Monday, February 23, 2009


The Golden Dragon Acrobats will be performing at the Palace Theater on Saturday. I saw them (or their twin...) at the Palace a couple years ago, and it was an amazing show. If you don't already have plans for Saturday, and you can spare $25 for a ticket, you should absolutely go see the show.

It's family-friendly, although I'm not sure every parent wants their children to be inspired to try some of the acrobatics they perform!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bad Bus Stop

This, sadly, is a very busy school bus stop on Walnut Street at the intersection of Wood Street. A few weeks ago, I watched a school bus unload maybe three dozen young children. In the mornings, I see the kids waiting here for the bus. I can't imagine what they and their parents think of it.

If the city can't get the building demolished (the brick building on the right is probably worth salvaging, but taking down the wood apartment building would be a big improvement), then the school department should at least move the bus stop half a block north to the WOW/NRZ neighborhood center. Why do the kid have to stand in front of a building like that every day?

The situation is even worse when you realize what a dangerous intersection this is. There have been two fatal accidents there in the past two years. There are stop signs on Wood Street, but not on Walnut Street. The visibility for eastbound traffic on Wood Street is terrible, and Walnut becomes extremely narrow when there are cars parked on it. And this is where the kids wait for the bus every day.

This intersection could become really nice. There's an empty lot diagonally opposite the empty buildings that would make a great parklet, just the right size for a basketball court and gardens. The corner building could be replaced with some much-needed off-street parking. There have been a few improvements made to Walnut Street, but nowhere near enough.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Golden Opportunity

Yesterday's Republican-American ran this short little piece about the China Shop closing its location at the Mall because the owner doesn't like the mall's hours:

For everyone involved with downtown Waterbury, this little news article should be a giant beacon. I think the China Shop was originally on Bank Street before it was lured away to the mall. It would be a tremendous symbolic victory for downtown if the current owner could be persuaded to move there. You could even get some good publicity about it--are malls dying? does this move signal the rebirth of downtown retail districts? With the right targeted press release, if any of the stores in the mall relocated to downtown, we could even get some minor national interest going.

I can think of half a dozen economic developers and downtown building owners who should be jumping all over this one. Now, granted, the business owner seems to have other concerns besides the mall's hours, but the article clearly states that he's interested in a new location. Why not downtown?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This afternoon I was picking up the litter that blew into my yard from the corner store next door, and was thrilled to find the first flower of spring!

Okay, not spring really, but when the snowdrops appear, spring is not too far away.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Staying Warm Without Spending Too Much Money

It's bill-paying time again, and I've been reviewing my bills from YankeeGas and CL&P in an effort to reduce my heating costs. At the top of the list of ideas is to replace my furnace with something more fuel efficient, but that's not really an immediate solution (taking the radiators off-line in the middle of winter seems like a bad idea to me).

Here's my unsightly furnace:

My house has two floors, 544 sq. ft. each, and one side of the house is protected from the cold, as it is attached to another house. The gas furnace sends steam heat to six radiators. I'm frugal and prefer to wear extra clothing layers, so I don't turn the thermostat past 65 during the day, 60 at night. It's really a little too cold, and I end up shivering by mid-afternoon when I've been sitting at my desk all day. But even with that effort, the latest gas bill was still $330.

About a month ago, I remembered that I have a tiny little electric "heat furnace" left over from the days when I lived in an apartment in Naugatuck that didn't have heat in every room (there was a blast furnace in the side of the stove and a weird vertical heater in the hallway that did a great job of heating the ceiling). The electric heater is great for keeping me warm at my desk (no more shivering!), and I've got another heater I use in the living room. So now I keep the thermostat at 60 during the day and 56 at night.

CL&P and YankeeGas both keep well over a year's worth of meter readings available on their websites, so I can chart just how well I'm doing with keeping my bills down. I'm looking forward to seeing if the electric heaters make a big difference in my costs. CL&P is a little tricky, though. At first glance today, I thought I was doing great with keeping my electric bill down. Then I look closer at the usage chart. For every other month, the chart shows one actual meter reading for the month. The two most recent readings, however, are for two weeks each and are estimated readings. And they are for a much higher usage per day than for any other month on the chart. I wonder if that has anything to do with CL&P losing track of many customers' bill payments last month.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wicked Book Signing

The newest must-have Waterbury item was released recently. Wicked Waterbury: Madmen & Mayhem in the Brass City, researched and written by Edith Reynolds and John Murray, reveals some of the more titillating events in the city's history (prior to 1980--I'm sure they could get another volume out of events from 1980 to the present!).

John Murray is the publisher of The Observer monthly newspaper. Ede Reynolds owns The John Bale Book Company and JoBa Cafe on Grand Street. On Thursday, February 12, from noon until 2 p.m., Ede will be signing copies of the book and sharing a "wicked dessert" for each book purchase, at John Bale. If you can't make it to the book signing, you can still purchase copies of the book through the John Bale website.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Albanian Demographics

There was a very good article by Jonathan Shugarts in Sunday's Republican American, but there was one little detail in the article that raised a red flag in the back of my mind. Fourteen hours later, that little red flag moved to the front of my mind.

In his article ("Search for killer extends to Albania"), he writes that "Waterbury has about 14,000 Albanians." I know there are a lot of Albanians in Waterbury, but 14,000 seems a little too many. This is the sort of arithmetic problem that I don't normally pay close attention to, but I know that number just can't be right. Just after midnight, it suddenly started bothering me.

Waterbury's total population is supposed to be around 107,000. If there are 14,000 Albanians, they represent 13% of the population. For comparison, the US Census estimates that in 2000 there were 19,400 African-Americans, 23,354 Hispanics, 24,476 Italians, and 12,514 Irish in Waterbury.

Being the research geek that I am, I naturally did some research on the topic. According to the census, there were 2,174 Albanians living in Waterbury nine years ago. That's just slightly more than two percent of the population. I can't believe that there's been an influx of 12,000 Albanians in the past nine years--that's a huge number of people.

So how many Albanians are there now in Waterbury, and where did Shugarts get his data? The way the article is written, it seems like the number is coming from Police Chief O'Leary as justification for spending $5,000 to send some of our police officers to Albania.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Today's warm weather (50 degrees!) made me realize just how much winter has been getting me down. I had the windows open for an hour or two and felt very invigorated. The downside, however, is that the warmth is melting the snow cover, which means that everything is brown and drab and bleak, and we've got weeks to go before the first hints of spring will start to show.

To counter-act the bleak drab browns, here's a photo from last summer: sunny, warm, green and lovely!