life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Romance and Adventure on the High Seas

Drew and I have booked a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.

It will be our fourth cruise together. Our first was on Premier's Oceanic, a/k/a The Big Red Boat, in 1987. We sailed out of Port Canaveral and made two ports of call: Nassau, Bahamas; and Salt Cay, Premier's private island. The cruise was part of a vacation package that included the Kennedy Space Center and Walt Disney World.

Our second cruise, in 2010, was on the Carnival Valor. We sailed out of Miami. Our ports of call were Grand Cayman, Roatan (Honduras), Belize and Cozumel.

2013 found us on the Carnival Breeze, also out of Miami. San Juan (Puerto Rico), St. Thomas (USVI), Grand Turk and St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Freedom of the Seas sails out of Port Canaveral. Scheduled ports are Labadee (Haiti), Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

We don't sail until October. Plenty if time to plan.


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Saturday, February 27, 2016

So...about Weight Watchers

The news coming out of corporate headquarters is not good.

The company posted a loss for 4th quarter 2015 and anticipates a loss for 1st quarter 2016.

The company has seen its revenues decline in recent years, but they did post a modest profit 4th quarter 2014.

I think they expected Oprah to work her magic. When she bought her shares in October, the price of shares soared. When she did her first commercial, the price of shares went up. When she did her second, there was a modest increase in the price of shares.

With the earnings report, the price of shares in Weight Watchers has dropped. A lot.

Some are blaming Oprah, that she's not as effective as she used to be in selling a product. But that's only one facet of the story.

People forget that Weight Watchers was in decline before Oprah invested. There are so many options available these days. Free apps like My Fitness Pal. Or tracking on the app that came with your Fitbit. Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are also losing ground, and for the same reason.

And Weight Watchers has been plagued with website issues since November. Worse than the usual failures we same to know and expect from their IT department. Coupled with absolutely horrendous customer service, of course.

But what really did them in, I think, was the mass exodus of long term members who hate the new Smart Points program. A program that was tested for only 3 months before it was rolled out, a program that's still being revised, a program that has left a lot of people feeling frustrated and angry.

Jean Nidetch must be rolling in her grave.




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Friday, February 26, 2016

Cirella's

Cirella's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Small, cozy Italian restaurant with a surprise -- a sushi chef and a full sushi menu.  We didn't order any sushi, but there was an amazing sushi platter at the next table.

We stuck with more traditional fare.  Crusty bread, dipped in seasoned  olive oil.  Capellini Pescatore, a pasta dish with shrimp and scallops in a tomato-based sauce.  And for dessert, cannoli cream served with biscotti and sliced strawberries in powdered sugar.  Portions were very generous, I brought home leftovers. 

Service was smooth and professional.  The parking lot, like most in this neighborhood, is totally inadequate, but valet parking is offered in the evening.

A decent meal in pleasant surroundings.  I will be back.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jewel

Jewel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 We came on a Saturday night.  This is a lovely little restaurant in the middle of a Melville office complex. D├ęcor is modern and a bit eclectic -- I really liked the water wall.  The bar is prominently featured in the center of the large dining room.  You can actually see the kitchen from the dining area.  I liked the quotes about food that are displayed prominently above the kitchen.


The food... I loved the bread basket, so many varieties of rolls, served with olive oil for dipping.  My shrimp cocktail was excellent.  Shrimp were fresh, the cocktail sauce was freshly made and had just the right "bite".  The lobster bisque -- well, Drew said it had an unfamiliar seasoning, and he wasn't sure he liked it.  Our steaks were perfectly cooked and very tender.  Mine was served on a bed of mashed potatoes -- purple mashed potatoes.  First time I ever ate purple potatoes; they have a slightly different taste than the white, but one that I really enjoyed.  This was one of the rare occasions where I indulged in a truly decadent dessert -- a chocolate mousse cake with fresh whipped cream.  Heaven. 

The service...while there were no mistakes or glaring errors, service seemed more than just a little slow, and not as attentive as I would have liked.

Valet parking is available.

Overall a pleasant experience. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Birthday celebration...sort of

So my birthday didn't totally suck.

My daughter Jen took me out to lunch, and she picked up the check. I had a terrific turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich. I don't get a lot of time with my kids anymore, they both have busy lives, so this was a real treat.

And Drew came home from the hospital. He had abdominal surgery, so he'll be on a liquid diet for awhile, but at least he's home.

He got quite a scolding from Duchess, how dare he abandon his feline child?

I found out I share a birthday with John Travolta, Juice Newton, Dennis DeYoung and Vanna White. Wow.

My "birthday cake" was a supermarket donut. I enjoyed every bite.

So I completed another trip around the sun. And hopefully many more to come.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sigh ....

So Drew's surgery was yesterday. We arrived at the hospital at 5 in the morning. They chased me out of pre-op around 7, and I headed to the hospital lobby. The doctor called me at 10 to let me know surgery was successful and Drew was in recovery.

Drew was in recovery for the rest of the day. It takes him a very long time to come out of anesthesia. And then they couldn't find a bed for him.

I stayed until he was settled in his room. That was around 10 PM.

Yesterday the doctor thought Drew could go home today. I'm looking at him in his bed right now, and I am convinced he will be staying another night.


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Sunday, February 14, 2016

OH MY LORD

I am still reeling from the news.

Justice Scalia is dead.

My sympathies to his family and friends.

But for a Supreme Court Justice to die ... In the middle of an election year ...

I respect Scalia's brilliance. But I disagree with him on every single issue.

I've been "fan girling" (as Becca put it) Professor Tribe for three decades. The Constitution (that I swore to uphold when I became a member of the bar) is a living, breathing document.

We are now left with a court divided 4-4, or 5-3 if Kennedy swings -- as he has done many, many times.

This election cycle just took on a whole new dimension.


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Friday, February 12, 2016

Another This and That






In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

So the other night I came home and found Jen doing her taxes.  She was using an online program that guided her every step.  She still had a couple of questions for me, but she managed it mostly on her own.  Another sign of adulthood.

Becca called me the other night, she had a problem.  I wasn't really able to help, but I'm glad  she sought my advice.  She just learned a costly lesson about high pressure sales tactics and consumer contracts.  Part of growing up, I guess.

Jen has been spending a lot of time at her boyfriend's house.  I really like him.  He's back in school, studying to be a registered nurse.  Very good choice for a guy, I think.

 Becca is spending a lot of time with her ex boyfriend.  Last time I asked, she told me that they were "just friends".   I think it's going to be more than that eventually.  And I'm in no position to comment on that, considering where I spend my free time.

Speaking of which...Drew officially put in his retirement notice.  He will retire at the end of this school year.  He hopes to be able to do substitute teaching next year.  That's a lot less taxing, he won't have to work every day and he won't have to do all the lesson plans and grading papers and etc.

He's very nervous about the surgery.  He actually posted about it on Facebook, something I've never seen him do before.  The surgery is on Tuesday, and I'm not sure how long he'll be in the hospital. 

I'm taking the whole week off to deal with him, and with a few other personal matters.  I have to get things ready for my accountant, I must also file my tax returns, and the meeting with my accountant is fast approaching.

My coworker has been out of the office all week.  She was supposed to get engaged this weekend.  Instead, she will be at a funeral.  Her boyfriend was driving in the snow on Monday, headed to her house, when somehow he veered into oncoming traffic.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

IHOP

IHOP Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 With all the good diners serving breakfast here on Long island, it's a little surprising that IHOP does so well here.

Or is it?

They do pancakes.  And they do them oh so well.  Light, fluffy pancakes with many choices of toppings.  Strawberry banana pancakes came topped with sliced berries, bananas, strawberry syrup and whipped cream.  Harvest grain pancakes were hearty and nutty.  I was very much tempted by the red velvet pancakes...

If you don't want pancakes (sacrilege!), there's French toast, crepes, omelettes....

Service was friendly and efficient.  Our coffee cups were never left empty.

I was happy with this location, in a storefront on Old Country Road instead of the traditional blue-roof chalet.   The decent-sized lobby avoids the overcrowding problem I have seen in many other locations while waiting for a table.  The parking lot is way too small, though.

Already planning our next visit...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Weight loss dilemma

So....in 2005 I had a very bad health issue.  A year of hell. And some really great doctors who got me through it.

And immediately afterwards, I decided to do something to improve my health, to improve my life.  I joined Weight Watchers.  In 2006-2007 I lost 70 pounds. And then I fell off the wagon, so to speak, and in 2008 I regained 40 pounds.  My New Year's resolution in 2009 was to lose those 40 pounds and continue to lose weight until I hit my goal.    But I never got my head in the game.  Not only didn't I lose those 40 pounds, I gained another...well, at least another 40.

Lesson learned.  I'm sticking with it this time.

But here's my dilemma (and it's kind of nice to have this "problem").

I've lost almost 50 pounds.  All my winter clothes are big on me.

But we are more than halfway through winter.  I don't want to buy new stuff that I'll wear for just a few weeks.  It's not like I'll wear them again next year, I plan to make my goal weight this time.

And I can't go shopping in my closet.  The size I wear now...yes, I wore this size back in 2008-2009.   But I gave all of that size away right after Hurricane Sandy.  A friend of a friend lost everything when the storm flooded her basement apartment,she needed jeans and sweaters, and I wasn't wearing those things, so I sent them to her.

But the good news is, if I lose another 10 pounds by April, I have a ton of things I will be able to wear ...

Taking the plunge...

Even as a kid, I was never much of an athlete.  I mean, I enjoyed swimming, I enjoyed riding my bike, I enjoyed playing kickball and volley ball and etc.  I even liked archery and horseback riding.  But other than swimming (I swam like a fish), I wasn't very good at anything that required strength or coordination.

I joined a gym once, when I was first married.  I'd won 6 months of membership in a raffle.  Went for awhile, but didn't keep it up. Too expensive.  And inconvenient --  we had moved to a new neighborhood. 

Not to mention, unmotivated. 

When Jen and Becca were little, I joined the Jewish Community Center.  I loved going there, taking them to use the pool and play in the gym.  Even after they stopped going, I kept up my membership for a long time.  When I lost all that weight a few years ago, I was swimming at the JCC and walking on their indoor track 2 or 3 times a week.

But you know what happened.  I stopped doing the weight loss program, and stopped going to the JCC.

So...I've been back on program since March.  And I've been doing a lot of walking.  In good weather, I go to a park and walk.  Or I walk in the neighborhood, or at the high school track.  In bad weather, I've been doing the Leslie Sansone walking program, I've got a few DVD's and I've found some other workouts on YouTube. 

Last summer I spent a lot of time at the community pool in Drew's neighborhood as well. 

And I recently started walking at the mall.  It's great in the morning, before the stores open.  Not so great if I want to walk after work.

For awhile I've been thinking that I'm ready to take the next step and join a gym.  I thought about going back to the JCC, but it's too expensive -- your membership includes all the cultural events as well as the gym and pool, great when I had young children, but right now there's not much there to interest me.

So I joined Planet Fitness.

Wish me luck.

History In The Making

I'm very passionate about politics, but until recently I've kept my politics out of this blog.

But this year, I'm finding that I can't stay silent. This year's presidential election is far too important.

You may have guessed, from that little piece I wrote on Ted Cruz, that I'm not a Republican.

Let me be perfectly clear. I support Hillary Clinton. I liked her as First Lady, I was proud to vote for her for US Senate, I was crushed in 2008 when she lost the nomination to Barack Obama. I plan to vote for her in the NYS primary in April.

But last night I felt a thrill, a thrill I haven't felt since Al Gore chose Joe Lieberman as his running mate.

Bernie Sanders. Born in Brooklyn, to Polish Jewish immigrants. Bernie Sanders, whose youthful experiences include living on an Israeli kibbutz.

Last night, Bernie Sanders became the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary.

I am bursting with ethnic pride.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hail, Caesar! (spoilers)

A wonderful send up of everything Hollywood once held dear,  this movie satirizes religion, politics, social mores and, of course, the movie industry itself.  It's a combination of social commentary and gentle humor.

The story is set in Hollywood in the 1950's.   Eddie  Mannix (Josh Brolin) runs the studio. He has to deal with various movies and their stars.

Actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is in the middle of filming an religious epic set in 1st Century Rome (shades of "The Robe" with a little "Ben Hur" thrown in for good measure) , when he is kidnapped, in full costume, and brought  to a beach house by a group of Communist writers.

Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is a singing cowboy (Gene Audry?   Roy Rogers?)  terribly miscast in an erudite, Noel Coward-ish film directed by Laurence Laurenz (Ralph Fiennes).

Hobie has a date for his movie premier with Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio), clearly a Carmen Miranda type.

Then there's DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson) an Esther Williams type with a Loretta Young problem.

Tilda Swinto plays gossip columnist Thora Thacker, and also her sister, gossip columnist Thessaly Thacker.

And then there'sa send up of "On the Town", with Burt Geurney (Channing Tatum) dressed as a sailor, doing a Gene Kelly-like song and dance.

Wonderfully funny movie.  Definitely worth seeing.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Weight Watchers and all that

So since I quit Weight Watchers....

I started by using My Fitness Pal and tracking calories.  Then my Facebook group started talking about all the apps they use -- iTrackBites, ProTracker, Ultimate Food Value Diary.  These are knockoff apps that allow the user to follow the old Weight Watchers plan, Points Plus.

You know, the plan I started using back in March?

Seeing those apps was like coming home.

I think the best one, in terms of layout, is Ultimate Food Value Diary.  And, joyfully, there's an in-app purchase that allows you to link the app with Fitbit, so activity points are calculated automatically.

Right now I'm following Points Plus, using the Ultimate Food Value Diary.

But I'm also tracking on My Fitness Pal.  It has a better database of foods, and it's giving me good feedback about the nutritional content of the foods I eat.    And I'm seeing a real relationship between the "points" I'm using and the calories and nutritional value of the things I'm eating.  The secret to losing weight and, more importantly, keeping it off, is learning how to eat a healthy and satisfying diet.

In the short time I tried to follow the Smart Points plan, I tracked on My Fitness Plan as well.  There was no real relationship between the point values and the calories I was using.

So many people are  angry about Smart Points.    Some are always hungry and frustrated.  Some are following the plan but gaining weight,  Meeting leaders are at a loss on how to help members.  I've seen copies of the email recently sent to current members, they're already making major modifications to the program.

So glad I'm no longer part of that!

I'm just a few pounds away from the big 5-0.  Yes, I've lost almost 50 pounds.

Yeah, i got this.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

TGI Friday's

TGI Fridays Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If you're looking for a quiet place for a casual bite to eat ...this is NOT the place.It's loud, it's kitschy, it tends to be crowded at times.

But, as with any chain, you know what to expect before you even see a menu.  Though I was a bit surprised, the menu has been revised since the last time we ate here, the number of offerings has been reduced -- I couldn't help but notice that most of the lower-calorie dishes have been removed.

Still, where else can you get Jack Daniels steaks?  Cooked to order, with a choice of two sides.  Simple and tasty.

Service was friendly and efficient.

A decent option.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hoist on their own petard

Ah, the birther movement. Those right wing nut jobs who insisted, over and over, that Barack Obama was not eligible to be President of the United States.  They insisted that Obama's birth certificate, duly recorded by the appropriate authorities in the State of Hawaii, was a forgery, and that Obama was actually born in Kenya, the homeland of his father.

How delightful to see that their favorite son, Ted Cruz, has a legitimate "birther" issue.  Cruz has been a citizen since birth, but is he a "natural born citizen" as is required by the Constitution?  Or is he disqualified from serving as President?

Yeah, I know, I don't usually talk politics here.  But this is too good to ignore....

The State of Illinois Board of Elections recently answered the question in response to a challenge from the voters:  Cruz is a "natural born citizen".  I don't think it's going to stop with the Illinois Board of Elections.  Prepare for the onslaught if Cruz continues to rack up delegates.

The question was raised with other candidates, of course.  Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona, but before it became a state.  John McCain was born on a US Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone.  George Romney was born in Mexico to American citizen parents.

Cruz has a slightly different story.  His mother was born in Delaware.  But his father was born in Cuba, became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1973, and later renounced his Canadian citizenship when he became a naturalized American citizen.  The Cruzes met in Texas, but were living in Canada when Ted was born in 1970.

All legal authorities acknowledge that Ted was a Canadian citizen and  a US citizen at the time of his birth.  (He has since renounced his Canadian citizenship.)   But being  "citizen at birth" and being a "natural born citizen" are not necessarily the same.

This article from the Washington Post explains the two legal theories:  Ted Cruz and that ‘natural born citizen’ requirement: What were the Founding Fathers afraid of?

According to the authors of a recent Harvard Law Review article:

“All the sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution confirm that the phrase ‘natural born Citizen’ has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time. And Congress has made equally clear from the time of the framing of the Constitution to the current day that, subject to certain residency requirements on the parents, someone born to a U.S. citizen parent generally becomes a U.S. citizen without regard to whether the birth takes place in Canada, the Canal Zone, or the continental United States.” The fact that Ted Cruz’s mother was a citizen, by this standard, means that despite his birth in Canada, he is eligible.

In other words, the laws enacted by Congress essentially define a "natural born citizen" as one who is a citizen by birth, regardless of where the person was born.

But a professor from Delaware Law School argued that:

“The concept of ‘natural born’ comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are ‘such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,’ while aliens are “such as are born out of it.'”

In other words, the Founding Fathers would have understood a "natural born citizen" to be one who was born within the United States.  Cruz had citizenship conferred on him at birth by operation of law, and is not a "natural born citizen" under the definition understood in the 18th Century.

The Illinois Board of Elections ruled that:

“The Candidate is a natural born citizen by virtue of being born in Canada to his mother who was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth,” the board stated, saying that Cruz “did not have to take any steps or go through a naturalization process at some point after birth,” adding, “Further discussion on this issue is unnecessary.”

 I guess they agree with the scholars at Harvard.

And then there's Laurence Tribe.    Professor Tribe has been teaching Constitutional Law at Harvard since forever.  He's recognized as one of the leading experts in the field.  Ted Cruz was his student.  So was Barack Obama.  I've been reading Tribe since my law school days.  I follow him on Twitter. 

Tribe had a rather interesting article in The Boston Globe the other day:  Under Ted Cruz’s own logic, he’s ineligible for the White House  Tribe points out that Cruz is an "originalist", except on this issue, where it is to Cruz' benefit to tout a more liberal view of the Constitution. 

Tribe states:  There’s more than meets the eye in the ongoing dustup over whether Ted Cruz is eligible to serve as president, which under the Constitution comes down to whether he’s a “natural born citizen” despite his 1970 Canadian birth. Senator Cruz contends his eligibility is “settled” by naturalization laws Congress enacted long ago. But those laws didn’t address, much less resolve, the matter of presidential eligibility, and no Supreme Court decision in the past two centuries has ever done so. In truth, the constitutional definition of a “natural born citizen” is completely unsettled, as the most careful scholarship on the question has concluded...the kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an “originalist,” one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption. To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen. Even having two US parents wouldn’t suffice. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive....[Cruz] seems to be a fair weather originalist, abandoning that method’s narrow constraints when it suits his ambition.



I must confess, I agree with the esteemed professor. 

This is becoming a very interesting election.





Thursday, February 4, 2016

Flint, again

The news reports out of Flint are truly disturbing. So they pulled water from the river and didn't treat it, so that the lead pipes corroded. So they ignored all the complaints about the foul color, smell, taste. So they tried to discredit those who said there was a problem.

So they provided bottled water to a State employees while telling residents that there was no problem, that the water was safe.


And now I hear that there's an ongoing criminal investigation involving the FBI.

UNBELIEVABLE


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Songbird Salutes the 70's: The Day The Music Died

It happened before I was born...Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, J. P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper...a winter tour...a plane crash...the stuff of legends....

Immortalized by Don McLean in a song oh-so-famous song that ushered in the 70's with a look back at the 50's and 60's.


We were doing a lot of that in the 70's, looking back at the idyllic but straight-laced 1950's and comparing that era with the turbulent 1960's.   Movies like "American Graffiti" led to shows like "Happy Days".   The nostalgia was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Still, there's no denying that the deaths of Holly, Valens and Richardson had a profound effect on an entire generation.   And McLean captured it so well:




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day

Tradition holds that on Groundhog Day,  if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow,  then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will  see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and there will be six more weeks of winter weather.

It's been a mild winter so far.  One record-breaking blizzard, of course, but otherwise fairly warm.

I won't complain if it stays like this until spring arrives.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Welcome February

A new month, filled with new possibilities.

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