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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.

Our first family cold and a bunch of yummy baked goods

Recently, we all had a cold. I’ve had sinus infections and various woes related to pregnancy since March 2020 when we pandemic precautions set in, but we had never been sick as a household like this before, and 15 month old Aaron had never been sick at all! And this cold packed a wallop. As soon as it was obvious that Adam was sick, we took him to get a COVID-19 test with the school district and quarantined until the negative result came back. I followed up with two at-home tests over the next week, just to be sure. It was just a bad cold though, and as members of our household got sick, we had a solid five days when all of us were quite sick. Ultimately, Adam was out of preschool for a week, I worked several half days as I eked out enough work to stay on top of deadlines, but not much else. Poor Aaron probably had the worst time of it, at least we could explain to Adam why he was coughing and snuffly, Aaron just seemed baffled and distressed by all of it and also slept poorly as a result.

We’re all on the mend though. Adam, who got sick first, went back to school last week as MJ and I resumed full days ourselves. Our coughs are lingering along with a little congestion, but we all actually feel human again, even if my energy level still isn’t what I’d like. I also remain grateful it wasn’t COVID.

As result of this, the first couple weeks of March have been pretty quiet. We did a little baking last weekend, first the Friday night challah which Adam helped me with.

Then some Dairy Free Hametashen! The holiday of Purim was on March 17th, and Hametashen is the traditional dessert. It’s been tricky to find around here, and we weren’t in the best of shape to go searching for it. I had my doubts about making it, and having the energy to make it, but it turned out to be a really fun afternoon activity, especially since the boys wanted to sit in their chairs at the table and watch as I rolled out the dough, plopped the bits of fruit preserves on each cookie, and folded them up. They even came out pretty good! The apricot, strawberry, and mixed berry (mostly blackberry) ones turned out great, and I did a few Nutella ones for the boys, but they didn’t stay moist after the first day, so I’d probably skip them next time.

Speaking of baked goodies, I complained about the state of bagels in California (they aren’t good) and my sister-in-law responded by sending us a box of a dozen bagels from Long Island. It was so thoughtful! We ate six of them, and froze the rest. I’m still longing to go back to Philadelphia to see everyone, but at least one of my key cravings from the past two years has been satisfied for now.

Since we were all feeling better, we went out this past weekend. Adam and I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, and then the four of us braved cloudy weather to go to the food truck gathering where they had lobster rolls this week! It was my first time having Cousin’s Maine Lobster rolls, and it was worth it, yum.

The only big thing going on is that we sold my car last week, which I’ll write about separately soon. The lease was ending and though it was hard letting it go, it was time. We aren’t immediately replacing it because neither of us have daily commutes right now, but we have been on the lookout for a bigger family car, so we’ll see what we end up with in the short term.

Holidays and trains in February

2022 is already a strange year. January felt like a very long month, and February flew by. I’m certain this is an artifact of just how busy we’ve been, but it’s been a little surreal.

With our continued pandemic-related caution around childcare and MJ and I still not doing indoor dining, Valentine’s Day this year was largely a celebration with the kids. Adam and I put up some decorations and did a couple art projects, we wrote “Adam” on little Pete the Cat Valentine’s Day cards for his classmates at preschool, and got some balloons. MJ surprised me with chocolate-covered strawberries and flowers on Valentine’s Day itself, but we weren’t able to do a special dinner together or anything.

I mentioned previously that we’ve really been getting into holidays with the kids, and this year that also extended to the Super Bowl. We don’t watch football (we’re a baseball family!) but our au pair from Brazil enjoys football and never had a Super Bowl party experience, and pandemic restrictions mean that it still wasn’t feasible for her to go out to a bar or similar here. So we had a little “party” at home! Really, it was just putting the game on and eating junk food, which the kids were delighted by, and so was I. MJ picked up chicken wings and the adults had a couple beers. In all, a fun afternoon indoors together, which was good since it got a little chilly in mid-February!

I did take some time to get out of the house on my own in February. I’ve been spending one afternoon a week working from local parks, which has been healthy for my peace of mind. It’s also allowed me to scope out new parks that we can bring the boys to on weekends. One Saturday I also met up with a local mom group at a local brewery and beer garden for a succulent arranging class, where we planted succulents in beer cans! It was the first time in almost two years that I had gone out on my own with strangers, but I felt safe enough doing it, and it was nice to meet some new people and chat a bit. The beer I tried was tasty too.

I took a long weekend off from work over President’s Day as our au pair was traveling. We took the opportunity of a work-free weekday to go to the usually quite busy Oakland Zoo. We picked up Adam from preschool on Thursday morning and went straight to the zoo with a bag of lunch snacks. We only spent a couple hours there, which was probably too much, but it gave us time to go on the zoo train (which Adam loves and talks about often) and carousel, and then take the gondola up to the California Trail part of the zoo where Adam enjoyed running around.

Over the weekend we spent Sunday driving up to Redwood Valley Railroad. I discovered the railroad after the boys had enjoyed watching steam train videos on YouTube, and was hoping there was a vintage train nearby that we could take them to see. Imagine my delight when I discovered there was one they could ride within 20 minutes of home! It’s definitely not a secret though, we almost turned around and went for a short hike instead when we saw how many people were there. But the line moved briskly and we felt safe enough outdoors, in spite of the number of people. The boys loved the ride, and though things got a little stressful for them toward the end, I’m glad we went and hope we can do it again soon.

The pandemic still looms large over our lives, but like the train adventure, we’ve been easing back on some of our restrictions. We’ve started doing some outdoor dining with the boys on weekends at places where we know the owners and are familiar with their setup and precautions. It’s been a nice change of pace to sit outdoors with them, both getting them fresh air and giving them a change of scenery, since they have spent a lot of the past couple years in the house and our yard. As a food destination, we also knock out lunch at this time, without having to pack a bunch of snacks to-go like when we went to the zoo or the train.

Still, we’re not where we need to be. We had a dose of hope and disappointment when rumors floated about a vaccine for kids under five, but then didn’t come to fruition. As mask mandates start to be lifted, it feels like those of us with young kids are being left behind. I don’t blame the world for it, most people are safe now, and two years is a long time. But it’s hard, I want our kids to be safe, but I also long to bring them back into stores, to events, and see people again.

Adam’s birthday, trees, and SLTs

January was a difficult month for me. I haven’t been sleeping well, and as other things came together and I was hoping to get back on track with healthier habits, the sleep puzzle piece didn’t, and it really is a major thing for me. I wouldn’t say I took for granted how well I slept before I had kids, because I have enough loved ones who don’t sleep well to know that it really was a super power that I should treasure. Still, discovering just how much poor sleep impacts my life for the worse has been quite an eye-opener. Thankfully, the month concluded with a visit to my doctor who I’m now working with on some strategies, and I’ll see her again in a month to check in.

I also came down with a sinus infection. I get them pretty much every year, and I should probably bring that up with my doctor at some point too! One thing at a time. Anyway, after about 10 days the infection went away on its own, but it was a very unpleasant 10 days with severe sinus pain and headaches.

Still, I did have lots of fun with the kids in January.

Adam’s third birthday was on January 6th, and I went with Curious George as a theme since he’s really been getting into the shows and books lately. We celebrated by taking him to our favorite park to play and have some chicken tenders and cake. Our favorite local restaurant hooked us up with a party platter of tenders that we could enjoy for the occasion, and it was a really lovely afternoon. Plus, Adam loves the novelty of eating cake outside, so I was happy to oblige on his birthday.

Adam also started preschool at the tail end of January. Our decision to send him, especially as the omicron variant was still trending here, was a difficult one. After nearly two years of caution due to the pandemic, did we really want to open up our household to that risk? When we weighed all of the considerations, we decided to send him. I know kids will likely bounce back from the isolation better than most adults, but we felt that he needed the socialization and support that 2.5 hours of preschool each day could offer him.

Martin Luther King day happened to fall on Tu B’Shevat this year, meaning we had a three day weekend with the boys that we could also use to celebrate trees! Adam and I did some tree art and activities, and then the four of us took a walk to a trail nearby to visit some trees. No tree planting happened, but it was still a nice way to observe the holiday.

In personal project news, I managed to snag a few more SLT cards from a shop online. I haven’t turned the first card into jewelry yet, but I noticed that my options for getting parts were rapidly disappearing, and figured I should take this opportunity to stock up. I also got some “lamps” from the IBM s/360, which will be fun to incorporate somehow. I think I should get a little box to store all of this in though, it’s floating around the house in a cardboard box, which is not optimal and I really don’t want any of this stuff to get damaged.

Now that I’ve finished breastfeeding, we also closed down the little “nest” I had in the corner of our bedroom and moved the big, fluffy chair downstairs into our living room. It now lives in front of the fireplace, which has a TV above it that came with the house. We never used the TV, and kept talking about getting rid of it (we have another TV in the room!) but in the meantime, I decided to connect my Nintendo Switch up to it. I like playing games on the device, but if I am able to cuddle up in my fluffy chair in front of the fire, having a big screen for games is nice.

But if January (and honestly the last quarter of 2021 when I gained back half the weight I had lost) taught me anything, it’s that I need to stop pushing myself so hard. Now is not the right time in my life to be hustling both at work and at home. If I’m going to be putting in the effort at work that I want to for this promotion, that means I need to slow down with my hobbies for a bit and make sure I’m sleeping, exercising, and eating well. When I stop having a baby waking me up at 5:30AM (or earlier) every day and can get more help around the house, I can re-evaluate my situation. But with two kids under four at home and a pandemic outside our doorstep, now is not the time to guilt trip myself about not getting around to making nerdy jewelry, regardless of how much fun it is in the moment. So maybe I’ll play around here and there, but most nights I’m going to try to get to bed as early as possible. Hopefully. This is hard for me.

At home adventures of 2021

Here we are again, my End of Year blog post, even if I’m writing it pretty late.

In 2020 we squeezed in a handful of trips early in the year before the pandemic hit, but we did not have that opportunity this year. We didn’t travel at all. We never even left the San Francisco Bay Area. But with what approaches our second year at home all together, the year was still eventful.

As 2021 began, we had baby Aaron at home and I was on maternity leave. The startup MJ was with had shuttered and he decided to take some time to spend with the family this year instead of jumping right back in to the job market. I’m grateful for this, the kids won’t be little forever and this time together is so precious. Plus, it helped me hit the ground running upon my return to work in April so I could continue working toward a promotion that I’ll be going for in 2022.

It’s hard to stress how much the pandemic has really altered our lives. In the past, MJ had a long commute and worked quite late. He would see Adam in the morning, but it would be pretty rare for him to be around on weekday evenings with us, let alone putting them to bed every night. We developed a lovely routine in 2021, and I’ll be quite sad when things shift back. I suspect when we look back on our pandemic time, we’ll really treasure the opportunity it presented with us with, even if it is hard to be so isolated. But 2021 brought the vaccines for adults! And then for kids over five!

I read more in 2021, concluding the year having read 21 books. It took very conscious effort in the last few months of the year, and I gave up most of my television watching to accomplish it, but I’m glad I did. Curling up with a book is truly one of my favorite things, and I ultimately get more satisfaction from it than I do from watching television or playing video games. I wasn’t totally without screen time though, in April for our anniversary, we rented out the independent movie theater in town and watched Star Wars.

We got several home projects done. We coordinated with all our neighbors to get the fence replaced (no small task!) and also got a deck box to store toys outside, instead of having a bunch of toys we haul out back every time we go out there. I also snagged a plastic slide structure that someone was selling via a local mom group, and a little BBQ-themed play set with a tent over it where Adam can play with water and food toys.

Old fence, new fence!

In the house, we got some new furniture, including a couple kitchen hutches that have expanded our storage and counter space somewhat. I went to a plastics shop and got custom-cut shelves for a metal shelving unit that we inherited from MJ’s grandparents and is now in our downstairs bathroom. We got a big freezer in the garage, which feels like a rite of passage now that we have two kids, we suddenly have so much frozen food!

I took the kids out to lots of parks, playgrounds, and on other adventures outdoors. We spent the summer going to garage and yard sales, outdoor book sales at the library, and the farmer’s market. I took the kids out on a few virtual 5K runs, which were a lot of fun for all of us since we tended to “theme up” during these walks (penguin theme! Star Wars themes!).

Adam and I started doing a lot of “toddler art” together and hanging it around the house. We went to the zoo a couple times, and also made our way over to the A’s stadium twice, where we rented a suite and our immediate family and some close friends could enjoy the game safely.

I lost a bunch of weight (about 50 pounds) and then promptly gained half of it back. It’s a frustrating situation, but I understand how it can happen. Weight management is tricky and managing a healthy diet for myself while I’m working a lot and have two little ones at home is difficult. I also turned 40, which is quite the decade milestone and your body just doesn’t bounce back from having two kids as it may have when I was younger.

Speaking of whom, my life does strongly revolve around my kids right now. Adam turned two in January, and Aaron turned one at the end of the year, in December. Kids change quickly at these ages, at every rapidly approaching milestone their care needs change and so does my schedule and coping mechanisms to manage it all along with everything. It’s been a tough year, especially as our ability to hire external help has been limited and we dealt with the baby’s sleep issues. But in the spring we were able to bring a new au pair into our home, so safe, reliable care for the kids is at least handled while I’m at work, for which I’m grateful for and realize a lot of parents don’t have the luxury of right now.

Still, I’ve managed a few minutes here and there for myself. I got my HAM radio license in August, say hello to KN6QGG! Unfortunately, in spite of the kindness of an acquaintance who gave me a radio, I haven’t made time to begin operating. I also picked up a vintage (1938) typewriter, and then paid to have it fully refurbished at a shop in Berkeley. It’s a beautiful machine and I’ve been using it here and there for artwork with Adam, and most recently to address envelopes for holiday cards. I also started resurrecting my SPARC Ultra10, beginning with replacing its NVRAM chip.

I’ve also done a few crafts of my own. I got some IBM Z models 3D-printed through a service I found online, and got permission to release the 3D-printer files. I also made my own Automan autocar, after falling in love with the silly show from the early 1980s. I concluded the year by making my own punch card wreath, which now decorates my home office door, and I swap out decorations each holiday.

As the year wound down, there was enough of a pause in COVID-19 infections that we felt it was safe enough for my father-in-law and and his wife to visit. This was just before omicron arrived, so things were looking quite hopeful and we went to the zoo and also held a small birthday party for the boys in a nearby park, to which we invited some friends we hadn’t seen in nearly two years.

Finally, I’ve had to get creative at work to meet the needs of the communities I work with as we couldn’t see each other in person for yet another year. I stepped away from some of the general online open source events, because I simply wasn’t getting much value out of them, and it was better to find ways to connect and socialize in non-conference ways. That means my talk schedule, in addition to being virtual, was more focused on IBM events and those with partners, with a handful of notable exceptions. It’s actually been very interesting, because we can craft each presentation more specifically than I might have at a more generalist in-person event. Many of my decks did away with introduction to mainframes text entirely because I was either honed in on just doing my own part of the event (someone else would cover the basics) or I was speaking to an audience that didn’t need a primer. Still, I look forward to getting back out there to see my open source pals again, and to meet my new mainframe friends I’ve bonded with virtually.

So without further ado, my talk rundown! It starts in May because I was on maternity leave until April.

As I said, having another pandemic year was tough, and it definitely caused us to take different paths and try new things, some for the better, others less so. As we dive into 2022, the omicron variant surges and vaccines for the youngest among us are still just outside of our grasp. I’m hopeful that 2022 brings the vaccinations, health, and reunions that we’re all so desperate for. But I’ll continue to look back fondly on the bright side of 2021, and for the closeness it’s brought to our little family.

The quiet end of 2021

The last few weeks of 2021 were pretty quiet. Only a few folks were around at work, so I was pretty heads down on project stuff and had very few meetings. It also made my schedule a bit more flexible than usual, so I spent a few more evenings working so I could get outside during the day on the handful of sunny days that the end of the year brought. As a result, I’m feeling refreshed as I barrel into the new year, which is already coming at me fast.

I had a couple days off around Christmas and New Years, so I spent one of those evenings with MJ de-soldering the SLT card I have. There’s still more work to be done on it, since the cards appear to have been assembled by hand and in addition to the solder, I have 50 year old bent wire to wrangle to get all the little the resistors out.

It was fun getting some new toys (de-soldering tool!) and working on a project together. So much of our lives revolve around the kids and the house, the ability carving out some hobby time together right now is rare. I managed to snag a couple more SLT cards from Etsy this week, along with some lamps from the IBM s/360 that I’ll work to incorporate into jewelry once we get our soldering iron (ordered! But supply chain issues…).

I spent a lot of time with the kids too. I’m definitely struggling to balance how much time I spend on the floor playing with them, and the time I spend on chores during the day. They’re aged one and three, and I know this time won’t last forever, but I’m definitely getting burnt out by pushing all chores to after they go to bed. Doing dishes, folding laundry, and other chores can be done while keeping an eye on the boys and I also know how important it is that they grow up knowing that chores get done, and sometimes helping with them.

Still, a strong focus on time with the boys meant that Adam and I could make a gingerbread house together!

And do some art!

And jump in puddles!

And make muffins!

And play with the train!

We also had a rough few days with baby Aaron as he worked his way through a reaction to his Measles vaccines. Due to the pandemic-driven isolation, neither of the boys have gotten sick lately. Aaron hasn’t had so much as a cold. I forgot how hard it is to watch your little one struggle, and how exhausting it is when it interrupts their sleep and a fever puts them in a bad mood. Still, he’s generally a cheerful boy, and that personality is always dominant, even when he’s a little grumpy for a few days.

He does mostly sleep through the night now, which was a whole struggle this year. The wake-ups he does have don’t require us to go in, and he solidly wakes up around 6AM, in spite of our attempts to shift this later by adjusting his bed time. I don’t love this development, Adam always slept until 7AM once he settled into a routine, and I do not enjoy mornings. Still, everything I’ve read says that 6AM is fair game for little ones, and I just need to focus on getting to sleep by 10PM.

Right before New Years I went for a long walk with a friend. It’s something I hadn’t done in almost two years because of the pandemic, but I realized that I could really use the company outside of our household. It did cause some self-reflection on how much trauma we’ve all had these past couple years. Before the walk I was worried a bit that I’d unload a lot of feelings onto this friend that had been pent up for a couple years and look like a total mess. It may have happened, but it was OK. I think we’re all in a similar place, especially those of us who were particularly cooped up with small children, as much as we love them.

Vacation at home, 2021 edition

I really needed this week, but a week definitely isn’t enough to fully recharge when you’re still getting up at 6:30AM with a baby every day and there are still so many chores to do each day. I think about that article from The Onion a lot, Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean, and in this case I didn’t even leave home. But with our au pair watching the kids during my normal working hours, I did still have an unusual amount of time to myself for a few days. I had a lot of time to read, even watched some TV as I relaxed for a couple afternoons. One day I took a nap! And with the exception of one day, I even managed to get over 7 hours of sleep every night.

Monday and Wednesday were mostly chore days. On Monday I rotated out all of Aaron’s 12-18M clothes for the 24M clothes and did a ton of laundry. After Aaron’s morning nap, we loaded the kids into the truck and took them to their annual pediatrician exams, complete with vaccinations. When we got home, I started the process of deep cleaning Adam’s car seat following the latest car sickness mishap. I also cleaned out the cooler, which was still full of ice packs and drinks from the party on Saturday (and it was all still cool!). Having the day time to do chores was a help too, especially since the weather wasn’t cooperating. I was able to get all the trash and recycling taken out before it got dark, so while it was still a soggy job, it wasn’t a soggy and dark job. With all the chores done when I’d usually be working, in the evenings all I really had was cleaning up after dinner and then I could relax.

Wednesday morning I did the weekly grocery shopping as usual. Mid-day I went to my neurologist to see about the path forward for migraine treatment now that I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding. From there, I had to swing by two Targets (one didn’t have our whole pick-up order), buy a few more pieces of clothing for Aaron. I don’t enjoy shopping, or visiting the doctor, but it was nice to get out of the house on my own for a while. On Thursday MJ and I were able to spend a nice lunch together in the fancy alleyway they have set up with tables next to The Cannery in town. From there, I dropped off holiday cards at the post office and then swing by the comic book shop, which I hadn’t had a browse through in quite some time, as I usually just pick up my subscriptions and depart. When I got home, I made pumpkin pie! It didn’t turn out to be as good as the one I did earlier in the season, I think I needed to bake it longer. Still, even if it’s just the recipe on the back of the Libby can, I actually preferred the spices used in it to the one we got at the diner for Thanksgiving. This was a surprise to me, since I’m usually quite happy with store-bought pumpkin pies.

Adam and I also had a little time to decorate a couple cookies with Aaron and their au pair on Thursday. The IBM offices are still not fully open, but they sent out holiday gift bags for kids, which included the cookies and a few small crafts and activity books. I continue to be impressed with how thoughtful and family-friendly IBM is as a company. Employees with families aren’t merely tolerated or required to act as if our personal lives don’t exist, to a great extent I feel like we’re actually supported and respected.

We also celebrated Caligula’s 18th birthday. These past few months we’ve been going through various treatment plans to help treat his arthritis and lack of appetite. I’m pleased to say his weight is back up where it needs to be, but his age is definitely taking it’s toll. Still, he does seem to enjoy our company, and spends most of his day in the family room with the kids. He tolerates their heavy-handed petting, and even being grabbed at now and again. It’s really nice that he’s not hiding downstairs or in our bedroom like he was wont to do a few months ago.

Caligula enjoying his birthday treat

Personal project-wise, I got a little done. I was able to upgrade most of my Debian servers to the current stable. The only one left is my monitoring server, which tends to be quite brittle and always need a lot of love when I do upgrades, so I’ll have to do that one when I have a chunk of time some evening to work on it. I also fiddled around with my SPARC Ultra 10 to figure out the next steps in getting it running. I learned from NetBSD docs for Sparc, that you need a working NVRAM chip battery in order to netboot, which I’ll need to do for installation. I looked up some tutorials on how to “replace” the battery in my NVRAM chip, but it would have required more time than I have. Instead, I hit eBay and ordered a refurbished one, which was due to arrive on Saturday but instead got here Friday. That gave me time to install it and boot my system, I finally had a MAC address and no more NVRAM warnings! Alas, that’s as far as I got. I’ll continue project Twilight SPARCle some other time.

The punch card wreath on my office door got a seasonal switch. I took down the Hanukkah garland I put on it and replaced it with some little lights to observe New Years and generally offer some light and warmth to the winter time. I used some cheap, coin battery operated lights, and I think it came out nicely!

My last big project thing was developing a plan for making my IBM System 360 jewelry from the SLT card I bought a few months back. After inspection of the board, MJ and I determined that a proper desoldering tool was the best way to make sure we don’t damage the parts when we remove them. Of course we don’t need the parts to be physically working, but I do need them to look nice, especially the aluminum SLT covers, which will be a central piece in one of my planned pairs of earrings! We really want to make sure we get all the solder off these components and so the amount of lead that remains is as small as possible, since I’ll be wearing these earrings. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a desoldering tool, but one will arrive next week! Another project I’ll have to continue in some future evening time, but at least I’m on my way.

On Friday I was split between relaxing a lot with TV and books, or going to San Francisco. Relaxing was a compelling option, but reading and watching TV are things I can do in my evenings. Going to San Francisco during the day is a much trickier endeavor, and very well-suited for my last day of vacation. So, with the encouragement of a few friends who helped me decide to go up to the city, I hopped on the train and went. I only spent a couple hours there, admiring the bay and stopping for lunch on a patio of a restaurant on the Embarcadero. It was chilly, but beautiful, and reminded me how much I love San Francisco. I took pictures of street cars like I used to do all the time, enjoyed oysters for the first time since the pandemic began, and got to admire the beautiful bay. I think I need to make visits to the city a more regular part of my life.

Ultimately, it did all help. I am feeling better. Having my evenings to relax was a bigger game-changer than I expected. I’m hoping that once the kids are vaccinated we can have someone come in periodically to do some of this work. Most of it isn’t overwhelmingly time-sensitive, as long as it’s done regularly. The ability to relax each day and have some time to myself, or to work on something with MJ or watch TV together is something I’ve really been missing.