Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Honor and remember.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sandy Hook


What did you do today?

LA (Little Avenger) wanted to go to then beach- and she's the boss. So we arrived at Sandy Hook (Section D) at 7:30 am- the parking lot was about 5% full. A woman I met in the Ladies Room who'd been there since 6:30 am and told me that's the "best time to go".

Well, we stayed 9 hours. I am extra crispy, burnt beyond recognition. Frankly, I could have left after 4 or 5 hours, but LA was having too much fun. So we stayed... and stayed... and stayed. Now she's passed out on the sofa next to me and I'm slathering my throbbing, pink flesh with udder cream.


In case you aren't familiar with Sandy Hook, I'll tell you a couple of reasons why I like it.

First, it's close- the northernmost of the Jersey Shore points. Without traffic, it's only 1 hour from Hoboken.

Second, it's a family beach- which is another way of saying it's not filled with prowling tattooed hard-bodies or beer-soaked frat boys. If you have a fat ass, or a spare tire- no worries. You'll have plenty of company. PLENTY.

And I give props to all the large gals I saw today who'd packed themselves into tiny bikinis; it's terrific they like themselves enough to strut their ample endowments. So too, the furry-backed gentlemen strolling about without a care. I even saw an older, furry fellow in a teeny Speedo- well, he provided a little too much information for my taste. But the point is, folks were unconcerned with meeting society's expectations of physical perfection and seemed comfortable in their own skin. I applaud you, my friends.

For the third thing I like about Sandy Hook, it's quite a natural, ungroomed sort of beach. In fact it's a National Recreational Area, part of the National Parks of New York Harbor. It includes the nation's oldest operating lighthouse and Fort Hancock military installation, which includes over 100 building and fortifications, as well as a museum.

There you have it.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your day, and here's to another fine one tomorrow.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Baby Smokers

Have you seen this?

Ardi Rizal has been smoking since he was 18 months old, and at 2 years smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day. His father gave him his first cigarette.



According to the article in The Mail:

Ardi's youth is the extreme of a disturbing trend. Data from the Central Statistics Agency showed 25 per cent of Indonesian children aged three to 15 have tried cigarettes, with 3.2 per cent of those active smokers.

The percentage of five to nine year olds lighting up increased from 0.4 per cent in 2001 to 2.8 per cent in 2004, the agency reported.

Indonesia is the 3rd largest consumer of tobacco in the world. The government has been unsuccessful thus far in passing a tobacco bill to ban cigarette advertising due to opposition from the tobacco industry. Advertising appears to be the driver in this Indonesian explosion of kiddie-addiction. Tobacco Facts reports:

To date, tobacco industries in Indonesia have an almost absolute freedom to advertise their products in any form and through almost all communication channels. The marketing strategies transcend direct advertisement, promotion and sponsorships and resulting in creating smoking as a social norm to children and adolescents. The tobacco industry also promotes their good image through the corporate social responsibility activities.

Remember this guy?

I remember a study back in the 90's showing that more very young kids, age 5 or 6, could recognize Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse, though R.J Reynolds claimed that they were targeting adults. Joe was fired in 1997 and hasn't been seen since. So the indoctrination of very young future tobacco consumers via the kid-friendly camel ended and advertisers were on notice.

Undoubtedly, advertising restrictions and anti-smoking campaigns have played a large part in the reduction of teen smoking in the U.S. Smoking is not quite as cool at it used to be.

It's disturbing to see unregulated greed of the Indonesian tobacco industry luring children into a lifetime addiction. Maybe this video gone viral will shame their government into action.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Storm King

It occurred to me this morning that it's a 3-day holiday weekend. Except for summer getaways, I'm not much of a planner.

Courtesy of Accuweather.com, here's what's on tap for Hoboken this weekend:

image from Accuweather.com

Not bad! It looks like Sunday's the beach day. Or Monday if you like it HOT.

I was thinking where else to take LA (Little Avenger) for some outdoor fun, maybe a picnic, and thought of Storm King Art Center. If she's agreeable. She's the boss.

For those who haven't heard of it or been there, I am recommending it for a day trip as a fabulous place that adults AND children can enjoy. Especially very young children.LA had a blast back in 2006, the last time we went, at age 3.

What is Storm King? From their web site:

Storm King Art Center is a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. Five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, fields and woodlands provide the site for postwar sculptures by internationally renowned artists. At Storm King, the exhibition space is defined by sky and land. Unencumbered by walls, the subtly created flow of space is punctuated by modern sculpture. The grounds are surrounded by the undulating profiles of the Hudson Highlands, a dramatic panorama integral to the viewing experience. The sculptures are affected by changes in light and weather, so no two visits are the same.

Exactly.

It is an extraordinary, uplifting experience as you wander through the open fields and hills with a backdrop of mountains and see large-scale sculpture installations integrated into the landscape. It's terrific for kids; LA was excited to 'discover' the huge sculptures nestled in the landscape and climb on whatever was climbable.

Here are some pics from 2006, so you get a feel for the place:



That's LA- she took off for the red sculpture on sight.


LA spent a long time at this one; the disemboweled carcass of a tv set, being 'watched' by abstract stone figures with stone human faces emerging from below- ground, It was creepy, but interesting.




Do take the free tram around the grounds or I guarantee you'll miss a lot.

There's a small museum building as well, and a picnic area.

The focus of Storm King's permanent collection are abstract welded steel sculptures from the 60's to the present, although figurative works are also on view. And the collection includes the work of modern Masters like Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Louise Nevelson, Richard Serra, and David Smith and lesser-known contemporary sculptors. One work I especially like is called Storm King Wall, by Andy Goldsworthy, and is a 1/2 mile stone wall built from stones off the property that undulates through the forest, around trees, goes into one end of a pond, submerges then comes up out of the other side.

My advice is if you go, study your Google map- there is no clear demarkation where to go, it's easy to screw up. Visitors info here.

Whatever you do, enjoy yourself and be safe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do It Offshore

I came to this topic through my recent online experience with an unrepentant chicken: offshore content moderation.

What's that, you ask?

Well, like many other service industries nowadays, the person you complain to about the content of a message board post may be sitting in one of the countries that Forbes once cited as the"best countries for outsourcing": India, the Philipines, Russia, China, Canada, Mexico or Ireland.

What has this got to do with that no-show, keyboard-warrior chicken?

Nothing directly.

Indirectly, it may have everything to do with the anything-goes discourse over there, where every Community Rule is regularly violated, seemingly without consequences for even the worst offenders. I am told by a reliable source that nj.com outsources their forum comment moderation- to a country in Asia.

The notion that the person weighing whether you've been libeled, harassed, are a victim or victimizer, may not speak English as a first language, and is certainly not as deft at idiomatic American-speak, and nuanced American cultural references as they should be for this type of work, came as a surprise.

It took 2 minutes of Googling to find a Manila-based company called MicoSourcing, that promises the offshore staffing capability for any size internet project as shown on their interactive "outsourcing wizard":

click any graphic to enlarge

And Content Moderation Outsourcing is one of their services.

Now, why would an American company employ the services of an offshore company for something like message board moderation? (rhetorical question).

Have a look at their pricing schedule for the range of positions they will staff for you. Note these are monthly fees which are all-inclusive: salary, benefits and management costs.


It's a very old story, but seeing this bargain-basement 'fee schedule' crystallizes the sad state of American jobs in the technology services industry that have been sucked overseas. And continue to be. Where else could a business find a Senior Web Developer at a cost of $675/week, with no benefits or overhead costs?

Back to our local forum. Assuming that what goes for 'moderation' is being outsourced, the question is: is it working?

My answer: a resounding NO.

It sucks. Serial harassers, multiple-posting political ops, and SPAMMERs are running the place, chasing away decent folk who would otherwise like to participate, targeting those for harassment whom they disagree with or don't like.

My message to companies who want an online community but do it on-the-cheap, and are running this kind of failed operation: FIX IT.

It's not MY JOB to tell you how.

Depending on users to police message boards is a cop-out and doesn't work. If you WANT a community message board, then do it PROPERLY. If you have rules, enforce them. For repeat offenders, IP blocking would be a simple way to permanently expel malicious users and keyboard chickens, who otherwise would return under a different screen name. And do.

How hard is it to block an IP address? Just ask H411's proprietor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reserve America

Well friends, here's another public service post from Grafix Avenger, spreading the gospel of the great outdoors at your fingertips.

Ever been to Reserve America?

Here's how they tout themselves: Reserve America is the largest provider of campsite reservations in North America facilitating over 4 million transactions per year.

Now you may say, but GA, I don't camp! I'm afraid a big, hungry bear might eat me, like what happened to poor Tim Treadwell! Or I could be attacked by horny hillbillies! Well, I share those concerns.

Which is why I always reserve a cabin , instead of a campsite.

A cabin you say? At a state park?

Yes, did you know many of our gorgeous state parks have rental cabins with other family-friendly amenities? I didn't either, until a visit to Tick Park a few years back, when a park attendant handed me a brochure on the NY-NJ Interstate Park System. Among the amenities listed for the various parks were cabins.

With minimal Googling, I found Reserve America was the place to search through the park system, research park amenities, and finally reserve- all online.

Here are the positives: you can experience the great outdoors with minimal hassle and minimal expense. Each cabin, wherever it is, is equipped with a picnic table and fire ring and/or grill. Many have beaches, trails, boating, on-site activities. Some have bathrooms with showers.

Here are the negatives: you don't know what you're getting until you get there. Other than a written description, and any information you can glean from a phone call to the park, there is very little to go on. You should call the number on the listing and confirm what's provided and what's not.

Well, I'm not risk-averse, so LA (Little Avenger) has tried it twice, a different place each time, and had a lot of fun: blueberry-picking adventures, meeting forest animals, fishing with her net, campfires.

I'll show a few pics from past NYS park vacations so you get an idea.


Unless you reserve a 'full service' cabin- Sebago cabins are really,
really 'rustic' inside-- not recommended.

The lake is very clean. You swim with the fishes- literally.
And the occasional snake.


LA was so excited to come face-to-face with a fawn.
This happened a couple of times that week.







Well, no captions... this was a nice week but I reserved too early and the beach was CLOSED. With NYS parks and recreation budget cutbacks it's probably wise to double and triple-check what services are currently available.

So, there you have it. If this kind of thing is your bag, then by all means check it out. Cabins book up way in advance, it may be too late for this year.

I've got a week in August- new location... a cabin with 'cable tv'... Not too rustic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mr. Softee

The following piece and photos were submitted by a reader who is a long-term Hoboken resident and friend of the Mr. Softee vendor she's profiled.

Now who doesn't like Mr. Softee?

Well... there were a few cranky parents some years back who were upset about the truck's presence at Church Square Park, something about exhaust fumes polluting the air.

Oh, like their kids (or mine) were breathing fresh air in the first place?

I have news for the Mr. Softee- Jihadists out there: New Jersey is a filthy, polluted state with one of the highest cancer rates in the U.S. - we live downwind from the petroleum refineries of Elizabeth.... and those carcinogens in every breath of air enter our bloodstream through the tiny aveoli in our lungs slipping into the hemoglobin of our red blood cells... then POW! So, you're raising your kid in this state, then complaining about a Mr. Softee truck? If you want your kid to breathe better air, your best bet is Maryland or even Ohio. Heck, I'll bet Canada has better air. Or does it? Can one of my Canadian friends check in, please?

Check out New Jersey on this
map from the National Cancer Institute. What did I tell you?


Now , my family tree is riddled with cancer- it's rotten from top to bottom. My mother is a breast cancer-survivor. But I LOVE this town, its filthy air and Mr. Softee!

Which reminds me...
our reader submission:

Mr. Softee

Tony Santomauro, a.k.a. "Mr. Softee"

Like the rites of Spring, the musical Mr. Softee truck pulls up under the blossoms in Church Square Park to sell ice cream to children and their families. Tony Santomauro, the official “Mr. Softee Ice Cream Man” has been parking his soft serve ice cream truck in Hoboken for 27 years.

Tony is licensed by a franchise – Mr. Softee – which commands high standards to sell quality ice cream. He has a fixed route – Tony’s truck route starts west from Sinatra Drive over to Park Avenue, from Observer Highway to 16th Street. The interior of his truck is immaculate. Tony always looks trim, clean and is smartly dressed in a collard shirt. His soft-serve ice cream is consistently appealing and delectable.

He has competition from independent ice cream vendors. When they spot his truck, they frequently park directly behind him, undercutting his business. They’re usually multi-colored trucks with a myriad of ice cream stickers. He doesn’t mind the competition so much as their poor compliance to safety regulations. The independent trucks frequently neglect to use their safety flashers and stop signs. Tony is concerned for children running from all directions toward the trucks. Tony is required by the Mr. Softee franchise to have $2 million in liability insurance before he can park his truck to serve ice cream. Another requirement is mandated by the State – he has to keep his red flashers on in the rear of the truck as well as the front for safety. He also has a protruding Stop sign with flashing lights on the driver’s side. Not many children run toward a truck when it comes down the street – except if it’s an ice cream truck!

Meanwhile, Tony, a dependable, friendly face of Hoboken is out there selling his treats. Stop by and have a cone, or a cup, a shake, a malted, an ice cream soda, or just say hello.

Mmmm... I'll have a fresh-dipped cherry bonnet, please.

Bad Bike Etiquette

A reader sent this photo of 2 bikes parked at a bike rack on Washington Street, along with a complaint.

So let's see if you can figure out the problem.

Q: What's wrong with this picture?


Hint #1: It has to do with the orientation of the parked bikes.

Hint #2: 2 words: SPACE-HOGS

Hint #3: The bikes are supposed to be perpendicular to the rack not parallel... so that more than 2 bicycles can use a rack that was designed for 11. (thanks, hobokengolf)

Alright, Hint #3 was the answer, not a hint.

Now, I probably would never notice something like this since I get around on 2 appendages known as 'legs' capped with things called 'feet', but this reader noted an epidemic of this kind of bad bike etiquette all over Hoboken. Have you?

Perhaps the ground below the rack needs to be painted with white or yellow lines for those a little slow on the uptake about proper bike rack usage?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Patio Chicken

I'd like to say yesterday was all sweetness and gentility over on the nj.com message board. Well... no, but I've got a story for you.

A poster who goes by the name of patiofurniture spent much of his day attacking yours truly in an oddly malevolent way, with such gleeful malice that it surprised even me. And I screen-capped the entire exchange.

For the record. Because one never knows.

Now, that forum can be a tough place, and dust-ups there are frequent. What makes this one different from the average brawl is that I decided to take it offline, and challenged this person to meet with me for a talk. Why not? It's not like it would make him any more vicious since he seemed to be peaking. And I figured he'd want to meet me because he seemed to be harboring-- something. Not sure what. Well.. surprise, surprise. You read the title of this blog entry, right?

So, I'm posting this to demonstrate how spineless some of the nastiest, most aggressive keyboard warriors are off the internet battlefield
.

Pay attention. You will see patiofurniture wiggle and jiggle around my efforts to meet him like a Turkish belly dancer. Bold and relentless on the attack in cyberspace, watch how he turns into a weak-kneed little girl when his target (me) wants a sit-down. I admit, I was surprised. To be so aggressive in anonymity, then so weak when confronted.

Now, you need to know the screen name I use on that forum is Clockwork3.

So here it is. I was out most of yesterday with LA (Little Avenger), and when I returned a friend had emailed me about patiofurniture's repetitive postings. I found these 2 when I checked the forum:

click to read any image



Well, I figured it was time to meet this fellow face-to-face for a talk, before he started giving walking tours to my home.


His reply:
Are you getting a weird vibe about this guy? He doesn't want to meet a woman he's been taunting, but wants to meet her male significant other instead?

His response was deleted before I could get a screen cap. Darn. But he said didn't want to meet with an "irate female", and would only meet with a male.

Oh, brother.



There was a bit more after that. A very dear friend of mine who's had my back throughout jumped in and ripped patiofurniture a new one. To which the mighty keyboard-warrior meekly replied he was "apprehensive" about meeting with him (?). Wait a minute... didn't he say he wanted to meet with a man instead of an "irate woman"?

It sounds like he was scared of my friend, too. Which he should be, because if you knew him... scary...

Well, this entire matter is quite idiotic. But it is worth noting that some of the meanest, most vicious and nasty keyboard-warriors are scared little kittens if you pull them out into the sun.

So, let's see if he DOES show up today at 9am, or if patiofurniture is in fact a folding chair.


(Update 10:15 am)
It's official!

Well, I have to thank patiofurniture for selecting a meeting place so close to my home. How convenient!

At 9 am sharp I was standing at the corner that he selected (after he Googled my address... why do you think he wants to know where I live? Kinda creepy, no?) I brought a newspaper to keep me occupied just in case he was late.

Hmmm... where was he? It was kind of lonely there all by myself. I waited about 15 minutes then took a pic of the empty corner.

Well, another great thing about patiofurniture selecting that spot for our meeting is that it's across the street from A&P, so you do see folks coming and going... and a friend of mine happened by! She took this pic for me:

It's funny, but my friend kept yelling at me to turn around, I have no idea why. Well, after she took my pic she continued on her way. It was about 9:25 am. I was starting to get bored...


Oh dear, 9:30 am!

Where oh, where was that bold and courageous keyboard warrior? Don't tell me I was stood up? That hasn't happened to me in years! My, and he was SO BRAVE yesterday....encouraging strangers to look me up on Google... repeatedly calling me ugly (which is alright, certainly a matter of opinion- right?). But what a SURPRISE he couldn't summon the guts to meet me, to say that stuff to my face.

In his honor, I am defrosting a chicken for tonight's dinner. Or should I cook a goose?

Don't leave this one out on the patio.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cooking with GA

You people owe me a big debt of gratitude. Huge.

Yesterday, I brought you a miracle product to heal your cracked and dry teats, and today I will rescue those rotting bananas you were about to throw out. Yes, with my guidance you will be cooking and eating your garbage before it hits the can!

That's right, for our first Cooking with GA installment, we are going to take those blackened bananas ( the ones with the tiny fruit flies circling above) and turn them into the best banana bread you've ever tasted! Furthermore, if you are a klutz in the kitchen, or just don't like to cook, this recipe is so simple, even a person like YOU can do it!

To demonstrate how easy it is, LA (Little Avenger) who is 7 will be in charge of the kitchen. If she can do it, you and your 10-thumbs can, too.

Here are the ingredients:

6 over-ripe bananas (black is good)
2 eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

optional: stuff you like (nuts, chips, raisins)

STEP1: preheat oven to 350 degrees.

STEP 2. Peel bananas and mash them in a big bowl

Note LA uses a potato-masher, but use whatever mashing tool
you've got around the kitchen. If you have none, you could probably
pummel them with your fist.

STEP3: Add the rest of your wet ingredients (eggs & butter). Tip: melt butter in the microwave before you add it.

LA cracks eggs like a pro. But they land on the floor sometimes
so we always have extras on hand.


STEP 4: Add your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda)

Nice job, LA.

STEP 5: Mix ingredients. Don't be lazy, mix them by hand. Electronic utensils are for sissies.

LA makes sure the batter is well mixed, stopping only to lick her finger.

STEP 6: AFTER the batter is mixed, you may add your optional ingredients.

We add sliced almonds and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

There they are, now mix them in!

STEP 7: Pour your batter is a GREASED baking dish, round or square or rectangular.

Ready to rock!

STEP 8: Put your uncooked masterpiece in the preheated oven.

The tricky part will be figuring out how long to bake it. In my convection oven, in this round dish, it takes 60 minutes. If you use a bundt-shape or metal pan it may take less time. Use your judgment, but to test if it's ready, stick something long and thin in the center (I use a shish kebob skewer). If it comes out 'clean' then your cake is ready. If it's got batter stuck on it, put the thing back in the oven pronto.

STEP 9: Take it out!

This looks ready to me. LA does not do this part- I do.

It's always good to test it even if it looks done. I stick a wood skewer
in there. It came out clean, as you can see.


FINAL STEP: Let it cool for about 20 minutes or so. Then remove your cake from the pan. Caution: If you leave it in the pan for too long, you won't get it out in one piece. And there is nothing more embarrassing than serving a cake to friends that looks like its been nibbled by rodents or dropped on the floor then nibbled by rodents.

So... the final product:.

Ta-da!

If only your computer had smell-o-vision.... oh, the aroma. If you are selling your home, definitely bake one of these before your Open House (a realtor's trick, you know).

So, I do hope you enjoyed that. And if your black bananas are already in the garbage can under the remnants of last night's dinner, just fish them out. Seriously.

Now, here's a teaser for our next installment of Cooking with GA. We will be using this for our main ingredient:


No, not the cat. The other stuff.

Happy baking.