pleia2's blog https://princessleia.com/journal Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph's public journal about open source, DevOps, beer, travel, pink gadgets and her life in the city where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars. Tue, 25 Sep 2018 22:49:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Open Source Summit NA 2018 https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/09/open-source-summit-na-2018/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/09/open-source-summit-na-2018/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2018 22:48:48 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14276 This was my second Open Source Summit in North America, having followed the one in Los Angeles last year, which I wrote about last September. At that first conference I spent most of my time getting familiar with the space around containers and Apache Mesos that I’d been quickly ramping up on. This year my focus was a bit different, as I was taking a greater interest in the topic of how well-known companies are approaching the development of open source programs offices (OSPOs), so I spent more time in the tracks related to the Linux Foundation’s TODO Group.

It’s been enlightening over the years to participate in multiple Community Leadership Summits and the maturing developer advocacy realm where conferences like DevXCon highlight the work of various types of communities, stretching well beyond open source. In my current role I’ve shared some of the guides coming out of the TODO group and it’s been interesting to see the case studies be released from companies like Comcast and Capital One.

During the Open Source Summit itself I heard talks from Fidelity, Uber, Mastercard, Microsoft, and even the US Department of Defense about how they run their OSPOs or similar programs. I think what was most interesting about these talks is that they all had themes and trends I was familiar with on a practical level and which matched my own experience, but they also all stressed crafting the program to the existing company culture. This may seem obvious, but in every case these companies needed someone who was not only well-versed in open source, development practices, and licensing, but swho was flexible to make the best practices work in the environment they were working in. In many cases this even meant foregoing some of the “best” practices in order to succeed.


Daniel Ruggeri talks about open source at Mastercard

Still, flexibility required aside, I’m really excited to see these organizations getting together in a group to put together the guides for the things that are most commonly shared among organizations. It gives anyone who is seeking to build one of these programs a baseline instead of each figuring it out on our own, as we’ve been doing for years. On top of the baseline, you can then get creative and build precisely what you need for open source to succeed in a company, whether it’s working on upstream projects, releasing your own software, or something else.

That week also saw the release of the first Open Source Programs Survey, which reflected the current state of companies considering, using and valuing the work of these programs. I also saw a talk from Kate Stewart on automatic open source compliance tooling, something that tends to fall under the purview of an OSPO, with assistance from a legal team versed in licensing.


Kate Stewart on automatic open source compliance tooling

For my part, I gave a refined version of a talk I’d given with my former colleague Judith Malnick at DevXCon a few months before titled From Debian to DC/OS: Factors that Shape Open Source Communities. I adapted it to be a single person talk and extended it to the forty minute time slot by adding additional characteristics of communities that I’d been thinking about in the months that had transpired. Some things like project culture and the ecosystem you’re working in have a large impact on how you’d approach a community, which I think we glossed over in the earlier version of the talk, even if our conclusions hinted at them. It was also my first talk in a very long time where I was editing slides they night before when inspiration struck and I realized how I could tie a couple of my key points together. Usually my talks are practiced and sealed a full week before the event. Slides from my talk are available here (PDF).

Keynote-wise the two that stood out for me were when Sarah Novotny announced that Google was making an investment to support Kubernetes testing tooling to be something that’s community-maintained (near and dear to my heart!) and the interview with Van Jones who shared his thoughts on diversity and offered hope in a time when a lot of us are struggling.

The conference attendee party took place at the nearby Vancouver Aquarium, which made for an incredibly nice place to be even when I didn’t always have someone to chat with. Take note: introverts of the conference appreciate the dolphins and otters to look at so awkward social feelings are kept to a minimum. I also attended a women of open source lunch during the conference, which I was delighted to see what even bigger than the one last year in Los Angeles!

As far as the rest of the conference goes, I had a really nice time. There are a few people who I only get to spend a lot of time with when I’m at events like this, and I enjoyed the impromptu meals I ended up with random people who were actually doing work near to what I was doing. Plus, as I’ve said before, that conference venue in Vancouver is one of my favorites. It’s right on the harbor so you get amazing views all week of the water and mountains.

More photos from the summit are up here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157695288597990

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Home, holidays and robots https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/09/home-holidays-and-robots/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/09/home-holidays-and-robots/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 01:01:10 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14254 I’ll begin this post by getting the miserable bit out of the way. The past several weeks have been challenging. To everyone who has offered kindness and support, either because I brought you into my confidence or you noticed something wasn’t quite right, I thank you. To everyone else, I know vague-blogging is tacky, but I did want to publicly mark this point and express gratitude.

In what has turned out to be happier news, I had my last visit with a specialist this week who was addressing the pregnancy complications I discussed in this blog post and I’m back to just seeing my regular OB-GYN. My amniocentesis results came back last week too, giving us the all clear for everything it tests for. I also started to feel him moving right on schedule at 20 weeks, which is one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever experienced, and just last night at 22 weeks the tiniest bit of being able to feel it on the outside started. It’s all been quite the whirlwind and we’re still not even remotely prepared, we haven’t bought anything. I did manage to start researching cribs though, so it begins! I’m already thankful to myself for not making a huge deal out of this, our kiddo won’t have a hyper decked out nursery with matching curtains and a theme because that’s just not us, but he will have what he needs and we’ll figure out the rest along the way. Plus, I aim to have learned how to keep an infant alive by the time he joins us, hah!

Other bits of the house have been moving along too. While I was in Vancouver for the Open Source Summit MJ bit the bullet on the work he’d done researching and gathering estimates to get a tankless water heater installed. They followed up a couple weeks later to complete the work to get whole house re-circulation going. As a result, we now not only have endless hot water, it comes on almost instantly! This is a huge change from when I used to have to let my shower run for 2-3 minutes for it to warm up. Not the ideal situation in frequently drought-swept California.

A couple weekends ago we hired a pair of movers to help us retrieve some stuff from the container we shipped out from Pennsylvania. We aren’t ready to fully empty it, but there were a few things we needed to get out of it for immediate use, which included the guest bed that we brought from the townhouse to set up here. At the house, we also had them move a large filing cabinet and freezer from the upstairs down into MJ’s office and the garage, respectively. Then a bunch of totes that I’d finished unpacking for now that needed to move from the upstairs to the garage. If I’m honest, I wasn’t thrilled that we had to hire help for all of this, if I wasn’t pregnant it’s work that MJ and I would have tackled ourselves over the course of a few weeks, but it did feel nice to finally get it all done. Most of the rooms are now tote-free, so even if the rooms aren’t finished because we need to buy more furniture, they are looking slightly less like we just moved in.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to think about what would happen to a damp freezer after it’s been unplugged. It sat in the garage for two weeks before I finally realized I should open it to let it dry. The sight I beheld upon opening it was not what I wanted to see: mold! In retrospect, it’s obvious that would happen, and I’m glad I checked. Still, it did mean I had to clean it out this weekend, which I finished today. With gloves, mask, bleach cleaner and some elbow grease, I spent about 45 minutes cleaning it out. Good as new!

The guest room still needs a fair amount of work, but finally having a proper bed in there is nice, no more need for guests to stay on air mattresses!

And with the filing cabinet moved out of my office, I could put together the Realspace Magellan Tech Station we picked up a few weeks ago. It fits and looks good in the space we created for it, so I’m happy that’s done. We still need to hang pictures and put up a few shelves, but it’s coming together to be the perfect Lyz cave. I am not shy to admit that I spend almost all of my time in here, whether it’s working, enjoying coffee or meal on the little deck, or reading on the sofa bed we had delivered last month.

After a false start when MJ’s old drill died in the middle of hanging bars in my bathroom, that is finally done too! New drill in hand, he was able to get those put up with no issues. Since I’d already finished buying linens and all the other bathroom stuff for that room, the hanging of the towel bars marked the last official thing we had to do in that room, and I’ve proclaimed completeness there – the first room in the house to be completely Done!

Alas, since houses never let you rest, the next day the dryer stopped drying clothes. I read about the issue online, consensus was that the exhaust vent was clogged and it had probably caused the fuse controlling heat in the dryer to flip. As a result, we had our first experience with a company that came out to clean out the dryer exhaust vent. I did some research online, called around, and had an appointment booked for a week and a half after the problem cropped up. In spite of arriving a bit early, the crew was incredibly professional, and even swapped out the somewhat hacked together exhaust tubing that came with the house with something new and more maintainable at no extra charge. They showed the old one to me, in addition to being totally blocked, there was also an old bird’s nest in it. Apparently it’s pretty common, especially if a house had been left sitting a few months without the dryer being used, as ours had between the previous owner moving out and us moving in. Thankfully the dryer just worked after that, no fuse replacement! All things considered, it was definitely one of the easier fixes.

We’ve also bought a couple robots. With me off cat litter box duty for the first time in 14+ years, we decided to buy a Litter-Robot III Open Air with Connect. We set it up last weekend and had our doubts that Caligula would take to it, but he seems to be OK with it so far. He’s approaching is 15th birthday though, so I did order the stairs addition for it as it may become more difficult for him to climb into it over the next few years. It also seems to work pretty well, and I especially like that the company is honest about not actually needing to use their branded replacement bags, or the carbon filter at all. The product is expensive, and gives you plenty of lock-in already, but not bankrupting you with a razor blade-esque gimmick is really nice.

The second robot is the Roomba 890. It took me a couple weeks to set it up following delivery from the Labor Day sale they had, mostly because house was in a state a flux due to all the work we’d been doing. It was finally settled enough this past week to set it loose on the downstairs, which is effectively one huge room, plus MJ’s office and a bathroom. The experiment went well, after about an hour it had finished cleaning the floors in the big room and the bathroom. The other day I brought it upstairs, which presented some challenges. The transitions between the tile and hardwood floors in our house are not very smooth, there’s almost a one inch dip between rooms. I knew it was an iffy transition and it would probably get stuck. We should probably install the room transition runners anyway so no one stubs their toes, but Roomba acquisition made this more important. In the meantime, some strategic closing of doors and moving the robot between rooms, it made its way around the upstairs, finally finishing the whole floor.

In the midst of this, the High Holidays! Rosh Hashanah began the evening of September 9th, and then Yom Kippur the evening of September 18th. Tonight Sukkot begins. We made the trek back to San Francisco for services, since that’s where we’re members. In spite of what now is, at best, a 45 minute drive from home, we have enjoyed being part of the congregation there and are reluctant to leave for one that’s closer to our new home. We’ll see how things go, but in the meantime it was nice to enjoy services in the beautiful, historic sanctuary there for one more year.

Now my efforts are focused on a quick vacation this week to Las Vegas for my birthday. Pools! Shows! Food! Trains! We’re flying out Wednesday evening and I’m coming home on Sunday, as MJ heads off to a conference. It should be a nice time, and I could use the time away.

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Philly and FOSSCON 2018 https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/philly-and-fosscon-2018/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/philly-and-fosscon-2018/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 15:37:08 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14224 I spent this past week in Philadelphia, arriving on Saturday evening. The goal of the trip was to attend FOSSCON the following Saturday, but I’d never pass up an opportunity to come back early and spend a bit of time at the townhouse. It gives me an opportunity to visit with my east coast friends while I’m there, so I had plans for a few days early in the week.

Unfortunately most of my plans didn’t pan out, but I was at least able to turn Sunday around! I swapped some evening plans with them for daytime hangout plans with a couple of my friends in New Jersey and their little ones. A daytime visit meant I could more easily visit with the newest additions to their family (a child and a kitty). They have really been there for me since early in the pregnancy, I didn’t reach out often, but it was a relief to know I had someone to talk/rant/ask advice from as I stumble through all of this. It was great to finally catch up in person, and as I’ve casually been browsing telescopes lately, get shown their Celestron telescope (the brand I’m looking at) and get some ideas about how I may set up my own when I finally make the leap.

Being in town did mean I could get some tasks done at the townhouse. I was available Monday morning as a bed was delivered for the guest room. Until now we ha just gotten by with an old metal bed frame for that room, but we recently decided we wanted a more finished room. A platform bed was delivered and assembled, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Tuesday morning I took the MDX to the shop to get an annual check-up. Since we only use it when we’re in Philadelphia, it doesn’t have enough miles on it to warrant mileage-based check-ups, but we do like having an oil change and a look over it at least once a year. Wednesday morning I met with a handyman who sorted out the ventilation problem in our attic. If you recall, ventilation issues caused frost in the attic over the winter and extended my holiday visit to work with the remediation company that came in with heaters and dehumidifiers. The saga of the attic is not over, but the exhaust fans in the master bathroom are safe to use again, and he was able to look at a couple other things while he was over.


New guest bed!

My social plans not working out made for a bit of a lonely week. I wish I could say that I got a lot of project work done each evening instead, but it wasn’t really the case. I felt pretty down and watched a bit more TV than I would have liked. Thankfully MJ joined me on Thursday and I perked up as we met up with friends that evening to see Krull get the RiffTrax treatment at the nearby theater at Neshaminy. Krull is a ridiculous fantasy movie from the 80s that my family owned when I was a kid. It was the early 80s, so you may be asking how we had it, VHS? Betamax? Laserdisc? None of these! We had one of the rare CED players, which played videodiscs. I think one of the most amusing things to come out of the RiffTrax treatment of Krull was my tweeting this particular fact, being retweeted by RiffTrax, and then having fellow internet nerds start geeking out about CEDs. One of my friends even chimed in with a whole 30 minute video made a couple years ago that covered some of the history and technology of CEDs. For a few hours that day, I remembered that there can sometimes be a considerable amount of joy from connecting with random people on social media.

And RiffTrax: Krull itself? I’m very glad I didn’t remember the movie, it was terrible, and likely pretty unwatchable today without the delightful commentary of Bill, Kevin, and Mike. Afterwards we headed over to Unos for a late dinner.

Saturday was FOSSCON! I come into town for this conference every year, and it’s often the one time each year I can connect with the open source tech crowd in Philadelphia, many of the members of which I’ve known for well over a decade. I always meet new people as well, and this year was no exception.

The conference kicked off with a round table on effectively promoting FOSS to businesses, which focused on “selling” organizations solutions rather than banging the drum about freedom and other things that get us excited about open source. From there I attended a talk by Angel Rivera of CircleCI on “Build for Production using CI/CD Pipelines & Docker.” It’s a small conference, but I was glad that he gave a talk that was so complementary to mine. He covered the CI/CD fundamentals in depth before launching into his demo that used CircleCI to build and execute an entire pipeline.

After lunch (cheesesteaks!) I settled in to prepare a cluster for my own upcoming CI/CD talk, and have some lovely “hallway track” time catching up with folks. When I was ready, I got set up in the auditorium to prepare for my talk. The talk focused on the benefits of using containers (with a focus on Apache Mesos and DC/OS) for your CI/CD pipeline. I used the demo I’d completed successfully dozens of times, including on stage twice. Unfortunately I finally had to pay my dues to the “demo gods,” my live demo failed! I didn’t have a backup strategy for running the demo because I was so confident in the success. Instead I talked through the steps and was able to show off what the results should have looked like. In retrospect I suspect there was just too much latency on the cloud platform I was using, since the demo had problems from the start. If I had the time, I would have re-launched the cluster in a region that was geographically closer, and I may see about using a local deployment on my laptop as a total network failure backup. Regardless of the demo, I think I got my points across and the audience seemed generally sympathetic when I was later answering questions at the end of the presentation. Slides from the talk are available as pdf here.


Thanks to Angel Rivera for this photo during my talk! (source)

The conference continued with a talk about running Apache Ignite on Kubernetes, and then a series of lightning talks. As things wrapped up, I found the annual Oreo cake (my favorite!) that Jim Fisher brought along and shared with anyone who was walking by as the event concluded. We then collected a few people for an unofficial after event dinner at the nearby City Tap Room.

Being familiar with the organizers, staff and many of the attendees means this conference is probably the one where I feel most comfortable. It’s still a long, exhausting day, especially as I’m recovering from a cold that made a minor comeback in the form of a sore throat and continued cough, but I had a great time. Huge thanks to Jonathan Simpson and the rest of the FOSSCON crew who spend so much time and effort into putting it together each year.

A few more photos from FOSSCON here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157699031220361

Sunday we flew back to California! We used miles to upgrade to some international-style first class seats on a 767 that was doing an unusual trip direct from Philadelphia to San Francisco. I usually struggle to be productive on flights, but I’ve been more focused lately on flights, and the five hour flight gave me time to catch up on some reading for work that I’d been meaning to do for weeks, along with drafting up most of this blog post.

I’m now back in California for less than 48 hours before I leave for the Open Source Summit in Vancouver tomorrow evening. It’s enough time for me to get some work squared away (including adding some finishing touches to my talk!), do a bit of laundry, and make sure Caligula hasn’t forgotten who I am. After that, I’m in town for a few weeks, which will give me time to finish some big projects at work before I start traveling again in October and November for the five conferences I have lined up.

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Complications, a Boy and a Couch https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/complications-a-boy-and-a-couch/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/complications-a-boy-and-a-couch/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 19:48:21 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14212 I only spent two weeks in the bay area this month between Philadelphia trips. I had a couple packed weeks planned, dinners with local friends, work on the house, a big project at work to pour my focus into. I did almost none of it.

The morning after our return, I had an episode of bleeding and severe cramps. I called the on call doctor and at first was going to let it pass, but as the pain increased I had MJ take me to the ER. It was a subchorionic hemorrhage (subchorionic hematoma). They did an ultrasound in the ER, the fetus was fine and with the bleeding subsiding I was cleared to go home after four hours, with a letter excusing me from work for the rest of the week and a modified bed rest plan. Since I work from home most of the time, and could focus on lower stress work, I negotiated an adjustment to the no work stipulation and worked with my employer to arrange half days for the week. I spent my resting time finishing a book and catching up on shows I hadn’t made time for in months. I also caught a cold mid-week, which really pushed me into resting more so I could cope with that. On Thursday I went in for a regular pregnancy check-in appointment with my doctor and she confirmed everything looked OK, and assured me that this incident didn’t indicate that I’d continue having a difficult pregnancy and everything could very well be fine moving forward. She did advise I continue to rest through Monday though, so I don’t aggravate anything while I heal up and hopefully reabsorb the rest of the hematoma.

This past Thursday I saw another doctor for a scheduled amniocentesis that we’re having done because I’m over 35. Unfortunately the doctor could still see the hematoma on the ultrasound and he advised that we wait until it’s gone to do the procedure so we don’t risk more complications. I was disappointed, but agreed to have some blood work done in the meantime. It was also reassured that everything looks good and the only reason we’re doing this is because of my age. The appointment wasn’t a total waste though, we learned the gender, we’re having a boy! I would have loved to geek out with a little girl child, but I’m happy either way, even though, as one of three girls, I’m not quite sure what to do with a boy. We also got more ultrasound pictures, and they did a 3D ultrasound that actually didn’t come out totally creepy.

So in spite of this scare, it looks like things are on track. It was a wake-up call though. I’ve never been particularly gentle with my body, and I did spend the week previous in Philadelphia moving a lot of stuff as we prepared for movers to come and help us load the container we shipped out west. None of the doctors believe that caused the hematoma, but I probably do need to be more gentle with myself now that I’m host to another living thing, as there are things I can do that would cause complications. I also had to come to terms with some loss of control. There was nothing I could have done differently to prevent this, most women who have difficult pregnancies aren’t at fault. I had plans of being some kind of pregnancy super woman, but it’s not really up to me. I have plans for this fall and chances are it’ll be fine to keep all my obligations, but I have to be prepared for some scaling back and being more selective about what I do if that’s what my doctor says is required for everything to go well.

All that behind us, I did get out a little. After the modified bed rest wound down I was feeling quite cooped up, so MJ and I spent lunch over the weekend at Chabot Lake enjoying some burgers from the little cafe there. It was fun to get out and see a bit more of our little town, and get out in the sun for a bit.

On Friday I also finally had a sofa bed delivered that we ordered back in May. We had expected to receive it back in June or July, but delays from the manufacturer meant that it was several weeks later than their outside estimate. Thankfully they ended up giving us free delivery when I explained that I was now too pregnant to help haul a couch up a flight of stairs. One of the many benefits of working with a local furniture shop that wants to build a relationship with their customers, I was grateful for the accommodation and we’ll shop there again.

I’m also really excited to have the sofa bed in my home office! We’re planning on doing some renovations, so the furniture situation house-wide isn’t really settled yet, but my office won’t be changing and it’s the one place where we could confidently make some decisions. The sofa bed is a Serta Augustine, so it’s built well and incredibly comfortable whether in couch or full size bed mode. Caligula likes it too.

I also got some towels for the bathroom attached to my office, purple to go with the light green tiles. I never thought I’d be so happy about towels, but it’s nice to have some control over things getting to a finished state there, the last big thing in that bathroom is getting a pair of towel bars installed.

I got to play with my GPD Pocket some this week too. I fiddled with xrandr a bit to get a startup script that adjusts my resolution. While I absolutely appreciate the high resolution that it supports when I plug it into a monitor, 1920×1200 is simply too tiny for a 7″ screen. I used cvt to grab the mode lines, and now run xrandr upon boot to add a couple more reasonable resolutions to my display and then set it to 1280×800. Even at that resolution I find myself bumping up the font size in some applications, but it’s working well for me.

So well, in fact, that I’ve written this entire blog post in a tiny American Airlines coach seat on my GPD Pocket. Finally a solution for in flight computing that works for me again! I used to travel with my little pink Dell Mini9, I loved that netbook. But the age of the netbooks is behind us, and since my Mini9 stopped holding a charge, I’ve been searching for a new solution. These coach seats are too small for me to use my regular ThinkPad, especially when the person in front of me reclines their seat. I’ve tried a few variations of Android tablets, and even my phone, with a nice Lenovo bluetooth keyboard, but the mobile experience is horrendous for everything, even replying to emails in any long format way. Plus, I lack the proper Linux environment I’m familiar with for any real work. Normally I’d just shell into one of my servers for that, but on airplane WiFi, that option is more frustrating than compelling. The keyboard on the GPD Pocket leaves much to be desired for writing a lot, but it has been quite usable so far. I’m also happy with the battery life so far on this little device, I’ve been running it with basic use and WiFi for over an hour now and it claims to only be down to 90%, though we’ll see long term how that goes.

As I mentioned, my time in California is sandwiched between trips to Philadelphia, where I’m flying to now. I’ll be there for a week, getting a bed delivered, taking the car in for a checkup, overseeing some work by a local handyman. I’ll also be visiting with some people, MJ is joining me on Thursday, and on Saturday I’m giving a talk at FOSSCON before we’re flying home on Sunday for a couple days. It should be a good week.

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The townhouse and the container https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/the-townhouse-and-the-container/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/08/the-townhouse-and-the-container/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:27:55 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14195 You may recall this photo from a couple weeks ago when we were in Philadelphia:

In the midst of that chaos is my desk that I actually was working from each day. As I mentioned then, we spent the time we were in town last time to go through specific totes to pull out everything we wanted to leave at the townhouse, and prepare to ship everything else out west. As a second home, we’re keeping a very limited selection of things there, preferring to keep most at the house in California, or at least in storage we own nearby.

This trip we just returned from was focused on getting the container loaded up to ship out to California. We had the container dropped off in our driveway on Saturday, the same day we got into town, had movers come on Monday to pack everything in, and then saw it off on Wednesday. With that, our major project of the week was complete, and the den that had been packed to the ceiling with stuff was suddenly available to fully use! No more work conference calls surrounded by boxes! The room needs some work before it’s properly finished, but right now I’m just happy to have space available, and not to be stepping through a hallway of boxes to settle in to my desk for the day.

It really was a lot of stuff, I was very happy when it fit inside the single container. We also included a mattress that had been in the guest room, which meant we needed to go shopping for a new one. We decided to go with a queen size so we only have queen size beds in Philadelphia. Some shuffling of sheets and comforters resulted as well. Finally, we ordered an actual bed for the guest room, which is a step above the basic metal frame we had in there previously. The bed is scheduled for delivery and assembly when I’m in town again at the end of the month. I also met with a couple gardeners to see if they could help with our small plot outside, as my current condition and then arrival of the little one next year will impact our ability to do it ourselves for a while. Fingers crossed that something positive comes from that.

I am relieved to have the big container project behind us. There is the matter of unpacking in California, but I that’s a future problem and not one I had to worry about last week. There is still have a bit of work to do at the townhouse, including painting the walls, but we’re slowly getting there and though we kept busy all week, it was relaxing for me to get the big project out of the way early in the trip rather than having it drag on until we had a flight to catch.

There weren’t any grand adventures this visit, but the visit did allow me to have meals with a couple of my local friends, including Crissi who I hadn’t seen since last year, and a couple meals with family. The only day I took off was from work Monday for the move and cleanup, so the rest of my week was pretty much spent on work. It was nice to settle into a bit of a normal routine there and get to appreciate it at a home instead of a project that needs constant attending to. I was able to find some time to finish a book and watch a bit of TV one night when we ordered in pizza. It was a good week.

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Sonoma and San Francisco https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/sonoma-and-san-francisco/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/sonoma-and-san-francisco/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 04:36:33 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14175 One of the great things about having a house instead of a tiny condo is how much easier it is for guests to visit. We’ve had a handful of friends come by already this year, but a couple weeks ago my Uncle Dan and his new wife Jovie came into town and stayed with us – our first family visit at the new house! They kept themselves busy throughout the week with visits to San Francisco, a surprise jaunt to Las Vegas, and a trip north to visit the redwoods and drive along the coastline. The first weekend they were in town we spent it showing off our favorite spots in Sonoma and the areas in San Francisco that were easier to see by car.


All four of us at Queen Wilhelmina’s Tulip Garden in San Francisco

After a local breakfast on Saturday, we made the trek up to Sonoma. This made for my second visit to wine country since learning I was pregnant! Just like the last time, a few sips here and there at tastings were fine, but I was cautious to keep my total consumption to below a half a glass. As an aside, going from drinking being a regular part of my life to near abstinence hasn’t been a challenge for me, but it sure is disappointing to visit my favorite wineries and not dive in like I usually do!

Still, Glen Ellen up in Sonoma is beautiful. We enjoyed visiting Benziger for their extended tram tour and to show off where we got engaged, Imagery to expose my family to the experience that is Code Blue (wine made with blueberries), and a stop at B.R. Cohn for an olive oil tasting (I can do that!). For dinner we ended up at Umbria. Umbria is a special place for us. It spent 21 years at 2nd and Howard in San Francisco, putting it on the same block where we lived. Citing increasing costs of doing business in SF, they closed up shop in May of 2017. We were there for their last night of business, where there were lots of tears and hugs, but hope as their plans to move to Glen Ellen were already in the works. They opened up in Glen Ellen in August. It was nice to show up and have Chef Giulio recognize us as he welcomed us to their new location. The menu hadn’t changed much so I was able to order my usual (Da Mayor’s Special – half a piece of eggplant parmigiana and half a piece of lasagna). It was as delicious as we remembered.

Sunday we were off to explore the western and northern edges of San Francisco. We started off with brunch overlooking the ocean at the Cliff House. From there, we went to the San Francisco Zoo. It had been several months since I’ve been there, so it was nice to see our favorite tiger parents Leanne and Larry (together again! parents again soon?), as well as their daughter Jillian who we saw grow up at the San Francisco Zoo before temporarily going to Sacramento. We also got to visit my favorite sea lions, Silent Knight and Henry, and lots of fluffy lemur piles. It was a good day for the zoo visit, a bit foggy but perfect weather for walking around. Our day then took us over to Golden Gate Park for a visit before heading back toward the heart of the city.

The weather was clear enough on the east side of the city to make a drive up Twin Peaks worth it. Even having lived here for over eight years, I never get tired of the view of San Francisco from up there.


San Francisco, as seen in many car commercials

We then made our way down Market into the Castro, and then north to Crissy Field for some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from the south side. A stop by the Palace of Fine Arts concluded our San Francisco side adventure for the day and we made our way across the bridge to Marin county for some more bridge views and a dinner at Murray Circle Restaurant.

I had a few more meals with them throughout the week, but largely they were able to explore the area on their own as we got back to work on Monday. The visit concluded with brunch in Alameda before they made their way to the airport the following Saturday.

Aside from the family visit, there hasn’t been much other excitement lately. I’ve been busy with work and doctors visits related to the pregnancy, and first trimester exhaustion hit me pretty hard. I struggled through every day for over a month, so my weekday evenings tended to be uneventful. Still, I made progress on a few things. I tired of all of MJ’s shoes still being packed so I ordered and put together a bamboo shoe rack for our closet the other day. The CPU fan in my desktop has also been quite irritating for months now, and the CPU itself was running a bit hot. A couple months ago I replaced the 8 year old thermal paste, which dropped it a few degrees, but the whining of the fan got to be a bit too much. I swapped it out for a $15 fan I got on Amazon and the system is now reliably running 10C cooler. As you can see, Caligula helped with both the shoe rack assembly and the computer.

This week we’re in Philadelphia again to get one of those residential moving and storage containers packed with furniture, household items, and other goodies we want to ship out to California for varying degrees of usage and storage at the house there. Soon, the den that I work from when I’m here will no longer be full of boxes! We’re also visiting several friends while in town, so it should be a nice week for us, especially once the container is on its way.

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The first trimester https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/the-first-trimester/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/the-first-trimester/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 00:17:16 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14140 This post should definitely begin with the big news, we’re expecting! The due date is at the end of January.

As if moving into a big house outside the city and buying that 3-row SUV wasn’t a big enough indicator, we had been trying. We were thrilled when that plus sign showed up on the home pregnancy test. The first ultrasound at 8 weeks confirmed it and made everything real, so we were able to break the news to family over the 4th of July. I’ve had two more ultrasounds since then, and during both them little one was awake and bouncing around. It’s an incredibly surreal experience, there’s something living in there! Since I’m over 35 (I’ll be 37 when I give birth) we’ve opted for some additional screening tests, but so far everything is going well.

The first thing I did upon learning was call around to find an OBGYN who was closer to home and accepting new patients to schedule that first confirmation exam at 8 weeks. It felt a little weird waiting several weeks for a doctor to confirm what the home pregnancy test indicated, but since they’re incredibly accurate on the positive side, we were quite sure I was pregnant and acted accordingly. The second thing I did was start reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know and the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, all of which had been recommended by an OBGYN we met with in San Francisco a couple years ago.

The books were incredibly helpful, especially “Expecting Better” which not only had a lot of fascinating facts around pregnancy “rules” and statistics, but also implored the reader to continue to think critically about information they are given when they’re pregnant. There’s a lot of paranoia, old wives’ tales, and outright misinformation around pregnancy, but as a first time mother you also want to make sure you’re not doing something that will endanger the fetus. Balancing this is stressful. I feel like this book gave me permission to be my skeptical self and do my own research before bowing to fear and tradition. There’s also a lot of probability involved in many decisions during pregnancy, so you are well within your rights to make the best decisions for your life and family, even if they’re not the right decisions for everyone. These books also allowed me to speak intelligently with my doctor about what I wanted, ask all the right questions, and push back when I felt advice was unclear or contradictory.

Reading about the first trimester symptoms was helpful too. I’d heard stories about morning sickness, but I had no idea about the flood of emotions due to major hormone changes or the level of exhaustion I’d have to endure. Thankfully my “morning sickness” usually hits me in the late afternoon or evening, so I’m able to front-load my work day so I can be productive all day before I get too sick or tired. It means household tasks slip as my evenings are taken from me, but making it through my work day has to be the priority now. I also suddenly want ice cream all the time, which is unusual, and frozen custard is off the menu as it now tastes like it’s gone bad (sour cream and cream cheese are in a similar, though it’s less severe).

Dealing with emotions have been trickier (and led me to pick up a 4th book, Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting). I’m usually a pretty chill person and being tired has traditionally been the only thing that triggered bad moods for me. Now I’m seeing that feelings related to loneliness (compounded by limited energy to socialize), worry, sadness, and insecurity are hitting me hard. In one instance this resulted in crying over a dead baby deer on the side of the road, which is so uncharacteristic of me that it was a little scary. Another was a weepy call to my aunt where I proclaimed “I’m not used to having feelings!” She laughed. I did too, eventually.

What the books did not prepare me for was how isolating this all would be. I’ve always struggled with maintaining close relationships with people, some of this is just being a loner by nature, but I think it’s mostly because I’ve constantly invested my time in my work (both paid and volunteer). I believed it was a better and more fulfilling investment of my time, and has certainly led to professional success. But professional success is hard to cling to during a very personal life change, especially when I realized that day to day I’ve surrounded myself with other child-free adults. Thankfully I did have one friend who I told early because I knew she’d be supportive and full of non-judgmental help. I didn’t reach out to her very often, but she was indeed very helpful when I did, and just knowing I had someone I could talk to was a relief.

Announcing the pregnancy this week this has already helped with the isolation. I can’t express how grateful I’ve been to friends who are parents and have reached out to me. I wasn’t there to support them during their parenthood journey, but they have come out of the woodwork to support me. They’ve helped with practical concerns, as well as the “Am I a terrible person for…” questions (tip: the answer is always “no” along with a healthy dose of sympathy and kindness).

As the first trimester winds down I’m having fewer nauseous days, so I’m hoping that goes down to zero soon. My energy hasn’t picked up yet, but hopefully that will come around soon too. I told my employer recently and informed conferences I’m (still!) giving keynotes at this fall, and everyone has been kind and supportive. The concerns over changes to our life and apprehension around being responsible for a new person are still there, but I’m sure we’ll be fine thanks to some great friends and family.

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The Amtrak Acela to Boston https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/the-amtrak-acela-to-boston/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/the-amtrak-acela-to-boston/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 05:10:48 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14125 I spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains in 2017. It began with a trip across the country on the California Zephyr and Capitol Limited over Memorial Day weekend, then a trip to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight, and finally to a conference in Raleigh on the Carolinian. This year hasn’t had as many trains, but when the opportunity presented itself to travel from Philadelphia to Boston I knew I wanted to take the Amtrak Acela Express. I’ve taken the regular Northeast Regional, which serves the same route, several times, but the Acela had remained elusive. Not this time! The Acela offers only Business and First accommodations, since it’s a premium service already, and a business class seat on the Acela was well within travel policy for work, so I booked it, and then upgraded myself to First on my own dime.

First class got me into ClubAcela in Philadelphia, where you get to wait in a comfy space while you wait for your train boarding to begin. When boarding begins, they announce it and you meet a staff member who takes you down the elevator and directs you to the part of the platform where First class will board. It all felt very fancy and I was really pleased with the experience.


Inside ClubAcela in Philadelphia, and the view into 30th Street Station

Upon boarding, the seat layout was a row of single seats on one side, and pairs of seats on the other. I grabbed a single seat and settled in. In addition to serving a meal during the journey, they also routinely come through the first class car to offer and unlimited supply of the beverages they had available. It’s probably good I wasn’t drinking alcohol, since I may have had an Allagash White or three on my journey if I had been! I boarded the train around 2:30PM and kept delaying my meal, finally having it served up around 6PM. I went with the Pan Seared Atlantic Cod Fillet (pan seared Atlantic cod with baby green beans, potato rosti and smokey tomato sauce). It was quite good, and I was so grateful that the Acela had a different menu than their other trains, even months later I’m not sure I would have enjoyed another Amtrak steak with Bernaise sauce.

As I mentioned, I took the train from Philadelphia, which gave me a journey of just over five hours. It took me over the bridge into Trenton, New Jersey, up to NYC where we stopped at Pennsylvania Station under Manhattan before popping out in the Bronx. From there it was up through New York into an incredibly long segment in Connecticut where the train takes a coastal route, allowing for lots of great views of marinas, harbors and lots of bridges. A quick journey up through Rhode Island whisked us into Massachusetts before I was ready. The journey came to a conclusion at the Back Bay Station in Boston, which is a stop earlier than I had planned, but I learned just before the stop that it was just a block from my hotel!

It wasn’t the epic train journey that ones in the past had been, but it wasn’t meant to be. I took it down on a Sunday afternoon and intentionally took the Acela instead of the Northeast Regional, which would have added two hours to my journey. It was about getting to where I needed to be for meetings on Monday, and finally taking the fastest passenger train in the United States. Success! And it was fun.

More photos from the train journey here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697530153231

Of course what I was in Boston for was to meet up with the rest of the LISA18 organizing committee. It’s been a real pleasure working with this group of people over the past several months as we recruited speakers and went through the selection process. The day and a half in Boston was to do the final sifting through proposals now that the rest of the program committee had placed their votes, and come up with a schedule. It wasn’t easy, there were a lot of great talks and great speakers to choose from and we could only accept about 20% of the submissions. Having great collaborators and a respectful atmosphere all around was a tremendous experience, we all had our favorite talks and tutorials and somehow made it all come together in a schedule I’m really proud of, which will be released soon. Tuesday was spent doing lots of administrative tasks before I packed up to head toward the airport for my afternoon flight.

The New England Aquarium is on the way to the airport. It really is! I stopped there for a quick lobster roll at a hot dog stand outside and then it was over to the aquarium for a visit. Growing up in southern Maine, Boston was our big city. Girl Scout trips took us down here for overnights at the Boston Museum of Science and I’d been to this aquarium a few times as a youth. It had been well over 20 years since I’d visited, so the only thing I remembered was that there were a lot of penguins. There are still a lot of penguins, several different types! They had African penguins, Southern Rockhopper penguins and Little Blue penguins (these are the ones I saw wild at Phillip Island when I was visiting Melbourne). The rest of the aquarium is great too, I got to visit some California sea lions, lots of sea turtles, and saw a few cuttlefish!

After about an hour I did finally continue my journey to Logan airport so I could fly back to San Francisco. I managed to have enough time at the airport to stop by the lounge to have a ginger ale to calm an incoming upset stomach and get a little work done. The flight attendant on my flight home made sure I was taken care of too.

More photos from my time in Boston here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157698745583494/

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BALUG, Sonoma, and the 4th in Philly https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/balug-sonoma-and-the-4th-in-philly/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/07/balug-sonoma-and-the-4th-in-philly/#respond Sun, 22 Jul 2018 19:54:43 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14109 Some changes in life circumstances recently has caused the past couple of months to be a bit more chaotic than I expected. Still, the usual outings and regular trips back east have continued. In late June I had the pleasure of going to a Bay Area Linux Users Group meeting for the first time in months. The turnout was better than I expected, causing us to expand out to two tables in the corner of the restaurant. I gave an introductory talk on DC/OS sans projector to the tables, which worked out better than I had hoped. A talk on DC/OS at a place like a local LUG can be a bit hit or miss, but for the most part it seemed like the right people came out to the meeting and we were able to have some nice discussions after I gave the overview and explained some usage examples. I also enjoyed catching up with some of the Partimus crew, and hope to have a couple new volunteers as a result.


Thanks to Nathan Handler for getting a picture during the meeting (source)

Later that week I met up colleagues early Friday morning in San Francisco for a team off-site in Sonoma and day of wine tours. We stopped at Benziger for a quick tram tour, then went off to Imagery to enjoy a boxed lunch at a table I’d used my membership to help arrange. From there we went to Petroni, which was a new one for me, and enjoyed a wine tasting and stories of the history of the family and winery in their caves. It was a nice to get to know some of my colleagues who I don’t work with every day, and in spite of being on the warm side, Sonoma is always beautiful and a pleasure to visit.

At the end of June we flew out to Philadelphia for a week. The trip was aimed at spending time with family and going through lots of stuff to organize and decide what we’re keeping there at the townhouse and what we’re going to ship out west to use and store here at the much larger house in California. It was an exhausting week, so I’m glad we took a nap on Saturday afternoon after stepping off our flight and spent the first evening with MJ’s sister Irina and her husband Sam over at Longwood Gardens. I went with a friend last year to see their fountain light show, and it featured a delightful mix of classic jazz. This year they changed it! Instead of the standard spot for viewing the show, we stood on the bridge in the middle of the fountains and they had switched to a soundtrack of pop music reaching back to the 70s. I was a big fan of the Pinball Wizard bit. The company was good as well, it was nice to grab some dinner at their outdoor beer garden, wander through some of the gardens, and generally catch up for a couple hours.

Mid-week my cousin Melissa was driving down the east coast and stopped by for a visit and dinner. She’s one of the cousins I see the most because we both travel and our paths cross often, especially when work or events bring her out to San Francisco every couple of years. She had her dog with her so I scoured restaurant reviews to find one with an outdoor area, and we lucked out with a 5PM thunderstorm that broke the heat wave a bit just before she arrived. We had a lovely dinner outside in the freshly minted 75 degree post-storm weather, which had earlier been in the 90s and humid.

The 4th of July was spent at MJ’s father’s house with BBQ and some extended family joining us as well. Plus, there was cake! We also got to meet up with family later in the week for a birthday at a nearby hibachi restaurant.

All the family visits aside, those boxes of stuff were front and center in this trip. We were able to get through everything and now have a solid inventory of it all with decisions about what we’ll be sending out west. We’re a bit concerned about whether everything will fit into the container we ordered to ship everything out, but we’ll find out next week. We’re taking another Friday night flight to get us into Philly around 8AM on Saturday, then spend the weekend finalizing what we need to do before the movers arrive. I will be so thrilled to have most of the boxes, totes and extra furniture finally out of the den we’ve designated as our shared office, in no small part because of all the comments and questions I get when I’m on work video calls about the sea of boxes I live with.

Our trip concluded by taking SEPTA down to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia where MJ had lunch before parting ways. He was headed out west on a plane for a quick work trip and I was taking the Amtrak Acela north to Boston for work of my own.

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Not gambling in Vegas https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/06/not-gambling-in-vegas/ https://princessleia.com/journal/2018/06/not-gambling-in-vegas/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 01:16:54 +0000 http://princessleia.com/journal/?p=14076 I don’t care for gambling or gratuitous public drinking, and crowds definitely aren’t my scene, so my love for Las Vegas frequently surprises people. I routinely bump into acquaintances who share my feelings, and have avoided Las Vegas because they believe it’s too much of a “sin city” for them. I won’t lie, there is gambling everywhere, hotels intentionally route you through their windowless casinos to get everywhere. Sexualization is everywhere too, from scantily-clothed wait staff in the casinos to outright x-rated advertisements that litter the ground as you walk down the strip. I’d never call Las Vegas family-friendly and am glad they’ve backed off their attempts to make it so.

Still, I do love Las Vegas for the:

  • Neon lights
  • Late nights
  • Extravagant shows
  • Quirky museums and exhibitions
  • Quite the history
  • Spectacular food
  • Animals
  • Stunning pools
  • Interesting day trip opportunities

And over-the-top EVERYTHING, which is a nice escape from time to time. Everything in Las Vegas is bigger, more extravagant and indulgent. So, my similarly-minded friend of mine, if you’re looking for some non-gambling, non-drinking, non-sexualized things to do in Las Vegas, here’s my tour of the goodies I’ve found.

Neon lights

Before I knew much about Las Vegas, I knew about the neon lights on the strip. It’s what I always dreamed of seeing when I thought of Las Vegas, a sparkling city of lights rising from the middle of the desert. Las Vegas doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Much like Times Square in NYC, walking down the strip at night is well-lit because of the huge screens and sparkling neon. The Walgreens has a neon sign, and so does the Denny’s. If you too like neon, The Neon Museum is a must see, and it’s one of the few museums that is not only open past 5PM, it’s much better to see when it’s dark. The basic visit is buying tickets for a specific time to get a tour of the “bone yard” where there are piles of defunct signs, with a handful here and there that are functioning, at least partially. The tour guide takes you through a 45 minute walk through the outdoor bone yard, sharing history of the signs and the city. It’s fascinating, and the walk outside on a cool desert night is quite enjoyable.


The neon boneyard

But what was really breathtaking is the Brilliant! show. I had no idea what to expect from this ticket add-on, and somewhat expected it to be a tourist trap. Instead, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in Las Vegas. You walk from the museum over to a separate area where you’re surrounded by dead signs. Repeat after me: dead. They don’t work. They aren’t plugged in, most are missing their lightbulbs. The signs don’t work. In the middle stands a couple pillars whose purpose becomes clear quickly. The lights are shut off and you’re then dazzled by the signs coming to life, with help from the pillars that contain a series of projectors that precisely beam out overlays onto the signs that make them look like they’re functioning. No joke, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A soundtrack is played during the show featuring classics from Las Vegas standards Sinatra, Elvis and others, adding a bit of heart and nostalgia to the show.


Dead signs come to life for Brilliant!

Late nights

Truth is, not everything is open all night in Las Vegas, but a lot is. You’ll find lots of places open until midnight, but even over night there are always places you can find to grab a bite. If you want to take a walk down the strip in the middle of the night with a beer or cocktail in hand, go for it! Everyone else is. My only word of caution goes for any time in Vegas: it’s a tourist town, there’s crime of opportunity (usually theft, pickpockets), don’t get too drunk and don’t venture off-strip.

Extravagant shows

THE SHOWS! Vegas is a must stop for many of the most popular acts of the day, so you can sync up your trip to see your favorite singer, though I never have. I did see (and meet!) Penn & Teller here, went to The Evil Dead musical during my bachelorette party, have been to a variety of Cirque du Soleil shows. Every time of live performance you’d want to see, it’s probably here. Also, they now have a home hockey team with a stadium right behind New York-New York on the strip, and a football team is coming soon.

Quirky museums and exhibitions

I already mentioned the Neon Museum, but also of note is the The National Atomic Testing Museum. Atomic testing was done within view of Las Vegas and people used to have viewing parties around the explosions. It’s the perfect site for this museum. The city also plays host to world class exhibitions that have found a more long term home here. I worried that exhibits like the Titanic one at the Luxor would be sub-par, but it was tasteful and well done, and houses “The Big Piece” – a huge section of the hull that was recovered and made the visit worth it on its own.

Quite the history

It’s probably a bad idea to glamorize the history of Las Vegas that’s littered with mobsters, but it’s hard to avoid it. I stayed at The Flamingo due to its origin story that included Bugsy Siegel (also, it’s pink, and iconic!). The Mob Museum near downtown Las Vegas is deliciously in a former courthouse and includes such amazing artifacts as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Macabre, perhaps, but amazing. And then there’s downtown Las Vegas itself. I didn’t go in the evening when the giant screens above you light things up, but I did pop into the Golden Nugget and check out other must see neon signs one afternoon. Even though I’ll still likely stay near the strip in the more expensive part of town, it’s worth the visit, and everything really is cheaper there.

Spectacular food

So. Much. Food. Take the normal American excess, and pile on the endless crab legs and chocolate fountains. The crowned best Vegas buffet changes over time and I’ve been to a few great ones. There’s also spectacular fine dining that you should get reservations for, some of the best restaurants in the country have a location in Las Vegas in addition to places like NYC and LA or SF. I love food, so this is definitely a draw for me.


Sushi and sake flight, would order again!

Animals

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat over at The Mirage has dolphins! And lions! And Tigers! It’s one of my favorite places. There are also a handful of aquariums, one at The Mirage and another at the end of the strip at Mandalay Bay. Caesar’s Palace also has a big fish tank you can see for free that they like to call an aquarium, but I was a bit disappointed, though it did allow me to see the also free “Fall of Atlantis” show, which has super old animatronic characters and was actually kind of funny, plus there was fire.

Stunning pools

My pale complexion is not a huge fan of the sun, but I do love pools. One of my strategies is going out in the morning, before the pool gets crowded and the sun too high overhead. You could also rent a cabana, which is not cheap… but it is cheaper in the off-season, and will provide you a dedicated space of your own, food and beverage service and other goodies.


Pool at The Luxor

Interesting day trip opportunities

Boulder City is right nearby! Next time I’m there I want to go on the Nevada Southern Railway excursion train. And the Hoover Dam is just 40 minutes away! You can also visit the west rim of the Grand Canyon on a day trip, which isn’t quite as impressive as what you’d see from the South Rim, but is still spectacular. But my recommendation? Save up and spring for the helicopter plus boat tour. You’re in a huge bus for hours with piles of strangers, treat yourself to more than just a nice view. Plus, then you won’t be painfully jealous of the people on the tour who do take the detour over to the helicopters. It’s not long, but it’s an experience I won’t forget.

Finally, I also do hold a fondness for all the replicas. The giant pyramid of The Luxor, the Eiffel Tower, miniature New York City, the recreation of ancient Rome. It’s all less popular these days with the staggering rise of high end resort-style hotels, but I love this old stuff. I reveled in the night spent at The Luxor, and a stroll through the columns and Roman Gods of Caesar’s Palace topped off with a great Italian meal is quite the treat. I also like walking down the strip, but on hot days it is nice to catch some of the trains, on my last trip I discovered the free tram that now connects The Bellagio, Aria and Monte Carlo, which gets you a nice chunk of the way to New York-New York, and the next train that connects the Excalibur to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Las Vegas also has a (paid) Monorail on the other side of the street, that I used a bit when staying at The Flamingo.

So, much to do in Las Vegas without drinking or gambling! The excess is certainly not for everyone, but I enjoy it for a leave-the-real-world-behind escape.

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