Category Archives: Travel

Southern Life

Another week in Starkville brought a renewed appreciation for breaded catfish like you can only get in the South, sweet tea that is proving a point with sugar super saturation and a short but memorable visit to small town Mississippi.

Most of the week was dominated by a busy-as-usual email migration that was behind schedule but progressing. We had issues but nothing unexpected. We managed to get the server migrated, most users were happy with only small issues remaining.

I re-visited and was underwhelmed by the Dark Horse Tavern. Not only were they out of “Never Graduate” t-shirts in black but the quality of their pizza seems to have deteriorated. It’s also possible that my first visit here was clouded by Abitas, long plane flight and full day of work that proceeded it.

Memorable about this trip was a visit to Petty’s that was better than I expected: I ordered the catfish platter with fried okra and baked beans and sweet tea. The platter came with hush puppies presumably as matter of course. It was fabulous. I waited outside for my food for less than ten minutes but my clothes smelled like barbecue for two days.

Thursday H, his family and I drove to Ackerman, MS to Pap’s: a family style Southern restaurant featuring the best Southern food buffet I have had as well the best example of Southern hospitality I’ve experienced. H introduced me as from Philadelphia, the staff immediately introduced me to “Elvis:” the cook. Elvis came out in sunglasses befitting his name for a photograph. The food of course was fantastic: of note was whole breaded catfish that after a searching the buffet for knives I figured out you’re supposed to eat with your fingers. After noticing I’d mangled my fish H demonstrated the technique then slyly remarked that I’d already made the proper technique impossible on my own fish. The fish was great though I’m not sure whole fish is any better than the filets as R maintains.

My favorite comment on Mississippi life comes from R as we were blowing off steam between preparing for the upgrade: “Real Mississippians know which counties are wet, which are dry and where to get alcohol in all of them.”

Once again I do not regret my meal choices while I was there but I find myself oddly drawn to low fat foods and unsweetened beverages since my return.

Pap’s place
125 E Main St
Ackerman, MS
(662) 285-6352

103 Highway 12 West
Starkville, MS 39759

Northern California: wrap-up

Coming home on Day 3 was a mostly highway run from San Franscisco to highway 17 in San Jose down to Santa Cruz. Northern California is fabulous for motorcycle commuting: all the highways have HOV lanes and motorcycles are allowed to use them. This includes the on-ramps as well as the highways themselves. Motorcycle commuting is very common there: you see many practical bikes such as SVs and dual sports, many with top boxes. You are allowed to “share” lanes–basically ride in between cars when they’re stopped or below a certain speed. Of note here is that the cars seldom pull in front of you and seem to never exhibit aggressive behavior toward motorcyclists. This alone makes me want to live in Northern California badly.

Route 17 is a twisty, mountains version of the Schuylkill Expressway–fast moving, crowded with no run-off. I live and ride in Philadelphia so I fit right in. Missing was only erratic lane changes by car with no regard to contents of the drivers blind spot: just like home but less deadly.

Day 4 found me stitching together some of the most beautiful and in some cases terrifying roads the Santa Cruz mountains have to offer. I paid for a subscription to and tied together most of his recommended roads in the area as an extended route from Santa Cruz to Palo Alto to visit B at her hotel. I won’t disclose the roads as he really deserves the small fee. He’s done his homework not just on the Santa Cruz mountains but throughout Northern California.

Day 5 was B’s introduction to packing everything you have with you into motorcycle luggage that is just slightly smaller than the contents. This included her case books: basically a summary of key cases in her first year of practice that she must present at her oral exams. She’s a trooper. We rode some Pashnit-recommended roads out of Palo Alto, took Skyline Blvd to Alice’s for lunch and then La Honda road out to Route 1. A brief and slightly-too-sandy stop at one of the many beautiful beaches along 1 and on to Santa Cruz for dinner with H & N at a family seafood restaurant on the pier.

Saturday and Sunday involved shopping, killer tacos, napping and cooking at H & N’s. And early morning run up highway 17 (B: once again a trooper) and many hours on planes and we were back in Philadelphia in time to unpack and get to bed at a decent hour.

All in all a great first vacation in 6 years.

Central and Northern California: days 2 and 3

Tuesday I rode from a cheap ($39.99!) Motel 6 to Laguna Seca and then headed to route 1 which I took down the coast past the Hearst castle, east on 46 and then up 101 to Santa Cruz to visit my friends who live here.

Laguna Seca has beautiful if rustic camp sites with the best view I’ve seen at a campground. Not much was going on but it was fun to see the facility and say that I’d been there.

Route 1 is an unbelievably beautiful road. I am not sure I’ve ever seen scenery like it. And it’s relentless. I rode about 125 miles down the coast and it was just one cliff with bright blue water washing up on the rocks after another.. It is interspersed with beautiful suspension bridges and views of the road snaking down the coast.

I stopped in Big Sur for breakfast and had some excellent if overpriced pancakes and bacon. Big Sur, as h pointed out on the phone, is populated with old hippies running little grocery stores for the tourists. It’s actually exactly what I would expect.

Nacimiento-Fergusson road was closed due to fire but I rode it anyway and have to tell you is scared me to death.. there’s no guardrail and it snakes relentlessly up into the mountains with sheer drop-offs that overlook route 1 and of course the ocean. The scenery is beautiful. I basically rode until i saw the fire and then gingerly turned the ST1300 around and headed back down.

ST1300: We have a love hate relationship. It’s unreasonably big which in itself I can live with but combined with top heavy it leaves me terrified to move it around or come to a stop quickly. Combined with the snatchiest throttle I’ve experienced on a motorcycle our relationship is somewhat tenuous. Day 3 is finding me a little more comfortable but there’s no way I’d buy one.. give me a CBR600 with soft bags any day.

Among the highlights was a visit to the Hearst Castle: the private home of William Randolph Hearst.. it’s unbelievable. He imported architectural artifacts from all over the world: statues, doors, ceilings, archways, on and on. I will post photos shortly but I can’t begin to explain the beauty of the place. The only thing that comes close is maybe the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA but for different reasons.. It’s *much* more fabulous than the Mercer Museum.

I had a chance to see zebras on the estate: leftovers from Heart’s private zoo: once the largest in the world.

Day 3 was a ride up route 9 to skyline boulevard: easily the finest motorcycle roads I’ve ridden. I continued on to route 1 over the Golden Gate bridge up to Stinson Beach.

The stretch of 1 above San Francisco is unbelievable: crazy curvy, no guardrail but very well maintained.

More tomorrow..

Central and Northern California: day 1

The plan: rent a motorcycle in silicon valley, see Northern and Central CA on two wheels, visit h and n, close friends who have just moved to Santa Cruz, meet b in Palo Alto after her board training course ends on Friday.

I flew in yesterday at 2pm, s of Bay Area Performance picked me up and turned over a clean ST1300 to me after a little paperwork and some discussion about routes. I headed down the street to drop off b’s gear at her hotel and rode 100 miles to Salinas, CA, near the northern part of my route.

I stumbled onto Alice’s Restaurant on my way out of town at the intersection of 84 and 35. The food was decent: they seem to specialize in burgers named after motorcycles. It’s definitely a burger joint and the parking lot is a bit of a challenge in the pitch dark on a new, heavy touring motorcycle.

On the advice of the waitress I took 84 to route 1 South. The Pacific Coast Highway is fast and beautiful at night on a Monday… There was very little traffic but some highway patrol. I got to Salinas and the Zumo handily found me a Motel 6 in a not-too-shady part of town.

This morning I woke up at 5am.. it’s 8am back home. More on today when it’s over: it’s light and Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd, the Hearst Castle and the Mission trail await.

Back to Starkville, MS

I spent most of last week in Starkville, MS. I decided to practice sweet tea immersion while I was there: partially because ordering unsweet tea kills conversation and makes the locals suspicious..

I think I’ve figured out the sweet tea appeal: consistent high sugar content. “Yup, one and a half cups per gallon!” the kid behind the counter at Obys remarked at lunch today as I explained this to a friend who is also a local there.

That’s all there is to it: the South has collaborated and they all make it the same way: boil the water, add tea bags, While it’s still hot stir in 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon. Done. Try to get thousands of restaurants to do anything else consistently: the entire South banded together together and agreed on one drink.

I made it to but didn’t talk about Mugshots on my last trip: it’s considered the best burger in town and it seems to live up to its promise: the burger was huge and very good.

I also ate at Polliwogs this time. The exterior belies the general dive-bar character of the place. The food was passable but almost completely lacking in local flavor. I ordered the only thing on the menu that I couldn’t get at a dive bar in Philadelphia, the craw-fish sandwich and they were out of crawfish. I looked in vain for catfish, my second favorite MS specialty and ended up with a turkey, bacon and cheese sandwich. It was a fair sandwich, just like you would get in any other dive bar..

A final note: can someone explain to me why Delta both refuses to hold a flight and seems to be unable to get me through Atlanta on time? I booked through Delta, my (delayed) flight from Mississippi landed at 9:30, my (delayed) flight to Philadelphia left at 9:50.. Despite sprinting, catching the train as the doors where closing and arriving at the gate at 9:48 the woman at the gate almost seemed pleased that I missed my flight. Seriously? So much for Southern hospitality: you’re on Delta in the Atlanta airport. I generally fly through Dallas on American: Texas has its issues but at least the Dallas Fort Worth airport is able to get me home.

101 N. Douglas Conner Street
Starkville, MS 39759

511 Academy Road
Starkville, MS 39759

Oklahoma in spring

One could drink the air it is so humid outside. I would have expected Oklahoma to be drier. It’s not a dry heat here.

On my way in to work this morning I noticed crickets around the doors. Many were crushed in the door jamb. Apparently this is normal for this time of year. A friend nonchalantly referred to it as the running of the crickets. They collect in the corners of rooms.

Norman is an awesome eating town. I don’t have my notes on me but I’ll start with my favorite place: The Library. They have home brewed beers, many additional beers on tap. The home made pizza is good though not life changing. I’ve had the burger, it’s good if not great. Go for the laid-back ambiance and to drink with the locals. It is packed even when school is out.

The Library
607 W. Boyd Street
Norman, OK 73069
(405) 366-7465

A Week in Starkville, MS

Starkville, MS is the home of Mississippi State know for agriculture, engineering and veterinary medicine. The culture is uniquely southern. It’s also home to some really good eating.

I’m beginning to understand just how seriously the south takes its sweet tea. As any southerner that spends more than 5 minutes with me will corroborate, I’m a northerner born and raised. I don’t understand sweet tea. It’s basically brewed tea with a lot of sugar served cold. I’ve made this at home in the north, we made it growing up in the north. Nothing special, just brewed tea.

Sweet tea is special to the south. Apparently the key is adding the sugar while the tea is hot. The sugar is so important that you get funny looks when you order unsweet tea. My co-workers make sport of of watching waitresses’ and unsuspecting bystanders’ reactions when I order unsweet tea. It’s a conversation killer, sometimes the whole room goes silent. I’m told that unsweet tea like the parsley that comes with steak: every restaurant serves it, no one would consider actually drinking it.

It is nice that every restaurant serves good quality brewed tea. We don’t get that up north.

It also turns out that in Mississippi I’m the one with the accent.

Starkville is a good eating town. I’m working with locals so I’m getting the inside scoop on restaurants. Of note, Mississippi is known for its farm raised catfish. Cajun food is also common. So far the only local beer I’ve found is Abita.

Here’s a restaurant round-up:

Oby’s: casual dining, great cajun food. Try the catfish sandwich, crawfish sandwich, avoid the alligator sandwich. Alligator is exactly as you’d expect: tough, gristly and tasteless. The Rotel and chips are a southern thing I’d not heard of. It’s basically spicy queso and tortilla chips.
504 Academy Rd.
Starkville, MS

Richey’s: Steaks, seafood. This is a restaurant your grandparents probably took you to. It’s very traditional, mostly meat on the menu, a prominent and pretty good salad bar. The windows were completely covered by patterned frosted glass. The food’s on the expensive side but excellent. I had a NY strip steak rare. I’m not a huge read meat eater but I enjoyed it. Try the fried crawfish tailis just because you’ve never seen them on the menu.
513 Academy Rd.

Dark Horse Tavern
Dingy low ceilinged bar with pretty good pizza and Abita Turbodog on tap. Try the pizza. The Abita is either unusually potent or I was unusually worn out from the trip. I had an 8″ pizza, 2 turbo dogs and I barely made it back to the hotel room before passing out. The overhang as you enter reads “Continuing Education Since 1995.” They sell t-shirts that read “Never Graduate.”
Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern
410 Mlk Jr. Dr (off route 12, behind the ‘Regal Inn’)
Starkville, MS 39759

Rosey Baby: Billed as cajun cuisine, they were closed perhaps permanently when I headed over for dinner. The sign out front read “Closed for Spring Break” but it’s finals week. The locals were noticeably shaken when I told them it was closed. It’s worth checking to see if they’re back.
Rosey Baby
300 S Jackson St
Starkville, MS 39759-3348

Mugshots: I understand this to be the best burger in town. I have not eaten there but the building is pure southern frontier town. I’m going to try to stop in before I leave.
101 N. Douglas Conner Street
Starkville, MS 39759

All upgrade channel, all the time

I recently completed a minor upgrade to a mid-sized messaging installation:

Java Messaging Server 6.1 to 6.2 (patch 118207-58)
Java Directory 5.2 (patch 115614-26)
Symantec Brightmail to 6.0.4

Java Admin Server 115610-23
LDAP JDK 118615-01

The infrastructure consists of 4 mtas (Sun 280Rs), 4 mail stores (v880s) clustered with Veritas. LDAP is on separate hosts, 280Rs.

Brightmail scanners are installed on the MTAs.

The upgrade consists mostly of reading the patch READMEs and following the instructions. It’s surprisingly complicated logistically.

Symantec support is broken out into at least 2 tiers: Gold and Platinum. Gold support knows nothing of their enterprise products. It is impossible to be passed to platinum support from gold. The gold support people are also unaware that Brightmail suports Sun Java Messaging Server.

We originally had a contract problem that prevented us from getting to platinum support. Once we resolved that it took Symantec platinum support the better part of a day to discover that we needed their Brightmail software development kit (SDK) to integrate with Java Messaging Server. In retrospect Sun documents the process pretty completely in their how-to. You will need to get the SDK from Symantec.

Be sure to read the release notes for Brightmail 6.0.4. The install guide indicates that you can upgrade from version 6.0.x. You cannot upgrade from 6.0.0.x. You can install 6.0.4 over but it will not scan properly. You need to completely uninstall, rm -r /opt/brightmail and install 6.0.4. from scratch. We probably re-installed about a dozen times until all the pieces were working properly. I do not think we did anything wrong.

The post-install instructions for 115610 call for running mpsadminserver sync-cds:

usr/sbin/mpsadmserver sync-cds
Admin Id: admin
Admin Password:
Error: Ldap authentication failed (151:Unknown error.).
Do you want to try again ? [y/n]:

A look at the LDAP logs indicated authentication problems. It turned out the admin server ldap configuration was misconfigured. It always takes me a long time to figure this out so I’m writing it down. The admin server ldap configuration is stored in 2 places:

Update those two files and the mpsadmserver sync-cds will complete correctly.

Have a happy thanksgiving weekend. I’m just about finished visiting family in the south. I found out that in Georgia ‘dressing’ isn’t something you put on salad and crazy family gatherings are much less fun sober. They should really consider serving liquor to the guests. We fly home early tomorrow. I’m sure the airline industry is carefully preparing a miserable trip for us both as I type..

New York trip and the state of air travel

I decided to fly to New York last weekend to visit friends. I have been working in Mississippi and it was a nice break from being away from home and working a lot.

I flew Southwest so I could book without risking losing $$ if I was unable to make the trip due to work or other logistics. Southwest does not fly directly from Jackson to New York, they connect you through their hive at Midway in Chicago.

The trip there went without a hitch. I left Jackson at 7:30am and arrived in New York at 3pm. An hour on the m60 across Queens and into Harlem and I was there.

The food highlight was cake from Kitchenette. I somehow managed to avoid taking a photo of it.

The architecture highlight was photos of Broken Angel:

The story is sad though, take some time to read it.

The trip back, from New York to Jackson was another story. We were delayed at LaGuardia because of a maintenance problem. This caused me to miss my connection from Midway to Jackson. Southwest was not sympathetic. The woman at the counter booked me standby on the first morning flight and gave me the number of the airport hotel. She further told me it was unlikely that I could get my checked bags.

Remember that I didn’t have so much as toothpaste as current travel restrictions exclude anything resembling liquid– toothpaste or plastique, the difference is subtle.

I stopped down at the Southwest baggage office to grovel. They immediately informed me that I should wait at carousel 7, my bags would be up any minute. An hour and a half later I went back and was assured they were coming. An hour and a half after that I went back.. They called down and the person on the other end told them he’d send them right up and they did. This of course makes me wonder why they didn’t call when I first came in 3 hours ago.

I find it amazing that an airline that can book online as efficiently as Southwest, offer refunds and credits without so much as a hesitation can’t seem to manage to put my bag on a conveyor belt in less than 3 hours.

I am told that there is an excellent Mexican restaurant across from Midway. I didn’t get a chance to visit but I will go next time.