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Gaming, learning, health and other life updates

It’s been 2 months since I’ve done a general, non-topical update post, so here we go…

Several weeks ago I picked up the Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle. As cool as the Kinect is, I wasn’t really planning on buying an Xbox because we just bought a Playstation 3 a few months back and with my Wii would make is a 3 console house, but after seeing how cool it was and an offer from a friend who could hook me up with a discount, I couldn’t resist. The console itself is beautifully R2D2ed out, it even makes R2D2 noises when you turn it on or manipulate the optical disk drive. I’m not thrilled about paying for access to their Xbox Live service, but there seem to be deals you can find online that make it more reasonable. I keep joking that the Kinect Star Wars game is a very sneaky video game because you’re jumping around a lot as you play rather than traditional games where you’re stationary and can eat chips and pizza. I do love it though and am excited to see where this technology continues to go as improvements come out, for video games and beyond.

I’ve also become quite attached to my Nintendo 3DS. The social aspects they added to it are brilliant, I usually wouldn’t carry it around but the fun that comes with StreetPass makes me take it along even if I don’t anticipate finding time to play. As a result I end up pulling it out at all kinds of times to squeeze in a game of Tetris, a level of Super Mario 3D or a Pushmo puzzle.

Playing more games (particularly on the consoles at home) has meant I’ve had to shift time a bit in my day, which has almost all been getting rid of watching TV time. I’ve never been a huge TV watcher, but lately I’ve found myself bored watching TV alone and only really enjoy it when I’m watching late at night or on weekends with MJ. I’ve also been reading more lately, keeping a magazine or two more accessible throughout the day so that in spare moments I’m reading an article or two rather than doing all the things that time management experts will tell you are time sinks (like checking email every 20 seconds). Finally, I figured I’d check out one of the free online courses offered via Coursera. A couple people in the company I work for did a Stanford Databases course last fall, but at the time I was traveling a lot and couldn’t really make time for it. I’m still struggling a bit with time but I really wanted to see how these classes worked so I signed up for an easy one: Computer Science 101. Now before you laugh, it’s worth pointing out that while this class is obviously quite below me, I never formally studied Computer Science so it hasn’t been a complete waste of time for me. In addition to learning how the course structure works I’m learning a bit about how folks who went to school tend to be presented with these concepts and having them explained in a less practical setting has been a very interesting experience. I’m on week 5 of 6 of this class and am looking forward to doing another soon which will actually challenge me. I’ve also ordered some books in the past few weeks, which I’m hoping will help structure my learning a bit more on some of the less basic areas of Nagios and Puppet, the former of which we use extensively at work but I need to do some higher level debugging on, and the latter I’d like to see us moving to. Amusingly, I ordered the Puppet book just before going to a Salt talk and now I’m quite intrigued with how that will evolve.

On the health side I’ve been working through some mild issues.

The first is sinus-related. I was delighted to learn upon moving to California that my allergies had almost all disappeared. This spring has been different though, it’s been rainy and we even had a big thunder storm in April (very rare in San Francisco, they only happen every few years and I’d never seen one here). In February I ended up with a flu and then a fair amount of water retention in my right ear. I was also getting a lot of sinus headaches and waking up congested a lot, one morning so bad that my balance was severely impacted. Some targeted rounds of Sudafed and Claritin cleared up my ear trouble after a few weeks, but I had to go back for the other sinus problems. The doctor put me on Claritin D which I took daily for several weeks and I’ve now backed off to taking as needed. So it looks like spring is still a problem for me, but I’m hoping the worst if it is over this year.

Secondly, I’ve had trouble with heartburn since I was 14. Over the years this has mostly meant I always carry around antacid in my purse and am particularly aware of things that trigger it severely (tomato sauce, vinegar, spicy foods). About 5 years ago I developed a cough. My doctors first tried, unsuccessfully, to treat me for allergies to get rid of the cough. Once I moved to California and it was clear that allergies weren’t the cause, my doctor here saw the relation to my heartburn and put me on Lansoprazole to reduce stomach acid. It works wonders! My “smokers hack” cough that was causing me so much grief for years was gone! Unfortunately it’s now been 2 years since I started on it and my doctor had to inform me that “prolonged use is not as safe as we thought it was.” Darn. I’ve now started to get off of it, slowly reducing my amount of intake first by switching to every other day, and now by even lowering that dose. But then I’ll be left with the cough! So now it’s time to actually see if there is something we can do about it. I was sent to a specialist and on Tuesday of this week I went in for an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. It wasn’t very much fun, it left me with a sore throat, the sedation made me forget much of what happened and the following sedation-induced nap at home made me miss half a day of work. I can call this week for the results. I am really hoping they find something that’s fixable instead of giving me the line of “don’t eat stuff that gives you heartburn” because that’s pretty much impossible, while there are specific triggers for serious heartburn, food as simple as oatmeal can sometimes give me heartburn.

On the home side, we have just a couple more tasks that need to be completed before scheduling the painters! We had a couple of our free-standing lamps sent out to a lamp repair shop recently and aside from the price (turns out that restoration of vintage lamps, including pickup and delivery, isn’t cheap) I’m really happy to have the lamps repaired and functioning – hooray for light! I’m trying to find a good strategy to get the rest of the tasks we need to do done, weekends are far too short to get non-work things done and find time to relax a bit.

And tech stuff! I upgraded my G575 to max it out at 8G of RAM and gave my old RAM chip to a friend with an identical laptop. Having this full-size laptop has been an interesting experiment, I’m still exclusively using my mini9 out of the home, but the laptop has mostly turned into my “sitting on the couch and computing” system, in addition to being the one I put test installs on. It’s currently quad-booting Windows 7, Debian 6.0 (as a replacement for my Pentium 3 laptop that I’m never sure will boot), Ubuntu 12.04 and Xubuntu 12.04. I upgraded my netbook to Xubuntu 12.04 just before the Ubuntu Developer Summit and found myself quite dismayed to discover upon plugging it in to a projector that it didn’t work, it’s always been very reliable! I’ll have to investigate what went wrong. After work on Friday I also finally upgraded my desktop to Xubuntu 12.04 in probably the smoothest upgrade I’ve ever experienced.

Finally, travel and events. The Ubuntu Developer Summit is always an exhausting event and I managed to replace exhaustion from traveling with exhaustion from being a good local host. It was totally worth it though, I got to spend a huge amount of quality time with my Ubuntu colleagues and got a lot of great feedback about how helpful the work of the California team had been. For Memorial Day weekend I’ll be flying to Phoenix to visit my aunt and cousin and relax by the pool. In June I’m delighted to have secured a spot at the ACM A.M. Turing Centenary Celebration on the 15th and 16th. Then from July 4th through 9th MJ and I will be flying to Maine to visit my mother, sister and hopefully my nephew who is due on July 1st.

But right now, I’m heading up to the roof deck to get some fresh air and not look at the solar eclipse. The roof deck is getting a makeover in the next few months with new furniture, but for now I’m happy with the old chairs, fresh air and wifi.


  • John Kim

    Hey Elizabeth, it’s great to see that you’re chilling rather nicely. Playing games for me seems a hard thing to do these days, when the student is pressed for time.

    The solar eclipse at my area was pretty shabby; I saw a partial covering of the sun, but still the rays were intense!


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