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Our house fell to COVID-19

We’re not yet sure how it happened. We were masking indoors, avoiding indoor dining and crowded areas, and not traveling. Still, on a Saturday evening a few weeks ago our au pair started feeling sick and took a COVID test. It was positive. MJ and I immediately ones of our own, his was positive, mine was negative. As we sat with this knowledge, it weighed heavy. We spent over two years exercising caution, and just two weeks after getting the boys their first vaccine dose, we got infected.

As it turned out, our infections appear to have been relatively mild and swept through quickly, with only some lingering fatigue. Our au pair was probably the sickest with traditional COVID symptoms. MJ had his fatigue and headache symptoms the longest. I got away with just five days of headache, fatigue, and sore neck, but it was enough to knock me out of all but a couple hours of work per day that week. Adam and Aaron didn’t seem to get sick at all, in spite of us all being in the house together sharing germs. It’s unclear if they were just asymptomatic, or if their single dose of vaccine two weeks prior protected them from infection entirely. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. With negative COVID tests from adults, when the time came to clear Adam to go back to preschool we finally tested them and they were negative.

I’m grateful the boys didn’t end up sick, but that fortune also meant we had a one year old and a three year old bouncing off the walls while their trio of caretakers were sick, and we couldn’t go to parks or playgrounds to burn off energy. They watched more TV than normal when we were the most sick, and I rallied my energy to bring them out to the backyard to play a couple times. But we also couldn’t do our typical weekend outings for two weeks in a row, which I know was incredibly disappointing to them.

As for the adults, I think to some extent we’ve grown accustomed to hermit life. We still go out to pick up food and get groceries, but the added level of stay-at-home that full quarantine required was not a real hardship. The most difficult part was figuring out what services to use for grocery and take-out deliveries, and coordinating with restaurants we’re friendly with to let us pay with a credit card over the phone and pop it in the trunk of the car. As far as difficulty level goes, even while navigating a headache the process of selecting groceries while resting on the couch barely ranks.

Our eating habits did change some. We made a big dent in the food that had been collecting in our freezer by having a half dozen meals cooked at home, which is unusual for us. We prepared tacos, sausages, ravioli, and bao buns, and finally finished the brisket and turkey leftovers we had in the freezer. It was nice to know that we can get away with eating at home if the need arises, and to not have to go out and pick up food all the time. I didn’t enjoy the additional dirty dishes load though, especially with the level of fatigue I was experiencing. The kitchen sink was getting pretty basic triage for several days while the pots and pans piled up.

Taco night!

Why yes, that is leftover turkey from Thanksgiving

We had to delay the second vaccine for the boys by a few weeks so they’re well outside the infection zone, but still landing within the guidelines for vaccine spacing. Thankfully we were cleared quickly enough so that an outpatient procedure I’m having done this week won’t need to be rescheduled. And if there is any long-term impact of this infection on any of us, we don’t know about it yet, and we’re all doing much better now. I’ve been back at work for a full week, and the house is even recovering from the chaotic mess it had descended into.

It still feels a little disappointing to have dodged it for so long, and finally succumb. But with restrictions falling by the wayside, it was probably only a matter of time. We caught it during a major wave here in the bay area, so our basic precautions simply weren’t enough and we got unlucky. Thankfully, the hospitals we sufficiently staffed and available, there are many treatments out there now, and the vaccines that we all got probably prevented us from getting sicker.

Perhaps most importantly, our diligence in not becoming infection vectors ourselves protected everyone around us, and likely saved lives by helping control the spread. With that in mind, I’m still wearing my N95 mask in grocery stores until it seems safe to do otherwise. It’s not much of an inconvenience, and it’s still not worth taking the risk.

Our weekend routine, car seats, and vaccines

Life with young kids is always changing. It feels like we struggle to plan anything more than a few months out because their preferences change, or we discover someone gets car sick, or some new COVID wave sweeps through. Still, we did manage to fall into a nice weekend routine these past few months that we’re all enjoying.

Saturday morning MJ gets up with the kids so I can have one morning where I sleep until 7:30, at which point I make breakfast for everyone. Around 9 I load up the boys in the stroller and walk them over to the local farmer’s market. From there, we may stop at a garage sale if there’s one within easy walking distance. Then we pile into the car to head out to lunch outside our favorite cafe where they know us, before heading home to put the boys down for their naps. After naps, we play, do art, maybe watch some baseball until dinner. Then perhaps a walk around the neighborhood to burn off excess energy of the day before the bedtime routine.

Sunday I’m up with the boys and MJ joins us around 7:30 for breakfast, then playing inside for a while. By 10 we’re either walking to a local park, or going to one a bit further afield in the car. From there, we go to lunch at our favorite local family restaurant, where they know to set up an outside table for us, even on gloomy days. Then it’s home for naps, and the day concludes much the same way as Saturday did.

I write this all down as a snapshot in time for us. While these aren’t activity-packed weekends, and there are weekends when we do special events or outings, they are hugely satisfying for us. They’re also somewhat tiring, as we wrangle a 1.5 and 3.5 year old from place to place. But it’s also been a time of discovery for our little family as we learn what the boys love and tolerate, and dislike, as we walk around town and talk to them.

The weekend of Father’s Day last month was one weekend when we mixed things up a bit. On Saturday afternoon we attended the Castro Valley Car Show, which had been sidelined for a couple years due to the pandemic.

Sunday was spent with donuts for dad, some gifts, and then our standard Sunday routine that included a walk to the park by the library and then a nice brunch.

In more general life things, with little Aaron’s 18 month doctors appointment we learned he had rapidly approached outgrowing the infant car seat. We had to do some shopping, and ended up buying the same seat that Adam has. Now our SUV has a pair of toddler seats! The biggest challenge with this was that in order for a 3rd adult to fit in the car, we would put the infant seat in the base after the third adult climbed in the back. Fortunately, I discovered that by putting the passenger’s seat all the way forward, I can squeeze in around the installed toddler seat and sit between them, even if the space is a bit snug! It means that we can further delay the minivan purchase, which is good since availability for new cars still isn’t great.

In more exciting news, the boys had their first COVID-19 vaccine! I can’t begin to describe how heart-wrenching the approval process for children under 5 has been this past year. So many “almost there” moments and disappointments. I was thrilled when the approvals finally landed last month, and spent an hour on the phone with the scheduling desk once appointments opened. We got in on the first Thursday it was available!

The process went very smoothly and neither of them had an immediate reaction, though Adam did have a minor skin reaction a week later that we got checked out and cleared. They even booked our next appointment 4 weeks out when we checked in. While I wish this had all happened sooner, it is nice to know that our plans to travel this autumn will happen with the boys fully vaccinated.

A night away

As a parent, you’re frequently told to take time for self-care. There’s a reason for it: it is legitimately important, but it’s really, really hard to do. I value my sense of self and identity beyond my children, but I still put them before me. They are totally dependent upon us for everything, and I love them to pieces!

That said, the pandemic has put a real strain on me. I don’t have the help around the house I expected. I’m no longer traveling for work. I barely get time alone. As much as I love my kids, I am an introvert, and time alone is tremendously important to my well-being.

So I recently decided to take a couple days off from work and go to a nearby resort for a night, all by myself.

Due to some weird behavior with the car I was planning on taking, I ended up going with MJ’s 2000 Oldsmobile Alero on this little trip. The resort was just 30 minutes from home, so it wasn’t far, but it actually ended up being a really pleasant bonding experience for that old car and me. I have driven the car many times before, and it’s very similar to the Pontiac I owned before I moved here to California, so it was a car I was comfortable with. Still, getting it gassed up, a car wash, and then a lovely journey out to Livermore was nice.

It was weird to be driving a car without any cameras, or any of the other fancy features that cars have today. I’m happy to say that I still know how to drive without all that, and it’s still a fun car to drive. I’m now taking it out regularly, and I’ve already joked with MJ that it will be the “old car” that Adam and I fix up some day as a hobby project when he’s a teenager.

But on to my trip! I got some cookies and stopped for lunch, and at 1PM I arrived at the resort for an early check-in. I spent the first couple hours just being lazy around the suite I booked, a glorious indulgence I hadn’t had the opportunity for in ages.

In the late afternoon I explored the grounds, spent some time by the pool.

They had a complementary “wine and snacks” tray, that I had around 5PM. I skipped the wine because I wanted a sober time away, but I did have a soda, which I hadn’t had in a long time. That evening, I grabbed some take-out sushi and enjoyed a book in the rose garden.

The choice of book was somewhat amusing. I had been meaning to read Colossus since I picked up the trilogy last year, but my to-read list is quite long. Still, I decided this night away was a nice opportunity to finally dig into it. I didn’t realize that I’d be reading it just a couple miles away from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, home to one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, and which is run by the US government. Now, the Sierra supercomputer is a good computer and couldn’t have the plot trajectory that Colossus had, but it was still an amusing coincidence.

I spent the rest of the evening reading and catching up on watching TV, something I haven’t been able to spend much time doing. I brought along my Nintendo Switch, my personal laptop, and some other little crafty things, but they stayed packed away in my bag, maybe next time. I was able to go to sleep blissfully early, and woke up to an enjoyable breakfast on the patio.

Before my checkout at 11AM, I spent more time reading and did one more visit to the hot tub.

In all, a beautiful time away that allowed me to unwind a bit and sleep responsibility-free for a night, which is precisely what I needed.

I still have to work on the day to day things that will help me feel balanced and recharged. I no longer have the luxury of time that I did when we were child-free so I’ve had to pause and learn what activities inspire and recharge me, and what ones feed into my feelings of being drained or unhappy. I owe it to myself, but I also owe it to my kids to make sure I’m as happy and healthy as I can be.

MUNI Heritage Day 2022

Back in 2019, Adam and I attended MUNI Heritage Weekend. He was just 9 months old, and we took BART to San Francisco to enjoy a morning of bus rides and photo opportunities. MJ joined us later for brunch on the Embarcadero.

The pandemic hit in 2020, and that put a pause on MUNI Heritage celebrations. When they announced that they’d be hosting a MUNI Heritage Day in June of 2022, I was excited! But apprehensive. My first reaction was to skip it, since we’ve continued to avoid events. Then I applied our standard threat analysis. It’s all outdoors except for rides on transit themselves. We could just go visit the plaza and climb on the vehicles there that are fully open. The biggest risk was probably the BART train ride to San Francisco and back, and if we eat lunch there in the city. As cases and hospitalizations climbed, and Alameda county took the additional step of putting back an indoor mask mandate, I got a little more nervous. But this is where the real challenge comes in. I love this event, and I thought Adam would too. As the day approached, we decided that MJ and Aaron would stay home, but Adam and I would head up together to enjoy the event for the morning.

And enjoy it, we did!

The BART ride was the first bit of excitement, it was the first time he’d been on BART since the pandemic began. But we watch the trains from our family room window all day long, and walk by the station often, so he was familiar with the concept. Getting to ride on the train was kind of a big deal.

It was also my first time bringing Adam on a big adventure without a stroller in tow, and I just brought some supplies in my own mini-backpack. That meant we walked to the BART station from our house (just a couple blocks), then walked from Embarcadero station in San Francisco over to the plaza where festivities were taking place. It wasn’t a lot of walking, but it is quite the adventure for a three year old!

We explored the plaza and visited some booths. Adam got to climb up on an old fire truck and a “cable car” that had been brought to the plaza for the event.

He even donned his mask and climbed up inside the #042 bus for a photo opp.

We decided against taking any of the loops in the buses, since they were crowded. We did get the chance to take the Zurich streetcar around the block, getting on at the museum and off at Ferry Building, where we then had lunch.

We then got to enjoy lunch outdoors at Gott’s. I was on the fence about lunch in the city because of COVID concerns, but they have redone their outdoor patio there, and in spite of the crowds for the farmers market, we felt pretty safe having lunch there.

After lunch, we made our way back to the plaza for some last minute booth visiting. The railway museum itself was too crowded for us to be comfortable with, it would have been nice if they could have brought some of the unusual merchandise out to the plaza instead of keeping it close to the crowded museum, but I guess that’s where their cash register lives! It also turns out that I already have plenty of collectible MUNI stuff, and I probably didn’t need any more this year.

In all, I was incredibly glad we went. I was also glad that we’re all feeling fine and I had a negative COVID test today. We’re not out of the woods yet.

A birthday, an anniversary, and some house stuff

Adam recently concluded preschool for the school year, and toward the end he received an invitation to a pool and splash pad birthday party at a public outdoor venue. Birthday parties are a big childhood thing he’s missed out on thus far due to COVID-19, so given that it was a classmate who he was already being exposed to and the outdoor nature of the event, we decided it was safe enough to take him. The morning of the birthday we learned that the birthday boy was sick (not COVID) so couldn’t attend, but with everything ready and paid for, his mother moved forward with the party for his classmates. It was during Aaron’s nap time, so MJ stayed home with him and Adam and I drove to the next town over to attend, and we had a lovely afternoon there. Both of our boys really, really enjoy playing with water, so it was a great fit for Adam.

Both boys also enjoy books. I am certain it helps that they see me reading books and magazines a lot, and I buy them books aligned with their interests pretty frequently. They’re both used to the nightly routine that includes having books read to them. But it also means that we have a growing number of books for them, so when I saw a reading nook on sale I ordered it, and then assembled as soon as it arrived. Being 1.5 and 3.5, they do a fair amount of playing around it, but there are books in it (most of the time) and it has been used for the intended purpose of sitting and looking at books. It’s definitely the last piece of furniture we can put in the family room without taking something out, but I think it was a good choice.

We also recently got a new clothes washer and dryer. The ones we had came with the house, and while they weren’t extremely old, they were a bit troublesome. The washer would frequently go off-balance and so we could only run it on low. The dryer was just loud. It was repaired twice by me (with my YouTube co-pilot) and once professionally, but after a few months it would find a new way to be loud. It got to the point that we couldn’t run it at night, or while the boys were taking naps, which was a logistical hassle. Plus, who wants to listen to a loud dryer anyway? The new set is nice and quiet. The only downside is that I have about a month’s worthy of laundry to do because I was so eager to avoid using the old one once we had plans to replace them. That a huge amount of laundry is waiting for me this weekend.

Outside of kid and home life, MJ and I finally got to celebrate our 9th anniversary this week. Our actual anniversary is on April 28th, but we were both in the midst of a nasty cold on that date, so we decided to postpone. As colds circulated the house and other things came up, it ended up being a full month before we could plan something else, but on June 2nd we finally made it out! We stuck with our original plans of having a nice dinner at Murray Circle at Fort Baker in Sausalito. They have always had outdoor seating, it’s quiet, has amazing food, and a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful night. We enjoyed our food, ordered a bottle of bubbly, and relaxed on this incredibly rare evening away from home.

My continued hope is that a vaccine is made available for the little ones soon, allowing us for more options when it comes to going out. Once we feel safer about having a rotation of babysitters we’ll be able to do more date nights together, instead of just going out once a year on our anniversary, which is what we’ve been reduced to in pandemic times. I have enjoyed the growing number of places that offer outdoor dining though. Like the rise of tele-medicine, this is one of the few silver-linings of this pandemic.

Unfortunately we’re not out of the woods yet even with general transmissibility. A mask mandate for indoor spaces went into effect again today for our county as COVID-related hospitalizations are on the rise again. We’re continuing to have fun at uncrowded outdoor events, but there’s definitely a risk analysis that happens with each one. This includes MUNI Heritage Day, which at least Adam and I will be taking the train to San Francisco to check out this weekend. I’m excited about it, we’ll be cautious, but there is definitely apprehension too.

Cooking together and a parade

Adam and I have been doing a lot of baking lately. Sometimes it’s making Challah or banana bread from scratch on a quiet afternoon, or blueberry muffins from a mix, or just taking pre-made cookie dough out of the refrigerator and dropping it on a baking pan. Along with art, this has been a really fun “making things” activity for us to look forward to doing together, and then at the end we both end up feeling ownership for the result, making the food much more fun to eat. Plus, he is at an age where he wants to help with everything, so it’s nice to have an outlet that’s safe and ends up being an activity we can look forward to together.

Challah has been part of the larger Shabbat rituals we’ve brought back into our lives these past couple of months. We all love candles, and so Adam now looks forward to candles, bread and wine/juice together. We don’t do the actually important part of Shabbat, since we’re still not attending in-person services and we’re still treading water “work” wise over here. We do what we can, when we can, and not doing chores on a Saturday is not a challenge we’re prepared for right now. Still, we do spend Saturday together as a family, with quality time going to the farmers market, out to lunch together, and usually by spending some time outside.

Recently, we spent it at a rodeo parade! The parade in town was leading up to the annual rodeo the following weekend, which we weren’t able to attend (COVID caution, plus the kids still being quite little). The parade was a lot of fun though, and since it was just a block from home, we could easily put the boys in the stroller and walk over to watch it for about 40 minutes. From there, we walked down to our favorite brunch spot to eat a meal together. After their naps, we got to go play in the back yard with water for a while, before retiring indoors for an evening of baseball on TV.

I’ve been doing a lot of events at work lately. I hadn’t planned it this way, but it makes sense because the IBM z16 came out last month and I have done a lot of work to distill the technical features, so people keep asking me about it. It’s been nice to do a bit more speaking, I’ve really tapered off during the pandemic, and things really got slow this past winter.

It’s nice to feel satisfied at work, but I also have been making an effort to carve out some time for myself. MJ and I finally confirmed our much-delayed anniversary dinner, and will be finally celebrating it next Thursday. I also decided that a night away alone at a local resort and spa would be really good for me, so I booked a night in mid-June and also took three days off from work that week, two so I could enjoy the resort, and another to focus on some stuff at home before the weekend. In addition to being good things to do, these both give me a break to look forward to, and that’s really important right now.

Colds, parks, and holidays

We’ve all been sick a lot. It seems we’re in the midst of what all families go through when their kids first go to (pre)school, a non-stop parade of colds that are annoying, but not severe enough to require anything beyond rest and cold medicine. We have the added fun of regular COVID-19 tests, both at home and through the school district. Thankfully, they’ve all been negative. We just have colds. The latest one for me turned into a sinus infection that required antibiotics, and I still have a lingering cough, but I am feeling a lot better. Next week is Adam’s last week of school, so I’m hoping our summer will be quieter infection-wise around here.

We also recently had our first injury-related urgent care visit for a child! Adam took a tumble on the stairs and ended up with a couple of head wounds that we decided to have looked at. Turns out, he was fine. And he handled the entire ordeal like champ, maybe even too well, since he’s since excitedly asked several times whether certain wild behaviors would result in him needing to go to the doctor for a bandage. We then need to talk him out of it, without making him scared of going to the doctor!

Now, one thing he shouldn’t be needing a bandage for again is tripping on the concrete and tiles out back. When we moved in, we didn’t think much of the slab of concrete in the back yard, and even kind of liked the tile layout. As time went on and the kids started getting old enough to play out there more independently, they’re looking less great. The tile has started cracking and coming up, and the concrete slab is a magnet for the kids tripping and there have already been a couple minor skinned knees as a result. With Aaron walking now, and one caretaker routinely being out back with both boys, I decided to do something about how precarious it had become. I looked into a few options for covering it all, but it was all coming up kind of expensive, especially for a back yard area that we hope to get replaced in a year or two with a landscaping remodel. I landed on going with some fake grass, which has the price sweet spot of 6×8 foot segments. As a temporary measure, I had no illusions that it would look good or work particularly well, but it actually came out better than I expected. Even with some windy weather recently, I had to go out and fix a few corners, but it was easy and quick to do and it still looks fine. Plus, it works, no injuries! And it’s made the whole back yard a more pleasant place to be.

We’re taking advantage of the nice weather by going out to local parks as well. I took both boys to the Hayward Japanese Gardens a few weeks ago, with the intention of pushing Aaron in the stroller while Adam walked around. Unfortunately I underestimated Aaron’s new-found mastery of walking and his desire to follow his big brother in everything he does. Within just a couple minutes it became clear there was no way I would be able to keep him contained in the stroller. Chasing two toddlers around a park with a big stroller in tow was technically doable, but not an experience I was keen to repeat. The next time we went, we went as a family so MJ could take Aaron while I chased Adam around everywhere.

Beyond the Japanese Gardens, I’ve taken the boys to a few other parks and playgrounds both with our au pair and MJ. It’s become quickly apparent that little Aaron is a playground fan, and Adam prefers going “hiking” everywhere we go. It usually means we each get an assigned kid for our outings so they can do the activities they prefer. Even during an outing to a local community center that’s 90% playground, Adam managed to find a trail and discover some interesting trees with me.

We observed Passover exclusively at home for the third year in a row. The first night Seder is traditionally held at home with your immediate family anyway, so it was nice to have that with the boys. With a lull in COVID-19 cases and broadly available vaccines for healthy people over five, a lot of folks went back to in-person second night Seders, so we didn’t do a virtual one this year, as we had in 2020 and 2021. But with all of us going through the round of colds, I was fine with sitting the second night out.

We were also quite sick on our 9th wedding anniversary on April 28th. We had reservations for outdoor dining at one of our favorite restaurants in Sausalito, but we didn’t want to spread whatever cold we had, and we weren’t feeling well enough to enjoy it anyway. It’s now been put on hold for about a month, but we’re determined to get back to it. With two little ones at home and not a lot of support due to the pandemic, it’s incredibly difficult to find time together, and we both know how important it is not to forget “us” right now.

Mother’s Day was more of an event. Adam picked out some flowers when I took the boys to the Farmers Market as usual on the day before, and then we took the boys to the nearby Oakland Aviation Museum. It’s on the smaller side for an aviation museum, but the perfect size for a couple toddlers, and they really loved it. Plus, we could keep our stay on the shorter side and get them home before they needed lunch and naps. It was also pretty empty since it was Mother’s Day, so while we’ve tended to avoid indoor public spaces with them, we were OK bringing the boys inside hanger-like museum part, as well as spending about half our time outdoors.

In other life news, we bought a new car. After selling my beloved Maserati, our plan was to get a minivan for our next car. Our Hyundai Santa Fe (3-row SUV) is getting tight, especially as Aaron rapidly outgrows his infant seat (which is removable, and allows someone to easily sit in the middle seat). At first, we thought we’d take our time, but as we started shopping we were in for a shock regarding the new car market. We knew what we wanted, but no dealerships have inventory. Even ones that had cars coming in the next month were already spoken for, and the one we found that wasn’t had a $5k mark-up that was enough to throw off our budget and we were generally reluctant to do. Unfortunately, we had also started feeling the pinch of only having one car our au pair could drive, so we decided to get a “temporary” car that would be safe and enjoyable for all of us to drive when the SUV was needed for the kids.

We ended up with a 2019 Mercedes GLC 350e. Going with a luxury car meant that we’d get all the safety features we wanted, and used meant the price was within our budget. Being a “pandemic car” it also only had around 15k miles on it! It’s also a plug-in hybrid, and though the battery is small, it’s a nice starter hybrid for us and will likely cause is to start moving on the EV charger a bit more quickly than planned, which is actually a good thing. The infotainment system takes some getting used to, but over all I am happy with it.

Work has been going really well. The IBM z16 release happened in early April and consumed a ton of my time, but it was fun to celebrate, even if that meant getting a little cake at home and sharing pictures on social media. It wasn’t just me though, all the events were pared down due to continued pandemic caution, and there was no release event at my office, like their was for the IBM z15 in 2019. It’s also caused me to spend a lot of time learning about the new hardware and then converting that into training seminars for folks in our communities. This is one of my favorite parts of my job.

I also had the opportunity to “meet up” with my friends from the Philadelphia Linux Users Group for a virtual meeting where I gave a quick introductory talk on the status of modern COBOL. It was mostly sharing statistics from the Open Mainframe Project poll that attempted to figure out how much COBOL was still out there. It continues to be astonishing to me, with my cloud-native background, how much technology I simply wasn’t exposed to on the enterprise side, and that includes the billions of lines of COBOL that are out there, running well and doing the job better than anything else could. It also means that I love sharing this knowledge with folks like me.

A jellyfish and a mainframe

Happy Ubuntu 22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish) release day!

April has been an exciting month. On April 5th, the IBM z16 was released. For those of you who aren’t aware, this is the IBM zSystems class of mainframes that I’ve been working on at IBM for the past three years. As a Developer Advocate, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time digging into the internals, learning about the implementation of DevOps practices and incorporation of Linux into environments, and so much more. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with dozens of open source projects in the Linux world as they get their software to run on the s390x architecture. This includes working with several Linux distributions, and most recently forming the Open Mainframe Project Linux Distributions Working Group with openSUSE’s Sarah Julia Kriesch.

As a result, I’m delighted to continue to spend a little time with Ubuntu!

For the Ubuntu 22.04 release, the team at Canonical has already been working hard to incorporate key features of the IBM z16, which Frank Heimes has gone into detail about on a technical level on the Ubuntu on Big Iron Blog, IBM z16 launches with Ubuntu 22.04 (beta) support, and also over on Ubuntu.com with IBM z16 is here, and Ubuntu 22.04 LTS beta is ready. Finally, Frank published: Ubuntu 22.04 LTS got released

Indeed, timing was fortuitous, as Frank notes:

“Since the development of the new IBM z16 happened in parallel with the development of the upcoming Ubuntu Server release, Canonical was able to ensure that Ubuntu Server 22.04 LTS (beta) already includes support for new IBM z16 capabilities.

And this is not limited to the support for the core system, but also includes its peripherals and special facilities”

Now that it’s release day, I wanted to celebrate with the community by sharing a few details of the IBM z16 and some highlights from those blog posts.

So first – the IBM z16 is so pretty! It comes in one to four frames, depending on the needs of the client. Inside the maximum configuration it has up to 200 Processor Units, featuring 5.2Ghz IBM Telum Processors, 40 TB of memory, and 85 LPARs.

As for how Ubuntu was able to leverage improvements to 22.04 to take advantage of everything from the AI Accelerator on the IBM Telum processor to new Quantum-Safe technologies, Frank goes on to share:

“Since we constantly improve Ubuntu, 22.04 was updated and modified for IBM z16 and other platforms in the following areas:

  • virtually the entire cryptography stack was updated, due to the switch to openssl 3
  • some Quantum-safe options are available: library for quantum-safe cryptographic algorithms (liboqs), post-quantum encryption and signing tool (codecrypt), implementation of public-key encryption scheme NTRUEncrypt (libntru)
  • Secure Execution got refined and the virtualization stack updated
  • the chacha20 in-kernel stream cipher (RFC 7539) was hardware optimized using SIMD
  • the kernel zcrypt device driver is now able to exploit the new IBM zSystems crypto hardware, especially Crypto Express8S (CEX8S)
  • and finally a brand new protected key crypto library package (libzpc) was added

This is a really interesting time to be a Linux distribution in this ecosystem. Beyond these fantastic strides made with Ubuntu, the collaboration that’s already taking place across distributions in our new Working Group has been exciting to watch.

Keep up the good work, everyone! And Ubuntu friends, pause a bit today to celebrate, you’ve earned it.

Jellyfish earrings!

Side note: I haven’t mentioned the IBM LinuxONE. As some background, the IBM z16 can have Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors, so you can already run Linux on this generation of mainframes! But the LinuxONE product line only has IFLs, meaning they exclusively run Linux. As a separate product, it can have different release dates, and the current timeline that’s been published is “second half of 2022” for the announcement of the next LinuxONE. Stay tuned, and know that everything I’ve shared about Ubuntu 22.04 for the IBM z16 will also be true of the next LinuxONE.

Pandemic 2022

I wanted to publish this blog post on March 16, 2022. That was the second anniversary of the first shelter-in-place order here in the bay area, and when things really hit home for us. At the time, it felt like a temporary measure, with hair salons and shops posting signs in their windows saying they were closed temporarily.

The first few weeks were scary, but for us they were also fun in a strange way. Suddenly we were all home all the time. We had an au pair living with us, so we had no problems with childcare and MJ and I just closed ourselves into our home offices to work during the day. No commutes! No travel! Just all of us hunkered down together at home for a few weeks! We played board games, cooked more, got caught up on some projects that our hectic commuting and travel life prevented us from.

Local businesses remained hopeful, and in an odd way, the community came together (apart!) to support one another.

Little did they know, “soon” would turn into over a year

I spent a lot of time during those early days wondering what the end game was. I read up on how pandemics have gone in the past. It quickly became clear, according to historical accounts, the outlook was bleak. But it’s the 21st century! We had prepared for this! Surely we had a better story than the flu pandemic in the early 20th century.

The good news is that we were better prepared for this. Vaccines were available more quickly than we would have expected in the past, largely due to a wealth of prior research that was applicable to our current circumstance. The nationwide approach was abysmal, due to shifting tides in political leanings and alliances, but ultimately most people Did The Right Thing and we prevented massive death in a lot of the more densely populated areas. The death toll was staggering and tragic, especially to those of us who’ve lost loved ones, but it wasn’t at the levels we’ve seen with historical plagues.

We quickly learned that the first shelter-in-place date would come and go, and we’d have to adjust to this new situation. It stopped being “fun” very quickly, as the weight of the situation really hit us and we started feeling isolated.

We started doing our own haircuts, some local businesses continued to have a sense of humor as take-out business picked up and they found ways to cope.

It’s hard to admit that I’ve come this far in the post without talking about how illness and death touched us, but it took about six months before I learned of a friend dying. There have since been several people we’ve known who have died or been severely impacted by their COVID-19 infection. I suspect the occurrence of long COVID is underestimated, especially in people who have other health problems. We had been cautious and mindful all along, but when it strikes you personally, there is an added layer. This has played a part in the mental anguish of the pandemic, compounded by the inability to grieve in a traditional way. How do you close the door and say goodbye when you can’t have a funeral together?

We observed holidays at home, including Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, along with Halloween and Hanukkah. I got pregnant and delivered our second child before 2020 concluded.

Our first virtual Passover Seder, in 2020

I did a couple virtual beer festivals, where a case of beer showed up at my doorstep and I loaded up the YouTube stream.

I did some virtual 5Ks, which were actually a lot of fun, and as a new mother they were ultimately the only reasonable 5K I could expect to do anyway without making arrangements for childcare. Much of the time, these 5Ks were done with the kids!

A 5K with my baby passenger!

By 2021 we had adjusted to pandemic life as much as we could. We were able to bring a new au pair into our home as the program concluded for our first, but even that was logistically tricky with continued travel restrictions. But on the whole, we continued to be very lucky that we didn’t have to deal with a lot of critical childcare problems or take risks we weren’t comfortable with, especially while we had a newborn at home.

It’s all worn on us though. I still don’t have the support I would like to live my life the way I want it. We had always planned on having help around the house so I wouldn’t be spending all of my “free” time doing chores. Before the pandemic I had a rich hobby life that has largely been put on hold because I’m overwhelmed by duties that we may otherwise have gotten help with. What was tolerable for a couple months of shelter-in-place was not going to lead to happiness in the long run for me.

The only thing that kept me sane was how truly grateful I’ve been for the closeness and time we’ve been able to have as a small family. We often have lunch together, and MJ and I can put the kids down together. Even when we have long days at work, without commutes or travel we’re still “away” less than we would have been during normal times. Plus, we we are all healthy, something we really can’t take for granted during a pandemic. We welcomed lovely little Aaron into our family at the end of 2020 and he didn’t get so much as a cold until Adam started going to preschool in early 2022.

The last quarter of 2021 offered a lot of hope around a return to normalcy. Vaccine approval came in for kids aged 5-12, and the trials for under 5 were humming along. Things started opening up as infection graphs trended down, and we even felt safe enough to have my father-in-law come visit and meet little Aaron for the first time, and to have a small outdoor birthday party for the boys. Alas, this was quickly followed by the omicron variant wave. Then the news rolled in that the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine in children 2-5 didn’t offer enough protection, and they’re going back to trials with a three dose regimen. Instead of being hopeful that a vaccine could be out by the first quarter of 2022, we’re now looking at the middle of the year. Moderna may actually end up coming out first, and we’ll rush to be the first in line.

We’ve made it through this pandemic so far with our health and a strength and closeness forged in adversity, but I long for the life I planned on having. I want to travel, see my friends again, and get back to my projects. I want to bring my kids to all the glorious, indoor places that I also miss. Most of all, I want us all to feel safer out there.

I had a Maserati

I want to start out this post by sharing a secret: You can get a nice, new Maserati sedan for under $90k.

$90k is a lot for a car. It is definitely the most, by far, I’ve ever spent on a car. But it’s on the low end of what people pay for high-end luxury, sporty, sedans. It’s what you’d pay for a nice Audi, and less than you’d pay for a Telsa Model S or a BMW M5. But the impression everyone has is that they’re much more expensive. Indeed, every time I disclosed that I had a Maserati, people had fantastic views of how much it must cost, usually their number was a least double. There are certainly Maseratis that fit the bill, but I had the Maserati Ghibli SQ4 with the GranLusso trim, and even with all that it came in around $90k.

The only reason I start off like this is to level-set. We’re San Francisco Bay Area tech folks who make more money than your average American, but we’re not running around buying Ferraris and Lamborghinis, those are really expensive! Folks I know and work with around here have cars in similar price ranges. Still, it was a fancy indulgence for us. The other two cars we have here are a 2000 Oldsmobile Alero and a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe.

But I really did want to talk about my car, finally. I didn’t blog about it when I got it because it felt like some weird bragging. The experience of having this car has been a delight, and one I’ll never forget. The three year lease ended this week, and I’ve been pretty sad about it.

So, story time! How’d I end up with a Maserati, anyway?

First of all, I like cars. I subscribe to Car & Driver magazine, I’ve watched tons of Top Gear (and Grand Tour), and I stay up to date with car news, increasingly with an eye towards the latest on electric cars. If I had time for more hobbies, I’d learn vehicle mechanics and delight in tinkering with an old sports car. I like to think we’re open-minded and reasonable when we cast a net for a new car, and that means we’re not really loyal to a brand. The Hyundai Santa Fe we have as a family car was a great choice, and we’re really happy with it. We know our cars.

Having a Maserati makes no sense.

They don’t hold their value. They aren’t reliable. They’re not the fastest or most powerful car in their class. They’re gas-guzzlers. The air-conditioning in them isn’t even that good!

But the first time I took one for a test drive, I knew I had to have one some day.

First off, I loved driving it. The sound of the engine is like nothing else, and it’s so much fun to drive especially through hilly, windy roads. I didn’t even need to be going fast to enjoy how the car took those turns. Secondly, they’re beautiful. Imagine standing in line for your sandwich and glancing out the window to admire your own car. I did that often. Finally, it was comfortable. That’s what you get for going with a nice trim in a luxury sports car. No stiff racing seats for me!

I started off with a toy model, which has lived on my desk since 2017. But when we lived in San Francisco I didn’t drive very much and we only had one parking space, I’d have to wait.

Fast forward to 2019. We had our first child and I was getting ready to start a new job. That’s a lot of change! And I wanted something to tether to me to my pre-child life, but made sense in our new life. Now that we were no longer in the city, another car was something we needed anyway, so we went big.

We brought home our Ghibli in March of 2019. And it was a blue SQ4, just like my toy!

And I snagged my vanity plate.

The first year was a ton of fun. I took it to work, of course, but MJ took it to work sometimes too, it was the car we took out on date nights and errands all around the bay area. When we gave the keys to a valet, they always kept it out front, sometimes to the chagrin of our friends who had cars that were more expensive and got parked in the lot. It was beautiful and fun to drive.

The second year was 2020. In March 2020 everything shut down due to the pandemic. Suddenly, neither of us were driving to work. We weren’t driving anywhere! I didn’t even leave my county for most of 2020, and rarely left our town. So I’d still take the car out when I went to Target or the grocery store, but road trips and fancy dinners were now off the table. I also got pregnant in 2020, so we were particularly cautious and stayed close to home. 2021 largely continued this trend, though I did start going out to parks more often to work for an afternoon here and there, and I drove my car to get there.

As we entered March of 2022 and the lease ran out, we had a decision to make. Do we get another car? Do we buy this one and keep it another year? Do we return it or sell it? Given how much we drive it and the expense, we decided it was time to let this all come to a close. The pandemic has also caused supply chain issues for cars, and the used car market is booming, so it actually made sense for us to sell it instead of turning in the lease.

Last week I took it out a couple times to say goodbye, I joked with my friends that we were out on a date.

The sale was finalized and they picked it up today.

Driving this car always cheered me up and I’m sorry to see it go, but it was a delight while it lasted and I’ll hang on to that.