CI, Validation and more at DebConf14

Sep. 1st, 2014 11:54 am
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

I’ve been a Debian user since 2002 and got my first package into Debian in 2006. Though I continued to maintain a couple packages through the years, my open source interests (and career) have expanded significantly so that I now spend much more time with Ubuntu and OpenStack than anything else. Still, I do still host Bay Area Debian events in San Francisco and when I learned that DebConf14 would only be quick plane flight away from home I was eager for the opportunity to attend.

Given my other obligations, I decided to come in halfway through the conference, arriving Wednesday evening. Thursday was particularly interesting to me because they were doing most of the Debian Validation & CI discussions then. Given my day job on the OpenStack Infrastructure team, it seemed to be a great place to meet other folks who are interested in CI and see where our team could support Debian’s initiatives.

First up was the Validation and Continuous Integration BoF led by Neil Williams.

It was interesting to learn the current validation methods being used in Debian, including:

From there talk moved into what kinds of integration tests people wanted, where various ideas were covered, including package sets (collections of related packages) and how to inject “dirty” data into systems to test in more real world like situations. Someone also mentioned doing tests on more real systems rather than in chrooted environments.

Discussion touched upon having a Gerrit-like workflow that had packages submitted for review and testing prior to landing in the archive. This led to my having some interesting conversations with the drivers of Gerrit efforts in Debian after the session (nice to meet you, mika!). There was also discussion about notification to developers when their packages run afoul of the testing infrastructure, either themselves or as part of a dependency chain (who wants notifications? how to make them useful and not overwhelming?).

I’ve uploaded the gobby notes from the session here: validation-bof and the video of the session is available on the meetings-archive.

Next up on the schedule was debci and the Debian Continuous Integration project presented by Antonio Terceiro. He gave a tour of the Debian Continuous Integration system and talked about how packages can take advantage of the system by having their own test suites. He also discussed some about the current architecture for handling tests and optimizations they want to make in the future. Documentation for debci can be found here: ci.debian.net/doc/. Video of the session is also available on the meetings-archive.

The final CI talk I went to of the day was Automated Validation in Debian using LAVA where Neil Williams gave a tour of the expanded LAVA (Linaro Automated Validation Architecture). I heard about it back when it was a more simple ARM-only testing infrastructure, but it’s grown beyond that to now test distribution kernel images, package combinations and installer images and has been encouraging folks to write tests. He also talked about some of the work they’re doing to bring along LAVA demo stations to conferences, nice! Slides from this talk are available on the debconf annex site, here: http://annex.debconf.org/debconf-share/debconf14/slides/lava/

On Friday I also bumped into a testing-related talk by Paul Wise during a series of Live Demos, he showed off check-all-the-things which runs a pile of tools against your project to check… all the things, detecting what it needs to do automatically. Check out the README for rationale, and for a taste of things it checks and future plans, have a peek at some of the data files, like this one.

It’s really exciting to see more effort being spent on testing in Debian, and open source projects in general. This has long been the space of companies doing private, internal testing of open source products they use and reporting results back to projects in the form of patches and bug reports. Having the projects themselves provide QA is a huge step for the maturity of open source, and I believe will lead to even more success for projects as we move into the future.

The rest of DebConf for me was following my more personal interests in Debian. I also have to admit that my lack of involvement lately made me feel like a bit of an outsider and I’m quite shy anyway, so I was thankful to know a few Debian folks who I could hang out with and join for meals.

On Thursday evening I attended A glimpse into a systemd future by Josh Triplett. I haven’t really been keeping up with systemd news or features, so I learned a lot. I have to say, it would be great to see things like session management, screen brightness and other user settings be controlled by something lower level than the desktop environment. Friday I attended Thomas Goirand’s OpenStack update & packaging experience sharing. I’ve been loosely tracking this, but it was good to learn that Jessie will come with Icehouse and that install docs exist for Wheezy (here).

I also attended Outsourcing your webapp maintenance to Debian with Francois Marier. The rationale for his talk was that one should build their application with the mature versions of web frameworks included with Debian in mind, making it so you don’t have the burden of, say, managing Django along with your Django-based app, since Debian handles that. I continue to have mixed feelings when it comes to webapps in the main Debian repository, while some developers who are interested in reducing maintenance burden are ok with using older versions shipped with Debian, most developers I’ve worked with are very much not in this camp and I’m better off trying to support what they want than fighting with them about versions. Then it was off to Docker + Debian = ♥ with Paul Tagliamonte where he talked about some of his best practices for using Docker on Debian and ideas for leveraging it more in development (having multiple versions of services running on one host, exporting docker images to help with replication of tests and development environments).

Friday night Linus Torvalds joined us for a Q&A session. As someone who has put a lot of work into making friendly environments for new open source contributors, I can’t say I’m thrilled with his abrasive conduct in the Linux kernel project. I do worry that he sets a tone that impressionable kernel hackers then go on to emulate, perpetuating the caustic environment that spills out beyond just the kernel, but he has no interest in changing. That aside, it was interesting to hear him talk about other aspects of his work, his thoughts on systemd, a rant about compiling against specific libraries for every distro and versions (companies won’t do it, they’ll just ship their own statically linked ones) and his continued comments in support of Google Chrome.

DebConf wrapped up on Sunday. I spent the morning in one of the HackLabs catching up on some work, and at 1:30 headed up to the Plenary room for the last few talks of the event, starting with a series of lightning talks. A few of the talks stood out for me, including Geoffrey Thomas’ talk on being a bit of an outsider at DebConf and how difficult it is to be running a non-Debian/Linux system at the event. I’ve long been disappointed when people bring along their proprietary OSes to Linux events, but he made good points about people being able to contribute without fully “buying in” to having free software everywhere, including their laptop. He’s right. Margarita Manterola shared some stats from the Mini-DebConf Barcelona which focused on having only female speakers, it was great to hear such positive statistics, particularly since DebConf14 itself had a pretty poor ratio, there were several talks I attended (particularly around CI) where I was the only woman in the room. It was also interesting to learn about safe-rm to save us from ourselves and non-free.org to help make a distinction between what is Debian and what is not.

There was also a great talk by Vagrant Cascadian about his work on packages that he saw needed help but he didn’t necessarily know everything about, and encouraged others to take the same leap to work on things that may be outside their comfort zone. To help he listed several resources people could use to find work in Debian:

Next up for the afternoon was the Bits from the Release Team where they fleshed out what the next few months leading up to the freeze would look like and sharing the Jessie Freeze Policy.

DebConf wrapped up with a thank you to the volunteers (thank you!) and peek at the next DebConf, to be held in Heidelberg, Germany the 15th-22nd of August 2015.

Then it was off to the airport for me!

The rest of my photos from DebConf14 here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157646626186269/

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

LCA 2015

Sep. 1st, 2014 11:22 am
zorkian: A picture of Oliver sitting up with his Dreamwidth onesie on! (Default)
[personal profile] zorkian
Also, my tutorial on "Building Services in Go" was accepted. Guess I'll be going to Auckland to present at LCA 2015!

Woo.

Now I'm off to pay rent, get lunch, and go look at motorcycles. I've been thinking about trading mine in (it's paid off and I've had it for 5 years) for a Triumph Scrambler. Pretty bike.

Excellent zine

Aug. 31st, 2014 10:47 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Back from the zinefest etc.

I am reading the three issues of an extremely good zine, Moonroot, some of the best writing I've seen in a while. It's great. I highly recommend it! fucking excellent!!!!

http://moonroot.tumblr.com/

Wish I'd had more time to talk with the folks at their table but I had to scoot off and go to the panel/discussion.

OK.

Onwards.

off to the zine fest

Aug. 31st, 2014 12:40 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Leg not too good, ankle also, painkillering up to cab to the zine fest. I am on a panel at 3pm.

Not sure if I can make it to Oakland today but I will give it a good try.

zach came by to show me his new scooter hacks, which are amazing, and brought me a really big comfy foam cushioned seat back with a wood panel backing, for my travelscoot, which will be really good if I hack it down to half its size and bolt it nicely on. Or maybe a large amount of velcro backing and some sort of clip. It needs to be as portable as possible. i am super touched he brought it. The new hacks are a big power converter so his huge 35 amp hour batteries can now charge a car charger port mounted in the scooter side. There are also new speakers which he scavenged from noisebridge and mounted on the back in older looking cases so no one will steal them. they fit perfectly! soon to come, a microphone (xlr) jack so he can plug a mic straight into the scooter speakers.

hannah's board game party was fun yesterday. i feel glad to hold my friends close.

Make. better. games.

Aug. 29th, 2014 08:22 pm
shadowspar: A incorporeal undead creature floating in midair, with sharp claws and an evil grin (Wesnoth: Shadow)
[personal profile] shadowspar

I don't understand the rational basis behind people's opposition to Anita Sarkeesian's work, if indeed there is any.

I grant that I haven't plumbed the depths of Reddit, 4chan, and sundry gaming forums looking for reasoned argument, because those places are fucking gross. But what I have found seems to be naught more than a paranoid chorus of "she's out to get our games!"

Some self-identified "gamers" seem to think that Sarkeesian's saying "Stop making games". She's not. She's saying "Games can be better than this. Make better games."

The myriad cries of "censorship!" and "political correctness!" suggest the perceived danger is that games will change as a result of Sarkeesian's critique—that the amount of abuse and misogyny will decrease, and that the number of female characters with agency and development will increase. This makes the rallying cry of "she's out to get our games!" sound more like "she's out to emasculate our games!"

I have news for you, gamer dudes. If gratuitous misogyny and violence is how you define masculinity, then you've got a big fucking problem.

pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

The OpenStack Infrastructure team has a pretty big bug collection.

1855 collection
Well, not literal bugs

We’ve slowly been moving new bugs for some projects over to StoryBoard in order to kick the tires on that new system, but today we focused back on our Launchpad Bugs to par down our list.

Interested in running a bug day? The steps we have for running a bug day can be a bit tedious, but it’s not hard, here’s the rundown:

  1. I create our etherpad: cibugreview-august2014 (see etherpad from past bug days on the wiki at: InfraTeam#Bugs)
  2. I run my simple infra_bugday.py script and populate the etherpad.
  3. Grab the bug stats from launchpad and copy them into the pad so we (hopefully) have inspiring statistics at the end of the day.
  4. Then comes the real work. I open up the old etherpad and go through all the bugs, copying over comments from the old etherpad where applicable and making my own comments as necessary about obvious updates I see (and updating my own bugs).
  5. Let the rest of the team dive in on the etherpad and bugs!

Throughout the day we chat in #openstack-infra about bug statuses, whether we should continue pursuing certain strategies outlined in bugs, reaching out to folks who have outstanding bugs in the tracker that we’d like to see movement on but haven’t in a while. Plus, we get to triage a whole pile of New bugs (thanks Clark) and close others we may have lost track of (thanks everyone).

As we wrap up, here are the stats from today:

Starting bug day count: 270

31 New bugs
39 In-progress bugs
6 Critical bugs
15 High importance bugs
8 Incomplete bugs

Ending bug day count: 233

0 New bugs
37 In-progress bugs
3 Critical bugs
10 High importance bugs
14 Incomplete bugs

Full disclosure, 4 of the bugs we “closed” were actually moved to the Zuul project on Launchpad so we can import them into StoryBoard at a later date. The rest were legitimate though!

It was a busy day, thanks to everyone who participated.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

Last month I learned about an Exploratorium Charter being put on by Market Street Railway. I’m a member of the organization and they do charters throughout the year, but my schedule rarely syncs up with when charters or other events are happening, so I was delighted when I firmed up my DebConf schedule and knew I’d be in town for this one!

It was a 2 hour planned charter, which would pick is up at the railway museum near Ferry building and take us down to Muni Metro East, “the current home of the historic streetcar fleet and not usually open to the public.” Sign me up.

The car taking us on our journey was the 1050, which was originally a Philadelphia street car (built in 1948, given No. 2119) which had been painted in Muni livery. MJ’s best friend is in town this weekend, so I had both Matti and MJ to join me on this excursion.

The route began by going down what will become the E line next year, and we stopped at the AT&T ballpark for some photo ops. The conductor (not the driver) of the event posed for photos.

Throughout the ride various volunteers from Market Street Railway passed around photos and historic pieces from street cars to demonstrate how they worked and some of the historic routes where they ran. Of particular interest was learning just how busy Ferry Building was at it’s height in the 1930s, not only serving as a busy passenger ferry port, but also with lots of street cars and other transit stopping at the building pretty much non-stop.

From the E-line there the street car went down Third street through Dogpatch and finally arrived at our first destination, the Muni Metro East Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance & Operations Facility. We all had to bright vests in order to enter the working facility.


Obligatory “Me with streetcar” photo

The facility is a huge warehouse where repairs are done on both the street cars and the Metro coaches. We had quite a bit of time to look around and peek under the cars and see some of the ones that were under repair or getting phased into usage.

I think my favorite part of the visit was getting to go outside and see the several cars outside. Some of them were just coming in for scheduled maintenance, and others like the cream colored 1056 that are going to be sent off for restoration (hooray!).

The tour concluded by taking us back up the Embarcadero and dropping us off at the Exploratorium science museum, skipping a loop around Pier 39 due to being a bit behind schedule. We spent about an hour at the museum, which was a nice visit as MJ and I had just been several months earlier.

Lots more photos from our day here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157646412090817/

Huge thanks to Market Street Railway for putting on such a fun and accessible event!

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Aside from having a memory that I twice successfully skied nearly half a lifetime ago, there were two things I’d been told about skiing that tempted me back. One is that it is somewhat easier to learn on carved skis, but the other bigger consideration is that being tall is apparently essentially a complete disadvantage in snowboarding, where holding your centre of gravity pretty much above the board at all times is the key skill. In skiing, this is not so. I asked a few people, and someone I know who is quite good at both agreed that with my snowboarding skill level, I really wouldn’t be losing a lot by switching to skiing.

Our trip didn’t begin promisingly. First there was the usual agony of planning a holiday. We had thought to return to New Zealand, but I decided I didn’t want to deal with pumping for A in a daycare and so we’d have to switch off caring for her. There’s essentially no on-snow accommodation in New Zealand; I imagined the experience for the person sitting with the baby in a crowded snow cafeteria all day with a shudder. And the difficulty getting V onto a bus up a mountain each day and entertaining him for an hour in each direction. Then we considered Perisher where we’d been before, but it was ludicrously expensive. So we settled on Thredbo, which is also far from cheap but has more beds and is also a genuine village in its own right. Important, I thought, if I once again got too injured to continue and wanted to do something else with my time. I was tired from planning long before we left.

Even less promisingly, the morning before we left, V woke up and was sick. To be precise: he was sick on the baby, setting a new record for contagious behaviour from my children even exceeding the time A stuck her snotty finger up Val’s nose in the US. We didn’t have the food we’d planned to take and we didn’t have snow clothes. So we waited a while and took a pale and tired V for clothes and generally considered the following day with fear.

V was bewildered and annoyed to get up before the sun, something I think we’ve never got him to do before, and especially since we then hustled him onto a city bus, and marched him across Central and onto a coach. (We can’t easily take a taxi with a baby under one year old, something that also caused a lot of problems on my US trip.) He was then annoyed that we had promised him the very interesting experience that the coach would have a toilet and it didn’t, which was nothing to our reaction to the prospect a seven hour coach trip on a coach without a toilet. Meanwhile, I contemplated the joy of seven hours on a coach where all but three of the seats didn’t have enough leg room for me. (About every two years I have the brilliant idea of taking buses places instead of driving, and each time I board only to remember that I don’t actually fit on them. Oh.)

It all worked out though; the bus made a few loo breaks, and V was well enough to not be miserable but sick enough to spend most of the trip asleep or staring dreamily out the window rather than, as we’d feared, spending the whole trip in perpetual whine-motion. A still isn’t crawling, so she spent the trip strapped to me or Andrew mostly happily except for occasional annoyed screeches. Towards the end of the trip, I was the one climbing the walls, squashed into the bus and nauseous from the bus’s heating level and A’s body heat.

The agony was not over: we were disgorged from the bus with two little kids and two giant and heavy suitcases, went briefly to see the tobogganing and then went to pick up all the gear — two sets of skis, a snowboard, three sets of boots, my stocks, three helmets — with a tired V who was very keen to ski and who believed that we were going to get off the bus and immediately all ski down a mountain together.

I have to hand it to Thredbo: their hire gear places are frighteningly efficient, with 8 separate “stations” each staffed by multiple people who sit you down, pop your feed on sizing guides, stand you up, eyeball you for ski length, strap everything together, tinker with it, and send you on your way.

Even so, it was tough. V had a small tantrum that we weren’t getting him stocks, believing it’s not possible to ski without them (only very advanced children are allowed to use them in the children’s ski school), and a very long epic tantrum as we painfully loaded all our luggage and gear onto a minibus packed with other skiers. Once we had fought all our stuff back out of the minibus, we had to slowly leapfrog it up a steep driveway and steps to the apartment we were staying in while V cried that his skis were so very very heavy, can’t you carry them Mama please? What, with a 20kg suitcase, my skis and stocks, and the baby strapped to my front? (Various adults who saw this trainwreck in action would make sad pitying noises before they saw the baby. After that, they’d just squeak and flap in alarm.) The owners of the accommodation were horrified and helpful once they’d discovered all this and helped us into the flat where we used the very last of our energy for sorting out the following morning’s piles of stuff.

Actually, no, I tell a lie, I used the very last of my energy walking several hundred metres down the hill and back up in the icy dark to buy additional groceries, but this was actually a blessed emotional getaway. (And Thredbo is actually quite warm, it was probably only roughly freezing.)

It’s not a destination designed to be reached on public transport, that much was clear.

We set our phone alarms for the distressing time of 7am, and in our last tragic act, failed to check how to set the thermostats properly before going to sleep, leaving them on MAX and sweltering all night. And so it began. Not entirely as it was to continue, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Carrot-ginger risotto for reflux

Aug. 24th, 2014 09:27 pm
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

I get a bit of gastric reflux and it’s definitely not my favourite thing. When it flares up, it hurts to eat, especially to swallow. I’m a big fan of actual drugs (which work pretty well for me), but I also find that simple food helps, or at least hurts less: rice, broth, fruit that’s not too acidic, basic sweet biscuits/cookies (I like Arnotts teddybears), etc. I try to eat small portions. Ginger tea also helps.

Tonight I invented (or “unvented” as Elizabeth Zimmermann would have put it) a carrot-ginger risotto that hit all the right spots for me. It goes down easily, it’s just a little bit sweet and salty, it’s got a vegetable in it so it feels more like real food than plain rice would, and the ginger helps it sit more easily.

This isn’t a fully fledged recipe, it’s more of an outline for someone who already knows how to make risotto. If you know how, then you should be able to work from this. If you need more detailed instructions, my version is loosely based on this one.

Anyway.

Saute an onion in a tiny bit of oil — I tried to minimise it because of the reflux — until translucent.

Peel a carrot or two (I used two medium ones) and a good sized knob of ginger and either grate them or mince in a food processor. Chuck these in the pan with the onion, along with (optionally) half a teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin.

Then add a cup or so of arborio rice and do the thing you do with veggie stock until it’s risotto. I also added a whole star anise to simmer along with it (also optional) and pulled it out at the end.

Pinch of salt to taste.

Eat a small bowlful slowly with a spoon. Appreciate being able to swallow without discomfort.

Needless to say, there’s no photo for this one, as it’s a bowlful of orangey slop and really not very photogenic. If you wanted to be fancy, you could sprinkle some coriander leaves, microgreens, or pea shoots on top, or have it as a side dish to some Asian-flavoured protein. Obviously I did not do these things. Chicken might be nice, though.

August 2014 miscellany

Aug. 23rd, 2014 09:52 pm
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

It’s been about a month since my surgery. I feel like I’ve taken it easy, but looking at my schedule (which included a conference on the other side of the continent) I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m not very good at that. I’m happy to say I’m pretty much recovered though, so my activities don’t seem to have caused problems.

Although, going to the 4th birthday party for OpenStack just 6 days after my surgery was probably pushing it. I thoroughly rationalized it due to the proximity of the event to my home (a block), but I only lasted about an hour. At least I got a cool t-shirt and got to see the awesome OpenStack ice sculpture. Also, didn’t die, so all is good right?

Fast forward a week and a half and we were wrapping up our quick trip to Philadelphia for Fosscon. We had some time on Sunday so decided to visit the National Museum of American Jewish History right by Independence Mall. In addition to a fun special exhibit about minorities in baseball, the museum boasts 3 floors of permanent exhibits that trace the history of Jews in America from the first settlement until today. We made it through much of the museum before our flight time crept up, and even managed to swing by the gift shop where we found a beautiful glass menorah to bring home.

Safely back in San Francisco, I met up with a few of my local Ubuntu and Debian friends on the 13th for an Ubuntu Hour and a Debian dinner. The Ubuntu Hour was pretty standard, I was able to bring along my Nexus 7 with Ubuntu on it to show off the latest features in the development channel for the tablet version. I also received several copies of The Official Ubuntu Book so I was able to bring one along to give away to an attendee, hooray!

From there, we made it over to 21st Amendment Brewery where we’d be celebrating Debian’s 21st birthday (which was coming up on the 16th). It took some time to get a table, but had lots of time to chat while we were waiting. At the dinner we signed a card to send off to a donation to SPI on behalf of Debian.

In other excitement, our car needed some work last week and MJ has been putting a lot of work into getting a sound system set up to go along with a new TV. Since I’ve been feeling better this week my energy has finally returned and I’ve been able to get caught up on a lot of projects I had pushed aside during my recovery. I also signed up for a new gym this week, it’s not as beautiful as the club I used to go to, but it has comparable facilities (including pool!) and is about half of what I was paying before. I’m thinking as I ease back into a routine I’ll use my time there for swimming and strength exercises. I sure need it, being these past few months really did a number on my fitness.

Today I met up with my friend Steve for Chinese lunch and then a visit over to the Asian Art Museum to see the Gorgeous exhibit. I’m really glad we went, it was an unusual collection that I really enjoyed. While we were there we also browsed the rest of the galleries in the museum, making it the first time that I’d actually walked through the whole museum on an excursion there.

I think the Mythical bird-man was my favorite piece of the exhibit:

And I was greatly amused when Steve used his iPhone to take a picture of the first generation iPhone on exhibit, so I captured the moment.

On Wednesday afternoon I’ll be flying up to Portland, OR to attend my first DebConf! It actually started today, but given my current commitment load I decided that 9 days away from home was a bit much and picked days later in the week where some of the discussions were most interesting to me. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my long time Debian friends and learning more about work the teams are doing in the Continuous Integration space for Debian.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

I suppose it’s just possible I have enough loyal fans to actually remember my snowboarding epics, but it’s unlikely.

The distance between 1998 and 2003 doesn’t seem so long now of course, but at the time, it was about a quarter of my life, and encompassed university. (Which is why I didn’t follow up skiing; I couldn’t have remotely afforded to. I am not sure how I paid for the 2003 trip during my honours year, but possibly Andrew, who was working by then, paid for some of mine.) My memory of the fun of skiing at the very end was intact, but the certainty was gone.

I did some research online and the conclusion I came to was this: skiing is easier to learn, but requires a much longer period of refinement over more difficult terrain. Snowboarding is harder to learn, but once you know how to do it, you apply essentially the same skills to harder and harder terrain. Given that I’d skied successfully for a grand total of about a minute, it seemed worth saying goodbye to the four days of sunk cost and starting with the once-off investment of pain required for snowboarding.

And that theory worked basically OK… for Andrew, who began snowboarding with me in 2003 and who now snowboards at an upper intermediate skill level.

In 2003, we went to Perisher with several friends, staying down in Jindabyne and hauling up to the Skitube and the snow at 8am each morning, other people’s hangovers be damned. (I cannot fathom how hangovers and snowsports go together so closely.) It was the first time Andrew had ever so much as seen snow in his life, hopping out of the tube into the sunlight with his board under his arm. (I’ll give snowboarding this: it’s a lot easier to carry one board around than skis and stocks.) We practised a teeny tiny bit on a very flat part and then enrolled in group lessons.

The skiing joke about snowboarders is “sitting on their butts”, partly because beginning snowboarders fall a lot and partly at group lesson time, beginners’ slopes will be arrayed with snowboarders sitting down listening to instructors, spread along the slope inconveniently. (Andrew notes entirely correctly that skiers don’t do this only because it’s not really possible to sit down in them.) And the first day was terrible for me because we were learning to ride heel-side (facing out from the mountain, heel side of the board dug into the snow), and that involved standing up heel-side, and I was just never able to do it. Sit down. Dig board in. Reach down and grab the toe side. Pull up. And boom, back on my butt. As with having to put my skis back on for every turn five years before, this quickly tired me out and I started getting worse. That instructor had a day off the following day and the new instructor — I think a woman — was rather horrified: everyone (except apparently for day #1 guy) knows that some women in particular really struggle with standing up heel-side (because women are, generally, less strong for their height and have somewhat higher centres of gravity) and you get around this by having them get up toe-side (lie or kneel facing the mountain, dig the toe end of the board in, push up with arms), which indeed I could do.

And then my unrevealed snowboarding curse kicked in: I bruise very easily. A couple of days of falling on my butt and I was so badly bruised that I had to sit out the third day because falling over and over on plate-sized bruises was hurting me too much to continue.

It was in 2004 we learned to scuba dive, and for a while that took up a lot of the time and space we had for getting up too early, hauling ourselves into uncomfortable clothing and interacting with our environment in a highly artificial and expensive manner. Even then, Andrew hinted that he’d probably prefer winter sports, but as the person who has the powers of arranging such things in our household, scuba it mostly was. (If you’re wondering what’s happened to it: we haven’t ruled a line under it. It’s just not a kid-friendly activity, I couldn’t dive at all when I was pregnant, and I’d have to pump at the moment to be apart from A for that long, which is impossible on a dive boat. Most likely we will dive again when we happen to be near good dive sites, as in Maui in March 2013, the last time we dived. We probably won’t go back to diving ten or more times a year for a long time, if ever.)

We stumbled into a snow trip in 2006, when André arranged for a number of people to spend a week at his family’s ski lodge in Victoria. I think I grappled again with the idea of switching back to skiing but figured I couldn’t be that far from getting over the hump to learning to snowboard. So we went for lessons again, the last time Andrew and I were still just plausibly at the same level, and I continued to struggle. I bought a private lesson one afternoon with our instructor at Mt Hotham which just about hauled me up to the level of the rest of the group, so that they could cheer when I turned again and again to reach the bottom of the slope. But again, I was ridiculously bruised, my knees and butt an even black-purple, and had to sit out the third day, the day Andrew thoroughly climbed over the snowboarding hump and began to cautiously experiment with intermediate slopes with André’s skier friends. He got his own injury there, falling on his face hard enough to kick his board into the back of his head (if you look at the back of his head, there’s a 4cm hairless vertical scar on it — that’s why), but while he probably narrowly escaped a really nasty head injury there (and has since worn a helmet) cuts on the head aren’t as inhibiting as falling on bruises over and over.

And this was also the time we were heavily into doing yoga, and for months afterwards, I noticed a faint but sharp pain in my ribs when I twisted.

Finally, in 2008, I decided it was do or die, and as part of a bigger pre-kids holiday driving around the south island of New Zealand (recommended: “let me guess… around this corner we will find… a lake and a mountain? I WIN AGAIN!” — it’s the best) we spent five days snowboarding and I took only private lessons. And really, after these I probably can say that I could snowboard, but every inch of progress was hard won. I never once got off a chairlift without falling over embarrassingly. I got badly bruised on the first day, and kept on mostly with the power of the butt and knee armour I hurriedly went out and bought. At least one night I cried about how much I was dreading the next day. And, on the third day, I cracked a rib in the same place that I’d hurt them in 2006. I sat in the medical centre in the ski resort while a very small friendly doctor pressed all over my chest until I screamed, and then offered me some powerful codeine, just in case I wanted to return to the slopes the same day. No.

We had a few rest days then in any case, and escaped from Queenstown down to Te Anau and Milford Sound, me sleeping a lot under the influence of the lesser codeine I’d been prescribed, the doctor preferring that I be very sleepy to being too afraid of pain to cough, although in reality I didn’t find it had a lot of effect on the pain. Returning to Queenstown I did two more days of lessons, my instructor kindly recommending I never join group lessons because I progressed “at a different rate” to most people. The last day the plan was to attack some long and new-to-me runs, but there was a whiteout and it scared me. Instead I linked some turns down a blue run, and my instructor triumphed over my learning to snowboard, and assured me I’d get the hang of chairlifts soon for sure and could progress from there on intermediate slopes. “Tell your next instructor you’re beginning to link turns on blue,” he advised me. Meanwhile, Andrew’s group lesson was making their first forays into the terrain park as upper intermediate or lower advanced boarders. We would occasionally run into him getting off the lifts, as he’d board over to us with a foot free, bend over, strap it in, wave, and take off down an intermediate run.

Which left me in a frustrating half-way point. I could snowboard, but it was agonisingly slow going, rather scary (you have to have your back to the drop a bunch), and not only had I come home with the usual bad bruises and cracked ribs, I also had a painless but severe swelling in my knee for the next couple of weeks that got bad enough that my GP tossed up draining it (and also, since this was close to the time when I was recompressed for suspected decompression illness, suggested I take up chess as my sport of choice).

I clung to my how-to memories of boarding tightly, determined to go back and get the pay-off from all of this, but life — very literally ­— got in the way. The following winter, 2009, I was pregnant with V. The year after that we were lost in a wilderness of childcare-induced illnesses, and then the flurry of projects I committed myself to; finishing my thesis, getting my business going. Andrew started making noises about really wanting to go again last year, but I was again pregnant. And so, before we knew it, it was six winters since I’d snowboarded, and how much of this pain was I going to need to go through again to get it back?

And so, once more the question: should I really be skiing instead?

Skiing round one: 1998

Aug. 23rd, 2014 08:38 am
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Me learning to ski a couple of weeks ago is a weirdly long story, beginning in 1998.

In 1998, I was in the final year of high school, but because of my ludicrous and I now think in some ways ill-advised academic program, I had already completed 9 units of study of the required 11 minimum for the Higher School Certificate and was only doing 8 more. (The reason I now think this was ill-advised is beside the point, but in short, I should have risked a slightly lower university entrance score in return for just completing the entire thing in a year early in 1997, and not spent so much energy on doing 1½ times the required courses for absolutely no long-term benefit.) So it was not completely out of the question to head off to New Zealand for a week in winter.

My sister Julia and I were both working retail at the time, and my parents offered us half the price of the trip if we saved the other half. We duly did so and thus embarked on all the mysterious preliminary rituals for a snow trip (getting fitted for gear and such before leaving) and flew to New Zealand with a small group of fellow pupils. It wasn’t my first extended trip away from my family by any means, nor my first plane flight: in the preceeding year, I’d done two fortnight long nerd camps and flown by myself to Sydney a few times to take part in a selective university-level philosophy course for high schoolers. But it was my first international trip, and my first trip between time zones.

The trip was basically a disappointment in several ways. First, I think in retrospect that the supervising teacher, who went every year, must have been frustrated at the social dynamic. There’s good odds that when you take a small group of teenagers out of their usual environment and hierarchies and give them something to do, they behave much more like adults. But it didn’t really work like that. Unless I’m forgetting someone, in terms of age, there was myself in Year 12, Julia in Year 10, and six or seven other girls all in Year 11. All but two of those were part of a group that even I, a year older and not really in need of knowing their class’s dynamics, recognised as the core of a notoriously cliquish group of princesses. We were staying in a lodge in Methven, and they grabbed their own dorm room with unseemly haste and proceeded to have nothing to do with the likes of the rest of us. We made shift for ourselves, but it was still less than ideal.

Second, most importantly, most of us really struggled to learn to ski. The teacher explained the setup to us, and pointed us at the trail guide and the longest beginner run that we were all going to ski with him at the end of the week, and it wasn’t to be. Or at least, I don’t recall how the princesses did, but of my dorm-mates, one was a natural, already turning parallel within a day of starting, one I think wasn’t and other than participating in lessons took to spending most of the day reading in the bus, and Julia and I weren’t much chop either. I think I was the worst. It was the first time in my life that I got pulled aside by an adult to be complimented for trying really really hard, as distinct from succeeding at all. (As I recall, the instructor was quite emphatic about this: he’d never seen anyone work so hard at it. Subtext: at least, not without learning anything.)

With hindsight: here’s what happened. First, I hadn’t even finished growing at this point. (I finished really late for a woman, when I was 18 or 19.) Physically, I was enormously tall and stretched out like gum. My brain and body were not well matched at the time. Second, this was the dying days of non-carved skis. If you were buying yourself skis, they were carved. If you were renting them, at least at Mt Hutt that year, they were still long narrow flat fence-posts. Thirdly, and most importantly, I just didn’t lean forward enough to stop my skis crossing in front. That last the instructor really ought to have picked up: it’s the most common failure mode in beginning skiing. Perhaps he did and I just never learned quite far enough forward to believe him.

The setup was much the usual for beginners: there was a very shallow first day slope and then over to a short but slightly steeper slope to get the technique down. And that’s pretty much where I was done. On, I think, the second last day, still believing that I’d celebrate with a run down the much longer ultimate beginners’ slope the following day, I grit my teeth and just figured that more hours were more better, went higher up a second short beginners’ slope, and went down it, falling at every single turn. I am pretty sure that I spent the best part of two hours snow-plowing cautiously down in one direction, trying to turn, falling over, retrieving my skis (the bindings were pretty loose), pointing myself in the other direction, spending ages knocking snow out of the soles of my ski boots and skiing in the other direction. Two hours, two baby slopes. Not one successful turn. Lots of crying and self-pep talks. Presumably my growing exhaustion and cementing bad technique were hindering me by then.

I don’t even know what got me back on the slopes the last day. Probably the money I’d spent on it. The last day brought the backhanded compliment about my work ethic (albeit true, I am bad at quitting things), and, crucially and a bit cruelly, the actual breakthrough I’d wanted the day before. For whatever reason, I decided to lean forward to what I considered a ludicrous degree, and which was probably barely acceptable, I pointed my skis downhill, I lost all fear, and I skiied to the bottom (if I am remembering correctly, more or less without attempting to turn) and stopped myself. And then I got back on the pommel, rode up, pointed myself down the hill again, and did it again.

It was exhilarating; I can still feel how happy I was about it.

And then there was absolutely no time to do it a third time because it was time to return my skis, get back in the minibus, ride the nailbiting drive back down to Methven, and fly home to Australia knowing that, probably, I was capable of skiing and would find it rather fun.

And then I didn’t return to the slopes until 2003 and, when I did, I made the regrettable decision to switch to snowboarding.

whales

Aug. 21st, 2014 10:26 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Forgot to say that the whale watching was great. I was not seasick at all. I stood up a lot and felt quite at home!!!!

Many expeditions

Aug. 21st, 2014 06:52 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Today I weighed up what I had to do and considered: no kids to care/shop/cook etc. for till the weekend, no meetings past 10am, work stress pretty low right now. It was sunny even in the early morning. This is what I have been waiting for all summer to go to the beach or basically, anywhere at all that isn't my usual haunts. I would like to use my bit of extra energy not to clean the house, do laundry, or shop or even go do physical therapy or go to the pain clinic. It is time for a Very Mild Adventure!

I plotted a little and then took the J and N to the beach, worked and had lunch from a cafe. The train wasn't too bad, though it took an hour. Lunch at Beachside (food not as nice as it looked, no wireless, but outside tables) Then worked from the Java hut or whatever it is, and then once it got really sunny scooted across the Great Highway and went up to where there is a sidewalk (opposite the windmill at the corner of Golden Gate Park).

I walked a little way into the sand next to some sand dunes thinking maybe i could establish myself in some way looking at the ocean.

Sand is good for challenging all your small different muscles in your ankles and knees. Like with the whale watching, I could feel things happening in my ankles that were exciting but scary. Either I'm re-damaging them in horrible ways, or I'm breaking adhesions or scar tissue in there deep down. I can move my ankles better in the last couple of weeks, bending them further up. and have been icing them at least twice a day (often all night)

I could not get very far into the sand and the beach is very huge. I thought how I am lucky to get to do this and felt congratulatory for at least getting to the beach twice this summer at all (once with the kids to Aquatic Park which is super easy access and narrow) and glad that I picked a good day that was sunny and warm. Then suddenly felt sad like I could not bear the pollyannaish being glad thing. It is true I am lucky and can feel appreciative and yet I also have the horrible thought every time I do something that maybe this is the best it gets and I will never get any further onto a beach, or with walking, or whatever, and everything will get more difficult. Still, whatever, right, because I am also lucky enough to cope well with it and have a ton of support, skills, privilege, job, etc. to make things extremely pleasant and easy. And, a month ago I could not have done this as I was still too exhausted and weak from not being able to eat/gastritis/esophagus or whatever it is. Fuck, 2 weeks ago I was also getting over a cold and was hapy just to be carted along on yatima's errand. (which was great... and took us to the presidio and beach side both... but i was decrepit.) So obviously I felt happy to be able to have an independent outing and my usual pride in being bad ass enough to go across town in my tiny scooter. Take that, FEAR. I felt in planning it that I was brave enough to do it because the scooter will fit into a car and I could call a taxi which woudl actually come get me, if I got so tired that taking two trains back was daunting or if I hurt myself by accident.

BUT I thought, well here I am alone at the beach in a desolate spot. No one is looking. Perhaps I could just have a brief cry about it all. I felt some grief and loss. I wished i could have been at the beach on the east coast where my family was a few weeks ago, and there would be beach roses instead of eternal west coast ice plant/sea fig. Everything would smell "right" and would be lovely though sad in other ways. Mostly I just wished I could climb around and run around in the sand and go down to the water and feel more free to explore as I very much like to do. I cried a bit for when we were at bean hollow last week with my dad and I couldn't go look at the tide pools with moomin though I really wanted to. At least he did what i told him and went without me and had a good long look at them on his own. OK. So I cried on the beach for 10 minutes and felt very self indulgent. I wished I could just be in a sad mood for the rest of the day. I thought how nice it would be to have a strong drink or be on the super duper drugs they shoot into my veins when I get my back injections. (I think some combo of valium and other things) Then I felt better and went back to the cafe and worked some more and got a VERY crowded train home.

I am still kind of weepy to be honest.

I plotted future trips and thought it would be nice to go out again but allow much more time, and go all the way up to cliff house and the nature center/overlook/gift shop/coffee bar just above Sutro baths. Or even further and scooter all along the walkways around the point whatever that is called which I haven't been on for years.

It was a tantalizing but not really satisfying beach trip.

I'd like to go to Moss Landing but have a magic dune buggy to go out along the beach and also be able to kayak through the slough there without hurting the hell out of my hands. Not sure if I could really do it anymore. Maybe in a tandem kayak. An could it be an invisible dune buggy so I could chill the fuck out and get in and out of my wheelchair without 800 people staring at me and stuff.

I talked a good long while with a guy whose mom had a stroke and has a jazzy, at the train platform behind the safeway. he was very nice and we discussed the intricacies of scootering. She needs a joystick controller really and more stabilty than a travelscoot but there could still be smaller powerchairs (she is small) that fold up. Also, an off duty muni driver at the java hut talked with me a while about his wife who has MS and another kind of large scooter that she has trouble fitting anywhere. She would like something more portable but insurance will not pay. She could handle or nearly handle something like my scooter. I got him to drive it around a little bit to try it out. Also, I talked with many, many other people from kids to surfers to random slightly limping older ladies who all liked the scooter and thought it looked cool and wished they had one to play with or get around better on. I should keep count. I always have slightly ambiguous grumpy feelings about the people who seem to approve of me extra because I take up less space and "look cool". Thanks but how about if I didn't, would you just hate on me or what. I try to take it as best as possible and I also utterly don't mind children who are like HOLY SHIT I MUST DRIVE THIS FUN TINY MOTOR TRICYCLE THING while their parents are scared I will be angry. Hahahhaa.

Day of Feelings!
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