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Tourist in Brisbane and Gold Coast

On January 8th I hopped on a plane for my first international trip since giving birth to Adam, I was on my way to Australia! The trip was to meet with some of my Australian colleagues and present at Linux.conf.au, but I added a weekend of padding at the beginning of the trip so I could adjust somewhat to the time zone and take in some local sights.

I arrived later than anticipated on Friday due to a cancelled flight. In retrospect, I was grateful that I was able to at least arrive on the right day, another colleague of mine wasn’t so lucky and found himself put on a flight that wouldn’t get him in until Saturday. I thought I’d be tired upon my arrival, but the jet lag was doing its work and I managed to have enough time to drop my bags off at my hotel and make my way over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to catch the tail end of their opening hours and pet some critters!

I kind of joke that I want to pet a new animal each time I visit Australia. It was easy at first, finding a place where you can pet kangaroos and koalas is pretty straight-forward. Then it starts getting harder. You can’t pet Tasmanian devils, so on my trip to Tasmania I managed to pet a baby wombat instead. I didn’t get to pet any new critters while I was in Sydney a couple years ago, but this time I really wanted to pet something new. The dingo petting tours were sold out for the day, but while walking around the free-range feeding area I spotted a couple emus, with children petting them! The emu was not on my list of things I wanted to pet, they’re huge and I’m generally afraid of birds. Still, I had a goal, and bravely walked up to the critter and quickly petted it before making a hasty retreat!

More photos from my adventure here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712791286013

On Saturday I met up with my friend Steve from Sydney, who was also staying in Brisbane over the weekend prior to the conference. We didn’t have super solid plans for the day, but there are a couple sights to see in the city, so we just started walking. We passed by City Hall and learned about the historic clock tour and picked up tickets for later in the day and did a quick loop around the small museum they have there at City Hall. We walked past the hilariously poetic casino housed in the historic treasury building. Then it was over a bridge to have lunch at a Saccharomyces Beer Cafe before making our way to the Queensland Museum where we got to see some dinosaurs, and a stuffed cassowary that was kept far from the other animals (even dangerous when they’re dead? hah!).

I think the highlight of my day was the clock tour tour. It wasn’t long or extensive in any way, but it was a fun surprise. The whole thing takes about 12 minutes, during which they take you up in a beautiful, historic elevator (lift) up to the 12th floor to walk around and see the sights from what was once the highest point in the city. From there they stop for a minute on the 11th floor where the clocks actually live, but you aren’t permitted to get out due to fears of damaging the clock equipment. Still, it was interesting to see, and learn about.

Sunday was travel to Gold Coast day! I say “travel” but it was an easy train ride down there, plus a cab for the final few miles to my hotel. There I went to visit the beach (it is Gold Coast, after all!) and met up with people for food. I didn’t end up swimming at the beach at all, which I’m a little disappointed about, but with this being my first big trip away from my new family, I put a high value on sleep, and a sandy beach visit just didn’t make the cut.

Some more photos from my walks around Brisbane and Gold Coast here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789955952

The conference itself was as spectacular as ever, and I’ll write about that later. But I wasn’t done with touristing. Steve and I met up at 3:30AM one morning for a group shuttle that would take a whole basket-full of tourists up in a hot air balloon! It was an experience that had been on my list for some time, but it’s common for them to want to lift off at extremely early times, so I could never make it happen. This was the perfect opportunity. By 5:30AM we were up in a balloon for a beautiful ride over the hills and farms inland from Gold Coast.

The timing of the tour meant that the only bit of the conference we missed were the keynotes, which was a trade-off I was willing to make. Five-day conferences are pretty intense, especially when I’m on the hook for giving two talks.

Hot air balloons are interesting things. The only real control the pilot has is to go up and down, aside from that the whole adventure is dependent on the wind. As a result, every ride is different and you never really know where you’ll end up. The company who runs the tours has agreements with many of the local farmers to land in their fields, under certain conditions, and the farmers are compensated for this. It’s a nice system. We landed on the far end of a field full of cows! When the ride concluded, we had the option of helping them pack away the hot air balloon, which was actually a lot of fun.

We were then shuttled off to a local winery for a champagne breakfast, in keeping with an international tradition of having champagne at the conclusion of a hot air balloon ride. I also took the opportunity while there to do an 8AM wine tasting, and for some reason they had alpacas! So I got to visit those too, and walked along a stream where they have wild platypuses, but I didn’t see any. There were some ducks though.

Check out more photos from the day (including the alpacas!) here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789962642

Australia is one of my favorite places in the world, so I’m glad I was able to do a bit of tourist stuff the weekend before the conference. Bonus that it helped me adjust to jet lag quickly, so I was at the top of my game for my first talk on Monday.

Our upcoming Webinar on Security with Ubuntu and IBM Z

My first interaction with the Ubuntu community was in March of 2005 when I put Ubuntu on an old Dell laptop and signed up for the Ubuntu Forums. This was just a few years into my tech career and I was mostly a Linux hobbyist, with a handful of junior systems administrator jobs on the side to do things like racking servers and installing Debian (with CDs!). Many of you with me on this journey have seen my role grow in the Ubuntu community with Debian packaging, local involvement with events and non-profits, participation in the Ubuntu Developer Summits, membership in the Ubuntu Community Council, and work on several Ubuntu books, from technical consultation to becoming an author on The Official Ubuntu Book.

These days I’ve taken my 15+ years of Linux Systems Administration and open source experience down a slightly different path: Working on Linux on the mainframe (IBM Z). The mainframe wasn’t on my radar a year ago, but as I got familiar with the technical aspects, the modernization efforts to incorporate DevOps principles, and the burgeoning open source efforts, I became fascinated with the platform.

As a result, I joined IBM last year to share my discoveries with the broader systems administration and developer communities. Ubuntu itself got on board with this mainframe journey with official support for the architecture (s390x) in Ubuntu 16.04, and today there’s a whole blog that gets into the technical details of features specific to Ubuntu on the mainframe: Ubuntu on Big Iron

I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining the author of the Ubuntu on Big Iron blog, Frank Heimes, live on February 6th for a webinar titled How to protect your data, applications, cryptography and OS – 100% of the time. I’ll be doing an introduction to the IBM Z architecture (including cool hardware pictures!) and general security topics around Linux on Z and LinuxONE.

I’ll then hand the reins over to Frank to get into the details of the work Canonical has done to take advantage of hardware cryptography functions and secure everything from network ports to the software itself with automatic security updates.

What I find most interesting about all of this work is how much open source is woven in. You’re not using proprietary tooling on the Linux level for things like encryption. As you’ll see from the webinar, on a low level Linux on Z uses dm-crypt and in-kernel crypto algorithms. At the user level, TLS/SSL is all implemented with OpenSSL and libcrypto. Even the libica crypto library is open source.

You can sign up for the webinar here, and you’ll have the option to watch it live or on-demand replays: How to protect your data, applications, cryptography and OS – 100% of the time and read the blog post from the Ubuntu blog here. We’re aiming to make this technical and fun, so I hope you’ll join us!

Adam’s three first birthdays

In some ways, Adam’s first birthday snuck up on me. As challenging as this first year with a child has been, it’s difficult to comprehend that it actually has been a full year and his first birthday was on the horizon. Due to the timing of his birth (January 6th), we realized before our end of year Philadelphia trip that we’d need to do some birthday prep for his party in California before we left. I ordered all the party goodies, including jungle-themed plates, napkins, and tablecloth. Claudia knows a woman who makes invitations, so she took the lead in getting those made, and they came out beautifully!

Once we arrived in Philadelphia it became apparent that there were family and friends in Philadelphia who wanted to see him for his birthday, so we ended up planning a birthday with them too.

But before planned birthdays, on New Years’ Day we went to New Jersey to visit MJ’s family out there and were surprised by a little party for him, complete with a present, birthday cupcake, and cookies!

His birthday party on Saturday, January 4th, was a larger affair. Family, friends, and neighbors dropped by during the hour we had designated for the party. We asked people not to bring gifts (we won’t make a habit of it, because I know how awful that is for kids born during that time of year, but he’s still just a baby, and already so many new toys!), but we did have a cake, Finding Nemo themed because of his fascination with turtles. After cake, a bunch of us went out to lunch at a nearby Italian place, marking a lovely conclusion to our visit in Philadelphia.

Our flight home was on Saturday night and Adam slept through most of it, as planned. We still got in quite late though, so getting up early to head to the grocery store to pick up the cake and balloons, and set up for guests came swiftly. Thankfully, Claudia helped out a lot with all of this too. Plus she made brigadeiros to enjoy during the party!

We had a few people over, including three babies under one who Claudia and Adam knew from around the area. It was the first big “play date” we’d had at our house, and I’m grateful to Claudia for arranging it and introducing us to Adam’s friends. Our neighbor dropped by as well, and after the two hour window concluded, one of Claudia’s friends helped us clean up. Given how tired I was from travel, and from the whole weekend, it was really great to have others there.

And did I mention the flavor of the cake? It was a pretty standard marble cake with white frosting, but it had a layer of bananas! It was a hit with both Adam and the adults. The party itself was fun too, meeting new people and getting to celebrate this milestone.

Happy first birthday, Adam! We don’t plan on making a habit of hosting multiple birthday parties, but I’m glad we did it for his first.

First Hanukkah and New Years back east

As has become tradition, we spent the last two weeks of the year in Philadelphia celebrating Hanukkah and New Years with family and friends. This was the first year for Adam though! MJ and I never did Hanukkah gifts, but things are different now with little Adam, and during our visit over Thanksgiving and in the weeks before the holiday, we went shopping for toys and books.

And then I piled them inside the tracks of the O-scale train I keep in Philadelphia to make it a Hanukkah train.

The train is set up on the card table we keep in our home office downstairs. It was just before setting it up that I discovered that the square table expands out into a large rectangular one. While we were in town we also made our first visit to the local model train shop and picked up a model of Independence Hall, as well as a little diner and some cows and sheep.

I won’t have any kind of permanent setup there for the train, but it is fun to buy some easy-to-put-away buildings and scenery. I also was a little sad that I bought pre-assembled buildings instead of one of the kits that I could put together and paint myself, but I have to be realistic about the amount of time I have for hobbies these days.

But Hanukkah! It’s always been an enjoyable holiday with the candles and all, but having a little one who gets to open presents during each night of the holiday adds a whole new dimension to how much fun it is. One evening the family came over with gifts, others we spent just the three or four of us, but each night Adam got at least one new gift that we helped him unwrap.

The visit also saw my first and second viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I loved it. My first viewing was by myself on the Friday we arrived in Philly, which was opening day. I’ve seen all the modern era (1999-present) Star Wars movies on opening day, so it was kind of a big deal that I complete the set, even if that meant seeing it after coming off an overnight, cross-country flight and juggling Adam care for the afternoon, and as a result not having MJ there with me. Later in the visit we snuck out for a date night together while grandparents were on babysitting duty to watch it.

On New Years’ Eve we made our way over to MJ’s father’s house to enjoy an evening of Georgian food and family time. Adam got to meet Carmen, a large German Shepherd who was incredibly sweet with him, even if he calls her a cat (any fluffy animals are currently “kee” for “kitty”) and is still a bit grabby with animals.

The weather throughout our visit was on the warm side for winter in Philadelphia, so we took the opportunity to take Adam down to the Philadelphia Zoo to see the LumiNature light exhibit one evening. We were all still bundled up, but it was a really fun walk around the zoo and Adam seemed to enjoy it until the end when he got bored with sitting in his stroller and I ended up carrying him back to the car.

We also were able to celebrate Adam’s birthday while we were in town, which I’ll write about a bit later. Suffice to say, he had a lot of attention for his first birthday, which was celebrated across three states with various members our of family, friends, and neighbors.

I was working pretty extensively while we were there, only taking off from work a couple days during the visit. I took two weeks off for the Jewish High Holidays back in October, so the major religious holidays for us were already behind us. Most of my colleagues took time off though, which meant I had two weeks that were meeting-free and I had the flexibility to catch up on training, writing, and more, all of which had been sidelined during the busy conference time in October in November. I like my job, but having this much time to work on whatever I wanted was a real treat, and meant the work was actually peaceful and relaxing.

MJ took several days off late in our stay to work on the house. He was able to make progress on the biggest home improvement project we have going on, but most noticeable for the rest of us was getting a giant play pen put together for Adam in the living room. Now that he’s crawling everywhere, we needed to do something baby-proofing-wise and figured keeping him in a large, gated area would be the best bet. Even as big as it is, he’s not super keen on being in it alone, and gets annoyed if there are too many people on the outside while he’s “trapped” inside, but it is full of toys and he’s got more than enough room. And let’s be honest, there’s almost always someone in there playing with him.

Play pen almost complete! By the end of the visit, MJ had secured a couple more pieces of fence and completed the missing bit along the wall

In all, it was a great visit and our trip back to California on January 4th was uneventful.

The adventures of 2019

The biggest thing of 2019 was welcoming our little Adam Stanley Joseph into our lives!

Throughout the year we’ve got to experience piles of the joys of new parenthood. The newborn snuggle time, reading our childhood favorites with him, adorable baby giggles, the look of happiness when he sees me after work, the on-going process of watching him discover everything in the world, and generally being able to bring him on all kinds of new adventures. My heart-melting reaction to some of these things was surprising to me. Having a child truly does change you, especially those of us who wouldn’t have classified ourselves as “kid people” prior to having one of our own.

Being a new parent is also difficult and exhausting, so this year has been really challenging. I met my goal of breastfeeding for a year, but it was hard, especially with my travel schedule. My daily schedule has completely changed. My priorities are very different. Even relationships that I never expected being influenced by parenthood have changed, and conversely some that I thought would have not. I’ve gotten very good at prioritizing things, especially when it comes to tasks around the house. I’ve definitely leveled up when it comes to multi-tasking too. I bring little Adam on errands most evenings, and all around the house with me as I do laundry, sort mail, and all the other little tasks one does to keep a household flowing.

I also started a new job this year. After almost four months of maternity leave, I started at IBM at the end of April. I’m still doing Developer Advocacy, but I’ve made a major change by getting into IBM Z (mainframes). I can use a lot of my existing infrastructure experience, but it’s also been a year of learning a lot, starting with what a mainframe is. It’s been a fascinating eight months with an extraordinary community of people. I dove into events immediately, but I took some time to start doing talks again as I grew into my role and learned what I needed to, but I was back up to my usual pace of talks and conferences by October and I’m in a great spot for 2020.

Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

I’ve spent more time with family this year, mostly due to everyone wanting to meet and spend time with Adam, but also because we had both a funeral and two weddings to attend this year. Socially, I’ve really struggled. I’ve never been a social butterfly, but I’m constantly juggling precious little time and energy, and I haven’t been reserving any to make plans with friends. I don’t know if that will change soon, but I am mindful of the effort not being expended there and I don’t want things to be like this forever.

Travel-wise, I had my slowest travel year in recent memory, with just 54k miles, and since I decided to wait until Adam was a year old for any international travel, it was all domestic.

  • March: Philadelphia to visit
  • April: Hollywood, FL for a funeral
  • May: Atlanta for TechU conference, and visiting some family
  • May: Boston for the Red Hat Summit conference, and visiting some family
  • July: Philadelphia to visit
  • July: Poughkeepsie, NY for an office visit
  • July: Hollywood, FL for a wedding
  • July: Portland, OR for OSCON conference
  • August: San Diego for the Open Source Summit conference
  • September: Philadelphia & Rochester, NY for a visit and a wedding
  • October: Portland, OR for LISA19 conference
  • November: San Diego for KubeCon NA conference
  • November: Philadelphia to visit for Thanksgiving
  • December: New York City for the Open FinTech Forum conference
  • December: Philadelphia to visit for the holidays

Talks were similarly on the lean side, but I’m building a nice base of talks and a narrative that seems to resonate. I was really happy with the events I participated in.

As I look at 2020, I don’t see a huge change in store for us. We’re slightly more confident parents, but my priorities are still going to be family and work.

Open FinTech Forum 2019

In early December I flew to New York City for a couple days to attend my last conference of the year, the Open FinTech Forum put on by the Linux Foundation. It’s the second year of the event, and it was definitely on the small side, but with fintech being so entrenched in the mainframe world, it was a good place for me to be.

The event began with several keynotes that were generically open source with a financial slant. We had Jim Zemlin start things off by talking about the role of the Linux Foundation and touch upon topics that were of interest to companies in the financial sector. It was nice to hear from the GitLab CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, about using multiple cloud vendors (multi-cloud) and the importance of being able to move your applications without lock-in from specific vendors.

For such a small event, it was really nice to see several familiar faces. From a friend who I worked with in my Ubuntu days, to a few of my new IBM colleagues, and others from general open source work over the years. It was also great to sync up with John Mertic of the Linux Foundation and the Open Mainframe Project, even if I forgot half the things I had on my mind to talk to him about, haha! I guess that’s what email is for.

One of the talks I went to was by Gabriele Columbro of FINOS, the Fintech Open Source Foundation. I’m not sure what I think about the proliferation of open source foundations, but on the surface this organization had some interesting insights into the financial sector that I wasn’t familiar with. What I really enjoyed about the talk though was his walking through some of the news through the past decade. At the beginning of the decade there were articles about financial companies getting ahead by using in-house “secret sauce” technologies, and just a few years later the same publication would do an article about how they’re falling behind because they’re using an in-house solution and for not adopting open source technologies. As a long time open source enthusiast it’s nice for me to see financial companies joining so many other industries in embracing open source.

In an unfortunate scheduling change, my talk on “Modernizing Workloads with Linux on Your Mainframe” was at the same time as another mainframe talk by fellow IBMer Diana Henderson, The Future of Banking: Securing Digital Asset Custody Solutions. They were also put side-by-side in a large room separated by a curtain, which is probably my only complaint about this venue. It was a bit of a challenge to give a talk when the next talk over is just on the other side of the curtain. Still, we made it work and the venue had a nice street view of the holiday lights in the financial district!

My talk (slides) had an audience that was on the small side, but this was in line with attendance I saw event-wide. I suspect there were too many tracks for the number of attendees, and it seemed like a lot of folks used the event more for networking than for the actual sessions. Still, the audience I had was chatty and had the right background, they were mostly members of organizations that had mainframes, but they were Linux administrators and unfamiliar with that side of the tech stack. I enjoyed giving the talk, and afterwards I was talking to one of the attendees who gave me some valuable feedback: Java runs really fast on z/OS. I took his word for it, but when I got back to California I paid closer attention to this in some of the material we have, and yeah, if you want to run Java, it’s crazy fast on the mainframe. Good to know! During the break I also made sure to meet up with Diana sync up about our topics and get to know each other a little.

Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

At the last session of the day I ran into a former OpenStack colleague whose name I recognized but I didn’t know very well. After chatting during the networking portion of the event, we grabbed dinner. I was happy for the company, particularly because I haven’t done a great job this year of arranging after-event social engagements. A goal for next year is definitely getting back on top of this and make sure I have a better balance of socialization and decompression time.

I wish I could have stayed longer to enjoy New York City, but with this being my last event for the year I was eager to get home to my family and the project work that I’d put on hold during the high travel portion of the year. Huge thanks to the Linux Foundation for rounding off my year with such a satisfying event, I look forward to participating again in the future.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712383525001

KubeCon NA 2019

Back in November, just before Thanksgiving, I attended my second KubeCon. My first was in Copenhagen last year. A lot has changed in the past eighteen months, both for me an Kubernetes at large. When I attended then, I was working at a container startup and spent my time there making connections with old and new colleagues at various organizations and working the booth. This year I’m working for one of the oldest computer companies on mainframes, and I had a speaking slot.

KubeCon North America is a huge event for me, I heard that the number of attendees this time was around 12,000. It’s somewhat cliche to compare it to the hype cycle that OpenStack went through, but I’m going to do it anyway. At the height, the events felt very similar. It’s very different for me though. In OpenStack I was a core contributor and my role in the project infrastructure team meant that I worked with a lot of people in the community. I would attend for both the OpenStack Summit and the Developer event, much like the community events exist around KubeCon. That means my KubeCon experience differs a lot from those like Chris Short, but just the three days of the main event was pretty exhausting. I think part of it is the noise of the expo hall and the sheer size of the keynote room.

First day keynotes!

It was also quite overloaded socially, I met up with over a dozen people while I was there, which was great, but tiring for an introvert like me. Of particular note work-wise, I was able to meet up with the IBM Z folks who were there. I only knew a couple via email and conference calls, and so it was nice to meet more. It was also somewhat unexpected, even though the premise of my talk was that people often don’t think about Kubernetes and mainframes at the same time, even I’m still surprised when I find mainframers at container events! We got a picture of some of us, but due to the nature of the event, we never got all of us in one place at one time.

IBM Z representing!

There were also a bunch of other people who I knew were there but didn’t manage to sync up with. Thankfully most of them will be at other events in the coming months. It’s fun how many folks I knew from OpenStack were there too. Many have transitioned into roles that are similar to what they worked on in OpenStack, some are still working on OpenStack but working with Kubernetes integration, others like me have completely gone off in a different direction. The continuity of having a few familiar faces does help me feel comfortable at these larger events though.

Content! I may have been able to skip most of the keynotes. I like attending them generally because they tend to set a tone for the event, but some of them were heavy on the sponsorship side. I’m also kind of over 5G demos, as fun as it is to wheel hardware onto the stage.

I think my favorite talks of the event were operations talks. One came from Ricardo Rocha of CERN (he’s another OpenStack alum!) who gave a talk on Managing Helm Deployments with Gitops at CERN (video). CERN has done a remarkable amount of innovative operations work over the years, so it’s been fascinating following their journey through the OpenStack days and on to their path with Kubernetes. In this talk he traced some of that history, and the way that their deployments have sped up over the years from bare metal, to VMs, and now with containers. I’m also a sucker for a good GitOps talk, so it was nice to see their work in practice.

There was also a talk from Chris Carty of the City Of Ottawa that I quite enjoyed, Moving from Legacy Infrastructure to the Cloud in a Government Organization (video). I was somewhat concerned that he might mean mainframes when he said “legacy” but that wasn’t the case, instead it was just the more traditional stack of x86 Linux machines that were reaching their end of life. He took the audience through a walk-through of their journey, from being overwhelmed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) list of projects, to actually trying them out and implementing solutions. It was a really great talk that considered things like support for key open source components of Kubernetes when selecting a vendor and distribution, on and off-prem options (hybrid cloud), and role-based access controls (RBAC). He also talks about how they encouraged departments to adopt the new infrastructure and how to get early and easy wins. If you are considering a Kubernetes deployment and watch just one talk from the event, I suggest it be this one. And he talks about GitOps too!

On Wednesday, the day my talk “Wait, People Run Kubernetes on Mainframes?” was scheduled, San Diego had a bit of a disaster: It rained. Not major rain, just rain, but San Diego clearly is not equipped to handle any sort of rain. The convention center leaked and worse, a large chunk of the venue lost power. Without knowing when power would be restored, they made the decision to move a whole swath of talks over to a nearby hotel. Kudos to the event staff for managing to pull this off instead of canceling the talks, but my talk was one of the ones that was moved, and it was quite the trek to make it over to the new location. For what was already a niche topic with a limited audience, I was worried this would mean death to my talk, but instead I had about 30 people attending and my hope is that the ones who were there are the people who really wanted to be there. The talk went well, and I indeed seemed to have the right audience, from people with mainframes in their infrastructure that they weren’t familiar with, to the curious who really were surprised to see a talk like mine on the agenda. It was definitely nice for sparking fun post-talk discussions. Resources for my talk are online: slides and video.

Thanks to Jin VanStee for taking the photo on the right during my talk! source

On Thursday things really started to wind down for me. I had some work to do in the morning so didn’t see as many talks, and most of my time was spent chatting with people more casually than previous days when I had more scheduled meetings. It was a nice way to conclude my final big event of the year. Plus, with the rain wrapping up on Thursday, we got a nice KubeCon rainbow!

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951648431

While Kubernetes isn’t the main focus of my work these days, it’s definitely a key component of some of my efforts, particularly with OpenShift fully coming to Z in 2020. I submitted a couple talks to KubeCon EU next year (fingers crossed!) I’m looking forward to weaving in more future KubeCon events into our team strategy.

Halloween, Thanksgiving and in-between

Adam and I have mostly established a weekday routine these days. I wake up with him around 7AM and both have breakfast and get changed into daytime clothes. He’s in care from 8AM through 5PM while I’m working, and then we spend time together until his bed time around 7:30PM. Most evenings we take a walk and do an errand or two, stop by the bank or post office, or pick something up at the grocery store or pharmacy. I’m particularly grateful now we’re within walking distance of so many things. There are whole weeks where we go out a lot, but we don’t use the car until the weekend.

Beautiful walk to the library

I’ve been working a lot, including two Saturday events and a couple chunks of travel, which I’ve been writing about separately. Thankfully I have some flexibility in my job, which allows me to take some time off during the week if I work over the weekend. This has been a huge help with holiday travel, so I can take a comp day and return on a Monday rather than fighting the crowds during the weekend. But in all, it’s been a pretty exhausting couple of months in a year that’s broken records for how tired I am with the new kiddo. My last work trip of the year was a couple weeks ago, a quick trip to NYC for the Open FinTech Forum. Unfortunately work isn’t really quieting down much for me. I have a lot of work coming up in January that I need to prepare for since I’ll be in Australia for 10 days in the middle of the month. Still, many of my colleagues are away for the holidays, so I at least I don’t have many meetings!

But backing up a bit, these past few months! I’ve already written about some about house stuff we’ve been working on. We’ve also started hanging framed artwork in our house, finally. Adam’s room now has a couple pieces up, and so does my office and the downstairs living room. We still have a lot to do, but the forward progress is nice.

Event-wise, Castro Valley has a lot of local little events throughout the fall. In September the three of us spent one afternoon walking around the Castro Valley Fall Festival. They had live music, and lots of local vendors (more than I’d seen at a local event prior to this) and food. In early November I was disappointed to miss the Castro Valley Light Parade due to a Saturday work conflict, but MJ and Adam went out for it and then they met me at the BART station so I could at least see a couple of the floats.

And I didn’t miss Halloween! After years of missing Halloween due to work events, I made sure I was home for Adam’s first. LISA was just prior to it, but I flew home as soon as it concluded. He got dressed up as a dragon and his au pair and I walked over to the village to meet a local friend and her son (2 months younger than Adam!) and enjoyed the festivities.

Caligula got dressed up too! And he hasn’t killed me in my sleep yet for for that, but he could be biding his time.

That evening the trick-or-treating started around 6:30PM (good reference for next year!) and we got about 40 people coming by until things ended around 8:30. It was quite the chore to get Adam ready for bed in the midst of it though. And I’d like to put up a few decorations outside next year, I grabbed a last minute pumpkin from the store so there was some indication that kids were welcome to come back to our doorway. Then again, October 31st is the middle of conference season and the same reason I didn’t put up decorations this year will probably apply to every year.

A couple weeks after Halloween my cousin Audrey came into town. I saw her parents and her sister back in May when I dropped by Atlanta for work, but she was out of town at the time. We took the morning off and the three of us drove to the city and met at Ferry Building and had a lovely brunch. It was nice to see her and catch up, and for MJ and Adam to meet her. Adam and I then hopped on BART to head back home so MJ could get to work.

Otherwise November was crazy busy with work events, but had a nice conclusion as we flew to Philadelphia for the week of Thanksgiving. I had a lot of project work at work to catch up on, so I had a lot to do, but I was working remotely and it was light on meetings. Bliss! Thanksgiving itself was held at the home of MJ’s sister, as has become our tradition, but I think we may try to do it at our townhouse next year. Bonus: Good incentive to finally buy a proper dining room set for the townhouse.

During this trip Adam also saw his first snow! Alas, it was just a dusting and it quickly melted as the temperature rose. We also spent time on that trip starting to baby-resist the house. We replaced a vintage glass and metal lamp in his bedroom which a much more appropriate lamp and shelf piece we ordered from Amazon, and covered a bunch of the cords in his room. The weather upon our departure wasn’t great, with a storm coming through and hitting the northeast pretty hard. Philadelphia was mostly fine, but we still had over two hours of delays, and then another hour on the tarmac upon arrival in SFO. Adam traveled like a champ, but I was still a bit frazzled by the end of it all.

A quick trip to NYC for work concluded my work travel for the year in early December, and we had a nice little 16th birthday party for Caligula on December 13th. It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since my little Egyptian Mau was born, we’ve sure been through a lot together.

It’s also hard to believe that Adam is almost 1. Before flying to Philadelphia to visit over the end of year holidays I got everything prepared for Adam’s first birthday party, which we’ll host the Sunday we get home. I’ll just need to pick up the cake and balloons on Sunday morning and we’ll be all set. We also decided to do a tiny party here for family before we leave, which will pretty much just be cake.

We’re in Philadelphia for this final visit now. We’ll be spending all of Hanukkah out here this year due to the timing, and New Years. Some visits with family and friends are planned.

SV Code Camp, Datathon at UC Berkeley and GitHub Universe

“Conference season” in the autumn for me is roughly the end of October through early November. I didn’t want to travel quite so much this year, and there were plenty of events local to me, so I ended up with an unexpectedly busy October and November, either traveling or doing local events several weeks in a row.

I kicked off my conference season with an internal event at the IBM Silicon Valley Lab, where I have an office. My team focuses on external advocacy, but we have finite resources and career development is frequently aided by giving talks, so we’re always seeking to encourage colleagues do external-facing work and advocacy. To help this, my internal talk was on open source software development, with a tie-in to the work that IBM Z has been doing in this realm.

My first external event this season was the Silicon Valley Code Camp in San Jose. I had never been to this event before, and it was over a weekend so I could only carve out time for the first day, but I’m glad I went. We had an IBM Z booth there, positioned next to the IBM Developer booth.

IBM crew. From the event photos collection, source.

My colleague Matt Cousens was out from New York, so along he, my boss Jeanne Brooks and I staffed the booth for most of the day, giving away mainframe stickers, books, and other goodies.

I also gave a talk on Developing for the Modern Mainframe, slides. The room was laid out in a way that made it easy to shift into a conversational-type talk, so with a couple dozen attendees it was easy to slip into a casual back and forth as I made my way through my slides. It was fascinating to see the range of experience in such a small audience, some folks having strong experience with Z and others just vaguely curious about what exactly mainframes are and what needs to be done specifically to develop on them. This diversity also allowed for a nice crew of allies in the audience, not just IBMers, but experienced folks who could chime in on some of the z/OS topics I’m not strong with yet. It was probably the most satisfying talk of the year enjoy-ability-wise, and I hope to participate in this event next year too.

Then there was a Datathon at UC Berkeley, which my colleague Sudharsana wrote about it here: Datathon for Social Good: IBM Z & UC Berkeley. Our role was to sponsor the event and provide key content, then eventually judge the outcomes from participants. In preparation, an environment was created on IBM Z that the students could log in to and use Jupiter Notebooks to interact with Z and run data analysis on their chosen data sets. The event began on Friday evening with an introduction and then a panel talking about what IBM Z was. I was one of the panelists, and it was interesting being on it with some of my colleagues from IBM and a representative from the State of California. My perspective really is quite different from those who have been working in this space for a long time. It was also at this event that I learned that most traditional students in college today aren’t very familiar with IBM as a company. Upon reflection, the reason I was so familiar with them was probably because I had IBM PCs in my youth. My first and second computers were both IBMs. But IBM no longer has a PC division, and much of their work is with enterprises, how would regular people have experience IBM today? I’m not sure.

The event continued on Saturday, during which we sat with the students to offer mentorship in case they needed it, and to wrap up the day with presentations and picking the winners. One of the strengths of the mainframe is the ability to quickly crunch data, so it was fascinating to see the students whose Datathon projects actually used that. As a result, we really honed in on projects that were (or planned on) using large data sets and/or processing a lot of real time data. The winners focused on student financial help, wildfire modeling, and homelessness support spending.

Later that week, we invited the winners to the IBM Watson office in San Francisco for a tour and some talks on AI and Machine Learning, along with a quick talk on Open Source on Z that I gave. That’s where I found the best IBM logo ever!

More photos from the Datathon and follow-up in San Francisco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951959732

Finally, I attended GitHub Universe in San Francisco in mid-November. It was a last minute thing for a very exciting reason: Travis CI now supports builds on Z! Alongside Arm and newly announced Power support, this is momentous. With this initial implementation, open source projects get builds for free, and it paves the way for paid support for other customers. Making it easy to build your software for architectures other than x86 is something I’m passionate about, so it was nice to be able to attend GitHub Universe at the Travis booth just after the announcement to talk about it. There I met with some folks from IBM Power too, who have done a lot of great work with open source projects that I hope to learn from and replicate. Our role there was offering support when people had questions, and a demo of the pipeline was given in the afternoon.

A few more photos from the event are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711953504618

And then I was off to KubeCon in San Diego! My last event of the year is Open FinTech in NYC next weekend. Phew.

Holiday cards 2019!

Every year I send out a big batch of winter-themed holiday cards to friends, acquaintances, and anyone who made there way to this blog post somehow.

Caligula by the fireplace

Reading this? That means you!

Even if you’re outside the United States!

Even if we’ve never met!

Send me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal mailing address and 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 lists from previous years.

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