2019 in Review


After a very busy December 2018, traveling and then moving house, we spent the first weeks of January in a state of collapse. The California winter rain was heavier than usual so the weather was dank and depressing, but we had plenty to do indoors, unpacking and setting up our new home. I went to Seattle for an internal AWS marketing kick-off. Brendan worked on a new book. (Yes, I edited this one, too.)


In late February, Brendan and I went to Berlin where I spoke at the AWS Summit. It was our first visit so we did a bit of sight-seeing, but frankly weren’t up to much as we had both been ill.

view of pedestrian bridges over the river in Berlin.

From there we traveled to the UK so Brendan could finally meet my stepmum, Ruth. The three of us visited Bletchley Park, which I highly recommend. It’s nice to see Alan Turing finally getting the public recognition (and apology) he so richly deserved. (photos)

Deirdré and Brendan trying on WWII-era hats at Bletchley Park.

Then we went to Paris, the official excuse for which was an internal talk I gave to solutions architects at AWS’ Paris office. But we also did a lot of walking around, looking at sights, and eating.

shop front of Goyard Malletier in Paris.

From Paris, Brendan went home to California to speak at SCaLE 17x, and I went on to Milan to speak at the AWS Summit there. I had about a week to kill, so I stayed at an Airbnb near AWS’ Milan office, which also happened to be a great location for… eating. I did a lot of that. Saw some old friends, met some new colleagues, did my routine work for AWS, and prepared for my talk. It was nice to be back in Milan, a city I’m still fond of.


In mid March I traveled home and got to work on my garden. Which was a great pleasure and a lot of work… and is a topic for a separate post.


I made a brief trip to Seattle. Also, I got shingles – which I fortunately caught very early and was able to treat with anti-viral medication before it turned nasty, as shingles can and usually does. Get your kids the chicken pox vaccination now so they never have to worry about this!

At the end of the month Brendan and I took off for Puerto Rico, where he was to speak at a conference. 

As a connoisseur of beaches, Brendan had looked carefully at the map and decided he wanted to go to Playa El Escambron, not far from where we were staying in San Juan. Our first evening we walked around the town and thought we would be able to walk to El Escambron, but we ended up instead on the beach at La Perla, a wasteland of mud and debris from Hurricane Maria, which had hit this once-vibrant neighborhood hard (the photo below puts a good face on it).

panoramic view of La Perla, looking out to sea, evening.

The next day we took Lyft directly to El Escambron, which proved indeed to be a beautiful beach lined with palm trees, and clearly the preferred hangout of the locals rather than the tourists (the tourist beach is Condado where the big hotels are, which isn’t nearly as nice). 

El Escambron beach

Brendan likes to take pictures of me. He insists that no photograph, even by a professional, has yet captured what he sees in me – and he goes to a lot of trouble trying to capture that elusive something. (I am mystified, but of course flattered.) So it was no surprise that he was taking lots of pictures, having me pose this way and that on the lovely beach. He called me over to look at his camera screen, with some joking remark that seemed odd – he doesn’t usually tease. “I know this is something you’ve been wanting for a while,” he added, and showed me a photo of… a ring. I was still confused. He dropped to one knee in the sand and presented me with the actual ring, in a red box. “Will you marry me?” he asked. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t even get the ring on my finger. I said yes.

my engagement/wedding ring.

We had been talking for a while about a wedding, a ring, and all that jazz and Brendan knew that, this time around, I wanted it done “right.” I somewhat despised myself for caring about the traditional rituals of… well, ownership. But I still craved at least part of those traditions, including a real proposal. And Brendan pulled it off magnificently, managing to surprise me as to the time and place and manner of it, even while I knew a proposal was coming. 

After the conference, we spent a few days at a resort. The most fun thing we did was a kayaking tour through mangrove swamps at night to a bioluminescent bay. The bioluminescence itself was not all that impressive – I suspect a lot of it got washed away in the hurricane – but paddling there and back among a flotilla of two-person kayaks in the dark was a blast.

Flying from California to Puerto Rico and back again is not easy. On the way over, we took a red-eye and had to change flights in Fort Lauderdale (after very little sleep). For the return trip, you either have to leave San Juan in the wee hours of the morning, or fly via the east coast. Brendan went “straight” home via Boston, I decided I might as well stop over in New York to visit my daughter Rossella and her partner Dan. We went to see an extraordinary and surprising production of Oklahoma.


A few days after I got home from that trip, my old friends Sue and Jeff came for a visit from Kansas. They helped a lot with wedding planning, and insisted on working on my garden, as well as doing some of the usual Bay Area touristy stuff.

Sue and Deirdré in a rose garden in Yountville CA.
Sue and Deirdré in a rose garden in Yountville


Seattle again, for an internal digital marketing summit.

Aperol spritz and cornetto, Princi Seattle.

There’s a Princi bakery in Seattle which is just as good as the one in Milan. No one in Italy would have a cornetto and an Aperol spritz together, but… I’m a food rebel. Back at home, lots of gardening and wedding planning.


I spoke at OSCON for the second time…

Enjoyed a bachelorette spa day in Carmel with some of my besties.

Returned to Seattle for yet another internal summit, this one for evangelists (no, I’m not exactly an evangelist, but our team has a bunch of them and I work closely with many).


Wedding! (More on that… later.)

panoramic view of Poipu Beach, Kaua'i.

Then we took a short honeymoon in Kaua’i while Rossella stayed with Mitchell and was an awesome big sister: she taught him to ride a bike and eat new foods, took him and his buddy Leo to the drive-in and the beach and, the last day before school started, to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk.

Michell at Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, photo and Instagram post by Rossella.


streets paved in a black and white wave pattern, Lisbon.

Brendan needed to attend a conference in Lisbon, and later in the same week I needed to be in India, where I had been invited to join the board of Woodstock School. With some really awful travel, starting with a flight from SFO and then an overnight in Dubai, we managed to combine the two (I don’t recommend this route). Lisbon was enjoyable, not least for the crowd of the usual Linux kernel suspects we were hanging out with. Then it took us another 24 hours of travel to get to Mussoorie, beautifully green and misty in the late monsoon season.

fern-covered tree trunk, Mussoorie.

After all these decades of being involved with Woodstock School as a student, a very active alumna, and a parent, it was past time for me to join the board. So far I’m a member of the General Body, which does not wield much power compared with the (much smaller) board itself. But it does have one very important responsibility: identifying, vetting, interviewing, and proposing potential future board members. My vast network among alumni and elsewhere will be helpful here. I’m also trying to help the school in other ways, such as marketing.

members of the Board of Woodstock School, India, 2019.

From Mussoorie we went to Goa for a few more days of honeymoon. Though we stayed in a very nice hotel (the Taj Fort Aguada), September was not a good time to be there – the ocean was still dangerous to swim in and the beach still full of debris washed up by monsoon storms, so we didn’t get to enjoy the beach at all. But we enjoyed more great food, did some shopping, and on our way out of India spent a day in Bombay to celebrate with some classmates. (Photos: India)

panoramic view of Fort Aguada, Goa.
panoramic view of Fort Aguada, Goa


The rest of September and most of October were full of work stuff for both of us.

Brendan and Mitchell about to go biking.a

Brendan and Mitchell started biking as a father-son activity

Meanwhile, I had grown tired of having no eyebrows – they never really grew back after chemo, and I’m not good enough at makeup to draw them on nicely. So I had them microbladed, a form of tattooing. Yes, it hurts. But it was worth it.

On the right you can see what they looked like after the first session. The color tends to get strong after a few days, then fade a bit over a month, so you go back for a second session to adjust color and fill in any spots that didn’t take well the first time. After that, it should last about two years.

At the end of October we went to Portland (my second visit this year) where Brendan was speaking at USENIX LISA. I wasn’t attending the conference, but went along to hang out with him and see other friends – I know many of the regulars because LISA is a conference I have attended, one way and another, for many years.


At AWS, November is the run-up to re:Invent, our biggest event of the year, which takes place the week after Thanksgiving. It’s always hectic, and I was busier than ever with the Open Source blog, as well as preparing in various ways for the event itself. re:Invent had an open source track for the first time, so there was plenty to do.


Brendan and I both spoke at re:Invent (mine was a builders session for just six people, a freewheeling discussion based on my Marketing Open Source talk – those sessions don’t get recorded). I was also live-tweeting open source sessions from the AWSOpen Twitter handle.

Brendan’s talk on BPF was well received; don’t miss the “BPF theremin” demo that I tweeted:

Brendan’s new book, BPF Performance Tools, was also finally released in electronic format that week. (Print came later.)

We spent the remaining days until Christmas recovering from all that, visiting neighborhood light displays and finally putting up our own. The lights are our favorite thing about the holiday season – next year we’ll do more. 

We had Christmas dinner and present opening with Mitchell’s mother on Christmas eve, because on Christmas day we flew to New York to visit Ross and Dan. Manhattan was unbearably crowded with tourists, but we saw a couple of museums (also crowded), ate a lot of good food, and generally enjoyed each others’ company. We flew home on the 31st and on New Year’s Eve we… went to bed early.

It would be nice to have a few more weeks off to recover from this year, but it all starts again next week!

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