P-Phenylenediamine – Allergy to Hair Dye


I have regrettably developed a severe allergy to P-Phenylenediamine and possibly other dye substances. Over the last month, this has taken the form of violent Contact Dermatitis (think about what happens when you touch Poison Oak): inflammation, rash, blisters, itching – all the nasty ways your skin tells you that it is very  unhappy about something you touched. I just finished taking Prednisone for several weeks – Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid drug that is particularly effective as an immunosuppressant - and am getting ready for a full allergy test at University of California at San Francisco – Dermatology Clinic.

I am writing this blog not so much to share my woe as to spread the word in case my readers may also experience this allergy. It certainly took me by surprise!

Paraphenylenediamine turns out to be a very common substance, found in:

  • hair dye, coloring rinse, comb-in hair tint, shampoo-in highlight, lowlights
  • skin paint, dark makeup, dark lipstick
  • henna tattoo
  • dye for socks, support hose, shoe dye
  • textile, rubber, and fur dyes
  • violin chin-rest stain
  • antioxidant in antifreeze, fuels, corrosion inhibitor in oils, gasoline sweetener
  • plastic manufacture, rubber antioxidant
  • printing ink, antiozonant
  • milk testing reagent, water testing reagent
  • retarder in acrylate production
  • lithography, photocopying
  • photo or x-ray film developing

A generalized reaction to PPD can also occur from taking closely related saccharin sweeteners, thiazide diuretics, sulfanamide antibiotics, sufonylurea antidiabetic agents, PAS, or celecoxib.

Some persons allergic to PPD will also react to black rubber mix, parabens, benzocaine group anesthetics, PABA family sunscreens, and azo dyes, especially orange and yellow, often in ballpoint pens.

This information is from the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS).

More information:

Image Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson – detail showing vanity – from a stained glass window at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Saratoga, California by Mark Adams

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Easter Egg Hunt 2014


This morning was our annual backyard Easter Egg Hunt – a very popular event among our friends, family, and neighbors. About 15 children (ages 18 months to 21 years) joined the search for hundreds of plastic eggs filled with chocolate candies. For the adults, there were two specially hidden eggs: gold and silver. Only the following poems gave clues to their locations:

I know a bed where the wild thyme blows,
Where iris and nodding rosemary grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious lemondrops,
With sweet musk-roses and with nasturtium:
There sleep sweet bees sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there snake throws her cold enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

I have 3 guards for my home-place
The same number of eyes and legs between them
They keep for me in a safer space.
One would walk if he were fitted for a mind-Chem
but instead keeps me in the cool.
One is anxious but smiles except when asleep
One at ball’s drop can only drool
One was born only to be buried down deep
Can you find my comfy ark?
Or will you get lost in the barks?

Thanks to the Associate Easter Bunny, my daughter Jessica for her contributions to the poems (from Washington DC), and thanks to Paul and John for helping create today’s festivities! Clara and Paul and Dan teamed up to find the gold and silver eggs – and were rewarded with Peeps Chocolate Eggs for their hunting prowess.

Each Spring, I work for weeks to make our garden a demi-paradise for this event – full of flowers and rock borders suitable for hiding eggs.  Easter coincided this year with the seed storms of the cottonwoods on the Guadalupe River in San Jose. Fluffy white seeds blow over everything like dry snow - so much spiderweb removal was needed, especially on WP668, our backyard caboose.

It is such a joy to watch the children filling their baskets, then re-hiding eggs for each other once the hundreds of eggs hidden in the morning by the Easter Bunny have been collected. A delightful celebration of new life and renewal!







21 April 2014 – On the day after the Easter Egg Hunt, I am still finding eggs in the garden (some after the dogs have chewed them)…


Images Copyright John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

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Rwanda on my mind

P1130621 I have been thinking during this twenty year anniversary and rememberance of the Rwandan Genocide of the remarkable emerging leaders I met during my recent visit as part of the TechWomen Rwanda delegation. Tomorrow, at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) California convention in Los Angeles, I am giving a breakfast talk on mentoring.  I will open my talk by describing the delegation’s visit to meet the inspiring Gashora Girls Academy (GGAST) in Rwanda – as way of illustrating how mentoring is about meeting people where they are.   I have been saving the Rwanda remembrance news stories served up by my Feedly reader, as a way seeing how the world understands these events and what came after. Here is what I have so far:

P1130096 Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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AAUW Mentoring Talk


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is holding their California convention this weekend in Los Angeles. Tomorrow, I am giving a breakfast talk on mentoring.  I am a member of both the San Jose and California Online branches of AAUW and am looking forward to the big event!

Image copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Happy Birthday John! Congratulations Paul!


Our family is celebrating John’s birthday and Paul’s progress towards graduation from Foothill College (and anticipated transfer to San Jose State University). Paul just received news of high grades on his second-to-last Foothill report card, and today started his final quarter there.

In honor of John’s birthday, Rev. David and Naomi Plocher (his parents) sent a card featuring what may be the first picture showing John with a model train.  At four years old, he was already fascinated by railroads. Below is a recent photo of John with his current N-scale layout in what used to be our garage.

P1180544 copy


Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson, and 1966 by Rev. David Plocher


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Discover Cal with Chancellor Dirks


I just attended Discover Cal, part of a traveling lecture series for family and friends of the University of California at Berkeley. Moderated by Guy Kawasaki, author/entrepreneur and Cal parent, tonight’s star was new Cal Chancellor Nicholas Dirks

…in a casual but stimulating conversation on Berkeley’s renewed commitment to its public mission through new initiatives that are built around his three interconnected priorities: How can we redefine the undergraduate experience so that students feel more connected to their studies, professors, and each other? How can Berkeley respond to an increasingly globalized world? How can our research innovations be brought to bear on the pressing needs and interests of society?

In addition to enjoying the official presentation about my alma mater, at the reception I was delighted to meet Margret Schmidt who is Vice President, Design & Engineering, Chief Design Officer at TiVo, and winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television. Margret is not only listed as one of the Notable Women in Computing but also was an Engineering-110 student at Cal! Engineering 110 “Venture Design, the Start Up Company” was offered through the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley for nearly 20 years. E-110 was conceived and lead by my father, the late Wade Dickinson, and his brother, my Uncle Wayne. I helped teach this class for twelve years. The course was designed to help creators of new technology to better understand the challenges of commercializing their ideas.  It was very exciting to talk with an E-110 student – especially one who has made such a remarkable success of herself!


Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Announcing katydickinson.com


Announcing the new website for Katy Dickinson Consulting: katydickinson.com

Katy Dickinson Consulting creates measurably effective long-lasting infrastructure and processes in a professional and technical environment. Successful large programs have included global mentoring, innovation and product life cycle, and corporate intellectual property management systems.

I have been developing website content and choosing among my photos for the pages: Clients, Contact, Key Publications and Best Practices, and About Katy Dickinson. A side benefit of this work was discovering online a 2003 patent application I thought was never filed:

Dickinson, Katherine V.G., Jos Marlowe, James Gosling “Method and apparatus for automatically archiving and clearing intellectual property” US Patent Application 20030055848 (20 March 2003)

I also discovered that my 2000 ecommerce patent was cited by 43 later patents!

Gandel, Deborah E., Katherine V.G. Dickinson, et alia, “Method and apparatus for implementing electronic software distribution” US Patent 6,167,568 (26 December 2000).

Much appreciation for great support from my clever daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman and from my husband John Plocher helping to create my company’s new website. Jessica designs websites professionally as the Digital Communications Specialist for Polaris Project. John is the Principal Storage Architect for EVault. I am blessed to have such experts in my own family.


Images Copyright 2012-2014 by Katy Dickinson

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