Happy new year!

01/1/2012

Happy new year everyone (all 6 of you who continue to read!). Due to the fact that, in my soul, I am an 83-year-old woman, I managed to fall asleep at about 10 last night, not even getting woken up by the fireworks at midnight. Assuming there were fireworks this year!?

While 2011 was certainly a better year than 2010, what with becoming a gainfully employed member of society again, I’m strangely glad for it to be over. Here’s looking forward to 2012, when we can finally disprove those mayan calendar prophesies once and for all!

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10 years on…

09/10/2011

I didn’t think it was going to hit me the way it did today. And today isn’t even the day. Tomorrow is the day. But this morning, I woke up and NPR was playing a variety of follow-ups and StoryCorps pieces from relatives and survivors, and I just completely broke down, by myself in my apartment, in wracking sobs.

But that was early in the morning. I pulled myself together for my day of running errands downtown, from getting my hair cut to buying shoes and doing all sorts of things that I end up doing when I have any reason to go visit my old neighborhood between Union Square and the Flatiron…

And as I was walking through the greenmarket, making my way up towards that same Flatiron building, I looked up and saw a giant billow of smoke going up to the sky. Only a few people seemed to notice it, but the screaming fire engines and cop cars and…smell…of burning air just about caused me to lose it again. Particularly when I realized that I was standing almost exactly in the same spot…on 20th and Broadway, that I was standing when the first plane hit the first tower 10 years ago tomorrow (back then I was walking down 20th from Broadway to Fifth, and saw the first tower on fire, not on TV but with my own naked eyes when I reached Fifth Avenue). I had such a sense of deja vu, and I realized almost an hour later, even though I had managed to get on with my day, that I was still visibly shaking.

And I say this as a person who, on that day, was safely several miles uptown from ground zero and didn’t lose a single person that I knew.

Tomorrow is going to be rough for a lot of people in this city, and I just hope that everyone gives people the space they need to get through the day.

I’ve seen a lot of people doing “where were you” pieces, but I wrote mine 5 years ago. I can’t say it better now than I did back then, so I’ll just link.

(oh, and the fire today? apparently just a transformer on the roof of a building)

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074/365: spring!!

03/19/2011

I noticed these popping up out of the ground. I’m seriously hoping this means that winter is really ending.

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book review: all the devils are here

01/12/2011

All the Devils Are HereAll the Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean

A really in-depth look at all of the decisions and events that led to the 2008 financial crisis/collapse, from the internal workings at all of the major investment banks, the sub-prime lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the ratings agencies and AIG. No one (or very few people) actually committed “crimes”, but everyone kept pushing the envelope of what was appropriate within their given sphere, and each bad decision was compounded by the bad decisions of 100 other players. Each of these financial products (from the mortgages themselves to the securitization vehicles to the collateralized debt obligations to the credit-default-swaps to the synthetic CDOs), when first created, made perfect sense. But not necessarily when all thrown into the mix at the same time, each one feeding off of the other in a vicious cycle of lower and lower standards and more and more debt.

It’s hard to say who was the worst player in the bunch. Was it AIG, which essentially allowed the entire risk-management function to exist inside Hank Greenberg’s septuagenarian head? Or the ratings agencies, who kept giving all of these things triple-A ratings, which were supposed to mean that the investments were as “safe as treasury bonds”, even after they were well aware of the underlying problems? Or the investment banks who sidelined their own risk-managers because they didn’t turn a profit? Or the subprime lenders, who were handing out reams of money to people that they knew could never pay it back, even in a best-case scenario?

And of course, popular notions of “who’s to blame” are often not anywhere near the truth. Fannie and Freddie got a large share of the blame for causing the problem, but in actuality, they were very late to the party, and only ended up in the subprime market in the first place because they were required, by law, to guarantee a certain percentage of low-income housing. Because the subprime lenders were undercutting the more traditional “hard money” lenders that had previously serviced this market, Fannie and Freddie almost had no choice but to start buying up subprime loans. Of course, they didn’t take a step back and try to use their mighty lobbying power to get out of this obligation, or to highlight the problem, but it’s a very different scenario than the idea that they “caused” the entire mess.

Just amazing.

Not quite as “entertaining” as McLean’s prior book, “The Smartest Guys in the Room”, but then again, the collapse of our entire financial system was bound to be less entertaining than a bunch of guys in Houston who were just giant fraudsters, spending tens of thousands of dollars on everything from race cars to strippers.

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365 take 2: new year, new project

01/1/2011

Some of the 365 folks and I have kept in touch via twitter and flickr, and we decided to try again beginning in 2011. Meaning today! We’re doing things a little differently this time. Rather than having to take a picture every single day, you can take up to 7 pictures a week, but they can all be on the same day, or you can continue to do the one-a-day method. This will hopefully reduce the feelings of failure everyone inevitably got last time around when they missed a single day. It will also reduce the need to “cheat” when seeing something awesome to photograph after you’ve already posted your daily photo (which happened to me once or twice).

So, on that note, Happy New Year everyone!! This was taken in the three seconds between when the fireworks started and my parents’ dog (who I’ve been dogsitting for a few weeks) had a total meltdown at the noise and dragged me bodily (he’s a tiny jack russell terrier, FYI) back to my apartment, even skipping the treat-laden doorman to book it directly into the elevator.

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2010 NYC marathon

11/7/2010

As I do every year, I decided to take some photos of today’s big event, the ING Marathon. Because I had gone to the same spot in Central Park for the last two years, I wanted to change things up a little bit, so I headed to Columbus Circle. Which was a big clusterf*ck of people and security gates. Next year, it’s back to Central Park. Just as an example of how poorly planned it was at Columbus Circle, they had a whole slew of bleachers set up so that people could watch, except…The police had blocked off all access to them, so they sat empty while we were penned in behind security gates only a few feet away. Even the police officer I said something to agreed that this was remarkably stupid, but they were, of course, powerless to do anything about it in the face of direct orders to keep us penned in.

As a bonus, a supremely inconsiderate gentlemen, who was at least 6’5″, decided to push his way directly in front of me. I am, of course, 5’4″. This led me to have to contort myself and hang over the barrier in a really uncomfortable way to get any decent pictures at all. Quite a change from Central Park, where people take one look at the short girl with the big camera and pretty much just make room for me at the front, since they can see over my head anyway! Silly me, I thought the crowd would be less obnoxious further away from the finish. I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m planning on heading back to Central Park next year. Either that, or I’ll be really adventurous and head out to Brooklyn or Queens.

As far as pics, I got most of the front-runners (except for the women’s winner, because the one pic I did get of her had a motorcycle cutting off her head), and some silly costumes, and a few pics even came out decently. Once I got worn out from contorting myself (and, because of the way I was standing, cutting off all the circulation to my left leg), I headed to the Time Warner Center to get an aerial shot. Here are the pics (as always, click to see the full picture):

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2009 marathon photos

11/2/2009

In addition to yesterday’s photo of the men’s winner, I took about a gazillion shots over the 4+ hours that I watch the marathon. After whittling them down, I’ve ended up with about 60. No individual captions, since that’s just too much work :), but if you look at them in order, at the beginning you’ll see the womens’ winners, then the men, and then the pack. silly outfits and flags start about a third of the way down. I edited out most of the blurry shots except for one, because that was Peter Sagal, host of my favorite NPR radio show, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me. I sent him the pic over twitter last night, and he was very appreciative, so I kept it in the mix, even though the photo itself is kind of terrible (he was way to close to me and my camera didn’t have time to focus before he was gone).

Anyway, here are the pics. click to get the full photo.

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365:62 (marathon man)

11/1/2009

Meb Keflezighi, the first American man to win the New York Marathon in 27 years, seen here approximately 250 yards from the finish. I will post more marathon photos soon (within the week), but I took a ton and I have to go through and selectively edit (to say the least).

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GM is dead. long live GM.

06/1/2009

So general motors went bankrupt today. It’s probably past time for them to reorganize and shed so much of the bloat that has distended the company over the years, but it’s kind of sad that some of the classic brands are on the chopping block (or have already been discontinued).

my first and only car was a GM car. It was a cherry red 1990 pontiac sunbird, that my parents surprised me with after I got my drivers license. Of course, living in the public-transportation-less suburbs at the time, the car was as much a gift from my working full-time parents to themselves, seeing that it was a fucking pain in the ass to get me home from school on most days given my participation in multiple after-school activities. That car took me through high school in rockland county, college in buffalo and law school in philadelphia before I moved to NYC and didn’t need (nor want) the responsibility of a car anymore. Then it passed to my brother for some period of time (his “spirited” driving churned through a few cars in his time), and then a few years ago, my dad traded it to a guy in exchange for a paint job on our barn up in the berkshires. As far as we’re aware, that guy is still driving it around. other than the color, it wasn’t a particularly exciting car, but I loved it all the same. It broke down incredibly infrequently, and (mysteriously) only when I was home from school so that my dad was available to deal with the problem. And said breakdowns usually involved something as simple as the battery dying YEARS after it’s expected life had run out. It was the last year that GM made cars out of steel instead of fiberglass, so driving through the snow in buffalo was a snap. That thing was heavy. Of course, my heavy doors (it was a 2-door) would be frozen shut every morning, so I have some not so fond memories of hurling my entire body against the door in the morning in order to unstick them and get to school. I never did learn that it might be a good idea to keep the defrosting solution somewhere other than inside the car.

Of course, I know why they killed pontiac. in reality, they were the same cars as chevrolets, but with a little less brand cache (except for the classic firebirds and GTOs). In fact, in college, my friend Vic had a chevy cavalier, in the exact same color as my pontiac, and we used to park them next to each other as a joke. because they were identical.

Still. it made me a little sad. Here’s hoping that GM can pull out of this bankruptcy leaner and more efficient. and, of course, that they start making cars that people want to buy again.

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the best interviewer working in TV

03/13/2009

I know that Jon Stewart constantly repeats the refrain that he’s a fake newsperson, and that he shouldn’t be taken seriously, but I think that he’s the only one working in journalism today that’s willing to ask these questions. Going all the way back to Thomas Nast’s cartoons (or, quite frankly, the fool in King Lear), it’s often the “clown”, the comedian, the joker who is the only one who is willing to speak truth to power. It’s couched in humor, but one has to wonder why Stewart is the only one who is willing to dig deep on these issues, while the “real” journalists do nothing more than serve as mouthpieces for the industries/administrations that they cover. Oh, and I’d be surprised if the SEC didn’t begin to investigate Cramer for market manipulation based on those clips that were dug up where Cramer admits that he’s pumping stocks.

Full, uncensored interview clips of Part 1 (and please enjoy the schadenfreude of these clips being sponsored by Bank of America). Part 2 and Part 3 can be viewed at the Daily Show’s website (had problems with embedding).

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