Namaste: Yoga Podcasts

February 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

A while back on Paradoxologies I blogged about some great free yoga pod casts that I found through iTunes.  (That was all the way back in June of 2007!) Since then I have developed a really nice home practice with the inspiration mainly from Phil Urso’s Baptiste Power Vinyasa classes. I decided to blog about it here because I consider these podcasts a positive use of technology, promoting health, peace, and namaste.

Phil Urso’s podcasts are wonderful, and throughout 2006 and 2007 he was uploading them pretty regularly. In 2008 and so far in 2009 the podcasts have been more sporadic. Nonetheless, there are numerous class-length podcasts here, enough here to mix it up or repeat your favorites. His classes are challenging, his meditations are insightful, and his suggestions and tweeks for the poses have offered some really helpful enhancements to my practice, taking me deeper into some of the poses.

I have recently noticed that there are some other teachers out there providing free pod casts. I have been checking some of them out, and these are worth mentioning.

Dave Farmar — I haven’t spent as much time with these podcasts, but the few that I have tried have offered a more aggressive and vigorous practice. One could almost say more athletic. These again are full-length class podcasts are good for those who are looking for a more athletic practice.

TeriLeigh — I discovered these podcasts just a few weeks ago, and I may be partial to them because TeriLeigh is someone I could have gone to high school with. She grew up just a few miles from my home town, and is just a few years younger than I am. She has podcasts going back to March of 2008, and so far what I like about them is the variety. She has podcasts of different lengths — from 20 minutes to two hours — and each one so far offers a different series of postures. I find that many teachers tend to follow the same series, with a little variation. This is fine, but it is kind of refreshing to find a series of classes that offers a little variety. TeriLeigh has a very spiritual approach to her practice, and I find her vinyasa flow to be slow and intentional, allowing for time to really deepen each pose. While the practice is gentle, I find that it requires a lot of stamina (and therefore builds stamina, which is one of my goals) I generate a lot of heat.

These three podcasts, are all in the Baptiste Power Vinyasa method, and the teachers assume that you have had previous yoga training and are familiar with the postures. I do not recommend these for those just beginning. They are really great for intermediate and advanced students who want to get a solid home practice going.

More appropriate for beginners is Yoga Journal’s podcasts. While Yoga Journal is a commercial enterprise chock full of ads for weight-loss products aimed directly at women, and I indeed have my criticisms of it, I still find it to be a helpful resource and inspiration for my practice. They have launched a series of podcasts, which are now videos. Videos offer the advantage of actually seeing what the posture is supposed to look like. For beginners this can be a really helpful reference. What I like about these videos is that they are short and focus on specific poses parts of the body. If you have a specific part of your practice that you feel needs a little strengthening, there are videos that are available to address your specific concern. I recommend that you warm up a little on your own with a few sun salutations before launching into the podcasts about hip openers or backbends.

Some other podcasts and videos that I haven’t tried yet may also be worth checking out. Please leave a comment if you know of another good one!

Following the Economic Crisis

February 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

Since I study finance, wealth, and people for a living, I have a great deal of exposure to tools and information that help people understand the economic crisis. You can find my bookmarks on Delicious.

While all of the sites that I bookmark there are worthwhile, there are some that I think are exceptional:

  • Planet Money: Their blog and podcast offer unconventional and innovative reporting on the financial crisis. It’s entertaining and informative, explaining complicated concepts in terms almost anyone can understand. Some of their stories are featured on numerous NPR programs, so if you’re an NPR geek like me, you’re certain to have heard them. They also encourage audience participation. Upload a photo to their Flickr page, post a question to them through their Facebook group or Twitter, subscribe to the blog in your RSS feed, and listen to the podcasts. You’ll better understand these complicated economic times and how they could be effecting you.
  • IGM Forum: A web resource started by faculty members from the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Busines. The University of Chicago has long been known for its intellectual leadership in the world of finance and economics, and this crisis is no exception. Faculty members are regularly consulted by the media for thier analysis of the credit crisis and what it means for the future. While this is not a website with the intent to breakdown complicated economic policy like Planet Money, it is probably one of the primary resources that Planet Money would consult.
  • Speaking of Faith’s Repossessing Virtue: The wonderful radio program Speaking of Faith (SOF) launched this series on the economic crisis in the fall of 2008. Producers of SOF have gone back to interview previous guests to hear their responses and analysis of the financial crisis. This series offers thought provoking commentary regarding the spiritual and emotional side of this crisis and what it means for us. What’s offered here are lessons of mindfulness, responsibility, and values that can help us make economic choices that are sustainable and ethical.

As always, I’m interested in more resources, so I encourage readers to share their favorites.

Appreciation and Hope for Ma.gnolia

February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

As all Ma.gnolia users know, the wonderful social bookmarking site suffered a “catastrophic data loss” on January 30th. The first thing I thought of when I first learned this was “poor Larry!” Larry Halff, the founder of Ma.gnolia is a friend of mine from college, and Ma.gnolia is his life’s work, a real labor of love. I’m sure that his heart was breaking.

At first I assumed that like so many others, I had lost most of my bookmarks. Fortunately, between FriendFeed and my experiment with Delicious last summer, I have all of my bookmarks, and I have only lost tags and notes from everything I have saved since July of 2008.

Lesson learned here: Keep your own data backups. I’m going to continue to use Delicious even after Ma.gnolia relaunches (I’m optimistic that it will), just so that I know my bookmarks are saved somewhere else, and I will also do a periodic download for my own files.

I know that there are many users out there who are going to have trust issues when it is relaunched. I am confident that Larry is learning some hard lessons that he will carry forward into the Ma.gnolia 2.0, and he will take all precautions to ensure that this will never happen again. I am optimistic and hopeful for the return of Ma.gnolia.

Even at the moment I believed that my bookmarks were lost for ever, I was hoping for the rebirth of Ma.gnolia. While I am grateful that I have an alternative in Delicious to track my bookmarks, right now I am really missing the lovely design of the social networking features that are Ma.gnolia’s greatest strength. I was following and corresponding with some very interesting people with eclectic interests that were reflected in their saved bookmarks. The groups that I was following introduced me to even more people, resources, and ideas.

In addition to discovering interesting new websites and people, I learned many new things there, including Getting Things Done, which is an organizational and productivity method that I now employ, and the concept of tagging as an emerging method of information management, and the inspiring community of activists and professionals that are using social networking tools to foment positive social change, which is the theme of this blog.  Ma.gnolia opened a door for me to a world of resources and people who are promoting sustainable living, citizen journalism, civil rights, and getting people together for actions and projects, or just to have fun. I know that I likely would have encountered much of this without social networking tools, but it was facilitated with greater efficiency and speed.

I credit Larry and Ma.gnolia with my introduction to this world. I already had a penchant for it, but for me, it was Ma.gnolia that really clicked and made me appreciate how valuable these tools are for gathering and sharing information. Through Ma.gnolia, I was emboldened to try Facebook and Twitter among others, which have since become invaluable to me.

I have been using social networking tools since 2006. In 2007 I moved from the Bay Area to Chicago, and it immediately became apparent to me how useful these tools would be for me to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones, and even find long-lost friends I never thought I would hear from again. It has been a real gift, and it is only getting better as more and more friends and colleagues are starting to use them.

I wish Larry and his colleagues the very best, and I am anxiously awaiting the rebirth of Ma.gnolia!

Shorty Awards

December 20, 2008 § 5 Comments

Now that I know about the Shorty Awards, I am spending a little time this morning thinking who I want to nominate in different categories, and what my criteria is.

I am finding that I like best the Twitterers that are smart (but I won’t follow you if you’re not, so I guess that goes without saying) have useful and/or entertaining content, and who don’t overuse auto-feeds. I like to see a little personality come through. Personal and practical, and any combination thereof. And for my vote, it helps if you have a sense of humor and that you occasionally interact with me (not to be too self-absorbed about it).

I might suggest to the shorty awards that they create a couple of categories:

  • Positivity
  • Writing
  • Community Building
  • Citizen Journalism (which I suppose could be lumped in w/ news, but the main stream news outlets are *very* different.)
  • Activism
  • Social Change
  • Reference and Libraries
  • Emergency Response
  • Creativity
  • Television

If these categories existed, I would nominate the following Twetters:

There are others who I think are great for these categories (and the categories the Shorty Awards have already established), too. If you want to more Twitter feeds that I think are worth following, check it out.

I might also suggest getting rid of the Personal category because it’s a little too mushy. And from what I can tell from the nominees that I checked out in that category, all of them would fit into another category.

I think the Shorty Awards are a great idea to inspire Tweeters to think about their content and how they are using Twitter. I know that it has got me thinking! I find myself nominating people using criteria that I use for my own tweets. I look forward to seeing who wins, and I look forward to finding more interesting people to follow.

Oversharing with Twitter and RSS

November 28, 2008 § 2 Comments

Last night I stayed up way too late playing with RSS feeds. Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake (not unusual for me), but I discovered a couple of new tools that allow me to use RSS technology to push out information to my Twitter followers and blog readers. And here I thought all the time that RSS feeds are a way for me only to collect information. Now I know RSS can be used as a way to share. This is a very exciting realization for me.

Yesterday, I discovered Twitterfeed, which allows you to set up RSS activity to feed into your Twitter feed. You can set up feeds from your blogs, your link sharing sites, including Facebook posts and tools like Ma.gnolia or Delicious, and probably some other sources that I haven’t thought of.

As a chronic oversharer (in more of a reference librarian kind of way, not in a TMI way), I immediately saw the usefulness. So I have set up four feeds; one from each of my blogs so that each time I make a new post it will automatically send out a tweet; one from my Facebook Posted Items feed; and another from my Ma.gnolia feed with all of the links that I tag with “reference”. I’m thinking about setting up a special feed there especially for Twitter link sharing. Possibly more on that later.

Hopefully, my followers will find this interesting and not annoying. These tools will no doubt increase my follow cost. This is a concept I find a little paradoxical. I mean, you follow people on Twitter because you’re interested in what they’re tweeting, right? I’m not saying more is better, but Twitter is an information sharing tool. Anyway, I hope that these feeds don’t become obnoxious.

I also figured out how to use some RSS widgets through my WordPress blogs. I set up my Twitter feed to update in the sidebars (that was kind of a “duh” moment for me), and I also set up some Ma.gnolia link feeds to update there. If you look to the right below the Meebo box, you will see my latest Ma.gnolia links tagged with “Social Change” and from my “Fundraising and Philanthropy” and “Development Research” groups.

These tools for me are just like Christmas; I find joy in receiving and sharing the gifts of information technology.

More Election Tools

October 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

Clearly, I’m only scrating the surface. Since my earlier post about the Twitter Election feed, I’ve learned about some other interesting online tools:

My Debates is a plitical forum through the MySpace social networking site where participants can submit question for consideration to the debate. People can also use various tools to debate the issues with other citizens.

CSPAN Debate Hub is a site where in addition to watching the presidential debates, citizens can use tools like Twitter and YouTube to share their observations.

Patchwork Nation from the Christian Science Monitor is an interactive tool which breaks down different cultural epicenters across the country and their political leanings.

And because I’m liberal, I have to give a plug for this site: Living Liberally. This is a real-life social networking tool that allows you to find like-minded social groups in your region where you can gather and watch the debates while engaging in your favorite activity, like drinking and eating.

I’m sure there are more, and I’m still looking for them!

Making Heads or Tails of It

September 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have been trying to educate myself about mortgage backed securities and commercial paper within last two weeks, as I indicated in my earlier post about the information resources I have been collecting that best explain the economic crisis.

By far the best resource that I have found so far is the Planet Money blog and podcast from NPR. Thier stories are featured on some of the regular programs, like All Things Considered and Morning Edition, but the podcast through iTunes has a few nuggets that I haven’t heard anywhere else, so its worth downloading.

The contributing journalists to this effort offer down-to-earth easily understandable break downs for the average listener who doesn’t have a degree in finance or economics.

I need to understand this stuff for my job, and as a citizen I see it as a responsibility. The journalists here clearly see it as their job to educate the public on how some incredibly important decisions might impact our world and our day-to-day life for generations. They do a great job.

Oh, and I was thrilled tonight to find that they also have a Twitter feed.

Twitter Election Feed

September 27, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have discovered another Twitter tool that has captivated my attention: The 2008 election feed.

Twitter has provided this brilliant platform that citizens can use to give their two cents about developments related to the 2008 presidential election. I discovered this while watching the debates last night. Not only did I find a handful of interesting people to follow on Twitter, following the feed allowed me to take the temperature of what the rest of the world was observing about the debates. People are actively using hash tags, which will enable you to more easily follow specific threads, but there seem to be some technical difficulties with this function. The hash tag links always seem to give me an error message. I can’t wait until they iron out the problems with this feature.

I picked up the feed again this morning to find some interesting news items and opinion pieces, as well as to hear the latest controversies, specifically about whether or not McCain muttered “horsesh*t” under his breath in response to Obama’s assertion that McCain wouldn’t meet with the Prime Minister of Spain. Fascinating stuff, let me tell you.

There is a lot of crap that folks are tweeting out there that you would expect from the lowest common denomenator. My overall assessment of this tool, however, is that it has the potential to encourage more people to talk to each other and debate the issues.

Perhaps even *gasp* across state and partisan lines. Now that would be exciting.

Ning’s potential and annoyances

July 28, 2008 § 1 Comment

Purely by coincidence, I have recently had the occasion to join three different Ning networks, and while I think it’s super cool that this is a tool anyone can use to create a social network, I find the functionality lacking in many respects, not the least of which is the search capability. Its one of those simple searches that won’t allow for you to do any finessing whatsoever. You search for one term, fine. I did a search for “Yoga”, and came up with 27 pages of 20 results each. When I combined the search with “Chicago,” I got 17 pages. Better, but still too many, and I could see immediately that I was getting some identical hits from my first search. Still too many, and not what I’m looking for. It would be great if there were some advance search options that would let you search by region or combined terms or something.

Another problem is that one of my social networks doesn’t appear on my main page after several days. And it seems as though I have to keep logging in when I try to move back and forth from one window to another with my different networks open. This just doesn’t make sense to me, since I’m using the same Ning login for all of my networks. Very strange.

Finally, I found a group from my neighborhood that I wanted to join, the Uptown Chicago group, but you must be a member of a block club in order to be approved for membership. I’m not a member of a block club, and I wanted to email the founder of the group about it, but there is no way to do so if he is not my friend or if I am not a member of the group. Not helpful, and I would wager that the group is not intended solely for members of the neighborhood block groups (at least I hope not…doesn’t seem very neighborly).

With these limitations, Ning so far feels clunky and confusing. I wish that there were an easier way to move around from network to network, instead of having to login separately and needing to create a page and a blog for myself within each one.  Maybe I just need to give it more time before I get it.

On the surface, the groups that I have joined are small so far. I hope that they grow because the community is the important thing. But when I dug in a little deeper on some of the groups that I thought were interesting, many of them looked like they had died on the vine. I know that’s going to happy naturally with any social networking too, and perhaps there are some vibrant Ning communities out there. I’ll keep giving it a try because like I said, the community is the thing, and ultimately I’m trying to connect with people who have similar interests. Perhaps its functionality will improve, so I’m withholding judgment today as to how conducive Ning actually is to community building.

Ambidextrous?

July 13, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have heard friends complain that they can’t switch to Facebook after using MySpace for so long. I do understand the investment of time and having a strong orientation to one site over another.  This especially makes sense when considering wanting and needing to stay in touch with friends and contacts.

I maintain pages at both sites, though recently I have declared my preference for Facebook. I started out with a MySpace page, and thought it was interesting. I have accumulated random friends, people I’ve found who I think are interesting, and some random groups, bands and causes that I want to support or affiliate with in some way. With both services, I have been able to reconnect and stay connected to friends very easily since we moved across the country. I find it easier to share things there and integrate other online services I use there so that folks who are interested can see what I’m up to, and for me to follow what they are up to. However, I find that I have more friends on Facebook and it is easier to communicate there. At MySpace there are too many bells and whistles and way to many obnoxious flashing ads. It’s enough to give you an anyerism.

However, I consider myself to be ambidextrous even while I have a preference. I don’t want to limit myself, and I don’t want to miss out on local events just because they’re posted on MySpace but not Facebook (though most other folks are ambidextrous, too, or are becoming so, and events are often posted in both places).

It’s not unlike the fact that I am equally comfortable using Macs and PCs, or that I have been able to cross over from my Palm Pilot to my new Blackberry, which I was told would be really hard to do (it wasn’t). It’s all about what we’re used to and what we prefer. But all of us, no matter how stubborn, can learn to use new technologies.

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