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Feb 1

Server Racking Party

Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 in Main

Ever wonder where servers live in the data center, or how they are delivered and installed? A few members of my team spent a day in one of our data centers lending a hand, and a few biceps, to rack and cable over 200 servers.

We began with a sea of pallets conveniently delivered just outside the data center doors. Each pallet had around 20 servers wrapped in plastic. That connector isn’t supposed to come off…maybe plastic wrapped pallets aren’t the best way to transport servers. Time to move each pallet through the data center door and quickly remove all scraps of packing material.  The data centers are designed without trash cans and flammable materials are prohibited from the beginning.  The wood pallets are allowed temporarily so we don’t have to carry each server as far. Everything unwrapped and ready to begin. Not sure where all the forklifts went today, we only had push carts! These are Hadoop data nodes (HP DL380) – loaded full of hard drives for maximum storage. Racking starts with rails – lots of rails.  Fortunately these are snap-in models, which install much faster than screws. Hadoop servers are rack aware so we spread them out across many cabinets to increase fault tolerance.  After we installed the rails in each cabinet where new servers are destined, we worked in teams of two to rack each server.  The regular data center guys can lug an 80lb server over and drop it in by themselves, but we aren’t that coordinated.  Watch out you don’t accidentally lock the handle on the cabinet – these are secure racks that require a badge and password to open again. Looking inside a cabinet with rails fully extended.  The no-screws design is even better here, all you have to do is align the tabs on each server with the slots on each rail and click them in place.  We work from the bottom up for heavy servers and the top down for lighter servers (starting above your head). All that work can make one very hungry team – Sushi time!  Insert shameless plug for Mr. Le’s Sushi here. Working smarter, not harder, we saved the cable labeling for our post-sushi coma.  Each cable gets red or blue tape to designate the network and a unique number to keep both ends straight when unplugging in the future.  These cables are fiber optic with Twinax connectors on each end that convert the optical signal to copper leads.  They insert almost 2” into the network card or switch and lock in place.  Just a few more servers, Greg, and then you can go home.  Here let me help you by taking out my camera one more time.
Hadoop servers are rack aware so we spread them out across many cabinets to increase fault tolerance. After we installed the rails in each cabinet where new servers are destined, we worked in teams of two to rack each server. The regular data center guys can lug an 80lb server over and drop it in by themselves, but we aren’t that coordinated. Watch out you don’t accidentally lock the handle on the cabinet – these are secure racks that require a badge and password to open again.

Jan 2

New Planer and Stand

Posted on Thursday, January 2, 2014 in Woodworking

After acquiring a new planer at the Woodworkers Guild annual auction last year, I finally built it a proper stand and storage area. This thing is pretty heavy so I designed a rolling base that fits inside the stand when not in use. Added a drawer for large items like saw blades, and cut down an old piece of counter to add a thick and perfectly flat top.  Time to make some saw dust!

Jan 1

Happy New Year!

Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 in Main

Happy New Year from Ryan and Kate!  We celebrated by listening and watching local KC artists Victor & Penny and Quixotic Fusion at the Kauffman Center’s annual bash.

Quixotic Fusion Kate and Ryan Sushi bar ice sculputre A verry blurry Victor & Penny Victor & Penny on the atrium stage Quixotic Quixotic Quixotic Quixotic Quixotic New Year's Fireworks Happy New Year! The After Party
Victor & Penny on the atrium stage
Dec 26

Merry Christmas from Kansas City

Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 in Main

Kate and I hosted Christmas dinner this year with a smoked pig.

Smoked pig in KCMO

Smoked pig in KCMO

Oct 27

Tiny planes and lots of travel

Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2013 in Main

What is the most direct way to get to Memphis, TN? Apparently a nine seat turboprop airplane, but you have to stop in Arkansas for a bathroom break and to pick up the mail! I dragged part of my team at Cerner to Memphis for a couple client visits, then back to KC for a car trip farther east to Bloomington, IN. My Brazilian friend, Rion, is spending the next four years in graduate classes and research for his PhD. The Indiana University campus may be even more beautiful than Iowa State.

Doug, Carolyn, Jogendra, Ryan, and the Pilot

Doug, Carolyn, Jogendra, Ryan, and the Pilot


Ryan at the IU Sample Gates

Excitement never seems to leave me – woke up to this news story…I was staying in Tulip Tree!

One of the many crafty things that happen while I’m gone. Kate made Bruno a few neck ties, and I hear bow ties are coming soon.

Bruno, the next Business Cat?

Bruno, the next Business Cat?

Jun 24

2013 Royals Game

Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 in Main

Enjoying a Sunday at the K! Kate and I like to see at least one Royals game each year, and may have picked the best one of the season. It was a battle until the end as the lead changed hands almost every inning, but the Royals sealed the deal in the bottom of the 8th with a 7-6 win against the White Sox.

Kate, Johnny, and Ryan at the K

Kate, Johnny, and Ryan at the K

Mar 17

Indian Kheema Chili

Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 in Main

For this year’s chili cook-off at work, I wanted to stick with the “unique ingredients” category that made me a winner two years ago with a borrowed Asian turkey chili recipe (think hoisin and water chestnuts).  This year, I decided to move a little west and try an Indian themed chili.  I discovered Kheema recipes which are closer to a stew and changed one of them into a chili.  I didn’t win any awards this year, but had a great time creating the recipe and testing it with friends and family.  Try it out and let me know what you think!


Indian Kheema Chili

–Ryan McNair

  • 1/2 t. Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t. Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 c. Toor Dal
  • 2 c. Chicken broth (~1 can)
  • Additional chicken broth to fill crock pot (~1 can)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 lb. Chicken, ground
  • 2 T. Garam masala
  • 1 t. Fenugreek, ground
  • 1/4 t. Turmeric
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 1 can Tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 c. Tikka masala paste
  • 1 lb. White potatoes, bite size chunks
  • 1 cubic inch Ginger, fresh, crushed or pureed
  • 1 Serrano chili, finely diced with seeds removed (Use 2 if you like it hot, can substitute with jalapeno)
  • 1/2 c Tomato juice or V8
  • Dhai, greek yogurt, or sour cream as a condiment

Start by combining chicken broth and Toor Dal in saucepan, simmer for about 20 minutes to cook the dal.  While dal is cooking, toast cumin and mustard seeds in a dry pan until hot and aromatic.  Add to empty crock pot.  Reuse the same pan to cook the onion and garlic over low heat, covered, until translucent, then add to crock pot.  Brown chicken – be careful to keep large chunks together so they don’t fall apart while stirring.  Drain any grease in the pan, then add chicken to crock pot.  When Dal is cooked (al dente), do not drain, add to crock pot.  Add remaining spices, tomatoes, tikka paste, potatoes, ginger, chili pepper(s), and tomato juice.   Add additional chicken broth to thin the consistency as desired.

Cook in the crock pot like any other chili – at least 3 hours on high, preferably 8 hours on low.  I like to cook this in advance, refrigerate, and then reheat.  I think it helps lock in the flavors.

Serve in a bowl, topped with dhai or greek yogurt.  Sour cream would also work.  Corn bread or naan go equally well with this dish, depending on which way you want to steer the overall meal.  Saltines too!

Jul 19

Mommer the Centenarian

Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 in Main

Kate’s grandmother (Mommer) turned 100 this week and we celebrated with a picnic in her honor and a family volunteer night serving food at St. James Place in Kansas City. I’m always surprised by how much energy she has after putting up with those Picketts for 100 years!

Jun 7

Moab 2012

Posted on Thursday, June 7, 2012 in Biking, Hiking

This year’s Moab trip expanded to include hiking, whitewater rafting, and of course, slickrock mountain biking. Our whitewater day was interesting – 60mph wind gusts blew up a sandstorm and made paddling quite difficult. Our group made 1 mile of progress when they normally float 6 miles and eat lunch, so we turned around and let the wind blow us up the Colorado River to our original put-in point. Kate and I hiked to Landscape Arch and then on to an arch we’ve never seen before – Double O.


Kate was even able to do a cartwheel inside the lower half of Double O!

The Slickrock trail was awesome as always, and we also rode Klondike. Next year we hope to do some different trails.

Our trip ended with a sunset hike to delicate arch, which I think is the best tradition of these Moab trips. The area is always crowded, but everyone is so quiet just watching the arch and the sun.

Jan 9

India 2011

Posted on Monday, January 9, 2012 in Main

I visited Bangalore, India again in December to conduct another training class for Cerner.  After we taught almost 40 Cerner associates in two weeks, Kate flew across the ocean to join me for a week of vacation.  She has heard many stories of Indian life, food, and the majesty of the Taj Mahal and finally was able to experience it “live action” (to quote the Turtle Man).  We spent a few days in Bangalore, touring the city’s temples, markets, and parks.  We chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra at the ISKON temple, walked the Bangalore Palace grounds where they were preparing for a 1000+ person wedding reception, and were honored with an invitation to a coworkers engagement party.  In an arranged marriage, this is the first time the bride and groom meet, with about 200 friends and family packed into the room.  Each group has a chance to greet and thank the new couple personally, and a large buffet dinner was served at the end.

After Bangalore, Kate and I flew to New Delhi for some North Indian cuisine and views of the Taj.  We stayed at a small, quiet, “boutique” hotel called The Manor where we could escape the noise of the city at night.  One of Kate’s relatives gave us a sightseeing list which was so well thought out that it quickly became our itinerary.  We toured Humayun’s tomb, the Jama Masjid (mosque), and Gandhi’s monument and museum.  We ate Indian-Chinese pad thai, Tibetan momos, and North Indian paneer and masalas, as well as amazing modern dishes at our hotel’s restaurant – Indian Accent.  The chef had an amazing ability to create international dishes with an “indian accent” to each one.  His understanding and use of Indian flavor profiles made me want to pursue cooking school!  We dined there twice.