August 2010 Archives

My friends and I often email back and forth, playing armchair coach if you will about the Phillies. I think, on paper, it is one of the best teams in the history of the franchise. My current expectations is that they will win 90 games and either just make or just miss the wild card.

With that being said, this is what I would do to tinker with the team a bit and see about getting the offense going again.

1. Tell Ryan Howard to stop swinging. Yep. Stop swinging - on the first pitch. I would flat out say to him, even if he thinks it is a perfect fastball and bases are loaded with none out - just stare at it. How many games all season have you seen Howard with the 0-2 count? The guy gets into a hole early and then pitchers have their way with him and he strikes out. He needs to start getting to 2-0 counts and seeing that juicy fastball come over the plate.

2. Lineups should be based on batting, not ego. I fully respect and understand that we want Jimmy Rollins to lead off. But it hasn't worked in 2 years. Who is our best hitter? Polanco. Time to make Polanco lead off and get on base. I know, I know, he isn't a base stealer. But imagine if Polanco, who has 23 doubles this season (which is 9 more than Rollins), leads off and is in scoring position. This would be my lineup:
1. Polanco - R
2. Werth - R
3. Utley - L
4. Howard - L
5. Victorino - S
6. Ibanez (or Brown) - L
7. Rollins - S
8. Ruiz - R

Think Rollins would flip the fuck out? Yep, but it may also motivate him and take the pressure off him.

3. Get more aggressive. This season it seems that stealing & going for extra bases is good, but I would be even more aggressive. I remember a few games where Sam Perlozzo (3rd base coach) was holding up runners too many times and it cost us the game. I think Davy Lopes (1st base coach) is excellent, but I think that we have to be even more aggressive with going for second base in a steal. Also lets try to get more aggressive with Rollins (or even Victorino) & bunting. Other teams do this, why not our fastest player to bunt about 1 time a game and run to 1st?

4. Stop pitching Halladay, Hamels or Oswalt more than 105 pitches. Pitching hasn't been a big issue, but I can't stand watching games where we have a good lead and our pitchers are treated like workhorses. It is late in the season, and we have to keep those arms fresh. There are certain situations where I can understand keeping a pitcher in - like if we only have 1-2 run difference and/or our bullpen is gassed from the previous game, etc. I just think keeping Halladay in when we have a 5 run lead after the 7th inning is ridiculous.

5. Every pitcher gets bunting practice. There is nothing that drives me more insane than watching pitchers who can't bunt in the National League. That would be 1 hour a day for all my starting pitchers. Bunt. Bunt. Bunt. Learn how to pay it down along the 1st and 3rd base paths. Too many times we have a runner on 1st and can't advance them to scoring position because our pitchers can't figure out how to bunt.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and give your own ideas on how to fix the Phillies.

Lucky's Famous Burgers - Hoboken

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Was just on the phone the other day with Michael Trenk, the managing partner for Lucky's Famous Hamburgers, which is opening a new store at 79 Hudson Street in Hoboken.082610.JPG

Michael currently owns two Lucky's, and is expanding his "Angus Empire" into Hoboken, with the creation of the third store. Signs have been up for months saying "Summer 2010", and I emailed him asking what the deal was. Turns out, he says that the store is only three weeks away from opening!

Talking to him he told me that he was planning to open a store in the area for years. First was at the old Kebab House (now The Taco Truck Store) and the other place was at Yeung II Chinese (now W. Kodak Jewelers). Both deals fell through, and he has been trying to find a suitable location since 2007.

The story behind Lucky's is that it was first created in 2002, and "the three New York City restaurateurs" bought Lucky's in 2005. After a few years, Michael is the owner and general partner of the restaurant - and note that this is NOT a franchise. He runs each store much like he runs his bar and restaurant, Prohibition, on the Upper West Side. Michael believes strongly in that the customer comes first. He told me that "if we have regulars who come in once a week, I want our store managers to know what their favorite items are on the menu. If my employees aren't kind to our customers, they won't be working at my store very long".

Michael worked as the general manager of The Capital Grille (42nd street), and before that managed at Nobu and The W Hotel in Manhattan. Originally from South Orange, Michael moved to New York 20 years ago. Turns out the NJ boy is coming back - he's moving to Hoboken in about eight months.

"Yeah, my wife wanted to move back to NJ, so this is our compromise. I still want to be close to Manhattan and Hoboken to me, just like another neighborhood of New York.", Michael told me, "But, I am having a hard time finding a place to live - I have two dogs, and many new apartments in town don't allow dogs - like the Tea Building."

With the hamburger becoming the new steak of the masses, Mr. Trenk is very aware of bringing a quality ingredient to the plate of Hobokenites. He uses 100% Premium Gold Angus Beef (80% lean, 5.5 ounces), which is NEVER frozen, along with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on a Martin's Potato Roll. He notes that because he is using Premium Gold Angus Beef, that when cooked, his beef does not greatly shrink. Also, Lucky's has two sauces, the Lucky Sauce and the Chipolte Sauce, which have been huge hits in his current stores. He also offers "really great veggie burgers, sweet potato fries and turkey burgers" on his menu for those looking for an alternative to beef burgers.

He plans to offer free delivery (watch out Five Guys!), and have late night hours. Currently, he plans to be open Sunday to Wednesday from 11am to midnight, Thursday 11am to 3am and Friday & Saturday from 11am to 4am.

This summer Rocco has been spending four days a week at my dog walkers house. They run a small doggie day care, with about 6 other dogs, who they watch from 10am to 5pm. It costs me $20, and its a pretty good deal, when you compare prices to other day care places (a 20 minute dog walk by a normal dog walker can cost about $12-15 in Hoboken). They drive to my house, pick him up from the crate, let him run around their large house in Jersey City or take him to the dog park with the other dogs, and he is nicely tired out by the time I get home from work. I have off from work Friday this summer, and so Rocco and I hang out for three day weekends. It's a pretty good life for Rocco, who is left home alone for maybe three hours in the morning & two hours in the evening.

My schedule is fairly routine, I work from 8 to 5, get back to Hoboken by 5:30, at the gym until about 6:45, and home by 7. I let Rocco out of his crate, feed him and then enjoy the rest of my night until about 11pm, then off to bed.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

I get home the other night and let Rocco out of his crate. Normally, he gets out, stretches and walks over to the food bowl and waits for me to feed him. That night, he got out of his crate and slowly exited, moving like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz - without his oil. Rocco's movements were all herky-jerky, and when I reached towards him, he recoiled from me, like I was going to hit him. He flinched back, his eyes fluttering to a half-close and he was scared of me.

He sat there and was shivering, like he was having little seizures. I put his food bowl down, and he ignored it. This was very odd for Rocco, he loves food. Loves it. Doesn't have a food "off switch" when it comes to eating. Rocco finally sank to the ground in slow motion, his little 25 pound body quivering in pain.

My mind raced with various thoughts as to what happened to him today at the doggie day care. Did another dog attack him? Did he eat something, like a rawhide or a toy, and has blockage?

I called my dog walker and told her what Rocco was like, and she said he was very playful all day with the other dogs. So playful, in fact, that he had to be separated from the other dogs twice because he was getting too rambunctious.

Maybe Rocco was just exhausted. I know that the French Bulldogs have issues with heat & can get overheated quickly if not watched properly on a hot summer day - but the day in question was a rainy 68 degree day.

I called my vet, The Animal Infirmary of Hoboken, and asked if they were open. The said they closed at 6:45 (it was 7pm by this point) and I explained his symptoms. The Vet tech gave me two phone numbers for emergency services - a hospital in Oradell and NYC. She told me that there were three things I should look for if Rocco was in severe distress: vomiting, severe diarrhea and panting. I should observe him and take him to one of those places if he seemed to be in major pain.

So far, he didn't exhibit these symptoms.

I picked him up, and carried him over to his doggie bed. He didn't like the bed, and tried in his jerky movements to get off the bed and to the floor. He then sunk to the floor and wasn't sleeping, but was half-awake.

I called my sister, who during her teenage years worked at the Richboro Animal Hospital. In college, at the University of Delaware, she studied science, with the idea of one day possibly becoming a Veterinarian after college. She went into pharmaceutical research instead, but that's another story. Anyhow, she's our family expert when it comes to animals. I told her about Rocco, and she was under the same impression as the Vet tech - watch Rocco overnight and if he's still in the same shape in the morning, take him to the local animal hospital.

My phone rang and it was the dog walkers boyfriend, who watches the dogs also. They work as a team, with him at the house, and she does individual dog walks in Hoboken. He was very upset about hearing about Rocco, offered to drive me and Rocco to Oradell and would pay for any medical costs. I assured him that it was appreciated, but didn't think it was necessary...yet. I told him I would observe Rocco, see if he gets better or worse.

After watching Rocco a bit, it dawned on me that with all of his playing it could be possible that his muscles were so sore that he had lactic acid built up and he was really tight. I have had the same issues in the past when I overexerted myself on the treadmill. So I tried to give him a little puppy massage as best as I could, hoping that he would get some relief from it. He enjoyed it, and would lean his head against my chest while I worked out his muscles.

It didn't provide immediate relief, but after a bit of coaxing with a cracker and some peanut butter, he did get up and was able to gingerly walk to me. After a few more tries, he was able to eat his food, and we went to bed.

The night was uneventful, and upon waking up and turning off my radio alarm - Rocco hops out of his dog bed with a "HEY DUDE, WHAT'S UP?" look. Of course dogs don't care about yesterday, they live in the moment.

I was ready to strangle and hug him at the same time. Looks like it was just sore muscles, after all.

This weekend was my first one where I didn't own a car.

And I needed one.

I had to return my license plates to the DMV in Jersey City and had two options:

1. Take the PATH. This would take me 30 minutes each way.
2. Rent a car. This would take me 12 minutes each way.

The PATH train would only cost $3.50, whereas Zip Car costs $9 - $12 per hour.

Knowing this, I decided to use the Zip Car, and rent for two hours (read how Zip Car works here). I figured I could make a day of it, using the car to drop off the license plates, hit the driving range and shop at Trader Joe's in Edgewater.

I had registered for Zip Car a few weeks ago, with my corporate account. It only costs me $25 a year, with no registration fee. Is your company eligible? Might want to check here.

Zip Car has lots of different cars available, and each have varying price levels. It was a Friday when I rented and I could have been frugal and chose a Mazda 3 series for $9 an hour - but I figured I could splurge and rent a BMW 328i for $12 an hour. What I discovered when renting was something that Zip Car failed to mention: $5 charge every time you rent their car.

That sucks. If you rent for three days or three hours, you are hit with a $5 "New Jersey Domestic Security Fee (per day)". That's a fee that Trenton NJ imposed on us after 9/11, but there are some people trying to battle this bullshit tax.

I wanted to rent the car in the morning, but to my surprise, many of the cars i'd like to drive were rented from 9am to 12 noon. That was a bit disturbing. There were some economy cars available, but I really wanted at least a Mazda, and all eight of them were rented in Hoboken! There were others available in Jersey City or New York, but I wasn't about to take the PATH to the car. Instead I adjusted my hours and rented the car from 12pm to 2pm.

I used Zip Car's online reservation system about 48 hours in advance, and its very easy to rent a car. It gave me directions to where it was parked, and on Friday went to my car in the parking garage on 77 Park Avenue.

The first problem I encountered upon entering the parking garage was - where's my car?
I was in a multi-story parking garage, and had no idea where the car was located. My iPhone application from Zip Car was a big help here. It has the ability (when reserved) to honk your car horn that you are renting. I hit the "honk" button and sure enough my car chirped to attention only seconds later. I used my Zip Car key card to unlock the car (but you can actually use the iPhone app to do that, also).

Upon entering my BMW, I ran into my second problem - where's the key? I looked in the glove box. Under the visor. In the arm rest box. Under the seat. There was a good five minutes of searching for the key. Finally I located it under the steering wheel, attached to a thin metal retractable cable. It wasn't a standard key, either (this coming from a guy who's last car was a 1993 Volvo) - figuring out how to start the car took me another five minutes. The car had a push "Start/Stop" button, and I kept pushing it but it wouldn't start. I didn't realize that I had to put my foot on the brake to start it (even though this is common practice for cars with keys, but I wasn't even thinking about that because the push button threw me off).

OK, so ten minutes later - I was ready to leave. But then I ran into my third issue. The car was in a parking garage and the parking spots were very, very tight. The BMW is next to a concrete wall on the driver side and another Zip Car on the right. Backing out of the spot took a lot of work, since I never drove the car before and wasn't used to how much room I had. Plus, I was driving a $35,000 rental - and didn't want to ding it. After a bit of maneuvering, I got the car out of the parking spot and was on my way.

The valet let me out of the garage, but thought that if there wasn't a valet available (lets say I needed a car at midnight) - it would make things difficult to get the car out of the garage, since it had automated gates and I didn't see in the visor any kind of garage card to let me in or out.

After leaving the garage, I drove to Jersey City DMV. The ride was real quick and I was happy that I rented a car versus taking the PATH. I parked in a parking lot, and the next problem showed up. The valet at the parking lot wanted to park my car.

Like I described before - the key is attached to the car. When the valet parks the car, how can he lock it? I had to give the valet my Zip Car key card and show him how to lock the car. At first he wasn't even sure if he could let me park my car in the garage, he was very confused. After some initial issues, he relented and parked the car.

Also before he parked the car he pointed to the back of the car saying, "Hey man, do you know your car has scratches?"

I got out of the car, and saw the scratches along the wheel well. Now, I didn't inspect my car before I got into it. It was my first time renting a car with Zip Car and didn't even think to check that. I thought back to my tight parking spot, and thought "Did I do that?"

I'm 99% sure that it wasn't me. You know when you hit something with a car. It was a tight exit, but i'm sure it wasn't me. I used the Zip Car iPhone application to report the damage, and left a voice mail detailing the damage to the car. It has been three days later and no one has called me back about it. Insurance & gas with Zip Car is part of the package deal when you rent.

I dropped off my license plates and was out of the DMV in five minutes. I know everyone has nightmare stories at the DMV, but I have to say the Jersey City one isn't so bad. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

I got back to the parking lot, paid $3.50 for parking, and drove to the driving range. It was 12:30, and still had 90 minutes on my reservation.

At the driving range, I rented a bucket of balls, and took my time. But there lies the next problem with car rental: The clock is ticking.

The great thing about owing a car is freedom. You can do what you want, where you want, when you want. If I decided on that Friday that I wanted to go see a movie in Edgewater or eat at P.F. Changs - that's no problem! Or if there was traffic or a big line at Trader Joes, it's not a big deal, you own that car.

Not so with renting a car. The beauty of Zip Car is that you can rent hourly. The downside is that other people make reservations hourly, and you must, must, must have the car back to the parking spot ON TIME. Zip Car stresses this over and over.

Now, the upside is that you can call or text Zip Car to extend the reservation (or use the iPhone application, which I heart) - if no one else has reserved the car.

I was done at the driving range by 1:30, and figured I could quickly drive next door, shop at Trader Joe's in 15 minutes, and scoot back from Edgewater to Hoboken in 15 minutes.

Boy, was I wrong.

Getting to Trader Joe's, parking, shopping, checking out: 20 minutes - and I was at a breakneck pace, too. Bought about 12 items. Got in the car, looked at the clock in the car and it said 1:49pm.

I had 11 minutes to drive to Hoboken, which was about 7 miles away. Damn, damn, damn, damn.

I used the iPhone application to extend the reservation. I only needed 15 minutes more. Only issue is that you can't extend 15 minutes, you can extend in 30 minute blocks. I was fortunate, I extended it and no one else had a reservation for this particular car. In retrospect, my advice here is twofold:

1. You can't cut it close with these kind of rentals. Doing it over again, I wouldn't have gone to Trader Joe's.
2. If I did decide to go to Trader Joe's, I should have checked for the extension earlier.

I was lucky this time.

I drove back to Hoboken, parked the car in the crazy tight parking spot, locked the car and walked back to my apartment.

Total cost?

  • Hours: noon to 2:30pm / 2.5 hours / $12.00 an hour = $30.00
  • Miles Included With Reservation: 20 miles used out of 180 miles, no extra fee
  • New Jersey Domestic Security Fee (per day): $5.00
  • Sales tax for NJ: 7%: $2.10
  • Parking Garage at Jersey City DMV: $3.50
  • Total Charges $40.60 or 16.24 per hour
Remember, I could have saved some cash if I rented a $9 per hour Mazda, which would have cost me $22.50 for 2.5 hours. I figured for $7.50 extra - which is about the same price for a mixed drink around Hoboken, I could get a fun car to drive.

My overall impression is positive, even with my minor quirks I mentioned. If I were to rent this car again, I wouldn't go through the same delays I first experienced (like finding the car, finding the key, and starting the car). I also would be sure to inspect the car before I pull out of the teeny, tiny parking spot, which I didn't do.

Probably next time i'd rent the cheaper $9 per hours Mazda 3. The Beemer was fun, but wasn't THAT fun to drive. I had the A/C cranked up and the pleather seats still were uncomfortable against my skin on the hot summer day. The car was fun, but still found the acceleration to be "touchy" on the 3 series - seemed like there were two speeds, fast or overdrive.

But those still, to me, are minor quirks. When I do my math, like owning a parking spot ($185 monthly), insurance ($85 monthly), gas ($30 monthly) - owning a car costs me $300 monthly.

If, in the future I were to rent a Mazda 3 (which is a trillion times nicer than my 1993 Volvo) every Friday for three hours to run errands. It would cost me about $33.89 ($27 for three hours, plus $5 security fee, plus $1.89 tax) each Friday, or $135 a month.

I mean, just to equal the cost of owning my car, I could rent the Mazda eight times a month - twice a week - and still save $29 on what it cost me to own a car. ($33.89 x 8 = $271). Owning my car I never, ever used it eight times in a month. Ever. I was lucky if I used my car 4 times a month while living in Hoboken over the last 10 years.

I have already reserved my Mazda 3 for my Thanksgiving visit to Washington DC (Estimated Cost: $334.93, Thursday, Nov 25th, 6am to Saturday, Nov 27th, 3pm, two days, nine hours). Sure that seems like a lot, but when you do the math, it is 57 hours and costs me $5.88 an hour, excluding tolls).

I did look into Hertz to rent a car that day instead of Zip Car, and found a few issues:

  1. It is cheaper daily, but you pay for gas & insurance with Enterprise or Hertz.
  2. They are open Saturday from 9am to noon. Closed Sunday. So I HAVE to be back from DC by noon or I will pay for Sunday and Monday at $73 a day. I kinda hate that. Plus I have to rent the car and park it on the street on Wednesday night until I leave Thursday morning.
  3. If I rent from Hertz it will cost 3 days at $73.49 = 220.47 USD, plus taxes and fees jacks it to $253.74. Not including gas, which I estimate will be $30-40 for a trip to DC. So lets say $290.

I weighed my options and figured for $44 more I get insurance and don't have to go nuts rushing back to Hoboken by noon, I have until 3pm.

I figure by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the money I will have saved for August, September and October ($300 per month x 3 months = $900) will offset that cost ($334.93) and most any other minor rentals between now and then. I expect that I will be renting a car once or twice a month in the foreseeable future, and when it gets cold seems like I use a car less and less.

I also plan to join Hertz Connect. Through June 2012, Connect by Hertz is offering 2 years of membership for free ($25 application fee applies) and is providing a $75 driving credit when using the code: HOBOKEN at time of enrollment.

Well I was off to DC to visit my brother two weeks ago. Had a great time, but came back and was sick as a dog for three days, which effectively killed my blogging interest. But I am back now, and have a few things to write about.

My car is sold. If you remember I wrote a few weeks back about selling it. I had a few reasons to sell, the primary reason was financial. I'm not a spendthrift, but I hate wasting money. I felt like the amount of money I spent on my car versus the number of times I actually used it wasn't worth the waste. Sure, if I made $300k a year, I wouldn't care - but I don't, and need to watch how I spend my money.

The second reason was the availability of corner cars via Connect by Hertz or Zip Car. Back when I first moved into town, I had multiple issues with the "old school" rental car system. But technology has made it so that if I need a car for a quick ride to the store or for golf range in Edgewater or a visit to the beach for the day - you can order a car on your computer and do everything yourself.

The last reason was the fact that my car was 17 years old. It was constantly having maintenance issues over the last few years and the bills just added up to a point where it was more worth it for me to rent a relatively new car than worry about my car imploding on I95.

My next goal is to go through my house and sell everything that i'm no longer using. I want to simplify things. I have shelves of books, racks of old electronic equipment, and about 100 DVD movies that I don't think I watched once in three years. Even if I could sell those movies, for example, for $5 each - that's $500 sitting around my house. I have the P90X Workout on DVD which I never even watched, cost me $120 - and I bet someone would buy it for $75.

Part of the goal is financial, but the other part is I hate clutter and hate having things just gather dust around my house which have financial value but i'm not using. For example I have a Toshiba Tivo Series 2 R/RW DVD player. It has been sitting in my closet for three years since I got the new Series 3 player. It has value, maybe $100-150 because if its recording capabilities. Heck, i'd sell it for $75 - i'm not planning to use it ever again, why keep it?

Why keep all the unused books on my bookshelves? Most are nearly worthless, and not sure if it is worth putting them on Amazon for $1 each, but I have a few nicer books which are definitely worth $15 each (like some unused cookbooks)

I have an idea for an app which I want to bounce off my engineering friends, which would speed up my selling idea. It involves using Red Laser. Not sure if I want to write about it on here, but I know it is a fantastic idea, if someone hasn't already invented it.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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