Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Central NJ smackdown

It's a big Central Jersey fight- between Serenity An-An Fung of Somerset and Austin Tamutus of Bordentown- for the Best Speller title in the Scripps National Spelling Bee! Good luck, kids.

Maybe one of them could tell me the preferred spelling of "smackdown."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 54

The Carnival of NJ Bloggers is up at eCache.

Waving goodbye to Sluggo this weekend- he's shutting down the blog after three years. Let's all raise a glass...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Before you head to the shore this weekend

If you're from Jersey, you'll go to the shore at some point, even if it's not this weekend. Shamrocketship has a list of rules for Bennies, complete with glossary in case you're unfamiliar with any terms.

Another reason why I love where I live

Because Michael Panter is my Assemblyman.

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.85, Gulf, Rt. 130 N, Village of Windsor (Washington Twp.)

Actually, that's the one I wrote down because I was near the traffic light, but there were several gas stations in that area that were $2.85 for a gallon of regular. Prices seem to be on the slight decline here in Central NJ, down from $2.87 a week and two ago. Not what I expected, going into Memorial Day Weekend.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Brewing news

I haven't talked much about beer lately. I do so love beer. Here's an update on the homebrewing activities in the Did I Say/Center of NJ house:

We have a Marzen in secondary fermentation, where it can stay for a long time, but since it's been about two months we have got to get it into bottle soon (maybe this weekend.) We put a Wheat beer into primary fermentation this weekend, and it's bubblin' away! We used German hops and a Belgian Wit yeast, so it should be a simple wheat beer with a lot of flavor. The ESB we bottled a while back is good- strong, strong hop presence and flavor, almost IPA-like in character.

We get most of our homebrewing supplies from The Brewer's Apprentice in Freehold. It's a brew-on-premises operation as well, and they handle both beer and winemaking. It always smells great when you walk through the door there.

Maybe I'll go see what's cold right now...

Practicing what you preach

At their annual meeting last Saturday, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton approved a proposal to go solar. This is in keeping with the Seventh Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association, "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."

This is the quintissental example of practicing what you preach. Woo-hoo! They join the Church of St. Helena in Edison, Holy Trinity in Brant Beach, and the Unitarian Society in East Brunswick, among others in Central NJ and across Our Fair State, in using the sun for energy.

If you don't know much about UU, here's a primer from the Colbert Report (disable pop-up blocker first. It's about halfway into the clip.) It's essentially accurate, and illustrates the dilema in explaining the faith. Here's how the Unitarians explain.

The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

BlueJersey has this video from the New Jersey Legisative Correspondents Dinner last week. If you know anything about Our Fair State's politics, it's hysterical. Even if you don't, it's still lol-funny to see how they depict things in Trenton.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.87, Route 33 and 527A, Millstone Twp, 5/20 3:57PM.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers LIII

Welcome to the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #53! We're glad you've joined us on this breezy day in the Center of Our Fair State. Let's check out the week's writings...

Our Stories

Truthfully, they're not happier than you are. Picking up and going- the fantasy for some, reality for others. Headin' for the dentist makes us more approachable and knowlegeable of grocery locations. Fabulous dinners, smiling spouses and dashing duds make a happy anniversary. Do you need a new, pricey, space-age washer and dryer? Who won the Caddy- cancer or diabetes? A friend, taken too soon. We're not the only ones wrapping up the week's posts. Sometimes, the code dragons are serious dragons.

New Jersey

Predictablility in PR for the new book. The Schools Construction Corp. isn't in the money yet. Immigration and corruption- sounds like a senate race to me. It's pretty hard to pick the most evil politician in Our Fair State. A discussion of a recent Supreme Court decision.

In the Headlines

Anarchist Robin Hoods are having fun in Hamburg. Who's that searching for sex on the internet? It's time to come home and repair the damage done. Don't expect big changes this November. High Schoolers are able to get the job done where big business didn't. Did he really mean to say- that?

Fun and Beauty

He'll keep trying, but no patent this time, Damon. Beautiful "Pictures" in New Brunswick. Astronomical timepieces and Rainbow's End, but don't wait too long for coffee. Just think about being one hundred years old. Late harvest, and tasty. Beauty, lakeside. Fourteen formulas are cinematic sure-fires. It's all Greek to me, and enjoyable. Mad Libs rush- rounds 13 & 14 and 15 & 16 are happening now. The weather is getting better- now for some summertime music!

Thanks for joining us! At press time, there's no carnival host listed for next week, so I'm not sure where to send the big top and the funhouse. Maybe you'd like to host? Email the carnies and let them know when you can set up the tents on your blog.

Have a great week.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Last Call for Carnival

Please send your submission to by 11PM tonight* to be included in this week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers, to be held here at the Center of NJ Life.

*Let's face it, I'm up late doing these things, so the 11PM deadline is flexible- if you get it in before I publish, you get it in.

The Religious Left

This week I'm in the rather uncomfortable position of agreeing with George Will:

An aggressively annoying new phrase in America's political lexicon is "values voters." It is used proudly by social conservatives, and carelessly by the media to denote such conservatives.
This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots.

I am sick of being told I don't have values or don't have morals because I believe all people are equal and should have the same rights and freedoms as others. I vote with my conscience, too. I find it odd that George Will should be the one to point this out.

It's interesting that he should make this point right now as the religious left is making a comeback, according to a WaPo article:

Religious liberals say their faith compels them to emphasize such issues as poverty, affordable health care and global warming. Disillusionment with the war in Iraq and opposition to Bush administration policies on secret prisons and torture have also fueled the movement.
Recently, there has been an increase in books and Web sites by religious liberals, national and regional conferences, church-based discussion groups, and new faith-oriented political organizations. "Organizationally speaking, strategically speaking, the religious left is now in the strongest position it's been in since the Vietnam era," said Clemson University political scientist Laura R. Olson.

I'm glad to see a rise, any rise, in activism by the left, and this one is long overdue. The Republicans put in a such a strong claim on "faith" and "values" that it seemed anyone with any actual values was afraid to speak up. Progressives with faith have been there all along, just not as well organized and galvanized as the right.

The article brings up the question of whether the progressive faithful are increasing in number or just becoming more organized and vocal. I personally don't think it matters (from a political standpoint) which is true. As the Republican poll numbers tank and the country continues to swing away from the ultra-cons, the left is getting more bold and willing to reclaim the spotlight. This is one more sign of that, and a hopeful one.

(cross-posted at the Blanton's and Ashton's)

Friday, May 19, 2006

The score today

Three-legged greyhound: 1
Small furry creature who used to live in the yard: 0

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.89, Gulf, Mercer St. Hightstown, 5/18 3:52PM.

Corzine Town Hall meeting tonight

Gov. Corzine will be in Hamilton tonight for a town-hall style meeting about the budget. You know how I love to go to these things, but I can't tonight; maybe you can!

7-8PM, Hamilton Township Senior Center, Cypress Lane.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The tents are coming...

I like the NJ Carnival of Bloggers, I think it's a great idea. I don't want to see it die. So, I signed up to host again this weekend. Send your favorite post of the week to

There is no one signed up to host for May 28, June 4, June 11, or June 18. Take your turn. Email the carnies and sign up to host. It's a lot of fun, and you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Death by a million paper cuts."

That's how the property tax problem was described last night by a resident of East Windsor Township. In the pouring rain a few hundred people came out to talk to and hear from the 12th LD's elected representation: State Senator Ellen Karcher, Assemblyman Michael Panter and Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck in a School Funding Forum hosted by the East Windsor Regional School District. The district consists of E. Windsor and Hightstown Borough; along with more than 50% of the districts statewide, they voted down their budget this year. (All comments in quotes are from residents at the forum.)

"Living with a flawed formula"

The Assemblyfolk and Senator opened with statements on their positions on school funding, with Jennifer Beck going a bit off topic and sticking to her NJ Repub Talking Points. It was clear that they get it, that there is a huge problem with school funding and they need to solve it. Assemblyman Panter clearly railed against Home Rule. He also stated unequivocally that the Abbot decision is unfair to "the bulk of suburban New Jersey." The 12th is one of the few legislative districts in this state without an Abbot school district.

"Teachers should not be a scapegoat for this."

An interesting point is that no one seemed to be angry about the quality of education in the district; indeed, many people praised Superintendant Ron Bolandi and the job the district has done in educating their students. The vote was not about education; it was a "taxpayer revolt." The problem of high funding of teacher benefits was discussed- apparently, 20% of the state budget will be benefits by 2010, according to Beck, but that is a contractual issue and not much can be done. Michael Panter touted his bill to let teachers opt out of health benefits if they can recieve them through a spouse.

"Legislature is fully empowered and capable to do something about it and does not need a convention to deflect the heat."

Beck said several times that we need to work through the summer and get this fixed; all of the representatives encouraged a special session or a constitutional convention to work on property taxes. When pressed on a timeline to hold them to, the Assemblywoman reminded us that they're up for reelection in 2007. (No wonder she wants to work all summer on it.)

"You seem like nice young people, but you're politicians. You're liars, as far as I'm concerned."

Ellen Karcher took this one pretty well, and told the citizen in no uncertain terms how she disagreed, having been a champion of ethics for years in Monmouth county. They all made it clear several times that they're working in our interests but they are a grand total of 2.5% of the legislature, and have a lot of uphill climbing to do.

"Whatever you do, people are going to hate."

Several folks were very clear that it was time for legislators to do the right thing, whether or not it was the popular thing. Along those lines, a great deal of attention was paid to regionalization. Panter brought up the need for greater regionalization, the use of a stick as well as a carrot. Nice idea, to praise that to the residents in a regional district- but regionalization hasn't solved all our problems yet. One resident mentioned a recent Times of Trenton editorial about changing to a county-wide district system. Panter in particular felt that regionalization of administrative function would reduce redundancy and costs.

"Things take time. But we don't have time."

I was surprized at how little discussion was done on a shift of school funding from property taxes to income taxes- Panter called the idea "a fiscal shell game." He did tout increasing Developer Impact Fees. Several people commented on how the rebates were "corrosive" and a silly gimmick to buy votes.

"You guys seem on board. Who else do I call?"

Senator Karcher replied, quickly, "I'll give you Wayne Bryant's number." Assemblyman Panter pointed out that if you have a strong opinion, contact your rep., who will give you the names of who else to contact. We were reminded to be loud and consistent with our voices, and we will be heard.

The forum didn't cover much new ground- the discussions have all been had several times over. Probably the most important thing to be brought out of the evening is the reminder that our elected represenatives need to hear from us. A lot. Don't stop there, thought- also the committe chairs, party leaders, and- very, very important- the media. If you support a bill or think an idea is just plain bad, tell them, tell them all, then write a letter to the editor to tell everyone else.

(cross-posted at

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Update- Carol Gay has a web site

Updating this post.

Carol Gay, who is running against Chris Smith in NJ-04, now has a proper web site- complete with policy positions, biography, and information.

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.89, Raceway at Schibanoff Road and Rt. 9, Freehold; 4:24PM 5/14.

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 52

The anniversary carnival is over at Enlighten.

Next week, it will come back here. I took up the hosting because there's only one carnival host signed up for the next two months, and that's June 26th.

This isn't a hint; I'm flat-out telling you to go sign up now for a turn hosting. Email the carnies and let them know when you'll take your turn.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.89, $2.95, $3.01- all for a gallon of regular gas- at three separate gas stations at the circle of Rt. 571 and Rt. 1, Princeton NJ at 8:24PM.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What Mommy Wars?

I'm so sick of hearing about the Mommy Wars.

If you're not a parent, you still may have heard of this. It's the idea that stay-at-home moms and job-holding moms are constantly at odds with each other and disagree about which way is the better way to parent.

Full disclosure- I've been both a SAHM and a job-holding mom; now I'm a job-holder again. (I refuse to say "working mom" because, trust me, all moms work and work damn hard, whether they get a paycheck or not.) So I've seen both sides.

Very rarely did anyone ever criticize my decision to stay home or to hold a job directly to my face. Essentially, I believe, most folks know it's none of their business how I raise my kids or support my family, and whether or not they agree with my choice, they respect the fact that it's my decision.

The few, let me stress the word few, moms I've known who made anything of this whole Mommy War thing seemed to be the ones who weren't comfortable with their decision. The ones vehemently defending their choice to work often wished they could stay home more, and the ones loudly defending their domestic status wished they could wear big-girl shoes once in a while and get paid again. Mostly, however, the moms I've known here in Central NJ are pretty happy with the decisions they've made and don't talk much about it. We talk about how much we need an extra two hours in every day.

So, who's making a big deal of this issue as a war, if it's not the moms?

Media. Because it sells.

There was a book that came out a while back called Mommy Wars, essays from moms on their choices. It got lots of press and lots of attention. I just found out reading Ellen Goodman's column Getting Over the Mommy Wars that the title was changed:
On the literary front, Leslie Morgan Steiner's collection of testimonials, a fine-tuned orchestra of ambivalence, was originally going to be named ''Ending the Mommy Wars." But it came out of the publishing house packaged as ''Mommy Wars."

Surprize surprize. Make it more controversial so it'll sell more. I haven't read it, but I wonder if there are any essays in it from moms who don't get a choice- single parents who are the sole source of income, for example?

The title of Goodman's column says it all- get over it. We're pushed into thinking this is a big fight we're having between ourselves, but it's not. It's a personal decision to be a SAHM or a job-holder- and we should feel damn lucky if we get to make a choice- and we don't need pressure to look down on other women who went the opposite way than ourselves.

Happy Mother's Day.

Better than I could've said it

(Well, really, I've said it, but not like this.) It's always a heckuva lot easier to criticize than to solve the problem. Steve Adubato has the story on why it's not so good to be the king.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.81, Mobil, Rt. 130N in Washington Twp. (Mercer County- aka Robbinsville)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A bear dies in Trenton

A bear found yesterday in Trenton- near the offices of the state DEP- was killed, and was the first bruin killed under the no-tolerence rules for urban New Jersey.

The Bear Exclusion Zone, which covers heavily urban areas in northeastern New Jersey, also extends westward like a belt across the center of the state to include Mercer County, and it calls for killing bears caught within the boundaries.
But when the Trenton bear was caught by city animal-control agents at 4:30 a.m., some state wildlife authorities questioned the wisdom of the rules even before DEP biologists euthanized the bear seven hours later.
"That bear never should have been killed. It's a waste of the wildlife resource, and it's just bad publicity for the state. The biologists don't want to do this, no one wants this," said Len Wolgast, a member of the state Fish and Game Council, which sets state hunting regulations.
Wolgast co-authored a state bear-management policy last year that included the exclusion-zone rules. But Wolgast said the "red zone" and the euthanasia requirement was a provision placed into the policy by the DEP and its former chief.
"This red zone and other things I hated to see were put into the larger Black Bear Management Policy as a compromise so that we could get the policy together and have DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell sign off on it," Wolgast explained.
"I think it's disingenuous for the council to say the former commissioner
is responsible," DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura said yesterday. However, the
Bear Exclusion Zone remains troublesome for animal rights groups,
environmentalists and hunting organizations alike.

Guess that bear hunt didn't help as much as they hoped, huh?

Blaming Campbell won't help anything. Since the policy was put into effect, we have a new DEP commissioner, Lisa Jackson. I've found nothing from her or her office about her position on the bear hunt, but after this incident I hope we find out her stand on the subject.

It's spring; the bears are coming out of hibernation, and they're moving around. This bear was not acting aggressively; it was probably looking for food or a mate, just like most folks who are cruising city streets at 4:30 in the morning.

It's a sad event, nonetheless.

(cross-posted at

Property Taxes- Hightstown follow-up

April 28th I wrote a post about Hightstown and property taxes, mentioning Councilman Patrick Thompson's letter, posted on BlueJersey and in the Windsor-Hights Herald about how he did not want to cut the school budget regardless of the voters' having voted it down.

This Friday, the Windsor-Hights Herald's Editorial was in response to the Councilman. Unfortunately, I can't find it online, so I'll hit the hightlights here:
And now that local voters have once again rejected the budget for East Windsor Regional Schools, it is the responsibility of the governing bodies of East Windsor and Hightstown to review the budget.
They have the right to cut the budget, leave it alone or even add to it.
They don't have the right, in our opinion, to ignore their responsibility.
But that seems to be the plan of Hightstown Borough Councilman Patrick Thompson. ...
Mr. Thompson says the school budget should be the sole purview of the local school board and schools Superintendant Ron Bolandi. He salso says that a regressive systm of taxation has created the local budgeting problem and the education of local students is too important to support any financial cuts.
These are reasonable opinions. They are also safe and easy statements to make.
But using those opinions to justify a course of non-action is wrong if you've made the choice to run for a municipal governing body in New Jersey.
Essentially refusing to take part in a process to which you are legally bound is simply irresponsible
Mr. Thompson says that taking his stated position shows leadership. We think leadership involves doing your job, even when it's tough and/or distasteful.
Upon learning of this editorial, Mr. Thompson said that he would "obviously" review the budget and "reserve the right to change my mind."
We hope he reviews the budget with an open mind and takes the will of the voters seriously.

I just re-read the Councilman's letter, and nowhere do I see that he would refuse to review the budget or decline to be part of the process. Indeed, I see that he said "I intend to hold Mr. Bolandi accountable as much as the next taxpayer." Also, remember that 45% of the taxpayers who came out and voted in the school election did vote to approve the budget as is; someone should be representing their interest in the town administration reviews. He may be the only dissenting vote (ok, I'll bet he WILL be the only dissenting vote) when the councils review then cut the schools' budget, but he gets that right. I expect also that if he finds an obvious, non-harmful cut that can be made, he will support it- he said as much in the recent editorial.

He is doing his job. I believe that sometimes, being an elected official requires doing something unpopular, if it is in the public interest. (And if the voters don't support his actions, they'll vote him out next election, as is their right.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No time

I just started working on Monday. I've had lots of things going besides my regular gig as SAHM for the last eight years (including school, other jobs, watching kids for friends, prof. baker, etc.) but this is a regular job I've taken. Part-time, yes, but the mommy thing is full-time-plus, so I feel overwhelmed right now. Also, I have to hold the youngest's birthday party Saturday, and they're predicting thunderstorms. Whoee!

So, anyway, why I'm telling you all of this is by way of explanation. CoNJL will be updating a little less frequently for the next few days, probably until next week at least, when we should settle into a new routine. As always, I appreciate your stopping by, and feel free to leave snarky comments wherever you like.

Fun stuff elsewhere on the web: Rob S. at Laughing at the Pieces is having the world's slowest Mad Libs right now, with all sorts of fun suggestions. Jeri Smith-Ready and a few of her writer pals wrote a quick procrastination-inspired piece here. Round 2, Brackets A and B are up for voting at bandmadness. And, dammit, I still get this stuck in my head from time to time.

See ya soon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Better than I could've said it

The editiorial in this morning's Times of Trenton:

The price of gasoline is high because of the most basic economic law of all: supply and demand. We Americans are feeling the pain at the pump because of years of national self-indulgence, abetted by the government, in which we came to consider cheap and plentiful energy a God-given right.
Now that gas prices are soaring again, the politicians responsible for our plight are competing to see who can come up with the least effective ideas for dealing with it. Watching Republicans and Democrats in the capital doing what comes naturally is even more depressing than usual.
Republicans in Congress are proposing a $100 rebate to taxpayers to offset rising gas prices. That would cover the cost of about two tankfuls, and do nothing to encourage more efficient use of fuel. They have linked the idea -- no surprise -- to allowing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, the oil companies' enduring dream. Even if there should prove to be commercially extractable oil in ANWR, drilling there would cover only a small percentage of the country's consumption -- and not deliver any oil at all for a decade or more.
The Democrats, for their part, want to temporarily suspend the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax. This is a tax that should have been substantially increased years ago, as prophets like H. Ross Perot proposed, to encourage conservation and put the price markup into the U.S. Treasury rather than the pockets of oil companies, Saudi princes and Iranian bomb-rattlers. Suspending the tax would send the message that it's OK to continue to drive the Hummer to the corner store for a loaf of bread. What's needed today is the opposite message.
President Bush has temporarily suspended environmental rules to excuse refiners from having to use certain additives to meet clean-air standards. What a convenient idea for a pro-oil, anti-environment president to put forward; it's as if clean air is simply a luxury to be dispensed with whenever an excuse can be found. The tradeoff is unjustifiable. The president also wants Congress to give him the power to rewrite the CAFE rules -- an alarming thought, given that Mr. Bush and his administration for 5 1/2 years have opposed any legislative increase in the standards.
Mr. Bush is right about one thing: Congress should take back some of the billions of dollars in tax incentives it gave the oil companies in last year's energy bill. With record profits, the companies don't need the breaks, he said. Not that they ever did.

There's more. Go read it. You can just feel the frustration seeping out between every line.

Monday, May 01, 2006