Friday, November 30, 2007


Hallelujah!! I did it! It's November 30th - the last day of National Blog Posting Month and I posted every day.

And here's the background:

One of the writer's trade magazines - either The Writer or Writers Digest - published an item about NaBloPoMo that unfortunately caught my attention and apparently stirred up my competitive spirit.

The challenge put out to all bloggers was: Post every day of the month of November. And I can tell you now it is really hard! My admiration has increased a hundred fold for newspaper columnists who have turned out thoughtful, literate essays for many years and can still face a keyboard.

On the plus side, it is a good writing exercise and you produce stories that would otherwise be forgotten. On the negative side, your significant others can get really annoyed at the amount of time you spend on the whole thing.

For all who enjoyed my blog: Thanks. I'm not giving it up, but probably cutting back to a few posts a week.

To my family: Thanks. I'm not giving it up, but probably cutting back to a few posts a week. Honest.


If you think you might want to try your own blog, start by going to your real brick-and-mortar library. There are a lot of books about the technical aspects of setting up your blog. For the writing part I highly recommend the book Dispatches From Blogistan by Suzanne Stefanac which the Hillsborough Library has.

Online I found two helpful articles: "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web" by Mark Bernstein and "How to Write a Better Weblog" by Dennis A. Mahoney.


"... writers do not find subjects: subjects find them. There is not so much a search as a state of open susceptibility." - Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)British novelist, story writer, essayist, and memoirist.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Gambling" Habit

Growing up in Central Jersey, my mornings were dedicated to “Rambling With Gambling” – the morning wake-up show on New York radio station WOR.

The show had three hosts in its 75-year history – a father, son, and grandson, but the “middle” Gambling - John A. who hosted from 1959 to 1991 - was mine.

You turned on the radio on the hour and heard 15 minutes of news and the weather report and the rest of the time the John Gambling family and their friends chatted about this-and-that. Nothing consequential, but they had a way that made you feel included.

They didn’t play much music, but they always played the morning march around the breakfast table. I guess the idea was that there were families who would actually stand up and march happily around the table, getting the blood moving before mom sent them out the front door to another day in the world. I didn’t know any of those families, but I had absolute faith that they were out there.

Even more important, they were one of the first shows that announced school closings – known as snow days. They read lists of closed schools from the tri-state area: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And to listen for your school’s name you had to be awake earlier than you would normally voluntarily wake up – maybe as early as 5 a.m. – because if you missed your school you had to wait for them to go through the entire list again.

Sometimes you would listen over-and-over, absolutely sure that you had missed your school the first time…or the second time…or the third time…or until you mother yelled at you to get up and get dressed.

How your school name got on the list was always a mystery that we thought we could break. Obviously there was a special telephone number that had to be called and a special code assigned to each school and if we could just figure it out and one of us could disguise our voice just right…well you can see what we could accomplish!

These days I can’t seem to find a station that connects with me the way WOR did, so I listen to one of the all-news stations. If "Rambling With Gambling" came on I still wouldn’t get up and march and nowadays I don’t have to get out of bed and go to school.

But somehow I can’t give up the belief that there really were families that marched around the breakfast table.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hearing a Memory

The TV stations began showing the 1983 movie A Christmas Story this past week.

Every year I watch it over and over, picking out different memories each time: the story, the desks in the classroom, the dish detergent boxes in the background of the kitchen, the coal furnace battle, the kid wrapped up in his snowsuit, the alleys – there is just so much.

But it was this year that I realized that I was hearing an important memory – the voice of Jean Shepherd, the writer and narrator of A Christmas Story.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was the recipient of a passed-down wooden AM radio that sat on top of the small bookcase-nightstand next to my bed, and that radio was tuned to WOR where storyteller Jean Shepherd reigned from 10:15 to 11 p.m. every night.

All through junior high school and high school as I got ready for bed I listened to the news from 10 to 10:15 [I guess I was a news junkie even then.], and then, just as I snuggled in and turned out the light, Jean Shepherd’s theme music came on and he began telling his tales of growing up in the Midwest.

As the years passed I felt I knew his hometown and his friends and his family. And of course at that age I felt the stories he told were so much more exciting than my own family's tales.

Just think what he could have done on the internet. And he would have made a great blogger!


I can’t find a show like that any more, but “Shep” still has his fans. There are entire websites: and discussion forums:, a Wikipedia entry, and the house where the movie was filmed has been restored and is open for tours.

Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) was on WOR from 1956 to 1977. He also wrote books and magazine articles.

Jerry Seinfeld is quoted as crediting Jean Shepherd for some of his "comedic sensibility."

For those of you unlucky enough to not be familiar with Shep's work:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TV Timing

I have always thought that television schedulers live in an alternate universe, but now I am convinced.

Yesterday evening's TV listings had the following entry:

"5 Minute Workout With Dell-Maree Day"

The show ran from 8p.m. to 10p.m. Yes, that's right - two hours. Now I am not familiar with Dell-Maree, but that is quite an accomplishment. The only other activities I can recall that can stretch 5 minutes into 2 hours are the ends of football and basketball games and PBS fundraisers.

Oh, now I understand. It was on a PBS channel.

I'll wait for the Reader's Digest Condensed version.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Claremont Sewer Meeting

Just to update the Claremont development septic saga, I had one last item that I couldn't find yesterday but came across this morning.

The residents of Claremont have been invited to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. this evening at the municipal building to get information on the sewer connection plan and special assessment contract. There are supposed to be "various the meeting to answer [residents'] questions."

The more professionals the more it's going to cost.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Legend of the Claremont Sewers

Once upon a time not so long ago – around 1960 – a bunch of brand new houses were built in Hillsborough off Millstone River Road called the Claremont Development.

They weren’t big expensive houses, but to the people purchasing them they were castles, often bought by families who never thought they would have an opportunity to own such a place.

Now, some of these homebuyers were savvy enough to express some concern about having septic systems – especially septic systems that seemed a tad small. But the sellers reassured the buyers that they would only have the septic systems for “a while” as sewer lines would go through the area in “the future.”

After “a while” had passed and the Claremont builders had long moved on to other projects, some of the homeowners asked about the sewer lines, but the township told them that the time had not yet come. As decade after decade went by it became the 1990s and some of the septic systems failed. And some of the homeowners wanted to expand their houses but were told their septic systems were too small and their lots were too small to accommodate the larger systems they would need.

By the late 1990s, more and more of the old original “temporary” systems were failing and homeowners were filling their small yards with expensive mounded septic systems.

Larger groups of Claremont residents (also known as voters) were appearing more frequently before the township committee to ask exactly when it was that the sewer lines would be installed.

The sewer lines couldn’t be put off any longer.

And so, it appears that maybe – almost fifty years later - “the future” has come. The township is talking about the possibility that sometime soon the sewer lines will probably be coming to the Claremont area.

The paperwork is in the pipeline (so to speak).

Many of these original homebuyers have died, but it is surprising how many are still there and kept their faith in the American dream all these years. They are hoping that their faith is being repaid. [Well, actually they are paying for their faith by paying for their sewers – more than the original houses cost.]

But they are finally getting sewers. Soon. Really.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Painted Ladies

Sometimes you see something that brightens your day:

or makes you wonder:

and what these Hillsborough houses always make me wonder is:
Are these the colors they wanted or did they look different on the little chips?

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's a Taxpayer Thing

Due to an oversight by their union representatives many state employees will not have today, the day after Thanksgiving, off as a paid holiday.

A year ago Governor Corzine warned them about this, but they apparently did not think that he was serious.

Individual union members who have stressed to the media that having this day off is incredibly important are still free to take the day off by using one of their vacation or personal days.

Many of them have been invoking the legally significant “traditional day off” guideline, but it’s hard to believe they would believe in that principle if this were reversed.

Think about it: “You know how we have always traditionally had Columbus Day off and it’s in our contract as a paid holiday? Well, we, your union reps, have decided you should all go to work without extra compensation and just donate the day back to the state of New Jersey out of the goodness of your hearts.”

It’s time for the employees to start holding their union reps responsible.

One of the best reasons heard from union members for closing state offices today? The state will save money because they won’t have to heat them. So, it costs more to heat the buildings than donate a day’s pay to all those employees? The state must be paying way too much for utilities.

I worked yesterday - no paid holidays or benefits. My significant other and I are both working today – no paid holidays or benefits. No work, no pay. A cyber poll on a local newspaper website showed about a third of the respondents will be working today. Support for the state employees’ position may be a little fragile among a significant number of taxpayers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Immigrants' Day

Today Americans celebrate a holiday originated by American immigrants - you know, those foreigners who arrived on the Mayflower.

When we sit around the dinner table on Thanksgiving, it is easy to forget that we are by-and-large a nation of immigrants starting with the Pilgrims. While some families arrived more willingly than others, each persevered until they “became” American with each group having its own measurement of what made them American.

So, to all of you whose families came to America from countries around the world for whatever reason and no matter how recently or how long ago: Congratulations on your achievements.

To the North American Indians who were here first: Sorry.

Today happens to be November 22nd, the anniversary of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It seems as though that Thanksgiving was a confusing weekend spent largely in front of the television and many immigrant families were afraid that the political upheavals they had so recently fled had followed them to America.


"And so it is that I carry with me from this State to that high and lonely office to which I now succeed more than fond memories and fast friendships. The enduring qualities of Massachusetts—the common threads woven by the Pilgrim and the Puritan, the fisherman and the farmer, the Yankee and the immigrant—will not be and could not be forgotten in the Nation’s Executive Mansion. They are an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, my hopes for the future."
- President-elect John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), addressing the Massachusetts legislature, January 9 1961

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mom's Thanksgiving

My mother wasn’t born in this country, but she sure knew how to put on an all-American traditional Thanksgiving.

Her preparations started in October when she took the bus into Newark to shop for the nuts and dried fruits she needed for her steamed puddings and fruitcakes. Her fruitcakes were in demand. By the time the holidays came around they had been wrapped in cheesecloth for weeks and basted with whiskey or brandy so many times that the fumes could clear your sinuses and you probably should have been at least twenty-one years old to enjoy a slice.

A week or two before the big day Mom started her Cranberry Relish, clamping the metal hand-cranked food grinder with the long handle around a clean dishtowel onto the kitchen table where she fed in the fresh cranberries and the cut-up oranges and just the right amount of sugar and some spices. Sometimes the children – and later the grandchildren – were allowed to carefully turn the handle or even, if you were old enough, slowly feed in the ingredients.

Home baked cookies were stored in tins that were saved all year just for this occasion. Anytime in November, if you were sent down the cellar to “fetch the tins” you knew exactly what she wanted.

She produced hand-made pies – apple, pumpkin, and mincemeat – all with perfectly crimped edges on their golden, flaky crusts. I never developed a taste for mincemeat or the ability to crimp piecrusts.

Starting late Thanksgiving eve, using a small 1940s stove, she managed to complete the entire dinner by one o’clock Thanksgiving afternoon. Everything was finished cooking at the same time – another ability I did not inherit.

My parents were 19-year-old newlyweds when they spent their first Thanksgiving together. Last year my father spent Thanksgiving visiting my mother at the nursing home and after celebrating seventy-two Thanksgivings together, he will spend this Thanksgiving without her.

We can’t find her recipes. Of course, we can probably find the right kind of whiskey or brandy and offer a toast to Mom, her fruitcakes and steamed puddings, and her dedication to Thanksgiving: “Cheers!”


Our house, especially our kitchen, is quiet tonight as tomorrow we will be the guests at a niece’s Thanksgiving dinner and not the hosts.

This was originally to be a one-year intermission during some construction at our house, but I have the feeling that the earth has shifted slightly, we have crossed the generational divide, and Thanksgiving dinner is not coming back to our house.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Want That Job

Last week there was an article in a local newspaper about former Beatle Paul McCartney being photographed kissing a woman whose family has roots in Edison.

Buried in the story was this paragraph:
“…[Paul McCartney’s] spokesman told the Associated Press, ‘We don’t comment, as a policy, on private or business affairs’…”

That quote has stuck with me.

If they don’t comment on McCartney’s private affairs or business affairs, exactly what is it that they do? I know that the rich are different, but I can’t come up with something in my own life that doesn’t fall under one of those categories.

Now we know that McCartney has lots of money - just ask Heather Mills who is currently suing him for divorce. But that still shouldn’t justify a public relations firm charging him good money to do no work.

Being an honest person who could definitely do the same job as his current spokesperson, I would like to apply to be the PR person for McCartney. I promise that I will charge him less for doing the same work(?) that his current firm does.

Where do I send my resume?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Baby'$ Holiday Li$t

Yesterday’s newspaper had an article on Presents for Baby’s First Holiday, containing the most incredible ideas for gifts you can buy for the one-and-under set.

Well, actually it was about items that other people might buy, because I didn’t see anything in which we would be willing to invest our hard-earned money. And I don’t use the term “invest” lightly.

As an example, let’s consider the hooded sweatshirt they recommended. First of all, just to set you persons of a certain age straight, these are no longer called “sweatshirts” – they are now called “hoodies.” I can only guess that the upscale venders of these items are trying to emphasis the “hood” part and de-emphasize the “sweat” part.

And why is that? Because the particular sweater they are selling is a cashmere hoody that sells for $96.95. For babies, let me remind you

Did you just gasp or laugh? Good. It’s always nice to know that my readers are normal people with a firm grasp on reality.

In order to be fair to the writer of this holiday sales piece, there was a more affordable item on baby’s holiday list: a handmade stick horse made by artisans in Brazil. If you noted the word “artisan” in the copy you have a clue about what is coming. Yes, the price of this dowel with an all knitted head on top is $44.00.

I can see several problems with this particular item – aside from the price. A child who is one-or-under will not be able to play with this item; they will be learning to walk and balance, not straddle a stick and gallop. Older siblings who are old enough to ride the horsie (after they take it away from the baby) will be more inclined to use it as a weapon to hit other children – including the one year old who is cutting into their haul of presents.

There is also a $750.00 wooden-looking seesaw. I just can’t make myself go further into this one. Buy the kid a good long-term certificate of deposit.

Trying to be fair I considered whether this article was just misplaced; maybe it should have been in The New York Times, a newspaper with upscale demographics sold to people who live in and around New York City and who, therefore, have no idea what is going on in the real world. But I couldn’t convince myself of this either as I know a number of perfectly normal people who receive and sometimes actually read the NYT. [See, I even know enough to refer to it by its initials.]

The only alternative I have is to give the writer credit for a tongue-in-cheek article that was very well done, because at first I thought he was serious.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Equal Opportunity Enjoyment

Music is equal opportunity. It doesn't care about your age, sex, race, religion, net worth, your disabilities or abilities, what kind of job you hold or whether you don't hold any job at all.

Music brought together the diverse group that spent this cold rainy gray Sunday afternoon enjoying the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band concert at the high school.

These musicians don't get paid money for their hours and hours of hard work, so they must do it for the sheer joy of creating music, meeting other musicians, and then sharing the joy and the music with their neighbors.

And I must say, they are very good at sharing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Today you are going to learn about patronymics. The word patronymic is a noun meaning a name (a proper name) that is derived from a father or ancestor. Origin: Greek. Pater + onoma = father + name.

The Welsh language patronymic is ap or ab. Welsh is the native tongue of Wales and many of their last names derive from combining the patronymic with the father’s name, such as:
Probert from ap+Robert or
Pritchard from ap+Richard or
Parry from ap+Harry.

Some more traditional nationalist (or, to the English, radical) Welsh families keep the ap or ab separate... such as…come on, you can do it…

Yes! As in Hughes ap Williams!

Diolch a hawddamor!
Just in case you are still confused, I am going to give you some more common (in America) examples of patronyms:

Fitz: Norman-French prefix – child (or sometimes grandchild) of.
Fitzpatrick = child of Patrick

Mc/Mac – Scottish prefix – son of.
MacDonald = son of Donald

"Brooded over by mist more often than swirled about by cloud, drizzled rather than storm-swept, on the western perimeter of Europe lies the damp, demanding and obsessively interesting country called by its own people Cymru … and known to the rest of the world, if it is known at all, as Wales." - Jan Morris (James Morris)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Photographic Remains

There is something sad about abandoned family pictures, those boxes and albums of photographs forever freezing moments in personal history. They have become clutter to be tossed out by descendents who have no clue who is in the pictures or why that moment was important.

Home organization shows advise homeowners to throw out family photos using the rationale that they “always have the memories in their minds.”

Do they understand that memories can fade? What about the next generation who don’t have these memories in their minds?

I personally came upon this dumping of family history when attending a local auction. I tried to return some photos that I found in a sewing bench I had just bought, but the auctioneer’s clerks advised me that the family wasn’t interested. The 40s Army uniforms, the 50s Christmas trees, the 60s prom pictures – no one wanted them.

And now I have become the recipient of two boxes (at least) of my family’s photographic memories and have begun to pick out ones that I am sure other family members would like to have, writing on the back any information that I can remember. Some sit on a corner of my desk just waiting for me to stick them in an envelope and mail them.

For some reason I haven’t been able to send them out.

"A family's photograph album is generally about the extended family - and, often, is all that remains of it." - Susan Sontag

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Blog, My Opinion

Local forum posters have been lambasting another community blogger for voicing his opinions in his blog, which is hosted by a local daily newspaper. These posters erroneously seem to believe that bloggers should check their lives at the door, when, in fact, personal perspective is the point of a blog.

Blogs are not designed to be online impartial news sources, even if a media company sponsors them. It would be more accurate to think of bloggers as Op-Ed columnists than journalistically neutral news writers although a good journalist can be both a news writer and a columnist, winnowing out personal biases when writing a news story and, when appropriate, still contributing their opinions to one or the other side of a good debate.

News writing and opinion writing are two different genres with different styles. In fact, an editor has recently pointed out to me that blogging has its own style that can be hard for traditional writers to develop.

The complaining posters also feel that they have been denied an opportunity to voice their opposing opinions, but they haven’t. There is a comments section located at the end of each blog post to be used at the option of the blogger and the blogger they are criticizing has chosen to allow comments. He even reads them.

And that’s my opinion.

“A blog is a little first amendment machine.” - Blogger Jay Rosen, June 5, 2007.

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” - Lesley Gore, 1963

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

End of an ID Era

The end of an era is coming next month. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has advised me that it is time to renew my license…and I must report in person in order to have my photograph taken.

For many years when I have mentioned that I have no identification with my picture on it, I have been met with absolute disbelief. Perfect strangers are so shocked that they feel free to grill me about this impossible situation.

There is a litany of questions implying that I have forgotten some long lost photograph usually starting with “Work?” “No, I’m self-employed.”

But the one that brings the most disbelief is usually,

“Your driver’s license?”


“Oh, no. You must have a picture on your driver’s license. You have to!”

“No, that was phased in as people’s licenses expired and I appear to be among the last ones.”

“Oh, wow… but then, how do you fly?”

“I haven’t flown since about 1971.”

And that starts a whole new round of questions suggesting that I have forgotten some trip that I took by airplane in the last 35 years.

The people in Central Jersey live with a very limited world-view. They think that everyone has photo ID and travels by air and that no one can survive without a cell phone or Internet access and email.

Well, boy do I have news for you. Those people are here, in Hillsborough, living among you. Surprise!

I have reached the stage where no one asks if I have a school ID with a picture, but the last picture ID I had was a student ID card about 5 years ago when I took a course at Raritan Valley Community College.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Finally Home

Working at home is wonderful. I can testify to that after decades of working in various "real" offices.

The big benefit is no commute. Additionally, you can generally set your own hours, decide on the ambiance, pick the dress code (PJs or jeans?), and choose your co-workers.

My dogs are wonderful co-workers, but I admit the cats have a tendency to interrupt by sitting on my paperwork or strolling across the keypad. [Okay, maybe I wouldn’t exactly choose the cats, but on the whole…]

As the number of people working from home increases, so do the magazine articles telling you how to work from home correctly - with the authors each providing their own sometimes wildly differing definition of what is correct. In order to understand this discrepancy, keep in mind that some of these articles may be written by people in their PJs sitting in the spare bedroom while others are authored by bitter full-time staff writers who are required to dress up and travel to an office in the outside world at least five days a week.

Recently these articles seem to be veering away from praising the convenience and informality of working at home and moving toward how to make the home office just like a “real world” office. Well, what fun is that? If I wanted a “real world” job I would go and get one and have someone else figuring out the taxes and providing medical benefits.

Being at home I can let the dogs out when needed, empty the dryer when the buzzer goes off, and take the pie out of the oven when the aroma says it’s time for a coffee break.

If I have a hankering to get out of “the office” I can go pick up milk or bread during the day when the stores are less busy and the employees aren’t as frazzled.

Sorry, I have to stop now. Sniff, sniff…mmm…it’s time for my coffee break.

To be fair, I have decided to mention the negatives of working at home. Getting the other human inhabitants of the house to understand that you are working. No steady paycheck. Um…let’s see…uh…let me think about this for a while. I’ll have my people call your people when I get back to the office.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Walkers vs. Riders

When I went to school back in the olden days I was a “walker”; that is to say, my family lived in an area of town where the kids’ weren’t transported to school by those big yellow smelly buses.

The rule back then was that if you lived within two miles of the school you were designated a “walker” and my family always seemed to live just a few feet inside the limit.

Walking to school in the morning burned off calories, saved gas, and expended some of our energy before we settled down for the school day.

With today’s obesity epidemic and gas prices soaring, having the kids walk would be a win all the way around. And maybe there would be fewer problems if everyone had to take a two-mile stroll each morning.

Oh, yeah, and one other plus for me not riding the bus: I was the kid who got motion sick.

It is obvious these days that the taxpayers are funding buses that aren’t even being used by the kids who are supposed to ride on them. Just look at the half-empty buses and the swarms of cars around the schools.

I enjoyed walking (still do) and I don’t understand today’s aversion to letting the kids walk to school. We developed a real appreciation for the changing seasons and the weather and I think some of my closest friendships were forged on those journeys.

And am I the only one who notices those empty bike racks at all the shools?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thoughts on a Veteran

As it is Veteran’s Day I started thinking about a friend from high school who enlisted in the army just after he graduated.

He showed up late one evening at my parent’s house where I was home on break from college. He had been drinking and asked if I would go for a walk with him. We walked up the road to a little macadam path that turned off the road and sat on a log on the side of the path and as we sat there he started to cry; he had just gotten his orders for Viet Nam.

I put my arm around his shoulders and let him cry it out.

Later he apologized for drinking before coming over and said he had eaten an onion bagel on the way over to my parents to try to hide the smell of the alcohol. He didn’t want my parents to think badly of him for drinking.

I just wanted to tell you about him. It seemed important.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remembrance of Things Past...and Present

This weekend is Veterans Day. I know because I have been receiving Veterans Day sales circulars all week.

What are you doing to acknowledge this holiday? Participating in a veteran related activity or a commemorative service? Watching a war movie?

Today I went to the Manville VFW Hall where a few hundred people – scouts, seniors, church groups, veterans – were preparing gift boxes to be sent out to active troops. I watched “We Were Soldiers”, a movie about Viet Nam that was recommended to me by a family member who served there, as the most realistic movie about what it was like to fight there.

Today in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was opened to the public. Twenty-five years ago and it still touches our hearts. Over 58,000 names and the politicians still haven’t learned.

So, what are doing this weekend? Going to a sale or maybe something else?

"The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my Heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love." - Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Dirge for Two Veterans

Last year around Veterans Day a Hillsborough resident suggested to the Township Committee that they look into having part of the GSA Depot set aside as a veterans’ cemetery and it was acknowledged as a good idea. Whatever happened to that?

Friday, November 9, 2007

What’s in your car?

Reading the police blotter has given me a new outlook on what people keep in their cars: wallets, checkbooks, cash, credit cards, collections of CDs and DVDs, and every manner of electronic equipment including computers loaded with all the information needed to steal enough identities to populate a small country.

And they keep their cars parked outside and unlocked.

Not that my own automobile is empty. One look inside finds my one-of-a-kind collection of towels, blankets, sweatshirts, old newspapers and magazines, umbrellas, empty food wrappers, dog bones, leashes, nonworking flashlights, baseball caps, a snow shovel, gloves, and other debris. And it is safely parked in my garage to protect its contents.

It would take me a while to figure out that anything had been stolen, but any self-respecting thief would bypass my car anyway.

Another vehicle security tip: check your back seat for intruders before you get in your car. Of course, it would only take seconds for a would-be intruder to realize he either couldn’t fit in my back seat or was too proud to get in with all the useful stuff accumulated there.

By the way, I was just talking to a friend who has retired to Colorado and tells me that the local police blotter is called "Busted in Butte." Don't you love a police department with a sense of humor?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Doggie Quality of Life

Our Little Guy, a 12-year-old Yorkie, is going in for surgery tomorrow morning.

The vet is going to check his few remaining teeth, removing any that are too far gone to save and cleaning the rest. Due to Little Guy’s lack of cooperation when we are attempting to groom him, we have asked the vet to also cut his nails while he is under. Even with most of his teeth gone and very little vision left, he can still connect with a pretty solid bite when you try to trim his nails.

But even though the procedures seem relatively simple, they still involve general anesthesia and we have to keep in mind that he is an older dog and not in tip-top condition.

He sometimes has trouble walking and is on medication for urinary incontinence and we put two types of ointment in his eyes. His teeth hurt and he is totally blind in one eye and can see light and some movement out of the other. The aches that he suffers are - so far - controllable.

We’re not sure about how much he can hear. Although he generally ignores us when we call him, he can hear kibble hitting a feed bowl from anywhere in the house.

Like so many pet owners, we have had to begin to think about how much we want to put him through. I have tried putting a dollar figure on it, but that doesn’t work. In the end it comes down to the question: At what point does his quality of life make it not worth living and what constitutes quality of life for a dog?

We have only had him for three years, but that doesn’t make us care less than if we had raised him from a puppy and it doesn’t make the decision any easier.

If we are lucky, the hardest thing about all this may turn out to be telling him he can’t have breakfast tomorrow morning before the surgery.

In order to understand the number of people wrestling with this question Google “dogs quality of life.” I got 17,900,000 hits.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The One-Party System ?

As a result of this week’s elections there will be a one-person change in the membership of the township committee, but it is an important change.

The only Democratic member lost to his Republican challenger by less than fifty votes. Not exactly a thundering mandate, but a win nonetheless.

After January’s reorganization meeting, the committee will be all-Republican and must make every attempt to not be perceived by the residents as not representing all the people.

They must not use their one-party system to make decisions without sincere and public deliberation and debate.

There must not be meeting after meeting filled with page after page of unanimous resolutions.

And, perhaps most important, this is an opportunity for Hillsborough’s mayor to prove that he really believes in “people before politics” when the appointments are made to the boards and commissions.

Will the appointed representatives be the residents best suited to each group or the most politically connected ones? Or will it just be the same old politics before people.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Voted Today...

I voted today, of course.

In my home, growing up, voting was considered a responsibility of citizenship and an honor. We were Americans - some naturalized and some by birth - and it was something that all good Americans did.

We understood that another American right was the privacy of each voter’s choice. Although upcoming elections were discussed, we didn’t have to tell anyone how we had voted including other family members and I can’t ever remember them asking me how I had voted. To this day I don’t know how my parents were registered to vote although I strongly suspect they were independents – maybe just because in America they could.

They also made sure that we were aware that there were still people in other countries who were still fighting for the rights that so many Americans inexplicably took for granted.

I went to vote today, but I have to admit that it’s getting harder to feel like it makes any difference.

And that makes me sad.

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves—and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945

Monday, November 5, 2007

Losing to Win

This year it is to the advantage of the Hillsborough Republicans to lose the campaign for the one contested township committee seat.

The only township committee incumbent running for re-election is also the only Democratic on the committee. If he loses, the committee will no longer be two-party and any political consultant worth his salt knows that it’s to the majority party’s benefit to keep at least one minority member on board.

It’s important for the majority party to be able to claim that our committee is representative of all the people because it has members from both parties - that the two-party system works.

Additionally, when something goes wrong (that is to say, makes the voters unhappy for one reason or another) it always helps to have a member of the other party to share the blame. When something goes seriously wrong, the minority member can always be used as a scapegoat. And, conversely, when the minority member does something spectacularly outstanding, the entire committee can take the credit.

Also, the township committee’s current Democratic member has specialized planning knowledge and contacts that would cost the township a lot of money if we had to hire a consultant with the same background.

In the long run the Republicans should lose this one for Hillsborough to come out ahead.

“More important than winning the election is governing the nation.” – Adlai Stevenson, July 26, 1952

“[Social inertia] is often observed in politics, when people consistently vote for one candidate or party out of habit, regardless of whether or not they actually would benefit from that vote.” –

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Caution: Rita Skeeter at Work

This year Hillsborough’s voters are being asked to choose whether to keep their current form of government (a township committee with five members who choose the mayor from among themselves) or to change to a form with a directly-elected mayor and a separate five-member committee.

For years those in Hillsborough against government change have been fighting a so-far losing campaign to prevent the citizens from making this decision. Now, with elections on Tuesday, the people of Hillsborough are finally getting a chance to decide by voting on Question 5: Do you want to change to a mayor-council form or stay with the current township committee?

An anti-change group, apparently unnerved by the possibility of the question passing, has now activated a final all-out well-funded propaganda crusade against question 5.

They have erected “Vote No” signs from one end of town to the other, posted mailers posing as Charter Study Commission (CSC) news, cut-and-pasted bits of videotape from CSC meetings using quotes out of context and then run the results on the local TV station, funded a web site, and had group members and their families, neighbors, and friends send a steady stream of letters to the editor.

They have tried to instill fear in groups in the township from employees (You’ll lose your jobs!), to taxpayers (Taxes will sky rocket!). Playing with statistics is such a timeworn technique that I won’t even bother to go there.

They have even claimed that the new senior citizen center is in jeopardy if the change goes through. [The reasoning behind that one still eludes me. We’re Senior citizens; ergo, we weren’t born yesterday.]

They have returned over-and-over to the “bigger more expensive government cry”. Okay, we would add one part-time mayor, but there is always the possibility that having someone to oversee the township committee that is not a part of it could produce some savings.

If these crusaders were so sure that they were right, they should have been able to logically and rationally explain their position to the voters and then have confidence in the outcome.

This panic-stricken scramble of disinformation leads me to believe there is more here than meets the eye; that there is some really really big reason that the current politicians don’t want this change - and it doesn’t have anything to do with logic.

If question 5 passes, maybe all those who worked so valiantly against it can apply for a job at The Daily Prophet alongside Rita Skeeter

Hillsborough’s own township committee decided that a one-page CSC-designed educational flyer about the proposed change should not be mailed out, under the guise that they were heroes saving taxpayers the cost of mailing it. In actuality, the money was already in the CSC budget and had been there for almost a year.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hillsborough = Mayberry

Hillsborough Township has been trying to get its 39,000 residents to look decades into the future and to say what they would like to see.

Anticipating the construction of the Route 206 Bypass in some not-too-distant decade, the planning and zoning staffs have run seminars and workshops with title such as Sustainable Hillsborough and the Hillsborough Town Center Design Charette.

They asked what greenery the groups liked and what style of architecture. What material should the sidewalks be and should they be wider and where should the bicycles go and parks and lights and types of businesses and just… everything.

The result of this citizen participation is a small town center near the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road invariably referred to as “Main Street”.

Having studied picture after picture of the preferred building designs and parks and sidewalks and landscaping and maps, I can only announce that we have labored mightily and produced – trumpet blast and drum roll, please –Mayberry.

Yes, all this work has designed the Mayberry of Andy Griffith.

Or maybe it more resembles Mayfield, the home of the Cleavers. Or could it be Springfield, where the Anderson’s lived: Jim, Margaret, Betty, Bud, and Kathy. For those whose TV experience is more recent, think of the hometown of Darrin and Samantha Stephens of Bewitched.

We are designing the towns of the 1950s. Could it be that the boomers have overtaken America yet again?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Not That There is Anything Wrong with That...

It’s November and I am still picking tomatoes and planting bulbs. The azaleas and rhododendron are putting out occasional blooms.

Our woodpile is growing as we have had shorter periods during recent winters that are cold enough to justify cozying up to a fire in the fireplace. The old unused wood at the bottom of the pile is rotting.

You can tell which neighbor is hosting the family for Thanksgiving by looking to see who is cutting their grass and cleaning up the yard.

Either my memory is faulty or global warming has come to Central Jersey. I prefer to go with global warming.


“What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring.”
-T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Metal Band-Aid Boxes and Dime Phone Calls

Back in the day when I was a Scout, every troop sooner or later made emergency first-aid kits out of empty Band Aid cans.

Before you youngsters go “Huh?” let me explain about olden-day bandage containers. They were metal. No I don’t know why. No, I don’t remember when they changed from metal to lightweight cardboard. I’m just telling you they used to be metal.

Now, back to these tiny emergency kits. Each kit contained bandages, aspirin, a tweezers, a tiny bottle of iodine, and a few other miscellaneous items that I can't remember, and a dime.

What was the dime for? Well, an emergency telephone call. Yes, you could make a call with a dime, and no one carried cell phones (if they even existed), and there were pay phones on every corner that hadn’t been vandalized into uselessness. Trust me on this.

You know what, this reminiscing was a bad idea. Just trust me: Bandages were sold in little metal containers and you could make a telephone call at a pay phone with a dime.