31 December 2008
I have plenty of time.
The Kohl's checkout is the most maddening of all queues. The reason being that the whole cashier setup has such promise. It really should be a breeze - pay and go - with two complete checkout areas, each employing five cashiers. There's no reason this experience shouldn't be the equivalent of the old barbershop "two chairs, no waiting".
It's not that I expect supermarket swiftness. But when the line snakes all the way back to the men's footwear, I would appreciate a little urgency - on the part of the customers as well as the clerks.
On this new year's eve I can't help but think it took Dick Clark less time to recover from his stroke than it will take me to get to the front of this line.
Is it 2009 yet?
30 December 2008
Every few years the subject of what to do about sidewalk snow comes up. In my neighborhood the answer is simple - shovel a path or blow it away. Nearly everyone around here follows through with that unwritten social contract - up to 4 or 6 or even 8 inches. After that, it's every aching back for himself.
And that's probably how it should be. I know I don't want any of my neighbors killing themselves to clear their sidewalk after a blizzard. If they can get their drive done that's good enough. The sidewalk can wait.
A little snow is a wonderful thing. A foot of snow - or two inches of ice! - is an act of God. And not one of those kindly acts, like a rainbow after a summer shower or the Jets making the playoffs.
Let common sense prevail. Make a reasonable effort to keep your sidewalk clear, but be careful out there.
29 December 2008
Since then, Chris has been collecting gently used coats for the Jersey Cares coat drive. The Courier News reported this week that he has collected 483 so far - on his way to a goal of 1000, which he hopes to reach by December 2011.
There's no reason to think this determined seven-year-old won't make it - and maybe even finish early.
Maybe we can encourage him towards a career in the New Jersey DOT!
27 December 2008
As I have been sitting here looking at the tree, it occurs to me that in the last several years, we've never had a bad one. I can't remember one scrawny, needle dropping, flimsy limbed fir in at least the last ten years.
The reason must be that we always choose and cut our tree at the Shadow Hill Farm on Grandview Road in Skillman. I can only think of maybe two years since the mid 90s when we purchased a tree elsewhere - and in at least one of those years I believe it was because the farm didn't open!
The setting - at the top a hill at the edge of the Sourlands - is gorgeous and serene, the proprietors are friendly and helpful, and the trees are top-notch!
But, of course, as I sit here and look at the tree - all trimmed out, and tricked out, with ornaments and lights - I don't really see the Christmas tree at all.
25 December 2008
In France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China the answer is simple - Santa takes the train. That's because all of those countries have high speed railroads - trains with top speeds of 175 mph or greater. France's TGV broke the speed record last year for a train running on conventional rails - 356 mph!
The fastest train in the US, Amtrak's Acela Express, tops out at just 150 mph - and the twists and turns of the Northeast Corridor rail line mean that the average speed for a trip from Boston to Washington is much less than that.
So why can't we have some of those fast trains here? U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently asked for proposals for a new high speed rail line between New York and Washington D.C. Unlike the Acela project, which was designed to run over existing tracks on a route that was laid out in the 19th century, a new high speed line would need an entirely new route - eliminating curves and grade crossings - and a completely new infrastructure.
And of course, it would have to pass through New Jersey, preferably avoiding the urban areas in favor of the open spaces in the western part of our state.
24 December 2008
Mr. David, the creator of Seinfeld, plays himself in the series - or, more accurately, a heightened version of himself. Larry has a unique take on everyday life, which basically boils down to his questioning of most of the social conventions that we take for granted.
In one episode, his acupuncturist sends him, for no apparent reason, a large flower arrangement. Larry can't get over it, and spends the rest of the show asking people why this professional man would send him flowers.
About two weeks ago, we went out with the kids and stopped into a restaurant in Lambertville. We had a pleasant lunch, and I thought nothing else about it. Until this week when I received a postcard from the waiter who served us that day! "It was a pleasure serving you, please visit again" - that type of thing. Handwritten by the waiter.
Anyone else ever hear of something like this?
23 December 2008
Anyone who has tried to travel north out of Hillsborough during rush hour knows that traffic doesn't get bad until AFTER Old Somerville Road! The real snarl begins at Triangle Road, and continues to Brown Avenue. This is the section of Route 206 that needs to be improved - with or without the bypass.
It is encouraging to see that at least some of our leaders have now acknowledged the importance of this section of highway. Last week Mayor Ferrera called on New Jersey's US Senators to include the widening of Route 206 between Old Somerville Road and Brown Avenue in any new economic stimulus package.
This $108 million project is the only part of the 206 bypass plan that could actually stand on its own - without the CSX bridge reconfiguration in Belle Mead or the bypass itself - yet it is the only part of the plan that has had no funds allocated thus far. Amazing!
Mayor Ferrera, keep the pressure on. Let's make sure the 206 bypass becomes a "road to somewhere".
Somewhere other than the world's largest traffic jam, that is.
21 December 2008
You can find a lot of this information at www.usps.com, and you can even search for all the post offices in a given radius, like I did here.
Here are the business hours for all of the area post offices as given by the USPS web site.
HILLSBOROUGH Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00pm Sat 9:00-2:00pm
BELLE MEAD Mon-Fri 8:00-7:00pm Sat 8:30-4:00pm
FLAGTOWN Mon-Fri 7:00-4:30pm Sat 7:00-12:00pm
NESHANIC STATION Mon-Fri 8:30-4:45pm Sat 8:30-12:00pm
SKILLMAN Mon-Fri 7:00-4:00pm Sat 7:00-12:00pm
BLAWENBURG Mon-Fri 7:15-12:00pm and 2:00-4:30pm Sat 9:00-12:00pm
EAST MILLSTONE Mon-Fri 8:30-12:30pm and 2:30-5:00 pm Sat closed
ROCKY HILL Mon-Fri 8:00-4:30pm Sat 9:00-12:00pm
MANVILLE Mon-Fri 9:30-7:00pm Sat 10:00-4:00pm
RARITAN Mon-Fri 9:00-7:00pm Sat 9:00-4:00pm
SOMERVILLE Mon-Fri 8:30-7:00pm Sat 9:00-4:00pm
20 December 2008
18 December 2008
I have to agree! I wrote about my own post office woes in 2007, and a year later, I'm not sure anything has changed. The post office is slow, slow, slow.
It seems as if the postmaster has given up trying to speed things up in there. Maybe he doesn't have the resources, or maybe the lethargy is so entrenched there is no way out. In any case, his letter to the editor is clearly a letter of surrender.
We accept, unconditionally!
16 December 2008
Sunday was the dress rehearsal of the reenactment of Washington's famous Christmas Day crossing - 2400 Americans crossed the Delaware and marched a few miles south to launch a surprise attack on Hessian troops in Trenton.
We enjoyed meeting the colonial blacksmith....
...and the colonial woman roasting almonds using an 18th century recipe.
And everyone jeered appropriately as a captured Hessian was paraded through the small historic village.
But what we were really waiting for was the Crossing!
Oarsmen gathered by the river's edge, standing quietly with the tools of their trade in a vertical salute as we anticipated the arrival of General Washington and his officers.
Alas, it was not to be. Washington addressed his troops, quoted Thomas Paine, and then turned glumly and headed in the other direction as a voice from the public address system informed the assembled that the river was too dangerous to cross today!
The reenactors were just as disappointed as the overflowing crowd of onlookers - but still, we were left with an even greater appreciation of what was accomplished on December 25, 1776.
13 December 2008
P.S. No mommies and sisters allowed!
12 December 2008
It was just about a year and a half ago that I wrote about Hillsborough's changes to its deer hunting season and the booming deer population. White-tailed deer are not the only species that have staged a remarkable comeback in New Jersey. The coyote population, which numbered about 100 just three decades ago, is now at 3000. Of course that is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of deer that now reside in our state, but it is far from extinction.
While coyote and fox both pose threats to livestock, spread mange, and carry rabies, they pose much less threat to humans and our property than deer. What the increased population of coyote and fox does accomplish is that it makes recreational hunting of these animals sustainable.
And, of course, that ensures we humans remain at the top of the bill!
10 December 2008
The experts on the radio advised callers to seek help directly from the mortgage and credit card companies. "These companies don't want you to file bankruptcy - they will work with you to lower your rates and get you through the crisis".
Interesting. In the mail that same day I received a letter from one of those caring credit companies. "These tough economic times have forced us to raise the interest rate on your account".
What a joke!
07 December 2008
The kids were so excited about meeting Santa that they didn't even appear to feel the cold. Meanwhile, moms and dads were absolutely freezing! I hope Santa's little red cottage was heated!
After giving Santa Claus our Christmas wish lists, we headed inside to listen to the Hillsborough High School wind ensemble play a selection of holiday tunes.
The mayor made a point of telling the assembled residents that we in Hillsborough were proud to call our tree a "Christmas Tree" - not a holiday tree, or some other politically correct euphemism - and that the town would also be lighting a menorah in the coming weeks.
I appreciate the sentiment - it's a good effort. I am as fed up with political correctness as everyone else. But I'm not sure what any of this has to do with Christmas. Is political correctness so ingrained, are we such timid sheep, that lighting up a "Christmas" tree and rolling out Santa Claus is now considered a victory?
After all, it wasn't Jesus on that firetruck.
04 December 2008
I have been a proponent and supporter of inclusive recreation programs in Hillsborough since their inception over two years ago. While our efforts here have been laudable, and have served as a model for other communities, I am sure Mayor Ferrera would agree that our programs can always be improved and expanded.
From the beginning, I have felt that our specific inclusive recreation programs should be used as a tool to learn how to make ALL of our recreation programs more accessible to children and adults with disabilities. A better understanding of the recreational needs and requirements of people in the special needs community can be obtained through observation of inclusive recreation.
The ultimate goal is to achieve a barrier free community, where individuals with mental or physical disabilities can participate in activities of their choosing.
Thank you Mayor Ferrera for your efforts in making this possible.
03 December 2008
Why is it o.k. to laugh about what could have been a very dangerous situation - shadowy figure inside closed bank, SWAT team outside at the ready? First of all, no one got hurt. That's very important. But what really makes it all right to have a giggle is that the Montgomery Township Police essentially did nothing wrong. An alarm is tripped, there is a figure in darkened room of a closed bank. Who knows how many others could be out of sight in other parts of the bank? The correct steps were taken - it turned out to be just "one of those things". It really could happen to anyone, and those kinds of incidents are always worth a chuckle.
And. of course, we can be thankful Montgomery doesn't have a wax museum. (Just kidding!)
02 December 2008
These reductions are a significant achievement and should be applauded. Even more significant is the fact that the plan designates three development projects on the table right now - two on Amwell Road and one on Route 206 - that will fulfill all of the 296 units of the affordable housing requirement.
Overall, the COAH plan was completed on time, with significant reductions to our obligations, and with a realistic goal for completing the building requirements by the 2018 deadline. So why am I still pessimistic - why does a 50% reduction in affordable housing leave the COAH glass half empty instead of half full?
I agree with Mayor Ferrera and the Township Committee that COAH is broken. It is unfair to municipalities both in its methods of calculation and in its overall philosophy - which forces a town like Hillsborough, with a huge variety of housing options in place, to build more unnecessary housing in contradiction to our Master Plan.
Hillsborough should continue to participate in the League of Municipalities lawsuit to overturn the COAH rules, while only taking baby sips from the COAH cup.
01 December 2008
The problem is that this plan does not yet make sense, either practically, or on paper. In order for the solar company to guarantee savings, a combination of government incentives and credits would be used for the installation, and Hillsborough would be guaranteed a fixed cost on its energy bill.
Sounds good so far, but to make this scheme work the solar company needs to generally have a 20 year contract - or at least a 15 year contract - in order to spread their costs out over time. Hillsborough can only enter into contracts of this type for a maximum of 10 years - thus making the plan unworkable on paper.
Still, sustainable energy from the sun is clearly in our future. And like most succesful plans, it needs to start in our homes and in our town, where we control what it will look like - even if right now it's only a paper sun!