Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Fresh Start

Faithful readers of this blog (yes, both of you) will recall that my plans to begin riding my bicycle to work have been foiled for about a week due to rain. Well, after a nice Memorial Day weekend I finally had my chance. I can really say that the trip went quite smoothly, and, as far as I know, I cleaned up adequately when I got to work so that I don't stink. Mission accomplished. I'm at work, in one piece and by the price of the gas at the station I passed, I have saved 75 cents worth of gas (another 75 cents tonight too.)

The real benefit, however, is the way I feel. I reached work feeling fully charged and ready to go full steam. My mind is clear and despite our current email issues I don't feel overly stressed. Endorphines are a beautiful thing. I think I'm really going to miss riding to work on rainy days and in the winter.

Friday, May 27, 2005

More Rain

What can I say about the weather? We haven't had rain in weeks, but when I'm finally ready to start riding my bicycle to work there's rain forecasted every day for a week. According to my weather source, accuweather.com, we should have rain until next Tuesday. I'm starting to think that this is never going to happen. I guess I should just buy rain gear. That would ensure that it won't rain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


It seems that some people are never happy- not while there's so much injustice in the world. They raise their banner to fight against whatever ills of the world that they see as the most threatening to our social fabric. These people are important, I'll admit, but often their efforts seem a little bit misplaced.

This morning's newspaper included an article about a certain blond heiress, who shall go unnamed in this blog, (although I'm sure that 99.8125 percent or more of the population know who I'm referring to) posed in a fast food advertisement wearing *gasp* a swimsuit! Well, I never! Call the networks! Call the AP! Call the lawyers! This trend of sex in advertising must be nipped in the bud! Meanwhile, said heiress and burger joint reap the the benefit of mountains of publicity. I can't even buy a "spicy six dollar burger" on this coast, but now I know what one is. Mission accomplished.

Closer to home, an 8 year old girl, having been unable to find karaoke for the "Little Mermaid" song she chose to sing for an after school talent show, went with her second choice of material, a Christian pop ballad. Well, I never! She was banned from performing her song, as it could imply that the school endorses religion, never mind the fact that this was an after school event (i.e. voluntary) and material was chosen by the performers. Both sides are digging in and preparing for a legal battle. The ACLU also plans to become involved if this issue reaches the courts.

Further into the world of "are you serious", there is actually an "Association of Drivers Against Daytime Running Lights." The fact that this group even exists astounds me. These people have taken something as benign as daytime running lights and made it their personal crusade, citing reasons like annoyance of other drivers and increased fuel consumption. Sure, these are valid arguments, but I can't imagine feeling so strongly against the headlights that automatically come on that I would take up a fight against them.

I think I'll go on a crusade against frivolous activism, yeah. That's a worthy cause.

Monday, May 23, 2005

BTW (Biking to Work)

Well, Monday is here. The weather looks pretty nice at the moment, but there is rain in the forecast, and I have no rain gear. It's just as well, though, my wife just left for work and is going away for 3 days. After helping her get everything packed, there's barely enough time left to drive to work. Guess I'll see about tomorrow. Weather reports don't start clearing up until Thursday, though. It's not looking so great for riding.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Dry Run

Not to be shown up by my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who have been biking to work for a month or more, I've been considering doing the same. Actually, I've been feeling a bit fat and lethargic lately, and have been looking for a way to be a bit more active and energetic. For several weeks, I've been intending to hop on the bike some lazy Saturday morning to ride to work to see just how difficult the ride would be. Would it be hillier than I ever noticed in my car? Would I be able to avoid the bike-unfriendly intersections? Would the brief section along the edge of Paterson be shadier and scarier than in the car? It would be hard to tell without actually doing it. For one reason or another, I just couldn't find a lazy Saturday morning to do it. So this morning, while my wife was getting her hair cut, I made the 16 mile round trip. It was actually not such a bad ride. I took a couple of short cuts and rode in residential neighborhoods where possible. All in all, it took about 40 minutes, which is only about 10 minutes longer than driving. Not too bad, I'd say. Time to do it. Now I just have to find a good way to keep myself from stinking all day at work.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My Blog Sucks

Read why here. Like you didn't already know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Episode 2- Better Late Than Never

It's been some time since Star Wars Episode 2 came out, and despite the rantings of various friends about the quality of the movie I finally saw it. I have to say that I did enjoy it. By this time, however, I don't suppose that anyone wants or needs to read another review of this movie, so I'll just insert my two cents and call that good enough.

Sorry if this comes across sounding a bit cynical, but it's too bad that this movie relies so heavily on computer graphics. I have to say that as much as I tried I could not be convinced by whatzisname playing Anakin Skywalker. Even the emotionally charged (or especially the emotionally charged) scenes just seemed a little hollow. The facial expression was there, the tone of voice was there, but somehow that intangible thing that makes me believe that the actor is feeling what the character is feeling is missing. In fact, Yoda's performance in CG was more convincing. I can't say that about all of the characters, but it seems that in a movie guaranteed to make gobs of money they would have made sure that the main character, the focal point of the whole trilogy, was played by an actor who could deliver the goods. Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe the real stars are the spaceships, droids and 'splosions.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Concert Befitting the Date

A Concert Befitting the Date

Here we are. It's the Montclair Community Band spring concert and I can't say I'm too optimistic. Late last week our conductor fell in the band room and broke his femur. We switched the program at the last moment and I have now played through most of the pieces about once. Oh joy. Should be fun.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mmm, Foam.

Mmm, Foam.

Some time ago, I had a combination coffee machine, espresso/ cappucino machine. Life was good. I had the coffee machine for my nice, easy everyday coffee and the espresso machine for a treat (or an unusually early morning.) Unfortunately, the good times ended when the steam driven half of the contraption stopped working. I was left with a coffee maker as big as a bread box and no Saturday morning treat.

Well, back to the present, the coffee maker was put out to pasture long ago with the purchase of a nice new Michael Graves unit with a timer for fresh coffee the moment I roll out of bed. In addition, my friend Malfunction54 had 2 nice little stand alone espresso machines which he never used (yeah, I don't get it either) and was willing to part with. One, as he told me, has issues. It certainly does. A cycle sends scalding water and steam showering in all directions. Bad seals, I guess. The second one, however, is so nice to use that I can even make it work in my pre-caffeinated morning time. No more Fourbucks ventis for me. I'm brewing it myself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


It seems my decision to reshape my full beard into a goatee with indie burns is already paying dividends toward my hipster cred, even though I am by no means a hipster. At work, we're redoing the company website, and the people involved in the process asked for my opinion since I am "one of the only groovy people in the office." I took this as a complement, since the source was my boss's wife who is the art director for a fashion magazine.

My decision to give myself a new facial hair configuration was based on my look at my sister-in-law's copy of The Hipster Handbook, which details all aspects of hipness, including Facial hair. Although I would have considered my previous scruff a cleaned up version of the full beard, it seems that the other family members on hand considered it a bushier version of "The Pencil Line". I don't want to be that hip-hop wannabe, boy band guy that wears a pencil line. Since perception is what matters, and I had been considering a change, I went back to the goatee. I shoulda been a rock star.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


A short time ago, I was what you might call a bike bum. Having just graduated from college, I was searching (rather unsuccessfully) for a job in my field of study. My on-again-off-again job search took me to Phoenix, where my sister lived, back to my home state of Illinois, and eventually to New Jersey where I now call home. During that time, I always travelled with my mountain bike in tow. It was always a great means of escape from the realities of substitute teaching, rejection letters and unanswered resumes. I had no money, I ate rice in some form almost daily, and almost always had time to go out and ride at least 3 or 4 times per week. Biking was more than a recreational activity, it was a lifestyle and an identity. In spite of all the downers of life, I was happy.

Well, times change. It's a good thing too, since the lifestyle I had wasn't really a long term one. I'm still happy. I have a modest career that pays the bills, I enjoy playing in a band regularly, I have a house and a wife I love very much. Among all the other things, though, it seems like the only bike I ever get to ride is a spinning bike at the gym. It's good for my body, and I enjoy talking to my fellow spinners between sprints, but the total feeling of well being I feel after a good ride is missing. You can say it's endorphines, but I swear it's more. Riding out in nature does something to me that's hard to describe. I still feel it on the rare occasion that life's responsibilities let me out for a ride. I went out to ride with a few friends on Saturday and came to the conclusion that I need to ride more. My soul needs it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Stuff

New Stuff

My mean machine, my mean machine!
She's light and sharp and kelly green!

I just had a chance to try the new mower today for the first time. I've never really used a reel style mower before, so it took some getting used to. First, it obviously only cuts when it's moving, which can make getting into tight spaces a little difficult. Luckily, the blades "freewheel" when the mower stops. This can be useful. Another negative thing that sets it apart from a "normal" mower is its tendency to push down tall grass and dandelions without cutting them off. Again, however, the freewheel action makes it possible to stop above these stubborn plants long enough to cut them off. The force of pushing it can be slightly more than a small power mower, but generally it's not bad, and is pretty easy to handle because of its relatively light weight.

While the reel mower has its drawbacks, the experience of cutting the grass is completely changed, much more than I expected. The reel mower is more like a gardening tool than a machine. Simply grab it (yes, it's light enough to pick up) and head outside. There is no fueling, checking oil levels,pulling starters, running extension cords, etc. Just plop it down and start pushing. Its quietness also makes it much different from a power mower. With a power mower, the noise really does make me oblivious to my surroundings. I pace back and forth staring at the front wheel as it rolls along the cut/uncut line. I hear nothing but the drone of the mower. With the reel mower, I can hear the birds, I can hear the cars driving by, I can hear the kids playing next door and I can even say hello to the neighbor as I'm cutting the grass. Having used loud power mowers exclusively for so many years, it's actually a bit surreal. It will take some adjustment to keep myself from swearing under my breath for fear that the neighbor kids will hear every time I get tangled in the thorn bushes in the back of the yard. I think I will like it.

Cutting the Grass

Since we moved into this house over a year ago, we've been using the late previous owner's lawn mower. It's not a bad mower. The little electric unit is certainly adequate for a lawn of this size. We were quite glad to not have to buy a new one when we first moved in too. I knew, however, that the little orange mower wasn't going to last too much longer, though. Its many years of faithful service have left the underside of the deck rusty and ready to fall apart. The rear shroud around the blade is completly rusted through and is held at one end only. It bounces and flaps while being pushed over the uneven yard, and occasionally gets hit by the blade. It's not a good thing.

So I decided that before parts start flying out at high velocity, I should replace the old mower. I considered another electric one. They're cheap, they're light and don't require that I store a supply of gasoline. I never really got comfortable with the idea of dragging an electrical cable around while I cut the grass. I've never hit a cord, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time. Gas mowers, on the other hand, are louder, heavier, more expensive and take more maintenance. Then I realized that there's a third option. The push reel mower. I thought about it and it seemed perfect. Light, no cords, practically no maintenance, few things to in wrong, and as I found out, much less expensive than even the least expensive electric. For a yard the size of mine, a power mower seems like overkill.

So my mind was made up. I generally try to go for simplicity, and the reel mower wins hands-down in that respect. I went out and bought the nicest reel mower I could find. It's a 20" with adjustable cutting height (something most reel mowers lack.) I put it together and took it for a quick spin in the dark outside. My first impression was that it's easier to push than I expected. I guess the extra resistance is offset by the light weight. I'll wait until I've actually done more grass cutting before I decide whether it was a good or bad idea, but I'm guessing it will do the job nicely. Did I mention that its cutting width is 2" wider than the electric?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I work with a guy who is a grade A religious freak (and I use "freak" as in "fanatic" and not "weird"). He is a member of the Hari Krishna faith, which I understand is quite evangelical. More than being a religions freak he is a debater to the core. He will argue practically any side of any point for the sole sake of proving that he is a genius and his opponent is not. If his would-be opponent agrees with whatever wild claims he happens to be making, he will make progressively more outlandish claims until his target objects to something he says. It's pretty silly and predictable.

Today at lunch time, I found myself in the unenviable position of eating lunch at the same time as Mr. Smartypants. Others arrived to eat at the same time, much to my relief. The topic of conversation drifted toward "existence." I am not without my spiritual faith, and I understand how some people enjoy the mental exercise of debating "The Big Questions" but personally, I think it's pretty pointless. There are some things we just were not meant to know. My view on the subject is that in some respect we extist. We interact with our surroundings and with each other on some level. That's good enough for me. I finished my sweet & sour chicken (which existed) and came back to my office to read about how to make a jet engine from the turbo out of an '83 Nissan Pulsar. Infinitely more rewarding!

Toothbrush Upgrade

Toothbrush Upgrade

I hate marketing fluff. Once upon a time I decided to make the jump to an electric toothbrush. I used it. I liked it. It really did make my teeth feel cleaner. Then, as all toothbrushes do, it eventually wore out. After a trip to the drugstore I found out that my model had been discontinued. No problem, though. It was replaced by the "Pro" model which had interchangeable heads, an additional moving brush part and was only a dollar or so more expensive. Cool. After wearing through several heads, the motor was still going strong. It was time for more replacement heads, though. As I browsed the replacement heads at the drugstore, I didn't find the "Pro" model replacements. I found the "classic" model replacements, which I hadn't heard of, but which looked similar. However, having no way to tell for sure if they would fit, I bought a competitor's product. I don't care to play that silly name game.

Photo Blogging Once Again

Although I can't really say why, I have had trouble posting, but after browsing the support forums at the site that handles the pictures, things just seemed to fix themselves. Posts that I had written off, never to make it to my blog suddenly began showing up. Things seem to be working now. As long as they keep working I don't really care what happened.

Monday, May 02, 2005



Some things are just more difficult (although amusing) with cats around. Making the bed, for instance. No cat can resist the enticing slither of covers being drawn across a bed. Throw in a second cat UNDER the covers (actually, just allow him to stay on the bed as it is being made) and you have a recipe for entertainment. No, we don't get out much.

Cat Beds

Cat Beds

I can't help but feel like a bit of a chump. When we first brought the cats home we went right out and bought a comfy little kitty bed. The guys prefer this pizza box, though. What's not to like? It's a little bit soft, gets them off the cold floor, smells like food and is great for sharpening claws. We'll have to call Vinnie's and have them deliver another cat bed for Bucky.