The Life of a Silicon Valley Rockstar

My varied life… in a nutshell

Spontaneous Wine Trip to Napa

I woke up on Monday and wondered what to do. I had the day off and wanted to escape somewhere. Oh yeah, it’s before 10am and I’m craving wine… time to head to Napa!

For a day spent in Napa this might be the fewest number of wineries I visited; 3. Got to the first one around noon and finished dinner around 7.

The first stop was Pride. I hadn’t been here since they well before the put in the new tasting room. All my memories were of the small wooden bar in the small building on the side. Russell hosted and he was great. Another car nut like myself he whipped out the latest Robb Report to show Pride in the background (and a few cars I can’t dream of affording in the foreground). We started with the 07 Chardonnay. It was good but unremarkable. Not much distinctive about it but it had pretty good balance. Could have used a little more acidity IMO. From there we walked into the caves to taste the 06 Merlot and Cab with a special treat of barrel tasting the ’07 Merlot and the Vintner’s Select Cab. We ended with the Mistelle Di Viognier. Pure honey, almost overpoweringly so. It reminded me I still have some I picked up in 98 and 99 their first two years making it. With the high alcohol content it should have aged well. May find out tonight. Finally I walked up the hill at Pride to the picnic area to check out the views. It was an amazingly clear day and gorgeous. I could have stayed there all day with a few bottles to enjoy.

The next stop was down the hill a bit at Charbay. Although they weren’t technically open Susan was nice enough to pour the full gamut of Charbay wines anyway. I love the creativity in all their products. I wish they would allow tastings of their spirits (permit limitation) but still the wines were great! I don’t remember all the wines but I left with 7 bottles including one of their wine-based pomegranate apertif. They had a “masculine rose” that was pretty good. Definitely unique and interesting. If the sun comes out today that’s what I’m opening. I know I picked up 2 ports as well. I thought they reminded me a bit of the Schweiger ports… Susan mentioned Andy uses their brandy so it makes sense. This was the biggest surprise and probably the nicest experience of the day. One to remember for future visits to Napa.

Stopped at Sunshine Foods for a quick sandwich break. Mmmm, prosciutto on soft sourdough. Out of this world good!

Finally did a cannonball run across the valley floor into Angwin to “Outpost” as per Andrew McNees’ recommendation. Wow, this place is out in the boonies but it’s worth the drive. HUGE, powerful Howell Mtn wines. The Petite Sirah is a monster and the Cab is exactly what you’d expect from Howell Mtn. Huge, extracted, inky. The view rivals Pride’s as well.

Dinner at Ad hoc was good. Not extraordinary like my first time there but good all the same. It started with a great spring salad. Although not a salad person somehow I always love the ones at ad hoc. The duck “ham” was tasty. The smoke was a little over the top and a little less would have made it perfect. The buttermilk fried chicken was perfect! exactly what ad hoc is all about, simple food done perfectly. I was a bit too full to enjoy the black butte cheese and blood orange jam but the little bite I had was good. The hazelnut roulade dessert was forgettable. Just kinda boring for what I expect from ad hoc.

All in all a great trip, especially for waking up on a Monday and thinking “What should I do today? oh yeah… go to Napa.”

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April 7, 2009 Posted by | Life | , , , | Leave a comment

Hyper-V launches, let the battle begin

Microsoft announced this morning that their new virtualization platform, Hyper-V, has launched. NetworkWorld leaked the story last night (don’t they have an NDA??) and published a full story this morning. This dovetails with the buzz I started at NetworkWorld yesterday afternoon by claiming Hyper-V will kill VMWare. That started a religious war in the blogosphere overnight and there’s a great discussion going on over at BroadDev.

John Furrier called VMWare out while John Casaretto did a deep dive on his experience with VMWare and wondered if Hyper-V was all hype. Taken from my NWW article, “Hyper-V is a LOT more friendly for Windows admins and it doesn’t require any of the core Linux skills that installing and tuning an ESX server does. The combination of easy to use and free has been Google’s trademark strategy. Microsoft may have taken a page from their book on this one and I think it’s very likely to succeed.”

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , , | 2 Comments

BroadDev – Unified Communications, Virtualization, Security, and Web 2.0

 Since the UCStrategies UCSummit I’ve been working with John Furrier on a new project around Unified Communications, Virtualization, Security and Web 2.0. Together we launched BroadDev which stands for Broadband Developments. I’m excited about the launch and encourage my readers to jump over there and check it out. I’ll be posting anything topical there while maintaining this blog for personal and opinion ideas around whatever I’m thinking about at the time.

John and I will be working with a select group of bloggers for an always on technical and editorial experience. Dive in as we explore and hopefully clarify the worlds of UC, web 2.0 and convergence.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , | Leave a comment

Cloud Computing: What happens when there’s a storm?

Amazon.com suffered outages on June 6th and 9th. Worst case scenario, you can’t spend your hard-earned money on books and trinkets. However an outage in the SaaS world could have widespread economic impact both for individual companies and the economy as a whole. Google had just such an outage earlier this week. …and it wasn’t the first time

Google wants companies to bring all their tools to the google cloud. From Microsoft Office replacements to email and who knows what other enterprise apps are next. It’s a great idea and leveraging the great power of the Google datacenter sounds great… until it breaks. How does a CFO explain to wall street that they missed their numbers because some cloud app had an outage at quarter end?

It’s not just limited to Google. Microsoft has a similiar solution that includes a limited version of Office Communications Server, Exchange and Sharepoint in their HMC 4.5 offering. That said, somehow I trust Microsoft knows how to keep Exchange running more than I trust Google to keep a hurried app designed for both individuals and coroporations up and running at 5 nines. Part of the problem is Google tries to be everything to everyone. All of its apps are directed to all classes of users from individuals through enterprise. Different classes of users have different needs, different requirements and different tolerances for learning curve. Simply put there is no single solution for everyone. Despite the hype, until Google realizes this they’re doomed to be a novelty in the business market.

Google, try not to fail, we’re all watching –

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , | 1 Comment

Stone fruit and gin dinner at OrsonSF

The menu looked promising and I got excited about the event. I should have known that was a bad sign. I had high expectations and unfortunately this dinner didn’t live up to them. The menu is below along with my thoughts at the bottom. I will say however, meeting Elizabeth Faulkner was by far the highlight and saving grace of the evening. She came by our table as she was leaving, in street clothes, and was very pleasant and humble.

Onto the meal, but first… cocktails

touch of evil
“The strangest vengeance ever planned” ~1958
  bourbon, mint, lemon juice,
absinthe, rhubarb syrup

I started off with a cocktail. Seemed simple enough and everyone on staff was bragging about the mixologist. This drink tasted like watered down absinthe with a squeeze of lemon. The other flavors didn’t mesh well and were nondescript. Big disappointment as I’m always on the lookout for new mixed drinks with absinthe.

 

Sweet Peach and Lobster
grilled peaches and spiced lobster gazpacho

Minted Marble
right gin, manzanilla sherry, mint, lemon, syrup

First

Broiled Hamachi
apricot, smoked pork belly, puffed black rice, togarashi

Fairly Jaded
right gin, kubler absinthe, ceylon tea, pineapple, lemon, mint

Second

Whole Roasted Duck Breast
plum and duck confit tart, peppercress, pistachio

Amber
right gin, aperol, dubonnet rouge

Intermezzo

Summer Snow
white peach and lychee soup, lemon verbena sorbet, kubler absinthe foam

In the End

The Golden Forest
rainier cherries, dark chocolate, cinnamon, kirsch, gold

Smokey Quartz
right gin, smoked cherry syrup, coffee

 

Chef de Cuisine Ryan Farr

Mixologist Jacqueline Patterson

The first course was the sweet peach and lobster gazpacho. Looks GREAT on paper. When it was brought to the table I felt like the guy in the “what is this, elf food?” commercial. It was a very small wedge of peach, thinner than my pinky and a single piece of lobster tail meat the size of a 50-cent piece. To whichthe waiter poured a light gazpacho. It had great flavor, I just wish there was more than one bite. The minted marble was mediocre, forgettable and very disjointed from the dish. Almost a poor attempt at a gin mojito.

The broiled hamachi was good, but there’s no way it was broiled. Pan roasted more than likely but it lacked the crust created when broiling under high temperature. Great taste and doneness just not what I expected from the description. The apricot was outstanding but the pork belly was really lacking. IMO it needed to be cooked longer and better seasoned. The fairly jaded was again forgettable with the anise flavor of the absinthe taking over any other complexity.

Ahhh, my favorite course of the night. The duck breast was cooked perfectly and the confit tart was perfect. I could have had 5 plates worth of this easy. The Amber paired well and complemented the dish. I’d come back for a full portion-sized version of this dish.

The white peach and lychee soup reminded me of the fruit salad dessert often served at japanese restaurants. It was okay, but certainly nothing special.

The chocolate mouse “finger” for dessert was rich and tasty, however the cardamom ice cream was horrible. Second only to the drink that accompanied this course. The smokey quartz was so bad I couldn’t even swallow. I don’t think a tenderloin tranny could have swallowed. Who’s idea was it to ever make tobacco syrup and put it in a drink? Uggh, left a bad taste in my mouth all night, literally.

I might go back sometime but would skip the special dinner. The regular dishes coming out of the kitchen looked quite good and seem worthy of a second visit.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Life | , , | 1 Comment

MIA but I’m still not having kids!

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. There’s been a lot going on, and unfortunately because of NDAs much of it I can’t talk about. I already got blasted by a few folks for my NetworkWorld post on the new iPhone. However, I did finally sign the contract for my new book. It’s slated to come out in Q12009 and tentatively titled “Office Communications Server 2007 Unleashed”, based on the upcoming OCS 2007 R2 code. I’m also replacing the current Cisco CallManager solution of a client with OCS as their sole VoIP solution. Should be interesting…

That aside, I’m also trying to have some fun. Life can’t be all about work and stress. I played in the “Old School” Harbor Beach Open tournament over the weekend and had a great time. Greg and I pulled the “Gonzo’s” in the first round and got trounced but followed up with a strong, but mostly fun, rest of the day. The great food from El Palomar and free beer doesn’t hurt either!

Finally, Why I’m Never Having Kids. A.P. Taylor wraps up completely my chief reasons for never wanting to have kids. Sex is important, mmm kay. It’s one area where more is almost always better

 

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Life | , , , | 1 Comment

Great Firewall of China Powered by Cisco?

According to an internal memo posted by boingboing and wired, Cisco sees China’s repression as a business opportunity. “The document is the first evidence that the networking giant has marketed its routers to China specifically as a tool of repression.” (wired) Understandably Cisco is backpedalling as fast as they can.

“It is very regrettable that one of our engineers quoted directly from Mr. Runsen Li, the Chinese government’s head of IT for the Golden Shield project in this internal presentation,” said Terry Alberstein, a senior director of corporate communications at Cisco. “They do not represent Cisco’s views, principles or its sales and marketing strategy or approach. They were merely inserted in that presentation to capture the goals of the Chinese government in that specific project, which was one of many discussed in that 2002 presentation.”

I’d file this under “We’re sorry we got caught”. Cisco is well-known for their aggressive sales tactics but no golden shield will protect them from the moral fallout on this one. I think the Chinese media blog said it best:

At the end of the day, though, Cisco has done a lousy job at explaining itself. We are left with many question marks. Their behavior and statements to date have given us little reason to believe that they care in any meaningful way about human rights.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

PGP/GPG for GMail

My buddy Zep found a cool tool that integrates FireGPG seamlessly with Gmail and posted a great description on his blog. As if there weren’t enough reasons to move your personal account to Gmail, for many of us this is something we’ve been clamoring for for awhile. In an age where identity theft is an everyday occurrence there’s no reason not to encrypt your email. Personally, I send most client correspondence encrypted for obvious privacy reasons.


I’m really impressed how easy it is to use. There’s a dashboard with a Gmail tab that’s pretty much idiot-proof. I say that with a smirk, but it’s important. If only us geeks use it then there’s not much to be gained. We probably would have found another method anyway. The beauty of this solution is in its simplicity and ease of use.

 

 

 

It’s a Firefox extension and pushes itself right into Gmail. I wish they’d make a solution for IE7 as well since for better or worse it’s still the de facto standard web browser. You’ll note I said it’s a firefox extension. It’s not a key manager. For that you’ll need to download GNUPG or my preference, GPG4Win which also has a file encryption plugin GPGee and an Outlook 2003 plugin, GPGol.

Although I haven’t tested it, I’d guess this will work Google Apps hosted mail as well. That makes it an ideal solution for small business users that don’t have, or want, in house encryption expertise or to bring in expensive consultants.

What are you waiting for? All the tools are free and available with 2-3 quick downloads. I’ve walked a few very non-technical clients through this process already so if you have any questions please leave a comment or contact me directly.

 

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , | 8 Comments

The saga of MicroHooBook goes on

It’s sounds like a bastard apple product, but MicroHooBook won’t be announced at the Apple developers conference. John Furrier was the first to put 2 and 2 together and get Microsoft’s new strategy; buy only what they need of Yahoo and acquire Facebook.

No one has mentioned what I thought would be the key buzz. Buying Facebook makes Microsoft “cool” again. Arguably not since NT4 has Microsoft really been seen as cool or hip. Vista was supposed to be the trendy infusion Microsoft needed but fell flat. Facebook has so much market momentum Microsoft is hoping the platform can carry the whole company into the hearts of the internets. Buying only a portion of Yahoo gives Microsoft infinitely more value per dollar without the liability on Yahoo’s other properties that wouldn’t really synergize with Microsoft any way. So, the Yahooligans are happy.

This seems like a win all around, even for our buddy Carl Icahn who is likely to see a pretty good short term return on his Yahoo investment. It may not be the whale he expected if Microsoft purchased all of Yahoo but if he chooses to hold his shares he can use that leverage to help drive Yahoo in Asia where it is doing very well.

In the same vein, Kara Swisher published the full communication regarding Yahoo’s view of Microsoft’s view of Yahoo. Doesn’t this seem a little bit like a mouse asking a cat it’s thoughts right before it gets eaten. Yahoo being the mouse, Microsoft is batting at it like a toy prolonging the fun before it moves in for the kill.

Update: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook won’t be sold. However doth he protest too much? “You can tell, from our history and what we’ve done, that we really wanted to keep the company independent, by focusing on building and focusing on the long-term.” He’s already talking about Facebook being independent in the past tense. Thankfully John Furrier has more time than me today and is following the story realtime like CNN in Iraq during the “anyone named Bush” era.
Update 2: Facebook has ceased its search for a new CTO to replace Adam D’Angelo. Hmm, under what situation would they not need a CTO?

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Technology | , , | 1 Comment

California Wine Pioneer Robert Mondavi Passes at 94


Robert Modavi passed away today at the age of 94. He was a true pioneer in the California wine industry and the first to make a big splash with international partnerships in his Opus One venture with Baron Phillipe Rothschild. Robert Mondavi Winery is still, by far, the most visited winery in Napa valley in spite of now being owned for years by giant Constellation Brands.

In fact Robert Mondavi was the first place I visited on my 21st birthday. I still remember my first “legal” glass of wine being the Mondavi Moscato D’Oro. It’s still one of my favorites to this day, maybe for sentimental reasons alone. I won’t go into a laundry list of all my Mondavi stories, but one special story springs to mind. In the middle of a wine tasting trip in Napa I decided to stop in for a late lunch around 3 at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville. After my salad I saw an older man come in and sit down. I didn’t recognize him from the back, but it was Robert Mondavi. I couldn’t decide between two wines and as I was contemplatign both bottles showed up… courtesy of Mr. Mondavi. I went over to thank him and almost stumbled over myself realizing who had sent them. I tried to thank him, but he would have none of it, politely asking me to enjoy and thanking me for coming over. It wasn’t dismissive the way you might think from a man of his stature. He was genuine, even humble. It was a refreshing change from the usual pompous Napa air.  

Cheers to you Robert Mondavi. You began my love affair with wine and changed me in a positive manner. I salute and thank you for your contribution to the wine industry and more personally, to me.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Life | , | 1 Comment