Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tabitha Mary Allister

If that is your name, or if you know who she is, please let me know. I'd like her to stop using my phone number for her financial scams. I'm also curious to know more about who she is.

I've had the same number for maybe 5 years. It's one of the "real" Waterbury numbers (755), and I certainly don't want to go to the trouble of changing it. Ever since I've had it, I have periodically received phone calls from irate creditors looking for Tabitha. Sometimes they are looking for someone named Tatiana. I assume it's the same woman. Today was the first time I had the presence of mind to write down the name. I've tried finding out more about her from her creditors, but the most I've ever gotten out of them is the fact that she gave one of them a P.O. box in Oxford for her address.

I tried looking up Tabitha Allister on a variety of search engines, but without luck. Nothing in the phone book, either. Maybe someday she'll get arrested, and I'll learn the full details about her then.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yeah, right!

The Republican-American ran an article today criticizing bloggers for spreading unreliable information. The author, Dan K. Thomasson, doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. He describes his target as bloggers, but then cites online magazines with political agendas as his target. Online magazines are not blogs. Blogs are like this, independent ramblings of individuals who don't claim to be any more authoritative than the next person (well, okay, some blogs are written by individuals who claim to be the only person who knows anything at all, but it's pretty clear that those bloggers are still just rambling with their opinions).

(One of the "bloggers" he refers to is Amanda Marcotte. A quick Google search led me to what Thomasson considers to be her blog. It's not a blog. It's an online magazine published in a format mimicking a blog.)

An article published by an online magazine is no different than an article published by a print magazine, except that the online magazine probably has a much, much smaller operating budget.

Thomasson preaches the merits of what he considers to be "legitimate" newspapers, implying that traditional news media publish only genuinely true facts. He should recheck his own article, since it inaccurately conflates bloggers and online magazines.

Even more, "legitimate" newspapers aren't as trustworthy as he claims. They print misinformation on a regular basis. Sometimes it's because they haven't had time to check the facts as thoroughly as they should. Sometimes it's because they've been fed deliberately false information. Sometimes it's because the editor has a political agenda. Thomasson's editorial is the cry of the traditionalist who can't adapt to the changing world.

It seems like the older you are, the more difficult change becomes. I wonder why. Is it exhaustion? Is there a limit to how many new things we can learn in a lifetime? Are some people just fuddy-duddies?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another Explosion Downtown

At about 4:08 this afternoon, I was lecturing about the French Rococo. I had just finished talking about Fragonard's The Swing, commenting on the frivolity of the lifestyle depicted, and I was just about to change to the next slide when the power went out.

After a moment, the emergency lights switched on, but there were no alarms or anything else to indicate the cause of the problem. I realized that we don't have an emergency procedure plan. Was I supposed to evacuate my students? If so, where were we supposed to go-to the street, the courtyard, the garage?

I told my students to sit tight while I went to investigate. In the hallway were two other faculty members and one of the custodians. None knew what was going on. We looked out the window and saw a large group of students looking down the street. I walked down the hallway to look out that window. There were several men wearing bright yellow safety vests, the grates to the utilities below the sidewalk were open, and there was a faint wisp of black smoke in the air just above.

I went back to my classroom and told my students what I had seen, and that I suspected the power grid blew up again. The last time it blew up (at least, I think it was the last time... maybe there have been more explosions since), a car was destroyed and manhole covers flew 30 feet in the air. At that point in time, CL&P was doing their best to get out of fixing the power grid. They recently announced that the grid needed to be replaced and that they would do so soon.

I don't know if it was the power grid blowing up again. There was an explosion, as I learned later from people who were at that end of the building, but it looked to me like there was work being done on the utilities at the time. Unfortunately, one person was seriously injured, possibly killed. (Update: news reports confirmed what I heard from students, that one of the CL&P contract workers was killed. His name was Elias Anchundia, he lived on Long Island, and some reports said that he had a wife and children. Of course, what I heard from students at the time was along the lines of "I saw the dead guy.")

About fifteen minutes after the explosion, the school put the intercom system to work telling everyone to evacuate the building through the parking garage. As the line of cars snaked its way out to the street (using the wrong side of the drive, because the exit gate was stuck in the down position), a faculty member tried driving into campus and was told to turn around by one of the campus police (who then got into the middle of the road to direct the nightmare traffic jam.

This photo of the explosion site was taken at 4:23, just as the school began evacuating.

UPDATE 2/23: It's funny how there are always conflicting reports. Today's paper says that the body of the man who was killed stayed at East Main Street for eight hours (which seems very improbable to me; there was at least one ambulance present by 4:23--wouldn't they have taken him to the hospital morgue right away?), but earlier reports said he was rushed to St. Mary's, where he was pronounced dead. Also today, it has been reported that the transformer blew up because it was faulty, not because of anything the workers did to it. CL&P still maintains that it is unrelated to the other explosions because it is not on the same grid. In my opinion, it is absolutely related. Transformers aren't supposed to randomly explode, and Waterbury has suffered an unusual number of serious explosions over the past year or so. The last time it happened, I was really upset by CL&P's seemingly uncaring attitude. An explosion that could destroy a car and send manhole covers 30 feet in the air is serious. It's very fortunate no one was killed in that explosion. This time someone was killed. How do we know there won't be more injuries and fatalities in the future?

Meanwhile, Blumenthal is pursuing legal action against CL&P. Waterbury's not the only city having this problem. I imagine the family of the man who was killed will be looking at legal action as well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Car Wash

Today was warm enough (upper 40s) to wash the salt off my car. Of course, "warm enough" is relative. A few weeks ago, when it was maybe 20 degrees outside, I saw the neighbor across the street washing off his car with a bucket of water and a washrag. I had to double-check the temperature.

There were a handful of other people at the car wash, all guys in their 20s and 30s, washing their vehicles too. And there were two older men standing outside the garage watching the young fools washing cars in winter.

I can't take my car through an automated wash because it has a soft top. I had to walk carefully as I walked around my car with the sprayer. The ground had a half-foot deep coating of ice, all lumpy and irregular. The snow on the roof overhead was melting quickly in the warmth of the day, and the water poured down like rain through open slots in the roof, so I got a little wet (not too wet, I was able to avoid most of the water).

Now my car is red again, with just a little bit of new salt. Much better than before, when it was a salty white car with hints of red underneath.

Monday, February 19, 2007

City Styles

I was in NYC Saturday. Took the subway some of the time, walked the rest. By the end of the day, I was sore. I'm not used to that much walking. The average New Yorker is in much better shape than I am.

In Waterbury, everybody drives to where ever they want to go. I do it myself more often than I would like. It takes me 20 minutes to walk to work, 12 minutes if I drive. I'm a four minute walk from the bus stop, and that bus can drop me off right where I work. But I've never taken the bus.

If I lived in NYC, I would never even consider driving to work. It's funny how different cities have entirely different standards. Of course, part of the reason I don't take the bus is that they stop running just after 6pm. It's entirely useless. If I used the Waterbury bus system, I would have to plan on going home by 6pm.

Today I was all set to walk to work. I was motivated after all that good walking I did in NYC. However, since it is currently 10 degrees outside with a remarkably strong wind, I'm definitely going to drive.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Three Feet of Snow

That's what we had on Sunday, Feb. 12 last year. So far this winter, we've had a grand total of maybe 4 inches over the course of three or four snowfalls. Quelle difference!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just a Random Thought

Haven't had much time for blogging or email or phone calls or any in-person social interaction lately. I've started daydreaming about what I would do if I had a whole day off. I would sleep late and clean my apartment.

Meanwhile... I went to the Board of Alderman meeting this week. As mentioned in the paper, there was a 30 or 40 minute back-and-forth between Mayor Jarjura and Alderman Booker that felt an awful lot like a huge waste of time. The highlight (for me) came when Alderman Vance defended Jarjura's right to say whatever he wanted during his 5 minutes of public speaking. Vance said that if a citizen wanted to spend 5 minutes singing "Yankee Doodle Dandy," that was his right. Vance quickly looked over to Jarjura and asked him not to sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Everyone had a good, quick laugh. I spent the next ten minutes trying to keep myself from giggling. The image of Jarjura breaking into the song while doing a little jig kept popping into my head. It was very much a John Dorian ("Scrubs") moment. I guess this is what happens to me after sitting on a wood bench in a cold room for two hours after a long workday and with an empty stomach.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

City Hall Options

The Waterbury Development Corporation presented six options for the Waterbury City Hall building to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday night. The details of the options are available on their website at http://wdconline.org/worxcms_published/news_page175.shtml. Personally, I hope the aldermen choose option 5 or 6 (six is not specified in the link, but it is the original plan that was voted down at referendum; it will cost $1million more than option 5).

Yes, full renovation of the building and construction of a new firehouse will cost money, but in the long run it looks like the most economically sensible plan.