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Remembering Eric P. Scott (eps)

Last night I learned the worst kind of news, my friend and valuable member of the Linux community here in San Francisco, Eric P. Scott (eps) recently passed away.

In an excerpt from a post by Chaz Boston Baden, he cites the news from Ron Hipschman:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but It is my sad duty to inform you that Eric passed away sometime in the last week or so. After a period of not hearing from Eric by phone or by email, Karil Daniels (another friend) and I became concerned that something might be more serious than a lost phone or a trip to a convention, so I called his property manager and we met at Eric’s place Friday night. Unfortunately, the worst possible reason for his lack of communication was what we found. According to the medical examiner, he apparently died in his sleep peacefully (he was in bed). Eric had been battling a heart condition. We may learn more next week when they do an examination.

He was a good friend, the kind who was hugely supportive of any local events I had concocted for the Ubuntu California community, but as a friend he was also the thoughtful kind of man who would spontaneously give me thoughtful gifts. Sometimes they were related to an idea he had for promoting Ubuntu, like a new kind of candy we could use for our candy dishes at the Southern California Linux Expo, a toy penguin we could use at booths or a foldable origami-like street car he thought we could use as inspiration for something similar as a giveaway to promote the latest animal associated with an Ubuntu LTS release.

He also went beyond having ideas and we spent time together several times scouring local shops for giveaway booth candy, and once meeting at Costco to buy cookies and chips in bulk for an Ubuntu release party last spring, which he then helped me cart home on a bus! Sometimes after the monthly Ubuntu Hours, which he almost always attended, we’d go out to explore options for candy to include at booth events, with the amusing idea he also came up with: candy dishes that came together to form the Ubuntu logo.

In 2012 we filled the dishes with M&Ms:

The next year we became more germ conscious and he suggested we go with individually wrapped candies, searching the city for ones that would taste good and not too expensive. Plus, he found a California-shaped bowl which fit into our Ubuntu California astonishingly theme well!

He also helped with Partimus, often coming out to hardware triage and installfests we’d have at the schools.


At a Partimus-supported school, back row, middle

As a friend, he was also always welcome to share his knowledge with others. Upon learning that I don’t cook, he gave me advice on some quick and easy things I could do at home, which culminated in the gift of a plastic container built for cooking pasta in the microwave. Skeptical of all things microwave, it’s actually something I now use routinely when I’m eating alone, I even happened to use it last night before learning of his passing.

He was a rail fan and advocate for public transportation, so I could always count on him for the latest transit news, or just a pure geek out about trains in general, which often happened with other rail fans at our regular Bay Area Debian dinners. He had also racked up the miles on his favorite airline alliance, so there were plenty of air geek conversations around ticket prices, destinations and loyalty programs. And though I haven’t really connected with the local science fiction community here in San Francisco (so many hobbies, so little time!), we definitely shared a passion for scifi too.

This is a hard and shocking loss for me. I will deeply miss his friendship and support.

Stress, flu, Walt’s Trains and a scrap book

I’ve spent this month at home. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty stressed out. Now that I’m finally home I have a ton to catch up on here, I’m getting back into the swing of things with the pure technical (not event, travel, talk) part of my day job and and have my book to work on. I know I haven’t backed off enough from projects I’m part of, even though I’ve made serious efforts to move away from a few leadership roles in 2014, so keeping up with everything remains challenging. Event-wise, I’ve managed to arrange my schedule so I only have 4 trips during this half of the year (down from 5, thanks to retracting a submission to one domestic conference), and 1-3 major local events that I’m either speaking at or hosting. It still feels like too much.

Perhaps adding to my stress was the complete loss of 5 days last week to the flu. I had some sniffles and cough on Friday morning, which quickly turned into a fever that sent me to bed as soon as I wrapped up work in the early evening. Saturday through most of Tuesday are a bit of a blur, I attempted to get some things done but honestly should have just stayed in bed and not tried to work on anything, because nothing I did was useful and actually made it more difficult to pick up where I left off come late Tuesday and into Wednesday. I always forget how truly miserable having the flu is, sleep is the only escape, even something as mind-numbing as TV isn’t easy as everything hurts. However, kitty snuggles are always wonderful.

Sickness aside, strict adherence to taking Saturdays off has helped my stress. I really look forward to my Saturdays when I can relax for a bit, read, watch TV, play video games, visit an exhibit at a museum or make progress in learning how to draw. I’m finally at the point where I no longer feel guilty for taking this time, and it’s pretty refreshing to simply ignore all email and social media for a day, even if I do have the impulse to check both. It turns out it’s not so bad to disconnect for a weekend day, and I come back somewhat refreshed on Sunday. It ultimately does make me more productive during the rest of the week too, and less likely to just check out in the middle of the week in a guiltful and poorly-timed evening of pizza, beer and television.

This Saturday MJ and I enjoyed All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It was a fantastic exhibit. I’m a total sucker for the entrepreneurial American story of Walt Disney and I love trains, so the mix of the two was really inspiring. This is particularly true as I find my own hobbies being as work-like and passion-driven as my actual work. Walt’s love of trains and creation of a train at his family home in order to have a hobby outside work led to trains at Disney parks around the world. So cool.

No photos are allowed in the exhibit, but I did take some time around the buildings to capture some signs and the beautiful day in the Presidio: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650347931082/

One evening over these past few weeks took time to put together a scrap book, which I’d been joking about for years (“ticket stub? I’ll keep it for my scrap book!”). Several months ago I dug through drawers and things to find all my “scrap book things” and put them into a bag, collecting everything from said ticket stubs to conference badges from the past 5 years. I finally swung by a craft store recently and picked up some rubber cement, good clear tape and an empty book made for the purpose. Armed with these tools, I spent about 3 hours gluing and taping things into the book one evening after work. The result is a mess, not at all beautiful, but one that I appreciate now that it exists.

I mentioned in my last “life” blog post that I was finishing a services migration from one of my old servers. That’s now done, I shut off my old VPS yesterday. It was pretty sad when I realized I’d been using that VPS for 7 years when the level plan I had offered a mere 360M of RAM (up to 2G now), I had gotten kind of attached! But that faded today when I did an upgrade on my new server and realized how much faster it is. On to bigger and better things! In other computer news, I’m really pushing hard on promoting the upcoming Ubuntu Global Jam here in the city and spent Wednesday evening of this week hosting a small Ubuntu Hour, thankful that it was the only event of the evening as I continued to need rest post-flu.

Today is a Monday, but a holiday in the US. I spent it catching up with work for Partimus in the morning, Ubuntu in the afternoon and this evening I’m currently avoiding doing more work around the house by writing this blog post. I’m happy to say that we did get some tricky light bulbs replaced and whipped out the wood glue in an attempt to give some repair love to the bathroom cabinet. Now off to do some laundry and cat-themed chores before spending a bit more time on my book.

San Francisco Ubuntu Global Jam at Gandi.net on Sunday February 8th

For years Gandi.net has been a strong supporter of Open Source communities and non-profits. From their early support of Debian to their current support of Ubuntu via discounts to Ubuntu Members they’ve been directly supportive of projects I’m passionate about. I was delighted when I heard they had opened an office in my own city of San Francisco, and they’ve generously offered to host the next Ubuntu Global Jam for the Ubuntu California team right here at their office in the city.

Gandi.net

+

Ubuntu

=

Jam for days
Jam!

What’s an Ubuntu Global Jam? From the FAQ on the wiki:

A world-wide online and face-to-face event to get people together to work on Ubuntu projects – we want to get as many people online working on things, having a great time doing so, and putting their brick in the wall for free software as possible. This is not only a great opportunity to really help Ubuntu, but to also get together with other Ubuntu fans to make a difference together, either via your LoCo team, your LUG, other free software group, or just getting people together in your house/apartment to work on Ubuntu projects and have a great time.

The event will take place on Sunday, February 8th from noon – 5PM at the Gandi offices on 2nd street, just south of Mission.

Community members will gather to do some Quality Assurance testing on Xubuntu ISOs and packages for the upcoming release, Vivid Vervet, using the trackers built for this purpose. We’re focusing on Xubuntu because that’s the project I volunteer with and I can help put us into contact with the developers as we test the ISOs and submit bugs. The ISO tracker and package tracker used for Xubuntu are used for all recognized flavors of Ubuntu, so what you learn from this event will transfer into testing for Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and all the rest.

No experience with Testing or Quality Assurance is required and Quality Assurance is not as boring as it sounds, honest :) Plus, one of the best things about doing testing on your hardware is that your bugs are found and submitted prior to release, increasing the chances significantly that any bugs that exist with your hardware are fixed prior to release!

The event will begin with a presentation that gives a tour of how manual testing is done on Ubuntu releases. From there we’ll be able to do Live Testing, Package Testing and Installation testing as we please, working together as we confirm bugs and when we get stuck. Installation Testing is the only one that requires you to make any changes to the laptop you bring along, so feel free to bring along one you can do Live and Package testing on if you’re not able to do installations on your hardware.

I’ll also have the following two laptops for folks to do testing on if they aren’t able to bring along a laptop:

I’ll also be bringing along DVDs and USB sticks with the latest daily builds for tests to be done and some notes about how to go about submitting bugs.

Please RSVP here (full address also available at this link):

http://loco.ubuntu.com/events/ubuntu-california/2984-ubuntu-california-san-francisco-qa-jam/

Or email me at lyz@ubuntu.com if you’re interested in attending and have trouble with or don’t wish to RSVP through the site. Also please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in helping out (it’s ok if you don’t know about QA, I need logistical and promotional help too!).

Food and drinks will be provided, the current menu is a platter of sandwiches and some pizzas, so please let me know if you have dietary restrictions so we can place orders accordingly. I’d hate to exclude folks because of our menu, so I’m happy to accommodate vegan, gluten free, whatever you need, I just need to know :)

Finally, giveaways of Ubuntu stickers and pens for everyone and a couple Ubuntu books (hopefully signed by the authors!) will also be available to a few select attendees.

Somewhere other than San Francisco and interested in hosting or attending an event? The Ubuntu Global Jam is an international event with teams focusing on a variety of topics, details at: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGlobalJam. Events currently planned for this Jam can be found via this link: http://loco.ubuntu.com/events/global/2967/

New year, Snowpiercer, Roads of Arabia and projects

I’ve been home for a week now, and strongly resisted the temptation to go complete hermit and stay home to work furiously on my personal projects as the holidays brought several Day Job days off. On New Year’s Eve MJ and I went over to ring in the new year with my friend Mark and his beautiful kitty. On Friday I met up with my friend mct to see Snowpiercer over at Castro Theater. I’m a huge fan of that Theater, but until now had only ever gone to see hybrid live+screen shows related to MST3K, first a Rifftrax show and then a Cinematic Titanic show. It was a nice theater to see a movie in, they make it very dark and then slowly bring up the lights at the end through the credits to welcome you back to the world. A gentle welcome was much needed for Snowpiercer, it was very good but very intense, after watching that I didn’t have it in me to stick around for the double feature (particularly not another one with a train!).

I have watched even less TV than usual lately, lacking time and patience for it (getting bored easily). But MJ and I did start watching Star Trek: Voyager. It turns out that it’s very Classic Trek feeling (meet new aliens every episode!) and I’m enjoying it a lot. I know people really love Deep Space Nine, and I did enjoy it too, but it was always a bit too dark and serious for my old fashioned Trek taste. Voyager is a nice journey back to the Trek style I love, plus, Captain Janeway is totally my hero.

This past Saturday MJ and I had a relaxing day, the highlight of which was the Roads of Arabia exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It’s one of my favorite museums in the city, and I was really excited to see a full exhibit focused on the middle east, particularly with my trip to Oman on the horizon. It also inspired me for my trip, I’d been advised that it’s common to buy frankincense while in Oman, but I already have what seems like a lifetime supply, I’m now thinking I might try to find a pretty incense burner.


No photos allowed of the exhibit, with the exception of
this statue, where they encouraged selifes

Our wedding photos have finally gotten some attention. It’s been over a year and a half and the preview of photos has been limited to what our photographer shared on Facebook. Sorry everyone. I’ve mostly gone through them now and just need to take some time to put together a website for them. Maybe over this weekend.

My book has also seen progress, but sometimes I also like to write on paper. While going through my huge collection of pens-from-conferences I decided that I write notes enough to treat myself to a nicer pen than these freebies. Through my explorations of pens on the internet, I came across the Preppy Plaisir fountain pen. I’d never used a fountain pen before, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Now, I won’t forsake all other pens moving forward, but I do have to admit that I quite like this pen.


Naturally, I got the pink one

I did manage to catch up on some personal “work” things. Got a fair amount of Ubuntu project work done, including securing a venue and sponsorship for an upcoming Ubuntu Global Jam here in San Francisco and working out travel for a couple upcoming conferences. Also have almost completed the migration of websites and services from one of my old servers to a bigger, cheaper one, and satisfied the prerequisite of re-configuring my monitoring and backups of all my servers in preparation for the new one. Now I’m just waiting for some final name propagation and holding out in case I forgot something on the old server. At least I have backups.

Work on Partimus has been very quiet in recent months. There’s been a movement locally to deploy ChromeBooks in classrooms rather than traditional systems with full operating systems. These work well as many tools that teachers use, including some of the standardized testing tools, have moved to online tools. This is something we noticed back when we were still deploying larger labs of Ubuntu-based systems as we worked hard to tune the systems for optimal performance of Firefox with the latest Java and Flash. Our focus now has turned to education-focused community centers and groups who are seeking computers to do more application and programming focused tasked, I hope to have news about our newest projects in the works soon. I did have the opportunity last week to meet up with an accountant to go over our books, working pro-bono I was thankful for his time and ability to confirm we’re doing everything correctly. I’m not fired as Treasurer, hooray!

Ubuntu California in 2014

Inspired by the post by Riccardo Padovani about the awesome year that Ubuntu Italy had, I welcome you to a similar one for Ubuntu California for events I participated in.

The year kicked off with our annual support of the Southern California Linux Expo with SCaLE12x. The long weekend began with an Ubucon on Friday, and then a team booth on Saturday and Sunday in the expo hall. There were a lot of great presentations at Ubucon and a streamlined look to the Ubuntu booth with a great fleet of volunteers. I wrote about the Ubuntu-specific bits of SCaLE12x here. Unfortunately I have a scheduling conflict, but you can look for the team again at SCaLE this February with an Ubucon and Ubuntu booth in the main expo hall.


Ubuntu booth at SCale12x

In April, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was released with much fanfare in San Francisco as we hosted a release party at a local company called AdRoll, which uses Ubuntu in their day to day operations. Attendees were treated with demos of a variety of flavors of Ubuntu, a couple Nexus 7s with Ubuntu on them, book giveaways, a short presentation about the features of 14.04 and a pile of pizza and cookies, courtesy of Ubuntu Community Donations Funding.


Ubuntu release party in San Francisco

More details and photos from that party here.

In May, carrying the Ubuntu California mantle, I did a pair of presentations about 14.04 for a couple of local groups, (basic slides here). The first was a bit of a drive down to Felton, California where I was greeted at the firehouse by the always welcoming FeltonLUG members. In addition to my presentation, I was able to bring along several laptops running Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu and a Nexus 7 tablet running Ubuntu for attendees to check out.


Ubuntu at FeltonLUG

Back up in San Francisco, I presented at Bay Area Linux Users Group and once again had the opportunity to show off my now well-traveled bag of 14.04 laptops and tablet.


Ubuntu at BALUG

As the year continued, my travel schedule picked up and I mostly worked on hosting regular Ubuntu Hours in San Francisco.

Some featuring a Unicorn…

And an Ubuntu Hour in December finally featuring a Vervet!

December 31st marked my last day as a member of the Ubuntu California leadership trio. I took on this role back in 2010 and in that time have seen a lot of maturity come out of our team and events, from commitment of team members to host regular events to the refinement of our booths each year at the Southern California Linux Expo. I’m excited to see 2015 kick off with the election of an entirely new leadership trio, announced on January 1st, comprised of: Nathan Haines (nhaines), Melissa Draper (elky) and Brendan Perrine (ianorlin). Congratulations! I know you’ll all do a wonderful job. In spite of clearing out to make room for the new leadership team, I’ll still be active in the LoCo, with regular Ubuntu Hours in San Francisco and an Ubuntu Global Jam event coming up on February 8th, details here.

The Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter and other ways to contribute to Ubuntu

Today, the last day of 2014, I’ve taken some time to look back on some of my biggest accomplishments. There have been the big flashy things, lots of travel, lots of talks and the release of The Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition. What a great year!

Then there is the day to day stuff, one of which is the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter.

Every week we work to collect news from around our community and the Internet to bring together a snapshot of that week in Ubuntu. I’ve used the Newsletter archive to glimpse into where we were 6 years ago, and many folks depend on the newsletter each week to get the latest dose of collected news.

In 2014 we released 49 issues. Each one of these issues is the result of a team of contributors who collect links for our newsletter (typically Paul White and myself) and then a weekend of writing summaries for many of these collected articles, where again Paul White has been an exceptional contributor, with several others pitching here and there for a few issues. We then do some editorial review. Release takes place on Monday, where we post to several community resources (forums, discourse, mailing lists, fridge) and across our social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Google+), this is usually done by myself or José Antonio Rey. In all, I’d estimate that creating a newsletter takes about 6-8 hours of people time each week. Not a small investment! And one that is shared largely on a week by week basis between the core of three contributors.

We need your help.

Plus, kicking off the new year by contributing to open source is a great way to start!

We specifically need folks to help write summaries over the weekend. All links and summaries are stored in a Google Doc, so you don’t need to learn any special documentation formatting or revision control software to participate. Plus, everyone who participates is encouraged to add their name to the credits.

Summary writers. Summary writers receive an email every Friday evening (or early Saturday) with a link to the collaborative news links document for the past week which lists all the articles that need 2-3 sentence summaries. These people are vitally important to the newsletter. The time commitment is limited and it is easy to get started with from the first weekend you volunteer. No need to be shy about your writing skills, we have style guidelines to help you on your way and all summaries are reviewed before publishing so it’s easy to improve as you go on.

Interested? Email editor.ubuntu.news@ubuntu.com and we’ll get you added to the list of folks who are emailed each week.

Finally, I grepped through our archives and want to thank the following people who’ve contributed this year:

  • Paul White
  • José Antonio Rey
  • Jim Connett
  • Emily Gonyer
  • Gim H
  • John Kim
  • Esther Schindler
  • Nathan Dyer
  • David Morfin
  • Tiago Carrondo
  • Diego Turcios
  • Penelope Stowe
  • Neil Oosthuizen
  • John Mahoney
  • Aaron Honeycutt
  • Mathias Hellsten
  • Stephen Michael Kellat
  • Sascha Manns
  • Walter Lapchynski

Thank you all!

Looking for some other way to contribute? I was fortunate in 2014 to speak at two Ubucons in the United States, at the Southern California Linux Expo and then at Fossetcon in Florida. At both these events I gave presentations on how to contribute to Ubuntu without any programming experience required, I dove into more thoroughly here in my blog:

Want more? Explore community.ubuntu.com for a variety of other opportunities to contribute to the Ubuntu community.

The adventures of 2014

I had a great year in 2013, highlighted by getting married to MJ and starting a new job that I continue to be really happy with. 2014 ended up being characterized by how much travel I’ve done, and a side trip down having the first surgery of my life.

Travel-wise I broke the 100k in-flight miles barrier, with a total of 101,170 in air miles. I traveled at least once a month and was able to add Australia to my continents list this year. The beaches in Perth were beautiful, and with January in the middle of their summer, it was certainly beach weather when I went!

Visiting family didn’t take a back seat this year, I spent a week up in Maine staying with my sister Annette, my nephew Xavier and visiting with my mother and her kitties. Plus, got a nice dose of snow along with it! Very enjoyable when I’m in a warm home and don’t have to drive.

I also was able to stick family visits onto a couple Florida trips and we went to the weddings of MJ’s cousin and sister in the fall. But much of my travel was for work, with a variety of conferences this year, all travel:


Really enjoyed walking the streets of friendly Zagreb, Croatia

First time out of an airport in Germany during my visit to Darmstadt!

My first time in Paris, need I say more?

Jamaica was beautiful and relaxing

But it wasn’t all traveling to conferences, I did HP booth duty at the Open Business Conference in May (wrap-up post) and presented at PuppetConf in September (wrap-up post), both here in San Francisco. I also did some personal conference geekery with my friend Danita Fries by attending Google I/O for the first time in June (wrap-up post).

I also gave a number of talks, sometimes double or tripling up during a conference. I learned that doing 3 talks at a conference is 1-2 talks too many.


Thanks to Vedran Papeš for this photo from DORS/CLUC in Croatia, source

Plus, I had my first book published over the summer! Working with Matthew Helmke and José Antonio Rey, the Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition was released in July.


The Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition, July 2014

2014 also made me one organ lighter as of July with the removal of my gallbladder after a few months of diagnostics and pain. It certainly complicated some of my travel, making me spend the shortest amount of time possible in both Croatia and Germany, both countries I wish I could have explored more during my trips.

So far for 2015 I believe I’ll have a slightly less busy year travel-wise, but my first two trips are international, the first to Brussels for my first FOSDEM and then in February off to Oman for FOSSC Oman. Looking for a great, and healthier year in 2015!

Tourist in St. Louis

This past long weekend I decided to take one final trip of the year. I admit, part of the reason for having any year end trip was to hit the 100k flight miles this year. This was purely for hitting that real number, it doesn’t help me get any kind of status since my miles are split between 2 alliances due to the USAirways split from Star Alliance during their American Airlines merger.

So I had a look at a map. Where have I never been, have friends I can crash with and is at least 1200 miles away? St. Louis!

I flew in on Christmas and met up with my friend Ryan who I’d be staying with. Options were limited for food, but we were able to snag some tickets at an AMC Dine-in theater so I could see the final Hobbit movie and get some food.

Friday Ryan had work, so I met up with my friend Eric and his wife Kristin for a day at the St. Louis Zoo. Routinely ranked among the top five in the country, I was pretty excited to go. The zoo is also free and the weather was exceptionally nice for the end of December in Missouri, with highs around 57 degrees. Perfect day for the zoo!


Eric and I with the giraffes

Some of the exhibits were closed for renovation (penguins!) but I really enjoyed the big cats and the primate house and herpetarium. They also did something really clever with their underwater exhibit: rather than having a shark tunnel that you can walk under, it’s a seal lion tunnel. The cool thing about sea lions is that they’re interactive, so zoo goers learned that if you throw a ball (or baseball cap) around in the tunnel, the sea lions will chase it. So cute and fun!

More photos from the zoo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157649609657700/

Saturday and Sunday I hung out with Ryan. First stop on Saturday was the City Museum. The website doesn’t really do the insanity of this place justice, “big playground” doesn’t really do it either. We started off by going through the museum’s “caves” where you walk and climb through all kinds of man made caves, with dragons and other creatures carved into the walls. Once you get through those, you find yourself going up a series of metal stairways and landings with one goal: to get to the 10 story slide. I did it, and managed not to throw up afterwards (though it was a bit touch and go for a couple minutes!).


In the City Museum caves

The museum also features all kinds of eclectic collections, from massive carved stone pieces to doorknobs to every Lego train set ever made. For an additional fee, the second floor has the World Aquarium with a variety of animals, aquatic and not. I’d probably skip the aquarium next time, the exhibits were cramped and I wasn’t too impressed with the cage/tank sizes for most of the animals.

Finally, there’s the outdoor MonstroCity, described as: “A captivating collision of old and new, architectural castoffs and post-apocalyptic chaos, MonstroCity is at once interactive sculpture and playground. Comprised of wrought iron slinkies, fire trucks, stone turrets, airplane fuselages, slides of all sizes and shapes” – yep, that’s about right. Like the caves, there were all kinds of places to climb through, with adults having as much fun as the kids. The structures were quite wet and I was feeling very old at this point, so I kept my own explorations pretty conservative, taking walkways and stairways everywhere I went, including to both of the airplane fuselages. Even so, there were some scary moments as parts of the structure move slightly as you walk on them. I was a bit sore after my City Museum trip with all the climbing and head bumping (low ceilings!), but it really was a lot of fun.


MonstroCity

Also, pro-tip: I enjoyed taking photos throughout my visit, but holding on to a camera and phone while climbing everywhere was quite a challenge at times, even with my hoodie pockets. If you can do without having a photographic record of your visit, it may be more fun to leave the electronics in the car. More photos from City Museum here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157647687508774/

After City Museum, we headed over to Schafly Bottleworks to do a brewery tour. As a big beer fan, I was excited to see one of the several craft breweries that sit in the shadow of giant Anheuser-Busch that also calls St. Louis home. The tour was fun, and was followed by a tasting. They make some great ales, but I was particularly impressed with their Tasmanian IPA, which uses Australian Topaz and Tasmanian Galaxy hops for a nice, complex taste. We skipped lunch at the brewery to head over to Imo’s Pizza, with the super thin crust and Provel cheese, this St. Louis classic was a must. Yum!

Our evening was spent with at Three Sixty rooftop bar downtown, with a great view of the Arch, and then over to Baily’s Chocolate Bar for some fantastic dessert.

Sunday! This being a short trip, I packed in as much as possible, so Sunday began with 10:30AM tickets for the Gateway Arch. Getting there early was a good move, by the time we left around 11:15 the line for security into the facility was quite long, and with the weather taking a turn for the colder (around 32 degrees!) it was nice to not have to wait in such a long line in the cold. The trip up to the top of the arch began with a ride in their little super 1960s-style trams:

At the top, 630 ft (63 stories) up, there are small 7″x27″ windows where you can see the Mississippi river and the city of St. Louis. Going to the top was definitely a must, but we didn’t stay up too long because it was quite busy and the views were limited with such small windows.

Also a must, an arch photo:

And arch tourist in this, my St. Louis blog post:

We had lunch over in Ballpark Village at the Budweiser Brew House before heading off on our last adventure of the trip: The Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour. Now, I’m not actually a fan of Budweiser. It’s rice-based beer and I don’t care for lagers in general, being more of an ale fan (and fan of hops!). But I was in St. Louis, I am a beer fan, and the idea of visiting the home of the biggest beer company in the world was compelling. We did the Day Fresh Brewery Tour. We got a couple samples throughout the tour, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the the Michelob AmberBock, while still quite mild for a Bock, it was smooth and didn’t have any unpleasant aftertaste. The tour gave us an opportunity to visit the Budweiser Clydesdales, who have a pretty amazing building to live in (beautiful, heated, wood paneling, nicer than most human houses!). From there was a tour of the Brew House and Clock Tower and finally the BEVO Packaging Plant where they have their canning and bottling lines which run 24/7. But my favorite thing on the whole tour? The hop vine chandeliers in the historical brew house. Our tour guide told us they were bought by the company from the 1904 World’s Fair.

More photos from the brewery tour here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157647696859563/

And with that, my trip wound down. We snagged some roast beef sandwiches to enjoy with a movie before I went to bed early to be up at 4AM for my 5:50AM flight back home via Denver. Huge thanks to Ryan for putting me up in his guest room the long weekend and driving me around town as we did our whirlwind tour of his city!

More generic St. Louis photos collected in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157647695764113/

I think I’ll go for a… oh bother

Last December I wrote about taking up running. I had some fantastic weeks, I was gaining stamina and finding actual value in my new found ability to run (late to the train? I can run!). I never really grew to like it, and as I got up to 25 minutes of solid (even if slow) running I really had to push myself, but things were going well.

Then, in April, I got sick. This kicked off my whole gallbladder ordeal. Almost 4 months of constant pain, changes in my diet to avoid triggers to increased pain. Running was out entirely, anything that bounced me around that much was not tolerable. The diet changes tended toward carbs, and away from meats and fats. The increased carbs and death of my exercise routine was a disaster for me weight-wise. Add on the busiest travel year of my life and all the stress and poor eating choices that come with travel, and I’ve managed to put on 30lbs this year, landing me at the heaviest I’ve ever been.

I don’t feel good about this.

By September I was recovered enough to start running again, but sneaking in discipline to exercise into my travel schedule proved tricky. They also don’t tell you how much harder it is to exercise when you’re heavy – all that extra weight to carry around! Particularly as I run, soreness in my feet has been my key issue, where previously I’d only had trouble with joint (knee) pain here and there. I picked up running again for a couple weeks in late November, but then the rain started in San Francisco. December has been unusually soggy. One of the reasons I picked running as my exercise of choice was because we actually have nice weather most of the time, so this was quite the disappointment.

But I haven’t given up! I did start Couch to 5k over, but so far it’s not nearly as hard as the first time around, so I didn’t lose all the ground I gained earlier in the year. Here’s to 2015 being a healthier year for me.

Simcoe’s December 2014 Checkup

Simcoe was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) back in December of 2011, so it’s been a full three years since her diagnosis!

Still, she doesn’t enjoy the quarterly vet visits. We took her in on December 6th and she was determined to stay in her carrier and not look at me.


“I’m mad at you”

We’re keeping up with subcutaneous fluid injections every other day to keep her hydrated, and it has been keeping her pretty stable. This latest round of tests did show a slight decrease in her weight from 9.94lbs to 9.74lbs.

Weight

Her BUN level remained steady, and CRE rose a bit from 3.8 to 4.2.

BUN: 59 (normal range: 14-36)
CRE: 4.2 (normal range: .6-2.4)

Her calcium levels also came back a little high, so we scheduled some fasted blood work for this past weekend. We took the opportunity to also bring Caligula in for his annual exam.

Caligula is doing well, he just turned 11 years old and our only concern was some staining on his iris, which the vet took a look at and confirmed was just pigmentation changes that are common with aging. His blood work looks good, though also shows some slightly elevated calcium levels.


Simcoe was taken in the back with the carrier, Caligula got the leash

We still have one follow-up call with Simcoe’s vet to chat about the calcium levels, but the vet on duty who delivered the results didn’t seem concerned since they’ve been elevated for some time and are just slightly above normal.

The only other current struggle is supplies. Following some quality control issues with one of the manufacturers, the Lactated Ringer’s solution we give subcutaneously went through a period of severe shortage (article here). The market seems to be recovering, but we’re now navigating a world with different bag manufacturers and canceled out of stock orders from our pharmacy. Hoping 2015 will be a better year with regard to this shortage, it wasn’t only kitties who were impacted by this problem!