Front Yard Done and Growing Well


I wrote last month about putting in our New Front Yard as part of the Landscape Rebate Program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). I started working on this project in April 2015. The yard has already passed its final inspection and our refund check should arrive within the next eight weeks.

The drought-tolerant plants are growing happily and my hope is that the winter rains (should we get any!) will not cause mudslides in the new dirt mounds.



Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

Farsi, Art, Prayer at Elmwood Jail

Carlos 2015 Roses and cross drawing 2015 IMG_0183

This year, I have been working in a ministry new to me: visiting the prisoners at the Elmwood jail in Milpitas, California, as part of the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy.  This is one of the outreach efforts of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, which has supported a variety of jail ministries for many decades. Since last summer, I have started visiting the jail once a month, after going through an extensive application, clearance and training process.  Some volunteers visit more often. The Rev. Peggy Bryan leads our group of three in a Sunday afternoon service of song and prayer each week. We use a basic form of the same service used at St. Andrew’s on Sunday mornings.  Peggy brings in recorded music chosen by the inmates – and they also sing songs to us as part of our worship.

I have gotten to know a little about some of the prisoners in the group we visit. Ali is an older man from Iran who mostly speaks Farsi and asked if we could find him books in his native language. My Farsi-speaking friends found him an English-Farsi dictionary a few weeks ago and this week I am bringing him two novels. Another inmate is Carlos who drew the images you see here. The inmates only have access to short pencils – Carlos does his drawings on envelopes. Carlos told me that he learned to draw watching his mother who is a tattoo artist, and from reading a basic art book that someone gave him.  Prisoners make their pencils longer by using string made from plastic bags woven into a long sleeve that grips the wooden casing.  Carlos is a 35 year old native of San Jose, California, who said his advice to other artists is “Never give up, keep trying!”

The inmates we visit can be at Elmwood for up to five years and many are still in the justice process, waiting for their cases to be heard or resolved.  They live in a barracks-style room with about forty other men, wearing pale green or brown clothes with orange plastic sandals.  Some of the men are leaders or caretakers for their community, others are more passive.  Their lives are on hold while they are in jail.

16 Nov 2015 Update: I visited Elmwood yesterday and showed Ali (and his Farsi-speaking friend Manny) and Carlos a printout of this blog post.  All three seemed pleased and gave me permission to share their names and stories.  If you are interested in serving in this jail ministry, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy.

Carlos drawing 2015 Mickey Mouse


Photos copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson and the Rev. Peggy Bryan

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, News & Reviews

TechWomen 2015 Winding Down


We are enjoying the last bittersweet days with our dear 98 TechWomen mentors from 19 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. TechWomen participants enjoyed the Volunteer Day (tilling the soil at Veggielution in San Jose), and Community Celebration in San Francisco (hosted by Automattic), including seed grant awards presented to the six winners of the 22 October TechWomen Pitch Night presentations (hosted by Google):

  1. Team Nigeria’s “STEM in a Box” – this education project was also voted “Audience Favorite”
  2. Palestine’s “STEM Fem” – project to connect technical women to jobs
  3. Jordan’s “She Can Do It!” – focus on workforce training
  4. Egypt’s “She is Back” – project to re-employ women returning to workplace
  5. Kyrgyzstan’s “We Care” – project to improve healthcare
  6. Sierra Leone’s “Big Sisters” – to help orphans left by Ebola epidemic (collaborating with Families Without Borders

Today was the first of our visits to the US State Department – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington DC. Tomorrow is our most formal dress day, featuring lunch in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.

During this term, Mentoring Standard has not only provided training for both TechWomen mentors and mentees but we have also been helping program participants to become Certified Mentors. My company’s Honor Roll of Certified Mentors is growing quickly! Several of the TechWomen Emerging Leaders are now working hard to finish their submissions before they return to their home countries. Busy days!









Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

Disappointing “Revolution” at Computer History Museum


The Computer History Museum exhibit “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing” was a big disappointment.  Our TechWomen Cultural Mentor team brought 19 STEM experts from the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia to tour the Computer History museum yesterday.  TechWomen is a prestigious initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Our group was very disappointed to see almost no historical role models for technical women or people of color in this show, not even Admiral Grace Hopper (inventor of the compiler, Computer History Museum Fellow), Katherine Johnson (early NASA mathematician and “Computer”), or Jean Sammet (early computer language developer, Computer History Museum Fellow).

Despite the exhibit title, by the time our helpful docent had brought our tour group up to the 1970s, it was clear that we were seeing a celebration of the March of White American Men’s Technical Progress.  Ada Lovelace tshirts are for sale in the museum’s bookstore, and the museum has 7 women among its 70 prestigious Fellows; however among those Fellows only Jean Bartik was included in this sad exhibit that has been up since 2011.  There were, however, very large images trivializing women: showing her legs while sitting on a computer, holding a food bowl looking adoringly at her man who is using a computer, and using a headset because “She Makes Friends as Well as Reservations”.  Almost no photos that did show women included their names (this is called “erasure”).

Kate McGregor (Education Programs Consultant, Community Programs, Computer History Museum) was kind enough to discuss this exhibit with me.  She told me that there is special tour once a month that focuses on women in technology (Separate but Equal?).   She also said I missed seeing the photo of Adele Goldberg with the Alto computer. So it seems that the exhibit of “2000 Years of Computing” names just two women: Jean Bartik, and Adele Goldberg.

Having spent many years developing the Notable Technical Women project and predecessor projects to celebrate and document the impressive history of women in computer science, I was sorry we went to this museum exhibit and wish we had taken the our remarkable TechWomen leaders someplace else.









Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

Families Without Borders – Sierra Leone


Last weekend, Terri Khonsari (TechWomen mentor and friend) and Dr. Hamid Khonsari generously hosted the 3rd Annual Gala fundraising event for Families Without Borders to support higher education for young women and men in Sierra Leone. The four TechWomen 2015 Emerging Leaders from Sierra Leone were honored guests at the event. Congratulations on the success of this worthy effort!





Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing – GHC15 in Houston


At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, Texas, with my daughter Jessica and 12,000 other geeks, mostly women – including over 20 TechWomen mentors, fellows, and emerging leaders! Jessica and I presented a custom playing card to US CTO Megan Smith (and took the photo below with her).

15 October 2015 Update: We planned to sell our Notable Technical Women and TechWomen playing cards and posters at the GHC15 Duke University exhibit hall table (with Dr. Susan Rodger) on 15 October and 16 October.  We are very disappointed that the shipment of Notable Technical Women and TechWomen playing cards did not arrive – although the posters did.  The posters will be for sale on Friday 16 October until 2 pm at the Duke University exhibit hall table. Playing cards continue to be available for sale on the Notable Technical Women website.  We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this shipping mess up!






Photos Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Home & Family, Hopper - Anita Borg Institute, Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

New Front Yard


During the last week or so, we have been following up on the water conserving landscape plans I wrote about in August. So far, we have removed the old lawn, brought in new topsoil and decorative boulders, created Paul’s seating area, and placed hundreds of new plants. While I am in Monterey tomorrow with the TechWomen mentors and Emerging Leaders from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, John is going to finish installing the new watering system. The last step is to put mulch (bark chips) around the plants to conserve water and protect them. So far, I am happy with the results!  Once everything is complete, I can submit receipts to the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) for a refund of part of the cost of this big project.

August 2015:

October 2015:












Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

1 Comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews