What’s been taking my time for the last couple months?
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.
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?!)
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.”
My Grumps, my mom’s father, loved photography (it runs on both sides of the family: Grandpa, my Dad’s dad did too). He had a series of cameras, most of which I’ve now ended up with, from old Brownies to Kodaks to Polaroids. Apparently he took mostly slide film, as I ended up with *hundreds* and *hundreds* of slides, mostly Kodachrome (gives you those nice, bright colors).
Some of the slides, though, were a type I’d never seen before: stereo slides! I knew they existed, but I’d only seen them in commercial format; I hadn’t realized that home photographers could take them. Well, take them they could, and Grumps did, with what I assume must have been a Stereo Realist camera (sadly, the camera has not yet turned up).
I ended up with 30ish boxes of stereo slides, so perhaps 200-300 images total. I’m having them scanned, some in 2D (the ones that are “meh” in quality) and some in 3D (to Blu-Ray, for the ones for which the 3Dness would be worth it, according to the company that is doing it for me).
I’ve gotten back the first batch of 2D ones — check it out:
I figured out two things which had previously stymied me today, which delighted me to no end. The first was how to make things format themselves nicely in a wiki that I’d never used before (and whose conventions were very non-intuitive to me). (As an aside, I really don’t understand the appeal of wikis over WYSIWYG editors — how is it easier to do this [[I am a page name typed correctly, even down to the case]] than it is to just copy the page URL and click the “link” button and paste it in?)
Anyway, I figured all that out, and consolidated several bits of messy documentation — yah me!
*And* I got all my Google calendar stuff to work correctly again (this was a Big Deal). We recently switched to Google calendar at work, and it totally borked by sync to my phone, which had worked perfectly. Fixing it involved setting up 2-factor authorizaion and application-specific passwords and then explaining to the phones PIM tools which versions of what calendars and email I wanted to have. It was complex, but I seem to have fixed it all now.
Several of my primary workflows (such as dragging an email onto the calendar to create a meeting are broken, but that’s not something *I* can fix, so I’m just going to have to deal with it. I’ll take the small wins where they come.
I was tired of not having anywhere to write the things I was thinking, and the old lintqueen.com was in a sad, decrepit state. So I started to research website building tools. The majority of the ones that I found were very slick (so much slicker than last I looked) drag-and-drop site builders, but, of course, they were all closed source and proprietary, and therefore evil.
But one of the tools I found listed was Pages in Github, and since I am an open source evangelist (more about that later) and am trying to convince teachers to start using Github in their college comp sci classes, it seemed that Github Pages might be a good choice. Plus, when you go to the documentation (https://pages.github.com) it *seems* super easy. In fact, their instructions for getting Jekyl set up are only Three Simple Steps (their words) long.
Sadly, the instructions flat out didn’t work. Worse, they made me feel like a right idiot. When instructions have only three steps and are comprised of sentences like “After that, simply run the command, bundle installand you’re good to go,” it does feel like I (a reasonably smart bear) should be able to figure it out.
As it turns out (much hand-wringing and a few tears later), I discovered that the instructions were actually wrong (anger). As a result, I have abandoned Github Pages and instead am going to try WordPress (hosted this time. The last time we self-hosted and that was a bit of a maintenance nightmare).
The next hurdle is to figure out how to get all my old content over from ginalikins.com (and to remember to turn off publishing to Facebook before I do!).
Most of the time (and by most, I mean 95%+), I *love* having the richness of the internet’s information available to me. It’s pretty great to be able to know you don’t know something (like whether it’s ok to transport washing machines laying down on their sides) and instantly (or at least as quickly as I can type that into Google) get an answer (pretty much not advised unless you tighten the transport bolts and then not recommended as the weight of the barrel can cause everything to go askew*).
Sometimes, though, it’s too much. I just want a simple answer, and there isn’t one. For example, I want to know where to find the best price on the best flooring. Once upon a time this choice would have been simpler, as the choice would have been Bob’s Carpetatorium or Fred’s Floor-a-rama and that’d have been that.
I’m well aware that Bob’s and Fred’s may not have had, in fact, the most optimal price/value floor, but I’d have thought they did, and that would have simplified my decision-making process. Today I search for “flooring options” and there are millions of pages (of information) and millions more of shopping (and, of course, none of those options compare apples to apples, or Pergo to Armstrong, as it were).
So I’m overwhelmed. And I still haven’t decided on floors. Maybe I’ll call Bob.
* This knowledge proved helpful yesterday when Adrian and I transported his old washer and dryer from storage to our new house and my old washer and dryer to (honestly) the back porch. There’s another round of transport (new house washer and dryer to our hold house) yet to come. I know, you envy our glamorous lifestyle, right?
Adrian and I recently set up an account at Coastal Federal Credit Union (their GoGreen checking can pay up to 2% interest — w00t!) and I went there the other day to deposit a check. Surprises abounded:
First, their teller windows (and lobby) are open until 7pm (and I think from 7am, though, to be honest, I didn’t really read that part, since I am “not a morning person” in an almost cliche way).
Second, their teller windows are staffed by virtual tellers (looked a lot like the picture to the left)! There’s a screen and a video picture of your teller (mine was Carol). I have no idea where she was, but from that moment forward it was rather like a traditional drive-through arrangement, except:
I could reach the window
I could understand everything she said (no fast-food-style squawky speakers)
When I put my check down, it was into a little slot like an ATM (I have to confess I did miss the SWOOOSH of the pneumatic tube)
And, of course, she was not 10 feet away (I presume. That would have been sort of silly)
Wow. Just plain nifty. It would’ve been quick too, had I not spent so much time saying: “This is soooo cool! ”
I will also confess that having watched too much sci-fi — and this week’s Dr. Who — I also had a bit of difficulty remembering that she was a real person and not just “Interface.”