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I 3D-printed an IBM LinuxONE!

Several months ago I 3D printed an IBM z15 pencil holder. I used a design that had been floating around, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice little model. I ended up following up with a design team inside of IBM and got a more perfect version that they were OK with me sharing the with community.

But I already had a z15, so I wasn’t going to use this STL myself. Or was I? I clearly now needed a LinuxONE!

A colleague (thanks Joris!) hollowed out the STL to make it cheaper to print, and I removed the Z. Voila! I had a LinuxONE file to send off to get printed.

In the future, I may try to get it printed in the color I actually want, but I went for a quick quote and cheapest printing option that made sense from Xometry. I also used their tool to shrink it a little so it was the same size as my z15.

(As an aside, I’d love to own a 3D printer some day, but they’re expensive and require maintenance and all kinds of things I don’t currently have time or space for. Maybe some day!)

Since it came in white, I had to spray paint it just like the first (see my previous post for paint details).

Then I had to put down a coat of white in the inset areas, since the orange paint wouldn’t show up well on the black.

I went with the Orange Golden Artist Colors acrylic paint, the same brand and type I used with the z15.

The orange ended up being quite a bit brighter than the real LinuxONE, but I’m OK with that. I’m using it in a lot of photos and social media, so it’s fun that it’s more visible. That said, the “LinuxONE” and “IBM” text was the trickiest part about this model. When I shrunk the design, the IBM logo got a bit too small, and I didn’t have anything for LinuxONE. Ultimately, both spots were too small for proper logos, so I kinda just winged it with “IBM” and just drew a couple of lines to represent the spot where the LinuxONE branding should go.

It turns out OK! I still need more practice on miniature painting, but it’s not meant to be a perfect model, it’s just a bit of fun.

So I had a bit of fun, first with some cloud and Linux photo shoots!

And one with the System/360 bannerhead I have (grandpa!)

And finally, in action. I “brought” them along to the recent IBM Z Day we hosted, and included them in the pictures I took during the event.

Want to join in the fun? Grab the STL file and print your own!

Seasonal smoke, high holidays, and getting back outside

We were having a delightful summer. Back yard tidied up enough to play outside. Regular cadence of farmer’s market on Saturday morning and playground on Sunday morning. Every weekend we’d also look up local garage/yard sales to walk to.

Then the smoke started to roll in on August 18th. Our cars and outdoor furnishings quickly developed a thin layer of ash and we had to stay indoors.

Admittedly, we’re getting off easy so far this year. I rarely smell the smoke, and the PM 2.5 AQI levels for wildfire smoke pollutants are regularly between 50-100. Still not what I want to expose the either the baby or the toddler to very much, but it’s not the directly unhealthy or dangerous range we dealt with last year. Still, we’re staying indoors a lot more, and that’s been tough. Adam doesn’t like being cooped up, and I’ve realized just how important all those walks I was taking with them are to my fitness and health. The air has started to clear this week, but there are still fires and if they flare up again and the winds shift, I will need to make sure I’m getting in some exercise again. Hello again, treadmill!

I wrote about getting my amateur radio license and my movie marathon, and honestly that’s all I’ve packed my free time with. Most recently I started watching the 1980s series Automan and then listening to the Continuum Drag podcast as they make their way through the series too. The podcast has definitely made watching the series a lot more fun and social.

I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to keep the kids engaged as we’re stuck indoors, and I’ve been delighted to see how quickly baby Aaron is growing and hitting milestones. In our cooped up period these past few weeks, he’s become quite the crawler! And he stands while holding things now!

I’m probably not fully succeeding in meeting all the needs of a mischievous toddler (honestly, who can?), which is how I ended up going through our trash can on a Tuesday morning. The night before we noticed that one of the baby monitors was missing. I figured Adam had just stashed it somewhere, but after essentially turning the house upside down on Monday night, I had to accept that he probably threw it away because he thought it would be funny. Thankfully, I found it in the trash before the trash truck came. It was gross, but after taking it apart, carefully cleaning it, and letting it dry, it seems to work fine.

Adam and I also are continuing to do art, but the other week we added baking into the mix (see what I did there?). First it was by making challah, and most recently honey cake for Rosh Hashanah. He’s only two, so obviously it’s me doing most of the work, but it’s been fun to include him as we measure and mix together the ingredients.

We also did some holiday-inspired art!

As for the holidays themselves, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were once again observed via live stream. It looks like a few people made it to the synagogue, masked and vaccinated, but hundreds of us joined virtually. It’s sad to not see everyone in person for a second year, but just like last year, it did make things a lot easier. A baby and a toddler don’t make leaving the house easy, especially for extended periods. Staying safe at home certainly was convenient.

We also took the afternoon on both days to visit parks. On Rosh Hashanah our au pair and I went over to the playground, where we bumped into the local Chabad chapter, and I got to socially-distanced chat with a Jewish mother in their community. On Yom Kippur MJ joined us and we all went out to Lake Chabot Park to soak in the sun and let Adam kick a soccer ball around in the grass.

With the clear skies, we’ve also spent the last couple of weekends going to yard and garage sales again. Mostly it’s because it gives us a safe destination for walks (helps me stay motivated!) but also because the kids do seem to like to see Things when we go out. Stuff-wise, I rarely buy anything, but we did snag a refrigerator toy last weekend that both the boys are really enjoying.

Work has been incredibly busy. We put on our flagship event for IBM Z last week, so August through September is a mad scramble to finalize the schedule, make sure the speakers are happy and have what they need, and handle all kinds of surprising logistics (even for a virtual event!). A non-trivial number of evenings I end up working after the kids go to sleep just to make sure everyone has what they need. Mix in taking a day off for Rosh Hashanah and another for Yom Kippur I really had my work cut out for me. We nailed it though, I was really happy with my track and the event did very well. The virtual Open Mainframe Summit is next, which I’ve been handling IBM’s presence for, and was taking up considerable amounts of time as I got the booth materials together and make sure we hit all the key deadlines. That’s coming up next week.

Today I got to enjoy another beer festival! This time Beers without Beards which had a beautiful assortment of beers, including Two Lights from Allagash, which I’ve wanted to try since it came out. Realistically, it’s tricky to fully take in these virtual beer festivals because I have a couple of little humans to care for during the day, but having the live stream on while we went about our day has been a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed the segment from Allagash, and it was delightful to hear about some of the history of our beloved Russian River Pliny the Elder. As for actually drinking, I can work my way through the beer collection in the evenings over the next few weeks. I’m enjoying the Two Lights right now, which is pretty great for a lager!

Pandemic-wise, I’ve hinted throughout this post how we’re still staying close to home. It really did weigh heavy on my heart to stay home during the holidays again, and MJ just canceled his plans to go to his cousin’s wedding in early October. I’m lonely, and I miss everyone. I am eager to see approval come through for vaccinations for the kids, because that is when I think we’ll be in a more reasonable place as we continue to evaluate our safety. In the meantime, we’re all doing the best we can over here.

“The Computer’s Voice” Movie Marathon

Several months back I read A Grand Success! and wrote about the little private film festival that took me on as I read about Aardman’s work through the years. In these pandemic times, it was rather fun!

I seem to have stumbled upon a similar situation with The Computer’s Voice: From Star Trek to Siri by Liz W. Faber. I don’t know what I expected from this book, but it quickly became clear that without seeing the films and shows she referenced throughout the book, I’d struggle to properly appreciate it. As it was, I found the phrasing and prose of the book a bit of a struggle because it feels rather academic to me. I also don’t really understand enough about things like psychology to properly understand everything she discussed. Still, it was worth reading for me, and it is a fascinating tour through the intersection of feminism, sexuality, and science fiction.

The first chapter went well, I’d already seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Original Series, but then things got tricky! I’d never seen any of the movies/shows mentioned in the next chapter, so I had some catching up to do. Dark Star was on a streaming service we subscribe to, and I was able to digitally rent Moon. Finding the Quark television series was a little trickier. It’s not available streaming anywhere, and the DVD was expensive in many places. I ended up finding the series DVD for less than $20 with shipping on a somewhat sketchy movie website, but it came through, I got my copy!

It was about at this moment when I realized I was having a lot of fun.

Dark Star is a campy classic, and everything about it is ridiculous, including the sultry voice of their computer. Moon was quite good, and I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it before. In stark contrast to 2001, the computer ends up being an unlikely ally to our protagonist. And Quark was just silly, it’s hard to say whether it’s bad or not because it was intentionally bad to poke fun at other space shows of the age, but I did chuckle quite often while watching it. There’s a robot throughout the eight episodes that it lasted, but it was the actual talking computer, Vanessa 38-24-36, from the final episode which was mentioned in the book. She was awful, but she was the villain of the episode and so that was to be expected.

Vanessa 38-24-36

But more importantly than these first few films and shows, it turns out, this book was a gold mine of other science fiction recommendations!

Nearly half of them I’d already seen:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • THX 1138 (1971)
  • TRON (1982)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • Iron Man (2013)
  • Star Trek:The Original Series (TV series)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV series)
  • Eureka (TV series)
  • Big Bang Theory (TV series)

But there were plenty I hadn’t seen:

  • Quark (TV Series)
  • Colossus – The Forbin Project (1970)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • Demon Seed (1977)
  • Electric Dreams (1984)
  • Fortress (1992)
  • Smart House (1998)
  • Moon (2009)
  • Her (2013)

Rollerball is apparently a bit of a classic, but the computer segment of it was quite brief and the computer wasn’t very good (in keeping with its place in this dystopian setting). It was a cool looking computer though, and very different from the walls of blinking lights that most movies use to portray super computers.

Zero from Rollerball (1977)

Also, fun fact, as they walk past Zero throughout the facility, you see product-placement Sperry Corporation computers. The book is what clued me in to this fact, plus that Sperry as a corporation didn’t last long once IBM released the IBM System/360 and /370, the direct predecessors of which I work on in my day job at IBM. What fun I am having! (Sorry Sperry Corp.)

Sperry-IBM quote from The Computer’s Voice

I was surprised that I hadn’t seen The Andromeda Strain, though I’m certain I’ve read the book. It was a solid movie with a pretty cool looking computer room!

Compute room from The Andromeda Strain

Smart House was a Disney Channel Original Movie and it was dreadful, but almost worth it for the control room for the home automation system. Almost.

Control room for the home automation system in Smart House

Of all the movies I watched, the most pleasant surprise was probably Colossus: The Forbin Project. The setup of a super computer in charge of the missiles during the Cold War was too perfect, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a shame that it wasn’t available on any streaming service, having to buy the DVD is quite the barrier to seeing it for most people, and most people should see it! Plus, I learned from the book that the computers filmed were real, provided by Control Data Corporation (CDC) as product placements.


The next movie on my list was Fortress. I don’t like prison movies/shows, so this one was tough for me. The computer in this movie was sadly not cool to look at, the interface was a split keyboard and a wall of monitors. No blinking lights! But the computer can also override the wishes of the “warden” and goes on to control a fleet of robotic cameras that travel around the facility, militant cyborgs, and pretty much everything else in the facility (vehicles!), so that’s pretty cool.

Zed-10’s prison security camera from Fortress

I didn’t read the descriptions of the movies since I was planning on watching them anyway, so I was moderately horrified at by Demon Seed. As the title hints at, the computer impregnates a human. There was a lot going on in the 1970s, haha! But the computer, Proteus IV, looks really cool and it’s a super bizarre movie.

Proteus IV

Her was a very cerebral one. The computer in this movie is an evolved personal assistant, and in the course of the movie you discover that there are people here and there who fall in love with them, including the protagonist. Oddly, during this pandemic time when we’re all so isolated, it did make me think long and hard about what people need, and I joked that I was very confused about emotions after watching it. The computer interface is usually just a small smartphone or earpiece (boring! but appropriate), and it’s voiced by Scarlett Johansson, a voice that will be familiar to many viewers, so that also added an interesting dimension, much like Kevin Spacey being the computer voice in Moon.

Electric Dreams is another in the field of computers and love, but it’s much less subtle. The movie came out in 1984, so very few people had personal computers, and I’m sure it must have felt quite novel and futuristic to have what we now consider the standard CRT monitor, computer, and keyboard setup. Watching it now, it feels old. Much like Tron, the movie comes from a place where most people didn’t really understand computers, so they could do playful things that didn’t make any sense (throwing champagne on your computer is not recommended). Still, the computer was effectively “on-line” which was a rare concept at the time, and it controlled his home automation system, all things I’m sure people wanted but ended up being quite the future-facing idea! The movie was also so so so 1980s. The music was the biggest focus, aside from the computer, and it was fun seeing so many shots of 1980s San Francisco, where the film is set.

Edgar from Electric Dreams looks very familiar!

Finally, one of my favorite movies was in this book! And I took the opportunity to watch it again: A.I. Artificial Intelligence. I think the movie was a bit weird to ever be very popular, but it really struck a cord with me. The talking computer in this one is voiced by our beloved Robin Williams, and I really enjoyed the characters and the whole story. Also, I’m not much of a crier, but this movie gets me every time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this little movie and show marathon, but I think the best part about it was connecting with other SciFi fans on social media. My mainframe pal Ray Mullins told me about the Colossus book, which turned out to be a trilogy of books! I got old paperbacks of all three. On the topic of Colossus, there is quite the computer geek cult following of the movie, so it was also fun to engage with folks who are into that. I may have to get a t-shirt.

Most recently, my infrastructure pal Sarah Elkins pointed me in the direction of the Continuum Drag podcast where they just started talking about the show Automan (1983) which I immediately bought the DVD set of for the 13 episodes. It arrived today. Sounds like this movie marathon has taken on a life of its own, and I have a fun journey continuing ahead of me!

And many thanks to author Liz W. Faber for putting me on this path to begin with.

I got my amateur radio license!

I have a memory of sitting at our family computer happily chatting away with some friends on IRC, when my father came in and started to talk about ham radio and how you could talk to people from all over the world!

“Dad, I’m chatting with someone in Sweden RIGHT NOW.”

As a teenager, it was my job to think everything my parents did was, at best, out-dated and irrelevant. I largely ignored the dirty old radio equipment that was piled in our garage, and I never actually saw my father operate. My mother doesn’t believe he ever had a license, and I never managed to find him in the dozens of historical call sign directories I looked at, but it easily could have been one of those hobbies from his 20s that he did with some buddies.

A few years later I was living in Philadelphia and had started using Linux. The overlap in Linux and amateur radio at the time was extensive, and I quickly learned that a lot of my techie friends were in to both. Part of it comes from the hacker, tinker culture that lead my friends to get into electrical engineering, but Linux actually enables you to use amateur radio is novel ways, so it’s all linked. Ultimately, getting my license ended up on my bucket list, as a way to connect with my deceased father, and because it looked interesting and fun. A few years later, I married MJ, who has had his amateur radio license since he was a teenager.

But many things in life are interesting and fun! So while I’d visit Philadelphia every year and attend FOSSCON, where my friends would ask “gonna take the test this year?” I’d just laugh and say, “maybe next year!” I did still want it, but it never became a priority, until 2020.

2020. That Year. First, we were living through the fourth year of the worst presidency of my life. I still feel like I was living in some weird reality that made a cartoonish rich guy from the 1980s into the 45th president of the United States. As a wealthy white woman, I was pretty immune to his policies, but my family is Jewish, and his policies directly hurt my loved ones. I watched people move out of the country due to legitimate fear for their lives and livelihood. I had colleagues in the industry who were separated from their families due to random changes in Visa policies. Hate crimes rose, and misinformation online flourished. Then the pandemic hit and federal response was reckless. Then we had the worst fire season in California history. When we woke up to orange skies here in the bay area on September 9, 2020, many of us were at a low point.

What does this have to do with amateur radio? Civilization is fragile. As we lived through rolling blackouts and bare shelves at grocery stores, it struck me how quickly our intricate web of things we use every day can collapse and leave us helpless. For some people this meant stocking up on toilet paper and buying more guns. For me this meant learning how electricity works and how to communicate simply over radio waves.

Practical things aside, getting my license was a clearly-defined accomplishment that I knew I’d enjoy, and it was something that is very me. Over the past three years, so much of what I’ve learned outside of work has been in the care of my home and children. It’s easy to lose yourself when you have kids, and I’ve definitely been struggling with that. Plus, for brief moments around discussing sleep schedules, discipline strategies, and meals for the kids, MJ could help me study or answer basic questions about electricity and operating procedures. It’s been nice to spend a little time being just our nerdy selves again.

Finally, with the pandemic, many clubs have started doing tests virtually. You join a video call, share your ID to prove you are who you say you are, show off your room to prove you’re not hiding the answers anywhere, and then share your screen as they watch you take the test. This was major for me. No need for me to go to an event or anything, I could take my test, and moments later scoop up my toddler and be back to mom mode! Parents, this is a great opportunity.

As for studying, I had a bit of fun with that too. In addition to MJ helping me out, I did a lot of studying on my own. First, I bought a paper copy of the No Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide by Dan Romanchik. He gives the PDF away for free but having a disconnected way to start my studying was very helpful for me. Then, I got the Mometrix Ham Radio Technician License Exam Flashcard Study System. I set the giant pile of cards just outside the laundry room, and every time I walked by (A LOT!) I would pick up a few cards and run through them. Genuine mom hack right there. Finally, I used HamStudy.org extensively, especially in the final month before my test. Between desktop version and a few minutes here and there on my phone, the app was how I finally got good at passing the practice exams.

And since I don’t like being on the phone all the time with the kids, I would also sometimes use the cards when I was playing with them, with varying results. Sometimes I’d return to a bit of a mess!

In learning about schematics, I also got to spend a little time on “toddler art” that had us using some stencils, so I got to make batteries and resistors, and my toddler made some circles and squares. This beauty now hangs on the door to my home office.

I also took a bit of a side trip down phonetic alphabet lane. I never learned the proper civilian phonetic alphabet, and while you’re not tested on it, the use is encouraged in amateur radio. So I was shopping for a poster for Adam to learn the alphabet, and I realized I could learn too! I ended up buying a design that had large, clear letters for Adam, with small print phonetic alphabet, and Morse Code dots and dashes for good measure. I got it printed and laminated at a local print shop, and voila! We could now learn together! It’s actually working, just by having that poster around and glancing at it every day, I have most of the alphabet down.

The last thing I did to conclude this adventure to get my license was to sign up for my exam. With two little kids at home, it was incredibly easy to keep putting off studying and learning everything. Every day I’m too tired, too busy, just need a little more rest, 20 more minutes of TV. A date on the calendar really made me focus and prepare. It worked! On August 26th, I logged onto a video call with my pals from the Philly club and had the test administered. I passed with 34/35 correct!

The next day I got an email from the FCC with my call sign. I’m KN6QGG!

And MJ got me a cake!

Many thanks to my Philly crew who never gave up on me and nagged me year after year to get my license, especially Jim Fisher (AJ3DI) who has been with me on the whole journey. He gave me tips and nudges as I needed them.

I am happy with how this all went. If I were to do it again and had more time, I would have broken out my Discover Electronics Kit because I think some more hands on electronics fiddling would have been more fun and helped me understand the basic concepts more quickly. But hey, I still have the kit, so I can tackle that at another time!

Next is actually operating. I haven’t thought a whole lot about what I want to do, mostly because I am still in this early parenthood haze where I have very little time, but the first step will be getting a radio. I’ve already had a local acquaintance offer to give me a spare he has, we just need to figure out a time when we’re both free and I can pick it up! I’m sure I’ll find something delightful and clever to do with it.

And some day, while my sons are exploring some super cool virtual reality world with their pals on the Mars colony, I’ll tell them about amateur radio so they can roll their eyes at me.

Hopefully they’ll eventually come around.

On motherhood

Motherhood was not a foregone conclusion for me. People talk a lot about biological clocks and a “natural urge” for adults to become parents, but that never came for me. While I enjoyed spending time with kids (we share a lot of interests!), I’ve never been a “baby person” and I even worried that I’d struggle to bond with my children as a result. Spoiler: It wasn’t a problem, I’ve changed.

So what made me finally decide to have kids?

The big one for me was a desire to share our lives with a couple of our own children.

We’ve been very fortunate in our lives. Both my husband and I joined the path to tech by following our passions, but ultimately we’ve both been able to build very successful careers out of it. We’re experts in our respective fields, we travel the world for work and pleasure, and we live in a beautiful place where we can routinely have luxurious brunches overlooking one of the most beautiful bays in the world. We had it made! But as my late 30s approached, I had to make a choice. Do I want to continue this lifestyle, or do I want to settle down a bit and build a family? I didn’t specifically think I was missing something in life, I was very happy, but I realized that ultimately I didn’t want to keep this all to myself. I wanted to share the experience of life with some little ones.

For me, this meant not losing myself in my kids. My goal is to share my life with them, not change who I am. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled a lot with this in these first few years. I even bristled at the term “mom” when people would use it to define my identity. Plus, small children take up a lot of time, and at times I feel like all of my time is spent either working, sleeping, or caring for little children and our home. My vast collection of hobbies has fallen by the wayside, and that’s been a painful process. Through a busy schedule and sleep deprivation, I keep having to remind myself of the goal: sharing our lives.

So now I’ve now started to weave more of my hobbies back into time I spend with them, and even come up with new ones! Adam and I now do art together. The typewriter I am getting refurbished will be used, in part, to type up poems and songs that Adam and I can decorate together. I’ve resurrected my love for the outdoors by taking the kids to the park every Sunday morning, and building out our back yard so the kids can play while I hunker down and do a bit of writing or reading. I’ve been studying for my amateur radio license, so when I picked up an alphabet poster for the kids, I made sure it included the phonetic alphabet and Morse code for me! I’ve also got creative at work by continuing to weave my niche technical interests into my job, which has been a boon for connecting with other technologists on a personal level. For me, bringing my whole self to my work has really been a benefit to my career.

The pandemic has definitely made some things difficult, but we even have been able to do some outings. We recently rented a suite at a baseball stadium during one of the less expensive games of the season so we could share our love of baseball with the kids. We go to zoos, a big one for me! I’m looking forward to other adventures as the pandemic wanes where I can share my love for trains, and history, and computers with the boys.

Our life is very different than it was four years ago. Every moment of alone time is precious and I find myself being much more careful about how I spend it. I’ve also changed a lot, but I like the person I’ve become. I’m much better at time management, I’ve had to become more patient and am slowly learning to let small things go. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a brunch by the bay, and even work travel has had to change a bit (even before the pandemic), but we’ve found ways to replace some of these experiences. I definitely miss the flexibility of being able to just leave my house on random adventures at any time, but I treasure what we’ve gotten in return. There’s really nothing like sharing new experiences and everything I love with my kids. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our back yard and baseball

After a very chill July, things picked up a bit in August. On August 3rd I was walking home from the eye doctor, a visit made required by Adam breaking my glasses, on my walk home I passed a small “National Night Out” festival being set up in the BART parking lot! As soon as work wrapped up, I piled the kids into the stroller and made our way over. There was food, music, and a couple police agencies out getting to know the community and giving out goodies to the kids. Mostly, it was another nice opportunity to get out and see people outdoors, in a socially distanced way that still feels pretty safe. Plus, Adam got a squishy BART toy and we got to see some big rabbits!

We’ve also been keeping the kids entertained by expanding our back yard activities some. A few weeks ago we got a little activity area with a tent that has places to play with water, a pretend grill, and more. It’s similar in style to the temporary tent I have out back for us adults to chill out under at the picnic table, so he likes that a lot. I also was able to snag a used slide structure for cheap from a mother in the next town over. While it’s no replacement for the playground, and the yard remains less than ideal in general, it has become a much more enjoyable place to be in the past month or so. I even got a couple of cheap throw pillows that I can use to relax and read outside on the bench.

Speaking of playgrounds, I didn’t end up doing my standard Sunday morning routine last weekend because MJ’s friend Matti was in town! Instead, we spent Saturday morning going to the farmer’s market, as usual, and then Matti also joined the three of us to visit some nearby yard sales. There wasn’t much of interest at the yard sales, except one gem: a 1940s L.C. Smith typewriter of questionable working status, the owner parted with it for $10.

I’ve been eyeing typewriters casually for years but I’ve tried to be practical. What on earth do I need a typewriter for? But art with Adam has changed me some, what if I used the typewriter in some of our art creations? Brilliant! So I did a quick search for a local shop that would repair my typewriter, and that afternoon MJ and Matti looked after the kids as I drove up to Berkeley and dropped it off. The bill for refurbishing a 1940s L.C. Smith typewriter? $320. Totally reasonable given the expertise and I want this local shop to stay in business forever, but it probably more than I was looking to spend on a small side project. Still, I told him to go ahead with it, and in a month I should have a fancy as-good-as-new typewriter for our next great art project!

As for Sunday, I had to put the kids down for early naps because we had a huge adventure in store! Around noon, we left for the A’s stadium to see our first in-person baseball game in over two years. Since we haven’t spent much money on recreation or travel since the pandemic began, we had a bit of a budget for a fun activity. We chose a less popular game (we wanted to see the A’s, who cares who they play?) and secured a suite for $100/person with a six person minimum. Our household, plus Matti, and our old au pair and her fiance joined us for the game. I’d say it was perfect if not for the gaping window in the front of the suite. It was nice to be able to get the breeze and hear the field so we kept it open, but Adam is at a stage were 1) he goes NON-STOP ALL THE TIME and 2) the temptation to throw things out a giant window is too strong to resist. We had to keep an close eye on him and everything near the window.

Otherwise, it ended up being a nice way to enjoy the game and keep the kids safe. It has a private entrance that only suite holders use, and so we were able to keep our unmasked, unvaxxed kids far away from the crowds. There was plenty of space for Aaron to play on the floor with toys, and they delivered food to our suite! The suite also had glass partitions between suites, so we were separated but could still see other fans, a fact that, to my delight, Adam took advantage of to bond with our neighbors.

Work has started picking up, and likely won’t calm down until the end of September with events coming up. I’m a track chair for the upcoming IBM Z Day, which means I have a lot of coordination to do. Plus I’m putting together IBM’s presence at the Open Mainframe Summit, which may surprise some of the attendees with how… written by me it is. I had a lot of freedom to focus on free learning materials and opportunities that IBM has developing, and I hope this resonates with the audience more than some of the typical IBM marketing copy. I also hope I don’t get in trouble, haha! I joke, but it is an exciting, interesting opportunity and I am having a blast putting together schedules and material for both these big September events, even if it does mean a little more off-hours work than I’m used to. This week I also virtually attended my first SHARE event! Finally taking part in this amazing user group that’s been around since 1955. It didn’t disappoint. I sincerely hope I can attend in person next year.

Chill July

July was a pretty chill month. The wildfires haven’t started impacting us yet, work has been pretty typical, and we’ve spent our weekends developing a nice routine of going to the farmer’s market on Saturday and the park on Sunday. I’ve been baby-wearing Aaron while at the park so I can keep up with Adam, and I quickly learned that he loves going on the swing with me.

The park has been a lot of fun. In addition to trying out everything on the playground, we’ve also started exploring a little beyond the playground, finding a stream and other nice little areas that Adam has been enjoying.

A local non-profit affiliated with our library has also started doing Saturday morning book sales outside, which has been a fun way to spend a few minutes with the kids as we browse their selection of children’s books.

In random life things, I had my bicycle tuned up! I do hope to use it soon, but until then our new au pair wanted to take it out for rides and I wanted to make sure it was in good shape after sitting for so long. I had a nice time riding around town when I went to pick it up, and she’s taken it to the park once already.

MJ and I also made what feels like a pilgrimage at this point, to a computer store! Since we haven’t spent much time going anywhere or casually shopping since the pandemic began, it was nice to have an excuse to go to a local store. Central Computer is the last real computer store around here now that Fry’s and Microcenter are gone, and I’ve always loved browsing in computer stores. I picked up some goodies for my Raspberry Pis, which I hope to find time to play with soon, and MJ picked up the switch he actually needed for our reconfigured network.

Our reconfigured network! MJ was able to spend a bunch of time setting up our new gear, along with a trio of access points that are now located throughout the house. The configuration is working well, and it’s nice to have improved WiFi signal on the edges of our living space.

We also made time for a “date lunch” recently. We walked over to a little restaurant that you go inside to order from and they bring the food to your table outside. It was our first real meal “out” since the pandemic began, and since we’re fully vaccinated and things seemed to be improving. Unfortunately, the Delta variant has now surged and I suspect it will be our last dining experience outside of home for a while. The risk is still low for us, but if one of the adults in our household does contract it, the kids are vulnerable, and that risk still isn’t one we’re happy with.

On the topic of the pandemic, an interesting thing has happened with our neighbors: we got to know them. In spite of being required to keep our distance, we’ve actually become closer with everyone we live near. We’re suddenly all home much of the time, instead of all having busy lives, and it turns out one of our neighbors works at the sushi restaurant we now frequently get take-out from. I suspect there’s a bit of shared trauma bringing us together too, we don’t just chat about the weather now, it’s a closeness that only living through something difficult can bring. That’s how I ended up with a couple zucchinis from our neighbor’s garden to cook, even though I don’t cook. Instead I made it into a couple loaves of zucchini bread, with another package frozen for a third,

I’ll conclude by saying this has been a very strange time for me. I spent a year traveling while Adam was a baby, but the door slamming shut on a decade of frequent travel just before I learned I was pregnant with Aaron was certainly a surprise. That means parenthood for me has loosely coincided with the pandemic, and many aspects of my life changed at the same time. When the time comes, I’m certain my travel schedule will be quite jarring to me, and my family. At the same time, I’m experiencing some serious wanderlust.

Another pandemic 4th of July weekend

We traditionally spent the 4th of July visiting our friends and family in Philadelphia. It was a convenient point in the summer to visit, and we enjoyed spending the BBQ and fireworks holiday in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Of course, the pandemic paused that tradition last year, and this year it’s simply not safe to travel yet with the kids remaining unvaccinated. I still wanted the long weekend to be special though, so in addition to some matching USA-themed clothes for the boys, we had a fun weekend of activities.

The weekend began with kiddie pool day! I got Aaron a little floating tube so I don’t need to hold him the whole time we’re in the pool, and it was a big hit. Our kiddie pool has a “roof” to shade the kids from the sun, but it kept deflating and it ended up being quite useless. So I ended up buying an 10 foot by 10 foot canopy that can keep the sun off of us. Bonus: When we don’t use it for the pool, we can put it up over the picnic table and get some shade that way. It’s been life-changing for our time outside, and it’s relatively easy to put up and take down, I can even do it myself in a pinch. When we do the back yard remodel we’ll definitely want to make sure we build in some more permanent shade areas.

On the morning of the 4th of July, I decided to take the boys out for a 5k honoring Yellowstone National Park! We would have gone on a walk anyway, but as silly as it may be, it’s more fun to turn our walk into an event with a theme, race bib, and medal. We also stopped at little playground by the library for a few minutes.

That evening we didn’t go see any fireworks, but we did get to see a bunch going off just by looking out the windows while we were eating dinner upstairs.

The REAL playground adventure came on Monday! The library playground is really just a place to run around and jump on things, it doesn’t have slides or swings or anything. I recently discovered a playground that’s a little over a mile from home, so on Monday morning I loaded the kids into the car and took them over. I was a bit apprehensive about this adventure, juggling both a toddler and a baby on an outing on my own is still a challenge, and I’m still nervous about the potty training situation with Adam. Thankfully, it all went really well. Adam got to go on a slide for the first time! He was a little scared when a bunch of other kids showed up and started playing, but it wasn’t enough to fully stop him from playing. The pandemic really threw a wrench in his socialization. I’m not worried though, I’m sure he’ll get back on track once we can keep spending more time around other kids.

We also watched a bunch of baseball. Having the TV set up in the family room was a good move, it’s so nice to be able to keep up with the A’s, the Giants, and sometimes the Phillies while we’re just doing our thing with the kids. As I may have mentioned before, watching baseball at home is kind of a new thing for me. Traditionally, we would go out to bars and restaurants to see the games, or go to the park itself! Having kids limited this some, and the pandemic paused it completely. We still plan on going to games when we can do it safely, but I think we may end up settling in to baseball-at-home now that we have a family and are enjoying it together.

In all, a very nice weekend, but a tiring one. Aaron is now 7 months old, but he’s still waking up at least twice a night most nights. Plus, caring for a super energetic toddler who wants activities and a baby who needs a lot of hands-on time is tough. They have lots of great toys in the family room, but making sure they get outside and have activities every day is really important to me, especially as we have limitations imposed by the pandemic.

50 pounds

I’ve been overweight throughout my 30s. There were a lot of reasons for this, but it was mostly because I was comfortable and happy. I ate whatever I felt like, but I kept reasonably active, and when we lived in the city I regularly went out for a couple miles of running. I thought I was mostly healthy, but I did end up with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which I’m genetically disposed to. Still, I’m sure my diet didn’t help.

A lot changed when I had kids.

My first challenge was breastfeeding my first child. I was hungry all the time. After losing my pregnancy weight pretty quickly, I gained it right back within four months of his birth. I was also exhausted all the time, so exercise beyond short walks with the baby in his stroller were out of the question. I put on even more weight over the year I was breastfeeding him, and there was only two months between stopping breastfeeding and getting pregnant with my second child!

I found myself at 237 pounds at the beginning of my pregnancy, the heaviest I’ve ever been. At my high pregnancy weight in October 2020 was at 246. I wasn’t going to let this get to me though, I was having severe pelvic pain during this second pregnancy, and I figured I’d worry about my weight after I had the baby.

Then I developed gestational diabetes. I’ve written about this a few times, including soon after I was diagnosed. Ultimately I needed to take insulin to control my fasting glucose levels, but I was able to control my daytime levels with a drastic change in my diet, and exercise. For the rest of the pregnancy I adhered to a strict diabetic diet, and under doctor supervision I lost about 10 pounds during my third trimester and gave birth to a healthy baby!

During this time I also watched a couple older family members get diagnosed with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. This was a wake-up call. I suddenly had a family history of Type 2 diabetes, and with my own history of gestational diabetes I was already at high risk of developing it myself. After experiencing the diabetes diet during my pregnancy, along with glucose tracking and insulin injections, I knew it wasn’t a path I wanted to go down.

Upon my return from the hospital I was down to 228, and by April I was down to 187, 50 pounds from my high before I got pregnant!

For my own reference, here’s what I did.


This is my magic bullet, and unfortunately the one that’s impossible for most people to replicate, including me in the future. Popular wisdom says breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day, which means if I lose weight by sticking to a 1200 calorie per day diet, while breastfeeding I can succeed at 1700 calories. I’ve always found 1200 to be impossibly restrictive, so weight loss has always been a miserable process. 1700 is not an easy target either, but it is possible.

My biggest challenge moving forward will be when I stop breastfeeding and lose this 500 calorie deficit bonus!

I did it during my maternity leave

Another troublesome one! Like breastfeeding, we’re not all going to be in a position of not working. I discovered that when I went back to working, this all became tricky again. I’m a stress eater, and I’ve effectively stopped losing weight since going back to work because I stopped trying so hard all the time, and I was happy with my progress.

Food tracking

I hate food tracking. Even the most comprehensive databases don’t have every possible food in them, and I’d get stuck on finding the perfect entry, get frustrated when I had to add something myself, and in general I found it to be stupidly tedious. But during my pregnancy it was necessary. I was working with a nutritionist who would review my food logs and help me with fixes if I was struggling with my levels.

How do I manage it?

1. The big one: Let go of tracking perfection. There’s an eggplant wrap that I love, but the food databases don’t have it and it’s sold by a local shop with no calorie information posted. Based on my knowledge of calories, I picked an eggplant sandwich from the database to log in place of it. It’s close enough. It’s fine.

2. Log as I go. At every meal, I’d log my food right then, so I wouldn’t find I had a backlog and forget. It took discipline, but it became a habit after a while.

After my pregnancy, I didn’t have to log anymore! But I’d actually gotten kind of used to it, and good at it, so I kept going. I didn’t have to review it with a nutritionist anymore, but it turns out that logging my food made me more mindful of what I was eating. I am less likely to have a snack if I have to pause and think about whether I’m really hungry, or just bored, and consider that I won’t meet my weight loss and health goals if I eat when I don’t need to.

All that said, I learned a lot with food tracking and stopped it in April. The key for me was both accountability (which I can do by myself now) and education. There’s one sandwich I’d regularly get that was over 1500 calories! For just one meal! Yikes! I now either avoid eating it entirely, or I cut it in half. And most importantly, I now mark it down as an indulgent meal, not just another lunchtime sandwich.

Becoming aware of sugar

It’s now cliche to blame “carbs” on the obesity epidemic, and even worse to call sugar deadly, but in my case, it was a problem. I unintentionally ate a tremendous amount of sugar and leaned into breads, pastas, and other carb-filled favorites. During the gestational diabetes episode, I was forced to look very closely at my sugar consumption, and it allowed me to discover just how much I was eating. A big realization? Breakfast cereal like Raisin Bran, which I had been eating as a “healthy” breakfast, very much was not, it’s full of sugar! I’ve cleared all breakfast cereal out of my diet now, and my breakfasts tend to be eggs and lean meat (usually turkey bacon), and a single cup of coffee with half and half.

Ditch the fast food sides

I still eat fast food, but I’ve changed up how I do it. I’ll order a single burger or chicken sandwich, no fries, no soda, no milkshake, just the sandwich. It turns out that the sides are just as full of calories as the sandwich or burger, and I’m perfectly satisfied just eating the sandwich. I still get my fast food fix, but I can stay within my calorie budget.

Daily weigh-ins

I got a FitBit scale so I have a fun new gadget! It automatically uploads the data, so I don’t even need to think about it. Weight fluctuates a few pounds every day, so being clued into trends is important. If I notice the graph starting to trend upwards, I take note and refocus to get control over my eating again.

Pushing past thought distortions

Most of us do this weird thing where we “give up on our diet today” if we eat something “bad” or over-do it for one meal. Obviously, calories don’t work like that and they don’t care about how you feel about the day. More calories is more calories, and you can indulge at lunch and then regain control with the next snack or meal. I don’t know why we’re like this, but I had to get over this silly behavior.


This is hard, but I had to remember my goal: I want to be healthy for my kids. I can’t do that if I’m eating unhealthy foods. This week I’ll order the salad, but next week maybe I’ll treat myself to that pizza I love, the shop isn’t closing, I can always get it later! I’ve also started adding salads to some meals like pizza so I’m not tempted to eat more pizza than I should. My parents did this growing up, too.

Eat dessert, moderately

Don’t touch my cake! Part of why I struggled with the diabetes diet while I was pregnant was because I really couldn’t have my beloved sugary treats. Life is really hard for me when I can’t enjoy my favorite foods, part of avoiding type 2 is so I can still enjoy things here and there without having to take insulin. So I just need to do it in moderation, and be very specific about what I enjoy. Is that cookie really worth it? It better be a good cookie. And I really don’t need a dessert with lunch, let’s save that for dinner tomorrow. Do I mess this up? Yep. But I also don’t give myself a guilt trip over it, I just do better next time.

The end! Or not?

I’ve been hovering around 185 for the past couple months. At this weight, I can fit into most of my old clothes, I’m back in the jeans size I wore for years, I’m pretty comfortable, and my doctors are happy. I would still like to hit my goal of 175, and getting back to 155 would be lovely, but it’s hard and I’ve had to focus on other things lately, like getting enough sleep while having an infant. However, my hope is that everything I’ve learned, and the habits I’ve changed, will stick. I am perfectly happy to continue maintaining this weight.

You will also notice that exercise is not on this list. For me, exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, not a key to weight loss. In fact, when I exercise, I eat more. So I have been exercising more for the general health benefits (mostly walks with the kids, and walk-runs on my own when I can make time), but it’s not part of how I’m losing weight, it’s kind of the opposite!

Ultimately this really is your standard calorie restriction diet. I’m no expert and I don’t expect this to help anyone else, especially since my circumstances are very specific, and my breastfeeding experience differed so much between my first child and second. I’ve mostly written this so I can refer back to it if I need to get back on track again. In case I need a reminder of how important food tracking and daily weigh-ins were. Also, to keep skipping those sodas and french fries.

I was wrong about art

I did a lot of drawing when I was a kid, and into my teens. I wasn’t bad at it!

Then I stopped and left it all behind, with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The downfall of my childhood art journey began one Christmas when I was a teenager, my father bought my younger sister a bunch of art supplies and he got me tracing paper. He constantly complimented her original art, and dismissed mine that was based on existing characters (mostly from Disney movies). I was actually good at drawing, but feeling like it meant nothing to him was incredibly painful.

As a parent myself now, I have more sympathy for his actions, he never meant to tear me down. He wanted to support my middle child sister, and I was doing fine. I was always fine! Unfortunately I was a little more fragile in this area and quickly left art behind for STEM pursuits where I could quantitatively measure my success, instead of relying upon the squishy world that was art.

Throughout my 20s, I was downright negative on art. I love museums and vaguely appreciated fine art, but I was pretty dismissive about art programs. Why should funding go to art when there were Real Problems and Real Jobs that needed to be done? We don’t die without art! And don’t get me started on how ridiculous I thought abstract art was. Finally, I thought amateur art was a total waste of time because it was not “good” art. I bristled when people would post their painting-with-wine paintings and everyone would gush about how great they are (they aren’t!).

I was wrong about everything. I finally came around to this in my 30s.

First of all, I had a poor experience and it colored my perspective. I was bitter and unreasonable.

Art funding? Without art funding, art would be the playground of the wealthy and privileged. What kind of miserable world would that be? A pretty miserable one! Practically speaking, it also means that art we take for granted in our everyday life wouldn’t exist. We’re surrounded with things that are designed, and someone has to do all of that.

Abstract art? I still have a kneejerk reaction of thinking a giant canvas covered with yellow and a single red dot hanging in a gallery is kind of silly. My toddler can make that “art”! But that’s the wrong perspective. It’s all about aesthetics and how it makes you feel. Does a yellow canvas and a single red dot make you feel something? Would it look nice in your living room because your couch is red? The amount of effort that goes into a piece does not create value. Something can look nice and be simple and abstract. Admittedly, I still struggle with actually liking most abstract art, but I do appreciate and understand it more now.

As for amateur art, that’s what prompted this blog post. A few years back I started buying art supplies again, and picked up Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You see, if I was going to take up drawing again, I wanted to make sure my art was good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much time for it, so it fell into my pile of untouched hobbies.

Then I had kids. Little Adam is 2, and now old enough to drag a marker across a piece of paper and have fun with finger painting, even if he’s not quite at the stage of making recognizable designs. I discovered that doing this together is FUN!


And every time I look at the chalk drawings outside or see one of the pictures we made taped to a door, I have great memories of spending time with my son. That’s what those painting-with-wine paintings are about! It’s fun! You have memories!


You don’t hang it in your living room and share it on social media because you’re suddenly some talented artist, it’s because you’re happy, and that’s worth sharing and celebrating.


So this is where I am. Adam and I now “create art” most weekends. We hang it around the house and share it on social media. I’m still uncomfortable about it not being “good” but by sharing it I’m trying to let that go, and hiding behind calling it “toddler art” (he does provide a lot of artistic direction!).

But I also remembered something, it wasn’t just drawing I did as a kid, I made tons of collages. As a big Disney fan, I’d clip an article or picture I really liked from a magazine, and I’d build a whole collage around it using stickers and other small pictures. I did this for The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and more. I created them on poster board and hung them in my bedroom. They’re all lost now, but I did capture part of the Pocahontas one in one of my pictures of my teenage bedroom.

So hey, I have a head start on experience with collage art! And that’s what I naturally picked up with as I’ve started making new art with Adam! Maybe it’ll even get good at some point as we refine our skills together!

Or maybe we’ll just have fun, make memories, and be happy. That would be OK too.