Amazon Vine

I have been a fan of Amazon.com since 2001, when I made my first online purchase through Amazon. Back then, Amazon mostly sold books, CDs and DVDs, far from the range of products Amazon offers today. In the spring of 2001 I finished a book I really enjoyed (‘The Brothers K’ by David James Duncan, a splendid book, I might add) and it dawned on me that I should write a public review, which I did. Since that first review, I have written almost 200 more. And now it has really begun to pay off. I was invited to join the Amazon Vine Program, an initiative to have new products tested and publicly reviewed by loyal customers prior to the full product release, knowing how valuable customer and peer reviews are to potential purchasers. In exchange for agreeing to review products after use, I now have access to free products via Amazon. I can occasionally log on to the Vine newsletter and have any item still available shipped to me for free. At some point, I review the product and the cycle continues. This is even better than the library. I’m hooked. Thank you Amazon for rewarding your loyal customers and those reviewers that help make your site so great. You have (re)won over another fan.

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Three Decades

This is it. Three decades of life are behind me and I have entered number four. I am now 30 years old and there is no turning back. My life so far has been good and I know there are many good days ahead of me. But youth, I feel, has passed me by. I remember when I turned 16, 18, 21, 25 and 28. I was okay with those ages. They were times to celebrate. Youth was synonymous with my life then. But I no longer have a claim to youth like I used to at my age now. There is something about the ‘3’ in front of my age that wards off any notion of youth. But that is my reality now. I can only accept it and go forward. And so I will. However, I will say this – if the next thirty years are as fun, memorable, educational and exciting as the last thirty, I will not be able to ask for nothing more. I just hope they don’t go as fast.

Yearning For Simplicity

I had always wanted to live in New York. Now I’m in my sixth summer here, and while I have never actually lived in Manhattan, I have spent the vast majority of my life the past five years studying, playing, working and commuting on the island at the center of the world. But I feel like that is becoming less and less true. My office is located in midtown, near where I exit the train that takes me from my suburban sanctuary to the heart of the city each day. I exit the train and walk two minutes and find myself already in my office. This, of course, makes for convenience, but also has the unintended effect of making me feel like I am hardly in the city. Up to September of last year I was commuting downtown once I got off the commuter train, dealing daily with the subway and the hustle and bustle of the financial district. But now it seems I am confined to the few blocks around the MetLife building at 200 Park Avenue. There was a time when I spent each Saturday in the City – enjoying the crowd or skate dancers at the Central Park Sheep Meadow, strolling the esplanade of Battery Park City, catching some window shopping along West Broadway or even taking in the always-amusing sites of Washington Square Park or Union Square. But those days ended when I had children. I have learned that with young kids, the city is often more work than it is worth.

All of this is a long way to say that while I miss having freedom in the City, I can now feel satisfied that I have been there and done that. So long as I am staying at home with family after work and on the weekends, I might as well do that in a less expensive, more family-friendly location. In looking at the country’s best places to live, as ranked by CNN/Money Magazine, I am beginning to be drawn to the simplicity and convenience of living in a smaller, suburban area as opposed to one of the most densely populated areas on earth. But no discussion on moving is meaningful unless the issue of finding a job is discussed. And I am not about to begin to look for another job. For now, therefore, our house and two jobs are here in New York. And this is more than enough to keep us here. But I am finally expressing a desire to leave, and may be willing to look beyond the strict urban living criteria I have established for much of my life.

A Tribute to Michael Jackson

There was a heated discussion today at lunch regarding Michael Jackson. The question on the table was whether you grew up listening to Michael. Almost everyone in the room was around my age, and so, naturally, in my mind, they all should have grown up listening to Michael (and they all did except for one guy, which shocked us all). Sure, I don’t exactly remember when Off the Wall or Thriller came out because of my young age at the time, but I do remember listening to the music when I was young. And as I grew older, I went back and became familiar with his music. I remember my mom telling me how she watched the 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary Special where Michael Jackson performed with his brothers as the Jackson 5 and then performed ‘Billie Jean’ live on stage. Thriller was still a new album at the time and his performance seen across the country that night helped boost the album to become the best selling album of all time. He also performed the Moonwalk on stage for the first time in that performance and changed his image forever. The passion and emotion he showed that night instantly catapulted him to another level. Young, old, black, white, it didn’t matter, everyone was listening to Michael after that.

When Bad came out, I was old enough to follow music on my own. I remember watching the video for ‘Smooth Criminal’ over and over and trying to mimic his dance moves. There was no doubt that at this point he was the King of Pop. He had transformed the music industry and revolutionized music videos and live performances. Later in my life I caught Michael Jackson performing live at the 1995 VMA Awards and remember thinking he was the best dancer in the world. Despite what he became and the problems he had in life, he will always be remembered for what he did. For me, the Michael Jackson prior to the Dangerous album is the King of Pop. He is an American icon and no one will ever come close again to achieving what he did. He is the one and only. On this day that the world pays tribute to MJ, I wish to add my own tribute to him as a great artist and part of my childhood. Thank you for the great music and memories.

A Growing Problem

Last week I drove to Washington D.C. from New York. The traffic was out of control.  I left Thursday late morning, well after the morning rush hour. Getting out of the Bronx and across the George Washington Bridge took much longer than expected because of traffic. There were no accidents or construction projects. The delays were merely a result of the volume of cars on the road. Later that day further south, traffic caused us to be further delayed on the I-495 Beltway around D.C. Again, no accidents or construction, just volume. Not only have I ranted before about the poor condition of much of the this country’s roads and infrastructure, but I am now convinced that the current infrastructure is severely inadequate to handle a growing population that will undoubtedly result in additional cars on the road. Largely due to immigration, the United States is one of the few industrialized countries in the world with a steadily increasing and not steadily declining population. But more people could equal more potential problems in the future, not just fiscally, but in the time simply needed to travel from point A to point B. I doubt the U.S. traffic will ever rival some cities of the world (e.g. Bangkok), but traffic problems will be an ever-growing problem in the future with no easy fix. All we can do is try to reduce the amount of pollutants traffic causes while increasing mass transportaion options. We can also be thankful for the freedom we have to travel when and where we want in the U.S. of A.