Friday, August 23

Power, disruption and lies

My brain is a happy mush after two days at The Conference (#theconf on twitter). This year's theme was power, disruption and lies. It's been two days of inspiration, new ideas, conversations with strangers and strong emotions. 52% of the speakers were women, and that alters the dynamic of the event in a very positive way.

All keynotes and sessions are available in the video archive. The ones that stuck with me were Susannah Lipscomb on what we can learn from the past, Cindy Gallop on changing the world through business and sex and James Bridle on how we understand technologies.
I love the idea of a historian being the first speaker at a conference that is very focused on the future and what's next in technology.

One of the most important sessions was Online Harassment, What Drives it and How it Lowers Visions. Anita Sarkeesian, Kate Miltner and Laurie Penny spoke about online harassment and the larger structural problem of women and minorities being treated as second-class citizens. They shared their own experiences of harassment and strategies for coping. Women in the audience spoke of their own fear of being targeted, a fear that stops women from participating fully on the internet.
It's important to point out that when people are being harassed for speaking their minds, it's not an internet problem. It's a problem we have to deal with as a society.

In her very frank and funny keynote, Cindy Gallop spoke about being honest about sex, dealing with negative comments and interacting with those who write nasty comments. She's badass and you should check out her TEDtalks.

How we understand new technologies is key - and we need a language and metaphors to talk about them. James Bridle highlighted that our perception of technology is often more important than what the technology can actually do.
Maybe there is so little debate about technology and surveillance because most people don't understand what kind of world we have built around us, and more importantly what it has the power to do. An interesting point that I will return to in another post.
James Bridle also mentioned how technology has made things visible - like online harassment - and given us a chance to do something about them.

There is a lot of good things happening at The Conference. One of the best is meeting friends, talking to strangers and making new friends.
And then you go home, read tweets, and stay up way too late writing about the whole thing.


Historian Susannah Lipscomb gave the opening keynote on learning from the past - a nice touch in a conference about the future.

Anita Sarkeesian speaking in the session on online harassment.

The Conference 2013
Cindy Gallop. Photo by Media Evolution.

James Bridle on understanding and talking about new technology.

Wednesday, August 14

Why I work out

When I went to the gym to lose weight I never kept it up. I would go three, four times and then my motivation would fizzle. Now I work out because it makes the voices in my head shut up. It also helps to fix the damage I do to my body by working at a desk. Yeah you read that right, sitting down in front of a computer causes injuries.

I go running, do my physiotherapy and go to the gym because it makes me feel better. It's not about looks or weight, it's about being healthy so that I have the energy to do other things.

Here are three books that inspired me this summer. 
Journalist and injured runner Christopher McDougall wants to find a way to run without getting hurt and discovers the secrets of  Mexico's Tarahumara Indians, a tribe of long distance runners. During his research he alters his own running style based on what he learns and sets up a race between the tribe and some of America's best ultra-runners.
Born To Run is a well-written book that you'll enjoy even if you have zero interest in becoming a long distance runner.
Lüc Carl is the opposite of the shy, mysterious tribesmen found in Born To Run. A wannabe musician turned bartender in New York City finds himself fat, dumped and not liking it. A funny, honest story of how he learned to get healthy and fell in love with running.
I love The Drunk Diet because it shows that you can change your lifestyle without changing who you are - but you might discover new sides of yourself. It is full of quotes like "Remember when you made fun of me for ordering broccoli? Who's got the better chance of scoring the hot chick now?" and advice on how to party without messing up your training.
Also, the world needs more fit, witty rock n roll guys in tight clothing.


Rich Roll went from couch potato to ultra-distance runner. A moment of clarity the night before he turned 40 led to a lifestyle change for this lawyer and father of four. He switched to a plant-based diet (that's another word for vegan), got a coach, found a goal and finished 11th in the three day triathlon known as Ultraman. Two years after that moment of clarity he was named one of the world's fittest men.
Despite his own massive achievements his message is simple. Just begin and embrace the journey. Be open to where it's going to lead you. Start small and keep going. Eat a lot of plants.
And that is what makes Finding Ultra so inspiring. I never really pay attention to recipes in women's fitness magazines that are all about low calorie options. But when Rich Roll talks about eating right to get the best performance from your body I pay attention.


It goes back to what I said in the beginning about why I work out. Eating lean meals to lose weight? Not that interested. Finding the best possible fuel for my body, giving me the energy to go out and do things? Improving my health? Hell yeah, bring it on!
I want to be stronger and fit because what it will allow me to do, like becoming a better equestrian. And when I get inspired I find myself heading for the gym with a smile on my face.

Speaking of smiling and getting off your ass;

Monday, August 12

Closure

Some love stories just go on and on. I first came across Boysetsfire five or six years ago. The music was out there but the band had performed their last show and retired. So I enjoyed their music and watched live performances on Youtube.

Boysetsfire made me a very happy Punky when they reunited in 2010 and played live in my home town the following year. This year they released a new album and did a limited edition on purple vinyl. Boysetsfire and purple? Oh yeah, I ordered it the day I found it.

Sometimes the songs that you need to get through a tough time come into your life right when you need them.

Wednesday, August 7

Going Solo

Travelling solo can be scary. It can also be a great experience that opens your mind to new people, new food and new experiences.
This summer I went to Biarritz, France for a surf camp. I booked the trip when my previous plans for the summer fell through. Rock bottom is just solid ground to start from.

Arriving in Biarritz was hot! Stepping of the plane was like stepping into a wall of heat - but I gradually got used to it. I spent most of my vacation in flip flops, beachwear and a wetsuit.

Côte des Basques

So how did I do? I've never been this sore and bruised after a vacation. But after every fall, every wave that knocked me down or threw me into my longboard - I got back up. Surfing is hard work and I understand why surfers are so fit.

I almost got the pop-up right... but my bad shoulder kept acting up and affecting my balance. So I got up, couldn't quite find my balance and fell off the board. Or to use a classic surfer excuse; bad surf wax on the board. Ahem.

I learned a lot during the five days we spent in the water. Reading the waves, paddling (there's far more paddling than surfing in surfing) and getting the longboard to and from the beach without looking like something directed by Charlie Chaplin. I also got stronger and more confident in the water.
The instructors were great, especially Jessica. A native of Venezuela, she lives in Costa Rica and she has been surfing for more than a decade. And she never tired of helping us catch waves, no matter how often we fell off or ended up doing a nosedive.

Ta-Daah!

Vintage style posing. 

Surfakademin runs a mobile surf camp, going where the waves are best that day. So I stayed in Biarritz and surfed in Zarautz, Spain.

The local produce and seafood are amazing. I ate cherries and peaches like there was no tomorrow.
As we were in Basque Country there was plenty of delicious tapas and pintxos to be had. I drank good wine and demi-pêche, French beer with peach syrup. And ate some wonderful moules marinières. However, the mint-chocolate ice cream tasted like Fisherman's Friend, more interesting than tasty.

In conclusion: Going solo - totally worth it!

Tapas!

Markus introduced me to demi-pêche, french beer with peach syrup.

The sun sets on Côte des Basques

Fresh fruit at Les Halles, Biarritz.

Biarritz by night.

Seahorse at Musée de la Mer

Classy souvenirs