March 23, 2009

Trans-Prarie Home Companion

Posted in life at 7:37 am by Michael

Read in an email from a friend and a frequent blog reader:

“I’ve liked the little stories you have written lately. It’s like Trans-prarie Home Companion.”

I thought I’d share.

March 15, 2009

Mistaken Identity

Posted in Identification, life at 4:35 am by Michael

Last weekend I brought Peri to American Girl Place in Los Angeles as a birthday present for her.  She had been asking to go to one for the last three years at least, and honestly now at 11, it’s not clear how many more years she’d love to go at all (least of all with a parental unit).

“Filled with awesome-full-ness!” is how she described it.

While Peri and I were waiting in line at one point, one of the salesladies behind the counter said to us:

“Let me guess….. Mother and Daughter! I never get this wrong!”


Peri shoots me this smirky look like, “Oh lordy…”

If only the saleslady knew *why* she was smirking.
\The saleslady continues:

“I bet you both get this all the time – you look like peas in a pod.”

Peri is on smirkfactor 9.

“Cut from the same cloth.”

Me (in my inside voice): Its Dr. O’s best work!

Me (Outside Voice): “Thanks so much!”

Saleslady: “Have a nice day ladies!”

Peri, even though she calls me “Daddy” all the time, is aware enough to not correct someone in that circumstance. I wonder if that will be one of the memories that she has of that place.


February 7, 2009

The Half-Life of Names

Posted in Identification, life at 11:53 am by Michael

A few weeks ago we got what has become a commonplace, but ultra annoying notification from our bank – one of their credit card processor’s systems had been broken into, and our credit card data may have been compromised.

So, a week later, our debit/credit card was going to be deactivated, and they would send us new ones.

As promised, a new card for me (but not Anh… odd) came in the mail. I opened up the card, and went to activate it, but noticed that the name on the card was “Michael J. Wallent”. Odd, it was addressed to “Megan Wallent”, but the card said otherwise.

Oh well, another trip to the bank…

Before I had a chance to go get a new card at the bank (they can print them right there!), we were out at a restaurant that didn’t take Amex, and I had to use the new (Michael) card.

When the bill came back, the name on the receipt was “Megan J Wallent”…

Super odd… the envelope was addressed right, the card was printed wrong, but the magstripe was right.

I went to the bank (finally) yesterday to get a new card, and they thought this was odd too. The person who I ended up talking to was the same woman who processed my name change last year, and she remembered me… Surprise! She said that they likely had three systems, all of which needed to get updated, and there was a problem somewhere.

This isn’t the only time I’ve run into “Mismatches” – my health info at work was wonky for a while – and the internal Microsoft charity site still isn’t updated. (Many of the sites that are “extranet” – and hosted by third-parties haven’t been updated).

I went to go get a new phone yesterday too. I hadn’t ever updated my name with the wireless company. When I gave the sales guy my phone number he said

“Is this account under ‘Michael Wallent’?”


“Is Michael here?”

“I changed my name, its me.”


And we proceeded on… No biggie.

I’m glad that the mismatched name thing has never given me grief… Your “old” name has a “half-life” – like Plutonium. My guess is that the half-life of a name is about 9 months… if you have your name on 50 things, it would take more than 5 years for all of the kinks to work out of the system…

February 6, 2009

Watches (Or, Why Megan is Sentimental)

Posted in life at 10:18 pm by Michael

Watches have always been special to me.

I remember my dad having the same Timex gold watch while I was growing up. It had a twisty band, and I have a vivid image in my mind of my dad’s watch on his nightstand.

As a graduation present from college my parents bought me a stainless steel Rolex. I wore it every day until I married Anh in July of 2005.

As a wedding present, Anh got me a beautiful Breitling watch – a “Cosmonaute”.

It’s a pilot watch… 24 hour mechanical, with a slide rule for calculation and conversion and a stopwatch. I’ve timed more than one VOR approach and hold with it (piloty stuff!).


I absolutely love it.

Well, until last year. Last November.

I got a bunch of feedback that it was “too manly” (It is!)… and I stopped wearing it.

For a while, I wore the watch my parents got me then I just started wearing a simple digital Timex.

Anh and I had talked a lot about the watch and we had agreed that I would pass it on to Samwich. (John would get my Rolex).

Anh wanted to get me a new watch… we looked. A lot. Nothing felt right.

Then, just before New Year’s, I made a resolution.

I hadn’t been true to my beliefs about this whole transition thing. I had said from the beginning that transitioning wouldn’t change me fundamentally. The stuff I loved, I still loved (or wanted to love…)

I love the watch. Manly or not.

I started wearing it again.

Its clunky. Big. I love it. Its me. (Big and Clunky!)

N4151P came out of annual today… I can’t wait to time my next approach with the watch that my lovely wife gave me….

January 28, 2009

Where Do You Feel At Home?

Posted in life, transgender at 10:14 pm by Michael

I was back in my hometown of Wickford, Rhode Island recently for the weekend with Anh and Samwich. We went to visit my mom after I had been in Boston for work.

I’ve been back probably five or six times in the past year.

Just about every place else that I go, I have no problem at all feeling at ease – at work – out and about – whatever. I don’t feel self-conscious.

Today I was in a business meeting with a group of customers from Japan. No problem! I still know how to be culturally polite!

However, turn me loose in my hometown, where I grew up from third grade, and I’m a mess.

The local pizza place that I absolutely *love* (Filipou’s) – I even remember the phone number by heart still (401-294-4737) – I almost freeze when I call to place my order.

I went to middle school with Tim, who’s place it is. I went there all the time. I remember when my dad died, the day of his funeral I ordered a pizza to share with Anh and some of my close friends (I’ll never forget that Hillel flew out from Seattle to RI for one day to be there for us…). I walked in to pick up the pizza and Tim asked how I was.

“Well, my Dad passed away, and today his funeral.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Have a baklava. Give my best to your mom.”

It was sweet actually. You had to be there.

Back to the weekend, I call for the pizza.

4-0-1 2-9-4 4-7-3-7

“Hello, Filipou’s”

“Yes, I’d like to order a small pizza with meatball and peppers and a meatball grinder”


“Uhhh….. Wallent?”

(It had always been “Mike” before)

“20 minutes.” Click.

I was relieved that it was cold, and that I was wearing a thick coat when I went to pick it up. I hate to admit it. I feel like I’ve let myself down – not being honest…

I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I have so much history there. Creating a new identity is easier when you are less known.

We moved from Sammamish to Seattle right before I transitioned.

At work, I moved to a new team right before I transitioned.

Work is also easier because honestly, most of the time, I’m “The Boss”… power does make it easier.

Back in Wickford, I’ve got lots of history, but no position.

We’ll be back in March. Improvement is needed.

Megan needs to order a pizza.

December 22, 2008

Snow Report

Posted in life at 5:23 pm by Michael

Road Skiing

Road Skiing


This is a ski report for today, December 22, 2008, for Queen Anne at 4th and Garfield. This report was prepared at 9:00am.

Base: 18 inches
Temperature: 30F

New Snow in past 24 Hours: 8 inches
Surface: Powder, packed powder, both car and foot groomed.
Run of the Day: Garfield from 4th, Connecting to 5th, Connecting to Galer

Be mindful of pedestrian, stroller and car traffic.

All runs are reached only by hiking.

Oh yes, we are trapped without a car but we skied Queen Anne today. Peri, John and I all hiked our stuff up to the top, and skied down.

Given all of the sled traffic, it was very nicely groomed.

December 18, 2008

Snow Day

Posted in life at 2:13 pm by Michael

Seattle, December 18, 2008

Seattle, December 18, 2008

Seattle Truism

When snow is forecast, there will be no snow.

When snow is not forecast, there will be snow.

Tuesday night into yesterday we were forecast to get some pretty significant snow. It’s been unseasonably cold here – not getting above freezing – since Sunday. That’s about 10-15 deg F colder than usual, with lows even getting into the teens. That’s pretty unheard of here.

I left for Boston on Sunday night on the JetBlue redeye. (I wasn’t feeling great about leaving, given the break-in we had Friday night.) I was supposed to be there through Wednesday night.

By Monday afternoon, all of the Seattle weather forecasters were warning of the worst, and not wanting to get stuck in Boston for a long time, I changed my flight to come back Tuesday night. Getting back, it was cold – 26 F, which is very chilly for this time of year here.

On Tuesday night, the forecasters were still saying that it was going to snow in downtown Seattle all day Wednesday. On the way from the airport, I went to the store to “stock up”, and got Samwich his all-important yogurt shakes and milk.

I awoke on Wednesday to absolutely no snow, and about a 10 F increase in temp. About 20 miles to the north, and 20 to the south, there was snow. But, due to the direction of the wind and the storm, we were being “Snow Shadowed” by the Olympic mountains, and there was absolutely no snow whatsoever.

Even so, the forecasters were still calling for it to start “Any Time Now!”. Most all of the local schools in the Puget Sound closed, without a snow flake in sight.

I went into work, and it was pretty light – both because of the time of year, and also because many people had stayed home.

Up to the north and south, there was 6-12 inches of snow, and that’s paralyzing around here. But, in Seattle – nothing.

There was a forecast of some “Snow Showers” in the area, but nothing significant.

Off to bed.

At about 530am, we were woken up to a loud clap of thunder. There was another… I looked outside, and it had really started to snow.

There was maybe an inch.

The forecast was calling for it to taper off by 9-10am at the latest.

As I write this at 2pm, it just slowed down, and there is one more big slug of snow coming shortly.

Needless to say, it was a snow day. There is really no driving on our street when it gets like this. Anh, Samwich and I took a break and went out for Samwich’s first sledding adventure… He loved it.

So many ‘softies were home that our remote mail servers were slammed, and not accessible for most of the morning….

We’ll see what tomorrow brings. No more snow is forecast.


They Found Me!

Posted in Identification, life at 1:40 pm by Michael


It’s not like I’m hiding, but, WPI (My alma mater) found me.

About a month ago, the alumni mail from them started being addressed to “Ms. Megan Wallent”. I hadn’t told them of my name change (or other changes), but I was super curious how this happened.

The mysteries of life.

Then, I get the following email yesterday.

From: Steffanie C.
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 10:40 AM
To: Megan Wallent
Subject: Court Documentation..
 Hello Megan,
Hope things are well with you and your family!
Would it be possible to send me a copy from the courts in your name change. We would like to have a copy for your folder here at WPI.
Thank you…
Steffanie C.
Biographical Records Assistant
Development Operations and Research
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609

Holy moly! How did they figure it out….

I replied:

From: Megan Wallent
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 9:46 AM
To: ‘Steffanie C.’
Subject: RE: Court Documentation..

Hi Steffanie –
Sure… here it is.

I’m curious though – how did you folks find out about my name change? I noticed that my mail from WPI changed about three months ago.

– Megan

This morning, the answer came through:

From:  Steffanie C.
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 5:31 AM
To: Megan Wallent
Subject: RE: Court Documentation..

Dear Megan,
We contacted you because WPI has a Northern California alumni chapter that we are trying to increase in membership.  That chapter has alumni who are employed at Microsoft.  Our department was reviewing alumni with interesting top level titles to reconnect them with WPI.
Your title as General Manager at Microsoft inspired us to find out more about you as we do with any alum who has an interesting career. When we Googled your name combined with Microsoft, we found a webpage about your transgender. Since we found this information about your new name, we needed to verify it. This is why we contacted you as well as inviting you to contact Sara F, Associate Director of Alumni Relations in our Alumni Relations Department. She will be your best source for upcoming alumni events in your area. We hope that you are interested in learning more about new developments at WPI and the exciting initiatives led by President Berkey.

Gold star for WPI on the sleuthing! I wonder how much of an “Alumni Gift” they are looking for!

December 15, 2008


Posted in life at 7:49 pm by Michael

Friday night was classic Seattle in the winter. It was rainy, the wind was blowing, and it’s dark by about 4:15pm. On the weekends that we have the big kids, Anh goes over to Sammamish to pick them up from school when they get out at about 3:30pm. We usually just meet at home (she gets home w/the kids well before me), even though she drives right past Microsoft on her way. I’m usually still working.

Last Friday though, my meetings were over at 4, so I checked traffic (isn’t the Internet wonderful?), and it was *horrible*. Like a two hour plus commute home horrible. I called Anh just after 4pm to see if she wanted to stop at Microsoft and pick me up and we’d carpool home. No such luck, she had just passed the exit, and blammo, had hit traffic. The problem with SR 520 (one of the main roads from Redmond to Seattle) is that once you past the last Microsoft exit, the next opportunity to get off is well into the traffic zone, so you are generally stuck. Anh was stuck.

Our first plan was for her to still try to turn around and come back to get me. An hour later, and a mile further, this was clearly a bad plan. New plan – meet in Bellevue – get dinner – wait out the traffic – then go home.

We ended up converging on the Bellevue Square Mall at about 530pm, and found a place to eat. (Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – they are nice, accommodated the three kids very nicely, and even created a “kids cup” for Samwich out of a disposable paper soup cup with lid, with a hole punched in the top for a straw. Very inventive. One of the ways we now distract Samwich during dinner (he’s 21 months old today!) is with a Zune (The 30GB version ). I’ve loaded a bunch of movies for him on there (Cars, Bug’s Life, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo, etc) – and even though he doesn’t want to wear headphones/earbuds, and it just watching it w/o sound, he’s more than content. It makes dinner out bearable. Maybe we are bad parents, but, it works, and it keeps us and our fellow diners sane. Said Zune is also very useful on airplanes. I’m sure iPods are great too. I work at Microsoft. 🙂 )

Anyway, we had dinner, did a little Christmas shopping, and ventured home at about 8pm.  John was with me, Peri and Samwich with Anh. Traffic had abated.

We got home at about 830pm, I parked in the driveway, Anh on the street (one car in the driveway at a time – and Anh prefers the street as the driveway is steep and narrow). I got some stuff out of the back of my car, John started up the stairs with a load of stuff, and I went over to get some more stuff out of Anh’s car. Peri and Anh started up, with Anh carrying Samwich.

As I got to the base of the stairs, I heard Anh yell,

“Megan, we’ve been robbed.”

“Huh?”, I yelled?

“We’ve been robbed.”

“Call 911, don’t touch anything.”

I could hear Anh calling…..

I went upstairs, and went through the front door. In our TV room, the TV was disconnected, lying on the couch. The Xbox and two old (and broken) laptops were in Anh’s backpack (which was upstairs in her closet). In the family room, underneath the TV, there was a pillowcase from upstairs that had been filled with presents under the Christmas tree.

Upstairs, both of our nightstand drawers were on the bed, their contents emptied. The master bathroom drawers had been opened (Looking for drugs? If they wanted some estrogen, they were in LUCK!)

Our master closet had been tossed as well.

In the upstairs den, there were wrapped presents that had been half opened, looking for valuable stuff. (If they were into Cars like Samwich, they were IN LUCK!)

As we looked around, it looked like lots of stuff had been taken apart, but there wasn’t a lot missing.

John said that went he went up the stairs that the front door was open.

There were no other doors/windows that were obviously forced or broken.

Dammit. We have an alarm – a good one – monitored, redundant. We hadn’t turned it on. We had become complacent. Because we had not had any past problems, we assumed it was safe. Classic error – assuming that what happened in the past would continue to be the future.

As we did more investigation, looking for what was missing, it was clear that the answer was “Not Much”. In fact, the only things that we found were missing were our small Zune (8gb), and about $5 worth of Chinese Yuan that were in my nightstand drawer.

Robber #1 (unaware of the exchange rate): “Dude, I scored a big forty of Yu-annnnn.”
Robber #2 (more wordly): “Yo, that’s like, $5 at this exchange rate.”

About 20 minutes later, the police showed up. The patrol officer was super nice. He looked for prints, and found none. At one point he commented how he was surprised that he didn’t find prints given how clean that the stuff was. Clearly, our visitors wore gloves.

He got our info, gave us a report number, and he was off.

Our house was still a mess.

It was almost 10pm

While the officer was there, we put Samwich to bed – at least he was unaware of what was going on.

Peri and John were a little more upset. They felt violated, and so did we.

I started thinking about what could have scared them off. There were delivery boxes in the front. Was it that? Did UPS save us? That didn’t make sense. The boxes were still outside, but the front door was open. Why would that scare them?

Finally, it occurred to me.

We scared them off. From our living room, you have a clear view of the street and driveway. There were clearly at least two of them. When we arrived, someone was in the living room, and someone else was either upstairs, or taking apart the TV for removal.

They saw us, and they clearly left in a hurry – they didn’t even bother to take the backpacks that they had packed.

They saw me pull into the driveway, and were off– probably out the front door, and then jumped over a rail, and out the back through some bushes.

As I was cleaning up, it was gnawing at me. How did this happen? How do I stop it? How do I protect my family?

About an hour later, Peri and John were tired, and they went to bed, with a little more reassuring than usual.

Anh and I were up for a while more – straightening, cleaning, making right.

People were in my house.


They went through my stuff.

They stole from us. They were going to steal more.

What would have happened if they hadn’t got out in time – what would have happened if John and Peri met them at the door?

Anh was tired at about 1230 and went to bed. I stayed up for a little longer, then went to bed, but I didn’t sleep. I think I got probably an hour’s sleep that whole night.

The next morning we all got up (well, Samwich got up, and we all followed).

After breakfast, I went to Home Depot to get all manner of door reinforcing devices.

I spent all day installing the new devices.

Hammering, chiseling, drilling, screwing, cathartic.

At one point John said:

“A house should be your castle, but not your fortress.”

How does he come up with this stuff?

Hammering, chiseling, drilling, screwing, hmmm…..

That night, it started to snow. It started to really feel like Christmas.

Snowy Seattle

Snowy Seattle


Snowy Tree

Snowy Tree

Snow relaxes me.

However, I didn’t sleep much better Saturday night. Turns out that we had forgotten our security code for the security system. After about an hour earlier in the day of going through all of the combinations that we normally use, we had determined that we had totally forgotten.

The only way to reset a master code is to totally reset/hard boot the security panel. There was no way to do that w/o having a tech come out, and that was days, not hours away.

More than anything I wanted the reassurance of the alarm – not for our stuff, but for my family. I would do anything for them.

I had decided that the quickest way to fix the panel was to “brute force” the code. That means sequentially going through each and every code (in order), till the right code was found.

I spent a couple more hours Saturday night doing the brute force method.

Four numbers in the code….

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Anh said, “Megan, it’s no use. Come to bed.”

I tried for a while more.

I climbed into bed weary from the day, but unable to sleep.

I think I got about four hours of sleep that night.

The next morning we woke up to a snowy and impassible Sunday morning. I know it sounds lame, and it hurts my New England genes when I say it, but when we get an inch or two of snow, the hills (like our road) are just impassible.

I made the kids chocolate chip pancakes (specialty of the house), and they were quickly devoured. Samwich was especially happy, and ended up mooching more off of his sister’s plate.

After breakfast, I started in surreptitiously trying to brute force the code again.

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“System Active”


I tried again.

Number, number, number, number

“System Active”


“Anh, I got it!, I got it!”

“No WAY!”


I tried to activate, deactivate the system, and it worked!

Wow, isn’t technology great?

With a newfound sense of relief and renewal, we all got ready to go for a walk to go play in the snow.

The kids got bundled up, ready for the snow and the cold. They all went outside, and I was the last one out.

Security – Alarm – Away – Activate.

“Beep Beep Beep. System Armed.”

That was the first time that we were all out of the house since Friday night.

As I walked down the stairs I felt better but worse. I’d now done all I could do to protect my house, my family.

It felt like cold medicine though – treating the symptom but not the cause.

It was all I could do.

December 5, 2008


Posted in life at 11:15 am by Michael

I love flying. I got my pilot’s license back in 2000, and had flown nearly 1000 hours between then and the fall of last year.

Things got super busy, then I had the facial discombobulation surgery, and it was spring. Still no flying.

I had to get a new FAA medical exam, and I did that. Then my license lapsed because I had to do my biennial flight review.

I have to make an appointment with the local FAA office (FSDO in pilot speak) to change my name – in person.

I haven’t done it.

I think about it.

I think about how lame it is that I didn’t do it.

Honestly, part of what’s holding me back is that I don’t want to deal with calling my flight instructor and “explaining”. Jack is super cool, and I’m sure it would be fine, but I’m weary of explaining.

I don’t want to walk into the FBO (plane parking place), and then have to explain to them too….

This is SUPER LAME. I need to just deal and go do it.

Yes, I still have challenges.

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