March 2016 Archives

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I went to Philly for the weekend, and got to watch my alma mater beat Kansas, the #1 overall seed, and head to to the Final Four. Imagine my surprise when I listen to 97.5 Sportsradio and listen to Harry Mayes slam Villanova on Saturday, rooting for Kansas, and after the win now claims to be rooting for Oklahoma. 

What the fuck?

I understand that mentality in football, or other professional sports, to hate on a team. Eagles fans don't like the Cowboys. Yankees fans don't like the Red Sox. That's normal. Rivalry and all that, plus having to deal with boorish fans from opposing teams. I'd like to give you the top 5 reasons why if you are from Philly, why you need to get on board with Villanova.

1. Villanova is the modern day equivalent of Hoosiers. They are a squad of B players, who win because they play as a team. In a day an age of prima donna superstars (i'm looking at you, LeBron) and perennial college basketball powerhouses with A list players - Villanova are scrappy underdogs looking to beat the champion teams. 

2. How about...just don't hate? If you are a Temple fan, a fan who really hates Villanova during the regular season, how about you don't jump on the North Carolina or Oklahoma bandwagon right now? This isn't like pro-sports. Just because your team isn't in the Final Four, you don't need to seethe over the idea that Villanova is in the Final Four. If anything seethe over the idea that your program needs to emulate what Villanova is doing right, not being upset that your team isn't in the Final Four.

3. This would be good for Philly. Right now Philly is in a championship funk. It is a city dying to feel good after Chip Kelly started a dumpster fire on the Eagles, the Sixers are a 9 win team, the Flyers are trying their best to make the playoffs and the Phillies are looking to win 70 wins next season. Last time we had anything to cheer for were the Phillies in 2008 - and realistically we should have won more than 1 Championship with the Phillies. But it's Philly, where nothing comes easy. Villanova winning would be huge for the psyche of the Philadelphia fan.

4. Also this is college basketball. Most of these kids on the Villanova squad aren't playing for NBA contracts. I am a huge fan of Ryan Arcidiacano, but more than likely he's not going to the NBA (you never know, he may play abroad), he's probably graduating in June and headed for a regular job somewhere. Like I made in my first point, these are regular guys who are playing for pride right now.

5. Lastly, and not least, Jay Wright. The man is a class act. Seriously, if you aren't familiar with him, you really should watch him during interviews and see the program he built. Look at Chip Kelly or Ruben Amaro, at guys who come in, ruin everything and leave. Villanova isn't like other college programs. They don't recruit selfish players. They are the epitome of the college student athlete, you can't go to Villanova and have bad grades, like you might be able to get away with at other state schools. These kids are smart and athletic, and molded by Jay's vision to be selfless players that don't have a bad attitude. They really are the ideals that we hope to live up to - play the game, may the best team win, and be a good loser and a good winner. That's all you can really ask for.

So, I hope next week that Villanova can take a big step forward and make it to the NCAA Championships. They are a good bunch of kids, headed by a coach with a big heart and a program that is styled to promote good student athletes. Go Wildcats! 

If you are in Hoboken, please join fellow fans to root on Nova at Mulligan's Pub (159 1st Street) on Saturday at 6pm.

Philly2Hoboken2....Nyack?

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My office is moving soon to Orangeburg, NY.

This isn't new to me, I have known about it for about two years. My commute now is 25 minutes door-to-door. It's Hoboken to West Village. From Hoboken, the Orangeburg commute will be about 45 minutes by car. 

I don't own a car. I haven't owned a car for 8 years. Now I need a car.

Plus parking. Plus insurance. Plus gas.

I'm not thrilled about this. Only good news is my company is helping me out financially a bit with buying a new car, which is pretty sweet. Still, i'll be on the hook for the majority of car costs. 

Then I saw a property in Nyack, NY, a 1 bedroom condo even bigger than my current condo. Total cost? About $210k. I could sell my condo tomorrow and my mortgage, maintenance costs and taxes would be about $800 less per month when compared to what I pay in Hoboken. $10,000 a year in my pocket - or $10,000 a year I can spend on vacations, a new Porsche Macan, my retirement - whatever I want. 

It's a big leap. I'm used to Hoboken. I have been here since 1995. I like living here, but I think the "spark" that I used to like about Hoboken is long gone. Maybe when you are in your 20's or even 30's the idea of NYC and the metro area is a cool and fascinating place, with new bars and restaurants to explore. 

Timeout. This is not to say i'm not still going out and doing things. I have a full slate of fun things to do this year, like...

  • Seeing Bright Star, the new Broadway show from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.
  • Going to Pearl Jam in May.
  • Seeing The Cure in June.
  • Seeing Peter Gabriel & Sting in June.
  • Bradley Beach summer-share in effect again.

But, to me, where I live was important when I worked in NYC. I paid more to live in Hoboken because it was a place where I would go out and drink and hang out with my friends. Most of my friends have moved on from Hoboken, with only a handful of them left here for me. Most weekends I don't go out to bars anymore. Just not my thing. Most weekends i'm staying in, even going to bed by 11pm or 12am. Yeah, I know "old man", but to me my house is just a place to relax and sleep.

Which gets back to...why should I live here?

What, specifically, keeps each of us here is dependent upon multiple factors. My original reason for moving to Hoboken was the proximity to work plus my social life. I still enjoy doing the Eagles Club at Mulligan's. Also moving to a place like Nyack means I am further away from Philadelphia, which kind of sucks. 

I was trying to figure out a way to work out of my Princeton, NJ office, and move closer to Philly, but really had a hard time finding a "Walkable City" like Hoboken that was close to my Princeton office. From what I have read, Nyack has a nice main street, with shops, restaurants, even a Cigar shop, and my commute would be 15 minutes to work by car rather than 45 minutes. 

Part of me wants to move. Part of me wants to stay. We will see. 

Awesome, And Cheap, Trip to Barbados

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My friend sent me a text, "Hey...any interest in going to Barbados for my 40th Birthday party?"

I had been trying to save money lately, since I have to deal with the whole new car thing that is coming up for work. But...I kinda needed a vacation. I really haven't been on a real vacation since my quick trip to Costa Rica in 2014 with the Hoboken Crossfit gang.

My friend Clarie already rented an AirBnB in Barbados, which was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and $180 a night. She was staying for 9 nights, so total cost was $1620 for the condo...which had 3 bedrooms, or $540 for basically 10 days/9 nights. Was it a four star hotel...no. But if you check out the pictures, it was decent enough, plus had a kitchen, so you could make your own meals if you wanted (across the street was a market).

I was only going for 5 nights, so I would pay $300. That's not bad.

Then I had to consider airfare. Last year I got the Capital One Venture card. 2x miles for every purchase, and 40,000 miles when you sign up. I use my card for most purchases & bills, so the miles really add up fast. I used Capital One's website to book the airfare from JFK to Barbados, which was about 55,000 miles. So this ticket was free, essentially. I paid an extra $80 each way for the extra leg room seats. Totally and utterly worth it when you are 6'4 like me. Plus, since the tickets were free, paying $160 for tickets to a sunny beach sounded like a deal.

Well...$160 for airfare...$300 for room/board...what about Rocco??

Fortunately he is a popular pup, and I had a nice friend take care of him for the trip - for free. Many thanks to Bonnie, who adores Rocco, and I was kept up-to-date with many Rocco pictures of their adventures together. 

Getting to the airport for the 8am flight on Wednesday was a bit of a hitch, but my plan was to take the PATH train to Christopher Street, then grab a yellow cab which have flat rate prices to JFK for $53, rather than pay for the tunnel toll and a cab - or use Uber. I'm a big fan of Uber, but when I woke up at 6am, they had no cars available. I saved some extra money doing this, and it worked out fine.

Barbados was, in a word, great. I highly encourage people to look into trying Barbados, especially since the direct flight was only 4 hours. JetBlue rocks, I watched Star Wars & Creed flying back.

WiFi is in use everywhere on the island, most stores, shops, and restaurants have WiFi so you are "always connected". The AirBnB had a WiFi router, full cable, and I was able to watch Villanova play basketball on Miami's FOX station.

The picture above was my view from the AirBnB balcony. Barbados has very lax laws. You can drink anywhere. On the beach. In a car. Driving a car (I don't encourage that, we took taxis). But if you are going out taking a "road soda" didn't matter. 

As a cigar smoker, I liked how you could basically smoke anywhere - except in restaurants or other enclosed places. I was able to get about 5 different Cuban cigars and enjoy myself with a cigar on the beach - something that NJ has banned. It was glorious to sit on the beach, drink a beer, smoke a stogie and just stare at the blue ocean. 

Snorkeling was great, highly recommend you bring snorkel gear. I was able to see sea turtles on my 2nd to last day and swim with them. 

Also to save time I only brought a carry-on bag with my clothes. They had a washing machine at the AirBnB, so I would just use that to wash my clothes to save space on packing. 

We were able to golf while there, and we rented clubs. Did a tour of the Mount Gay Rum distillery. Hit the Oistins Fish Fry. Went out to a few restaurants, including Lone Star Restaurant, Nishi and The Lobster Pot. We went to Nishi twice because it was so good. 

Crime is pretty low there, but we did witness a thief steal someone's purse. If you are "city-savvy" you should be fine.

Getting around Barbados is mostly from taxi drivers or you can use the Reggae Buses. The Reggae Buses are not for older (read: fussy) folks. You have to be kind of laid back to take those, but they are like the NYC subway - very cheap and easy to get around the island. All taxi drivers can be negotiated. I didn't quite realize that until the end, and we found a very good driver to use there, who was a nice kid. 

Other things to know is that the islands electricity is the same as the U.S. - so no need for converters. Also their water is pure and clean, so you don't have to worry about drinking water or ice usage there like you do in Mexico or Costa Rica.

The Zika virus has been a concern for many Caribbean nations, and the CDC did report some activity on the island, but its extremely low. During the day we wore Off bug spray and each bed had a mosquito net to sleep under at night. I didn't consider it to be enough of a concern to stop me from going here.

If I had to buy "one" thing at the duty free when I visit, it would be Mount Gay 1703. It drinks like a good scotch. Even the Mount Gay XO is worth buying. These are not rums you add to coca-cola! If you want that, get the Mount Gay Black Barrel or even Eclipse.

I can't stress enough this one thing - eat fish if you visit here. I don't often eat a lot of fish, I mostly like sushi and rarely order grilled fish at restaurants in NYC. I'd rather order something else. In Barbados, it's like the freshest, tastiest food on Earth because you are basically eating fish caught about 4 hours ago, not something that's been flash frozen, put on an airplane and sitting in a freezer for a couple of days. If I lived in Barbados I would be eating fish 3-4 days a week. On my trip I only ordered fish and loved trying fishes that I never/rarely had before like flying fish, kingfish or blue marlin.

I said it before but everyone there is extremely friendly. Not just store owners, but everyone. They very much take pride in their island and enjoy tourists. I only met one sour person on the island and I told other Bajans (people from Barbados are called Bajan) about him and they said, "No, no. He can't be one of us. He was a tourist."

Barbados was one of the few places where I felt like I needed to go again. Much like my semester living abroad in Florence made me fall in love with Tuscany (and three visits back again!) - having this trip to Barbados made me wonder...why aren't more Americans going here?

If you are looking for a cheap getaway, with nice people and absoultely stunning beach views - Barbados is where it's at. 

 

My Current Dilemma: What Car To Buy

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In the next month or two, I need to buy a car for work. My office is moving to a new location that does not have public transportation (seriously), and I need to buy a car.

If you need to know anything about me, is that when I need to make a decision on something, I kind of go in depth on researching a product. Buying a HDTV? I will study every factor needed to get the "perfect TV". Buying a new PC? I will know CPU, RAM, video card specs and every nuance of what i'm buying. Half the reason why it took me so long to buy a condo was that I was convinced the housing market was going to tank...and that mortgage rates would rise. I bought about 1 year too early on that, and the rates dove, I couldn't believe I was wrong on that.

Anyhow, back to my dilemma. I'm all over the place on buying a car. It isn't as simple, for me, to pick a basic car with high gas mileage and call it a day. When I bought Rocco, I considered adopting first, but at the end of the day I wanted a Frenchie as my first dog, and even he was, for the time, very expensive - but six years later he was worth every dime. There is NO buyers remorse with him.

So, the factors to be are this, in ranked order:

1. Enjoyment To Drive: I want a car that everytime I get in it, I have a big smile on my face. Growing up, and having a Jeep Wrangler (especially at 17), I can't tell you how much I fucking loved that car. Hat tip to great parents who provided me a wonderful life. So, I want a car that I like. Not a Prius or SmartCar that I wedge myself into to save the planet and get high MPG.

2. Keep Within My Means: I have always been a big proponent about keeping my costs down, and living within my salary. My biggest splurge each year is my shore house or Crossfit. Otherwise, I really don't spend too much money. I did the math, and a few factors crop up. I have $5,000 to put down. After that, i'd like to spend $400-500 a month on a car. Parking will cost me $185. Insurance will be ~$120. 5 years at 1.9% on 25,000 is $437 monthly on a car. So that kind of ballparks me to a $30,000 car, with a few nudges I could justify a bit more than that, like $33,500 would cost me 500 monthly ($5000 down, 28,597 at 1.9%, over 5 years).

3. Lease isn't a (real) option: I could write about 5 reasons here, from mileage to the simple fact that in 1 year I could find myself back in the "NYC office" again. Mileage is the biggest factor, i'm looking at ~50 miles a day, 20 business days a month, ~1,000 miles for work alone a month, not including personal use. My guess? I'll be at 15,000 miles a year. Sure, I could get a lease for 15,000 miles, but don't want to be locked in for 3 years. So lease is out.

4. Ford = a good deal: A friend of my family works at Ford. They will let me buy any car on the lot for $500 more than "holdback". It's a very sweet deal, I can get a car probably $3000-5000 off MSRP, depending on make and model (obviously on more popular cars, not as much savings).

5. "Needs": My car needs this: All Wheel Drive (AWD) or 4WD. The reason is that I have a job that getting to work is a MUST and its kind of in the higher elevations, so the potential exists that during winter months I may be driving on bad roads. Also i'm about 6'4 and I need a car with headroom, which is either a "full size car" or "SUV". Which brings me to my other need - I need a SUV. I can't stand driving behind other SUVs and I can't see the road, especially in New Jersey were people have no idea how to drive. Minor needs...i'd like leather seats. Believe it or not the MPG thing for me is minor. With gas prices in the next two years, my expectation is that fuel costs will be not as terrible as years past.

6. Other factor: Cost-to-Own. One of the problems with luxury cars is I certainly can afford a (certified pre-owned) Audi Q3/Q5 or BMW X3/X5 - but the ownership costs for little things, like oil changes or a minor ding/fix are very expensive. Oil change for a Ford is $30-40, Oil change on a Q5 is $100. So, my issue is that every mileage update and any basic repairs will cost more money than it's worth to own. Trust me, I love the Audi Q5 and its a very serious contender.

Here's the cars i'm considering:

Ford Fusion Titanium AWD. I have driven these before. Roomy. Comfortable. So-so MPG (25 or so). Probably can get a real good price here. Enjoyment factor: 6 out of 10.

Audi Q5: I have been in a Q7 before, but never actually drove a Q5. But falls into 'dream car', everytime I see one, I stare. I really love the styling and I get the same feeling about one as I had with my Jeep Wrangler, I really love this car. Downside is that I probably can only afford a 2 year old certified pre-owned. Also really worried about upkeep costs. Also in here is the Q3, but the only knock on a Q3 is the engine 0 to 60 is 7.8 seconds...a bit slower than what I want. If they had an engine option here for a V6, the Q3 would be a major contender.

Ford Edge: Haven't driven this, really like it. Problem is with options, new, 2016 Edge with AWD and either the Sport or Titanium, is around $37,000-40,000 if not more, even with the friend at Ford. What happens when I think about it - why spend that much on a new Ford, when I could get a Q5 which I love for $33-35k? This is where my Analysis Paralysis starts to kick in. If I get a "cheaper" Edge, then it really doesn't have the bells and whistles I want, like a good engine.

Ford Escape: The new 2017 Ford Escape has some new styling and features which I thought looks nice. Haven't driven it. This kind of falls into the Ford Fusion scale of enjoyment. I'd like to test drive one. Also with options and such would be a good price. I don't necessarily need a car as large as an Edge or Q5. Given the 2.0 liter engine it does 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds.

And...that's about it. I keep going back and forth between a Ford Escape, Audi Q5 and Ford Fusion. The Edge keeps peeking in there, too, but just seems to be too expensive. Oh, and Jeep Grand Cherokee waves at me, I really like the styling but it is too much car.

My heart says Audi Q5. My head says Ford Escape....or Edge. Fusion is there only because I have driven these before from Avis and they are a solid, dependable ride. I think if I got the Escape, I wouldn't be happy. Aren't we supposed to be happy? Then I go back to being fiscally responsible...don't spend too much, keep costs down....and the cycle continues. Very annoying.

Thoughts? Email me.

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So, I wrote about going hardcore paleo since Jan 4, no cheats (as best as I can) and it's been a challenge. My starting weight was about 247. But this mostly wasn't about the scale, but more about feeling better and getting rid of the "fat jeans" was just a bonus.

I weighed myself yesterday - i'm at 232.6. About 15 pounds lost in 2 months. I had a few plateaus, which I found strange and a bit frustrating. I'm just going to write a few bullet points and thoughts after reaching 60 days.

  • My attitude about food now is one of ambivalence. Hunger isn't a ranging beast. When I get hungry it is a dull feeling of, "Oh, I should eat." rather than "HOLY SHIT I NEED FOOD, I'M STARVING!" I have had multiple weekend days where I made my "Uh-Mazing Breakfast" and didn't eat until the next day. I wasn't really hungry anymore.
  • I don't get tired as much after eating. The afternoon slumps last maybe 5-10 minutes after I eat now. But mostly that's gone.
  • I feel stronger at Crossfit. It's hard to describe, but eating clean simply makes me feel less weak. I'm amped up to do a workout. I can feel myself getting stronger every week, and it's only been 4 weeks since I returned. I still have a ways to go, but I like what i'm seeing.
  • I'm sleeping better. My biggest issue is staying strict and going to bed by 9:30 pm. I wake up at 5:45 am and i'm really trying to get in 8 hours of sleep. Last night...up until 1am. Just wasn't really tired. I feel fine at work, but I know that my muscles need those 8 hours to recover and repair.
  • My size 38 jeans are now loose on me. Not quite ready for size 36, but maybe by April, I will be there. No six pack. That's not really my goal, but I still have a bit of a tire around my waist that i'd like to see reduced.
  • My friend Claire and I have been motivating each other. She's been making incredible weight loss since she started in September. We have been sharing food advice and I think losing weight helps when you have a group or others to share results and ideas.
  • I don't miss alcohol. My only cheat was on my birthday last month. My next cheat is when I go to Barbados. I definitely think the biggest issue with weight loss is alcohol, which, essentially, is sugar.
  • I do miss bread, especially hard crusty bread and pizza. But like my hunger, its not a raging feeling of dying to eat bread but a wistful thought of, "Mmmm, i'd like to have that someday".
  • Having a NutriBullet has made eating paleo a hundred times easier. My biggest issue is getting fresh spinach every week. Monday-Friday I have the same smoothie every morning, along with 2 Fish Oil pills and 1 Vitamin C pill. I have found Vitamin C helps with soreness (for me). I also do 5000mg of Vitamin D 3 days a week (Mon-Wed-Fri) for bone strength.
  • Having Kettlebell Kitchen for lunch is the other reason why this is so easy. I pick up 3 meals on Monday night and 3 meals on Wednesday night. This covers my lunches for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and two dinners for the week (usually Tuesday night and Thursday night). I will often make my own dinner Wednesday night, and order a salad for dinner on Fridays. Saturday nights could be dinner out, or maybe I plan to make something more involved, like meatloaf or Pot Roast. Same might be true for Sunday night, I will make a meal that is good for 2 days, so I can eat it Sunday/Monday.
  • My target goal is around 220. Until then, I plan to keep doing strict paleo, with 1 cheat meal (with alcohol) a month. Honestly, it doesn't feel that difficult to maintain, my biggest issue is figuring out what meals to make on Saturday, Sunday/Monday and Wednesday nights. Nom Nom Paleo Crispy Chicken (it is in their cookbook) is often an easy go-to meal when I don't have a lot of time.

    Now for my "Uh-Mazing Breakfast". You can buy everything I write here on FreshDirect.

    Ingredients needed:

    1/2 pound of thick cut bacon
    3 eggs
    1 plum tomato
    1/8 onion
    1/3 red pepper
    1 medium sweet potato
    Coconut oil (you can sub in olive oil here)
    fruit of your choice - I often choose blackberries
    1/2 avocado
    1.3 ounces of Citterio Cubetti Pancetta (1/3 of the 4 oz package)
    Spices Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Basil, Oregano, Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper, Paprika, Chili Powder (alternatives: Aleppo Pepper and Herbes de Provence)

    1. Start your oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees. Often I take a shower or walk Rocco while this happens.
    2. Once at 400 degrees, line a baking pan with tin foil and line with thick cut bacon. Put into oven. Set timer to 18-20 minutes.
    3. Add coconut oil to a cast iron pan. Put on heat to 5/10.
    4. Slice 1 medium sweet potato with a mandolin slicer. If you don't have a mandolin slicer, just make thin slices.
    5. Throw sliced sweet potato into a bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Penzey's Herbes de Provence. If you don't have that spice, just use Basil and Oregano. Mix.
    6. Throw the sweet potato into the cast iron pan. It should sizzle. Stir for a bit and cover with a lid, turn heat down to 4/10. You will have to take the lid off every 2 minutes, and flip the sweet potato slices. Very important or they can burn.
    7. Put another pan on heat at 5/10 with coconut oil.
    8. Chop onions and peppers. The size you want is about a handful of each. Also get 1 ounce of pancetta out. Throw all three into the hot pan. Stir occasionally.
    9. While that pan is sizzling, chop 1 plum tomato. After 4 minutes, then add to the pan with the onion/pepper/panchetta mix. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Your goal here is to let the tomatoes cook a bit, but don't overcook so that they get too soft. I guesstimate that takes about 2-3 minutes.
    10. Grab 3 eggs. Whisk in a bowl. Add to pan with onions/peppers/tomato/panchetta mix. I usually put on one side of the pan the veggie/bacon mix and add the eggs to the other side of the pan. Let it cook for 1 minute, then stir gently. Let cook a bit. Stir again. Total time here is about 3 minutes.
    11. By this time, the timer from the bacon should be going off. Flip the bacon once. Reset timer to 5 minutes.
    12. Keep track off the egg pan & sweet potato hash pan. While you do that, slice 1/2 avocado. I often make a cup of coffee around this time.

    Boom. That's it. Put the eggs & the sweet potato on a dish. Throw on the paprika & chili powder or Aleppo Pepper if you have that instead. Add the sliced avocado. Put the bacon on a dish. Put the fruit in a bowl. Enjoy. I eat it every Saturday and Sunday. Keeps me full all afternoon, and often skip lunch and just have dinner.

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