A morose scrapbook

Putting all the various links I keep digging back to reference in one place…


The video Matt put together on our first walk around town that makes me cry every time I watch it…

From matthewgunn.com/blog


NYT – A Survey of the Flooding in N.Y.C. After the Hurricane


WNYC Flooding & Flood Zones – How Sandy flooded the NY & NJ coastlines, with storm-surge predictions by hurricane size. Sandy was downgraded from Category 1 before landfall


NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach


MTA Rebuilding the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy


NYT – A Much Criticized Pocket of the Rockaways, Built to Survive a Storm


Daily News – The Rockaways, on solid ground

It is about more than electricity

I was thinking today about where bitterness comes from and how to make it go away. Again, I am one of the lucky VERY FEW to have not been flooded on my whole peninsula of over 100,000 people. I am appreciative, my tears have been for family and friends in terrible situations. You'd think I'd be skipping through daisies and smiling the rest of the time, and I probably should be. And yet, I do have moments of anger, and when you are "in it", there are so many emotions, it can be hard to keep up with them. Maybe some of my petty-er malcontent is misplaced, but when I really thought about it, it points in a very specific direction – at companies who provide services that I pay for, that I feel are not providing their end of that smple business relationship.  


And then I roll my eyes at myself, slap my inner self around a little bit and lecture myself about first world problems. But, beyond having to do without some creature comforts, learning to live more simply and realizing just how spoiled I am…I think there is a small and probably obvious lesson to be learned here for brands. And because some of the bigger emotions I'm not quite ready to tackle, I can only seem to start here. Let me explain.  


I realize that getting my electricity on will take time, that it is complicated and in an effort not to cause fires or more devastation… the linemen of national grid and LIPA are working their asses off and people are away from their families, from all over the country working, and that is not a small thing that needs to be acknowledged..  My beef with them is communication. Auto dial us with updates, provide timelines or something, anything. I don't want this to be about LIPA because enough is being said and scandals uncovered in the media, and since I really have no choice with who provides me power – I am going to move on and try to explain what I'm thinking in regards to other companies. (I'm also writing on my iPhone and it is tedious, I could fill volumes with the follies of our dealings the past week, it has been bafflingly epic).  


My renter's insurance is through Liberty Mutual. And while I probably could have read all the fine print and known specifically what I am NOT covered for, I pay for relocation if my apartment is uninhabitable. And, while I had no flood damage, I have not had heat. I know, I have seen many sleeping on parked city buses because they have no home at all. When I go there in my head I think I shouldn't say anything at all, and maybe I have no right for this rant. But, I guess I need to get it out, so I don't forget. It has been warmer, but last week was brutal at times. I also could not reasonably commute to and from work, the subway bridge out to where I live was destroyed, buses stopped running at sundown. And without electricity, I couldn't work from home. Then add a gas shortage and driving was not a reasonable alternative. Apparently though Mayor Bloomberg seemed to evacuate us on live TV the day of the storm, no evacuation order at any time was reported to my insurance company. Fires were cropping up with exposed gas lines and my house is surrounded by sinkholes. Maybe I should be angry with NYC. But, in common sense terms, I would have thought that enough conditions were wrong that my dwelling was not habitable. Not to mention seeing questionable hazards all around me – neighbors keeping their houses warm with exposed range top fires, freestanding fireplaces being delivered, and fumes from generators from every direction. I didn't even get that far in explaining to the rep assigned to my case. It was as if he has no idea a hurricane happened or that my address was now in a disaster zone with FEMA, the Red Cross, and countless other relief agencies you never think you'll be seeing in your neighborhood. He was not remotely compassionate when I first called not knowing if I even had a structure to return to. Fine, not everyone has a good bedside manner, or whatever term you would use for a good insurance adjuster…but, a week after this all started, I saw that Allstate has a team here. They are in my neighborhood in our time of need, providing telephones for anyone who needs them and on site to help their customers. I would even pay a decent amount more, just to know they cared enough to send people, in person to actually be here for their customers. And in the end, I don't want to not be here, I just thought I was paying for the option if I couldn't be, and I probably shouldn't have been until recent days. They might also come up empty with coverage to get me out of here when I wanted to be, but still, you better believe I will be calling Allstate and switching my service just as soon as I can.  


On the flip side, Geico insures my car. They were the only company I could find to insure me when I hadn't owned a car for several years. They are also here. They are providing water in areas that need it, they are visible and available for questions, in person. Their assessment marks were visible on the endless fields of flooded cars just days after the storm, before FEMA or the Red Cross arrived. They have sent emails offering to defer payments, they have sent information to make filing a claim easier, they are advertising human words of encouragement on the radio, which for many of us is our most reliable broadcast media. Yes, I could probably find a better rate now that I have insurance. But I am happy to be their customer, Moreover I am proud of the work I see them doing. I see their reps on the side of the road and feel like I'm passing a comrade, not some random person from my insurance company.  


And then there is Time Warner Cable. I have to say, from the day I moved they were a disaster, so I am biased. But, I have a choice. And I see Verizon here. trucks everywhere.  I pay more for their service than I will for Fios, so surely they can spare something, maybe auto dialed updates or emails for starters or even mobile internet if i really were to push my luck. Instead they can't give me an estimate for when I will have service, even a broad range after my electricity comes back on…but it's been two weeks and nothing.  


These are just a few examples., and I know I am leaving so many others out I almost feel unfair naming names and not including everyone who is here, sharing our heartbreak, seeing the amazing good in people, and doing something.  


There are food trucks I recognize from the city, we have virtually no dining options out here right now, so being able to grab a bite while walking around numb seeing your home town flooded and torn to shreds is comforting. And I dare not get on most of those lines because I know they are providing food for free, for people who need it more than I do. I take note of them and I will be standing in their lines at a later date, patronizing them because they were here. I know Home Depot and REI are donating cleaning materials and coordinating volunteer efforts. Not because they are flaunting it, because I see the notes of thanks from people on Facebook and Twitter.  


There are things you balk at when shit first goes down and then become regular over time. Shoddy cell phone service, living in the dark, snuggling hot water bottles at night, the only local grocery store being open the hours you are at work, the dampness from boiling water to keep warm ruining my stuff that was spared any flooding. A devastating storm flooded the entire peninsula I live on, and so many towns up and down the coast – nothing like this has happened here before. I know getting the basics back won't happen quickly. I have amazing friends and family who have offered an out, places to stay, generous offers that make me wonder if I am bordering on some sort of Stockholm syndrome, but my home is here, for better or worse.  


I can live without all these things because I know it is a lot worse out here for so many. I can flush my toilet, I don't have to walk down 10 or 20 flights of stairs to get out of my home, I am not sick and unable to get needed medication, my car was not here when everything went underwater, my home didn't flood, it didn't burn down…just to name a few.  And that's just NY and NJ, just this one thing.  More on this part later when I have a chance to really process and understand how this has changed me in what feels like a very fundamental way. Or maybe I'm totally full or shit, another reason I had to to document what this feels like, right now, so I don't forget.  


So just as I'm learning a different sort of lessons, there are lessons to be learned for companies with paying customers.  Time ranges are a must, it is scary to be in the dark with little communication. Your customers can't continue to pay you if they can't work.  If you can't restore services or let someone know when they can get back to work, you jeopardize that whole circle. I realize I am also very fortunate that I work for a company that has been unbelievably flexible and understanding. But, at the end of the day, just as my eyes have been opened to the suffering around me, I will resume being a consumer again one of these days…and I will be a lot happier working with companies who showed up, who made themselves visible, the ones who keep sending emails, who made my life and those around me just a little easier.  It seems so simple in such a complicated situation, I really can't say more at this moment… because I still don't really know where to start and my phone is about to run out of battery.



Update: It appears that Time Warner and Liberty Mutual are helping, I was incorrect in my assumption that just because I couldn't see them, that they aren't there.  – gothamist.com/2012/11/12/big_business_like_twc_now_funding_s.php


Also, heard from my Godmother in Florida that Allstate has an abysmal record there, something to consider and investigate before I switch insurance companies


9-11 WTC Memorial 8th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony

9-11 WTC Memorial Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony



In 2008 I attended the 7th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony for the first time.  As I've found words are often an insufficient medium to articulate both the personal experience of September 11th, life after;  the same goes for this annual ceremony on Pier 40.  Among a crowd of strangers, of many cultures and faiths, I am grateful for the personal comfort I have found in attending this memorial the past two years.  Out of respect for the event, the speakers, those in attendance, and you…I wanted to share the audio of the ceremony, without my own commentary. in the hope that those unable to attend in person may benefit from hearing it.


*Shinji Harada, Eriko Fukui , and the Japanese American Association of New York Chorus with Reono Ito, Conductor, performed beautiful musical tributes. My apologies for having to edit those segments down to short snippets, but unless audio or video clips appear online (and I can get permission to post them), the only justice I could do to these gorgeous moments was to remove them and try my best not to remove their context entirely.  I borrowed a small audio device to record and didn't know how to use it properly.  I will insert video clips if/when they appear online.  Aside from that I, editing was kept to a minimum. 

9-11 WTC Memorial 8th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony

Sponsored by the New York Buddhist Church
Partner with Interfaith Center of New York
Supported by NY de Volunteers and New York Kayak Company
Supported by Buddhist Council of New York, United States
New York Disaster Interfaith Services
LIC Community Boathouse
and NYC Downtown Boathouse

Delicious and generous feast provided and served by the UNITED SIKHS


Sincere and humble thanks (and hugs) to all the volunteers and organizations who participate and make this event as perfect as they do, I appreciate every moment of what they have done to commemorate a tragedy I wish we didn't need to.  Please donate to them when you can.

Podcamp NY 2.0


I’ve been slow to write my thoughts on PodCamp NY & Boston. Today I was reminded why my perspective keeps changing. These two conferences continue to affect my life in unexpected and random ways.


It was slow going on the A train this morning heading from Brooklyn to Manhattan for work.  I had a 9am teleconference which could not be delayed or missed.  I found myself underground on the subway with the conductor explaining that someone had pulled the emergency brake on another train and caused it to basically fall apart on the tracks ahead.  As a result – it was going to be awhile.  The train crept toward the East River and I decided I needed to get out while still in Brooklyn to take the call on the road.  I got out at Jay Street, knowing exactly where I could find some quiet.  The site of PodCamp NY, in April was at Brooklyn Polytechnic University and I rushed toward the same exit which brought me to the “un”conference in order to cross the familiar campus and seek quiet in the Marriot across the street.  The conference call was a success and no one knew I hadn’t yet made it to the office.


I found myself walking with a goofy smile and fond memories of the two days I spent at Polytechnic and generally thinking on the past few months.  At the time, I knew that something had “changed,” but I’ve been trying to fully understand all of it since.  It’s both complicated and totally simple.


The story leading up to PodCamp is a long one.  I suppose the easiest place to start is with a podcast I started in June of 2006.  I’d long been a listener of podcasts and wondered if I were to start one – what I could possibly have to talk about.  I had a lot to talk about, but didn’t know where to start – my personal life was in a ruins of my own making and I was in unfamiliar despair and tired of my own self-pity.  My original intent was to spare my loved ones from my pain and just put it somewhere, and maybe find the motivation to continue forward.  I wondered if anyone would listen and thought that if I saw 7 downloads I could somehow feel as though I got it off my proverbial chest.  I suppose I needed a public record to relive my personal burden which though I found selfish I also found I really enjoyed talking to myself.  I talked about heartbreak, I babbled about starting over, I looked for a job and I was buried in what it meant to me to have to live with my parents at 28 years old.  It was a learning experience to sort it out aloud with only the opinions and advice of strangers with far less context of who I was (and who I felt I was before what was the most gorgeous experience of my life and prior to that).


Many (many) hours of that story is told here.


And so I met Dana, aka WankerGirl.  We became fast friends and I found myself making and in the midst of one of the most magical relationships of my life.  I learned that as an adult you can still meet people and want to know them like when you make friends as a child.  The fact that in my current state I was even capable of doing so gave me hope for all things that were important to me (and some I didn’t even know were).  I could go on at great length about this too, but that is also documented in audio and video all over the place.  I learned to celebrate and care and I began to truly love my life again.


Since we both podcasted and had even started a co-“show”, and since Dana was visiting NY every few months, attending PodCamp in my own borough was a no-brainer.


However, there was a big part of me that was terrified.  I had tried very hard to stay anonymous, even considering “Anonna Mouse” as a moniker before settling on “Miss Something” as I did.  I was reminded at every turn…when registering, when excitedly telling friends and family I was going, when announcing it on our podcast… Nicole, in person, would be talking about and being Miss Something, and vice versa.  Because I never created a character it should have been seamless… I found it harder.  I never thought about personal and public identity the way I did leading up to the end of April and certainly a year before I never imagined it would even have been a consideration.


Dana arrived in Brooklyn from New Foundland, Canada a week before PodCamp.  It was only our second visit where logistics were of no concern…I finally lived on my own again and I made my common mistake of not taking enough time off work.  We spent time with other friends, gallivanting around the city and doing what Dana and I do when we get to sit next to one another…we talked and talked and talked.  And we drank wine and we were merry.  It was about 4 days before the first session that we had a conversation with another mutual friend Dan, (@creepysleepy) and tossed around the idea of presenting a session.  I’d considered it in the growing part of my brain that was still getting my bearings on real (sustaining) self confidence again.


Again, I must give some context on Nicole/Miss Something in April of 2008.  I am not shy, yet I am painfully shy.  I “present” all the time at work, but it almost has to be disguised as something else. If you ask or require me to stand up before a group of people where preparation is expected, the nerves kick in, and I run the risk of choking.  I’d found my track record to be a crap-shoot based on lunar charts and who knows what else…and so I found it better to be safe than sorry.  Always easier not to “try;" I always wanted/needed an “out”.  I didn’t have an aim with my podcast and so I was able to put myself out there.  But, to put my name on a schedule (OMG what name do I even use?) and purport to have something valuable to say?  The desire to use quotations overwhelms me, but I think you get the point.


I was drawn to do it.  I wanted to do it.  I knew in my heart that my story of meeting my best friend is special and I enjoy sharing it and so I focused on that. This wasn’t just about me, it was about us and wasn’t without endless laughter and unforgettable conversation.  Over Jamaican food in Prospect Heights we started to draft notes.  The next three days we were a virtual graphics crack-team until deteriorating near sunrise – poetry and playing show and tell with my favorite books and historical objects with my favorite person in the word.  We were going to a small little grass roots conference and yet I was going to battle with some serious personal demons with my best friend at my side.


Since we were burning candlelight leading up to podcamp, we started the first day as slackers, arriving just before lunch.  We took the A train to Jay Street.  We registered.  We went to the bathroom and as with all the little time-markers we make when she visits, we were excited that this one was beginning.  This was beyond meeting friends of friends, we were throwing ourselves into a pool of strangers.  Though Dana was the one furthest from her zipcode – she had a number of people she knew online that she set out to meet at PodCamp.


They met…in a flurry of camera shutters and video shudders.  I stood back exhausted and totally thrown off.  Of course everyone wants to meet WankerGirl, she’s gorgeous, awesome, and fearless and there I was…wondering what on earth I could do to avoid awkward situations and strained conversation with strangers.  PodCamp was starting with the two of us trailing some people she knew, and me questioning why we were following them.


There was lunch.  There was laughter.  There were people who talked…a lot…just like us.  There was video.  If you have only recently met me, you can see just how overwhelmed and self-conscious I was here. There were sessions, there was more talking, there was a lost seesmic video of me in a chemical closet, there was drinking, there was one of the most intense exchanges with the phenomenal Jeff Deskovic, there was dinner, and then more time with a group of folks I’d only met that afternoon…and I’d begun to loosen up.  I had fun, I forged new connections and my tired brain was on fire… and I liked it.



Our “Relationships 2.0” discussion was on Day 2.  All those amazing faces I met the day before came and supported us, adding to the conversation and otherwise making it something I was so rewarded and honored to share.  We wondered if anyone would come or leave quickly and I was humbled to find that we had a roomful of people who came and stayed.  It was fun and barely a “big deal” at all.  It was one of the many impactful memories I have from that weekend.


There was a short blissful nap for me between the closing session and heading back out to meet everyone for dinner.  I remember only dozing off for a few minutes and waking up with my cat, whom I’d only barely known for a few weeks, snuggling up to me like she never had before.  I hate to put forced meaning on things – on a weekend, an event, a place, a person, or a group of people – but I knew it was no small part of why I lay there beaming, realizing my own personal chaos was not only over – but that I was motivated and happy again, and I had been far longer than I realized or gave myself credit for.


Dana witnessed a peek as she came to wake me up to set back out and enjoy our last night with this amazing group of people that I could not wait to sit amongst and simply talk to.  I was surprisingly refreshed having had 4 hours or less sleep a night the preceding week.  I barely recall the conversations, nuances or the proof my cynical self didn’t need.  It felt like summer camp, college orientation and spending long nights with family around the kitchen table.  It was the reason people see me as a social person and nothing to do with why I’d come to think of myself as antisocial.


The weekend culminated with a 2am walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.


Or was it Ground Zero at 6am? Or brunch at noon the next day? Or going on seesmic without abandon nearly immediately?


Or everyday since…


I suppose this is less about PodCamp and more about what went on in my brain leading up to it and during.  I found myself open-hearted and awed by everyone I met.  I realized that what made this group so special is that they are communicators.  We challenged each other socially and intellectually.  There is a sincere sense of support and motivation in this community that inspires me.  It is truly wonderful stuff that can be hard to explain without bordering on the cheese. And as I begin to sort through the fun that was Boston…it starts with just being so grateful for everyone I met at PodCamp NY. Thank you for being amazing.