5

Unemployed life

It’s been twelve days since I was laid off from my job at Tumblr and I’ve been doing my best to keep sane.

The first 48 hours after losing my job, I was was pretty upset and cried a lot. I let myself feel emotion and process, but I didn’t fall into depression. I was sad to lose a job at a company I loved so much with my favorite people, but I wasn’t depressed about it. I wrote a goodbye letter to my former coworkers, which was cathartic but tough. I didn’t feel guilty over my emotions.

After that initial 48 hours, I woke up ready for something new. I stopped being upset and looked forward with a huge smile on my face. Of course, some of this was helped by a conveniently timed trip for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, which helped keep me busy and was something to focus on.

I knew after that trip I’d need to be proactive about not falling into depression, though. If I allowed myself to sleep in and relax around the house all day every day, I’d fall into deep depression. This is something would happen regardless of my employment situation. I can be like that for a weekend at a time, but any more more than that tends to pull me down.

I wasn’t ready to start actively looking for a job instantly. I’m still not, to be honest. I did make sure to reply to emails immediately, however. I’ve had a lot of recruiters and friends of friends reaching out to me about jobs so I’ve replied to them and moved along with them to not have them just sitting there. But I’m not initiating much right now. For the most part, I want to take some time and enjoy life. My severance package was quite generous and allows me to put off a job search for a little bit.

In my ideal situation, I’d start a new job in September and take the summer to work on personal projects and travel a little. I’d also like to do some stuff around the apartment like reorganize the pantry and clean out the closets. There are always so many things I want to do and never have time for so now’s the time, right?

I’m mostly trying to keep a normal schedule each day. I get up at the same time I used to and try to leave the house around the same time as well. If I’m running, I still try to get up extra early to run in the morning. I mean, it’s summer so morning running is a must anyway. Instead of going to the office, I go to a coffee shop and work on stuff now. I make breakfast, lunch, and coffee dates with people. If it’s particularly nice out, I’ll work in the park.

My goal is to spend at least four hours a day working on stuff outside of the house. That should be enough to stave off the depression.

So far, it’s been pretty nice. I’ve gotten a lot of things done and felt really productive. I’ve also had a lot of fun meeting up with people and galavanting around the city.

I loved my job, truly, but I can’t control that Verizon decided to lay me off. What I can do, however, is take advantage of the time and the severance to have an amazing summer. I haven’t been unemployed in 15 years, since the summer after my first year of college, so it’s been a while since I’ve had this much free time. I’m not going to waste it.

7

The case of 2016

I’ve been putting off writing this all month, partially because I’ve been lazy and depressed since the election, but mostly because thinking about 2016 makes me feel weird and guilty. 2016 has been an awful hell year in almost every way imaginable. We lost celebrities and public figures who have inspired us and changed our lives. We lost scientific figures who made important discoveries. We elected Donald Trump as our next President after the worst election year pretty much any of us have been a live to see. North Carolina passed HB2. 2016 was a long year of terrible things and you couldn’t close your eyes for a second without something else terrible happening.

While all of this was happening in the world, 2016 was busy being one of the biggest years of my life, if not the biggest. I don’t know that I’d call it the best because it wasn’t at all easy, but it was certainly the most eventful and pivotal.

2016 started off with my first Dopey Challenge in Disney World. I’d previously done the Goofy Challenge three times so while it was just adding a 5k and 10k to the back-to-back half marathon and marathon weekend I’ve done before, it was still a fun challenge. Of the four Disney World marathons I’ve done, I think this one might have been the most fun. It was also my fastest time, not that I’ve ever raced a Disney marathon for time. Overall, how well this race went was a nice surprise considering it was following up a rough year of running in 2015.

Disney Marathon!

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

Not even three weeks after the Dopey Challenge, I underwent genital reconstruction surgery (or SRS or GCS or GRS or bottom surgery or any other of the dozens of terms trans people can’t agree on to call this surgery). This is a major surgery and I don’t think I could possibly overstate anything about how big of a deal it was. Of everything in my 33 years on this planet, the only thing more life-changing than this was transitioning itself. This was physically painful in ways I can’t describe and terrifying beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced.

About 90 minutes after waking up from surgery

While 11 months later, the swelling still hasn’t fully gone down, this surgery has already had a profoundly positive effect on my life. Recovery was hell and there were major points of depression and borderline regret for a while as I dealt with large amounts of granulation, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision. My body feels more like mine than it ever has before. My gender dysphoria isn’t gone entirely, but it has been greatly reduced. In addition to how it’s made me feel, it’s also made life easier in many regards. The simple act of picking out clothes to wear and getting dressed no longer requires thinking about how to hide my junk. I can put on running tights or wear leggings as pants without worry. My jeans fit better. I can wear a fucking bathing suit without epic levels of stress.

Of course, most of this year was made many times harder because of the recovery from this surgery. I also spent much of this year being more isolated and holed up at home because it, as well. My dilation schedule frequently meant making it an earlier and more sober night than I otherwise would have. This is something I’ve still not fully reverted back from. In a way, it seems like this is my new normal, that I’ve changed. I’m less interested in being out late and I’m less interested in being drunk or even buzzed than I used to be. I spend less time with friends. Despite this, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Dealing with just the surgery recovery would have been enough to keep me busy, but that was only part of what I had going on in the first half of this year.

The non-profit startup I co-founded launched in May. MyTransHealth was a project I started in the fall of 2014 and worked hard to bring to life. Our launch was the culmination of a very successful Kickstarter campaign and thousands of hours of work I put in through 2015 and the first half of 2016 (I mean, we all put in a lot of work, but this is a post about my year). The final months of work for MyTransHealth were put in while juggling intense post-surgery granulation pain and being hopped up on painkillers, but I learned a lot about myself and my dedication to something I care about. It was a level of work I didn’t know I had in me. I learned I’m stronger than I thought I was. And, on top of that, I built something that I’m extremely proud of.

The flip side of MyTransHealth is that it also ruined a very good friendship of mine. It hurt to lose this friend and I’m still working through the feelings associated with that. And just as importantly as losing that friendship, I’m also no longer involved with MyTransHealth. Leaving the organization hurt just as much as losing the friendship did, but…well, it is what it is.

While the finishing touches to MyTransHealth were being put together, I was approached by Women’s Running to be on the friggin’ cover of their July issue. Some of you are aware that I was a finalist in their annual cover contest in 2015 and lost so it was amazing to have the opportunity to be on their cover outside of a contest. This was not an easy decision to make. Being a focus of the cover story on the issue, I know that made me a logical choice for the cover, but it was a lot of attention to invite on myself. I’m no a stranger to attention, but this was a whole new level for me. And it wasn’t just being on the cover, it was also being the first openly trans person on the cover of any fitness magazine. This added even more attention.

IT ME!!!!

As we all know, I did say yes. Less than a week after the launch of MyTransHealth, I had my photoshoot with them and that itself was its own experience. It was wonderful and the issue turned out great. I couldn’t have been more proud to see myself on the cover. While the first few days after the issue hit were an intense ride of media stories about me, things quickly settled down after a couple weeks and I got back to normal life. I was proud of the cover, but at the same time intense levels of attention make me extremely awkward. All I wanted was for no one to recognize me in public. Lucky for me, they didn’t. But the most amazing part was all of the people who reached out to me to tell me how important this was for them and the hope that it gave them. It’s weird to be called an inspiration and I’ve never wanted to be called a role model, but knowing I’ve had a positive effect on so many people’s lives is greatly important to me. I take this seriously and I know the responsibility that comes with it. I do my best to respect that and it’s something that has given me strength through the tough things in my life.

Whaaaaaa???

At over 1,200 words, that just about covers 2016…the first six months.

Come on, you already know I get a little wordy around these parts.

With the Women’s Running cover landing at the end of June, the first half of 2016 was pretty intense and wildly busy. Going into the second half, honestly, all I wanted was a little bit of a rest. I wanted to finish recovering from surgery and I wanted some relaxation. Most of all, I wanted to focus on training for my first marathon post-surgery.

For the most part, that’s how I spent summer and early fall, training for Chicago. I didn’t enter training in the shape I was hoping to be in, but I was within where I had expected to be after a major surgery. I knew just running a fall marathon at all wasn’t a given so I was happy to even be able to train. But training went beyond swimmingly. Much better than I could have imagined it’d go. I went from starting training with a “we’ll see how it goes, but it’d be super rad to snag a small PR” attitude to wrapping up with “fuck it, I’m going for a huge PR and Boston qualifying time.”

The race itself went better than I could have imagined and I ran a nearly flawless race. Not only did I get an 11-minute BQ, but I I also snagged a 16-minute PR. I ran more than a minute faster than my time goal for the last three years—the time I did everything to work towards for New Jersey Marathon 2014 and Grandma’s Marathon 2015 and failed to get. A sub-3:30 marathon had been my running goal since I started transition years ago and I finally got it. And even more importantly than that, after five and a half years of caring more about qualifying for Boston than pretty much anything else in my life, I did that too. I got that 🦄! This wasn’t just my most important running goal, it was one of my most important life goals period. And the truth is, it was possibly my biggest reason for going ahead with having surgery in the first place. To have that pay off so quickly was the nicest surprise I could have ever expected this year.

Amelia Gapin with 2016 Chicago Marathon medal in Grant Park

Oh, yes, look at that smile!

So that was the big stuff in 2016. And it’s a lot of big stuff. But 2016 was also the year I become comfortable enough with my body to run in just a sports bra and shorts or even just wear a bikini. It was my year of body positivity. And, despite not being able to run consistently for the first five months of the year, I still racked up 1,150 miles and scored a new half marathon PR. And my Twitter account got verified.

Running a new half marathon PR in just a sports bra!

Me and Tamar at the Tumblr beach trip!

It was quite the year, to say the least.

Anyway, I kept the second half of the year a lot more sane than the first—like I had hoped—but the reality about 2016 is that none of it has been sane. This has been the year from hell. I know years are mostly just arbitrary markers of time that humans use and we’ve collectively treated 2016 as a sentient being while, in reality, years are an utterly meaningless concept in the universe. But, here’s the thing, we use years as a way to mark time and group things together. People don’t die because of a year and, with the exception of the weather and astronomical events, things that do happen based on the calendar are human constructs. Sure. Absolutely. But we still live by the calendar. We plan by these numbers we assign to the Earth’s position around the Sun. It’s a natural way for use to group things and break our lives down into smaller subdivisions.

And as far as these arbitrary subdivisions go, the one labeled 2016 has been exceptionally difficult. I won’t deny there is, of course, some level of confirmation bias going on and every time something bad happens, it seems to confirm our feelings rather than simply existing in our minds as another unrelated event. Yet these things add up. And in the case of politics and the world outside of celebrity deaths and such, these things are frequently interconnected. They build on and influence each other.

Much of 2016 was dominated by the election. It was brutal and it put on display just how ugly our world can be. How divided humanity is. It’s terrifying, to be honest. 2016 has eroded our democracy and set forth a wrecking ball that will affect our lives for decades to come. Looking ahead to 2017, it’s hard to see a place for people like me. Many members of marginalized groups won’t survive because of what we’ve done this year. LGBT people, black people, Muslims, Jews, and women are all at major risk because of decisions made in 2016. Looking out beyond just 2017, it’s very difficult to see a way in which America’s hyperpartisanship can be healed. For many of us, it’s much easier to see a second American Civil War (this isn’t necessarily my personal prediction, but the way things look and feel).

Obviously, all of the things that have led us down this path towards major war sequels didn’t just come about in 2016. They’ve been there for a long time. Some lying dormant and some, such as racism, existing to various degrees for hundreds of years. But 2016 is when they all bubbled to the surface in ways humanity hasn’t seen in a (relatively) long time. Whether it’s World War III, Cold War II, or Civil War II, it seems quite likely that years—decades—from now we’ll look back on 2016 as being the turning point, the year that it all just started to go to shit.

Basically 2016

Now, that’s a bit of a tangent to go off on in a post that I wanted to write focused on my 2016, but it’s important. 2016 hasn’t been exclusively bad, but it has been a year of garbage all over the place. What I’ve been struggling with for months now is how to reconcile it all. 2016 has been an amazing year for me personally in so many ways, but it’s also been awful in the world. These two things absolutely don’t have to be mutually exclusive and can both be true, but it’s still difficult to come to terms with how to feel about 2016. At best, my feelings are complex and complicated. I am incredibly grateful, happy, and proud of these things from my personal life, but I am heartbroken, enraged, and disgusted by the world around us. These things in my personal life have opened doors for my future. I can now focus on new running goals. I can help more trans people get through their transitions. I can simply live my life more easily. Yet, at the same time, things in 2016 will mean many doors will close in 2017. I won’t be able to live my life as openly and safely as a trans person. There will be more transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny to deal with, in addition to the racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism, and other forms of bigotry (and fascism and white nationalism) that will become even more overt in our country and around the world. The progress we’ve made over the last eight years will be eroded away. It’s quite a dichotomy to try to reason about and accept.

Ultimately, I’m taking these positive and amazing things from my life in 2016 and walking away with my head held high because of them. They can’t be taken from me. And at the same time, I am moving forward with sadness for all the people we’ve lost this year who have had a positive effect on the world and changed it for the better. I am also going forward angry and charged for a new, but more difficult, fight for our rights and our future.

2017 will, almost without a doubt, be worse than 2016, but we don’t have to lie down and accept that quietly. We can stand up and keep on fighting. 2017 may be even worse than 2016, but that doesn’t mean this has to be a thing we’ll say every year going forward. We can put in the work to make this not being the darkest timeline, but just a dark spot in an otherwise brightening timeline. And along the way, we can accept that good and bad things can happen simultaneously. We can accept and enjoy the good while lamenting and fighting against the bad. Life and the world are weird like that and the balance between good and bad things isn’t a constant. It’s a pendulum that swings back and forth.

So, finally, thank you for the good things you gave me, 2016, but mostly fuck you.

PS: If you’re one of those people who come to my blog to leave antagonistic comments or you feel you have something you just have to say in contradiction to my feelings about politics, either specifically related to 2016 or more generally, don’t. Just move along.

2

Do I even have a blog anymore?

behind the ear cat tattoo

It’s so cute!

Oh hai! I guess this blog is still a thing, huh? I’ve been super busy lately, but I feel like I always say that. Anyway, I just wanted to drop a quick update here.

In most recent news, I got a new tattoo last night on a whim…while not entirely sober. To be fair, the idea for the tattoo wasn’t new as of last night, I’d been wanting it for a while and the opportunity just sort of came up to make it happen. I guess this definitely solidifies my cat lady status, though.

I’ve also been running again, which is basically great and I feel like a human again. My mileage hasn’t been high, by any means, but for the last six or seven weeks (with the exception of last week), I’ve run 22-28 miles. I will definitely take that! In fact, I even ran seven days straight for the first time ever a couple weeks ago. Typically, it’s rare for me to run even five days straight if I’m not actually in training mode, but I kept waking up in the morning wanting to run. A couple days, I actually woke up at 5:30am and tried to talk myself into going back to sleep and failed. That’s literally never happened before.

I’m still not going to be running Chicago Marathon this year, but at least I’m running again and beat the depression.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know for sure what was causing my problems, but taking vitamin-D supplements and lowering my testosterone blocker dosage seems to have have helped. For the most part, I still don’t feel strong and as energetic as I did in the winter and spring, but I’m at least on the right track.

Lastly, the thing that’s been sucking up ALL my time has been MyTransHealth. If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s the non-profit and website I’ve been working on building with a few of my friends. We want to help connect trans people with doctors who are knowledgeable about trans health. Things are going really great, but it’s been sucking all my time. We just ended our Kickstarter last week after raising over $33,000! We hit our goal in three days and hit two stretch goals after that! I’m still so floored by that!

Besides starting the #transhealthfail conversation on Twitter, we also got some amazing press. I talked to Mashable, TechCrunch, Cosmo, BuzzFeed, and a bunch of other sites. I also was a guest on the Less Than Or Equal podcast! And that’s just the press stuff that I handled. We also had articles in Crain’s, Vox, Tech Insider, The Daily Dot, UpWorthyMic, and a ton more. It’s been a really wild thing so far, but I really love our team and I love what we’re doing. We’re looking to launch this fall and we’ve got big plans!

I guess that’s it? Yeah, that’s probably it for now. Fingers crossed that I find some time to write more here. I miss it!

2

A week with the Apple Watch

AppleWatchFor the last week, I’ve been keeping a diary of what it’s like living with (and using) the Apple Watch. Strapping a smart watch to your wrist isn’t the same as buying a new TV for your living room. A smart watch becomes an intimate part of your life. It changes things.

I wasn’t sure the best way to present all of my thoughts, so I decided to simply dump an unedited transcript of the diary I kept here.

For reference, I pre-ordered the 42mm space gray Apple Watch Sport at 3am on April 10th when pre-orders opened up. I did not receive my watch on launch day (April 24), mine came on April 27th.

Day 1:

My watch showed up just after lunch today. I opened it at my desk at work with a handful of my coworkers awkwardly standing over me. The packaging was nice, but seemed extremely wasteful in comparison to Apple’s other products.

The initial setup took a little while to sync everything over from my iPhone, but was otherwise easy and painless. I opted not to sync third party apps over right away.

My watch had around 67% battery remaining right out of the box.

My initial impression was that the watch felt great on my wrist, very light and comfortable. Having rather large wrists for a woman my size, I was glad I got the 42mm model, it seemed to be the right size for me. The 38mm model would have likely been dwarfed by my wrists.

Figuring out force touch took me a little while. From the keynote demos, I had the impression that force touch was more of a slamming down of your finger on the watch face, but it turns out to actually be a firm pressing down instead. This took me a few hours to figure out after struggling with a success rate of just around 10% with the slam-your-finger-method. Once I figured this out, using the watch become a lot easier.

I started with the “utility” watch face, an analog one. This seemed like the nicest looking face that provided me the information I was looking for. I wanted to try the elegance of an analog face instead of an easier-to-read digital face.

Apple Watch Utility Watch Face

The Utility face

The delay for the screen turning on when raising your wrist to look at the watch wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected based on reviews from The Verge and Daring Fireball. However, it was just enough in addition to the extra half a second telling time on an analog face takes that I switched to a digital face by the end of the day. I went with “modular” which also shows you more information about your next calendar event. Perhaps if I was the kind of person used to keeping an analog watch on my wrist, I might be quick enough to feel comfortable sticking with the utility face, but I haven’t worn a watch regularly in close to fifteen years. Though, I’m sure I’ll spend most of the week trying out different watch faces. I’m curious to see what I end up landing on in the end.

I checked my heart rate a few times throughout the day and the watch seemed fairly accurate. I’ve never worn a heart rate monitor or regularly taken my pulse before so I can’t say with much certainty how close it is to other forms of measurement. However, it did clock my resting heart rate between 55-59 bpm which is pretty close to the handful of times I have taken it in the last few months.

Sometime mid-afternoon, I switched my sit/stand desk at work to standing mode. Two minutes later, my watch told me to stand for a minute. I thought that was a little weird since I was currently standing already and had been for a couple minutes. An hour later, I dropped my desk back into sit mode and my watch again told me to stand. I had just been standing for an hour straight.

After I got off the PATH back in New Jersey on my commute home, I looked down expecting all the notifications I missed while underground to pop up, but instead my watch let me know I had forgotten to take my phone out of airplane mode. I don’t usually put my phone in airplane mode on my commute, but sometimes Tweetbot gets a little confused and doesn’t queue up favorites properly. I’ve found that switching to airplane mode serves as a good workaround to avoid Tweetbot erroring on me.

I made a quick stop at Duane Reade on my walk to pick up a few toiletries we were running low on. I always use Apple Pay at Duane Reade so I figured it was a good chance to try it from my watch. I expected this to be super awkward, but it really wasn’t that bad. The biggest issue was the numerous taps and button presses it takes to actually use Apple Pay on your watch. It makes sense though, it could be easy to accidentally trigger it if it was always on.

As I was doing my nightly strength workout and foam rolling, a friend and I started sending heartbeats and sketches back and forth. It was neat, but seemed totally pointless except for trying to be cute and waste time.

Before getting in bed, I hopped in the shower real quick to shave down the forest I had let grow on my legs over the last week. I left my watch on the entire time and didn’t have any issues.

By the time I laid down in bed and stuck the watch onto its charger, I was at 29% battery. This was around 10:30pm. Not bad after starting with only 2/3 of the battery and me playing with my new toy constantly all day.

Apple Watch Modular Watch Face

My initial configuration of the modular face

Day 2:

I woke up at my normal 5:45am to catch a 7am spin class and slapped my watch on my wrist just before leaving the house at 6:15.

Once I was on my bike and started pedaling, I started up a new “indoor cycling” activity using the builtin Activity app. I swiped the screen over to show my heart rate since this seemed like the only information I’d actually need during my class. Once my hands were back on the handlebars, the screen turned off and I only noticed it turning back on again when I actively went to check my heart rate. I felt a few notifications come in, but I didn’t feel distracted by them or wondering what they were.

My heart rate throughout the class was in the mid-160s which I guess was roughly accurate? I kind of expected it to be higher than that, to be honest. Though, I read today that Consumer Reports found the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitoring to be just as accurate as their highest-rated chest straps so I guess that’s probably fairly accurate?

After 45 minutes of what turned out to be my best spin class ever, according to Flywheel’s total power, I was eager to see the calorie count for my workout. My Apple Watch showed 251, which isn’t even in the same ballpark as the 915 calories that the Flywheel app estimates. The Apple Watch only knows my heart rate and must base on that, whereas the Flywheel app knows the time, torque, and RPM from my ride, but not my heart rate. Additionally, the Flywheel app estimates based on a person weighing 145-160lbs (I weight 145, for reference). When I entered the class into the Garmin Connect app with the time and distance (provided by the Flywheel app), I was given 584 calories. This feels like the most accurate of the three to me.

After hopping off my bike, I hopped in the shower and again left my watch on with no problems.

By 1:15pm, I still had 70% of my battery left at 7.25 hours off the charger and 45 minutes of active heart rate monitoring.

During the walking part of my commute home, I realized the proper way to think about the Apple Watch isn’t to think of it as its own thing–which because of it’s reliance on your iPhone, it can’t be. Instead, you have to accept that the watch is nothing more than a companion to your phone. A window into in existing thing in your life. Quick access.

I reveled in the simplicity of a quick glance at my wrist to check for important notifications. The red dot at the top of the watch face indicating new notifications is the almost the perfect antidote to the notification anxiety we’ve let our smartphones bring into our lives.

I started with only a pared down list of apps allowed to notify me my wrist, but I expect this to change over time, likely in the direction of fewer, not more. My Apple Watch is for the notifications I really care about, things that may be actionable or are ambient information that is only relevant in that moment. While my phone is always in reach, usually in my back pocket or sitting next to me, a quick flick of the wrist to check for anything important feels like a timesaver.

I walked in the door at home with 48% of my battery left. I had been wearing my watch for twelve and a half hours at this point.

I changed real quick for my second workout of the day, a four mile run. I slapped my Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch on next to my Apple watch and headed out the door while contemplating the insanity of going for a run with a $650 iPhone, $400 Apple Watch, and $250 running watch.

I used Apple’s Activity app to record my run since Apple doesn’t allow third party apps to have access to the heart rather monitor yet. Annoyingly, the app counts you down from three instead of just starting as soon as you hit the button like my Garmin does.

When my Garmin beeped at four miles, I stopped the run on both watches and compared. The Apple Watch measured 4.23 miles to my Garmin’s 4.01. Mapping my run using DailyMile’s route tool gave me 4.05 miles. Not accurate enough for serious running and training. As a point of reference, I had my phone (which the Apple Watch relies on for GPS) in my pocket with the screen facing towards my leg. Tomorrow, I’ll try having the screen facing out.

I got into bed at 10:40pm with 20% of my battery left. 16.5 hours off the charger and two workouts.

Garmin vs Apple Watch

Day 3:

I woke up at 5:30 for a nine mile run this morning. Again, I strapped my Apple Watch and my Garmin onto my wrist side-by-side and I stuck my phone in my pocket with the screen facing away from my leg. This time, the Apple Watch measured 8.88 miles compared to the Garmin’s 9.01 miles. DailyMile’s route tool measured the run at 9.25 miles. So this time the Apple watch measured short instead of long.

While I was cooling down, I tried to see my mile splits for my run, but was disappointed to not be able to find them on either the watch itself or in the Activity app that was installed on my phone when I paired my watch to it. For me, this is a complete deal breaker. If you’re a runner who is training for something, those splits are very important.

My hour and sixteen minute run ate 20% of my battery so I dropped my watch on the charger, which nicely snaps in to place with zero fuss and charges quickly, while I showered.

While walking to the office, it really hit me how much the Apple Watch demands very granular control over notifications. It’s a control that doesn’t really exist in apps yet, but developers will have to start thinking about this. For example, I want Slack notifications if I’m mentioned, but not for @all, @channel, or other keywords I alert on. All of these notifications are fine for my phone, but not for my wrist. For Tweetbot, I only want DMs and mentions; favorites, retweets, and follows aren’t necessary for me to know about immediately. With Tumblr (I know), I want asks, fan mail, replies, and only reblogs in which something is added. The thing all of these notifications have in commons is that they are either things I might want to take action on or are people saying something to me. Other notifications may be useful, but they’re not important, they’re fine to see whenever I actually decide to check on them myself. I don’t need them buzzing my wrist.

Right before lunch, I got this nice little notification that I was already crushing my activity for the day. The watch will periodically pop in with things like this to let you know how you’re doing on your move, standing, and exercise goals.IMG_2147

After lunch, my watch was at 93% battery still. This was five hours of being hammered with Twitter notifications. An hour later, 90%.

At ten to three, my watch told me to stand. I’d been sitting for not even twenty minutes after an hour with my desk in standing mode. Doesn’t this thing know I ran nine miles this morning on exhausted legs and was beat? It also seems that the watch doesn’t care if you’ve had a long standing session, it still wants you to stand each clock hour.

The weather outside was literally perfect today so I used Starbucks as an excuse for a mid-afternoon walk to enjoy it all. I paid for my iced coffee using my Starbucks card in Passbook. Just like on your phone, you’re given a QR code to scan. This was the most awkward thing ever. It doesn’t seem like it’d be much different than using Apple Pay with your watch, but there’s something totally awkward about how you have to contort your wrist while trying to line it up with the barcode reader. Maybe having the reader positioned differently would help.

Overall, the watch is really starting to feel useful. I find myself both more and less distracted at the same time now.

I’m more distracted thanks to a frequent buzzing on my wrist telling me something possibly important just happened. It’s like having someone screaming in your face “HEY THIS JUST HAPPENED! LOOK AT IT!”

But on the other end of things, I’m definitely way less distracted. The only things that buzz my wrist are potentially important notifications, not all notifications. The things buzzing my wrist are the things I want to know about right away and may want to take action on. They are the things I am constantly checking my phone for. Having these notifications on my wrist greatly cuts down on the number of times I check my phone or OS X notification center. I can trust that if it’s important, I already know about it. This allows me to keep up with important stuff without the distractions of the unimportant stuff. I’d often fall into the trap of checking my notifications and getting bogged down in the fluff. “Oh, an Instagram like, let me go see how many likes this photo has.” Knowing I can quickly check my wrist with all of the fluff filtered out is totally liberating. Plus, all I have to do is flick my wrist and look for a red dot at the top of the screen indicating if there is anything or not.

Today, I wore a dress with not pockets so my phone was either sitting on my desk or in my purse all day. While I was at work, I didn’t even need to think about my phone as long as I was staying on my floor. I’d go to the bathroom or to meetings and leave my phone behind. On the train, I controlled my music from my wrist. As I walked home, my wife sent me a few text about dinner. Without my watch, I likely would have missed them. Even in pants with my phone in my back pocket, I typically don’t feel my phone vibrating while walking (I keep my phone on silent 95% of the time). I was able to quickly respond without fishing my phone out of my purse using the canned responses and walk into the house with a pizza already on its way.

After nine hours off the charger, I had 68% of my battery left.

Overall, I’m really impressed with how smooth and snappy the UI is…until you open something that needs to pull data from your phone. Then things get painfully slow to the point where I give up and simply reach for my phone. For the most part, third party apps aren’t even worth bothering with.

I love the digital crown. I find myself using it to scroll over touching the screen. It just feels smooth and with the perfect amount of resistance. I love the taptic feedback when you get to the top or bottom of a screen.

I’m still fiddling with my watch face, but I think I’m pretty close now. I tweaked it to remove the moon phase. It’s existence felt purely ornamental.

Apple Watch Modular Face

My current watch face configuration.

I tried out heartbeats and sketches again with a coworker tonight. My impression hasn’t changed. Cute, but that’s about it.

I got into bed with 50% of my battery remaining after exactly 14 hours off the charger.

Day 4:

I woke up at 5:30am again for a seven mile run. I walked out the door with both my Apple Watch and my Garmin, but this time I fired up the Nike+ app to record my run with splits and the Apple Activity app for heart rate data. Sort of a pain in the ass to have to start a run on two different apps.

Annoyingly, the Nike+ app kept sounding off stats from my pocket for each mile. This is all configurable, but I’ve never used Nike+ so I hadn’t yet configured all the settings how I like them. Generally, I prefer my Garmin’s simple beep every mile. I don’t need my stats read to me.

Today, the Apple Watch and my Garmin measured very similarly. My Garmin was seven miles and my Apple watch was 7.07 miles (my iPhone screen was facing my leg). A 1% delta between the two is close enough to negligible for me.

Even harder than starting two running apps and a Garmin at the same time was stopping them all, but in the process I discovered double-tapping the digital crown switches between your last two apps. Neat!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to view my splits in the Nike+ app on either my watch or my phone. I’m sure they’re there somewhere, I just couldn’t find them easily. But when you finish your run, the watch app shows a mini map of your run for you. Why would I even want that? I almost never look at the maps of my runs. I’d much rather see my mile splits right there. I almost always check these immediately after finishing my runs.

Mostly, this all seems to be par for the course for running apps. They’re just barebones windows to basic info. Sure, it’s absolutely a tiny screen on your wrist, but my Garmin shows my overall time, overall pace, and distance (you can configure what you want, this just happens to be what I prefer). It’d be nice to get these three bits on screen at the same time. I also can’t figure out if any of these apps having manual lapping or prompting for intervals on the watch itself or if you need to access that via your phone.

iSmoothRun was my iPhone running app of choice before I got my Garmin a year ago and they’ve said they have an Apple Watch app coming any day now. I’m really hoping that’ll give me what I’m looking for. Though, Apple not allowing third parties to access to the heart rate monitor means I’ll still be running with two apps going.

My run this morning used 18% of my battery so I charged my watch while I showered again. I feel this will be my normal routine. While the battery life on the watch has been incredibly impressive given what Apple rates it for, the heart rate monitor really takes a beating on the battery. I’m kind of surprised it’s that much, actually. However, my Garmin, which has onboard GPS and no heart rate monitor, seems to get about 50 miles of running to a charge so it’s comparable.

One other interesting thing about my run today, with a third of a mile left, I found myself with a choice of darting across the light rail 30 feet from of an oncoming train (they move really slowly) or waiting. I broke into a quick sprint and went for it. We don’t need to talk about how dumb this was. Anyway, later in the day, I was looking through my heart rate data and was able to match it up to my run and see that my heart rate spiked to 194bpm from the mid-170s where it was during the last couple of miles. Really cool!

As I walked off the train on my way to work this morning, I effortlessly skipped a boring song that just came on. My phone stayed in my back pocket.

When I got to work, I pulled out my phone to check into Tumblr HQ on Swarm as I do every morning. This felt super cumbersome, even with the today Today widget. Swarm is a perfect use case for an Apple Watch app. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but it doesn’t exist yet.

Normally, I get up and walk around or just go to the bathroom a lot while at work just to keep moving. I like to stretch my legs. But some days it’s tough, either I’m really busy or just super exhausted. It’s these times when my watch yelling at me to stand is super annoying. As an office worker, you almost have to have a sit/stand desk if you want to strap an Apple Watch to your person. And even with the sit/stand desk, sometimes the watch seems to struggle to detect that you’re actually standing. My watch told me to stand at 11:50 today after I’d been standing for the last hour straight.

I’m starting to wonder if my taptics are working properly on my watch. It’s hard to get a feel for how prominent the buzzing is supposed to feel. One of my coworkers remarked that he felt like he needed to turn the intensity down on his watch, but I feel myself longing for a little more. Most people I’ve talked to seem to say literally the exact same thing I’ve said about it so who knows.

I’m also finding I have very little interest in third party apps on my watch. It’s not even just that they all mostly suck, but it just doesn’t seem like what this thing is for. The watch feels like it’s for getting quick info or performing single touch tasks. More than apps, I just really want fine grained control over notifications. With tighter control over notifications, the Apple Watch could actually save you from notification hell instead of putting you there as I was afraid it would.

Halfway through a code deploy at work today, I looked down at my watch and force touched the screen to clear all my notifications. The force touch seems to double as the perfect release for pent-up tension.

After work, I met some friends for runner happy hour. Instead of checking my phone constantly like I do when I’m out, I left it face down on the table and relied on my watch to tell me if there was anything I needed to know. Depending on how use your watch, it could easily distract you from being present with the people you’re with or it could free you from distraction.

After fourteen hours on my wrist, I unstrapped with 57% of my battery left. I don’t even check it during the day anymore. There is not battery anxiety at all. You only need to be onboard with dropping it on the charger every night…which isn’t that big of a deal, I don’t think I’d want to wear it while sleeping anyway.

Day 5:

The watch is starting to blend into my regular life and simply feel like a natural extension of the technology I already use every day. Not having to nurse the battery helps a lot with this, I think. You just let it be and it tells you want you need to know. The first four and a half hours of today only used 7% of my battery.

Just like every other day so far, my watch told at me to stand after I had already been standing for an extended amount of time. This is getting old, but there are enough times when it is right that I haven’t stood in a while that it’s worth having. I think.

This evening, I stayed in and took it easy. I just wanted to relax. I happened to fire off a tweet relating to my crush on Anna Kendrick and then my wrist started blowing up for the next two hours. Not very relaxing. It may be useful to start making use of do not disturb mode or simply taking the watch off when I want to relax.

Even with a ton of notifications today, my watch only used 47% of its battery for 14:35. However, my phone’s battery seems to be draining much quicker. That’s a bummer.

While I’m not one to invoke “this would have never happen if Steve were still alive,” it’s hard to not see how different the Apple Watch would be with Steve Jobs alive, well, and at the helm still. The Apple Watch does (or tries) to do a lot. Some of it, it’s very good at. Some of it, not so much. There is nothing simple about the Apple Watch and learning all the interactions takes some time. Steve Jobs was very much “this is what and how you’re going to use this.” The Apple Watch is “we made it do everything so you can figure out what it means to you.” It’s just different. I don’t know if that’s good or bad yet.

Day 6:

I rebooted my phone and my battery life seems much better though. So maybe it’s not an issue. We’ll have to see.

This morning’s run was 4.02 miles on my Garmin ad 4.06 on my Apple Watch. 1% difference again. It seems to be getting more consistent, but I’m not sure if I trust it yet. I just stuck with the Apple Activity app today, but I’m starting to get curious about what other apps do with GPS data. They all rely on the same data from your phone. They ask the phone where it is and it gives it a map point, but do any apps try to process that point and snap it to a road or reject points that are radically different than the points before/after? How often do they poll for data? I’m just wondering if different apps may provide difference mapping results.

After my run, I showered and my wife and I hopped in the car to drive down to Philly. My watch buzzed a few times while I was behind the wheel and it definitely took some self restraint to ignore it until stopped at a light. I don’t drive a lot anymore, but I could see the Apple Watch only adding to the distracted driving problem in our society.

When we go to Philly and walked into the race expo for the Broad Street Run, I again wished for a Swarm app on my watch. It’d be so quick and easy! As we walked around the expo, I received a ton of texts from some friends I was talking to. Getting the notifications on my wrist was a nice way to see what was worth pulling my phone out to reply to and what was fine being left without a reply. I felt less distracted than if I was looking down at my phone for every message.

We walked across the street to Reading Terminal Market and it just felt like another perfect use case for a Swarm app.

Getting into the car to head to a friend’s house, I asked Siri on my phone to pull up directions. I typically use Google Maps, but I was feeling lazy. Without doing anything, I started getting buzzing and directions on my wrist while driving. It was actually super distracting to the point where I killed navigation on my phone after a few minutes and switched over to Google Maps. I could see this being really helpful in certain situations, but for city driving with lots of turns and streets really close to each other, it was the worst.

We spent the night hanging out with our friends and I found myself distracted, but less so. I was looking at my watch a lot, but the distractions there where filtered from what was on my phone. I was taken away from the conversation few times and for shorter amounts of time. Still, I felt like I was being just as rude as I ever am.

Day 7:

I woke up at 4am today. Yes, I was surprised that 4am was actually a real time too, but it was there. The plan for the day was to knock out six miles before we headed back into Philly for the Broad Street Run. I was running perfectly on schedule, but four miles into my run, I felt my wrist buzz. I don’t typically feel distracted by notifications while running, but it was 5am on a Sunday. I knew it was either my wife telling me I was running late or…her saying she work up feeling sick and couldn’t run the race. This information was actually really helpful. Knowing our plans were going to change, I was able to stop worrying about making it back to leave in time for the race.

We ended up getting in the car and driving home and I again felt the distraction of a buzzing wrist while driving. I did my best to ignore it. Just like when trying to relax, I think do not disturb will be a must here.

After getting home, I changed to run again. I still had another twelve miles scheduled for the day. I ran out the door and finished my run at the bagel place near our house. It was about 10:30 while I was waiting in line and my watch was down to 47% battery. To be fair, I took it off the charger at 4 and had run 18 miles with it.

My two runs were measured at 6.08 and 12.08 miles on my Apple Watch and 6.24 and 12.08 on my Garmin. I sweat a lot on my second run today and it made me think about the fact that Apple made a big deal about the Apple Watch being water resistant enough to run with and avoid issues from sweat, but it requires you to keep your iPhone on you which isn’t water resistant at all. That’s kind of a problem.

Sometimes, the watch display doesn’t turn on when I expect it to and I end up twisting my wrist back and forth trying to get it on before giving up and just pressing the digital crown. This doesn’t happen a lot.

Tonight, I was doing a strength workout at home while trying to maintain a text conversation via my watch. And when I couldn’t respond with a canned response, I would walk over to my phone to type it out. It was actually way less than ideal and totally made my workout take way longer.

I crawled into bed just as my watch was alerting me that I was at 10% battery left. It asked me if I wanted to go into power reserve to extend battery life.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Overall thoughts:

I’m still trying to find a decent running app. There are a bunch out there, but I guess I’m just picky? Or maybe the problem is that I’m trying to mimic the things I like about my Garmin and fix all the things I hate about it.

When it comes to the GPS for runs, I’m just looking for some consistency here. GPS is a very imprecise technology and you have to expect a fair margin of error, but my Garmin tends to measure runs very consistently. I can usually count on it to sound off a mile in the same place every day and measure the a route the same every time I run it. This is what I’m asking for. For the short term, I plan to keep running with both watches. The Apple Watch works as a nice heart rate monitor and the Garmin is at least consistent.

Going back to what I had thought about on Day 6 regarding different apps doing different calculations with the same GPS data, my run this morning was measured at 5.07 by the Apple Activity app and 5.12 by Runtastic so it seems like there may be some processing of the data there rather than taking the points as is. I’ll have to keep looking into this.

Overall, I’m really loving my Apple Watch a lot more than I expected to. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good. As a toy, it’s definitely neat. As a communication and productivity tool, it really depends on how you use it and what you want from it. As jewelry, it’s really pleasing to look at, for me at least. And for for running, it’s probably more than good for a more casual runner, but for a serious runner it just doesn’t cut it…at least not right now.

I’m hopeful apps will improve now that developers actually have watches on their hands and with the addition of the native SDK at some point later this year.

4

2014 -> 2015

I’m going to be real here, 2014 was kinda crappy. I had such high hopes for it, but it just didn’t live up to them. It seems like this is a rather common feeling going around, so I don’t feel too badly about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see the calendar year as being a truly meaningful measurement of our lives. It’s length may have some significance, but it’s start and end are based on a date that is entirely arbitrary to us (set by Julius Caesar to line up with the consular year…blah blah blah). Why is it that these 365/366 days should make up some important block of time? It’s actually kind of silly, but if the whole world is going to go along with something and it’s not hurting anyone, you might as well go along with it too, right?

I embraced my non-straight hair

I embraced my non-straight hair

I don’t do resolutions. I never have, really. I do, however, like to set some goals at the start of each year. It’s just a way of taking a moment to think about what it is I’d like to accomplish and set a little direction for myself. In 2014 I set a bunch of goals and for the most part, I’ve accomplished none of them. The thing is, though, I don’t even really care that much.

I had a lot of running goals early on. I wanted to BQ (qualify for Boston), run three marathons, keep up with strength work, etc. I didn’t really do any of those (I did cheer at Boston though!). I really struggled through running, actually, but there’s no need to keep harping on that. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m okay. I also spent a lot of time dealing with serious depression this year. I can blame a lot of it on making changes to my hormones, but not all of it. I’m pretty good right now so that’s cool, but there were some dark times this year.

I could go on and on about that crappiness of 2014, but there isn’t that much of a point. A ton of good things happened too. It wasn’t just unexpectedly bad, it was unexpectedly good too.

We added Hattie to our family. It’s been a bit crazy with three cats here, but there’s so much cuteness and love in this house that I wouldn’t have it any other way. They constantly make me smile. I also got a completely amazingly awesome new job and moved to Jersey City. My job and where we lived were two things I really wanted to change in 2014, but I didn’t expect it to work out like this. I really couldn’t be any happier with this move. It’s been great so far!

Hattie!

Hattie!

Despite it being a tough running year for me, I still knocked out 1,500 miles! Well, technically, I’m at 1,498 miles as I type this, but tomorrow’s run will put me over the top. Sure, by the end of April, I was on pace for 2,200 miles, but 1,500 is still almost 20% more than any previous year. I’m actually pretty psyched I was able to pump out that many miles and, as the year closes, it’s helped me start to fall back in love with running.

It was a busy year and a lot happened. Even if there was a lot of bad, there was a lot of awesome too and I’m definitely a much better person and my life is in a way better place than a year ago.

I think one of the best things all year was making good on my claim that it would be the year of meeting internet friends in meatspace. I’m not even going to try to list everyone here because the list is well over fifty people, but it’s been truly awesome. And some of them are even people I spend time with regularly now.

At Delirium Cafe in Brussels

At Delirium Cafe in Brussels

I think the last really notable thing about 2014 was just that it was full of a lot of firsts. Having only openly come out as transgender late in 2013, there was a lot of “first <whatever> since transitioning.” Birthday, snowboarding, job interview, traveling (Brussels!…which I thought I had blogged about, but it seems I didn’t), attending a wedding, Disney, etc. Lots of firsts. Then, of course, there were the more everyday trans firsts like picking out (and then subsequently wearing) a bathing suit and getting a haircut that are a little scary for the first time when you’re all self-conscious about…everything. Even trans stuff aside, I still had some firsts like selling my first photo and getting my first tattoo.

First tattoo

First tattoo. I totally look like I have a beard here.

Hanging with Phineas and Ferb on the obligatory Disney trip

Hanging with Phineas and Ferb on the obligatory Disney trip

Okay, I think that’s enough rambling about 2014. It’s time to ramble about 2015. The future in Back to the Future.

I’m not setting any goals for this year. I just kind of want to do whatever comes up, no long term goals. There are a few things I’d love to work towards, and I will, but I’m not setting anything firm. No 3:30 marathon or 2,000 miles. No “I’m going to learn x, y, z programming languages.” No “seriously, I’m going to get back into photography.” And there certainly won’t be any “I need to make this major change in my life,” I think I’ve done more than enough of those over the last couple of years.

I’m not saying any of that crap. No pressures this year. I just want 2015 to be fun and positive. The foundations for any goals I would set are already a part of my life. I don’t need to set goals to keep them up.

I don’t really know what 2015 will be like, but I’m feeling pretty good about starting a new year right now.

Tumblr holiday party

Tumblr holiday party

Tumblr ladies invading the Instagram booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration!

Tumblr ladies invading the Instagram booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration!

And with some friends we made

And with some friends we made

I dove into a ball pit

16

Hair. Cut.

I’ve been growing my hair out for around two years now. My hair grows kind of slow, I guess, but I was starting with about a finger’s width of hair. While I’ve been really excited to see my hair actually getting longer and pass my shoulders, it finally reached a point where it needed its first real cut. Because my hair is super curly and frizzy and an all-around mess, I also had been meaning to get a keratin treatment as well. I flat iron it every day and that’s definitely taken it’s toll on my hair. It feels dry and it breaks a lot. It also doesn’t help that my hair is two different lengths; the top is shorter than the bottom. Mostly, I just wear it in a ponytail with some long bangs that sweep partially across my forehead.

It was time to do something about this so when I saw a Living Social deal for keratin at a place reasonably close, I snatched it up (not that these don’t pop up all the time). With my new job starting on Tuesday and being off this week, I was hopeful I could get an appointment right away and was lucky enough to get one for today (I called Tuesday).

I walked in without much of an idea of what the treatment was like or how I wanted my hair cut. I knew I wanted at least a couple inches off, but I still need it long enough to put in a ponytail.

Since I haven’t been to this salon before and didn’t have a recommendation, I didn’t know who to ask for so I just made the appointment with whoever was available. I was surprised when it turned out that my appointment was with a man. I wasn’t really sure if I was comfortable with having a man doing my hair, but I didn’t seem to have much of a choice if I wasn’t prepared to just walk out, never to return again.

When I told him what I was thinking about how I wanted my hair cut, he kept pointing his finger to a shorter length than I was trying to show him. I got a little worried, I really didn’t want too much taken off. When he started cutting, I sort of immediately freaked out in my head, “OMG! HE’S CUTTING ALL MY HAIR OFF!!!!!!!” But as he made his way around more and I could see more of it, I started to like it. He didn’t cut it all right away, instead, he said he was going to leave the top until after everything else was done and my hair was dry. When we walked over to the area where the keratin dryer was, I was able to get a good look at the length and kind of fell in love with it.

Not quite done yet

Not quite done yet

After everything was done and he finished up drying and cutting my hair, I put my glasses back on and spent a minute checking it out in the mirror. Definitely loving it!

In the car immediately after walking out

In the car immediately after walking out

I don’t know how easily it’ll all go up into a ponytail, I may need to go back to using six or seven bobby pins to get it all to stay, but I can deal with that. Because of the keratin, I won’t be able to wash it, get it wet, use any product, put it in a ponytail, or use any hair ties or hair clips for three days. So I won’t get to really find out until Sunday. And, unfortunately, I won’t be able to run until then which really sucks for my mileage this week. Like, really sucks, since I’ve only run six miles so far.

I also had to cancel my plans to go river tubing with some friends on Saturday as well. I had to send an email with one of the most stereotypically girly excuses ever. “I’m sorry, I can’t get my hair wet. I have to bail.” As I was typing it, I was just thinking to myself “I can’t believe I’m actually typing this, there’s no way I’m getting away with this!” And I didn’t. I totally got called out for it!

Anyway, this was my first real doing anything with my hair as a woman experience and I’m excited that it wasn’t a complete disaster! And, as far as I could tell, the stylist didn’t seem to pick up on me being trans at all. I mean, he might have, but he didn’t say anything to lead me to believe he did.

Yeah, I'm really liking how I look here

Yeah, I’m really liking how I look here, though I wish I could put some hairspray in to get those shorter hairs up top under control!

5

Let me tell you about my night last night

Last week, my manager asked me if I’d be willing to take a trip up to the main corporate office this week to provide some knowledge transfer to our engineer up there before I leave the company. I agreed because I knew it’d be a big help to them and, up until very recently, I was the only person in the company who worked on my area of our product. I’m still the only person who knows about 75% of it. I also thought it’d be nice to say goodbye to the people up here before I left too.

I decided to drive up last night rather than this morning, as it’s usually a little easier this way. The drive is about 275 miles each way from Central Jersey to the office in Massachusetts and my car is a bit overdue for an oil change and needs new brake pads and tires so I opted to rent a car rather than drive my own like I’ve done for the other trips I’ve taken up here. This is where all the fun started.

When I reserved the car, I selected 6pm as my pickup time. I figured I’d pick it up right after work, go home, feed the cats, grab my shit, and go. My day ended up a bit differently than planned thanks to a last minute decision to work from home instead of going into the office (this, itself, is a whole other story). At this time, this really simplified my day. I left the house at 5:40 and drove over to the car rental place. I got there at 6:08 to find all the lights off and the place locked up. Turns out, they close at 6. So there I was, unable to actually rent the car to drive up in. Mind you, their site gave me no issue with reserving the pickup for 6pm or even any time later and didn’t not indicate or warn me that they close at 6. Their hours were only shown when I actually went to their site specifically looking for them.

With the choice of changing everything up and waiting until the morning to head up or just dring my car, I decided to go with the latter. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this, but I just wanted to get on with things.

From here, I headed over to Chipotle to grab a quick meal before actually leaving. Being a Tuesday night, I figured I could be in and out pretty quickly. WRONG. The damn line was out the door. I was there forever and got a half hour later start than planned.

At this point, I was already not exactly in the best of moods, but, if this was all there was, I’d have gotten over it before even crossing into New York.

Once I hit the road, I was making some pretty damn good time and had apparently timed things just right to have missed all the traffic. I was starting to feel pretty good about this, but I needed to make a gas stop rather early (again, wasn’t prepared for taking my car) and knew my tires could use a little air. I pulled into a rest stop after a while and filled up. Then, I moved my car over towards where the air was, only to find a gigantic RV blocking it and the driver nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, the only way I could even leave the rest stop at this point was to drive the wrong way through the gas area to get around the RV. Once I got around, I backed up to the air from the other side. Unfortunately, things still didn’t pan out for me the way I had hoped. The air machine was broken.

With a full tank of gas, but under inflated tires, I was off again.

But of course, since none of that is really noteworthy, you know there’s more to this story.

Connecticut.

Somehow, Connecticut always fucks me on my drive up/down from Massachusetts. There is this one highway I take that’s only two lanes in each direction, rather narrow, and without a shoulder in a lot of places. As I’m driving along, all of a sudden, I hear this weird scraping noise coming from under my car. For a second, I thought one of my tires had gone, but I’m rather familiar with that sound so I knew it wasn’t that. I assumed I ran over something and it got caught underneath the car. I took the very next exit with the intention of stopping to check it out. Now, of course, there were no gas stations, or anything at all, so I figured I’d pull off onto a side street. I pull down the first street and about 30ft down the road is a weird, creepy van with all the lights off and the door slightly open. I couldn’t tell if there was actually someone in there or not, but I freaked and hightailed it out of there. I wasn’t exactly in the middle of anywhere and these kinds of situations scare the hell out of me now.

I drove back down the highway to the next rest stop with the scraping sound coming and going. When I finally got to the rest stop and could look under the car, I saw the plastic splashguard cover thing (apparently, these things don’t have a consistent name) was hanging off. At this point, I’m like “great, I’m more than a hundred miles from home and about the same to where I’m going. Fuck.” I tried yanking it off, but it wouldn’t budge. I tried kicking it off, but that did nothing either. Finally, I tried to just stick it back up there as best I could.

I started driving again and immediately, the scraping started again and was even worse than before. And, of course, as I mentioned, there’s no shoulder in a lot of places so I had to drive for about a mile with the horrible scraping before I could even pull over onto the grass. So now, I’m there laying on the ground in front of my car in the dark on the side of the road trying to figure out what to do with this damn thing. I still couldn’t get it off and I knew laying down in front of my car to deal with it was anything but safe. Even though I was on the grass, if someone had somehow ended up hitting my car, I was dead.

And let’s also throw in the fact that I was wearing the only pair of pants I brought with me (I’m only here until tomorrow so I packed very light).

I couldn’t get the thing off no matter what I did so I started trying to come up with ideas to prop it up. Eventually, I went into my bag and grabbed my 6ft Lightning cable for my iPhone. These things aren’t cheap, but Hattie has chewed the shit out of this thing already and I had a spare cable on me anyway. I was able to use the cable to tie the plastic dealy back up so it wouldn’t constantly scrape and I could continue my drive.

After that, I was finally able to continue on in an uneventful fashion. Though, I still have to drive home with this damn thing.

Oof.

Do you travel for business at all? What’s your worse business trip story?

4

Random apartment hunting thoughts

For the last week, since accepting my new job offer and deciding to move to Jersey City, my wife and I have been on a serious apartment hunt. We are leaving no stone unturned! We don’t have to find a place before I start and since our lease at our current place technically expired in October 2013 (I’m fairly certain our landlord thinks we re-signed for two years like the original lease, but it was just a one year renewal and there is no aut0-renew clause). On one hand, I can commute from where we live now so we can take our time to find the right place for us and not just immediately jump on something for the sake of making sure we have a place. On the other hand, my commute from here will be around 80 minutes and not at all pleasant. It’s doable, but it’s not going to be fun. Ideally, I’d like to have a place by September 1st and October 1st at the latest.

We’ve been all over Trulia, Zillow, PadMapper, Hotpads, Craigslist, and a few other sites as well. It’s pretty much consumed us all week. We’re not above refreshing these sites every 15 minutes and setting up email alerts on all of them. I think what we’re looking for between our must-haves, dealbreakers, and this-is-really-important-but-if-it’s-the-only-thing-missing-we-can-live-with-its, I think we’re reasonable for our budget. Picky as hell, but realistic.

Here are some of my random thoughts about the hunt so far:

  • This apartment hunt is very different from the others I’ve done. It’s the first time I’m looking for a place that’s not super close to where we are now. We’re close enough to be able to actually look at places and not have to blindly choose a place, but it’s about a 45-60 minute drive every time we want to look at an apartment. There’s also a broker fee that’s fairly standard in Jersey City and many urban environments. I’ve never had to deal with this before, but it’s typically a month’s rent that amounts to little more than a finder’s fee for the realtor. I’m trying my best not to think about this because it seems completely insane to me, but only a handful of places don’t have the fee so there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.
  • Looking for an apartment when you’re transgender is really limiting. We basically have Trulia’s crime map of Jersey City open at all times and check everything against that. If it’s not distinctly in a green area, it’s a no-go. If I wasn’t trans, a place that’s borderline could be more of a possibility, but that’s not the case. This removes about a third of the part of Jersey City we’re looking at from our search. Of course, rent is a little cheaper in those areas and some of them are even closer to the PATH stop I need to take. And I also need to be careful about the areas I’d be walking through to get to the PATH every day, they need to be green too.
  • The location we really want is basically the second most desirable neighborhood in Jersey City, at least from what I can tell. It’s the best location for us in terms of my commute and the things we want to do. Location is important and we have the privilege of being able to afford the location we want. Though, that location will likely mean other sacrifices to stay in the affordability range.
  • If you’re a realtor, be responsive via all of the communication methods you list. Don’t take a full day to get back to me. Don’t not call me back. If you list a mobile phone number or I put your number into my iPhone and it turns blue, respond to texts. A lot of the time, a quick text is easier than a phone call for just asking questions. Plus, it saves me the agony of working up the nerve to make a phone call…which can be enough to cause me a panic attack.
  • Sometimes, just a little extra money makes a huge difference and opens up a lot of new possibilities. You don’t want to spend too much of your income on rent, but if you can sit down and figure out a real budget, that could help free up money you didn’t realize you were wasting somewhere else.
  • If a place says pets are okay, double and triple check that. Make sure that your kind of pet and the number you have is okay. There may be a larger deposit necessary or a fee. Be aware of this. We were told one place allowed pets and confirmed that we had cats. Then, after filling out a rental application, were told they weren’t allowed. Our cats are devils, but they are non-negotiable members of our family. They go where we go. No exceptions.
  • Speaking of cats, if you’re a cat owner you already know this, but if they’re happy, you’re happy. If you have multiple cats and the layout of your apartment doesn’t allow them each the space they need and allow easy exits when a scuffle happens, you could have a problem. When we walk through apartments, I make sure to look at it from the eyes of our three cats. I look for things that they will each like and things that could be a problem. For us, I know a narrow doorway that splits the overall space into two smaller areas could be a problem. Both Fry and Leela frequently guard doorways from each other. Are there nice big windows for them to sit in? Places for them to climb? When guests come over, is there a place for Leela to hide? Pets shouldn’t entirely rule your life, but the reality is if a new apartment doesn’t work for them, it can make life hell.
  • Before we look in person, I examine the photos as closely as possible. I build mental floor plans of every place and will use even the tiniest clue to figure out how the photos go together. If there is a tiny piece of a table or chair that’s in a corner of one photo, I’ll look for it in another photo to build out that room in my head. I also know the photography tricks to make rooms look bigger or nicer. I look at furniture (if it’s there) and use that for scale while also compensating for distortion if it looks like they used a wide-angle lens. If the place is empty, I’ll use windows, doors, light switches and outlets, ceiling fans, and basically anything else I can to figure out how big a space really is. I look in the windows to see if there are window A/C units (I’ll use Google Maps street view to look from the outside too) and look on the walls and floors for the heating/cooling–baseboard and radiator heating means no central air, but vents are a good sign. I look at where the light is coming from and how much there is. I look at the counters and the cabinets. Is there enough counter and cabinet space? I look at sink and shower fixtures. I look closely at the appliances and how old they look. Are the stove and over gas or electric? Where do you come in and go out of the apartment? What room is the bathroom off of? What kind of view is there from the windows? What kind of floors are there? How many closets are there? I also take everything in the description and compare it to what I see to make sure it all adds up.
  • When we look at a place in person, I’m just as thorough. I open every closet to see how big it really is. I’ll pop my head in utility closets to see if everything looks normal and if there could be extra storage in there. I open fridges and ovens to make sure they’re clean. I open some of the cabinets and drawers to make sure they’re solid. I’ll even open the breaker box and I’m not above checking the water pressure in the shower. I look out all the windows to see what the view is and see how someone else might be able to look in. I pay attention to the floors to see if there are spots that are warped/unlevel or creak or give slightly underfoot. I look at what kind of thermostat is there–is it programmable? If the tenants are there, I’ll ask them what their utility bills usually cost and what the parking is like in the area. I’ll also ask why they’re moving. And in addition to walking through the place like our cats would, I also walk through as if I lived there. When I walk in the door, would there be a place to leave my coat and shoes? Is the bathroom off of the bedroom, meaning guests would have to walk through our bedroom to use it? If one of us is in the kitchen and the other is plopped on the couch, could we still keep a conversation without yelling? Are there plenty of outlets? Are the light switches in convenient places–I once lived in a place where the kitchen light switch was behind the refrigerator. Where does the cable come in from?
  • The building we live in has to have laundry and it being in the apartment itself is a huge plus. It’s a dealbreaker if it doesn’t. With us both being runners, we just generate too much laundry to have to be lugging it all around.
  • Most apartments are listed in many different places and with multiple realtors. I’ve even found some that are listed on one site with a broker’s fee and on another site stating there’s no fee.
  • If you’re looking in an area where apartments go really quickly and the listing or realtor is trying extra hard to sell you on a place, beware. In a location like Jersey City, the best places are often snatched up in a matter of days. Realtors know this so they know they don’t need to sell you on a good apartment. It’ll sell itself. If they are selling hard, that likely means there’s likely a reason for it.
  • On the same note, places that have been available for more than a few weeks scare me. Why as it not been rented already?
  • Don’t get your hopes hopes up before seeing a place. Most places have listings that make them sound amazing, but are no where near as amazing in person.
  • Shop around, but if you find some you really like, jump on it.
  • An extra set of eyes can be really helpful and provide a perspective you haven’t thought of. Our friend Dori lives in Jersey City and  looked at one place with us. It was nice to have her perspective. Another friend came with me the other night when my wife wasn’t able to come. He recently moved to Jersey City so he just went through the process and was able to compare to the places he looked at.

What do you look for in an apartment? When was the last time you searched? How many places did you look at?

12

I hate stuff

This past Saturday, I had dinner with a few friends from home. Afterwards, I went back to my one friend’s house to watch the movie Snowpiercer. Of the group I had dinner with, he’s by far the one I’m closest with. We’ve been friends for literally half my life and he was in our wedding party. He was one of the first people who ever knew I was trans. I was around 16 when I told him and I really didn’t even know what it was I was trying to tell him at the time.

After watching the movie, we went down to his basement and were talking about his reasonably extensive record collection. This kind of thing happens rather often when I’m at his house and our conversation went more or less the same as it usually does when we talk about records. I mentioned that the older I get, the less I want to own. Not records, everything. It’s not the first time I’ve said this, but I find myself saying it more and more lately.

Owning stuff really doesn’t make me happy at all. In our culture, we’re all supposed to want more and be perfect little consumers, but I’m simply not interested. Currently, I own kind of a lot of stuff. I use very little of it, but I’ve kept most of it around “just in case.”

My wife and I rent a two-bedroom townhouse. One of these days, we’ll buy a house, but that’s been a bit on the back burner until we figure out where it is we even want to live. In the meantime, we’ve got more stuff than we know where to put. I believe the last time I went up to the attic, I came back down with a firm declaration that we’ve officially hit capacity up there. Our downstairs closets are beyond full. I even have my bike wedged between the furnace and the hot water heater. Trying to remove anything from these closets results on a very cartoon-esque avalanche of crap. The closet in our second bedroom/office is just as bad, possibly worse, and my wife’s closet is straight up exploding. While my dresser is exploding with clothes, my closet is still rather empty since my entire wardrobe was literally (literally) started from zero a year ago. This is my last free sanctuary of available space and I am guarding it with my life.

We have a lot of stuff.

I don’t know where I accumulated it all from, but it showed up over the years. Despite the fact that we have central air, we have two window air conditioner units. We have a spare dining room table and chairs. We have two waffle makers. I have at least ten computer motherboards, two dozen hard drives, and half a dozen optical drives laying around unused. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you from an inventory of our belongings.

Owning this stuff is nothing less than a burden. It takes up space that we don’t have enough of. We can’t find places to put new stuff when we get it and we can’t get at the stuff we already have because it’s crammed into a closet somewhere with a bazillion other things in front and on top of it. When we moved here, we packed a 17′ U-Haul truck so tightly that I’m fairly certain there wouldn’t have been enough room left for a matchbook. And this was after I had already made five or six trips back and forth in my car. When we leave here, it’ll be the same story.

I hate this.

With few exceptions, none of this stuff makes me happy and I use very little of it. Things like my computer, phone, iPad, and camera enable happiness for me, but their mere existence in my life does not provide any value or happiness. These items enable experiences, emotions, and connections, but they are, themselves, nothing more than portals to those feelings. The rest of the stuff? It’s just…there. It’s taking up space. It does nothing for me. And I don’t want it anymore.

This is much of the reason I don’t like collecting things like records. Sure, I don’t have the interest in collecting anything right now anyway–I used to have a rather large movie collection–but I, mostly, just don’t want to deal with it. Collections take up too much space and require too much…I don’t know…thinking about.

I used to big a huge gadget and technology nerd (still am, but not in the same way). There was a period of a couple years where I had six computers running in the house. Six. I used to come up with all kinds of reasons why, but I couldn’t give you one good one right now. I guess, I just always enjoyed playing with computers and gadgets and crap. Even when I was just a single-digit number of years old, I loved it. But a few years ago, I tired of dealing with maintaining them. I still liked playing around with things, but it became a burden instead of something I enjoyed. A hard disk would die in my server and I’d spend two days juggling around a pile of drives so I could eventually re-build a RAID5 array. Or I’d spend a night trying out a bunch of different distributions of Linux instead of having dinner with my wife. It was easy for me to say I enjoyed it and it was my hobby, but I struggled to admit the reality that I felt more like a prisoner to my computer setup than anything else. These things took over my life. When they didn’t work–they never did because I was always fucking around with them–I would stress over it and let it ruin my whole day. I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night until everything was fixed.

These days, my setup is much simpler. I have my MacBook Pro as my main computer, an iPad for reading, all my photos and music stored on a Drobo, and a Chromecast (which I just got to replace our Boxee Box that recently died) for playing video on the TV. I have two different backups that run automatically to keep my data safe and I don’t worry about it. This setup requires almost zero maintenance and it makes me happy.

To quote Fight Club, “the things you own end up owning you.” This couldn’t better describe how I feel. To repeat myself a bit, this stuff is little more than burden. Not only does it not make me happy, but it actively takes away from my life and my happiness. I wouldn’t be surprised if, one of these days, I got completely fed up with it all and carried 80% of the things I own out to the dumpster. And if that doesn’t happen, I’ll certainly purge most of this stuff the next time we move. Some of it I’ll sell, but most of it will be trashed.

I don’t think I’m being particularly radical or pioneering in my desire to rid my life of most possessions and I certainly am not thrilled about sounding like a hippie, but this is just where I’m at in my life. If I don’t need it or I don’t use it, I don’t want it anymore. I would much rather spend my time, energy, and money on experiences…and food.