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Off the turnpike: Hiking the Garden State

I am not normal. I am destined for a desk job in an air conditioned office, writing code all day, but on the other hand I love being outside in nature.  Hiking (Or short trekking, as if I had my way, the map and GPS would only be backup), rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, fishing, camping (Which I don’t get to ever do it seems) and now I’ve added geocaching to the list. I’m also damn proud of my state as I state here, the state is not everything people say, there are no toxic waste dumps, and everything is not off the turnpike, and there are hundreds of miles of hiking.

I recently moved into an apartment for college. If you follow me on twitter or know me, then you know more details about that and maybe the area. It’s in the New Jersey Skylands, or the Highlands, depending on your discipline., which is a prime spot for hiking. Just a dozen or so miles from the Appalachian trail (AT), which provides 72 miles of trails coming from New York State into New Jersey slightly North if High Point in Montague, down to Mt. Tammany, a 1526 foot peak. Across from Mt. Minsi, it ends the southern portion of the AT in New Jersey, and its a popular short day hike. Easily done in a day, even coming from points as far as Cape may, it’s one of the better hikes in New Jersey, but as I’ve come to find, not the best. I’m sure you may want maps and more info on these hikes, and I’ll list info for all hikes mentioned here at the very button of the page. Read the rest of this entry

New Jersey!

This is an essay I wrote for a History Of New Jersey Class. It’s mine, if you find it online while grading my homework, it’s because I put it there. Please enjoy it either way.

“New Jersey has it all. If you want something, look for it in Jersey. The best parts of New York in actually in New Jersey, the Giants and Jets play here, the Statue of liberty is ours, the our food will actually pass a health inspection. We’re the dinner capital of the world, and if you’re looking for a quick bite of each anywhere south of I-195, every town has a Wawa, which are magically places filled with amazing food, inexpensive coffee, and subs the New Yorker’s would kill for.

We have the shore, or beach as you probably know it, and the mountains, and a large pine forest called the Pine Barrens, and a third of the state is state or county parks. You’re never more than 20 minutes from somewhere to fish or hike and places to kayak or hunt aren’t too much further out of the way. In a long day, you can go from hiking in the mountains, to swimming at the shore, and still have time to sit down and eat at a 24 hour diner for dinner and take a trip down the scary Shades of Death or Clinton Roads on the way back home. And I guarantee between the music on at the diner or the radio in the car, you won’t go a day without hearing from any of the musicians from New Jersey, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, or even the Jonas Brothers.

The parkway and turnpike will not get you everywhere and most people couldn’t tell you “what exit” they live near. Largely the State Highways are the preferred routes. Some like 57 are mostly scenic while others like 38 are built up. The roads have names but no one ever uses them. And it is never socially acceptable to say “The 57”. It’s 57, 295, 38. We’re in too much of a hurry to add the extra “the” to the roads. No matter where in the state you are, you’re never far from 206, which will get you to and from the beach area easily.

We also drive better than anyone else. Yes we might drive a bit fast, but the Stateys generally leave us alone for reasonable speeds, and some of us do forget an occasional turn signal, but when it comes to using jug handles and we always know what exit gets you where you want to go, usually be name and by landmark of the closest fast food restaurant.

As for the “Real” housewives and the ‘shore, most of them are New York transplants. New Jersey has everything, hoodlums and fist pumping jackasses are included in that, but are by no means a majority. Guess they came here because we really do have everything. If it weren’t for all the tolls to leave jersey and their inability to get a real job, they’d have left the state already.”

I’m from New Jersey and proud of it. Don’t like it? Get out of the state. This guy has the right idea.

Open Letter to Governor Christie on the funding for REBEL

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Dear Governor Christie and whomever else it may concern,

I know you are in a tough position with the budget, but there are somethings that just should not be cut, because the good they do much outweighs the price to keep them running.

REBEL, is just such an organization. Mainly funded from the fruits of many tobacco lawsuits, REBEL takes money from the tobaccos companies and and uses it to help enlighten people to the evils they cause. REBEL is a great help to the people of New Jersey.  Through REBEL, teenagers get to have fun on the trips and retreat, be involved in a program they can directly contribute to, and get to see the differences they make, in the lives of smokers, and young people who tobaccos companies illegally target.  They also get to talk directly to their peers about it, see their reactions, and are trusted as friends, instead of corny overpaid TV and Radio ads, or sad attempts like the WE card to cut back on tobacco use.

That’s the bonus. The kids involved enjoy this, as well as being able to have a direct impact, without paying for Ads and won’t work anyway.  I personally have done 10 mini-MTLS (Mini tobacco learning symposiums) Teaching freshmen in high school the dangers of smoking, not sounding like a corny advertisement, but talking to them, as they would ask an older friend for advise on college. They listen, and they respect our voices, because we are people their age talking to them are their friends and peers. We Talk, they listen. I believe we have a better effect on them than parents, ads and counselor do, because we know our stuff, provide relevant, interesting and up to date information, and deliver in in such a way that we grab and hold their attention, but are still respected as their friends and peers.

The teachers also listen when we talk. After my school added its zero tolerance tobacco policy, teachers were no longer permitted to sneak smoke breaks. A Teacher who had a lot of influence on me, switched to gum and has quit, because of the rules several of us have gotten enacted. Several other teachers have, last I saw, but back on how often they smoke, and are trying to ease into quiting. This was also done, because of REBEL and two students who helped enact a comprehensive tobacco policy at our school with the help of our moderator and Burlington county REBEL adviser.

I am a strong believer in the anti-tobacco movement. I picked it up from my dad, who smoked on and off for several years, never became addicted, but eventually realized it effected his breathing, his running, and overall mentality. He told me from an early age what it did to him, even for the very little time he smoked. He quit as soon as he made the connection between his health problems and smoking, and was one of the lucky ones that was able to quit. Its a good thing he did, because my mothers always told him, if he had smoked when they met, she would not have acknowledged his existence.

I’ve been a rebel member for 3 years (From the time my school started rebel until I graduated), and even thought my college does not have a REBEL chapter, I still help out and support rebel at every chance. I have 3 brothers who are active in rebel as well, two of which spent some time in REBEL 2 in grade school. I was proud to, as a new member be included on signing a petition that helped pass the New Jersey Clean air act, and have gone to several REBEL conventions, county meeting, and help out for out school meetings.  Most of those mini MTLS’ I did, were coming back as a alumni, to help teach these kids about the dangers of tobacco.

REBEL plays several roles. One, teaching the members about anti-tobaccos so they know better for use later in life. Two, teaching fellow students and being active in the youth community promoting tobacco free lifestyles and showing the harm it does in order to keep young people from ever trying it to begin with.  Members are also included on helping to reform rules in schools to create a comprehensive tobacco policy. And lastly, We take the knowledge and skills outside of the youth and school community to our older friends, family members are others that we care about, and try to get them to quit by teaching them, what they were never taught growing up.

In my school REBEL worked with another club, that promoted generally healthy lifestyles, free of drinking and drugs. When we formed rebel,  most of us in the other club, joined REBEL because it promoted the same ideals were were already living, and allowed us to help others as well as have fun.  Some of my best memories of high school came from trips and events that involved REBEL, from rocking climbing, to hiking and camping, to teaching a class of 30 freshmen about smoking and seeing their faces as the come to the realization of how back it actually is for them.  It has also given me a chance to meet a lot of new people from other schools, who I never would’ve meet otherwise, as well as grow closer to some old friends through the time we spent together and common interests.

From a monetary standpoint just think of what little REBEL costs to run. Compare that to the money saved from health bills further down the line. You’ve got the statistics, take a look at what it costs a person to smoke for a lifetime, both in cost of tobacco, and health care, its more than it costs to have a few preventative measures in place. Then again, health care costs may not actually be too high, the tobacco will probably kill them before it gets to that point.

So Governor Christie, I’m asking you, leave some funding in there for REBEL, You get your money’s worth. Free spokesmen and women, who believe int he message and work better than any paid advertisement ever does, who take their time and effort to help smokers, the young people who are targeted by tobacco companies, and people in general, who no longer have to sit in a diner and smell cigarette smoke polluting the air. This is one investment you can’t afford to turn down.

If I didn’t believe in the cause, do you think I would’ve taken my time to write you this letter?  Help us make New Jersey a better place by funding REBEL, and promoting a tobacco free, not just smoke free, lifestyle starting at an early age.

Again with the cuts? [REBEL]

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Surprise surprise, Governor Christie is trying to cut more programs, along with 820 millions from education. Once again, he’s striking at something I care about, and I was asked by an old club moderator to write a letter to him and someone else about it, begging for the program, REBEL [ Reaching Everyone by Exposing Lies – an anti tobacco group run by students] , not to be killed.

So again, trying to get as much attention to these issues as possible, I will publish the full and uncensored letter, as well as send it to the local paper, the supervisor of REBEL and Governor Christie.

If you have been effected by REBEL, either having fun while in it, helped out with it, helped someone quit, or feel you made a difference in someone’s life anyway through REBEL, please comment and share your stories, with me, Governor Christie, and the world.

More on the cuts posted over here.