Monthly Archives: April 2009

Yoga, Wine and Chocolate. Really

Twelve years ago, I started practicing yoga. One of my first teachers happened to be David Romanelli, one of the co-founders of AtOneYoga in Phoenix. I didn’t seek him out as a guru; he just appeared in my life because I had a bad back and yoga was recommended as an alternative to surgery (by everyone but the surgeon, who is still waiting for me).

Now you have to understand that David was about 25 at the time, and I was 55. I was accomplished materially, but I was miserable physically and emotionally. I has just been widowed. I thought my life was over.

David, on the other hand, was just starting out.  He was a fugitive from an aborted Hollywood acting career, and he and his college classmate, a fugitive from an equally unsuitable legal career, had decided to open this business in Phoenix. They were on a road trip to maturity through entrepreneurship. I thought I could help them run their business, but it turned out they helped me more.

David had a great collection of music. I went to his 6:00 flow classes a couple of times a week just to hear Simon and Garfunkel, Willie Nelson, and the other funky stuff he played in class, which seemed retro to him,but familiar to me. I was on a road trip back to my youth.

David was also brutally honest. In class, he spoke about his sports addiction, his love of big boobs, his dissatisfaction with his own body, and his propensity to fall out of the yoga lifestyle into decadence. He also told me not to struggle to wrap my arms through my legs and around my back in humble warrior, since my arms weren’t long enough. And never would be.

Years passed, and David decided to leave Arizona and go back to L.A. where he could take  his forays into decadence to new heights, developing yoga workshops on the relationship between yoga and chocolate, and yoga and wine. These have been fantastically successful; yoga,wine, and chocolate are not as immiscible as you’d think. David gives each student one piece of really good chocolate at the beginning of the class, and teaches the class to savor the taste, smell the chocolate, feel it on the tongue, and use all the senses to be in the moment with the chocolate.

For someone who eats bars of chocolate at a time, this was a wakeup call. And David does the same with the wine at the end of class. And the music during class, which now comes on an iPod.

He has learned, and has helped teach me, how to live in the moment and savor it. And now he has written a book called Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment. You should read it. Dave has a lot to teach you.  The book is a series of small vignettes and anecdotes that illustrate the difference between living in the moment and not.

One of the chapters I liked best was about his attempt to do a silent (Vipassana) meditation workshop that lasted eight days. David’s very peripatetic, and he knew he couldn’t do it unassisted, so he took a bunch of muscle relaxants with him. The guru found them, and kicked David out. He learned something about himself; that not everyone can handle Vipassana, and that you can meditate driving around your neighborhood listening to music on your car radio if that’s your thing.

I loved this book.

Buppy Liked it, Too

Buppy Liked it, Too

David shows, through accepting himself and publicly admitting his sins and faults (he has man-boobs), how everyone ought to be on a path to self-acceptance. He’s genuine, he’s authentic, and if he doesn’t remind you of a yogi from India, well…he shouldn’t. He’s from Los Angeles:-)

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“Intimate” Lounge with Tim O’Reilly

Great badge!
Great badge!

I get to ask Tim O’Reilly the first question in the bloggers’ lounge at Web 2.0 Expo. So of course I ask him how it feels to be a grandfather, and I’m thinking I’m making a joke.

But he is answering my question. And he says it’s really strange, because he has only seen his grandchild via Skype. He’s got a cold, and his wife won’t let him near his daughter and the baby.  He has bonded with the other set of grandparents, who are from Australia and haven’t seen the baby either — except via Skype.

Do you realize how incredible that is?

Now we are on to Government 2.0. Mary Trigari has asked why Tim is spending so much time in Washington. He’s really trying to stir people up to use technology. He says Washington is full of people with high ideals that are buffaloed by old regulations in goverment that were put it place before technology. So many of the things to modernize government will have to come from outside, as the Edgar database did.

The developer who created has done twelve more cities with a minor grant, so why can’t he just start a company that sells a product like that to the government.

This leads into a discussion of how to sell to the government, and how to dislodge the existing contractors or make them do more for the money they get. Tim is hoping to raise the bar on government contracting.

Shannon Clark asks the question “Where do you think the line is for a print publication?” What works in print and what doesn’t?

Print consists of many drivers: distribution and visibility (a magazine appears in an airport rack). Visibility helps a book. Print is another user interface; you’re not willing to take your laptop into your shop around your wood shavings (Make Magazine). There’s still demand for information; a book is a souvenir.  Whether print works depends on what kind of job you are trying to do for the reader.

Tim says he has learned a lot about publishing from Twitter: he re-tweets a lot. That’s the most minimal form of publishing.Huffpo is the voice of the community; the New York Times is still broadcasting.

Will conferences go away? No. O’Reilly says you want to see the people and take part in the hallway conversations. Only the keynotes wind up online. And conferences curate content and curated context.

Every aspect of O’Reilly’s business is changing. But the future of all media is curation.

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The Power of Less

A weary Tim O’Reilly took the stage on April Fool’s Day to kick off Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco after a rumor had circulated that he wouldn’t appear. As it turned out, the rumor wasn’t really a joke: Tim became a grandfather at 1 AM this morning. I don’t think he was exactly well-rested.

If I were him, I wouldn’t have appeared:-) Doesn’t he know what’s important? 4535160

It turns out he does. He structured his entire presentation around babies and growth, using his personal situation as a metaphor for Web 2.0 five years later.

His theme was that we are now at a stage where the social tools we developed over the past five years for fun can  be put to work. His examples of the smarter web were pretty cool: smart grid sensors that can read the energy signal of major appliances so when your refrigerator’s motor kicks on they can identify its make and model and tell you if you should buy one that’s more energy efficient; and something called antigenic cartography  used to map flu trends (Google Flu Trends).

I’ve heard this elsewhere — that the next big thing in technology is sensors, or the automatic detection of everything. The plant that sends a tweet when it needs watering, and the sensor-based planetary skin that’s being built by NASA. In the next generation of social apps, we won’t have to do anything, because the apps will learn us. “Brightkite would like to use your current location.”

But the best part of the talk (for me) was when Tim spoke about using the social web to do more with less in the fields of government ( Government 2.0)  and in health care. These two enormous money sucks can be revolutionized by social software, and they will be.

Government goes without saying since the Obama campaign. O’Reilly’s health care example was a site I’m very familiar with from my Health 2.0 work: PatientsLikeMe, a community of patients started by a family touched by Lou Gehrig’s disease  that looked out on the web to find treatments.  The site now helps not only ALS patients, but also people with other neurologic conditions, as well as mood disorders. Patients self-report  what they’re doing for their conditions, how it’s working, and what side effects they have endured. They crowd-source the treatment of life-changing illnesses and have created a huge clinical trial. The site is five years old now, and 33,000 patients report their progress.

Tim points out correctly that the cost of such a trial, if a pharmaceutical company wanted to undertake it, would be prohibitive, and the patients have produced better research with less by using each other and the social web.

In an upbeat environment, I think the praises of Web 2.0 would have been sung m in a more exaggerated fashion. But O’Reilly chose to take the bull by the horns, recognize the place we are in, and celebrate it appropriately — with badge tags that say “Twitter Addict,” “UX Expert,” “I’m Looking,” and “We’re Hiring.” This is not his first rodeo.

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