February 19, 2017

Essex Winter Series Presents Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band Today

Essex Winter Series Artistic Director Mihae Lee.

ESSEX — Known for its unique concerts of world-class talent and diversity, Essex Winter Series plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary year with a robust schedule for the winter months. The season-opener on Sunday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m. at Valley Regional High School in Deep River is a musical tour de force led by Artistic Director and pianist Mihae Lee.

Lee has carefully curated a program featuring breathtaking music that spans over 600 years. She will be joined by audience favorites William Purvis, Patricia Schuman, Randall Hodgkinson, the Attacca Quartet, as well as emerging young artists.

The concert begins with a celebratory fanfare of Copland, then a high spirited string quartet by Haydn, wonderful cabaret songs and jazz ballads. The first half ends with the ultimate crowd-pleaser, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue arranged for piano four-hands and performed by Ms. Lee and Mr. Hodgkinson.

The second half begins with beautiful Renaissance music for brass, then an aria from the opera Carmen and the finale movement of Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, both in a passionate gypsy style. The concert will end with a bang with hot jazz performed by Jeff Barnhart, Vince Giordano, Paul Midiri, Joe Midiri, and Jim Lawlor.

The season continues on Feb. 19 with the Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concert featuring Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band performing a centennial celebration of recorded New Orleans Jazz. On March 5, it’s Garrison Keillor and “Stories in Mind, Poems by Heart.” The beloved raconteur, author, and entertainer will share his unique brand of wisdom and humor in what is sure to be an unforgettable afternoon.

Chanticleer, an orchestra of voices, returns to the series on April 2 to perform the program “My Secret Heart” which includes a world premiere by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Cole Porter and Noel Coward standards, and the return of Augusta Read Thomas’ “Love Songs” to the repertoire.

All performances take place on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. with the Jan. 8 and Feb. 19 concerts at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, and March 5 and April 2 concerts at Old Saybrook High School. Individual tickets are $35 and $5 for full-time students with savings offered for subscriptions to all four performances. Seating is general admission. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit www.essexwinterseries.com or call 860-272-4572.

The 2017 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Guilford Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, and Tower Laboratories. Outreach activities are supported by Community Music School and donors to the Fenton Brown Circle.

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Celebrate Winter Today at Chester’s 26th Annual Winter Carnivale

Street entertainers delight the crowds at the Chester Carnivale. File photo by John Stack.

CHESTER — The townspeople of Chester are looking forward to their 26th annual winter celebration, Chester Winter Carnivale, on Sunday, Feb. 19.

That’s when the picturesque small town of Chester is filled with people cheering on ice carvers as they create beautiful sculptures from blocks of ice, while laughing at the antics of street performers and applauding a long parade of new and antique tractors being driven down Main Street by their proud owners. All that, and food, music, art, and shopping too!

Bill Bernhart stands proudly beside his ice carving at the Chester Carnivale in this 2012 file photo by John Stack.

The day begins at 10:30 a.m. when the carvers get started on their ice sculptures. Both professional and student ice carvers will be hard at work, demonstrating their techniques to onlookers while they try to be finished by 1 p.m. for judging.

Meanwhile, the Chester Hose Company, Inc. is holding its annual “Chilly Chili Cook Off” fundraiser. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., go to the Chester Hose Company Fire House at 6 High Street and pay your $5 admission so you can taste all the different chilis cooked and dished out by restaurants, caterers and fire departments. You can vote for your favorite fire department chili, favorite restaurant chili, most original chili, and best dressed chili serving table.  Beverages will be sold. All proceeds go to the Chester Hose Company.

Still hungry? Pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, and lots more will all be available inside and outside the restaurants in town. Also, popcorn and kettle corn.

Just be sure to be back out on Main Street by 2 p.m. for the 15th Annual Chester Tractor Parade. Colorful and rusty, big and small, antique and new, decorated and plain – tractors are driven through the town center in an incredibly long parade. You never knew there were so many tractors in the Connecticut River Valley!

Free activities will keep the whole family entertained for the day. Colorful beads and balloons will be handed out throughout town all day and face painting is available. The Chester Museum at The Mill will be open at no charge, offering a place to explore Chester history. Galleries and shops will be open, many with special events.

Tractors and more tractors descend on Chester on Carnivale day for the Annual Tractor Parade. File photo by John Stack

Chester Winter Carnivale is held rain or snow or shine.  Main Street will be closed to traffic. Free parking is available in the commuter lot on Rte. 148 at the foot of Rte. 9 and in the Roto-Frank parking lot on Inspiration Lane (exit 6) and at Greenwald Industries on Rte. 154 (212 Middlesex Avenue). (Follow the signs.) All lots will be served by courtesy shuttle buses to the town center.

Tractor Parade at a previous year’s Chester Carnivale. File photo by John Stack.

For more information, visit facebook.com/chesterctwintercarnivale or https://finditinchesterct.wordpress.com/

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Local Lawmakers Urge State to Support ‘The Kate’ with Tourism Signage on Rte. 9 and I-95

Rep. Carney (left), The Kate’s Director of Development Dana Foster (center), and Paul Formica (right) at the Jan. 29 public hearing on the proposal to install signs for The Kate on local highways.

Local lawmakers are urging the state legislature to help support the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (‘The Kate’) by passing legislation that would allow tourism signage for the center to be placed on Rte. 9 and I-95.

Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th), Sen. Art Linares (R-33rd) and Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) submitted testimony in favor of House Bill 5574 and spoke before the Transportation Committee to urge fellow lawmakers to support the local theater. ‘The Kate’ is a theater in the Town of Old Saybrook that provides entertainment for the region and is named for Connecticut Hall-of-Famer, multiple Academy Award winner, and former Old Saybrook resident Katharine Hepburn.

“We believe that ‘The Kate’ deserves to have signage along both I-95 and Rte. 9 because it will attract tourists to the theater and create an interest for those passing by the signs,” the lawmakers said in their written testimony, adding, “Similar theaters have signage along various highways throughout the state due to their importance and popularity and ‘The Kate’ is no different.”

They continued, “It is a cultural hub with entertainment that draws people from across the state and the country. It is an economic engine, not only for Old Saybrook, but for the region as a whole and helps nearby businesses like the many restaurants and shops in town. Signage along the highway will only improve the number of tourists to town and we believe it is in the state’s best interest to promote this important theater with the signage suggested.”

Sen. Formica and Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations at The Kate, testify before the Transportation Committee in favor of House Bill 5574 An Act Concerning Signs Indication the Location of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

Sen. Formica testified in person with Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations, at ‘The Kate,’ on Jan. 31, before the Transportation Committee on which Rep. Carney is a ranking member.

Foster explained the importance of signage along the highways, saying, “Signage would help our growing audiences navigate the multiple exits to Old Saybrook and help to further attract additional tourists and others to our historical building, great exhibit, and incredible arts and programming.”

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Letter From Paris: A European in Washington

Nicole Prévost Logan

On Jan. 27,  Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit the White House during Donald Trump’s era.  The prime minister’s red dress matched the US president’s red tie and they both seemed  determined to cheer each other for the wonderful things they were about to accomplish together.

On the eve of Brexit, it was crucial  for the British visitor to obtain US support. For Trump,  it was a chance to welcome the UK as a “privileged” partner, to stress how the latter will benefit from Brexit and become a model for Europe in freeing itself from the “Brussels consortium.”

Actually, at this point, the US is not in a position to be much help for England. It is a matter that will have to be worked out directly between the UK and the European Union (EU.)   Beyond the posturing, the British prime minister was trying to reconcile her vision of a “global England” open to the world with the protectionism policies launched by Trump.

The task for May is incredibly complex since she has made clear her intention not to sever all ties with the continent while implementing  the “hard Brexit”and also to avoid a “cliff edge” situation.  She will need all her political acumen to surmount the obstacles coming from all sides and negotiate the best deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets US President Donald Trump.

The “divorce” process has not even started and already dissenting opinions are being heard, even in her own camp.  On Jan. 3, Sir Ivan Rogers, the permanent British representative to the EU,  resigned after sending warning signals, and was immediately replaced  by “euro-skeptic” Tim Barrow, former ambassador to Moscow.  On Jan. 11, the Minister of Immigration, Robert Goodwill, proposed to impose a tax of 1,000 British pounds on EU workers. The business circles protested and the government backed down.  Andrea Leadson, Minister of Agriculture,  had to reassure farmers that the hiring of seasonal labor would not come to a stop.  Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer disagreed  with the minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson and proposed a departure “a la carte” from Europe. 

On Jan. 24, the British High Court voted by eight to three to route the Brexit process through parliament.  This decision created another hurdle for the prime minister. The House of Commons passed the text overwhelmingly.  The House of Lords will be next.    

The worst enemy of the UK in the Brexit process is the timetable.  Once triggered, Article 50 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon will take two years to be implemented and, of course, will have to be approved by all the EU members.  After that, it will take five or possibly 10 years for Britain to be legally able to conclude free trade bilateral agreements with other countries.

On Jan. 17, May gave a major speech at Lancaster House in which she spelled out the main points of her program.  This was followed a few days later by the publication of a White Paper containing a road map.  Control of immigration is a central preoccupation for the UK government.  It is understandable,  given the fact that that, from 2015 to 2016, 650,000 immigrants entered the country  (including 284,000 coming from the EU).  Britain had opted out long ago of the Schengen Zone, which allows for free circulation of goods, people, services and capital .

Right now Britain is a member of the European Customs Union and of the European single market. * Being a member of a single market like the EU, created by the 1957 founding treaty of Rome, comes with many constraints such as the harmonization of regulations, compliance with certain standards and the required contributions to the EU budget (Britain has already  committed 40 billion euros for the period 2016-2020.)  The European Court of Justice (based in Luxembourg) enforces those regulations and this explains May’s particular dislike for that institution.

In case of the departure of Britain from the EU,  there are alternatives to its present trade arrangements such as the ones used by  Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, which are not part of the European Customs Union.  Three of them are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which puts them close to the single market. Another example is Turkey, which is not part of the EU single market, but benefits from a special free trade agreement with Europe.  After her visit to Washington, May met with President Erdogan in Ankara to discuss these matters as well as a post-Brexit trade and military partnership.

One  of the most contentious issues of the Brexit is the future of The City.  For 30 years, it has been the financial hub of activities for the huge European market of 500 million people.  By leaving the single market, The City will lose its  “European passport”  and its say over the new regulations issued by Brussels every year.

Guy Verhofstadt, called “Mr. Brexit” at the European parliament, denounced the “illusion that it is possible to leave the EU while retaining its advantages.”

Michel Barnier has been appointed by Jean Claude Yunker, president of the European Commission, to head the negotiations with Britain.  This was a good choice.  Barnier is a man of consensus, experienced and pragmatic, according to The Telegraph.   Economist by training, he has held several posts as European Commissioner of various departments including finance, banking and defense. Interestingly, it was Barnier who supported the adhesion of Britain into Europe in 1972.

*for more on Cameron’s negotiations with the EU, which led to the June 23 referendum, see Logan’s article published by VNN on March 5, 2016.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Obituary: Death of Margaret Amy Hoffman (Peggy) Announced

Margaret Amy Hoffman

Margaret Amy Hoffman (Peggy), 95, died peacefully on January 31 in Peterborough after a long period of declining health. 

She was born in Spring Lake, New Jersey on August 24, 1921 to Everard C. Stokes and Phyllis M. (Beavis) Stokes, who had emigrated from England in 1919.  Her father published three books of poetry and was vice president of the Church Fire Insurance Corporation based in New York, which provided insurance to Episcopal churches. Margaret grew up in the coastal town of Sea Girt, NJ graduating from Manasquan High School in 1939, where she had played basketball and tennis. Following a preparatory year at St. Mary’s School in Peekskill, NY she entered Radcliffe College as a chemistry major where she met her husband John L Hoffman, an editor of the Harvard Lampoon and midshipman with the USNR. He was the son of artists Harry and Beatrice Hoffman of Old Lyme, CT. Margaret and Jack went on to have five children, settling first in Old Lyme, CT and then Winchester, MA, before retiring to Amherst, NH in 1984.  As children arrived, her chemistry training gravitated towards kitchen cuisine and her interests shifted to child psychology and sociology. She had always been a champion of the underdog and an advocate for the less fortunate. In midlife she completed a BS in psychology at Northeastern University in 1968 followed by a MSW at Simmons College in 1973.  She served as a clinical instructor at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, was employed as a medical social worker at the Winchester Hospital in MA and then for the rest of her career at Kennedy Memorial Hospital for Children in Boston. There she provided psychosocial assessments of children with a broad spectrum of problems including neurological, emotional, behavioral and developmental issues. She also provided individual and family therapy and was a group leader for the Rehabilitation Unit.

While living in Old Lyme, CT she had been a regular at the Old Lyme Beach Club during the 1940s and 50s. She and her husband were benefactors of the Florence Griswold Museum and the Old Lyme Land Trust, providing the first main portion of the riparian woodland that was to become the Hoffman-Matthiessen-Degerenday Preserve along Sill Lane.               

Following retirement and the move to Amherst, NH she pursued the creative interests she hadn’t had time for while working and raising a family.  She took a variety of art classes and worked hard at developing her natural talent.  She became a skilled artist, working in watercolor, oils, and pastel, and produced beautiful work, mainly flower studies and portraits.  She also took piano lessons and became an excellent pianist, although she was too shy to play in front of people.            

For several years she volunteered for the Friends of the Amherst Town Library and FISH, a group that provides rides to medical appointments.         

Margaret was an avid reader, library patron, and a gardener who thrived on being out in the sunshine maintaining her lovely flower gardens.  She loved dogs and had a number of them over the years.  Earlier in her life she enjoyed horseback riding.  She was adept with a sewing machine and made most of her own dresses (all the while grumbling about what a waste of time sewing was).  She was a devoted mother who frequently said that her greatest joy in life was her children.          

Her beloved husband Jack, a Harvard social anthropologist, died in 1992 after nearly 50 years of marriage.  In the years following his death, she took several trips abroad, traveling to England, France, Spain, and Russia with her sister Mary or via Elderhostel.  In 2002, while attending the Unitarian church in Wilton, she met John Voss of Hollis, NH.  They spent a happy five years in each other’s company until his death in early 2008.  Margaret then moved with her dog Cedric to the RiverMead retirement community in Peterborough NH, where she lived until the time of her death.      

She was predeceased by a son, John L. Hoffman, Jr. in 1957, by both parents, her sister Mary Horn, and her beloved West Highland white terrier, Cedric.  She is survived by her sister Beatrice Miles, her devoted children, David Hoffman and his wife Suzanne of Bivalve, MD and Old Lyme, CT; Stephen Hoffman of Alexandria, VA; Thomas Hoffman and his wife Alexis of Anchorage, AK; and Elizabeth Hoffman and her partner Anthony Iovino of Putney, VT.  She is also survived by her four grandchildren, Molly and husband Mike, Alex and wife Amanda, Michael and wife Cheryl, and James; three great-grandchildren, Sophie, Oliver, and Madelyn; her sister Beatrice Miles, and seven nieces and nephews.           

Margaret was smart, funny, artistic, empathetic, insightful, and generous.  She will be greatly missed.     

Her family would like to thank the staff at RiverMead for their unfailingly patient and loving care.  

She was buried at the Duck River Cemetery in Old Lyme, CT.  A family memorial service will be held at a later date. Donations in Margaret’s memory may be made to Westie Rescue of New England, 10 South Washington Street, Norton MA 02766 www.westierescuene.com or your local humane society.   

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9 Town Transit Partners with Google Maps for Online Trip Planning

AREAWIDE — Finding local bus route information just got a whole lot easier.  In fact, you probably already have it available on your smartphone.  Google Maps now includes local bus routes and schedules in its directions feature.

Riders no longer have to read timetables.  They simply enter the date and time that they hope to arrive at their destination and the trip planner will provide three options, showing the amount of time and number of transfers for each option, letting you easily select the most convenient trip.

Google Maps can even provide walking directions, so you can find out exactly how to get to the nearest transit stop or station, and how to get to your destination once you leave the train/bus.  For extra convenience, Google Maps has most locations already stored, so you only need the location name or just a category, such as fast food.

“We are pleased to welcome 9 Town Transit to Google Maps.”, says Ryan Poscharsky, Strategic Partner Manager at Google.  “This partnership shows 9 Town Transit’s commitment to innovating, as well as serving and attracting new riders. Together we can provide useful and accurate information to help people quickly get to where they want to go.”

Another important feature is the ability to plan trips across agencies and modes.  CT Transit New Haven and Hartford, CT Transit Express, Shoreline East and Metro North are all available in Google Maps, so it is easy to plan your trip from Old Saybrook to Hartford, from Manhattan to the outlet malls, or from your Clinton to downtown New Haven.  Google Maps tells you all transfers required along with the connecting agency name and contact information.

“We hope this tool makes it easier than ever to plan your trip by bus or train in our region”, says Joseph Comerford, Executive Director of 9 Town Transit.

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Festival of Women’s Plays Opens 2017 Season at Ivoryton Playhouse, March 3 & 4

IVORYTON:  The Ivoryton Playhouse announces the 2017 inaugural festival of the Women Playwrights Initiative –  Four One Acts by Four Fabulous Women Playwrights. Two evenings of staged readings will take place on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4, at The Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT, followed by discussions with playwrights, actors and directors.

Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m.,  there will be two readings presented. 

Guenevere by Susan Cinoman. Teenagers, Guenevere and Arthur, are best friends–a fierce competitor, she always bests him in sword fights. What will be the outcome when confronted with Excalibur in the stone?

Apple Season by Ellen Lewis. To make arrangements for her father’s funeral, Lissie returns to the family farm she and her brother fled 26 years before. Billy, a neighbor and school friend, comes by with an offer to buy the farm. As memories, needs, and passions are stirred, we learn what happened to the siblings as children, and of Lissie’s startling price for the farm.

Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m., there will be a further two readings presented.

Buck Naked by Gloria Bond Clunie. Two daughters are thrown into a tizzy when they discover Lily, their 60-plus-year-old mother, has decided to spice up life by tending her back yard garden – “au naturel”!

Intake by Margo Lasher. An arrogant young psychiatrist meets an 80-year-old woman for what he assumes will be a routine examination. During the course of their relationship, he comes to realize how little he knows, and as she reveals her deep love and understanding of her two aging dogs, both doctor and patient learn about life, love, and hope.

Before the performance on Saturday at 5 p.m., the League of Professional Theatre Women will host a panel discussion with the playwrights, moderated by Shellen Lubin, followed by refreshments before the 7 p.m. readings.  If you would like to attend the pre-reading discussion, you must register by Feb. 26, at this link.

To purchase tickets for the Friday, March 3, or Saturday, March 4, readings – each starts at 7 p.m. – call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Tickets:  $20 adult each night; $15 senior each night; $10 student and LPTW members.

A special two-day pass (tickets for Friday and Saturday night performances for $30) is being offered.  Call the box office at 860.767.7318 to reserve your two-day pass.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative, contact Laura Copland, Director of New Play Development, at laurac@ivorytonplayhouse.org.

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A la Carte: Craving a Crunch? Enjoy These Cashew Butterscotch Bars

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

It has been a while since we had a one-two-almost-three punch snowstorm. On the Wednesday before the storm, I had a meeting at 6 p.m. and then another at 6:30 (I was about 15 minutes late for the second one). In the first, my condo board meeting, we talked about the fact that snow was on its way.

We tried to figure out whether it was really going to be a tough one, or not. I felt it might be a real one, and I was prepared. Plenty of food for the cats (because, after all, they could not care less as long as they had a few warm velour throws, a clean litter box and cans of Fancy Feast to go with their dry food).

I do have a freezer full of people food, but that freezer is in the garage, a good walk easy when the weather is good but possibly not so if it really does snow for hours and hours. As it turned out, it snowed for around 10 hours and I couldn‘t get out of my condo for another half a day (except to shovel a path from my back door to the bird feeders).

But I had decided I wanted to cook.

It is actually my therapy, whether the weather is too hot or too cold, or too snowy. I had gotten chicken thighs from the freezer the day before and bought a big chunk of beef chuck and some ground meat for chili. For two of the recipes I used my slow cooker. I bought my first just  after my first marriage dissolved; my new one I have had for about eight years; I love my slow cooker although I usually sear the meat that will go into the crock pot these days.

The chicken thigh recipe was more work than it was worth  The pot roast was amazing (I added almost everything except the kitchen sink including half a can of Campbell’s tomato bisque from the fridge.) The chili, for which I used a package of Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Fire Chili, was yummy.

But a few days later, I wanted something sweet. Not chocolate, though. I found this recipe I had saved from the New York Times years ago. Boy, are these addictive.

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

From the food section of The New York Times, sometime within the past ten or so years

Yield: 36 bars*

Ingredients:

Two sticks plus 5 and one-half tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus butter for greasing pan
Three-quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons (packed) light-brown sugar
1 and three-quarters teaspoons kosher salt
2 and one-half cups all-purpose flour
10 ounces butterscotch chips
One-half cup plus 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 and one-half teaspoons water
2 one-half cups salted cashew pieces

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll pan, including sides.

2. To make the crust: in a mixer with a paddle or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, best ½ (one-half) plus 2 tablespoons butter and all the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir salt into flour, then add flour to butter and sugar mixture. Mix until dough is well combined but still crumbly; if dough is mixed until a ball forms, crust will be tough.

3. Pat the dough evenly along bottom of buttered pan, taking care not to pack the dough down. Place pan in oven and bake 5 minutes. With a fork, prick dough deeply all over. Return pan to oven and bake until sough is lightly browned, dry and no longer soft to the touch, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack; do not turn off the oven.

4. To make butterscotch topping: In a large saucepan, combine remaining 3 ½ (three and one-half) tablespoons, butterscotch chips, corn syrup and 1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ (two and one-half) teaspoons water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and butterscotch chips are melted, about 5 minutes. Pour topping over crust, using a spatula to spread, evenly all the way to the corners. Sprinkle cashew pieces on top, pressing down light.

5. Bake until topping is bubbly and cashews are lightly browned, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before cutting into two-by-three-inch bars.

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Town of Old Lyme Sends 82 Pages of Comments on High Speed Rail Proposal to FRA

This past Monday, Feb. 13, Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme First Selectwoman, sent comments to the NEC Future Policy Advisor, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, opposing the Old Saybrook, CT to Kenyon, RI bypass. The comments include in-depth remarks about many areas of concern, including

  • Environmental Issues
  • Geologic Features
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Artistic Significance of Old Lyme
  • Old Lyme Historic District
  • Historic Structures
  • Economic Issues.

As the proposed bypass can cause irreparable harm to the economic, cultural and environmental resources of Old Lyme and the other towns along its route, a strategy team was formed that tapped experts on all of these concerns.  The team comprised:

  • Bonnie Reemsnyder, First Selectwoman, Town of Old Lyme
  • Bennett J. Bernblum, Resident and Attorney (Old Lyme Board of Finance)
  • Michael Brown, Resident and Attorney
  • Jack Collins, Resident and Attorney (Town Attorney)
  • Catherine Frank, Executive Assistant to the First Selectwoman
  • Susan Saltonstall Duncan, Resident & Consultant (Rain Making Oasis)
  • David Duncan, Resident and Architect
  • John Forbis, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
  • Sam Gold, Executive Director, Lower CT River Council of Governments
  • Russ Todd, Acoustical Scientist and Engineer, A∙ʹku∙stiks Consulting
  • Claudia Weicker, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The document includes a lengthy list of references to acknowledge these experts.

Read the cover letter from the Old Lyme First Selectwoman at this link.

Read the 82-page supporting report at this link.  Regarding the report, Reemsnyder notes, “We believe that this document will be a guide for the FRA and NEC Future Team to assure that all areas of concern are fully addressed in Tier 2 of the process.”

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Around 200 Attend Protest Rally Held in Mystic Against Proposed Saybrook-Kenyon Rail Bypass

Around 200 people turned out yesterday despite the dismal conditions to join a protest rally in Mystic against the Tier 1 proposed high speed rail bypass.

MYSTIC — Standing within the pathway of the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposed high speed bypass, more than 200 people gathered Saturday near the red caboose in Olde Mistick Village to speak out against the plan.

The bypass is part of a $130 billion project that is intended to increase capacity, reliability, and speed along the Northeast Corridor …  Click this link to read the full story by Catherine Hewitt and published today on thewesterlysun.com.

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Letter to the Editor: Valley Shore Clergy Association Stands in Solidarity with Immigrants, Refugees

To the Editor:

We, a group of interfaith clergy from many religious streams and beliefs, feel called to express our support for refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, and others who wish to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our sacred texts provide the lens through which we view the world around us; these teachings affirm the following shared values across faith traditions:

• Every single human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:28), and we support the integrity and sanctity of every individual.
• We heed the teaching of Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
• We are instructed to “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18),” and thus to treat others how we wish to be treated.
• We are obligated to follow the prophetic call: “And what does the Eternal require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
• We are reminded of basic human kindness and compassion: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)

We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. We have all known what it is to be the stranger. Safety and security of all is critical, and we understand the importance of appropriate and thorough vetting of all those who wish to be part of America. However, fear cannot dictate our values. Rather, we are reminded again and again that, when we reach out in love and righteousness, we are most secure.

We know all too well what religious bigotry has wrought in the past. History is filled with many reminders of the horrific destruction caused by hatred, persecution, and intolerance. Instead, we share a message of solidarity, understanding, and dialogue.

We denounce any laws or orders based on xenophobia, discrimination, or fear which run counter to our national interests. We are proud Americans, and we hold dear our country’s core beliefs in religious diversity, ideological diversity, and cultural diversity.

We call upon people of faith to represent moral conscience, compassion for all, and an overarching sense of justice and righteousness.

Sincerely,
Valley Shore Clergy Association

Rev. Martha Bays
The Congregational Church in Killingworth, UCC

Rabbi Marci Bellows
Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, Chester, CT

Rev. Robin Blundon, Interim Pastor
Northford Congregational Church

The Rev. Dr. M. Craig Fitzsimmons
United Methodist Church of Clinton

Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager, Pastor
First Church, East Haddam

The Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Folts
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Dr. Jan Gregory-Charpentier, Pastor
First Congregational Church of Westbrook, CT

Brett Hertzog Betkoski
Trinity Lutheran Church – Centerbrook, CT

Reverend Amy Hollis
Winthrop Baptist Church

Rev. Lee A. Ireland
Interim Pastor, United Church of Chester

Rev Charlotte LaForest
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Joy Perkett
First Baptist Church of Essex

Rev. Suzanne Personette
Middlefield Federated Church

Rev. Kenneth Peterkin
First Congregational Church, UCC, Essex, CT

Rev. Geoff Sinibaldo, Pastor

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT

Pastor Les Swenson
St. Mark Lutheran Church, Norwich, CT

Rev. John Van Epps, Pastor
North Guilford Congregational Church UCC

Rev. Cynthia C. Willauer
First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, UCC

Pastor Ryan Young
Living Rock Church of Killingworth

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Reemsnyder Speaks Against Proposed High Speed Rail Route at Hartford Hearing

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder testified Monday at a state Transportation Committee hearing on three motions prepared by State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th) to oppose the Federal Rail Authority’s proposal to build a bypass through southeastern Connecticut that includes a tunnel under the Connecticut River from Old Saybrook to Old Lyme.

Read a full report of the hearing by Kimberly Drelich and published Feb. 6 on theday.com at this link. 

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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools 2017-18 Proposed $33.6M Budget Approved Unanimously by Board, Reflects Lowest Increase on Record

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser

At a Public Forum held Wednesday evening, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser presented a budget for the 2017-18 school year of $33,634, 371 reflecting a 0.49 percent increase over the current year.  The Region #18 Board of Education subsequently approved the budget unanimously at their regular meeting, which followed immediately after the forum.

Asked via e-mail Thursday morning for his thoughts on the budget, Neviaser told LymeLine.com, “We are proud to present the lowest budget increase on record for Region #18.  While the increase is exceptionally low, this has been achieved through savings that do not impact any of our existing programs or services. ”

He added, “Detailed information will be available in the upcoming budget edition of the Focus on Education newsletter, which will be delivered to homes as an insert in The Lyme Times in early March.”

At Wednesday’s forum, Neviaser explained the budget was set to support the objectives outlined in the Strategic Plan by:

  • Preserving and building upon the high standards of education in Lyme-Old Lyme while remaining fiscally responsible to our communities
  • Supporting the ongoing renewal of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and staff development activities in response to the expectations of state and national standards.
  • Continuing to plan and provide technology infrastructure and applications that are consistent with highly effective and efficient programming and operational standards.
  • Maintaining high facility standards for all district buildings and grounds.
  • Maintaining a dynamic and responsive approach to programming needs and mandates in special education.
  • Maintaining both compliance and reasonableness in response to state and federal mandates.

He noted that budget increases include certified and non-certified salaries, instructional programming, and administrative services while decreases include costs for benefits, special education and debt service.

Neviaser stressed that while showing only a minimal increase, the operations/program budget still reflects:

  • Continued adherence to class size guidelines
  • Reduction of staff to account for enrollment decline
  • Continuance of existing academic and extracurricular activities
  • Adjustments for anticipated changes in the special education population
  • Adequate funding for maintenance and repair of buildings and grounds
  • Scheduled replacement of technology and equipment
  • Program improvements that are consistent with high academic and operational standards

He also highlighted that, again despite only a marginal increase in the overall budget, several new programs were being implemented and a selection of facilities being upgraded. Program improvements include a new/updated elementary math program, technology infrastructure advancements and replacement of staff computers.  

Facility upgrades include installation of window AC units at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School and Lyme School​; addition of main campus pathway lighting​; increasing the number of security cameras​; installation of a concrete lacrosse practice wall​ and replacement of the fuel oil tank at Lyme School​.

Further presentations of the budget will be held in the upcoming months, during which time the public can submit comments on the budget to the superintendent. A district budget hearing and referendum are tentatively set respectively for Monday, May 1, and Tuesday, May 2.

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Sen. Linares Named Co-chairman of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Caucus

State Senator Art Linares (R-33rd) File photo.

State Senator Art Linares (R-33) has been named Co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Caucus. The caucus advocates the interests of individuals with IDD and their families.

“Mahatma Gandhi said that a society will be measured by how it has treated its most vulnerable citizens,” Sen. Linares noted. “We must leave a legacy where individuals and families dealing with IDD are able to live full and complete lives. I am proud to be asked to take a leadership role in a caucus tasked with such important work.”

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-34) commented that he knows advocating for those impacted by IDD is an important issue for Sen. Linares.

“Sen. Linares is an energetic lawmaker and in this new role he will be an active ambassador to families and advocates, working hard to make their voices heard at the Capitol,” Sen. Fasano said, adding, “To best serve these families, we need to learn about the challenges they face every day. Sen. Linares will play a key role in that dialogue.”

Sen. Linares stressed that as the General Assembly faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year, legislators must do their best to support the needs of Connecticut’s IDD residents.

“State spending must be brought under control, but that doesn’t mean we balance the budget at the expense of those with disabilities,” he said.

Sen. Linares represents the community of Lyme along with those of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook along with Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Portland and Westbrook.

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Old Lyme Author Jen Petty Hilger Launches Her First Book, “Thisbe, Queen of Adventure”

This Saturday, Feb. 4, Lyme Public Library will be celebrating Take Your Child to the Library Day. Join the fun between 12 and 2 p.m. when local author and Old Lyme resident Jen Petty Hilger will be signing copies of her first published picture book, Thisbe, Queen of Adventure.

We spent a little time with Jen Petty Hilger to find out why she wrote her first book about chickens. She explained, “Last spring I decided I’d lived long enough without chickens. Always wanted them … not really great on Park Avenue in New York City, but now the time was right.”

She continued, “We took all six kids and picked out six chickens … Thisbe, Henrietta, Georgie, Molly, Charlotte and Europa. All girls.” adding that the brood comprised, “Two Buff Orpingtons. Two silver- laced Wyandottes and two Cuckoo Morans.”

Checking on the chicks.

Hilger says emphatically, “It was love at first sight. They were three-days-old and lived inside in a box for nine weeks, adding, “When they were old enough we built a beautiful coop but they still came in for visits and I started thinking about how fast they were growing up and how much fun they had roaming around.”


Then, just like that, she says,”One day the whole story of their sweet little childhoods popped into my head and I wrote Thisbe.”


“Who is Thisbe?” we asked, and Hilger patiently explained, “Thisbe is an egg who dreams of adventure. She is the Queen of Adventure. As she grows, her mama takes her on little adventures about the yard. She is delighted by her world. The flowers and bugs and other birds. She is awestruck by the wonders of her surroundings.”

Is this ‘the Queen of Adventure’?

What happened next?  Hilger says she started on the illustrations (see below) and then put together a dummy of her children’s story.”

And how did she come to be a published author?  “Well …” Hilger says with a broad smile, “After months of back and forth with the publishers, we had a mock-up … and then the book!”

To add a personal note here, Jen Petty Mann (as she was then) wrote book reviews for us for years.  She was an extraordinarily talented writer from that side of the book cover, if you’ll forgive the expression, so it comes as no surprise to us that she’s now gone inside and written her own book.  We just can’t wait to get our hands on a copy … and review it ourselves!

Many congratulations, Jen!

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Letter From Paris: How France Copes With Ongoing Terrorism Threat

Nicole Prévost Logan

Two years after the “Je suis Charlie” massacre, how does it feel to be in France today with the threat of terrorism?  

Numbers seem to speak for themselves: France, which is the most visited European country, saw a decrease last year of almost 50 percent in the number of tourists visiting – from 84 million to 42 million – while website commentaries lament empty hotels, restaurants and museums.

This observation is not quite accurate and, besides, does not take into account the complexity of the situation. In the first place, France has not become a dangerous war zone and people here still enjoy themselves: restaurants are full at lunch time, the new Paris Philarmonie orchestra is booked solid for months and there are more fantastic art exhibits – such as the Shchukin collection – than ever.

For the French, the threat of terrorism is not measured primarily by the dollar amount lost through a decrease in mass tourism (which is not the country’s vocation in any case.) There are many other serious considerations relating to the effects of terrorism on French politics and society, or the measures taken by authorities to protect the citizens.    

The cover of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ two years after the horrific attack on the magazine’s office in Paris.

In recent years, the French have been deeply marked by terrorist attacks with 237 people killed between January 2015 and July 2016. These range tragically from the murder of cartoonists; the bombing of the Bataclan night club, several bistros and restaurants; a truck plowing through the crowd on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Bastille Day; to the gory assassination of 85-year-old  father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit on the altar of his small Normandie church in front of two elderly nuns.

The impact on France’s national consciousness of the November 2015 terrorist attacks was enormous. As the two chambers of the parliament met in a joint session in Versailles, every single deputy stood up and sang the national anthem, La Marseillaise, a solemn event not seen since 1918.

François Hollande has been literally traumatized by the terrorist bombings. The president was immediately on the scenes of the attacks, even before the areas were made secure. For him, the defense against terrorism was a brutal awakening and a priority. The political price he had to pay was very high.

Under the intense pressure of the moment, he proposed a law on the déchéance de la nationalité (loss of nationality) for terrorists. This proposal caused havoc among the leftist segment of the French population. The president never recovered politically. Recently, when he announced his decision not to run again for another five years, Hollande declared, “I was wrong to make that proposal”.

The terrorist threat has become part of French people’s daily life. Alain Bauer, a professor of criminology, recently published a book titled, “How to Live in the Terrorist Era,” in which he gives practical advice on what to do in case of attack. Defense against terrorism is a major topic for the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections. .

France has come a long way since the affaire Merah in March 2012. The young Mohammed Merah had appeared all smiles on TV screens after killing seven civilians and military in the Toulouse area. At first believed to have acted as a “lone wolf,” he  turned out to be part of a whole network of siblings, relatives and friends. During the past five years, the French authorities – Intelligence, police,  judiciary and military both inside France and abroad – have made spectacular efforts to adjust to the terrorist threat, which is changing its modus operandi almost daily. 

Today the police wear bulletproof vests, carry attack weapons, and not only have the right, but also the duty, to intervene in the case of a terrorist threat.  The Direction Générale de Securiéte Interieure or DGSI (equivalent to the FBI) has stepped up its action, thwarting  90 percent of bombing attempts every year. In the past few months, it has dismantled sleeping terrorist cells in Marseille and Strasbourg.

France is the European country with the largest Moslem population. The latter is overwhelmingly considered to have nothing to do with radical Islam.  However, subjects which used to be taboo before, such as the relationship between extremism and religion, are now openly debated. Recent books also contribute to the change in thinking.

Gilles Kepel, an authority on the Arab world and Islam, demonstrates in his book, La Fracture, (‘The Divide’) that the only way to understand extreme Islamists is to analyze in depth their ideology. One should make an effort to understand  their strategy, which is to divide society, by teaching from a very young age, hatred against non-believers and the West, through brainwashing and conversion of an increasing number of people in both mosques and also in prisons. Keppel writes, “Prisons have become the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration or French elite school ) for Jihadists.” 

In the fall, journalist David Thomson  published “Les Revenants” (those who returned) about the young men – and women – who joined ISIS or Islamist State in 2012 at the outset of the Syrian civil war. They would announce their plans openly on You Tube  and traveled freely through Turkey toward their final destination of Rakka. In 2013 -14 their number grew exponentially. With the loss of territory in The Levant , ISIS has changed its strategy and many of the “revenants” have gone underground and become “Jihadists of the keyboard,” to use Thomson’s expression.

Is it the end of the tunnel ? Probably not and the threat remains, the experts concur. We can be thankful, however, that the Intelligence services and police have become more successful in cracking down on radical Islam.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Health, Happiness and the Benefits of Volunteering; Join the ‘Common Good Gardens’ to Discover Them!

Each year, the Common Good Gardens in Old Saybrook raise nearly four tons of fresh vegetables and fruit, and then then donates them to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries  And they do it entirely with volunteers – volunteers who have kept it going and improved it for 15 years.

You’re probably thinking, “How unselfish … doing all that work to benefit other people,” and they are for sure.  But, according to new research, volunteers are also on the receiving end of some amazing benefits; and most likely, they don’t even know it.  They just know that they feel better when they leave the garden.

Never too young … all ages can volunteer at the Common Good Garden.

Solid data on the benefits of volunteering has appeared in a variety of current publications, ranging from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Letters, to a review from the Corporation for National & Community Service, which states,

On average, volunteering 40 to 100 hours per year increases personal satisfaction and happiness, decreases depression, improves functional capacity; and results in fewer illnesses and a longer life span.

Similar articles from the Huffington Post, Atlantic Monthly as well as research released by Johns Hopkins, The London School of Economics and University of Exeter Medical School have all told a similar story.

Greatest Gains for Seniors

Volunteering has health benefits — especially for seniors!

While there are potential gains to be had for high-schoolers and middle-aged persons, the greatest gains related to volunteering are for those 65 and older.  Some researchers suggest this greater gain for seniors may be because they start out lower before volunteering. Their health may not be as good as that of younger people or they may have lower self-esteem and more social isolation due to retirement.  Even if that proves true, starting to volunteer at an earlier adult stage seems to correlate with fewer health issues later in life.

Regarding functional capacity, the Hopkins study showed improved brain function associated with activities that get you moving and thinking at the same time.  As for happiness, though some of the happiness data is based on self-reporting alone, other data show hormone levels and brain scan activity consistent with physiologic changes associated with happiness.

Studies in UK

In addition to the improvements shown above, a large review of nearly 25,000 articles in the UK notes increased coping ability, better parenting skills and richer personal relationships.

Impact on Chronic Illness and Longevity

Several studies examined in particular the impact for those with chronic illness. They found that these volunteers reported decreased pain and depression. People with a prior heart attack also had lower incidences of depression after volunteering.

A United Health Group survey showed these striking figures:

  • 25% reported volunteering helped them live better with chronic illness
  • 76% reported feeling healthier
  • 78% reported lowered stress levels
  • 94% reported improved mood
  • 96% reported an enriched sense of purpose

Finally U.S. census data confirms that those states with high volunteer rates show greater longevity and lower rates of heart disease.

Come Join the Common Good Gardens

There’s always room for an extra pair of hands …

Come join us at the Common Good Gardens.  Whatever your age, level of health, or skill set, there’s a way for you to contribute while benefiting from volunteering.

Yes, gardeners are needed to plant, weed and harvest, and beginners are always welcome. But also needed are people with computer skills, carpentry skills, writing and speaking skills;   people who can drive a car to deliver produce; leaders to organize small groups and work with public schools; people who love nature or are excited about nutrition, and folk who want to help experiment with natural ways to deter pests or make soil richer.

Common Good Gardens by the numbers

  • 14: Number of years garden has been in existence (2002-2016)
  • July 7, 2011: Date the garden incorporated and received non-profit 501(c)3  status
  • 10: Number of Board members
  • 220,000: Total pounds of produce grown, collected and delivered 2004-2016 through garden volunteer efforts
  • 50: Number of core active volunteers (gardeners, drivers, other)
  • 3,000: Number of volunteer hours donated annually
  • 1/2 acre: Size of garden located at rear of Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street, Old Saybrook
  • 22: Number of different varieties of fruits and vegetablesgrown at the garden during 2016
  • 6,900: Pounds of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • $17,200: Dollar value of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • 7: Number of farm stands that donate excess produce to garden for distribution to pantries in 2013.

Many hands make light work at the Common Good Gardens.

Current volunteers at the Common Good Gardens encourage you to get involved so that together, a healthy future for the garden, ourselves, and our shoreline community can be created.

If interested, contact Common Good Gardens at PO Box 1224, Old Saybrook, CT 06475 or call Barbara Standke at 860-575-8645 with questions, or to sign up for the annual new volunteer orientation on March 11.

Editor’s Note: The authors of this piece, Kate Wessling and Barbara Standke, are respectively Common Good Gardens President and Common Good Gardens Volunteer Coordinator.

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Two New Exhibitions on View at Lyme Art Association

‘Sentinels’ is one of the signature paintings of the 25th Annual Associated Artist Show on view at the Lyme Art Association.

The 25th Annual Associate Artist Show and Sale of landscape, portrait, and still life paintings, as well as sculpture by Associate Artist members is currently on view in the Association’s front galleries, and runs through March 10.  Pulled and Pressed, which showcases hand-pulled prints by LAA members of all levels and members of Stonington Printmakers Society as invited guests, is on display in the Goodman gallery, and also runs through March 10.

“The Annual Associate Artist Show and Sale highlights the range, creativity, and excellence of our Associate Artist members. This exhibition includes a variety of subjects, media, and styles: paintings or sculptures that capture the range of human emotion, the beauty and grandeur of the Connecticut landscape, or the personal objects and surroundings of everyday life,” states Jocelyn Zallinger, LAA’s Gallery Manager.

The juror of selection and prizes is Patricia Shippee of Old Lyme. Shippee is an accredited senior member of the American Society of Appraisers.  Her expertise has been acquired through her corporate business experience, her studies in art history, and as a collector, gallery owner, curator.

“The Pulled and Pressed show in the Goodman Gallery celebrates the beauty of original contemporary representational hand-made prints.” Juror Helen Cantrell, an Old Lyme resident, is a painter and printmaker, an artist member of Boston Printmakers, the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, and the Silvermine Guild of Artists in New Canaan.

The LAA was founded in 1914 by the American Impressionists and continues the tradition of exhibiting and selling representational artwork by its members and invited artists, as well as offering art instruction and lectures to the community.

The LAA is located at 90 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT, in a building designed by Charles Adams Platt and located within an historic district. Admission is free with contributions appreciated. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm, or by appointment.

For more information on exhibitions, purchase of art, art classes, or becoming a member, call860-434-7802 or visit www.lymeartassociation.org.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Divergent Paths – The Academy and the Judiciary’ by Richard A. Posner

Judge and Professor Posner explores the apparent diverging paths of our judiciary, especially the Federal, from the academies that teach our would-be lawyers, some of them advancing to become judges. This is a sobering view. Forgive me for an extensive quote, but it summarizes in one page the 400 pages of his thesis:

“ . . . at this writing the United States exhibits an unprecedented array of failed social systems. The political system is in disarray – Congress is a mess, the executive branch poorly managed. The Supreme Court bears some of the responsibility for congressional malfunction because of its refusal to allow reasonable limitations on campaign expenditures and its refusal to outlaw, as a denial of equal protection of the laws, political gerrymandering.

Likewise in disarray is the medical industry (as in matters of cost and coverage, preventive medicine, and the care of the elderly and the poor); also education (other than in the elite private and public high schools and the elite colleges and universities), public pensions, immigration, federal taxation, and the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Our prison systems and our criminal laws (especially sentencing) are an international disgrace, and the judges, including federal judges, are complicit. A number of state and local governments are seriously underfinanced. Our foreign and national security policies are pervaded by a degree of indecision unseen since the 1930s. Although admired by most Americans, our armed forces are plagued by serious cost, competence, and leadership problems.

Economic inequality has reached a dangerous level. There are too many guns in private hands. Conflict between religious and secular views on issues of public policy such as abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and the teaching of evolution is increasingly bitter. The government cannot get a handle on global warming or environmental regulation generally.

There are sectional tensions, racial and ethnic tensions along with sexual and religious ones, regulatory failures everywhere, bureaucratic incompetence, widespread corruption and fraud both public and private, and a weakening of family structure as reflected in the greatly increased prevalence of single-parent households. One can hardly expect the federal judiciary to be completely immune from so pervasive a national malaise, and it isn’t.

And this analysis was written before the death of Justice Scalia and the election of the loud-mouthed, newly elected president.

Is there any hope for us?

But there is!

From what he calls this gallimaufry (a confused jumble of things), Judge Posner extracts, first, notable deficiencies in our judicial system, followed later by his numerous suggestions for change. He is not an “originalist,” one who puts his faith entirely in earlier mandates such as our Constitution. “As society changes, so must the law,” is his thesis. He also acknowledges his own missteps: “Very wrong was I!” and “I don’t have a solution to this problem.”

At the end of Chapter 6, he summarizes his 55 “problems” and 48 reasonable and doable “solutions.” Best yet is his quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so  …  And this again means skepticism.” With this admonition in mind, Posner gives us a note of optimism.

Posner attributes much of our judicial problem to the “adversarial” nature of our system, in which lawyers tee off against one another in the courtroom, with judges as observers. He prefers the European “inquisitorial” approach, not in the sense of the Spanish Inquisition, but rather in the sense of judges acting as questioners and researchers, a third voice in the hearings.

He optimistically sees “the law” as a fluid, evolving instrument that “does not have a solid foundation. It is ultimately a collection of rules and procedures, highly malleable, often antiquated, often contestable, often internally conflicted, for managing social conflict – a set of aging, blunt tools.” Both we and the law can and should evolve. That is why we have judges, to help in interpretation.

But I do have a minor qualm with his writing. About halfway through his argument, he suggests a “good judicial opinion requires:

  1. No jargon.
  2. No footnotes.
  3. Forget citation form.
  4. Delete every superfluous word.
  5. Use adverbs and adjectives sparingly.
  6. Avoid section headings.
  7. Be grammatical.
  8. Brevity.
  9. Be candid as well as truthful.”

These are excellent admonitions, straight from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. But Posner often fails to follow his own advice! Take footnotes, for example. In the 403 pages of his exegesis, he gives us 453 (!) footnotes, one of which is more than a page long. They are useful, perhaps, to legal minds, but to the uninitiated?

He frequently utilizes the word “utilization” instead of the simpler “use.” And he is the archbishop of parenthetical phrases, often inserting two or three within a single sentence (I confess to doing this myself – this one being an example.) His very last and very first sentences include those diverting asides. Am I being too pedantic? No. I fully agree with Posner’s recommendations.

Despite my minor reservations, Judge Posner’s analysis of our aging judicial system should be required reading.

Editor’s Note: ‘Divergent Paths’ by Richard A. Posner, is published by Harvard U. Press, Cambridge 2016.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year-resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Why Metro-North’s ‘Quiet Cars’ Aren’t Quiet

What happens when a good idea goes bad?  Consider Metro-North’s ‘Quiet Car’ initiative.

Sixteen years ago a group of regular commuters on Amtrak’s early morning train to DC had an idea:  why not designate one car on the train as a ‘Quiet Car‘, free from cell phone chatter and loud conversations.  The railroad agreed and the experiment proved a great success.

Now all Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor have a ‘Quiet Car’.  They are a major selling point for taking the train … the chance to nap or read in a quiet environment.

But as early as 2006 when I suggested the same idea to Metro-North, it was rejected outright.  Then serving on the CT Rail Commuter Council, I persisted and finally, in 2011 the railroad agreed to a trial with one car on each rush hour train dedicated to what it called a ‘Quiet CALMmute.’

Almost immediately the plan ran into trouble.  Not because it wasn’t wanted but because it wasn’t enforced.

There were no signs designating which were the ‘quiet’ cars and only occasional PA announcements before departure reminding folks who sat there of the quiet, library-like environment that was expected.  Most of all, many conductors refused to enforce the new rules.  But why?

Conductors seem to have no trouble reminding passengers to keep their feet off the seats, put luggage in the overhead racks or refrain from smoking.  But all that the railroad gave conductors to enforce the ‘Quiet Car’ rules were bilingual “Shhh cards” to give to gabby violators.

It seemed left to passengers to remind fellow riders what a ‘Quiet Car’ was for and confrontations resulted.

This spring the railroad surprised even me by announcing an expansion of the program:  every weekday train, peak and off-peak, would now have two ‘Quiet Cars’!  Two ‘Quiet Cars’ on a 10-car train gives everyone a choice.  That sounds great, but still without signage, education or enforcement, the battles continued.

A commuter recently emailed me about an evening train from Grand Central with a group of rowdy drunks in the ‘Quiet Car’.  When commuters asked the offending passengers to chill out or move their seat, the tipsy  group told the complainer, “screw you.”  The quiet-seeking commuters then asked the conductor for help but he simply declared the train was too crowded and the ‘Quiet Car’ was being eliminated on that run.  “Have fun” he told the drunks.  Really?

On Amtrak trains those violating Quiet Car rules have been thrown off the train and arrested.  Even NJ Governor Chris Christie had to move his seat on an Acela once for yabbering with his staff in the wrong car.

Nobody wants these kinds of altercations on Metro-North.  So why initiate and then expand such a passenger amenity as ‘Quiet CALMmute’ without proper education and enforcement?  A few signs and friendly reminders from conductors should make passengers aware that “train time may be your own time” (as the railroad’s old marketing slogan used to say), but it’s also shared time.

Commuters want ‘Quiet Cars.’  The railroad gave them to us, but until they can get their staff to enforce the rules, consistently, they might as well not exist.

If you’re in a ‘Quiet Car’ and the rules are not enforced, report it to Metro-North on their website complaint form.  If we all raise our voices, we can get some peace a quiet.

Republished with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron


About the author:
 Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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