Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I Hate Sports

I’m getting depressed. Week 9 of the NFL season is 4 days from now and it marks the middle of NFL season. The beginning of the end. I love football season more than almost every other sport. Tonight, I found myself watching Family Ties at 8pm (quite enjoyable) instead of watching a Devils game, or 2 college football games (one with Rutgers), or an NBA game with Shaq (who I love). Why is that? It turns out I hate those sports! After a few minutes of brainstorming, I decided that these are the sports I actually like: NFL Football, NHL playoffs (live), the big 4 golf tournaments and team golf tournaments (with Tiger only), March Madness, the big 3 horse races and anything volleyball. Everything else sucks right now. In fact, I think I hate every other sport…and here’s why:

Baseball:
I hate that I’m bored after the first pitch because the game goes so slowly. I hate that the biggest jerks in HS and college were on the baseball team and we all know they’re still jerks today but for some reason everyone idolizes them. I hate almost all baseball TV announcers and I don’t care if a player’s dad is in the stands or whatever stupid trivia Afleck makes us answer. I’d rather listen to nothing. Baseball is the ultimate picture in picture game that you can just watch in a little box on the corner of your TV while you surf the web. I hate when they say that a very close play “was a bang bang play.” If it was a bang bang play, then it would be obvious which bang happened first. It should be called a “bang” play, as in there was only one sound because both actions happened at the same time. I hate when fans leave when down 2 runs in the 8th or 9th inning. That’s when I would show up. The most exciting time to be at a baseball game is when down at the end of the game. If you’re down 5, or up a few and don’t want to watch your closer blow it, I understand, but down 2 at the end is the best. I hate when your team needs base runners and a player jumps out of the way on an inside pitch. TAKE THE BASE! If I were a journalist, I would call that player out in my first post game question. I hate that hitting goes way down in the post season and random average players become starts b/c they timed their steroid cycle perfectly (Molina brothers have it down to a science). I hate that everyone hates the best player in the game and loves the worst short stop in the game. I hate that everyone loves talking about how this team or that team overspent on a player when there is no salary cap so it doesn’t impact the team at all how much they spent. How much a player is paid matters in the NHL, NBA, NFL because of cap rules which means money spent on one player can’t be used on others. Teams in baseball don’t raise tkt prices because they overpaid for a player, it doesn’t impact you as a fan at all.

Changes:
Add a pitch clock. Make it 15 seconds and no stepping out of the batter’s box unless you’ve fouled off a ball or have something in your eye. Games are too long, and regular season extra innings should start with a player on 2nd base and a 2-1 count for every hitter. Make charging the mound a 15 game suspension but hitting a batter, as long as it’s not in the head, unsuspendable. This will allow pitchers to pitch inside and/or hit batters on purpose instead of intentionally walking them. Make all pitchers bat for the revenge factor. Eliminate the umpire behind the plate making balls and strike calls, computers can do that relatively quickly. Replace that umpire with one in a replay booth and give him the ability to call downstairs and tell the umpire what they got wrong before the next batters hits. Replays in baseball, unlike football, need only take 15-30 seconds as usually the answer is obvious. I want radio play by play during the games so I don’t actually have to turn my head from my computer unless something happens and I want a former coach or player explaining strategy.

Basketball:
I hate that a foul can be called on every player every possession and that a refs decision to call a foul seems arbitrary. I hate that the league doesn’t admit it has a credibility issue with the refs even after one was arrested and jailed for betting on his games. I hate everything about David Stern and his smugness except his hilarious insistence that there must be pigs and a blanket at every party. I hate that referees decide the close games. I hate that offensive fouls aren’t called enough, especially push offs and blocking with one arm. I hate that players who jump straight up to contest a shot are called for a foul every time the offensive player makes contact with them. I hate that during 3pt shooting contests, players can hit 20 of 25 shots, but no player averages over 50% from 3pt range during the year even though most 3's in the league are uncontested. I hate that players who are 7 ft tall get blocked when they try to lay the ball in instead of jumping and dunking (it's not that hard guys, I've done it). I hate that when my team wins, I’m not satisfied because I know we got some “lucky” calls and when my team loses I’m livid and feel like I was wronged. I hate that for 90% of the good games, you can miss the first 43 minutes of the 48 minute game and not really miss anything. I hate that the Knicks are terrible and owned by the Dolans who only care about $. I have not paid for a Knicks or Rangers game in over 10 years because of them.

Changes:
Change the 6 foul per player ejection to 4 fouls per player. This will keep players from playing so physical and let the beauty of the game come out. No one liked the Pistons of the 80’s or the Knicks of the 90’s b/c their physicality ruined the games. Fouls in the lane are 1 pt and the ball or 2 shots, fouls outside the lane are 1 foul shot and the ball. Allow teams to protest bad calls at the end of games by walking off the court. I wish Dallas had done this when they played Miami. I still think they won the series 4-2 and that the refs took 2 of those losses away. If I were a Dallas fan, I would have walked across the court and never gone to a game again. Allow outside representatives to audit the finances of each ref. Allow replay at the end of games, including foul calls. I like the NFL rule about ownership (you can’t own a competing sports team in the same city you own an NFL team) but I’d expand it to include “you can’t own a team if you have public shareholders.”

World Cup Soccer:
I kinda love the spectacle of the world cup, but hate the sport. I usually spend those 4 weeks ever 4 years complaining about how bad soccer is as a sport. I hate that there isn’t enough scoring. I hate that more than half of shots miss the net. I hate that because scoring is so sparse, the team that dominates doesn’t necessarily win because of a bad call, a missed call, or one lucky shot. I hate that seemingly more than half the goals are engulfed in controversy. I hate that players dive. I hate that players get injured and walk back on the field 2 minutes later, totally fine. I hate that you can only substitute 3x a game when you have 8 players on your bench. I hate that there’s no official clock. I hate that there’s no replay when half of the goals scored are controversial. I hate penalty shots which are more of a coin flip or arbitrary kicking skill than an actual soccer skill, are used to decide games. I hate that, similar to basketball, I feel either slightly relieved but not satisfied after a win, and totally enraged after a loss. I hate that a strategy is killing time. In the 2010 world cup, Landon Donavon scored with 2 minutes remaining in stoppage time but ran around and was tackled by his teammates for 1.5 minutes. The refs didn’t add that time back and I felt icky about winning like that and just want to punch all players who do it. In summary, I hate almost every rule, and every “style” of play.

Changes:
Enlarge the goals to increase scoring. Make the offside rule similar to hockey so once you pass a certain point with the ball, players can go anywhere. Obviously add replay. I would make cards in the game retroactively reviewable by replay. Thus, if someone received a red or yellow card because of a dive, that player who dove would be suspended 2 games. Any stoppage due to injury is a 5 minute penalty for the injured player. Either he gets up, or he’s done for 5, or they sub him out for the rest of the game. That’ll keep players from “faking” it. Any yellow card is a 10 minute penalty or a forced substitution, coaches decision. Since the conversion rate on penalty kick goals is 80%, any save is guesswork, arbitrary, and usually a miss of the goal entirely. An equally impressive test of a team’s soccer skill would be kicking the ball from the goal line, and getting it to stop closest to the center circle. With bigger goals, you could move the penalty kick back from 18ft to 25-30 feet and make it more of a skill than a coin flip. That would force the player to kick a perfect shot, while forcing the goalie to make a save, instead of just guessing and hoping. A better solution would be eliminating the shootout all together. Why not just remove a player from each side every 10 minutes of overtime, allowing 2 subs. Less players means more open field and more opportunity. If the game got down to 6 vs 6 after 50 minutes of overtime, I guarantee someone would score. Lastly, we need a clock. Most games around about 80 minutes of playing time with some stoppage added at the end to make it 85 (technically there are 2 45 minute halves). Why not add a clock and why not stop that clock when injuries happen, penalties are called, when goals are scored, or even when the ball goes out of bounds. The arbitrary nature of stoppage time drives me crazy, and I hate when my team uses stall tactics.

Women’s Basketball:
I hate all women’s basketball at any level (accept before HS) because the players are terrible and the games are boring (not that I’ve watched more than 15 minutes of it since HS).

Changes:
Lower the basket to 8.5 ft from 10 ft. This will allow the crazy dunks you used to do in your backyard with one of those movable rims. Have the women play men’s teams only or allow under 20 year old men’s teams with 6 ft restrictions to enter the WNBA. I think my HS men’s basketball team could beat most college women’s teams. I think most small college basketball teams could beat any girls team I the world. I’d love to see it. I’d pay for that. There is a reason that guys who played HS ball are on the practice squad of elite college women’s basketball programs. It’s so that the starters can practice vs players who are better than them, or at least, better than their non starters.

NHL Hockey:
I hate watching hockey when it’s not the playoffs. The season is long, the game is physical, and you can tell that the players are dogging it sometimes. I hate watching hockey on TV. So much of the “grace” and “beauty” of hockey comes from what goes on away from the puck, yet on TV, the camera just follows the puck. I hate that when after 4 passes and an amazing goal is scored, you view 4 different angles of the puck going back and forth. I hate that sometimes there is no good camera angle to watch because the players are faster than the puck. I hate that so many players are foreigners. I know, I’m a jerk, but I need to connect to my teams and I don’t identify with Ulf from Sweden, or Alexi from the Ukraine and I hate all the Pauls and Waynes and Marks from Canadia.

While we’re on the subject, I hate Canadia. You read that correctly, CANADIA. If it were Canada, people would be Canadan. Canadians are from Canadia. That’s how English works. People from Alaska are Alaskan, not Alaskian. People from Jamaica are Jamaican, not Jamacian. People from Romania are Romanian…Austria – Austrian… California – Californian. You can’t just add an extra “I” whenever you feel like it, you only do that when there already IS an “I.” You’re either Canadan from Canada or Canadian from Canadia. Pick.

Changes:
Make the games shorter. Make all games 4 on 4. Have you been lucky enough to watch overtime of games or when there are 2 penalties at the same time and they go to 4 on 4? It’s a much more open game with more scoring, better passing and less defense. Why not do this all the time? When there is 1:05 left on the clock in each period the scoreboard should read “Hey time keeper, how much time is left?” and then the time keeper will due his normal “Last minute of play in the period.” It would be amazing if I could one day get entire stadiums to do that with me, though it’s still funny when I stand up and yell it by myself. Cameras need to be mounted like the ones above the field at NFL games and follow the entire play from end to end…with viewing angles from north to south, not east to west.

College Football / Basketball:
I hate the recruiting advantages at big schools. I hate that most of them play cupcake schedules so they become bowl eligible or so they can get to 20 wins. I hate that most of their players don’t graduate. I hate that the head coaches at public schools (like Rutgers FB) are the highest paid state employees. I hate the argument that the school’s athletic program makes money to support the other sports. Since when did departments make money? Does the history department make money? Why does the athletic department need to make money to support itself? I hate the NCAA and its twisted though processes on recruiting, paying, and penalties. I hate college FB and basketball coaches. They are swine with no loyalty to their schools or their players. I hate the college FB and BB players are lured by false dreams. To Elaborate, there are almost 200 football programs in college with 14,000 students. If 3,500 of them are seniors, and there are only 224 draft spots, you can tell how few will make the pros. College FB and BB coaches recruit by using dreams of the pros and help their existing players avoid actually learning while they have the opportunity to get a free education. They don’t tell their players that even at the top programs in the country only 20% of the players go pro. They don’t tell their players that even if they do go pro, the average career is only 3 years and at the league minimum, they won’t make enough to live off of the next 50 years unless they get a real education. I hate that there is no College FB playoffs. I hate that people think bowl games that aren’t for the national championship matter?

Changes:
If a player doesn’t graduate, you lose a scholarship. This will force schools to pick athletes who are also in it for the education, and not just to win or play for 2 years and leave for the pros. That will benefit the schools in the long run, and benefit the purpose of college athletics. Eliminate college FB and BB from all public institutions or eliminate all high paid coaches from those programs. Yes, they make money, even schools with profitable FB programs are making cuts to other sports. Rutgers recently eliminated 7 varsity sports while giving their FN coach a $1M raise. I would suggest they fire him and use the $2M saved to add those sports (which had a $1.5M budget) back. They should multiply the BCS score by the graduation rate at each school. That’ll even the playing field and put emphasis on graduation. That’ll also make the coaches responsible for the 80% of kids they are coaching that aren’t going pro. I would pay the players. I wouldn’t pay them much, but a few hundred dollars a week. Some students recently were deemed ineligible for selling game memorabilia for a few hundred dollars. While the colleges exploit these kids for millions of dollars, they aren’t allowed to make a few hundred on the side. They need a union. They need to go on strike.

Golf:
I hate that you can't make noise for 30 seconds before or during a shot. The ball isn't moving and the club face is flat and 3x the size of the ball... the opposite of baseball which has noise. I hate that you can't follow whatever player you want on TV. I hate that professionals can't use carts. I hate "team captains" for team events. I hate that players aren't "miked up" and that no announcers explain strategy. I hate that they can't play in wind or rain. I hate that they can't wear shorts or tank tops. I hate that players get relief from obstacles. I hate that if your playing partner (technically your opponent) fills out your score card incorrectly, and you sign it, you are disqualified.

Changes
Free the game... Allow players and fans to do whatever they want. Get rid of all the stupid stupid rules. Make it more interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Galapcuador

Last MONTH (sorry so late) My DJ and I headed to South America for 3 days in Quito, Ecuador, 3 days in the Galapagos Islands, and to watch the toilet bowls drain the wrong direction. Below are the details of my trip, some interesting facts, some interesting analysis, a few videos, and of course, HERE ARE THE PICTURES (though I link to individual pics throughout).

Friday, July 16, 11:55pm: JFK --> GYE --> UIO
We took a packed flight (except first class) on LAN Airlines and we were the only Gringo’s on board. Additionally, all the passengers had ~9 bags each, and duct taped each one with name and address. Our bags were the only ones w/o duct tape. To say the plane was disgusting was an understatement as one month old magazine looked like it had been chewed on by a Rottweiler. We read our itinerary 4 times before we realized that our 9 hour flight with a 3 hour time change was, in fact, a 7 hour flight with a 1 hour time change. We took our drugs and passed out…

Ambien Hangovers:
I don’t know why, but I love talking about Ambien. Ambien hangovers are truely surreal, though you only realize this well after the fact. When you wake up after you’ve gone unconscious for at least 4 hours, your cognitive processes are working just fine, but you have no short term memory. You have no problem getting your bags, getting in a cab, getting home, but a few hours later you’ll have no recollection of what your cabbie looked like or even which doorman was working. This is what I “remember” from my Ambien hangover (which I find usually impairs short term memory for a few hours but doesn’t alter motor skills or awareness).

*I vaguely remember Billy Elliot on the Airplane TV after I’d woken in the morning.
*I vaguely remember putting it on myself.
*I vaguely remember standing in a line with 200 people while 2 AND ONLY 2 customs agents took an average of 6 minutes to check each person.
*I vaguely remember it taking us 45 min to get through the line and we were 15th.
*I vaguely remember it only taking us 2 minutes for us to get through customs, b/c who would suspect a nice white couple on vacation of any wrongdoing (more on this later)
*I don’t remember our flight to Quito at all.

Saturday July 17th: Quito
We arrived at our hotel at 9:30am, and took a quick taxi to the Capilla De Hombre. It was $8 to enter but they didn’t have change for a $20. This would prove our biggest obstacle on the whole trip (or one of them). When we got a hot chocolate later in the day, I had to buy 2 chocolate bars just so they could make change of a $10. Yes, the country’s currency is the $, and yes, small bills are appreciated. The Capilla De Hombre (man’s chapel) is dedicated to a famous Ecuadorian artist, Guayasamin, who had a dark side, was friends with the world’s communist leaders and endorsed Club beer. (Pics Here and Here) We took another cab to Mariscal Sucre for lunch & sunglasses before taking a cab back to the hotel. Everything was pretty cheap, especially the cabs which were all under $5 and one was $1.91.

We passed out for 3 hours before heading to La Ronda for evening activities. La Ronda was full of tourists, and bars, and bars with bar food. We tried canelazo, which was hot apple cider with sugarcane, cinnamon and alcohol. The alcohol was added to each glass before it was poured from the giant cauldrons it was made in, so that it wouldn’t evaporate as it was cooked. It tasted like a molten Jolly Rancher. There weren’t many restaurants were to be had, but after walking up and down the street 2x, and looking at 15 menus, we settled on a pretty empty place around 8pm. After dinner, we found out, that on a Saturday night, dinner is after 10pm. We were entertained by some local singers and took the best picture ever (that I set up). We had a few communication issues, including how to tell the waiter you want medium well. He asked if we wanted “red” and we said “more than red.” I’m not sure if he thought we wanted more red, or more cooking… or if he understood, but just in case, he undercooked so he wouldn’t ruin it.

Info on our “tour”:
We booked with latinamericaforless.com due to a “tip” from travelzoo. After we’d booked, I did some googling and find out this was just a travel agency, not a tour site, and that it wasn’t really the highest regarded (unlike latinamerica4less.com which is highly reputable). After doing some reading and asking some questions we found out that LAFL booked us through an Ecuadorian travel agency called RTA. They turned around and booked us with local guides in Quito and with other companies/boats/hotels in the Galapagos. Honestly, this could have been an absolute disaster. However, I would say that it went extremely smoothly. Flights were relatively on time (esp when necessary), and guides/drivers/English speakers were there waiting for us when we arrived and woke up every day. If they hadn’t, we had no number to call, and would have had to book things on the fly. Of course, if we’d spent the 20 hours to book ourselves, the whole trip may have been half price.

Sunday July 18th: UIO --> GYE --> GPS
We were picked up early (like 6am) and had tons of time to kill at the airport. What we thought would be a 90 minute flight, turned into a 45 minute flight to Guayaquila and a 45 minute layover in Guayaquil, before that 90 minute flight. Who knew that every flight in the whole country goes through GYE. Gandhi met us at the “airport” and was our tour guide for the day. I put airport in quotes, because it was more like a barn and a runway. Once you got off the plane, they’d call out your flights name and you’d walk to the side of the barn where someone had put everyone’s luggage against the wall. Of course, there were like 200 people waiting for them to call flights (TAME air). We took a 3 minute bus ride to the side of the island where our while flight squeezed on the slowest moving boat I’ve ever been on. Considering the amount of people in the boat, and the luggage stacked on the roof, this was by far the most dangerous part of our trip. 20 minutes and 200 feet later, we arrived on Santa Cruz Island and got in a car for a 40 minute drive to town. We’d end up taking this ride 2x a day to and from the dock. Besides town, this was probably the only road on the whole island. Town was bustling, except on a Sunday, when we needed to grab lunch quickly, rent wetsuits, and get to our boat in 50 minutes.

We got on what was likely the oldest glass bottom boat ever and headed to a local snorkeling hot spot, which turned out to be way to rough for snorkeling. It rained a bit, we watched a bunch of sea lions playing in the surf, and took off to another snorkeling destination. Of course, due to the rain and choppiness, the visibility was pretty terrible. We got in the cold water anyway. We took a few hikes and saw lotsa see lions, crabs and iguanas. We took a 30 minute hike into the mountains (past the Italian Consulate), and up to a fresh water hole that Gandhi used to go to as a kid. Of course, considering we’d taken a ghetto boat, and had a pretty ghetto tour guide, we had not time to swim up there. We got back around 6 and were happily told that we’d be snorkeling again the next morning. We were unhappily told that we’d be leaving at 6am for our tour the following day. We ate at The Rock, which is apparently the TGI Friday’s of the Galapagos. We passed out at 9:30pm.

Levels of Hotels:
I’ve been to quite a few hotels in my day that I’ve decided to update the 5 star (*) rating system that is used. It seems pretty obvious to me that there are certain features some hotels have that hotels below them don’t, and that all hotels above them do have. Below is a list of those features, or pretty much how I would order hotels.

* Personal Bathrooms – All hotels that have communal bathrooms are automatically 0 stars while all w/o are 1 or higher.

** Shower Curtains – What is with hotels having baths w/o curtains? Not only do you have to hold the un-mounted shower head, you have to make sure it doesn’t spray all over the room? How hard is it to put up a rod and mount that damn shower head?

*** Sewing Kits – Trust me, you’ll never see free sewing kits in a hotel w/o shower curtains. If I’m staying at a hotel, I know to expect some semblance of service and cleanliness as long as they’re giving me a free sewing kit.

**** Free Wi-Fi – Not only do these places always have the 3 previous items, they realize they’re not glam enough to make you pay for Wi-Fi. Downside to the next two levels – They make you pay for Wi-Fi, and everything else.

***** Bathrobes – I don’t need golf courses, spas, gyms or tennis courts. I know a good hotel, when the room has nice, soft, bathrobes.

****** Electronic, Metal, Blackout Window Shades - Ever go to bed as it was getting light out, wake up at noon and tell your friends to get up, only for them to respond that I’m nuts and obviously it’s still nighttime? This only happens in one place, 6 star hotels.


Monday, July 19th: Galapagos
We woke at 5:45am for a 6am bus to a 7am boat for a 3 hour boat ride. Realizing our room had no phone, we weren’t that surprised when our wake-up call was a knock on the door. At least our boat was big and had breakfast. Abbie had an Ethiopian breakfast full of bread and water, while I had ham and eggs. I remembered my pressure point wrist thingies to help me from getting sea sick and My DJ and I spent the 3 hours on the front of the boat (cloudy), watching the islands go by, and the sea turtles, and the sea lions, and the dolphins, and the jumping sting rays.

3 hours later, we arrived at Bartolome Island, a recently “grown” island that was 700,000 years old. We climbed to the toptook some pics, and spent 3 minutes with our “doc master.” Eddie (short for Umberto?), our tour guide, was a quite a contrast to Gandhi. He was older, more professional, and def didn’t get high as often as Gandhi

Onto snorkeling! For My DJ, it was her first time in ~15 years! She was amazing and brave considering how uncomfortable and foreign it really is when you’re face down in the water breathing through a tube with bad asthma. The water was surprisingly cold for the Ecuador, so we used wetsuits that were too lose on her to keep her warm and too tight on me to allow me to breathe. There was great clarity but not much sun. I was so excited about how well she did that when we were finished, I pulled off my mask and pretty much spit in her face. We also saw a penguin and played with a few sea lions that were just hanging out on the beach.
The 3 hour ride back was much choppier than the way there, and we sat at the top of the boat, where the captain was, to avoid seasickness. Back in Puerto Ayora we had a traditional dinner for $5 each on a little local street they close down and put tables out on. We walked to El Chocolate for some bad service and good hot chocolate.

Random Galapagos Facts:
*They only paint the fronts of many buildings and houses. So it looks like nothing is finished, and kinda dirty.
*Cheese is served with almost every meal. 3x4 inch slabs of goat-ish cheese.
*The “wet season” is actually the high tourist season b/c the air and water are warmer. We were not there during the wet season.
*At one of our hotels, they asked us not to flush TP… I’d rather not use it than not flush it.
*The Island of Santa Cruz, which takes about 40 minutes to get across, has 3 distinct temperate zones. A dessert, a foggy wet zone, and a normal temperate zone.
*The islands are much bigger than I expected, possibly the size of NJ all put together. It would take months to see it all. Darwin apparently only spent 5 weeks here (but years analyzing data and creating ideas after he’d left)
*The land is like earth probably was 2m years after forming, much of the ground is lava rock and many plants can’t grow. Additionally, there aren’t many beaches, most our getting on and off of boats took place on rock cliffs. I had pictured a rain forest.
*I asked Gandhi what time Sunrise and Sunset were. He replied that it’s always at/around 6, always. It's the Equator, DUH.
*They use American Dollars everywhere. Since their banks don’t print new money, the currency stays in circulation much longer than it should. Dollars are in terrible condition, falling apart.
*Water from the Galapagos isn’t clean enough to drink, but they have Galapagos branded bottled water, which is purified.
*The airport in the Galapagos is only 2 bus rides and 1 boat ride from the main city.
*Before landing in the Galapagos, without warning, 2 men come through the plane spraying a “non toxic” concoction to protect the islands from unwanted intruders.

Tuesday, July 20th: Galapagos
Day 2 with Eddie was a similar length tour but a 2 hour shorter boat ride. Thus, we only had to leave at 8am. After bumping into a group of orthodox teens at the port, we headed to North Seymour Island (bird island) to see some Boobies and other birds. We bird watched for a little over an hour, with a baby sea lion (no you can't have one) and iguana’s mixed in. We saw a Blue Footed Booby with its 2 day old baby underneath it, and one with a 3x larger 16 day old baby below it.

After lunch (My DJ ate Ethiopian lunch of rice and water), it was more snorkeling on Santa Cruz Island. DJ didn’t really want to go again, but after considering the argument that we have no idea when we’ll go snorkeling again, she relented. Of course, I had to promise that I’d warm her up faster than the previous day this time. The clarity wasn’t as good as the previous day, but since the sun was out, it was a much “warmer” experience. Most importantly, we saw a 3 ft long SHARK. DJ surprisingly didn’t grab my arm to tight, but instead let me ditch her to swim after it to get a good picture. As we warmed on the beach, we watched pelicans take off and dive head first from 50 ft in the air into the water, over and over again. While the shark was exciting, the most amazing part of the day was that on bird island and at the beach, we didn’t get pooped on.

After the boat tour, the bus gave us a ride to the entrance to the Charles Darwin center, which was located on the outskirts of town. The walk from the entrance from the center was likely 2x longer than the walk to the entrance from our hotel (or anywhere in town). We had one goal, see giant turtles! We excitedly asked the first tourists we saw, “Where are the turtles?” and received the response “There are no turtles here!” WHAT!?!?! “Only Tortoises” WHEW! When we finally made it to the exhibits at the far end of the center, we saw tortoises, and baby tortoises, and very old tortoises, and took videos of 4-6 year old tortoises. We saw Lonely George, the last of his species of Giant Tortoise, and the 2 lady friends he’d been put in a cell with to mate. He’d been in captivity since 1971, and they’ve been trying to breed him ever since, with no luck. All of them reminded me of old people, with wrinkly old people skin. The young ones move slowly but steadily, while the old ones hardly moved at all. It’s not shock that there were only 15 left when they were first protected and a shock they survived evolution in the first place.

We left the center and shopped along the way home, somewhat successfully for me, and somewhat unsuccessfully for My DJ. We had dinner at an Italian place where I had them combine the pene quarto formagi with the grilled chicken. The waitress was a bit shocked, but for under $10 each, it was a no brainer for me. For dessert I found a place with a nutella crepe, while DJ had some homemade lemon & berry sorbet. If I were to guess as to why she was very sick for the next 3 days and slightly sick for the next 2 weeks, this would be my guess.

Here's a video of a few of the animals we saw (Iguana, Tortoise & Baby Sea Lion)!



Galapagos By Number:
3 – times we went snorkeling
2 – times we saw fish while snorkeling
2 – Sharks Abbie thinks she saw
1 – Sharkes Ben thinks he saw (same one twice)
2 – Hours Abbie was cold after snorkeling in wet suit
Uncountable – Boobies we saw
20 – Daily inappropriate/immature jokes Abbie made about boobies
10 – Daily inappropriate/immature jokes Ben made about boobies
30 – Minutes spent watching baby tortoises
300 – Minutes Abbie could have spent watching baby tortoises
2 – People who wore SPF 55 sun block
2 –People who were sunburned
100 – Cost per person in dollars to get into the Galapagos Islands
6 – Cost per person in dollars to get into the Galapagos Islands...if you are from Ecuador
0.1 – The scale, in miles, of the map of Puerto Ayora, which meant it took about 7 minutes to walk across the whole thing.
97 – Percent of land in the Galapagos that is national park, which leaves some land for a town or 2.
15- Giant Tortoises in 1971 left in the world when they started to protect them
1,000 – Giant Tortoises now in existence

Wednesday, July 21: GPS --> GYE --> UIO
DJ skipped breakfast b/c she wasn’t feeling well and we took a 9:00 AM bus to an 11:30 plane. Normally, considering an hour-ish commute you’d think that was perfect timing. However, we had about a 45 minute wait until we were allowed into the gate area (really they only had 1 gate). Abbie was a disaster, tired, achy, and stomachy. A perfect travel day!
We arrived back in Quito around 3pm, and got to our hotel around 4. Our hotel’s “inconvenience store” was closed, and DJ hadn’t eaten all day, so embarked on a quest, a quest to the supermarket. The hotel said it was a 10 minute walk down 1 street with no turns, but suggested I take a cab instead. HA! One of the most fun things, and most interesting things to do in a foreign country (besides getting lost wondering through town) is going to a supermarket. I purchased some bread and olive oil and vinegar and chips and ginger ale, but couldn’t find pretzels. We later discovered that they don’t sell pretzels anywhere in Ecuador. (Apparently that was the deal breaker for DJ ever considering living there). I had a 10 minute “conversation” in broken Spanish with someone working in the bakery area about if a piece of bread was made “con leche” or not. DJ had me all worried about walking to the Supermaxi, that she’d given me strict orders to be back by 6:15. This had made me worried enough that I took the memory card out of my camera, so that when I was inevitably mugged, I’d at least have the pictures. On the way home from the store I stopped at an ATM, which gave me 20’s, 10’s, 5’s, and 1’s! I really wish the guide books would have told us how important it was to have change, I would have stocked up on singles.

Back at the room I forced DJ to eat something and a few hours later ordered room service (ribs and fries). I love pork and there was lots of it in this country. My DJ passed out while I watched a horrible Dane Cook / Jessica Alba film about clumsy people which I have no idea how it ever got made.

Considering that this was a travel day, and considering that My DJ told me she’d chop off my hand if I took a picture of her, we took only 1 picture today. Here it is.

Thursday, July 22: Quito
DJ skipped breakfast and we jumped into a car with Vicky and her friend / driver. Our private tour started at the scenic overlook right behind our Hotel. Lucky it was so close, because this is when I realized that my camera’s memory card was back in the hotel room! We drove north for 45 minutes to the US GPS equator center, where we were given a tour by one of the employees. We took pictures on each side of the Equator, we watched water drain in different directions, we felt some weight and resistance differences and we attempted to balance an egg on a nail head. We also learned about the art of head shrinking, and about the ancient inhabitants of this land, who somehow knew that there was something special here.

From there we went to the Equator Center, which was where French scientists in the late 1,700’s had studied the equator. Of course, the French were wrong by a few hundred feet, but it’s not a bad attempt considering they were 300 meters away and 200 years earlier. This was now a somewhat empty huge space that had concerts and festivals as well as some science centers. There was a planetarium we didn’t see, but I enjoyed a ghetto ice cream pop. We learned a bit about the whole Quito valley and a little Ecuadorian history before taking pictures of a guinea pig cooking on a skewer over a barbeque.

Here's a video of water spinning different directions on each side of the Equator (and no spin on the equator):


Back to Quito for our afternoon tour of Old-Town, but the first stop was a massive statue on the top of a hill of The Virgin Mary with wings. It was a gift from Spain. We headed into old town with Vicky, and after I had my ham, salami and cheese with an orange Fanta, we checked out the archbishop’s palace. We learned that the Patron Saint of Quito, may have been crazy, and the church was paid off to take her off of her rich family’s hands. We stopped at a few other churches which were all within 5 blocks of each other. There was so much gold, but distinct differences between them due to when they were created, and what denomination. Interestingly, we saw a gold sword encrusted with diamonds that Chavez gave to Ecuador in 2002. I’m pretty sure that type of gift, which will sit in a case that 20 visitors will see a year, doesn’t really mesh with Chavez’s socialist mantra.

All the while, during this tour, Vicky kept taking my camera and taking pictures. When we stopped at the Presidential Palace, and Vicky asked to take a picture, I said “no” but she proceeded to anyway. At the San Franscisco Church, I was “accosted” by 3 little 6 year olds who just wanted my Orange Fanta. I wonder if they split it, one backwashed sip each. Underneath the San Francisco church was a fair trade shop, which paid fair wages to the artists and workers who were Ecuadorian rain forest inhabitants. The shop twisted and turned through the old underground church corridors yet Vicky kept taking pictures. (I’m not posting narrow hallway pictures).

We headed back to the hotel and then to Café Mosiaco, for dinner, hot chocolate, and views of the city. After her 2nd day of fasting, she finally ate some french fries. When back at the hotel she finished off the bread and olive oil, before happily settling into CSI and Law & Order, SVU.

Random Ecuador Facts:
*Some people in Ecuador think it’s ok to live & and farm inside an active volcano (“active” according to our tour guide)
*The basilica in Quito was started in 1896, and still isn’t done being built.
*The highest peak in the world is in Ecuador, when measured not from sea level, but from the center of the earth.
*The airport in Quito is absurdly convenient, located in the center of the city, literally like Central Park. A new one is being built an hour away.
*You can’t use your cell phone on an airplane, while it is at the gate, when a gas truck is refilling the plane (in Guayaquil).
*When I got my bags at every airport, the bag had been locked with plastic zip ties. Of course, since you are not allowed to have scissors in your carryon, it becomes virtually impossible to get your bags open.
*Don’t eat / drink: Veggies (uncooked), strawberries, homemade sorbet, water, homemade juices/shakes, other fruits w/o peels and guinea pigs. (DJ actually told me to take the lettuce off of my sandwich).
*Guinea Pigs are a delicacy, and as a tradition, brides to be must cook one for her future mother in law before the wedding to show how good a wife she will be (with potatoes and peanut sauce).
*Urinating in public is ok, but burping in public is very rude.
*It’s not hot at the equator, but the sun is very strong. You’re cold in the shade but can easily get sun burned. This means you have to dress for 4 different environments at all times (especially during wet season).
*Eggs are not refrigerated; they are brown and just sit on the shelves.
*Gatorade is in glass bottles, as are almost all sodas.
*Hot chocolate is sold everywhere.

Friday, July 23: UIO --> GYE --> JFK
For the 4th time on this trip, we got to the airport way to early. Better safe than sorry I suppose, but it can be really boring…especially when you’re traveling with a sick person. We arrived in Guayaquil for the 4th time, but this time we had a 3 hour layover. After shopping and shopping and going back to the same stores again, we hardly purchased anything and sat at our gate waiting. Why would you board a plane to sit, cramped, for 6 hours when you can sit relatively comfortably at the gate. The only possible problem with this strategy arises when, as they check your name at the gate, they pull you out of line and escort you down a stairway. At the bottom of the stairway, you are then handed off to a different security guard who takes you across the tarmac underneath the terminal where there are a bunch of dogs and police men with machine guns, none of whom speak your language except for the words “passport.” Then you wait in line for 10 minutes as they go through every pocket of every piece of luggage from others on your plane, and different planes. You watch as they stick knives into aluminum foil wrapped food and sniff the food to make sure there isn’t anything sinister in the food. When they finally realize that you are the last person from your flight on line, they whisk you to the front and open all of your things, sticking knives they’d just used on poultry through your organic dark chocolate (I still gave it to my mom as a gift). Then, when done, they jog you back to the plane so the plane can take off 15 minutes late. This type of scenario is the only problem I see with being the last person to board the plane. Of course, I blame the drug sniffing dogs.

The rest of the day was uneventful besides our drunken pilot (that's 7 loops). I did watch the end of Billy Elliot, but as I watched many parts, I started to realized that I’d seen them before…but I couldn’t remember how far I’d watched at all. These are the leftover Ambien effects from my flight to Ecuador…as I remembered the things that actually happened, after I woke up, it seemed more like recalling a dream than reality.

Ecuador by Number:
7 – Days we were gone
8 – Flights taken
4 –Times we landed in Guayaquil
2 – Times we left the plane in Guayaquil
0 – Times we left the airport in Guayaquil
¾ - Amount of the Fanta bottle I drank before 3, 6 year old kids, harassed me for the rest.
3 – Places in Ecuador where the Equator is actually is.
10 – Cents it costs to use the toilet, if you want toilet paper, at the center of the world.
2 – Dollars it costs to take a picture with a beetle the size of your hand crawling all over you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pet Peeves

While I was in the Hamptons this week, we came across a dog that was running around the neighborhood without its owner. After searching for the search party on bikes (figuring that the owner was actually looking for it) we gave up and had dinner. Five hours after we found the dog, we’d called animal control, called the police, got the owners number, found the owners house, but had not gotten in touch with the owner. A professional dog searcher had come to pick up the dog. The owner, having too many other things to do than look for her dog, was an hour away...probably drinking. The professional dog searcher is legendary, famous, a little crazy, and hates pet owners almost as much as I do. She’s even had a New York Times article written about her, where she describes the reason people lose their pets as “stupidity, stupidity and more stupidity.”


I love talking about pets and bad pet owners, but am told to avoid doing so because of my somewhat controversial opinions. Screw that, I’m gonna talk about pets, people who have pets, and the absurdity of those people, pets, and other animals. Here’s a good summary about my thoughts.


Birds:
There isn’t anything more evil than a bird owner. Thinking back through my personal history, I don’t think I’ve ever liked one. Birds are animals with the gift of flight, a gift I’ve dreamt about, a gift that we give to superhero’s because it’s such an amazing ability. Yet these owners take their birds and cage them, literally putting them in jail for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, their wings are even clipped. When these birds cry foul, desperate for escape, bird owners throw specially made covers over their cages to confuse the bird into thinking it’s night time. Imagine if owners did this with dogs? Imagine if every dog’s legs were cut off so it couldn’t’ run away and it was never allowed out of its cage and if it was loud, people would just cover the cages. Sounds like pure evil to me.


Dogs:
Dear City Dog Owners: I’m really glad you love your dog and your dog loves you. I’m sure he loves being locked up in your apartment all day waiting and waiting for any sign of the key in the door. Dogs are needy animals… they need companionship, they like to play. Nicknamed Man’s Best Friend, when their best friend isn’t around, they get lonely, depressed, and can rebel. Thus, I believe that having a dog in the city, leaving it locked up in your 600 sq ft apt while you are at work for 10 hours a day, is torture. I have no clue why PETA attacks the treatment of animals in show business, but does nothing for those stuck living in city life. Dogs need backyards, dogs need space, and dogs need people. I believe it should be illegal to own one without a backyard, no matter how big or small the dog is. These so called dog lovers, who are sooo mushy and cuddly with their dogs, are knowingly animal torturers (perhaps in denial). If you love your dog, and you live in the city, then set it free and give it a better life with a yard and owners who are home.

Dog Sanitation:
Why are dogs allowed to pee and poop wherever they want? I don’t care if you pick up after them; it’s still an animal pooping on the sidewalk. How is this acceptable? Obviously it’s not ok for a human to poop on the sidewalk, even if they pick it up… So why is it ok for dogs to do so? It’s disgusting…gross to the core. Why do I have to be subjugated to stepping in urine on the sidewalk every day? No wonder some people don’t allow you to wear shoes in their homes.


Horses:
I don’t know how horses survived evolution. Everything I’ve ever read points to how fragile these animals are. Bad circulation, infections, hooves that break easily, horses are a genetic disaster. When you consider that the best course of action for a horse that breaks his leg is to kill it on the spot, you wonder how they survived. I have 20 friends who’ve broken their legs over the years, and their bodies weren’t built to run at 40 mph. A horse was built to go fast and carry people yet if they get injured, they need to die, ASAP. Seinfeld sums it up well.

Cats:
I have no problem with cats or cat owners, besides that they are boring. You’d don’t have to really take care of them, and they don’t need attention. Additionally, they’re really cute when young and they just love to sleep and do nothing all day. They’re a purr-fect city pet.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If You Water it, Nothing Will Grow

A few months ago, I posted a facebook status which read, I "ha[ve] the urge every morning to tell [my] doorman that no matter how much he waters the sidewalk, nothing is going to grow.

I don't know why, but some things just bother me... Subsequent to this, I moved to the UWS and started witnessing it at the JCC I walk by everyday. I decided to get active and this is what I sent.

My Email:
Dear JCC in Manhattan:

I am a local UWS resident and walk by the JCC building every morning on my way to the subway. Each morning, the JCC's staff "waters" the sidewalk, I assume to clean off a few leaves and dirt. While the method may be effective, and is seemingly much easier on the staff than using a broom, it amounts to a colossal waste of water. Assuming that a gallon of water is used every 15 seconds and it takes 30 minutes to clean your sidewalk, the JCC is pouring 120 gallons of clean water down the drain daily. (This Article estimates it could be 2x that). As I walk by the JCC each morning, I get angrier and angrier to the point that I want to yell at the staff member and tell him "no matter how much you water the sidewalk, nothing will grow." While private residences also conduct their business similarly, wasting water for the purpose of lazy cleaning does not seem very Jewish to me (environmental stewardship is a core Jewish value). In the age of conservation, in the most liberal enclave in the country, should a non profit JCC be conducting this type of activity? I think not.

I hope my thoughts have an impact on your practices.

JCC Response:
I received a response within 5 minutes, likely b/c they get this type of complaint all of the time.

Thank you for your concern. However, sidewalks don't get clean of dirt, dust, dog feces/urine and whatever else gets dropped on them unless water is used. So we will continue to use water to wash the sidewalks.

Thank you.

My Response:
Thanks for the quick response and I totally understand.

It's always amazing to me that dogs are allowed to do that... when people haven't been allowed to, for sanitary reasons, for hundreds of years. If the JCC wishes to support a dog euthanizing campaign or a PETA event showcasing how dog ownership in the city is tantamount to animal torture, I'd support that event.

Thank you.

(kidding, I sent w/o the last line)

Feel free to email the JCC in Manhattan similarly.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eyja Didn't Ruinja Pragueja

Eyja Went to Prague - Here Are The Pictures

Eyja had no idea the Volcano was going to create so many problems:
When My DJ and I took off from JFK to Prague, Eyjafjallajokull had been spewing ash for days but had just started creating havoc over northern Europe. There were no warnings that the airport closures would last. There were no warnings that this wouldn’t blow over. There was only “today” and our flight was taking off, so we got on it. In hindsight, we may have collectively decided to miss the flight… I’m pretty glad we didn’t. This trip kicked ASH.

Eyja love red eye’s, as long as the flights are long enough:
Our flight took off a little late, which we were happy about (who can fall asleep at 5pm anyway). Our flight was rerouted across the Atlantic and Alps (check pic 2) instead of the over Nova Scotia and Scandinavia, which gave us more time to sleep. My DJ’s drugs kept her asleep most of the flight while Eyja got 5 hours in (check pic 1).

Eyja know you all want to know what the weather was like:
It was 60 and sunny during the day and 45 and chilly at night. Beautiful in the sun, cold in the wind.

Ejya didn’t plan what we were going to do during our 3 days there until we got there:
We jumped off the plane, headed to Amy’s hotel room. She’s in Prague through May for work and graciously invited us to visit. We headed through the old city, across the Charles bridge (pic 3-5), and up toward the Castle. Eyja gave a walking tour for the next few hours, as we passed the John Lennon Wall (pic 12-13), the US embassy (pic 9), some light up penguins (pic 17), some awesome architecture (pic 8), some interesting sculptures (pic 16) and a ton of pubs (pic 7), churches (pic 6), and restaurants. After lunch, which we spent watching a boy make card houses using coasters (pic 19), My DJ led us through the Castle, once we made it up there (it’s gotta be 200 ft above “river” level), and we saw another church, some palace rooms and views, and a torture chamber (pics 20-27).

Eyja didn’t feel like I’d left New York:
For dinner, we (DJ, Amy and Ey) had Italian food. After dinner, we met up with some of Amy’s coworkers and went to an Irish pub (pic 31). There, we witness really bad singing that legitimately forced people to leave the bar even as some patrons tried to take the mic and sing themselves.

Eyja had an awesome Saturday:
We hit the communist museum (pic 32), crossed the river (pic 33) and headed up to Letna park, which overlooks the entire city. Atop, we had drinks (pic 34) and I enjoyed a the standard Czech meal: Beef, dumplings, cream sauce, and whipped cream (pic 35). After walking around the park for a while and seeing a giant metronome (pic 37) in the middle of an ad-hoc skateboard park, we crossed the river again and Amy ditched us.

Eyja don’t like classical music that much:
My rents said we had to see a show, and since every church, theatre, and bathroom was having performances, we decided to stop at one. But first, we had hot chocolate (pic 40) and espressos (pic 41) on the pier under the Charles bridge. The hot chocolate was to die for. The concert was possibly the most expensive thing on the whole trip. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.

Eyja was way to old to be clubbing in this town:
We had dinner with a bunch of Amy’s coworkers at a Club, Duplex, so we wouldn’t have a problem getting in. We were way too old to stick around for more than 45 min after dinner. We stopped at a dive bar on the way home and had a little “kid” fun (pics 42-46).

Eyja don’t want to talk about everything we did, b/c that’s boring:
We found out Sunday our Monday flight was cancel and spent the day on the phone and at the train station figuring out how to get home. Delta, our airline, put us on a Saturday flight through France (it was that or direct 9 days later). We also booked flights from Prague to Brussels and home, from Prague through Vienna and home (if Brussels was still closed) and from Rome to Miami and home (just in case the whole of northern Europe stayed closed). We also got a train tkt to Rome if necessary. Of course, by the time we would have needed to be in Rome, the skies were open enough that we could have flown to Rome for less than taking the train. FYI, we ended up taking Austrian Air to Vienna….problem free.

On Monday we did what we wanted to do on Sunday, which was take the self guided walking tour of the Jewish Ghetto. We found a kosher restaurant (Shelanu), and a bagel /sandwich shop, which made me very happy.

For the rest of the trip, we woke up late, did one thing in the early afternoon and worked for 3 hours at an internet café. In the evenings, we had some great dinners and some drinks (including a little absinthe). Amy was an awesome hostess, and could have cared less had we stayed for an extra 10 days. She even gave us her bed (though she claimed that the cot was more comfortable than her hard bed).

Other slightly interesting things:

Ejya don’t like walking that much:
We probably walked 10 miles on Friday, Saturday & Monday. . . Walking 5 miles on Tuesday, and Wednesday. Gotta prepare for the Great Saunter!

Eyja love breakfast:
Amy’s hotel came with free breakfast! Though it ended at 11am on weekdays and 11:30 on weekends, we made it on time 1 day. That’s is pretty damn embarrassing as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and it had an omelet station and champagne daily!

Things I think I think about Prague:
I think
if you want to know what it’s like walking down a random street in Prague (in the tourist area) it goes something like this. “Pub, Church, Restaurant, Repeat.”

I think there are more KFC’s in Prague than there are in NY. However, they don’t serve the double down!

I think, I learned that the goal of the Germans during WWII was to eradicate the Jews and create a museum in Prague while I was at the Jewish Museum. I think, considering the fact that there aren’t many Jews in Prague and that the museum is located throughout 4 old synagogues, that maybe the Nazi’s succeeded.

I think, on Monday night we went for drinks and started talking to some Czech guys. I think it bothers me when foreigners belittle Americans for not speaking any other languages like we’re lazy. If everyone in the world spoke French, and they only spoke English in America and England, I’m sure I would have learned French by now. Why is it so hard to understand that being an English speaker makes learning other languages less necessary than being a Czech speaker. I think a good analogy might be algebra, but I haven’t thought it through yet. I think If a foreigner knows 10 European languages, then I’ll be impressed, but if he/she just knows English better than I know their language, I claim necessity. I think I may have upset them when I asked how many times the Czech region had been conquered and asked if they ever thought about trying to defend themselves instead of just letting everyone in.

I think Eyjafjallajokull spews ash, and sucks ash, but was definitely a pain in the ash. (yes, there are plenty of word plays to make with “ash”)

I think my favorite day in Prague was Nutella day. I had a Nutella crepe for breakfast and then a Nutella Pizza Pie for dessert (with whipped cream, pic 60).

I think I saw Crazy Heart and Young Victoria in the last 6 months. I think both were good, but I think there’s no reason to see each again. I think it was pretty funny that Crazy Heart was on the flight there and we would have seen Young Victoria on the way home if our flight hadn’t been canceled.

I think it would have been a really fun series of pictures of My DJ and I if the airport had stayed closed longer Monday at noon (our canceled flight was Monday at 10:30am). I think just having 2 pictures of us standing next to “airport closed” signs isn’t as interesting (pic 47 and 51).

I think the funniest thing I heard on the whole trip was this, “My mom always thinks I’m dead.”

I think I could never date someone who walks slow.

I think my “global” phone sucked! I performed fine, besides the fact that it would lose signals and couldn’t pick up an new one unless I restarted it (which happened 4x a day).

I think it was awesome that my rents surprised us at JFK and drove us back to the city (last pic #66). So fun!

I think, besides absinthe night where we claim we don't remember anything, my DJ and I couldn't have gotten along better.

Questions:
What do you do when someone writes "I can't talk now?" If you write back, you are ignoring their desire but if you just let the conversation end without responding, aren’t you being rude?

Why don’t planes have head holders that come from the seat, wall or ceiling that hold your head to the side? Most people can’t sleep with their heads straight back, most people like to lean to the right or left. Why can’t they create a support system that does this? I’ll draw you a picture, it wouldn’t be that hard.

What does society think acceptable risk is? Drunk Driving and Cancer are examples of non acceptable risks. We don’t want them in our society so we fight them. Yet we fly jets through meteor showers, we drive in the rain, we walk cross the street when the light is red. Sometimes, I think societies gauge is the “getting struck by lightning parable.” If it’s more likely than getting struck by lightening, then it is not an acceptable societal risk.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Little Bits of Life

You can tell how much someone likes a particular TV show by how many minutes before and after that person's DVR starts and ends recording. In fact, you can probably rank a person's tastes that way. I know I start the office 2 minutes in advance, while my DJ starts Grey's Anatomy like 5 minutes early!

Why do they call it a "bang bang play" in sports when 2 things happen at the same time (ie, the throw and the runner get to 1st base at the same time). Shouldn't it just be called a "bang" play? If the play in question was actually a "bang" (the noise of the foot hitting the base) followed by another "bang"(the noise of the ball hitting the glove), it would be pretty obvious which happened first.

Why is it so bad if China becomes powerful?

I know the govt restrict freedoms, executes more people than any nation, and is secretive. However, as China gets stronger, more and more of its 1.0B people will move from lower class, to middle class. Right now, more cars are sold in China than in this country. Isn't it good for this world for more people to leave poverty and move into the middle class? As the average person in China moves up economically, they'll have computers, they'll be educated, AND they'll demand, and ultimately have more freedom. Perhaps, affluence, education, and the internet, will do more for our push toward democracy and freedom in China than "pressure" from the US could ever do. China's rise might be bad for the strength of the US, but for the average man in the world, it could be a good thing.

**I put "pressure" in quotes b/c China can do almost anything they want except attack India or Australia and we'll let them...we have no real means of asserting pressure.

To be nice, I told my friend who was moving to 109 and Amsterdam this summer that it was a perfect location. When pressed for a reason, I stated that it's close enough to Ben and Jerry's to go whenever you want, but far enough that you don't end up going every day.

While I made it my personal quest to rid the Standard Hotel and beergarden from smoking (perhaps b/c last summer they wouldn't let me in the front door), I whiffed some the other day and had an odd reaction. Nastalgia. Irony.

A TON of media attention has been paid to the bullying death of a 15 year old girl. Similarly, media attention has been paid to the overturning of a $5M conviction against a group that was protesting at a soldiers funeral. The teen aged bullies involved in causing the emotional distress of the 15 year old have been arrested and charged. While the lawsuit against the protesters was a civil matter that will now be taken up by the Supreme Court, I don't understand why the same statutes that were applied to the bullies can't be applied to the protesters. Apparently, 40 states have bully laws. Why couldn't these bullies who were causing emotional distress be arrested and charged? I'm sure in 24 hours they could have held these protesters, they could have found something to charge them with. I know that funeral protests were highly emotional encounters during Vietnam, and perhaps they were effective. . . But if the purpose of the protest isn't to actually protest the war (it was to protest homosexuality in America, which was supposedly causing Americans to die in Iraq...and to get attention and cause emotional distress)...then why not arrest and prosecute. If not, aren't the bully's rights protected under the same 1st amendment that the protesters rights are protected?

I just heard this interesting fact. In a recent poll, when asked if taxes had gone up or down under Obama, 98% of Tea Party members said taxes had gone up. Of course, under Obama, taxes had gone down for 95% of Americans. While not understanding what they are talking about is kinda funny... lets let not forget that The Tea Party was founded, with its name being based, on a protestation of higher taxes. You would think they'd know what they were talking about.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Feistyness

I got a little animated this morning and this is what happened...

St. Pats Smokefest:

I spent a few hours on St. Pats day at the Standard Hotel’s Beer Garden on St. Patricks Day (in the evening). The place was crowded, had heaters, and was a pretty chill venue. Except for the SMOKING. Everyone was smoking. While we were outside, there was shrubbery lining the outside and the garden is actually covered by the high line. Thus, there was no place for the smoke to escape easily. I did some research and this is what I found:

Is the standard beer garden technically outside? Answer – No

People are permitted to smoke in "Outdoor dining areas of food service establishments with no roof or other ceiling enclosure." It seems to me there was a ceiling enclosure.

Was I just standing in the smoking area and didn't realize? Answer - No

“Up to 25% of seating in outdoor areas of restaurants with no roof or ceiling enclosure may be designated smoking areas. The area must be at least three feet away from the nonsmoking area. The smoking and nonsmoking areas must be clearly designated with signs.”

Does the bar have a waiver (as of 3/31/09)? Answer – No

What are you supposed to do when a bar is violating the smoking ban laws?
A) Post on Yelp
B) Call 311
C) File a complaint

Here’s what I wrote:
“Smoking is everywhere in the "Outdoor" beer garden. The law says smoking is ok in "Outdoor dining areas of food service establishments with no roof or other ceiling enclosure." The beer garden is covered by the highline park, so I would consider it enclosed and there is no place for the smoke to go. However, even if this “outdoor” establishment is deemed not enclosed, then the law says that “Up to 25% of seating in outdoor areas of restaurants with no roof or ceiling enclosure may be designated smoking areas. The area must be at least three feet away from the nonsmoking area. The smoking and nonsmoking areas must be clearly designated with signs.” There was no smoking area, there was no 75% non smoking area, and there were no signs. Ashtrays were provided on every table, as well as candles to light cigars and cigarettes. Additionally, the hotel does not have a waiver of this law.

This is what my DJ wrote:
“On this date, I visited the Biergatren at The Standard Hotel. The Biergarten sits below the Highline - thus an enclosure/roof is established and one does not get the sense that it is actually an outdoor space. Even if the Biergarten is considered an outdoor area, there was no area that was designated for smoking - as is allowed for by law (reference: Up to 25% of seating in outdoor areas of restaurants with no roof or ceiling enclosure may be designated smoking areas.) Instead, smoking at the Biergarten was pervasive - with customers smoking at nearly every table and ashtrays made available for them. Due to the set up of the establishment, there is little ventilation that would allow for the smoke to disappate. Therefore, customers and staff are subjected to high-levels of second-hand smoke. There was no no-smoking sign or policy posted - that was visible to this customer.”

Yes, she is a much better writer than I.

Honestly, this place is facing $100,000 in fines a night, but I just want the practice stopped, so I can enjoy my beer w/o having an asthma attack.

Suck it John:

John McCain had the audacity to send me an email titled “Repeal the bill” this afternoon. He said he’s in a tight race for reelection and needs more money, so that when things change he’ll be able to make changes. Most of you know my thoughts on healthcare from THIS, but to reiterate: An insurance company’s desires to pay out as little as possible contradict both 1) the so called premise of their business model and 2) the ethical desires of the populous for a healthier nation, I’d be happy to get rid of all of them. The least we should do is regulate and promote more openness and competition.

Anyway, I emailed John back – “John, You could have supported the bill and made it better, instead you tried to block and failed. Can you imagine how much better it would have been had you co-sponsored or at least tried to negotiate? This bill is so bad because of the republicans stance not to negotiate and make it a bipartisan effort. John, you failed.”

Philanthropist or Robber Barron:

I met with a very successful investor and philanthropist the other day at a UJA breakfast for the Wall Street Division. He is the 3rd or 4th speaker I’ve heard talk about his remarkable successes in finance, while not talking about his mistakes. He’s also the 3rd or 4th speaker that’s mentioned how he took profitable businesses, and made them more profitable by cutting costs, and then sold them to other companies for large sums of money. He’s considered a great philanthropist because he takes the $100’s of millions of dollars he’s made and gives a small portion to UJA, and in return, is named to charitable boards. What I don’t get, and what always comes to mind first, yet no one asks, is the basic contradiction inherent in this person’s brain. While it’s very nice that he’s donating money, which helps poor people and those less fortunate, he is also a significant contributor to the problem by firing people from profitable companies and making them poor. To me, he’s taking cash flow from the pockets of his workers, selling that cash flow at an 8.0x multiple, and then giving some of it back to the community. To me, he’s no Robin Hood, he’s the sheriff. Of course, you can’t word your questions like that at these donor breakfasts. Does anyone else see that?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Would You Say in 15 Seconds?

Question: If you could call up the 16 year old version of yourself, but you were only allowed to talk to him for 15 seconds and nothing more, what would you say?

My friend sent me this question and then sent me some of the responses when he asked others. It's amazing the difference between how girls and boys respond. Of course, I came up with 4 responses myself.

Your job:
Post your own answer as a comment below!

Here are some samples from people who were asked this question last Sunday.

1) Girl - Don't get involved in all the high school drama. Just have fun and enjoy yourself and don't get stressed out.
2) Boy - Assassinate Supreme Court Justices during Clinton's administration so Bush doesn't win the White House and the whole world doesn't explode after 8 years of no leadership.
3) Girl - Don't let "Him" get away.
4) Boy - Take sports more seriously. You're going to grow another foot and if you try hard you could make it!
5) Girl - Don't do that. Just don't.
6) Boy - Invest in Google and create Facebook
7) Girl - Try to figure out what you want to do in college with your life. Don't leave it until you are 26.
8) Boy - Go to a college with great weather. You have the rest of your life to live on the east coast and hate winter.
9) Girl - Play basketball - It may help you get into a better college and get a scholarship.
10) Boy - Short all the banks and significantly in late 2007.

Obviously... The men recommend to their younger selves how to succeed materially, while the women focus on social issues and successfully navigating those issues (except the girl with 3 brothers).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Obama Final Update

Obama Update:

It's been just over 1 year since Obama Called the Bottom of the markets, saying that "buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long term perspective." The dow jones average was 6726 on that day. Today, it stands at 10, 550, representing an amazing 56.9% one year return for the "First Portfolio." Obama is an insider since his policies impact the market's trading prices. However, that just means we should listen even more when he's picking stocks.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Say No To Drugs - Like Coffee

Coffee is a drug, and should be regulated.

Whenever people ask me why I don’t like coffee, I always respond with “I don’t do drugs, and coffee is pretty much speed.” The ironic thing is, I’m not joking. For those of us who don’t drink coffee, actually having a cup now and then will really mess us up.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, I couldn’t stay awake at work. (I had gotten 7 hours of sleep). Around 3pm I headed to Starbucks and ordered a Tall Mocha Frappuchino. After a few sips I could feel the impact. After ¾ of it, I was in a great mood, I wasn’t tired, and I was typing up a storm. I was making all sorts of decisions (like buying an apartment), under the influence of this drug. Making decisions while under the influence should not be encouraged, and I shouldn’t be responsible for the decisions I make while under the influence. Yesterday evening, I worked out at 8, showered and watched TV till 12, and couldn’t fall asleep until 2am. Last night's sleep was a terrible sleep, and I woke up needing another coffee type substance to get through the day. Being that I’m not quite addicted yet, I have decided to break from this never ending circular catch 22.

I’ve smoked (not often) and I’ve drank (very often), but the lasting impact from my big glass of 1/2 coffee 1/2 hot cocoa trumps the impact of those other drugs.

All I know is this –

Coffee is like speed
It’s a drug
It messes you up
It makes your heart race
It makes you sleep poorly
It makes you crave more
It’s the same as a 5 hour energy
It’s the same as a NoDoze

I’m going back to coke (a cola).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Q&A about 30, Valentine's Day, Girl on Girl, and FB Deleting

UPDATED:

What are some of the benefits to being 30?

Here's what I got off the top of my head:
- I have more credibility, people think I'm successful.
- People think I'm mature...this means that when I act immature, I can catch people offguard (which is the purpose of acting that way).
- I'm allowed to get fat...or be fat...or at least I have an excuse for getting fat.
- When someone asks me to help them move apartments for the fee of some pizza and beer, I can say no. I'm pretty sure this is the rule, once you turn 30, you no longer have any obligation to help anyone move....your friends should get movers already.

How do you do Valentine's Day well?

First of all, I hate Valentine's day. My goal, as a boyfriend is to make every day feel like Valentine's Day... or at least that's what I tell my DJ. (I'm so freakin smooth w/the lines sometimes).

When you "Do It Up" on Vday, you just set her up for disappointment the other 362 days of the year (not her bday or xmas). You also get her expectations really high for the following Vday. She just wants to be with you, so spend the entire day with her! If you want to get her flowers, fine. If you want to spend an absurd amount of money on a dinner you could get the night before or after for 1/3 of the cost, you're an idiot, and if you want to take her somewhere special, enjoy. But as I said before, you're gonna have to do this over and over for the rest of your life...so don't do too much or she'll be disappointed ever year. Do not propose to her (see below)***

Above all, get her a gift and a card (oops). It doesn't have to cost $, it doesn't have to be romantic, it just has to be thoughtful... a thoughtful surprise.

The last thing you need to do is remind her what Valentine's Day is for women, a competition. Every girl, single or taken has to ask "What'd you do yesterday? What'd he get you? Where did he take you?" That "Everygirl's" goal is to judge and rank, though her reaction will likely be "awwe." You need to tell your girl that this isn't some competition, and that you are not trying to win any awards, you just love spending time w/her. You need tell her to answer those questions as such "We had a lovely day/evening together," or "He got me something thoughtful and special" or "He took me somewhere personal and special."

The purpose is to A) Trivialize all other women into a "how could I ever like anyone but you" classificaiton and B) let her know that you're not gonna "do it up," but it shouldn't ever be a compention, that's not the point. Also, if you ever decide to "do it up" 5 years from now, she'll be extra surprised.

*** If you propose to a girl on any special day, that day will become even more special. HOWEVER, if for some reason, she says "no" or you screw it up and you break up, that day will forever be ruined in her life. Is that a nice thing to do for a girl? Possibly ruin every xmas she has for the last 60 years of her life b/c you decided to propose on xmas? Exactly.

My female / female friendship is unballanced, what do I do? My friend is awesome, and I love her, and she loves me, but I can't help that she's only cute while I'm stunning can I?

The best female / female friendships work when both person thinks the other is a little bit better than they are. in terms of looks, coolness, money, status, popularity, or whatever other superfical judgement category girls use to value things. There are two possibilites, you can try to live with it, or you can pump her up. As you know, being the pretty one sucks very often. Remind her of this. Try something like "Sometimes I'm so jealous of how approachable you are. Guys talk to you constantly b/c you're so cute, while guys are just intimidated by me. The only guys who talk to me are the assholes with the guts to do it, or the really drunk ones. You have normal guys walking up to you all the time, while I have to keep my guard up b/c I get a constant streem of cocky jerks. Trust me, being 'pretty' sucks!" GOOD LUCK!

I realized yesterday that some guy i'm Facebook friends with is having a baby...and that i have no idea who he is. This mornig, I actually ran into someone that i'm fb friends with that i haven't seen in like 8 years! now i can't delete him, right? We said hi and then he 'wrote on my wall' 1/2 hour later. The question is, when is it ok to delete a FB friend?

I delete FB friends all the time. There is an art to it. A few years ago, I deleted a bunch and then told the rest that they'd been saved - Here's the article.

Anyway, you can keep whoever you want, if you like them, even if you haven't talked to them in years. These are the types of people you can delete, at any time, no matter what. Unfortunately, you may not delete family, unless you are deleting your parents and you are under 22.

People you haven't talked to in a year.
People you met once.
People I will never message again
Ex's at any time, for any reason.
(feel free to comment w/your own rules for deletion)

A good test of someone's facebook friend worthyness is thinking of this hypothetical scenario. If you ran into that person at a bar, and none of your mutual friends were in the room, would you talk to them or ignore them?

This happened to me last summer. I was standing right next to a FB friend who I gone to college with. I didn't say hi and pretty much pretended like we didn't know eacother. She was deleted the next day.

As I said, these are just guidelines, you don’t have to delete these people. You don’t ever have to delete someone you actually like.

Funny story: Last month I emailed a girl that I had not talked to in years because a friend of mine was applying for a job at her company, and I was hoping to help by sending the resume through her. She wrote back "Honestly, it would not be professional for me to recommend a complete stranger." Of course, I wasn't asking for a recommendation, just an "in." A few days later, she deleted me. I wrote back post deletion "congrats on getting married." The funniest part of this story is that, though we have not talked in 4 years probably, I'm pretty sure she reads this site periodically.