For each Ubuntu release I spend a little time finding a toy or other representation of the codename animal to use at booths, Ubuntu Hours and other events. I wrote about Quetzals and Pangolins here and you may have seen Raring here.
When the salamander came up I was confident that a toy would be easy to find, and indeed they were! Even better, I found that the World Wildlife Fund offers a $50 Hellbender Salamander Adoption Kit that ships with 2 plush salamanders! Mine arrived yesterday, I’ll be keeping one to use at our events and will find a way to give away the other (perhaps as part of the Ubuntu Women contest we’re planning? Or at some LoCo event?).
Event decoration + helping to save the actual animal, hooray!
Oh, and it is a release late, but while I was in Mérida, Mexico we stopped in to Miniaturas where I picked up some adorable quetzal earrings:
I think I’ll wear them to our San Francisco Ubuntu Hour on June 12th, and bring along the salamander!
Since I left for my wedding and honeymoon a bunch of things happened! Ubuntu 13.04 was released, 13.10 was given the code name “Saucy Salamander” and Debian 7.0 Wheezy came out. Plus lots of exciting OpenStack development discussion that came out following the Summit (I left right after it). When I got back into the country on the 12th I had a lot to catch up on! I did my best to cram before sessions and certainly had to limit involvement to a handful of sessions that I was particularly keen on attending and so could get up to speed with quickly.
This was the first virtual UDS I was able to participate in, so it was all new to me. Essentially the the “fish bowl” (as seen here, I took this photo from my spot in the wider attendee seating) is replaced by a Google Hangout and the “wider attendee seating” is an IRC channel. For the 4 sessions I participated in this worked very well, session leads were pro-active about asking who wished to participate in the Hangout so everyone who wanted to was able to. A great deal of attention in all these sessions was given to the IRC channel, which is a contrast with in person UDS where the channel can sometimes get a bit left behind (even though it’s being projected, it was easy to forget once you get talking). I didn’t use the summit.ubuntu.com page for anything aside reference, preferring to pop out the etherpad and use my standard IRC client, but I appreciated it all being there as a resource (and I’m sure it was super helpful for newcomers to follow along!).
Cheri Francis and others in the Ubuntu Women session
I found the sessions I participated in to be productive and focused and when applicable resulted in a solid list of action items. I hope that the event also lessened the experience gap that was always present for in person vs. remote participants, we all got the same experience. Now I have to admit to not being a fan of using Google Hangouts for this (I like Google, but it is still a proprietary, closed-source tool that we have no control over), but I understand that the ease of use and immediate availability of videos on YouTube makes a compelling case. Perhaps my only other complaint is lack of cohesiveness that comes from an online event, I didn’t watch the introduction or the wrap up. I also didn’t participate in the “beer hangout” – I didn’t even know it was happening, and sitting in front of my computer with a beer in the middle of the day wasn’t particularly interesting to me. I only attended a few specific sessions and there was no “wandering into something that looks interesting” (instead I just went back to work) or the regular social down time we get to relax or sit down to hack on things. I do hope we can find some kind of replacement for the in-person events, it would be great to see something on the LoCo team level at conferences where we seek to have an expanded Ubuntu presence focused on contributors (perhaps an Ubucon with a participant track?).
And the venue… it was at home! In order to participate in the hangout I did feel the need to leverage my multiple monitors.
Now the sessions themselves…
– Planning for Ubuntu Community presence on the Ubuntu Website –
This was not a particularly productive session as far as action items were concerned, but it turns out that while I was gone the removal of the “Community” link from ubuntu.com took on a life of its own (and boy was I surprised to see my name end up in a recent Datamation article about it). Personally I was satisfied with Daniel Holbach’s blog post on the subject a day after the change was made, but it was nice to speak with with some folks from the Design team and allow everyone to confirm that no ill will was intended and that plans for a new and improved community site were moving forward. The session was kept short given the more structured session about the community site specifically planned for the following day.
YouTube video of the session here
– Ubuntu Women UDS-1305 Goals –
Huge thanks to Silvia Bindelli and Cheri Francis for doing all of the leg work for this session while I was gone, I felt very comfortable reviewing their pre-session notes and found a really great, collaborative environment upon joining in. The discussion began talking about an information scavenger-hung competition that the team will be doing in the coming months, seeking volunteers to assist. It then moved into a topic that I was really happy to see on the agenda – a user poll to see how the team could be most effective in serving our audience of women interested in Ubuntu. I find that the project needs a bit of an adjustment every couple of years to refocus on our current targets as Ubuntu and the open source ecosystem evolves, so I’m excited that we’re doing this. Finally, much of the session was spent discussing our intention to further collaborate with other groups seeking to encourage women in open source (and in technology in general).
– Revamping ubuntu.com/community –
Picking up from where discussion left off the previous day, this session was a focused on on concrete things that need to be done to get the proposed community website that was under development reviewed and published. I admit that job change + wedding planning had my attention diverted this past cycle so I wasn’t able to contribute to this project, but I made sure to spend time the night before to do a review of the content so I’d be prepared. I was able to go through some of my suggestions during the meeting and took a few action items to continue with a more thorough review and to collect some quotes and photos from the community to make the site more personal and approachable.
– Shaping a plan for the future of Ubuntu Documentation Team –
I can’t begin to say how pleased I was to see this session land on the agenda. The Ubuntu Doc team has been a very small team for a long time, and new contributors have struggled to participate as the docs for writing the docs got stale to a point where they were not useful. We’re at a very exciting time now where we have limited support from a couple of the (very busy!) former drivers of this team and at least two strong contributors who have committed to moving the project forward. The first thing on the agenda was addressing the updating of docs so that more contributors can get on-boarded. I was able to pitch in with a couple action items to nudge things along a bit, but I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of an exciting new phase for the team.
– Xubuntu –
Since the event was online, the Xubuntu team took advantage of the flexibility and ended up pulling their sessions from UDS proper and scheduling our sessions for the hour after UDS each day to tackle a series of blueprints designed for the coming months. I was able to use my YouTube account + Hangouts to replicate that portion of what main UDS was doing.
Discussion of most interest to me centered around our testing+release plans (should we do alphas? betas? which ones?) and documentation, but discussion of our limited developer force (want to grow it!), a proposal for a shortcut overlay and default applications also were discussed. A much better summary was posted on the Xubuntu website yesterday: Looking towards Xubuntu 13.10. Pasi Lallinaho also wrote bullet-point style summaries of Night 1 and Night 2 which include links to their respective YouTube videos.
In all, a productive UDS for me, I have a lot of work to do… :)
The second half of our honeymoon was full of adventure (and ok, a bit more luxury). We decided to spend 5 days traveling through the Yucatan peninsula visiting Mayan ruins, cenotes and local cities. We wanted our visit to be stress-free so MJ did some research and found William Lawsons Personal Driving Service which would not only take us around the peninsula but our driver would also be a registered tour guide! We met our guide, Angel, at the resort on Tuesday morning to begin our adventure.
Our first visit was to the ruins of Ek’ Balam. This was a really cool site, with multiple structures to climb, including the huge main temple. It wasn’t until I climbed to the top that I fully appreciated how hot it was out (and that I hadn’t brought enough water!).
I was pretty tired after wandering around those ruins in the heat, so I was delighted when our tour guide was able to find Cenote Hubiku, just north of Valladolid where we were spending the night. A cenote is a “a deep natural pit, or sinkhole, characteristic of Mexico, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneat” (wikipedia). There are thousands in the Yucatan and many that are equipped for people to swim in. Cenote Hubiku had a small admission fee and full, modern facilities for changing before swimming. We caught them at the tail end of their day, but got a good 20 minutes of swimming in the beautiful, cool cenote before being on our way. It was the perfect thing for post ruin exploration.
For dinner we went to Taberna de los Frailes for a delicious dinner that included a grilled watermelon with cheese appetizer (which I wouldn’t have ordered, but the waiter recommended it). We retired for the night at Casa Hamaca Guesthouse which was a cute little inn in the heart of Valladolid. Even better, the proprietor Denis Larsen is a northeast US expat who was exceptionally welcoming and helpful the next morning as we enjoyed banana pancakes and chatted about everything from our shared love of Google Docs for collaboration to tips for the rest of our stay in the Yucatan.
We then spent the day exploring the beautiful city of Valladolid. We visited the small San Roque Museum and then spent some time walking around the main square. From there we did some shopping and I picked up a couple of the traditional embroidered blouses that Valladolid is famous for. We also got a couple of brimmed hats for further ruin exploration. Mid-day we met up with Angel who took us to the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena and Cenote Zaci – a cenote right in town! We didn’t swim but it was nice to visit.
Come late afternoon it was time to start driving toward Mérida to check in to Hacienda Xcanatun boutique hotel for the night. This former hacienda was one of the many in the region that used to be a sisal (fiber) plantation. This was my favorite hotel. The rooms were sprawling and while modernized, still held an architectural feel and basic layout similarities to what I’d expect from and old hacienda. We had dinner at their famous on-site restaurant of the same name.
The next day was Uxmal! Plus a couple other sites on the Puuc Route. Uxmal was a major city and so touring the ruins takes several hours. We managed to see most of it and had a lot of fun climbing around several of their major structures (only the largest and a few minor sites had climbing prohibited). This site really rivals Chichen Itza in how big and amazing the ruins are, definitely one of my favorites.
Next on our list to visit for the day was Kabah. Most amazing about this place was its famous “Palace of the Masks” which was a whole building covered on one side with ornate faces of stone. You’re allowed to climb up to and around the palace, making this probably my favorite small site we visited.
The last ruin site we visited was Sayil where we just visited the Palace of Sayil (the site was very spread out, with buildings up to 1 mile apart). Like so many of these palaces, it was an impressive and imposing sight! No climbing up the structure allowed though.
Our final new site of the day was the Ecomuseo del Cacao. Our first hint that this place wasn’t quite up to par with the rest of our day was the clue from Angel that, while a traditional Mayan thing, cacao doesn’t actually grow naturally in the Yucatan because it’s not humid enough. The museum had it’s moments but was a bit too polished and cheesy. It was nice visiting the grove of artificially maintained cocoa trees and the hot chocolate tasting at the end was probably worth the entrance fee.
From there we headed back to Uxmal for a sound and light show. I hadn’t read great things about it online, so I was prepped for something really cheesy, but I admit having really enjoyed it. The main track being broadcast is in Spanish, but you can rent headphones in several languages so you can hear the stories going along with the show that paint a picture of what it may have been like in the height of civilization there. It was also then that I noticed how beautifully clear the sky was out there, you could see so many stars.
That night we checked into Hacienda Temozon. It was a beautiful property, advertisements for it are quick to tell you that Bill Clinton stayed there once and the only owned by a major American company. The rooms were large, but it turns out perhaps not the right place to stay during ant season. Staying true to some of the age of the place, it didn’t have glass on the windows so everything was quite open-air and the doors covering the windows didn’t seal (you could put your finger through some of the gaps). I did enjoy a wonderful Mexican omelette in the morning.
Angel picked us up in the late morning and, knowing our interest in cenotes, decided to take us to a less touristy one that he knew of, Cenote Kankirixché. It wasn’t a fancy, staffed cenote like the previous ones we’d been to, we had to change in the van and then it was just a hole in the ground and a somewhat questionable wooden staircase taking you down to the water. It was beautiful and refreshing though!
From there we were off to the city of Mérida! First stop was to check in to the stunningly modern Rosas and Xocolate boutique hotel before heading across the street to the Anthropology and History Museum. The museum is located in the former Canton Palace and while all in Spanish the exhibits mostly spoke for themselves. My favorite exhibits were one of one of the earlier expeditions to the Yucatan where many of the Puuc sites we explored, seeing photos from those sites before they were uncovered and restored was really cool. They also had a local embroidery exhibit upstairs which, seeing them in context, made me really happy about my beautiful blouse purchases in Valladolid.
Then it was off to the Grande Plaza district of Merida where we had lunch at Amaro. We did some shopping and were able to visit the Casa de los Montejo and the Palacio de Gobierno with it’s captivating murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco. We enjoyed dinner back at the hotel and in all a relaxing night.
Unfortuantely the adventures had to come to an end at some point, our last day was spent visiting the famous Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza is a huge settlement and we spent over 3 hours exploring it. It was more crowded than any of the other sites we went to, but the benefit of going in the hottest part of the year is that it wasn’t overwhelming with people at all. One of the interesting things about it though was while it’s expensive for tourists to enter (up to 5 times as much as other sites), the whole inside was filled with vendors! Angel told us it was because it used to be privately owned and they owner brought in all these vendors, and when it was transferred to more government run thing they kept the vendors. At first it was a little off-putting to have so many vendors throughout the archaeological site, but I came to realize that these vendors were selling on-topic keepsakes that tourists (including myself) were interested in buying, and technically these people are descendants of the Mayans who built this city – this is theirs. It also brought a liveliness to the site that was lacking at the other sites, I appreciated them by the time we were wrapping up our day there. And what a day. You couldn’t climb any of the ruins but it’s probably for the best, even just walking among these giants in the heat was enough to tire me out considerably.
We spent our last night in Mexico in Cancun so we’d have easy access to the airport the following morning. MJ picked a hotel on the beach where we could have a romantic private cabana dinner. Perfect wrap up to our honeymoon :)
On Tuesday the 30th we flew from Philadelphia to Cancun, Mexico. From there we took a shuttle south for about 40 minutes until we got to the Riviera Maya district and Grand Velas, the all-inclusive resort we had reservations at for the first week of our honeymoon.
We then spent a much-needed week relaxing.
We had a stunning view from our room.
Hours to spend relaxing on the beach, or in one of their several pools where they brought us all the food and beverages we wanted.
Plus, chocolate strawberries.
I read my way through several books that I’d been wanting to read but never could find time for. Pretty much the only decision we needed to make all week was which of the top notch restaurants they had on site for each meal. I quite enjoyed room service for breakfast.
More photos from our stay: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157633490351996/
We did end up making one excursion during the week, and that was to Rio Secreto, a nearby series of underground caves and waterways. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was quite close to such a touristy area (tourist trap?) but my expectations were surpassed in all ways. We were geared up with water shoes (we opted to buy new ones for $10/pair), helmets and wet suits and we had a great tour guide, but it was far from a risk-free, polished tourist experience. We got a real feel for the natural caves and we had an amazing time swimming through some of the pools we were taken through in our 3 hour tour through 600+ meters of cave.
A photographer came along with to take photos and we paid the charge to download them all royalty-free, I uploaded several of them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157633479166189/
Alas, the luxurious stay had to come to and end at some point. The following Tuesday we packed up… but not to end our honeymoon! Instead we repacked to spend the next 5 days traveling through the Yucatán visiting Mayan ruins and modern Yucatán cities! But that’s for the next post…
On Sunday April 28th MJ and I were married!
The day began gathering with mothers, my aunt and the bridesmaids in the bridal suite of the Joseph Ambler Inn where we and most of our out of town guests stayed. Inn Manager Keenan Christiansen and Brian Cottman really made us feel welcome throughout our stay and during all the planning.
My maid of honor, Danita Fries, took care of morning makeup and hair preparations, bringing in Daneene Jensen and her team to take care of hair and makeup for all of us. Not being a makeup person, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of wearing it, but Daneene made me feel comfortable and was great about keeping the makeup light and the look very natural. MJ’s Best Woman even stopped by with refreshments in the late morning so we wouldn’t be without lunch.
We met with our photographer, Melissa Morelli, at 1PM to begin taking photos at the inn. She was the photographer MJ hired for our engagement and a few months back she also did my head shots. We were really happy to have her join us in Pennsylvania for the wedding.
The weather was beautiful, which was quite fortunate as the wedding was outdoors and Melissa was able to take some great pictures throughout the venue before the ceremony.
Then, the ceremony! We went back and forth about having a videographer for our wedding and decided to go with one from the Mixed Media Productions, the firm our DJ, Mike Robertson, runs. In retrospect I’m glad we decided to have one, the photos are great but I was so overwhelmed (happy! excited! nervous!) that I can’t say I actually remember that much of the ceremony :)
It all went very smoothly. My mother and grandfather walked me down the aisle. We were honored to have Rabbi Elliot Holin work with us on the ceremony and finally to officiate.
We also held our reception at Talamore, starting with a cocktail hour in the garden room (this room was also backup for ceremony had it rained). Then dinner in their main ballroom which was decked out with the amazing flower centerpieces by Moles Flowers.
The rest of the reception was also pretty traditional, short speeches from family and friends, a first dance and cake! We selected a multi-flavor cake from Bredenbecks and I made sure to have a bit of each ;)
And in addition to being able to talk to many of our guests, we even danced a bit! It was an amazing night.
Afterwards we had a bit of an after party back at the Inn, giving us time to kick back and relax for a couple hours with some of our guests.
In all, things went as perfect as I could have imagined thanks to MJ’s attention to detail throughout the process along with some great vendors who were able to work with us on requests.
We’ll be updating our website in the coming weeks with tons more photos and other details of our wedding weekend which included family and wedding party dinners.