Red Rock Canyon – Near Las Vegas

It is only a half hour’s drive away from Las Vegas, but you can get totally isolated in the desert and see almost nobody for a long time if you would like to hike the mountains.

You do need to pay a lot of sunshade and water though!

Our route which was the visitor center to Calico Hills I, II and then the Sandstone Quarry.  About a 1,000 foot elevation climb and a 6 mile hike overall.

You can find all kinds of hidden routes and trails if you like.  Long pants recommended as some of the brush is quite prickly and also hiking boots recommended due to some of the sharp rocks.

For almost 3 hours, we saw almost no people, but if you look closely, we did find a few people scaling the rocks as a couple!  No sure how much rope they were using, very risky if you ask me!

Took a little video to try and capture some of the hidden views and adventurous spots you can find in this canyon.

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Visiting Syria?

I wanted to try something a little different and a little adventurous when I had a short break while travelling in Israel for the Google Cloud Summit.

So I planned and headed up North to the Golan Heights to learn a little more and get some insights on what was going on in Syria. Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are all a few miles from each other in the Golan Heights area.

Grapes, cherries, apples, kiwis all grow everywhere. It is a lush fruit and vegetable forest. No, I did not go wine tasting, that is what tourists do!

I got to connect with Eliezer “Cheetah” Cohen who was a famous Major in the 1973 war to explain how that part of the Golan was captured by Israel.

The first break and stop I took was the Tel Saqi bunker which faces the Syrian border and is only about 1000 meters from the newly erected fence that never existed before.

Unfortunately, the reality is there is a lot of conflict along that border now and ISIS exists and is active in the villages right along that fence. So I took a selfie since it was a rare opportunity to get one with ISIS in the background with some relative safety…you will have to zoom a little. The grey fence is about 1000 meters away in the distance and ISIS is right there along the fence.

You can go right up to the border in some places! Take a nice little jog on the dusty trails…

or if you are well connected, you can visit former Syrian Intelligence headquarters that were built in the 1940s by the former Soviet Union. You need to get Army permission to visit this area and when I was on top of this bombed out structure, you could hear some of the gunfire, fighting and some small explosions in the distance.

There are a TON of great sights and places to visit in the Golan Heights, but the reality is that land mines still exist almost everywhere, so you have to be very attentive and cautious on where you hike.

You can also reach the Syrian border or even cross it if you also do not pay attention to the signs and road guidance.

Fortunately, the UN , vehicles and personnel are everywhere since their headquarters is a huge one and right in the middle of the DMZ area.

At one of the outposts, I talked with the UN soldiers for a few minutes. These ones were from the Netherlands. They observe, but are not permitted to carry weapons. They can play class of clans on their smartphones though!

The last stop was the famous Trail of Tears memorial and historical battle site.

This was one of the Syrian T-55 battle tanks that was kept in place from the battle 40 years ago.

Oh yes, there are tons of bunkers you can enter and check out at all these famous battle sites. Make sure you bring a flashlight or light on your phone!

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Kicking off the work week in Tel Aviv

Of course, I had to start the morning with an early run.

75 degrees at 5:30 AM!

It was a little hazy this morning, but the cool breeze made the time past.

Running from the hotel district to Jaffa is one of the best morning 10Ks you can have.

Always interesting to check out the action of CIA operations underway from the (former) US embassy along the waterfront…the guards waved hi as I ran by!

OK – off to work.  Anyone know where I am going today?

Hint: look in the background 😉

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The United Polaris Club

This week, I decided to try a different route to Israel and try the new United Polaris Club and business class seating.

I took the route from SFO->TLV which was a 13.5 hour direct flight. My impressions:

I first checked out the new Polaris club in Terminal 3 of the San Francisco airport.  Pretty classy.  Modern, great choices, excellent service.  #1 problem, it gets filled up pretty fast…but I would still give it 5 stars when it is not crowded.

Next, hopped on to the airplane. I must admit I love these new suites.  They are very private and you almost never see or bump into anyone.  One of the best I have used in a long time.

You even have a little cubby with a door that you can store things in.  Very handy and helpful!

Now, the service on the flight…meh!  When I first tried to visit the bathroom near the front, a flight attendant stopped me and said there were only closets in the front.  I pointed to the sign and she said “wow, I had no idea!”.  Hmmmm…

Then when breakfast time arrived, I had to wait about an hour, so I called an attendant.  I asked about breakfast and she asked “Did I order it?”.  Yes…I guess you can guess my feelings after 12 hours on this flight.

The entertainment system was very nice and modern.  Much better than Delta’s, but…it was May 28th and the movies in the system were still from April!

I will recover with a glass of wine looking over the beach in Tel Aviv.


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New York City…in the winter!

I was fortunate to be able to attend and visit Google NYC this week on the first day of Spring for some connections and an internal conference.

The Google office is in Manhattan and in Chelsea to be specific…and it is HUGE!  Close to subways, easy to walk to and an amazing building to work in.

The views on the 16th floor were similar amazing and you can see the Freedom Tower in the distance.  Careful…once you visit Google NYC you will get addicted quickly and want to move to work here!

The subways were great and easy…who needs to own a car???

The one disappointment is the office is not close to central park for running…so I just ran around the Chelsea piers as a distraction.  I got in a nice run when the snow flurries starting coming down…

That leads me to my next topic: the snow DUMPED on NYC on the first day of the conference which is my birthday.  Yikes!  I did not have winter boots, but the taxi drivers were awesome.  The snow does not slow them down and the city keeps moving at fast pace.

The next highlight was a morning breakfast (not the Google free breakfast) one morning at Shopsin’s market.  The was an a huge unhealthy, but AMAZING delicious breakfast in an environment that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

This (cafe?) is quite famous for their collections of Tchotchkes.  Check it out if you ever visit NYC.

OK – one last thing.  Since I am in NYC, I had to go see some theater and not do email all night long.  Axis Theater – “High Noon”.  A unique single act western.  Well done.



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Running with the Buckingham Palace Guards

I wanted to add another country to my list of where I have run…so why not run with the Buckingham Guards in Hyde Park?

Now here is a tip: I did another run at 5:00 in the morning the next day…there are NO palace guards in site or in their spots.  They only show up for the tourists!

Sorry I was limited with the picture quality as I use my Windows 8 Mobile phone as my running camera and podcast player.

Let me go back to the start.  I flew to London today and wanted to try out and evaluate Virgin Atlantic versus the normal Delta flight(s) I take.  It was a mixed story IMHO.  First, they have great seats which are much more comfortable for sleeping, but you almost need an attendant to help you set them up and take them down.

They do give you very comfortable pajamas to sleep in and their pre-flight videos are quite unique and humorous.  But…I thought the food service and food quality was not as high quality as Delta and the service was somewhat disappointing.  I almost began to fear to ask for anything…it might have been my American english not translating to the proper Queen’s english with the British staff.  I will update this eval after my trip back if anything changes.

Back to the run.  It was quite fun to run around central London.  I had to control my temptation to stop and take more pictures.

Trafalgar Square was popular with many tourists.

But not as popular as Churchill’s War Room which had HUGE lines for people standing in the rain.  It must be due to the recent movie about Churchill, but I could be wrong.

Both Green Park and St. James Park were fun to run around.  Many historical sites and wildlife.  The local dogs chased these ducks/geese off about 30 seconds after I ran by.  The local dogs were having a blast chasing birds.

Most of the local runners were all in Hyde Park of course.  And there were some really fast runners that were hard to keep up with.  I guess I should have packed an extra Gu for some race pace speed work!  The swans were VERY friendly and will come right up to you.  So friendly, it was scary.  It was hard to tell if they would draw you in with their friendly demeanor and then attack at the last second like the movie “It” that I saw on the plane…

OK – in closing, if you are staying in London in Piccadilly Circus area for a conference, you know where to go running now!  Time to finish my afternoon tea now.  Yes, it is with milk.  Have to be proper here in London 😉


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Attending a Conference in China

I was able to attend and speak at the 2017 International Cloud Security Conference in Suzhou China.

It was approximately 4 hours south of Beijing via high speed train.  I will admit that the land south of Beijing is quite desolate for quite some distance.

A very friendly city and great running trails for early morning runs before the pollution gets heavy.  The Hilton Doubletree was a great business hotel.

You will find huge power plants every 50 miles or so in China.

As industry visitors/speakers, we were all given “VIP” treatment.

Invited to attend some senior leader private meetings and discussions with Chinese politicians and military officials.

And we had police, security and SWAT forces on our hotel floors, meeting rooms and walking with us everywhere.  They were not interested in selfies though.

One of the interesting events at the end of the second day was a dinner with industry VIPs, country executives and also local politicians.  I had the honor of sitting next to the mayor of Suzhou (mayor of a 6.5M person city).

They had some very nice and skilled entertainment.  This was supposedly a famous/popular opera singer in China.

Now, what was interesting in the music and entertainment is the videos on the screen in the background.  Is this subtle propaganda?



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