• Archives

  • Categories:

  • Other profiles

Clouds, Microservices, and Mainframes

TL;DR: Mainframes are cool and I’m joining the IBM Z team to tell everyone why.

I started attending Linux Users Group meetings in 2002 when I was just dabbling in Linux as a hobby at home, but you could say my career in infrastructure when I landed my first systems administration contract gigs in 2006, and subsequent full time job as a junior systems administrator in 2007. I’ve played with unusual architectures as a hobby, including MIPS on an SGI and SPARC64 via an Sun Ultra10 that I still own, but most of my actual work has been on standard x86 machines.

At my first job as a full blown systems administrator I used homespun KVM + DRBD + Pacemaker to build a series of small, redundant clusters. I spent four years working on the OpenStack infrastructure team, during which time I also wrote a book OpenStack and ended up with my own little OpenStack cluster under my desk. From there I joined a company specializing in microservices via containers, with a focus on Apache Mesos (and another under desk cluster!), but also increasingly with Kubernetes thrown into the mix. All of this ran on commodity x86 hardware, but gave you the option of using your own servers or building your clusters in the cloud, and with containers it was easy to move your workloads between providers as you saw fit.

Through all of this, I encountered a dizzying array of deployment types across companies, but one thing that often surprised me was the continued presence of mainframes. This was merely an intellectual curiosity for me until I started talking with the IBM Z team late last year.

Like many people, I had a particular view of what mainframes were. The words “historical” and “legacy” were often floating around when I thought of them. I knew modern mainframes existed, but assumed they were merely around to support customers who needed to run their old COBOL programs. When I pictured a mainframe? It looked something like this:

Computer History Museum 10
IBM 1401, announced in 1959, photo courtesy of Michael Fraley (source)

Truth is, I hadn’t really put much thought into what modern mainframes are or what they provide. IBM has. New mainframes like the IBM z14 Model ZR1 just slide into your data center like most any other rack, but bring you over half a century of technical leadership in everything from virtualization to encryption to data integrity and processing. Plus, they can run Linux.

IBM z14 Model ZR1 (source)

Upon talking to the the IBM Z leadership, engineers on the team, and pouring over some recent talks and slide decks at open source and infrastructure events I was convinced: mainframes have a place in modern infrastructure decisions. They solved virtualization and data storage and processing problems decades ago that the newest infrastructure tools are still figuring out. The cost is competitive for a large swath of the market. The tooling for Linux on mainframes has a lot of open source, much of it contributed directly into the Linux kernel by IBM and their Linux distribution partners.

With my open source heart warmed, ultimately what really sealed the deal for me was hard core geek love for infrastructure. Mainframes still drive a significant amount of the data processing in the world, and I knew very little about them. I was so focused on the cloud verses on-premises discussion that I’d pretty much ignored anything that wasn’t a fleet of x86 machines, and I believe my expertise in infrastructure is poorer for it.

So I’m delighted to say that in a week I’m joining the folks at IBM Z to spend the foreseeable future with them as a Developer Advocate!

I’m looking forward to blending my current knowledge of the latest and greatest x86 infrastructure tooling with the latest mainframe innovations and decades of experience the IBM Z brings to the table.

And while I probably won’t have a mainframe “under my desk,” I look forward to getting to work with them in data centers!

Outings with Adam

Since our return from Philadelphia I’ve been settling in to routines with little Adam as I enjoy the final weeks of the time I’ve taken as maternity leave.

With the improved weather, we’ve been taking a lot of walks around town. It’s been really nice to get out of the house for these simple outings, and he seems to enjoy it as well. We’ve walked all around the village together, gone the the post office. Had his first visit to the comic book shop.

And the library!

And the farmers’ market!

We also spent one afternoon going up to San Francisco. The goal of this visit was to go to the San Francisco Railway Museum & Gift Shop to pick up some of the new streetcar stickers they are selling (also available at https://transit.supply/, along with enamel pins!). This would also be his first BART ride. So I planned a couple days out for this adventure, made sure his diaper bag was well stocked and we were on the right end of the eating/napping schedule, and we were off! I made it to the museum to get my stickers, and then over to Ferry Building for a lobster roll at MarketBar. Fussiness set in as we waited for our train to head home, but in all the trip was a successful and happy one. I’d like to push myself to do these trips more, the more I do it, the less stressed I’ll be about adventures with my little sidekick, and getting out of the house to do things I love does wonders for my overall mental health.

In the house, I’ve certainly been busy these past few weeks too. I’ve tried to find a happy balance between baby-baby-baby and actually getting things done around the house while he hangs out nearby. One project has been to go through stuff in the garage so we can figure out what needs to stay here and what needs to be sent to storage. It took a couple weeks, but I was mostly successful, and going through MJ’s piles of old computer stuff gave me something interesting to tweet about and engage with the broader geek world in a way that I haven’t done a lot of since my maternity leave began. It felt good. Over the weekend we rented a van and MJ did runs to the storage unit so now we finally have free space in the garage!

Now, what prompted this storage sorting is also a story. I’m starting a new job at the end of the month (details forthcoming) and I’ll need to go into the office once a week, which is 40 miles away by car and there are no reasonable public transit options. Since our au pair will need access to the family car during the day, we’ve known for some time that I’d need my own car. Now, I love cars. I have a celebrity crush on James May and subscribe to Car & Driver magazine. I wanted something I would enjoy driving. I succeeded. I’m now leasing a car I’m absolutely in love with. But we only have two parking spaces in our driveway and the street parking situation is complicated. We want to actually park my car in the garage, so we needed a spot for it. Garage clean out!

I won’t get into the car itself (come ask me privately if you’re curious and we can geek out about it). However, the process of getting it was another baby adventure. Since we had Adam in tow, we had to juggle milk and pumping timing, as well as his general mood and nap schedule. Plus, test drives had to be done separately so someone could stay with the kiddo at the dealership. It was stressful, and there was a baby wardrobe change needed, but we made it through, and again, pushing myself to get out of the house is important.

The other big project was getting our HVAC system replaced. The heaters were loud and over-sized for the house, and we didn’t have air conditioning at all, which was fine for most of the year, but a real struggle on the hot days, especially since I mostly work from home. New ducts were run, compressors for the AC are now sitting in our back yard, and the upstairs furnace was moved from a closet in the hallway into the attic, so we got a new closet too! It was a whole week of work, but so far I’m really pleased with the results.

Finally, we’re welcoming our au pair into our family tonight. I’m looking forward to getting to know her, and I’m thrilled to be able to have in-home care for Adam with her help. I know going back to work would be difficult if my first task of the day was dropping him off at day care. With that concern tucked away, I’ve been reflecting on how valuable this time spent physically healing and spending time with the kiddo has been to me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want from life and work, and it has allowed me to pause and get some perspective about what I want from my career at this stage.

I’ve also learned that while I have certainly taken to motherhood, I would definitely struggle with being a stay at home mom. Almost all of my friends were met through involvement with various technology projects I’ve worked on throughout the years, and without work I think I’d have trouble maintaining the social bonds I need to avoid feeling isolated. I’ve also put a lot of work into building my career and I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from it. As much as I’ve gotten from these first few months with little Adam, it would be difficult for me to bring my whole self to our relationship and home if I wasn’t working. I’m glad I learned this about myself, even when things get difficult to juggle, I can remind myself that going back to work was a choice I made willingly and happily.

Adam’s first trip back east

We spent the week before last in Philadelphia, for what was a series of firsts for Adam. His first time on a plane, out of the state, and visiting a whole slew of family and friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Thankfully, he was an absolute dream on the plane. Snuggled up in his car seat and enjoying the vibration and noise of the plane, he slept for most of the flights there and back, only waking up a couple times to eat.

Upon arrival my father-in-law picked us up at the airport to whisk us off to the townhouse. We were greeted with a pile of boxes which had arrived that day in anticipation of our visit, mostly products for Adam that we decided to wait on during our last pre-Adam visit, over Thanksgiving. The changing table and crib were all set though, and that was all we needed immediately. That evening we met family for dinner at Samarkand for some delicious Uzbeki food and baby passing around. When we got home we met with MJ’s cousin, who brought along her gift to us – a chair for Adam’s room! As someone who works in a furniture store, I had texted her in a panic the week before realizing we had no chair for his room, since I didn’t appreciate the importance of having one and just how much time we’d spend in it with him. She came through and brought the chair over that night, giving us a comfy spot to feed him while we’re there.

Our next family visit was a drive out to New Jersey on Sunday for dinner at Short Hills Restaurant & Deli, our favorite deli Cherry Hill. Much to our disappointment, a fire took out the restaurant a few years back, so it was a happy surprise for us that it has returned. And of course family joined us there as well to get their first chances to meet little Adam. Plus, I got my pastrami on rye.

We lucked out with nice weather while we were in town too, which temperatures reaching 70 one day and causing me to go out on my first long walk in the neighborhood.

A date night in Philadelphia was secured for MJ and me on Thursday when Adam’s grandfather and partner came over to watch him for a few hours. We went down to our Philadelphia favorite, The Continental, down by Penn’s Landing. It was nice to spend a bit of time together on our own and enjoy some martinis.

Adam also got to meet our friend Walt, and Matti came into town for the final weekend to finally get some one on one time with him, and afford me a bit of a break. One afternoon I even was able to step away long enough to see Captain Marvel in the theater!

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to California. We took an evening flight on Monday.

In all, the trip went very well. One of the reasons we bought the townhouse was so we could visit family and friends on the east coast often, especially once we had a child. I was a bit nervous about the logistics an whether it would be worth it long term to haul ourselves across the country with the kiddo, but it all worked well for this trip. We’ll probably go back again in the early summer, at which time I’ll also be back to work and we’ll have an au pair with us, but I’m hopeful that these things will even things out, even if it does make certain aspects of logistics a bit more challenging.

Rainbows, Shabbat, and San Francisco

One of the great things about getting so much rain in California this winter, aside from the reduction in risk of wildfires later in the year, abatement of drought, and beautiful green hillsides for once, is the rainbows! Caught outside my living room window one afternoon, this one was quite the crowd-pleaser.

In February I also had enough time to finally make some challah. After moving last year, I never unpacked the breadmaker I use to make the dough, so with my aunt’s support I dug it out of storage and took the time to prepare the bread. Bread in hand, we properly observed Shabbat for the first time since bringing Adam home.

In addition to being able to do things like make bread from scratch while my aunt was still in town helping us out, we got to sneak in a few major chores and some couple fun. The big thing on our list was picking up the closet doors we ordered for the house. There was no chance they would have fit in our truck with Adam’s car seat in the back, and even then we we had about half an inch of space to spare once the truck was fully loaded up. I’m pleased to report the doors are now sitting in the garage waiting to be painted. Unfortunately I probably should have taken it easy when unloading, I realized after some back and neck pain set in that between the pregnancy and recovery, I hadn’t done any heavy lifting in over eight months. Whoops.

In couple outing fun, we did a few dinners here and there, and I tagged along to a conference party one night for a conference MJ was attending in San Francisco. I hopped off of BART at Embarcadero, where I was welcomed by the number 56 California Street cable car all decorated for the Chinese New Year. From there we were off to the Exploratorium for the party. I have been to the museum several times, so it was really about the social aspect for me, seeing some familiar faces and also meeting some of MJ’s industry colleagues. It was so refreshing to talk tech, chat about the job I’ll be starting next month, and generally geek out with folks a bit for an evening. It also reminded me how much I miss conferences already, and working!

The Sunday before my aunt departed, we decided to have a fancy dinner in the city and made reservations at Jardiniere. It’s one of my favorite French restaurants, and they had some amazing specials on the menu that night, so we had an incredibly satisfying meal and enjoyable time together.

Since my aunt’s departure, there’s certainly been less sleep and more stress, but we’re also settling nicely into routines, even if the little one likes to mix things up frequently. I’m getting better at taking him out places with me in the car now that I don’t have someone to watch him, and we are slowly figuring out our meals now that we’re not going out to dinner as often. The days are continuing to fly by as they’re filled with feeding, cleaning, and playing and sitting with him.

Some days I feel a bit bad about not getting much else done but keeping us alive and our household humming along, but the experience of cultivating this new little life is rewarding in its own way. I am getting a little reading done here and there, and continuing small tasks where I can for open source projects I’m involved with. I was disappointed to miss the recent Southern California Linux Expo, but I followed UbuCon and Ubuntu booth tidbits via tweets, and was thrilled by all the container track tweets that I saw scroll by, duly proud to have been part of putting that track together. I also did some more organizing of my desk, and bought a Roku for my second monitor so I have a “TV” option there in my home office, something I found massive value in when my aunt was visiting and I am sure I will moving forward as our life has expanded beyond just the two of us.

This week we’re in Philadelphia to visit family and friends, giving many of them their first opportunity to meet little Adam! So far it’s been a busy and satisfying time, looking forward to more visits as the week goes on.

Winter in California

It was raining when we went to the hospital, and on the night Adam was born, and it’s pretty much been raining ever since too. In fact, this has been the soggiest winter I’ve experienced in California so far. It wasn’t just soggy though, over night the temperatures have dropped into the 30s Fahrenheit, and sometimes colder up in the hills, where we were treated to extremely rare accumulation back on February 5th!

Of course it didn’t last long, the hills were green again by the next morning.

In keeping with this winter theme, we also had our gas fireplace serviced. I actually called for service back in December, but it was predictably the busiest time of year and I wasn’t able to secure an appointment until early February. The fireplace worked fine when we moved in, but after sitting unused for several months the pilot light went out and we discovered the ignition switch was faulty, only working intermittently and not allowing me to actually get the pilot light lit again. We had a full cleaning and inspection done of the unit, as well as getting the ignition switch replaced, and wires organized. The fireplace not only works now, but I’m confident in the usage now (it wasn’t fully intuitive) and we’ve now been assured that it’s working properly and safely.

We also finally had a door put on the master bathroom. It’s hard to describe what a relatively small thing has done to improve livability of the master suite. No more wandering across the house in the middle of the night to use a bathroom that has a door! Mornings are easier! The shower steam doesn’t wander into the bedroom! Next up is getting closet doors installed. When we moved in, none of the bedroom closets had doors. We started the ordering process for them in December, and they should be in next week. We’re hoping to get them painted in early March so we can install them.

Of course not all the work on the house was planned. We’ve had a leaky faucet in the kitchen for several weeks, but it turned into an actual problem the other day when a leak sprang under the sink, causing us to shut off the water to it and hit the home improvement store to pick up a replacement. Replacing it was not fun, but MJ was able to get it done with the help of a few more tools that are now part of his toolbox.

Beyond the house, we did make it out for our first Valentine’s Day as parents. My aunt looked after Adam as I took the train to the city to meet up with MJ at Town Hall for a lovely dinner together. MJ showed up with a beautiful rose-filled bouquet and I finally indulged in a nice Prosecco, an Old Fashioned cocktail and some Tawny Port with dessert, all of which I had been coveting during the pregnancy.

Otherwise, I’m starting to get longer chunks of sleep (3 hours!) as Adam starts sleeping a little better over night. My aunt is here to help out for another 10 days, so hopefully the trend will continue so I will be in decent shape when I fully take over. Still, it remains tough to get enough rest when it’s broken into such increments, and it feels like every time we figure something out about the kiddo, he switches things up and we have to adapt. I certainly now have a better understanding and appreciation for why taking time off for a new child is so important, even with the help, there’s very little I’ve been able to accomplish outside of his care and keeping household things running each day.

Updating this blog has been a priority so I don’t lose this experience to foggy, sleep-deprived memory, though every post I’ve written since his birth is stitched together the course of a few days. I also have been pitching in on small tasks I can complete in under an hour, or on my phone as I’m sitting up with the little one, for Partimus and Xubuntu. I’m also spending some of my precious, most awake time doing some tech-focused reading so I’m prepared when I conclude my maternity leave and return to full time work at the end of April. The days are flying by though, and I’d be surprised if I spend more than an hour per day on everything I just described.

Four Weeks

Adam turned four weeks old today!

It’s a total cliche to say that having a child changes you, but I am starting to understand it now. In these four weeks since Adam was born I feel like I’ve unlocked this whole world of knowledge and experience that I never knew existed in adulthood. Having kiddo chats with the fellow who came out to give us a quote on work to the house was not what I anticipated, but you suddenly find this parenthood connection with strangers. And as someone who will be the first to admit that I’m “not a baby person,” the adjustment to being a mother has opened up new, fascinating parts of myself, even if it will take some getting used to.

I recently read a piece in The Atlantic about what happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother, which opens with:

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.

The article was valuable as I strive to understand my moods and new feelings, but that opening quote in particular really connected with me. I am still very much me, even in my sleep-deprived, do-everything-for-newborn, hormone-driven state, but there’s this new thing too. I make time and space to snuggle up with Caligula and have my dozing son in my arms or nearby, and a book in my hand. I never quite realized the value of the Kindle app on my phone until I was suddenly trying to do so many things with just one hand available. It’s a shame I recently started making the shift back to paper books!

It’s far from poetry and blissful motherhood discovery though. These first few weeks have been incredibly difficult, even with MJ on paternity leave and my aunt here to help. I am the only source of food, so I’m awake at frequent intervals, leading to some frayed nerves and a lot of exhaustion. Still, having my aunt here has been a tremendous help, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten much done at all this month if not for her, and I certainly wouldn’t have had as much sleep. Her help has also allowed MJ and I to go out to a few meals together, which have been great for my mental well-being. As far as that goes, I’m doing OK. There were a few big cry moments in the first couple weeks where I was adjusting to motherhood and worrying about everything. I am still struggling a bit, but most days are good and I have a lot of support when the waves of hormones and lack of sleep start getting to me.

I have managed time to do a few little projects and some big ones. Before Adam was born we ordered window blinds for the whole house, and they all came in last week, so we were able to get those installed. I’m really happy with how they turned out and how much more comfortable it’s made living here already.

We then discovered the guest bathroom toilet had a cracked tank and was leaking, so ended up getting a big chunk of plumbing work done in the upstairs bathrooms. In addition to the replacement of the guest bathroom toilet, that bathroom also had a glass door on the bathtub, which we typically like, but it’s too difficult with a small child so we had it removed and replaced with a shower curtain and rod.

This week brings a little more work on the house, with a door being put on the master bathroom on Tuesday (it totally lacked one!) and our gas fireplace inspected and tuned up on Friday. We also got an unhappy surprise this weekend when my aunt discovered that the kitchen faucet was leaking. It had been dripping for some time, but this was a real leak which triggered a visit to the home improvement store to buy a replacement.

In smaller, more fun projects, I got my Nintendo systems (Switch, Wii, SNES Classic and NES Classic) connected to my second monitor in my office. Of course I don’t have a lot of time to actually play games right now, but at least now when I do they’re all set up for me to grab a controller and go. I also got the computer rack in my office set up. Both the media and backups server are in need of new hard drives in their RAID arrays, but working on them when they didn’t have a real home was near impossible. Now that they’re plugged into a KVM in my office, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to carve out some time to fix them up some time in the next few weeks.

Also managed to get out with my aunt to get our hair cut at a local salon, and made my way up to the Lake Merritt BART station to get some BART socks. Aside from meals out, that has pretty much been the extent of my adventures out of the house over the past month.

And now it’s time to wrap up this post, scoop up the kiddo to feed him for the tenth time today, and maybe see if I can get a nap.

Adam Stanley Joseph

On January 6th in the wee hours of the morning I gave birth to our son Adam Stanley Joseph!

Like much of the pregnancy, the delivery was a bit complicated and we had a few rough days the first week, but I’m happy to say that as we enter our third week together, little Adam is doing well. In many ways, my own recovery post-delivery has gone well, I am much more mobile than I was late in the pregnancy, but I certainly am still healing.

Our fluffy son Caligula isn’t quite sure what to make of the new addition, but he has had his moments of curiosity about the new animal we’ve brought home.

As the first week progressed, we started having family arrive into town. First was my Aunt Elaine, who will be spending several weeks with us to help us adjust to life with a newborn. MJ’s best friend arrived next, followed by his father, my grandfather, and my mother on Friday the 11th. Four of them stayed with us here at the house, proving that without even much creative use of space, we could actually expand Hotel Joseph to accommodate a bunch of single adults staying with us.

The family visiting was of course to meet the little one, but also to celebrate with us. On the 13th, 8 days from birth, we had his bris and baby naming at our synagogue in San Francisco. In addition to family from out of town, several local friends joined us as we enjoyed a catered lunch from Wise Sons and then were able to share some words about the origin of Adam’s name, segments of which come from his maternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather.

The week that followed was full of firsts. I learned that newborns aren’t particularly bothered by noise, so he’s now been out to two meals with us at kid-friendly restaurants we enjoy, Knudsen’s Ice Creamery for dinner one night, and Doug’s Place for brunch this past Saturday. He slept soundly through both outings. Of course we also spent a lot of time just visiting with family, and rearranging our limited furniture so that we could gather together in some previously unused common spaces in the house and to make sure Adam could be out with everyone as much as possible, even if most of his time was spent sleeping.

There’s been a fair amount of take-out consumed these past couple weeks, but my aunt is also keeping me well-fed with fresh fruit salads and snacks as I need them. In fact, her help can’t be understated. So far she has kept laundry and dishes flowing, helped keep family schedules intact as we juggle guests and adjusting to life with a newborn, and has been pitching in with the endless cycle of feeding and diaper changing, most recently relieving us in the early morning so we can get a few hours of undisturbed sleep here and there. I’m so grateful to have her here.

As I wrap up this post, I want to pause for a moment to talk about privacy. I don’t share everything in this blog and online, but I am a pretty public person. I do my best to protect the privacy of those close to me, often asking permission for sharing things when there is an expectation of privacy, and holding back when needed. When it comes to our son, for now we’ve decided to extend that privacy expectation to him. We’ll share photos of him directly with friends and family, and may even do a paper family photo card for the next holiday season, but for now we felt it would be prudent to exercise caution regarding what we share in public.

The adventures of 2018

On the face of it, 2018 was a great year for “big ticket” milestones and life changes.

We moved to our new home in Castro Valley!

We learned we were expecting our first child!

I gave three keynotes! Along with speaking at or participating in over a dozen conferences, four of which I was on the selection committee for.

We’ve had several visits with both sides of family!

I had wonderful travel adventures with friends!

…including my first ride in a helicopter AND my first ride in a sea plane!

More quietly, I struggled quite a bit. Complications arising during the pregnancy have been difficult to cope with, I saw two long-term friendships falter, leaving the city has been a hard adjustment, and in October I was caught up in a layoff. The stress of all of this and the upcoming changes in our life caused me to see out a therapist in October to help work through some of it.

Still, even with each of these struggles, there is much to be grateful for. In spite of complications, the pregnancy has progressed, and with an early induction to avoid some of the risk we are expecting a healthy birth. I have gotten out of my comfort zone relationship-wise to start strengthening some friendships with people I’ve known for years. The proximity to a walkable downtown even here in the suburbs and a quick, easy ride on BART into San Francisco has eased some of my homesickness for my beloved city by the bay. My job search is going well, with plenty of exciting opportunities available to me when I’m ready to return to work in the spring. We have built a wonderful life for ourselves here and we continue to live comfortably.

With MJ starting a new job and the pregnancy, there were no grand getaways together overseas this year, but MJ and I spent a long weekend in NYC over the spring to finally see the famous, now unused, City Hall Station. We also spent a long weekend in Las Vegas for my 37th birthday. Our house is slowly coming together, including the guest and baby rooms both here and in Philadelphia.

Travel-wise, I did less international travel than I have in the past. Part of this was due to the team I was on having coverage in Europe, which meant I could focus more on North America, and then with the pregnancy I also decided to stop travel outside of the US and Canada a few months in. That means for the first time in several years, I didn’t break 100k miles, coming in this year with 88,716 miles, and only two overseas trips (Australia and Denmark).

Even without lots of long flights I did make reading more of a priority this year. In 2017 I admitted to watching a lot of TV, and in 2018 I was eager to change that, and did. I read 32 books in 2018 and continued my commitment to reading paper magazines to keep my long-format article brain working properly and tear myself away from my phone more. Health-wise I didn’t lose weight like I wanted to, but the difficult pregnancy made that a more challenging endeavor and I’m happy in the fact that I’ve at least been able to keep the pregnancy-related weight gain within a range that my doctor is happy with.

Now, onto the more list-y part of this post. The places I’ve been!

And the talks I’ve given!

As I look on to 2019, we have quite the adventure ahead of us. The arrival of our first child will change our lives significantly for the foreseeable future. Whatever I end up with job-wise I’m committed to doing something that challenges me to both dig deeper on a technical level and spur further career growth. Between these two things, I have plenty to adjust to, so there are no grand New Year’s resolutions or changes I want to commit to. Though I do hope I am gentle and forgiving to myself and MJ as we seek out this new balance together.

This December

It’s been an interesting December, which began with Hanukkah! As Jewish holidays go, it’s not actually a major one, and the proximity to Christmas does seem to be the only reason a lot of attention is paid to it. Still, who doesn’t love lighting some candles?

This is also the first year in some time that we’ve spent the entire Hanukkah celebration on one coast. In 2016 and 2017 we started it in California, and resumed it at the townhouse in Philadelphia. Prior to that, we had at least one weekend during Hanukkah with our tiny travel menorah as a work trip of mine caused overlap. I certainly missed the holiday visit back east this year, but we’ll resume the tradition next year, with a little one in tow!

Even at eight months pregnant I’ve continued to interview for new roles, but with the knowledge that it’s extra important that I find a job that I’d be excited to return to after taking time off for maternity. My career has been a focal point in my life for years, and though I know my priorities will shift in the coming months, I’m committed to coming back strong to work on something that excites and challenges me in new ways.

Job searches are never easy, but I have found things to enjoy about the search this time around. I’ve had the support of a tremendous network of people in the industry, and my experience at this stage of my career means I have a lot of options, spanning both operations and developer advocacy. This has allowed me to explore working with a variety of types of companies and talking to really interesting people. Even when the fit isn’t quite right, most of the interviews I’ve had left me having learned something and grateful for the opportunity I had to explore a possible future with them. Plus, some interviews gave me an excuse to head up to San Francisco for the day. I’ve settled some in Castro Valley, but certainly left some of my heart in San Francisco.

Visits to SF mean street cars!

And cable cars!

Visits to San Francisco also occurred during a few meals with friends over the past several weeks. I got to catch up with my friend Mark over lobster rolls downtown after a doctors appointment one afternoon. An old friend I met long ago Philadelphia was available for dinner one night where we grabbed pizza and ice cream in my old neighborhood.

Catching up with friends was also part of my plan to do a bunch of things this month that are much easier before having children. My other obligations (job search, prep for kiddo, house things) did eat into this, and there were physical limitations (long outdoor adventures need not apply), but I did find some things I could do, mostly around food! MJ and I have been enjoying some lovely date nights, including an amazing dinner at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino a couple weeks ago.

I also took off for a night to spend time alone in Half Moon Bay. I booked a nice ocean view room at a hotel, and a pregnancy massage at their attached spa. My room had a sitting area where I could snuggle up and read, a gas fireplace, and a Sam’s Chowder House, which makes a great lobster roll, was just down the street. I indulged in a couple non-alcoholic, wine-inspired sodas from VIGNETTE (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), which rounded out my lunch, and a dessert I took to go and ate that evening. This adventure away gave me a few things I suspect will quickly become more rare: alone time, rest and relaxation, and spontaneity. I only wish I was able to spend time stopping at scenic outlooks and browsing the shops and things along route 92 on my way home, unfortunately the late pregnancy must-use-restroom-often need put a limitation on how many stops I could make! Still, I had a lovely time, and at just under an hour away, it was an easy and fun drive out there.

I didn’t get as much technical-focused learning as I hoped I’d do now that I’ve wound down my travel schedule. Instead, I’ve put my focus into planning for the future, both the immediate needs for our upcoming child, and more long-term plans sketched out for when we inevitably struggle to find a balance in the coming months and upon my eventual return to work. While I am disappointed with not getting my teeth into the latest tech book I picked up in August, I think I made the right choice, even professionally. I believe time will show this break from the bay area tech hustle will have served me well.

Of course time has been spent preparing for immediate needs as well. Over the past month I’ve scoured parenting forums, reviews, lists, and the brains of fellow parents I know to find the most best (weighted with cost, value, quality) products for the new kiddo. Our house is now full of incoming baby signs, with a Pack ‘n Play and swing sitting in my living room in their respective boxes, a lovely combination stroller/bassinet/car seat, and a nursery, that while sparse, I think everything we’ll need in it, at least right away!

Crib, nursing chair and changing table here in California

There have also been a lot of doctor appointments. I scheduled my twice-a-week non-stress tests for the mornings so I could get on with my day. After the complications that have popped up through this pregnancy, and led to these regular check-ins, I’m very happy to say that things are progressing well and we’re on track for an early January birth. The usual aches, pains, and struggle staying asleep for this stage of pregnancy are ever-present, but I have been taking a short nap in the afternoon most days to make up for some of the lost overnight sleep. Physically, I’ve been spacing out all the manual labor chores I have throughout the days and weeks, and this strategy has worked well so far. We still don’t have a lot of furniture in our house in general, but things are coming together and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape for when friends and relatives start coming into town after the birth, including my aunt who has graciously offered to spend a couple months here with us to help!

My view in the NST room for 20-30 minutes, twice a week

I’d be lying if I said I was ready for what January brings. I’m certain that no amount of preparation can truly get you ready for how much your life will change once you have kids, especially for someone my age who has become so accustom to, and largely happy with, a child-free lifestyle. Still, we’re excited and looking forward to this new chapter.

Non-alcoholic beer adventures

I mentioned in a post back in October that I’d been trying non-alcoholic during my pregnancy. Now, a quick disclaimer: NA beers give their alcohol percentage as “less than 0.5%.” Since I embarked on this experiment because I am pregnant and I have mostly stayed on the side of alcohol abstinence since learning I was pregnant. As such, I’ve limited myself even when it comes to the NA beers. I max out at to two per sitting, and haven’t indulged on sequential nights. So don’t worry!

One of the key things I’ve come to recognize during these seven months without drinking is what my relationship with alcohol actually looks like. For the most part, it’s not about the alcohol itself. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few times over the past several months when I wanted to just go out for drinks with people to relieve stress and put distance between myself and my problems, but those times have been rare, especially given the tumultuous year I’ve had.

What actually I miss are the taste, ritual, and social aspects of drinking. I love the taste of a solid micro-brewed beer. I have fun geeking out with my beer friends over our check-ins on Untappd, and tracking what I’ve had over the years. I miss the variety of what I can drink as an adult when alcohol is an option. I’ve come to more strongly sympathize with non-drinkers who are so often presented with a list of water, iced tea, or soda. After years of very light consumption, my soda intake has gone up during this pregnancy and I’ve had a lot of iced tea. When MJ and I sat down in Las Vegas at a Michelin starred restaurant, I wished I could indulge in the wine pairing that was specifically selected to complement the meal. At the various conferences I attended this year, I missed the ability to grab some beers with my fellow conference-goers as I had so many times before (it’s really not the same when I tag along and order a root beer). As I stare longingly at my cabinet of whiskey, it’s the ritual of pouring a glass after a rough day and curling up next to the fireplace with a book, something I have satisfyingly done with some nice herbal tea, but it’s a different experience.

After enjoying some non-alcoholic beers one night, I was perfectly fine with having a clear head, not have to down a bunch of water to get re-hydrated before bed, and certainly don’t miss the mild headache in the morning after having a few. Plus, I get to check-in on Untappd! Though I’m sure my friends there are terribly amused by my NA adventures, it has helped me stay connected.

So now we get down to it, is non-alcoholic beer worth it?

The first problem, at least for me, is that NA beers are overwhelmingly lagers, and I’m an ale girl. Coming from the starting point of not being a fan of lagers in the first place, I was left in a very disappointed space when I started looking for NA beers. However, the main problem is that availability of NA options at all is extremely limited. You won’t any NA options at most places, and what you do find is usually the mass-produced stuff that is not very good. Still, I did end up having the “usual suspects” when it comes to beer at a couple places.

You’ll see St. Pauli NA and O’Doul’s on a lot of menus as their default offerings in the US. The St. Pauli I had at our local Indian place here in Castro Valley I should have passed on, it wasn’t much above water. The O’Doul’s Amber was actually not so bad and a good complement to my meal when we found ourselves at a bar and restaurant near our place in Philadelphia over Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Philadelphia, they do a bit better in the NA beer department than other areas I visited. They actually had Clausthaler Dry Hopped lager at another bar and restaurant we went to with friends. It was also available at Wegmans, so I was able to pick up a six-pack for Thanksgiving (even if I couldn’t convince my brother-in-law and Untappd buddy to try one, hah!). Again, a lager, but the dry-hopping gets me a bit closer to where I want to be and satisfies some of my longing for hops.

I got to enjoy the Bitburger Drive when I was out with a friend at Anchor & Hope in San Francisco back in October. One of the draws for this place is their beer menu, so I was somewhat reluctant to visit while I’m off beer, but they hooked me up with their off-menu NA option. It’s a Pilsner, so not really my thing, but it was a nice addition to my meal and I appreciated it.

And conferences? One of the chairs for LISA18 recognized that half of the organizing committee for the conference was made up of people who weren’t planning on drinking during the event, so he went shopping for some NA beers to bring to a little after-party. I skipped the Old Milwaukee NA he picked up, but I did grab one of the Beck’s NA. Lager again! But it was nice to feel like part of the crowd with a green beer bottle in hand.

That was pretty much it for my in-restaurant and social adventures! This meant that I largely couldn’t satisfy the social or dinner-out accompanying problems with a teetotaler lifestyle.

Back in California, I hit a local Total Wine & More store to grab some of the NA beers that had decent ratings, for what they were.

Kaliber is made by Guinness, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Of the European brews, it’s probably tied with Clausthaler as a favorite. Alas, I can’t say the same about Erdinger. I’d still choose it over a St. Pauli or O’Doul’s, but I have my reservations about finishing the six-pack.

But where would I really rather spend my calories? None of the options above. The US microbreweries specializing in NA beers are where it’s at.

I wrote about the Chandelier Red IPA back in October, so I’ll just repeat what I said there:

The second comes from just south of me, Surreal Brewing, which makes a red IPA! Now, since I love hops and am often indulging in the most ridiculous hoppy beer I can find, it was a bit mild for me, but it was still good and an effective way for me to get my hops fix, even if it’s just a little one.

They only came in packs of four cans! I may actually pick more of this one up during the breast-feeding stage in months to come.

My favorites were from WellBeing Brewing near St. Louis. Their Heavenly Body Golden Wheat was the most beer-like one I tried and my favorite. The Hellraiser Dark Amber is a close second, and I’m really looking forward to their Coffee Cream Stout!

Alas, at the end of the day, none of these beverages are really beer. They are either really mild or have unusual aftertastes, or both. Still, with a long period of breastfeeding ahead of me I should probably get used to avoiding alcohol except for really special occasions when I’m willing to make the required accommodations. As such, I’m especially grateful for the microbreweries who have started to get into this space and offer options that I’ll happily drink until I’m able to return to the land of alcohol drinkers.