Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Image courtesy of edenpictures

Today was my first day volunteering at a local children's hospital. I decided to volunteer because:
1) I can
2) I am self-employed and have a flexible schedule
3) It's a great way to really get inside and see how a hospital works (A better option than having kidney stones or breaking any limbs)

Personally and professionally, I like to be a voyeur. I love to hear what people think about things, see how they act in different situations and how they interact in others. This is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. The best part, though? The amazing smiles on the kids faces.

My volunteer work includes taking a clown around to the various rooms in the pediatric units and acting as a clown-wrangler - keeping kids safe from him if they are scared and keeping him moving along if they become over engaged. What I saw in my first outing was delightful. There is sickness, pain and frustration in every room, but with the clown comes a ray of hope.

Red noses will never look the same after you see them placed on a sad and sick child. The light on their faces comes from the nose and the clown and the momentary break in people poking and prodding them with needles and all other manner of things. How wonderful that pushing the red nose does not elicit pain but a slight honk, bringing a smile to every face nearby.

Already, I overheard interesting conversations - mostly families who know more about hospitals and how they work and how they compare than any civilian should. But for now, I'd like to rest on the sweet, relaxed and calmed faces of the kids who, for just a moment, get a break in the action thanks to a small, squishy, red foam ball.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fantasy Becomes Reality

The Costume Graveyard - so colorful!

The fabric shop - how it makes me pine for making "stuff!"

A character from the Lion King.

Metal tubing bent to create the legs of the bear seen at the Vancouver Olympics. Each one was bent by hand to look more "bear like".

A character from Finding Nemo.

Dad-fish from Finding Nemo.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to see Lion King. Many of you may not be lovers of musicals, but I am. It's out. It's true. I spent 7 years running wardrobe and building costumes for theaters in the east and midwest. Five of those years were spent doing all musicals, all the time at the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire, IL.

The opening scene of Lion King was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes. Music, costumes, lights, a "safari" of people and extraordinary puppets surrounds the audience. It was then I learned about Julie Taymor and Michael Curry and their amazing skills at bringing fantasy to life - using people and puppetry seamlessly to create fantastical creatures.

So, I moved to Oregon and found out Michael Curry's workshop is just north of Portland in Scappoose! I recently set up a tour for the Portland Chapter of the Industrial Design Society of America and 20 of us had the great fortune to tour this creative mecca.

What was most wonderful to see, was how little machinery was involved and how much of the work is still done by hand, true artistry. Though they use CAD and other machines to assist, it was obvious that hand work takes precedence.

One of our tour guides was apparently in the left leg of the polar bear last Friday night at the Vancouver Olympic opening ceremonies! We visited the fabric shop, a sculpture shop, a metal shop, the warehouse of old costumes (not a place to go in the dark of night) and even saw the performance area they use for actors and designers to test out the puppets/costumes for movement and to learn to utilize them to the fullest.

Curry has an exceptional ability to visualize large scale designs and a staff whose talents are wide ranging - each having multiple disciplines to pull from. As for me, I just want to get lost in all of the fabric and findings and create something mystical and wonderful. Guess I'll just have to wait for his next show!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sleep Tracking

At CES in January, I was lucky enough to be given a Zeo sleep machine by an employee after a long conversation about their product. Was it too good to be true? How does it work, and most importantly, do they need user experience researchers??

It seems they have actually done a good bit of research and the ease of use is high. I intended to do an "out of box" post...but haven't yet. Instead, I'm excited today to share some comparative data having just found out about the iPhone Sleep Cycle app.

Cost: The Zeo retails for $249 and the iPhone app for 0.99 cents. Wow. So what's the difference?

Goal: In a nutshell, the iPhone App captures data and shares it, but doesn't look for the comprehensive picture of your life to help you significantly change your quality of sleep. The Zeo is really more of a medical tool, a way to help understand your patterns, lifestyle and why you are or are not getting enough of the right kind of sleep. For fun, get the App. For issues, get the Zeo.

How it works: Both devices do offer an alarm that will wake you when you are in light sleep and not in deep sleep around the time you request an alarm. You wake up rested rather than jarred out of a deep sleep. The App works simply by placing the phone on your bed. The accelerometer does the rest. The Zeo works by reading data send from a quite comfortable (but unattractive) headband you wear during sleep to the machine at your bedside.

The process: I must admit, however, that I'm not a person who enjoys lots of surveys, questions and daily tracking (despite the fact that I love to design them for others!). Zeo is intensive. You need to give it a lot of information if you are truly wanting to learn and change your sleep. I'm more of the mildly curious type, just wondering how well, and how many hours I slept and how it compares overall. I notice that caffeine days and the one night I had a beer near bedtime result in reduced sleep quality. Good to know...

But, I want to share the information quality because it is an interesting comparison.

Shot #1 - The sleep machine the morning of Feb. 3. The white lines on the graph were added in Photoshop so you can see the info. The graph shows, top to bottom, Wake, REM, Light and Deep sleep. For a person in my age range, a good "sleep number" average is 74. That estimates 6.8 hours of sleep, 1.4 hours of REM, 56 minutes of Deep and 28 minutes of waking during the night.

 The above images are information you see at after plugging in the SD card that lives in the device and logging in to your account. You can see detailed information about your sleep. You also have the opportunity to fill in a journal about your activity levels, alcohol and caffeine intake and other habits that may affect your sleep.

Feb. 3 I had 6.58 hours of sleep, 2:09 of REM, 1:07 of deep and 30 minutes awake.
Looks like I had a good night's sleep! However, I am admittedly sluggish this morning...

Sleep Cycle app: Finally, this is the data you see from the iPhone app. As you can see, for .99 it's not a lot, but for many, it's just enough! However, this does not really seem to map to the Zeo data from the same night, Feb. 3. According to this screen, I had various levels of deep sleep and no dreaming sleep. The general rise and fall seems to map, but the details leave much to be desired. However, as an alarm to wake you during light sleep, it seems to be successful.

This is just the first night of data, but so far, the Zeo wins for accuracy and real behavior change, the iPhone wins for a cost, a nice alarm and a general sense of things.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Portland Events

I've decided to post a comprehensive list of my favorite Portland events for learning about things of interest as well as networking. My areas of interest include health, technology and design. Now, get out there and have some fun! Let me know if you have an event to add.

Interaction Design Association
Last Tuesday of every month, Design Jam Sessions

Industrial Designers Society of America
Last Wednesday of every month - 3by10, 3 speakers, 10 minutes each, then beer

Computer Human Interaction Forum of Oregon
First Wednedsay every month - speakers

A global not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurship.
Various events, subscribe to their email list.

UX Book Group
Last Tuesday, every other month

For researchers of all types!
First Tuesday every month at the Maiden for networking