Megnut

Thanks New York Times!

Cropped? Cropped!

Everyone else is linking to their dissolution of Pyra write-ups, so I will too. Of course mine, as usual, is just about how I was feeling. And it doesn't go into the details of what really happened at Pyra, nor explain why we all left. But it's what I wrote at the time. And it seemed like the safest part of the story to share.

Celebrate Patriot's Day

Happy Patriot's Day! If you're not sure how to celebrate appropriately (or perhaps even why to celebrate), this handy guide will help you out. This afternoon I plan to marshall the work-troops onto the Sand Hill Road green to re-enact the battles. I shall play the role of William Dawes, who is always forgetten because everyone remembers Paul Revere instead.

Making a secret garden

I've started a new project recently: the Secret Garden project. Out behind my apartment building is a backyard: lots of poured concrete, an old run-down outbuilding, weeds, overgrown flowers, and collapsing fences.

I'm cleaning it all up. All of it. I've wanted to do it for ages, but I didn't, because I wasn't sure I'd ever spend time out there once I was finished. I wasn't sure the weather would be nice enough (it's pretty foggy and cold in my neighborhood), I wasn't sure of a million things. And then I realized something, I realized who cares? Who cares what the end result is? Who cares if I ever step out in the yard again once the project is finished?

What I've craving isn't sitting in a perfectly appointed English garden on a sunny afternoon. I've been craving the smell of damp soil, the exertion of pulling weeds, the thrill of planting seeds and watching as the first tiny shoots of green poke through the surface. I've been craving gardening, not a garden.

Silly trite breakthrough? Perhaps, but enough for me to get out there. I've filled three bags of old branches and cuttings and weeds. I've planted two basil plants and three little tomato plants. I've tamed the blackberry brambles creeping over the wall, and freed calla lilies from the choking ensnarement of grassy weeds.

This week there's more pulling and planting to be done. And the next, and the next. Estimated completion date of the secret garden? Who cares?

Buid a good business and treat people right

I finished reading Fast Food Nation the other night, what an incredible book. I highly recommend it to everyone. One thing I'm thinking about a lot is the treatment of workers described in the book, both at the meatpacking plants and at fast food restaurants in general. And thinking about my experiences now as a worker, rather than a manager or a company leader.

There's nothing to be gained long-term for any business by making your employees feel like shit. Nothing. One employee may leave. They may all leave, as is the case with most McDonald's, within three or six months, and you may say to yourself, "I'm saving money! I'm not paying for those slackers with no committment." But you know what? That's bullshit.

I believe most people want to work. They want to contribute to something and feel good about doing so. Human beings are social and they like to belong to something. After school ends, the workplace takes over as a place to "belong," it's where people form new relationships, socialize and interact, and contribute their piece to the "whole."

When a company treats people with respect, when they value their employees' contributions, when they listen to what their employees have to say, when they trust, the company is rewarded. Everyone feels better. Everyone works better. Have you ever worked someplace where people are excited and challenged and free to express themselves? It's magical.

But too many companies and corporations think the road to financial success lies in cutting costs, in mistreatment, in disrespect, in keeping employees in the dark, in keeping employees silent. Corporations steamroll their employees as they head down that road.

If I could change the way people are treated at McDonald's, I would. If I could revolutionize the conditions in the meatpacking plants in Nebraska and Colorado, I would. Part of me wants to buy a franchise right now, and do it differently, or to fly to Columbus, Nebraska and slow down the line and yell at everyone, yell, "What are you doing here? How can you treat the people who are making you your fucking money like this?!"

When Evan and I founded our company, one of my biggest hopes was to create a place where people would be happy coming to work. I wanted to create that special environment I'd yet to experience in my career, and to share it with other people who thought such a place should exist. And you know what? Even after everything that's happened, I know we succeeded. We didn't have the soundest business plan, we didn't manage as well as we could have, we messed up, a lot. But we also built something really special, and for a brief time, there was a great place to go to work. And it was called Pyra.

Thoughts on marriage

Ah marriage, is there anything sweeter? Brides in flowing white gowns, big shiny engagement rings dropping from slender fingers, $50,000 shelled out for food and wine and folding chairs and plastic tents? And, well, you know...sex with the same person for the rest of your life, or until you get divorced.

What I was left thinking about, after reading Rebecca's article, was how did we get here? How did we get to the point where we (I'm generalizing about women now, please forgive me) expect to get married and live happily ever after? I mean, that's obviously the expectation of Ms. Laura Doyle, the "Surrendered Wife," and her solution (when her marriage didn't quite provide her with the Disney-like fulfillment she expected), and advice to you if you happen to find yourself similarly disillusioned, is to give up. Give up, surrender to your husband, and you'll be happy ever after. (My favorite gem mentioned in the piece: to let one's husband continue to drive down the freeway past the appropriate exit. This indeed is the key to domestic bliss...)

So when did this happen? When did marriage go from necessity to something everlasting based on true love? I've grown up thinking of the marriage as the latter. And I know a lot of women who view it the same way. How did we get here? Or least, how did I get here?

1970's - I'm sure something happened here to influence me, but the only Disney movies I remember watching were "The Rescuers" and "The Fox and the Hound." Lessons learned: many, none related to marriage.

1980's - The damage decade. I read Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice, in addition to many many other books. Lessons learned: You may not like him at first, but he'll be in love with you. Eventually you'll realize you're in love with him. You'll marry and live happily ever after. (Ok, I know this didn't happen in GWtW, but really, we all know Rhett came walking back through that door the next morning.)

1990's - I read more 18th century happily-ever-after crap. After successive failures with boyfriends, it occurs to me that maybe this isn't how it happens in real life after all.

2000's - Marriage? I've got a career now.

So what's a modern woman to do? With such expectations as "marriage is the key to happiness," one's sure to be disappointed. With the ability to own land and vote, as well as work and make money, does one need a husband? Is marriage, "the most sensible, practical way of living in the world that has thus far been devised," as Rebecca writes?

I kind of like my mom's way of doing it: be married, but take off every five years and spend two months in your own apartment in Paris. Have your husband come visit.

Weblogging pirates

So last week, after seeing Dave Eggers, I wrote about being inspired to write more—to dive back into the creative stuff that was the staple of my writing diet for many years. Discussing my next project (a novel), my friend Matt Revis struck upon a page-turner the likes of which the NYTimes Best Seller list has never seen! Ready?

Pirates. Weblogging pirates. Setting: the stormy seas of the new millennium. These pirates are tech-savvy but adhere to traditional pirate disciplines: they wear stripes, they drink grog and rum, they keep parrots as pets. And they use their weblogs, updated from sea, to alert each other of potential targets. "They tip each other off to shipments and stuff," says Matt.

"A vast ye scurvy dogs! Update your weblog or I'll cut ye throat!"

Mr. Pulitzer, is that you calling my name?

I didn't do my homework

I'm bad, I didn't do my homework. We were supposed to discuss Rebecca's article today, but I haven't had a chance to write up my thoughts. Can we postpone? Did you even read it yet? If not, it's online here. Let's chat about this one later this week.

Thinking about memory

I've been thinking about memory, having seen Memento over the weekend. Childhood memories, school memories, bad memories, collective memories...

I seem to have a vivid memory, stretching way way back, replaying scenes like movies: standing at the sink washing dishes with my mom, suds up to my elbows. I'm standing on a chair because I'm too short to reach the sink. It must be 1979, 1980 at the latest, summer, the door to the back porch is open. My mom and I are chatting, I think about dinner, about Maple Syrup Chicken, one of my favorite meals. All of a sudden, we hear a tremendous crash outside on the street. We rush out, I remember not even drying my hands, out to the street in front of our house with suds up to elbows to see our car, a silver VW Rabbit which had been parked on the street, smashed into the light post in front of our house. In the middle of Richmond Avenue was a car, a sedan, with the back smashed in, and an afghan hanging from the crumpled trunk. Further down the street, a smashed third car—the culprit who'd run the red light, hit the sedan, which spun and smashed our Rabbit into the light post.

I remember this all like it was yesterday. But I couldn't have been older than 8 when it happened. Does my mom remember the same things? Does she remember it at all? How do groups remember? When everything is viewed through a separate set of eyes, is it even possible to remember the "same" thing? How do collectives remember? Or countries? How does America remember? The Library of Congress has a project called "American Memory, Historical Collections for the National Digital Library." Lose yourself in images and narratives and history, a country's collective memory.

How do you remember things? Do you have a good memory?

What are wives for?

I read Rebecca Mead's article in the New Yorker (April 2, 2001) "Conditional Surrender: What wives are for, and other marital morasses" this morning. It was great, and I want to write about it right now, but the article's not online yet. I'll tell you what, you rush to the newsstand to get it before it's gone. Go ahead and read it, I'll wait for you. Then once you're through, I'll write my thoughts, add some space for comments, and we can discuss. Let's plan for, say, Tuesday next? Excellent, I'll see you then.

More Bay Area power woes

What a start to the (almost) weekend: PG&E filed for Chapter 11 this morning. The Govenor's proposing a 37% rate increase for residential users, which goes on top of a 10% increase put in place in January. It's hard for me to justify paying nearly $200/month to a company that's paying people not to produce energy, has failed to invest in alternative sources of energy, encouraged the passage of the "landmark" deregulation bill in 1996, and has a parent company with $30 billion in the bank. The best part?

"[S]tate power grid managers said California will see more than a month of rolling blackouts for as many as 5 million people at a time if residents use as much power this summer as last summer." - SFGate

$200/month for power which may or may not be delivered to your door? This whole situation makes me ill.

Live in the Bay Area? Receive email alerting you if your block is going to loose power. Seems handy, assuming there's enough power for the mail to make it to your inbox.

Webcam bookmarklet

Now that the cam's back, you might be yearning for that handy-dandy bookmeglet, right? Well, here you go. Drag this link up to your "links" toolbar (IE). (It will tell you "You may be adding a link that is unsafe. Do you want to continue?", say Yes. It will be ok. I promise.) From now on, when you click on it, it will launch a pop-up window of my cam, refreshing every 30 seconds.

Do you use Outlook Express?

If you use Outlook Express, could you please email me and tell me if it's possible to have messages marked "read" after reading them only through the preview pane? I read almost all my mail that way, and Outlook Sr. automatically unbolds messages afterwards, but Jr. doesn't. This is aggrevating me to no end, and also confusing me. I fear I may end up in an email loop, reading the same "unread" messages over and over and over again for the rest of my days. And that would be very sad indeed.

Update: the solution, as sent in by astute and FAST AS HELL (the post had been up less than five minutes!) reader Matt Gifford is: "Go to Tools > Options. Click the Read tab. Check "Mark message as read after displaying for X seconds". Set the number of seconds to 0." Yippee!! Megnut [hearts] Matt for his helpfulness.

Since the language on the setting said "after displaying", I wasn't sure if that meant messages would be marked as "read" after they'd been sitting in the Inbox, whether I'd clicked on them or not. Stupid confusing language.

Moving email stinks

Dueling is not a good idea

Correction: due to expressions of "minor umbrage" by megnut readers, a point of clarification will be made regarding last week's review of "Barry Lyndon" (see March 27). Megnut does not advocate dueling, or violence of any means. She acknowledges that great and noble lives have been lost in duels, and wishes one would use the legal system to resolve one's grievances in an honorable and noble fashion. She also wishes the judges and lawyers would wear those grey wigs like they do in Olde Englande.

Writers and writing

Disregard the following if you've already been to Kottke.org today:

Last night Jason and I went to hear Dave Eggers read at the All Saints Church on Waller Street. It was, not surprisingly, packed, and we almost didn't get in. But then some extra space was found on the floor and we slipped through the crowd into the steamy room, and claimed our little piece of listening space. And then I proceeded to laugh like hell for the next two hours.

I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to hear an author read. In college I spent a lot of time listening to authors read their works, both in my writing classes and when professors and guests would read their writings. Hearing the voice behind the voice raises the passage to another place.

Hearing authors read also jump-starts my internal monologue, "why aren't you writing more? You should write more stories, you really should. You used to write lots of stories, and you really enjoyed it. Don't you remember when you were a writer? You should be one again." Etc. etc. etc.

Someday, internal monologue, someday soon.

It's distribution, not supply

Longing for New England

The Cider House Rules re-ignited my longings for New England, for rolling hills and soft autumnal colors, for the jaggy coast of Maine, for lobsters, and for Macintosh apples. When I was in grade school, our class took a field trip to go apple picking. We were each given a small paper bag to fill and if my memory serves, I never filled it. I followed a simple rhythm: apple off tree, apple into mouth, apple off tree, apple into mouth, until my stomach ached and I climbed down from the ladder and just sat beneath the shady canopy of leaves.

picking wild blackberries on nantucketI cannot be trusted with a fruit harvest. Not now, not then. Picking strawberries from my grandfather's garden, I averaged 1 berry in the box for every 7 or so in my mouth. As recently as summer of '99 picking blackberries on Nantucket, more berries landed inside my stomach than anywhere else, though we managed enough for two pies. I simply can't help myself. Plus, it's just more fun my way. If I ever have my own garden, I fear I'll make myself sick.

Read my mom's site

For those of you that have been reading megnut long enough to remember "momnut" (when my mom took over last August for a week while I was in Hawaii), you may be interested in her new site (finally!). She's in Paris right now on a two-month sabbatical, and using her new camera to post very nice pictures. I'm jealous, and can't wait to go visit her next month.

A wonderful hike

I'd tell you all about my hike on Saturday but other folks already did. Ok, I'll tell you anyway, it was fabulous. Sunny and warm and hilly and trees and green and wild-flowery and just wonderful. Even though we did get a little lost and had to double-time it for about three miles. Just wonderful. I love hiking. I want to go hiking every day. Can that be my job instead?

Deadline is a good program

NBC's broadcasting "new" Deadline episodes on Saturday nights, but it doesn't look like it's coming back. According to Oliver Platt's site, only the west coast NBC affiliates are even showing the remaining episodes, which were produced before the show was cancelled. What a shame, it's a damn funny, and engaging, program. Figures it would get the axe.

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