Sunday, June 07, 2015

Bike trip on the Bodensee with kids

I have 2 smallish kids (9 and 7) who I am trying to get excited about bike touring. They like to ride their bicycles but in moderation and only if their a destination. The idea of riding a bicycle just for the joy of riding is crazy talk.  Two years ago we did a 20 km ride to Mainau with tents/sleeping bags etc, camped and came home. This was kind of the limit of their endurance at that point.

Ever since then my wife and I have been trying to talk up another bike trip, this time maybe a few days more, and ho much fun it was going to be.

This past week turned out to be the second week of Pfingstferien (Pentecost vacation) in Germany and the weather at the end of the week turned out brilliant. Sunny and warm (turned out to actually be hot and humid on top of that)

The plan a 4 day trip with 20-30 km of riding every day and camping every night. On the first day, we headed from Meersburg over to Konstanz with the car ferry and then rode the bikes over to Berlingen.

The ride from Konstanz to Berlingen is really nice. Heading out of Konstanz, you ride out directly on the shore of the Rhine, where the roads are really wide and the traffic is really light. There is a diversion to cross the border into Switzerland and then at T├Ągerwill, there is a really nice area to hang out by the lake (We made lots of stops to break up the tediousness of riding and to keep the kids happy. My wife's motto is to stop early and frequently. If you wait to stop till the kids start complaining, you've already lost) Then there are uninteresting stretches on dusty roads through farmland, but also jaunts through small swiss towns with really great modernist houses. I was really impressed with the adventurousness of the architecture. German towns are much more dressed down.

At Berlingen we caught a ferry across to Gaelingen (which is back in Germany) and then cycled 2 km to the camping ground at Horn. Its big, the facilities are really nice and they have a lot of activities for the kids. The lake shore though is not at the camping ground though it did not make a difference for us as we just went there, spent the rest of the day there and came back when it was time to hit the sack.

On day 2, we did a ride towards Stein am Rhein but it was really up and down. The kids did not enjoy the climbing and so we cut the bike ride short. We spent the day at the lake and the night in Horn again.

On day 3, we rode from Horn to Allensbach. This was a completely awesome bike ride.
The trails are flat, far from traffic for the most part, and through gorgeous country side. I couldn't help thinking of the French expressionists going to Arles to paint its gorgeous vistas when riding through this stretch. It was just as beautiful.

We camped in Allensbach. The campground is smaller and more crowded that the one at Horn but it is directly at the lake. The lake area is, I think, nicer than at Horn. You look out at Mainau, the areas to hang out are kept up better and the restaurant at the campsite is much better that the one at Horn. Lot more food options. Horn was just the typical restuarant offerings: Pizza, currywurst, french fries (plus a couple of other things) Here they had burgers, stir fry, more contemporary cuisine.

On the last day, we rode from Allensbach back into Konstanz and then to the ferry back to Meersburg. This is not such a picturesque ride. Its mostly on bike paths directly on the side of roads, or railroad tracks and not really anything special. Konstanz on a sunny weekend day is always interesting tough and as usual it was packed with people and music and kids and life.

All in all, a great bike ride. The kids have sworn off bike riding for the next couple of weeks but they will eventually be happy to go on another trip like this.

Fixing a flat on your bicycle in 10 minutes

I tend to be a cluts when it comes to fixing things. I eventually get it done but it takes me a really long time, involving lots of time looking at how-to youtube videos, and lots of trial and error. One thing that frustrates me to no end is changing a flat tire on my bicycle. Getting the tire off the rim is painful, getting the rim back on is even more painful and pumping up the tube up with enough pressure with a small pump take forever. Its tough enough to do at home and I have never managed to get it fixed when I had a flat when I was on the road (don't ask what I have resorted to)

Due to a multi-day family ride, I had to find a solution to my problem and after a bit of internet search found the perfect tools to address them.

1. Lezyne Pressure Drive: I was able to pump my tire with a presta valve up to 30 bar with very little effort. Its a bit on the pricey side but well worth the price. I have bought cheap pumps and this one is so much better that anything I have owned. Factiorially better. Exponentially better.

2. Crank Brothers Speedier Lever: The Youtube videos do not lie (Well, the one I saw was on Vimeo but you get the idea) It really is that easy to get the tire off and on. A bit of brute strength is required but the tool really makes it super simple.

I changed a tire in ten minutes. Literally. Not metaphorically. And on the road. I am not suggesting that I cured cancer but being able to go from a struggle to change a tire at home to being able to do it easily on the road was quite a change for me. Also gave my wife more confidence in my bicycle repair skills.

Monday, May 18, 2015

pybot and Non-existing variable

In the logs, I could see this error:

Though later at the bottom, the logs indicated that the variable was being read correctly:

Eh? Turns out I forgot to install __init__.txt in the directory where the variable was being set.

For instance, for the example above, in the same directory where "Set Global Vars" is contained (in this case in a file called "Util.txt"), you need to have a __init__.txt containing the following lines:
*** Settings ***
Suite Setup     Set Global Vars
Resource        Util.txt

Thursday, April 02, 2015


I kept getting the error on a simple connect:
qmgr = pymqi.connect('wingconBdg', 'SERTBA7.WINGCONBDG', '')

Spent several hours trying to debug it and it turned out I just needed to compile pyMQI in server mode.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


The emotion I felt most after seeing Boyhood was heartache for Texas. I missed it terribly. The film showed Texas is all the ways I remember it. The country roads cut through thinly wooded forests. The middle of Houston. The small lakes and ponds that dot Texas away from the Panhandle.
When describing the movie to friends, the thing I kept repeating was that it showed Texas the way it really is, the way it isn't protrayed in travel shows or Walker Texas Ranger.

I was never much of a fan of Texas while growing up there. I found it all a bit ordinary, much of small town Texas still stuck in the pre civil rights movement America. Everything about the countryside was colored by that view, and its stain kinda papered over whatever beauty was present.
Now when I go back, I am struck by the beauty of Texas more and more. I've driven Highway 7 between College Station and Houston hundreds of times but its not till I moved away and returned that I am really blown away by the scenery that I pass on that drive: the cattle ranches, the one room clapboard bbq joints, the sky that streches forever.

As a film, Boyhood is amazing. The storytelling, the story, the acting, the portrayal of growing up in America. It felt real to me. More so because it took place in Texas.

I've just started watching "Fresh off the boat". A cross between Boyhood and that show would be a god approximation of being an Asian immigrant in Texas.

Solar eclipse transfixes Deutschland

The eclipse yesterday was big deal around these parts. Being a software company full of nerds, of course we took a break from work to go check it out.

Kind of embarrassing that for a company full of nerds, we only could scrounge up one pair of eclipse glasses.

My first eclipse and it was an amazing thing to see. I've seen pictures but in no way captures the real thing. The only thing I can compare it to is seeing the Taj Mahal. Everyone has seen pictures but in real life....WOW! Eclipse, same thing.

The schools used the opportunity to teach a bit of science. My son, who is in first grade, was able to explain to me why an eclipse, Finsterniss in German (a word I picked up only because of this event), occurs. All the school kids also made glasses to watch the eclipse.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

pvremove/pcreate fails with "Can't open exclusively - not removing. Mounted filesystem?"

 I had this problem:
root@erd:~# pvremove -ff /dev/sdb1
Really WIPE LABELS from physical volume "/dev/sdb1" of volume group "wsp" [y/n]? y
  WARNING: Wiping physical volume label from /dev/sdb1 of volume group "wsp"
  Can't open /dev/sdb1 exclusively - not removing. Mounted filesystem?

Try this:
root@my_machine:~# pvscan
  PV /dev/sdb1   VG my_volume   lvm2 [362.55 GiB / 148.36 GiB free]
  Total: 1 [362.55 GiB] / in use: 1 [362.55 GiB] / in no VG: 0 [0   ]

root@my_machine:~# lvremove my_volume

Now pvremove should work

Monday, January 19, 2015

Installing jpcap on Ubuntu 12.04

Download the package from
Install openjdk-6-jdk
> dpkg -i --ignore-depends=sun-java6-jdk jpcap-0.7.deb

Monday, May 05, 2014

Reading Hanif Kureishi's "Reading my Father"

In the early 90s, I moved from NYC to small town Texas to attend college. It was culture shock that I was unprepared for. It was not simply the change of location but also that I was at a school (Texas A&M) renowned for its conservatism. It plunged me into an identity crisis, one that had already been there prior to the move but now, in a place where I really didn't belong, around people that I had a hard time relating to, it overtook my life. Books had always been my refuge, but nothing in the American canon that I'd read came anywhere close to my experience in America, either in NYC or in Texas. The Indian-American experience seemed barren to American culture.
During a summer of wandering around India, I came across The Rainbow Sign, Hanif Kureishi's essay about growing up in Britain. It was as transformative as reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I had come back to India with the idea that India was where I belonged (even though I'd grown up abroad) and being back in the place of my birth would clear all the confusion from my life. It is this convoluted idea that is at the heart of The Rainbow Sign and .

After The Rainbow Sign, I read/saw most of Kureishi's work. Some of it blew me away. 'My Son the Fanatic' seemed to be an exploration of the roots of 9/11 well before 9/11. 'The Buddha of Suburbia' could've been the story of my discovery of NYC. As I got older and my identity crisis receded, reading and Kureishi occupied less space in my life. Recently, I came across Kureishi's memoir about his father and bought it on impulse.

Well, maybe not fully on impulse as I'd been thinking about my father quite a lot lately, as I too am a father and am realizing all the things he has been through and done for me growing up. So Kureishi reflecting on his father was perhaps something that I could no resist.

'Reading my Father' is a mixed bag. There are long bits of reviewing the work of his father, which I found thoroughly uninteresting. However, when he talks about his life, growing up, becoming a father himself, discovering the community that would become the basis of 'My Son the Fanatic', his troubles with writing, drugs, drink, women, I found all of that wildly interesting. It really gave me a sense of where his writing was coming from, of the internal demons he's had to deal with. I also really dug the stories of his father and his brothers, how their relationships played out when he was growing up as it reminded me a lot of my mother's brothers and idolizing them growing up.

In the end, I'm not sure how to recommend this book other than to say that if you're a fan of Kureishi, its well worth your while but if you're not and have not seen 'My beautiful Landrette', rent that first ,  and read 'The Rainbow sign' before considering if you'd like to check this book out.

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