Ben Blinder: In Verona and Around the World

Comments, insights and more regarding Verona, NJ and elsewhere…

AZ – WTF? (That means, “Excuse me, Arizona, but you don’t have a clue”)

Posted by Ben on February 27, 2014

My thoughts exactly @yahav_paris99

I won’t recap the bill, the outcry from Arizona business owners (most of whom were actually against it) and the eventual veto by the Governor (because it was “bad for business”, not because it was bigoted, foolish and takes away 50+ years of equal rights progress in this country).  I will express amazement that variations of this same bill are passing through legislatures in twelve more states (, and that some people are still arguing that the AZ bill was NOT discriminatory, but just allowed people to refuse service to some other people because of their personal beliefs… duh, that is pretty much the definition of discrimination, fellas.  Don’t they realize that if a gay couple wants a wedding cake and they want to buy it from a Christian bakery, by selling them the cake the baker is not endorsing their lifestyle, he is just… wait for it… SELLING THEM A CAKE.  And to put the shoe on the other foot, my dry cleaner is Chinese and could be a Buddhist, so am I endorsing a Buddhist lifestyle by shopping there rather than at another dry cleaner?  I don’t think so.  Thus endeth the lesson.


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September 11th 20xx: What time is it?

Posted by Ben on September 12, 2012

PhotoWe live in a polarized world, my friends.

Everything is either black or white. The current president is either the best thing since Christmas morning or the worst abomination on the face of the planet.  You are either “fer me or agin’ me”.  The commemoration of September 11th is…

Well, what is it?  A catharsis of emotions, a tribute to fallen heroes, a thumb to the nose of the terrorists?  Or rubbing salt in the wounds, an annoyance to those who wish to move on, a tribute to martyrs?  And the question I heard MANY times yesterday – is it time to move on and stop the commemorations every 9/11?

Words are not always easy to write, and although I am not a first responder nor did I lose a family member in the attacks, I do live in the shadow of the towers (figuratively speaking), I did witness (from my car window, driving home from work) building 7 fall at the end of the day and my cousin was actually on the NYC subway below the towers when the first plane hit (he made it safely to the other side, to Brooklyn, but was stuck there after the towers fell), so I have a relatively balanced perspective on the issue.  I can tell you that around here emotions still run high, and I also know that in places father afield, many people have the “enough already” expression when the TV coverage turns to 9/11.

So what is right?  What should we do?

I’ll tell you, friends.  We do exactly what we are doing and let people choose the level of engagement that makes them feel most comfortable.  In our small town of Verona, the memorial ceremony was brief (literally 15 minutes), respectful, poignant and powerful, and directly related to the tragedy at large while tied to the immediate loss of two Verona residents.  Later I watched some of the CBS News TV coverage of the “reading of the names” in NYC, and it had EXACTLY the same feeling: respectful, poignant and powerful, and directly related to the tragedy at large while tied to the immediate loss of the relatives of the readers.  Why in God’s name would we change this?  For those who watched any ceremony, local or national, and were moved by it, then good – it was indeed a catharsis of emotions, a tribute to fallen heroes, a thumb to the nose of the terrorists.  For those who could not bear to watch or had no interest, also good – they stayed home, turned off the TV, folded the morning paper, and that’s fine as well.  For those who wanted to attend a ceremony but could not for work-related or personal reasons, there were plenty of opportunities for quiet contemplation throughout the day.  In the end, those who felt “enough, already” could go on about their day, while those who needed a powerful yet respectful memorial ceremony had that opportunity, and thus calling for the government to “stop making such a big deal about 9/11” makes no sense.  Many of us still NEED these ceremonies to remind us, strengthen us and heal us, and as long as this need still exists, the ceremonies must continue.

Posted in In Verona | Comments Off on September 11th 20xx: What time is it?

Congratulations to the new Louie!

Posted by Ben on July 18, 2012

The newest VRS lieutenant

This week, my wife Karen was promoted to the rank of lieutenant by the Verona Rescue Squad.  She has been a loyal member and EMT of the VRS for three years, and has been serving as acting lieutenant of her Thursday night crew for the last few months.  Way to go, Karen!

Posted in In Verona | Comments Off on Congratulations to the new Louie!

The morning commute just got a whole lot BETTER!

Posted by Ben on March 23, 2012

Since 1986, I have been commuting by car every morning into the sun (toward NYC) and again into the sun going home at the end of the working day.  If I had a nickel for each driver I’ve seen sitting in the left lane without sunglasses or a sun visor in the “down” position, who was driving at 15 miles per hour, squinting furiously and causing huge traffic jams, I’d be a very rich man.  Well, my long strange trip has ended!  On Monday, we completed our office relocation from Northvale (NJ) to Denville (NJ), and now my drive is due west in the morning and due east coming home.  No more sun glare!  No more traffic jams!  No more idiots hovering in the left lane!  (Well, all of these things actually still exist, but there are so few of them that they can be safely ignored.)  Life, at least for this week, has definitely improved.

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Where in the world is Ben? Edmonton, Canada

Posted by Ben on October 13, 2011

Ah, Canada in the summertime!  Green trees abound and not a snowflake to be seen.  Come back in a few months, however, and Edmonton can be MINUS 40 DEGREES (Fahrenheit or Celsius, take your pick).  On a short trip recently to the University of Alberta, it was on the positive side of the temperature scale and very pleasant.  The trick will be to return after the start of hockey season but before the snow hits!

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And one more thing — FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!

Posted by Ben on July 29, 2011

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

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Where in the world is Ben? Part 2: Spain

Posted by Ben on July 29, 2011

Yes, this was my actual hotel.  Barcelona?  No.  Madrid?  Nope.  I was in the beautiful port city of Vigo, a city of about 300,000 located not too far from the edge of Portugal and built apparently on the side of a mountain rising up from the shoreline.  It’s a good thing I kept in Lehigh-walking shape (look it up, frosh), because every place we walked seemed to be straight up the steep streets.  I was here on business, on the company dime, so no chance to hop on one of the frequent European cruise ships that dock here and sail away, but it was interesting to tour through the city with my colleagues from Mumbai in search of the only Indian restaurant in Vigo.  It was a great three days — fresh fish, a cool sea breeze, you just can’t beat it.  Want to learn more?  (Of course you do.)  Here you go:  🙂

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Where in the world is Ben? Part 1: Switzerland

Posted by Ben on July 29, 2011

Zürich, a strangely odd city, yet one of my favorites.  On one hand, you have the clockwork-precision trains, the high-finance banks, the hugely expensive jewelry shops with watches that cost more than my house.  On the other hand, you have the mix of Swiss, British and Spanish pubs, the hotels with kegs offering free Swiss apple juice, the posters advertising all sorts of rock concerts.  Ah, but I will not be back any time soon as I have transferred responsibility for our partnership with a Swiss actives company to one of my colleagues, so for now, I will have to get my fondue fix elsewhere.

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Where in the world is Ben? The UK

Posted by Ben on June 19, 2011

Big Ben, of course

A week-long trip to England brought me to three cities — London, Leeds and Manchester.  London was great, as always — I stayed in a cool boutique hotel (Hotel Indigo — look it up) near Paddington Station, surrounded by great pubs and restaurants, and only a few blocks’ walk from Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.  Next up was Leeds, a nondescript town about 4 hours north of London, and then on to Manchester (home of Man U), a gritty urban city if there ever was one, before heading home.  The English are a great people; they are kind and generous, and quite helpful in recommending just the right beers to try.  Unusually for me, my colleague and I DROVE the entire trip, forsaking the Tube, trains and taxis due to the large distances between our appointments, and it was lucky for me that I wasn’t the one behind the wheel trying to stay on the “wrong” side of the road.  Ah, well, nobody was hurt in the making of this trip, and therefore — except for the excruciating 5-hour delay flying home due to the tremendous storms in NJ, and the embarrassment of shopping for “Will and Kate” souvenirs for my girls — it was another fantastic visit across the pond.

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Where in the world is Ben? Las Vegas

Posted by Ben on June 8, 2011

The Strip

Las Vegas — what an odd place.  I was there for a business/scientific conference and after the technical presentations and lectures I certainly enjoyed the food, gambling and street performers, but no shows this time.  Celebrity sightings included Tori Spelling (at least I think it was her), somebody who was the absolute spitting image of Michael Jackson, and all the Elvises you care to imagine.  The light and water show at the Bellagio was visible from my hotel window at Bally’s; that was fun to watch.  And just prior to the conference, I spent a day with two of my favorite people, Bruce and Dania, eating a lot of ice cream and watching them clean up at the roulette tables.  But on the OTHER hand, Vegas seemed to be strangely lifeless, full of tourists, beggars, escort-service rustlers, itinerant musicians of dubious talent and more concrete than I expected, and it was NOT cheap.  On the list of vacation spots, I would rate it a 4 and as a business destination a solid 5, but despite all of the thousands of people milling about shoulder to shoulder, it struck me as a lonely place.

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