Monday, July 31, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$2.89, Raceway, Rts. 130 & 206 Southbound, across and two blocks from $2.97, Mobil, Rts. 130 & 206 Northbound, Bordentown 7/30 5:14PM

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$3.09 (!!), Exxon, Quakerbridge Road and Sloan Ave., Hamilton 7/29 9:30 PM


Hot summer night.

Driving home from a friends' house with the iPod on random song, "Stairway to Heaven" comes on. My youngest asks what it is, and I answer that it's considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

The kids are quiet for the rest of the song. My husband and I joke about how it's somewhat odd to be the parents in the car, instead of driving one of our parents' car. Then we're quiet too. For a few minutes we're teenagers again, driving around through hot summer nights on county backroads just for something to do, listening to Led Zep. We even take a longer way home just to hear the end.

The song ends and there's a heartbeat of silence. Then, the random song feature kicks in a blaring children's song about peanut butter toast.

Back to real life.

What Would Jesus NOT Do?

1) Get drunk
2) Drive drunk
3) Treat the arresting officer belligerently
4) Boast
5) Make anti-Semitic comments
6) Address a woman as "sugar tits" (even if that was her legal name)
7) Use a Barbara Walters interview to both beg public forgiveness and promote his next project (it's not in the article, but let's be realistic),1,19630,00.html?fdnews

I hope Mr. Gibson gets help battling his personal demons soon, since it would seem he's got more than a PR problem to deal with.

(I know there's a Manischewitz joke in here somewhere, but I'll leave it to the interested to write their own.)

Armageddon II: Armageddon

Mm. That's a bad title.

George Bluth, "Arrested Development"

You said it, George. So let's hope Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay don't hear about this:

"... the odds of a strike at 1 in 38,000." By contrast, the odds of winning the PowerBall lottery are roughly 1 in 29 million. Feel lucky, punk?

Waiting on the rain

I'd like to make a joke here, but when you hear about portions of North Dakota returning to Dust Bowl conditions...

Relationships to Avoid...

... as posted by someone who, on the basis of the content, you might already be avoiding. Perfect for the Tim Burton fan in your life, or anyone who likes to collect dating advice they won't use.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Wimp Factor

A little late... but another sobering reminder of the state of our union, politically and culturally.

Of course, if Chief Elgin was right in Three Kings, and some easy-listening classics are necessary to calm us down in these stressful times, then Blender magazine is here to help. (Or something.) Yes, these folks are easy targets, but the White House could use some lately.

Scams People Play, or I WOULD Want to Be Like You

Most aspiring identity thieves, if trying to ply the trade in a face-to-face setting, realize that they shouldn't set their sights too high; if you go around pretending to be, say, Angelina Jolie or the Pope, no one's likely to be fooled. You have to strike a balance between recognizability (the victim's heard of and respects your premise) and plausibility (the victim doesn't have enough expertise to disprove the premise, or cause to). Semi-successful examples: Stanley Kubrick, or Sidney Poitier's son.

However, pretending to be the less-famous half of a never-that-famous duo... maybe a little too obscure. Gotta give props for creative thinking, though.

Buyer Beware...

If your salesperson is studying Advanced Unorthodox Negotiation Techniques, the sale's never really over.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Central NJ gas price watch

$3.03, Lukoil, Seaside Park, 7/27 10:45 AM.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 60

Sorry I'm so late with the link, but the Carnival of NJ Bloggers was over at Bob the Corgi this past weekend.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New Jersey Treasure #6

There are so many good things about living here in the center of NJ, I could go on and on about them. And I've decided to do just that. Periodically I'm going to pick something that has recently made itself a pleasure in my life and tell you why it's a NJ Treasure, in hopes that you'll enjoy it too and have more pleasures in your life.

Today's installment features the Jersey Diner. Now, if you're reading this and not from Our Fair State, let me explain- you ain't never seen a diner like we have 'em here. They're huge. The capacity is huge, and it's packed full- even at quarter to eleven on a midsummer weekday, or quarter to one on a weekend morning. The menu is huge- often eight or more pages, usually covered in plastic- and the choice is unbelievable. The portions are huge, enough to feed a family of four on each plate. The coffee is usually bad, but the cup is bottomless (huge!) so it kind of makes up for it.

Because of all this hugeness, the sheer volume of food that passes through a Jersey Diner in a day is probably an embarrassment. A tasty embarrassment, though.

It isn't the hugeness that makes it a Jersey Diner; it's the atmosphere, the hours (open very late or all night), the combined cheapness and lavishness, the counter and the chrome, the neon sign, the rotating pie case, and the industrial-grade but never-ending coffee. It's the truck drivers, the kids, the after-the-bars-close crowd, the wait staff that's been there for years and years and at least ten hours so far today. It's the local carnival flyers taped to the window, the peeling Formica on the tables, the bowl of mints by the cash register that your friend won't eat from because everyone in town has put their hands in there.

Don't even suggest a Denny's, a Friendly's or some other chain-restaurant approximation; nothing but a Jersey Diner is a Jersey Diner.

Today I took the kids for brunch; something to do on a lazy hot summer day. We got there and were seated rather quickly. We got our orange juice (squeezed fresh at this particular diner) and my bottomless cup of mediocre coffee, then ordered a vast amount of food. Pancakes, French toast, sausage, eggs benedict, hash browns. There must have been a pint of blueberries in the pancakes. The potatoes probably had been on the grill since about 6AM and were all crisp and starch. The Canadian bacon was very juicy and moist, because it was really ham. They forgot the English muffin- yes, on an eggs benedict someone forgot the English muffin part- but they brought it right away.

Man, it was good. We ate until our stomachs hurt, then wrapped up the extras to take home. Like I said, huge portions. For the next three days we'll have to eat very small portions of low-fat, low-salt vegan food just to make up for it, but it was worth it.

Next time you need a cool diversion and an oversized grease-based meal, head on out to a Jersey Diner and experience one of New Jersey's Treasures.

NJ Treasure #5
NJ Treasure #4
NJ Treasure #3
NJ Treasure #2
NJ Treasure #1

Conserve energy!

PSE&G Asks Consumers to Conserve Energy During Heat Wave.

PSE&G is providing the following conservation tips:
* Turn off everything you're not using; lights, TVs, computers, etc. Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
* Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun to keep the sun's heat out and help fans and air conditioners cool more efficiently.
* Close doors leading to uncooled parts of your home. With central air, close off vents to unused rooms.
* Delay heat-producing tasks such as washing and drying laundry or dishes until later in the day, and wait until load is full.
* Refrain from using nonessential appliances. Unplug or use only when necessary an
extra refrigerator in your garage.

You already know all this, and should be doing it anyway. But since it's supposed to reach 100 today in parts of Our Fair State, it's good to have a reminder.

Central NJ gas price watch

$3.03, Perryville Road & Rt. 173, Clinton, NJ 7/15 10:30PM

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Quinnipiac Poll- State Shutdown edition

Quinnipiac released their newest NJ poll today, showing that the state shutdown didn't hurt Corzine. His approval rating is at 44%, which beats last month, and is in fact the highest he's been in the Q. polls. His disapprove rating is at 43%, which is also his highest but not statistically significantly so. At least, we're choosing sides- this is the lowest the Don't Knows have registered- 13%. We also approve of how he's handling the budget- 47% approve, also highest so far.

All this, and we're mad at the Legislature. 71% Disaprove- highest (lowest?) there this year. We didn't really like the shutdown, 45-51%, but we approve of the sales tax hike compromise deal, 58%. But we wouldn't vote against our local legislator because s/he voted for the sales tax hike, 69-23%.

These numbers show the cynicism that we've come to know and love in Our Fair State:

  • Will Corzine reduce property taxes? 64% say no, a little fewer than a month ago.

  • Was this a first step in property tax reform or a token political effort? 59% say tolken effort.

Well, at least we haven't lost our realism.

Corzine took a gamble by shutting down the state, but it looks like it paid off politically. The plan is for it all to pay off financially by making a difference in our ridiculous out-of-control way of budgeting here in NJ.

One more cool thing- Businesses are happy with the new budget. Important news for a state that just pissed the casino industry off a little bit.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Putting the "South" in South Jersey

    A Confederacy of Dunces, by Rich at fourfour.

    In high school, my marching band used to perform in a parade in Wildwood every year, so I was there more than most other shore towns. For years I didn't go down the shore, because it was dirty, cheap and horrid- at least, that was my impression, based on the Wildwood experience. It was not until I spent some time in Seaside Heights and LBI that I had to recant my earlier position, realizing that the shore has some really nice areas and can be fun.

    I'm going down the shore in a few weeks- to a slightly more upscale town than Wildwood- and I sure hope to find less of this garbage than Rich did. You expect some nasty crap in the cheap t-shirt joints (last year's winner for most tasteless tee: "Future MILF" on a little girl's shirt) but maybe we'll see less of it on the people.

    Ah, who am I kidding. Probably we'll see just as much of it. People all over like to cherry-pick. They'll insist it's a rebel symbol and ignore the racism aspect because they avoid cognative dissonance that way.

    Yeah, good luck with that. Ask your black friends how they think it looks.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Yay for the Meadowlands!

    We all know that the Bush Administration refuses to protect the environment by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol. So, here in Northern New Jersey, an unlikely group has taken it upon themselves to join up: The Meadowlands Commission.

    The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission announced Monday that it will adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Meadowlands District to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
    "By supporting the Kyoto Protocol, we are holding ourselves to an international standard of environmental protection," said Susan Bass Levin, chairwoman of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and New Jersey Department of Community Affairs commissioner, in a press release.
    The Bush administration has staunchly resisted adopting the Kyoto Protocol. Even so, more than 250 cities and towns nationwide -- including Kearny in the Meadowlands District -- have given their own endorsement, and New Jersey has joined a regional consortium of seven Northeastern-Mid-Atlantic states and several Canadian provinces to abide by Kyoto treaty reduction levels by reducing power plant emissions.
    The Meadowlands Commission said that it would enforce the treaty by adopting land-use policies that will reduce sprawl and encourage green building; promoting alternate means of transportation including car pooling and public transportation; preserving open space and wetlands; establishing a renewable energy district, and converting landfill gas into energy.

    The Meadowlands Commission already earned environmental respect in April when they announced that they were planning a massive solar array. This is one more step in the right direction.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    We have a budget

    and are re-opening for business. Corzine signed the exec order at 6AM this morning to end the shutdown. Casinos were open by 7AM; lottery ticket sales re-start this morning; state parks should open tomorrow; Motor Vehicle agencies open on Monday.

    njdem has a fine wrap-up of the end of the process over at BlueJersey (where this weekend's Op-Ed is from the ACLU-NJ.) I have to give njdem credit- I tried to watch the Assembly procedings last night, but after a full work/parenting day sitting down to listen to so much talk about the Urban Enterprize Zone purchasing, tobacco product taxing, budget bull procedures and the like, I had a hard time keeping my focus. Give your legislators credit, folks- hammering out a budget is a very difficult process, with each little detail important to some group of constituents, and they have to keep it all straight.

    Somewhat aside, I thought this was cool: from PoliticsNJ:
    Respectfully, declines to post spin on the budget deal, and refers you to our PRESS RELEASE page. Watch for our Special Budget '06 Winners & Losers once this website figures it all out. (07/06/06)

    Good for you.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    So they compromised...

    .. and the state might re-open on Friday or Saturday.

    I have an out-of-the-gate opinion on this compromise, but I'll reserve it until we've seen the actual package of laws. Wording is essential, and the devil is always hiding in the details, so it makes sense to read what we're truly getting before we begin bitching about it.

    Having no facts doesn't usually stop most people from complaining, but it should, and tonight it will stop me.

    Calls for Blood!

    An unexpected side effect of the state government shutdown- donations of blood plummeted.
    The state government shutdown of all inessential state services has put a squeeze on local blood supplies, causing the Community Blood Council of New Jersey to make urgent requests for blood donations, according to blood council officials.
    Local agencies rely heavily on state workers for donations, especially during the summer months, said Sue Robbins, Community Blood Council spokeswoman.
    A blood drive at the Department of Corrections for today has been canceled, which the council was depending on for 20 percent to 25 percent of its supplies this week, Robbins said. The council is also counting on drives at the Department of Transportation next week and at the Department of Motor Vehicles the week of July 16. Robbins estimates those drives would also have accounted for 20 to 25 percent of weekly supplies.
    "The situation is quite grave, as this could put the blood supply for our area hospitals in jeopardy. We are begging our area civic organizations, churches and synagogues to pick up the slack," according to Robbins, who said blood type O positive is most in demand right now.
    She said state workers typically understand the needs in the state and that the workers are needed even more in the summer months, with schools being closed and employees at many businesses on vacation.
    "We have about a day and half worth of supplies right now. If gas stations said they only had one and a half days of gas left, there would be an uproar," Robbins said.

    Give Life; Give Blood. Here is a list of blood drives by county, or visit the Red Cross and enter your zip code to find a local collection center.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Too Little, Too Late

    In Monday's mail I recieved a letter (dated June 20) from Sen. Robert Menendez:

    "Thank you for contacting me to express your support for a censure of President George W. Bush. I appreciate hearing your views and the opportunity to respond to you on this important matter. ..."

    I appreciate your response, Senator; but I wish it had been more prompt, since I wrote to you about this in March, when Feingold's resolution was on the table.

    For the record- Menendez doesn't think we have enough info for censure.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Happy Independence Day

    It's wicked hot outside.

    I just spent two hours outside, weeding my garden (I live in New Jersey, I have a yard, I grow tomatoes. It's a tradition; It might even be a law.) I also did some other random garden work, including cutting back the mums for the last time of the season- this action took me into the front yard.

    In the front yard I was approached by a man who rode by on his bicycle. He asked me if I had any work for him; he said he could weed the garden, trim the bushes, anything I needed. He was extremely polite. Unfortunately, I had to decline; I had just finished what I planned to get done today.

    Here's the thing; I know this man. He comes into where I work occasionally. I don't think he recognized me- I was sweaty and filthy from working in the yard, and I certainly didn't have on nice work clothes. He's always extremely polite. He practices his English with us and we try to speak back in Spanish. I've seen him in a t-shirt from a local lawn company, so I know he has some yard work experience. I wonder if he has kids, or someone else he supports.

    He's not looking for a handout.

    He's riding around a small Central Jersey town on a bicycle, on this wicked hot and humid holiday, looking to earn a living.

    Happy Independence Day.

    Special Session

    NJN is running coverage of the Legislative session today; you can watch live streaming video on their web site. Also, BlueJersey is running a open thread for discussion.

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Good to be home

    Got home rather late last night. Drove over the George Washington Bridge, got on the Turnpike, and was greeted by a sign proudly declaring that all public monuments and state parks will be closed as of July 5th.

    I leave for one week, and the state completely shuts down? Guess Gov. Corzine decided to show some spine with his budget. I've gotta catch up on the news...

    Central New Hampshire gas price watch

    $2.75/gal, Meredith, NH. July 1, 3:10PM.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    ANY friend of the devil?

    I love music. But I've never really gotten into the Grateful Dead.

    Some Deadheads may not be able to reconcile those two statements, and maybe they're right. It's very possibly true that I've just never heard the tracks that would would illuminate the magic for me. But since I keep finding new (or new-to-me) artists I do like, I haven't felt the need to explore further. (If any Deadheads want to suggest a track or two to convert a non-believer, feel free. "Casey Jones" advocates need not apply... if anything, I'm more an "Uncle John's Band" kinda guy.)

    Part of my antipathy is very likely due to the fact that the Dead's late-80's resurgence came along just as I was starting college, and a lot of the "fans" who picked up on them then very vocally regarded the shows as an excuse to get wasted with lots of temporary best friends and a professional light show, rather than anything remotely musical. This is not something I held against the band -- I don't think they were consciously projecting this image at the time -- but it did reinforce a stereotype in my mind. (And yes, I realize that a lot of fans -- not to mention the band themselves -- were and are genuinely socially progressive.)

    So anyway, when Jerry died in August '95, a lot of people were really upset and moved. Other sentiments were slightly less, ah, sentimental:

    "It was very sad after Jerry died, not because I felt like I had a psychic connection to him or anything, but only because something really fun I liked to do, I couldn't do anymore. It would be as if all ski resorts just shut down one day."

    So says Ann Coulter, who is of course famously averse to public grieving, so maybe it doesn't give a full sense of how the man's death affected her. (If only the 9/11 widows could show such restraint!) For more on her love of the band, help yourself to

    Another touching passage:

    "The one time I missed not being able to go to Dead shows more than any other since Jerry died was during the Clinton impeachment. There was so much viciousness - killed cats, punctured tires, threats, investigations and slander against those of us favoring impeachment. (Anthony Pellicano, you'll recall – the Hollywood private investigator now accused of criminal conspiracy, attempted murder, and making criminal threats – was working for the Clintons during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.) I don't really care what people say about me – I'm a Christian so there's nothing anyone can ever do to me – but I kept thinking: “Boy, would I like to go to a Dead show and dance with happy, friendly deadheads for just one night!”

    I wish you could too, Ann. If only. I'm sure Jerry wishes he had the opportunity to play for you again; he might even serenade you in front of the whole crowd.