Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TRIUMPH: 4 Hours 30 Minutes and 10 Seconds Later: ING NYC Marathon

I didn't really think I'd actually get to participate in this year's ING New York City Marathon since I didn't meet any of the qualifications (below), leaving the lottery as my only chance to participate.

1) Qualifying time standards (previous marathon time 3:23) -- um yeah, not me that's for sure!
2) Completed at least 9 NYRR-scored races during 2008 calendar year.
3) Completed 15 or more NYC Marathons
4) Charity Entry - not sure if I could raise $2,500

To be honest, I've never been a HUGE fan of running. In fact, I've always used my moderate case of flat feet as an excuse to avoid the treadmills at the gym.

(Un)fortunately for me, I met two fascinating women, Molly and Katie, during a Christmas party in '07 who were both so Gung-ho about running that they spent the entire evening convincing me to join their running group, The Reservoir Dogs. A month later, I decided to suck it up and join the group and willingly entered the lottery for a chance to run 26.2 miles. Was I truly mad? Not really. I figured my chances of winning a random drawing were pretty much zero to none.

Looks like I was WRONG! On June 5th, I received text messages from my running mates congratulating me on winning the lottery. I knew I was supposed to be ecstatic, but I think I was more terrified at that moment. Five months to get myself in shape to run through the five boroughs of New York City!!!

On November 2nd, the day had finally come. It was unbelievably cold on Staten Island. The runners huddled in circles with chattering teeth and bodies stiff as a board from the cold winds.

For me, the most sensational experience wasn't finishing the race at the end, but the overwhelming positive feeling I got after hearing the cheers and applaud from millions of New Yorkers who came out to motivate and support the runners that day. As we all know, New York isn't known for having the friendliest people, but marathon Sunday is definitely the exception.

As I approached the Queensborough Bridge, all I could hear were the sounds of footsteps from runners passing me. My pace was at its slowest, my body and mind were filled with exhaustion. No more crowds - no more cheers. Just me and the other runners struggling to get across this bridge. Just when I wanted to stop and start walking, there they were again. I could hear the cheers from half a mile away, which ignited something in me to continue at full speed! It was a magical moment - this is when my I got my second wind. I ran down First Ave like I was running over water.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends, colleagues, running team, and the people of New York. And of course, a special thanks to the man who dragged himself out of bed when it was still dark out on a SUNDAY to see me off at the Staten Island ferry, and followed me throughout the entire course from start to finish. Thanks for being a trooper Nicholas!!! XOXO

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Selling on Craigslist - SCAMMERS OUTED

Oddly enough, only weeks after my post about how my younger brother was scammed out of $3,000 on Craigslist, I received two responses from scam artists after posting a few items for sale on Craiglist. I've listed things to look for (below) along with the email message they sent me.

Message received from "chris marcus":

Thanks for the prompt response and i will like you to withdraw the advert from Craigslist,i don't mind adding an extra $20dolls for you to take the advert down from craigslist so that i can be rest assured that am in hand of the item.I don't have time to come take a look. I will be paying via cashier's check,and it will be over night payment .You don't need to bother your self with the shipment Ok,i will take care of that.So i will need you to provide me with the following information to facilitate the mailing of the check.
1.Your full name
2.Your mailing address be it residential or postal address
3.Your phone number.
i will have my mover come over as soon as you have the check
Have a great day
I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you again

Message received from "John Deng":

Thanks for your prompt responds, However, i will need your name and
address for payment,As am only able to make payment by money order at
this time b/c i am away on assignment. It will be nice if you can send
me more pictures. It will take about 7days for payment to get to you.
As per pick-up, I will make arrangement for the pick-up after payment
has been received by you. I don't mind adding thirty dollars so you
can keep it in my favor.Please take the posting off Craigslist today
and consider it sold to me, Include your phone number.
Expecting to hear from you soon.
John Deng.

I have already reported these incidents to Craiglist, but unfortunately there is no barrier to entry for these con artists to create email accounts, which means they can and will create an infinite number of email accounts.

Both respondents (scam artists) had gmail accounts with a first and last name followed with a number:

example: or

Five things to look out for in the body of the email:

1) Of course the deceiver won't be able to meet you in person (they'll make up some excuse), so they'll suggest sending you a cashier's check or money order. They guarantee that they won't pickup the item until you have received the check.

2) The swindler will pretend to be interested and either ask you to send more images or inquire about the condition of the item.

3) Usually, they scam artist will offer additional $$ for you to keep it for them, which is BS because they aren't interested in the item at all. They just want to make you think they really want it.

4) The scammer will ask you to remove the advertisement from Craigslist. Doing this will delete the posting from Craigslist, which makes it difficult to for the online community to track nthe incident futher.

5) Last, but not least, the con artist will request for your full name, mailing address and phone number to send you the payment.

BEWARE: If you receive a response with these indicators, you have become a target! You should either report it or block them from contacting you.

The idea is that they will send you the money order or cashier's check in an amount larger than promised. They'll claim they made a mistake and ask that you cash the money order at your bank and return the outstanding amount via wire service. The scammer will insist that you keep an extra $100 for the inconvenience. You will find out a day later that the money order was not valid and your bank pulled the funds from your account. By this time, you would have already wired the money to them and voilĂ ! --- You've just become the umpteenth victim!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Twitter Addiction

I've been micro-blogging on Twitter for a few months and love it! Like most people new to Twitter, I didn't know what to do after setting up my profile. I started following social media evangelists and people in the travel industry, and pretty much kept a low profile while observing the Twittersphere.

To personalize my Twitterspace, I changed my background, included a link to my blog, and uploaded a photo of myself. I posted articles that I found interesting and included a personal tweet about what I was doing (keeping in mind NOT to overdo the personal tweets). Twitter-ers started to "follow me" and I quickly became hooked.

Why are these people following me? Who are they? Who else are they following?
Once I started to receive direct message from random followers regarding my posts, the Twitter addiction began! I opted for my cell phone to receive direct tweets and set up my cell phone to post updates in real-time. By doing this, I was able to post updates via text while I was out and about. After a few weeks, I started to understand why people tweet.

For me, it's a nice place to "hang out" with people who share similar interests. When I say "nice," I mean user-friendly and non-threatening because some online communities are intimidating, e.g. SecondLife. With Twitter, I get the feeling that we are all on the same boat. We share a fascination with social media and enjoy developing online relationships.

Twitter has helped me on a professional and personal level. Twitter-ers have responded to my questions regarding wikipedia entries, interns, road trip advice, rental car companies, and much more!

I find that early adopters genuinely want to help others by providing valuable information, but I've started to notice a lot of messages from marketers --- it was good while it lasted I suppose.

All in all, I'd say my Twitter experience has been only positive (thus far that is). If you are thinking about joining, what are you waiting for? (uh-hum - this means you Melissa)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My LOVE-HATE Relationship with Craigslist

I first discovered during my job search after college. Around this time, Craigslist was only available in 14 U.S. cities. The site was still in its infancy, but I knew that it would expand exponentially with a blink of an eye. The network of online communities was the perfect venue for FREE online classified ads.

It didn't take much to make me an instant Craigslist ambassador! I continued to share the Web site to my friends, family, colleagues, and even perfect strangers that I thought could benefit from learning about such a wonderful online community. The simplicity and ease of navigation appealed to me. I conducted job searches on Monster, CareerBuilder, local newspapers and readers (something I would NEVER even think of doing today), visited career centers, and blindly applied on company Web sites. What was I thinking? Believe it or not, I found my FIRST job out of college from Craigslist, a central network of online communities! Welcome to Web 2.0!

Ever since then, I've used Craigslist to hire transcribers and freelance writers, sell and buy furniture, and find roommates and apartments.

Unfortunately, my experiences have not always been positive. Introducing my youngest brother to Craigslist resulted in him being scammed out of $3,000. It was devastating to witness my brother lose his hard earned money to an online predator preying on naive kids that were simply too trustworthy.

Here's the skinny: My brother wanted to sell his Playstation for $300 to save money for a trip. The buyer "mistakenly" sent him a money order in the amount of $3,300, and told him he could cash the money order at his bank (Union Bank). Once my brother received the $3,000 from his bank, he sent the remaining amount ($3,000) via Western Union. I know, I know, most of you are thinking...what an idiot!!! Hey, what can I say? People fall for these scams ALL THE TIME. Learn more about scams on Craigslist here. Scam artists are relentless and come up with new, innovative ways to take advantage of innocent consumers. Don't be their next victim!

So if you decide to use Craigslist and you receive an email that mentions a money wiring service, don't even think twice - DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!

Rule of thumb: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

I LOVE the Internet and can't imagine my life without it! However, we have to remember that the Internet also leaves the door wide open for con artists and bad guys to commit fraud. Check out this site for more information on how people have been scammed on the Internet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech

Barack Obama's Speech in full (Tuesday, November 4th, 2008) - provided by

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.