30 March 2009

Red Wagon Gourmet for Dinner

The recently reopened Red Wagon Gourmet is donating $5.00 to the Hillsborough Elementary School Home and School Association for each meal pre-ordered from their special Tuesday/Thursday dinner menu.

Cool idea. Take a look at April's menu. [Click on the calendar to view and print at full zize.]

Hungry yet?

27 March 2009

Neither a Borrower, nor a Lender Be?

There's an old axiom that states you should never lend money to someone who really needs it. It seems that over the past decade or so, banks - in their haste to make a quick profit through sub-prime loans - have forgotten that old saw. How ironic, then, that when distributing this year's big bailouts to the banks, the federal government is reviving the saying.

In central New Jersey, at least.

A recent story in the Courier News reports that the community banks in our area have been doing just fine - weathering the economic downturn by employing sound business practices. They certainly didn't need any TARP money earlier this year. But they took it anyway.

In fact, the TARP money was awarded as a RESULT of their good performance! Bankers in our area have stated that NOT accepting the bailout would have implied that they were in trouble.

Why am I not surprised?

And what of us, the taxpayers, who gave all of this bailout money to the banks? Well, they would like you to know that they are looking to lend it back to you - with interest of course.

Reminds me of that other old saying - "There's a sucker born every minute!"

26 March 2009


This week, Gillette on Hillsborough reached 25,000 page views - according to Google Analytics. Thanks, readers!

I began keeping track of visits to the blog in July 2007, about a month after I began writing. In May of 2008, the Courier News switched to a proprietary blog format - one where I am not able to track visits and page views. Nevertheless, I have continued keeping stats on THIS version of the blog, and although I assume most people now read the MyCentralJersey.com version promoted in the newspaper, there are still plenty of readers here!

Enough to eke out 25,000 look-sees anyway!

25 March 2009

Hillsborough's Raiders?

Maybe this question is coming 40 years too late, but I still have to ask it: Why are Hillsborough High School's sports teams called the Raiders? Does anyone know the origin? Because it seems a little odd.

Not that the name doesn't make sense, in a strange sort of way, but...

The most famous "raiders" in the history of Hillsborough Township were on the wrong side!

It was in October 1779 that Colonel John Simcoe and his band of Tories made a daring raid on the village of Millstone, burning the Somerset County Courthouse to the ground and destroying or damaging several other key buildings.

Simcoe's raid was probably the most daring escapade of that type by either side during the whole of the American Revolution. Lord Hillsborough, King George's Secretary of the American Colonies during this period, must have been pleased, or perhaps conflicted, as his namesake township burned.

Hillsborough's Raiders? Indeed.

24 March 2009

Calling All Patrons - Art Show, May 14, 2009

What does an artist need to succeed - what would you put at the top of the list? Talent, certainly - a natural gift. Skill enough to make the talent work. Determination to succeed, from conception to completion, sometimes a long and difficult process. Desire, too - more than ambition, a need to create, to be seen, to be heard.

Talent, skill, determination, desire. All are necessary. But above all else - patronage!

From DaVinci to Warhol, all successful artists have needed patrons. A great painter may "live for his art", but won't live long without food, clothing, shelter, and the other necessities of our postmodern world.

The Hillsborough Township Cultural and Arts Commission, in conjunction with its upcoming 4th Annual Fine Art Exhibit, is seeking patrons from within Hillsborough's business community. This juried art show, which will take place at the municipal complex on May 14, 2009, will feature the best work of the young artists at Hillsborough High School, as well as other area schools and artists from the community.

Prizes totaling $1000.00 will be awarded in several different categories, and one young artist will receive a $1000.00 commission to create an artwork depicting a prominent figure or feature of our town for display in Hillsborough's new permanent art collection. The first piece in the collection, an oil painting of Assemblyman Peter Biondi, has already been created by our own internationally recognized portraitist Kevin Murphy, and will be unveiled the night of the exhibit.

Businesses and individuals can help by making a donation to offset these costs. Donors will be recognized at the event, and their names or logos will be included in promotional materials, as well as on a banner displayed the evening of the show.

For more information about Hillsborough Township's 4th Annual Fine Art Exhibit, and how you can become a patron to the arts by making a donation. Please contact Kevin Murphy:

By phone at 201-240-9157, or by email: kevin@kevinmurphy.biz

22 March 2009

Conveniently Broke!

When the time comes to renew your car registration, the state of New Jersey gives you three ways to make your payment - in-person at a MVC center, by mail, or through the internet. Which choice do you suspect costs the state the most money?

I wasn't sure either. But I am positive that the most cost effective form for the state to receive a payment must be through the internet. So why does the state charge a $2.00 "convenience charge" for payments received in this manner?

Two bucks doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it's still two bucks. Would the MVC rather I went down to a local office and take up a lot of time on line and at the window(s)? That can't be cheap. How about if I sent a check in the mail? Then a clerk can spend time opening the letter and looking up my name and entering the info. What a waste!

By using the internet, I am doing the jobs that would normally be done by the MVC employees. I should be getting the $2.00, not the Official Payments Corporation which takes that $2.00 "convenience charge" and magically turns it into their "processing fee".

In the event, I paid the $2.00. If Trenton adds any more convenience charges, I may wind up conveniently broke!

21 March 2009

Shave That Ice!

Rita's, probably the country's best known purveyor of "Italian ice", held their annual first day of Spring giveaway at all of their 500 stores nationwide - including the outlet at the Triangle Center.

What many of the hundreds who lined up Friday for a free taste probably don't know is that the machine that makes Italian ice possible was invented by the Clawson Machine Company of Flagtown.

Clement C. Clawson, Jr. was granted a patent in 1935 for a unique ice shaver for making what he termed "confections". While previous devices of this type were able to produce small quantities of ice, Clawson's invention allowed for operations on a large scale. This innovation created the Italian ice industry as we know it today!

I think that's good enough to allow Hillsborough residents free Italian ice EVERY day. What do you think?

20 March 2009

Sticking it Out

With so many area businesses closing - particularly national chains like Circuit City, and regional outfits such as Drug Fair - it is heartening to see some of Hillsborough's smaller industrial and commercial companies still trying to make a go of it.

At a time when it might be easier to cut your losses and close up shop, default on your loans and file for bankruptcy, it is good to know that an entrepreneurial spirit is still alive in our town. Not everyone is heading for Pennsylvania - or diving under the bed.

The Hillsborough Township Committee is, essentially, rewarding those industrial companies that are sticking it out by making things just a little bit easier. Minor changes to industrial zones along Route 206 North near the Montgomery border, along Roycefield Road, and along the CSX rail line near Sunnymead and Weston Roads, will make it easier for businesses to expand their operations. And a reduction in site plan application fees from $15,000 down to as low as $2,500 won't hurt either.

And the best part? Unlike those big federal bailouts, these changes can have a positive effect right away - no earmarks necessary.

19 March 2009

Happy 101st!

Today [March 19, 2009] would have been my grandfather's 101st birthday. I wasn't quite thirty when he passed away in February of 1994.

I always felt very close to my grandfather - not in a "confidante" sort of way, but in a comfortable sort of way. We spent a lot of time together when I was a child - baseball, swimming and fishing, jokes and games. When we both got older, I was very happy to do some things for him - chauffeuring mostly - because he had done so much for me.

He was very pleased when we told him we were moving to Hillsborough. Even though he had never heard of the place, he had a feeling he would like it.

He only made it out to Hillsborough twice. The first time, we took a drive out while our new house was still being built in early 1993. The second was a few months later, at our housewarming party.

Halfway through the party, I found Grandpa sitting alone on the couch in the living room, perfectly at ease. "I feel at home here", he said.

As I sit here sixteen years later, I know exactly what he meant. I feel at home here too.

17 March 2009

It's Good to Be Irish, Even if You're Not

George Sadowski was used to the knocks at the door of his home - day and night - and the frequent inquiries and phone calls at his tailor shop. All seeking the whereabouts of one improbably popular local figure, Jimmy O'Neill. Why were people searching for Jimmy in the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukranian neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Because Jimmy O'Neill was George's son!

Stepson, actually. But it's more complicated than that. George was married to Jimmy's mother, the former Elizabeth Obellinas, widow of Jimmy's father, Joseph Bielauskas. So how did the son of Lithuanian immigrant parents in 1920s era Brooklyn turn into the handsome Irish ladies man Jimmy O'Neill?

Jimmy was born Anthony Bielauskas on March 19, 1908 - just two days after St. Patrick's Day. The son of a laborer and harried homemaker, young Tony was like most other immigrant children in the neighborhood - learning to swim in the East River, playing baseball in the vacant lots, getting along at school - proud of his graduation from 8th grade. All that time, never realizing that there was an Irishman inside him waiting to get out.

It was the dance halls that did it. How did those Irish guys get all the girls? He was a better dancer than any of them, and just as handsome - not tall, but neat and fair with blue eyes and blond hair. All Tony needed was a new name. And maybe something else.

Changing your persona is all in the details. And there don't have to be many. Just one key item can make all the difference in the world. For the newly christened Jimmy O'Neill, that one item was a belt buckle, proudly emblazoned with the initials "JN".

For a man who in his later years said that he had missed his calling - he should have become a gigolo instead of a machinist! - that belt buckle must have been one prized possession!

And for a mother and stepfather who had to ashamedly admit that, yes, Jimmy O'Neill was their son, it should have come as no surprise that you don't have to wait until St. Patrick's Day to be Irish. With a little luck and a good plan, you can be Irish all year long.

16 March 2009

Numerically Challenged

There they are. Staring back at you at the supermarket checkout, the bookstore magazine rack, the local newsstand. Countless numbers of, well, numbers!

It seems like you can't look at a magazine cover these days without your eye immediately going to the digits. "365 New Looks for Fall" - "679 Ways to Lose the Weight" - "12,000 Travel Destinations to See Before You Die" - you get the idea.

Editors say this kind of thing works, and readers agree. Apparently, customers - especially in England where 80% of magazine sales are made at the newsstand - respond positively to the numbers hype. Even if it's all part of a game.

No one actually tallies all of the touted tips and tricks. Editors take a look at a few sample pages and extrapolate from there based on how many editorial pages are in the magazine.

Which is actually a much more scientific approach than what I have been using for my 100th, 200th, 300th, and now 400th post! But now you see where I got the idea.

14 March 2009

400 Reasons to Clean Up Your Act

Inspired by Hillsborough's upcoming Annual Spring Clean-Up Program and the promise of a big neighborhood garage sale at the end of next month, I decided this week to clean up and clean out the study.

Over the last several months - make that years! - my once spacious retreat has turned into the island of misfit toys. The kids unwanted and unloved playthings competing for space with all kinds of computer peripherals in various states of repair, piles of old bills and tax stuff in need of filing (or shredding), and a seven-foot tower of school board agendas and attachments teetering ominously in the corner.

It got so cluttered I could barely get to my desk to type these blog entries.

But of course the real reason I finally got out the shovel is I will do almost anything to avoid writing when I have nothing to say. And, I guess, even after 399 entries of Gillette on Hillsborough, I still care enough about it to at least TRY to have some real content in every piece.

With the exception of the 400th, apparently!

11 March 2009

A Corzine Story

Governor Jon Corzine's budget address was a little like the scene near the end of A Christmas Story where the neighbor's hound dogs have stolen the Christmas turkey right off the kitchen table. Close your eyes and you can almost hear Jean Shepherd narrating - "The heavenly aroma still hung in the State House. But it was gone, all gone! No property tax rebates! No property tax deductions! No property tax decreases! Gone, ALL GONE!"

For Hillsborough residents, the loss of the property tax deduction will hit very hard. The ability to deduct your property tax from your state income tax was the only middle class "loophole" left.

The rich have a million ways to work the system - from trust funds to offshore accounts to shady business ventures to farm assessments on their 100 acre estates. All the middle class taxpayers of Hillsborough had was one lousy deduction.

New Jersey's elite, even with a modest tax increase, still hold onto their Red Rider BB guns. All the rest of us have to settle for TinkerToys.

Hey Jon - Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra to you!

09 March 2009

Thinking Time

Believe it or not - and looking back on some of my recent posts I realize you'll have to take my word on this - but writing this blog takes a lot of time.

Not writing time. Thinking time.

I haven't had much time to think about the blog these past few weeks. I have been thinking about the school budget.

Intuition is useful, first impressions are often right on the money, and doing "something" is arguably better than doing "nothing". But for real problem-solving, I don't believe there is any more useful tool than the human brain.

The more time you can devote to a problem, the better the solution will be.

At the very least, you can say you tried!

05 March 2009

Just Sign This

Will someone please explain this to me? Why do some doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals require patients to sign a form about privacy? What exactly am I doing by signing it? Isn't this backwards?

It would make more sense for me, as a patient, to come into the doctor's with my OWN form detailing what I expect regarding confidentiality, and have the doctor sign that. I shouldn't need to sign anything. Doctors are flipping around their obligation - making it seem like patients are the ones with the obligation.

Now docs are taking it one step further. Some offices are requiring patients to sign an agreement stating they will not post comments on any of the web sites that rate doctors. No way would I sign something like that - I don't think access to medical care should be contingent upon giving up your first amendment rights!

What do you think?

03 March 2009

Over Stimulated

We are living in exciting and suspenseful times. It's the kind of excitement you get from spending a lot of money - or gambling. The Federal stimulus spending and budget plan are nothing if not a huge gamble. It's thrilling to walk up to that one hundred dollar window at the track. The problem is the odds are against us.

Government spending is not a bad thing in concept. After all, we are all in this together, and we are only giving the money to each other. And if we could be sure that none of our tax dollars were going to line the pockets of the well-connected, that would be fine.

But when people say that government spending - especially Federal government spending - is inefficient, this is exactly what they have in mind. The money that goes to pay for a $900 hammer or a $20,000 toilet seat doesn't trickle down to the people who need it. It gets lost somewhere. Someone who knows how to work the system has taken their cut.

The stimulus plan is sure to have a million strings attached. Projects that could have been completed for half the price will now cost double. And forget about anything being completed on time or under budget. There will be no way to give the money back. Every penny will be spent.

Isn't that exciting!