31 January 2010

Something's Missing

Just a few weeks after MyCentralJersey.com editors took note of my blog post about the search for a missing Hillsborough boy in 1970, the web site has launched a Missing Persons Gallery where readers can view pictures and brief stories of New Jersey missing persons cases going as far back as 1973.

There have already been over 200,000 visits to the web site, and a handful of the missing have been located.

Thank You...and, you're welcome!

24 January 2010

Kneelers to Bow at MMoG

If you've attended Mass at Mary Mother of God Church in Hillsborough over the last several months you've heard Reverend Sean Broderick speak about the planned renovation and expansion of the church building. The $4.5 million project will bring many worthy enhancements to the parish, including a chapel between the rectory and church, more space for the choir, a new music room, a larger lobby/gathering space, a reconfigured front entrance way, and a bell tower.

There is, however, one enhancement that I am not particularly looking forward to. New pews in the slightly larger capacity church will include kneelers.

Mary Mother of God is one of the few Catholic churches without kneelers - and without any expectation to kneel during Mass. Since the Vatican II revisions to the Order of Mass in the late 60s - a project intended to encourage more active participation in the church service by dumping Latin in favor of local vernacular, among other changes - Sunday morning at most churches has become an exercise of stand, sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel, stand, sit, etc.

It's not that I am against change - or in this case a change back. Over the last thirty years there have been all manner of innovations to the Catholic Mass, from the "guitar mass" of the early 70s, to receiving Communion in the hand, to "face-to-face" confession - and I have adapted to all of it. And although I have had a bad back for over twenty years, my knees are still in pretty good shape. I don't see any problem with getting up and down.

The problem is relearning the whole social etiquette that comes with manipulating that folding appliance. The furtive look down the row. "Are we going down? Have you got it? Oops, we're not ready. Time to go up. No, not yet." All silent thoughts distracting from the business at hand. Not to mention the inevitable ankle bumps and trips over the down-position kneeler.

In any case, the real changes are coming within the year, now that the Catholic Church is moving forward with the Third Edition Roman Missal. I guess I'll be too busy stumbling over the new responses to know whether I'm standing, sitting, OR kneeling!

23 January 2010

Autism Speaks Awards Dinner

Central New Jersey Walk Now for Autism held its annual awards dinner Friday night at the Salt Creek Grille in Princeton. Seventy-five of our most outstanding volunteers joined Autism Speaks staff members and New York Metro Regional Director Jayne Restivo to recognize teams and individuals for their 2009 fundraising efforts.

Once again, Hillsborough's Hope received the award for top Community Team, and Patty Gillette was the top individual fundraiser.

Patty and I also had our pictures taken with most of the honorees. You can view these and other photos of the event at our Facebook page here.

Our 2010 Walk will take place Sunday, October 10 at Mercer County College.

20 January 2010

New Jersey's "Last Best Hope"

Chris Christie, during his inaugural address Tuesday, twice invoked our sixteenth president. Once near the end of his speech when he quoted Lincoln, at a stop in Newark in 1860 on his way to Washington, D.C. to be sworn in, telling the assembled, "Without the people I cannot hope to succeed; with them I cannot fail", and once near the beginning when our new governor said this:

"You voted loudly and clearly for change and you have entrusted us with what may be our last, best hope for a stronger New Jersey."
The phrase "last, best hope" comes from Lincoln's annual address to Congress in December 1862.

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

For Abraham Lincoln, the "last, best hope of earth" is the United States itself. His intention was not just to preserve the union, but to perfect it through the abolition of slavery. Only then would our nation be exalted above all others and be worthy of God's blessing.

For Chris Christie, the "last, best hope for a stronger New Jersey" seems to be change. In other words, anything other than what has previously been attempted. There is a note in this phrase of both desperation and idealism - a tone that has been carried forward from his campaign.

Like Lincoln and the U.S. Congress of 1862, Chris Christie, our assemblymen, and our senators, "hold the power, and bear the responsibility" for bringing New Jersey back from the brink. So, perhaps, they are our last, best hope.

09 January 2010

"Suburban Solution" - Urban Problem

Hillsborough's own Jack Ciattarelli, sworn in Friday as Somerset County Freeholder Director, unveiled his "suburban solution" - a model for county government in New Jersey. Key aspects of the plan are a renewed effort to consolidate municipal and county services, and reallocation of budget funds to maintain essential services without raising taxes.

Calling this plan the "suburban solution" begs the question, what is the problem? On the most basic level, the problem is the lack of funds needed to provide all of the services the county would hope to offer - and the inability to raise those funds through taxes.

On a deeper level, this shouldn't be a problem at all. Somerset, statistically, is one of the wealthier counties in New Jersey. High residential and commercial property values generate good property tax income, and our residents both earn and spend considerable amounts, generating significant income tax and sales tax receipts.

The real problem is that much of what county residents pay in income and sales tax does not stay in our county. It is redistributed by Trenton to urban school districts that pay only a tiny percentage of their own costs, and to the big cities in the form of extraordinary aid.

Our cities and urban areas should be the economic engines of our state, instead of being the leeches that drain the suburbs of their wealth. Too long have the suburbs been the solution to the cities' problems - it's probably time to turn that formula on its head.

Yet, until that happens, I applaud Mr. Ciattarelli for his plan to devote one of the last remaining resources Trenton has not stolen, our ingenuity, to solving the solvency problem.

07 January 2010

....everybody has one

What is truth? There is little in the world that is universally self-evident. Almost everything is open to debate. Even two groups looking at the same set of established facts can come to different conclusions about what those facts represent. That's why we have nine members of the Supreme Court - and, more to the point, why at the end of a case they "render an opinion".

I would hope that everyone who reads this blog understands that, while I present many facts, the commentary I write along with them is only my opinion. When I make a factual mistake, I am glad to correct it. I invite readers to point out mistakes, and to tell me that I'm crazy to have a certain opinion.

I also invite readers to give me their opinions, understanding full well that our views may differ. You will never be bludgeoned on this blog for letting my readers know how you feel.

06 January 2010

X-Ray Saves Neshanic Tot

Now that Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar have made their visit and presented their gifts, it is time to take down the Christmas decorations, including the Nativity scene.

Let's see. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - check. Angels - check. Shepherds - check. Magi - check. Camel, sheep, goat, donkey - check, check, check, check. Hey, I just want to be thorough.

I wonder if Mrs. Robert Amerman also had a checklist as she put away the decorations in her Neshanic home in January of 1933. If she did, that's probably when she realized one of the animals was missing.

Little Ruth Marie, just five months old, had been in pain and had trouble breathing since Thanksgiving. Doctors were baffled for weeks, until an X-ray revealed a tiny toy donkey lodged in her throat. Removal of the offending animal brought immediate relief to the young patient, as you can see in the photo which appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on January 10, 1933.

05 January 2010

Blown Away

I know it's been windy recently, but this is too much.

I'm talking about my copy of the Courier News, usually delivered to my driveway early each morning.

Several times over the past few weeks I have found the newspaper, still folded in its plastic sleeve, down the street or across the lawn - deposited there by the wind!

Look, if there aren't even enough pages in the paper to keep it from becoming airborne in a breeze, maybe they should think about folding the whole operation.

Either that or put a stone in the bag, like the landscaping guys do with their fliers!

04 January 2010


Forty years ago this week, the snow covered fields of the eastern borders of Hillsborough must have looked like something out of a Hollywood epic - albeit a tragic one.

Under bright blue January skies, 1000 policemen, state troopers, members of the New Jersey National Guard, and assorted volunteers marched across the frozen floodplain of the Millstone River, in an exhaustive search for a 2 1/2-year-old boy who went missing from his family's home around noon the day before.

State Police employed two helicopters, flying low over the fields and woodlands in the vicinity of the partially frozen river, where two police divers and a volunteer probed the shallow depths.

Sub-freezing temperatures didn't slow down the volunteers, high school boys and moms among them.

By the end of the day, despite the best efforts of all involved, no sign of the missing child had been found, and Police Chief Donald Dowches was not discounting foul play, declaring, "The river of course is our major concern, but we are not ruling out any other possibilities".

01 January 2010

Between Coming and Going

Resolution is an interesting word. Like an Hawaiian greeting or a graduation exercise, it gets you coming and going!

At the outset, you can make a resolution. At the finish, you can come to a resolution.

Sometimes what matters most is what happens in between.

Here's hoping all your in-betweens in 2010 are as happy as mine!