​The paradoxical anxiety and satisfaction of…..button sorting.

The warms

I recently acquired new storage bins, which, as a person who loves putting Things in Containers in an Orderly Fashion, is both delightful and (often) the beginning of Anxious Activity.

I have buttons. Lots of buttons. I love buttons, especially pretty, shiny buttons and oddly shaped buttons and brightly colored buttons. As someone who cannot let a Thing That Might Be Useful Someday (for a definition of “Useful” that includes “in any way” and “Someday” that encompasses “all of known time/space”), I keep all the buttons: buttons I inherited from my Granny, who was a sewist orders of magnitude better than I will ever be; buttons found looking lonely and unloved in thrift stores (I cannot abide lonely buttons); and (perhaps most tellingly) all the spare buttons that come attached to the inside side seams or hang tags of store-boughten clothes.  They all get added to (as Adrian referred to it): my “Notions Store,” where they are appreciated (and occasionally pawed through, as there’s something really satisfying about plunging your hand into a bucket of small things like buttons or beads).

Prior to Thursday my buttons lived in several types of random containers (ick! unsettling!) with only the barest separation of colors, carded buttons, and sizes. This was an unsatisfactory solution, so upon acquisition of a set of multi-drawer-with-movable-dividers craft storage thingies, I set about to bring order to chaos.

With this as a starting point, it was almost inevitable that my anxiety and OCD-ish tendencies would kick in, causing the button-sorting exercise to go awry, but the plan seemed *so* reasonable when I  started [1]: all the yellow, orange, red and pink buttons would go in this one drawer, and I’ll just set the little dividers up so that I have Big Red Buttons, small red buttons, Big Pink buttons …

And just like that I was in the middle of the intersection of anxiety and OCD. Buttons, you see, can be translucent, solid, iridescent or even multi-color.  And when you’re arranging things by color, the difference between a light red iridescent button and a dark pink iridescent button is… miniscule?  Entirely dependent on what other buttons they’re sitting near and how the light is hitting them? (Meaningless? shhhhhhh. Not meaningless. Important. But…tricky.). And so there was Time Spent assessing all the redish and pinkish buttons to determine their true natures.  (ETA: I totally forgot to link to some of the cool info on color sorting that Adrian has — he even wrote a color sorter!)

You see what I mean? The distinction between pink buttons and red ones is fine at best…

I began to get frustrated by the struggle, and especially frustrated by the number of times that I’d mentally declared a particular button pink or red and happily plopped it in the divider with all of its friends, only to discover that it now looked lost, lonely, and quite out of place. So I’d have to fish it out (and they often tried to hide, sinking down and turning sideways, perhaps hoping that I would be unable to pick them out once the light that hit them was tinted by reflection from the other buttons, and they’d turned their skinny side toward me. As you can imagine, this did not fool me…no siree).

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that the degree to which my OCD-ish tendencies manifest is directly correlated to the amount of stress I’m under.  And, bonus!: my anxiety follows the same formula. Given the state of the world at large these days (war), and the USA (removing what I consider to be a fundamental right to choose what happens to my body and well on the path to go after other, equally fundamental, rights), and my life (several family members are unwell in ways that I can’t fix), my anxiety levels have been running at an all-time-high of late anyway.  

Such a paucity of orange buttons! Must acquire more garments from the 70s clearly.

​But still I persisted. And having sorted less than half of my warmly colored buttons I hit my second snag. For some reason, I had only a very few orange buttons — which I immediately felt guilty about, as if I’d been consciously discriminating against them — but more importantly, which totally threw off my plan for the dividers. No problem. I will revise the divider plan to accommodate my imbalance (I also had a higher-than-normal number of red buttons, though this didn’t surprise me as much, as I love red). 

Not even close to being the same color, amirite?

And so ​I moved dividers (and buttons), and continued on to the Cooler Family of Buttons, which had been given their own drawer (fair, balanced, and even-steven). Upon starting the green-blue-purple sort, I quickly stumbled into issue number three (if you’re keeping count, as you can better believe I was): I couldn’t (in good conscience) put the lime green and chartreuse buttons in with the kelly and forest buttons. In fact, it began to feel like the limey-chartreuse-y buttons were a color family of their own.

This felt unfair to the blue-green and green-blue buttons, which hadn’t been so separated. (I feel I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that (to me) these are two entirely different colors: blue-green also being known as teal, and green-blue also known as turquoise). This, of course, necessitated further divider relocation and button reallocation, though after several trial segregations I decided that the blue-green and green-blue buttons got along well enough that they could share a compartment (while there clearly would have been fights about “who was the real green” had I not separated the limey-chartreuse-y greens from the kellys and hunters. I suspect there may have been some Bad Blood there, the genesis of which was probably when the “real greens” — their term! I value all greens equally — claimed the limey-chartreuse-y greens were just yellow wanna-bes.)  

As you can see the blue-green and green-blue buttons seem to be enjoying each other’s company, though I’ll definitely keep an eye on that situation.

And then I hit the Real, Substantive Issue, which nearly sent me into an Orwellian tailspin. You see I love all my buttons, but I’d be a big, fat, lying lier if I didn’t admit that certain buttons make me happy beyond their ability to close a garment in an appropriately matching (or contrasting) fashion. You can probably imagine which these are:

the fabric-covered buttons;
the tiny, pearlized shank buttons;
the buttons made from a thin, wavy sliver of actual shell;
the truly vintage metal buttons that have intricate molded images;
and, of course (insert the singing angels here), the rhinestone-embellished buttons
And better still, their purely rhinestone sistren (I had originally said “brethren” but that seemed wrong).

But suppose I were to find a tiny, royal blue, pearlized shank button?  Where does it go: amongst its other, equally blue buddies, or should it be separated somehow; put into a category with other such “Special” buttons.  You can guess which direction I went: in short order one of the drawers was designated “Specials.”

And then, my friends, came the guilt and indecision: who was I to arbitrarily designate this button as more special than this other button?  And how could I justify this button being included in the Specials, while this other one, which could be described using roughly the same set of adjectives, didn’t.

In the end, the Specials process alone probably took me an hour, but I am OK with that. I arbitrated fairly, and I was willing to admit when a button caught the light just right and way and showed itself to be, in fact, more Special than I’d given it credit for.

And much of the angst and anxiety about the unsettledness of life in general has been worked through, thanks to the microbcosm of making order out of my buttons. My buttons are beautifully sorted and I am (somewhat more) settled.

[1] Aside: any of you who know me or have worked with me are cracking up at this point, probably thinking something along the lines of “Seriously, Gina?! You have a Grand Plan for sorting buttons… shouldn’t that have been a tip-off?”  Ok. Fair enough. But sorting buttons — so I could find them! — did feel like a reasonable thing …at least when I started.

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: https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/flu/figures/flu1819.pdf and https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count#cases-over-time

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!!!