August…

August 10, 2007

In the Mid-Atlantic area of the country, specifically Eastern Pennsylvania/New Jersey region, August is kindof a mixed blessing.

– On the negative side: there’s the weather. If it’s going to be stinking hot, you’ll get it in August. It’s rare that you have a disgustingly hot July and a cool August. August typically is either the same as July or worse.

+ On the plus side: there are those hints…. I remember seeing the weather forecast for three days in 1998, where it was 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky with a cool breeze. Basically fall breezes with summer temperatures. I took off on one of those days, and just drove aimlessly enjoying the day.

+/- In the middle: There’s the threat of hurricanes. Admittedly, as I know too many people who live on the eastern seaboard, it’s a concern. But, it is fun to watch the weather men predict the storm’s path and the intensity. (It’s better than horse racing prognosticators). And always fun to see the poor schmoe from the Weather Channel, whose job it is to stand outside in 60 mph winds getting soaked to the skin even tho wearing a poncho. Always fun.

– On the negative side: After the first two weeks, everyone starts bracing for the storm. Yes, back to school time. Parents don’t want to do anything. Mad lines at Target with shopping carts filled with notebooks and school clothes. Football and band camps. Rushing to do those last minute summer activities before the fall. Restaurants, especially down the shore, start losing staff, so you get crappy service, and if you’re lucky crappy food as well.

+ On the plus side: If you don’t have kids, or you have kids that are not yet in elementary school, this is one of THE BEST times to go on vacation. You could probably go down the shore right now, sign up for a week in late August, for half the price of a week in July, get the good beach weather, all of the activities are going on, everything is still open. This weekend, Suze, Zack, & I are going down the shore, I’m betting the crowd is cleared out by 3:00 on Saturday once the current week’s rentals are kicked out.

+/- In the middle: Football season is nearly upon us. I mean, yes having training camps, pre-season games, fantasy football drafts, and updates from all versions of the media is wonderful, it’s still just a tease. It’s like being on a diet, and craving potato chips. If you’re good for a month, and then allow yourself to have a small bag of chips, it doesn’t satisfy you, despite you swearing that it would the previous month.

– Too stinking hot to mow the lawn

+ Lawn is too dead to mow

+/- Another year where that garden isn’t going to get weeded out you slacker!

– End of the summer, “Son of Explosion Man” movies

+ Beginning of movies with actual substance

+/- I’m still not gonna pay $10.00 to sit in a theater with these young whippersnappers, with their cellphones they don’t turn off, and their overpriced popcorn. Back in my day, we didn’t put up with that malarky. Ethel, where’s my teeth?

– Fewer skimpy outfits on attractive women

+ Fewer skimpy outfits on ugly women

+/- Fewer skimpy outfits on me (breezy yet uncomfortable for others)

So, there you have it…. a real mixed bag with August


Buying a Car 2006

November 15, 2006

(Oh boy, this is a long post folks, but it may actually be fairly funny rather than my silly Video Game posts)

As an intro to this blog entry. Two weeks ago, I was involved in a car accident. Was my fault: I was driving on Route 1, and I looked over to see about traffic on the right, and suddenly the cars in front of me were in a dead stop. I slammed on my brakes, but it was too late. I rear-ended the Nissan Pathfinder in front of me. My car went under the rear of the Pathfinder, totally crunching the front part of my car. I was not hurt. The person who I hit was taken away in an ambulance, due to pain. The cop said that they were probably just shaken up, as I only was going maybe 15-20 MPH when I hit the car, as my air bag didn’t deploy.

Now, my car was not ‘destroyed’ (in fact I even started the engine after the accident), but it was totalled by my insurance company, which is what I wanted. The car was useful to me, but I had no affection for it, and as my wife and I were planning on buying a car in 2007, I’d rather take the cash and buy early than have them repair the car and get less value for a 13 year old, body repaired car.

Now, onto the point of this blog entry.

My wife and I went car shopping this weekend. We had decided before that since we have an offspring on order (wait 8-9 months for delivery, some shipping and handling charges do apply, not valid in Las Vegas, New Orleans or the Island of Samoa), that a ‘family vehicle’ is in order. By a family vehicle, we really mean a car that can handle (potentially) 2 car seats, and other stuff.

Now like most god-fearing, anti-communist, love the environment but don’t tell me what to do, middle-class American familiies, we hate minivans. But, I’m not so sure this means that I want to be a contributor to the purchase of a pseudo-offroading vehicle (my wife already owns a Chevy Blazer but that was purchased prior to our merger and acquisition).

So, we had a bunch of cars that we wanted to see in person to determine if they had the size we were looking for. Now, we are kindof between the real price groups for cars. We want more than the entry level, but not quite all the way to the higher-priced luxury vehicles.

So, we go to a fairly well-known car dealer in lower Bucks County. One of those that has like 10 different car brands at one MEGA LOCATION (but next thing you know, on Action News, there’s the reporter, “Blogs like “The Blog from Room Five” have been slandering local businesses, and finally one car dealership decided to take action with a law suit). There happen to be several brands we are looking for there, so we begin our journey there.

The salesgirl who greets us is about 22 years old, piercings all over both ears, and isn’t really a master of communication. A lot of “Ya know”, and “Like”, and “And stuff” in her conversations with us. We ask her about this one car, and she has no clue other than, “Ya know, I’ve been thinking about getting one of these, cause I’m having another baby in a few months. I just found out that I was pregnant five months after the birth of my first son. When are you guys due?”

THUNK

(no not really, she was married and a perfectly productive member of society, but still FIVE MONTHS AFTER?)

THUNK

(look at all my little miracles)

So, first off, she’s supposed to take us to the Service Deparment for our vehicle. Aparently Uber-Autoworld has dictated that everyone who comes in gets a visit to the Service Department. And she doesn’t know how to get to the Service Department.

She works there, and doesn’t know how to get to the service department.

Okay, this is a huuuuge place. Like 20 acres big, maybe more. There are at least three service departments depending on the vehicle type. So, it’s not like it was in back of the building and she couldn’t find it. But still…. This is her job…

Now, we finally get to driving the car around the ‘test track’. (Don’t get excited, it was not a car with a great engine, and better ‘test tracks’ around a mall at night). And she telling us the exciting features of the car, by READING THE SALES STICKER ON THE CAR.

So to recap, she’s unprofessional in her dress and language, she has no idea where buildings are located, and she doesn’t know anything about the car she is selling, AND isn’t good enough of a liar to bullshit her way through without both Suzanne and I picking up on it.

And the icing on the cake, which wasn’t her fault, is her insistance on trying to give us finance information, because “How can you really judge this against other cars unless you know what your payments are going to be?” Ummmmm, how about from the sticker price of the car and a calculator. Now this is straight out of the Selling Car handbook by this dealership. They said to their trainees, “Don’t let them leave without working out their monthly payments”. But still we had to get out of there.

Place #2 was much better. A Toyota dealership nearby, that I went to once before. The salesman was professional and knew his stuff perfectly. However, as we drove up, we saw 4-5 salesmen (not a woman in sight) standing out front. Every single one of them wore a white shirt, neck tie, and black slacks.

Now after complaining about the dress of the salesgirl, it may seem hypocritical to complain about the uniformity of the salesmen at this place. But, there is something to individuality. I mean they looked professional, but so do the waitstaff at Olive Garden. Without the flair that is.

(Oh, and remember, next Saturday is Casual Saturday. So you know, if you want to you can go ahead and just wear a white shirt and black slacks, without a jacket.)

Finally, on Monday night we go to place #3. It is a miserable day/night. Pouring rain outside. We decide to go to a dealership in New Jersey. Now, we arrive at 7:30 PM, and they close at 9:00 PM. However, they were still open, and supposedly still there to sell cars.

We go in the dealership to look at the car that is in the showroom. The guy who approaches us says, “So, why are you folks here tonight?”

I should have told him that we were here to do our laundry, and wondered what the cars were doing here in the middle of the floor.

(Here’s your sign.)

We then go over to the car we are somewhat interested in, and he proceeds to tell us….

nothing

Total silence from this winner. He had the personality of a wet sponge. He told us nothing about the engine. Nothing about the car. And didn’t even offer to take us out for a test drive, work out pricing, or anything. We asked for a brochure and we left without him trying to sell us the car, take one for a drive, or getting our information.

Now, maybe he was a manager who doesn’t sell cars, and is merely there to be a jerk to the employees.

(PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers.)

I mean, I don’t want to go back to the era of slick-backed, old-boy, car dealers, who you feel you have to shower in pure alcohol to remove the stench off of them. The type who would say, “Do you need to check with your husband before you make a decision like this?”

But is total incompetence the reverse. Our waitress the other night at the Michael Tavern, who told us all about how good the Country Ribs special was that night, was a better at selling than two of the idiots we dealt with. And she didn’t even need to sell us on the food, as you don’t enter a restaurant just to browse and walk out.

I’ll let you know when it gets worse.


Cheers,

Rob


Regional Food

October 17, 2006

Culturally, I consider myself a Philadelphia guy. The sports teams I follow are from Philadelphia. I watch Philadelphia television and radio stations, even when there’s a New York or Baltimore alternative. When I say, “the city”, I am referring to Philly, tho usually I say “Philly”.

In truth, my allegiance is to the Delaware Valley, which is influenced by Philadelphia, Wilmington, Trenton, and (to a lesser degree) New York.

My cuisine is influenced by this region, and it surprises me that many local foods have never extended themselves beyond the region. The Philly Cheesesteak is well-known, as well as the Hoagie (basically a Sub). But there are a few less-known favorites that never made it out of the region, that surprise me tremendously:

  • Scrapple is a favorite by those in the know. And if you’re gonna get it, get Habbersett. But also, and more surprisingly Pork Roll is very regional. I say surprisingly, because Scrapple is an acquired taste, but if you like ham or canadian bacon at breakfast, you’ll like pork roll.
  • Tastykakes are tremendous. I’ll never know why they haven’t moved beyond the region. My current favorite is probably the Chocolate TandyKakes, but traditional favorite Butterscotch Krimpets.
  • Spiced Wafers. It is not fall until I get a box of Ivins or Sweetzels. Basically ginger snaps, but better.
  • According to Wikipedia, Birch Beer is a northeastern thing. But, the most popular one, to my knowledge, is Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer. It’s more similar to Sasparilla than Root Beer.
  • Yes, there’s there’s a hoagie, there’s a sub, there’s a cheesesteak, but you haven’t lived til you had a Bobbi from Capriotti’s.

And then there’s soft pretzels. Basically there are now four types of soft pretzels sold in the region:

The classic SuperPretzel soft pretzel. No different than what you find in the freezer section, around the country. Golden outside, totally white dough inside. Really good if you can find them on a pretzel carousel on the boardwalk or at the snack counter at Target.

The overly caloric, Auntie Anne or Pennsylvania Dutch Soft Pretzel. These things are evil. Convered in butter, when properly done, it drips out of your mouth. Only found at Auntie Anne stores or local Amish Farmers Markets, like the Reading Terminal Market.

Then there’s the two types of traditional pretzels. These are easily identified, because they were cooked in a slab of pretzels and torn apart from each other. The first ones are the crunchy oven baked kind. They have a slight burnt taste to them. Sold primarily from Philly Soft Pretzel factory or in vendors outside of sports games.

Finally, there’s the evil pretzels. They are heavy, dense, and ‘sweaty’. Similar to the ‘burnt’ kind, but somehow they gain moisture due to the salt extracting the moisture. But when they are still fresh and good, these tempt me tremendously, even though I prefer the others. Cause you’ll know for several hours that you ate one of these monstrosities, cause it’s laying in your stomach that long.

Okay, enough of the regional food tour.

Cheers,

Robert


885 Greatest Artists (part 2)

August 30, 2006

(Referencing my previous post here. )

Okay, I’ve finally made my decision.  And it’s kindof weird.  I’m not sure I agree with my own decision.   (How in the world can I not agree with myself)

Anyway, as I am not personally ranking all 885 greatest artists.  I am going to vote for those bands which I am the biggest fan of.  So, while I might think that the Rolling Stones are better than Jimmy Buffett, talent-wise, career-wise, impact-wise.  I’ve decided to rather be an advocate for those bands which I claim my strongest ties to as an enjoyer of music.

So with that in mind, here is my new, adapted, altered, and disclaimered list of my top 10 artists:

1.  Bruce Springsteen

2.  Southern Culture on the Skids

3.  Richard Thompson

4.  Joe Satriani

5.  Garbage 

6.  Buddy Guy
7.  Brian Setzer

8.  Jimmy Buffett

9.  Meat Loaf

10.  Little Feat

Honorable Mention: Tower of Power, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow, Marvin Gaye, Sarah McLaughlan, Pink Floyd, Marah


Hints of September

August 8, 2006

September is one of my favorite months. Always has been. For me, that is the true new year, not January 1st. When I was younger, it was the beginning of school, which was always the promise of a new day, a clean slate. The weather is no longer hot, and there’s a sense of Autumn crispness in the air.

And, of course, it’s the start of Philadelphia Eagles football.

I’m sure that it’s because the Phillies have been so dreadful so frequently over the last 23 years. But there are few Eagles seasons where there wasn’t a real promise of a good season. Okay, it didn’t happen sometimes, but there were very few seasons where we went into the season, saying “God, the team is going to be awful this year.”

Always the promise of a new day. Always the possibility of the victory that has eluded Philadelphia Eagles since 1960, and has eluded Philadelphia sports fans since 1983.

* * *

True Hopes or Scattered Dreams

If you look around at ESPN columnists, I daresay you will find few that even think that the Eagles will make the playoffs, let alone win the division and do well in the playoffs. And looking at them on paper, that is true.

You can’t say that the Eagles have fixed the problems on the defense that plagued them last year. They have not found a defensive lineman to replace Derrick Burgess, Corey Simon, and . They took a step backwards in stopping the run. Their linebackers have never developed into a solid core unit. And several members of their secondary kindof took a step backwards last year.

But you can see the plan on the defensive side of the ball, can’t you? The line looks good with the potential of Jevon Kearse, Darren Howard, Mike Patterson, and Darwin Walker. With McDougle, Bunkley, and Rayburn rotating into the lineup.

The hope that the linebacker core of Shawn Barber, Mark Simoneau, and Jeremiah Trotter gels as a group. And that if the front four gets the pass rush, and the linebackers are better against the run, that the secondary becomes the hard-hitting unstoppable force they were two years ago.

That’s not a pipe dream. Especially if you look at the history of the defensive guru, Jim Johnson.

I have said it before. If Jim Johnson was not hired by Andy Reed to be the defensive coordinator of the Eagles, the team wouldn’t have been nearly as successful, and I believe that Andy Reed wouldn’t be the head coach.

As for the offense, well, that’s a different story.

I’ll finish that one later.

Rob