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Tourist in Sydney

I’ve been to Australia four times, following Linux.conf.au around the country as they went from Perth to Geelong (and Melbourne) to Hobart. With the conference finally landing in Sydney, I made my first visit there last month. I wrote about the conference here, but I flew in a couple days early to adjust to the time zone before my talk on Tuesday and take the opportunity to spend the weekend doing some tourist stuff around the city.

On Saturday morning I met up with my friend Stephen and his wife Lauren, who I’d never met. Stephen and I both lived in Philadelphia for some time and have since met when he came to San Francisco for work a few years back. This was my first time getting to visit his new home city! We met at Central station, just a couple blocks from my hotel and took a train over to Circular Quay. Circular Quay is where the two most famous landmarks of Sydney reside, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

After my proper glimpse of the Opera House, we began our morning with brunch at Opera Bar, getting to sit outside and soak in the breeze off the harbor. It was there that I realized I had come to Australia without a hat. First purchase I needed to make once I got to the zoo! I did put on a pile of sunblock before I left my hotel though, even though my failure to reapply did cause me to eventually burn a little.

The Taronga Zoo is located on the other side of the harbor and there’s a ferry that goes directly there. It’s a beautiful way to get there, which passes the opera house and gets you there in about 15 minutes. From there, if you have zoo tickets in hand you can hop directly on the “sky safari” ski-lift like tram that will give you some lovely views, but there’s also a public bus, which we took since we had to buy our tickets at the counter.

The first thing I’ll say about the zoo itself, is that it has AMAZING views of the city.

The giraffes get to enjoy a particularly nice view!

The rest of the zoo is also great. They have an extensive section of Australian animals, including areas where you can get quite close to the animals, but I didn’t get to pet anything this time. There’s a walk through area with kangaroos, wallabies and emus. At the “seal” (it was all sea lions) show you get up close to an Australian sea lion. The lemur exhibit allows small groups to walk among the lemurs, which we did and had a wonderful time doing.

We spent much of the day at the zoo, but it was hot out and eventually it was time to find some beers. We took the ferry back to Circular Quay and then over to The Rocks and had some drinks at a local bar before our dinner at 6PM. Dinner was at the wonderful Saké Restaurant and Bar. Since it’s summer there, the walk back to the train station was during sunset, which made for some great views of the harbor again, including catching the sunset against the opera house.

Sunday was spent closer to my hotel, meeting up with my friend (and former colleague) Matt to explore Darling Harbour for several hours. We last met up in Prague back in October when we were in town for the same conference, and previously had adventures in Singapore. Another continent added to our list! It is a pretty touristy area, but it’s that way for a reason, with lots of nice water views. I was pretty excited to even catch a glimpse of Ferry McFerryface, the hilariously named ferry that Stephen had mentioned the day before, and I have since learned is still controversial. We snagged some Italian food for lunch, went out for gelato, and had some drinks after swinging by registration for the conference. That evening we went out for some Korean BBQ before making our way back through Chinatown, where we stopped for some Emperor’s Puffs – little creme puffs created by a creme puff machine! It was a good day, and low key enough not to exhaust me right before the conference.

Finally, coming in early allowed me to meet our newest hire there in Sydney in our pre-sales team for Mesosphere. We had a great chat over coffee about the company, the role of the community team, and generally technologies in the container space and opportunities that could be realized there in Australia. My elevator pitch for developer advocacy could use some work, but I got there eventually in describing the role.

Food definitely played a central role in this trip. The venue was nicely placed near a lot of Asian food, so I actually ended up having sushi three times during this trip, Indian food another night. The bow that nicely wrapped up the trip was dessert on Friday. I was a bit tired post-conference, but tagged along with a group heading out to dinner. I had a lovely steak and cider, but it was the huge “Fire + Ice” shared dessert where they cooked the creme brulee at the table and tossed in some dry ice that really made the meal. It was quite the experience.

I wish I had booked a few more days at the end of my trip to stay a bit longer and visit with friends who were either local or staying longer. Alas, with the move to the new house already in motion, I had to get back to get back to helping push that forward. There’s a lot more I wish I had seen, I never even made it to a beach! I’ll have to go back some day.

More photos from tourist adventures in Sydney here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157665149718998/

An amazing time at LCA 2018 in Sydney

On Wednesday, January 24th, I had the pleasure of hearing Karen Sandler, the Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, give the keynote at Linux.conf.au (LCA). Video here: Keynote: Six Years Later, or Hey, did you ever get the source code to that thing in your heart? She presented a strong message around software freedom as she talked about her work since her first LCA keynote six years earlier where she talked about the pacemaker she has which runs proprietary software. I enjoy Karen’s talks because she always weaves a story for the audience, and in this talk part of that story was how important LCA had been in her life and career. It’s something that resonated with me. LCA is one my favorite conferences in the world.

Each year it’s handed off to a new team in a revolving series of cities throughout the country and they manage to pull off a conference that maintains a similar feel and consistently high quality talks. I’m sure the volunteer nature of this conference helps, with so much money being poured into open source software these days I’ve seen many open source conferences change over the years, but LCA has remained the grassroots conference that I fell in love with during my first LCA in Perth five years ago. The attendees are amazing too. They’re passionate about open source and technology, and it’s often the one conference each year where I get to see all my Australian friends and colleagues. This year they went even further to demonstrate their commitment by attending a conference even on Friday, which was a national holiday.

The keynotes this year made for a nice framing of the conference. On Tuesday we heard from Matthew Todd, who has a PhD in organic chemistry and, along with teaching and doing research at the University of Sydney, he leads Open Source Malaria (OSM), which is bringing scientists together in a way similar to the open development of software to collaborate openly on a cure for malaria. Back in September at the Open Source Summit North America I saw a keynote similar to this around open collaboration related to media production, but OSM takes this further by not only using the methodologies, but also some of the tooling. This has included collaboration on GitHub where they are learning to use Issues and Wikis to track and share their work. The open nature of our work is something I really believe in, so it’s always thrilling to see our collaboration methods being shared beyond just software communities.

On Thursday we heard from long time Linux Australia participant Hugh Blemings who reflected on past LCA events, discussed some of the history and state of open source in Australia, involvement in open source for work and fun, and more. Video from Hugh’s talk is here: Keynote: Wandering through the Commons. The final keynote was on Friday from Jess Frazelle of Microsoft who took the audience on a tour of containers, from basic definition of what a container is, to limitations including around security and much more. Jonathan Corbet of LWN did a great write-up on it here and the video is available at Keynote: Containers aka crazy user space fun.

I gave two talks at the conference this year. The first was at the Sysadmin Miniconf on Tuesday, brilliantly brought together each year by Simon Lyall. I joined them to talk about Day 2 Operations with Containers: Myth vs. Reality. In this talk I present a series of four “myths” around container orchestration maintenance and then debunk them by discussing things like the need for traditional tooling like log servers, alerting systems and backups. I enjoy giving this talk because it takes a lot of concepts that are very familiar with an operations-focused crowd and reframes them in this new space. No need to worry, your decade(s) of systems administration knowledge does not become irrelevant when you move to containers, and your work is still needed! Video here: Day 2 Operations with Containers: Myth vs. Reality and slides (PDF).

The second talk I gave was during the main conference on Wednesday on The Open Sourcing of Infrastructure. This talk has evolved a lot since I first gave it at a DevOps Days last year, the history remains intact but the future outlook has changed to increasingly focus on the topic of hybrid clouds as a strategy to dodge vendor lock-in. Video here: The Open Sourcing of Infrastructure and slides (PDF). The container trend in the miniconf continued with talks following mine by Nick Young and Alistair Chapman whose talks centered around Kubernetes and Docker, respectively.

The rest of the week was spent attending talks by other people, and a fair amount of hallway track as I spent time catching up with people (and meeting new ones!). This was my second year at LCA in my role as a Developer Advocate over at Mesosphere, but last year I’d only been in the role for just over a week, so it was nice to be able to spend time chatting with folks now that I’m fully up to speed with Apache Mesos, DC/OS and the latest innovations in the container space in general.

Beyond what I was there to do for work, there were a few really fun talks that stood out for me. Paul Fenwick gave a talk on “Changing the world through (fan-)fiction” where he took us on a journey through the world of fan fiction authors. He began by talking about how fan fiction allows authors to explore new ideas through writing without having to build a world and characters of their own, and spoke to the power that this gives to these independent authors. He then explained that they navigate a surprisingly technical space with all the work they do, creating videos, putting together websites and more to promote their work. This means that, since most fan fiction authors are women, we suddenly have a great pipeline filled with women who have technical skills, even if they don’t realize it yet. We should help them realize it! Video: Changing the world through (fan-)fiction.

There was a talk by Sarah Spencer on “The Knitting Printer” where she showed off how she hacked a consumer knitting machine from the 1980s so it would be able to print the designs she wanted in a mostly automatic way, including the ability to use multiple colors of yarn in the pieces. I learned how to knit over a decade ago, but I haven’t kept this up and the talk didn’t inspire me to get my own machine, but it is fascinating to see the intersection of machines like this and computers. It’s also always inspiring to see people put together cool hacking projects that are open source, which she succeeded beautifully at! Bonus: Penguin knits. Video here: The Knitting Printer.

In a similar DYI vein, my friend and former colleague on OpenStack and at HPE Matt Treinish did a talk on “Building a Better Thermostat” where he walked us through how he used open source tooling to build a thermostat to regulate the very primitive air conditioning in his New York apartment. The talk gets into really gnarly and unexpected issues, like power considerations, air conditioner coil cycles and the need to turn up the volume on the TV when the air conditioning unit is on. Geekery aside, I think what was really interesting for me to learn was how active the Home Assistant community is. At every turn in his talk he’d mention another component, his patches, and patches that built upon his. The “thermostat” software he used was originally a heat control, but his work on adding opposite support has turned it into the Generic Thermostat. Fun stuff! Video: Building a Better Thermostat.

On Friday I was most taken with Lilly Ryan’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger: Wildman Whitehouse and the Great Failure of 1858” on the failed development and deployment of the first trans-continental cable that ran from England to North America. I love history, so it was fun to learn about this bit of history, even without a lesson. The lesson she did present was one of the many, now obvious but still occurring, failures that caused the project to fail in a very public, expensive, and spectacular way. From a over-confident project lead who failed to listen to advice from experts on his team to the botched way that the failure itself was handled people-wise, the talk gave us a clear picture of how to do things better and how they were better when the final pair of successful cables were laid in a subsequent project. Video: Don’t Look Back in Anger: Wildman Whitehouse and the Great Failure of 1858

Finally, I had lots of yummy food during the conference. The speaker dinner was held at O Bar and Dining, a revolving restaurant on the 47th floor that offered some great views of the city.

The conference venue itself was near Chinatown, so that meant I was able to snag delicious Asian food all week, including a couple stops to get sushi. The Chambers Coffee shop that we discovered nearby was also a treat, their iced coffee drinks were top notch, and needed as I was jet lagged and hot the whole trip. Ah, Australia in the summer.

We were treated by a series of lightning talks at the conclusion of the conference. These are always fun and there were some real gems in the mix this year. Video: Lightning talks. It was then announced that the event next year will be held in Christchurch, New Zealand! I missed the last one in New Zealand, so I really hope I have the opportunity to go to this one in 2019.

As always, it’s incredibly sad to pull myself away from LCA as my trip came to an end. Huge thanks to the conference organizers and volunteers for pulling off another great conference.

More photos from LCA 2018 here

Just a rainy week in San Francisco

With the holiday trip to Philadelphia getting extended, I was away from home more than I expected this January. As I look at the last few days of this month I’ve got a really busy schedule, but I’ll back up a bit for this post to share the time I did get to do earlier in the month.

First, I got rained on. San Francisco welcomed 2018 with several rainy days, which sadly over-lapped with my boss being in town for a week. I spent the week I returned at the office having a series of productive meetings with my team in person as we sketched out our plans for the next quarter and year. I’m looking at the work year ahead with anticipation for the projects we have lined up, it should be a great year for us. We also had some meals and a happy hour together as a team, which is always nice for building cohesiveness as we juggle travel and remote members of the team (myself included). A couple of us also were able to participate in an Apache Mesos Doc-a-thon on Thursday evening were folks broke off into teams to work on things, and I assisted on the sidelines and did a bunch of spell-checking.

We week wasn’t all work though, I also got to finally see our new house in Castro Valley! Of course we saw it when the inspection was done in early December, but on that Tuesday I took BART down to meet MJ at the house after work and I finally got to visit it, use my keys for the first time, and explore. Some major work done a decade ago makes the house a bit unusual, and it could use some work in the front to improve the boxy look of it, but I really love it. The inside is beautifully done, and at 2,900 square feet it’s on the larger side of properties we were looking at. The only surprise so far has really been the state of the kitchen. At first glance it’s dated, but tolerable. Once you start really pulling on drawers and inspecting cabinets, it’s clear some work needs to be done. We’re now in the process of seeing just how much work we want to do on it. The options for a remodel are pretty wide open, but currently include actually changing the layout of the upstairs to make a considerably better kitchen. We met with a designer over the weekend to start sketching out our options, though I admit I’m still recovering a bit from sticker shock. Kitchen remodels are expensive, even if you don’t move the kitchen like we may end up doing. House layout-wise we are somewhat helped though, the former owner left behind four large binders/folders full of appliance manuals, work orders, floor plans and CAD printouts of the house, a treasure trove of details about the house and work done on it.

My first visit to the house post-sale!

The weekend we met with the designer also happened to be a three-day holiday weekend that I had almost forgotten about. It gave MJ and me time to go to a shooting range, something we’d never actually done together. It was a lot of fun, we should make it more of a thing, and perhaps invite some friends next time. We also had a lovely tasting dinner over at Octavia, which I didn’t realize we’d been to until we got there. We also had a new dishwasher installed at the condo. With our plan to move down to Castro Valley in early February, we have a lot of work ahead of us as we prepare the condo to be rented. Changing out some of the appliances that have been there since the condo was built in 2004 is part of that, and the dishwasher was the first thing on our list since it was already having some draining problems. Next up is the washer and dryer, which we had fixed (twice!) last year. Once we’re moved out we’ll get the place repainted and new carpet put into the bedroom, along with a bunch of miscellaneous handy-man type repairs. I’m super sad to be leaving the city and I’m sure it’ll be difficult to have a renter move into the place I’ve called home for eight years, but I am looking forward to having nearly four times the space in the new house.

Then it was off to Australia for linux.conf.au in Sydney! With all the house stuff going on, it was a bit hard to leave, but it’s one of my favorite conferences in the world, so I wouldn’t miss it. Thankfully MJ has been able to make time while I was gone to push forward on various house things, so since my return yesterday we’ve been able to sync up on the current status of things and start packing. It’s already starting to get bad since I began yesterday, but the condo will soon be full of packed containers, ready to move! I anticipate that taking up all of my free time over the next couple weeks.

The holidays in Philadelphia

Over the holidays in December MJ and I decided to go back east to spend three weeks visiting with friends and family. We also decided, given the length of the trip, to see how bringing Caligula with us would go. MJ flew at first, and I followed the next morning with Caligula, and after a little nervous accident on the way to the airport, he was a model passenger as we took a daytime flight to Newark, where MJ picked us up.

Having him there with us was a real treat. The first few days he was a little nervous and uncertain about such a big place, compared to the condo, and all the stairs. We kept his litter box and food upstairs and he spent a lot of his time up there, making the guest room his own and enjoying the carpets upstairs. As the visit progressed he got comfortable with the whole townhouse and rekindled his love for fireplaces each evening with us, I even got him a blanket to sleep on in front of it. He also enjoyed the deck, even though it was pretty cold out throughout the trip.

The length and timing of our trip, partially influenced by coming in few days early to speak at an open source event, meant that we had to split our celebration of Hanukkah between coasts. The first night was spent in San Francisco before MJ flew out, and we spent the rest in Philadelphia. Splitting the nights like that certainly drew attention to the fact that our menorahs are accidentally identical.

Final night of Hanukkah, in Philadelphia

Going in a bit early also meant we had to change our plans for The Last Jedi. I had some great tickets at the Metreon in San Francisco, purchased when tickets were released, but I had to give them up and switch to a theater near the townhouse in Philadelphia. I would have liked to see it in a fancy IMAX, but seeing it at all on opening night was the bigger priority for me. The day after coming in MJ and I made our way over to Philadelphia Mills to see it. The movie didn’t disappoint!

Unfortunately, what did disappoint was my health. I’d had a cough that was troublesome for several weeks, but that allowed a sinus infection to creep in without me noticing. Even worse, it manifested in my eyes. After a particularly bad day and night with teary, gooey eyes, I had MJ bring me to the local urgent care, where they gave me some medicine and diagnosed the sinus infection. Thankfully I was still able to work, even if the sinus pain was incredibly unpleasant at times. The weather didn’t help though. It snowed enough to shovel in our neighborhood three times while we were there, and the whole northeast was hit by an incredible cold spell that plunged temperatures into the single digits. I got to use my waterproof winter boots and snow shovel for the first time, which was only novel for about five minutes into shoveling. Still, we didn’t have much that took us out during the worst of the snow, and I do actually enjoy the snow once I’m warned up and don’t have to drive in it.

While we were in town we decided to get some work done on the townhouse. We’d been meaning to add some final security features and get proper WiFi access points installed on each floor. This required several days of low-voltage work which cut into the ceiling on all three floors. There was drywall dust everywhere, and Caligula enjoyed rolling in it. The patch work was top-notch though and it was a real relief to finally have it all completed after Christmas. During this work we also re-ran some cabling behind the TV, which allowed for us to more properly install the PlayStation 4 that we picked up during our visit, thanks to holiday sales. A water softener was also installed while we were there. The shower door in the master bathroom was the most obvious sign of hard water day to day in the townhouse, so I cleaned it after the water softener was put in and was very happy when it stayed clear for the rest of our visit.

Not all was great with the townhouse on this trip though. Just before New Years I noticed a telltale moisture stain on the ceiling of the master bedroom. MJ immediately climbed up to the attic and discovered frost covering the ceiling. I won’t go into details here, but it’ll suffice to say some improperly completed work earlier in the year, exacerbated by the extremely cold weather, caused it. The holiday delayed response, but a restoration company was called in on January 2nd and Caligula and I had to stay longer to oversee the fleet of dryers and dehumidifiers brought in to dry it out. It was stressful, but the extra time in town did give me time to sync up with a couple friends, and see The Last Jedi again. I also got to pull out my model train for the final few days there and get it running smoothly with the root beer smelling smoke!

When it was finally time for us to leave several days later, the attic was dry and Caligula and I were delivered to the airport by a friend on Sunday evening. This time he wasn’t a great passenger. The poor critter vomited in his carrier at the gate, causing me to rush off to the restroom to clean up before the flight. He also meowed a lot during the flight itself. I think my mistake was taking an evening flight. He slept through most of our daytime flight in December, but the evening is when he likes to be awake. Being stuffed under the seat of a plane for five hours wasn’t to his liking. The flight was also pretty turbulent, which I’m sure didn’t help.

Still, we got across the country OK and MJ picked us up on the San Francisco side. Caligula immediately settled back into his familiar condo home, camping out on his Lion King blanket for the next couple of days. Our next trip back east will be sans cat, but I now expect it to be some time in late March. We have tickets to see City Hall station in New York City then, so I’m trying to figure out how to best schedule our visit.

The adventures of 2017

In 2017, I spent a lot of my free time at home watching TV. I also put on about 15 pounds. In so many ways, 2017 was a terrible year.

I watched our country be torn apart by “us vs. them” rhetoric and leadership that has begun dismantling hard-won protections for the most vulnerable members of our society. Racism and religion-based hatred became more normalized. The dull roar of misogyny of our society has been made a move to the forefront of our minds (which is good, but it’s painful and brings up a lot of stuff). Federal support for science and technology research that have helped our country stay a leader in innovation has been marginalized. California itself was enveloped in devastating fires that impacted us through smoke that came all the way to San Francisco and neighbors in wine country who had significant losses. There’s a lot of hopelessness out there, and that wore on me.

This year was also characterized by recovering from the burnout I suffered in 2016. I’m incredibly proud to have published a book and helped with a revision on another, but with everything else that I was doing, it was too much. Over the past 18 months I’ve shed most of the open source projects I was working on outside of work, and even in the ones I didn’t leave outright, I wasn’t as active as I should have been. Personal side-projects were almost non-existent. I had to do a lot of self-reflection this year to figure out what I wanted to be doing and what was important in my life. This blog is pretty much the only thing that survived.

On February 6th we unexpectedly lost my mother-in-law to complications surrounding cancer she was being treated for.

In early April Simcoe’s decline in health from renal failure became too much to bear and we let her go on April 9th.

In September I sprained my ankle so badly that the first doctor who looked at it thought it was broken. In early November I got incredibly sick in Cuba and then had a reaction to antibiotics I was given to treat it and ended up in the ER in San Francisco. In December I contracted a sinus infection and am once again working my way through a bout of bronchitis. Just before the new year, we discovered moisture in our attic here in at the townhouse in Philadelphia that has required immediate remediation and caused me to extend my stay out here to deal with it.

At the same time, 2017 was an amazing year, which is why this wrap-up post was such a struggle to write. If you read through this blog over the past year, the impression would not be of a sad or difficult year, but of an incredible one with a new job and adventures around the world. That story is true too. MJ and I are successful and we have the financial flexibility to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We’ve enjoyed spectacular meals, trips to Napa and Sonoma, a night out to see Hamilton and so much more this year.

And I love San Francisco, it’s a beautiful place to live, and as a tourist destination it’s one that people visit so I get to do my own local touristing when friends and family are in town.

At the beginning of the year I started a job that not only exposes me to the latest open source technologies in operations and data analysis, but gives me the opportunity to share everything I’m learning with others at conferences and events around the world.

In 2017 traveled 103,128 miles by air and I’ve still taken time everywhere I go to spend a day or two as a tourist.

The townhouse in Philadelphia has also allowed me to spend more time with loved ones out here who I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with. Family-wise I met an uncle of MJs who I had never met. I got to go to a family reunion in Florida to visit with a bunch of my family, and had a cousin visit San Francisco who I hadn’t seen in years. I did a road trip with my mother and my aunt from Florida to Philadelphia, and just a couple days later hosted an aunt and cousin at the townhouse in Philadelphia.

I also learned that people care about me even when I’m not spending all my time working. For the past ten years I’ve buried myself in work, from open source projects I work on casually to those I’m paid to spend time on. It’s so much a part of my identity now that there’s an incredible fear that I’ll end up alone and disappoint people if I struggle or scale back. I’m grateful that I was wrong. Not everyone has stayed with me, but I do have wonderful people in my life who not only stuck around, but who support me and offer compassion and kindness when I am struggling.

It was also a year of trains. In my effort to recover from tech-induced burnout, I spent more time geeking out over model trains and actual trains. For four days over Memorial Day weekend, MJ and I traveled across the country by train, taking the California Zephyr the whole length before going on to the Capitol Limited. We also finally got to take the Coast Starlight from Oakland to Los Angeles, which was a beautiful journey and I got to spend time in the Pacific Parlour Car. In October I took The Carolinian with David from Philadelphia to Raleigh for a conference.

As my interest in model trains grew, I was able to pick up a starter O-scale train set from a toy fair and get it going over Thanksgiving. In the spring MJ and I went out to the Golden State Model Railroad Museum. In October I was in Hamburg, Germany where they have the largest series of model layouts in the world, at Miniatur Wunderland.

The year concluded with a long stay in Philadelphia for the holidays and a surprising purchase: a house in Castro Valley, California. We’d been looking for a while, and finally the time, location and price were right for us. We closed remotely from Pennsylvania at the end of December and MJ picked up the keys this week. This isn’t something I’ve shared publicly until now, so if it’s a surprise to you, don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything, we’ve only told a few people. Over the next couple months we’ll be moving from the condo in San Francisco down to Castro Valley and getting the condo prepped to rent out. I’ll write about this all in more detail later, but it’s exciting times!

This was a very wordy wrap-up post, so I’ll pull back to the more list-based stuff now. Where did I travel in 2017?

With the new job, I spent more time doing public speaking in 2017. The first few talks were ones I had on my schedule already before my job started, but as soon as April rolled around I was up to speed enough to start giving talks specific to DC/OS clusters and some of the technologies that would run on top of them.

Thanks to Nithya Ruff for the photos of my presentation (source)

Talks concluded with a couple private ones within companies, which are rare for me but both were convenient for me and I have a great deal of respect for the women who invited me to both. In all, it was a super busy year for talks, this is more than I’ve ever done in a year. My goal for 2018 is to dive in deeper on a few technologies that run particularly well on DC/OS and Apache Mesos and start doing some more heavily technical talks beyond my comfort zone of CI/CD and Day 2 Operations.

Looking back now, it turns out 2017 was a mixed bag for me. Terrible. Amazing. I should cut myself some slack for watching so much TV when I have down time and putting on a bit of weight. Sure, I’d love to get back to building big, exciting projects during my precious nights and weekends so I feel more like myself, but we all go through busy, complicated times. I’ll come out the other end eventually, and the people in my life who I care about will be right there with me.

Bay Area between the Holidays

After Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, we headed back to San Francisco for a couple weeks. I got home the night of Tuesday, November 28th and flew out again on the morning of Wednesday, December 13th. We made good use of our time though.

The first weekend I was home I made my way over to Jeffrey’s Toys on Kearny. This shop has a story. The store that is now Jeffrey’s Toys was founded in 1938 as Birdies Variety, then Birdie’s Toy House after WWII. In 1966 a new couple took over the store and gave it the name we know today. When I moved to San Francisco it was where I went to buy comics, but sadly in 2015 they closed their Market Street location due to increases on their lease (the storefront they moved out of is still empty). It wasn’t the end of the story though! They moved their shop to Berkeley, which I never visited. The location was far from BART, and I started shopping at a couple comic book stores in Berkeley that I could just take BART to. Thankfully they got the opportunity this year to come back to San Francisco. They opened their store on Kearny, barely a block from their Market Street location, in October. My visit in December was my first time back, and I was so happy to visit. They had all the comics I needed in stock and I was happy to see that the store was having a bustling Saturday afternoon.

Sunday was spent making our way down the east bay to Castro Valley where we enjoyed some Rita’s waterice (an east coast original like us, now in California!) and worked on a secret mission. Then up to Berkeley for dinner at our favorite BBQ place.

Later in the week I got to meet up with a couple friends, one of whom was visiting from Philadelphia and wanted a proper burrito. A couple of us now-locals met up with him at Ferry Building and headed over to Taqueria Cancun in the Mission. Yum. We also quickly discovered as we went looking for beer that it was holiday party season, the first two breweries we stopped at were closed for private parties, but the third time was the charm!

Our final weekend in the area for the year was spent in wine country. We’re members of a winery in Napa and one in Sonoma. Usually we do casual day trips up to each when it’s time to pick up wines, but we had a couple shipments to pick up this time since so much was closed during the wildfires earlier in the season, so we decided to spend the night up in Napa.

The first stop on Saturday was lunch at our beloved Bouchon Bistro. We had a few minutes before our reservation, so we swung by their popular bakery first to pick up some snacks for the evening. Lunch itself was spectacular as usual. We enjoyed a caviar appetizer, which I had last time and have since had dreams about. The real secret to dining here though is finding the pasta entree that includes the generous portion of freshly shaved truffles on top. The truffles come out in a fancy box and are shaved tableside. This time it was a ravioli and vegetable dish, appropriately drowned in butter and then topped with the truffles. So good. I dream of these truffle dishes too. Lunch wrapped up with a stroll through V Marketplace across the street.

Hagafen Cellars was the first winery on our list. They make Kosher wines that we can use to celebrate holidays and also enjoy over Passover. Sadly, they suffered some damage during the wildfires. They lost some equipment, a building, and their chickens perished, but the cat was rescued and the tasting room and main building escaped damage.

Our next and final stop for the day was Rutherford Hill Winery where we are members. We enjoyed a lovely tasting next to some little gas fire pits they had around the members area. We picked up our shipment and also availed ourselves of a deal they had on six of their early 2000s Merlots and blends, which we also got to sample.

Things wind down in Napa winery-wise around 5PM, so it was time to check into the Harvest Inn where we’d be spending the night. We’d been there before and had dined at the restaurant, so we went looking for something a bit different, ending up with a late dinner at Farmstead down the street.

Our room had a view of the vineyards, which we finally got to see as we enjoyed a leisurely morning.

The next pair of wineries were in Sonoma valley, so we took a drive through the Enchanted Hills. It’s quite a drive. Lots of crazy turns and hills throughout. It was also here where we saw a lot more fire damage, these hills really took a hit. Still, forests are resilient and in most spaces you look past the healthy surviving trees to see the burnt stumps of those less fortunate.

We survived the hill drive, even if I felt a little queasy and made our first stop, at Imagery Winery to do some tasting and pick up our shipment of wines. We may have picked up a couple extra bottles too.

On our way to our final stop we picked up lunch in Glen Ellen and enjoyed a picnic at Benziger Family Winery. We hadn’t planned on buying any more wine, but upon arrival we learned that they had done another run of their Gewürztraminer. It’s so good, we bought three bottles. As an additional treat, our host in the tasting room used to work for BART doing some of their communications work for the trains and he had some great stories.

We then departed home before we bought any more wine! Once back in San Francisco we stopped for a quick sushi dinner before heading home.

It was back to work on Monday and Tuesday. Our time in San Francisco concluded by celebrating the first night of Hanukkah on Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night MJ led the way on our journey back to Philadelphia. He took an overnight flight out, and my flight was the next morning, with Caligula!

A case for the Moto X4

Back in July I wrote about having two phones. The post is quite detailed, but essentially I decided to have a dedicated work phone. I mentioned at the time that I’d have to replace the Nexus 6 that I was using for my work phone. That was confirmed as I traveled in Ireland, Czechia and Germany this autumn where it was my primary phone on Project Fi. The battery life just wasn’t there anymore, and the phone was incredibly slow, even after a downgrade to Android 6.0.1. I ended up carrying a couple batteries around with me and mostly using it as a tethering device for my Moto Z Play.

I needed to purchase a new phone. Enter my conundrum. I had been going with the assumption that I’d buy the Pixel 2 XL when it came out in October. As the specs trickled in for the Pixel 2, there was a glaring lack of headphone jack. This has been the trend with phones, and it’s one I really dislike. I travel a lot, and I find the need for headphones with traditional AUX on airplanes and in hotel rooms. My pricey Bose noise-cancelling earbuds that I depend on for a peaceful flight require the jack. If I switched to a phone that required an adapter on USB-C to use it, I’d be carrying around an adapter everywhere. Worse, I can’t charge my device and listen at the same time, brutal for 14 hour flights, though I hear some hubs will be coming out to solve this.

Then there was the price. Decked out with 128GB of storage the Pixel 2 XL ends up at over $1000 with shipping. I paid over $750 for my Nexus 6 back in 2015 and that felt like a tremendous amount. So my options were just go with an older model or see what else would work with Project Fi.

Enter the Android One Moto X4. It has a headphone jack, comes with 32GB of storage but can use a microSD card to expand that. The phone has good specs on cameras, memory, processor and battery. The biggest drawback to this phone for me is the size. I’d be switching from a 5.96 inch screen with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels to 5.2-inch screen with 1920×1,080 resolution. That’s a huge change. The price was right though, at just over $430 with tax. Then they did a Black Friday promotion which knocked $100 off the price via a statement credit. If I traded in my Nexus 6, I also get another $80. That’s a $250 phone. I ordered it that day.

The phone arrived quickly, followed by my trade-in kit for the Nexus 6. I was sad about shipping off my Nexus 6. Phones come with us everywhere, they’re an important part of our lives. But I know it would end up in a drawer and I’d never look at it again, just like all my other old phones. I’m glad it’s being disposed of properly, and getting $80 certainly helps. The trade-in went without a hitch and in spite of holiday delivery delays, got back to the facility and I received my full estimated credit.

I had a new phone! It’s small. The first couple days I was a little unhappy with it. Too small.

Then I remembered that on my Moto Z Play I had to adjust the Display settings to set both the Font and Display size to small. Voila! I have a very usable resolution! It’s no 6 inch screen, but I’m satisfied.

It does indeed have the microSD card slot, it’s part of the SIM slot. It’s a little fiddly, you have to make sure both cards are carefully seated, but it works. All the space for music and movies! In fact, with the 128GB cards running at about $40 you can exceed the internal storage of the Pixel 2, so you have 32GB internal, plus the 128GB card. The microSD cards go up to 400GB these days and the phone supports up to 2TB.

I also realized later that it has dual cameras out the front so it can do the blurred background effect that everyone loves. I saw a demo of the Pixel 2 doing this with a single camera when I was at Grace Hopper just after the release. This phone takes two pictures when in “Depth enabled” mode and then stitches them together in software. Great for cat photos, obviously an important consideration for me!

Turns out, this is a great little phone. I’m sure I’ll feel a twinge of jealousy as soon as my husband starts using his Pixel 2 XL, but then I’ll remember I saved $750 and still get to use all my headphones without any dongles, while charging! Oh, and I have more storage space.

Talks in Towers

This year I did nearly thirty public talks and panels. This is an all-time high for me, but also reflects a change in my role this year. I’m no longer spending most of my time on systems administrator work, speaking has taken a more prominent space in my work now that I’m a developer advocate. Fortunately, I still have time to geek out over systems tooling as I interact with the DC/OS and related communities, I’m rounding out my year by hacking on some CI/CD pipelines to demonstrate how some of the latest open source tooling benefits from an Apache Mesos-driven infrastructure.

My last public talk was in November, and I skipped KubeCon + CloudNativeCon in Austin to spend some time at home after an incredibly busy month on the road. Instead, I spent the early part of this month visiting a couple companies to give talks to their internal events. This isn’t a regular thing for me since my role is designed to be very public, but it does give me the opportunity to connect with users and community members who are less likely to be attending the bigger conferences. The insight gleaned from these internal conversations can help my team build up engagement goals and strategies for the upcoming year. In both these cases, I was invited by professional-colleagues-turned-friends who I met through OpenStack. It’s always a pleasure to spend time in proximity to these women and their extraordinary work.

These talks also unexpectedly brought me to beautiful offices with breathtaking views. The first was in San Francisco in an office at One California Street.

It’s not the tallest skyscraper in the city, but when a building is near the bay it doesn’t take much to claim some some nice views of downtown and glimpses of the bay.

The talk itself was focused on maintenance of containerized environments (logging, metrics, upgrades) but the most valuable part of my visit was actually the Q&A when this group of experienced Mesos administrators grilled me on features and upcoming plans. The company works in the space of artificial intelligence, so the support for GPUs that came out last year of particular interest.

The next skyscraper talk was a week later in Philadelphia. Comcast invited me to speak at their internal open source event, which lined up very closely with my existing plans to spend the end of the year back east, I just had to fly in a couple days earlier than planned. Weather on the east coast in December is much different than San Francisco. Grey skies replaced blue, and a winter coat and mittens became required as I made my way downtown via regional rail on Friday morning.

Comcast Center is the biggest building in Philadelphia, and I’d been in it once before when attending an after-party for a conference with MJ a few years ago. This was the first time I got to see out the 45th story windows during the day.

And then it snowed all afternoon!

Warm inside, it was actually quite a pleasure to see the snow come down and watch city almost disappear below us.

The talk itself was a variation on my open sourcing of infrastructure deck. The open source infrastructure message of this talk is a solid one, but perhaps my favorite part about giving this talk is that afterwards it helps me discover all the geeks of my generation who recognize the infrastructure path of proprietary to open source to cloud that I describe and reflect upon. Even better, giving this talk in Philadelphia again means that all my own Philadelphia connections early in my career mean that much more to an audience that has a lot of locals in it.

Thanks to Shilla Saebi‏ for taking a picture during my talk! (source)

It was a pleasure coming out to the event and spending time with my fellow speakers and Comcast employees throughout. And this was my last talk of any type this year!

Thanksgiving in Philadelphia

The week I returned from Cuba was a difficult one. I visited an urgent care clinic on Saturday morning to address the ongoing stomach problems I was having. They prescribed the pretty standard round of Ciprofloxacin for travel-related stomach woes, but were careful to mention that it can have nasty side-effects and I should go to the ER if any of them arose. Unfortunately for me, they did. I woke up on Sunday morning with an unusual smattering of hives and went straight to the hospital. That’s where we spent the day, they kept me under observation as we tried a new treatment plan and I was finally able to go home in the late afternoon. Unfortunately I was still sick from the original condition, and that characterized my week. I suffered through work on Monday because I had a lot of work to catch up on, but Tuesday was a straight up sick day. I got better as the week progressed, which was good, since Friday we took a red eye flight to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving back east.

That first Saturday in town we caught a nap in the morning, but first I got to see a deer! The contrast between our place in downtown San Francisco and the townhouse is exemplified by moments like that. The rest of the day was taken up with a bunch of shopping before meeting a friend for dinner.

Sunday we went to a wedding! Advertised as an engagement party, my friend Crissi decided to celebrate the engagement to Henry by having a surprise wedding. It was held at a lovely nearby country club where we had enjoyable food and company surrounding the surprise ceremony.

We spent Monday through Wednesday in town working, with a jaunt to downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday to eat at Buddakan, which we’d never been to but I now highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice meal out on the town. The service was great, the food was delicious, with dim sum and small plates able to be ordered as you went. I’d go back again just for the lobster egg rolls.

Wednesday would have been Simcoe’s 11th birthday. We lost her in April but it hit me hard and her birthday remained tough for me. That evening we ended up at Pizzeria Uno near the townhouse where they were having an incredibly appropriate Weyerbacher tap takeover. Why appropriate? Simcoe is a type of hop, one used by many breweries, but Weyerbacher has really made it their own. They had a wonderful Double Simcoe IPA for a few years, and their IPA #2 this year “uses large amounts of Simcoe and Denali hops” in the batch. It was a lovely way to round out the evening. Plus, they gave me a pint glass at the end of the evening!

And then it was Thanksgiving! The daytime was spent watching the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon while MJ slept in, as is my usual tradition. The marathon kicked off with The Day the Earth Froze, followed by Night of the Blood Beast. I also was able to catch up on some volunteer open source work throughout the day, mostly with my European colleagues who were still working on what was a regular Thursday for them. This is also when I discovered how far behind I had fallen with most of the mailing lists I’m on. I have been forced to confront the fact that I burned out a bit last year when my team was laid off and I stepped away from OpenStack. I poured myself in my new role come January, but never did quite pick back up checking email that I had let slide. I haven’t gotten back to where I was productivity-wise since then since most of my work these days is focused on my day job, but I am happy to report that I’m doing a lot better. Catching up on mailing lists and staying on top of them now has made me feel a lot better too.

Thanksgiving dinner was spent at my sister-in-law’s place, as we’ve been doing for the past couple years. We had a really nice time catching up with family, having delicious food, enjoying some good wine and getting to meet their friendly new kitty.

I made plans to meet up with some friends on Friday, and we accidentally ended up at a mall in New Jersey where the restaurant we picked was located. It was Black Friday. Parking was a bit crazy, but it turns out malls are built to absorb holiday crowds and it actually wasn’t a terrible experience. We did some appliance browsing since we have to do some replacements here in the condo in San Francisco. The shopping evening wrapped up with a stop at L.L. Bean where they had a great sale on duck boots, which I’d been meaning to get a pair of, as well as a pile of flannel clothes. I also ordered some stuff to be shipped to San Francisco, my stock of flannel shirts is now complete. The actual visit to New Jersey concluded with a nice dinner with MJ’s great aunt and her daughter.

This trip was also highlighted by getting the O-Lionel scale train set I picked up at a toy fair last year running. I quickly learned upon extracting the train from the crate I had it in that the tracks were rusted. I put the track together on the kitchen island and the tracks were intermittently powered, but I really couldn’t get good conduction. Fortunately I had been advised when I bought it that the tracks would probably have to be replaced, so this wasn’t a huge shock for me.

While we were in New Jersey on Friday we stopped by Toy Train Emporium in Cherry Hill to pick up new track. Their staff was helpful with my need to replace the O-gauge Lionel Tubular Track, and suggested I switch away from the O-27 that came with my original set and go with one that had more forgiving turns. They gave me advice on track cleaning (not letting these get rusty!) and helped me find some smoke liquid to fill the reservoir for generated smoke in my engine, they had several different scents, I went with the root beer. Upon returning home, I quickly learned how tricky the tubular track is to assemble the first time. It requires a bit of patience since it doesn’t simply snap together, you have to re-shape the tubes a bit to get the parts to connect, a fact documented in the train manual. The working of the rails with your hands is a bit tiring, I spent one morning over the weekend taking breaks between fitting track and reading. Thankfully, once assembled, it turns out the island in the kitchen was perfectly sized for my new track, so I got to play around with it there, and even got the smoke going! Though I learned that it has to be going pretty fast for the smoke to start, causing a spectacular derailment while I was testing it out, oops. The train won’t always live in the kitchen, I have plans to set it up in my office area once we move some of our furniture and other items out west.

I spent a nice chunk of time reading during this trip, which was mostly taken up with The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. I pre-ordered it several months ago, and quickly discovered that it was a fascinating page-turner, easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I also learned that the cover art is from a painting by Thomas Eakins which now resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I’ve been looking for an excuse to go visit, maybe during our trip back east over the holidays.

MJ flew back a couple days early to get back into the office, I stayed through Tuesday continuing to work remotely, so my trip concluded with an introduction to kung fu movies over at a friend’s place. He appealed to my love for MST3K to introduce and explain the ridiculous aspects of so many of the films. I’m still not sure I “get” it, but it was fun anyway.

Holiday cards 2017!

Every year I send out a big batch of winter-themed holiday cards to friends and acquaintances online.


Reading this? That means you!

Even if you’re outside the United States!

Even if we’ve never met!

I met someone at a conference this year who I didn’t know, but to whom I sent a card to one year. Turns out they were having a particularly rough time that year. Made them feel good, made me feel good, everyone was happy. I like it when everyone is happy.

Send me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal mailing address. Please put “Holiday Card” in the subject so I can filter it appropriately. Please do this even if I’ve sent you a card in the past, I won’t be reusing the list from previous years. Edit: I’ll be accepting requests through December 10th.

Disclaimer: My husband is Jewish and we celebrate Hanukkah, but the cards are non-religious, with some variation of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” on them.