April 2007 Archives

Eagles Draft Grade: C

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Yep. That's my draft grade. I was tempted to give them a "D", but allow me to explain.

If you know me, you know i'm a huge AR supporter. I love Andy. I really do. I think he is a good coach, and exactly the kind of coach Philadelphia needs. Philly is a tough town, and you need a guy who doesn't say very much to the media. You need a guy who makes the decisions, bad or good, and doesn't back down from them. You need a guy who produces, consistently, and AR has produced (our record really says it all).

With that being said, i'm very unhappy about the draft.

Now, I will be first to admit that I don't watch a tremendous amount of college football. I see highlights and I do read up on scouting reports for 1st round selections for the draft, but that's about it. So take my rant with a grain of salt. I am no more of an expert than most of the Eagle fans out there. But I will rant anyhow, because, well, that's what I do.

I think we all can agree that the first selection for the Eagles is something that is bothering about 90% of the fans out there. I went to the Eagles message board and basically wrote I was embarassed to be an Eagles fan (at 3am on a Saturday after bartending).

Maybe I overreacted, but - COME ON.

The first pick was a quarterback?

Look, i'm with ya on the whole McNabb thing. His injuries have been strange. Quirky. I really don't see him as damaged goods, just a guy with incredibly back luck. I think he could be a superbowl QB, and is just one game away from going from Peyton Manning Curse to Peyton Manning Blessing.

I don't know squat about Kolb. But I do know that when just about every pundit says, "What were the Eagles thinking..." that more than likely the Eagles just screwed the pooch on that pick. Could we all be wrong in 3 years when he is the starter or traded away for another 2nd round pick? Maybe. I'm sure it would be awesome to be wrong here, but maybe i'm short sighted. My main three needs were: safety, cornerback and running back for our first three picks.

Next pick was Victor Abiamiri in the second round. Ok, a defensive end. Again, not really impressed here with a DE pick. I know the whole "Pick the best player possible" theory, and I do, in a way, agree with it, but i'd still be looking for other help here. I'm still scracthing my head.

3rd round pick was Stewart Bradley, a linebacker. Ok, I'm down with that. We do need to start thinking about replacing Trotter and Jones asap. Trotter has maybe a year left in the tank, in my opinion. Dhiani Jones should be off the team very soon. With Gocong back from his injury last year, it is really like we have two new draft picks at LB to compete during the offseason. Overload, for sure.

The second 3rd round pick was Tony Hunt. Again, don't really know Tony Hunt, but I do know that RB is a position we need help at. Kudos to that pick, if he works out. We definitely needed insurance for Buckhalter, and someone who can pound the ball. I love watching Westbrook fly over the tackles and into the end zone, but we have to protect someone like Westbrook from wearing down by getting a big back to smash into the end zone and run the clock late in the games.

Eagles didn't have a 4th rounder, and honestly, talking about picks from the 5th through the 7th is usually stupid. Yes, the rare gem can emerge from there, but these are probably all going to be more special team picks for the next year and one or two could possibly become a starter. Who that is will be a crap shoot. I'd like to see free safety CJ Gaddis work out, but do you really think a 5th round pick is going to replace Dawkins?

But only time can tell about a draft. In two years we can rate a draft. Which is why we now can rate the Eagles 2005 draft.

Mike Patterson? Reggie Brown? Matt McCoy? Ryan Moats? Sean Considine? Todd Herremans? Trent Cole?

Should all be familiar names, because they are all fairly active for the team for greater or lesser degrees. Mike Patterson inked a 7 year 32M extension Nov 2, 2006, so you know the team loves this guy. Trent Cole signed a 5 year extension only four days later. Reggie Brown we got because of that trade to Miami for AJ Feeley, and he's our #1 WR. Ryan Moats will probably get traded soon. Sean Considine and Todd Herremans are starters. Matt McCoy is probably not going to make the cut with Gocong and Stewart Bradley battling for a spot.

If you ask me the 2005 draft was solid, maybe a few exceptions there, but we have a bunch of starters in those picks. Maybe a bit of trust is needed with the organization. In two years we may look back and say, "Wow, they did a great job."

But until that happens, I still give them a C.

Incentive

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One of the issues that owners of bars have with bartenders is "tipping the tills".

Basically it goes like this.

The bartender hands the customer a $100 bill. The customer pays $120, or $100 for the tab and $20 for the 20% tip. The bartender enters $80 on the register and puts $40 in their tip cup.

In order to combat this, a bar owner can do two things. One, be extremely tight about how the bartender does their job, with cameras and managers. Hawkish management of what is sold, and using meticulous means to track profits, like using a pour regulator on a bottle, which measures for the bartender an EXACT pour for each drink. Or, you may have seen a bartender pour liquor into a shot glass, add it to the rocks glass and add the soda/juice on top. That's an exact pour, which maximizes profits for the bar.

Or, just implement a bonus system that rewards employees who bring in profits to the bar & work hard. The barometer to measure them would be the bartenders individual register. If an employee rings "x" amount on the register they get a bonus. The amount of "x" would depend on the bar and hopefully set to realistic expectations. Right now at our bar, I think the numbers are realistic, I have hit the bonus on multiple occasions.

So, then, there is more of an incentive NOT to "give the bar away", a term used for bartenders who give away too many buybacks, in order to pad their tip jar, and more of an incentive to put cash in the register. Giving out such a bonus increases the profits for the bar, and increases the profits for the employees.

Nearly everyone working on Wall St. has some kind of way to bonus for their hard work. Some companies have profit sharing. Some companies give out bonuses in the form of stock. Some people make money as individuals, based on whatever they bring into the company and profit from that.

Wouldn't it make more sense if everyone did this with their employees?

I pass CVS everyday coming home from the PATH and they always have ridiculoulsly long lines. Why? Well, it is a popular store in a good location. I would also hazard that the employees don't have an incentive to work faster, which keep the queues moving at a sluggish pace. I'm sure the same is true for fast-food places like McDonalds. Imagine if they had some kind of incentive system in place everywhere, how much faster things would get done.

Like in Hoboken if you go to a mom & pop owned store, and the owners are there, the product comes out lickety split. But if you have a bunch of teenagers in there who don't care about profit margins, they are going to be S-L-O-W. There' just isn't an incentive for a teenager to work harder and faster.

I'm sure others, including myself, have avoided CVS in the past because of the long lines. That is profit which is walking out of their door, because their employees don't care about working faster when they are making $9 an hour. It is $9 an hour if they work slow or $9 an hour if they work fast. Imagine if you told them they could make $15 an hour?

I was at CVS on Saturday. I needed to pick up a few things for the condo. I was 3rd in line and it took the cashier 10 minutes to get to me. By that time i'm just thinking how I don't want to come back to this store if I can help it. Unfortunately it is the only store at that end of Hoboken which most closely resembles a supermarket. They don't really have a reason to be fast, in a way. So very annoying.

Boy This Is Strange

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The move is complete.

I moved to my new condo on Saturday. Everything went fairly well. I rented a U-Haul truck, and begged some friends to help me move. Brad, Chris and a co-worker at the bar, George, helped me move.

Over the last week, I took care to box as many items as I could. I also set aside a ton of items that fell under my golden rule, "Have I used this in the last year?" The items that I haven't used included an old snowboard, 3 old PCs (out of 6 PCs!), softcover and hardcover books, old pc games, pc stereo speakers, an old dart board (with Grateful Dead wall-protector that is put between the dartboard and the wall for protection from errant darts). I hope to have a gate sale next weekend if the weather olds out. Whatever I can't sell, I probably will trash.

The new condo is in disarray. The contractor has been working on my place, and the changes look like they will be great, but they aren't 100% done. The glass wall is down, and in its place is a sheet rock wall in dire need of a paint job. The closets are expanded, without doors or shelving - so I can't hang anything up. condo 019.jpg
The kitchen is basically empty, and my beer/soda sits in a cooler with ice. The appliances are in boxes and there are no shelves, cabinets or sink. My old toilet is still leaking but functional, and my new toilet sits in the living room. I don't own a shower curtain, so I have to contort myself to avoid splashing too much water on the floor (I should have a new one soon).

I think it will be at least another week, until everything else, besides the kitchen, is done. So all that delays my painter. Chris painted the bedroom, and I think it looks outstanding. The ceiling is painted white, and the walls are a nice shade of green. Unlike the previous owner who decided "EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE BLUE" with the room, Chris was smart about making the trim & window ledge white, and it really "pops" when you walk in. Unfortunately, Chris told me that he doesn't want to paint the rest of the condo until the contractor is done with his work. He feels that if he paints it now, that he will be doing double work because the contractor still has things to hang, saw, spackle and build which will create more work for the painter to fix touch ups and hand prints.

My air conditioning/heat in my bedroom is dead, along with the airconditioning in the family room, due to the kitchen construction knocking out the thermostat unit. The weather has been fairly nice. I don't look forward to a heatwave, however.

Good news? Well, my internet works. My Tivo is connected and cable TV is working. To me, that was probably the #1 thing I need in my home. Life without that connection to the internet or having TV only lasted for a few hours between my move yesterday and today. It was a long 12 hours.

Someone commented on my blog a few weeks ago about how moving to a new section of Hoboken would bring about new places to explore & experience. They were so right. I really do feel, in a way, like i'm in a whole new town. Like I know i'm in Hoboken, but when I think, "Ok, I need Windex" - I don't know where to go. Oh, at my old place, i'd walk 4 blocks to the A&P. That is about a 13 block walk now. 5 blocks from my new place is the CVS on Washington & Newark. When I think, "I need a 6 pack of beer" I don't take the 1 block walk to Garden Wine & Liquor Store and talk to Phil. Now I have Hoboken Discount Liquors on Willow and Newark or Hoboken Vine at 400 Newark.

There are stores that I have been poking around this weekend and knew *of* them, but never bought anything. I went to Luca Brasi's on Thursday (got the Chicken Parm Hero) and Friday (tried the Fuget Aboutit Hero). Both were very tasty, and the Fuget Aboutit may have been even better than Vito's Hero. It was one of those moments where I am eating it and thinking "Damn, this is SO good."

I also have been to Legal Beans. I have passed by there numerous times and it was always packed. I went there for brunch last week, and then for brunch again today. Didn't have much today, just some fruit, an everything bagel with cream cheese and a "zombie" chocolate/espresso coffee. Very cool vibe to the place, I absolutely see this becoming my #1 place to eat. It is 2 blocks from the condo, and the prices are great. Reminds me of an old-school diner with a new-school eclectic motif. Met Molly the waitress there today. Should be on a first name basis with everyone there before summer, I will bet.

Also checked out Sobsey's Produce today on 1st and Bloomfield. It is sort of like the red-headed step child of Garden of Eden. It has a very nice range of fresh fruits, vegetables and off the beaten path condiments, but i'd walk an extra 3 blocks for GoE.

When we moved in Saturday we got Filippo's pizza and a 12 pack of Yuengling. Holy shit! Great crusty 'za. I was planning to eat at Leo's Grandevous, but I went back to Filippo's last night, grabbed two slices, some seltzer and a fresh made cannoli to watch The Soprano's.

My goal this week is to zero in on the cabinet and countertop situation. I have two people working on it from different stores, and my main problem is finding the time after work (I get home at 6:45pm) to race out to the stores and look at the shelving. I may have to put it off until Saturday, but every day I delay are more days that I am without a kitchen. Then again, this isn't something I want to rush, because to me the most important component of the construction work will be the kitchen. I don't want to skimp on cabinets and then be disappointed in what I purchased.

My Idea To Stop Email Spam

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I don't understand why email providers can't "fix" spam.

I have a simple solution.

Ok, lets say your email is "xyz@yahoo.com". The first solution is if you meet someone like "beth@gmail.com" you exchange emails, and you can input it on your cell phone. You can text that email to yahoo.com address and it adds her to your address book. She is now an authorized user to email you.

Or, when you get home, add "Beth@gmail.com" to your address book. Much like if you add someone's phone number to your cell phone. It is a manual way of doing it, and works just the same.

Anytime "Beth@gmail.com" emails "xyz@yahoo.com" the filter at yahoo looks at the email, and if it matches, the mail goes thru. If not, it is COMPLETELY blocked. No spam folder. BLOCKED. The spammers get nothing.

Say, someone is trying to track you down. An old classmate, roommate or co worker. The spam folder works like match.com - you get "Friend Requests". You can glance thru it every once in a while to see if someone is emailing you that you know. If not, just don't approve them. I have friends of mine who don't pick up their cell phones if they don't recognize the number who is calling them. Just do the same for email.

I don't think this is a perfect solution, but I do think that it would make the spammer's job much harder. I would very much like to make a list of "approved" emailers on my yahoo account and everyone else gets sent to spam. If someone called me saying "Hey! I have been trying to email you!" I look at my spam folder, check out to see if someone was flagged as spam, and just check them to "approved" much like they do today in the spam folders.

Fundraising at the Jubilee Center

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I got this from a friend of mine, and I will be attending. Interested? Come along for a good cause.

Please join us for a night of wine, beer and dinner from local
Hoboken restaurants including:
Baja, 10th and Willow, Liberty, Quays, Garden of Eden, Lounge 11, Court
Street, Luca Brasi, Hudson Gourment, Biggies, El Flamboyan, Tutta Pasta,
Salad Works, Gas Light, Luca Brasi's, Ganache, It's Greek to me, Qdoba,
Dominoes, and Starbucks.

Come bid on auction items including....
Andre Aggasi signed ball and cap, Martha Stewart signed autographed
book, Hockey Puck by Devil's player #21 Brad Lukowich, a poster signed
by Jets John Vilma and Giants Eli Manning,Tiger Schulmann month of
classes and uniform, Club KO gift cert, one night stays from several
local hotels such as Sheraton, Marriott, Doubletree, and Candlewood
Suites.
Baskets by Good Kleen Fun, Flowers by Diane, Zip Car, Lucy's, Soley
Ours, United Media, and Starbucks. Symposium puppet show tickets,
dinner gift certs from Margheritas, 10th and Willow, Harbor Bar, Casual
Thai, Shannon Lounge, Sushi Lounge, Lolas, Carlos Bakery, Casual Thai,
and Panera. Makeovers and Clipp One Salon certs, Dr Brayton, and Zen
Touch.
Other sponsorsed items from Big Jeff Music, Rita's Ice, Johnnie Walker
Blue, Hoboken Golf, Budweiser, Inko Tea, Story Land, Botanical Design,
and Secret Chef.

Proceeds benefit Hoboken's Jubilee Center, a safe haven for children
from public housing to participate in tutoring, extra curricular
activity, and a daily meal.

Tickets $50 in advance / $60 at door
Purchase tickets through Shelly Ferguson at
Remax Gold Coast
56 Newark Street, Hoboken
or via email shelly@hobokenproperties.com (Shelly)
or caltberger@gmail.com (Cindy)


Funny Or Die: The Landlord

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Eagles New Quarterback!

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I just got this over email...

Team owner Jeffery Lurie had put together the perfect team for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The only thing missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the
colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn't
find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl victory.

One night while watching CNN, he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan.
In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghani soldier with
a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a window
from 80 yards away. He then threw another from 50 yards down a chimney,
and finally hit a passing car going 80 miles per hour.

"I've got to get this guy!" Lurie said to himself "He has the perfect arm!"

He brings the young Afghan to the States and teaches him the great game
of football ...sure enough the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl. The
young Afghan is hailed as a hero of football, and when the coach asks
him what he wants, all the young man wants to do is call his mother.

"Mom," he says into the phone, "I just won the Super Bowl!"

"I don't want to talk to you," the old Muslim woman says. "You deserted
us. You are not my son."

"Mother, I don't think you understand," pleads the son, "I've just won
the greatest sporting event in the world!"

"No! Let me tell you," his mother retorts, "At this very moment there
are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your
two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I
have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn't get raped!"

Whirlwind

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Things have been...hectic lately.

A quick list of things I have had to deal with:

1. My air conditioners. When I bought the place, and did the inspection, 2 out of 3 wall mounted air condtioners weren't working properly. One was dead, and the other's heat pump didn't work properly. The 3rd was ok. So when it came to close, the owner credited me money to fix the A/C units. I spoke to his repair guy, after the close, and he told me it would cost "x" amount to fix the A/C unit, and "y" amount to replace the broken one.

I wasn't credited for the "y" amount by the seller, just an "x" amount which was supposed to cover the costs. I called my lawyer, Tom Foley, who started to look into it with the other lawyer, emailed me: "We can assert that the Seller was aware of the condition and intentionally misrepresented that it was in working order."

While that was going on I did some research of my own. I checked the serial number of my A/C unit (52SQD307301AA), and googled it. After a bit of work, I found a site which I could plug in the old unit serial number and it would provide me with a compatible "modern" serial number (52PQ-307-3). Then I googled the modern AC and found out they cost about $650 (taxes/shipping included).

That $650 cost was about a fraction of what I was credited at the time of sale. I was pretty psyched, I could get 3 brand new A/C units (with heat pumps) and be set. Things were looking good.

Then I called a Carrier authorized dealer. I explained that I could buy the units and if someone could install them, what would it cost? All we were doing was taking out an existing unit, of the same size and shape, and slapping in a new unit. Couldn't be THAT hard. What would it cost? $300? $500?

The guy was nice, but was like "Oh, you would need 2 guys for that and it could take a couple of hours. Including a guy outside on a ladder. Probably about $2,000 for the job."

I blurted out, "$2,000 dollars?! What are you nuts? We are just taking an old one out and putting a new one in, should take about 30 minutes, max!"

He was nonplussed about it. "Hey, you need a trained refrigerator technician there, not some handy man. That's what it costs."

I hung up the phone and I was deflated. I was thinking I could get in 3 new A/C units and maybe pay some guy like $300 bucks for an hour or two to just put them in. I was now getting worried, the whole buying the house thing wasn't so great now. This was starting to become a Money Pit (more on this later). Fuck.

In times past, I usually dealt with my problems on my own, but I was getting a bit desperate because I was watching my funds drain a lot faster than I expected. I have become a check writing machine. Painter. Contractor. Cabinents. Stainless steel appliances. New couch, chair and ottoman. This was all starting to add up, big time. My original estimates were very naive. The money I set aside for the upgrades simply wasn't enough and I already was working on two mortgages - one was 80% of the principal and the other was 6% of the principal (I put down 14% in cash).

One thing i'm proud of is that I was relatively debt-free, aside from paying PSE&G back $100 a month for the next 50 months (a special shout-out to Kristen and Jon who agreed to pay me back, and I hope Karma is a boomerang to those roommates who refused to pay me back).

I thought about just getting a credit card with 0% APR for 12 months and spread out whatever I needed to do. But I also wanted to bang out that second mortgage as soon as I could, too, and not put myself into more debt.

I may have gotten lucky. My mom knew that my brother-in-law was handy with things like Air Conditioning. She called him and he called me, assuring me that this wouldn't be that hard to do, since the A/C units are already in place. He would come up one weekend with my sister, and the kids and replace it. I ordered one unit today, for the bedroom, and if that goes well I will order two more at a later time.

2. My mailbox. The owner was also nice enough to forget to have a mailbox key at the close (the owner lives in London now, so he wasn't at the close, nor was his lawyer). The last few days has been Mailbox 101 for me. I first went to the Post Office at River Street and asked the manager there what I needed to do. He told me I just had to get a locksmith to pop open the box and replace the lock. While talking to him someone was Hoboken Locks (6th and Washington) was walking behind me and the manager said, "There's a locksmith right there!"

I spoke to the guy, and he said "Hey, its easy. You can pay me $67 and I'll open it up and replace the lock. Or, you take two screwdrivers and do it yourself for $7."

He gave me a basic explanation of how to do it. Now for those that know me, i'm pretty good with computers but pretty lousy with anything "handy" related. I just have the worst luck. But this was pretty easy, I quickly popped open the mailbox and removed the old lock. I went to the ACE hardware store on 1st. I bought a lock set they had for mailboxes. I was feeling confident. I put the lock in...

...and it wouldn't close.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

The old lock was at the ACE hardware store. I threw it out when I got the new lock, thinking that this was a done deal.

I went back to the hardware store. I glumly explained that I needed my lock back and went into their trashcan, digging for my old lock. Fortunately the trashcan was only filled with paper products, and one coffee cup. I found my lock after about 2 minutes. It was a bit embarassing to do this in front of a line of people behind me.

I compared the two locks, and the locking latch for the new lock was different than the old lock. I figured I could try to use the old latch with the new lock, and went back to my condo. That didn't work either. I returned the new lock to ACE and went down to Hoboken lock to see if they had a locking latch similar to the one I had.

Hoboken Lock was closed on Saturday at 2pm, and by the time I got there it was 2:30. They were closed Sunday. I had to go there Monday to get the new lock. What a waste. It was a solid 2 1/2 hours of my day with me trekking up and back to ACE hardware three times.

3. Cabinets are expensive. I know nothing about cabinets before I bought this place. I figured a decent set would cost about $1,500-2,000 since my kitchen was relatively small. Boy, was I wrong. My contractor and I priced out two brands, and both came back from $3,000-4,000 without granite or the sink. FUCK. My old kitchen is GONE. Everything is ripped out. The cabinets are gone. The appliances are gone (except the fridge). The new appliances are coming on Friday. I'm still working with my contractor on this and already priced around with other places, like Home Depot, and their prices were even more expensive than what the contractor priced.

Philadelphia Phillies Club of Hoboken

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I started a Philadelphia Phillies Club of Hoboken:

http://groups.google.com/group/PPCH

Feel free to join and invite others. I plan on finding a bar we can all watch the game at, about once a week. I'm thinking about Friday nights or Saturdays, myself. I figure if you are in Hoboken over the summer, it will be nice to get together with fellow fans who stay in town rather than the shore.

Questions From The Homeland...

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I got an email from a woman near my hometown, Richboro. It reads:

Hi Sean, I came across your blog while researching Hoboken. Firstly,
thanks so much for all the very useful information. I am actually
moving to the NYC area from Holland, PA - not far from Richboro. I am
debating NYC or Hoboken.041107.jpg
I was hoping you could answer a few questions
for me, since I don't know anyone there. I'd greatly apprectiate it!
Thanks so much!

1. I know PATH runs all night, but is it safe to take it at 3 a.m.?
2. Is Hoboken safe overall?
3. What is the best website you think to find a 1 bedroom place in Hoboken?
4. Would you recommend any other NJ suburbs to consider for an easy
daily commute into midtown Manhattan?

Thanks so much, Sean!

First I will start by saying, thank you for the kind words. Far too often in the world of the internet people enjoy being negative towards each other.

I'll break down your questions, and answer them based on my experiences.
Q: I know PATH runs all night, but is it safe to take it at 3 a.m.?
A: Like any major city, you have to be more careful on the PATH, or any subway, late at night or in the morning. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays it isn't uncommon to have loads of yuppies riding the trains back from NYC to Hoboken. I'd say it was safe enough, but if you are out with a few girlfriends, i'd just get a yellow cab at that time, have everyone pony up $10 each and get a taxi home. If taking a PATH at 3 a.m. is work-related, due to a graveyard shift or something, I would say that even I would feel uncomfortable if a sister or girlfriend was taking at 3 a.m. every night on a PATH. That's just me.

Q: Is Hoboken safe overall?
A: It is an urban area, and has much more crime than Holland, PA. I'd probably say it has a similar crime level to Roxborough or Manayunk. If your read my story about how I was almost mugged, i'm the only person I know who ever got jumped by thugs in town. Then again my house was also broken into about 2 years back, too. That happens more often than you think in this town, so get renter's insurance. Make sure whatever place you move into has proper security. Even with those two events, I still feel that Hoboken is a safe town, but it has crime, like New York.

Q: What is the best website you think to find a 1 bedroom place in Hoboken?
A: Easily Hobokeni.com has the best listings for apartment rentals or apartment shares. Yahoo! Real Estate has nice listings from our local real estate office, if you want to work with them. I recommend the agent I used, Steve Miller, of Century 21 and owner of Hobokenhomes.com.

Q: Would you recommend any other NJ suburbs to consider for an easy
daily commute into midtown Manhattan?
A: I think it depends on your social situation. If you are young (22-36), single and/or in a new relationship (read: don't have kids), I recommend Hoboken. Certainly you can raise the rug rats here, but I wouldn't want to. I'd rather be in the suburbs, myself. If you can afford it, try to buy near Princeton Junction. They have express trains that take about an 50 minutes to get into 42nd street. You pay a bit more to live in Hoboken, but I think it is worth it. I couldn't imagine myself in the suburbs as a single guy.

Good luck, let me know how everything goes! I'm sure some of my commenters have something to say about your questions, too...

I closed on my condo Thursday, and I now own my own property for the first time in my life.

People have been asking me, "So are you excited?"

I wrote about it before, I love a lot of things about the condo, and its potentional, but right now it isn't a HOME. Yet. I have a lot of work I need to sink into it. I have minor construction to complete. I have to paint the place (notice that the word "PAIN" is in "PAINT"). I have my appliances on order, and I should get them in about 2 weeks. I have to move, and today I made arrangements for a U-Haul truck and boxes. I'm going to have to cash in my chips with one or two friends to see if they can help me move. Matt, I'm looking at you, buddy.

I think once I am done with everything, the condo will be gorgeous. I just hope I have enough money to cover everything. I have a budget, and have to pick and choose what gets priority in upgrades.

Hey, funny thing happened Thursday. I was mid way through signing my life away, and entering the wonderful world of debt when my lawyer and I started to talk about Hoboken. 040807d.jpg
I was telling him everything that I loved and hated about Hoboken, and he mentioned how he was running for office in the 6th ward...

Hey, I live in the 6th Ward?

Oops. My lawyer is Thomas Foley. For whatever reason, I didn't make the connection between all the great information from Hoboken411 and the fucking emails I have been getting from him for the last 3 weeks. Yes, I can be dense. Want to know how dense I am?

I told him I wasn't voting for him.

Sorry, I explained, but Bill Noonan is my guy. Known him for years. Trust the guy to run this town in a fair and honest way. Isn't connected with the "Old Boys Network" of Hudson County. I know he will do what is right for his ward and what is right for Hoboken. I told Tom Foley this, to his face, simply explaining that I don't turn my backs on my friends. Thomas was gracious and cordial about it, and I immediately felt bad for being so blunt with him. Then again, I did give Thomas well over 1,000 reasons why I could be honest with him, since he was working for me.

I sincerely hope either Thomas or Bill win. Thomas presents some great ideas also and I already like the guy. I wish that Bill and Thomas just weren't running against each other in the same ward against Angelo “Nino” Giacchi. Nino is well entrenched in the 6th ward, and I hope either Thomas or Bill just consolidate their effort to overthrow the Hudson County Political Machine.

I finished signing about 100 documents and left the office to check out my new pad. I bought a 6 pack of Yuengling, sat in my empty apartment and drank a few beers in celebration. I started to sketch my kitchen with a Home Depot kitchen kit, which has graph paper and cabinents to pick out. Man, I suck at that. I must have measured each wall about 10 times (no, it wasn't the beer) and then would add up the size of the appliances and counter top and got different numbers. It was frustrating. My friend called me, and we decided to have dinner at Four L's.

Four L's was previously known as Favia. I never went into Favia before, but I knew of their menu which had light dishes and pizza for a calorie conscious consumer. They completely renovated the restaurant, and truth be told it looks a lot like Mikie Squared! Here's a shot I took of it on Hoboken St. Patty's Day:
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We sat down at a high top table for two, and ordered some drinks. They have a good wine list and lots of drink specials each day. On Thursday, select wines were $5, and we were there during happy hour which had discounts on martinis and beers. I ordered a glass of red wine, and my friend ordered a martini.

We tried the crustini appetizer, which is toasted italian bread, topped with meatballs and smoked mozzarella. The bread was entirely too hard, and nearly impossible to chew without breaking a tooth. I even showed the waitress how difficult they were even to cut with a knife. We ate 3 out of 5 of them and just didn't want to try to down the last two. I was disappointed in it, and in some ways I was hoping they would have comped us the appetizer. We did our best to eat it, but the bread was either stale and then toasted, or fresh and over-toasted. It was edible, but it was like a battle to down.

But my disappointment turned to pleasure when I got my burger. It was topped with mozzarella and roasted peppers. I added some A1 steak sauce, and it was heaven. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, I devored it. The french fries were ok, but not as good as Mikie's sweet potato string fries. I only ate a few of them. My friend got lobster ravioli, and also said they were delicious. I was going to order that dish if she didn't order it, but I have a thing about both people ordering the same dish at a new restaurant. I want to either try or hear from others as much as I can about a new place, to find out if it is worth my "restaurant rotation".

Do you have a "restaurant rotation"? I do. I have certain places that I will eat at in Hoboken on a regular basis. Here's what I usually eat at:

Indian - Karma Cafe. Usually I get this delivered, rather than eating there alone. Karma is pricey, but love that Lamb Korma with naan bread.
American - Court Street. Great place to sit at the bar, read a Hoboken Reporter, and eat.
Sushi - Maru, of course. Go to the liquor store a few doors down, grab a silver 20 oz can of Sapporo for $3.50 and prepare yourself for the best fish in Hoboken (sorry Sushi House, Sushi Lounge and Robongi - I have tried your restaurants multiple times and Maru is consistently superior).
Chinese - Precious. Again, I rarely go there alone, and usually get it delivered.
Steak - none exist. I go into the city and eat at Strip House, which is heavenly. I'd go to Peter Lugers, but going to Brooklyn is far too annoying for me. I heard good things about Frankie and Johnnies, and in my 13 years I was there once, was disappointed, and didn't return.
Italian Deli - Ok, I know it isn't a restaurant, but I have to say that Vito's is great, but I have a strong feeling that I won't be walking 8 blocks at my new condo to get a Vito's hero. Anyone know if Luca Brasi's is good? It is a few blocks from my new place, and looks like my kind of italian deli.

That's just a sampling of the places I frequent? What are your favorite Indian, Chinese, Sushi and American restaurants?

Tartan Day & I Nearly Was A Bar Owner

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In Hoboken we have a history of taking a perfectly good day of national pride and turning it into an excuse to drink. St. Patrick's Day is so 1986...welcome to Tartan Day 2007!

And like many other days of national pride, we also celebrate it early around here. The real Tartan Day is April 6. Apparently it is April 5th in Hoboken.

Tartan day was in full force at The Dubliner, with a bagpiper, lots of people in kilts, and comely Glenlivet sponsor girls outside the pub, looking like they wished they wore a sweater this frigid morning.

Then I remembered - I nearly BOUGHT that bar a few months ago.

Ok, i'm exaggerating a bit. I wasn't going to be THE only bar owner, but I happened to meet someone who was an avid reader of my website one day.

It was quite strange, actually. I wrote a post one day a few months back, and a reader saw it and emailed me to introduce himself. I recognized his name, he wrote to me a few times over the lifetime of the blog. He told me that he was getting a group of people together to buy The Dubliner and after reading my entry thought i'd be the kind of guy interested in taking a chance with a group of other investors on the property. My each minority investor would provide 5-10% each of the total cost, and he was going to provide the bulk of the upfront cash and work as owner and manager.

I had a lot of questions for him. We emailed for a week, going over different details about his experience, the funds, what the other owners responsibilities would entail - which seemed to be mostly about promoting the bar. Truth be told, he seemed like a decent guy, but at the same time it was just a bit too risky to invest with someone I barely knew. It certainly had an upside, but my spidey senses were just saying "Don't do it".

Groups of bar owners isn't anything new in this town. The bar "Nine" has 9 owners (hence the name? or it is that they are at 333 Washington - 3+3+3=9?)040507b.jpg

After about a month of discussions with the guy, I backed out. The situation was a small investment, but I just didn't feel it. The Dubliner had some capacity issues. The first floor had a capacity of 57 (I have to check the EXACT numbers, but I remember them being extremely low) and the 2nd floor had a capacity of approximiately 75, I just felt that was ridiculously low for a bar that sized. You put 130 people into that bar and it will look empty on a parade day. Also the bar was in dire need to be redesigned to make it more "Hoboken Friendly". The first floor, with the plexiglass outdoor seating I thought was terrible. The common room needed fixes and the 2nd floor was underutilized.

Also the question of "Can I bartend there" came up, and I was promised a shift, it was a bit too murky for me about what, exact, shift I could get. Both the 1st and 2nd floor bars are tiny. I am in the school of thought as many bar owners - cute bartenders equals business. I'm a guy. Guys are a dime a dozen in Hoboken. So I didn't want to shoot myself in the foot, by asking to bartend as a minority owner, and screw us by not generating as much business as a cuter girl bartender might. It wasn't like the bars were all that conducive to having two bartenders behind them like Mikie Squared.

Bottom line is that it just wasn't for me. Mistake? Well, as it turned out The Dubiner *was* for sale, and then once negotations began (after I backed out) between the potentional buyers and the present owners, a series of issues popped up and the sale fell apart. So, it wasn't to be anyhow.

I guess it was good, in a way, that I didn't get into the bar business - I am closing on my condo today. "Jason Phillips" asked in my comments the following: "i worry that you may not have done your due diligence when finding this condo. 1st the place is 100 square feet less than advertised and now you find out there is a problem with mice. i think you let your enthusiasm for finding your own place get in the way of rational thought. is it too late to back out?"

My answer would be that yes, I am enthused about the apartment. I went there the first day and walked through it, with a paper saying it was 750 sq ft. I looked around and thought "Wow, I like the size of this place."

When my agent told me that the listing agent made a mistake, and it was really 650 sq ft, it didn't shrink in size, except on paper. I knew after walking through the apartment that it would work for me, since I was a single bachelor. Four or five years from now, when I am ready to leave, it should be a great place to either rent or sell to another working professional.040507c.jpg

Like my fellow blogger The Blonde wrote, "I work in real estate, and you cannot put a guaranteed price on sq. footage, whether it is residential or commercial. Their are averages, but you shouldn't nit pick. If you are paying less then what the other units in the building are selling for, then you are already making money on it. Making a stink over it can kill the deal, and then someone else will come in and scoop it up. It will be your loss then....100 sq.ft. is not that big of a deal. You like the place, and it is the space that you want so just buy it."

I happen to agree with that philosophy. The key points to the condo was its potentional, and had a lot of positives in my mind. It was in a very good location, about 6 blocks to the PATH in downtown Hoboken. It was concrete poured, so it was much quieter than new flimsy construction, where you can hear your neighbor in high heels walking above you. It has low maintenence and the taxes were about half of what I have seen with the new construction (yes, I am aware of the possible changes to that). My parking, which is transferable to the new owner, would be literally across the street for $25 more a month in rent than what I was paying at the Monroe Arts Center, which was a solid 7 minute walk to my car (it doesn't sound like a lot, but it was).

The negatives: Mice? Certainly a concern, but I think it is true for many buildings in Hoboken. I'm not sure how I could have known about it, unless I started knocking on strangers doors saying "Hi! You don't know me, but I was looking to buy in your building...I had a few questions for you..."Now that i'm moving in, you can bet your bottom dollar that i'm going to be all over the management and the residents to eradicate & control the problem. Electric only? I will miss gas heat and gas appliances, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Closet space? A bit tighter, but I think installing EZ closets will help a lot. Square footage? I agree that this was a big oversight. I simply took what the listing agent wrote at face value, and by the time it was revealed that the sq footage was wrong, it was 2 weeks later and I was doing the home inspection! I was already picking out new appliances, lining up a contractor and getting a professional painter, and friend, scheduled to make the place nicer. Had I caught it earlier, I may have balked. In a way, i'm glad that I didn't because I have been sitting on the sideline for the last 4 years, always saying, "The market is going down THIS year."

Of course now i'm watching the whole sub-prime mortgage fiasco and laughing a bit. I know the days of real estate gains are over, but I am just happy that I got a great mortgage rate and i'm finally a homeowner. I don't plan on selling my home anytime soon. Especially that i'm now 2 blocks away from Mulligan's bar, it should be a lot more fun next season with The Philadelphia Eagles Club of Hoboken!! Go Birds!!

Happy Easter and Passover, everyone. Have a safe weekend.

Anyone know who David Lereah is?

For the last 4 years I have watched the housing market overheat like crazy. I was the guy 4 years ago saying that markets are cyclical and it can't last. Up, up, up the market rose. I would go to parties and meet some of the most stupid motherfuckers who thought they were the next Donald Trump because they happened to get in on the real estate market before it exploded - like they fucking knew their gains would be 50% per year.

Sure, it is sour grapes, but I remembered the Savings & Loan disaster in the late 80's. I remember the real estate company my father worked for, which was headed for a ridiculous fortune, implode on itself because of the fallout. At one point of time, my mother was fully expecting us to own a summer home in South Jersey, a vacation villa in Italy and a brand new home on the Main Line. Those never came to fruition due to the housing collapse in the 80's. Maybe this is part of the reason why I am so thorough when I make any purchases, real estate or otherwise. This profoundly affected my life, watching the dreams and apirations of my father and mother get quashed overnight.

Lots of my generation don't remember the real estate recession from 1988-1992. They were mostly too young to remember it or just weren't affected by it like my family was affected. Fortunately my father was extremely intelligent and very resourceful. He emerged from the collapse stronger, wiser and economically healthy. We never got that villa in Italy, but the old man did well enough to make us all proud of his financial success.

So what does this have to do with David Lereah?

Well, because of my experiences and my trepidation to the whole housing market, I would read all the housing articles over the years. One name that always stood out was David Lereah, the National Association of Realtors chief economist. He was the spin doctor. When the market was a shooting star, he was leading the parade and waving his baton. When the market started to turn, he became a broken record.

Read for yourself a smattering of quotes that I got from Bloomberg News:

Sept 25, 2006: National Association of Realtors' Lereah Comments on Housing,
“We think the housing market has now hit bottom…We're confident that the contraction in the housing market we've been seeing since August 2005 may be ending.”

Dec 11, 2006: Housing Will Recover in First Quarter, Realtors Say
“ Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The worst of the U.S. housing slump is
over, according to the National Association of Realtors.”

Dec 28, 2006: U.S. Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Rose Last Month
“It appears we've hit bottom,”

Feb 1, 2007: Pending Sales of Existing Homes in U.S. Rose 4.9% in December
“ ``It appears buyers are becoming more comfortable, sensing
the timing is good and that their local market has bottomed
out,'' David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors' group,
said in a statement. ``I expect modest gains throughout the
year, with what I believe are sustainable levels of activity.''

Feb 15, 2007: Home Prices Fell in Half U.S. Cities in 4th Quarter
“Hopefully the fourth quarter was the bottom for the current housing cycle,'' Lereah said in the statement.

March 23, 2007: Realtors' Lereah Says Housing Market Has `Some Momentum'
“ ``I'd like to say yes, the worst is over. It seems like there
is some momentum now in the housing sector. Most measures in
housing have been on the up rather than the down.”

April 3, 2007: Pending Sales of Existing Homes Rose 0.7% in February
The gain in the February ``is encouraging,'' said David
Lereah, the real-estate agents group's chief economist in a
statement. ``The data suggests an underlying stabilization is
taking place in the housing market, but it will take another
month or two to clarify.''

Look, i'm fully aware he is a spin doctor. I know that being a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors he has to put a nice face on all the data. But how many times can this guy say that the market is "bottoming out" or "stabilizing"? I may not be a reporter, but if I was, I would absolutely be writing about this guy and going to my Lexus Nexus to see how many times he was quoted as saying the market bottomed out. I'm sure there is more quotes of his before Sept 25, 2006 that I could find which puts a happy face on everything.

Are you a reporter? Do you know a reporter? Just send them all my quotes and say, "Someone please call out David Lereah on his bullshit." I'd love to see how the spin doctor pooh-pooh's all the times he has said that the real estate market is botttoming out.

Now, with that being said, I met a neighbor from my same building last night.

I moved my car from Monroe Center for the Arts on 7th and Monroe to a new lot on Newark Street. It was $25 more per month, but having my car across the street from where I live was worth it. Unfortunately, the spot is tandem, but since I use my car maybe once or twice per month, it didn't bother me much. I am in line for a single spot, however.

I met the neighbor and she was a pleasant, 30-something woman of Indian heritage who also lived in the building. After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked her, "So what's wrong with the building", figuring i'd get the dirt now.

"Mice.", she replied.

Dammit!

One of the greatest things about my apartment is that we never had vermin issues. Nor did we have any major insect issues, except for the occasional ant invasion that was easily destroyed. Never had cockroaches. Saw an occasional spider.

My neighbor explained that the building across the street from ours was under construction and she surmised that the mice from there ran across the street into our building. My only caveat is that she is on the Willow side of the building as and i'm on the Clinton side (the building spans the entire block, and has 7 floors).

She also noted that the building did hire an exterminator, and was actively combating the problem. Also said that it wasn't an infestation, but it was a fairly good annoyance. She said that it seemed to be getting better.

Armed with that, I certainly plan to have my contractor look over my apartment for any holes that the mice could wiggle through. The building is concrete poured, not like some of the newer construction that is flimsier and easier to infest/tunnel. Unless the mice have super concrete eating teeth, i'm sure this problem can be managed. I fully expect that once I move in, i'm going to be very active with monitoring this issue with the building management & rallying the tenants to combat it. I told my neighbor that i'm that kind of guy - i'd be the guy printing off 60 copies of "How To Combat a Rodent Problem" from the internet and going to everyone's door handing out the pamphlets.

If I find that mice are a problem, I will go to the ASPCA and get 2 cats for my apartment. My old cat, Honey, was a great mouser - she used to catch mice all the time at my sister's old farmhouse and even caught one at my first apartment on Bloomfield street. She was nice enough to leave it in the middle of the kitchen floor for us, as if to say "Surprise! Look what I got for you!"

I'm kidding about getting two cats. Man, I hope the mice issue isn't that bad. I guess I will have to add to my list of things to do is get an exterminator to look over my apartment.

Oh, and i'm feeling much better today. 95% back to normal. Just a small twinge of stomach pain remains and I still have 2 Cipro tablets to take today, so I hope I will feel 100% by tomorrow or the next day.

Weekend Sick and Condo Update

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It's sort of hard to blog when nothing exciting is going on. The weekend was 'blah'.

I saw Dr. Messishi on Friday, and he was a very nice man. He was thorough with the exam, and put me on Cipro, an antibiotic. Also took some blood for some tests, too. I called out sick for bartending, because I wasn't sure if I would even feel better by Saturday night. Also, i'm not a big fan of people who work in the service industry who work while sick. I understand that people want to make their money, but if they are sick and passing it along to your customers they are being selfish. People should think about others over themselves in that situation.

Spent Friday night in. Spent Saturday night in. Spent Sunday night in. Mostly watching tv and playing on the computer.

I took care of my new parking spot on Saturday. It is actually kind of sweet, since it is across the street from my condo. It will be really novel to have my car so close to where I live for once. Only problem is that the parking is tandem, but the lot owners said that a single spot should be opening up in about 2 months, with no price difference. Also they noted that people who live at the condo on Newark get first priority for parking at the spot, so it is something they said I could transfer if I sold my unit, which I think is great. It *is* a rental, and it *is* month to month, so you never know - in 6 months the owners could sell the lot to someone building a new high rise residential unit.

I should be closing on the condo this Thursday. Remember the whole 750 sq feet vs 650 sq feet? Bad news was that during the process I found out that the square footage was wrong. But good news is that I was able to negotiate a lower price because of it. I saved quite a bundle!

I'm excited about closing on the condo, but also dreading it.

I'm a simple guy. I sort of enjoy stability in my life. Makes things easier. When my life becomes unstable, and i'm doing a million things at once, it simply becomes annoying.

Once I close, I have to get a contractor to do the work that I want. An entire wall of the family room is glass. I have to get him to rip that down. I have to modify two closets. I have to basically axe the entire kitchen, removing the cabinets, appliances and take down a partial wall. I'm sure permits will be needed. I don't know a soul in city hall, and cringe at how long it may take to get a permit (advice would be helpful to anyone in the know).

That will take a week if not longer. Then I got to paint the place. I thought about doing it myself, but honestly, I don't want to do it myself. I have no desire to spend an entire day with a case of beer, 2 pizzas and inviting a few friends over for a "painting party" or something. I don't know *how* to paint properly. I don't want my new place looking like something out of a college frat house - it looks that way now, with the garish color choices the guy before me chose - i'd very much like a pro to take care of it.

Ok, while that work is getting done, then I have to go to Home Depot and choose new cabinets and countertop. I went to Home Depot last week to look. It was...a bit overwhelming. There are like a trillion choices. I know basically what I like, but don't have a firm vision for what, exactly, I want. I did see another apartment at 300 Newark that had the "look" similar to what I wanted for the kitchen. Only difference is that I was thinking of going with a darker granite. I'm not a huge fan of the hanging lights above the breakfast bar, but do like the ceiling mounted lights, on a fader. I have to find out how hard it will be to construct that, i'd very much like something like it designed for the kitchen.

Once the reconstruction, painting, cabinents are done, then need to get the new appliances and some new furniture (couch, chair & ottoman and kitchen table).

Once those are done, need to then see how much money I have left, and design the closets with EZ Closets. Its a pretty impressive website, you can build your closet online, and design a closet with shelving, cabinets, drawers, laundry basket, and hangars depending on the size of the closet.

Then, when i'm done all that, I need to see how much money I have left over and see if I can do anything about upgrading the bathroom, too. I have a strong feeling that the bathroom will have to wait.

I'm sure a lot of people love designing, planning and building their dream rooms. This would be fun if I wasn't also working on a timeline.

See while all this is going on, I have to also move out of my apartment. I told my roommates that i'd be out my mid-month (April 15), and they have a new roommate lined up. I told them yesterday if they could extend that out to April 22. I'm still not even sure if that will be enough time. The "major" work that needs to be done is the kitchen and painting. Once that's done, I can move in and take care of the appliances, furniture and closets.

If I didn't have the timeline, no problem. I have a contractor, who was a referred to me by my real estate agent, and he is coming on Thursday (after I close) to look at the place, and give me an estimate on the work. I already got a quote from a painting company ($1,900!), but i'm going to stop around to see other prices (know anyone? mail me!).

I hope with the 3 day weekend, it will give me some time to work with Home Depot to design a new kitchen. Then I have to juggle the contractor, the painting and the cabinet install. Not fun.

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