Someday maybe I’ll figure out something cool to do with this space. In the meantime, find me:

  • On Twitter, probably retweeting angry politics things (sorry not sorry)
  • On Instagram, where I share mostly cats and sometimes food
  • At ellell & co., where I build websites and teach workshops on WordPress, coding, & web skills

What I Read in April

The Power by Naomi Alderman completely blew me away. I could smell some of the settings. It’s probably a little played out to call this book “electric,” but that is the word that constantly came to mind. It just felt different than other books to me; I was dying to know what happened next but I kept taking little sips of it, like it was too good to stay with for too long. It’s definitely disturbing in some places – I flinched or groaned out loud often enough for my partner to ask what was going on with me a few times. I’ve read some fair criticism since finishing it, some of which I completely agree with, but the experience of reading it was still everything I could’ve asked for; it’s gotta be my favorite of the year so far. Will stay mad forever that I was out of town when my book club discussed this.

That’s it for the whole month! Which seems impossible because I feel like all I do is read? I’m in the middle of a lot of books, though, so next month’s post will hopefully be full of good stuff. 📚

A non-book April thing so good I wanted to tell you about it: this tahini granola recipe is the bomb. I made it twice this month and am fixing to make it again soon. Subbed raisins for the dried mulberries and it’s definitely the best granola I’ve ever eaten, let alone made.

What I Read in March

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan seemed like the perfect book to take on a vacation. With the upcoming royal wedding, a fun story about an American marrying into English royalty felt timely, too. Unfortunately, the book was neither perfect nor fun, just long and boring. I finished it out of stubbornness. Disappointing, because I like Cocks & Morgan’s blog well enough.

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince marks the part of the series I haven’t re-read several times and so don’t remember nearly as well. I thought this was going to be the time I was going to get through the Major Death without crying a whole bunch. I was wrong. (Or maybe I was sorta right? I got through the death itself dry-eyed, but the characters’ reactions in the aftermath broke me right down.)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon was sweet and heartfelt and just a delight. I appreciated that the characters were diverse in various ways without it being a big deal; a secondary character’s bisexuality is revealed as matter-of-factly as her hair color. I did have a few nitpicks about tiny things that felt anachronistic, like when a college student writes down an address to a party. This book is set right now! He 100% would’ve texted it! But the thing that delighted me the most might’ve been the protagonist’s dream of becoming a web developer. The whole story is set at a coding class for high school grads and it just warmed my little web-developing heart so much. I would love to read more by Menon.

Better late than never with this post, right? April books coming up next! 📚

What I Read in February

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory was a treat. I’m a fan of Jasmine already, mostly via her weekly newsletter and her Twitter feed. Her debut novel is a romance about a Black protagonist who falls for a white dude. It’s fun but not mindless, and mentions delicious food a lot. It would be perfect if you wanted a vacation read or a palate cleanser after something heavy. I almost wish I’d saved it for one of those occasions, myself, but of course there’s always next time.

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton took me a while to get into – and once I was into it, I was into it. All I knew going in was that it involved a researcher completely isolated in the Arctic. I love to read things about cold places in the winter, so that was all I needed to know. Once the story began unfolding I was transfixed. The descriptions of some of the Arctic settings were so rich. Get ready to think a lot about loneliness, love, family, & redemption. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered, and I’m glad.

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting was 100% the weirdest thing I’ve read in a while, and I absolutely loved it. The protagonist is a dirtbag, the plot is absurd, the writing is hilarious and often profound. It made me uncomfortable often, and at one point I thought about stopping because I was so grossed out by something, but I also couldn’t stop – I had to know what was going to happen. So weird, so delightful. I definitely want to read more by Nutting.

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix – Technically I finished this re-read the morning of March 1, but let’s count it for February anyway. I used to buy into the popular opinion that this was the worst HP book, but I’ve come around, largely thanks to a friend who pointed out that all of Harry’s shouting/insufferable behavior is an achingly accurate portrayal of what adolescence feels like. It’s fun to read these with full knowledge of the plot; I find myself turning out the lamp and going to sleep during some of the most suspenseful parts, knowing what I can look forward to (or dread) when I pick it back up.

Maybe not finishing: I have to confess that I bought the scurrilous Michael Wolff book when it came out in January (I couldn’t resist!), but I haven’t touched it in several weeks. It’s just not easy to read about so many completely terrible people (even though – or maybe especially because – I read about those same terrible people in the news literally every day).

Up next: The theme of March is “hello every library hold you have ever placed is now available,” so I’m drowning in books and uncertain how many of them I can possibly read before they’re due back. Only one way to find out! 📚

What I Read in January

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. I’m re-reading the series, for the first time in way too long. There’s something so cozy & wintry about these books; the ideal way to read them is obviously in a comfy armchair with a hot chocolate. Bonus points if it’s snowing outside. For now I’m focusing solely on the books and trying to just enjoy the warmth & nostalgia, but after I finish my re-read I’ll probably revisit some of my favorite episodes of the fantastic podcast Witch Please. I am also eagerly awaiting the Binge Mode Harry Potter series!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. Well, this sure was a book and I sure did read it. I didn’t give it a star rating on Goodreads, which is how you know I was feeling ambivalent about the experience. The writing was evocative and sometimes beautiful. The characters were deeply unlikeable and frustrating. I would probably read another thing by this author.

Total Cat Mojo: Everything You Need to Know to Care for Your Favorite Feline Friend, by Jackson Galaxy. My friends bought me this for my birthday and I surprised myself by devouring it in like 3 days. I’ve read a handful of books on cat behavior, but this was the most useful by far. I’ve already incorporated some of what I learned from it, and I was truly surprised & delighted by some of the things I didn’t know. There were places where I could’ve used more details, and it was repetitive in some ways, but I think that’s understandable for a book that’s striving to do as much & be as useful as this one does and is. I know I’ll turn to it with my cat questions, at least whenever it’s not being borrowed by a cat-loving friend.

Abbott #1 by Saladin Ahmed. It is extremely cool that you can count single issues of comics as books on Goodreads, this is going to help my 2018 read count a lot! And I didn’t know this before because this is my first ever single-issue. I even subscribed to it through my local comic shop! I’m so excited!! Anyway this story rules so far and I can’t wait for the next installment. It’s especially dreamy to see 1970s Detroit in the beautiful artwork. You can see what I mean, and read an excerpt, here.

Up next: continuing and maybe finishing my Harry Potter re-read; new releases The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory & Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh; #Abbott #2The Turner House for book club; hopefully some other surprises. 📚

Happy New Year!

As you may have noticed, my weekly reads have been less than weekly lately. What can I say? The holidays are happening and have been lovely so far, as well as all-consuming. I’ve been enjoying some time away from the computer as I plot out what I think is going to be an amazing & exciting 2016.

So, more soon! ♥

Weekly Reads: web accessibility, committing too much, and more

Happy Thanksgiving Week to those of you in the US! It was a busy week but I did find a handful of interesting web-related reads. I’m looking forward to settling in and reading much more over the rest of the long weekend.

Adobe has a nice Intro to Coding and Designing for Accessibility. Related: Chrome extension Spectrum makes it easy to see how your sites look for users with various forms of color vision deficiency. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but am looking forward to playing with it soon.

Why I Git Commit Too Much is both reassuring for all the times I’ve felt like I made 2,000 commits in a day… and a good kick in the butt for the projects on which I’ve neglected to commit changes for waaayyy too long. (Funny how it never feels like I’m committing the right amount, only way too much or not enough.) I love the idea that commit messages should tell a story!

Melissa Jean Clark laid out how & why she uses Evernote to organize client projects, and it’s glorious. I use Evernote personally but Laura & I are still using Google Drive for most of our internal ellell documents. Drive leaves a lot to be desired, and Melissa’s post finally convinced us: we’re giving Evernote a shot. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I love icon fonts, so this one was harsh but eye-opening: Seriously, Don’t Use Icon Fonts. Solid reasoning in here. Looks like I might have to change my ways…

Finally, some food for thought and inspiration re: how those of us with tech skills can use them to do things that actually matter: Bias for Action.

Weekly Reads

Most days I spend an inordinate amount of time reading what feels like the entire internet. I’m going to start writing about at least some of that internet weekly, here. Here we go:

Reflections on Gather North, Avery Swartz. I was one of the very lucky attendees of Gather North 2 weekends ago, and I’m going to write up some of my own reflections on it soon. In the meantime, if you’re curious about what I’d call the very best professional event of my life, one that is still filling me up with tremendous energy and inspiration, read on.

The 4 Pillars of Great Copywriting (e-book, free with mailing list registration), Helen Tremethick. Laura & I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Helen on one project so far, and we’re hoping for more in the future because she’s an extremely talented writer. She’s sharing some of her secrets in this new e-book; if you do any writing on the web, her tips will help!

Writing CSS on Growing Teams, Susan Robertson. Solid advice, which I’d like to start implementing on my own team of 2. 🙂

Honeycomb CSS Layout, Estelle Weyl. Ok, not much to read, but this is just cool.

Why Are So Many Black Transgender Women Getting Killed In Detroit? Dominic Holden. Devastating and crucial reporting. I hope it helps shed some light. It leaves me asking myself what I can do to make my city safer for all. The amazing Ruth Ellis Center does important work to serve this community, and they’re always accepting cash and material donations.

Candletime, AskMoxie. This seems like a lovely, cozy idea. (This link is broken, but here’s a snapshot from the Internet Archive.)

75 Black Women-Owned Brands to Support This Holiday Season & Beyond, In Her Shoes. ‘Tis the season.

#AlterConf Detroit Recap

Last weekend I got to attend AlterConf Detroit, a one-day conference dedicated to diversity in the tech & gaming industries. I’d been looking forward to it for ages, since coming across AlterConf on Twitter and seeing the quality of speakers they hire and the importance of the topics they address. The first-ever AlterConf Detroit didn’t let me down! Below, a few highlights & thoughts.

AlterConf’s commitment to accessibility was visible and inspiring.

Not only was the venue wheelchair-accessible, but the conference provided sign language interpretation and live captioning of all spoken content. I’d never seen live captioning before and it ruled. Even as a hearing person, I benefitted greatly from it. It was useful to be able to look up at a screen to read something that had been inaudible to me, plus my brain often absorbs information more readily via reading than hearing, especially with more complex ideas.

Many other accommodations & considerations were made, too. Food was clearly labeled for those with dietary restrictions. All attendees were asked to include their preferred pronouns on their nametags, to avoid misgendering. The usually single-sex restrooms were prominently labeled as gender-neutral:

I’d love to see this kind of thoughtfulness become the norm for conferences & events, though I feel we are sadly a long way off from that happening. As an event organizer myself, I wouldn’t be sure how to manage it (especially how to afford the services of talented translators and captioners), but I’m open to suggestions!

My favorite talk: Tiffani Ashley Bell of the Detroit Water Project

As a Detroit resident I’ve been very aware of the water crisis in our city and somewhat aware of some of the efforts to fight it. So the Detroit Water Project was on my radar to some extent, but I didn’t really know what they did and was very excited to learn from the founder & executive director herself.

Tiffani Bell is absolutely a developer inspiration! She was on a Code for America fellowship when she heard about Detroit’s water situation on Twitter. Four hours later, she’d built the beginnings of a system donors could use to pay water bills on behalf of struggling Detroiters. Today her organization has helped over 900 families keep their water on. That’s a huge deal not only for the obvious reasons of public health and sanitation, but because having your water shut off can lead to losing your home and custody of your children, too.

The Detroit Water Project isn’t content with just paying folks’ bills, though. They’ve found ways to use customer data to figure out who is likely to fall behind on a water bill, and intervene before it gets to that point. They also aim to create fundamental, lasting change by helping pass legislation guaranteeing water as a basic human right. As they work toward that long-term goal, they’ll continue assisting with utility payments for people in need in Detroit and other cities. They’re looking for development help (both volunteer and paid), too!

Other favorites:

  • Eva Gantz introduced us to Stellar and the ways it’s being used to increase access to credit for unbanked women around the world.  
  • Elizabeth Mitchell talked about building healthy, anti-oppression workplaces. She shared some stories about what it feels like to work in inclusive environments vs. exclusive ones. She did a great job of engaging attendees by asking us to remember times we felt like we were able to be ourselves vs. times we felt we had to wear masks. A major takeaway: remote work allows employees to contribute meaningfully even when they may not be able to sustain in a traditional office environment.  
  • Laura Jane Watkins shared the story of the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement: how it got started, why the organizers decided to make it known offline as well as on social media, questions & conversations around what it means, and what’s next.

And an honorable mention: the food was out-of-this-world good!

For a fairly comprehensive review of the day, check out this Storify. There will also be video, transcript, and more posted on each talk’s page on AlterConf, though they don’t appear to be there just yet. Anyway, if you like what you see, definitely check to see if AlterConf is coming to a city near you!

Self.conference 2015 Recap

Some of my favorite talks from self.conference, which was last weekend in Detroit:

Marc Nischan: Basic Git & Github for Designers, Visual Learners, and Everyone Else

I use Git on a daily basis, but often while feeling more or less like this:


dog with computer meme, caption "I have no idea what I'm doing"

Marc’s talk was a good antidote and gave me some helpful new metaphors for thinking about and explaining what Git does. Git for Visual is the website he built to go with his talk and it links to his Skillshare class + a free cheatsheet, both of which would be excellent resources for anyone looking to get more comfortable using Git.

Julie Cameron: Decoupling the Front-end through Modular CSS

I’ve gotten to see Julie speak plenty of times now, including a shorter talk on this topic, so I knew what I was in for: beautiful slides with an overwhelming amount of interesting information that would make me want to redo all of my CSS ever to be better/faster/stronger. I was not disappointed! Julie gave a great overview of several popular approaches to object-oriented CSS and I’m looking forward to learning more about each and trying out various methodologies. Here’s a whole scalable CSS reading list that looks really promising and Julie’s slides are online as well!


Aisha Blake: Creating a Safe Space: Embracing Diversity In The Workplace

Aisha is a good friend of mine and a co-organizer of Girl Develop It Detroit, so I was extra excited to see her present! She shared honestly about some of the adversity & obnoxiousness she’s faced as a Black woman in technology and gave lots of concrete examples of what companies and managers can do to improve working environments. I’m thrilled that she’s taking this talk on the road to Future Insights Live this week, because it’s a message that needs to be heard.


Sara Gibbons: Code #LikeAGirl

Sara is an awesome Girl Develop It Ann Arbor organizer and will be teaching Ruby for us at GDI Detroit later this month along with Aisha! She discussed her experiences in struggling to be herself in an industry that can actively discourage anyone but “brogrammers” from doing so, and made a very solid case for how diversity in tech benefits us all. My favorite slide:

Self.conference was a fantastic & inspiring experience that I’d recommend to anyone. The diversity of speakers & topics was refreshing and exciting, and I left feeling energized about my work and the future. I hope to attend again next year and for many years to come – but for that to happen, we’ll all need to pitch in. The conference fell short on funding this year and is seeking donations. If you value having a diverse and meaningful tech conference in the Midwest, please consider donating – and hopefully I’ll see you there in 2016!