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Viewing entries tagged with 'technology'

The Anti-Stress iPod

1 February 2008 | 8 Comments | Tags:

062806b.jpgForget meditation! A company called HeartMath provides the anti-stress iPod that uses bio-feedback. Hear about the device here.

It is a little box, about the size of an iPod, that takes your pulse when you put your thumb on it. It measures the micro-variations in pulse speed (similar to the pulse checking that Chinese and Ayurvedic doctors use) that determine which emotional state your brain is in. The blinks red if you are stressed out. You can then apply various relaxation techniques and the device tells you when you have managed to calm down.

Surprisingly, the best technique for reducing stress that the company recommends is appreciation. Thinking of something or someone you appreciate is a sure fire way of reducing stress. In Krishna consciousness we do this all the time. There is (or should be) so much appreciating: you appreciate your fellow devotee, your spiritual master, your food, your body, your mind (when you're not beating it into submission), your spiritualize intelligence, etc. So, Krishna consciousness, both directly, by meditation, and indirectly, by appreciation, reduces stress. Pretty cool, huh?

However, the ultimate goal of Krishna conscious meditation and appreciation is not to de-stress. That is just a welcome side-effect. The real goal is to stop repeated birth and death. No matter how stress-free you are, the body is still going to die.

So, Krishna gives it both: the best short-term anti-stress techniques and the best long-term solution. The HeartMath EmWave is useful because it can scientifically tell you how well the former is working.

Faith in Science

1 January 2008 | 0 Comments | Tags: , ,

I was listening to an interview with radio talk show host Michael Krasny. Among other things, he talks about his interview with James Watson and Edward Wilson, which he writes about in his new book (Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life). He recalls both saying that they have little concern over the risk of genetic tinkering (whether it be recombinant DNA or genetically modified food). Krasny puts this down to both men's "faith in science".

I found this interesting. Both of these researchers have a great deal of faith in their scientific work. They have worked so long in their area that they have developed not blind faith, but realized knowledge. Based on their life-long study of genetics they have firm unshakable faith that genetic engineering is both safe and useful. As a result, when they speak, they do so with such confidence that people are impressed: "oh, these people know what they are talking about. I feel I can surrender to such powerful gurus..."

Now, we can argue about whether or not genetics will save or destroy the world. However, it strikes me as ironic that these great men of science are gloried for the exact same thing great religious leaders are gloried for, namely, their firm conviction.

Of course, scientists would have us believe that all religionists are sentimental quacks, who blindly believe in some flying spaghetti monster, without any real evidence to back it up. However, this attitude is just plain wrong. It comes from a lack of knowledge.

Any bona-fide spiritual science, such as Krishna consciousness, is the "perfection of religion", because it "gives direct perception of the self by realization" (BG 9.2). Meaning that it provides means of experimentally verifying the statements made in the scripture. All that it takes is a willingness to go to school and learn the science. Just like the aspiring geneticist must study biology for a number of years, the aspiring spiritualist must study Bhagavad-Gita for a number of years. The study is both theoretically (reading, hearing lectures, etc.) and practical (meditation, karma-yoga, etc.). In the end, the result of years of applied spiritual science is: faith in Krishna.

Designing Energy Efficient Buildings

25 November 2007 | 0 Comments | Tags: ,

Amory Lovins (from the Rocky Mountain Institute) is a visiting professor for energy and the environment at Stanford University. He gave a series of talks about using clever design to improve energy efficiency in a variety of industries. I found the talks about improving the efficiency in buildings to be particularly interesting. It's amazing what one can do if one uses a few simple (or not so simple) technologies and designs in buildings.

Dr. Lovins gives examples of buildings in almost all the world's climates that can be built without costly energy wasting air conditioning or central heating systems. Using modern building materials can make a house very comfortable at a fraction of the cost. Better insulation turns out to be cheaper than the alternative of investing in artificial climate control. Better airflow design can make a house more healthy and comfortable.

Anyone that is living or working in a house that is too hot/cold in the summer/winter should listen to these lectures. Anyone that is building a new house should also definitely listen to these fascinating lectures.

Energy Efficient Design For Buildings - Part 1
Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Part 2

Publishing books

22 October 2006 | 4 Comments | Tags: , ,

The Internet is making it ever easier for "normal people" to produce "professional" content.

Blogging turns anyone into an online journalist. Podcasting allows people to create their own on-demand radio shows. Using Apple's iMovie the average guy or gal can even produce professional quality movies (though don't try that on a PC as this Apple Mac advert cleverly illustrates).

However, one medium still eludes the non-professional: books! It is surprisingly difficult to produce a professional looking book. Sure, anyone can print a crummy-looking plastic-comb bound collection words printed on cheap paper, but that is a lot different from a nice solid hardcover book. Those require some expertise to produce.

It is not just the print quality. I've seen some people publish books written using Microsoft Word. The result is not very nice. The poor quality of the page layout is instantly recognizable. It is with good reason that the archaic Latex document processing system is still almost universally used in academia to write scientific articles. Documents produced using Word just look downright ugly. Here are some more myths about desktop publishing.

There are just two choices for good professional quality page layout (such as would be used to create a modern high-quality book):

  • Adobe InDesign (much recommended)
  • QuarkXPress (used to be the market leader, but now is not nearly as good as InDesign, although still the number two)

Both these software packages help to perfect some critical aspects of document composition and layout: hyphenation, rivers of white space, orphans and widows. The sophisticated text optical kerning, tracking and optical margin alignment controls present in page-layout software can be used to eliminate visual errors and distractions.

Other software like Apple's Pages can also produce decent looking layouts and can do some basic kerning and tracking, but does not feature the automatic document adjustment features that are necessary to create a really good looking print job.

Blurb book example

Now however some new companies have sprung up to help the normal person produce professional quality books. I was listening to an interview with Eileen Gittins, the CEO of Blurb. Blurb offers a desktop client and online service that makes producing really good looking books both cheap and easy. The company has just started out so the software is a little limited in terms of features and number of available templates, but it shows great promise. Note: a competing service called Lulu offers the printing and publishing, but without the aid in design and page layout.

blurb book example 2

Eileen gives the example of a businessman who sent out his 23-page business plan printed using cheap over-the-counter printing and got no response from prospective investors. He then took the exact same material and created a hardcover book (for a cheaper price) using Blurb's service and sent that out to some investors. The result: almost everyone phoned him back - mostly asking "how did you create this amazing book?". Eileen Gittins says:

In our society books have a real cultural pedigree. People don't throw books away. They do throw away things that appear like photocopies. So the shelf life of his book caused people to pick up the phone to phone him.

Does that sound familiar? Here an excerpt from the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita:

When a librarian advised Bhaktivedanta Swami to write books (they were permanent, whereas newspapers were read once and thrown away), he took it that his spiritual master was speaking through this person. Then an Indian Army officer who liked Back to Godhead suggested the same thing.

So then: don't underestimate the value of well produced book. It can work wonders. Please, please, please do not (ever!) use Microsoft Word to publish anything. Learn good publishing if you can, or, if you can't, use a service like Blurb to produce high quality books. And finally: save the world.

Swansea visit Day 3: Yoga and Technology

30 July 2006 | 5 Comments | Tags: , ,

Karana Karana Devi DasiSome of Karana Karana??(TM)s yoga students commented something interesting. They were admiring Karana??(TM)s use of technology in her yoga sessions. Specifically, they loved how she used her trusty 12?? Apple Powerbook to both play the really nice high-quality background music and remind her of the lesson plan.

No paper. No cassette player (do those still exist?). No ugly monster computer filled full of virus and spyware that crashes every 5 seconds (although there was one like that in the office next door).

She could also, of course, access any other lesson plan, burn practice CDs for students, swap-in other music, print-out handouts (ok, maybe some paper does exist), create custom audio loops and time the class.

The students were saying that, in their experience, no other yoga teacher used technology at all, let alone in such an effective and impressive way.

We call it: yukta-vairagya. Here is an essay by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami on the topic.

Keep it short. Keep it simple.

8 July 2005 | 2 Comments | Tags:

Attention spans are decreasing. Mine too.

When reading blogs I tend to skip those huge monster essays that some bloggers write unless I??(TM)m really, really, really interested in the subject matter. 500 words should be the limit. If a blog posting is longer than 500 words it is simply too long for the Internet audience. Better to write a book instead.

However, this is not to say that long articles are impossible. They just have to be broken up into multiple postings over multiple days. I'll read any number of words if my mind is tricked in that way.

So, all you reading this, please, for my sake, keep it short and keep it simple (and I??(TM)ll try to do the same for you).