Short story: The Day the Axis Fell

It’s been over two years since I’ve posted, and I’m pretty impressed that I remembered my login.

I wrote a short story a month ago – more like flash fiction – that I feel ready to share with the world. It was written mostly on the subway, on the 5 train from Brooklyn –> Manhattan –> Queens on a Saturday night, inspired by recently reading a collection of short stories and the colorful slew of conversation and eclectic people who surrounded me.

Without further ado…

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The Day the Axis Fell

Compared to no one in particular, your life is fairly average. It’s not wonderful but isn’t dismal either like some of your friends who got married young, had kids and divorced within two years.

Your morning coffee and evening wine coincide with the ebb and flow of endless, winding time. You learn to like alone time and go to work and plays and come home and go to sleep and do it again, but maybe without the plays because those are a luxury and you can’t really afford them often.

And one day your world tilts on its axis like crazy because you’ve fallen madly, wildly in love. And you didn’t expect it and it came from nowhere and you’re happy and scared but mostly the deep eternal sadness that sits within you has sunken too far deep that it’s buried 6 feet under.

You smile on the subway and smile to strangers and work your hardest because everything is important with purpose and matters. And you go to poetry slams together and marvel at the rhythm of the words that wash over you both because you share a love of the melody of language.

But one day your axis tilts a little more, and this time it’s unbalanced. You don’t know if it’s the change in gravity’s pull or the sun shining too strong or the earth’s forces finally speaking and pulling you home but it’s not the same.

And you continue loving and you’re happy because what matter is unsteadiness when you have each other to hold on to?

One day the axis slips. You feel yourself falling and don’t know what’s happening. The earth is flat and you’re falling off opposite ends and you reach out your hand for help but your love isn’t there because he’s falling himself.

You make contact and pull him back on the earth but in your haste you turn too quickly and your movement is too fast and he slips.

And as you watch he begins falling into the stars that brought you together and is burned by the sun and you watch, you can only watch as your love that defied gravity and nature and fate is instantly shuttered and extinguished in the universe where you could never exist together.

The people of earth light torches and chase you off their section of earth because you’re a murderess who must be burned at the stake. The flowers have wilted and the trees are scarred because of your sins but the earth is smooth because of the human that scraped its jagged edges when he fell off the earth.

But you’re still here and there are people with torches so you flee and wander the ends of the earth in search of meaning and something you can’t put your finger on but you destroyed everything that didn’t belong to you and you must live with that. And you cope and you walk and you wander but tell yourself that all who wander are not lost because it’s a phase, only a phase and you killed your love but it’s not your fault.

You turn to the moon that sat a quiet observer and cry to her and ask why she wasn’t there for light when you needed her as you were falling. She asks where you were when she wanted to shine light on the world and you blocked it with your shadow.

You didn’t know; you couldn’t have known and you’re sorry and tears fall but your shadow blocked the moon from earth’s people and she can’t help you now. You’re stranded some place between time and fate and the people have cast you out and you’re utterly alone but you like it this way, don’t you?

Don’t you?

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7 killer networking tips for dummies

This post originally appeared on The Inbetween.

So you landed your dream job. You’re doing work you love, surrounded by awesome coworkers, and even getting paid for it all. You remember all that great networking you did in college to help you get to the place you’re at today, but since you’re now *employed*, you’re thinking you can slack off on your networking game, right? Like really, what value can networking offer you now anyway?

False.

Whether you haven’t yet landed your first job or you’ve been in the same career for 15 years, killer networking skills can help you land new gigs, meet great people and even win new clients.

It can seem a bit daunting at first, so here are some tips to help you sharpen your skills and get your networking game on:

1. Prepare your elevator speech. People will ask you what your job is, what you do there, and how you got into the field. It doesn’t cut it to say, “In PR we…make companies look good.” Instead, you can try, “We help brands talk about themselves to the public. We’re the middlemen between our clients and the media, and we share our clients’ news with journalists so that they’ll write about them. Did you know around 50% of news stories are sourced from PR?” By using an explanation like this, you’ve explained what you do, why it’s important, and continued the conversation by ending on a question.

2. Go to extra-curricular events. Organizations like New York Tech Meetup have made it easy to meet like-minded people who live in close proximity to you. There’s a group for everything, whether you’re a coding enthusiast, beginner Rugby player or aspiring entrepreneur.

3. Talk to people at these professional events. It can be scary to approach a stranger, but the key is to remember that you’ll find something in common with nearly everyone you meet. And if you’re at an event with drinks available, it’s always easier once you’ve downed one or two. You can practice talking to people in the mirror beforehand, so you’re prepared to be a charming, conversational companion.

4. Offer to meet interesting people for coffee or lunch. Whether you meet someone at an event or run into them at Starbucks, this is a great way to establish firmer connections with the people you meet casually. Who pays? You should offer to, but your “date,” depending on his/her seniority, professional position, etc. may offer to foot the bill. It’s great if that happens, but you should be sure there’s enough moola in the piggy bank beforehand.

5. Carry business cards. Everywhere. It’s great for keeping track of the awesome people you meet and connecting with them later on LinkedIn.

6. Speaking of LinkedIn, don’t blindly connect with everyone you meet at an event. Select a few people you thought were interesting and who you may want to connect with in the future. Send them personalized notes when you connect, noting where you met them, in case they don’t remember you.

7. This goes without saying, but don’t burn your bridges. If you’re leaving a job, stay in touch with your former coworkers, whether it’s via email, social media or getting together for coffee. Make new friends and keep the old isn’t just a great nursery rhyme; it’s great life advice.

The networking instinct may not come naturally at first, but with some practice and a little luck, you’ll begin to see your skills developing and ultimately become a pro. Just remember the seven tips above, stay confident, and go get ‘em, baby!

Down that red dirt road: reflections on 1 year in NYC

It’s fierce, tough, and competitive. It’s a city that doesn’t lend itself to forgiveness. All the pictures and the photos, like the one across my bed, that feature the magnificent skyscrapers grazing the drifting clouds which shelter one of the world’s greatest cities, speak the glory of it. But they don’t speak the unified struggle or the heartbreak or the collective triumph of its pulsing, throbbing humanity. So on my 364th day in this city, I’m going to try here.

***

I wouldn’t dream of characterizing my year here as the hallmark of fun, but these 12 months have certainly been a life-altering, wonderful adventure, filled with magnificent ups, the best of my life, high on cloud 9 and simply gazing down at the world. And the lowest points too, which I don’t particularly care to remember. I’ve learned valuable lessons and have acquired a fierce, steadfast independence. I’m f–kin’ proud of what I’ve accomplished.

Tulip Garden

^tulip garden in the UWS, circa April 2015

And I’ve learned this too, beautifully put by a friend on Facebook a month ago: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” I’ve been witness to this circumstance, and with every emotion amplified in NYC, it makes for a remarkable, emotionally charged life. The intensity of life here drives everything home so much harder. You’re forced to…feel. I don’t consider myself an emotional person, but some of that has changed in the past year. And it makes the tough times tougher and the good times better. And the past 12 months were full of a whole lot of both.

But it’s not about the past; it’s about the present and the future. Darius Rucker sums it up well: “For every stoplight I didn’t make, every chance I did or I didn’t take; all the nights I went too far, all the girls that broke my heart; all the doors that I had to close; everything I knew but I didn’t know…thank G-d for all I missed, cuz it led me here to this.” Hard to believe it’s been a year, and I’m proud of the person I am today and how much I’ve grown in 12 months.

Highlights of the year:

  • The Stanley Cup playoffs (summer 2014): I arrived in NYC when the Washington Capitals had narrowly missed the playoffs in April 2014. Jumping on the bandwagon, I was pumped about landing in a hockey town, (reluctantly) rooting for the New York Rangers as they advanced to the final round of the playoffs.
  • The Stanley Cup playoffs (summer 2015): The tables have turned. Wearing my jersey and rooting for the Washington Capitals in two phenomenal rounds — first against the New York Islanders and then against the New York Rangers, both series going to spectacular, nail-biter game 7s. You’ve never lived until you’re rooting for your home team in enemy territory in game 7 overtime.
  • Watching Grease on the beach in Coney Island
  • Spending weekends at my cousins because of the newfound close proximity
  • The entirety of summer 2014
  • Traveling to SF for the company’s holiday week in December
  • Spending 70% of my weekends in my friends’ Queens apartment
  • Listening to music on the subway that I knew would make me cry during two rough months because I’m a glutton for punishment
  • Going to bars alone. Highly recommended.
  • Learning to work hard for something you really, really want.

Elton John, it may be true that rose trees never grow in NYC, but we were never promised a rose garden. And the tulips that explode in magnificent bursts of painted streaks across the city in late April? I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

February tech roundup: From Pinterest’s e-Commerce rebrand to Google’s $300M for solar

SolarCity Loans

Note: This post was originally written for and appeared on the LaunchSquad blog.

Riding hot on the heels of the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and just before Mobile World Congress and SXSW in March, February was the middle child for tech this year. But despite being sandwiched between two monumental months, we did see a few big moves in tech over the past several weeks. While many of the glossy, futuristic gadgets we’ll see this year (or perhaps 30 years down the road) have already been unveiled at CES, February was a month for bigger trends: the insurance of a free and open Internet, the growth of e-commerce, Google’s extended foray into renewable energy and the explosion of machine learning.

Net Neutrality Scores Huge Victory for Most Americans

Since the creation of the Internet, lawmakers, tech giants and academics have argued its status as a public resource. As the FCC closed in this February to ensure the Internet was accessible for everyone, the world waited to see what the future of public information would be —and whether the knowledge gap would be increased or narrowed based on the FCC’s classification.

The Internet’s legal branding as a public utility demonstrates its cruciality and role in access to education and public information. While the tech world has occasionally been characterized by the bubble of the haves vs. the have-nots, the new laws will ensure that when it comes to access and opportunity, all are created equal—when it comes to ISPs, that is.

Pinterest Rebrands as Ecommerce Site

Perhaps those that emerged most victorious from the FCC’s ruling were the participants in the e-commerce industry and marketplaces. You may not have mentally categorized Pinterest as a mobile marketplace, but your favorite scrolling vice is looking to rebrand itself to an online marketplace, similar to Etsy. The company has introduced an advertising platform and raised $500 million in an effort to raise their valuation to $11 billion, showing that the growth of independent vendors and the explosion of online marketplaces are here to stay.

Tech Giant Energized for Solar

To bring rooftop solar and renewable energy to more homeowners, in February Google committed $300 million to Solar City as part of a $750 million project. The deal builds on Google’s $280 million commitment in the summer of 2011, showing that energy is not a siloed industry. As smart homes gain the eye of many a VC firm, we’re seeing that energy, technology and the connected home are becoming increasingly intertwined as we are no longer content with the “simple home” of previous generations.

Data and Machine Learning Take Off

Data and machine learning is a trend that’s taken off in 2015. From Microsoft launching its machine learning platform Azure to increased media visibility of digital facial recognition technology and augmented reality, machine learning has proven to be a key player in tech early this year. As brands continue to automate processes, gather deeper data and implement more sophisticated software and technologies, machine learning will likely prove to be a key element of business models and advanced future technology.

Although it wasn’t a month of new gadgets and toys like January was, February has shown that tech has made forays into nearly every industry, from solar energy to art and photos to facial recognition. And as the lines between industries continue to blur with the integrations of various technologies, we’re poised in 2015 to continue down this path, integrating technology into our lives and across industries in ways we haven’t yet explored.

3 Publicity Campaigns We’re In Love With This Valentine’s Day

Note: This post originally appeared on LaunchSquad’s blog on February 13, 2015.
ovechkin with ann

If you work in PR, what better Valentine is there than the perfect (or nearly perfect) publicity campaign? At LaunchSquad, we’re a little nuts about good PR—here are three publicity campaigns that have won our hearts so far this year.

#BestBuds

Budweiser has made a habit of leaking its animal-centric Super Bowl commercials in advance of the big game—in 2014 the hashtag and related video exploded over the Internet. This year, with the bar set high, Budweiser released a preview of its 2015 commercial several days before the Super Bowl—the first strategic move in a campaign that appealed to basic human pathos, and to, well, everyone who loves puppies. Sure, puppies have nothing to do with beer, but here’s why it worked:

  • The pathos. I challenge you to find three people who dislike golden retriever puppies, and whose hearts don’t dissolve at the thought of one lost—and then found.
  • The relevant, heart-warming theme. Nothing puts you in a cozy, feel good mood like animal friendship, especially while you’re watching the game with friends and family.
  • The cleverness. We can all appreciate hashtag alliteration, and the wordplay on “Buds.”
  • The buzz. Budweiser’s decision to release their ad before the Super Bowl drove word-of-mouth publicity and excitement for the feature commercial during the game.


Tinder Matches Dogs and Owners

For love-hungry singles, Tinder has a huge network. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t typically get to enjoy the benefits of online networks (romantic or otherwise). To fix this, Tinder combined its matchmaking prowess with Social Tees, an animal rescue network in NYC, to save the puppies and the humans. First, Social Tees posted profiles on Tinder of its rescue dogs that needed homes, listing typically human characteristics alongside puppy profile pics. Tinder then paired the dogs with its regular users who would be compatible matches with the dogs’ fictitious, humanlike profiles. In less than 24 hours, the project received over 1,500 doggie/human matches. This was a campaign that was oriented for Social Tees, but drove goodwill for Tinder as well. Here’s why it worked:

  • The puppies. I said it above, and I’ll say it again—whose heart doesn’t melt from a pup in need? And don’t you think of Tinder in a slightly kinder, fuzzier light now? Maybe?
  • The convenience. The program brought information directly to the people. The dogs came to the app’s users; users didn’t need to seek them out.
  • The playfulness. The dogs were given real, human profiles, but with canine photos. That’s a way to win a smile—and in addition to raising awareness and making users laugh, at least one puppy found a new home as a result!


The Multi-Millionaire’s Desperation for a $22K Car

alex ovechkin honda

Image c/o Yahoo Sports

At the January 25 NHL All-Star game, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin campaigned incessantly for one of the two Honda Accords that were to be given out that day: one to the MVP of the game, and one to the player picked last for the teams.

Even after Ovechkin’s chances to win the car dropped by 50 percent when he wasn’t picked last, and when his chances dropped to zero when he wasn’t selected as MVP, Honda presented him with a car anyway.

To the pleasant surprise of fans and NHL fans, it turned out Oveckin wasn’t campaigning for himself –he wanted the car in honor of ten-year-old Anne Schaub, a girl with Down Syndrome. In October, Anne had approached Ovechkin and asked him on a date, and Ovi wanted to do something for her again in January.

Once Ovi won the car in honor of Anne, he donated it to the Washington Ice Dogs Hockey program, an organization that gives children and young adults with disabilities the opportunity to play hockey. It’s true that in many ways this isn’t a traditional publicity campaign, but here’s why it hit home for Honda:

  • Charitable giving. Honda was already the sponsor of the event, but it was the extra tie-in to goodwill and human kindness that gave a human face to the car maker.
  • Valuable impressions. Ovechkin has 1 million followers on Twitter who saw his tweets engaging with the Honda brand, making Ovi’s efforts—and Honda’s response—that much more visible.
  • Organic spread. Honda laid low. The company only decided to give the gift once they heard Ovechkin’s story, and they didn’t promote it on social media or pitch the story. The potential risk of being perceived as opportunistic in this circumstance was high, but Honda handled it like a pro—and still generated loads of coverage.

These three are only a few of the great campaigns we’ve seen and loved over the past year. Do you have a favorite this Valentine’s Day? Drop us a note in the comments!

Featured image c/o
Russian Machine Never Breaks

Poem: mashup of the best songs ever written

Someone told me long ago there’s a calm before the storm

I know, it’s been comin’ for some time

Well I heard the news that you were back in town, passin’ through, to claim your lost and found

Well you got nerve to waltz right in, and claim what’s mine is yours again

And oh my God, is this really what you want? Would you tell us if it’s not, and would you rewrite the plot?

I’d give all this and heaven too if only for a moment where I could just understand…

These days we go to waste like wine, that’s turned to turpentine

Darlin’, pardon me, can you help me remember…when we were flicker and flame, yeah we burned ’til the morning…darlin’, pardon me

The days and nights are killing me, the light and dark are still in me, but there’s an anger on the beach, so let the wind blow hard, and be the fallin’ stars

On sleepless roads, the sleepless go

Dream walkin’, little talkin’, she’s calling my name again

There’s a symphony of silence down on the street, and all of this noise makes my head ring.

Time is all I own, and time won’t stop replaying over in my mind. I watch the hours slow down

Time, no it ain’t on our side. I’m the truth to your lie, numb your tears when you cry

Chances are the fascination, chances won’t escape from me, chances are only what we make them

And just when we believed we could be great, reality it permeates, and conquers from within

I crossed over lines and I broke all the rules and baby I broke them all for you

And it was not your fault but mine, and it was your heart on the line, I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear?

Go west young man, haven’t you been told? California’s full of whiskey, women and gold

Sleepin’ out all night beneath the desert stars, with a dream in my eye, and a prayer in my heart

Never want to grow up, never want to slow down. We were shinin’ like lighters in the dark in the middle of a rock show

We were laughin’ and lovin’ and drinkin’ and wishin’ and thinkin’ as that checkered flag was wavin’

You got my heart racin’ like there’s nothing to it…fallin’ in love to the beat of the music

And I said hey pretty lady won’t you gimme a sign?

I’ll do anything to make you mine, all mine

I want you to walk with me, over this wire, from tower to tower

Chances come and carry me, chances are waiting to be taken

And all I can taste is this moment, and all I can breathe is your love.

We warmed the ground we hushed ourselves, we slept on walkin’ feet

I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world

And I ask the lord, every night, for just another day in paradise.

 

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Know what songs these are? What do you think of my poem? Drop a note for me in the comments!

By unpopular opinion: Why Sam Biddle is wrong about Justine Sacco

Sam Biddle, formerly of Valleywag, broke the Internet this week.  His article on the unfortunate fate of Justine Sacco, who you no doubt remember from last year as the former head of corporate communications for IAC, was all over my Twitter feed, the junky infotainment sites I get my news from and was the talk of our office.

If you don’t remember, last December Justine Sacco tweeted a life altering tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

She tweeted that right before her 17 hour flight to South Africa, and the tweet gained traction and spiraled out of control among the interwebs and led to the trending Twitter hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet.

Sam Biddle wrote that he couldn’t understand how Sacco, as the global head of communications, could have tweeted such a crude and vile message. As a communications director, she no doubt understood the value of social media and its far reaching influence; you have to look no further than the Spaghetti Oh’s tweet, the Red Cross tweet or the Domino’s tweet.

Biddle writes that he met with Sacco before, and she told him that her tweet was actually intended to mock and mimic the things racist people would have said.

Uh huh.

They stayed in touch, but he never understood Sacco’s tweet and her mindset until he made a stupid mistake this past October that cost him his job:

And then, this past October, while sitting distracted and tired at my desk, riffing on the twisted online movement against “social justice warriors” in video games, I wrote a tweet of my own: “Ultimately #GamerGate is reaffirming what we’ve known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission.”

Impulsively, and sort of laughing to myself, I added another, saying that we should “Bring Back Bullying” to counter this rising tide of web militancy. It was insincere and over in an instant, to me at least.

But within a few hours, thanks in part to my similarly trigger-happy and trolly editor Max Read,I watched a whirlpool of spleen and choler swelling till it had sucked in most of my energy and attention, along with that of many of my coworkers. Hundreds of people tweeted or emailed me or my editors; blogs and minor internet personalities sprang into action to challenge me. Their demands started with my firing and escalated from there.

After #GamerGate, Biddle felt like he could relate to Sacco’s demise; his own careless tweet had landed him in the eye of the social media storm amongst demands for his job and career. He says he can now understand her plight, and recaps the following from their communications:

Justine Sacco has a PR job she enjoys now, but she deserves the best and biggest PR job, whatever that may be. Give it all to her. In the depths of the Gamergate blues, Sacco IMed me to ask how it was all going, and offered one piece of advice: “Just don’t engage.” Without any discussion, she knew the only divine truth of the internet: Do nothing. Never tweet. Never apologize. Never say anything at all. Be an inert bundle of molecules and let the world tear itself apart around you.

I want to make a few points here:

  • Why do people not learn their lesson for engaging online? Time and time again, people are fired from their jobs for making stupid and insensitive mistakes online, and media are not exempt.
    • Man, I love his account, because it’s freaking hilarious, but Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times tows the line every day. He’s aware, though, and has publicly noted that people get fired for their mistakes online. If NYT journalists, who uphold the cornerstone of democracy, are at risk for their social activity, then so are you if you have a pulse.
  • I’m not sure why Sacco deserves the “best and biggest PR job.” Sure, she may be talented, but what does her epic blunder have to do with her being deserving of the best career?
  • Last but not least, I can’t imagine a more stupid thing to do than not apologize when you’ve publicly offended an entire group of people. Don’t engage, don’t let it get to you — I agree. But not apologize? Stupidity.

And I think that’s where Sacco went wrong. She was ghostly silent while the Internet tore at her like a wild animal. She didn’t make a peep. She should have issued some statement, something to note that she realized she made a mistake; that she was sorry. It’s PR 101, and that was (is?) her forte. She’s now the stuff of textbooks, of online articles…of legend. But the reason she’s generated such a bad reputation and her name lives on in infamy is in large part because she let the world chime in and declare her fate. She’s had chances to redeem herself, as much as one can, but if you let everyone around you publicly put words in your mouth and in your intentions, it’s impossible to shape and publicly declare your own opinions and notions.

Defense can be a risky game, but she failed to even try, and she let the world weigh in. Weigh in it has.

You can follow me on Twitter at @abigailjaffe.