December 6, 2019

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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Talking Transportation: Commuting Can Make You Sick

Jim Cameron

It shouldn’t come as much surprise to learn that commuting, especially by car, is hazardous to your health.

Research now shows that the longer your drive, the greater the risk of obesity, heart attacks and even low birth-weight babies for moms-to-be.  At fault are a number of factors:

STRESS: 
Being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing your risk of a heart attack during your drive and for an hour after. Getting angry when someone cuts you off only makes things worse.  Increased blood pressure also leads to lack of sleep, leaving you tired even as you leave the house each morning.

OBESITY:  
The longer your commute, by car or mass transit, the more sedentary your life and the less exercise you get.  Couple that commute with fast food (and its sugar, salt and fat) and you’re at even greater risk.

BACK & NECK PAIN:   
A 2010 Gallup poll shows that a third of all people who commute more than 90 minutes a day complain of pain due to poor posture and uncomfortable seating.

POLLUTION: 
The longer you’re stuck in traffic the more bad air you breathe. A 2007 study of Los Angeles residents showed that half of their exposure to harmful air happened during their drive time.

LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT:    
Researchers at Lehigh University, studied New Jersey birth records. They found that for pregnant women commuting 50 miles each day, there was a 1 percent increase in the chance of having a low birth-weight baby for every 10 miles they traveled. Not only was “chronic maternal stress” a factor, but so too were missed doctor visits due to lack of free time.

The average commute time for Connecticut residents is 26 minutes each way, and climbing.  For Fairfield County residents going to jobs in New York City, it’s more than an hour.  And as traffic worsens and trains run slower, those commute times are climbing.

For those who bike or walk to work, the risks are lessened, but not eliminated.  The physical exertion is better for your heart, but bikers and pedestrians are still prone to collisions and accidents en route.

Just 20 years ago up to 70 percent of kids walked to school.  Now it’s only about 20 percent as the others take the school bus or are driven by Mom.  We’re turning our kids into local commuters at a very young age.

What can you do if you must commute long distances?  Plenty:

Try not to get stressed out while driving.  Leave a bit earlier than usual so you’re not grinding your teeth fearing you’ll be late.  Listen to books on tape, podcasts or something fun … not the news, which will only contribute to anxiety.  Try varying your route.  A change of scenery will keep you engaged.

On mass transit, don’t isolate yourself.  Socialize by talking to your fellow commuters (but not in The Quiet Car!)

In your automobile, keep the windows up and the air recirculating to avoid auto exhausts.  Make up for the sedentary (though stressful) drive by taking a walk at lunch.

Acknowledge the lack of control in your commute when traffic or train delays happen.  Just know that you’re doing the best you can with the things you can control … that you’re going to get there eventually and most of all that you’re trying to get their safely.

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: Add Flavor to ‘Everything’ with Chile Crisp, Basil Pesto

I have written two recipes for today’s column. The recipe for chile crisp is from a writer, who always has a jar of it in his refrigerator. He puts it on everything from “eggs, guacamole [and] pizza.” It does seems spicy, so if you make it, try a little less than a quarter cup of red pepper flakes, although I like spicy, especially for breakfast.

The other recipe is the basil pesto I have made for decades. I use it in all my red sauce recipes, often in stews and love it by itself for pasta. I don’t have a garden this year, but friends are giving me big handfuls of basil and my pals on the board of education gave me a gift certificate for superb olive oil at Capizzano in Pawcatuck. I have a bag of pine nuts in the freezer. My food processor does all the rest.

Chile Crisp

From ‘Bon Appetit,’ August, 2019

4 small shallots, thinly sliced
cloves from 2 heads of garlic (yes, heads of garlic)
6 star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1 and one-half cups vegetable oil
2 inch knob of ginger
one-quarter cup red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

Yield: 2 cups

In a medium saucepan, toss shallots and garlic over medium heat along with star anise pods and cinnamon sticks and vegetable olil. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pan occasionally until shallot and garlic are browned and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes (it is important to go slow.)

Peel and very finely chop ginger. Mix in a medium bowl with red pepper flakes, soy sauce and sugar. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into ginger mixture. Let shallots and garlic cool in sieve (they will crisp further.) Add to sauce.

Advance preparation: chili crisp can be made one month ahead. Cover and chill.

Making basil pesto. Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

Pesto alla Genovese

(from ‘365 Ways to Cook Pasta’ by Marie Simmons, Harper Collins, New York, 1988)

I triple or quadruple (or more) and freeze pesto in small zipper plastic bags. The pesto will last for more than a year and will thaw in minutes.

Yield: 1 cup or enough for 1 pound of pasta

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pignoli (pine nuts)*
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated armesan cheese**

Finely chop basil, nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor. With processor still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until mixture is thoroughly blended. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.

Freeze in tiny freezer bags. When ready to use, you can thaw the pesto in freezer bag between your two hands.

*Pine nuts are very expensive but worth it. However, walnuts can be used. The flavor will be different but still tasty.

**Please do not use the grated cheese that comes in those containers that sit on the supermarket shelf. You cannot believe what a difference fresh, high-quality cheese makes. A good supermarket will grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for you (I have them grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano together, which drives purists crazy) and you can store the cheese in an air-tight container in your refrigerator or freezer. Even better, buy a small chunk and grate it yourself as you need it.

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: ‘The Meaning of Human Existence’ by Edward O. Wilson

Who are we?

Edward O. Wilson, the eminent Harvard biologist and noted student of ants, describes our strange species in a remarkable and memorable book. In 15 brief, succinct and challenging chapters, each less than 10 pages, he suggests that, at once, we are far more and far less than we imagine.

His is a daunting title but the contents live up to expectations.

First, far less: homo sapiens have existed through a modest six millennia, a mere blip in the 13-plus billion years of our universe, the 4.5 billion years of this earth and the 400 million years of other “species on earth.” And this earth is but a “mote of stardust near the edge of our galaxy (an estimated hundred billion star systems make up the Milky Way galaxy) among a hundred billion or more galaxies in the universe.”

And even among the other species here on this planet, “how bizarre we are as a species … we are chemosensory idiots” when compared to most of them. “Our species is almost unconscious of most stimuli.”

But we are unusual.

We have the “capacity to imagine possible futures, and to plan and choose among them,” the “ability to invent and inwardly rehearse competing scenarios of future interactions.”

Dr. Wilson compares the “humanities” to “science.” The humanities tell us “what,” “the particularities of human nature back and forth in endless permutations, albeit laced with genius and in exquisite detail,” while science increasingly is needed to tell us “why.”

Are we trapped in our own egos?

In Chapter 11, The Collapse of Biodiversity, we seem to be knocking off many species, only to find more.  But “ … without nature,  finally, no people!” “The human impact on biodiversity, to put the matter as briefly as possible, is an attack on ourselves!” This re-confirms the famous Pogo adage, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wilson suggests we remember the acronym HIPPO: Habitat loss; Invasive species; Pollution: Population growth; and Overharvesting. These may be the most important challenges our species face.

Has the human creation of religions helped? Wilson is dubious.

Religion’s “history is as old or nearly so as that of humanity itself. The attempted resolution of its mysteries lies at the heart of philosophy.” But “the great religions are also, and tragically, sources of ceaseless and unnecessary suffering.”

He adds: “the true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism. Faith is the one thing that makes otherwise good people do bad things.” Many will find this offensive but it is a considered opinion, backed up with solid examples. Wilson summarizes thus, “the best way to live in this real world is to free ourselves of demons and tribal gods!”

He returns to the balance of science and the humanities; the latter describe “the human condition,” while science “encompasses the meaning of human existence.”  We are “an accident of evolution,” from herbivore to carnivore, from wanderer to static, from small families to multiple “tribes.” And “when an individual is cooperative and altruistic, this reduces his advantage in competition to a comparable degree with other members, but increases the survival and reproduction rate of the group as a whole.” No wonder we have conflicting views of how to respond …

Dr. Wilson’s conclusion: “Are human beings intrinsically good but corrupted by the forces of evil, or the reverse, innately sinful yet redeemable by the forces of good? Are we built to pledge our lives to a group, even to the risk of death, or the opposite, built to place ourselves and our families above all else? Scientific evidence, a good part of it accumulated during the past twenty years, suggests that we are both of these things simultaneously. Each of us in inherently conflicted.”

“If the heuristic and analytical power of science can be joined with the introspective creativity of the humanities, human instinct will rise to an infinitely more productive and interesting meaning.”

After each chapter, I had to stop and reflect on Wilson’s ideas, taking many notes.

And I plan to re-read it in its entirety next year.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Meaning of Human Existence’ by  Edward O. Wilson, was published by W. W. Norton  & Co., New York, 2014.

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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Legal News You Can Use: How do you Know When to Return to Work after a Burn Injury?

Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash.

Burn injuries are serious. They can lead to infections, deformities and other chronic issues with your body. Severe burns range from the most painful to those that leave you without the nerve endings you need to recognize pain.

When you’re at work and exposed to fire, hot items or chemicals that could cause burns, you must take steps to stay safe. Those steps could be anything from wearing appropriate personal protective gear to staying a distance away from hot objects.

After a burn injury, returning to work can be frightening. However, there are many resources that can help you return to work. One benefit offered by workers’ compensation, for example, is training for a new position or job so that you can return to work when you are able.

How do you know when you’re ready to return to work?

There are a few ways that you will start noticing that you are ready to return to work.

  • Your medical provider has stated that you are physically capable or safe to return to work
  • Your health care provider agrees that you are mentally or psychologically prepared to return to work
  • You feel you have the support and guidance to return to the job
  • You and your employer have discussed having you return to work and the role you would take on

Not everyone gets to a point where they can return to work, especially with serious burn injuries. However, if you feel you are ready, you may be able to train for a new position away from hot items or be able to return to your old position with new safety steps in place to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Editor’s Note: This is a Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

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Talking Transportation: The Train Ride From Hell 

Jim Cameron

It was the railroad trip from hell:  the hottest day of the year, stuck for five hours on a sold-out Amtrak train where only half the cars had air conditioning.

The ride to Washington days earlier had been uneventful, almost on time and pleasantly cool, even though I’d made the mistake of taking a Northeast Corridor train, not Acela.  Its older Amfleet cars, though recently refurbished on the inside, are still 50-years-old.

But coming back from Washington on a torrid Sunday, by cheaping out for the slower, less expensive train I got what I’d paid for.  Put another way, I didn’t get what I’d paid for.

Already a half-hour late arriving in Washington from Newport News Va., train #88 arrived on one of DC’s low-level platforms, meaning boarding passengers had to cue up for about 30 minutes before even being allowed on the platform to board.

One of the station agents said that “extra cars” had been added in Washington, so I immediately headed to the front of the train where I assumed the new cars would be empty.  It was already 98 degrees in DC, heading for a “feels like” high that day of 110, so I was looking forward to the super-AC Amtrak is known for.

No such luck, as even the newly added cars were only slightly cooler than outside.  That’ll improve when we get going, I thought.

Wrong!

By Baltimore it was getting hot and the fan system was intermittent.  Pleas for help to the conductors brought nothing more than promises that “they’ll try to reset the system in Philly,” another hour away.

In desperation I turned to social media, Tweeting sarcastically about Amtrak’s new “Sauna Cars”.  Direct messaging to @Amtrak brought no response.

The train was getting later and later on its schedule, partly because of the heat’s adverse effect on the power lines and potential warping of the rails. Knowing there’d be a lot of passengers getting off and on in Philly, I plotted my move to one of the few cars with breathable air.  Success … a cooler, though not cold, car with seats.

At Philadelphia, nothing changed, though we did learn that five of the 10 cars on this train bound for Boston carrying 700+ passengers were without air conditioning.

The DC conductor crew never apologized, though they did offer small, free bottles of water, which quickly ran out. But when a new set of conductors boarded in New York, the tone changed significantly.

“We apologize folks.  This is not the kind of service we want to provide or you deserve.  Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL and register a complaint.  If the cars don’t reset after New York, we’ll try again at New Haven,” said one conductor on the PA system.

We got off in Stamford, arriving 90 minutes late, so I don’t know if the cars ever did get cooler during the next four hours run to Boston.

The next day I called Amtrak Customer Service.  A 20+ year veteran agent commiserated, empathized and got me a refund voucher.

“Those old Amfleet cars shouldn’t be refurbished, they should be retired,” she said.  “Their air conditioning is either on or off.  There’s no moderating the temperature.  Next time you should take Acela,” she added.

Never mind that Acela costs twice as much.  Its AC works and it’s mostly on time! I’ve learned from my mistakes.

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: Baby Carrot Soup is Best Served Chilled

Okay, I am having more fun this summer than I have in, at least, two years.

Last year was fine, too, as was the summer before. But this year, I am pain-free, since I had my hip replacement on July 1. A couple of Sundays ago I went to our boules party and saw people I rarely see except during the summer and our Christmas party in early December. I am not on a team this year, but I was able to throw a couple of boules (the game itself is called pétanque, while the stainless steel balls are called boules, but we all call the game boules, too). If they need a fill-out a team for the next two games, I can actually play.

I am also having such a good time with my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce. Unlike most farms, I can pick anything I want that is available at the farm stand. Last week I bought about eight pounds of tomatoes, some green frying peppers, a big loaf of bread (made by the chef of the Oyster Club in Mystic) and almost three bags of baby carrots.

Now, let us talk about baby carrots. The carrots I bought were about the length of my pinkie finger, but even thinner, and the carrot tops were still attached. They are nothing like the “baby carrots” you buy at the supermarket. Those carrots are pared and thrown into a machine to make them look as if they are all the same size.

Sure, they are really carrots, but the ones I bought are tiny, sweet and still taste like the soil they grew in. I ate a lot them, then made a carrot soup I chilled and served with a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraiche.) I found the recipe online, but added a few fillips.

Of course, feel free to use big or smaller supermarket carrots.

 

Chilled Baby Carrot Soup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium  sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced thin
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 pound of carrots, pared and diced (if they are really baby carrots, just clean them of tops and soil)
1 carton of low-salt chicken stock or vegetable stock
One-half teaspoon each of salt and yellow curry (I was out of Indian curry so I added a little red chili paste)
One-quarter teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less if you don’t like things too spicy)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, add oil over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add diced carrots and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add stock and cook until just boiling, then reduce heat and add salt and yellow curry (or a quarter teaspoon or less red or yellow chili paste and/or red pepper flakes). Cook on medium-low for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for at least an hour.

Using an immersion stick (which I do not have, I used my big Ninja), purée the soup. Put it back on the heat and add a can of coconut milk. Cook until hot and taste for seasoning. You can serve the soup hot, but I chill it and serve it cold with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.

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? ‘Identity’ by Francis Fukuyama

Stanford University’s Francis Fukuyama always challenges our minds. From his The End of History and the Last Man, addressing our futures after the end of the Cold War (1992), and continuing with The Origins of Political Order (2011) and Political Order and Political Decay (2014), two monster 600+ page tomes, his newest, and briefest (a slim 183 pager!) is Identity.

Who on earth are we? Fukuyama sees we humans as trying to manage, simultaneously, two conflicting pressures. The first is “isothymia,” — “the demand  to be respected on an equal basis with all other people,” and “megalothymia” — “the desire to be recognized as superior.”  This disparity has “historically existed in all societies; it cannot be overcome; it can only be channeled or moderated.”

He continues: “Contemporary identity politics is driven by the quest for equal recognition by groups that have been marginalized by their societies. But that desire for equal recognition can easily slide over into a demand for recognition of the group’s superiority.”

His themes are thymos (the third part of the soul), recognition, dignity, identity, immigration, nationalism, religion and culture. He calls on many earlier observers: Socrates, Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Nietzsche, Herder, Adam Smith, Sartre, Freud, and Kahneman, arguing that the demand for dignity, “should somehow disappear is neither possible nor desirable.” Resentment at indignities remains a powerful force, a “craving for recognition” we must learn to understand and balance.

National identities are “critical for the maintenance of a successful political order.” They begin with a “shared belief in the legitimacy of the country’s political system, whether that system is democratic or not.” They include physical security, quality of government, economic development, “a wider radius of trust,” and strong social safety nets, all of which eventually make possible “liberal democracy itself.”

His chapter on religion and nationalism is particularly challenging. Can people who share a particular culture and language be subsumed into a global belief system (Hinduism; Buddhism; Communism; Islam; Christianity)? Probably not, but these systems continue to try. The advent of social media makes “identity” now the property of groups, not individuals.

Fukuyama cannot resist a comment of Trump, a “political figure who almost perfectly describes … narcissism: narcissism led Trump into politics, but a politics driven less by public purposes than his own inner need for public affirmation.” And “Trump (is) the perfect practitioner of the ethics of authenticity that defines our age: he may be mendacious, malicious, bigoted, and un-presidential, but at least he says what he thinks.”

“What is to be done?” he asks.  One, ”confusion over identity” is a “condition of living in the modern age.” Two, a “pan-European identity may someday emerge.” Three, “education is the critical ingredient”, but it must include a process of universal not parochial values, economic mobility, interdependence, and a growing exposure to other humans and their customs.

We humans seem to be simultaneously breaking down walls and building new ones!

Editor’s Note: ‘Identity’ by Francis Fukuyama was published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 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, 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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Reading Uncertainly? ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham

This is an engrossing reflection on past American leaders, elected and publicly acknowledged, and how they have shaped our peculiar, yet resilient, form of governance.

Meacham leads us in a thorough review of our history: early (and conflicted) visions, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, its aftermath (Reconstruction, the Klu Klux Klan), Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and our entry into world affairs, the Depression, FDR, McCarthyism, Martin Luther King, and LBJ. Throughout he gives us the sense that all human beings, and, indeed, our so-called “leaders,” are both selfish and altruistic, often at the same moment.

We are both hopeful and fearful. It is, again, a story of trying to organize ourselves when we are simultaneously rational and irrational.

Meacham is a storehouse of relevant quotes from earlier observers. As an example, his last six pages cite 28 comments of others, often at length.

But his narrative ends with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, that was a momentous achievement, but our scrambling did persist thereafter. As Sean Wilentz, in his New York Times review on June 10, 2018 explained, “Suddenly we are thrust back into the present with little understanding of how we got here from there”. What has gone wrong, or has, indeed, anything gone wrong? Are we simply, as so often in the past, struggling to find reasonable courses of action, both domestically and internationally?

Perhaps an answer lies in his quote of Eisenhower on leadership: “It’s persuasion – and conciliation – and education – and patience.” But are we ready, even willing, to accept that rational guidance?

Throughout, the author cites our very human compulsion to accept ”the most ancient of institutions, a powerful chief” connected to “the more modern of institutions, a free, disputatious populace.” Can they work together? Is our system really worthwhile (a strong executive, balanced by an equally strong legislature and judiciary)?

I continue to look with envy at a system almost as old (created in 1848), the one in Switzerland: seven rotating presidents, each serving a one year term, with a strong Assembly and local cantonal legislatures. And the Swiss employ four languages! It works and it has much less publicity …

Meacham’s five concluding “ideas”: (1) Enter the Arena, (2) Resist Tribalism, (3) Respect Facts and Deploy Reason, (4) Find a Critical Balance, and (5) Keep History in Mind.

Keep listening, reading, and thinking!

Editor’s Note: ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham was published by Random House, New York in 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, 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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A la Carte: Corn Cacio e Pepe is a Perfect Summer Dish

Writing is a solitary pursuit, but, unless you write science fiction or fantasy stories, you become one with your protagonists, whether victims or predators. But if you write nonfiction, and I consider food writing nonfiction, you picture yourself with your readers and, in most cases, you have to go out to learn what you eat, what to shop for and what to cook.

I have been writing about food for decades. Much of that time, I have been writing in New England, some in Massachusetts and, during the best time, on the Connecticut shoreline. For the past three weeks, I have been just incommunicado, first for two days in the hospital getting a new hip, the rest of the two weeks at home.

I have a three-story condo. For three days, I slept on the couch. I made the stairs by the middle of the week, sleeping in my own bed on the second floor, but that trek was difficult. As I write this, I am up and down many times a day, have been driving for eight days, went to a movie with friends and ate a Norm’s for breakfast once and Olio twice (a lunch and a dinner). Yesterday I got my hair done and went to two meetings, a total of six hours.

As I sit on my desk working on my computer, writing two columns, I realize that I have missed you more than anything.

When my marvel of a daughter left for California, I was bereft. And scared.

My next-door neighbors spent lots of time with me, even helping me clean the cats’ litterbox and carted it, and other garbage, off to the dumpster. My appetite is just coming back, so I lived on eggplant parm my daughter made (what a dish, recipe coming in a few weeks), Chinese takeout my friends bought at Golden Lantern in Uncasville, and leftovers from Sneekers (chicken and penne) and meals from Olio (mini hamburger salad and veal piccata) 

I didn’t cook for two weeks, but I am cooking again now.

Whittle’s (and probably lots of local farms) has Silver Queen corn. This recipe, plus fresh local sliced tomatoes, means I am happy once again.

Corn Cacio e Pepe

From Bon Appetit, June/July 2019

Yield: 4 servings

16 ounces gemelli, orecchiette or other medium pasta
3 cups corn kernels (from 3 large ears)
8 ounces aged Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups), plus more for serving
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

Fresh, sweet corn is a key ingredient of this delicious recipe. Photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; add corn about 30 seconds before pasta is done cooking. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta and corn to the pot.

While pasta is cooking, toss cheese and 2 teaspoon peppers in a medium bowl to combine. Add one-third cup cold water and use a fork to mash mixture into thick paste (try to get it as smooth as possible). Still mashing, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until paste is about the consistency of cream cheese.

Add cheese mixture to pot with pasta and corn. Using a rubber spatula, toss pasta until cooked  (the cheese mixture will be too thick to form a sauce at this point). Tossing constantly, add reserved pasta cooking liquid a splash at a time, until a glossy sauce forms. (It should still be fairly thick.)

Transfer pasta to a large bowl and top with more cheese and a few additional grinds of pepper.

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