December 2005 Archives

Happy New Year Everybody, Be Care Tonight , you don't want to end up like this

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Here a litle blurp from Brooklyn friend mickeal about the TWU

"The strike exemplifies the unbridgeable class divisions in American society, in which a corrupt and reactionary financial oligarchy utilizes the most brutal methods to smash all resistance to its lust for profits and personal wealth. One has only to look at the cast of characters leading the assault on transit workers to get a sense of the real social issues at stake in this conflict.
First, there is Michael Bloomberg, who spent lavishly out of his vast personal fortune of more than $5 billion to buy the mayoralty. He had the effrontery to go before cameras Tuesday to denounce bus and subway workers as “selfish, ” “thuggish, ” “disgraceful” and “shameful.”
Second, there is real estate mogul Peter Kalikow, with a net worth of more than $1 billion, who is negotiating on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
Third, leading the anti-transit worker hate campaign of the gutter media is Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the New York Post and Fox News. His personal fortune is estimated to be approximately $8 billion.

These individuals pocket in one day more than even the highest paid transit worker takes home in a year.
These are the people demanding that transit workers—whose wages barely cover basic necessities in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world—sacrifice their wages, pensions and benefits in order to meet the interest payments to rich investors, who augment their fortunes by purchasing high-yield MTA bonds. "

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hey everybody. fox news is reporting that just as many middle class people were killed in katrina as poor people. according to this news source, just as many people above the median income perished as those below. i don't know how they figured this out (then again the federal government feels that the average family of four can live off of $18000 a year).

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One of the unexpected side benefits of our Diner Project is that it is a great conversation starter, and these conversations never fail to give us some good diner suggestions. Everyone in South Jersey has a favorite diner to recommend. So it was one of these conversations on Christmas that led Mike and I to Mastori's Diner in Bordentown.

Mastori's Sign

Mastori's Sign

[Mike took those two.]

Mastori's is huge; it is less of a diner and more of a diner complex. There were two non-smoking rooms, a smoking section (with the traditional diner counter and booths), a bar (with the appropriate dim lighting and wood paneling), a banquet room, and an entrance room that serves also as a bakery counter. There was also a fleet of catering delivery trucks out front. There might even be more to it, but that was all I saw. We went on Tuesday, at prime lunchtime, and I have never seen a diner's waiting area so crowded in my life. Even so, they said it would only take 15 minutes to seat us. While we waited, I took pictures with my old-school camera. I am getting much better at this manual focusing thing.

Revolutionary war dolls

Pies for sale

Yummy pies

It wasn't that long until they seated us on the patio. The good thing about that is there was lots of light for pictures! Usually it is hard to get interior shots without a flash.


The first thing they do at Mastori's is bring you cheese bread, we were told. When I heard this, I thought it was a savory cheese bread. But I was mistaken; it is a sweet cheese bread.

Sweet cheese bread

They also bring cinnamon bread. Mike liked both of these a lot. I am not normally a big fan, but I tasted these and they were pretty good.

Cinnamon bread

In the bottom of that picture, you can see the top of the Best Diner Salad ever. Mike and I both ordered lunch specials: for $9.99, you get a soup or salad, entree, vegetable, beverage, and dessert from the tray. We both got the salad, and it was great. Large (for a house salad), with romaine and greens, no iceberg in sight. It was decorated with purple cabbage, sliced radishes, baby tomatoes, and slices of carrot. Yum.

For entrees and vegetables, Mike got the lemon chicken with string beans, and I got the ultimate nachos with french fries. Readers of this site will understand my unusual pairing since we have to test the french fries. This understanding apparently did not extend to the elderly lady sitting across from us who I heard comment derogatorily on my choice.

Lemon chicken

Yummy nachos

[Mike took the nachos picture.]

I am glad I got those fries too, because it overturns an assumption I made right here on this site. Mastori's serves steak fries as their normal french fry! Golden, perfectly cooked steak fries! Click here for my definition of the perfect fry. Mastori's gets top fry props.

Mike and I didn't care for the dessert tray selections, so we ordered from the regular dessert menu. Mike got a piece of cannoli pie - he wanted to try the cream cheese pound cake, but they didn't sell it in slices. I tried the oreo cheesecake, a favorite of mine. This one didn't mix up the cookie and cheesecake, but kept in layers, resembling the cookie.

Oreo cheesecake

At first, I was a little disappointed with the waitress, because she was kind of snappy with us. But she was very busy, and after we commiserated with her about not being able to go to the bathroom since 7am, she became much nicer. She even fixed the bill for us, so we only paid the difference for our non-tray desserts, instead of full price.

Before we even finished our meals, we knew that Mastori's was another five cup diner. They are not technically open 24 hours a day (they close between 1am and 4am), but Mike said "that's close enough."

Mastori's gets 5 Coffee Cups

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Weber's is one of the first diners I went to on a regular basis after I moved to South Jersey. It is on the White Horse Pike in Audubon.

Weber's Sign

Weber's is the sad story of a diner on the decline. It used to be a pretty good diner, but I think that has changed since the death of the owner a few years ago. Now whenever I go there, it isn't quite as good as it used to be. Also, it used to be open 24 hours a day, and I don't think that's the case anymore. I remember waiting there after I got off work to get a ride home at 2 in the morning. I used to get the hot chocolate, and it was good. I haven't had it in a while, so I don't know if that went downhill, too.


I like the picture above - I hope you can see how they decorated the windows. I took the picture around Halloween.

So, anyway, Weber's still has a decent menu. They have added some things that I hear are good - notably the panini sandwiches. The fries were always just ok, and the desserts were pretty sucky. The service is always very nice and competent. And the food is usually ok, but is missing that extra push that would make it really good. I brought Mike here a few times (including one of the most notable yucky meals, where everyting we both ordered just wasn't any good). Now, we usually go to the Crystal Lake Diner instead.


Sorry, Weber's Diner. You used to be pretty decent, and I hope to see you that way again someday. For now, you only get 2.5 Coffee Cups

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One of the things I've been meaning to figure out is how to post music files to share through this here web site. Tonight, success is mine!

Download audio file here. Right click on the link, then choose "Save file as" to download. This is a cover of the Four Tops' "The Same Old Song," by Iron and Wine. Mike is so going to make fun of me for that - he doesn't like the song. If anyone else wants to upload tracks, let me know.

I have seen this file on the internet before, so hopefully I am not breaking any copyright laws. As always, contact me to cease and desist.

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I have been assigned six exercises that I am supposed to do twice a day for my physical therapy. While I do them, I do the exercises with both feet, which also helpfully contrasts the difference between my normal range of motion, and my injured ankle. It is like watching a lumbering Frankenstein next to Anna Pavlova.

There are two exercises that I can actually accomplish: one requires me to pull my foot towards me with a towel, stretching my calf. Since I don't have to move anything, I can do this. I am also fairly good at lifting my heel off the ground while seated, which is strange since I can't actually make this motion while walking. There are two that I am somewhat able to do. I can halfheartedly curl my toes, meaning that I can accomplish some movement, but not anything approaching a grip, which is what I am supposed to be trying to do. I am also supposed to be flexing my foot off the ground from the heel when seated, and I can manage to lift my toes a few centimeters, but not much more. And there are two exercises that I am horribly, horribly unable to do. Lying on my back, I am supposed to flex and point my foot (this results in some wobbling motions), and point my foot from side to side (here I can also manage some wobbling, but I think that I am doing it more from my knee than my ankle).

And this is a month after the injury. My physical therapist said not to get discouraged, that the recovery process will take a while. The execises don't actually cause me much pain while doing them, although a few hours after my first appointment, I had a lot of pain. But I did them last night, and today seems ok. It is more the immobility than the pain that is the problem.

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i received an email yesterday from a friend. it was one of those forwarded message types, so it probably did not originate from said person. the email was about denzel washington visiting some military hospitals (i think) in texas. he showed support and gave money to help fund construction of more facilities. the message lamented how his visit only got a mention on page three of some small paper.

this email proceeded to bash other celebrities (alec baldwin, madonna, sean penn) for getting all the press and being anti-american. how do they get to be on all the news programs and denzel does not? denzel is a true patriot, it went on to say.

you can see i started to get angry as i read this. people who know me know i am not a fan of baldwin (worthless), madonna (esther, scank, no talent), and penn (i was in iraq). however, i am a fan of questioning government policies. it is as american as agreeing with the status quo. this email calls celebrities (and regular citizens) unamerican for questioning our government or protesting it. why should that be? one of our founding fathers (jefferson to be exact) said america should have a revolution once every generation or so (i think he might have been right. our government gets too complacent). if we agree with our government all the time where will it lead us? suppose washington says we are to round up all muslims (non-christians, mentally ill, homosexuals, minorities, etc.) in the u.s., detain them in camps and work them to death. would it be unamerican to say "no" to this? would i still receive outrageous emails stating how unamerican people are for standing up to washington?

also, this email was upset with the media giving air time to celebrities who are against the war in iraq. the same media that was bush's whipping boy and helped him get re-elected. the same media which does not ask hard questions or give all the facts. many people are against the war in iraq and the "faux" war on terror. i think we should be allowed to say what we think about our government's policies in hope of influencing the decisions being made. if everyone continues to be "american" and just support washington (no questions asked), then it will only be a matter of time before we are prisoners in our own country. jailed by fear of the world as well as fear of expressing our own opinion.

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So I went to my first physical therapy appointment this morning, which went less than well. Ironically, it was the part that I had anticipated being the most enjoyable (the whirlpool) that was the worst. The therapist put my leg in the whirlpool as one of the first things. It was already hurting on the one side (he had been moving and pressing it before), and two minutes after I started whirlpooling, I also started getting very, very nauseous. I think the way the water was hitting my ankle just intensified the pain. I pulled my ankle out of the water, and the therapist got me a cup of water to drink. After I felt better, we did the rest of the exercises and I got ones to take home. Not an auspicious beginning. The best part about the physical therapy is that now I actually have an idea what my injury is. My primary care physician sent me right to the orthopedist (he thought I had fractured something), and the orthopedist, while being a very nice person, doesn't really tell me anything. He spends most of our (very brief) appointments talking into a little dictation recorder in untranslatable medicalese. I think after he determined that there no actual bones injured in my injury, he didn't want much more to do with me.

So according to the physical therapist, I have torn both of the ligaments on the outside of my ankle - the huge bruise that appeared on the side of my foot, and the bruises under my toes are from the blood from the ligaments flowing down into my foot. (I think I'm starting to feel nauseous again just from typing this. My apologies to anyone with a weak stomach.) I also injured the ligament on the inside of my ankle (hence the bruising on my foot above the arch), but he doesn't know if I did that at the same time as the injury, or if it got injured by overusing to compensate for the injury. In any case, he very nicely told me not to expect to be healed any time soon.

Three good things that happened recently to make up for it: I surprisingly don't have a copay for the physical therapy sessions! I was expecting $20 an appointment, 2 to 3 appointments a week, 3 or 4 can see how this might add up.

Also, my iPod broke before the Thanksgiving vacation, and I tried everything I could to fix it, to no avail. My iMac wouldn't even recognize it to restore it. I took it to the Genius Bar at the Mac store last night, and a very nice young man took it in the back, resoldered a cable, and poof! It was fixed!! I was almost resigning myself to having to buy a new one, sometime far off in the future when I might have money for it. So I have music again.

And finally, Netflix! People, I am addicted to Netflix. My queue is 260 movies long. I wanted to get Netflix because there are tons of older movies that I want to see that they never have at the local rental stores. Recently I got "Run Lola Run" and "La Belle et la Bete," both of which got 4 stars from me. I wanted Belle because I love the Phillip Glass opera version - this DVD had the option to play the movie with the opera as the soundtrack. I am also busily working out which post office boxes get the movies returned the quickest, so more can take their place.

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yeaaaaaahhhhh! time for chillin', workin', and other stuff.

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worst movie ever by vincent gallo.

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So I finally did go and see the new "Pride and Prejudice," with my roommate, since none of pop5 could be persuaded (did I mention I had to see "Chronicles of Riddick"? "Doom"? "Blade Two"? "John Carpenter's Vampires"? "Van Helsing"? Oh wait, that last one was my own fault. Yummy Hugh Jackman, how could you let me down so?).

And the verdict is: not as good as the BBC miniseries. As my second favorite novel by my favorite author, I have read it a few thousand times, and seen quite a few versions of P&P. The biggest problem with this version is a problem that all the movie incarnations must face: what do you do when Austen doesn't tell you what happens next? Most infamously, this occurs in the final proposal scene, when Darcy proposes again to Elizabeth, and she accepts, but Austen doesn't tell you what she says. Movie versions are remarkably bad at writing in what Jane Austen didn't say. In this movie, they added some ill-advised and unnecessary scenes, particularly the godawful last scene. They also inexplicably redistributed lines of dialogue that are in the book, giving them to different characters. I thought Keira Knightley did a pretty good job as Elizabeth, but she was much too giddy in the beginning - there was not enough difference between her and her younger sisters. I didn't think the Darcy looked like a Darcy in the beginning, but he kind of won me over throughout the movie. Darcy is a difficult role to act, since we see him through Elizabeth's eyes; the actor has to win over the audience just likes he wins her over. I think he did good, but I think both Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle did better. The movie also portrays the Bennets' marriage as much too happy. The miniseries did better there, too.

The only thing I particularly liked about the movie was the casting of Jane and Elizabeth. Because she is the main character, the tendency is to cast Elizabeth as the more beautiful actress, which directly contradicts the book (this is the case in the miniseries, and especially in "Bride and Prejudice," the recent Bollywood remake). This movie cast a very pretty actress as Jane, and I don't think she suffered in comparison to Keira Knightley.

I think it would be very hard for a movie to surpass the miniseries, in any case, just because of how far you have to condense the story to make it a reasonable length. The miniseries even cuts plot points, and it's six hours. I think the P&P miniseries is still the best Austen adaptation. I also like "Clueless," even though it is an adaptation only in the broadest sense of the word.

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Ponzio's (on Route 70 in Cherry Hill) tries to straddle the fine line between restaurant and diner.


The menu is a diner menu, with diner prices. But there is a hostess stand when you come in where you have to put your name on the list. Instead of "smoking" and "non-smoking," they have divided up the place into rooms with names, like the "Terrace Room" and the "Garden Room." They serve liquor, and even have a small bar/club type area, where you can wait to be seated. Wait! To be seated! Clearly we are one step up from diner here.

Ponzio's Sign

But I think we still have to consider Ponzio's a diner - maybe a diner with delusions of grandeur. The food is good. The waitstaff has been nice, if maybe a little scatterbrained. I recall a few order mix-ups on more than one occasion. They are also not open 24 hours, and the staff can get a little hover-y when it gets close to quitting time. One of the best reasons to go to Ponzio's is the desserts. They have an in-house bakery, and its menu is extensive and delectable. I think the first thing I ever ate from Ponzio's was before I ever stepped foot in the place. Buddy had some leftover cake from a party that he had gotten there. It was a chocolate layer cake, and between the layers was layers of cheesecake. CHEESECAKE!! If you have ever been to a diner with me, you know that I am something of a cheesecake fanatic. There was also frosting on this cake. FROSTING!! I am also a frosting fanatic.

Apparently Famous Crab Cakes

We have only been to Ponzio's a handful of times. Mike and I started out going to dinner there, but he prefers some of the other diners better. We also hung out there a few times in the late night. But in general, it is not in heavy rotation. I like the place, though, so I will give it 3.5 Coffee Cups

One of those cups is for the cheesecake cake alone.

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thought i'd post this. it's by threadless only for music. people submit songs and you vote on them.
seems pretty cool.
here is the link.

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My right foot, she is a bitch. I did actually go to the doctor (and then the x-ray place, and then the orthopedist) on Friday, and the final outcome is, no break or fracture, but a severe strain and soft tissue damage. The deep purple bruise on the whole right side of my foot is not getting any better, and it has been almost two weeks since this happened. So I bought myself a pair of men's slippers and borrowed Buddy's crutches (thanks, Buddy!), because I have to go back to work. I think it took me a good half an hour to hobble here. This is the first time I have ever used crutches, and it is not easy to learn. Anyone passing me would have heard me whispering in a three-quarter waltz time, "Crutch, bad foot, good foot" over and over to try to get the rhythm right. My foot is also a bitch because the only sleeping position that doesn't hurt is if the entire foot is dangling over the edge of the bed or a stack of pillows, but only if I am lying on my back. I cannot dangle on my side, which is, of course, my favorite way to sleep. Also, every person I have told about my diagnosis has helpfully responded, "Soft tissue damage! That's worse than a break!" Thanks, everyone.

But enough about my infirmity. Recently Roommate Two ordered an old-school, all manual Canon AE1, and it turned out to be a little too old-school and manual for her. Mike and I took it on loan to test, and I think I am going to buy it. Here are some of the test pictures:





Mike has been shooting manual the entire time, but I am used to my fully automatic, program mode Canon SLR. Strangely enough, while taking these, I remembered to set the shutter speed and the f-stop, but most frequently forgot to focus. You'd think that would be the easiest thing to remember.

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The Palace Diner is also located in Berlin, at the Route 73 circle. In the neighborhood is a Walmart, a Saladworks, a Taco Bell, a Subway, a Burger King, and a McDonald's. But you are a fool if you eat at any of these places, when the perfect Diner Fry is within your reach.

Palace Diner

I used to live not too far away from the Palace Diner, and my roommate and I used to go there a lot. We called it the "alternate alternate diner," to distinguish it from the diner (Magnolia), and the alternate diner (Starview). The nickname has become so ingrained in my head that most of the time I forget what its real name is.


As I mentioned in another entry, the Palace Diner wins the award for best fries in a diner, according to my criteria. They also have decent house salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, honey mustard chicken croissant sandwiches (according to my roommate), taco salads (according to Mike), and milkshakes. I don't think I've ever had a dessert other than a milkshake there, so I don't have any input there. Their large drinks are HUGE. Along with the Starview, they also have a liquor license, kind of rare for a diner. The service is really friendly, except for one waiter who always used to wait on us, and he was a little too friendly.


Since I moved, we rarely go to the Palace Diner. I took Mike there for the first time a few weeks ago, and he liked it a lot, too.

The Palace Diner gets 4 Coffee Cups

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Today is World AIDS Day. I feel like I should take a moment and talk about my one of my friends who died from this terrible disease. His name was Dave K. Dave was a cranky son-of-a-bitch. I got to know him during my stint as assistant manager at B. Dalton Bookseller. I remember working with him and I would always get upset because he couldn't climb the ladders or lift the heavy boxes when we got freight shipments. However, Dave was incredibly smart, well-read and knew everything about all kinds of music; his forte was jazz.

We had a tenuous working relationship because he would say things that would be a little off color at times. For some time, I was always on guard around him. When I came out to most of my co-workers, for some reason he became friendlier to me. At that point I couldn’t figure out why. Then one day, we went out for drinks during our lunch break and he told me he was HIV positive. He was a hemophiliac and got a bad transfusion during the 80s. It became clear why couldn't climb ladders or open boxes; if he did he might get hurt. For a while I felt shitty about thinking of all the bad things about him. From that moment on though, we bonded and hung out a lot.

At work we would always work at the register and scowl at the people who would come in and ask for the latest Danielle Steel novel or some piece of crap. He would always try to up sell some esoteric novel to the hapless patron to no avail. I’d just laugh. On Friday nights, we would go to the Old Temperance House in Newtown and have a good meal, smoke cigars, drink and listen to the jazz musicians. We would always close the place.

As the years progressed, he got worse. He wasn't able to work anymore because his health was deteriorating, but we still would go to the Temperance House for a night of good entertainment. Then in the summer of '94 he was hospitalized with pneumonia. His mom wasn't sure if he was going to make it. I went to visit him and he was still the cranky bastard I knew him to be. He got better and was released from the hospital but he was never the same after that. I guess when you are on Death's door, your perspective changes. One of the last times I saw him, he said that he was scared of dying. At that moment I felt completely powerless. He lamented about the fact that he would never have a girlfriend or have a real intimate relationship with a woman. At that point he began to cry and there was nothing I could do to allay his fears. I just told him that he was going to be OK, but in my heart I knew that wasn't true.

A few years had passed and he was on the rebound. He was taking a cocktail of anti-biotics and had gained some of his weight back. He was his cranky self again. The fall of '96, I had to go to the main campus Of Penn State University for a few days to get trained for my teaching internship. When I got back to Philly, Dave's mom called and left a message on my machine stating that he had died over the weekend. I was stunned. Since Dave was Jewish, his mom had his funeral service on that Saturday and had him buried. She told me that some of his college friends were going to meet over her house and reminisce about the good times they had with Dave. I told her I would make it—but I never did go. I guess I just didn't want to think of Dave in the past tense, or even that he was dead for that matter.

Now, ten years later and I still think of that S.O.B. I miss his weird sense of humor, his passion for a decent drink, his love of literature and his uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. What I wouldn't do for one more night just to hang out with him at the Old Temperance House. Dave, tomorrow night I will be sure to have a drink in your name.

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Special guest Evan joins us for Podcasts 7 and 8!