Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My media-verse for spring

I haven't done one of these in a few months, so I thought it might be fun. Here goes!


The kids have discovered that there are other Foo Fighters albums besides Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, so we've been hearing The Color and the Shape quite a bit. (Since I love both albums, I'm not inclined to stop them from playing them, over and over and over and over...) We're waiting for our new Gnarls Barkley album to come from Amazon, so we've been playing St. Elsewhere in anticipation. (If you haven't seen their videos yet, head over to the web site now and play them. Now. I'll wait, it's ok. ... Welcome back! Wasn't that cool?) I recently took a break from audiobooks to listen to something completely different: Yo Yo Ma's Inspired by Bach. A recent post of Brenda Tremblay's reminded me that I hadn't heard that in a while.


30 Rock is still the funniest thing on television, however I've found myself making time on Friday nights to watch The Soup with Joel McHale. (Booya!) Top Chef is keeping itself interesting this year, even with a good batch of chefs and no real bad guy. We powered through season 2 of Weeds on DVD; Season 3 is being released soon! We're still catching up on our Venture Brothers as well.


We haven't set foot in a movie theater in a long time, so it's all DVD and tape for us. We recently watched all 3 original Star Wars movies with the kids, and I must say, they aren't holding up to time the way most classics do. By the end of Jedi, I had the idea for a new drinking game: every time someone called someone else an "old buddy," or every time the Emperor reminded Luke that his friends (said with demonic derision) were going to die, you had to drink. You'd be so drunk you'd never even wonder how the Ewoks put up such a well-organized and well-equiped attack in the ten minutes they had to plan.

The kids are now asking to watch the three newer movies. It's not very responsible of me to play a drinking game with the kids in the room, so I'll just have to sit through them sober. I don't know how I'll manage. (Maybe episode three will save me; I heard it was better than the other two, but episode two sucked so bad I never went to see it.)

We have two grown-up movies to watch in the next week; Jamie Fox's The Kingdom, and No Country for Old Men. It will be a week of intense movie drama, to say the least.


I've been ripping through books lately and I wonder if I can remember all I've read. Born Standing Up was interesting and well-written. My Horizontal Life: a Collection of One-Night Stands was popcorn and fun. I tore through Power Down, the most recent graphic novel in the Ex Machina series. The Red Tent was a fantastically well-told story from a new point of view. In Defense of Food was common sense codified, and The Year of Eating Dangerously was cute, self-deprecating food and travel writing.

I listened to His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, the Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife) The production was fantastic, but "disappointed" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt when I was done listening to them. "Annoyed" is close. As a family, we listened to Inkheart and are deep in Inkspell; different readers change the feeling of the characters, but the books are really good. I'm listening to Neil Gaiman's short story collection Fragile Things, which has some high points, some low points, and is beginning to run together too much. I would have rather read them one at a time in their original collections, I think.

I have several books on tap to read now: The Brief Wondrous Live of Oscar Wao is top of that list, but I'm afraid to start it. See, when the list at the library for it was so long, I picked up Junot Diaz's book of short stories Drown, and I couldn't finish it. It was brutal, both in its level of violence and its tone. I also have Predictably Irrational and The Geography of Bliss to start- I may not finish it all before it has to go back to the library.

So, that's the last couple of months of media around here. What's in your Media-verse now?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Fleecing of Hamilton and NJ- Quit while you're behind edition

Court upholds land deal
Hamilton stuck with Klockner Woods

HAMILTON -- A state court has again refused to void the township's agreement to purchase the 51-acre tract known as Klockner Woods, keeping taxpayers on the hook for the roughly $4.5 million land deal while township officials contemplate taking the case to the state Supreme Court.
A decision handed down yesterday from the appellate division of the state Superior Court ruled that the township must uphold its 2005 agreement to purchase the land, despite arguments that the township council never approved an appropriation to buy the property.

The township council says they never approved the funds for the purchase, so it isn't legal. Unfortuantely, the courts don't see it that way; they (repeatedly) state that the purchase was legal.

George Dougherty, the attorney representing Hamilton, said he would be recommending the township pursue the matter with the state's highest court.
"I think they absolutely missed the law," Dougherty said. "You can't make a solid commitment unless you have money set aside to do it. You simply don't spend money that you don't have."

Unfortunately, George, spending money we don't have is the American Way. See, right now you're spending Hamilton taxpayers' money to fight a fight you can't win.

But if the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, or if it upholds the decision of the lower courts, there would certainly be implications for Hamilton's finances, according to interim township business administrator William Guhl.
Besides legal costs, which have climbed to about $30,000, the township will be on the hook for long-term debt payments on the $4.1 million price, plus interest, including a down payment of roughly $200,000, Guhl said.
The township has already paid Fieldstone about $380,000 in interest as part of the agreement, and further interest payments have raised the township's current obligation to about $4.5 million, according to John Buonocore, the attorney representing Fieldstone.
When asked his opinion on the decision, Guhl backed Dougherty's view.
"If you want to buy something, and it's a capital item and you want to" using a bond ordinance, Guhl said, a municipality must "specifically identify in the ordinance what it is you want to buy."
The courts, however, have ruled otherwise. The appellate court affirmed Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg's opinion that a bond ordinance specifically appropriating money for the land purchase was not required in order for the purchase agreement to be binding.
In her decision, issued early last year, Feinberg pointed to other actions the township took that could have funded the purchase, including $5 million appropriated for open space and multiple public attempts by the township to secure outside funding for the purchase.
Feinberg also argued that the cost to taxpayers would be higher if she overturned the settlement to purchase the land, pointing to the cost of the litigation that could ensue.

Just when you thought this whole mess couldn't get worse...

"This has always been about Hamilton politics and it was never about the value of the land," Buonocore (of Feildstone) said.
(former Mayor Glenn) Gilmore backed that claim yesterday.
"The Republican council knew that they were simply wasting valuable taxpayer dollars in lawyer fees and interest cost with this appeal, but they wanted to keep the issue alive for the last election at taxpayer expense," he wrote in response to an e-mail asking for comment.

Add that comment to the (very short) list of things that Glen Gilmore got right.

A friend and Hamilton resident put it very succintly to me once: "Gilmore screwed us." Especially on this issue, you bet. But it's time for the new administration and town council to stop trying to fight old battles and move on to fixing the problems they were elected to fix. Meanwhile, legal fees and interest payments keep piling up, and guess who has to pay for those?

Yes, the land should be preserved. Yes, when the purchase agreement was made SOMEONE should have been looking out for the taxpayers' interest. We all agree to that.

Now is not the time for those arguements- that time was back in 2004 and 2005. Now is the time now for the council to stop shoveling more of the taxpayers' good money after bad and move on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clearing the air on October 15th

Atlantic City Council unanimous on casino smoking ban, takes effect Oct. 15.

ATLANTIC CITY - A relentless fight to protect casino workers from secondhand smoke ended Wednesday with a historic vote by city legislators outlawing smoking on the resort's 11 casino floors.
Before a packed chamber of casino workers and anti-smoking advocates, City Council's nine members approved an ordinance that will clear the smoke from all city gaming floors by Oct. 15. The measure does allow casinos to build separately ventilated smoking rooms that cannot be staffed.
The vote was followed by more than a minute-long standing ovation and chants of "thank you!"
"There's an industry out here that we have a responsibility to," said (Councilman Bruce) Ward, a driving force behind the legislation. "But we also have a responsibility to our visitors and our workers."

Finally, someone has taken responsibility to protect the health of casino workers. The casinos themselves finally said they would acquiesce if given enough implementation time. The biggest complaint of the casino industry was always that they would lose customers to Connecticut and Pennsylvania gambling; however, both of those states are apparently considering their own indoor smoking bans, so that's out the window.

Just like all that secondhand smoke- out the window.

It's about time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Push to Preserve Petty's Island

The New Jersey Environmental Foundation and the Sierra Club are hoping to push the Governor to make Petty's Island a nature preserve and park:
The coalition argues that now is the perfect time for New Jersey to accept the proposed gift from Citgo Petroleum, because a North Carolina company that had proposed a major redevelopment project on the island recently dropped its plans, citing poor economic conditions in the national housing market.
In addition, the state is in such dire financial straits that it is considering closing some state parks to save money, which means there's scant funding available to acquire new open space.
Citgo, the American subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, offered the 392-acre Petty's Island, which sits in the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia, to New Jersey in 2004. At the time, Gov. Jim McGreevey declined the offer. Environmental groups claimed the state was simply pandering to a politically connected developer, Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh.
"We should be celebrating today the fourth anniversary of Petty's Island as a park and nature preserve," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club. "Instead, we're asking Gov. Corzine, 'When are you going to step up and save Petty's Island from development?' "

Well, part of the reason he's waiting is that Pennsauken isn't ready to give up hope of redevelopment yet:
Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview in the Courier-Post , township Committeeman Rick Taylor said Pennsauken hoped to find another company to redevelop the riverfront.

The reason cited by Cherokee Investment Partners for dropping their plans is a declining real-estate market. However, as the township is hoping, markets are cyclical and there will once again be a demand for luxury waterfront housing in the Philly metro area. We can only hope that they decide to renovate the mainland real estate instead, the land that will have a beautiful, priceless view of the nature preserve that Petty's Island should be.

Solar fun

Two solar tidbits:

1. I love this season! Not just watching the earth renew and burst forth in bloom, but also that I'm banking kW hours all the time. My last bill, I had 68 banked; this bill it will be more. What that means is, the panels are producing more electricity than I use, so I have credit against the times when I use more than I produce- like the hot, humid high summer.

2. The Whole Earth Center in Princeton opened its addition recently, sporting not just tons of reused and recycled materials but a new set of solar panels! Very cool.

Earth Day Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day is

Biodiversity \bye-oh-duh-VER-suh-tee\ noun

: biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals

Example Sentence
Today’s tropical rainforests represent a treasure trove of biodiversity unmatched in any other environment.

Did you know?
“Biodiversity may become the rallying call for the next decade,” wrote David Wake in the journal Science in 1989. Indeed, “biodiversity” is a word you’re likely to encounter in writing about ecology and the environment today. But when Wake used it, “biodiversity” was still a relatively new addition to the English language, having first appeared in writing in the mid-1980s. Of course, the roots of "biodiversity" are much older. It evolved from a commingling of the descendants of the Greek noun “bios,” which means "mode of life," and the Latin verb “divertere,” which means "to turn aside" or "to go different ways."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Instant karma's gonna get you

I was going through some old paperwork for the dogs the other day, trying to clear out the filing cabinet, and I found something interesting. The greyhound adoption agency we have been using helpfully distributes the dog's pedigree and racing record when a dog is adopted. I found the lineage for our late hound, Blackjack, and compared it to that of our new dog, Shadow.

They are cousins. They share a grandfather. How cool is that?

Shadow is at the vet's office tonight, where they're fixing her broken ankle bone. She should be able to walk normally after she finishes healing.

We weren't able to help Blackjack, but maybe we can give Shadow a better life.

Friday, April 04, 2008

What choice?

When I heard that Lautenberg wanted to run for Senate again, I wasn't thrilled. Please understand, I think Frank Lautenberg was a great senator. His voting record is admirable and often in line with what I think. No huge scandals, no major accusations, a distinguished record of public service from a beloved public official. Then he retired. In 2000.

When the Democrats hauled him back from his retirement to replace the sinking ship known as Bob Toricelli in 2002, a lot of people were pissed off. The Republicans screamed, unsuccessfully sued, and called the maneuver a dirty rotten trick.

Because it was.

Lautenberg has served us more than honorably but his time is passed. Amid questions of McCain's age affecting his ability to serve, people have not failed to notice that Our Fair State's senior senator is a full twelve years older than the Republican presidential nominee. I'm afraid that the Dems are running Lautenberg again for the same reason they did in 2002; because voters love him and the pols are sure he can win. Lautenberg has name recognition! Lautenberg has voter loyalty! If Lautenberg's health begins to wane the party can prop him up like Strom Thurman!

I feel pandered to again. I'm a little pissed off again.

Unfortunately, the other option is worse:

(Rep. Rob) Andrews, for example, joined GOP colleagues in supporting a fence along the Mexican border; backed legislation pushed by banks and credit card companies making it more difficult for people to erase their debts through bankruptcy; supported a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning; voted for the estate tax repeal; and opposed permanent normal trade relations with China.
Andrews not only supported the (Iraq) invasion but was an author and vocal advocate of the war resolution, and attended the White House signing ceremony. In 2003, he said there was little doubt that there were chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, and predicted that the "evidence will become clear."
He began distancing himself from President Bush's war policy in the fall of 2005 as public support began to deteriorate, and in 2007 voted for a measure that would have required the president to start pulling troops out this year.
Andrews' shift on Iraq came as he was lobbying to be appointed to the Senate seat left vacant after Jon Corzine's election as governor. Corzine, with the power to name his own Senate successor, bypassed Andrews and picked Robert Menendez, then a congressman from Hudson County.

Given this for a choice, I expect that most Dems in Our Fair State will support Lautenberg, regardless of how pissed off or pandered to we feel.

Just in case it works, however, I'll be wishing on the first star I see tonight that Rush Holt will run.