January 27, 2020

Talking Transportation: A Conversation With CT DOT Commissioner Giulietti

Jim Cameron

Joseph Giulietti is finishing his first year as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation — CDOT.  He’s been busy and less visible in recent months, so imagine my surprise when he offered me a one-on-one, no-holds-barred interview.

“You’ve always been fair, Jim.  You’ve hit me hard but you’ve always been fair,” said the Commissioner.  That’s music to my ears and I hope he feels the same way after reading this column.

Our conversation covered every aspect of CDOT’s operations from Metro-North to CT 2030 to tolls (which we will cover next week in Part Two).  Here are some highlights from our conversation.

I reminded the Commissioner that before he joined CDOT he authored the infamous “30-30-30” report as a consultant to the Business Council of Fairfield County, arguing that it was possible to speed up trains to be able to go between Grand Central, Stamford, New Haven and Hartford in 30 minutes per leg.  Any regrets at such a promise?

Giulietti said such speeds are still possible … in a few years.  He wants to increase train speeds, re-do some bridges to avoid slowing down and save “five minutes here and 10 minutes there.” He also held out hope for faster service on Metro-North trains to Penn Station (after the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access project is finished going into Grand Central.)

“We’ve got cell-phone data from the Feds showing that 40 percent of riders to Grand Central continue south to Wall Street but 20 percent go west toward Penn Station,” he added.

He also held out hope for limited, rush-hour non-stop express service from New Haven to GCT and Stamford to GCT.

As for new rail cars… the additional 66 M8 cars that were to be delivered this year “are running a bit late”, but he called the M8’s a tremendous success.  Those M8 cars were supposed to also run on Shore Line East, but even with 405 M8s CDOT doesn’t have enough of them even for the mainline given increased ridership.  The Commissioner said he’s still looking at diesel push-pull double-decker cars where a ten-car train could carry almost 2000 passengers.

But he says that electrification of the Danbury and Waterbury branch lines just isn’t on the cards due to the cost.

As for fares:  he couldn’t say if they’d go up because he doesn’t know what funding in the Special Transportation Fund will be like.  But he did pledge cost savings in his department calling possible rail service cuts “the worst of all worlds.”

While the Walk Bridge project in Norwalk is running late and over-budget, he blamed litigation and said he has firm funding commitments from Amtrak on that bridge and the one over the Connecticut River.

But will CDOT have enough talented engineers after 2022 when 40 percent of the department’s most experienced staffers will be up for retirement?  The Commissioner said that succession planning is a huge priority for him.  He’s even grooming replacements for his own job.

But among the rank-and-file, it’s hard to keep talent.  “I can’t hold onto someone with a CDL (Commercial Drivers License.)  “Some of the towns are paying more [than CDOT.]”

With a special session of the legislature coming up in January to consider tolls, there’s a lot hanging in the balance.  What does Giulietti think of his boss [the Governor] and Mr Sasser’s “No Tolls CT” movement?

Read those frank comments next week in Part Two of our conversation.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming’ by David Wallace-Wells

Is global warming a sensible hypothesis? Is it happening? What may be its consequences?  What can and should we, as human beings, do about it?

These are some of the most important questions facing us today. David Wallace-Wells begins with startling pessimism, moving on to despair, but he finally concludes with a modest sense of optimism. Thank goodness … at least for this reader.

He tests our ability to continue reading in an ominous Chapter 2, some 100 pages of possible woe: heat death, hunger, drowning, wildfires, disasters (no longer natural). freshwater drain, dying oceans, unbreathable air, plagues of warming, economic collapse, climate “conflict”, and “systems” collapses.

What a challenge!

As the author writes at its end, “If you have made it this far, you are a brave reader.” It confirms Pogo’s famous law: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

This analysis leads Wallace-Wells to suggest how we might respond: “But climate change inverts the (human) perspective – giving us not a deep time of permanence but a deep time of cascading, disorienting change, so deep that it mocks any pretense of permanence on the planet.” Does this then enhance the delusions of apocalypse believers?

What do other think of this proposition?

John Lancaster, writing in The New York Times (4/28/19) says: “a remorseless, near unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet.”
From The Economist (5/25/19): “[the book explores the] … causal link between climate change and conflict (encompassing everything from interpersonal to large-scale violence.)”
From the New Scientist (4/27/19): “The goal should not be net-zero carbon emissions, as fast as possible. How fast is feasible is a legitimate matter for debate.”
Dana Wilde, writing in The Working Waterfront (9/20/19) notes: “Reading the book’s first sections is like being caught in a carpet-bombing.”

Buried in the author’s notes is a conclusion by Paul Kingsnorth, from Dark Ecology (2012): “The answer is that it leaves you with an obligation to be honest about here you are in history’s great cycle, and what you have the power to do, and what you don’t.” At least, we can try.

Then Wallace-Wells counsels that the problem stems from “ … both human humility and human grandiosity … If humans are responsible for the problem, they must be capable of undoing it … it is an acceptance of responsibility.”

My personal counsel: “Don’t despair; respond!” Or perhaps, to my offspring, “Go North, young people, and go inland!”

Editor’s Note: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells, was published by Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2019 .

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, a subject which 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 Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Legal News You Can Use: What Happens When You Suffer From Chemical Burns?

Chemical burns are a real problem in some workplaces. Whether you’re working in a chemistry lab or teach at a local university, you could be exposed to chemicals that could leave your skin burned and damaged.

Chemical burns can be caused by some common chemicals found in schools, homes and workplaces. For example, common products that sometimes cause chemical burns include:

  • Ammonia
  • Denture cleaners
  • Chlorine
  • Bleach
  • Battery acid

What are some symptoms of chemical burns?

Symptoms of chemical burns include:

  • Irritation or redness in the affected area
  • Loss of vision if the eyes came into contact with the chemicals
  • Numbness
  • Dead or blackened skin

If swallowed, some symptoms that might occur include:

  • Headaches
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle twitches

If you believe that you’ve suffered a chemical burn or that you’ve ingested chemicals at work, it’s important to call 911 or get to the hospital quickly. Your health care provider will then make a diagnosis based on your condition.

Chemical burns can affect the epidermis, resulting in superficial burns with a high likelihood of recovery. They can also cause burns that go into the dermis, which is a second-degree burn. Third-degree, or full-thickness burns, are when the subcutaneous tissues are involved.

Chemical burns must be treated as quickly as possible. The chemical needs to be removed from the skin or body in whatever way possible. Usually, the skin must be rinsed for 10 to 20 minutes with running water.

If you suffer a chemical burn at work, remember that your workers’ compensation coverage should cover your medical care and other losses.

Sponsored Post on behalf of Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

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Talking Transportation: Speed Kills

Jim Cameron

Speed kills … and I don’t just mean methamphetamines.  Speeding on our roads is linked to over 36,000 deaths each year in the US.  That’s almost 700 deaths a week … 100 a day.

If a hundred people die in a plane crash, we go nuts.  But if they die on our roads we see it as the cost of doing business.  As one blogger put it… “it’s high time to stop sacrificing safety on the altar of speed”.

Most of those 36,000 deaths are pedestrians or bicyclists.  But tens of thousands of those deaths involve the motorists in the cars tied to the “accidents” caused by distracted driving, drink or drugs or fatigue.

Federal statistics show if you’re hit by a vehicle going 20 mph you have a 90% chance of surviving.  If the car or truck is going at 40 miles an hour your survival chances are just 10%.  Speed kills.  So why are we all driving so fast?

Because we have so far to travel and want to save time getting there.  In Connecticut, our homes and our work are far apart because we can’t afford (or don’t chose) to live closer to our jobs.  And either because we don’t want to (or chose not to), we don’t take mass transit, preferring the cocoon of our cars.

Sure, seat belts in cars save lives… if you wear them.  And air bags and other tech in cars are helping us avoid many accidents. But the death toll keeps climbing, especially where cars occupy the same driving space as bikes and pedestrians.

Consider New York City.

In 1990 there were 700 traffic deaths in NYC.  But by 2018 that number had dropped to 202, thanks to “Vision Zero”, Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious, billion dollar plan to reduce road deaths to zero by 2024.  More bike lanes, sidewalks and a 25 mph city-wide speed limit have made a big difference.  But this year saw an uptick in deaths, most of them involving bicyclists driving on city streets lacking bike lanes.

In Connecticut we have nowhere near the same density of urban traffic fighting for space with folks on two feet or two wheels, but neither do we have sidewalks in many towns.  Or bike lanes.  But we do have speeders, scofflaws and insufficient enforcement.

When it’s not crawling bumper-to-bumper, try driving 55 mph on the Merritt, I-95 or I-84 and see what happens.  As a State Trooper once told me as we cruised along at about 75 mph with the flow of traffic, “I look for the driver likely to cause an accident” by weaving or not signaling lane changes.  Even those enforcing our laws admit they don’t or can’t keep up with motorists’ need for speed.

Even when the cops do look for speeders, legal radar detectors and laser-jammers help violators from getting caught.  Attempts to install red-light cameras in Connecticut have always failed due to a combination of Big Brother paranoia and fears of the safety tech being turned into an unending revenue spigot for Towns and cities.

Weather conditions of course exacerbate the problem, especially with those driving the tanks we call SUVs who think they are immune to the laws of physics.

Bottom line:  can’t we all just chill out a bit and think of the safety of others if not ourselves?

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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A la Carte: A New Dish for a New Decade — Roasted Shrimp, Caulifower with Quinoa

Like many of you, I have made one or two or more resolutions. I, for one, am on that intermittent fasting. I don’t eat before 11 a.m., nor after 7 p.m. This is an easy diet for me: I like lunch more than breakfast and I often am in bed at 8:30, where I read for at least two hours. So dinner at 6-ish works for me. I have lost around seven pounds since mid-December, even with the holiday parties. 

My friend Judy promises to watch less television and learn how to use more of her computer’s abilities, especially Google maps, since she is an assessor. I am promising myself that I will buy fewer shoes and clothes. All summer long I wear my jelly sandals, of which I have around 15 pair, and in the winter I wear boots outside. I never wear shoes in my condo, even when the temperature hovers around 20 degrees. As for clothes, my Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and Macy’s have zero balances.

Almost everyone I know are getting into plant-based food meals. I eat chicken and fish a few times a week;  I have a hamburger or a lamb chop maybe once a week. I do like pasta and chili, whose main ingredients are the beans and the pasta rather than meat balls or pork. I also have stopped at Burger King a few times for that Impossible Burger. With the mayonnaise-based dressing, onion, lettuce and tomato, I don’t miss the burger at all. Truth to be told, I only order my burgers at Haywire in Westbrook.  Once Jack Flaws opens his new place in Centerbrook, I will be a true carnivore, if only for a few hours.

Today, though, I will be making this for dinner. This recipe comes from the free magazine from Stop & Shop. I had just read on Facebook that Ina Garten now only serves shrimp that she has oven-roasted. Evidently Stop & Shop’s test kitchen thinks the same way.

 

Roasted Shrimp and Cauliflower with Quinoa Tabbouleh

From Savory by Stop and Shop, January 2020

Yield: serves 4

One-half cup dry quinoa, rinsed
3 cups cauliflower florets
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
One-quarter teaspoon salt and pepper
1 cup fresh parsley
1 pound frozen, peeled deveined raw shrimp, thawed
One-quarter teaspoon salt and pepper
One-quarter teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; reserve bowl. Arrange on a large rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Roast 15 minutes.

Meanwhile. Very finely chop parsley and add to a large bowl. In the same bowl cauliflower was in, toss the shrimp with the smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons of oil, and salt and pepper.

Once cauliflower is roasted, push cauliflower to one side of baking sheet and arrange shrimp in a single layer on other side. Roast 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked through and cauliflower is tender.

Fluff the quinoa and add to bowl with parsley. Add lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the shrimp and cauliflower over the quinoa .

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Talking Transportation: Pre-Cursor of the Tesla, the Dymaxion Car has Connecticut Roots

Jim Cameron

Did you know that Bridgeport was once the home of “the car of the future”?  It was the Tesla of its era, but only three were ever built.

This mystery vehicle?  The Dymaxion Car.  The designer?  Buckminster Fuller.

Best known for his pioneering 1940s architectural design of the geodesic dome, a decade earlier Fuller was already inventing other things.  It was the 1930s and the country was struggling through the Depression.  Fuller saw the need for innovation, for “doing more with less,” and conceived of a mass-produced, pre-fabricated circular house modeled after a grain silo.

Built with aluminum, Fuller only saw two prototypes of the dwelling constructed and even those weren’t actually built until 1945.  Fuller called his design The Dymaxion House Dy for Dynamic, Max for Maximum and Ion for tension.

It was a major flop.

The Dymaxion Car

Next, Fuller moved on to transportation, conceiving the Dymaxion Car, an 11-person, three-wheeled vehicle that he hoped might one day would even be able to fly using what he called “jet stilts”… and this was decades before the invention of the jet engine.

Indeed, the Dymaxion Car looked a lot like a stubby zeppelin with a forward-facing cockpit and tapered, aerodynamic tail.  Equipped with a rear-mounted engine that could run on alcohol, it could go 90 mph and get 30 miles to the gallon.  The car had dual steel frames while a wooden lattice-work held the outside aluminum panels in place.  The single rear wheel could pivot 90 degrees making parking a breeze.

Bankrolled with $5000 from wealthy investor and socialite Philip Pearson of Philadelphia, Fuller needed a place to build a prototype and ended up at the old Locomobile plant on Atlantic Street in Bridgeport’s Tongue Point neighborhood.  Don’t bother looking for this piece of history.  It’s long gone as the land is now home to the PG&E power plant.

When Fuller set up the auto workshop in March 1933, he hired naval architect Starling Burgess, who recruited 27 workmen, many of them from Rolls Royce, from the 1,000 applications he received.  In just three months, the first prototype was completed and rolled out onto the streets of Bridgeport on Fuller’s 38th birthday.  The car was immediately shipped to Chicago for display at the World Fair.

Sadly, the prototype was totaled after it was involved in a car crash, flipped over and killed its driver and left VIP passengers injured.  Initial orders for the Dymaxion started to evaporate over safety fears even though it turns out the Fuller car had been sideswiped.

A second prototype emerged from the Bridgeport plant six months later.  Fuller had hoped to display the Dymaxion at the 1934 New York Auto Show but pressure from Chrysler locked him out, literally.  Not to be outdone, Fuller parked prototype #2 right by the front door of the show and got more attention than he might have done on the exhibit floor.

Fuller even brought the car back for the last year of the Chicago World Fair in 1934 but public curiosity didn’t turn into sales.  Fuller eventually sold this second prototype to his plant workers while a third model — this one equipped with a stabilizing vertical fin — went to conductor Leopold Stokowski.

Only one of the three Dymaxions survived, car #2, which is now at an auto museum in Reno, NV.  But Bucky Fuller fans have built replicas, some of which are still on the roads today 80 years later.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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A la Carte: A Day for Dauphinois (aka Scalloped Potatoes)

If you are reading this column today, you know that yesterday was Christmas. If you have little ones, they probably woke you up at dawn, to let you know that Santa had arrived.

When our little ones were young, we spent Christmas with my husband’s sister in East Bloomfield, N.Y. We arrived on Christmas Eve, early enough to get to my in-laws’ church in Rochester. There my husband turned the pages of the lovely old pipe organ as my father-in-law played.

After that, we all drove to Roslyn’s house. Our children, our parents and we slept everywhere—kids in sleeping bags in the living room and family room, our parents in the bedrooms upstairs/ Doug and I slept in a Sofabed  two rooms away from the living room (that room, much later, became the bird room, but that’s another long story).

I’m not sure how Ros made this happen, but no presents were open until we had a full breakfast, waffles or pancakes or French toast, bacon and sausage and, for us, gallons of coffee. Then the fun began.

Wrapping paper and bows filled the living room and the kids squealed. We adults opened our gifts one at a time, exclaimed how thrilled we were with every present. We showed each of our treasures to the others. And every year we gave Roslyn a special one—always a gag gift, often naughty. She was supposed to show them to our parents.  Sometimes she didn’t.

Dinner, around 4 p.m., was easy: often prime rib, which came out of the oven as we turned the heat to 450 degrees. Then we placed the pan of Yorkshire pudding, which, of course, is not a pudding at all. Sometimes it was a ham, instead. If it was, there would be scalloped potatoes, which everyone loved. 

Today I am making a big ham for my neighbors, their son and his teenage daughter. If I could have gotten one, it would be a spiral sliced, Honey Baked Ham. It may not be local and it may be overly sweet, but I love that ham. There will be sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (for my neighbors’ granddaughter), lots of vegetables and for dessert something special—perhaps crème brulee or chocolate pots de crème. The next day I will make a very French scalloped potatoes with slivered left-over ham nestled inside.

I love this recipe! (See below)

Gratin Dauphinois

From A Passion for Potatoes by Lydie Marshall (Harper Perennial, New York, 1992)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and sliced one-eighth- to one-sixteenth-inch thick
1 and one-half teaspoons sat*
1 and one-third cups half-and-half cream
1 tablespoons cold butter
One-half cup heavy cream

Yield: serves 4 to 6 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart rectangular or oval dish 14 by 8 by 2 inches.  Scatter the minced garlic in the dish.

Overlap 3 layers of potatoes in the pan, sprinkling salt between each layer. Dribble in the half and half, barely covering them. Dot the top with butter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Pour the heavy cream on top of the potatoes and tilt the pan to baste the top layer. Bake for 45 minutes more, or until golden brown.

*If you are adding ham to the gratin, leave out the salt in the recipe, but serve with a nice finishing salt at the table.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com, and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A View from My Porch: The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian (Connecticut’s “Nut Lady”)

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to welcome a new columnist to our LymeLine family today. Tom Gotowka will write an occasional piece under the title, “A View From My Porch,” and we are going to let him introduce both his column and himself in his own words.  We hope you enjoy Tom’s offerings — as always, let us know your thoughts!

Author’s Note: “A View from My Porch” is a new column that will cover a range of subjects that I believe will be of community interest. It might be literature and the arts, an event, or even something to do with healthcare. I may occasionally stray into a political issue, but this column will not be partisan political (Other publications have that more than covered.) In reality, all I see from my porch is my wife’s studio, a red barn, a network of beautiful gardens, and a salt marsh, but, of course, “a view” is so much more than what one actually sees.

To give you a sense of the experiences that “qualify” me to write this column, my entire adult career has been in healthcare. I’ll sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. I always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. I enjoy reading historic speeches and consider myself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK. A child of AM Radio, I probably know the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960.

My first few columns will take a fresh look at some of Old Lyme’s cultural and historic icons. As such, this first essay is titled “The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian”. The second column covers Naval hero Ezra Lee.

Eliazabeth Tashjian appeared several times on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson.

The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian (Connecticut’s “Nut Lady”)

Connecticut College’s exhibition, “Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian,” has just closed. I posit that this gallery display of her paintings, drawings, and sculptures, together with the recent Florence Griswold Museum Samuel Thorne Memorial Lecture by Professor Christopher Steiner, “Performing the Nut Museum,” represent the culminating events in this “second Renaissance.” Let me walk you through the facts that led me to this conclusion.

I was introduced to Elizabeth Tashjian more than a quarter century ago (holy cow!) by Colin McEnroe, who now hosts his own show on CT Public Radio and writes a weekly column for Hearst Communications. My wife and I were not yet residents of Old Lyme. This essay begins with a synopsis of her life. However, the crux of this column is my assertion that she became masterful at managing the media, and playing the role of quirky, eccentric artist.

Miss Tashjian was born into privilege in Manhattan in 1912, the daughter of wealthy Armenian immigrants. Her parents divorced when she was 7 years old, and she continued living in Manhattan with her mother. She showed great promise as a concert violinist and pursued music early — and before pursuing her interest in art. She studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the National Academy of Design.

Elizabeth and her mother moved into a 19th century Gothic Revival mansion on Ferry Road in Old Lyme in 1950. Her mother died in 1959 and she continued living there alone. Her father pre-deceased her mother and left no estate.

Nuts were always her passion. This began during her classical arts training in New York City, where she created many paintings of nuts and nutcrackers. These themes would continue throughout her life. She was an active member of Lyme Art Association and frequently displayed her works there.

In 1972, she opened the Nut Museum, which was housed in the dining room on the ground floor of her home. The Nut Museum collection was largely comprised of her own artwork, including over 100 paintings, 20 aluminum sculptures, nut jewelry, and a Nativity scene made completely of nuts. Her art has been described as “visionary”, “avant-garde”, “surrealist”, and/or “outsider.”

She remained unmarried throughout her life. I could not find any reference to any real employment, which allowed her to concentrate wholly on her art. Like her mother, she became a Christian Science healer in mid-life, which may have provided some modest income.

Susan Campbell, writing in the Hartford Courant, described her visit to the Nut Museum: “The first time I met Elizabeth Tashjian, she swooped down the stairs of her Old Lyme mansion to greet me, and I was immediately in her thrall. I remember there was a cape.”

In 1981, Tashjian appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” for the first time. She and Carson “clicked” and her success with him led to many other television appearances, including Letterman, Leno, and others. Her TV appearances usually included one of her songs (e.g., “Nuts Are Beautiful” or the “March of the Nuts.”)

She did not have the same rapport with the other hosts that she had developed in her two appearances with Carson. She often brought a 35-pound coco de mer nut with her to these appearances. The coco de mer, or “nut of the sea” is native to the Seychelles and has an unfortunate resemblance to a woman’s buttocks. She told Carson that “the existence of such a sexually provocative nut utterly refuted Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” Professor Steiner (see below) said “it was arguable whether she was exploited by the media, or exploited it.” His suspicion was that she was the joker, not the joke.

She became known as the “Nut Lady”, which she hated. Preferring words like enthusiast, advocate, culturalist, or visionary.

Miss Tashjian became increasingly reclusive from the mid-1990s through the turn of the century; and her health began to fail. Fortunately, she had found a “champion” in Christopher Steiner, a professor of art history and museum studies at Connecticut College, who was determined to protect her artistic legacy. He remained her supporter and advocate for the rest of her life.

By 2002, she was nearly indigent, in serious debt, and very frail. I won’t provide the terrible details; but she fell into a coma, was declared incompetent, and a ward of the State. The Courts put her house on the market to pay her debts. Despite refusing medical treatment because of her religious beliefs, she recovered, but was confined, apparently against her will, to a nursing home where she died in 2007.

The contents of the Nut Museum had been removed by Professor Steiner while her home was being sold. He had successfully petitioned the Old Lyme Probate Court to recognize the historic and artistic significance of the collection. Unfortunately, Tom Selleck and Henry Winkler were not yet pitching reverse mortgages as financial salvation for the indigent elderly.

And so, begins her “second Renaissance.”  In 2004, the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London launched a show of her work at which she was the guest of honor. Documentary filmmaker Don Bernier completed “In a Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian,” a feature-length video about the artist highlighting the diverse roles she assumed during her lifetime, which debuted at Connecticut. College.

Her obituary appeared in the New York Times Food Section in 2007: under the heading,“Elizabeth Tashjian, 94, an Expert on Nuts, dies,” which would have certainly appealed to her sense of irony.

The New Yorker carried “The Nut Lady Returns” in 2005.

The Armenian Weekly provides a detailed account of the Connecticut College exhibition.

Lee Howard’s recent article in The Day, “Reimagining the Nut Lady and her Art,” provides a friend’s perspective:

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean

Editor’s Note (i): If you’re still searching for a last-minute gift, then consider this book — it’s the perfect present for book- and library-lovers everywhere! Many thanks to our wonderful and ever faithful book-reviewer Felix Kloman of Lyme for sharing his thoughts on this best-seller, which is described by The New York Times as “a sheer delight…as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library” and by USA TODAY as, “a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries. 

Susan Orlean, a long-time writer for The New Yorker, gives us, at once, a paean to all libraries, a biography of a singular library in Los Angeles, a story of its crippling fire in April, 1986 and its possible arsonist, and, above all, the tale of the devotion and delight of all librarians. It is a love story, too, resonating with all of us enamored of those enticing shelves.

She begins with that fire and its effect on guides and users alike, facing the enormity of the destruction, “This was a shrine to being forgotten; to memories sprinkled like salt, ideas vaporized as if they never had been formed; stories evaporated as if they had no substance and no weight keeping them bound to the earth and to each of us, and, most of all, to the yet-unfolded future”.

What is a library? The author suggests that ”every problem that society has, the library has too,” from homelessness, thievery, fractious adults, uncontrolled children, and waste, yet our librarians manage and smile though it all.  Susan Orlean remains enthralled: “As I stood there, gobsmacked by this serendipity!”

She also wonders about the future of book lending, under the effects of advancing technology, the Internet and social media, concluding with optimism, “Libraries are physical spaces belonging to a community where we gather to share information. … A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of year even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’t need to take a book off a shelf to know thee is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you”.

So off I go to wander through the stacks in Phoebe Griffin Noyes, the Lyme Library, the Acton in Old Saybrook, the Essex Library, and even to Middletown. And everywhere I will find smiling librarians and a veritable profusion of riches.

Editor’s Note (ii): ‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean was published by Simon & Schuster, New York 2018.

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, a subject which 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 Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Legal News You Can Use: Do You Know the True Purpose of Alimony?

Alimony is an important protection for some divorcees. If you are divorcing, it might be something you’re looking into seeking, too. Do you know how it’s determined? Do you have any idea about how much you need?

Here’s a little more about alimony, so you can understand what to expect.

1. Alimony is decided by the courts unless you and your spouse agree on an amount

Alimony is decided by the courts, but you and your spouse can decide on an amount yourselves in advance if you’d like. If you want to make up your own mind about how much you need, then you should sit down and budget. Find out how much you need in alimony to make ends meet, and then you and your spouse can talk about an amount that is feasible and how long it should be paid.

2. Alimony is designed to help a lesser-earning spouse and to “pay them back” for their support

Alimony has a few purposes. One purpose may be to help spouses who gave up their careers or who earn less and need time to make up the financial differences caused by moving out. Alimony can also be used as a way to pay them back for financial support while one spouse went to school.

3. Lump-sum alimony helps you avoid long-term obligations

Lump-sum alimony is a good way to avoid long-term obligations. With lump-sum alimony, the payer doles out the whole amount versus monthly installments. With lump-sum alimony, the recipient doesn’t have to worry about payments not being made, and neither the recipient nor payer have to stay in touch (unless for other reasons).

Attorneys at Suisman Shapiro can speak with you more about alimony and answer your questions on the subect. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

Sponsored post on behalf of Suisman Shapiro.

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Talking Transportation: 2020 Hindsight by Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

As we review the details of Governor Lamont’s CT2030 transportation plan, I have a strange sense of déjà vu.  Haven’t we been through all this before?

Journey back with me to 1999 when the famous Gallis Report warned that southwestern Connecticut’s transportation woes were strangling the entire state.  If something wasn’t done, they warned, we would become “an economic cul-de-sac” in the burgeoning northeast.

The solution?  Yet another study, this one undertaken by Wilbur Smith Associates for SWRPA, the SouthWest Regional Planning Agency (now part of WestCOG). The report specifically looked at “congestion mitigation,” i.e., doing something about our traffic problems.

The $903,000 report was submitted in February 2003 and was titled “Vision 2020”.  You see the pattern … Vision 2020 morphs into CT2030?

Rereading the report, I am struck with its many good ideas, a few of which actually came to pass:

Land Use Review:  The idea of T.O.D. (Transit-Oriented Development) has been embraced throughout the state with towns and cities planning for dense (hopefully car-free) developments near transit hubs.

More Rail Station Parking:  Also some progress, though many towns still have a 6+ year wait for annual permits.  And 20 years ago, who’d have even imagined apps like Boxcar or Uber?

More Bike & Pedestrian Options:  We now have more sidewalks and bike paths as well as bike racks on buses and Metro-North.

But other “low hanging fruit” ideas still haven’t happened, like…

  • FlexTime, Staggered Work Hours and Vanpools to lighten the rush hour.  Next time you’re stuck in traffic look around:- it’s almost all SOV’s (single occupancy vehicles.)
  • A “Smart Card” universally accepted for payment on all public transit.  And free transfers from buses to trains.
  • A “Weigh-In-Motion” system to monitor trucks without long queues at seldom-open weigh stations.

But never addressed were the big (expensive) ideas like:

  • Ramp metering, like they have in California, to stop cars from piling onto I-95 at will adding to the crush.
  • Closing some interchanges to make I-95 a truly interstate highway, not a local shortcut.
  • Adding a “zipper lane” to I-95 heading west in the AM and east in the PM… with tolls!
  • Running BRT (bus rapid transit) along the Route One corridor.
  • Double-tracking the Danbury branch of Metro-North.
  • Start a “feeder barge” system to bring shipping containers from New Jersey to New England by water, not truck.
  • Resume rail freight service by adding a rail bridge across the Hudson River.
  • Widen I-84 and Rte. 7 to four lanes.
  • Study the idea of high speed ferry service along the coast.

Haven’t we heard all this before?  How many of these ideas are posed again Lamont’s CT2030?  A lot of them.

We are not lacking in ideas, just political will.  For decades the legislature has been unwilling to commit resources to our transportation infrastructure and economic future, instead wasting millions on more and more studies of the same problems.

All of these big ideas take money … big money.  But the “No Tolls CT” folks have tapped into residents’ cynicism that anything in terms of new revenue will be misspent.  And they’ve so intimidated lawmakers with threats of “Vote for Tolls, Lose at the Polls” that even the bravest members can’t muster the courage to do the right thing.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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A la Carte: A Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Recipes from Lee, Including How to Bake That Turkey!

Editor’s Note: We are running several of Lee White’s wonderful Thanksgiving recipes together today to give readers an opportunity to choose the ones they wish to use.  Enjoy!

For more years than I can remember, I have been writing about turkey at Thanksgiving. I get every food magazine every month and every single month, in October, a turkey is on the covers.

My mother never cooked a turkey. We had Thanksgiving at an aunt and uncle’s home in Kinderhook, New York. There was no gravy and no stuffing and the sweet potatoes were stuffed into oranges, which made the sweet potatoes taste like oranges.

The first Thanksgiving with my husband and daughter was in Houston, and I ordered turkey and sides from a restaurant. The gravy was white. In following years, I made turkey and sides by myself, sometimes for 20 or more friends and family. The first few times, I called the Butterball Hot Line for help.

Some years later I stopped using the throwaway aluminum pans and bought a $200 roasting pan, which I still use for every kind of roast I have ever made. It was one terrific buy.

Over the years I brined turkey in a huge cooler. I bought organic turkeys. Last year I went to a friend who made a heritage turkey. I made all kinds of stuffing and once placed slices of bacon on top of the fowl. A few times I put buttered cheesecloth on the turkey. But these days I buy the least expensive turkey I can get and buy it frozen.

I make my stuffing the night before and put it in the refrigerator in an enormous plastic bag. The next morning I stuff as much dressing as possible into the thawed (but cold) turkey’s cavity. I put the rest in a casserole and when the roasted turkey come out of the oven, I add some juice to the casserole and bake it.

Forget all those other “new” ways to make turkey for Thanksgiving. Here is my favorite recipe. 

Turkey

1 14- to 16-pound turkey
salt
1 stick butter
½ (one-half) cup good white wine

Gravy

¼ (one-quarter) cup all-purpose flour
cold water
Gravy Master (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Remove giblets from turkey (I don’t use them; instead, I boiled them for the kitties, less bones). Rinse and dry turkey inside and out. Rub salt inside cavity of bird. Fill cavity with cold stuffing made the night before or early morning. Place bird in a rack (or upside glass pie pan) atop a large, heavy-duty roasting pan. Place in a 350-degree oven.

Add butter and wine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Open oven, pour wine-butter over turkey and close oven. Every half hour baste liquid over turkey. Bake until turkey is done (when the thermometer plunged into the thickest part of the thigh registered 175 to 180 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes per pound if not stuffed or 12 to 15 minutes stuffed).

Turn off the oven, remove turkey from the oven, Place the turkey on a platter and spooned the Stuffing into a bowl; cover each with aluminum foil and return both to still-warm oven. (Extra stuffing can be heated in a casserole dish; it is not as tasty but if you spoon some juice on the dish before heating, it’s pretty good.)

Remove grease from roasting pan. and place the pan on the stove. Turn heat to medium. In a large jar, add all-purpose flour and about 2 cups of water. Screw jar cover and shake. When the brown bits are hot, add flour-water mixture and, over medium-high heat, whisk constantly. If you need more water, add some. Once the gravy is ready, add and stir in Gravy Master to taste (optional). Add salt and pepper to taste.

CRANBERRY, GRAPE AND APPLE SAUCE 

From Cooking Light, November 2018
Serves 12

Cooking spray
2 cups seedless black grapes (about 10 ounces)
1 and three-quarter cups chopped Honeycrisp apple (or Gala or ????)
2 tablespoons chopped scallop
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 and one half tablespoons unsalted butter
3 and one-half teaspoons pure maple syrup
One-eighth teaspoon kosher salt
One-quarter teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with spray. Place grapes, apple and shallot on prepared baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake until shallots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add cranberries to baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees until cranberries burst, apple is tender and grape skins are beginning to burst, about 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in butter, maple syrup and salt. Cool completely, about one hour. Sprinkle with thyme, if desired.

STUFFING

I make the stuffing at least the day ahead because it should be cold when you put it in the turkey, which is also cold. This is probably more stuffing you will use. You can put the rest in a casserole and bake for Thanksgiving, or freeze it for another turkey or chicken dinner.

I large Pepperidge Farms herb-seasoned stuffing mix
6 to 8 tablespoons butter
1 cup onions, minced
1 cup celery, minced
1 small can of diced mushrooms
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I chop it with my hands because I don’t want it chopped fine)
salt and pepper, to taste
Bell’s seasoning, to taste

Make Pepperidge Farms stuffing according to package instructions.

In a skillet, add butter and melt over medium heat. Add onions, celery, mushrooms and walnuts. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and Bell’s seasoning to taste. Add to stuffing mix and stir. Refrigerate until cold (I often put the stuffing in a large plastic bag and put it in the porch, since I rarely have much space in my refrigerator.)

OLD-FASHIONED SPICE CAKE

Adapted from Linnea Rufo of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Yield: serves 10 to 12 people
1 cup sugar
one-half cup (1 stick) butter
one-half cup currants or raisins or dried cherries (optional)
one-half cup candied ginger, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one-quarter teaspoon cloves
one-half teaspoon ginger
one-teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and spread on icing at once, while cake is still warm.

Espresso Icing

1 and one-half cups of confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon of espresso (use a teaspoon or so of cold coffee)
1 tablespoon milk

Whisk icing ingredients together.

TURKEY HASH SALAD

From Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, The New Basics Cookbook (Workman, New York, 1989)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
one-half cup red wine vinegar
1 cup light olive oil (or other good vegetable oil)
12 small red potatoes
one-half teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
12 large cloves garlic
8 ounces bacon cut into one-half-inch pieces
one-half cup finely chopped red onion
one-quarter cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 cups coarsely shredded cook turkey
1 bunch arugula, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry
2 bunches watercress, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry

Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly pour in three-quarters of the oil, whisking constantly. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Prick the potatoes all over with the tines of a fork. Combine remaining one-quarter oil, salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper in a bowl. Add potatoes and toss until well coated with the mixture. Place the potatoes in a shallow roasting pan and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Remove potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool. Then cut them into one-half-inch slices and place in a large bowl.

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, allow to cool. Then peel.

Saute bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat.

Add garlic cloves to bacon fat in the skillet and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Discard the fat.

Add red onion, parsley, remaining teaspoon of black pepper and the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Toss gently.

Add turkey, bacon and garlic cloves. Gently fold all ingredients together.

Arrange the arugula and watercress on a large serving platter and place the salad on top. Serve immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Legal News You Can Use: Mothers Against Drunk Driving Remind Drivers to be Safe This Year

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash.

As the holiday season approaches, it’s important that people understand the dangers of drunk driving. That’s why Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has taken a stand again this year in Connecticut.

The Connecticut branch has spoken out to remind people to be safe on the roads this season, stating that 39 percent of the fatal crashes that took place in 2018 involved drugs and alcohol. The state ranked third in the nation for the highest rate of crashes involving drugs and alcohol.

In recent weeks, two people passed away as a result of drunk-driving crashes. In one case, the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.137 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

MADD wants to remind people that it’s still possible to celebrate without driving drunk. You have options, such as limiting how much you drink on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or other holidays, calling a ride-sharing service, staying the night wherever you plan to drink or walking to and from events. Whatever you do, you should not be getting behind the wheel of your vehicle if you’re intoxicated because it could put your life, and the lives of others, on the line.

What should you do if you are involved in a traffic accident with a drunk driver?

The most important thing to do is to get support for your injuries. You need to go to the hospital and go through a medical exam, so you can begin the process of recovery. With the right support, you can take the time to heal, and the other party can be held accountable for their actions.

Sponsored post by Suisman Shapiro.

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A la Carte: Time for Turkey? Sure, But What to do With the Left-Overs — How About Making Turkey Hash Salad?

Oh, my, Thanksgiving is upon us, although it is late this year. As you read this, you actually have an extra week to buy your turkey and make the stuffing (I make the stuffing the day before, refrigerate it and stuff much of it into the cold turkey). I have made roasted turkey almost every way possible. I have brined it, roasted it upside down before turning it upside, baked it is plastic bags and wrapped the top in cheesecloth. I have bought Butterball and organic turkeys.

Here’s what I do now. I buy the least expensive turkey, usually about 12 to 16 pounds. I always buy my turkey frozen. My deal is this: the fresh turkey at the supermarket may have been in the cooler for many days. My turkey was probably frozen before it got to the supermarket.  I do thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for at least three days.

Usually, by the morning of Thanksgiving, I think it has thawed, but it hasn’t and my hands are frozen and sore by the time I get the bag of giblets out of the cavity. I stuff the turkey, baste it with butter and white wine. If the white meat is a little dry at the end, I figure that the gravy, the moist stuffing and the buttery mashed potatoes will turn that meat luscious. 

If you want my Turkey 101, its gravy and its stuffing, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com. As for my favorite leftover, it is a turkey sandwich and its sides, at least three to four inches tall. My second favorite, if you have enough of everything, is to make a casserole and eat it on Sunday. If you are sick of turkey, freeze the casserole.

Also, you can make so much mashed potatoes, then freeze the potatoes in 1 cup packets and make mashed potato bread. For that recipe, e-mail me.  And here is another recipe. It’s delish. 

Turkey Hash Salad

From Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, The New Basics Cookbook (Workman, New York, 1989)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
one-half cup red wine vinegar
1 cup light olive oil (or other good vegetable oil)
12 small red potatoes
one-half teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
12 large cloves garlic
8 ounces bacon cut into one-half-inch pieces
one-half cup finely chopped red onion
one-quarter cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 cups coarsely shredded cook turkey
1 bunch arugula, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry
2 bunches watercress, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry

Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly pour in three-quarters of the oil, whisking constantly. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Prick the potatoes all over with the tines of a fork. Combine remaining one-quarter oil, salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper in a bowl. Add potatoes and toss until well coated with the mixture. Place the potatoes in a shallow roasting pan and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Remove potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool. Then cut them into one-half-inch slices and place in a large bowl. 

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, allow to cool. Then peel.

Saute bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat.

Add garlic cloves to bacon fat in the skillet and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Discard the fat.

Add red onion, parsley, remaining teaspoon of black pepper and the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Toss gently.

Add turkey, bacon and garlic cloves. Gently fold all ingredients together.

Arrange the arugula and watercress on a large serving platter and place the salad on top. Serve immediately.

About the Author: Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Genesis’ by Edward O. Wilson

“What are we, what created us, and what do we wish ultimately to become?” Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the prolific emeritus professor at Harvard, biologist, and naturalist, is also a continual questioner. His last book, The Meaning of Human Existence (2014) also began with a question,“Who are we?”

He begins with a restatement of what we have learned from our studies of human evolution: “Every part of the human body and mind has a physical base obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. And all of it, so far as we can tell by continuous scientific examination, originated through evolution by natural selection.”

“The first organisms on earth,” he continues, “were self-assembled into replicating systems out of the endless random combinations of molecules present in the primordial sea.” We are the result of a series of “transitions” that evolved into “groups” and then “eusocial species” that began to practice altruism.”

Dr. Wilson then goes on to describe “eusociality,” a condition that has “arisen only rarely” as “colonies divided into reproductive and non-reproductive castes.” He cites, of course, insects (the subject of many of his earlier studies) with more than a million known species, of which some “twenty-thousand have been found to be eusocial” (ants, social bees, social wasps, and termites).  Eusocial orders now appear to dominate the terrestrial animal world, and they are found within Homo sapiens: aged grandmothers, homosexuals, monastic orders.

As the author answers the question, “What was the force that made us?” he explicitly also asks, “What exactly replaced the gods?” And, “Why should people around the world continue to believe one fantasy over another out of the more than four thousand that exist on Earth?”

His answer: “tribalism,” a condition that appears to be slowly subsiding. But that is changing as humans expand and as the groups in which we gather enlarge: “the larger the group size, the more frequently innovations occur within the group. “Storytime” for humans has expanded from one to two hours a day to “five hours for modern humanity.”

But we are simultaneously both altruistic and selfish.  How are we to work within these opposing traits?  Wilson’s key suggestion of hope: “ … within groups, selfish individuals win against altruists, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals.”

One sidebar comment from this reader. Wilson uses that lovely word “murmurations,” as in the murmurations of starlings swooping, flying in coordinated patterns.

And I too now end with a question: What next?

Editor’s Note:

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, which 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 Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Reading Old Timetables

Jim Cameron

I love reading timetables.  Not the new ones on smartphone apps, but the old printed ones.  Reading about a train or plane’s journey on paper is almost like taking the ride itself.

Growing up in Canada, I was fascinated with the two major passenger railroads, the quasi-government owned “crown corporation” Canadian National Railroad (CNR) and the private Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR).  Both ran transcontinental trains from Montreal and Toronto to Vancouver, a journey of 70+ hours … if they were on time.

I wondered why the CPR’s streamliner “The Canadian” left Toronto at 4:15 p.m. while its CNR competitor “The Super Continental” left at 6 p.m.  And why did the CNR’s later-leaving train arrive four hours earlier into Vancouver than the CPR’s?  Reading the 31 stop itinerary explained why: they took much different routes through the Canadian Rockies.  The CPR’s more southerly, scenic route was the highlight of the trip so they timed the journey for daylight hours.

Canada has two official languages, English and French, so it was by reading those timetables I learned that “quotidien” meant daily, “repas” meant meal and “douane” translated as customs, as in crossing an international border.

Fast forward 50 years and I’m still intrigued with old New Haven Railroad timetables, comparing that crack (private) railroad’s speeds with those of present-day Metro-North and Amtrak.  How did the New Haven make it from New Haven to Penn Station in 90 minutes while it today takes Amtrak 109 minutes?

But old timetables contain more than train times.  They also talk about the entire travel experience.

Did it really (in 1955) cost just $7.75 to go from Boston to NY in coach ($14 in a lower berth, $13 in an upper)?  The old timetables also list the trains’ “consists”… what kind of rail cars made up each run: coaches, Pullmans, Parlor-Lounge car (some equipped with two-way radio telephones) and diners.

On the aviation side, I remember when airlines published their own timetables too, often promoting their advanced aircraft: American Airline’s 707 Astrojet, United’s DC-8 Mainliner and Braniff Airlines “Conquistador” DC-6.

The illustrations were always of well-dressed travelers smiling as they boarded their planes using ground-stairs, long before airports had jetways.  The seating looked roomy and comfortable, and was tended by well-coiffed stewardesses serving elaborate meals.

But the grand-daddy of all airline timetables was the OAG, the Official Airlines Guide, a phone book-sized (look it up, kids) compendium of every flight in the country.  As a one-time road warrior, I even subscribed to the “pocket” version, which was about an inch thick.  Miss a flight?  Your OAG would show you the alternatives.

What I enjoyed most reading the OAG’s railroad-style timetable wasn’t the flight times, and later, the on-time performance percentage, but the kind of aircraft used on each flight.  I took a liking to TWA’s iconic L-1011’s and avoided American’s DC-10’s after the deadly 1979 crash at O’Hare.

And after 9/11, I always opted for any airline flying Airbus equipment.  The reason?  The 9/11 terrorists had gone to flight school to learn how to fly traditional “yolk” flight controls, but only the airlines’ own simulators could train pilots on the Airbus fly-by-wire joystick controls:  i.e., Airbus jets were not going to get hijacked.  Or so I hoped.

Today there are no paper timetables.  All the information is online and on my phone … handy, yes, but definitely not as romantic.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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Reading Uncertainly? Halloween Special! ‘Connecticut: Spooky Trails and Tall Tales’ by Local Author Gencarella

Here is an engaging, enthralling, timely, and often frightening set of stories from our Nutmeg State, subtitled “Hiking the State’s Legends, Hauntings and History”. These are stories we love to hear, tell – and retell – regardless of origin and authenticity, especially if they involve ghosts, mysteries, illnesses and deaths. And we storytellers do modify them to fit our local purposes!

It is yet another publication of a local Lyme writer: Dr. Gencarella wrote Wicked, Weird and Wily Yankees: A Celebration of New England Eccentrics and Misfits, reviewed in LymeLine on June 3, 2018. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and recently served as the resident folklorist at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex.

These are stories – and hiking linked to each of them – from all over this state. Locally, he explores nearby spots such as Selden Creek, Selden Cove, East Haddam, the Devil’s Hopyard and Rogers Lake.

He is a sleuth of old and questionable stories, often a confusion of clashing religious beliefs, still pertinent today. He writes, “This story is yet another compelling example of folklore operating with sensational journalism to sell newspapers,” and cites the continuing “co-dependent relationship between folklore and yellow journalism in the nineteenth century.”  Today also?

And introduces his readers to unusual words, for example, have you met a “glawackus”? Or do you know friends with these first names: Zerubbabel or Adoniram?  Read on …

Many of these stories are based on misinterpreted natural events, and then “reinterpreted”, “revised” and embellished to attract tourists and sell newspapers. The themes of these stories are common: “depiction of ‘foolish Indians’ “, or “drunken Indians” and attractions between young men and attractive young maidens, often leading to parental objections and dual suicides.

The author comments: “As a folklorist, I reluctantly understand why salacious stories about impoverished rural folk can please people who have greater means. Such tales titillate with scandal, arouse schadenfruede, and allow audiences to feel better knowing someone else is worse off.”

Having lived almost 50 years in this state, I relished these stories, as I have rowed on Lake Waramaug, Selden Creek, Rogers Lake and the Connecticut River. I wish I had known them then …

Is Captain Kidd’s buried treasure in Rogers Lake? But, at the end of each chapter is Dr. Gencarella’s “Legend Tripping” — his directions for hikes at or near each locale … and try rowing, too!

Editor’s Note: Connecticut: Spooky Trails and Tall Tales, by Stephen Gencarella is published by Falcon, Guilford, CT, 2019.

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, which 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 Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Connecticut’s Own … Igor Sikorsky

Photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash.

Jim Cameron

Have you ever flown in a helicopter?

They seem such a glamorous (if expensive) way to travel, by-passing the traffic en route to the airport or sightseeing over rugged terrain.

But do you know that the helicopter had its first flight ever right here in Connecticut, the creation of Russian immigrant and inventor Igor Sikorsky, 80 years ago.

Sure, Leonardo da Vinci made early drawings of a vertical flying machine, but that was in the 1480s.  And kids had been playing with hand-turned, propeller-driven toys for centuries before that.

Sikorsky drew his earliest concept drawings of a helicopter years before the Wright brothers ever flew at Kitty Hawk.  But when he fled Russia with his family, it was fixed-wing aircraft that gave Sikorsky his start in aviation.

At the age of 21 he designed his first airplane, the S-1, a single-engine pusher biplane. Twenty-three designs later he built the S-42 flying boat, made famous by Pan American as “The Flying Clipper”.  The four-engined craft had a range of 1200 miles carrying 37 passengers by day or 14 by night in berths, cruising at 170 mph.

Even as Pan Am was opening literally over-seas markets, Sikorsky was still working on his dreams of a helicopter.  At his plant in Stratford his VS-300 made its first flight, albeit tied to the ground, in September of 1939.

A 1942 version, the Sikorsky R-4, became the first mass-produced helicopter, quickly adopted by the armed forces of the US and UK. It had only one crew member, could carry just 500 pounds, but had a range of 130 miles flying 65 mph at up to 8000 feet.

Flash forward to the present and Sikorsky’s old company, now part of Lockheed Martin, still produces helicopters. Sikorsky’s successor companies, then part of United Aircraft Corp, even designed the short-lived (1968 -1976) Turbotrain, powered by a Pratt & Whitney turbine “jet engine.”  The train could make the 230-mile New York to Boston run in three hours and 39 minutes.  Today’s Acela can do the same run in no less than 3 hours 55 minutes.

In a competition with the electric-powered Metroliner in 1967, the Turbotrain hit 170 mph, a land-speed record for a gas turbine-powered rail vehicle. Acela does no better than 145 mph.

Today’s modern helicopters come in all sizes and speeds … from the beefy Seahawk SH-3 “Sea King” which can carry five tons over 600 miles at 166 mph … to “personal” helicopters for one person flying 60 miles at 80 mph.

For helicopter fans, New York’s east-side heliports at Wall Street and 34th Street offer the chance to see luxury craft in action, some privately owned, others offering passenger service.  BLADE Helicopters will get you to the Hamptons from midtown in 33 minutes starting at $695 one-way.

In the 1960s, NY Helicopter flew from the NY airports to the top of the Pan Am building. I took that flight once, transferred to an elevator and walked onto a train in Grand Central.  For a while they even choppered to Stamford’s heliport on Canal Street in the South End.

Much has changed in aviation in the last 80 years since Sikorsky’s first helicopter took to the air.  And to think that it all started here in Connecticut.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

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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The Movie Man: ‘Joker’ Justifies Great Rating

The Movie Man, Kevin Ganey

Last month I emerged from screening It: Chapter Two with great satisfaction and went on to write a review asserting that the IT movies were practically gospel for horror fans. A month has passed and in that time, I was able to see multiple variations of reviews for the film and watch the IMDb rating drop to a 7.0 out of 10, with a dip in the 6 range highly likely in the foreseeable future.

Just last night I emerged from seeing an early showing of the highly anticipated origin story for the clown prince of crime of Gotham City, and I left with the same feeling of satisfaction, particularly with the characters and their actors’ portrayals. I chatted freely with my friend about how Joaquin Phoenix could possibly win the Oscar for his performance, making this the second time in Oscars history that two separate actors have won awards for playing the same character (the first, and so far only pair has been Marlon Brando and Joker’s very own Robert de Niro for Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, respectively).

Phoenix would be joining said duo with the late, great Heath Ledger, who gave one of the most phenomenal performances ever in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. We parted ways for the night, and I proceeded to look up Joker on IMDb and was impressed to see that it was already on the Top 250 list at #13, but quickly saw that it holds a 62 on Metascore.

That stopped me in my tracks and made me think: “Wait a minute …”

I then proceeded to search the Rotten Tomatoes profile and saw that it held only 69 percent approval from the critics … Certified fresh, yes, but it still kept me in my spot, puzzled. I looked over to the next column to see that it holds a 92 percent rating from audiences.

This left me thinking: “Is this one of those moments when the critics don’t get what everybody loves? Or am I missing out on something?”

I will agree that there were some moments that were predictable and cliched, but that is generally the case when one is presented with an origin story for an iconic character. In this case, it is the classical fall into villainy and madness, with several rites of passage, including the first killings, that help bring Arthur Fleck to Joker, Batman’s eventual nemesis.

But I can say with pride that the movie left me satisfied when it came to finally giving the world an origin story to the Joker, whose background, until now, has been just as mysterious as it was the day he made his debut in 1940. We have been given a gritty presentation of a vulnerable man coping with mental illness clashing against a society that has so often kicked him while he was down (literally at one point).

Robert de Niro delivers, as he always does, this time as the bully talk-show host who exploits Arthur’s desperate desires to make the world smile, but while Zazie Beetz (best known from Atlanta and Deadpool 2) gave an acceptable performance, we need to acknowledge that it is because her role could have been made bigger than what she was left presented as a brief girl-next-door love interest.

So I must admit that I am hesitant to give this film a definitive, case-closed review due to my poor judgement with IT, but I can say that I would highly recommend seeing it if you have a chance. The movie may hold up, or it may very well dwindle into a disappointment, but hey, you might as well get a look while you can.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in the elite hospitality industry of Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, why not follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment?

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The Movie Man: No Decisions to Make: You Have To See ‘IT: Chapter Two’ AND Follow Kevin’s New Website!

Kevin Ganey

Amazing.

Just amazing.

That is the simplest description I can give for IT: Chapter Two. Although I had never read the whopping 1,000+ page novel, I could tell throughout the screening that this adaptation was just what Stephen King, Pennywise, and the Losers deserved.

IT: Chapter Two follows up on the events of Chapter One, set 27 years further. We come back on the group of outcast pre-teens, who have aptly labeled themselves “the Losers,” who return to their hometown of Derry, Maine upon learning that the mysterious entity that they refer to as “IT” has returned, commonly portraying itself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, in one last attempt to defeat It for good.

The film is incredibly layered, so my review will not cover much of the events and the portrayals. But I can say that this was done incredibly well. Throughout the movie, I had a clear understanding of whom the characters were through and through.

That is one of King’s talents: he creates phenomenal characters. Every actor gave a stellar performance, and our attention will always be drawn towards Bill Hader as comic relief Richie (who has conveniently grown up to become a comedian.) But make no mistake: Hader nails it with the fear and desperation aspects. Not only that, the movie contains fantastic scares (if you are into such things) that had me saying to myself in a shaken and impressed manner: “Damn!”

I have seen the 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry as Pennywise, so I knew what to expect as the movie progressed, but I feel I would have enjoyed it even more had I read King’s novel. I worry about attempting to read It now, as I believe I will not be able to shake the actors from my mind as I delve into the original story.

This is a must see if you love a good movie of any genre. It is an even further necessity if you are a horror fan, almost as if it were canonical in a Horror Bible. Even if you shy away from scary movies, I definitely encourage you to find the bravery to sit through the entire two hours and 49 minutes.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in the elite hospitality industry of Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, why not follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment?

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