Friday, December 31, 2010

Mastering the Art of Divorce:

Wow... We are here at the threshold of a new decade and what a decade the prior one has been-- counting up from 2001 to 2010!

Here is an excerpt of the Sixth transformative event. The other ten will follow shortly

I am mastering the Art of the Divorce: Doing it Right--Creating a Win-Win situation for all.

Realizing that my fourth marriage was on the rocks and draining me of precious energy, I moved out of state and left my ex on sound footing. During the course of our relationship of 10 years, I realized that the reason for our union was so that we could adopt a 12 year old daughter from China.

.....After a year of dealing with severe anger management issues, with Pam residing in a rehab center, my moving out temporarily, Pam re-adopted by a loving family who had 7 other adoptees (including one Mandarin speaking child of similar age), my then taking more permanent digs across the Hudson and East Rivers, my moving back for an attempted reconciliation, my ex sustaining a hip fracture, her getting permanent disability insurance as well as a hefty state retirement pension.....I moved far enough away to make it clear that the romance was over.

Soon, I learned that Sam had turned 18 and chose to live with her first adoptive mom, who now provided her with her own wheels and a college education. Sam does call me from time to time to tell me how her life is progressing.

I am happy to have given her a new life here in America after a most unhappy one at the orphanage in China.

Forthcoming is a self-published guide on how to preserve friendly relations with exes after the divorce and start your new life on the path to happiness (for all) and success.

Apple Customer Support Achieves New Highs: Celebrating Five Years with my Trusty iBook G4

Apple iBook G4

My trusty iBook G4 has given me 5 years of uninterrupted service. And hopefully will continue to perform up to its highly touted standard.

Thanks to Apple Support systems global teams...

I say 'teams' because from the Philippines support associate who set up my appointment to the two sales associates who helped me at the Stamford Town Center Mall--I must say I am most delighted with their help in getting my Apple up and running again with minimum hassle.

Originally purchased at the Apple Store at the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY (the closest Apple Retail store to my location in Fairfield County at the time), this little workhorse has taken trips with me to California (where iPhoto came in handy), to New Hampshire and to my teaching positions in New York and Connecticut. Always there, always reliable and upgraded with twice the original ram.

Many of the blogs I have researched and written were completely effortlessly and seamlessly with the aid of my trusty G4.

The only flaw that it has is the design in the power cord, replaced twice in the last year. (Apple has since created a magnetized power connection cord for the portable Macs which does eliminate the problem.)

My service assistant at the Stamford store diagnosed my repeated power failure immediately and was gracious enough--to not only admit the flaw--but replaced the cord gratis. (the first time it was out of pocket to the tune of $84 with tax). He said there was no problem with the logic board-- music to my ears.

Thank you Apple and to the 20 valiant red-shirted Apple assistants, who seemed to outnumber the customers.

Happy New Year to All!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stamford and Environs Hit Hard with Fast Moving Storm

The latest Storm to hit Stamford Dumped over 2 Feet in Some Locations

No one wants to know where this latest storm came from.

She just blew in as predicted.

We know that it had its origins in the southern Atlantic states.
For indeed the Carolinas were hit with about 6 inches of powder as this southeaster worked its way up the coast.

And we are also told that it had its origins in the Sierra Nevadas, some parts of which have received up to 190 inches--that's nearly 18 feet of snow-- in recent weeks.

In any case, our southern New England storm hit us with a vengeance dumping about 2 feet of snow in Stamford between noon on Sunday and Monday morning.

A visit to our local Grade A Market at Newfield Commons early Sunday revealed a jungle of last minute, pre-storm shoppers stocking up on necessities and the lines at the checkout counters were 20 people deep.

A friend of mine popped in, saw me twelfth on line and did a 180 degree turn telling me there's no way I'm shopping here.

We Stamfordites are a tough lot. Walking back to my home after moving the car around the corner-- so the that the snow removing crew could clean up our driveway-- I encountered Mr. Dixon; he's an 85 year-old retired teacher who lives at the top of the block. To my surprise, there he was out shoveling snow.

He celebrates sixty-two years of marriage in mid-January!

His son Ken, the legislative writer for the Advocate, urged him to stay indoors for he was on his way over to visit and clear the way for pop to access his car. But, no way, Dixon senior just had to get out and show his New England independent spirit.

Luckily, nobody in our neighborhood lost power this time around. Thousands were stranded without heat and power for days back in mid-March this year as a severe storm tore through lower Fairfield County. (see my blog on the Heroes of the March Storm. )

Monday, December 27, 2010

Parting Shots from US Open 2010: Day 9: Wawrinka versus Querry

The day started off at about 80 degrees and the temperature climbed to the high 80's by noon.

Sam Querry (20) delighted the crowd with a near victory over Stan Wawrinka(23)of Switzerland. With the score tied at 2-2 in the fifth set, the crowd began shouting "Sam, Sam- Go Sam, Go Sam" after every winner he scored. For a moment, we all thought he would pull it out, but Wawrinka played tough aggressive tennis to the end finally taking the fifth at 6-4.

This is the second year (in a row) that not a single US player reached the quarters in the 43 year run of the modern era US Open. The US has had at least one player in the quarter-finals for the first 41 years of the Open.

The photos depict a diverse crowd of tennis fans, some texting, some milling about, some eating and most of us engrossed. That's Jusin Gimmelstob at the Tennis Channel booth interviewing the players.

And in case you are wondering who is the player who has his arms raised to form a diagonal--that's Stanislaus Wawrinka celebrating his win-- and the time is 5:52 PM. The match lasted nearly 5 hours.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Great News for Stamford Residents and Motorists: DEP Just Doing Its Work

Great news for Stamford residents and motorists!

No- We are not seeing rolled back gasoline prices to the 1950's at 29 cents per gallon.

That would be great, but those good times are over.

What is good news is that under the direction of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) many of our gas stations are replacing their old leaking storage tanks with newer eco-friendly ones.

You may have seen a number of stations closing (then reopening) along High Ridge Road, Summer Street and Glenbrook Road. The stations are required to comply with DEP directives which effectively shuts them down for about 3-4 months while they make the necessary steps.

This is done to protect our drinking water from pollution.

University of Connecticut Basketball Team Shatters the Record at 89 Straight Wins

In what has to be the greatest day of his life, Coach Gene Auriemma of the UConn ladies basketball team has taken his team to Hoop Heaven with his team's 93-62 romp over Florida State last night at X-L Center in Hartford.

In an earlier blog this year, I confessed my admiration for winning coaches and winning numbers (comparing Auriemma's current record to Mike Ditka's run in the 80's and Buff Donelli's in the 50's and 60's).

Auriemma has just surpassed the previous record held by Coach John Wooden at UCLA who led his bruin hoopsters to 88 consecutive wins between the years of 1971-1974.

The team plays Stanford on December 30; the Cardinals are the last team to beat UConn back in 2008.

Here is Auriemma's resume to date-- by the numbers: 7 national titles, 11 Final Fours, 89 consecutive wins, 746-122 Won-Loss record, .859 win percentage.

By comparison, Wooden teams have 10 National Titles (with 7 in a row) and the coach had an .808 win percentage.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Apple/ Macintosh Magazines Rule the Roost at Borders in Stamford

I just made a quick trip for a strong dose of java at the Borders store on High Ridge in Stamford adjacent to The Chase Bank and the High Ridge Shopping Center off exit 35 on the Merritt.

Borders is my cafe of choice in the North Stamford area for many reasons. (It's not my intention to bore you with what makes the j experience at Borders so enjoyable) In short they have a bold strong brew of Seattle's Best and it's the natural buzz from the j --and not lots of people milling about-- that gives me my mid-morning high.

What made my short stay so enjoyable --10 minutes in all- was a brief visit to the huge seven panel magazine display.

Though my interest has been running lately to Harpers, Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker magazines, today what caught my eye was the computer section. And here one finds a panoply of the magazines that are touting apps and software; taking all this in overwhelmed me. There were perhaps 35-50 in all.

What I discovered is that Apple- centered publications rule the roost.

I counted no less than 13 different publications that focus on Apple products. Here are just a few of them that dominate the wall closest to the cafe: iPhone Handbook (a MacLife presentation), MacWorld (the Ultimate Mac Buyers Guide), MacWorld, MacBook Volume 6, Mac for Beginners (, Apps Magazine (New for iPhone, iPad and iPod), iPhone and iPad, The Essentials Volume 2 and MacLife No. 48.

I did, however spot two android app magazines--so Steve Jobs and Company have some developing competition....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interactivity for Adults and Kids Comes to the Oakland Museum of California

A visit to the Oakland Museum of California turned out to be a very rewarding experience for me and for young children as I soon found out.

Ostensibly, I was drawn to see the Pixar exhibit because so many online respondents gave it rave reviews.

My visit to Pixar was limited to not even five minutes.

You may ask why?

The permanent exhibit stole my attention. And I wound up spending the bulk of my two hours here.

This is because I am drawn to California history having lived up in Paradise California one of the centers of the California gold rush which began in 1849 at Sutter's Creek. The museum has a marvelous collection of gold rush paintings and daguerreotypes that will keep you busy for an hour.

I soon became fixated on two interactive exhibits.

The first centered around Sunset at Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt, a member of the Hudson River School who went out west in the 1870's and 1880's. This particular painting intrigued me because of the lighting-- a sort of miraculous glow emanating from behind two mountains of rock with a stream flowing down the valley. (Click here to see the painting!)

I just happened to pick up a set of earphones next to a sofa facing the painting and was I amazed by the experience that followed. The narrator turned my attention to various foci in the painting-- e.g. the sunset, the blue sky, the pointed peak on the left side, the central grouping of trees, the river, etc, and for next 10-15 minutes elevated my awareness of art and myself -- via an hypnotic voice guiding me through visual sequences that seemed to unlock my unconscious; my experience of this magnificent painting was heightened to such a degree I wanted to repeat the experience.

I kept thinking, if art can uplift our spirits to such a degree, what are the possibilities of exciting a young child's imagination through interactivity?

It didn't take too long to find out. I wandered over to a kids computer installation and witnessed how easy it is for them to discover their innate love of creating images seemingly from nothing and then admiring their products which are then prominently displayed.

As the above two minute video illustrates, the kids can choose their favorite colors from a palette of choices and then hand paint their images below. In minutes they can complete their images and then click finished. In minutes their portraits join thousand of other peers who have preceded them. The audio indicates how excited they are.

What a fabulous way for tweaking both kids and adults appreciation of art!

Bringing Great Works of Art from World Class Museums to Regional Ones in the United States

El Greco's "Pentecost" is the
first work to be on loan to The Meadows Museum in Dallas

Back in early June this year, a short article in the Inside Art section of the Friday New York Times caught my eye entitled Prado has U.S. Alliance.

This art brief announces that the Prado Museum of Madrid has formed a three year partnership with the Meadows Museum of Art at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In effect, SMU will be bearing all costs for bringing -on loan, of course- one major art piece per year to complement its permanent collection of Spanish art dating from the 10th century to the present.

Back in 2004, The Louvre struck a three year deal with High Museum of Atlanta to sponsor 7 exhibitions of its works.

Its great news to hear that these major art venues are forging relationships with American Museums. To share the art works will make the American public more appreciative of art and specific artists in general. The partnership will also make the art-loving public aware that there exists great museums of art outside the United States and hopefully will foster more understanding and cooperations between regional U.S. musuems and lesser known international ones.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kudos to 96.7 FM, the Coast on their Early Sunday AM Talk Show

This past Sunday, I was delighted to hear a fascinating interview at about 6:45AM with both Sherry and Kim from the Stepping Stones Museum, Fairfield County's gem in Norwalk.

What I gathered in at this early hour was the enthusiasm of the two ladies for their recently reopened museum (shut down for 2.5 months) to prepare a new traveling show "Conservation Quest" that is now opening. They spoke about a functioning wind turbine in front of the building and many interactive activities that draw in young people to understand the basics of alternative green energy technologies.

The interview was short and I was hoping to find a podcast on the 96.7 website. Unfortunately, I could not find one. I thus urge the radio station to make these interviews available in archive form.

Nevertheless, my commendations are in order for the exciting interview I was fortunate to catch.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Milton Appreciation Week: Satan's Encounter with the Fires of Hell: Paradise Lost, Book I

Satan/Lucifer, another of Gustave Doré's illustrations
for Paradise Lost by John Milton

Here is our first glimpse of the landscape surrounding the fallen and angels and their leader. What powerful images Milton creates for us.

Satan and his rebellious crew of fallen angels have been "hurl'd headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Sky with hideous ruin and combustion down to bottomless perdition." (Paradise Lost, I: 45-47).

A few lines later the poet writes:

...for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay
mixt with obdurate pride and steadfast hate:
At once as far as Angels ken he views
The dismal situation waste and wild,
A dungeon horrible on all sides round
As one great furnace flam'd, yet those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible,
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe (italics mine)
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur, unconsum'd:
Such place Eternal Justice had prepar'd
For those rebellious, here thir Prison ordained
In utter darkness and thir portion set
As from God and light of Heav'n
As from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole.
(Book I, Verses 54-74)

Just as I focused-in my recent blog- on the woe ( "Nature from her seat Sighing through all Words gave signs of woe Book IX, Verse 84) that Eve abruptly ushered into our universe by her eating the apple from the forbidden tree, so too here, Milton gives us a vivid picture of the sights and pains of woe that Satan first experiences as he plummets from heaven to the burning seas of hell.

Milton draws upon Dante's inscription on the Gates of Hell in the Inferno: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." Milton writes: "And rest can never dwell, hope never comes That comes to all.... but torture without end."

Satan's 'baleful eyes' survey the scene; the dictionary meaning of baleful is malignant or evil in intent. What he takes in is an expanse that covers long distances, miles and miles; he is enveloped in a 'dungeon' a vast prison from which he cannot seemingly escape. Sulphurous flames envelop him and his entourage of fallen angels.

Milton uses a powerful metaphor--'darkness visible' to describe the scene. The phrase is an oxymoron, for, indeed, how can darkness be visible. I think what Milton is hinting at is the inner state of mind, the dark evil, the inner blackness that permeates Satan and his crew. The persistent flames of hell burn bright and eternal to reveal the depravity of its denizens that will never be concealed.

In other words, light exposes evil.

Milton describes their 'Prison ordained in utter darkness.' This is a reference, I believe, to Satan being 'ordained' or self-crowned) the Prince of Darkness--at the opposite pole to God, who is embellished by the 'light of heaven.'

In my next blog, I will discuss the powerful physical description of Satan found later in the Book One.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Milton Appreciation Week: Paradise Lost, Book IX The Golden Apple Consumed

William Blake, The Temptation and Fall of Eve (1898)
Illustration of Milton's Paradise Lost

What I will be doing is arbitrarily picking scenes and passages from Milton's poems to show my readers how delightful and hence readable Milton's poetry is.

However much Milton has been vilified over the centuries, his messages are timeless.

To read Milton is to show just how relevant he is

The scene is Eden...

Eve and her husband have been warned not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for in that day they well experience death.

In this passage Eve is giving in to her curiosity and is now tempted by Satan in the guise of a snake to become like the divine in knowledge and wisdom. She has just rationalized that the serpent himself has eaten the forbidden fruit and yet lives.

......, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the Fruit , she pluck'd, she did eat;
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all Worlds gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the Thicket slunk
The guilty Serpent and well might, for Eve
Intent on now wholly on her taste, naught else
Regarded, such delight till then, as seem'd,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge, nor God-head from her thought
(Paradise Lost, Book IX, Verses 780-790)

Forty-five years have passed since I first read Paradise Lost for my graduate seminar in 17th Century Prose and Poetry.

I was deeply impressed by this passage then and am even more moved now. I have become more and more fascinated with how Milton perceives evil in the Bible, in history and during his time.

A few years ago, a brilliant student of mine, in a summer cram course on Western Literature from Gilgamesh to Milton, wrote a brilliant research paper on what recent Milton scholarship has to say about good and evil. (this paper, hopefully, will be the subject of a future blog)

Milton is fascinated with the mother of man. She is living in perfect bliss and harmony with nature, flora and fauna as well as her husband. She is living in a garden of earthly delights. She, no doubt, has no idea of how blissful her state is compared to what she will have to experience after she eats.

From a state of harmony ( Nature is after all attuned to the peace of Paradise), Nature is now thrown out of whack. (italics mine) Renaissance thinkers believed in an ordered state of the stars and universe and this harmony of the spheres is abruptly interrupted.

Milton creates a graphic resonant image of the suffering that will embrace mankind. "Earth felt the wound and Nature from her seat Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe."

I envision Nature as a Supreme Conductor who has until now presided over a universe that runs smoothely like a swiss watch; Nature can also be seen as an orchestrator of a way of life that is predictably serene and orderly.

What a powerful image this is-- and rightly so-- for with one act, mankind is now doomed to pain, suffering and woe.

Woe is only a three letter word. But what a catalog of horrors it entails: Jealousy, hatred, envy, gluttony, incurable disease as HIV, war, stealing, bullying, oppression both mental and physical....

The list goes on and on. In Milton's day, there was bitter rivalry between the High Church represented by the Episcopal Bishops and the reform minded Presbyters; there was a rivalry between Royalty and the rebellious Roundheads led by Oliver Cromwell which resulted in a regicide.

Doesn't this sound a little like the bitter rivalry in our present day America between a beseiged Democratic President and the Republican majority in Congress hell-bent on defeating all the programs that our leader is advancing, from health care reform to extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich as well as the poor.

Milton says it so well. "...all was lost" Paradise was lost. But not forever

Our challenge, today as in Milton's times, is to make the most of our 'fallen state.' to take all the tests of life thrown in our path and overcome our personal battles.

All is not woe for us. As the famous bard once said, "Nothing is but thinking makes it so."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Today is the Birthday of John Milton, Englishman

What better way to celebrate John Milton's birthday (November 9, 1608- November 8, 1674) than to admire one of his best known sonnets, number 19.

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent, which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied,"
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his yoke, they serve him best ; his state
Is Kingly. Thousand at his bidding speed
And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

Enjoy this poem! Reread it out loud dozens of times....Incorporate its message into your psyche....

Its message of humility and patience along the path of achievement--of finding, groping and struggling to fulfill the vision that God establishes and expects of each and everyone of us--has been an inspiration to me at every key stage and juncture on this trek we call life.

What truly underlies the message of this poem?

The theme, I believe, is Milton's profound sense of appreciation of and praise for his Maker. Note, the poet 'fondly' asks 'doth God exact day labor light denied?' We may be lost which path to take to define and give expression to the divine within us; we may have one setback after another as we blindly grope to discover our path(s), our passions that best 'serve' God's purpose for us.

And sometimes, after a major struggle to see the light-- to extract meaning of our daily endeavors-- we might just as well take five, take a time out to cultivate the relationship with the Supreme Creator and, above all, our loved ones!

Perhaps, its time for a weekend retreat, a month vacation from the rat race or even a sabbatical (year) to smell the roses and reconnect with self. How often have we heard: find your burning desire, your major purpose in life and pursue it....

Milton is indeed way ahead of his time....He could not bear being idle. He had to have a constant mission to do, to serve his fellow Englishmen by writing profound literature; he also had to serve the republic as a public servant.

Sonnet 19 was once High School required reading material; and indeed this poem was one my mother loved to quote.

Milton became blind in 1655 and wrote this poem to express his reverence for the supreme being who has given the gifted poet a test, just another test, in order to learn patience to serve 'his master' as best as he could.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Reporting at its Best: "What Good is Wall Street ?" Who is Regulating the Regulators?

Kudos to an informative, provocative article in the November 29th issue of the New Yorker written by John Cassidy.

This article raises many intriguing questions only one of which I will touch on today. (tune in for a further discussion covering issues that Cassidy hints at....)

We might ask: what exactly did the Dodd-Frank Bill do to curb the excesses of a profit-driven excesses of Wall Street in the wake of the global economic tsunami involving marketing bundled mortgages that are the toxic detritus and one sign of an industry run amok, a world economy that is virtually stifled and millions of people thrown out of their once-stable jobs.

Here is a telling illustration of the bull run wild while the rest of the country can only stare sheepishly at the mania.

A credit default swap is a type of derivative used exclusively for speculation. "When an investor or financial institution buys this kind of swap, its doesn't buy a bond itself; it just places a bet on whether the bond will default At the height of the boom, for every dollar banks issued in bonds, they might issue twenty dollars in swaps.'If they did a hundred million dollar bond issue, two billion dollars of swaps would be created and traded.'" {Cassidy quoting Ralph Schlosstein, the C.E.O. of Evercore; the latter has a most impressive resume serving the Treasury Dept under President Carter and Wall Street see page 53}

Cassidy's continues with the folly of this particular derivative: "From the banks' perspective, creating this huge market in side bets (italics mine) was very profitable insanity. By late 2007, the notional value of outstanding credit-default was about SIXTY TRILLION DOLLARS-MORE THAN FOUR TIMES THE SIZE OF THE U.S. GROSS DOMESTIC." (emphasis mine).

Of course, the incentive for selling 60 trillion dollars in these swaps is the huge amount of commissions the financial institution charges its customers.

We might ask what has happened to the traditional function of investment banks, such as Citibank (given a government bailout of $45 Billion in 2008), to raise capital for existing and emerging companies? Cassidy succinctly answers that within the first 9 months of this year "within the investment bank (Citi) about eighty cents of every dollar in revenues came from buying and selling securites, while just fourteen cents of every dollar came from raising capital for companies and advising them on deals."

I urge everyone in the securities business or anyone affected by Wall Street-aren't WE ALL??-- to read this timely article and seriously ask themselves the same question: What Good is Wall Street Doing?

I will return to the issues raised by this timely and penetrating analysis by Mr. Cassidy.

The Westword Student Newspaper at Westhill High School in Stamford Shines with Excellence-

The November issue of the Westword proudly illustrates its front page motto: "The test of good journalism is the measure of its public service"

Three main topics cast their spot light on three subjects that illuminate the value of public service in education: the impact of the Principal's imminent departure for another position, the 3 new Board of Education members plan for reform and lastly the pros and cons of rewarding teachers monetarily for students performance.

In the interests of time and space, I will focus on the main issue: finding a successor to the current Principal.

The lead subject is the impending retirement of Ms. Figluizzi, the Principal at West Hill for the last 12 years, to assume a position downtown as Director of Magnet Schools, a new position created by Superintendent Joshua Starr.

No less than 6 articles--showering encomiums galore -- are devoted to the leadership skills that Ms. Figliuzzi embodies: Read these buy lines to get a sense of the warmth and compassion she has generated and the obvious sense of loss that journalists feel speaking for the student body:
  • The end of an era
  • Hail to the Chief
  • Tribute to Ms. Figliuzzi: Reflecting on the past...Preparing for the future {2 articles}
  • 'My time here had made me very proud' (from an interview conducted by Sam Lagasse)

On page 2, the Editor in Chief Jackie Schechter and Associate Editor Annie Cohen thank their principal for "always budgeting vital funds that help us print" and for allowing editorial independence "not subject to prior review by the administration. Both this and past staffs are immeasurably grateful for and honored by your trust. Your willingness to let us tackle school issues that may often be unpleasant shows your true desire to help improve the Westhill community and to maintain an honest and informed atmosphere among students, faculty and parents."

The Editorial on page 12 reads: 'Figliuzzi should finish out the year.' This is a common sense approach because changing leadership in mid-year tends to be very disruptive to the student body as well as the faculty. To place an interim principal is not an answer because impermanentleadership is at best a stop-gap measure that too often causes confusion and insecurity as a result of a lack of vision. It is best, the editors claim for the Board of Education to methodically and carefully vet candidates to assess who would best fill the role.

Kudos to Sam Legasse for his interview. When he asked her what she has done to establish the ideal that students be given the environment to see that no limits be placed on what they can achieve not only in school , but in the outside world, here is how she responded: "I think my contribution has been in putting wonderful teachers in place to instill a vision in all of the students."

Finding such an administrator with this sense of vision is one more reason the Board should delay bringing in a new Principal until the fall of 2011.

I wish to commend the entire staff of the Westword on an excellent issue.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rodin at the the Sculpture Garden of the B. Gerald Cantor Center in Palo, Alto, California

After creating this intriguing slide show, I have been pondering for several days why I am so drawn to Auguste Rodin.

I am pondering why, as part of a mostly business trip to California, I just had to make the 55 minute trip from Marin County to Santa Clara County ( I consumed nearly 12 hours just to travel from Connecticut to the Bay Area and time was very precious to me) to visit this Rodin collection. After all, with the limited amount of time I had, I was turning down the opportunity to see a much acclaimed show at the De Young Museum of French 19th century masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

Why does Rodin's vision fascinate me?

It all began with an enlarged slide of Rodin's Thinker which I saw projected on a a screen as part of my CC-Humanities Art course at Columbia. My instructor was telling the class just how overpowering a figure Rodin was and that his 'monumental' works are inspiring.

Well now, it's hard to get excited by an enlarged slide...

So, I made the trek to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street, where Rodin's Balzac is displayed. It impressed me, no doubt--a single replica, much, much larger than life standing in the museum's outdoor garden. Rodin said of this piece: "Nothing else that I have done satisfies me as much, because nothing else cost me so much effort, nothing else so profoundly summarizes what I believe to be the secret of law of my art. "

Years have passed ....

Last year, the Stamford Museum and Nature Arts Center had a exhibition entitled " Rodin in his own Words: Selections from the the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection" , featuring a limited number of smaller casts, many of which were apparently cast posthumously. There were photographs of his larger works as well as an excellently documented exposition on the lost-wax casting process, Rodin's favorite mode of sculptural reproduction.

Then a visit to the Philadelphia Museum's Late Renoir show in August of this year brought me in contact with their collection of Rodins. (See my recent blog on this show)

So, when I read in a guide book about the Cantors donating their collection of over 200 Rodins to The Stanford museum in 1999, I knew I had to make the trip down.

The outdoor sculpture garden contains 20 pieces comfortably spaced out over an acre. These include: the massive Gates of Hell, with figures inspired by Dantes's Inferno and presided over by The Thinker at its apex, Adam and Eve (flanking the GOH), The Three Shades, The Martyr, a Nude Study of Jeanne D'Arc.

The Spirit of Eternal Repose is the male nude captured from an upward perspective with outstretched arm and leaning towards one of two fir trees. He exudes grace, charm and harmony. It is as if Rodin is reaching deep into his soul to reflect the inner spiritual peace that man is capable of reaching.

This peace is in contrast to the eternal struggle of man's sensuality TO OVERCOME his reason and restraint; this peace is often tragically terminated by the triumph of the sexual drive over discipline that is depicted in panel after panel in the lascivious scenes of debauchery and lust in the GOH.

Enjoy the slide show as much as I enjoyed seeing the originals.

A bit of background to the Gates of Hell.

In 1880, the Ministere of Beaux Arts in Paris, commissioned Rodin "to execute, for the sum of 8,000 francs, the model of a decorative gate in bas-relief for the Musee des arts decoratives representing the Divine Comedy of Dante."

Rodin began his research by reading Dante several times, drawing hundreds of pages of studies in his sketchbook and executing dozens of maquettes (scale models); he then studied gates of the baptistry in Florence and especially Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Order and Efficiency at the Airports: Hats off to TSA

Traveling on Thanksgiving week has proven that we as a nation we can pull together.

The check-in experience at San Francisco International Airport is a a case in point.

My flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 6 AM. Arriving at the rental drop off area at 4:20 AM was cutting it rather close.

I took the Air Car over to Terminal 3 and arrived at United at 5PM with a doily filled with luggage. The first thing I noticed was a line of passengers stretching a full city block. I was directed to the luggage counter. I was quickly ticketed as one of the personnel labeled my baggage.

Then at 5:15, I go to the back end of the check-in line with what seems to be 100+ people ahead of me. A quick glance at the boarding tickets indicates that my plane begins boarding at 5:21 in a mere 6 minutes.

Would I be processed in time? I had no doubt!

The line started to move rapidly and by 5:35 I approached the TSA screening area. Here we divided into two lines to speed up the process.

I simple imitated the actions of those people directly in front of me. Grab some plastic trays and place all belongings, cell phone,wallet, ipad, coins, pens, etc in them.

Then off comes my shoes and into the grey bin along with flight bag and then under the x-ray scanner.

Then I go through the metal detector. It goes off. I remove the rest of the few coins that escaped my first attempt to clear my pockets. At the same time, a pleasant screener asks me if my flight bag has a computer. I answer yes and so she removes it saying that computers must always be free standing at the screening area.

And that's it. I seize my camera, heavy topcoat, flight bag, computer and the rest of my belongings. Then shoes are laced up.

It's now 5:45 and I have less than 15 minutes to find my gate. No time to buy a newspaper, I reflect. As I approach the gate an attendant greets me asking if I'm on this flight. As soon as I nod, she responds that I am the last passenger to board the 737.

I made it as I instinctively knew I would...

I settled into my aisle seat at 5:55. As I did, I could not help sensing that the airport personnel all conspired to get me through the gate in time.

We all displayed grace under pressure!

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving glitters

Monday, November 22, 2010

Celebrating National Aviation Month with The Birthday of Wiley Post

Wiley Post Stand Alongside his Lockheed Vega, The Winnie Mae
at Floyd Bennett Airfield, Brooklyn , New York

Wiley Post (November 22, 1898-August 15, 1935) and his navigator Harold Gatty took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, N.Y. in a Lockheed Vega aircraft for what would be an historic flight around the world. They made 14 stops.

8 days and 15 hours and 51 minutes later, on July 1, they arrived back after covering 15, 474 miles setting a new world record for around the world flight. Until then, the record was held by Hugo Eckener flying a Graf Zeppelin with a time of 21 days.

He had lunch at the White House on July 6th and the following day rode in a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

On July 15, 1933, flying solo with an auto-pilot to aid in navigation, Post took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY, to again set a world record by circumnavigating the globe in 7 days and 19 hours; this time he cut off 21 hours off his previous record.

On this flight he made 11 stops and, despite inclement Atlantic weather, flew non-stop from New York to Berlin in a record time of 26 hours.

Over 50,000 people greeted him as he landed at Floyd Bennett. For this accomplishment he was again given a ticker tape parade in New York.

Next year Post began exploring high- altitude long distance flight with the financial support of Frank Phillips of the Phillips Petroleum Company. He developed a pressure suit that allowed him to pilot an aircraft and reach an altitude of 50, 000 feet and fly in the jet stream.

However, he was only partially successful in a number of non-stop transcontinental flights because of mechanical failures. On one flight he flew from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio, a distance of 2035 miles, at an average ground speed of 279 mph in a 179 MPH aircraft!

Post and Will Rogers perished in a flight up in Alaska as Post began surveying a mail-and-passenger route from the West Coast to Russia.

The author wishes to thank not only Wikipedia, but also for their in-depth coverage of the key events in Post's adventurous life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fighting Breaks Out and Arrests are Made in London and California Over Tuition Increases

The following summary of events is based upon despatches appearing in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to the Times article, A coalition of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have agreed to raise tuition costs. In American dollars the proposed raises means that old cap of $5264 is now being waived; the new costs will range from $9600 to $14, 400.

In the late 1990's there was no charge for tuition.

This follows the Liberal Democrat's promise last year to abolish tuition completely. So, in protest, about 52,000 students gathered near Parliament on November 10th; students fought with police, lit flares, threw projectiles including eggs and bottles and shattered windows of the building housing the Conservative party.

35 students were arrested and 14 were injured.

In California, hundreds of students gathered in front a building in San Francisco where the Regents were meeting to discuss proposed tuition increases. Almost 100 police in riot gear stood outside to fend off any student advances during this second of three days of deliberation.

Students attempted to storm the building and were repelled with pepper spray and batons. A skirmish started in which one officer lost his baton and purportedly drew his weapon when he heard that students planned to disarm him. More students pressed forward and during the scuffle "several officers fell backward down the stairs."

Police arrested 11 protestors.

Last November the regents raised fees 32% which touched off protests. Now the proposal is to raise them again by 8%. This means that the current tuition of $10, 302 will rise to $11, 124 by next fall. In California, about half the students pay no tuition because of financial aid. So, those that do not qualify must pay more to help subsidize that do qualify.

Currently the subsidies are valid where family income is less than $70,000.

Large University systems such as the one in England are in trouble because due to the severe economic times, the government has less tax revenue to support higher education. California's government has a massive deficit of $26 Billion dollars and is looking for ways to cut back on education subsidies.

The Regents is looking to the federal government to increase research grants, is trying to increase number out-of-state enrollments (these students pay more for tuition) and delaying the pay-out of maximum retirement benefits from age 62-65.

It is understandable that students in both countries are frustrated, angry and pushed to the extreme by these massive hikes in fees. Their only outlet appears to be congregating to protest and the protesting has oftenled to violence as we have seen.

Legislators, regents and private individuals and foundations must work together to find solutions to keep universal education open to all.

Tune in to learn more on this continuing saga.

I wish to commend two outstanding journalists for their respective stories : Sarah Lyall of the New York Times and Nanette Asimov of The San Francisco Chronicle (Regents Meeting: Face-
Off Over UC Tuition, November 18, 2010).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Airport Gates: Arrive Early and Thank God to be Alive

Viral videos are abounding on the web with low resolution images of what the x-ray style screenings look like.

Private body parts are not clearly discernable.

Gizmodo has just released a you tube video of 100 body scans that the Orlando, Florida U.S. Marshalls office saved and 'released.' As of 7 AM Eastern, over 1 million seven-hundred thousand (1,719,605) global visits have been made to their website.

What's the uproar about?

Well, Thanksgiving is around the corner and perhaps up to 10 million passengers (2 million on a regular day) will be checked by TSA in the three days prior to the holiday at the 68 airports which have this latest technology.

The choice is clear at these airports. You can either go through the low radiation or TSA can perform a full body pat-down that will begin at the hips proceeding downward and then upward on the inside of your legs up to the groin--two times. Private body parts are excluded.

John Tyner called attention to this procedure; at San Diego airport, he refused the x-ray procedure and when subject to the pat-down warned the TSA agent to keep his hands off his 'junk.'

So he was detained, threatened with a $10,000 lawsuit, refused to submit to the pat-down, was refunded his ticket and left the airport.

All these events Tyner recorded on his cellphone which was posted on the web and it's now the rage of the media.

So where do we go from here?

Janet Napolitano, the head of Homeland Security has appeared publicly to announce that she is open to modification of the procedures. "If there are adjustments we need to make to these procedures, we will make them...We have an open ear; we will listen," she said.

Since 9/11 heightened security measures have thwarted a number of would be bombers; there has been the shoe bomber Richard Reid; on December 22, 2001, he attempted to blow up AA Flight 63 by igniting a detonator cord and luckily was foiled. Then the underwear bomber Umar Farook Abdulmutallub was apprehended aboard NW flight 253 as he tried unsuccessfully to ignite PETN explosive hidden in his underwear. ( luckily, PETN is very difficult to ignite; it is classified as a secondary explosive)

Hats off to homeland security, vigilant and brave passengers and flight attendants for the fantastic job of creating an atmosphere where would be terrorists have been thwarted and often prevented in their conspiracies, attempts, plots, etc.

The American public must be patient. The options are clear. One need not board an airliner.

There are alternate means of transport.

Flying is a luxury, not an entitlement.

Welcome to the 21st century. We are fighting a war of terror which is also a war to avoid terror.
The collective safety of hundreds of passengers are at stake.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote 200 hundred years ago: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Get to the airport early-- early in the day and two hours before flight. Bring your i-pods, i-pads,
videos and reading material.

Report suspicious behavior and have a safe holiday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Connecticut Should Consider Ranked Choice Voting System

Kudos to Steve Hill Open Forum writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.

His article The New Politics of Local Elections should go a long way to ending the interminable partisan smear campaigns that we in Connecticut are subjected to.

The answer is ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting which he himself fathered.

Here's how it works. The voter is asked to rank his top three choices for the position of Mayor. Assuming that no one candidate achieves a majority of votes cast, then the numbers two and eventually the number three choice(s) of the eliminated runners are distributed accordingly until one of the two top runners achieves a majority of the votes.

In the Oakland, California mayoral election, the eventual winner after many rounds was Jean Quan-- simply because she broke new ground in bipartisanship; as she campaigned she urged all voters to write in her name for first choice and also urged them to place her name for number two or number three ( if they planned to rank an opponent first.)

She had something good to say about all the runners; in other words, she reached out to other candidates.--thus spreading cooperation and good will for her opponents.

This good will worked in her favor.

She told citizens: "In case I don't win, I think Rebecca [an opponent] should be your second choice." Thus Quan got three times more runoff votes from Rebecca's supporters than did her main rival Don Perata.

Perata ran a largely negative campaign. He was the front-runner and typically spent more money attacking Kwan. Perhaps, he should have spent more time forming coalitions and building ties with the other candidates. Then he could have stayed front-runner.

Oakland voters are more amenable to the new mode; in the June, 2006 mayoral election, 83, 000 voters visited the polls; this year the number jumped 43% as 119, 000 voters participated. And 99.7% cast a valid vote.

In addition to Oakland, San Leandro, San Francisco and Minneapolis are all employing ranked choice voting.

Shouldn't we in Connecticut consider ranked choice voting as a mode of ending the mud-slinging politics that dominates our elections and continues to drive voters away from the polls?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who is in Charge in Iraq--8 Months After Elections and Nearly 8 Years After Invasion?

According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the Iraqi Parliament meeting behind closed doors elected a speaker and President. This allows Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a coalition government.

8 months ago, the electorate gave" former Prime Minister Ayad Al-lawi secular Iraqiya coalition two more seats than al-Maliki's Shiite bloc."

"But neither won nearly enough seats to from a majority, prompting ballot recounts, accusations of fraud, and months in which political leaders flew off to other countries, but did not meet among themselves."

And, of course, will the Sunni minority be given any and/or adequate representation in the government, as well?

Does this sound like chaos?

Do we still hear about weekly car bombings, more civilian deaths and more unrest?

Do terrorists still strike at will?

Has our government correctly determined that the center of Al-Queda activity has now shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Do we not have close to 200,000 American personnel in Afghanistan including 100,000 troops, independent special operations forces and hundreds of civilian teams of American security contractors equal to the number of troops?

Did not Bush II declare that confirmed reports of Weapons of Mass Destruction was behind his pre-emptive strike to topple Sadaam Hussein and our invasion of his country on March 19, 2003?

Did not Bush announce two months later on May 1, 2003- aboard the U.S. Abraham Lincoln outside San Diego- that our 'mission is accomplished?'

Did he not say in that speech that "men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices?"

What small comfort have we given the Iraqi nation-- 7 years later, yes 7 full years later-- that still has no stabilizing government?

What small comfort have we given Iraq when she sees the US forces--which assured some degree of stability and freedom from terror--abandon her to fight the war for freedom in neighboring Afghanistan?

The Point may be: did Bush Junior make the right Decision as we remember over 4,400 men and women who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two Delayed Coastal Election Results are in: Foley Concedes Connecticut Gubernatorai Race and Kwan Defeats Perata in Oakland

Six days after election day on Tuesday, November 2nd, Connecticut Republican governor hopeful Tom Foley conceded the top state spot to Dan Malloy of Stamford. After a weekend of investigation and review, Foley admitted that Malloy bested him by 5,637 votes.

Besides Bridgeport, six other municipalities ran out of ballots, which had to be photocopied and then hand counted.

Now, to the mayoral race in Oakland, California, the position once held by governor-elect Jerry Brown.

On Thursday, November 11th, Mayoral hopeful and former state Senator Dan Perata conceded the election to councilwoman Jean Quan who will become Oakland's first female and Asian American mayor.

Kwan won by 51-49% by a complicated ranked-choice voting: voters are allowed to pick first, second and third choices. Should a candidate not receive a majority (it was Perata 35-24 over Kwan after first place ballots were initially counted), the last place candidates are eliminated and then their votes are redistributed until one a candidate exceeds the majority bar.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day, Glenbrook, Stamford: The Flags are Blowing at Union Memorial Church

Hundreds of flags are blowing in the wind at Union Memorial Church in Stamford to celebrate Veterans Day, November 11, 2010; the Church is a fixture in the community for over 100 years

A Salute to Those Proud Brave Warriors Who Have Defended Our Shores of Liberty

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will Foley File Suit in Connecticut's Gubernatorial Race?

The race for Governor has slowed to a snail's pace?

It is probably wise for Foley who supposedly trails Malloy by about 5,000 votes to wait until the November 16th deadline to file a suit in Superior Court claiming fraud, mismnagement, lack of transparency in the 'official' counting of the votes, especially in Bridgeport.

Meanwhile over the weekend about 50 vocal CT residents descended on the historic Hartford courthouse demanding that the Mayor of Bridgeport step down for his alleged incompetence.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn 2010, Connecticut Slideshow

This is great time of year to capture the changing colors of autumn here in lower Fairfield County. Enjoy the slide show

Friday, November 5, 2010

Celebrating National Aviation Month with The Birthday of Jacqueline Auriol

Jacqueline Ariol (1917-2000) was the one of the first female pilots to break the sound barrier and set five world speed records.

On June 22, 1962, she set her fifth speed record at Istres, France. Here's a brief description from Hargrave:

"After weeks of preparation, she took off in a Dassault Mirage IIIC, determined to break Jacqueline Cochran's record. Her first attempt failed when she passed inside one of the turn points. Officials redesigned the course, adding six points. By late afternoon, she was again airborne. Flying at 37,000 feet, Madame Auriol covered 63 miles in 3 minutes and 23 seconds, a speed of 1149.65 mph. She exceeded Miss Cochran's record by 367 mph and broke the men's record set in 1959."

Born to a wealthy shipbuilder and timber importer, she graduated from the University of Nantes and then studied art at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. She married the son of the future President of France and was for a time the official tea pourer of the Elysee Palace.

During WW II, she joined the French resistance in its fight to undermine the German occupation. After the war her life changed dramatically when her face was crushed in seaplane accident where she was a passenger. She required some 20+ plastic surgery operations (during which time she did not see her two boys) and then emerged to a new life.

Energized and spiritually transformed, she went on to earn her military license and became qualified as the world's first woman test pilot.

Her tragedies and successes are recounted in her 1970 autobiography: I Live to Fly.

Best Reporting for Southwest Connecticut: "Down and out in Westport"

Kudos to  the  Fairfield County Weekly's November 4th edition.

John F.Hoctor's excellent article-- about how Westport's Gillespie Center in the heart of the downtown has been catering to the needs of its homeless for 25 years-- is very timely and poignant.

A few pertinent facts he shares with us: In the Stamford-Norwalk area over 51% of the sheltered homeless have jobs; of homeless families living in shelters 36% are employed.

The Westport shelter is administered by Homes with Hope, an interfaith housing association.A whopping 59% of their budget is from private sources and 26% if from grants and 13% from events and programs and 5% from churches and service clubs.

Hoctor follows in detail the lives of two residents of Gillespie: "Ralph" and "Sally" two survivors in "the heart of a bucolic bastion of suburban opulence."

The article is worth the time to read and spread the word around about Westport's commendable efforts to take care of its less fortunate residents.

Time to bring this article up to date.

Jeff Weiser retiring CEO of Homes with Hope

Jeff Weiser recently retired in December, 2019 as Director and CEO of Home with Hope after serving for the last 9 years. Click here for a  tribute to all the good he has done including expanding the number of beds provided each night to 115 via 44 supportive housing units. 

Jeff is being replaced by Helen McAlinden who began her position on January 6th earlier this year. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Connecticut Gubernatorial Election is Still in the Air

It's a see-saw election result for both Stamford's ex-mayor Dan Malloy and Greenwich's Tom Foley--with no clear winner.

Latest published reports indicate that Malloy is ahead by about 3,000 votes. But the Foley camp is claiming that Bridgeport polling stations have scores of uncounted votes piling up waiting to be counted.

It was also reported that several thousand Malloy write-in (??) votes appear to be sent from the same parking lot in Bridgeport.

There are about 4,500 homeless souls in southwest Fairfield County according to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. And we know the shelters are at max.

Can there be some many homeless registered voters sleeping in their parked cars in in Park City (nickname for Bridgeport.)

What is fact and what is fiction?

Tune in later today as Connecticut's Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz announces her findings from Hartford.

Greg Mortonson: Educating One Child at A Time: the Practical Approach to NCLB

Greg Mortonson Surrounded by a Group of Students

He's climbed K-2 in the Himmalayas--step by step!

Though born in Minnesota, he grew up in Tanzania, near Mt. Kilimanjaro where his father helped establish a teaching medical center.

From humble beginnings and modest means, Greg Mortonson is proof positive that indeed performing small acts of kindness--repeatedly--can literally change the world.

He founded his first of many schools in the mountain region of Pakistan; he has continued to find funding and establish schools in the rural mountainous areas separating southern Afghanistan and Pakistan-near hostile terrorist strongholds.

Over the course of the last 15 years, he has established over 131 schools which provide education to over 58,000 children, 44,000 of which are girls. (this is in an traditionist Islamic culture which frowns upon educating its female residents) .

In 2009, Pakistan awarded Greg its "Star of Pakistan" medal given for meritorious public service in promoting girls's literacy and education and establishing schools in Pakistan.

He meets often with tribal elders, respects their advice; he has convinced the US military brass, General David Petraus, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Stanley McChrystal and others to negotiate peace through education rather than through weapons deployment and guerrilla, special ops warfare.

He has convinced Obama and the military commanders that there is no military solution to bringing war to an end.

Afghanistan has proven itself to be the graveyard of empires through three millenia: neither the Mongols under Genghis Khan the Greeks under Alexander , the Ottomans and the Russians were able to eithe unite the tribal chiefs or defeat them.

Greg Mortonson, the humanintarian, has demonstrated that tribal peoples want education badly, especially for their girls, and he is supplying them with it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coastal Gubernatorial Races: Jerry Brown is the Phoenix and Molloy versus Foley is Up in the Air

When I awoke at 4AM, I watched a You Tube of Gov. Jerry Brown's 'victory speech'?? from Sacramento, Ca. (eclipsing Meg Whitman).

But the tone of his words spoke of divisions deep divisions political, economic, of pain of suffering that could as he said last for years....

He spoke of his {phoenix like rise] 28 year hiatus since he last served as governor from 1975-1982.
Then his tone suddenly shifted...He spoke about his ' missionary zeal' about the courage, energy, commitment he now brings,( tempered, enriched, we know by years and years of 'public service) 'to transform the breakdown we now witness in Washington and Sacramento into a breakthrough.'

Welcome back, Jerry!

Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, the race for Governor is too close to call. It was expected that Molloy would win. But the registrar of Bridgeport elections underestimated the turnout and the polling locales ran out of ballots in mid-afternoon . So, they had to photocopy new ones and do head counts--which will incite legal challenges.

May the best man win!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Columbia Ivy Football Team Under Coach Wilson is on the Rise

I recently attended the Homecoming game against Dartmouth. It was thoroughly enjoyable watching our ascendant team coming from behind to lead Big Green 21-17 in the 4th quarter, only to be upended by our opponents TD to squeak out a 24-17 win. The halftime highlight was the appearance of our player classmates-- members of the 1961 Ivy Championship team. It was great seeing Tommy Vassel, Russ Warren, Herb Gerstein and Ed Little being honored.

The following weekend, I was at the magnificent Yale Bowl for a beautiful fall day; despite a soporific first half that saw the Bulldogs eclipse the Lions by 31-7, the second half was marked by our team scoring three TD's and holding Yale scoreless. Again, we came up just short of victory. It was exciting to be surrounded by so many of the parents of our players, who were so vocal and excited during the second half.

Kudos to Coach Norries Wilson who has built a spirited talented squad, let by quarterback Sean Brackett, running back Nick Gerst and tackle Alex Gross. I predict the team, which beat Princeton 42-14, will show its true colors against Harvard and then Cornell on successive weekends

Will They Pick up All the Political Signs?

My neighbors, next door and across the street, have large LINDA signs on their front lawns.

Linda is of course Linda McMahon republican candidate to fill the seat of retiring democratic senator Chris Dodd.

She has stimulated the recessionary southern New England economy.

She has thus far spent $120 Million of her own fortune.

I am staring at a staggering pile of 40 direct mail solicitations--about one-half are from Linda.

A large LINDA billboard sign recently appeared at exit 29 on the I-95 (Bridgeport) that reads in bold print LINDA: Because She's Bought Everything Else!

Is is time for Linda to take her signs down?

Both Advocate (the Hearst Newspaper Group) and the New York Times have thrown their support behind her opponent.

So, who will win tomorrow?

Friday, October 29, 2010

1 Year ago Today Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham & Joe Lieberman Formed a Triumverate to Combat Climate Change: What Happened?

The triumverate: Lindsey Graham center with Joe Lieberman
at the far left and John Kerry peering over Graham's left shoulder

In his primary-campaign speech 2 years ago, Barack Obama declared that his adminisration would spotlight two main issues: climate change and health care. He said in a debate with John McCain. : "Energy [which includes global warming] we have to deal with today. Health care is priority No. 2."

A year ago today, October 29 2009, an unlikely alliance was formed between 3 senators whose goal was to pass a bill through congress that would control climate change.

Earlier that month in a New York Times op-ed column entitled Yes We Can, Kerry and Graham co-wrote..." climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That's why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate changes.....We will develop mechanisms to protect businesses- and ultimately consumers- from increases in energy prices" via the "establishment of floor and ceiling for the cost of emission safeguard important industries while they make the investments necessary to join the clean-energy era."

A house bill had the goal of reducing the 2005 level of carbon gases (in the atmosphere) by 17% by 2020!

They could not be a more unlikely group: a maverick republican from South Carolina (Lindsey Graham) with an avowed antipathy towards a liberal northeast senator and presidential and then high office hopeful (John Kerry) and his one-time presidential primary opponent a democrat turned independent, a chameleon with conservative leanings (Joe Lieberman).

A "grand bargain" was outlined by a senior White House official--a master strategy to bring together dynamically opposed business interests and congressional republicans and democrats (analagous to bringing Al Gore and T.Boone Pickens to sit down at the bargaining table).

In this bargain, the democrats would get their coveted 'cap and trade' legislation in return for ceding to their republican opponents much sought after business concessions.

Here was the deal: the blue party would get their 'cap and trade' and the red party would get a guarantee for increase in gas production (to placate the Pickens group), loan guarantees and subsidies for the development of nuclear power (an issue dear to Graham whose state has 4 active nuclear reactors, Catawba, Oconee, H.B. Robinson and Virgil C. Summer and 4 more proposed at a cost of up to $10 Billion each ) and assurances for continued exploration and drilling for offshore oil.

This epic saga of trial and failure has a cast of characters that includes senators Barbara Boxer, John McCain, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Scot Brown, George LeMieux, Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Debbie Stebanow, Blanche Lincoln, Congressmen Henry Waxman, Max Baucus, Edward Markey and various green group proponents such as Fred Krupp (of the Envrironmental Defense Fund), industry groups such as The Edison Electrical Institute and presidential appointees and advisors Carol Browner, Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod.

To learn more about the ups and downs of this historic effort to control global pollution and its attendant harm to our health, weather, seas, oceans and wildlife, national morale and international standing amongst the league of nations , etc--- please read the excellent article by Ryan Lizza, As The World Burns, in the October 11, 2010 issue of the New Yorker.

He will summarize in detail the reasons for this unfortunate failure: chief amongst them is the often bitter indifference of a burned out administration that turned against the historic triumverate. Obama (who in December 2009 met with and pledged to Graham to work with him on climate change: "Look Lindsey , I'm ready to play..") and his henchmen simple gave up on the issue after the mammoth fight of working with Congress, the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries to pass Obamacare, which was suddenly their Number One priority.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Darien Library is the Venue for One-Act Plays

On Sunday October 17, The Darien library hosted 2 one-act plays by two noted American playwrights.

The first play The Golden Fleece written by A.R. Gurney is based upon the Story of Jason and Medea. In the play, a modern day couple face the audience and claim to be in contact with both Jason and Medea--both of whom insist they have encountered offstage. The actors Bill (played by Raymond G. Michaud) and Betty (Holly Hylton) are convincing in their roles.

Wendy Wasserstein wrote the second play, Waiting for Phillip Glass. An East Hampton socialite holds a party for an artist. When Glass does not show up, the other guests are forced to interact with eachother and examine their own lives.

Director Donna M. Wyant writes that "Wasserstein borrows insight from Shakespeare to underscore similarites between the social dysfunction within Elizabethan sociey and that of the social climbing culture of wealthy Long Island Hamptonites, in the late 1990s."

"The playwright builds her argument around Shakespeares's Sonnet 94, by turning to the metaphor of the flower; 'Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.' It fits the party's crowd, wherein the characters want what they can't have, don't want what they have , or want someone who wants someone else."
The action is swift and the acting is precise and sharp.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Helping Others to Realize their dream: Microfinancing

Their are countless ways to help the needy which not only empowers the recipient but also the donor.

One such avenue is microfinance.

With a PHD in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1965 , Professor Muhammad Yunus a native of Bangladesh returned to his country and was drawn to poverty reduction having witnessed the famine of 1974 (which had a mortality rate of over 1 million).

While head of the Economics Department at Chittagong University, he visited the nearby town of Jobra and he discovered here that small loans to the impoverished would make a big difference in their lives. He learned that the Jobra women had to pay usurious rates on loans they took to buy bamboo for their furniture making business. All their profits were quickly consumed.

His first loan of $27 to 42 women who each made a profit of (US$0.02) each on the loan was a boon to his country's ease of exporting and importing.

To quote wikipedia: "Yunis believed that given the chance the poor will repay the borrowed money and hence microcredit could be a viable business model."

On October 1, 1983, he founded the Grameen Bank (Village Bank) to make loans to his poor country citizens. As of July 2007, the bank had lent $6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers. To insure repayment solidarity groups or " small informal groups apply together for loans and
its members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another's efforts at economic self advancement." (Wikipedia)

In 2006, Yunis and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The prize announcemnt reads that he has proven himself capable of translating "visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries."

On March 1, 2010, KETV 7 of Omaha, Nebraska reported that Yunus opened the second branch of the Grameen Bank here in the US; the first branch opened previously in New York City ;
San Franciso will soon be the location of his next branch.

Today, October 27th, Camille Nestor, Vice President of microfinancing programs at Grameen Foundation will be in Greenwich, CT. to discuss how even loans as small as $100 can aid those-- too poor to qualify for traditional loans from commercial banks--to realize their dreams.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October is a Month of Doing Small Deeds

This October has been an unusual month for me.

It started off with my heralding it as an eleemosynary month-- a month of giving to others.

So far, five notable members of our local modern orthodox temple have been bereaved.

This has given me an opportunity of visiting the various mourners who are observing Shiva (the custom of mourners to sit on low chairs to show respect for the deceased, for 7 days)

It is also customary to hold prayer services thrice daily for a week following burial, excluding holidays and the sabbath, at the home of the mourners.

So, I have been showing up for various minyanim (a gathering of ten Jewish men which ensures that the memorial kaddish prayer can be recited during the service) for the last 3 weeks.

It has been a month of giving of my time, my sympathy, my comfort and prayer to ease the pain of each one's loss.

And the process continues tomorrow as I lead a service to commemorate the passing on of my maternal grandfather 59 years ago.

Maria Sharapova once did commercials for Canon during the US Open a number of years ago.
She kept hammering away with her catchy slogan: "Make every shot a power shot."

Maria Sharapova , age 17, playing the power game at Wimbledon, 2004.
She bested Serena Williams 6-1,6-4 to win her first Grand Slam Trophy
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

To paraphrase, I add, "Make every day a power day for doing a small act of kindness for others in need."

And witness the results in your life

Have a great day--every day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Octomom Doctor Testifiies in LA Court About Implanting 12 Embryos in Octomom

Its October, a month of many surprises especially with regard to the Octomom.
As you recall she is Nadya Suleman and she conceived 8 children whose weights averaged anywhere from 1 to 3 pounds.

Well,the fertility Doctor, Dr. Michael Kamrava says he was legally bound to follow his patients wish to implant 12 embryros despite the medically recognized danger to her life that the procedure would involve.

Secondly,he testified under oath that he only found out about the birth of the octoplets--only after she delivered. He claims that she called him from the hospital only after reporters were demanding statements from her.

Is this a credible story that the Doctor expects us to swallow?

Should he be allowed to continue practicing 'medicine?'

Tune in next week as this hearing continues.......

Read the full story and judge for yourself:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stamford Honors its Outstanding Citizens for Their Volunteer Work

Six college- bound young Stamfordites have been awarded $5,000 towards their college education by The Citizen of the Year Scholarship Program .

Each of these citizens has volunteered hundreds of hours at local non-profit agencies such as Kids in Crisis, Keep Stamford Beautiful, the Food Bank, Yerwood Center, Special Olympics, Friendship Circle, Bartlett Arboreteum and Stamford Museum and Nature Center.

The recipients include Jaime Manela, Jyotsna Winsor, Juan Agurto, Jasmine Forbes, Sarah Benjamin and Marissa Friedman.

Stamford Citizen of the Year award was founded in 1945 by the City of Stamford and the Jewish War Veterans Post 142. Recent honorees have included June Rosenthal and DickTaber.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Small Acts of Kindness Build Bridges: Oradell, New Jersey

My blog of October 7th introduced World Smile bring about world harmony by acts of kindness.

Indeed, opportunities arise every day to put smiles on people's faces.

Why just yesterday, my car was being filled up with gas at the Delta station on Kinderkemack Road in River Edge, New Jersey (a state that mandates service station attendants fill 'er up). Two attendants were tending to my car. One took my credit card and the other put the hose to my tank.

Now isn't that service that can put a smile on your face. (Besides, gas is nearly 50 cents a gallon cheaper here than in my state, where I must do the pumping.)

Here in New Jersey not only do I have just one attendant--I've got two. This reminds me of a memorable experience I had at Toyota of Stamford when I went to have a battery replacement done under warranty.

Toyota Logo

(As I was being checked in at 8AM, the service manager asked me to pop the the hood. As soon as I did so, five immaculately clothed mechanics appeared, as if by magic, and each they began serially to check vital fluids windshield washer, brake oil, engine transmission oil and radiator anti-freeze.)

Well, I am briefly digressing to make my point about bringing smilers to people's faces.

As I am about to drive away here in Oradell, one of the attendants asks me if I driving one mile north and I nod . "Come on in," I respond.

As we drive north, I learn that his name his Sieni and is a native Punjabi. (Punjab, he explains, is the disputed territory that lies between India and Pakistan) He tells me he is permanently settled here while his family is back there. His wife works in 'nearby' India and will join him in two months when she retires from her job.

Sieni asks me if I am still working and I respond affirmatively. We discuss the importance of having family near you.

Though I am driving, I notice that he is dressed in a turban, sports a beard on his dark skin and is quite conversant in English.

I drop him off in Oradell; he thanks me and I wish him good luck.

Now isn't that a pleasant tale to promote good will and understanding and to create smilers for all us humble 'journeymen'?