Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coffee is still King

Before I begin, just wanted to wish all my readers a happy holiday season. I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but hopefully in the New Year, posts should pick up.

 Speaking of pick-ups, coffee (or specifically the abundance of coffee shops) is a strange thing to me. After getting a coffee urge this morning, I began to think about why we’ve become so obsessed about it.  Now maybe I’m a little late with my complaints and grievances about it, but seriously, I’m not sure why it’s been such a huge part of not just our mornings – but our day.

Maybe it’s just one of those 90’s trends that is here to stay (cue in Central Perk), but as a kid growing up in Park Slope (and now as an adult), I’ve seen the explosion of coffee shops in the neighborhood grow from one (which was really just a bakery), to approximately over 10-15 in the ‘hood today. And that’s not including the two (yes, only two!) Starbucks that sprouted up.

 Now I wasn’t born yesterday – I get why people like coffee. It’s easy to buy, it’s got massive amounts of caffeine in it, and generally cafés are a great place to hold meetings or hang out. But does anyone really like the taste of roasted seeds (yes, they’re really just seeds) brewed with hot water? Personally, I think without a little bit of milk and sugar, coffee would be one of the worst, bile, non-flavorful drinks in the world.

 So what’s our obsession with it? Are we willing to look past the taste for hot flavored water that will energize us in this 24-hour economy? Do we really like the taste of coffee (I know some do)? Is it addicting? (Yes).

 Funnily enough, right after I decided to rant about coffee today, I found out that The Wall Street Journal published a story citing some of the health benefits of the drink.

“An analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who drink three to four cups of java a day are 25% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who drink fewer than two cups,” WSJ reports. “And a study presented at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting found that men who drink at least six cups a day have a 60% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer than those who didn't drink any.”

Wow, only six cups a day? No wonder coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. Wonder what’s #1?


Something to think about next time you buy that chai latté.

Thoughts? Do you actually like coffee? Feel free to leave a comment. If I get enough, I’ll publish some counterpoints.

Monday, November 23, 2009

And Here Endeth the Lesson

Rex Ryan and the Jets put up a turkey on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

As I have mentioned before, it's really tough being a Jets fan.

Imagine throughout your 50 years of playing in the #1 market, you've only won one Super Bowl and made it to the playoffs a handful of times. Heck, the Jets looked like contenders in 1998, eventually making it to the AFC Championship, but even that was over decade ago.

This years Jets team started off to a promising start, making it to 3-0 and beating respectable opponents in the process. The bravado was all there as Ryan & Co. promised "playoffs," and talked up that this is a different team.

Now, as the Jets are 4-6 before Turkey Day with no much hope of the playoffs or even a respectable "in your face" total defense, it's somewhat tough to swallow seeing this team just look plain awful on the field. Since their 3-0 start, they have beaten one team -- the Raiders -- which is really not too much of an accomplishment given the fact that well, they beat Oakland.

As any Jets fan will tell you, this franchise may be the best in the history of sports to create ways to lose, so this year should be no surprise. Last year the Jets started 8-3, but eventually collapsed, finishing the year and missing the playoffs -- yes, even with Brett Favre and his baggage of expectations.

As many mistakes as "King" Rex has made, I believe his biggest mistake this year was putting all his chips in one basket -- going all in -- so to say.

In a place like New York, there are demands and expectations so much higher as a professional -- whether you work in a profession like the NFL or any of the other myriad of major "professional" occupations NYC is known for-- like the media, Wall Street, or government. We are a city that made famous the slogan "talk is cheap," and "put up or shut up." We care about one thing only -- and that is winning. No matter your thoughts on the Yankees, they pride themselves on being winners, and they rarely talk a big game. They win. Generally, they take care of business. That's it.

The problem with Ryan is that he talked such a big game-- which almost always leads to failed expectations-- especially with the coach and quarterback rookie tandem that Ryan and Sanchez inevitability are.

As Thanksgiving approaches and the Jets squander yet another season, I'll keep the hope alive for next season. "There's always next year," is the rallying call of the Jets fan for 40-plus years after their SuperBowl win.

But next season, Rex, please manage everyone's expectations, and who knows, maybe you'll even surprise us all?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Welcome Back, Kotter!

Why am I welcoming back Gabe Kotter? Because it seems as if the 1970's retro hysteria has made its way back to Albany, not only in the form of a 70's era recession, but in the form of restyled disco-era license plates!
A revitalized "blue and gold" New York license plate (left), while the original 70's plate served as a muse (right).

Now, I understand that we're in the middle of a state budget shortfall, but forcing millions of car owners to fork over $25 for this new plate seems a little ridiculous, since they last changed the plate design less than a decade ago.

I wasn't in love with the new plate design in 2001, but it combined some classical elements like adding in "The Empire State" motto and reverting to a nice navy blue styling for numbers and letters. But they kept the background white, making sure drivers were not to be confused with our yellow-plated friends to the west of the Hudson.

While New York's colors historically are navy blue and gold, it'll be harder to distinguish a NY and NJ plate once this hits the streets in April 2010.

The classic "Liberty" license plate in use from 1986-2001.

Regardless, it's time to say goodbye to the Gov. Pataki-era Niagara Falls / Empire plate. We hardly knew ya. Now if they could just bring back something like 80's era "Liberty" plate (above), we'd again have the most iconic license plate in the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lady Gaga, no silly, GoCaGa!

Every once in awhile, I get a huge laugh out of some truly funny sales and marketing tactics that I see thrown around, especially in New York.

For a little background about me, I went to college a little less than a year after 9/11. I ventured upstate to Syracuse University, moving away from the city I've always called home and loved. It was probably one of the best things I've ever did for myself.

But as it turned out, in the four years I went to school (from 2002 through 2006), a transformation had occurred here in New York. Fueled by Wall Street, a national housing boom, and Sex and the City, NYC became the place to live if you were in your 20s and 30s and looking to sip lattes in a gentrified coffee shop with "the nouveau youth" (yes, you could call them... hipsters).

By 2006 when I graduated college, I earned a well-to-do job and decided it was time to finally enter the NYC housing market. Boy did I have sticker shock. I settled on renting in Park Slope, a place I was familiar with, after looking at the 2006 hot-spot neighborhood of the year, Astoria.

The least expensive apartment I was able to find in the Slope was a one bedroom (which we converted to a two bedroom with a curtain and some makeshift accommodations), in a building that maybe a decade years earlier was an abandoned crack house. Our landlord was so cheap, he refused to turn the hallway lights on during the day (yes, that cheap despite our premium rent).

We were probably paying double what the place was worth, but how could we not? It was the peak of the boom, and heck, if you didn't have your checkbook out, someone else did. Yes, even on an abandoned old crack house on a questionable Park Slope block.

It's that market hysteria of "sign now, worry latter" that gave Brooklyn abandoned half-built buildings, and perhaps the funniest marketing connotation of them all: new neighborhood names.

Priced out of Williamsburg? Try "East Williamsburg!" Can't find a place in Park Slope? Try "SunSlope!" Want to live near the potential superfund site, the Gowanus Canal? Call it "GoCaGa!"

This all makes me laugh, albeit in a sad way because in reality these names are total bullshit. I hate to be "the typical native" but I cringe a little when a newbie to NYC tells me they've found this great place in SunSlope or GoCaGa. While the name may sound cool, you've been totally owned and most likely ripped off.

Although it may be hard for me to reach all the new residents of this great city, please beware -- next time a broker tries to tell you to meet them at this fantastic new apartment in BoCoCa for $2900 a month plus four months of deposit, tell them you've got a bridge to sell 'em.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kitten Mittens

Happy Monday, everyone! Thought this clip from Always Sunny in Philadelphia could lighten up everyone from a "case of the Mondays." (You can find the full commercial if you search strategically on YouTube).

In other blog-related news, expect some more hard hitting news and views later this week. Until then, enjoy these links:
Happy Monday (well, except if you're a Citibank customer.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Time to wake up, America - Are the jobs coming back?

As someone who has directly experienced the wrath of this economy, I've been anxiously wondering: when will the jobs come back?

With this morning's news that the national unemployment rate is now over 10%, its time for something a little more drastic than extending unemployment benefits another fourteen weeks. In this modern area, unfortunately, our leaders think applying band-aids to major economic wounds is politically easier than a depression era approach to this problem (Works Progress Administration, anyone?)

As a resident of New York, we know all about infrastructure. Our highways, bridges and Subways are decades old, and were built specifically with a foregone era in mind. Can these roads and Subways take another 100 years of abuse without consistent failure and maintenance? Does an elevated Gowanus /Brooklyn-Queens Expressway make sense, or should we put it underground? Should we be proactive or reactive about that possibility?

Thankfully, history can teach us a lesson or two. Almost 80 years ago, FDR was in a similar (if not worse) situation. He knew with millions of Americans unemployed that he should do something bold, and that those results would benefit everyone. So he did something never done before -- he put millions of Americans on the payroll and told them to create art, build buildings and bridges to put as back on the path of prosperity.

But here we are, a year into a very similar economic situation. Perhaps too jaded to see a real opportunity, or too afraid to be bold, our leaders gave us a small attempt at a stimulus and extended unemployment benefits. Why not take this opportunity to do something greater, as we may never have an opportunity like this again to work on our aging infrastructure?

Anyone with me on this? FDR understood he'd be called a socialist, but he had the courage to do what was right. Our current president, (who I feel and hope is just as capable as FDR) needs to follow in his footsteps. When history gave FDR his lemons, he made lemonade. There's no one questioning that President Obama inherited a field full of lemons, but how you deal with such challenges is the difference between greatness and mediocrity.

It's time for a call to greatness.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Talkin' Trash - Trendy again?

As a 20-something lifelong sports hobbyist, I've seen the ups & downs and the ebb & flow of professional sports. Forget about steroids, the decade-long Boston sports supremecy, and even buying great teams. Those are all old trends. The new trend going forward: trash talking.

I guess it's never really gone away, but it's back and back in a big way.

As a Jets fan since birth, I'm more than used to the mediocrity that is the swan song of "New York's other team." The Jets were truly great for only one year in their 50 season history, and that year happened to be a little over 40 years ago.
Buddy (left) and rookie Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan (right).

Along comes new Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Fresh off a great AFC championship appearance year in Baltimore as their defensive coordinator, he brought to the Jets a sense of swagger that the team hasn't been seen in a head coach since Bill Parcells. After all, Rex (which means King to all you wondering), is practically Jets royalty since his father, Buddy, was a coordinator on the '69 Jets SuperBowl team. Heck, he even hung around the Jets locker room with Weeb and Broadway Joe when he was 6-years-old!

But like his father, Rex Ryan loves to run his mouth. Sometimes it can lead to inspiringly good results, and sometimes it just sounds like he's just picking a fight.

I'm a big Rex Ryan fan. Really. He's awakened the Jets defense after the Mangini slumber, and they've played well, even with Pro Bowl nose tackle "Big" Kris Jenkins out for the season. He's a rookie head coach, and both he and rookie QB Mark Sanchez have made their share of first-year mistakes.

But for him to truly bring greatness back to this so often called "Same Old Jets" franchise, he needs to learn when to swallow his words and channel his disappointment and anger over a loss into getting better as a team.

Yes, on paper, the Jets are a talented and possibly a contender. But they haven't been playing that way, and when Ryan still insists his team is better than the Miami Dolphins (even after losing to them twice), you sound like you don't know what you're talking about. And Tony Dungy called him out on it. Miami DE Jason Taylor then weighed in on things, saying that Jets fans take the "CL" out of the word "class."
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was forced to eat crow
after predicting the Phillies would beat the Yankees in five games in the
2009 World Series

Like Jimmy Rollins before him, Rex Ryan should learn that really nothing good can come from childhood trash-talking games. Leave that for the locker room, and play like a champion on the field.

The rest will all fall into place from there.

Welcome to Thoughts on Reality!

After completely missing the wagon on blogging, I've jumped on it -- and I'm ready to go full speed ahead.

I've decided to start Thoughts on Reality as a place to offer my unique prospective on life, politics, sports and anything else that happens in popular culture. Although blogging is very new to me, journalism and writing are not. Many eons ago (OK, maybe just a few years), I was a student-journalist at Syracuse University, where I wrote opinion columns and covered local politics.

Although I have a profession other than writing now, I figured today is as good a time as ever to get back into the writing game. I hope you'll enjoy my prospective and what I have to offer, and in the future I hope we can expand to include guest columnists and bloggers to offer their own experiences and opinions as well. Welcome to the "New Journalism" of the 21st century!