Category: rants

My AltConf 2016 talk: Sell Out and Save the World!

My AltConf 2016 talk: Sell Out and Save the World!

Woohoo! I’m so excited! Last year I spoke at AltConf in San Francisco during Apple’s WWDC week. I’m really proud of the talk I gave—I had refined it a bunch, tested it in front of different audiences, and poured a lot of my soul into it. (And yes, a lot of emojis.)

It’s a little bit about how to feel OK having a corporate job. It’s a little bit about diversity in tech. It’s a little bit about why online dating sucks. If any of that sounds interesting to you, please watch it!

(And feel free to let me know what you think, but you know, be gentle with your constructive criticism. I’ve literally never given a talk at a conference before.) <3!

Sell Out and Save the World – AltConf 2016 (best viewed on a bigger screen so you can follow the slides. And none of the videos or animations play in this slide processing, but if you’re DYING to see the Taylor Swift Apple Music ad, go here.)

Xcoders rehearsal of my AltConf talk

Xcoders rehearsal of my AltConf talk

I know I’ve been posting videos galore lately, but all the links are coming to me at once! :) Here’s my run-through of the talk I eventually gave at AltConf, for the Seattle Xcoders Meetup.

Three things of note (at least to me):

I know this shirt didn’t read great on camera. I had to rush from work, it sucked. I won’t make this mistake again!

Also in the vanity field, though, I have no idea why this camera is SO unflattering! I feel like it widened me by like 30%, haha. Just watch the slides, OK?

It went over better than you can hear; we didn’t have the audience audio captured so it’s hard to tell when my jokes actually get laughs but I swear they do. However, I gained stage presence and improved and changed the talk A LOT for AltConf, so when I do eventually post that version you should watch it too or just trust that it’s better, haha.

Enjoy!

Donut.JS lightning talk

Donut.JS lightning talk

Back in late May, I spoke at DonutJS, a totally rad Meetup organized by a bunch of Portland tech wonder-folk. It’s such a great and fun community! I highly encourage folks to attend and/or present if they’re in Portland and can swing it.

This was my first-ever public speaking gig! OK, I guess second, since I spoke to a Meetup group of all of three people about social media one time in like 2013. And I’m always the MC of App Camp for Girls in Seattle, and I’ve been leading webinars for my Microsoft job for months. But still, it was my first “someone asked me to speak at a thing and I said yes!” engagement.

It was challenging because I knew I was later going to speak at AltConf, which was a much longer time slot—10 minutes at DonutJS vs. 45 minutes at AltConf. So I had to choose where I wanted to chop things apart and which points I wanted to focus on. In the end, even though the App Camp discussion was more personally meaningful, I thought the online dating failure arc made for a better ten-minute story for a semi-technical audience, so I went with it. I hope you enjoy; I’ll post the longer AltConf version as soon as it’s out!

iMore piece on Apple Watch bands

iMore piece on Apple Watch bands

Hey y’all! In case you missed the tweet, I worked my old Apple Watch band blog post into a piece for iMore this week. Enjoy! (Or rage-comment, if that’s your thing! I employed my good husband to filter the useful constructive criticism so I don’t have to read the parts that make me want to bury the entire internet under a little stone cairn in the backyard and never look back.) Cheers!At least "she" comes first here, right?

 

This picture makes me mad all over again every dang time I see it, heh. But hey, it prompted me to add the category “feminism” which I’ve apparently never done before. So thanks Apple, I guess? :)

Do you want your smartwatch to look like jewelry?

Do you want your smartwatch to look like jewelry?

I just had an interesting Twitter chat with Joe Macirowski about our various Apple Watch impressions. Joe said the 42 mm watch face was nicer to use, but that the 38 looked like jewelry, which he preferred. This seems worth exploring to me. Because I don’t *want* my smartwatch to look like jewelry.

I definitely think Apple’s smartwatch is the most elegantly designed product in wearable tech. I haven’t spent loads of time up close with any Pebble, but I’ve seen them enough to know that they’re not quite there for me, aesthetics wise. I dislike every fitness band and Moto thing I’ve laid eyes on.

If I could afford one of the swankier Apple Watch versions (likely the Rose Gold Edition with the Rose Gray band), I’d be much happier with the aesthetics… but ultimately, I still want the thing to *look like tech.*

I don’t wear a watch now. I haven’t worn a watch since the early 2000s, when I had a cheap stainless steel Fossil tank watch designed (I think) to knock off some high-end Cartier model. I started carrying a cell phone shortly after buying this watch, so I mostly wore that watch because it helped me look and feel and be more professional.

I was young—fresh out of college—and I was applying for jobs wearing a suit. (It’s sort of a trauma-induced thing after being sexually harassed by one of my first bosses—the more professional and serious you seem, the less likely you are to get hit on when the clock hits 5:01. Or so I told myself.)

I was also trying to be part of a corporate world that I didn’t yet realize wasn’t for me. I didn’t know what I wanted career-wise, but the work I found was administrative stuff in law offices and dressier-seeming corporations.

I didn’t yet know software was Land of the T-Shirt; I didn’t know games were Land of the Combat Boots. (I also didn’t know that both were fields where you’d get sexually harassed as a woman no matter what you wore, perhaps even more so than the aforementioned law offices.) I didn’t know I liked software or games or helping people figure out their online dating profiles. I was new at this whole Being Adult thing.

Wearing a watch on my wrist meant I was trying to display affluence, togetherness, formality—traits I didn’t actually possess at the time. Now I wear what I want and what flatters me for entirely different reasons… and I’m a hell of a lot better at spotting and shutting down harassers. (It helps that I left working in an environment full of the kind of day-to-day microagressions all women in tech face all the damn time. Sorry to make this watch post slightly political, but you know, it’s still depressingly relevant, so.)

Now, if I were to wear a dumbwatch, it would be almost entirely for aesthetics. It would have to be SO attractive (and water-resistant and easy to read) that I didn’t mind it getting in the way when I typed, or the extra weight it put on my wrist. It would have to kick ASS design-wise, and somehow still be affordable for my tiny indie budget.

Apple’s smartwatches are very pretty, but they’re not THAT pretty—especially not the ones I can afford. Therefore, I want the biggest watch face possible on a smartwatch, not just because it’s easier to read and use, but also because I want a watch that screams “I AM TECHNOLOGY!”

I want my smartwatch to make it clear that I didn’t buy a watch like this because *that’s my taste*—hell no. (If it were purely up to taste, I’d be in a thick Cartier tank watch with a band made from some kind of magically-no-longer-threatened species’s leather.) I want a smartwatch to communicate at a glance that this is a compromise between form and function. That I have better taste than that when it comes to actual decorative jewelry.

And hey, as a woman interested in tech, it doesn’t hurt to wear a new first-wave gadget that automatically telegraphs a certain geeky streak and technical prowess to the men I meet at conferences and events. Plenty of them still assume from my gender and appearance that I’m less educated, intelligent, capable, technical, etc. than the men at the table.

A watch that screams TEEEECCHH does me a lot of little favors socially and professionally. My old dumbwatch tried to convince people I was something I’m not, whereas a smartwatch that looks like tech tries to help people understand who I actually am.

 

 

Edited to add: since you read all the way here, I’m including bonus content. Lucky you! (?)

Buying vintage stuff online

Buying vintage stuff online

I’ve long been skittish about buying vintage stuff online. But my taste has been skewing more antiques-y over the years, and lots of older furniture is built better than the stuff you can get at a reasonable price point these days. So I’ve been slightly emboldened lately.

I read tips from savvy bloggers like Emily Henderson and Jenny Komenda, and I see loads of curated collections on sites like Chairish and One King’s Lane. I feel like I’ve done my homework. But it’s not enough, people. It’s never enough.

I’m picky, you know? I’m a former software tester.  I’m an online dating coach now. I’m paid to notice the little details other people aren’t bothered by. I often see new products online that look great, but prove disappointing in person. (This is so often the case with Target furniture—little stuff like side tables are fine, but anything you need to sit on or open/close doors/drawers on is worthless.)

So buying a vintage chandelier online was kind of terrifying. But it had to be done! Grant and I have been trying to agree on a new lighting fixture basically since the day we bought our house in 2011. Nothing that we both like was ever in a reasonable budget.

When I spotted this mid-century gem on One King’s Lane for $200-ish, I fretted and dithered, tried to buy it and couldn’t because it was on hold, and eventually managed to snap it up. (I actually researched the brand, Laurel, and saw loads of Laurel Lighting pieces for thousands of bucks on 1st Dibs. So I figured if it didn’t work out in person I could always resell it.)

chandelier

Looks fine, right? Clean and modern and masculine and a little space-agey and mid-century, but not so aggressively so that it feels like it needs a home full of Eames chairs and those retro offset legs I hate so much. Unique but not in-your-face spiky-Sputnik weird. And while the fixture is brass, it’s a soft, brushed brass that fits in with our 1946 home’s hardware without clashing with the adjacent stainless-steel-filled kitchen.

I went out of my way to create contingency plans. I asked One King’s Lane what would happen if the fixture arrived broken, and whether I would in fact be stuck with a no-refunds purchase in that instance. (They said no, though I imagine it’s a real bitch to sort out after the fact.)

I even emailed One King’s Lane for more details about the fixture, since the listing didn’t tell me what size bulbs it took, nor did it show me the top of the fixture (thought it said it was “plug in”).  One King’s Lane reached out to their vintage vendor, who took several days to reply, and all they said was that it took “standard” bulbs and clarified that it had no canopy. They also sent this photo, which I guess was somewhat helpful, maybe? I felt better seeing another shot.

image

When I actually unboxed the thing and put it together (amazed that it arrived in one piece), I discovered that “standard” 60-watt sized bulbs don’t fit under the glass shades. This is *exactly* the kind of shit I emailed about, you know? ;) But 40-watt bulbs with the same “standard” (Type E26) base type fit just fine, so that’s OK.

(However, it *is* harder to find LED bulbs in that size, but I’ve done it before so I know I can do it again, even if I don’t have as much choice regarding LED color temperature at that not-that-standard size. Fine. I’m picky, but I can live with that, even though I still think “standard bulbs” would have been an insufficient/misleading reply for some customers out there. Google a fucking bulb type like I did, ya know?)IMG_2214

The thing is a little less pristine than I’d hope (pardon the cat, who insisted on being in the shot)—two of the legs are wobbly but I can’t figure out where there’s any hardware to tighten them, so I’m not sure if that will annoy us or need tweaking once it’s in place.

The whole thing is covered in a slightly sticky residue on all the metal and wood veneer parts, which is fine, probably, but kinda ew. You couldn’t clean it *before* selling it?

The glass shades have some minor damage/dark gray marks that are not visible in either of the pictures, but they’re subtle enough for me, even with the chips around the top which are more visible in person. The shades are more frosted and less opaque white, but OK. All in all, I think I still like the thing.

The brass chain (not shown to me super well in either pic) is unlacquered, whereas the brass on the actual fixture and most of its pole appears to have a lacquer finish that has protected it from aging. I actually *prefer* the natural patina of unlacquered brass, but it’s kind of annoying that it isn’t consistent, you know? And that that part of the equation really wasn’t clear before making this non-refundable purchase.

I’ll sort it out—I have to buy a canopy anyway, and the gal on Etsy who’s selling me mine gave me the option of buying an untreated brass one and she even said she’d burnish it a bit on her end to get the aging process going. I can look up tutorials and do some weird science experiments to alchemize it into a color that hopefully matches both areas well enough. That actually sounds fun. :)

The quirks, in the end, are acceptable to me. Especially since Grant and I have learned over the years that lighting fixtures are really hard, as evidenced by my overly exhaustive Pinterest lighting board—I dislike “boring” fixtures, Grant often dislikes “interesting” ones, and the only ones we agree on are super weird and like a thousand dollars. So this mid-century Laurel thing is a winner, warts and all.

I’m excited to get my canopy and get this sucker installed—getting this new fixture is the domino that set a bunch of other home improvement projects into motion. Yippee/goodbye money.

But I thought the buying experience kind of sucked, you know? And I just don’t think I’ll be comfortable buying anything again that’s “expensive” vintage if I can’t see it in person. No eBay rugs or Chairish sconces or 1st Dibs furniture (like I could afford it anyway).

Case in point:

milo

 

The other vintage piece I had my eye on from One King’s Lane is this ridiculously cool-seeming pair of Milo Baughman swivel chairs that are bafflingly well priced. We really need chairs that have a small footprint and low back, swivel to face the TV or the rest of the room as context demands, and are comfy enough for our giant bodies to sit and relax in. And ideally, you know, look amazing and coordinate with our existing stuff and don’t cost a ton.

Here’s how much help I got (same One King’s Lane form response as with the chandelier; emphasis mine:)

I have contacted the vendor and requested more information about the Milo Baughman Swivel Chairs, Pair. I will contact you as soon as I hear back from them, but it may take more than one business day. Please keep in mind that our sales typically last 72 hours and quantities are limited.

We want you to love every purchase you make at One Kings Lane. Unfortunately we are unable to cancel orders or accept returns on nonreturnable items.

I get that their hands are kind of tied here. I get that vintage reselling is hard. But that policy just feels like I can’t ever buy anything that needs to be sat in or messed with or tested, you know?

The chairs I have in mind are listed as being brown, but they look sort of red-orange to me. Red-orange we kind of like; it matches our rug. Brown we don’t; it doesn’t. A swatch would be amazing, but I’d settle for being told the fabric name and manufacturer so I can track down my own swatch (which takes time).

They’re listed as having all new upholstery, but it doesn’t specify if the foam/springs/etc. was also replaced or just the fabric. A chair with new foam/padding is probably comfy. A chair with 1960s foam and janky old springs probably isn’t.

The site lists their overall dimensions, but it doesn’t list the height, width, or depth of the seats, nor the heights of the armrests. We of House Roberts are giants, with tall bodies and wide asses. Dimensions matter a lot for us.

My first email about these chairs was March 27th. I don’t expect a reply that fully satisfies my every picky question within a time frame that would allow me to purchase these chairs, which I’m not sure I’d be comfortable doing sight unseen/ass unsat even if all the answers pleased me. Sigh.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the weirdo here. It sort of feels like how I held off on depositing checks with my phone until just a few months ago. Is buying old/nonreturnable stuff online just something everyone else is comfortable doing, and I’m the old-school brick-and-mortar holdout here? Or is it only fancy design bloggers who feel comfortable taking these retail risks?

If you care a lot about interior design, would you buy that perfect vintage piece online if you couldn’t inspect it in person, knowing it wasn’t returnable? Under what circumstances? Humor me! :)

Quit lying about cords and cables

Quit lying about cords and cables

Something has really been bugging me lately. As I’ve become increasingly obsessed with fancy shelter magazines and blogs in my quest to beautify our home, I’ve come to realize that those publications totally bullshit their readers.

The glossing over of cables and heaters and vents is as maddeningly deceptive to me as celebrities Photoshopping out their imperfections. I feel like all these helpful make-your-home-nice guides are presenting a completely unrealistic standard by hiding every cord and cable in their perfectly uninhabitable but elegant spaces.

Emily Henderson offered a helpful peek into that world in her recent post. I’m OK with some tweaks to sell a pretty magazine—like Photoshopping out how that one console thing totally bowed in the middle (I guess). I’m also fine with contrived styling for a perfect shot—I mean, I like when Emily posts realistic shots side by side to give a dose of reality, but I accept that a stylist and designer is mainly going to post designed and styled images.

Right = truth, left = LIES. (All images via Emily Henderson’s blog.)

But I dislike LIES (which were clearly at Domino’s behest, not Emily’s. I don’t fault her, I fault the industry!) Little beautifications I get. But removing unsightly but NECESSARY elements like heaters and cords pisses me off on principle; it’s like pretending we don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. These innovations have an aesthetic tax. Admit it, embrace it, and show me how to work around it, dammit!

Anyway, in my reality, heaters and cords exist and it sucks. Heaters can be hard to work around, for sure. I’m glad we now live in a home with forced air vents instead of baseboard heaters—those are both ugly and a major fire hazard! We just have to get stuff that sits up on legs and allows heaters to flow air underneath.

But oh, the cords. THE CORDS! Cord management is my single biggest annoyance in the two rooms I care most about, appearances-wise—our living room and my office.

Here, for example, is my new media console solution, complete with the consoles that mainly belong to my video game designer of a husband:

Trust me that this is the Extremely Pretty version.

Looks busy but decent enough, right? (Try to ignore the giant white cable on the right; I refuse to/have no idea how to Photoshop it out. It’ll be gone once we rewire the outlet because blah blah 1947 house.)

And here it is in relation to our TV, in case that helps explain the context of the entire space and its constraints:

Bonus points for noticing the crooked Wii sensor bar!

But here’s my secret efforts to make it look even this okay:

Don't even get me STARTED about how no blogs ever show rooms with honeycomb blinds like these.

See? There’s a huge mass of cables I’ve only somewhat concealed. You can see them if you look at the whole console at a fully level height, but it’s so low that mostly you can only see the tangle back there when you’re sitting on the couch and deliberately looking for cords. Possible, but not super likely.

Oh, and here’s my other sneaky trick: be careful with those curtains!

HUZZAH!

Yeah, these lightweight silk curtains are kind of puffed out from the wall because they’re basically concealing an entire R2D2 chassis width of just cable knots back there.

If I lived my life in the Domino Universe, I could just magically wish away these sorts of mortal tech-loving concerns. Instead, I spent hundreds on curtains plus hardware for the entire space in part to disguise this sort of cordage. I obsessively measured and fretted for months and pinned media storage solutions that were low-profile and kept that space feeling light and airy enough but still offered enough storage to fit all our consoles, somehow, yet breathed enough to let them all vent sufficiently (a real problem that glass-doored media consoles fail to address, FYI) and allowed our heater to heat. I stacked books and arranged lamps and pretty baskets filled with DVDs to conceal the worst of the cords. And it’s still nowhere near as schmancy as a magazine would tolerate. Which I’m OK with, but I wish they were, too!

I would MUCH rather buy a magazine that showed me expensive but insanely clever tricks for, say, building cord-management conduits directly into your walls, than faking that they just didn’t exist. Hell, I have this entire board of TV and media console disguises. I ought to start a board just for managing cord concealment options. Domino sure as hell isn’t going to do it for me!

I was on some podcasts

I was on some podcasts

Hey folks, I was on a couple podcasts. I forgot to blog about them (or maybe I just skipped it because it felt redundant). Want to give them a listen? OK then!

Systematic #117 with Brett Terpstra—Brett is a rad nerd and we talked about a number of nerdy and non-nerdy things, including pets, kids, fertility treatment, image,  identity, selfies, selfishness, teenagers apps, development, speaking, Myers-Briggs whatnot, and more. I forget the rest. It was fun. Really fun. Oh, and mind-mapping. And working. And time. And productivity. Nerd stuff. Fun!

Less than or Equal #13 with Aleen Simms—Aleen is a fantastic advocate for diversity within geekdom and we talked about feminists, feminism, sexism, horrible employers, horrible workplaces, horrible comments, horrible experiences, and why you shouldn’t discredit anonymous stories you hear from women who have experienced insane levels of sexism and harassment and other bullshit. It was fun even though we both sighed in disgust a lot! Sometimes sighing is necessary!

Oh, and I was on some other even less recent podcasts. Want me to link to them too? OK then!

Better Know a Jackal #9 with Mike Beasterfeld—we talked about podcasts and TV and movies and games and linguistics and productivity and App Camp 4 Girls and ergonomics and some other stuff. Apparently I talked quite fast, even for me, which we both knew might happen, or at least I did. The only feedback I got on the episode was that I talked fast or that it was utterly fascinating, so I guess that’s a net positive, so maybe you should listen if you like fascinating things discussed at breakneck pace I guess? I am horribly biased here so don’t trust my input. Look at the show notes to get a sense of just how fast the talking was.

Tech Douchebags #8 with Jordan Cooper—I was on this a WHILE back and I think I forgot to ever blog-link it or maybe I decided not to because it was pretty profane but then again I write profane things here occasionally and am known to say them even more often so maybe that’s silly and anyway here is a snarkier show I was on with the hilarious Jordan back in May. It was snarky and fun! Jordan is both of those things! Not everyone needs an online dating coach!

Happy listening! Blame yourself if you think an episode is going to upset you based on the contents or opinions I’ve alluded to and then you listen to it and it does! You were kind of warned! OK then!

Notes to self about buying tech

Notes to self about buying tech

Always spring for the biggest hard drive possible. On any device. Yes, even if it costs several hundred dollars more than the option you think is big enough. It’s not.

Always get AppleCare now that it covers screen breakage and water damage (at least sometimes; non-binding; consult your local annoying Genius for details; not a Genius).

Always get the most RAM possible.

Always get the best processor possible.

Always check the MacRumors Buyers’ Guide in case they’re about to release an update to whatever you’re about to buy.

Always set up as a new machine instead of importing old machine stuff, even though it’s 2014 and this probably shouldn’t have to be on your list at this point.

Always get at least one extra charger/charging cable. Always buy them first-party. Quit wasting time with the Amazon Basics cables whose heads are too big to fit elegantly into any port ever. Also quit wasting time with the cheap no-brand ones for a dollar that wear out in 1/10th the time of the expensive first-party cables (which do eventually wear out right around when your normal warranty expires).

Always set a calendar reminder to check your hardware including cables before your warranty/AppleCare plan expires, leaving enough time to schedule an appointment via the proper Genius channels to demonstrate your frayed cable.

Always be careful when unplugging stuff from cables (hahaha yeah right).

Always follow up on said calendar reminder, even though we all know it should have been an OmniFocus task with a due date instead.

Always buy all software via the developer site instead of the Mac App Store version that then can’t be upgraded except for an insane fee. (Even if the blog post you’re typing is peppered with affiliate links for the Mac App Store version of software.)

Always turn off the thing that automatically adds apps across multiple devices.

Always leave on that annoying “launch iPhoto upon plugin” setting because otherwise you will forget forever and run out of space because of pictures you took of your cat.

Always actually plug in your iPhone whenever you sit at your computer because you need to remember to offload those cat pics so you can take more cat pics unencumbered even though you have very little space left because of all those apps you accidentally synced to your phone.

Always remember not to plug your iPhone in during any important conversation or process because the launching of iPhoto will crash whatever task you’re currently urgently doing.

Always put off sorting your photos until the collection has taken up so much hard drive space as to become untenable.

Always pay for the pro plan of Dropbox and don’t think about it again, just use the shit out of it because you cheaped out on hard drive space so now you’re beholden to the Cloud Gods to store all your shit for recurring monthly fees because there’s no way you’re going to be able to safely upgrade your hard drive now.

Always pay for the recurring monthly fees of reputable online backup services like Backblaze even if it seems hypocritical given how much you resent paying for Dropbox.

Always be nice to customer service people because you feel bad about that time you bitched the Dropbox CSA out because he wouldn’t give you a refund after you misunderstood that it wasn’t compatible with Time Machine* and you ended up needing a different service on top of the service you got from Dropbox but then it turned out to be really useful to have a giant paid Dropbox account after all.

Always read the specs before you pay for software assuming specific and critical functionality exists when in fact it doesn’t.

Always pay attention when Backblaze and Dropbox start to yell at you that they can’t fully update your shit because you have too little hard drive space left. Pay more attention when Mac OS starts yelling about it too. Pay even more attention when every single podcast suddenly simultaneously has CleanMyMac as a sponsor as if the entire technosphere is yelling at you. Always listen and buy the goddamn software you clearly need at this point.

Always pay for the full version up front.

Always run it immediately.

Always delete what it says.

Always explore deeper ways you can leverage it to free up more hard drive space so you don’t run into this problem again next week.

Always spring for the biggest hard drive possible.

 

 

*Always wonder why Apple puts a space between Time and Machine but not between Apple and Care. But mostly just get bigger hard drives, dummy.