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Tired, Star Wars 5k, sours, and my SPARC

Our new au pair is here! I’m beginning this post with that because welcoming a new person into our family is a big deal, and the help she’s already provided in just her first few weeks here has been an incredible relief. On May 5th I was chasing Adam at the playground and managed to sprain my foot, so in addition to the general 24/7 care of my kiddos, I was suddenly injured in a very inconvenient way (my foot! I need that!). Caring for an infant and a toddler is no small task, but our new au pair seems to be handling it well, and I’m really glad to be back at work full time.

I’m also glad to have a little time to myself. I had a revelation one morning when I “got enough sleep” but was still tired, that it wasn’t just physical exhaustion that was hard on me. I am an introvert, and being with the kids all day gives me no time to recharge on my own. Now that I’m aware of that, I can be more strategic about rest. In most cases, if I’m up at 6AM and got over 7 hours of sleep overnight, it’s more restful if I get up and spend an hour alone before anyone wakes up, rather than attempting to sleep for another hour. I’m still tired all the time, which is unavoidable until the baby sleeps through the night, but at least I’m understanding myself more so hopefully I can handle it better.

Introducing kiddos to Studio Ghibli while I rested my sprained foot

Sprained foot aside, we did manage to have fun during my time off. The day before I sprained my foot, on May the 4th (be with you, Star Wars Day!), I dressed the kids up as little R2-D2s and we did a 5K walk around town. It was my first 5K with one of the virtual run websites, so I got my first 5K medal and everything! It was fun and I see more virtual 5Ks in our future.

I also received a case of sour beers for another virtual beer fest, but the event feed didn’t quite pan out, and after a series of failed streams they postponed it. Still, while I’m certainly looking forward to the pandemic being over, and technical glitches aside, this virtual stuff does have its benefits. As a new parent, beer fests are tricky to make time for right now, but one from the comfort of my own living room? And 5k I can do wherever and whenever I am able? I can do that!

Beer fridge in the garage, all stocked for the sour fest!

I’m trying to squeeze in some time for hobby projects. It’s so hard, but just like alone time, having a little hobby time is also important to my well-being. I decided to start playing with my SPARC Ultra10, which has been sitting in my home office since we moved in. I was pleasantly surprised to see it boot into Debian Lenny. So it still boots! And the hard drive was still functional! Of course Debian Lenny is ancient and I can’t keep running it, and Debian no longer supports SPARC64, so I’m going to have to install NetBSD on it. The next phase of my project was giving an install an attempt, but my CD-ROM started throwing errors. It’s old, so it’s not surprising. I think my next step will be giving up on the drive and doing a netboot install. Ultimately I’m not sure what I’ll do with the system once it starts running, but I am enjoying playing around, and I haven’t touched NetBSD in years, and never had a lot of experience with it.

In better health news, I got my 2nd COVID-19 vaccination a couple weeks ago, so I’m fully vaccinated! The side-effects this time were similar to last, but the exhaustion hit pretty hard and I ended up taking a three hour nap the next day. My life probably won’t change much though. With two unvaccinated kids at home, it’s not worth the risk to them just so I can do some indoor dining. With mask mandates being lifted state-wide in mid-June, things may actually become more dangerous for them inside public places, so we have to continue doing grocery and meal runs solo.

I also spoke to my boss about continuing the pause on travel. Thankfully, the company hasn’t even fully opened offices yet, let alone lifted all the work travel restrictions, but I wanted to get ahead of it in case I was expected to get back on the road before I believe it’s safe for our family. As the vaccines become available for the little ones and infection rates drop, we’ll continue to do risk analysis to see what we are comfortable with, but it’s good to know that I won’t have pressure on the work side in 2021. It’s also nice that my role has so many facets to it that while dropping the event travel is major, and even with other people start going to events in the fall, I’ll still be busy and effective without it in the short term. I have been doing some virtual events too. I did one for Mom Relaunch last week where I did a quick Linux on Z workshop. Next week I’ll be speaking at a virtual conference, giving a brand new talk on developing for non-x86 architectures. It feels good to be back.

I 3D-printed an IBM z15 model!

Back in April as I was catching up with work following my maternity leave, I discovered the existence of some internal IBM 3D printer files for IBM z15 pencil holders. I was immediately intrigued, and quickly found a 3D printer company that would print one for me.

As a quick aside, I learned about 3D printing services because one of the hobbies I wish I had time for is model railroading, so much so that I subscribe to a monthly model railroad magazine. Model railroad combines my interest in small electronics, Arduino type boards, 3D printing, and love for trains, so it’s a fascinating hobby that puts a bunch of the things I’d love to do into one package. In reading about model trains, there’s a lot of talk about “scratch” building of custom things for your model railroad layout. One of the things that makes this easier for model railroaders is 3D printer companies who will print, on demand, various parts for their scratch built items. Suddenly a world opened up for me. As much as I’d love to have a 3D printer, the truth is I have a lot of interests, a couple of small children, and very little free time. Until the kids are older, my options are limited. I had to seek out a 3D printing outfit if I wanted to print my z15 pencil holder, and so I did!

I went with Xometry because their quote process was simple and I didn’t need to research materials and whatnot. Since this was essentially a display item, I didn’t have many material requirements, and I figured this would just be the first of many baby mainframe models I’d be ordering. I ordered my model on April 15th, picked the slowest manufacture and delivery option (knowing I’d be taking a couple weeks off from work) and it arrived on April 23rd, much more quickly than I expected!

Since it arrived white, and we all know that IBM Z systems are black, my first step was painting it. I started with Krylon COLOR maxx spray paint in glossy black. When I do this again, I may see about getting it printed in black, because while this was not a very difficult step, the paint was strong-smelling and because I was rushing a bit (remember, 2 small kids at home!) I did end up with some drips.

From there, I went with a couple 2 oz tubes of Golden Artist Colors acrylic paints, one in Titanium White and another in Ultramarine Blue. Now that’s almost certainly not the exact blue of the z15 system, but it wasn’t bad!

I did some tests with the acrylic paints, and with the black base the white came out great, but the blue was too dark. So I was able to paint the “Z” and the “IBM” logos in white (though I believe strictly speaking the IBM logo should probably be silver?), and then the insets in the doors I first had to paint white.

From there, the coat of blue went on. I quickly learned that precision painting is a skill, and one I lack, even with a generic set of tiny paintbrushes. And again, I didn’t take as much time as perhaps I should have, because I was working on this in the naps and quiet time I had to myself between caring for the little ones!

Ultimately, this was super fun. But my next task? Getting permission to release these 3D printed files to the public, because I knew that my fellow fans of Z would be chomping at the bit to have one once I shared it. It took some time and being redirected to a few people, but I found the people I needed. They made a few adjustments to make it more in line with the design of the prototype, including closing the top. The design remains proprietary, but I secured the rights to share the file in public for anyone who wants to 3D print their own z15! You can hop over to the Fans of Z community where I posted this blog post: Print your own IBM z15 Model!.

I think my next project will be getting one print with this file. And do feel free reach out to me if you want to collaborate, or are interested in the original pencil holder files, and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve just started playing around with stl editors, so I have a ton to learn.

The Big Iron Hippo

It’s been about a year since I last wrote about an Ubuntu release on IBM Z (colloquially known as “mainframes” and nicknamed “Big Iron”). In my first year at IBM my focus really was Linux on Z, along with other open source software like KVM and how that provides support for common tools via libvirt to make management of VMs on IBM Z almost trivial for most Linux folks. Last year I was able to start digging a little into the more traditional systems for IBM Z: z/OS and z/VM. While I’m no expert, by far, I have obtained a glimpse into just how powerful these operating systems are, and it’s impressive.

This year, with this extra background, I’m coming back with a hyper focus on Linux, and that’s making me appreciate the advancements with every Linux kernel and distribution release. Engineers at IBM, SUSE, Red Hat, and Canonical have made an investment in IBM Z, and are supporting those with kernel and other support for IBM Z hardware.

So it’s always exciting to see the Ubuntu release blog post from Frank Heimes over at Canonical! And the one for Hirsute Hippo is no exception: The ‘Hippo’ is out in the wild – Ubuntu 21.04 got released!

Several updates to the kernel! A great, continued focus on virtualization and containers! I can already see that the next LTS, coming out in the spring of 2022, is going to be a really impressive one for Ubuntu on IBM Z and LinuxONE.

Theater rental, vaccine, and home with the kiddos

The pandemic has caused a lot of businesses to really struggle, but one that was particularly decimated was theaters. With sky high ticket prices, I have limited sympathy for the big chain theaters and suspect most of them will manage to survive, but the smaller ones that were already struggling worried me. Here in Castro Valley we have The Chabot, a privately owned historic theater with a single screen. We’ve seen a few movies there over the years, but it closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Recently I noticed the marquee mentioned you could rent it! I reached out to them about cost and availability and we decided to celebrate our eight wedding anniversary a couple weeks early so we could get within their rental window. A fun evening out together AND supporting our local theater!

Food-wise, we played with the idea of setting up something fancy, since it was a nice opportunity to do that with the theater to ourselves. But ultimately it was a bit too much to plan, and theater food was just as fun. We got some chili dogs and I brought along pop corn. I even had soda for the first time in months.

In healthier news, on April 19th I got my first COVID-19 vaccination. The appointments had been a little tricky to get, but they started opening up somewhat that week, and I secured one for the Pfizer vaccine at the Alameda County Fairgrounds site operated by Stanford. I was so thrilled to get the vaccine. After a year of such incredible caution by our whole family, I’m grateful to finally be at this point and that our country mobilized so quickly to get the vaccinations distributed. I do hope that the trials for children go well and our little ones can be vaccinated this year too. I’m concerned about the number of people who are refusing the vaccine, and how much risk that continues to cause for children and folks who are immunocompromised or otherwise unable to get the vaccine. This refusal is continuing to put the most vulnerable people at risk, and for them I worry that the “end” of this pandemic is still a long way off.

On side-effects, for this first dose it was pretty mild. My arm was sore at the injection site for a couple days, and the day after the vaccine I was cold for most of the day, very thirsty, and ended up with some aches in my shoulders by the end of the day. None of it was bad, and if I hadn’t gotten the vaccine I would have written off all the symptoms to just general “I am sometimes cold, I didn’t drink enough water yesterday, and I’m almost 40, aches and pains exist!”

As I mentioned in my last post, I returned to work at the beginning of April. I was getting caught up and back into the swing of things, very happy to be back. The hardest part has been juggling my schedule. Between getting up overnight with the baby and then taking the kids after work, typical chores, and basic things like showering and eating each day, I was overwhelmed. Plus, I don’t want to lose momentum with diet and exercise that I’ve been doing so well with! As a result, I ended up buying a laptop stand for my treadmill. There’s a decent chunk of work I do each week, from reading emails to updating tickets and watching videos that are necessary for my job, that I actually can do while walking on a treadmill. I don’t love this compromise, since I really do want to have time to do more serious exercise, but right now I simply can’t make the time for it.

Unfortunately just as work was picking up, it became increasingly clear that I’d need to take a couple weeks off. Our beloved au pair of two years finished her term, and we didn’t have enough gap coverage to make it until our new, delayed au pair can get here. We carefully discussed and weighed options around bringing in a new caregiver for a couple weeks, but with the COVID-19 infection numbers still troublesome here and difficulty in finding reliable, fully vaccinated, childcare on such short notice, we were really in a bind. Thankfully IBM has a program for this situation, and my boss has been incredibly supportive of me using a little emergency leave. I still don’t feel great about the situation though. As someone so dedicated to my career, we worked hard pre-pandemic to not only make sure we always had childcare, but that I could easily travel every month as my job required it, even when the children are little. This pandemic caused our entire support and care network to collapse, and left us with very few options. So in this situation, it simply made more sense for me to put work on hold for a couple weeks than take the risk of bringing a new person into our home.

I will admit that it hasn’t been easy. Aaron still doesn’t sleep through the night, so my sleep is suffering and I’m not at my best when I don’t get much sleep. I worked out that I need at least 6.5 hours per night, preferably 8, and that I need at least an hour mid-day for a break so I can shower and get a little time to myself (like, to blog, hello!). MJ has been great about providing this support, as well as picking up some of the household chores that I typically do on days when I’m extra tired. I’m also trying very hard to let some things slip. The house isn’t as tidy as I want every night, and at the risk of a broken dish, I’m managing to do dishes each morning only by letting Adam “help” me with them. I’ve also been trying to laugh when I feel angry or frustrated instead of giving into those feelings. The ridiculousness of the situations that caretakers of small children find themselves in is often comedic if you’re able to take a step back and give yourself some grace. I’ve also been asking for help and taking more help when offered. I can’t do it all, and trying to but failing was making us all miserable.

I’m also making sure we take time to enjoy this time together. In spite of how difficult it’s been, this is a great opportunity to bond more and have some fun. My new treadmill desk got a break as I’m taking the kids out for walks every day, sometimes also stopping at parks so Adam can run around a bit. This week a second seat for the stroller also arrived, so I’ll be able to test out putting Aaron in that for our walks instead of carrying him in the “baby backpack” I have. He really loves being carried, but my back isn’t always a huge fan of it every day, especially as he grows!

While at home, I’m also mixing it up a bit with crafts with Adam while Aaron is napping. We got to do some painting the other day, and then took the painting and made a collage a la Eric Carle.

The television has also been on a bit more than I’d like, but this is where a bit of grace for myself comes in. If putting on a show keeps Adam calm while I feed Aaron, that’s just how it’s going to be sometimes. We’re all happy and healthy, a bit more screen time than usual will be OK for a little while.

Passover and return to work

Last year we celebrated Passover at home, and via Zoom. This was in the first month of the shelter in place orders due to the pandemic and we all thought we’d have to stay home for a few months until it was over. How naive we were! This week we celebrated our second Passover at home and via Zoom. It’s nice to do a Passover meal at home, and we’ll likely continue it now that we have kids, but even with ordering the food catered, the whole process of heating up all the dishes and setting the table while we juggle the very small kids is a lot of work, and then there’s the Seder itself. We may have done a shortened version with the kids, looking to the second night Seder with adult friends over Zoom for the fuller experience.

Thankfully, there really is a light at the end of the tunnel now with the pandemic, and next year we should be able to celebrate with our community! Vaccines are being deployed quickly here in the United States and trials on younger people are progressing at a good pace. It will likely be the end of the year before our two very little ones can be vaccinated, but at least the rest of us will be able to get the vaccine soon and protect them from us bringing home the virus, even if it leaves things very uncertain with regard to family travel.

Before returning to work on April 1st, I managed to succeed in finding some toys for Adam out back. The first was a toy sink that cycles water and I discovered just how much Adam loves playing with water. He spent 45 minutes playing with the sink and various cups and buckets just pouring water between containers, that’s longer than he’s ever played with any toy!

I also got him a scooter, which he wasn’t super interested in until I got one too. We still have some learning to do, but they were both good purchases, I’m having more fun with mine than I expected.

On April 1st I returned to work. I took most of my maternity leave (I have eight months to use the rest), and it felt like the right time to return. I love my kids, but it was really nice to get back to mainframe stuff and having technical conversations again. I was lucky to have gone out right before the major US holidays, which means I was away while a lot of my other colleagues were also away around the holidays, so I didn’t miss as much as I would have if I took leave over the spring or fall. Even so, I am still working my way through my backlog of work, and it’s definitely going to take a couple weeks to get fully on top of everything.

With Aaron still using my office in the morning to nap (he uses the nursery in the afternoon, when Adam doesn’t need it), I’ve been enjoying all the working spots around the house I created. Most mornings I’m up around 5AM to squeeze in a couple hours of work before the boys wake up, usually from the living room couch. Then I’ll spend the morning working from MJ’s office, which is actually quite the comfortable place! He hasn’t been able to set it up much, so it’s a clean slate decoration-wise, which makes it a good spot for doing calls and presentations. After Adam’s nap, I regain access to my office and can finish my day in the late afternoon so I can do a few chores before taking over kiddo care from our au pair. I’m not going to say it’s been easy, especially since the early wake-up means I also need to go to bed by 9PM, but I’m making it work. I do look forward to the pandemic winding down though, the ability to outsource some of the house tasks again will be such a load off, literally in the case of laundry!

Finally, pandemic cooking hasn’t been a big thing here. We’ve really just switched to a lot more take-out. But I was inspired by some shortbread cakes at the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, and along with a bunch of strawberries, I had most of the ingredients for strawberry shortcake. Now, MJ doesn’t do great with dairy, so the final ingredient was a non-dairy replacement, which I found at the grocery store in Silk heavy whipping cream, made instead with cocnout. I don’t have high expectations for non-dairy substitutes, but this one really came through, it whipped up really nicely and tasted great!

I may have had strawberry shortcake for dinner last night as a result. No regrets!

A birth, a wedding, and a funeral

It was an emotional week. On Saturday we began our day by learning that my sister-in-law had delivered her first child! So exciting! Then I whisked the kids off to the farmer’s market where we picked up some fruit and flowers.

That afternoon, we virtually attended a wedding. I got a little dressed up and armed with the flowers we watched the ceremony. I’m super thrilled to see my friend so happy, and really wish we could have traveled to Philadelphia to be a part of the wedding as originally planned. Still, I’m glad that in spite of the pandemic, we were able to “be there” at least a little to show our love and support. It sure did make for a whirlwind of emotions though.

We then received very sad news that an elderly relative was quite ill. She subsequently passed away on Thursday. As is Jewish tradition, her funeral was scheduled for today, and I can’t begin to describe how unsettling it is to be here, instead of scrambling to get on a plane and fly to Philadelphia for the funeral. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one during this pandemic, it’s heartbreaking to not be able to say goodbye in person, or to get the closure that a funeral helps provide.

In an attempt to get my mind off the emotional roller coaster, I’m focusing on other house projects. MJ installed some deadbolt covers on the doors to the outside so Adam can’t get outside on his own. He also got the gate at the top of the stairs installed so Adam can have slightly more freedom upstairs without us worrying that he’ll go downstairs alone. As mentioned in my last post, I did manage to get my desk cleaned out and prepared for work. Our next big project together is cleaning out MJ’s office, since he may need to use it, and it would be a good backup option for me to take conference calls or do presentations while Aaron is napping.

As the conclusion of my maternity leave is in sight, I’m happy to report that everything that needed to be done before my return was done. So even though my adult to-do list never really nears completion, I am in a good spot. Once I return, I really will have to start letting things go more, especially when it comes to the house being more cluttered than I’d like. Even with the kids being cared for while I’m at work, as soon as 5PM rolls around I’m scooping them up for dinner, playtime, bath time and bedtime, then doing chores before adult dinner. It makes for exhausting days that leave little time for other things, and I really do need other things for sanity! So maybe the boxes will pile up in the living room a bit more, or I’ll have to mop the floor less frequently and go a bit longer before doing laundry.

I’ve also prepared several places around the house for me to work as I’m still sharing my home office with baby Aaron until his sleep gets to a more stable place and he can share a room with Adam. If my office is unavailable, I have a table on the deck, a table upstairs, the couch downstairs, a big fluffy chair in the master bedroom, and even a comfy spot near Caligula by the downstairs fireplace. Work aside, it’s been fun cultivating these spots anyway, with public places still out of the question, it’s good to have a change of scenery now and then when I want to go study, read, or get some project work done on my laptop.

I also got to spend some genuinely fun time with the boys. Our back yard is not beautiful, but with a new fence and the old broken parts of fence gone, it is a bit safer back there now and I’m more comfortable taking the boys out to play back there (well, Adam plays, Aaron is still so little!). I’m also trying to find more toys that a two year old can play with out back. Sand boxes seem popular, but I know I’d struggle to cope with the mess. Water tables are popular too, maybe once it’s warmer outside. I bought a bubble gun, bean bag toss game, and some little truck toys, and so far the novelty of those are keeping him busy for a few minutes at a time.

Several things are wearing on me as I look at the coming weeks. After the initial excitement and acceptance, Adam is struggling with not being the sole recipient of attention when there’s only one caregiver around to care for both him and little Aaron. So we’re working on strategies to make sure he doesn’t melt down so often or severely. We also decided to tackle potty training while I’m on maternity leave, which by all metrics is going very well, but it’s still been an exhausting process for everyone involved. With COVID travel restrictions, there is also some uncertainty around the arrival date of our next au pair. Thankfully there are emergency care options at work, so we won’t be in a total bind if the delays we fear do occur.

Passover begins tomorrow night. It’ll be our second pandemic Passover spent entirely at home. Doing holidays at home, especially ones that are so social, has been a pretty sad part of this pandemic. Still, MJ’s picking up our catered Passover meal today and we’re going to make the most of it here with our little family. There is also a light at the end of the tunnel with all this pandemic stuff. Vaccine availability is increasing, and more places are opening in limited ways. While it will be some time before the little ones can be vaccinated, things will continue to get safer for all of us with few people who can spread it. Maybe we’ll even be able to spend Hanukkah with our family back east this year.

House things, St. Patrick’s Day, and time

It’s hard to believe I have just one more week of maternity leave. I’m grateful for the 16 weeks paid leave for my employer, and I’m actually eager to get back to a working schedule, but there’s really never enough time.

As my maternity leave winds down, I do recognize that I will be losing some of my free time, and am now rushing to finish off tasks around the house before I go back to work. Over the past couple weeks I’ve focused on making some small, but impactful changes in the living room downstairs to make it more livable. I set up a paper mail workflow in the corner so I can toss mail in a box when I don’t have time for it and it’s easier deal with it when I have a few minutes here or there. I also bought a key holder for the wall, and MJ showed me how to use his electric drill so I could hang it properly, and now our key table isn’t such a mess. Admittedly, I also shoved a bunch of boxes full of pending house project stuff into a closet so I don’t have to look at it anymore, but having it in the middle of our living room wasn’t doing anyone any favors.

The other big project this month was replacing our fence. Some big wind storms last year did a number to our fence, collapsing it entirely in one long section, and requiring to be stapled back together on another section. While working on those portions, we also discovered that a section we thought looked fine was actually infested with termites. MJ spent a bunch of time researching materials and settling on Trex composite, because it doesn’t require maintenance and looks better than vinyl tends to, and then had a multi-month search of finding a dealer who would install it here. Then there was wrangling of all the neighbors we border to let them know about the project. Thankfully it all went pretty well in the end, even if he did have to check in on the installers while they were working to make a few little improvements to their plans. The rest of the back yard needs a lot of work, but I’m really happy to have a functional fence out there again! And we couldn’t reasonably do a landscaping remodel without replacing the fence first anyway.

We also kind of celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this year. Our au pair Claudia did crafts with Adam to decorate the wall, and we dressed ourselves and the boys in green. In the afternoon we had some green cake and that evening we enjoyed a round of Guinness. I’m not sure if it’s the kids or the pandemic that are changing holidays for us, it’s probably a little of both. We have little buddies to dress up with now! And anything to break of the monotony of pandemic life is quite welcome, even if it does take energy that I frequently find lacking.

I also had my last visit with my liver doctor on St. Patrick’s Day. As I’ve mentioned, I put on a lot of weight in my 30s, and was diagnosed with NAFLD several years back. I’ve had high liver enzymes and an annual visit booked with a liver doctor since the diagnosis. With both pregnancies I also had intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (a liver condition), and with the second I had my enzymes spike so high that they were in dangerous territory. It was pretty scary, especially since my father died from liver disease in his early 50s. Thankfully, my last blood work came back the best we’ve seen in years. All my values are down, and close to normal! Coupled with what looks like no long-term damage to my liver, based on tests I had done before I got pregnant with Aaron, my doctor declared that he doesn’t need to see me again unless there’s a problem. I’m convinced this reversal in condition is due to me adjusting my diet, exercising more and ultimately losing weight. One more reason to stick to it.

Cycling back to the beginning of this post, as a parent of two now, I’ve been thinking about time a lot. I reflect back to 2015 when I read 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and how I let it nearly ruined my life. I started scrutinizing every free moment I had, placed guilt upon myself for watching TV, and made serious commitments to more than I could deliver on in a healthy manner. If I’m honest, it made my life amazing for a while, I hit several life goals, optimized loads of tasks. I still reap the benefits today. It was actually a really valuable book in many ways! Then I nearly burnt myself out. “Nearly” is key here, being immersed in open source communities where burnout was discussed was important to me avoiding the depths with which other fell to, but I did hit a low point. Learning to relax after that has been a whole de-programming exercise. I internalized so much of the message of the book where every moment is filled with value, and reflected that back to others in my life in increasingly unhealthy ways. Now that I find myself with even more serious time restraints, I want to avoid falling into that again. I’ve started making a rotating list of what I want to do in my limited free time, and have included everything from studying for the Ham radio Technician license to reading comic books. I’ve also ditched the guilt. I don’t watch much TV, I never did! But it’s an enjoyable part of being human, especially when I’m tired.

With my last week of maternity leave, I look forward to lots of baby snuggles and then getting my home office ready to return to it. My desk drawers are overflowing with stuff that I’ve been meaning to sort through for some time, and it would be nice to start work again with a more organized space.

A 5K, private Aardman film fest, amateur radio, and hamentashen

Last week I set out with Aaron, dressed a bit like a penguin, and did a 5K walk around town as part of a fundraiser for the San Francisco Zoo.

While it was just a walk, and I do walks almost every day, it was fun to dress up and share something on social media with a community of fellow animal lovers. I also realized that these virtual races may be something I could really get in to. We’ll see what else I can find virtual 5K-wise in the coming months.

In my last post I mentioned resurrecting my Wallace and Gromit fan site, and as promised I did write up about my at-home film festival: DIY Aardman Book Private Film Festival. It was an enjoyable way to spend my time, and it was a pleasure to learn more about the history of the studio, and work beyond the characters I am most familiar with.

I’ve also been studying to get my amateur radio license. It’s been on my bucket list for years. My father was a ham fan, so I knew about the hobby from a young age and have always had a number of friends who were into it. It’s also a technical endeavor that has nothing to do with my day job, making for an engaging and interesting way to spend my extremely limited down time while on maternity leave. I hope to do the test in the next few months, probably remotely with one of the ham clubs my friends are part of.

We also recently celebrated Purim, by which I mean we ate hamentashen prepared by our synagogue and shipped to us, introduced Adam to noise-makers, and watched a joint Purim and Shabbat service via Zoom on the big TV in the family room. It’s not a holiday I’ve observed before, partially because timing is tricky (I’m usually traveling during it) and also because it all seemed very kid-oriented, and we didn’t have kids until recently! Doing all of these things remotely is still taking some adjusting to, but I love how creative our synagogue has gotten with the holidays, it’s now been a whole year of them. Passover is scheduled now, and will be our second one conducted over Zoom.

All of the things in the post are impacted by a very different world than I was sitting in a year ago. On March 8th, 2020, we flew home from Pasadena after our last in-person conference, and that was our last flight for an entire year. It had been over a decade since I spent that much time without flying, with most years getting near or hitting 100K miles lately. This past year without travel has been hard on my wanderlusting heart, but it also allowed me to cope with a difficult pregnancy at home, and spend a lot more time with my little family. There were no virtual 5Ks I could do at my own pace with my infant without joining a crowd, I probably would have continued to not prioritize getting my ham radio license if not for infrastructure and safety concerns stirred up by the pandemic. We’ve had to get more creative with projects at home, leading to my private film festival. The pandemic has been deeply tragic, so finding these silver linings has been important to keeping me hopeful and happy as we look to the future we’re building for our sons. Here’s hoping the vaccine rollout continues quickly and we can be in a much safer place in a few months.

Virtual Beer Festival, Mars, and Another Zoo!

My maternity leave continues to be a fulfilling time with little Aaron and the whole family. After a bit of a sleep regression last week, as he approaches three months old he seems to finally be sleeping for longer stretches (4-6 hours overnight, rather than 2!) and we’re hoping this continues. As a long time 9-10 hours of sleep per night person, getting 4-6 hours per night myself has been brutal, especially when it’s chopped into several segments. I’ve been drinking coffee every morning to get going, which is unusual for me.

It’s not all kids all the time here though! I signed up to participate in a virtual beer festival last weekend, Juicy Brews Saturday Morning. It was breakfast themed, so they sent some whole bean coffee, kids cereal (and color-changing spoon!), a stuffed toy, and a whole box full of breakfast-themed beers brewed specifically for the event.

The event itself was handled over a YouTube Live stream, with participants in chat and sharing photos on Twitter and Instagram, and check-ins on Untappd. They had a variety of panels and discussions, from coffee making to art labels on craft brews. For my part, I did the breakfast and loaded up the stream on the TV in the family room so I could keep an eye on it throughout the morning as I watched the kiddos. It wasn’t until lunch when MJ joined me that I finally had a single coffee stout. Still, it was fun, and it’s really been fun trying these wild beers this week. About half the beers are fruity sours, a quarter stouts, and the rest are an array of ales. Some are really odd, like the one that tasted like a juice smoothie, or one I had the other night that was essentially a banana and maple syrup milkshake with 8% alcohol content.

I’ve also been getting familiar with a MacBook Pro running OS X that we’ve been using for family stuff, including video calls and virtual events at the synagogue. I will never give up my Linux laptops, I’m open source to the bone, but it has been an interesting experience from a technical perspective. Most of my pain so far has been just how different it is for ordinary tasks, and the muscle memory of special keys not being where I expect. The tactile feel of the keyboard is nice though, and from a practical perspective, there is some proprietary software that’s required for virtual things that isn’t built for Linux, so using it for that has been necessary.

One thing we didn’t need it for though was watching the latest rover landing! That we just loaded up on YouTube on the Roku on the TV in our family room. I was particularly excited for Adam to see this one, because in addition to it being his first rover landing, it has his name on it!

In other “media” news, I mentioned in my last post that I’d brought back my Wallace and Gromit fan site. Unfortunately for my credit card, that has also sparked a renewed interest in Wallace and Gromit collectibles. I’m not regretting it though, I’m really happy with my recent purchases and am still looking forward to a few coming. It also caused me to start reading the book about Aardman that was published a few years ago. This in itself has turned into a mini film-festival for myself. As I read through the book, I watch the shorts they mention, take in an episode or two of one of each series they talk about, and I have a whole pile of feature films to re-watch. It’s been a delightful adventure which I plan on writing about over on the fan site when I’m done, since Aardman themselves have published a lot of the shorts I’ve been able to watch on YouTube.

This week we went to another zoo! This time we got tickets at the Oakland Zoo, which was a much easier drive than San Francisco (about 15 minutes from home, versus 45), and the shorter drive was quite welcome. We went in the afternoon, picked up one of their speciality Town Zoo beers (beer again? hah!) and had a wonderful time visiting the animals and soaking in the views of the bay. I’m really glad these outdoor venues are open again, and the reduced capacity really seems to be working, there are still a number of people there, but it’s relatively easy to keep a safe distance.

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I’ve been losing weight through diet changes and exercising. I didn’t mention just how successful I’ve been. At the height of my non-pregnancy weight around this time last year, I was 237 lbs. Today I’m 197. That’s 40 pounds!

Breastfeeding has been a key factor in this success, since it burns roughly 500 calories alone, so I can over-shoot my weight loss calorie goals by that much and still manage to lose weight. That means I’ve been able to keep having a beer with dinner a few times a week and enjoying my favorite foods in moderation, and ease more slowly into this diet change, while still maintaining momentum and that good feeling of watching the numbers on the scale go down. I’m also lucky that I haven’t been as hungry with baby #2. A major part of my weight gain that brought me to my top weight was how ravenous I always was when I was feeding kiddo #1. I’m not sure what’s different this time around, maybe my body knows what to expect.

The other part of my success really is concern about my health. As such, I’ve been paying very close to the sugar composition of the foods I eat, and even the ones I indulge in, and have started to be more strategic about when and how I enjoy them. Learning about all this has made all the difference. I also bought a simple Fitbit and have been tracking my steps again, aiming for 7500 per day, which is helped by daily walks with the boys. This is the part of my lifestyle changes that I’m most concerned about with my return to work next month. It’s easy to carve out 45 minutes to walk a couple miles today, but once I go back to work? I’m going to be tired. I will work to make it a priority though, staying active is so important for my health.

Kitchen, fandom, parks, and kiddos

The new “kitchen pantry” has been assembled! I guess you can tell you’re getting old when things like creating more counter and storage space in your kitchen is something to get excited about. It really has changed how useful the kitchen is though, no more doing meal prep on unactive burners on the stove top, or on the table, I can actually use the counter! It’s not a spectacular decor match, but it does look nice, and it’s a versatile piece of furniture that we can use elsewhere in the house when the time comes to do the kitchen remodel.

Life with an infant continues to be tiring, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for things, but I have been carving out some time in the evenings to wind down and read for a bit. I also decided hobby-wise I need something. So one thing I decided to resurrect is my news blog/fan site over on WallaceAndGromit.net. I started working on it in 2002, but until this week my last entry was five years ago. Things dropped off when I was working on my OpenStack book, and then I got very busy with my new developer advocacy career, so a lot of energy was put into building my expertise on that path, and then kids really made my life busy. But I love Wallace and Gromit, and keeping up with their news is great when you have kids! Shaun the Sheep is a lot of fun for kids, and I can’t wait to introduce The Wrong Trousers to Adam and Aaron. It’s also a less computer-y hobby, and one that’s social, so I think it’s a good one to get back on top of right now. We’ll see how it goes when I return to work in a few weeks.

In family bonding news, we’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather and going out for walks every day, and sometimes even going on adventures further afar now that some outdoor spaces are opening. Last Thursday our au pair and I took Adam and Aaron out to Lake Chabot Park where we played on a field and then went on a short walk by the lake.

Friday was our big zoo day! The zoos have been opened and closed a couple times during the pandemic, but since most of the exhibits are outdoors, it feels like a safe, and much-needed escape for families looking for something to do — including ours. We first thought we’d go to the Oakland Zoo, but with limited occupancy numbers and what seems like every family in the east bay wanting to go, it was actually quite tricky to get tickets. Instead we made our way over to my beloved San Francisco Zoo. It’s much further away, and a smaller zoo, but it was my “home” zoo for nearly a decade, and I’ve been there many times. They also require timed ticket entry to manage capacity, but they were easy to get. It was the first big family outing with our au pair and the kids since the pandemic began, so it was notable. We had a really good time, and I’m pretty sure Adam wants to go every day now (me too!).

Valentine’s Day this year was pretty low-key. We had a nice take-out brunch, including some great Lobster Eggs Benedict for me. MJ splurged on a couple dozen roses and chocolates for me, but our dinner of Thai take-out was interrupted by Aaron deciding to continue a multi-day sleep regression that had him waking up every 45 minutes around the clock. With restaurants closed anyway, it was never going to be a big, fancy dinner of years past, but I do look forward to getting back to those date nights when the pandemic is over and the kids are a bit older.

This week our au pair is on vacation, which means for the first time we have both kids non-stop for over a week. My hats off to stay at home moms who are caring for small children, this is tough! Especially with a sleep regression thrown in! Showers are now an every-other-day thing, and I’m barely keeping up with chores because I’m so tired from the overnight shift. MJ and I have been mixing up the overnight schedule a little, I’ve found that 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep seems to serve me better than getting the same amount (or even a little more) in 2-3 chunks, so we’re trying that now. Still, it’s hard to operate on so little sleep day after day. I’m continuing to try to enjoy the tiny, snuggly baby time as much as I can, but I’m also looking forward to him being a little older and sleeping better.