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Let’s all cry at conferences

I just got back from xoxofest; I almost immediately set upon writing this piece on Medium.

… I cried a lot. And so did a lot of other people I know there. And we were all sorta embarrassed/ashamed. Which is weird, if you think about it, because if it’s common enough that lots of us did it, why isn’t it more normalized?

Give it a read and/or recommend if you like. It seems like it has legs, because a lot of people really resonated with what I said—I’m quite a bit prouder of this than most of my work that ends up going modestly viral, because this one feels more meaningful and emotional and less, you know, retail based or silly tech humor based.

Oh, and if you’re a Twitter-like person, maybe you feel like RTing it instead? I don’t know. Do whatever you want. I had fun writing it.

Here are a few after-the-fact notes and questions:

  1. Most people got that my parenthetical in the above tweet was totally a deliberate parody of shitty clickbaity article headlines from sites like Upworthy etc., but two guys replied being like “ew, no way will I touch that icky clickbaity link.” I like to think I had actually conveyed the parody pretty well, by deliberately frontloading the actual thing the article was about before listing the joke headline, and also stripping capitalization which is counter to my usual Serious Person Style Guide vibe (which only people who know me and pay attention to that sort of thing would pick up on). But what do you think? Given character limits, are there any tricks you flippant-yet-serious writers would have employed to more clearly convey that that parenthetical was satire/a joke? Would you just kill it? Would you worry about people misinterpreting it, or trust that those who got it were more your people anyway, or what? I’m genuinely curious now.
  2. I thought about including a header image in the post, but I didn’t really feel like it needed one, and I dislike the modern blog trend of having to come up with images when most of what I actually want to convey can be done via text, and I wasn’t sure about copyright issues if I used the amazing HBO show Enlightened’s cover art with Laura Dern, so I didn’t go that route, and I didn’t want to have to spend a stock photo credit on a post since I generally use those for my business only, and I seriously considered trying to find a pic of me crying but then I was like “I’d have to stage it to get that full mascara-runny effect and that seems like too much work” so I didn’t, but then all my social media preview tools pulled this image from my Medium.com bio, and that’s kind of the opposite of a crying lady so it felt like a weird unintended juxtaposition to me, and only some sites let you strip out the image preview in a native link preview, and hey for once Facebook is doing something better than all the other sites, and anyway how would you fellow blogger types have handled THAT mouthful? ;)
  3. I also thought about posting it here and cross-posting it to Medium, because I’m big on personal blogs and putting my weight behind something that I run and control as opposed to throwing in with whatever the new trendy outlet is, but I actually really love the blogging experience on Medium and I love the way comments/footnotes work and I struggle to replicate that on my own WordPress-based site and I tend to do a bunch of little fine-tuney edits all over the place and I didn’t want to have to keep track of them in two places so I just posted the whole thing there instead and linked to it here, but now these numbered things have become weighty enough that they’re sort of worth exploring (I think?) and I’ve bifurcated this very blog post experience from the far more visible Medium one and maybe that’s a mistake? Guess what…. can you guess? I’m also curious how you’d handle THAT.

OK, done now. Bye for now, Internet!

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? :)

NSBrief and Watchscreen

Back in June, I was interviewed by Saul Mora on NSBrief Podcast, talking about app development and whatnot despite having very little voice left after a busy WWDC week! Give it a listen here.

And earlier today, I was featured on Mark D. Mill’s “Watchscreen” series, talking about how I use my Apple Watch. You can peruse that here.

Happy geeking!

 

 

Here's my not-particularly-well-organized Watch screen.

My red and gold Edition review

I recently purchased an Edition in red and gold. Given that this was an expensive item, I wanted to review it thoroughly in case it helps anyone else make this purchase decision.

Shipping

My Edition came in time for me to bring it to WWDC, but it cut it a little close. It would have been nice to see a more specific delivery date, or for the package to have been delivered closer to when I ordered it. But I know Apple is big on pre-hyping stuff and I heard there were supply constraints with this model.

I saw a couple other people wearing this and other Edition models throughout the week, so I’m glad it worked out for us all to receive this product in time to show it off.

Packaging

The packaging was VERY disappointing compared to most Apple products. I can’t believe it. I had also ordered an Apple Watch Sport on launch day, and that product came with an incredible unboxing experience.

This Edition was just packed in a basic foam bubble pack, leaving much to be desired. They really dropped the ball here. The one upside is that I felt no guilt or concern about immediately recycling the packaging, and I definitely didn’t feel the need to Periscope opening it this time.

Gold quality

I had heard rumors about some special thing where the gold is mixed with ceramic to make it more durable. That doesn’t seem to have helped in this case. The gold part puckers and pulls over some parts but not others, making it look inconsistent and cheaper than an Edition-level product should look, in my opinion. It also stretches more over the uppert part of the bezel than the lower part. This may just be how any version would work on my body, but it’s a bummer.

I bought this item to showcase my poor financial judgment and be part of an elite club, but also to look *good*, you know? The gold should look better than the steel or sport options and I’m not sure it was worth the extra money.

Red quality

The red is slightly different than in photos; a little more blue and a little less orange. I’m mostly okay with this, but it made it hard to match other accesories like a lipstick ahead of time. (I’m obsessive and like matching things.) An exact Pantone value would have been awesome, but I know Apple didn’t do that for their Sport bands either so I’m not that surprised, I’d just appreciate that much more attention to detail in the future. It’s not like I’m going to file a radar or anything though.

However, my main disappointment comes with the way the red part wears over time. When I first put it on, it seemed too long and too short. That continues to be the case, with the largest women’s size possible. I’m disappointed that it wouldn’t fit my female colleagues, but I’m even more disappointed that a) it got even shorter after I attempted to clean it, and b) it got a bit tougher instead of getting softer the way most leather products do over time. It definitely felt like the overall size and shape were designed by men for men without much thought to female wearers.

Overall purchase decision

Despite these shortcomings, I’m happy with my red and gold Edition. I got lots of compliments, knowing nods, and “Nice Edition” head nods during the week of WWDC. Marco and Casey from ATP even commented on it. Athough shelling out for an Edition was an extravagance, I think it was worth it. I would probably purchase a red and gold Edition again if a new model were offered, especially if there were improvments in the design or ordering process.

Oh, and I saw a few people complaining on Twitter about how stupid you’d have to be to spend money on an Edition, but I’m pretty sure they’re just jealous.

apple watch

 

(And hey, when I’m not trolling you with gag reviews, I’m helping people figure out online dating and modern love in general. If this intrigues you, maybe you should subscribe to my blog, podcast, or newsletter!)

(And oh yeah, go donate to the App Camp for Girls Indiegogo Campaign! I will add some sort of unofficial hand-drawn-or-written personal thank-you perk if you donate more than $100 based on this blog post call to action right here. Honor system. Make me proud, nerds.)

Why I volunteer with App Camp for Girls

You’ve probably heard of App Camp for Girls by now, right? It’s a fantastic organization founded by Jean MacDonald, who is a friend of mine as well as a an amazing, smart, experienced, well-connected, fun, patient, and tireless advocate for women in tech. The camp helps middle school age girls learn about mobile app development, from ideas to coding to pitching investors. I was the MC for Seattle’s camp last year, and will be again this year. I also help organize and recruit as much as I can.

I wanted to take a minute to write about why I’m so passionate about App Camp for Girls and women in tech in general. I think a lot of people (particularly men) I’ve worked with over the years assume that things are pretty darn OK for women in tech. Well, guess what—they’re not! :( They weren’t when we worked together in a tech job back in 2007, and they aren’t now. Things have actually been pretty terrible for women in tech, myself included, and in some ways are only getting worse. That’s why App Camp for Girls is so important to me, and why I think it should be important for you, too.

I’ve been sexually harassed, passed up for countless advancement opportunities, and generally regarded as less than my male counterparts in every tech role I’ve held. I’ve also bought into this myself, assuming I was less capable or knowledgeable even when I was confronted with evidence to the contrary. Even when I had capable, technical female managers as role models. This stuff runs VERY deep. But I think if I’d encountered more targeted support such as App Camp for Girls at a younger age, it would have had an impact in my overall career trajectory as well as my confidence in my own potential.

AC4G

Here’s me, frizzy and exhausted, as I prepare to record a podcast from the App Camp for Girls HQ.

Let me tell you a story from my own adolescence. When I was a junior in high school on Bainbridge Island (a suburb of Seattle), I took a short trip to the Bay Area to visit college campuses. A friend of the family took me under her wing, introduced me to people she knew, drove me all over the area, and generally made it exciting to look into college life. I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do with myself career-wise, but it was a rad trip that left me feeling like my future was full of promise.

On the plane ride home, I ended up sitting next to a woman who worked as a developer at Microsoft. We got to chatting, and she mentioned that she could go to work in much the same attire she had on the plane—Birkenstocks with socks (hey, it was 1998), jeans, and a non-ratty sweatshirt. I was in AWE. The idea of having a proper grown-up job where you could NOT WEAR A SUIT was kind of mind-blowing to me at that age.

I remember thinking to myself, right then and there, “What a shame I’ll never get to work somewhere cool and chill like Microsoft.” You see, because I fully believed, at age sixteen, that I wasn’t capable of being technically savvy enough to work at a software company.

By the way, after I graduated high school, I ended up attending an all-female college with a strong STEM program. But the damage had already been done by then—I didn’t think I could possibly survive as a CS major, so I pursued another path (linguistics) despite being surrounded by incredibly capable and technical role models and classmates.

Why on earth would I think I couldn’t work in tech?

It wasn’t because of my awesome badass career-driven mom, who had been working in a complex field her entire career. It wasn’t because of my encouraging driven dad, who had been nagging me about how smart I was in math and science since birth. It wasn’t because of my innate abilities, because trust me, I’ve now worked at some tech companies and there are plenty of folks less innately tech-capable than myself. So what was it?

Society. My lame condescending boyfriend at the time. My teachers. The entire educational system. The entire culture! Books I read, movies I saw, TV I watched, games I played, men who talked over me or condescended to me, women who implicitly coached me to pursue female-friendly fields. Who the hell knows? It was EVERYTHING about our world.

If a program like App Camp for Girls had come along when I first started getting excited about computers and realistic career possibilities, I might have taken a different approach to my education and my post-college work. Heck, I remember coding games with my dad on our Commodore 64, and chatting with random people via something called Q-Link on an incredibly basic modem. There was such an exciting appeal to computers and technology and the early Internet back then—where did that excitement go? Why is it that, by the time I reached high school, I was *certain* I had no place in that world?

Sexist biases start young

Here’s another story: when I was about three, I had a book that my parents would read me about careers. In it, the doctor was a woman, and the nurse was a man. I got *so distraught* by this, and regularly engaged my parents about how they must have made a mistake in making this book (future tester in the making!), because it was so weird to me that there were ladydocs and dudenurses in this book. That wasn’t *correct*, according to my knowledge of the world.

THREE YEARS OLD. Can you think of any explanations other than ALL OF SOCIETY, even at an amazingly young age, teaching me to conform to crappy gender norms? Ugh.

This is why I volunteer. This is why I donate my time and energy and hardware and connections and expertise. This is why I uncomfortably ask for money, tap people I barely feel competent about emailling, tweet at famous folks who don’t usually give me the time of day. This is why I force the conversation towards donations, towards equality, towards feminism, towards topics that sometimes feel too frequently discussed or burdensome in some social situations. This is why I bug everyone I know on Facebook and Twitter and beyond to get involved, to donate, to like, to share, to comment. I do it so my future three-year-old daughter won’t have already made up her mind about what she can’t do for a living, because that is INSANE.

How you can help us

You don’t have to be a woman to help us. You don’t have to have a daughter. You don’t have to volunteer your time, or even donate money. You can still help a TON!

Donate what you can afford, and ask others to chip in. Corporate relationships are particularly valuable, as they can often afford to sponsor more than any given individual. All of your donation info can be found at http://appcamp4girls.com/contribute/. Make sure your employers know about us. Ask about donation matching policies. Really dig deep to see if you can increase the reach of smaller individual contributions.

Volunteer your time, sponsor a team, or connect us with people who might be good volunteers or sponsors. Volunteer info can be found at http://appcamp4girls.com/volunteer/. The most helpful thing you can do is to fill out the form on this page, so we can capture you in our system and tap you when the appropriate need arises.

Share our Indiegogo fundraising campaign with your world! Comment on the post, donate there even if you’ve already donated elsewhere. Pay attention to our milestones and stretch goals, and consider helping us get over hurdles as the campaign progresses. Info about the campaign can be found at http://igg.me/at/appcamp4girls/x/3845393.

Like us on Facebook and share our statuses, possibly with your own custom message. Tag people you think might like to be involved. Tell stories about how gender inequality has affected you or people close to you. Take a second to personalize your sharing from time to time, so that people understand and relate to the cause and feel more compelled to engage. Put up with the fact that I use words like “engage” when talking about this stuff. :)

Follow us on Twitter. All of us. Signal-boost our voices by retweeting important messages, and tagging people you think would be interested in volunteering, donating, or otherwise furthering our cause. Consider keeping us un-muted even when we might be noisier than your typical following habits permit—recognize that hearing our voices at full volume is a small part of effecting change. It helps you and everyone you follow understand the very real struggles that women in tech face even in 2015, and it helps normalize a more balanced and diverse gender breakdown in tech and in general. Twitter lists of all App Camp for Girls volunteers can be found at https://twitter.com/superpuppy/lists/app-camp-for-girls/members and https://twitter.com/macgenie/lists/ac4g. We’ll consolidate at some point. For now, just click twice; you can handle it. :P

Follow us on Instagram. C’mon, that stuff’s just fun! ;)

-Remember that no matter how great an ally you are, you (and I and all of us) still have room to learn and grow. We probably harbor implicit biases and internalized sexism that takes FOREVER to dismantle. We’ve probably been accidentally sexist or judgmental in a way that harms our own cause at some point. We have to aim to do better moving forward, but we can’t let every misstep hold us back. Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with us, and be gentle with everyone you encounter as you try to help us all bridge the significant gender gap in STEM fields. This is a moving, shifting, learning process for all of us. It’s hard work, and it sometimes puts us all in an uncomfortable position, but the end goal is so totally worth it.

Thanks for reading and for your support—see you around WWDC next week!

 

 

Why I kept my Apple Watch

I bought an Apple Watch, which arrived (kinda late) on launch day, April 24th. I got the 42mm Sport with a white band, despite reservations about that exact model. I dithered for a while about whether to keep it or not, but I ultimately decided to hang on to it, at least for now. I thought some of you might be interested in why, as you may be going through similar decisions.

Wrist texting.

I love being able to see text messages and iMessages on the fly. While not all my texts are important or time sensitive, most of the ones from my husband and a few key business contacts are. I like being able to see texts immediately on my wrist, even if I’m out and about or in a meeting. I can always just ignore the ones that don’t merit immediate attention. But, if I’m waiting on something specific, and I’m with another person, I used to have to let them know the reason and keep an eye on my phone for the incoming text informing me, say, whether Grant would be joining us for dinner or not. Being able to monitor this kind of input on my wrist feels less rude and more reliable—and lets me stay in the moment easier.

Dating app videos.

I made this video about online dating apps on the Apple Watch, which was a lot of fun to produce. (Grant helped a TON with all the editing, by the way!) I’m mostly unimpressed with the current dating app ecosystem, but I think it will be fascinating to watch the apps mature to this new device over time.

Reading Marco Arment’s post about his redesign of Overcast for Apple Watch also egged me on—I don’t get the sense that most of the people making design decisions for apps like Tinder have quite the same indie level of passion and thoughtfulness, but I’m looking forward to being proven wrong… and possibly making more videos to showcase new or different functionality as dating apps mature.

It’s fun being part of the club.

This is a ridiculous reason to keep a $439 purchase, especially when money is pretty tight for us right now. BUT I haven’t had the joy of having the newest hottest gadget at the time of launch in many years. I know it’s a little cheesy, but it’s SO much fun to feel like part of the club, you know? The geek club, the early adopter’s club, whatever. I also made the point in this prior post that having a super tech-geeky gadget sort of visibly identifies me as a technophile, which people might not otherwise assume from the rest of my appearance. (Which is ridiculous, but that’s a whole other problem.)

Even though finances are tight, I managed to justify keeping it because it really doesn’t take that many client hours for me to pay for the thing again. The problem is that I haven’t been able to work over the past several weeks due to some medical stuff I’m going through, but the fact is, I can rekindle my usual client flow soon enough that I was able to talk myself into not returning the thing. Barely. :)

And I LOVE when strangers talk to me about the watch! I’m sure that’ll get old at some point, but it’s fun to have a hip new thing right now. And I’ve been really surprised and pleased by the diversity of the people who are interested in it—it’s definitely not just the expected white male cis straight software engineers, haha. I’m loving the observations and interactions that come with the watch.

OMG Apple Pay!

I’ve still got an iPhone 5s, so I was new to Apple Pay. Using my wrist to check out is SO COOL and futuristic! I can’t get over how convenient and easy and fun it is to use—I’m one of those people who is a ball of chaos in most grocery checkout lines. Anything that means no fumbling for cards or phones is a huge boon. This is seriously the way of future payment processing; I’m convinced of it.

About a week after I’d gotten the watch, I wandered into a random boutique staffed by two 20-something gals. They both recognized the watch and talked to me about it in detail. It was so cute; one of them even ran around the counter and cuffed my sleeves so it would show off more prominently and spark more conversations with strangers! :)

Anyway, the cuffer-gal, who managed the store, mentioned that she was looking into getting new payment processing technology. She was planning on getting something other than an NFC-enabled terminal, most likely chip and pin, but I talked her out of that and into NFC by explaining Apple Pay and that this technology was available in lots of other devices, not just Apple Watches and recent iPhones. I truly believe NFC is going to change the way we transact over the next few years. I’m glad I won her over; I think I did her store a favor!

Fitness tracking.

I’ve never been a huge fitness buff—one time in 2006 I completed a sprint triathlon, and I’ve basically never *really* worked out since. Ugh, that was so exhausting. :) So while I need to lose weight and focus more on health, it’s just not something that’s very high on my list. I would never wear a dedicated fitness band like a Fitbit or Garmin, as many of my friends do—I just don’t spend enough time or energy focusing on fitness to justify the cost.

However, since I wanted an Apple Watch primarily for notifications, I was happy to also get to benefit from its built-in fitness features. I’m surprised to say I find them quite enjoyable—even though I think the “stand” sensors are a bit off, and should probably be smart enough not to tell me to stand while the watch is actively giving me driving directions, haha.

When I set up my watch a second time after initially wiping it to deal with some buggy dating apps, I took the opportunity to increase the activity goals from the bare minimum, too. It feels nice to have an easy, techie way to encourage myself to move my ass a bit more. When I recover medically and can actually work out like a normal human, I can totally see having fun with the sensors to better track stuff like calories and heart rate.

Doodles.

I’m a sucker for doodling. I have so much fun with it. I don’t really care for the heartbeats or the weird morse code or gauche oddly-textured animated emoji, but the little drawing app is a BLAST! It’s also a big reason I’m glad I got the 42mm—those four millimeters make a huge difference in terms of being able to write legibly or draw clearly.

I only wish that you could use more than one color on the same doodle canvas, and that things didn’t necessarily disappear quite so quickly—I’d like a way (besides screenshots) to save doodles someday, too. But I get that this isn’t meant to be a fully featured drawing app. I just kind of enjoy using it like that.

You know what my dream Apple Watch game would be? Draw Something, only watch to watch. I find it hilarious to have to come up with a decent pictorial representation of something on a tiny wrist screen. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Zynga should get on that shit.

Of course, there’s the ecosystem issue right now—I can only share my doodles with a select few people who also have Apple Watches. But it’s fun, and we communicate more than we would otherwise; I feel like we’re sharing little private jokes that bring us closer together than other communication channels would be able to do. This is the least “important” feature of the Apple Watch, but so far, it’s the most enjoyable!

The good outweighs the bad.

There are things I don’t love about the Apple Watch. But I think I’ll save those for another post, or just sit on them and hope they go away with a 1.1 release. Overall, I knew I’d be getting a somewhat low-featured first-gen product, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I like it so far. For the most part, the beneficial features outweigh the frustrations.

Right now Grant has my Apple Watch because I made him take it with him as an icebreaker while he’s out of town at a conference—I really miss my husband, but I also miss my watch! :)

The Sweet Setup interview (way late, oops)

I was interviewed on The Sweet Setup waaaay back in February, but I totally forgot to post it here. Better late than never, right? :)

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

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! :)

Manly Wrists and Apple Watch

I have the opposite problem from most of you women in tech.

I listen to Christina Warren and Serenity Caldwell and Joanna Stern talk about how excited they are that Apple is making a smaller size smartwatch face. Their wrists are tiny and dainty, and a giant 42mm face would look stupid on them. Hooray for 38mm options! Hooray for the lovely modern buckle! Hooray for girly smartwatches that fit tiny fairy wrists! Hooray for Apple “getting” it!

Here’s the thing—I have man hands.

Bossypants, Manlyhands.

Okay, they’re not exactly like Tina Fey’s book cover here—I have a little less hair going on, and my nails are painted, and I wear intricate wedding rings. But I’ve always had larger hands and particularly wrists than most women. I can’t wear any bracelets that are designed to just be slipped on, because I can’t make my hand tiny enough to get them over the thumb bump (technical term).

I haven’t actually gotten to try on Apple Watch, but I’ve played around with paper prototypes and checked out other smartwatches in the world. I *like* bigger watch faces. They make it easier for my giant fingers to deal with tiny touch targets and buttons and, I presume, a Digital Crown. I like a smartwatch to give me the largest amount of manipulation and display space (not to mention battery life) possible.

What I’m saying is, I only want the bigass watch, even though I’m a relatively heteronormative lady. So while I’m excited about Apple Watch, I’m very disappointed that most of the “girly” options don’t come in my size.

Now, I’m not rich. I haven’t even fully decided if I can justify a cheap-ass comparatively ugly Sport watch yet, but let’s pretend that I have oodles of money. I want to deck my giant but still feminine wrists out with the most attractive, fashion-forward version of Apple Watch that I possibly can.

Let’s start at the more accessible price point, the stainless steel “Watch” watch. The band I like best is Modern Buckle. The color I like best is soft pink.

Watch watch with soft pink classic buckle band, 38mm

Guess what size it fits? 38mm only. Same with the navy classic leather band and the brown classic leather band, in case you were wondering. The thickest part of my wrist, with the bony-ass bump, is exactly 170 mm. I can thankfully wear either size of classic buckle leather band, if I’m willing to compromise on the smaller face size, which I’m not.

Now let’s look to the fancypants Edition edition. My next choice would be red band with yellow gold face. The gorgeous red leather modern buckle band only comes in smaller sizes which might not fit me, and it only fits the smaller 38mm face. My theoretical millions and I have to pass. Sigh, what a shame.

Edition edition with red modern buckle band, 38mm

And if I wanted the Rose Gold with Rose Gray (?), which is also stunning? Also only available in the 38mm, and I actually worry that the largest possible band size might not fit my wrists. (It says the modern buckle size L goes up to 180 mm, but I’m nervous. Most ladies’ stuff in a “large” doesn’t fit me. I have reason to be nervous, until I can try the thing on.) I have to pass on this beauty too. Sigh.

Edition edition rose gold with rose gray (?) modern buckle band, 38mm

If I *did* want to go all out and get a larger face 42mm Edition in either color, I’m stuck with the garish, tacky, sweaty, cheap plastic band. (I don’t care what Tim Cook called the thing, it’s made from fossil fuels and it looks like crap to me in every color.) I can’t even handle sullying a gorgeous watch face with a shitty band like this, even though Apple seems to think it’s totally fine:

The horrible compromise that would allow me a large face Edition edition.

I get that this is an early launch, and that third party options haven’t hit the market yet. I get that I (a cisgendered woman who happens to be six feet tall with bigger-than-average wrists) will likely have to order bands made for men/unisex sizes. I get that Apple is breaking ground by offering some stuff that fits the girly girls, even if it doesn’t happen to fit me personally.

But what of the trans women, who want girly fashion that fits all wrist sizes? What of the geeky girls like me who want a bigger screen to see their cool new tech on? What of hardcore vegan women who want a girly-feeling band for their expensive Editions, but are loathe like me to slap on a cheap-by-comparison fluorelastilame band and ruin the whole look?

I’m glad y’all are excited. I am too in theory. But I can’t wait for this to be  a more robust product lineup, with a truly diverse array of fashion, size, and color options. If you see me in the wild with a garish pink cheap plastic band on a Sport edition, please don’t compliment me on it. Now you know that my inner fashionista secretly hates everything about it.

 

P.S. Apple’s official sizing guide and Louis Mantia’s chart were both helpful in creating this whiny post. All product images come from Apple, except Tina Fey’s book, which is totally an Amazon affiliate link because why not.

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