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Last week I was in Philadelphia, which was fun and I got to do some Ubuntu stuff but I was actually there to speak at FOSSCON. It’s not the largest open source conference, but it is in my adopted home city of Philadelphia and I have piles of friends, mentors and family there. I love attending FOSSCON because I get to catch up with so many people, making it a very hug-heavy conference. I sadly missed it last year, but I made sure to come out this year.

They also invited me to give a closing keynote. After some back and forth about topics, I ended up with a talk on “Listening to the Needs of Your Global Open Source Community” but more on that later.

I kicked off my morning by visiting my friends at the Ubuntu booth, and meeting up with my OpenStack and HPE colleague Ma Dong who had flown in from Beijing to join us. I made sure we got our picture taken by the beautiful Philadelphia-themed banner that the HPE open source office designed and sent for the event.

At 11AM I gave my regular track talk, “A Tour Of OpenStack Deployment Scenarios.” My goal here was to provide a gentle introduction, with examples, of the basics of OpenStack and how it may be used by organizations. My hope is that the live demos of launching instances from the Horizon web UI and OpenStack client were particularly valuable in making the connection between the concepts of building a cloud the actual tooling you might use. The talk was well-attended and I had some interesting chats later in the day. I learned that a number of the attendees are currently using proprietary cloud offerings and looking for options to in-house some of that.

The demos were very similar to the tutorial I gave at SANOG earlier this month, but the talk format was different. Notes from demos here and slides (219K).

Thanks to Ma Dong for taking a picture during my talk! (source)

For lunch I joined other sponsors at the sponsor lunch over at the wonderful White Dog Cafe just a couple blocks from the venue. Then it was a quick dash back to the venue for Ma Dong’s talk on “Continuous Integration And Delivery For Open Source Development.”

He outlined some of the common mechanisms for CI/CD in open source projects, and how the OpenStack project has solved them for a project that eclipses most others in size, scale and development pace. Obviously it’s a topic I’m incredibly familiar with, but I appreciated his perspective as a contributor who comes from an open source CI background and has now joined us doing QA in OpenStack.

Ma Dong on Open Source CI/CD

After his talk it was also nice to sit down for a bit to chat about some of the latest changes in the OpenStack Infrastructure. We were able to catch up about the status of our Zuul tooling and general direction of some of our other projects and services. The day continued with some chats about Jenkins, Nodepool and how we’ve played around with infrastructure tooling to cover some interesting side cases. It was really fun to meet up with some new folks doing CI things to swap tips and stories.

Just before my keynote I attended the lightning talks for a few minutes, but had to depart early to get set up in the big room.

They keynote on “Listening to the Needs of Your Global Open Source Community” was a completely new talk for me. I wrote the abstract for it a few weeks ago for another conference CFP after the suggestion from my boss. The talk walked through eight tips for facilitating the collection of feedback from your community as one of the project leaders or infrastructure representatives.

  • Provide a simple way for contributors to contact project owners
  • Acknowledge every piece of feedback
  • Stay calm
  • Communicate potential changes and ask for feedback
  • Check in with teams
  • Document your processes
  • Read between the lines
  • Stick to your principles

With each of these, I gave some examples from my work mostly in the Ubuntu and OpenStack communities. Some of the examples were pretty funny, and likely very familiar with any systems folks who are interfacing with users. The Q&A at the end of the presentation was particularly interesting, I was very focused on open source projects since that’s where my expertise lies, but members of the audience felt that my suggestions were more broadly applicable. In those moments after my talk I was invited to speak on a podcast and encouraged to write a series of articles related to my talk. Now I’m aiming for writing some OpenSource.com content on over the next couple weeks.

Slides from the talk are here (7.3M pdf).

And thanks to Josh, José, Vincent and Nathan for snapping some photos of the talk too!

The conference wound down and following the keynote with a raffle and we then went our separate ways. For me, it was time for spending time with friends over a martini.

A handful of other photos from the conference here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671843605132

Wandering around Philadelphia

Philadelphia is my figurative (and may soon be literal…) second home. Visits are always filled with activities, events, friends and family. This trip was a considerably less structured. I flew in several days before the conference I was attending and stayed in my friend’s guest room, and didn’t take much time off from work, instead working from a couch most of the week with my little dog friend Blackie.

I did have some time for adventuring throughout the week though, taking a day off to check out The Science Behind Pixar exhibit down at The Franklin Institute with a friend. On our way down we stopped at Pudge’s in Conshohocken to satisfy my chicken cheesesteak craving. It hit the spot.

Then we were off to the city! The premise of the exhibit seemed to be trying to encourage youth into STEM fields by way of the creative processes and interesting jobs at a company like Pixar. As such, they walked you through various phases of production of Pixar films and have hands-on exhibits that let you simply play around with the themes of what professionals in the industry do. It’s probably a good idea to encourage interest, even if a museum exhibit can’t begin to tackle the complexity of these fields, as a technologist I agree that the work is ultimately fun and exciting.

But let’s be honest, I’m an adult who already has an STEM career and I’ve been a Pixar fan since the beginning. I was there so I could get selfies with Wall-E (and Buzz, Sully and Mike, Edna Mode, Dory…).

A few more photos from the exhibit here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671629547292

We had the whole afternoon, so I also got to see the Lost Egypt exhibit, which was fun to see after the Egypt exhibit I saw at de Young last month. We went to a couple planetarium shows and also got all the nostalgia on as I revisited all the standing exhibits. Like the trains. I love the trains. The Franklin Institute is definitely one of my favorite museums.

That evening I also got to check out the new Hive76 location. The resurgence of hackerspaces had just started when I left Philly, and while I was never super involved, I did host a few “PLUG into Hive” meetings there when I was coordinating the LUG and had friends at Hive. It was nice getting to see their new space. After dinner I had the amusing experience of going to catch Pokémon in a park after dark, along with several other folks who were there for the same reason. There really is something to be said for a game that gets people out of their house at night to go for walks and socialize over augmented reality. Even if I didn’t catch any new Pokémon. Hah!

Wednesday and Thursday nights I spent time with my best buddies Danita and Crissi. Dinner, drinks, lots of good chatting. It had absolutely been too much time since we’d spend time together, spending time catching up was just the thing I needed. I’ll have to make sure I don’t let so much time pass between getting together in the future.

More photos from various wanderings this past week (including dinosaurs!) here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671629567332

And then MJ and I spent Friday and Sunday on a secret mission before flying home. I’ll write more about that once it becomes unclassified.

Ubuntu in Philadelphia

Last week I traveled to Philadelphia to spend some time with friends and speak at FOSSCON. While I was there, I noticed a Philadelphia area Linux Users Group (PLUG) meeting would land during that week and decided to propose a talk on Ubuntu 16.04.

But first I happened to be out getting my nails done with a friend on Sunday before my talk. Since I was there, I decided to Ubuntu theme things up again. Drawing freehand, the manicurist gave me some lovely Ubuntu logos.

Girly nails aside, that’s how I ended up at The ATS Group on Monday evening for a PLUG West meeting. They had a very nice welcome sign for the group. Danita and I arrived shortly after 7PM for the Q&A portion of the meeting. This pre-presentation time gave me the opportunity to pass around my BQ Aquaris M10 tablet running Ubuntu. After the first unceremonious pass, I sent it around a second time with more of an introduction, and the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo so people could see convergence in action by switching between the tablet and desktop view. Unlike my previous presentations, I was traveling so I didn’t have my bag of laptops and extra tablet, so that was the extent of the demos.

The meeting was very well attended and the talk went well. It was nice to have folks chiming in on a few of the topics (like the transition to systemd) and there were good questions. I also was able to give away a copy of our The Official Ubuntu Book, 9th Edition to an attendee who was new to Ubuntu.

Keith C. Perry shared a video of the talk on G+ here. Slides are similar to past talks, but I added a couple since I was presenting on a Xubuntu system (rather than Ubuntu) and didn’t have pure Ubuntu demos available: slides (7.6M PDF, lots of screenshots).

After the meeting we all had an enjoyable time at The Office, which I hadn’t been to since moving away from Philadelphia almost seven years ago.

Thanks again to everyone who came out, it was nice to meet a few new folks and catch up with a bunch of people I haven’t seen in several years.

Saturday was FOSSCON! The Ubuntu Pennsylvania LoCo team showed up to have a booth, staffed by long time LoCo member Randy Gold.

They had Ubuntu demos, giveaways from the Ubuntu conference pack (lanyards, USB sticks, pins) and I dropped off a copy of the Ubuntu book for people to browse, along with some discount coupons for folks who wanted to buy it. My Ubuntu tablet also spent time at the table so people could play around with that.

Thanks to Randy for the booth photo!

At the conference closing, we had three Ubuntu books to raffle off! They seemed to go to people who appreciated them and since both José and I attended the conference, the raffle winners had 2/3 of the authors there to sign the books.

My co-author, José Antonio Rey, signing a copy of our book!

A lecture, a symphony and a lot of street cars

My local July adventures weren’t confined to mummies, baseball and food. I also attended a few shows a lectures.

On July 14th I met up with a friend to see a Kevin Kelly speak on The Next 30 Digital Years, put on by The Long Now Foundation. This lecture covered a series of trends (not specific technologies) that Kelly felt would drive the future. This included proliferation of “screens” on a variety of surfaces to meet our ever-increasing desire to be connected to media we now depend on in our work and lives. He also talked about the rise of augmented reality, increased tracking for increased personalization of services (with a sidebar about privacy) and increasing sharing economy, where access continues to replace ownership.

What I enjoyed most about this talk was how optimistic he was. Even while tackling difficult topics like privacy in a very connected world, he was incredibly positive about what our future holds in store for us. This held true even when questions from the audience expressed more pessimistic views.

In a weekend that revolved around events near City Hall, the very next evening I went to the San Francisco Symphony for the first time. As SciFi fan who has a sidebar love for movie scores, my introduction to the symphony here was appropriately Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage — A 50th Anniversary Celebration (article). The event featured the full symphony, with a screen above them that showed clips and a narrated exploration through the Star Trek universe as they played scores from movies and selections from each series. They definitely focused on TOS and TNG, but there was decent representation of the rest. I also learned that SF trekkies really like Janeway. Me too. It was a really fun night.

We also went to an event put on by the Western Neighborhoods Project (WNP), Streetcar San Francisco: Transit Tales of the City in Motion at Balboa Theatre.

The event featured short films and clips of historic streetcars and expertise from folks over at Market Street Railway (which may have been how I heard about it). The clips covered the whole city, including a lot of downtown as they walked us through some the milestones and transit campaigns in the history of the city. It was particularly interesting to learn about the street cars in the west side of the city, where they used to have have a line that ran up around Land’s End, and some neat (or tacky) hanging “sky-trams” which took you from Cliff House to Point Lobos, an article about them here: A Brief History of San Francisco’s Long-Lost Sky Tram, which also references the WNP page about them.

This event also clued me in to the existence of OpenSF History by WNP. They’re going through a collection of historic San Francisco photos that have been donated and are now being digitized, indexed and shared online. Very fun to browse through, and there are great pictures of historic streetcars and other transit.

The West, Mummies and Baseball

I spent most of July at home, which gave us time to take some time get over to the Legion of Honor for an exhibit I was looking forward to, and to another Giants game this season.

The exhibit I wanted to see was Wild West: Plains to the Pacific. There are absolutely heartbreaking things about the west story, but I grew up on westerns and stories of wagon trains. I have a visceral connection to the west story. People from the east building their new life out west, braving hardship and heartbreak. Even my own move west was a re-invention of myself. So I was definitely drawn to this exhibit.

The exhibit takes you through various periods of time, from the frontier to present day. Journeys by the first artists who captured the beauty of the western territories, wild west shows, farmers and beyond. Some of the most striking images were those advertising fruit boxes from California, each drawing distinction for their brand with bright colors and clever names.

While we were there, we decided to also go to a lecture that happened to be presented that day on “Mummies! The Medicine, Myths, and Marvels of Ancient Egyptian Mummification” by Charlotte Read which accompanied another exhibit they had, The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine. It was a great talk to see prior to seeing the exhibit, since she described many of the things we’d later see, including details about amulets, which played a prominent role and gave us a glimpse into the technologies they’re using today to peer under the wrapping of mummies, non-destructively.

The exhibit itself was quite small, only taking up one room, but it was worth seeing. You get to see the pair mummies themselves, along with facial reconstructions and the high resolution CT scans preformed on them. The exhibit also presented several of the artifacts that are often buried alongside mummies.

More photos from the Legion of Honor here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157667790231333

Later in the month we went to see the San Francisco Giants play over at the beautiful AT&T Park.

It was the second game we saw this season, and sadly they did not triumph this time. It was a good game to watch though, and the weather was beautiful. Plus, we had great company as a friend of ours joined us.

Local Edibles

San Francisco has a lot of great food, and more restaurants than we could possibly visit. Over the past month or so we’ve tried a couple more and returned to a couple of our favorites.

While MJ was working in the city, I finally got to visit Hakkasan, an upscale Cantonese restaurant. They have an array of delicious entrees, but their “small eats” and dim sum are exceptional. The food is also beautiful, upon receiving our first round of dishes, including the amazing Crispy prawn with mango, MJ asked where I wanted to start. “I want to start by taking a picture of my food!”

Our new dining adventures continued with a visit to Tadich Grill, arguably “the oldest continuously running restaurant in San Francisco” (via wikipedia). The place started out as a coffee stand in 1849 and has changed names and owners, making their “oldest” claim a bit tenuous, but however you count, it is an old place by San Francisco standards and they’ve been in their current location since 1967. They don’t take reservations, and we came in around 9PM and still had about a half hour wait along with the crowd that was mostly tourists. We were finally seated as one of the last seatings of the evening. They specialize in seafood dishes, and the wait staff where all wearing white jackets, looking pretty formal. The appetizers and entrees didn’t blow me away, but it was a decent seafood. What did make me happy was dessert, they have a solid carrot cake, which I’m not used to finding in San Francisco. Paired with a Claiborne & Churchill 2014 Dry Gewürztraminer, it was a perfect ending to the evening. As a bonus, it made me explore Claiborne & Churchill’s wines, and their selection of sweet wines is really nice, I’ve ordered a Port, a couple of their Muscats and of course some more Gewürztraminer.

We also recently joined friends for a dinner at Lazy Bear, which we first went to in December. As I wrote then, the seating is family style and they serve a fixed tasting menu. This time I also did the wine pairing, which was totally worth it, they had a really nice list of wines and the portions were nicely timed with the dishes.

Going to Lazy Bear is always an experience, more photos from the evening here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157669411350191

Last, but the most important, we went back to Jardiniere to celebrate our third wedding anniversary… a couple months late. I was traveling on our actual anniversary at the end of April, and then between trips and general being busy, it took until July to actually get reservations and settle on the evening. It was nice to finally go out to celebrate together. They have a variety of French inspired dishes that I love, but they prepare an amazing rare wagyu both proper the Japanese Wagyu, and American. We got one of each, along with a lovely dessert.

Local Critters

I already wrote about some of the local drinks we’ve been enjoying over these past few months, it’s time to move on to animals! Most of which have had their existence proven by science.

Back in April I made one of my standard pilgrimages to the San Francisco Zoo, where we’re members. This time we went with my sister and law and her husband, and the highlight of the visit for me was finally seeing little Jasiri, the lion cub. He was a bit hard to make out, hidden under the shade of a bush, but I was able to find him, near his mother Sukari.

Jasiri and Sukari

We made our usual stops, visiting the rescued sea lions, the grizzly sisters frolicking in their pool and of course to penguin island. I also got my first look at Claudia, the Andean Condor who recently became a resident there. I’ll have to go back soon, they opened up their new Mexican gray wolf exhibit in June and their Sifaka Lemur exhibit opens in a week.

Rainbow at Penguin Island

More photos from that visit to the San Francisco Zoo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157666612834551

During the same visit to San Francisco, the four of us also made our way up to Sausalito to visit the The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). It’s one of our favorite organizations, and following our donation this year they reached out to us to offer a tour, which we decided to take advantage of while we had family in town.

The volunteer spent about an hour with us, walking us through the public areas, including the holding pens where we saw the elephant seals being fed, a lab where they were doing blood analysis, their “fish kitchen” where they prepare food for the animals and over to their public autopsy area. He also demonstrated for us how they go about capturing the animal, joking that “everything is a seal, and everything is about 100 lbs” when people call in reports. In reality, they also rescue many sea lions as well and most of the animals are quite a bit heftier and powerful than the 100 lbs claim suggests.

We then went behind the scenes. The site is owned by the US government and the organization is granted use of what is actually and old missile facility. Part of the massive filtration system for all their tanks and pools is now located where they used to store missiles. Fortuitously, we also got to see a truck coming in with some newly rescued patients. A baby harbor seal was among the rescues, who we got to see unloaded and nearly broke my heart when he cried his “maaa” cry. He’s in excellent hands though, they do really great work there.

Picture taking behind the scenes was limited, but I do have several more photos The Marine Mammal Center here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157664556780964

Finally, I made a visit to a more… elusive critter. After giving an Ubuntu presentation at Felton LUG a few months ago, I took the opportunity of being in Felton to visit the Bigfoot Discovery Museum right down the street. It was amusing, but completely coincidental, that this visit came on the heels of my visit just weeks before to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine. It’s true that I’m terribly fascinated by the search for cryptids like bigfoot, but the skeptic in me won’t get me much further than fascination until there’s more solid evidence.

This museum walks you through the evidence that does exist, including various footprint casts, an analysis of the famous Patterson–Gimlin film and maps of reported sightings throughout northern California. There’s also nearly a full room devoted to the pop culture around the creatures, from toys to movie posters. The proprietor was enthusiastic about sharing stories with visitors about sightings and the evidence that exists, and hearing his enthusiasm for his work was alone worth the visit for me.

More photos from the museum here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157670265156315

Local Potions

As I look through my blog posts this year, I’ve noticed a very travel and conference-focused trend. It seems I’ve been really good about staying on top of writing about these things, and less so with some of our local adventures. At this point it seems I have to reach all the way back to April to start writing about what we’ve been up to, covering visits with friends and family, trips up to wine country, adventures to new theaters and the symphony. Instead of stepping through these chronologically, I thought it might be more interesting to group things up.

To begin, let’s talk about some of the wonderful things I’ve had to drink this year.

Back in April, my sister in law and her husband were in town visiting. When we have guests in town there’s a bunch of stuff we love to do, but it’s also fun to check off some of the attractions we haven’t seen yet either. That brought us to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Going into this I didn’t have any expectations, I wasn’t sure what it had, how big it was or anything. Now that I’ve been, I can definitely recommend a visit.

There’s a path that winds through the garden, taking you through various Japanese trees, flowers and other plants. Throughout they have pagodas of varied provenance, some created in Japan and shipped over, some with dedications, one that came from the Pan-Pacific International Exposition (world’s fair) that was held in San Francisco in 1915. There’s a distinctive arched bridge, stone lanterns and various water features, from fountains and streams, to a koi pond. The walk through these lovely gardens concluded for us at their tea house, where we got snacks and some hot Matcha green tea.

More photos from our visit to the Japanese Tea Garden here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157666201291390

Moving from tea to something a bit stronger, in June we had a pair of friends in town who we took up to Sonoma County for some wine tasting. Now, we’ve done this journey with many folks, so I won’t give a play by play this time around, but it was worth noting because we went on the Partners Wine Tour at Benziger Family Winery, something I hadn’t done in years.

But first, we had lunch! We ordered sandwiches at the nearby Glen Ellen Village Market, bought a bottle of 2013 Dragonsleaf Pinot Noir and sat outside in the shade outside the tasting room at Benziger. There are few things in the world so relaxing and satisfying as that picnic lunch with friends was.

It was then onward for the tour! Taking a little over an hour, the tour took us on a long ride through the vineyards, giving history of the winery and tastings throughout our journey. We then went into the wine caves, where we sampled some not-quite-finished wine right out of the cask. The dining room in the cave was closed for maintenance, so our final tour stop was into the library, where our membership status got us a sample of one of their amazing old library wines.

More photos from the Benziger Partners Tour, and stops at Jacuzzi Winery and Imagery Winery here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157669175719622

Wine adventures continued later in the month when MJ and I went up to Napa Valley for an afternoon of dining at Rutherford Grill and tasting as Rutherford Hill Winery, where we are members and had to drive up to pick up our shipment of wines. I’m a fan of Merlots, and Rutherford Hill is internationally famous for them, but what really made membership for us was how well we’re treated as members. They have an amazing tasting room in their wine caves, and are very flexible about wines you can pick up in your shipment, since price is determined by precisely what you buy anyway. With them, membership turns out to essentially be an agreement to buy a certain number of wine bottles per cycle, with a set of recommendations as a default. It was all very refreshing for such a large Napa winery, and their wines are exceptional.

Upon arrival, we were led back to the caves where we sat in a little alcove to sample a series of wines. Our host was wonderful and we really enjoyed the ambiance and coolness of the cave, especially with how bright and warm it was outside. Once the tasting was concluded, I took advantage of the springtime climate that had all their flowers in full bloom before going inside to pick up our wines and a few other goodies.

More photos (especially flowers!) from our day up at Rutherford Hill here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157667277830503

My final drink adventure was closer to home than all the rest, a quick walk from home down 2nd street and over to Black Hammer Brewing. It was here that I met my friend Pasi who was in town from Finland and another fellow in town from Copenhagen. It’s on the newer side and they don’t serve food (though outside food is allowed), so I hadn’t been to this brewery before. We arrived pretty late and only had a couple rounds, but I was really impressed with the variety available in their small batches of beers. I went with the Nautical Twilight and Sunrise Set.

I love living in a place where I can not only find some delicious things to drink, but do so in beautiful places. Even the brewery, though lacking in scenery of my tea and wine trips, had a comfortable atmosphere that’s begging me to return.

Laundry, Lunches, Trains, Temple and Shopping in Mumbai

My tourist adventures in Mumbai continued on Saturday following the conference. I made plans through the hotel concierge to hire a driver and tour guide for the day. I was initially a bit worried about the weather, since reports (and warnings!) had forecasted rain, but we lucked out. I was picked up from the hotel promptly at 10AM and thus began a wonderful day with my tour guide, Mala Bangera.

I’ll start off by say that Mala was a wonderful guide, one of the best I’ve ever had. She had over 20 years of experience and so was extremely knowledgeable, had lived all over the world (including the US) and had strong relationships with people at all the places we visited. She was able to advise me when I could take pictures, and honestly explain how much and when to tip people we encountered and interacted with throughout our journey (a fellow I got my picture with, a woman whose wares I asked for a photo of, a fellow who watched our shoes at a temple). I had a wonderful day under her guidance, and I’m so glad I worked with her instead of spending the day venturing out on my own!

As for where we went, I largely let her set the agenda when I explained that I just wanted to see some popular tourist sites and temples. It was the right choice. Our first stop was the Dhobi Ghat, a huge open air laundry facility. As I’ve learned some about domestic history, laundry looms large in the list of things that was incredibly laborious and time-consuming until the modern era of washing machines that people like me now have in our homes. Of course the modern washer and dryer I have assume access to a lot of water and electricity, and space, which is not ubiquitous in India. Instead, Mala explained that many people send their clothes out to be washed, dried, pressed and delivered back to their home, and a lot of this work happens at a dhobi ghat.

Dhobi Ghat (laundry)

Our next stop was to see the Dabbawalas. These folks collect your prepared lunch from your house in morning and deliver it to work around lunchtime. That means you get your home-cooked meal at lunch (which is typically a large meal there) and you don’t need to carry it with you when you leave home early in the morning. Doing this in bulk allows for an inexpensive service and a lifelong profession for the Dabbawalas, one fellow my tour guide introduced me to has been doing it for over 25 years. It was a Saturday so the pickup location we visited wasn’t as busy as it was on week days, but it was worth seeing anyway.

Dabbawalas sorting and carrying lunches

From there we went to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), the train station! A Gothic Revival designed by Frederick William Stevens in 1887, the station first caught my eye on the previous Sunday when we drove by it. This time we were able to actually go inside, buy a platform ticket and wander around. I advised against taking pictures inside the station itself, but I did see a whole bunch of trains, from the city commuter trains to the larger long-distance trains. I learned that they have cars reserved exclusively for women, which is understandable given the need to accommodate modest religious faiths on trains that get incredibly packed during weekday commutes (genders were also segregated at most security check points I went through, frequently with women given private screening behind a curtain).

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

We then drove over to a highly respected shop in the area where I picked up some little gifts, and a couple not so little things for myself. I had a lovely experience, while shopping for some Indian sapphire jewelry (my birthstone) they brought over some wonderfully spiced Kashmiri Kahwa hot tea, and also gave me some to take home with me as I was checking out.

The next stop was the Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple, which is routinely called the most beautiful Jain Temple in Mumbai. As far as temples go, my guide explained that those by the Jains tend to be the most beautiful in India. This temple absolutely lived up to the hype. When you enter you’re instructed to remove your shoes as you walk around. My guide is a friend of the temple and was able to escort me inside and encouraged my photo taking, unaccompanied tourists are asked to remain in the courtyard so it was a real honor to be able to go in.

At the Jain Temple

More photos from the Jain temple here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157669057260703

Our final big stop was the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. The gardens are perched on a hill that covers a water reservoir. It’s quite pretty, with various flowering plants and bushes, and a collection of animal-shaped topiaries (giraffe! elephant! ox cart!). The garden is also located near the Zoroastrian Tower of Silence, where their dead are exposed for reclamation by nature.

On the drive back to my hotel we passed the Siddhivinayak Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Lord Ganesha. We also stopped to get some fruit-flavored ice cream from Natural Ice Cream, after a few samples, I had the watermelon and jackfruit ice creams, yum! We also passed the Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and tomb that sits in Worli Bay. A thin strip of land goes out to the mosque, but it’s covered over during high tide, limiting when visits are possible. As a result, when you see it during high tide the building seems to be floating out in the bay. I developed a fascination for this as I was there, passing it a few times during my trip during varying levels of tide. I would love to visit it more closely some day.

Haji Ali Dargah

Saturday evening was spent out to dinner and drinks with some of the SANOG conference folks, where I had a Bira91 White Ale, a wheat beer that is one of the few solid, non-lager beers I’ve encountered in Asia. In addition to enjoying wonderful company and beer at dinner, I had my final trip in an auto rickshaw that night as we wanted to get back to the hotel without getting drenched from the rain. This rickshaw ride was outside of high traffic areas, so it was considerably less nerve-wracking than the ride earlier in the week!

Inside an auto rickshaw earlier in the week, with a cameo from a double-decker bus!

My final day in Mumbai was Sunday, which I spent getting loose ends tied off, visiting with some conference people and then in the evening with my friend Devdas who took me on a train to south Mumbai again. Now, you all know me. I love trains. It was nice to get to take one on a Sunday evening, not too crowded and as a critical piece of infrastructure the trains are kept maintained.

Selfie on a train

We got off at the station I had visited the day before and walked down to Leopold Cafe, which was recommended by a friend who visited Mumbai in the recent past. As a landmark and tourist destination, the cafe also made headlines eight years ago as one of the sites of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. I admit that with a flight ahead of me, I just had some pretty basic continental food, though my chicken sandwich still had a nice bite to it. The walk to the restaurant took us into the Colaba Causeway market. I had already done my shopping for the trip, but it was neat to see all of the stuff they had for sale, and to make our way through the crowds of people on the sidewalks and streets.

My evening concluded by skipping the train back due to the long, soggy walk back to the station and my inclination to stay dry before my flight. I instead took a long Uber ride back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. The ride back started out in a downpour, but eventually cleared up. I was able to see the Haji Ali Dargah lit up at night, and all the people hanging out on Marine Drive, with the signature Queen’s Necklace lights along the boulevard. I also enjoyed going over the Sky Link bridge one final time at night when it wasn’t raining.

And with that, my trip concluded! More photos from throughout my adventures in Mumbai here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671033977871

A Gateway, a Synagogue and a Museum in Mumbai

Last Saturday I arrived in India for the first time. A conference was on my schedule, but since this was my first time visiting this country I decided to do some touristing around Mumbai. Unfortunately it’s monsoon season, so it’s been an incredibly soggy trip. I joked that coming from drought-ridden California, I was coming to visit in order to get my rain quota met for the year. Mumbai didn’t disappoint.

This first day my plan was to meet up with my friend Nigel Babu, who I met in the Ubuntu community. Our real life paths first met at an Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest, and then again a couple years ago when he came to my home of San Francisco for a conference. It was really nice to finally meet in his home territory. He picked me up at my hotel, and we took a drive over the Bandra–Worli Sea Link, a beautiful bridge that links the hotel where I am staying with south Mumbai. Once over the bridge, we stopped briefly to check out the views of the sea, but the rain drove us back into the car pretty quickly. It was then south to the Marine Drive, or Queen’s Necklace. That’s where I got my rainy day picture taken, before we stopped for some snacks and Masala chai at a nearby hotel cafe.

Our journey continued south, where we first walked to the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, the 2nd oldest in the city. I had been clued into the existence of this synagogue by a friend of mine who had visited a few years before, and the description of the place in my tourist book cemented my desire to go. The whole building is turquoise, and that bright color extends to the inside of the building. It was a quiet day there and we were the only visitors, so they welcomed us inside and allowed some picture taking.

The stained class inside was beautiful, but the damp climate definitely was taking a toll on the building. One of the more interesting things to see in this Sephardic synagogue was a marble slab on the wall near the ark that had the 10 commandments, not in Hebrew or a local language, but in English. They had a little gift shop and I picked up a small Haggadah branded with their location as a keepsake of my visit.

More photos from the synagogue here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157671835673625

From there we walked down to the Gateway of India, where we got an all important selfie.

Visiting there also offered a nice look over at the lovely Taj Mahal hotel (not to be confused with the Taj Mahal in Agra). As a tourist attraction, it was worth seeing, but there’s not much to actually do by the gateway, so we quickly were off to our next stop, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India.

As my first full day in India, it was nice to visit this museum. I like museums, it gave Nigel and I some time to chat, but also gave me a wonderful view into the local culture from a locally curated collection. Most of the museum was casually air conditioned, so walking through the galleries was not challenging, though I did enjoy the select galleries that had strong air conditioning. The galleries had an interesting mix of very old Indian artifacts, statues, weaving, weapons, as well as some paintings, furniture and more from the colonial periods. I enjoyed the relationship between these galleries in a building that itself was from the colonial period.

Ganesha statue at CSMVS

I bought a photo pass, so lots of photos from the museum are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157668844045884

By this time evening was creeping up and we had dinner plans. We stopped for some hot chocolate and then got exceptionally lost as we looked for the local friends we were meeting for dinner. We did make it eventually, and had a lovely, if late, seafood dinner at Gajalee. The adventurous day, heat and humidity, and jet lag were eating at my appetite, I tried everything but it wasn’t a big meal for me. Good company though, I got to meet Mehul Ved from Ubuntu India for the first time!

The conference then took over most of the rest of my week, but I was able to sneak out to the Taraporewala Aquarium between amidst the rain storms on Friday. The aquarium was redone in 2015, but it still couldn’t really compare to the world class aquariums I’ve grown accustomed to, both in size and cleanliness. I’m pretty sure most tanks in aquariums are cleaned around the clock to keep them looking spiffy. Still, the building is beautiful and I did enjoy seeing a sea turtle and the sea horses.

The entire week was also accented by amazing food, most of which was unnoticeably and unintentionally (for me) vegetarian. Most mornings I began my day with Masala Dosa with Sambar, except for the last when I went with Poori Bhaji, along with watermelon juice and a cup or two of strong coffee. I got some fruit flavored ice cream (jackfruit and watermelon) and the conference introduced me to the near-candy dessert, Jalebi.

Perhaps the crowning meal of my trip was at a vegetarian Thali place (largest picture below), where we were served endless little cups of food, which when accompanied by various flatbreads was a deceptively large amount of food. Given my love for animals, I rely upon cognitive dissonance to keep me a meat eater, since vegetarianism is still a challenge to pull off in the US and have the satisfying diet I want (a salad is not an acceptable vegetarian option). If I were living here and had the array of amazing food that’s vegetarian it would be a no-brainer. The only challenge for me here was the spice, which my stomach is not at all accustom to. Even ordering everything extremely mild, my antacid bottle was never far away, and I might actually go for some bland foods upon returning home.

Saturday I hired a guide through the hotel concierge and saw a whole collection of other places, but that’s for another post. More uncategorized photos from my adventures including ones the following weekend that I haven’t written about yet here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671033977871/