Took a trip to San Francisco this summer both to attend VMWorld 2013 and to do some sight seeing. Here are a selection of photos from that trip. Click on each one for the full view. There are a lot more posted to my photo set on Flickr, so be sure to check those out as well.
We stayed up late the night before, so we did not hit the road until nearly 10 AM. Lori made delicious scrambled eggs with chopped up bits of leftover steak from the night before, so we had plenty of fuel for the (unbeknown to us at the time) long trek ahead.
I had plugged the directions from Google Maps into my Droid phone, as they had looked the most accurate to me the night before. Things went very well until we got to Olema, CA (10 minutes out from our rental home) and the directions told us to turn on to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. I knew from the night before that the route was supposed to stay on Highway 1 all the way down. I ignored the turn, trusting that the navigation would re-route us correctly. More on that later.
The drive south out of Point Reyes Station was very scenic, and the roads were twisty and fun to drive. It reminded me a lot of the drive we took up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Monterey on our honeymoon. Unfortunately, there was a heavy fog rolling in from the ocean, so we did not get to see much of the actual ocean itself along the way.
We were fine following the directions right up until we passed the sign for Muir Woods National Monument. We both saw the sign, but trusted the navigation which told us to keep going. I thought there might be a different way in to the park, so we kept going. And we kept going all the way to Sausalito, where the navigation told us our “destination” was the intersection of Turney and Bonita Streets. FAIL.
So then I punched up the directions which were generated by using the GPS co-ordinates given on the official Muir Woods National Monument Web site. Those couldn’t be wrong, could they? Well, we ended up back in Mill Valley, but the nav lead us deeper into a twisty maze of very narrow residential streets until we ended up at our “destination” — someones driveway!
After many “words’ exchanged between us and several miles of twisty, narrow residential roads traversed, we finally emerged back in what appeared to be the down town area of Mill Valley. I stopped a couple of times to get my bearings and compare those to the map (minus any help from the nav). I was then able to plot a route back to where we saw that Muir Woods sign a few hours previous and struck off in that direction.
A very tame dwarf deer inside the park
What should have been a 50 minute drive turned into 40 minutes of pleasant, scenic driving followed by a couple hours of being utterly lost. We finally arrived in a parking spot around 1 PM. Fortunately, Lori had packed some leftover apple muffins from the night before so we were able to get some nourishment while we were lost. We spent the next 2 1/2 to 3 hours walking through the woods taking pictures and enjoying our hard-earned prize.
And now, lots of photos of trees!
This photo really shows the contrast between the bright sky and the dark forest floor. A stream ran down the middle of the park with trails on either side and bridges crossing it at several points along the way.
I wandered around quite a bit this day. I started out at South Park at The Butler & Chef Bistro. There I ordered a latte and “La Parisienne,” a hearty buckwheat crepe with ham and cheese. This delicious breakfast filled me up so well, I was not hungry until much later that afternoon.
After breakfast, I walked down to AT&T Park, took some photos, then started heading up the Embarcadero from the South Beach area towards the Ferry Building Market. On the way, I stopped at Pier 14 just north of the Bay Bridge to take some more photos. When I got to the Ferry Building, I hung around the area for a bit. At that time of day (around 10:30) they were just setting up the outdoor stands.
Next, I hopped on the F line streetcar to Fisherman’s Warf. I took that car to the end of the line before hopping off. I walked around the Warf area for a bit, then hopped back on the streetcar heading back to Market and 5th street. I hung around that area for a little while, then hopped back on the streetcar line and took it all the way to the other end of the line, stopping in Castro.
In Castro, I walked back up Market, turning at Noe St. toward Haight St. At Haight St. I started walking uphill, but decided to grab a bus the rest of the way. I took the bus past Haight-Ashbury toward the Golden Gate Park end and got off there. I took a brief stroll through that end of Golden Gate Park before turning around and heading up Haight St.
Once through Upper Haight and part way through Lower Haight, I turned at Steiner St. heading back toward Market St. I caught the streetcar again at Market and Church, taking that all the way back to 5th St and Market.
By this time it was late afternoon, my legs were completely exhausted from the past several days of walking, and I had skipped lunch. I decided to stop again at the Thirsty Bear to take notes on my photos, eat and have a few beers. I ordered the bocadillos (house made mini-burgers of lamb, pork and beef; hard-boiled egg, caper aioli. with summer squash escabeche) and the empanadas (braised pork & queso fresco, roasted squash romesco & spiced pepitas). For beer, I tried their Full Belly seasonal followed by the Meyer IPA and finishing with a Koslov Stout. While there, I researched street photography techniques hoping to improve my skills for the next day.
Lori had just finished up her conference for the day, so we met back at the room and made plans for dinner. Since I wasn’t super hungry we decided to go out for sushi. A few days earlier I had noticed a sushi place just north of Union Square while walking down Powell street. I researched it online and found it was very highly rated. We took the cable car from the Powell St. Station up the hill to Sutter St.
At Maru Sushi I ordered a large hot sake and the Chirashi bowl (sashimi over rice). Lori had the Yummy Yummy roll and we shared an appetizer of crab jalapeno poppers. We then walked back down Powell St. to our hotel where we again crashed for the night.
This was Lori’s first conference day, so she was not able to join me for the touristy stuff. We did get to have coffee and a pastry from a nearby Starbucks together before parting company around 7:45. I then walked up Powell Street to Geary Street to catch the 38 bus line at that corner. I hopped off at Geary St and Laguna St. I was very early, and most of the shops did not open until 11 so I had to walk around for a bit. Japantown isn’t very big so that did not eat up a lot of time, but I got some good photos of the Japantown Peace Plaza Pagoda.
To kill some more time and re-fuel for the day, I stopped at O Izakaya Lounge for a Japanese-style breakfast bento. Grilled salmon, scrambled eggs, miso soup, rice, fruit and vegetables were all present.
By the time I finished breakfast some more shops had started opening up. Soko Hardware was my first stop. It was a regular American hardware store that also carried a lot of Japanese goods. Most of the Japanese products were downstairs, but there were some traditional Japanese woodworking tools upstairs. This place had the best pricing for iron teapots in the area.
Sanko Cooking Supplies was near Soko Hardware. They also had iron teapots, a very large selection of table service, and small appliances such as rice cookers.
I then walked through the Japan Center Mall which has the Peace Pagoda between its two buildings. Most of the shops were still closed, but there were many people hanging around the restaurants and shops which were open. There were enough open ones to keep me busy until the rest opened at 11:00. Kinokuniya Bookstore reminded me of a Barnes and Noble, but it had about 90+ percent Japanese language publications and books. That made me wish I had at least some Japanese reading ability. I also stopped in a store called Sanrio with a ton of pink Hello Kitty merchandise to snap a few pictures on my phone which I sent to Lori.
The Katachi knives store had all sorts of cool Japanese swords ranging in price from $25 to $2500+. They also had knives, statues and figurines. I resisted the temptation to pick up a sword and have it shipped back home.
Asakichi Cast Iron was a tiny shop on the bridge spanning across Webster St. between mall buildings. Here I purchased a small ceramic koi figurine for Lori. They also had Samurai figurines, boxes, tea pots and other figurines all in cast iron.
I left Japantown on the same 38 bus route back to Powell and Geary Streets. From there, I hopped on one of the Powell cable cars taking it up the hill to California Street. I then walked down California turning at Stockton to head into Chinatown. I wandered around a few blocks in Chinatown for the next 45 minutes or so, then decided to grab some lunch at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. I headed over to Columbus Ave, then up to Mario’s in the North Beach or little Italy area near Washington Square.
Mario’s was packed around 1 PM, but I managed to grab an outside table with one chair. As Lori had warned me, service was very slow. I had to hang out at my table for quite some time before the waitress acknowledged my presence. Once she did, however, the service was fine. I had the meatball panini sandwich (by Lori’s recommendation) with a Hop Head Red beer from Green Flash Brewing Company.
After lunch, I walked through Washington square, then headed uphill to Coit Tower. Since Lori didn’t have much luck capturing the murals inside the tower, I attempted to do a better job with my point and shoot camera. I also paid the $5 admission to go to the top and took photos from each of the windows before heading back down into Chinatown for an afternoon snack.
I wandered through Chinatown a bit more, taking some photos along the way. I then ended up at the AA Bakery where I purchased an egg custard. That I took with me to the Transamerica Pyramid where I found a quiet seat in their Redwood Park to eat it. After the custard was gone, I took a few photos in the park and of the building, then headed over to California Street to catch the cable car back up the hill.
I stood on the front corner of the cable car and shot a short video with my camera as it went up the hill on California Street between Kearny St and Grant Ave“. I got off again at Powell and California, then walked down Powell back toward our hotel. I stopped in at The Chieftain to have a couple of beers while waiting for Lori to finish up her conference for the day.
Video shot from the front of a San Francisco cable car
When Lori contacted me, she had made plans for us to go on a double date with one of her co-workers and her husband. We started off at The View at the top of the Marriott Marquis with drinks and appetizers watching the sun set while we talked. Next, we headed over to The Thirsty Bear for some tappas and beers. Finally, we ended the evening at Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street for some dessert before heading back to the hotel to rest before another big day.
We got up way too early (still on Iowa time), got ready and headed over to the Lori’s Diner on Powell St. around 7:45. I ordered the Cable Car Pancakes, described as “Two Large Cakes, Two Slices of Bacon, Two Links of Sausage and Two Eggs.” Lori had the Short Stack with sliced bananas. Just the thing to fuel up before a day of riding bikes in the park!
After breakfast, we headed to the Muni kiosk at the Powell cable car turn-around to pick up 3-day passes for $13 each. Just as we activated our passes, our bus, the #5 route, was arriving so we hopped on that. The bus wound past the Civic Center and took us to the North side of Golden Gate Park. We got off the bus at Fulton St. and 6th Ave. but were too early to pick up our rental bicycles from Golden Gate Bike and Skate so we walked along JFK to pass some time and take some photos.
Once 10:00 rolled around, we picked up our mountain bikes, helmets and bike lock for a total of $50 for the day. We rode around the park, sticking close to the East end at first. After tiring of that, we decided to venture further and take JFK all the way to Ocean Beach. The beach area was very foggy and the surf was up. Several brave surfers were going out in this, but you couldn’t see them at all as they disappeared beyond the breakers. Very dangerous!
After walking the beach for awhile, we headed over to Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant. It was packed, so we ate at the bar to avoid waiting for a table. I ordered the Dungeness Crab Louis Salad and Lori had a bowl of their Clam Chowder New England Style. I had a Dee’s Bitter Ale and Lori had a V.F.W. Light.
Fueled up and rested, we then rode uphill back toward the East end of the park. We stopped to take a stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden ($7 admission each), making sure to take plenty of photos to get our money’s worth.
After that we took a walk through the park between the museums. There was an art fair going on, and The Blue Angels were flying around as part of Fleet Week, so we got to see them flying overhead, too.
By that time it was about 3:30 PM and we were both getting tired. We decided to turn in our rentals and head back to our hotel, again via the #5 bus route.
Back at the hotel we freshened up a bit then headed to the deck on the 6th floor to hang out and play on our laptops a bit. Lori’s laptop ran out of battery too quickly, and it got cold up there so we did not stay very long. Back at the room we got ready for dinner at The Chieftain. I had their Fish and Chips with two Prohibition Speakeasys (a local brew). Lori had a salad with grilled shrimp and a glass of wine.
We headed back to the hotel room and crashed for the evening.
Please check back for more photos I’ll be adding to the set for this trip on my Flickr page.
Lori and I both took off the day before our flight so we could pack, prepare the house and pets, and get some rest before getting up early. Our flight was scheduled to leave Des Moines around 6:30 AM, and Lori’s father was going to pick us up around 4:30 AM so we could get t the airport early.
I packed a small suitcase with about 4-5 days worth of clothing and my Lowepro camera/laptop backpack. We were to have laundry by mid-week when we got to our rental home in Point Reyes Station, so I was able to pack lighter than usual.
I drove Ruffy to the kennel around 16:00, dropping him off around 16:30-16:45. As usual before a bit travel day, neither of us could get to sleep. I did not get to bed until around 23:45, and Lori was up much, much later trying to decide what to pack.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare before our flight, only to be met by a long line. Overhearing a few of the other passengers’ frustrated discussions, I surmised that our flight had been canceled. The line was full of other passengers waiting to get re-booked on another flight, and it only got longer as we waited for our turn at the counter.
Once we got to the ticketing counter, I could tell the poor lady working there was quite flustered after dealing with a few difficult people in the line before us. I tried to be extra patient and friendly with her to make her day a little brighter. She got us booked on a 10:30 AM flight to Denver, and re-booked our connecting flight as well. In all, we would only arrive about one hour later than our original itinerary. This worked out OK because we would still arrive prior to the hotel’s check-in time.
Luckily we brought our laptops and the MiFi. We hung out in the cafe drinking coffee and eating breakfast croissants until our flight to Denver boarded. We had a one hour layover in Denver before boarding then next flight in to SFO — just enough time for a quick restroom break and some leg stretching. Fortunately, our flights were uneventful, and we even got a little bit of light napping done in transit.
Arrival and Photos
We arrived in SFO around 13:00, picked up our bags and took the shuttle in to downtown San Francisco. Our room at the Intercontinental San Francisco was not ready so we checked in, left our luggage with the bellhop, and went for a walk to get some exercise and search for some afternoon snacks.
We walked around the Yerba Buena Gardens for a bit, taking some photos. Lori tried to capture the Blue Angels (they were flying over the city because it was Fleet Week) in this one, but they were just too fast.
I also caught Lori under the archway of the bridge over Howard street by Moscone Center.
We ended up at The Thirsty Bear for some tapas and a couple of beers. Lori had her usual, the Polar Bear Pilsner. I tried their seasonal Oktoberfest followed by a Meyer ESB. We ordered the tortilla española of the day (sun-dried tomato), gambas al ajillo (prawns, garlic, pinot gris) and empanadas (braised pork & queso fresco, roasted squash romesco & spiced pepitas). All of the dishes were excellent. Lori liked the gambas al ajillo the best, while I preferred the empanadas.
As is now our travel tradition, we snapped a photo of each other enjoying our first beverages.
Our appetites satisfied and enough time passed to have a room ready, we headed back to the hotel to rest and plan our next activity. This was the view from our room.
After considering several different dinner spots, we decided to try out Sanraku Japanese Restaurant at Metreon for some sushi. Lori had Teriyaki Salmon with a glass of white wine. I had a combo meal with 5 pieces of sashimi and the Teriyaki Beef with a cup (180 ml) of Ozeki sake. Although their Website isn’t much to brag about, the food and service were excellent. Here are a couple of photos Lori took at Sanraku. She got a kick out of the “One Cup” sake.
After dinner, we returned to the room and crashed for the evening. Since we were still on Iowa time, it was technically after midnight for us even though it was only after 10 in San Francisco.
I don’t have all of the numbers memorized, but here’s what I remember off the top of my head:
- They had about 400 lab stations available, each with a WYSE thin client and two monitors.
- Everything was “in the cloud” running from data centers across the country, none of them local.
- Each lab’s VMs were created and destroyed on demand.
- One monitor had the virtual environment and the other had your PDF lab guide.
- Over the course of the conference they created/destroyed nearly 20,000 VMs.
I had to re-take a couple of labs due to some slowness issues. These appeared to be due to some storage latency when certain combinations of labs were turned up at the same time. I overheard some of the lab guides asking people to move to a different workstation when they complained of slowness. They explained that, by moving to a different station you would be logging in to a different cluster of servers, which would possibly help speed you up. I opted to come back later and re-take the two troubled labs. I was only able to get in 8 lab sessions as a result. I could have potentially completed 10 or 11.
Most of the time the lab VMs were very responsive and I was able to complete them with plenty of time to spare. The default time alloted was 90 minutes, but they would adjust that down to as low as 60 minutes if there was a long line in the waiting area. Prior to one lab session, I had to wait in the “Pit Stop” area before my session. Here’s a photo I snapped while waiting:
List of Labs I Took
Here’s the list of labs I sat through:
- Troubleshooting vSphere
- Performance Tuning
- ESXi Remote Management Utilities
- Site Recovery Manager Basic Install & Config
- Site Recovery Manager Extended Config & Troubleshooting
- Vmware vCenter Data Recovery
- VMware vSphere PowerCLI
- Vmware vShield
My overall impression of the lab environment was positive. Despite a few performance issues, I think they did an excellent job of presenting a very large volume of labs. I certainly learned a lot while sitting the labs and look forward to taking more next year. I’m sure the labs team gathered a lot of data which will help them improve the lab performance for next year as well.
Large Scale Geek Assault
Moscone Center wasn’t big enough for the whole conference this year. With a record 17,000+ attendees, the halls were crowded and the lines to sessions were quite long — especially the first couple of days. I think a larger venue is in order for years to come. Not sure where they can go, though.
I was unable to get in to a couple of sessions the first day, but managed to fill in some of that time with work in the labs (more no those later). Overall, though, I was able to cram in enough sessions to make it well worth the trip. My main problem was trying to narrow down my focus. This year, I tried to stick to sessions dealing with Troubleshooting and Best Practices.
In all, I took notes in 13 sessions and sat through 8 lab sessions. Not bad for a New-V?
Notes and Power Outlets
I made a good call and picked up a small netbook computer to take with me in lieu of my larger T61 ThinkPad. The longer battery life on the netbook (more info on it later) allowed me to skip the power outlets when racing to my next session. Still, I tried to conserve power by putting it into sleep or hibernate as much as possible during and between sessions. I uploaded my notes to my Dropbox account so I would have a backup.
Why was this a good call? Because there were a lot of people there with larger laptops suckling power from the outlets wherever they could be found. On the third day of the conference I found a small room on the second floor of Moscone West with a sign in front stating “VCP Lounge.” Assuming I would have to prove I held a VCP certification, I quickly pulled up my transcript on my Droid, then walked in. Turns out no one was checking, so I sat down, plugged in and caught up on some work e-mail whcih had accumulated over the first part of the week.
The food provided at the conference was hit or miss. The breakfast area in Moscone West was huge and never seemed full when I was there (maybe it got busy later in the day?). They had croissants, muffins, danishes, bagels, fresh fruit, coffee and juices — everything you needed to fuel up for a morning of work in the lab which was in the same building.
I had a couple of cold boxed lunches. One was called Mediterranean Salad, which consisted of a main dish of mixed greens, veggies and a vinaigrette dressing, an apple and a sort of fruit brownie. I grabbed that box, headed over to the Yerba Buena Gardens to eat outdoors and escape the crowds. The other cold lunch was in a similar box also with a brownie bar, fruit and a sandwich. The only hot lunch I had was not very good, so I avoided the hot lunches from that point on. It consisted of overcooked fried chicken, cole slaw and a biscuit. Next year, I’ll stick to the cold lunches.
One day, I decided to escape the conference food and had a bowl of Seafood Udon at Shiki Japanese Restaurant which is across Third Street from the Moscone South building.
More to Come?
What have I missed in this first article? In the coming days I’m going to write up some articles with more detail on the following:
- My impressions of the lab environment.
- My netbook setup for the conference.
- List of labs I took and any significant notable items.
- List of sessions I attended and some of my notes from each.
First off, my hat goes off to both Sean Clark and Theron Conrey for organizing an excellent gathering which mixed geeks, beer and munchies at the Thirsty Bear. I got to rub elbows with Scott Lowe, author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4, which was instrumental in my obtaining my VCP 4 certification this year. I resisted the urge to ask for a photo, but I did manage to get his business card.
Anyway, I think Theron and Sean will need a bigger venue next year. The place was packed with people, but just to capacity. I’m sure interest in this event will grow for next year so I hope they can find a suitable location. Maybe get a few kegs from the Thirsty Bear to keep the tradition going?
Hopefully I can make it again next year. I need to get better at introducing myself to people and socializing. Guess I’m just your average introverted Geek, but I’m working on it!