Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Is It About Public Speaking?

Honest to God. What is it about public speaking that makes so many of us want to run and hide (or more, like, drop dead)? You know what I'm talking about: the shaking hands, knocking knees, sweats, racing heart. Makes you want to run out and give a presentation, doesn't it?

I'm in the middle of preparing the slide deck for my research presentation on Wednesday and, although, I'm not as nervous as I'd normally be, there's still this thread of discomfort pulling through me, like a tiny inch worm.

Part of why I'm not petrified is because I've been with this cohort, now, for three semesters, but more importantly because I've learned that negative thoughts are just that, thoughts that can't own, possess, or have the power to control me, unless I ALLOW them. It's taken me a while to grasp this important truth, but grasp it, I have with a lot of work.

What I've found comforting the last couple years is learning of all the powerful and influential people who are afflicted by stage-fright and that really only a small percentage of the population is naturally at ease speaking in public. Even so, still wishing I could be a little more like all my extroverted friends who can't wait to "perform." I envy each and every one of them. Gimme a little of that!

So, I've decided to punch FEAR in the face (or, as I'd say back home, "kick its ass").

                                                                              Source: via Deana on Pinterest

So What's an Incubator Like?

A few years back when my MBA friend-neighbor talked about all the great incubators in the Boston area, the first image that would flash in my brain is the one you see above.

That, my friends, was the extent of my knowledge of accelerators, also known as "incubators." Every time she talked about this incubator or that incubator, she conjured images for me of little heat boxes speeding up the development of eggs.

Well. Duh! I learned not so long ago that a startup accelerator works the same way, except instead of hatching eggs, they speed up the development of novel concepts, by blasting them with collaborators, mentors and access to resources, such as legal advice and public relations, thereby giving them a competitive advantage and better chances for survival. Yes, the MassChallenge wants its baby chicks to make it.

The space we moved into this week feels a lot like being at camp. There's a strong sense of community, with several startups working alongside each other. Some are here for the second time, a benefit of being selected a finalist-finalist winner at the end of the summer, and others are like us, the new startup on the block.

As you can see in the picture, below, there are minimal walls. It was a bit of a shock to my system the first day, since I've mostly only worked in traditional and structured office environments. Kinda of cool and loft-like, wouldn't you say? Those cables hanging from the ceiling plug into power strips on tables for our power cords. :-)

View from our MassChallenge Green Community.

This ... I like. :-)

Temporary Home: I like the word "FLEX."

My surroundings are anything but boring. Aside from the distractions around me, being able to look out the window, at any time, to watch construction underway, men working on rooftops (wondering what the heck is taking them so long), planes taking off from Boston Logan and traffic and people going about their business makes for some really awesome daydreaming.

View from the 14th floor.

I could stare out the window all day!

Things here will get cooking next week when the MassChallenge Boot Camp kicks-off on Monday with five full days of training. We'll get to hear presentations on everything from sales, marketing, financials and funding, to business models, from industry leaders. I'll be sure to share the most salient points. I'll also be on a mission to learn more about the organization's community focus.

Classroom Area
I was bad and drove in two days, so Monday will start my public transportation commute (15 minutes by car, 40 minutes by train, 10 minutes by foot). I have such respect for my all my friends in NY. For this girl from California, the traveling will make for some interesting stories, if not pictures.

                                                                                Source: via Ali on Pinterest

Hoping you all had a great week and that you get to enjoy some of the nice weather this weekend (without the heatstroke). 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Feels Like We're Moving at the Speed of Light

You know that weird feeling you get when you drive somewhere and don't remember how you got there? That's how last week flew by. ZOOOOOM! *lol* Woke up Wednesday a.m. in a panic, having forgotten that summer school started that same evening. The next seven weeks will be intense as we wrap up our independent research projects and start to present our findings. Everyone in my cohort will be giving a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation. Somehow I've managed to not drop dead from anxiety. Will have more to share on that front as 6/27 approaches. Too much going on between now and then to obsess. *bites nails*

This is going to be an interesting week. I'm not keen on blogging about work, as I like to keep work and personal separate, but I've got something too cool going down not to blog about it and I want to be able to share some of what I learn during this unique experience. I'm proud to say that the company I work for was selected as a finalist out of 1,200 applicants in the Mass Challenge. We move into the Accelerator in Boston this Wednesday, with 120 other companies, for the next three months. To say I'm excited and grateful to have this opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in our community would be a gross understatement. The brain power! OMG. The getting to-and-from will be interesting seeing as I'll have to take the T into town, but we'll make it work. :-)

More to come! Strapping myself in ...

Hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful weekend and Happy Father's Day to all you dads.

Harvard Square and typical graduate classroom at Cambridge College's School of Education


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

This post is part of a read-along hosted by Plaza Familia. Chapters 5 and 6 will be discussed the week of June 18 and readers may post their reactions to the book at a Linky provided on Thursday, 6/21 at their site. To read my thoughts on Chapters 1 and 2, click here.

Interesting that my memory held on to only the humorous aspects of this story, por que verdaderamente, what woman would want to remember another woman's desgracia? Madre mia.

In Chapter 3, the reader meets Oscar's mama, Hypatia Belicia (Beli) Cabral, an orphaned Dominicana who's saved from a locked chicken-coup by her mother-aunt, La Inca. Beli, whose parents were rumored to have been murdered by Trujillo's regime, comes from a high-profile familia in the DR. Her father had been a doctor and her mother a nurse and young Beli's pagina en blanco, or Lost Years are so horrible that the author only alludes to them.

La Inca reminds Beli every day that she will go to college and grow up to be somebody important like her parents. Trying to instill ambitions in her, she arranges for her to attend prestigious schools, where disillusionment sets in for Beli when she realizes that lineage means nothing in a country where European features are valued above being morena. Rather than bury herself in her studies to get ahead (as her daughter, Lola, does later), Beli turns her attention to the opposite sex, which is where her tragic story turns more tragic.

In Chapter 4, the reader meets Yunior, Lola's, womanizing ex-boyfriend and the first-person narrator, who becomes Oscar's roommate to help keep an eye on him. I'm not too crazy about this guy. Seems to have the best intentions, but rather than helping Oscar, he ends up making matters worse. It's at this point in the story that Oscar is so depressed, he takes a flying leap off the New Brunswick train bridge, and fails at taking his own life. Oscar's brief wondrous life has a few more chapters to go. I wanted to see Oscar succeed and find his peace, but the reader already knows that the nerd's future is bleak.

The cane fields where Beli's beaten within inches of her life at the end of Chapter 3 will come into play, again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zombie Marie Curie Teaches a Lesson in Authenticity

"But you don't become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process." Zombie Marie Curie

Tell me. How many partially finished posts do you have languishing in your blogging dashboard? Mine is littered. Here's one ...

I stumbled across this cartoon taped to the outside of a high school science classroom, during my school guidance pre-practicum, like seven months ago. The two words that caught my eye as I zoomed by were "Marie Curie," because she was a trailblazing Nobel Prize winning scientist and, "zombie," because I'm nuts about The Walking Dead.

In case you're wondering what Marie Curie and zombies have in common? Absolutamente, nada, aside from the cartoonist delivering an effective lesson in authenticity, with a thread of dork humor.

The cartoon got me thinking. Yeah, watch out. How many people get so wrapped up in achieving "x", that they forget to enjoy the journey, forget about sharing, forget about why they started "x," in the first place? Then beat themselves up when the trip to "x" isn't linear? I've seen this in business more times than I care to admit, in personal relationships, and even myself.

Thank you Zombie Marie Curie for the enlightenment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

JUST FOR FUN: Finding Gamera on the Beach

We were lucky enough to get away and enjoy a little sun and sand this weekend. Although most of these outings turn up some interesting sea creatures, it's the first time we've captured anything more exotic than a run of the mill clam or sea crab.

Pictured above is a sea turtle our son and his little friend found near a storm drain. For those of you old enough to remember, don't you think he bears a striking resemblance to a Japanese celebrity? :p

Check out these special effects (you may have to go directly to YouTube to view) ...




This post is part of a read-along hosted by Plaza Familia. Chapters 3 and 4 will be discussed the week of June 11 and readers may post their reactions to the book at a Linky provided on Thursday, 6/14 at their site.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz smoldered in my hands the first time I read it two summers ago. Literally. I'd never read anything like it and once I got over being embarrassed by some of the language, I was lost in another world. It's edgy and pushes the limits of decency, at times, with its sexual content. Also shocking to me was the sad but honest portrayal of the mother-daughter-relationship often experienced by Latinas. I believe that to fully appreciate the author's prose, the reader must have some basis in Latino culture and language, otherwise much of what is between the lines will be lost. It is a book written by someone who fully embraces his bicultural persona and is not afraid to surrender to the page. Without censorship. Without apologies.

The book opens with a discussion of the fukú, a curse believed to have been unleashed by Colonialism and how the dictator Trujillo, who in my opinion might as well have been the Antichrist, was the fleshly embodiment of this curse: a man who raped and pillaged his people and island. Worst for me was to learn that his dictatorship was backed by the U.S. How's that for a healthy dose of American reality, Pollyanna?

We meet Oscar, our protagonist, in Chapter 1. He's a Dominican nerd of epic proportions, living in Jersey, who's into science fiction, reading and writing. He's huge, wears glasses and is essentially a social outcast. No girl wants to have anything to do with him. At this point in the novel, the narrator is third-person and anonymous.

Chapter 2 is narrated in the first-person by Lola, Oscar's older sister, who is a strong and independent girl with a wild spirit. She's beautiful, thin, has long, straight black hair, is dark and intelligent. Her mother, a hard-working mujer, treats her cruelly and cuts her down every opportunity she has. What's beautiful about Lola is that she doesn't take it and although she could make "better" choices, more than anything, she has a will to survive.

I'm already into Chapter 3 and enjoying the rereading!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Kermit, You Drive Me Loca

The thing about "memories" is that you never know when one's going to come along and bite you in the butt. Especially when said bite comes from a frog named Kermit and the memories are of childhood vacations taken to Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is a coastal town dripping with Spanish influence situated a couple hours drive north of Los Angeles. It boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California, dubbed the American Riveriera, a pier and long windy boardwalk, the same boardwalk on which my sisters and I roller-skated and found a flawless Kermit doll, lounging on his side, as if waiting for us.

I look back on these vacations, now, with mixed feelings, due to learning in my early twenties that our father had a secret family living there and that I have four half brothers.

My green hero would become in later years a symbol of family secrets, sibling rivalry and wanting to grow up too-fast. This, here, is a picture I stumbled across on Pinterest this week. I love it for its casual irreverence. It pokes fun at this symbol that has stayed with me these last 30+ years.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MIERCOLES MUDO: Heaven and Hell

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vroom ... Vroom ... There Goes the Sushi!

Wasabi Modern Japanese Cuisine at the Natick Collection, Natick MA

Well, well, well ... what do we have here? An unexpected treat! My trip to the Apple Store at the Natick Collection, today, turned up one of the coolest experiences I've had at the mall in a long time. Then, again, I couldn't tell you the last time I went to the mall, since these trips are usually reserved for iMac cords or Genius Bar visits.

Take a close look at this photo. Can you guess what this beautiful crab stick and avocado sushi plate is doing?

Zooming by! Sushi on a conveyor belt. :D

It's moving on a conveyor belt! Around the perimeter of the entire restaurant and within arm's length of the diners. I almost died as I stood there watching one of my favorite foods go round and round and was seriously bumming that I'd already had lunch.

The sushi called, nonetheless, and a "Big Kid's Bento Box" (I'm a sucker for mega-cute) made it into this big girl's bag.  Here are two samples that were sitting on the hostess' counter.

Wasabi "Big Kid's Bento Box" at the Natick Collection

I learned that the sushi is "radio-controlled." Each one of those little orange platforms on which the sushi sits has some kind of radio-frequency ID chip that lets the sushi chef know what's traveling and what needs to be replaced. Can you say, "Smart"? Yes, I'm a nerd.

Here's the dine-in menu:

Wasabi dine-in sushi menu.

The color rings correspond to the sushi plates and help diners tally up their ticket. :-) And this is the kid's menu that I ordered from:

Wasabi kid's menu
The options couldn't be more adorable. Hello -- a peanut butter and jelly roll. And this is my "Big Kid's Bento Box" unveiled at home. Wasn't expecting it to have two compartments. The white rice was a nice surprise and the spicy tuna roll was super-spicy. 

I don't usually post about these kinds of things, but this was just too fresh of an idea not to write about. The entire experience made me smile.

Have you ever seen food traveling on a conveyor belt? If so, was it sushi?  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Feeling Grateful This Friday

Today I've been asked to write about gratitude.

Where does one start, or stop, giving praise when there is so much to be grateful for?
When the mere act of being able to write these words fills me with thanks?
Gratitude is a sentiment that makes my heart swell when I gaze into my young son's eyes.
Gratitude is the place I want to be every minute of every day that God blesses me with life.
Gratitude is the food I eat when I yearn for something more.

I am grateful for ...

... the life-giving air that I breathe

... a family to love and who loves me

... having raised a son with a strong sense of self

... words left unsaid but not unwritten

... prayers answered in the darkest of times

... books, books, books -- my road to salvation

... health without which nothing else would matter

... a circle of friends more akin to sisters

... a curious mind some might call strange

... having the freedom to choose which path to take.

It is for these things, above all others, that I am grateful.

What fills you with gratitude?

Mi amiga, Bella Vida by Letty is hosting THE THINGS YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR LINKUP. Hop on over and share your gratitude. Thank you for reading and Happy Friday! :-)