July 2009 Archives

Dawn Zimmer Inauguration Photos

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I had the day off from work today, so I got over to city hall to snap a few photos of Dawn Zimmer's Inauguration. If you wish to use these photos, remember that I have a creative commons license and must be credited for the photos (philly2hoboken.com).

Enjoy!

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Life Ain't Fair, Folks.

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For many of my long time readers, they know that I started this blog when my father passed away. There were multiple reasons, like my interest in writing about Hoboken. Part of it was cathartic, and part of it was a way that I wanted to write as a form of understanding myself better, and letting my family, friends....and complete strangers to know, too.

I found out this week that my mother has giloma, or commonly known as brain cancer.

Shocked? Absolutely.

My mother never drank. She never smoked. She wasn't overweight. For all intents and purposes, she wouldn't be someone in a high risk category for brain cancer, in my opinion.

But life isn't fair like that. The deadly diseases of the world don't pick and choose. If that were the case, she wouldn't be the one to get this.

What we know is that she has a tumor. It's located on the brain stem. She's getting opinions from doctors at Johns Hopkins next week. We aren't sure the grade of the tumor, and finding out now the best course of action - chemotherapy, radiation, surgery?

There's also the possibility of no action. This tumor was found because of a brief stroke-like episode she had while in her home. They did some tests and that's how they discovered it, doing a contrasting dye MRI.

I'm sure i'll write more as I know more. Right now i'm a mix of emotions. The logical side of me is just looking at the situation, and planning the best course of action. Get all the information we can...figure out the best method to combat it, and go from there. And stay positive.

I'm hoping for a break from life....for once.

Protest 7/25 @6pm City Hall

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Life is a series of events, if you think about it.

We certainly are defined by our day-to-day mundane events, but life is about putting together those "moments of definition".

It could be a life living abroad. It could be enjoying life in the wine country of Italy with your family. It could be a day you lost someone special.

These are the moments that define you. There are hundreds of these in a lifetime.

Tonight is one of those moments. It's easy to sit on the sidelines when events like this happen, but to take action says more than anything. It doesn't matter who you voted for in the last election, I think we can all agree that we do not want to stand for corruption in our city.

Peter may be innocent. He may be guilty. It is not like he was caught by a local blogger on tape admitting to taking bribes -- he was recorded by the FBI. They don't accuse seated mayors unless the evidence is fairly conclusive, and i'm sure you have read the complaint, which details what was said.

Mayor Cammarano's ability to govern has been compromised, even before a trial has started. What he needs to do is step down, face the charges he is accused of, and let the courts decide if he is guilty or not. To have this circus going on, for the next couple of years, and for him to try to push forth an agenda is ludicrous. Who is going to trust anything he says? Who is going to trust anyone he nominates in his cabinet?

Until we find out the truth here, Hoboken will never progress. I highly encourage everyone to show up at City Hall tonight at 6pm to peacefully protest. It will only take 20 minutes of your life to define who you are...someone who stands up against corruption.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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Well, the news is buzzing about Cammarano.

What's there to say that really hasn't already been suggested? A mere two weeks ago Hoboken Housing Authority Commissioner Hector Claveria was arrested for taking bribes. Cammarano said:

"This Administration has a clear-cut, zero tolerance policy against any violation of the public trust and I am calling for Housing Authority Commissioner Claveria to resign his position with the Hoboken Housing Authority immediately. Should he refuse to resign, I am demanding that the City Council President immediately begin proceedings for his removal pursuant to New Jersey State statute 40A:12A-17."

Fair enough. Even before Claveria had his day in court, Cammarano was crowing for him to step down. I can only hope that Cammarano talks the talk and walks the walk. He needs to step down.

Ok, then what?

City council would vote for the interim mayor.

That interim mayor would run things until we have another vote in 2009 to determine a new mayor.

Ok, so fast forward to Nov 2009. We have a new mayor. Where do we go from here?

Well, if you watched the press conference from yesterday, you will see that the FBI eluded to "changes that we can make" to make corruption more difficult.

U.S. Attorney, FBI hold press conference on corruption arrests

OK. I'm not an expert, but shouldn't we reach out to the FBI and ask them to advise the City of Hoboken on what laws we can pass to make it harder for corruption to occur. I think I can speak for the average citizen when I say that we are sick of the way that our town has a double standard. And i'm not just talking about politicians. There's a double standard that seems to exist in every part of city government. That needs to be stamped out, immediately.

If you sit on the sidelines and make snippy comments and don't get involved -- you are part of the problem. If you don't vote -- you are part of the problem. If you are apathetic -- you are part of the problem.

Where we need to go from here is keeping the public informed. Revamping the city hall website for better open government. Taking away the mayor's authority to appoint members to the Zoning Board would be a good step. Think about what happened with the corruption probe.

The FBI used an informant -- the "CW," or cooperating witness, in April 2009 to approach Michael Shaffer (a North Hudson Utilities Authority commissioner) and mayoral candidate Cammarano:

The CW told Cammarano he would give Shaffer $10,000 if the mayor could "expedite" his development plans.

From the complaint:

Defendant Cammarano explained that "[i]t can go on the agenda just as soon as there's a sponsor for it . . . That happens like that."

The CW inquired, "So, if you sponsor it, boom?"

Defendant Cammarano replied, "Yeah."

When the CW stated "make sure you get my stuff expedited," defendant Cammarano assured the CW that "I promise you . . . you're gonna be, you're gonna be treated like a
friend."

Shaffer said later:
"When we get elected, we put our friends on the boards so we know we get the - don't listen to those morons who say put this environmentalist on, but they're - they're all f*cking kooks."

According to the criminal complaint, Shaffer acted as a middle man for the money.

So they put their friends on the boards. That's what Shaffer said. Only a few days ago, Cammarano revealed who such "friends" are when he revealed his cabinet. I recognize that Hoboken is a small town, but we have 45,000 people to choose from. Why are we putting an ex-algebra teacher into a position like the Director of Health and Human services? The same person who shouted down constitutents who "dared" suggest that we trim the pay of the fire department. This is the best we can get?

This city won't be fixed overnight. But I think our first best step is getting people into city hall positions who aren't "connected" one way or another to people in other departments - which can be hard with a city our size.

We need to get the budget under control. We need to take a hard look at streamlining our city departments, and asking questions comparing how Hoboken does things and comparing that to other cities. Find out what works and how we can keep our taxes low and our salaries competitive, but keeping in-line with state wide averages, for all public safety departments.

That's where our new mayor & city council should focus their efforts.

Thanks to Jesse for whipping this up so fast...

Don't Be Stupid If You Live Here

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I'm walking into work and on the corner of Newark and Willow, I see a smashed window on a car. I personally see this about every few months, and often reported on Hoboken411.com.

Do not leave anything in your car. Sure, there are idiot kids who smash or key cars for fun on the street. But if you look at the box in the picture above - that's what the guy was looking for. Most of these people are homeless, and look for something they can sell, like CDs or GPS systems.

As much as part of me feels sympathy for the car owner, another just shakes my head. The trunk area was just too cluttered with items.

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I'm planning on going to this. If supporting artists and the community is something you like, I encourage you to attend, also.

Michael Jackson's Famous Pepsi Video

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I know we are all tired of the Michael Jackson news, but I only posted this because I never saw the video before. It is the actual video of the fire explosion where his hair caught on fire. I never saw this before, and figured that you may want to see it, also.

The Good Samaritan Deed Of The Day

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Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, I can say that the better part of my life I was isolated from city living. I did the occasional trip into Philly to watch a sports game, maybe visit my father's office, see Franklin Institute or a holiday at the Union League.

Upon moving to Hoboken in 1995, I learned about living in the city from trial, error and exploration. During that time, I had lots of various experiences that I would never forget. Like the time when I first moved up, I offered a seat on the subway to a woman. She exploded in seething rage, snarling at me saying, "Do I look like I need your seat!?"

Plus, there were the homeless. After years of taking the PATH I would see Teddy. Teddy was a small African American man, who would claim to be collecting for a homeless shelter to give "bread, juice, milk" and other things to the homeless.

Later, I learned from Hoboken411 that Teddy was not working for a homeless shelter.

As the years passed, I can say that I have seen it all. With the harried people at the Port Authority Bus Terminal coming up to me saying, "Hey man, I lost my wallet. I need bus fare to get home. I'll pay you back, you give me your address and I swear I will send you the money!" to the woman dressed as a nun collecting money to the homeless guy outside of Bloomingdales at 59th who somehow trained two cats and a poodle to sit/lie perfectly still while he begged for money (trust me, the animal act was heart wrenching, that poodle had perfected the begging look).

So, like anyone who has lived here for a while, and at first was free with giving money to the homeless (or the so-called homeless, who were really scammers) - my heart slowly hardened and mostly my attitude towards giving money to homeless was "I pay my taxes, that's how I help."

I was out at Mulligan's last Friday. We had a nice Phillies crowd of about 15 people at the bar, watching the Fightin's vs Pirates. I didn't have a lot to drink, left around midnight and walked home. I got to the corner of Willow and 1st, turned and walked towards my condo. I walked past an African American man and woman who each had a bicycle. The man says something quietly to me to get my attention, and I turn to him.

"Yes?", I ask.

"My wife and I are homeless. We are both very hungry. Can you spare any money for us to get something to eat?"

Now, like I wrote before...99% of the time, i'd say no, and just walk away. But looking at the guy, and the woman they didn't "look" homeless. Nor did they strike me as your typical people looking for drug money.

Oh, I know. My jaded readers are all rolling their eyes, like I probably would be doing right now also.

But my spidey senses didn't say they were homeless, and I can't say that i'm always right, but I have a fairly good track record of being more right than wrong.

Yep, there's another eye roll out there from the readers.

So, to continue the story...

I could have given money, but I don't do that anymore. I simply don't. But, he said he was hungry. OK, fair enough. So I turn to him and say:

"No problem. Lets walk up to Washington Street and i'll buy you and your wife anything you want to eat."

They immediately agreed and we turned around and walked up the four blocks to the main street. While walking I find out that the man worked for a contractor as a painter, but all the jobs have dried up...and he couldn't find any more jobs. The homeless shelter in Hoboken was full, he told me, and they were going to try the one in Union City next, but they weren't sure if that was full. He said they might just sleep outside tonight. He said they didn't eat since that morning. I asked if they had any family in the area, and he said they didn't.

The story was, with this economy, believable. Plus, I called them out. My attitude was if they are hungry - fine, i'll feed you, but I won't give you any money.

Since it was late at night, I had a choice of pizza or Cluck-U. I asked them what they wanted, and they asked for Cluck-U. We walk into the store and they ask nicely, "What is our limit?"

I tell them to order whatever they want, there's no limit.

They ordered some chicken, not asking for sides or a drink. They got it to go, and I paid the cashier the money and we walked outside. I kindly explained to them my reasoning about not giving them money, saying that it wasn't personal to them - it's just a conscious decision by me. If you are homeless and hungry - I have no problem helping that way. They both thanked me, and I went home.

Now the moral of this story isn't about "Boy, is Sean generous! Lets all pat him on the back!" - it's more about how sad it is that our society has come to this. I can't discern between those that actually need and those that do. Yes, I fully recognize and understand there are legitimate agencies that collect money to fully help the homeless, and I could have donated my money to them instead.

Also, after reading books like The Soloist, you also glean a bit of a better understanding that you can't paint a broad stroke to explain all homeless people. Some have mental issues. Some have, in fact, fallen between the cracks. There are people working day jobs in cash-only businesses and only a bad recession away from losing their homes.

Personally, I think (and in a way hope) that it was the case on Friday. Both of them seemed like nice people who fell on hard times and weren't drug addicts looking to score. They just wanted something to eat and a place to sleep.

Would I do it again? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is like my mom used to tell me as a child, about The Parable of the Good Samaritan. I would come home from school, and tell her about doing something nice and she would always reply, "See, you did a Good Samaritan deed of the day!"

I always try to do good things like this. Always. But, like I wrote there are people who take advantage of kindness. If I can give out kindness in other ways, then I try to do that. Even if it is offering a seat for a woman, or opening a door for someone holding packages or helping people down on their luck.

There's no real moral here. I saw. I helped. I blogged. Take it for what you will. Maybe next time you see someone begging and asking about something to eat, you can do a Good Samaritan Deed, too. No one is keeping score, except God.

Vote Early, And Often!

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Click this to vote for Shane Victorino, who won tonight's game with a 2 out single to score the winning run in the bottom of the 9th! The Flyin' Hawaiian to the All Star Game!

Sod Off Bankers!

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Awesome commercial for Strongbow Cider in the UK...

Food Inc.

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Want to make a difference? Shop at the Hoboken Farmers Market today or at the uptown one on Thursday.

Staycation

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I was on staycation last week, and couldn't be happier. I'm one of those people who can have a great time just hanging in Hoboken, and enjoy relaxing and catching up on a whole lot of doin'....nothing.

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My main event was going to Atlantic City, NJ. I hadn't been to AC for a while, and was itching to go gambling. This itch was driven into high gear after watching The Hangover, and I coerced a friend of mine to go down with me (Chris) for a night of gambling.

Suffice to say, it was a fun time. I played 3 card poker, which I did well on when I went to Vegas - but not so well in AC, and lost $300. 3 card poker is all luck there's no real skill to it, with the exception of to stay in on a bad hand or not to protect your $25 Ante bet. I usually will stay in with a Queen-6-4 or higher. I was at the table, betting $25 on Ante and $25 on pairs plus. I'm not going to explain the rules, just look it up. I was at the end of the table right before the dealer, with about 3 other players.

Another player sits to my right, and there are seats open, so there's not much I can do about it. The guy sits down, and i'm not thrilled about this, even saying to him, "Oh man now you get my cards and I get the dealers hands..." - what do you think happens? Four hands later he gets 3 of a kind (and of course it is 6-6-6). The payout is 30 to 1 on the Ante and 4 to 1 on pairs plus. I would have won $875. I glared at the 21 year old kid, saying "Nice hand" and walked away. All I needed was this kid to sit at another table or just stay off our table for 10 minutes and that would have been my hand. Sigh.

I played craps, thanks to a helpful guy next to me showing me how to play, and learned that I will never bet when someone is throwing the dice and doesn't know how to throw. I know there is lady luck and all that but when one of the seasoned dice guys hands a cute girl the dice, and she throws it off the table...that's a bad sign. The next two girls after her did the same and we all quickly lost our bets. The only good shooters were the guys who had been at the table for hours, and had some method to their madness when it came to holding & throwing dice. They all had little rituals, like touching the table, rotating the dice and a specific throw style that wasn't fool proof, but they won more than they lost. The three girls in a row were all like "Wheeeeeee!" and throwing the dice like they were trying to throw a frisbee. It was sad, and the seasoned pro next to me rolled his eyes more than once, and added "Well, at least the girls were cute to look at...."

But still wasn't worth losing $300 at the craps table.

I withdrew another $300 from the ATM, and tried 3 card poker again. I was up, down, up, even, down...walked away when I had about $225 in chips. Sat down with Chris at his table and it was funny to watch him play. Chris is a funny guy...my Costello to his Abbot. My Spade to his Farley. He was up & down all night, just playing blackjack and tormenting those around him with his wisecracks. The dealer said nothing, but it was clear he couldn't stand Chris. The player to Chris's right was fairly trashed, and Chris kept laying into him about each of his bad plays. The dealer would show a 5 and the guy is hitting with a 5 and Chris would be saying to the drunk guy, "What are you doing? Oh great. You got the 10. Wonderful. Now i'll stand with my 18, and watch what the dealer does..."

The dealer pulls a 4 and then takes everyone's money off the table with his 19.

Chris would look at me with a "Do you BELIEVE this" look. This went on for about an hour. The guy was good natured (or just too drunk) to really care. I started to talk to people at the table, convincing them that Chris was my lawyer. Then I changed my mind and called him my "Consigliere". I bantered with Chris, while he taught me his strategy on playing blackjack. Thanks to him, I was able to get up at one point where I had about $800-900 in chips.

But the good news is that I fared a bit better At one point, when mentally calculated my losses for the night, and guessed I was probably down about $650, I decided a one time bet. It was 3am and I was getting tired. I figured that if I win, I quit. If I lose, then i'm done for the night.

I won. Then scooped up my chips and left knowing that I was down $200 for the night.

I was tempted to play more, with the whole "YOUR LUCK HAS CHANGED! WIN BACK THE $200!" - but I didn't. Oh, I really, really wanted to, but figured I will take my good luck and leave.

I will take my winnings and use them towards a membership at Club H. My condo gym is going to be closed for 2 months (Aug/Sept or Sept/Oct) while they renovate/paint it. I suspended my diet for last week, but didn't go crazy and eat cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes each night - just kept my calorie count at a good average, while eating whatever I wanted. Yet, I didn't even gain any weight. I'm back on my diet today, and back to the gym - one week break was a nice vacation from work and from my diet.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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