Winter Wonderland and Sunday Thoughts

On Snow

Fortunately, the snow arrived as expected and we were prepared. I spent time connecting up the electric snow blower to move the nearly 2 feet of snow on the 125′ driveway. It took time to push through the snow, while the wind kicked up white snow in all directions, at some times blowing the snow right back into my face. The GreenWorks snow blower is designed for light snow in the sub 1ft depth, so while it was helpful to use this instead of trudging through the driveway with a shovel, it did require extra persistence.

On Flights

This upcoming week will be interesting, as my flights out of Newark have been cancelled. I have travel agents looking into fixing the routing, but as it stands it looks difficult to resume the planned trip to Seattle, then San Francisco. The week is packed with meetings on Cloud, Routing, and some other interesting topics around things we are doing at Bloomberg. United Airlines took preemptive measures and cancelled my Sunday flight on Friday afternoon. Initially I considered this to be drastic measures, but as they also cancelled nearly 10k flights, I felt that at least it wasn’t personal. By the way, check out ; it’s pretty awesome to see statistics on cancelled flights. Tomorrow looks much better, let’s just hope I can be on one of those flights.

On Presidents

Bloomberg running for 2016? I wish I could say this with more eloquence; this is so freaking awesome! Finally a candidate that brings common sense to the conversation, a candidate that have successfully run the most important city in the world, and has left a positive impact on US governmental affairs thus far, and has shown significant impacts on protecting the environment, arts and culture, and civic responsibilities.

As an Independent, if he runs and wins, the state of US politics could forever be changed for the better. George Washington’s farewell address brought some important advice on the danger of the powers of political parties. I have always considered myself an independent mind, an voter that votes for candidates that can do the job. Voting the party line is dangerous; always has been, and always will.

Back at it


I have been away from my writing for too long long. It’s time I change this and make more happen creatively. It’s been nearly a year since writing on but it felt much longer.

I have a bunch of new thoughts on things that I will share:

I dropped off Facebook for now.
I started reading more books.
I make dinner at home more.
I cleaned off my desk.
I cut back on coffee and alcohol.
I eat salads nearly every day.
Work is going great. We are doing great things.
I feel great.


Bloomberg rocked NYC

Just some thoughts on some awesome things Mayor Bloomberg oversaw in NYC during his terms.

Survivor: Season 2013 starring Bashar al-Assad


Pop Quiz: Syria is (choose one):

  • (A) Iraq in 2003
  • (B) Iraq in 1991
  • (C) Kosovo in 1999
  • (D) Rawanda in 1994
  • (E) None of the Above

If you answered any of the above, it’s simple: you are wrong. This is totally different and yet totally the same as all of the above conflicts and genocides. It is sad and disturbing to type my thoughts from the comfort of a first world country, with the position to criticise dictators in a (somewhat) free state (USA), and have no repercussions. But haven’t we all seen this before, I mean what is truly different from this potential military intervention than say, Iraq? The political pundits will say, the whole WMD mess or rather lack of WMD being found in Iraq has made administrations cautious about future military actions against non-aggression towards the USA. Sure, and then you pile on the Obama platform of “Change” that intended to restore the image of America to the rest of the world, and you get caution internally within the administration, and the external image is also one that is being treaded carefully.

But there so many players here. Let me first state some really obvious things: America used to meet with Bashar al-Assad and his administration. There were joint military discussions, military intelligence sharing in the wake of 9-11, and general working relationships between the USA and Syria. The war in Iraq really messed up the relationship between the US and Syria in that a bunch of nut cases started using Syria as a jumping platform to move into Iraq and fight the US-coalition troops. So things got messed up, but still there was a hospitable relationship between US and Syria based on some good faith between both nations. John Kerry, Bashar al-Assad, and their wives had dinner in Damascus in 2009.

Now when I say hospitable, I mean to the outside. Behind the scenes, the US was throwing money behind anti-government organizations with Syria to fight against Assad’s control. A few million here and there will buy you TV time and you can eat away at the power at the top.

This is an oil rich nation that trades heavily with Russia. But the nation has more strategic value than purely a resource play; the location is key to creating pressure against Iran, which when that topples will pretty much erase (in a naive sense) the list of strong nations that oppose the major world powers.

So what are the motivations? Obama waited way to long to justify the “for the good of the women and children” angle. Already nearly 100k persons in Syria have been killed in the 2 years of fighting, and the “red line” being chemical weapons is a false statement. There were chemical weapons previously used in 2012, and depending on what you classify phosphorous as, well you could have multiple viewpoints. Chemical weapons are clearly not just Sarin, Anthrax, and Ebola virus.

Russia supplies military-grade weapons to Syria. How many? Roughly 1.5Billion dollars of weapons and a pipeline for more orders in the future. We are talking about fighter jets, attack helicopter, but what really got the world stage so upset was the sale of surface to air missiles which scares the hell out of Israel, and frankly any NATO or coalition force that is interested in changing the power players in that region.

So Russia benefits financially with Syria. They also benefit strategically by having allies in that region to continue to share a somewhat anti-US sentiment as Syria can easily take on the appearance of the larger Russian state’s persona.

There is clearly genocide in Syria. The shellings, the murder, the chemical attacks, and the 1/3 of the population being refugees as the borders overflow and folks make their way to forsaken countries like Iraq. “Out of the flying pan, into the fire”.

But what must be done. In Rawanda and Liberia, the world watched as murder on the scale not seen since (well since Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos/Myanmar), took place. And the world powers or the UN could have done something about it. And with that comes the balance: there is always this question of imperialism or isolationism that gets tossed around like a coin. As if it would be one or the other. There is the extreme view that we (USA) play a world role in protecting the world from the bad guys, and the contrasting view is that we should not be “nation building”, in that we need to take care of our own problems. “We need to fix Detroit before we fix Damascus, etc, etc”.

But we as citizens of a larger group of ideas need to consider that our governments are not “good”. They never had been. They act with interests in mind. Sometimes our own, sometimes there is a far more complex system at play. Just like when you applied for the lead in the school play and you didn’t get it. Maybe you were a better tree or backdrop.

Attacking Syria and bombing the hell out of Assad might be the right thing on a small scale, with an intention to “hurt the regime”. But at this stage in the game, it seems highly unlikely that good could come of it. Yes, it is evil that someone on any scale would hurt women and children, and for that, a world stage should be set to save people from their certain destruction. We as a world should not turn a blind eye to the genocide, and yet we ask the UN for their acceptance of this action. The same UN that has agreed to have Russia and China sit at the security world council, which have blocked measure after measure for UN missions to stop bloodshed of civilians. Profiteering is always popular during wartime. The US has benefitted immensely in times of war.

We as citizens of the world can not blindly accept that millions of people are in danger, that hundreds of thousands die, and that we do nothing. Yes there are al-Qaeda fighters right along side the FSA, and yes there are folks that want to rise to power in Syria with blood on their hands. But there are also children and families that have nothing to do with this, and they are completely powerless to the situation that built around them. Just protect them as best you can.


Now of course my opinion would not convince the strongest of the Ron Paul supporters (I voted for him too!); but I have dropped my flag waving, and my Noam Chomsky book waving, or my leftish-leaning ways to say: sometimes it’s OK to do something that is not pure. Sometimes it’s OK to support a cause to hurt an aggressor, even when you know the history in detail and you know that it’s not a simple Good vs Bad argument. In this case, I think the military intervention is hardly thought out well, it’s way too late, it’s wrong internationally, it’s wrong legally, but it’s right to stop the killing of people, even if it’s just for now.



The Big Meaning and Meaningless Books

I wrote this short piece of fiction in the year 2000, entitled, “The Big Meaning and Meaningless Books”. It was written by pen in a notebook, a few pages at a time at night, until finally I typed it up in LaTeX and then HTML. I shared the story with a few friends and I used to have it published on in the early 2000s. I finally took some time to edit the story, clean a few things up, I found a few spelling mistakes, and some errors in grammar I decided to keep; just to preserve the original. It’s like looking back at an old style that is no longer me, but it was interesting.

Anthony Whalen

Anthony Whalen. A brother, a cousin, a son, a nephew, a scientist, a designer, a dreamer, a friend, a philosopher, an intellectual.

I am so proud to have known him, to have shared this planet with him; his passion and creativity were shared with us all.

How proud and honoured I was that he was the best man at our wedding – my brother, my cousin, my friend.

To have known Anthony was to know his stories, his adventures, his life — a life that was shared — that was welcoming, warm, and engaging.

Anthony was beaming with creativity, with energy, and passion. But most importantly — with drive. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to swim, and most importantly, how to live.

At an extremely young age, Anthony was stitching and designing his own clothes; making modifications to his shoes to enable him to skateboard better. He understood the mechanics of materials, of forces, of systems. Skateboarding was just another system that he could improve.

Growing up and spending time at 1151 Evergreen Ave, meant that science and learning were everywhere. The Whalen family has always encouraged science and art — and at Anthony’s disposal were the appropriate tools.

Tools like electric grinding stones, beakers, liquid mercury, hydrochloric acid, acetylene, oxygen, and need I mention *fire*.

There was learning everyday with Anthony — and we would construct collaborative pseudo-lesson plans, usually consisting of building something, destroying something, and eventually hiding something.

Anthony and I would dig huge tunnels in my backyard much to our parents dismay. It seemed like entire weeks were devoted to seeing how deep we could go. Anthony would draw diagrams of the fort that were designing — and this was when he was no older than eight.

Anthony once came across a small sailboat; which one summer we spent ages painting it, sealing it, hoisting a battered and torn sail to a mast; dreaming of places that we would sail it. Never really knowing that our parents had no intention of it ever touching water.

But water would be reached. One chilly October in Monmouth Beach, we, ten and twelve years old respectively, carried an aluminum row boat down the street — the air so cold we had to warm our bare hands with out breath — we carried the boat down Riverdale Avenue, around to the reeds — and then launched.

It took us about thirty minutes to get to the middle of the Shewsbury River, and then once the wind picked up we struggled to row back to shore.

Anthony — ever encouraging and positive about challenges continued to yell out encouraging words — we will make it — another twenty minutes and we will make it.

Anthony was always this kind of spirit; alive. Inviting. Helping and brotherly.

When we weren’t outside as kids; we played video games. Anthony found all the secrets in games — he had a way to see systems, and to reverse engineer how they might work. He was the first person I knew of that figured how to get unlimited 1 UP’s in Super Mario Bros by jumping on the turtle shell in level 3-2.

Anthony was a person that truly lived – he touched our lives with his creativity, his intelligence, his love, his kindness. He was a real person that spoke about life experiences, shared his stories, and we became new.

New in the sense that we were more enlightened, more curious, more like him.

Thirty-five years young: but what a life he lived — surfing, riding, teaching us and loving us. He is always with us, we were affected by him, and his life will always be with us — as we tell his stories, think about his smile, and remember this beautiful man.

Building a Net!

It seems building a network is full of disaster,
there are choices to be made more sticky than plaster.
Most protocols talk but the new ones do not,
and we don’t want to be stuck with EIGRP rott.

They are complex and closed like a private race track,
We thought STP was dead, but it’s TRILL that is back.
My advice to my friends is to chose what is chosen,
use lots of good drafts from Kompella and Rosen.
Be afraid of the vendors that meddle and try,
to make you chose products that will wither and die,
but chose with your money, your money and buy.

Buy open systems, with drafts you can read,
do-it-yourself or hire PS if you need.
And script it all up, and make sense of the mess,
use NETCONF or YANG or some other fine REST.

Blackboxes may work, but the understanding they lack,
it’s a terrible choice for a new top-of-rack,
your servers must send, through pipes that do bend,
and when black boxes stop, it’s protocols that must mend,
to advertise vectors, and places of reach,
and this is why I stand on my soapbox and preach.

When building a fabric, one must have to think,
it’s a slippery slope like a ice hockey rink.
Do I want a good product or build it yourself?
QFabric or Cisco have a method that’s theirs,
and TRILL or OpenFLow have me jumping from chairs.

Make sure that the choice has no method to trap,
from signaling, datapath, and even encap.
A packet’s a packet, but with multicast it grows,
make sure that your mroute state copes with the flows,
and that over your tunnels you can compose,
efficiency is realised when transport is exposed.

No ships in the night, it must work over and under,
your building a network that’s full of wonder.
No crashing above like a sky full of thunder.

Before you CONF T, and before you ENABLE,
make sure that you sorted out your Ethernet cable,
is it fibre and optics, or copper and DAC,
one’s cheaper than the other, the others a pain in the rack.

Do you put a big box at the end of the row?
Or you looking to scale, are you looking to grow?
If that is the case, at the top it must be,
but are you comfortable with a LEAF SPINEY TREE?
Is it lots of gigabits do you need 40GE?

Have no fear how you build it,
In you I do trust,
you will scale it and scale it, and scale it you must!
Your links will come up, your lights will blink to the brightest,
They will blink on the leftest, they will blink on the rightest!
All your packets will forward, your TTL’s will change,
and most of the time the errors will range,
your links will stay up, your WAN will as well,
it’s because you hooked your syslog to a bell!

In 10 years from now when we are all IPv6,
we will be proud of your challenge, your challenge and risk!
You could have just listened to your vendor with vigor,
but you built a fantastic, vertical and horizontal figure;
you linked up the east, and you linked up the west,
and for that your HADOOP HDFS is the best.
You hooked up the north, for your traffic to enter,
We took all the data and put it in the center.

Ships in the Night Cause Me Fright

Ships in the Night
There is a common trend in networking and virtualization today: Make things automated. This is a positive step. For the longest, we have rewarded complexity. Take for example, the focus of most professional networking certifications on corner case scenarios with arbitrary routing protocols being redistributed into other protocols with heaps of complex policy.

Now there seems to be a movement to “hop over” the complexities that exist in the network by building overlays. It’s not entirely a new concept, as MPLS over GRE, IPSEC mesh VPNS, or even PPP/L2TP have long been our precedents for constructing connectivity over existing transports.

It’s fantastic that we are building with layers and leveraging existing frameworks and taking the new moving part up to another layer. Take for example the trend in hypervisor networking for overlays: the Data Center network remains simple, maybe a limited number of VLANS for all the hypervisors, and with tunnels between hypervisors allows for very flexible network constructs.

But when we create abstraction layers in networking, the benefits of moving things up one layer can also provide complexity and lack of event propagation between layers.

In the heyday of MPLS adoption in Service Provider networks, I saw various carriers consider and sometimes deploy large scale VPLS backbones for their core (composed of P/PE nodes), which provided MPLS Ethernet transport over either 10GE or SDN/SONET, and then they fully meshed their Multi-Service Edge MPLS nodes (ie. Purely PE) to this new VPLS domain. What they were trying to achieve was simplicity on their high touch PEs, they wanted a service to be anywhere and they wanted to have a simple topology so that all PEs can directly connect to each other PE. They were able to realize this goal, but in doing so they created other challenges. In this isolation of layers, there are issues because we clearly have protocols and behaviour that work independently, yet we care about the end-to-end communication.

In Data Center networks there will typically be less transport layer flapping or circuit issues than experienced in Wide Area Networks, yet we should still consider that event propagation is important because it allows protocols and algorithms to learn and do things better. For example, in large scale DCI there will likely be a need for Traffic Engineering across un-equal paths. In order to properly build overlays it is important to understand the underlay topology and behavior. In MPLS networks (which can be an underlay and overlay) we already have features such as Fast Re-Route, bypass tunnels, BFD and OAM. These protocols might not be required in DC networks, but some of the intrinsic benefits of them should be realized. If we use stateless tunnels in overlay networks, then how do we re-route when issues occur in the transport? What if there is a scheduled upgrade of a switch or router that will cause disruptions in service availability or speed? We should have a way to link the knowledge of the underlay with the overlay. Without this, networking is taking a large step backwards.

Overlay networking that is using VXLAN, NV-GRE, STT, CAPWAP, etc is highly useful to keep portions of the complexity away from the transport, in the same way that MPLS labels have no relation to the MAC forwarding tables in underlay Ethernet switches. But we have always learned in networking that having more knowledge about vectors, about links, and about load, then we are able to make more solid decisions and take actions.