Some Ride-Hailing Follow-Up

Earlier this week, I published a piece on how rail-hailing services like Uber and Lyft make getting around more accessible. Since that story ran, I decided to ditch Uber and use Lyft as my preferred ride-hailing service from now on.

This week’s episode of ATP features a great discussion on Uber’s problems, which I encourage everyone to listen to. The gist of the talk about alternatives to Uber is essentially that if you can find a reasonable alternative (i.e., Lyft), then you should. I’ll admit to being reticent to switching before yesterday because I was/am unsure how Lyft will survive Uber being the dominant player in this space. Still, the more that was reported on Uber’s toxic corporate culture made me grow even more leery of giving my dollars to a company so institutionally dysfunctional. However pleasant my personal experiences with Uber have been, I ultimately decided I couldn’t continue to support them in good conscience.

As the hosts rightfully pointed out on ATP, Lyft isn’t without its problems either. I use the hell out of my Amazon Prime subscription despite Amazon not being a pillar of morality. Amazon is just so damn convenient, and they’re it in terms of e-commerce. But Uber is a different animal—I can’t patronize a company with such deeply warped values. That Uber treats people so badly, particularly women, is antithetical to who I am as a person.

I wasn’t heavily invested in Uber as far as brand loyalty—my girlfriend prefers Lyft and we’ve taken many rides together—but Uber’s latest shitshow was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I’ll be calling Lyft for rides from here on out.

The Apple Watch Returns to My Wrist

After about two months, my Apple Watch is back on my wrist.

Until this afternoon, I'd been itching to start wearing my watch again after going so long without it. The introduction of watchOS 3 at WWDC last week only intensified the yearning, so I'm glad to be wearing my watch once again.

But before putting the watch back on, I wanted to conduct a little experiment first. I wanted to see how easy it was going to be getting the watch on my right wrist. Ever since Apple Watch debuted last year, I've worn it on my dominant hand—my left—because it's felt the most comfortable. It's worked well, but there's always been a caveat: I've always had to use magnetic bands such as the Leather and Milanese Loops because they're obviously the easiest to put on. Again, it's worked well for the most part, but isn't without its warts.

There have been two problems. First and foremost, the Leather Loop I wore most of the time I think caused me to break out into a pretty annoying rash. It's healed now, but my doctor advised me to not wear the watch for a while (hence the lede to this post) and to seek another material that isn't leather.

I could've swapped in my Milanese Loop, but I really didn't want to wear it day after day. The watch is supposed to be a fashion statement too, right? So, in search of a solution, I decided to try wearing my watch on my other wrist. What a novel idea! I figured doing so wouldn't irritate the location of my rash and, most importantly, I'd be wearing my watch again. (Seriously, not having it for so long made me appreciate the power it really holds.)

This leads me to the second problem: the band. Wearing the watch on my left wrist, while comfortable, yields a significant accessibility problem for me. Something like the Sport band is virtually out of the question as a choice unless I have someone help me put it on. This is due to the partial paralysis on the right side of my body, caused by cerebral palsy. Put simply, my fingers just aren't nimble enough to hold down the pin side of the band while simultaneously bringing the hole-y side over to match the pin. This goes for any of the other bands that require multiple steps for fastening, like the classic buckle or nylon band.

Which brings us back to the aforementioned experiment. Since I already decided to put the watch on my right wrist, I thought a good litmus test would be that wretched Sport band. So, today I went downtown to the new Apple Store in Union Square and bought a Sport band in royal blue. I brought my watch with me, so after paying for it, I removed my Leather Loop and put the Sport band on.

Now the moment of truth. I put the watch on my wrist, holding down the pin side while bringing up the hole-y side to match. Success! I was able to get the watch on my wrist by myself without too much hassle. The process still is a bit fiddly, but the important thing is I got the damn watch on my wrist without assistance. The watch feels weird on the other side, but I'm going to give it a few days to see if it ends up feeling normal. The obvious benefits to this setup are that (a) my dominant hand is free; and (b) interacting with the screen is easier with my strong hand, particularly when entering my passcode.

I'm going to live with this for a while and see how it goes, but for as successful as this little endeavor was, it's underscored a big drawback to Apple's watch bands. While the Sport band now is a viable option for me now that I'm using my strong hand to fasten it, it shows that people with fine-motor delays like myself really have limited options in terms of bands. For many people, the magnetic bands could very well be the only choices for pragmatic and independence reasons. That's a narrow scope, unless you're okay with switching wrists or you don't mind getting help.

I'd like to see Apple get even more creative with materials and logistics in this context. Maybe make Velcro more elegant, I don't know. The magnetic bands that exist today are great, but aren't the greatest if you want to go for a more sporty look or get a workout in.

The accessibility aspect of Apple Watch bands is an overlooked part of the watch as a whole. My story has a happy ending, but just as Apple creates bands for different looks and occasions, so too should they be created with accessibility in mind.

My Big-Ass 2014

Last year, in reflecting upon 2013, I wrote, in part:

As we inch ever closer to completing yet another full orbit around the sun, I excitedly look towards 2014 with great enthusiasm.

[..]

I hope to ride into the new year with the same momentum that’s carried me this far. My wish is to successfully continue doing what I’m doing, and for even better things happen this year than last.

I'm happy to report that 2014 was, indeed even better than the year prior. I feel like I grew exponentially over the last twelve months, both professionally and especially personally.

In professional terms, 2014 brought about many exciting opportunities. I feel that the work I did over the course of the year only solidified my place as the go-to person when it comes to accessibility on iOS. My work appeared in a few new places --- MacStories, TechCrunch, iMore, and The Sweet Setup --- which really helped to broaden my audience. Perhaps most impressive is that I was invited in June to attend the WWDC keynote as a member of the press. That was a huge step for me, and it's something on which I continue to build upon.

Speaking of attending conferences, I attended my first XOXO Festival in September. It was a wonderful experience, and I got to meet so many wonderful people. Three months later, I still think back to those few days in Portland with great fondness; I hope that there'll be a 2015 edition next fall.

As I said, 2014 was a great year for me professionally. In the new year, I hope to ramp up my output, make even more connections, and just keep building the foundation that I have underfoot. A new year with new opportunities is waiting to happen, and I can't wait for it all.

* * *

If I distilled down what 2014 meant to me on a personal level, it would be a sentence long:

That eHarmony dating service really does work.

I'll refrain from getting too sentimental here, but suffice it to say that meeting and growing the amazing relationship we share has been so good to me on so many levels. With her, I've traveled more and done more things than ever before. I've relocated across the Bay, to San Francisco, to be with her (and her mom). Being with my girlfriend has made me a better person --- a happier person. We do have our moments, as all couples do, but she completes me, and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store for us.

* * *

On the whole, 2014 definitely had more ups than downs. As the calendar approaches January 1st, I have never been more excited and optimistic for the year ahead. To reiterate what I said to close 2013's retrospective, my goal is to just keep doing what I'm doing, building upon the successes of the year before.

Happy New Year!

'The Magazine' Ceasing Publication December 17

Publisher and EIC, Glenn Fleishman, writes in the announcement:

The Magazine will stop publishing its every-other-week issues on December 17, 2014, cancel all outstanding subscriptions, and automatically provide pro-rated refunds (either through Apple or directly) for subscriptions that continue past December 31, 2014. (We will be in touch directly with Kickstarter backers who subscribed via our Year One book campaign.) We will continue to make the app available as well as our Web site for the indefinite future, and you’ll have access to any issues you purchased or that appeared during subscriptions. That The Magazine is folding is sad to me, personally, on a couple levels. First and foremost, Glenn is a friend, and it sucks that the publication wasn't economically sustainable for him long-term. I know he's put in a lot of love into stewarding it since acquiring it from Marco last year. Secondly, The Magazine is the place that gave me my first taste of published authorship; "Re-Enabled" is the piece that launched my career and steered me to where I am today professionally. I'll always be grateful to Glenn (and Marco) for the opportunity, and "Re-Enabled" will always be my baby.

On Robin Williams and Mental Illness

Rebecca Ruiz for Mashable, "Finally, We're Talking About Mental Illness Like Adults":

For some, Williams’ death has served as a painful trigger and reminder of their own struggles. Those emotions only intensified on Tuesday when the coroner assigned to the case released graphic details about the nature of Williams' suicide. Many believed this unnecessary information tested the public's breaking point regarding Williams' death. Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Williams's suicide. And, as the above passage alludes to, his death brought back memories of my own struggle. I've come such a long way in the last year and a half that I no longer classify myself as depressive. Instead, I just try my hardest to push ahead through every day, accentuating every positive thing in my life now. As for mental illness overall, I'm so glad that so many are fighting the stigma of depression. It really is an illness, and more should recognize it as such. This goes doubly for insurance companies, who really should amend their coverage policies so that treatment for, say, depression is fully covered.

'Finding Your Fanatics'

Shawn Blanc, on finding your audience and how your audience finds you:

Your brand is also important. I’m not talking about logo marks here, I’m talking about your reputation. How do people perceive you (as professional or amateur; friendly or angsty; humble or self-centered; etc.)? What topic or subject people do people connect to you (design, development, typography, photography, etc.)? Your content and your brand are summed up as being what you make and who you are. This is true for the individual, the small business, and the large corporation. And over time the two become deeply intertwined. What you make represents who you are, and who you are fuels what you make. Your brand and your content become one and the same. This passage speaks volumes to me. At the risk of sounding arrogant and self-serving, I've worked really hard to make a name for myself in the Apple press, by simply sharing my experiences on a topic that I'm intimately familiar with. My "brand" --- this site, my freelancing, and my podcast --- has grown a lot over the last several weeks, and continues its upward trajectory. I'm very proud of my work, and I'm glad to bring attention and expertise to a topic (Accessibility on iOS) that deserves more of the spotlight.

On the WWDC 2014 Keynote

Consider this piece to be a “touchy-feely” take on yesterday's WWDC 2014 keynote.

I had the opportunity to attend the event live and in person for the first time. It was such an exciting experience — I could barely sleep the night before, I was so stoked — and definitely one that I'll never forget 1. As someone who had faithfully watched each and every Apple event prior to yesterday's from home, the fact that I was actually there, sitting in Moscone West with thousands of others, to witness Craig Federighi announce Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 was equal parts thrilling and surreal. As I said, an experience I'll never forget.

My intent here is not to brag or to sound self-congratulatory. As tired as I was last night after such a whirlwind day, I was reflective on what the day's events meant to me. Professionally speaking, it was a huge step insofar that I'm considered “press” and I got to network, and that so many people value my insights so as to want me to be part of the festivities. On a personal level , though — the part which resonates much more deeply with me — that I was at Moscone yesterday morning for the WWDC keynote lends more credence to the decision I made a little over a year ago. It's been a whirlwind of a first year, and getting to witness Apple's announcements in the flesh only adds to the momentum.

As I write this, I'm also thinking about the products in and of themselves, and will have more to say on them soon. Right now, however, I'm still very much on an emotional high, and very proud of how hard I worked to get to where I am today. It's very gratifying.


  1. You know what they say about your first time. 

'Working From Home'

Matt Gemmell offers advice for getting the best out of working from home:

It’s not just as straightforward as pulling out a laptop in the living room, though. Working from home has a number of difficulties and challenges. In many ways, it’s a battle for mastery of yourself. I’d like to talk about a few of the issues I’ve faced, and how I handle them. In the year that I've been freelancing, I've struggled mightily with settling into a regular routine. It's gotten better lately, but I still don't differentiate between "work" time and "play" time. My days are spent mostly working and playing as I see fit. I'm working on an article now, and I've written bits and pieces of it the last few days just whenever I felt like it. I'm still working, but it's clearly not as prioritized as Gemmell argues (rightfully) as it should be.

My First Mac

A lot of people are writing about their first Mac, so why not me too?

My first Mac — the very one I’m sitting in front of as I type this — is this one:

Screen Shot 2014 01 25 at 1 18 36 PM

My first Mac is the same Mac that I bought almost 6 years ago, in October 2008. It was among the first aluminum unibody Macs, the design of which is still seen today in the MacBook Pros. (In fact, Apple added the “Pro” surname to the MacBook in 2009.) The aluminum MacBook was introduced at a special event on Apple’s campus, which also happened to be the one and only instance when — to my knowledge, anyway — Jony Ive spoke publicly.

My MacBook was the high-end model, and shipped with these specs:

  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit display (native resolution = 1280x800)
  • 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip
  • 2GB RAM (since upgraded to 4GB)
  • 250GB hard disk drive
  • Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics
  • 2 USB ports, 1 MiniDisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, SuperDrive
  • Weighs 4.5 pounds and is 0.95" thin

My MacBook also shipped with OS X 10.5 Leopard, which came with a physical disc that I still have in the computer’s original box. This Mac has since been through Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and now runs 10.9 Mavericks. And it runs it just fine. While this machine is ancient by current standards and should theoretically be replaced, I’m actually very proud of the fact that I’ve been able to get so much life out of it. It definitely is showing its age, but my MacBook continues to serve me well. I don’t do anything that makes it choke — well, Skype notwithstanding — so it keeps churning along reliably despite its old age. I’m hoping to this year replace it with a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, but for now, this is my Mac.

I was a Windows user before buying my MacBook, having only used Macs sparingly in the computer labs at school. My reasoning for buying this Mac was a (a) because I wanted one; and (b) because I wanted a laptop that I could take to classes with me. I switched to the Mac full-time in March 2011, and I’ve never looked back. I love it. I’m not a “power user”, though: things like Automator and AppleScript, while great, aren’t features I’m very interested in. Truthfully, I don’t use my Mac that much unless I’m at home, because my iOS devices, particularly the iPad, are my workhorses now. Put another way, I’ll use my Mac when I’m at home, in my bedroom, but I won’t seek it out except for certain tasks, like when recording my podcast.

It’s great to hear that Apple thinks so highly of the Mac, and that it won’t be overshadowed and/or subsumed by the cash cow that is iOS. While I use the latter with much higher frequency, I still love the Mac for all the ways that it isn’t Windows. And when the time comes that I do finally retire this six-year-old dinosaur, I’ll put it away near my original iPhone and iPad, because it has too much sentimental value for me to part ways with it. I’ll just look at it fondly, and wonder how I ever managed with such a shitty display into 2014.

2013: The Year When My Low Self-Esteem Rose to An All-Time High

Earlier tonight, I was listening to this week’s episode of CMD+Space, in which host Myke Hurley was chatting with guest Glenn Fleishman about, among other things, the Kickstarter project for his digital periodical, The Magazine. I tweeted that not only did I back Glenn’s project as a show of support for indie journalism, but also because The Magazine is, to me, rooted deeply in my heart with lots of warm and fuzzy feelings.

I’ve written about these feelings before, but it occurred to me tonight that my feelings for The Magazine are in reality a microcosm of the feelings I’ve felt so often over these last twelve months. That is to say, I had one hell of a 2013 — arguably the best year of my life, all things considered.

In the aggregate, it was. But the year didn’t start out so hot.

* * *

While it’s hard to imagine now, in mid-January I wrote this, in part:

I won’t deny that I do have frequent fantasies about what it’d be like to rub myself off.

Can you believe it? I actually wrote that fucking sentence. Crazy, I know.

Soon after writing said sentence, I ended up spending 8 hours in the cuckoo’s nest before being released under the provision that I seek (further) professional help (i.e., a therapist and/or meds). At the time, I lamented my day in a real life Ken Kesey novel, but in retrospect that experience probably was the best thing that could have happened to me. Up until then, I was in a very dark place, emotionally, and I really didn’t care what fucking happened to me. I was haunted by many demons — many of them I’ve been battling for years — and I just got to a point where I wanted to give up. I didn’t care anymore; I was tired of the never-ending battles over my psyche.

Ironically, it was during this dark period when Glenn and I were putting together “Re-Enabled” for The Magazine. In fact, the piece would run only two weeks after my stint in the looney bin. Looking back, considering the state of my mental well-being at the time, I find it rather amazing that i was able to craft something that would go on to garner such huge acclaim.

Suffice it to say: if I ended it all then, I couldn’t be where I am now.

* * *

The success of “Re-Enabled” was truly spectacular — that it got Apple’s attention was way beyond my wildest dreams — but I was still troubled. In the wake of the essay’s publishing, I was still working for the school district, sort of. I was actually on an unpaid leave of absence, extremely unhappy with many things about my job. I would ruminate over work issues day and night. It became so stressful that it culminated in me having a meltdown at work, in front of co-workers and students, that pushed me into the toughest choice I think I’ve ever had to make.

I quit.

After eleven years of dedicated, exceptional service, I left my position at the school district. It wasn’t making me happy any longer, so I made the difficult choice to tender my resignation to the only employer I’ve ever known in my adult life. The job was my life, and suddenly it was over.

I, of course, left to pursue where my real passion (and talent) lie: writing. It was a huge risk, professionally and economically, because (a) I was unsure if I could make a mark and sustain it as a writer; and (b) going from gainfully employed making decent money to self-employed earning pay sporadically was, financially, kind of nuts. Fortunately for me, my background as a disabled person and my expertise in early childhood development and special education, coupled with my writing abilities, made for a winning combination that has worked out nicely overall.

As I stated, it’s at times hard for me to believe the person I’ve become over this last year, and all that I’ve accomplished. I’ve grown a lot, trust me. Family and friends are quick to remind me that my success is of my own doing, that I ultimately was the one to put in the work. I know that to be true, but it’s hard to think about given the gloom-and-doom context I shared earlier. In any case, I don’t believe it to be arrogant nor inaccurate to proclaim that my historically low self-esteem is currently at an all-time high. And it feels fucking amazing.

* * *

Just because this year, on the whole, has been a benner one for me doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been without its pitfalls. Indeed, not only did I spend an entire day in a psychiatric hospital, where I was surrounded by a guy who had the ultimate delusion of grandeur by proclaiming himself to be God and another who warned everyone of the impending zombie apocalypse, I also faced other daunting challenges. First, my uncle (with whom I live), has over the last year fought a chronic foot infection caused by his diabetes. He’s been in the hospital five times in the last year, including his current stay. It’s been a real bitch constantly worrying about him, accompanying him to umpteenth doctor appointments, and running errands for him, all the while still trying to take care of my own self. I hate to admit it, but there have been many days when my needs have been sacrificed for my uncle’s benefit. There’s more that goes into my uncle’s circumstances but which aren’t appropriate to mention here, but needless to say they also have played a role in testing my resolve this year.

By far the biggest downer of 2013 for me was the loss of my mom. As of this writing, it’s been approximately six weeks since she passed, so the wound is still very fresh. The grieving process is no doubt a grueling one, and I’ve had the misfortune of going through it three times now. Her birthday was earlier this week and with the holiday season in full effect, this is a difficult time for me, my family, and everyone who knew her. I feel as though there’s a gaping whole in my being, like I’m somehow incomplete. Going about my life, because the universe says I have to, feels so different without her. I still feel her presence, see her face, and hear her voice. Every time I think about calling her or anticipating a call from her, only to realize neither are going to happen, a little piece of my heart breaks. I still have her contact information in my iPhone because I can’t bear to delete it. She meant so much to my life, and it’s almost impossible to reconcile the fact she isn’t around anymore. What’s most interesting about these trying times is that, to date, I have not once shed a single tear over her loss. That seems weird sometimes, but it is what it is. Like I said, grieving is a bitch.

On the bright side, however, I do take comfort in the fact mom was incredibly proud of the accolades and opportunities that I’ve been privileged to have since diving head-first into my freelancing gig. She was overjoyed when I told her about Apple featuring “Re-Enabled” in Hot News, and she’s brag about it to anyone who’d listen every chance she got. Even in her last days, she was proud of all my current accomplishments, and I know she’d be proud of what I’ve done since her passing and what I’ll do in the future.

All I can say is I miss her every second of every day, she’s loved, and FUCK CANCER.

* * *

Despite of living in the shadow of death, let’s review everything good that’s happened to me this year:

That’s not all. I made a ton of new friends and contacts in big places, had the privilege of having my work be featured in a few high-profile places, was asked to beta-test a good number of iOS apps, and, I hope, earned a good reputation as the go-to guy for Accessibility on iOS. No one’s perfect, but I like to think that I work hard and am easy to get along and work with. I’ve learned so much about professional writing, editing, Apple, the self-employed life, and so much more. It’s been an awesome experience building my Internet presence and working with so many people in the Apple community whom I’ve long respected. People like Glenn, Marco Arment, Lex Friedman, Josh Centers, Jim Dalrymple, Federico Viticci, and so on.

To all of those guys — and to anyone else reading this — thank you so much. You’re a huge reason why 2013 was so freaking amazing for me.

* * *

It’s fun for me to look back at my Day One archives, and read about everything, good and bad, that’s happened in my life over the past year. Starting a journal was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent memory, and I’ve logged every bit of this journey into Day One. (I’ve written specifically about the app here, here, and here.)

As we inch ever closer to completing yet another full orbit around the sun, I excitedly look towards 2014 with great enthusiasm. There are a couple things on the docket for January, and I hope to ride into the new year with the same momentum that’s carried me this far. My wish is to successfully continue doing what I’m doing, and for even better things happen this year than last.

Tim Cook Talks Accessibility

In accepting Auburn’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Apple’s CEO says:

[P]eople with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged; they’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others. But Apple’s engineers pushed back against this unacceptable reality; they go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness, to various muscular disorders.

Cook’s mention of accessibility starts at the 4:35 mark of the video.

Hearing from the CEO of the company explicitly acknowledge the accessibility community was such a thrill for me. In particular, the anecdote Cook shares about the email he received from the mother of a 3-year-old child with autism really struck a chord with me; it’s “Re-Enabled” in a nutshell.

Bravo to Cook for giving the community the best kind of PR we could ever hope for.

'Become a Hero'

Stephen Hackett writes about St. Jude and his son’s battle with cancer:

A week from today, tens of thousands of people from around the world will run races, winding across the city of Memphis to raise money for St. Jude.

Over the past four and a half years, the hospital has spent millions on my son’s treatment. He’s had four brain operations, 18 rounds of chemotherapy, over a dozen MRIs, countless CT scans and is still undergoing weekly rehabilitation services.

[…]

Join us. Be a part of the cure. The team members listed at the link are all running Saturday for my son, but the race — the fight — against cancer isn’t over yet.

I link to this for a few reasons, as this topic hits home for me on many levels:

  1. I consider Stephen a pal.
  2. I’ve lost two very close members of my family — albeit adults — to cancer.
  3. As someone who’s studied and worked extensively with young children, I find it almost unfathomable and downright cruel that a child, let alone anyone else, has to deal with such a fucking merciless disease like cancer. It’s crazy.

I donated to Stephen’s son’s team; if you can, I strongly suggest joining me (and others).

30 Things I'm Thankful For

What follows is my take on a list that my friend Karen put together on her own blog.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, so why not list them too, right?

  1. I’m thankful that I go to bed every night only to wake up the next morning.
  2. I’m thankful to have a roof over my head that, thanks to my uncle’s living trust, will someday be mine.
  3. Speaking of my uncle, I’m thankful to be as close as we are, despite the fact he drives me crazy in more ways than one.
  4. I’m thankful for my family, however small and limited in what actual DNA we share.
  5. I’m thankful for my friends, near and far.
  6. I’m thankful for the aforementioned Karen, whom I’ve never met in person, but who has always supported me through email and the wonder of social media. (Seriously, we’re connected all over the Internet!)
  7. I’m thankful for my two nieces, and the niece (or nephew) to be.
  8. I’m thankful for public transit, and the Clipper Card.
  9. I’m thankful for all the family and friends who insist on giving me rides to places.
  10. I’m thankful for all the people who don’t give me shit and/or weird looks over my speech impediment. I didn’t choose to be a stutterer.
  11. I’m thankful for my iPhone. My life in my pocket.
  12. I’m thankful to live in the Bay Area, what with its culture and sports and leftist political ideologies and good weather.
  13. I’m thankful for Markdown. Without it, writing would be less fun.
  14. I’m thankful for Marco and Glenn for giving me a shot in The Magazine. Without that opportunity, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
  15. Strangely enough, I’m thankful for my disabilities. They do suck, but I realize that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their context.
  16. I’m thankful to be fluent in American Sign Language, even though I don’t use my skill nearly as often these days.
  17. I’m thankful for my career with Fremont Unified. It was 11 years well spent, and I learned a helluva lot.
  18. I’m thankful for all my former co-workers with the school district. I miss all of them every day.
  19. I’m thankful for Facebook, for being able to keep in touch with said FUSD co-worker friends.
  20. I’m thankful for all the new friends and connections I’ve made on this new journey as a freelance writer.
  21. I’m thankful for being smart enough so as to unlock my Twitter account earlier this year, which opened the doors to said friends and connections.
  22. I’m thankful for this site, even if RSS subscriber numbers are small, traffic is light, and no one sends me any site-related email.
  23. I’m thankful for my wriitng talent, which allows me to do what I do well.
  24. I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve had, good and bad, related to accessibility and special needs. It helps in my line of work.
  25. I’m thankful for my Early Childhood Studies professors at my local community college. They taught me a lot about young children, and I promise one day (hopefully soon) I’ll finally finish my AA.
  26. I’m thankful for music.
  27. I’m thankful for my podcast. We’re off to a great start!
  28. I’m thankful for Tweetbot and Day One.
  29. I’m thankful for having the ability to persevere and stay strong through so much adversity. There were times I didn’t think I’d make it.
  30. I’m thankful for you, my readers.

While this Thanksgiving will no doubt be rougher than last year, making out this list is a nice reminder that, again, I have much to be thankful for. This fact isn’t one that’s lost on me.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

This Third Time Most Certainly Isn't Charmed

She was a mother to five, biologically. I was number six.

But what a sixth kid I was to her. She taught me that you needn’t share DNA to be family — and, believe me, if you knew my familial background, you’d know how much that lesson has meant to me over the years. I was just like another son to her, and just another brother — “kuya”1 — to her daughters, my sisters. We’re family. We’ve laughed together, cried together, spent holidays together, and been there for each other, through times good and bad. She’d yell at me just as much as she’d yell at any one of her own kids, but she’d always preface it with the disclaimer that if she didn’t care, she wouldn’t yell. The ultimate backhanded compliment.

* * *

When I got the phone call yesterday from my sister’s boyfriend that she had passed away, I immediately went numb. Shocked. It was as though Doc Brown channeled the lightning to hit me with 1.21 jigawatts of electricity. I saw on the edge of my bed for awhile, stunned, unable to move. We all knew it was coming — I’d been dreading for weeks this very call — but a terminal diagnosis replete with hospice care cannot ever fully prepare the mind for the wave of emotions that come with the death of a loved one.

I eventually got up and made my way into the bathroom to shower. I went through the motions of my daily routine robotically. I ran an errand to the grocery store. I made a few phone calls to mutual friends so as to break the sad news. But all these tasks were done in the densest of fogs, emotionally speaking. The things I did were done out of repetition and without any semblance of thought or emotion. I just did because I had roughly planned to do so the previous night, before receiving the Very Bad Yet Expected But Still Heartbreaking News. I spent the day feeling as if I was dreaming, that this was not reality. She can’t be gone. I don’t fucking believe it.

And yet, she is gone. I still don’t believe it, but I’ve been here before. Twice.

In 16 years, since my biological mom finally succumbed to her own battle with cancer in 1998, I’ve lost three people in my life, all of whom were close to me: two moms and a maternal grandmother. Losing just one person is bad enough — I’ve done this dance three times in 16 years. To put that even further into context, I turned 32 in September, so that means I’ve spent the latter half of my life up to this moment dealing with devastating loss. Two of the three persons had cancer, the other dementia. Fuck cancer (and dementia) square in the eye. Just fuck you, man.

Each time I’ve gotten though it, though. It sounds so cliche, but time really does “heal” all wounds. I put heal in quotation marks to imply that you never truly heal from these emotional wounds; you just learn, as time inevitably marches on, how to deal with the pain. It’s always with you, you most certainly never forget, but you medicate yourself by surrounding yourself with those you love and remember the good times. It starts, of course, with the memorial service soon after death, but you have holidays and other special occasions like birthdays and, in this case, Mother’s Day. The pain is worse now — where by “now”, I mean the pain we currently all feel — especially so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the general concept remains. Time goes on as it’s wont to do, and we have try to move with it as best we can without falling apart into a trillion pieces.

* * *

So often over the last couple days have I received messages on Facebook from people who knew and loved Mom, telling me how much she loved and was proud of me and my accomplishments, especially lately with my freelancing and podcast.

To wit:

Remember how much she loved you, and all the memories you shared with her, help you in your sorrow now. She will be missed by all the people who knew her

and:

[Y]ou were so loved […] and she was so proud of you.

I’ve gotten choked up more than once reading comments like this, because I know them to be true. Mom was never one for sentimentalism, so she never explicitly said she loved me, but she did. God, did she ever. Though I rolled my eyes at her many, many, many times, I always knew she had my best interest at heart, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

My sisters are still here and I know they need me, even if I don’t get to see or talk to them as often as we’d like. (Apartments, boyfriends, dogs, the life of an RN, and whatever else will do that.) Aside from a few intermittent text messages, I haven’t seen or spoken to either of them since yesterday's event, but I will soon enough. But I know they love me just as much as mom did, and I know we’ll continue doing what we do because that’s what mom would’ve wanted. We’re family, bloodline be damned. Always have, always will be.

The grieving process is a grueling one. Even as I write this, there is still much pain in my heart, pain that will take much longer than a few days to subside. I push forward, though, because the universe says I have to, and I have a wealth of good in my life happening now and in the future. Mom would’ve wanted it that way, for me to push forward and to take care of my sisters. We will survive — I will survive because, well, that’s what I’ve done all my life. The strongest person many people have apparently ever known.

As craptastic of an emotional mess as I am at the moment, I am thankful that it happened at a time where my psychological well being is stable. I couldn’t say that when 2013 began; it would be exactly this type of traumatic event that very likely would’ve pushed me over the proverbial edge. Thankfully, I’m nowhere near that cliff today. I will push through, onward and upward, because pushing is what I do. Mom knew that.

Mom also knew how so very much I loved her. Always and forever.


  1. “Kuya” being the Filipino term for brother.  ↩

'You Have a Reputation'

CJ Chilvers gets it right:

Marketing phrases like “personal brand” come and go, and are mostly the work of marketers who believe to own something, you must re-name it.

Go back decades before such buzzwords pervaded our lives and you’ll find the foundation of this concept was more simply called your “reputation.”

I like to think, in both of my careers, that I’ve earned a good reputation.

(via Shawn Blanc)

My Minor Role in a Major Success

Issue 27 of The Magazine went out today. Moreover, this week The Magazine celebrates its 1st birthday. It was a year ago that Marco Arment announced his new project to the nerd world. It's a special time for everyone involved with the publication, editors and contributors and readers alike.

I write about this occasion because, personally, I have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings towards The Magazine. Marco and Glenn Fleishman — the gentleman to whom Marco sold the publication — gave me my first shot at published authorship, which in turn gave me the courage to take a massive leap of faith, and turn that taste of success into a full-fledged writing career. For that, I owe both men a huge debt of gratitude, because were it not for their willingness to take on my story, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I'm keenly aware of the fact that my new life as a writer is still in its early days yet, and I try to approach every new article opportunity with the greatest sense of humility. I'm confident, however, in saying that I firmly believe my success — every link, every new friend, and every new party — thus far can be traced directly back to my beginnings with The Magazine. I learned so much from Glenn about the process of pitching, good writing, and especially editing. Glenn made me work my ass off on “Re-Enabled”, poring over revision after revision, until it became the absolute best it could be. To this day, I couldn't be prouder of that piece, and the feedback I still get some ten months after publishing is astounding.

While this all may seem too sentimental and feel like I'm overstating, it's really neither of those things. I feel the exact same way towards a former mentor teacher of mine from my old job in special education. Without her training me in the beginning, I never would've learned all that I did about the field and of young children in general. I tell her that every time I get a chance to see her, because she knows what my years at with the school district meant to me, both personally and professionally. Extrapolating this theme even further, without all my said training and expertise in my old job, I never could've pitched what turned into “Re-Enabled” to Marco and Glenn, because my knowledge of the subject matter wouldn't have existed, which subsequently would've meant I couldn't speak as well on iOS accessibility as I do.

So, you see, I'm damn proud to be called a contributor to The Magazine. It's an honor and a privilege for me to be able to say that I helped, however in a small way, The Magazine reach the level of success it enjoys today. I know the lessons learned during my first go-round have and will help me as I slowly but surely plug away at my new career. My future is better and brighter because of the opportunity The Magazine afforded me a year ago this week.

Now if only I could come up with a good idea so as to make me a two-time contributor.

More Thoughts on Yesterday's Release Notes Thing

Since posting my thoughts yesterday on the Camera+ release notes controversy, that post has proved incredibly popular, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on Twitter. Some positive, some not so much. I wanted to take a minute to explain why I felt so strongly about deleting Camera+ from my iPhone, since a few people have questioned my decision to do so.

I deleted Camera+ because I felt it was the right thing to do, on principle. Camera+ is a wonderful app — one that I’d happily used for a long time before yesterday’s shitshow — but just because it’s great and I paid for it doesn’t mean I’m obligated to continue using it. The comments made by Tap Tap Tap very much turned me off, because they were uncalled for and petty. More to the point, whatever gripes they have with iPhone 5C sales or especially Realmac’s situation with Clear absolutely do not have a place in their release notes. I know developers on occasion have fun with release notes, and I can appreciate those cleverly-worded instances, but this was not one of them. This was just a low-brow, bullshit way to take cheap shots at the expense of others. And I didn’t like it.

And because I didn’t like it, I chose not to support Tap Tap Tap’s business anymore by deleting their app. I’ve always been a big supporter of the indie iOS development community, and I’m grateful enough to be friendly with a few, so I don’t like it when someone intentionally stirs the out of spite or a horribly misguided attempt at humor. It’s not good for their reputation, not good for customers, and certainly not good for the community.

'The Giant Leap'

Chris Gonzales ponders what his next move will be after a big life change:

So What Happens Next?

Maybe it's a sign for me to finally start chasing all the dreams I've been too scared to try until now. Maybe it's time to take a chance, to do something better and more meaningful with my life. I have no good reason not to at least try — my hand has already been forced.

The above passage struck a chord with me, as it reminds me of how I got to where I am today.

I'm a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. As difficult as it was, I think leaving my old job was meant to happen, and the best thing that I could've done for myself. My new career is still in its early days yet, but the success and joy I've experienced doing what I love and what I know is validation to me that I made the right choice.

I'm Not Going Back to Preschool

As I write this, many of my Glankler friends are enjoying (I hope) the last weekend of their summer vacation. That's because next week the new school year starts. Another ten months of changing dirty diapers, singing children's songs ad nauseam, writing IEPs, and doing weekly push-in large-group speech therapy. The circle of special education preschool life churns on.

But this year is different insofar that I won't be there. For the first time in what feels like forever ago, I won't be alongside my Guppy comrades to partake in the ritualistic beginning-of-the-year activities: staff development workshops, faculty meetings, classroom prep, etc. More importantly, I won't be there for the first day of school, greeting students old and new. It's surreal to think about — and believe me, I've done a lot of thinking on this — how I'm not going to be there. Fremont Unified School District has dominated the majority of my life, be it as a student or as an employee, and it's weird not having to go back for yet another school year. Here it is, the end of August, and I'm not going back.

What the fuck?

By virtue of writing this piece, it's clear to me that I'm still very much in the process of internalizing the vestiges of my former life. After all, I made a successful career out of working for the school district. I had seniority and was a union member. I was (and still am) very well-respected, and made many friendships over the years. The experiences I had working for FUSD playing a huge role in helping me become the person I am today, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Without a doubt, FUSD made an indelible mark on my life.

So while I am finally starting to settle in to my new life as a freelance writer, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still emotionally tied to my old one. In discussing this with my therapist last week, he was quick to remind me that I'm still in the adjustment phase. I've only been officially away for almost 4 months, so it'll take some time to fully put my past behind me. Make no mistake, though: the skills and knowledge and memories of the field are still very much with me.

Adjustment notwithstanding, everything must come to an end eventually, so I do not for one second regret my decision to leave. On the contrary, leaving was perhaps the best thing I could've done for myself. The fulfillment and success I've received from my freelancing thus far is validation that to leave was right, because not only am I good at what I do but I also enjoy it immensely. I'm a firm believer in things happening for a reason, and I think that the trying times leading up to my exit were signs that the timing was right.

There are things I miss and don't miss about school district life. Not working for The Man has proven to be wonderfully liberating. I certainly don't miss subjecting my body to the wear and tear of my old position. I don't miss the screaming, crying kids. I sure as hell don't miss the drama amongst the adults. But I do miss my friends and the kids. (And the Payroll department.) All the more reason for me to go back and visit once in awhile.

Come next week, it'll be strange thinking of all my Glankler friends starting 2013-14 without me. Ask me a year ago if I thought I'd miss it, and I would have said I have a bridge to sell you. Likewise, if you were to also ask me if I weren't sure about pursuing my degree in Early Childhood Studies, I'd offer to sell you a second bridge. (For the record, I do plan to complete my AA, since I'm only a few classes short. But as for long-term plans in the field? Probably not.)

The recurring theme as I've contemplated all this has been this: It's crazy how drastically one's life can change. But mine's changed for the better, and I wish my friends well.

I don't doubt that there'll be gossip galore in the coming months.

On 'Honest Writing'

Ryan Hoover, in a thoughtful piece on the impact of writing honestly:

The number of page views isn’t what matters. Making a genuine impact on one reader can make an entire career of writing worthwhile. But what compelled dozens of “strangers” to share their feelings and story with me?

[...]

We all struggle. We all have insecurities. We bury them inside in hopes of saving face when in reality, we’re not alone. People appreciate honesty. It makes writers relatable. And through honest writing, a genuine human connection can form. Those I most respect, write with vulnerability and transparency.

More so than working with so many people for whom I respect so highly, and more than being published in high profile places like Macworld, the biggest thrill I get from my freelancing is when I hear from readers that my work was so well-received. Especially for "Re-Enabled" for The Magazine, I got so many thoughtful, appreciative emails and tweets saying how touching and knowledgable my piece was. Everything I write comes straight from the heart, and it makes me so happy knowing that what I say matters to others.

See also: David Lee's thoughts on how the writing experience affects him.

(via @Svbtle)