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After the last snow of the season

Just over a week ago I returned to San Francisco from a visit back east. I imagine trips back to Philadelphia will grow less noteworthy as we grow more accustom to having property there as well. Visits may cease having specific reasons and instead just be a part of our lives. This wasn’t one of those trips though, I had a specific agenda going in to spend the week going through and organizing my mother-in-law’s belongings.

When we laid her to rest back in February things were a bit of a whirlwind. Very little time was spent going through her belongings as we quickly packed up her apartment and dropped all the boxes in our den at the townhouse before getting back to funeral arrangements, other immediate end of life tasks, and time spent with family during our visit. When I arrived in Philadelphia for this trip, I had my work cut out for me.

The last snow of the season was also in recent memory for the area. Though much of the naturally fallen snow around had melted, piles remained all over my neighborhood. As the week progressed, a series of rain storms coming through the area and warmer weather meant that by the time my trip came to a close much of the snow was gone. I was fortunate weather-wise with many of my plans though, even the ones that took me outside largely landed on the dry parts of my visit.

I spent Monday-Friday working nominally 9-5 (earlier or later depending on the day, meetings scheduled). It was a great test for my ability to interact with the team remotely during a normal work week. Fortunately the team is used to being distributed and I have been working from home often even when I’m in town, so it’s not been a huge culture shift for any of us. It was also good to get comfortable working in that space, having breakfast and lunches at the townhouse and starting to develop a normal life routine out there instead of feeling like I’m on a trip.


DC/OS Office Hours at work taken upstairs!

Since I was working, it took me the whole trip to get through her 20 or so boxes (excluding clothes), but it wasn’t just about time. I knew this work would be difficult. The loss was still somewhat fresh, and though MJ was just a call or text away, it was still hard going through all of her things on my own. There’s also no denying the personal impact that seeing someone’s life packed into 20 boxes. How many boxes would I end up with? What would my family surviving me do with it all? What is sentimental to me but would be confusing or unimportant to almost anyone else? What makes me happy today but will be a burden-of-stuff to those who come after me? All of this lead to a great amount of care and respect as I went through to catalog and repack all of her things, and decide what few items here and there could be donated, which ended up being almost exclusively clothes and linens we had no use for.

While I was there, regular updates also came in from MJ about Simcoe’s rapidly declining health. Not all communication was sad though. I was getting pictures and updates about what was going on in San Francisco, and was able to loop MJ in whenever I had questions or comments about things. I ended up having to bring a few piles of paperwork home with me, but staying in touch was really nice.

To balance the difficulty presented by all this, I also spent time with friends and family. The Sunday following my arrival I took advantage of the nearby train station for the second time since moving into the townhouse to head to downtown Philly. When I lived in the area previously I’d never lived near a rail line, and my use of public transit was rare. As a result, proximity to a regional rail line was not an intended goal of where we ended up buying, but it’s quickly turning into something I value considerably. Living in the bay area has turned me into quite the rail and public transit fan. In the past six months the amount of time I’ve spent on Philly public transit has rivaled what I experienced while living in the area. City life here in San Francisco has also reduced my apprehension about driving in cities, but I’m still not super keen on dealing with traffic or parking once I get to near my destination downtown, and I actively enjoy train rides. The line I take down to the city runs hourly and takes 40 minutes to drop me off at Market East station, nearly matching what I’d get driving when traffic and parking are considered.

The end of my train ride brought me to a lunch with my friend Tom at Bareburger. They had a surprisingly option-filled menu for a burger place, and I think I’d go back for their milkshakes alone and I don’t think I’d be able to resist adding duck bacon to my burger. It was a pleasure to catch up, Tom was one of those friends who I met through LiveJournal well over a decade ago, and in spite of living in proximity to each other for years, our in person time spent was quite limited.

This trip also afforded me the opportunity to have dinner with my friend Jace. We hadn’t seen each other in probably eight years, but he lives not too far from the townhouse and we’ve kept in touch online. He’s also the designer who came up with the last two iterations of the main page of princessleia.com and we’ve both published books in the past year, leading to piles of options for discussion. Given his proximity to our new place I hope we can make more time to hang out in the coming years, it was nice to reconnect.

Some move-in work progressed on the townhouse as well as we customize it to our liking. My brother-in-law came over to do some wall excavation off or our garage to see if a closet could be put in under the stairs. Success! The void we speculated existing does indeed exist and we’ll be working with him on a quote to do the formal build out work in the coming months. After the wall work, I joined him, his mother and my father-in-law for a wonderful dinner at the nearby Uzbekistan Restaurant on Bustleton Ave in Philadelphia. It was my first time there, but after enjoying their culinary delights, it won’t be my last.

On Wednesday I met up with my friends Crissi and Nita to see Beauty and the Beast for what was the second time for all three of us. We went to one of the new theaters that serves dinner along with the movie due to time constraints with Nita’s pre-surgical eating schedule, and then met afterwards for dessert elsewhere so we could catch up and actually talk.

And pre-surgical? Nita was having a procedure done the following morning. In spite of her living thirty minutes from my place, fate would have it that the center she went to for the procedure was just a couple miles from the townhouse. On Thursday I headed over right after work to spend a few hours with her and several folks who dropped in to visit her throughout the evening. When she was discharged the following afternoon her and her sister came over to my place to spend the night so she wouldn’t have the thirty minute drive home so soon after surgery. I really enjoyed the company, making the first proper meal not by myself for dinner with our new pots and pans (spaghetti!), and a spread of omelettes the following morning. We also engaged in a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon, making our way through three of the movies, since I’d somehow neglected to see any of them.

Time constraints got in the way of plans to visit some of my friends in New Jersey on Saturday, which I’m disappointed about but couldn’t be avoided. My final day in town was Sunday and spent with yet another friend, making our way down to Delaware for a vintage toy show, and then taking some time before my flight for a walk in a local park where we could enjoy the weather and talk. It was the most beautiful day of my trip, and though it wasn’t particularly warm, the temperatures in the 50s made for a San Francisco-like feel that I have come to really enjoy taking walks in.

I haven’t had the easiest time over the past few months, and this visit definitely continued in the vein of complicated emotions. Rebuilding the in-person relationships that had largely shifted to being online since I moved away has brought some peace to what has been a difficult time. I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful people I have in my life, and am reminded that of those finally organized boxes that my mother-in-law left behind, 20% of what I went through were photo-based. Photos of friends, family, various moments in her life that she held on to through the years. In my often work-focused life, it was a good reminder of what is important in life besides what we accomplish professionally. I need the people I love and care for to really make me feel whole.

And upon returning home, MJ met me at the airport with roses. I love and am loved, so much to still be grateful for.

Simcoe loved

Yesterday we had to let go of our precious Simcoe. She was almost ten and a half years old, and has spent the past five and a half years undergoing treatment for her Chronic Renal Failure (CRF).

I’ll be doing a final medical post that has details about her care over the years and how her levels looked as the disease progressed, but these very painful past twenty-four hours have reminded me of so many of the things our little kitty loved and made her the sweet, loving, fun critter she was. So this post is just a simple one.

Simcoe loved her seagull on a stick, I had to covertly buy an identical one when her old one broke

Simcoe loved being a country cat, hunting bugs and watching chipmunks at the house in Pennsylvania

Simcoe loved being a city cat, staring down at cars and people from the high rise window sill in San Francisco

Simcoe loved little cat tents and houses

Simcoe loved sitting on our laps

Simcoe loved cold cut turkey

Simcoe loved bringing toys on to the bed so we would play with her

Simcoe loved snuggling Caligula

Simcoe loved being inside boxes

Simcoe loved sitting in the sun

Simcoe loved pop corn

Simcoe loved sitting on books and magazines I was trying to read

Simcoe loved string

Simcoe loved having a perfectly groomed coat of fur

Simcoe loved sitting on suitcases

Simcoe loved her Millennium Falcon on a stick

Simcoe loved climbing on top of boxes

Simcoe loved paper bags

Simcoe loved talking

Simcoe loved sleeping on our warm laptops if we left them open

Simcoe loved living, which made this all so much harder

Simcoe loved us, and we loved her so very much

Your own Zesty Zapus

As we quickly approach the release of Ubuntu 17.04, Zesty Zapus, coming up on April 13th, you may be thinking of how you can mark this release.

Well, thanks to Tom Macfarlane of the Canonical Design Team you have one more goodie in your toolkit, the SVG of the official Zapus! It’s now been added to the Animal SVGs section of the Official Artwork page on the Ubuntu wiki.

Zesty Zapus

Download the SVG version for printing or using in any other release-related activities from the wiki page or directly here.

Over here, I’m also all ready with the little “zapus” I picked up on Amazon.

Zesty Zapus toy

SCaLE 15x

At the beginning of March I had the pleasure of heading down to Pasadena, California for SCaLE 15x. Just like last year, MJ also came down for work so it was fun syncing up with him here and there between going off to our respective meetings and meals.

I arrived the evening on March 1st and went out with my co-organizer of the Open Source Infrastructure Day to pick up some supplies for the event. I hope to write up a toolkit for running one of these days based on our experiences and what we needed to buy, but that will have to wait for another day.

March 2nd is when things began properly and we got busy! I spent most of my day running the Open Source Infrastructure day, which I wrote about here on opensource.com: How to grow healthy open source project infrastructures.

I also spent an hour over at the UbuCon Summit giving a talk on Xubuntu which I already blogged about here. Throughout the day I also handled the Twitter accounts for both @OpenSourceInfra and @ubuntu_us_ca. This was deceptively exhausting, by Thursday night I was ready to crash but we had a dinner to go to! Speakers, organizers and other key folks who were part of our Open Source Infrastructure day were treated to a meal by IBM.


Photo thanks to SpamapS (source)

Keynotes for the conference on Saturday and Sunday were both thoughtful, future-thinking talks about the importance of open source software, culture and methodologies in our world today. On Saturday we heard from Astrophysicist Christine Corbett Moran, who among her varied accomplishments has done research in Antarctica and led security-focused development of the now wildly popular Signal app for iOS. She spoke on the relationships between our development of software and the communities we’re building in the open. There is much to learn and appreciate in this process, but also more that we can learn from other communities. Slides from her talk, amusingly constructed as a series of tweets (some real, most not) are available as a pdf on the talk page.


Christine Corbett Moran on “Open Source Software as Activism”

In Karen Sandler’s keynote she looked at much of what is going on in the United States today and seriously questioned her devotion to free software when it seems like there are so many other important causes out there to fight for. She came back to free software though, since it’s such an important part of every aspect of our lives. As technologists, it’s important for us to continue our commitment to open source and support organizations fighting for it, a video of her talk is already available on YouTube at SCaLE 15x Keynote: Karen Sandler – In the Scheme of Things, How Important is Software Freedom?

A few other talks really stood out for me, Amanda Folson spoke on “10 Things I Hate About Your API” where she drew from her vast experience with hosted APIs to give advice to organizations who are working to build their customer and developer communities around a product. She scrutinized things like sign-up time and availability and complexity of code examples. She covered tooling problems, documentation, reliability and consistency, along with making sure the API is actually written for the user, listening to feedback from users to maintain and improve it, and abiding by best practices. Best of all, she also offered helpful advice and solutions for all these problems! The great slides from her talk are available on the talk page.


Amanda Folson

I also really appreciated VM Brasseur’s talk, “Passing the Baton: Succession planning for FOSS leadership”. I’ll admit right up front that I’m not great at succession planning. I tend to take on a lot in projects and then lack the time to actually train other people because I’m so overwhelmed. I’m not alone in this, succession planning is a relatively new topic in open source projects and only a handful have taken a serious look at it from a high, project-wide level. Key points she made centered around making sure skills for important roles are documented and passed around and suggested term limits for key roles. She walked attendees through a process of identifying critical roles and responsibilities in their community, refactoring roles that are really too large for individual contributors, and procedures and processes for knowledge transfer. I think one of the most important things about this talk was less about the “bus factor” worry of losing major contributors unexpectedly, but how documenting and making sure roles are documented makes your project more welcoming to new, and more divers contributors. Work is well-scoped, so it’s easy for someone new to come in and help on a small part, and the project has support built in for that.


VM Brasseur

For my part, I gave a talk on “Listening to the Needs of Your Global Open Source Community” where I had a small audience (last talk of the day, against a popular speaker) but an engaged one that had great questions. It’s nice sometimes nice to have a smaller crowd that allows you to talk to almost all of them after the talk, I even arranged a follow-up lunch meeting with a woman I met who is doing some work similar to what I did for the i18n team in the OpenStack community. Slides from my talk are here (7.4M PDF).

I heard a talk from AB Periasamy of Minio, the open source alternative to AWS S3 that we’re using at Mesosphere for some of our DC/OS demos that need object storage. My friend and open source colleague Nathan Handler also gave a very work-applicable talk on PaaSTA, the framework built by Yelp to support their Apache Mesos-driven infrastructure. I cover both of these talks in more depth in a blog post coming out soon on the dcos.io blog. Edit: The post on the DC/OS blog is now up: Reflecting on SCaLE 15x.

SCaLE 15x remains one of my favorite conferences. Lots of great talks, key people from various segments of open source communities I participate in and great pacing so that you can find time to socialize and learn. Huge thanks to Ilan Rabinovitch who I worked with a fair amount during this event to make sure the Open Source Infrastructure day came together, and to the fleet of volunteers who make this happen every year.

More photos from SCaLE 15x here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157681016586816

Simcoe’s January and March 2017 Checkups

Simcoe has had a few checkups since I last wrote in October. First was a regular checkup in mid-December, where I brought her in on my own and had to start thinking about how we’re going to keep her weight up. The next step will be a feeding tube, and we really don’t want to go down that path with a cat who has never even been able to tolerate a collar. Getting her to take fiber was getting to be stressful for all of us, so the doctor prescribed Lactulose to be taken daily to handle constipation. Medication for a kitty facing renal failure is always dicey option, but the constipation was clearly painful for her and causing her to vomit more. We started getting going with that slowly. We skipped the blood work with this visit since we were aiming to get it done again in January.

On January 7th she was not doing well and was brought in for an emergency visit to make sure she didn’t pass into crisis with her renal failure. Blood work was done then and we had to get more serious about making sure she stays regular and keeps eating. Still, her weight started falling more dramatically at this point, with her dropping below 8 lbs for the first time since she was diagnosed in 2011, landing her at a worrying 7.58. Her BUN level had gone from 100 in October to 141, CRE from 7.0 to 7.9.

At the end of January she went in for her regular checkup. We skipped the blood work since it had just been done a couple weeks before. We got a new, more concentrated formulation of Mirtazapine to stimulate her appetite since MJ had discovered that putting the liquid dosage into a capsule that she could swallow without tasting any of it was the only possible way we could get her to take it. The Calcitriol she was taking daily was also reformulated. We had to leave town unexpectedly for a week in early February, which she wasn’t at all happy with, but since then I’ve been home with her most of the time so she’s seems to have perked up a bit and after dipping in weight she seems to be doing tolerably well.

When we brought her into the vet on March 11th her weight came in at a low 6.83 lbs. The lowest weight she’d ever had was 6.09 when she was first diagnosed and not being treated at all, so she wasn’t down to her all time low. Still, dropping below 7 pounds is still troubling, especially since it has happened so rapidly.

The exam went well though, the vet continues to be surprised at how well she’s doing outwardly in spite of her weight and blood work. Apparently some cats just handle the condition better than others. Simcoe is a lucky, tough kitty.


Evidence of the blood draw!

I spoke with the vet this morning now that blood work has come back. Her phosphorous and calcium levels are not at all where we want them to be. Her CRE is up from 7.9 to 10.5, BUN went from 141 to 157. Sadly, these are pretty awful levels, her daily 100 ml Subcutaneous fluids are really what is keeping her going at this point.

With this in mind, as of today we’ve suspended use of the Calcitriol, switched the Atopica she’s taking for allergies to be every other day. We’re only continuing with the Mirtazapine, Lactulose and Subcutaneous fluids. I’m hoping that the reduction in medications she’s taking each day will stress her body and mind less, leading to a happier kitty even as her kidneys continue in their decline. I hope she’s not in a lot of pain day to day, she does still vomit a couple times a week, and I know her constipation isn’t fully addressed by the medication, she still is quite thirsty all the time. We can’t increase her fluids dosage since there’s only so much she can absorb in a day, and it would put stress on her heart (she has a slight heart murmur). Keeping her weight up remains incredibly important, with the vet pretty much writing off dietary restrictions and saying she can eat as much of whatever she likes (turkey prepared for humans? Oh yes!).

Still, mostly day to day we’re having a fun cat life over here. We sent our laundry out while the washer was broken recently and clothes came back bundled in strings that Simcoe had a whole evening of fun over. I picked up a laser pointer recently that she played with for a bit, before figuring it out, she just stares at my hand now when I use it, but at least Caligula still enjoys it! And in the evenings when I carve out some time to read or watch TV, it’s pretty common for her to camp out on my lap.

Ubuntu at SCaLE15x

On Thursday, March 2nd I spent most of the day running an Open Source Infrastructure Day, but across the way my Ubuntu friends were kicking off the first day of the second annual UbuCon Summit at SCaLE. The first day included a keynote from by Carl Richell of System76 where they made product announcements, including of their new Galago Pro laptop and their Starling Pro ARM server. The talk following came from Nextcloud, with a day continuing with talks from Aaron Atchison and Karl Fezer talking about the Mycroft AI, José Antonio Rey on Getting to know Juju: From zero to deployed in minutes and Amber Graner sharing the wisdom that You don’t need permission to contribute to your own destiny.

I ducked out of the Open Infrastructure Day in the mid-afternoon to give my talk, 10 Years of Xubuntu. This is a talk I’d been thinking about for some time, and I begin by walking folks through the history of the Xubuntu project. From there I spoke about where it sits in the Ubuntu community as a recognized flavor, and then on to how specific strategies that the team has employed with regard to motivating the completely volunteer-driven team.

When it came to social media accounts, we didn’t create them all ourselves, instead relying upon existing accounts on Facebook, G+ and LinkedIn that we promoted to being official ones, keeping the original volunteers in place, just giving access to a core Xubuntu team member in case they couldn’t continue running it. It worked out for all of us, we had solid contributors passionate about their specific platforms and excited to be made official, and as long as they kept them running we didn’t need to expend core team resources to keep them running. We’ve also worked to collect user stories in order to motivate current contributors, since it means a lot to see their work being used by others. I’ve also placed a great deal of value on the Xubuntu Strategy Document, which has set the guiding principles of the project and allowed us to steer the ship through difficult decisions in the project. Slides from the talk are available here: 10_years_of_Xubuntu_UbuCon_Summit.pdf (1.9M).

Thursday evening I met with my open source infrastructure friends for dinner, but afterwards swung by Porto Alegre to catch some folks for evening drinks and snacks. I had a really nice chat with Nathan Haines, who co-organized the UbuCon Summit.

On Friday I was able to attend the first keynote! Michael Hall gave a talk titled Sponsored by Canonical where he dove deep into Ubuntu history to highlight Canonical’s role in the support of the project from the early focus on desktop Linux, to the move into devices and the cloud. His talk was followed by one from Sergio Schvezov on Snaps. The afternoon was spent as an unconference, with the Ubuntu booth starting up in the expo hall on 2PM.

The weekend was all about the Ubuntu booth. Several volunteers staffed it Friday through Sunday.

They spent the event showing off the Ubuntu Phone, Mycroft AI, and several laptops.

It was also great to once again meet up with one of my co-authors for the 9th edition of The Official Ubuntu Book, José Antonio Rey. Our publisher sent a pile of books to give out at the event, some of which we gave out during our talks, and a couple more at the booth.

Work, wine, open source and… survival

So far 2017 has proven to be quite the challenge, but let’s hold off on all that until the end.

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent posts, I start new job in January, joining Mesosphere to move up the stack to work on containers and focus on application deployments. It’s the first time I’ve worked for a San Francisco startup and so far I’ve been having a lot of fun working with really smart people who are doing interesting work that’s on the cutting edge of what companies are doing today. Aside from travel for work, I’ve spent most of my time these first couple months in the office getting to know everyone. Now, we all know that offices aren’t my thing, but I have enjoyed the catered breakfasts and lunches, dog-friendly environment and ability to meet with colleagues in person as I get started.

I’ve now started going in mostly just for meetings, with productivity much higher when I can work from home like I have for the past decade. My team is working on outreach and defining open source strategies, helping with slide decks, guides and software demos. All stuff I’m finding great value in. As I start digging deeper into the tech I’m finding myself once again excited about work I’m doing and building things that people are using.

Switching gears into the open source work I still do for fun, I’ve started to increase my participation with Xubuntu again, just recently wrapping up the #LoveXubuntu Competition. At SCaLE15x last week I gave a Xubuntu presentation, which I’ll write about in a later post. Though I’ve stepped away from the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter just recently, I did follow through with ordering and shipping stickers off to winners of our issue 500 competition.

I’ve also put a nice chunk of my free time into promoting Open Source Infrastructure work. In addition to a website that now has a huge list of infras thanks to various contributors submitting merge proposals via GitLab, I worked with a colleague from IBM to run a whole open source infra event at SCaLE15x. Though we went into it with a lot of uncertainty, we came out the other end having had a really successful event and excitement from a pile of new people.

It hasn’t been all work though. In spite of a mounting to do list, sometimes you just need to slow down.

At the beginning of February MJ and I spent a Saturday over at the California Historical Society to see their Vintage: Wine, Beer, and Spirits Labels from the Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing exhibit. It’s just around the corner from us, so allowed for a lovely hour of taking a break after a Saturday brunch to peruse various labels spanning wine, beer and spirits from a designer and printer in California during the first half of the 20th century. The collection was of mass-production labels, there nothing artisanal about them and no artists signing their names, but it did capture a place in time and I’m a sucker for early 20th century design. It was a fascinating collection, beautifully curated like their exhibits always are, and I’m glad we made time to see it.

More photos from the exhibit are up here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157676346542394

At the end of February we noted our need to pick up our quarterly wine club subscription at Rutherford Hill. In what was probably our shortest trip up to Napa, we enjoyed a noontime brunch at Harvest Table in St. Helena. We picked up some Charbay hop-flavored whiskey, stopped by the Heitz Cellar tasting room where we picked up a bottle of my favorite Zinfandel and then made our way to Rutherford Hill to satisfy the real goal of our trip. Upon arrival we were pleased to learn that a members’ wine-tasting event was being held in the caves, where they had a whole array of wines to sample along with snacks and cheeses. Our wine adventures ended with this stop and we made a relatively early trek south, in the direction of home.

A few more photos from our winery jaunt are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157677743529104

Challenge-wise, here we go. Starting a new job means a lot of time spent learning, while I also have had to to hit the ground running. We worked our way through a death in the family last month. I’ve been away from home a lot, and generally we’ve been doing a lot of running around to complete all the adult things related to life. Our refrigerator was replaced in December and in January I broke one of the shelves, resulting in a spectacular display of tomato sauce all over the floor. Weeks later our washing machine started acting up and overflowed (thankfully no damage done in our condo), we have our third repair visit booked and hopefully it’ll be properly fixed on Monday.

I spent the better part of January recovering from a severe bout of bronchitis that had lasted three months, surviving antibiotics, steroids and two types of inhalers. MJ is continuing to nurse a broken bone in his foot, transitioning from air cast to shoe-based aids, but there’s still pain and uncertainty around whether it’ll heal properly without surgery. Simcoe is not doing well, she is well into the final stages of renal failure. We’re doing the best we can to keep her weight up and make sure she’s happy, but I fear the end is rapidly approaching and I’m not sure how I’ll cope with it. I also lurked in the valley of depression for a while in February.

We’re also living in a very uncertain political climate here in the United States. I’ve been seeing people I care about being placed in vulnerable situations. I’m finding myself deeply worried every time browse the news or social media for too long. I never thought that in 2017 I’d be reading from a cousin who was evacuated from a Jewish center due to a bomb threat, or have to check to make sure the cemetery in Philadelphia that was desecrated wasn’t one that my relatives were in. A country I’ve loved and been proud of for my whole life, through so many progressive changes in recent years, has been transformed into something I don’t recognize. I have friends and colleagues overseas cancelling trips and moves here because they’re afraid of being turned away or otherwise made to feel unwelcome. I’m thankful for my fellow citizens who are standing up against it and organizations like the ACLU who have vowed to keep fighting, I just can’t muster the strength for it right now.

Right now we have a lot going on, and though we’re both stressed out and tired, we aren’t actively handling any crisis at the moment. I feel like I finally have a tiny bit of breathing room. These next two weekends will be spent catching up on tasks and paperwork. I’m planning on going back to Philadelphia for a week at the end of the month to start sorting through my mother-in-law’s belongings and hopefully wrap up sorting of things that belonged to MJ’s grandparents. I know a fair amount of heartache awaits me in these tasks, but we’ll be in a much better place to move forward once I’ve finished. Plus, though I’ll be working each day, I will be making time to visit with friends while I’m there and that always lifts my spirits.

My mother-in-law

On Monday, February 6th MJ’s mother passed away.

She had been ill over the holidays and we had the opportunity to visit with her in the hospital a couple times while we were in Philadelphia in December. Still, with her move to a physical rehabilitation center in recent weeks I thought she was on the mend. Learning of her passing was quite the shock, and it hasn’t been easy. No arrangements had been made for her passing, so for the few hours following her death we notified family members and scrambled to select a cemetery and funeral home. Given the distance and our situations at work (I was about to leave for a conference and MJ had commitments as well) we decided to meet in Philadelphia at the end of the week and take things from there.

MJ and I met at the townhouse in Philadelphia on Saturday and began the week of work we needed to do to put her to rest. Selecting a plot in the cemetery, organizing her funeral, selecting a headstone. A lot of this was new for both of us. While we both have experienced loss in our families, most of these arrangements had already been made for the passing of our other family members. Thankfully everyone we worked with was kind and compassionate, and even when we weren’t sure of specifics, they had answers to fill in the blanks. We also spent time that week moving out her apartment and started the process of handling her estate. Her brother flew into town and stayed in the guest room of our town house, which we were suddenly grateful we had made time to set up on a previous trip.

We held her funeral on February 15th and she was laid to rest surrounded by a gathering of close family and friends. We had clear, beautiful weather as we gathered graveside to say goodbye. Her obituary can be found here.

There’s still a lot to do to finish handling her affairs and it’s been hard for me, but I’m incredibly thankful for friends, family and colleagues who have been so understanding as we’ve worked through this. We’re very grateful for the time we were able to spend with her. When she was well, we enjoyed countless dinners together and of course she joined us to celebrate at our wedding back in 2013. Even recently over the holidays in spite of her condition it was nice to have some time together. She will be missed.

Moving on from the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter

Somewhere around 2010 I started getting involved with the Ubuntu News Team. My early involvement was limited to the Ubuntu Fridge team, where I would help post announcements from various teams, including the Ubuntu Community Council that I was part of. With Amber Graner at the helm of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter (UWN) I focused my energy elsewhere since I knew how much work the UWN editor position was at the time.

Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter

At the end of 2010 Amber stepped down from the team to pursue other interests, and with no one to fill her giant shoes the team entered a five month period of no newsletters. Finally in June, after being contacted numerous times about the fate of the newsletter, I worked with Nathan Handler to revive it so we could release issue 220. Our first job was to do an analysis of the newsletter as a whole. What was valuable about the newsletter and what could we do away with to save time? What could we automate? We decided to make some changes to reduce the amount of manual work put into it.

To this end, we ceased to include monthly reports inline and started linking to rather than sharing inline the upcoming meeting and event details in the newsletter itself. There was also a considerable amount of automation done thanks to Nathan’s work on scripts. No more would we be generating any of the release formats by hand, they’d all be generated with a single command, ready to be cut and pasted. Release time every week went from over two hours to about 20 minutes in the hands of an experienced editor. Our next editor would have considerably less work than those who came before them. From then on I’d say I’ve been pretty heavily involved.

500

The 500th issue lands on February 27th, this is an exceptional milestone for the team and the Ubuntu community. It is deserving of celebration, and we’ve worked behind the scenes to arrange a contest and a simple way for folks to say “thanks” to the team. We’ve also reached out to a handful of major players in the community to tell us what they get from the newsletter.

With the landing of this issue, I will have been involved with over 280 issues over 8 years. Almost every week in that time (I did skip a couple weeks for my honeymoon!) I’ve worked to collect Ubuntu news from around the community and internet, prepare it for our team of summary writers, move content to the wiki for our editors, and spend time on Monday doing the release. Over these years I’ve worked with several great contributors to keep the team going, rewarding contributors with all the thanks I could muster and even a run of UWN stickers specifically made for contributors. I’ve met and worked with some great people during this time, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished over these years and the quality we’ve been able to maintain with article selection and timely releases.

But all good things must come to an end. Several months ago as I was working on finding the next step in my career with a new position, I realized how much my life and the world of open source had changed since I first started working on the newsletter. Today there are considerable demands on my time, and while I hung on to the newsletter, I realized that I was letting other exciting projects and volunteer opportunities pass me by. At the end of October I sent a private email to several of the key contributors letting them know I’d conclude my participation with issue 500. That didn’t quite happen, but I am looking to actively wind down my participation starting with this issue and hope that others in the community can pick up where I’m leaving off.

UWN stickers

I’ll still be around the community, largely focusing my efforts on Xubuntu directly. Folks can reach out to me as they need help moving forward, but the awesome UWN team will need more contributors. Contributors collect news, write summaries and do editing, you can learn more about joining here. If you have questions about contributing, you can join #ubuntu-news on freenode and say hello or drop an email to our team mailing list (public archives).

Adventures in Tasmania

Last month I attended my third Linux.conf.au, this time in Hobart, Tasmania, I wrote about the conference here and here. In an effort to be somewhat recovered from jet lag for the conference and take advantage of the trip to see the sights, I flew in a couple days early.

I arrived in Hobart after a trio of flights on Friday afternoon. It was incredibly windy, so much so that they warned people when deplaning onto the tarmac (no jet ways at the little Hobart airport) to hold tightly on to their belongings. But speaking of the weather for a moment, January is the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere. I prepare for brutal heat when I visit Australia at this time. But Hobart? They were enjoying beautiful, San Francisco-esque weather. Sunny and comfortably in the 60s every day. The sun was still brutal though, thinner ozone that far south means that I burned after being in the sun for a couple days, even after applying strong sunblock.


Beautiful view from my hotel room

On Saturday I didn’t make any solid plans, just in case there was a problem with my flights or I was too tired to go out. I lucked out though, and took the advice of many who suggested I visit Mona – Museum of Old and New Art. In spite of being tired, the good reviews of the museum, plus learning that you could take a ferry directly there and a nearby brewery featured their beers at the eateries around the museum encouraged me to go.

I walked to the ferry terminal from the hotel, which was just over a mile with some surprising hills along the way as I took the scenic route along the bay and through some older neighborhoods. I also walked past Salamanca Market that is set up every Saturday. I passed on the wallaby burritos and made my way to the ferry terminal. There it was quick and easy to buy my ferry and museum tickets.

Ferry rides are one of my favorite things, and the views on this one made the journey to the museum a lot of fun.

The ferry drops you off at a dock specifically for the museum. Since it was nearly noon and I was in need of nourishment, I walked up past the museum and explored the areas around the wine bar. They had little bars set up that opened at noon and allowed you to get a bottle of wine or some beers and enjoy the beautiful weather on chairs and bean bags placed around a large grassy area. On my own for this adventure, I skipped drinking on the grass and went up to enjoy lunch at the wonderful restaurant on site, The Source. I had a couple beers and discovered Tasmanian oysters. Wow. These wouldn’t be the last ones on my trip.

After lunch it was incredibly tempting to spend the entire afternoon snacking on cheese and wine, but I had museum tickets! So it was down to the museum to spend a couple hours exploring.

I’m not the biggest fan of modern art, so a museum mixing old and new art was an interesting choice for me. As I began to walk through the exhibits, I realized that it would have been great to have MJ there with me. He does enjoy newer art, so the museum would have had a little bit for each of us. There were a few modern exhibits that I did enjoy though, including Artifact which I took a video of: “Artifact” at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart (warning: strobe lights!).

Outside the museum I also walked around past a vineyard on site, as well as some beautiful outdoor structures. I took a bunch more photos before the ferry took me back to downtown Hobart. More photos from Mona here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157679331777806

It was late afternoon when I returned to the Salamanca area of Hobart and though the Market was closing down, I was able to take some time to visit a few shops. I picked up a small pen case for my fountain pens made of Tasmanian Huon Pine and a native Sassafras. That evening I spent some time in my room relaxing and getting some writing done before dinner with a couple open source colleagues who had just gotten into town. I turned in early that night to catch up on some sleep I missed during flights.

And then it was Sunday! As fun as the museum adventure was, my number one goal with this trip was actually to pet a new Australian critter. Last year I attended the conference in Geelong, not too far from Melbourne, and did a similar tourist trip. On that trip I got to feed kangaroos, pet a koala and see hundreds of fairy penguins return to their nests from the ocean at dusk. Topping that day wasn’t actually possible, but I wanted to do my best in Tasmania. I booked a private tour with a guide for the Sunday to take me up to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

My tour guide was a very friendly women who owns a local tour company with her husband. She was super friendly and accommodating, plus she was similar in age to me, making for a comfortable journey. The tour included a few stops, but started with Bonorong. We had about an hour there to visit the standing exhibits before the pet-wombats tour begain. All the enclosures were populated by rescued wildlife that were either being rehabilitated or were too permanently injured for release. I had my first glimpse at Tasmanian devils running around (I’d seen some in Melbourne, but they were all sleeping!). I also got to see a tawny frogmouth, which is a bird that looks a bit like an owl, and the three-legged Randall the echidna, a spiky member of the species that is one of the few egg-laying mammals. I also took some time to commune with kangaroos and wallabies, picking up a handful of food to feed my new, bouncy friends.


Feeding a kangaroo, tiny wombat drinking from a bottle, pair of wombats, Tasmanian devil

And then there were the baby wombats. I saw my first wombat at the Perth Zoo four years ago and was surprised at how big they are. Growing to be a meter in length in Tasmania, wombats are hefty creatures and I got to pet one! At 11:30 they did a keeper talk and then allowed folks gathered to give one of the babies (about 9 months old) a quick pat. In a country of animals that have fur that’s more wiry and wool-like than you might expect (on kangaroos, koalas), the baby wombats are surprisingly soft.


Wombat petting mission accomplished.

The keeper talks continued with opportunities to pet a koala and visit some Tasmanian devils, but having already done these things I hit the gift shop for some post cards and then went to the nearby Richmond Village.

More photos from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157679331734466

I enjoyed a meat pie lunch in the cute downtown of Richmond before continuing our journey to visit the oldest continuously operating Catholic church in all of Australia (not just Tasmania!), St John’s. It was built in 1836. Just a tad bit older, we also got to visit the oldest bridge, built in 1823. The bridge is surrounded by a beautiful park, making for a popular picnic and play area on days like the beautiful one we had while there. On the way back, we stopped at the Wicked Cheese Co. where I got to sample a variety of cheeses and pick up some Whiskey Cheddar to enjoy later in the week. A final stop at Rosny Hill rounded out the tour. It gave some really spectacular views of the bay and across to Hobart, I could see my hotel from there!

Sunday evening I met up with a gaggle of OpenStack friends for some Indian food back in the main shopping district of Hobart.

That wrapped up my real touristy part of my trip, as the week continued with the conference. However there were some treats still to be enjoyed! I had a whole bunch of Tasmanian cider throughout the week and as I had promised myself, more oysters! The thing about the oysters in Tasmania is that they’re creamy and they’re big. A mouthful of delicious.

I loved Tasmania, I hope I can make it back some day. More photos from my trip here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157677692771201