2018, a Retrospective in Pictures


After a lot of travel in the autumn of 2017, we spent a quiet winter break at home, with a week of being full-time parents while Mitchell’s mother had a well-deserved vacation of her own.

Mitchell and I went on a day trip to San Francisco, where he experienced “snow” for the first time at the Academy of Science, and Lindsay and her sister taught him how to climb a tree.

Mitchell at the Academy of Science.
Mitchell in a tree.

Mid-month, I went to Seattle, then in late January Brendan and I took a non-working trip together (aka, actual vacation), to the Big Island of Hawaii, where we had beautiful sunsets, the sound of waves to lull us to sleep, and adventures with dolphins, fish, and a volcano.


We didn’t go anywhere in February. This proved to be unusual in this year.


In March, things got crazy.

I spent the first few days of the month in San Francisco, attending Lesbians Who Tech – lots of great topics on the program, but it was so crowded that it was hard to get into any of them. I did manage to attend one very interesting panel of women who had worked on the technology of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Lesbians Who Tech - women who worked on the technology for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The following weekend, we drove down to Pasadena where Brendan and I were both speaking at SCaLE16x. This is one of my favorite conferences – it’s run by a very kind, welcoming local community, and has a friendly, non-corporate vibe. It also does a great job of including everybody, starting with a kids’ track and mentoring kids into speaking at the “grown up” conference. You can see my talk on Marketing Your Open Source Project, and read the slides.

A week after that, I flew to Italy to take care of unfinished personal business. My BFF Sue came along to help shred 25 years’ worth of papers; sort through books, artwork, and other personal possessions; and decide what to ship back to the US from the house I formerly shared with my ex, in Lecco.

We did manage to do a little tourism on beautiful Lake Como.

Then we went to Milan, where I saw some old friends, led a panel discussion on diversity in tech at the AWS Summit, and then flew home. Two days after my arrival, another dear old friend, Robyn, came through on a visit from Switzerland.


The first weekend in April, Brendan, Mitchell, and I flew to Florida to join in the birthday celebration of my high school classmate Denise. That was three days and nights of themed parties with fabulous food, great music, and very interesting people.

St Pete's beach.
That’s the birthday girl in the middle!

The following week, fortuitously, was Mitchell’s spring break, so we went to Disney World.

Three days of that was fun, but I figured I didn’t need to do Disney again for at least two years. I even said so at the time. Mark those words.

Brendan’s favorite place in Florida: Cape Canaveral

And I made another trip to Seattle in April, though I don’t now remember exactly what for.


In May we stayed home and enjoyed the local springtime…

…and some imported delicacies.


Brendan headed to Boston to speak at a conference in late May/early June. I did not accompany him, in part because I finally had the opportunity, in Santa Cruz, to meet two of my long-time heroes, Elfquest creators Wendy and Richard Pini.

Another reason I stuck around was that my shipment was arriving from Italy, I just wasn’t sure exactly when. It was finally all in the house by June 1st. I had spent part of May building Ikea furniture to hold my collections of comics, books, memorabilia, artwork, and DVDs.

Then I went to Seattle again, where the weather was beautiful – and, as ever, there was lots of construction going on.


Brendan was in Boston again for a meeting when I departed for… Disney World. Again. This time for an AWS internal summit. Visiting Epcot Center (which we had skipped during our April visit) with n,000 colleagues was a very different experience. We had a front-row view of the fireworks!

I flew from Orlando to Portland, OR, for the Community Leadership Summit, where I chaired an unconference session on marketing open source, and then OSCON, which AWS was sponsoring. Unfortunately, all the travel caught up with me and I got sick, so I left OSCON early (sadly, missing the opportunity to see many friends and colleagues) and went home.

The following week I was recovered enough to attend an internal technical evangelists’ summit in Seattle. This is one of the groups our team works most closely with at AWS, and also some of the smartest and hardest-working people I know. And fun!

Abby Fuller, one of the badass women of tech.

I also spent a lot of time in the Spheres, my favorite place in Seattle (so far).


We had a little more excitement than expected in August when Brendan had an emergency appendectomy. Fortunately, he recovered quickly enough that we didn’t need to change our plans for a family vacation on Maui. My daughter Rossella and her partner Dan joined us (it was also her birthday) and we had adventures including a luau, snorkeling, scuba diving, education in Hawaiian culture with Wilmont Kamaunu Kahaialii, and a sunrise on Haleakala.

Wilmont Kamaunu Kahaialii.
Haleakala sunrise.

We had only been home for a week when I left again, to do live social media for AWS at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas.


I was asked to do the live social media thing for AWS again, this time at DreamForce in San Francisco. This is one of the largest technical conferences in the world, with about 170,000 people jammed into downtown San Francisco. It was horribly crowded. Brendan joined me for a couple of nights. We managed to catch the final minutes of the Metallica concert (I wasn’t interested enough to brave the crowds and lines to get in earlier).

Meanwhile, our apartment was under construction for a new washer/dryer to be installed. I had to pack up all the stuff I had just received from Italy and painstakingly fit into our already-crowded home, and find places to stash it out of the way of the workers. Our living room was filled with boxes again.

When not traveling, I mostly work from home. I had already endured months of construction noise as all the apartments around us were renovated by the new management company. Three weeks of construction in my home was miserable. When it was all done, we had a washer/dryer in the apartment, which was admittedly more convenient than the communal laundry just across the courtyard, but we’d lost a precious storage closet. I managed once again to find room for everything in our <1000 square foot apartment, but the situation was increasingly unbearable, and indeed it seemed as if the new management would be happy to be rid of us so they could renovate our apartment and raise the rent (again).


My dear friend Jeffrey married Matt at San Francisco City Hall, under the aegis of Harvey Milk. I am so happy for them both!

San Francisco City Hall, top floor.

I flew out that evening to Seattle to speak at an internal AWS conference for technical writers, where I gave a talk in the career track on My Career Evolution from Tech Writer to… Many Things, which attendees told me was inspiring. I am not accustomed to thinking of myself as a role model. Brendan joined me for a couple of days, and we found time to do a bit of tourism.

These people are all in the wrong place.
Brendan liked the Spheres, too.

Later in October, Brendan and I flew to Raleigh, NC, to speak at All Things Open, an open source conference that neither of us had attended before (we both liked it a lot! – this is another great, friendly, community-run conference). AWS was a sponsor, so I also helped out a little in the booth, and live-tweeted my colleagues’ talks.

When ATO was over, we drove to Asheville, NC, where we spent a delightful weekend with Woodstock friend James Hackney, who was a wonderful host, showing us all around Asheville, the Biltmore estate, and the Blue Ridge mountains.

Foreground: James. Background: Brendan.

Then we drove on to Nashville, TN, where Brendan was co-chairing, with Rikki Endsley, the USENIX LISA conference. I didn’t have anything specific to do at the conference, and came back a couple of days before Brendan did to take over care of Mitchell.

We also managed to surprise Brendan on his birthday. That’s Rikki with him.


I voted.
We had days of extremely bad air, with smoke blown down from the Paradise fire 200 miles away.

Meanwhile, I was increasingly busy at work, as was almost everyone at AWS in the run-up to re:Invent, our biggest event of the year. I had blog posts to write, edit, and manage, including some about top-secret announcements. Everything possible had to be prepared in advance, as I knew I’d be extremely busy during re:Invent itself, doing live social media again.

Meanwhile, I had for some time been semi-seriously looking for a new home to rent. Around mid November, we found one that met all our criteria, but there was no way we could move in immediately. We agreed with the landlord that we’d move in mid-December.

Thanksgiving blew by; Mitchell’s mother Claire joined us for a meal, as usual, and Brendan and I were both doing work, as usual. It’s a good thing we don’t care much about standard holidays. That Saturday, Brendan departed for Australia to keynote the Yow! conferences and CTO events, starting in Sydney. Early Sunday morning, I flew to Las Vegas for re:Invent.

I was one of a small crew live tweeting on @AWSreInvent – a job involving great power, great responsibility, and very long hours. re:Invent started for me with Midnight Madness that Sunday night – yes, it went on past midnight, and it was crazy. And fun. (I think you can see me in action – or at least the side of my head – at 19 seconds into this video.)

I also covered all the keynotes (Peter, Andy, Werner), and many other key sessions.

It was fun getting the behind-the-scenes view on this incredibly-orchestrated event, like these folks getting ready to usher in contestants who would be trying to set a world record for the largest number of people air drumming at once.
The sheer scale…

Meanwhile, my colleagues Tamara and Shirley were taking care of my day-job responsibilities: ensuring that blog posts went out at exactly the right time (with launches, timing is crucial) and were then tweeted about on @AWSOpen. It was great to be part of a talented, hard-working team, pulling in harness together.

Oh, and I had a birthday in there. I turned 56 on November 28th. I was too tired to do much about it, but I did have a very nice meal back at the Wynn.

re:Invent ended on Friday, November 30th. I covered one more session in the morning, then went to the spa, then we had the social media team lunch.

That evening, I got on a plane to LAX, and then to Brisbane, Australia. Not too surprisingly, the people in the airplane row with me were traveling home from re:Invent, as were a few others in the customs line when we arrived (they were easy to spot in their re:Invent hoodies).


I lost a day in transit and arrived in Brisbane on Sunday, December 2nd. That was a day off between conferences for the Yow! speakers, so we were all taken by bus and ferry to Stradbroke Island to enjoy some sun, sand, and scenery.

The following week was still very busy for Brendan, keynoting in Brisbane and then Melbourne for the final leg of Yow! I was too tired to attend as many of the talks as I’d like, but enjoyed the ones I did attend. Yow! speakers are all well known and very, very good, and it was fun to get to know them as we all traveled together – an opportunity we don’t get so much at other conferences.

Yow! ended with a private dinner for the speakers on Friday, December 7th. Brendan and I made our way back to Sydney the next day to chill out for a few days. We didn’t have the energy to do as much as we’d have liked there, but we did enjoy a fabulous view from the Novotel in Darling Harbour, had dinner with an old school friend of mine, did a little Christmas shopping, and generally enjoyed being warm and having not much we had to get done for a few days.

On December 12th we flew back to the Bay Area, and continued packing up our apartment to move on the 15th. We managed to get about 90% of our possessions packed into boxes before the movers arrived, but it was good to be able to rely on them to do the final bits, as well as disassemble the beds and move it all.

The new place is not far from where we lived before; one of our criteria was staying in the neighborhood so as to be close to Mitchell’s school and his mother. But it’s about twice the living space we had before, a beautifully-finished (if quirky) house with a yard, a fabulous kitchen, and a few other amenities that make it quite the party place. By December 31st, we had in fact unpacked and organized enough to host a low-key, early evening New Year’s Eve party for a few friends and their kids.

I rounded off my working year with a Top Ten blog post, and had already begun planning my travel and conference schedule for 2019. So far I know that I’ll be at the AWS Summits in Berlin (late Feb) and Milan (mid March), with some time in between in the UK and Paris. If you’ll be in any of those places/times, let me know! If you want to follow my adventures, Twitter is a good way to do that.

Best wishes to all for a happy 2019!

2 thoughts on “2018, a Retrospective in Pictures

  1. david mcghee

    I have a question when I was young lived in an an Italian neighborhood and there was a word the old people used I think sounds like scheva and it meant you couldn’t take a bite or it repulsed you to eat their cooking am I pronouncing properly or a word close.
    Thank you

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