• Archives

  • Categories

  • Other profiles


  • wallaceadngromit.net

  • Partimus

  • Secular Humanism

  • Debian

  • Ubuntu Women

  • Xubuntu

  • OpenStack

Simcoe’s July 2015 Checkup and Beyond

Simcoe, our Siamese, was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) in December of 2011. Since then, we’ve kept her going with quarterly vet visits and subcutaneous fluid injections every other day to keep her properly hydrated. Her previous checkup was in mid March, so working around our travel schedules, we brought her in on July 2nd for her latest checkup.

Unfortunately the levels of Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine (CRE) levels continue to increase past healthy levels.

This visit showed a drop in weight as well.

On the bright side, after being high for some time, the weekly Alendronate tablets that were prescribed in May have been effective in getting her Calcium levels down. Our hope is that this trend will continue and prolong the life her her kidneys.

However, the ever-increasing BUN and CRE levels, combined with the weight loss, are a concern. She’s due for another urine analysis and ultrasound to get a closer view into what’s going on internally.

We had this all scheduled for the end of July when something came up. She sometimes gets sniffly, so it’s not uncommon to see crusted “eye goo” build up around her eyes. One day at the end of July I noticed it had gotten quite bad and grabbed her to wash it off. It’s when I got close to her eyes that I noticed it wasn’t “eye goo” that had crusted, she had sores around her eyes that had scabbed over! With no appointments at her regular vet on the horizon, we whisked her off to the emergency vet to see what was going on.

After several hours of waiting, the vet was able to look at the scabbing under the microscope and do a quick culture to confirm a bacterial infection. They also had a dermatologist have a quick look and decided to give her an antibiotics shot to try and clear it up. The next week we swapped out her ultrasound appointment for a visit with her vet to do a follow up. The sores had begun to heal by then and we were just given a topical gel to help it continue to heal. By early August she was looking much better and I left for my trip to Peru, with MJ following a few days later.


A few scabs around her eyes

When we came home in mid August Simcoe still looked alright, but within a few days we noticed the sores coming back. We were able to make an appointment for Saturday, August 22nd with her regular vet to see if we could get to the bottom of it. The result was another topical gel and a twice-a-day dose of the antibiotic Clavamox. The topical gel seemed effective, but the Clavamox seemed to make her vomit. On Monday, with the guidance of her vet, we stopped administering the Clavamox. On Wednesday I noticed that she hadn’t really been eating, sigh! Another call to the vet and I went over to pick up an appetite stimulant. She finally ate, but there was more vomiting. Thankfully our every-other-day fluid injections ensured that she didn’t become dehydrated through all of this. We brought her in for the final follow up just a couple days ago, on Friday. Her sores around her eyes are once again looking better and she seemed to be eating normally when I left for our latest trip on Friday evening.


Not happy (at the vet!) but sores are clearing up, again

I do feel bad leaving on another trip as she’s going through this, but she’s with a trusted pet sitter and I’m really hoping this is finally clearing up. I have a full month at home after this trip so if not we will have time at home to treat her. The strangest thing about all of this is that we have no idea how this happened. She’s an indoor cat, we live in a high rise condo building, and Caligula shows no symptoms, in spite of their proximity and their snuggle and groom-each-other habits. How did she get exposed to something? Why is Caligula fine?


“I am cute, don’t leave!”

Whatever the reason for all of this, here’s to Simcoe feeling better! Once she is, we’ll finally pick up getting the ultrasound and anything else done.

Travels in Peru: Machu Picchu

Our trip to Peru first took us to the cities ofLima and Cusco. We had a wonderful time in both, seeing the local sites and dining at some of their best restaurants. But if I’m honest, we left the most anticipated part of our journey for last, visiting Machu Picchu.

Before I talk about our trip to Machu Picchu, there are a few things worthy of note:

  1. I love history and ruins
  2. I’ve been fascinated by Peru since I was a kid
  3. Going to Machu Picchu has been a dream since I learned it existed

So, even being the world traveler that I am (I’d already been to Asia and Europe this year before going to South America), this was an exceptional trip for me. Growing up our land lord was from Peru, as a friend of his daughters I regularly got to see their home, which was full of Peruvian knickknacks and artifacts. As I dove into history during high school I learned about ancient ruins all over the world, from Egypt to Mexico and of course Machu Picchu in Peru. The mysterious city perched upon a mountaintop always held a special fascination to me. When the opportunity to go to Peru for a conference came up earlier this year, I agreed immediately and began planning. I had originally was going to go alone, but MJ decided to join me once I found a tour I wanted to book with. I’m so glad he did. Getting to share this experience with him meant the world to me.

Our trip from Cusco began very early on Friday morning in order to catch the 6:40AM train to Aguas Calientes, the village below Machu Picchu. Our tickets were for Peru Rail’s Vistadome train, and I was really looking forward to the ride. On the disappointing side, the Cusco half of the trip had foggy windows and the glare on the windows generally made it difficult to take pictures. But as we lowered in elevation my altitude headache went away and so did the condensation from the windows. The glare was still an issue, but as I settled in I just enjoyed the sights and didn’t end up taking many photos. It was probably the most enjoyable train journey I’ve ever been on. At 3 hours it was long enough to feel settled in and relaxed watching the countryside, rivers and mountains go by, but not too long that I got bored. I brought along my Nook but didn’t end up reading at all.

Of course I did take some pictures, here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657450179755

Once at Aguas Calientes our overnight bags (big suitcases were left at the hotel in Cusco, as is common) were collected and taken to the hotel. We followed the tour guide who met us with several others to take a bus up to Machu Picchu!

Our guide gave us a three hour tour of the site. At a medium pace, he took us to some of the key structures and took time for photo opportunities all around. Of particular interest to him was the Temple of the Sun (“J” shaped building, center of the photo below), which we saw from above and then explored around and below.

The hike up for these amazing views wasn’t very hard, but I was thankful for the stops along the way as he talked about the exploration and scientific discovery of the site in the early 20th century.

And then there were the llamas. Llamas were brought to Machu Picchu in modern times, some say to trim the grass and other say for tourists. It seems to be a mix of the two, and there is still a full staff of groundskeepers to keep tidy what the llamas don’t manage. I managed to get this nice people-free photo of a llama nursing.

There seem to be all kinds of jokes about “selfies with llamas” and I was totally in for that. Though I didn’t get next to a llama like some of my fellow selfie-takers, but I did get my lovely distance selfie with llamas.

Walking through what’s left of Machu Picchu is quite the experience. The tall stone walls, stepped terraces that make up the whole thing. Lots of climbing and walking at various elevations throughout the mountaintop. Even going through the ruins in Mexico didn’t quite prepare me for what it’s like to be on top of a mountain like this. Amazing place.

We really lucked out with the weather, much of the day was clear and sunny, and quite warm (in the 70s). It made for good walking weather as well as fantastic photos. When the afternoon showers did come in, it was just in time for our tour to end and for us to have lunch just outside the gates. When lunch was complete the sun came out again and we were able to go back in to explore a bit more and take more pictures!

I feel like I should write more about Machu Picchu, being such an epic event for me, but it was more of a visual experience much better shared via photos. I uploaded over 200 more photos from our walk through Machu Picchu here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657449734565

My photos were taken with a nice compact digital camera, but MJ brought along his DSLR camera. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he ended up with.

The park closes at 5PM, so close to that time we caught one of the buses back down to Aguas Calientes. I did a little shopping (went to Machu Picchu, got the t-shirt). We were able to check into our hotel, the Casa Andina Classic, which ended up being my favorite hotel of the trip, it was a shame we were only there for one night! Hot, high pressure shower, comfortable bed, and a lovely view of the river that runs along the village:

I was actually so tired from all our early mornings and late evenings the rest of the trip that after taking a shower at the hotel that evening I collapsed onto the bed and instead of reading, zombied out to some documentaries on the History channel, after figuring out the magical incantation on the remote to switch to English. So much for being selective about the TV I watch! We also decided to take advantage of the dinner that was included with our booking and had a really low key, but enjoyable and satisfying meal there at the hotel.

The next morning we took things slow and did some walking around the village before lunch. Aguas Calientes is very small, it’s quite possible that we saw almost all of it. I took the opportunity to also buy some post cards to send to my mother and sisters, plus find stamps for them. Finding stamps is always an interesting adventure. Our hotel couldn’t post them for me (or sell me stamps) and being a Saturday we struck out at the actual post office, but found a corner tourist goodie shop that sold them and a mailbox nearby to so I could send them off.

For lunch we made our way past all the restaurants who were trying to get us in their doors by telling us about their deals and pushing menus our way until we found what we were looking for, a strange little place called Indio Feliz. I found it first in the tour book I’d been lugging around, typical tourist that I am, and followed up with some online recommendations. The decor is straight up Caribbean pirate themed (what?) and with a French owner, they specialize in Franco-Peruvian cuisine. We did the fixed menu where you pick an appetizer, entree and dessert, though it was probably too much for lunch! They also had the best beer menu I had yet seen in Peru, finally far from the altitude headache in Cusco I had a Duvel and MJ went with a Chimay Red. Food-wise I began with an amazing avocado and papaya in lemon sauce. Entree was an exceptional skewer of beef with an orange sauce, and my meal concluded with coffee and apple pie that came with both custard and ice cream. While there we got to chat with some fellow diners from the US, they had just concluded the 4 day Inca Trail hike and regaled us with stories of rain and exhaustion as we swapped small talk about the work we do.

More photos from Aguas Calientes here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657449826685

After our leisurely lunch, it was off to the train station. We were back on the wonderful Vistadome train, and on the way back to Cusco there was some culturally-tuned entertainment as well as a “fashion show” featuring local clothing they were selling, mostly of alpaca wool. It was a fun touch, as the ride back was longer (going up the mountains) and being wintertime the last hour or so of the ride was in the dark.

We had our final night in Cusco, and Sunday was all travel. A quick flight from Cusco to Lima, where we had 7 hours before our next flight and took the opportunity to have one last meal in Lima. Unfortunately the timing of our stay meant that most restaurants were in their “closed between lunch and dinner” time, so we ended up at Larcomar, a shopping complex built into an oceanside cliff in Miraflores. We ate at Tanta, where we had a satisfying lunch with a wonderful ocean view!

Our late lunch concluded our trip, from there we went back to Lima airport and began our journey back home via Miami. I was truly sad to see the trip come to an end. Often times I am eager to get home after such an adventurey vacation (particularly when it’s attached to a conference!), but I will miss Peru. The sights, the foods, the llamas and alpacas! It’s a beautiful country that I hope to visit again.

Travels in Peru: Cusco

We started our Peruvian adventures in Lima. On Wednesday morning we too a very early flight to Cusco. The tour company had recommended an early flight so we could take a nap upon arrival to help adjust to the altitude, indeed, with Cusco over 2 miles high in elevation I did find myself with a slight headache during our visit there. After our nap we met up with our fellow travelers for our city tour of Cusco.

The tour began by going up for a view of all of Cusco from the hillside, where I got my first selfie with an alpaca. We also visited San Pedro’s Market, a large market complex that had everything from tourist goodies to everyday produce, meats, cheeses and breads.

From there we made our way to Qurikancha, said to be the most important temple in the Inca Empire. When the Spanish arrived they built their Church of Santo Domingo on top of it, so only the foundation and some of the rooms remain. I was happy that the tour focused on the Inca aspects and largely ignored the Church, aside from some of the famous religious paintings contained within.

More photos from Qurikancha here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657421208352

We then went to the Plaza de Armas where the Cusco Cathedral lords over the square. No photos were allowed inside, but the Cathedral is notable for the Señor de los Temblores, a Jesus statue that is believed to have halted an earthquake in 1650 and a huge, captivating painting by Marcos Zapata of a localized Last Supper where participants are dining on guinea pig and chicha morada!

That evening we had the most exceptional dinner in Cusco, at MAP Café. It’s located inside Museo Arqueologico Peruano (MAP) which is run in association with the fantastic Museo Larco that we visited in Lima. Since this museum also had late hours, we had a wonderful time browsing their collection before dinner. Dinner itself was concluded with some amazing desserts, including a deconstructed lemon meringue pie accompanied by caramel ice cream.

More photos from the museum and dinner here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157655109721514

Thursday started off bright and early with a tour of a series of ruins outside of Cusco, in Saksaywaman. This was the first collection of ruins in Cusco we really got to properly climb, so with our tiny group of just four we were able to explore the citadel of Saksaywaman with a guide and then for a half hour on our own. In addition to the easy incline we took with the tour guide to walk on the main part of the ruins, which afforded our best view of Cusco, we walked up a multi-story staircase on the other side to get great panoramic views of the ruins. Plus, there were alpacas.

Beyond the main Saksaywaman sites, we visited other sites inside the park, seeing the fountains featured at Tambomachay, the amazing views from a quick stop at Puka Pukara and a near natural formation that had been carved for sacrifices at Q’enqo. The tour concluded by stopping at a local factory shop specializing in alpaca clothing.

More photos from throughout the morning here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657034040428

We were on our own for the afternoon, so we began by finally visiting a Chifa (Peruvian-inspired Chinese) restaurant. I enjoyed their take on Sweet and Sour Chicken. We then did some browsing at local shops before finally ending up at the Center for Traditional Textiles. They featured a small museum sharing details about the types and procedures for creating traditional Peruvian textiles, as well as live demonstration from master craftswomen and young trainees of the techniques involved. While there we fell in love with a pair of pieces that we took home with us, a finely woven tapestry and a small blanket that we’ll need to get framed soon.

Our time in Cusco concluded with a meal at Senzo, which had been really hyped but didn’t quite live up to our expectations, especially after the meal we had the previous night at MAP Café, but it was still an enjoyable evening. We’d have one last night in Cusco following our trip to Machu Picchu where we dined at Marcelo Batata, but the altitude sickness had hit me upon our return and I could only really enjoy the chicken soup, but as a ginger, mint & lemongrass soup, it was the perfect match for my queasy stomach (even if it didn’t manage to cure me of it).

More photos from Cusco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657024948969

The next brought an early morning train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu!

Travels in Peru: Lima

After the UbuCon Latin America conference that I wrote about here I had a day of work and personal project catch up with a dash of relaxation at my hotel before MJ arrived that night. Monday morning we were picked up by the folks at Viajes Pacifico who I had booked a tour of Lima and Cusco with.

It was the first time I used a group tour company, the price of the tour included all the hotels (selected by them) as well as transportation and entrance fees into the sites our tour went to. I definitely prefer the private driver we had in Mexico for our honeymoon, and we’re putting together our own itinerary for our trip to Japan in October, but given my schedule this year I simply didn’t have the time or energy to put together a schedule for Peru. The selected hotels were fine, but we likely would have gone to nicer ones if we booked ourselves. The tours were kept small, with the largest group being one in Cusco that was maybe 14 of us and the smallest being only 4. I wasn’t a fan of the schedule execution, we had a loose schedule each day but they wouldn’t contact us until the evening before with exact pickup times and it was unclear how long the tours would last or which trains we’d be taking, which caused making dinner reservations and the like to be a bit dicey. Still, it all worked out and it was great to have someone else worry about the logistical details.

On Monday we were picked up from our hotel in the afternoon for the schedule Lima city tour, which began at El Parque del Amor (Love Park), a beautiful seaside park in Miraflores with lots of flowers, a giant sculpture of a couple and lovely view of the Pacific Ocean. From there the tour bus did a quick drive around the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, which I had really hoped to see beyond just the windows of a bus – alas! And then on to the rest of our tour that took us to the main square in Lima where we got a tour of Basilica Cathedral of Lima which is notable not only by being the main cathedral but also the tomb of famous Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. I learned that during excavations they discovered that his head was buried in a box separate from his body. The cathedral itself is beautiful.

More photos from the cathedral here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657445084381

Our next stop was the Convent of Santo Domingo. The claim to fame there are the tombs and related accoutrements of both Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres. They had an impressive library that spanned not just religious books, but various topics in Spanish and Latin. The convent also had some nice gardens and history of these places is always interesting to learn about. I think we may have gotten more out of them if were were Catholic (or even Christian).

More photos from the convent here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657445106491

That evening we met up with a friend of mine from high school who has lived in Lima for several years. It was fun to catch up over a nice Peruvian meal that included more ceviche and my first round of Pisco Sours.

Tuesday was our non-tour day in Lima, so I got up early for a walk down by the ocean and then up to the Artisan Markets of Miraflores (the “Inka Market”). I was able to pick up some tourist goodies and on my way to the market I walked through Kennedy Park. We were told about this park on the tour the previous day, it’s full of cats! Cats in the flowers, cats on the lawn, cats on the benches. Given my love for cats, it was quite the enjoyable experience. I took a bunch of pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657420782972

I made it back to our hotel shortly after noon in time to meet up with MJ to go to our lunch reservations at the famous Astrid y Gaston. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Lima. We partook of their tasting menu which was made of over a dozen small plates that each were their own little work of art. It was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

After lunch, which was a multiple hour affair, we made it to the ruins of Huaca Huallamarca just before closing. They have a small, single room museum that contains a mummy that was found on the site and some artifacts. They let you climb the mud brick “pyramid” that seems to have active archaeological digs going on (though no one was there when we visited). Definitely worth the stop as we rounded out our afternoon.

More photos of the site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657376822346

Our early evening plans were made partially by what was still open after 5PM, which is how we found ourselves at the gem that is Museo Larco. Beautifully manicured grounds with lots of flowering plants, a stunning array of Peruvian artifacts dating back several thousand years with descriptions in multiple languages and a generally pleasant place to be. I particularly liked the exhibits with the cat themes, as the cats were an ancient symbol of earth (with heavens the bird and snakes below). Highly recommended and they’re open until 10PM! We didn’t stay that late though, we had dinner reservations at Brujas de Cachiche back down in Miraflores. With a focus on seafood, the menu was massive and the food was good.

More photos from Museo Larco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657420797692

That meal wrapped up the Lima portion of or trip, we were up before the sun the next day for our flight to Cusco!

And more photos more generally around Lima are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657029669660

UbuConLA 2015 in Lima

This week I had the honor of joining a couple hundred free software enthusiasts at UbuCon Latin America. I’d really been looking forward to it, even if I was a bit apprehensive about the language barrier, and the fact that mine was the only English talk on the schedule. But those fears melted away as the day began on Friday morning and I found myself loosely able to follow along with sessions with the help of slides, context and my weak understanding of Spanish (listening is much easier than speaking!).

The morning began by meeting a couple folks from Canonical and a fellow community member at the hotel lobby and getting a cab over to the venue. Upon arrival, we were brought into the conference speaker lounge to settle in before the event. Our badges had already been printed and were right there for us, and bottles of water available for us, it was quite the pleasant welcome.

José Antonio Rey kicked off the event at 10AM with a welcome, basic administrative notes about the venue, a series of thanks and schedule overview. Video (the audio in the beginning sounds like aliens descending, but it gets better by the end).

Immediately following him was a keynote by Pablo Rubianes, a contributor from Uruguay who I’ve known and worked with in the Ubuntu community for several years. As a member of the LoCo Council, he had a unique view into development and construction of LoCo (Local/Community) teams, which he shared in this talk. He talked some about how LoCos are organized, gave an overview of the types of events many of them do, like Ubuntu Hours, Global Jams and events in collaboration with other communities. I particularly enjoyed the photos he shared in his presentation. He left a lot of time for questions, which was needed as many people in the audience had questions about various aspects of LoCo teams. Also, I enjoyed the playful and good humored relationship they have with the title “LoCo” given the translation of the word into Spanish. Video.

My keynote was next, Building a Career in Free and Open Source Software (slides, English and Spanish). Based on audience reaction, I’m hopeful that a majority of the audience understood English well enough to follow along. For anyone who couldn’t, I hope there was value found in my bi-lingual slides. I had some great feedback following my talk both in person and on Twitter. Video (in English!).


Thanks to Pablo Rubianes for the photo (source)

For all the pre-conference jokes about a “cafeteria lunch” I was super impressed with my lunch yesterday. Chicken and spiced rice, some kind of potato-based side and a dessert of Chicha Morada pudding… which is what I called it until I learned the real name, Mazamorra Morada, a purple corn pudding that tastes like the drink I named it after. Yum!

After lunch we heard from Naudy Villaroel who spoke about the value of making sure people of all kinds are included in technology, regardless of disability. He gave an overview of several accessibility applications available in Ubuntu and beyond, including the Orca screen reader, the Enable Viacam (eViacam) tool for controlling the mouse through movements on camera and Dasher which allows for small movements to control words that are displayed through algorithms that anticipate words and letters the operator will want to use, and makes it easy to form them. He then went on to talk about other sites and tools that could be used. Video.

Following Naudy’s talk, was one by Yannick Warnier, president of Chamilo, which produces open source educational software. His talk was a tour of how online platforms, both open source and hosted (MOOC-style) have evolved over the past couple decades. He concluded by speculating far into the future as to how online learning platforms will continue to evolve and how important education will continue to be. Video. The first day concluded with a duo of talks from JuanJo Ciarlante, the first about free software on clouds (video… and ran over so continued in next link…) and a second that covered some basics around using Python to do data crunching, including some of the concepts around Map Reduce type jobs and Python-based libraries to accomplish it (video, which includes the conclusion of the cloud talk, the last half is about Python).

The evening was spent with several of my fellow speakers at La Bistecca. I certainly can’t say I haven’t been eating well while I’ve been here!

I also recommend reading Jose’s post about the first day, giving you a glimpse into the work he’s done to organize the conference here: UbuConLA 2015: The other side of things. Day 1.

And with that, we were on to day 2!

The day began at 10AM with a talk about Snappy by Sergio Schvezov. I was happy to have read a blog post by Ollie Ries earlier in the week that walked through all the Snappy/core/phone related names that have been floating around, but this talk went over several of the definitions again so I’m sure the audience was appreciative to get them straightened out. He brought along a BeagleBone and Ubuntu tablet that he did some demos on as he deployed Ubuntu Core and introduced Snapcraft for making Snappy packages. Video.

Following his talk was one by Luis Michael Ibarra in a talk about the Linux container hypervisor, LXD. I learned that LXD was an evolution of lxc-tools, and in his talk he dug through the filesystem and system processes themselves to show how the containers he was launching worked. Unfortunately his talk was longer than his slot, so he didn’t get through all his carefully prepared slides, so hopefully they’ll be published soon. Video.

Just prior to lunch, we enjoyed a talk by Sebastián Ferrari about Juju where he went through the background of Juju, what it’s for and where it fits into the deployment and orchestration world. He gave demos of usage and the web interface for it on both Amazon and Google Compute Engine. He also provided an introduction to the Juju Charm Store where charms for various applications are shared and shared the JuJu documentation for folks looking to get started with Juju. Video.

After lunch the first talk was by Neyder Achahuanco who talked about building Computer Science curriculum for students using tools available in Ubuntu. He demonstrated Scratch, Juegos de Blockly (Spanish version of Blockly Games), code.org (which is in many languages, see bottom right of the site) and MIT App Inventor. Video).


Break, with Ubuntu and Kubuntu stickers!

As the afternoon continued, Pedro Muñoz del Río spoke on using Ubuntu for a platform for data analysis. Video. the Talks concluded with Alex Aragon who gave an introduction to 3d animation with Blender where he played the delightful Monkaa film. He then talked about features and went through various settings. Video.

Gracias to all the organizers, attendees and folks who made me feel welcome. I had a wonderful time! And as we left, I snagged a selfie with the flags flying outside the University. For what? Jose picked them out upon learning which countries people would be flying in from, the stars and stripes were flying for me!

More photos from UbuConLA here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157656475304230

Lima, dia uno y UbuConLA prep

Saying my Spanish is “weak” is being generous. I know lots of nouns and a smattering of verbs from “learning Spanish” in school, but it never quite stuck and I lacked the immersive experience that leads to actually learning a language. So I was very thankful to be spending yesterday with my friend and Ubuntu colleague José Antonio Rey as we navigated the city and picked up a SIM for my phone.

I’m staying at Hotel & Spa Golf Los Incas in Lima. Jose and his father were kind enough to meet me at the airport, late on Wednesday night when my flight came in. The hotel itself is a bit of a drive from the airport, but it’s not far from the university where the conference is being held today, an 8 minute Uber ride yesterday evening in brisk traffic. They offer a free shuttle to a nearby mall, where I met up with Jose come morning. The day kicked off by discovering that Lima has Dunkin’ Donuts, and I don’t (at home in San Francisco). Having already finished breakfast, I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity for a doughnut. We then searched the mall, waited in some lines, waited for processing and finally got a SIM for my phone! With the data plan along with it, I plan on taking lots of pictures of llamas when I reach Cusco and sharing them with everyone.

From the mall we took a bus down the main east-west avenue in Lima, Avenida Javier Prado, and then the Línea 1 del Metro de Lima, a train! The Metro goes north to south and was very speedy and new, if packed. We took it just a couple stops from La Cultura to Gamarra.

Gamarra is home to a shopping district with various open air markets and a lot of clothing and street food along the way. Our journey took us here to pick up the custom t-shirts that were printed for the staff and crew working the UbuConLA conference. The shirts look great.

It was then on to the train and bus again, which took us to Señor Limón for some amazing ceviche!

After lunch we went over to Universidad de Lima to get a tour of the campus and see how things were coming together. Jose met up with several of his fellow conference planners as they tested audio and video, streaming and got all kinds of other logistical things. We also picked up boxes of Ubuntu goodies from across campus and brought them over so setup of tables could begin.

It was pretty fun to get a “behind the scenes” view of the pieces of the conference coming together. Huge thanks to everyone putting it together, it’s a real pleasure to be here.

My evening wound down at my hotel with a nice meal. At noon today I’ll be giving my keynote!

Meetup, baseball and kitties

I had fully intended on writing this before sitting in a hotel in Peru, but pre-trip tasks crept up, I had last minute things to finish with work (oh, leaving on a Wednesday!) and sitting on a plane all day is always much more exhausting than I expect it to be. So here we are!

Since returning from OSCON a couple weeks ago I’ve kept busy with other things. In addition to the continued work on my book. On the Thursday OSCON was still going on, I attended my first Write/Speak/Code SF & Bay Area event. It was a work evening where several women met up at a little eatery in SOMA, chatted about their work and each brought a project to work on. I had my keynote slides to perfect, and managed to do that and get them set off to the friend I was having them translate them into Spanish. I managed to also talk about the work I’d been doing on my book and found a couple people who may be interested in doing some review. It was also great to learn that some of them were interested in supporting Grace Hopper Conference speakers, and there may be an event in September to gather some of us who live and work in the area to support each other and practice fine tune our talks.

The following Monday MJ and I met at AT&T Park downtown to attend a Giants baseball game on Jewish Heritage Night. It had been a couple years since I’d been to a Giants game (the season goes by so quickly!), it was great to get to see a game again. Plus, the Kiddush cup they gave away as the special event gift now has a treasured spot in my home.

As the game began, I found myself sitting in front of the Rabbi for our congregation, who is a big baseball fan and is always fun to talk to about it. Since we bought tickets with other members we also found ourselves in the bleachers, which I’d never sat in before. It was a whole different angle and seating arrangement than I’m used to, but still lots of fun.

As an added bonus, it was a solid game that the Giants won. More photos from the game here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157654129506103

In other “while I’m home” life news, I also started the sessions with a trainer at the gym. I have 5 paid for, and the first was a tour of pain, as advertised. I go running and have always been quite skilled at lifting things, but this trainer found muscles I’m not sure I’ve ever used. He also managed to put me in a state where it took me about 3 days to feel normal again, the first day of which I really struggled to walk down stairs! I’m sticking to it though and while I may ask him to tone it down slightly for my next session, I already have it on my schedule upon my return from Peru and the OpenStack Operators Meetup in Palo Alto.

I then spent a lot of time on work and getting some loose ends tied off for my book as I prepared for this trip to Peru. We’ve also had some vet visits interspersed as poor Simcoe has battled a bacterial problem that caused some eye trouble. Thankfully she was almost all healed up by the time I flew out on Wednesday and you can hardly tell there was an issue. Fortunately none of these troubles impacted her bouncy nature.

Or whatever is in their nature that makes them want to sleep on our suitcases.

Sitting on my suitcases aside, I already miss my fluffy critters, and am thankful that my husband is joining me on Sunday. Still, I’m super excited for UbuCon Latin America tomorrow!

OSCON 2015

Following the Community Leadership Summit (CLS), which I wrote about wrote about here, I spent a couple of days at OSCON.

Monday kicked off by attending Jono Bacon’s Community leadership workshop. I attended one of these a couple years ago, so it was really interesting to see how his advice has evolved with the change in tooling and progress that communities in tech and beyond has changed. I took a lot of notes, but everything I wanted to say here has been summarized by others in a series of great posts on opensource.com:

…hopefully no one else went to Powell’s to pick up the recommended books, I cleared them out of a couple of them.

That afternoon Jono joined David Planella of the Community Team at Canonical and Michael Hall, Laura Czajkowski and I of the Ubuntu Community Council to look through our CLS notes and come up with some talking points to discuss with the rest of the Ubuntu community regarding everything from in person events (stronger centralized support of regional Ubucons needed?) to learning what inspires people about the active Ubuntu phone community and how we can make them feel more included in the broader community (and helping them become leaders!). There was also some interesting discussion around the Open Source projects managed by Canonical and expectations for community members with regard to where they can get involved. There are some projects where part time, community contributors are wanted and welcome, and others where it’s simply not realistic due to a variety of factors, from the desire for in-person collaboration (a lot of design and UI stuff) to the new projects with an exceptionally fast pace of development that makes it harder for part time contributors (right now I’m thinking anything related to Snappy). There are improvements that Canonical can make so that even these projects are more welcoming, but adjusting expectations about where contributions are most needed and wanted would be valuable to me. I’m looking forward to discussing these topics and more with the broader Ubuntu community.


Laura, David, Michael, Lyz

Monday night we invited members of the Oregon LoCo out and had an Out of Towners Dinner at Altabira City Tavern, the restaurant on top of the Hotel Eastlund where several of us were staying. Unfortunately the local Kubuntu folks had already cleared out of town for Akademy in Spain, but we were able to meet up with long-time Ubuntu member Dan Trevino, who used to be part of the Florida LoCo with Michael, and who I last saw at Google I/O last year. I enjoyed great food and company.

I wasn’t speaking at OSCON this year, so I attended with an Expo pass and after an amazing breakfast at Mother’s Bistro in downtown Portland with Laura, David and Michael (…and another quick stop at Powell’s), I spent Tuesday afternoon hanging out with various friends who were also attending OSCON. When 5PM rolled around the actual expo hall itself opened, and surprised me with how massive and expensive some of the company booths had become. My last OSCON was in 2013 and I don’t remember the expo hall being quite so extravagant. We’ve sure come a long way.

Still, my favorite part of the expo hall is always the non-profit/open source project/organization area where the more grass-roots tables are. I was able to chat with several people who are really passionate about what they do. As a former Linux Users Group organizer and someone who still does a lot of open source work for free as a hobby, these are my people.

Wednesday was my last morning at OSCON. I did another walk around the expo hall and chatted with several people. I also went by the HP booth and got a picture of myself… with myself. I remain very happy that HP continues to support my career in a way that allows me to work on really interesting open source infrastructure stuff and to travel the world to tell people about it.

My flight took me home Wednesday afternoon and with that my OSCON adventure for 2015 came to a close!

More OSCON and general Portland photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157656192137302

Community Leadership Summit 2015

My Saturday kicked off with the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) here in Portland, Oregon.

CLS sign

Jono Bacon opened the event by talking about the growth of communities in the past several years as internet-connected communities of all kinds are springing up worldwide. Though this near-OSCON CLS is open source project heavy, he talked about communities that range from the Maker movement to political revolutions. While we work to develop best practices for all kinds of communities, it was nice to hear one of his key thoughts as we move forward in community building: “Community is not an extension of the Marketing department.”

The day continued with a series of plenaries, which were 15 minutes long and touched upon topics like empathy, authenticity and vulnerability in community management roles. The talks wrapped up with a Facilitation 101 talk to give tips on how to run the unconference sessions. We then did the session proposals and scheduling that would pick up after lunch.

CLS schedule

As mentioned in my earlier post we had some discussion points from our experiences in the Ubuntu community that we wanted to get feedback on from the broader leadership community so we proposed 4 sessions that lasted the afternoon.

Lack of new generation of leaders

The root of this session came from our current struggle in the Ubuntu community to find leaders, from those who wish to sit on councils and boards to leaders for the LoCo teams. In addition to several people who expressed similar problems in their own communities, there was some fantastic feedback from folks who attended, including:

  • Some folks don’t see themselves as “Leaders” so using that work can be intimidating, if you find this is the case, shift to using different types of titles that do more to describe the role they are taking.
  • Document tasks that you do as a leader and slowly hand them off to people in your community to build a supportive group of people who know the ins and outs and can take a leadership role in the future.
  • Evaluate your community every few years to determine whether your leadership structure still makes sense, and make changes with every generation of community leaders if needed (and it often is!).
  • If you’re seeking to get more contributions from people who are employed to do open source, you may need to engage their managers to prioritize appropriately. Also, make sure credit is given to companies who are paying employees to contribute.
  • Set a clear set of responsibilities and expectations for leadership positions so people understand the role, commitment level and expectations of them.
  • Actively promote people who are doing good work, whether by expressing thanks on social media, in blog posts and whatever other communications methods you employ, as well as inviting them to speak at other events, fund them to attend events and directly engage them. This will all serve to build satisfaction and their social capital in the community.
  • Casual mentorship of aspiring leaders who you can hand over projects for them to take over once they’ve begun to grow and understand the steps required.

Making lasting friendships that are bigger than the project

This was an interesting session that was proposed as many of us found that we built strong relationships with people early on in Ubuntu, but have noticed fewer of those developing in the past few years. Many of us have these friendships which have lasted even as people leave the project, and even leave the tech industry entirely, for us Ubuntu wasn’t just an open source project, we were all building lasting relationships.

Recommendations included:

  • In person events are hugely valuable to this (what we used to get from Ubuntu Developer Summits). Empower local communities to host major events.
  • Find a way to have discussions that are not directly related to the project with your fellow project members, including creating a space where there’s a weekly topic, giving a space to share accomplishments, and perhaps not lumping it all together (some new off-topic threads on Discourse?)
  • Provide a space to have check-ins with members of and teams in your community, how is life going? Do you have the resources you need?
  • Remember that tangential interests are what bring people together on a personal level and seek to facilitate that

There was also some interesting discussion around handling contributors whose behavior has become disruptive (often due to personal things that have come up in their life), from making sure a Code of Conduct is in place to set expectations for behavior to approaching people directly to check in to make sure they’re doing all right and to discuss the change in their behavior.

Declining Community Participation

We proposed this session because we’ve seen a decline in community participation since before the Ubuntu Developer Summits ceased. We spent some time framing this problem in the space it’s in, with many Linux distributions and “core” components seeing similar decline and disinterest in involvement. It was also noted that when a project works well, people are less inclined to help because they don’t need to fix things, which may certainly be the case with a product like the Ubuntu server. In this vein, it was noted that 10 years ago the contributor to user ratio was much higher, since many people who used it got involved in order to file bugs and collaborate to fix things.

Some of the recommendations that came out of this session:

  • Host contests and special events to showcase new technologies to get people excited about involvement (made me think of Xubuntu testing with XMir, we had a lot of people testing it because it was an interesting new thing!)
  • In one company, the co-founder set a community expectation for companies who were making money from the product to give back 5% in development (or community management, or community support).
  • Put a new spin on having your code reviewed: it’s constructive criticism from programmers with a high level of expertise, you’re getting training while they chime in on reviews. Note that the community must have a solid code review community that knows how to help people and be kind to them in reviews.
  • Look at bright spots in your community and recreate them: Where has the community grown? (Ubuntu Phone) How can you bring excitement there to other parts of your project? Who are your existing contributors in the areas where you’ve seen a decline and how can you find more contributors like them?
  • Share stories about how your existing members got involved so that new contributors see a solid on-ramp for themselves, and know that everyone started somewhere.
  • Make sure you have clear, well-defined on-ramps for various parts of your project, it was noted that Mozilla does a very good job with this (Ubuntu does use Mozilla’s Asknot, but it’s hard to find!).

Barriers related to single-vendor control and development of a project

This session came about because of the obvious control that Canonical has in the direction of the Ubuntu project. We sought to find advice from other communities where there was single-vendor control. Perhaps unfortunately the session trended heavily toward specifically Ubuntu, but we were able to get some feedback from other communities and how they handle decisions made in an ecosystem with both paid and volunteer contrbutors:

  • Decisions should happen in a public, organized space (not just an IRC log, Google Hangout or in person discussion, even if these things are made public). Some communities have used: Github repo, mailing list threads, Request For Comment system to gather feedback and discuss it.
  • Provide a space where community members can submit proposals that the development community can take seriously (we did used to have brainstorm.ubuntu.com for this, but it wound down over the years and became less valuable.
  • Make sure the company counts contributions as real, tangible things that should be considered for monetary value (non-profits already do this for their volunteers).
  • Make sure the company understands the motivation of community members so they don’t accidentally undermine this.
  • Evaluate expectations in the community, are there some things the company won’t budge on? Are they honest about this and do they make this clear before community members make an investment? Ambiguity hurts the community.

I’m really excited to have further discussions in the Ubuntu community about how these insights can help us. Once I’m home I’ll be able to collect my thoughts and take thoughts and perhaps even action items to the ubuntu-community-team mailing list (which everyone is welcome to participate in).

This first day concluded with a feedback session for the summit itself, which brought up some great points. On to day two!

As with day one, we began the day with a series of plenaries. The first was presented by Richard Millington who talked about 10 “Social Psychology Hacks” that you can use to increase participation in your community. These included “priming” or using existing associations to encourage certain feelings, making sure you craft your story about your community, designing community rituals to make people feel included and use existing contributors to gain more through referrals. It was then time for Laura Czajkowski’s talk about “Making your the Marketing team happy”. My biggest take-away from this one was that not only has she learned to use the tools the marketing team uses, but she now attends their meetings so she can stay informed of their projects and chime in when a suggestion has been made that may cause disruption (or worse!) in the community. Henrik Ingo then gave a talk where he did an analysis of the governance types of many open source projects. He found that all the “extra large” projects developer/commit-wise were all run by a foundation, and that there seemed to be a limit as to how big single-vendor controlled projects could get. I had suspected this was the case, but it was wonderful to have his data to back up my suspicions. Finally, Gina Likins of Red Hat spoke about her work to get universities and open source projects working together. She began her talk by explaining how few college Computer Science majors are familiar with open source, and suggested that a kind of “dating site” be created to match up open source projects with professors looking to get their students involved. Brilliant! I attended her session related to it later in the afternoon.

My afternoon was spent first by joining Gina and others to talk about relationships between university professors and open source communities. Her team runs teachingopensource.org and it turns out I subscribed to their mailing list some time ago. She outlined several goals, from getting students familiar with open source tooling (IRC, mailing lists, revision control, bug trackers) all the way up to more active roles directly in open source projects where the students are submitting patches. I’m really excited to see where this goes and hope I can some day participate in working with some students beyond the direct mentoring through internships that I’m doing now.

Aside from substantial “hallway track” time where I got to catch up with some old friends and meet some people, I went to a session on having open and close-knit communities where people talked about various things, from reaching out to people when they disappear, the importance of conduct standards (and swift enforcement), and going out of your way to participate in discussions kicked off by newcomers in order to make them feel included. The last session I went to shared tips for organizing local communities, and drew from the off-line community organizing that has happened in the past. Suggestions for increasing participation for your group included cross-promotion of groups (either through sharing announcements or doing some joint meetups), not letting volunteers burn out/feel taken for granted and making sure you’re not tolerating poisonous people in your community.

The Community Leadership Summit concluded with a Question and Answer session. Many people really liked the format, keeping the morning pretty much confined to the set presentations and setting up the schedule, allowing us to take a 90 minute lunch (off-site) and come back to spend the whole afternoon in sessions. In all, I was really pleased with the event, kudos to all the organizers!

SF activities and arrival in Portland, OR

Time at home in San Francisco came to an end this week with a flight to Portland, OR on Friday for some open source gatherings around OSCON. This ended my nearly 2 months without getting on a plane, the longest stretch I’ve gone in over 2 years. My initial intention with this time was to spend a lot of time on my book, which I have, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped because the work and creativity required isn’t something you can just turn on and off. It was nice getting to spend so much time with my husband though, and the kitties. The stretch at home also led me to join a gym again (I’d canceled my last month to month membership when a stretch of travel had me gone for over a month). Upon my return next week I have my first of four sessions with a trainer at the gym scheduled.

While I haven’t exactly had a full social calendar of late, I have been able to go to a few events. Last Wednesday I hosted an Ubuntu Hour and Bay Area Debian Dinner in San Francisco.

The day after, SwiftStack hosted probably the only OpenStack 5th birthday party I’ll be able to attend this year (leaving before the OSCON one, will be in Peru for the HP one!). I got to see some familiar faces, meet some Swift developers and eat some OpenStack cake.

MJ had a friend in town last week too, which meant I had a lot of time to myself. In the spirit of not having to worry about my own meals during this time, I cooked up a pot of beef stew to enjoy through the week and learned quickly that I should have frozen at least half of it. Even a modest pot of stew is much more than I can eat it all myself over the course of a week. I did enjoy it though, some day I’ll learn about spices so I can make one that’s not so bland.

I’ve also been running again, after a bit of a hiatus following the trip to Vancouver. Fortunately I didn’t lose much ground stamina-wise and was mostly able to pick up where I left off. It has been warmer than normal in San Francisco these past couple weeks though, so I’ve been playing around with the times of my runs, with early evenings as soon as the fog/coolness rolls in currently the winning time slot during the week. Sunday morning runs have been great too.

This week I made it out to a San Francisco DevOps meetup where Tom Limoncelli was giving a talk inspired by some of the less intuitive points in his book The Practice of Cloud Systems Administration. In addition to seeing Tom, it was nice to meet up with some of my local DevOps friends who I haven’t managed to connect with lately and meet some new people.

I had a busy week at home before my trip to Portland this week, upon settling in to the hotel I’m staying at I met up with my friend and fellow Ubuntu Community Council Member Laura Czajkowski. We took the metro over the bridge to downtown Portland and on the way she showed off her Ubuntu phone, and the photo taking app for a selfie together!

Since it was Laura’s first time in Portland, our first stop downtown was to Voodoo Doughnuts! I got my jelly-filled voodoo guy doughnut.

From there we made our way to Powell’s Books where we spent the rest of the afternoon, as you do with Powell’s. I picked up 3 books and learned that Powell’s Technical Books/Powell’s 2 has been absorbed into the big store, which was a little sad for me, it was fun to go to the store that just had science, transportation and engineering books. Still, it was a fun visit and I always enjoy introducing someone new to the store.

Then we headed back across the river to meet up with people for the Community Leadership Summit informal gathering event at the Double Tree. We had a really enjoyable time, I got to see Michael Hall of the Ubuntu Community Council and David Planella of the Community Team at Canonical to catch up with each other and chat about Ubuntu things. Plus, I ran into people I know from the broader open source community. As an introvert, it was one of the more energizing social events I’ve been to in a long time.

Today the Community Leadership Summit that I’m in town for kicks off! Looking forward to some great discussions.