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Baseball, MST3K, OSEN and streetcars

I’ve kept busy these past few weeks. On Monday the 24th I joined my Mesosphere colleagues for pizza and wings before two of us led a group of 25+ down to AT&T Park to watch the San Francisco Giants play against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, our beloved home team lost 10-3 and as the losing game went on the crowds were fleeing the stadium. In the 8th inning, when the Pirates scored four more runs, the seagulls which descend upon the stadium at the end of the game for leftover snacks were starting to outnumber the remaining fans. I toughed it out though, with two German colleagues who were attending their first baseball game. In spite of the loss, it was a beautiful night to be outside and it was my first opportunity this season to get out to AT&T Park.

Later that week I met up with a friend of mine for a walk around Lake Merritt over in Oakland. We met at BART and walked over to the lake to do the three mile loop. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months so it was nice to spend the time together, and I’d never been to the lake before. Pelicans, geese and all kinds of other sea fowl hang out at the brackish lake, and in spite of my dislike for birds they did liven up the evening too, as did the beautiful lake itself.

Last Thursday MJ and I met at The Warfield after work for the second night of San Francisco’s stop of the MST3K Live! – Watch Out for Snakes! Tour. We went for the “Secret Surprise Film!” (rather than Eegah, the night before) night and it didn’t disappoint. The live cast and audience were fun and being around so many fellow MSTies is always an interesting experience, I always forget how many of us there are!

This was also my first time at The Warfield. It’s an easy walk from home, so that was nice. The theater was a bit warm, but in the tradition of these older theater it was ornately decorated and a pleasure to spend time in.

The weekend was spent with MJ as one of the few that we’ve had together recently. We enjoyed some nice meals and then got down to the business of booking travel. My travel schedule from August through October is a bit chaotic. I’m leaving San Francisco on August 10th, not to return until after a partial vacation in Dublin over Labor Day. Then I have trips to Los Angeles, Orlando, Raleigh, Prague and Germany taking me through the end of October. Of that, only one trip had been booked. We spent Sunday afternoon sifting through airline fare classes and routes to find the best deals and over the next couple days we managed to firm up a host of plans.

My first trip takes me to Orlando for a family reunion that’s happening this Saturday. From there I’m going up with my mother and aunt to our townhouse in Philadelphia for a week and a half where I’ll speak at a PLUG meeting and then meet MJ as he re-joins me to attend Fosscon, where I’m also speaking. We’ll be off to Dublin from there, I’ll work for a couple days and speak at a Kafka meetup before spending a long weekend together being tourists.

On Wednesday I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while to grab dinner, and then Thursday was spent at the inaugural gathering of the Open Source Entrepreneur Network Bay Area at the Docker offices in SOMA. There I had the pleasure of finally meeting John Mark Walker (we’ve known of each other for years), and quickly connect with long time open source colleagues Stephen Walli and Jono Bacon, who were all speaking that evening. In the first talk of the evening, John Mark guided us through what he believed made open source entrepreneurs and defined where open source advocates and evangelists for a company sit (it’s near the funnel). He also made clear that there are pieces (bits of software that make up something), projects (think, OpenStack) and products (any of the various vendor-sponsored all-inclusive proprietary-bits-on-top “distributions” of OpenStack). I also gleaned some thoughtful observations from his talk, like how he considers the groundwork laid by the open source way itself to be what drove such high rate of collaborative innovation today, not necessarily the other way around.

Stephen brought us back in time with a history lesson about the rise of open source, particularly centered around some of Red Hat’s customer-focused business model that has brought them such success. In this, he wove in customers and community. A non-paying user community is essential to any open source project, because that’s where you get your outside contributors. It doesn’t just happen automatically though, you must have a quick on-ramp to make sure people can use and develop against your software quickly and you should still expect it to be a pretty small fraction of your total user base. I also liked how he talked about setting customer and partner expectations, along with those in the community, and noted that they were different. The evening concluded with a talk from Jono Bacon who talked about “Building a World Class Community” during which he talked about culture, contribution workflows, the importance of trust and gave a series of recommendations.

The weekend came quickly and on Saturday MJ and I had tickets for a baseball game. Back to AT&T Park for me! This time we went with a winery that we’re members of, so there was pre-game wine and snacks to be enjoyed. Merlot with a hot dog? Don’t mind if I do! We had a really nice time together and it was an exciting game to watch. Even better, this time the Giants won.

Sunday was pretty mellow, but I was eager to spend much of it outside. In the morning I took a walk down Market, picked up a coffee, walked around the Embarcadero. I also took a lot of pictures of streetcars and stopped by the little SF Railway Museum where I picked up a new hat. That afternoon we went out for lunch at a little restaurant on the Embarcadero and watched cars on the E-Line pass by. More pictures! Then I road my first and second ones of the day, taking the E-Line to Ferry Building where we transferred to one of the F-Line cars to go down Market and get home.

This week I met with our new pet sitter. Caligula is on some medication to try and regulate his high calcium levels. Most of his life he’s also been on the heavy side, but he’s been losing weight recently too. I’m really hoping the medication works and the change in his food to one more appropriate for older cats helps.

Tuesday night I had dinner with my friend and open source colleague Remy. We met at Thirsty Bear Brewing to chat about work, open source and life in general. Good times.

And now I’m getting ready to head out on that trip to Florida!

Kitty cardiologist, local Ubuntu+Debian, wine rack, OC Zoo, visiting cousin and server triage

MJ has been traveling for work a fair amount lately. In June he was in Washington state, then he was off to Texas. He’s spent the past week and a half on the east coast. Add in work and both of us entertaining friends we had visiting lately, we haven’t seen a whole lot of each other. I was pretty disappointed when I learned he had to extend this latest work trip by a few days. Instead of coming home Sunday, he returned on Wednesday, just hours after I left for my next trip! Thankfully I was just heading down to Los Angeles for an event and came home Thursday morning. I finally got my husband to myself this past weekend!

I kept busy on the home front while he traveled, including the meetups and another trip to the California Academy of Sciences I talked about here.

The morning following the Redis meetup at work I had to spend a couple hours taking Caligula to the cardiologist. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but he has high calcium levels according to a few blood tests. They are high enough that they need to be treated before it does damage, so the first order of business is finding out what is wrong. During the diagnostic tests they found an abnormality with his heart. We still don’t know why his calcium levels are high, but we’ve ruled out some of the major issues and now his primary doctor wants to craft a treat-the-symptom plan. But first, she wanted him to see a cardiologist, since typical treatments like SubQ fluids and steroids can impact the heart. Our regular veterinary practice doesn’t have a cardiologist in their rotation, so he was off to SFVS, a hospital we got very familiar with as Simcoe went there routinely for care during her last few years with us, and so we were back again!

In spite of friendliness at home, Caligula is never very charming when he visits the vet. Thankfully, he was on his best behavior this time. The physical exam went fine, and since he was being so chill they figured they wouldn’t have to sedate him for further tests. Great! He was whisked away into the back for an ultrasound preformed by the cardiologist, as well to get his blood pressure checked. The result? He has been diagnosed with mild hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HMC). Right now it’s only noticeable as part of his heart being abnormally thick, but he’s asymptomatic and the only advice was to keep an eye on it with annual checkups. Calcium treatment-wise he gave the green light for any treatment his primary vet orders. Hooray!

With that, and then the rest of my work day, behind me, that Wednesday evening was spent doing an Ubuntu Hour and a Debian Dinner. I hadn’t done either one in over a year. Declining turnout and disappointing attendance at a 16.04 release party last June let me to shift it to the back burner commitment-wise. I wasn’t sure I’d pick it back up again at all. A small BALUG meeting where we talked about the latest Debian release and desire to connect with some Ubuntu folks following some big changes this year (discontinuation of the Ubuntu phone/tablet, shuttering of the Unity project) inspired me to take some time to plan another one. We had 7 people come out across the two back-to-back events, including a couple new folks. This is a high average for these events and I had fun, so I was glad I took the time.

After the meetup I set aside a few minutes to meet one of my neighbors who was giving away an 80 bottle wine rack that seemed like it would suit our condo nicely. Indeed it does! He helped me bring it down and I put it together over the weekend. It’s a massive improvement over the pile of boxes in the corner that the wine had been in previously. I did catalog all our wines (both here in and Pennsylvania) in a spreadsheet recently, but I still had to dig through a bunch of boxes to find the one I wanted.

Aside from setting up the wine rack, I had a pretty chill weekend. I wrote a letter, read a lot. Before he left, MJ raided the Yahoo! company store and picked me up a soft, fluffy purple blanket. It’s perfect for snuggling up and enjoying some reading or TV. It’s also Caligula approved. Sunday was spent in Santa Clara for a conference I write about here. I then took Monday off to make up for the day, something I’m quite proud of myself for doing self-care wise, as I’m prone to work way too much.

During my quick jaunt down to Los Angeles last week I made a quick stop in the tiny Orange County Zoo with my friend Nathan after lunch. It’s a park that specializes in local animals, so the big draws of the zoo included a bear, a bobcat, and various large eagles. It was a pretty hot day, so most of the animals were sleeping through it, but even that was pretty adorable. The bear took advantage of the weather to take a bath, and the opossum sleeping in an Amazon box was pretty much my favorite thing ever. We also took a ride on the super cute, 1:3 scale Irvine Park Railroad before heading back to my hotel to get some work done and prep a demo cluster before the evening Meetup.

My 8:30AM flight home on Thursday morning was early, but the John Wayne airport is small and the trip was uneventful. Finally reunited on Thursday morning, MJ and I immediately ran off to our respective offices for a couple busy work days. Thursday I also had a new monitor delivered at home, an Acer GN276HL bid 27-inch. Both my current 22″ monitors were fine, but they only have VGA and DVI outputs. My current work laptop, which I use while working from home half the time, is the first laptop I’ve had that lacks a VGA port. I played around with DVI-to-HDMI and VGA-to-HDMI but there was an annoying amount of fiddling every time I plugged it in because the auto-detection wasn’t great. As a result, over the past 6 months I’ve left my second monitor dark as I just used my laptop screen at home, on my desk, but it wasn’t optimal. While this monitor doesn’t have crazy impressive resolution like my one at work, the price was right and so far it’s working great.

MJ and I spent the together and playing it pretty low-key this past weekend. Saturday I spent much of the day reading and watching a couple episodes of a show MJ and I watch together. The only event of the day was brunch at the Delancey Street Restaurant, which we’d never been to but was quite good. That was how we found out about the closures of the Muni Metro on weekends and late evenings for a month while they test the new light rail cars. We picked it up at the Embarcadero with dozens of folks headed to the Giants game. A beautiful day, I walked home from the restaurant, stopping at Philz for a coffee to balance out the couple of sour beers (Duchesse de Bourgogne and Petrus Aged Pale) I had with my crab cake Benedict.

Yesterday MJ and I met up with my cousin Keith who is in town for work. We drove down to Sutro’s at Cliff House for a late lunch, then took a drive through Golden Gate Park, then up to Twin Peaks. Unfortunately the fog was obscuring the breathtaking views that can usually be seen from there, but we got a picture together anyway. It was a good afternoon. It had been twelve years since we’d seen each other, and with my big family spread out all over the world this was the first time in our lives we were able to really spend any significant time talking.

Sunday evening was spent tackling some triage on our media and backup servers we keep here at home. Both seemed to have some issues with disks in their RAID arrays and one may have a failing SSD, which stores the operating system. There are some gremlins, but we’ve made some decisions about how we want to move forward. Now to order some drives!

And now another work week! This evening a bunch of us from the office are making our way down to AT&T Park to see a Giants game, which should be pretty fun, it should be a beautiful evening for it.

DC/OS Meetups and Cal Academy

Last week we welcomed Matt Jarvis on to our community team at Mesosphere, which I’m pretty excited about. Not just because I have too much work and I’m thrilled to have someone else on board, but because he’s a great guy who I already enjoy working with. For his first week we had the whole team (three developer advocates and our community manager) meet in San Francisco to give him the crash course in what we do. The evenings were also sprinkled with activities, starting with a meetup on Tuesday evening with the folks from Redis.

The meetup was planned before we knew about his on-boarding, but having us all there gave me the opportunity to co-present with our other developer advocate and throw Matt right into the thick of things by making him MC the event (OK, he’s run Meetups before so it was no big deal). The talk that Joerg and I did covered the various mechanisms for service discovery in DC/OS, which the Redis package benefits from. After a quick install demo, we then welcomed Tague Griffith, head of Developer Advocacy at Redis Labs, who talked about the value of microservices, where Redis fits in, and how it’s easy to deploy it on DC/OS.

Slides from the Service Discovery on DC/OS segment of the presentation are up here (PDF) and the video of the meetup is on YouTube.

On Thursday night we wanted to do a social gathering together, along with our current boss. We met up at Joerg’s apartment and made dinner together (I washed and cut some things!) and had a couple beers. Then we set out walk through Golden Gate Park for NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences. A lot of museums in the city are either open late or have special events on Thursday nights, so it was good timing for us and I’d wanted to check out NightLife for some time. By the time we got there, around 7:30, the planetarium tickets were gone and the last entrance to the rain forest dome had just been called, both things I’ll keep in mind for next time, but there was plenty else to do. Having just been there a couple weeks before, I played tour guide as we went into the earthquake house, saw the penguins, explored the aquarium, saw the Pterosaurs exhibit and visited the living roof, where we got a group photo!


Ben Hindman, myself, Joerg Schad, Judith Malnick and Matt Jarvis

Keeping busy with Meetups, this week I popped down to Irvine in southern California on Wednesday. I was able to meet up with a freelancer I know down there for lunch and have some great chats about our shared Ubuntu background (that’s how we met) and the state of the container space (like where DC/OS and Apache Mesos fit in!). He’s also going back in time with some repairs on really old systems that he has, so it was fun to learn about his experience with how difficult and inconsistent personal computer networking was in the 80s, and how interesting it has been replicating it today.

In the evening I met up with our Mesosphere representative at the SoCal DevOps meeting. I was there to give a talk on “Containerized, Cloud-Native Operations for Big Data Analytics” (slides). After pizza and drinks, the meetup organizer had attendees do quick introductions. It had been a while since I’d been to a meetup that did that, and aside from being good for attendees to get to know each other (especially when you’re shy like me!), it’s incredibly helpful to the speaker. Knowing some of the background of attendees helped me adjust my talk quite a bit to tell the right stories and touch upon pain points I knew they’d be familiar with in the operations work they were doing.


Thanks to Steve Wong over at Dell EMC for taking this photo during my talk! (source)

The talk itself centered around maintaining a generic container-based cloud-native infrastructure, but during the Q&A the audience was eager to learn more about DC/OS specifically, so I was happy to oblige! I also did the Bus Tracking SMACK Stack to show them DC/OS in action and answer some more of their questions about usage around the GUI and CLI.

Even better, this demo uses data from the Los Angles Metro, so I finally got to give this demo near Los Angeles! Unfortunately the LA Metro buses don’t come as far southeast as Irvine, so it wasn’t quite a local demo, but it was pretty close. I also enjoyed the subsequent jokes about LA traffic, and buses getting stuck in it, when they asked specifics about how the demo worked.

Getting to meet some folks down there was also valuable as we have MesosCon North America down in Los Angeles in September. For folks eager to learn more about DC/OS and Apache Mesos, it’s an amazing opportunity to do both, and it’s right in their back yard this year.

Cloud+Data NEXT Silicon Valley 2017

Several months ago Bill Liu reached out to me about an opportunity to speak at the Cloud+Data Next conference that was held on Sunday. After some discussion, we settled on me giving a talk on “Day 2 Operations Of Cloud-Native Systems” in the DevOps/SRE track, but there were many opportunities here based on the work we do. Tracks at this event covered containers, machine learning, data infrastructure and analytics and more, all of which we put strategic effort into supporting on the DC/OS platform.

The conference was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. It may come as a surprise, but in spite of working in tech, attending a lot of conferences AND having lived here for over seven years, it was my first time at that convention center. I’ve worked so long from home so I shy away from long commutes, and for me it’s generally easier to attend a conference in somewhere like Seattle where I have a hotel instead of commuting down into the valley. Sunday made this an easier prospect, since I wouldn’t have to deal with rush hour traffic. A stroke of luck also meant that MJ was traveling for work this weekend, so I didn’t need to take the train (a 2+ hour ordeal) or leave him without a car as I took the only one we have out here for the day.

The conference format consisted of a series of keynotes in the morning, with tracks in the afternoon. The first keynote of the day was from Craig McLuckie, the CEO of Heptio and one of the founders of the Kubernetes project. His talk was titled “Architecting for sustainability: micro-services and the path to cloud native operations” and he began by talking about the balance between fast development and innovation and having a perfectly stable system. His talk also covered the shift to more specialized operations roles, with staff covering infrastructure, cluster, common services and specific application operations. He argued that with specialization comes more automation, as you end up with a shift from generalists who are doing various tasks rarely, to specialists who will quickly tire of doing the same tasks over and over again, and thus automate them. It also leads to better monitoring and more as you have people who really understand the systems that they’re working with.

I also enjoyed that he talked about the importance of Mean Time To Recovery (MTTR), rather than attempting to build a system that never fails. Systems will fail, people will make mistakes. It’s our job to make sure that when things fail and people make mistakes, we can recover from them and move forward. Containers were a key part of his message here, with immutable images being created in development, tested and deployed. When your development and testing environments look similar to production, a lot of problems go away.

With my own talk later in the day about what to look for when finally going to operate that cloud-native system driven by microservices, it was really nice to have this talk ahead of mine to provide such a great place for the audience to start with. “Remember that keynote this morning? Here’s what you need to consider when you’re finally running it: metrics, logging, debugging, recovery and backup tools…”

The next keynote was from Jeff Feng on “How Airbnb Does Data Science” where he talked about the value of experiments in development of their product. Using examples from changes that Airbnb had made to the website UI, he walked us through how data was used when doing UI change experiments. How will a change in wording on a button impact bookings? What types of customers respond better to what types of photos in advertising their offerings? I learned that in order to most effectively use and learn from these experiments, they have a data scientist embedded on every team who can help them isolate, review and analyze data from experiments to make sure changes don’t have negative or unintended consequences. He concluded his talk by talking about their internal Data University where employees can learn how to data can impact their own work and be introduced to the tooling to make that happen. During his talk he mentioned a TechCrunch article about it, which I dug up after his talk, Airbnb is running its own internal university to teach data science, as well as a Medium.com post that he co-authored which dives into it a bit more deeply, How Airbnb Democratizes Data Science With Data University

My talk took place after one from Todd Palino who talked about “Holistic Reliability: SRE at LinkedIn” which covered their approach to SRE. I’m very familiar with the role of SRE, so the general concepts around it weren’t new to me. However, it was nice to learn about their practices around common operations repositories so others can pitch in and “help themselves” much like I was familiar with in the OpenStack project. It was also nice to learn how their company mindset was open source first. I’ve known for some time that Apache Kafka (which he happens to work on) came out of LinkedIn, but I learned that this was by no means an anomaly. He talked about how there is often a push for open sourcing when a valuable new tool has been developed internally.

The talk I gave on “Day 2 Operations Of Cloud-Native Systems” (slides here) was an evolution of a talk I gave at Seattle DevOps Days back in April. The talk now includes a more formalized checklist of things you need to build into your evaluation and building of your cloud-native system. After talking with folks in Seattle, one of the most important takeaways that I stressed with the talk this time was that everything I talked about (monitoring, logging, backups and debugging) are the things that are taken for granted and it’s rare that there is enough time spent on making sure they are of high enough quality to serve the operations team when an outage eventually occurs. My hope is that the checklist I added will help give some direction around these “unwritten” necessities as they shift into a world that, even in it’s simplest form, has load-balanced applications, running on containers, on clusters, on some underlying hardware or cloud. That’s a lot of layers to keep track of when something goes wrong.

After my talk I attended one from Nell Shamrell-Harrington of Chef. I happened to run into her earlier in the day and realized at lunch that she was also a speaker at Seattle DevOps Days this year! There she was talking about DevOps in Politics, but at this conference she was giving a talk on “Platform Agnostic and Self Organizing Software Packages” where she talked about the project she’s working on at Chef, Habitat. The promise of Habitat is the ability to build and deploy applications across many platforms consistently. It’s interesting to have a look at so I suggest you do, but what impressed me the most about her presentation was that her demos actually walked the walk. Her first demo showed configuration and installation an app in Ubuntu on Azure, and the second an app on Red Hat on AWS. This may seem like a small detail, but platform agnosticism is hard to do right, and when a project is as young as Habitat is you often see only a single type of demo that has been fine-tuned to work perfectly in one place. Kudos to the team for casting a wider net to impress us early on!

In all, I enjoyed the event. The ticket price was lower than some others covering these topics, so it felt like there was an opportunity for a more diverse audience of people skill-wise to attend. I met a student who was looking into getting into data analytics, a systems administrator who was seeking to move more of his skill set, and eventually work, into the area of data. Several other people I spoke with were working in software development, but curious about where the latest data-drive technology was going and were willing to give up a Sunday to learn more. I may keep an eye out for future events in the area since it may be a nice opportunity.

More photos from the event can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157683129676822

My magical smartpen is for conferences

Back in May I wrote about my Neo smartpen N2. As I mentioned in that post, I have a single pen and two notebooks, one that I use to take notes at conferences and one that I keep in my purse for taking random notes where ever I am.

First up, I’ve decided to only use the pen for conferences. I bought that second notebook for my purse but it didn’t work out. I don’t want to have to depend upon having a specific pen with me whenever I need to jot down a note. I’d also need to make sure it was always charged, nothing would be more annoying than realizing I have the pad and the pen, but that it wasn’t charged. I do also always carry my phone with me, so I could take notes on that, the reason I carry a pen and paper is that it’s simple. Finally, while the pen is not huge or awkward to write with, it is big, and expensive, so I needed a spot in my purse that was big enough for it and would keep it pretty safe. My purse is a giant mess, so that was tricky. The ephemeral nature of much of what I write in these notebooks also means I don’t really need them synced and stored forever, so going to all this trouble doesn’t benefit me much.

I also mentioned in my first post about this pen that I get cute little notebooks for free at conferences frequently, and it would be a shame not to use them. And pens, so many pens! Seems to me that I should just stick with using my lovely pile of free notebooks and pens to jot down grocery lists, reminders of things I need to do and other notes.


Tech companies are my source of little notebooks and pens

Now, use for conferences. I have enjoyed having an online backup of all the notes I take at conferences up in Evernote. Once the notes are synced to the app, if it takes me a few days to write up a blog post following an event I don’t have to worry about having the physical notebook with me. Having digital access to the notes long-term will be nice too. There are few things I have learned in these past few months though.

1. The “open app and see writing in real time” works and is fun for them to show off in the store, but it is a gimmick. It’s not actually useful and it kills the battery life.

2. I was at a conference recently where I kept syncing data to the app (it’s fun to see words show up, and maybe I was bored). That wasn’t gentle with the battery life either. I still don’t know exactly what the battery life is, so I just got into the habit of making sure it’s charged before I go to an event.

3. At least with the app on Android, you actually have to open up app to get the pen to sync data. Not pro-actively syncing is probably helpful for battery life, but I have to make sure I do this before I head into the office and realize I don’t have notes synced.

4. The pen once got into a state where it stopped recording. I don’t know what happened, but the only symptom I noticed was I couldn’t shut the pen off. I ignored this and just used it the rest of the day. I shouldn’t have done that. In order to try and prevent this in the future, I’ve started being diligent about shutting the pen off between talks so I know it’s turning on and off properly. Hopefully this at least reduces how many pages I lose if it happens again. Oh, and I did end up getting it all digitized, by spending a 40 minute ferry ride tracing the words. Ugh.

5. I am 40 pages into my notebook and I’ve already replaced the ink in the pen. I spent $8.70 on Amazon for 10pcs Zebra 4C-0.7 0.7mm Refill (Box Set) – Black Ink. Works great and it’s easy to replace.

With that, I’m ready to embark on my next conference with my fancy pen! And happily back to using regular pens and notebooks in my purse.

A Tale of Two Cell Phones

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I love my work, but that’s not always a good thing. I’ve been conscious of the risk of burnout for some time now. I take on a lot of work (paid and unpaid), struggle to maintain close personal relationships, and last year I had so much on my plate that I came closer to the edge than I ever had before. I had to make some changes.

The first was re-affirming my commitment to taking a day off per week. In 2013 I started taking Saturdays off. I sometimes say that the internet is “write-only” on these days, I may tweet about what I’m doing because I often do fun things, but I don’t read/respond anything until the day concludes. I will always have improvements to make here, but I am mindful of how important taking this day is, and how my well-being suffers when I don’t do it, or if am less diligent about my rules surrounding the day off.

The second was diving into a hobby that, while it will likely leverage countless tech skills eventually, is very different from anything I’ve worked on in the past and lets me build things: model trains! I’ve also started writing more on paper, both in the form of letters to a handful of pen pals (with varying frequency) and by starting to get into calligraphy.

The third was continuing to establish clear boundaries between paid work and everything else. Just like my interest in OpenStack propelled my work at HP, my belief in the success of Apache Mesos and fondness for DC/OS means that I enjoy and believe in my work at Mesosphere. There’s always more to learn, more to get excited about and share with the world. My queue of demos, blog posts, tutorials, talks and other things I want to do at work extends far beyond what I’ll ever have time for. To make sure I don’t risk trying, I strive to work no more than 45 hours each week at my day job, and aim for closer to 40. Travel always complicates things, but if I spend a Sunday speaking at a conference, I will often take a day off during the week to balance things out. In fact, I’m doing that today! There is a lot I can write about time management around travel, but that’s for another blog post. In this post I’m going to talk about cell phones!

Having a work phone is a popular thing, but it’s something I’ve resisted for a long time because it was hard to make it work in a practical sense. I almost exclusively use my personal email address for correspondence in my open source work because that community identity transcends employers, and is something that will follow me around in my career. That means I get GitHub emails for DC/OS work commits in my personal account right along with Launchpad notifications for Ubuntu. I do use my Mesosphere and DC/OS email accounts when I’m acting in a specific capacity, but just like my use of my Ubuntu email address, it’s done with intent. While working on OpenStack the communication method was IRC, which I also use for other open source work and I also hang out on a couple scifi IRC networks. For me, it all made untangling these things for the purpose of working on separate devices more challenging than it’s worth.

Things have changed some since then. In the Apache Mesos and DC/OS communities we use Slack to chat. I actually do find myself using work email address a lot more, and that is the address I use to interact with the tools we use to track a lot of our work (like Jira). As a forward-thinking startup, we also use apps for a bunch of stuff like HR tooling and expenses.

While my personal open source identity is still important in these communities, in this new role I’ve been able to draw some clearer lines than I have in the past. As a result, a few months back when my mother in law passed away and we found ourselves with her nearly-new phone, I decided to give the work/personal phone split a try. Here’s how it’s broken down:

Work phone: A Nexus 6 on Project Fi (by Google). I’ll probably upgrade to the new big Pixel when it comes out in October. With Project Fi I get international data coverage for the same rate as domestic, and decent international rates for voice/text, should I need to use them (rare). This phone has all my work apps with alerts turned on, plus all my travel apps. I also do keep personal apps and email accounts on here, because this is the phone I need to use when traveling internationally, but I turn off alerts for those unless I’m actively using the phone in that capacity. I carry this phone with me during weekdays, but usually not on weekends unless I’m traveling for work.

Personal phone: A Moto Z Play on Verizon. I got the Verizon plan a few years ago when I wanted a hot spot with better (and different) domestic coverage than my phone, which was on T-Mobile, then AT&T, then Project Fi. The hot spot was incredibly handy, but I may consider getting rid of it since my phone supports tethering. This has no work apps on it, just personal apps with alerts turned on. I always carry this phone, engagement with the community on social media is part of my job and I do still do that primarily with my personal account.

This experiment began in the beginning of April, and I think I’ll stick to it. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I carry a purse, which makes carrying 2 phones easier, but it’s a pain to walk around the office to meetings with a laptop and two phones unless wearing a hoodie or some shirt that has giant pockets
  • Two phones do not, however, fit into the lovely clutch I bought in Paris and bring to fancy events and parties
  • I now have to charge 2 phones at night, and one of them is USB-C, no sharing of chargers
  • Only one phone can pair with my Android watch at a time, I picked my personal phone, but it is a shame that Slack alerts don’t come to my watch
  • I only actively use one phone number, fortunately I don’t do voice calls for work much (we have Slack! Hangouts! Zoom!)
  • The Moto Z Play was a “free” phone on Verizon’s plans around the holidays, picked for my mother in law but it’s actually a decent phone, though with 16G of storage space I’ll soon run out
  • It’s helping, I am appropriately alerted to work stuff on weekdays when I should be, and not tempted to randomly check work email on weekends

Two phones? It barely fits the one!

I also have a more distinct split computer-wise these days. My work laptop is the only one I log into work-only things with, it’s the only place I store my work ssh keys and other credentials. I used my personal desktop a lot more for work on OpenStack, but the setup on my desk at home actually works for this split, and my work laptop is the most powerful system in my fleet these days, so it makes more sense to use that one for all my local DC/OS work and demos anyway.

Through these work/life balance experiments I’ve been learning a lot about myself and how I work. It was easy to believe that being “on” all the time helped me be a better employee and a better community member, but that’s not true for me. It was obvious very quickly that making sure I don’t work too much has increased my creativity and energy at work, and reduced my stress. But I’ve been surprised to learn how much physically splitting my work spaces even just on my phones and computers has done even more to support these improvements. I no longer check work email at 2AM when I can’t sleep and then forget to reply to it the next morning. And even though I write blog posts and event reports both for work and personal projects, splitting up what computer I do that on helps makes them different so I don’t tire of it. You may not be able to reach me at all times these days, and I do still forget things, but I believe I’m starting to do a better job of juggling everything now that I have these boundaries.

Paid and volunteer tech, SF tourist and trains

As June wound down and July rushed in, both MJ and I happened to friends in town the same week leading into the 4th of July weekend. Pile in extra time at work for both of us and we’ve been busy.

At work I have started to be the community team representative for the Bay Area Apache Mesos User Group meetups. Marketing has long handled logistics of these events, so my role has been more along the lines of welcoming attendees and playing MC so that the speakers feel welcome and the event runs smoothly.

On June 28th my first opportunity to speak at one of these events came up as I had to quickly fill in for a colleague who couldn’t make it into town for it. The event was on Microservices and SMACK Stack on Azure (strictly speaking, SMACK is: Apache Spark, Apache Mesos, Akka, Apache Cassandra and Apache Kafka, but like the LAMP stack you can swap out like components). Continuing a partnership that also included some internal collaboration that week, we partnered with several folks from Microsoft for this public event.

Prior to the meetup I worked with Patrick Brennan, who was our on-site Mesosphere liaison working with the team at Microsoft, to discuss preparations for the demo at the meetup. Since he was all set up with Azure already and my own time was limited, he tossed up a cluster I could use for the demos and then we made sure we had all the access controls in place to run the demo. I then collaborated with speakers Rob Bagby and Julien Stroheker who work on the Azure team over at Microsoft to put together an agenda where I’d lay the foundation for their talks by introducing DC/OS and doing a quick demo of the SMACK stack running on Azure. I’m quite happy to say that even with limited time to prepare, and my own lack of experience with Azure, everything came together. The ability to run DC/OS anywhere you want is something that makes me so proud to work on it so I can share the power of that flexibility with others.

Following my 20 minute primer and demo, Rob gave us a live tour of the Azure UI to demonstrate the mechanisms for using DC/OS on it. He including tips from the Learn DC/OS on ACS collection of documentation that he maintains, which I had only recently learned about and is incredibly valuable if you’re looking to run DC/OS with the Azure Container Service (ACS). His talk was followed by one from Julien, who is one of many folks working in the DC/OS community to come up with open source tooling to get DC/OS to do their bidding on specific platforms (cloud, on premises). In his case, he’s built a proof of concept DC/OS autoscaler for clouds, right now supporting Azure. The PoC code can be found on GitHub: julienstroheker/dcos-autoscaler.


Julien Stroheker sharing autoscaling

One of the most rewarding things about my job right now is seeing community-based efforts like this being created and shared. Just last week we held an office hours where we spoke to Flach Jauffrey and Benjamin Vouillaume who have written boot2dcos, which they’re using to turn employee desktops that are unused at night into DC/OS agents to process workloads. When employees leave for the evening, the machines are shut down, PXE booted to load up a Linux image and DC/OS and get to work. Very cool stuff.

But, as much as I enjoy it, enough about work! I took my first formal vacation day since I started in January the day after the meetup to spend the day with David, who was in San Francisco for a few days. His visit was one stop of several during a trip around the country by train that took just over two weeks. I admit that I’m a bit jealous of the ambition of his train trip. My own single cross country train adventure in May was just three and a half days, and went one direction. He did an entire clockwise loop that took him down south, through Texas and the southwest, up through California and then on to the Empire Builder, a route that goes further north than the California Zephyr that I took. Jealousy around his time on trains aside, I was very happy that he included a stop in San Francisco during his journey.

The day we spent together began in Union Square where we got him a transit card so we could get around the city all day. We also got an obligatory photo together next to the Powell Street cable cars. He had been to San Francisco many times, so we forewent the cable car ride and focused on spending the day at places he hadn’t seen yet. First on our list was Japantown! I love sushi and promised I’d give him a tour of my favorites so I could try to convince him to enjoy sushi. Alas, I’m quite sure I failed. He ate it, but even with my expertly crafted varietal mix of sweet, spicy, fishy and less so, it seems my dear friend is just not into sushi. I did enjoy trying though. While we were there we also stopped by Chocolate Chair, which is one of the many liquid nitrogen-driven ice cream shops that have been popping up. Their most recent claim to fame is Dragon’s Breath (SFGATE article here), which are colorful, flavored cereal puff balls that are infused with liquid nitrogen so that when you eat them fog very amusingly comes out your nose and mouth. Dragon! David bravely partook, I helped myself to a few, but mostly enjoyed my own very delicious bowl of strawberry ice cream.

The rest of the afternoon was spent over at the California Academy of Sciences. It’s one of my favorite science museums, and with it right there in Golden Gate Park and proximity to the MUNI Metro line, it’s a convenient and delightfully San Francisco place to visit to get a bunch of experiences at once. We hit the highlights of the museum: the living roof, the huge rain forest domed environment, the planetarium, the penguins, a bit of the aquarium. They also have a great Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibit right now that I really enjoyed. When the museum closed at 5 a quick walk took us to the metro line that took us back downtown, where our adventures concluded with a lovely Mexican dinner at Tropisueño, and cupcakes over at the Metreon. Well-fed and a bit tired, his next train awaited him across the bay, so I saw him off on a ferry that would take him to the train station where he’d catch the Coast Starlight north. A sad farewell for me, for sure, but he had another week of train adventures ahead.

More photos from our touristing day in San Francisco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157685698889625

As I mentioned, MJ had a friend in town that week too, a childhood friend who comes in a couple times a year and stays with us. When in town she works from an office out here, and then her and MJ do dinners and weekends together. I met up with them for a couple meals (including an evening at Kabul Afghan Cuisine down in Sunnyvale, must go back!), but mostly kept myself busy on my own. MJ and I did get to enjoy a dinner alone together on Friday, going over to my favorite local restaurant, Anchor & Hope, which we hadn’t been to together in some time. The food is great, the beer list is one of my favorites in the city, it’s just a block from home and in general it’s a comfortable place because we’re so familiar with it. A perfect place for a dinner together to reconnect and relax.

On Saturday, July 1st I wandered up to Berkeley to do what ends up being a quarterly trip to pick up the latest pile of comic books for the series I’m reading. As I may have written before, I’ve always enjoyed graphic novels and had an interest in comic books, but cost prevented any serious following as a youth, and it was only since Marvel came out with the Princess Leia series a couple years ago, and several other Star Wars titles, that I really started getting into them as an adult. Today I’m following the Wonder Woman reboot (rebirth), a selection of the Star Wars titles, and then I pick up a few here and there as they come up (a Lost in Space series last year, American Gods this year). A friend of mine also clued me into the six DC/Looney Tunes crossover comics that turned out to be really great. I was able to find a few of them while up there shopping too, and then went to eBay to grab the remaining ones. I drifted from the comic book store in downtown Berkeley over to the one closer to Rockridge, picked up a couple more books, and then I was hungry! That’s how I ended up with my solo lunch at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza in Oakland. It was delicious, and if you’re going to have a lunch by yourself, you might as well make it a giant plate of dough, cheese and tomatoes.

The next day Caligula got his second Golden Gate Park visit! It was fun for the four of us to get out. Plus, with how excited my normally lazy cat gets as soon as he goes to the park, it was nice to have three of us there to take turns walking him around where ever he wanted to go.

Soon, all friends had departed and our city was our own again. I promised MJ some quiet time during the long 4th of July weekend, so we decided not to make plans for the holiday. But we did make plans to go up to Richmond to visit the Golden State Model Railroad Museum. On our way up to Richmond we stopped at our favorite BBQ place, so we were happy and full by the time we saw the trains.

I had just recently learned about the museum from a friend at a Linux meetup and it’s run by the East Bay Model Engineers Society (EBMES). The members of the society maintain all the track layouts and then open the museum to the public on Sundays when they have trains running. It seems like a really interesting way of being a model train hobbiest, the building that houses it is big and I’m sure very few people have the space to make very much in their own homes, especially here in California where basements are rare and houses themselves tend to be smaller than elsewhere in the country.

It was a lot of fun talking to one of the members there. We told him of our recent Amtrak journey and geeked out a bit over the best passenger routes around California, even day trips that can be pretty interesting. He was right in my head when he mentioned you could take Amtrak up to Sacramento for the day and go to the train museum there (I still haven’t been!).

Getting to see all the trains running and people fiddling them got me an even more firm understanding of the scales. I had been considering N scale because I won’t have a lot of space (planning on putting my layout in my office, once I have one), but once I saw people working on them up close I think I’m going to go with HO scale. It’s the most popular (though N has been catching up), and it’s big enough to show nice details and not feel like I’m going to break a tiny delicate thing. It’s also small enough that I think I can enjoy a cute layout without taking up massive amounts of space. It was also interesting to learn how separate-worlds the different scale groups are, these people get super specialized in their scales and don’t really answer questions about the other scales. There also seems to be a friendly rivalry between them all. I also met a little girl who was super excited about all the geek stuff I was wearing, which was super sweet, and I hope convinced her that adults can sport train engine earrings and wear Star Wars t-shirts forever.

The visit was inspiring too. I’m somewhat tempted to buy a couple kits to start playing with things before I have space for it, just because I’m excited. Resisting for now though, I shall have space soon enough (within the year, I hope!) and I have enough other projects for other hobbies to keep me busy in the meantime.

A lot more photos from the museum here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157683695335350/

While we were up in Richmond we also saw signs for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front NHP museum. I had no idea it existed, it’s a little warehouse building not too far from the model railway museum. The museum starts with the focus on Rosie the Riveter and the changing roles of women as WWII progressed, but also touched upon general life at home in the US during and just after the war, the internment camps for Japanese-Americans and more. The displays were bright and interesting, and well organized. Unfortunately we got there pretty late in the afternoon so we had to skim through the exhibits pretty quickly. I’d like to go back at some point to view it properly, there’s also a short movie that goes along with the exhibits that plays regularly throughout the day and they do events there, so it might be worth looking at a calendar for when we can make time to go up again.

More photos from our visit to this museum here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157682967715334

I mentioned in my last general update post that I’d started doing a bit more work with Partimus lately. Last Friday MJ departed on a week and a half long business trip and so on Saturday I made plans to meet up with our executive director at one of the low-income housing facilities in the tenderloin, just beyond Union Square. For the first hour I worked on debugging an issue with guest sessions failing to log in. It was an issue we’d seen across all the locations that we service and ended up being impossible to diagnose remotely with the tools we had. Sitting there digging through logs and doing tests finally led me to figure out what was going on, the details of which I shared here. Essentially the command to remove the temporary guest users was failing due to a stuck lock file so the system was adding a guest user every time someone logged in until it couldn’t make any more (it hit UID 999). I wrote a script to remove the lock file and delete stray users that any of our volunteers can run if this happens again, but I’ll bake a more permanent solution into a custom Lubuntu ISO I hope to help build soon.

However, the main goal of this visit was to take a look at the PXE boot server that one of our volunteers built. It’s been tested and works for installing 32-bit Lubuntu, but we want 64-bit and in general need to do an audit and document what this server does so we can improve it, and replicate it on other sites as needed. This introduced me to the basement of the building, where lots of spiders live. I get along with spiders, but there was also no internet access or cell signal down there, so I brought along my handy portable hard drive (one of my best investments ever!) and cloned the drive so I could work on it at home. I won’t get to it this weekend, but I hope to carve out some time next Sunday to start digging into it.

I’ve been staying incredibly busy with work this week and would love to write about that now too, but that will have wait until another blog post. It’s 10PM and need to get to bed soon. I need be on the road by 7:45AM tomorrow morning to get down to Santa Clara for the Cloud+Data Next conference. I’ll be giving a Day 2 Operations talk in the early afternoon. It’s a talk that I was uncertain about before I gave it the first time, but it’s really grown on me, and I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve been putting into it. Wish me luck tomorrow!

June in San Francisco

Upon returning from Philadelphia on June 11th, Caligula was pretty upset. MJ got into town a few days earlier, but left for work all day and then spent much of the weekend away. Two weeks is a lot of time to leave him with only the company of a friend dropping by every couple of days to check on him, and he let me know with an afternoon of yowling and snuggling.

He’s been a very different cat since the loss of Simcoe. We always thought that she was the one following him around for snuggles, and I’m sure that was the case, but he’s been spending a lot more time snuggling me, on the couch, under the covers in bed. His unhappiness being left without humans is a big change too, he really doesn’t like being left all alone. We had no idea. Plus, recently we’ve also had to contend with some health uncertainty with him. His calcium levels have been running high, and I had to drop him off at the vet a couple weeks ago for a day of tests to see if we could get to the bottom of it. Alas, we haven’t, but a lot of major things (like leukemia) have been ruled out and so we just have to move on to symptom treatment once he sees a cardiologist about a potentially enlarged heart, which could influence his treatment plan.

I’ve spent a little time since my return on getting up to speed with the latest work Partimus is doing. We’re now in six low-income residences in San Francisco with over a dozen machines, many of which are high end systems donated recently by a local company. We also have a new imaging server created by one of our volunteers, which I hope to find time to have a look at and see about adding the 64-bit Lubuntu image to, as well as documenting the configuration so that it can be replicated at other sites. I spent some time this weekend updating Partimus.org so that the information on the site is more up to date and cleaned out some of the old materials we had floating around. I also did some curious digging into our foundation documents and discovered, as I had suspected, that 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of Partimus being incorporated as a 501(c)(3). I wrote a blog post about it here: Partimus celebrates 10 years.

Last Saturday MJ and I headed up to Napa before he headed off for a work trip on Sunday. The day began with furniture shopping though. Our sofa bed recently broke, and it’s growing increasingly creaky as a couch. It’s unusable as a bed at this point, and for a guest staying with us this week we’ve had to get an air mattress. A new couch is needed! We ended up in Concord at a leather store browsing some potential candidates. I think we found one we want, we just need to figure out what color we’re going to go with. I also got some great ideas for furniture in my future office, there is a really nice Dreamsations chair-and-a-half that lives as a big comfy chair, but folds out into a comfortable twin size bed.

After the furniture shopping it was up to Rutherford Hill Winery to pick up our wine club wines for the quarter. It was hot, possibly the hottest day of the season with the highs brushing up against 100. It was 98 outside as we cooled off in the wine tasting room. I spent a few minutes outside taking pictures of flowers and the view, but even this west coast dry heat is hot when the temperatures soar that high.

It was then off to a late lunch at the Bouchon Bistro just south of Rutherford, in Yountville. We went there during our first trip to Napa last spring, but it was a whirlwind weekend trip where we tried to squeeze the best of the valley in all at once. This time Bouchon was a destination for us. With 3:30PM reservations, we arrived at the tail end of brunch, with staff setting the tables for dinner. Our food selections were very dinner-like though. We kicked off the meal with caviar with some toasted bread, and I had a White Apron beer by Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville. Next up were the entrees, MJ picked the winner with a dish of gnudi with fresh truffles, and I went with what was pretty much a lobster macaroni and cheese, also delicious but not quite as exceptional. By the time desserts rolled around, we were getting full, but desserts of chocolate brownie “bouchons” and fruit with meringue were a bit too amazing to resist. After the meal, our journey home took us over the Golden Gate bridge for a nice evening in before MJ’s trip.

More photos from our jaunt up to Napa here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157685503327645

While on the topic of food… I made eggs! I’m not much of a cook, I lack the patience and interest required to pull off more than just the basics. As a result, until a few weeks ago all I had ever made egg-wise was scrambled and hard boiled eggs. Unfortunately or me, my favorite eggs are over easy. I finally decided that I should learn how to make them without ruining them, it can’t be that hard, right? I fired up YouTube and piled on the patience. It turns out patience was what I’d been missing in past attempts. I hover over the eggs and then try to flip them much too soon, what I need to do is let them cook a whole lot before flipping is easy, and then I just need to let them cook for a few moments longer to finish cooking the whites. At 35 years old it may seem terribly amusing to onlookers that I just figured this all out, but I really don’t cook. It’s a big deal for me. Over easy eggs forever!

Sadly, after Napa, food was the last thing on my mind. The day MJ left was the day my stomach decided to ruin my week. I went to the gym mid-day, seeking some air conditioning in what had turned into quite the warm weekend in San Francisco too. Unfortunately the gym lacked air conditioning, but the fans did their job and I had a good workout. That afternoon I felt incredibly tired (just the gym, right?) and by Sunday night I was feeling queasy. Monday morning I had a full on stomach bug, complete with a mild fever. The fever went away and I was feeling better by Tuesday evening, I thought maybe the heat wave had just hit me the wrong way and I started rehydrating. Wednesday night I was hit with the second wave of illness which kept me up for much of the night. I went into work Thursday morning, but left mid-day to see a doctor, who gave me a prescription to treat the nausea that wasn’t allowing me to keep any food or liquids. Pile on some over-the-counter meds for other symptoms and gallons of re-hydration liquids, and you have my Thursday afternoon and Friday. Fortunately I was well enough to work from home (bed), though the slight fever did return Friday afternoon (ok, maybe I wasn’t well enough to be working, even from bed). Friday night and into Saturday I continued my attempts to hydrate and eat bland foods, but a massive headache swept in, that I kept in the realm of tolerable only through regular doses of Advil. I spent the day in yesterday, but I managed to go out to dinner last night with MJ and a visiting friend, though I was cautious and didn’t eat very much.

While I thought I was feeling better on Tuesday I snuck downstairs to a Bay Area Linux Users Group meeting just a block from home. I figured if I wasn’t feeling well I could just leave midway through, and I wanted to attend to talk about the latest Debian release (9.0, code name Stretch)! So attend I did, bringing along Debian stickers and my Stretch toy. It was a small dinner, but lots of nice conversations about Debian, recent changes with Ubuntu, and even some model trains after I geeked out about my new interest and subsequently learned about the Golden State Model Railroad Museum, must go!

With MJ back in town, Friday morning we went to the eye doctor to pick up new glasses! I’ve spent the past several years with Flexon frames, they’re super light and resistant to abuse due to their ability to bend. I switched things up this time and went with Airlock frames, which are in the family of rimless glasses. It’s quite the departure for me, and I don’t like change, particularly when it has to do with how I look. But I had also just gotten a whole new haircut that went shorter than I’d previously gone, so apparently I’ve been in a change mood. I think it worked out, I’m happy with both the glasses and the haircut!

Today I’m feeling better. The headache isn’t bad enough to require treatment today, and I’m trying to take it easy. I did spend about 90 minutes getting some fresh air while MJ was out with his friend. I walked a couple blocks up to Market street to check out the Pride parade. Once I grew tired of the crowds I walked up Market to Ferry Building to pick up a small lunch, champiñones (mushroom) empanada and dulce de leche alfajor at El Porteño. From there I took a few pictures of street cars before wandering back home.

More photos from my brief glimpse of the pride parade here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157683422410420

The month winds down this week. I’m helping to host a Meetup at work on Wednesday and taking Thursday off to spend with a friend who’s in town visiting, we shall do all the San Francisco things! Then we have a much-needed a four day weekend for the 4th of July.

Scanned 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition booklets

Back in 2015 I became a little obsessed with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition centennial events and exhibits in San Francisco and wrote about it here. As I wrote then, I’d been fascinated with the World’s Fair since I was a kid. I didn’t mention it then, but I also think part of what I loved about the historic World’s Fairs was that it brought the world to your doorstep. My family was not wealthy and my eclectic interests as a youth didn’t seem like they’d raise me up at all, so travel seemed beyond my reach.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of nerds taking over the world, and have traveled a respectable chunk of it, I found myself in a position in 2015 to visit these exhibits, and even invest in some real pieces of them. In January of 2016 I purchased a trio of 100 year old books from the PPIE off of eBay for about $20 each.

They’re all in remarkable condition for being 100 years old. No doubt they’ve been carefully tucked away for much of their lifespan. It’s now 2017, they’ve been sitting on my shelf, kept out of the light, in their archival plastic bags. Last week I needed something to do that would make me feel accomplished but wouldn’t be intellectually draining, I should finally scan them all and share them!

So I did. It probably took me about 6 hours to scan, crop, and create the web pages where the 164 images now reside, but it has been completed. You can view, and download, regular and high resolution scans of all three of the books here: http://princessleia.com/ppie/

Some of my favorites from the collection are either beautiful, bring up memories or are simply amusing to me.

From the Official Miniature View Book I was amused by the Detail Figures of Fountain of Energy. In particular, the men riding a walrus and an elephant seal. I’ve since picked up post cards of these two and will be getting them framed for my office.

Also from this view booklet was a reminder of how much we accomplished in the 20th century, Art Smith’s Aviation Flights. In 1915 flight was a brand new technology, and only an exceptional breed of risk-takers were flying planes, some for the entertainment of the public. Indeed, Art Smith took the place as the official stunt flyer at the PPIE when the previous one, Lincoln J. Beachey, tragically died at the fair after losing control of his monoplane and plunging into the bay. Smith himself died when his plane crashed in 1926 while in the service of the US Post Office doing overnight mail service between New York City and Chicago. It continues to be astonishing to me that today flying by air is not only routine (particularly for me!), it’s the safest way to travel.

From the PPIE: Beautiful booklet, my favorite image lived up to the title. The showcase building of the event was the 433 foot Tower of Jewels, and helped give the fair the nickname of “Jewel City.”

The last photo in that booklet also holds a special place in my heart, The Liberty Bell. From my adopted hometown of Philadelphia, this was the first time the Liberty Bell came to San Francisco. I recently hit eBay again to snag a well-worn souvenir plate from the PPIE with the Liberty Bell on it.

From the Colortypes booklet we again have colored images, this time including one from the Tower of Jewels Illuminated at night. They’d did a light show in the evenings, which showed off the array of glass jewels that covered the tower and I hear played very well with the bay fog.

Finally, a colortype of the Palace of Fine Arts. This is the building that was preserved when the rest of the fair was torn down, though it was completely re-created in 1964-65 when the original, meant-to-be-temporary structure was demolished and replaced with an identical one made of poured concrete.

It’s so close to the original so the view from today (or, 2015 when I took this photo) is very similar to what they would have seen in 1915.

It was nice to finally get these all digitized so I can now tuck the originals back in a safe place, where they can hopefully remain intact for another 100 years.

A couple weeks in Philadelphia

The end of our adventure across the country on a train last month, landed us at our townhouse in Philadelphia on Monday evening, Memorial Day.

Our week was pretty busy. MJ had plans to stay through Sunday and I was staying another week beyond that. I work remotely much of the time, and so a full time remote schedule when I’m back east isn’t disruptive to my routine, and I end up getting a lot of work done before my west coast colleagues wake up. Work-wise I had a very productive couple of weeks!

We did have a revolving door of contractors visit us throughout the week though. The townhouse is new, but there are a number improvements we wanted to make that weren’t offered when we bought and a few closing items that needed to be completed by the builders. The first was getting some electrical work done, including some lights above the shower stalls upstairs, and a few more outlets put in key places, like directly behind the TV and in the utility closet. Later in the week we had a tankless water heater installed (and the nearly-new tank heater we replaced successfully sold on Craigslist!) and a whole house humidifier that my sinuses will be grateful for come winter. There’s still work to be done on the place, and things to figure out but I am very happy with how much was completed.

We had a few lovely dinners with friends and family. I was able to make time over the weekend to clean up the little garden out front, though I expect when we return it’ll be overgrown with weeds again, one of those things we haven’t quite figured out yet. I met the neighbors and had a great chat about involvement in the HOA and issues concerning the neighborhood.

When we were planning this trip, we happened to look at the schedule for Citizen’s Bank Park and learned that our SF Giants would be playing the Phillies while we were in town! We snagged some great Diamond Club seat tickets for Saturday and went with our friend Danita.

Now, it would have been better Giants-fans-wise if we had gone to a game the night before, when we watched the Giants shut out the Phillies 10-0 while having dinner with MJ’s sister and her husband at a local restaurant. Alas, we went on a day that the Phillies won 5-3. It was a fun game though, no clear winner as you got to the later innings, with the Phillies getting 4 runs in the bottom of the 7th and the Giants trying to come back with 2 runs at the top of the 9th. It was a gorgeous day to be at the park for a 4PM game, warm, but not too humid, and the sun was out. On the way home we stopped for some Rita’s water ice.

More photos from the game here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157684649648515

Come Sunday MJ was on his way back west, but first we snagged some east coast Chinese food before getting him packed and on the way to the airport.

The week that followed for me was also pretty busy. On Monday I saw Wonder Woman with my best friend, and it was awesome! On Tuesday I hopped on an Amtrak up to New York City to meet my boss for a meetup at the WeWork space near Union Square on “Managing Microservices & Fast Data w/ Apache Mesos & DC/OS.” The weather was nice, so I walked from Penn Station to Union Square, grabbed a coffee as I got some work done, and then met up for the meetup.

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Flatiron Building in NYC, during my walk to Union Square

I was in charge of a section of the presentation but primarily, the live demo, which went quite smoothly. Slides from the presentation are up here (PDF).


Thanks to Clint for taking a picture during my part of the talk! (source

A local friend, and former co-worker, from Brooklyn also came out to the event. It was really nice to see a familiar face in the crowd, have some time to catch up and to have a local buddy to meetup with for drinks in Brooklyn afterwards before retiring to my hotel for the night. The next morning a subway whisked me back to Manhattan where I had a leisurely breakfast at The Harold before catching a train back to Philly.

A few more photos from the evening can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157681823948402

Back in Philadelphia, I spent the afternoon working from a library not far from the next meetup on our schedule, the Philadelphia area Linux Users Group (PLUG). But before the meeting, I had dinner with long time friend and open source colleague Nithya Ruff and one of her colleagues from Comcast, Prabha.


Selfie with Nithya and Prabha (source)

With nice, spring weather awaiting us outside, we made our way from Mad Mex to the PLUG meeting. I used to attend a lot of PLUG meetings, and coordinated the group for a while before I moved to California, so I have a lot of good friends and acquaintances who frequently attend. This meeting was no exception, upon arrival there was a flurry of hugs as I greeted familiar faces and met some new folks. My boss arrived soon after I did and we settled in for the meeting.

The talk was very similar to what we had done in NYC the night before, but shifted slightly for a more Linux-focused audience. Unfortunately the demo didn’t go as planned, but as we were running out of time we discovered that it was because of the university WiFi we were on, blocking everything. After the meeting we met for food and drinks nearby and I was able to bring it all up on my laptop, working, hooray! Slides from this meetup are here (PDF).

I had a lot of fun at these events with my boss, we learned a bunch about the fast data demo we presented, I was able to spend some time on Friday at work making some improvements to it.

And with that, the week was winding down! On Friday night I met up with a friend and went to Longwood Gardens out in Kennett Square. I’d only ever been once, back in 2008, when the weather failed to cooperate and the rain made it so we only really saw the greenhouses. This time was different! They were on summer hours, which means we could stroll in at 7:30PM and spend nearly two hours exploring the grounds before it got dark. It’s a beautiful place. There are the gardens of course with lots of flowers, but also an Italian water garden with a series of fountains, three tree houses spread throughout the grounds and some relatively new areas that wind through a large meadow and near some ponds. A quick stroll through the greenhouse brought us to a row of beautiful bonsai trees.

The highlight of these weekend nights during the summer is the array of giant fountains near the entrance, which they light up in various colors and choreograph to music for a half hour show once it get dark, just before closing. It’s spectacular, absolutely worth doing. I held off until after the show to take pictures, getting much better ones as we walked around the lit up fountains as they started corralling everyone out of the gardens.

Piles more photos of the gardens and fountains here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157681958162333

My trip wound down after that, with Saturday spent at the townhouse closing things up and then grabbing a quick dinner. A flight at 8:30AM on Sunday morning brought me back to San Francisco on Sunday afternoon so I could relax a bit and get some Caligula kitty snuggles before getting back to work on Monday.