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My first type-in, in Philadelphia!

According to Wikipedia, “The first Type-In was held on December 18. 2010, in Philadelphia, at Bridgewater’s Pub in 30th Street Station.”

So it’s fitting that my first type-in was in Philadelphia! On November 18th I went to Legend of the Type-In at Cartesian Brewing, put on by Philly Typewriter.

I knew I wanted to go to this when I learned that our November trip back east would overlap and confirmed it was kid-friendly, but I wasn’t sure about logistics. Would I just bring Adam? He is my typewriter buddy, after all. Or would all of us come down? Should we invite some friends?

I did invite several folks and a local group I’ve been involved with, but in the end it did just end up being our own little nuclear family. MJ dropped Adam, Aaron, and I off at the entrance and then went to find parking (South Philly, oof!) while I wheeled the stroller in, along with my Olympia Traveller de Luxe. Side note: I’m so glad I had MJ bring the Olympia to Philly on his last visit! I don’t need a bunch of portables in California, and there was no way I was bringing my Remington KMC out for an adventure.

Right as we walked in, we were greeted by an Oliver #9. I don’t think it’s a particularly rare typewriter, but it is legendary due to the “batwing” design that makes it type unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’d never tried one before. It was lovely and fascinating, and given how much I’ve thought about it since meeting that one, I’m quite certain that one will eventually enter my collection. The boys seemed to really like it too.

My first 15 minutes were spent repeating “be gentle” and “only one key at a time” over and over as the boys explored the typewriters on display.

When MJ arrived, he whisked Adam off to enjoy a few more typewriters, while Aaron stayed glued to me, as he has been doing lately.

It was also then that I also had the opportunity to set up my Olympia. Admittedly, shyness had prevented me from making it a priority and it had been sitting alone in the stroller, but MJ encouraged me to take it out, and the fact that everyone was kind and friendly helped me get there eventually. Please ignore that I was too anxious to type properly. Embrace the typo!

Once that was set up, Aaron settled on the Selectric II.

There were only a couple electrics there, but I think the familiarity with the near identical one I have at home, plus the ease of use, is what made him gravitate toward it. He happily inserted paper, typed, took the paper out, re-inserted it, and then typed some more. He was absolutely delighted by it, and it turns out I have quite the little typewriter artist!

Sadly, a type-in only has limited interest to a couple kids under 5. Plus, I couldn’t leave them unsupervised for even a moment, since these typewriters are owned by other people and I couldn’t risk them being misused or something knocked over. Aside from Aaron’s art, Adam typed his name on several and I dictated a few more letters to him, but I wasn’t able to do much myself. I also didn’t have any beer! But the weather was nice and I did pay the $15 entrance fee so I could walk out with a Philly Typewriter pint glass and a few stickers. I was able to have a few conversations with fellow typewriter lovers, so over all it was a lovely time for all of us.

Mid-event I left my typewriter behind and we did a quick side-quest to a small playground nearby where the boys had a lot of fun burning off some energy. On the way back I got a ridiculous cannoli and admired the tourist spots that are Pat’s and Geno’s.

As the event wrapped up and I returned to collect my typewriter as MJ got the kids back to the car, I had the pleasure of meeting Philly Typewriter founder Bryan Kravitz. Turns out, he lived in the bay area for quite some time, and was intimately familiar with the typewriter shop that Adam and I frequent, Berkeley Typewriter. It was nice to chat about his bay area time, and the shop we have in common.

I’m glad we all went, but I may have to think about how I’d want to do another one if the opportunity arises. It’s fun to pick up my Skyriter and sit on my own at an outdoor cafe as I let my mind wander on paper, but I imagine that having some like-minded company at a type-in where I actually type would be nice.

Harvests and Halloween

Halloween is a pretty big deal at our house. Autumn is my favorite season, and our modern, spooky, secular Halloween is one that I’ve increasingly embraced as the years have gone on. We put hang lights and decorate, there are all kinds of little lights and spiders and eye balls that end up floating around our house from September onward. There are pumpkins! There’s candy! We get to wear costumes! And THEN we get to ring doorbells all around the neighborhood at night! The boys absolutely adore it and ask me all year whether Halloween is coming soon.

The second week in October is when our local pumpkin patch opened, and we were right there to welcome them! Pumpkin patches are odd things. I’m certain that in some areas they were actually the patches where pumpkins are grown, but every one I’ve ever been to has them delicately set out on a series of rows of hay bails. You wander up and down the rows and select your pumpkins. At the one we go to there are a bunch of rides for kids, which the boys really enjoy. We picked up a few small, decorative pumpkins while we were there.

For our actual carving pumpkins, we waited until the end of October and made the journey over to the grocery store for them. I’m not sure they’re fresher than getting them a few weeks earlier at the patch, but that was my hope, and we’ve had problems with carved pumpkins rotting very fast (within a day!) in the warm, northern California climate.

I joked when we got the pumpkins that I was only getting ONE to carve, because if I get one “for the boys” too, they’re interested for about 10 minutes before they run off and I’m left carving two pumpkins. Then Adam ended up bringing one home from school and insisted that we carve it, and I caved. Guess what happened? I carved two pumpkins. But I kept his simple and classic.

Mine was a bit more work. I found BART-themed pumpkin stencils and made myself a BART cat! Not sure what a BART cat is, but I think it must be related to Catbus. It’s cute and combines two of my favorite things, so I was happy.

Costume-wise, the boys are still young enough that we can follow their interests, but ultimately dress them up however we want and can pick a theme. This year it was Shaun the Sheep. Adam was Shaun, Aaron was baby Timmy, MJ was the farmer, and I got to be Bitzer the dog. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible sheep dog, my sheep ran all over the place!

The first place they got to run around everywhere was Adam’s elementary school. They had games, music, and other activities, plus a firetruck that kids could climb into! They took turns in the fire truck, and little Aaron proclaimed that he wanted to climb the huge ladder. Classic. It was fun, but very loud, and there were lines for all the activities, which the boys had limited patience for.

Our next stop was over the weekend when we went to a Truck or Treat at park within walking distance of our house. We’ve gone to this event several years in a row, and it was definitely quieter this year than in the past, but we were perfectly fine with that. The kids got candy, and they got to do all the activities without much waiting!

And then finally, Halloween night! First, we ordered some pizza and watched Hotel Transylvania while answering the door for the first few trick-or-treaters of the evening. We’re very traditional Halloween-wise and stick to our own neighborhood. We don’t need big or fancy candies, and it’s OK if only half the houses are giving away candy. It’s a nice opportunity to meet some of the other families in the neighborhood, along with other neighbors who are opening doors to kids.

After our own trick-or-treat adventures, we watched more TV downstairs as we spent the rest of the evening answering the door and munching on candy far beyond standard bed times, just like you’d expect on Halloween. Thankfully the elementary school scheduled a staff-only day for November 1st, so we didn’t have to worry about getting out the door the next morning.

Holiday cards 2023

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

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 necessarily be reusing lists from previous years. I will start mailing cards the last week of November am aiming to finish sending them by the start of Hanukkah (December 7th), so please get me your address by then.

Note: 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.

Happy Holidays!

Food, friends, and offices in Raleigh

Last month I flew out to Raleigh for All Things Open and CLS 2023. It turned out to be a trip packed with not just the conference, but two separate unrelated work opportunities. Still, I made sure to take advantage of being in a place with good food and friends I hadn’t seen in person to fill out my days with activities.

First up, I arrived in Raleigh on Saturday, so that evening I took myself out to dinner at Death & Taxes. I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve found great joy in solo dining while I’m traveling, and in this case one of the benefits shown through: it was a Saturday night and I didn’t have reservations, but they could squeeze in a single diner at the kitchen bar! There I enjoyed bread, oysters, and a lovely mussels dish before retiring back to my hotel room for a relatively early night.

On Monday I enjoyed some noteworthy food thanks to The Mecca Restaurant for lunch. It was an incredibly classic little southern place where I enjoyed fried shrimp, mac & cheese, cole slaw, and hush puppies, and I was full for ages.

Sunday and Monday were solid conference days, but Tuesday morning I ducked out for a couple hours in the morning to visit the IBM office in the Research Triangle Park (RTP).

The video I was recording was a 5-minute YouTube lightboard video with about Linux on IBM Z, with a focus on some of the features that can be enjoyed by using the combination. It turns out, these videos take a tremendous amount of time to assemble. The content is outlined, then you diagram out what you want to write on the lightboard during the video, and then you chop 75% of that content because it doesn’t fit in a pithy video. Plus, for someone like me who is more used to conference talks rather than YouTube videos, delivery has to be turned around a bit to keep interest of a distracted online audience watching the video. It all comes together in a couple prep calls prior to arriving in the studio, and then during the 2-3 hours spent together on the day of. Phew! The video should be released soon, but in the meantime my colleague Wyatt captured this behind-the-scenes glimpse of our recording:

Tuesday evening had me out enjoying sushi and a sake flight with a friend post-conference. The next day was our virtual IBM Z Day 2023 and I needed a place to work that was quiet and had good internet. So I was up bright (well, it was still dark) and early to walk a couple blocks to the Red Hat office in downtown Raleigh. I had scoped it out earlier in the week to make sure I could get in, and things went pretty well.

I was settled in to a small meeting room by the start of the event at 8AM, and was able to participate fully in the whole virtual event. The event itself went well too, our speakers showed up and delivered solid content (which is always a relief after months of putting it together!) and we only a few technical issues, which our speakers and panelists handled like the professionals they are.

When the event concluded, I had just enough time to meet up with a friend for an hour at the nearby North Carolina Museum of History. It’s a lovely museum with a lot of notable exhibits and items, like the 1920s Drugstore and the North Carolina A to Z exhibit – which had a COVID-19 component! I wish I remembered which letter it was, but it cataloged some of the historic diseases that have plagued (see what I did there?) the region, and the response to and innovations that came out of it in North Carolina. They had an iron lung made famous from the polio era, information and artifacts around the 1918 pandemic and yellow fever, and a few artifacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, including telling the story of how we created home-made fabric masks at the beginning when there was so much uncertainty. We’re all always living through historical events, but seeing it so meticulously laid out alongside other major health crises made me a little emotional.

After the museum we went over to Brewery Bhavana where I enjoyed some delicious sour ales and a wonderful dim sum menu.

The morning of my flight I was able to make one last delicious stop, at Big Ed’s Restaurant. Eggs, potatoes, turkey sausage, and a giant buttery biscuit accompanied by a sweet tea? Yes, please!

In all, it was a great trip. Great technical events, fun office visits, lots of good friends and food, and even some precious down time and rest by making sure I went back to my room at a reasonable hour. I’m so glad I was able to make this trip before the chaos of Halloween and the holiday season descended upon my schedule.

All Things Open and CLS 2023

The last time I was in Raleigh for All Things Open was 2018 when I was pregnant with my first child. I now have a new-since-then job, two little boys, and we’ve survived a global pandemic – what a lot of changes for me!

This was the first large open source conference I’d been to in-person since 2020, so I had a wonderful time seeing familiar faces and catching up on several years of lost time. It was also a delight to meet so many new people. From the Community Leadership Summit, to curious college students at my mainframe talk, and volunteering at the Presto booth, I had many opportunities to interact with all sorts of folks who are new to the tech industry in general, and new to open source. It also made me feel a little old as I realized that I’ve been involved with open source communities for over two decades. Though I think parenthood and those new grey hairs peaking out at my temples are aiding with that too.

The conference kicked off on Sunday with a couple community events, and I attended the Community Leadership Summit. I’ve been to a few CLS events over the years, but it looks like the last one I was at was a CLSx event in 2017, co-located with Linux Conf AU. This event is un-conference-style with an introductory keynote about community topics, followed by development of the schedule for the day. My role in open source communities has shifted a lot since my last CLS, so it was interesting going to it this time with a very different “home” community. In some ways, the topics were less applicable to me, but some of them stood out. The first session I participated in discussed getting the next generation of contributors involved with communities, and that’s one my team at work spends a tremendous amount of time on, plus my own direct mentoring each summer. It was particularly nice having some folks who are the next generation in the room, so we didn’t fall into the trap of cliches and trying to figure out what they want instead of just asking them. Ultimately, it didn’t seem like the needs have changed significantly (don’t rush to set up that TikTok account), though there is a more mobile-first inclination and they are wisely more inclined to contribute to projects that make it clear and simple to get started.

The next session I went to was around social media use by communities in the post-Twitter era. This is a tough one for me. I made a real social media home on Twitter and the downfall as been a painful one. I’ve made a new home on Mastodon in the year since the change of ownership, but professionally the executives and companies I engage with are still on Twitter, and things like my local transit agency and parks are too, along with several funny/parody accounts that I follow. The first thing I realized from the discussion during this session was that it’s unlikely that this experience will be replicated anywhere. The “town square” that was Twitter seems to have an unusual cultural phenomenon, and with everyone scattering to different networks or groups quitting social media entirely, I ultimately don’t believe we’ll find everything we had there concentrated on another platform. Instead, we need to adapt and find new communities and networks, and change how we engage. It’s a sad realization, but one that set me free somewhat. I need to stop mourning what was lost and move on with full investment in new places. The session also caused me to stop putting effort into Bluesky. I haven’t found value in that network so far, and it’s just another for-profit company that I’m pouring my time into, why exactly? I figure if it takes off, I can always hop back on. For now, I’m being more thoughtful about precisely what I’m posting on Twitter versus Mastodon, with a focus on most of my work stuff going to Twitter with the exception of the very technical or “geeky” stuff, which goes to Mastodon, and I’ve scaled back the personal stuff I put on Twitter in favor of Mastodon, though I still do some. As for communities, I wish more open source communities made the leap to Mastodon, but what I’ve instead found is a lot of projects have simply given up on social media. When the APIs on Twitter died, they packed up and never came back anywhere. As a participant in a project that was reluctantly dragged into social media and once on it, automated everything, I understand that. Still, it was a fun way to engage that I’ll miss.

The last two sessions I went to at CLS were also interesting. The first was around how to use community metrics, and the dangers of using those metrics as a goal, rather than using them to make decisions about engagement efforts and strategies. There’s a fine line here that we stumbled over several times in the discussions, but I think a big chunk of it came from a disconnect between how Marketing and similar departments view engagement and how communities do. Ultimately it does seem like there are some metrics that can be used as goals, but not all of them, and they can’t be focused upon without further inspection and context with regard to the community. The final session had me join a former colleague from the OpenStack Infrastructure team as we discussed security in open source software. He provided an excellent tour of available resources and kept the floor open for questions and engagement, which I was grateful for because I had some very honest questions to ask that I trusted him to answer honestly (“How legit is $this_resource/group anyway? Should I spend time with them?”). It gave me some food for thought as I came back to the office the following week and had some discussions with my security-minded open source colleagues.

The evening wrapped up with an outdoor social at the conference venue, where I got to meet up with a few folks and then head back to my room early so I’d be well-rested for the first main conference day on Monday.

Monday began with a welcome from one of the most welcoming and kind people I know in open source, Todd Lewis, and then went into a keynote from the legendary Nithya Ruff. I loved Nithya’s keynote. She began by talking about happiness and how important it is for you to cultivate and grasp that for yourself. This was a segue into her main point about how your career is similar, but for me it resonated so strongly because the happiness question is one that has a hold on me right now. She’s absolutely right, whether it’s happiness or your career, you’re in charge of your own destiny.

I spent most of my post-keynote morning in the “hallway track” catching up with folks and then just before lunch I went to Jim Jagielski’s Open Source Program Offices (OSPOs). Since I am now the global head of a federated component of IBM’s main OSPO (as of this year, I run the new OSPO for IBM Z) I wanted to see if there was anything missing in my strategy, meet with some like-minded folks, and ask Jim if there were other organizations working with a federated OSPO model like IBM is. It was a good presentation and after speaking with Jim I definitely had a nice confidence boost about our strategy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else is doing it this way. I guess IBM is a bit exceptional in some ways due to how big the company is and how specialized the technologies are in our various departments. I work with IBM Power a lot since we’re quite aligned, and IBM Quantum every time I can find an excuse to, so we do work closely, but we do have somewhat different goals and mandates given how our technologies are used, and domain knowledge is required. The talk also inspired me to finally sign up for TODO Group communication channels, which is a great thing.

On Monday afternoon I gave my talk on Linux Distribution Collaboration …on a Mainframe! which had an… interesting start. I was chatting with couple of folks who were familiar with older mainframe technology, and someone walked in and, in front of everyone in the room asked, “Is this a funny talk or an educational one?” when I responded “educational” they walked out. It was rather jarring, but thankfully everyone in the room was incredulous as I was at the question, so it turned out to be a little bonding moment. Still, yikes. I understand not wanting to waste your time by attending a you’d rather not be in, but there are more kind and tactful ways of determining that. Thankfully, the talk itself went well (slides here), the audience was engaging and asked great questions, and it was fun to chat with folks after the talk, and even after the conference!

The next talk I went to was in a similar vein to mine, exploring the landscape of and porting open source projects to another hardware architecture. In this case it was a talk from my old friend Michael Hall who now works for Arm. They have an Arm developer program that I’ll have to take a look at, especially since they have lots of tiny devices that are fascinating and I want to buy a whole box full, haha! Since the Raspberry Pi is Arm, I actually have a couple in-use, one sits on my desk.

That evening we congregated at the nearby Crank Arm Brewing before I returned to the hotel for the Speaker & Sponsor dinner. These sorts of social events are always where my social awkwardness is showcased, but at dinner I sat with some kind people. Hopefully I didn’t talk too much about typewriters and trains.

Tuesday morning I sadly missed the keynotes because I had to head over to the IBM office for a couple hours to meet with some folks and do a recording, but by mid-day I was back at the conference to staff the Presto booth with some of my fellow IBMers.

While doing booth things, I also had the pleasure of meeting the founder of AlmaLinux, who I’d actually been sitting with at the speaker dinner the night before, and spoke with, but hilariously we didn’t talk much about work, hah! It was particularly fun to see that they listed their supported platforms (architectures) on their banner, hooray for s390x on there! I knew it would be, since they’re part of our Linux Distributions Working Group, but it was still nice to see there in person, printed out for the world to see.

From there I went to one final session, and then settled in at a table where I met some new people while assembling my IBM z16 LEGO set. I brought the LEGO set on a bit of a whim, but it turned out to be quite the conversation starter! Which is good, because I am not.

The event concluded with a lovely closing keynote from Todd, but I was a bit peopled out at this point and decided to skip the final social at a bar and arcade in favor of a quiet dinner with an old friend and an early evening back to my room.

In all, it was an amazing event. I did hallway track more than sessions, which is unusual for me, but there were so many people I wanted to meet or catch up with, that I found my time was better spent with people this time around.

I will spend some time on the All Things Open YouTube account once the sessions that were recorded are uploaded. Many thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who make this exceptional event happen every year, I was so glad to be back!

COVID-19 came home again, but not for long!

When I returned from my trip to Las Vegas, I tested negative for COVID-19 and happily re-joined my family. The next morning I had a cough, headache, and the general fatigue that were all too familiar. A second line on a COVID-19 test confirmed my fears, I had it.

At that point I had already exposed everyone, and we were all suddenly stuck at home for two weeks. I decided to go on Paxlovid due to my asthma, but it was still a brutal infection for me this time around, and for over a week I found myself having to take naps every afternoon. The medication caused the dreaded “Paxlovid mouth” for me, which leaves a nasty taste in your mouth that I could only really combat with fruit snacks and sweet candies, not optimal, but it actually made it hard to sleep some nights otherwise. Thankfully, the kids were fine. Aaron never even developed symptoms or a positive test. I joked that since he was born in 2020 he was issued full immunity (pandemic baby!).

Being sick is never fun, but perhaps the most frustrating thing out of it this time was how bored the kids were. Every day it was the list of places they were begging us to take them to, from Target to a train ride to a restaurant. We do get out a lot with them, so the swift reversion to isolation life was hard on them, plus Adam being out of school.

They still played outside and after the first week we went to some unpopulated playgrounds a couple of times. One day we made apple cake!

Another day we did do-it-yourself pizzas, where I enjoyed some turkey pepperoni and the tomato sauce we made over Labor day.

We had a little lamination machine delivered and made some clever bookmarks, along with bunches of other crafts.

And we observed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, both of which our isolation totally clobbered and made the choice for us of whether we wanted to go out and attend services in-person. Ultimately I think we would have done them remotely anyway due to various factors, but it would have been nice to have the choice. We did decide to switch to virtual services away from our synagogue in San Francisco and instead dialed into the more local congregation. We haven’t joined the more local one yet, but it does seem like that’s the one we’ll ultimately be joining in the not to distant future, so it was nice to start getting familiar with their space and culture, even if it was over video.

By the end of the month most of us were testing negative and I got to enjoy a family-only birthday celebration and then got BBQ from a place down the street for a lovely birthday lunch!

On the first weekend of October we were feeling well enough for an adventure! Boo at the Zoo had begun at Oakland Zoo and we discovered that kids love hay mazes. It was actually a nice mix of something both the boys could have a lot of fun with, which can be tricky given their very different interests and temperaments.

The following weekend we took the train up to San Francisco for some transit adventures. We had sadly missed MUNI Heritage Weekend due to our COVID infection, but I was delighted to learn that the historic Blackpool 228 “boat tram” was out running that weekend for Fleet Week.

We didn’t intend to go up during the height of Fleet Week weekend, it’s just how our schedules landed, but it did mean the city was hopping and it was fun to see a few fighter jets and a massive battleship anchored at a pier. Our route took us up to Union Square, down past Jeffery’s Toys, then down to the Market Street Railway Museum and Ferry Building, and finally to lunch on the Embarcadero at Delancey Street Restaurant.

It was a delightfully transit-full day with rides on BART and MUNI Metro, but we skipped everything but viewing the historic fleet this time around due to how incredibly packed they were. Next time!

Enjoying Las Vegas, a little

Before the pandemic, MJ and I traveled a bunch for work. It was quite the shift to not only cease travel, but have both of us home all the time. At first it was great to have a lot more time together, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time bonding with our young children, but the change was challenging. I missed experiencing new places. I missed having time to myself. I missed being able to go somewhere for a few days and just focus on work and making connections with people in the tech industry, rather than whether everyone I live with had enough socks for the week.

Last month I took the opportunity to travel to a multi-day conference again. Finally! It was energizing and inspiring. I gave two talks and was on a panel, and got to meet dozens people I’ve been working with over these past few year but had never met in-person. I got to see some folks who I hadn’t seen in years, in one case we were both working on open source at a different company the last time we saw each other in person, and we are now both with IBM working on mainframes. I came home with new ideas and connections, both personally and project-wise. It’s hard to understate how important these industry conferences are to being thoughtful and inspired about the work ahead of you.

As the first time away from my family for more than 36 hours since 2020, I took the opportunity to sleep. And enjoy the spa tub in my hotel room each night as I wound down from the conference. Truly, life with young children is exhausting and the opportunity to curl up with a book in a comfy place where I was only responsible for myself was a treasure. Plus, I’ve been to Las Vegas several times, and it’s an easy place to go again, I wasn’t going to miss out on anything by using my evenings after brief socializing to quietly unwind and be fully rested for the next day.

By Thursday afternoon, as the conference was concluding and I was finishing lunch with some colleagues, I decided it was time to do a little exploring, starting with the pool. The last time MJ and I were at the MGM Grand pool complex was before we had kids, and we rented a day bed to snack and snooze all day by the pool. This was a much shorter and less luxurious visit to the pool, but I left my phone in my room and was able to swim a bit, then soak up some sun while reading an old paperback scifi book. Bliss.

From there I went for a walk on the strip to find stamps and a post card to send home to my kiddos. I used to travel with domestic stamps so I wouldn’t have to go on so much of a journey, but I cleared out all my travel bags during the pandemic and they never made it back in. I appreciated the walk though, it gave me a purpose and led me to stumble upon a cute Stranger Things gift shop that was all decked out, designed for selfie taking. I bought a vinyl record of the first season soundtrack, which thankfully fit on my carry on luggage.

I also stopped by the M&M store, ran into a couple more colleagues there, and picked up gifts for the boys, including some M&Ms with their names stamped on them.

Postcard written and posted, gift shopping complete, it was time for an extravagant dinner at Morimoto.

Pro-tip: don’t be shy or self-conscious about dining along when you travel. I’ll never turn down company if the opportunity arises, but I now find solo dining in fancy spots to be one of my favorite things to do. I did some reading, took some lovely food photos, ate some amazing food, and enjoyed a flight of sake. What’s not to love?

I even ordered the fabulous dessert that comes with a whole entrance and dry ice (video). AND IT WAS ALL MINE.

The next morning I flew home, and with a greater appreciation of time with my family and how much I missed them. Still, I would have loved a couple more days in Las Vegas. I don’t gamble and drinking alone is no fun, but there’s so much to do there!

IBM TechXchange 2023 in Las Vegas

A few days ago I wrote about the Open Mainframe Summit 2023, which took place on community day of the IBM TechXchange conference, but I also had the rest of that conference to enjoy!

The first week I was with IBM I went to IBM TechU. Given the technical nature, the new IBM TechXchange conference feels like the spiritual successor to this event, so I was really happy to have the opportunity to attend this inaugural event. I will start out by saying it was personally a real pleasure to finally meet so many people I’ve worked with over the years in person, so it was a bit of a selfie extravaganza!

Naturally, after the event you realize how many people you didn’t get photos with, especially and paradoxically, if you spent a lot of time together! Next time, my friends.

To set the stage for the week I attended a few keynotes here and there. The first was In a world where AI writes code, what is the role of the developer? following much over-hyped discourse around the obsolesce of developers if AI is writing code. It has long struck me as an odd position to take, so it was nice to see IBM pushing hard against it and stressing how importance it is to have humans in the mix who can focus on the problems that computers simply can’t solve. We still get all the interesting work, and there will always be more of it. I’m looking forward to using AI-infused tools to help me write Ansible playbooks for scenarios that I’m not fully familiar with the syntax of yet.

The thing about the keynotes is that they’re recorded, so I could go back and watch them later. Since there were regular, unrecorded sessions happening during the keynotes, I generally preferred to take advantage of my on-site presence there to attend those instead. Since this was my first time at this event and it had been quite some time since I’d been to an IBM-focused event, I decided to focus on my particular area of interest, IBM Z and LinuxONE, rather than branching too much out into other sessions around Power or Quantum. Part of my role at this event was also as a room moderator, so there were several sessions that I was required to be at, thankfully the colleague who was assigning the room monitoring duty was aware of our interests and they were sessions I wanted to be in anyway.

Of particular note, were the sessions about the rack-mount IBM z16, and there were a pair of sessions that dove deep into this. The first was Explore IBM Z’s first-ever rack mount options for IBM z16 and IBM LinuxONE by the legendary Kenny Stine. It was a real pleasure to meet Kenny after years of me begging him for technical review and early access to IBM Z internals photos so I could prepare my technical “tour” blog posts that I publish on IBM Developer. Given that I’m already pretty deep into the technical territory here, including a blog post on the topic, I knew what I was getting into when I joined his session, but I always leave these with a few more tidbits than I knew before. In Kenny’s talk I really benefited from the historical perspective that he brought to the discussion as he was comparing the systems over time and explaining just how different the IBM z16 with the IBM Telum chip is from its predecessors.

Bonus, he had a Telum chip with him that he passed around the audience. It was my first time getting to hold one!

The other talk of note on this topic was Interactive Step-by-Step Planning for new rack mount format for IBM z16 and LinuxONE 4. This session featured hands-on experience from Jim Fyffe of Evolving Solutions, Inc. where they received a rack-mount z16 and shared the unboxing, installation, and general impressions of putting it into production. I listened to an IBM z/Action! podcast that he was on back in July, but I loved this presentation because it had photos of their installation process! And a lot more details than the 20 minute podcast. Plus, I learned about the IBM z16 Rack Mount Bundle (3932-AGZ) section of the documentation that has lots of cool documents around installation, port planning, and cabling best practices. I’m not even being sarcastic, I used to work in data centers and this stuff is pure gold when you’re planning a setup.

I went to several sessions around implementation of a hybrid cloud design, with the mainframe remaining a key component of the infrastructure while bringing in cloud-based services, and Kubernetes. One of the last sessions I went to of the entire event was even focused on breaking up the monolith, and clarity around the journey you’re about to embark on if you’re migrating very old systems that still work.

I was also invited to participate in an open source on IBM Z panel on Tuesday afternoon, “From Ansible to Zowe: Opening the mainframe for a modern, scalable, inclusive & secure enterprise.” Due to shifting travel schedules, the panelist lineup was shuffled up a bit last minute, so I was a late addition and we only had a single sync up call prior to the panel. Thankfully, Joe Winchester was a great moderator, all of us panelists seemed to work quite naturally together, and we had a thoughtful and engaging audience.

The event featured a “Sandbox” which was basically an Expo Hall where IBM, partners, and related organizations showed off their latest featured products. It was particularly fun for me though because I finally got to “meet” the life-size IBM z16 LEGO model! Since I first learned about it via Think 2023, I’ve been quite enamored with it and I even took some time to interview the masterminds behind it for a blog post on IBM community: All about the life-size IBM z16 LEGO® brick model!.

I even got my wish granted to flip the colors to “orange” so it was effectively an IBM LinuxONE (sans badge, bummer!).

It was also technically the first time I got to see an IBM z16 in person. I haven’t been traveling as much this year, so I haven’t made it to a client center or otherwise to see one, with the proper doors. This was the plexiglass version though, which has all the fun lights that allow you to see the internals.

It was the first event I’d been to since 2020 that lasted more than a couple days, so I received a fast refresher in what these longer conferences are like: tiring and inspiring! I walked away with a lot of notes based on conversations I had with people that inspired ideas and plans. Once this year’s IBM Z Day extravaganza is behind us and I have some breathing room, it’ll be great to get to work on those ideas.

Changing the font… on a typewriter!

If you’re at all familiar with mechanical typewriters, you know that changing the font isn’t really an option. That changed with the emergence of some of the most popular electric typewriters, the IBM Selectrics. These are notable for being driven by a typing ball which can be easily swapped out. Voila, new font! Many models, like my IBM Selectric II even support pitch of both 10 and 12, with different balls, of course.

When I had my Selectric professionally tuned up a couple months ago, I started my ball collection by buying a Script ball from the repair shop. I’ve since expanded to Etsy and eBay to expand what is starting to become a funny collection.

I’m particularly interested in the fact that it wasn’t just IBM creating balls, I have a pair of GP Technologies balls that are specifically labeled “Aetna” which leads me to believe they were fonts used within said insurance company. They Aetna Elite and Aetna Gothic are nice fonts though!

The variety of containers for storing the balls has also been notable. The GP Technologies balls came new (unsealed!) in little transparent ball containers that have a cap, and a couple of the IBM ones had the red holders, which are probably my favorite aesthetically. I may even 3D print some additional ones for my homeless type balls when I have the time for that project.

The third step in this collection process has been ordering modern fonts. Modern fonts? Indeed! There has been work done on creating 3D printer files of type balls with more modern and distinctive fonts, which lead me to the for Austin Selectric Rescue where the owner prints various balls. I swiftly made a purchase and eagerly awaited the delivery, which happened while I was traveling for work.

Unbeknownst to me, I was one of the first people to order and there was a small snafu with the printing of the balls. On the bright side, that means I now have some spare type balls that I can use for art projects. Plus, as one of the first orders he tossed in a couple extras that also weren’t suitable for use, but will make some fun projects.

But it did mean I had to wait a few days for replacements. It was OK though, when I returned from aforementioned work trip I discovered my Selectric wouldn’t power on. Oh, no! I had nearly resigned to taking it back to the repair shop (25 minutes away!) when I instead decided to scour reddit and was pleasantly surprised by a 9 year old post that solved my problem. In my case, it was the switch in the back right corner needed to be nudged, and removing the case is quite simple.

The balls I ordered were:

  • Vogue – a classic art deco typeface, because I like art deco
  • Comic Mono – a monospace version of Comic Sans, because it’s funny to do that to my poor typewriter
  • Papyrus – it’s… the Papyrus font we all know and love, or hate? It’s distinctive, and familiar as a modern font, so that’s fun

There are several others in the shop, including some other classic typewriter fonts. Your Selectric can really get a new life masquerading as all kinds of old mechanical typewriters!

Then I was able to try out the new type balls! They work great.

Folks have commented that they won’t last as long as the originals and some efforts are under way to get some metal 3D printers involved, but typewriters are a hobby of mine, and I have 5 of them, so none of them are getting daily use. Plus, I now have 9 type balls, and so they’re only used very, very occasionally for small projects.

My next project will be making a cloth cover for my Selectric, because dust is the enemy of typewriters. I’m not particularly adept at using a sewing machine, but I do have one and I think it might be fun to try.

Open Mainframe Summit 2023

Back in September of 2022 the first major in-person Open Mainframe Summit was held, I wrote about it here: Open Mainframe Summit 2022. After a year, it was a delight to get back together this year for an Open Mainframe Summit in Las Vegas with project participants and see how much progress had been made across projects.

The event was co-located with the 2023 IBM TechXchange Conference, which provided a venue and platform for the event.

The day began with a series of keynotes, led off by a welcome from IBM’s Jason Gartner, directly followed by the Open Mainframe Project Executive Director, John Mertic, who shared various stats and updates about the project.

From there, Joe Winchester showcased a series of clients, personas, and use cases for Zowe, which makes everything from critical operations to training easier on z/OS.

A diversity panel followed Joe, where several women from various aspects of the mainframe ecosystem offered up their experiences, and an ally on the panel shared how you can help support minorities in tech by elevating their voice and offering a seat at the table. The final keynote was on mentorship, and it was mine!

I was really thrilled to be asked to give this keynote session. I was wrapping up our summer session with a pair of great mentees when I pulled together this session, so it was especially nice to have that fresh experience as I put together an overview of the program, along with suggestions for both mentors and mentees. I have uploaded a PDF of my slides here: Open_Mainframe_Summit_-_Illuminating_Pathways_for_Our_Future_Innovators.pdf

Thanks to Sudharsana Srinivasan for taking a photo during my talk!

While I was there, I also was able to meet up with John Mertic who signed my copy of his book, Open Source Projects – Beyond Code. He also signed another copy of the book that another participant brought, and told us then that these were the first two he had signed, exciting!

Later in the day, I teamed up with my co-lead of the Linux Distributions Working Group, Sarah Julia Kriesch, to give a talk on the progress the group had made over the past year. Of particular note, we’ve continued on the path of collaborating on bug fixes and were excited about the launch of openQA for several of the distributions that includes the health of s390x too. It was also a nice time to showcase the new listing of Developer Resources available to open source projects for development on s390x. A PDF of slides from our talk are here: Open_Mainframe_Summit_-_Linux_Distributions_WG_2023.pdf

Throughout the day I spent a bit of time in COBOL sessions, learning about the latest with the COBOL Programming Course and how COBOL Check has been incorporated into the latest installment of their course. COBOL Check itself had a dedicated session, where we learned about how they were influenced by JUnit to support test-driven development for COBOL.

I also attended a couple sessions about work being done around z/OS Open Tools, which includes a sort of software “package” manager, and an example of how one organization is managing program versions and environment in production. I also enjoyed a session around hybrid cloud where IBM Z is being incorporated into environments that also include the cloud, with a strong focus on the use of OpenShift. In another sessions, they went deep into how they maintain air-gapped OpenShift deployments on IBM Z, an important topic that doesn’t just impact IBM Z, but is important to keep active for other environments that are more sensitive to network connections inside their environments.

In all, it was a very rewarding event for me. There were some great conversations and I have some new ideas of things to work on in the coming months. I had a debriefing meeting with the rest of the program committee this week about ways we can improve things for attendees, especially around making sure people know where/when the sessions are in such a big venue! I’m happy to chat with anyone who has further feedback though, so please do reach out.

In case you missed it, there will be a second Open Mainframe Summit coming up on November 1st in New York City, and co-located with Open Source in Finance Forum. I won’t be at that one, so I’ll need people to tell me how it went!