Schrödinger's Goat

A few weeks ago, Nigel Savage started blogging (and talking) about shechting a goat at the Hazon Food Conference in December, as I previously reported. This created a series of conversations inside Hazon's offices, within the Hazon community, and way beyond.

The seed of this came from last year's food conference, as reported by Nigel:

On the Friday night of last year’s Hazon Food Conference I said, “put your hands up if you eat meat - but would not do so if you had to kill it yourself.” And a good number of hands went up.

Then I said: “put your hands up if you’re vegetarian - but you would eat meat if you killed it yourself.” And a different group of hands went up. And after a brief pause, everyone laughed.

As Nigel and I talked about this we both were very clear that, although it matters to the goat (or goats), the outcome of this discussion was less important than the conversation itself. Nigel put it wonderfully to me by saying, in so many words: "It has taken us several years to get the Jewish community to focus any degree of thought on how green vegetables arrive on our plates; no wonder it is another major effort to get us all thinking about the same process for meat."

I was reminded then, and Nigel since quoted me, of Schrödinger's Cat. This cat is the subject of a famous thought experiment about the interplay between our own view of the world and the probabilistic nature of the quantum-scale world (atoms and smaller). For some period the cat is itself both alive and dead, because its fate is interlinked with an atom that both has and has not undergone radioactive decay (which, believe it or not, makes sense in the quantum world).

As the conversation continues within and without the Hazon world, this goat's fate hangs in the balance (in this case between dying sooner or waiting for the food conference and dying later). It is probably more both alive and dead than most cats will ever be.

Hub on Wheels

I rode 25 miles with Hannah this morning ... we did Hub on Wheels, the Boston City bike ride supporting the The Boston Digital Bridge Foundation (technology for underserved schools).

The ride was fabulous - starting off with a couple of miles on a closed off Storrow Drive, and taking us round many neighborhoods, parks and byways. Highlights: Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, Forest Hills Cemetery, Harborside bike path, JFK Library, Carson Beach and just riding in Boston, with my favorite 14 year old, on a beautiful fall day. What a treat.

We both felt nostalgia for the Hazon ride of only three weeks ago ... mainly because the community atmosphere built up over the shabbaton was much more intense there. However, riding in Boston with 5,000 other riders was just great. We look forward to doing it again in future years.

VC:VC Ever heard of a dot org crash?

"Ever heard of a .org [pronounced dot org] crash?" That's the question being asked, in its new advertising campaign, by TIAA-CREF, a financial services firm who caters to educators and others in non-profit organizations.

They are playing on the now famous dot com crash. The most common last three letters of internet or web addresses (in the US) are com for commercial entities, net for network providers and org for non-profit organizations. The dot com crash is the shorthand for the unravelling of the internet boom (or the pricking of the internet bubble).

The term dot com refers to the young internet startups, not all the large firms with their websites. Similarly dot org might be represented by Hazon and many other small new non-profits founded by social entrepreneurs, looking for new ways of connecting people and causes.

A dot org crash would be the systemic failure of a group of such organizations because of some common underlying problem with unsustainable growth. This is where the two meet - many new non-profits were started during and after the dot com bubble. These were funded by the dot com rich - mostly young and entrepreneurial, but also possibly fickle and also possibly only temporarily rich. Many dot com fortunes rose and fell with the stock market and did not leave lasting impressions on entrepreneurs' bank balances. Perhaps we will see a dot org crash as these family foundations and pet-projects-turned-new-non-profits run into problems as the founders' interest or bank balance diminish. Perhaps there is a similar phenomenon with celebrity foundations... some celebrities are not known for long attention spans (and, yes, I know many do great work: Oprah, Jerry Lewis' telethon etc etc).

Commentators took great relish at criticising Bill Gates for years: "so rich, and yet he doesn't contribute anything to charity!" Now of course, their criticisms are seen to be premature and unfounded. I am glad he waited and worked deliberately on his philanthropy which seems as solid and well-grounded as any such effort ever seen. Otherwise he may well have fuelled a dot org bubble and when his interest faded, caused a dot org crash.

I see no immediate signs of irrational exuberence in the dot org world - a sure precursor to a dot org crash - but the thought-provoking question "ever heard of a dot org crash?" should be on all of our minds when we look at new charities asking for our support.

Solo 40

As you know from yesterday's posting, my good friend Guy rode a century yesterday - mostly in the pouring rain - and so I did not have my regular Sunday morning ride partner today.

Thus, I took off this morning to do my 40 mile loop through Weston, Lincoln, Concord and Sudbury on my own for the first time. As I feared, I got to a couple of intersections and was completely blank as to which way to go. I actually called friends who knew the route so they could keep me on track. Mark Leiter commented rightly that you only "get" a route when you are lead rider (on a bike) or the driver (in a car). Being a passenger or a follower is fun, but you just don't learn the route.

The morning was cool - around 52 - when I started, and only got into the 60's by the time I was done at the end of the morning. However, the sun was out and it was beautiful riding weather. I had a marvellous time. I could not help thinking how much I owe Hazon, and it's founder Nigel Savage, for getting me on a bike. This has been a wonderful addition to my life both in terms of well-being and as an avenue for friendships with other riders.

This is the time of year in the Jewish calendar for reflecting, for returning to our best selves. Last year I commented on the cycles of the year and the word play it invites for a venture cyclist. This year I am proud that being my best self includes many things (husband, father, son, brother, friend, Newtonite, Americanizing-Brit, Jew, venture capitalist, non-profit board member) and now includes being a cyclist.

A baker's century

A baker's dozen is 13. Apparently, in years gone by, the punishments were harsh for bakers whose weights and measures were in any way disadvantageous to the buying public. To avoid such a fate, the bakers would give 13 items to someone who ordered a dozen, ensuring the total weight was well over the advertised amount.

Thus, I can congratulate Guy Sapirstein, my regular Sunday morning ride partner, who today completed a baker's century - 110 miles - from Boston (well, Revere) to Portland (Maine). The weather was pretty miserable for much of the day ("only the first 102 miles") with driving rain and wind. However this was Guy's first century ride (one more than me), and even with a spill on slick roads at 20 mph early in the day, he completed it at a pace of around 15 mph in good spirits.

Guy rode in the "Ride to Cure Parkinsons" and you can read more about it and sponsor him here.

Congratulations, Guy!

Food on Paper

Anyone who writes blog postings about Food (note the capital "F") has to say something about the New Yorker food issue.

Much as I would like to be a supercilious Brit and tell you how dull it all is, I have to say I enjoyed it (I still am, actually).

As a Jewish food commentator, I am positively obliged to call out the lovely article on Claudia Roden (covered in too many other places to make anything I can possibly say original).

However, if you want a short, fun read please enjoy "Choke" by Anthony Lane. The issue has a series of these short articles about memorable meals by a variety of writers. This one is great.

One day at a time

If you live in America long enough you get to know that "one day at a time" is a slogan used in twelve-step programs for battling addiction. (This is not something familiar to me from my youth in England, but perhaps it is the same there now.)

This time last week Hannah and I and 200 others had just started our Hazon NY Ride. We had experienced a wonderful Shabbat retreat and were embarking on a cool but beautiful morning on our fabulous adventure on wheels.

Pretty much the entire experience was a "high", and this week I have been whistful and sad that it is over. I feel a craving to recreate the same charge. I can understand how addictions start, because in a way I am addicted to the feelings the ride engenders. Like any such experience, the aftermath is a let down. A friend commented that my posting about this year's ride was something I had been building up to all year, and now it was done what else am I going to write about. The bigger question is, what is going to keep me on my bike?

This morning I am looking forward to my "regular" 40 mile ride with Guy Sapirstein, who is training for a century ride in a couple of weeks. And, this year I hope to stay more fit over the winter (instead of "letting go" as I did, more or less, last year).

All in all, my strategy is to take it one day at a time.

Food for bikes redux

I have written before about my favorite energy bars for cycling. I thought I would share here another great training tip from Hue Rhodes who is an outstanding leader in the Hazon NY Ride executive committee with deep previous cycling experience. I love Hue's comment about "Hazon's general dietary recommendation", referring (I assume) to the generally negative press processed foods and sugars get on Hazon's jCarrot blog.

I am not a dietitian. If you have special dietary restrictions, ESPECIALLY related to sugar, don't listen to me. Talk to your doctor.

I'm going to make the case for eating more carbs before and during a long ride. Not hiking food, or backpacking food - riding food, which is high in carbs. The rule of thumb on a ride is "drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry." I'm posting some useful links below, but as a rule of thumb: Don't eat to the point of discomfort. We're talking normal portions.

Dinner the night before: whatever you have, add carbs - pasta, potatoes, etc. Breakfast the morning of: a bagel, a pancake or two, some oatmeal or a muffin, etc. On the ride: raisin bagels, leftover pancakes, fig newtons, energy bars. To drink: plenty of liquid (a bottle an hour), both water and sports energy drink.

Before I joined the Stanford team I'd never ridden a real bike, so on my first long rides I didn't eat well, and I bonked repeatedly. "Bonking" is when your body doesn't have enough fuel to feed your brain in real-time. Your brain starts shutting down - you get sleepy, light-headed, feint, etc. It's misery. Your body has two calorie-rich sources of fuel - fat and carbs. Fat has the most calories, but your body can't burn it fast enough to fuel your brain on fat alone. You need at least some carbs. On average, you have enough carbs in your body (without eating) to ride for 1.5 hours. Eat carbs the night before and you get a boost. Eat carbs for breakfast the morning of, you get more. Eat carbs during the ride, even better.

The theme is, easy-to-digest fuel. Breads, energy bars, fig newtons ... easy to digest. Course multi-grain bread, raw vegetables, nuts ... not so easy. Be kind to your body on a ride. Give it what it wants. It wants carbohydrates, believe me. What about fruit? Fructose needs to be absorbed through the blood, which takes longer than simple sugars which go through the stomach wall. So eating fruit makes your body wait for the fuel it wants. And fruit is high in fiber. Your body is stressed. It's pedaling a bike for hours at a time. If you force your body to choose between riding your bike and digesting fiber, it will abandon the digestive process. And you will be racing for the nearest bathroom in extreme discomfort.

What about protein? Protein takes a lot of energy and water to digest. Eat protein the night before (with your carbs) and grab some protein during lunch. But you could skip protein and eat pure carbs and you'd be fine. Eating pure protein and skipping carbs is a recipe for disaster.

If you find yourself bonking, and you can't pedal another minute, do what every cyclist does - eat a snickers and drink a Mountain Dew. I can't tell you how many times this year riders have gotten to the half-way point of a ride, and not had enough energy to get back. I have them eat some sugar and drink caffeine, and they recover miraculously. This isn't in keeping with Hazon's general dietary recommendation, but if your body is shutting down, you do what you need to do.

But Hue, you say, we're not racing. That makes eating even more important. Our bodies aren't used to long exertion like racers are, and we haven't trained ourselves to burn fat at higher heart rates. So we need carbs even more.

Here are those articles:
* Pre-ride meals
* Sugar

Wow 2.0

I have recently been playing with widgets. For example, I added a Hazon Bike Ride fundraising widget to the web version of my blog (note: this is temporary - if you are reading this after Oct 2007 it will not be there). Widgets are a manifestation of Web 2.0, of which I have posted previously.

Right now I am very pleased and grateful to my many friends who have contributed so generously to Hazon by sponsoring me - I am very close to $10,000 as I write, and still hope to break that. If that includes you, please accept my sincerest thanks! (If you want to help me get over $10,000 - click here.)

The widget graphics and data are pulled from the fundraising database (hosted by Kintera) automatically. This widget was added very easily just by copying/pasting a few lines of code that the Kintera website gave me onto my blog template. Neat huh!

I have also been playing with more Web 2.0 "toys" recently, especially Facebook. Facebook has been written about in many different places. If you are at all interested in Web 2.0 get an account and find some friends to link to ... the rest becomes easy. Another example, I have just now added a feed from this blog onto my Facebook page so that postings show up there as well.

There are a million other Web 2.0 toys that help mash things together from different places on the web. If I had the time, for example, I could display a map of the Hazon ride route right here on this page using Google Maps.

Widgets and Web 2.0 are definitely here to stay. The question now is how much more will their impact grow.

A Marvellous Ride

I've been talking about looking forward to the Hazon ride all year, and now I can report on a marvellous ride.

Early on Sunday morning... 6am... Hannah and I tried to eat a big breakfast before the start of the 2007 NY Jewish Environmental Bike Ride. It was cold and we were wearing cycling gear with added leggings and sleeves and very fashionable 2007 NY Ride cycling jackets (photo by Jon Drill). The dining room was an open sided tent at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat center, and that meant it was cold inside as well.

Unlike last year, however, it was a beautiful morning - the mist was rising from the pond, and the sun was peeking through the trees at the horizon line. Hannah again read the Traveller's Prayer (tefilat haderech) in English, and someone else read it in Hebrew. Then with a shofar blast off we went. It took an hour or two to warm up, and then it was a glorious, wonderful day. The weather really was perfect both days.

Unlike last year Hannah's bike behaved wonderfully and my bike was fine (after I replaced a flat inner tube late Saturday night before we even started). It was such a pleasure to ride with Hannah for both days ... we had a great deal of fun just chatting and riding. The route was very similar to last year and is through absolutely gorgeous scenery mostly on very quiet roads (photo by Marni Mandell). This year I rode up the 3 mile ascent with Nigel Savage - he chatted with me all the way up - and I made it all the way and able to chat right back. This was unlike last year when I did pretty poorly on the same stretch. I have been enjoying riding pretty strenuously with friends all spring and summer - and it clearly paid off: thanks Guy, Jason and all my other riding companions.

Day one ended well for almost everyone, although one dear friend fell when she tried to avoid a dead animal on the road and lost control of her bike. We were all pretty worried initially and she ended up with a broken bone (or two) in her left shoulder. She was in hospital overnight for observation but able to join in the closing celebrations at the end of the ride in Manhattan. The safety and incident plan, always meticulously prepared ahead of time, kicked in very well, and although a broken bone is very serious we were all glad it was not anything worse and that the system for taking care of an injured rider worked well.

This year the Hazon ride was more special because of the number friends who joined us. We had a bus full from Boston, including parents and children riding together from our shul (synagogue) and the kids' schools, as well as others who we met for the first time. On top of that we got to see old friends from LA with their wonderful five kids, as well as reconnecting with Hazon ride friends from last year.

The keynote lecture - always given on Friday evening at the shabbaton that precedes the ride itself - was given this year by my old friend Rabbi Mike Comins of TorahTrek. I met Mike in the 1980's and we shared an apartment in Jerusalem together around 20 years ago. He and I have stayed loosely in touch and it was wonderful to see him, meet his fiance Jody, and hear him speak so beautifully about his work. On Shabbat (Saturday) afternoon, I was also privileged to hear Nehemia Polen teach (he was also a rider with his wife and one of his daughters). He lives in Boston and teaches at Hebrew College, but this was my first opportunity to hear him and it was wonderful.

Day two of the ride was a little easier in some ways because we started with breakfast inside (and hence, warmer). It was certainly an easier route than last year. Most of the day was spent on the Westchester Rail Trail - a wonderful zero motor-traffic riding experience. However day two follows day one and so the physical exertion felt harder even though it was basically downhill most of the day. The end of the ride is down the Greenway in Riverside Park to the Boat Basin, and then a critical mass ride to the JCC at 76th and Amsterdam. Six miles from the end I got another flat, but good friend Hue Rhodes helped me out, and we made it in. It was a wonderful high for Hannah and I, with other friends, to ride in and see Dorit with Asher and Rina cheering us in.

The closing circle was held, as usual, on the roof of the JCC. Lots of participants shared how amazing they found the entire experience. For myself, well, I cycled 100+ miles over the two days, spent wonderful time with my daughter, many great friends, and a diverse community of Jews and non-Jews who really feel we can make a difference in the world. I also found that even a book-loving, desk-bound, computer geek can be fitter this year than last.