I was going to write a blog post about the Charity Smackdown but of course time got away from me this week. So I took a shortcut a made a video. Thank you to Mark Licea for editing and posting! Please take 1:31 minutes to watch this and spread it around as you see fit.
Also, follow me on Twitter to check the progress of the contest! Just go here.
I have been ignoring the “25 Random Things” thing on Facebook. It isn’t because I don’t find it amusing. It is mostly because I haven’t found time for it. Today I was asked to do a segment about it for The CBS Early Show. It will likely air on Monday morning in the 8 o’clock hour.
For the sake of “research,” I decided to start reading the lists that had been sent to me. I also made one of my own. Strictly for “research,” of course. I must admit, it was more fun that I had anticipated. Enjoy and feel free to link me to yours. And anyone who dares violate #10 will be digitally blocked from my life! Don’t even try!
I should finish my packing. Instead I’m fooling around online. I was just thinking about the things I will and will not miss about my Lower East Side apartment. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to write about what neighborhood I am moving to, not that anyone really cares. Meanwhile, I’m in the listing mood so here it goes:
Things I will miss:
The guys who work at the front desk. Especially you Daniel! Your smiling face has been a great way to start my day for the past year!
The gym. I hope I can still force myself to go to the gym when it isn’t in my building!
My stainless steel stove;
Dry cleaning in the building;
My local wine store, September Wines. Somehow I think they’ll miss me too…or at least my credit card;
The statue of Vladimir Lenin on top of the Red Square building. I can see him from my bed so I wake up to him with his right arm in the air every single morning. See it here.
This week marked the 1 year anniversary of my move to New York from San Francisco. I am moving into a new apartment at the end of the week so I spent my Saturday packing boxes and trying to watch everything on my DVR before I send it back to Verizon. While I packed, I couldn’t help revisit this last year in my head and I’ll admit that it made me wax just a little nostalgic.
I learned a lot about myself in this apartment. I faced a very big city with nothing more than a few (thousand) online friends and a great job and it didn’t kill me. There were many times when I thought it would.
It took me a long time to be able to say this but I think I’m finally ready: I’m so glad I came here! It actually seems to have been the right thing. Funny how life makes you step to the edge of what you think you can handle before you realize that you may just be heading in the right direction.
It is so great to communicate with all of you who read my blog, Facebook page, and Twitters but at the end of the day, it is still just me and a glass of wine in this small studio apartment. It has been scary. I hit many speed bumps and made some decisions that I wish I had approached differently. But if I am feeling sad or alone, I always know that I can reach out online and find someone somewhere who is willing to be supportive in one way or another. If you are reading this, you are one of those people. So thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Who knew that something with such a stupid name as Twitter could be so sustaining?
Now back to my packing. To add some levity to this post, here is a working list of things I cannot for the life of me remember why I packed from San Francisco to New York. These things will not be moving into my new apartment:
A burka I bought in Dubai. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I bought it in the first place. A friend pointed out that I might want to keep it in case we lose the war on terror. I think I’ll chance it. It goes.
The first season of Nip/Tuck. I used to watch this terrible show. I’m embarrassed to admit that.
A Rachael Ray cookbook. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend, four boyfriends removed.
Stretch mark cream. I swear I didn’t buy this. It was in a gift bag at a sample sale I went to 2 years ago.
A three-ring binder punch. I don’t see myself needing a three-ring binder any time soon.
So what if Festivus is a silly cultish joke? I’m trying to be an equal opportunity holiday celebrant. My apologies for not wishing you a Happy Hanukkah sooner.
I will not get to spend time with my family this season. I regret that but my family doesn’t make a big to-do about the holidays so I’m not missing much other than watching really bad comedies with my mom (like the travesty that was Boat Trip), making Ranger cookies for my brother-in-law, and gossiping with my sister about our crazy relatives.
Despite missing out on those beloved festivities, I am still feeling the holiday spirit. New York is beautiful (although soooooooo insanely cold) this time of year. It is my first Christmas in a proper winter. Plus, I’m excited for 2009 and heading to Las Vegas for CES in just a few weeks. Thank you to everyone who wrote me with encouraging words about 2008. In my last blog post, I mentioned that 2008 was hard. I moved away from my family and friends and had a rough time adjusting to New York. But as I look back, I have very few regrets. I’m glad I came here and I’m glad it was hard. Hard doesn’t mean bad. It just means hard. I quote General David Petraeus on this one: “Hard is not hopeless.”
Okay, enough optimism. It is Festivus after all. So here is my 2008 airing of grievances. I may add to this throughout the day. Feel free to add yours in the comment section.
There is no native landscape keyboard, video capture, or MMS for my iPhone;
Microsoft Entourage, I hate you more than I’ve ever hated anything in my entire life. You make my life miserable every single day. Whoever developed you, wrote the program as a big fat “Screw you!” to Mac users. Message communicated. Screw you too!
New: Cab drivers who lecture me about paying with credit card.
Yes, they are all mostly tech related. I don’t usually carry grievances for people. Except maybe for those responsible for the dismal performance of the San Francisco Giants this year! They know who they are!
Every year CNET TV publishes blooper reels of all of our on-air personalities. While I am certainly not opposed to airing my foibles, as evidenced here and here, I am a little reluctant. I am always so afraid of being inappropriate but more often that not, I err on the side of authenticity. For better or for worse.
While I am laid bare, I might as well admit that this blooper reel came at a time when I really needed to smile. I have made no secret of the fact that this has been a rough year. That is why I am grateful for this uncensored look at myself where I realize how much fun I’ve had this year. So what if I spent my Saturday night reading, doing my taxes, and watching You’ve Got Mail on Oxygen? That is probably how I’ll spend my Christmas given that I have to work on the Early Show and therefore won’t be going home to San Francisco for the holidays. I will ask Santa for a more social life in 2009. That and maybe a hairdresser in New York. My hair is really quite ridiculous.
Please allow me to point out this excerpt from today’s episode of Loaded:
I really loathe the celebrity gossip culture. I read an article recently that suggested that celebrity obsession was a healthy outlet for most people. I can’t find the link at the moment but no matter because I disagree with the article. Celebrity obsession is not good for most people. It distracts us from real issues. Al Gore said it best in his book The Assault On Reason:
“At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess—an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole.
While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.”
I hate to lose faith in our society just because we are searching for Britney Spears but it is hard not to. Thus the rant. I’m sorry to be negative. It is not my usual M.O. but sometimes belligerence is necessary.
A few months ago I received an email from a perfect stranger inviting me on a four-day trip to a Mexican resort for a networking event called the Summit Series. The purpose of the event was to gather the most influential people under the age of 35 so that they could forge relationships, foster ideas, and generally enjoy the company of like-minded people – like a younger version of TED. It sounded moderately interesting, although slightly dubious.
In the email, I was told that my friend Sarah Lacy would be among the attendees. I direct messaged Sarah on Twitter to verify this fact and she confirmed. So I bit the bullet, bought a plane ticket, and didn’t think much more about it for two months. When I boarded the plane Thursday, however, I started to worry. I had very little information about the other attendees, the agenda, or the legitimacy of the event. Why was I doing this again? Oh yeah, Mexico. If someone invites you to Mexico, it is generally considered the sane thing to accept.
When we arrived, I was greeted by the event coordinator and two other attendees, both of whom I knew to be legitimately successful entrepreneurs. In looking over the booklet of attendees, my fears began to be allayed. There were indeed some impressive people scheduled to attend from all over the country: founders, CEOs, and executives from companies such as Blackboard, News Corp, Sling Media, The Onion, Stumbledpon, Zappos, Napster, DailyCandy, and more. But when I arrived at the welcome dinner, I started to feel worried once again.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I was one of only eight women in a group of 60 attendees. I suppose most single women would not complain about being stuck at a Mexican resort with 52 successful men and I certainly am not but I do wish that my gender was more well represented because I know for a fact that there are many worthy female entrepreneurs who could have benefited from this event. Furthermore, nearly one third of the women did not even work in businesses that were relevant to the businesses of the male attendees. I worried that the women may have been chosen as token amusement for the men who were there to legitimately do business. I certainly wanted no part of that if that were the case. I spent the first night staying close to Sarah and my friend and colleague Caroline McCarthy of News.com. But then the Mexican beach air started to chill me out and I decided to stop worrying so much and just enjoy the trip for whatever it would turn out to be.
It turned out to be great! On Friday morning, I participated in something called a “shoe drop.” I didn’t know what that meant when I agreed to it but I don’t generally turn down events that involve shoes.
A man named Blake Mycoskie led the expedition on behalf of his company, TOMS Shoes. Blake founded the company in 2006 with the intention of giving away shoes to children in need. For every pair of shoes sold on the web site, another pair is given away to children in developing nations.
On the outskirts of Cancun, there are thousands of children who live in pretty severe poverty. We traveled by bus to a school where hundreds of children were waiting for us to arrive to distribute their brand new pair of shoes.
“Mira los gringos!” yelled one group of boys as we piled out of our buses. I won’t lie, that hurt. I marched over to the group to make sure that they knew that I am a Hispanic and would not take kindly to be called a gringo. I don’t mind admitting, that group of boys became my little fan club. “Estas bonita…” one of them said while sitting next to me on a crate after the shoe distribution. Still got it!
I feel the need to point out the irony in my participation in a shoe drop. I don’t see shoes as a basic need. I see them as a vice. They are the one thing that I purchase shamelessly with my expendable income. I own close to 70 pairs (but who’s counting?). Yet here I was sitting on a crate helping to size the feet of small children who most likely have never owned a new pair of shoes. Most of their shoes were old and falling apart, much like their clothes and book bags. Several of the children were quite dirty and very shy. I even got a whiff of an intensely poopy diaper as I bent over to size one little girl. It broke my heart.
The students and teachers were so grateful for the shoes that they gave us hand-written thank you cards in Spanish. I didn’t feel like I had done anything to merit a thank you card. I hadn’t bought the shoes. I didn’t even understand the premise when I got on the bus. It was a heartbreak to pile back into our shuttles and ride back to our luxury resort.
The next day, we were treated to a presentation by a very inspiration man named Scott Harrison. Scott founded an organization called Charity: Water based on his volunteer work in Africa. Two years ago, Scott spent time in Africa, helping to document dire medical needs. He learned that most of the severe tumors and diseases that the locals were suffering from was a direct result of contaminated water. He started Charity: Water with the intent of building wells in African villages where children were drinking from the same leach-invested streams as their livestock. The images he showed were sobering (and no I wasn’t drunk). To date, Scott has raised $7 million and has organized 890 water projects in 13 developing countries. These projects will provide clean and safe drinking water to over 400,000 people.
Scott and Blake are truly innovative philanthropists. I will be showcasing highlights from each of their events (shot on the new Flip MinoHD) in Loaded this Wednesday, which I think will be exceptionally appropriate timing, given that it will be a time when we are all thinking about gratitude.
Admittedly, the trip was not all about good deed doing. I met people with whom I legitimately want to continue professional relationships with and I made some new friends who live in New York, and goodness knows I could use more of those. Plus, I simply had a great time unwinding my wound-up self. I most definitely behaved myself but I also enjoyed the pleasures of Mexico in eating, reading, sunning, dancing, and napping. I needed it!
As I repack my unpacked bags for Thanksgiving week, which will include travel to San Francisco, my uber-serious turkey-making ritual, my sister’s wedding, and CNET’s fourth annual Holiday Help Desk, I wanted to stop to write this blog post so that I forced myself to feel a little gratitude. I’m grateful to be heading home to see my family and I’m grateful that we will have the simplest amenities such as shoes and water during our holiday. I’m also grateful to have had the chance to be a Summit Series guest. I’m really glad that I stopped being so uptight about my expectations. I will definitely consider participating in future events, although I sincerely hope the gender ratio improves. My mother would contend that I shouldn’t but in all honesty, I really do.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. Use your technology for good this holiday season!
I did a news segment this morning on the CBS Early Show about Google’s new Mail Goggles feature. You can watch it here. It got me thinking that WordPress should have a similar tool for blogging because I sometimes find myself writing posts when I am overly introspective. If I had it my way, WordPress Goggles would look a little something like this:
Hi Natali. You are in danger of posting something overly personal and transparent. Given that you are prone to emotional diarrhea, please answer the following questions before we allow you to publish:
1. Have you cried in the last 24 hours?
2. Have you been overly needy for your mother lately?
3. Will this post embarrass you in a few days/weeks/months?
4. Are you hoping anyone in particular will see/read this?
5. Are you sitting next to a glass of red wine and a plate of artisan cheeses?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” you may not publish this post. Turn off your computer and your phone, wash off your face mask, and go to sleep. You may reconsider this post tomorrow morning after a large glass of orange juice and some peanut butter toast.
Too bad this feature does not exist because I actually can answer yes to a few of the above questions right now. Additionally, I’ve been up since 4 a.m. and worked this morning. I can’t nap because my sister and her fiancé are sleeping in my bed since they arrived at 6 a.m. on a red-eye flight from San Francisco. I’m lying on my hardwood floor wearing my Dr. Dre headphones and listening to Donna DeLory. I’m about to wax introspective again so I’ll just blame it on the lack of goggles.
I was sitting in the makeup chair this morning on the Early Show set and the woman who does my hair started telling me about her spiritual leader/psychic. She told me that the psychic gives her advice and sometimes is able to predict situations in precise detail. I got the sense that the predictions were a bonus and not the crux of that relationship. What she really got from the psychic was advice, support, and something to believe in.
Coincidentally, I recently met up with a good friend from San Francisco who is completing her training to be a life coach. She explained the craft to me in a lot of the same terminology that the hairdresser used to explain her psychic. She said that it is about helping people make the right choices in order to attain those things in life that are the most important to them.
Both the hairdresser and my friend believed that I could benefit from this kind of guidance. To be more precise, they believed that anyone could benefit from this kind of guidance, not just me. I don’t think I was wearing an “I’m lost – need help” expression on my face but it is conceivable.
So I put it out there to you, dear reader: Do you believe in spiritual leaders and life coaches or is this all just new age kaka?
I asked a friend of mine about this and he put it this way, “Think about the way modern life is now compared to the simplicity of our hunters and gatherers existence. Our society may have evolved faster than we are emotionally equipped to deal with. Maybe we all need a little help with that.” I’ll admit, my modern life changes faster than I am usually prepared to deal with. But do I want predictions about what is next? As tempting as that sounds, I don’t think I could handle the anticipation. I think all I really want is what most people want: something to believe in.
To be clear, I don’t always listen so intently to the hair and makeup artists at work. If I did, I would believe that my eyebrows are an eyesore and that I need Botox. But I read something this week that made me more amenable to this advice. In 2007, Kurt Vonnegut was asked to give a talk in Indiana. Two weeks after he finished writing the speech, he took a nasty fall on his head, which left him mentally unable to deliver it. His son Mark Vonnegut delivered and published the speech. Here is an excerpt:
“I asked Mark a while back what life was all about, since I didn’t have a clue. He said, ‘Dad, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.’ Whatever it is.”
Truth be told, I don’t really believe in psychic advisers for myself. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful for someone else in their own attempt to get through their “whatever it is.” I think I’ll just keep on getting through my “whatever it is” too. Maybe I don’t need the goggles after all.
In my continued effort to be social, I would like to invite any and all in the New York area to a few events.
Tomorrow I will be giving a toast at the Girls in Tech New York Launch Party. I attended the launch party for this group last year in San Francisco and I am honored that I was asked to speak briefly at the New York launch tomorrow. I have no idea what I am going to say yet but hopefully I will come up with something witty and inspiring to fill my allotted three minutes by tomorrow night.
The second event is one that I have been anticipating for nearly two months now. The lovely Amber Mac and I will be hosting a Meet-up here in Manhattan. Amber and I became friends over the summer and this gathering was her brilliant idea. I am flattered to be on the ticket with her. I’m her Sarah Palin! Details of the event are here. I hope you can come! I can’t exactly offer to buy a round but since we will be at an Irish bar, I can try to prepare a limerick. (Disclaimer: That’s a lie. Under no circumstance will I recite a limerick.)