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On March 4th the world looked a lot different than it does today. I had a work trip to Singapore canceled due to COVID-19 concerns about travel to Asia, and the first US domestic cases had started popping up. A few conferences were starting to cancel, go virtual, or postpone, but it wasn’t the landslide that we would see in the subsequent days. We had guidance to avoid handshakes, and sanitation stations were being set up at the events still being held to help stem the spread. It was with this in mind that we boarded our flight to Pasadena to attend what I now know would be my last conference for several months: SCALE 18x!

I say “we” because this was one of the few conferences that both MJ and I frequently attend for work, so we packed up little Adam and invited our au pair join us for the trip down to beautiful Pasadena for one of my favorite conferences of the year.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m really grateful that SCALE is welcoming to kids at their event. Registration is free for kids with a registered adult, they have an entire SCALE Kids track, and during Game Night there’s a family hour. Now, Adam is too young for much of this, but by welcoming children with such focused content it sets a tone for the event that made me excited to bring him along. Even if his participation largely consisted of riding in his stroller through the expo hall. He also sported a series of open source onesies, one for each day: Debian, Kubernetes, GitLab, and Ubuntu.

As for me, my goal for the conference was helping chair the Containers and Virtualization track, with speaker logistics and introductions, and to give a talk of my own.

The week leading up to the event was a bit of a whirlwind. With virus fears increasing, several speakers abruptly had to cancel their travel plans and we were left scrambling to fill our agenda. Thankfully, we had a large queue of submissions, so it was a matter of cross-referencing those with folks who were still planning on attending, and asking them if they’d be able to present after all. Much of the heavy-lifting there was handled by the humble leader of our track, Josh Berkus, including salvaging our day of tutorials on Thursday with a new Kubernetes tutorial put on by members of the Kubernetes community who were already planning on attending.

With a revived containers and virtualization track, it was a real pleasure to meet all the speakers before I introduced them. The projector in our room caused us grief all weekend, but the staff did their best to help out and get talks going with work-around fixes as they could. Between sessions I dutifully wiped down the microphones with disinfecting wipes, which hadn’t become a scarce commodity yet! I won’t pick favorites in the talks, but I will say that I was delighted to welcome Vicky Tanya Seno to the event, who is a computer science professor at the nearby Santa Monica College who also encouraged her students to attend, and gave them extra credit for it! As someone who has seen a real benefit to my career by attending conferences, it was great to see her encourage her students like that. Honorable mention to Rob Richardson as well, who really came through for us and did three talks for the track.

There was also a Kubernetes community dinner on Friday night, that I was grateful to be invited to. Some shuffling was required there as well, as the original host wasn’t able to attend due to an unrelated illness. Josh saved the day there, too.

My talk was We put Kubernetes on a Mainframe! (slides) where I gave an updated version of the talk I gave back in November at KubeCon in San Diego. It was fun to prepare for this talk, I was able to sync up with the folks from OpenSUSE, and add the latest details about OpenShift support, which landed back in February. The talk was well-received, and giving it on Friday morning gave me the opportunity to schmooze with like-minded attendees for the rest of the weekend.

I enjoyed the keynotes this year. The first was from Paul Vixie, of DNS fame. It was definitely an opinionated keynote about what DNS should and should not be used for, to which I left having pretty mixed feelings about the whole thing, but grateful for his descriptions of the competing standards. He also shared Everything Is Broken by Quinn Norton and recommended that everyone read it. I think it’s overview for most of us working in the industry, indeed, the more I’ve learned about infrastructure and security, the more shocked I am that any of it works (the history and ultimate mechanics of DNS were particularly mind-blowing for me).

The keynote on Sunday had to be conducted virtually due to the speakers being unable to travel. Logistically, it actually went very well, so kudos to the event staff for pulling it off. The topic was “From Prison to Python” and featured Sha Stepter and Jessica McKellar talking about opportunities for folks who have time to spend learning programming while incarcerated, and a pathway for them to find success in the job market upon release. It also gave us an sobering glimpse into the prison system that’s so easy for many of us to simply ignore. Their call to consider folks with convictions on their record for employment, backed up by statistics showing extremely low recidivism rate for people with stable jobs, was an inspirational message and I do hope that more companies start considering it.

The last talk of the conference that I attended was by Vagrant Cascadian on Reproducible Builds. I’ve been following the project since seeing Chris Lamb give a presentation about it at LCA a few years ago. Attending that talk was also a sure-fire way to find a nice chunk of the Debian attendees who came to SCALE, since the project arose out of some of the work that the Debian project was doing. It was nice to chat with my fellow Debian-ites and to get an update on how the project was doing. Plus, I learned they have a nice, new logo! I got a sticker.

Huge thanks to all the organizers who made the event possible. I know some difficult decisions had to be made and even more work was put on their shoulders as a result. And I’m still glad we went, even if in hindsight it wasn’t the most prudent thing to do. It was still a great event and I treasured the time I was able to sync up with several people who I probably won’t be seeing much in person these next few months.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157713662183732