0.9 Logic

headscratcherNow that 0.9 is a solid two-and-a-half years old and approaching three, his communications skills have evolved far beyond “cat” (his first word), “geh” (his go-to for several months) and “no” (although the latter is still his favorite). His ability to express himself has given me some insight into his logic, and it greatly amuses me. Here are some examples.

One of the first times that I had to both drop him off at daycare and pick him up, I explained to him that Mommy was on the choo-choo, since he’s obsessed with trains. The next time, Mommy actually drove, but when 0.9 realized that Mrs. 9’s car was missing from the driveway, it all clicked in his head: Mommy car choo-choo. Naturally, if Mommy’s car isn’t parked in the driveway, it must be on the train!

Also, if it’s dark outside, that is absolutely the only thing going on outside. It is not possible to be dark outside and raining outside at the same time.

On a similar note, only one person is allowed to be tired at a time. This conversation happens often.

  • 9: I’m tired.
  • 0.9: NO, I TIRED.
  • 9: I’m tired, too.
  • 0.9: NO!
  • 9: Both of us can be tired at the same time.
  • 0.9: NO! I TIRED!

Finally, illustrating my need to purchase this book, crackers, Goldfish crackers, cookies and cereal bars are perfectly acceptable for dinner, whereas fare such as chicken, macaroni and cheese and pizza does not please the fickle palate of 0.9

I’m sure there will be a post titled 0.9 Logic II soon.

Farewell, AllFacebook

AllFacebookLogoThere were some big changes in the work situation of your hero, 9, this week, and I hope they were changes for the better.

The blog I have been editing and writing as a full-time job since September 2011, AllFacebook, is now a part of SocialTimes, which is now part of the Adweek Blog Network. Get all that? If you really want the boring details, here’s the press release.

So, I now work for Adweek, albeit sort of indirectly. This is cool. I’m hoping that the Adweek name opens some doors that were previously tough to crack. I loved my experience with AllFacebook, but one of my biggest frustrations was the fact that we always seemed to be in the “second group” of media outlets when it came to receiving important news about Facebook. Having to write a story from scratch when a fully detailed version, complete with interviews, was already posted elsewhere was a part of my job that was tough to swallow.

This is only the second day since the transition, so it’s tough to reach any conclusions, but so far, things are promising. We shall see.

SocialTimesLogo

Nine in the suburbs: How to drive in Basking Ridge

OldWomanDriving

Average Basking Ridge driver, give or take a denture

We moved from Hoboken, N.J., to Basking Ridge, N.J., at the end of August 2012, and the adjustments have been plentiful, particularly for yours truly, a lifelong city dweller experiencing the suburbs for the first time.

One of the biggest differences between the New York metropolitan area (obviously including Hoboken, but I grew up in Manhattan) and Basking Ridge is the way people drive. To put it simply, people in the immediate area around the city drive like assholes, while people out here drive like pussies.

After one year and a few months out here, I have put together a set of rules for how to drive if you want to fit in with the norm here in Basking Ridge:

  • The speed limit is merely a suggestion for the pace you should maintain in the case of unusual events, such as having to take an enormous shit, or transporting a woman in labor. In normal circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to drive 15 miles per hour under the speed limit, or maybe 10 MPH, if you’re feeling exceptionally spry, but don’t get carried away. Remember, if the sign says “Speed Limit: 40,” 25 MPH will suffice.
  • The newer your car is, and the larger the price tag is, the slower you should drive. Despite the fact that safety is built into the exorbitant costs of your vehicle, you can’t be too careful. I recommend a top speed of 25 MPH, and whatever you do, don’t let that high rate of horsepower tempt you. Horsepower is the bait used by Satan.
  • When making a turn, it is best to come to a complete stop, and not simply glide into the turn. You wouldn’t want your $75,000 Audi to end up on its side like a rickshaw, would you? The people behind you will understand.
  • When stopped at a stop sign, the safest policy is to remain there until no car is visible in either direction, no matter how long that takes. The mail truck may be a half-mile down the road, but as long as you can see it, it represents a clear and present danger, and it must be avoided at all costs.
  • By no means should you ever flick your brights off, no matter how many cars are oncoming or directly in front of you. Being able to see is half the battle! Take solace in the fact that if a blinded driver smashes into you head-on, the insurance company will probably declare that driver at fault, and not you.

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” — George Carlin, R.I.P.

Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

Nine in the suburbs: Why is it so damn dark out here?

It has been just over four months since we moved from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, and we’ve settled in nicely, for the most part. We really like it out here, and everyone is adjusting well, from yours truly, to Mrs. 9, to 0.9, and even the cats.

9House

The 9 Compound

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I mentioned some of these things in a previous post, but that was months ago, and most people online don’t have any attention span, anyway, so here goes:

  • Mrs. 9’s commute has been shortened to about 15-20 minutes, with little to no traffic, from 50 minutes on paper and much longer in real life when we were still in Hoboken.
  • 0.9 loves his daycare and the teachers there.
  • Driving around here in general is a far more pleasant experience. Not only is traffic rarely an issue, but there just seems to be a lot less douchebaggery on the roads.
  • Life in general is a lot less stressful. Things like shopping, or going out for dinner, are much more manageable out here. People just seem to be a lot more relaxed, and it shows.
  • The two fat cats have actually lost weight since we moved here, likely due to having a lot more room to run, as well as the steps. Even 8-Ball, who used to move twice a day, has actually shown signs of being spry. The only bad thing about 8-Ball and Trouble getting into better shape is that one of them might catch Skittles one day, and eat him, because he continues to bait the two of them mercilessly, figuring that he can outrun them.
  • This will not be a factor for another five years or so, but the elementary school 0.9 will eventually attend is picturesque. It looks like something Norman Rockwell would paint. It’s a beautiful building, with so much space around it. I am actually jealous of him, as I feel like when you grow up in Manhattan, classrooms feel more like cells due to the lack of space. The thought of having a vast expense of grass for him to play on, instead of a slab of concrete, is comforting.
  • I have taken advantage of the fact that it is about three-quarters of a mile from our house to the train station and taken New Jersey Transit into Penn Station or Hoboken a few times. It’s pretty easy, and for someone who has been known to enjoy the occasional beer or 12, it’s a great option to have.
  • Being walking distance from the downtown area of Basking Ridge has been a huge plus, as well, and we have taken advantage of it a few times, weather permitting. It’s good to get out, walk, and exercise, rather than having to drive everywhere.
  • I work in the basement, right next to a window that faces our back yard, and I have been fortunate enough to see deer on a number of occasions, and even a red fox, which was larger than I thought, but quite a beautiful animal. It’s nice to see species other than stray cats, PATH rats, squirrels, and pigeons.
  • As I suspected, Cablevision’s Optimum is not even in the same ballpark as Verizon FiOS, especially when you factor in the Internet speed of the latter. Good riddance, Cablevision.
  • I raked leaves for the second time in my life, and shoveled snow for the first. Neither was too tough to pick up. I didn’t rake the entire yard, so sue me. We would eventually like to get a lawn mower, but with all of the expenses related to moving, new furniture, and 0.9, the lawn mower is on the back burner, for now, as is the snow blower, the generator, and the grill, which will likely come first.

There are a few things I’m definitely having trouble adjusting to, however:

  • I simply cannot get over just how fucking dark it is around here at night. I didn’t expect Basking Ridge to be lit up like the Vegas strip, but it is absolutely pitch black. There are very, very few street lights around here, and other sources of light are scant. As soon as the sun goes down, this is what the view from our window looks like:
Our view ...

Our view …

  • Speaking of the dark, when I take the train back to Basking Ridge and arrive after sundown, I have to walk by a cemetery while it’s pitch black outside. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo have the right idea being rattled. It’s definitely creepy.
  • I said earlier that drivers around here seem to be a lot more courteous and less ruthless than those closer to the city, but the one thing I’ve noticed, kind of related to my point above about the darkness, is that a lot of folks out here have a tendency to not bother to switch from brights to dims when other cars are approaching, and some of the newer cars out there, especially some Audi models, have headlights that are completely blinding. One of the first things I was taught when driving at night was to switch off my brights if another car was coming. But for whatever reason, many people out here simply can’t be bothered.
  • Luckily, we haven’t had to deal with anything major yet in terms of household repairs, but I find myself missing the phrase “call the super” more and more. I did have one unfortunate incident that required an emergency plumbing call due to cat litter clogging up the drain to our slop sink. I know enough not to intentionally pour something that is designed to clump when wet down a drain: It was a stupid and costly accident, as I didn’t realize the trash bag I was dumping the litter box into had slipped, and the litter was going into the sink, and not the bag. You learn from your mistakes. But after living in apartments for the first 44-and-a-half years of my life, it’s still scary that there is no safety net. People can make fun of me all they want for some of the things I don’t know how to do, but I have never had to do them. I am more than willing to learn. We’ll see how it goes. I just hope future mistakes or repairs for other reasons aren’t too costly.
  • I never thought I would find a power company that would make PSE&G look like a superstar, but JCP&L can kiss my ass. There is apparently a history of JCP&L neglecting this area, and their response, or lack thereof, to Hurricane Sandy was an utter and complete joke.

Mrs. 9 and I were talking about this the other day: Despite the fact that we’ve been here a little over four months, we both still have the feeling that we’re on vacation, and that we’ll have to pack everything up one day and go back to our apartment in Hoboken. This place is very much like home, but there are times when it feels like the beach house on Long Beach Island that I was part of for years: You feel at home, but it’s still not your home. Obviously, it is, and we will not be returning to our apartment in Hoboken, or any apartment, for that matter. But there are times when this move still doesn’t seem real or permanent.

Overall, I have no regrets: This was a wise and necessary move. Are there things I miss about Hoboken? Sure, but not enough to make me wish we had never moved here. And there are some treats coming up this summer, as we will hopefully join the local pool, and I will try to get a spot in an over-40 (fuck you in advance for what you’re thinking) softball league.

Yeah, Basking Ridge doesn’t suck. But why is it so fucking dark?

Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone

It has been brought to my attention that I am not allowed to complain about my current situation regarding the lack of power and response from Jersey Central Power & Light because there are people who are worse off than I am. Well, duh.

I know I am fortunate that our house and cars didn’t suffer any damage, and that our family is unhurt. But that doesn’t make what we’re going through right now any easier.

I have friends who lost everything. I have friends who will be able to salvage their homes, for the most part, but at great financial expense. I have one friend who is lucky to be alive after deciding to ride out the storm at her family’s now-totaled beach house. And after seeing pictures and video of the devastation, my heart hurts for people I have never met and will never meet. No one should ever have to experience what the victims of Hurricane Sandy are currently going through, particularly the hardest-hit victims.

But this does not mean I am not allowed to complain.

Have you ever complained about your boss or your work situation, whether on Facebook or while out with friends? Well, guess what: There are people who are much worse off than you are. There are people who work in sweatshops for pennies an hour and receive beatings from their bosses. So I guess you are not allowed to complain about work anymore. That annoying customer doesn’t compare to a boss with a whip.

Have you ever complained about your relationship, or your significant other? Well, guess what: Right now, there are people being physically and mentally abused by the people who supposedly love them. You were cheated on? Hell, there’s probably a chick somewhere who just found out that her boyfriend had a threesome with her best friend and her sister. So by that logic, you are not allowed to complain about your relationship anymore.

The weather? It’s worse somewhere. You hate Monday? Monday is just another day when you’re in prison.

Think of the things you complain about on Facebook, or in conversations with friends. I’m willing to bet that no matter what topic you come up with, there are people worse off than you.

So unless you can tell me that you have never complained about anything trivial in your life, don’t tell me not to complain about something that is far from trivial. I have many friends on Facebook who vent or post repeatedly about topics I have no interest in. Rather than expecting them to tailor their conversation to my tastes, I simply move on. There will be other conversations.

Setting the record straight about why I am so angry with JCP&L over our power situation

I think a lot of people (particularly on Facebook) are misinterpreting why I am livid with Jersey Central Power & Light due to its handling of our lack of power, which started around 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, during the roughest part of Hurricane Sandy, and has not been resolved as I type this.

As of 4:30 p.m. today (Nov. 7), more than 168,000 JCP&L customers in New Jersey are still without power, and I am one of them. Do I think I deserve preference over any of the others on the list? I absolutely do not. Do I have any malice toward those whose power has been restored? Again, I absolutely do not.

My problem is with the awful communications between JCP&L and my new hometown of Basking Ridge, or Bernards Township. We have received little or no information throughout this process, and the precious nuggets of news have been inaccurate, conflicting, and useless.

Two close friends (ironically both former roommates) live in areas serviced by JCP&L. One, in Brielle, was told that power would be out for 15 days, and it was restored in seven days. The other, in Whippany, was told that power would be out for 18 days, and it was also restored in seven days.

We received no such information, other than a very vague statement that most homes would be restored by today (Wednesday, Nov. 7), nine days after power was lost. The implication was that power would be restored gradually throughout that period. The truth was that very few homes in the area had power until Sunday, or six days after it was lost, and as of 3 p.m. today, 4,494 out of 12,567 homes were still down. Does the number of restored homes qualify as “most?” I suppose so, but JCP&L’s communications to our town were still extremely misleading.

I don’t know if the issue was that the company was afraid to deliver bad news, but had it come out with a statement saying something along the lines of, “Most residents of Bernards Township will not be restored for several days,” I would have come up with a much more efficient plan for getting through this than the one we chose. No one wants to be told that they will be without power for several days, but after digesting the news, no one could possibly blame JCP&L or any other company for the damage caused by this storm. I can, however, blame them for not being honest with us and allowing us to plan accordingly the way our friends did.

We are currently staying with my mother-in-law in Cherry Hill, an hour-and-a-half from Basking Ridge. We chose to do so because we were led to believe that this situation would linger for a handful of days, not nine and counting.

We have cats, and they absolutely do not travel well, and are completely freaked out by change. So I have driven back-and-forth from Cherry Hill to Basking Ridge every single day since we set up camp down here last Wednesday to check on them, feed them, reassure them, and spend some time with them. I don’t even want to think about how much I have spent on gas. On the way back from Basking Ridge to Cherry Hill this morning, I topped the 1,000-mile mark of distance driven specifically because of Hurricane Sandy.

We have a six-month-old baby who is absolutely driving us nuts and not letting either of us get any work done. It’s not his fault. He is stir-crazy and bored out of his mind. But our daycare center, also a JCP&L customer, is out of power, as well, meaning that we can’t even make alternate daycare arrangements so that we can have a few hours of peace and quiet to get some work done.

This situation is far from ideal. If I had any inkling that it was going to last this long, I would have tried to figure out something better, where the cats weren’t left alone in a house with a temperature that has dropped as low as 50, and where we had better resources in terms of sleeping (we bought an air mattress because the sofa bed was slaughtering both of our backs), possible child care, and other things.

In other words, if JCP&L was honest and upfront from the start, we would be in a completely different situation.

No one wants to hear bad news, and no one wants to be told that something as vital as power will be kept from them for several days. But that was the reality dealt to us by Hurricane Sandy. JCP&L should have been honest and straightforward about how long this process was going to take, rather than spending two days saying it was “assessing the situation,” and then issuing three completely conflicting estimates of when work would start in our town and how much of it would get done.

I’m sure my next-door neighbor, an older woman who lives alone, would have come up with a much better plan, as well, since her plan consisted of sitting in her car with the engine running to stay warm, and eating crackers because her stove is electric and she can’t cook. Do you think she would have done something different if she knew we would be dark for nine days and counting?

JCP&L told my friend in Brielle it would be 15 days. JCP&L told my friend in Whippany it would be 18 days. Why didn’t the company give our town the same courtesy?

And on another note, it doesn’t help my mood that my former hometown of Hoboken, which was absolutely decimated by the storm, with most of the city under two to three feet of water, is fully restored. Naturally, I am happy that Hoboken is back up, as I still have many friends there, but when it comes to restoring service, my old provider, PSE&G, is kicking JCP&L’s ass, and sadly, there is no way to switch back.

After reading that, if you don’t think I have a right to be angry, then we will have to agree to disagree. But I would think friends would take the side of their friends, and not of an ineffective power company.

Speaking of friends, a lot of ours have made generous offers, and I wanted to explain why we haven’t taken any of them up on those offers.

Parents out there can back me up on this: When you travel with a six-month-old baby (or any baby, for that matter), the amount of stuff you need to bring with you is ungodly. Packing and unpacking it is a mission, as is setting it up. We don’t want to uproot the baby at this point, and force him to get used to another place, when we have no idea whether it will be for one night, one week, or one month.

Plus, for our friends who don’t have kids, they take over your entire house. I know everyone’s offers were sincere, but some of you don’t know what you were potentially getting yourself into. We are used to being awakened at 4 a.m. by piercing screams. We don’t want to put anyone through that.

And for those who have offered to help with the cats, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to move them at this point. They are already completely freaked out, not to mention cold and lonely, other than the one hour or so every day I have spent with them. Bringing them to a new place would be overload. And they might do a lot of damage to someone’s place, not out of malice, but due to stress. Plus, if anyone whom they don’t already know comes to check up on them, 8-Ball will be happy to get fed, but the other two will hide and not benefit from their company, and likely think they were abandoned.

So I do thank everyone who made offers, and there were many of you, and, as I said, I have no doubt every single one was sincere.

In any event, I hope anyone who reads this now understands that I wasn’t simply whining about not having power, as there are still hundreds of thousands in the same boat. I believe I have a right to be angry about JCP&L’s communications with my town, or lack thereof, and I stand by everything I have said about the company on Facebook. And if you still side with them over me, well, I just don’t know what to say anymore, but I take nothing back.