wwcitizen: (Pumpkins)
Friends of ours and we went to the NY Renaissance Faire on Sunday in Tuxedo, NY. We'd all been there before, but it was a few years ago and never all together in a big group. This was really fun because there were six of us all with different interests - except for the food. We all enjoyed the meats and the mead as well as some beer.

One of my goals was to get some new Renaissance garb for my mediocre "collection". Clarification: I do not intend or want to become a Ren Faire aficionado... ever. I enjoy using the pieces for dress up at Halloween. In fact, the last bits I bought were for my costume in 2008 when Matthew and I went to Disney for Halloween.  So, that was my goal.

Problem with this year was that yesterday (Sunday) was the very last day of the festival. All the shopkeepers were tired and ready to be done with it all. They were clearly and verbally exhausted (a few of them actually told me directly how exhausted they were and to "help myself" in looking around and trying things on).  One of the shops I just left outright because, even though I'd spent a good 20 minutes looking through stuff and trying things on - clearly trying to buy something - the shopkeepers just couldn't be bothered. There were three of them and when I asked them a question, not only did they kind of look through me after I asked them something, but then one of them - finally - answered with this very quiet, timid voice that I had to lean in to hear because of some noise from outside.  VERY irritating.

In the end, I got some horns, a new doublet (being altered), some loungey pants, a mask, and LOTS and LOTS of great food - even a turkey leg!  I proceeded to wear my new horns to dinner at a diner on the way home. That afforded me lots of fun attention from the wait staff, adults, and kids alike. Some of the adults had kid-like expressions on their faces, even, after their double and triple takes.  Fun!
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
About a year ago, Matthew bought us an 8-cup ZeroWater filtering system. We had tried multiple filters over the years, but never really stuck to them. The absolute worst experience we had with the filtering systems was the PUR faucet filter. We threw it out within 6 months, I think.  We had been drinking the water straight out of our faucet for years and even did from time to time after trying out different filters. I had a Brita filtering system for years, but it was just a PITA, so we got away from it.

Test Scenario
This last month, I set up a test scenario because I wanted to know how much water we drank daily using the filter. I was also wondering why we were all of a sudden going through filters hand over fist - like two filters a month! The "test" was that each time we filled up the basin to filter water into the 8-cup pitcher, we ticked off a mark on a little pad.  We discovered that we drink at least 40 cups of water a day! This is, of course, including coffee, water itself, tea, and drink mixes (e.g. 4C drink mixes with Splenda). We also use the filtered water for steaming veggies and fish as well as for boiling things - even eggs! Who needs extra metals sneaking into our food?

Filtration & Measurements
The filtration system removes all sorts of metals and are certified specifically to remove lead and chromium, but also can remove chloramine, flouride, uranium, and other inorganic compounds.  The pitcher and filters we ordered and received came with a
TDS meter that determines how many "Total Dissolved Solids" are in the water before and after filtration. Prior to the hurricane last fall, our tap water was measuring in at around 230 parts per million. Our tap water now measures 350 parts per million TDS, which is substantially worse for some unknown reason. It is possible that the NJ water contains more chloramine than our neighboring states, which will substantially reduce the efficacy of our filters more quickly.

As a point of reference, Manhattan's awesome tap water is approximately 5-10 parts per million! So, as long as the tap isn't coming through lead pipes, the Manhattan water is really good. Our water? Not so much. The reported average TDS in our area of NJ is 100 (which I think is very wrong). Matt's sister's water about 20 minutes north of us reads at around 249 ppm. Once filtered through a brand-new filter, though, the water TDS measures in at 0-1 ppm.

When the ZeroWater filters are full of filtered metals, water still comes through them. After about a week or so of regular filtration, we start testing the water. We throw the filters out once the TDS reading is around 20 ppm because the water starts smelling and tasting funky. If the water filter actually breaks (internally), the filters dump all the metals they filtered out into the pitcher that we're going to drink!!  Seems like bad design or a design flaw, but we're now aware of it. Our tap water smells like chlorine and bleach to begin with and when the filters break, we usually know it before we taste it. Yes. We've tasted the water after a filter has broken. IT.CANNOT.BE.SWALLOWED. It's so disgusting.

Cost Analysis
The ZeroWater filters are not cheap. In the store (e.g. Bed, Bath & Beyond or online), they can be about $15 apiece! We get them via Amazon's subscription service, which replenishes our stores every three months at about $8.50 per filter.  But, frankly, part of our test was determining whether filtering our water using ZeroWater was less expensive than just buying bottled water. A couple of weeks ago, we had to buy bottled water (in gallons) because we ran out of filters before the subscription kicked us out a new supply.

We even tested the water straight out of the gallon jugs for the fun of it. Spring water from Maine measured in at about 25 ppm and spring water from Pennsylvania measured in at 50-65 ppm. And the amount of TDS differed from jug to jug on all accounts.  Poland Spring (from ME) tasted the best.

Bottled water here (natural spring water is what we chose) costs anywhere from $1.50-$1.75 per gallon.  For the equivalent consumption of 40+ cups a day, we're paying slightly more than half the cost of an equivalent supply of bottled water. We're actually saving money using the ZeroWater filters!!

Environmental Savings
We're also saving the environment from all those bottles.The problem I have always had with bottled water was the bottles or gallon jugs. They get thrown away. Even if there's a promise of recycling them,  the plastic is still around. The ZeroWater company provides a recycling program themselves. All you have to do is ship back the filters to the company's Texas facility. Then they send you coupons for your next purchase, which can be used at Bed, Bath and Beyond or on the ZeroWater online store.

Better Health
Matthew and I have determined that by drinking more filtered water, we are thinking more clearly and sleeping more soundly than ever before. Our skin is also reaping the benefits of drinking better water.  We have paired up drinking more ZeroWater at close to 0 ppm with drinking less Splenda-sweetened drinks and removing all Aspartame (you make your judgement) from our diet; i.e. no drinks or food sweetened with NutraSweet or sweeteners containing Aspartame. We find ourselves drinking water straight more often than not now and can tell that our health is improving, which is an added bonus!

The end of the story is, use filters for your water, especially if you drink bottled water. It will save the environment from plastics.  If you have to choose a filter, Matthew and I recommend ZeroWater due to the better taste of the resulting, cleaner water, and its probable good health effects.

Fullscreen capture 4222013 104031 AM2
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
Matthew and I were graciously invited by a friend of ours to speak at an LGBT rally against DOMA and Proposition 8 at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, a couple of weeks ago. The timing was perfect, since on the day we spoke (27-Mar-2013), the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) was hearing arguments for an against DOMA that day and had heard arguments for and against California's Prop 8 the day before.

The speeches we wrote were not completely the speeches that came out, but the essences are here.  I spoke first and Matthew spoke second. What an exhilarating experience!  Three of our friends were there in real time and others have seen the initial video taken by one of those friends.  These videos below were done more professionally by a student at the university.  Enjoy, comment, and please forward these speeches to others who will benefit from them.  We are interested in becoming more and more active in these fights and would like many more opportunities to speak out against discrimination.

My original speech (behind the cut)... )
wwcitizen: (Happy Moose)
Our condo is on the 3rd floor of a high-rise on a cliff across from NYC.  We can actually see the George Washington Bridge from our balcony and we have a decent view of the treetops and other nearby high-rises.  Our balcony also overlooks the top two levels of the building's parking garage. There's about 10 feet between the edge of our balcony and the edge of the parking deck, but the deck is easily 10 feet lower than our balcony.

I'm explaining all this because we should NEVER see PAW PRINTS in the snow on our balcony other than from birds. We rarely see birds, either. So, for Matthew to notice little paw prints was kinda weird.  Apparently, our next door neighbor now owns a cat and lets the animal out on her balcony from time to time. I thought I heard a "meow" from time to time and this just confirms it - and it wasn't through the walls, it was from our balcony!  The floor of our balcony continues from our side to our neighbor's side and the railing continues beyond a separator between our segments of the entire balcony slab. So, it's not unusual that a cat would find a way to jump onto the railing - carefully - and walk over to our side. Or even looping around the railing on the floor, which would be the safer route. Cats are known to be ultra curious, but ultra safe. 

I love cats, so finding these little paw prints in the snow, to me, was a cute little find this morning!
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

Matthew did a fantastic job again this year with the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.  It's an Italian, Catholic, Christmas Eve tradition. I'm not Catholic. I'm not Italian. But I LOVE this tradition!!  Matthew is holding to most of his mother's recipes and has added a couple of things (or tried out a couple of new things) for a bit of a flare to keep the interest in the affair going. There's nothing difficult about picking out fish - truly. We all love seafood.  But, to prepare them in such a way that there are different dishes with at least 7 different fishes, that's the ultimate challenge.

For example, we made an octopus salad with roasted potatoes and onions. Matthew slow-cooked the octopus overnight in red wine vinegar and white wine with spices, pulled off the suckers, and marinated the octopus meat for 2-3 days. Then I roasted the potatoes and pearl onions and mixed in the octopus, which warmed up the octopus and olive oil marinade. YUM!!

Then we made the standard (and VERY scrumptious) seafood salad with squid (calamari), shrimp, cuttlefish, scallops, and baby octopus. Matthew made a lemon/olive oil marinade for the mixture and they sat in the fridge for about 2 days. I chopped up red, yellow, and orange peppers, celery, two garlic cloves, and parsley and mixed it all together on Christmas Eve. DELICIOUS!! And so fresh.

Matthew worked extra hard on battering and sauteeing soft shell crabs. I never liked soft shell crabs that much until I met Matthew. Also, his prep is by far the tastiest I've ever had. I could not stop eating these this year - and we were able to glean about 10 for leftovers.  He also made stuffed calamari, which might fall off the list next year.  Also, he did the shrimp with lemon and basil and I learned how to chiffonade basil for the preparation!

That's 6 fishes so far (yes, arthropods (crustacea), mollusks, and cephalopods are included as fish since squid, octopus, mussels, and shrimp are all from the sea). Then, we got lobsters steamed and removed the meat from the shell for a "raw bar", which included mussels, lump crab meat, and snow crab claws. He also added a beurre blanc sauce and a minuet, of course, for dipping.  On Christmas day, Matthew's brother-in-law steamed clams (littlenecks). YUM!! 

As for actual fish, Matthew prepped smelts, which I always love. Smelts are similar to sardines. Matthew rolls them in a flour/salt & pepper covering mixture, I sprayed them with olive oil, and then we baked them.  Once they're out, they get tossed in a lemon/olive oil sauce to bring out the flavor of the fish. On Christmas Eve, Matthew grilled Chilean sea bass steaks, which he had carefully tied into round filet "mignons" of fish. Typically, there's a Baccala salad (salt cod), which is a smelly, disgusting, but ultimately tasty (albeit kinda dry) dish, but this year, the Baccala didn't happen - no one likes it that much and the prep is such a PITA, that it's just not worth making.

Matthew really wanted to make quenelles escoffier (Jacques Pépin) - a French fish preparation of one or two fishes blended into a mouse, poached, and baked with a white cream sauce. We made a haddock-based "test run" for ourselves about 6 days early, which turned out wonderful. THAT dish would have been an amazing addition to the array of fishes dishes, but the blend we made with turbot and cod for the Christmas Eve feast bombed for some reason - maybe because the fishes weren't as fresh as the haddock we had used earlier.  :-( 

Of course, he made broccoli rabe and green beans for veg, and with leftover stuffing from the stuffed calamari, he stuffed some PEI green shell mussels.  For dessert, everyone whipped out chocolates, store-bought cream puffs and sfogliatelles, but the biggest hit were Matthew's cookies, which he finished baking about 2 weeks before Christmas.  He made two kinds of biscottis, rainbow cookies, and pignoli nut cookies. Those are the basic standards and about all he could muster with all the other stuff going on throughout the holiday season.

Everyone truly enjoyed all the preparations and were fully amazed - again - at Matthew's cooking and gourmet cheffing of the Feast.  Enjoy the pictures!!

wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
A couple of weeks ago, a headhunter called me into the city for an interview.  The interview is another story because, well, it was truly a story unto itself; a lot can happen in an hour.

The most expedient way into and out of the city without too much stress at all is via ferry. The ferry is about a 15-minute drive from our house and it's a pleasant way to get into the city and back. Plus, it takes about 30-45 minutes total from our garage to midtown, as long as the time line is honored to a "T". I hadn't really paid that close attention to the cost of getting into the city until about, well, this trip for the interview.

When I got to the ferry terminal and parked the car, the automated gate wasn't working. They had a guy out there hand-writing parking stubs (these always get paid for and validated when the ferry tickets are purchased).  I thought, "Oh, yeah, they're building the new parking garage and are probably bringing the whole system up online together." I parked the car about a mile from the terminal and had a leisurely walk to the terminal.

I walked happily into the terminal and up to the window for tickets to midtown and parking validation. The parking validation now was a separate line and the two were no longer combined onto the same charge. INCONVENIENT!  I scoffed.

I said, "One round trip, midtown, please."

The attendant said, "Eighteen dollars."

In my head, I screamed, "Eighteen dollars??!!"  I scoffed and gave the attendant my credit card.

Then I stepped over about 3 feet to the other line for parking validation.  The attendant took my hand-written parking stub and said, "That's twelve dollars."

I spoke at the attendant loudly and said, "TWELVE dollars??!!"  She nodded.  I scoffed and gave the attendant my credit card; it had been $9 about 6 months ago.

I walked away thinking, "OK. Inconvenience. Higher cost. More time consumption. Not a good means of travel into the city on a whim."

New time assessment for the ferry into Manhattan:
  • 15 mins = driving to the ferry terminal.
  • 5 mins = parking
  • 15 mins = paying for ferry tickets & parking - separately
  • 10 mins = trip across the river once you get on the boat takes
  • TOTAL = 45 minutes (not during rush hour)
New cost assessment for the ferry into Manhattan:
  • $18 round trip to midtown
  • $12 parking
  • TOTAL = $30 for one person - add $18 per person added to your trip... consider a family of 2 parents and two teenagers - that's $84!!
For Matthew and me to take the ferry into Manhattan now, it would cost us $48 on parking and ferry. If we buy one Diet Pepsi for us at the ferry terminal, that's $2; i.e. we would spend FIFTY DOLLARS before we get to Manhattan. AND, the ferries stop running at 1AM, which would mean we would not be able to get a relaxing nightcap, if we wanted.  So, we will most likely not be taking the ferry across to Manhattan ever again, unless time-wise, there is no other efficient way there; then and only then we'll just have to suck it up.

Our most frequent means of getting into the city is by tunnel or bridge. We have E-ZPass (stuck on our windshields), which makes it easy (yes, it's E-Z); plus, where we live, we get into the Lincoln Tunnel or onto the George Washington Bridge right at the front. We don't have to battle the other NJ traffic. Still that costs $13 now. in 2007, it still cost about $5-6. With E-ZPass, there's a discount because of the convenience and expediency of it, so it costs us $9.50 to cross - $0.50 cheaper than a one-way ferry ticket!!  When we park on the street in Manhattan, there's sometimes a $1-5 dollar charge depending on how long we'll be there; otherwise, we can find free parking or park in a garage for upwards of $25. STILL cheaper for two people to drive into the city with E-ZPass and park in a garage than take the ferry across!!
George Washington Bridge Crossing
I checked into the MTA for subway rates within the city and they're now $2.25 per trip (in 2007 one-way was about $1.25).  If we cross the street from our place to a NJ Transit bus and take the bus to Port Authority on 42nd and 8th, one-way per person costs $4.25 (2007 = $3.25), but can take about an hour and fifteen minutes. So, taking public transport round trip into the city for the almost 90-minute trek costs $8.50 - $15 (if we take the subway or PATH anywhere). There's also a convenient light rail that goes by the ferry station and crosses our road about 2-3 miles from here. We could take combos of bus, train, and PATH into the city for a little more money and possibly a little less time, but it would be totally less hassle to stay on the bus.

The cost of living in this area is certainly going up - not only in food at grocery stores, but also in public transportation. And where is the extra money going for the bridges, the ferries, and the ferry parking, I wonder?!  There don't seem to be any visible improvements anywhere, but I know that the Holland Tunnel is being renovated, but I'm not sure if rates have gone up solely because of that. Whatever the case, I do remember Bloomberg mentioning that he was hoping to lessen traffic into Manhattan by raising the Hudson River crossing fares, which can't happen. It only angers people because it's still not fully cost-prohibitive.  It's also sad for people who don't make that much and how much these added costs cut into what they're bringing home; their salaries certainly aren't getting better!

Some things HAVE to change.
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

In the lobby earlier charging my phone, I kinda tired of hearing: "I saw that this house was picked up off its foundation and then moved a block down the road and then hit the neighbor's house!" Or "Yeah, ya know, listen... they keep picking up dead bodies!" Or "Edgewater is a complete disastah! I can't tell you how it looks! Trader Joe's? Oi, they're devastated!  Devastated!"


Did they not read or hear about the tsunami last year?  This highly pails in comparison.  At least Indian Point is still standing and suffered no ill effects from Sandy.  But I get it: THIS storm affected THEM or came this close (*showing an inch with my fingers*).

Oy! Gewalt!

Nov. 2nd, 2012 06:30 pm
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

I just inadvertently kinda freaked out a Jewish man in my building.  I'm sitting in the lobby charging a jumper battery for our phones. To keep myself amused, I was taking some pictures of the carp fish in the lobby.


An older Jewish man over my shoulder said "What are you doing?" in Yiddish (which has its roots in German, of course).


My knee jerk reaction? I answered him in English... "Just taking some pictures... oh, sorry you were speaking to your friend..."


He kinda got this big hopeful smile on his face, "You speak Yiddish?"


"No, I just understand it."


Then he turned to his friend to explain that I had understood what he'd said and that I speak Yiddish.


But I don't... :-)

wwcitizen: (NJ - Greetings)

So, it's day three of the aftermath of Sandy hitting NYC & NNJ (where we are). We are healthy and safe and that's the main thing really. It's hard to keep that in mind without electricity, TV, or internet, not to mention hot water.  But Matt and I have truly been making the absolute BEST of a bad situation. And even though we can't have a grill or natural gas in the condo, I am evermore astounded by and thankful for living in a high rise.  We have security, we have regular community updates, we have neighbors close by, and there are local businesses that are open and easy to get to.




Matt & I have also decided that once in a while, we'll eat solely by candlelight again. One, it's like romantical and stuff, and second, it'll -hopefully - keep this experience fresh in our minds. Of course hoping that something like this hurricane doesn't happen again to this degree in the near future, but also to remind us that we should totally unplug from time to time.

wwcitizen: (US Flag - LEARN PPL)
When Scott Walker survived his recall in WI last night, about 1/3 of my feelings leaned toward wanting to escape this country and move to Canada or some place else, or just sink into Xbox role playing games and escape. But the other 2/3 of me got really mad, frustrated, and concerned.
  • MAD at the situation and voter determination in WI. I sense that Walker wouldn't be above tainting the voting pool further to secure a win by any means possible. Still hoping for an indictment against Walker for corruption - that'll get the fucker out of office.
  • FRUSTRATED at Citizens United, when the ruling decidedly isn't about citizens of the US at ALL - it's about corporations. And corporations are NOT people.
  • CONCERNED about people who are apathetic to their voting rights and who aren't paying attention to what's going on in our country.
I want to inform people around our neighborhood about voting (after meeting 2 somewhat apathetic college girls yesterday). What can it hurt?  I'm not telling people how to vote, but I'm presenting information about how to register - whether they vote or not. Hopefully, once they've registered, they'll want to vote, too!  I'm putting together the following flier to hand out around my neighborhood.  I'm thinking about making a VistaPrint card to hand out, as well - just to hand out to people in NJ.


Click on “Voter Information” and read about:

How To, Who Can, & Where To Register, as well as answer “Am I Registered?”
Or call the Division of Elections toll free at 1-877-658-6837 for more info.


If you want your voice to be heard, you must


Feel free to copy/paste this information for your own state. Make copies and give to friends, neighbors, family members, and local businesses that you visit. Make sure that people are aware of their right to vote. Make sure that you have an impact on the 2012 election.

Here's how the VistaPrint card turned out:

wwcitizen: (US - Gay Politics)
Since the passing of NC's Amendment One, I've been doing a LOT of research into states that allow certain rights to same-sex couples.  The HRC and Lamda Legal provide a TON of information that's, while helpful, remains outdated in light of recent attacks on gay rights across the nation. 

At least Illinois recognizes the importance to reflecting the evolving American social mores: Same-sex marriage supporters take their fight to Illinois courts

I wish more states and people would accept facts, educate themselves, learn from the past, and exert more compassion in their every day. It's disheartening for me daily to have to search, read, research, and get a picture of how unequal in our relationship's current status Matthew and I are throughout this country. It's ultra sad to know that prior to any vacations or trips to other states, we now more than ever have to find out which hospitals would allow visitation rights to each other at the very least.  This sort of information isn't listed on their websites, either - you have to call to see whether you'd be treated with respect and compassion or if even your legal documentation would be recognized at the hospital to make medical and/or financial decisions for each other.  Some people find this kind of info finding stuff to be demoralizing. 

I'm starting to find this type of "confrontation" on one level empowering. Empowering because it helps me make informed decisions about where we're going to spend our money and take our vacations. If a place doesn't recognize us or allow visitation in a hospital, then we won't recognize the place; we don't have to visit it.

On another level, it's just sad to have to hunt and peck around to find places that legally affirm us and our relationship.  "Oh, can we go there? No. How about here? Maybe... just don't get into legal trouble.  How about there? Nope - no visitation rights at the hospital without a PLETHORA of legal docs, which might still not be recognized or allowed as proof of our legal bond. Oh, we can go here!! They do recognize same-sex partnerships and allow hospital visitations, but the state doesn't currently have any laws against hate crimes; that means no PDA, including holding hands.  :-("

Family has little or nothing to do with our qualms or our burgeoning apprehensions to traveling to particular locations in the US (like NC, VA, or SC where my family might want to go on vacation).  One of my sisters, in fact, asked about our trip to Disney; Orlando, FL, as a city has specific provisions for same-sex partners, but the state doesn't recognize same-sex partnerships. An issue with a lesbian couple in Miami was the impetus for federal mandates of hospitals to allow same-sex partners to visit each other in the hospital.  In any of these places where my family would want to vacation, Matt couldn't go with me; I wouldn't be able to make any health-related decisions for him and that would break my heart. In NJ, we're afforded the "luxury" of greater civil rights.

I hate feeling that we are being forced into a NJ civil union when our ultimate desire is to be legally married.  It's unfair that we have to be put in that position. Elsewhere throughout the nation (not in NC now, since Amendment One, btw), if an opposite-sex couple had cohabitated as long as we have (8.5 years thus far!!), we'd enjoy a common law marriage.

Even still, throughout the US Southeast, Midwest, and parts of the Northwest, when we get our NJ civil union, it most likely will not be recognized in most of those states, including NC, SC, and VA. It doesn't have to be like this, but it's what we as a couple have to deal with. Same-sex couples don't have to go throughout this level of crap and take soooo many things for granted.
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
The other day, the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission sent me a registration form - standard every year - for me to register my car.  There's an envelope and a form to review containing all my current data, which is standard.  The form has a front and a back and you need to confirm data as well as fill in certain things, such as your social security number - something I don't like to write out and put in the mail.

So, I went online to re-register my car.  The form doesn't tell you that there's a $2.00 "convenience charge", but the website does when it tallies your payment. There's no tax for the registration, but there is this silly "convenience charge."  Now, if I were to fill out a check, pop this form filled out in the mail with a stamp, all-in-all it would probably cost me $1.00 total.

But, in principle, I have a problem being charged a $2.00 "convenience charge," when ultimately, it's more convenient for the MVC to have the online registration process. It's more convenient not to build up paper waste for the state. It's more convenient for there to be no human error at the state level for registration completion and fulfillment. Right?  Why should online users be charged a $2.00 "convenience charge"?  Because it probably pays for the website hosting, data fees, credit card transaction fees, etc.  I understand all that.

The "convenience" of online users is actually SAVING the state money, person hours, effort, and the possibility of human error.  People who choose to mail in their registration payments should be charged the $2.00 for adding extra work rather than online users - as an "inconvenience charge".

New Jersey is one of two states (Oregon is the other) that requires gas attendants to fill your car with gas. People who pull up to the pump are not supposed to get out of their cars and pump their own gas. It's nice not to have to get out of my car on a rainy, snowy, cold, or really hot day to pump gas into my car. I can stay in my comfortable car while someone else does it.  The thing is, having that "service" is actually saving the state and gas stations money!!  NJ gas prices are much lower compared to most other states. Primarily because of subsidies and low fuel taxes, sure, but then also because of the lack of the need for as much liability insurance at the gas pump.  There is also the increased maintenance of pumps from being regularly monitored.  Self-service contributes to unemployment – especially among young people - so, the NJ set up is keeping/creating jobs that would otherwise be given to machines.

Throughout the US, other states have pretty high costs of liability insurance to allow people to pump their own gas. That insurance cost is conveyed not onto the majority of gas pumpers, but to those folks who pull up to a full service pump. It's more convenient and safer for people to stay in their cars and have someone else pump their gas, but, frankly, it would save the gas stations and the state money and liability by not charging the "convenient pumpers" for the extra cost of running a gas pump.

Same issue: Convenience charges laid out on the people who, ultimately, would help save money overall.  The perspective is wrong and the people who'd be saving money, time, effort, and other costs are being charged, when all the folks who .
wwcitizen: (Broadway)
A good friend of ours from Toronto, Pascal, sent me a note last week that he was going to be in town for a couple of days. We hadn't seen Pascal or his partner in a couple of years. It was a nice surprise. Thing is, the only day he was going to be available for us to meet up was Sunday - yesterday - Mother's Day. The planets aligned and we were able to meet up with him and have a very spontaneous, very exciting day in NYC. 

Pascal suggested we go see The Best Man.  We quick looked up tickets for the matinee performance of The Best Man on Broadway and bought three. We bought extremely well-placed seats at 1:45PM for a 3:00PM performance (HURRY!); Pascal had just checked into his room (GO NOW!) and raced out as we raced out of our place in NJ (DON'T BE LATE!). Due to really bad traffic getting into Manhattan, we decided last minute to take the ferry across - good decision! YAY!

We made it to the show in record time and missed only the first 3 minutes, which was just fine, given the distances we all had to go.  The Best Man stars two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones, Tony winner John Larroquette, Eric McCormack and five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury, as well as Candice Bergen, Tony nominee Kerry Butler, Michael McKean and Tony winner Jefferson Mays.  We were 5 rows from all of them and they were right there! It was so great to see all of them - right there! 

We left the theater and took the subway to TriBeCa for dinner at Pepolino's, a Florentine Italian restaurant. Matthew and I had seen a show on NYC restaurants a while back and had wanted to go there for dinner sometime.  Pascal is a foodie, as are we, so we were excited to share the experience with him.  Pascal is also a professionally published photographer and has worked with friends on cookbooks, so he knows good food:
Our dinner started with warm and spicy tomato flan for the thick-crusted, Italian bread. We ordered a bottle of Vermentino (white) wine, which has a flowery bouquet and citrus overtones with a bright finish.
Fried artichokes and zucchinis
Fennel salad with orange sections, olives, and Parmesan
Deep fried soft shell crab with arugula/tomato salad
Goat cheese and pear home made raviolis
Spinach & ricotta gnocchi
King fish wrapped in pancetta (mine)
Braised Mediterranean sea bass
Coffee, panna cotta AND the BEST.RICOTTA.CHEESECAKE.EVER!!!
The waitress also treated us to a glass of Grappa at the very end.

We left there to take Pascal to the Stonewall Inn; he'd been by the place a few times, but never inside. It was completely dead inside, so we took off to Ty's - of course.  It was PACKED! We had a fun time and a couple of drinks.  At about 12:30AM, I told Matt we needed to catch a cab before the last ferry, which I had thought was at about 1AM; however, the last ferry was leaving - at 12:30AM - right as we checked the departure times.  Alas, we hopped in a cab, took Pascal back to his hotel, and left for NJ.

$75 and 45 minutes later, we were in our car to go home, only to stay up till 4AM because we were so wired from the awesome day! Here are some pictures from the day:

wwcitizen: (Airplane Travel)
This was me today cuz THE SHUTTLE PASSED OVER NYC!!  YAY!! 

I took about 300+ photos within 15 minutes and had gotten up to the roof JUST in the nick of time to see the shuttle passing over. It flew REALLY close to our building.  I whittled the collection down to about 70 shots, which turned out pretty good!  Enjoy!  (...and comment at will...)

I also sent a link to this album to the Rachel Maddow Show; hopefully, she'll use a couple or more on the show tonight!
wwcitizen: (S&M In Ptown)
Walking out of our hair salon yesterday, Matthew and I waved back at all the stylists and said, "Happy VD, everyone!" and they all waved back with smiles.

As we turned to walk out the door, Matthew heard a female customer with a very heavy NJ Italian accent say loudly, "Are they bruthahs?"

Wish we could have heard the response...

Then, at a diner about an hour later, a guy from another table walked up to me to ask whether my anniversary ring (below) was a championship ring. He approached me as if I were a celebrity and had an interesting look of anticipation on his face like I've never seen before. That must be how I look when approaching a celebrity after a Broadway show. Yes, I just said that after mentioning this guy thinking I was a football player.

(If you look closely, you can see "23" under the feather on the Indian's neck for 1923 - my dad's birth year!)

People are funny. I told Matthew that I should have said to the guy, "No, I don't play football, but I am a tight end." *wink*

Matthew gave me this ring for our anniversary. Isn't it cool?! I collect Buffalo Nickels and other coins, so this was a very thoughtful gift indeed. My right-hand ring finger is a 14, which is quite large. The ring itself is quite impressive in size, so you make it a 14 and it looks like a championship ring. No, I don't know enough about football to know how to have pulled off a "My dad, in fact, played for the Redskins when they won blah blah blah..." response to the guy.
wwcitizen: (US - Gay Politics)
For those unaware of the ultra right-wing, Tea Party-backing, Bush-loving group of women One Million Moms, the funny part is that their Facebook fan page has only around 40,000 likes as of this posting. The first time I'd ever heard of One Million Moms was on Facebook. They posted this picture, which is not clear and I can't find it anywhere else on the web or on Macy's website for their fliers:

I've been holding back on an LJ posting on this particular issue simply because I don't want to give voice to One Million Moms, who I feel are helping in holding this country back from its true potential as a nation.

Their post stated "Sorry, not the best photo (but the best we have), and better than nothing...Macy's new Bridal Registry Ad." Granted, a weak start to more than 230 anti-gay and bloated religious comments, along with about 50 shares.

I thought, "I'll give this a go," and "liked" the page in order to comment on the post. By the time I commented, there were around 100 different comments already and this was my comment:

"You sound like terrible, hate-filled, and hateful mothers!! Granted, only 38k, not a million... I shudder to think of the gay children that God placed in YOUR care and households because there will be limited love in them - limited by hypocrisy, bigotry, spiritual myopia, and archaic theology. Open your minds and spirits to God's truths and relinquish your years of brainwashing.

You're the kinds of mothers under whose care 1000s of children commit suicide because they're gay. There is every possibility that your child has read this post, is gay, and could very likely consider suicide after reading about how his mother feels about her child. Consider the consequences of your words and hate.

For the record, God did create Adam and Eve. And Adam & Steve, Bonnie & Julie, Jane & Susie, Naomi & Ruth, and Nancy & Melonie. And you say you're Christians... children of God? Much like Anne Rice, confronted with people like you, I'm saddened that God accepts even YOU into our family. With you in the fold, I'd rather call myself simply a follower of Christ before saying I'm "Christian". You spew hatred and wickedness with such ease."

Of course within a couple of days, the owners of the page blocked me from the group so that I couldn't comment any longer and removed my comment. BUT, at least my comment was sent to at least 100 people who commented before me and possibly 100s more saw my comment before it was removed. One can only hope.

When Matt and I are finally able to get married legally in NJ, we're going to register at Macy's, of course.
wwcitizen: (Thumbs Up)
I may not like the man, but he's done something good and right and just!

Jan 6, 2010:

Governor Christie signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, America’s toughest anti-bullying law

By enacting a totally new paradigm to protect vulnerable students, New Jersey sets a new course for the nation.


America's first anti-bullying law that sets statewide deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved.

Under the new law, teachers and other school personnel must report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as a bullying incident. An investigation of the bullying must begin within one school day. A school must complete its investigation of bullying within 10 school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation.

America's first anti-bullying law to provide for an anti-bullying coordinator in every district, and an anti-bullying specialist in every school to lead an anti-bullying team that also includes the principal, a teacher and a parent.

America's first anti-bullying law to grade every school on how well it is countering bullying – and to require that every school post its grade on the home page of its website. Also on the home page of its website, every school must post contact information for its anti-bullying specialist.

America's first anti-bullying law to ensure quality control in anti-bullying training by requiring the involvement of experts from academia and the not-for-profit sector.

America's first anti-bullying law to provide training to teachers in suicide prevention specifically with regard to students from communities at high risk for suicide.

America's first anti-bullying law to apply not only to students in grades K-12, but also to higher education. Public universities in New Jersey will have to distribute their anti-bullying policies to all students within seven days of the start of the fall semester.

The law applies to extracurricular school-related settings, such as cyber-bullying, school buses, school-sponsored functions and to bullying off school grounds that carries over into school.

The law requires a school to notify the parents of all students involved in an incident, including the parents of the bully and the bullied student, and offers counseling and intervention services.

The law mandates year-round anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade, and an annual Week of Respect in every school that will feature anti-bullying programming.

The law applies to all bullied students. In addition to protecting students based on the categories of actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, the law has clear language protecting students bullied for any other reason.
wwcitizen: (Martini Steve)
Matt hates that I love Scotch. Not just any particular Scotch, but it must preferably be Single Malt Scotch. I have liked some blended Scotches in my day, though. Matt does not like Scotch or any type of whisky at all. I like to enjoy the odd glass now and then. And, yes, I'm a one-ice-cube Scotch drinker (die-hards, go ahead and poo-poo that, but a man likes what a man likes!). Although, I have to say, if I've never tasted a certain Single Malt, I will refrain from the ice cube for the first taste - a small shot of it for the flavor and experience of its face value. Then for a full serving, I'd slide in one cube.

On Wednesday, I was offered many rare treats! Along side some wonderful pâtés, goat cheeses, truffled honey, and heavenly olives, were three bottles of (potentially very expensive) Scotch!! One of the bottles was Johnny Walker Blue. At a local retail store JWB goes for almost $200). The second I spied was a 27-yr Tomintoul, which was oaked in 1983. I would have been about 15 then. Its price point ranges possibly between $100-180 a bottle. Lastly, there stood a bottle of 16-yr Lagavulin, which is about $75.

Here are two of the bottles:

The Tomintoul was by far my favorite. A description of the 16-yr Tomintoul reads, "One of the gentler whiskies in Speyside. It's a fragrant whisky too with a firm malty foundation, fruit gum drops and caramel. Subtle notes of almond and anise helped keep my interest, as did its soft, subtle wood spice finish. Very easy to drink too!"

The extra 11 years added to the bottle definitely added more spice and starker caramel. I don't think I got the almond in the 27-yr bottle, but certainly the fruity overtones and malt were very present. There was a nice bite to it as it finished.

For the 27-yr Tomintoul, a different description reads, "Deep amber color. Sweet dried peach and apricot, brown spice, and orange blossom aromas. A very smooth rich entry leads to a dry-yet fruity full-bodied palate of sweet dried fruits, Sherry and spice with a very long fade. Excellently balanced and soft with a gently Sherried and very fruity character that makes this an easygoing pleasure to drink. This is a remarkable value as well." There was a lot of repetition in this description, which tells me the author was probably drinking glass after glass to pull in as many adjectives into his description as possible before having to leave the bottle behind. I could picture myself doing that.

I was happy to taste the JWB; people get those bottles as gifts in business. It would be nice to build up a business that would warrant that type of gift! I think I liked the Lagavulin better than the JWB, though.

So, in order of preference, taste, and complexities:
#1 - Tomintoul, 27-yr
#2 - Lagavulin, 16-yr
#3 - Johnny Walker Blue

Then we went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I got a fantastic Osso Bucco accompanied by roasted fennel mashed potatoes following a goat cheese arugula salad. Dinner was finished off with coffee and fig & honey gelato. YUM!!

Yeah, we had to ring in the new year with some amazing food after Matt and my family put out so much other good stuff for the better part of a week! Starting Monday, it's starvation mode (within reason) and exercise. Gotta look good in my summer bikini (as opposed to my winter bikini!).
wwcitizen: (Santa Steve)
Well, Christmas 2010 is done. We're starting to pack things away and make room for all the new stuff. Let me correct that statement: I am starting to pack things away. Matt's still asleep, as well he should be. We both had a very busy holiday season and he did a lot of work on food.

We spent Christmas eve and day at Matt's sister's house. Christmas Eve was the traditional feast of the seven fishes, which went off without a hitch. Matt blames it on my help, but I don't know that I did all that much. He said it would have been a race to the "finish line" without me and my support. Again, don't know how I helped that much, but I guess I kept him going at times. Christmas day was fun. Matt and I had our gift exchange at home.

Our Yule Log:

Then we went traipsing up to Mahwah again (about 30 minutes up north) to spend the day with his sister's family and his aunt and cousin. It was fun and the kids were soooo excited. The day ended with his aunt and nephew getting a stomach bug from something. Not sure what cuz we all ate the same things. Hmmm...

I got Matt a peacoat, two jackets, an audio book (David Sedaris), and a leather executive office chair that matches mine. He got me/us a whole bunch of geeky things for the Xbox and our diet plan for 2011. I'm really glad he got us those things cuz I really didn't need anything at all!

Matt's Leather Executive Chair (I'd already purchased it and he was already using it, but I had to wrap a gift with it, you know?)

The NJ Christmastime was fun and pretty easy. Here's our geekwares:
wwcitizen: (NJ - Greetings)
For those of you that never had the experience of the state, why we are the way we are....

New Jersey (NJ) is actually a peninsula.

Highlands, NJ, has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

NJ is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.

NJ has more race horses than Kentucky.

NJ has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq mi.) than Havana, Cuba.

NJ has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US.

NJ has the highest cost of living, cost of auto insurance, and property taxes in the nation.

NJ has the most diners in the world is sometimes called the 'Diner Capital of the World.'

NJ is home to the original Mystery Pork Parts Club (no, not Spam): Taylor Ham or Pork Roll.

Home to the less mysterious but the best Italian hot dogs and Italian sausage w/peppers and onions.

North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major ones.

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland.

NJ has 50+ resort cities & towns; some of the nation's most famous vacation spots: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Long Branch, Cape May.

NJ has the most stringent testing along it's coastline for water quality control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.

NJ is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation, when you include pharmaceuticals.

Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.

NJ is the world leader in blueberry and cranberry production (and here you thought Massachusetts?)

The 1st brewery in America opened in Hoboken.

NJ rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah, in 1940.

NJ is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80% of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth.

NJ is home to one of the nation's busiest airports (in Newark), Liberty International.

George Washington slept there.

Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on NJ soil, led by General George Washington.

The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory.

NJ also boasts the first town ever lit by incandescent bulbs.

The first seaplane was built in Keyport, NJ.

The first airmail (to Chicago) was started from Keyport, NJ.

The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ.

NJ was home to the Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City.

The game Monopoly, played all over the world, named the streets on its playing board after the actual streets in Atlantic City. And, Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world, not to mention salt water taffy.

NJ has the largest petroleum containment areas outside of the Middle East.

The first Indian reservation was in NJ, in the Watchung Mountains.

NJ has the tallest water-tower in the world (in Union, NJ!).

NJ had the first medical center, in Jersey City.

The Pulaski SkyWay, from Jersey City to Newark, was the first skyway highway.

NJ built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson River (the Holland Tunnel).

The first baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ (birthplace of Frank Sinatra).

The 1st intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1889 (Rutgers College played Princeton).

The first drive-in movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ,

NJ is home to both of New York's pro football teams.

Maj. Edwin Howard Armstrong financed the construction of the 1st FM radio station, W2XMN, a 40Kw broadcaster in Alpine, NJ (1937).

The Great Falls in Paterson, on the Passaic River, is the 2nd highest waterfall on the East Coast of the US.

Jersey natives:
Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Queen Latifah, Susan Sarandon, Connie Francis, Shaq, Judy Blume, Aaron Burr, Joan Robertson, Ken Kross, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, Alan Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Marilynn McCoo, Flip Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, Zack Braff, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Linda McElroy, Eileen Donnelly, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Walt Whitman, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Joyce Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Caesar Romero, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Nick Adams, Nathan Lane, Sandra Dee, Danny DeVito, Richard Conti, Joe Pesci, Joe Piscopo, Joe DePasquale, Robert Blake, Sal Martorano, Rich Echevaria, John Forsythe, Meryl Streep, Loretta Swit, Norman Lloyd, Paul Simon, Jerry Herman, Gorden McCrae, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Phyllis Newman, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Eva Marie Saint, Elizabeth Shue, Zebulon Pike, James Fennimore Cooper, Admiral William. Halsey, Jr., Norman Schwarzkopf, Dave Thomas (Wendy's), William Carlos Williams, Ray Liotta, Robert Wuhl, Bob Reyers, Paul Robeson, Ernie Kovacs, Joseph Macchia, Kelly Ripa, and, of course, Francis Albert Sinatra and 'Uncle Floyd' Vivano.

See? New Jersey doesn’t suck. You just have to get out of Elizabeth, Newark, Camden, and Paterson to see more of its beauty and discover what it’s all about.


wwcitizen: (Default)
Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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