First speaking event complete

Last night I spoke at LaunchCoderGirl, an all-women group learning how to code. I spoke about what QA does in an Agile software development environment. People laughed at most of the places I wanted them to laugh, and when I was done there were several questions, then people wanted to talk to me.

This was my first ever public speaking gig. I almost ran out of business cards, and I have no idea how long I talked. My slides had a Dilbert cartoon, an xkcd cartoon, and the D&D alignment chart, plus some screenshots and links to QA resources.

Public speaking has always terrified me. I've taken baby steps with helping to facilitate our Agile QA class, and speaking at the new hire orientation session twice. Last night was not terrifying, and it was fun. And I used the green laser pointer I've wanted to get for years.

Edited to add:
I put my slides and transcript on Slide Share.

How to have a meeting that doesn’t suck

Have a defined end-point for the meeting, and get there as soon as you can.

Take your own notes, by hand, on paper. You'll notice what's relevant to you and the act of writing helps you recall it.

Allow audience participation, it's not a lecture or a class, it's about collaboration. Someone else knows information that's relevant and they can't speak if you never leave space for other people's words.

Count at least seven seconds of silence when you ask a question. People start squirming at that much dead air and someone will fill it. Some people can tolerate more silence than others, watch for them and ask them questions directly.

If your meeting room is a fridge, people are too busy being cold to pay attention to what you say, and they probably hate you for keeping on talking.

Multiple-hour info-dump meetings will be forgotten by morning. Multiple-hour meetings that are also cold will be remembered only as cold and too long.

Humans need regular bio breaks. Having to ask to be taken to the rest room as an adult, because you require a security badge to get back in and you're not handing those out to visitors, is humiliating. Don't be that company. If you can't get around the badge issue, schedule a break every couple of hours and get people up and moving.

If it's a meeting where people can phone in, make sure they can hear you over the phone. Repeat questions before answering them, and speak clearly and more loudly than usual.

For a video conference, have a dry run of the technology the day before to make sure everything is working OK. Do not make your meeting the first time you turn the video camera on.

If there's any way possible you can get everyone in the same room, do that.

Patience, a story in one hundred words

Rain and grains of hail bounced off her hide with a metallic ting, falling to the cobblestones below. Solidified iron draped over her crouched form, holding her in place and burning her skin every second of every day, eyes propped open, ears half-blocked, muscles aching to stretch and open her wings to fly away. She caught the scent of greasy hamburgers and fries and her claws twitched. So hungry. A teen boy pointed up at her, waving his food. "Ooh, scary gargoyles!"

One day, she thought. Five hundred seven years of her sentence complete, only nine more to go.

(This is a drabble, a story in precisely one hundred words, written for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge.)

Recycled Firefighter Inspector review, v1 and v2

Recycled Firefighter makes wallets and notebook covers from fire hose that’s been taken out of service. It’s run by Jake, a firefighter in Kentucky, and he sews a lot of fire hose. Some products come with a back story, a note explaining which fire hose was used and why it was taken out of service. These hoses have served anywhere up to 20 years before failing a safety test and getting tossed out.

The Inspector is Jake’s notebook cover for Field Notes size notebooks. I’m using mine for a Word Notebooks mood log and my task list. This is the version 1 Inspector:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover v1.

It’s edged with Mil-Spec (military specification) black nylon webbing. It has a slightly stretchy pen holder on the front cover made from the same material that’s used inside for the two flap covers. Mine is made from yellow fire hose that’s seen serious use, it’s got scuff marks on it and some dirt for character. There’s a scuff on the spine, but I’m not expecting that to develop into a hole because this fire hose is thick and tough.

I’m not a fan of pen holders on notebooks, so I’m not using that part, but it easily accommodates my favourite pen, a titanium Mover from Will Hodges at Tactile Turn. The yellow is easy to find in my backpack, and I’ve used an eminently replaceable Field Notes Band of Rubber to hold it closed, but it’s not necessary. I like that this cover has no parts that can wear out, or get loose and saggy. My notebook is safe inside.

This is the v2 Inspector, and the orange just pops! I think this is a much younger piece of fire hose.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

This version has a leather pen holder, I can get my Mover pen in but right now it’s a tight fit. The biggest difference between the two is that the v1 had two flap holders on the inside, and the v2 has just one, made of leather, holding the back cover of a Calepino notebook (far better paper for fountain pens than Field Notes, mine came from CW Pencil Enterprise). The v2 also adds an elastic strap to hold the cover closed, that is sewn into the back of the cover and would work like a Moleskine or Rhodia strap. The Recycled Firefighter tag is on the outside of the v2, and on the inside of the v1. The v2 is smaller and thinner, and feels about the same weight.

This is the two of them, side by side:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1 and v2.

I plan on using both, but I think my favourite is the v1. A hybrid v3 where you add a second notebook flap to the v2 (and ditch the elastic strap? Please?) would be about perfect, but for my use, the v1 feels like it was built to withstand a tank attack, where the v2 has a moveable part (the strap) with a shelf life. Also, I could fit two notebooks in the v1 if I wanted to, and the v2 can only carry the one.

The finish on both is excellent. The sewn lines are straight, there are no loose threads, the ends of the webbing are melted so they can’t fray. The leather smells great, it’s not too thick and it’s soft. Go support a firefighter, get something made by hand not by machines, and help salvage some fire hose.

Craftsy drawing class

I picked up a Craftsy class, 10 Essential Techniques for Better Drawing by Patricia Watwood, and this is what I produced for lesson three, where she's talking about composition lines, block in lines, and contour lines.

Craftsy drawing class, lesson 3.

Above is my drawing with just the block-in lines to show where the angles and edges are. Below is the finished drawing.

Craftsy drawing class, lesson 3.

I have another 7 lessons to go, I'm liking the format and this is one of my better drawings yet.

Two reasons I’m not buying a Tesla Model S

Got this in an email from Tesla about the Model S:

At this time, the Model S does not have the ability to lock and unlock individual doors. That said, we give owners the option to disable the keyless entry function of the car.

Not sure how you'd get in without keyless entry, but it must be possible. It's really odd that the Model S doesn't have a feature that every woman I've talked to definitely wants. With most cars, you can open just the driver's door, then a second unlock opens the rest of the car, assuming it's safe to do so. Every woman I talked to shuddered a little at the thought of a car always unlocking all the doors, especially after dark when you're alone.

Their solution to the seat belt cutting into my neck was to raise the seat. Tried that, but I still need to be able to reach the pedals. So, as a woman, and as someone with short legs, that's two strikes against me buying a Model S.

ETA 21st Feb:
The Tesla sales guy we met called yesterday and said he's passed on the door thing to the engineers, and "they're working on it." Once I explained the seat belt thing, he didn't have a solution for that, but now he understands the problem. It is a deal-breaker for me, and it's something Mazda has had solved since at least 2002, and Ford doesn't have that problem either.

Doodle revolution

The second half of the Doodle Revolution book is about the Infodoodle, and it's a lot more text-heavy. The Infodoodle sounds a lot like a sketchnote, it's a tool for remembering and summarising a large amount of verbal or written information into an easy-to-recall image and text display.

This part of the book has infrequent exercises in, it's about group Infodoodles. Since I don't lead many meetings, there's not too much here I'll immediately use. I like the descriptions of ways you can use a doodle in meetings, and I'll see if I can use them at work. We do have a lot of walls you can write on.

The next books in my drawing discovery are going to be Mike Rohdes The Sketchnote Handbook and Henning Nelms Thinking With a Pencil. I'm also going to try a few Zentangles, and design an alien.

Designing an alien

I've been drawing the same cartoon hedgehog since high school, it's time there was a companion doodle. I'm calling this guy Boris, and he's a work in progress.

Tesla Model S mini review

We test-drove the Tesla Model S P85D (bigger battery, dual motors, all-wheel drive) on Saturday. It's a gorgeous car, with breathtaking acceleration, and amazing amounts of cargo space in both front and back.

Tesla Motors Model S.

The red is a deep, rich, lipstick colour. We were told it's made by putting translucent red over gold.

Tesla Motors Model S.

There's cargo space in the front, where you'd expect to find an engine. Cargo space, and a lid for the screen-wash fluid. There's no transmission hump across the back, so more legroom, and space to put a purse in the front because it has only one gear, according to our sales guy.

Tesla Motors Model S.

I have a couple of niggles with it though. I'm 5ft 4in on a good day and I have short legs. While I could move the seat far enough forward to reach the pedals, the seat belt was cutting into my neck the whole way, with no way of shifting it up or down, unlike my trusty Mazda3 hatchback. If I shifted the seat up to reduce the seatbelt problem, I couldn't have reached the pedals. Uncomfortable, and we've dropped cars from our possibles list for the same annoyance. I'm not going to buy something I'm not going to be comfortable driving. Which brings us to my second worry.

It's a personal safely issue. I work in downtown St Louis. I'm female. The last thing I want, when I'm walking up to my car at night, is for all four doors to unlock themselves when I'm several feet away, which the Tesla helpfully does. I want only one, the driver's door, and I want it to open only when I'm right by it and ready to get in. I feel it is not safe to have my car open to the world from multiple feet away. I'd hope that's configurable on the Model S, if not, please fix that Tesla.

Doodle!

I'm reading Sunni Brown's book The Doodle Revolution, and this is from two of the exercises in chapter four:

Doodle game - Stickify and Face Matrix.

Sunni Brown has a six minute TED talk, Doodler's Unite! that includes some of the material from the book. I've drawn cartoon animals on sunny landscapes since I was in high school (thanks to dull history lessons at Copleston High), and I love the idea of drawing, but my practice always falls short. Doodling has a much lower bar.

My plan is to finish this book and keep doodling. Pictures of my doodles will end up in a Flickr album, Drawing and Doodles. The next book about doodling I'll work through is The Sketchnote Handbook.