Friday, July 30, 2010

This Video should Dispel any Doubts About the Mercury Toxins in Your Amalgam Fillings

According to this video,( on the website of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, IAOMT for short), aptly titled, "The Smoking Teeth Video" the IAOMT strongly urges that you should have all mercury fillings removed as soon as possible (unless pregnant or lactating).

This is because silver amalgam fillings contain 50% mercury and are constantly emitting mercury vapor--even at room temperature. The effects of this toxic vapor in the mouth, although not proven, can, over a period of time cause damage to nerve cells and their tissues.

Mercury, which is colorless, odorless and tasteless is readily absorbed into the bloodstream and transported all over the body-causing potential damage to all organs, the heart, the liver, the kidneys, the brain, the stomach--to name a few.

Acting In conjunction with other toxic metals such as lead and cadmium, the harmful synergistic effects of Mercury blood poisening to body organs can be mutliplied, perhaps 100 times.

Watch this video and decide for yourself!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jeff Bezos Founder of Amazon Delivers a Powerful Message at this Year's Princeton Graduation

His words are memorable! "I took the less safe path to follow my passion and I am proud of that choice."

Just eight years out of Princeton at age 30, Jeff and his wife, took the leap into the unknown.

Leaving secure jobs at a Wall Street Law firm, Jeff and his wife decided to follow his passion to realize his BIG DREAM of building the world's largest online bookstore.

In 15 years. his bookstore of 'limitless proportions' has exceeded all expectations. In 2009, his firm generated $24.5 Billion in sales.

Of 452 goals his company has set for this year, 360 involve directly affecting the customer experience. The word revenue is only mentioned 8 times!

His portable Kindle reader had access to 460, 000 books in 2009 and his goal is to have every book ever printed in any langauge all available in less than 60 seconds.

The video above ( made available by the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton) is introduced by Universtiy President Shirley M. Tilgman.

Jeff urges his audience to temper their cleverness with making conscious choices to be kind to others.

In this commencement address, Jeff asks some key questions to his audience of some of the young and brightest minds in our country:

"Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passion?"

"Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?"

"Will you be clever at the expense of others or will you be kind?"

Enjoy this most inspirational speech.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inspiration Art from Stamford CT

Click on this Image to Zoom into the scene

Stamford, CT is no ordinary town.

Its many residents like to collect art.

It only gets better when they exhibit their art on their lawns.

Such is the case here. Every time I head up Fifth Street, I am treated to some lawn art

In this case, it's a scene of an oldtime photographer, tall, elegant, mustached, dressed black and white to the hilt --the kind who would hold up a pan with ignition powder.

The early box camera was set on a tripod. The photographer would first pose his subject in front of the camera by looking into the lens and opening up the shutter. He would then hold up a 'flash' pan filled with magnesium powder and then mixed it with potassium chlorate which would ignite spontaneously emitting light to illuminate the subject.

For you history buffs, I quote from Robert Leggat's article which was inspired by Arthur Gill, FRPS, a prominent member of the Royal Photographic Society's Historical Group: He reports that in the late 1880's flash powder (described above) was introduced. "It would be spread on a metal dish, the metal powder would be set by percussion-sparks from a flint wheel, electrical fuse or just by applying a taper. However the explosive flashpowder could be quite dangerous if misused. This was not really superseded until the invention of the flashbulb in the late 1920's."

Leggat continues: "Early flash photography was not synchronized. This meant that one had to put a camera on a tripod, open the shutter, trigger the flash, and close the shutter again- a technique known as open flash."

And further: "Certainly early flash photography could be a hazardous business. It is said, for example, that Riis [Jacob Riis, the New York City social crusader] working during this period, twice managed to set the places he was photographing on fire!"

So much for early flash photography.

By the way, notice the speckled white dog that accompanies this outdoor image.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Reigning Cats and Dogs in Stamford, Connecticut

One morning early in May, I chanced by the Landmark Tower in Downtown Stamford and noticed that the ground floor was filled with artists and their cats and dogs.

So,I pulled out my trusty camera and prepared a slide show.

And now two and a half months later, as one wanders the downtown area, one can behold a profusion of cats and dogs--all over from Atlantic Ave and Broad Ave. North on Bedford and over to Summer Street then down to Tresser Blvd.

Our downtown is now dressed up by these magnificent canines and felines.

So, come on downtown and enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Recalling Alexander Rummler, Norwalk, Connecticut Artist Who Spent the Last 18 Years of His Life in Stamford

Rummler Self Portrait

The above painting was a result of many request by visitors to Mr. Rummler's studio in South Norwalk, CT. They kept asking him to paint himself in a portrait when he is working on one of his works. So, he accommodated them and the above work is the result. It hangs in the atrium of Norwalk City Hall. "Mopping for Starfish" is in the background and hangs on the third floor .

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Alexander Rummler (July 25, 1867-1959), studied at the Art Students League of New York. He then continued his studies at the Academie Julian in Paris.

He achieved fame when his painting of the signing of the World War I armistice was displayed on billboards across the county.

In 1907, he moved to South Norwalk. Then in 1926, he was chosen as the artist to represent Connecticut at The Sesquicentennial Exposition held in Philadelphia of the same year. His paintings won first place.

In 1936, under a Works Public Administration commission, he painted murals at Norwalk High School which was then being built. He painted 16 murals and eight smaller works illustrating Norwalk life-such as the oyster factories, fishing ,etc.

Rummler moved to Stamford in 1941 where he died in 1959; he lived to age 92.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Aerobatics over Portland, Oregon or How I lost all fear of flying.

Here is a Stearman bi-plane similar to the one in which Alan and I 
flew aerobatics over Portland Oregon back in the summer of 1981.
(click on the image/arrow above to experience some of the maneuvers we executed) 

It's July of 1981, I'm living in Eugene, Oregon and have just completed my long cross county 'under the hood' towards my IFR (Instrument Flight Rules)  certification. This was a non-stop flight from Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Airport to Bellingham International Airport (in close proximity to British Columbia, Canada); total time each way was 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Preflight of 29er Hotel prior to my long cross country IFR flight

My instructor Al Stockstead at Mahlon Sweet Airport. 
Al is a retired United Airlines Pilot with over 6,000 hours of flight time 

The weather, I remember was calm and our flight took us past the recently erupted Mt. St. Helens. Al Stockstead, my instructor, sat next to me in the co-pilots seat and did the New York Times crossword on the way up. I flew the plan entirely by instruments which means I did not once have visual contact of airspace around me or the terrain below. (except, that is of Mt. St. Helens, with permission of Al) We flew at 9500 feet, filed a flight plan with Portland Center before taking off,  and my plane, Cherokee 1029H, was being tracked by radar via our transponder which was set to squawk on a determined frequency.

Mount Saint Helens located in Skamania County, Washington
Shown here on May 19,  1982. It erupted on May 18, 1980 and 
was the "deadliest and most economically destructive volcano event 
in the history of the United States."  Photo and quote courtesy of Wikipedia 

Seated in the back seat was Alan Kline another of Al's students who I was 'ferrying' up to Bellingham, Washington  to take care of some private business. He, it turned out, was most appreciative of my favor.

 Little did I realize what a surprise was in store for me....

A few days later, I got a phone call from my instructor. The conversation went like this: Hey, Richard, I'd like you to go up in Alan's Stearman. He's going to show you some aerobatics that he's been practicing. Nothing to worry about--I've been training him for sometime and he's got certification in his bi-plane and is qualified. Are you game?

Well, it took me no more than 5 seconds to respond: this was a great opportunity. Sure thing, I quickly answered. Al then said, call Alan and set up a time.

Three days, Alan and I meet at Mahlon Sweet Airport. It's a clear summer day. He has warned me not to have anything to eat for breakfast as the maneuvers might 'upset' my stomach. After the visible walk around 'pre-flight', Alan seats me behind him in the open cockpit, bi-wing aerobatic. He instructs me to buckle up and put on the headset.

Alan revs up the engine checks the instruments and is granted permission to taxi to the active runway and hold. We watch the graceful landing of a Cessna Citation. Next a Mooney single engine takes off and then we are cleared for takeoff. As soon as we are airborne and out of the airport air space, we head north to Corvallis.

It's a heady feeling flying in an open cockpit plane with the airstream rushing by. Alan immediately communicates to me that all is a go and I sense some surprises in store. The first is a blast of loud rock stereo music from a Portland, Oregon radio station in my headset. Alan's voice is heard over the din: Richard, the music is a distraction so you can better enjoy the experience.

I'm cool. Somehow I get the feeling that Alan knows what he's doing. (Al is great teacher!)

In five minutes we are 6500 feet ASL. Alan, calls out: Are you ready? Sure, I scream back over the blasting music. Before long we are slowing and Alan stalls the plane and we are a spin and in a few seconds (which seems like an eternity) we are out of the spin.

Next, we climb back to 6500 feet and we level off. Suddenly, Alan pulls back on the yoke and we are ascending straight up and I notice we are beginning to stall somewhere at 8,000 feet. He then begins to execute what he later terms hammerheads--meaning he performed a number of them to show off his proficiency.

I'm still feeling ok!

He does lazy eights and barrelheads and others. I'm enjoying each and every stall, rollover and spin. More, more, more.

The Portland music is is blasting Peter Frampton and the Stones as Alan continues to 'rev her up' and stall again and again.

Our hour together seemed way too short.

It is great reliving this experience with you, aviation enthusiasts.

Hey, Alan, do you need another ferry to Bellingham?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Passion for Flying Updated

Yours truly, Tell It Like It Is Blogger with Cherokee 387Charlie
Chico, California, circa 1979

Dear Aviation Enthusiast:

Here is a letter, composed earlier today to a fellow pilot who inspired me to share with him and you the following electronic missive. And I quote:

"Mark, I love your passion for what you are doing, your timely and informative articles and all the positive comments that attest to your success. So, with your permission, I am taking precious time out to write about some enlightening SIMILAR- experiences.

Flying has been such an integral part of the my last 30 years that I am constantly blogging about outstanding historic aviation personalities such as Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal, John Gillespie Mcgee, Jr., Jackie Cochran, Harold I. June, Johnny Moore and too many others to enumerate . So, please read on.

Likewise, I discovered flying while living in the most beautiful areas of California, Chico/Paradise. What turned me on was the positive energy and excitement about aviation from my wife , herself a pilot, and her family who were involved in aviation insurance in the Portland, Oregon market.

Before long I earned my wings from Sugarpine Aviators, up in the Sierras at Quincy Airport in Plumas County. My instructors were Johnny Moore, a crop duster and ATP rated (author of I Must Fly and Breaking into Agricultural Aviation) and Tom Rahn-- who both still run the school some 30 years later. They introduced me to the love of flying that includes a respect for mountain flying since Quincy and its airport are situated in a natural bowl, surrounded by mountains at about 3,000 MSL ; the airport is beautiful in winter creating a natural snow bowl and is about and is a 40 minute flight to Lake Tahoe. See by blog on this subject: My website is

That's me shortly after accepting delivery of Cherokee 1029H
Oroville Municipal Airport, Oroville, California, May, 1981

I purchased a slightly used Archer II (this is 1981 and the plane cost me less than $30,000, equipped) from my neighbors in Paradise (who ran Horizon Aviation in Auburn) and went on to fly my Archer II, fully equipped with dual Navs and Coms. She was hangared first at Oroville Airport in the Sacramento Valley (where I took further instruction with Orville and his assistant David) and then at Mahlon Sweet in Eugene, Oregon where I was fortunate to do lots of instrument flying and DF steers in the morning fog with 6,000 hour airline pilot Al Stockstead, and lots of under- the- hood training up and down Washington/Oregon coast.

My best memories are of: getting up at 4AM in Paradise, driving down to the Valley and doing lots of touch'n go's and night flying in the Sacramento Valley-- which is awesome flying in the calm under the stars before morning sunrise.

A few month later I did a long cross country from Eugene, Ore. to Charles Lindbergh Airport in San Diego landing 29'erHotel just as the fog cleared. The flight over the Tehachapis from Bakersfield south in early morning is magnificent; Route 5 below is a ribbon of slow moving traffic winding its way across the mountains towards Los Angeles.

I particularly enjoyed doing lots of touch and go's at Kneeland Airport, with its 2250 foot long runway. It's an unattended mountain airport at 2700 feet above sea level, 10 miles southeast of Eureka, California, along the coastal range. Eureka is fogged in so much of the time, local pilots must land at Kneeland.

Finally, nothing can match flying, with clearance, in Glacier National Park in the winter with lots of mountain photographs of the awesome experience. Look for a forthcoming blog with a special slideshow from my experience in Kalispel, Montana.

One of the saddest days of my life was selling back 29H to the original owners 300 hours and two years later. It was like losing a long lasting friend.

Flying has been such a positive experience for me that I have maintained my AOPA affiliation all these 30 years, have flown from Glacier Park International Airport (GPI) and from Danbury Airport (DXR) , here in Southern Connecticut and blog constantly about aviation.

I would love to fly up in New Hampshire--especially from the small airports near Bennington, NH in Hillsborough County. I look forward each summer to spend vacations in the Francestown area with awesome views of the Monadnocks.

Have an inspired day, all!

Keep your safe flying articles flowing."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stamford, CT is Ranked Within Top 100 American Cities by Money Magazine

Here is a map of Stamford, CT which is located on the Long Island Sound

A recent article in Money Magazine places Stamford in the top 100 American Cities.

Why are we give such a high rating? The article quotes an abundance of jobs in the finance sector as both UBS, RBS and Thomson Reuters have large corporate facilities here. Stamford is in close proximity to New York City as well.

There is a small town feel here; Though our population is pushing 110,000 residents, we still maintain a warm friendly downtown atmosphere.

The quality of life is high: the educational facilities both public and private are excellent. Parents are very much involved in the quality of education their childen receive.

The neighborhoods each have their own distinctive character. Belltown has its cherished large park where many a little leaguer is getting his start. Glenbrook has many charming older homes and so many friendly neighbors. Shippan is a beautiful community that sits on Long Island Sound and North Stamford is full of rustic charm with many lakes and streams flowing through it.

Our crime rate is low.

Next year, we hope Stamford will be amongst the top ten.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrating Edward Degas' Birthday

Edward Degas, The Rehearsal, C.1873-1878, Harvard University,
The Fogg Art Museum, Oil on Canvas

Edward Degas (July 19, 1834- September 17, 1917) was a French impressionist painter who was more interested in movement and light than color. He worked in many mediums including painting, sculpture, printing and drawing. He was a master draughtsman who produced hundreds and hundreds of sketches.

Born in Paris to a banker who desired he study business, Degas began his artistic studies at age 21 at the Louvre for a year; then he traveled to Italy to study classical and renaissance art. In fact, his early art was of historical subjects.

Upon his return to Paris, he fell in with Manet who introduced him to the impressionists; It is then that he changed his subject matter. Over 1500 works involve scenes from the ballet and the theater ; other subjects include horse racing, studies of people in isolation (like the Absinthe Drinker) and various female subjects.

The Rehearsal shown above is one of my favorite pieces by Degas. First, there is a photographic feel to the canvas in that the artist/photographer catches the scene from an oblique angle with so much empty floor space occupying perhaps a third of the canvas-- drawing us into the scene.

Next, notice the random movements displayed by the dancers. Those closest to the violinist are all practicing in unison, whereas those in the back are facing the windows and seem to be engaged in conversation; another ballerina has her right leg raised out of sync with the rest. A solitary dancer is to the left of the violinist just doing her own thing.

The light is suffused on the scene from the huge vertical arched windows and seem to light up the dance costumes.
In summary, there is delightful sense of spontaneity, movement and random energy emanating from the dancers.

Interestingly enough, the Harvard Magazine (See Mad for Degas) of July/ August 2005 discusses the acquisition of The Rehearsal from Maurice Werthheim in 1951 and discusses the curators passion for assembling Degas.

July 19, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remembering the Korean War 60 Years Later: 1950-53

On the 25th of June 1950, the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea to begin what was a three-year war often called 'The Forgotten War. '

President Harry Truman responded within two days by sending US air and sea forces into action to aid south Korea; the same day the United Nations passed a resolution urging member states to send defense troops in what it called a 'Police Action'. (20 member states answered the call of duty)

President Truman viewed the invasion as an attempt by the Soviet Union to extend its influence in East Asia. He commented that our troops fought with 'grim gallantry' enduring the brutally cold winters and the excruciatingly hot summers.

54,000 Americans died in combat. 110,000 were either wounded or missing in action. Over 1.8 million troopers "answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." (quote from the National Korean War Memorial in Washington)

Click on the link below (or copy and paste to your browser window) to see General David Petraeus as the keynote speaker at the Korean War Veterans Appreciation Ceremony at independence , Missouri this June recognizing the 60th anniversary of the start of this historic war.

At about 55 minutes into the video, the General pays homage to all Korean War Veterans and to two living soldiers who were present: Marine Private First Class Richard Nightingale who was awarded the Silver Star Medal the nation's third highest award for valor and Sergeant Francis Schwartze, the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor.

As a footnote this is a war that is indelibly etched into my memory. I recall vividly as a child the names Pork Chop Hill, Old Baldy (Hill 266), Inchon Amphibious Invasion, President Harry Truman (whom I later met in person) , General Douglas McCarthurGeneral Matthew Ridgeway, The F-86 Sabrejet (which made its wartime debut downing hundreds of Soviet built MIG 15 war planes) and MIG Alley.

This war is not to be forgotten.

Accolades and medals to all those who served!
Image source (1)

Stamford Outdoor Public Art: High Ridge Park Corporate Center

Click on this Video to Experience Mobile Art Work at
High Ridge Park Corporate Center

Just behind the High Ridge Center Strip Mall near Merritt Parkway exit 35, lies one of the public art gems of Stamford: a mobile artwork sitting at the entrance to an inviting business park

In front of Building Two of the High Ridge Park Corporate Center sits a most fascinating work of art. As seen in both the photo and video, the piece rests on a circular conical base, attached to which are two more winglike cones that move about in the wind currents.

Consisting of 6 buildings built over a 6 year period from 1967-1973 on 40 acres, the park affords the visitor a marvelous, serene, green space environment replete with outdoor pools and sitting areas around the buildings.

It is well worth the trip and shows what planning and foresight can produce here in our jewel like, pristine environs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stamford's Art in Public Places: Carlos Dorrien's Sculpture of Justice

Front and Rear Views of Carlos Dorrien's Sculpture of
Justice at Entry Plaza of Stamford Courthouse, Stamford, Connecticut

As one enters the Courthouse at 123 Hoyt Street in Stamford, one cannot ignore a massive stately sculpture of the figure of Justice adjacent to another figure representing the Scales of Justice. The latter doubles as a seat for the weary.

The piece was executed in 2005 by Carlos Dorrien an Argentine native, who now lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It is a large granite figure with a figurehead who shows no emotions. Her eyes are seemingly blank as if to suggest that justice cannot show any favoritism and must often shut her eyes to emotion and consider the facts as presented.

It is a welcome addition to Stamford.

The French Connection of Two Runaways: Lessons from Two Great US Army Generals: James Gavin and Stanley McChrystal

In my prior blog on General James Gavin: Generals will be Generals: The Youngest 3 Star General, I touched briefly on what may have been the secret of his success: humble beginnings, his persistence in gaining an education in preparation for West Point (against all odds) and his 'adoption' of role models and mentors along the way.

Now to the particulars. We, and perhaps Gavin himself, do not know who his dad was. He was thrown into an orphanage at age 2 and then raised by a Pennsylvania coal mining family. Forced to work at age 12 to help with scant family income, Gavin assumed an early character building responsibility.

Seeing no future as a coal miner, he ran away on his 17th birthday to New York City. The first thing he did was wire his parents that he was okay so they would not report him as missing.

He knew with some uncanny instinct that he desperately wanted a US Army career; however, at age 17, he was underage. With this same uncanny instinct, he lied to an enlisting officer by claiming he was an orphan; Along with other 'orphans' he appeared in front a lawyer who became their guardian and the latter signed their parental consent form.

His first assignment sent him to Fort Sherman in Panama.

Have you ever been to Panama? The Caribbean coast, where Gavin was sent, is extremely humid and has a seven month rainy season from May to December. This is not to mention the mosquitos and bugs that infest the area and the possibility of contracting malaria.

Despite these hardships, Gavin at age 17 survived and his superior Sergeant McCarthy said his performance was fine.

Though he had at most a 7th grade formal education, Gavin passionately pursued a catch-up self motivated education, against all odds; first in Panama, he rigorously studied from 8AM to noon daily, and then in the lighted lavatories-the only light available-at West Point he played education catch-ups from 4AM til reveille.

Not bad for this orphan runaway kid from the coal mines--who is a published author of five books. He even rose to become CEO of Arthur D. Little, the international management firm

He showed a gumption to rise to the top and stay there.

Like Gavin, Stanley McChrystal, the 'scholar-warrior' (holding posts at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Counsel of Foreign Relations) similarly rose to the top of his military profession serving along the way as Director of Joint Staff in 2008 under President Bush. He has a strong background as a Green Beret, Army Ranger and in Special Forces making him an author and authority on the brilliant tactics of counterinsurgency; the mission involves "the idea that the best way to deal with a guerrilla movement is to provide security for the populace rather than focus exclusively on combat." (Time Magazine)

He is a trained expert in "special ops" which is a branch of the military that uses small units of super-trained operatives working quietly within the native population .

He directed the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq, which is an elite, undercover group known as the 'terrorist hunters." His group is behind killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

He had a great role model in his father, a two star General, Major General Herbert McChrystal Jr. , who served in Germany during the American occupation after World War II.

The French connection links these two war heroes.

Gavin reached a pinnacle when he was tapped by President John F. Kennedy to be our Ambassador to France in 1961 to improve our faltering relations with our World War II ally. This appointment was based on "jumpin Jim's" strong World War II leadership experiences and his relationship with General Charles de Gaulle.

General Gavin ran away from his home to learn about life--his life, to learn responsibility for himself and for others. He was forever indebted to his mentors.

General McChrystal ran away--ran away from the awesome responsibility of showing respect to his Commander, to his inferiors and to other cultures.

In the The Runaway General article appearing in Rolling Stone, writer, Michael Hasting details how a great General sabotaged his career and mouthed his own Waterloo by not only disparaging the French and their culture, but also his Commander in Chief, President Obama

These French (and I won't belittle the General any more by quoting from the article which is available online) are the very ones who sent over General Lafayette, with his gallant military expertise and infantry personnel during our revolution to aid George Washington fight our revolutionary war. A cause which gave Stanley McCrhystal the opportunity to succeed.

General Gavin learned the art of diplomacy and tact by quietly following his superiors and mentors and setting an example through heroic action.

General Stanley McChrystal, our other hero, must learn the art of silence and respect for his superiors.

He is young; he is 55; he can do it and resurrect his fallen career.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

President Ulysses Grant Comes to Stamford to Write his Memoirs

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877)

This Plaque dedicated to President and Civil War General
Ulysses Grant is located on Strawberry Hill Ave., Stamford, CT

A View of Holbrook Estates Development off of Strawberry Hill Ave.
The Plaque dedicated to President Grant can be seen on the right brick post

The 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822-July 23, 1885) served as our country's chief executive from 1869-1877. He is best remembered as the Civil War General that President Lincoln called on to restore unity to our fledgling republic that was torn by the War between the States. The civil war ended at Appomattox in April 1865 when Lee surrendered to Grant

So how did he come to Stamford to write his memoirs from 1881-1884 just shortly before his demise?

The facts are simple: after a trip around the world in 1880-81, he had gone through most of his assets and needed to earn money. After purchasing a home in New York City, he entered into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward who was an associate of Grant's son, Ulysses, Jr. who had a reputation as a financial whiz on Wall Street. Grant, it is widely held, borrowed money to invest with Ward

Ward had an estate in Stamford's Strawberry Hill area and arranged for Grant to stay on his estate beginning in 1881 to generate funds by writing his memoirs. It is known that Grant worked feverishly day and night here in Stamford to rush his memoirs to the publisher so he could get funds.

Alas, General's are oftentimes better at conducting war than investing funds in business.

Ward turned out to be a swindler and fleeced not only Grant but other investors as well. He bankrupted his company, Grant & Ward and fled. According to Wiki, "Grant was forced to repay a $150, 000 loan to one of his creditors, William H. Vanderbilt , with his Civil War mementos.

On the bright side, Grant's writings did get him and his family out of debt and improved his reputation greatly. He successfully wrote Civil War articles for the Century Magazine. An angel appeared in the guise of Mark Twain who fathered a generous contract with Grant for his memoirs, "including 75% of the book's sales as royalties."

A bill was passed by Congress thanks to the efforts by President Grover Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th President) that restored to General Grant the full retirement pay that had been withheld when he assumed the Presidency. In 1958, Congress passed a bill that granted the Grant family a pension that is still in effect today.

The memoirs were completed days before Grant's death; they sold over 300,000 copies and yielded over $450,000 to his family.

Grant's tomb, in Riverside Park along the Hudson River near 125th Street, is the largest mausoleum in North America.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Should We Save Stamford's Elegant Copper Beech Tree?

This Solitary Stately Copper Beech Tree is at the Center of Sympathy and Controversy

The Stamford Advocate has turned loose its best writers (first Elizabeth Kim : A Historic Downtown Stamford Tree Faces Possible Demise and then Angela Carella: Tree That Rose with City is Threatened) advocating that we turn our attention to saving a piece of Stamford's green history, a majestic Copper Beech Tree that stands at the entrance of the Old Stamford Advocate building at Tresser Blvd and Washington Blvd. ; this building, which functioned as the Advocate's headquarters for less than 30 years was built around a tree that perhaps is nearly 200 years old.

A Norwalk developer has submitted plans to build a complex on this site which does not include saving this tree!

Granted, there is a lot of sentimentality surrounding the possible demise of the tree as Jack Shaw, former publisher of the Advocate reports; he lobbied strongly and successfully to save the tree back in 1978 when building plans were formulated for the newspaper's 'new' hi tech facility; in Ms. Kim's article, he is quoted as saying, 'It would be a wonderful entrance to an apartment house.'

Furthermore, Ms. Carella's informs us that "reporters used to fight for seats near the window so they could look at the copper beech while they wrote their stories . The dark green leaves have red veins, which makes then look purple in the sunlight...In autumn, the leaves turn deep red with a coppery sheen."

All well and said. But perhaps, we are overlooking a fundamental underlying issue.

Does our downtown adequately serve its residents, workers and visitors with enough downtown green havens-- parks small and large-- with benches to enjoy a lunch or brief respite while walking around?

Recently, I spent a few hours walking and photographing the downtown area around the Government building at 777 Washington Blvd across from the abandoned Advocate site. What is apparent to me is that no park space has been dedicated to the public. (the nearby Mill River cherry tree project is incomplete) Adequate parking yes! Thank you city fathers for an ample free city garage adjacent to 777. Across the street on Washington, UBS has a magnificent lawn space in front of their headquarters, but no shaded public use areas. Ditto for the RBS facility which is on the same side as the Advocate Building.

Isn't it time, we citizens demand of our public officials a master plan for developers and downtown business to dedicate public use shaded greens to enhance the downtown area?

Scalzi Park is a great public recreation area and we are all proud of it, but a shade too far of a walk to be included in the downtown area!

Perhaps, saving the copper beech will awaken us to the myriad visions and possibilitlies to enhance the prospective beauty of our city.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stamford, Connecticut Tesol Program is Alive and Running Well

The Scofield Magnet Middle School in Stamford, CT

What is the Tesol program offered by the Stamford Board of Education for at least the last 15 years?

First off, Tesol stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. In the Scofield Magnet Middle School in Stamford, Ct, this means that about 24 children who have just recently arrived in the United States from foreign countries are offered an intensive one year (and sometimes less time) program in the English language. This means that they are totally immersed in the American language and customs from the get go.

I had the unique opportunity to substitute teach such a class most recently--my second time in two years. To say the least, my time with the students required every ounce of concentration. There are two aides without whose persistent monitoring, caring and admonishing (the more unruly students) I could not have functioned well.

We read together from a Weekly Reader whose colorful graphics driven text of four pages was a stimulant to a lively discussion . There were 6 tables and each table has four students who in some cases, I discovered, are from the same country. The most lively group was from a foursome that had just arrived a few months ago just after the horrific earthquake that devastated a major part of Haiti. They had their hands raised offering to read and then answer my questions. (the subject was the green ecological recycling of a postal cardboard box.)

Wow, was the conversation lively and the hands raised with an urgency.

At the end of this class, one student recently arrived from Haiti (as were 7 others) and dressed in a lovely skirt and matching blouse came up to me and asked in perfect French:" Monsieur S. Est -ce que tu seras ici demain?" (translated will you be coming back again tomorrow, Mr. S?)I answered her in English. Your regular teacher will be back tomorrow.

At this point I realized how traumatic the last few months was for these 8 Haitian students (ages 12-15). They were rudely and suddenly uprooted from their Island homes. Some had even lost parents, relatives and friends; here they were in Stamford, in beautiful new educational surroundings--their new home for half their day--and they are seeking stability, some sense of order and permanency. Will you be here for us tomorrow, Mr. S.?

During my break, I ran out to a private teacher's lounge and let out a pent up cry of emotion.

My heart goes out to these students from Sri Lanka, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala etc. Their former lives are illustrated on the walls of the classroom in large posters with lots of color pictures and information about the countries they no longer call home. Equally, moving are the photos of hundreds of children, likewise on numerous posters, who have been helped by these dedicated teachers to transition to their new country.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Born on the 4th of July: Calvin Coolidge, Jr. 30th President of the United States. A Slideshow

Calvin Coolidge (July 4, 1872- January 5, 1933) is the only President who was born on the fourth of July. This year, according to John Curran's article for the AP, (Calvin Coolidge, born July 4: Hero to Tea Partiers) the occasion was to be marked by a special celebration at the President's birthplace in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.

At noon a Vermont National Guard contingent was to lead a procession of hundreds of people from the village green to the Plymouth Notch Cemetery where Coolidge is buried along with 4 generations of his ancestors.

The following slide show (taken on a trip to Vermont 4 years ago) must be highlighted by two brief points.

First, destiny thrust the Presidency on 'silent Cal'-- a man of few words-- who felt uncomfortable in social settings. President Harding passed away suddenly on a trip to California. So, the recessive Vice President, who believed that Government best that governed least, was thrust into the limelight; this event occurred two and a half years into a Presidency marked by scandals such as The Teapot Dome-- which effectively destroyed the once amiable Harding's reputation after his death.

Secondly, history has dealt a severe blow to Coolidge's status especially as the Great Depression followed a mere seven months after his term ended in 1929.

According to the Curran article, the Tea Party is rehabilitating Coolidge based on his strong anti-tax stance which echoes that of the tea party.

On Independence Day: A Salute to John Adams and Family

Abigail and John Adams from the Vassar College Collection

Resident of Braintree, Massachusetts, Farmer, Lawyer, Patriot, Ambassador, Statesman, Second President of the United States, father of the Sixth President of the United States and devoted husband to wife Abigail doesn't begin to describe adequately a great Founding Father: John Adams (October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826. He helped Thomas Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence and according to Wikipedia:
'On June 7, 1776, Adams seconded the resolution of independence introduced by Richard Henry Lee which stated, "These colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, " and championed the resolution until it was adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776.'
Years later, Jefferson declared Adams as the "pillar of the [Declaration's] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered."

Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States (1743-1826)

It is so fitting that we remember Adams-- this zealous patriot today-- which happens to be the very day, July 4, 1826--one hundred eighty-four years ago that both he and fellow nation founder, Thomas Jefferson, passed on to the great blue yonder. This was the 50th year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy July 4th to All!

July 2, 2010

Notable Quotes from General James M. Gavin

"Show me a man who will jump out of an airplane and I'll show you a man who will fight."

"If you want a decision, go to the point of danger."

"When we jumped into Sicily, the units became separated, I couldn't find anyone. Eventually, I stumbled across two colonels, a major, three captains, two lieutenants and one rifleman and we secured the bridge. Never in the history of war have so few been led by so many."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Generals will be Generals: The Youngest 3 Star General: Lieutenant General James M. Gavin

Lieutenant General James M. Gavin

Today is the day that formally starts the second half of the year 2010. And time for some straight talking about what makes an outstanding General. We've heard enough Obama firing General McChrystal and installing General Petraeus to take command of US Armed Forces in Afghanistan. We've heard enough from the skeptics as to why we are fighting this counter-insurgency. We've heard enough about what our departure (the President's 'exit strategy') in July 2011 'really' means.

What we have not heard enough about is how Top Generals are made and get to maintain their status and jobs for extended periods of time.

One such officer was General James Maurice Gavin known as "Jumpin' Jim" (March 22, 1907-February 23, 1990) who was the Commanding Officer of the 82nd Airborne Division that parachuted into Normandy on D-Day 1944;he was also a prominent Major General in the United States Army during World War II and went on to became a three star General (grade of Lieutenant General, the number two officer under the General) at age 48 capping an illustrious career.

The secret to his success lies in humble beginnings and the will to overcome each and every adversity and thus gradually ladder his way--rung by rung-- to achieve his passion. Then, of course he had the good fortune in having strong mentors, whom he chose to follow.

He was the son of an unwed Irish immigrant and was raised in a New York City orphanage from the age of two; he remained there until adopted in 1909 by a coal mining family, Martin and Mary Gavin, from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. His father was a coal miner who had a hard time making ends meet and Gavin began working at age 12 to help support the family .

Realizing the limited opportunities for him in Mount Carmel--he definitely did not want to follow his dad's path to work in the mines--he ran away from home on his 17th birthday in March, 1924 and took the night train to New York City. He showed up at the US Army Recruiting office to enlist ; knowing that he was one year underage, he lied and told the recruiter his was an orphan whereupon he was sent to a lawyer who declared himself his guardian and signed the parental consent form for him.

The rest is the 'history'--of a determined energetic young brave warrior-to-be. He was admitted into West Point in the summer of 1925, but only after being stationed in Panama, then Belize and despite a seventh grade education, studied at an army school, grinding away religiously for 4 months studying algebra, geometry English and history from 8AM until noon. His mentors included Sergeant McCarthy who guided him while Gavin served as crewmember of a 155mm gun. An American Indian named "Chief" Williams, his first Sergeant, was another instructor he looked up to.

Once at the Point, he again lied that he was 21, to hide the fact he was 17 at the time of his enlistment. He had to rise daily at 4:30 to catch up with his basic studies he needed to fill in the course work he had missed out. He studied in the bathroom, the only place that had enough light at this early hour. With such perseverance and single-minded purpose, he graduated West Point 4 years later.

We fast forward his career to 1939, right after the German Blitzkrieg began to conquer Europe and Gavin was ordered back to West Point to become a Tactics Instructor where his assignment was to analyze the German tactics, vehicles and armaments (his students judged him to be the best instructor they had). For the first time, he wrote about Airborne forces:

"From what we had seen so far, it was clear the most promising area of all was airborne warfare, bringing the parachute troops and the glider troops to the battlefield in masses, especially trained, armed and equipped for that kind of warfare."

After training at the Airborne School in Fort Benning in July 1941, he went on to lead parachute assaults in Sicily, and Salerno Bay, Italy in 1943 ; when George Marshall heard that a Major was doing the work of a General, he quickly promoted Gavin to Brigadier General (One Star General) overnight.

Gavin then went on to jump with the parachute assault section on the first night of the Normandy Invasion of June 5-6 1944. Troops from his division helped secure and hold the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and guarded river crossings on the flank of the Utah Beach landing area.

Gavin was later made Major General (two star General) at age 37, the youngest officer to do so (the other officer was George Armstrong Custer). During the operations in the Netherlands, he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and later fought in Germany until the Germans surrendered in 1945.

In the 1950's Gavin was head of Army research and development. After his retirement in 1958, he served as ambassador to France (1961-63) and was a strong critic of the Vietnam war. He is the author of numerous books.

Amy Johnson, English Aviatrix, Louis Bleriot, French Aviator and Engineer

Photo Montage of Amy Johnson from the Royal Air Force Museum

Amy Johnson (July 1, 1903- January 5, 1941), British Aviatrix earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sheffield University. Her father encouraged her love of flying by providing funds for her purchase of a used de Havilland Gipsy Moth (an early production bi-wing craft).

Among her worldwide achievements include the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia. On May 5, 1930, she left Croyden ((south of London) and 19 days later, she landed in Darwin, Australia on May 24; her total flight was 11,000 miles. Then in 1931, with co-pilot Jack Humphreys, the duo became the first aviators to fly from Britain to Moscow in one day, achieving the 1760 mile flight in about 21 hours. They continued to fly east over Siberia and landed in Tokyo.

In 1933, she and husband Scottish pilot Jim Mollison flew from Pendine Sands, South Wales to the United States. Though their plane crash landed in Bridgeport, Connecticut (lack of fuel), the pair recovered and were feted by a ticker tape parade down Wall Street.

She drowned in the Thames Estuary (where the River Thames joins the North Sea in Essex and Kent) after bailing out of an Airspeed AS.10 Oxford (twin-engine WW II training plane) during inclement weather.

Louis Bleriot, French Aviator, Inventor and Engineer

Six years after the Wright Brothers made their December 17, 1903 historic flight at Kitty Hawk (the first of which covered 120 feet in 12 seconds), Louis Bleriot (July 1, 1872- August 2, 1936) etched his name in history by successfully crossing the English channel in his own uniquely designed monoplane, the Bleriot XI. Powered by a 25 Horsepower, 3-cylinder radial engine, with a two-bladed fixed pitch wooden propeller, Bleriot's plane had about the same power as a "lower end large outboard motor" commonly used to power present day motorboats.

On July 25, 1909, he took off at 4:30 AM just after dawn from Les Barraques near the seaside town of Calais with the French government following his course across the English Channel with a destroyer moored below in the harbor. He later reported to the Washington Post that on takeoff he barely cleared telegraph wires at the end of the runway--this was running the engine at its maximum of 1200 revolutions per minute. He flew at an average speed of 40 miles per hour at at altitude of about 250 feet.

Very soon Bleriot encountered rough weather that completely obscured his visibility as he soon outpaced the destroyer. He reported that "[f]or more than 10 minutes I was alone, isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea, and I did not see anything on the horizon or a single ship."

He landed in turbulent weather with the engine in danger of stalling and a strong cross wind blowing him off course. As he reduced his airspeed for landing, the strong gusts of wind nearly caused his plane to crash. Luckily, he landed safely with damage only to his landing gear and propeller. The rest of the plane survived along with the pilot . The 22 statute mile flight took 37 minutes and as a result, Bleriot became world famous.

From 1909 until 1914, Bleriot produced more than 800 aircraft. He then founded a company that went on to produce fighter planes used in World War I. He opened up 2 flying schools before the war in England. Named for his achievements, the "Louis Bleriot Medal" was established by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 1936 and can be given up to 3 times a year to record setters in speed, altitude and distance performance in light aircraft.