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Complications, a Boy and a Couch

I only spent two weeks in the bay area this month between Philadelphia trips. I had a couple packed weeks planned, dinners with local friends, work on the house, a big project at work to pour my focus into. I did almost none of it.

The morning after our return, I had an episode of bleeding and severe cramps. I called the on call doctor and at first was going to let it pass, but as the pain increased I had MJ take me to the ER. It was a subchorionic hemorrhage (subchorionic hematoma). They did an ultrasound in the ER, the fetus was fine and with the bleeding subsiding I was cleared to go home after four hours, with a letter excusing me from work for the rest of the week and a modified bed rest plan. Since I work from home most of the time, and could focus on lower stress work, I negotiated an adjustment to the no work stipulation and worked with my employer to arrange half days for the week. I spent my resting time finishing a book and catching up on shows I hadn’t made time for in months. I also caught a cold mid-week, which really pushed me into resting more so I could cope with that. On Thursday I went in for a regular pregnancy check-in appointment with my doctor and she confirmed everything looked OK, and assured me that this incident didn’t indicate that I’d continue having a difficult pregnancy and everything could very well be fine moving forward. She did advise I continue to rest through Monday though, so I don’t aggravate anything while I heal up and hopefully reabsorb the rest of the hematoma.

This past Thursday I saw another doctor for a scheduled amniocentesis that we’re having done because I’m over 35. Unfortunately the doctor could still see the hematoma on the ultrasound and he advised that we wait until it’s gone to do the procedure so we don’t risk more complications. I was disappointed, but agreed to have some blood work done in the meantime. It was also reassured that everything looks good and the only reason we’re doing this is because of my age. The appointment wasn’t a total waste though, we learned the gender, we’re having a boy! I would have loved to geek out with a little girl child, but I’m happy either way, even though, as one of three girls, I’m not quite sure what to do with a boy. We also got more ultrasound pictures, and they did a 3D ultrasound that actually didn’t come out totally creepy.

So in spite of this scare, it looks like things are on track. It was a wake-up call though. I’ve never been particularly gentle with my body, and I did spend the week previous in Philadelphia moving a lot of stuff as we prepared for movers to come and help us load the container we shipped out west. None of the doctors believe that caused the hematoma, but I probably do need to be more gentle with myself now that I’m host to another living thing, as there are things I can do that would cause complications. I also had to come to terms with some loss of control. There was nothing I could have done differently to prevent this, most women who have difficult pregnancies aren’t at fault. I had plans of being some kind of pregnancy super woman, but it’s not really up to me. I have plans for this fall and chances are it’ll be fine to keep all my obligations, but I have to be prepared for some scaling back and being more selective about what I do if that’s what my doctor says is required for everything to go well.

All that behind us, I did get out a little. After the modified bed rest wound down I was feeling quite cooped up, so MJ and I spent lunch over the weekend at Chabot Lake enjoying some burgers from the little cafe there. It was fun to get out and see a bit more of our little town, and get out in the sun for a bit.

On Friday I also finally had a sofa bed delivered that we ordered back in May. We had expected to receive it back in June or July, but delays from the manufacturer meant that it was several weeks later than their outside estimate. Thankfully they ended up giving us free delivery when I explained that I was now too pregnant to help haul a couch up a flight of stairs. One of the many benefits of working with a local furniture shop that wants to build a relationship with their customers, I was grateful for the accommodation and we’ll shop there again.

I’m also really excited to have the sofa bed in my home office! We’re planning on doing some renovations, so the furniture situation house-wide isn’t really settled yet, but my office won’t be changing and it’s the one place where we could confidently make some decisions. The sofa bed is a Serta Augustine, so it’s built well and incredibly comfortable whether in couch or full size bed mode. Caligula likes it too.

I also got some towels for the bathroom attached to my office, purple to go with the light green tiles. I never thought I’d be so happy about towels, but it’s nice to have some control over things getting to a finished state there, the last big thing in that bathroom is getting a pair of towel bars installed.

I got to play with my GPD Pocket some this week too. I fiddled with xrandr a bit to get a startup script that adjusts my resolution. While I absolutely appreciate the high resolution that it supports when I plug it into a monitor, 1920×1200 is simply too tiny for a 7″ screen. I used cvt to grab the mode lines, and now run xrandr upon boot to add a couple more reasonable resolutions to my display and then set it to 1280×800. Even at that resolution I find myself bumping up the font size in some applications, but it’s working well for me.

So well, in fact, that I’ve written this entire blog post in a tiny American Airlines coach seat on my GPD Pocket. Finally a solution for in flight computing that works for me again! I used to travel with my little pink Dell Mini9, I loved that netbook. But the age of the netbooks is behind us, and since my Mini9 stopped holding a charge, I’ve been searching for a new solution. These coach seats are too small for me to use my regular ThinkPad, especially when the person in front of me reclines their seat. I’ve tried a few variations of Android tablets, and even my phone, with a nice Lenovo bluetooth keyboard, but the mobile experience is horrendous for everything, even replying to emails in any long format way. Plus, I lack the proper Linux environment I’m familiar with for any real work. Normally I’d just shell into one of my servers for that, but on airplane WiFi, that option is more frustrating than compelling. The keyboard on the GPD Pocket leaves much to be desired for writing a lot, but it has been quite usable so far. I’m also happy with the battery life so far on this little device, I’ve been running it with basic use and WiFi for over an hour now and it claims to only be down to 90%, though we’ll see long term how that goes.

As I mentioned, my time in California is sandwiched between trips to Philadelphia, where I’m flying to now. I’ll be there for a week, getting a bed delivered, taking the car in for a checkup, overseeing some work by a local handyman. I’ll also be visiting with some people, MJ is joining me on Thursday, and on Saturday I’m giving a talk at FOSSCON before we’re flying home on Sunday for a couple days. It should be a good week.

The townhouse and the container

You may recall this photo from a couple weeks ago when we were in Philadelphia:

In the midst of that chaos is my desk that I actually was working from each day. As I mentioned then, we spent the time we were in town last time to go through specific totes to pull out everything we wanted to leave at the townhouse, and prepare to ship everything else out west. As a second home, we’re keeping a very limited selection of things there, preferring to keep most at the house in California, or at least in storage we own nearby.

This trip we just returned from was focused on getting the container loaded up to ship out to California. We had the container dropped off in our driveway on Saturday, the same day we got into town, had movers come on Monday to pack everything in, and then saw it off on Wednesday. With that, our major project of the week was complete, and the den that had been packed to the ceiling with stuff was suddenly available to fully use! No more work conference calls surrounded by boxes! The room needs some work before it’s properly finished, but right now I’m just happy to have space available, and not to be stepping through a hallway of boxes to settle in to my desk for the day.

It really was a lot of stuff, I was very happy when it fit inside the single container. We also included a mattress that had been in the guest room, which meant we needed to go shopping for a new one. We decided to go with a queen size so we only have queen size beds in Philadelphia. Some shuffling of sheets and comforters resulted as well. Finally, we ordered an actual bed for the guest room, which is a step above the basic metal frame we had in there previously. The bed is scheduled for delivery and assembly when I’m in town again at the end of the month. I also met with a couple gardeners to see if they could help with our small plot outside, as my current condition and then arrival of the little one next year will impact our ability to do it ourselves for a while. Fingers crossed that something positive comes from that.

I am relieved to have the big container project behind us. There is the matter of unpacking in California, but I that’s a future problem and not one I had to worry about last week. There is still have a bit of work to do at the townhouse, including painting the walls, but we’re slowly getting there and though we kept busy all week, it was relaxing for me to get the big project out of the way early in the trip rather than having it drag on until we had a flight to catch.

There weren’t any grand adventures this visit, but the visit did allow me to have meals with a couple of my local friends, including Crissi who I hadn’t seen since last year, and a couple meals with family. The only day I took off was from work Monday for the move and cleanup, so the rest of my week was pretty much spent on work. It was nice to settle into a bit of a normal routine there and get to appreciate it at a home instead of a project that needs constant attending to. I was able to find some time to finish a book and watch a bit of TV one night when we ordered in pizza. It was a good week.

Sonoma and San Francisco

One of the great things about having a house instead of a tiny condo is how much easier it is for guests to visit. We’ve had a handful of friends come by already this year, but a couple weeks ago my Uncle Dan and his new wife Jovie came into town and stayed with us – our first family visit at the new house! They kept themselves busy throughout the week with visits to San Francisco, a surprise jaunt to Las Vegas, and a trip north to visit the redwoods and drive along the coastline. The first weekend they were in town we spent it showing off our favorite spots in Sonoma and the areas in San Francisco that were easier to see by car.


All four of us at Queen Wilhelmina’s Tulip Garden in San Francisco

After a local breakfast on Saturday, we made the trek up to Sonoma. This made for my second visit to wine country since learning I was pregnant! Just like the last time, a few sips here and there at tastings were fine, but I was cautious to keep my total consumption to below a half a glass. As an aside, going from drinking being a regular part of my life to near abstinence hasn’t been a challenge for me, but it sure is disappointing to visit my favorite wineries and not dive in like I usually do!

Still, Glen Ellen up in Sonoma is beautiful. We enjoyed visiting Benziger for their extended tram tour and to show off where we got engaged, Imagery to expose my family to the experience that is Code Blue (wine made with blueberries), and a stop at B.R. Cohn for an olive oil tasting (I can do that!). For dinner we ended up at Umbria. Umbria is a special place for us. It spent 21 years at 2nd and Howard in San Francisco, putting it on the same block where we lived. Citing increasing costs of doing business in SF, they closed up shop in May of 2017. We were there for their last night of business, where there were lots of tears and hugs, but hope as their plans to move to Glen Ellen were already in the works. They opened up in Glen Ellen in August. It was nice to show up and have Chef Giulio recognize us as he welcomed us to their new location. The menu hadn’t changed much so I was able to order my usual (Da Mayor’s Special – half a piece of eggplant parmigiana and half a piece of lasagna). It was as delicious as we remembered.

Sunday we were off to explore the western and northern edges of San Francisco. We started off with brunch overlooking the ocean at the Cliff House. From there, we went to the San Francisco Zoo. It had been several months since I’ve been there, so it was nice to see our favorite tiger parents Leanne and Larry (together again! parents again soon?), as well as their daughter Jillian who we saw grow up at the San Francisco Zoo before temporarily going to Sacramento. We also got to visit my favorite sea lions, Silent Knight and Henry, and lots of fluffy lemur piles. It was a good day for the zoo visit, a bit foggy but perfect weather for walking around. Our day then took us over to Golden Gate Park for a visit before heading back toward the heart of the city.

The weather was clear enough on the east side of the city to make a drive up Twin Peaks worth it. Even having lived here for over eight years, I never get tired of the view of San Francisco from up there.


San Francisco, as seen in many car commercials

We then made our way down Market into the Castro, and then north to Crissy Field for some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from the south side. A stop by the Palace of Fine Arts concluded our San Francisco side adventure for the day and we made our way across the bridge to Marin county for some more bridge views and a dinner at Murray Circle Restaurant.

I had a few more meals with them throughout the week, but largely they were able to explore the area on their own as we got back to work on Monday. The visit concluded with brunch in Alameda before they made their way to the airport the following Saturday.

Aside from the family visit, there hasn’t been much other excitement lately. I’ve been busy with work and doctors visits related to the pregnancy, and first trimester exhaustion hit me pretty hard. I struggled through every day for over a month, so my weekday evenings tended to be uneventful. Still, I made progress on a few things. I tired of all of MJ’s shoes still being packed so I ordered and put together a bamboo shoe rack for our closet the other day. The CPU fan in my desktop has also been quite irritating for months now, and the CPU itself was running a bit hot. A couple months ago I replaced the 8 year old thermal paste, which dropped it a few degrees, but the whining of the fan got to be a bit too much. I swapped it out for a $15 fan I got on Amazon and the system is now reliably running 10C cooler. As you can see, Caligula helped with both the shoe rack assembly and the computer.

This week we’re in Philadelphia again to get one of those residential moving and storage containers packed with furniture, household items, and other goodies we want to ship out to California for varying degrees of usage and storage at the house there. Soon, the den that I work from when I’m here will no longer be full of boxes! We’re also visiting several friends while in town, so it should be a nice week for us, especially once the container is on its way.

The first trimester

This post should definitely begin with the big news, we’re expecting! The due date is at the end of January.

As if moving into a big house outside the city and buying that 3-row SUV wasn’t a big enough indicator, we had been trying. We were thrilled when that plus sign showed up on the home pregnancy test. The first ultrasound at 8 weeks confirmed it and made everything real, so we were able to break the news to family over the 4th of July. I’ve had two more ultrasounds since then, and during both them little one was awake and bouncing around. It’s an incredibly surreal experience, there’s something living in there! Since I’m over 35 (I’ll be 37 when I give birth) we’ve opted for some additional screening tests, but so far everything is going well.

The first thing I did upon learning was call around to find an OBGYN who was closer to home and accepting new patients to schedule that first confirmation exam at 8 weeks. It felt a little weird waiting several weeks for a doctor to confirm what the home pregnancy test indicated, but since they’re incredibly accurate on the positive side, we were quite sure I was pregnant and acted accordingly. The second thing I did was start reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know and the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, all of which had been recommended by an OBGYN we met with in San Francisco a couple years ago.

The books were incredibly helpful, especially “Expecting Better” which not only had a lot of fascinating facts around pregnancy “rules” and statistics, but also implored the reader to continue to think critically about information they are given when they’re pregnant. There’s a lot of paranoia, old wives’ tales, and outright misinformation around pregnancy, but as a first time mother you also want to make sure you’re not doing something that will endanger the fetus. Balancing this is stressful. I feel like this book gave me permission to be my skeptical self and do my own research before bowing to fear and tradition. There’s also a lot of probability involved in many decisions during pregnancy, so you are well within your rights to make the best decisions for your life and family, even if they’re not the right decisions for everyone. These books also allowed me to speak intelligently with my doctor about what I wanted, ask all the right questions, and push back when I felt advice was unclear or contradictory.

Reading about the first trimester symptoms was helpful too. I’d heard stories about morning sickness, but I had no idea about the flood of emotions due to major hormone changes or the level of exhaustion I’d have to endure. Thankfully my “morning sickness” usually hits me in the late afternoon or evening, so I’m able to front-load my work day so I can be productive all day before I get too sick or tired. It means household tasks slip as my evenings are taken from me, but making it through my work day has to be the priority now. I also suddenly want ice cream all the time, which is unusual, and frozen custard is off the menu as it now tastes like it’s gone bad (sour cream and cream cheese are in a similar, though it’s less severe).

Dealing with emotions have been trickier (and led me to pick up a 4th book, Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting). I’m usually a pretty chill person and being tired has traditionally been the only thing that triggered bad moods for me. Now I’m seeing that feelings related to loneliness (compounded by limited energy to socialize), worry, sadness, and insecurity are hitting me hard. In one instance this resulted in crying over a dead baby deer on the side of the road, which is so uncharacteristic of me that it was a little scary. Another was a weepy call to my aunt where I proclaimed “I’m not used to having feelings!” She laughed. I did too, eventually.

What the books did not prepare me for was how isolating this all would be. I’ve always struggled with maintaining close relationships with people, some of this is just being a loner by nature, but I think it’s mostly because I’ve constantly invested my time in my work (both paid and volunteer). I believed it was a better and more fulfilling investment of my time, and has certainly led to professional success. But professional success is hard to cling to during a very personal life change, especially when I realized that day to day I’ve surrounded myself with other child-free adults. Thankfully I did have one friend who I told early because I knew she’d be supportive and full of non-judgmental help. I didn’t reach out to her very often, but she was indeed very helpful when I did, and just knowing I had someone I could talk to was a relief.

Announcing the pregnancy this week this has already helped with the isolation. I can’t express how grateful I’ve been to friends who are parents and have reached out to me. I wasn’t there to support them during their parenthood journey, but they have come out of the woodwork to support me. They’ve helped with practical concerns, as well as the “Am I a terrible person for…” questions (tip: the answer is always “no” along with a healthy dose of sympathy and kindness).

As the first trimester winds down I’m having fewer nauseous days, so I’m hoping that goes down to zero soon. My energy hasn’t picked up yet, but hopefully that will come around soon too. I told my employer recently and informed conferences I’m (still!) giving keynotes at this fall, and everyone has been kind and supportive. The concerns over changes to our life and apprehension around being responsible for a new person are still there, but I’m sure we’ll be fine thanks to some great friends and family.

The Amtrak Acela to Boston

I spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains in 2017. It began with a trip across the country on the California Zephyr and Capitol Limited over Memorial Day weekend, then a trip to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight, and finally to a conference in Raleigh on the Carolinian. This year hasn’t had as many trains, but when the opportunity presented itself to travel from Philadelphia to Boston I knew I wanted to take the Amtrak Acela Express. I’ve taken the regular Northeast Regional, which serves the same route, several times, but the Acela had remained elusive. Not this time! The Acela offers only Business and First accommodations, since it’s a premium service already, and a business class seat on the Acela was well within travel policy for work, so I booked it, and then upgraded myself to First on my own dime.

First class got me into ClubAcela in Philadelphia, where you get to wait in a comfy space while you wait for your train boarding to begin. When boarding begins, they announce it and you meet a staff member who takes you down the elevator and directs you to the part of the platform where First class will board. It all felt very fancy and I was really pleased with the experience.


Inside ClubAcela in Philadelphia, and the view into 30th Street Station

Upon boarding, the seat layout was a row of single seats on one side, and pairs of seats on the other. I grabbed a single seat and settled in. In addition to serving a meal during the journey, they also routinely come through the first class car to offer and unlimited supply of the beverages they had available. It’s probably good I wasn’t drinking alcohol, since I may have had an Allagash White or three on my journey if I had been! I boarded the train around 2:30PM and kept delaying my meal, finally having it served up around 6PM. I went with the Pan Seared Atlantic Cod Fillet (pan seared Atlantic cod with baby green beans, potato rosti and smokey tomato sauce). It was quite good, and I was so grateful that the Acela had a different menu than their other trains, even months later I’m not sure I would have enjoyed another Amtrak steak with Bernaise sauce.

As I mentioned, I took the train from Philadelphia, which gave me a journey of just over five hours. It took me over the bridge into Trenton, New Jersey, up to NYC where we stopped at Pennsylvania Station under Manhattan before popping out in the Bronx. From there it was up through New York into an incredibly long segment in Connecticut where the train takes a coastal route, allowing for lots of great views of marinas, harbors and lots of bridges. A quick journey up through Rhode Island whisked us into Massachusetts before I was ready. The journey came to a conclusion at the Back Bay Station in Boston, which is a stop earlier than I had planned, but I learned just before the stop that it was just a block from my hotel!

It wasn’t the epic train journey that ones in the past had been, but it wasn’t meant to be. I took it down on a Sunday afternoon and intentionally took the Acela instead of the Northeast Regional, which would have added two hours to my journey. It was about getting to where I needed to be for meetings on Monday, and finally taking the fastest passenger train in the United States. Success! And it was fun.

More photos from the train journey here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697530153231

Of course what I was in Boston for was to meet up with the rest of the LISA18 organizing committee. It’s been a real pleasure working with this group of people over the past several months as we recruited speakers and went through the selection process. The day and a half in Boston was to do the final sifting through proposals now that the rest of the program committee had placed their votes, and come up with a schedule. It wasn’t easy, there were a lot of great talks and great speakers to choose from and we could only accept about 20% of the submissions. Having great collaborators and a respectful atmosphere all around was a tremendous experience, we all had our favorite talks and tutorials and somehow made it all come together in a schedule I’m really proud of, which will be released soon. Tuesday was spent doing lots of administrative tasks before I packed up to head toward the airport for my afternoon flight.

The New England Aquarium is on the way to the airport. It really is! I stopped there for a quick lobster roll at a hot dog stand outside and then it was over to the aquarium for a visit. Growing up in southern Maine, Boston was our big city. Girl Scout trips took us down here for overnights at the Boston Museum of Science and I’d been to this aquarium a few times as a youth. It had been well over 20 years since I’d visited, so the only thing I remembered was that there were a lot of penguins. There are still a lot of penguins, several different types! They had African penguins, Southern Rockhopper penguins and Little Blue penguins (these are the ones I saw wild at Phillip Island when I was visiting Melbourne). The rest of the aquarium is great too, I got to visit some California sea lions, lots of sea turtles, and saw a few cuttlefish!

After about an hour I did finally continue my journey to Logan airport so I could fly back to San Francisco. I managed to have enough time at the airport to stop by the lounge to have a ginger ale to calm an incoming upset stomach and get a little work done. The flight attendant on my flight home made sure I was taken care of too.

More photos from my time in Boston here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157698745583494/

BALUG, Sonoma, and the 4th in Philly

Some changes in life circumstances recently has caused the past couple of months to be a bit more chaotic than I expected. Still, the usual outings and regular trips back east have continued. In late June I had the pleasure of going to a Bay Area Linux Users Group meeting for the first time in months. The turnout was better than I expected, causing us to expand out to two tables in the corner of the restaurant. I gave an introductory talk on DC/OS sans projector to the tables, which worked out better than I had hoped. A talk on DC/OS at a place like a local LUG can be a bit hit or miss, but for the most part it seemed like the right people came out to the meeting and we were able to have some nice discussions after I gave the overview and explained some usage examples. I also enjoyed catching up with some of the Partimus crew, and hope to have a couple new volunteers as a result.


Thanks to Nathan Handler for getting a picture during the meeting (source)

Later that week I met up colleagues early Friday morning in San Francisco for a team off-site in Sonoma and day of wine tours. We stopped at Benziger for a quick tram tour, then went off to Imagery to enjoy a boxed lunch at a table I’d used my membership to help arrange. From there we went to Petroni, which was a new one for me, and enjoyed a wine tasting and stories of the history of the family and winery in their caves. It was a nice to get to know some of my colleagues who I don’t work with every day, and in spite of being on the warm side, Sonoma is always beautiful and a pleasure to visit.

At the end of June we flew out to Philadelphia for a week. The trip was aimed at spending time with family and going through lots of stuff to organize and decide what we’re keeping there at the townhouse and what we’re going to ship out west to use and store here at the much larger house in California. It was an exhausting week, so I’m glad we took a nap on Saturday afternoon after stepping off our flight and spent the first evening with MJ’s sister Irina and her husband Sam over at Longwood Gardens. I went with a friend last year to see their fountain light show, and it featured a delightful mix of classic jazz. This year they changed it! Instead of the standard spot for viewing the show, we stood on the bridge in the middle of the fountains and they had switched to a soundtrack of pop music reaching back to the 70s. I was a big fan of the Pinball Wizard bit. The company was good as well, it was nice to grab some dinner at their outdoor beer garden, wander through some of the gardens, and generally catch up for a couple hours.

Mid-week my cousin Melissa was driving down the east coast and stopped by for a visit and dinner. She’s one of the cousins I see the most because we both travel and our paths cross often, especially when work or events bring her out to San Francisco every couple of years. She had her dog with her so I scoured restaurant reviews to find one with an outdoor area, and we lucked out with a 5PM thunderstorm that broke the heat wave a bit just before she arrived. We had a lovely dinner outside in the freshly minted 75 degree post-storm weather, which had earlier been in the 90s and humid.

The 4th of July was spent at MJ’s father’s house with BBQ and some extended family joining us as well. Plus, there was cake! We also got to meet up with family later in the week for a birthday at a nearby hibachi restaurant.

All the family visits aside, those boxes of stuff were front and center in this trip. We were able to get through everything and now have a solid inventory of it all with decisions about what we’ll be sending out west. We’re a bit concerned about whether everything will fit into the container we ordered to ship everything out, but we’ll find out next week. We’re taking another Friday night flight to get us into Philly around 8AM on Saturday, then spend the weekend finalizing what we need to do before the movers arrive. I will be so thrilled to have most of the boxes, totes and extra furniture finally out of the den we’ve designated as our shared office, in no small part because of all the comments and questions I get when I’m on work video calls about the sea of boxes I live with.

Our trip concluded by taking SEPTA down to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia where MJ had lunch before parting ways. He was headed out west on a plane for a quick work trip and I was taking the Amtrak Acela north to Boston for work of my own.

Not gambling in Vegas

I don’t care for gambling or gratuitous public drinking, and crowds definitely aren’t my scene, so my love for Las Vegas frequently surprises people. I routinely bump into acquaintances who share my feelings, and have avoided Las Vegas because they believe it’s too much of a “sin city” for them. I won’t lie, there is gambling everywhere, hotels intentionally route you through their windowless casinos to get everywhere. Sexualization is everywhere too, from scantily-clothed wait staff in the casinos to outright x-rated advertisements that litter the ground as you walk down the strip. I’d never call Las Vegas family-friendly and am glad they’ve backed off their attempts to make it so.

Still, I do love Las Vegas for the:

  • Neon lights
  • Late nights
  • Extravagant shows
  • Quirky museums and exhibitions
  • Quite the history
  • Spectacular food
  • Animals
  • Stunning pools
  • Interesting day trip opportunities

And over-the-top EVERYTHING, which is a nice escape from time to time. Everything in Las Vegas is bigger, more extravagant and indulgent. So, my similarly-minded friend of mine, if you’re looking for some non-gambling, non-drinking, non-sexualized things to do in Las Vegas, here’s my tour of the goodies I’ve found.

Neon lights

Before I knew much about Las Vegas, I knew about the neon lights on the strip. It’s what I always dreamed of seeing when I thought of Las Vegas, a sparkling city of lights rising from the middle of the desert. Las Vegas doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Much like Times Square in NYC, walking down the strip at night is well-lit because of the huge screens and sparkling neon. The Walgreens has a neon sign, and so does the Denny’s. If you too like neon, The Neon Museum is a must see, and it’s one of the few museums that is not only open past 5PM, it’s much better to see when it’s dark. The basic visit is buying tickets for a specific time to get a tour of the “bone yard” where there are piles of defunct signs, with a handful here and there that are functioning, at least partially. The tour guide takes you through a 45 minute walk through the outdoor bone yard, sharing history of the signs and the city. It’s fascinating, and the walk outside on a cool desert night is quite enjoyable.


The neon boneyard

But what was really breathtaking is the Brilliant! show. I had no idea what to expect from this ticket add-on, and somewhat expected it to be a tourist trap. Instead, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in Las Vegas. You walk from the museum over to a separate area where you’re surrounded by dead signs. Repeat after me: dead. They don’t work. They aren’t plugged in, most are missing their lightbulbs. The signs don’t work. In the middle stands a couple pillars whose purpose becomes clear quickly. The lights are shut off and you’re then dazzled by the signs coming to life, with help from the pillars that contain a series of projectors that precisely beam out overlays onto the signs that make them look like they’re functioning. No joke, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A soundtrack is played during the show featuring classics from Las Vegas standards Sinatra, Elvis and others, adding a bit of heart and nostalgia to the show.


Dead signs come to life for Brilliant!

Late nights

Truth is, not everything is open all night in Las Vegas, but a lot is. You’ll find lots of places open until midnight, but even over night there are always places you can find to grab a bite. If you want to take a walk down the strip in the middle of the night with a beer or cocktail in hand, go for it! Everyone else is. My only word of caution goes for any time in Vegas: it’s a tourist town, there’s crime of opportunity (usually theft, pickpockets), don’t get too drunk and don’t venture off-strip.

Extravagant shows

THE SHOWS! Vegas is a must stop for many of the most popular acts of the day, so you can sync up your trip to see your favorite singer, though I never have. I did see (and meet!) Penn & Teller here, went to The Evil Dead musical during my bachelorette party, have been to a variety of Cirque du Soleil shows. Every time of live performance you’d want to see, it’s probably here. Also, they now have a home hockey team with a stadium right behind New York-New York on the strip, and a football team is coming soon.

Quirky museums and exhibitions

I already mentioned the Neon Museum, but also of note is the The National Atomic Testing Museum. Atomic testing was done within view of Las Vegas and people used to have viewing parties around the explosions. It’s the perfect site for this museum. The city also plays host to world class exhibitions that have found a more long term home here. I worried that exhibits like the Titanic one at the Luxor would be sub-par, but it was tasteful and well done, and houses “The Big Piece” – a huge section of the hull that was recovered and made the visit worth it on its own.

Quite the history

It’s probably a bad idea to glamorize the history of Las Vegas that’s littered with mobsters, but it’s hard to avoid it. I stayed at The Flamingo due to its origin story that included Bugsy Siegel (also, it’s pink, and iconic!). The Mob Museum near downtown Las Vegas is deliciously in a former courthouse and includes such amazing artifacts as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Macabre, perhaps, but amazing. And then there’s downtown Las Vegas itself. I didn’t go in the evening when the giant screens above you light things up, but I did pop into the Golden Nugget and check out other must see neon signs one afternoon. Even though I’ll still likely stay near the strip in the more expensive part of town, it’s worth the visit, and everything really is cheaper there.

Spectacular food

So. Much. Food. Take the normal American excess, and pile on the endless crab legs and chocolate fountains. The crowned best Vegas buffet changes over time and I’ve been to a few great ones. There’s also spectacular fine dining that you should get reservations for, some of the best restaurants in the country have a location in Las Vegas in addition to places like NYC and LA or SF. I love food, so this is definitely a draw for me.


Sushi and sake flight, would order again!

Animals

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat over at The Mirage has dolphins! And lions! And Tigers! It’s one of my favorite places. There are also a handful of aquariums, one at The Mirage and another at the end of the strip at Mandalay Bay. Caesar’s Palace also has a big fish tank you can see for free that they like to call an aquarium, but I was a bit disappointed, though it did allow me to see the also free “Fall of Atlantis” show, which has super old animatronic characters and was actually kind of funny, plus there was fire.

Stunning pools

My pale complexion is not a huge fan of the sun, but I do love pools. One of my strategies is going out in the morning, before the pool gets crowded and the sun too high overhead. You could also rent a cabana, which is not cheap… but it is cheaper in the off-season, and will provide you a dedicated space of your own, food and beverage service and other goodies.


Pool at The Luxor

Interesting day trip opportunities

Boulder City is right nearby! Next time I’m there I want to go on the Nevada Southern Railway excursion train. And the Hoover Dam is just 40 minutes away! You can also visit the west rim of the Grand Canyon on a day trip, which isn’t quite as impressive as what you’d see from the South Rim, but is still spectacular. But my recommendation? Save up and spring for the helicopter plus boat tour. You’re in a huge bus for hours with piles of strangers, treat yourself to more than just a nice view. Plus, then you won’t be painfully jealous of the people on the tour who do take the detour over to the helicopters. It’s not long, but it’s an experience I won’t forget.

Finally, I also do hold a fondness for all the replicas. The giant pyramid of The Luxor, the Eiffel Tower, miniature New York City, the recreation of ancient Rome. It’s all less popular these days with the staggering rise of high end resort-style hotels, but I love this old stuff. I reveled in the night spent at The Luxor, and a stroll through the columns and Roman Gods of Caesar’s Palace topped off with a great Italian meal is quite the treat. I also like walking down the strip, but on hot days it is nice to catch some of the trains, on my last trip I discovered the free tram that now connects The Bellagio, Aria and Monte Carlo, which gets you a nice chunk of the way to New York-New York, and the next train that connects the Excalibur to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Las Vegas also has a (paid) Monorail on the other side of the street, that I used a bit when staying at The Flamingo.

So, much to do in Las Vegas without drinking or gambling! The excess is certainly not for everyone, but I enjoy it for a leave-the-real-world-behind escape.

DockerCon 2018

A few weeks ago I spent a couple days commuting up to San Francisco for DockerCon SF 2018 at Moscone West. This was my first DockerCon and my second time attending a conference in this venue, though last time was for Google I/O when I was living a couple blocks away so the commute was considerably shorter! I came in for Wednesday and Thursday of the conference, which allowed me to see a couple days of keynotes, along with sessions here and there.

The first thing you notice about this conference is how big it is. Coming in at about 5000 people, it’s on the large side of events I go to. Unfortunately the sessions were a bit hard to get into if you didn’t plan ahead by at least a week. The badges doubled as attendee check-ins for the sessions so they could manage flow with guaranteed spots and wait lists. As a result, I missed the opportunity to see a talk by my Mesosphere colleague, though it was nice to see the wait list was also full for his talk!

The second thing that because clear very quickly was that, like Puppet, this was a very vendor-focused conference. They keynotes trended very Enterprise-focused both in product and audience, especially on the second day. I think part of this is that they separated out some of the community stuff into other days that I didn’t attend for. The schedule system was also pretty confusing, so it’s possible I just missed things that may have been interesting to me due to how they split up the event to various “theaters” and things that were not necessarily main track talks.

There was a strong theme of avoiding cloud-based vendor lock-in. It’s an important message for me as well, so I did like to see others pushing the message, and their technical preview of a hybrid cloud solution was good to see.

I was also there to to pitch in at the Mesosphere booth, which I did both days!

On Thursday headed out to lunch and meet up with my friend John, in town from Philadelphia.

Talk-wise, I ended up in few that were less interesting to me due to the proprietary nature of their solutions and focused more on the product than how they solved specific problems in a more general way. However, I really enjoyed a talk by Ilan Rabinovitch of DataDog who shared adoption trends gleaned from statistics that DataDog collects. This gave insight into the most popular workloads (ngnix, Redis) and how many were using orchestrators like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and DC/OS (about 50%). Perhaps most fascinating for me though was the lifespan of a typical container, which comes in at about 2 days, and is less than it was in previous years. Broken down further, the lifespan of a container in an orchestrated environment is actually 1/2 a day, and unorchestrated is 6 days. For those of you following along at home, a shorter lifespan is typically better, since it should point to a system that’s resilient, automated (perhaps driven by a CI/CD process), and updating containers as needed rather than letting anything get outdated or otherwise insecure. I also enjoyed a talk about Itsio, since they dove into the specifics into why traditional tooling for monolith applications isn’t well-suited for a microservices world. They went into the basic architecture of an Istio deployment by explaining what each component was, talked about features of the next release, and gave a demo.

I’m glad I went to experience it and meet up with folks who I know from the community, but I think this conference tended to be on the less valuable side for me. Maybe if I had attended previous ones I may have understood the format a bit better, or if I was actually more involved with the community directly I could appreciate some of the breakout sessions. As a peer in the container space and open source enthusiast, I think it just was a bit too product-focused for me. Back to pure open source and DevOps events for me!

A few more photos from DockerCon 2018 are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157694835161302

Spending time in our new hometown

Over the past month I participated in two conferences and a couple meetups, but they were all in San Francisco, allowing me to sleep in my own bed every night for several weeks in a row! This has allowed me to spend a couple weekends tinkering on some projects and to go on a few outings with MJ. Unfortunately I was also knocked down a peg by a strep throat, accompanied by a fever, which stole an entire weekend from me in early June.

Still, home adventures were had! First up was finally making it over to Chabot Cinema, the one-screen movie theater in downtown Castro Valley. There we got to enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story on the Friday it opened. The theater was probably mid-range quality-wise, it wasn’t as run down as I had feared, but it was certainly no IMAX with reclining seats. It was comfortable and inexpensive, and I could see myself going there regularly if I manage to make time to see movies in the theater anytime soon. Incredibles 2 is playing there now, it’s tempting to head over tomorrow night after MJ leaves for on work trip.

MJ had his friend Matti in town for a week, and one of the outings I was able to tag along to was visiting the nearby Castro Valley Farmers’ Market which takes place in the BART parking lot on Saturdays. It was our first time going there, I picked up fruit, a couple frozen meat pies, and hummus. It’s strawberry season now, and the strawberries from these local farmers were some of the best I’ve had in a long time. It was also hot. The east bay gets considerably warmer than San Francisco, so we’ve been seeing summer temperatures climb into the 80s and 90s for several days this month. An outdoor farmers’ market was a nice jaunt for a half hour or so, but the temperature encouraged a speedy retreat.

Last weekend MJ and I spent our afternoon walking around the Castro Valley Car Show. They closed off a decent stretch of Castro Valley Boulevard and packed it with classic cars, live bands, and vendors. Seeing the cars was a lot of fun, getting to drool over the old sports cars that had their engines swapped so they now speed down the highway at unnatural speeds, and the nice collection of Chevrolet Bel Airs whose fins make you believe they may take off from the ground at any minute, if they weren’t so gigantic. It renewed my interest in the hobby of classic cars that I know I’ll never manage to find time for, but it did inspire me to action in another way, digging out the photo album that contained photos my father’s Triumph Spitfire and scanning them so they’d be available online, photos here. With Father’s Day that Sunday, it was a fortuitous time to get them online, and to posthumously thank him for (sadly!) selling the car in favor of a Practical Family Car when I was a kid. It also brought back memories for some of my relatives who remembered the car and saw my Facebook post sharing the photos.

We took a break midway through car browsing to grab lunch at the local Thai restaurant, and I browsed shops while MJ stepped away for a haircut. That’s when I had the opportunity to visit World Wide Art, which I’d somewhat written off as your standard local frame shop and gallery. It surprised me upon entering, they have a huge collection of popular art, heavy on Disney themes, but also some Star Wars and others creeping in on the edges. Wow! With my home office already teeming with goodies to go on the walls, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to buy from their shop, but I’m thrilled that such a place exists in our new home town, and gives me some good ideas for gifts.

More photos from the car show here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697538127214

I also mentioned I’ve had some time for projects. When I was in Vancouver for the OpenStack Summit, I saw one of my former colleagues on the Infrastructure team with a tiny computer. I quickly learned that it was the GPD Pocket and ordered one for myself. It’s the form factor that pulled me in. I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Dell Mini9, a Linux “laptop” that would fit in my purse, ever since my Mini9 ceased to hold a charge, and even the unused replacement batteries were getting old. While it’s awkward to type on, the GPD Pocket comes in a bit smaller at 7″ and is super cute.

He shared his instructions for installing Debian here and I dutifully followed along, making a couple clarifying statements here and there. The worst part of the process was discovering that the graphical installer for that week on the Debian Testing image was faulty. This was compounded by knowing that a lot of people struggled with limited power coming from the USB port, so at first I believed the USB port was to blame, finally after a couple hours I tried the installer on another laptop and learned that it indeed was the culprit. From there, I just used the text-based installer. The only lingering issue I can think of is the screen rotation, which defaults to portrait for grub, lightdm and the desktop itself (console is fine, which makes for a trippy boot-up sequence). The desktop was easy to fix, the others will take some fiddling. I don’t know that I’ll ever grow accustom to the keyboard, but I won’t be writing the next Great American Novel on it, it’s more about a better solution than my phone or tablet for things like on the go email writing and IRC. I can’t speak to the reliability of it yet, but the form factor is quite slick and I like the feel of it.

The next weekend, inspired by Ubuntu colleague Nathan Haines doing the same, I got to play with some more hardware, this time pulling my BQ Aquaris M10 tablet off the shelf to reinstall Ubuntu Touch on it. I had flashed it with Android after it lost support from Canonical, but today at team over at Ubports has picked up where they left off to continue development and support for Ubuntu Touch. Since I had installed Android on it, first I had to reflash it with an old version of Ubuntu Touch, which took a few tries due to my not reading the instructions properly the first time around. Then the super easy installer they wrote took over and I was up and running with the new version in no time. I’m really happy with how easy they’ve made it, no more fiddling around with adb yourself, you just plug it in and go.

I don’t have any grand travel planned for work over the next couple months, but we will be going back to Philadelphia a couple times to sort through boxes and eventually get everything we’re not using there shipped out here to California. Not exactly a lot of fun, but it needs to be done and I’ll be happy when the den at the townhouse in Philadelphia isn’t packed with boxes and is instead set up as our home office. Our first trip begins this Friday, and we’ll be spending the 4th of July week there before parting ways, with me taking the Acela up to Boston for a couple days to participate in an organizing committee meeting for a conference I’m a talk chair for. It should be an interesting summer.

DevXCon 2018

A few weeks ago I attended my second DevXCon. It was held in the dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco this year, which meant a BART ride and then a MUNI Metro ride to get to the venue, but it was still quite accessible to public transit.

This year my colleague Judith and I put in a talk which was accepted titled “Debian to DC/OS: factors that shape open source communities” where we pulled out some of the similarities between open source projects we’ve worked on and evaluated the strategies for effectively supporting these communities. My own experience across projects has shown some very interesting trends around the relationship between an open source project and the company or companies supporting it. Perhaps most notably, is in the Ubuntu community where we were fiercely loyal to the project, but bristled at the association with Canonical. Community members would be thrilled to have their work highlighted on an Ubuntu-branded resource, but less likely to even allow Canonical to “use their work” to promote the company at all. The key point of the talk is that analysis of the company, project and community needs to be done on several axes so you can craft an effective approach to community development, since what may work well in one community could fail in another, and you need anticipate and handle that. Slides from the talk can be found here (PDF).


Thanks to Leslie Hawthorn for taking a picture during our talk! source

It was an enjoyable talk to give, but the talk slots at this event were 20 minutes long (short!) and I’m not used to having a co-presenter, so I was a little nervous about timing and flow. Still, it went well and I’ll be giving it again at the end of August for the Open Collaboration Conference at the Open Source Summit in Vancouver. I have some additions I’d like to make to the criteria for evaluating projects, and it would be fun to add a couple more projects to our examples.

Of course the real value of this conference is in hearing what other people have to say! The event kicked off on Monday afternoon with a keynote from Jono Bacon about cultivating leaders. This is a complicated topic, and he handled a lot of the nuance of it well. All of the communities I’ve worked in have struggled with cultivating leaders beyond the original few, but you can’t just hand off leadership to anyone who comes along and wants it, as it’s common for people who want responsibilities to be ill-suited for it. You need to look for the right characteristics and recognize that not everyone is cut out to be in a leadership role. He stressed the importance of listening, ability to be decisive, humility and self-awareness for when mistakes do happen. He also talked about how you need to support the people in your community who may be good leaders by providing coaching and mentoring.

The second keynote came from Mano Marks who explored the developer advocate/evangelist question of “Who do you work for?” It’s a question I’ve easily answered as “the community” but you are being paid by a company and there is some loyalty to be recognized there as well. He explored motivations of various stakeholders and factors like company size, project and product maturity and community size, and how these all impact where your role. I was also happy that he addressed the topic of integrity, since many of us are hired partially based on our reputation and that’s important to keep healthy if we wish to succeed across multiple positions in developer relations.

On Tuesday I enjoyed hearing from Bear Douglas about connecting developer relations to product inside of a company. It’s something we’ve started doing more as we process community feedback and tickets. Part of your job is to be the filter and the funnel to make sure feedback is of a high caliber and clear. One of my favorite bits of advice was that you should mix in feature requests and concerns with positive and neutral feedback as well. You don’t want product to dread your reports or visits that are full of complaints and requests, instead mix them up so they also have reason to feel good about what the community members are expressing. She also talked about the importance of closing the feedback loop so everyone involved feels like their feedback is being addressed in some way.

I also enjoyed the afternoon keynote chat with Alex Salazar at Okta who shared a story of their first developer experience hire whose actions actually caused the company to pivot early on based on community feedback, despite protests from leadership. It ended up being the right decision for the company and was an excellent demonstration of how powerful developer relations can be.

During afternoon sessions I heard from Brian Proffitt about effectively talking to the media as a representative of your community, including key tips like making sure you communicate major changes, new things and the larger ecosystem impact of whatever you’re seeking to announce. Clarity is important, since news may go out regardless, and you want it to be accurate. He also appealed to the need to find the right reporter for your news and to stay on target with your messaging. I think what I liked most about this talk was that Brian is a story teller, and I enjoy the story he weaves in his talks.

I also attended a talk by Leslie Hawthorn and Laura Czajkowski where they talked about the success of the Ubuntu community in hiring known people in the Linux ecosystem to work on Ubuntu early on who could effectively impact the product and seed the community, and how the community friendly messaging early on created a passionate community. The Ubuntu community also made clear calls for contributions and always placed a high value on contributions from community members. They also leveraged existing structures in place, like LUGs and existing open source conferences that were receptive to the goals of Ubuntu. It was all stuff that I knew since I was part of the community and lived through it, but I enjoyed seeing it presented as a use case like this since it helped me more objectively look at the successes the community had and how I can more effectively integrate that into my own community nurturing work today.

The conference was a good one for me, and I was quite happy both with the 20 minute talk slots and the duration of the event itself, lasting from Monday afternoon through Tuesday. I think a lot of the attendees are like me and do a lot of events, so taking time to attend yet another event, even if it’s for more specific professional development, can be a bit of a burden. It is a lot easier to squeeze in a day and a half into our schedule, and of course I enjoyed that I didn’t actually have to travel for it!