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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why I Work in New York City

The ride from Jersey is a long one. 90 minutes from locking the outside door to my apartment I am swiping my access card at the inner door to the office. I travel for 3 hours a day.

The trains are usually full with commuters. There are hardly any empty seats, and so I choose to stand in the front of the train. I've learned to read on the moving train. I still get a little nauseated from time to time, but its all right. Reading has recently come back into my life, and I'm loving it. There's nothing like getting lost in a book. I couldn't remember how nice that feeling was until I experienced it during the week of October 3rd, my first week at work.

Usually I am the first person to step onto Newark Penn Station. That's the halway point in my commute, exactly when my foot hits the Newark concrete. From there its a hurried walk to the PATH train. It leaves every five minutes, but that doesn't mean the commuters are willing to wait for the next one. There are some days that I am packed literally shoulder to shoulder with the other riders. Those days are trying.

So why would I bother with all of that? Why bother to travel for 3 hours a day? Why not get a job in Jersey with a 30 minute commute and spend the extra hours at home? That's certainly an option, but there are a lot of good reasons why I work in New York City.

The biggest reason is the daily excitement of the crowds. To understand that you have to look at my life in context. I've grown up in a small New England town. There's more diversity in the PATH train I ride every morning that there was in any of the towns I experienced in Maine. There are people from every kind of background on that train. It's as diverse as a UN summit.

Originally uploaded by Romulusnr.

That leads to my second reason, the culture. The immigrants brought their culture with them in their food, clothing, and language. The crowds here are so vibrant. The selection of restaurants boggles the mind. I can choose from literally dozens of different restaurants for lunch, all within walking distance. Many of those restaurants will serve a different cuisine as well. It's so incredible. I think people who have grown up here may not realize how good they have it.

The crowds and the culture are largely what keep me coming back. I love the prospect of talking to someone who has come from a distant country while I order my morning bagel. I like learning spanish from people at the deli.

There's just so much, and by and large I love it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lamenting Maine - Part 2

Originally uploaded by redpatterndress.
So I'm making some progress with my self-assigned research project. On my last night in Maine I felt compelled to do a little internet research on the landfill situation in Maine*. I found several infrormational sites which I listed in my delicious page at under the tag "dumpproject".

I found the Maine government's website through googling, and contacted some people at the "Maine State Planning Office" about the number, kind, and location of landfills in Maine. I was pointed to the 'Waste Generation and Disposal Capacity’ report which is located on the web at Very cool. I'm glad that the information is out there to help me get started. The stinking landfill in question falls under section 4 "Commercial Landfills":

"Pine Tree Landfill, located in Hampden, owned by Casella Waste Services, Inc.

The total disposal capacity currently licensed at these two commercial landfills is approximately 5,694,898 cubic yards. The majority of this capacity is at the Crossroads Landfill, which an estimated 4,096,736 cubic yards of capacity remaining at the end of 2003. The Pine Tree Landfill in Hampden has less than three years remaining capacity, at current fill rates. The Crossroads Landfill has approximately 8 to 10 years of disposal capacity remaining, at current fill rates."

So this clears things up. Apparently Costello Demolition is a company that does some landfill capping, but so far I have not determined which landfills they have indeed capped. So for now the focus is on Casella Waste Services, Inc. They are conviently located at I will be checking out their site in detail for sure.

At a first glance, they have had a profitable last quarter, but I just missed their company conference call by two weeks. Oh well. from their website:

"For the quarter ended October 31, 2005, the company reported revenues of $136.8 million, up $10.4 million, or 8.2 percent over the same quarter last year."

So why does a company who is increasing profits produce a landfill that fills a beautiful state with a stench? Does the landfill stink because of their poor design? I will find the answers to these questions.

*Apparently landfill is the more widely used and official term. I started searching for dump, and that didn't help too much.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Lamenting Maine - Part 1

Originally uploaded by ocellnuri.
Maine is my home state. It's not where I was born, but it's where I grew up. I've got a romantic vision of it in my mind's eye. The sun shining off the tall grass in the fields I ran through during cross country practice. The snow covered trails I hiked through between home and school each winter day. It's a place that's natural. Nature resides in Maine. Industry is sleepy. The pace is slower, and more measured. It's my idealistic childhood comfort fantasy.

This is way the current events disturb me.

I just drove home to be with my family for the Christmas season. I was almost in Bangor, headed north on interstate 95 when I smelt it. The dump. I smelt it last summer, and the summer before. The stench filled my nostrils for the first time two summers ago. I was appalled. It was like realizing that your Dad is not invincible. Like watching your team lose a championship game. I felt like something beautiful had died.

I never imagined that I would drive through a part of the state that stunk of trash. I thought the only offender was the Old Town mill, which puts out a strange sulfur smell. That mill was the only unnatural odor I knew of. Now there were two, the second being the stench of trash wafting in the air, strong enough to be smelt at 70 mph.

What's going on? Why does Maine smell? Who is responsible for this? I don't yet know the answers to those questions, but I hope to find out soon. Someone is responsible for piling the trash so high that it stinks in the wind. Someone is to blame for the excessive pile of waste. My gut feeling is that this site has been mismanaged by the irresponsible in exchange for money. I feel like someone must have had their pockets lined to allow this to happen. What's worse is that another dump is being built in Old Town.

I think the people of Maine are being taken for a ride by their leadership. Where are the protectors of the state? Who is selling out our Natural resources? Who is responsible for destroying my childhood paradise? I think these people have been bribed by a negligent company. What other explanation is there? I know that it is possible to build dumps that do not stink up the surrounding area. This must take lots of money, and drastically reduce the profit on the dump operation. There must be a huge cost and effort involved in making a "eco-friendly" dump, but the cost is dollars is nothing compared to the cost to the environment when a dump goes bad. The environmental costs could be as serious as a contaminated water supply. What if this chemical run-off seeps into our drinking water?

I haven't done the investigating to validate any of these feelings. I have no facts to back me up, I'm sure you could get them by talking to the people of Bangor and Old Town. I don't know what I'm about to do, but I hope to affect a change here. This is serious. I can't sit in inaction while my childhood paradise is pillaged.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

If You Want To Be Happy In A Million Ways - Part 2

Jenny Gets Animated
Originally uploaded by Gare and Kitty.
Hopefully this was the start of a tradition. The guest list was full of all stars. We had Andy, Jenny, Mark, Phil, Laura, Jaymie, Kim, and Nick. It's so nice to be surrounded by friends, especially these days. It's been a while since I lived in Syracuse where I met a dozen close friends every other day. Working the Commuter's 9 to 5 job in NYC has really brought me a new appreciation for free-time. The weekend's are so much more precious now. So with that new found appreciation for friends and free time, it was awesome to HOST everyone. Giving hospitality is its own reward.

We took a lot of time to get ready for the day. Or really I should say, Kitty did all the preparations. I just helped a little bit at the end, but she actually took a day off to get ready. We bought some more wine glasses, some more glassware, and a white tablecloth to make the table setting look nice. It kind of reminded me of the thanksgiving settings we usually see with my Maine family.

Nick's Birthday Cake

Originally uploaded by Gare and Kitty.

Perhaps one of the greatest moments of the party was the presentation of Nick's Birthday cake. Kitty had baked, frosted, and decorated it the cake the day before. We decided to put "Happy Birthday Mocha Cha Shaka Bra Double Nicolate (extra smooth)" on it. That was one of Nick's classic sayings. We told him that we were going to bake a cake, but I guess he forgot because he was totally surprised when we brought it out with the candles lit. Everyone sang happy birthday to him to which he responded with "I don't know what to say, I'm overwhelmed." He took out all the candles with one amazing breath from 3 feet away. It was a touching moment. I think he made a good wish too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If You Want To Be Happy In A Million Ways -- Part 1

Bird Is The Word Crew
Originally uploaded by Gare and Kitty.
If you want to be happy in a million ways.. invite 8 of your closest friends to your home for a holiday party, and cook a turkey while you're at it! Yea!

This last weekend Kitty and I hosted a party involving great friends and turkey. It was a little nerve-wracking to clean the house, wash the dishes, gather the extra plates, and make all the invites but it was well worth it. We spent the afternoon with friends we hadn't seen in months.

We also learned that cooking a turkey isn't as hard as its made out to be. We cooked a mighty tasty bird. We had it stuffed and in the oven by 8:15 am. It was a 19 lb bird and we were shooting for a 2:00-2:30 dinner time. Our guests were a bit late though, and I think we ended up eating around 3pm or so. The bird was golden brown and at 185 degrees Farenheit around 2. Apparently a bird is done when it reachers 185 F in the meat of the thigh. This bird, massive as it was, needed an hour to cool before carving. We set it in front of an open window in our kitchen. The draft blowing over the bird couldn't have been any warmer than 40 F, and the thing took an hour to cool! I was shocked at that. This is the first turkey I've cooked myself, and I had no idea that they would need so much time to cool before carving. Part of the reason for cooling is to let the juices mingle and flavor before letting them drip out. The other reason is because 185 F is just too hot to touch!

Luckily I had two friends there who knew how to carve the bird. I had no clue. I think I've learned some for next year, when hopefully I can do a bunch of carving myself. Many thanks for Mark and Phil though. We wouldn't have hand a nicely carved Turkey without them. Nick could have helped, but he was still on the road when we started carving.

The Legs came off first. Those had to be split off the bird at the joint. After those were off the bird was set to cool in front of the window. For an Hour!

More to come later...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m reading a really interesting book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. It focuses on validating and understanding the split second, gut-level reactions that we have. It reads like a persuasive essay, recounting a series of psychological studies and real-world events which reinforce the idea that people are able to make accurate decisions in a split second. Gladwell goes further to say that there split second conclusions can be as accurate or better than decisions made with through a long drawn out decision making process. He uses case after case to validate the feelings that we can’t explain or describe. For example, maybe you meet someone new at work. You get a quick introduction, shake their hand, and exchange a couple seconds of conversation before something interrupts your casual meeting. You may walk away from that meeting thinking to yourself “I really liked that person, but I can’t say why.” Or maybe it’s the opposite and there was something about them that gave you a sour impression, but you can’t put your finger on what. If you try, you’re not able to think of exactly what the reason could be that you feel the repulsion. The premise of this book is that even though conventional wisdom says that a conclusion you can’t justify is unreliable, many times these unjustifiable conclusions are the best decisions we make. The author would say that by understanding the psychological processes that lead us to these decisions we can and should confidently “jump to conclusions.”