Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Florida Foray

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

My employer seems to have decided that face-to-face meetings taking place in months beginning with ‘M’ should take place in beach resorts starting with the same latter. In March it was Marbella and in May it was Miami Beach. For the latter, a couple of colleagues suggested we extend our trip and drive up to Kennedy Space Center. Having never been to Florida before, I was keen to join them.

There was due to have been a SpaceX launch two days before our visit and when it was pushed back by 24 hours it seemed too good an opportunity to miss so we set off that evening. Sadly, half way there we got the news that the launch had been scrubbed again. As a consequence, we then stopped at a steakhouse for dinner which turned out to be even sadder!

Staying up near the Space Center did still have the advantage that we could be there from the moment the gates opened until chucking out time. As someone who had visited many years ago commented, it has been a bit Disneyfied in that there was no-end of 3D cinemas and rides but there are also lots of one-of-a-kind original artifacts. After taking a tour around the Rocket Park and then spending some time in the Atlantis space shuttle exhibition the party split in two based on the tours we were booked on.

I joined Steve on the Explore Tour which includes stops at the massive Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Pad 39 where the Apollo and Shuttle Program’s launched from. Although launching from elsewhere, sadly the SpaceX rocket had already been moved back inside so we didn’t even get to see it on the ground.

The following day, we had a few hours to kill after dropping a colleague at the airport for an earlier flight. We decided to make a side trip to the Everglades. We did spot a couple of alligators on the airboat tour but, to be honest, the boat ride itself was probably more fun, particularly as there were plenty of gators lazing about in the sun when got back to the nature reserve. There was even the opportunity to hold a three-year old (captive) alligator as part of the educational show.

Days in DC

Monday, May 27th, 2019

On arrival in Washington DC from New York for the second half of our holiday, we checked in to our hotel and headed a few blocks south to the White House. It ended up being a longer lap of the building than we had anticipated as the immediate area was cordoned off due to a security incident earlier in the day.

The next day was a Saturday and we took the Metro to Roosevelt Island, somewhere that is probably not high on the list of attractions for most visitors but is the home to one of DC’s parkruns. It was nice to be out doing something other than seeing yet more sights. After showering back at the hotel, we walked along the Mall where the Cherry Blossom Parade was just coming to an end and went to the Botanic Garden. My eyes were streaming by the end of the day which I put down to the tree pollen and spent the rest of the holiday on antihistamines.

The next day was spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The downside of the Smithsonian Museum’s being free is that it was absolutely jam-packed with people. We’d booked in to see a 3D film which was a relief from the crush even if two out of the four of us ended up watching the film in 2D (with the same colour glass in each eye!). We walked back to the hotel via the tidal basin where the cherry blossom was, unfortunately, past its best.

Christine was working the next day so we were left to our own devices. We started at the far end of the Mall this time with a trip to the Library of Congress where the baseball exhibition was somewhat wasted on us. We then moved onto the Postal Museum which was a surprise hit (even if just because they were giving away free stamps to start your own collection). Next stop was the Natural History Museum which was as packed as the Air and Space Museum had been; the butterfly exhibit that Emma had quite fancied also turned out to be a paid extra. We rounded off the day with a quick whizz round the Museum of American History and eventually found the superheroes exhibit.

Christine rejoined us for our final day when we spent about seven hours at the zoo! The main aim was to see the giant pandas and they duly obliged (if only because they had been kicked out whilst their cages were being cleaned). Emma also finally got the large soft pretzel that she had been the object of her desire for most of the holiday!

We were flying back from New York although out of JFK so the following morning we took the Amtrak back up north. Christine had ended up on a different flight back (a long story) and so had an extra five hours to kill at the airport. We were having breakfast on our flight around the time she was having dinner on hers! I’d had several hours asleep at home when I was woken by the phone asking us to collect her from Winchester station.

All-in-all a fun ten days away even if it did sometimes feel like we were working our way through a long list of tourist attractions. Indeed, Duncan was heard to remark at one point: “I just want to do something rather than see something”. I suspect we’ll probably revert to our normal formula in future of a few days in the city at one end or other of a more outdoorsy holiday.

New York, New York

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

I’ve been getting horribly behind on writing blog posts so I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up. On the plus side, it means that you’re likely to get just the edited highlights! The first couple of posts cover our Easter trip to the US. Christine has been on sabbatical this semester and we decided to combine her visit to some American colleagues with a holiday in New York and Washington DC.

Christine was already out in the US so I had the pleasure of escorting the children on their first transatlantic flight alone. As anticipated though, they were no bother, with the opportunity to spend quite so many hours sitting in front of a screen going down a treat. We could have done without the 75-minute delay on takeoff and Emma was less than impressed by airline food but otherwise, the journey was uneventful. We were flying into Newark which at least meant the journey to our hotel in Jersey City was fairly short and Christine was there waiting for us on arrival.

The next morning we went in search of breakfast and must have made a good choice given the length of the queue around the corner from the bagel shop. From there, it was a short journey on the PATH train (note to visitors that one ticket can be reused by up to four people) under the river to 33rd Street where we walked around mid-town Manhattan taking in Broadway, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, St Patricks Cathedral, the Rockefeller Building and finally Times Square. Particular highlights were the Macy’s Flower Show and the Lego Store.

We were staying in a suite with a kitchen (something that was made affordable by staying outside of Manhattan) so at least when everyone woke early the following morning we didn’t have to wait for breakfast. Just to vary our transport options, we took the ferry today. This time we went up to 39th Street and spent the day at the Intrepid Museum of Air, Sea and Space (the NJ Transit discount made the price more reasonable). The museum has it all: it’s based on an aircraft carrier, has a submarine moored alongside, and has a space shuttle parked on the flight deck! We walked back along the High Line which, I have to say, wasn’t looking at its best at this time of year. It was a good excuse to have a nose at the Hudson Yards development though including the Vessel and the recently opened Shed.

I felt sufficiently with-it the following morning to go for a run along the waterfront. To even up the science/arts balance we then headed to the Museum of Modern Art. The building was undergoing redevelopment but there was still plenty to see. We then hit Central Park where Christine ticked ‘going for a run’ off her to-do list.

We couldn’t visit New York without going up a skyscraper and it might as well be the tallest: the One World Trade Center. Even having found a decent discount, it was still ridiculously expensive but on a clear day, there were excellent views to be had from the Observatory on the 100th floor. Perhaps as a consequence of the price, the queues were minimal. We wandered around the 9/11 memorial afterwards but declined to visit the museum which just seemed a little too ghoulish. Instead, we went for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

For our last full day, there was one obvious attraction still left to go: the Statue of Liberty. The last time I visited NYC as a tourist (over twenty years ago) I had just done the Staten Island ferry. Tickets for the climb to the crown sell out months in advance but getting a ticket to the island that included the museum and ascending as far as Liberty’s feet was easy enough. Unfortunately, the museum is about to relocate from the pedestal to a new building which meant the audio tour described lots of artifacts that had already been moved!

Next stop was the immigration museum on Ellis Island which has enough content in its own right to easily fill a day (including an exhibit by the Clan Currie Society!). The children were definitely beginning to flag a bit by the end though and didn’t appreciate the detour on the way back to the hotel to take in Wall Street.

The following morning, we packed our bags and took one last trip on the PATH train into Manhattan to Penn Station where we were to catch the Amtrak train to DC. It would probably have been cheaper to fly but, not-withstanding environmental concerns, we thought the train would be more fun. If we’d been more on the ball, we would have got one final advantage from our Jersey City accommodation and joined the train later at Newark Penn Station. All that remained though was to sit back in the enormous comfy seats and watch Philadelphia and Baltimore go past as we sped our way south.

To be continued…

Exmoor Half-Term Hols

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

A (very) belated blog post to record our half-term trip to Exmoor. The destination was selected as someone not too far away but where we haven’t spent much time before. As we drove there on Friday evening, what we’d failed to appreciate was how slow the roads would be to get there. The roads got narrower and narrower until, after passing Porlock Weir, we eventually reached a toll gate. I had started reversing back up the single-track road before Christine checked the details which indicated that we should pass through the arch, then through a tunnel under the coast path, which would take us to our randomly selected cottage (the left half of the building in the picture).

Reading through bumph left in the cottage it transpired that the cottage was part of the Ashley Combe estate, once owned by Lord William King, and where he honeymooned with his bride Ada Byron (to become Ada Lovelace) mathematician and colleague of Charles Babbage. The tunnels were part of an elaborate scheme to keep the tradesmen out of sight!

We woke to beautiful views north across the Bristol Channel to South Wales and east across the bay to Hurlstone Point. Our first day was fairly relaxed. We explored the private path down to the pebble beach and then drove back to Minehead to stock up on food. Christine and I took it in turns to explore, running from the cottage.

On Sunday, we drove to Bossington at the other end of the bay. From there, we walked up the headland to Selworth Beacon, returning via the National Trust tearooms at Selworth and an obligatory cream tea.

For the next two days, I was making the most of my remote working and saving a bit of vacation for later in the year. On Monday, the others went to Dunster Castle where they met up with their cousins and on Tuesday they explored on foot from the cottage.

Come Wednesday, I was back in holiday mode and we headed along the coast to Lynmouth. I then drove whilst the others took the cliff railway up to Lynton. From there we spent a few hours exploring the Valley of the Rocks. We returned to the cottage over Exmoor which looked particularly bleak at this time of year.

For our last full day we went south to Tarr Steps, a 17-span ‘clapper’ bridge. Our walk ended up being a little longer than anticipated as all the other crossing points on the river were under water until we reached Withypool (where the tea shop was not due to open for another week but the village shop ran to ice creams!).

Friday was departure day and we decided to stop off at Stourhead on our way home. The house was closed for its winter cleaning so we joined the masses on a lap of the lake as the sun broke through the morning mist.

It was a fun week but, other than perhaps to walk the Coast Path, I don’t think we’ll be rushing back.

Oracle Code One: Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Last week I was out in San Francisco at Oracle Code One (previously known as JavaOne). I had to wait until Thursday morning to give my session on “Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm”. This was the same title I presented in almost exactly the same spot back in February at IBM’s Index Conference but there were some significant differences in the content.

Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm from David Currie

The first half was much the same. As you can see from the material on SlideShare and GitHub, it covers deploying Jenkins on Kubernetes via Helm and then setting up a pipeline with the Kubernetes plugin to build and deploy an application, again, using Helm. This time, I’d built a custom Jenkins image with the default set of plugins used by the Helm chart pre-installed which improved start-up times in the demo.

I had previously mounted in the Docker socket to perform the build but removed that and used kaniko instead. This highlighted one annoyance with the current approach used by the Kubernetes plugin: it uses exec on long-running containers to execute a shell script with the commands defined in the pipeline. The default kaniko image is a scratch image containing just the executor binary – nothing there to keep it alive, nor a shell to execute the script. In his example, Carlos uses the kaniko:debug image which adds a busybox shell but that requires other hoops to be jumped through because the shell is not in the normal location. Instead, I built a kaniko image based on alpine.

The biggest difference from earlier in the year was, perhaps not unsurprisingly, the inclusion of Jenkins X. I hadn’t really left myself enough time to do it justice. Given the normal terrible conference wifi and the GitHub outage earlier in the week, I had recorded a demo showing initial project creation, promotion, and update. I’ve added a voiceover so you can watch it for yourself below (although you probably want to go full-screen unless you have very good eyesight!).

Double Celebration Weekend

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

This weekend we were signed up for a double-header of orienteering. On Saturday it was the British Sprint Champs at Bath University. We were there early as Christine’s parents were running the local parkrun and returning the children to us beforehand. The first-class sports facilities at the University made an excellent assembly area for the event. We had mixed fortunes in the heats. Christine and I made it through to the A finals but both the children were disqualified for wrong controls (it was a tricky area to plan easy courses on). Christine was fourth in her final and Duncan managed a first in his B final. I faired less well making one bad route choice through the multi-level section and losing my head completely on a later leg.

We spent the night in Glastonbury and had a nice dinner out at Tamburino’s in Street. On Sunday it was the Middle Distance Champs at Stock Hill near Wells. Despite a panic whilst we tried to find where Duncan’s SI card had ended up (down the back of his car seat!) we arrived in plenty of time for Christine’s start. Duncan had a good run on M10, finishing 7th. Emma was 8th on W12 although in a smaller field. She made a 10 minute error on one control though on what looked like a tricky orange course. I also managed 8th place despite making several blunders – not surprising given that I wasn’t really reading any of the contour detail on the map!

Christine had the start performance: a place on the podium and a silver medal. And the double celebration? It was also our wedding anniversary!

(Sprint photos courtesy of Gerry Ashton.)

Back to Blighty

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Despite our elongated stay in the Alps, we still had one more night in France, allowing us to break up the drive back. I’d randomly picked some place off Booking.com for its proximity to the A6. The quoted distance must have been as the crow flies though because it was quite some trek along scenic rural lanes before we arrived in L’Isle sur Serein. I’m not convinced that the hotel had seen our booking before we tried to check-in but we were shown to a very nice two-floor apartment across the road. The restaurant was not serving so, rather than go in search of civilization, we utilized the pizza van parked in the town square, watched by the proprietors of the hotel, sat outside drinking with their friends. All a bit surreal but there was a nice breakfast provided the next morning.

The final leg of the journey we broke with a stop in Versaille. Christine and I had been before but many years ago. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the palace grounds. Only three of the fountains were in operation leaving not much but some tall hedges and dubious sculptures. Perhaps this was due to the dry summer but no explanation was offered. As it was a Friday, we had to pay an extra €7 each for the privilege of the ‘musical gardens’. This appeared to consist solely of classical music being piped out of speakers hidden in the occasional bush.

The ticket price does cover a lot more though and, in the end, it was a bit of a race back to Le Havre (followed by a long queue at passport control). The return overnight channel crossing was equally uneventful and we arrived back in Blighty tired but in plenty of time for Emma to make her Saturday morning swimming lesson!

A week in the Alps

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

We arrived at our final destination, Camping des Dômes de Miage on the outskirts of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, just in time to put up the tent before the rain arrived. Conveniently, we were very close to where Christine’s cousin and her family had their campervan (perhaps not a complete coincidence as we appeared to be in something of a British aisle).

The forecast wasn’t great for our first day. We set off up the hillside behind the campsite all the same but retreated after having lunch sheltered under a pine tree from the rain watched by a bull! After a night of heavy rain, things were looking up the next day and we all took the cable car up to Mont d’Arbois. From there, we ascended Mont Joly (2525m). The cloud even parted briefly at the summit so that we could catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc across the valley. It was a long trudge back down the hill to the campsite and we vowed to buy a return next time!

The next day we headed to La Gruvaz on the other side of the valley and walked up to Refuge de Miage. The refuge itself was packed inside and out with people enjoying their Saturday lunchtime. Christine went for a walk further up what is a lovely Alpine valley while I watched the children fail to divert the course of the river! Duncan and Christine took a detour on the return leg to take in Mont Truc (1811m). We had a dip in the swimming lake at Les Contamines before returning to the tent.

We attacked the plateau from the other side on Sunday by driving round to Les Houches and getting the cable car up to Le Prarion from where it was a short walk to the summit (1969m). This offered a stunning 360° panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif (which I singularly failed to capture on camera despite multiple attempts).

We took a slightly circuitous route down to Col de Voza where the Tramway du Mont Blanc passes through as does the Tour du Mont Blanc.  The latter was of particular interest as it is only a couple of weeks until the UTMB kicks off. The valley was full of advertising and there were even a few fit looking types starting to appear on the campsite. As promised earlier in the week, this time we took the cable car back down from Bellevue.

The rain had returned on Monday and we just hung around the valley. Christine took the children to St Gervais’ shiny new swimming pool whilst I went for a long run. It was meant to be wet again the following day but actually turned out fine. We drove up to Notre Dame de la Gorge and then went for a short walk to see some of the falls.

That evening’s entertainment was provided by me locking the keys in the car whilst trying to improvise a washing line at the campsite. Thankfully their retrieval was covered by our European breakdown cover and we only had to wait an hour or so for someone to come out. The key was sat on the parcel shelf so, having air-bagged the door ajar, he set about fishing for it with a long piece of wire – no mean feat given the key didn’t even have a ring on it. Have successfully retrieved it, that just left the rather brutal task of bending the car door back into shape!

We made a last-minute decision to extend our stay by one more night. We took the cable car again, this time from La Gorge and on up to Signal. From there it is a short walk to Col du Joly. Whatever sense of remoteness you may have still been left with after leaving all the ski/MTB paraphernalia behind was entirely wiped away by the car park at the top (there is a tarmac road up from the other side of the ridge). The children got a chance to spend some money in the tat shops on our way back through Les Contamines and it meant we could put off packing up the tent for one more day…