Life: April 2006 Archives

Happy Easter!

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Weekend was home with the family. I got to see the newest addition to the family, my brother and sister in laws beautiful baby, Abrianna. Now for those that know me, i'm not what you call a "baby person". I love kids. You can play with them and teach them things like throwing a football. Call me a softie in my old age, but Abrianna was a really cool baby.

I know. I can see my sisters reading this now and scowling with chagrin. I wasn't very good at showing proper enthusiasm for their children when they were babies. Sorry guys.

Anyhow, I think Abrianna and I bonded. It wasn't easy. First off I watched my brother and how he would lift her into the air and give her kisses on the way down. Ok, I figured when it was my turn that I would just do this because when he did it the baby was smiling with glee.

Bad idea.

Oh sure, the first few lifts went fine. I think my brother and I have a similar build and complexion which can easily fool most 5 month old babies. But that didn't last long. The baby after about 4 or 5 lifts and kisses gave, what I can best describe, a scowl.

Like Uncle Furey didn't smell like Daddy or have Daddy's breath or he just figured out that Daddy was sitting next to me and not holding her...

What started with happiness and giggles turned like a dime into a full bore wail with crying. I quickly handed the child to my brother who calmed her down in about 10 seconds. My first proper foray into niece bonding failed like the Hindenburg.

The next morning we decided to give it a go. We were hopeful that another traumatic episode wouldn't turn out to be expensive therapy in her teenage years. I can do this. I'm good with kids. Why not babies?

It didn't start well. My brother held Abrianna and she made some chirping noises when she looked at me, like she didn't know what to make of that tall guy next to her daddy.

But we weren't deterred. A couple of hours of me making goofy faces, and sitting next to my brother or sister in law holding their baby drew me into her confidence. I was able to hold Abrianna and lift her into the air for some good pictures. Sadly, none can be posted here because I respect my sibilings desire for their children to be kept off the blog. Sorry guys.

But I do have my mother's permission to use her picture, so enjoy. She was unhappy that at mass this year she was the only woman wearing a bonnet. What happened to the Easter tradition of wearing a nice outfit and hat to mass?

I did find this tidbit of history on the web:

Lavinia Dobler, author of Customs and Holidays Around the World, said Easter was once known as the "Sunday of Joy." In this country after the Civil War, mothers and daughters began wearing colorful flowered hats and elaborate corsages as part of the celebration, Dobler writes.

Easter and spring bonnets are a natural fit, says Fred Belinsky of Villagehatshop.com, a California-based hat dealer who's sold and studied hats for 23 years.

"The tradition is to wear a felt hat to keep one warm in the winter, and straw hats are spring and summer hats, Belinsky says. This is the time when we introduce the straw hats."

Easter, Belinsky says, is "a way for a woman to wear her new straw hat as kind of a coming-out event, such as an Easter parade or church services.

I think she looked very beautiful for Easter. Happy Easter everyone!

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Word Gets Around Fast

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We walk the streets at night
We go where eagles dare
They pick up every movement
They pick up every loser
With jaded eyes and features
You think they really care?

I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch
You better think about it baby
I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch
You better think about it baby, babe

"Where Eagles Dare", The Misfits - I downloaded this song last night off iTunes. Its fucking awesome.

When I wrote my entry "Things I Don't Like At Club H" I expected that someday in the future i'd have someone from Club H say something.

I didn't expect it would happen 7 hours after I wrote the damn thing.

I was doing my normal Wednesday workout, and just finished up. I was walking out of the exercise area, past the front desk when a trainer walked past me and I heard him say something.

Now, like I have wrote a trillion times - I'm extremely bad noticing people when they walk by me. Yes, I saw a trainer. No, I had no idea he was talking to me. I thought he said something to the front desk and I walked right by him to the smoothie bar so I could bug Amanda into making me a Mango Tango (actually I didn't even have to ask her, she started making one as soon as she saw me...she's the best).

Anyhow, the trainer moved on by the time I reached the smoothie bar and the front desk girl gives me "a look". She didn't even have to say anything I knew what that look was...I said to her, "Was he talking to you or me??", She replied back, "You!" and smiled. Flustered and embarassed I go to the trainer and immediately apologize, telling him that I thought he was talking to the front desk girl. He was very nice about it.

It wasn't "Alfonso" or "The older trainer", but he said that what I wrote was very interesting. I won't go into details about our conversation, but it was a positive chat about what I wrote. I was amazed that he read my site so fast, I don't think he is a "regular" reader. I guess someone must have forwarded him my post. I should vent more about stuff I don't like in Hoboken, maybe the word will get out and people will read!

Nah...I can do that on hobokenchat.com I guess...

Things I Don't Like At Club H

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I was always one to pontificate about how great Club H is. Looks like the memo got out and it seems like they are letting the whole town workout at the gym.

This is out of control. I'm all for business and making money, but how can a gym justify to its members paying $1,000 a year that the locker room will be packed, all the machines will be crowded and there won't be a single place for you to stretch out besides the basketball court.

The employees at Club H are great. Those at the front desk, the salespeople and the smoothie workers are always friendly and nice to me. There are just a few "bad seed" trainers they need to weed out. Don't get me wrong, most of the trainers I have met are really friendly and do a great job. But a few just spoil it for the rest of them.

Here is a story that happened to me with one trainer we will call "Alfonso".

I'm at the end of my workout talking to "Joel" at Smoothie Bar. Joel and I are talking about how, at the gym, everyone has an opinion on the "best" way to get into shape. Its like some kind of strange evangelism, like everyone beats the pulpit talking down to people on what "YOU" need to do to get into shape. I have found that every body is different. Some people can take a bite of a cupcake and gain 10 pounds, whereas other people can eat sugary cereal for breakfast and still gain muscle (I'm looking at you, John). Everyone is different on how their body processes protein, carbs and fat. I live my the golden rule, "Check your ego at the door" when i'm at the gym. There is always going to be someone in better shape, and just go there to do your own thing and work out the way you want to work out.

Joel is making me my favorite shake, the Mango Tango with Isopure. While talking to the Joel, Alfonso saunters up and Mike says, "Hey, you want one, too?" to Alfonso. Alfonso says, "Nah, that's crap, man. Its all sugar. Blueberry, Protein and Water. That's all I drink."

So I say to Mike and shrug my shoulders, "See? Everyone has an opinion."

Alfonso, being insecure, leaps all over my comment and says to me, "That's right. I have an opinion! You have a six pack?", and gestures to his abs, "I don't THINK so!"

Joel looks at me and gives me a look that says, "Yes, he is a jackass." I really don't have a reply to Alfonso, since he's right. I don't have a six pack. But I am a customer at his gym and I didn't expect a trainer to be so rude. Plus I seriously question if his six pack was the result of ONLY diet and working out. I don't THINK so!

Another story. A friend of mine, we will name "Ken", is in tremendous shape. He is on the next level when it comes to dieting and working out. He is using two 100 pound dumbells for working out his chest on a partially elevated bench. His girlfriend was spotting him. He completed the set, brought the weights down to his knees and then put them the floor. Yes, they make a "thud", because the floors at club H use tiles, not rubber mats like many other good gyms should. There is a trainer at the next bench (one of the nicer ones) who doesn't say a word. A older trainer, from across the room, hears the noise and immediately yelling at him, "DON'T DROP THE WEIGHTS!" The older trainer has a habit of trying to talk down to guys shorter than him. He made the mistake once of trying to yell at an enormous steroid looking guy for dropping a weight & accusing him of using weights too heavy for him. That didn't turn out so well when the big guy yelled back "Fuck you! You think I can't lift the weight? Come say it to my face! Come over here and I'll kick your ass and crush you like a bug!" The older trainer slinked away.

How about the universal "towel" rule? You are working out at a machine or bench. You put your towel on it to tell everyone "This is occupied". If someone wants to work out on it, most people ask around "Are you working out here?" If they find out who is working out, they ask "Hey, can I work in with you?" Most of the clients at Club H and the better trainers know this unwritten rule. There are times I walk to get a drink of water at the fountain and come back to see a trainer and his $80 per hour protegee using the bench, with my towel knocked to the floor. I'm not alone hereI have seen this a few times now and I don't like how the trainers act like they own the place. 95% of the people who work out there are usually very polite to each other. People say "Please" and "Thank you". The trainers need a lesson in manners.

Other nagging points are how they bolted the benches to the floor. I can understand the reasoning, but its a gym. There have been lots of time I have needed a Roman Chair, but it was in use. I would carry the chair to where I needed it, use it, and return it. I'm sure i'm in the minority, and others just leave equipment all over the place. How about a compromise here, you have some bolted and some that can be moved?

Also some friends of mine had their lockers broken into. I heard some people have lost IPODs and Jackets from lockers. They complained to the staff and they did nothing about it. Why not at least put some security cameras on the public lockers outside the locker rooms? I know you can't have cameras inside the locker rooms, but at least this will keep a certain level of security for the public lockers.

You may be thinking, "Then quit the gym!". Sadly, I just can't see myself working out in the basement of NYSC or the tiny Empire gym quite yet. Club H knows they hit pay dirt with their design and amenities. If a new gym opened up to compete with Club H, I think they would make a tremendous amount of money. I know i'm not alone in saying that there are a lot of people out there who are dissatisfied with the crowded conditions and the rude trainers who work there. Again, I used to be a big fan of Club H, but it is going downhill.

Cablevision & My Plasma Install

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This week should be renamed "Plasma Week" because I have been writing (nay, drooling?) about my new Panasonic TH-42PX60U purchase.

I was worried about installing the TV and hoped to write a small article about what I had to do to upgrade to HDTV in Hoboken.

Step 1 was to walk to the Cablevision store at 360 1st Street (entrance is on Grand Street) with my old cable box and remote control. They are open Monday-Friday 8am to 6:30pm or Saturday 8am to 4:30pm. I went there last Saturday at 8:15am and it was simple. I turned in my cable box, they gave me the new HDTV cable box, a new remote and component video cables to connect the plasma to the cable box.

Sadly, I already bought a $125 Monster HDMI cable, which was unnecessary. I decided to keep the cable if I ever decided to get satellite TV.

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Step 2, the install, was extremely easy, because Cablevision provides documentation on how to properly install the plasma to the cable box. Basically you connect the the coaxial cable from your wall to the connector "Cable In" on the HDTV cable box. The new box needs to download new information, and this takes about 15 minutes. The instruction manual details the rest.

Step 3 is to connect the plasma to the cable box.

This took about 3 seconds. 040706a.jpg The component video cables are color coded, so you just have to connect the red, green and blue cable to the red connector on either end to the cable box (video out) and the plasma (video in).

They also provide component audio cables to connect from the cable box to your plasma. There are only two cables, one for the left speaker (white) and one for the right speaker (red). Again, very simple to connect.

Once that is done, and the cable box is done loading, there are a few other steps that Cablevision requires. Once you turn your plasma on, you need to press down "Info" and "Guide" at the same time on the front of the cable box. This brings up an automatic install to configure the video of the HDTV cable to your HDTV. It is fairly intuitive, and I don't need to explain it here.

The last step was connecting Tivo to my cable box and the plasma. The cable box has a component video connection (video out). You need to have your own component video cable to connect this to your Tivo, which can be bought at Radio Shack. This connects the same way to your Tivo. The picture quality of Tivo and the recording of regular TV and HDTV is...not good. It works. But the Tivo isn't really HDTV compatible (unless you get satellite) and it takes some signals and really shrinks it down. I *would* get the DVR from cablevision, but I own my Tivo and don't pay a subscription fee (I paid $250 for a "lifetime" of Tivo in March 2003). Second, my Tivo can record programs to DVD. Wednesday I recorded "LOST" for my roommate and handed him a DVD of the show. Rumor has it that Tivo is coming out with a Series 3 HDTV Tivo in a few months. I'm a big fan of Tivo, and will stick with it for now.

Once installed, I was really happy with the video quality of the channels from 700+. The "normal" TV stations aren't as crisp as my old tube TV - I doubt that any plasma or LCD can beat a tube TV. But the HDTV channels are off the charts amazing.

But there are a few quirks that i'm trying to get used to. Since my plasma HDTV native resolution is 1024x768, it can take an incoming signal of 720p (1280x720 progressive scan) or 1080i (1920x1080 interlaced) but it will have to fit it on to my screen. You can read more on HDTV basics here. The quirk is that the TV will take the incoming signal and sometimes it won't fill the entire TV screen. This can be a bit distracting, when you have grey bars across the screen. It also doesn't have any apparent rhyme or reason, I watch some regular TV channels and it fills the screen. I watch some HDTV programs, like the Masters on CBSHD, which are in letterbox. On the other hand, I was watching the NCAA finals and the picture was full screen and in a very crisp, clear format.

I very much look foward to watching NFL football in HDTV. As much as I run the Eagles club of Hoboken i'm going to be tempted to skip a few nationally broadcasted games to watch it at home.

If you have any questions, email me. I will be happy to help with email advice on any plasma TV install.

Retail Is For Fools!

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After I bought my plasma TV, I had a slight dilemma. I have a remote control issue. I am using 3 remotes at the moment: the cable TV remote, the plasma remote and the Tivo remote.

It is slightly annoying switching from cable to Tivo and juggling remote controls around.

I did a bit of research and decided I wanted to buy the Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote. Only problem is that it costs $250, and after spending nearly $2400 on a TV (plus another $350 on the warranty), I was trying to reign in my spending habits for the last couple of months. Oh, and lets not forget that $8,000 PSE&G bill that is just lurking out there.

One of my co-workers (we will name "Fred") and I were talking about my plasma and I mentioned that I was looking at universal remotes. He piped up, "Get the Logitech...", and I ended his sentence with "...the 880, yea, I saw it for $220 on Amazon. Maybe I will get it in a few months."

His face blanched and he looked at me shaking his head. "I can get that for $89."

"What?!", I was shocked.

Fred walks away and sends me a link for the Logitech 880 to a site called compuplus.com. He then throws in another link to a coupon for $50 off Logitech remotes.

With the taxes, shipping and discount the remote only cost $100. I was amazed and happy. I told him that i'd buy him lunch on Thursday.

This morning I walk into work and get an email from Fred. He wrote: "Can you cancel your order? I found the remote for $69."

I immediately cancelled my order on compuplus.com. He sends me a link to Gottadeal.com, which has the same remote, using Dell Home. It has two coupon codes: One that takes $120 off for the remote and another $10 off for using PayPal. The $50 coupon from before brings that price down to $69.

How crazy is that? Anyone in the market for a Logitech Harmony 800? Hey, the deal is only good for today...get it while it's hot.

Update: These were sold out at Dell.com 2 hours after I made this post!

The NFL Must Be Reading My Blog

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I wrote this a few months ago about how to fix MNF.

Today on ESPN, it was reported that the NFL is changing Sunday night games schedules:

The league plans to hold off scheduling Sunday night games in seven of the final eight weeks -- just as playoff races start heating up -- to ensure the best games are played on NBC. The league has long wanted some kind of flexible scheduling, but could never implement one until now.

For Weeks 10-15 and Week 17, the final regular-season weekend, all Sunday games will be listed with start times of 1 p.m. or 4:05-4:15 p.m. ET.

The league must then announce which match will be played Sunday night at least 12 days before the date of the game.

The lone exception is the season finale on Dec. 31, when the switch must be made no later than six days before the game.

This makes more sense for Sunday than Monday, but i'm very excited at the idea that the Sunday night prime-time games will be the good matchups. No more Lions vs Saints matchups which are watched by about 1 million people nationwide.

But, there were some Monday night ideas they listened to
like my "Screw the West Coast" idea. They changed the time from 9pm to 8:40pm. It is a good start, they are gonna test this a bit, and I will bet in about 4 years Monday Night Football is on by 8:25pm..

Beautiful and vapid reporters gone. I'm a big fan of Suzy Kolber, and she and Michele Tafoya were hired to report on Monday Nights.

Of course the NFL, also one of the Eagles haters of the world, read my blog and said, "How can we make the Eagles fans foam at the mouth even more...hey, lets hire Colinsworth to host Sunday Night Football!" I guess the only thing that i'm mildly happy about is that Madden will be there to shut him up. God I hate Chris Collinsworth. Trust me. Watch anytime the Eagles play and he is 99% of the time negative about them. Never has a good thing to say about the Birds. I may hate a football team, but I think i'm fair in my apprasial of other teams.

I'm still waiting to see what they do about halftime. I was wrong about my MTV/ESPN idea only because ESPN is owned by ABC. MTV is owned by Viacom, and Viacom is owned by National Amusements (which has a controlling interest in CBS). I won't hold my breath anytime soon for that joint-project. I still think that ESPN could figure out a way to show a live act (think the Superbowl) every week.

Now that I have my new plasma TV, i'm very jazzed about watching MNF on it next year.

Spring Purging

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On Saturday I went golfing at Bella Vista Golf Course in PA. I never been there before, but went because I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, I wanted to golf. The golf bug has bit me and I very much would like to get out about 2-3 times a month, if possible. On the other hand, I needed to visit my mom in Phoenixville (right on the Collegeville border, off R-422). Mom had a bunch of heavy lifting tasks for me, and inticed me with a home cooked sausage & meatball dinner as my reward. I really didn't want to drive 2 hours, do some work, eat dinner, and drive 2 hours back to Hoboken, so the golf idea was a nice combination package.

Of course I was "smart" enough to invite my golfer buddies to my house after the game for dinner and, in my defense, I did mention that my mother had some chores for me to help her with. When I arrived she had a checklist written down of about 10 tasks for us to complete. Mom's organizational skills & meticulous detail was something that I was used to growing up. It isn't something that I inherited from her, i'm terrible when it comes to having any sort of order. I like to think of my life as organized chaos. If I were alone it would have easily taken me about 45 minutes to complete, but with my 2 friends we completed the tasks in about 20 minutes. We sat down to a tasty dinner & chatted for an hour and then drove back to Hoboken.

Sunday I woke up and I was inspired by Saturday's events. I went to my closet and took a good hard look at my clothing situation. It wasn't a spring cleaning, it was a spring purging. Anything I haven't worn in a year was put into a garbage bag for donation to the Salvation Army. Nothing was spared. Suits, sweaters, pants and shirts were tossed with wild abandon into the bags. There were a few pangs of regret, especially with certain clothing that were gifts from family or friends. Also, a lot of my clothes are from either J. Crew or Banana Republic - so there is going to be some VERY happy people who are looking for used clothing at the drop off center. Of course, I found some really old snowboarding gear that I simply couldn't donate. The thought of someone wearing my flourscent yellow ski pants from 1989 on the ski slopes would be severely mocked, and I couldn't bear the thought of hurting someone like that.

Good news is that my closets have never looked better. The bad news is that I don't have one suit to wear. I haven't worn a suit to work in about 9 years. On special occasions, like weddings, I would have to bust out a suit and most of the time it was like a scene out of Tommy Boy (singing: fat guy in a little coat...), except my pants were too tight. Sure, I could get them tailored and let them out, but I think my suit is about 4 years old, too. I figured that the spring purging was a good excuse to get a new suit. I'm not in a rush to get a suit, but I do have a wedding or two this summer. I'm thinking of getting a Hugo Boss suit, I love how his shirts fit me.

There are a couple more things I need to take care of for my room, this is just the start. My couch needs to come out of my room and into the basement. I need to sell my old 36 inch Sony tube TV (replaced by my plama TV yesterday). My bookshelf needs to be gutted - but I really don't want to throw away my books. I am hoping that I can sell them at a yard sale or something, lots of them are great paperbacks & hard bound books that I don't want to give away. I also have a ton of computer games that are collecting dust. I'm not sure if I can resell those. I thought about using Ebay, but the whole process of packing & shipping the unused items are a huge turnoff for me. It is hard enough for me to go to the gym on the weekend, let alone deal with going to the post office to ship used books or games.

I must admit it was very freeing to let go of the clothes, plus I will be able to deduct some of that off my taxes. After this is a shop for a suit...

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This page is a archive of entries in the Life category from April 2006.

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