• Archives

  • Categories:

  • Other profiles

Rainbows, Shabbat, and San Francisco

One of the great things about getting so much rain in California this winter, aside from the reduction in risk of wildfires later in the year, abatement of drought, and beautiful green hillsides for once, is the rainbows! Caught outside my living room window one afternoon, this one was quite the crowd-pleaser.

In February I also had enough time to finally make some challah. After moving last year, I never unpacked the breadmaker I use to make the dough, so with my aunt’s support I dug it out of storage and took the time to prepare the bread. Bread in hand, we properly observed Shabbat for the first time since bringing Adam home.

In addition to being able to do things like make bread from scratch while my aunt was still in town helping us out, we got to sneak in a few major chores and some couple fun. The big thing on our list was picking up the closet doors we ordered for the house. There was no chance they would have fit in our truck with Adam’s car seat in the back, and even then we we had about half an inch of space to spare once the truck was fully loaded up. I’m pleased to report the doors are now sitting in the garage waiting to be painted. Unfortunately I probably should have taken it easy when unloading, I realized after some back and neck pain set in that between the pregnancy and recovery, I hadn’t done any heavy lifting in over eight months. Whoops.

In couple outing fun, we did a few dinners here and there, and I tagged along to a conference party one night for a conference MJ was attending in San Francisco. I hopped off of BART at Embarcadero, where I was welcomed by the number 56 California Street cable car all decorated for the Chinese New Year. From there we were off to the Exploratorium for the party. I have been to the museum several times, so it was really about the social aspect for me, seeing some familiar faces and also meeting some of MJ’s industry colleagues. It was so refreshing to talk tech, chat about the job I’ll be starting next month, and generally geek out with folks a bit for an evening. It also reminded me how much I miss conferences already, and working!

The Sunday before my aunt departed, we decided to have a fancy dinner in the city and made reservations at Jardiniere. It’s one of my favorite French restaurants, and they had some amazing specials on the menu that night, so we had an incredibly satisfying meal and enjoyable time together.

Since my aunt’s departure, there’s certainly been less sleep and more stress, but we’re also settling nicely into routines, even if the little one likes to mix things up frequently. I’m getting better at taking him out places with me in the car now that I don’t have someone to watch him, and we are slowly figuring out our meals now that we’re not going out to dinner as often. The days are continuing to fly by as they’re filled with feeding, cleaning, and playing and sitting with him.

Some days I feel a bit bad about not getting much else done but keeping us alive and our household humming along, but the experience of cultivating this new little life is rewarding in its own way. I am getting a little reading done here and there, and continuing small tasks where I can for open source projects I’m involved with. I was disappointed to miss the recent Southern California Linux Expo, but I followed UbuCon and Ubuntu booth tidbits via tweets, and was thrilled by all the container track tweets that I saw scroll by, duly proud to have been part of putting that track together. I also did some more organizing of my desk, and bought a Roku for my second monitor so I have a “TV” option there in my home office, something I found massive value in when my aunt was visiting and I am sure I will moving forward as our life has expanded beyond just the two of us.

This week we’re in Philadelphia to visit family and friends, giving many of them their first opportunity to meet little Adam! So far it’s been a busy and satisfying time, looking forward to more visits as the week goes on.

Winter in California

It was raining when we went to the hospital, and on the night Adam was born, and it’s pretty much been raining ever since too. In fact, this has been the soggiest winter I’ve experienced in California so far. It wasn’t just soggy though, over night the temperatures have dropped into the 30s Fahrenheit, and sometimes colder up in the hills, where we were treated to extremely rare accumulation back on February 5th!

Of course it didn’t last long, the hills were green again by the next morning.

In keeping with this winter theme, we also had our gas fireplace serviced. I actually called for service back in December, but it was predictably the busiest time of year and I wasn’t able to secure an appointment until early February. The fireplace worked fine when we moved in, but after sitting unused for several months the pilot light went out and we discovered the ignition switch was faulty, only working intermittently and not allowing me to actually get the pilot light lit again. We had a full cleaning and inspection done of the unit, as well as getting the ignition switch replaced, and wires organized. The fireplace not only works now, but I’m confident in the usage now (it wasn’t fully intuitive) and we’ve now been assured that it’s working properly and safely.

We also finally had a door put on the master bathroom. It’s hard to describe what a relatively small thing has done to improve livability of the master suite. No more wandering across the house in the middle of the night to use a bathroom that has a door! Mornings are easier! The shower steam doesn’t wander into the bedroom! Next up is getting closet doors installed. When we moved in, none of the bedroom closets had doors. We started the ordering process for them in December, and they should be in next week. We’re hoping to get them painted in early March so we can install them.

Of course not all the work on the house was planned. We’ve had a leaky faucet in the kitchen for several weeks, but it turned into an actual problem the other day when a leak sprang under the sink, causing us to shut off the water to it and hit the home improvement store to pick up a replacement. Replacing it was not fun, but MJ was able to get it done with the help of a few more tools that are now part of his toolbox.

Beyond the house, we did make it out for our first Valentine’s Day as parents. My aunt looked after Adam as I took the train to the city to meet up with MJ at Town Hall for a lovely dinner together. MJ showed up with a beautiful rose-filled bouquet and I finally indulged in a nice Prosecco, an Old Fashioned cocktail and some Tawny Port with dessert, all of which I had been coveting during the pregnancy.

Otherwise, I’m starting to get longer chunks of sleep (3 hours!) as Adam starts sleeping a little better over night. My aunt is here to help out for another 10 days, so hopefully the trend will continue so I will be in decent shape when I fully take over. Still, it remains tough to get enough rest when it’s broken into such increments, and it feels like every time we figure something out about the kiddo, he switches things up and we have to adapt. I certainly now have a better understanding and appreciation for why taking time off for a new child is so important, even with the help, there’s very little I’ve been able to accomplish outside of his care and keeping household things running each day.

Updating this blog has been a priority so I don’t lose this experience to foggy, sleep-deprived memory, though every post I’ve written since his birth is stitched together the course of a few days. I also have been pitching in on small tasks I can complete in under an hour, or on my phone as I’m sitting up with the little one, for Partimus and Xubuntu. I’m also spending some of my precious, most awake time doing some tech-focused reading so I’m prepared when I conclude my maternity leave and return to full time work at the end of April. The days are flying by though, and I’d be surprised if I spend more than an hour per day on everything I just described.

Four Weeks

Adam turned four weeks old today!

It’s a total cliche to say that having a child changes you, but I am starting to understand it now. In these four weeks since Adam was born I feel like I’ve unlocked this whole world of knowledge and experience that I never knew existed in adulthood. Having kiddo chats with the fellow who came out to give us a quote on work to the house was not what I anticipated, but you suddenly find this parenthood connection with strangers. And as someone who will be the first to admit that I’m “not a baby person,” the adjustment to being a mother has opened up new, fascinating parts of myself, even if it will take some getting used to.

I recently read a piece in The Atlantic about what happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother, which opens with:

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.

The article was valuable as I strive to understand my moods and new feelings, but that opening quote in particular really connected with me. I am still very much me, even in my sleep-deprived, do-everything-for-newborn, hormone-driven state, but there’s this new thing too. I make time and space to snuggle up with Caligula and have my dozing son in my arms or nearby, and a book in my hand. I never quite realized the value of the Kindle app on my phone until I was suddenly trying to do so many things with just one hand available. It’s a shame I recently started making the shift back to paper books!

It’s far from poetry and blissful motherhood discovery though. These first few weeks have been incredibly difficult, even with MJ on paternity leave and my aunt here to help. I am the only source of food, so I’m awake at frequent intervals, leading to some frayed nerves and a lot of exhaustion. Still, having my aunt here has been a tremendous help, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten much done at all this month if not for her, and I certainly wouldn’t have had as much sleep. Her help has also allowed MJ and I to go out to a few meals together, which have been great for my mental well-being. As far as that goes, I’m doing OK. There were a few big cry moments in the first couple weeks where I was adjusting to motherhood and worrying about everything. I am still struggling a bit, but most days are good and I have a lot of support when the waves of hormones and lack of sleep start getting to me.

I have managed time to do a few little projects and some big ones. Before Adam was born we ordered window blinds for the whole house, and they all came in last week, so we were able to get those installed. I’m really happy with how they turned out and how much more comfortable it’s made living here already.

We then discovered the guest bathroom toilet had a cracked tank and was leaking, so ended up getting a big chunk of plumbing work done in the upstairs bathrooms. In addition to the replacement of the guest bathroom toilet, that bathroom also had a glass door on the bathtub, which we typically like, but it’s too difficult with a small child so we had it removed and replaced with a shower curtain and rod.

This week brings a little more work on the house, with a door being put on the master bathroom on Tuesday (it totally lacked one!) and our gas fireplace inspected and tuned up on Friday. We also got an unhappy surprise this weekend when my aunt discovered that the kitchen faucet was leaking. It had been dripping for some time, but this was a real leak which triggered a visit to the home improvement store to buy a replacement.

In smaller, more fun projects, I got my Nintendo systems (Switch, Wii, SNES Classic and NES Classic) connected to my second monitor in my office. Of course I don’t have a lot of time to actually play games right now, but at least now when I do they’re all set up for me to grab a controller and go. I also got the computer rack in my office set up. Both the media and backups server are in need of new hard drives in their RAID arrays, but working on them when they didn’t have a real home was near impossible. Now that they’re plugged into a KVM in my office, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to carve out some time to fix them up some time in the next few weeks.

Also managed to get out with my aunt to get our hair cut at a local salon, and made my way up to the Lake Merritt BART station to get some BART socks. Aside from meals out, that has pretty much been the extent of my adventures out of the house over the past month.

And now it’s time to wrap up this post, scoop up the kiddo to feed him for the tenth time today, and maybe see if I can get a nap.

Adam Stanley Joseph

On January 6th in the wee hours of the morning I gave birth to our son Adam Stanley Joseph!

Like much of the pregnancy, the delivery was a bit complicated and we had a few rough days the first week, but I’m happy to say that as we enter our third week together, little Adam is doing well. In many ways, my own recovery post-delivery has gone well, I am much more mobile than I was late in the pregnancy, but I certainly am still healing.

Our fluffy son Caligula isn’t quite sure what to make of the new addition, but he has had his moments of curiosity about the new animal we’ve brought home.

As the first week progressed, we started having family arrive into town. First was my Aunt Elaine, who will be spending several weeks with us to help us adjust to life with a newborn. MJ’s best friend arrived next, followed by his father, my grandfather, and my mother on Friday the 11th. Four of them stayed with us here at the house, proving that without even much creative use of space, we could actually expand Hotel Joseph to accommodate a bunch of single adults staying with us.

The family visiting was of course to meet the little one, but also to celebrate with us. On the 13th, 8 days from birth, we had his bris and baby naming at our synagogue in San Francisco. In addition to family from out of town, several local friends joined us as we enjoyed a catered lunch from Wise Sons and then were able to share some words about the origin of Adam’s name, segments of which come from his maternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather.

The week that followed was full of firsts. I learned that newborns aren’t particularly bothered by noise, so he’s now been out to two meals with us at kid-friendly restaurants we enjoy, Knudsen’s Ice Creamery for dinner one night, and Doug’s Place for brunch this past Saturday. He slept soundly through both outings. Of course we also spent a lot of time just visiting with family, and rearranging our limited furniture so that we could gather together in some previously unused common spaces in the house and to make sure Adam could be out with everyone as much as possible, even if most of his time was spent sleeping.

There’s been a fair amount of take-out consumed these past couple weeks, but my aunt is also keeping me well-fed with fresh fruit salads and snacks as I need them. In fact, her help can’t be understated. So far she has kept laundry and dishes flowing, helped keep family schedules intact as we juggle guests and adjusting to life with a newborn, and has been pitching in with the endless cycle of feeding and diaper changing, most recently relieving us in the early morning so we can get a few hours of undisturbed sleep here and there. I’m so grateful to have her here.

As I wrap up this post, I want to pause for a moment to talk about privacy. I don’t share everything in this blog and online, but I am a pretty public person. I do my best to protect the privacy of those close to me, often asking permission for sharing things when there is an expectation of privacy, and holding back when needed. When it comes to our son, for now we’ve decided to extend that privacy expectation to him. We’ll share photos of him directly with friends and family, and may even do a paper family photo card for the next holiday season, but for now we felt it would be prudent to exercise caution regarding what we share in public.

The adventures of 2018

On the face of it, 2018 was a great year for “big ticket” milestones and life changes.

We moved to our new home in Castro Valley!

We learned we were expecting our first child!

I gave three keynotes! Along with speaking at or participating in over a dozen conferences, four of which I was on the selection committee for.

We’ve had several visits with both sides of family!

I had wonderful travel adventures with friends!

…including my first ride in a helicopter AND my first ride in a sea plane!

More quietly, I struggled quite a bit. Complications arising during the pregnancy have been difficult to cope with, I saw two long-term friendships falter, leaving the city has been a hard adjustment, and in October I was caught up in a layoff. The stress of all of this and the upcoming changes in our life caused me to see out a therapist in October to help work through some of it.

Still, even with each of these struggles, there is much to be grateful for. In spite of complications, the pregnancy has progressed, and with an early induction to avoid some of the risk we are expecting a healthy birth. I have gotten out of my comfort zone relationship-wise to start strengthening some friendships with people I’ve known for years. The proximity to a walkable downtown even here in the suburbs and a quick, easy ride on BART into San Francisco has eased some of my homesickness for my beloved city by the bay. My job search is going well, with plenty of exciting opportunities available to me when I’m ready to return to work in the spring. We have built a wonderful life for ourselves here and we continue to live comfortably.

With MJ starting a new job and the pregnancy, there were no grand getaways together overseas this year, but MJ and I spent a long weekend in NYC over the spring to finally see the famous, now unused, City Hall Station. We also spent a long weekend in Las Vegas for my 37th birthday. Our house is slowly coming together, including the guest and baby rooms both here and in Philadelphia.

Travel-wise, I did less international travel than I have in the past. Part of this was due to the team I was on having coverage in Europe, which meant I could focus more on North America, and then with the pregnancy I also decided to stop travel outside of the US and Canada a few months in. That means for the first time in several years, I didn’t break 100k miles, coming in this year with 88,716 miles, and only two overseas trips (Australia and Denmark).

Even without lots of long flights I did make reading more of a priority this year. In 2017 I admitted to watching a lot of TV, and in 2018 I was eager to change that, and did. I read 32 books in 2018 and continued my commitment to reading paper magazines to keep my long-format article brain working properly and tear myself away from my phone more. Health-wise I didn’t lose weight like I wanted to, but the difficult pregnancy made that a more challenging endeavor and I’m happy in the fact that I’ve at least been able to keep the pregnancy-related weight gain within a range that my doctor is happy with.

Now, onto the more list-y part of this post. The places I’ve been!

And the talks I’ve given!

As I look on to 2019, we have quite the adventure ahead of us. The arrival of our first child will change our lives significantly for the foreseeable future. Whatever I end up with job-wise I’m committed to doing something that challenges me to both dig deeper on a technical level and spur further career growth. Between these two things, I have plenty to adjust to, so there are no grand New Year’s resolutions or changes I want to commit to. Though I do hope I am gentle and forgiving to myself and MJ as we seek out this new balance together.

This December

It’s been an interesting December, which began with Hanukkah! As Jewish holidays go, it’s not actually a major one, and the proximity to Christmas does seem to be the only reason a lot of attention is paid to it. Still, who doesn’t love lighting some candles?

This is also the first year in some time that we’ve spent the entire Hanukkah celebration on one coast. In 2016 and 2017 we started it in California, and resumed it at the townhouse in Philadelphia. Prior to that, we had at least one weekend during Hanukkah with our tiny travel menorah as a work trip of mine caused overlap. I certainly missed the holiday visit back east this year, but we’ll resume the tradition next year, with a little one in tow!

Even at eight months pregnant I’ve continued to interview for new roles, but with the knowledge that it’s extra important that I find a job that I’d be excited to return to after taking time off for maternity. My career has been a focal point in my life for years, and though I know my priorities will shift in the coming months, I’m committed to coming back strong to work on something that excites and challenges me in new ways.

Job searches are never easy, but I have found things to enjoy about the search this time around. I’ve had the support of a tremendous network of people in the industry, and my experience at this stage of my career means I have a lot of options, spanning both operations and developer advocacy. This has allowed me to explore working with a variety of types of companies and talking to really interesting people. Even when the fit isn’t quite right, most of the interviews I’ve had left me having learned something and grateful for the opportunity I had to explore a possible future with them. Plus, some interviews gave me an excuse to head up to San Francisco for the day. I’ve settled some in Castro Valley, but certainly left some of my heart in San Francisco.


Visits to SF mean street cars!

And cable cars!

Visits to San Francisco also occurred during a few meals with friends over the past several weeks. I got to catch up with my friend Mark over lobster rolls downtown after a doctors appointment one afternoon. An old friend I met long ago Philadelphia was available for dinner one night where we grabbed pizza and ice cream in my old neighborhood.

Catching up with friends was also part of my plan to do a bunch of things this month that are much easier before having children. My other obligations (job search, prep for kiddo, house things) did eat into this, and there were physical limitations (long outdoor adventures need not apply), but I did find some things I could do, mostly around food! MJ and I have been enjoying some lovely date nights, including an amazing dinner at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino a couple weeks ago.

I also took off for a night to spend time alone in Half Moon Bay. I booked a nice ocean view room at a hotel, and a pregnancy massage at their attached spa. My room had a sitting area where I could snuggle up and read, a gas fireplace, and a Sam’s Chowder House, which makes a great lobster roll, was just down the street. I indulged in a couple non-alcoholic, wine-inspired sodas from VIGNETTE (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), which rounded out my lunch, and a dessert I took to go and ate that evening. This adventure away gave me a few things I suspect will quickly become more rare: alone time, rest and relaxation, and spontaneity. I only wish I was able to spend time stopping at scenic outlooks and browsing the shops and things along route 92 on my way home, unfortunately the late pregnancy must-use-restroom-often need put a limitation on how many stops I could make! Still, I had a lovely time, and at just under an hour away, it was an easy and fun drive out there.

I didn’t get as much technical-focused learning as I hoped I’d do now that I’ve wound down my travel schedule. Instead, I’ve put my focus into planning for the future, both the immediate needs for our upcoming child, and more long-term plans sketched out for when we inevitably struggle to find a balance in the coming months and upon my eventual return to work. While I am disappointed with not getting my teeth into the latest tech book I picked up in August, I think I made the right choice, even professionally. I believe time will show this break from the bay area tech hustle will have served me well.

Of course time has been spent preparing for immediate needs as well. Over the past month I’ve scoured parenting forums, reviews, lists, and the brains of fellow parents I know to find the most best (weighted with cost, value, quality) products for the new kiddo. Our house is now full of incoming baby signs, with a Pack ‘n Play and swing sitting in my living room in their respective boxes, a lovely combination stroller/bassinet/car seat, and a nursery, that while sparse, I think everything we’ll need in it, at least right away!


Crib, nursing chair and changing table here in California

There have also been a lot of doctor appointments. I scheduled my twice-a-week non-stress tests for the mornings so I could get on with my day. After the complications that have popped up through this pregnancy, and led to these regular check-ins, I’m very happy to say that things are progressing well and we’re on track for an early January birth. The usual aches, pains, and struggle staying asleep for this stage of pregnancy are ever-present, but I have been taking a short nap in the afternoon most days to make up for some of the lost overnight sleep. Physically, I’ve been spacing out all the manual labor chores I have throughout the days and weeks, and this strategy has worked well so far. We still don’t have a lot of furniture in our house in general, but things are coming together and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape for when friends and relatives start coming into town after the birth, including my aunt who has graciously offered to spend a couple months here with us to help!


My view in the NST room for 20-30 minutes, twice a week

I’d be lying if I said I was ready for what January brings. I’m certain that no amount of preparation can truly get you ready for how much your life will change once you have kids, especially for someone my age who has become so accustom to, and largely happy with, a child-free lifestyle. Still, we’re excited and looking forward to this new chapter.

Non-alcoholic beer adventures

I mentioned in a post back in October that I’d been trying non-alcoholic during my pregnancy. Now, a quick disclaimer: NA beers give their alcohol percentage as “less than 0.5%.” Since I embarked on this experiment because I am pregnant and I have mostly stayed on the side of alcohol abstinence since learning I was pregnant. As such, I’ve limited myself even when it comes to the NA beers. I max out at to two per sitting, and haven’t indulged on sequential nights. So don’t worry!

One of the key things I’ve come to recognize during these seven months without drinking is what my relationship with alcohol actually looks like. For the most part, it’s not about the alcohol itself. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few times over the past several months when I wanted to just go out for drinks with people to relieve stress and put distance between myself and my problems, but those times have been rare, especially given the tumultuous year I’ve had.

What actually I miss are the taste, ritual, and social aspects of drinking. I love the taste of a solid micro-brewed beer. I have fun geeking out with my beer friends over our check-ins on Untappd, and tracking what I’ve had over the years. I miss the variety of what I can drink as an adult when alcohol is an option. I’ve come to more strongly sympathize with non-drinkers who are so often presented with a list of water, iced tea, or soda. After years of very light consumption, my soda intake has gone up during this pregnancy and I’ve had a lot of iced tea. When MJ and I sat down in Las Vegas at a Michelin starred restaurant, I wished I could indulge in the wine pairing that was specifically selected to complement the meal. At the various conferences I attended this year, I missed the ability to grab some beers with my fellow conference-goers as I had so many times before (it’s really not the same when I tag along and order a root beer). As I stare longingly at my cabinet of whiskey, it’s the ritual of pouring a glass after a rough day and curling up next to the fireplace with a book, something I have satisfyingly done with some nice herbal tea, but it’s a different experience.

After enjoying some non-alcoholic beers one night, I was perfectly fine with having a clear head, not have to down a bunch of water to get re-hydrated before bed, and certainly don’t miss the mild headache in the morning after having a few. Plus, I get to check-in on Untappd! Though I’m sure my friends there are terribly amused by my NA adventures, it has helped me stay connected.

So now we get down to it, is non-alcoholic beer worth it?

The first problem, at least for me, is that NA beers are overwhelmingly lagers, and I’m an ale girl. Coming from the starting point of not being a fan of lagers in the first place, I was left in a very disappointed space when I started looking for NA beers. However, the main problem is that availability of NA options at all is extremely limited. You won’t any NA options at most places, and what you do find is usually the mass-produced stuff that is not very good. Still, I did end up having the “usual suspects” when it comes to beer at a couple places.

You’ll see St. Pauli NA and O’Doul’s on a lot of menus as their default offerings in the US. The St. Pauli I had at our local Indian place here in Castro Valley I should have passed on, it wasn’t much above water. The O’Doul’s Amber was actually not so bad and a good complement to my meal when we found ourselves at a bar and restaurant near our place in Philadelphia over Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Philadelphia, they do a bit better in the NA beer department than other areas I visited. They actually had Clausthaler Dry Hopped lager at another bar and restaurant we went to with friends. It was also available at Wegmans, so I was able to pick up a six-pack for Thanksgiving (even if I couldn’t convince my brother-in-law and Untappd buddy to try one, hah!). Again, a lager, but the dry-hopping gets me a bit closer to where I want to be and satisfies some of my longing for hops.

I got to enjoy the Bitburger Drive when I was out with a friend at Anchor & Hope in San Francisco back in October. One of the draws for this place is their beer menu, so I was somewhat reluctant to visit while I’m off beer, but they hooked me up with their off-menu NA option. It’s a Pilsner, so not really my thing, but it was a nice addition to my meal and I appreciated it.

And conferences? One of the chairs for LISA18 recognized that half of the organizing committee for the conference was made up of people who weren’t planning on drinking during the event, so he went shopping for some NA beers to bring to a little after-party. I skipped the Old Milwaukee NA he picked up, but I did grab one of the Beck’s NA. Lager again! But it was nice to feel like part of the crowd with a green beer bottle in hand.

That was pretty much it for my in-restaurant and social adventures! This meant that I largely couldn’t satisfy the social or dinner-out accompanying problems with a teetotaler lifestyle.

Back in California, I hit a local Total Wine & More store to grab some of the NA beers that had decent ratings, for what they were.

Kaliber is made by Guinness, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Of the European brews, it’s probably tied with Clausthaler as a favorite. Alas, I can’t say the same about Erdinger. I’d still choose it over a St. Pauli or O’Doul’s, but I have my reservations about finishing the six-pack.

But where would I really rather spend my calories? None of the options above. The US microbreweries specializing in NA beers are where it’s at.

I wrote about the Chandelier Red IPA back in October, so I’ll just repeat what I said there:

The second comes from just south of me, Surreal Brewing, which makes a red IPA! Now, since I love hops and am often indulging in the most ridiculous hoppy beer I can find, it was a bit mild for me, but it was still good and an effective way for me to get my hops fix, even if it’s just a little one.

They only came in packs of four cans! I may actually pick more of this one up during the breast-feeding stage in months to come.

My favorites were from WellBeing Brewing near St. Louis. Their Heavenly Body Golden Wheat was the most beer-like one I tried and my favorite. The Hellraiser Dark Amber is a close second, and I’m really looking forward to their Coffee Cream Stout!

Alas, at the end of the day, none of these beverages are really beer. They are either really mild or have unusual aftertastes, or both. Still, with a long period of breastfeeding ahead of me I should probably get used to avoiding alcohol except for really special occasions when I’m willing to make the required accommodations. As such, I’m especially grateful for the microbreweries who have started to get into this space and offer options that I’ll happily drink until I’m able to return to the land of alcohol drinkers.

Thanksgiving in Philadelphia

Over Thanksgiving MJ and I made our last trip together before the little one arrives. We spent the week at our townhouse in Philadelphia to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and do some visiting with friends in the area. Based on this trip, I can see why air travel isn’t recommended over 32 weeks. It was just a cross-country trip, one I do frequently, but I was incredibly uncomfortable and tired during the journey in both directions, even after springing for First class seats.

Still, we arrived safely and were able to hop on a train down to the townhouse from Newark. Thankfully we missed the snow a few days before, and though it was still a cold week, the final storm at the end of the week arrived when the temperatures rose into the 40s, avoiding more snow.

Thanksgiving itself was spent with our usual lively gathering with MJ’s side of the family at his sister’s house.

During this visit we were able to visit my friends Mike and Jess in New Jersey who welcomed their second son just over six months earlier. Jess has been incredibly helpful as I navigate pregnancy and preparing for our first little one, and it’s always nice to visit with them, even if I did pepper them with a pile of ridiculous First Time Parent questions. We also enjoyed a dinner with our friends Tim and Colleen, and I was able to make it out for a lovely evening with my friend David. A few non-Thanksgiving meals with family were also tossed into the mix too. Even with all that, I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to, but schedules get tricky around holidays.

The two other things that characterized our visit were getting the little one’s room into shape for his first visit next year, and dealing with a leak in the roof. The leak in the roof was an unexpected complication. We had scheduled an attic inspection anyway after damage that began last winter, but upon arrival we noticed some water damage on the ceiling of the guest room. The problem was quickly found and we got a couple estimates, but all that took time and was a bit stressful with the holiday. Still, we’re on track to get it completely fixed this month, with local family lending a hand logistically.

I was able to do some online shopping and order placing before the trip for the little one. We were able to get a very basic changing table at Ikea the first weekend we were in town, and stopped by Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) to collect the crib I had selected, along with bedding and other necessary items for the nursery. We hadn’t put any thought into having a “theme” for the nursery, it’s not really our style and I’ve been busy focusing on what was absolutely required. Our visit to PBK changed that, they have an amazing new line-up of Star Wars nursery items! I think our theme is now, accidentally, Star Wars and space.

We also took advantage Black Friday sales to order a bunch of stuff we needed on the west coast, some of which we picked up in Philadelphia and brought back in luggage, and some things which have been slowly arriving at our doorstep here in California over the past couple weeks.

I assembled the furniture slowly throughout the week, and I admit that seeing a crib put together in the previously nearly empty room really brought things into focus. Suddenly, it was all so real! As if feeling a small person growing inside me for these past few months wasn’t real enough.

Other random life stuff that happened that week included the release of the 12th season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Thanksgiving (which I was a supporter of), so I spent Thanksgiving morning and evening watching a couple episodes. They really hit their stride with this new season. I also unsuccessfully attempted to resurrect my old Xeon server-class desktop. I used it full time for a couple years after I bought it, but replaced it with something a lot more reasonable when I moved to California in 2010. It spent a few years in an outdoor-facing storage facility just outside of Philadelphia before being moved to a climate-controlled unit, but I think it was all too much for it. A handful of hardware failures lit up my screen upon boot, and after a few kernel oopses the Linux install attempt freezes up and fails. Upon reflection, the whole noisy, power draining machine could be replaced with a Raspberry Pi 3 if I need a small system there, and I do already have the original Raspberry Pi running on my desk there.

MJ also was able to get a little glass shelf put in our powder room on the main floor, which is one step closer to the townhouse feeling Done. The place still needs to be painted and some patching work done where we had some work done, but in general it’s a comfortable place to crash even now. I’m looking forward to our first visit there with the little one, which will probably happen in the spring.

Holiday cards 2018!

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


Girard Avenue Line trolley decked out for the holidays in 2016

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 the list from previous years.

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.

SeaGL 2018

I had the pleasure of participating in SeaGL this year. This conference was a special one in my calendar because it’s the last conference on my schedule before our son arrives, my key participation was in the form of giving one of the keynotes, and they were very transparent about their efforts to make a diverse schedule and shared the acceptance results. According to their statistics, 44% of the talks the accepted were from people who self-identified as a member of an under-represented group in tech.

Diversity is important to me, and not just on a feel good level of finally giving voice to people whose views and perspectives have traditionally been marginalized or ignored. I enjoy the energy and welcoming feeling that I find diverse conferences. The diversity of speakers also shows through in the talks themselves, as people with different backgrounds and life experiences will often give very different styles of talks without (and this is important!) compromising on quality or level of technical depth. It makes the experience of spending a day drifting between technical talks much more enjoyable.

So I’ll start by saying thank you to the organizers of SeaGL for the work they put into crafting such an excellent line-up of diverse speakers. Your efforts were noticed and I had a wonderful, educational time as a result.

The keynote I put together for this conference was months in the making. As I reflected on the work I’ve done in open source communities over the past 17 years, I’ve lived through a massive shift in the types of projects, contributors, and companies involved. I also found myself wondering where an individual contributor from the year 2001 would fit into this modern landscape. When I pitched this idea to the conference organizers as a topic for my talk, I only really had my own observations and random chats with other people whose background is similar to mine at conferences over the past couple of years, most of whom were feeling they had lost motivation to contribute outside of their work in tech. In preparation for this talk, I strategically expanded my pool of people to talk to, and also sent out an anonymous survey asking for feedback from anyone who had thoughts to share about their motivations.


Thanks to Brian MacDonald for taking this photo during my keynote (source)

With all this data collected, I had an interesting picture of the state of open source today. The gist of my keynote was that open source has changed since the creation of the term 20 years ago. Some of these ways are uncomfortable for people who have been around that whole time, especially with regard to the influx of money that has caused the environment to change in significant ways. However, there is a lot of good that comes of this too. A lot of us are now paid to work on open source and the opportunity to be paid has opened the doors to folks who may not have traditionally been able to participate. The adoption and support by mainstream firms has made it a more compelling option for non-profits and other local organizations that are rewarding to work with. The investment by for-profit companies in the development tooling landscape is making it easier for contributors to work across projects. I covered these things and more in a hopeful view into the present and future role individuals play in open source today. Slides from my talk can be found here: SeaGL2018-OpenSourceToday-IndividualsNeedNotApply.pdf.

My keynote was followed by one from Molly de Blanc who took us on a very personal glimpse into how technology can be a positive influence mental health, especially when it comes to connecting us instantly to our support networks. On the software freedom side, she explored choices we make with regard to our privacy and security, and trade-offs we may be encountered with as we use different platforms and tools.

With this being my last conference for a while, I went to a couple talks that first day, but ended up spending most of the rest of the day in the “hallway track” as I enjoyed lunch with some folks who worked in and around Debian, and generally catching up with people I’ve known from past jobs and communities.

Day two kicked off with a keynote from Stephen Walli on The Democratization of Software. He looked back at history to demonstrate that freely shared software was more the norm than the exception, and discussed how frictionless it is for anyone to get involved with developing software these days if given the time. Getting access to the code and improving upon it is now essentially a solved problem. Our real challenge today is operating the software securely and reliably at scale, and that’s more difficult. He posited that several of the major vulnerabilities in open source software were not in fact failures in open source, but our methods for testing and deploying the software into production. The problems caused by something like left-pad being removed from NPM shouldn’t have happened on production systems because it should have been tested and the dependency chain thoroughly vetted.

Next we heard from Tameika Reed, Linux systems engineer and founder of Women In Linux. I had the pleasure of hearing from Tameika just a few weeks earlier as she gave one of the keynotes at LISA in Nashville, and it was a pleasure to not just see her again, but sit through one of her keynotes filled with wisdom and humor. In this talk the focus was on making the mental shift from System Administration to System Architect or Team Lead. She stressed the importance of how your view into the work your doing has to change from focusing on a small component of the technical work to stepping back to get the 30,000 foot view. From there you dril down into that to get a view of how the work of your team impacts the organization. She also stressed the human side of a more senior or management role, and that having empathy was key.

After the keynotes I found myself really enjoying a talk by Lucy Wyman about being tactful about what you automate in your infrastructure. Putting pressure on people who want to “automate everything” she outlined some times when you might not want to, like when the complexity of the task means that you have more exceptions to your automation strategy than rules, and would spend a lot more time reconfiguring your automation than you’d actually find value from. What I really loved about this talk though was her invitation of audience participation. In addition to sharing thoughts at key points in her presentation, her findings were validated by real stories from the audience about times that automation went terribly wrong. Plus, they were often really funny, if painful, stories that I think made for a dynamic presentation that took on a life of its own.

I also attended a talk from Duane O’Brien on the risks of heavy handed use of GitHub profiles and activity when evaluating candidates for roles in your organization. There may be a place for it as one piece of criteria that you check, but it excludes a lot of open source projects, disadvantages people who couldn’t work in the open in past roles or don’t have time to do open source work during their personal time. Aricka Flowers does a great job of writing a whole article on the talk over on the GitLab blog: We all love open source, but hiring based on contributions could be harmful.

After Duane, I was thrilled to hear a talk from Carla Schroeder. I met Carla online via LinuxChix well over a decade ago. I pitched in with editing one of her books long before I was known professionally and that gave me an incredible confidence boost at a time I really needed it. As someone who open doors for me so early in my career, I’m eternally grateful and was happy to finally meet her in person. In her talk on documentation, she went through the characteristics of good documentation, several suggestions for documentation layout and linking strategies, and the importance of crafting your pages for good SEO.

The final slot in the schedule went to a very popular talk: The Tragedy of systemd by Benno Rice. Even before the conference I knew this is one of the talks I wanted to see. As a FreeBSD developer, Benno brought an interesting perspective to the discussion of systemd, along with Unix history and the path that Apple’s OSX took with launchd. I am still unconvinced that systemd is the solution to our increasingly complicated world of init systems, but his talk did bring up some interesting points about how we’ve approached them in the past and the value that systemd creator Lennart Poettering brought to the Linux world by introducing systemd. He recommended Poettering’s Rethinking PID 1 which digs into the guts of the philosophy behind systemd and went on to address many of the criticisms. I certainly appreciated the talk a lot and while this delivery wasn’t recorded, his version of the talk given at BSDCan was (Benno Rice: The Tragedy of systemd — BSDCan 2018) and I’ve sent it to a few people already. Thanks to Benno for approaching such a controversial topic with evidence and positivity, I learned a lot.

Sadly, that concluded the conference for me! There was an after party, but I had decided to head home that night so I could sleep in my own bed and avoid the additional hotel night expense.

More photos from SeaGL can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157675535928818

Thanks again to all the organizers and other volunteers for making my last conference for a while such a great experience!