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First Hanukkah and New Years back east

As has become tradition, we spent the last two weeks of the year in Philadelphia celebrating Hanukkah and New Years with family and friends. This was the first year for Adam though! MJ and I never did Hanukkah gifts, but things are different now with little Adam, and during our visit over Thanksgiving and in the weeks before the holiday, we went shopping for toys and books.

And then I piled them inside the tracks of the O-scale train I keep in Philadelphia to make it a Hanukkah train.

The train is set up on the card table we keep in our home office downstairs. It was just before setting it up that I discovered that the square table expands out into a large rectangular one. While we were in town we also made our first visit to the local model train shop and picked up a model of Independence Hall, as well as a little diner and some cows and sheep.

I won’t have any kind of permanent setup there for the train, but it is fun to buy some easy-to-put-away buildings and scenery. I also was a little sad that I bought pre-assembled buildings instead of one of the kits that I could put together and paint myself, but I have to be realistic about the amount of time I have for hobbies these days.

But Hanukkah! It’s always been an enjoyable holiday with the candles and all, but having a little one who gets to open presents during each night of the holiday adds a whole new dimension to how much fun it is. One evening the family came over with gifts, others we spent just the three or four of us, but each night Adam got at least one new gift that we helped him unwrap.

The visit also saw my first and second viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I loved it. My first viewing was by myself on the Friday we arrived in Philly, which was opening day. I’ve seen all the modern era (1999-present) Star Wars movies on opening day, so it was kind of a big deal that I complete the set, even if that meant seeing it after coming off an overnight, cross-country flight and juggling Adam care for the afternoon, and as a result not having MJ there with me. Later in the visit we snuck out for a date night together while grandparents were on babysitting duty to watch it.

On New Years’ Eve we made our way over to MJ’s father’s house to enjoy an evening of Georgian food and family time. Adam got to meet Carmen, a large German Shepherd who was incredibly sweet with him, even if he calls her a cat (any fluffy animals are currently “kee” for “kitty”) and is still a bit grabby with animals.

The weather throughout our visit was on the warm side for winter in Philadelphia, so we took the opportunity to take Adam down to the Philadelphia Zoo to see the LumiNature light exhibit one evening. We were all still bundled up, but it was a really fun walk around the zoo and Adam seemed to enjoy it until the end when he got bored with sitting in his stroller and I ended up carrying him back to the car.

We also were able to celebrate Adam’s birthday while we were in town, which I’ll write about a bit later. Suffice to say, he had a lot of attention for his first birthday, which was celebrated across three states with various members our of family, friends, and neighbors.

I was working pretty extensively while we were there, only taking off from work a couple days during the visit. I took two weeks off for the Jewish High Holidays back in October, so the major religious holidays for us were already behind us. Most of my colleagues took time off though, which meant I had two weeks that were meeting-free and I had the flexibility to catch up on training, writing, and more, all of which had been sidelined during the busy conference time in October in November. I like my job, but having this much time to work on whatever I wanted was a real treat, and meant the work was actually peaceful and relaxing.

MJ took several days off late in our stay to work on the house. He was able to make progress on the biggest home improvement project we have going on, but most noticeable for the rest of us was getting a giant play pen put together for Adam in the living room. Now that he’s crawling everywhere, we needed to do something baby-proofing-wise and figured keeping him in a large, gated area would be the best bet. Even as big as it is, he’s not super keen on being in it alone, and gets annoyed if there are too many people on the outside while he’s “trapped” inside, but it is full of toys and he’s got more than enough room. And let’s be honest, there’s almost always someone in there playing with him.


Play pen almost complete! By the end of the visit, MJ had secured a couple more pieces of fence and completed the missing bit along the wall

In all, it was a great visit and our trip back to California on January 4th was uneventful.

The adventures of 2019

The biggest thing of 2019 was welcoming our little Adam Stanley Joseph into our lives!

Throughout the year we’ve got to experience piles of the joys of new parenthood. The newborn snuggle time, reading our childhood favorites with him, adorable baby giggles, the look of happiness when he sees me after work, the on-going process of watching him discover everything in the world, and generally being able to bring him on all kinds of new adventures. My heart-melting reaction to some of these things was surprising to me. Having a child truly does change you, especially those of us who wouldn’t have classified ourselves as “kid people” prior to having one of our own.

Being a new parent is also difficult and exhausting, so this year has been really challenging. I met my goal of breastfeeding for a year, but it was hard, especially with my travel schedule. My daily schedule has completely changed. My priorities are very different. Even relationships that I never expected being influenced by parenthood have changed, and conversely some that I thought would have not. I’ve gotten very good at prioritizing things, especially when it comes to tasks around the house. I’ve definitely leveled up when it comes to multi-tasking too. I bring little Adam on errands most evenings, and all around the house with me as I do laundry, sort mail, and all the other little tasks one does to keep a household flowing.

I also started a new job this year. After almost four months of maternity leave, I started at IBM at the end of April. I’m still doing Developer Advocacy, but I’ve made a major change by getting into IBM Z (mainframes). I can use a lot of my existing infrastructure experience, but it’s also been a year of learning a lot, starting with what a mainframe is. It’s been a fascinating eight months with an extraordinary community of people. I dove into events immediately, but I took some time to start doing talks again as I grew into my role and learned what I needed to, but I was back up to my usual pace of talks and conferences by October and I’m in a great spot for 2020.


Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

I’ve spent more time with family this year, mostly due to everyone wanting to meet and spend time with Adam, but also because we had both a funeral and two weddings to attend this year. Socially, I’ve really struggled. I’ve never been a social butterfly, but I’m constantly juggling precious little time and energy, and I haven’t been reserving any to make plans with friends. I don’t know if that will change soon, but I am mindful of the effort not being expended there and I don’t want things to be like this forever.

Travel-wise, I had my slowest travel year in recent memory, with just 54k miles, and since I decided to wait until Adam was a year old for any international travel, it was all domestic.

  • March: Philadelphia to visit
  • April: Hollywood, FL for a funeral
  • May: Atlanta for TechU conference, and visiting some family
  • May: Boston for the Red Hat Summit conference, and visiting some family
  • July: Philadelphia to visit
  • July: Poughkeepsie, NY for an office visit
  • July: Hollywood, FL for a wedding
  • July: Portland, OR for OSCON conference
  • August: San Diego for the Open Source Summit conference
  • September: Philadelphia & Rochester, NY for a visit and a wedding
  • October: Portland, OR for LISA19 conference
  • November: San Diego for KubeCon NA conference
  • November: Philadelphia to visit for Thanksgiving
  • December: New York City for the Open FinTech Forum conference
  • December: Philadelphia to visit for the holidays

Talks were similarly on the lean side, but I’m building a nice base of talks and a narrative that seems to resonate. I was really happy with the events I participated in.

As I look at 2020, I don’t see a huge change in store for us. We’re slightly more confident parents, but my priorities are still going to be family and work.

Open FinTech Forum 2019

In early December I flew to New York City for a couple days to attend my last conference of the year, the Open FinTech Forum put on by the Linux Foundation. It’s the second year of the event, and it was definitely on the small side, but with fintech being so entrenched in the mainframe world, it was a good place for me to be.

The event began with several keynotes that were generically open source with a financial slant. We had Jim Zemlin start things off by talking about the role of the Linux Foundation and touch upon topics that were of interest to companies in the financial sector. It was nice to hear from the GitLab CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, about using multiple cloud vendors (multi-cloud) and the importance of being able to move your applications without lock-in from specific vendors.

For such a small event, it was really nice to see several familiar faces. From a friend who I worked with in my Ubuntu days, to a few of my new IBM colleagues, and others from general open source work over the years. It was also great to sync up with John Mertic of the Linux Foundation and the Open Mainframe Project, even if I forgot half the things I had on my mind to talk to him about, haha! I guess that’s what email is for.

One of the talks I went to was by Gabriele Columbro of FINOS, the Fintech Open Source Foundation. I’m not sure what I think about the proliferation of open source foundations, but on the surface this organization had some interesting insights into the financial sector that I wasn’t familiar with. What I really enjoyed about the talk though was his walking through some of the news through the past decade. At the beginning of the decade there were articles about financial companies getting ahead by using in-house “secret sauce” technologies, and just a few years later the same publication would do an article about how they’re falling behind because they’re using an in-house solution and for not adopting open source technologies. As a long time open source enthusiast it’s nice for me to see financial companies joining so many other industries in embracing open source.

In an unfortunate scheduling change, my talk on “Modernizing Workloads with Linux on Your Mainframe” was at the same time as another mainframe talk by fellow IBMer Diana Henderson, The Future of Banking: Securing Digital Asset Custody Solutions. They were also put side-by-side in a large room separated by a curtain, which is probably my only complaint about this venue. It was a bit of a challenge to give a talk when the next talk over is just on the other side of the curtain. Still, we made it work and the venue had a nice street view of the holiday lights in the financial district!

My talk (slides) had an audience that was on the small side, but this was in line with attendance I saw event-wide. I suspect there were too many tracks for the number of attendees, and it seemed like a lot of folks used the event more for networking than for the actual sessions. Still, the audience I had was chatty and had the right background, they were mostly members of organizations that had mainframes, but they were Linux administrators and unfamiliar with that side of the tech stack. I enjoyed giving the talk, and afterwards I was talking to one of the attendees who gave me some valuable feedback: Java runs really fast on z/OS. I took his word for it, but when I got back to California I paid closer attention to this in some of the material we have, and yeah, if you want to run Java, it’s crazy fast on the mainframe. Good to know! During the break I also made sure to meet up with Diana sync up about our topics and get to know each other a little.


Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

At the last session of the day I ran into a former OpenStack colleague whose name I recognized but I didn’t know very well. After chatting during the networking portion of the event, we grabbed dinner. I was happy for the company, particularly because I haven’t done a great job this year of arranging after-event social engagements. A goal for next year is definitely getting back on top of this and make sure I have a better balance of socialization and decompression time.

I wish I could have stayed longer to enjoy New York City, but with this being my last event for the year I was eager to get home to my family and the project work that I’d put on hold during the high travel portion of the year. Huge thanks to the Linux Foundation for rounding off my year with such a satisfying event, I look forward to participating again in the future.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712383525001

KubeCon NA 2019

Back in November, just before Thanksgiving, I attended my second KubeCon. My first was in Copenhagen last year. A lot has changed in the past eighteen months, both for me an Kubernetes at large. When I attended then, I was working at a container startup and spent my time there making connections with old and new colleagues at various organizations and working the booth. This year I’m working for one of the oldest computer companies on mainframes, and I had a speaking slot.

KubeCon North America is a huge event for me, I heard that the number of attendees this time was around 12,000. It’s somewhat cliche to compare it to the hype cycle that OpenStack went through, but I’m going to do it anyway. At the height, the events felt very similar. It’s very different for me though. In OpenStack I was a core contributor and my role in the project infrastructure team meant that I worked with a lot of people in the community. I would attend for both the OpenStack Summit and the Developer event, much like the community events exist around KubeCon. That means my KubeCon experience differs a lot from those like Chris Short, but just the three days of the main event was pretty exhausting. I think part of it is the noise of the expo hall and the sheer size of the keynote room.


First day keynotes!

It was also quite overloaded socially, I met up with over a dozen people while I was there, which was great, but tiring for an introvert like me. Of particular note work-wise, I was able to meet up with the IBM Z folks who were there. I only knew a couple via email and conference calls, and so it was nice to meet more. It was also somewhat unexpected, even though the premise of my talk was that people often don’t think about Kubernetes and mainframes at the same time, even I’m still surprised when I find mainframers at container events! We got a picture of some of us, but due to the nature of the event, we never got all of us in one place at one time.


IBM Z representing!

There were also a bunch of other people who I knew were there but didn’t manage to sync up with. Thankfully most of them will be at other events in the coming months. It’s fun how many folks I knew from OpenStack were there too. Many have transitioned into roles that are similar to what they worked on in OpenStack, some are still working on OpenStack but working with Kubernetes integration, others like me have completely gone off in a different direction. The continuity of having a few familiar faces does help me feel comfortable at these larger events though.

Content! I may have been able to skip most of the keynotes. I like attending them generally because they tend to set a tone for the event, but some of them were heavy on the sponsorship side. I’m also kind of over 5G demos, as fun as it is to wheel hardware onto the stage.

I think my favorite talks of the event were operations talks. One came from Ricardo Rocha of CERN (he’s another OpenStack alum!) who gave a talk on Managing Helm Deployments with Gitops at CERN (video). CERN has done a remarkable amount of innovative operations work over the years, so it’s been fascinating following their journey through the OpenStack days and on to their path with Kubernetes. In this talk he traced some of that history, and the way that their deployments have sped up over the years from bare metal, to VMs, and now with containers. I’m also a sucker for a good GitOps talk, so it was nice to see their work in practice.

There was also a talk from Chris Carty of the City Of Ottawa that I quite enjoyed, Moving from Legacy Infrastructure to the Cloud in a Government Organization (video). I was somewhat concerned that he might mean mainframes when he said “legacy” but that wasn’t the case, instead it was just the more traditional stack of x86 Linux machines that were reaching their end of life. He took the audience through a walk-through of their journey, from being overwhelmed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) list of projects, to actually trying them out and implementing solutions. It was a really great talk that considered things like support for key open source components of Kubernetes when selecting a vendor and distribution, on and off-prem options (hybrid cloud), and role-based access controls (RBAC). He also talks about how they encouraged departments to adopt the new infrastructure and how to get early and easy wins. If you are considering a Kubernetes deployment and watch just one talk from the event, I suggest it be this one. And he talks about GitOps too!

On Wednesday, the day my talk “Wait, People Run Kubernetes on Mainframes?” was scheduled, San Diego had a bit of a disaster: It rained. Not major rain, just rain, but San Diego clearly is not equipped to handle any sort of rain. The convention center leaked and worse, a large chunk of the venue lost power. Without knowing when power would be restored, they made the decision to move a whole swath of talks over to a nearby hotel. Kudos to the event staff for managing to pull this off instead of canceling the talks, but my talk was one of the ones that was moved, and it was quite the trek to make it over to the new location. For what was already a niche topic with a limited audience, I was worried this would mean death to my talk, but instead I had about 30 people attending and my hope is that the ones who were there are the people who really wanted to be there. The talk went well, and I indeed seemed to have the right audience, from people with mainframes in their infrastructure that they weren’t familiar with, to the curious who really were surprised to see a talk like mine on the agenda. It was definitely nice for sparking fun post-talk discussions. Resources for my talk are online: slides and video.


Thanks to Jin VanStee for taking the photo on the right during my talk! source

On Thursday things really started to wind down for me. I had some work to do in the morning so didn’t see as many talks, and most of my time was spent chatting with people more casually than previous days when I had more scheduled meetings. It was a nice way to conclude my final big event of the year. Plus, with the rain wrapping up on Thursday, we got a nice KubeCon rainbow!

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951648431

While Kubernetes isn’t the main focus of my work these days, it’s definitely a key component of some of my efforts, particularly with OpenShift fully coming to Z in 2020. I submitted a couple talks to KubeCon EU next year (fingers crossed!) I’m looking forward to weaving in more future KubeCon events into our team strategy.

Halloween, Thanksgiving and in-between

Adam and I have mostly established a weekday routine these days. I wake up with him around 7AM and both have breakfast and get changed into daytime clothes. He’s in care from 8AM through 5PM while I’m working, and then we spend time together until his bed time around 7:30PM. Most evenings we take a walk and do an errand or two, stop by the bank or post office, or pick something up at the grocery store or pharmacy. I’m particularly grateful now we’re within walking distance of so many things. There are whole weeks where we go out a lot, but we don’t use the car until the weekend.


Beautiful walk to the library

I’ve been working a lot, including two Saturday events and a couple chunks of travel, which I’ve been writing about separately. Thankfully I have some flexibility in my job, which allows me to take some time off during the week if I work over the weekend. This has been a huge help with holiday travel, so I can take a comp day and return on a Monday rather than fighting the crowds during the weekend. But in all, it’s been a pretty exhausting couple of months in a year that’s broken records for how tired I am with the new kiddo. My last work trip of the year was a couple weeks ago, a quick trip to NYC for the Open FinTech Forum. Unfortunately work isn’t really quieting down much for me. I have a lot of work coming up in January that I need to prepare for since I’ll be in Australia for 10 days in the middle of the month. Still, many of my colleagues are away for the holidays, so I at least I don’t have many meetings!

But backing up a bit, these past few months! I’ve already written about some about house stuff we’ve been working on. We’ve also started hanging framed artwork in our house, finally. Adam’s room now has a couple pieces up, and so does my office and the downstairs living room. We still have a lot to do, but the forward progress is nice.

Event-wise, Castro Valley has a lot of local little events throughout the fall. In September the three of us spent one afternoon walking around the Castro Valley Fall Festival. They had live music, and lots of local vendors (more than I’d seen at a local event prior to this) and food. In early November I was disappointed to miss the Castro Valley Light Parade due to a Saturday work conflict, but MJ and Adam went out for it and then they met me at the BART station so I could at least see a couple of the floats.

And I didn’t miss Halloween! After years of missing Halloween due to work events, I made sure I was home for Adam’s first. LISA was just prior to it, but I flew home as soon as it concluded. He got dressed up as a dragon and his au pair and I walked over to the village to meet a local friend and her son (2 months younger than Adam!) and enjoyed the festivities.

Caligula got dressed up too! And he hasn’t killed me in my sleep yet for for that, but he could be biding his time.

That evening the trick-or-treating started around 6:30PM (good reference for next year!) and we got about 40 people coming by until things ended around 8:30. It was quite the chore to get Adam ready for bed in the midst of it though. And I’d like to put up a few decorations outside next year, I grabbed a last minute pumpkin from the store so there was some indication that kids were welcome to come back to our doorway. Then again, October 31st is the middle of conference season and the same reason I didn’t put up decorations this year will probably apply to every year.

A couple weeks after Halloween my cousin Audrey came into town. I saw her parents and her sister back in May when I dropped by Atlanta for work, but she was out of town at the time. We took the morning off and the three of us drove to the city and met at Ferry Building and had a lovely brunch. It was nice to see her and catch up, and for MJ and Adam to meet her. Adam and I then hopped on BART to head back home so MJ could get to work.

Otherwise November was crazy busy with work events, but had a nice conclusion as we flew to Philadelphia for the week of Thanksgiving. I had a lot of project work at work to catch up on, so I had a lot to do, but I was working remotely and it was light on meetings. Bliss! Thanksgiving itself was held at the home of MJ’s sister, as has become our tradition, but I think we may try to do it at our townhouse next year. Bonus: Good incentive to finally buy a proper dining room set for the townhouse.

During this trip Adam also saw his first snow! Alas, it was just a dusting and it quickly melted as the temperature rose. We also spent time on that trip starting to baby-resist the house. We replaced a vintage glass and metal lamp in his bedroom which a much more appropriate lamp and shelf piece we ordered from Amazon, and covered a bunch of the cords in his room. The weather upon our departure wasn’t great, with a storm coming through and hitting the northeast pretty hard. Philadelphia was mostly fine, but we still had over two hours of delays, and then another hour on the tarmac upon arrival in SFO. Adam traveled like a champ, but I was still a bit frazzled by the end of it all.

A quick trip to NYC for work concluded my work travel for the year in early December, and we had a nice little 16th birthday party for Caligula on December 13th. It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since my little Egyptian Mau was born, we’ve sure been through a lot together.

It’s also hard to believe that Adam is almost 1. Before flying to Philadelphia to visit over the end of year holidays I got everything prepared for Adam’s first birthday party, which we’ll host the Sunday we get home. I’ll just need to pick up the cake and balloons on Sunday morning and we’ll be all set. We also decided to do a tiny party here for family before we leave, which will pretty much just be cake.

We’re in Philadelphia for this final visit now. We’ll be spending all of Hanukkah out here this year due to the timing, and New Years. Some visits with family and friends are planned.

SV Code Camp, Datathon at UC Berkeley and GitHub Universe

“Conference season” in the autumn for me is roughly the end of October through early November. I didn’t want to travel quite so much this year, and there were plenty of events local to me, so I ended up with an unexpectedly busy October and November, either traveling or doing local events several weeks in a row.

I kicked off my conference season with an internal event at the IBM Silicon Valley Lab, where I have an office. My team focuses on external advocacy, but we have finite resources and career development is frequently aided by giving talks, so we’re always seeking to encourage colleagues do external-facing work and advocacy. To help this, my internal talk was on open source software development, with a tie-in to the work that IBM Z has been doing in this realm.

My first external event this season was the Silicon Valley Code Camp in San Jose. I had never been to this event before, and it was over a weekend so I could only carve out time for the first day, but I’m glad I went. We had an IBM Z booth there, positioned next to the IBM Developer booth.


IBM crew. From the event photos collection, source.

My colleague Matt Cousens was out from New York, so along he, my boss Jeanne Brooks and I staffed the booth for most of the day, giving away mainframe stickers, books, and other goodies.

I also gave a talk on Developing for the Modern Mainframe, slides. The room was laid out in a way that made it easy to shift into a conversational-type talk, so with a couple dozen attendees it was easy to slip into a casual back and forth as I made my way through my slides. It was fascinating to see the range of experience in such a small audience, some folks having strong experience with Z and others just vaguely curious about what exactly mainframes are and what needs to be done specifically to develop on them. This diversity also allowed for a nice crew of allies in the audience, not just IBMers, but experienced folks who could chime in on some of the z/OS topics I’m not strong with yet. It was probably the most satisfying talk of the year enjoy-ability-wise, and I hope to participate in this event next year too.

Then there was a Datathon at UC Berkeley, which my colleague Sudharsana wrote about it here: Datathon for Social Good: IBM Z & UC Berkeley. Our role was to sponsor the event and provide key content, then eventually judge the outcomes from participants. In preparation, an environment was created on IBM Z that the students could log in to and use Jupiter Notebooks to interact with Z and run data analysis on their chosen data sets. The event began on Friday evening with an introduction and then a panel talking about what IBM Z was. I was one of the panelists, and it was interesting being on it with some of my colleagues from IBM and a representative from the State of California. My perspective really is quite different from those who have been working in this space for a long time. It was also at this event that I learned that most traditional students in college today aren’t very familiar with IBM as a company. Upon reflection, the reason I was so familiar with them was probably because I had IBM PCs in my youth. My first and second computers were both IBMs. But IBM no longer has a PC division, and much of their work is with enterprises, how would regular people have experience IBM today? I’m not sure.

The event continued on Saturday, during which we sat with the students to offer mentorship in case they needed it, and to wrap up the day with presentations and picking the winners. One of the strengths of the mainframe is the ability to quickly crunch data, so it was fascinating to see the students whose Datathon projects actually used that. As a result, we really honed in on projects that were (or planned on) using large data sets and/or processing a lot of real time data. The winners focused on student financial help, wildfire modeling, and homelessness support spending.

Later that week, we invited the winners to the IBM Watson office in San Francisco for a tour and some talks on AI and Machine Learning, along with a quick talk on Open Source on Z that I gave. That’s where I found the best IBM logo ever!

More photos from the Datathon and follow-up in San Francisco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951959732

Finally, I attended GitHub Universe in San Francisco in mid-November. It was a last minute thing for a very exciting reason: Travis CI now supports builds on Z! Alongside Arm and newly announced Power support, this is momentous. With this initial implementation, open source projects get builds for free, and it paves the way for paid support for other customers. Making it easy to build your software for architectures other than x86 is something I’m passionate about, so it was nice to be able to attend GitHub Universe at the Travis booth just after the announcement to talk about it. There I met with some folks from IBM Power too, who have done a lot of great work with open source projects that I hope to learn from and replicate. Our role there was offering support when people had questions, and a demo of the pipeline was given in the afternoon.

A few more photos from the event are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711953504618

And then I was off to KubeCon in San Diego! My last event of the year is Open FinTech in NYC next weekend. Phew.

Holiday cards 2019!

Every year I send out a big batch of winter-themed holiday cards to friends, acquaintances, and anyone who made there way to this blog post somehow.

Caligula by the fireplace

Reading this? That means you!

Even if you’re outside the United States!

Even if we’ve never met!

Send me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal mailing address and put “Holiday Card” in the subject so I can filter it appropriately. Please do this even if I’ve sent you a card in the past, I won’t be reusing lists from previous years.

Disclaimer: My family is Jewish and we celebrate Hanukkah, but the cards are non-religious, with some variation of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” on them.

House wrangling

Owning a home is a never-ending project, and doing home improvements during the first year of adjusting to life with a tiny new member of the family has taken Herculean effort. But we’re making it through. Each weekend we pick another task, even if it’s completing a small task, like organizing the laundry room or making progress on a larger one, like getting closet doors installed.

Our house is quite unusual, as I’ve talked about before, but one of the “smaller” things we noticed when we first looked at the house was the lack of closet doors in the bedrooms. Once we moved in, the reality of just how weird that was set in. It looks like the previous owners put up curtains, at least in the master bedroom, to cover the closets, since there were tension rods still up when we moved in. It’s unclear if anything was done in the other three bedrooms. Still, it was something we wanted to solve, so we ordered doors late last year, had them painted a few months ago, and are finally getting around to installing them. The first weekend we embarked on this project required us to go to the hardware store a couple times. About half the rails for the doors are installed now, so we’re getting there!

Another project we’ve been working on was getting the storage pod finally delivered and contents integrated into our home. The big part of this job was actually getting the storage pod delivered and emptied into a staging area in the garage so we could sort through it. First, we had to do some car shuffling. We learned that the space next to the house is indeed large enough for a car to park in it! And then were able to park the truck on the street for a couple days while the pod was parked on the driveway, with just enough space to squeeze my car in and out of the garage.

Then we had movers come over for a couple hours to empty it out. They brought a bunch of furniture into the house, so we now have a living room downstairs that actually looks lived in, and some pieces of furniture for the television in the upstairs family room to sit on, though we still lack a couch in that room, so watching TV in there isn’t feasible yet. We still have some work to do, the huge china cabinet that’s now in the living room needs some repairs before we actually put dishes in it, and it should be anchored to the wall in case of earthquakes or enthusiastic, climbing children. We also have some work to do to move stuff from storage totes to where they actually belong in the house, but first we need to establish those spaces, and I think much of that will happen slowly over the course of several months rather than being specific projects. I did bring my Sparc Ultra10 into my office though, even if I haven’t managed to find my Sun keyboard and mouse yet.

Another project has been preparing the roof for solar! I think I’ve mentioned before that the house was built in the 1956, so all the vents were haphazardly placed all over the roof. In order to install solar panels most effectively, several of them had to be moved. So we’ve worked with a few contractors to get the work done, and finally a couple weeks ago the work was finished with a roofer who came by to inspect and seal up any spots that needed it after the work of the plumbers and others. The actual solar work is a few months off due to there being a wait list, but I’m happy we’re finally able to move forward with it. We’ve been lucky that none of the rolling power outages in our area have hit us, but they have touched other parts of our town and we remain a little on edge about the possibility. Having solar panels to at least keep us going during the daytime will bring considerable peace of mind, and we’ve also been considering batteries.

And now the project that has suddenly usurped all others: baby-proofing. Many of the cabinets in the kitchen already have anti-child clips, so we just need to finish the rest. A gate needs to be installed at the top of the stairs, which we thought would be easy but the first one we bought conflicts with the railing on one side, so we need to go back to the drawing board there. Highest on our list is protection of gnarly wire farms around power outlets in rooms he frequents and securing some of the furniture to walls. His bedroom is where we’ve started the work, and the giant bookcases in my office will be next up. I think we have a solid plan and all the tools we need now, so we just need to carve out a weekend to finish it.

There’s still so much to do, and I’m trying to strike a balance between making progress on things and giving us all the rest and grace we need. We need to keep pushing forward on projects, but spending quality new family time together doing non-projects is important too.

LISA19 in Portland

At the end of October I traveled up to Portland, Oregon to participate in LISA19.

LISA is a conference I’m very fond of because of the real focus on systems administration, rather than software development, and so there are typically more talks that are applicable to my trade. This year it was also particularly valuable due to the number of folks there who I discovered had administration experience with mainframes. Some still worked on them in the financial or government sectors, and were interested when I mentioned the DevOps tooling and open source efforts currently underway to improve automation and to make them feel like a more modern platform. It was a nice change from many of the 101 conversations I have with my typical Linux sysadmin peers who I’m talking to about being open to trying out the platform.

Talk-wise, I was really happy with their series of keynotes. The event kicked off with a keynote by Alice Goldfuss on “The Container Operator’s Manual” where she implored the audience to be more thoughtful about their adoption of containers. They aren’t a panacea, you need to consider the workloads appropriate for containers, and you need to hire a team that’s sufficiently large and skilled enough to manage the infrastructure. Thank you! Right after her talk, we heard from Rich Smith who, coming from the security community, was seeking to make a connection with the systems community on how we can better collaborate and serve users more effectively, and securely.

I think my favorite talk of the event was from Lisa Seelye on “Multi-Architecture Container Images: Why Bother, and How To” where she talked about the ability for containers to be built for non-x86 hardware and some of the challenges you bump into when you start building and using them for an architecture like Arm64. As she unpacked some containers that claimed to be built for Arm, her experience mirrored my own with s390x as you bump into inconsistent or incomplete architecture specifications and dependency issues. She did a nice demo of taking one apart and rebuilding it properly to run her Arm system, which was pretty cool. The conference has made the slides and video available on her talk page here.

One of the reasons I attended was to give a lightning talk! My topic was 20 years of Linux on the mainframe, a topic I’ve covered before, but it was a lot of fun to squeeze it into a 5 minute talk with auto-advancing slides where I had to distill the core of the story quickly. Slides will be familiar to anyone who has already seen the longer version of my talk, but you can see them here.

I was also able to chat with the Fedora Project Leader about build systems for Fedora. My goal is to see public build systems that include the ability to build for s390x for all the major distributions. Ubuntu has Launchpad and Snapcraft, both of which support it. SUSE has the openSUSE Build System, which not only supports s390x, but builds for multiple distributions, making it a one stop shop for most needs. Still, people use what’s familiar to them distribution-wise and Matt pointed me in the direction of Copr, which doesn’t have s390x support yet, but this does seem to be the right place to be when I can carve out some time to reach out to see about how they can get resources to do so. And while on the topic, Fedora 31 came out during the conference too, and of course that has s390x support, and has since version 15 in 2011.

In all, it was probably one of the most rewarding conferences for me this year, and I’m really glad I went. Next year it’ll be in Boston in December and co-located with SRECon. It makes a lot of sense, there is considerable topic overlap and I think both events will be valuable to most attendees> Still, it will change the feel of the current standalone event, which is on the smaller side.

More photos of the event can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711953477788/

Autumn in the East

At the end of September we flew out to Philadelphia to spend a couple weeks there. At least, that was the plan. The visit was extended to three weeks when I came down with a miserable stomach bug. Fortunately, that was the only catastrophe that occurred during the trip.

We decided to take a daytime flight on our way out, since Adam spent almost the entire overnight flight back in July awake. I think we’ll switch back though, July seems to have been a bit of an anomaly, he slept fine on the evening flight we took home. On Sunday, Adam and I met up with my friend Stephen and went to the Philadelphia Zoo! Adding this to the list, this was Adam’s third zoo, and his first time at the Philadelphia Zoo. It was a hot day, but not intolerably so, and we had a nice time catching up.

More photos from the zoo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711808946328

Upon our return from the zoo, we all headed over to MJ’s sister’s house to catch the tail end of a birthday party for her. It was there that Adam was introduced to his first helium-filled balloon. He’s at an age where he enjoys dropping things on the floor, so letting go of a balloon and seeing it rise, rather than fall, was the source of endless giggles. He enjoyed it so much that we ended up taking a balloon home with us, hah!

Later that week I met up with my friend David at the Trolley Car Diner & Deli in Mt Airy. It’s a diner I’ve always wanted to visit due to the PCC they kept our front and was their namesake, but then I heard about their impending closure on October 15th, so it was now or never! Truly a bittersweet occasion, but it was a beautiful day so I was able to get some nice pictures. The food and company were good too.

More photos of the diner here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711808952633/

One of the reasons I enjoy visiting this time of year is the weather. Autumn in Philadelphia is a beautiful time, so I was able to take Adam out for walks most evenings. We explored the park near our neighborhood for the first time and also took many walks around the neighborhood itself to admire the Halloween decorations that were already going up, and to count the faux turtles and tortoises that various neighbors put out as general yard decorations (we found five of them).

The other reason I like visiting at the end of September specifically is because my birthday is on the 29th! We spent the morning discovering a new waffle place near our house, where I indulged in a Kit Kat waffle (Kit Kat pieces inside and on top!). Danita was doing some baking that week and made me a delicious carrot cake, hand delivered one evening when we got to hang out and have pizza too. Crissi came over to babysit on my actual birthday so MJ and I could go out to dinner. As a special birthday treat, MJ took me to Morimoto in downtown Philadelphia. It has always been on my list, but this was the first time either of us had been. We went with the tasting menu, which was the right decision for our first visit, everything we had was excellent.

Rosh Hashanah also fell during our visit. We have been going to services at our home synagogue for the holiday for the past several years, so we were happy to be able to find a synagogue in Philadelphia that welcomed non-members for a family service. With little Adam in tow, an hour long family service was precisely what we needed. The service was filled with songs and young children, and then we went up to the sanctuary to hear the shofar, which Adam thoroughly enjoyed (it’s my favorite part too). We then headed out to New Jersey to have lunch with some family at our favorite Jewish deli in Cherry Hill.

Other visits including Adam and I heading over to New Jersey again to visit with some of my friends with kids, one of whom is just a few months older than Adam. True to being my child, Adam enjoyed playing with toys and meeting their cats. The other kids? Eh. Maybe when he’s older. We also discovered that one of my favorite places to eat in Bucks county has a semi-enclosed back area that seats you right next to the SEPTA train station, so when MJ and I made it out one evening alone for a dinner with some friends, we spend the evening watching the trains go by, including the Amtrak Acela!

Our au pair came with us on this trip to Philadelphia, but she decided to take her 2 weeks of vacation overlapping with half of our trip, so MJ and I also took some time off from work. The second week in Philadelphia it was just the three of us, and a road trip up to Rochester, NY for the wedding of one of my cousins. I have a lot of cousins, and I hadn’t seen her in years, but we’ve kept up via social media. I was really happy to be invited, and this marked Adam’s first proper road trip, six hours on the road! We got off to a bit of a rough start, but in general he was great. It helped that we drove in the evening, and so it was his natural time to snooze. We also decided to bring his Pack ‘n Play instead of depending on a crib from the hotel (which is often a Pack ‘n Play anyway!), and that worked out really well. We’ll likely continue to do so for trips where we don’t have to fly. I lived in upstate New York for a couple years after I left my childhood home in Maine in 2000, so going back was interesting. The wedding itself was outdoors, a risky gamble in early October in upstate New York, but one that paid off. The bride and groom were stunning and we had a lovely time. Our only mistake on this trip was neglecting to bring warmer clothes. The drive up was a chilly one, and though we keep Adam’s diaper bag fully stocked with blankets and hoodies, MJ and I were a bit chilly during our journey!

Unfortunately, upon our return home I learned I had picked up a stomach bug. We were due to return home to California the next day, but I was in no condition to travel. In some ways I was grateful that MJ and I were both on vacation, since that allowed us to extend our trip by a week without any real impact to our schedules and MJ could take over the bulk of the baby care while I was sick. But it was pretty sad to be so sick while I was on vacation. And as a result of staying, we also ended up spending Yom Kippur in Philadelphia too. Instead of going to services, we opted for televised feed from another Philadelphia-based synagogue that we were familiar with for Kol Nidre, and also streamed services observing the conclusion of Yom Kippur the following evening.

Mostly the week was spent recovering from being sick, and then on the return to work remotely on Thursday and Friday. We had a few more meals out, including checking out a BBQ place nearby that a friend recommended that we’ll definitely be back to. On Saturday, October 12th, we finally returned to California!

A few more random photos from our visit are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711807191741