Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Eucalyptus Trees

Another ride with the Diablo Cyclists - my last hard ride before Waves-to-Wine. Walnut Creek through Danville and Blackhawk. Out Tassajara Road to Highland, Collier Canyon and return.

The pace to Blackhawk was moderate, but things started to pick up after the rest break. We had a big pack going 28 mph on Tassajara. Turning on to Highland, the hammer went down. I hung on until the second roller, dropping off with one other guy. We stuck together until the rest break including a fun 30+ mph stretch.

When everyone got rolling after the break, it was pretty much a repeat. I hung on as long as I could with my heart rate in the low 160s. I paired up with a different partner for the ride back to Danville and finished just before noon. 50 miles, 33 mph max, 17.6 mph average.

Sunrise Sunset - Two Movies

We watched two small but amazing movies this weekend: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Both starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy, and both are essentially long conversations. In Before Sunrise, released in 1995, their characters, American Jesse and Celine, a Parisian student, meet on a train traveling through Europe and get off together in Vienna. They spend the night walking and talking - knowing they may never see each other again.

The 2004 Before Sunset is the sequel. Jesse returns to Europe, a successful author touring a book essentially about their Vienna encounter. Celine shows up at his last stop in a Paris bookstore. They have a few hours to pick up where they left off nine years ago before Jesse flies back home.

Delphy radiates a natural beauty, enthusiasm and charm that had me in love with her. She hardly changes in the nine years (story-wise and in reality) between their encounters. Hawke, young and dashingly handsome in the first, is a bit world-worn four years into the new Millennium.

Their conversations are never dull and amazingly naturalistic with no hint of scripting. Director Richard Linklater and crew pull off long, uninterrupted steady cam shots as Jesse and Celine talk their way through the streets of Paris.

In the special features on the second DVD, we learn that Before Sunset was was shot in 15 days - a collaboration between the two actors and Linklater. Delphy wrote much of the script and is credited with composing the song she sings near the end.

Definitely watch them in order. They could easily been one long movie, but it's more fun to see the actors as they have actually matured rather than through makeup. Both are available on DVD from Netflix.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Paradise Beach

There are lots of Paradise Beaches in the world. You've probably been to a few. Last weekend, I visited my favorite.

We went south to the Pismo Beach-Arroyo Grande, CA area to spend the weekend with Liz's 78 year-old dad, Jerry. Liz's sister, Laurie, had died two years earlier of ovarian cancer. To commemorate the day, we went hiking on the beach – one of her favorite activities.

In the tiny Guadalupe Dunes parking lot, we ran into Laurie's husband who was visiting some of their favorite spots. From there, we headed south along the nearly deserted beach. Shortly, it was just us and a few surf fishermen. Off shore was a great stream of birds; mostly gulls and pelicans, also heading south. Apparently the anchovies were schooling and the birds feasting. Shortly we saw a mass of birds diving into the waves turning the surface to foam.

Just before the bluffs of Mussel Rock started to rise, we worked our way up into the dunes. The dune complex here is huge. As recently as 1982, vehicles were allowed to roam this area. Jerry was one of the dune buggy pioneers. He and Liz often reminisce about family outings in the dunes. Following a rough path through the dunes and beach scrub, we worked our way up over Mussel Rock. Stopping to chat with a couple coming the other way, we learned they had found some cougar (mountain lion, puma) tracks. There are plenty of tracks of all sizes in the sand: reptiles, birds, mammals. I'm not much of a tracker, but we think we saw tracks from snakes, centipedes, mice, rabbits, coyotes, deer, turkey vultures, and the rumored cougars.

The walking surface varies from loose sand, to hard pack and exposed sandstone. The wind had blasted the sand so hard in some spots that we barely dented the surface. It was a bit disconcerting to walk across a steep, open slope wondering if our soles would stick to the rock-like surface. There are a few exposed spots where the eroding sand drops over cliffs to the crashing surf below. Don't look down!

From the top of Mussel Rock, there are great views: north over the dunes, west over the ocean far below and south to Paradise Beach. We could see three fishermen. Aside from them the beach was deserted. A steep gully separates Mussel Rock from the beach. A trail of sorts leads straight down into the gully. Someone has installed a rope. It was a welcome aid as we, one-by-one, worked our way down the narrow, steep, loose-sand covered “trail.” In the bottom is a year-round stream, that drops over a 20-foot fall to the beach. Because of the drop, we had to work our way another hundred yards or so further south before we could safely descend to the beach. Calla Lilies grow along the cliffs. Some had been rooted up, apparently by wild pigs.

Liz and I backpacked here some years ago coming in from the Point Sal road to the south of the beach. At that time there had been a small, quaint driftwood shack up against the cliffs, but it had been washed away in later winter storms. Driftwood to driftwood.

Continuing south on the two mile long beach, we passed the fishermen – one had a fair-sized surf perch. Down further was a gathering of a dozen or so turkey vultures feasting on a seal carcass. They reluctantly scattered to the cliffs as we approached. In the carcass were still a few chunks of fresh-looking liver. Yum!

Sandstone cliffs supported some lovely hanging gardens above which the steep slopes rise over 400 feet. We spotted tracks in the sand that we guessed were from a mother cougar and two cubs looking for food washed up on beach.

The tide was in as we approached the southern end of the beach where we found a rocky inlet and stopped to have our lunch. There were six sea lions frolicking in the relatively calm pool. I found a spot that would have been great for diving, but despite the sunshine, it was a bit cool for swimming. Nearby tide pools were full of anenomes, little crabs and other life.

On the way back Jerry took the hard way up the cliff to the trail while we could only shake our heads at his tenacity as he struggled for sandy hand and foot holds. We conquered the rest of climb with the welcome help of the rope. Jerry took his time but seemed no worse for it after a rest at the top.

Large flocks of gulls and curlews resting on the sand from their earlier feast parted for us as we strode back up the Guadalupe Beach. We were tired but satisfied with our wilderness beach experience as we arrived at the parking lot after our nine mile round trip.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PeopleSoft and the Load Balancer

We are doing a PeopleSoft PeopleTools upgrade among with upgrading our server environment to a "high availability" configuration. In PeopleTools, we are upgrading from 8.43 to 8.48. Many "little" things have broken. I'll write more about that in the future. This time I want to discuss a problem we had with the "high availability" configuration.

Our UNIX (Solaris) server setup includes a Cisco CSS Load Balancer, two boxes that host our redundant web servers (Weblogic) and Application Servers, and two boxes that host the database server (Oracle) and two process schedulers. There is a overall network that connects the load balancer and all four machines and a private network to connect the Application Servers to the database server.

The CSS has a virtual address to connect to the PeopleSoft web application (PIA) and balances the sessions between the two web servers. Each of the web servers is configured to use all four application server domains. This allows quite a bit of flexibility for fault tolerance and maintenance shutdowns. It also allows for horizontal scalability transparent to the users.

However, one of the problems we ran into involved the UNIX process schedulers and their ability to post files to the report repository. We have always used the FTP method for posting files. PeopleSoft also offers an HTTP post. As we learned through our troubleshooting, the FTP method has two steps. First the distribution server FTPs the files to report repository FTP address, then it sends an http query to the repository to confirm that the files are there. We initially configured the http address to our load balanced virtual host name. Our Windows process schedulers were able to successfully post files to the the report repository. Our UNIX process schedulers, however, would stay in Posting status and eventually go to Not Posted. By reviewing the logs, we figured out that the FTP was working fine. The files were actually in the repository, but http confirmation was failing. After a lot of testing, our network engineer determined that the http request was routed from the process scheduler through the CSS to a web server, but the web server response was routed directly to the database/process scheduler box through the private network. To the process scheduler distribution server, the response appeared to be coming from a server different than the one the request was sent to so the response was discarded.

If we configured the report repository http address to the actual host:port of one of the web servers, the distribution worked fine, but we lost the redundancy of the dual web servers for this function.

We also found that if we disabled the private network between the application servers and the database server, the http response was routed back through the CSS and distribution server was happy. This was not an ideal solution, though, because PeopleSoft is a very database intensive application and you want to optimize any communications between the application servers and the database.

Eventually, the network engineer came up with a solution involving a third NIC on the database server. I don't have details at the moment, but it works. I will post more information when I get it.

In future posts, I will go into other details of our architecture and the PeopleTools upgrade.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Biking the Bears

I rode this morning with the Diablo Cyclists. They have changed their starting spot since the last time I rode with them to Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek. To get more miles I rode from home to the start. It was a short (30 miles) but challenging ride around Briones Park. Reliez Valley and Alhambra and over Happy Valley to Lafayette. As usual, I was in the middle of the pack. Three tandems showed up, but with the hills they were trailing the whole way.

The lighter riders have the advantage on the climbs. The two women, both strong riders, would blow by me only to be caught on the downhills. It's a good club to ride with if you want to go pretty hard. I'm training for the Waves-to-Wine MS fund raising ride at the end of September so it was good to be with a group that could push me. Total miles: 46. Max speed: 40 mph.