Category: Backinblakk

Posts from my videoblog/personal blog.

Contribution opportunity: Early Feedback Community Release Manager

I’ve been in Release Management for 1.8 years now and in that time we’ve grown from one overworked Release Manager to a team of 4 where we can start to split out responsibilities, cover more ground on a particular channel, and also…breathe a bit. With some of the team moving focus over to Firefox OS, we’ve opened up a great opportunity for a Mozillian to help Release Management drive Firefox Desktop & Mobile releases.

We’re looking for someone committed to learning the deepest, darkest secrets of release management who has a few hours a week consistently available to work with us by helping gather early feedback on our Nightly channel (aka mozilla-central or ‘trunk’).  This very fabulous volunteer would get mentoring on tools, process, and build up awareness of risk needed for shipping software to 400 million users, starting at the earliest stage in development. On our Nightly/trunk channel there can be over 3000 changes in the 6 week development cycle and you’d be the primary person calling out potentially critical issues so they are less likely to cause pain to the user-facing release channels with larger audiences.

A long time back, in a post about developing community IT positions, mrz recalled a post where I stated that to have successful integration of community volunteers with paid staff in an organization there has to be time dedicated to working with that community member that is included in an employees hours so that the experience can be positive for both parties.  It can’t just be “off the side of the desk” for the employee because that creates the risk of burnt out which can lead to communication irregularities with the volunteer and make them feel unneeded.  For this community release manager position I will be able to put my time where my mouth is and dedicate hours in my week to actively shape and guide this community Release Manager in order to ensure they get the skills needed while we get the quality improvements in our product.

So here goes with an “official” call for help, come get in on the excitement with us.

You

  • Are familiar and interested in distributed development tools (version control, bug tracker) typically used in an open source project of size (remember when I said 400 million users? Ya, it’s not a small code base)
  • Want to learn (or already know) how to identify critical issues in a pool of bugs filed against a code base that branches every 6 weeks
  • Have worked in open source, or are extremely enthusiastic about learning how to do things in the open with a very diverse, global community of passionate contributors
  • Can demonstrate facility with public communications (do you blog, tweet, have a presence online with an audience?)
  • Will be part of the team that drives what goes in to final Firefox releases
  • Learn to coordinate across functional teams (security, support, engineering, quality assurance, marketing, localization)
  • Have an opportunity to develop tools & work with us to improve existing release processes and build your portfolio/resume

We

  • Mentor and guide your learning in how to ship a massive, open source software project under a brand that’s comparable to major for-profit technology companies (read: we’re competitive but we’re doing it for different end goals)
  • Teach you how to triage bugs and work with engineers to uncover issues and develop your intuition and decision making skills when weighing security/stability concerns with what’s best for our users
  • On-site time with Mozillians outside of Summits & work weeks – access to engineers, project managers, and other functional teams – get real world experience in how to work cross-functionally
  • Invitations to local work weeks where you can learn how to take leadership on ways to improve pre-release quality and stability that improve our Firefox Desktop/Mobile releases
  • provide references, t-shirts, and sometimes cupcakes :)

I’ll be posting this around and looking to chat with people either in person (if you’re in the Bay Area) or over vidyo. The best part is you can be anywhere in the world – we’ll figure out how to work with your schedule to ensure you get the guidance and mentoring you’re looking for.

Look forward to hearing from you! Let’s roll up our sleeves and make Firefox even better for our users!

 

 

Women Hacking Glass – First SF community meetup

I’ve created an event for the first meeting of Women Hacking Glass in SF at the Mozilla public space.

Since I posted in G+ a few weeks ago things got busy and I didn’t have time to lean on Google like I’d planned to ask for hardware but then a pair of Glass practically fell in my lap when a coworker decided he didn’t want to be an Explorer any more so I wrangled a ‘donation’ to get his Glass in order to use them for community hacking with other women in the Bay Area.  I’m curious to see how the first meetup goes – what will we be able to create?  What kinds of feedback will we provide to the GDK developers who are working on the first version of a release?  What kinds of barriers will we hit with Mirror API?  I look forward to learning about everyone’s hopes and dreams for this exciting hardware and finding ways to hack our way to making them a reality.

Copy from the event invite:

Are you interested in learning how to make apps for Google Glass?  Don’t have the access to the hardware?

Come out to Mozilla SF and meet with other Glass Hacking gals to experiment with Android Studio, creating simple apps, getting access to Mirror API, and trying out your hacks on an actual pair of Glass that will be made available during WHG meetups for testing on.  Since there are very few people out there with the hardware, and few of those early adopter/explorers are women let’s work together to increase the numbers of women getting in on the ground floor for development (as well as being able to provide feedback to Google GDK developers) on this revolutionary new hardware.

There is a small (non-refundable) fee to prevent no-shows from taking up space – all money generated from this event will be donated to Mozilla Foundation via http://www.mozilla.org/donate

Prepare ahead of time:

* Have a google account

* Read https://developers.google.com/glass/quickstart/index and do as much of the pre-installation of tools/IDE that you can

* Think about your first app and what you want to learn to build

* Dream big, show up

For people who are interested in applying pressure to Google and showing them there are women interested in developing for Glass (the current Glass Developers group is easily 95% male) – go to http://www.google.com/glass/start/how-to-get-one/ and submit your request anyway, even though they say the waitlist is full.  My coworker can’t be the only person returning his pair and I trust Google will open more spots when they see a lot of interest.

Tomahawk does many things right

Not too long ago I first heard of Tomahawk at one of our Mozilla Monday meetings – they’ve been working with our WebFWD initiative which supports open web projects that are moving the web forward.  Tomahawk definitely fits the bill for what the future of the web should be: music just plays.  Social, distributed, easy access to tunes through all the open APIs available – I can’t even begin to say how happy I am to be finally able to use this software.

I say ‘finally be able to use it’ because when I first heard of Tomahawk and ran to their site to download it, I stopped in my tracks.

Their original logo was a stereotype cartoon of a North American Indian male, wearing headphones.  I’ll let you do your own research if you want to learn why such a depiction isn’t culturally sensitive because that’s not actually the point of this post.  The point is that the people behind Tomahawk did constructive criticism a solid.  When, as a potential user, I saw this logo and took action by emailing them asking them to consider changing this inappropriate and stereotyping imagery as their masthead and application icon they said other people had contacted them as well, so they were aware and they were WORKING ON A NEW LOGO.

They didn’t get defensive, they didn’t say “we don’t see a problem here”, they didn’t try to justify their choices and protect their precious artwork.  They were already working on a solution, continuing forward momentum, adapting as they went, and being civil about it to boot. Who knows how many people contacted them? I might have been the thousandth and yet there was no hint of snark or beleaguered engineer who just wants to write software and not deal with all this soft, people-facing stuff in the response I got from Jason Herskowitz.  Thank you for that, Jason and Tomahawk.  I really hope this level of maturity catches on in the startup culture.

To give you an idea of how quickly they rotated on this; I emailed on May 14th and the new logo went into place today.  That’s slightly more than a month to revamp their site and update their installer and god knows what else (maybe business cards? stationary? do people still use that?).  This change isn’t trivial, but neither is the impression that original logo makes about a company.  I will proudly go forth now and rally support for this product that I have no doubt is stellar. I’ve been using it for the last 10 minutes since getting the email that the new logo was in place and let me tell you: setup was a breeze. I can also share this experience as a positive one with regards to taking the time to contact a company and point out a culturally insensitive aspect and seeing effective, mature, and expeditious resolution on that issue.  This is still rare enough to deserve an entire blog post.  I look forward to a future where this sort of thing is a more common dialogue and is always met with positive change and continued forward momentum instead of stop-energy and defensiveness.

Here’s the plug now:  Get Tomahawk!  It’s open source!  It will work with many, if not all, of your current web music accounts!  Support the open web and companies that move it forward!

OccupediA – Women Contributing to Wikipedia (the first of many such events)

Last Thursday night about 8 women arrived at Noisebridge to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia.  Several things led to this gathering:

  • An article in the New York Times back in October drew attention to the lack of women contributors to the Wikipedia knowledge base and that got me thinking.
  • Having organized other spontaneous “women get together and learn stuff” events I figured I could take the same approach to Wikipedia contributing, get some women together to create accounts, generate content, learn how to stop vandalism and see what would stick.
  • Recent participation in activism around the Occupy Wall Street movement also inspired me to try and reach out to communities I am in who are not as technical, to encourage people to come first with knowledge and interest in topics Wikipedia could benefit from and let the tech come second.
  • A month ago Elsa and I were talking casually about all the the above mentioned things and we decided to just go for it and pick a date, throw it up on the Noisebridge (local SF hackerspace) calendar, and see what we could make happen.

We took over a small makeshift classroom space at the back of Noisebridge. It had one lamp as the primary source of light because the fluorescent holders above were missing their tubes.  A man was near the back working on a dress for fashion school, several other hackers were up front working on their various projects.  Noisebridge was a wonderful place to have this event. It feels like anything is possible in a space like that.

I was happy with the turn out – we had a mix of artists, educators, and tech workers. Also as a bonus one of the attendees, my coworker Boriss, was a seasoned Wikipedia contributor who was able to really detail the ins and outs of the different levels of participation.  I can’t stress enough how amazing it was to have her and her knowledge there because there are lots of misconceptions about Wikipedia (I definitely had some) and her first-hand knowledge was inspiring to me.

So the beginning of the meetup went well enough, and as you might expect.  We introduced ourselves, talked about why we had come to the event and what we were hoping to get out of it. We started in on learning how to set up an account if one didn’t already exist and we looked at discussion/history/edit and other basic navigations of Wikipedia space.  There were a lot of questions about what belongs in Wikipedia, neutral tone, citations.  The conversations were lively and I found them quite enjoyable.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: Getting folks interested and excited about Wikipedia becomes REALLY HARD in practice.  Unlike learning Python where the participants can hammer out some code on their own computers in minutes and feel accomplished, there is a lot more complexity to Wikipedia.  There is a lot of confusion about their UI, their purpose, who can do what and when. Very quickly it seemed that the women who had come to the event feared adding anything new to the knowledge base and they were also incredibly intimidated by the UI of the site. It wasn’t even clear enough how one would create a new article when none existed.

From this event I learned a lot about organizing and about the intentions of future events like this and I did a little braindumping while we were meeting so I could remember to list them later in this very post.

Things that would help newcomers:

  • Having a “new to wikipedia” moniker next to their nickname for the first N activities on the site (we have this on our Mozilla bugzilla) so that hopefully older and wiser participants would be extra nice to them
  • Find a way to make some of the simpler tasks that help Wikipedia (typos, reverting vandalism, categorizing articles) into a game that a new arrival could play that would start easy and then move more toward the real-life workflow of working on Wikipedia – as a way to warm them to the UI
  • Encourage newcomer to write a straight-up article and have a place for these things to be dumped for inpection/linkage/categorization and otherwise Wikipedia-fying the knowledge dump.  My partner is an English professor and can certainly write good content for Wikipedia but everything about the site is intimidating. There should be a page where she could copy/paste or upload a document of her article and then let people who know wiki syntax and the other requirements an article needs come along and finish it up
  • Make it way easier to find the “adopt a user” program that I hear exists but no one would know to find that from the Wikipedia home page

I will continue to organize these events, perhaps once a month. More reports as they happen.

Want more women in Open Source? Donate to Ada Initiative today!

Short version: If you love women, or even like them just a bit, go right now and donate to the Ada Initiative to show the women in your life that you value their contributions past, present, and future to the wonderful world of Open Source. I’m going to make a donation in my grandmother’s name this year and I know she’ll be happy to have supported such a valuable project.

Long Version

I love Open Source.

When it first came to my attention, in the first year of my degree in software development at Seneca College, I knew we’d be a good fit.  There’s something about the spirit of Open Source that instantly clicked with my existing guerilla activist sensibilities.  The way that you just take what you want and make it happen.  That you create and give away. That you work with other passionate people to make cracks in the surfaces of monopolies that only want you to be able to do things through their (usually financially) gated communities.  It reminded me of how I had approached being a filmmaker – taking $50 of Super 8 film and developing it myself in 16L bucket in a dark bathroom then submitting the results to a prestigious film festival and being accepted.  Having my work shown alongside films with budgets bigger than the cost of a house was an amazing experience and taught me that not everything has to be polished to be valued.

Open Source is like that to me, the diamond in the rough.

While I was working on my degree I of course noticed (and was not surprised by) the lack of women in my classes.  I was surprised when I started to get involved in Open Source to discover that there were less women in FOSS than in proprietary software companies. That seriously BLEW MY MIND.  I mean, if Unlocking the Clubhouse is to believed (and it is very thorough research) then technical women want to do work that is meaningful and helps people.  Why that sounds a lot like Open Source doesn’t it?  So why aren’t there more women in Open Source?  I’ll let you Google that question to your hearts content, there’s a lot written on the subject and so much more could be.  The point though is that the Ada Initiative is a new project that is here to take on that very question through ACTION.  They will DO things to get more women in Open Source.  Women don’t have to be dragged into FOSS kicking and screaming.  Trust me, after seeing the overflowing wait list for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing’s FOSS day, there are a ton of talented and smart women interested and able to do work in Open Source.  We (all of us who have already drank the Kool-Aid) need to help them get integrated and feel comfortable staying in FOSS.

When I first met my future team at Mozilla in April of 2008 there was a woman on my team (!) and she self-identified herself to me as a feminist within the first 5 minutes we were together.  As someone who was coming in as a student with zero experience in professional tech workplaces I was so thrilled to have an immediate feeling of relief, trusting that if she was respected there I would be too.  She also introduced me to wonderful internet properties such as GeekFeminism and Sociological Images both of which helped me start connecting with other feminists in tech fields.  Almost three years later I am starting to feel like I’ve been successful in building the community in FOSS around me that I want to be a part of.  It’s a wonderful mix of the talented people I work with at Mozilla, the folks I’m working on planning the next Dare 2B Digital with, the programmers I organize PyStar workshops with, the Women Who Code, the Women 2.0, and of course – The Ada Initiative.

I’ll leave you with their own words about why you should go straight to the donation page:

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished already.  Since our founding in
early 2011, we helped over 30 conferences and organizations adopt an
anti-harassment policy, organized the first AdaCamp unconference,
provided free consulting on high-profile sexist incidents, wrote and
taught two workshops on supporting women in open tech/culture, and ran
two surveys, among other things.

http://adainitiative.org/what-we-do/

We need your help to achieve our upcoming goals.  The Ada Initiative
is funded entirely by donations.  Without your financial support, the
Ada Initiative will have to shut down in early 2012.

http://supportada.org/donate

Your donations will fund upcoming projects like: Ada’s Advice, a
comprehensive guide to resources for helping women in open
tech/culture, Ada’s Careers, a career development community, and First
Patch Week, where we help women create and submit their first open
source patch.  You can learn more about how the Ada Initiative is
organized and operated on our web site and blog:

http://adainitiative.org

Whether or not you can donate yourself, you can help us by spreading
the word about our fundraising drive.  Please tell your friends about
our important work.  Email, blog, add our donation button to your web
site, and tweet.  Here’s how:

http://adainitiative.org/support-us/spread-the-word/

You don’t have to stand on the sidelines any longer.  You can help
women in open technology and culture, starting today.

My First Startup Weekend: Women 2.0 Startup Weekend

On November 18th, 2011 I jumped into the deep end of the Bay Area startup culture I have been lurking on the periphery of for the past two years of living here. After going to my first Geek Girl Dinner at Microsoft a month ago, and preparing to talk about women in open source at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, it seemed very much up my alley to sign up for the Women 2.0 Startup Weekend held in SF at The Hatchery.  Originally Angie had asked me to be one of the mentors which, while incredibly flattering, seemed beyond my current skill set.  I do always have ideas for new projects/apps though and I’ve been trying to get even more full on development experience under my belt so it seemed like a deal to get to spend 54 hours working on a startup idea for $50.

[tangent]

I love the immersion-as-classroom experience, btw.  I made my first Super 8 film in 1999 at G.I.F.T.S under similar conditions where I lived with my other new-to-filmmaking cohort in a couple of trailers-turned-bunkhouses over on the beautiful island of Galiano and for one week we did nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe guerrilla filmmaking.  We shot, hand-developed, transferred, and then edited our work, cranking out an entire short film in just one week.  I left that experience filled with confidence that I could make a movie a week for the rest of my life!*

What I was hoping for out of my first Startup Weekend was an up-to-your-armpits code-a-thon and what I got was…very much NOT that. Here’s what I got out of Women 2.0 Startup Weekend instead:
Pitching 101
Some people had come prepared.  They had read an email I missed, knew what was supposed to be in a pitch, perhaps even had some code or a site name or some idea of what they would need to take the next step into their imagined company.  I had none of these things.  I had 2 ideas, one of which had occurred to me the week before on a bike ride.  I jotted down my ideas quickly and ‘pitched’ them to a couple of women I knew from other local events (like my CodeChix pal, Vicki).  Both of my ideas seemed to get people interested and with the help of a few very kind listeners, I chose which one I would officially pitch and worked on naming the imaginary app as well as figuring out what salient points I wanted to get across.  It seemed wise to me to get into the early round of pitchers, little did I know that there would be about 67 pitches.  I was #6 and so it took a long time to get to the point of being able to move about the room chatting people up, which I am sometimes not so good at.
  • What I did: I pitched it, was too shy to really reach out to strangers and try to woo them to my idea, I hid my sign for a while only taking it out when people asked me about it, I got 7 sticky-note ‘votes’ for it (which was amazing to me), but I already knew that I would not be working on this project over the weekend and I was shopping around for a team that I would be excited to spend my next 54 hours with.
  • What I will do next time: Work more on my pitch ahead of time, have a clear idea of WHO I would like to join me, go around the room and find people who match those roles, have more research about my ‘market’ ready to help with the business side of things.
  • What I wish Startup Weekend organizers could improve: Help people match up by roles – so have all the designers go to one corner, all the marketing folks, all the developers, etc.  Give us a visual of who’s there looking to do what so that we can more easily go around and network.  It seems less efficient to me that I would have to go chat up 10 people and perhaps discover that none of them are a match for what I’d be seeking. Even putting this info on people nametags would help – especially for folks who have multiple skills they want to highlight.
A Team is Formed
The eliminations were happening and I already knew I was going to put my idea aside for another time, so I had to figure out where I would lend my energy for the 54 hours to come.  I’d been interested in a project called Safe Steps whose goal was to help independent women set a timer on their travel to ensure safe arrival at their expected destination. I spoke briefly with the woman who pitched it, and I had already learned from a conversation with a volunteer that the pitcher was a seasoned pro at marketing.  I felt like I would learn a lot in that team but I was still checking around for other ideas.  In the chaos of the eliminations I ended up behind a pillar with 4 people (one is a coworker at Mozilla) and two of them I had met briefly when they accosted me, they were looking for people who could program in C (and though I did it in school 4 years ago, I was not about to claim any proficiency). I asked if they had found what they were looking for and inquired about what they were planning.  Judy explained her pitch about doing an educational project with the Kinect to teach language to children. I have experience teaching technology to both youth and adults, so working on anything that helps make educational materials accessible to all types of learners, as well as the possibility of doing hands-on Kinect-hacking for the first time, was all it took to sweep me up into this team that was bouncing off the walls and repeating those magic words: “Kinect” and “education”.
Team Roles
We had 54 hours to come up with a demo of our ‘company’ for a panel of judges to evaluate based on marketability, creativity, and feasibility so when we got our workspace assigned to us at 9:30pm that Friday night we went straight to work. Introductions all around, describing our experience and what drew us to the project, came first and then we divided up into the technical team: James and I, and the Business/Strategy/Research team: Judy, Elsa, and Jen.
Our technical idea seemed simple at first – Grab the Kinect motion data and send it to
Processing.js so users could interact with a language learning flashcard game that was one of many ‘decks’ our ‘platform’ would support. The initial deck would be a simple game with a bear where the bear calls out a verb, enacts it, then waits for the user to imitate both the motion and the word.  I really did go into this thinking that was simple.  Am I crazy?  Turns out none of that was within our reach in a 54 hour period. The challenges are too many to list completely but here’s a few: both James and I were completely new to Kinect-hacking. While open source Kinect hacks exist there were lots of library conflicts, documentation gaps, and finicky
installations that led to failure on several frameworks we were trying and build on. I could get the Depth.js example to work in Chrome for a second (but never again for unknown reasons), but couldn’t compile the native google plugin from the depth.js
project so couldn’t write new code for the extension. I couldn’t build the OpenNI Sample-NiUserTracker after altering
it to add a network tunnel so that it would report data to a
node.js server (though I’m happy to have now touched Node.js even just a bit!). By Saturday late evening we had nothing to show except an intimate knowledge of library linking errors and compile failure messages.  There still isn’t a ton of material online about how to work with the Kinect data in a usable way.  This actually gets me excited for future projects but at this point in Startup Weekend, we had to get ourselves a demo for Sunday’s judging.
We decided to move on to the Kinect SDK that Microsoft provides, we installed Visual Studio 2008 Express and an open source gesture recognition library which allowed us to capture a movement and assign it to a saved gesture namespace.   In the end, our demo was created in a few hours by James using those tools (and a bit of C#) while I came up with some very quick animations objects and put together our landing page.
Needless to say, the weekend was nowhere near being a code-a-thon.  It was surprising to me how long it took to try and get a development environment setup and what I take away from this experience is that when the time comes to work on my own idea, if I bring it to a Startup Weekend, I should have the beginnings of an implementation already and have settled on a framework to build on that I am familiar with so that I can spend more time being creative about the idea and less time fiddling with configurations and installations of unfamiliar code.
Oh ya, but we won!
I should mention that the whole time we were having our ups and downs with the technical side Judy, Elsa, and Jen worked hard at analyzing all the angles of language learning by doing.  I listened in at one point on a very helpful discussion with Cindy Alvarez who asked great questions about “what next?”. Sure, verbs and kids are easy and lots of language-learning stops there – how would we push the envelope and take people to other levels?  We had lots of mentors come by, and all of them poked and prodded at the research and story-shaping that the business end of the team was doing. At the end of the weekend our team won first place with a demo that had very little custom code in it, but I think we did well because we told a great story and had an extremely well thought out marketing strategy. When our demo was complete the judges were silent at first.  Finally one of them asked the question we had prepared for “so, after learning verb with bears- what next?” to which I answered that we could build a platform for AI interactions in WebGL 3D space with the Kinect.  Yes, I like to promise technology that doesn’t really exist yet.  It sure is exciting to imagine it though.
Some final thoughts
Startup Weekend, to me, felt a lot more like a school project than ‘real life’.  This is most likely due to the fact that I have a really great full time job right now and am looking at startup ideas mostly as learning and hobby and not necessarily something I would do for money for a few more years (at least). All the reading I have done about startups gets me thinking that I would likely go the way of bootstrapping and working on my scalable project in my spare time instead of trying to get a big VC investment and leave a steady job for the unknown. In terms of working during the weekend there are lots of ways to fall down rabbit holes and lose focus when you are working on something that is completely new. I love getting to learn about new technologies but there was this time pressure that kept us coming back to a general goal of having something to show at the Sunday evening presentations. The Startup Weekend environment isn’t one for coding/development efficiency. It’s distracting to have other people and their ideas/surveys/questions coming around a lot and to be working out in the open with your entire team instead of under noise-cancelling headphones as I normally do.  It’s not bad, it’s just not a focused environment and it’s good to know that for next time.  I think it would help me set my expectations differently.  It was important for me to learn that the goal of Startup Weekend is not necessarily to have a working application at the end but to have a really well thought out idea and story about your company’s goal.
Speaking of story, come on out to TEDx Women next week where Elsa from Words With Bears will be presenting ours! Most importantly,  I want to say that Words With Bears was a great team to work with. I heard stories of teams falling apart or losing team members, none of that touched us at all. We started strong and we ended strong. We’re continuing to stay in touch and aim to develop this idea
into something bigger.
* This is not what ended up happening, but I will always carry with me the knowledge that with little else than enthusiasm, a couple of rolls of film, and willing friends, a tremendous amount of creative output is possible in a short time with no budget.

June in Paris – 2011

One of my favourite paintings at the LouvreScammers at the LouvreJust one of the many Native appropriation images in ParisClassy BMW ScooterRuffneck Hip HopDon't you want to be tan?
Turbo DraineWarnings for food commercialsMounir est guardien des biscuitsPascal and the Mozilla Paris office treat cupboardEscargots "Papa"Salade gargantuesques Boyarde "complète"
Who needs a bell?2 Croque-MadamesSpeculoos Panna CottaAmerican Money to patch your pantsLost Unicorn in ParisJenny & the Moulin Rouge
Montmartre cemetery warning #2Montmartre cemetery warning #1Social Assistance in Paris?Jenny, Montmartre cemeteryJenny in a crypt at the Montmartre cemeteryIMG_20110611_172239
June in Paris – 2011, a set on Flickr.

So here’s the most recent set of images from our last week in Paris. We’ve been settling in, and while there have been some low points where things seemed too overwhelming here we’re really having a great time getting into a little routine here and finding fun things to do at night when I’m done working.

The pics have some stories and descriptions but let’s see what else I can tell you.

We’re adjusting to our tiny apartment which I have been lovingly calling “our bathroom”. People laugh and think it’s cute that we’re so shocked by the tiny apartments but I really don’t think anyone grasps how our rental is not an apartment at all – I’d be fine with a tiny apartment and understand the limits of space in Paris and the high price of real estate. We are in a bathroom however with the cheapest curtain in front of the toilet, and everything else furnishing the place is also the cheapest possible stuff from IKEA. The person who rents this 12 sq m room has basically done the bare minimum to make it rentable. I’m not going to spend a whole blog post complaining about the rental though – we’re making it work. Also, my co-worker William lent us his place last weekend and will again in another week so we’ve had a respite and have enjoyed some space and some more comfortable living on occasion.

Let’s talk about food, one of my favourite subjects. The food here is generally pretty good if you don’t care much about salad. In the past few years I have started to care much more about eating greens and vegetables so it’s been a challenge to basically eat bread/meat/cheese/sugar all day, every day, without any salads in there. There are salads but they are often either a) tiny and covered in mayonaise or b) topped with potatoes/meat/cheese (and maybe some mayonaise too!). So I’m definitely missing fresh fruits & vegetables in my diet. However, last night we went to a place William recommended called “Entre les Vignes” (Between the Vines). It’s a cute little bistro near Gare de Lyon and it had the most delicious steak tartare ever. We will definitely go back for another round of that before leaving town. I have had a very fresh and tasty crepe on the street, a ham & cheese one so I still need to do the sweet kind at some point. I’ve had some South-West cooking at a place called Chez Papa which involved the above-mentioned “salad with meat and potatoes on it” as well as escargots in cream sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and also a lamb cassoulet. I love cassoulet and want to go home and make some of my own. We also cooked at home a few times and just did some simple pasta dinners to accompany wine & reading.

Life in Paris was hard the first week because of technical difficulties. The internet in our room is incredibly slow and unreliable and Jenny relies on my laptop sharing internet so that her iPad (which does not have an ethernet port) can get connected. This means her internet window when not at school (French classes) is about 15 minutes before I go to work in the mornings. This means she has to know ahead of time everything she might want to do so she can map it out. Our cell phones here required some intensive signing up procedures including sending copies of our passports to some email address, and then getting them refilled is a whole other pain in the butt. Also, the Vélib rentable bike system wouldn’t accept our credit cards at the stations so we learned the hard way that we need to buy them online ahead of time. We’re starting to laugh at how often we’ll try to do something only to find (regardless of the level of planning we put in ahead of time) that things are closed, we’re too late (or on the wrong night), or things are sold out. Metro stations, restaurants, concerts, canal boat rides. The internet has both made it easier to make this kind trip and also removed the ability for spontaneity in travel.

We have gone to see two movies: Tomboy and X Men First Class. Tomboy was all in French and Jenny was able to follow along pretty well. I loved that movie and highly recommend it. It will probably do the rounds of the queer film festivals this summer. X Men was lots of fun for me, Jenny had a nice nap. I love the X Men mythology so much and spend a lot of time trying to decide which mutation would be the best fit for me. After last night I’m mostly leaning towards the telepathy cause it seems appropriate for a slightly controlling personality who wants to help lots of people.

Tonight we’ll go see some art at Georges Pompidou where a modern art gallery lives. Also we just found out about this Claude Cahun retrospective from Onya – yay!  This weekend we might go to Versailles and try again to do the canal boat ride that takes you under the city in these cool tunnels.

That’s it for now.  Gotta get to work!  Which reminds me. The Paris office has been great to me and so awesome to work out of. I really do want to see if, over time, I can work out of every Mozilla office at least once so that I can get a feel for all the different customs and office atmospheres in our very dispersed company.

Summer Travel Log 1 – California->Canada->Paris

Last Saturday started with a little last-minute cleaning of the apartment for our summer Airbnb renters before we hit the road and headed North. In the past week I have been in 3 States (CA, OR, WA), 3 Provinces (BC, AB, ON), and am now in Paris, France in the heart of the city on Isle St-Louis.

 It took us two days to drive to Victoria, and we lengthened the travel time a bit by taking hwy 101 for half of it so as to view the amazing redwood trees along the coast.  On Jenny’s camera there are pictures of us driving through a huge tree – which is what you do when you take hwy 101 through the redwoods.  

We spent a nice quiet week in the woods of Victoria, getting Hopey settled in and sleeping a lot. Finally on Friday the time came to start the 16 hour trip to Paris. I’d like to say that I love flying Air Canada. It’s been a while, and living in the States means often flying Delta, US Airways, Southwest, or United. Air Canada’s planes are so nice and clean and big. Unlike every flight I’ve taken in the last year, this flight had NO issues with people’s carry on baggage fitting into the upper storage areas. Also, the seats are a little wider and I couldn’t measure but I think I had more leg room too. Airline promo done, let’s arrive in Paris!

 Our rental is in an old industrial building with a huge door that opens into an open-air courtyard, and then 4 flights of stairs up is our ‘apartment’. It’s quite small, but it’s quiet and we’re in such a great location for the next 3 weeks. Apparently it’s going to rain off and on all week, but today was a hot and sunny 28 degrees, so after a nap Jenny and I went out to explore the neighbourhood.  Here’s what I’ve observed from our initial, jet-lagged wanderings:

  • Getting keys made is something done at the cobbler’s, not at hardware stores (we visited 2)
  • At 5 or 6 pm, there is nothing slightly resembling dinner available in the local cafés and the restaurants are not open yet.  We will need to adjust to this.
  • There’s some great fashion here and then, in contrast, some people who seem to actively hate fashion :)
  • I love having opportunities to speak French!  Most importantly, everyone is speaking French back to me which is a pleasant surprise.
  • Everything here is REALLY EXPENSIVE!  It makes me kind of nervous.  Will need to get out of this neighbourhood and see what it’s like in less touristy areas.  We plan to get Velib bikes to explore the city tomorrow if it’s not raining.
  • I bought a SIM card at the airport for 19 euros and it gives you 5 euros credit which I’ve already gone through by using data, however there’s nothing in their rate sheet about data costs. SO there’s some lack of communication here.  
  • Also this:
http://www.youtube.com/get_player

That, my dear readers, is the DISCO TOILET in the Creperie where we ended up eating dinner. The tiny toilet booth is a totally different experience than the rest of the restaurant. So you’re eating your crepes and it’s all normal (top 40 UK dance hits quietly playing in the background) but if you get up to go to the washroom, watch out! The music is loud, the little green lights are dancing, and then…you just can’t help yourself…you’re dancing in a toilet :)

This bridge is covered in locks put up by people, looks like mostly to commemorate their love with someone else, and I’m excited to put one up there for Jenny and I at some point during our visit.  It’s so beautiful here. The stone streets, the tiny cars, even this very touristy area has a nice mix of locals going about their business and visitors walking about. There’s a lot of people riding bikes around and it looks pretty safe to do that here. I don’t have a helmet with me because our rentals in Prague will include them. I’m trying to decided if I should pick up one of these helmets while I’m here or wait until I’m back in SF.
There’s a huge thunderstorm rolling in as I write this and I wish I had the right kind of camera to capture the lightning. Time to try and get to sleep at a ‘normal’ hour so that I can get the most out of Paris, Day 2.

    Plaid Pants

     Last month I went to see Rufus Wainwright perform with the San Francisco symphony. The performance itself was mediocre due to being a very new piece and, I suspect, affected by the recent loss of his aunt. I still enjoyed the evening and also saw some amazing outfits during intermission. There was a group of gay men in the lobby who were all wearing fabulously fitting plaid dress pants along with other snazzy accessories like vests and suspenders.  The group of 5 men stood out to me in the crowd and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  I think one of them noticed…

    Anyway, since that night I’ve been planning to find myself a pair of well-made plaid pants and today, thanks to a Techcrunch article about Bonobos, I did. Now the pants were $195 and I’m sure they are amazing pants but I’ve learned that you can pretty much always find a coupon for online purchases so I did a quick search and found a link that gave me 50% off my first order of over $100 at Bonobos.com.  The link worked like a charm and after making my purchase I was given my own link to spread around so that other people can get 50% off too. In turn, I get a $50 store credit which means – MORE PANTS!

    If you use the link below you will get to save 50% on your first order over $100 guaranteed. It will take you to a page where you create an account, then you shop, and when you check out the form will populate the discount code field with a unique code just for you. Then you save money and also get a link of your own when you’re done. Happy shopping!

    Go Get 50% off at Bonobos.com