Wednesday Apr 16, 2008

Michigan -> Amsterdam -> Edinburgh -> Cluster Hacking -> return(home);

Last week I was on some travel for work that took my from my home around the world to Edinburgh, UK to work on a large cluster of Sun v20z nodes. This is an internal cluster that will further enhance what we can test and try out with our products. More on the cluster to come... now for the adventure.

My manager called and asked if I wanted to fly over to Scotland to setup Nessie... that is right, we have a corny nickname for the cluster that matches the region of the world in which it is located. Of course I said that I would travel the world to setup a massive cluster so that we could make Sun HPC ClusterTools a more rock solid product. I have a passion for playing with the hardware as well as the software and have not been able to do that for some time. After the right folks all signed off I was given the green light to pack the bags and book the travel. So off I went.

I left the United States late one evening and landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands the next day on my birthday. On the flight over I watched, The Simpsons Movie, and American Gangster. I had a 11 hour layover so I headed into the city to walk around a bit. My plan was to first find a nice little cafe to have a coffee at, notice I said cafe instead of coffeehouse there is a difference. I chatted a bit with the barista and got some good directions on where to head to just browse around the city. I was pointed down a small side street to reach the canals and which ones might be better to see. While walking around with the day pack, the earbuds in and a camera out... I am sure I stood out like a tourist. Now after some wondering around a bit along with the lack of sleep I think I was basically lost, well that would mean that I knew where I was to begin with. I was just about to ask for directions when I saw the train station. I stopped by a small pub close the train station for a birthday drink. After that I headed back to the airport for a nap. Late that day I arrived in Edinburgh and off to the hotel for a couple hours of sleep before I headed off to the Sun facility to get cranking on the cluster setup.

After arriving a little late for my first day of cluster hacking (man I needed even more sleep) I was hooked up with some of the local folks on sight, given the quick ESD overview and pointed to the lab. The cluster will consist of 1024 v20z nodes, each with two AMD procs. The nodes are broken down 32 to a rack and there will thus be 32 racks. By the time I left we had the SPs up on 576 and Solaris installed or ready to be installed on 480 of them... ran out of hardware to get the three other racks up with Solaris. The other 14 racks are waiting for a power issue in the lab to be resolved and then they can come up online. I don't take all the credit, the local folks all ready had the racks in place and power to them and I was joined by a colleague from the London area.

While spending the week in Edinburgh I did venture out for dinner each night and a little sight seeing. Note, that almost all of the shops close at 18:00, plan accordingly. I had some great food while out in the city including some local favorites... fish and chips, bangers and mash. I did not partake of traditional Scottish breakfast... I stuck to my americano and muffin from one of the cafes right by the hotel. The Edinburgh castle was amazing and all of the sites along the royal mile. A full collection of photos from the trip can be found over here.

The travel home was a little eventful, I was delayed leaving Edinburgh do to a security issue with baggage on the flight I was on. By the time it was resolved all the bags were removed from the plane, laid out on the tarmac, each person had to claim their bags, re-board the plane, the extra bag was identified, removed and the flight finally took off... two hours late and two connections in Amsterdam down the drain. I stand behind the pilots decision to ensure that the correct bags were accounted for and unknown bags were not onboard in this day and age of travel. All delays aside, KLM is my new favorite airline. Their level of customer service is second to none. I have not flown Southwest or Jet Blue but the KLM folks know how to do it right for their passengers in flight, the counter crew could be a little more friendly. On the flights home I watched The Bourne Ultimatum and The Kite Runner. I finally made it home 17 hours later than I was set to and a couple hours late for my little girls birthday party. No worries, I was here for the presents and the cake but missed the pinata.

All and all a great trip and a wonderful experience... I would head back anytime to work on the cluster and to help bring the over half up when the power issue is worked out.

Monday Oct 01, 2007

Backpacking North Manitou Island

Last weekend I headed out with my backpacking buddy Dave and we had to leave Nuba home this hike, she was a depressed doggy from what I am told. We headed out for a three day hike on North Manitou Island. Before heading up there I had warned my wife that the ferry only runs on Friday and Sunday so if I miss the ferry I was going to stuck there for a week. We joked about this the week leading up to the trip and she joked she was going to check my pack to ensure that I did not pack a weeks forth of food and claim that "I missed the ferry".

Day One:

As it generally starts out for a backpacking trip with me is an early rise and departure off to our hiking trailhead. We left Midland shortly after 5 am and off to Leland, MI. After a very scenic drive that could have been more if it would have been in the day light we arrived in Leland shortly after 8 am. Checking in to see if the Manitou Island Transit was open yet.. which it was not. So up the docks we headed stopping into the Village Cheese Shanty to ask where where we could get the best breakfast and were informed that there is only one place, The Early Bird Restaurant right up at the corner. Great breakfast special and bring your cash, no credit or debit. As were are sitting eating breakfast we noticed a trunk pull past with a trailer full of backpacking gear... I was a little worried that we were going to be swamped on the island. Shortly after bus roll in from Lansing Christian School, ah so we placed 1 and 1 together... turns out all 29 of them were headed to South Manitou Island for a seniors weekend. Picked up the tickets and paid the park fees.. all aboard. Turns out with the way the wind was blowing the day we headed to the south island first and then to the north which meant that we were on the boat that much longer... a 3 hour boat ride. No motion sickness here but I can't say the same for some of the high school students.

After finally reaching the north island we disembarked and headed down the dock to the shore to check in with the ranger on duty. After a quick orientation with the ranger about the island and a warning that the ferry may not be able to make it on Sunday if the weather is not right but to check in on Sunday about 9 am for a status... note we might be on the island until Monday. With that we headed out but not without watching where the others went. All of the groups headed straight for the north or center trail so we headed south, take not folks you might not always want to follow the crowds. After a very pleasant hike south on the main train we took a side tail to see the cemetery and the Bourniques homestead. After meeting back up with the main trail we headed west across the bottom of the island and set out to camp at Fredrickson Place. Wow, there was a great clearing with a gorgeous campsite on the north side of the field. The site had a wonderful view over the bluff and onto Lake Michigan. After dinner we had a short stroll down the dune and to the water to collect up water for the next day. We then hiked down the shoreline south to reach Donner's point, the geographically southern most part of the island. While hiking down we watched an amazing Michigan sunset that was wonderful blues, white and orange as is sank down on Lake Michigan. Now to hike back to camp in the fleeting daylight and off to bed. End of day one and 10 miles under the feet.

Day Two:

Now Dave and I are really not ones to sleep in on the mainland but we slept in soundly until 8:30. After a leisure breakfast we broke camp and headed north on the main trail. We turned off into the woods to check out Swenson's barn. Not finding right away the secondary trail down to the shore we blazed a bit... well we are glad we found the secondary trail since our blazing was a bit rugged and tight. As we approached the back side of the dune we scared up two canadian geese... where Dave resounded with "that is reason to upgrade right there" in referring to his camera which has a 3 second delay in turing on instead of an instant on. As we crested the dune we were presented with an magnificent site a huge sandy shore that seemed to go on and on and a very blue Lake Michigan. No need to say but we grabbed the camp chairs and had lunch on the beach right at the waterline. We snapped some great shots of the Crescent dock ruins and of the scenery. After a relaxing lunch were headed back across the marsh on the secondary trail back to the main trail and onward north. In enter the opening just north of Swenson's barn we were reminded of several other hikes we had taken on the mainland until we turned around to a panaraminic of the open field and Lake Michigan in the backdrop. As we entered in deeper now into the forest started to encounter mosquitoes... no problem right? Right, unless both of you forget mosquito dope. That is right, we both did not pack the good stuff and faced the hike without protection from the little buggers. After a quick stop at Stormer camp where we thought we would end for the day we were being plauged with those nasty little buggers so we headed Bennon's Place where they were worse... so down the trial to Lake Manitou. That is an amazing site to see the largest lake on the largest freshwater island in the world. Heading up the hill a bit we found a clearing four our site. We setup our tent quickly without the rain flies just to get inside and away from the mosquitoes. It felt great to lay there an let a gentle breeze blow through as I relax, napped and watch the chipmunks forage. After trek back down the hill for water we decided to have dinner and finish setting up camp. After that we headed back down to the lake to just sit and soak it all in. As we were chatting there and the light fleeting more and more, something caught my attentions behind us. Turning my head around slowly I noticed a doe deer 15 to 20 feet behind us walking very slowly out of the woods and toward us and the shore line. We watched her behind us with our necks twisted around as to not spook her. After just sniffing us out for a while she walked up the other hill and off into the woods. After a that we headed off to the tents. Shortly after getting settled in the wind picked up and boy did it pick up. It was like a freight train rolling through the trees. You could hear it start on the east side of the island and roll all the way across in waves. It was soothing enough in an odd way that I fell fast asleep until about 12:30 when at least two deer raced through our camp scaring the ... out of me and keeping me awake for a while. End of day two and 10 more miles under the feet.

Day Three:

Knowing what the wind was doing during the night and heeding the rangers warning, we enjoyed a light breakfast and took tally of the food we had remaining and were confident that we make it if we had to stay over until Monday. I generally break camp fairly fast after breakfast and get my pack ready for the trial, well this morning Dave challenged me and we set out to fast pack as if it were raining. As both of us packed up with a decent pace we finished in almost a tie, I would like to think that I finished ahead but we will leave that up to the judges. After that we broke camp and headed out for the village area and the dock. After a short hike out we reached the village area around 9:15 with no word on the ferry posted from the ranger, well that makes you stop and think. The ferry is suppose to leave dock at 10 if it is coming for the day. So all the hikers were sitting around talking about their treks and waiting to hear from the ranger what the work was. We could look out on the lake and see some swells that were nice sized. About a quarter after 10 the ranger came on by to tell us all that the ferry would be coming and would be in at 11:15. After pick us up at the north island it would head the the south and then back to the mainland. Fair enough, were were headed home and many prayers had been answered. I was ready to stay another night if need be but I did want to make it home on Sunday for various reasons. As the boat became visible off in the distance we all grabbed out packs and headed out the dock. End of day three hiking and 2.6 miles under our feet. As we climbed aboard and stowed our gear I mentioned to the ranger that I thought a group f three that we had chatted with on the ride out had not made it back... sure enough after a head count the ferry was three short. The captain blew the horn and off we went. Now in talking with these three I gleaned that they were experienced hikers, been to North Manitou numerous times and did plan on going home Sunday and not staying the week. We can only speculate what happened with them or if the really did plan on staying the week... I think the ranger would have known that though. Rumor has it that if you miss the ferry the ranger will be glad to take you back to shore in the small boat that he has at a charge of $300 payable to the state of Michigan... don't miss you ferry folks. So as we cruise on down to the south island there were some nice 6 foot swells and the boat was certainly rocking. After picking up the group from the south island we headed for the mainland on a bit of a different route based on the weather. There were again several of the seniors that were not in the best of shape riding the waves. After coming ashore and getting our gear packed up we sought out a place for some lunch. We stopped back into the Village Cheese Shanty and were going to ask for directions to a place when we noticed that they had a great selection of hand crafted sandwiches server up on fresh baked pretzel bread, oh yum. I had the Third Coast sandwich. After a fabulous lunch we hopped into the ride and headed for home, almost. We took a different way home so that we could swing by and pick up some cider donut and cider.

After dropping Dave off I finish down the block to home to be greeted by my loving wife and daughter yelling "daddy, daddy, daddy". That is a welcome home.

Wow, three days, 22.6 miles, six hours on a ferry and a huge hug from my family. That was an awesome hike and weekend.

For what it's worth.

Links:

Update: Pictures from the hike.

Thursday Sep 27, 2007

Off to the island

Tomorrow morning very early I am headed out for the second to the last backpacking trip of this season. Dave and I are headed for a three day hike on North Manitou Island about 6 miles off shore in Lake Michigan. If you are a follower of my hiking adventures you will know that I normally also take along the furry hiking buddy (my dog) but there are no dogs allowed on the island... guess she has to sit this one out, she is going to be depressed and confused when I leave with the pack and without her, sorry girl there is another one coming up in mid-October that you can come with.

After I get back I will post the pictures that we get. I hear there are some awesome sights and Dave love his camera so I am sure that there will be some great photos to share.

For what it's worth.

Tuesday Oct 24, 2006

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Day One:

I am back and all in one piece. This last weekend I hiked a portion of the North Country Trail here in the great state of Michigan. We through hiked about 24 miles from the Marilla trail head to the High Bridge trail head. We started by dropping all of the gear and two of the guys at the Marilla trail head and then Dave and myself dashed the over vehicle to the other end and got back to the start. We figured the other two had about an hour lead on us. We had man plans for the lead group to stop and wait for us so we knew we could catch them. The trail was in good condition, very leaf covered but that was to be expected. The main portion of day one I have hiked before when I did the loop with the Manistee River Trail. After meeting up with the other two we continued on, the plan for the day was at least 8 miles with the late start. As we were approaching Red Hill Outlook we started to search for a camp site... someone thought they knew where a great one was located. I had found one just south of Red Hill and overlooking the valley but we decided to keep on... we ended up in a nice little valley back about 300 ft. from the trail. It was a nice site that I doubt anyone had camped at for a long time. With it being cloudy we did not mind being under tree cover since we were going to miss the meteor shower anyways. We had a nice small fire, a warm mean of tuna and couscous. It was an early night for us all.

Day Two:

Ah up bright and early to stumble around to get the dogs food and feed her... she like to eat way to early for the trail. Just before sunrise we all crawled from our tents and had a nice breakfast, how good instant oatmeal tastes on the trail... and only the trail. Of course I had coffee, I shared a large press pot of Black Cat with the other Dan on the trek. After cleaning up camp and getting everything packed away of the trail we went. I figured that we would not run into anyone on the trail and only minutes after thinking this we cross a group of three just packing up their camp and heading the direction we came from. Okay that is going to be it right... wrong later in the day we cross five mountain bikers and a young solo hiker. Young Dave was on his first hike. He turned 18 and wanted to take up backpacking. Young Dave was hiking with borrowed gear from his uncle, no map... well a photo of a map on his digital camera, flip flops, jeans and a t-shirt. He was straight hiking as we were (in the opposite direction) and was hoping to hitch hike back to his car when he reach one of the road crossing on Sunday. I hope he did all right on Sunday, I am still getting to that part. The portion of the NCT that we hikes on day one and the beginning of day two does not really cross any water so you need to be aware of how much you have, how much you need and where to get some. We opted to take a side hike down to this gorgeous inland lake to pump. After a bit of hike down the steep banks to the waters edge we sat on a mirror lake and watch some long neck geese fly by as we pumped out water... AWESOME. We had some nice lunch (jerky, gorp, cheese) and headed off down the trail. It was a very leisure hike. We found nice camp site in large clearing right on the bend of the Manistee River. Just about the time we picked a spot it started to lightly sprinkle. So we quickly setup camp, found some wood for a fire and then started to explore around. There was a small feeder stream right behind our camp in which we saw no less than four large salmon attempting to swing up stream. The sprinkles did not stop but only increased until sometime around 11 pm the sky just opened up and the wind came howling in... thank goodness for the rain fly.

Day Three:

Lying awake in a toasty sleeping bag with the dog curled up next to me listening to the rain, ah it was a good nights sleep and a good way to wake up. Around 6:30 or 7 we started talking between tents about what the plan was for the day. We came to the decision since it was not letting up to pack, eat, and hit the trail. I got dressed in the tent, packed up my pack (as much as I could) from inside the tent and then got out to retreive my food bag. After a quick breakfast in the rain I finished packing my food and tent up. After all of us were packed up we hit the trial. We did not have that far to go so we headed out with the end in sight. As we headed down the trail we ended up broke into two groups of two (and the dog). Dan, Nuba and I were out in the front pack and treking at a very comfortable pace. After a nice long section of walking the river bank the trail heads back in the woods and hills. It was right at this point where I slipped on a section of board walk and placed one of my feet into a stream. Ugh. Well time to finish with one soaked foot. At the base of the stream there is a section of tight switch backs that take you right up the side of a nice sized hill across a small plateau and then up another nice sized hill. It seemed like we circled the top of the second hill and hiked off the ridge right close to where we had come up. The rain has not let up and won't for the rest of the day. After some time back in the wood we end up back on the edge of the hill and hike back to the rivers edge. We passed by the historic high bridge and could see the destination off in the distance. After a short distance on the marshy bottom we popped out right on the road and our parking spot. Treking over to the vehicle we opened it up and quickly changed into the warm and dry cloths awaiting us. I like to ride home in clean fresh pair of street cloths. The other two partners where only 20 minutes back so we had the vehicle warm and waiting for them.

It was a great hike and I would do it over again. We are going to head out next time (spring) to do a new section of the NCT and the goal is to hike all of it in Michigan (at least). The next trip in few weeks is back tot he Jordan Valley Pathway for out "before deer season" hike. Happy Trails.

For what it's worth.

Update: Stitched together map is parts from this website.

Thursday Oct 19, 2006

Time To Stretch The Legs

Off for a long weekend all to hit the trail with my dog and three close friends from church. We will be doing about 20 to 25 miles of the North Country Trail here in Michigan. We are starting just north Hoden-Pile dam and heading south. Looks like the weather could try to catch us on the last day... everyone think warm thoughts for me. Happy Trails and I shall see you all Monday.

For what it's worth.

Thursday Oct 12, 2006

Aurelia Come To Me

Finally figured out the machine that we are going to be putting in the coffee house at the church I am a member of. We are going with a Aurelia. So when you are in the area, stop in and I will get you a cup and I might even make it for you. We have also finalized on the name and will be revealing it when the new portion of the facility opens... stay tuned.

For what it's worth.

Wednesday Oct 04, 2006

Winter of Coffee

Have you heard of Winter? He set up to visit every Starbucks in the world. I recently dropped him a not to let me know when he zips through my home town. We shall wait and see. If I have a chance to meet up with him I shall post an update.

For what it's worth.

Monday Aug 28, 2006

The Loons Have Landed

The Great Lakes Loons have landed here in Mid-Michigan. Minor league baseball has come to Mid-Michigan and the opening game will be April 13, 2007... I figure a great birthday present for our little girl and myself.

For what it's worth.

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