Megnut

Archive for November 2003

Running to help people living with HIV/AIDS

Race to Deliver: A 4 mile fundraiser for God's Love We DeliverI love running but I have a hard time running consistently. Having a race as a training goal helps me a lot, and running a race that's also a fundraiser for a good cause motivates me even more. So I've registered to run the Race to Deliver, the annual fundraiser for God's Love We Deliver. Don't be scared off by the "God" in the name, it's not a religious organization.

God's Love We Deliver's mission is to improve the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. We prepare and deliver nutritious, high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness, are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves.

The race is 4 miles, and takes place November 23, so I've got my training cut out for me. I know times are hard for a lot of people right now, and many folks are laid off or worrying that they will be, but if you can afford it, I'd love your support. I've set a donation goal of $500, so if 100 readers can pledge just $5 each, we can reach it! Here's my donation homepage. Thanks so much for your help.

Update: already over $100 has been pledged, so we're more than 20% of the way. Woo hoo! You guys rock! :)

Update @ 10:23 PM: We're at $270! I'm totally floored, I can't believe people have contributed more than 50% of the total amount in less than 12 hours!!

Howard Dean rules Meetup

I hadn't been over to Meetup, the web site that "organizes local interest groups," in a while. So when I visited last night, I was astounded by a statistic I saw on the front page. Meetup has 779,451 users (as of this writing) and the National Dean in 2004 Meetup Day has 135,378 members, far and away the largest Meetup group. Which means that roughly 17.4% -- nearly 1 in 5 -- Meetupers are signed up for Dean meetups. That's incredible, and totally cool.

0 to $500 in 26 hours

I can't believe it, but we've done it already: since yesterday at 12:31 PM you guys have donated $500!! I'm stunned, and totally inspired and hopeful by what's been accomplished in such a short amount of time. So rather than stop now, I'm upping my goal to $1000. Let's see how much we can raise. And of course, thank you so much for your generosity!

Here's the original post about why I'm running and what the money supports. And you know me and my love for stats, so here's one for you: It only took 31 people to get $500, making the average contribution a little over $16 a person. Woo hoo! :)

Going into business with a partner

A List Apart has a new article by Kevin Potts called Starting a Business: Advice from the Trenches. There's a lot that goes in to starting a business, and Kevin's article does a good job of highlighting the issues one should consider when doing so. But there is one recommendation that is a very serious decision: that of going into business with a partner. Kevin writes:

If you can, start the business with a partner. This person should be another designer or programmer with a level of experience equal to or greater than your own, but with a different skill set.

He then explains the good things that can come from working with a partner, and there are many. But he doesn't give the decision the weight it deserves. Starting a business with a partner (or partners) is very different than starting one alone. The closest analogy I can come up with is that it's like marrying someone, and the business you build is your child. Now you'd never marry someone simply because they possess different skills than you do (she likes to cook, and I don't mind cleaning up, so I guess we're a match!). You marry someone who shares similar values and who shares similar goals. Choosing a business partner is a decision that should be undertaken with the gravity of any long-term commitment.

If you like to spend a lot of money and your partner doesn't, you're going to clash. If you want to grow the business and she wants to keep a small team, you'll fight. Your partner may want to do something you consider morally questionable, how will you resolve it? Add to the partnership the questions of equity and authority, never mind cash flow and the actual work you have to do for clients, and pretty quickly you can find yourself in one heck of a mess. The more work you can do upfront before starting the business to ensure you and your partner(s) are a good match, the greater the likelihood of success. Spend a lot of time talking about your hopes and dreams for the company, and discuss what you'll do when you don't agree about something, and how you'd handle things if the money ran out.

Starting a business is a great idea, and I encourage anyone who's interested to go for it. I never regret starting Pyra with Ev, it was an amazing experience, but it was also the most painful experience of my life. Diving into business with a partner is never something to be undertaken lightly. [via Anil]

Guggenheim collection online

If you can't make it to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City but you're still yearning to check out some nice art, the Guggenheim collection online is just the thing for you.

Currently representing 169 artists, the collection online encompasses both the classic and the new -- from the Guggenheim's earliest work, an 1867 landscape by Camille Pissarro, through more recent acquisitions, a 1998-99 sculpture by Robert Gober -- striking a balance that reflects the dynamic tenor of the institution as a whole.

It's just the thing to explore on a rainy day like today.

Goodbye garden

It's pretty chilly today, 41°, and tonight's predicted lows are below freezing. So I spent the afternoon picking the last of my tomatoes (10!) and looking over recipes from September's Martha Stewart Living for green tomatoes. I cut down the plant, brought my rosemary and lavender indoors, and moved the holly and boxwood onto the windowsill, where it will remain through the winter. The fire escape garden has moved into its winter cycle, which makes me a bit sad because I miss my flowers and herbs and the joy of growing my own tomatoes. But I'm also excited and expectant, looking forward to seeing berries on my holly, and watching the snow build up on the railings in another month or two. Hello garden, phase two.

Remembering Betsy

Last night I got together with a wonderful old friend I hadn't seen in nearly ten years. During our discussion, she mentioned a woman with whom we had both attended summer camp had died. It's always such odd news to hear of the death of someone you haven't thought about or seen in many many years. Suddenly and unexpectedly, you miss them.

Today as I was running, my thoughts turned to Betsy and my memories of her: shockingly long bright red hair, her nose ring (which really seemed like something odd and amazing when I was a twelve-year-old girl), and her incredible mountaineering and canoeing skills. I strained to keep running against a brutally cold and strong wind along the Hudson River, but I never thought of stopping, or just turning to go back home, because I had a goal and I wouldn't give up. With my thoughts on Betsy, I realized that's not how I used to be.

In 1984, I had been away at summer camp for nearly four weeks, and it was Saturday morning of parents' weekend. I was at the canoeing department, working on my landings, and anxiously awaiting my parents' arrival. My tandem landings (where you paddle your canoe at an angle towards the dock, then at the last minute, turn it so you end up "parked" along side) were all that I needed to complete my Boatswain, the first rank given by the canoeing department to recognize a camper's canoeing skills. I had been working on it every day since camp began.

Virtual Book Tour: Urban Tribes

Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and CommitmentWhen Kevin Smokler asked me to participate in the Virtual Book Tour for Ethan Watters' new book, Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment, I said yes. Always one to judge a book by its cover (or title), Urban Tribes sounded intriguing, especially when I read the blurb on the back:

The current generation of young Americans is waiting longer than ever to get married. Urban Tribes tells you why. And by the way, it's good news.

As a thirty-something unmarried American, I was looking forward to hearing the good news! But as I read, I found myself questioning the author's assertions rather than agreeing. Watters' thesis is that young Americans are spending the increasingly longer time between college and marriage in tight knit groups of friends he calls urban tribes. These tribes act as surrogate families and give one the space and encouragement to find oneself, encouraging all sorts of things, from the home brewing of beer to the undertaking of massive art projects. In theory, it sounded great, and seemed to "prove" that many folks aren't the slackers they're assumed to be.

Alas, the people I read about didn't sound like many people I knew. Frankly, many of them sounded annoying, and I found myself wanting to say things like, "Oh grow up!" and "Don't listen to everything your friends tell you!" It all sounded, well, so high-schoolish. And the word that kept coming to mind for me was not tribe but clique. For example, in Chapter 8, "Love Versus The Tribe," Watters quotes messages he received from people who wrote to describe their tribes:

"This tribe has made me realize that I can be happy living my life my way," wrote Kari, twenty-six, from Pittsburgh. "My tribe will not let me waste time on a loser." In very similar language, Rebecca, also twenty-six, from Dallas wrote, "The group has helped my romantic life because it has strengthened my self-esteem. I will not settle for anything less than true love and passion with complete respect. If it hadn't been for the tribe I may have married the wrong person for the wrong reasons." (p 184)

Certainly there's something to be said for having friends who help you grow up and figure out who you are. And I agree with Watters' premise that for our generation this happens during our twenties, and with lots of help from our friends. But reading the above passage made me wonder if tribe members are forsaking their individual identities for that of the tribe's, and if that weren't perhaps detrimental to the process of finding one's self. In Watters' tribe world, one's tribe is one's family until romance strikes, at which point (like Watters himself) you move from your tribe into marriage. Writing about his own transition, Watters says,

I was in the process of changing my definition of "us" from meaning "the group" to meaning "Rebecca and Me." (p 202)

This transition is understandable and necessary, but there seemed to be little examination of the "I" without the context of the group, which I found disappointing. At many points in Urban Tribes, Watters appears tantalizingly close to examining some really interesting concepts, e.g. how do young Americans balance their needs as individuals within the dynamic of their larger group, or groups? What about people who don't follow his nice clean pattern of tribe to marriage?

Nearly everyone I know is coupled up, many live with partners, but very few are married. This doesn't fit with Watters thesis that we're creating tribes (in fact I couldn't find a single person who considered him or herself part of a tribe), but certainly is evidence that our generation is playing by different rules. What effect is that having on us? I know many women, myself included, who are finding the nebulous world of living-together-but-not-married difficult and confusing. The fuzzy roles and expectations are stressful, but there was no examination of this, by my reckoning, rampant phenomenon.

Watters also talks of our waiting to marry as part of our search for our "soul mates" but doesn't examine the inherent risks associated with, or even feasibility of, such perfectionism. After all, the tribe demonstrates that one's social needs can be met by a variety of different people. Why must those needs all be met by one person once one marries?

It's not fair to blame Watters for not writing the book I wanted -- and expected -- to read, but I can't help but be disappointed with the book he's written. Certainly there are interesting things going on with our generation, but I'm not convinced Urban Tribes has fully uncovered what they are.

For some futher thoughts, Peter Merholz wrote a review back in September. I totally relate to his frustration with that lack of actual data Watters uses to support his assertions, but since Peter already covered it, I won't write about it here again.

Fundraising and training update

Both fundraising and training continue for the Race to Deliver as the big day draws near. I ran 5 miles over the weekend, have added in some speed work, and slogged 3.5 miles this morning in the rain. Seeing that we're nearly to my goal this morning helped me feel less soggy. Let's see if we can make it to $1000 by the end of today!

I need 7 people to donate $5 today.

That's a little more than a fancy cup of coffee, and less than a trip to the movies. All for a good cause, and to motivate me to get up at 6:30 AM tomorrow morning and run a bunch of 200m sprints. If you haven't donated yet, please consider it. And for those that have thank you thank you thank you.

Update: Wowzers! That was fast. Like five minutes and we're already at $1020. I won't hound you anymore, but of course, if you still would like to contribute, I encourage you. I'm curious to see how far past $1k we can go. Woo hoo!!

Virtual Book Tour continues

The Virtual Book Tour stopped at Christine Selleck's Big Pink Cookie yesterday and Christine interviewed author Ethan Watters. Today the Tour returns to New York City with a stop in Brooklyn at Josh Greenberg's Epistemographer. Josh has a review of the book and then a personal reflection on what he got out of the book and his current tribeless state. I encourage you to check out the other sites participating in the VBT so that you can experience some other points of view; both of these folks enjoyed the book more than I did and have some good insights. Then, get your passports ready, tomorrow the VBT heads north to Canada for a stop at James McNally's Consolation Champs.

Warmed with Jamie and chicken

David Loftus for The New York TimesAmander Hesser's The Mediterranean Sun Warms Rainy London is perfect for a rainy New York day as well. Hesser chats with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, while he cooks Braised Ligurian Chicken.

"What I found quite interesting with this dish, being English," Mr. Oliver said, "is that when you eat this, it's quite delicately flavored. It's perfumed with the wine and the rosemary. You get this kind of meaty kind of saltiness from the olives...[w]hen you cook olives whole like this, it's almost like an anchovy. The salt comes out of the olives, and the olive becomes more like a vegetable. And the salt from the olive flavors the chicken really wonderfully."

There's also a special "interactive feature" with Hesser and Oliver, but I haven't watched it yet.

48 hours to go!

Less than 48 hours until the Race to Deliver in Central Park. We're at $1180 in donations, which is amazing. If you were thinking about donating and still haven't, you've still got time. $1200 is such a nice round number. :) I'm going to pick up my race number this afternoon. I had my final training run this morning (a very light and slow 2 miles) and I'm ready! Now I just need two good nights of sleep and I'll be burning up the course through Central Park, by which of course I mean I hope I can survive it running ten-minute miles.

Update: Yippee! $1200! Megnut readers #1! Megnut readers #1!

Update on the update: $1260!!!

Race results!

Meg running Race to DeliverI did it! Yesterday was a beautiful day for running, clean and not too hot and not too cold. I braved the crowded course, avoided collisions as I passed (and alas, was passed by) runners, and slogged up hills. Yes, hills. Sadly, my training had neglected hills and it hadn't occurred to me that there would be hills (these hills are really much more noticeable when you're running) in Central Park, but there were. So the race was a little harder than I'd anticipated and I couldn't push myself as much as I'd planned. But I made it, and I finished in under 40 minutes, which was my goal. For some reason, the race results still aren't up on the NYRR site. When they are, I'll post my official time. Ok, my net time was 37:39 and my pace 9:24/mile. Not the best, not the worst (especially with those hills!) and there's lots of room for improvement. Thanks, once again, to everyone who contributed. It was a great day, a great race, and we raised over $975,000 to provide meals to people living with AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses.

Here's a full-size photo of me [54 KB] in racing action, thanks to Jason who picked me out of the crowd by some miracle.

In less than two weeks, I'm going to run the NYRR Hot Chocolate 15K, 9.3 miles in Central Park. This time though there's no fund raising involved. This time it's just for the free hot chocolate at the end!