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Sep. 8th, 2010 09:48 am "Go for Black Rock"

I just returned from my annual trek to Burning Man, where this year I did something new: volunteered as one of Burning Man's 911 dispatchers. Wow, what a rush!

Every year at Burning Man, "Black Rock City" springs forth from the dust. It's a temporary city of 50,000 people; for a week, it's the 5th largest city in Nevada. Like any city that size, it has an Emergency Services Department (ESD) to handle emergencies, mostly fire and medical.

Burning Man has thousands of staff (both paid and volunteer), organized into dozens of departments. Since there is little or no cell phone coverage, everything is coordinated through hundreds of handheld radios on dozens of different channels. To simplify life for radio users, the radios issued to a particular department are usually programmed with only the channels that department is likely to need (somebody working in the Center Camp Cafe, for example, might need to be able to reach somebody in the Art department, but probably doesn't need to be able to reach Heavy Machinery or the Airport).

Every Burning Man radio, though, includes "Channel 9", the emergency channel. It is monitored 24/7 throughout the event by ESD dispatchers; by long tradition, ESD dispatch uses the radio call sign "Black Rock". Everybody with a staff radio learns that, if you have an emergency, you switch to Channel 9 and call for Black Rock.

Channel 9 is also monitored by dispatchers for the Black Rock Rangers, who use call sign "Khaki". Because both Black Rock and Khaki are already on that channel anyway, we use it to coordinate routine stuff between ESD and the Rangers. So, if you listen on Channel 9, you'll hear a steady low-key stream of calls like Rangers requesting medical assistance from ESD, ESD requesting help with crowd control from the Rangers, and so forth.

Several times a day, though, a new voice will break in on Channel 9, usually sounding a bit excited and anxious, as somebody calls for help: "Black Rock, Black Rock, this is so-and-so!" Somebody is hurt, somebody needs help, something bad has happened (or is about to)...

And when we answer in that calm, cool, in-command dispatcher's tone of voice, "Go for Black Rock", they calm down... We hear you. We're here for you. We've got you covered. We can handle it. We're going to make it all OK. We're Black Rock, and everything is going to be just fine.

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Aug. 7th, 2009 08:55 am It's the USENIX Yearbook!

There's more at http://www.toad.com/facesaver/loukatz/gif/, if you remember anybody's email address from the late 80's...

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Aug. 3rd, 2009 04:19 pm Just back from a couple of weeks in Sweden...

I just got back from Sweden, where I spent the past couple of weeks helping the IETF use Netomata Config Generator (NCG: the open source software that I've been developing lately) to set up and manage the network for their thrice-annual meeting last week in Stockholm. More details about that on my professional blog, if you're curious.

jan_can_too went, too, and got to do lots of sightseeing while I was hanging out in the IETF NOC; there's more about that in her LiveJournal. I did manage to spend a little bit of time playing tourist, and had a great time at the Vasa Museum, Kunga Slottet (the Royal Palace), and Nobel Museum. One of the conference social events was at the Stockholm City Hall, which is where the Nobel Prize banquet is held each year, and is absolutely spectacular inside. We had a fantastic dinner for my birthday at what is reputed to be the best smörgåsbord in Stockholm, at the Grand Hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton Stockholm, overlooking the water and Gamla Stan (the old town, where the Royal Palace is), which was a very convenient and pleasant walk to both the conference site where I was working and all the tourist attractions; our room was on the side facing the Stockholm City Hall, which is quite a lovely view.

We also got out of Stockholm for a few days at the end of our trip, to visit Malmö and Kalmar. We went to Malmö primarily to visit the Fotevikens Museum (the Viking Preserve, a "living history" village of Viking buildings and craftspeople), and then we drove across to Kalmar, where we stayed overnight and then visited Kalmar Slott. Then we drove back to Stockholm for one more night before flying home (and boy, are our arms tired! ;-) ).

I really liked Sweden in general and Stockholm in particular. The weather was nice (better than it was at home, it sounds like), the food was good, the prices were reasonable, the city was beautiful, and the people were friendly. I'd love to go back sometime when I'm not there for business, and spend more time just bumming around.

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Jul. 23rd, 2009 08:55 pm Jar-Jar's Laundromat

We're in Sweden. Faced with the prospect of paying outrageous hotel laundry rates, I decided to check around for local laundromats. I found a web site for a place that I'm pretty sure is a local laundromat, but the web page was only in Swedish, so I decided to feed it through a Swedish-to-English translation service that I found on the web. What I got back was this:

Welcome to [name of shop]. We's is expert on modification in hide. We's am changing while yous am awaiting. Have you somewhatas requires fräschas up ors wash? Welcome in to ourselves!

It's Jar-Jar's laundry service!

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Apr. 14th, 2009 12:00 pm Released!

Today, I made the first public beta release of the open source network automation tool that I've been working on for the past few months, the Netomata Config Generator (NCG). Now we'll see if anybody but me is interested in this problem, and this approach to solving it... ;-)

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Feb. 5th, 2009 12:33 pm Dave Hitz' "How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business"

Dave Hitz is one of the cofounders of NetApp, which is a Silicon Valley success story, and has been with the company since 1992. I just finished reading his new book, How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business, and I highly recommend it.

In the book, Dave tells the intertwined stories of both his professional history (which included a stint as a working cowboy on an isolated cattle ranch; thus the title of the book) and the history of NetApp, and he shares many of the insightful lessons that he has learned along the way.

Dave is a natural story teller, and besides being fun to hear, his stories usually manage to memorably convey some point of wisdom. He's also a very nice guy, which is unfortunately rarer than you might wish in Silicon Valley. I've had the privilege of knowing Dave socially and professionally for a number of years, and I'm always pleased when I run into him at some industry or social event, because I know that a fun and interesting conversation will likely ensue.

The book is a great peek into what it takes to grow a startup from scratch to 8000 employees and billions of dollars in annual revenue, while also making it one of the most respected Silicon Valley companies and a fixture on every year's Fortune Magazine Best Companies to Work For list. He talks about the various stages of the company's growth, from the early product development days ("beat Auspex!"), to the hyper-growth phase (double the company's size and revenue every year for several years in a row), to the dark days following the dot-com crash in 2001 or so, to today's renewed growth in "The Age of Data".

Dave especially focuses on how NetApp has built, maintained, and continues to evolve the positive corporate culture that is one of its major strengths; that didn't happen by accident, and Dave discusses how they did it (and why!).

Strongly recommended.

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Oct. 31st, 2008 10:29 am Launching my new company, Netomata

I've officially launched my new company, Netomata, with a first post in a new blog there...

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Sep. 5th, 2008 05:43 pm What Janet has to look forward to in 20 years or so...

After the cut...
Read more...Collapse )

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Aug. 4th, 2008 06:08 pm Highly recommended book for learning Ruby: Design Patterns in Ruby

Design Patterns in Ruby, by Russ Olsen (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2007, ISBN 0321490452)

If you're already a programmer, this book an excellent way to learn Ruby. It shows how to apply a variety of common and largely language-independent programming structures ("design patterns") in "the Ruby way". Along the way, you get a great introduction to what makes Ruby unique, and the idioms commonly used in the Ruby community. I especially liked that the author often showed multiple implementations of each pattern, each implementation being more elegant and Ruby-esque than the last, and included a discussion of when each might (and might not!) be appropriate. I also appreciated the helpful discussion of the ways you might shoot yourself in the foot with each pattern in Ruby, as well as the pointers to where you could find the pattern used in Ruby "in the wild" (in various software freely available on the Internet).

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Jul. 7th, 2008 11:53 am Ongoing gym rat-iness

Before I moved to San Francisco in April 2006, I was working out 3-4 days a week with a physical fitness trainer, and it showed in the strength that I'd built up. While living in SF (from April 2006 to July 2008), I never found a trainer I worked well with, so I kept up a solo gym routine. Solo workouts are fine for cardio, but my strength suffered, partly because I don't like working out with heavy free weights without having somebody to spot for me (it's a safety thing, at the heavy weights I work out with, especially since my workouts tend to push the limits of my capabilities in order to extend those capabilities). I did the best I could by myself with the Nautilus machines and such, but that's just not the same as working with free weights. Anyway, by the time I moved from SF to Alameda last summer, I'd probably lost about 20% of my max strength ("1RM", or "one rep(etition) max", in gym lingo).

Well, I'm back to working out with a trainer twice a week, and I've been working on rebuilding that strength. And, I'm happy to say that I seem to have accomplished it, getting back to about where I was when I moved to SF:

Exercise 5 Apr 06 (just before moving to SF) 7 Jul 08 (today)
Bench press 247 lb 246 lb
Lat pull 240 lb 240 lb
Seated row 240 lb 245 lb
Squat 307 lb 315 lb

While living in SF was bad for my strength, it was good for my weight overall... I dropped from about 300 pounds when I moved to SF (in April 2006) to about 285 pounds at my lowest there (in July-September 2006). Unfortunately, over the couple of years since then, I've gone back up to about 320 pounds, and it ain't muscle... :-( One of the perils of marrying a gourmet cook... ;-) (Which are far more than balanced by the joys!) But, I definitely need to focus on my diet, and lose those pounds (again!).

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