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Category Archives:main blog

The conferences.

With round one of the clinical trial complete, it was time to share the news about all of my amazing discoveries! After thoroughly saturating facebook and instagram, I had no choice but to expand out into the real world. No wait! There was one last stop before that...the strange, the esoteric, the not quite real world realm of...conferences. And with two conferences on ageing being held a week apart in the closest (but still not that close) land of Australia, off I went, teddy bear and contact Read More

The poi lessons.

Some musings and observations from my first month teaching adults over 60 how to spin poi:   The simple act of spinning the poi in a circle is not so simple. I was amazed, and tongue tied, when a handful of participants could not consistently make the poi go around in circles after one, two, even three lessons. It's something I have always taken for granted, as people typically pick up poi for the first time and just get it going, without any instruction. But some of my participants Read More


The pre-tests.

A clinical trial about poi and well-being! Sounds great, but, how am I going to tell if poi has an effect on health, you ask? Well, I'm going to measure things of course! Things like balance and grip strength and coordination. I'm going to measure them before the participants learn poi (pre-tests), and after the participants learn poi (post-tests), and see if there are any differences between the two sets of data. Here is a peek at the study participants being put to the test before their poi Read More

The participants.

With the long ethics approval journey behind me, the rest of the pieces could finally fall into place: secure a space for the study, check. Purchase cognitive tests, check. Make an army of poi, check. Find participants, no problem, I'll just send a quick email to the registrar at the Centre for Brain Research. They have a huge database of people eager to participate in studies like International Poi or Tai Chi lessons and $75 worth of petrol vouchers? I braced myself for the Read More

Just say No to section G.

With the arrival and approval of Ms. A, the 6 month signature quest seemed to be drawing to a close. The only thing left to do was wait for Ms. A to email my Maori advisor, to let him know of her support. While awaiting this transaction, I asked my PhD supervisor to check with the ethics committee about a few minor things on my application. I wanted it to be flawless before submitting it. After a week or so of silence from all parties, I became worried and restless. What if Ms. A changed her Read More

The signature quest.

By the end of June I was so ahead in my research, that my PhD supervisor looked me in the eyes and said "TAKE A BREAK!" There was, in fact, not much more that could be done. The plans for my clinical trial were in place, I was running a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs, and I had nearly finished my ethics forms, minus one small detail...I needed the signature of a Maori advisor. Enter *drum roll*...Mr. X. Sure, he might not have remembered who I was even after nearly knocking me over Read More

Planning the poi trial.

In between investigating the cultural roots and implications of poi spinning (read: embarrassing myself at various Māori events and in front of various Māori people), I am also planning a poi trial to investigate the effects of poi on physical and cognitive ability (read: embarrassing myself in front of scientists). If you're dying to know the nitty gritty, my full research methodologies paper and literature review are yours for the reading. If not, here's a summary (if you're not Read More

The Kapa Haka class.

I had been introduced to Mr. X once before, to request permission to sit in on his Kapa Haka class about Māori culture. The introduction began with Mr. X staring sternly and intently through my eyes and into my soul for an abnormally long amount of time, was followed by an uncomfortable laughter, and concluded with a brief "you can sit in on my class." I thought about and journaled about this moment obsessively for the next few did he do that? Look straight through me? Mr. X seemed Read More

Learning to make Māori poi, except for that last step.

They always say the grass is greener on the other side, I just never realized by "other side" they literally meant the other side...of the world. The grass is very green in New Zealand. And the sky very blue. And the people very friendly. And the PhD in poi spinning off to a very good start. After a month of settling in, pondering why I brought so many useless things and not enough socks, and asking people to repeat whatever they just said to me (sometimes I'm really not sure they speak English Read More

And then I moved to New Zealand. To get a PhD. In poi spinning.

I realized one day, as my sister and I casually discussed the future of our lives, that there was a deadline for this vague idea I'd had for years about going back to school. And that deadline was based on something completely meaningless to me, yet very important to the process...the GRE. You have no idea what I went through to get my slightly less than mediocre score on the GRE. Nothing about that test makes sense to my creative, slightly dyslexic brain. Discovering that my test scores would Read More

The Hackathon (part 2)

I woke up that morning energized and perhaps slightly disillusioned...we were sure to win! No one else had such an innovative idea that could reach so many populations. I arrived at the hackathon to find my collaborators in a similarly lighthearted mood. We eagerly solidified our presentation, divided up who was going to say what, and practiced it in front of anyone who was willing to listen. And then, to settle our nervous energy, we spun poi. While the rest of the room was buried in last Read More

The Hackathon (part 1)

As I peered into Hack/Reduce for the first time, I was transported back to my junior high lunch room. Where would I sit amongst the rows of long tables? What if no one wants to sit by me? What if no one likes the Orbitar? What if...I don't want any of this free stuff ? I had hardly entered the room when a lady behind a table, wearing a Berklee College of Music hackathon t-shirt, was smothering me in hackathon merchandise. "Actually, I don't really need any of that..." She looked dejected, and Read More

The business men.

As I made my way to the HULT International Business School, backpack brimming with Orbitar goodness, movie-like images of business meetings started to permeate my thoughts. Men in sharp suits, gathered around an abnormally long and modern table, shaking their heads and no, don't stereotype! Enter with a fresh mind and no expectations, I told myself. And so I did, straight through the glass doors and into a lobby of granite benches and tiny ponds, where Norbert came to fetch me Read More

Post TED talk patience, prospects, and perseverance.

After my brief meltdown upon exiting the TED stage (and many encouraging words from those that happened to be trapped backstage with me while it happened), I headed out to meet what I had imagined to be an onslaught of excited people who had just seen my talk...and had tons of money to eagerly throw at me. As I cruised down the crowded hallways I could hardly move a few feet before a "good job!" or a "I loved your talk" shot out at me. I graciously accepted the compliments, one after another, Read More

The TED talk.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Jacob asked upon finding out that the Orbitar was not working at the TED dress rehearsal just one day prior to the talk. Knowing that "I'm an idiot" was a truthful yet unhelpful answer (that wasn't going to boost my already low morale),  I resorted to "I don't know", and we set off that morning in a scramble. Natan, Jacob and I, a ragtag trio of artists/hackers, depleted of money, resources, and sleep, and having no clue if the thing I was giving a TED talk Read More

The dress rehearsal, less than 24 hours before the TED talk. When the Orbitar didn’t work.

Despite my constant pestering of the TED folks, it seemed my one chance to test out, well, everything, was at 3:00pm the day before my talk. So there I was, a ball of nerves amidst the complete chaos that is TEDxBeacon Street less than 24 hours before the event. As I darted to and fro in an impatient frenzy (they were running behind a few hours), the Orbitar gazed quietly and cautiously into the empty seats from the shinny stage. Every now and then a gentleman would yell for Read More

Orbitar: 1, Laptop: 0.

The pieces were all falling into place. The speech was written (and re-written. and re-written again). The Orbitar glove cables had a freshly sharpied black coat. Jordan, the Max MSP musical guru, had arrived from Texas to help flesh out the TED performance. We were experimenting. We were rehearsing. We were staring at computer screens, a lot. We were...Orbitar-ing.

An introvert’s worst nightmare. I mean, the TED talk speaker orientation.

So there we were, the 2013 TEDxBeacon Street speakers, sitting in our swivel-y chairs around a long table for our first speaker orientation. It was no big deal, you know; a mechanical engineer, a Pulitzer Prize winner, an MIT professor, sort of artistic/musical/entrepreneurial conglomeration with no particularly notable title. We got to know each other (well, mostly they got to know each other while I pretended to be extremely interested in the details of my environment as to Read More