December 14, 2011

GOP in 2012 - The Back Story

"A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon...There's a thousand pastors ready to do that."

Craig Berman, now stepping down as Gingrich's Iowa political director

And that, my friends, is why the GOP is screwed in 2012. Because the "Mormons are not real Christians" belief runs deep in the evangelical, born-again movement, so the Republicans (Romney, Huntsman) who could give Obama a run for his money (siphoning off Independents and fiscally conservative Dems) has almost zero support from the far right. Berman (however problematically or offensively) is simply stating the truth that most the far right would rather believe but not state outright.

Romney is flawed in other ways (from a conservative perspective) - his Massachusetts roots and experience paint him as downright moderate (or flip-flopping) in a few key issues - abortion and health care. Again, things that would make him palatable to the center, and a formidable challenger to Obama.

I'm sport of enjoying the Republican string of right wing clowns that have emerged and been embraced. Keep 'em coming....the more right and wacky your eventual candidate, the more likely Obama will get his second term....

December 08, 2011

Life in Da Hood

I was out of state for a few days this week; work in Wilkes Barre PA. When I returned on Wednesday afternoon, I came home to this lovely site.

The low rents in the apartment building next door occasionally drive across the lawn - I've always assumed it was an "end of the month, moving out, too lazy to carry stuff 20 feet" kind of move. But this seems to have been either a case of drunk and stupid or just plain ornery. They left tired marks a good 40-50 feet along the back of their building, and another 10 feet or so in our lawn, where they apparently got stuck.

Of course, in the process of getting stuck and trying to get unstuck, they plastered the side of my condo unit with mud - 1/2" - 1" thick mud, all over the siding, foundation, and electrical and utility boxes.

Being not so smart, the perpetrator left his car right where it ended up, still mud spattered and with tire tracks intact. CT License 157-YBE, I see you.....

I called the local police, an officer showed up who was friendly but mostly unhelpful - she took some pictures, did a plate search on the car (came up clean) and found it was registered to the place next door. But was unsuccessful in contacting the owner and confessed that there was nothing she could do (because apparently this happened on Tuesday, so to charge them on Wednesday involved "warrants" which I guess means paperwork, and besides, this was not a vehicular matter (tickets) but a criminal one. etc. etc.

So, I found an email addy for the management company, and sent off the photos; our condo president is going to contact them via phone / snail mail. Someone apparently came over to try to clean off the side of the building with what appeared to be Windex and paper towels (uhm, nice try, loser) - I ended up going out this afternoon with a hose hooked up to the washing machine's hot water feed, a bucket of soapy water, and a scrubber on a 6' extension. It took a while but it's pretty much cleaned up.

The yard is still a mess, but I assume the apartment complex will have to do something about their own property so hopefully will address ours as well. Once we get the police report, maybe we can find the perps name and follow-up on our own.

November 27, 2011

Gift Card Hoarder

I've become a bit of a gift card hoarder. Not sure when this started or why, but I've collected a fair number of gift cards over the years - given by friends, clients, etc. I have Crate & Barrel ($100), William Sonoma ($100), Barnes & Noble (unknown), Cheesecake Factory ($50 or $75), Home Depot (unknown), Whole Foods ($25). Probably a few more kicking around. I also have a couple of free massages and a free Shiatsu session. Just never got around to taking advantage of 'em.

Not exactly sure what this is about. There may be a sense of unworthiness going on - like I do not deserve what might be considered as luxuries. There may be a sense of insecurity - saving these for a rainy day (I think there are websites out there where one can convert gift cards to cash). There may be an unwillingness to step out of routine - these are often not places I would typically go. And there may be a sense of frugality - I live pretty close to the bone in a lot of ways; I shop for necessities and do not often shop for fashion, for decor or for pleasure.

Anyway, an encounter with a friend last night who is 100% my opposite (she can not wait to spend her gift cards) encouraged me to do a small unreasonable. So I popped over to the Crate and Barrel website last night to use my moolah. God forbid I actually go to the store and join the holiday shopping madness....

Picked up:

* Some terra cotta mixing / serving bowels
* Some casserole dishes (baking or pot lucking
* A hanging cooking pot rack (I have copper bottom cookware that would look good out, and a dearth of cabinet space)
* Some lotion / soap for the guest bathroom
* Some candle holders for tea lights / votives.

All came to $114, most of it was on sale, and shipping was free.

My token nod to the holiday shopping madness. Perhaps a visit to the William Sonoma website is next :)

November 07, 2011

A Long, Cold, Dark, and Wasted Week

I lost power here in New Britain for most of the past week. Power went out early in the storm (Saturday afternoon, around 4 pm) and returned Friday evening around 5 pm. Here's a brief synopsis.

As soon as power went out, I ran out to find some propane canisters - I've stopped bringing the stove and lantern to my folk fest so I was out - and was able to pick up a couple. I also had (coincidentally) gotten a full tank of gas the day before, which helped a lot in the first few days.

At first, I was fairly well situated. I have a bunch of camping lanterns (LED based, they go forever) and a propane stove. My house is all electric, but the hot water tank held up for a few days. And although the house got cold, I opened up the blinds during the day to solar heat, and had a bed dog. So all in all, not so bad. I was able to make my morning coffee and oatmeal on the propane stove, cooked a few simple meals, and got the rest to go. The yoga studio had power through Tuesday morning, so I grabbed showers on Sunday - Tuesday when I was there to work, practice, or teach. On Sunday, I cleaned out the fridge - tossed a lot, and put the rest on ice / snow in the cooler on the back porch. It kept cold fine all week. And at least I got the fridge cleaned out.

Of course I had my iPhone, and the networks stayed up, so I was able to communicate, commiserate, and see everyone's struggles via Facebook. Definitely a 2011 spin on the "great power outage" - back in the day we'd only have newspaper and radio....

Nights were pretty cold but with an extra blanket and a warm dog, I was fine. And WNPR was my savior - I had no battery powered radio, but I cobbled together an old AM/FM armband thing I used to use when I roller bladed with a battery powered speaker I use for my iPod - and had plenty of radio all week. I'm going to invest in a couple of small battery powered radios when all this is over...

Tuesday morning, the yoga studio lost power. And that evening, something snapped. I realized I was falling behind on work, my main client was getting antsy, so I packed my desktop into my car and took Elo up to MA to visit grandma (who had power and internet). I stayed up there two nights - getting caught up on work, taking a few warm showers, and taking care of a lot of mom's little chores (programming two remotes, installing her casino software on her new computer, flipping her mattress, etc.)

I came back Thursday - my ex Zippy got power back so I assumed I was not far behind, but alas, no. So I set my office back up in the dark, and hunkered down. Thursday night slept at home. Went out to balloon Friday morning (too windy) but we did watch the Farmington fired department roll past in force en route to an apartment fire near Brickyard Road. But when my CL&P "power restore" time came and went (Friday morning, 8:30 am) I decided to punt once again; packing up Elo to stay with Zippy Friday night. I ended up working off my room and board by lopping, chopping, and chainsawing a large tree branch that came down in his yard.

When I got back to the condo Saturday morning, power (and cable) was back, judging from the thermostat timers it was restored Friday night at 5:00 pm. The weekend was busy (balloon chasing, tree cleanup, hiking) so I'm really just getting my life back together now.

West Hartford Yoga remained without power as of yesterday - I teach 2x today so we'll see if there is power this morning. But slowly, life is getting back to normal.

October 26, 2011

Dear Citizens Bank

I closed my account this afternoon. You gave me my $24.97, and thanked me and said good-bye. One might think that you would have some process or form that asked the question "Why are you leaving us?" - but you did not.

So, for the record. I opened up a "Totally Free Checking" account a bunch of years ago. That account started costing me $17.50 a month at some point in the past year. There was no announcement, no notification, and you made no attempt to slot me into another low cost account ($4.99 a month, free with a minimum balance or five monthly transactions). You just switched me.

In the process of being pissed off about the $17.50 fee, I found another bank with actual free checking, which coincidentally has branch offices that are more convenient to both my home and one of my workplaces.

I hope this clears things up.

October 18, 2011

Four Plastic Bins

I've had four plastic bins piled in a corner, under a table, for years. They have moved from house to house, for the past decade. Each is labeled with an ugly chapter in my life - and the paperwork and detritus of each has been loosely gathered therein.

The labels: Divorce (circa 1992), 12 Geddes (a house that I was upside down in for years, and that nearly got foreclosed upon in the late 90s), IRS (some problems circa 1997-2000), and Bankrupcty (mid 00's). Most of that is well behind me, but the IRS stuff lingers.

I've recently been doing some deep cleansing - cleaning and organizing, tossing and recycling, taking care of old messes. I'm in the process of cleaning up that old IRS mess, which has been hanging over my head for the last decade. So I pulled the bins out this morning.

I tossed a lot of errata - faxes, correspondence, blank forms, information paperwork, etc. and consolidated the things I need to keep into one single bin - joined with my last full time job's separation files (I'm actually vested in a small pension), my condo purchase information, my transition stuff. Eventually, I'll clean this stuff up for good and find a permanent home in a safe or metal box.

It feels good, I've felt kind of stuck and lethargic for the past few months - it's as if I've been digging really deep, and cleaning up some really deep pain and loss.

My friend Cheryl has been visiting, taking advantage of my spare room when she needs to be up in the area early - and noted my newly cleaned room, saying "It looks like you are getting ready for something"

And that's what it feels like. What that something is - not sure. But I'm getting ready....

October 10, 2011

Dear Netflix....

Two words - SPELL CHECK. In Reed's "An Explanation and Some Reflections", you blew "streeaming". And in today's retraction email, "DVDs will be staying at" you bring us " other words, no Qwwikster." This in spite of spelling it Qwikster in the initial email.

Seriously. I am getting the feeling you are making this stuff up after a couple of drinks too many, and hitting SEND before someone changes their mind....

October 06, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

In retrospect, not a surprise. Steve's fight with cancer has been much discussed, and his step back from Apple was as much a portent as anything. But still, a bit of a shock and some unexpected sadness as I learned the news last night, while poking around Facebook on my iPad.

I'm an apple-come-lately kind of girl myself. As a techie I've been PC savvy since the early days - cutting my teeth on an HP workstation (something like a glorified calculator with a full keyboard, tiny CRT, and HP-Basic), then graduating to office PCs. I've dabbled in CP/M. But mostly I've grown up along the IBM / DOS / PC / Windows channel because so much of my professional software and applications were PC-only.

Also, as a notorious skinflint, a MAC was just never within reach.

As a musician, one might think that the iPod might have caught my attention. But I've never been much of an earbud person, preferring live music, the car (where CDs are perfectly serviceable) and the home as listening environments, and NPR to music most of the time anyway.

That all changed with the iPhone. I was charmed by the original iPhone but it was still a bit pricey. When the iPod Touch came out, however, I bit. My love affair was short-lived; I left the touch on the back of a vehicle while ballooning and drove off; it was never found. But I was hooked, and it was not long before I traded up to an iPhone 3G.

And last spring, as I turned to corner at 50, I treated myself to an iPad which has remained a favorite tool/toy.

Steve was my generation, my people. The Apple II came out when I was in college, a few of the more well off and geekier engineering students had them in the dorm. I remember marveling at early versions of flight simulator. Steve and Woz and Apple were protoypes of what an engineer could do with his/her life. So to lose him, relatively young and inordinantly privileged, demonstrates that we are all slaves to time and the capriciousness of health and vitality; technology, health care, none of it can save us.

Thanks for the tools and the toys, Steve. Thanks for the changes your visions have wrought on this world. Hopefully you've planted enough seeds and infected enough of us to carry your work into the future.

September 30, 2011

Dog Dreams

I've been dreaming a lot recently. Unusual; I usually sleep like a rock, and if I dream, I'm not conscious of them. But lately, my subconscious seems to be trying to push to the surface.

Night before last, I was on a hospital gurney, heading into some sort of procedure (like an MRI or angiogram or something). Notable was the fact that my dog, Elo, was curled up under my arm on the gurney, and was going into the procedure room. Also that night, I dreamed I was riding my bike, and Elo was sitting on the bike rack at the back of the bike (completely unreal) - and I recall riding up and over a small hump / curb, getting some air, and checking to see if Elo was still seated securely. I woke up distinctly unsettled.

Last night, I dreamed I was at my old house in Waterbury, but Elo was with me. At one point, my neighbor Joyce (from my Hartford home) was trying to take Elo for a walk (I stopped her, afraid Elo would get loose) and as I was taking Elo into the house, she came up with a small thumb tack or dart - was somebody shooting at my dog? I noticed the woman (whose name was Mrs. Martinez, completely fictional) across the street quickly closing her blind. Turns out she had been shooting darts at Elo, because of his barking. She came over and gave me a little baggie with the darts in them (to show me they were harmless, I guess) and I got angry at her; called 9-1-1 to get the police to come out, but the phone was never answered.

Later, same dream, same locale, Elo's back leg fell off. Right below the bony "heel" on his leg; he was limping but not in a lot of pain. I called up a 24 Hour emergency vet - and while I was talking to the vet, I noticed he had lost the other back leg, but that he seemed to be growing new paws.

Finally, same dream, a guy shows up from a mortgage company - thought he was looking for me, but he was looking for the folks next door (when I lived in Waterbury, an old guy named Carl and his nephew). He and some colleagues were hanging around outside, and other colleagues showed up and they had a pie fight with large flat trays of what looked like meringue or shaving cream.

I've been feeling kind of crappy of late; perhaps the dreams are part of my body's healing or fighting off some infection. But....weird.

September 27, 2011

Even Yoginis Get the Blues

It was a sucky day.

It was the kind of day where I did not encounter another living human being - not on the phone, not via email or text, not in person. If it weren't for a trip out to grab some lunch and a run to Real Art Ways to catch a film, I might have believed myself the only human left on the planet.

Even Real Art Ways, where I went to see "Shut Up Little Man", was a bit depressing - I was the only person in the theater. As if I needed a reminder of how alone I am.

I stayed out of the yoga studio - because I knew the moment I hit the mat I would dissolve into tears, and I really did not want to be the spectacle du jour. And at times, being there with the community, the interconnectedness, only serves to remind me of my own separateness.

So yeah, sucky day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

September 17, 2011

CT Pride Day

Wandered down to Bushnell Park this afternoon for Connecticut Pride. Was a beautiful morning / early afternoon, although it clouded over and cooled down a bit.

I really liked the layout of the vendor / organizational booths - it contained the energy and created a feeling of critical mass, as compared to other years. Think I've missed a few years there so this may not be a new thing, but regardless, I approve. I'm not much for the music at Pride; just not my cup of tea. And without a posse hanging out together, not a lot of fun hanging out all afternoon. So I popped in and out.

Mostly, it's my annual check-in with folks. Some friends I have known for 10-15 years; Pride is my one chance to really touch base every year. Others I see more often, but nice to see them all together. And always a couple I have lost touch with, it's a nice surprise to reconnect.

And always a little bittersweet. Organizations I have been involved with over the years; membership has turned over and now I know nobody. New organizations that have sprouted up that I have no connection or history with; a little awkward to wander up and say "Hey, I used to be somebody, 10 years ago". And a sense of missing the GLBT community a bit:

* Living in a liberal state where GLBT folks are seamlessly integrated into other communities, a lot of the community spaces (community center, bars, coffeehouses) and resources / groups have faded;

* Moving through the world without making waves or encountering much in the way of discrimination or hate, which limits my incentive to stay connected to the support and activism organizations;

* Being way too busy with work, hobbies, and life - I try to stop in to community events when I can, but "when I can" is a pretty thin slice of life.

Shout out to my wing women; Alison from yoga and Sandy from the Guinea Pigs, who both wandered down to check out the festival and wander around with me for a while. I usually just do a circuit or two, say hi to old friends, and head out. Instead I hung out with them and chatted for a few hours. I Am sure they both broke a few hearts this afternoon; sorry ladies, they are straight! Although Alison's sidekick (an adorable pug) was like catnip to the gay men....

I doubt I'll get to any of the evening festivities - a bit too old for the bar scene, balloon chasing in the morning means a 4:30 am wake-up call. But it was nice to check in. The Eros Film Fest is coming up in November...

September 13, 2011

Losing My Religion

Somewhere between savasana and home, I had the realization that I have been having a recurring dream. I dream of being in high school, in the middle of the term or semester. And I have been completely blowing off my religion classes (I went to a catholic high school, we had religion classes) - never showing up, not even on my schedule.

Of course, I have been without a formal religious belief for many years. In fact, if anything, I have developed a strong anti-religion bias what with the antics of the christian right and radical islam. It's gotten to the point where I avoid even ecumenical or vaguely religious intersections with other causes and orgs.

I spend a lot of time plugging away at spirituality - yoga, meditation, enlightenment intensives, retreats. I have a strong belief in something larger - the divine, a cosmic consciousness, a soul in the machine. But religion - no thanks.

Pondering what that dream might mean.....

September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

My previous post was a macro post - the big picture, so to speak. Drilling down to the personal, to my life ten years ago.

I was out in the Chicago area on Sept 11, 2001 for an industry conference out by the airport. Not sure if I flew out early that morning or the night before; I was safely on the ground in a rental car when the first tower was hit, I was listening to the local NPR affiliate. I was running out to an office supply store or pharmacy to pick up a cell phone charger, where the news was buzzing - I called my pilot friend Robert as I heard the news, "turn on CNN, some moron flew into the World Trade Center". Thinking it was a small private plane and nothing more than an accident, I imagined he'd be interested. As we talked, he conveyed to me "that was a lot bigger than a Cessna"; we made have been on the phone when the second plane hit, and he clicked off to call his brother who was employed on Wall Street.

Still unaware of the magnitude of things, I continued to my trade show; the conference quickly faded as we gathered around a few television sets to watch the unbelievable news. By lunchtime, it was clear that we were living in a different world; I returned to my hotel room. I remember hearing rumors that the Sears Tower or Hancock Tower in Chicago had been targeted; I remember looking up cautiously at each plane that flew overhead inbound to O'Hare.

I ended up stranded in Chicago for most of the week - waiting for airports to open. I withdrew from industry peers; spending time online, calling friends and family, watching the news in my hotel room, fretting about the cost of the hotel. Finally, I sought out a local gay bar, "Temptations" in Franklin Park which is now closed, where I sat at the bar and watched the news with a handful of locals - just seeking human contact. A couple of days later, I gave up waiting for the airports to open, and set out for home in my rental car, figuring it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission. It took me two days to get home; I made a big loop around the city. I am sure the rental car agencies had a couple of months spent untangling the mess of relocated cars from that week.

In hindsight, that week was a turning point for me personally. Although I had yet to admit it to myself, I was mid-transition between genders - still legally and working as a male, but looking much more female. Yet I had not really mapped out a formal transition plan; I was freelancing, playing it by ear. Years later, one of my clients who was also at the conference reported being asked "Why is that woman (me) wearing a man's suit?". And though I had not packed for clubbing or venturing out, a pair of jeans and a tee shirt were sufficient to put me in the female category over at the bar that week.

In the aftermath of the attacks, my annual trade show trip to Chicago (November 2001) was cancelled, and business / business travel dried up significantly. So I was able to spend the next 12 months holed up in my consulting office, working remotely, mostly out of sight of my clients and customers. A year later, in the fall of 2002, I begged out of the trade show again - because my affect was clearly too feminine to pass as male. I realized that, although I feared the impact of transitioning on my career and livelihood, not transitioning was having the same affect. So I rather quickly set a transition date (January 1, 2003), and continued to stay out of sight, not wanting to reinforce my male gender that close to transition.

This time I told my main client what was up; they had me out to their west coast facility in January 2003 to do some training as the new me. It was, in retrospect, a very kind and generous gift to my insecure self; their "nothing to see here, move along" attitude set a positive tone for almost all of my clients.

I know that a lot of folks had post 9-11 career or life crises. Many trans persons decided to find a support group, seek counseling, etc. That was not the case with me; I had been on this path for a good decade prior to 2001. But in some ways, the terrorist attacks of 2001 opened the doorway for me to take the steps I needed to take. The post 9-11 slowdown made my transition a lot less complicated and a lot more inevitable.

September 07, 2011

Dear Sir

I get a lot of unsolicited emails with resumes to my work email address. I have a fairly distinctive domain (yay for early adoption!), and most folks never get past the front page to figure out I am a one-person consulting practice.

So, OK, you are sending out resume or CV spam. But even if I were hiring (I'm not, sorry), heading your email "Dear Sir" is a pretty quick FAIL, at this company!

Since most these come from India, and most of the email verbiage is pretty fractured email, perhaps they get a pass. But still.....

August 28, 2011

Camp Camp - Yoga

I went up to Camp Camp to teach yoga. I was on the schedule for 2 classes a day - a morning class from 7:00 am - 8:30 am, and an afternoon class from 3:30 - 5:00 pm.

I wanted to differentiate the classes a bit, so advertised the morning class (before breakfast, competing only with the morning swim and the fallout from late nights) as a stronger practice. I ended up doing a pretty basic power class most days. The afternoon class was more of a gentle / all levels class. Turned out to be a perfect call - I had a strong core of morning yogis (8-12 every day, a few came every day and most came a few time) who liked the core work, liked the flow. The practice was in an open building, so getting the body warm was an issue - I used flow and pranayama to get the heat up.

The afternoon class was a bit less well attended (6-10) and a bit more of a "drop in" feel; not surprising considering that it was competing with all the other great camp activities. But very sweet to have students who had never done yoga before.

I really loved teaching. It was a challenge to come up with a full week's worth of classes (especially the morning session, with lots of regulars) and it was such an honor to have students coming back every day. Although I am trained in power yoga and that's my normal practice, it was a bit out of my comfort zone to teach 6 power classes in a row. Good growth opportunity.

I brought up my yoga toys - mats, blocks, straps, tennis balls. There were mats at the camp but many of them were pretty funky. Next year I hope to invest in a pile of yoga blankets to bring up - would have been useful for gentle classes as well as the power classes.

I was really touched by the lovely "camp-o-gram" notes of thanks and positive feedback I got in my "Buddy Bag". Each day there was some little bit of positive affirmation, and folks came up to me all week saying "I've heard good things about your yoga classes"

So, call it a win. If Camp Camp will have me next year, I'll be back!

Camp Camp - Overview

Just back from a week at Camp Camp, a GLBT summer camp that celebrated its 15th season. I was supposed to be up there through this morning, but the impending hurricane cut the program short on Saturday and I decided to take off yesterday afternoon. I feel much better knowing that my home is secured, my dog underfoot, and I have no reason to travel today!

P.S. - I'm rewatching this video and now a lot of these folks I count as friends (Clink! Nick! Kerry! Phil! Shannon! Goody!). Kind of getting teary, watching with post-camp eyes! My friends!

I was officially at Camp to teach yoga; having applied for and obtained a Staff position to teach two classes a day. But it's an unpaid gig; staff positions simply get you a reduced fee for a week at camp (depending upon number of hours worked) so I was just as much a camper and participant as anyone else.

In a word, Camp Camp was amazing. 250 GLBT campers spent the better part of a week doing typical summer camp things, building community, and enjoying friendships, adventures, and night time celebrations.

I ended up bunking in Sappho cabin, a larger bunkhouse on the shores of the lake. It's a quieter part of camp, wedged in between the men's cabin Greg Louganis and "the condos", a cluster of interconnected men's cabins. The Sappho residents were a bit older "early to bed, early to rise" women (as opposed to younger, "hang out all night talking" women) and that fit my needs and preferences completely. Sappho was also fairly close to the place I taught yoga; quite handy. Very sweet energy in Sappho cabin.

The cabin was simple but functional. Screened windows, no shutters or glass, and rough single bunk beds that were functional. We all got bottom bunks (so we could double up mattresses), and used the top bunk for storage. Couples pushed their bunks together and used air mattresses. Decent toilets and showers, plenty of hot water. 12 women in Sappho and I never had to wait for the bathroom or shower. I slept OK - I tended to wake up early and start thinking about my morning class. One good trick was to line the sides of the bunk with a blanket (I used my yoga blanket) which kept the heat in, blocked the breeze, kept light and sound out (especially when I went to bed early) and let me do a little reading without disturbing others if I woke up during the night.

In addition to the cabin affiliation, everyone was assigned to a Rainbow Group - a small band of fellow campers who met daily to check in, communicate camp news, and who did a few of the evening activities together. I was in Yellow group, which ended up being 2/3 men and 1/3 women (probably close to the mix at camp) under the leadership of a veteran camper / staffer called a Rainbow Group Leader. We ended up having some good discussions during rainbow group each morning after breakfast.

I had my phone up at camp, but cell service was very spotty and electronic tethers (phone, text, web, music) were actively discouraged. So I used it primarily as a clock for yoga classes, to play yoga music on occasion, and to take just a few photos. As usual, I left my camera home and was way too "in the moment" most of the time to take pictures.

While at camp, I did the following:

* Took a kayak out, for a quick lesson, a solo tour of the lake, and a guided marsh nature paddle. A long time goal and now that I've been out, eager for more.

* Went swimming a few times at the beach / dock, I forget how much I love the water and swimming.

* Made the simplest of stained glass art (thanks, Amy!), I liked the process and would gladly take on a more challenging piece next time.

* Took a volleyball lesson (yay, Nick!) which ended up being one-on-one. Very helpful, although I never made it out to the sand court to play.

* Spent some time with Circus Arts (Tigger!) where I messed around with juggling (I already have some chops but we worked on my form), plate spinning (I totally loved and bought myself a set of plastic plates to play with), and stilts (pretty hopeless)

* Played a game of kickball (fun) although I got my bell rung falling over going back for a fly ball. Good to play again but at 50, maybe I do not need to again :)

* Got a massage on Friday afternoon, much needed and appreciated after a week of teaching yoga 2x a day but grabbing my own practice as I could.

Never made it to the climbing wall or the ropes course (I was busy during the introductory ground school). Did not find my way to the dance studio (no surprise there), cooking classes, drawing, pottery. Also missed out on tennis, basketball, softball, frisbee golf, flag football, drumming - my days were just too full. So lots of fertile ground for next year!

In addition to the daytime activities, there was fun stuff to do every night.

Monday: Welcome dinner, we sat with our rainbow group

Tuesday: Barn Dance. I loved the energy and the music, but did not dance, and burned out a bit halfway through.

Wednesday: Quincinera, a celebration of the camp's 15th year, sat with rainbow group and there were some competitions, including a "america's top designer" inspired outfitting of the group "princess and escort" using tissue paper.

Thursday: Tea Dance. Indoors due to weather but a blast, a few friends dragged me out to the dance floor where I boogied til I dropped.

Friday: Talent / No Talent Show. They asked for volunteers to work backstage so I ended up one of three backstage managers. Which was a lot of fun, meeting the campers who performed. A healthy mix of serious talent (music, spoken word, magic and juggling, broadway dance), semi-serious talent (music with some comedic bits), and some drag shenanigans.

Saturday: Camp Camp Dance Dance. I took off early due to the impending hurricane so I missed out.

There were also a lot of "late night" activities - campfires, movies, a pajama party. My duties called (7 am yoga class) so I was in bed early (10 or 11) pretty much every night.

Meals were a cut above institutional / camp food - salmon a few nights, veggie / vegan options, lots of greens (veggies and salads). Great desserts. I ate well, and with all the outdoor activities and walking around the camp, I was hungry. Meal time was a time to come together and talk, and I mostly sat down randomly - sometimes with cabin mates, sometimes with new friends, sometimes with yoga students, sometimes with strangers.

Bottom line: I had a blast, met some amazing people, and hope to be back in Maine next year!

August 17, 2011

The Cobbler's Kids Go Shoeless

You might know that one of the things I do* is code websites. I work very popular tourist attraction, a fairly well known medical professional (whose site is pretty dated), and a handful of other clients. I'm not a graphics genius, but a fairly good plugger with HTML (I tend to hand-code, a dying art, and also muck around with javascript).

Anyway, my own website is perhaps 7-8 years out from it's last overhaul - its technically archaic and its content is similarly obsolete. I have a few empty hours this week (end of summer slowdown, one of my big clients is out of town) so I'm going to see what I can do this week. No promises - heading off the grid onSaturday for a week and I suspect the week I get back I will be swamped. But it would be nice to have my website overhauled before September wraps up.

* Engineering, teaching yoga, chasing hot air balloons, website design, playing music

August 11, 2011

Holed Up

Think it was last Thursday; there was a lot going on in Hartford and friends were posting all over Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere - Billings Forge, the Wadsworth, an art openings, music. Any one of those might have lured me out. But I was up to my usual tricks - spent the day working with clients in Essex and the evening on the yoga mat - by the time 8 pm rolled around I was done. came home, grabbed some food, spent some time unwinding and puttering, and went to bed.

And I realized that I've been kind of holed up, withdrawn. It's been months since I've done anything randomly social (creative cocktail hour, Phoenix After Hours). I completely blew off the Jazz Fest and Monday Night Jazz. I rarely make it north of New Britain Avenue, forget going all the way into Hartford.

Part of that is busy life - folk fest takes a lot out of me and the weekend after was a family reunion. There's been a bunch of work to catch up on in between those, as well as plenty of time teaching and practicing yoga. My condo is a mess; I've been slowly picking away at that. And the summer heat (I recently installed a small window A/C unit in the bedroom, but the house / office does not have AC) has been a bit draining.

I feel a bit more social stirring, and I suspect I'll be popping back up in the world soon. One more summer obligation / vacation (a week in Maine, teaching yoga at GLBT summer camp), and then the fall, and perhaps the emergence of Jude from her cave....

August 10, 2011


I've been working with a shoulder injury for over a year now. I think it started with a tear in the brachialis or maybe the deltoid insertion; it only really impacted chaturanga (I could lift from low plank to high plank all day, support myself in Pincha Mayurasana, but lowering down - ouch!) and working around or compensating for that; I messed up the right shoulder. I suspect balloon chasing (specifically, the crown line) as responsible, although lots of chaturangas and carrying extra weight would be exacerbating factors.

I've been living with it for a long while; knowing that having a daily yoga practice was not giving it a lot of time / space to heal up, not wanting to go to the doc (cost and really, I'd be advised to rest it!). So the last year has been a time of humility as I drop my knees for chaturanga and avoid really strong upper arm / shoulder work. I'd toss in a full chaturanga once in a while just to see where I was at, but other than that, I've been good.

But lately I've been feeling pretty good about it all; tossing in more full chaturangas, taking stronger postures. Today, in Marcia's hot class, I did pretty much every chaturanga with knees up, jumped (as opposed to stepped) back and forward about half the time, and to prove a point, took Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel - definitely outside my normal "still injured" comfort zone.

I'm not about to go into kick ass shoulder work just yet (or ever!), and ought to drop some pounds before moving forward into advanced arm balance work, but it does feel good to be getting that shoulder / upper arm back, and to reclaim parts of my practice that perhaps might have seemed lost for good.

Time (and a little wisdom and loving kindness) heals....

August 06, 2011

Asana on LaSalle

Lululemon Athletica and West Hartford Yoga collaborated on a special outdoor yoga class this morning, on LaSalle Road in West Hartford Center, led by Barbara Ruzansky.

I think the WH Police expected 50 people or so, imagine their surprise when we pulled in close to 500 (484 was the official lululemon count).

A few days back I started sniffing around to be sure Barb could connect her wireless headset to the sound system. I was a little shaky on the sound system lululemon had rented (a battery powered PA from Taylor Rental, never did get teh power or model) so I decided to bring the studio kirtan sound system. It rocked all the way to the back rows.

Some more flickr photos here.

And some pretty amazing photos by David B. Newman for the West Hartford Patch, here. The wide shots (I think the cleaning crew let him sneak upstairs at the Elbow Room) really convey the scale!

August 05, 2011


On July 14, 2011, fearful of the Tea Party's insistence of "no retreat, no surrender" vis a vis increased taxes, I pulled my 401K out of the stock market, and wrote:
The Dow is at 12,491.61, the NASDAQ is at 2,796.92. Let's see where things are 2-3 weeks from now...

So they came to a pretty crappy resolution to debt ceiling crisis, and as of today, the Dow is at 11,383.68 (down 8.8%), the NASDAQ is at 2,556.39 (down 8.6%).

July 26, 2011

Somebody Loves Me

As I was setting up my tent last week at Falcon Ridge, I marveled at how neatly the tent had been put away - all the pieces neatly bagged, the tent nicely folded and put away dry. And I realized that the tent had probably not been pulled out since it was packed up at the end of fest last year; that I had carefully and mindfully put it away last year; sending a message into the future. Jude of 2011, Jude of 2010 loves you and wants you to have a wonderful festival week.

It was a sweet moment of realization. Sometimes I get down on myself regarding my messiness or my lack of discipline around some areas of my life. But having that realization brought me a sense of being taken care of - by myself surely, but also by the universe.

And of course, as I pulled down the campsite at the end of this year's fest, I kept that same sense of mindfulness and reverence for whoever I will be as I set up my campsite in 2012.

July 25, 2011

RIP Bill Morrissey

While in the merchandise trailer at Falcon Ridge on Saturday, I got the news - Bill Morrissey had passed away. Such sad news, especially when contrasted with the joyful folk community underway in Hillsdale - many artists mentioned Bill during their sets. It's going to take me a few days to come down from the Falcon Ridge high to start to process Bill's death.

Others have written more and better tributes; you can find some links on a fansite as well as a short blurb on Bill's site. I've been a fan for over two decades; having heard Handsome Molly on a Legacy compilation. After listening for many years, I got to see him play live, and was surprised at such a deep voice coming from such a slight man. I own a handful of Bill's albums (North, Standing Eight, Inside, Night Train, You'll Never Get to Heaven), and have always been struck by his portrayal of working class New England, and his bittersweet songs about relationships. But I have to say that Friend of Mine, a collaboration with Greg Brown, remains a favorite. Just two good friends, sitting around with a couple of guitars and trading licks, verses, and laughs.

As I unwound from the folk fest, I put five of Bill's CDs that I own into the CD player. The very first notes of Pantherville brought me back to the early 90's - I covered that tune at open mics for a while. Married Man is both hopeful and tickles the funny bone. Handsome Molly, the first song to draw me in; think that's Suzanne Vega on backing vocals. These Cold Fingers - a darker song foretelling perhaps some of his personal struggles. Off-White is another beautiful relationship song, kind of reminds me of David Mallett's "I've Been Around."

Night Train features Birches, one of my favorite songs about relationship - the metaphors and imagery are so beautiful. And on that album, the sad (right now) Letter from Heaven and Time To Go Home

All in all it's amazing how little the quality and tone of his songs changed from the earlier CDs to the later ones. he got a little darker, a little more serious, but one could drop a random song from the earlier days into the later albums and it would not be that out of place.

This year, Falcon Ridge featured a tribute to Jack Hardy who also passed away this year. Folk music has lost a couple of good ones. So it was so sweet to rub elbows with and lend my ears to those still with us - John Gorka, Greg Brown, Eliza Gilkyson, Lucy Kaplansky, Mary Gauthier, so many more.....

July 16, 2011

Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase 2011

In the order of appearance, with weblinks!

Grace Pettis-Harrisonburg VA
Occidental Gypsy-Boston MA
Karyn Oliver-Boring MD - eMUSIC
Brooke Annibale-Pittsburgh PA - eMUSIC

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli-Metro West MA - eMUSIC
Gail Wade-Colchester CT
Paul Sachs-NYC - eMUSIC
Brittany Ann-Philadelphia PA - eMUSIC

Bulat Gafarov-Moscow RU - eMUSIC
ilyAIMY-Baltimore MD - eMUSIC
Suzie Vinnick-Toronto ON - eMUSIC
Putnam Smith-Portland ME - eMUSIC

Pesky J.Nixon-Boston MA - eMUSIC
Louise Mosrie-Nashville TN - eMUSIC
Jason Myles Goss-Brooklyn NY
My Brothers Banned-Westchester Cty NY - eMUSIC

Friction Farm-Greenville SC
Sharon Goldman-Metuchen NJ - eMUSIC
Devlin Miles-NYC - eMUSIC
Layah Jane-Toronto ON - eMUSIC

Blair Bodine-Ambler PA - eMUSIC
The Whispering Tree-NYC - eMUSIC
Ellen Bukstel-Southwest Ranches FL - Free MP3
Split Tongue Crow-Rutland VT - eMUSIC

And every artist labelled eMusic has their latest album up on eMusic; I downloaded all of those and am gonna have SHOWCASE ARTIST SHUFFLE going in the merch trailer / tent on Wednesday and Thursday!

Falcon Ridge Preview

Falcon Ridge is already getting started, with some friends on the farm alre and the rest of us making final preparations. The schedule is already posted online here.

As part of my work as performer merchandise coordinator, I've been web surfing to all the artists pages to collect their CD list for the spreadsheet. Some of my highlights and thoughts:

Supergroups: This year we have two folk supergroups (similar to Cry Cry Cry a bunch of years back). Red Horse features Cry Cry Cry's Lucy Kaplansky, along with John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson. Can't complain on any front there; they are (collectively) the Friday Night Song Swap, and individually, opening up Saturday's mainstage (John / Lucy / Eliza). In addition, we have Brother Sun, consisting of Greg Greenway, Joe Jencks, and Pat Wictor - Joe and Pat were Showcase artists (and Pat was "most-wanted" a few years back), it's been a while since Greg has been featured at the fest.

Long Time No See: Welcome back, Greg Brown!

Old Friends: Tracy Grammar, Gandalf Murphy, Dan Navarro (who never fails to amuse and entertain the merch crew), Red Molly, Susan Werner, Mary Gautier, among others. I'm particularly hape to see Jay Makita (workshop and family stage only) need to make a point to get out to the satellite stages to see him.

Headliner: Mary Chapin Carpenter is one Sunday night headliner I am excited to see.

You'll Be Missed: No Dar this year, no Pete and Maura Kennedy, no Eddie From Ohio, no Girlyman. Most surprisingly, no Nields (who are kind of fixtures at the fest).

Showcase Artists: As usual, Falcon Ridge has culled 24 artists (from 100s of entries) for the Emerging Artists Showcase. I've visited each of their websites and looks good, with some ensembles, some earnest young singer songwriters, and folks with a few miles on 'em. Some that caught my eye: Gail Wade (from Colchester, CT, the only nutmegger), Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli (Metro West MA. No really. It's Framingham, right?) A handful of colorful names: My Brothers Banned, Occidental Gypsy, ilyAIMY (an acronym for I Love You, And I Miss You, cute....), Friction Farm, Pesky J. Nixon, and Split Tongue Crow. And all the way from Moscow, Russia - Bulat Gafarov.

I'll post a canonical showcase list with links in a bit....

Looking forward to it. I head up on Tuesday; with a brand new car-top carrier on my little Saturn the better to carry the mad mix of camping supplies, clothes, beverages, office supplies, yoga stuff, and instruments that I bring up!

July 14, 2011

On the Sidelines

I just pulled my retirement account out of the stock market until this debt ceiling thing gets resolved. The media drumbeat, the Moody's rating, it's all getting a little worrisome, and I'm going to be off the grid for the next few weeks. If the Tea Partiers' antics crash the stock market I am gonna at least get back in at the bottom.....

I'm usually a "ride it out, long term investment" kind of gal, but when one is a fanatic / zealot, one will (for example) strap-on an explosive vest and wander into a busy marketplace. Part of me thinks these bozos would love to take the economy down just to hurt Obama's chances in 2012.

The Dow is at 12,491.61, the NASDAQ is at 2,796.92. Let's see where things are 2-3 weeks from now...

July 13, 2011

CT Hackerspace

When I moved into my condo a year and a half ago, the basement featured a pool table, a suspended ceiling, some 48" fluorescent lamps, and an open electrical box with a hanging light fixture in the storage closet.

The pool table went to a friend; the ceiling tiles got tossed (smelled of smoke), but the ceiling grid, the fluorescent lamps, and the open electrical box remained. Last weekend, in a rare burst of motivation inspired by my wiring work for a friend, I (a) removed the ceiling grid, (b) removed the fluorescent lamps (required a bit of electrical work) and (c) closed up the ceiling box.

I put an ad up on Craigslist to find a home for the lamp fixtures and a carton of bulbs - and one of the first to reply was a guy from CT Hackerspace in Watertown, CT. He stopped by this morning to collect the lights to outfit his space, noticed my pile of suspended ceiling rails, and inquired if they were being tossed. Indeed they were, and he took those as well (saving me the hassle of calling the city for a pickup)

CT Hackerspace is "...collaborating to build a community and space to support a wide array of technical and creative disciplines through infrastructure, inspiration, making and sharing." Or more succinctly, a bunch of electrical and mechanical geeks creating a shared space to geek out in - with tools, instrumentation, workspace, etc. I approve....

In fact, I'm gonna go through my piles and see if there is anything that's been sitting idle around here or in Zippy's basement that I can toss their way.....

July 11, 2011

New Laptop

Just ordered a replacement laptop. My last laptop (a Sony Vaio that I've had since February '08) clearly does not owe me anything. It's been a bit flaky / slow for a while, and at the start of the month, it gave up the ghost completely, refusing to power up at all.

Once upon a time I spent a lot of time researching laptops - with a remote office my main computer was often a car-ride away; my laptop was permanently set up in the house. I traveled a lot for work, actively maintained multiple websites, and did a lot of remote powerpoint / production gigs. But these days, my office (and desktop) are in the basement, and I have an iPad that does almost anything I might want a laptop upstairs for, and I travel just a few times a year. So I picked up a relatively middle of the road model from a decent brand, with good reviews. Stuffed it with RAM, picked up Office Home & Student (I refuse to use Outlook) and away we go.

A while back I left my laptop at the yoga studio for close to a month and never missed it; if it were not for some engineering software and applications that are Windows only, I might step back from a laptop completely.

June 28, 2011

Hippy Traveler

Somewhere in the last year I've become a hippy traveler. Last time out - paisley roller board, matching toiletry bag, black computer bag. Your typical corporate road warrior, skewed a little geeky and independent.

This morning - cargo yoga pants, a backpack, minimal toiletries in plastic bags. I check a toolkit, but carrying on everything else.

Summer conceit? Or is this a shift in my attitude and energy, as I evolve away from a more formal, eager to please consultant and towards a laid back engineering guru who can take or leave these sorts of on site consulting gigs.

June 14, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Basement Pron

Documenting my little "never want to empty that dehumudifier bucket again" project.

(A) Bought a small drain hose ($7, Loew's) which screws onto the dehumidifier drain, directing extracted water into

(B) The reservoir of the sump pump (Little Giant model VCMA-20ULT, $45 online including shipping and handling). When reservoir is sufficiently full, the pump turns on, sending water through a check-valve into

(C) 3/8" plastic tube, which I've run up the wall, into the ceiling, and down to the

(D) washing machine drain, where it empties. The pump turns off when its reservoir is empty, and the check valve keeps the water from flowing back into the pump reservoir.

The only improvements I might make are:

(1) Place a shallow plastic tray or container under the dehumidifier and sump pump in case of some sort of failure or loose fitting. Just an extra level of safety....

(2) Run the drain into a large container with a tap or faucet (like a water cooler) which I could then recycle for houseplants / grey water. Although I'd have to be sure that did not overflow.....

The pump is very quiet, I almost never catch it working, especially compared to the relatively loud dehumidifier. FWIW, I also have purchased a high current receptacle timer, designed especially for motor drive appliances, to cycle the dehumidifier (on at night, off during the day) if the cycling starts to bug me.

The Model VCMA-20ULT is perhaps a bit overkill (20' Head, 1.3 Gals/min) for my application, but there was not much difference in price between this and the next size down, so I thought it best to be conservative.

June 07, 2011

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

I've been running pretty hard lately. That's nothing new; I tend to thrive on a busy schedule, multitasking, and a bit of chaos, but it's gotten out of hand. I guess it did not strike me how busy I have been until this afternoon, as I was sending out an update to a client.

In the first seven calendar days in June, I've done over 20 hours of billable work for my main client. This client typically averages ~30 hours a month; June is on track to hit 80 hours (I doubt the pace will continue, but still....). Now as a consultant, I set my fees so that I'm happy with 20 billable hours a week; this past week, this one client alone has paid my salary. This comes on the heels of a pretty typical May (30 hours) and I am sitting on 8 hours of pending work right now.

That would keep me humming right along, work wise, but on top of that, I spent 25 hours in the yoga studio this past weekend, assisting the teacher training. Amazing work that I would not trade for anything, but it's time away from home and other work. I've also taught 5 yoga classes in those seven days. The ticket launch at my second largest client continues (thankfully slowing down, as they settle in to the system and the bugs are slowly found and corrected), but they did drop a few hours of website updates on me.

And things are slipping through the cracks. I have not gotten my June 1 invoices out yet (tomorrow, for sure). My house is a wreck (although I've been doing pretty well with making the outside summery). My fridge is some combination of expired and empty.

Bottom line: It's hitting me how much pressure I am under, time wise. I'm actually doing pretty well with it all - the dog gets walked regularly, I'm caught up on laundry, I'm getting fairly decent sleep, I'm getting in some decent yoga practice. But I do need some down time - a walk in the woods, a few hours with a book, a movie, or a night out with friends.

This week is not going to help much - working at the studio Wed night and Sat morning; Kirtan on Friday night, and a bunch of classes to teach and appointments. But I can already feel a bit of easing; I spent the entire day at my desk catching up on work reports - a few hours tonight and I'll be officially on track. And the calendar for next week looks fairly empty.

With all the folks struggling financially, out of work, underemployed, I should count myself as lucky. I have an incredible palate of income producing opportunities - well paying engineering work, engaging website stuff, and spiritually nourishing work at the studio and teaching.

But balance....there's the rub.

Rube Goldberg

My efforts pale in comparison to the technological marvels envisioned by cartoonist Rube Goldberg. However, I spent a few minutes and a few dollars creating my own contraption.

My condo has a basement that is about 50% below grade. I have an office down there: carpeted floor, lots of printed material and supplies, a few computers, printers, and network devices. So a recipe for high humidity.

I bought a dehumidifier when I moved in, but emptying the thing has become a chore, especially this time of year. In other homes, I was able to drain the dehumidifier into a basement drain, or elevate the dehumidifier so that I could use a washer drain, sink, etc. But not here. So last week I purchased a small sump pump with a reservoir, a check valve, and a roll of 3/8" plastic tubing. Voila - self-draining dehumidifier that pumps water up and overhead, into the washer drain.

I picked up a Little Giant pump, model VCMA-20ULT. When the reservoir fills, the quiet pump switches on and pumps the water over to the washer drain; when the reservoir is empty, the pump stops. $35 at Amazon.....

I'm going to get a small plastic tray or tupperware container to set the pump in (just in case, as much as I love technology, I know it also fails occasionally) but as of right now - I'm happy to not be schlepping the dehumidifier reservoir up the stairs a few times a week.

May 31, 2011

Up a Ladder

I live in a small condo complex - four units. More of an expanded duplex, really. So each of the four owners is an officer of the condo association, and we tend to handle some of the upkeep and maintenance ourselves. My condo fees are quite low - less than 1/2 the norm for these parts.

Since I've moved in, we've had no parking lot lights. There were two spotlights on the front of the building - one empty, the other with a floodlight bulb and apparent photoelectric sensor that was not working. The folks in the front units could put their porch lamps on (mines on a timer) but choose not to, so the parking lot is generally dark.

This past winter, the one front spotlight decided to turn on - and it stayed on for several months, 24 hours a day. It was kind of nice to have the light on, but it did add a bit to the condo electric bill. And then, a month or so ago, it stopped working again.

Last week, my neighbor Carol, an older retired woman, stopped by and noted how dark it was, lobbying (I think) to get someone in to look at the lights. I went out with her, and decided that was a nice project for me. So this weekend, I purchased and installed two motion lights in front of the building.

I've been the "go-to" girl for electrical projects for years. When I owned a home in Waterbury, I installed three sets of motion lights after we were burgled; those I had to actually run the wire, pipe it in, everything. I also replaced the old small fuse box with a 100 Amp breaker panel, and ran 240 VAC to the upstairs for heat. I've installed ceiling fans, track lighting, power for hot tubs, etc. and replaced countless receptacles, dimmers and switches. But it's been a while since I've tackled a big electrical project.

So I spent a few hours this weekend 16' up a ladder. The electrical install was not too hard - I needed to put in one box, take out the old fixtures, hook up a few wires, and adjust the motion detectors. My legs are kind of cranky from that ladder death grip required when one has both hands into a project, and I got a bit too much sun on my shoulders - but otherwise I'm good....

I was a little surprised / disappointed by the code violations I found in the fixtures. The box with the photocell sensor had both the hot and neutral junctions just twisted - with no sign of electrical tape, a screw cap, or anything. No wonder the light was intermittent. I have no idea how anyone walks away from a box light that.

The second light had no box whatsoever - the outdoor romex simply stubbed out of the wall / siding and an electrical cover was screwed to the side of the building. At least there were caps on the junctions. Needless to say I left everything a lot better than I found it, with screw caps, taped up, and a new box for the second fixture.

It was reassuring to come in last night and have both light come on as I pulled into the parking lot, and see them switch off 5 minutes later. We've never had problems with car vandalism or break-ins, but this will make us all feel a little safer. I might want to get up the ladder again and readjust the lamps (they might be pointed a bit high, flooding the house across the street as well as our lot)

Mostly though, it's nice to know that as I round the bend at 50, I still got it!

May 29, 2011

Ticket to Ride

I do not often bring my work life over to my blog, but thought I'd blow my own horn this morning.

One of my clients is the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. I've been web-wenching for them since 2001; I'm not really a graphics person so their in house person comes up with the "look" and I write the code. They recently had someone in trying to upsell them on social media and webwork, and were told "your website looks and works great, no need to do anything different" which is nice to hear.

Anyway, this year, we've been implementing a new web based ticketing system. They found a shopping cart kind of company that they wanted to work with, messed around with it for a year, and finally turned it over to me. It's up and running now, and two weekends into the season, is working great.

It's been a big, complicated project. It's not simply selling tickets - each ride consists of several segments, each of which needs to be inventory controlled. So an 11:00 am Steam Train ride consists of a northbound ride on the train, and a southbound ride on the same train. But an 11:00 am Steam Train & Riverboat ride consists of the 11:00 am Northbound, a Riverboat ride, and a southbound trip on the next (12:30 pm) train. Each of those segments has a fixed number of seats, and if any one segment sells out, the top level ticket cannot be sold.

In addition, there are seat upgrades - a First Class car, an Open car, a Caboose - each with limited seating. There is a special package including a hike to Gillette Castle (limited by the number of passengers who can disembark at a small platform). It's all quite complex.

I've put together this ticketing system from square one - from setting up useful and meaningful product ID codes and names, creating the linked segments to force top level tickets to sell out when individual segements are gone, setting up a menu of categories to help find tickets, and implementing some novel workarounds to make a standard shopping cart system work for ticketing. For instance:

a) Set up a fake "warehouse" system so that each day of the year has a spearate "warehouse" - this makes sorting tickets (for customer use as well as client use) easier.

b) Forcing products to become hidden at the end of each operating day, as well as when the ticket becomes sold out.

c) Creating special option trees to manage passenger types (child / adult / infant / senior, each with a different price) and also to permit double senior discounts on Mondays.

It's been a fun project, with a liberal use of advanced spreadsheets (filters, text functions, macros) to automatically propogate data - it would be impossible to build and maintain a 10,000+ item inventory control system by hand. Now that the seaon is underway and ticketing is going smoothly, I'm working on spreadsheets and processes to export data (daily ordering information, dinner train passenger manifests, etc.).

I'm not really a programmer or IT person; I'm mostly just an advanced user. But I guess I've got those genes (Dad worked in IT back in the data processing / Univac / punch card days)

Dirty Birds

I've been feeding the birds all winter. Have had one of those little suet feeders on a hook installed on my porch railing, and I've been entertained by black-capped chickadees, several woodpecker species, cardinals, etc.

A week or so ago, my local Ocean State Job Lot was out of suet cakes; I thought perhaps they were a seasonal (winter) thing. So I decided to step it up a bit - purchasing an inexpensive feeder and a bag of bird food.

Unfortunately, the bird feeder became highly popular quickly, and the birds made a big mess, spraying seed husks across the deck. So after the bag was gone, I found a new source for suet cakes (Loew's) and went back to the old reliable.

May 23, 2011

Rapture Redux

My favorite post-rapture quip: "Oh, the rapture happened. It's just that nobody qualified."

But seriously folks, last night's horrific tornado in Joplin, MO, piled atop the Mississippi River flooding and the spate of tornadoes in Alabama and across the south last month have an end-times feel to them, no? But alas, no divine explanation needed. Fairly well predicted side-effects of global warming.

May 22, 2011

The Big Uneasy

Went to see The Big Uneasy last night at Real Art Ways. It's a documentary by Harry Shearer, about the post-Katrina flooding of New Orleans and the impact of levee / flood control design by the Army Corps of Engineers on that. It's a story of whistle-blowers, Don Quixote-like professors, and "are they really dumb enough to let themselves be on camera spouting this stuff?" representatives of the Army Corps.

Harry Shearer is mining the same sort of ground that Michael Moore has carved out with his documentaries. But Shearer is calmly earnest, and brings none of the bombast, hyperbole, or cinematic stunts to bear that Moore's later works have come to rely on. I'm recalling that scene in Bowling for Columbine where Moore confronts an aging Charleston Heston, kind of left me feeling a bit dirty. There is none of that here. Perhaps Moore's first big work, Roger & Me, brought the same level of personal involvement that Shearer brings as he documents the issues with his hometown.

I really liked the graphic overview (via map) of how the levee failures flooded New Orleans; was the first time I understood both the geography of the city as well as the pernicious nature of the failures (my mainstream media advised understanding was that there was one or two levee failures. And I've never really understood how the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet canal, or MR-GO, contributed to both the flooding of the city or to the loss of wetlands / habitat.

The "Ask a New Orleanian" segments, hosted by John Goodman, were good, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth / diversity (it seems to have been filmed at a single sit-down with five fairly well-off residents, would have liked a few roving crew interview bits)

Mostly, I was left shaking my head, and a little pissed. I've had my own brushes with the Army Corps (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) and I'd have to agree with one of the comments in the film that the Army Corps have stopped engineering in favor of project management. There does not seem to be a big picture design concept at work here.

The interview segments with the three protaganists: Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane research center at LSU, Robert Bea, a civil engineer at U. Cal Berkeley, and Maria Garzino, an engineer from the Army Corps of Engineers - were the most powerful. All three have paid a heavy toll for simply wanting to get at the truth and butting heads with the federal juggernaut that seems equal parts stupid, bull-headed, and evil.

The Army Corps representatives were conversely pretty frustrating - sprouting the company line, looking at the narrow scope of their particular project or issue, and not really wanting, able, or permitted to step back to see the larger picture.

Great documentary - go see it!

P.S. - Also, the film website's Resources page has some incredible reports and documents supporting the film. Engineering Pron.

May 03, 2011

Therapeutic Yoga

Today is day 5 of Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training, with Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peal, down at the studio. It's been really good training, but I am wiped out, and looking forward to getting my life back!

In some ways, the training is a bit of a refresher. As a teacher, I tend to pick things up as they have been taught to me, as I internalize them in my body. I've practiced with Cheri several times here in Connecticut, spent a week with her in Montana, and several of the studio teachers have done this training. I also picked up a bolster and her Therapeutic Yoga Kit (book / flashcards / CD) last time she was in town and have done some work with it. So in a lot of ways, this is not a lot of new information, but rather clarification, deepening, technical tweaks, and background. It certainly is good to get the information directly.

One of my friends and regular students is in the training; yesterday we sat near each other, and as Cheri introduced a posture or gentle yoga stretch, she'd mouth "Jude Yoga". Because I've incorporated a lot of this stuff into my teaching over the years, mostly unconsciously. Interesting to note how much of my teaching is rooted in Cheri's practice.

I came into the training without a lot of expectations - my own teaching seems (to me) to be more rooted in my own body; I demonstrate postures, I move through the room, I shut my eyes and feel the posture and then speak from that place. I am not so much teaching yoga as I am coaxing yoga out of my student's bodies. So Therapeutic Yoga, with more of a therapist / client positioning, and a need to be more attentive, and less opportunity to resonate with the client's posture and body, feels challenging and less natural to me. So if I had to guess I'd say "I won't be doing much of this, going forward". But I also walked into teacher training with no expectation of teaching - and look what happened.

Cheri and Arturo make a great teaching pair - a good balance of energies and information. Arturo in particular brings a lot of really useful visualizations about breath, connective tissue, muscles, etc. - it's rare that a teacher delights me and makes me smile in the way that he does as he uses three students to simulate a human rib cage and demonstrates twists and spinal bends.

And it's been a little odd with Cheri - having spent a week with her and Heather Tiddens in Montana, I feel a certain closeness and intimacy. But we're in a different mode here - she's available for 25 or so students, she has her own needs in terms of food, rest, alone time, and I'm a bit shy to intrude. It's part of who I am that I sit back and listen, pick up what I can, and try not to intrude or take up too much space. It's a weird combination of shyness, of respect, of confidence in my own ability to do this without needing a lot of attention, of being "in between" on several levels.

So, last day in, a relatively short one. I have to leave a little early today (to teach my 5:30 class in Bristol). It's been a long week, and I'm pretty wiped out. Been running back at lunch break to give Elo some love and air, so I've been a bit negligent in terms of my own relaxation and healthy eating. And I've let go of my yang practice this week. So it will be good to get back to a more stable schedule and a regular practice.

April 29, 2011

WNPR Signal Outage

WNPR has been off the air since yesterday around noon-time, apparently there was storm related damage at or near the transmitter on Meriden Mountain.

In the meantime, I've kind of been enjoying radio silence. I am an admitted NPR addict and I often have WNPR going on multiple radios (office / bedroom / living room) not to mention my car and an occasional podcast. So it's sort of nice to try a more contemplative, silent morning. I suppose I could catch the stream (shades of Colin McEnroe on WTIC during Red Sox games) but my computer speakers are not great and I'm slinging around large files for work this morning. Don't worry, WNPR. I will be back to my old ways as soon as you are back on the air.

In the meantime, just passing this along....
I’ve just received word from WNPR’s engineering department this evening that the power lines to the Meriden transmitter sustained heavy damage this afternoon during the violent storm that passed through the area.

CL & P crews, local tree removal services and tower maintenance personnel are working in concert to restore power – and our signal – as quickly as possible.

As I write, we anticipate the earliest time to get WNPR’s 90.5 signal back on line is late Friday afternoon.

Member support not only delivers the best news and information available, it also ensures that we can restore delivery of WNPR’s service as quickly as possible during times like these.

Thank you for your understanding and your financial support. Tonight in particular, your generosity will be at work throughout the night.


Jack Callahan
Vice President, Individual Giving
Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network
1049 Asylum Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
Phone: (860)275-7320

Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training

I'm headed in for 5 days of teacher training with Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peal. Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training that is - 30 hours worth of it. So excuse me if I am a bit zoned out for the next week.....

Not really sure why I signed up. I spent a week with Cheri (and Heather Tiddens) in Montana last summer and I'd surely love to catch a bit more of that particular brand of lightning in a bottle. Cheri is one of those persons you just like to stand in the light of now and then; a wonderful swirl of goodness and strength.

Therapeutic Yoga is not something I've really though much of. I love a good Restorative Class now and then; but it remains a minor part of my own practice. And watching myself teach on videotape the other night (as uncomfortable as that was, we were doing the 2011 teacher Training video review and I had gotten tapped to teach one segment for a missing student) made me aware of how much of my teaching is intuitive and body directed, a connection between feeling in my body and voice. I do not so much teach as I pull my students along in my own experienced practice. My classes are a swirling miasma of give and take; my friend Nykki asked "Do you get tired when you teach?" because I am so physically involved in the practice.

So it's hard for me to imagine teaching Therapeutic Yoga - which appears (at least from this vantage) to be much more of a one-way street. The teacher is ministering to her students, there seems to be more thought and less feeling, more of a care-giver or healer role. I am not sure how or if that might work for my teaching style.

At the video review the other night, I was (rightly) called to task for my habit of closing my eyes as I teach. "Sweetie" my teacher said "You've figured out a new way to hide!" Yes, she really said "Sweetie". And yes, I do hide behind those blissfully closed eyes, even as I am tapping into my own body for inspiration and direction. Although, I am proud to say, I've never stepped on a student....

So maybe opening my eyes is the next step. Maybe Therapeutic Yoga is a step outside the box. Three years ago, in the midst of my own yoga teacher training, who could have guessed that I would end up teaching regularly. And yet here we are. So off I go into the unknown, into the future, into possibility.

April 27, 2011

Melancholy Odyssey Through Limbo

Maureen Dowd in yesterday's New York Times - Between Torment and Happiness

In it she recounts the rather horrific story of Chrissy Lee Polis's attack in a Maryland McDonald's by two young women, presumably for being read as trans. And folds in some observations about Renee Richards.

Why Dowd but A & B together is something of a mystery, perhaps best explained by this "In the mid-1970s, when I covered tennis..."

Renee Richards is perhaps her best, most direct, or only cultural reference to transgenderism, and part of being that sort of columnist is to reach across the years and ones experience and create deep, meaningful linkages. Or not, in this case. Does not work from an informed trans perspective but perhaps it plays in Peoria.

Also, Chrissy Lee Polis' mom is named Renee. So perhaps she just glommed onto these two stories bubbling up in the media (Richards' book, Polis' attack) and tried to make something out of them. Fail, IMHO.

This kind of reinforces one of my long held opinions - that the folks who truly transition happily, healthily, and well (assuming they are out there) are not the ones who are going to write the autobiographies for fear of damaging the good life that they have found or find their own journeys somewhat pedestrian and ordinary. Instead its the folks who are still in pain, or who crave the spotlight, who write such books. Giving Maureen Dowd (and society in general) the fodder to recount such loving phrases as:

" a place in between torment and happiness...."
"...melancholy odyssey through limbo..."
"...something that’s crazy and freakish and not real..."

Just want to report from a bunch of years down the track that this is not everyone's experience.

And.....invisibility cloak back on. Continue as you were. Nothing to see here ;)

Why Taking Responsibility Will Set You Free

Why Taking Responsibility Will Set You Free

A post from Amy Ippoliti, an Anusara teacher, active in the blogosphere and twitter (my kind of yogi, on all counts!)

So much of what she says (wrapped in yogic philosophy and sanskrit terms that I have internalized far more than I have learned in a scholarly way) resonates with my own journey and philosophy.

We live in this society, in this culture, on this planet, and in this universe as it is. We can work for change at the boundaries, we can gently push our spheres of influence in a direction towards peace and justice. But if we plant our feet, resist the world in anger, and embrace our dis-ease and victimhood, it is a recipe for unhappiness.

April 13, 2011

Sad Story with Resonances

Mother Drives Herself, 4 Children Into Hudson River, Killing All Except For 10-Year-Old Boy

Weird Sidelight: Mother was identified as 25-year-old Lashandra Armstrong, childrem were identified as 5-year-old Landen Pierce, 2-year-old Lance Pierre, and 11-month-old Lainaina Pierre. The surviving child was 10-year-old Lashaun. Think she liked "L" names? I wonder how common this sort of alliterative naming is?

What 25 year old has the life skills to deal with 4 kids alone? At 25, she had her 10 year old at the age of 14 or 15. In light of this sort of tragedy, congresses effort to defund Planned Parenthood seems particularly tragic. 14 year olds are too young to be having kids, IMHO.

My heart goes out to 10-year-old Lashaun. He had a different father than his siblings; I wonder if his dad is still in the picture? Abandonment, loss of his mom and siblings, and hid mom tried to kill him....poor little guy.

April 11, 2011

Teaching Yoga

I've been teaching yoga for coming up on three years now - since I was (unexpectedly and inexplicably) tapped on the shoulder at the end of my teacher training and asked if I'd like a class. I've had my ups and downs, but I've settled into a nice rhythm of teaching 2.5 classes at the studio, one adult ed class, and filling in when I can. I'm sort of the studio "utility infielder" - not quite in the starting lineup for a lot of classes, but able to step in to a power class, a hot class, a gentle class, even a yin class now and then.

I guess I've gotten a reputation as the gentle teacher who makes you work. Once in a while I'll teach a gentle class where we never leave the floor, but mostly I get the class up for some standing postures. My friend Kristen teased me the other day - she was all zoned out and suddenly realized "Hey. We're doing dancing warrior! How did that happen?" I occasionally get a gentle class into Warrior III without them knowing it. There is a sort of panic / joy thing that happens when they realize it. It's kind of like riding a wave - just need to slowly increase the swells and students go along for the ride.

In my all levels class, I'm kind of the "stickler to form" kind of teacher. I spend so much time in the back of crowded hot and power classes, trying not to watch the students ahead of me who jumped right into these classes. Their postures are all over the map, and the teachers (responsible for 40 or 50 students) are not going to be able to do more than triage in terms of adjustments. So every hunched shoulder, askew knee, bent arm, or lifted heel reinforces my teacher mind - my All Levels students, if and when they make the jump to hot or power classes, will have my voice reminding them of the basics. And it's not so much the cues and harping, but breaking down the postures - setting the feet in Vira I. Then squaring the hips. Then lifting the arms. Then softening the shoulders. Each posture built up from the floor to the sky.

I'm the prop teacher. My own body just does not do every posture easily - I still use a towel to bind in Extended Warrior! So when I see a student's arms loosely approximating a wrap or a bind, I'm quick to offer a strap. I'm a big fan of blankets and blocks. The first few times I went through the Ashtanga series, I was crying at how inaccessible so many of the binds and twists were for my body. But I had some amazing teachers who worked with me to use my props - and now I just automatically put the pieces in place to get into the pose. So I teach with props in mind, always.

I'm also the mischief teacher. There is something ecstatic about crazy yoga poses - Balancing Half Moon, Down Dog on the wall, Warrior III, Dancer, Side Plank. All these graceful, strong, flying poses. I love working with new students, and using the walls, using props, building up in stages, have them walk away with a new posture. I remember my own early days of practice - I'd add a posture to my practice and then get so excited when it came up in a class. So I like to toss in a crazy asana now and then, break it down, build it up, let students play with it a little. Nothing wrong with walking out of yoga class with a bit of ecstatic joy!

April 06, 2011

Leash Your Dog II

A) Newington has a leash law. More specifically, the community gardens at Deming Young Farm also has a leash law. Your dog was not on a leash.

B) "He's not friendly" means keep your (unleashed) dog away, please.

C) If you call your dog and he does not come, he is not under control. No how, no way.

D) If my (leashed) dog snaps at your (unleashed) dog who is not paying attention to you, it's not my fault, it's your fault.

E) Deming-Young Farm is *not* a dog park. People walk their dogs there. Dogs (presumably dogs under control) are occasionally unleashed. But it's not a free for all; if your dog does not come when called, you really need to leash him/her. So stick the "He should not be at the park" up your stupid ass. He's FINE at the park if other dogs are properly leashed.

April 05, 2011

What's on My Bookshelf...

A quick survey of things I've been reading (or have on my reading list) - in lieu of actual blog posts...

Last time I was up at Kripalu, I picked up two books by folks I worked with up there.

Recovering My Voice: A Memoir of Chaos, Spirituality, and Hope by Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Aruni facilitated a week-long workshop, really liked her energy, and the book blurb sounded interesting.

Zen Life by Daniel Levin. I've done YogaDance with Dan both up at Kripalu and at West Hartford Yoga, and am in love with his energy. The kind of book one might leave in a bathroom, on a coffee table, or by one's mat and digest in little bites.

Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. Every third person I come across in the yoga / healing world seems to mention this book. Bout time I read it.

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg. A copy came along with my fee when I saw Sharon speak recently at West Hartford Yoga. A really nice primer on mindfulness and meditation techniques - and comes with a CD with some led meditation sessions.

Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia. I normally do not pick up this sort of thing (spoken word artists are often less endearing in print) but it was clearance at Border's so what the heck. Birbiglia charms me when I come across him on This American Life and The Moth.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Since Updike passed on, Irving and Tracy Kidder are my two remaining "must read" authors. I'll be seeing him at the CT Forum next month, so better get this read between now and then. At 554 pages, it's not light reading!

Teaching Yoga by Mark Stephens. I don't really need it but Amazon tossed it in front of me when I needed one more thing to get free shipping. If I ever sit down to read through it, I am sure I'll pick something up.

Yoga Body (Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana) by Judith Lasater. I worked with Dr. Lasater last year when she visited West Hartford Yoga, liked how she approached practice and anatomy, and found this book at Border's closing sale. It's full of great anatomical drawings and linkages between asana and anatomy. Probably a good backup reference text, and worth a refresher read through next time I'm bored. Joins my Anatomy workbook / notes (Ellen Heed) and Leslie Kaminoff's Yoga Anatomy in what is becoming a pretty solid yoga library.

I've also downloaded the Kindle App for my iPad - have not purchase anything significant yet - but I suspect the day will come. Maybe Tina Fey's new book "Bossypants" - seems like a perfect test!

Cutting the Cable - Or Not

I called up my cable / phone / internet provider yesterday to "cut the cable", at least as far as television was concerned.

I've never been much of a television watcher - when I lived with Zippy we had basic cable only, the only reason I bit for the digital cable was the bundle deal when I moved in. I need pretty robust internet for work (I upload and download large files regularly, up to 1GB) and I have two phone lines (one of these days I will relinquish the dedicated fax line, but today is not that day).

So Monday, I open up a cable bill for $172 bucks - the new customer special had run out a few months back, and rates just went up. And for whatever reason, it hit some internal threshold. The fact that my cable provider can not seem to resist sending me weekly marketing letters soliciting new business and dangling introductory offers in front of me has not helped my mood...

I've been thinking of killing off cable for a while anyway - I have a Netflix subscription and watch stuff there; I could get a digital antenna / converter, I have the ABC app on my iPAD, I could sign up for Hulu+ - lot of watching options. So I was perfectly willing to kill off my video cable subscription. The base rate would have dropped to $110. Not great, but needed for work.

However, the nice customer service agent dug up a "good customer" deal (also known as the "please do not shut off your cable like everyone else seems to be doing this day" which involved no change in my service and costs $40 less per month. Sold.

So I have not unplugged my cable television yet. But definitely moving in that direction....

April 02, 2011

iPad Addict

As befits my tendency to purchase technology once it's mature, I put my family's birthday gift towards a first gen iPad. All they had left was the 64M version, so I copped to lots of memory. I've been messing with it for a few weeks now. And I'm mighty pleased with my purchase. I mentioned my "attachment" to the technology - my friend Peter noted that "it's very sticky". Yes it is.

Mostly, I'm using it to stream movies / documentaries / tv shows (thanks Netflix) and although I'm not quite ready to kill my cable subscription, I am getting close. Netflix + Hulu might be all I really need....

I'm also amazed as usual with Apple's user-friendliness - when I synced up the device all my iPhone apps got installed - at least until I went hunting for the iPad versions of most things. No muss, no fuss.

The one app that I am really enjoying is Flipboard - it's a news reader - but it seems to glom onto just about anything (Twitter / Facebook / RSS / websites) and converts these things into a slick magazine. I've never been much of a twitter user - being put off by the links and such. But Flipboard has converted my twitter community into an amazing resource for news, articles, etc.

I am sure there are plenty of other useful apps out there to be discovered. But right now, the iPad is all that and a bag of chips.

Why I am Not Voting (for my favorite yogis)

I'm not voting in the Talent Search (presented by Athleta). I'm not promoting my faves on Facebook, Twitter or my blog. I'm being a grinch about it all...

The first level of this is purely self preservation. I have at least 3 good friends and teachers in the running (and another half dozen acquaintances) and I am decidedly NOT playing favorites. Yeah, I know I can spread the love and all. But I'm not gonna work that hard for something I have issues with. Hear me out....

First off, I want you to meet someone. Hothead Paisan.

Now, behind my smiling, optimistic, calm demeanor, my yoga teacher loving self, there lurks this "Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist". Folks who have been in my guest bathroom will find a small shrine to Diane Dimassa, Hothead's creator. Diane and Hothead rock. One of my yogic struggles is to keep the anger, the righteous rage at bay. And for the most part, in the words of Ani Difranco, I'm not angry anymore.

So, back to Yoga Journal's Talent Search.

For years, Yoga Journal has gotten some flak for its choices of cover models (predominantly thin, young, and white) and to a lesser extent its content (skewing the same way). I've mostly just ignored it - it's not any more egregious than anything else in the popular media, and there's a lot of good stuff in there.

Over on the Yogadork blog, they've been holding a (Yoga Journal Shadow) Cover Modal Contest wherein yogis can submit their photos to document the diversity of yoga practitioners.
For our version, it’s not so much a contest as a declaration of satya (truth): We ask you send a photo of who you are, as a yogi, a real person, in any shape, size, age, gender or color/clinginess of clothing. We’re not selling magazines. No fancy poses required, but by all means go for what speaks YOU. Everyone is welcome to submit. Hey it’s no magazine cover, but your photo will be proudly featured in our gallery! (note: while there’s no one “winner” per se, stay tuned, there will likely be goodies handed out down the road for participants, TBA.)

Yoga Journal seems to read Yogadork, and so they came up with their own contest. But they've introduced some complexity. And by complexity, I mean "What the hell were you thinking?"

1) The YJ contest is heavily weighted to the same demographic presently gracing the pages of yoga journal. And although there is a counter movement of larger or less mainstream folks submitting their photos, it's a small movement counter to the 100's of more traditionally embodied yogis. So if we were trying to encourage diversity - FAIL.

2) The yoga journal contest adds the lovely concept of a 0 to 5 star rating for each photo. What are we rating here - looks? hotness? brand name yoga gear? difficulty of pose? beauty of the pose? quality of the photograph? beauty of the locale? popularity?.

3) On top of that, the number of votes cast are tabulated. So my three beloved yogi friends are going to walk away with some numerical rating of their practice or themselves (please, let it be 5 stars, they are all 5 stars in my book!), a tabulation of their popularity (number of votes) and the temptation to do a rack and stack within our little yoga community as well as within the greater yoga community. Bleah...

Now, maybe this contest is just a little bit of innocent fun, and I ought to just chillax and let it wash over me. Folks are submitting to the contest for all kinds of reasons - yoga changes lives, and we celebrate that and want to spread it around. People have had their lives turned around during their first yoga class, and they want to share that. I suspect most of us who have become teachers have that sort of motivation.

And I get that yoga in this country is a lot of things - a spiritual practice, a great way to connect with one's body, part of a fitness regime, a business. I teach and practice at an amazingly spacious and beautiful (spelled "costly to build and run") yoga studio, and the space, the decor, the heat, the lights all cost money that comes in the door because of my amazing teacher friends who bring 50 or 60 folks into the studio on a regular basis. So perhaps embracing that popularity, snuggling up to celebrity is just part of the bargain. I'm fine with a bit of duality or dancing with the shadow.

But still, I am bothered. It bothers me to see photos of (mostly) women rated on a 0 to 5 star basis. It bothers me to see individuals collecting votes on either a popularity or a visual aesthetic basis. It brings up that inner Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist - who wants to toss a feminist bomb into the miasma of patriarchal popular culture. And it bothers me to see something that is so precious to me, so deeply meaningful and life changing, cheapened and threatened by that popular culture.

Not very yogic, I know, and that's one more reason do be pissed off at Yoga Journal - for bringing this stuff up within me. This contest has even made me question my desire to teach yoga - that perhaps I'm hiding behind my own spiritual journey, that perhaps I ought to spend less time on my mat and more time changing the world. The fact that I have written (and rewritten this) four times in the past week and have yet to hit the PUBLISH button, for fear of offending, for fear of being unyogic - speaks volumes. Just one more example of me hiding, keeping my head low, being afraid to be seen.

As one of my (contest entering) teachers is wont to say "The f*cking healing journey". Yeah that.