What’s a poor ‘normal’ to do?

Life in the slow lane of a ones and zeroes world. 

Growing up, I used to draw all over my school notebooks. Sadly, I didn’t use my notebooks to take notes, solve equations or anything else remotely practical. I remember a middle school science teacher leaned over my notebook and said, loud enough for the whole class to hear:

“Very nice, Ms. Josephson, but drawing ladies in pretty dresses will not help you navigate the complexities of the real world.”

As it turns out, this statement ended up being both true and untrue.

It’s a true statement, because I didn’t end up with good grades in that science class, or good grades in any other future science or math class.

And even though I’d been lucky enough to have early exposure to computers in my home life, using my dad’s IBM computers to play Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego; even though I rocked at programming shapes in Logo; and even though I once designed a computer program where a tiny train car travelled from station to station on the New York City subway line while Guns N Roses played in the background, no one ever suggested I should take a computer class, and the thought never occurred to me either.

So I ended up taking lots of writing, history, and journalism classes. I didn’t have an email address until my second year of college, but I did end up having an amazing career in journalism and online video production, with a ‘mile-wide, inch deep’ expertise on everything from the effects of toxic mold to the tragedy of priest abuse, to the after-effects of hurricanes to the Dalai Lama’s feelings about the science of neuroplasticity.

But here’s what I wasn’t doing all that time: Coding. Building web pages. Learning to think critically about online security. So you may be as surprised as I was to find myself producing a daily news show about technology for an audience steeped in all of the above, and hosted by someone who could not only do all of the above, but also explain to his audience why Heartbleed is a big deal and the OpenID flaw isn’t as much.

Now, as a trained day-of-air journalist, I know how to make myself familiar enough with a complex story, and therefore I know how to make myself at least moderately useful to this bright, curious community. But when you cover technology for the benefit of people who work in the field, there’s no amount of cramming that will provide authentic, first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of SQL injections, peering agreements or the technical specs of a crypto-currency.

There’s no getting around it: in the eco-system of The Daily Tech News Show, I am ‘a normal’ among the knowing. My technological savvy is to the DTNS audience what my mother’s is to mine. (Hey, look, math!) I am the resident DTNS dummy with a field-level view of the future, and if the Heartbleed flaw is any indication, it’s not going to be pretty for folks like me.

So yeah, long-forgotten middle school science teacher, drawing ladies in pretty dresses did not help me navigate the complexities of the real world.

Until just last week, when it did.

Every Friday on the Daily Tech News Show, we have an artist illustrate the tech topic of the day. Except on May 2nd, our resident genius artist, Len Peralta, was unavailable, and the other person I booked to fill-in had a last minute conflict. So that left Option A) no drawing, or Option B) producer drawing.

As you can see, I dug out the colored pencils, buckled down, put my elementary drawing skills to the test, and put all of my fears about the future on paper. And as it turns out, I may not know exactly what an SQL injection is, or does, but I’m pretty sure it has wings, and a stinger. And I’m pretty sure that Heartbleed is enjoying the razor thin border between “hand on the waist” and “copping a feel.” And thanks to a member of our very vocal chatroom, I also know that anything having to do with the internet, must also have a cat.

So on May 2nd, going back to the drawing board after all these years has taught me a valuable lesson: I may never have all the answers when it comes to tech, but I have lots of questions, I have a voice, and I have access to a community of smart people willing to listen.

And let’s not forget the most important thing: I have a job where, every once in a while, I get to DRAW.

That’s pretty cool.


Jennie Josephson is an award-winning freelance producer and notorious over-thinker. These days she is helping Tom Merritt produce his Daily Tech News Show. You can read more about her at about.me/jjo. Or you could just read the next article.