Wednesday Whiteboard #3

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Dotpoint 1: I have discovered that Twitter can be useful, professionally. Reading Havi Brooks’s post over at The Fluent Self I changed my mind about Twitter. Havi has debunked a few Twitter myths in this post, but for me the best one related to that little Twittering question: What are you doing right now?

Havi points out (like a true anthropologist) that this question needs to be interpreted, its meanings divested and rendered plain for all to see. What this question is asking us is not to give a literal answer –as in we’re eating pizza or drinking coffee on the bus – rather it’s asking us to reply to: What are you thinking? as in what are you really thinking or feeling inside your brainbox right now? Thus, it becomes: my pizza is a work of art. (Ok, tonight we had pizza and it did look like a work of art). Or: why do we really need to have three hour Executive Management meetings?

Searching around, there are numerous posts (this one is very good) from numerous people explaining how to Twitter for business. Clearly, marketing your services or products is one way to use Twitter for business. For, me as a professional working for a small government statutory authority, though, Twitter is possibly less useful in this manner.

That said, Twitter is ever so useful for making professional connections and for asking for help for problems. Like the one in Dotpoint 3 below. Which leads me to Dotpoint 2…

Dotpoint 2: There are Twibes on Twitter! Yes, that’s right: Twibes. I dare any self-respecting social anthropologist to resist the urge to join a Twibe and undertake participant observation. Twibes are like instantaneous Facebook groups (or friends) and connect you with hundreds of others instantly. The benefits for professional networking and problem solving are endless.

Dotpoint 3: Three-hour Meetings. Help!!

The setting: every Tuesday, half of my day (and that of other managers in my organisation) disappears into a 3 hour-long phone hook-up meeting. We sit in two offices separated by 1500 km, and talk our way through a 12+ page spreadsheet of major organisational projects and issues. I should add, that in a week, I also have several other phone hook-up meetings of this type, though none are as long.

The method: The 12+ page spreadsheet is read thru in a linear fashion, with those whose initials are against a particular item updating the rest of the group on progress.

The problem: Three hours is a huge chunk out of my working week. It’s largely non-productive: i.e. just updating an ever-expanding list when I could spend three hours doing work, including items on the list. It’s also extremely boring, especially when you’re sitting at a table by yourself just listening for all that time.

Because of the physical separation of the offices (Darwin & Alice Springs), and the need to steer the organisation, we need to meet regularly. When you’re separated by distance, there just isn’t the chance for those hallway and informal office conversations that contain so much of an organisation’s life. But there MUST MUST MUST be a better way to run management group meetings – and to tame the ever expanding list of items!! It needs to be strategic, but also responsive to new issues that inevitably arise. If anyone has any ideas about ho to tame this monster that I can take to my CEO (who is also frustrated by this problem), they would be greatly appreciated.

Dotpoint 4: My own yoga practice. Is simple, not a marathon, and adapts to my present self, every day. I’ve taken on board the suggestions with the shoulderstand – yes, it’s going to remain the piked Saytananda-style shoulder stand for the time being and I am going to refuse to use the straps that freak me out in Iyengar. So far, so good.

Into the Wild

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Last Saturday night we watched the movie, Into the Wild. If you’ve been a reader of this blog or my other blog, you might glean that I’m a fan of Jon Krakauer’s work. Into the Wild was Jon Krakauker’s first notable book, written in 1996, before Into Thin Air. Sean Penn is one of the directors of this movie. Whilst the movie is at times as frustrating as it is disturbing, it’s well worth seeing for the reasons I’m going to give below.

I love the ‘vagabond, living free and simple’ genre of books and movies. I enjoyed Huckleburry Finn as a child, Jack Kerouac’s books as an adult, travel lit of all kinds, and Rolf Pott’s book, Vagabonding, Thoreau’s Walden and so on. So, whilst I enjoyed the sense of adventure and simplicity portrayed in Into the Wild, there are other aspects of it that disturb me greatly. Incidentally, Into the Wild is based on a true story.

*If you have any other suggestions for literature that fits in the vagabonding genre, I’d love to know.

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Wednesday Whiteboard #2

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Dotpoint 1: Twitter.

I’ve been ‘on’ Twitter for nearly 12 months. Recently, Twittering has hit the big time. The non-nerdy crowd has discovered Twitter. One of my favourite blogs, Neuroanthropology, had a fantastic article about Twitter. There’s a great little video clip linked to this blog post that sums up my thoughts on Twitter. Like one of the guys in the clip, I haven’t discovered the usefulness of Twitter. Why would anyone want to ‘follow’ me and hear about the profound mundanity (I know, Dr Jay, it’s not a word) of my existence:


I’m at work

I’m having a coffee

I’m picking a booger

I can’t log onto the database. I’ll check the news online instead

Where’s Wally* is walking down Bath Street


Riveting stuff, isn’t it? Furthermore, I can’t ‘Tweet’ the exciting bits like: ‘Bill and Frank have caught a goanna and we’re cooking it for lunch‘, or: ‘I’ve just found some human remains wrapped in bark‘, or:  ‘oh bugger, another flat tyre’ , because where I live, mobile phones stop working 30 km out of town.

Whilst I don’t think Twitter or Facebook are going to be the downfall of face-to-face human communication, grammar (apostrophes were being abused by morons everywhere long before Twitter arrived), or proper sentence construction (just think how many millions of kids out there read Harry Potter), I do agree that they encourage vapidity of the Paris Hilton kind, result in a loss of one-pointedness of the Buddhist kind and invoke a form of compulsive/obsessive communicative behaviour which will, no doubt, soon have its own classification in the DSM that psychologists use.

*Where’s Wally is the local bagman, a mentally challenged person who dresses in brightly coloured, mismatched clothing, which always includes a pair of striped, knee-hi socks. He is not homeless, and lives in a hostel just down the road from my office. I often say hi to him and try and engage him in conversation. More often than not, he’s just into small talk. Maybe I’ll take a photo of him one day.


Dotpoint 2: I really want a spiritual teacher, a guru, to keep me on track.

Lots of people will have a problem with my desire to find a proper guru, but others won’t. To me on my meandering path, guidance from  someone who’s been there, done that, who can make sense of the Dark Night of the Soul, who can suggest that you read X and practice Y is of great benefit. So I’m praying and asking for the opportunity to appear. I’m a-looking and I’ve put it out there, on the blog and to the universe (none of this should be interpreted as detracting from me doing the work to find a teacher). Maybe Pema Chodron will hear me and materialise in my town…


Dotpoint 3: Tourists in Alice Springs wearing Crocodile Dundee hats.

I wonder if it has occurred to tourists visiting Alice Springs that locals DON’T WEAR CROCODILE DUNDEE HATS!! This is not to single out foreign tourists, oh no. Australian tourists, especially Grey Nomads, buy these things and look like DORKS. If you’re thinking about coming to Alice Springs, don’t buy a stupid Crocodile Dundee hat. You will look like a complete knob whilst you’re here and when you go home, I assure you, you’ll never wear it again!


Dotpoint 4: What do you think about music in yoga classes?

Given that I’ve ‘grown up’ with Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga, I am not a huge fan of music in yoga classes. I’ve always found it distracts me from the mindfulness of the practice. So yes, I could be accused of being a purist and a yoga snob. My partner in the new yoga studio uses music in all of her classes as a soft background, which I’ve always resisted.

Recently, I decided to experiment with music in my own practice. I found that during restorative/yin practice, music can enhance the experience. Have others found this, or is this just my mind tuning out of the practice and into the music? Perhaps I should try the same practice with Sepulchure or Nick Cave in a suicidal mood and see if I get the same effect?

It’s in the Bones

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In my previous post, I wrote about the difficulties I’ve had performing shoulderstand, particularly in Iyengar classes. I think this is an incredibly powerful teaching point, demonstrating both the importance of anatomical individuality and the importance of Satya (truthfulness) in one’s own practice – in my case it is listening to one’s own body and breath.

And, as Nadine Fawell has commented earlier: Now, seriously, maybe there is a structural reason for the shoulderstand troubles – you’ve seen Paul Grilley’s video, right?
Some people can, some can’t. It’s in the bones.

So I thought I’d really start to take this pose apart…

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Birthday Tattoo

It had to be something meaningful to me…

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Wow! This photo makes me look curvaceous. Unfortunately, I am nowhere near curvy!

I wasn’t going to jump on the tattoo bandwagon that started ten or so years ago, when Madonna and Angelina Jolie and Sporty Spice and every second teenage girl and middleclass mum was getting a tattoo to show how hip, cool and alternative they were…

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That’s more like my uncurvy shape.

I waited until I turned 42. My non-tattooed darling bought it for me for my birthday. I was afraid he wouldn’t approve, but he did and he likes it.

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Gary came and held my hand… but it hurt about as much as I expected it would. Like a Chinese burn, really.

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My dedication to exploring a non-dual, Buddhist yoga, inscribed upon the aging, ever-changing vehicle of the body, something that is not me, not mine, which has and will continue to grow older and eventually, will die.

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This is my dedication:

I was given depression that I may understand

I was stripped of everything that I may learn non-attachment and contentment

I made the darkest choices of all, that I may understand those choices

May my life be of benefit to others,

May my service be of benefit to others,

May I come closer to non-attachment and  contentment through the Eightfold Paths I have been shown

This is the dedication of the symbol, I carry with me always and forever.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

Hari Om. Tat sat.

Stuff #1

22102008 *Yes, this is a REAL headline. Not from the Centralian Advocate but from the NT News last year. No wonder no one takes the Northern Territory seriously!

This: Why do my parents leave ‘urgent’ messages on my answering machine about things that other families would treat as news? Is it because they’re retired, don’t really have any hobbies and need to create DRAMA and INTEREST in their lives? It freaks me out to get home from work or yoga and there’s three messages on my phone. When I call them up, they’re super calm, just wanting to tell me some very old, very ill distant rellie that I haven’t seen in 20 years has passed on. What am I supposed to do about it? Bring back the dead?

And This: I don’t get scrapbooking. I just don’t get it. On one hand, it looks as though it was invented by some really cheesy American Moms, who 15 years ago, were into patchwork, then were into folk art, and then into stamping and now they’re into scrapbooking. The clutter and mess created by scrapbooking leaves me gasping for air – and that’s just looking at the blogs of these people. There’s  a whole consumer industry of little paper and card doo-dads, just waiting to spend the hard earned $$ of these ladies and clutter up their already cluttered homes.

Whatever happened to just cutting out pictures and sticking them in a REAL scrapbook?

And This: The shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) is my nemesis. I am not friends with this pose. Here is a scene from my Iyengar class last night:

Amanda: (thinking to herself) oh… I might try salamba sarvangasana with 3 blankets tonight.

Sets up pose. Goes back into Halasana. Then … can’t raise my legs. I feel like a dork. Worse,  I feel like a DUCK!

Iyengar Teacher: You need to press the weight into your elbows.

Amanda: I can’t. I think the three blankets have tilted me too far forward.

Iyengar teacher gets wedge and puts it under elbows. Tells me to press down. I go up into salamba sarvangasana.

Iyengar Teacher: Lift up through here a little more (the mid spine), press your shoulders down and broaden your collarbones. She moves on to help someone else.

Amanda: Promptly gets muscle cramp beneath right shoulder blade. Mind freaks out: this hurts. I hate the strap around my elbows. I don’t have control and I’m going to hurt my neck and end up in a wheelchair.

I wimp out because the cramp can’t be ignored and have to release the strap, go down into Vipariti karani and then into the shoulderstand prep with my feet against the wall.

At the end of the class, I resolve to totally deconstruct this pose. What’s wrong with me, that, after 10 years of yoga, I still can’t effortlessly do a shoulderstand?

Parivritta bakasana – no worries! But shoulderstand… next please!

And also this: I discovered just yesterday that as I’m now P3 level in the NT public service, I no longer get time in lieu when I do bushwork on the weekends. Wahhh!!!!

Fun With Social Theory

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My daughter is in the first year of a degree in mass media and communications. Several of the subjects she’s studying draw heavily upon various social theorists such as Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Bathes, Marx, Stuart Hall etc.  I am kind of reliving my undergrad days, recalling names I studied in social theory in third year sociology and my honours year.

Unfortunately, she’s doing subjects which are largely ‘cultural studies’ by another name; the same discipline responsible (in Australia) for having Year 12 student study posters as ‘texts’.  I say unfortunately, because … well … how do I say this politely? I’m not convinced cultural studies should be a discipline in itself – but I should save that for another post. Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Social theorists seem to come in two camps: the exceedingly dull (in writing style or personality) or the flamboyant. For example, his prose might not rock your world -and he is no longer THE theorist whom all aspiring social scientists MUST quote in their essays, but you could hardly call Michel Foucault dull. Thus, in writing this post, I am picking up on the humourous, the bizarre, the odd little snippets to make you smile about the social theorists whose names drove you spare in Sociology 101.

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