to coming to Sun, I was a real geek locked up part-time at Berkeley and then Livermore designing and simulating Thermo-Nuclear blasts in Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF - aka Laser Fusion) Reactors. My dissertation was a long tome that included Analytical, Experimental, and Numerical work in multi-dimension simulation of blast wave propagation in Gas-continuous Two-Phase Media. I wrote some open source code called TSUNAMI (later limited in access for security reasons) which was an acronym for Transient Shockwave Upwind Numerical Analysis Method for ICF. I thought the acronym alone deserved a Ph.D., but my Professor at Cal wasn't as amused. But I must say, all that coding and work with C/C++ on Macs generating post-calc movies of the 250 microseconds after blast worked wonders with the DOE. They decided to fund the National Ignition Facility ($1.8Billion) at Livermore in part due to that work, and I think there are still a number of grad students and researches trying to improve my model and computational kernel even more than a decade later. Ironically, I'm now at a company that's trying to sell those guys the computational horse-power to run those simulations, and all my Physics and Math skills aren't put to intense use.

But my interests in working at Livermore after graduate school took a turn when Bill Clinton took office. He stalled the budget that year and I wasn't assured of any openings at the National Lab, so instead, I worked in Tokyo for 2 years. I spent the first year Post-Doc'ing at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Kogyo Daigaku) in O-okayama - a better Engineering school than Tokyo University (at least the Faculty tell me that :-)). And anyway, exceptional singer Oda Kazumasa of "Tokyo Rabu Sutori" (Tokyo Love Story) fame graduated from Tokyo Tech. I did a lot of systems and network administration while running Computational Fluid Dynamics calculations on SunOS and AIX clusters. I was trying to develop faster running multi-dimensions Turbulent models.

One day, on a train, I bumped into another Gaijin (foreigner) who was the head of IT at Solomon Bros. Tokyo Office. We got talking and somehow, I got connected with some head hunters looking for Wall Street "Quants" who could program and do sysadmin. It wasn't long before I joined a small Tokyo outfit, Fusion Systems Japan and they put me on a bunch of projects building equity and fixed income trading systems, derivate risk management systems, and new GUIs, servers, and failover mechanisms. It was long hours, but really rewarding. The internet was just starting to boom in Japan and I even had a chance to work in NTTData's Ueno ops-center when the first batch of Ciscos and Ascends showed up. I helped startup an ISP in Tokyo too. All that scientific stuff faded in a year of doing finance.

I had always known how to program in a little C/C++, and I even had some tools experience with compilers and source control/build systems, and I knew a lot of UNIX. But I was never an O-O programmer or a real Systems programmer until my 2nd year in Japan. I owe most of that credit to four guys - first a Brit named John Tumulty who was first at CSFB in Tokyo, then he jumped to Goldman-Sachs - introduced me to the NIH class libraries and taught me the elegance of O-O. Second was a guy named Joe Diperna. Originally from the Fusion NYC office, but he came out to Tokyo to head up engineering for Fusion Systems Japan - he taught me all about product and build schedules and QA test automation. And third, Finn Christensen - a Norwegian with ties to Strustrap - the original guy who wrote the book on C++ - he taught me lots of basics about coding O-O network programs and Financial engines. Last, was Gary Arakaki - a Univ. of Hawaii transplant to Tokyo with a Ph.D. in CompSci. He specialized in the SunOS kernel and taught me tonnes about threads and scheduling and OS service providers - we analyzed the early concurrency models in Perl when it first came out with O-O support. There was a fifth guy, Jason Bloomstein, from Hal Computers who was doing a stint at Fujitsu back in the early 90's. I met him at a bunch of Gaijin parties and Potsticker-Making parties (which I hosted) back then in Yokohama/Kawasaki - my 3 bdrm, living/dining/kitchen (3LDK) in Japan was just in Kawasaki on the Nambu line, close to Futako-Tamagawa-En station. He often criticized me for being a dilettante with Operating Systems. He didn't think highly of application programmers and instead loved to put me down by asking simple CompSci test questions that any upper division Stanford student would know. Well, I admit, I am a Cal Berkeley grad, and I was a world-class Nuclear Engineer and Computational Physicist, and not a CompSci major, but at least I could configure circles around his DNS and hack his systems if he wasn't careful! Sometimes, folks just gotta recognize that not everyone goes through an academic route to become a good computer scientist. Some, like me, get it from the school of hard knocks. But Jason's criticisms have made me stronger, I think, and that's good, even if he is a Stanford grad!

In early 1995, I was on site at First National Bank of Chicago in Hibiya. I can't remember if I was still on site before or after the Tokyo Subway Sarin gas attaches by Aum Shinrikyo, only that I was in Maui giving a paper on Internet, Web and Networking at the time and noticed on the news that it was the train station I usually get off to go to one of my customers' offices. I couldn't help but think it could have been me dead or paralyzed for life.

Around that time, Sun released something called Hotjava Browser and the Java Development Kit. I was caught up in the excitement and while on site at a realtime data provider, I wrote my first stock feed applet. The Java applet ran in HotJava Browser and accessed a CGI script on a system that was authorized to connect to the datafeed. I demo'd the system to others, including the folks at the data provider. To my dismay, they rejected the idea and told me I was in license violation, even if I was ready to give them the concept and source code. To make a long story short, the data provider suffered major financial losses in the follow 2 years, and no longer charges $2400/month per seat for real-time data,, and others have undercut their derivatives risk-assessment desktop tools so anyone can leverage a Java applet to get those tools from any discount online trading house. And ironically, 18 months after that demo, I was invited back to Japan and the same guys who had been chastising me about license violations were bowing and asking "James-Hakase" to provide them some architectural guidance.

It was inevitable that I joined Sun. I have used their technology since the 80's and love it. I believe that better technology should win, but I think I understand the market well enough to know that the best technologies don't always win, because some technologies aren't quite self-evident, or they come out too soon. For example, Sun produced the first diskless workstations that were flat panel mono-chrome monitors with the computer built in that worked fairly well back in the 1990. It's now almost 2005, and network computing is finally mainstream 15 years later; monitor-based and Tablet PCs are now going more mainstream. But admittedly, not everything we produce rocks the world. Lots of it fails to gain any market because the technology isn't appropriate. But that's why working with ISVs has been so rewarding. ISVs are brutally focused on the market and provide solutions to enterprise customer problems. It's cool knowing that your ideas may be impacting a big corporation that will then impact millions of people around the world, either every time they stick their Bank Card into an Automated Teller, or when folks go online to order Fishing Tackle or a Fishing License to fish, say, in the state of Florida.

But back to Potstickers. Yes, I do have an illustrated recipe. You can get it [here] . The recipe requires lots of labour. Yes, I'm a do-it-urself kinda engineer. I roll my own potsticker skins and stuff them with my own filling just because it's a self-satisfaction thing. I think of the line in Repo Man when Emilio Estevez's character comes home and whips out a can of generic food, opens it and starts to eat it out of the can, and his Mom hollers, "Put it on a plate dear... it'll taste better."

Yeah, the feeling is kind of like that. Yes, I like to fix my own cars, wrap my own fishing rods, lace my own wheels on my bicycle, and install my own French Doors. I also run my own static IP network out of my house, host my own virtual servers, build my own Whitebox PCs, and run Linux and Solaris at home. But I understand if not everyone adheres to the same standards for Do-it-urself. I cheat too. So it's okay if some of you sneak off to Costco and buy a bag of 50 potstickers and grill them up yourself. They taste okay and I won't call you a dilettante.

Happy reading. I'll be back...soon.


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