January 30, 2008

Notorious New Jersey:100 True Tales of Murders and Mobsters, Scandals and Scoundrels

Notorious New Jersey” by Jon Blackwell is the defininitive guide to murder, mayhem, the mob, and corruption in the Garden State. With tabloid punch, Jon Blackwell tells riveting accounts of Alexander Hamilton falling mortally wounded on the dueling grounds of Weehawken; Dutch Schultz getting pumped full of lead in the men’s room of the Palace Chop House in Newark; and a gang of Islamic terrorists in Jersey City mixing the witch’s brew of explosives that became the first bomb to the rock the World Trade Center.

Blackwell also sheds light on some historical whodunits - was Bruno Hauptmann really guilty of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby? Who was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001? Not forgotten either are notorious characters who may actually be innocent, including Hurricane Carter.
Through 100 historic true crime tales that span over 300 years of history, Blackwell shows readers a side of New Jersey that would make even the Sopranos shudder.

January 29, 2008

Online Jeopardy Contestant Test - Part II

  1. I found an unofficial transcript of the test online and determined that I answered 30 out of 50 questions correctly.
  2. Since I posted this I've edited out any answers that would allow people to prepare in advance for the next two tests just in case the test for Mountain and Pacific are the same as the East coast. I did this because a lot of people have been googling around for the test and it's only fair that they have as little advantage as the East coast people did.
  3. I'll post a link to the unofficial transcript when the test is finished.
I guess I did okay on the test. Not as good as some but maybe better than others. I probably finished somwhere right in the middle.

There I things I just didn't know, like the country where a famous politician's alleged cousin speaks out against the government or the name of a particular Shakespeare play or the name of a rap artist who won a bunch of awards. I left all three of those answers blank.

There are things I forgot which make me want to kick myself like who created an important artwork in the MOMA, a state capital and an international capital. I knew all three of those answers but went completely blank.

And then there are the one or two answers that I just got plain wrong. For example it was what's his face and not BLANK who directed a recent film. I guessed an architect instead of a furniture designer as someone who desiged a significant piece of furniture. And I totally blew the Sherlock Holmes question.

Then there are things I DID know.

I knew the answers to the questions relating to American politics; the four letter word that means a certain kind of horse; the author of two ancient literary works; someone who recently won a Tony for best actress; an important Oscar winner; and a few others that really surprised me.

After discussing my answers with the two people whose intelligence I admire most in the world, I think I stand as good a chance as anybody else that took the test tonight of getting a personal audition.

Taking the test was exciting. You should definitely sign up to take it. There are more online tests coming up for the Mountain and Pacific time zones. There is no reason why you can't take them.

As a matter of fact, here is what it says on the Jeopardy website. " We strongly encourage you to take the test in your own time zone. However, you may take the test on another night depending on the demands of your schedule. Remember: you may only log in and take the test once. Subsequent attempts will result in disqualification".

Just be mindful of the time difference when signing in.

Jeopardy Online Contestant Test

In about 13 minutes, I'm taking the Online Contestant test for Jeopardy. It's the first of several steps toward becoming a contesant on the show.

We'll see how I do. I'll let you know.

January 24, 2008

Neighborhood News?

Last night, when I left for work use, there was an ABC News van in front of my building. This morning, when I woke up, there was a news van in front the building across from us. Now, when I looked outside, there is a small contingency of photographers hanging out in front of the building across the street. And I'm pretty sure, I can hear a van idling.

I can't imagine what is going that would warrant this kind of attention. I thought maybe Heath Ledger's household help might live nearby and people are waiting for some kind of statement from either his masseuse or his housekeeper. That is based purely on my imagination and the inevitable news feeding frenzy that follows a young celebrity's death.

There's all this gossip now based on why the masseuse did or didn't call 9-1-1 right away regarding Heath Ledger's deep sleep. I don't want to contribute to the gossip.

I'm just sad for his family.

January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger Dead?

I just heard a news report on ABC that 28 year old Heath Ledger was found dead in a Manhattan residence. He was found by a housekeeper, surrounded by sleeping pills.

January 21, 2008

Amazing Race

Last night, I watched the season finale of the Amazing Race.

Fueled by adrenaline and good vibes, TK & Rachel floated onto the mat where Phil K. and the previously eliminated contestants awaited. In the end, they both said that they were most happy that their relationship grew while they were on the race without ever mentioning their joy at winning $1 million. I guess it's possible that they are more into their relationship they money but it's more likely that the news of their huge winfall hadn't yet sunk in.

It would have been satisfying to see any of the three remaining teams win. They were all inherently likeable.

Ron and Christina Hsu - the father and daughter team - were smart and worked well together. Additionally, I enjoyed watching their relationship grow. It's nice to see fathers and daugthers in healthy-ish adult relationships. Between the two of them, Christine was the stronger player. Throughout the race, she managed to pick up important words from what ever language was spoken in which ever country they were racing. And she was level headed even when her father was saying things to her that could have been construed as mean. Confidence is appealing and I'm glad I got to watch her succeed. It was inspring.

Nicholas Fulks and Donald Jarousek - the grandson and grandfather team - were intelligent and tenacious. I couldn't help but think about my own grandfather, who has long since passed away (may he rest in peace), and how much fun it would have been to have some kind of adventure with him. Unfortunately, that's more of a regretful fantasy, because with our lives the way they were, we never would have had that kind of opportunity. There always seemed to be other people getting in the way of our own one on one relationship - like my grandmother, or my cousins, or any other family member with whom I had to share my grandfather's love. Anyway, that's what I think about when I think about Nicholas and Donald.

Regarding TK and Rachel - the couple that is newly dating - they were exactly the kind of team you want to win the Amazing Race. Very often it's an annoying couple like Jennifer and Nathan who win but not this year!! This year three likeable couples made it to the end and TK and Rachel were the most likeable of the three. They had great attitudes. And they always behaved kindly to each other. They're sweet people.

Congratulations TK and Rachel. I hope you remain together and enjoy life and your great reward!!

I do wish that Kynt and Vyxsin had won because I really liked them. They were interesting and really nice to each other as well. They were just so directionally challenged. I'm sure they were fan favorites and if Amazing Race does another fan favorite show, they will certainly be included.

January 18, 2008

Design Your Own Band And Album Cover

The Trouble with Romance
I discovered at this neat idea at the DSO website. It's a step by step guide to designing your own album cover.

1. Use the random Wikipedia article feature — the title of the article that appears is the name of the band.
2. The name of the album is the last four words of the last quote on the random quotes page at Quotations.com.
3. For the cover art, use the third image that appears when you visit Flickr’s interesting photos for the last 7 days.

Here's what I came up with. Of course, I made the same mistake he did and I forgot give credit to the photographer. I've had no luck finding the image again. But if this is your photo, please contact me so I can give you credit for your amazing work.

This is a fun project, but please remember to give credit to the photographer.

Broadway Update

Val and Times SquareI'm working at The Lion King this week at the Minskoff. The Minskoff has a great lobby with a 180 degree (give or take a few degress) view of Times Square. So I took several pictures of myself with the northerly view in the background. You might be wondering why I wasn't inside watching the show. Well, aside from the fact that I've seen it at least 10 times, I just don't like the show.

I did noticed something interesting this week. The Lion King is loyal to its dancers and several of the performers have been in the NY production since the beginning. But several of those performers are losing their dancerly forms. In other words, some of the male dancers have gotten a little pudgy. It's pretty distracting.

I don't mind regular bodies but then again, people with regular bodies don't walk around in spandex. Now, interestingly enough, the female dancers all look to be in decent shape. But the guys. Some of the guys have really let themselves go.

There's a scene in Act II where the dancers perform to Can You Feel the Love Tonight. The setting is a wild garden. And several dancers are dressed up to look like wild plants. There's one guy in particular, up stage and center posing like an exotic plant, with arms stretched out to either side and his big belly hanging out. There's also a pas de deux with two dancers who have definitely put on some weight since the last time I saw the show.

I know my critique is harsh. I've been struggling with my weight for years, but then again, I'm not a dancer on Broadway. If I were, I'd be mindful to stay in shape. Of course, this is not ALL the dancers - just a few. I guess it's possible that DISNEY could be making some kind of statement about body image and healthy weights, etcetera. But I think it's more likely that the dancers are locked into really, really good contracts and DISNEY would get rid of them if they could.

Don't go by what I say about the Lion King. I don't like the show which doesn't mean it's bad. I don't have a kid and I'm not or have ever really been a big fan of Disney. This is just my opinion. If you have a kid that can sit still for almost 3 hours, by all means, take that kid to see this show. In terms of family friendliness and production value, you can't beat the Lion King with a stick.

The moral of this anecdote is that if you are a dancer, get a job with the Lion King. You'll have a job for life.


This is my favorite commercial. It works. Once you hear the song, it stays in your head all day. And it's a good song too, which helps. Who wants a bad song stuck in their head? I certainly don't. The commitment level to the theme is to be admired. Choreography and costumes should not be ignored either. Watch it and let me know what you think.

January 15, 2008

Wile E. Chayote

chayoteSomeone told me a while ago that they were asked to buy chayote for someone, and explained that they had never heard of it. It wasn't something with which I was familiar, before moving into this neighborhood. Even though I've seen it for the last 11 years or so, I've never eaten it.

When you start increasing your vegetable intake, the tried and true veggies with which we are all familiar start to get a little boring. So, on our last shopping trip I decided it was time we try it. I bought two chayotes not even knowing whether it was a fruit or a vegetable.

Got home. Looked it up on wikipedia. Found out that chayote is a squash. And I looked up some recipes. And of all the interesting recipes I found, I ended up using the recipe with which I was most familiar. I sauteed onion with tomatoes for 5 minutes and then added some peeled and chopped chayote. It's pretty much how I cook zucchini or string beans or most vegetables if I want to do something other than grill them or steam them or stick them in a soup.

I learned that chayote doesn't have much flavor as it picked up all the other flavors from the pan. Although, I did notice that the seedy part of the plant had a nutty bit of flavor.
Let's Hear It For Bok Choy
bokchoyAlso picked up some bok choy. I've eaten bok choy before -and I know this is completely unremarkable - but I've never cooked it.

You may be wondering how I prepared it. You may be asking yourself,"Self. How daring could Valerie be with bok choy?" Well. I'll tell you.

I found a recipe that suggested cooking the bok choy with some ginger. Actually, I'll share with you right now, what I saw when I read this recipe.

chop one blah
add some blah
blah blah blah ginger
blah vinegar blah

I fell back on my standard chopped and sauteed onion. But then I chopped up some garlic with some ginger. I let those ingredients sweat in the pan before I added some boneless skinless chicken thighs. I browned the chicken in the pot and then I set it up to braise by adding just enough water and vinegar to cover it. Once that cooked for about 10 minutes, I added the chopped bok choy. With the pot covered, everything cooked together nicely for 30 minutes.

Now I know that you know that bok choy is Chinese cabbage, so I was expecting that the taste would be similar to the kind of cabbage you might use for sauerkraut or coleslaw. WRONG. It had a really interesting licorice type flavor that I wasn't expecting.

I served it with some pasta and the dish turned out way better than I thought it would. I'm not being fair to myself. I had no expectation as to how the dish was going to turn out. But I was pleased in the end.

January 14, 2008

A Bronx Tale

A Bronx Tale MarquisLast week, I worked at A Bronx Tale which is playing at the Walter Kerr Theater. A Bronx Tale is written and performed by Chazz Palminteri. If I had to describe his show and his performance with two words, those words would be SURPRISINGLY GOOD. I was skeptical going in. How many one person shows have you seen that are actually good?

He tells the story of someone's life - I imagine his own - and it's very entertaining. In 1993 Robert Deniro made his directorial debut with this story. I watched and enjoyed it, never knowing that it was based on the play by Chazz Palminteri. As much as I liked the movie, I never really thought it was GREAT.

That's what was in my head before seeing the play. That's why, no disrespect to Mr. Palminteri, I was so surprised that it was such an amazing work. He doesn't play all the characters as much as he tells stories through their voices. The characters are colorful, scary and interesting. Apparently young Chazz Palminteri lived in a dicey neighborhood with a strong Italian American criminal presence. The strongest of those criminals, Sonny battles with his hardworking busdriving father for the soul of his younger Chazz self. It's an insightful, moving piece.

I recommend you see it before it closes. It's only running into February and it's not selling out, so you should be able to purchase a decent seat.

January 12, 2008

Nutritionist Update

food1I promised you an update from the nutritionist and an update is what you'll get. I weighed in. And I was disappointed with the results. Even though the doctor said the results were good. I almost lost 4 pounds since my last visit. Almost. Not quite a full four. Which means I've lost almost 16 pounds since I started with her in October.

My personal goal for the month was 5 pounds. But I didn't quite get there. I know I should be happy that my weight continues to decrease; that by BMI is now less than 30 as opposed to being more than 30; and that my body fat percentage has gone down from 43.9% to 41.5%. The nutritionist has explained to me at every session that this number takes the longest to change, that to lose body fat takes a long time. But I can't help it. My body fat percentage is supposed to between 23 and 33 per cent. At the rate I'm going, it'll take me forever to get into a healthy range.

But she says I am right on schedule and I have to listen to her. I believe when she tells me these things. But the heart wants what the heart wants and I want to be thinner now - well much thinner anyway.

It's good that I'm seeing her because she understands the psychology behind weight issues. I never thought I needed a counselor to help me with my weight but it turns out I do.

For example, I explained to her that I've been enjoying wearing my loose clothing - that I resist buying new, better fitting clothing. She advised me to stop doing this and to just wear clothes that fit, otherwise I'll have a harder time judging my body size and I might get too comfortable at the weight that I'm at.

Every issue I bring up is something that she's heard before. And she knows exactly why I'm thinking and feeling everything that I'm thinking and feeling. She knows exactly what to say to set me straight. It is so satisfying to speak with someone who knows their job that well.

If you are thinking about pursuing a weight loss program, I strongly recommend seeing this woman.

January 08, 2008

A Beautiful Day

YawnDear Reader: If you are not interested in the mundane details of my daily life, then you might find this post a little boring. Consider yourself warned.
The weather is unseasonably warm and wonderful. Yesterday, it was so lovely that I walked from my dermatologist's office on 86th down to Columbus Circle where I visited the Time Warner Center. On the way down, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen a very long time (hi friend!) and learned he's doing very well after getting a well deserved promotion about a year ago. Once I arrived at the Time Warner Center, I went up to Borders Books to say hi to a friend (hi friend!) that works there. Then I went downstairs to Wholefoods to find some golden beets and red beets.

When I got home, I stuck my beets in the oven for some slow roasting and started preparing lunch. Along with the beets I'd also bought a pound of shelled and de-veined shrimp which I sauteed in (I can't believe I'm telling you this) Mazola non-stick butter flavored spray. I also made some pasta as a side dish. It was great lunch.

I kind of phoned it in for dinner. For dinner I steamed broccoli, prepared some brown rice and cooked up a lite Hillshire Farm sausage. Even though it was low-fat it still contained quite a bit of fat. 4 oz. of that sausage used up 4 of my 5 fat counts for the day. Fortunately I hadn't had any fat during the day so that was okay.

With regard to my diet, I'm down 16 pounds and I'm seeing the doctor on Thursday. Depending the results, I may divulge more specific information about my weight loss, including my starting weight and body fat percentage.

That's all for now.

January 07, 2008


I saw this on my friend's blog. And instantly wanted to post one on my blog too. At some point I've wanted to be or have been a number of professions on the list.

Career Inventory Test Results

Emotional Stability56%

You are a Guide, possible professions include - career counselor, psychologist, educational consultant, special education teacher, librarian, artist, playwright, novelist/poet, editor/art director, information-graphics, designer, HRM manager, merchandise planner, environmental lawyer, marketer, job analyst, mental health counselor, dietitian/nutritionist, research, educational consultant, architects, interpreter/translator.
Take Free Career Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

January 03, 2008

Tropical Oasis

Jon and ValThe day of New Year's Eve, Jon and I went to the Central Park Zoo. Our first stop was the Rain forest building. I was looking over some pictures from that trip earlier and thought how wonderful to have these memories on a freezing cold day like today.

Black and White BirdLush
Pink Bird

It was a fun day. We also went to the Children's Zoo where we saw this beautiful snow white rabbit.
White Bunny

And Jon got this great shot of an Alpaca at the petting zoo. I later went on to the feel the alpaca.
El Paca

January 02, 2008

America's Most Smartest Model - Finale

It's time for the long overdue finale recap that I promised you but unfortunately, I no longer have an episode from which to pull the information to write a thoroughly entertaining synopsis.

Two nights ago, I went through the shows we've been saving on DVR to make sure I had room to save the various episodes I wanted to grab from the Twilight Zone Marathon. I discarded the AMSM finale because I figured I'd be able to watch it on the VH1 website. Boy was I wrong. I just checked the site and it's no longer available. Grumble.

My memory of the episode is spotty at best but I can give you a few highlights.

As you may recall, the two remaining models Andre Birleanu and VJ Logan had to create presentations defending why they should be America's Most Smartest Model.

The strongest point of VJ's presentation happened when he compared Andre to a Rottweiler. The judges seemed impressed at his ability to find a stock photo of a growling dog. He also apparently overcame some kind of problem with the audio on his presentation.

The strongest point of Andre's presentation was when fan favorite Jeff Pickel, previous contestant, spoke on Andre's behalf. Unfortunately, Andre became impatient and interrupted Pickel. He couldn't help himself and ultimately sabotaged himself.

In the end, VJ was chosen the winner. But the life winner is definitely Andre. He was smart enough to hire someone to set up a beautiful website that fully takes advantage of the fact that he received tons of free exposure by being on the show. VJ Logan has yet to set one up. That's just one example.

Another example - Andre isn't that good looking but he works it. That takes some kind of talent or smarts to convince people that they should hire your ugly ass to model their ridiculously fashionable and unwearable clothes. VJ is good looking already. It won't be THAT hard for him to convince people he's handsome.

But being that Andre is 29 and probably at the end of his modeling career it made sense, from a financial perspective, to award the $100,000 prize to the 21 year old at the beginning of his career.

It does make sense if you look at it that way.

But Andre was definitely the best and smartest model of that group.