Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Stamford Christmas Tragedy

Our hearts go out to the losses suffered by the extended Badger family.

The fire that claimed five lives (three children and two grandparents) early on Christmas day weighs heavy on the entire Stamford community.

To relive the events as they unravel puts all of us in the shoes of the two survivors.

It is incumbent upon us to ask two vital questions!

How did these events occur?

And more important: what can we do to prevent such a tragedy in the future?

Subscriber Confusion at The New York Times

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the New York Times to the effect that I had cancelled my subscription. (In fact, I had requested no such thing!)

To keep me as a subscriber, the paper offered me the next 16 weeks at a 50% savings. In order to prevent cancellation, the letter urged me to call an 800 number!

Well, I started calling immediately and I kept getting a busy signal from about 2PM until 6PM.  I assumed it must have been a mistake and planned to call in the morning.

This morning, I read an email from the Times with the heading Correction. It urged me to disregard yesterday's email which had been sent by error and apologized for any confusion created.

According to a Reuters article at Yahoo news, the error was an in house one.

The email should have only been sent to several hundred people and an employee error initiated the email to over 8 million readers.

I'm glad the situation has been rectified.

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Computers for Harry Bennett Library

The Old Style Computer "Desks" at Bennett

 Remember those cumbersome computer "desks" at Harry Bennet Library?

The machines were so slow, so hard to read--as if peering down into a microscope.

And so few of them, too.

Well, now times have changed.

About a month ago, Bennet installed about 20 new Sony computers- flat screened and and fast, too.

Not only do they occupy the area where the old computers had been, they also occupy the opposite wall as well.

I sat down at one and it was a pleasure to use.

Congratulations, Bennett!    

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Apple Store Opens Quietly in Grand Central Station

The New Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal

With minimum fanfare Apple has opened its newest store early in December.

It is located on the east end of the upper level of Grand Central Station (and even continues down part of the north side as well!)

(I happened to be at GCT 4 days after the official opening and thought it a good idea to make a visit for the 20 minutes before I was due at my train.)

Standing on the main level below and casting your eyes upward, you would never know it's there.

No signs are posted. You simply climb the stairs at the east side and voila you are there.

Dozens of red- shirted Apple employees are ready to serve you.

Upon entering the mezzanine area, one is impressed by the numerous plain tables devoted to interactive demos of apple products ranging from iphones, ipads to MacBook Pros.

The red shirts are busy swiping credit cards through their smart phones.

It was about 4 PM and there appears to be hundreds of consumers milling about.

There are two genius bars--tech support stations to address customer problems.

Since it's a fully open air retail facility, I wonder what happens to all hundreds of display models at closing.

Good luck, Apple at your new location!
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Digital Pro Lara Lang Now Heads Time, Inc.

Lara Lang 
Andrew Harrer/ Bloomberg News

What is the future of the magazine business?

With the appointment of Lara Lang as the new CEO of the company that publishes 21 magazines-- including Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune-- we can get a glimpse of the direction the company will take in promoting its titles.

First, her background is not in advertising sales or traditional publishing. She was CEO of Digitas, the digital arm of multinational ad giant Publicis. Here she focused on designing ads on websites that are geared to getting immediate responses (by clicking on offers). She thus could bring hard core results and data to the advertiser by tracking the reader's interests.

It used to be that advertisers were happy to run ads for their products in general interest magazines such as Time or Life. Buick would run an ad for its latest model even though most readers would not have the slightest interest in purchasing the model and thus merely flip through the ad pages.

This ad model has changed dramatically with the introduction of google ads where advertisers target an audience of 'interested' potential buyers based upon cookies that have been inserted on the computer of the user.

Magazines were formerly in print versions (brands) only.

Now more and more magazines have applications for the ipad and other tablets. So magazines are now placing more current content- such as up-to-the minute videos and stories online so the reader doesn't have to wait a week to read these late breaking stories.

The new online version of the magazines, presents a golden opportunity for advertisers to display their brands. So for instance, live coverage of the Indy 500, whether in Sports Illustrated or Time, affords automotives the right venue to get their message out.

Does this spell the end of print magazines as we have known them?  No!  They will continue to thrive so long as they have branded themselves into new digital versions to supplement their traditional format.

How well Miss Lang can effectuate this model for Time Inc. awaits to be seen.

Good luck Lara!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I've Been Reading Lately: Bernhard Schlink's The Reader

This novel held my attention from start to finish!

At its end, it left me with unanswered questions.

The year is 1958.

Michael Berg is the protagonist and early on he has an affair with Hannah Schmidt a ticket collector on a tram in a West German City.  This is no 'ordinary' liaison as he is 15 and she is 38; their love making is preceded by bathing.

She often insists he read to her from the classics like The Odyssey and Chekhov's The Lady with the Dog at the start of each meeting.

Of course, Hannah is controlling of their relationship and is at times verbally and physically abusive.

Then one day she disappears. Michael is uncomprehending of her split and is hurt.

Seven years later, he catches a glimpse of Hannah during a war crimes trial he begins attending as part of his Law School coursework. She is a defendant along with a group of female SS guards who served at a satellite camp near Auschwitz. They are tried for allowing 300 Jewish women (they were escorting on a death march?) to perish in a fire while locked up in a church.

Michael is astonished when Hannah appears to take full responsibility for the deaths; she is also accused of writing the account of the fire. (She first denies the latter and quickly changes her plea when she realizes she will have to give a sample of her handwriting.)

It is then that Michael realizes Hannah's secret--she is illiterate. We also learn that Hannah sheltered the weak women at the camp and had them read to her before they are sent to the gas chambers.

At this point in the narrative, I invite my reader to grab the novel and discover yourself the surprise  ending and the answer to some of the following questions.

1. Does Hannah get convicted and does she serve time?

2. If so, how does she spend her time in jail?

3. Does she show remorse for her complicity in crimes she may have committed? Is she granted some type of absolution?

4. Does Michael reconnect with Hannah during or after the trial?

5. How does Michael deal with the moral issues of having had a close/loving connection to someone who committed war crimes? (He confesses "the pain I went through because of my love for Hannah was, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate...")

6. How has Michael's relationship with his wife and children been affected by his love for Hannah?

6. How does the author deal with the collective guilt that Michael's generation has towards the complicity of his parents' generation in the holocaust?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Betty Haas Pfister was a pioneering aviatrix

Betty Hass Pfister (July 23, 1921- November 17, 2011) was a pioneering female aviatrix. She won the All Women's International Air Race two times and was a member of Women Airforce Service Pilots (or WASPs) during World War II.

While a student at Bennington College in 1940, whe was smitten by the urge to fly during an airshow; despite remonstrances by her dad not to fly, she paid her dollar " and squished into the seat" for a chance to fly on a small plane.

She cut a deal with her dad that if she stayed in college, he would pay for her flight lessons.

After graduation she joined the WASPs. Male pilots were sent overseas, so an opportunity arose for her; she began to ferry planes from factories to airports or ports where they would be shipped overseas.

Betty Haas Pfister with her  P=39 Fighter

After the war she worked as an aircraft mechanic; then, with over 1000 hours of flight time, she became a stewardess with Pan American.

In 1950, she won the All Women's International Air Race from Montreal to West Palm Beach Florida;  then, in 1952, she again won the race in a flight from St. Augustine, Florida to Welland, Ontario.

She was very proud of her P-39 a surplus fighter airplane that she named Galloping Gertie. She later earned her helicopter license and said she would rather fly "an hour in a helicopter than 100 hours in an airplane."
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Illiterate at 96, he publishes his first book at 98!

I was at my club yesterday pedaling away and happened to look up at one of the video screens to catch a rare story that caught my attention on HLNTV

Here was this 98 year old fisherman living in the Mystic/Stonington Connecticut area who had gone 96 years without being able to read or write.

Two years ago he became literate and has published a book of 29 chapters that details his life in detail including serving as  Captain of  three fishing boats.

Congrats to Jim Henry.

Here is the complete story:

Monday, November 21, 2011

What I've Been Reading: The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Mullen's first novel is a great read. 

The book is a gripping story about the effects of two simultaneous events on a new small milling town, named Commonwealth, located in a rural area of Washington State.

The first event is an outbreak of the Spanish flu that swept across America in about 1915--killing millions in its wake and now surrounds tiny Commonwealth.

 So, after a town debate, a quarantine is imposed.

The second event is World War I in which the US had just joined. Certain jobs were considered essential  and deferments were granted for them. Logging was just such an industry.

 Phillip is the protagonist in a cast of strongly developed characters ; A 16 year old adopted son of the founder of Commonwealth, he is torn between his loyalty to the quarantine and his feelings to protect a runaway soldier from a nearby Fort. The latter tells Phillip he has killed another soldier who was tormenting a conscientious objector. Phillip harbors him and for a while the two are held 'captive' for two days until the threat of contagion passes.

The climax is when Phillip kills Sheriff Skip Bartram who leads a trouble-making group from a nearby town on two occasions: the first to break the quarantine and the second to hunt down draft dodgers.

All these events occurs against a plague that takes the lives of dozens of residents of the town and even has Phillip in its clutches until he is able to beat it.

The question at the end of the novel is where will Phillip seek haven from a possee that is sure to come hunting for him.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fall foliage illuminates Stamford

Autumn has brought dramatic changes to Stamford.

The last few days have been delightful with temperature in the 60's and virtually no breezes.

The mid-afternoon sun has yielded a dramatic backdrop of so many golden, tawny and russet hues.

Veteran's Day Slideshow from Glenbrook Stamford

Each flag represents a service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado: A Great Read

Here is another book that seemed to jump off the shelf at my local library. 

At first, it barely held my attention. However, it soon captivated me as it spans the lost world of Aleppo, Syria in the early 1900's, Cairo, Egypt in the 1940's and 50's, Paris and then the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.

The author delineates many of her family members in great detail. However, it is her father Leon who comes to dominate the family history. A successful businessman in Cairo with lots of clients, flair for trading stocks and an amazing wardrobe, he is constantly on the move with a surplus of energy. It is the night life that he lives for.

" Except for Friday nights, he didn't even bother to stay for supper. If he came back at all after work, it was to go immediately to his room and dress for the evening ahead, an elaborate ritual that he seemed to enjoy almost as much as what the night held in store. 

"He was meticulous and more than a little vain. He had assembled a wardrobe made by Cairo's finest tailors in every possible fabric-linen, Egyptian cotton, English tweed, vicuna, along with shirts made of silk imported from India. There were also the sharkskin suits and jackets he favored above all others, especially to wear at night."

"My father was such a habitue of the different establishments, there wasn't a club owner who didn't know him on a first-name basis. If there was a group of British officers--and there invariably was--he would join them at their table, and it didn't matter that he was both an Arab and a Jew. He was really one of them."

The British officers called him Captain Phillips because of his debonair manner and British accent.

Leon marries a woman over 20 years his junior and his life style does not change; he continues his nighttime excursions. Somehow, he finds time to attend daily religious services often times showing up on the heels of his nightlife.

Leon's life changes dramatically after he injures his leg and hip in a fall and he must cut back on his nocturnal activities. He now focuses his attention on his littlest child Loulou, the author of this book.

With the fall of King Farouk and then the rise of the anti-semitic Nasser in the mid-1950's, the Lagnado family led by Leon reluctantly flees a life of comfort in their spacious apartment on Malakah Nazli, a fashionable street in the heart of Cairo.

With all their belongings packed into 26 suitcases and only $200 in their pockets (the maximum money they are allowed) the family flees first to Alexandria, then onto Athens, Genoa, Naples, Marseilles and  endures a year-long stay in a run- down neighborhood in Paris (supported by HIAS)  before they are given clearance to settle in America.

Once in America, Leon takes a job as a tie salesman selling his wares at subway stations and on Canal Street in Manhattan. Invariably, he takes Loulou with him. He dearly misses Cairo and continues to attend daily services in his neighborhood sometimes staying up to 9 hours praying and reading Psalms and other holy texts.

The family fabric falls apart as the older children move away.

Now we learn that Loulou's childhood illness  (originally thought to be cat scratch disease) is diagnosed as Hodgkin's disease and she develops a close relationship with a cancer specialist who helps to nurture her away from the dominance of her parents.

Indeed as her father's and mother's health falter, it is his daughter Lucette (Loulou) who becomes the heroine of the family saga as she learns to adapt to the new American culture.

The book is a great read!  


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lost in Shangri-La is a WWII true story of adventure by Mitchell Zuckoff

This book grabbed my attention from its very beginning.

The cover hails it as "A true story of survival, adventure and the most incredible rescue mission of World War II."

This book lives up to its billing and much more.

On May 13, 1945, a C-60 transport plane, called the Gremlin Special, carrying 24 members of the U.S. military set off on a sightseeing tour of a remote mountain valley on the island of New Guinea.

The pilot crashed into a mountain and only 3 passengers survived.

The tale tells how they hiked through dense forest (two had severe injuries and were suffering from gangrene) into the valley, made friends with the 'stone-age' natives and subsisted on daily rations that were parachuted into them.

Miraculously, the natives, presumed to be cannibals and warlike, thought they were incarnations of white sky gods who figure in their belief system. So, the natives refrained from harming them.

The rescue is effected by a brave group of Filipino-American paratroopers, who utilize gliders and a cargo plane with a big hook.

Once again, this book demonstrated the magic of a book leaping from the shelves as I walked through the library.

The book is an engrossing must read and is documented by extensive research.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cellist of Sarajevo: A Book that flew off the Library Bookshelf

Lately, I've come across a number of excellent reads which I will share with you.

What is amazing is how I discovered them.

On two occasions, I was merely dropping off library books that were (over?)due. Then suddenly as I exited, a book suddenly caught my attention.

It was as if the book was saying to me: ''grab me, take me home, you won't be disappointed."

And true to form, I was not disappointed on the last two occasions.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is war fiction at its best. And it is a very fast read.

The novel is in part about the inspiration that a cellist gives to those who have chosen to remain and and retain possession of their once beautiful city.

Set against the backdrop of the siege of Sarajevo, the story mainly details the lives of four individuals who are surviving-- as snipers rein down ammo upon them from the hills surrounding the city.

Arrow is one of them. She kills a sniper whose mission it is to kill the cellist. (The latter plays his instrument daily late in the late afternoon at the location where mortar shells killed 22 people who were on a bread line.)

The book depicts the the humanity of the quartet as they go about their tasks -- ducking bullets-- as they transport water, bread and other essentials in a city where the majority of buildings have been turned into skeletons.

It is a must read!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Steve Jobs: An American Hero, An Entrepreneur for All Seasons

Steve Jobs holding a white iphone  4 

Late in August this year, Apple announced that Steve Jobs was stepping down as CEO and would remain as Chairman. The reason cited was ill health. He had a liver transplant back in 2009 and was suffering from an incurable rare cancer. (It was clear then that his days were limited...)

Almost immediately, there began an outpouring of articles about Steve--most of them were laudatory assuring him a place in the pantheon of business greats.

Here is a sampling of comments from a few of the articles.

 From Joe Nocera's What Makes Steve Jobs Great (NYT, Aug. 27):  Jobs "violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings:  I watched him eviscerate staff members for their bozo ideas."

The extraordinary personality of Jobs is captured by Michael Malone in Steve Jobs and the Death of the Personal Computer (WSJ, 8/31):  "Every generation produces a few individuals whose will to restructure the world in their own image is so powerful that they seem to distort reality itself. They change the world, not always for the better and that in the U.S. they often choose to pursue entrepreneurship and industry rather than politics is one of the uncelebrated blessings of American capitalism. Mr. Jobs--who emerged from an uncertain childhood brilliant, charismatic and charged with an ambition that would make most mortals blush--is one of those figures, a fact recognized before he reached adulthood."

Jason Pontin wrote the following in Apple Without its Genius Will be Less Lovable (FT, August 31):  "He does not care about the computer industry for itself, which is why he as been able to expand Apple's business beyond computers to music players, phones and tablets. Instead he wants people to do things they couldn't do before: create documents on laptops with fonts that only professional printers once used; listen to music on phones; read books, play games and watch movies on slim, crystalline screens. The paradox of all preoccupation with delighting people is that he disdains questioning customers....In short, he really is that overused word: a visionary."

In Conflicting Clues from Iconic CEO Departures, Sree Vidya Bhaktvatsalam and Christopher Condon of Bloomberg News (8/30) report that the year after Bill Gates departed as CEO of Microsoft in June 2006, the stock rose 38 percent; however, General Electric Co. stock plummeted 16 percent after Jeff Immelt replaced Jack Welch ten years ago. As a post script to this article, Apple stock is up about 40 points; Just last week ending October 14, it rose 14% closing at a record 422!

Finally in Apple gives new CEO Cook $28 billion cash for acquisitions, Danielle Kucera and Rita Nazareth (Bloomberg News 8/28) we read: "Even without a single billion-dollar acquisition, Apple's value under Jobs increased by more than $300 billion in the past 10 years. Jobs has also doubled Apple's net income every two years since the company reported its last annual loss in 2001."

As of this past Friday, Apple is now worth $391 Billion; Exxon Mobil comes in second at $380 Billion. Quite an amazing feat for Steve Jobs who left such a strong imprint of success on his company!
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Serena is fined $2,000. What is the Price of Repeated Bad Court-side Behavior?

Gone are the days when the bad boy of 1980's tennis John Mcenroe could verbally harass court umpires with his tirade and avalanche of harsh words--and not be fined and punished.

Times have changed because the rules have changed. Rules have changed because the fans expect the etiquette of traditional tennis to be honored.

Each Grand Slam tournament sets its own standards and rules. White is still the required court wear at Wimbledon while the USTA allows multicolored tennis garb.

But would the All England Tennis Club allow such verbal abuse to be answered with a slap on Serena's wrist? (She earned $1.4 Million and was fined just $2,000)

My guess is probably not! She might even be banned from future Wimbledon competition.

Evidently, the USTA committee did not feel that Serena's conduct was serious--"did not rise to the level of a major offense under the Grand Slam Code of Conduct."

What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stamford's Mayor Pavia Unveils Memorial to 9/11 with Ceremony at the Government Center

In front of a packed audience of local citizens, city workers, firefighters, police, EMS and Marine Corps League representatives, Mayor Pavia unveiled a remembrance to 9/11.

The City received a 15 inch part of the World Trade Center Building in February and wasn't quite sure what to do with it. A very creative lady,  Krisella Garcia Bosak, saw the piece of metal and asked the Mayor if she could do something very special with it.

Here is a video clip of the unveiling.

Kristella's husband Jerry Bosak and his parents donated the memorial which will reside in the Government Center lobby.

Stamford Government Center Ceremonies Remembering 9/11: Part I

On 9/11, Stamford commemorated the tragic events that occurred 10 years ago with a series of speeches and the dedication of a sculpture at the Government Center.

The ceremony began at 8:30 AM  with a solemn march of the Connecticut Firefighters playing their bagpipes. Here is a video clip.

Mayor Pavia was one of several excellent speakers. He reminded us that despite the sadness and grief, the remembrances and services are a 'celebration' of our spirit as a people, our strength as a country and our determination never to forget those perished in their line of duty, doing what they knew how to do best.

Here is a video clip of his speech. 

Part II will continue on my next post with a video of the unveiling of a sculpture designed from a fragment from the World Trade Center site. 

Glenbrook Stamford Remembers 9/11

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US Tennis Open 2011: Can Tennis Players be Too Nice?

The US Open Tennis Championship 
Flushing Meadows, New York 

Chris Ellsberry, a writer for The Stamford Advocate inspired my last tennis blog about #1 female tennis player Caroline Wozniacki being a class act off the court as well as on the court at the New Haven Tennis Open.

Next comes along Tom Perrotta a writer for the Wall Street Journal who asks: Is Women's Tennis Too Nice? 

He cites many excellent examples  of friendship between rivals, both on the women's and men's circuits. (For this reason, I urge you to read the entire article.)

Wozniacki visited Serena Williams at home when she suffered a pulmonary embolism and also invited her foe Victoria Azarenka (now ranked number 3 by the WTA) to her Monaco home where they dined and then visited the aquarium and beach together.

"She (Wozniacki) talks to everybody, she's very fun all the time," said Gisela Dulko, the veteran pro from Argentina. "She's always smiling."

How times have changed says Lisa Raymond who turned pro in 1993 and with Liezel Huber won the 2011 ladies doubles tournament beating defending champs King and Schvedova  4-6, 7-6, 7-6 .

Lisa is quoted as saying, "If anyone even mentioned Monica Seles or Steffi Graf, it was like, 'Ahhhhhhhhh!' You would never talk to Steffi Graf in the locker room, and I like Steffi. There was just this aura."

Tom rightly poses the key question: will this trend toward friendship and doing small deeds of kindness displayed by arch rival tennis giants inhibit their toughness and competitiveness and thus bring down the level/quality of playing? (He also queries why there are fewer tennis prodigies reaching their peak in their teens. Recall Graf , Seles, Capriati and Martina Hingis of the 1980's and 1990's--but this is getting off subject.)

The answer to the above key question is a definitive NO! Hey, it was just a short while ago that we witnessed the Williams sisters slugging it out to the finish in 8 different Grand Slam Finals matches . Admittedly, they got along very well off the courts--and we have witnessed the more argumentative Serena muscle her way past her sister in six of their eight meetings.

Thank you Tom Perrotta for an excellent article with lots of quotes.

Perhaps the most memorable one was from Samantha Stosur, the first Australian lady to win  the US Open since Margaret Court Smith in 1973-- with a stunning upset of the favorite Serena Williams in  straight sets 6-2, 6-3:  "If Federer and Nadal can seemingly get along so well, then why can't everyone else? They've got one of the greatest rivalries in sports."

Thank you Woz, Azarenka, Nadal and Federer to name a few of the current players for being outstanding role models, displaying modesty, humility and humanity by performing small acts of kindness!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Ferguson Library Bookmobile is a Stamford Tradition: It's Worth a Visit When it comes to your Neighborhood

The Ferguson Bookmobile has a history spanning over 70 years. It first made its appearance in the late 1930's and appeared like the one pictured below.

The sides of the vehicle would open up and people would come to browse the books which were neatly placed on bookshelves. It was a great way to bring the library to communities,  especially to the children. Turn of the River, Belltown, Glenbrook and North Stamford communities that benefited from the local visit; after all the city had only one library at that time.   

Sometime in the early 1940's, the Bookmobile was upgraded into a vehicle resembling a tiny school bus pictured below.

  A Stamford resident sent Ferguson Library this photo for its archives. It was taken on Webb's Hill Road off of Long Ridge Road during the winter of 1942 when he was 6 years old.   He says he remembers "the excitement of the arrival of the bookmobile and going up inside. Somehow the shelves would be pulled down and opened up, but I don't remember the details."

Today the Bookmobile can be seen in its latest incarnation all about town. 

Last Wednesday, I was able to catch up with the Bookmobile as it was parked at the Glenbrook/Shop-Rite Center from 12:15 to 2:15. The rains from tropical storm Lee had just let up and I stopped at the Bookmobile just to check out the latest offerings.

What a surprise I was in for!

I was delighted to find the latest in fiction, non-fiction and DVDs and the staff friendly and helpful in locating items.

I quickly found a copy of Senator Joe Lieberman's just published book The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, John Grisham's latest novel, The Confession  and the Coen brothers cult movie A Serious Man, on DVD.

The schedule for the Bookmobile through January 2012 can be found on the Ferguson website.

So, in these extremely difficult economic times, take a moment to patronize this valuable free resource when it visits your neighborhood and keep a Stamford legacy going.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Caroline Wozniaki number one women's tennis star displays world class off the court

Caroline Wozniacki at the 2010 US Open 

Kudos to Chris Ellsberry of the Stamford Advocate who first reported how the 22 year-old blond, blue-eyed, lithesome Wozniaki has taken New Haven 'by storm' in the recent Open tennis tournament held there. 

We all know that she has been ranked the number one women's tennis player for nearly a year. Indeed, at the baseline she is rock solid and plays near-perfect tennis.

But, it is off the court where she truly excels. On a non-play day, she is espied by Ellsberry roaming the Connecticut Tennis Center "hours on end, lighting the place up with her megawatt smile."

She can be found at the USTA Smash Zone signing autographs and posing "for pictures with hundreds of kids."

At the Cybex treadmill for breast cancer research, she ran three miles in front of an admiring crowd.

When  ladies tennis star Steffi Graff was a no-show at a The Teekanne tea party meet-and-greet, Caroline gladly filled in for the former tennis great.

It's very clear that she has an exemplary character, giving of herself, off the court wherever and whenever she is needed. It is no surprise that the entire Yale football team of 100 has come out two years straight to watch her compete.

It also comes as no surprise that she has won the New Haven Open four consecutive years including 2011!

Hats off to Caroline and to Chris Ellsberry for an inspiring story!

In my next blog, I will write about perceptions of Caroline's character from the perspective of another writer at the 2011 US Open.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The US Open at Flushing Meadows: The Ups and the Downs. Delight with the High Quality of Play

Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open 

It is approaching 4:30 AM here in southeastern Connecticut and raining very hard.

We are about 30 miles from Flushing Meadows where the US Open is 'trying to be played.'

We here in the tri-state area enter our third consecutive day of potential washout and its likely that the tournament will be extended into Monday and possibly Tuesday next week.

The rain is a result of tropical storm Lee, which brought 10-15 inches of rain to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, moving up the Atlantic coast  mixing with a persistent northeast cold front pushing in our direction.

The result is extreme frustration for the players. They are under pressure by tournament director Curley to squeeze in matches so as to have the  women's and men's finals on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

A riveting example of disappointment was a much frustrated Nadal who was interviewed on ESPN  after he had left the court after only 15 minutes of play; he had started his round of 16 match with Gilles Muller at 12 noon, played only three games and was down 0-3!  Though the court conditions were not optimal (the backcourt was still wet), he appeared amenable to play.

(A trio of players: Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray had marched into the tournament director's office to protest the resumption of play at noon when it was obvious to all that it was still raining!)

Meanwhile, the commentators led by John Mcenroe were discussing the lack of a movable roof over Arthur Ashe or Louis Armstrong stadiums.  It seems that when the facility was being planned  in the mid 1990's, Mac had urged the USTA to include a sliding roof  (much like Wimbledon introduced and Roland Garros has planned for 2015!) only to be shot down. The cost now is prohibitive running up to $200 million. This is a near impossible engineering feat for the Ashe venue because of its sheer size and it is not likely to happen for Armstrong due to cost.

The problem with covering only Armstrong is accommodating the 22,000 plus fans from the larger Ashe stadium to the Armstrong facility that barely holds 10,000 fans.

On the bright side is the excellent online weekend coverage by the US Open website. We tennis fans were able to view up to 6 matches simultaneously aided by a reliable PIP screen. (This was a boon as the Tennis Channel was pulled from our Cablevision system over a monetary dispute.)

The streaming HD quality images online were outstanding. We were able to witness exciting matches- especially the number one seeded Wozniacki versus number seventeen seeded Kutsnetsova. The latter played the highest level of tennis in the first set only to be upended by a stronger Woz in an thrilling three setter:  6-7, 7-5, 6-1.

Another memorable match was the five setter between the eighth seeded American Marty Fish and eleventh seeded  Jo Wilfred Tsonga; it was a tight match that featured Fish finishing at the net 87 times via his serve and volley and Tsonga winding up at the net 47 times (but only once on a serve and volley).  (Thanks to the New York Times' Straight Sets blog for the numbers.) This was tennis reminiscent of the era of fast grass court tennis at Wimbledon and Forest Hills (when the Open was played there.) Tsonga pulled out the match in the fifth set; the score was 6-4, 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Image source (1)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Memorable Quotes from the Essays of Arundhati Roy, Extraordinary Indian Novelist and Activist

Arundhati Roy: Indian novelist, essayist and activist 

I recently blogged about my discovery of Arundhati Roy from India , a winner of the Mann Booker Prize for outstanding fiction in 1997 and since then known for her extraordinary activism in fighting for the rights of the powerless  in her India that flaunts a rapidly and explosively expanding economy; India is a nascent, emerging global superpower.

Here is a sampling of the resonant, often poetic,  prose of Arundhati Roy:

"You know The God of Small Things became more and more successful. And I watched as the city I lived in the air became blacker and the cars sleeker, the gates grew higher and the poor were being stuffed like lice into the crevices and all the time my bank account burgeoned and I began to feel as though every feeling in The God of Small Things was traded in for a silver coin and if I wasn't careful, I would become a little silver figurine with a cold heart."
 (quoted from the documentary Dam/Age.)

"I stood on a hill and laughed out loud.

I had crossed the Narmada [River] by boat from Jalsindhi and climbed the headland on the opposite bank where I could see, ranged across the crowns of low, bald hills, the Adivasi [tribal] hamlets of Sikkra, Surung, Neemgavan and Domkhedi. I could see their airy fragile, homes. I could see their fields and the forest behind them. I could see little children with littler goats scuttling across the landscape like motorised peanuts. I know I was looking at a civilization older than Hinduism, slated-sanctioned (by the highest court in the land)- to be drowned this monsoon when the  the waters of the Sardar Sarovar resevoir will rise to submerge it.

Why did I laugh?

Because I suddenly remember the tender concern with which the Supreme Court judges in Delhi (before vacating the legal stay on further construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam) had enquired whether tribal children in the resettlement colonies would have children's parks to play in. The lawyers representing the Government had hastened to assure them that indeed they would, and , what's more, that there were seesaws and slide and swings in every park. I looked up at the endless sky and down at the river rushing past and for a brief, brief, moment the absurdity of it all reversed my rage and I laughed. I meant no disrespect. "
 (from an essay, The Greater Common Good and recited in part by Roy at the beginning of the  documentary, Dam/Age)

The minister says that for India’s sake people should leave their villages and move to the cities. He’s a Harvard man. He wants speed. And numbers. Five hundred million migrants, he thinks, would make a good business model.

Not everybody likes the idea of their cities filling up with the poor. A judge in Mumbai called slum-dwellers pickpockets of urban land. Another said, while ordering the bulldozing of unauthorised colonies, that people who couldn’t afford it shouldn’t live in cities.

When those who had been evicted went back to where they came from, they found their villages had disappeared under great dams and quarries. Their homes were occupied by hunger, and policemen. The forests were filling up with armed guerrillas. War had migrated too. From the edges of India, in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, to its heart. So the people returned to the crowded city streets and pavements. They crammed into hovels on dusty construction sites, wondering which corner of this huge country was meant for them.
( an excerpt  from the Introduction  The Penumbrates)
Image source(1)

Discovering Arundhati Roy: An Exceptional Indian Novelist, Essayist and Activist

Arundhati Roy speaking at
Harvard University in April 2010

While browsing the weekend edition of the Financial Times back in June, I came across the lead article in the Life and Arts section that intrigued me. It was about an Indian writer who had won the Booker Prize for the best fiction in 1997, The God of Small Things. (More on this linguistic poetic/prose masterpiece in  a later blog.)

What amazed me was that Arundhati Roy, far from following up her sudden success (and financial fortune) with another piece of fiction, has spent the last 14 years of her life fighting the abuse of those with power over the powerless.  This is evidenced by the abuses of the touchables against the untouchables (in part as a result of the lingering caste system), a corrupt government awarding wireless licences through bribery and a rampant, voracious bunch of capitalists and industrialists eager to exploit the millions of poor underprivileged farmers for their own private financial gains.

She has recently spent weeks living among the Maoists soldiers in central India who are fighting the Indian government troops and the mining companies; the latter are bent on dispossessing millions of natives from their ancestral tribal lands in the Indian state of Chattisgarh to mine bauxite for aluminum.

She has been most vocal in her fighting for the rights of millions of dispossessed (aboriginal) farmers along the Narmada River where the government is building hundreds of dams and flooding the lands of peoples who have been living there longer than the Hindus have lived in India. Her experiences are documented in her latest book, Broken Republic.

In the DAM/AGE video, an excellent and moving documentary, she details the arithmetic. Over 3600 dams have been built in modern India resulting in 56 million people being displaced by them since 1947. 60% are Adavasi and Dalit, indigenous people and untouchables.

These figures become more significant and 'chilling', she claims, when you consider that Adavasi account for only 8 percent and the Dalits another 15 percent of the country's population; this "opens up a whole other dimension to the story. This is the algebra of infinite justice. The ethnic otherness of their victims takes some pressure off the nation builders. It's like having an expense account. Someone else pays the bills--people from another country another world. India's poorest peoples are subsidizing the lifestyles of their richest." (Roy reading from her book The Greater Common Good.)

These displaced people have no place to settle but in slum areas of big cities living in makeshift huts and are often forced to beg to make a living.

The big cities are becoming squalid and filthy, overrun by millions of displaced farmers and their families kicked off their hereditary lands from which they have for hundreds of years sustained their lives.

The above depressing scenario is the Mumbai (formerly Bombay) we have seen recently in the recent blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

The above scenario is the Calcutta depicted in the movie City of Joy (1992)- starring Patrick Swayze.

For her outspokenness and participating in marches in  Delhi, Roy was accused of criminal contempt of court- accused of  "lowering the dignity of the Supreme Court -scandalizing it and lowering its authority and that's a criminal offense."

She had to wait months for the outcome of the hearings.

She was convicted of criminal contempt and sentenced to one day's imprisonment. She then opted to pay a fine of 2,000 rupees (30 Pounds) rather than be incarcerated for 3 months.

Her life is truly amazing and perhaps her next novel will deal with her decade long experiences of swimming in the 'river of life.'
Image source (1)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene's arrival to Belltown/Stamford means a Loss of Power for nearly 48 Hours. Good bye and Good night Irene.

The Wrath and  Aftermath of Hurricane Irene
Tree limbs Strung Out Along Belltown Road in Stamford 

Hurricane Irene arrived in Stamford with a fury in the early AM hours on Sunday August 28.

Heavy rains were accompanied by 50 MPH winds.

At about 4AM, the lights started flickering and at 5:20, we lost electricity in our area!

Not only our area, but also the ridges (High Ridge and Long Ridge Roads) were also hit hard with no power. An early estimate was that over 20,000 homes were off the grid.

At about 8PM on Monday night, I drove down to Bulls Head Diner to get a WiFi signal only to find the parking lots at the Bulls Head Center, the Diner and the next door Home Goods and Radio Shack stacked full of cars.

Irene turned out to be a boon to the numerous restaurants in the Bulls Head area: the diner, two Chinese restaurants, a brick oven pizzeria, middle eastern food and Indian cuisine. It was truly a culinary night on the town for Stamfordites.

Perhaps, I would be able to get a signal at the Starbucks further up High Ridge!

Continuing my journey up High Ridge to High Ridge Shopping Center near the Merritt, I noticed the entire 2 mile strip to be without power.

To my disappointment, Starbucks had a sign on the window alerting its faithful that the store would be closed pending the return of power.

However, the Boston Market next door to Starbucks was running on backup power and had long waiting lines to place orders. Across the street, the Parkway Diner was jam-packed with cars, not a space to be had!

Jennifer (missing a few letters in its neon sign) had a bright red OPEN sign!

Before returning home, I visited an Optimum hot spot in my neighborhood - hoping to log on - only to find it too congested to access.

As I returned home, I followed Glenbrook firefighters on their way to extinguish a fire caused by a malfunctioning generator. Luckily, only the generator was fried to a crisp with no further property damage or injury to life.

Then a miracle!

At exactly 4:10 AM Tuesday morning, our area was back on the grid.

Let there be light!

Let there be internet!

We were without power for about 47 hours, considerably less than the 5-7 days predicted.

And the constant buzz of many generators has finally been silenced.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I've Been Reading Lately: Daniel Silva's Portrait of a Spy

Time is valuable and there is so little time to do the recreational reading I so favor.

And what is that, you presume to ask? In response, I enjoy rivetting spy novels along with historical fiction.

Daniel Silva has long been my favorite fast -read writer of international thrillers. His latest, Portrait of a Spy (a 7 day loan book from my local library) grabbed my attention from the opening chapters.

As background, we learn that two separate suicide bomber attacks have this very day set off  explosions  claiming  dozens of  lives in Copenhagen and Paris. Naturally, London is under a high alert.

Gabriel Allon travels to London with his wife Chiara  to size up an art restoration job. After the consult,  the two are seeking a quiet out of the way Restaurante and they decide to walk through London's crowded  Covent Garden to get to their destination.

  Gabriel begins scanning the crowd  in the piazza with the eyes of a spy always on the look out for terrorists; he spots what he calls a  'dead man' with a "tributary of sweat leaking  from his left sideburn on a crisp autumn afternoon."  His hands are "buried in the pockets of his woolen overcoat." And in Gabriel's opinion he is wearing  a coat that is a size too big for him.

Could he be carrying 50 pounds of  high explosives, nails and ball bearings?

The would be terrorist is checking his watch which he wears on his left hand. Could the detonator switch be in his right hand?

The hour is 2:34 PM London time. The other two bombings had occurred at 11:46 and then at 12:03 this very day.

Gabriel's mind attempts to find some pattern in the alignment of times. Suddenly, he finds the connections. The Twin Towers were struck successively at 46 minutes past the hours and then 17 minutes later at 3 minutes past the hour. The third plane was flown into the Pentagon at 9:37 AM, which is 2:37 PM London time.

Gabriel decides to act and just as he is about to execute the madman with his Beretta "two powerful hands pulled the gun downward and the weight of two men drove him toward the pavement."

Tragedy ensues.

The rest of the novel (which I will allow my reader to fathom) hurls incessantly to Gabriel's confrontation of the mastermind behind these crimes.

The final chapters take us to the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai and then the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia a vast expanse of desert with massive dunes and temperatures hitting 140 farenheit.

It's a great quick read.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Belltown Welcomes It's Newest Business: M & J Kid's Consignment Store with Peruvian Arts and Crafts

Good Morning, Fairfield County moms and pops.

Be sure to visit Belltown/Stamford's newest shop. Opened by Magdalena Calderon and her husband Cesar, this neat petite store both packs it in and out. On rainless days, they have a large display of tricycles, baby strollers and play houses on the street side and all kinds of toys in their rear "Yard Sale."

Handcrafted Peruvian arts and crafts are brought back from South America on a regular basis as Magdalena's sister exports new and unusual items from their native country.

On a recent visit, I purchased an artistically embroidered ladies handbag with lilac floral designs. There are many varieties to choose from.

What is more, the prices are most reasonable.

They are located at 26 Belltown Rd., next door to Parkside Deli and Catering and Belltown Variety.

They are open 7 days a week from 10AM to 7PM.

The phone number is 203-921-2609 and email is:


AIG sues Bank of America for $10 Billion Over Sale of Toxic Mortgages. The Irony of this All!

With the amazing revelation of a $10 Billion lawsuit of plaintiff AIG against defendant BOA comes that realization that there may yet ensue  exposure of some malfeasants in the scandal that won't go away.

Second there may be some accountability resulting in sensible regulation in a crisis-- where in the the last 5 years there has been none.

Why have the regulators been asleep at the wheel?

Does anybody remember Senator Carl Levin's remarks to Goldman Sachs executives barely 17 months ago in April 2010?:

"...600 million dollars of Timberwolf securities is what you sold. Before you sold them this is what your sales team were telling to each other. Look what your sales team were saying about Timberwolf : 'Boy that Timberwolf was one sh---y deal..' "

Not a single individual, mortgage firm, or corporate banking entity has been brought to trial, convicted and/or serving jail time in the sale of bundled mortgages under the pretense that they were investment grade securities given a high stamp of approval by the most respected rating agency S&P.

The irony of this all is that the suing party, a corporate entity,  was bailed out by the Federal taxpayer to the tune of over $85 Billion just 36 months ago. 

This is one bailed out corporate entity suing another corporate entity over issues that should have been dealt with by the US DOJ.

Why have the regulators been asleep at the wheel?

The irony of this all....won't go away!

Lease Car Registration Renewal at Connecticut DMV: Second Time Around

The first time around I called DMV to inform them that I have a lease car whose lease ends next summer. Therefore, I explained to the friendly state employee, why should I pay for two years when I would be turning the car in less than 12 months.

She put me on hold and when she returned asked me if I were a senior.

When I replied in the affirmative, she said send back the form with a check for  1/2 of the $85 fee.

I immediately sent back the fee and form with a notation 'senior' and thought the matter was finished.

10 days later, I received a letter from my lease company with a form from  CT DMV  saying that my registration is not complete. You still owe us $42.

Of course, I am flabbergasted. What's going on here?

Second time around.

So, I call up CT DMV and after a 10 minute wait to speak with a rep. I  inform  Kevin what has transpired. He puts me on hold and  when he returns explains to me that I must submit the balance of $42.

The senior 'exception' applies only to those who own their cars, he explains  Lease car registrants must pay the two year amount and when the plates are turned into DMV, must apply for a refund.

After the lease terminates, you might decide to buy the car says Kevin.

Funny thing, I have had two prior lease cars--each of the other two for a 39 month lease, have turned the plates in and have never received a refund.

The highlight of my second time around is Kevin telling  me you don't come across over the phone  as if you are  a senior- you sound much much younger. Most seniors I deal with speak much slower.

Thanks for the compliment.

 But get your act together CT DMV!  Your rules don't make sense1

Friday, August 5, 2011

Newfield Avenue's Fixture: A Horse with No Name; Close-up on Stamford

The Anonymous (no name) along Newfield Avenue
(his left foreleg has been strapped up) 

The White Horse first caught my attention as I did my shopping at the Grade A market at Newfield Greens Shopping Center.

Every morning, I would espy the horse with western saddle on the left side of the Sunoco gas station,

And I would dream about mounting him--as all things western are a passion of mine. I  imagined that I would sit astride the saddle in my western regalia, boots, buckskin, Stetson and all; then I'd be photographed for a picture to be used on my Facebook homepage.

My fantasy was not meant to be.

Today, I spoke with Ron, whose father had established the station and acquired the horse with no name. I was crestfallen as I heard  that the ceramic horse has a 'broken' leg.

 However, Ron was kind enough to photocopy a Stamford Advocate article published over 20 years ago detailing the history of the horse with no name.

The horse was acquired about 35 years ago by George, Sr. as he was heading north on route 301 in South Carolina and stopped at an " establishment that was selling out his goodies, ornamentals and stuff. I was just going to look."

He was offered the horse at a good price and so purchased it; instead of renting a trailer, George, Sr. had the horse hoisted into his motor home and lugged 'old no name' back to Stamford. Subsequently, "He bought a saddle during one of his second-hand forays."

For about 5 years the horse decorated Sr.'s front lawn. But then the two sons, who also owned the gas station, wanted it to adorn their work property and so old 'no name' has been a fixture along Newfield Avenue ever since.

Every morning Ron wheels out 'no name' where he proudly serves as 'neighing' mascot to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Favorite Sculpture at Stamford's Art in Public Places 2011 Show: Personalities by Judith Peck

In my June 1, 2011 post, I presented a slide show of a representative sampling of the sculptures to be featured in Stamford's Art in Public Places Summer 2011 show. (Last summer, I posted a slide show of the Reigning Cats and Dogs Outdoor sculpture show as it was being readied for exhibition at the Landmark building.)

So, as you already know, Stamford has no dearth of outdoor art and part of my passion is to try to catch up with just a few with my trusty digital camera.

This year is no different. Just sample the 'difference': here's one for a spring day. 

As it turns out, this year my favorite piece, hands down,  is Personalities by Judith Peck, sponsored by SAC Capital Advisors, LP. Here is a slide show.

What makes this piece so captivating is the free form movement of the four white silhouetted figures.

You can almost feel and experience their movements as their young supple bodies sway freely on the swings and lateral ladders.

Each figure is in a different mobile position: one is crouching on a moving swing; another is doing a somersault; a third appears to be running on a track as his body is tilted to the right; finally, the fourth is leaning to his left on a plane above all the others.

Though the artist captures and isolates each figure , there is a unity of motion and a harmony of vibrant spirit common to all four.

The show is a must visit for all Stamford citizens.  The sculptures are primarily clustered along Bedford, Summer, Atlantic and Broad Streets downtown.

Personalities (number 17 on the map, click below)  is aptly located in Latham Park opposite the Avon Theater.

Now that you know which piece is my favorite, I want to know which is your favorite!

Here is a map to this year's Wit and Whimsy Outdoor show.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dylan at 70: Murray Lerner comments on producing The Other Side of the Mirror: Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival

In 2007, Murray Lerner, a Harvard graduate and East Coast film maker released his much awaited documentary of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festivals that began 44 years earlier.

The Columbia DVD is a black and white masterpiece that all Dylan fans will much admire as it shows Dylan's transformation over 3 years, 1963, 1964 and 1965--from a newly arrived folk singer (much admired by Pete Seeger and others) into a star performer along with Joan Baez.

By 1965, the two-- Dylan and Baez- were the King and Queen of the festival. In fact, it was reported that Dylan and his queen paraded around aristocratic Newport with the former sporting a bull whip that he would periodically crack!

The highlight of the DVD is a 25 minute 'bonus' interview with Lerner in which he describes his inspiration(s) and his ideologies behind his minimalistic camera technique.

There are three major points that Lerner conveys to his viewers.

First, at Harvard he studied modern poetry and TS Eliot's objective correlative was all the rage. The idea, as Lerner explains is that poetry has the ability to communicate  before it is understood. The poet would pick an image that would resonate with the idea you want to express without saying it.

Lerner relates the objective correlative to his filming technique:  "What I'd like to express in film at the time was an emotion that clarified for the viewer new thoughts, new ideas brought to a new level... "

While T.S. Eliot would pick an image to express an emotion, (e.g. 'like a patient etherized upon the table' in Prufrock), Lerner would, in filming the Newport festival, have many unexpected juxtapositions of images that brings the viewer to a new level. An example of such an odd juxtaposition where you see a woman saying pop music is folk music and then you suddenly have Dylan playing an electric organ.

There is no narration in the film and it works by simple odd juxtapositions that make it flow.

Second, Lerner himself and his other cinematographers were instructed to minimize the movement of the camera. There is virtually no panning of the audience when Dylan is onstage. And for example, in Maggie's Farm where Dylan fades in and out of darkness, the camera does not move.

In 1965, when Dylan went electric, the camera angles up to Dylan's face providing a closeup of not only his expression and a dimple on his right side but also his now fashionable leather blazer.

Finally, Lerner discusses the afternoon workshop footage that is featured in all three years. Simply put, Dylan and other artists would offer sessions scattered around the center stage. While the evening sessions drew about 20,000 fans, the afternoon topical performances would attract crowds of 5,000!

The DVD is highly recommended. Perhaps one day, we will understand why Lerner waited over 40 years to share his stored footage with us!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Scrap Metals Questions Haunt Mayor Pavia's New Administration: Hats off to the Stamford Advocate's Excellent and Persistent reporting

By now we Stamfordites are saturated with the scrap metals story.

The issue has dominated The Advocates's front pages and now its editorial pages for weeks and weeks and weeks, months and months and months. We citizens get nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Thumbs up, thumbs way up to today's Advocate for the editorial "Metal meeting gives no answers, questions remain." 

Read it, get enlightened and demand transparency.

We want the 'full' story to come out.

It now rests in the hands of our new Mayor to demand prompt answers. Though this 'scandal' predates his administration, why hasn't he been more aggressive in demanding answers--from all involved departments.

Not to do so seriously weakens his credibility and leadership.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hoping that our Hope Street Glenbrook Connecticut Post Office will be spared the Ax

Stamford's Glenbrook Post Office located at 370 Hope Street

As I drove by my local Post Office in Glenbrook yesterday, I noticed a Cablevision News 12 van parked in front of our local postal station.

They are probably filming a story on the possible closure I reasoned.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 3,653-including Glenbrook and 2 in Bridgeport-- are on a list of stations that may be closed.

About a year and a half ago, Glenbrook was faced with a possible closure and was fortunately spared the ax.

We residents of the area who depend on the convenience-- especially at holiday when lines are 20-30 people long-- certainly hope that our Hope Street facility will be a part of our community for many years to come!

Meanwhile please contact  our Congressman Jim Himes at : to keep open our Glenbrook Post Office!

There is hope for Hope!

Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection supervises Gas Station Storage Tank Cleanups Around the State and in Stamford

Here in Stamford , you may have noticed gas stations being shut down for extended periods of time--up to 6 months or longer.

In our neighborhoods, the A&P Citgo on Glenbrook Ave. closed for about 4 months; now the Newfield Greens station will be shut down for several months as private environmental clean up crews spend months cleaning up the toxic lead wastes that have leaked from underground storage tanks (UST's).

Costs run up to several hundred dollars per station.

On an earlier morning this month, I caught up with the cleanup crew at Newfield Greens and the result is this video.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Regaining My Speech: The Wonders of Mercury Amalgam Removal and Cilantro Tea

Almost three years ago, I started to lose my speech.  To speak required an effort and most people assumed I had suffered a stroke.

Such, however, was not the case.

Urine toxic metal tests indicated a very high level of mercury.

My mouth had two adjacent  mercury silver amalgam fillings (consisting of 50% mercury , 35% silver then tin, zinc and copper)  that had been in my teeth for more than 25 years.

Could there be a connection, I conjectured, between the fillings and my loss of speech?

I began to do some research and discovered a video entitled Smoking Teeth=Poison Gas.

The video became a major part of a blog I posted a year ago, entitled "This Video Should Dispel any Doubts About the Mercury Toxins in Your Amalgam Fillings." (posted July 30, 2010)

I also learned that mercury could be a causal factor in a number of devastating nervous disorders such as Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).

In scientific terms, mercury vapor  interferes with the neural transmission of impulses that effect motor actions; the latter includes movements of the vocal chords that produce speech.

And, most important, the video pointed out that the amount of mercury vapor being released in the mouth is 1,000 times higher than the which the  Environmental Protection Agency will allow for the air that we breathe.

Traditional dentists were telling me that my mercury fillings were harmless. Somehow, I was unsatisfied with their explanations.

I decided to visit a holistic Dentist in Yorktown Heights, N.Y--Dr. David Lerner.

 Dr. Lerner first performed a test to determine the amount of mercury being emitted by my two fillings. He inserted two electrodes on the two amalgam fillings.

The results were astounding.

To my amazement, the needle deflected all the way off the scale indicating the highest level of mercury emission.

The Doctor admitted to me at the time that my impaired vocal chords could be adversely affected by toxic mercury.

A flash of green light immediately lit up in my mind.

I reasoned that the proximity of the amalgam fillings  to my vocal chords was causing a malfunction in them.

It turns out that I am right. A year after the procedure, I have my voice back again. It came back to me gradually so that now it is at full strength.

It should be stressed that about 5 months ago, I began to drink tea made by steeping a teaspoon of cilantro leaves in boiling water. The literature indicates that if one drinks a cup of cilantro tea daily, the mercury in one's blood and tissues would be removed in about a year.

Be sure to consult your physician before embarking on any type of treatment that I have described!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Carmegeddon in Los Angeles: Reflections on Driving the 405 from Woodland Hills to Santa Monica and beyond

California Route 405 as it winds through the
Sepulveda Pass

This past weekend of July 15 and 16, a 10 mile stretch of Route 405 was closed from San Fernando Valley down to Santa Monica on the west side of Los Angeles.

This was done in order to demolish a section of the north side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge, which is one of the overpasses slated to be rebuilt. This is part of the $1 billion Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project; a high occupancy vehicle lane is slated to be added.

There were predictions of a 'carmeggadon' in the LA Basin with approximately 500, 000 drivers scrambling for alternative routes to  get around.

No such event transpired. As a matter of fact, Los Angelino's heeded 3 months of warnings and refrained from using their cars.

The 72 mile freeway is arguably the most picturesque and busiest route in the country- especially the section that gradually climbs to the top of the Sepulveda Pass as it cuts through the Santa Monica Mountains.

I should know--in other words I drove this congested artery nearly on a daily basis.

 While living in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley in the mid-80's, I would commute to  Long Beach, Torrance and points south almost on a daily basis.

What vivid memories I have of the diurnal commute.

The weather would be always overcast in the valley (and later turn to smog as I entered the LA basin)

 I would start out fresh at 7-7:30 AM. and enter Route  101 at Topanga Canyon Blvd. and merge onto the 101 South. Traffic would be moving at about 20 MPH for  the 8 miles until I reached the ramp to enter the 405 South. At this point, I would merge into traffic moving even slower-perhaps 15 MPH.

I could not really appreciate the spectacular view of the Mountains and the Getty Museum as I would wind my way up to the Pass.  On most days it would take me about 1 hour to cover the 18 miles that would take me past Brentwood adjacent to Santa Monica.

The next leg on my journey was the 5 mile span of highway that would take me past Los Angeles Airport.  Well, all I can that by the time I would reach the Airport, I would be jumping up and down in my seat to keep my eyelids open.

Invariably, the combination of the heavy smog, the dismal bumper to bumper 5 MPH traffic, the monotony of the now 1.5 hour journey would lull me to sleep.

For some reason, the traffic would begin to flow faster (up to 30 mph) as I headed south to Torrance.

I would reach Torrance after a 2 hour journey--in time for a cup of coffee and a brisk walk--ready to start my day.
Image source (1)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shedding some light on Sidney Freund's abrupt resignation as Greenwich's Superintendent of Schools

I previously reported that both Stamford and Greenwich are finding it harder and harder to find competent administrators to run their respective Boards of Education--let alone retain them. ( Click here to see my recent blog on Major, Global, National and Local Stories of the first Six Months of 2011).

The dust is beginning to settle in Greenwich after the shocking and sudden (to most people)  May, 2011 resignation of short term Superintendent Sidney Freund; he served just short of two years into his 3 year contract and was reportedly in negotiations to renew his contract for the next 3 years. This competent administrator, who served a 6 year stint as Superintendent of Schools in Dobbs Ferry, has been relatively close- mouthed about the reasons for his decision.

A recent public meeting of the Board of Education was held and  tearful, emotional parents pleaded for Dr. Freund to rescind his decision-- all to no avail.  Some board members left their podium seats to hug Dr. Freund confessing and apologizing for their shortcomings.   (It was reported that Congressman Himes also met with him privately-- to no avail.) So, it seems that Greenwich is doomed to find its 5th candidate after the last fruitless 10 years.

Why is he leaving?

On one side, angry citizens are blaming two members of the 8 member Board of Education for making Dr. Freund's life unbearable. Its seems that hundreds if not thousands of (their) emails have been unanswered.

The rhetoric of disappointment, rage, anger and resentments has heated up the once, perhaps, civil discourse into an intolerable level-- where Dr. Freund and the Board were at cross purposes; instead of functioning harmoniously, the Board was itself divided into  'warring' groups.

Thanks to a reasoned column by Publisher Jack Moffly in the July issue of Greenwich Magazine, some measure of sanity and clarity may be brought to the extreme almost chaotic atmosphere that has been brewing for such a long period of time.

Here's a brief summary of  Moffly's research: The issue, it seems, revolved around the implementation of Dr. Freund's beloved International Baccalaureate (IB) program. into the Western Middle School (WMS) and into the High School. Two board members Marianna Ponns Cohen and Peter Scher had discovered that Dr. Freund had forged ahead with implementing the program into WMS and the 9th and 10th grades of the High School without formally getting the Board's approval or airing out the program in a public forum as was required.

It was discovered that Freund and BOE Chairman Steve Anderson had "pledged significant funds for teacher training, additional staff and teaching materials."

When confronted by repeated requests by Cohen and Scher to substantiate Board approval, Freund, according to Moffly, simply ignored them; this inaction merely placed more fuel on the fire and made these two whistle blowers 'scapegoats' for public ire.  In Moffley's opinion, Freund  "appeared unaccustomed to having his judgment challenged or to accepting the need to be accountable to the public and all members of the Board."

You may read Jack Moffly's comments "Behind the Freund Resignation" by clicking here.

I wish to thank the Greenwich Citizen, the Greenwich Post and the Greenwich Times (along with Jack Moffly)  for their in depth coverage of this story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Major Global, National and Local Stories of the First Six Months of 2011

1. Osama Bin Ladin is hunted down and killed. Can his second in command al- Zawahiri fill his shoes?

2. The Pain mounts for our country's middle class citizens. The US and state governments' legislators refuse to rein in spending and pass new taxes. States such as Connecticut and California brace for massive layoffs and cut backs to essential services (e.g. transportation, garbage collection, police duties, etc)

3. Unions flex their muscles and are refusing to make concessions on extending retirement age, delaying and cutting back on pension benefits, etc. A notable exception is New Jersey where Governor Chris Christie was able to hammer down a deal exacting 'sacrifices' from both unions and teachers.

4. The Pain mounts for homeowners whose homes are worth less than their outstanding mortgages. Millions of Americans face foreclosure especially in Florida, Arizona and California. Homes are abandoned in many neighborhoods and many Americans are living in their cars and seeking homeless shelters--even in affluent counties such as Fairfield.

5. Foodbanks have swelled and multiplied all over the country. Safeway Stores in Northern California's affluent Marin County has prepared bags of basic foodstuffs that at $10 are being purchased by those that have for those that don't have. Hats off to Safeway!

6. Unemployment is a global blight as the young are protesting the lack of job opportunities in Britain and Europe.

7. The Arab Spring is a bright sign in countries such as Tunisia Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain as the smart phone/facebook generation takes to the streets and instantly uploads images and stories of revolution and changes. They want freedom. They want an absence of military state that brooks no dissension. They want their dignity, their humanity so long denied to the youth of the middle east.

8. Unfortunately, so many of these rebels are being cold-heartedly slaughtered in the thousands by repressive autocratic leaders in Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Iran and Yemen. We in the United States are aghast at the lack of a global resolve to eliminate these tyrants holding on to the last vestiges of power.

9. The key question is when these dictators are deposed, as they inevitably will fall, what type of government will fill the vacuum. If Egypt is an example, the military will 'sweep ' into office establishing a disciplined spartan system that might just resemble the one that was replaced???!!

10. Your online information is more susceptible to hackers than ever before. As the cloud continues to clutter with personal data, you are more at risk than ever before because the 'booty' keeps mounting. Witness the attacks on Sony, Northrup Grumman, the US Senate, The CIA, PBS, etc.

And these are just the reported cases!

For goodness sake, if you live in East Hampton, NY, don't leave an unclaimed transaction receipt at the ATM window totalling $99, 864, 731.94 for all the world to see.

11. Educational leaders are harder and harder to find, let alone keep on the payroll.

Greenwich, CT has just lost its fourth Superintendent in 11 years as Sidney Freund submitted his resignation. Presumably he and a number of members of the Board of Education could not amicably share the power-- entrusted to them by the community of parents and students they serve--equitably and responsibly together.

Stamford lost Dr. Joshua Starr, its superintendent for the last 6 years, after he elected to depart to run the Montgomery County, Maryland school system; he will represent one of the country's most literate and highly educated group of parents and students. (I lived in Potomac, Maryland for a number of years and can attest to that fact!)

12. Rinderpest (literally, "cow plague"), a viral disease that has been a scourge for two millenia, has been eliminated.

It is only the second major global viral disease to be conquered (the other being smallpox).

It is thought to be one of the major reasons for speeding up the downfall of the Roman Empire, "aiding the conquests of Genghis Kahn and hindering those of Charlemagne opening the way for the French and Russian revolutions and subjugating East Africa to colonization. "
(Science Times 6/27/11. Click on Rinderpest above for full story)

What is so promising about this event is that perhaps we will see the total conquest of malaria in our lifetimes--especially with the tens of million of research dollars being poured into the cause by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International amongst others.