Why yes, I am a Nerd Girl

Michael: Well if you used a different charger for your phone, you might have destroyed the battery. Did you check the amps/voltage?
Me: Oh. Right. Hm, didn’t think of that.
Michael: You might’ve blasted your battery! You gave it too much charge and destroyed the flux capacitor!
Me: Now that is just silly. You can’t destroy the flux capacitor by giving it too much charge, as soon as you hit 88mph you’re already traveling through time. There is no going faster than 88mph. You need a better metaphor.
Michael: That’s a good point.
Jesse: …You guys are blowing my mind. You know the exact miles per hour it takes to time travel??
Me: Well sure. It’s not that fast.

“Cherish Your Solitude” quote

Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no whenever you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.

Reflections on Sketchnoting PechaKuchaCMH 18

Tonight I went to the 18th Pecha Kucha here in good ole Columbus town. It was my fourth time attending and I went to be enlightened, empowered, and inspired. Of course I went with my sketchbook and pens in tow, but, having sketchnoted other Pecha Kucha events, I experimented with my process.


Like other events I’ve attended where I planned to sketchnote, I arrived early to stake out a good spot. Because the event was outside, I had to bring my own chair. To make it easier to carry everything, I brought two black pens and no color markers. I grabbed a program at the entrance and sat my chair at the edge of the crowd.

Setting Up

After sitting, I looked over the program. Ten speakers, two musical guests. Excellent. I drew the Pecha Kucha logo in the corner with the date, and decided to do something I’ve never done before: draw a grid on my paper.

The thing is, with Pecha Kucha, speakers get 20 secs for each of their 20 slides which progress automatically. That gives them 6:40min to say whatever point they want to make… and sketchnoting that can get crazy difficult because you never know what will be super inspiring. I tend to run out of space for the last speakers, which is frustrating, to say the least.

Ergo the grid. By blocking off ten equal (roughly) areas on the page, I was guaranteed to have enough space to cover every speaker. I labeled each block at the top with the speaker’s name and affiliation while it was still light out to ensure I wouldn’t mess up in between speakers. The transition time is less than a minute between speakers anyway, and I’ve had trouble keeping up in the past.

The Talks

I underestimated the grid, completely. I’ve never enjoyed a Pecha Kucha event more! I didn’t have to worry about spacing, keeping up, or anything. It was almost like my page was split into ten mini-pages where I had to capture the one or two main points of the talk as I understood it. I brought my thicker marker (Micron 08) to make sure I didn’t focus on drawing super detailed. I knew I wouldn’t have the time.

Only drawing with black pen felt like going back to my roots. When I began sketchnoting in earnest, I refused to use any color. I wanted to explore the high contrast of black pen on white-ish paper; I wasn’t ready for color yet. I did go back and throw some colored pencil on top of my drawings, only because it seemed difficult to separate the talks even with (or because of) the grid.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, experimenting with an explicit grid and labeling the sections half an hour before the talks even began was worth it. The constraints were exactly what I needed to make the sketchnoting experience less stressful and more fun.

The final sketch, shown below, is also on Flickr.

I Animate My Feelings

So I’ve had a headache the last two days that have made me want to give up and never leave my bed. I did anyway, and suffered through staring at a computer screen even though my eyes hurt too much to use my glasses.

I think this little animation I made summarizes my mood fairly well.

Making a Moment

As I dive deeper into the lindy hop and swing dance community, I can’t help but get a little meta about it, especially after witnessing the after-party from CBUS6 yesterday. You see, up until this past weekend, I’ve been the sort of community who attends the local events only; weekly and monthly dances.

This past weekend was CBUS6, i.e. the sixth lindy exchange based here in Columbus. It was a fantastic event, made awesome because the planning committee worked hard to make sure there was an equal number of followers and leaders. When the last official dance was over, I was invited to join the remaining locals at a committee member’s house to help eat the leftover food and hang out.

There were hardwood floors perfect for dancing in socks, so even though we had danced all weekend, we got to be really silly and dance like 1980s Cosby, do the mashed potato and the twist, and even the Jump On It dance (via The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).

I got to watch people whom I consider expert dancers talk about technique, which was certainly eye-opening because I don’t know the names to any of the moves that I do on the dance floor when I swing and lindy hop. I’m lucky in that I can pick up moves after a couple of trial runs, so I’ve never really had to take official lessons. Which is about the time the user researcher in me blinked and realized what was going on: I’ve been performing ethnographic research on this community since I joined in late August.

The swing dance community in Columbus, OH is amazing, hands down. The people are welcoming, fantastic dancers who don’t care about your skill level as long as you love to dance as much as they do. I knew there was much going on behind the scenes that I hadn’t access to, being a new member, so man, was it awesome to see these guys at work!

By the luck of simply being present, I got to watch as a new competition couple asked the advice of two veterans about their choice of song, and what they could do with it. Which brings me to the title of this post, “Making a Moment.”

As the five of us sat in a parked car on the side of a residential road listening to the chosen song of the new competition couple, one of the veteran dancers said, “This is a great song. You have the opportunity to have a lot of nice moments.”

I was struck by her choice of words. Moments? I had heard that word used before, in a very similar fashion. When I took ceramics, I made a piece called The Frog Prince. A ceramic masters student at the time walked past me while I was building the piece, complimenting me on the “great moments” I had captured.


I love this piece because it has humor. The prince puckers his lips, looking confident and hopeful. The girl, with her lip curled in disgust, leans as far back as gravity will allow before actually falling over. She is so desperate to reject his advances that her hair whips with the force of her movement.

I feel as though in the arts and artistic endeavors such as dance, we aim for making “moments.” The thing is, I’m still not entirely sure how to describe a “moment” to someone outside of the community, be it the ceramic, painting, drawing, or dancing community. Is it something perfectly captured in a sliver of time that triggers something in our minds and emotions? Is it something ephemeral, or is it static? I’m not entirely sure. Having heard this word used in two different, yet possibly related fields, it makes me wonder…

Could I make a “moment” in a website or physical design, i.e. something meant to be used, rather than observed? The moments mentioned earlier put the audience in a passive role: you study the ceramic piece; you watch (and cheer) the competing dance couple.

Perhaps making a moment in interaction design is too much like trying to make an experience, which just rubs me the wrong way. I can’t make an experience, because only the person having the experience knows if they are having an experience, or if they are simply experiencing something in a line of all the other somethings in their day. I can provide an environment which has a collection of variables which may very well lead to an intellectual/emotional/physical experience. But I can’t create the experience.

But it seems I can create a moment, at least with clay. So what is it I would have to do in order to capture a moment using technology as my medium?

Think, think, think…

I’m at VizThink!

Hey everyone, short post today because I did a guest post at VizThink about my sketchnoting experience at the first TEDxBloomington. It was my second TEDx event, and it did not disappoint. In fact, I think I might have liked it better than the TEDxColumbus event I went to this past fall!

Anyway, take a gander at my post, and help spread the word?

In other sketchnoting news, I have a tag on Sketchnote Army because they have highlighted my sketches so often. I’m feeling really good about this. I feel like I’m finding my place in the world. 😛