Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back from vacation...

And I just wanted to check in with you and show you a pic or two of what I was enjoying on my trip back home to St. Thomas, VI. Right now I am swamped trying to get back to my normal routine but wanted to ensure that I touch the following topics in the coming blogs so much I am going to put it out there so you can hold me to it.

Pending blog topics
1. Inflation (rice, gas, etc.)
2. Politics (primary, taxes)
3. NBA (is it back?)

Vacation Pics
St. Thomas Harbor from Mafolie Hill

Magens Bay from Mountain Top

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Go tell my enemies...

...that I'm on the Rock. Mavado got on it, then Jay-Z heard and got on it ASAP, and not to be outdone, Sen. Obama heard and got on it for the Easter Weekend. I mean, we both knew it was just a matter of time for me right?

I'm on the Rock (St. Thomas, VI)!
I'm on the Rock, on the Rock....
St. Thomas-V-I, St. Thomas-V-I....
Jehovah guide me, I'm on the Rock....
Go tell my enemies, I'm on the Rock....
Selassie guide me, and mi neva look back....
Cause ah me dem can't stop....

Well not just yet, but I do touchdown tomorrow for the Carnival celebrations, see the christening of my newest nephew and namesake, and to indulge in three of my favorite things: warm sun, clear blue seawater and white coral sand. Don't hate, congratulate. You see, this ticket was bought way back in January when it was below zero here in mASS and I'm guessing you weren't hating on me then.

And since you are not a hater, you can wish me safe travels and sing along with me as I embark on my "Cultural Excape for 2008" because nothing is more fab-u-lous than Carnival in St. Thom-as, me go tear down Jouvert!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Morton's, it's not just salt anymore

Up until this past weekend, I have lived my life visualizing the blue round cylindrical shaped container with the girl holding the umbrella whenever someone mentioned the word, "Morton's." And the funny thing is that up until the writing of this blog I never noticed that they don't use the possessive, it just says, "Morton Salt." In any case, I no longer associate the name Morton with salt after endulging in Morton's Steakhouse's 2 can dine for $99 promo.

I'll get right to the meat of the review and say that the steak isn't as good as Ruth's. However, the ambiance and presentation was slightly comparable to that of Smith & Wollensky. But on to the deal of which myself and my beautiful date along with the married couple from our Flemings experience enjoyed.

First off, Morton's is conveniently located in the shopping area of Boston, probably a block or two from the Prudential Center Mall on Boylston Street. Great service began from the moment we exited the car with the valet staff who promptly took the car and sheltered us under an umbrella to make sure their cash, oops I meant clients, didn't get wet. Upon arriving inside we were promptly seated and a huge hot and might I add delicious baked bread was placed on the table. That bread, the monstrosity, somehow managed to whittle away to crumbs in a relatively short time. For salad, the ladies had the Morton's salad and the guys had the Caesar's salad. As for the complimentary anchovies provided with the Morton's salad the ladies decided to pass. :)

The next course was the steak and seafood entree of which we dined on Colossal Shrimp Alexander, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and medium done single cut filets (the ladies, of course chose to have their steaks butterflied and done medium well). For sides we had mash potatoes, steamed brocoli, hashbrown potato, grilled asparagus, and creamed spinach. What I failed to mention above is that before you select what you will be dining on for the evening they bring all the raw ingredients (including the steaks and 3lb live lobsters) around on a cart for your viewing pleasure. And based on what I saw, they must have their own farm because those must have been the biggest, freshest and healthiest looking veggies I ever saw. And they tasted just as good as they looked. Ha, I just had a flashback to a point in the evening when I commented on the size of the asparagus spears claiming it looked, dare I say, phallic. Oh yeah, the steaks were good but nothing spectacular. Hey, what can I say? Ruth's Chris and their 500 degree plates has me spoiled, ROTTEN.

Now onto what impressed everyone at the table, dessert! BOTH the chocolate cake and the key lime cake were absolutely fabulous. I mean, they refer to their chocolate cake as legendary in their menu but who would have guessed they were telling the truth. And as for the key lime pie, I must admit that I was surprisingly overwhelmed. I demolished it. I have never even had key lime pie that tasted good enough for me to eat more than half of a small slice before. I practically inhaled the generous slice that was placed before me at Morton's however.

All in all, I would have to say Morton's has some of the best desserts of anywhere that I have had the opportunity to dine, great freaking sides and seafood, but nothing exceptional when it comes to their steaks.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I am willing to lobby hard for anyone who simplifies the tax code. I mean, why all this crap of deductions, exemptions and subtract the lower of line 8 or 9 from line 10?? What is that crap about? You would think with the all the advances in tax preparation software, online tax portals, e-filing and the simple fact that I have been doing this for a very long time now the process should be easy right? WRONG! This thing is getting worse by the minute and it says a lot coming from me since I don't itemize.

I am so down for a national sales tax or just a flat tax across the board on everything. This process is dare I say, "taxing" on the mind, body, and wallet/pocketbook. I guess I just needed to rant about this for a second or two after agonizing over my taxes for the last 4 hours. And yeah, I owe but it is perfectly within my acceptable range. Could have been much worse.

I think next year I may have to go see a tax professional. Ya think?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Late lunch today...

Nothing special really, was just busy with some stuff and ended up leaving for lunch at 2pm. And you know what, not that I work in the city or anything but everything was just more calm, cool, and collected just like in the movie I Think I Love My Wife with Chris Rock. Of course I have to admit that today is the best weather (71 degrees and sunny) day we have had for 2008 in mASS. BTW, that movie is better than ratings would lead you to believe.

In any case, on the drive to my lunch spot Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler started playing on the radio. And look, at first I tried fronting like I wasn't going to sing along but between me and you, by the 7th, "Turnaround" I had turned up the volume to full blast and was singing at the top of my lungs, "EVERY NOW AND THEN I FALL APART." What can I say? That song OWNS my machismo. I forget all about acting tough and playing it cool. Just check out some of the lyrics if you don't believe me.

3rd verse
And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight!

And doesn't she sing her a$$ off too? Large up Bonnie Tyler anywhere she deh!

PS: Damn, she said, "Forever's gonna start tonight!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Meeting: Mary & Jane

The time has come for me to REALLY introduce these two. I have known them for a very long time and I am convinced that even though they meet, talk, & interact with each other ALL THE FREAKING TIME they have never truly met. These two are single heterosexual females in the 25-35 age group who happen to be in my Friends & Family network: Mary & Jane.

The best way to sum up Mary is to say that the only thing greater than her potential was her desire to be a mother. So even though she was single and not in a steady relationship, she took matters into her own hands. Roughly 9 months later, Mary delivers a beautiful baby girl. Fast forward X years later when Mary realizes that her expenses are growing faster than her wages and just the mere mention of the word, "daycare" sends her into panic mode to figure out how she will pay this week's bill. After much calculations, Mary realizes that for her wages to keep up with inflation she will need to complete additional schooling to which she quickly enrolls into a respected part-time program. Sadly though, after struggling through her first semester she is quickly becoming overwhelmed with being a part-time student, full-time employee and full-time single mother. I mean, wouldn't you?

Jane, who has an equal amount of potential as Mary has already realized 90%+ of said potential by attaining her graduate degree and rapidly advancing up the corporate ladder. Hell, in a few more years Jane will be partner/VP/Group President/Editor-in-Chief. But like Mary, Jane's biggest desire is the joy of motherhood. However, unlike Mary, Jane either walked the straight and narrow or just got lucky. But now that Jane is over the age of 30 she envies Mary tremendously. Even though Jane is now a major mover-and-shaker living in a busy city, she is seriously contemplating what Mary has done. It has reached the point where Jane is now off the pill and researching pregnancy risks for women in her age group. After-all-man (another phrase from my Mom), Jane doesn't want to wake up one day and look at the clock only to see her time has passed.

Typical Mary & Jane Meeting:
Jane: Hey Mary, how is the baby?
Mary: Wonderful. Everyday I thank God for my beautiful gift of a baby girl. Check out these latest pictures.
Jane: Oh my God, she is soooooooo cute.
Mary: Yeah, she gets it from her Mom, of course.
Jane & Mary: [Over an hour of laughing, giggling, cheesing, & showing more teeth than two donkey eating sugarcane.]
Jane: Kiss the baby for me. Bye.
Mary: I will. Take care.

Why do both Mary and Jane tell ME the real deal but front with each other constantly? Think about it for a second, they tell ME of all people?? In any case, I don't have anything against the decisions made by either Jane or Mary since everyone has to pave their own path in life. I mean, these are tough personal choices that even my know-it-all self would never pretend to comprehend. But I do know this, they should speak to each other honestly and openly. I'm guessing there may be some learning, growing, understanding or sharing of one of those things that I read about in fairy tales. Oh yeah, I remember the name of that thing now: EMOTIONS.

I will go out on a limb (don't rake me over the coals too much) and say that while I see this behavior in ladies a lot I rarely, if ever, see it in men. Each one teach one doesn't have to be restricted to clothes & shoes shopping ladies. :) I love you same way.

PS: To all the Marys out there,
Keep Ya Head Up cause Holding The Strain cares if don't nobody else cares.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Full disclosure

I'm being objective when I say that I think I am probably the most objective person you have ever met. You feel me? :) And to prove my objectivity to you I will list my corporate biases:

1. American Express
Love the company but I love the Chairman/CEO even more. My favorite & most used credit cards have all been American Express. For example, in 2007 my card of choice was the JetBlue Amex of which I was able to get 2 roundtrip tickets in less than 12 mos. And now in 2008, my card of choice is the SimplyCash Amex (5% on gas, cell phone & office supplies; 1% on everything else) of which so far I have already pulled roughly $150 in cash back. As for the CEO/Chairman, Ken Chenault, I can't say enough about dude. Closest thing I have to a role model alive. I have been following his career since around 1998 and dude shines brighter each passing year. What more can I say?

2. ExxonMobil
Love the company, love management, love the gas. I know folks are reading this and wondering why would I love an oil company. Well look, I started drinking their Kool-Aid back in like 1999 when they were just Exxon and everybody was talking technology companies solely. Back then they would send me their newsletters outlining their plans to cut costs, increase dividends and increase shareholder value like every company would. But what they did different from the rest was they would provide timeframes and report back on those stated goals. Trust me, sounds simple but so few do it. They reported on successes and failures. And more often than not they would exceed their goals by huge amounts. When they said they would buy Mobil and cut X billions in costs in Y years I strongly doubted them. Hell, they came back announcing they had cut X+1 billions in Y-1 years. And right around then was when shite started popping off for the oil industry and they were primed to capitalize. Gotta give them their props. Also, as part of their industry leading technology I have had SpeedPass too long to even remember when I first got it...probably 2000-2001 or so.

3. Pfizer
I would like to believe they are my best long term play as an investment and as the guys who may find a cure to what ails us. But honestly, they have been letting me down over the last two years or so. I guess I have been drinking their Kool-Aid for so long that it is hard for me to admit that maybe the good times are gone. I mean, a company this stocked with talent and genius can't be held down for too long?? I think right now the company is moving sideways but I still see them rising to the occasion like they are so famed for doing in the past. Maybe I just don't know how to let go but I have to go with my gut on these guys.

4. AT&T
Me and Ma Bell go way back. This was my dream company to work for as a kid. You know, one of the reasons I studied Electrical Engineering in the first place was to one day be a Bell Labs Engineer (which later became Lucent which later became Alcatel). But that never happened and even though AT&T today isn't the AT&T I dreamed of as a kid the bias still lives. I guess it will all make sense when I get my 3G iPhone. Hey, what can I say? Biases die hard. :)

5. ING Direct
Large up savers anywhere dem deh! Via ING Direct Orange Checking and Savings I earn more interest a month than I earned in my prior 8 years with Bank Of America cumulative. Then lo and behold, ING went out and copped ShareBuilder, whom I have been using as my primary brokerage for the last 4 years, which further cemented my relationship with ING. I remain at this juncture however, totally ignorant of the company as an investment but you can rest assured I don't plan on finishing out 2008 that way.

6. Vanguard
Love em, trust em, and most of all I respect them. Transferred my Roth IRA over to them roughly a year ago from Ameriprise. Lets just say, the whole process was a breeze, free, and did I mention they are FREE? I mean, I was paying Ameriprise like $40/year in custodial fees and all the fund choices they gave me were like 2x the expense fees of the Vanguard fund choices. Talk about a no-brainer. So now I pay ZERO in custodial fees and 0.50% in total weighted fund expense fees.

Realizing your biases can be very helpful. Trust me, it took some time for me to realize that I was quick to listen to someone calling from Amex (which is how I got suckered into Ameriprise in the first place) but quick to hang up the phone on a MasterCard rep even when the latter was the better deal. Brand names go a long way in influencing judgment. Being cognizant of this can be very helpful against the marketing machines we all face each and every day.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Great explanation of subprime mess

Sometimes the most honest truth is found in comedy. The following comedic video is a very accurate explanation of the whole subprime mess. Not only that, you have to give these guys their due since this video was made in October, 2007 YET they manage to reference all the key players such as Bear Stearns in the video. However, like my Mom always says, "If you say one, you say two." So I have to knock them for picking a Black man for their example? Geez, as if Black men don't already have enough on their plate. Enjoy.

The Last Laugh - Subprime

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Free Black Chiney CD

Did someone say FREE? Yes I did. After getting scooped to the freely available latest Black Chiney CD I have been enjoying it tremendously for the last few days. The least I could do is pass the blessings on to YOU.

The Black Chiney Show - Black Chiney Vol. 8.9

I must admit though that the download server is relatively slow but free is still FREE. And of course, this is some hardcore dancehall so it goes without saying there will be some explicit lyrics. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Child support is a killer!

Sounds crazy right? Well, according to the Associated Press, 39-y-o Sean Levert, a third of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, died after falling ill while serving a jail term. Why was Sean Levert in jail? Well, it appears that Sean has 3 kids aged 11, 15, and 17 who he has not been supporting to the tune of $89K. Sean, who was sentenced to serve 22 months last week died on Sunday.

And yeah, I feel justified in calling this death by child support. Hey, is it any more or any less crazy when we call 95-degree weather a killer heat wave because some seniors chose not to crack a window? Or when we call some snow flakes a killer snow storm because some kid decides it is time to do the Tokyo Drift in his Mom's Honda Accord?

Things you stand to lose via child neglect:
1. Your child(ren)
2. Your money
3. Your freedom
4. Your life!

While everybody's situation is entirely unique I hope the thought of losing any or all of the above items motivates you the same way it motivates me.