Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Monday.

I hope all who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas and, before that, those who celebrate had a great Hanukkah.

Boy, this month went by quickly. There was some snow and some rain, a lot less than people in other parts of the nation did. We here were lucky....my daughter, son in law and grandchildren came for a few days and Andrea and Mike did most of the shoveling.

See Avatar

If you haven't seen the new flick, Avatar, do yourself a favor and see it. See it in 3-D...the flat-screen version has to be like kissing your sister compared to the 3-D experience.

The critics who said it was like seeing Star Wars and Jurassic Park for the first time were underselling the movie. It's like nothing you've seen before. It also has a plot line that carries the movie. There are no special effects...it is all one long special effect.

Just go see it. You won't regret the time. And kudos to the folks at the Connecticut Post 14 Cinema De Luxe in Milford for keeping the senior Wednesday rate going for this film. If you are over 60 years old, you can see any film all day Wednesday for $4.50, including Avatar in 3-D.

One of the compensations of aging.

Health-care screw-ups

One of the non-compensations of aging is being in the barrel for the battle over health care.

There are a few things that are strange and stupid about the bills that have come out of the House and Senate.

The first is, thanks to our friend Joe Lieberman, there will be no opening of the Medicare rolls to those from 55 to 65 years of age. I worked for Joe's election in 2006. I apologize. I was wrong. The reason I volunteered to help him win his seat was that he was an honest man, true to his convictions. And he was. I don't know what changed, why he changed, but I cannot say that about him any more.

He campaigned for the concept that one of the best ways to insure people of a certain age was to allow them to access the Medicare system years early. Now, all of a sudden, he's against it and holds the entire idea of health-care reform hostage until he gets his way.

I don't see the problem. Yes, having these new Medicare recipients will cost money, but first it will bring more money into the system. Medicare recipients pay close to $100 a month each. So billions of dollars will enter the system right away.

Lieberman and Ben Horse's-Patoot Nelson of Nebraska were able to hold the bill up to ransom because not one, not one Republican supported it. On top of that, we have to listen to that hypocrite Mitch McConnell talk about fighting health-care reform because Republicans are the party fighting for the nation. All of them, all in lock-step.

The GOP is the party of politics uber alles, politics over all. So let's not talk about how the GOP is the party of the people. It is the party of the insurance companies, of big pharma, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the others who have spent tens of millions of dollars fighting any kind of health-care reform.

Answer a question, please. How many people could we have insured with the money spent fighting for a system that insures huge profits and little else?

One of the things that is being thrown on the altar is the so-called Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plans. Yes, insurance companies are taking huge profits from these plans, lavishing perks on their executives and partners that most of us will only see on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But they also deliver some sensible services to the people who pay for them.

For example, Medicare, for reasons passing understanding, doesn't pay for yearly physicals. Medicare Advantage (MA) plans do. That way, problems can be caught early, perhaps preventing life-threatening, and expensive, conditions from taking hold.

MA plans also pay for gym memberships. People who exercise get sick less, as a whole.

So, it would seem that MA plans should be kept, but stripped of the huge corporate profits. But that won't happen. Large Georgetown condos cost money. Look, I don't know if Lieberman is in the insurance companies' pockets. I hope not. But I haven't heard a good reason he changed his mind on health care.

The Terrible Ten

Since it's not likely that I'll write again before the secular New Year, which initiates the next decade, I have found a good list of mistakes made in the past one.

Thanks to Peter Cohan at DailyFinance.com. He writes:

While it's always easy to see in hindsight, this disastrous decade could have turned out differently were it not for 10 horrible decisions that took place from 2000 to 2009. Here are my picks for this dubious distinction:

  • Al Gore's decision not to request a recount of all Florida votes. Al Gore won the popular vote count in 2000 by more than 500,000, and the results in Florida were close -- leading to a partial recount. Gore could have demanded a recount of all the Florida votes, which might have kept the election away from the Supreme Court. Though some think a statewide recount would have tipped Florida to Gore, we'll never know how much better or worse a Gore presidency might have been.
  • The Supreme Court's decision to in effect elect George Bush. This decision was a historic hijacking of a democratic process in which a country's citizens elect a leader, rather than its Supreme Court. Granted, the Florida voting was a complicated mess, but this outcome set a terrible precedent and led to what some argue was the worst presidency in American history.
  • President Bush's decision to ignore warnings of a terrorist attack in the summer of 2001. Bush received a Presidential Daily Brief in August 2001 titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S." He also appeared to ignore people who who tried to warn him. If he had heeded those warnings, it's at least possible that 9/11 could have been averted. He did not, and thousands died.
  • President Bush's decision to let Osama Bin Laden escape in December 2001. The battle of Tora Bora could have led to Bin Laden's capture as he tried to flee into Pakistan. The U.S had him surrounded but failed to reinforce the position. So the architect of those terrorist attacks escaped.
  • President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Bush knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and no tie to the 9/11 attacks, but he made both claims to justify going to war against it. Six years later, no Iraqi WMDs were ever found, and Iraq still doesn't have a flourishing democracy. But 4,370 U.S. soldiers are dead (plus untold thousands more Iraqis) and $800 billion worth of taxpayer money has been spent for that war.
  • Government's failure to regulate Wall Street. The idea that free markets would regulate themselves was strongly promoted by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, and during the decade that view prevailed in the White House. The result was to allow a weakly regulated $10 trillion mortgage-securitization industry to grow unchecked. And that led to millions of homes entering foreclosure; the end of Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers; and very nearly a global financial collapse.
  • Government's decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt. History's biggest bankruptcy -- the $639 billion failure of Lehman Brothers -- was avoidable. While it might have been temporarily satisfying to let the market exact its pound of flesh, that decision to let Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 rapidly eroded confidence in the capital markets. And if people had lost all faith in that, the social order may have collapsed.
  • President Bush's decision to more than double the national debt. During Bush's tenure, the national debt increased from $5 trillion to more than $11 trillion -- and it has since risen to $12 trillion. This decision to borrow so much money early in his tenure boosted the federal deficit to record levels and severely weakened the U.S.'s financial position. Adding to that weakness were the president's $1.3 trillion worth of tax cuts -- 32.6% of which went to the top 1% of earners.
  • Banks' decision to use too much debt and to mismatch assets and liabilities. Banks borrowed way too much money during the decade, and that made them extremely vulnerable when their leveraged bets went against them. At some points, Wall Street borrowed as much as $30 for every dollar of equity. And Wall Street's decision to borrow short -- meaning the big firms needed to refinance their balance sheet every week or month -- and lend long -- meaning they got repaid over the course of many years -- put the Street's daily survival at the mercy of the very short-term commercial paper market.
  • The SEC's failure to stop Bernie Madoff. As the Washington Post has reported, the SEC had numerous chances to stop Bernie Madoff's $60 billion Ponzi scheme during the decade -- although it turned out that his deception had gone on for decades before that. The SEC's ongoing decision to not pursue Madoff and his fraud cost many people their life savings.
Thanks, Peter. Lots to think about.

And to all of you, great readers, thanks for hanging in and have a great new year. Stay sober if you are driving. Remember, New Year's Eve is amateur night on the roads.

Until next time...

Friday, December 4, 2009

There goes another one

Happy Friday.

First the ad. Unpaid, of course. If you like the Three Stooges, nyuk nyuk yourself over to the Jewish Community Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6. Prof. Faye Ringel, who is an expert on the Stooges, will hold forth about them. There's a Klezmer musical program as well.

The best part is the cost: FREE. It's sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society (I'm a vice president). Come. Laugh. You'll enjoy. It's not fingers in your eyes. Yes, of course, it is. Nyuk, nyuk.

There goes another one

I heard from a former colleague at The Journal News, Gannett's daily in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Duchess and Orange counties -- basically everything from New York City north to Catskill the mountains. The news was not good.

Those who have been faithful readers know I toiled there for the better (or worse) part of 15 years through blizzards, September 11, war, more war. You get the idea. Most of the time, I had a lot to say about what went into the paper and where it went.

Then, about eight or nine years ago, a new group was sent by the geniuses at Gannett, you know the company whose stock went from $100 a share to single digits. That group. They did such a good job and TJN that circulation was nearly halved under their stewardship.

In 2005, they offered early retirement to, if I remember, 27 people. 25 took it. As for me, you can still see the scorch marks on the carpet.

In August, this group made everybody apply for their jobs. Out of, I think, 150 people or so in the newsroom, 25 didn't even bother applying. Another 75 were shown the door.

So, now they have decided to sell the building, print the paper in New Jersey, and fire just about everybody in production and circulation -- more than 160 people. This after closing down its production operation in Rockland County, selling its building there and moving the few editorial and sales people left into other offices.

They probably will do the same thing in Westchester, my source says. Either they will lease back some space in the building or move the once proud operation with five bureaus and 12 editions to a little office somewhere.

I guess maybe the new regime isn't so smart after all.

Disconnect by Ma Bell

There's a war going on between AT&T (Ma Bell for those too young to remember one huge telephone company connecting the entire nation, seamlessly, and conducting wonderful research projects) and Verizon, which started out life as New York Telephone.

The third part of this mess is Apple, makers of Mac computers (used to call them Macintosh, for from whence the apple reference comes). Apple put out the iPhone, a wonderful instrument whose Achilles' heel is that it operates on 3G. For those who don't know, 3G is Third Generation. The folks at Apple partnered with AT&T, probably because they had the biggest network of coverage.

Now the folks at Apple are pretty smart, but they apparently didn't read the fine print in AT&T ads, which says 3G not available everywhere, or weasel words meaning that. It turns out that 3G isn't available nearly anywhere.

A few weeks ago, a federal group -- i don't remember if was a judge or a commission, turned away a suit by AT&T against Verizon for a chart in Verizon's ad showing Verizon's 3G (read fiber optic) coverage as being in most of the nation, where AT&T's was pretty sparse in comparison.

To be fair, the judge or whoever told Verizon it had to explain that the sparsity was in AT&T 3G coverage, not total coverage, which is pretty near everywhere. In its latest ads, AT&T fails to come clean about that -- it just says coverage, not 3G coverage.

So, that leaves people like me, who would love to have an iPhone, in a quandary. I don't want to spend $400 or so for a phone that only works to its full potential in a small percentage of places . Now, I guess I have to wait to see if Google's Droid phone is as good as Verizon says it is.

Apple: You screwed up. Admit it. Say it...say it.

You still make one hell of a computer. These words are being written on one. Now if I can only find a wire to connect my beloved Mac Book to the monitor I just bought.

Snow joke

It looks as if we may get our first snow this weekend. Had to get the headline pun out of the way. Please, please television folk: Don't say it's winter's first snow. Winter is still more than a fortnight away. What's a fortnight? Look it up.

Have a great weekend and, for those in the Tribe, a wonderful Shabbos.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What to be thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving week.

If you were looking for the weekly rant Monday morning, I'm sorry I missed. I've been a little sick. Nothing much, as it turns out, just a cold.

So, what do we have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

First of all, health, family, love, belonging, working, not being dependent on others.

The good sense to leave Gannett four years ago and not having to go through the horrible situation those left at that wretched company have to go through. The company's bottom line is getting better, the stock is going up a bit and these yakkers on television say it's because advertising is coming back. Baloney. The bottom line is rising because the company has fired half the staff.

The ones who are left are those who got the company into the horrible shape it was in in the first place.

But I digress. Things to be thankful for.

Personally, it's a wife who puts up with me, kids who have are really good people and those who are married have married really good people and are raising children who are really good people. So what if two of the boys are hellions.

I also have been able to support myself and my family with my labor and still am in no danger of needing anyone else's help. Sure, the savings has diminished, but it's coming back.

I'm thankful that the University of Connecticut football team was able to get itself together to be Notre Dame, one of the great programs in the nation. Yes, the Fighting Irish are not having a great year, but UConn also is suffering after losing one of its stars to a horrible and unnecessary murder. But this was a great win and everyone in Connecticut should be proud.

Things to be thankful for. Share yours, if you wish.

Black Friday

There is something to be said for racial memory, that memory with which we are all imbued depending on one's background.

For example, Jews talking about the Holocaust are sharing a set of thoughts that need not be expressed verbally. It's a base that every Jew, from Orthodox to secular to converted away, still shares.

Christians have that about Christmas. There is a set of values and beliefs that go without saying, that are buried in your consciousness. It's like instinct.

So, never having been a Christian, I don't get it when it comes to Christmas. I've gotten into trouble because of it. Once, when I was in charge of the Monday paper in Westchester, there was a fire. Nobody was hurt, although a few people were left homeless. Nobody died, nobody was injured, so I put a photo on the front page and ran the story and photos big on the local section front. The photos were good, but not prize-winners.

On Monday when I came into work, I was pilloried for not using the story on the front page. How could I? What was the big deal? Nobody was hurt. But, I was informed, the fire destroyed several families' Christmas presents. The children might have to face Christmas with no presents. Why didn't I blow out the front page with the story and start a collection to buy Christmas presents for these children?

I still don't get it. That's me. No racial memory of Christmas. To me, the whole thing about Christmas is a story about a certain guy who was the basis of a worldwide belief system. Giving gifts seems secondary, but that's all you hear about.

I still don't get why every last radio station has to play nothing but Christmas carols on the eve and the day, why every television station has to run sappy movies.

And I don't get Black Friday.

Last year, some poor guy was killed trying to stem the tide of manic people trying to buy Christmas presents. People show up at 4 in the morning, 5 in the morning. Still, in spite of that horrible tragedy. Stores are trying to mitigate the danger, but won't halt the practice.

I guess I'm not the only one.

From now, actually for about a month now, people are running around buying Christmas gifts for people they don't even like. And each person gets multiple gifts.

When I was much, much younger, I had the opportunity to spend Christmas with the family of a girl I knew. I was shocked. I brought one gift. These people, who were not in the best economic circumstance by any means, must have showered each other with a dozen gifts each.

To be completely truthful, friend wife and I once stood on line at midnight at the late and much lamented Comp USA. The line was long but moved quickly. We got a portable hard drive and a couple of thumb drives. It wasn't too bad. But other people were just starting their day, talking about going from place to place starting at 4 in the morning.

Sorry. I just don't get it.

But in any case, have a great Thanksgiving.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The pause that refreshes in so many ways

Happy Monday.

In the past week, we've (my wife and I, not the royal we) have been fortunate to see all seven of our grandchildren -- and their parents, of course.

That's truly a pause that refreshes.

The little ones, in our case ranging from less than six months to eight years, have such a joy of living, such an optimism, such a positive slant on things -- whatever the problem, mommy and daddy can fix it.

Their problems can all be fixed. Yes, we've been fortunate. Even in our little one, who was undergoing surgery at the age of one week, is gaining by leaps and bounds, his chipmunk cheeks and round tummy showing the effects of parental love, good food and the best in medical care.

I know we've been fortunate, after seeing what happens to neglected, unwanted children or those born with medical conditions that are beyond the scope of science and medicine.

So, with all the complaining I do, both in writing here and verbally to friends and family, I really do know how blessed I am in so many ways.

They say the children will lead them. Let's say the children inspire us to make sure we act in a way that will keep them headed on the path to much health, happiness and success.

Number, please

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop bitching. Heaven forbid.

Ask me what I was doing for hours today. Let me tell you.

I was programming the phone books on two phone systems, one home and the other cells. Why? Because we now have to dial an area code for all phone calls, even to people who live next door. So, one has to sit here and put 203 in front of all my presets.

Connecticut is getting two more area codes, I guess they are needed because of the proliferation of cell phones and other devices.

Google is getting into the act with the Droid, a version of the iPhone that works on Verizon. AT&T has the iPhone sewn up, at least for now. Once that gets going, along with other phone systems, including the one that has pigs eating pork in its ads, the numbers will sell out like tickets to UConn women's basketball.

I'm sorry the iPhone isn't available on Verizon. I'd buy it in a heartbeat. The people who have it are having way too much fun.

But, I've heard horror stories of AT&T's lack of coverage. A woman who works at Yale in downtown New Haven says since she switched from Verizon to AT&T, she can't make or receive calls. A person with whom I used to work was shocked one day a few years ago when she called her husband in Bethel, a town in Connecticut near Danbury, to open the garage so she wouldn't have to go out in the snow. You guessed it: No service.

Well, I'm going to wait a while before even looking at the Droid. I want something that will work internationally, and something that will work well. Even the IPhone had problems (I'm not sure if you can change your own battery even now), so let someone else beta-test it.

I'll stick to my years-old Samsung that I got for nothing or next to nothing. It makes calls, received them and in a pinch, I can text with it. And it never, or almost never, loses calls.

How dumb is this?

The Hampshire Gazette is the daily paper in the Amherst, Mass., area, named after the county, not the college.

It contained a story that is hard to believe, but I am assured is true.

The good people of Amherst, Mass., in Representative Town Meeting assembled, have issued an invitation for two residents of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to live among them. No, not the Cubans, the guests of the government. In other words, suspected terrorists.

They say that those who move to Amherst should not be convicted of terroristic acts against the United States of America. One of those is a former Russian soldier who said he didn't get a fair shake in the Russian Army because he was a Muslim. He could not get Halal food (that's the Muslim version of kosher -- no pork), and was not allowed to pray.

So, how did he come to the attention of the U.S. at Gitmo? According to him, he ran away to Afghanistan. The Russians were on his tail, so he made up a story that he had been in training in an al-Qaida camp so the Americans would arrest him, not the Russians.

So, off to Gitmo he went. But there, instead of being patted on the back, he got locked up.

So on the force of this tale, which has my BS meter working overtime, the good people of Amherst invited him and a buddy to come live among them.

This guy is either dangerous, or a complete idiot. So are the naive people of Amherst who don't seem to think things through.

I'm told that the invitation will only take force if the State Department goes along with the gag. That make me confident beyond measure.

God bless fools and do-gooders.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Things ain't what they used to be

Happy Monday

OK, here's the old codger ranting again about how things are not what they used to be.

Well, yeah. This week, things seemed to be not so good- all along the spectrum. There was nothing earth-shaking like my computer blowing up or other catastrophe.

It was the little things, like commercials. There were these two pigs eating a ham steak. That's so wrong for so many reasons, none of which had to do with my not eating meat in general and pig meat in particular. For the life of me, I can't remember what the spot was trying to sell, but that image was just so bad, so wrong.

Last week, we went into a store, one that is heavily advertised as a place that one remembers from childhood. Children, believe me when I say there was a time when department stores actually had people who helped you find what you wanted and knew their products.

I shave with an electric shaver. I don't really like it, but Jewish law says you can't use a blade so I do it. My wife bought this shaver for me and it's probably the best around. It came with a device that charges and cleans the shaver. To do the cleaning, it uses a fluid, an expensive fluid. So, off we go to this store.

Now, you will probably notice I haven't used the name. That's on purpose. I'm not really afraid of libel because I'm telling the truth, which is an absolute defense, but because it's not worse than other stores.

So, I went to this store because I had bought this fluid in this place when the store had another name. That store could trace its roots back to G. Fox & Co., a store that once had a policy that a customer was to be greeted with a minute of entering a department. Really.

So we went to this store last week to seek out the fluid. They didn't have it. They had the shavers, but not the fluid. I asked the children whom the store paid, probably at minimum wage, to be in this department. Now I could say that these kids were dumb, which probably is not the case. I could say they could care less about the customer, but were just interested in this conversation they were having. That would be true.

I asked this pair if they knew who sold the fluid, and of course they didn't. That didn't bother me as much as the attitude. Why are you asking us? Why are you bothering us?

Fortunately, another customer said he had had the same problem and had found the fluid at Wal-Mart, where I refuse to shop, and Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I found it.

Since I'm on this kick, here's a few other things that crawled under my skin this week.

Newspapers. Here's a cute monograph on what happened to newspapers. I don't agree with everything he says, but on most points. And, by the way,

Elections. Last week in New Haven, we had an election for mayor and the Board of Aldermen, which is the city's legislature. About 18 percent of the people voted. That was a joke, as was the ticket. There was no organized opposition to the longtime mayor. It's not that the mayor is doing a bad job. He's not. It's that there was a lot of time and money wasted on the election. There are 30 seats on the board, and there were real contests for two of them.

Bosses. Craig Dubow, the head of Gannett, my former employer, has a 20 percent approval rating among his employees, the few that are left. That probably has a lot to do with his dismal rating.

The fun part of this is that he is only the 21st most reviled boss in the nation, according to Glassdoor.com. The guy who runs LexisNexis has an 8 percent approval rating. As Maurice Chevalier sang in Gigi, "Oh, I'm so glad that I'm not young anymore."

Veterans Day

I hope some of the young, blond and banal are reading this. That's what I call what passes for television news anchors these days.

So, here it is again. This is Veterans Day. It used to be called Armistice Day, that day when The Great War ended. This is not the day we honor just dead veterans. That's in May.

So, please don't get it wrong again. Wednesday is the day when we honor all veterans, even those who are still alive -- especially those who are still alive. If you want to honor just dead vets, you have to wait until spring. Got it? Probably not.

Health care

I can't figure out why doctors, of all people, are against the health-care bill passed this past weekend by the House. The American Medical Association is for the bill, but doctors I know are against it. They also say the AMA doesn't represent them. Strange.

A couple of things. The bill is thousands of pages long, and most of that is gobbledygook that doesn't mean much to many people. It doesn't mean much to me.

There are two points I want to make, and then you all can have a tea party on my lawn if you want.

Point One: The administrative cost of private insurance is about 35 percent. The administrative cost of Medicare is 3 percent. So much for an expensive public option.

Point Two. It's not that uninsured people are getting no medical care. That's not true. They are not getting preventive care, which means when they do get medical care, it's usually drastic and costs lots of money. People who have no medical insurance come into the emergency room for everything from hangnails to heart attacks.

The problem is that those with hangnails are taking up time and space that could be used for real emergencies. You know, that's why it's called the emergency room.

So, instead of them paying say $75 for the hangnail in the doctor's office, we pay $500 in the emergency room. Notice I said we pay, not the patient pays. We, those lucky or old enough to have insurance, pay with higher premiums because insurance companies pay higher rates that include write offs of those charges rung up by those without insurance.

Making insurance possible for people who cannot afford insurance now spreads the cost out a little more. It makes sense. Do you hear that, Senator Lieberman.

Now, don't get me started on that guy.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Monday. Hey, I don't think anyone will be reading this on Sunday, so why not get the wishes out a day early.

Welcome to Eastern Standard Time. One would think that with an extra hour of sleep, one would be bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not so. Even though we avoided the usual lets-see-how-late-we-could-stay-up-because-there-is-an-extra-hour stupidity, Sunday was a lazy, lazy day.

It's November, the month of Thanksgiving. The family of five turkeys that had spent much of their mornings in our backyard has disappeared. Smart. Even though we wouldn't harm them, for many reasons, some of our neighbors might see them as an escape from having to pay two or three bucks a pound at the supermarket.

Silly season

Usually, the silly season is defined as the few weeks leading up to an election. Not so in New Haven. There is voting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, but it's not really an election. There are two or three wards, out of 30, in which there is a real contest. The race for mayor is a joke, with three independent, ill-financed, undefined candidates vying for second place against a longtime mayor running a professional, well-financed campaign.

The mayor has spent money sending flyers and four-color printed post cards many times. I guess he has money and many good reasons to spend it, mostly because legally he has to. (By the way, keeping with the usual practice of commenting on issues on which I report for the New Haven Independent, there will be no endorsements for political office.)

The silly season around here has to do with driving, walking, biking and other forms of locomotion.

Last Friday, I was stuck behind a left-turning car at a light on a major city road. The car turned just as the yellow light appeared, so I decided to sit and wait for the next green light. Count five seconds or so, a car goes through the light, now red. Count five or six more seconds, and another car goes through the intersection, followed closely by another. By the way, I shouldn't say car -- two of the three were SUVs.

For reasons passing understanding, once the weather starts to turn and the Thanksgiving - to - New Year's season is upon us, people start driving as if the other cars on the road were apparitions placed there for their amusement.

People act crazy. I'll bet that if you could see into their cars, you would see them, eyes glazed and teeth clenched. I don't get it. This is supposed to be the season for good will toward all people, not get out your will, you'll need it.

Pleasant memory

Friend wife and I took a couple of days off last week and traveled to Old Cape Cod. We have loved the cape since before we were married, nearly 38 years ago, but mostly go to the Outer Cape -- Eastham and north.

This time, we went to Falmouth, a picturesque town on the upper cape, which means the southern part of the cape.

There is a beautiful, 10-plus mile bike trail called the Shining Sea Trail that goes from Woods Hole, a one-industry (marine research) village to North Falmouth. It's flat, paved, off-road and a joy to ride. Last Monday was a perfect day for bike riding -- cool, a bit of a breeze, clear but not severe clear.

We chatted with a few fellow riders, some of whom were our age or older. There seemed to be a more relaxed atmosphere than on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the 26-mile plus trail that leads from Dennis into Wellfleet. I don't know if it's the season, the place or just dumb luck, but we had a ball riding and chatting.

Falmouth is a more concentrated place than say, Eastham, which really doesn't have a downtown. It's an easy-walking town, although the tourist-agency maps tell you to stay off the main streets if you are biking. Good idea.
video
While we were walking along, past a large and well-maintained school and library complex, we came upon a lake. It was an hour before sunset, the light was perfect, and we stopped to take some photos of the lake. We saw this duck couple, one male and one female, having dinner.

They didn't seem to mind that we were taping their dinner feeding, so enjoy.

I think it mirrors people -- it doesn't matter how many times you have to go in circles, the objects is to get that morsel for which you are vying. Take that any way you wish.

Have a great week. And even if it is a ridiculously uncontested election, get out and vote. It'll keep you in the habit for when it does count.

Until next time...

Friday, October 23, 2009

C'mon, Connecticut Magazine. Get real

Happy Friday.

I know it's a lot to ask for, but wouldn't it be great if the Filthy Swine, otherwise known as the New York Yankees, were to repeat the Chokes on Us, the worst choke in the history of sport, this year and lose to the L.A. Angels in the American League payoffs.

I saw the look on some of the Yankees who were on that fateful team, that "no, not again" look, as the Angels clawed back after the Yanks clawed back, and then went on to win, sending the Yanks back home to the new stadium and the virgin lawn. That's the lawn that other teams had not danced on. The Red Sox, in 2004, had danced on the old stadium lawn.

Maybe now, it's the Angels' turn. Wouldn't it be nice...

Page 2

I know it's hogwash, but the Connecticut Magazine ranking of the state's cities has gotten my goat.

The magazine, in its November issue, ranked many of the state's cities and towns on the following categories: education, economy, cost of living, crime, leisure/culture.

I think New Haven got a bum rap. Here's why.

OK, New Haven, like all cities, has crime. Some of it is fun to report, like the guy who robbed a downtown bank, got covered in red dye when the pack went off (notice, please, that I didn't say he got caught red-handed) and got caught while waiting to pay for a soda.

Most crime, however, is hurtful to the victims and the general community. But reading the statistics doesn't give you the whole picture. I think the city deserves more than a next-to-last rating for the work the chief and his officers are doing trying to contain it.

For education, the magazine used mastery tests and other scores, you know, like No Child Left Behind did. Wrong. How about the moves the city is making to bolster its education. All my kids went to New Haven schools during most of their elementary and secondary school careers. Two of them went to Russia on exchange programs, another went to Eastern Europe on a program. All went to college and two earned masters degrees. Not so bad. Don't blame the education system for the lack of parent involvement. Having Yale here doesn't hurt. Many high school kids take courses at Yale and Southern Connecticut. Not so shabby.

Cost of living, no problem. Leisure drew a first-place award, as it should. New Haven has as many cultural opportunities as any city its size -- and many a lot bigger -- in the nation.

The one that really gets my goat is Economy. The survey gave New Haven 14 out of 17, with the highest number being the worst. This is really stupid. What's the criteria? A score issued by the state that rates population, per-capita income, equalized grand list per capita, unemployment rate, mill rate and per-capita aid for children.

New Haven has a lot of nontaxable buildings, the highest in the state, between Yale, Southern Connecticut, other colleges, hospitals, and the like. It said adjusted equalized grand list that might take some of that into account. It should say so.

But, Charlie and friends at Connecticut Magazine, get out of Trumbull and take a drive to New Haven. You could have stopped by coming back from that eating junket you all took to the casinos.

The place is a forest of cranes. The new cancer center, the Gateway college project, the 360 State Street project, the buildings along Route 34 corridor including all the research buildings, the new research building that will start construction as soon as the state gets off its butt and turns over the Lee Connector to the city. Come on. Is there a place in the state as busy? I don't think so.

So, Charley, I think you know better. So, like the Dodger fan of yore, I'll wait until next year.

Page 3

Our friends at Gannett, my former employer, saw profits tumble 53 percent, but results still beat raised expectations, helped by cost cuts. The company's operating expenses fell 14 percent in the third quarter, according to a published version of the company's release.

Well, it didn't hurt that, at the Journal News, which forced all staffers to reapply for their old jobs, 22 said the hell with it and refused to reapply. In this economy, that is saying something.

So, if you think you have it bad, think of having it so bad you would walk away from your job. Or, as someone told me years ago, consider starvation as a viable alternative to working there.

That guy was wrong when he said it in 1991, but he'd sure be right now.

Page 4

It's Friday. It's supposed to be weepy, but who cares. It's the weekend. Gave a great one and, for our friends in the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The U.N. proves its uselessness

Happy Friday.

My father, may he rest in peace, used to say Americans were at a great disadvantage on the world stage because we thought as Americans. We had our own way of thinking and felt that everyone else in the world thinks as we do or, if they don't, they should. Just ask George W. Bush.

I guess this is spread to South Africa, where a well-meaning but naive judge named Richard Goldstone, hired by the United Nations Human Rights Council to look at last year's fighting in Gaza, where Israel stepped in to stop the scores and hundreds of rockets that had been hurled at Israeli cities and towns from Gaza.

The council, which American Jewish Committee chief David Harris rightfully called the U.N. Human Wrongs Council, voted to condemn Israel and the Palestinian Authority is trying to get the Security Council to condemn Israel yet again.

Or did they. Let's see..they've flip flopped so often on this that one doesn't know what their policy is today. Yesterday, it was to get Israel condemned, along with Hamas, which has beaten the PA in elections and has taken over Gaza by force after Israel unilaterally left that sad territory in 2005.

Their are some truths here. The first one is that out of the nearly 200 countries in the U.N., including East Hatrack, West Oblivion, South Nowhere and others with populations the size of Utah and economies the size of a teen's weekly allowance, only one nation is ineligible for membership in the Security Council's governing body. Guess which one.

The second truth is that Israel's Gaza plan worked. Only a few, very few, rockets have been thrown at Israel since the fighting ended. It's like the separation barrier: Say what you want, but it worked.

Goldstone and the bleeding hearts led by Jimmy Carter and others in the Arabs' pockets have condemned the casualty rate and how not enough Israelis were killed. It wasn't fair. The Israelis were much better armed, better led and, it must be said, didn't present themselves as targets as much as they did in fighting , so fewer Jews died.

Tough.

If you go after the big dog, expect to get your ass bitten off. If you keep attacking Israel, which is still the best led, best equipped, best armed force in the region, then you have to take your lumps. The Arabs know this. They understand force. Sorry if this seems to be racist, or militarist or any other kind of ist you can think of. It's not politically correct, but it's true and the Israelis know it. Bibi Netanyahu knows it; Arik Sharon knew it.

It's not political but true. And the Israelis got sick and tired of picking rockets out of schools and hospitals so they went in with the message the Arabs understood loud and clear.

My father knew, and now you know.

End of the week.

I have to go...need to pick up something for friend wife and Shabbos is coming fast. Have a great weekend. Mazel Tov to Rhoda Zahler and her fiance, who will be called to the Torah Shabbos at BEKI. New York Yankees should lose if they get to play at all because of the weather, and for those in the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

This time, they danced on our lawn

I'd like to say happy Monday, but I can't.

There's no joy in Beantown. The mighty Red Sox have struck out.

OK, so that's not entirely correct, but they did lose three games to the Angels of Los Angeles, and they lost the last one at home, at the Fens. They danced on our lawn.

That comes from the wonderful 2005 film, "Reverse the Curse of the Bambino," in which long-suffering Sox fans celebrated the first World Series win in 86 years. "We danced on their lawn," participants said of the Sox dancing at Yankee Stadium after beating the Yanks after the New York Filthy Swine committed the worst choke in the history of professional sport.

Now, it's the turn of the Halos to dance on the Fenway Park lawn. They deserved it. They shut down one of the most potent offenses in baseball and beat a top pitching staff. Jonathan Papelbon, long celebrated as the best closer in baseball, faltered not once, not twice, but three times to let the Halos beat the Sox after being behind by a few runs.

It was no The Chokes on Us, but it was bad enough.

Enough said. As Sox fans have said many a time, just wait until next year.

Thanks, Rev

I heard from the Rev a few days ago. As those who follow this posting know, the Rev. is the exquisite editor and fine human being Jeff Canning, late of the Journal-News desk. He was smart enough to get out of that sad place while the getting was good.he

The Rev also is a careful, talented historian and one of the real experts about the history of the Lower Hudson Valley, most notably The Tarrytowns, now Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.

He also took a guest shot at teaching journalism at this alma mater, Manhattan College, and for reasons beyond understanding, he recommended this blog as one to read. Thanks, Rev., although I'm not sure this one is updated often enough to capture attention.

And, though nobody asked me, if one of you admin types at Manhattan College is reading this, you could do a whole lot worse than have the Rev on your faculty teaching journalism.

It's over

I don't know whether to be happy, sad or just relieved, but the Jewish High Holy Season has finally come to an end. We just took down the sukkah today and put it away for another year.

Choke on it, Bloomberg

I paid my traffic ticket to New York City today. I hope they choke on it. I was going to appeal my conviction, all done via email, but lawyers whom I trust say I won't win. Although I have a moral case, I don't have a legal one.

In July, a few days after my grandson was born and during the time he was hospitalized for surgery, I double-parked in front of my daughter and son-in-law's apartment house for no more than five minutes. Now, in New York City, or at least in the Washington Heights neighborhood, they clean the streets twice a week. So, everyone goes out and moves the cars twice a week. How do they do it? They double park for an hour and a half.

Twice a week, every week except during those times when there is no street cleaning, they double park for 90 minutes. I double parked for five minutes. They don't get tickets. I got one.

How was I different? I have Connecticut plates on my car. So, I got hit. And after writing an appeal to fairness and, of course, losing, I paid up.

As I said, from Mayor Bloomberg down to the guy who gave me the ticket, I hope you choke on it. And, of course, I hope the Yankees lose. Badly. I don't even care if it's the Dodgers who beat them. I can forgive the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn faster than I can forgive the Yankees for being in the same town that would give a guy a ticket for double-parking to bring some food and other needed supplies to a family that just had a sick baby.

Yes, I told them all that. The answer from an automaton of a judge: It's not a legal defense. So, Mike Bloomberg, choke on it.

Until next time...

Monday, October 5, 2009

If you don't have a good idea, steal someone's bad one

Happy Monday.

The headline has to do with the next item, not this one.

The Jewish holidays go on and on. Now that Yom Kippur is over, there is another week of holiday season with the holidays of Succos, Sh'mini Azeres and Simchas Torah.

The little huts, or some not so little, that sprung up near Jewish homes mark the holiday of Succos, when Jews eat meals in these succahs. The idea is to show how fragile our lives are and how we can live along with that. Some people sleep in the succahs, and most eat at least some meals in them.

In the first two days, observant Jews must at least say some prayers in the huts, which are not anywhere near waterproof. So, it was see how fast you can get through the ceremonies as the rain came down in buckets. But Sunday was glorious.

On Saturday night, Jews celebrate Simchas Torah, which is rejoicing in the Torah. Most Orthodox congregations read the Torah, the five books of Moses, in one year. Some Conservative and Reform congregations take three years. Anyway, the end of the Torah is read and immediately, the first verses are read, leading to the full circle of the yearly tradition.

Maybe that's where the Lion King writers got the circle of life. It's nice to think so.

The celebration is cool, with people dancing around and, of course, a little liquid refreshment is served to lubricate the revelers.

And after that, that's it until December.

This is what the headline is all about

You will remember the Journal-Register bankruptcy. If you live in New Haven or in other cities served by Journal-Register newspapers, you will remember it.

One of the nastiest parts of the whole thing was the successful attempt to pay some executives bonuses for firing a bunch of people and closing some newspapers. The bonuses added up to about a million and a half dollars. In Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the attorneys general tried to get the firing bonuses cut out of the final deal, but to no avail.

So it was interesting to read to today that Tribune Co. executives are in line for the same type of payments, even though hundreds of employees had been fired and newspapers closed or sold. This is taking place in the Delaware courts and it looks as if the judge will go along with this idea, just as the judge had in New York with JRC.

It always has been a function of bonuses to reward past performance, as well as to get those who didn't get bonuses to work a little harder in order to qualify for the reward. I have nothing against bonuses. I certainly took those awarded to me and felt they were well-earned.

But when hundreds if not thousands in Tribune, JRC and other newspaper companies are losing their jobs more due to management errors and omissions than anything the news people have done, perhaps it's not such a good idea. It's unseemly.

But I'm confident that the judge will allow this miscarriage and others will follow suit.

It's blood money. It's wrong. But that won't stop Sam Zell's people at Tribune and others from following JRC's bad example. After all, it's a long tradition to tip the executioner.

I've got a baseball question

I've wondered about something in baseball. If Mike reads this, or if Mat does, maybe one of them or another baseball expert can enlighten me.

This is my quandary. A batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher has trouble finding the plate. He throws ball after ball. In fact, one can say he couldn't find the plate with a map or a GPS unit. It would seem to me that the thing for the batter to do is put the bat on his shoulder and leave it there. Four pitches and you are awarded a walk.

But no!! The batter watches one of two balls go wide or high or hit the dirt a foot in front of the plate.

And then he goes hacking. He swings at pitch after pitch. He can't hit the ball. The bat isn't that long. But he stands there hacking and like as not, strikes out.

Why? Why does he do that? Does he think that something will snap in the pitcher's head and suddenly all pitches are right down Main Street? Right in the batter's preferred space instead of being so far off that the man in the on-deck circle is more likely to hit the ball than the batter.

Maybe someone can tell me. And then go tell Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. Tell Tito to tell the batter to watch as the ball goes so far from the plate he may need a telescope to see it.

Mark, I think you've got it.

Congratulations to Mark Shiffrin. He and Avi Silberschatz had an op-ed letter published in the New York Times that says, in essence, that it is useless to try to get people to stop texting or talking on cell phones while behind the wheels and instead build cars that make the practice impossible.

Mark is a smart lawyer, the former state commissioner of Consumer Protection and a died-in-the-wool Republican. Still, I think he's hit on the only way to protect idiots from themselves.

Gee, why didn't Dick Roy think of that instead of trying for years to get this prohibition through the Connecticut General Assembly? Roy, a Milford Democrat and former newspaper editor, tilted against this windmill and ended up with the most disobeyed law on the books, perhaps even more broken than adultery or stealing grocery carts.

When walking, I try to count the cars that go by with the driver NOT talking on the cell phone. It's easier than the other way around because there a far fewer not talking than talking. Also, those who are wandering across busy streets far away from crosswalks also have a cell phone screwed into their ears. Are they lonely without somebody jabbering in their ears? Or are they listening to music because heaven forbid they be without entertainment for a few minutes.

What do I do? I've got this very uncomfortable Bluetooth device that screws into my ear, or at least seems to. But I use it because with the lack of skill and smarts evidenced by drivers in New Haven, it is advisable, nay necessary, to keep both eyes on the road.

Anyway, congratulations, Mark. I think you've hit it. The only way to keep people from doing stupid things is to keep them from doing stupid things.

And here come the Libertarians.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blood money

Good Wednesday. I hope all who celebrated had a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast. It's a 25-hour fast, really more than that because you have to say the evening service, then wait for the food to be prepared.

It's physically and spiritually cleansing, however.

At the same time, my wife and I have been to funerals on succeeding Tuesdays. It's something we hope doesn't continue.

And now on to the subject of the day, corporations, media corporations, which make money by slaughtering (financially, that is) people who have given heart and soul to the place.

No, I'm not talking about the Journal-Register, which seems to have kept the word of its interim chairman not to lay off any more people in New Haven, at least.

This time, it's my former employer, the Gannett Corp.

An item on the WSJ wire:

"Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, said it expects to report third-quarter profit that far exceeds forecasts on Wall Street, adding to hopes that the worst of the downturn may be over for traditional media outlets such as publishers and broadcasters.

"Gannett also announced plans to sell $400 million in five- and eight-year notes as it joins the raft of companies raising fresh capital to pay off other debt.

Following the announcement, shares of Gannett rose about 17% to $11.69 in Tuesday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, extending a strong summer rally in the stock."

Well, whoopdy doo. It doesn't say how Gannett is going to accomplish this. It's selling bonds to pay off previous bondholders so it doesn't have to declare bankruptcy in 2011, as rumored.

Gannett is the nation's largest newspaper chain and publisher of The Journal News, a shadow of its former self, in Westchester.

A friend inside the paper, who is still employed, says that the latest bloodletting in August carried away some of the most talented people, especially photographers and photo editors. I won't mention the name of this friend because I want the friend to continue to be employed.

I couldn't believe who was let go. Three photographers who had won just about every photo award short of the Pulitzer Prize were let go. One had passed on the early retirement package that I took because that person needed the medical benefit and the income to take care of a sick relative. There is no mercy in Gannettland.

Two talented photographers who had been there for at least 20 years and two photo editors, including one who had been there for at least a dozen years.

The business editor and the financial editor, both gone. A great New York Giants beat writer, gone. A copy editor who had moved up from the South to learn Yankee ways, gone. The Yankees beat writer hit the road to Boston.

The place is a mess. But there are still managing editors, deputy managing editors, all kinds of middle managers. Glad to see the back of it. I wish those who are left much patience.

It slices; it dices

Are you as sick of stacked ads on television as I am? Sue and I counted 11 stacked ads between program segments on either USA or TNT or both.

One that gets my goat is the "free credit report." What a rip. Yes, if you sign up for the credit watch program, you can get a credit report. But you need to sign up for the service before you get the credit report, so how is it free?

In addition, on some of those that you get as a "service" through your credit card, you may get a report, but with some of them, if you want your credit score, you need to fork over $12.

And to top it all off, there are three credit-rating agencies from which you should get reports. You want the other two? Fork over another $30 or so.

So, you pirate guy, shut up.

And speaking of shut up, how about the WCBS sportscaster who is always talking about refinancing his house through this mortgage banker and not dealing with "my bank."

Well, Gary Stanley, if your bank is so horrible, why is it still your bank? Change banks and shut up. Please.

Bye, bye Bambi

In the lede of this posting, I talked about attending funerals on two succeeding Tuesdays.

This last one was for Bambi Bixon. Bambi's given name was Beatrice, but nobody called her that.

Bambi was one of the stalwart group that meets once a week to study the Hebrew Bible, hoping to get to all 24 books of it . Bambi was one of that group.

She was born in Brooklyn, married, had one son.

Bambi was a woman of sublime intellect, razor-sharp inquisitiveness, wonderful sense of humor and asked and gave no quarter. She had a difficult life, but found sublime satisfaction with her relationship with friends in Iceland. She went there every summer.

She loved things Norse, and I hope when she gets to heaven, as she surely will, it appears to her as the Hall of the Valkyrie.

She was a tough lady, a feminist to the end, and we will all miss her. She would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, and if there is any justice, she will get to laugh with the saints, because she certainly belongs there.

Her funeral was a traditional Jewish affair that she helped plan as her final illness progressed as she knew it would. But in my heart of hearts, I would have loved to see her on a Viking ship, sailing slowly into the sunset as the flaming arrows set it afire.

Fare well, Bambi.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Tuesday and here we go again

Hello. Thanks for looking in.

As I said last week, it's been a long time, about a month, since there was something written in this space. A lot has happened, and some of that has to do with why it's been a long time since something had been written in this space.

So, let's get right to it.

First of all, thanks to all of you who have checked back from time to time, even though the same old, same old was here.

In fact, since this blog began in December, 2006, there have been more than 10,000 hits on it. Now, some places get that many hits in a minute or less, but this is one guy's blog with nothing to sell or no ax to grind. So, not bad.

Thank you all.

Speaking of that, I just got an e-mail asking me if, for money, I wanted to review others' blogs and products. No, thanks. It's not that I'm too precious, it's just that I want to be able to say what I want to say, when I want to say it.

The only criteria to which I want to adhere is that it's really my opinion, it's hadn't been bought and paid for, and (hopefully) the logic makes some kind of sense. That's the goal.

So, let's start out with the second 10,000. By the way, the counter doesn't count me. I have a way of making that happen. Isn't software wonderful...when it works?

So where ya been?

Many of you know I free-lance for the New Haven Independent, a Web-only news site that covers New Haven. I had a few stories to cover. More about that later. My daughter also had a boy. I talked about Aaron and his b'ris in a previous posting.

Well, when that was written, it looked as if he was headed to a full recovery. No so, at least not
then. He was taken back to the hospital, and, of course, we had to be there to help. He seems to be on the right path now, thank God.

Add a bit of personal illness, some other concerns, a bit of plain laziness and that's where the time went.

The Annie Le caper

As I said, I work for the New Haven Independent on a part-time basis. Those guys did a great, wonderful, marvelous job of covering the Annie Le tragedy, breaking lots of stories and angles but not giving out the name of the suspect until he was arrested.

Some news organizations could only say they were the first to give out the suspect's name when he was little more than a twinkle in the cops' eyes. Others messed up the coverage altogether. And then there are the cable channels, the headline channels, with their "experts," shrinks who knew little about the case but said the motive for the slaying of the Yale graduate student, must be unrequited love, class jealousy and a dozen other things on the part of the young man who has been charged in her slaying.

By the way, the crime has been called murder. It's not until a jury says it is. It's a homicide. The prosecution says it was murder, but haven't said which kind, whether murder, capital felony, or felony murder. It couldn't be arson murder.

If the defense can convince the jury that there was extreme emotional disturbance, then the verdict could be manslaughter. Unlike Law & Order, in Connecticut, extreme indifference to human life is manslaughter in the first degree, not Jack McKoy's ubiquitous murder in the second degree. So, for now, it's a homicide. You want to know more? Look it up.

By the way, I had little to do with the coverage. It wasn't planned that way...it just worked out that way. My old boss at the Journal-Courier of New Haven, Bob Granger, used to say that even the biggest story is still only one story out of many. I covered some of the rest. Some were pretty exciting, others routine.

Therefore, I feel I can comment about the coverage without patting myself on the back. Just so you know.

Marcia Chambers, who runs the Branford Eagle, which is part of the Independent family, broke the story about the suspect's former girlfriend telling the cops he made her have sex.

The story was well-documented and sourced. But the next day, it became "Yale hell-raiser's sex shocker" in the New York Post, complete with photo of the suspect dressed as the devil taking up Page One of the tabloid.

The latest is that paper's story saying that the victim's bones were crushed to get her into the utility space where her body was found. No basis in fact, the cops said.

The definition of a newspaper story I've always used is: The best possible version of the truth.

Getting it on the street first is good; getting it right first is better, getting it first and right is best.

That's what the Independent folks did. First and right. I'm as proud to be associated with these folks as any I've dealt with in my long practice of the craft of journalism.

That's saying something.

Apologies to New Jersey, New York and Maryland

Often in the past, l have excoriated drivers from New Jersey, New York and Maryland for being selfish, unskilled, witless -- you get the idea. I feel I have to apologize.

They have nothing on New Haven drivers. I'm not sure if they always have been this way and I hadn't noticed, or if some spore from the planet Stupidity has come to Earth and infected drivers around New Haven.

The light turns red. Traffic stops, but only after four cars have flown through the intersection. The light turns green. You had better count to five slowly before proceeding. Cell phones...sorry, Dick Roy, but yours is the least obeyed law in the state, including that against adultery. Dick Roy, by the way, is a Milford state legislator and former newspaperman who campaigned for years to get the cell phone ban enacted.

Stand at any corner. If the number of drivers not talking on cell phones exceeds the number gabbing while driving, you are witnessing a rare event. Phone in one hand, sandwich in the other. Wheel being grasped by two fingers, or perhaps one. Or that one is reserved for other drivers.

State law says pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks. Ha!

Just stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. You're lucky if all you get is a klaxon blast from the car in back of you. And, of course, the dolt trying to cross the street takes his or her sweet time talking -- you guessed it -- on a cell phone.

Drive along Whalley Avenue east of Westville Village. Crossing of the street is done everywhere EXCEPT at the crosswalk. Walk a few feet along the sidewalk to the corner, dear pedestrian, and YOU have the right of way. Cross in the middle of the block, and you don't. Laziness or stupidity. Or both.

Speaking of stupid

We have been entertained in the past few weeks by a flock of wild turkeys in our yard.

Five turkeys live nearby and spend a couple mornings a week in our garden.

Today was especially entertaining. Two of the turkeys -- I think they are all hens -- got into our garden and couldn't figure a way to get out. They strutted down one length of fence, maybe 10 feet, and when they hit the corner, they reversed course, oblivious to the opening in the fence perhaps five steps away.

I thought I'd have some fun, so I got my wife's duck call (used in office pranks, not hunting) and sounded off. Now they really got nervous and they bumped into each other, walked along the fence opposite to the opening. My wife finally want out onto the deck and pointed to the opening.

No sale. But two others came along and must have said something like, "Hey, did you forget you could fly?" One flew over the chicken wire fence, which is all of three feet high. The other paced for another minute, then flew off.

The flock was last seen heading for another yard.

I guess they come to our yard because the word is out we don't cook or eat meat at home (or anywhere else if we have a choice) and they know we're not eyeing them for Thanksgiving.

Or maybe they just don't want to take a chance cross the street. After all, this is New Haven.

Until next time, soon...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest blog; I'll be back soon

This guest column is by Susan R.A. Honeyman

I'm saddened by the death of Mary Travers. We saw her group earlier this year in Waterbury -- one of her last performances was a benefit for public radio. She was hooked up to an oxygen tank and so weak the she would often gesture for the audience to sing her part while she rested. Her singing no longer mattered, though. Instead her voice was the honesty and conviction in how she lived her life. The audience was so appreciative of the courage of this valiant woman. Instead of concert, we were just 2,000 friends singing together for a better world.
When the gracious depart, the world is diminished.

This is the Lens back again.

It's been a month since this blog appeared, and yet some of you have come back from time to time to see if that guy has anything worthwhile to say.

Thank you. Keep it up.

There were a number of things that demanded my time. I'm not to kind who can dash off a column in 15 minutes and have it make sense. So, if you can't say anything well, don't say anything.

One hopes that some of these demands on my time will end soon. Then again, i hope that other demands on my time never end.

I'll explain further when I come back -- soon. I promise.

In the meantime, to those in the Tribe, a wonderful new year, 5770. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, happy, healthy and satisfying year.

And by the way, if you have been following the Annie Le case in any other place except the New Haven Independent, you are missing out. Find it here.

Until next time...