Aleen Mean


I wasn’t going to do it. The day before we stopped in Belize and spent hours traveling to and exploring Mayan ruins. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in close to a week, and I wanted to take full advantage of a day at port to get some much needed rest.

As is so often the case, sleep proved elusive and I headed to the coffee shop much earlier than I’d planned to. So early, in fact, that I met some of my friends who were waiting to go on an excursion. I made a split-second decision to go with them instead of staying aboard the ship.

Soon, we were off to take a ride to the coral reefs off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. We walked down to the belly of a boat and sat facing windows looking out into the depths of Caribbean Sea. I saw stingrays, barracudas, and so many tropical fish. The coral off of Cozumel was a drab black rather than the neon hues I picture when I think of tropical reefs, but the water! The water was such a glorious blue-green that the white of my phone’s screen looked pink when I pulled it out to capture video. When we got off the boat the world was so brilliantly white it hardly seemed real.

This morning, I was surrounded by a similar blue-green light thanks to a towel Justin draped over the master bathroom’s window to keep the early morning light at bay. The reminder of the majesty of the sea and being with friends whom I adore was a fantastic way to start the day.

Apple Watch, One Month In

I was a first-day recipient of the Apple Watch, thanks to a husband who set his alarm for 2:55 AM on preorder day (we were in Georgia for Creative South) and my decision to forgo the more popular Space Gray Apple Watch Sport in favor of the silver and blue.

I wasn’t in love with the idea of spending $350 on the Apple Watch, but I needed it for work and I was intrigued by the potential for fitness tracking. I’ve worn a Fitbit for years. I started with the Ultra, then upgraded to the One and wore the tracker clipped to my bra. Some of my more sensitive friends would avert their eyes when I tried to check the number of steps I’d taken; however, I didn’t want to switch to a wrist tracker because I’m one of the weirdos who relied on a watch to tell the time. By the time trackers with clocks were released the “iWatch” smoke was too dense to be dismissed, so I waited to see what such a device would offer.

I was reservedly excited leading up to my receipt of the Apple Watch and went so far as to pitch a column about my fitness adventures (Christy Turlington Burns is great, but most people are not marathoners). I’m glad that didn’t come to fruition because I’ve been underwhelmed. My Apple Watch has provided a nice reminder to get up and move around for a bit every hour, even if it’s only for a minute. The exercise tracking has been lackluster for me, though. On Wednesday, I walked nearly 15,000 steps. I spent a lot of time huffing, puffing, and sweating up hills in Portland, but my Apple Watch counted exactly zero exercise minutes.

So fitness is currently kind of a bust for me (I’m rooting for you, Watch OS 1.0.2!), which I thought would be the Apple Watch’s crowning glory. So how am I using it?


Managing distractions is of paramount importance to pretty much everyone but it’s especially important for those of us with ADHD, since our attention strays easily and can be difficult to recapture. As a general rule, the first thing I do when I get a new electronic device is turn off email notifications. I keep my phone silent and vibration-free unless I’m expecting a call, especially now that my blue and green friends can coexist in Messages on my computer. The thought of my wrist buzzing for every email, text message, calendar notification, sketch, tap, and heartbeat bypasses unappealing and goes straight into stomach-churning territory for me.

To mitigate distractions and make sure the notifications I receive are meaningful, I have almost all of them turned off. Those that remain are:

  • Calendar. In a perfect world, meeting times never change. I’m really good at remembering original plans, but abysmal at keeping track of changes to them. This is why I get a notification 30 minutes before every calendar entry, so I have plenty of time to get ready for whatever I have scheduled.
  • Activity. While it’s not working to track my exercise, the activity app is still helping me get up and move around more frequently. The step count is always pretty close to that of my Fitbit (which I wore for the first few weeks after I got my Apple Watch), so it gives me a decent idea of how active I’ve been on a given day.
  • Simple. If my debit card is used, I know about it almost instantly. This might be my favorite thing about owning an Apple Watch.

Simple Notification on Apple Watch


The high-resolution jellyfish, flower, and butterfly faces are beautiful, but offer little in customization (especially complications). The same holds true for the Solar and Astronomy faces. I don’t like analog faces because, despite years of practice, it’s difficult for me to glance at them and register the time. This leaves me with one watch face: Modular.

I’d much rather have a gorgeous butterfly fluttering its wings, but Modular gets the job done thanks to…


Apple Watch Face

It didn’t take me long to settle on the information I wanted to appear with the time, especially since less is more for someone who is easily distracted. I’ve always preferred watches that include the date, so adding that was a given. I keep a complication for the current temperature on display, though that may change when Phoenix consistently hits the triple digits (37.8 or more degrees Celsius, for my non-US friends). I also keep my activity rings in constant view.

When I use the timer on my phone, I find myself doing a weird app-switching dance to find out how much longer I have left. The complication on Apple Watch makes it easy to check in on the countdown, but it looks ugly when it’s not in use. I add the complication when I know I’m going to need it, then remove it when I’m done. It’s not elegant, but I prefer it to the annoyance of timing things with my phone.

I used the battery complication for the first week or so until I was sure that the promised all-day staying power would be a reality. I have yet to receive a low battery warning and decided to get rid of that clutter pretty quickly.


There are those who disagree, but I dislike all of the Sport band colors and refuse to pay a hojillion dollars for another band (the Modern Buckle, the only band I even find even slightly attractive, barely fits my wrist anyway). I got the bright blue don’t call it rubber band because I found it the least offensive of the non-black hues. I always felt a bit self-conscious wearing it, especially when my shirt was a contrasting color. After about a week, I decided to drop the $50 to buy a black band and am much happier. If anyone wants to buy a 38mm blue band, let me know!


I lift my wrist and speak to it, just like Dick Tracey. “Hey Siri,” I say confidently. The lackluster Modular face stares back.

What I’m saying is that Siri on Apple Watch and I don’t communicate well, despite my best efforts. I’ve stopped trying.


I don’t have a lot of friends who have an Apple Watch, so I don’t send or receive many sketches. They’re…fine? I don’t really see the point.


It’s been over a month and if my Apple Watch isn’t pristine it’s pretty dang close. I’ve bumped it against counters and walls, as is my wont, and I don’t see any imperfections.

As for water resistance, Justin started wearing Apple Watch in the shower a day or two after he received it; it seems no worse for the wear.


When people ask me how I like the Apple Watch, I shrug and say, “It’s fine.” There have been several comments on my lack of enthusiasm. The fact is, my life hasn’t changed much because of this particular device. Maybe I’ll change my tune as third-party apps evolve and improve, but I’m not using any at this point in time. For now, it’s an expensive watch with a lackluster activity tracker, which differs only slightly from my expectation of a watch with a great activity tracker. I’m reserving overall judgment, but I wouldn’t recommend that anybody rush out and buy one right now.

Iterating in Public

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything but technical documentation that I feel like I’ve forgotten how. The beautiful words that give prose its color and texture have been relegated to a dusty box in the back of my brain. They’ve been replaced by simple, utilitarian words and short sentences as I aim to make instructions accessible to as many people as possible.

I have valid reasons for neglecting this space, mostly revolving around my health and mental energy (I’m optimistic that we’ve recently figured out a way to ease the worst of my symptoms.). I also have excuses, primarily rooted in fear. Maybe I’m no good. Maybe nobody will like what I have to say. Maybe I’ll incite a hate mob. Maybe I should just leave this writing stuff to the people who are actually good at it.

My husband’s friend Sean McCabe talks about iterating in public: Learning and improving your craft over time while sharing the journey with others. Giving yourself the permission and space to be imperfect (This is one of my biggest struggles. After I publish a post, I go back for days and tweak things.).

Additionally, Georgia Dow recently told me that she made a conscious decision to redefine what failure meant for her. For her, failure isn’t being unsuccessful at a given endeavor, it’s not trying.

So I’m going to take the advice of these two smart people and write publicly for all to see. My only failure will occur if I don’t actually try.

Goals for 2015

I’ve had a pretty rough time over the last few days. I always struggle around the holidays (thanks, childhood baggage!), the air quality in Phoenix is absolutely disgusting (which means that I’m not breathing so well), and I’m really stressed over a few upcoming events. This has all added up to an overwhelming sense of ick.

I’m not going to focus on that, because if I do I’m just going to spiral out of control and I really can’t afford to pull myself out of that pit right now. Instead, I thought I’d share some of my plans for next year.

Many of my goals are related to my podcast, Less Than Or Equal. The show has grown faster than I anticipated it would and, in fewer than six months, I’ve made some amazing new friends and learned a whole heckuva lot.

I’d like to continue the show. I’d like to find a way to get transcripts of every episode done to make it accessible to even more people. I’d like to find a way to gain even more listeners because more listeners means easier access to a greater variety of guests. I want to make the time to put together a list of diversity 101 resources for people.

I started a new job in April and I love it, but I’m working from home now and becoming a little bit too insular. I’d like to get more involved in the local tech community. I’d like to attend and maybe even speak at more geeky events (we’re going to PAX East in March, which will be a good start). I’d also love to go on some fun podcasts to talk about things a little bit less serious than diversity and equality.

Justin and I have a sekrit project we’re working on and I’d love to finish planning that and get it off the ground soon.

As always, I need to figure out how to juggle everything. The podcast takes a substantial amount of time, I’m still trying to figure out how to get healthy, I have yet to find a good housecleaning workflow, and I work full time. I suspect that as I continue allergy injections and feel better over time, these things will get easier for me.

A Few San Diego Pictures

Until last week, I’d only been to San Diego for Comic-Con. Justin and I decided to treat ourselves to a honeymoon/first anniversary trip, and this seemed like the logical destination since it’s such an easy drive.

While we worked for most of the trip, we were able to get out and work our photography muscles (Justin wanted to work wholly with his iPhone and may blog about it soon). I thought I’d share a few of the shots I captured. These are unedited except to convert them from raw files and to resize.

This is actually an iPhone shot, but I’m so pleased with how well it turned out.

I tried to give myself some creative constraints on this trip, one of which was to rely only on prime lenses unless there was a picture emergency. This presented some challenges, especially when this gorilla was sitting with his back to the handprint-smeared glass and the sun directly in front of me. I’m sure there’s some post-processing I can do to clean up this shot, but I still really love it.

Ocean Beach has an area by the pier where the sand has been so compacted by the water it’s almost like concrete. It’s just pliable enough that, if you have a sharp object, you can carve into the surface and leave a semi-permanent mark once the tide goes out.

Friday night’s sunset was stunning.

Ocean Beach Sunset from Aleen Simms on Vimeo.

We also made a time-lapse recording of the sunset. It’s the first time I’ve used the feature on my phone and I made the mistake of locking the focus, which also seems to lock exposure (so watch the video with your screen’s brightness turned up). Still, I enjoy the way it fades from yellow to orange to black.</p>