At the 12,000 participant Grace Hopper Convention in Houston, TX last week, we conducted a hackathon-with-a-workshop. Stacie Hibino (@staciehibino) and I helped 250+ participants manipulate a simple LED circuit kit into a prototype or actual product.
Our competition was stiff for that slot, and it was at the end of the conference. But we’d attended earlier workshops on this topic and they were packed, and to capacity. The thirst for building was strong here. Folks wanted to *make*. I got a few questions before the session whether they’d “actually make something” and if it was “truly interactive.” Oh yes.
Not only that, but we had a demo round and judging! First, we introduced the kits we made, and Stacie demonstrated some flying, moving or switch examples she’d made with the kit. Then, a 5-10 minute brainstorming session. Tables pitched ideas, and we opened it up to moving to other tables- though most didn’t.
We distributed the kits to eager hands. It contained a strip of conductive tape, a few basic LEDs, Chibitronics LED stickers, a battery, and a granny purse clip to hold the battery to the circuit. Generous donation by Chibitronics- whose stickers are awesome, and their instructions and guides are truly great. If you’re an educator, I highly recommend the workbook and kit for your own instruction and play ($30) and the classroom kit is very good too!
I walked around to some tables and saw that a lot of them were actually building what they’d pitched- so that was nice that our instruction on the materials matched their idea, at least. Folks were hunkered down, it was some serious concentration. We couldn’t give kits to each individual but a few per table, which is good in a way because it drives group participation. We really looked at that in judging- that the group worked as a whole. Since this was about putting on hackathons, we wanted to express the feeling and excitement of being in one, as well as the benefits of participating. Usually you learn something about yourself, pick up new skills from your teammates or even hidden skills in yourself!
We found out that we didn’t have another session so we pushed the time out about 15 minutes. One of the conference staff brought food from the hallway in- folks were so engaged they didn’t peel off to eat. Now, that is a really good sign, since there was a bit of food scarcity at this conference.
I polled the room and a few were ready to demo so we brought them on stage! I was super impressed at the presentation skills of each group. The conference attendance skews to young, about 50% college students, and we found that half hadn’t participated in hackathons before. From my own experience, I find it’s very important to get engineers- particularly women- on the mic and up front and center presenting their work to big groups as often as possible. These “soft skills” of presentation end up being super helpful in your career. Presenters gave a quick rundown of what they learned, what was challenging, a team name- often determined on the spot- and onto the next team. No pauses, and pretty much every table presented! Here are some of those demos:
Stacie and I conferred quickly and we decided on the winners- though it was hard, there was a lot of really good teams and even this morning I’m regretting not expanding the prizes, ha.
First Place: A “wonder twins” kind of product, that lights up when you fist bump. It worked (check), the team presented was very cohesive and I noticed watching them during that they were working together really well (check) and it was just cool (check).
Second Place: Team Smart Sitter: made a chair pad that turns off a light when you sit down. This was full scale, and worked. And, their lesson they learned was right on- they needed to do parallel circuits instead of serial. I liked that it was exactly what they set out to build, which is SO HARD to do at hackathons. Did I say it worked? It worked. Oh, and it was exactly what they pitched, which is so hard to do and awesome. It was cool, and they way they presented I could tell they had a lot of fun and worked together great. Also, very neat. Also practical and relevant to the conference: in big or popular talks, it was hard to find seats.
Third Place: A series of boxes that lit up when adjoined. There were a few “box” teams- Stacie demo’d a cool example of lighting up the interior of an origami box that must have inspired a bunch of people. This is a really beautiful product, and the team was huge, and a solid unit, and they didn’t know each before the talk! In fact they barely knew each other’s names, but worked on a project where each person could and did participate – and the result worked. They admitted their challenge and it was a problem that other teams had, that the paper wasn’t heavy enough to make full contact with the tape and conduct.
So if you haven’t gotten the feeling now that the engineers were into it… they were REALLY into it, we offered extra kits to folks if they came up to the stage and even before I finished speaking they swarmed poor Stacie who was handing out kits below me. Ha ha. Our prizes consisted of: lovely Chibitronics holiday card circuit kits, and themed Halloween circuit kits. I was worried that these paled in comparison to fancy smart watches and iPhones (other giveaways at the conference). But when I saw that swarm of bodies angling for these tiny circuit sets, I was no longer worried, oh no.
Our prize: a Halloween blinged out badge clip
On a personal note: I was pretty choked up at almost every session or talk I went to. So, I’m a bit emotional, and seeing everyone heads down in our conference really touched me. I was just so impressed with the honest curiosity, teamwork and invention going on in that room. We were all exhausted at the end of the conference, but folks rallied, and made some very cool stuff. Here are some of the creations left over that we couldn’t bear parting with (aw).
Chibitronics– makes very fun, cute LED sticker sets to learn about electrical engineering and make cool stuff! All stickers, most of the batteries were provided very generously by Chibitronics. Their video and materials are very valuable to learning about circuits, and the quality and care of their kits is really good. Thank you so much!
Leyla Noroov & team from the workshop: “Making Makers” – scissors! tape! construction paper! So awesome to meet up with you all and your supplies were really appreciated.
UserVoice– Sponsored my travel & attendance, and, my employer! Great platform for making product decisions.
Jax put a handful of sand in his mouth, and I should have reached over and grabbed his chubby little hand, but I knew that with only a few taps, I could almost finish my deposit. The deposit that would make or break my rent check. I stretched my foot out to nudge his hand away from his mouth, and finally tapped through the goddamn awful banking app to get the deposit done. Every bank advertised they did this, but it was like pulling teeth getting her crappy credit union to finally setup mobile deposits. Getting downtown with baby in between naptimes was monumentally difficult, as was finding a non-skeazy place to breastfeed before his nap. Once she had stopped at what she thought was a nice bench under a tree on Montgomery, but no, it was the designated smoker’s club, and she got anxious and guilty looks for the entire 10 minute feed (fast, for her and Jax). She was tired of jockeying for the sidewalk ramps between oblivious 9-5ers on their one 15 minute break out of the skyscrapers. It’s like her stroller, in a crowded sandwich shop, had leprosy the amount of dirty looks she got. So, fine. She didn’t want to go downtown anyway. Sniff.
Being a stay at home mom (SAHM, for those that don’t know.) wasn’t her first choice. She thought, before having a kid, that she would bounce right back to work. But, she lost her job during maternity leave. She was sure that was illegal, but talking to a lawyer, he had told her a million ways her case was weak. She her husband was the sole income earner, they were using savings and retirement, and she was trying to figure out, amongst all this, to be the centered calm person who doesn’t worry about money. She got one or two contracting gigs to balance it all, but still, she is also balancing the guilt of not wanting to be a SAHM. Or, is she wasting these precious years with worry? Oh great, another thing to worry about.
San Fran-cheesy is not a good place, or really a realistic place, to be a single-income family. “SIK” single-income-kids, speaking of acronyms, it is a place to be DINKY (double-income-no-kids). So, she penny pinches and buys hand-me-downs, and filed for unemployment. She cooks in, never goes out. Which is remarkably easy to do in North Beach since she and her husband refuse to pay for pasta, possibly the simplest thing to make. She spends her time in the park (free), playdates (free) and cooking (um, kinda free). These are the salad days, she says to her slimming figure. Cough.
Jax picked up a fistful of sand and placed it carefully in his mouth, eying it, and his mother across the sandbox, simultaneously. She was heads down on her phone, both thumbs furiously tapping. He stuck out his tongue, layered in sand, and started wailing. She glanced at him, shoved the phone in her pocket, casually leaned over, wiped his mouth, then leaned back, getting out her phone and returning to the furious tapping. Jax grabbed another fistful of sand, slowly bringing it to his mouth, flicking his eyes from his hand, back to his mom. His second wail filled the air.
Francesca watched this while lightly bouncing on her knee 9-month Astrid, her latest charge. She also watched toddlers Franco, Bianca, Jack, and Nicolas run around the neighborhood’s playground. She did her parent pick-up at the park, which was convenient for her, as the kids were at their most difficult five minutes before their parents arrived. And, at this time, coming out of work and guilt-ridden, their parents were full to the brim with love and patience. There were always a few nannies, moms and dads around when she did the pickup. She had seen Jax and his mom before. The mom was a classic stay at home- Francesca admired how she’d worked out a way to watch her son and curb her boredom. Funny, she was sure if she asked, the mom would poo-poo daycare, stating something along the lines of the most “precious time of his life,” and her desire to “make the most” of it.
Francesca didn’t glamorize childcare- no, she spent her days wiping noses and shoveling purée. But her decision to stay at home with her daughter, and start a daycare was purely economic- she had a rent control flat and could make more than 7K a month with a full house. And, she was skilled. She grew up in her mother’s daycare in Italy. Sure, America was different, but raising kids was the same everywhere. She had to deal with precious breast milk and cloth diapers, organic this and hemp that, but otherwise, the games and songs, the same sleeping techniques, were universal. She wasn’t sure how long she could do it. Already the routine was getting to her.
Louis tapped her on the shoulder- unfortunately, Astrid had a drop-dead gorgeous parent. With sparkly eyes and an ex-football player’s body, she was eager to let hot dad and his infant daughter jump the 10 person waiting list and take latest open spot. She would make up some lie to cover it – if parents actually confronted her. She found US parents avoided confrontation like the plague.
“Here’s daddy!” She gently passed baby Astrid into Louis’ arms, a dopey endearing smile plastered all over his face. She had yet to meet Mrs. Louis, and he hadn’t listed another parent on the sign-up sheet.
“Aw, how is my little boo-boo?” As if on cue, Astrid gurgled and nuzzled his neck. Louis held her easily, gently scooped against his chest. The little girl looked possessive and adoringly up at her father. “Did she eat enough? How many naps?”
“Two naps and she loves the minestrone we had for lunch.” Francesca tickled the baby gently on her belly, then stood blatantly staring and appreciating the beautiful picture before her.
“Um, anything else?” Louis raised an eyebrow.
“Nope! Ha ha.” Francesca nervously caught herself staring, and started gathering the baby’s things. She gently put the diaper bag on Louis’ arm and then gave them a small wave, regretfully moving on to a less attractive and more nervous parent, Jillian, mother of Bianca, who was always a bit hyper and anxious after work, stressing about low breastmilk and the latest snot color coming out of rolly polly Bianca’s nose. Francesca made a mental note that she should put some distance between herself and this guy. Not only would her husband object, but she didn’t like turning into a giggling schoolgirl in front of her other clients.
The Apple Watch has arrived. With a bit more fanfare than the Google Watch. Three identical white boxes housing the watch. Seriously, Apple? Apple product designers have taken their fetish for minimalism – but not utilitarianism, ironically – to a new level. After unboxing, then unboxing, then unboxing again, I tried to start it up and was disappointed. This was vastly different than my first wearable, the shuffle, and how simple and direct that was to get started. No, I had to sift through instructions and read online, then figure out that my phone hadn’t the right app, and my appleID was wrong, then read some forums on what others did, then finally, figured out how to sign up under the proper AppleId. It was a downer. I don’t have a unique AppleId problem, if you’re wondering. Just writing AppleId so many times makes me cranky.
After that, things were great. The interface is far easier than Android’s, which merits its own post. I got started right away with texting. As a mom, this is super, super key. Reid’s dad complains all the time that I don’t reply to texts and calls fast enough- we’re talking hours. I have to literally remember to get my purse out of the stroller and get my phone, to check. So right off, I knew this would be great and it was. A usually hectic Friday – I was reminded (by the watch) after baby’s nap that he had his music class in two hours. The calendar notifications on the watch face are a single line of text, which are nicely simple and clear. Then, a few chats while we walked to the park, with a mommy friend about meeting up at the right class. All done on the watch with voice-to-text.
After class, Reid’s dad and I had a few chats, while I was hiking up Telegraph Hill getting some exercise in before dinner. We figured out what we wanted, coordinated grocery lists and managed to make a rather ambitious- and delicious- dinner of fried chicken that night. So, I can honestly say it’s ratcheted up my ability to multitask and squeeze things in. That is super key to all the juggling required in parenting.
Can I do all this with a phone? How is it different using a watch? It’s a bit more personal and easier to hear and get notifications. It’s easier to view and easier to read. It’s smaller and simpler. The real applications that I use constantly- texting, email, calendar, time- are all there front and center. There’s a lot more voice to text since there’s no keyboard (yes! I suck at tap-typing.)
Some other thoughts:
The activity app is a bit confusing and I’m not sure I like it more than the FitBit. It doesn’t tell me how the goals were setup. My beef with a lot of these wearable metrics are that they’re global and not personal.
The texting app is good but does take some getting used to- you can reply with one or two taps, but initially I thought it was too tappy.
The ability to navigate the app is really good- two buttons, you can view all apps quite quickly (not so an Android). Your top friends is one button click away, which isn’t critical for me. I’m surprised that merits its own button. I see it as a cheap plug to be more social, perhaps. Phones are personal by nature.
FaceTime was confusing. The watch is an accessory to the phone. Thing is, I think most of us want it, or expect it, not to be tethered. That was my assumption and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not standalone. So FaceTime, the music app, etc. is just triggering activities on the phone.
I have AppleTV and using the watch as a remote is pretty awesome. It did take me a half hour to setup, and my partner was not impressed. He will, though, when I started switching channels on him!
Physically, it’s heavy and clunky and yells “400 Dollar watch!” I created a stir at my son’s music class. Having to wash your hands ten million times a day with a toddler, it’s not very practical. I did the dishes with it on accident last night. Luckily, it survived. Still, that’s quite a risk to run with an expensive watch.
I have only played with the Apple apps, I’m still working on making my own and updating my apps with watch-ready apps.
So far Reid hasn’t done anything too awful by tapping on my phone. It’s now his favorite thing to play with during diaper changes.
No goose egg… yet
Baby got his first goose egg. I put him in his stroller, turned to get some socks, and Bam! He was face-down on the floor. It’s the worst feeling, for him and me. Poor buddy was silent-screaming, then real screaming, then screaming-nursing, then just whimpering. Maybe 15 minutes? 15 minutes of hell! Why didn’t I strap him in? I always do that, I can’t believe I forgot.
I texted Kevin quickly- he was going to freak out. Kevin’s version of playing with the baby is lightly bouncing him- perhaps an inch or so off his knee. Reid is made of glass, to Kevin. I’m the one who gleefully flips him upside down and yes, once flipped him in the air, a perfect 360 flip a gymnast would be proud of. It was an accident, really. I was on my back on the bed, playing “The Grand Old Duke of York,” and he must have grown a bit, because he had just a bit more weight and as I flipped my legs up, his legs flew up and then over his head, and I kept a hold of his hands and steered him gently to land on his back next to me. I remember thinking, “Don’t freak out,” because then he won’t freak out. And, that worked, actually.
Reid was having a hard time all day, even at the park he kept coming back to sit in my lap, curled up and secure against scary Amelie, a new 10 month old friend with two straight shocks of pigtails sprouting from the top of her head. They reached for the same block, confused when another chubby baby hand grabbed it first. We sat in Washington Square park for about two hours, neighbor friends came and went.
That night, my sister showed up and we didn’t have time to chat. When I returned home, I told her about the goose egg, but she didn’t even notice! I felt like less of a horrible mother. Boo slept like a rock star that night- literally like he’d been out on a bender. Only one 5am wake-up, and it was so quiet I woke up a few times amazed at my good luck!
The guys who hang out back from La Rocca’s all sympathized. I was walking back from daycare carrying buddy, and all the guys- grizzled 5 or 6 smokers hanging out back of this dive bar, asking how their “landlord” is doing. It’s their joke on how the young will run the world, I think. I’m not sure I understand much of what these guys say. The owner mumbled another joke about Reid needing baby Prozac because he’s staring at him so much (?). Reid also got some more sympathy from the local cafe barista. Kevin kissed his head about a million times this morning. The only one immune to the charm is Umlaut, my cat.
OK, since you asked, the most amazing part of my baby lately is how a row of curls curl up identically on the back of his head, like a little wave of baby hair.
The other day I put it out there on Twitter: find me a TV series that has a executive-level female character without a fatal flaw (I’ll nickname her Lady Boss). Because you know there are tons of strong male characters with little flaws, but nothing really bad. And it’s fun, to vicariously live in their lives and have their small foibles and solve crimes, or lead the free world, etc. on a nice relaxing night with a glass of wine and your honey. OK, so find me a lady like that.
There are basically 3 TV shows (2 of 3 by Shonda Rhimes) with female leads: “Scandal”, “How to Get Away With Murder,” and “The Good Wife.” Take that subset, and two of three, the Lady Boss has huge issues that make you question her ability to even get, or hold onto, her job. Now, this isn’t real life, this is drama, but still. If we ever wonder why don’t we have more women above a certain executive level, we literally cannot collectively imagine it. Because we, as an American television audience, don’t believe women can handle it. They’ll fall apart because of some fatal flaw to their character.
A Twitter follower suggested “How To Get Away With Murder,” was a contender, but then perhaps in the second episode you encounter that Fatal Flaw, which I will not give away.
Disappointed, I continued. Scandal… now you may become accustumed to Rhimes’ black woman and white guy relationship that is also the Fatal Flaw, so it’s almost not worth mentioning. The few and short times where she’s managing things, her lip quivering and psychotic stare got tiring. I was a fan for maybe even two seasons, then just gave up.
OK, back to my query. We have met success with “Good Wife,” and that is stellar in this category. Sure, she has some dramatic tension and issues, but she’s also just a very good lawyer and mother. She juggles, she has a sex life, and she manages things. There’s dramatic tension about her cases and her decisions, but she’s still the lady boss. But just one? Really? And she doesn’t become a Lady Boss until way later, she’s literally an intern Season 1.
So you may be thinking- there are lots of rom-coms with female leads. Yes, they are, and these women all:
– work in advertising, usually low level (exception: wedding planner)
– are clutzy (this is their flaw, besides being blind to love. I mean, really?)
– are gorgeous (sometimes, oh no, with glasses!)
– are alone (wah wah- and don’t get me started.)
The narrative arc: they miss the gorgeous guy in front of them to pity themselves, eventually they go for him.
OK back to my query: recently, a TV show arose with the best Lady Boss to date. You may not think of it because it’s not marketed to the usual demographic of Prime Time/ Modern Family-esque audience, namely, it’s for black audiences. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the writer/director is a gay black man. And that unofficial award goes to:
Cookie from Empire!!!
She is amazing.
The second episode, I think, it shows her coming out of prison, to wrest control of her ex-husband’s company (that she helped co-found). From the get-go, she’s strong, *not* psychotic, funny, loving, and in general, a kick in the pants. It’s also- what women in executive level jobs do, and do well. She manages her relationships, her family, and has spot-on business sense. She has some questionable moves, like her assistant, that you end up understanding in later episodes (good writing, Lee!) Sure, aspects aren’t great and it’s rough but I really, REALLY appreciate this form of entertainment. I’m hoping this will inspire more writers to delve into the very rich stories, plots, tensions, issues, etc. brimming in these kinds of characters.
Why *haven’t* we written good lady bosses? Well, because if you only have 3 of them on prime time in the last 5 or so years, of countless male leads. And, if you give almost all of them debilitating flaws, you are essentially doing the same as… ok, wait. Let’s talk about some similar tropes and stereotypes:
– evil gay guy
– black sidekick
– nerdy hacker
– stupid jock
– hot girl as prize
– smart asian
It’s just not original writing. It’s easy and sloppy. And, it just an injustice to those people who really are lady bosses. There’s a richness here that’s being missed. It’s a pity, and it’s just not good television, too.
* Special shoutout to Prime Suspect, a BBC series with one of the best lady Bosses, and she didn’t succumb to a fatal flaw until <spoiler />
I talked to my sister yesterday, and she mentioned that our traditional Saffron yeast buns were the most popular at her kid’s school’s holiday craft fair. In that conversation we got around the crux of it: holidays are for us. Basically, as Swedes and as kids who grew up in a large, fun festive family, we enjoy the traditions probably more than the husbands or kids. And that’s good, since we’re doing all the work!
This yeast bun recipe is hard work- and I told her that- and was impressed that she “just whipped it up” in between doing other chores around the house. It involves making a bread dough, letting it rise for hours, then rolling them into shapes, letting those rise, then baking.
The smell of the baking yeast rolls permeating throughout the apartment is to die for. She mentioned that some of her neighbors- an ethnic mix of SouthEast Asian and Filipino families- remarked that Saffron was for rice, not breads. We joked that the 17th century colonialists screwed it up. Spice? Yeah, that’s for cookies and cakes, ha ha.
The holiday work I’m doing… bought the tree, decorated it, brought out the boxes from storage, cleaned up the house before decorating, made (cough, storebought) eggnog, sit with boo and go over the advent calendar each morning. Boyfriend just sits by in amazement at this activity for the normally lazy me. I’m not religious but bring out the crêche, tell the story of Jesus, and enact my little stories for each figure (to my son, of course haha). Make and send Christmas cards. Buy, wrap and send presents (14 recipients this year…) I caught myself wanting to buy a new ornament, a new Santa mug, etc. at World Market, even though I had to recycle about 30 ornaments.
One tradition my boyfriend may embrace- we’ll make little budy do the St. Lucia march to the parents room with rolls and coffee. Even though it’s supposed to be the youngest daughter, he’ll have to do. Wait, he’s 5 months, whoops. That may have to wait.
Update: May 11th
I could write about something meaningful like Ferguson, but instead, I’ll review the marinated meat aisle of Trader Joe’s. I’m a working mom, with an infant. I love cooking, and have this idea of cooking for my small family each night. The reality, of course is “fend for yourself,” — FFY– eating leftovers or Mac & Cheese. I’ve started making compromises, in hopes of actually being able to do this more. So, introducing: Trader Joe’s marinated meats. It’s more expensive than buying raw meat and cooking, but does speed up (sometimes) the process. Here is my informal review. I live 2 blocks from TJ’s, so it’s quite easy. I’m also trying to get more experimental about spices and flavors. My default mode is: vinaigrette. So trying these new marinades is opening me up to new flavors. Enjoy, and please comment if you have ideas & suggestions.
Flat Iron Chipotle Beef Chuck Steak Flavored in Chipotle Pepper Sauce
This was by far the best marinated meats. We both got a bit of an upset stomach, I think because we ate it so fast and so hard. Amazing marinade. Very spicy- baby didn’t get any. Something about it, the peppery loveliness of it. Strongly recommend.
Marinated Chicken Tenders
This was my first foray. Pretty good, and pleased with the time to make. Flavoring was OK, not spectacular (like below). I believe I served it with Trader Joe’s refrigerated dough biscuits (which were amazing, and a dessert for a few nights since), a fresh salad with – guess! – vinaigrette dressing, and kale. My partner loves kale, so just assume it’s with every meal.
My favorite so far. Fast to make, very flavorful. Accompanied by rice, steamed string beans in vinaigrette, salad. So nice and fast to make. Easy, since I start the rice cooker, heat up the pan, and quickly fry the meat. And, wow, flavor. I serve with steamed rice, and it is a great plain accompaniment. That really set my expectation for the other ones. I’m a bit biased for bulgogi since my best friend growing up was Korean and her mom taught me this recipe, which is pretty complex, so I appreciate a good pre-made marinade. Served with it: Home-made biscuits that sucked, brown rice with wild rice mixed in, green salad.
Pork Tenderloin Peppercorn
My least favorite, this looked absolutely disgusting raw, and not much better cooked. And, it took forever to make. 20 minutes on the stovetop to “brown” (relative term, it went from flesh colored to dark tan), then in the oven for 30 minutes.
But how did it taste? Not as good as a pork tenderloin I had the night before. It is cheaper than the others- weighing in at $10 (1.5 lbs). Pork is so cheap, and I actually have some good recipes for pork, so I won’t buy this again. As pork goes of course, we got a lot of meat and it’ll be great for lunches. The flavoring was so/so. My partner loved it, I was not impressed. The problem with peppercorns is actually eating a whole one. So I did, a few times while I was cooking, testing the done-ness of the meat, and that skewed everything. Served with it: kale and fennel bulb roasted in- surprise!- vinaigrette, butter and wine (trying to mask kale’s bitterness), steamed brown rice.
I’m going to resurrect this blog. I’ve been writing on Medium a bit: