1. The sun will come out tomorrow. You’ve likely seen the photos, heard the reports and watched footage of Hurricane Sandy. There’s not much else I can share about the destruction and disruption of the past week that you don’t already know. From my little corner of Brooklyn, I can tell you that Monday night, when the storm really barreled into the area, was a long and scary night. After midnight twice I received reverse emergency phone text messages (if you’re not familiar, this is when the emergency service contacts you to warn of imminent danger) telling me: SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT GO OUTSIDE. I thought there was a tornado coming, so Reggie and I hid in the closet, the only place in my apartment without windows.
My neighborhood is set up on a natural hill so flooding wasn’t a major concern for us, unlike other areas of the borough which are still underwater. (A guy who lives in a converted warehouse in the Red Hook neighborhood told me that he’d pumped the water out of his basement using a borrowed generator only to find that a few hours later it had seeped back in.)
As I write this, my office, in the West Village of Manhattan, is still closed due to power outages and subway service is still suspended. We’ve been trying to work from home, but it’s not been efficient. Some co-workers still have spotty cell service; some still are without power completely; some have trees through the roofs of their homes.
All of this of course means absolutely nothing in comparison to people who lost all of their possessions. I am hoping my friend in coastal Connecticut is okay. Last I heard, she was a block away from the evacuation zone and six houses at the end of her street were engulfed by the ocean. In other cases, rescue teams are still getting people out of their flooded homes.
If you’d like to help people in need, go to the American Red Cross or text RED CROSS to # 90999 (if you’re in the U.S.) to make an instant $10 donation.
2. Frighteningly Ghoulish. On a happier note, just before the storm, my company held the annual Halloween party. (Some offices have Christmas parties, mine has a Halloween party.) People really go all out decorating their departments. They don’t just carve a couple of pumpkins and hang some lame streamers. Oh, no. Each group votes on a theme and then transforms their area into another world. Some stand-outs this year:
Day of the Dead — The Day of the Dead is a holiday in Mexico when people gather to honor friends and family members who have passed on…unless you’re in my company in which case your Day of the Dead celebration includes a saloon…
…and a ceremonial altar containing Cheerios and some kind of canned fruit. (We’re not known for being historically or culturally accurate.)
Mardi Gras. Who says you can’t mash up two holidays into one? I’m not going to be the one to tell them that they can’t serve hurricanes a la Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans (ironic, no?), make shave ice and hand out beads. Not me.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High. What does this have to do with Halloween? Absolutely nothing. Except that it’s a lot of fun. And sad. Because many of the people in my department weren’t alive when the movie came out in 1982. One guy said to me, “I don’t get it.” Of course you don’t, dude. You were born in 1990. Aloha, Mr. Hand.
The photo isn’t great here, but this is one of our conference rooms reconfigured to look like a high school gym at prom. There is the photo booth over there in the corner and the gym bleachers to the left. The screen to the right is showing the movie.
Gilligan’s Island. Quite possibly my favorite area of this year’s Halloween festivities. Island theme. Check. Fruity umbrella-type drinks. Check. Yummy snacks. Check.
This is some guy’s cube. Really.
How did you celebrate Halloween this year?
3. Paws up for progress. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores in the city. A lot of people aren’t aware that animals, particularly dogs, available for sale at pet stores actually come from puppy mills. (That is in the U.S. I’m not sure if this is as pervasive in other countries.) Puppy mills are large commercial breeding operations with hundreds, even thousands, of dogs. So while that puppy in the window is cute and cuddly, his parents live their lives in crates, often with little to no veterinary care, and kept constantly pregnant. Then when their breeding days are over, they are routinely killed, dropped off at shelters or sold at auctions for pennies — literally.
But back to the good news… Although they are not the first (27 other North American cities have enacted such legislation), Los Angeles is the first large U.S. city to ban the sale of pets from stores. Now other cities have expressed interest in following suit. It’s been a long, uphill battle, but I’m so happy to hear that some progress is being made to stop this practice. With 11,000 dogs and cats being killed in shelters every single day, this is certainly a step in the right direction.
4. Your bookshelf. I tend to take trends with a grain of salt (as evidenced by my fashion sense or lack thereof), but reading an article in Shelf Awareness recently got me thinking about the way in which we learn about new books. It wasn’t that long ago – just two or three years really – that I added books to my TBR pile primarily by browsing my local bookstore. (I could spend hours browsing in a bookstore!) Here’s what focus groups had to say:
Two years ago, 35% of book purchases were made because readers found out about a book in brick-and-mortar bookstores, the single-largest site of discovery. This year, that figure has dropped to 17%, a reflection both of the closing of Borders and the rise of e-readers. In the same period, personal recommendations grew the most, to 22% from 14%. Some three-quarters of personal recommendations are made in person, while the rest come by e-mail (8%), phone (7%), Facebook (4%) and other social networks (3%).
Surprisingly, considering all the attention it’s gotten, digital mass media, including Facebook and Twitter, rose just to 4.5% from 1.9% as a place people learned about the books they have bought. And the online channel represents 9% of discovery, which Peter Hildick-Smith, the president of the company running the focus group, called “way underperforming” in light of the amount of purchases made online. In part, this is because many readers search for books online knowing what they want. (By contrast, readers tend to go into bookstores with an “open mind.”) The result, Hildick-Smith said, is that many books “get lost in the long tail.” Amazon, for example, has 32 million book offerings.