Friday, 29 December 2017

Things I liked, did, or have remarks about in 2017

Oh boy. If 2016 was a wild ride for the world then 2017 was me trying to play catch up. I came out earlier this year and have had a lot of my life unraveled and am now in the midst of ironing things out once again. With that said, I have been inspired by Natalie's "Nattos" awards albeit I will be writing about things that I did or consumed in the year as opposed to what is necessarily new.

I'll try and do this once a year going forward. Items that I'll cover may include purchases, things I've read or watched, food, places I've visited, and so forth. Let's get started!

I've broken this apart into a list here in case you're only interested in certain subjects since this is rather long.


My new car


Of course I am going to start off with the biggest purchase I've made in a decade: I bought a brand new 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid! I test-drove several cars including a Kia Niro, Kia Optima, and a Ford Explorer--the first two were hybrids and the last one was a rental so I'll count it. I had a few requirements but one in particular was that it had to be a hybrid. After some humming and hawing, I settled on the Ioniq and I cannot say anything seriously bad about this thing!

There are of course little quirks and annoyances with the car, but they're really so minor that I am not bothering to write about them.

It looks really nice too!

Two of the reasons why I love my car are the incredible fuel economy I get out of it and Android Auto. During the summer, I was averaging between 4.0 and 4.8 L/100 KM (49-58 MPG) but during the winter it's somewhere around 5.5 and 5.8 (40-42 MPG) due to my desire to have the heat on. This is overall fuel economy and there have been times where I've encouraged it to run at 1.9 L/100 KM (123 MPG) when I've driven it gingerly from the gas station to my home a few blocks away.


This was shortly after I had filled the car I think.

Android Auto is by far the best feature of the car's interior. Having Google Maps, Spotify, and other services readily available with either my voice or via touch screen is just perfect. Also, the basic self-driving feature in the car via the adaptive cruise control has made the odd morning commute I would do a lot more tolerable.

Previous cars I've owned included a mid-90s Plymouth Voyager mini-van, a 2009 Hyundai Accent, and then before the Ioniq I was driving a 2013 Hyundai Elantra--I guess I can say that I like Hyundais.

Concerts and music


Can we say here that Cari is stereotypically queer? I guess it is no surprise that after years of not listening to Laura's music, I'd find myself listening to Against Me! once again. Most of it resonated with me harsh and when I found out she was making a tour stop in Vancouver at The Vogue, I decided to buy tickets and go with two other queer friends.

The show was absolutely fantastic.

It was a really great show and I will say that if I find myself in the same city as her once again, I'll definitely come out to a show.

I did also attend some other concerts including Coldplay when they also stopped in Vancouver the same month. It was held at BC Place and the show was really good except for one thing: that stadium is just so huge and it felt more like it was at an outdoor venue (technically it is) than anything else.

This is the second time I've had a colourful LED wrist band whilst Coldplay performed.

I had seen Coldplay play twice before but at Rogers Arena, where it's not intended for playing soccer or football but instead ice hockey and basketball. I'd totally go see a concert at BC Place again, but it's still a weird experience that takes some getting used to.

I also picked up an record player this past summer and am slowly building up by vinyl collection. I may write about this in a later blog entry once I have curated enough things.

A smaller amount of travel this year?


For some of you who know me well, I have really picked up a habit of travelling the past number of years. I've been to over a dozen countries and I have plans for visits to other places as well. However, being that this year was a bit tumultuous, I cancelled a trip to Japan that I would have taken in September. However, this didn't mean I didn't travel (just not outside of North America for once) and one place I did go to was Montreal.

Not a terrible view from my hotel room!

I've actually been to Montreal several times before but this was the first time I was able to go there for the purposes of relaxing and seeing friends. In a previous job, I would travel to Montreal periodically to perform some work as a consultant and I'd find myself basically having enough time to fly in, do the work required, stay for the night, and then fly off. Being that I do have a trip to the city in the next few years that won't be for work nor necessarily for pleasure (those who know me personally know what I am talking about), I wanted at least one trip there that would be fun!

Notre Dame in Montreal very much reminds me of its namesake in Paris.

Lots of Montreal reminds me of Europe--in particular Paris and parts of Brussels. It definitely was easier for me to speak French here than it was in Paris--in Paris, I'd have merchants and various other people responding to me in English after hearing my Anglophone-esque Quebecois. Everything was familiar and yet at the same time was different. Basically, Montreal is a really rad city and I can see myself going back for the heck of it again for sure.

Got to meet Zandra after all these years!

Highlights of the trip include going rock indoor rock climbing with some friends who came out from Kingston, Ontario and another person that was local, a birthday dinner of sorts at a sushi restaurant with said friends and another friend who I was doing a Christmas gift exchange with the year prior, and meeting an old friend from IRC back in the early 2000s that I reconnected with via Twitter (see above). The trip was really fantastic and I feel like it was very much deserved!

Next year I plan a trip to Ireland to deal with some legal matters in Dublin and to make one last visit to Belfast before Brexit screws it all up. Additionally, I'll make a hop over to the UK to visit some friends and make a trip to Bletchley Park, and then finally I'll visit New York City for the first time in six years on the way back to pay respects to someone who passed away this year and meet friends and family. Other trips are planned but this is probably the most notable one so far.

Destroying my body further by playing roller derby


You know, right now I see myself as very much femme and a song that played often this past year according to Spotify was Against Me's Delicate, Petite, & Other Things I'll Never Be. So why the heck am I playing a contact sport? Roller derby definite fits into that definition.

Preparing my skates for outdoor use. I've learnt a lot about wheels in the past few months!

I joined the Terminal City Roller Girls (TCRG) Mix-Tapes team, which is meant for people like me who are interested in playing but need to build up the skills. Ultimately I'd like to be drafted on to a league team and play in bouts so I am trying to get into even better shape than I started out with--I lost about 15 KG (~33 lbs) this past year and am now trying to work up some core strength and stamina.

I'm the one with the green helmet on the left as we're attempting to do T-stops.

Skating on quads has proven to be something I am sort of competent at being that I've previously ice skated and own a pair of inlines. I'm able to keep myself mostly stable when skating at speed and there are things that I am slowly getting better at achieving.

Stamina has proven to be my second biggest problem as while I am faster than most beginners, I'm finding that a combination of back pain due to a lack of core strength, a breathing problem that I am currently being diagnosed for, and a change in hormones is really making me hit a wall really quickly.

Where this is exemplified is during a 27/5 trial, where you must achieve 27 laps in under 5 minutes. When I first did the trial, I did 18 laps in that period, but got myself up to 22 in three months. However, I've since dropped back down to 19 and I think the ailment and the hormones have caught up with me. To put this into context, if you take the most optimum line possible, you should be covering at least 1,560 metres in that period of time.

I think that with more advancements in skills (I need to get better at doing my transitions from forward to backward skating as well as getting my stops in better order) that a more efficient skate will be achieved and I will hit that 27th lap. I'm also starting my gym regiment once again and am working on adjusting my diet to make it easier for me to power through these things.

Front page of the WFTDA

One thing that attracted me to the sport besides the fact that it is really fun to play is the fact that the world governing body, Womens Flat Track Derby Assocation (WFTDA) has been front and centre about its support for gender-diverse persons within its member leagues. Having met a few other transgender persons within the TCRG by now has really affirmed my decision to join as it's full of cis women, enbies, trans women, and everyone in-between. I was nervous at first but once we did our introductions and explained who we are, my fears went out the window.

Watching the WFTDA finals with others in TCRG. Rose City versus Victoria was intense by the way!

Basically the community is great and the sport is absolutely fun. I've sprained my wrists a few times, seen someone get a concussion, and a few weeks prior to my showing up, someone broke their arm. I think that the fact that I have such a bad relationship with my body makes me not worry about injuries and should I find myself hurt, I'll just mend myself and get back to playing. This is not an attitude that I had before and I am sure as heck going to ride this one.

Games that everyone can play!


This is a really, really new game I was introduced to: Machi Koro is a city building game that is all card-based! Being that I really like Cities Skylines a lot, it's natural that this game became extremely attractive to me.

Come over and play this game with me!

I made some new friends this past month and one of the questions they asked is if I like card and board games: I answered yes and they brought this out. When I walked into a game store during Boxing Day, they had it available for 20% off and I couldn't resist buying it!

I'll write a proper review for this game once I've sat down and played it once more.

Finding unicorns in gaming both real and not


This year not only did I get one current-generation console, I got two! I ended up getting both a Nintendo Switch and a PlayStation 4. However, the one game that I have sunk a lot of time into (almost 100 hours as of this writing) is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I had a copy of Zelda before I had a Switch.

It's possibly the most beautiful game I've ever played but I really need to just finish it seeing that I've been grinding for the past few months. Some new DLC has been issued for it but I am putting it off until I finish it and a few other games.

Seriously. This is a bloody unicorn.

Other gaming highlights this year include attending the local retro video game show and seeing the literal unicorn that is the Nintendo Playstation. I was lucky to have a photo of me holding it but unfortunately I am not super eager to share some photos of me from the past year--the one earlier with Zandra is the first one I was super comfortable with someone else posting on Twitter since I actually look nice.

This game was totally worth the $26 CAD.

Other highlights include Sonic Mania and the SNES Classic Edition. I'd like to remark more on it but gaming is something I've become a little bit bothered writing about for obvious reasons.

Rethinking my diet and the lifestyle that goes with it


Back in 2011, I started an experiment to see if not eating meat was possible for me and whether or not it would improve my digestive system; I ceased this experiment early on but wanted to return to it eventually. Having mentioned earlier in my derby remarks that my relationship with my body is pretty terrible, my digestive system definitely reflected that. I can safely say that cutting out meat except for fish out of my diet has proven to be a better state; I refer to myself as vegetarian but pescatarian is the best definition here.

I cannot remember what this dish was but it did taste good.

I've gotten better at cooking since I started and am now really getting used to just doing everything with spices and whatever proteins I can. And proteins are key: for me to get better and stronger at derby, I really need to give my body some building blocks to build on.

Fish has become something I am consuming less at home and more often when out. This is okay as one of the complaints I've heard from others is that my consumption of vegetables was really poor. I'm trying to make a change for the better here!

Irish Soda Bread!

Baking is another hobby I've really liked once again and it's not unusual for me once a week to make a loaf of bread, some sweet treats to bring to work, or just something I'll throw in the freezer for consumption later.

I ate half a dozen of these in five days.

This is a Monster Bar, and it's possibly the best desert I've had in a while. I discovered them while in Montreal and at some point I need to make them here at home because they're just incredibly good and impossible to find here. They're almost everywhere in coffee shops there and yet they're obscure or unknown over here on the West Coast.

One other thing: I sort of gave up drinking? I think that for now I'll continue my sobriety. I am cool with being around others who are drinking and have bought wine and other things for friends as gifts, but I am not sure about what my relationship with alcohol is going forward. I gave my beer making equipment away over the summer and the last time I had any alcohol was when a few friends were over and I wanted to check that the drink I made actually tasted like I expected.

If you're at my home I'll still make sure that there is some booze to consume!

Making an attempt to read things that are way less technical but still for me


I don't think that it is a surprise that this particular book has been picked as my favourite this year being that the first time I've written a review for something in forever was for it.

I love the cover art.

I've read a few other notable books this past year including Girl Sex 101, Queer Privacy, Queer: A Graphic History, and Nevada--holy heck this is really queer.

Sarah is an incredibly wonderful person in real life too.

If you're looking for a copy of Queer Privacy, in the aforementioned blog post at the opening of this piece, there is a link to my coming out post and it may be possible that some of the referral links for free copies may still work.

Improving my career by taking a small step back


I really burnt myself out earlier this year and it's no surprise. To combat my anxiety, I was working aggressively at targets at the end of last year and going into this year, I buried myself in things both at work and at home trying to spin up projects that really went nowhere fast.

Basically I killed my drive and I killed it hard.

RIP 2013 - 2017
One of the things I did early on was shutdown Canario. It was a hard decision as it did give me some credibility within the information security echo chamber that resides on Twitter, but there were so many legal and technical challenges that I myself could not continue to bear. I got a lot of experience out of the project but ultimately I had to bail and it marginally improved my mental health at the start of the year.

There was a VPN project I started to work on and bought equipment for that I too also scrapped in the new year. I figured that by not having Canario on my plate any longer that I'd be able to move forward with other things, but ultimately that too just fizzled out. My mental health was a complete dumpster fire this past year until I finally admitted that I was struggling with being transgender.

As a way to recover, I focused more on what I am doing at work and what I am doing well. I took on some large projects this past year and while they were hard they were most definitely worth it. I can look back at my past year at work with a bit of pride and next year I am going to be able to focus on things far better than I have in the past.

I also pulled away from stuff outside of work and made a point to let my brain relax and sort itself out. I stopped attending the local information security meetups and now the nights I'd find myself there are occupied by going to derby practice. I'm going to show my face at the local VanCitySec meet for the first time in eight months since we're not playing again until February.

I'm also going to start attending conferences once again. I'll be at the Women in Tech Regatta here in Vancouver next month, submitted a talk to BSides Vancouver, and hopefully will be at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) in July.

A lot of personal projects have sprung up but I am taking them very slowly. I am still playing with A/UX and have some odd plans for that project, a few things I am rebuilding are on the road to completion, and I have some data I am sitting on that I plan to share for a good laugh. I have a plan to do more analysis on 3DO games since I keep putting that on the back-burner, but I won't stress out too much here.

British Columbia's wildfires


Let me tell you, this year was the worst year on record for wildfires in British Columbia.

It's annoying but it is also just smoke. I could be losing my home instead.


Pretty much half of July, half of August, and a chunk of September brought smoke from the intense fires in the interior down to the coast.

I'm privileged to have this view every day at work.

When it cleared up it was a huge blessing but still. The lingering effects on people's lives and health definitely cannot be ignored. In my case, it intensified my breathing problems and I fear that next year won't be any better with the effects of climate change still continuing to intensify.

Transitioning and finally being open with myself and others


I'll open this part up by saying this: on April 11th, I didn't think I'd be able to see myself writing this blog piece let alone seeing the sun go down that day. It was that realisation that lead me to start to transition.

I have about four more appointments before I'm going to switch to electrolysis.

Once I came out, I started with laser hair removal on my face, something I wanted to do for years but without transition. It has been the best decision I've made pre-hormones as it made the hair removal far, far easier. I am currently at 95% of my hair gone overall.

It was fun to watch the parade but I think I can do without sitting on concrete for four hours.

I attended my first pride parades and marches. I did the transgender march, went to a festival for lesbians, and joined some friends at the pride parade. There were points where I wanted to cry and I just felt almost whole.

A good skin regime has been the bestest friend ever for my face.

I absolutely care about how I look now and don't rush things most days. Skin care has been my biggest challenge as I do suffer from dry skin on my face. I'm spending time each morning taking care of my face and doing the same before I go to bed. 

Taking care of myself is something I want to do. Before I came out, I was effectively letting myself go albeit slowly. Now I am exercising, being social, and just trying to be responsible with my life. 

Went to a masquerade ball with friends and felt incredibly happy.

And that being social has been super important to me. Almost everyone I came out to in my circle of friends have been extremely accepting of me and have been very eager to keep me on their minds and involved in things. Old, new, and rekindled friendships have been extremely valuable to me and there is no way I am able to repay this other than being as much if not more of a friend in return. Everyone who has included me in their life has made a significant impact to me.

It hasn't been entirely easy that said. My relationship with my family is rocky (some extended have been very supportive) and definitely will need to be repaired. I am hoping that this will happen sooner than later but I am always going to be waiting and I hope that they're working towards that; I'm patient.

In addition, I did end up losing a spouse over this. She and I had been together for six years, married for one, and sadly we opted to end our relationship. It's really awkward between us right now and I am hoping that we can remain friends; we did recently have lunch and I felt like we had a good time. This new relationship is not going to be easy but I believe that it is possible for it to work out. I care about her deeply and always will consider her family.

I just felt like I nailed it in this photo.

I take so many photos of myself now and am able to express myself in ways I never did before. I coloured my hair starting in September and decided to give my hair a pink streak the last time around. I think that this may become a trend since it seems to be going over well with everyone and is not tactless or anything.

I just bought this sweater and I think it looks alright on me.

It's not always a happy day for me. The above photo makes me look nice but I feel like I can look so much better. Every day is a mixed challenge but I know I am going to get better and every day is a step forward, not one backward.

This dress is so incredibly comfortable and fits me well. I have a red belt that goes with it.

But here I am feeling confident. Some days I take a photo and I just go "wow" and the whole issue with dysphoria vanishes. I've been told that as months and years go by, it gets much easier and I am starting to believe that. Dysphoria is an awful experience and there are days where I cannot face myself due to it.

I look forward to only taking the tiny blue pills for the rest of my life.

The best story I have about transitioning is this: I took a week off before I transitioned to being me everywhere and I was into my second week of being on hormones. Some things have kicked in quickly such as lowered libido (sorely desired and happily working), but one big thing came along that seems to happen with trans women at this point: I felt good. I was just sitting on the couch watching something on Netflix and it just registered in my mind.

It was a new feeling and the way I can describe it was that it felt like my brain and my senses were talking in a language while new was remarkably familiar. I felt happy over this and even though I had a dumpster fire going off left, right, and centre, somehow I knew at that very moment I was more than capable of living and doing what I need to do.

I'm privileged though in my transition. I've been able to afford laser hair removal without thinking about how much it will impact my ability to eat. My physician was referred to me by the provincial health authority that handles transgender persons and she has been absolutely affirming and helpful to the point where we ended up getting me into the system for a procedure all the while us forgetting to talk about my general health issues (we booked a follow up appointment for a few days after). My company has been very good towards me in accommodating my many appointments and letting me know about my options for when eventually I get this procedure done. Effectively, as it stands right now, I am in an enviable position and I won't ever overlook this.

In June, when I saw a psychologist for an assessment, she remarked that she figured I'd be fine and that the panic I had at the time was normal. I thought that her statement was asinine at the time but I realised later on that she was right and when I saw her once again last month, I told her that. I am not panicking about transitioning; I am actually getting through this just fine as she said I would.

As of this writing, I am 136 days into hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I don't want off of these at all; one of the pills I take daily is only needed until I get a procedure performed of which I have already spoken to my physician about. When I was taking anti-depressants, I hated how it ruined my brain and made me feel like a complete alien. With HRT, I feel like a human being again and that human being is a woman.

I'm still exploring my queerness but I am not reluctant to any of it unlike I was for such a long time before. Some other gender diverse people have reached out to me since coming out and have remarked that I am an inspiration for them. I have to say that they're an inspiration to me because it's not easy to do this and I like many other transgender persons before me are following the footsteps of others.

Friends have remarked that I am much more forward with being social and show myself as being happier; I believe them.

Let's end this entry on my favourite event and talk about what's in store for 2018!


Okay. I am going to say this: the solar eclipse was probably the coolest experience of my whole life.

A view from my apartment's patio at peak

Now, granted, it was only something like 88% coverage for those of us in Metro Vancouver, but come on, the way that the light dimmed and how shadows appeared was just truly surreal. I've seen so many lunar eclipses and they are just boring compared to the weirdness that a solar eclipse creates. It also impresses me how even with 12% of the sun's light making it back to us is still as intense as the photo I am sharing here.

In 2018, I plan to continue progressing. I will be more social, I will do my best to mend what is broken, and I will make improvements to my life wherever.