Life: June 2009 Archives

Week Off From Work...

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I have the week off from work. I get to relax, with nothing really planed except bumming around Hoboken. Going to meet up with some friends during the week. Exercise a bit.

This weekend was interesting. Corporation X had their summer party on Randall's Island. It was an extremely large affair, with tents for food, entertainment, and displays. It was the largest party I have attended in my 15 years working there, and simply wonderful. I put my diet on hold, so I could sample some of the great food there.

Also got to listen to a great entertainers called The Moth. They are live storytelllers (think of them like the original bloggers, heh) and basically each performer just had an interesting tale to tell about their life. I was really fascinated by them, because not only were they telling a story, but at the end, the instructor went on to explain about what makes a good story. I spoke to one after the performance, Peter - and he asked if I knew Adam Wade. I don't know Adam personally, but I certainly know of him and his website. The guy gave Adam a lot of praise...so Adam if you read this...The Moth storytellers think you are very talented.

Oh, also picked up the iPhone 3G S. Originally I planned to buy a Blackberry, but after seeing it in action (thanks to Chet), last week, I really liked what I saw. Up until this point I had a basic phone, with no bells or whistles. I can only say...WOW. If you don't own a smartphone yet, I would take a serious look at what you (and I) have been missing out for all these years. I remember one passive aggressive "friend" of mine chided me last year for not owning a phone that could download pictures. In my mind, I didn't see the reason to pay for that...now I really like what they can do.

I'll give you an example. I was in the city for the party on Randall's Island. I got in the cab, told the cabbie I needed to get to 35th street ferry...but he didn't know where it was (sure, we had the idea it was at 35th street and the water, but not sure exactly). I got out my iPhone, hit Google Maps, and showed the cabbie a map of the area in about 30 seconds.

Funny segue...in the cab. The guy is driving me over by 1st avenue and there's just horrific traffic there because of the traffic headed to Long Island. He decides to drive in REVERSE down a one way street (basically backing up along the edge of the street, maybe going 15 miles an hour), and then turns down another road to avoid traffic.

Part of me was thinking "Only in New York do you experience this insanity" - but he saved me some time and I left him $6 tip on a $12 bill.

Anyhow. Other random thoughts...

Soooo....what happened to RealHoboken.com? Just askin'? Kind of just disappears one day.

Anyone notice that Philly is getting a soccer team? I'm a casual fan of soccer, now that I have been hanging out at Mulligan's a lot...and really like the logo & design for the Philadelphia Union. Going to have to start paying more attention to them now.

Been doing my diet fairly good at the office - cheating a bit on the weekend, because my schedule is a bit more haphazard and far too many meetings with friends at the bars. Turns out that a friend of mine might be able to help me out with re-upping my membership at Club H. But, as it turns out, my condo gym has been fairly solid after a week of working out. I can do most of my lifts with the dumbbells, treadmills and weight machines. So far I can feel myself getting stronger and my jeans are falling off my hips.

I'm going to Atlantic City on Thursday, and staying overnight - just for fun. I figure there's no Bradley Beach shore house this year, and need to do something fun for my week off. Going with a buddy of mine and we hope for some luck on the tables!

July 4th should be back in town for a party on Saturday. Plan to take out my digital SLR and I bought a new tripod especially for this day...so I can take good pictures of fireworks along the Hudson. If the weather plays along, I will post them later.

I was talking to a friend of mine about my interest in getting a dog. He mentioned that dogs are great, but to remember that they are like an anchor - you have to change your life to revolve around them. He's a single guy like me, and says it does take away from a lot of freedom that we take for granted. He has no regret over his dog...just was cautioning me about thinking it through. So I will.

Well, back to a long day of doing nothing. Just the way I like my vacations.

Been kicking around the idea of car...hardwood floors...a dog...for now i'm not planning to move ahead for any of those at the moment.

With the economy the way it is and the fact that my bonus from Corporation X is going to be the lowest in my 15 years of working there kind of means I need to be careful about how I spend NOW. Without going into details, since I avoid writing anything work-related on here - i'm just happy to have a job.

Been dieting for the last few weeks. Lost about nine pounds so far and then plateaued. Need to decide what i'm going to do about joining Club H again.

I'm a fan of the gym. I think it's a great place to workout...just not such a fan of the cost now that I have a condo gym.

My condo gym I can do about 80% of what I can do from Club H, if I am creative. I have lost a lot of muscle mass in my 8 month layoff from working out. To a point where I saw a friend Saturday who said, "Wow, you lost a lot of weight!" (At first I was happy to hear this) and then he said, "Yea, you were jacked when I saw you last." (Big frown)

It's not fun starting out again at a gym. But I did go to my condo gym on Friday & Saturday. Did my normal gym routine w/lifting and cardio. Skipped Sunday. Would like to go 5 days this week and skip Saturday & Sunday (this was what I used to do).

Problem is my motivation dies when I walk in the door at my home. It was 10x easier to hit the gym once I got off the PATH and then go home after I worked out.

Other problem is that saving nearly $100 a month (yes, Club H is expensive), that money adds up. I haven't been to Club H since December...so that's ~$700 more in my pocket. Also at least Club H was semi-social. I knew people there, and made a few casual friends. I kind of miss that aspect, too.

But then again, that's also part of the reason why i'm at where i'm at now with working out. Need to figure out a better way to motivate. Not sure how i'm going to decide with this, but I am leaning towards restarting my Club H membership. I keep writing about how i'm going to use my condo gym ... and then something comes up to throw the routine off for a week...which turns into a month...and then i'm back to square one.

I think i'm going to make July 1 my first day back. I have off for the week of July 4th from work. Good week where I can stop in, restart everything and get back into my routine.

Post Election Thoughts

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I think Hoboken is a bit worn out on the election, but here are my closing thoughts on the election now that Dawn Zimmer has conceded the race:

1. Congratulations to Peter Cammarano, Carol Marsh, Ravi Bhalla and Dave Mello. As someone who supported Dawn, I would rather see her as mayor, but remain content that her slate won. I hope that Dawn will be elected as the president of the city council by her peers.

2. Glad to see that there was a strong interest by new voters. I hope that momentum surges for the next election. Remember it's only 2 years until we vote for our city council wards represenatives.

3. I hope the first order of business is getting our house in order. Need to take a strong look at our revenue (taxes) and finances (payroll) and make fair, appropriate changes that are fiscally responsible.

4. I also hope we take a strong look at our election procedures. It seems that it is greatly flawed, with many holes for voter fraud. For example, people who move outside of Hoboken receiving election ballots. Shouldn't someone look into a better way to make sure registered citizens of Hoboken vote?

5. I think this was a bigger victory for reformists than many realize. When the HDCO does everything in its power to get Cammarano and his slate their victory and squeaks out a 161 vote margin...says a lot to the grass roots campaign and the efforts of the people. I think it bodes well for future candidates who want to stand up to the Hudson County Machine.

Elections...and other stuff...

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We won't find out until Friday who the mayor is...and I have lots of things to say, but until everything settles, I will just hold off on my final judgement here. Suffice to say it has been a crazy election, and you have to say that 700+ absentee ballots with 70% going to Cammarano is simple proof of the Hudson County "Machine" that everyone warns about every election. There simply is a lot of money in local politics, and much of that is used to buy votes.

Hey, talking about crazy. Remember my story about the crazy guy at the polls? The one spouting off about Zimmer during the NJ Primary?


I'm walking with my friend Steve, and his baby son to the school to vote. I see the crazy guy, again, at the polls and he is now outside, on his little scooter. I pass him going in to vote. When leaving the building, walking over to Steve, he calls to me, "HI SEAN!"

I look at he has a shit-eating grin on his face, so happy with himself that he remembered my name from the last election (he was one of the workers who were working the sign-in books).

So I wave and say hi back, rolling my eyes at Steve and explaining the story to him. There are some real characters in this town, and many with too much time on their hands.

Anyhow, in other events...

I started a Atkins-esque diet, while doing cardio and lifting about 5 days a week. Was slightly derailed by slicing my pinkie finger by accident. Long story, but it wasn't while cooking. It was one of those cuts where in the first second after, I looked at it and my brain immediately processed: "OH SHIT. THIS IS A BAD CUT."

So my first instinct was to clasp my thumb and forefinger on my pinky, applying pressure to it (I didn't have a tissue or clean cloth handy). I run back to my condo, thinking "shit!shit!shit!shit!" the whole time, and i'm borderline thinking I should go to the hospital for stitches.

But I'm not a huge fan of our local hospital after my near mugging and my leg injury. It is amateur hour at St. Mary's Hospital.

After about 20 minutes, I check the wound, and i'll spare you the bloody details. It's not good, but I think I can avoid getting stitches. If you didn't know, you can actually wait 24 hours before getting them, and really it's only to help the wound close and reduce scarring. The wound was clotting, and I added some Neosporin, applied a lightly-tight bandaid (enough for good pressure, but not so much to cut off circulation)...and waited until the next day.

I cut it on metal, so I made an appointment to have my doctor look at it. I couldn't go the next day, and had to wait 36 hours later. Bottom line is that I got 3 days of antibiotics and a tetanus shot as a preventative measure.

In other stuff, I met with the hardwood floor guy last night. Nice guy. I don't have a firm estimation, but its going to be around $6,000 to do my place (excluding the bathroom and the kitchen tile floor it would be maybe 500 sq ft of floor?) with new maple hardwood floors. Now you all have seen pictures of my apartment, question for you.

What color floor should I go with? My cabinets are a cherry color, and my parquet floors are already a wheat color. The hallway is white tile, with no real natural lighting.

Do I go dark to match the cherry cabinets? Do I stay light, to brighten the place and make it look bigger?

Someone suggested I go with 1/2" thick hardwood floors, but I can't due to the concrete flooring and would have to go with 3/8" thick. Bad? Good?

So that's my first estimate. If anyone is knowledgeable about this and has any advice, drop me an email.

Also, if you were in my situation would you go with $6,000 towards a new car or towards hardwood floors?

It's a tough call. My car, I don't use as much, but would be fun to have a nicer ride. My apartment could use the flooring. I can't do both right now.

Decisions, decisions. As you know...I take a long time to make up my mind on purchases...

dawn.jpg
I don't want to turn my site into a political blog, but I have to say this...

Tuesday is the election. If you are registered to vote, it only takes 15 minutes to vote for local elections, and I urge you to vote for Zimmer and her slate. It's going to be a tight election (don't get swayed by all the endorsements for Cammarano, it's a political strategy, and they are panicked by the Zimmer threat).

Just remember that of all the Hoboken voters, only 33% of them voted in the last election, and Zimmer came in 2nd place by 84 votes. Mason, who came in 3rd place, endorsed Zimmer for Mayor...and the HDCO machine has come out in full force with their "endorsements" because they are freaked out by the idea that Zimmer could actually rock the boat and bring change to City Hall.

I read the "endorsements" that Peter Cammarano is getting, and it doesn't say to me that we have people who are really concerned about Hoboken, but people threatened by the idea that Zimmer could win. We have police, firemen, unions and developers backing Cammarano. What does that say to you?

Says to be that we have people who are interested in things remaining the same. People who are afraid that Zimmer will actually do the right thing and bring Hoboken in-line with the rest of the country. Examples?

Well in Manhattan, they have 1 supervisor for every 5 cops. In Hoboken? We have 1 supervisor for every 2 cops. The police would fret "We need more cops" rather than saying "Hey, maybe we have too many supervisors! Maybe instead of paying one supervisor $165,000 a year we could hire three patrolmen at $55,000 a year. "

Wow, what radical thinking!

I have (or had, depending on how you look at it) friends who were firemen and cops and are furious that I dare to blog such ideas. I wrote many times before that it is a question of compromise, and i'm not the only person who says that Hoboken police and firemen's salaries and benefits are above the average when compared to the rest of the state.

City Hall spends 80% of its budget on salaries and benefits. When we ask where our taxes are going -- they are going straight to our first responders and city hall employees.

Of course it is in the best interest of the police and fire department to endorse Peter Cammarano. He, and his slate, represent the "Entitled Hoboken". The entitled Hoboken are the people who have benefited by city councils and mayors sympathetic to their issues. They are the ones who made back office deals to give away our waterfront like at Maxwell Place or the W Hotel. They are the ones who think it's ok to extend PILOT agreements for Church Towers.

Example #2: Did you know that Church Towers has 402 units and pays $463K in taxes? That would mean an annual property tax payment of $1152 per unit. How does that compare to YOUR tax bill? The city council voted 6-2 (with Cammarano and Zimmer who were the dissenting votes). The funny fact is that those against Zimmer blast her for voting against this, but keep forgetting the fact that Cammarano also voted against it. Don't let facts get in the way of things, folks!

One last blog post for you, to give you and idea of what we are up against.

I went yesterday to vote for Longean, and while voting I hear one of the people
who work at the desk talking to someone about why he was voting for Cammarano.

I step out of the polling booth and it's a man doing the talking, with long
grey hair, and tattoos. Sort of looks like an old biker, with missing teeth and
glasses. He rides around in a old person scooter, sort of like those that you
see on late night TV "the freedom to do anything you want!"

Anyhow, he is talking to four people. A mom & dad and their two kids (who look
about 18-20), were at the polling station voting for the governor. I stop to listen to what he says, and he starts with the "Well if Zimmer and Mason didn't call in the state supervisor our taxes would only have increased 7%, not 43%!! Zimmer wants to fix this town overnight! I like that Peter represents 'Old School Hoboken'."

I stopped him and said, "You know what. You are correct. That's true, and a problem with the Cammarano campaign. He is telling you half-truths. It is true that if Judy Tripodi didn't come in, we could have raised the budget only 7%, but we still did owe the money that is reflected in the 43% increase. Where would it go? Into debt. So one way or the other we had to pay that money, and someone had to get our books in order, for years we haven't been doing it right. That is 'Old School Hoboken's' fault for the last eight years."

He starts to sputter and gets more irate with me. He then quickly changes subjects, "Well did you know Zimmer wants to build a wall around the projects?!"

I reply, "Say what?"

He starts tapping on his cell phone, saying "Yes! It's true! I have her phone number, call her and ask her, she said she wanted to build a wall around the projects!"

I replied, "OK, I don't think that is true, but i'm not going to call her to ask. Is that what's important to you in this election? A wall around the projects? I thought we were talking about the taxes and budget..."

He got more animated, waving his arms, while I was calm. The family was standing there, watching this, and I was countering all of his stuff easily, because they were absurd statements. I finally told him "Look, we are both concerned about the same thing, but Cammarano isn't the answer, he is supported by ex-council members and developers who basically gave Hoboken away for free with their pilot agreements on the waterfront. It's sad because you are telling people what you think and you are clearly misinformed. At the very least, do some research before you begin to tell people these half-truths, rather than passing on to them things that were just "told" to you."

Then another worker walked over and nicely said, "You can't continue this discussion here, both of you (to me and him). You can't talk politics in a voting area."

I wasn't about to argue the fact that the other guy, the one working at the polling station, started the discussion - so I said "No problem." and walked out.

The four people followed me out, and they got my attention, by saying "Hey, wait up...". I spun around, and saw them waving to me, and the first my first words out of my mouth were, "Now, do you believe a guy like ME or a guy like HIM?"

The guy smiled said, "No, no. We are Zimmer supporters. We just got to talking about the state election and that's when he started up about the local election."

They were very nice, all four of them (including the kids) were voting Zimmer in the run off. We talked for about a good 20 minutes about the election, and I told them a few things they weren't aware of. It was fun and also really disheartening because a guy in the election booth was so adamant about Zimmer being the devil that he basically didn't want to listen to anything I said.

That's my story. Here's a video from Dawn's campaign. We don't have the big developers or the PAC groups to support us. Everything has been a grass roots campaign. I donated to their cause, and if you can, I encourage you to, too:

Things I Think About...

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This is one of those cheap posts where I kind of ramble a bit. Some people like it and some get annoyed. I hope you are the former.

I kind of want to get a dog. I wrote about this before. The main thing stopping me is the whole "walk" part of owning a dog, and specifically - MORNING WALKS. I'm just terrible at waking up, I just love sleeping and it's mentally painful for me to get up early to do anything. So tell me, if you own a dog and aren't a morning person, did you get used to this? Remember I don't have a back yard - I have to walk the doggie.

I kind of want to buy a car. Been kicking it around forever. I think since 1996 been saying how I was going to buy a BMW, but kept putting it off - saving my money to buy a home. OK, so I have the home...time for the new ride? Lots of factors are in this decision which in no particular order:
a. I drive, perhaps, 3,000 miles a year. I don't *need* a car. But having family in Philadelphia and Washington DC - makes renting a car very annoying for holidays & special events.
b. I have lived without a car in Hoboken for my first 4 years. I was miserable. Yes, you purists who don't have a car - GOOD FOR YOU! But when the zombie / robot uprising finally happens at 3am in 2010 I will be driving my car into the hills of PA to begin my resistance movement (a la "Red Dawn") while YOU will be next on their menu!
c. My current car, the 1993 Volvo, has been a (mostly) reliable friend since 1999. 10 years, 28,000 miles and only a few minor mechanical hiccups. It's reliable but isn't FUN like my Jeep. Car owners who SMILE when they drive their car know what i'm talking about. My Jeep was a joy to drive, part of me thinks about getting another one, but then I start to think: is this a midlife crisis kind of car? I looked at buying a Jeep again, but they are ridiculously expensive (and I like the old square headlights better!). For the money to buy a new Jeep I can get a used 2007 BMW instead. That's the problem with American automakers, they should be making Jeeps in the $18,000 range, not $28,000 range.
d. As someone who overthinks everything, part of me wants to lease a car. A BMW 328i or Mercedes C300 is only $350-400 a month, and that's in my affordable range. Only problem is that i'll spend $18,000 over 3-4 years and then...nothing. At least buying a car, I will have some return on my investment.
e. My main "issue" is justifying the expense of about $400-500 a month on a car that I use so infrequently. $6,000 a year on the car...another $2,220 on parking, $1500 on insurance...who knows how much gas...$10,000 a year for the luxury of owning a newer car...my current car, albeit older and not as exciting as a newer car still gives me about $6,000 extra a year that I can spend on...other things.

I had the last week off from work. Nothing of merit happened. I'm fine with that. After many years of looking over my vacations and travelling, I am most happy when i'm not doing very much. Beaches are always a favorite of mine. I can lie on a beach all day. Swim a bit. People watch. See, instead of spending $6,000 a year on a new car, that is only part of money I could use to go to Club Med Turkoise, instead.

I got to meet Dawn Zimmer the other day. Her team actually wanted to meet the Philly2Hoboken Philadelphia sports fans (part of the Phillies and Eagles clubs I run). She came with her council to Mulligan's and we had a nice, if small, crowd of fans there to meet her. It was great to meet them, and can only hope that she is successful in a few weeks. If not, then we keep fighting the "good" fight against the "connected" folks in City Hall. It's the Newcomers & the Born and Raised together vs the people in City Hall who make back office deals to protect only a few people.

I have no problem with a budget of $90 million for Hoboken. I will pay more taxes. I am 100% fine with it. Lets compare the structure of our Fire and Police departments with other regions and see how they are able to streamline their workforce to keep salaries, pensions and benefits down. We can't just throw up our hands and say "Oh well. That is how we have been doing it since 1978! Taxpayers pay up!" It seems like the word out of most of what I read from Cammarano says that taxpayers aren't going to get any breaks if he is elected and things are just going to stay "as is". I don't want to see firemen or cops lose their jobs. Not one. I simply want to do an analysis of other cities, compare their structure and salaries and compare it to Hoboken. If the results of that analysis says that Hoboken is in-line with what the rest of the major cities do, then i'm all for paying for good first responders. If the analysis comes back and says "We need more cops or firemen" or "We need to pay them more". I am 100% for that. But if the analysis comes back and says "You are overpaying your cops and firemen" or "The structure of your police force can be changed, if compared to the way that 'City X' does it..." Then why wouldn't we look at logical, rational views to be fiscally responsible, while protecting our citizens? I think our police and firemen do a thankless job. As the grandson of a Philly cop, I have respect for our first responders! Suffice to say I can only hope that change is coming to City Hall. I remember what happened to Philly in the late 1970's, and how they strangled their populace with taxes - and drove them out of the city. The same can happen in Hoboken, if we aren't careful.

Enough serious stuff. Been enjoying my Phillies this season. Crossing my fingers that we get some pitching help. I'm hoping some of the new prospects we have in the farm system show up this year and maybe we can find a diamond in the rough. Antonio Bastardo, Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek are the three pitchers that you need to start brushing up with, if you are a Phillies fan. Gotta love that our team has the offensive firepower to roll over teams even if pitching hasn't been great. Remember - EVERY FRIDAY IS PHILLIES FRIDAY AT MULLIGAN'S. Tell your friends who are Phillies fans. :)

As you may or may not know, I often review restaurants on the blog or back in the day on Hobokeni.com. I read others in town who write restaurant reviews and it always makes me think about my five rules I always try to stick to:
1. Never "review" a restaurant when it first opens. It doesn't make any sense. Kitchens are learning their routines. The owners are on their best behavior and the new staff who are on bad behavior have yet to be disciplined or fired. Wait about three months.
2. Never tell a restaurant you are reviewing them until after you eat.
3. You should never get a free meal, and if you do it should be written in the review.
4. Bring friends. Have everyone order a different dish. Have everyone sample and give you feedback.
5. I personally prefer to eat at a restaurant three times before I write a review.

If you want to write a "first impression" about a new place, that's fine. But it shouldn't be damning or praising. Save that for a formal review of the establishment after multiple times eating there after it has been open for many months.

People often ask about my condo, since this marks my 2nd year owning my own place. My minor regret is that if I only held out 2 more years, I would be in an even better market to buy! I knew this was coming, but I expected mortgage rates to skyrocket when the market crashed, much like they did in the late 80's. So much for history repeating itself. But otherwise i'm super thrilled with my own home, and have two "projects" on the backburner. One is a minor renovation of my bathrooom. The other is a hardwood floor project. I already have a friend lined up to help with the bathroom, but if anyone knows anything on hardwood floors...i'm all ears. Email me if you have any good info.

Otherwise, I have no "summer plans". No Bradley Beach this year. My buddy Chris wasn't going to do it, and he was the main reason why I did it last year. I did make some new friends last year, and toyed with the idea of doing the beach house again, without Chris, but ultimately decided against it. Maybe I will try to get in a few day trips to the beach here and there this summer.

I finally paid off my PSE&G bill after many years of paying $100 a month extra to pay it off. The condensed story is basically PSE&G was estimating our bills for about 10 years at my old apartment. I fought and lost (well, I did get a slight reduction), and owed many THOUSANDS of dollars to the electric/gas company. Jon & Kristen did pay me, but when I asked my old roommates, who moved out, to pay what they owe, they basically said "Screw you, it was your fault - you pay.". I wonder if my old roommates have an ounce of remorse for sticking me with that bill. I doubt it. I hope that Karma just deals with them.

I'm looking forward to the 4th of July fireworks. I want to get a tripod for my camera and get some night time shots. Anyone recommend a good tripod for a digital SLR? I'm looking for lightweight and compact, I hate to lug something around that is unwieldy.

I guess that is mostly it. I hope this summer to get out in Hoboken and review some new places and upload some new pictures. I have the summer with a lot of time on my hands, so why not?

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This page is a archive of entries in the Life category from June 2009.

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