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DevPulseCon 2017

Back on April 20th I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at my first DevPulseCon, put on by CodeChix. I’ve worked with CodeChix before, back in 2013 I did an OpenStack tutorial in Palo Alto. Then in 2014 I went with them on the road to help with the PiDoorbell workshop at PyCon in Montreal. These experiences were all very fulfilling. CodeChix founder Rupa Dachere has a great vision for all the events she works on and always manages to bring a great team together to execute them.

This conference took place over two days, the first made up of talks and panels, where I was participating, and a training day on the second. I was invited to give a tech talk on “Using DC/OS for Continuous Delivery” and to join an afternoon panel on “Getting Your Next Job – Groundwork You Need To Do Before You Start Interviewing.”

DevPulseCon 2017 was held in the upstairs event space at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Rupa did the event introduction, explaining that the event was made up of female engineers from various companies around the bay area. I go to women in tech-targeted events infrequently enough that I find myself really enjoying the environment. Walking into a whole room of highly skilled women who I can geek out with about infrastructure and tooling is quite the departure from what I’m used to at tech events.

The first talk of the morning was by Mansi Narula, Senior Data Architect at eBay, who spoke about NoSQL Database Platforms. She gave a high level overview of Mongo, Cassandra, Couchbase and Hbase and the basic rules around how they are all used at eBay. It was interesting to learn that internally they have a database selection tool that helps developers select which database platform works best for whatever they’re working on based on criteria they present, like speed, reliability and purpose of the data store.

My talk was up next. I began with a basic introduction to DC/OS and what it brings to the Continuous Delivery equation by simplifying a lot of the underlying infrastructure. Jenkins has an Apache Mesos plugin, but in spite with my own background using Jenkins in past roles, preparing for this talk this was my first time really getting a close look at that particular plugin. The demo I did used a Python script to bring up a simple pipeline of changes being made to a repository, uploaded, tested, and deployed on a web server. I customized it some for the event, having it publish a “Hello world” type post specifically for DevPulseCon attendees. I concluded the talk by talking about some of the DC/OS 1.9 features I felt were particularly applicable to folks interested in running an infrastructure platform, including strides made with metrics and logging. I uploaded the slides here (PDF) and they include links to some other resources and the demo I showed.

Thanks to Nithya Ruff for the photos of my presentation (source)

The final tech talk was given by Gloria W., titled “IoT: Yes You Can!” where she broadly outlined the space of DYI internet of things and then dove into some details about how you might get started. She started by talking about the constant struggle of anyone developing in the IoT space around making sure devices are provided with power and some way to communicate. From there she spoke about some of the specific tooling available today, trending toward recommending open source solutions where ever possible. She talked about using Arduinos with sensors, and I was interested to learn about the MATRIX Voice, “an open-source VOICE RECOGNITION platform consisting of a 3.14-inches in diameter dev board, with a radial array of 7 MEMS microphones connected to a Xilinx Spartan6 FPGA & 64 Mbit SDRAM with 18 RGBW LED’s & 64 GPIO pins.” How cool! Kit-wise, she advised attendees to try to steer clear of proprietary development kits since they try to push you onto their platform, and instead select ones that lean toward using open source and open standards. The talk concluded with a raffle where she gave away some of the devices she had brought along.

The afternoon was spent with a series of panels:

  • Getting Your Next Job – Groundwork You Need To Do Before You Start Interviewing
  • Company culture that works for YOU (not just the men in your team) – AKA “work/life balance”
  • Promotions, Visibility, toxic environments and how to deal with them

I can’t share details about these sessions since they did a really novel thing with these: Asked everyone to put down their social media devices and not share what was shared in these panels outside the conference. It allowed panelists and audience members alike to be really honest about their experiences, solutions and advice without risking that they’d be quoted somewhere. Huge thanks to the event for providing a safe space for these kinds of discussions, it was helpful and I think we sometimes suffer from not having enough of this in our industry.

The day concluded with a small after party in the lobby sponsored by Facebook. I am often shy at social events like this, but being a speaker helps, people came up to me to chat about CI/CD and the work we’re doing on DC/OS. I also met an attendee who I chatted about OpenStack with for a while. It was also nice to connect with some of the folks who I already knew at the event, like Nithya who I frequently fail to connect with at events and at home – both homes! She spends time in Philadelphia with her new role and yet our trips back east seem to rarely overlap. I was also amused that when I went to get a beer from the bar and declined a glass they said “the men want glasses and women want the bottle, it’s usually the opposite!” Oh yes, I was in the right place at this event.

Apache Mesos, and big, streaming data events

Over the past several months I’ve been getting into the swing of things with my new role as a Developer Advocate at Mesosphere. This began by attending Spark Summit East back in February, and really got going when I spoke with my colleague Ravi Yadav at Flink Forward in San Francisco early last month.

These very specific technology conferences are somewhat new for me. It’s true that I’ve been going to Ubuntu and OpenStack conferences for nearly a decade, but these projects are huge, with dozens of different projects inside them and various teams, companies and volunteers with varying motivations. It’s a whole different thing feel when you have a small concentration of folks working on a very specific technology directly and together. It’s also a great learning environment, since your attention is not split across a massive community and you can focus on learning how other people are doing things like deployments, scaling and whatever else is specific to that technology.

I wrote about the specific Flink Forward talk Ravi and I gave in the post on the DC/OS blog, but even more generally it was great to meet community members operating in that space and talk shop about the technologies that surround our work. Professional photos from the event are here and I have my own album of pictures I took here. And in case you’re curious, a video of our talk is now online here and slides can be found here.

Ravi shows off a demo between my bits of speaking at Flink Forward, cc-by-sa 2.0 Silke Briel (source)

I’ve also been starting to help run some of the meetups that we’re hosting here at the office. Back in March I attended and MCed my first Apache Mesos meetup, Running Production Containers and Big Data Services Gets Even Better. The meeting was great for me since I’m still getting up to speed with all our projects, and it covered some features in the new releases. First up was Gilbert Song talking about “Mesos 1.2 Updates and Universal Container Runtime” and then a DC/OS 1.9 features talk by Sebastien Pahl. The event concluded with a presentation about Instana, a multi-layer monitoring platform geared toward container-based architectures where your environment is, by design, constantly changing (it is a paid product, but a 14 day trial is offered). A video from the event is up on YouTube.

The opportunity also arose to host a Women in Big Data meetup here at the office where Amita Ekbote and Susan Huynh introduced Apache Mesos and DC/OS and gave a live demonstration of the IoT Pipeline. Suzanne Scala posted a write up of the event, including the slide decks and other links on the Women in Big Data blog, here: Big Data on DC/OS. I attend a lot of tech conferences and events, and they tend to be male-dominated, so I really enjoy these events where I can meet other women doing cool technical stuff. Plus, big data in particular is a space where people are doing some really interesting work.

I’m looking forward to helping out with more local meetups in the coming months here at the office, but also to be speaking at some of my own, I’m aiming for some east coast events in early June that I’m pretty excited about.

The underground and monorail in Seattle

I was in Seattle just over a week ago for a couple days for DevOps Days Seattle 2017. I’ll write about that later, but the early evenings while I was there and my journey back to the airport allowed me some time to explore the city a bit more than I have in the couple times I’ve visited previously.

The first full day I was there I forewent the event social in favor of the Seattle Underground Tour. MJ went on this tour a year ago with some friends when he was spending a lot of time working up in Seattle. He knew I’d enjoy it, a perfect mix of tourist-y and interesting history.

I learned that the area around Pioneer Square in Seattle was risen by a story or two over 100 years ago, following a fire that gave them an opportunity to rebuild. As a result there’s a whole underground that has the former street level buildings, now deteriorating, that were used while the work was being done. The tour guide shared history, puns and anecdotes as we spent an hour traipsing through various sections of the underground, seeing old entrances to hotels and banks, along with early toilets and plumbing systems, and even an old Klondike gold rush era (1897-1899) bank vault.

At one point you’re particularly reminded that you’re walking under the current sidewalk, as we walked through a section that had natural light, coming from fogged glass insets in the sidewalk that we’d just walked on above ground a few minutes before.

Almost everyone going on the tour was from out of town, and the guide made jokes about locals going who were dragged along by visiting friends. But you know me, I do all the tourist things, even in my own town. After the underground tour I took a bit of a walk to the nearby piers, which appear to be there totally for tourists and have a highway spanning nearby above them. I suddenly realized how similar it must be to how the Embarcadero in San Francisco was before they tore down the freeway. Thank goodness for that. The drizzle that had been coming down then switched to a steady pour, so I caught a car back to my hotel, and had dinner at the nearby Crow restaurant that had counter seating, making it slightly less awkward than usual to eat out alone.

More photos from the underground tour, and wandering around Seattle here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157680012009863

Since I was staying up near the Space Needle, I had some time to get to the airport at the end of the last day of the conference and Seattle was enjoying a beautiful sunny afternoon, I decided to take the leisurely public transit way. That meant starting with the monorail! I made a point to take the monorail the first time I was in Seattle, during the chilly winter of 2013 when I started at HP. It’s an incredibly short ride, but fun because of all the 1960’s future-view paraphernalia at the stations. From there I caught the Link to the airport, and concluded my Seattle adventure this time. I wish I’d taken time to visit with some folks while I was in town, but I’ve been pretty tired with everything going on, I was glad I at least took time to do the tourist things for a few hours. Next time I hope to be more social!

Upon checking in at the airport learned I could take a slightly earlier flight home than I was expecting. Getting able to meet MJ for dinner and being tucked in at home before midnight was a pleasant surprise and lovely conclusion to this quick trip.

4th Wedding Anniversary at Coi

On April 28th MJ and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. April and May tend to be busy travel months for me, and though I do try to be in town for our anniversary. I wasn’t last year and it caused us to do a ridiculous amount of postponing when it came to celebrating it.

This year I was home, and MJ snagged us reservations at the amazing Coi Restaurant in North Beach!

Their focus is seafood and like many of these super fancy restaurants in San Francisco there’s also a focus on seasonal selections from local farms in the dishes.

The menu itself is a set nine course tasting menu with a couple optional drink pairings. They offer a tea pairing, as well as two options for wine pairings. The tea pairing was tempting since it was unusual, but I decided to go with the more expensive of the two wine pairings, and MJ had a glass of the 1998 Krut “Brut” Champagne from the same menu and tastes of mine throughout the meal.

I’m quite the seafood fan, so I was really happy with the theme and the selections were really nicely executed. The wines were amazing, especially the 2007 Château Pape Clément Blanc. So good.

The menus they gave us at the end of the meal had been customized to show the wines we enjoyed throughout the meal, as well as the fact that we were excluding pork from the selections, which was a really nice touch.

More photos from our dinner here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157680300381264

With four years under our belt you’d think I’d have the wedding photos online somewhere by now, but I don’t. Hah! I have some more work to do on the site I’m putting together, I’ll try to bump the priority on it since there are so many great photos I’d like to share.

Local movies, sights and Sharks

It’s been two months since I’ve done a proper general life update post. This is in part because I’ve been struggling with everything going on this year and primarily focusing on work and blog posts over there about events. I would like to catch up over here though, since a healthy part of me staying on top of my mood is writing about the exciting things we’re doing to keep moving forward.

So, first exciting thing, we got our washing machine fixed! Maybe not so exciting, but I did have to walk to the laundromat once and send out wash with a service that had a hefty turnaround time while it was broken, so I was pretty happy when I could finally do laundry at home again. I forgot how much I take that for granted. I’ve also tried to do some spring cleaning around here. Our condo has an open floor plan, but there’s a “dining room” area that has forever been a bit of a box land. I’m trying to solve that so MJ has more space to work on projects. I made a considerable amount of progress when I began this work, also cleaning out some of what we had in the hallway closet while I was at it so I could make room for some of what I was moving out of the condo proper. It’s a bit stalled at the moment, but at least I now have a better idea of what is over there so I can pick up where we left off when we decide to make time over some weekend.

I spent some time over the past couple months going out with a friend of mine. First it was over to see the film Love and Taxes at The Roxie in the Mission. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I’m not much of a comedy fan but it was nicely done, if a bit too real. The Roxie is also one of those fun old theaters with big neon lights outside, we saw the film in the smaller theater, I’ll have to get into the big one some time. We also recently saw The Sense of an Ending, which I was less thrilled with. As a British film it’s slower than I tend to like but I found myself wondering if it ever managed to go anywhere interesting. Still, we had a nice evening grabbing some drinks and cheeses nearby afterwards. Back in mainstream movie land, I mentioned in my post about the last trip to Philly last month that I saw Beauty and the Beast for a second time. The first time was when I got an opening night ticket on my own, and immediately had a couple awesome friends pile on and invite themselves along so I wouldn’t have to go alone. Sab and Mark, you rock.

Too much TV has been happening lately too. I’m not proud of it, but I did have a pretty extensive scifi and fantasy TV queue from times where I’ve been more productive, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, and already my amount of reading is once again starting to overtake the amount of time I spend watching TV. But in the midst of my TV binge time, the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 came out. MST3K is kind of a big deal for me. It’s the show that brought me to my first IRC server, it was a major point of bonding for my first husband and I, and I met a lot of friends through an MST3K IRC channel and fan site I used to help run (hello #deep13 buddies!). When the kickstarter was launched last year for a revival I signed up quickly and expensively. My name is in the credits of the new episode 5 (1105) and the kickstarter rewards have been trickling in. Looking forward to the coffee table book! I’m trying to bide my time on the episodes though, restricting myself to one or so per week so I don’t have a major the dry spell once they’re gone and I’m forced to wait for a new season, which we’re all hoping will happen.

With all this laziness and TV watching, I’m not running as much as I’d like, but I have found myself walking more. Even if it’s just to go sit by Ferry Building with a hot chocolate, or a random wander down to Pier 39 to watch street cars drive down the Embarcadero and then visit the sea lions. I live in a beautiful place and taking time to enjoy that while listening to some music or an audio book is incredibly relaxing.

A recent walk around the zoo was also therapeutic, but I specifically went a few weekends ago when they had cards up to share memories and love for the last polar bear who lived at the San Francisco Zoo and recently passed away, Uulu. Losing her was quite sad, but the visit to the zoo was a nice one otherwise. I was able to see the family of guanacos closer than usual, a bounding wolverine and one of the red pandas running all around their enclosure. Plus it was a beautifully sunny day, of which we’ve had plenty of as we migrate out of the soggy winter we had.

More photos from my visit to the zoo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157680629307391

And it wasn’t just walking. MJ and I made our way to Golden Gate Park recently as we were preparing for Passover by eating a whole bunch of bagels while we still could (haha!). We stopped by House of Bagels for some sandwiches and then made our way over to the park.

Work-wise I’ve been keeping super busy with events and continuing to learn more about our product, but I decided to start a new experiment so I can limit my workaholic tenancies: I now have 2 cellphones. My Nexus 6 on Project Fi is now used for work and international travel, and I have my mother-in-law’s old (but quite new…) cellphone on Verizon that I’m using personally. During the weekdays I often carry them both, but I can choose to leave my work phone behind when I want to physically separate myself from the temptation to check work email and notifications. It’s definitely a cumbersome arrangement, and making sure I charge (and shut off for takeoff!) two phones has taken some getting used to, but I think I’m developing a healthier relationship with my day job this way. Evenings and weekends I can really spend on other work and projects without getting too distracted by work work.

Speaking of work, I recently went on my first bay cruise that took me under the Golden Gate Bridge! Mesosphere celebrated their 4th anniversary recently and to celebrate we did an unconference during the day, and then went on a boat. It was cold on deck, but that’s how we got to really experience going under the bridge before the boat turned around. There were also dolphins and sea lions in the bay that we got to see. Chatting more casually with some of my colleagues was also obviously nice, though I do tend to be on the quieter side during social events like this.

Some more photos from the boat and our cruise around the bay here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157680726304672

After work on April 18th MJ and I met up at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, which he hadn’t been to before (I’d been to a Long Now seminar there). We were there for an interview with Krista Tippett on her new book, Becoming Wise. I’ve been a long time listener to her On Being radio show, going back to it was called “Speaking of Faith”. As a fan of the incredible interviews she’s done of scientists, religious scholars and key thinkers of today, it was a real honor to see her be interviewed live and then meet her and get a copy of the book signed! I finished reading the book last night, and have already sent another copy off to an aunt who I thought would particularly appreciate it. The evening was concluded by a tourist-esque visit to Sears Fine Food right near the theater.

Photo by Anna Bryan, album on Facebook

A couple weeks ago I also found myself loosely following the NHL playoffs. With the San Jose Sharks making it all the way to the Stanley Cup last year, I knew there was a chance there’d be some playoff games this year. We drove down to San Jose on April 22nd to have dinner and enjoy the game. Unfortunately it ended up being the last game of the season, with our Sharks losing to the Edmonton Oilers 1-3 and bringing the series to a close with the Oilers on top.

Still, it was a lot of fun to go down and enjoy a final game of the season with the Sharks. More photos from the game here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157679697721774

I still have much to write about our 4th wedding anniversary, and my recent trip up to Seattle, but there’s only so much catching up I can do in a single post! Plus, I’m on my way for dinner and to see Hamilton (so excited!). Next time.

The life of Simcoe

Rounding out over ten years of a wonderful life, and over five years of treatment for Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), Simcoe passed away on April 9th.

I picked up tiny baby Simcoe on a snowy night in January of 2007. The litter of kittens she came from had two girls, and I picked the one I saw first. Her whiskers were a bit mangled due to some rough play with a sibling but she was the one who was least skittish in the crew if naturally skittish Siamese. And she was so small! Her introduction to Caligula was tense at first but within just a couple days he grew accustomed to her.

Simcoe was named after a hop. I was really into local breweries and homebrew in the mid 2000s, even having grown nugget hops in our back yard in Pennsylvania. The hop was distinctive and I enjoyed it, and the name was great. Though it did cause a lot of people to mix up her gender over the years since the name was not obviously gendered.

As a kitten, she was a bit of a terror. Climbing so many places where she shouldn’t be, taking her claws to a pair of speakers and some furniture. She also loved attacking toilet paper, which I eventually trained her out of. She never quite settled down like Caligula did into full adult cat mode, but she did calm out of her kitten phase eventually after she learned some rules and would at least abide by them while we were watching. She also stopped the furious little kitten destruction-of-things and as an adult was quite kind and careful.

Simcoe was with me through a divorce and total up-ending of my life as I left the Philadelphia area where I spent much of my 20s and moved to San Francisco. When I moved to San Francisco in 2010 there were months of unpacking as I struggled to juggle work and my new life out west. During this time she developed a habit of hopping on top of one of the larger boxes when MJ came home so he could pet her. I was thrilled with how quickly they bonded. She also took to city life quickly, and the beautiful weather we often enjoy here in northern California.

“Helping” me pack for the move to California

She was a bouncy kitty whose boundless affection touched everyone who spent much time with her. She was playful and funny, making for endless photos of her escapades I could share. There were mornings when I’d wake up with cat toys in the bed, a clear indication that it was time to play with her whenever I decided to get myself out of bed. She also spent a lot of time snuggling Caligula, following him around to figure out where he was sleeping so she could join him, and had a funny habit of trying to nurse from him. I tried to capture much of this this post, which I wrote the day after she passed away.

On November 22nd of 2011 our Simcoe turned five years old. She’d always been a small cat, but in the weeks following her birthday we realized she had lost a considerable amount of weight. We brought her in to the vet on December 10th and learned that she had dropped from about ten pounds to just over six. I wrote about that first week of learning she was sick here, but suffice to say we learned that she had CRF, an incurable condition that we could treat, but was ultimately fatal. It was devastating. I cried a lot during the 72 hours they worked to get her stable at the vet through constant fluids and a watchful eye.

After a few days, she came home to us. The next several weeks were spent learning how to care for her. Thankfully MJ had experience giving cats subcutaneous (SubQ) fluids, as it seemed so daunting when the vet explained that we had to put a needle under the skin of her neck to administer fluids. We even brought her up to a veterinary hospital over an hour north of San Francisco to visit a feline kidney transplant doctor. We also completed various preliminary tests to see if she was a good candidate for transplant. Ultimately after discussion with all the vets involved, we all decided to hold off on the transplant because we wanted to try management of her condition once her values evened out at the end of December, showing that she was in the early stages of the disease.

While doing all these tests related to the disease and transplant eligibility, we also learned that she had an infected tooth that was causing trouble. In mid-January we took the calculated risk of having her put under to get the tooth taken care of. The infection was considerably worse than they thought, so the procedure took longer and there was a dip in blood pressure they had to control, but over all she was ok. By February we were getting into the swing of things care-wise. In April we had to make our first trip where we’d leave our newly diagnosed kitty in the care of a pet sitter who came to the house daily, but we found one and it worked out fine. We continued to use the same pet sitter over the next five years. Her weight bounced back, gaining steadily throughout 2012 and bringing her back up to a healthy 9.5 by the end of the year where she remained while she was doing well.

Plus, she was an awesome cat! And we spent a lot of time together since I work from home.

Check-ups every three months over the next few years became the norm. I wrote about them each time, finding the tracking and writing to be therapeutic and always hoped that sharing our journey would be helpful to others. The full listing, for reading in detail about her progression:

We decided in the course of this to discontinue our plans for a renal transplant. The vet up north had retired and his practice ceased doing the procedure. We also learned that there hadn’t been any major improvements in the procedure in the years that had elapsed since her diagnosis, it was still expensive and risky, with a high level of care required after the transplant, which I thought we might struggle with.

She was responding incredibly well to treatment, in addition to a healthy weight, her BUN and Creatinine levels stayed reasonable for her condition. We adjusted some additional supplements, changed up her food from time to time as it made sense to tend to her treatment. Her and Caligula did end up swapping colds over the years, but after seeing the vet a few times for it they said it was just the way some pairs of cats are with these things, and aside from sniffles and sneezing, it didn’t seem to make much of an impact on their general well-being.

Box of fluids, IV sets and needles

In 2014 she became immortalized in a software project I work on. With the Xubuntu 14.04 release the login greeter garnered the ability to have a personalized picture next to your login name. The team flipped through some options for the default picture in the installer, and decided upon the striking image of beautiful Simcoe.

This wasn’t the full extent of her internet fame though. I shared pictures of her all the time on social media, so everyone who knew me, knew my cat. It did make me a bit of a cat lady, but that’s totally fair, it’s tricky to pull my identity away from my beloved critters.

Alas, CRF is a disease that progresses, and late 2015 is when things started shifting. First her weight began to drop. Then she started breaking out with sores around her eyes and nose, which were first treated, probably unsuccessfully, with antibiotics. Then, after a large sore on the base of the underside of her tail developed along with the other sores we took her to a dermatologist. We learned that she had allergies which were causing the breakouts. The doctor didn’t believe it was related to the CRF directly, but did say that her weakened immune system could be making it so that the sores resulting from the breakouts failed to heal quickly, risking infection. A small dose of daily anti-allergy medication cleared it up nicely and there were no further incidents. Her health was declining though.

Through 2016 her BUN and Creatinine levels continued to rise and her weight drop. Her damaged kidneys were incredibly small and it surprised the vet that they were functioning at all. We increased her SubQ fluids to 100 ml daily. She was put on a couple more medications to manage her calcium levels and other things that had started getting out of whack with the progression of the disease. In general, she was still acting fine though, in spite of the stage four renal failure diagnosis she ended up with last year. Everyone was surprised at how well she was handling it.

She did develop severe constipation though, which caused her visible distress and made it so she’d sometimes find a more comfortable place than her litter box to do her number two business, often our bed. In addition to covering the bed more aggressively, this led us to various attempts to give her more fiber, with varying success throughout the year. Mixing fiber-for-humans in with wet food, giving her some mixed with water directly. At the end of the year we decided the positives outweighed the negatives and switched her to a daily medication which helped ease the constipation, but while safe, wasn’t quite optimal for a CRF cat, though it did start to relieve the constipation.

By the end of 2016 her weight had dropped below eight pounds and our concern was growing. She then rapidly dropped below seven pounds over the first couple months of 2017, and in March her energy took an unexpected dip. She wasn’t as playful, slept more, and when she was awake she would often rest in a somewhat hunched position. Her meowing got more frequent, especially at night, and came to my lap to snuggle much more frequently than normal. Her appetite had decreased a lot as well.

With her steady decline we looked into transplants again, somewhat out of desperation and desire not to lose her. I went as far as having a call with UPenn’s feline renal transplant department and talking to our local vet about preparatory and follow up care here. But she was really not doing well, the trip across the country for the transplant, in spite of having a place there where she could begin recovery, would have been challenging. Life post-surgery would have also been difficult for all of us, two anti-rejection medications per day, need to stay away from infections since her immune system would be compromised. We made the heartbreaking decision not to move forward with the transplant.

Skinny Simcoe toward the end on a heated blanket with Caligula

The week of April 3rd showed further behavior changes. Her breathing was sometimes labored and scratchy as it seems like she was going through another bout of respiratory issues. She was climbing to unusual places, and being excessively heat-seeking. I’d find her on top of the toaster oven, sitting on our computer equipment. She had also almost completely stopped eating. We could get her to eat a little cold cut turkey (her favorite!) but even that she lost interest in quickly, and vomited much of it up.

On April 7th Simcoe had a urine accident in our bed, which had never happened before. She was clearly distressed by the situation and paired with her general lethargy and change in behavior over the preceding weeks made us decide it was time to let her go. We made an appointment with an in-house vet Sunday morning. Early Saturday morning I found her on top of our computer rack in my office, when I picked her up she was soaked with urine, seemingly had an accident again and yet didn’t move from where she was. She barely fought me when I cleaned her up in the bathtub.

We spent the rest of the day with her. Playing with her favorite toys (string! seagull!) and cat tents, she even took a few bites of cold cut turkey. Saturday night MJ and I took shifts to stay up all night with her. He stayed up until the early morning, waking me up around 5AM so I could spend some final hours with her. She spent much of those final hours sleeping on me, or near me on a heated blanket with Caligula. In the late morning before the vet showed up she perked up and played a bit. I immediately thought we were making a mistake in having her put to sleep, but all the other evidence of her decline outweighed that final playtime.

The vet arrived on time and walked us through the procedure. He was super compassionate and friendly, and remarked at how beautiful she looked. Indeed, many cats are unable to groom themselves effectively when they get to where she was, but she’d always been a super groomer, so she was beautiful even at the end. MJ held her as we sat together on the couch as he administered the shots and we felt her slip away there as we petted her. We brought Caligula over so he could say goodbye, though he didn’t seem to understand. The vet took her away in a little basket and she just looked like she was sleeping. He took care of the cremation details and explained that her ashes would be returned to us in a couple weeks.

It’s now been almost four weeks since her passing, and this is still incredibly painful to write. Losing her has been one of those really hard losses. We have her ashes back now, in a beautiful lotus urn. We haven’t yet had the discussion of where to spread them, but I’ve kept it in my thoughts should inspiration arise.

These past few weeks I’ve realized how much we’d adjusted our lives to handle her care. She had a history of vomiting, so we’d been diligent about covering the bed with a waterproof cover as soon as we got up in the morning, and were careful not to leave out papers she could potentially get sick on. Laptops had to remain closed so she wouldn’t sit on the keyboards. There was also the daily care. Every night we made time to give her medication and SubQ fluids. And all the vet visits, at least quarterly. The pet sitter who had to be familiar with administration of SubQ and medications.

But we’d do it all again without a second thought. It was worth it to have her part of our lives for so many wonderful years. It seems like a daunting amount of work, but it really just becomes routine and not too scary.

I learned soon after her diagnosis that many vets don’t work with owners to recommend treatment and instead recommend euthanasia upon diagnosis. I would never judge those vets or owners who choose that path, it is some work and expense, but I want people to know there’s another way. Simcoe was diagnosed when she was just five years old, and she had another good five years in her beyond her diagnosis. There are great websites, communities and vets who can help CRF cats who are otherwise in good health, especially if they’re on the younger side.

Throughout the disease we kept personal records of her weight and important levels, graphing and sharing them with each blog post:

I’ve put a copy of the spreadsheet with exact levels up here, the BUN and CRE tabs include what the normal values are from the lab (these vary between labs).

We’re super thankful for the staff of both All Pets Hospital, particularly Dr. Barr and Dr. Gillespie who showed so much love and care for her early in her condition. Then as her condition worsened the welcoming staff at VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists and Dr. Maretzki who walked us through the end stages with us, changing up her medication regularly and helping us determine the next steps throughout. Our pet-sitter Elaine was also wonderful through all our travel as she went to great lengths to make sure Simcoe got all her medications, and who was also able to take away and donate foods that Simcoe wouldn’t eat throughout her pickier phases.

And much gratitude to friends who understand how painful this has been for me.

The following are some resources we consulted and used throughout her condition:

Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Renal Failure Disease

This website is a treasure trove of information that we consulted on a regular basis throughout her CRF life. They talk about treatment for various symptoms that can crop up, preferred medications for CRF cats, shared stories and gave a lot of information about what you could expect in various situations. The site also included a whole chart of over the counter foods that contained tolerable nutrient balance for a CRF cat in case your cat won’t accept the prescribed renal-specific diet or you were seeking to supplement it. I would often print out sections of these charts to bring to the pet store, but the site author just published a hard copy of the US foods, which I would have bought if it had been available when I was using it. Food-wise we got lucky that Simcoe mostly ate the K/D prescription diet from Hills, but for a while we were adding in some OTC wet food to further increase the amount of liquids she was getting.

Feline Chronic Renal Failure Information Center

This is the first CRF website I found, and while Tanya’s is far more comprehensive, this one was a little less overwhelming as I started out learning about things.

Mailing lists/Yahoo! groups: Chronic Renal Failure Cats and Feline Assisted Feeding

I used these for reference and posted a few times, always receiving kind and thoughtful replies. However I could never could keep up with the volume of emails. Part of that was it was so sad to read about the struggles people were posting about, and I feared where eventually inevitable for us, and the crushing pain when people would post about the death of their cat. So I mostly let the emails pile up and used these when I needed to.

Finally, more photos of Simcoe can be found in this album and her website remains up at simcoec.at.

We love you and miss you, Simcoe. Caligula sends his snuggly love too.

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