Aleen Mean

Marshmallow Run

Last week, Swift developer Becky Hansmeyer tweeted about an absolutely adorable Kickstarter project: Marshmallow Run Game1. It’s a project by Design Code Build created to help the Girl Scouts of San Diego learn how to create a game for both mobile devices and the web using the MIT-developed programming language Scratch.

The games the Girl Scouts will develop feature a cute cast of characters (Marshmallow, Chocolate, and Graham Cracker) whose goal is to reach their campsite. In the process, the kids will learn about physics programming, geometry, level design, scripting, data analytics, and more.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter has about 68 hours to raise $7,597. Thirty-four hours ago, they needed around $18,000. This tells me two things:

  1. The iOS and macOS development communities, who have rallied over the last day and a half, are full of absolutely wonderful people.
  2. Once the word started to spread in earnest, it took a mere 34 hours for people to pledge over $10,000. Raising the additional $7,597 is possible if the community sustains its current momentum.

I’ve written about my adoration for technology before, not surprisingly in support of the last major App Camp for Girls fundraiser. My love and support of App Camp is the same love and support I have for this project because our goals are the same: let’s show girls that their interest in technology isn’t weird or wrong. Let’s show girls that it can be fun to solve problems, design characters, and show off their stuff.

Won’t you please join me in supporting Marshmallow Run and in spreading the word about it?

  1. Tiffany Arment tweeted about it a week before that, but I missed it :(

2016 is a Wrap

Yellow and pink fireworks in a dark blue sky, the words "new year new word" to the left.

I stopped setting New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Instead, I pick a single word that reminds me of my goals and intentions for the year. Past words have included create and balance and breathe depending upon where my focus needed to be.

It’s pretty normal for me to be reflective in December. When I started thinking about what my word for 2017 could be, I realized that I never picked one for 2016. It took me 11 months to realize that I’d omitted my major New Year’s ritual. I get a little pang every time I think of it, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.

My omission is understandable. This year was full of activity: it started with a trip to Orlando and a Caribbean cruise and didn’t slow down until the middle of December. During that time, I organized the inaugural run of App Camp for Girls in Phoenix, traveled to my mom’s, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, and Anaheim, started teaching a college class, picked up my freelancing career, and gave a long conference talk.

I was also a guest on several podcasts: mainly shows on The Incomparable and Relay FM networks, but I had a few other appearances sprinkled in. In September, after a lot of discussion and angst, I made the decision to end Less Than Or Equal on its 100th episode.

What’s more, I did all of this while I was chronically ill. My trips to Philadelphia and Anaheim even took place soon after I started a highly restricted diet to try to help reign in some of my symptoms of autoimmunity. So, in addition to the stress of travel, I had to also pack food. That meant that I had to purchase, cook, freeze, and transport meat and figure out how to get fresh produce once I arrived at my destination.1 (If you’re looking for details about my diet, why I started it, what my challenges have been, and if it’s helped, stay tuned. I’m working on a post!)

I think it’s safe to call 2016 a whirlwind! It seems like 2017 is shaping up to be less hectic, but we’re only five days in. We’ll see what ends up happening.

No matter what this year has in store, I know what my word is: ferocity.

It feels kind of silly to pick that particular word, but I think I’ll need the reminder over the next 12 months. I have a feeling that I’ll spend a lot of time calling my representatives’ offices over issues like women’s healthcare, the dehumanization of my LGBTQAIP friends (especially my transgender friends), and the public’s right to know what happens on the floors of Congress. Furthermore, I have big goals for the year and I’m going to have to work hard and persistently to achieve them. I still have some health struggles,2 and it’s going to take dedication to figure out what’s causing them and what I can do about them.

I honestly believe 2017 is going to be my best year ever, but I’m going to have to take it head on, with intent, and with ferocity.

And so I shall.

  1. Now that I’ve introduced black pepper back into my diet, I can swing by Whole Foods and get a salt and pepper rotisserie chicken, which was off the menu before. Assuming my destination has a Whole Foods.

  2. Hello there, insomnia.


Christmas tree branches with a glittery bulb ornament, the word "Silver" in the lower right.

When I was little, I loved putting icicles on my grandparents’ Christmas tree. I remember grabbing the long whispy strips of silver in my tiny hands and flinging clumps of the stuff on the branches.

“Don’t use so much,” Granny and Papa would say, “Just take a strip or two at a time.”

It was less fun to drape the icicles meticulously upon the tree, but the effect when everything was placed was beautiful. Their metallic surface would glitter and gleam next to the lights. When someone walked by, the icicles would even dance a little.

I’m going to throw all modesty aside for a moment to tell you that, if we haven’t met, you probably don’t realize how stunning my hair is. My dark brown locks are thick, shiny, and sleek.1 When the light hits it just right, you can even see glints of gold and red shine through.

It’s my point of vanity, and I’ve wondered how I’d handle going gray since I was in high school.

That time, it would seem, is nigh.2 I feel like I spot a new silver hair every time I look in the mirror, but my reaction has surprised me.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently in a few years, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to face a future with gray hair. Our culture reveres youth but age is a badge of honor, of experience, of wisdom. May I live long enough to have no natural trace of brown on my head.

There’s also a bonus to these silver streaks. You see, when I turn my head to and fro, these scattered highlights glitter and gleam just like Granny and Papa’s tree decorations.

  1. My hair also has a deep hunger for the accessories I place in it and a fondness for not doing what I ask, but that’s not the point right now.

  2. I am, after all, in my mid-30s now (lolsob).

Sometimes You Have to Begin Again

Apple’s developer conference was two weeks ago. The conference’s keynote is Christmas for the Apple developer community every year; those of us who geek out over new operating system features usually get some great presents. This year, I was especially excited to try Swift Playgrounds on iOS, but it’s only available on the iOS 10 beta. Running early betas like this one can be a quick way to experience a lot of computing-related pain.

I managed to make it a week before I decided to sacrifice my iPad in the name of learning Swift via Playgrounds and, while I was caught up in the NewShiny! excitement, I upgraded my computer to the beta Mac operating system.

Turns out, that wasn’t the best choice. After a few days, it became clear that it would be a good idea for me to downgrade to OS X 10.11. The problem was that I didn’t clone my SSD before installing Sierra and my Time Machine backups were toast. Oops.1

This is the second time I’ve needed to wipe my computer and start over again in a the last few months.2 The first time I embarked upon this journey in recent memory, my friend Casey Liss was kind enough to share his starting-over list with me and it really helped me get up and running pretty quickly. I should have made my own version at that time, but I figured it’d be a while before I’d need one again. Oops.

I don’t always learn from my mistakes, but this time I decided to make a list of my own as I got everything set up again. I use 1Password Families to keep track all of my important information. It seemed pretty logical to put these details there, since 1Password is one of the first things I set up on a new device and it syncs almost instantly.3

Starting Over Secure Note in 1Password

I started a Secure Note and started documenting everything I installed or set up as I muddled my way through getting my Mac back up to spec. I’m still making edits to the note. For example, it was a few days before I worked out of the house and realized I hadn’t yet set up the VPN.

I made sure to use Related Items to help speed up setup in the future since I just need to click on the Item’s name to go to it directly.4 I also took the liberty of writing the text in Markdown in the hope that support will be added soon!5

Now the challenge will be remembering to update the note when I make big changes to my processes and preferred apps…and finding a text editor I really like.

Here’s the full text of my Secure Note, in Markdown, if you’d like to copy and paste and/or can’t read the image:

1. Change computer’s name in Sys Preferences > Sharing. Also enable Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login
2. Download 1Password and set up Families
3. Enable FileVault
4. Set up Dropbox and let sync (give at least 8 hours)
5. Set up backups
6. Set up (use password authentication for outgoing mail)
7. Make sure messages originate from phone number
8. Set up VPN (VPN Type: L2TP over IPSec, Send All Traffic Over VPN, Show VPN status in menu bar)
9. Download: Alfred (set up powerpack!), aText, Audio Hijack, Bartender, BetterSnapTool, Chrome, Dropshare, Fantastical, Skitch, Skype, Slack, Ulysses, and the text editor du jour

## Set up

### Homebrew, Ruby, Jekyll, etc.:

### Set up SSH keypair:

* mkdir ~/.ssh
* chmod -R 700 ~/.ssh
* _copy public key to pasteboard_
* pbpaste > ~/.ssh/
* _copy private key to pasteboard_
* pbpaste > ~/.ssh/id_rsa
* chmod 644 ~/.ssh/
* chmod 600 ~/.ssh/id_rsa

### Test keypair:

* ssh (redacted)
* exit (if 👍)
  1. It’s fine, really. I wouldn’t have risked it if I wasn’t willing to start over again.

  2. Way back in the late 90s, I’d reformat my computer’s hard drive for fun. Starting over was a lot easier then. All I needed to do was reinstall a bit of software and configure our dial-up Internet before I was ready to take on the virtual world again. Things are more complicated for me now so I start from scratch far less often. I’ve really only wiped everything out a handful of times since I got my first iMac in 2008.

  3. Reminder that I worked for AgileBits for nearly two years, left on excellent terms, and have a ton of friends who still work there. I’m not entirely unbiased, here :)

  4. I wish that there was an easy way to go to a previous item. As it is, I have to make sure to add my Starting Over note to each Related Item I add.

  5. I have no inside information on this, but it was an oft-requested feature when I worked there!

Twitter Remains Broken

Today Twitter, the microblogging service dedicated to making sure that people can easily be harassed without repercussion, announced some changes they’re planning on rolling out over the next few months. True to their mission, these new features are sure to promote not only harassment, but spamming from both malicious accounts and #brands trying to #engage their audience.

Snark and admitted hostility aside, I love Twitter. I’ve used it every day for almost exactly eight years. I got my last job after hearing about the opening on Twitter. Most of my current, closest friendships exist because of Twitter. I quite literally cannot imagine what my life would be like today if it weren’t for this service.

But it’s broken, especially (but certainly not exclusively) for women who dare to publicly express their opinions. I’m pretty lucky: I’ve never been threatened or otherwise harassed there. In the back of my mind, however, I always wonder when it will happen—when will they threaten to rape me or harm my family members? When will they post my address or call my local police department to lie and dispatch a SWAT team to my home? I never wonder if it will happen. It’s always when.

Twitter is constantly saying that they take abuse seriously, but there seems to be very little movement on actually making things better for users. Right now, it’s up to us to see an abusive tweet, then block and report the offending account.1 After that, it’s up to Twitter to actually do something about it. This takes time, and often reports are simply dismissed. In the event that an account is banned, there’s nothing to prevent a harasser from creating a new account and starting over again. Furthermore, many users report that they see tweets from offensive accounts even after they’ve been blocked, which means that abusive comments can sneak through.

When today’s announced changes go into effect, the characters included in mentions will no longer count toward a tweet’s 140-characters. This is good for up to 50 names. I can think of no reason a Twitter conversation needs 50 people tagged in it. It’s great for the kinds of engagement companies seem to want, less great for the rest of us. It will be easier than ever to gang up on an individual, now that a critic can mention 49 of their closest friends and their target in a single tweet. There’s no mention of any way to untag oneself from these exchanges; this will be disastrous for many people.

Time and time again, we’ve been told that the company is working on making things better for targets of harassment. What we see, however, are half-baked enhancements designed to make the service more appealing to advertisers and attempts at enticing new users. Many people have suggested changes they could implement to curb abuse. For example, Randi Lee Harper’s list of suggestions from earlier this year is still on-point.

I know that Twitter is a huge company and that the people who are spending their time and energy on these new features aren’t necessarily the ones who would work on anti-abuse tools, but it’s clear that the company’s leadership is unwilling to actually act. Until they do, they’ll continue to lose influential users and many of us will refuse to recommend that anyone create a Twitter account.

If you’re curious, other features Twitter announced today include:

  • Photos, quoted tweets, videos, and other attached media will no longer count against your 140-character limit.
  • New tweets that begin with someone’s username will show up to all of your followers instead of just the people who follow you both. This is how things used to work and I was pretty angry when they moved away from this behavior. At the time, I followed around 50 people; now my timeline is going to get cluttered pretty quickly.
  • Replies to existing tweets that begin with someone’s username will only show up in the timelines of people who follow you both.
  • You’ll be able to retweet and quote yourself, which is something I’ve been doing using Tweetbot since forever.
  1. There are no Twitter-provided tools to curb harassment unless you’re a verified user. It seems to be reserved for some members of the media and celebrities. Beyond that, nobody really knows what’s required to become verified, though it seems to require use of the black arts.