Sunday, August 16, 2009


It gets cold at Penn State in the winter.

Yeah, I know that's an understatement and a lot of people wish they could forget about it and are a little angry that I should bring it up. But it's true. You know the chant: 'We are . . . Penn State!' Well, it started out as 'We are . . . frickin' cold!' When I was at State College back in the late 1870's, I discovered there was an alternative to walking outside and freezing my rear end off.

The tunnels.

Yes, many of the buildings at Penn State are connected by underground tunnels ( I guess that's redundant, isn't it? Are there 'overground' tunnels?) Regardless, I was saved from rain and snow by heading down into basements and finding my way around. How did I find them?

I try doors.

A closed door is a beacon for me. I'm dying to see what's on the other side. I have exasperated my family more often than I care to admit, but in this instance, it payed off. I found tunnels.

Not under Pattee, of course. People might swipe books.

So, last week, I was in downtown Philadelphia for our company conference. I was presenting about how 'green' my data center is. Of course, it was the hottest couple of days of the whole summer, so I decided to check out the Philly tunnels.

The conference was at the downtown Marriott, but spilled over into the Convention Center. You can easily get between the Marriott and the Convention Center without going outside, but I was parked in the Wanamaker Building across from City Hall. Could I do it? Oh, yes. Yes, I could!

From the parking garage of the Wanamaker, I could walk along the underground concourse right to the Convention Center and never see the light of day. And never actually SEE Philadelphia. Perfect! I could get in my car in my garage and never actually have to be 'outside' EVER! Rain? Snow?? Pfffffbbbbt! Remember that great line by Karen in Will and Grace? "Are we. . . outside?"

But it got me thinking, how far could you go underground in Philadelphia, so I checked it out. Look at this.

You can get all the way from Race Street all the way to Spruce, and from Eighth Street all the way to Eighteenth Street. Not quite river to river, but darn near. How about that? Sure, it smells like old, tired urine, but like anything else, you get used to it. It's the smell of Philadelphia! And it turns out that Philly had even bigger plans at one point but circumstances didn't let the dream come true.

Here's a different map that shows the actual open areas. There are stores and restaurants, even whole malls down there. You could live, work, eat and play . . . and never go outside.

I'll have to see if I can find something for underground Penn State. I'll bet there are tunnels I never found.

When we visited the Library of Congress recently, my daughter mentioned there was a tunnel for congress to use. Here's what that looks like.

I wonder if they smell like old, tired urine too?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Data Center Rules

There are rules for everything.

Some of you gentle readers know that I run a great big data center for a great big multinational corporation and that we do great big data processing (all sorts) for hospitals and other healthcare entities. That's a tremendous burden. Why, sometimes it's like a lotus petal crushed under an elephant, how about that! And how do we take that pressure off? Hmmm? Drinking? Hiding?

No, we have rules!

And standards and regulations and audits and documentation and tools and. . . and. . . stuff. And we like them because beside having to do them, they also help. So I have rules about who is allowed in my building, how they do their work, what they're allowed to bring with them, all sorts of rules.

But think back to before there were any rules. It was like the wild west, anyone could do anything! So when we first started building the rules, they were a bit more primitive than today's sophisticated, well-documented, well-structured, bullet-proof, ultra-well-tested policies.

So at the risk of being too sharply focused for the masses, for historical purposes, here was the first pass at some data center rules.


Rules and Regulations and Whatnot

1. The first rule of the data center is don’t talk about the data center.

2. Due to the close proximity of working areas and lack of adequate ventilation in the data center, please practice some sort of personal hygiene and grooming before entering the computer room floor.

3. Cell phone use is required at all times.

4. All photographs and videos must be taken using a dreamy, soft focus filter.

5. There is no Number 5.

6. All foods and beverages are allowed on the computer room floor, but Italian food is preferred.

7. Due to the lack of standards, all wires and cables should be managed in the ‘ninja-spaghetti’ style and should be spread out upon all working surfaces.

8. Only ones and zeros are allowed to be processed in the data center.

9. No ear protection is required, iPods are optional. This rule may be suspended if a soccer game breaks out or if Security is playing a Schwarzenegger action movie soundtrack over the loudspeakers.

10. There are no cages to be opened, so there are no keys.

11. If you walk your robot dog, please clean up after it.

12. All visitors and robot dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

13. The computer room floor has been designated as a cold war era fallout shelter.

14. In the event of an emergency, raise your hands above your head, run around screaming “Help me! Help me!” and pray to your chosen deity. If you have no chosen deity, you may borrow one from Security.

15. Any explosives and hazardous materials must be kept in your pockets.

16. Management discourages the unnecessary use of guns in the data center, but we don’t care how much you use them elsewhere. Actually, we recommend you carry a gun at all times.

17. There is no crying in the data center.

18. All drugs and alcohol brought into the data center must be shared with Security.

19. Everyone is allowed free access to the computer room floor except mimes.

20. If you must chew tobacco, use just a pinch between your cheek and your gum.

21. All fires should be contained to one room at a time.

22. Anyone working in a high noise area must mmmft blufft burble.

23. If someone falls into the sub-floor, allow them three minutes to escape before replacing the tile.

24. If the data center rats stampede, try to herd them away from the refrigerator.

25. This is just a filler item so the list will total a nice round 25 items.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bora! Bora! Bora!

OK, that was a weak reference to the movie
Tora! Tora! Tora!

For our recent trip to French Polynesia, we definitely wanted to go to Bora Bora and when we started the planning we wanted to go there first and work our way back to Tahiti since that's where the international airport is. The travel agent said, "Noooo, Bora Bora should be last!" And that was a very wise recommendation.

Because Bora Bora is the BEST! Oh, my goodness, the best. Oh, yes, the best.

The central island is dominated by Mt. Otemanu and the lagoon surrounding the central island is protected by a ring of narrow islets called motus. The airport is on a motu. Our beautiful hotel, the Intercontinental Thalasso is on a motu. So you probably figured out that you get around by boat.

And when we went to dinner on the main island the restaurants provided cars to pick us up and take us back. It was all very convenient.

At the Intercontinental Thalasso, we stayed in what they called an over-the-water villa. That was ours on the second leg from the right, third villa from the end on the left.

The first thing that captures your attention when you arrive is Mt. Otemanu. In a way, it's like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, wherever you go, there it is. It would be pretty hard to get lost anyway, it's a small island.

One of the things that impressed Deb was that by the time we checked in and were driven to our place, the luggage was already there. Already there!

The first morning when we got up really early, we went out on our little personal dock and this is what we see.

We could have left right then and the whole thing would have been worth it. Look at that turquoise water and the moon (see the little bitty reflection?). Whoa!

The whole resort was spotless, it's only three years old and they're very proud of the fact that everything is air conditioned by pumping up cold seawater from thousands of feet down for use as a heat exchanger. Practically free air conditioning! Here's a shot from our deck toward the resort. Look at that water!

The temperature had some pretty dramatic variations. During the day it was 82 F. And at night it dipped down to 81 F. Whew! We didn't eat inside a closed room even ONCE the whole time we were in French Polynesia. Here's our living room.

Notice that the coffee table is actually a glass bottomed window down into the lagoon. The very first morning, Deb saw a sting ray swim past to welcome us.

Here's the view outside from the bedroom out past the foot of the bed.

And here's the view when you were at the bar. Yeah, everything was expensive because it had to be flown in - deal with it.

Here's what the outdoor bar looked like. Look at the crush of people! Even though this was high season, we were never crowded or delayed ever.

Here's the indoor bar but I never saw anyone go here. Why would anyone stay indoors??

Even though the hotel and the restaurants were spectacular, we had to check out the restaurants on the main island. We ate at the original Bloody Mary's (you remember. . . Bali Hai! Bali Hai!). But the best of them all was la Villa Mahana. We had the best table in the house and the best food on the whole trip. Gorgeous!

So, you ask, "Would you go back? You know, long flight. . . everything expensive?" I'll answer that with a photo of Deb. Does that answer your question?