Category Archives: Media

Kami’s Kloud Krosses The Ocean

Everyone in Westport, it seemed, knew Kami Evans.

In 6 years here, she made quite a mark. She started several community Facebook pages, and became an “influence marketer.”

Two of her most popular pages were Westport and Fairfield Parents, and Fairfield County Friends and Family. Readers asked about — and recommended — the best local places to shop, upcoming events, and other resources.

Then came “Kami’s Kloud.” She connected businesses with non-profits and charities, helping build community. Soon, she launched web-based Kloud9TV.

Last July, Kami and her family moved to England. Her husband is British; they always knew they’d go back.

Kami Evans, in her new digs.

In her new town — Trentham — she noticed the same desire for community engagement she’d found here. Once again, she began developing Facebook pages and a video presence.

At the same time, her Westport friends stayed connected with emails and calls. She tried to connect the two towns across the pond, but realized social media was not the best way to do it.

But an app might be.

The other day, on a visit here, Kami talked about her new Kami’s Kloud app.

The goal is to bring “hyperlocal communities” — Westport, Trentham — together. There are 2 ways: by posting information on little shops, interesting events, and the like.

And by having users in one community share information, ideas and insights with those in others.

(From left): Kami Evans, Shari Lebowitz of Bespoke Designs and Natalie Toraty of Noya Fine Jewelry. The local merchants look forward to having their events featured on Kami’s Kloud.

Kami is all about community. Westport still feels like home. She wants the best for it. And she wants people here to get to know people in Trentham, and vice versa.

Kami’s Kloud launched softly on March 22. By April 15 she hopes to add Google Maps, push notifications about nearby events, and more. She’s partnered with Waze too, so when you’re stuck in traffic, you can check out nearby events.

It’s available for both iPhones and Androids. On both sides of the Atlantic.

When $30,000 Property Taxes Hit A Little Harder

That’s the headline on a CNN story posted yesterday to its website.

The piece — about the effect of the new tax law on high property tax states like Connecticut — was illustrated by a stock photo that seems to show Westport.

Whether that’s our town or not, there’s no denying that residents here have been hit hard — along with our counterparts in places like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

The CNN story concludes with this assessment from a local realtor:

While many towns in Connecticut also have relatively high property taxes, some towns further up the Long Island Sound — like Westport or Fairfield — have lower bills than Westchester and are still a commutable distance from Manhattan.

“In Westchester County — towns like Larchmont, Rye, Mamaroneck — the taxes are crazy high,” says Mary Ellen Gallagher, a real estate agent and partner of Compass Westport Team KMS Partners in Connecticut.

“Younger people can’t afford those taxes and are looking [in Connecticut] where you get more house and pay less taxes, but you’re further from New York.”

She says for many luxury buyers, taxes don’t always play into their decision to buy a new home, but can be a deterrent for those looking to move up to a larger and pricier home.

“I think it is hurting the luxury market,” says Gallagher. “Because people aren’t trading up.”

(Click here for the full CNN story. Hat tip: Seth Van Beever.)

Rob Simmelkjaer’s Ground-Breaking Persona

As a kid, Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother always told him: “If you’re going to open your mouth, the best thing is to ask a question.”

Questions are “a sign of respect, curiosity, a way to learn,” notes the Westporter. “They’re more than just an opening.”

Simmelkjaer has had lots of chances to ask questions. He’s a former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and a 2017 candidate for second selectman.

Rob Simmelkjaer

He’s been an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, and as vice president of NBC Sports Ventures was involved with the radio network and podcasts. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News, where as anchor and correspondent he covered the Virginia Tech shootings and President Ford’s funeral.

Simmelkjaer — who majored in government and philosophy at Dartmouth College, and holds a law degree from Harvard University — is a huge fan of NPR’s StoryCorps. In those short Friday segments people interview relatives and friends, unearthing tales rich in drama and inspiration.

So it’s no surprise that Simmelkjaer — who was NBC Sports’ “in-house entrepreneurial expert” — is now striking out on his own.

Or that his new venture — Persona — is all about asking questions.

Simmelkjaer calls Persona “the first social video platform dedicated to interviews.” It’s like Instagram, he says — but with conversations, not photos.

The app makes interviewing easy. It helps interviewers frame great questions, makes sharing interviews easy, and enables users to discover interesting interviews on similar (or totally unrelated) topics.

Rob Simmelkjaer is at ease in front of a camera. Persona will make the rest of us feel comfortable too.

Persona is not yet ready for prime time. Simmelkjaer is developing a prototype. He’s slowly releasing content on other platforms, like YouTube, to grow the brand.

It’s an exciting project. Just the other day — in the aftermath of the massacre at a New Zealand mosque — Simmelkjaer interviewed Imam Mohamed Abdelati of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center.

Westport is an important part of Simmelkjaer’s process. Interviews with people like State Senator Will Haskell and attorney Josh Koskoff Takes On The NRA — interesting folks with intriguing insights — are part of the plan.

Simmelkjaer’s very first Persona interview was with Victoria Gouletas. She’s the ZBA member who was paralyzed a year ago, when a heavy tree branch fell on her during a windstorm.

Gently but insightfully, he asks Gouletas about the accident, how she handled the devastating news, and the effect on her family. As she talks about her children, they chatter in the background. Despite the tragedy, the interview is warm, personal and uplifting.

That’s Simmelkjaer’s goal with Persona. It launches officially later this year.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

And when you open your mouth, follow Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother’s advice: Ask a question.

Ian O’Malley’s 1978 Single Malt “Experience”

Ian O’Malley is a busy guy.

He’s a realtor. He’s a longtime New York radio DJ. He and his wife Debbie have 2 young children.

So he can be forgiven — maybe — for forgetting that he owned a very special bottle of 1978 Macallan single malt whisky, worth thousands of dollars.

Ian bought it years ago. When his son was 2, he moved it to a top shelf because — well, you know kids. Over time he placed a couple of other bottles in front of it.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Last year, as the O’Malleys moved from Wilton to Westport, Ian discovered the bottle. He was thrilled, but had the same idea as when he first bought it: Save it for a special occasion.

That special occasion is now. But Ian won’t be drinking.

Not long ago, he told Debbie about a friend who works for Edrington — Macallan’s parent company. He raffled off a bottle; the proceeds went to charity.

And his bottle wasn’t nearly as exclusive as Ian’s. (The cheapest price Ian could find for his 1978 was $3,300 — from an Italian retailer who won’t ship to the US. For $4,600, you can buy it from a store in the UK that will.)

Ian O’Malley

Ian volunteers for a number of non-profit groups, here and in New York. He did not want to choose one to benefit, and alienate the others.

Debbie suggested Experience Camps. The Westport-based organization sponsors 1-week camps for boys and girls after the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver.

Kids laugh, cry, play, remember the person who died, or forget the grief that weighs them down. They feel “normal,” because everyone there has been through something similar.

When Ian was 12, his father died of pancreatic cancer. Decades later, Ian says, “I would have loved an opportunity like Experience Camps.”

A unique raffle needs a unique price. Tickets are $104 each — because Ian is a DJ on New York’s classic rock station, Q104.3.

They’re tax-deductible, Ian notes. And available by clicking this easy link.

The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 14. The drawing takes place at 9 p.m. the next day. It will be streamed on Facebook Live, from his house. (Where the lucky bottle still sits, unopened.)

Yet Ian’s generosity does not stop there. If the winner lives within 60 minutes of Westport, he promises to deliver it personally.

Just thank him. You don’t even have to invite him in for a drink.

 

Peter Stern’s Apple TV

The world watched yesterday as Apple announced several new initiatives: Apple News+, Apple Arcade and Apple Card.

But the biggest rollout was Apple TV+. And the man introducing it was 1990 Staples High School graduate Peter Stern. He took the stage after an introduction from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Peter Stern, on stage at yesterday’s Apple event.

To industry watchers, Stern — whose title at Apple is vice president of services, which includes video, news, books, iCloud and advertising — needs no introduction.

After majoring in music and English at Harvard, then earning a law degree from Yale, Stern joined McKinsey. One of his first projects was Warner Music Group. He commuted between his Westport home and Los Angeles.

He joined Time Warner in 2001, rising to executive vice president/chief product people and strategy officer. Much of his career has been spent at the intersection of media and technology.

Digiday notes that media executives who work with Stern call him “sharp and impressive.” Cheddar CEO and founder Jon Steinberg says he is “smart, direct, fast, (and) delivers on what he promises.”

Peter Stern

Stern oversees business operations for Apple’s services unit, which Digiday says has been “elevated to new levels of importance by sagging iPhone sales.” 

In a long 2015 interview for the Cable Center Oral History Project, Stern –then  still with Time Warner — talked about his upbringing.

He left Freehold, New Jersey — the home of Bruce Springsteen — when he was 5 or 6. He went all through the Westport school system (and his family had one of the first VHS systems, introducing him to video technology).

For a long time while living in this area, Stern — who had been a supremely talented violinist at Staples — served on the board of the Stamford Symphony.

Since joining Apple, he’s relocated to Silicon Valley.

But Westporters — and the rest of the world — can see him on stage in yesterday’s Apple video. Click below for the mini-version (Stern starts at 4:17), or click here for the full event (Tim Cook introduces him at 51:30; he takes over quickly).

(Hat tip: Brian Strong)

We Choose To Include This Great Video

Jeff Staw has strong Westport ties.

He grew up here, then returned with his wife Amy in 2009. She was a TV producer, working with non-profits including Save the Children (when its offices were here), and Special Olympics.

The Staws moved to Colorado in 2016 (but come back every summer). Amy now works at her children’s elementary school, as an education assistant for students with severe special needs.

When teachers planned an Inclusion Week, they asked Amy to put her production expertise to good use.

The result — shot on an iPhone — is tremendous.

Sandy Staw notes proudly that her grandchildren are in the video. David talks about being left out (he’s the one with fish pictures in the background), while Juliet says she chooses to include “because everyone needs someone to play with.”

So far, the video has been seen only by the Staws’ Colorado school community. But “06880” readers in their former home town will appreciate it — and its message — too.

Amy and Jeff Staw, with David and Juliet.

Inspiring Interview With Staples’ Star Students: 5 PM Tonight, Channel 4

Just when you think the world has gone bonkers, you hear about Sirina and Anisa Prasad.

The twins are Staples High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

They’re warm, wonderful girls. They work hard in school, at the subjects they love (math, science, economics, English, the environment — everything, actually).

They started a Staples Science Olympiad team, competed in the Federal Reserve challenge (and advanced to next month’s semifinals), and spent the summer researching solar cells. The  year before, they interned at a water quality lab.

But they also knit, bake and play video games. They enjoy each other, and their friends.

They never planned on being Staples’ top 2 students. It just happened. And everyone is delighted for them.

WNBC Channel 4 sent a crew to interview them today (Thursday). The segment is scheduled for the 5 p.m. news.

Valedictorian Sirina Prasad (right), and salutatorian Anisa Prasad, on camera today.

I have no idea what they’ll say. But I know they’ll say it well, and with plenty of enthusiasm.

And I’m sure they’ll be smiling all the way through.

FUN FACTThe Prasads are not the first twins to be valedictorian and salutatorian. Eric and Todd Lubin turned the double play in 2011.

Town-wide Music Festival Wows Crowd

Westport’s Town-wide Music Festival is one of those fly-under-the-radar events.

Unless you’ve got a kid in it, chances are you won’t go. Or even hear of it.

But last week’s performance — with 5 Staples High School choral groups (including Orphenians), plus the Bedford and Coleytown Middle School 7th and 8th grade choral ensembles — deserves to be heard.

All music was written by guest conductor Jim Papoulis. At the end, all 300 students sang together. It was quite impressive.

Fortunately, former Staples Media Lab guru Jim Honeycutt taped the entire show. And uploaded it YouTube, for “06880” readers to enjoy at your leisure.

 

To Evan: A Heart Full Of Love

This is one of the greatest videos I’ve ever posted.

But before you watch, be warned: Get some Kleenex.

In 2017, “06880” reported on the great work of Mat Jacowleff. The 2015 Staples High School graduate — then a Northeastern University junior — encouraged dozens of his Delta Tau Delta fraternity brothers to donate hundreds of pints of blood to Boston Children’s Hospital.

Evan Sheiber

He was inspired by Evan Sheiber, a Westport boy born with only one pumping chamber in his heart. Mat then went an extra several miles, delivering over 100 cards of encouragement to Evan as he prepared for his 2nd open heart surgery.

Evan is now almost 3. Once again, he faces open heart surgery. This one’s on Tuesday.

This time, Mat made a video for Evan.

And he didn’t just say, “I’m rooting for you, kid.”

Mat filmed dozens of folks cheering Evan on. His fraternity brothers are here. So are sorority sisters, Northeastern hockey players, Staples football players, Coast Guard Academy lacrosse men and Middlebury College lacrosse women.

There’s also a nice shout out from the folks at Boston Children’s Hospital, who run the “I Give Pints for Half-Pints” blood donor campaign.

Interspersed throughout are images of Evan himself. It’s just the thing a 4-year-old will love.

His parents love it too. Evan’s mom Britt says, “I have never sobbed and laughed simultaneously before in my life. Evan and his siblings keep watching it on repeat. This means so much to him.”

It’s 3 minutes of pure joy. Click below — and have that Kleenex handy.

PS: Speaking of joy: JoyRide Westport recently sponsored their 3rd annual Cycle for Heart fundraiser. Like Mat Jacowleff, they’re all heart.

Click here to learn more about the FORCE Fund (formerly known as Evan’s Heart Fund), which directly impacts the lives of everyone like Evan living with a single ventricle.

Happy “06880” Anniversary: The Sequel

Timing is everything.

Last week, I posted my annual “Happy Anniversary to me” story (and request for donations — “06880” has become my pretty-much-full time job, and it’s completely reader-supported).

This may be why you did not read my anniversary story. (Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

Turns out the story ran the morning Westport was hit by a big snow — with a power outage affecting thousands of homes.

So rather than reading “06880,” plenty of readers were (literally) in the dark. Or out shoveling.

So — on the advice of several readers who missed that story, and found out about it randomly — I’m adding a link to it: click here.

Thanks to all who donated already to support “06880.” You rock!

But if you haven’t, and want to skip the story linked above, here’s the quick and easy way:

You can donate by PayPal: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, go to www.PayPal.com; then log in (or create an account), and send money from the dropdown menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. (You can also click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880.”)

I’m also on Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thank you!

Checks can be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880” on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.