Sunday, December 14, 2008

NJ Transit

Saturday was a day that required me to be in multiple locations. More specifically, the girlfriend and I had a holiday party in Succasunna, and my high school friends were getting together for dinner in Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. I decided to drive out to Succasunna, stay for the beginning of the party, and use NJT to get me to Little Italy. The girlfriend was spending the night at the house where the partywas held, so I would go back and sleep in Succasunna.

It took a bit of Research to figure out that the closest train station operating on the weekend was in Dover, NJ. Their iternary planner does not handle a walk or drive of more than a mile to a bus stop or train station. The third rail terminates after that station, requiring diesel locomotives to operate trains beyond that station. It is a 15 minute drive to the station, so while not being the closes train station, it was still reasonably close, especially for a rural area.

I got to the train station and learned that all parking spots in the lot required either a permit or had 12 hour meter. I'm talking an old fashioned analog quarters only meters. However, the lot is closed from 2am to 6am and all day on Sunday. This is a source of anger, because I will be returning after 2 am.

I walk to a liquor store and use the ATM. I then ask the clerk where I can park past 2am. He tells me to park on a side street. This proves to be quite easy. I'm still angered at the town arbitrarily closing of the parking lot while trains are running, especially the metered parking spots. However, its no longer an issue of urgency to me.

I go on the platform and see no ticket machines. I go to the station and see that a ticket agent is working on a Saturday at 6pm. There is a line and my train will soon be here. However, everyone else on the line has the same problem I do. I ask the person in in front of me in line about ticket machines. He say there are none. I comment about the parking regulations and he replies, "this is not a customer friendly station".

When I am next in the queue I approach the window. I place my bank card on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She informs me the machine is not reading cards. I am thankful I just went to the ATM at this point. I place $20 dollars down on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She produces a ticket. I take the ticket and change and thank her.

The train comes and I get on. At Newark Broad Street I transfer to Hoboken. At Hoboken I take the Path, then a Taxi.

Dinner comes and goes. A good time is had by all. I return to Hoboken Terminal. I am confused by the available trains and what I thought the schedule said. I decide to buy my ticket and then ask questions. I ask the conductor of the next departing train if i can change at Secaucas to the Dover train. He thinks for a moment and says yes. I get on the train and detrain one stop later at Secaucas.

At Secaucas, I initially think I cannot get on my train because I cannot find a scheule for my train line on the platform. This is expecially problemsom because I was expecting to get on the last train to Dover until 7am. My fears are relieved when I go upstairs and find out how large Secaucus Junction is. It is not the usual setup of several platforms parallel to each other that most multi line train stations have. Different tracks are at different levels. There are turnstiles with card readers blocking access to the platform I need to get on. They do not accept my card.

The station attendant tells me I need to buy an "access card" to get down. He punches in the cheapest ticket he can in the machine, a one stop Senior/Disability ticket that costs $1.50 and has me pay for it. This ticket works.

I had to wait a bit for my train. I wandered between the waiting area that is too hot and the platform outside in the below freezing weather. The train arrived and I got on.

Before the last stop the conductors herd us all into one car so they only have to operate one set of doors. This doesn't bother me. The fact they that the conductor herding from the front and the one herding from the back can't agree on which car to herd us into does. We get out, and as I am walking along the platform I realize I have left my book on the train.

I flag down a conductor and he opens the door. He says he is pretty sure he saw an old guy in a red vest carrying it. We check the train to be sure. I run down the platform, find the guy and get my book.

The drive back to Succasunna was not without events. I could not find one street and went to a Dunkin Doughnuts to ask for directions. No one was at the counter. Seeing a large wad of ones in the tip cup made me realize I could have easily absconded with the register drawer. I of course did not. I decided to relieve myself in the bathrooms, which, surprisingly for a Dunkin Doughnuts, required no key. When I came back I saw a man waiting at the counter. I informed him I was waiting a while and asked him for directions. He told me how to find the street I was looking for and went to knock on the kitchen door. I walked out and got back in my car.

Other than having to stop twice for deer in the road I made it back to the house where my girlfriend was staying for the night a few minutes after 04:00. Yes deer in the roads. This is the part of Jersey where the backyard landmines are deer, as opposed to the geese and dog droppings in small parks more civilized places tend to have. Since the parks I refer to are about the size of backyards in this part of Jersey, the analogy is fair.

I am contemplating writing to NJ Transit and town of Dover about my experience. I think one or two ticket machines would be beneficial to the station, and reduce the need for a station attendant on Saturdays and weekday afternoon evening. I have to research the Secaucus Junction transfer fee, and if it was really necessary to take that route. Finally, I must verify that the Dover Station parking lot is operated by the town of Dover, as is the case with LIRR parking lots. I will then air my concerns about the parking lot closing from 2am to 6am and on Sundays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Changing a fuse

I was driving to work Monday. This particular commute happened to involve 2 states, 6 counties, 2 bridges, three distinct land masses, and one 2005 Toyota Corolla

I was going over the second bridge, when I realized that I forgot to plug my Samsung T509 cell phone into the charger.  As I started plugging in the charger and the phone my center console died on me. The fuse failed.

Eventually, I managed to replace the fuse with a spare in the front fuse box this particular fuse happens to be in a very inaccessible fuse box under the steering wheel. Thanks to Albert's blog post on, I had a easier time than if I had to rely solely on my Corolla's owner manual.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Interesting Chinese Proverb

I was reading slashdot, and the fortune on my slashdot home page was the following:

The universe is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be
ruled by interfering.
-- Chinese proverb

An interesting proverb from country that seems to prefer order to liberty. Now I'm painting with very broad strokes here, well more like a 12" roller than a brush. However, though provoking none the less.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Judging anomity

I am a big fan of freakonomics, both the book and the blog. However, I am having trouble following the point of Ian Aryes in the article he wrote today. Apparently in 2004 a bunch of newspapers adopted a rule that journalists had to explain the reason their sources were anonymous. He and others proceded to collect data based on this, and he felt the reasons for requesting anonymity were not good enough.

Nobody likes a snitch, but if someone snitches to me, its not my place to judge the feelings of the person being ratted out. That is reserved for those being snitched on. We have social conventions for dealing with this. As a reporter, if I am given information I shoujld report it unless I feel it is a matter of national security, uneccesserally destroying someones reputation, or something to that effect. However, I would use the same standards for reporting information that I revieced from sources I considered legitimate.

I'm really failing to see this as a case of taking the moral high ground. I really just failing to see this guys point.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thoughts on "The Wealth of Nations"

I was looking through drafts on my blog and came across this. It was last saved 2008-04-13. making it a little over 1.75 years old. I am going to present it mostly verbatim and follow it with an update. By mostly verbatim, I mean I will attempt to proof read it.

Draft begins:

I was in a bookstore the other day when I noticed a book entitled On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World) by P.J. O'Rourke. I've previously read another title by him called Peace Kills, so the author as well as the subject matter intrigued me.

The book is a 200 page commentary and summary of Adam Smith's classic work. I've personally tried to read Smith's 900 page manuscript on two occasions and got through less than 25% of it. For anyone else who has even begun to read the book, one knows that it is 900 pages of Smith belaboring his ideas about economics.

I'm debating adding PJ's commentary to my to read list. However, I felt the need to give the primary source another shot. I decided that maybe an audio book might be a better format for digesting he text.

I've never listened to audio books before, and I had no idea if their was a place to download audio books of public domain works. After consulting Google, I found a site called where you can upload and download audio books.

The recording of The Wealth of Nations is still a work in progress at librivox. The first ten chapters are complete. Their works in progress are apparently available through their phpBB forum. I find that a little weird. However, the phpBB installation is customized so the first post of a "book in progress thread" has an iframe with a list of book chapters and their statuses. So if you just want to download the completed chapters, no need to read through an entire forum thread to make sure you have links to the right versions of each chapter.

After downloading them from the forum posting, I've listened to the first ten chapters once, and I plan on doing so a few more times, as well as listening to the rest as they are completed. I might have to listen when I have time to make notes so I can further research things he comments on.

Unpublished Draft Ends

So first an update on the audiobook. Books 1-3 of the work are complete, as is part of book 4. I have listened to some of the audiobook, but not all of it. I did read
P.J. O'Rourke's self described cliff notes of the book. It was a very educational commentary. At the very least if verified that one other person thought that Smith's writing style is long winded and a bit dull.

Personally, I recommend that people try all three works, the original, the audiobook, and Mr. O'Rourke's commentary. The book is a dry read. Listening to the audiobook while commuting is beneficial. And finally, the commentary contains information about Adam Smith's life as well as the work itself. It is quite well researched. Finally, the commentary is short and interesting so you will make it to the end.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Standing before the judge like a coward

This is the last of the three acts of dealing with a parking violation in the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream, NY. For context refer to Part 1 and Part 2.

I arrive at court slightly after it started. The judge is not in the court room, but their are lines, and various people in the employ of the court are in the area between the bench and the public seating area. I find the correct line to stand on and give my information.

The judge enters. All rise. Please be seated. He gives his opening spiel. He starts off with the housing and traffic violations. These are matters that were scheduled. Towards the end he starts on the parking tickets.

It became apparent that he's going to knock off all my late fines and reduce my debt to the county to the original $25 penalty if I plead guilty. It also became apparent that the woman that took my information should have asked me how I planned to plea, but assumed I wanted to plea guilty. Because this is convenient I do so, walk out the door, and wait in line for the extremely slow clerk staff to take my money and write me a receipt.

I had little legal ground for declaring myself not guilty. I have not to this date seen the parking regulation posted, except for a photocopy of a photograph of a street sign stating the village speed limit, and a village wide 4 hour parking limit and no parking between 03:30 and 05:30. I do support the concept of juries judging the law as well as the case, even though I have trouble reconciling this view with my strict constructionists view of the constitution. Regardless, I felt it necessary to make it a matter of public record both my disdain for the elitist concept of wanting to limit parking on the street for its own sake and the unintended consequence of enforcement of said ordinance encouraging drunk driving.

When the Boston tea party was held it was more a matter of principal than practicality. The price of tea had gone down with the monopoly. However, the concept of monopoly and taxation without representation was what bothered the colonies. Perhaps the problem is what I just wrote is utterly false, and this is one of many areas of American history that I need to brush up on. However, I still feel that keepi9ng silent over a matter of a hundred dollars was an act of cowardice. Such an act requires penance on my part.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Its hard to pay a parking ticket

This is part 2 of the saga of my Valley Stream parking ticket. Part 1 is here.

I tried to pay my parking ticket at the courthouse today. I show up at the clerks office at 08:00 and discovered they don't take credit cards. She looked up my info and saw most of the $125 I owed the village was due to fines for late payment. She suggested I go to traffic court on Wednesday at 7PM to get the judge to lower it. Apparently you just show up, wait your turn, and see the judge.

So a bit of an update on why I never paid this ticket. Basically, Valley Stream does not offer a web payment method and I rarely use the postal service. There is no principled reason behind this, I'm just to lazy to print an envelope, buy a stamp, etc. So collection letters started coming in. I called the number on one of them and offered to pay over the phone. They claimed that they only send the letters and I'd have to settle my debt with the town. They also verified that I'd have to mail a check or show up to the court house.

So I ignored the letters until I got one that claimed my vehicle registration was in jeopardy. This prompts me to show up to the courthouse in the morning and try to pay the ticket. I should have went to the ATM beforehand in anticipation of them lacking a credit card merchant account. However, I didn't.

So yes I am entirely guilty of the cardinal sin of sloth here. If a cop knocked at my door I'd walk to the ATM and come back with $125 in cash no questions asked. I did not deal with my issue in a timely manner, so I lost any legitimacy to my reasonable arguments to why the county giving me was ticket was wrong. So I am entirely at the judges mercy tomorrow. I will provide an update then.

Monday, March 31, 2008

More adventures in FLL

I spent Thursday and Friday in my employers Florida office. These were uneventful days of training a coworker interrupted by me being required to do some billable work. The travel was somewhat adventurous.

Having just come back from the Phillipines, I was short on both cash and credit on my credit card with an intentionally low limit. I arranged for my employer to buy the plane tickets beforehand for me, and had enough to cover the rental and meals on my credit card.

Well, it seems that the rental car company wanted to authorize significantly more than what the rental fee was and it wouldn't go through. I was advised to try another rental company because their computer system would not allow for the card to be swiped again for 24 hours to avoid the company getting charged back.

So I took public transportation. The tri-rail system in quite convient, and I got a ride from a coworker at the train station closest to my companies Florida office. I of course forgot to arrange for my employer to pay for my hotel in advanc, but a manager faxed over his credit card info to them.

Everything was relatively uneventful until it came time to get on the plane. I was in row three so I got in the plane last. While waiting in line to get on the plane an older gentleman pushed ahead of me with his luggage. Then we all watched 3 drunk twenty something men take the walk of shame out since they were on the wrong plane.

When I got on the plane the gentleman in front of me shoved his luggage in the overhead bin and proceded to sit in my seat. I told him it was my seat and he discovered that this flicgh was going to JFK and not Texas. That was the fourth walk of shame of the flight.

Before takeoff, I made some smalltalk with the women next to me, an attractive woman in her mid thirties with raven black hair and an all black outfit. During the flight I kept to myself and enjoyed the direct TV through my BOSE triports, which I mainly use on flights.

When we landed the woman wanted to get her bag down before we started deplaningto get her coat. She was having some trouble and a man about her age started helping her with her bag and began to flirt. He was mentioning that Spinal Tap just came on and how he was disappointed that he couldn't finish watching it. She said heah it was a pretty good movie and eventually said Rob Reiner was her uncle. Not getting the hint that maybe she didn't want to talk about a movie she was probably sick of, he proceded to say how he used to be a "working musician", and how he had similar experiences to that of the band in the movie.

Well I deplaned and ended up on the same shuttle bus from the temporary gates to the main Jet Blue gate area. I didn't see him. After that was an uneventful trip home. This counts as the closest I've come to a celebrity encounter, besides walking past Ben Stiller driving a white corvette out of a Manhattan parking garage. However, I didn't recongnize him and can only assume the people traveling with me identified him correctly.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This is what happens when you have too many ingredients

I wanted to find a recipe for french onion soup that also incorporated shallots. More specifically, I wanted to see if shallots would caramelize and reduce like onions do when you make French onion soup.

I come across this recipe, apparently from a BBC Cooking show. There are only two circumnstances that could lead to this recipe being developed. The first is someone was looking to use up a hodgepod of ingredients in their kitchen. The other was someone had access to so many ingredients that they simply cannot grasp that most people do not cook anything with two distinct alcohol ingredients.

I mean there is a lot of leeway in the wine requirement for French onion soup. I use marsala wine, mainly because my girlfriend bought a bottle of the stuff that is almost drinkable. On a total side note, I recommend it as the cooking wine for fresh clam sauce.

That being said, I am sure that with proper execution this recipe is divine. I also realize that these ingredients are all regularly available year round and if one cooks with wine and liquor, they probably have a bottle of sherry and brandy handy. However, this recipe is such that one can remove half the ingredients and still have a very nice soup.

I understand that you absolutely need butter to reduce onions. I also understand that mixing it with olive oil is good if you are impatient and plan on spending less than an hour reducing the onions. I'm sure that there is a difference between simmering off and burning off alcohol in terms of the resulting flavors. I am also sure that if I took some weekend intensives at the Culinary Institute of America I would understand enough cooking theory where it would be worth it to follow this recipe exactly.

My point is this reipe is quite complex for its intended audience, people that get their recipes from cooking shows. It is complex in the ingredient list, as opposed to the techniques. If I am feeling adventerous, I'd be willing to reduce onions for 3 hours, but I don't want to get 15 ingredients at the grocery store.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I am not the man who calls himself Zippy Catholic

I've used the handle zippy1981 for a while. Generally, I've not done anything to terrible online, and I don't particularly mind employers or potential employers searching for what I've said under the pseudonym. As a matter of fact I'd prefer if they googled that to my real name. When I google my real name, I find that many people that share it are quite active on the internet.

That being said, I recently became aware of a blogger that calls himself Zippy Catholic. I happen to be a practicing Catholic, and some might think I've created that blog to present my viewpoints that are particularly Catholic. This is not the case.

I was referred to this blog via one I subscribe to, Code Monkey Ramblings. The particular article was Single People and Women Should Receive Less Pay For Equivalent Work. Well I disagree. Perhaps I might explain why one day. However for now I will say I agree with this argument:


. . .

You are overlooking not only the division of labor, but the division of responsibility and of obligation. And you are treating employers like things -- in this case an ATM. After all, employers have children to support and bills to pay. Their obligation is to take good care of them; your obligation is to take good care of your own. Don't treat your employer as a thing, an impersonal money source to which you can go in order to have it meet your domestic obligations. Furthermore, not to put the domestic obligation where it belongs is to treat employees as things, not as real persons with real obligations before both God and man. Your solution to the alleged impersonalization of employment is itself an impersonalization.

. . .

Michael Bauman

My specific economical views will hopefully get discussed here in the future. For now, you can assume His Holiness might just excommunicate me for my economical views, or maybe suggest I become a Jesuit Priest. One might assume me to be an Evangelical Christian if discussing economics or politics. Well I think the "religious right" is shifting back to a Jimmy Carter-ish
left. Us Americans often forget that he was the man that introduced many outside the bible belt to the term "Evangelical Christian."

A few more issues I'd like to quickly touch upon. I read my doopleganger's blog profile and would like to point out a few ways we are different:
  • The other Zippy has Academic Degrees. I have a high school diploma, a drivers license and a bartending certificate
  • The other zippy has 5 software patents, I am against software patents. Of course I don't know what I would do if I was caleld into my bosses office and told to fill out patent forms for some piece of code I was working on. Its easy to take a firm moral stand when it doesn't affect you.
  • The other zippy currently fufills executive roles. I am am quite clearly a developer
Perhaps I will read some more of his works. Regardless of what happens I hope no one confuses the two of us.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Plus size fashion is getting smaller

I spend far too much time thinking about plus size womens clothing considering I don't have any need to purchase plus size womens clothing. However, for some reason they always find ways of attracting my attention. Tonight at at Green Acres Mall, a second datapoint pointed to an emerging trend; plus size clothing stores were catering to slightly less plus size women.

At some point in the recent past I saw a sign advertising the fact that Ashley Stewart now sold size 14. I briefly amused myself with thoughts of not quite plus size women rejoicing that they could buy Ashley Stewart fashions and size 16 women relieved that they could overeat a little less and still be able to get a pair of jeans that fit them just right.

In actuality, there are plenty of fashion labels that cater both above and below the Ashley Stewart price range and are of similar quality. Also, many men and women struggle with real and imaginary weight problems, and they should all be thoroughly offended by what I write here.

So fast forward to the present, I pass buy a "coming soon" storefront. It is called "Fashion to Figure," and the sign said they catered to sizes 12-26. This is a step down from size 12. In keeping with my duty to pretend to have journalistic integrity, I went to their website, which claimed to sell sized 14 to 26. I can only assume that when they open this and any other soon to be opened stores, they will put out some ads letting their customers know they are free to drop a dress size.

I plan on keeping tabs on the plus size industry to see where this is all going. By keeping tabs I mean that whenever I am in the mall and see a plus size store I will make mental note of the sizes they serve. This means I will get new data points approximately every 6 months. Many of you will point out the possibility that the clothings are remaining unchanged, but the size on the label is shrinking. I am unwilling to cross dress to test this theory.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Adventures in buying petrol in the garden state

In the early hours of New Years day (~02:00 GMT -04:00) I found myself at a gas station just outside the wrong end of the Holland tunnel. I had to parallel park in the center of a three pump island since it was the only available pump at the gas station.

I soon realized that this backup was caused by a lack of a station attendant. Since this was the garden state, it is illegal to pump your own gas. I often attempt to do so anyway, and sometimes succeed. I've never had the opportunity to do so in the presence of law enforcement, but I'd be willing to risk a night in jail to see how well the law is enforced.

So I park between a NYC livery cab and a towncar with Jersey plates. I believe the Jersey plates said "omnibus," which seems to be what taxi plates say. The New York driver was pumping his gas, and the Jersey driver was contemplating doing so. I don't know if he was afraid to or simply didn't know how. Its possible to reach the gas station via side streets so its entirely possible that he has never been outside of the garden state.

As I'm pumping my gas the station attendant appears. He aids the man who would not pump his own gas. I get back in my car with the childish pride of someone who has just gotten away with minor mischief and drive to the girlfriends house.