Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning


May 2007

The Case of the Missing Duck Leg

We have lost a duck leg. It’s been missing for three days and we are starting to worry.

What the hell am I talking about, you might be asking. Excellent question. Let me explain. We put the cats on a diet recently. They have become a little pudgy (at least that is what the vet thinks. I think it’s cute. I mean, a belly on a man – not so great. A belly on a cat…great!).

In any event, they are now on diets.

They are fighters, my cats. They don’t take deprivation well (they take after their mother. (That would be me.). The other night we ordered Chinese food and one dish came with a duck drumstick. We picked the meat off, and took our plates to the table. We ate in peace. We went to the kitchen to clean up. No duck bone. No duck bone to be seen, but two guilty looking, lip-smacking cats were sitting right near the scene of the crime.

We have been unable to find the evidence. You can imagine, this is pretty nasty. A missing duck bone somewhere in my house? Gross. We won’t be having guests anytime soon…“Oh look what I found in your couch, a piece of animal carcass.” Foul (pardon the poultry pun). If you think about it, since the cats tend to not like guests, this was a highly sophisticated form of retaliation against the diet we imposed on them.

This is what our life with the cats has come to. Perhaps it’s time to have kids. Or get a dog. Neither will be as smart as the cats…at least not for a few years.

Happy Monday! Tell me this does not make you cackle…


Ahhh, Movies

My husband and I went to dinner recently with a couple who saw more than 100 movies last year.  In the theater.  They did not count those watched at home.  I found this rather extraordinary.  Even more interesting was the fact that they seemed to have a solid memory of several movies, and seemed to be able to talk intelligently about any we mentioned that we’d seen.

Well, so much for TV watching, I thought.  Movies, here we come! 

I think I will start a running list of movies seen, sort of like my incomplete list of books read (it’s incomplete and dated). 

Tonight I am off to a good start.  The husband is out at a bachelor party, and rather than go out myself, I decided to chill out with Babette’s Feast.  This is a great movie.  It’s a simple movie, easy to follow and nice to watch.  It has humor and seriousness and life lessons.  And the centerpiece of the movie is a wonderful meal, created by Babette herself.  I love all things food, and this is no exception.  Oh and by the way, it’s about way more than food.  Rent it and watch.  I give it many thumbs up.

This is in contrast to Bobby which we saw last night (It’s raining this weekend in NYC.  So it’s movie weekend.  Normally on weekend nights we go out to cocktails, then dinner to a place with no sign on the door, then to another bar – very exclusive – and we then head to clubs for dancing.  On tables.  Dancing on tables.  We’re almost always out until 5AM or so.  We usually end up partying with Lindsay and Paris.  There is always the chance we will do something really fun like decide to fly to Miami in the middle of the night to keep the party going.  We decided to take it easy this weekend.  What?)

But I digress…back to Bobby…nice try, Emilio, but many thumbs down.  It feels somewhat amateurish.  And the acting is not great.  And you don’t care about the characters (except for one or two).  Very disappointing.  Babette trumps Bobby. 

Radio at Work

I listen to music at work.  I use a couple of services, but my favorite is Yahoo’s Launchcast.  Right now Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life is playing.  What a nice treat.  This was our first dance song at our wedding.  AHHH, nostalgia.

I recently set up a new station on Launchcast.  It’s genres are Alternative Rap, East Coast Rap, Mainstream Rap (do we sense a theme here?), Old School Rap (can you say Kid ‘N Play), Underground Rap, West Coast Rap, Hip Hop, Soul, Neo Soul (Jill Scott, India Arie), and Funk.  This is my new favorite station.  I get Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Wyclef, Tribe Called Quest, Earth Wind and Fire, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, many many others. 

Perhaps I should go into the music business.  Start my own label.  Add this to the list of dream jobs.

What I Learned From a Backbend

I learned something interesting this morning.  We are stronger than we realize.

The Big H and I took a mini-vacation to Jamaica a few weeks ago.  On our last day there we took a yoga class.  One of the poses was a backbend, which you get into by starting on the floor (as opposed to from a standing position and bending backwards, which certainly would have done both of us major bodily harm).  So there I was on the mat, ready to push up.  I had done this thousands of times as a child and teenager.  Why not now.  Well, why not now for SEVERAL reasons, including that I am now weak!  I was strong before.  This now is less the case.

So I was discouraged.  The zen-like yoga lady encouraged me.  It would be OK.  Keep practicing and I would get there.  Get there????  I thought.  Oh, no, honey, I don’t need to GET there!  I am usually the one in the class that does the advanced move!  Well, at least I thought I would be.  But no, not this time.  Age, inflexibility, and weakness had prevailed.   And at that moment I lost the yoga like peacefulness I had gained because I was frustrated.

This morning I got up and turned on a yoga class (PBS, I think).  We did a few things and then we got into the dreaded ready-for-the-backbend pose.  I was nervous.  Should I really start the day with a failure?  But I remained patient.  On the first try, I did not push up.  OK.  I accepted that.  At least I had not expected to be able to do it.  And then the instructor on TV said "This is hard, we will try it again."  Weird.  Can she see me?  So we tried again.  And I managed to push up a little.  I was thrilled.  I got my head off the ground.  Again.  Try number three.  And I got my head further off the ground.  And held it for a second.  And I was thrilled!  Who knew. 

Lesson learned.  We are stronger than we know.  Sometimes we just need to give our bodies (minds) a little warning, a little bit of training to get something out of it.  This ability was in me, I just needed to give it a little patience.  What a good way to start a day.

Gorging Myself On Media

I am outdoing myself with media consumption, and in doing so, am accomplishing/retaining less than I had hoped.   I need to rationalize what I am reading, watching, etc.  "Do Less To Do More."  This is my new motto.  Along with "Be Here Now."  See, it’s happening again – is one motto enough?  Nope.  Must have two.  Yikes.  A survey of what I having been taking in, of late:

On TV: The Tudors, various movies on the Sundance channel, The Winds Of War, 20/20’s series on faith (the piece on the nuns is pretty interesting), 60 Minutes, 24 (though I am boring of it quickly) and of course Grey’s Anatomy (McSeries!).  And I am intrigued by Traveler.  And I watch cooking shows.  But I am a little tired of quick meal, dinner in a hurry, 15 minutes to being a dream wife shows.  Can someone bring Julia back?  Perhaps a show for those of us interested in really cooking?  But I digress.

Now, books: My Life in France, Julia Child; Life is Meals; Founders At Work; Ghost Wars.  I also started Dracula again.  This is my third start with it.  I like it each time and then get distracted.  Third time a charm?  Am also 150 pages into Nicholas and Alexandra.  And of course, So You Think You’re Not Religious (thanks Dad).

This is not to mention various other things lying around: the NY Times, NY Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, two issues of Vanity Fair, more cooking magazines than I care to admit, a few interior design mags (check out Blueprint, BTW – a little frantic, but great ideas), and many many others.

And this is not to mention what I read for work (blogs, newspapers, newsletters, research whitepapers, etc etc etc). 

Clearly I have a problem.  Or I have MADD (Media Attention Deficit Disorder).  I am reading so much that I am actually reading nothing.  I am reading while watching TV.  Unlike others, I will admit I am a mere mortal and am unable to do several things at once.  While my bookshelf might suggest I am a fabulously in the know person who is up on all kinds of things, this could not be further from the truth.  Crap.  I am a fraud!  I suspect that this fragmenting of my mind and attention is doing me a major disservice.  I am all talk and no knowledge.  I am comprehending little and retaining even less. 

Do others have secrets on how they manage to get through it all and at cocktail parties spout off facts that show they actually read it?  Where do you find the time!  Or is the answer that you take the Martha Stewart Bill Clinton approach – you are not human, you only need 2 hours of sleep, you are trained to speed read (oh no, it comes NATURALLY to you) and therefore consume a book a day…minimum.

Well, not I.  As much as I would like to be a speed reading, need no sleep, bring home the bacon and run a company all while doing power yoga woman, it’s just not me.  This feels like a failing.  But that would be silly, wouldn’t it?  To allow not being a super human to make you feel like a failure?  Who needs to to 55 things at once anyway?  Perhaps the way to not feel bad about realizing I am not The Bionic Woman is to view the situation through a different lens – the stop and smell the roses lens.  It’s OK to read one thing at once.  It’s OK to just watch a TV show and not try to get through Proust at the same time. 

So I vow to slow down.  Do one thing at a time, and do it well.  Not spread myself too thin.  Focus.  Do something to completion.  Slow down.  Breathe.

A few things I am thinking about this morning:

  • How we have had virtually no Spring season.
  • Brooklyn
  • The growth of the Hispanic population in this country, and the opportunities that provides.
  • Lunch.  What is for lunch.
  • Spending a quiet weekend at home.  This weekend for me will be something like a silent retreat.
  • How long has that uneaten apple been sitting on my desk?
  • Why is it so common to underestimate the challenges of being a stay-at-home parent?
  • Will long will it be before there will be more people watching Internet video on average, than broadcast television.
  • Is it possible to travel through time?  Seriously.
  • What it’s like to feel a calling.
  • What technologies my kids (G-d willing) will wonder how I lived without.
  • Why some companies have great cultures/vibes, and others just don’t.
  • How I can barely remember what it was like to be at work and not have access to the Internet.

Words To Live By

"You don’t stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing."

Michael Pritchard

Being a VC

I am a  lucky person.  I have apparently a rather sought after job, as a VC.  I don’t write often about my job – there are many many VC blogs out there and I don’t really feel the need to share my thoughts about where I am investing, trends I am seeing, how we plan to make money for our investors.  I do, however, like to talk about why I like my job, partly because it’s really a rarity to enjoy your work.  How many people do you know who really like what they do?  I know very few.  Work is work.  It’s a four letter word.  But I am lucky, I like my job.  Why is that?

I get to work with really smart people doing really interesting things.

I get to see trends and how entrepreneurs are changing industries. 

Working with young companies allows you to have a real impact on building an industry.

I like to read, do research, and talk to people about new ideas.  This is what I do for work!  Does not feel like work – what a wonderful thing.

I get to test a lot of new ideas.  I follow companies in the social networking space to see how people will interact differently in the future.  I still think services like Facebook and Geni are in their infancy.  I test new services like RSS readers and bookmarking tools and many others.  We have no idea how big these things can be.  I get to think about how students will learn differently in the future, new ways to deliver information, new tools for corporate heavyweights to make decisions.  This is good stuff.

I have to bet on myself, and our team, here at my firm.  The buck stops here, as they say.  This, of course, can be terrifying.  But it can also be highly rewarding. 

I used to be in investment banking.  We advised.  In VC, we advise and DO. 

It’s a job that prioritizes building over breaking down; thinking forward rather than relying on heuristics.  It’s greenfield, whole cloth territory.

I like the variety of the day.  I worked in the magazine business for a while and man, did I get sick of talking about page rates.  In VC, because we have a portfolio of deals, there is high variety to the day.  I get bored easily, so this works for me.

The best part is working with entrepreneurs.  The founders of our companies are highly passionate, engaged, gunners.  They are optimistic killers by nature.  A wall is just something to climb over.  Obstacles?  Pashaw – bring it on!  These are folks who ask "Why not?" and then go make change.  I am surrounded by people like this.  It’s inspiring in so many ways beyond business.  It’s a mentality I am trying to emulate, and carry around with me every day. 

So why write this post?  Well, I realized  I hit an interesting place in life – liking my job, and I wanted to record the moment.  So here it is.  I am excited to re-read this post in 20 years. 

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