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Simcoe’s September 2015 Checkup

A few weeks ago I wrote about Simcoe’s lab work from July and some other medical issues that cropped up. I’m happy to report that the scabbing around her eyes has cleared up and we were able to get the ultrasound done last Thursday.

The bad news is that her kidneys are very small and deformed. Her vet seemed surprised that they were working at all. Fortunately she doesn’t seem to have anything else going on, no sign of infections from the tests they ran (UTIs are common at this stage). Her calcium levels have also remained low thanks to a weekly pill we’ve been giving her.

Her CRE levels do continue to creep up into a worrying range, which the vet warned could also lead to more vomiting:


But her BUN levels have dropped slightly since last time:


Her also weight continues to be lower than where it was trending for the past couple years:


All of this means it’s time to escalate her care beyond the subcutaneous fluids and calcium lowering pills. We have a few options, but the first step is making an appointment with the hospital veterinarian who has provided wise counsel in the past.

Simcoe melts

Otherwise, Simcoe has been joining us in melting during our typical late onset of summer here in San Francisco. Heat aside, her energy levels, appetite and general behavior has been normal. It’s pretty clear she’s not at all happy about our travel schedules though, I think we’ll all be relieved when I conclude my travel for the year in November.

The Migration of OpenStack Translations to Zanata

The OpenStack infrastructure team that I’m part of provides tooling for OpenStack developers, translators, documentation writers and more. One of the commitments the OpenStack Infrastructure team has to the project, as outlined in our scope, is:

All of the software that we run is open source, and its configuration is public.

Like the rest of the project, we’ve committed ourselves to being Open. As a result, the infrastructure has become a mature open source project itself that we hope to see replicated by other projects.

With this in mind, the decision by Transifex to cease development on their open source platform meant that we needed to find a different solution that would meet the needs of our community and still be open source.

We were aware of the popular Pootle software, so we started there with evaluations. At the OpenStack Summit in Atlanta the i18n team first met up with Carlos Munoz and were given a demo of Zanata. As our need for a new solution increased in urgency, we worked with Pootle developers (thank you Dwayne Bailey!) and Zanata developers to find what was right for our community. Setting up development servers for testing for both and hosting demos through 2014. At the summit in Paris I had a great meeting with Andreas Jaeger of the OpenStack i18n team (and so much more!) and Carlos about Zanata.

Me, Carlos and Andreas in Paris

That summit was where we firmed up our plans to move forward with Zanata and wrote up spec so we could get to work.

Ying Chun Guo (Daisy) and I began by working closely with the Zanata team to identify requirements and file bugs that the team then made a priority. I worked closely with Stephanie Miller on our Puppet module for Zanata using Wildfly (an open source JBoss Application Server) and then later Steve Kowalik who worked on migrating our scripts from Transifex to Zanata. It was no small task, as we explored the behavior of the Zanata client that our scripts needed to use and worked to replicate what we had been doing previously.

As we worked on the scripts and rest of the infrastructure to support the team, this summer was spent by the translators with the formal trial of our final version of Zanata in preparation for the Liberty translations work. Final issues were worked out through this trial and the ever-responsive team from Zanata was able to work with us to fix a few more issues. I was thoroughly thankful for my infrastructure colleague Clark Boylan’s work keeping infrastructure things chugging along as I had some end of summer travel come up.


On September 10th Daisy announced that we had gone into production for Liberty translations in her email Liberty translation, go! In the past week the rest of us have worked to support all the moving parts that make our translations system work in the infrastructure side of production, with Wednesday being the day we switched to Zanata proposing all changes to Gerrit. Huge thanks to Alex Eng, Sean Flanigan and everyone else on the Zanata team who helped Steve, Andreas and me during the key parts of this switch.

I’m just now finishing up work on the documentation to call our project complete and Andreas has done a great job updating the documentation on the wiki.

Huge thanks to everyone who participated in this project, I’m really proud of the work we got done and so far the i18n team seems satisfied with the change. At the summit in Tokyo I will be leading the Translation tool support: What do we need to improve? session on Tuesday at 4:40pm where we’ll talk about the move to Zanata and other improvements that can be made to translations tooling. If you can’t attend the summit, please provide feedback on the openstack-i18n mailing list so it can be collected and considered for the session.

The OpenStack Ops mid-cycle, PLUG and Ubuntu & Debian gatherings

In the tail end of August I made my way down to Palo Alto for a day to attend the OpenStack Operators Mid-cycle event. I missed the first day because I wasn’t feeling well post-travel, but the second day gave me plenty of time to attend a few discussions and sync up with colleagues. My reason for going was largely to support the OpenStack Infrastructure work on running our own instance of OpenStack, the infra-cloud.

The event had about 200 people, and sessions were structured so they would have a moderator but were actually discussions to share knowledge between operators. It was also valuable to see several OpenStack project leads there trying to gain insight into how people are using their projects and to make themselves available for feedback. The day began with a large session covering the popularity and usage of configuration management databases (CMDBs) in order to track resources, notes here: PAO-ops-cmdb. Then there was a session covering OpenStack deployment tips, which included a nice chunk about preferred networking models (the room was about split when it came to OVS vs. LinuxBridge), notes from this session: PAO-ops-deployment-tips.

After lunch I attended a tools and monitoring session, and learned that they have a working group and an IRC meeting every other week. The session was meant to build upon a previous session from the summit, but the amount of overlap between that session and this seemed to be quite low and it ended up being a general session about sharing common tools. Notes from the session here: PAO-ops-tools-mon.

In all, an enjoyable event and I was impressed with how well-organized it all felt as an event with such a loose agenda going in. Participants seemed really engaged, not just expecting presentations, and it was great to see them all collaborating so openly.

My next event took me across the country, but only incidentally. Our recent trip back east happened to coincide with a PLUG meeting in downtown Philadelphia. The meetings are a great way for me to visit a bunch of my Philadelphia friends at once and I always have a good time. The presentation itself was by Debian Maintainer Guo Yixuan on “Debian: The community and the package management system” where he outlined the fundamentals regarding Debian community structure and organization and then did several demos of working with .deb packages, including unpacking, patching and rebuilding. After the meeting we adjourned to a local pizzeria where I got my ceremonial buffalo chicken cheese steak (fun fact: you can actually find a solid Philly cheese steak in San Francisco, but not one with chicken!).

Guo Yixuan prepares for his presentation, as Eric Lucas and CJ Fearnley host Q&A with attendees

Back home in San Francisco I hosted a couple events back to back last week. First up was the Ubuntu California Ubuntu Hour at a Starbucks downtown. One of the attendees was able to fill us in on his plans to ask his employer for space for a Wily Werewolf (15.10) release party in October. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town for this release, so I can’t really participate, but I’ll do what I can to support them from afar. After the Ubuntu Hour we all walked down the street to Henry’s Hunan in SOMA for a Bay Area Debian Dinner. There, talk continued about our work, upgrades and various bits of tech about Debian and not. We wrapped up the meeting with a GPG keysigning, which we hadn’t done in quite some time. I was also reminded post-meeting to upload my latest UID to a key server.

Next week rounds up my local-ish event schedule for the month by attending the CloudNOW Top Women in Cloud Awards in Menlo Park where my colleague Allison Randal is giving a keynote. Looking forward to it!

End of Summer Trip Back East

MJ and I spent the first week of September in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. During our trip we visited with an ailing close relative and spent additional time with other family. I’m really thankful for the support of friends, family and colleagues, even if I’ve been cagey about details. It made the best of what was a difficult trip and what continues to be a tough month.

It was also hot. A heat wave hit the northeast for the entire time we were there, each day the temperatures soaring into the 90s. Fortunately we spent our days ducking from the air-conditioned car to various air-conditioned buildings. Disappointingly there was also no rain, which is one of the things I miss the most, particularly now as California is suffering from such a severe drought.

We made time for a couple enjoyable evenings with friends. Our friend Danita met us downtown at The Continental in Philadelphia before we spent some time chatting and walking around Penn’s Landing. Later in the week we had dinner with our friend Tim at another of our favorites, CinCin in Chestnut Hill. On the New Jersey side we were able to have lunch with our friends Mike and Jess and their young one, David, at a typical local pizzeria near where we were staying. These are pretty common stops on our trips back east, but when you can only make it into town a couple times a year, you want to visit your favorites! Plus, any random pizzeria in New Jersey is often better and cheaper than what you find here in California. Sorry California, you just don’t do pizza right.

Much like our trip in the spring we also had a lot of work to do with storage to sort, consolidate and determine what we’ll be bringing out west. It’s a tedious and exhausting process, but we made good progress, all things considered. And there were moments where it was fun, like when we found MJ’s NES and all his games, then got to play our real world version of Tetris as we documented and packed it up into a plastic tote. We also got to assemble one of those two-wheeled hand trucks that we had delivered to the hotel (you should have seen their faces!). No one died in the process of building the hand truck. We also made a trip to the local scrap metal yard to get rid of an ancient, ridiculously heavy trash compactor that’s been taking up space in storage for years. We got a whopping $5.75 for it. Truthfully, I’m just glad we didn’t need to pay someone to haul it away. We also managed to get rid of some 1990s era x86 machines (sans harddrives) by bringing them to Best Buy for recycling, a service that I learned they offer nationwide for various computers and electronics.

Our trip also landed during the week of Force Friday, the official kickoff of the Star Wars Episode 7 merchandise blitz. Coming home late one evening anyway, we made it out to Toys”R”Us at midnight on Friday the 4th to check out the latest goodies. I picked up three Chewbacca toys, including the Chewbacca Furby, Furbacca. Upon returning to our hotel MJ managed to place an order for a BB-8 by Sphero for me, which I’m having a lot of fun with (and so have the cats!).

The midnight line at Toys”R”Us on Force Friday

And I also worked. One of my big projects at work this past year had deadlines coming up quickly and so I did what I could to squeeze in time to send emails and sync up with my team mates as needed to make sure everything was prepared for the launch into production that happened upon my return. I’m happy to report that it all worked out.

We flew home on Sunday, just before Labor Day. Unfortunately, we seemed to have brought the heat along with us, with San Francisco plunging into a heat wave upon our return!

Some more photos from the trip: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157658503033995

“The Year Without Pants” and OpenStack work

As I’ve talked about before, the team I work on at HP is a collection of folks scattered all over the world, working from home and hacking on OpenStack together. We’re joined by hundreds of other people from dozens of companies doing the same, or similar.

This year our team at HP kicked off an internal book club, each month or two we’d read the same book that focused on some kind of knowledge that we felt would be helpful or valuable to the team. So far on our schedule:

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
  • The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan

This month’s book was The Year Without Pants. I had previously read Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker which is my favorite book on public speaking, I recommend it to everyone. This, and given that our team is in some ways very similar to how the teams Automattic (makers of WordPress) work, I was very interested in reading this other book of his.

Stepping back for a high level view of how we do work, it’s probably easiest to begin with how we differ from Automattic as a team, rather than how we’re similar. There are certainly several notable things:

  • They have a contract to hire model, partially to weed out folks who can’t handle the work model. We and most companies who work on OpenStack instead either hire experienced open source people directly for an upstream OpenStack job or ease people into the position, making accommodations and changes if work from home and geographic distribution of the team isn’t working out for them (it happens).
  • All of the discussions about my OpenStack work are fully public, I don’t really have “inside the company”-only discussions directly related to my day to day project work.
  • I work with individuals from large, major companies all over the world for our project work on a day to day basis, not just one company and a broader community.

These differences mattered when reading the book, especially when it comes to the public-facing nature of our work. We don’t just entertain feedback and collaboration about our day to day discussions and work from people in our group or company, but from anyone who cares enough to take the time to find us on our public mailing list, IRC channel or meeting. As a member of the Infrastructure team I don’t believe we’ve suffered from this openness. Some people certainly have opinions about what our team “should” be working on, but we have pretty good filters for these things and I like to think that as a team we’re open to accepting efforts from anyone who comes to us with a good idea and people-power to help implement it.

The things we had in common were what interested me most so I could compare our experiences. In spite of working on open source software for many years, this is the first time I’ve been paid full time to do it and worked with such large companies. It’s been fascinating to see how the OpenStack community has evolved and how HP has met the challenges. Hiring the right people is certainly one of those challenges. Just like in the book, we’ve found that we need to find people who are technically talented and who also have good online communication skills and can let their personality show through in text. OpenStack is very IRC-focused, particularly the team I’m on. Additionally, it’s very important that we steer clear of people whose behavior may be toxic to the team and community, regardless of their technical skills. This is good advice in any company, but it becomes increasingly important on a self-motivated, remote team where it’s more difficult to casually notice or check in with people about how they’re doing. Someone feeling downtrodden or discouraged because of the behavior of a co-worker can be much harder to notice from afar and often difficult and awkward to talk about.

I think what struck me most about both the experience in the book and what I’ve seen in OpenStack is the need for in-person interactions. I love working from home, and in my head it’s something I believe I can just do forever because our team works well online. But if I’m completely honest about my experience over the past 3 years, I feel inspired, energized and empowered by our in-person time together as a team, even if it’s only 2-3 times a year. It also helps our team feel like a team, particularly as we’re growing in staff and scope, and our projects are becoming more segregated day to day (I’m working on Zanata, Jim is working on Zuulv3, Colleen is working on infra-cloud, etc). Reflecting upon my experience with the Ubuntu community these past couple years, I’ve seen first hand the damage done to a community and project when the in-person meetings cease (I went into this topic some following the Community Leadership Summit in July).

Now, the every-six-months developer and user summits (based on what Ubuntu used to do) have been a part of OpenStack all along. It’s been clear from the beginning that project leaders understood the value of getting people together in person twice a year to kick off the next release cycle. But as the OpenStack community has evolved, most teams have gotten in the habit of also having team-specific sprints each cycle, where team members come together face to face to work on specific projects between the summits. These sprints grew organically and without top-down direction from anyone. They satisfied a social need to retain team cohesion and the desire for high bandwidth collaboration. In the book this seemed very similar to the annual company meetings being supplemented by team sprints.

I think I’m going to call this “The year of realizing that in person interaction is vital to the health of a project and team.” Even if my introvert self doesn’t like it and still believes deep down I should just live far away in a cabin in the woods with my cats and computers.

It’s pretty obvious given my happiness with working from home and the teams I’m working on that I fully bought in to the premise of this book from the beginning, so it didn’t need to convince me of anything. And there was a lot more to this book, particularly for people who are seeking to manage a geographically distributed, remote team. I highly recommend it to anyone doing remote work, managing remote teams or looking for a different perspective than “tech workers need to be in the office to be productive.” Thanks, Scott!

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