Yoga + Bike Goodies + Hotel Booked + Oh Yeah, Please Donate to my Fundraiser!

It seems like just yesterday I was crossing the half marathon finish line, and now we’re already at Thursday!

Finally, a somewhat decent finish line photo (at Sporty Diva’s Half Marathon in Chambers Bay)

I’m still relatively tense and stiff from the race and I’ve been meaning to get to the massage therapist’s office all week. I will most likely have to schedule it for the weekend.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to incorporate yoga back into my routine. I used to practice regularly, alternating between spinning and yoga. It was a good balance between cardio and strength training, high intensity vs. meditative. I have a hot yoga Groupon that I have not yet used, but with my schedule so hectic with work I figured that there HAD to be an app that I could buy to tide me over…and lo and behold there was!

Introducing Pocket Yoga, the best app ever (second to RunKeeper). This downward dog totally kicks my butt.

I think it was a few dollars but it’s called Pocket Yoga. So far I have it set up on the floor with my mat, but I just realized that I could hook up my phone to the speaker system. What’s that, surround sound meditation music with a virtual yoga instructor?! Sign me up!

With no major triathlons on the horizon, I’d still like to get back into the pool and on the bike this weekend. I’m going to pack my swimming gear in case I get out of work at a decent hour tonight. My workout schedule has been a bit off-kilter because of my long hours. I also just found out that my next half marathon is a trail run (!!!!) so I will forego it since I haven’t done any trail running. I don’t even have trail running shoes. Thankfully I found someone to buy my ticket so it looks like, from here on out, all I have are Rock n Roll races. Awesome!

I also just remembered to buy some chain cleaner/lubricant, a mat, and a gel seat cover so hopefully I can log in some decent miles on the bike in the near future! Here are some of the goods I bought:

(I’m pretty sure about 90% of my disposable cash monies goes towards racing, or racing-related goodies!)

Last night, I also booked my hotel room for Rock n Roll Las Vegas. In a few weeks, I’ll get my tickets, but for now, I’m booked at Imperial Palace. I remember that there’s a ton of construction there but I also remember that Shant had a bit of Lady Luck on his side on our vacation!

I swear, I have no clue where I’d be if I didn’t have technology to help me on this journey.

Speaking of my journey, did you forget that I’m still raising money for Dress for Success?! It’s Thursday, and if you’re one day away from a weekend off from work you’re luckier than 10%+ of the population. Donate what you can and let’s get our women back to work.

Please please please donate to my Dress for Success fundraiser!

Hired by Amazon, Moving to Seattle, Learning Ruby/Rails, And Other Good Things

It’s been a long while since I’ve updated here!

As you may have noticed, my running is a bit off. Well, it’s like, super off. It’s so off that I’m sleeping with my running gear on so that when I get up tomorrow morning it’s the first thing I do! I’ve only logged 5 runs and 2 bike rides this month…eek. I guess with races off my plate, along with my heightened stress level, it’s taken a forever-backburner.

Despite the lack of training and increase in working, there’s been a number of great things that have been happening in my life — which all have admittedly sidelined me from my usual strict training regimen.

  1. Awhile back I was accepted to Bloc, an 8-week Ruby on Rails intensive. For those of you who are not in the tech world, it’s a web development course. I’m in week three (??) and so far it’s kicking my butt, in a good way of course. I’m so used to things in technology coming easy to me. This feels foreign, strange, weird, and difficult…all of the things that make a great journey (and a hard time)! If you want to read about my day-to-day experiences at Bloc, go for it.
  2. I’ve been picking up a lot of steam with my freelance clients. Had a lot of interesting projects that were interested in my work…some I took on, a lot I had to turn away just based on my unavailability.
  3. My boyfriend finally met my parents!
  4. One of my BFFs graduated nursing school.
  5. My boyfriend’s startup raised their second round of funding! (Hip hip hooray!)
  6. And last, but not least…I got a job offer. I got a job offer when I wasn’t even looking for a job.  It makes me feel like I might actually be doing something right. More on that below!

The gig requires a move to Seattle…a city I’ve visited once (now twice, since I had to fly up for my interview). It’s with Amazon and I get to do what I already do — application UX/UI. The last year or so has been both difficult and amazing at the same time — I’ve never hit so many plateaus and peaks in succession as I did in the last 12 months. (I went from having my own business to working full-time to getting laid off to going to massage therapy school to having only $100 to my name to closing more freelance clients than I could handle to getting offered a full-time job.) I think this relocation will be great to help re-energize me in general. It’ll keep me plugged in to a major powerhouse — a Web 1.0 property! — while challenging me immensely. (That’s an understatement.) I look forward to the adventure and all of the trials and tribulations I will face in a new, strange city.

I am so excited that I’ve already mapped out what I hope my new life will look like:

  • I’ll get back into training regularly. I’ll be moving to Seattle in the summer, which will lend itself nicely to outdoor training. However, come fall, winter, and spring, the rain will rain and won’t stop. I’m hoping to get an apartment in a complex with a fitness center OR to get a great 1 bedroom and buy a bike trainer…and figure out a way to get my running in. I’m looking for apartments within walking distance from work, but also big enough that when I have visitors that I’ll have a private room to myself.
  • I’d like to try some other things outside of event training to stay in shape…maybe a dance class, or crossfit. Something without an event payoff. I’m not sure if I’ll stay motivated but it might be nice to just try it for a month and see how I like it.
  • There’s a women’s Ruby meetup group that I’d like to join…they help women of all levels learn OOP, Ruby, and Rails. I think I could benefit from the female camaraderie. Tech is so heavily influenced by males. Really, I spend most of my time with guys. That’s fine and all, but sometimes the intentions are not as innocent as I’m led to believe…I’d like to steer clear of that as much as possible in this new city.

So far, that’s it. I’m trying not to plan too much. I want my life to be so loosely planned that anything else that ends up happening is just gravy. Work out. Go to work. Code like crazy during my free time. Repeat. My boyfriend’s schedule is loosening up a bit so he may be spending some time in Seattle (fingers crossed!) and shuttling up and down the coast. Since the weather is so crappy I won’t want to be hanging around anywhere anyways. Conditions are perfect for learning and introversion! I mean, if I’m not doing something that scares me, I’m not doing this right….right?

 

Fitness Friday: RunKeeper + GainFitness 1-2 Punch!

I’ve decided in the short amount of time that I’ve been working out that there are two iPhone apps that I could not live without.

One I’ve been using for almost a year now…the other, I’ve been using for just a few days. What’s great is that I think they really complement each other.

[imagebrowser id=3]

I use RunKeeper to track all of my activities — swimming, biking, running, walking, hiking, etc. Its GPS tracker helps give me accurate measurements of distance and pace and gives me a really nice interface to view it all in. I’ve been an Elite member since February, which means I get detailed statistics and reports on my workouts. I’ve also enrolled in a few of their running classes, which are really helpful to get you across the finish line for your first 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon.

But, as you probably already know, cardio is just one fraction of the entire picture.

I’ve recently started using GAIN Fitness to help me with resistance training. All you do is put in your height, weight, where you’re working out, what equipment you have, and they’ll come up with a workout for you! They take the guesswork out of everything by illustrating proper form via video or photo.

What’s also neat is that you don’t need to have an iPhone to use their services — the basics of what both services offer are also available as a web-only component to your health and wellness regimen.

What other apps do you find motivating and inspiring?

My Social Media Day Commitment for 2011

I’ve been lucky to have been able to make quite the career out of social media.

Frankly, I was quite astute when I saw the connection between social media, design, and marketing. Who knew that in due time I’d be running my own shop, working on user experience design for two kick-ass web apps called Glass and Retrollect, volunteering my skills for an awesome (startup-by-situation) non-profit in town (Dress for Success), and going on awesome roadtrips sponsored by Chevy with my SXSWAngels? I even met my boyfriend at Social Media week. Go figure — I hit the jackpot in my twenties with social media.

Last year I hosted Social Media Day here in Los Angeles. This year I opted out of it for personal reasons, as well as time constraints. (I’m a bit overbooked at the moment.) However, after coming back from SXSW I really began to examine my participation in social media. I was Twitter-stalking (as I have a tendency to do) and came across my friend’s really neat bio, which pretty much plucked the thoughts right out of my own brain.

Gabe is absolutely right. THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. We can’t keep lurking or shouting and expect to communicate. It’s a two way street, and right now it seems like most people are talking at each other and no one is really listening or engaging.

So, me being the type of person I am, I try to find a way to address this solution on a small scale. I believe that change is more effective and sustainable if it’s done in small steps on a personal level. We can’t overhaul a system overnight. It takes time to make it stick.

The first thing I did was give up blogging daily. I had taken the Post a Day 2011 challenge but found it 1) challenging and 2) fruitless. It wasn’t because I had trouble writing — I have plenty to say — but it was because I wasn’t as confident that what I had to say was really all that important. To be consistent is one thing. To be meaningful is another. If I didn’t feel like posting something that day and just forced myself to write something for the sake of pushing it out the door, have I really done the Internet a service? I don’t think so. I’ve actually contributed to the problem.

Secondly, in giving up blogging, I decided to do the opposite — I unplugged (slightly). Instead of blogging everyday, I went for a run. That run always got broadcasted through Twitter and Facebook, and of course I blogged about it quite a bit too, but instead of using social media to talk about social media (completely useless and mostly redundant, a la “preaching to the crowd”) I used social media for what it was truly intended for: to connect with other people.

With Social Media Day 2011 I’ve come to take a long hard look at how it plays a role in my daily life.

My social media resolutions are as such:

  • I plan to participate when I have something of value to say.
  • I vow to keep my personal safety an absolute priority, therefore going on a Foursquare diet effective as of last week.
  • I plan on speaking my mind with as much conviction in person as I would online.
  • I vow to bridge the gap between my sometimes online life and my mostly offline life.
  • I will not allow the web to get in the way of honest communication.
  • I will follow/friend only people that I find valuable in my life and defriend people who I don’t want to actually keep up with.
  • I will not allow online connections to replace the face-to-face experience.

How about you? What are your thoughts on Social Media Day and my resolutions? Do you have any of your own?

Follow The Drumbeat…All The Way To San Diego

I met and connected with Art Neill, the founder/executive director/attorney of New Media Rights late last year at BlogWorld 2010. He seemed like a really nice guy with a pretty amazing mission, and after chatting with him for about ten minutes he had mentioned something about “Drumbeat San Diego” which drew my interest. Lo and behold I receive an invite a few months later. I RSVP’d for it immediately and told three or four of my friends so that they’d join me in said geeky adventure.

Well, I had the privilege of attending the event today, and it was amazing! Drumbeat San Diego was conceived to be a “participatory, hands-on event  for the technology community to connect with community groups, artists, filmmakers, citizen journalists, musicians and others who are interested in building information tools and using the open Internet” to improve communities, online and off.

The opening address was well moderated by Morgan Sully, clearly my techie brother from another mother. It involved a human spectogram, a live exercise that asks participants to agree ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to statements on hot topics (in this case, Wikileaks, net neutrality, privacy). Participants then stand on opposite ends of a physical spectrum (in this case, the entire length of the venue) to demonstrate their agreement/disagreement with the statement. Then, a few are selected to state their case and rebuttals ensue.

There were a few concurrent sessions being conducted simultaneously, but I naturally gravitated towards the DIY/Maker Culture discussions. They were all fascinating and made me feel really, really, really ignorant of the web…which is great, since I love learning new things. The three sessions I attended included:

It was so motivating — not to mention humbling — to be in the presence of so many ridiculously smart people. Afterwards I felt like my brain just returned from a 6-mile run. It is always good to challenge yourself to get acquainted with a community outside of what you are comfortable with. I  had a great experience participating in the human spectogram and seeing so many techies and practitioners from different walks of life perceive current issues so differently. It’s rare to find a community so involved and passionate yet tolerant and understanding of other viewpoints. Additionally, the info sessions were phenomenal — When the presenters weren’t talking a mile a minute, they were answering questions and addressing audiences of a wide variety of technical backgrounds. Every presenter was highly qualified, exceptionally knowledgeable, and incredibly personable.

Drumbeat San Diego was an amazing experience and I hope to see you at the next one!

Is Blogging A Privilege Or A Right?

I’ve been following the news lately about what has been going on in Egypt. It’s strange — I am usually not interested in politics; however, if it involves something with the regulation of technology and communications I am all ears. (No pun intended.)

Crowd Praying As Tanks Move In - Egyptian #DayOfAnger - By the Associated Press - Posted on MSNBC.com

Today I learned that Egypt has the largest and most active blogosphere in the Arab world, and their work is done at great personal risk. Some stats that I found were also fascinating:

  • Egyptian bloggers are young. The median age of their bloggers is 24.
  • They voice their concerns via websites, blogs, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter (just like us!).
  • Egyptian bloggers report on human rights violations, political injustices, and the social condition.
  • Bloggers are routinely harassed, imprisoned, tortured or sometimes murdered depending on the severity of their “crimes.”
  • They tend to be the “children of Cairo’s intellectuals, radicals and activists.”
  • Blogger-to-blogger relationships tend to be virtual and loosely organized, but they may converse in real life late at night in shabby downtown cafes.
  • Egyptian bloggers are routinely arrested for speaking out.
  • There are currently more than 20 people serving prison sentences for “crimes” connected to cyberactivism.
  • They organize and mobilize using social media and mobile technology.
  • Egyptian women bloggers initially outnumbered men. At the start, some 70 percent of bloggers were women. Now, they are probably just over 50 percent.
  • Egyptian women make up 30 percent of all Internet users in Egypt. However, women comprise only 24% of the working population.
  • 44 percent of women are literate, compared to 67 percent of men.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog at all you may have seen the post where I outline my upcoming ’round-the-world travels. My first planned international destination was, indeed, Cairo, only to be followed by Alexandria. I also thought that it would be nice to plan a quick jaunt to the port city of Said. So, with this recent civil unrest, it will probably be very important that I stay abreast of any breaking developments and perhaps also get to know a few bloggers there. I’ve done some research and have already added a few to my Google Reader, but if you have any suggestions, or if you are a blogger from Egypt, I’d love to connect with you. Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or using my contact page.

And to follow up on my post from yesterday on what American bloggers can do amidst the state of this crisis, perhaps one more thing to add to the list is to find and follow an Egyptian (or otherwise international) blogger. Most of the blogging community enjoys creating information just as much as they enjoy consuming it. So, consider adding some blogs from different parts of the world to round out your blogosphere-worldview a bit. The freedom of communication is not just in creating content for others to consume, but also in following someone else’s worldview. Engage with the larger community. Do your part to keep communications a two-way process.

In the meantime I designed a small poster from a rather powerful quote I came across in my readings. It seems as though my own personal work is addressing issues as they relate to technology. What do you think about the message?

Egyptian Cyberactivist #DayOfAnger - By Amara Poolswasdi

Sources and other popular links:

The Kill Switch, #DayOfAnger, and Fragility Of It All

Net neutrality sparked conversation all throughout the blogosphere and Twittersphere this week with historic events like the State of the Union address and Egypt’s Day of Anger. These events have pointed back to the discussion of net neutrality and sovereignty of nations over digital communications.

Do we have a right to expect digital communications to remain free of political trickery? If Egypt could pull the plug on the Internet for their citizens, couldn’t something like that ostensibly happen to us in the free world? And since we rely on commercial providers, and because commerce isn’t immune to political lobbying or pressure, aren’t we all at risk?

The short answer is yes.

Although there is no silver bullet that will fix all of our worldly problems, I think the best thing we can do right now as citizens of a relatively free country is to take advantage of all of the resources we have at our disposal. We should be using technology to open up communications, carry intelligent conversations, and help others achieve freedom through technology. Oh, and if you can swing it, I would sign up for premium level services for your favorite apps. If web apps were member and customer supported instead of being backed by actual investors with agendas, I believe that we could keep autonomy over our technology.

So, tonight, I will be spending my time with these wonderful objects of my affection and staying true to my word! How will you further the Internet? Will you be generating content or just letting a few select people tell our collective story?

Hacktivism: When The Mouse > (Pen + Sword)

Long before I began practicing my craft, information technology was positioned to greatly serve our global community. With such a powerful tool free and open to the world, you’d figure that we would have found a way to keep it a safe and sacred place.

WRONG!

Although a good majority of the Internet is honest-to-goodness user-generated content, there is still a portion of it, as well as the possibility of, severe misinformation. While cybersecurity has always been a buried passion of mine, I’ve always felt that the possibility of misinformation on the Internet had been severely underestimated.

Bear electronic arms

What brought this to my attention again in short order was “the digital equivalent of the shot heard ’round the world” — Operation: Payback. In a matter of days some of the world’s largest institutions were brought down to their knees. (It was such a momentous day in history that Time even launched a “Most Memorable Hacking Moments” timeline.) I watched the Twitter timeline explode with activity as @anonops broadcast their plans and commentary in real-time. It was fascinating watching a team from all around the world coordinate their next move. It was also quite a jarring experience.

AnonOps - Anonymous

From one perspective it was watching dis/mis/organized cybercrime take over the digital landscape. From my other perspective I was watching the crowd to see how they were reacting. I was watching the numbers of followers grow and monitoring countries of heaviest activity. I was watching the other social media platforms actively censor and pull down information as it was being leaked. I was watching brands that I’ve admired and followed since I’ve been introduced to the Internet get yanked offline in a matter of seconds.

What is fascinating is that today’s hacker is not the one of yesteryear. They move quickly, they are organized, and they seem to have the basics of PR and marketing down to rally support from troops all around the world. Here is a recent video from Operation: Tunisia in late 2010. In our day and age, a new era of hacking has surfaced: hacktivism. Not hacking for fun or for the thrill of it, but hacking for change and to make a difference…in this case, to pave the way for the democratization of information technology. It might be time to reset the phrase to, “the mouse is mightier than the pen and the sword…combined.

Can Net Neutrality Realistically Exist?

Net Neutrality Poster by BugbyteHeated discussions are abound online and off regarding net neutrality.

Let’s take a second to actually define net neutrality so that we aren’t operating from errant presuppositions. Net neutrality has been defined as a “buzzword used to describe a principle proposed for users’ access to networks participating in the Internet. The principle advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

My opinion in 140 characters or less: Net neutrality is a GOOD idea, but impossible to achieve under our current global infrastructure. #EPICFAIL. PLS RT

My expanded opinion: Let me preface everything I am about to say with this statement — I believe that the concept of net neutrality is fundamentally just and right; it is Utopian in its ideals and has a genuinely deep-seeded objective of freedom of information through technology. Unfortunately, like most of the consortiums, news outlets, and textbooks we have at our disposal, every information source is subject to bias, opinion, and bastardization.

Dalai Lama Tweet

I present to you five obstacles that are currently in our way of complete net neutrality:

1. Commercial Internet Service Providers: As it stands, the Internet is primarily a pay-to-play arrangement. Because access to the Internet isn’t inherently free to begin with, the trickle-down effect presupposes that the actual content that you receive once you get online won’t really be free either. This results in media that is placed or paid, through journalistic perspectives, sales/marketing objectives, or agendas of major financial backers realized through a farm team of advocates. (See #4.) IRL examples: Google search engine advertising; Software/hardware/appware strategic partnerships for smartphones (i.e. Motorola Droid with Google via Verizon Wireless service with Amazon MP3 store preinstalled).

2. Governments and Political Agendas: (In this case I am using “governments” and “political” in their fundamental context, where institutions that regulate any social relationships via authority or power qualify as a government or political institution and can carry out the agenda of a select few. This can be the city/state/national government, a religious institution, an educational system, and other culturally accepted bodies of authority) Governments are supposed to work with us, not against us. Unfortunately this has been the struggle since the beginning of recorded history since our usual protocol is 1) we elect them, 2) we decide we don’t like how they’re running things, 3) we do nothing about it OR we inefficiently try to solve the problem by addressing the symptoms and not the causes of our problems. IRL examples: The Great California Marijuana Debate, PETA.

3. Lack of Web-wide Credibility Standards: There is no governing body or accreditation of information provided online. There is no “stamp of approval” to qualify truths and credible information. Currently, credibility is cloaked by commercial and political agendas. Because you essentially “get what you pay for,” the rules of caveat emptor (buyer beware) apply. Credibility is being bought and sold like a commodity — and when that “credibility” has the power to sway nations into action or economies into tailspins, then yes, I suppose you can in fact put a dollar figure on it. Unfortunately, since information is not a tangible good, you cannot “return” it. All you can do is try to erase it from our collective memory, but unfortunately, the information has been imprinted in our culture and thought processes. I don’t know about you but my mental environment is much more expensive than the Internet bill I received and paid for. IRL examples: All unsponsored content in the blogosphere.

4. Paid, Earned, and Owned Media, a.k.a. Commercial Agents of Information:  It’s hard to report the news with freedom from commercial interests when there are bills to pay. Whether it’s through sponsorship, controlling interest, or strategic injection of loaded opinions or material, paid, earned, and owned media makes it difficult to have an honest conversation. If someone is paying to place content, it’s not unadulterated truth: it’s advertising. If it’s a story that has been deemed newsworthy by a writer, an editor, etc., the story probably got to them through marketing and PR efforts…and that qualifies as earned media. If the media channel itself is owned by a person or a company, and not the people, then it has an agenda. Logically then, by those standards, all paid, earned, and owned media serve as commercial agents of information. IRL examples: My mother watched a video news release on Christmas Day and thought it was factual and not opinionated. Public radio stations getting paid to play the same songs over and over again. Texas rewriting textbooks that will eventually be distributed to the rest of the United States.

5. Dumb People: Not everyone will make the best choices with the information they find online. This isn’t to stay ignorant people are to blame. (Ignorant people just don’t know. Dumb people don’t know any better.) Dumb people — the people who read unmoderated information and believe it to be the truth without challenging the PR spin, the loaded statements, and/or the statistics blown out of proportion — make net neutrality dangerous. For the most part, people who are fighting for net neutrality tend to be pretty intelligent people to begin with. They can form cohesive statements and arguments in any direction if they tried. If said dumb person reads unmoderated, unfiltered information online and can’t discern between truth and false, and right and wrong, then net neutrality puts all of us relatively intelligent people at risk. IRL examples: Woman gets murdered after changing her Facebook relationship status. Tea Party mind control rhetoric. Kid finds recipe to make a pipe bomb and blows up the neighborhood by accident.

My conclusion:

  • Net neutrality begins internally — we must first examine our collective processes of the way we consume, interpret, and synthesize information.
  • A completely free Internet dilutes the collective intelligence required to discern truth from false.
  • To truly achieve net neutrality, we must all break down the obstacles that are in our way. Seeing as though said obstacles are finely engrained in our global infrastructure, its pursuit many actually cause more harm than good. (Will the ends justify the means?)
  • We ought to focus on closing the digital divide before we focus on net neutrality. We put the cart before the horse again.
  • Net neutrality is Utopian and worth striving for. We just need to proceed with caution.

I’m curious to see what your thoughts are on it! What’s your opinion on net neutrality?