Saturday, September 30, 2006


The Republican-American ran an article on Thursday, Sept. 28, summarizing a talk given for the United Way at Timexpo by Douglas Hall, associate director of research for Connecticut Voices for Children.

According to the article, 24 percent of Waterbury's children live in poverty, while the median income is $42,000 a year.

Twenty-four percent. It's depressing. There are community centers and other organizations throughout the city that help improve the lives of the kids that have it the hardest. I can only assume that they are giving them the guidance and the skills to make their lives better (but, gee, wouldn't it be nice if the minimum wage were high enough for the parents to not be in poverty despite working full time?).

There have been a few times when I've seen community organizations encourage children to be beggers. That really annoys me. The Long Hill community center sometimes has the kids stand out on the corner hollaring at drivers to put money in buckets for their fund raiser. School groups will sometimes stand outside the grocery store asking for donations. This is not good skill-building. This is teaching the kids that begging works and is perfectly okay. The kids aren't even selling bad candy bars or making a lame effort to wash cars.

I think I'm going to start looking into the different volunteer organizations to see what's going on, and do what I can to help.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pearl Lake Road

The city wants to widen and straighten Pearl Lake Road. The people who live on the road have been fighting this for decades. Currently, the road twists and winds through a nicely wooded residential area. The speed limit is 25, but a lot of drivers use the road as a cut-through and go as fast as they can without crashing.

The city claims that widening and straightening the road will get rid of "serious safety concerns." Uh-huh. The road would be perfectly safe if drivers obeyed the speed limit. Straightening the road will make it less safe. Drivers will probably start going 50 mph along it, making it significantly less safe for anyone living there. Jarjura appears to be one of the drivers who uses it as a cut through. He's making big talk about pushing the plans through no matter what the residents think.

The city's plans include new drainage, but I haven't seen any mention of sidewalks. The city never puts in enough sidewalks. All the city road developments over the past several years have failed to consider the needs of pedestrians.

What really galls me is the dismissal of the concerns of people who live on the road, and the total lack of official concern about speeders. It's like the city is saying that speeding and reckless driving is encouraged.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Brass City Buzz

My favorite place for coffee, panini and wireless access is gone. Brass City Buzz, on East Main Street, closed last week without warning or explanation. The owner covered up the windows with paper and posted a few signs saying "Closed", "Gift Certificates can be redeemed by sending them to x address" and "Please deliver mail to Louie's Pizza next door." Even the store's website is gone. This week a large realtor's sign went up in one of the windows.

I'm really sad about this. I loved Brass City Buzz. The paninis were fabulous, the atmosphere was great, the location was convenient. The suddenness of the closing is unnerving. I hope everything is okay with Dave (the owner).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I don't approve this message...

I don't know when it started or why, but all of the political campaign commercials I've seen in the past month end with the candidate saying "I approve this message." Most of the commercials are narrated by the candidate, and most of them have the candidate as the only speaker.

Of course you approve the message! You just delivered it! It's your commercial!

It makes me wonder if there is a single ad agency responsible for all the commercials. Maybe there are only two or three, and they aren't creative enough to come up with anything else. It's annoying to the point where I'm almost willing to say that I will vote for any candidate who runs an ad that doesn't end with that statement. But, it would probably turn out to be a candidate I really don't like. On the other hand, I would love to see a candidate who isn't afraid to be different from all the other politicians.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Education Opportunity

From -- Yale University said on Wednesday it will offer digital videos of some courses on the Internet for free, along with transcripts in several languages, in an effort to make the elite private school more accessible.

While Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others already offer course material online without charge, Yale is the first to focus on free video lectures, the New Haven, Connecticut-based school said.

The 18-month pilot project will provide videos, syllabi and transcripts for seven courses beginning in the 2007 academic year. They include "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Fundamentals of Physics" and "Introduction to Political Philosophy."

The courses cannot be counted toward a Yale degree, and educators say they are no substitute for actual teaching.

Students at Yale -- one of the nation's most exclusive schools and the alma mater of U.S. President George W. Bush -- can be expected to spend nearly $46,000 for this year's tuition, room and board.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share a vital and central part of the Yale experience with those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to pursue a Yale education at first hand," Yale President Richard Levin said in a written statement.

The project is funded by a $755,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

from Yale's website:
Yale University is producing digital videos of selected undergraduate courses that it will make available for free on the Internet through a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Open Educational Resources Video Lecture Project has received $755,000 for an 18-month pilot phase. The project will create multidimensional packages—including full transcripts in several languages, syllabi, and other course materials—for seven courses and design a web interface for these materials, to be launched in the fall of 2007. If the venture proves successful, Yale hopes to significantly expand its online offerings over the next few years. The new venture joins a growing number of university-based initiatives that use the Internet to make educational materials widely available.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share a vital and central part of the Yale experience with those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to pursue a Yale education at first hand,” said Yale University President Richard C. Levin.

“This exciting new venture is part of thinking more globally about the University and its reach beyond the walls of Yale,” said Diana E. E. Kleiner, Dunham Professor of the History of Art and Classics, who is directing the project.

“The Hewlett Foundation is committed to making high-quality educational content and tools freely available on the web by partnering with leading universities, said Marshall Smith, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Education Program. “Yale’s commitment to open educational resources is a very important contribution to this goal.” Detailed information on the Yale project and others supported by Hewlett’s Open Educational Resources Initiative is on the Foundation’s web site.

While MIT’s OpenCourseWare model has been widely emulated, Yale will be the first university to tap the potential of digital video by combining course architecture with essentially complete sets of lectures from these courses, as presented by its faculty.

To create the online offerings that will introduce and test this new approach, Yale will draw on its recognized excellence in teaching across the full spectrum of liberal arts disciplines. Some of Yale’s most distinguished scholars are taking part. The three courses being taped this fall are:

Introduction to the Old Testament, with Christine Hayes, Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies;
Fundamentals of Physics, with Ramamurti Shankar, John Randolph Huffman Professor and Chair of Physics;
Introduction to Political Philosophy, with Steven Smith, Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science.
Those whose courses are slated for taping next spring include Charles Bailyn, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy; Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology; and Langdon Hammer, Professor and Chair of English.
Handling the technical aspects of the project will be Yale’s Center for Media Initiatives.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nancy Johnson

Johnson TV spot: "A call is placed from New York to Pakistan. A terrorists plot may be unfolding. Should the government intercept that call or wait until the paperwork is filed? Nancy Johnson says; act immediately. Lives may be a stake. Liberal Chris Murphy says no, apply for a court warrant even if valuable time is lost."

Democratic challenger Chris Murphy says the spot purposely distorts his view.

"Current law allows you to intercept a communication at any time so long as you apply for a 'wiretap' after that communication has been intercepted. She knows that's my position and she's deliberately distorting it on the air," says Chris Murphy, (D) For Congress.

Yet another reason why I don't like Nancy Johnson... truly a career politician, happy to say whatever it takes to win votes, even if she is spreading dangerous misconceptions and making people more paranoid and bigoted. (For the record, I am not a Murphy supporter either. I don't yet know enough about him to know if I would vote for him or not.)

I met her once, a couple years ago. She was scheduled to attend an event where she gave out Congressional Art Awards to children. She showed up nearly an hour late, rushed inside, rushed the ceremony, and then rushed off, saying that her kids were waiting for her in the car. Didn't apologize, didn't pretend to care about the people who were excited to meet her--the same people she claims to represent. How can you represent us if you don't take the time to get to know us?

Shopping Amenity

I noticed today that Price Chopper has a dispenser of sanitary hand wipes at the entrance to their store. This is the sort of thing that I probably would have scoffed at in the past, but after recently getting laid low by the flu for the better part of a week, I have a greater appreciation for keeping my hands clean. Using the wipe was great, not because I was worried about germs on the handle of the shopping cart, but because I touched a very grubby handrail on the stairs at school and my hand still felt icky from it. It was also nice to have handy after selecting a steak; the bottom of the wrapping was wet and I got some on my hands before I put it in a bag.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Holy Cow!

My new motor vehicle registration sticker arrived in the mail today. It's huge! The stickers they've used until now were little one-inch squares that go in the corner of the rear license plate. I was very confused when I opened the mail and found a 2x3-inch sticker. For a brief moment, I wondered how it could possibly fit on my license plate. Then I noticed the diagram for placing it on the windshield.

The little FAQ included with the sticker says that the new location is intended to cut down on registration theft. It also says that the old registration sticker can be left on the license plate. Hm. I once got pulled over because my registration had expired (it hadn't really--the new sticker never arrived in the mail). It was a cop downtown who pulled me over, just as I was driving past the Green. I have never seen Waterbury cops go after anyone for speeding (lots of drivers do 50 in residential 25 zones) or running red lights & stop signs, but they pulled me over because it looked like my registration had expired. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Downtown After Dark

Every so often, I meet someone who tells me that they won't go to any events that take place in downtown Waterbury after dark. This always amazes and disappoints me. Downtown Waterbury is incredibly safe, any time of day or night. The crime rate is almost nonexistent, and most of it seems to take place during the middle of the day (for example, a store on Bank Street was robbed one afternoon a few weeks ago; no one was hurt). I don't think it's any more dangerous than Southbury or Watertown.

I have worked and lived and socialized downtown for nine years. I have walked across the downtown area alone after dark many times. The sum total of the "encounters" I've had are this: a very pleasant man talked to me about life while we walked down the street, then asked me if I had any money I could give him; on a couple of occasions, a man in a car (not the same one each time) has pulled up alongside me while I walked and asked if I "needed a ride"; a dude sitting on a bench asked me if I was "all set"; a different dude lurking in the doorway of an abandonned building asked me if I smoked; one time my friend and my sister were walking further ahead of me, and they claim that a prostitute started yelling at them about how she didn't want their competition. Oh, and I did once hear a story about two girls getting mugged by a skinny white guy wielding a stick in a parking lot behind a bar. Nine years, and that's all that's happened.

One of my favorite downtown stories involves me, a toga, and floral garlands. I dressed up Roman style for an event at the Palace Theater, wearing a shirt, skirt and sandals that weren't too dissimilar from what Roman women wore. I wrapped a white bedsheet around myself as a palla (the feminine form of the toga), and then a friend helped me pin giant fake flowers in my hair. It was very impressive looking. I then had to walk the length of the Green and the short block to the Palace in this outfit, in broad daylight. I think I almost caused a traffic accident, as everyone turned to look at me and struggled to figure out what I was. One driver asked a police officer if I was supposed to be the Statue of Liberty. The walk back was done after dark, when the streets were pretty much deserted. One of the event organizers was very worried about my safety; she was convinced that I was going to be assaulted. The one dude I encountered in my walk across the Green in the dark just stared and muttered about how crazy I was. I think maybe he thought he was hallucinating. The moral of the story: if you really are worried about your safety, just look like you're crazier than anyone else, and they won't know what to do.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Juried Show at the Mattatuck Museum

Any artist with a studio or home in Connecticut is invited to enter THE CONNECTICUT VISION 2006, a biannual juried show. This year's jurors are artists Charles Cajori and Barbara Grossman.

Entries need to be brought to the museum on September 10-11. Full details are available at the Mattatuck Museum website.

Also, VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED to assist with receiving, especially during the afternoon of Monday the 11th. No experience necessary, and it's a great way to meet artists and see their work. If you can help out, call the museum at (203) 753-0381, x10.