For our best baby girl

India Friday Likins, 01/24/2006 – 03/08/2022

I grew up allergic to fur and feathers, which meant “no dogs allowed,” even though I desperately wanted one. Therefore, I consider it a minor miracle that one day I happened to stop at a craft store in Burlington, which was both having a major sale and had a resident pomeranian. I immediately discovered lots of small shiny things to buy, but it wasn’t until I’d already been sitting-on-the-carpeted-floor-digging-through-bins for at least an hour that the pom wandered out.

I admit that I panic’d and thought I’d probably stop breathing shortly, but much to my surprise, I didn’t. And so I decided to test my luck a little and stay longer (also, there was about half the stuff I hadn’t gone through yet).

A couple hours later, I’d petted the pom, and even let him lick my wrist, and will admit that I was a little sneezy, but nothing like what I’d have expected for having interacted with a real, live dog. (Especially considering I spent most of the time sitting on a carpeted floor, digging through *very* dusty bins of buttons and bits.)

A hope blossomed, so I started researching and found a wonderful pomeranian breeder with a great reputation (who is now focusing on grandkids not puppies) who was kind enough to let me come bury my nose in her newest litter of puppies. So I met a bunch of bebehs…

…and I fell in love with this one.  On the 16th of March, I brought her home, naming her India (because she was black like India ink) Friday (because of the Steely Dan song, Black Friday).  

And she’s been the Very Best Pupper – when I met Adrian, she fell in love with him just like I had… she did all her best tricks for him, and she’d follow him anywhere.

He helped her perfect her “monkey hold”:

She’s been so patient, despite all the costumes we (ok, mostly I) dressed her in:

And the ridiculous situations that we (again, mostly I) put her in:

And the bad (and some not-so-bad) haircuts by yours truly

She even tolerated her rambunctious (and probably a little annoying) younger brother, Roman, when he joined us in 2015:

But even the best little girl can’t live forever (though 16 1/4 is very old for a pup), and the past week has brought changes of the not-good sort that made it clear to us that she wasn’t happy any more. So agreed that it was time to say goodbye and “send her off to college” (kind framing thanks to my friend K).

Adrian and I both agree that was the only loving and responsible choice, and we have no regrets about making the decision.

But our hearts are still breaking because our baby girl is gone.

Here are a few more favorite pics of her.

Many more pictures of India and Roman are here and here



The cool robot kit (minus the cool stickers, which weren’t printed yet :-)

What’s been taking my time for the last couple months?

I make a lot of funny faces in the video.

We have just launched the new Red Hat Co.Lab Robot Kit, ​which I had the good fortune to create with SparkFun, an open source hardware company. The kit, which will be used in Co.Lab workshops Red Hat runs for middle school girls who don’t have access to high-quality STEM education, uses the BBC micro:bit as the brains and is completely open source.

I’ve written the first (of several) activities for the ‘bot and recorded the “helper” video to go along with the activity, and as of today, the robot is *live*!

I’m not nearly done — this is only the first activity! — but I am delighted that my little ‘bot project has been born.

My tutorial, based on the excellent one that SparkFun had created :-)

The tip of the Thank You Iceberg:
* Mel Chernoff, for giving me this job!
* Derek Runberg, who never complained even when I sent him the fifth “just one more quick question” email
* Paula Weigel, who allowed me the opportunity to collaborate on this project;
* Adrian Likins, who helped me get the A/V setup in place (and answered a million questions); and
* C V Britton, who *very* patiently helped me figure out how to explain DC motors in a way that didn’t involve “and then a miracle occurred.”

(PS how lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?!)

Not the flu

Not the flu, case in point: as of April 20, there were 213 deaths related to COVID-19 in NC vs. 203 flu-related deaths in entire 2018 flu season (9/30/2018-5/11/2019).

(Looking on the bright side, this year’s flu numbers look to be down: currently we’re at 167 flu-related deaths, while last year at the same time we were at 197. Social distancing FTW!).

ETA: Sources: and

4/22 ETA (again) to add: my point was not that 213 is statistically significant compared to 203 (though that number today, April 22, is 242, which may be statistically significant…?), it’s that those 203 deaths took place over the entire flu season (7.5 months), with no social distancing in place (IOW, in the “perfect” conditions), while the COVID-19 deaths have happened in *less than one month*, *with* social distancing measures in place (statewide, as of March 27), and (at this time) show no signs of decreasing (IOW, we have not hit the inflection point). By contrast, death curve inflection point for the flu was ~Feb 23 and had hit zero by May 11.

Also adding that I’m not an epidemiologist, statistician, or data analysis genius, so consult your doctor or physician before beginning Xepluumana. Do not take Xepluumana if Xepluumana has killed you in the past. Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate. Contents measured by weight and may have shifted during flight.

(From the archives)

IOW: recovered from the Internet Wayback Machine. First posted in 2002!)

You should have seen me fixing my washing machine!

It’s a 13-yr. old Maytag, and I noticed (while sitting on my rear and watching stupid sitcoms, if that matters) that the wash cycle seemed to be taking overly long. In fact, I noticed that it had been trying to wash during all of Grace Under Fire and Ellen. On a whim, I called the 1-800 directory and asked if they had a 1-800 number for Maytag. They did, so I called.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of laughing in my face (“HA HA! You want help with a 13-yr. old-way-out-of-warranty-machine!?! HA HA!“), they most kindly referred my to a maintenance guy I’ll call “Scott” … since I think that was his name.

Well, Scott spent the next hour and a half talking me through the:

  • removing of the washer from the tiny little cubby closet in my bathroom where it lives;
  • getting down in the little space formed behind the washer and underneath the dryer;
  • getting back out of the little space formed behind the washer and underneath the dryer to get the wrench that I should’ve had before I ever got in there;
  • determining that it was a little solenoid-thing that was stuck shut (rather than a jammed hose or some other problem); and 
  • removing same solenoid-thing in anticipation of replacing it.

He even told me to call him back the next day so he could talk me through the re-installation of the new solenoid-thing. So, I went out the next day and bought a replacement solenoid-thing, called Scott (still on the toll-free number!!!) and installed the new piece. And I’m pleased as punch to report that the washer seems to be working flawlessly now!

Birthday at the Biltmore

I spent my mumbledy-mumbleth birthday at the Biltmore Inn on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. I’d always wanted to stay at the Biltmore (so, win!) and, more excitingly, the gardens were featuring an installation of large-scale glass pieces by one of my very favorite artists, Dale Chihuly.

Adrian (who bestowed this most gracious gift unto me) was incredibly patient while I took All The Pictures.

Here are a few of my favorites:


I also loved these three things:


And I’m calling these my Ghost Fish:

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#MeToo: what I’d said initially, and some additional thoughts

In mid-October, I’d posted on Facebook that, like so many of my friends, #MeToo .

(I was sexually assaulted by a guy who broke into my mom’s apartment. I was 16 at the time, and ended up (thankfully) only severely beaten and concussed.)  My experience is, in a weird way, “easy” to talk about (though it was hell to experience), as it seems so clearcut: I was sleeping and woke up with a guy on top of me. There’s no possibility of blaming me:  no one (has yet, anyway) pointed a finger at me to say I “deserved it” in some way (as happens to so many other women), nor do people disbelieve me when I tell them about it (I had the black and blue, hospital records, and newspaper crime report to prove it).

Stop for a moment and reflect on how broken it is that the horrible, bloody, violent circumstances of my assault make it easier for me to share the story, compared to friends who were date raped or sexually harassed or molested.

yeah.  Very wrong.

At the time, I didn’t post about all the other incidents — large and small — that had happened to me that were also sexual harassment. I suspect that, like most women, I’ve grown numb to a lot of it, and don’t notice it unless it is very pronounced.  I also think that my one horrid thing eclipses all the other things in the same way that being in a coma for six months might eclipse breaking a couple bones.   If you were sitting around telling injury stories with friends, and you had broken your leg skiing and been in a coma for six months due to an automobile accident, you might not mention the skiing injury.

But the skiing injury still hurt.  And it still cost money. And it still sucked… and having Something Worse in your life, doesn’t mean that anything smaller than that isn’t of notice.

With that in mind, I’m trying to give more airtime to the rest of my experiences with sexual harassment and misogyny, as I think that cultural change will only happen when there’s greater understanding of how pervasive this is.

And with that as background:
I happened to go to YouTube last week (as opposed to watching videos inline), and noticed I had a comment on a video I’d posted a couple years ago about making templates for oddly shaped things. (The context was that I’d had to create a template for the Corian sink in our island, which is semi-hexagonal, and having discovered a clever way to do it, I thought I’d share.)

Here’s the comment (which has been removed):

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 5.36.50 PM

For the men in my circles: can you imagine posting a video of something technical, in which you were wearing dirty work jeans and one of the two comments you got was “Nice dick”?

I know it happens (there are lots of terrible comments posted on all kinds of videos), but this struck me as particularly egregious as I’ve only posted a couple of videos to YouTube and this one was as far from “sexxxxayy” as humanly possible.

So, yeah. #MeToo then. And #MeToo quite recently.

Hidden barriers to women in tech — even clothes make a difference

Working for one of the best-funded startups in Los Angeles’ “Silicon Beach,” Chelsea decided to perform a social experiment with her work clothes.

She usually wore the same standard tech uniform as her male coworkers — jeans and a t-shirt — but felt she wasn’t getting treated with the same respect. Techie that she is, she conducted research — by switching to a more “professional-sexy” look.

“I changed my clothes for two weeks, and the response I got was incredible: My ‘work was improving. You’re doing a great job,’” Chelsea recently told TheWrap. “I should note for those two weeks I basically did nothing. I not only just changed my clothing, I probably decreased my work by, like, 60 percent.”

via Sexism on Silicon Beach: How One Woman’s Sexier Work Clothes Exposed Tech-Bro Bias

So Very Fortunate

I am so lucky — people are nice to me in all kinds of unexpected and delightful ways!
The other night at the Belle & Sebastian/Andrew Bird show I went to go find Seamus and Kerri to say hello and chat, and by the time I headed back to where we were sitting on the lawn, it was on the verge of dark.
I had made a note of where we were (yah for doing that much), but even when it’s full daylight I have a weird vision thing that makes it difficult for me to recognize people at the 7′-20′ distance (exactly, BTW, where people expect to be recognized). Add some very-near-dark and a whole passel of people and you end up with me standing on the walk, near where I knew we were sitting, peering into the lawn, frantically scanning the crowd for my people, and considering whether I need to text Adrian to tell him where I am so he can come get me.
And here’s where the SuperNice happened: I was just pulling out my phone to text Adrian so he could come claim me (yes, like lost luggage) when a random woman who was sitting 15′ away gets up and comes over to me. She asks: “Are you looking for your people?” and I say (probably pitifully) “yes — and I know they’re *right here* but I can’t find them.”
She points to a spot 15 feet away (in the direction I hadn’t been looking) and says: “They’re right there. Don’t worry I’m not a creeper, but I remember seeing you get up before and…”
I interject: “Ohmygosh, thank you! thank you!”
… because *wow*!
This wonderful woman got up, walked over to a lost-looking stranger, and helped her find her people (and she knew where my people were!). I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such kindness, but this is *exactly* the sort of goodness that I believe we’re suppose to be adding to the world.
Thank you, nice woman!!!

Learning while frustrated

“So,” I think to myself, “I’ll use this time while the other POSSE participants are working on an exercise to practice my CLI skillz because they’re very rusty (and/or non-existent).”
On my work laptop (Fedora 23), I open a terminal window, run ls, see a couple of files that can bear removing. One is called ‘cascading_menu_HR’
I type
rm cascading_menu_HR
and get
rm: cannot remove ‘cascading_menu_HR’: 
No such file or directory
I ls again (in case it vanished when I wasn’t looking).
Nope. Still there.
OK, I think to myself, I can figure this out. I google.
Perhaps I need to remove it more forcefully. So I try:
rm -rf cascading_menu_HR
and get
rm: cannot remove ‘cascading_menu_HR’: 
No such file or directory
grrr. Angrypants.   Maybe I am not powerful enough (probably not the case, but I’m exhausting my options).  Besides ,’sudo” fixes everything, right?
sudo rm -rf cascading_menu_HR
and get
rm: cannot remove ‘cascading_menu_HR’: 
No such file or directory
Not unexpected but still frustrating.  More googling: “cannot rm -rf file but shows when ls”.  Find the following article: “No such file or directory” when trying to remove a file, but the file exists?
The article suggests that I run ‘ls -lb‘, explaining that ls -lb will list long form file names with octal escapes for nongraphic characters.[1]
And as it turns out, that file I was trying to remove was named ‘cascading_menu_HR/’  — what?!  Why wouldn’t the listing just show me that?
More confusing yet, / isn’t a /, it’s an indicator that a space is being quoted, so I really need to use an extra space in my command:
sudo rm -rf cascading_menu_HR\  <- there's a 
space at the end that you can't see
The sudo business and the remove with great force were both probably unnecessary, but at this point I’m a little angry at this file, and I just want the blasted file gone.[2]
And the file is finally gone! Hooray!
Then I remember something that I *just* learned last week:  Linux commands have a long form and a short form.[3] Turns out that -s is the same thing as –size and -a is the same thing as –all. Huh.  That makes a *lot* more sense to me (and eventually I’m sure I’d use the shortcuts, but it’s a lot easier to remember –size than -s).[4]
Last night I was talking to Adrian about how this new long form command business is a big helper for me, and he tells me another thing that I didn’t know: the short forms of commands can be smushed together behind a single dash.
So, I’m thinking that I should be able to “un-abbreviate” the -lb into two component parts. Google and find that -l means long form of the listing, so I think that
ls --long --escape
will work
Nope.   I get:
ls: unrecognized option '--long'
Try 'ls --help' for more information.
????  -l means long but isn’t the short form of –long?? Whhhhhhyyyyyy?
Ok. Whatever. Moving on. I try some other stuff:
ls -a -s
works.  And
ls -s -a
works but is much slower (is it because it has to do things backwards?)

Argh.  Yet again, I find myself stymied by the stupidest things. I want to understand it …and when it doesn’t make sense it frustrates me. Greatly.

And so I end up feeling like “if something this ‘easy’ [5] has stymied me, then (a) I must be very stupid and (b) this is probably something I shouldn’t mess with anymore.

[1] No, I have no idea what that means, but if it makes it quit erroring.
[2] Annoying realization at this point: I don’t really care about removing this file — it’s been there for who knows how long and doesn’t seem to be hurting anything — but my little “CLI practice session” has turned into the very definition of stubbornness for me.
[3]  Well, some of them do, but not all.  ls doesn’t seem to have a longer form. (?? – why wouldn’t it be list?) and -l means “long” and -b is the shortcut for –escape (???).  (And if you’re thinking to yourself that they must’ve used -b because -e was being used by something else?  Nope. Not that I can tell.)
[4] BTW, why in heaven’s name does the long form require when the short form requires ?  Why couldn’t they both use -?
[5] Reminder: deleting a file via the command line is all I wanted to do.