Thursday, November 20, 2008

New York Rangers

New York Rangers
Originally uploaded by chillkc
I got to check out a Rangers game last night. I had watched the first period from a store in midtown, then proceeded toward the arena to see if I could find a sports bar where I could get some food and be among fans. Well, ESPN Zone was closed for some reason. I took the 1 train down to 34th and when I came up there was a group of ticket scalpers yelling "hockey tickets". I asked how much, and they all crowded around me. I started a bidding war. I negotiated a $240 club level seat down to $40, even after the guy said his rock bottom was $60. This is after the game was a third over and the Rangers had given up a few goals. Anyway, I got inside in time for the second period. I got to see the Rangers score their first goal of the game. There was a waitress to take my food order. The crowd was into the game. It was good. And, I must say, the Madison Square Garden Arena has the best hot dogs. Click on the photo to see what I mean.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NYC again.

If I didn't do NYC right last week, this week I get a do over. So far, the experience is better in some ways and worse in others. I'm starting to notice a routine. I wake up to the Early Show and watch some crazy news reports and make some oatmeal and coffee to get myself going. Get ready and run down to the lobby to meet the other Capgemini folks, who have joined me in my cheap but good hotel situation at the Belnord. The rooms are small, but clean and newly renovated, the internet is free and fast, only 3 blocks from the office, and only $89 a night. Incredible deal, especially for Manhattan. We all go to Cafe 82 for a hearty hot breakfast served fast. Then back up Broadway to the office for filling in for a dwindling IT staff, all of whom know their jobs are in the process of being outsourced. Morale is low, but things are still running. At around 9, I join a group who walks to one of two nearby Starbucks for a Venti Drip, and some discussion about the morning emails. I got a Grande Peppermint Mocha Twist, which took 10 minutes longer than just Drip. Lunch is a matter of sneaking out when there's a lull and finding some good grub. The restaurant selection just within one block is fantastic, but I'm getting advice from people who have lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years. There are countless amazing restaurants on Amsterdam and Columbus. My favorite so far, and I've been twice, is Saigon Grill. Perfect pork chops, with pho and spring roll appetizers. The hot sauce makes my scalp sweat. Back at the office, the workload is sporadic for the rest of the afternoon, but there's a soda fountain and a Cafe Mio machine with hot chocolate or a selection of 10 different kinds of coffee or tea. The spoiled IT folks here still go to Starbucks and call the fresh Kenyan roast they have in the break room "dirty water". It's better than the crap they passed off as coffee at the Sprint campus. I had to ice it down and slam it for the caffeine, then chew some mint gum to get rid of the flavor.

The interesting thing about Manhattan is how efficient everything is. I can get the same kind of errands done here that I might do at home, but everything is walking distance and usually on the way. If it's not, I can hop on the subway for a few minutes and pop up where I want to be for $2.

The downside this week is that it's starting to get cold. I expect to see snowflakes before I leave. Last week I was taking bad pictures with my phone, which is unfortunate. I brought a hi-res camera with a flash and video capability this time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Long layover.

I had to book this trip at the last minute, and keep costs low, so I ended up with a long layover in Baltimore. I'm making the best of it now that I've found a power outlet and used my cell phone as an internet modem.

There's nothing like an upcoming trip for an extended period to make you think about all the loose ends in your life. That said, the Jetta is put back together, but some of the vacuum hoses and clamps need to be replaced. Here's a picture I took. The Vietnamese guy who is helping me is actually enjoying putting it back together. He's as sick about foreign cars as I am about data networks, I guess.

Here is a random picture of Shiloh the Dog, waiting eagerly on my back porch to go back inside after doing her thing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I love New York

I'm flying out to New York City in the morning. The bags are packed. The dog's care has been arranged. The loose ends are tied up. It's been over a year since I've been to Manhattan. This time, I found a reasonably decent place to stay just a five minute walk from the client's location on the Upper West Side.

Here are some pictures from my last visit. That included my second visit to Ground Zero, my first visit to Battery Park, a Turkish Day Parade, and a 10km charity AIDS walk. I hiked all the way up Central Park and down Riverside Drive along the west river with 10,000+ of my best friends, so I've seen the areas surrounding the Upper West Side, but this is my first time to stay in the Upper West Side. There's a restaurant near my hotel called Hot and Crusty. I like the name a lot, we'll see if I like the food.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cloud Computing

I have become very intrigued by cloud computing lately. The idea that I can go to and create an account and select a server image type, like a Linux/Apache/PHP/MySQL image, and have the server booted up and running such that I can begin configuring it in minutes and I'm only charged by the amount of I/O. . . I just have to sit and meditate for a while about the consequences and scalability of that. The art of configuring and tweaking server OS and application performance and security is dead. The images are standardized now. Performance isn't an issue, I can configure one and replicate it 20 times and use load balancing on the network side to get performance.

I think it's great for putting public type web pages out there, but what about scaling a data center housing enterprise SAP or Siebel accounting and business process applications, or databases which contain information protected by privacy laws or credit card protection standards. Until there's a cloud firewall that goes with the cloud server, enterprises will have to build their own clouds. You can bet that Cisco 3.0 is working on the cloud firewall, with policy templates that you build which can scale when you replicate your servers in the cloud environment.

I have heard of using Pound to terminate SSL and perform web server load balancing on a server within the cloud environment, but F5 Networks' appliances do a much better job of that. Not only do you need a cloud firewall, you need a cloud load balancer, and a cloud VPN federation. Are these functions moving off of the hardware appliances and back onto the servers? Or are these functions going to still work on hardware designed for the purpose? Now that they have a blade chassis for servers, will they make a chassis with 10 slots full of virtual firewalls? Load balancers? VPN accelerators? How will the security functions protecting enterprise data assets and network traffic be integrated into cloud environments? This looks to me like a paradigm shift in scaling information technology like the mainframe to PC/LAN to internet/web shifts in the past.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Internet Marketing

I have been categorizing all the make-money-fast schemes I can find on the Internet into categories. I have learned about every kind of pyramid scheme and the various types, including the pass-ups, 1-ups, 2-ups, and the perpetual leverage payment plan. Some of these are marketing legitimately valuable products and services, usually overpriced, and some are selling collections of public domain ebooks, software, or information which one could find elsewhere by simply searching for it. The problem is that 95% of them want money up front. So, I'm sorting them according to the size of the barrier to entry. Some of them have a small initial barrier to entry, but if you read further, you find that that's just an application fee, and the actual product they're pushing is much more expensive. Of course, in the name of integrity, you have to have purchased it for the opportunity to then sell it. The hottest items are "information products". This is some presentation or packaged educational material, sometimes a DVD of a seminar, or a flash version of a lecture with slides. The cost to produce this stuff is so minimal. It makes great business sense to sell this multi-level marketing style, because the main cost is the marketing. The interesting ones are the travel resort clubs, legal insurance, or even a membership based web service that prints and mails customized greeting cards.

After the MLM stuff, there are the affiliate marketing programs. This is much more straightforward. You get a reward for helping customers find the product they're looking for, or maybe a product they might buy, whether they're looking for it or not. The barrier to entry is zero. You just need a web site or a blog to put web links or banners online where people can see them and click them. Commission Junction and Google Adwords are huge.

Another thing I have found is the very rare community of people freely giving out information to better themselves and anyone interested in following in their footsteps. The absolute best one of these is a group of Internet marketing folks who are selling software and web hosting, but teaching people how to make lots of money using the tools that they are selling, and they're not asking for anything on the back side. It's really free. If you want to spend a few hours a day not only learning about internet marketing, but actually watching a video that shows you how to do it, with the expectation that you actually will, I highly recommend the Thirty Day Challenge. It's a group of Aussies who are master Internet marketers, spending tens of thousands of dollars to spread this knowledge and the prosperity that goes with it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yay for car commercials.

I thought if I had to watch another political ad, I was going into exile. What a relief to be back to the cheesy commercials for car dealerships, Gutter Brush, Gutter Helmet, Gutter Monster ads. All the ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers are back on, and nobody approved that message. Instead of back-to-back mudslinging attack ads, we have Heidi Klum skin care products and Bowflex Treadclimber again, amen. I'd rather hear about Oxi-Clean than Obama. Give me triple action cleaning power I can believe in, because three minutes of lying campaign ads in a row makes me feel dirty and conflicted. I'm so glad it's over. The hand has been played. The chips have been pushed, and the losers have stepped away from the table.

I prefer a deadlocked House and Senate, or different parties in the Congress and the White House. It allows for a sanity check for new legislation, so it's good for everyone. Bush didn't veto very much. I have a feeling Obama won't either.

I'm disappointed with the BOMB (Bush Obama McCain Bailout) that passed so Congress can show they're doing something about the economy, even though it doesn't bode well for the future economy. The less influence Congress exerts over the economy, the better off we are. The mortgage bubble was caused by bad legislation which encouraged easy loans, which increased demand for houses, which increased housing prices above the free market norm. Now that market pressures are trying to deflate the bubble, they're propping it back up at the expense of a weaker dollar and increasingly worthless T-bills. When the dollar is weaker, outsourced jobs will come back onshore, but we'll be paying more for imports, and that means oil. If we don't produce more of our own, we're going to be in worse shape in coming years than we were this past summer. The prospects are scary. With one party in control, we're going to get a stream of crappy legislation coming out of Washington for a while. I can't wait to see what the first hundred days has in store.

Bush did a good thing in setting up a web site to show which government programs are working and which ones are wasting money. It should be a no-brainer for the next Congress and Executive administration to make the appropriate cuts. I just don't have any faith in the Democrats to cut these instead of cutting the military. Y'know, our military might enforcing a dollars only for oil policy, which saps value out of oil producing countries, is the only thing keeping our dollar afloat in the world economy. It's no longer backed by gold. If any country starts selling oil for euros or yen or whatever, the dollar will weaken against that currency. If we don't fight, the dollar will tank.

Our framers must be spinning in their graves.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting lines like I've never seen.

I have simply never seen so many people in line to vote on election day. I'm usually in and out in 20 minutes. I was in line at 7:15 this morning. I didn't vote until about 9am. I barely made my 9:30am conference call. The line went up the sidewalk about 300 feet, around the corner another 50 feet. The Democrats were electioneering about halfway up the line, with a table and big tent with Obama/Biden signs. The Missouri law limits electioneering to 25 feet or more from the polling place. Just enough to keep them out of the doorway, I guess. I grabbed a handout to see what the party line was on the state questions, sheriff election, and judge retention, etc. A lady was selling donuts and milk to people in the line. I have also never seen so many parents at a polling place with children and babies in tow. It was a mass of humanity inside. There were signs and handouts with phone numbers offering free rides to the polls. It's exciting to see people actually showing up to vote. It was a circus atmosphere and I detected a certain amount of zeal and energy. To be honest, I have never seen that many black people or that many young people at my precinct polling place.

The people handing out ballots had two people checking IDs. I signed and initialed, two of them signed and initialed after making sure my signature next to my name and address on the voter rolls matched the signature on my drivers license and voter card. I would say they were doing a good job authenticating people. I saw some people turn and leave the line when they got near the front, so I suppose they didn't have the right credentials. I heard of one lady receiving a ballot which already had markings on it. I didn't hear which candidate's name was already marked. She got a replacement ballot, and they asked everyone in line to be sure there were no marks on the ballot before accepting it.

With all that procedural stuff and the crazy turn out, I have no idea how this thing is going to turn out. Well, I'm pretty sure that my favorite candidate will not win.

Monday, November 3, 2008

House for Rent (Kansas City)

$800 / 2br - 2Bed 1Bath Large Kitchen Large Deck Fenced Yard Raytown Schools (50th & Sterling) (map)
Reply to: [?]
Date: 2008-11-03, 6:13PM CST

HOUSE FOR LEASE $800 / month

2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, Large kitchen,

Big deck, Large fenced back yard, New siding, New stove

1 car garage

E. 50th Street
(near 50th & Sterling, east of Truman Sports Complex, south of Blue Ridge Crossing)
Kansas City, MO

Raytown Schools
Pets welcome with pet deposit.

Contact Charles @ 816-651-1900