How Real is the Reel?

Excuse my logic but as someone who craves logic, I often find myself in the discordant position of liking a motion picture but at the same time being bothered by inaccuracies or lack of reality.

Four of my favorite films of all time have been made in the past decade. They are “Swordfish,” released in 2001; “Pearl Harbor” released in 2001; “The Ring” released in 2002 and “The Day After Tomorrow” released in 2004.

In “Swordfish,” John Travolta’s character Gabriel Shear confronts the diabolical Senator Reisman who is trout fishing in an idyllic stream.  He tells the Senator “Thomas Jefferson once shot a man on the lawn of the White House for treason.”  Historians are virtually unanimous in dismissing this as a plain falsehood. Jefferson never shot a man on the White House lawn. Travolta’s line makes for great theater as he waves his pistol and fires upon the Senator but it is pure fantasy.

In “Pearl Harbor” Franklin Delano Roosevelt is addressing the members of the House and Senate immediately after D-Day.  Someone utters the line to Roosevelt that a retalliation against Japanvery quickly would be “impossible.” The Roosevelt character pounds his hands on the table in front of him and pushes himself up into a standing position and even takes a few steps.  As we all know Roosevelt had polio and such an action would be highly unlikely. The Roosevelt character proclaims “Nothing is impossible.”  I found this scene to be incredibly stirring.  Yes, I actually loved the scene. However, then that voice of logic starts playing in my head and I realize, this just didn’t happen.

In “The Ring” the Naomi Watts character Rachel is searching Cabin 12 at Shelter Mountain and happens upon a long dormant well covered up in one of the back rooms of the cabin.  She accidentally falls down into the well where the body of Samara, the little girl whose mother pushed her down there, has been lying undisturbed for 30 years.  The incredible part of this is that Samara’s body is not decomposed. It is completely preserved.  I did a little research on this subject and found that a human body in water decomposes 2 times slower than a body exposed to air.  In a warm climate a body exposed to air can decompose as quickly as in one week. So in water, let’s say being generous a body would decompose in a matter of months.  To depict a body as not decomposing in 30 years is preposterous. Of course, this is a fictional horror story and there is such a thing as artistic license. Maybe I am just a kill joy.

In the last film mentioned above, “The Day After Tomorrow” released in 2004 we have an inaccuracy that I believe can’t be dismissed as artistic license.  When the tsunami is seen thundering toward Manhattanit closes in on the Statue of Liberty inUpper New York Bay.  The tsunami is coming out of the west (ie. from the direction of where New Jersey sits).  The problem with this is that the Statue of Liberty as mentioned is in a bay. It is not near any ocean. How would a tsunami of this size be generated from a bay?  Oh I get it. It was high tide you say.

“Surf’s Up!”

I never tire of watching these four classic movies over and over again. They have become familiar and comfortable to me, like an old pair of shoes.  However as comfy as that old pair of shoes may be, it doesn’t mean they don’t have holes.

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

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What’s In YOUR Stomach?

Excuse my logic but with all the recent fuss about Pink Slime in our beef, I thought it high time to take a look at that as well as some of the other crap we ingest in our daily lives.

Now prior to hearing about Pink Slime I grew up thinking the grossest foods on earth were some like you heard of on TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies.”  Anyone from my generation or older can probably remember Irene Ryan as Granny imploring visitors at the Clampett mansion to dine on such delicacies as “chicken gizzards,” “eye of newt,” “hog jowls,” or “toads brains.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled pink slime safe for human consumption.  As I am fond of reminding readers, after 911, Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Whitman told workers they’d be safe working at Ground Zero.  The government also suggested the levees would be safe before Hurricane Katrina. Famous last words.

From what I’ve gleaned about pink slime from Wikipedia, it is of dubious origins.  Pink Slime is also referred to as “lean finely textured beef (LFTB)” or “boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT).  It is a beef based food additive used as an inexpensive filler.  The key words here as you will see later in this blog are “inexpensive filler.” Pink slime consists of finely ground beef scraps, sinew, fat and connective tissue which is mechanically removed from fat. The recovered material is then processed, heated and treated with either ammonia gas or citric acid to kill off bacteria.  Ammonia gas?  Isn’t ammonia that stuff that if you breathe it in deeply you feel like you’re going to pass out, or maybe just die?

On second thought I'll have fish.

As mentioned though the key words are “inexpensive fillers.”  I watched an episode of Jamie’s Food Revolution back in 2009 and was appalled by the conglomeration of sordid chicken parts including bone chips, liver parts, etc. that go into making a chicken nugget.  These too are inexpensive fillers, designed to maximize the meat suppliers’ profits with little concern to the welfare of the consumer.

It’s also interesting to note that for many years it was conventional wisdom when going to the local butcher to watch him weigh the meat carefully.  The old butcher’s scales had a bowl like platter that the meat was placed in and it was often rumored that they would hide a small stone in it to buoy the weight reading. Thus you thought you were buying a pound of meat but in reality you were buying ¾ of a pound.  Imagine if that practice continued today with Pink Slime.  The butcher would be double whammying you by selling meat with cheap filler added and giving you less than what the scale read!  Fortunately I don’t think things are THAT bad.

Going back some years before, I worked for a wealthy man who owned a meat packing plant in the Bronx.  He told me that there were actually cases where meats sat frozen for as much as ten years before being sold on the open market.  Probably not much nutrition left in those ice caked slabs.

I remember planning to write a blog that asks the question “Why is it that when you eat a quarter pounder with cheese, you don’t gain just a quarter pound but more like three pounds of weight?”  Perhaps that pink slime is the smoking gun.

Given all of the above, I’d like to sign off with a list of some other foods I find totally distasteful.  Bear in mind, some of them may be good for you but maybe just look yucky.

 

  • Pigs Feet.  Don’t take my word for it.  Ask a Muslim some day why they never eat pork.  You will be dumbstruck.
  • Cow’s brains.  The Government has banned consumption of cow’s brains from cows that have been slaughtered if they are older than 30 months.  This tells you there’s cause for concern.  Furthermore, I feel if I eat this, I may start walking around mooing at everyone or worse than that perhaps begin walking on all fours and eating grass.
  • Sausage. I mean the big fat kind that you get in the meat department.  To me it looks like a person’s intestines and I wouldn’t want to eat that.
  • Caviar. Craved by the privileged rich I had it once and thought it was very much overrated as far as taste and appearance.
  • Beef tongue.  You never know where that tongue was poking around prior to being served up.
  • Sauerkraut.  Looks like something that was once green (even though it wasn’t) but has been lingering in the refrigerator way too long.
  • Any kind of liver. Beef, chicken or I don’t care what else. It’s liver and it detoxifies the organism.  You can never be sure what kind of toxins passed through its veins.
  • Raisins.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know they are considered one of the healthiest of all foods, but don’t stare at one too long.  It just doesn’t look appealing.
  • Last but not least, diet sodas.  The benefits of drinking diet versus regular have been debated for years. All I know is that if you blindfold me and give me one glass of diet cola and one glass of regular I can tell the difference every time. Diet soda just tastes diluted.

In conclusion dieticians for years have been telling us “you are what you eat.”  With that in mind you’d best stay away from fruit cake or upside down cake.

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

 

 

 

 

 

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As the Earth Gets Sicker, So Do We

Excuse my logic, but with the way we humans have mistreated our environment, should we really be surprised in the huge increase in autism reported last week by the Center for Disease Control (CDC)?  Studies have proven there is some correlation between environmental factors and the incidence of such conditions as Autism, Tourette’s Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis.

By Federal Law, industries that use and release any of 682 toxic chemicals into the environment must account for them once a year to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The term release means chemicals either escaping from smokestacks into the air, discharged into rivers, lakes or streams or finally those that were land-filled. This blog concerns the latter.

Yes, we may get passing grades for regulating industrial dumping into landfills at the current time, but things weren’t always that way.  However, there seems to be little regulation to what individual citizens dump everyday. 

Consider this.  In our country alone there are some 300 million people. If the average household consists of four people, that means we have 75 million households.  For argument’s sake, let’s say fully half of those households are urban dwellers who use incinerators to dispose of their garbage.  That leaves us 37.5 million households discarding trash that will end in landfills.  I know in my household and some other households of people I am acquainted with we dispose of one 13 gallon plastic bag of garbage every day.  So if we as a country are dumping 37.5 million 13 gallon bags of trash a day into landfills should be surprised by the illnesses that abound?  Just to put this in perspective, I estimate that 37.5 million 13 gallon bags of trash would be about enough to fill Madison Square Garden.  And we are filling our Earth with that amount of trash every day!  Furthermore, that’s just what we throw out at our homes. This isn’t accounting for all the garbage we generate at work, school or other daytime activities.

Yuckkk!

No one regulates the individual and what he throws out everyday.  Styrofoam cups, used oil filters, tin cans, disposable diapers just to name a few are all lethal to the ground we live on. 

To examine the link between environment and autism consider the following.  One area of the country that has emerged as a large spawning ground for autism is an 80 mile stretch of land on each side of the Ohio River betweenMount Vernon,IndianaandHawsville,Kentucky.  In 2009, industries in this belt reported 166.8 million pounds of toxins released into the environment for that year alone.  The literature that I have read suggests a strong correlation between that staggering statistic and the fact that in Evansville, Indiana, the state’s third largest city, 22 percent of public school children were receiving special ed instruction. 

As mentioned previously, industries have not always been held accountable either.  In my own state ofNew Jersey we have concentrations of ground and water pollution in many areas. Mahwah and Ringwood continue to be plagued by ground pollution that was discharged by the old Ford Motors plant in Mahwah. Pompton Lakes and vicinity were victimized by a DuPont munitions plant that generated decades’ worth of industrial pollution in that area. Bridgewater and the Raritan Riverwere systematically being polluted with benzene and other industrial chemicals by the American Cyanamid Corporation.

Elmwood Park’s High School in the 1960s and 1970s had a high incidence of Multiple Sclerosis due to dioxins from the Passaic River right across the street from it.  In Garfield, cancer causing chromium had been leaking for years from a tank at the E.C. Electroplating plant and it spread underground and affected an entire neighborhood of citizens. Teaneck’s MiltonVotee Park had to be closed for a time last year due to highly contaminated soil.

Other sites reported in 2011 by the Bergen Record newspaper included Fair Lawn where it was suspected contaminated groundwater was seeping into homes from a Superfund site that had received little oversight for many years.  In the Rutherford area Meadowlands, a dysfunctional EnCap project that was originally supposed to turn the area into a golf village left the sites more contaminated than before it started its ill advised endeavor.

This is just a smattering ofNew Jersey’s dismal list of more than 16,000 contaminated properties statewide. 

When you stop to consider that there are many other states just as industrialized as our state of New Jersey is, the whole subject of our environment can be mind boggling. 

I for one do have hope however.  McDonald’s recently announced an initiative to replace Styrofoam cups with paper.  Glad, the maker of those plastic trash bags now markets a line of Degradable Plus bags in four sizes.  Furthermore recent regulations now require that a protective layer of non permeable material be placed at the bottom of a landfill to prevent ground and groundwater pollution.  People like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford lead a growing A-list of celebrities buying up tracts of land to preserve them in their natural state. 

We as individuals, regardless of whether we are famous or not, can all do our share.  Recycle whatever can be.  In particular, oil filters, car batteries and all forms of electronics wreak havoc on the environment when discarded there. When you go to the supermarket, request paper bags instead of plastic.  Instead of throwing out old bicycles, toys and other attic items have a garage sale.  Or just rearrange the junk in your garage or attic rather than discarding it.  Buy morning coffee from vendors who use paper cups instead of Styrofoam.  If you must throw out garbage and we all must, place it in paper bags. 

Another thing you can do to help curb ground and water pollution is to use organic fertilizers when fertilizing your lawn.  Using these fertilizers helps avoid extensive runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus which leads to eutrophication of water and ultimately contaminates the food chain.   

Also, if your favorite organization is involved in a neighborhood cleanup join in.  It’s our Earth and we all have a vested interest in keeping it clean.

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S,

 

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Buyer Beware

Excuse my logic but the transparency of some advertising campaigns leaves me in stitches.  Some are listed below.

  • Ads for these erectile dysfunction (ED) medications.  The ad’s pitchman rambles on at the end of each of these television commercials with a hodgepodge of fine print, which he reads at breakneck speed.  “This product may cause drowsiness.  This product may cause lack of appetite”. You know the game.  However the one that absolutely leaves me laughing uproariously every time is when they tell you “if your erection lasts for four hours or more make sure to consult your physician.”  Do you think?
  • Cigarette and alcohol ads that urge the viewer to “smoke or drink responsibly.” Do the people who air this material really care if you heed that advice?  Maybe some do.  However, these companies are just trying to advertise their brand and get more and more people hooked on their product.

 

  • Other ads that do like the ED people I mentioned above. At the end of the ad, the speaker lists off so many dangers to your health, or other disclaimers related to the product and at such infinitesimal speed that only a robot would be able to remember everything the guy says.  It’s all designed to indemnify the company that makes the product from any legal action on your part if said product causes you harm.
  • Last but not least, those BP commercials that urge us to come back down to theGulf of Mexico and enjoy some “Gulf Shrimp.”  “Shrimp has never been better,” claim these ads.  I did a little checking on some scenarios.  White Shrimp, the Gulf’s specialty are bottom feeders. So you may think, well all the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on top of the ocean so no big deal.  This could be true.  Oil has a specific gravity which is less than that of water. So it floats. However, what I have read tells me that if lighter substances within the oil evaporate, the remaining substances in the oil will have a higher specific gravity than water and sink as if they were the Titanic.  Ergo, the bottom of ocean where the Shrimp eat gets affected.  There’s also another process known as emulsification in which mixtures of small droplets of oil and water occur.  These droplets can cause oil to sink to the ocean floor as well. The result is the water’s surface looks clean but the dangerous stuff lurks beneath.  Still want to taste that shrimp?  The government tells us all the shrimp is safe to eat.  Onetime EPA Secretary Christie Whitman told 911 cleanup workers they were safe and we now know what a hoax that was.  Are the shrimp as we’re told safe to eat or is this government misinformation?

 The bottom line on some advertising then is you had better read between the lines.

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

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Give Obama a Passing Grade on Fighting Terrorism

Excuse my logic but there’s some talk going around the comments sections to internet stories about President Obama that suggest he is a softie and I would like to refute that suggestion once and for all.

I saw one comment in particular from a writer who said that Iran’s ratcheting up its nuclear ambitions, Egypt putting 16 Americans on trial and increasingly frequent murders of Americans in Afghanistan are all a test of Obama’s mettle.  This writer went on to say that these countries and others think the President is “soft.”

Now I am not one of these people who think President Obama can do no wrong.  However give credit where credit is due.  He authorized the taking out of the World’s number one terrorist Osama Bin Laden.  More recently he ordered air strikes that may have played a large part in weakening Muammar Gadhafi’s position and leading to his capture and execution.

 

Do these two actions listed above sound like those of someone who is “soft?”  I am sure that for thousands of relatives of 911 victims and Pan Am Lockerbie victims, Mr. Obama’s actions have brought a deep sense of relief.

The people who complain about Obama being weak will be the first ones to protest if their children are sent to war.  As well, the people with no children and nothing to lose are always squawking that we should go to war. 

Separately, I would offer several words of caution for all you hawks who think we should decimate Iran.  I know a young man from Iran who is fairly intelligent and not prone to exaggeration.  He says in a ground war, the U.S.would sustain many casualties, probably many more than in Iraq because the Iranian soldiers are very adept fighters and are known for being willing to fight to the death. 

 

 Copyright 2012; Greg S.

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Kudos for New Jersey

EXCUSE MY LOGIC BUT I AM FROM NEW JERSEY AND PROUD OF IT.

Now that that’s out of the way I’ll examine some of the crazier misgivings people have about our state and then follow that with the reasons I’m so proud to call the Garden State my home.  Yes, this is my fluff post of the year but every post can’t be investigative or incendiary.

For starters there is this misconception.  Take for example, a woman we know who came here from Chicago.  She confided in us some years ago that upon moving to New Jersey she didn’t step foot out of her house (except maybe to do grocery shopping) for a full year. She said that she was THAT frightened of interacting with Jersey people whom she heard were very tough.  Well talk about people in glass houses, isn’t Chicago infamous for being a tough city?  Need I go any further than to say Al Capone aka “Scarface” called it his home?  In later years, Mayor Richard Daley, the undisputed Democratic boss of the city who served as mayor for 21 years until his death rued the city with an iron fist.  He has been called by Wikipedia, “The last of the big city bosses.”

Then you have people of the West Coast.  As I former limo driver in this state I used to pick up my fair share of Californians and other people west.  Often I was told by these clients that West Coast people hated to fly into Newark Airport because they were afraid there were riots going on there.  I would remind these people that the riots occurred in the 1960s, many years ago and furthermore that the airport isn’t even in downtown Newark but actually neighboring Elizabeth, NJ.  Again we have the glass house syndrome.  Here we have Californians mocking our homeland when in fact the Los Angeles area was the home of raging riots in 1992 after the officers in the Rodney King beating case were acquitted.  Furthermore, the Watts area had terrible riots in 1965.

Another one of the snubs to New Jersey that peeves me off the most are the famous signs that greet visitors entering the state of Pennsylvania.(see below).

 

 

 

If America starts in Pennsylvania, who are we from New Jersey, aliens from another planet?  Or maybe we’re citizens of a third world state?

There have been other slights to New Jersey.  People call the area bordering the New Jersey Turnpike “Cancer Alley.”  There was that recent sensation on the internet, “A Viral Map of New Jersey” which stereotypically delineated Poor Minorities in Bayonne, Hipsters in Hoboken and Russians, Polacks and Toxic Fumes just north of Perth Amboy  to name a few. 

Furthermore travelling back several decades was the rumor that former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was actually buried under the old Giants Stadium.  It was rumored that he was whacked by orders of Anthony Provenzano of Teamsters 560. Years ago, New Jersey’s Teamster’s 560, the local branch was labeled by author Steven Brill as the most dangerous and ruthless labor local in the entire country.

People also love to diss our state for its high auto insurance rates and property tax rates.

So after all this, why do I love New Jersey?

Well start with a biggie.  We almost never have tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or other horrible wraths of Mother Nature.  Our four seasons run a complete course. It’s not like we have a short winter but a long spring.  In Jersey we get a full three months of each season, mostly.  This winter has been an exception.

Sticking with environmental and nature oriented plus sides for the state, our beaches are wide and pure white.  I have been to Malibu Beach in California and I swear, our sand is whiter, and you get more beach for your buck. 

As mentioned above, Cancer Alley, the land abutting each side of the New Jersey Turnpike can be grotesque.  However, if you head west, say on I-78 or I-80, you will be treated to rolling hills, and picturesque farms. At night, take a ride to Clinton, NJ and look straight up at the heavens. You will see as many stars in the sky as anyplace on earth. It is that clear.

Californians love to brag about places like San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury as a mecca for incubating music and artistic talent.  Well consider this partial list of New Jersey born and raised artists: Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Susan Sarandon, Shaq, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Danny Devito, Joe Pesci, John Forsythe, Meryl Streep, Paul Simon, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Kelly Ripa and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.  I’d say artistically speaking, New Jersey is fertile ground.

Another reason I like New Jersey is its size.  You can travel from any one point in the state to any other point in the state in three hours or less.

I like that we are the Diner Capital of the world.  Our diners run the gamut in size from giants like the Arlington Diner in North Arlington or the Tick Tock Diner along Route 3 in Clifton, to the microscopic but incredibly popular White Manna Diner in Hackensack which boasts about 10 seats. I also like that many people will tell you we have some of the best pizza in the world.  Also on the subject of food, I love that you can drive down the garden State Parkway to exit 131 and a few hundred yards off the exit ramp is an entire community of India people with a host of Indian restaurants.  Similarly if you like various ethnic foods, many are offered in various communities such as Cuban food in Union City, Middle Eastern food in Paterson, etc.

While we don’t have our own baseball team, we have teams in the other three major professional sports including the New Jersey Devils who have won several Stanley Cups in the past 15 years and The “New York” Giants who play in New Jersey and have won two Super Bowls in the past 5 years.

We have the first ever built tunnel under a river (The Holland).  We have the most shopping malls in one area with seven major ones located within a 25 square mile radius.

Menlo Park,NJ was the home to that prolific inventor Thomas Edison who invented the phonograph, motion picture projector and light bulb while living there.

The largest seaport in the country is located in Elizabeth NJ and nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports from overseas runs through that port.

I could go on more but you get the point.  In conclusion, I am proud to be an American and equally proud to be a Jerseyite. Or Jerseyan. Or well you know.

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

 

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Problem Solving 101

Excuse my logic but if you are confounded by a seemingly insurmountable problem there is hope. 

One of my best friends at college who is today a very successful businessman (his sophisticated marketing ideas were even once mentioned in Time Magazine) had a method of solving problems that is downright ingenious.

He said that if he had trouble figuring out what to do about something, he closed his eyes and imagined that he was seated at the head of a long conference table.  Seated at each side of this table were experts in whatever field of endeavor his quandary fell under.  He would then ask the members of his imaginary think tank to suggest a course of action.

So let’s say for example that President Obama wanted to apply this methodology to solving our country’s economic woes.  He could sit himself down in the oval office and order all staff to leave.  Then he could close his eyes and picture seated around him economic luminaries past and present.  He would be surrounded by the likes of Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, Paul Krugman, Paul Volcker, John D. Rockefeller, Warren Buffett, J. Paul Getty, J.P. Morgan and Mickey Mouse.

Did I just add Mickey Mouse to that illustrious list? Just making sure you are paying attention.

Hmmm. What would Honest Abe had done?

 

This simple technique of problem solving has infinite possibilities.  Take a single guy having trouble scoring a hot girlfriend.  He could sit down, close his eyes and imagine seated around him a bevy of famous beautiful women.  He could ask each of them their favorite turn-on. Then he could apply the intelligence he gathered toward the attempt at securing a significant other.  Notice I didn’t name any of these beauties by name as I would hate to ruin my marriage. 

A comedian searching for good material could picture himself surrounded by Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, David Letterman, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin and so on.

So by now you get the picture.  This approach to solving dilemmas can be utilized to obtain the answers to almost any riddle known to mankind. 

I think the hipsters in today’s society have a nickname for a similar process. When someone is summoning the spirits of others, past or present, it is referred to as  “channeling.”  I remember hearing when Lady Gaga serenaded Bill Clinton last October at the “Decade of Difference,” concert celebrating Clinton’s Foundation, some observers commented that she was channeling Marilyn Monroe.

So happy channeling.  However, remember, don’t get too comfortable in the fantasy land that you create for yourself. 

You may oversleep dinner. 

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Bumper Stickers Say About Us

Excuse my logic but I love looking at bumper stickers on cars and then drawing a picture in my mind as to what kind of person the driver of that car is.

Now there are as many bumper stickers out there as there are people unhappy with the current state of affairs.  Below are just some of my favorites, some in particular for their acerbic nature.  Next to each bumper sticker slogan is my theory as to who is driving that car.

  • “There is no gravity, the Earth just sucks”.  A moribund, miserable person who you’d just love to flash the bird at.
  • “I’ll keep my guns, money and freedom.  You can keep The Change.”  John McCain, Sarah Palin lover.
  • “My other car is a Mercedes.”  Delusional person who probably couldn’t even spell Mercedes if asked to.
  • “The Meek Shall Inherit Shit.”  Type-A personality ball buster who you’d best just walk away from.
  • “Three Wise Men.  Are You Serious?”  A bona fide man hater who probably would have voted for Michele Bachmann.
  • “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.”  WOW.  Bet he’s got like one friend.
  • “I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox or whoever’s playing the Yankees.”  I could really hit it off with this guy myself as I am a Yankee hater.
  • “Somewhere inTexas, a village is missing an idiot.”  A bleeding heart liberal who would even have voted Pee Wee Herman for president if it meant defeating George Bush.  
  • “God is coming and boy is SHE pissed.”  Maybe God is a woman but people like this who are always predicting the imminent end of the world are just real downers.
  • “Don’t Laugh. It’s paid for.”  Was anyone laughing?  This person is probably paranoid.
  • “My Eighth Grader can beat up your honor’s student.”  This guy probably loves to bet on dog fights too.
  • “Nuclear Power Plants are built better than Jane Fonda.”  This was a popular 1970s sticker.  The person who flaunts this message probably thinks the incidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi were just make- believe.
  • “University of Hard Knocks.”  This sticker resembles one of those formal looking rear window deals that Ivy Leaguers like to flaunt on their car.   Do I detect someone with a persecution complex?
  • “Nobody on board.”  A yellow diamond sticker rear window job akin to those annoying “Baby On Board” affairs.  The person who displays these stickers is probably a nerd or geek and likely a very humble and ingratiating type of individual.
  • “Life sucks, then you die.”  Not someone you want to invite over for a New Year’s party, or ANY party for that matter.
  • “America. Love it or Leave It.”  This guy probably has one of those “Go Away” doormats at the entrance to his home.
  • Last, and my favorite, this slogan wasn’t on a bumper sticker but was rather written on vanity license plates for a shiny expensive looking Jaguar. The driver was a young woman. The license plate simply said “WAS HIS.”  Would have hated to be her husband.

Now lest you think from the above sampling some of my favorite bumper stickers that I am one of those beer-chugging, shotgun toting rednecks who drives a pickup truck, please scroll down to see my all time favorite bumper sticker. PEACE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

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The Quagmire We Call Toll Rates

Excuse my logic, but sometimes I really do get it right.  Those of you who follow this blog may recall my November 1, 2011 post that called into question the necessity of continuous toll increases at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey run Hudson River crossings.  Only a couple weeks after that posting media reports began surfacing about questionably high salary add-ons for Port Authority Executives and other administrative staff. I am not saying that my blog was the catalyst for this surge in demand for Port Authority accountability. I am only saying I am good at sniffing out things that don’t always make sense.

However let’s cut to the chase.  This post is about another bizarre and annoying aspect of many toll roads in the northeast and I suspect other parts of theUnited Statesas well.

About ten years ago in the middle of the summer on a Sunday evening, I was travelling home from theNew Jersey Shore.  I was using the New Jersey Turnpike northbound.  Traffic had been refreshingly light for a Sunday afternoon and I was in good spirits about that fact.  However as I approached the toll plaza for exit 18 my good spirits flew right out the window faster than the spreading of a rumor about Bon Jovi’s death.  Traffic had come to a complete standstill about three miles before the toll.  I took note of the time on my car clock.  Then I waited. Waited. Waaaaited.  By the time I reached the toll booth and paid my toll, one and a half  hours had elapsed. I was absolutely pissed off. 

A couple of days later as I was still lamenting the inefficiency of the NJ Turnpike Authority at handling large volumes of traffic at their tolls, I hatched an idea and jotted off a letter to the governor of New Jersey.  What I suggested was a revamping of the toll rates.  Instead of having tolls in amounts such as $2.35, $1.65, or $3.85, I proposed rounding all tolls to easy to make change for figures – for example, $1.00, $1.50, $2.00, $2.50.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist and thank God because I am not one, to figure out that toll collectors can make change faster for toll rates with a zero at the end of them than with a 5. There is less calculation required on their part and the handling of less actual coinage. 

Did I just mention calculation?  Just today, I telephoned the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and asked an executive there if toll collectors are equipped inside their booth with a device that calculates the change due each customer.  The answer was no.  Toll collectors must manually calculate the change due for each customer.  Now at the beginning of a shift this may or may not be relatively easy for experienced toll takers.  However, as the hapless toll collector begins counting change for 500, 1,000 and maybe 2,000 cars during his shift this can become very mind numbing.  Logically, he may begin to slow down the pace at which he handles transactions.  That translates to longer and longer waits at the toll booth. 

A pricing scale as outdated as this photo

 

I know for a fact that the New York State Thruway also operates this antiquated schedule of toll rates.  So does the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Just to confirm that the Pa. Turnpike does this too, I went to the toll calculator on their website, entered a point of entry (Exit 359 -Delaware River Bridge) and then several different points of exit (Exit 339 for Fort Washington and Exit 326 forValley Forge).  The rates came back $3.20 and $4.75. This confirms my theory that they have umpteen different prices for their huge inventory of exits. 

As the population on this planet continues to explode along with the amount of cars on the roads, the people in charge of the super highways need to streamline their operations into efficiently-run enterprises. It is interesting to note that the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey just changed their toll rates and in most cases the tolls end in a “0” cents rate.  (In a few cases tolls are $.75).

I am not saying there shouldn’t be tolls.  However, I think it is nervy to make people wait on tiresome long lines and then ask them to spend money at the end of the wait.  This is especially aggravating for people who have just had a hard day at the office, or the construction site.

Let’s revamp toll prices to speed up what is currently a system that can best be described as archaic.  Keep America rolling, not crawling.

  

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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Fighting Back Against Sucide

This post doesn’t start out with the catchphrase “excuse my logic,” for it is not meant to poke fun at anyone, minimize anyone or in any way make light of the subject at hand.  Suicide is not a subject to be taken lightly and I hope this post offers some insight to anyone who is either considering this action themselves or know of someone who is.

Furthermore lest it be said that I don’t have any experience that would qualify me to address this issue I would like to point out that I have lost two dear relatives to suicide.

The first loss came when I was in my early twenties. My very favorite uncle, Rudy, was living with his two brothers (one of whom was my grandfather) and another uncle who was paranoid schizophrenic and quite simply off the wall more often than not. The schizophrenic uncle was much younger than Rudy and had a penchant for tormenting Rudy to the point where Rudy felt like a prisoner trapped in a hopeless existence.  While it was never documented that Rudy killed himself (no autopsy was done) my parents tell me that a bottle of sleeping pills half full was found next to his body on the night table.  There is another indication that he killed himself in that the night before he died he called up my Dad and asked him out of the blue to make a McDonald’s run (Rudy loved McDonalds but usually never wanted to put anyone out to drive him there).   We believe this was Rudy’s metaphorical “Last Supper.”

The other relative I lost to suicide was a more clear-cut case.  My cousin, in his late teens,  blew his head off with a shotgun.  Here there had been issues of a recent breakup with a girl, divorced parents and as my one aunt observed just a life too filled with rejection.

This brings me to the insight I wish to offer the reader.  I was listening to a religious recording and the speaker cited an informal study that had been conducted on the subject of suicide.  This clergy man didn’t harp on that old adage taught to us that if you kill yourself you’ll go straight to hell.  What he did observe was an offshoot of that adage but one that is more believable and contemporary than the threat of going to hell and burning up in the proverbial fire.

According to the study, a number of people who had attempted suicide and “crossed over” to the other side briefly, before being brought back to life vis-à-vis EMS workers or others, reported eye-opening experiences.  There was a common thread to these experiences.  These people who had near death experiences all reported that when they temporarily entered their afterlife, whatever problem they were trying to escape by killing themselves was still waiting for them on the other side only ten, twenty or even a hundred times worse!

I think this is a very powerful idea and one with practical applications.  Suicide you see is often fear driven.  The person is afraid of losing their job, their family, their home, their position in the community etc.  Their fear overrides their sense of logic and they decide that the best way out is to take their life. They reason that if they kill themselves they will no longer have to suffer the humiliation, rejection or grief that they are feeling while alive.  So you see, if you know someone who is contemplating suicide and you tell them that the problem they are facing here is going to be ten times worse after death my thinking is that you will fight fear with fear.  Then it becomes a question of which fear is greater.  If you want to stop a person who fears this life from ending their life, you must instill an even greater fear into that person of what lies ahead.  If the person contemplating suicide be it you or a loved one, has any sense of reason left at all they may start to rethink their intentions.

I speak from experience on this front too.  About ten years ago, I passed on the information about the crossing over study to a coworker of mine who was intent on killing himself.  He was addicted to drugs, felt misunderstood and completely alone in the world.   Several weeks after I told him of the study he approached me and thanked me.  He gave me his word that he would never think of killing himself again and I believe from that point forward he began turning his life around.

We're all in this life together.

Suicide claims victims of all ages, religions, and socioeconomic status.  How often have we heard someone exclaim about a victim of suicide “Oh he had everything to live for.”?  That’s what makes suicide so insidious.   Some people will exhibit all the textbook signs of depression and suicidal tendencies before actually killing themselves.  Other people who kill themselves leave us gaping open mouthed wondering how in the world it got to that point.

The above information is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental health counseling.  Rather it can be used as an adjunct in conjunction with the services of a mental health expert.   These are tough times.  Many people are disillusioned and/or scared.  If this post even succeeds in stopping one suicide, then it will have served its purpose.  They say that a person who is really hell bent on killing themselves can’t be stopped.  However, the least we can do is make the effort.

 

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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