Friday, January 30, 2015

Egg Harbor Bikeway Run

I finally got the opportunity to run on the path in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  I had heard about the trail on a previous trip to the Atlantic City area late last year.  A quick online search found the path that as described to me by a fellow traveler.

I flew from Atlanta to Philadelphia, PA the day after blizzard June struck the N.E. United States.  There was less snow in New Jersey than was forecasted.

My hotel in Egg Harbor, NJ was about a 45 minute drive from the airport.  Shortly after checking-in I had refreshed my mind on the exact location of the Atlantic City Bikeway trailhead.  The trailhead is a small gravel parking lot near the Burlington Coat Factory at the Shore Mall.  The path itself is freshly paved asphalt.  All I needed to do was bundle up to prepare for the cold that awaited me outside.  I wore 3 layers on top, 2 layers on my legs, a beanie on my head, and gloves.  It was just barely enough.

Trailhead gravel parking lot
The trailhead (mile zero)
Shore Mall across West Jersey Avenue
The busy intersection of West Jersey Avenue and English Creek Avenue where I turned around
The path looking east from English Creek Avenue
An Atlantic County Bikeway sign on a tree
The path is lined with trees.  This section had a light cover of pine needles.

Red-eyed after my run
I've only run this path once however, from what I can tell, it looks like I'll be back for 1) it's close to my hotel, 2) it's safe except for the instances where it crosses a road, and 3) it must be better protected from the wind than anywhere closer to the coast.  My second choice for running locations would be on the Ventor City / Atlantic City boardwalk, but that's not an option when it's 34-degrees and there's a 17 mph wind.

The path is 7.5 miles in length and I ran less than half of it.  Hopefully my fitness will improve and I'll get to see the path from end-to-end soon.

A note of caution:  The ice on the path didn't melt in many places and it was quite slippery.  I often found it safer to run in the grass and snow alongside the path.

Thanks for reading.

Home Projects

For the past few months its been one project after the another at the Farmer house.  Susan and I have been refinishing our basement.  That's a project that I started in 2007 after a minor water leak layed waste to the cave that had been our basement constructed by our home's previous owner.  The word cave might lead one to believe that no expense had been spared to create some sort of manly oasis but that was not the case.  The end result of their project was more akin to an actual cave complete with cramped low ceilings, a funky layout, and lots of bugs.  For my basement re-do project, as the joke goes; If I told you I'll do something, that means I'll do it.  You don't have to keep reminding me every six months.  It's been a 6+ year project that's likely to continue.

Our new basement project, when finished, should provide much more usable space.  Tile as opposed to the previously installed carpet should be a much better option.

Before I (we) could finish the basement project, Susan had us re-doing the shower in our master bath.  It was another project that needed attention long ago but I had successfully put off until now.

We started out with this white tiled and gold trimmed relic from the 1990's.

After a lot of this.

...and some of this.

We ended up with this.  A nice new shower.

With some professional help the shower project took us two months to complete.

As the shower project came to a close I decided to get rid of U-Verse and go to DirecTv and Comcast.  I chronicled that adventure in a blog entitled Goodbye U-Verse!

Susan wanted a storm door on the basement door.  So, I installed one of those too.

Then we have our latest project which started on January 2nd.  After five years the tenants in our rental house have moved out after purchasing a home of their own.  Susan and I took the opportunity to perform some long needed deferred maintenance.  After almost a month we're pretty much done and ready for new tenants.  We painted the ceilings, wall, and portions of the exterior.

Between the expense of the new shower and the rental house we've had an expensive few months.   I'm glad it's over and I can return to my marathon training plan.  The Publix Georgia Marathon is less than 8 weeks away.

This blog is basically for my wife so that when I tell her that I've got to go out for a run or bike I'll have the ammunition I need when she says something like "you never do stuff around the house".   She uses the same tactic when it comes to Christmas and birthday presents.  She'll tell me I didn't get her anything and since I didn't write it down I can't remember and can't argue otherwise.  If I can register, my training for the 2016 Ironman Chattanooga triathlon will start soon, so I'll need as much ammunition (completed chores) as I can get.  As anyone who has trained for one of these races will know, they are all consuming.  Training takes you away from your family, work, home, and your chores.
  • Refinish the basement - partial-check
  • Re-do the Master Bath shower - check
  • New Internet and TV service - check (that's an item from my to-do list)
  • Storm door - check
  • Work like a dog at the rental house - check
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Goldwater 64 Billboard

Susan and I purchased an older home several years ago.  The home was built in 1956.  Surprisingly, it had only one owner for the entire length of time until we purchased the home.  We bought it from the estate.  In the basement we found a 4' by 16' red and white "Goldwater 64" billboard bedazzled with reflective tassels.

Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater ran for the U.S. presidency as the Republican party nominee in 1964 against Lyndon Johnson.  He did not win!  Senator Goldwater had a reputation for being a staunch conservative.  Our home's former owners must have been like minded to have constructed and saved something as large as a billboard for almost 50 years.  That's a best case scenario.  On the other side of the coin the homeowners were Johnson supporters and absconded with the billboard or maybe someone threw it out after the election and they picked it out of the trash.  I'll go with the first option.  If that's the case, did the candidate travel to Jonesboro for a fundraiser or otherwise?  I suppose I'll never know.

So, what should I do with this piece of Americana?  The Barry and Peggy Goldwater Center for Democracy museum opened this year in Phoenix, Arizona.  Maybe they'd like to have it, but could it make the 1900 mile trip to Phoenix intact?

I'd like to sell it.  More specifically, what I'd really like to do is give the billboard to someone who will donate to the 2015 Swim Across America Lake Spivey Team.  The team needs to raise about $5,000 for cancer research at Children's Health Care of Atlanta.  The billboard is probably not worth that much but anything would help the team.  Remember Swim Across America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation so donations are tax deductible and it sure would look cool in someone's basement or maybe behind a bar.  The event is on Sunday, May 3rd.  Disclaimer: I'm not an attorney or an accountant, so please consult one or both.

Please leave a comment if you're interested.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine

On Saturday, January 3rd Susan and I found ourselves eating dinner at Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine restaurant on Buford Highway in Atlanta.  Panahar has a reputation for serving really good Bangladeshi cuisine.  Susan and I were just two members at Panahar of what was most likely the best attended Hoochie Map Dancers group dinner to date.  The Hoochie Map Dancers name was derived from Chatta "Hoochee", as in the Chattahoochee River, and "Map Dancers" for the group's aim to enjoy cuisine from around the world at restaurants around Atlanta.  Our group formed from The Hoochies which was a similar group that included many of the same members we dined with on Saturday.  That group faded after many years and was primarily a group of foodie friends who hosted dinners at their homes.  The hosting member(s) would rotate throughout the group.  In the two or three years we've been meeting our group has enjoyed Korean, Chinese, French, American, Greek, Indian, Uraguayan, Mexican, Portuguese, Persian, Russian, and now Bangladeshi cuisine.

We arrived early on a rainy day in Atlanta.  Parking was plentiful.  There was no valet.  That is not often the case in Atlanta.  I prefer to park my own car - thank you!

The restaurant's facade is clean and simple.

The interior of the restaurant is equally understated.

During most Map Dancer dinners we'll have some sort of activity related to the history or culture of the country whose cuisine we'll be eating.  It might be a trivia contest or a spelling bee.  "Spell the word bouillabaisse" is an example from a previous dinner.  In this instance, McDonough attorney Richard Shrade gave an extended history of Bangladesh and it's relationship with Pakistan and India.  Richard took seriously the task assigned to him by our group's de facto leader Jim Macie, also an attorney.  Instead of referencing Bangladesh's Wikipedia page as any normal person might do Richard bought (and read) the book "A History of Bangladesh" by Willem Van Shendel before the big day.

Richard expounds on the history of Bangladesh
Jim addressing the group
I tried to go over the online menu to identify what we ate after the fact however, you might find that I I've made a few errors.  The pictures were all taken with my Samsung Gallaxy S5 cellphone so they're not as good as I would have liked.  Hopefully they're clear enough for readers to get a good idea of what each item looked like on the plate.

Appetizer (name unknown)
Vegetable Shingaara Pastry
Poori Shrimp
Naan (bread)
Tandoori Lamb (Lamb with potatoes)
Chicken (name unknown)
Fish Popiazza (Tilapia with onions)
Channa Moshol-la (chickpeas)
Raita (yogurt sauce)
Yogurt dessert (name unknown) 
The food was good and plentiful.

Thanks for reading.

You can see a few other images that were taken here.  Some of these images were taken with a new camera so, they're not as good as one might like.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Goodbye U-Verse!

I've finally gotten rid of AT&T U-Verse.  After years of expensive television and painfully slow Internet service I finally convinced my wife that we needed to change television and Internet service providers.  We changed from Dish Network Satellite television and AT&T DSL Internet to U-Verse for both services back in 2012.  You can read about that experience here.  The problems I found with U-Verse from the start were numerous, 1) the installer put the required and less than adequate U-Verse router in the worst place in my home for coverage reducing my kitchen table to a work desk, 2) the installation itself was lame, and 3) worst of all, the U-Verse television and Internet share bandwidth.  I paid for the fastest U-Verse Internet available, 18 Mbps Max Plus, but I got far less, with 7 Mbps typically being used for the television which left only 11 Mbps for Internet.  I was ready for a change.

Susan and I were in the Costco in Brookhaven, GA before Christmas.  We were in the Brookhaven store because the Costco in Morrow near our home sucks.  It was in the Costco where the DirecTv satellite television sales guy snagged me with his sales pitch.  Before I knew it we were scheduled for an appointment to install DirecTv service.  Before the service technician arrived, and while both the TV and Internet were still on U-verse, I tested my Internet speed.  The result was 11.2 Mbps download and 1.81 Mbps upload speed.

After the DirecTv was installed and U-Verse was only providing Internet service, the DVR and receivers were removed, I tested the speed again.  It improved, now my download speed was 20.54 Mbps and my upload speed was 1.98 Mbps.

My plan to get rid of AT&T was halfway complete, until I was reminded that AT&T recently purchased DirecTv, and then there's my cellphone service which is AT&T as well.

The Comcast guy was supposed to arrive to install new cable Internet a few days after my DirecTv installation.  He arrived on a rainy morning.  He was polite and seemed to have everything he needed, for the most part.  The cable from the street to my house was bad so he had to run a new line.  We had about 55 trees removed about a year ago so that could have had something to do with the cable issue.  The Comcast guy ran the cable over my fence and across the back yard.  The cable burying crew should resolve that issue eventually.

In preparation for the installation of my cable Internet service I purchased a new Linksys WRT1900AC router and a new Arris Motorola SB6141 modem.  Providing my own equipment saves me about $9 or $10 per month.  Buying my own equipment is a better alternative to paying top dollar to rent what would have likely been sub-par equipment from Comcast.  I purchased both items from  The router was $197 and the modem was $90.

I speed tested my new Internet with my laptop connected via Ethernet cable directly to the cable modem first and then via the WiFi.

In addition to my service being 3 times faster, at a cheaper price for the 12 months and still reasonable afterwards, the coverage provided by my new router is awesome.  I'm no longer relegated to surfing from the kitchen table.

As the installer left my house he knocked down and broke my 45 lbs concrete gargoyle from its perch on my mailbox probably with the ladder on the top of his van.  Then he ran over my sprinkler head with the orange flag beside it (so no one runs it over).   He was a one man wrecking crew. What made it worse is he didn't even say a word about it.  My driveway is curved and some people have trouble backing out.  I found the gargoyle laying in the street where it could have easily destroyed a neighbor's front car bumper.

He did get my Internet working before he left.  He installed it in the basement as I requested.  Since the basement is in a state of "unfinishedness" it was the easiest course of action.  He did run the drop cable from the box at the southeast corner of my lot all the way around to the the northwest corner of my house to get access to a ground and then back to the northeast corner of my house to gain access to the basement.  The cable is probably about 140' longer than it needs to be and just because he didn't have access to a ground.  Had I known beforehand I would have installed a ground rod.  I might still buy one as the crew assigned to bury the cable will probably not arrive for some time.  A previous example of their level of service had a Comcast cable to my neighbor's house laying in the gutter and jutting across the street for the better part of 2 years.  I laughed every time I saw a Comcast truck drive by knowing full well they saw the orange cable just laying there.

In addition to Internet speed, cost was also a factor in my decision to switch from U-Verse.  Here's a quick look at the numbers. I was paying $56 per month for an advertised 18Mbps as part of my U-Verse TV and Internet package.  Any introductory pricing from AT&T had long since expired.  My 50 Mbps Comcast Blast Internet introductory price is $44.99 for the first 12 months.  After 12 months the price goes up to $66.95 for High Speed Internet and $10 more for Blast for a total of $76.95 per month.  That's $20.95 more than I was paying for U-Verse.  A better comparison would be dollars / Mbps.

U-Verse $56 / 20.54 Mbps = $2.73 per 1 Mbps
Comcast $76.95 / 59.50 Mbps = $1.29 per 1 Mbps

U-Verse is 212% more expensive comparing Mbps to Mbps.  I'm clearly not a fan of U-verse or a fan of Comcast for that matter.  I just feel like I'm getting more for my money with Comcast.  If there were no introductory discount and the cost of my awesome router and modem combined ($287) were inserted into the mix over the same 12 month period that would add about $23.92 per month.  That would increase my cost with Comcast to $100.87 per month.

Comcast $100.87 / 59.50 Mbps = $1.70 per 1 Mbps

Oops!  Wait a minute.  I got a $300 Costco gift card for signing up for DirecTv.  So, in a round about way, I broke even.  The real test will be whether or not I use the additional bandwidth at my disposal.  I'm thinking that I will.

So, that's my story.  I'm sure that almost everyone has a story about their phone or cable company.   This is just the latest chapter of mine.  I'll return my U-Verse equipment.  Getting my U-Verse service canceled was a saga in itself.

Thanks for reading.

Update (3/14/15): After a few months of bills from my new television provider, DirecTv, I've come to realize that their pricing is a bit misleading.  While I had expected an introductory price of about $42, I found that the actual price was just less than double that amount.  It was $82.  The extra cost is partly the 3 receivers but in reality their pricing is unattainable considering the fact that one must have at least one receive to use the service.  My second complain is with the interface.  I found the U-Verse to be better but I think I prefer the Dish Network interface to any of them.  However, I haven't had Dish Network in several years which is plenty of time for them to screw it up.