Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Intersection Improvements?

Someone from the city has marked up the area around the Willow-Pine-Johnson intersection with white spray paint. It looks like they might finally be moving forward with installing traffic lights. Or they're about to tear up the streets and sidewalks for some sort of maintenance... I hope it's traffic lights. This intersection needs help. It annoys me that the intersection of Willow and Calumet Street (way up Willow Street, in the Overlook neighborhood, with very large, expensive single-family homes) is a three-way stop, even though there's never any traffic and visibility is fine, while down on lower Willow (where it's all multi-family housing and low-income residents) where all-way stops are desperately needed, there's nothing.

I'm not convinced that traffic lights are the best solution. Given the way people drive in this city, it might make the intersection more dangerous. Drivers coming down Willow Street are going to speed up as soon as they see a yellow light. Instead of cruising through the intersection at 40mph, they'll be doing 60mph. Stop signs would be better. And cheaper. But, I suppose, traffic lights will cut down on the number of accidents and the overall frustration.

And while I'm on the topic, there are a few other intersections in Waterbury that need help. The intersection of Willow Street and Hillside Avenue is pretty tricky. The intersection of Wood and Walnut Streets is awful. If you're trying to make a left turn from Wood onto Walnut, you have to pull out far enough to get hit in order to see more than 10 feet down the road. And the intersection of Walnut Street and East Farm Street is a nightmare. If you're headed west on East Farm, it looks like you go straight onto Walnut, which means cutting across the eastbound traffic on East Farm, because they don't have a stop sign (even though it looks like they should).

I'd also like to see Waterville Street get repaved. The pot holes are so large and numerous that everyone treats the street as an obstacle course. They paved part of it this spring, but they didn't even try to patch the holes on the section of the street that gets the most usage.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Miracle Weight Loss Cure - Lose 5 Pounds Overnight!

Simply expose yourself to the stomach flu currently making the rounds. An hour spent late in the afternoon with your small niece will probably be sufficient. Wait 24-28 hours for the germs to become active in your system, then settle in for a long night with the toilet and a bucket. After 12 hours, you should see a significant drop in weight. Guaranteed! CAUTION: Miracle Weight Loss Cure can cause severe discomfort, pain, agony, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. Dehydration is a serious risk. Miracle Weight Loss Cure should not be undertaken by anyone who has a weakened immune system or is otherwise not in peak physical health.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cookie-Cutter Politics

Thursday there was a big article in the paper about the young mayor of Torrington being pressured into removing his MySpace profile because it was deemed "inappropriate". Friday there was an article by a Torrington writer about MySpace. The writer, Bill Dunn, wrote "Mark my words, I predict that someone running for public office in the year 2036 will be forced to withdraw from the race when embarrassing comments and photos surface, comments and photos that were posted on during 2006."

What does this say about expectations for public officials? That they are required to fit into a tight, conservative mold? That they should never allow their private lives to be public knowledge? That they should be expected to present a public persona which is an outright lie? It's sort of like Bill Clinton saying he never inhaled--we all knew he did, and the very lame lie was far worse than the youthful exploit.

Or maybe it's like John Kerry and Al Gore modifying their public images on the advice of consultants, and then losing the elections anyway. A lot of people don't like politicians because they are viewed as being self-serving and dishonest. This certainly has been my opinion for a while. I'm beginning to understand that there are people who expect and desire that politicians lie about who they really are as human beings. This is not a healthy system, and it might very well be one of the causes of the widespread voter apathy we have in this country. Our politicians tend to all look the same, because they are all trying to fit into a mold instead of just being themselves. (Apologies for the gross generalization!)

Friday, May 12, 2006


The local media, including the Republican American and especially WFSB (Channel 3), have been focussing a lot of attention on lately. WFSB seems to be waging a campaign against it. Public opinion seems to be that it is the root of all evil, or close to it.

There is an internet generation gap. I'm not sure exactly what age the gap happens at, I suppose it varies depending on the person, but certainly most people over 40 seem to have a deeply rooted fear or distrust of the internet. I'm 34, and I remember when computers were introduced into the schools. There was a general sense of nervousness on the part of the adults. We were cautioned to be very, very careful, because if you did one wrong thing, you would destroy everything on the computer and possibly end existence. As far as I know, none of my classmates ever encountered any computer catastrophe worse than losing the paper they had been working on.

Most people younger than me probably can't remember a time before computers. Computers are as familiar and friendly to them as the television is to older generations. The leading complaint against MySpace seems to be the supposed preponderance of sexual predators stalking all those naive young girls. I'm pretty sure that sexual predators were around long before computers. If they weren't prowling the internet for victims, they'd be stalking them some other way. MySpace seems to do a good job of preventing crimes and/or catching perpetrators.

Personally, I really like websites like MySpace. I can't speak for everyone who uses them, but they're great for keeping in touch with friends who have moved away, or finding and reconnecting with friends you haven't seen in years. This is one of the real strengths of the internet: communication. Despite the fears of certain older people, the internet is not replacing face-to-face communication, it is supplementing it. My life is much richer and my friendships are much stronger because of sites like MySpace, Blogger, LiveJournal and just plain old email. (okay, I have to giggle here -- "plain old email" -- the newfangled becomes old hat so quickly!).


There have been a couple of articles in the paper this week about students skipping school. The school system is now asking the police department to get involved. It sounds like skipping school will be treated as a crime. Kids can't be convinced to stay in school? send the cops after them!

When I was a kid, I think there was only one day when I flat out skipped school (that I remember... there might have been more.) I love learning and education (and I love being a teacher), but the public schools were misery. I hated going to school. It was drudgery. You were trapped in a room with a large number of other kids, and the teacher would drone on and on about the subject at hand, most of the time ignoring you, but every now and then you would suddenly be expected to provide an answer. I remember endless hours of watching the second hand spin slowly around the face of the clock on the wall. School was boring and sometimes emotionally painful. I used to fantasize about the school blowing up, imploding, or otherwise ceasing to exist so that we would all be free.

So. Based on my experience, I would guess that kids are skipping school because they think it is a waste of their time. Getting the police to force them to attend school is not going to help. I'm willing to bet it will make things worse. Now, instead of empty seats in the classroom, we'll have angry, sulking students in those seats. Fining the parents isn't going to help either. That's just going to create a more hostile home environment.

If the school system really wants to keep the kids in school, make school more interesting. Get better teachers. Find a way to reduce the classroom size to twelve students per teacher. I know it's expensive, I know everyone is moaning about high taxes (myself included), but this is important. If the public schools had a class size of no more than 12 students, the kids would be getting a better education.

If a teenager really doesn't want to be in school no matter what, then check up on their home life and make sure there aren't any serious problems. If the home life checks out okay, then let the kid drop out of school. They can always go back later if they decide they want to. It might be harder later, but they'll get more out of it. As a teacher, the last thing I want in my classroom is a student who doesn't want to be there. At best, that student is going to sleep through class or sit quietly and doodle. At worst, that student is going to disrupt the classroom and interfere with everyone else's education.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sex Arrests Update

Police Superintendent Neil O'Leary expects that police will, by the end of this week, finally complete arrest warrants for ten men caught having sex in massage parlors (today's issue of the Rep-Am). They were busted April 27. It takes two weeks to write up an arrest warrant?

The thing that bothers me most about all of this is my personal experience with disgusting old men who harrass me when I walk down the street. There is nothing more creepy than having some skanky perv pull his car up alongside me and gesture at his groin in an effort to solicit me. I think it definitely qualifies as sexual harrassment, but I have the feeling that the police don't care. If I complain, would they be more likely to arrest me than the perv? I am not now, nor have I ever been, a prostitute. And yet I still feel like the cops would side with the perv. Or, at best, they'd say something to me like "that's what you get for walking down the street." A lot of cops working in this neighborhood definitely have an attitude that nothing can be expected to improve, so why bother. I can understand that they might be burnt out, but they still should be polite and at least pretend to not expect the worst from someone.