Saturday, January 31, 2009

Burlington County Times suspends Saturday publication

according to the Associated Press, 3 Philadelphia area newspapers (including the New Jersey Burlington County Times) will suspend Saturday publications.

PHILADELPHIA Three Calkins Media newspapers in suburban Philadelphia will stop publishing Saturday print editions next week.The Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer of Doylestown and the Burlington County Times in Willingboro, N.J., will continue to publish Saturday editions online.

The newspapers announced the change Saturday. It goes into effect Feb. 7.

Publisher Michael Scobey says the move is being made to control costs and provide expanded local and national news and sports coverage.

Scobey says the change is a return to the traditional publishing schedule. The Saturday print editions were introduced about five years ago.

He says the market no longer supports the additional day of print publication.

The online Saturday edition will contain all the information the print version had.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lautenberg and Menendez Websites

I wanted to let my New Jersey Federal Senators know how I feel about funding abortions with my Federal money.

This website will give you the names of your Senators, along with links to their websites (that's nice)

I just went out to Frank Lautenberg's Website to indicate my opposition to Federal Funding for Abortion.

He has a nice Web Form with a list box containing a bunch of subjects, one of which is abortion.

I completed for the form with a brief message and submitted it, then went to Robert Menendez's Website.

Identical Form, but guess what---no subject for Abortion. Now what should I do?

Post it under Architecture?

How about Animal Rights, since that's all human life is considered these days?

OK, I see--there is an Other category.

I'll post it there.

$76 for a Tylenol?

I've heard about stories like this, but never really experienced it.

Back on November 7, 2008 while in the Cooper Emergency Room having my broken nose treated, the attending nurse asked me if I needed anything for pain and I said "just give me a Tylenol."

After he went to get it, my wife said she had a few in her pocketbook.

It took about half an hour to get them from the nurse (or so it seemed, I was a bit impatient to get out of there).

I just got around to paying my $100 deductible for the Emergency Room visit, and see that my total bill for the 3 hour visit was $2,279.00, of which $76.00 was Pharmacy.

The only thing I received from Pharmacy were the 2 Tylenol, which works out to $38 a pill.


Can Cancer Go Away on Its Own?

I saw this in my latest copy of AARP magazine...

Researchers in Oslo and at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Hanover, NH say that it's possible, in our zeal to fight cancer early, that we are treating some tumors that might simply vanish.

The findings, reported in the November 24th Archives of Internal Medicine, are controversial and require more study, say some cancer experts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freedom of Choice Act

The Freedom of Choice Act--have you heard about it?

Our church on Sunday (Saturday Mass really) mentioned this legislation, and asked us to contact our Representatives in Congress. I'll be doing so this week.

According to the pamphlet handed out in Church, FOCA would do some things that I am morally opposed to---I won't go into those here until I check out the legislation myself.

From what I can see, the FOCA, or some form of it, has been talked about at the beginning of every Congress but it has failed to get support and pass.

However, as we all know, things have changed.

More to follow.

Running thoughts...Looking for a way to keep your hands warm while running in the morning?

Looking for a way to keep your hands warm?

Well, whether it's early morning running when it's under 20 degrees, or whatever outdoor activity you pursue, I highly recommend Heatworks Air Activated Hand warmers.

Many of you know that I run early in the morning, and it gets quite cold. Because of a medical condition with my hands, if my hands get cold, they eventually turn white, then purple, then who knows what.

My wife first found these hand warmers at the Christmas Tree Shop---she got them for .69 a pair. They're great. You open the package, and within a minute they're warm, then they get quite toasty. The manufacturer claims they get up to about 160° Fahrenheit, and I don't doubt it. They stay that way for about 6 hours.

The only problem is that they aren't always available at the Christmas Tree Shop.

I've found similar ones at Dicks and Ricky's Army Navy store in Delran, but these are really the best.

Fortunately, I was able to locate them online at

I just picked up 40 pair for $21.95 plus shipping (about $6).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Letter of the week (and my response) January 24, 2009

I received this email the other day---it illustrates the desire on the part of inexperienced people to learn programming. Check out the email and my response which is quite lengthy


I was looking around for C# classes and was wondering what the difference was between Introduction to Visual C#---Any Version (8 weeks) vs. Introduction to C# using the .Net Batch compiler (8 weeks).

Would there be any discounts for students like me?

Do you also have any testimonials that these classes do help?

I really want to learn C# and am looking for something that would help me easily.

I have no prior experience in programming. I'm looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

My Repsonse

Hi J

Thanks for your interest in my classes!

The difference in the two courses is the course textbook I use--both of which I have written.
Intro to C# uses a book I wrote a few years ago which concentrates on learning C# using the C# Batch compiler.

Visual C# uses a book I recently wrote using C# Express, which is a Visual Tool.

Both courses are good, and you'll learn fundamental C# programming, but you'll learn more about creating your own objects (and what that means) in the C# Batch compiler class.

However, learning C# in the batch compiler world is harder than Visual C#.

Why have you chosen C# as your first programming language?

Unfortunately, I don't offer discounts to students, only active duty military.

Somewhere on my website I'm sure I have some accolades about my classes, but those naturally come from happy students, and I can be a bit more objective.

Students who do well in my Internet courses tend to be those who are independent.
As you can imagine, if we met 3 hours per week in a classroom, it would be a bit easier than using my electronic classroom to communicate (although I hope to have Webcam options available soon).

This much I can guarantee you---if you are serious about learning to program, and put in the time (about 10 hours per week for reading, working on assignments, etc), are willing to post questions and comments in my electronic classroom, you will know how to program when you finish the course. That doesn't mean you will be an expert, or will get a job in programming, but it does mean you are on your way.

From that point on, you can continue to learn C# on your own or continue with me in some other courses.

Programming is a big world--depending upon what you want to learn and do, your learning path can be a year or much longer.

On the other hand, if you are an impatient person, one who gets very frustrated when things don't work the first time, then my courses are probably not right for you.

I can't be with you all the time while you are coding your first program---and if you deal with programming errors as a sign that you are a failure, instead of a challenge, the programming world may not be for you.

I still remember my first COBOL programming attempt---over 4,000 errors on my first compile. I felt pretty low.

I corrected a single mispelling on one line of code, and the number went down to 2,000. I thought to myself, this is pretty cool.

I corrected another error---down to 1,000.

You get the point.

Within 10 minutes, I had reduced my errors from over 4,000 to about 28.

Of course, it took me about two days to correct the remaining 28 errors, but I did, and all time I was thinking this is the greatest way to spend my time.

I've been doing that ever since for 32 years.

So, if you are the type of person who sees a challenge in an error message from a computer, and not a reason to smack the keyboard (well, we all do that from time to time) then programming is for you, and my courses may be right for you also.

In an ideal environment, I would be with you in a classroom--but even though my Internet courses are remote, that doesn't mean you are alone.

I hope this helps you with your decision.

Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

Have a great day!

John Smiley

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guitar Hero Drum Console finally arrived

For those of you following the saga of my daughter's Guitar Hero Drum Console (purchased in November of 2008, found defective on December 25th, 2008, and shipped back on December 31st, 2008), I'm happy to report that a working Drum Console arrived at our house yesterday, January 20th.

My daughter is pleased with it--although both my wife and I expected to hear real drum sounds.

It sounds more like beating a wooden spoon on a Tupperware container, but as I said, my daughter is pleased with it, and that's all that matters.

Biggest Loser complaints

Some rants and raves about one of my wife's favorite TV shows.

My wife really enjoys watching the Biggest Loser on Tuesday nights.

Now it's up to 2 hours each week, and while I deeply admire the contestants who are trying to improve their health by appearing on the show, there are certain aspects of the show that really drives me crazy.

If the show's producers are really trying to help the public (and I think it's safe to say that ratings are paramount in their mind), then perhaps they should let us know what the contestants are eating during the week.

We get a glimpse of their workouts (which by the way are way over the top), but except for the temptation events, we really don't see what they are eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When a contestant loses much less weight than the rest of the contestants, one would have to wonder why? What did they eat during the week? I'd love to know.

People who have lost weight (and I have) know how important a food diary is to the process--why can't we see the contestants. Surely the two trainers, sadistic Bob and Jillian, know what their charges are eating.

Something else that drives me crazy is the so-called "Last chance workout", which is supposedly a workout done right before the weekly weigh in to give each contestant a bit of a nudge toward success.

These last chance workouts are getting more and more ridiculous and extreme---last night, sadistic Bob seemed intent on making one of his team members cry--that's really great motivation to the overweight TV audience.

I don't know about you, but after an extreme workout like the ones I've been witnessing, the first thing I would do is down a few quarts of water---I'm sure that's really good for the weigh in.

Next thing---contestants vote each other 'off' the show, is is the case in Survivor.

Ridiculous---the winning contestant should be the one who loses the most weight. Don't vote anyone off--although I should mention that jettisoned contestants are eligible for a separate, lesser monetary award.

Finally, have you noticed that each series seems to have bigger and bigger people?

I noticed (and so I guess did the producers) that the heaviest people were winning the show.

That's because the winner of the show is the one who loses the highest percentage weight.

Just about every series, the winner has been one who lost 50% of their body weight.

A 400 pound man who loses 200 pounds has lost 50% of his body weight (and probably could lose a few more pounds).

A 180 pound woman who loses 50% of her body weight would weight 90 pounds at the final weigh in, which is anorexic material. If she loses 54 pounds to get down to 132, she has lost 30% of her body weight, is probably in better shape than the 400 pound man now weighing 200 pounds, but loses the show.

It wasn't until the last 2 series that a woman finally broke through and won the show.


Because the producers have been selecting heavier and heavier women (and men).

There are two men on this show who weigh nearly 400 pounds, and 2 women over 350.

50% thresholds for the men would be 200 pounds, for the women 175--both are obtainable goals.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Special Symbols such as °

Ever want to enter the degree symbol in something you're writing and not know how?

The degree symbol (°) can be entered by holding down the ALT key, then typing 0176 on your numeric keypad.

For a full list of additional symbols, check out this link...

Before you lay out big bucks to buy that HDTV set

Check out this Tech article in which it suggests that as much as 70% of the population can't discern the quality difference in HDTV.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why can't people be quiet at the movies?

I know it's a lot to ask for people to be quiet at the movies--especially in these days where it just doesn't seem to be a priority.

My wife and I went to the movies last night and were surrounded by a bunch of rude, noisy people who obviously don't know anyone else exists.

The man in front of us had some soft of nasal problem and 'sniffed' the entire movie,

The people to our left brought in a bunch of individually wrapped caramel candies and opened them (and played with the papers) the entire time.

The people behind us (sitting in a handicapped seat) banged by seat occasionally, then ate from and shook their popcorn bag the entire movie.

A girl in the front row carried on a running conversation for the last 20 minutes on her cell phone.

Perhaps they should have a 'quiet' section in the theater, or a noise free showing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Computer Programming Internet Courses

A lot of people don't realize that I teach Internet based Computer Programming Courses.

I teach courses in a variety of popular, up-to-date languages such as Visual Basic, C#, C++, Java and HTML.

The courses are convenient, since they are Internet based you don't have to 'be' somewhere at a particular place and time.

Except for 1 hour per week, the course is totally message board based using my Moodle (Open Source) electronic classroom.

1 time per week I host an interactive chat where you can talk with me and the other students in the class.

My courses are not free, but they are cheaper than College Courses---plus, you get the benefit of being taught by a popular author and consultant. Many of my courses use my best selling books at the course textbook.

Each course gives you a chance to practice with programming assignments and quizzes.

You can take my courses when they are scheduled---regularly throughout the year---or self-paced versions of the courses where you work at your own pace.

I also offer a yearly subscription to my courses wherein you can pay a single fee and take as many courses as you want for a full year.

A great feature of my courses is that, unlike other training venues, I never cancel a course---they are always held, regardless of the number of students who sign up. I'll hold a course for a single student, which can be a very intimate learning experience.

For more information on my courses, follow this link.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Guitar Hero---Update, January 12, 2009

An update on my daughter's Guitar Hero Drum problem...

Both the Orange and Yellow Cymballs have arrived---the Yellow one arrived on Thursday, January 8th.

I was hoping the drum console would show up on Friday or Saturday.

When it didn't, I tried to look up the RMA on the Activision Website--but basically all it said was that I had a valid RMA number, and there was no tracking number.

I decided to call Activision again.

The helpful customer told me the RMA lookup feature hasn't really been working lately.

He looked up the RMA on his system and reported that they had received the Drum Console from us, but they were out of stock of the Drum Console and he was hopeful they would have them in by the end of the week.

Bottom line---it's now January 12th, we bought the Guitar Hero World tour in November, returned it on December 31st, and won't have it until January 19th at the earliest.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Restaurant Violations in New Jersey

I can't seem to find an online listing of restaurants cited for violations in New Jersey---why is that?

Stomach Virus going around---the Norovirus

Here's some information on the stomach virus currently going around Burlington County. It's most likely the norovirus.

While this is going around, be careful not to shake hands with strangers.

Also, don't develop a false sense of security with anitbacterial sprays or gels.

The norovirus is a virus---it won't be destroyed by anything 'antibactierial' and because it does not have a lipid envelope, it is impervious to alcohol.

People who have had the virus are contagious for up to 3 days afterwards (two weeks in some cases).

Also, like the common cold, there are so many strains of the norovirus that building up and immunity to it is difficult. In fact, some people simply don't build an immunity to it. So be careful.

Wash your hands well with soap and water, avoid the hands of strangers, avoid eating out where dishes are prepared by strangers who may be sick and have to come to work, and keep your hands out of your mouth and eyes.

Retrofitness Moorestown Review

As I end my 1 year membership at Retrofitness in Moorestown, I thought I would post a review.

Overall, I think the club is one of the best I've seen.

Facilities are clean, equipment is plentiful and in working order, the staff is present, attentive and willing to help. Hours are good.

Monday-Thursday 5:am - 11:pm
Friday 5:am - 11:pm
Saturday-Sunday 7:am - 6:pm

They have on site babysitting, a chiropractor.

They have a movie room with a different, timely movie each day of the week. Many of the cardio pieces have equipment have their own televisions.

Retrofitness also features a snack bar with plenty of reading material.

Despite all of this, I quit after one year. I'm an avid runner, so the cardio machines don't mean much to me, and I prefer working out with kettle bells to the weight machines, free weights and dumbbells that Retrofitness offers.

They also provide access to EFT---a group of personal trainers who do a good job with people who need some extra attention and motivation. You negotiate directly with EFT for their services--they have a desk on site.

Really, the only knock I have against Retrofitness is that it took several weeks to fix a water fountain, and the lights in the ladies room are still not working.

Stomach virus on rise in Burlington County

According to the Saturday Burlington County Times, a stomach virus is on the rise in Burlington County. Here's a link to the article...

According to the article, Burlington County Health Department epidemiologist Jennifer Horner reported that one restaurant in Burlington County reported high counts of the virus. Horner said that six patrons and six members at the restaurant reported contracting the illness. Horner wouldn't name the restaurant but said the case occurred last week and has been resolved.

I don't know about you, but I don't relish the thought of vomiting for two days because I happen to eat at a restaurant with a stomach virus outbreak.

Wouldn't it be a public service to name the restaurant?

Isn't that the job of the Health Department to protect us?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Guitar Hero Drum Set Update---January 8, 2009

Well, the second cymball arrived today via FedEx Express Shipping---still waiting for the Drum Console. Hopefully it will show up on Friday.

If not, I'll probably call on Monday to see where it is.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies...

That's the opening line from one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs.

It's also something that drives me crazy, and is one of the themes of my blogs.

Please don't violate terms of contracts, written, oral, or implied, or promise me things you can't deliver, or undoubtedly I will blog about it.

When I say implied contracts, that means driving on Route 130 in safe conditions, not in gullies. That's an implied contract being the State and its citizens.

When I pay a membership fee to an organization to use their facilities, that means that I expect the water fountain to work, and if it doesn't, to be fixed in less than 6 weeks. Ditto the lights in the rest room.

Guitar Hero Drum Set Update---January 7, 2009

You may recall that I shipped my daughter's defective Guitar Hero Drum Console, Orange Cymbal and Yellow Cymbal back to Activision on December 31, 2008. These were 3 separate shipments that I personally dropped off at the FedEx delivery center in Mt. Laurel.

FedEx tracking immediately showed all 3 items in the system, and as of last Saturday, all 3 were showing up on their system as being in transit.

Interestingly, on Sunday the Drum Console and Yellow Cymbal dropped off the system--only the Orange Cymbal remained, and it finally showed that it was delivered on January 5th.

Where are the other 2 items?

Also interestingly, yesterday the Yellow Cymbal was delivered to our house via FedEx Overnight express. The Yellow Cymbal delivery to Activision still is not showing up in the FedEx system. Hmmm...

Hopefully the Drum Console and Orange Cymbal will show up today or tomorrow or I will need to contact Activision.

By the way, when I go to the Activision website, and enter my email address and RMA numbers, all I get is some vague message that basically says the RMA was issued. It doesn't indicate the status.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about the Common Cold

Now in my 3rd week of a cold, I thought I would compile some information about the Common Cold. By the way, folks, if you're a Catholic, and spend the Mass coughing and sneezing into your hands, don't turn around at the Sign of Peace to shake my hand.

Flu germs: How long can they live outside the body?

If someone has the flu or a cold and coughs into his hand, and then he touches a doorknob, how long can those germs live on that doorknob?
- Joe / New Jersey

Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist James Steckelberg, M.D., and colleagues answer select questions from readers.

The length of time that cold or flu germs can survive outside the body on an environmental surface, such as a doorknob, varies greatly. But the suspected range is from a few seconds to 48 hours — depending on the specific virus and the type of surface.

Flu viruses tend to live longer on surfaces than cold viruses do. Also, it's generally believed that cold and flu viruses live longer on nonporous surfaces — such as plastic, metal or wood — than they do on porous surfaces — such as fabrics, skin or paper.

Although cold and flu viruses primarily spread from person-to-person contact, you can also become infected from contact with contaminated surfaces. The best way to avoid becoming infected with a cold or flu is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Retrofitness---Update January 6, 2009

I stopped by Retrofitness to deliver a copy of my termination letter to Jenny at the desk.

She took immediate care of it, contacted the finance company that does the automatic debits to my American Express Card, and I am now officially cancelled from Retrofitness in Moorestown.

Thanks Jenny!

AT&T Cellular in Delran, NJ

Just wanted to say that Garry Pinner, Store manager at the Delran NJ At&T Cell Phone Store is top-notch!

No one provides the personal service that he does---other companies could learn a great deal by observing the way he treats his customers.

Cinnaminson Shop Rite to open on Friday, January 9th, 2009 with a 'Sneak Preview' on Thursday, January 8th from 4 to 8PM

Just received this email....

Cinnaminson Shop Rite Grand Opening this Week!

Cinnaminson Shop Rite Grand Opening is Friday Jan.9th

Cinnaminson residents are invited to a special "Sneak Preview"

Thursday January 8th, 4:00pm-8:00pm

Monday, January 5, 2009

Retrofitness---Update January 5, 2009

You may recall that I sent Retrofitness of Moorestown a letter on October 11th, indicating that I was giving them my 60 days notice of termination (actually, that was 90.)

I called on Friday, January 2nd to confirm that they would be dropping my as of January 11th?

Guess what? They don't have a record that I sent the letter!

Someone named Jenny assured me that she would call me the next day (she didn't) with the status of my termination letter.

This morning my wife was there, and Jenny said she didn't have it--and that I should have filled out a form (not according to my contract :)

I called Jenny---she asked me to bring a copy of the letter in when she is there. I told her that I expected my contract to end on January 11th---not 60 days from tomorrow. She told me she 'thought' it probably would.

I asked for her last name (got it, but I'll keep it under wraps for now.)

I also asked for the name of the owner. This has always been a big secret at Retrofitness. I've never been able to get the last name. I hate doing business with absentee owners---and secretive owners. For crying out loud, what's the big secret? Do you think I'll blog it?

Jenny told me it's owned by 3 people---Alex, Michael and AJ. I asked for last names--she couldn't give them to me.

I'll need them for Small Claims Court---it's always a problem trying to sue someone if you don't have their last name.

More to follow after I drop the copy of the letter off tomorrow.

I'll be watching my American Express Bill for the $19.99 charge. If it's on there, I'll be disputing the charge.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Guitar Hero---Drum Problem---Update January 2, 2009

I just wanted to provide you an update on my Guitar Here Drum Problem.

I contacted the Activision Customer Service department on December 26th and was told that I would receive 'Prepaid Packing Labels' via email within 1 to 2 business days.

These hadn't shown up by December 29th, and I contacted Activision again.

A very helpful Customer Service representative told me that the Holiday slowed things down, and that I should give it another day.

I finally received the email (3 of them actually) with the Prepaid Packing labels.

They were for FedEx. We boxed the items (Drum Console, Yellow cymbal, and Red cymbal) and shipped them on December 31st.

As of this afternoon, FedEx tracking indicates that all 3 packages are in North Carolina, headed to Georgia.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.