American Idle

It's kinda like American Idol, but only if you sing my posts out loud.

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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Present for You Giants Fans

Sorry guys, this is too good to pass up.

Here's the scene: There's four seconds left in regulation in the Giants-Seahawks game yesterday and the score is tied 21-21. The Giants have driven down the field and are a very makeable 40-yard field goal away from winning. Let's all watch Giants TE Jeremy Shockey shimmy and shake just as he's discovering that their kicker missed it. The Seahawks wound up winning the game in OT, 24-21.

If it's any consolation to you Giants fans, at least your team is probably going to the playoffs, unlike the 4-7 Raiders.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Armenia and Australia, Hello!

So a few days ago, I decide to try out Site Meter to get better details about traffic to my web site. I knew a few people were visiting my site, but someone else had to be accounting for some of those 2,000+ hits I've received since I started this in July. Aside from typical daily visit numbers, Site Meter pulls in some really neat stats, such as location of the IP address they're coming from and what the referring URL was (aka another blog, a search website, etc.).

The results were surprising. The hits from Nevada and Minnesota I didn't expect, but then I started getting hits from Australia, Canada and...Armenia?? Upon further investigation, what I discovered was a little less shocking...MSN, like everything else they do, sucks at searches. Let's just say that searches for "dissertation on kidnapping" pulled up one of my posts. So, there you I'm a foremost authority on terrorism.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Shake shake shake. Shake shake shake. Shake your goose eggs.

In a welcome story yesterday, federal officials have acknowledged "unhealthy" levels of Canada geese in NJ and have announced plans to reduce the birds' numbers. This is good news for just about everyone in Mercer County who has to dodge these beasts and their droppings every time they go to the park.

What's funny about this, though, is one of the "plans" they have to accomplish this..."under the new measures, which take effect Dec. 17, private land owners will be allowed to destroy nests or shake geese eggs, which prevents them from hatching, without first getting a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

C'mon. First of all, who even HAS an issue with geese in their backyard, let alone nesting there. Second of all, who the hell in their right mind would run up to a nest, vigorously shake the eggs, and then take off? Wouldn't the mother goose be angry? I mean, these sons of bitches are vicious enough when you dare to walk near their flock at the park. I can't imagine their demeanor when some nut comes sneaking around their nest.

And how would one accomplish that anyway? I imagine it would have to be a two or three party system, with one person being the shaker and the others being responsible for causing a distraction...perhaps drawing the mother goose away with bread or nursery rhymes. And it would also have to be a family affair since I can't imagine convincing my friends to embark on such an expidition. You'd really have to pull a good bait and switch on them to get that to happen...maybe get everyone together early to go to a ball game, and then sucker them in with the old "while you guys are here, do you mind..." line. Plus, you'd have to make sure you did the shaking yourself, because you run the risk of one of your friends wussing out at the last second.

This measure at least has some plausible points such as allowing hunts by airports and allowing park officials more leeway in destroying them. Unfortunately, I can't see the latter ever happening around here since the liberal Princeton crowd (yooooou heard me) would be in an uproar about killing animals. I, of course, feel just the opposite and welcome all attempts to brings these birds to an untimely demise. As sick as this sounds, one of the funniest goose stories I've ever read was when, a few years ago, someone was charged with animal cruelty when they smashed in a goose's head with nunchakus at Mercer County Park after the goose went after his young son. Of course, I think it was more the shock value...that someone was so pissed that he took a martial arts weapon to do the bird in...that had me laughing more than anyone else. The fact that this guy took nunchakus to the park probably indicates that he was looking for trouble in the first place so, in retrospect, the summons was warranted...but it was still funny.

Anyway, if we can get it by the protesting Princetonians, I recommend shutting the parks down for a few days and letting the hunters go wild. Hell, make it a local event at the park the following weekend...Mercer Goosefest 2005. All kinds of goose delicacies...goose burgers, goose gyros, kids with goose hats on, you name it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New Matthew pics

Matt's professional one-year shots can be found here. Pout, baby, pout.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Enough with the leaves already

11 bags. Shredded. If I didn't have one of those yard vacuum/chipper thingies grinding them into a fine powder that would be, like, 55 bags of leaves. And that was the front and sides of my house. I had to cry no mas at 4 PM on Saturday when I was just finishing up just outside the window where my son went down for a nap. Next up is the backyard, which is a nightmare over by the apple trees. And now it's raining, meaning it's going to be an added mess this weekend. Living in the desert suddenly seems attractive.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Almost Almost-Famous, Part Two

Now that I've entertained everyone with how I got picked to co-host a talk show for WSJ Radio and subsequently left you hanging for a week, let me continue with the story. (I'm too cheap and lazy to construct a wavy Flash fade-out, so you'll have to use your imagination.)

So the auditions were on. Jason Fry and I began our Friday two-a-day 30 minute demo tapes in hopes that one of the fledgling satellite radio companies (Sirius or XM) would show an interest. Now that I would be on radio, it opened my eyes to a whole new world of idiosyncrasies that I never knew existed. Never drink coffee before a show because it will affect your voice. Be careful how you speak and don't pop your P's. Recognizing that "Emmys" music in your ears so that you know you have to wrap up your topic fast since a break was you had to get your "outro" in before you "hit the post". Learning that 30 seconds is a LONG time for radio and that you can say more than you think (to quote our producer, Paul Herrmann, "you can drive a truck through it"). And, of course, proper on-air banter to make sure neither one of us got too obscure and to "dumb it down" and ask questions of each other if one of us started to get too technical.

The topics we bandied about were typical of the time. Some didn't date so well (all the different companies, WebVan and web-enabled devices and subsequent future of the PC) while others would still be viable topics today (privacy, piracy (which I still say will never fully be stopped), the future of Napster (and Jace's astute "Whack-a-Mole" theory), stopping spam and online gambling). And one topic that would be an odd foreshadowing of the future of the disasters.

So Jace and I did this for several months. Every week we'd debate topics, show up on Friday to record two shows and then hope for the best. Around January of 2001, I left my position at the help desk in NYC and started a new position in a different department on the South Brunswick campus. So I had a new job to learn, and now a new commute to face, having to go back to NY every Friday morning to tape the shows. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Doing the show was one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.

But unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The dot-com disasters had taken their toll on Dow Jones. With all those companies failing, Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal lost a ton of advertising dollars. As a result, in May of that year Dow Jones faced one of the largest series of cuts in its history. Hundreds of people were laid off and, since our project was never picked up by XM or Sirius (despite plenty of teases), it too received the axe.

So, that's it. We came close, but were ultimately done in by the dot-com fallout and its effect on DJ and the overall economy. As I mentioned before, it was great while it lasted, but I never had any sense of false optimism. I was never a radio guy and to be presented with this opportunity was unexpected. If it had ever gotten off the ground, I expected to be replaced with someone better. I won't dwell too much on self-deprecation, but I know the limitations of my talents...I could have named at least four other people in the DJ IT department alone who could have done a better job than me.

So although I didn't get my 15 minutes of fame then, perhaps some other time. If not, oh well. Now that I have a blog, I'll be famous eventually! Until then, this will be my claim to almost-fame. I hope to one day have "He almost was on radio" etched on my tombstone, complete with a link to this article (because by then, tombstones will be interactive).

For anyone wishing to hear one of our old shows, click here. The topic was about the different methods of ripping songs to MP3 files and the different bit rates (I focused on 128, 160 and 192 kbps but still smack myself to this day for not knowing of VBR at the time).

Also, a big thanks to Flexo of Consumerism Commentary for hosting this file.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Almost Almost-Famous, Part One

*UPDATE* - Click here to see Jason Fry's "Heeding Digital Music's Call" article, in which Jason references one of our test shows from early 2001. This article is from 2003 so the links to the songs and our show are no longer available, but I might be able to get a clip of our show up soon!

With all the recent Gettysburg trip, adoption ordeal, Halloween and baby stuff going on, it just hit me this morning that it’s been just over five years since two major events happened in my life. The first was the closing on my first ever house, which happened on 11/1/00. But, while buying my first house was certainly a big deal, it’s what happened in the minutes PRECEDING the house closing that was incredible.

Imagine the scene. I’m sitting at the title agency waiting for what was about to become the biggest event in my life at that time. I’m finally moving out of the Chambersburg row house I lived in for the last 12 years and am about to become a home owner in the neighborhood I just about grew up in. So as I’m waiting for all the parties to arrive, I get a call on my cell phone from Wall Street Journal Radio.

Now, at the time, I was the supervisor at the News Help Desk for Dow Jones. We were just recently moved from the South Brunswick campus to Manhattan (across the street from the then-standing World Trade Center). Being the “News” help desk, we pretty much handled anything WSJ related and anything based out of NYC.

But I was on vacation this week, having taken a week off to handle all the “new house” related duties. I was curious as to the nature of the call but, being management, I was a trooper and answered it. It turns out the person from WSJ Radio wasn’t calling to complain or report a problem, but to ask me if I was interested in co-hosting a tech show for WSJ Radio. Now, if I had gotten a communications degree in college and maybe worked in radio, this wouldn’t have shocked me. But given my current resume, I would have had an equal chance of sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons while someone came up to me and asked me if I wanted to do weather reports for Channel 10 News.

So, uh, yeah. I said yes.

Why me? During a couple of my PR visits to the WSJ Radio department, I managed to hit it off pretty well with their boss. She had some questions about PCs and I answered her questions the best I could. Apparently, she liked my delivery and style and, unbeknownst to me, considered me as a potential co-host on a “help desk” show they were pondering. She had mentioned it to me in passing before but, being my typical oblivious self, never thought I was a candidate.

Anyway, the show was a project in the making and was going to be shopped around to XM and Sirius, who where the players in the brand-spanking-new satellite radio industry. The decided format was going to be a “tech talk” type of show where we would talk about current events, neat gadgets and offer our perspective on them. I would be co-hosting the show with tech editor Jason Fry (who is currently the man behind’s “Real Time” column, one half of the “Daily Fix” column and 0.5 of the madcap duo behind the “Faith and Fear in Flushing” Mets blog). That and the dude went to Yale. Compared to my 2-year degree at Mercer County Community College (aka MC³), the talent drop-off was destined to be enormous. Co-host my ass, I was about to pull a Tonto to his Lone Ranger, with him rescuing me from the rowdy locals every week. But despite his lengthy resume and credentials we managed to hit it off pretty well. He liked the Simpsons, Star Wars, and sports. God, did he love sports. Everything was going to be oooookay.

Coming soon: Jace and Doobie behind the mic

Best. Family Guy. Intro. Evar.

Being a Family Guy and Naked Gun fan, the intro to last night's FG was the best I've ever seen. I wish I had a clip I could share of Stewie tricycling down the halls of the Overlook Hotel (The Shining) and the Grady twins jumping out of his way...all to the Naked Gun theme music.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Fun Size" sucks

Fun size my ass. I don't know about you guys, but I'd have a lot more "fun" with a bigger candy bar.

Anything to make a buck.

Of course, the *worst* infraction is when they try to advertise anything as "crispy!". You realize that what "crispy!" means it that they just got rid of that pricey chocolate and replaced it with "puffed rice". Although they'd never come out and tell you that. All *you* need to know is that those brand new M&M's are now "crispy!"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Alito's Hamilton Address

Well, it turns out that I don't live in Sam Alito's family's house as I had previously pondered, since the Trentonian reports his mother still lives in their old home on Fenwood Ave. For those non-Hamiltonians, that's in the neighborhood behind the Carella's Shoe Store and BP gas station on Nottingham Way, right before the road splits. Although that's Nottingham High School Territory now, that was probably districted for Steinert back in Sam's day. I won't post the exact address, but let's just say that it can be found with a simple search on a "white pages" website. That or you can just go to the house with all the news vans parked in front of it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Birth parent search update: Pretty much over

Well, I met today with the rep at Children's Home Society who was handling my case. Since the last news was given to me in my car on a cell phone on vacation and I had to rely on my memory, I wanted to confirm what was going on as well as explore other options.

Pretty much everything I mentioned before was true, with one exception. It turns out that the half brother that I mentioned before wasn't put up for adoption. He was being raised by her. What CHS gathered from the angry husband was that when my half brother went into the military, he had to contact his birth father to inform him. When that happened, the birth father came after our birth mother for money he claimed was owed to him. So that was what happened.

I tried to push my idea of signing a mutual waiver where both parties would agree not to pursue each other's assets. This way I could tell her I wasn't out for anything while also protecting my ass...ets. But the CHS rep wasn't too optimistic.

Through verbal and nonverbal communication, she relayed to me that her conversation with my birth mother's current husband wasn't a pleasant one. I know she said that he was not happy calling her and I could tell that she was shaken from the ordeal. She said that during the whole conversation he was on the verge of hanging up on her and she had to really walk a thin line between getting information and pushing too hard and losing him completely. She seemed pretty confident that this was an abusive relationship (she's a social worker, she should know) and didn't want to push the envelope too much for fear of making matters worse. He also made it clear that they did not want to be contacted again.

So, that's it. On a positive note, she did say that there have been cases where the mother has called back several months later after a change of heart. She also said to keep my contact information current with them at all times in case something like this happens...even if it's years later, they'd still call me if something like that happened.

Again, while this is a disappointment, I'm not really upset about it. It's a shame that it had to end with an "incomplete" grade, but it is what it is. This is what she wanted 35 years ago (anonymity) and this is what she still wants. I fulfilled what I wanted to do...initiate the search. I didn't want to find myself ten or twenty years down the road, being too late and regret not doing it sooner. So although I don't have closure regarding her information, I do have closure with my conscience.

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