JerseySmarts | one89seven


Moving From a Dorm-Like Lifestyle to a “Grown-Up” Lifestyle
July 16th, 2014 | Added to Random Entries | No Comments »

Even though I may be closer in age to 35 than 30 years old, I don’t feel like a grizzly old man yet. In fact, most of the folks that I know who are in their late 50s, 60s, and 70s, still suggest that to me that people my age (I’m 33, by the way) are still “babies” or just “young kids” getting started in life. And I tend to agree with their assessment, but not because it helps me feel young! No, I tend to agree with their assessment because when I look at the maturity levels and “grown-up” like abilities that some of my contemporaries possess, there’s no way you would ever want to consider these people adults!

A typical dorm room picture that I pulled off of the interwebs

A typical dorm room picture that I pulled off of the interwebs

I bring up this discrepancy in age versus real-life experiences because of my recent purchase of a new home. I have yet to write about the purchase, though I’m working on a blog entry that describes much of my reasoning for buying a home. More on that to come. In the meantime, though, I didn’t want to miss out on sharing some of the great experiences that I’ve had getting used to my new place. Take this post, for example. I’ve noticed that since I now own and live in a three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhouse (complete with a living room, dining area, kitchen, another eat-in dining area, and garage), that I’ve been living a very dormitory lifestyle up until this move. In other words, my prior apartments – and pretty much my living arrangements since I moved from home to go to college back in Fall 1999 – have been either directly in dormitories or closely resembling dormitories.

And that got me to thinking whether or not that was actually a true statement/thought and – for better or worse – it really is true. Just thinking about the last place I lived before I bought this place, I lived much of my life in my bedroom. This was easy to accomplish because my bedroom had a large walk-in closet where I could put all of my stuff and a master bathroom where I could use the facilities if necessary. I never spent any time in the living room because it was filthy (the rug was a disaster and the landlord refused to change it, plus the furniture wasn’t mine or my roommates’ so we didn’t have any connection to anything in there) and I never spent any time in the kitchen because it was an extremely dated room with a dated feel to it. The interior of the place I just moved out of was pale and drab – my roommates and I didn’t really paint the place because we didn’t own the house. The carpets were old and cruddy throughout the house, but I was able to salvage some semblance of normalcy by restricting my “living space” to my bedroom alone. I had a small office area set up in one part of the room, all of my clothes crammed into the closet, and a small entertainment center area next to the office area.

It worked.

I didn’t realize until I moved into my new home and started to make the new place my own that I had been restricting myself to living in a dorm-like lifestyle by staying in the old townhouse as long as I stayed there. Just to help provide some substance to the time I spent as a renter in the old townhouse – I moved in there in July 2008 and I moved out in May 2014. That’s nearly 6 years living as a de facto prisoner in my own bedroom!

Now that I’m in my new place, I’ve painted every room in the house except a half-bathroom on the first floor. I’ve started to fill my garage with my belongings with plans to retrieve more of my belongings from my Mother’s house and bring them down here so I have them in my possession. I’ve started growing vegetables and herbs in the area outside of the sliding glass doors in my eat-in kitchen. I’ve purchased brand new furniture and furnished my living room with a brand new coffee table, two new matching end tables, two new lamps, a brand new sofa, and a brand new loveseat. I’ve outfitted my dining room with a brand new dining room table with six chairs (and plans to buy two more dining room chairs). I purchased a brand new bedroom set complete with two end tables and a dresser for my bedroom. In my master bathroom, I’ve laid down new carpet runners along the jacuzzi and outside of the double sink and I also installed a brand new shaving station mirror as well as a deep medicine cabinet. I also installed my television above the gas fireplace in my living room, which sits in front of the new area rug that I bought from IKEA along with a very large piece of art for the wall from the same store.

The point here is that I’m living in the entire house versus living in one room of a house. At the end of the accounting, it is more expensive to buy and live in a house by yourself versus living with roommates in a shared house or townhouse. However, the ability to customize the space you live in to turn a house into a home is priceless.

Book Review: The New Reality by Stephen Martino
July 13th, 2014 | Added to Book, DVD, Movie, & Media Reviews | No Comments »

Quite possibly the best thing about Stephen Martino‘s debut novel, The New Reality, is the fact that the action is fast-paced from the very beginning! There’s nothing worse than picking up a new book, getting excited to get into the story that you read about on the back cover, and then having to trudge through 100 pages of back story just to get things going. Martino avoids that entire concern by just getting right to the point and that, alone, made this one of the best thrillers that I’ve read in years. The fast-paced action aside, I also enjoyed the story that Martino tells – even if it may be a harbinger of things to come.

The New Reality is a medical thriller set not too far in the future (the year is 2080, though the story jumps to 2081 soon after it starts) with very real connections to today’s political world. As the story moves along, the reader is introduced to different characters situated on a global landscape ranging from America to the Arab states and more. For example, the main antagonist – Ari Lesmana, known as “the Malik” – seems to be born from the hype that surrounded President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. The main protagonist is a scientist and medical entrepreneur named Alex Pella who is cast in the same mold as a Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos. During the story, Martino ties Lesmana to a citizenry with a near-brainwashed level of euphoric fanaticism. From my perspective, that connection closely followed the bizarre euphoria that followed Obama’s supporters after 2008. I never understood that – he’s just a politician, not the Second Coming. Calm down, people. Anyway…

Martino does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the panic that surrounds The Disease and, particularly, the desperation that Pella and his team feel as they try to find a cure before it’s too late. Unlike many recent releases in the thriller genre, The New Reality brings the reader a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that moves as fast as you can flip a page. There are no long, drawn out segments of the book to bore you to tears. Instead, Martino writes in a style closely resembling that of Dan Brown and Harlan Coben. And that is the style that this story needs to be told in because of the amount of movement that the characters experience during the story. One chapter takes place in America while the next chapter takes place in a high-tech, super-fast airplane while the following chapter might be in Israel or somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula. If you like reading a strong “thrill of the chase” novel that actually has a significant story to tell, then this is the one for you. And watch out for the storyline extension at the end of the novel – it’ll leave you hungry for the next book in the Alex Pella series!

The New Reality is the perfect book to read while you’re laying on the beach this summer, too. As I’ve noted, the story moves quickly and Martino moves the core discussion along in each chapter. You won’t be left waiting for dozens or hundreds of pages to find out why a certain character said something in a prior chapter – the answers are given to you as fast as you can read them and put the pieces together. Martino’s experience as a neurologist certainly plays into his ability to write a strong medical-based thriller. If you’re a fan of this genre, looking for a great book to read this summer, and/or just looking for a book that has characters with depth, a story with resonance, and a real lesson to teach today’s political leaders, then The New Reality is for you. Plus, based on the high level of quality in his first novel, I think we’ll be seeing more of Martino in the literary world. Give the Alex Pella story a shot – I really think that you will enjoy it. I definitely did!

Two Major Consumers of My Free Time & When My Schedule May Ease Up
June 29th, 2014 | Added to Random Entries | No Comments »

It’s amazing how much content I want to write and upload to the blog. However, it’s equally amazing to me how busy I’ve been for the last year (give or take a few months). Before I write a little bit about this I’m compelled to write that I’m not one of these buffoons who humblebrags about how incredibly important they are because they are so busy with so much stuff going on. Come on – if you’re so pathetic that you need to humblebrag, then I pity you because you’ve probably been neglected by family and friends for a long period of time. And since this is the real world – nobody cares about your problems.

Moving on to the rest of this short blog…

I’ve taken to keeping a running list on my smartphone of the different topics and ideas that make me want to write blog entries. The list has gotten so long that I can’t actually post it here because it would take forever to refine my shortened thoughts into coherent, readable content. The same thing goes for my Feedly account – I have so many articles bookmarked to write about that to put them in any order would take several days. Often, I run into the same issue when I sit down to write a new blog entry; namely, that it takes me so long to put my thoughts in clear order that I give up on the whole enterprise.

That was the initial basis for writing this short entry – to note that while I have content seemingly coming out of my ears, I just haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and put it together for you to read. This prompted me to think about what it is that is keeping me so busy and how I might be able to manage that chaos. After thinking about the whole situation it turns out that my time crunch problem is rooted in two sources. First, as I’ve noted for years, my commute is an incredible killer of productivity (not to mention a growing detriment to my health). Spending more than two hours everyday sitting in traffic with nothing better to do than attempt to read bits and pieces of different articles between stop-go traffic is killing me in so many ways. If my commute were even just half of what it is now, then I would have an extra hour everyday to commit to doing anything that I wanted from writing more here to working out more to continuing to improve my new townhouse.

The second major cause of my limited availability in the last year has undoubtedly been the dramatic increase in adjunct teaching that I’ve experienced. Beginning in the Spring 2013 semester and carrying through the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 semesters, I’ve been teaching two classes per semester at the local university. For the college student who read this, you probably think to yourself, “That’s nothing! I take 5 or 6 classes each semester!” And you’re right – in the grand scheme of things the hour and fifteen minutes that I spend standing in front of the classroom lecturing two to four times each week isn’t a great drain on my time… by itself. Collectively, though, those hours are hours that other people might argue I would better spend doing something else like focusing on growing my small businesses, improving my health, arranging my townhouse, etc. The time crunch that being an adjunct professor presented to my schedule reached a critical point during the last month, when I agreed to teach a 6-week summer session course. This was not a good idea on my part and I don’t think I’ll ever agree to teach a summer class again. For a guy who works full-time (including 10+ hours of commuting every week) and owns two successful small businesses that require his time, spending 3 hours and 45 minutes TWICE a week teaching a summer session course for 6 weeks just simply doesn’t work.

Agreeing to teach that course was a mistake that I made in my eagerness to pursue one of my passions (teaching and helping others) and I’ve learned that I can’t do that any more. Of course, now that the semester is over I’m coming into a different scenario that I really welcome: for the first time since Spring 2013, I’m not scheduled to teach any classes this coming fall semester! Between grading, class prep, driving to and from class, and in-person meetings – not being scheduled to teach this fall semester should save me around 3 – 4 hours per week. It’s great!

Anyway, these two core issues are what led me to realize that when I get home at night these days I often have an hour to an hour and a half of free time. In that free time, I have to manage my life (i.e. make dinner, clean the house, make lunch for the next day, do laundry, etc.) and there’s just no time left to sit down and create a thorough, high quality blog entry for my readers – or myself.

That may change with the pending free time that I have ahead of me after the class that I’m currently teaching ends on July 3rd. However, the truth is that my commute isn’t going anywhere any time soon and because of the absolutely ridiculous road construction schedule that the State of New Jersey is working right now, I expect that the commute isn’t even going to ease up as the summer goes along. In any event, I wrote this blog entry to put some thoughts out there about where I’ve been since my last blog entry and to explain the sparse updates from even before then. There is content coming – it’s just a matter of finding the time to prepare the content in a manner that is suitable for posting.

11 Tips For People Who Don’t Attend Church Too Often
April 20th, 2014 | Added to Local People & Politics | No Comments »

As I write this entry I recognize that both the Christmas and Easter mass services have come and gone. However, during these two holidays I observed a whole bunch of odd behavior at my local church from those folks who just don’t get to church too often. Sometimes we call these people the “annuals” (i.e. those who go to church annually on Christmas or Easter) and sometimes we call them CEOs (which stands for churchgoers on Christmas and Easter Only). Whatever name this group has ascribed to them the truth is that they’re a little clueless on church etiquette (and basic manners in general, which I’ll write about another time).

Millions attend mass on the beach at World Youth Day 2013

Millions attend mass on the beach at World Youth Day 2013

To help remedy the reality of rudeness, here are 11 tips to assist those who don’t get to church too often.

  1. Welcome! There is nothing that regular churchgoers love better than seeing more people in the church, so WELCOME! Seriously, even though my own parish gets a pretty good turnout during the four weekend masses, it’s great to see an overflow crowd praying and worshiping together. In fact, there are even places in America that are engaging in “mass mobs” which is the same concept as a flash mob, except they focus on bringing dozens if not hundreds of people into a Sunday service. It’s a pretty cool concept.

    Anyway, welcome back to church! You should know that the Church welcomes you back, the parish welcomes you back, and the parishioners welcome you back. And hey, after Christmas and/or Easter are over – why not consider coming back once in a while for a traditional Sunday mass? Not only are those masses shorter, but they cover different topics that you might find interesting.

  2. Get to church on time. Okay. I know. Sometimes something pops up and you make it to church late. Hey, I walked into mass a few Sundays ago 10 minutes after the service started and I felt bad about it. Yet, there’s a difference between someone who goes to church every week arriving late to a non-holiday mass and an annual/CEO showing up 15 minutes late to a holiday mass. The difference is that the excuse of something “popping up” actually applies to someone who attends mass every week. For an annual/CEO the excuse that something popped up to prohibit you and/or your family from getting to mass on time on the one day of the year that you actually attend is malarkey. You had an entire year to prepare yourself for your annual pilgrimage to church – don’t believe your own lies and think that it’s okay for you to walk into church late because something “popped up.”

    What popped up is that you didn’t really plan your morning well enough… even though you had a year to do so. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re going to be walking into a Sunday service 5 minutes late or later, then you should probably wait until the next service and go then. If you have an appointment coming up that requires you to attend this mass versus a later one, then at least pray for forgiveness for being so self-absorbed that you couldn’t plan out your morning better even though you had a year to schedule it.

  3. Don’t sit at the end of the pew. This is always a bone of contention for folks who talk about mass attendance. Where should any of us sit when we attend mass? In terms of how far back in the church you should sit, I don’t think there’s a particular unspoken rule or generally accepted bit of guidance on that item. Personally, I like to sit in the fourth row at my church because I can’t quite make out what’s going on at the alter if I sit further back (and that’s with my contacts in). On a rare occasion I’ll sit in either the first or second row, but it depends on how many people are attending mass and how early I get there.

    And that’s the key here – if you arrive at mass early (which most people do on Christmas and Easter), then you absolutely should NOT sit at the end of the pew! When I write “the end of the pew” I mean you walk into the church, choose which row you’re going to sit in, you kneel down, and then sit right there at the end of the pew so that every other person has to walk over/by you in order to sit down. This is rude and obnoxious! If there is no one else in the row, then move into the middle of the pew and sit there. Of course, if you have a medical condition that forces you to leave the mass during the service or if you have another extremely rare situation that requires you to get up and leave in the middle of worship, then you should sit at the end of the pew. But if you’re just old, if you want to be the first one out of the church, if you feel entitled to sit wherever you please, or if you just don’t want to be in the middle of the pew – those excuses don’t count. Don’t be rude, move into the middle of the pew, and make it easier on everyone else.

  4. Yes, YOU have to turn off your cell phone. I always find it amazing when the Deacon or Priest makes a specific request before mass starts that everyone turn off their cell phones and then someone has their cell phone go off during the service. Look, we all make mistakes. I get it. Still, when the Deacon or Priest specifically asks us all to turn off our cell phones, my goodness – the least you can do is put the thing on vibrate! Just remember that when someone says to turn off your cell phone before the service starts, then YES – they are talking to you. Put the thing on vibrate or turn it off.
  5. The response is “And with your spirit.” A few years ago, the church changed America’s “And also with you,” response to “And with your spirit.” As it turns out, the entire world was saying “And with your spirit,” except for those of us here in the United States. I remember when the change took place – it was only a few months after I returned to church on a more regular basis. Believe me, it was mass chaos (pun intended)! People were saying “And also with you,” over others saying “And with your spirit.” There was a comedy about all of it, but after a few weeks most people had the new response down. Sure, a few of the folks who have been attending mass for decades still had a hiccup here and there, but even they’ve gotten the hang of it.

    And then Christmas hit that year and the annuals were inflamed that people were saying the new response versus the old one. But, as we know, the annuals come and go… and usually don’t come back. So then Easter hit and the cries of “Foul!” were heard all over again from the annuals/CEOs. Those folks who had been attending mass regularly since the changes sort of looked at the annuals at that point and thought, “God, help them.” Today – more than two years since the change in the wording has taken place – feigning anger or consternation over the now-not-so-new wording is just ignorant. With these changes in the wording, the entire world now says the same thing during the mass (in their own language, of course). Get with it.

  6. Be quiet! There are many frustrations that regular mass attendees face during Christmas and Easter. Chief among them is the lack of reverence for the sanctity of the mass. The Easter Vigil mass is one of the most solemn if not the most solemn mass of the year. It’s the longest mass of the year (about two and a half hours at my parish) and it’s the one where the most reverence is required. Many people go to the Easter Vigil in an attempt to not go to mass on Easter Sunday, so there is usually a huge attendance at this service.

    And most of the people who attend have no care, concern, or consideration for the reverence of the service. They don’t care that an entire community of churchgoers has been waiting for this mass all year so they can reverently pray and reflect on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    I put this one on the list because of the Easter Vigil mass that I attended this year. I had the unpleasant experience of sitting in front of a troop of girl scouts during the mass. Now look – we have a problem in this country (and Western society in general) where we train our young girls to be vapid, mindless bodies who require excessive amounts of assurance and social agreement in order for them to just feel normal. Why we do this to our girls in this country is beyond me and probably a topic for a future post (though I have a strong suspicion that the problem is linked to the American form of hyper-feminism that has perverted traditional gender roles only to leave future generations in the dark about issues of self-confidence). However, these young girls talked through nearly the entire service. There were not two seconds that went by for the entire two and a half hours where this group of young girls were not gabbing with each other in a hushed whisper. They were doing the fake laughs of approval that are popular among that age group, they talked through each of the readings, they talked through the homily, and they even talked through the Our Father which really amazed me. The only time that these girls gave themselves more than a one second break in their babbling was when they were kneeling down during the preparation of the Eucharist. I think it was because they were positioned where they couldn’t easily interact with one another.

    If you’re attending mass for the first time this year or the first time since Christmas, then do everyone a favor and show some reverence for the service. And if your kids are the ones whispering and not paying attention during the service, then separate them from one another and try to spend some time before mass explaining to your kids about respecting the service and the reverence of the regular churchgoers. Again, if you’re only going once or twice per year, then the least you can do is be respectful during the service.

  7. The issue of babies and kids making noise during the service. For me, this isn’t an issue. I don’t mind a crying baby and I don’t mind a kid who makes noises here and there. I have three baby cousins and I imagine that if they were at mass each week, they would probably cry or make a noise from time to time. The issue here is the parents and their ability to be aware of their surroundings (see the bullet point about being aware of your surroundings). If you have a baby with you and the poor kid is crying nonstop throughout the service, then you should really get up and go into the vestibule or the family-designated room until the baby calms down. You have to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re in the Christmas or Easter service (or any Sunday service for that matter), then chances are that you’re surrounded by hundreds of people who are trying to worship with some peace and dignity. No one is going to care about the occasional cry or whine or noise, but when that noise is constant (like those Girl Scouts in my example above), then you should respect the people who have gathered in the church and move to another location where the noise will not be a distraction.

    Let me offer a brief example because I know there is some ignorant parent out there thinking, “You don’t know what it’s like to have kids!” (Amen!) There is a parent in my parish who has a young kid – the boy has to be 4 or 5 years old. Whenever they’re at mass the kid has a running dialogue that goes through the entire service. Understand what I’m saying here, folks. There is a running dialogue from this kid. He talks nonstop – NONstop during every portion of the mass. He’s not loud and I think that’s why people don’t get particularly mad at the parents (I know I don’t get mad at them, just a little baffled). But after about 30 minutes of nonstop talking (albeit in a hushed tone) it is amazing that the parents don’t take the kid into the vestibule to let him get the rest of his dialogue out before coming back into the service. Of course, you each have your own experiences with something similar, I’m sure. For some of you, the babbling little boy is a 6 month old baby that cries for 45 minutes straight while the parents don’t get up and leave. Whatever the case may be, a good rule of thumb for churchgoers is to never get mad or angry at noises from kids unless they go on for a prolonged period of time and begin to distract from the service. A good rule of them for the parents of noisy kids is to remove the child from the public space after about a minute or two of nonstop noise.

  8. Wait for the person ahead of you. If there was one piece of advice that I could give to most people who are in public places, it would be to be aware of your surroundings! One of the most frustrating things for anyone at mass is for them to go up, receive the Eucharist, and then get in the line for the wine only to begin walking back to their seat and having to climb their way over 7 or 8 people who couldn’t wait an additional 15 seconds for them to finish the wine before rushing back to the pew. While I was at Easter mass, I waited for an older woman who was sitting next to me to get the wine (I didn’t get the wine) and in the process, about 10 people got backed up because they were rushing back to the pew. One woman (in the most passive aggressive way) whispered towards me, “Kinda holding up the line.” Since I don’t respond to numb-minded idiots, I looked past this rude, self-obsessed, dullard of a woman towards the older lady making her way through the jumble of people and offered her to walk ahead of me in the pew so she could go back to sitting next to her equally older husband. The older lady smiled and said “thank you” and I told her “you’re welcome.” Of course, there was an ENORMOUS older guy who couldn’t wait for this older woman to get in the pew so he went ahead of both of us… and then he wouldn’t get out of the old lady’s way. As we began making our way through the pew, the HUGE guy looked at the old lady and smiled. She said she had to get by and he smiled at her again. She then pointed to her husband at the end of the pew and the fat guy looked at the husband and then leaned back maybe half an inch. The woman very politely said to him, “I think you’re going to have to sit down.” So he sat down and we both climbed over him back to our seats.

    The lesson here is that you should always wait for the person ahead of you to go back into the pew before you do. And you should always be aware of your surroundings and how you interact with them!

  9. Wait for the closing hymn to finish. One of the rudest things that takes place on both Christmas and Easter is the rush of the annuals and CEOs to get out of the church immediately after the final blessing. It doesn’t work like that, folks! Granted, the ritual part of the mass is over when the priest gives his final blessing, but out of sheer respect for those who are tasked with the music ministry and out of some semblance of dignity for the sacred service that you’re at, WAIT until the final hymn is finished before you leave your pew and head out the door! Trust me, you’re not that important that you can’t spend another minute and a half listening to the closing hymn before you rush back to your likely-boring life. Show some respect and let the music ministry play or sing you out before you run for the door. Besides, you only go to church once or twice a year – if you want to run out so quickly, then don’t come in the first place.
  10. Don’t hang around primary walkways. This is really a piece of advice for all people in all public places. If you’re attending the church service and you’re either on your way in or on your way out of the building, try not to stop to have a conversation with whoever it is that you’re talking to while you’re standing in the middle of a primary walkway. Look, chances are you’re talking to a neighbor or a friend that you see each week or possibly even every day. Do you really have to stop the flow of people entering or leaving the church to have a 2 to 3 minute conversation about something that is probably a bore and/or meaningless? You can’t cover those topics during the other interactions that you have with this person?

    Is it okay to stop and hug someone that you haven’t seen in a while? Of course. Is it okay to stop and have a 30 second conversation with that person while you’re in the middle of a primary walkway? Of course not.

  11. If you’re not going to participate, consider not attending. This one is a tough piece of advice to give out because as I noted above we welcome everyone to the church and we want you there – particularly on holy days of obligation! However, if you’re not going to pay attention and talk through the entire service or if you’re going to be so preoccupied with your life outside of the church that you can’t give the Lord an hour or so of your time and attention, well you should consider why you’re attending mass in the first place. Somewhere in the Bible it says that going through the motions doesn’t count. In other words, if you go to church just to say (or know in your mind) that you spent an hour in nice clothing listening to a service that you didn’t understand, well… no one is impressed by that except you. If this is your perspective, then chances are you’re breaking most of the suggestions above. Chances are you’re not aware of your surroundings, you’re hanging around primary walkways, you sat down at the end of the pew, you talked or whispered throughout the service, and you’re packing your stuff to leave as soon as the final blessing is over. If that sounds like you, then really consider the question of why you attended in the first place.

While I understand that some of these pieces of advice come off as harsh, the truth is that none of these would even be necessary if we spent more time in this country working on basic manners. And since we don’t spend any time on real manners any more, thus I write this entry to help those of you returning to church either for the first time in a year or the first time since the last major holiday.

Welcome back! Be respectful. Enjoy the service.

Are You The Victim Or The Victor? The Choice Is Yours!
April 4th, 2014 | Added to Money, Jobs, & Finances, Student Loans | No Comments »

About two weeks ago I was at an auction with a few friends of mine – one of whom I haven’t seen in two years. During our general catching up with one another, I mentioned that I was in the process of buying a house (which is true and I have yet to cover on the blog yet – in due time). He was a bit shocked and wondered how I could buy a house when I still owed so much on my student loans. When I told him that I fully paid off my students loans this past August, he nearly fell out of his seat!

Remember when I paid off my student loans?

Remember when I paid off my student loans?

Now I’m not going to go into another discussion here about how I paid off my student loans and you can, too. Lord knows I’ve written enough about that stuff that if you really wanted to learn how I was able to pay off those loans and pay them off quickly, then you can find that information on the blog.

And yet, I was struck by my buddy’s utter shock at my having paid off my student loans. And this had me thinking about something for the rest of that night and for the days since the auction ended. Namely, there are some people in life who are victims and there are other people in life who are victors. I’m not suggesting that my buddy is a victim. In fact, he’s the furthest thing from a victim.

There are people out there, though, who look at the hand they were dealt and hang their shoulders in defeat; they essentially turn into Droopy. They may as well turn around and ask everyone to go ahead and kick them in the ass. That’s the victim mindset. That’s the mindset that takes whatever the world gives you and says, “Oh, I was hoping for something better. But okay. I guess this will do.”

It won’t do, damn it! Be a victor! Be someone who makes their own way on this planet. If you don’t like the hand that you’re dealt, then get a new hand. If you don’t like the new hand, then stop playing that game and get up and make something else of your life! We are all the end result of the various choices that we make – choose to be a victor. Choose to be the person with their hand raised at the end of the fight. Choose to win!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made many mistakes and I’ve not always made the choices that led me to be the victor at the end of a particular fight. But when it came to student loans I made a conscious decision that I was winning this fight. In fact, I made the decision that I wasn’t just going to be the victor, I was going to be the conqueror! And I was…

Throw your excuses to the side and make this world your own. Be a victor – the choice is yours!

State Farm Insurance Miserably Failed Customer Service 101
February 5th, 2014 | Added to Money, Jobs, & Finances | No Comments »

Even though this entry is short, it really is a remarkable display of how an insurance company can completely miss the point when dealing with its long-time customers. As I’m sure you figured out from the title of this entry, I recently had an issue with my now-former automobile insurance provider: State Farm. You know State Farm – they’re the ones with the discount daaa-ble check:

Do you know who I’m talking about now? Good!

I received my biannual billing statement from State Farm and the cost of my insurance jumped about $150 per year. As you might imagine, I was shocked by the jump considering that I don’t get into any accidents, I don’t get any tickets, I’m a good driver, I haven’t purchased a new car in a couple of years, etc. The only thought that came to my mind after reading that bill was, “What gives?!”

After reviewing the bill to make sure that there weren’t any weird or one-time charges included, I called my local State Farm agent. This is the agent that I’ve been using since I first received my driver’s license back in the late 1990s, so we have a generally good history together. I’ve never had a claim or any other problem with my insurance during the entire time that I’ve used State Farm. When the woman answered the phone at the agent’s office, I explained my concern and asked why my rate was increased such a large amount. She responded that she had to check with one of the senior folks, but that I should wait on hold – so I did. To their credit, I was only on hold for a few seconds before they transferred me to one of the more senior associates (who I’ve sat down with and discussed insurance with one-on-one in the past).

The senior associate told me that State Farm just changed their rates and my rate went up. I responded that I was aware of this change, but I wanted to know why my rate would go up after I’ve done nothing but pay my bill every 6 months like a good, faithful customer. They said that there was nothing they could do about it – the rates just went up and that was the cause of the increase. I said that if my rate didn’t return to what it used to be, then instead of gaining my original rate plus this nearly 20% increase, they were going to lose 100% of my payment because I was going to cancel.

Now, I’m not a big believer in the customer always being right. However, I think I made a decent case. Here I was paying nearly $1,000 per year to this insurance company and I wasn’t even using their services. They wanted even more money from me and I said no… and they opted to lose all of my business instead of saving my already exorbitant annual payments.

In a remarkable display of poor customer service, the folks at my State Farm office stood their ground and I canceled my coverage. How a company can happily accept losing all of my business – after 15+ years of being a good, paying customer – and not even try to fight to keep my business is beyond me. This was one of the poorest examples of customer service that I’ve ever seen.

But hey, I saved more than 15% in less than 15 minutes by switching to Geico!

What The Hoboken Mayor Really Wanted From All Of This Hoopla
February 3rd, 2014 | Added to The State of New Jersey | No Comments »

Pulled directly from the front page of the New York Times website a few weeks ago, I bring you exactly what Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer wanted from her unfounded comments regarding Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and the state’s Sandy aid money. What you see below is a portion of the screenshot from the New York Times website that clearly states the only goal that Mayor Zimmer wanted to achieve in telling a falsehood about Lt. Governor Guadagno. Take a look for yourself:


That’s right. All Mayor Zimmer wanted was to raise her profile in New Jersey politics. There is no question that Mayor Zimmer has aspirations for higher office in this state and – like a typical, untrustworthy politician – she warped reality to elevate her name recognition. What I want to know, though, is why she hasn’t responded to legitimate questions being brought up by the only major mainstream news personality that thought to investigate her claims – Megan Kelly. Take a look:

What gives, Mayor Zimmer? Stop running and answer these questions! Or, do you already know that if you answer honestly it throws your entire scheme over the edge and immediately eliminates any credibility that you have?

Remember this cowardice my fellow New Jersey voters…

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