Friday, October 30, 2015

3 days in Amsterdam & around

After my short visit of London I flew to Amsterdam and spent 3 days exploring the place. It was awesome experience - quite a contrast from London on many levels. Sharing some highlights.

Amsterdam is unique in many ways - historical buildings, more canals than Venice, more density of Museums than anywhere else in the world, more bikes than population, friendly and relaxed environment and perhaps most liberal city you will visit with legalized recreational drugs, same sex marriage  and euthanasia! 

For my stay I picked a hotel near Schipol Airport. Amsterdam city is about 15 - 20 mins train ride from the airport. You can buy 3-day Amsterdam Travel Ticket (25 euros) that allows you unlimited train, tram and bus rides. 

Day 1
Spent the first day (afternoon) just walking around the canals and historical buildings and other popular tourist areas near Amsterdam Central Station.

Day 2
Took train and visited Rottardam. On the train I met couple of American tourists going the same way and decided to tag along. Just short of Rottardam we took break journey to make a short stop at town called Delft. 

Delft is a beautiful small town with ancient canals, historic squares and famous china pottery called Delftware. Unfortunately, being Sunday shops were mostly closed and there were not much activity happening. Still it was worth the visit waking around beautiful canals and walkways.  

Rottardam is quite the opposite of Amsterdam. It was almost completely destroyed in world war II bombardments (you can still find markings on the payments in the form of small lights in the shape of red flames) and rebuilt ground up. It consists of high rise builds with iconic architecture, shopping plaza, sidewalk cafe and the waterfront. From tourist center at the train station we bought the walking tour guide that lays out about 10 km route around main attractions. It took us about half a day to cover route and would say probably the best way to explore the city. 

Day 3
Spent first half my last day visiting the famous Museums in Amsterdam city - Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. In the afternoon took a bus to travel to a small town on north experience country side and see real windmills. 

Overall, loved the relaxed and laid back environment. The countryside looked very beautiful - lots of greenery, canals and windmills. Loved dutch french fries with special cheese, Stroopwafels and Candies. People seem very friendly and tolerant (would not scream at you if you accidentally venture into into bike lane) and the environment very relaxed. 

The two cities I visited in span of one week could not be more in contrast. Compared to London life is generally slower paced - people move slow, trains are slower - heck even sliding doors open/close slowly, people more friendly and it is less expensive to live. Anyways, each place has its charm and uniqueness and great to offer and you leave with rich memories.  


Thursday, October 29, 2015

3 days in London

London is travelers paradise - it has everything - famous buildings and landmarks, world class museum, outstanding restaurants, fabulous retail and plenty of green space and all of history to go along with that. 

Earlier this month I was travelling back from India to Los Angeles and took a break journey to spend 3 days in this beautiful metropolis (also spent some time in Holland - but that's for another post). Having born and brought up in India with centuries of colonial rule, Britain has profound influence on India's history and culture. So, it was even greater interest that I was looking forward to my visit to London.

I had some luggage so picked a hotel near Heathrow airport in Housnlow City - in the hindsight not a good idea to stay far from central London since wasted so much time everyday to travel to city.

London is very well connected by train/bus and oyster travel-card that allows to travel on any train/tube or bus is perhaps the best way to move around - great value and saves you lot of time - I bought 3 day pass for around 20 pounds. I also bought London Pass (approx 80 pounds) separately that cover entry ticket for most attractions (note you can purchase Oyster Travel card with London Pass also)

Day 1 (afternoon) - Train Connection: Piccadilly line from nearest train station - Osterley.
Visited Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square. Dinner at Covent Garden - Great Thai food @ Busaba Ethai - highly recommended.

Day 2:
South-hall, Westminster, 10 downing street, to Big Ben (Parliament house). Then took City Cruise from Big Ben to go around other city attractions near water to London Bridge. Then took train to Wimbledon to see tennis gland slam courts and finally another one to visit home of cricket - Lord's Cricket Ground. 

Day 3:
Visited Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Tower of London - among other things on display here are the crown jewels including Kohinoor. 
Then took tube to Bond Street station to window shop famous store Selfridges. 

With so many things to do, places to visit in this truly cosmopolitan and happening place it is easy to fall in love with the City. I also felt number of peculiarities - compared to living in US, esp southern California.
  • Everyone dresses formally - no shorts, even those wearing Jean use formal shoes!! 
  • Great public transport - perhaps most efficient and economical way of getting from anywhere to anywhere in metropolitan London
  • Everyone uses public transport - not sure how they manage last mile - distance from train/bus station to home
  • Even school kids seem be able to travel alone without any fear! 
  • Life moves at much faster pace
  • People generally more fit, polite but generally avoid talking or smiling at tourists!!
  • Roads less wider and cars generally smaller
  • The same fast food restaurants we have in US looks nicer and serve food that is more healthier and tastes better!
  • Brick constructed houses everywhere - suburbs with mostly older and established neighborhoods. 
  • No escaping security cameras - they are everywhere - train station, trains, elevators, streets even buses!! Eerie, but I guess necessary for public safety with all the nonsense going around in the world. 
  • No tipping - generally included in the bill - about 10%
  • Everything is more expensive - from food to stuff.
  • Weather unpredictable and it does rain a lot (even though I was mostly spared!!)
  • Street names posted on buildings - not on street corners!!
  • London underground - even more fascinating then the use of tube for transportation is the mystery and tales surrounding it (watch this PBS documentary  - also available on Netflix)
Overall it was lot fun. Obviously I barely scratched surface of London the short visit gave pretty good idea about the place and look forward to returning back someday to explore even more.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

My best golf round so far - 2 over

Yesterday was lucky day for me - shot my best round for 18-hole regulation course - 72 (2 over total with 4 over in front and -2 in the back) at Azusa Greens. Had one eagle and 2 birdies. Putting was not too bad either - 29 total puts with 6 one puts 6 - 15 ft range. Score would have been little better if not for bummer on par 3 13th - missed 2 footer and bogeyed from 15 ft with 3 puts!!.
This eclipses my previous best of 73 at Alhambra Golf Course which is bit easier course to play - rating/slope/rating of 64.8/114. Measuring around 6200 yrds Azusa Greens is not really long with rating/slope of 69/118 but some fairways are narrow with trees on the side.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pilot for a day

Today me and my friend went out on our first experience flying a plane. It was cold day (around 45 deg f) and partly clouds. After small briefing about key aircraft instruments and practicing for about half an hour on simulator, we were ready for our maiden flight. With trainer on the side and my friend on the back seat, I took control of small 4- Seater around 40 year old Piper PA -28 ( Starting from Van Nuys airport for a short 40 mins flight, we passed around LA downtown, Hollywood sign, Griffith park, and Pasadena to finally land at El Monte airport.

Personally, the take off was most scary of all. With takeoff speed around 60 knots - approx 70 mph which is not all that fast, and no horizon in sight for few mins (seemed much longer) and the plane gaining fast elevation, matched only by rising heart rate, the sheer exhilaration of takeoff was very soon replaced by the doubt and fear of placing trust on small and not so powerful and old piece of machinery. It made me wonder if this little escapade was well worth the risk and this adventure was nothing but a big mistake. Fortunately, once we leveled off around 2000 ft, the flight was much smoother and enjoyable. Sitting in small box floating in the air, it was strange feeling of freedom and helplessness, excitement and anxiety that hard to describe in words. Still occasional shake and slide of the plane would bring back the worst of fears. 

The path around the beautiful landmarks would have been more enjoyable if not for the tension of keeping eye on instruments and trying hard to keep the plane steady and level while listening to trainer's instructions. The flight path along the San Gabriel mountain added bit of drama with increased plane shake due to wind and pressure differential, as told to us by our trainer, aggravated by amateur overcompensation by me. The landing was also bit of a stress, but with trainer doing most of heavy lifting, we were able to land safe and sound to live to see another day.

My friend took over the pilot seat on the way back and I was able to relax and enjoy the view better. I couldn't help but think of all those pioneers of aviation and their extraordinary courage and unrelenting quest that led us not only experience flying like a bird but also made the world so much smaller.

Overall great experience, highly recommend for anyone seeking some adrenaline rush and lots of fun.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oracle BPEL Engine (SOA Suite) Diagnostics - Parsing low level request stats

Parsing Low Level Request Stats

This blog entry is in continuation to Francis blog entry which talks in detail about the use of low level statistics provided by BPEL Engine of Oracle SOA Suite for diagnosing performance related issues for projects involving BPEL processes. As promised to Francis, here are some details that might be useful while parsing the low level request stats. Sorry took some time to put this out – better late than never!
As the request enters bpel engine it is first handled by delivery service. This layer persists all incoming asynchronous requests are in the database. The request is then passed on to BPEL Engine (or generic name Cube Engine) for further processing.
Low level request stats can provide insight into average taken by various engine layers (latency) as it flows through the delivery service and engine. The actual execution of request happens in invoke-method and the individual activity execution can be found by looking for stat with key actual-perform.
Following diagram show the key statistics to watch for as initial analysis. The block marked in red represents database operation.

Further details on Request Stats:

Database latency indicators are marked in red. Other key stats to watch out for are explained with brief description as messages flows through various engine layers. Note the details below shows logical execution and not to be construed as absolute sequence of operations as there are optimizations in place to cache objects and therefore allow loading from memory as opposed to db.

A. The incoming request message is first stored in persistence store
ds-receive-invoke - stats about time taken in storing of incoming request message into db by the delivery service

B. As part of commit of transaction for the stored message, above message proxy is submitted into dispatcher which will be picked by invoke thread pool. This thread pool will dispatch a thread and call the delivery service to load the message from persistence store
ds-handle-invoke - stats will tell you the time taken by the Delivery Service to load this message from database

C. Request then pass to the engine and an instance is created and activities defined for the process are executed till another dehydration point is reached. The nesting blow show s the call stack (outer to inner).
eng-composite-request - top level marker for time taken in this step
            invoke-method - this is workhorse method where the activities defined in the process are executed till the next dehydration point are executed. Notice that after some housekeeping, this would in turn call engine-single-request to handle each of process activities.
                    do-perform - time taken to perform the work-items (process activities). Some additional tasks are performed before actual execution of activities. Refer actual-perform for isolating the times (next)
                        actual-perform - actual time taken to execute activities
    glue-requests-store - once the process completes or encounters dehydration point, the instance state is saved in persistence store.

D. If the process defines a callback activity, the callback message is first stored in the database.
ds-receive-callback - stats for time taken to store the callback message in persistence store by the delivery layer.

E. After the engine is dehydrated for waiting for the callback message, the receipt of callback message causes the trigger of rehydration of instance. First, the callback message is loaded then the corresponding instance is loaded into memory
ds-resolve-callback - this indicate the time taken for loading of the callback message
load-instance - indicate the time taken by the engine to load the message from database.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Golf Tournament - 5th SS Bajwa

Couple of years back (Aug, 2010) played my first Golf Tournament and playing with a partner we finished 3rd. It was 5th SS Bajwa Golf Tournament organized by Kang Brothers in memory of their late uncle. The tournament format was two man Scramble. Playing back tee and Flight A (handicap 12 or under), we shot 3 under 69. Tournament home page -

Monday, July 23, 2012

Good Magazine

Few years back I got introduced to Good Magazine during one of Consumer Marketing class I took. Ever since I'm hooked on to this great magazine. In this blog entry I'll review this magazine and outline what I like about it.
Good Magazine, henceforth referred to as GOOD (as they like to call them as), sets up their mission in their ‘about’ section on their website. It says and I quote “GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 we've been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn."
Further their website defines their magazine as following in a very powerful and no-nonsense manner:
In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does. Left, right. In, out. Greed, altruism. Us, them. These are the defaults and they are broken. We are the alternative model. We are the reasonable people who give a damn. No dogma. No party lines. No borders. We care about what works--what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, and just--for all of us and each of us. This isn’t easy, but we are not afraid to fail. We’ll figure it out as we go.
Wikipedia states GOOD "is a media platform that promotes, connects, and reports on individuals, businesses, and non-profits "pushing the world forward.... produces online videos, and events highlighting examples of what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, equitable. The content covers a variety of topics, including the environment, education, urban planning, design, food, politics, culture, lifestyle, technology, and health."
From start they followed unconventional business model of donating all their subscription money to charities. Upon further exploration of the website, I find that they deliver what they clearly state in their mission. Each of their main sections contain sub-sections that talk about not just news and stories of the day, but also thought provoking and stimulating articles. With excellent array of articles on Lifestyle, Culture and Business are bound to invoke keen interest from their target readers. 
While over the years I have seen magazine evolve to more broader areas, the general appeal and their still remains very much the same - providing platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world. 
GOOD provides platform to share ideas around common good that their readers value. GOOD readers predominately care for a cause and the first reason to pick this magazine is perhaps this realization that in the process they are helping a cause, hence the good feeling. It is expected that readers of GOOD are more educated, employed and perhaps financially more stable. 
The popularity and growth of GOOD’s in large part is dependent on two factors, their network of charity they deal with and the quality of the content in their magazine. Since readers would like to see their money go to the charity close to their heart, lack of association of the charity with GOOD can be a put off for some. The revenue for the magazine is mainly advertising, hence the readership/viewer-ship is key for success of such venture. In essence, the challenge for GOOD is producing work (content) that is challenging and inspiring.
GOOD, in its unique do good – feel good – read good model is unique and being the leader in this concept along with very appropriate title should be a very formidable competitor to any other similar non-profit. The key to understand here is that although, they contribute 100% of the subscription to charity of readers choice, they themselves are not `non-profit. Thus, they offer best of both worlds, they look like non-profit, hence offer great appeal, but they can function like for-profit business.
In closing, if you haven't checked out good yet, you must give it a try and judge for yourself. I promise you won't be disappointed.

BPEL SE (Java CAPS) Monitoring Console

The last major task I did during Sun days was building of new Monitoring console for BPEL Service engine. It was complete rewrite from scratch of console to provide insight about running BPEL SE. Note that this product was not released as open-source as part of project open-esb. Anyway, was wanting to write a blog about it for a very long time, just did not sit down to do it. Working with documentation group we prepared a user guide, but was not able to found any online link to share (old Sun docs links have moved). Anyway, this blog would capture some of that.
The new monitor console is independent web application which was developed using open JSF framework Icefaces ( which provide rich ajax enabled components. It runs on Glassfish server in a Glassfish ESB environment. Here are some excepts from user guide:

The BPELMonitoring Console monitors your BPEL Service Engine's applications and business
processes, allowing you to quickly discern the health of your system. The console is designed to provide a comprehensive view of your current applications. It provides a real time representation of your business processes throughout the life cycle of each instance. The console also enables you to drill down to see what is happening with any specific application or process. It allows you to track down a business process based on customer information and to suspend and resume an instance for system maintenance.
The BPEL Monitoring Console runs as an independent web application and can run from a
remote computer. The console runs on the Glassfish server in a GlassFish ESB environment.
The console is designed to provide maximum responsiveness and uses Ajax to ensure that you see each point in process as it happens.

The Dashboard
The BPELMonitoring Console starts with the Dashboard, a top-level window that provides a holistic picture of all your deployed applications.
From the Dashboard you can see:
  1. Which processes are running
  2. The number of process instances that have completed, faulted, or have been suspended, or terminated
  3. The time at which the most recent business process instance occurred
  4. The Instance Processing Rate or number of instances for a specified period
The Business Process Home Page
The Business Process Home displays statistical information for the selected business process, similar to the Dashboard. In addition, the Business ProcessHome provides a graphical model of the business process, as well as a textual display of the business process code for an even finer level of information. From this window, you can drill down into instance information for all instances, oldest instances, or most current instances.

The Instance Home Page
On the InstanceHome you can view a group of business process instances or select a specific instance. From the Instance Home you can:
  1. View all completed, suspended, or terminated business process instances
  2. Choose specific instances to view, from the oldest to the most recent
  3. View the Service Engine, instance ID, start, end, updated time, and status for an instance
  4. Look at the life cycle of an instance in real time
  5. View the variables for the instance
  6. Click on a process instance to display a Process Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) model of the instance in the real-time current state of execution
  7. Suspend, resume, or terminate one or all instances for maintenance or customer service