October 19, 2017

Talking Transportation: America’s Mass Transit Mecca

Portland, Oregon, with Mount Rainier providing a stunning backdrop.

Jim Cameron names Portland, Ore, (with Mount Rainier providing a stunning backdrop) the most mass-transit intensive city in the US.

What’s the most mass-transit intensive city in the US?  By the numbers, New York City.  But for a glimpse of the real future of mass-transit,  the winner is clearly Portland, Oregon!

Portland has only 632,000 residents but 2.3 million in its metro area.  Yet it has, per capita, what I think is the largest, most extensive and best integrated systems of light rail, streetcars and bike lanes in the nation.

LIGHT RAIL: It was 1986 when Portland opened its first light-rail line.  Today the system covers 60 miles (including the airport, 12 miles from downtown).  In 2001 a downtown streetcar system was added.  It proved so successful that Portland now manufactures streetcars for other American cities.

Like the city’s extensive bike-rack equipped bus network, all of Portland’s mass transit operates on the honor system:  you buy tickets before boarding and only show them if a inspector boards, looking for proof of payment.

To encourage ridership, fares are ridiculously cheap.  For $2.50 you can roam the system for 2 ½ hours.  An unlimited day pass is $5 or $26 a month (about the cost of a round-trip to NYC on Metro-North).  “Honored Citizens” (seniors, Medicare or disabled) get a monthly pass for $7.50!

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DRIVING: To further encourage use of the ubiquitous mass transit, driving in downtown is difficult and expensive.  The main transit corridors have one lane for streetcars, one lane for bikes and just one lane for cars.  Parking is really expensive, both by meter on the streets and in lots.  And yes, the freeways crawl just like in LA.

TECHNOLOGY: The bus and rail system offers free apps for trip-planning which use GPS to tell you exactly how long you’ll wait for the next trolley, directions by line to your destination and expected travel time.  And yes, you can buy and show your ticket using your smartphone.

BIKES ARE KING:     The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird”, and the residents work hard to do so.  Outside of Europe or Asia I have never seen so many people on two-wheels traversing a community.

There are so many dedicated bike lanes that when a new bridge was built crossing the Willamette River, the bridge was built for everything except cars and trucks:  a mass transit-only bridge!

When a new Medical Center was planned on a downtown hill, designers realized it would be foolish to waste land on parking, so they built an aerial tram from unused industrial land on the waterfront.  Hospital employees and patients alike take light rail or bike to the base station (where a free 400-space bike-lot is usually full) and are skyward in minutes.

So if you are ever disillusioned by the sorry state of mass-transit in our area, take heart.  The future is now in Portland!

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 25 years.  He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

Share

Legal News You Can Use: Workers’ Compensation: How it Works

hph-workers-compensation-insurance-compressed
Sponsored Post:
The day begins like almost any other. You arrive at the workplace, spend a few moments interacting with your co-workers and begin the daily task. Maybe it’s a job that you’ve done a thousand times, or perhaps the demands of that day result in your performing an assignment for the first time. And then “it” happens ~ you feel a twinge in your back or shoulder; there is an ache in your hands that doesn’t subside; or there is an exposure to a substance that is foreign to you. What do you do then?

The origin of Workers’ Compensation
 in Connecticut dates over a century, the original Act becoming part of the Law in 1913. As the result of a “Contract of Employment” (whether written or implicit) with the employer, he/she/the business will cover medical benefits and lost wages for an employee who suffers an injury out of and in the course and scope of their employment. There are, essentially, three different types of injuries covered in Workers’ Compensation. They are:

(1) Accidental injuries. These are injuries that can be located in time and space; e.g., the lifting of heavy equipment, which results in an Employee screaming in pain.

(2) Repetitive trauma injuries. These are claims that arise not from one injurious situation, but are cumulative over time. Examples would include repetitive computer work with one’s hands, or kneeling on steel every day for years.

(3) Occupational disease/exposure. These injuries are those where there is a clear link between the workplace and substances to which the individual is exposed; e.g., asbestos in a shipyard; a dental hygienist contracting Hepatitis.

When an employee has sustained, or has reason to believe they have sustained, an injury related to their employment, what are the next steps?

(1) Report the injury. In accidental injuries and repetitive trauma claims, there is a one year Statute of Limitations for reporting of the injury. In Occupational Disease claims, the general rule is that the injury needs to 
be reported within three years of when the employee knew, or should have known, of the connection between the occupational exposures and the medical condition alleged.

The better approach is to report the injury to your employer at the first opportunity, or when you have reason to believe there is a connection between work activities and your injury. Employers and insurance carriers become increasingly skeptical about the validity of an injury claim when there is a delay in reporting an injury.

(2) Obtain medical treatment. Any significant injury requires treatment from a medical provider. Even if you have to use your own insurance at an initial appointment, treatment and opinions on causal connection should be obtained. Insurance companies can sort out the issues at a later date. Again, employers and insurance carriers are more likely to be skeptical about an injury if there is a significant delay in obtaining medical treatment.

(3) File notice of the injury. In Connecticut, the Form 30-C is the vehicle to place employers and their carriers on notice that an individual has suffered an injury or illness related to their employment. The Form 30-C should be sent via Certified Mail and is the ultimate protection for an injured worker. Also, note that Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-290a protects the injured worker from retaliatory actions or discrimination by an employer for asserting their rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Now that the claim has been properly filed, what benefits are obtainable for the injured worker? Clearly, medical treatment is paid for by the employer or insurance carrier with no deductible for the injured worker. Other “indemnity” benefits may also be appropriate, including:

(1) Temporary total disability benefits. If an injury results in lost time from work, a weekly (or bi-weekly) monetary payment, based upon earnings in the preceding 52 weeks, is payable to the injured worker until they are able to return to their job, or some other work within their restrictions.

(2) Permanent partial disability benefits.  
If an injury results in permanent impairment to a body part; e.g., following a surgery, the injured worker is entitled to obtain a “rating” for their loss of use from their Attending Physician. Additional benefits
 are payable pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308b. In certain, specified situations, an injured worker may also be entitled to a disfigurement award, depending on the site of the injury.

(3) Wage loss benefits. If, as the result of
 a work-related injury, the injured worker is capable of work, but cannot perform the same job and there is a resulting loss of income, the injured worker is eligible for a period of wage loss. This, too, is controlled by the Connecticut General Statutes, and appears at Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308a.

(4) Death benefits. Where an injury results in the death of the injured worker, benefits are payable to the surviving spouse and/or other dependents of the decedent.

Being pro-active in reporting an injury and obtaining medical care will be beneficial to any injured worker.

This article represents an overview of the Workers’ Compensation System. While the System was designed to be user-friendly, complexities often arise which may dictate hiring a Lawyer.

Attorney James P. Berryman

Attorney James P. Berryman

About the author: Jay Berryman is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. He concentrates in Workers’ Compensation Law and Social Security Disability claims. Attorney Berryman was named by “Bench- mark Plaintiff” magazine as a Local Litigation Star, and his department at Suisman Shapiro was selected by the 2013-15 editions of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” among all law firms in Connecticut for Workers’ Compensation – Claimants.

For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

Share

Nibbles: Savor This Sweet Summer Surprise — Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake

pina-colada-poke-cake_350Oh my goodness, I am usually good about varying my columns to you, but today I am sending you another dessert recipe.

In May (and I think I may have told you), when I was in Rochester to watch one of my granddaughters graduate from the University of Rochester, we had breakfast in East Bloomfield, NY, where my sister-in-law lives. On the first day, I noted a “cake” for breakfast. The second day I ordered the poke cake, which eight of us shared.

When I got home, I Googled “poke cake.” There were many recipes and the name comes from the holes you poke into a cooled cake. Two weeks ago, as I waited for my groceries to be toted up by the cashier at Stop & Shop, I saw a small pamphlet called “Poke Cakes and More” where all the tabloids are. Of course, I bought a copy ($4.99). The next day I bought the ingredient to make the Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake.

Most of the recipes (in addition to poke cakes there are mug cakes, cute cupcakes, snack cakes and dump cakes) call for a cake mix. However, you can make a scratch cake and play around with ingredients. I had all the other ingredients except for the mix. I did play with the ingredients; for the liquid, it called for the juice of crushed pineapple in addition to maraschino cherries. I added the cherry juice to the pineapple juice and used half a cup of liquid instead of one-quarter cup. It is really pretty and delicious. See if the pamphlet is still available at S&S.

Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake

From Pil Publishing International, Ltd.

Yield: 10 to 15 servings

I package (about 15 ounces) white cake, plus ingredients to prepare mix

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, (squished and one-quarter juice reserved)

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

2 packages (7 ounces each) shredded coconut, divided, and toasted

1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, drained

Method:

  1. Prepare and bake cake mix according to package direction for 13- by 9-inch pan. Cool completely.
  2. Combine pineapple, sweetened condensed milk and package of coconut in a small bowl; mix well.
  3. Poke holes in cake at one-inch intervals using fork. Pour reserved pineapple juice over cake and into holes. Spread pineapple mixture over cake. Sprinkle remaining package coconut and cherries onto cake. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.
Share

Talking Transportation: America’s Amazing Interstate Highways

Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways, from Federal Highway Administration

Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways, from Federal Highway Administration

The 47,000 miles of highways that comprise America’s interstate highway system are nothing short of an engineering marvel, surpassed only by what China has built in the last few years.

We take them for granted, but when they were designed almost 60 years ago these super-highways presented both great opportunity and vast challenges.  The U.S. wasn’t the first with super-highways. Those bragging rights go to the Germans, whose Reichsautobahn saw cars zooming along at 100+ mph in the 1930s.

Most credit President Eisenhower, whose troops rode the Autobahn in WWII, for seeing the military value of an American equivalent, though engineering such a complex across the U.S. was far more difficult.

Of course by 1940 the U.S. already had the Pennsylvania Turnpike and by 1954 the NY State Thruway, but private toll roads were just the beginning.

To build a road expected to last, in 1955 the federal government, AAA and automakers first built a $27 million seven-mile test road near Ottawa, Illinois.  Half was concrete, the other half asphalt.  The 836 separate sections of highway had various subsurfaces and 16 bridges.  For two years Army trucks drove night and day, seeing which road designs would hold up.

Weather and traffic dictated different designs:  in desert areas the highways need be only a foot thick, while in Maine the tough winter and freeze-thaw cycles required that I-95 would be five feet thick.

Construction of the highways required moving 42 billion cubic feet of soil.  To expedite construction of I-40 in California, there was even a plan to use nuclear bombs to vaporize part of the Bristol Mountain range.

As author Dan McNichol writes in his excellent book, “The Roads that Built America,” “VIP seating was even planned for the event.  The (nuclear) bombing was to produce a cloud 12,000 feet high and a radioactive blast 133 times that of Hiroshima.”  Needless to say, the mountains were moved using more conventional explosives.

Outside of Greenbelt, MD, another site tested the design of road signs – white lettering on a black background, white on blue (already adopted by the NY Thruway) or, what proved to be the winning model, white on green.

Just 5,200 of the original 41,000 miles of interstates were to be built in urban areas, but those few miles accounted for almost half of the $425 billion total cost.  By 1992 the system was deemed “completed.”  Bragging rights for the longest of the interstates goes to I-90 running 3,020 miles from Boston to Seattle and our own beloved I-95, which runs 1,920 miles from the Canadian border to Miami.

As anyone who drives on I-95 in Connecticut knows, the interstates have far surpassed their expected traffic load and are in need of billions of repairs.  Little did we know 60 years ago what our automotive future might bring.

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: 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, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

Share

A la Carte Presents a Summer Special: Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Woman's Day Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Woman’s Day Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

This past weekend began with dinner in Mystic at Pink Basil, the third-base hit for the couple who own Thai Sawasdee in Groton, Spice Club in Niantic and, now, Pink Basil (see my Nibbles on the appetizer I adored). The next day was a 50th anniversary on Federal Hill  in Providence for friends I have known for years.

After that, I drove to Griswold for an incredible food extravaganza on a lake. Much of the food came from their smoker while desserts included two pies, a cream cake and cannoli I had bought in Providence.

Sunday was a lovely party in Lyme for which I’d made guacamole with ten avocados. Host John’s sister made her amazing ratatouille, this time topped with Gruyere.

My favorite, though, was a lemon meringue pie that, like the sirens in the Odyssey, beckoned me to slice just one more piece. I realized when I got home that I don’t have a recipe for lemon meringue pie. How is that possible? Please, please send me your favorite recipe. In the meantime, here is a great pie I wrote about 11 years ago.

Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie
From Woman’s Day, May 31, 2005

Yield: Serves 8

Crust
20 crisp oatmeal cookies, like Nabisco Honey Maid (I use Quaker 100% Natural Cereal)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Filling
Three-quarters cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, in its own juice, well drained, juice reserved
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
yolks from 5 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, cut small
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

Crust: Process cookies or cereal in the bowl of a food processor. Add melted butter and whir. Press over bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake 12 minutes until toasted around edge. Cool on wire rack.

Filling: Mix sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart saucepan. Add enough pineapple juice to coconut milk to make 2 ½ cups. Stir in sugar mixture, then bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally (not briskly). Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Cool for a few minutes. Whisk yolks in medium bowl, then gradually whisk in about half the hot mixture; return yolk mixture to saucepan. Stir over low heat 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted. Stir in crushed pineapple and coconut. Pour into crust. Cover surface with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Up to 2 hours before serving, beat cream and sugar with mixer until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie. Garnish with flaked coconut, small pineapple chunks and/or mint sprigs.

Nibbles: Pink Basil

I have a friend who is a longtime resident of our part of the Connecticut shoreline. But she has never had Thai food. That sadness will end soon, when I take her to Pink Basil in Mystic.

Owned by the same couple who run Thai Sawasdee in Groton and Spice Club in Niantic, their new place is my favorite. I had (and shared) a lettuce wrap app — a bowl of fresh iceberg lettuce with minced chicken, ginger, carrot, onions, cashews, shiitake mushrooms in a dark soy sauce and topped with crispy noodles. Along with another app and three entrees, we couldn’t finish all of them. The next morning I folded the lettuce wrap (less the lettuce) into an omelet. It was incredibly delicious.

Pink Basil
27 Coogan Boulevard (Building 3B in Mystic Village)
Mystic
860-245-4470

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. 

 

Share

A la Carte: Breakfast for Summer Visitors

The Original All-Bran® Muffins

The Original All-Bran® Muffins

I expect quite a few guests this summer, including two daughters, a daughter-in-law and granddaughters, along with friends on their way to Maine or Boston or maybe just to spend a day or two with me. We will spend some time at the beach (our beach in Groton is incredible) and maybe watch the fireworks in early July. I am pretty jazzed about the new ferry that will make a few stops, including from Groton to New London. I love the idea that I don’t have to find a parking place in New London, since we can walk from my condo to the Thames River slip. I will also take the ferry to have lunch or dinner at the many restaurants in walking distance from the ferry.

We might have breakfast there, too, but I have two other choices for breakfast. Both would take place in my dining room after I have made the recipes below. The first, for bran muffins (which I love!), came to me via my friend Diane, who just moved back to Connecticut and found a condo just a few steps from my own. One of her neighbors, Linda, took her these incredible muffins, and Diane shared two with me. The other came from a woman I met when I took a cooking class in Tuscany a few decades ago. That one you make the night before, then pop the pan into the oven the next morning.

 

Andrew Wyeth’s Aunt’s Bran Muffins

Yield: 12 large muffins

2 cups All-Bran cereal

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup molasses

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup golden raisins

 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin pan with cooking oil and set aside.

Soak the cereal in milk and molasses for about 15 minutes.

Measure flour, baking sodas and salt into another bowl and blend into bran mixture. Mix only until moist. Add walnuts and raisins and mix together. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. These are delicious immediately or warmed. I ate one at room temperature, too.

 

Creme Brulee French Toast

Yield: serves 6 to 8

 

1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup

French bread, crusts removed and sliced into 3/4 inch thick slabs

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

 

Butter a 13- by 9-inch glass pan, or spray with cooking oil. Spread chopped pecans in bottom of pan. Melt together butter, brown sugar and corn syrup and pour evenly over pecans.

Fit slabs of bread tightly over butter-sugar mixture.

Beat eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, salt and liqueur and pour over bread slices. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.


Nibbles: Seahorse at Spicer’s Marina

When my husband and I got our first boat, we moored it in Noank. If we were going for the weekend I took food I had made at home. But more likely, we would meet each other after work in Noank and have lunch at the Seahorse. When we got a bigger boat, Jam Today, she lived at Shennecossett but continued to eat at the Seahorse.

I guess I forgot about the Seahorse after my husband died and I sold the boat. But on a Friday night a friend and I had a late dinner there (for me clams casino and fried calamari served with an amazing marinara). On Fathers’ Day, another friend and I ate there again; this time, I had the best baked cod ever. We asked who owned the place now and was told it was Zack Tsajarikis, whom I have known for more than 26 years. The food and casual ambience: as good as it gets.

Seahorse at Spicer’s Marina

65 Marsh Road

Noank

860-415-4280

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. 

 

Share

Reading Uncertainly? ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O. Wilson

Half_EarthEdward O. Wilson, the remarkable professor emeritus at Harvard, who is known for his studies of ants, for the third time asks, “Who are we?” His first question was partially answered in The Social Conquest of Earth (2012) in which he analyzed the confusion of human existence, as our convoluted and introspective species tries to come to grips with our brief existence. Two years later, in The Meaning of Human Existence (2104), he described how, either deliberately or inadvertently, we are destroying other species even as we begin to recognize that we depend on them as much as they depend on us.

Now, concluding his trilogy, Wilson suggests a possible plan of action for homo sapiens. He continues his habit of short, punchy chapters, only one of 20 pages and most of 10 or less, even one of three. Instead of plunging into more verbiage, the reader must pause and think. His thesis: in order to survive we must commit “half of the planet’s surface to nature” in order to save “the immensity of life forms that compose it,” including us. A tall order, but is it possible?

Wilson begins with this earth’s extensive history of life extinctions. We’re lucky to be here! Should we worry? After all, the oldest major “extinction event,” at the end of the Ordovician period, happened some 455 million years ago and the most recent was a mere 66 million years back, when an enormous asteroid crunched into the Yucatan. Are we now coming close to a “Sixth Extinction”, the end of the current Anthropocene Era, as so clearly described by Elizabeth Kolbert in her The Sixth Extinction (2014)? Both Kolbert and Wilson recite alarming facts, plus suppositions, about our human relationships with other living creatures, large and small, on this earth. Are we the ultimate problem? They seem to think so.

To begin, “our population is too large for safety and comfort.” It is time to reduce, not expand, our footprint. “The biosphere does not belong to us; we belong to it.” But to acknowledge that, we must “… find our way as quickly as possible out of the fever swamp of dogmatic religious belief and inept philosophical thought.” We still understand too little about other species: some two million are “known” but there are perhaps some five to 100 million yet to be discovered. It is this enormous biodiversity that is the strength of this planet.

What then to do? Wilson suggests “… in order to save biodiversity it is necessary to understand how species interact with one another to form ecosystems.” But our enormous egos (and religions) tell us we are “Number One” when we are actually a small part of the action. His Solution: “Increase the area of inviolable natural resources to half the Earth or greater.” This will require a “fundamental shift in moral reasoning concerning our relation to the living environment.” We must “reduce the amount of space required to meet all the needs of an average person … habitation, fresh water, food production and delivery, personal transportation, communication, governance, other public functions (i.e. education), medical support, burial, and entertainment.” And note that this “average person” now lives in Asia and Africa as well as Europe and North America, with enormous current differences.

How will this take place? Here in Lyme, our Lyme Land Conservation Trust (www.lymelandtrust.org) has preserved in some fashion 3,000 acres of land and water resources in our small town. It and comparable efforts in this country and around the world are effective bottom-up programs. But Professor Wilson argues that these are not enough: we will need top-down guidance plus massive re-education for everyone. Is this economically possible? Do we have a choice?

Professor Wilson is obviously an optimist: “So we stumble forward in hopeful chaos.” Elizabeth Kolbert had her own conclusion: “The history of life consists of long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic.”

Half-Earth and its sister volumes should be required reading for all of us. Perhaps we can wake up and change.

Editor’s Note: ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O. Wilson is published by W. W. Norton, New York 2016.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

Share

Talking Transportation: Why Ferries Aren’t the Answer for Commuting in CT

Bridgeport to Port Jefferson Ferry

Bridgeport to Port Jefferson Ferry

Recently, NYC Mayor DeBlasio announced a $325 million plan to reintroduce ferry boat service to the five boroughs charging the same fare as subways.  The mayor says these boats could carry 4.5 million passengers a year.

So why don’t we have ferries in CT?  There are several reasons:

SPEED:  In open water, fast ferries on the Sound could make 30 knots (35 mph).  But if they must sail up inlets to the downtown areas of Bridgeport, Norwalk or Stamford, that speed is cut to 5 knots, extending travel time.

DOCKING: To keep to their competitive speeds, docks would have to be located close to the Sound.  That’s expensive real estate. And what about parking at those docks… and drive-time on local roads to reach them? Again, more travel time.

FREQUENCY: Metro-North offers trains to midtown New York every 20 minutes in rush hour carrying 800 – 1000 passengers per train. No ferry service anywhere in the country can compete with that frequency of service. Will travelers really be willing to wait an hour or two for the next boat?

COMFORT: In nice weather, a boat ride to work sounds idyllic. But what about in a Nor’easter?  The bumpiest ride on the train pales by comparison.

FARES:  The most optimistic of would-be ferry operators in CT estimate their fares will be at least double those charged on the train.  And people say Metro-North is too expensive?

OPERATING COSTS: Fast ferries are gas guzzlers, the aquatic equivalent to the Concorde.  When the Pequot tribe built high-speed catamarans to ferry gamblers to their casino in Connecticut to lose money, the service proved so expensive to run that the Pequots dry-docked the ferries in New London.

ECONOMICS: The final reason I don’t think ferries make economic sense is that nobody else does either!  Ferry operators (like the near-bankrupt NY Waterways) aren’t stupid. They’ve looked at possible service from coastal Connecticut, crunched the numbers and backed off. In a free market economy, if a buck could be made running ferries, they’d be operating by now. They aren’t operating, and there are lots of reasons why, many of which I’ve listed.

The only place ferries are run successfully is where they’re heavily subsidized (everywhere), have a monopoly (for example, getting to downtown Seattle from an island suburb), don’t duplicate existing transportation routes (like from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson), or offer advantages of speed because they operate on extremely short runs (from Hoboken to midtown).  Our situation here in Connecticut passes none of those tests.

You already know I’m a train nut. (The bumper sticker on my car reads “I’d Rather Be on the Train.”)  And I do love an occasional recreational sail on the Sound.  But it’s unrealistic to think that commutation by ferries is in our future.

 

Jim Cameron - Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council

Jim Cameron

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

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

Share

The Movie Man: “The Conjuring 2” – Enter If You Dare

Conjuring_2A little disclaimer: unless you like “jump” moments in movies, avoid The Conjuring 2 (there’s a lot of them).

The sequel to the highly successful 2013 film, The Conjuring, tells the story of another paranormal case tackled by real-life demonologist couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Ed passed away in 2006, while Lorraine still lives in their family home in Monroe, Connecticut). The Warrens are perhaps best known for investigating the claims of the Amityville Horror.

For those who are not familiar with this legend, as well as the references and parodies throughout pop culture, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered his parents and four siblings in the middle of a 1974 night, claiming he was coaxed into committing the acts by “voices.” A new family, the Lutzes, eventually moved into the home a year later, had their priest bless the home, and claimed that during the blessing, he heard a masculine voice tell him to “get out,” accompanied by a slap across the face, bleeding hands, and flu-like symptoms. The Lutzes only lasted 28 days in the house before they took off.

Upon researching the Warrens, it came as no surprise that they were subject to a great deal of scrutiny and controversy, as many skeptics claim there are holes in their stories regarding their investigations. This can be said about the Amityville Horror, as well as another case that took place in Seymour, Connecticut, and was featured on Discovery Channel’s A Haunting program. The list goes on and on. However, even if you do not believe any piece of their stories, you cannot deny the horror that is embedded in them, and they will be sure to keep you up at night, worrying about all you cannot see.

I am not writing this as a way to propose or criticize claims about ghosts and the supernatural, although I have had certain experiences in allegedly haunted locations that have made me a believer in regards to the supernatural. The only form of apologetics I will engage in is quoting Hamlet, in regards to those who consider themselves to be “rationalists”, in saying:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, [t]han are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The Conjuring 2 opens with Ed and Lorraine investigating Amityville with the Lutzes. Lorraine goes into a trance and witnesses the massacres that took place in said home, as well as other frightening supernatural images, including a large nun with a demonic appearance. After this investigation, she urges Ed that they not take any cases for a while. Unfortunately, due to their newfound popularity, a family all the way across the Atlantic is able to plead to them for help, claiming a poltergeist is harassing them, and has taken a special interest in their daughter, Janet. Much to Lorraine’s chagrin, they take on the case in hopes of defeating the evil spirit.

There is something about director James Wan’s take on depicting this story, especially through his cinematography involving slow zoom-in’s and “jump” stills in which we suddenly see something that has transcended our senses, as if it has taken off a mask that allowed it to remain unseen (or a ring, for those of us who are fond of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth?). The soundtrack proves to be unique amongst all other forms of music, focusing mainly on violins and cellos reaching low and shrill notes. But what helps make this a great horror film is not the amount of disturbing images or loud sounds, but in its stories that are woven in and out of the main plotline, depicting Ed and Lorraine’s marriage bond, and the victim family’s sad home-life.

I have said this to many people in the past, and I will say it again: too often Hollywood makes horror films that are comprised of excessive blood and gore, and hires models, not to act, but to read lines. If you want a good horror film, you need a good story and good actors, and most of all a good portrayal of everyone’s relationships. Just because you have beautiful college girl in nothing but her underwear screaming loudly and blood sprays on her does not guarantee a critical success. Perhaps a financial success, and maybe some experience for up-and-coming actors trying to get their feet in the door, and at the very most cementing a scene from the film into pop culture (but not for good reasons).

A great film for anyone who appreciates cinema, is fond of ghost stories, loves to be on the edge of their seat, or repeatedly scared to death. Enter the theaters, if you dare…

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

 

Share

A la Carte: Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies (Huffington Post)

Molasses cookies (Huffington Post)

Boules has begun and, as every year, it begins at the Hopkins’ house with a court big enough for two different groups to play at the same time. (Our league is gender-specific and, at the Hopkins’ house, dogs are welcome. When the pups walk through or decide to sleep on the court, we are gentle. When the men walk through as we are playing, we boo and hiss.)

As often is the case, the food is already good. While the hosts create most of the rations, co-hosts cook, too. Now that I don’t have a boules court, I like to make something for all the parties, and when I asked Christine what I could do, she said cookies would be great with the raspberries, strawberries and mascarpone. I made my mother-in-law’s molasses cookies, which are one of my favorites, but because they are made with Crisco, a no-no these days. Since I use Crisco only when I am making pies (and would shun the Crisco if I could find exceptional lard), I figured that if each person ate just one or two cookies, all of us would still be fine.

Below are two molasses cookie recipes. The first is my mother-in-law’s with Crisco; the other is from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. You decide.

Molasses Cookies

Yield: 70 little cookies

1 ½ cups Crisco (don’t laugh; Crisco makes great cookies)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon each salt, cloves and ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

About ½ cup sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer on medium-high, cream Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy; at medium, add eggs, one at a time until well mixed. Add molasses and mix.

In another bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients. Add to the first bowl and mix until you see no flour.

With a spoon, make 1-inch balls and coat with sugar; place each onto one or more ungreased baking pans. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

 

Three-Ginger Cookies

From Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Workman, New York, 1994)

3 ½  to 4 dozen cookies

 

1 ½  sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root

½ cup finely chopped crystalized ginger

 

Cream butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in molasses and then the egg.

Sift flour, ground ginger, baking soda and salt together. Stir in the butter mixture with a wooden spoon until blended. Add fresh and crystallized ginger and stir well mixed.

Refrigerate the dough, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cooking sheet. Bake until browned, 10 minutes.

Remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Nibbles: Fried Green Tomatoes

 

I wrote about the Blue Hound in Ivoryton two years ago and have visited this adorable bistro many times for lunch and dinner.  My friend Joan wanted to dine early on Saturday evening and we arrived just after 5 p.m. Originally, it would just be three of us, but another couple decided to come, too. (The restaurant  accepts reservations for five people or higher.)

I am pleased to say the food is as good or even better than it was two years ago and this time my friends agreed that the fried green tomatoes were the best. Just to let you know – it’s nearly impossible to get green tomatoes in a supermarket or even a farmstand, so if you like them as much as I do, grow tomatoes and pick them when they are still green. I do have a recipe, which I would be glad to share, and a recipe for a remoulade, which is terrific with the dish.

 

Blue Hound Cookery

107 Main Street

Ivoryton

860-767-0260

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.

Share

Legal News You Can Use: What Parents of Teens and Tweens Should Know About Social Media

CautionSocialNetworkSponsored Post: Social media has forever changed our society. Nowhere is this shift more prevalent than in the arena of parenting. The exponential growth of the internet generally, and social media specifically, has created relatively uncharted territory for parents of teens and “tweens.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 22 percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times per day. More than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day, creating an environment where a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet or cell phone.

Consider this reliance on social media in conjunction with a U.S. National Institute of Mental Health study (The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction). This study indicates that an adolescent brain is constantly being “revived” and “upgraded” until their mid to late twenties. If our children do not use social media responsibly, it can be a recipe for disaster. Not only can they be victims of irresponsible social media behavior, they can also be perpetrators.

The explosion of social media applications has also created new ways for online sexual predators to find victims. Several social media sites claim to be able to verify age to ensure safety for our children, but the reality is that this verification cannot be done effectively. Predators posing as teenagers on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and in chat rooms permeate the internet and pose dangers to our children.

Some parents may try to forbid their children from even having an account on one of these sites, but it can be difficult to keep them away from social media. Should you decide to allow your children to access social media, you should implement some guidelines to protect your child. The website Protectkids.com suggests some “Rules N Tools” for social networking sites such as:

  • Teach your child to never give personal information over the internet
  • Pay attention to the photos your child posts online
  • Regularly ask your child about their online activities and friends
  • Instruct your child never to plan a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online
  • Act like a child; search blog sites children visit to see what information is posted
  • Establish rules on how your child can use the computer and how much time they can spend online

You should also set parental controls on all computing systems, instruct your child to use privacy settings on their accounts so they will limit who is able to see their social media profiles, and stay up to date on anti-virus and anti-spyware software which gives you the ability to view online activity. For an in-depth discussion of these topics, Protectkids.com has a wealth of helpful information to make your child’s use of the computer safer.

The dangers do not stop there.  There are a variety of crimes children can commit with their use of the internet, social media and cell phones. The previously referenced AAP article states rather ominously, “What goes online stays online.”

Your child may send a threatening text in anger, send or post a photo meant to embarrass another person, send sexually suggestive words or pictures, or use social media to bully someone. All of these behaviors can violate laws and lead to criminal charges. Even if a post is deleted, other people can easily capture the image or video and cause it to proliferate across multiple sites.

The most dangerous behavior is the transmission of sexually explicit images or videos. Should your child send such an image, it could be considered the transmission of child pornography. If they receive such an image, it could be considered possession of child pornography. Not only could this behavior result in criminal charges, it could result in a civil lawsuit demanding monetary damages as well.

Our office once represented an individual who was accused of making an offensive, threatening post on a social media site. Realizing their mistake, they removed the post. However, another individual had already taken a screenshot of the post and forwarded it to law enforcement. Imagine being the parent of this child and having the SWAT team show up at your door to arrest your child because of a post they made on social media. While this is an extreme example, it is a real one.

In closing, work with your child to discuss how they should behave online and set acceptable parameters for internet use. Stay vigilant by monitoring their access and utilizing appropriate filters and anti-spyware software. Talk with them so that a mistake made during their formative years will not be one which they will have to carry with them into adulthood.

About the author: Attorney Michael A. Blanchard is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in criminal and family law. Please contact him via email at mblanchard@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions regarding these laws.

Share

Talking Transportation: Big Brother Comes Along for the Ride

“Here in my car, I feel safest of all

I can lock all my doors. It’s the only way to live, in cars.”

Cars” – Gary Numan  1979

You may feel that your car is your last private refuge in this busy world.  But there’s someone along for the ride:  Big Brother.  And you’d be surprised what he knows about you, thanks to modern technology.

Cell Phones:   Your cell phone is constantly transmitting its location, and services like Google Dashboard’s location history can show exactly where you were at any date in time.  Don’t want to be tracked?  Turn off your cellphone.

E-ZPass:   Even when you are nowhere near a toll booth, E-ZPass detectors can monitor your location.   Want to stay anonymous? Keep your E-ZPass wrapped in aluminum foil in your glove box.

Highway Cameras:    The extensive network of traffic cameras on our interstates and parkways is used mostly to monitor accidents.  But State Police can also watch individual vehicles. The cameras are even available to the public online.  But state law specifically forbids using these cameras to write speeding tickets.

License+Plate+ReaderLicense Plate Readers:    This is the newest and most powerful tracking tech, as I saw in a ride-along a few years ago with my local PD.  These cameras mounted on police cars can scan up to 1800 license plates a minute as cars drive by at speed. As the plate number is recognized, it is transmitted to a national crime computer and compared against a list of wanted vehicles and scofflaws.  If it gets a “hit,” a dashboard screen in the cop car flashes a red signal and beeps, detailing the plate number and infraction.  In just one hour driving through my town, we made stops for outstanding warrants, lack of insurance and stolen plates.  (Some towns also use LPRs for parking enforcement in train station parking lots, forgoing the need for hangtags or stickers.)

While this may lead to very efficient law enforcement, LPRs also have a potentially darker side:  the data about plate number, location and time can be stored forever.

Faced with a string of unsolved burglaries, Darien police used their LPR to track every car entering the targeted neighborhood and looked for patterns of out-of-town cars driving through at the time of the burglaries and made an arrest.

But the ACLU is concerned about how long cops can store this data and how it should be used.  They laud the CT State Police policy of only storing data for 90 days.

In the early days of LPRs in 2012 an ACLU staffer filed an FOI request for his car’s plate number and found it had been tracked four times by 10 police departments in a database that had 3 million scan records.

So enjoy your car.  But realize that none of us have any privacy.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

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

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

Share

A la Carte: Weeknight Red Curry

Red Thai curry

Red Thai curry

It was a nice quiet birthday, beginning with my daughter-in-law and three of my granddaughters and ending with pineapple rice with chicken at Spice Club in Niantic and a terrific movie at the Niantic Theater.

With some trepidation, I drove from home to Newbury, Mass., Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The traffic began on I-95 in East Lyme to 290 in Worcester, continued on 495, then, finally, back to 95. I watched young Casey play tennis at her school. We all went to their house while Casey changed. Nancy and I had a nice glass of red wine and then drove to Flatbread in Amesbury for salad and pizza (one of the pizzas was topped with fiddleheads and golden beets). (My middle granddaughter, Laurel, drove; even one glass of wine makes me a bit tipsy.)

With no traffic on the way home, I was home in just over two hours. I watched a little television I’d DVRed and went to bed early. On my birthday, friend Sarah and I had met at the Spice Club for Thai food and then we walked to see Love and Friendship, a new film from one of Austen’s smaller books. Don’t miss it!

Today I decided to make another. I always have cans of unsweetened coconut milk in the pantry and red curry paste in the refrigerator. (I am not sure red curry paste ever has an expiration date; in any case, I have had little opened cans, covered, in the fridge for half a decade.) I went through some recipes I’d clipped once from Cooking Light. I found a package of cod in the freezer and, as always, a finger of ginger there, too. Dinner was ready in less than an hour.

Weeknight Red Curry*

Yield: 4 servings

1 large shallot (half a small onion will do)

6 garlic cloves

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 (14.5 oz.) can canned tomatoes (I always use diced Muir Glen)

1 (13.5 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk

1 pound mixed vegetables, cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen veggies are fine)

1 pound firm white fish, skin removed

Cooked rice noodles, cilantro leaves with stems and lime wedges (for serving)

Pulse shallot, garlic and ginger in a food processor to finely chop. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric and cook, stirring, until paste is darkening in color and mixture starts to stick to pan, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring often and scraping up brown bits, until tomatoes start to break down and stick to pot, about 5 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until mixture is slightly thickened and flavor meld, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season fish all over with salt and nestle into curry (add a little more water if it is very thick). Return to a simmer and cook just until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Spoon curry over rice noodles and top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

*I use vegetable or chicken stock instead of, or with, water for more flavor.


Nibbles: Pittsfield Rye Bread

A few weeks ago I watched a movie in New London called “Deli Man,” part of the International Film Series. I grew up with a terrific Jewish deli in Troy, New York. It, and thousands, is gone now, primarily because  Jewish immigrants insisted that their children go to college and “make something of themselves.” As a result, there are few now, even in New York City, where there are more Jews than in Israel. Gone, also, is H&H and Ess-a-Bagel.

On a drive home from Massachusetts, I stopped in Worcester to get some rye bread, bulkies (hard rolls) and bagels at Widoff on Water Street. It, too, is gone. Instead, hoping against hope, I drove to the Big Y in Norwich. Happily, it (and many other Big Ys) still carry superb Pittsfield rye bread—marbled, seeded, unseeded, and dark rye (pumpernickel). I had a toasted slice with butter and placed the rest into the freezer for another day.

Share

Letter From Paris: The Grand Palais in Paris to Old Lyme — CT Impressionist Exhibits Both Sides of ‘The Pond’

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Talking with Jan Dilenschneider is entering a beautiful world of marshes, rushes swaying in the breeze, ponds reflecting the sky,  and clusters of trees taking on the many hues from the painter’s palette contrasting with the softness of the wild flowers.

Dilenschneider is a Darien artist who has recently been making inroads on the Paris art scene. She was one of only a very few artists to participate in the “Art Paris Art Fair” held in March 2016 at the Grand Palais and, in a switch of continents, she will have a solo exhibition at the Sill House Gallery of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in October of this year. For an artist, whose work so closely resembles Impressionism, to exhibit her paintings in the same year both in Paris and in Old Lyme – the home of the American Impressionism –  is a remarkable and very special event.

A classic work by Jan Dilenschneider.

A classic work by Jan Dilenschneider.

For the past three years, Dilenschneider has shown her work in Paris at the upscale Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier in the Marais district, close to the Picasso Museum. I was treated to a private showing of Jan’s paintings by the gallery’s owner, who knows her well.  Then I had the pleasure of meeting Jan personally at the Grand Palais.  Thanks to the badge Challier obtained for me, I was able to enter the giant steel and glass 1900 structure through the cavernous entrance reserved for the exhibitors. 

The Paris artistic calendar is overcrowded and art professionals are scrambling to find a time slot.  The “Journal des Arts” describes the artistic events taking place in the spring as a “galaxy in fusion.”  The last weekend in March is particularly in demand.  It was therefore a real breakthrough for “Art Paris Art Fair” to be able to establish itself under the nave of the Grand Palais at that time.  The Fair has a special format — only galleries can participate, not individual artists.  This year, 143 major galleries from from 22 countries around the world showed their collections.  All media are allowed, including sculpture, design, photographs or digital art.

"Trees with broken color" by Jan Dilenschneider

“Trees with broken color #2,” oil on canvas, 36″ x 36″, by Jan Dilenschneider.

As I approached the Challier space, several potential buyers were looking at the gallery’s collection.  A striking blonde woman was standing in front of one of her paintings – an icy white and blue landscape – being interviewed by a French television team from the Canal Sat network channel “Luxe.”  It transpired the woman was Dilenschneider and after the TV crew left, she and I started chatting and did so for a long time.  I immediately liked her as a person and was attracted to her sunny personality.  Her passion for nature was contagious.

“Any work starts from the abstract, and the abstract is never far under the painting,” she explained, adding, “Each artist makes a contribution to art history.”  In one of the handsome catalogues the Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier has published relating to her exhibits, she writes, “If I were to have lunch with four artists, I would choose Wolf Kahn, Henri Matisse, Franz Kline and Michelangelo.”

In a video series named “Nec plus ultra,” produced by the “Magazine de l’art de vivre” of TV 5 Monde, Dilenschneider is shown caught in the throes of her creating process.  She paints with gusto, happily digging into the colors lying heavily on her palette.  She uses spatulas, all sizes of brushes, and even squeegees to diversify her technique.

Painting is her way of meditating, which she says she can do eight hours a day.  Even when she is not painting, she is taking photographs from trains, at airports … wherever she is, to be used in her future work.   

Dilenschneider has a remarkable way with words and writes, “I become the water, I become the trees, I become the birds and reeds — but I don’t need to tell you [that] — my paintings already do.  Living on Long Island Sound, the beauty of the world is my inspiration.”

She wants to make people enjoy the beauty of nature and is happy to use her privileged situation to make an impact.  With the help of her influential husband, whose communications counseling company is based on the 57th floor of the Chrysler building in New York City, she has created the “Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Scholar Rescue Award in the Arts.”  This year she rescued a Syrian artist, her husband and two sons.

Although she has been painting since the age of 17, she has not exhibited her work until recently.  Thus, she has long been a hidden treasure, which now finally all can enjoy.

Editor’s Note (i): Dilenschneider’s exhibition at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts opens Friday, Oct. 7.

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

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

Share

Talking Transportation: Infrastructure – Dangling by a Thread

The recent fire under the Park Avenue viaduct in Harlem, which disrupted commutes of a quarter million Metro-North riders, got me thinking:  our aging, crumbling and vulnerable transportation infrastructure is close to collapse, and the effects of such failure could be catastrophic.   Consider this track-record:

JUNE 1983: Inadequate inspections and repairs cause the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge on I-95 in Greenwich. Three people were killed and three others injured.   For almost five months, 80,000 daily vehicles had to detour through city streets.

MARCH 2004:  An oil tanker crashes on I-95 in Bridgeport and the ensuing fire is hot enough to melt steel supports on the Howard Avenue overpass.  Traffic was disrupted for a week.

SEPTEMBER 2013:    Con-Ed plans to replace a crucial electric feeder cable for Metro-North in the Bronx.  The railroad decides to forgo the $1 million cost of a temporary back-up cable and the main cable fails, disrupting train service for weeks, both on Metro-North and Amtrak.

JUNE 2014:    Twice in one week the Walk Bridge in South Norwalk (built in 1896) won’t close, cutting all rail service between New York and Boston.  Cost of replacement will be more than $450 million.

MAY 2016:  Illegally stored chemicals and propane tanks at a gardening center under the Park Ave viaduct catch fire.  The flames’ heat melts steel girders, cutting all train service out of GCT and stranding thousands.  Limited train service in the following days leads to subway-like crowding and lengthy delays.

NTSBSpuytenDuyvilDerailment2013

Aftermath of the derailment at Spuyten Devil, NY.

Mind you, this list does not include fatal accidents and disruptions caused by human error, like the Metro-North crash at Spuyten Duyvil that killed four.

Our lives, our jobs and our economy rely on safe, dependable transportation.  But when the roads we drive and the rails we ride are museum pieces or go uninspected and unrepaired, we are dangling by a thread.

WA single fire, whether caused by accident or act of terrorism, can bring down our infrastructure in an instant, cutting us off from work for days and costing our economy billions.

What can be done?  Safety inspections by engineers and fire departments looking to prevent disaster are obvious.  Better enforcement of speed limits and safety are as well.  But prevention of accidents cannot make up for decades of neglect in reinvestment in our roads, rails and bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual infrastructure report card gives the U.S. a D+.  They estimate we will need to spend $3.6 trillion to get things back into good shape… less than the cost of the last 15 years of U.S. fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

As the old auto-repair ad used to say, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” But sooner or later, we will have to pay.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

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

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

 

Share

A la Carte: Corn and Chicken Chowder

My friend Lisa Marber-Rich, who spends about a quarter of her time in the town of Madison, is a marvel. In addition to working full-time in New York City and Los Angeles (she has a talent agency and a partner who lives on the West Coast, and has two teenage sons and a divine husband), she arranged for her younger son, Dashiell, to have a bar mitzvah party over the last weekend. She had family and friends for a little Friday evening supper for around 40 at their home and arranged for a dessert party at the synagogue just a few hours later (with her cousins). The next day, after the bar mitzvah itself, there was a lunch. That night there were to be two parties, one for the younger set (bar mitzvahs take place right around the son or daughter’s 13th birthday) and, at the same time, a party for the grownups, close to a hundred people at the Surf Club in Madison.

Then came the weather report of teeming rain and gusty winds. With just two days to go, Lisa was able not only to change the venue to the synagogue’s hall, but also the decorations and the food (no lobster rolls or fried clams in the temple). She and her amazing family and friends were still blowing up balloons an hour after the party. The next day there were friends and family again at their house for brunch. ”What would she do once everyone went home,” I asked, laughing. She said there were two things, but I can only tell you the first: a nap. What is most amazing? That she would still have time leftover for the other.

Only once did I plan a fairly big party: my daughter’s wedding at Old Sturbridge Village. The buffet dinner was catered by a friend of mine who made the wedding cake (a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), my mother got shingles and couldn’t come for the celebration, and my brother got roaring drunk and, according to my daughter, fell flat while dancing. Even worse: the marriage was over in less than two years. These days I make dinner for eight to ten people who don’t expect me to be the hostess with the mostest. The one thing I did for the bar mitzvah: cornbread for 150, to go with the fried chicken. I decided to make it in disposable pans and to slice it thin. It wasn’t as good as it should have been.

In the meantime, I still have lots of sweet corn in the freezer, so I am making a big pot of corn and chicken chowder this weekend.

 

Corn and Chicken Chowder

Adapted from “50 Chowders” by Jasper White (Scribner, New York, 2000)

 

3 ears corn (about 2 cups of kernels), fresh or frozen

4 ounces slab bacon, diced into one-third-inch dice (I used 4 ounces of bacon, diced)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (salted is fine here)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

½ large red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 cups fresh chicken stock or low-salt commercial chicken stock

kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into one-inch chunks

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup (or less) heavy cream

 

If you are using corn on the cob, husk corn, remove silk by hand, cut kernels from cobs and place in a bowl. Use back of knife and scrape down cobs, adding the milky substance to the corn.

Heat 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over low heat and add diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase heat to medium and cook until bacon is crisp. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, leaving bacon in the pot.

Add butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally, with wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until onion and pepper are tender but not browned.

Add corn, potatoes and stock, turn up heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some potatoes will have broken up. Use back of spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against side of pot. Reduce heat to medium and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken and cook until hot.

Stir cornstarch mixture and slowly pour into pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from heat and stir in cream. Adjust seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

When ready to serve, reheat chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowl and sprinkle with chopped chives or thinly sliced scallions.

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. 

 

 

Share

A la Carte: Turkey Meatball Vindaloo

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo - Food Network magazine

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo – Food Network magazine

Oh lord, that drive up I-91 to the Mass Turnpike and that interminable New York Thruway is a killer. Four groups of us made the trip to Rochester, most in separate cars: son Peter and his daughter Laurel; me alone in my car; daughter-in-law Nancy with another daughter, Casey; and another set of grandparents, Nancy’s parents Vange and Jordan Chatis. Peter called from his phone and said he and Laurel were going to detour to Troy, New York, and Famous Hotdogs for a late lunch. I met them there, ate four with the works (each hot dog and bun are three inches long) and some fries and an RC cola. Hit the Thruway at 1:30 in driving rain almost to East Bloomfield, my sister-in-law’s house, four hours later.

From that point on, it was an incredible weekend. Made pasta Bolognese, salad and lemon cake for Roslyn, her son Arran, his wife and their daughter. Later, Peter and Laurel arrived and ate, too. Breakfast was great fun the next day. That night we ate great steaks and apps and salads and dessert at Black & Blue in Pittsford (why don’t we get one of those on the shoreline?). On Sunday granddaughter Sydney graduated from University of Rochester. Driving home, it was sunshine the whole way. I got home at 4:30 and by 7:30 saw the movie “Dough” at the Garde.

Now the question: what to make for dinner and, if was good enough, write an A la Carte column. Here it is:

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo 
From Food Network magazine, May 2016, “Weeknight Cooking,” page 88

Although I don’t watch the Food Network much anymore, this magazine has some of the best recipes ever.

Yield: Serves 4 (it’s delicious the next day, too)

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion (1/4 grated, 3/4 diced)
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
2 to 3 teaspoons hot Madras curry (or regular curry mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
15-ounce can no-salt fire-roasted tomatoes (regular if you don’t have fire-roasted)
3 cups cooked white rice (or brown rice, for that matter)

Preheat boiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, ½ cup cilantro, grated onion, 2 teaspoons ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until just combined. Form into 20 meatballs (about 1 and 1/2 inches each). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and bell pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger and the curry powder. Cook, stirring to coat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1 ½ cups water and ¼ teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, broil meatballs until lightly brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Nestle the meatballs in the sauce, cover, and cook until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in half of the remaining cilantro; season with salt. Serve meatballs and sauce with the rice, and top with more cilantro, if you like.


 Nibbles: Cinnamon Ice Cream 

Almost 40 years ago, I lived in the Rochester, New York, area. I wasn’t much of a cook then. There were many supermarkets and none of them were of interest to me. I bought flour and sugar in small amounts and after years, they wound up with little black bugs in them.

Some years later, there came a supermarket called Wegman’s. It was, and is, a family-run business in Gates, New York. There are supermarket consultants that call Wegman’s the best supermarkets in the United States. Last weekend, by myself, I went to one in Canandaigua, New York. I spent more than an hour there. It is better than Whole Food, Trader Joe’s and all other supermarkets combined. I bought a pint of Wegman’s cinnamon ice cream. It was fabulous. I figured Wegman’s didn’t make it themselves. Indeed, it is probably made by Blue Bunny. Locally, Walmart and Shop Rite sell Blue Bunny. See if they have cinnamon ice cream and let me know!

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. 

Share

A la Carte: Coconut-Lime Pork Stew

Coconut Lime Pork Stew - Associated Press

Coconut Lime Pork Stew – Associated Press

A few weeks ago, I began to think about what I might make in late spring and summer, since I had just paid for my CSA (community-supported agriculture). I had already put away my pressure cooker and decided to put my slow cooker way high up over a cabinet, thinking I might not be using it until late fall, when the cooler temperatures begins, maybe mid-October. Then I thought about hot the kitchen might be in the summer, and decided I would keep it in a cabinet, since I could make desserts in it, when it is too hot to turn on the oven.

This, of course, brought me back to my computer, thinking about doing pudding cakes in my slow cooker since I love coconut and anything lemony or limey. What did I find: a recipe for a pork stew scented with coconut milk and lime juice. A stew, I thought? In May? Truth is, it is cool enough, especially at night, that it is still too cold to put my basil plants in yet.

Off I went to my faraway freezer, about a block away from my condo. Know what I found? A boneless pork roast, maybe bought in the winter when it was on sale. I know it’s odd, but I always have canned coconut milk in the pantry, a knob or two of ginger in the refrigerator’s freezer, and limes (and lemons) in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. The next day, after the roast was thawed, I made this recipe. It was delicious.

Coconut-Lime Pork Stew
Adapted from Jim Romanoff for the Associated Press

Serves 6

4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper (I used maybe 1/2 teaspoon)
3-pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1-inch chunks
flour, salt and pepper in a zippered plastic bag
14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2-inch strip (or more) lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 pound baby carrots
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions and saute until they begin to color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large plate.

Return the Dutch oven to the burner. Increase heat to high and add a couple of tablespoons of the oil. In batches, add pork to the plastic bag holding seasoned flour, toss, then put chunks in Dutch oven and cook until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate. Brown remaining pork in 3 batches, adding oil as needed.

Return onion mixture and browned pork to pot; stir in coconut milk, lime zest and juice, brown sugar, bay leaves, salt and baby carrots. Bring mixture to a simmer, cover and place in oven for 1 ½  to 1 ¾ hour, or until pork is tender. Taste; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve stew over saffron or any rice (I use those packets of flavored rice I get at Ocean State Job Lot or most supermarkets). Toss peanuts on top, if desired.


Nibbles:  Café Routier

A week or so I went to see “Keanu” at the Marquee Theater in Westbrook with my friends Nancy and  Andy, because Nancy and I love kitties and cats and the cat is the protagonist. We met at the cinema and, on the way, they made a reservation for dinner at 9:15 p.m. This is usually way past my bedtime, but a trip to Café Routier is a great reason to stay awake.

I knew what I wanted, because nobody around here does steak frites like Routier does, but the waiter first told us about the specials. One entrée include sauce Bearnaise. I asked our waiter if I might have a ramekin of that sauce, my favorite in the whole world. As we ate (oysters remoulade and trout for both of them), I ate about a quarter of the fries, dipping each into the béarnaise. And this, friends, is why I love Café Routier. The next day and the day after, I ate the steak (on a salad one day, a stir fry the next). Few places either serve great sauces or are willing to give me a few tablespoons with no questions asked.

Café Routier
1353 Boston Post Road
Westbrook
860-399-8700

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. 

Share

Talking Transportation: The ‘Lock Box’ is Log-Jammed in Hartford

locked_chestI hope you’ve been following CT-N to watch our dysfunctional legislature in recent weeks as they struggle to fill a $900 million budget gap.  Not only could they not get a new budget together before adjourning (only to be summoned back mid-May for a special session), but the legislative logjam left several important measures in limbo.  Among them, the long debated “lock box” for special transportation funding.

As I wrote weeks ago, none of Governor Malloy’s plans to spend $100 billion to rebuild and expand our transportation systems over the next 30 years can go anywhere without an agreement to safeguard those funds from misappropriation by putting them in an untouchable “lock box”.

Because the legislature couldn’t pass such a bill or even put it on the ballot as a potential constitutional amendment referendum, that puts the entire Malloy plan on hold.  Without a lock box, nobody trusts Hartford with money raised by tolling or taxes, nor should they.

The lock box idea is not new.  In fact, it was Republicans who suggested it years ago.  But when Malloy appropriated the idea as his own, GOP lawmakers saw the Governor’s version as more sieve than safe, and they held up a vote.

Folks, if lawmakers can’t agree on an annual budget, let alone a way to keep transportation funding secure, how can we trust them with $100 billion in new money?

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) track-record on private-public partnerships for transit-oriented development also gives one pause.  For example, consider the Fairfield Metro train station where a private developer went belly-up, leaving CDOT to finish the job, sort of:  the beautiful new station they built still has no waiting room.

Or consider the ongoing saga of the Stamford rail station garage.  It’s been almost three years since CDOT tapped a private developer to demolish the old garage, replace it with a high-rise office / condo / hotel and build new commuter parking lots within a quarter mile from the station.  In three years, nothing has been done because there is still no signed contract.

Yet, that project is wrapped in such secrecy that nobody understands the delay.  Or why the CDOT is even still negotiating with this laggard “developer of choice.” It couldn’t be because the developer contributed $165,000 to the Malloy campaign that he’s being given so much time, could it?  Nah, that would never happen.

So here we are, fellow Nutmeggers.  Lawmakers deadlocked.  A $900 million budget deficit to fill this year and another $2 billion hole in years ahead.  State workers are being laid-off.  State funding to towns for education is being cut (meaning local taxes rise).  Billionaires are bailing (a third of our taxes are paid by the top 1 percent).  And no prospects for a lock box … let alone more funding for transportation.  Yup, just the same old stuff as ever.

No wonder they call us “the land of steady habits.”

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

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

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

Share

A la Carte: Asparagus Soup Two Ways

asparagusmainpic_2203991bThis is the time of year I always yearn for. I think about what is available in the supermarkets (rhubarb is in!) and I will buy asparagus.

I have a few tips for you about asparagus. Buy your asparagus with tips tightly wound. It can be thin or thick (I prefer the thick ones). I cut about half an inch or an inch from the bottom with a sharp knife (I do this five or six stalks at a time). Then I peel around the stalk 2 or so inches from the top. This way, every stalk is incredibly tender.

I love roasting the asparagus in a little oil and salt. But I also love to blanch the stalks in boiling water for maybe 3-4 minutes. I serve it with a little butter and salt. Sometimes I make a hollandaise sauce, which I adore, but it may be gilding the lily (or gilding the asparagus).

I am also crazy about risotto. I would add asparagus stalks, cut on the diagonal, each about 1 inch, and add them about halfway to the point when the risotto is ready, about 10 minutes.

Here is a lovely recipe for asparagus soup from Julia Child. If you need a recipe for risotto, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I will send it to you.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed about 2 inches from bottom
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (use black if you don’t have white)
1/2 cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green tips from the asparagus stalks. Drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I strain the water into the mixture). Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley food mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color; to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold. If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

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.

Share

Legal News You Can Use: Divorce and Your Teenager

parents-arguing-350-300x200Sponsored Post: Divorce is painful for children, no matter how old they are. How kids deal with divorce greatly depends on their age and level of maturity. While younger children may cling to parents, teenagers often pull away and become uncharacteristically rebellious.

To make things even more complicated, social media has made the landscape much more dangerous. However, there are warning signs you can look out for, and the good news is that there are clear ways to make the separation and divorce process easier for teens.

How does divorce feel?

Always keep in mind that although your teenager may appear mature physically, he/she is still growing emotionally, and is not an adult on the inside. Teens have a lot going on, and divorce can pile on more drama than they are equipped to handle. They may feel angry and embarrassed. Or, they might feel responsible and blame themselves. Teens often feel torn between their loyalties to each parent. When children have been dealing with disharmony and parental fighting for a long period of time, divorce may even come as a relief. Remember, this is also the time that adolescents start thinking about their own future love life. Divorce may make them feel like they have less chance for success in love. This is all very scary and confusing for a teenager.

Struggling for independence

The teenage years are when adolescents begin to strive for more independence from family. Sometimes this desire accelerates with divorce. Kids may withdraw emotionally as a form of punishment. They may put their peers ahead of family time more than usual. This can make teenagers more susceptible to drug /alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity. It’s very important to set limits and enforce rules, while also being flexible and understanding. Your teen may not want to visit the non-resident parent. Neither parent should take this personally, and teens should be given some say in visitation schedules while still maintaining routines. Letting your child bring a friend during visitation is sometimes a nice compromise.

Social media issues

These days, almost all teenagers have cell phones and multiple social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other platforms. Make sure to enforce the same rules about cell phones and posting at both parents’ homes, and monitor social media activity. Clearly explain that everyone MUST keep personal family information and situations out of posts. Aside from obvious privacy concerns, when personal information is broadcast in a public forum, it can impact your divorce case.

Warning signs

Keep an eye out for the following behaviors in your teenager:

-Change in eating or sleeping habits

-Appearing withdrawn or depressed

-Mood swings or emotional outbursts

-Aggressive behavior; lack of cooperation

-Problems at school; drop in grades

-Losing interest in activities that were once very important to them

Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings. Be available and make sure they can always reach you. Teens need to be able to talk to either parent whenever they want, even if it’s during the other parent’s scheduled parenting time. If you are uncertain about your child’s well-being, be sure to seek professional help.

Ways to make the process easier

– Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your kids

– Don’t use your teen as a confidant to talk about new relationships

– Don’t make your teenager change schools if at all possible

Never try to be a friend rather than a parent, and DO NOT allow underage drinking or illegal activities to occur in your home.

– Do respect your teenager’s feelings, and keep his/her confidences

– Do make time for your teen, and schedule some activities individually with each child

– Do keep regular routines without being stubborn or unyielding

– Do try to attend meetings at school, doctors’ appointments, etc. with the other parent

– Do ask other adults about how your child is doing (teachers, friends’ parents, and coaches)

– Do get the support you need, from friends, family or a trained counselor. Having a healthy outlet will help you to be a better parent during this difficult time

It is achievable to have an amicable divorce, and to start a healthy new life for both you and your children.

Attorney Robert Tukey

Attorney Robert Tukey

About the author: Attorney Robert G. Tukey is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in family law. Contact him via email at rtukey@sswbgg.com or via phone at 860-442-4416 with questions about divorce and custody matters.

Share

Letter From Paris: Madrid and the Incredible Wealth of its Museums

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The silent crowd stands with emotion as it would in a cathedral, keeping respectfully a few feet away from “Guernica” – the huge (11 by 27 ft. ) scene painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937 after the bombings by the Nationalist forces led by General Franco of the Basque village of Guernica.

A weekend spent stomping the art collections of Madrid is mind-boggling. Spend six hours a day and you will only have a glimpse at the Thyssen museum, the Prado, the house studio of Sorolla and the Reina Sofia modern art museum.

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza and his son Heinrich had an unusual flair when they selected outstanding works of art in the 1920s and 1930s to create one of the world’s richest private collections.

Some of the early masterpieces at the Thyssen include, “The portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni,” (1480), which is a beautiful example of Florence Quattrocento, showing the idealized profile of a woman. “A young man in a landscape” was painted by Vittore Carpaccio, probably from the Venetian school. Nature is codified, each animal has a symbolic meaning related to good and evil.

In his “Jesus among the doctors” (1506), Durer – the most important representative of German Renaissance – the 12-year-old Jesus is surrounded by a group of old men. Some of them have been touched by grace, some have sin written all over their ugly faces, hands like claws threatening the child. In The “Portrait of a lady” (1530?) painted by Hans Baldung Grien – the remarkable disciple of Durer – the influence of Cranach the Elder is noticeable in the rendering of the decorative elements of the dress, necklaces and large hat with feathers of a supremely elegant model.

Flanders – or modern Belgium and Netherlands – was part of Spain in medieval times and the Prado has many Flemish paintings, which reflect the highly sophisticated culture of the trading towns like Ghent or Bruges. Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Gerard David or Hans Memling are the best representatives the 15th century “Northern Renaissance.”

Contacts were frequent between artists who traveled from the “Low Countries” of Northern Europe to Italy. Unlike the Italians who painted with tempura and an egg base applied over a thin layer of wet plaster,”gesso,” Flemish painters used oil directly on panels of wood without knots, such as mahogany or oak.

The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

The “Garden of Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch is one of the highlights of the Prado — it is a display of amusing, bawdy or frightening details intended to give a didactic message to the population of his time. The Flemish landscape painter Joachim Patinir (1480-525) offered panoramic views, with details at times naturalistic, at times fantastic. Instead of using linear perspective, which Florence artists had mastered at that time, his way of showing distance was by drowning the landscape in bluish colors.

One room of the Prado is turned into a gallery of family portraits of the Spanish dynasty of the Hapsburgs. An equestrian painting of Charles V (1500-1558) at the battle of Mulhberg, by Titian, shows the most powerful sovereign in the world. His kingdom went from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Velasquez painted many of his descendants: Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV and his son, the young prince Balthazar Carlos, riding a frisky horse. His death, at age 17 from small fop was a tragedy. And there is poor Charles II, the end of the Hapsburg dynasty, a total mental and physical disaster because of repeated consanguine marriages.

“Las Meninas” (ladies in waiting), also by Velasquez, is one the most famous paintings ever. It is a complex composition, which has puzzled art historians through the centuries. At the center stands the five-year-old infanta Margareta Teresa, Philip IV’s daughter. Velasquez is looking at us and working on a huge painting, which he never painted. The infanta’s parents are not far away and we see their reflection in a mirror. There are two sources of light, which is quite unusual. In 1957, inspired by the masters of the past, Picasso tackled the deconstruction of “Las Meninas,” particularly of the dog.

Velasquez (1599-1660) was the leading painter of the Spanish “Golden Age,” during the Baroque age which lasted until 1690. As a court painter, he had an immense influence living and working in the el-Escorial palace and was not only honored as an artist but also as the curator of the Kings’ art collections.

The love for animals is strong in Spanish painting. Just two examples: “Agnus Dei”, by Zurbaran (1640) showing a lamb with its four legs garroted is probably the most heartbreaking sight in the Prado, with the animal accepting his fate. The other one is a dog by Goya. In an undefined brownish background of sand and sky, a dog is looking in panic at his master as he is being pulled down by quicksand.

It was not until 1840 that Spanish art began to be known in France. The Pyrenees constituted an insurmountable barrier separating Spain from the rest of Europe. In 1835, French King Louis Philippe sent Baron Isidore Taylor to Spain to acquire some Spanish paintings intended for the future Galerie Espagnole or Spanish Gallery at the Louvre. After his visit to Spain in 1865, Manet said, “the scales fell off my eyes.” The Spanish influence on Manet and Courbet is clear, especially their use of black.

Beside the works of the well-known artists like Miro, Dali or Juan Gris, the presence of Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945), Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923), Santiago Rossignol (1861-1931), and Ramon Casas (1866-1933) at the Reina Sofia museum attests to the importance of Spanish contemporary art.

'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It hangs today in the Reine Sofia Museum in Madrid.

In the attic of the old convent of Grands Augustins, near the Seine, Picasso completed “Guernica” – probably the most important artistic statement of the 20th century against war. The Spanish civil war from 1936 to 1939 left 500,000 dead. Dora Maar, his companion, photographed each stage of the work , leaving a unique document on the creative process of the artist.

The composition is a frieze, powerful, fluid, easy to read and devoid of any narrative. The horse and the bull – the main actors of the bullfight about which he was so passionate – are treated like human characters. The horse underwent many changes from deep suffering to the defiance he shows in raising his head. The bull is aloof and protective of the population. The dead warrior lying on the ground has the profile of Marie Therese Walter, his previous companion. To balance the duo of bull and horse, Picasso created a screaming mother, head thrown back, with a tongue like a dagger, her dead child hanging limp from her arm.

Painted in May and June of 1937, “Guernica” traveled the world, stayed several years at MOMA at the request of Picasso, then returned to Spain in 1981 and hangs today in the Reina Sofia museum of Madrid, never to be moved again.

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

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

Share

Talking Transportation: The Quiet Car Conundrum

quiet-car-newerSixteen years ago a group of regular commuters on Amtrak’s early morning train to DC had a great idea. Why not designate one car on the train as a “Quiet Car,” free from cellphone chatter and loud conversations. The railroad agreed and the experiment proved a great success.

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

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

There were no signs in the cars and only occasional PA announcements before departure reminding folks of the quiet, library-like environment that was expected in the car. Most of all, conductors wouldn’t enforce the new rules.  But why?

Conductors seem to have no trouble reminding passengers to keep their feet off the seats or put luggage in the overhead racks. But all that the railroad expected them to do to enforce the Quiet Car rules was to pass out bilingual “Shhh cards” to gabby violators. It seemed left to passengers to remind fellow riders what a Quiet Car was for, and confrontations resulted.

Then this spring the railroad surprised even me by announcing an expansion of the program: every weekday train, peak and off-peak, would now have two Quiet Cars!  Sounds great, but without signage or education, the battles continued.

One commuter from Fairfield recently e-mailed me with a typical tale: Riding in a Quiet Car he became annoyed when a fellow passenger was yakking on her cellphone.  He tapped her on the shoulder and told her, “We’re in a Quiet Car” and she freaked, telling him to “keep your @&%! hands off of me” and continuing her chatter by telling her caller that “some guy” just tried to tell her to get off her phone and what a fool he was to think this was some kind of quiet car.

Of course there was no conductor around (all tickets having been collected) and lacking any signage in the car to point to, the offended passenger was made to feel like some sort of jerk.

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

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

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: 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, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

Share

A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Thighs

I am basically a homebody. I build my own nest and I like being there. I sit on the couch, put a cushion on my lap and ask Elderlee, one of my two cats, to sit with me, although she  doesn’t need convincing; when I say I have to get up, she stretches, hopefully without her nails deep into my legs (hence the cushion).

A couple of weeks ago I spent almost eight days away. During those nights and days, I was on four different planes, or in my brother’s car (in Pittsburgh) or my own (Newbury, Massachusetts, or Portland and Kennebunkport, Maine). I got home on Easter. The following day there were meetings. I stayed up late to see the UConn women beat Texas. I am tired.

But, as Evita sang, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.” While away, I had dinner at Lidia’s in Pittsburgh, Lidia Bastianich’s first outside-of-New-York-City restaurant (the food was delicious) and had poutine at Duck Fat in Portland (Belgian-cooked french fries drenched in duck gravy and topped with fresh cheese curds and chives—not for everyone but I just love it). Also in Portland, dinner at Fore Street (an amazing restaurant), bought two different kinds of boules and baguettes at Standard Bakery and finally, the last night, at a restaurant at Outlier (maybe better than Fore Street).

When I dropped my daughter-in-law and two of my granddaughters at their home, I perused the Boston Globe. I asked my daughter-in-law if I could cut out a recipe for chicken thighs from the magazine section. When I finally drove my car into the garage at home, I took a package of chicken thighs out of the freezer. Yesterday I made the following recipe. It is simply delicious. I think it will be even better tonight.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon, Cumin and Garlic
From Weekend Roasted Chicken by Adam Ried (Boston Globe magazine, Sunday, March 27, 2016

Serves 4 (2 thighs apiece)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced or grated garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
A couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a small bowl, mix garlic, cinnamon, cumin, parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and oil into a uniform paste (you should have about 1/2 cup). Rinse and dry chicken pieces. Rub the chicken pieces with mixture, carefully loosening the skin to work some paste over it, and then replace the skin. With a sharp paring knife, cut a 1-inch slash into the skin on each. Refrigerate (or not) for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. With the rack on the center position, set the baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces skin down on the hot baking sheet and roast until skin has begun to render and brown, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over (taking care not to rip the skin) and continue roasting until the skin is somewhat dark brown, the meat begins to pull away from the bone and the chicken registers 180 to 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Switch the oven setting to broil and broil the chicken until skin is deep browned and very crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, to a platter and rest 5 minutes. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them, if desired, and serve.


Nibbles: NV Bakery & Market

A few mornings ago, with errands to run from New London to East Lyme, I stopped at NV Bakery & Market for a quick breakfast.

It is really something else. There are crepes and breakfast items and sandwiches and more crepes (really, can there possibly be too many crepes ever?) and salads and coffee and pastries. And there are shelves and shelves of gourmet products (Italian, French, Greek and a few boxes of matzo and jars of gefilte fish). I ordered an egg and bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee while I read The Day (I had my own, but there are lots of newspapers available to read for free). The sandwich was just delicious. By the way, the ladies who own the restaurant NV across the street own this place, too. It, too, feels like you are in their kitchen.

NV Bakery & Market
40 Boston Post Road (in Benny’s parking lot)
Waterford
860-574-9038

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. 

Share

Op-Ed: Proposing a Memorial to Dick Smith

Like so many of our Deep Riverites, I am saddened beyond words by the sudden and truly tragic death of our dear First Selectman Dick Smith.

Few among us are not aware of how he labored continuously for years and years for the physical improvement of our town in so many ways as well as the enhancement of life for all of us who call this home.

The question now is,  what would be a meaningful and enduring memorial to remind us and those who will follow us of his great efforts?

Suggestions will come up, I’m sure.  And the more, the better.

I would like to propose one right now.  Simple.  I suggest re-naming our Plattwood Park “The First Selectman Dick Smith Memorial Park.”

After all, I for one have no idea why it was ever called Plattwood.  That has no emotional or historic pizzazz for me.  If it does for you, please let me know.  But I would find calling it the Dick Smith Park very powerful.

As we know so well, it was Dick who spear-headed the transformation of Plattwood from a weedy, don’t-bother-to-look-at-it-twice waterhole to the great and beautiful recreational complex that it is today—and with the ambitious work still going on.  A park that is the envy of many other small towns, which have become aware of it!

I further propose that a big, handsome boulder chosen with care from the quarry next door be set at the very entrance to the Dick Smith Park.  With a bronze plaque set into its face that would have both a smiling profile of Dick, yes, in genuine  bronze, plus our words of praise and pride and thanks.  He’s earned them.

Thus would his love of Deep River and his long and record-setting career of service for our town (and us) be proclaimed to all who enter the park.  He deserves no less.

One more thought: we might organize a tribute-writing contest for the plaque.  We have a lot of talent in town … 

A maximum number of abc’s (words and spaces) would be allowed for the plaque.

The especially appointed plaque committee would reserve the right to select the best submission in whole.  Or, if it chooses, just thoughts and phrases from the top three submissions, say.  With these best thoughts and phrases to be assembled into a final, terrific composite.  Of course, prizes would be awarded.

After all, those are the words that would be read by all entering our wonderful Dick Smith Park for decades and decades to come.

I suspect Dick is in a place where he’d be aware of this going on and would break out into an even bigger smile.

P.S. A very fine chairman for this committee would be Rev. Tim Haut.  A very fine member would be Jonathan Kastner.  I would ask for recommendations for another three, say.  Making sure there would be at least two women.  One of these would be our fine local professional writer and editor Christine Woodside.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of John Guy LaPlante.

Share

Letter from Paris: Moderate, Radical Islamists in France — a Difficult Cohabitation

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Introduction 

For years the buzz word in France has been “amalgam.” On ne doit pas faire l’amalgame entre Islam modéreé et Islamisme radical. (One must not confuse moderate Islam and radical Islamism.)  After the repeated terrorist attacks in France and Belgium and with the discovery of other jihadist enclaves, it is hard to keep making that distinction.  The voice of moderate Muslims has been barely audible lately.  Until they start speaking with a stronger voice, the cohabitation within our democratic and secular society is becoming more difficult.

Belgium

Belgium was the last victim of terrorist attacks when, on March 22, 34 people died at Zaventem airport and at Malbeek metro station (close to the European Commission offices) combined.

Why Belgium?  For the past two decades, it has been a divided country between Flemish and Walloon languages and cultures.   It remained without a central government for 18 months.  How can such country produce six parliaments and six governments? asked David Van Reybrouck, a Dutch-speaking Belgian writer in Le Monde dated March 28.  The author of the article adds with irony, “… and the icing on the cake is the creation by the government of a Commission communautaire commune” (joint Commission of communities.)

It was in Molenbeek that the four and a half month-long chase of Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in the Nov. 13 Paris attack, ended.  Molenbeek is one of  the 19 Brussels municipalities — it has a population of 93,000 with 80 percent of them Muslim, 56 percent of them unemployed and 24 mosques.  After the closing of the coal mines and the steel plants in northern France in the 1980s and 1990s, many of the workers  emigrated to Belgium.  Molenbeek is a typical agglomeration of a second generation Maghreb population – more specifically of Rifains, coming from the Rif mountains of Morocco.  It constitutes almost a self-ruled community, many of whose members are related and even siblings.  No better safe haven for people running away from the law. 

Belgium has been described as the “ventre mou” (litterally the soft belly), in other words, the weak link, of Europe. Patrick Kanner, one of the French ministers made the chilling remark, “but there are tens of Molenbeeks in France “.

France on the front line

France is, in fact, on the front line of the confrontation with radical Islamism.

The weekly Le Point‘s issue of March 24 describes the long history of France’s interaction with the Arabs. It started with the 732 AD defeat of the Saracens at Poitiers by Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne. Then came The Crusades and subsequently Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt in 1798.  The French began their conquest of Algeria in 1830 and made it a part of France.  The country gained its independence after the bloody war of  1954-1962.  France established protectorates in Tunisia in 1881 and in Morocco in 1912 until 1955.  At the present time, France has become the “gendarme” across the Sahel region, ready to deploy its forces to stop extremist groups. 

Gilles Kepel, professor at Sciences Po and an authority on Islam, has  just published “Terreur dans l’Hexagone – Genèse du Dhihad Français,” in which he stresses the deep-rooted antagonism of the North African population for the former colonial power and the existence of a specific French jihadism.  Acts of terrorism in France are accomplished by individuals with French nationality. The country holds the sad record of having the highest number of jihadists in theEuropean Union who have gone to Syria. 

Eiffel-Tower-322x252Kepel, sees a correlation between politics and the spread of Islamism in France.  He remarks that, during the 2012 elections, François Hollande benefited from 93 percent of the Muslim electorate voting for him.  Kepel believes, as most other Islam scholars do, that the problem our society is facing is cultural.  He criticizes the unpreparedness of the political elites for the ongoing debate about religions.  He deplores the fact that insufficient public funds have been allocated both to research and Middle East studies.

Mohammed Sifaoui is a brillant French journalist born in Algeria, who is quite forthright in expressing his opinions.  He advocates a relentless reprisal against the preachers of violence in the 2,000 mosques and Koranic schools of France.  Sifaoui’s opinion is that we have to abandon the attitude that only the FN (Front National party) has a right to fight back against the Islamists.  Besides, he says, we should stop treating these people as victims from discrimination.

Daesch

After the fall and occupation of Fallouja in Irak in 2014, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi became the self-appointed ruler of the Islamic State organization or Daesch. (The “ch” sound stands for “sham” meaning Levant in Arabic ) The objective of this organization is to re-create a caliphate reminiscent of the golden years of  the 661-750 AD Ommayad and 750-1258 AD Abbasid caliphates. The totalitarian organization banished the Wahhabism and any other doctrines of Islam and has broken all ties with Al-Qaeda.  Al-Baghdadi gave his founding speech at the great mosque of Mossoul, dressed in black like the Abbasids. 

Mathieu Guidère, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toulouse 2, a learned scholar in geopolitics with a PhD in the Arabic language, believes that the objective of Daesch is to build a state, anchored solidly in a territory, with the elimination of the 1916 Sykes-Picot borders.  Its aim is also to break up the cohesion of Europe.  So far, we are still only at the initial stage of “collateral terrorism,” comments Guidère. 

The riposte

Alain Bauer, professor of  applied criminology at the Conservatoire  des Arts et Metiers, former advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and Manuel Valls on security and counter-espionage, says, “The problem is that we seem to have too much information and not enough analysis.  We still do not have the ability to connect the dots.  We have a brain and two ears and four ears will not help ” He concludes, “What we need is a return to Human Intelligence.”  Bauer and Guidère agree that there should be a European Intelligence agency but several states oppose it for fear of losing part of their sovereignty.  The creation of a PNR (personal name register) still awaits a vote.

Euro 2016 – the European soccer championship – will be held in France in June. This means, on the one hand, a great deal of excitement for millions of spectators, but on the other, an equal — or even greater amount — of nervousness for the security forces.

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

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

Share

Talking Transportation: Why There’s No Wi-Fi On Metro-North

wifi-train-600x397A few weeks ago a friend was showing me his new Chevy Volt.  Not only does the hybrid-electric car get 42 mpg, it has its own Wi-Fi hotspot.  That’s right.  The car is a Wi-Fi device, so kids in the backseat can watch YouTube.

Days later we were on a road-trip from the Maryland shore when we caught the Lewes – Cape May ferry.  Onboard the vessel they offered passengers free Wi-Fi.

Airlines have offered flyers Wi-Fi for years now. Discount bus lines like Megabus have free Wi-Fi.  Even Connecticut’s new CTfastrak commuter bus system to Hartford gives its passengers free Wi-Fi.

But there is no Wi-Fi on Metro-North.  And the railroad says none is planned, even though the new M8 railcars are ready for the needed gear.  And therein lies a story.

Offering Wi-Fi on a moving vehicle usually involves cellular technology.  That’s how the first airline Wi-Fi was offered by companies like Go-Go, though JetBlue and Southwest now rely on proprietary satellite systems, which are much faster (up to 30 mb per second.)

When Amtrak first offered Wi-Fi on its Acela trains between Washington and Boston, they immediately had bandwidth issues.  So many passengers were using their cell phones and tablets, speeds dropped to 0.6 mb per second and the complaints came pouring in.

That’s part of the reason that Metro-North is reluctant to offer Wi-Fi:  if an Acela train carrying 300 passengers can’t handle the online load, how could a 10-car train carrying a thousand commuters?  The railroad has enough complaints as it is.

Metro-North’s experience with on-board communications has left them feeling burned.  Remember years ago when the railroad installed pay-phones on the trains?  Great idea, until a year later when costs came down and everyone had their own cell phone.  Those pay cell phone booths went unused and were eventually removed.

Back in 2006 then-President of MNRR Peter Cannito said Wi-Fi would be built into the new M8 cars, both for passengers and to allow the railcars to “talk” to HQ by beaming diagnostic reports.  The railroad issued an RFP for ideas and got a number of responses, including from Cablevision, with whom they negotiated for many months.  They even initiated on-train testing of Wi-Fi gear on one railcar.

But Metro-North insisted any Wi-Fi would have to cost it nothing, that all the expense and tech risk would be borne by Cablevision or its customers.  And that’s where the negotiations deadlocked.

Today the railroad sees Wi-Fi as just a convenience.  Smart phones and cell-card configured laptops can access the internet just fine, they say, using cellular technology.  But to their credit the railroad is trying to get cell providers to fill in the coverage gaps, for example, in the tunnels and at GCT.

So don’t look for Wi-Fi anytime soon on America’s biggest and busiest commuter railroad.  It’s not seen as a necessity … except perhaps by its passengers who really have no other transportation option.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

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

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

Share

Letter From Paris: The Immortal Chekhov Rises Again in Paris

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Chekhov will never die!

This winter four of his plays appeared on the Paris stages: two short one-act plays (“The Swan” and “The Bear”) at the Studio de la Comédie Française, “Three Sisters” at theTheatre de la Colline and “The Cherry Orchard” at the Theatre de l’Ile Saint Louis-Paul Rey. I chose the latter.

The first time I saw a play by Chekhov was at the Moscow Art Theater (MXAT) in downtown Moscow in the mid 1960s. The production and the reception by the public were electric. In those days, theater was the only possible evasion from a drab and controlled life for Soviet citizens. The audience knew by heart and relished every single line beautifully spoken by the adulated actors. Period clothes, settings and furnishing provided an authentic reconstitution of life in a run-down country estate.

What is amazing is that Anton Chekhov’s plays, written under the Tsarist regime, lasted through the Soviet era, although he depicted members of the idle bourgeoisie, about to disappear from the surface of the earth. Other playwrights were not so lucky. Some of the controversial plays – Bulgakov’s for instance – did not make it through censorship and were suddenly removed from Moscow stages.

Chekhov’s universal message explains why his plays still attract huge audiences around the world — in different languages and re-adapted by directors. His “inward-looking” realism came from a traditional line of dramatic art founded by Constantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938), one of the greatest founders of theater staging and philosophy of all times.

The_cherry_Orchard‘The Cherry Orchard,’ created at MXAT in January, 1904, was Chekhov’s last play. Six months later he died in his Yalta “white house.” Obliged to live far away from Moscow, in the warmer climate of the Crimea because of his tuberculosis, it was hard for him to give long-distance stage directions to his high-spirited wife, actress Olga Knipper.

In the play, Liubov Andreevna Ranevskaya, her daughter Ania, age 17, and adopted daughter Varia, age 30, just returned to Russia from five years spent in France. The family was crippled with debts and the creditors were forcing the sale. A retinue of servants, some of them providing a light touch of vaudeville, and penniless hangers-on, are part of the large household.

The main character is Ermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin, full of energy, ideas, and, apparently money. He is trying to convince Liubov Andreevna to sell the estate with the cherry orchard to a developer who will build small houses for vacationers. But she is not interested in money; if things do not work out, she will return to Paris and live off an inheritance. Lopakhin was a slave or “soul” owned by the Liubov’s family. This former muzhik is now rich and ambitious.

His antithesis is Petr Sergueevich Trofimov, the eternal student who lives in a world of noble ideas, philosophy and poetry. He tells Lopakhin, “Soon you will be a millionaire. Sharks are needed also.” Such archetypes exist in many countries.

The Theater of Ile St Louis is the smallest theater in Paris with only 50 seats. The full cast of 12 characters barely fitted on the tiny stage and looked like giants. The set was limited to two benches and the period clothes to the slim laced-up boots of the women. When, at the end of the play, the spectators heard the chain saw felling the cherry trees and noticed the very old servant forgotten in the locked-up house, the emotion was intense.

I went on feeling that emotion while walking along the rushing grey waters of the Seine river.

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

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

Share

A la Carte: Celebrate Spring with a Little Lamb Stew

Braised Lamb with Spinach - Gourmet magazine

Braised Lamb with Spinach – Gourmet magazine

Last Saturday, I took a bunch of hamburgers along with some hamburger rolls out of the freezer. It had been a nice week, and I thought I might fire up the grill and pretend it was almost summer. After all, not only were my crocuses up and gorgeous, but so were my little daffodils. I hadn’t seen my lilies of the valley, but it is my birthday flower and, I thought, they would be popping up soon.

Then Sunday happened. By the time I woke up, there had been a little snow but the temp was in the high thirties. I made a chicken soup with carrots and celery and onions, since I was going to drive to Cromwell to see a middle school show directed by Tom Sullivan. His wife, Barbara, and I have become good friends and she mentioned that Tom had a horrible respiratory upset but had been working all week to get the show on the stage. What could I do but make chicken soup for him?

I left the house at 11:30. There had been snow, odd snow, gigantic flakes, maybe hail? I made it to Cromwell, adored the play and, then drove to Norwich to watch the women’s game. No problem driving home and I watched the second game and went to sleep. The cats let me sleep until 9:30. I opened one eye. No, it couldn’t be. Snow! Not one to let a little bad weather stop me, I had to make a decision—would I drive to Connecticut College to hear Bryan Stevenson talk about his book, Just Mercy? Sure, why not? Got there okay but scared myself to death driving home. Once into the kitchen, I tossed the hamburgers and rolls back into the freezer and took out some lamb. Tomorrow I will make lamb stew instead.

Braised Lamb with Spinach
From Gourmet, March 1991

Serves 4-6

8 garlic cloves
1 ½-inch cube peeled fresh gingerroot
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
3 onions, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 and one-quarter pound fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted lightly

In a blender, purée the garlic and the gingerroot with 1/3 cup water; set aside. In a heavy kettle, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then brown the lamb, patted dry, in batches. With tongs, transfer lamb as it is browned to a bowl. To the skillet add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, heat until hot but not smoking, and fry the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until the cloves are puffed slightly. Add the onions and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic purée and cook the mixture, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and yogurt, simmer the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the lamb, salt and 1 cup water.

Bring the mixture to a boil and braise it, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the lamb is tender. The lamb mixture may be prepared up to this point 2 days in advance. Let the lamb cool, uncovered, then chill it, covered.

At serving time, reheat the lamb mixture. In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch water to a boil, add the spinach, and steam, covered, for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Drain the spinach in a colander.
Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Distribute the spinach over the stew and stir it in gently. Transfer the stew to a heated serving dish and sprinkle with the pine nuts.


Nibbles:  Coney Island Hard Root Beer

One of the perks of writing about cooking, instead of writing restaurant reviews, is that I can go to restaurant press dinners, since being anonymous isn’t necessary anymore.

Last Friday I went with friend Elise Maclay to Tale of the Whale in Stamford. The food was almost all seafood, from tuna tartare (one of my very favorite dishes) to fish tacos and an edgy bouillabaisse with at least five or six different fishes. Did I need dessert? Not really, but along came a Celebration Sundae (with at least a quart of ice cream and toppings), chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches and an adult root beer float. I decided against the first two but fell in love with the float. The next day I stopped at a local liquor store and asked if there was such a thing as adult root beer. I bought a six-pack of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. A 12-ounce bottle is 5.8 percent alcohol. I don’t drink hard liquor (or beer) but, in a tall glass with good ice cream and whipped cream, I could be converted.

Share

A la Carte: Ricotta Cheese Pie

2013-04-05-springform-pan-pouringcheesecake_580This was an odd Easter weekend for me. On Good Friday, I picked up my daughter-in-law Nancy and second-youngest granddaughter Casey in Newbury, Massachusetts, then drove up to Kennebunkport Inn.

It all began with an e-mail from the beautiful hotel in Maine. It is less expensive to spend a day or two there in the late fall, winter and early spring, but the advertisement said it would be even less so for March and April, with a special discount of 29 percent. Hmmm, it was time to visit my cousins from Portland (she a breeder of Corgis, he a retired AP reporter). Perhaps a Friday night dinner at Fore Street (one of the many in Portland) and a visit with cousins Adrienne and Jerry. So I called Nancy, and asked if it was time for a road trip. (Our last had been last year in Boston to see a Bette Midler concert and an overnight stay in a boutique hotel in walking distance from the concert.) She was game and said, since it was a school holiday for Casey, could she come too? What a treat I said. She is a high school sophomore and great company.

I called the Kennebunkport Inn, doubting there would be rooms available, but we got one big room with two double beds and a twin for Friday and Saturday. Not only that, I got a reservation for us at Fore Street on Friday night. By the way, Nancy and Casey are Greek; my cousins are Jewish, as am I; so we celebrate Greek Easter and Passover (which isn’t a Jewish Easter but a spring kind-of festival) later this spring.

In any case, I didn’t make Easter dinner for anyone and, hopefully, I will be invited to Greek Easter. Here is what I will make. It is a luscious dessert that everyone loves.

Ricotta Cheese Pie

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:
1 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar (no sugar if using cookie crumbs)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer cookie or vanilla wafer crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy aluminum foil.

To make the crust, in a bowl combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter (this can be done in the food processor). Press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan, saving a few for the top. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the cheesecake filling, in your food processor or electric mixer, mix ricotta, cream and sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in flour and salt; then add eggs, one at a time, processing or beating until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla extract and cinnamon and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to overmix.

Bake about 50 to 60 minutes, or until cheesecake is set, yet moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the edges of the cheesecake will have some browning). Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.


Nibbles: Perk on Main

A couple of weeks ago, I judged the 14th Annual Chocolate to the Rescue. For the past few years, the fundraiser benefits the Middlesex Family Shelter and, according to John Roberts, executive director, I have judged each year since its inception.

As always, the chocolate was delicious. I am not sure who won but the chocolate seems to get better and better every year. My favorite this year was from Perk on Main, primarily because it was warm crepes folded around warm chocolate, raspberries and blueberries. Even better, it is a café that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in two different locations: 6 Main Street in Durham and 20 Church Street in Guilford. And if that were not enough, there is Perk on Wheels. Check out www.perkonmain.com.

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. 

Share

Letter From Paris: A Divided Europe is Too Weak to Resist Turkish Pressure

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The European Union (EU) is going through what most consider the toughest times in its history. The surge of migrants, not only from the Middle East but also from South East Asia and Africa, has provoked an untenable human crisis on the continent. It is threatening the fundamental principles on which the (EU) was built. In desperation, Europe turned to Turkey for help and became the prey of an authoritarian government whose main objective is to force its way into the EU.

More than ever Angela Merkel has become the homme fort (the strong man) of Europe. She is the only one among the 28 heads of state of the EU to have taken a clear stand on how to manage the migrant crisis – albeit without a well-thought-out plan. The general opinion here is that, as a good pastor’s daughter, she has been motivated by a sense of moral duty when she opened her arms to the migrants at the end of 2015.

German Chancellor Angela merkel shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the historic agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the historic agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

On the flip side, her methods have irked many Europeans such as her several one-on-one talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The day before the crucial March 7 meeting in Brussels, she met Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davitoglu for a six-hour long discussion, which lasted late into the night in an hotel near the Commission. The only officials present were Jean Claude Junker, president of the European Commission and Netherland Mark Rutte, president of the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Council).

The French daily Le Monde described what happened in an article titled, “The night when Angela Merkel lost Europe.” On the morning of March 7, diplomats and EU officials were stunned to discover the text of the pre-agreement. None of them had been in the loop, not even Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, who had talked to every single EU leader state seeking to create a consensual policy.

To speak in the German Chancellor’s defense, however, one should stress the pitiful lack of solidarity between the 28 EU members. From the start the Visegrad group (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic) – a remnant from the former Iron Curtain countries – closed their borders to the migrants. Other East European countries like Bulgaria and Rumania are also opposed to mandatory refugee quota.

The chancellor felt betrayed when, on Feb. 24, Austria called a meeting of the Balkan states to stop the influx of migrants. Greece, the Balkan country most affected by the migrant crisis, was not invited. Neither Brussels nor Berlin was notified. David Cameron is too embroiled with his Brexit issue to get involved.

France has its own problems — it is still recovering from the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, it does not want to help the right wing Front National by opening its borders too much and it is busy fighting radical Islam in five countries of the Sahel. The “Franco-German couple” was described by some people as “moribund.”

As regional elections were approaching, Merkel made a 180 degree turn by tightening her immigration policy. It was back to realpolitik lest public opinion forgets that she is a tough politician.

The German elections on March 13 did reflect the growing opposition to the influx of migrants. The populist parties made substantial gains in the three Landers, both in the affluent West and in the remnant of the poorer RDA : in Bad Wurtenberg the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) gained 15.1 percent and in Rhineland Palatinate 12.6 percent. In Saxe-Anhalt , AfD placed second, right behind the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) with 24.3 percent of the votes.

Daniel Cohn Bendit, former “green” euro-deputy commented, “What is important is that 55-60 percent of the German population still supports Angela Merkel’s policy regrading the migrants. Such scores would make many politicians green with envy.”

On March 18, the negotiations between the EU and Turkey toward the final agreement looked like a haggling process with a “toxic but needed partner,” to use the words of Pierre Servent, military expert. Immediately the text raised violent criticisms across the board.

The plan concocted by Davitoglu is complicated, requiring extremely challenging logistics to implement. The objectives are to stop the drownings, curtail the despicable activities of the passeurs (smugglers), legalize entry into Europe of persons entitled to asylum and send back to their countries of origin the “economic refugees.” From now on all the migrants arriving in Greece – whether “real” refugees or not – will be shipped back to Turkey. Then, for one Syrian refugee leaving Europe, one Syrian refugee will return to Europe through an humanitarian corridor.

Turkey will be the central player of the plan, which it will co-steer with the UN Frontex agency. For this job Turkey expects to receive another three billion Euros. Some commentators describe the whole process as a mass deportation. Legal experts find the plan to be a violation of human rights as written in the European constitution and in the 1949 Geneva convention on the right to asylum.

The task is herculean, commented Jean Claude Yunker. A heavy responsibility is being placed on Greece. Judges, translators, and up to 4,000 people will have to be hired to process the human flow. France and Italy worry that the migrants, in order to avoid Turkey, will look for other access routes to Europe .

Turkey demanded two sets of compensation for services rendered: simplification of visa requirements for Turkish individuals traveling to Europe and acceleration of Turkey’s acceptance into the EU. At first the European negotiators wanted these topics to be red lines not to be crossed. They had to be satisfied with the inclusion of a few caveats in the text — 72 criteria for obtaining a visa; only one chapter open for the membership discussion and not five as Turkey wanted.)

It is to be expected that Europe will drag its feet to accommodate Turkey. After 52 years, its position on Turkey still has not changed — it does not think Turkey belongs in Europe.

The migrant crisis has left Europe weaker, not very proud of itself and more divided than ever.

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

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

Share

A la Carte: Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

I love social media, but before I tell you why I do, here is what I do not love. I never, ever have a meal, at my house, someone else’s house or in a restaurant with my cell phone next to my plate. If I forget to turn my phone off at a movie, I turn it off as soon as the note on the screen asks. If I am in a meeting and forget to turn it off and someone calls me, I turn it off without looking to see who called. I don’t text. My friends know that. As soon as someone tells me why I should text, I listen to their reasons. No one has yet convinced me.

Here is what I love: I have met friends from high school, many decades ago, and I am thrilled we are “friends” again. I love seeing what cookbook authors, chefs and teachers are up to. I love the fact that I can order tickets, books and gift certificates for myself, my friends and my children and grandchildren. Yesterday I bought four sets of tickets for the UConn women’s basketball games at Gampel. When the brackets were set, UConn e-mailed me the tickets. I print them.

I also love that I can “meet” friends I have never met. Seven years ago, I wrote about the fact that my husband had died. Sybil Nassau had just lost her husband and we e-mailed back and forth for years. A few weeks ago, we met at the Shoreline Diner in Guilford. She reads my columns; I e-mail her when I know about gluten-free menus, recipes and new products. She herself is gluten-intolerant (though she does not have celiac disease). I am not. She is branch manager of GIG, Gluten-Intolerance Group. Her daughter writes the newsletter. She gave me a copy in which there are a dozen recipes. So many supermarkets have shelves and shelves of gluten-free products. Even the King Arthur catalog has pages and pages of gluten-free products (kingarthurflour.com). This recipe looks great.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together apples, sugar, water, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg until well combined. Set aside.

Make the oatmeal topping*: In a bowl, gently combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and butter until crumbly.

Place apple mixture in the dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are cooked through, juices are bubbling and topping is browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*You can quadruple or even more, then save the topping in little plastic and freeze for more crisps you might make.


Nibbles: Tiano Smokehouse

On a recent Sunday morning, before I had to drive to Middletown to judge chocolate at Chocolate to the Rescue, a fundraiser for Columbus House, I read a review in the New York Times. Tiano Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Middletown, got a rave from Rand Richards Cooper. As Joan Gordon and I drove to Middletown, we talked about stopping at Tiano to get some ‘cue. (Joan is the only friend I have who would, for sure, go to a restaurant right after we judge chocolate.)

What a find this place is. We took lots of food for takeout. I ordered a pulled pork dinner—half a pound of pork so perfect that I never added barbecue sauce on it, creamy mac and cheese (they also have one they called macaroni Alfredo), creamed spinach and a luscious piece of cornbread.  I figured I would eat half that night and the rest the following night. Ate it all in one sitting.

Tiano Smokehouse, 482 South Main Street, Middletown, 860-358-9828

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. 

 

Share

Talking Transportation: Is Uber Really a Bargain?

In the almost two years since Uber rolled into Connecticut, the state’s car/taxi service business has been rocked to its core.  But is Uber competing on the same level as taxis and car service companies?  Of course not, which is why it’s so successful.

I spoke with Uber’s Connecticut Manager Matt Powers and Drivers Unlimited (a Darien car & limo company) owner Randy Klein to try to get an objective comparison of the services.  (Full disclosure:  I have been a customer of both firms.)

While Uber does offer a “black car” (premium) service, my comparisons are with their more popular Uber X service … private cars driven by non-chauffeurs, 7,000 of whom have signed up as drivers in CT, according to Powers.

VEHICLES:  Car services opt for Lincoln Town Cars and SUV’s.  Uber X just requires drivers have a 4-door car, less than 10 years old with a trunk big enough to carry a wheelchair.

MAINTENANCE:  Klein owns and maintains his own fleet, inspecting all cars weekly.  Uber relies on its X drivers to do upkeep.

DRIVER SCREENING:  Klein does his own background checks on top of the DMV screening required for a CDL (commercial drivers license).  Uber says it does “rigorous” screening of drivers, including terrorist watch lists, but requires only a regular driver’s license.  Klein’s firm also does random drug testing of his drivers.

INSURANCE:  Klein has coverage of up to $1.5 million for every driver.  Uber relies on the individual driver’s personal insurance but layers a $1 million policy on top when they are driving Uber customers.

RATINGS:  Uber asks drivers and passengers to rate each other after every trip.  Klein asks passengers to rate drivers but says it’s unfair to allow drivers to rate customers. “We’re in a service business,” he says.

BOOKING:  Klein says most of his reservations are made two to three weeks in advance.  Uber doesn’t do advance bookings, though, in personal experience, I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a car.

FARES:  Though not an apples-to-apples comparison, an average car service ride from Darien to LaGuardia Airport is anywhere from $130 – $180, one-way.  Uber’s quote for an X car is about $75.

SURGE PRICING:  When demand is highest, Uber adds a surcharge to fare quotes, sometimes doubling the fare.  Klein says his rates are the same 24 x 7.

IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS:  Klein says his office can be reached anytime by phone, toll-free.  Uber’s website offers a template to file complaints online.

So, is Uber really a bargain?  Let me answer with a hotel analogy.  Sometimes I love staying at the Ritz Carlton with its plush rooms and fabulous service.  Other times, a Motel 6 or LaQuinta is fine, though there’s always the risk of a “surprise”.

I see car services the same way.  With a plush Lincoln SUV and chauffeur you get what you pay for.  But sometimes all you want is to get from home to the airport and an Uber X is just fine … and a lot cheaper!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: 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, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

Share

Letter From Paris: The Trump Phenomenon – a View From Europe     

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Editor’s Note: With a pivotal day happening today in respect of the Republican Presidential Primary, we feel this latest article by our columnist from Paris is perfectly timed. Nicole Prévost Logan lives in Essex, CT, during the warmer months and winters in Paris, France. For these reasons, she is ideally placed to write a commentary on the ‘Trump Phenomenon’ through European eyes … but with American understanding. She also she has a lifetime of diplomatic service behind her and we venture to suggest that she understands the complexities of foreign diplomacy significantly better than several of the current US Presidential candidates!

Public opinion in Europe continues to follow the US 2016 elections in real time. The interest went up a notch after “Super Tuesday” — for election analysts, it is a campaign unlike any other. They describe it as a contest between moderates and radicals rather than between Democrats and Republicans. Donald Trump’s performance intrigues every one and is being closely scrutinized by both seasoned and brand new election-watchers.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Trump does not fit in with the traditional image of a GOP candidate. Commentators here label him as a “national populist” combined with a vision of the American dream, i.e., you too can become rich like me. French ambassador Bujon de l’Etang writes that Trump is not a real Republican since he advocates an interventionist government which would take such protectionist measures as taxes on imports.

Journalist Andre Bercoff, interviewed on France-Inter, described Trump’s campaign as an “Uberization” of the society — or elimination of the middle man and rejection of the Establishment and along with that, of course, Washington.

According to the French observers, Trump is a demagogue and as such, does not want to leave anyone by the side of the road. His discourse is full of contradictions and vascillates, depending on the situation.

Just a few examples … he wants to build a wall to stop mass immigration from the south but not at the expense of the Hispanic votes, and besides, he is now leaning toward selective immigration in order to attract brains.

Is he pro-life or not ? The answer is yes and no.

To win over the workers, he will help them by stopping the outsourcing of jobs. He feels the middle class has not profited from the growth of the economy stating that only 1 percent of the population did.

He does not seem to have worked out a foreign policy with any resemblance of the subtlety of diplomacy.

Thus far, his black and white remarks are rather frightening.

His tax plan is a mixture of unrealistic and sound ideas. He thinks that hedge fund managers should be taxed more and forced to repatriate the billions of dollars they have stashed away in off-shore accounts. He declared that couples earning less than $5,000 per month should not be taxed .

How long will Donald Trump be able to keep his lead in the race ? If he does, would he have a lasting power? An analyst here commented that Silvio Berlusconi (the former Italian Prime Minister) – a very comparable politician – lasted eight years in power.

Trump is the mirror of the rising populist movements in many countries: Viktor Orban in Hungary, increasing populist opposition in several German ‘Landers’, 40 percent of favorable votes for the ‘Front National’ in France, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and many others. The surge of migrants is the main cause of the closing of borders within the European Union (EU).

Professor Nicole Gnesotto, Board President of the National Defense Graduate School, “It would be a catastrophic scenario if the next presidential elections were to bring populist leaders in the US, France and Germany.”

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

Share

A la Carte: Chicken Salad from Poached Chicken Tenders

chicken salad photo 2In early February, the members of Groton’s Board of Education met for its retreat. Since I am a new member, I was truly excited to sit with my fellow members along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. I didn’t actually realize that many of us are new members, since some are two-year members and some four-year members. Each is elected and, in many cases (including mine), the roles changed from Democrats to Republicans.

I thought there might be some partisan bickering (see Trump and all the Republican skirmishes and Clinton-Sanders disagreements), but in Groton it was non-partisan before the election and after. I liked the concept of a retreat, off the record and into a new venue, this year at the Submarine Museum. For four hours we newbies asked questions for which the superintendents and the veteran members had answers.

Best of all was the food. I agreed to make the desserts, which everybody enjoyed. (Restaurant  owners know that if the meal is mediocre, delicious desserts can save the day.) But Andrea Ackerman, former Groton teacher and principal, handled the savories. I think it is fun to make pastries and sweet stuff, but when I smell cabbages and quiches, I begin to salivate. I especially like standby dishes that include twists and turns that I never thought would work.

Andrea’s chicken salad was my favorite. For me, chicken salad (and I do love chicken salad) is always the last thing I make with the roasted chicken that goes from Sunday dinner, to a chicken and gravy sandwich, to an omelet with vegetables and chicken, and, three days later, chicken salad. For Andrea, it is the first meal, which begins with poached chicken tenders. And she says it is even better the next day.

Chicken Salad
From Andrea Ackerman, Ed.D.,  Nonaka resident and assistant chair of the Groton School Board

As with most savory dishes, this is approximately how Andrea makes it.  If you like more of one thing or less of another, taste as you go.

Yield: serves 2 (for dinner) or 4 (for lunch)

1 pound chicken tenders
Sprinkle with garlic salt, steam and let cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise (she likes Cain’s but I’m sure Hellman’s would be fine)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
1 full teaspoon celery seed

Mix:
Cubed chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼  cup chopped walnuts
Season to taste with garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper

Fold in dressing. Add more mayonnaise if it seems dry.

Again, these measurements are good guesses, and everything tastes better the next day.


Nibbles: New (to me) Restaurants

I don’t write restaurant reviews anymore. Mostly I cook, write about cooking and eat my own food. I do go out to eat, but often only to restaurants I love. But in a one-week span, I ate at two new restaurants and one I reviewed almost 25 years ago.

The nearly-three-decades-old restaurant is the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic. It is bigger, as is the menu. We shared barbecued pork sliders and chicken pesto sliders. Both were luscious.

At a new place in Norwich, These Guys, I had a superb Caesar salad, a roast vegetable grilled cheese sandwich and, instead of fries, I had a side of Brussels sprouts. All terrific.

At Smokash, in Uncasville, I had pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Two days later I ordered it again and took it to a Polish friend who was in the hospital.

Restaurants are alive and well, even north and west of the shoreline.

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. 

Share

Letter From Paris: Cameron Obtains (Some) Concessions From Europe in Effort to Prevent ‘Brexit’

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

After 30 hours of negotiations at the European Council on Feb. 18-19, British Prime Minister David Cameron could claim some measure of victory in terms of the new concessions he obtained from the European Union (EU) to make Britain’s special status even more favorable. It is clear that he had to appear victorious in order to impress his electorate and convince Eurosceptics in his country to change their mind and vote against the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union — dubbed ‘Brexit’ — at the June 23 referendum. Cameron is obliged to hold the referendum as part of his election platform.

As he left, Cameron declared “I do not like Brussels.” A French analyst commented that was a strange way to convince his own people not to leave Europe. Although the talks lasted through the night, the process was, in fact, surprisingly rapid. There are two possible reasons for this: Cameron believed England’s economy would lose more from a ‘Brexit’ than Europe, so he had to be flexible in his demands. Furthermore, the British prime minister was fortunate to benefit from the presence of a Europe busy with more serious problems such as the migrant crisis or the surge of populism.

Since 1973 — the date of its entry into the European Union under the pro-European government of then Prime Minister Edward Heath — the United Kingdom has had one foot in Europe and one foot out: it is not part of the Eurozone, nor of the Schengen space and it did not adhere most of the fundamental principles inscribed in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. For a long time, it benefited from a special status within the EU.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

The demands Cameron just presented to the European Council were therefore intended to reinforce that different treatment regarding social benefits for migrant workers, independence of ‘The City’ (the financial center of London) from European financial regulations, refusal of a “Supra State” infringing upon British sovereignty, and the right to refuse further integration of the EU.

The debate over a possible ‘Brexit’ is asymetric. For England, Europe is basically a profitable market for more than 40 percent of its exports. For the core and early members of the EU – Germany, France, Benelux, Italy – the arduous construction of Europe over decades since the 1950 European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) is an ideal and has long-term objectives.

For Europe, to part with England would have dangerous consequences by creating precedents regarding the other 27 EU members’ requests. Cameron’s suggestion to use “red cards” to give the right to national parliaments to oppose the decisions made in Brussels if they could gather 54 percent of the votes was turned down, lest it lead toward the unraveling of the European structure.

The reactions and the final comments of the main players at the negotiations were mixed.Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, called the text of the agreement “honest.”Donald Tusk,Head of the European Council, approved “a done deal.” Germany’s President Angela Merkel was putting all her energy to block a Brexit, overlooking the big English deficit (larger than that of France) and departing from the harsh words she had for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the height of the Greek debt crisis.

French President François Hollande acted as a mediator during the proceedings and also fought against the Brexit. Cameron was taken aback by Hollande’s determination to set as a red line a right of veto by Britain over the decisions taken by the Eurozone. England has only a “droit de regard” (a right to look), in the same way as the other 19 non-Eurozone members.

Cameron does not want “The City” to submit itself to European regulations and lose its beneficial tax position. The “single bookrule” of the Central European Bank (ECB) should apply to Britain without making any exception, stressed Hollande. However, England is obtaining a “discount” on the funds it paid the ECB to help with the Eurozone crisis. A letter, co-signed by the 200 largest British companies, warned Cameron against ‘Brexit.’ When the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced he was a partisan of “Brexit,” the English pound lost 2.4 percent against the US dollar – its lowest level since 2009.

For 20 years, from 1993 to 2013, the foreign-born population in Britain has more than doubled from 3.8 to 8.3 million.In the London area, 39 percent of the population is of foreign origin. A few thousand workers from Eastern Europe were expected but, in fact, 850,000 Poles arrived.This explains why Britain is protecting itself from the recent waves of immigration .

By a bilateral agreement signed at Le Touquet in 2003, England and France placed the border at the Gare du Nord railroad station in Paris. This is where all the border controls take place before boarding the Eurostar train to London. But the Le Touquet agreement did not foresee the 2015 and 2016 arrival of close to 6,000 migrants on the French side of the English Channel (called La Manche by the French) near Calais. What if ‘Brexit’ became a reality? Would the border move to Dover on the English coast? That is perhaps a strong argument against ‘Brexit’!

A frequently acrimonious attitude between England and Europe does not reflect the deep ties they share. Many British people own houses or come for the weekend to le Touquet. Go to a town market in a Perigord village and one is surrounded by people speaking English. For the two million British people living on the continent, ‘Brexit’ is a very real threat.

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

Share

Talking Transportation: Cross Country by Amtrak

An Amtrak dining car, from the Amtrak blog

An Amtrak dining car, from the Amtrak blog

A recent business trip took me to Dallas on a crowded, turbulent 3 ½ hour flight from LaGuardia. But the return trip was a real treat:  two days and nights on Amtrak, for free.

Riding a lot of Acela trains in the Northeast Corridor, I’ve built up a ton of Amtrak Guest Rewards points, augmented by their co-branded credit card. So when I checked my calendar and the Amtrak website, I saw an opportunity to enjoy a leisurely ride home in a full bedroom, meals included, gratis.

The long distance trains I rode from Dallas to Chicago (The Texas Eagle) and Chicago to Washington, D.C. (The Capitol Ltd) were all “Superliners”, i.e., double-deck cars with a variety of accommodations, including coaches and sleeping cars.

Each train also had a diner and an observation car, though the sightseeing through Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois wasn’t exactly memorable. But the second leg of the trip through the hills and river valleys of Pennsylvania and Maryland was gorgeous. “Fly over” country sure looks different from an elevation of about 20 feet.

My bedroom was equipped with a big couch that folded down into an almost queen-sized bed, surprisingly comfortable for sleeping. The private commode doubled as a shower.

Firing up my radio scanner, pre-set to the railroads’ frequencies, I followed the action as the conductor and engineer received instructions from a dispatcher hundreds of miles away.

The food was good, all cooked to order, and included in my first class fare. Dining was communal, one of the fun parts of train travel:  getting to meet real folks from across the U.S., chatting about their travels, their work – everything except politics.

In Chicago and Washington D.C., where I had time between train connections, I enjoyed Amtrak’s “Metropolitan Lounge” for first class passengers, complete with free Wifi, snacks and priority boarding. I also had time to explore those cities’ beautifully restored train stations jammed with commuters, Amtrak passengers, shops and restaurants.

To their credit, Amtrak does a great job with their money-losing long distance trains. The service is truly First Class, the ride smooth and, for the most part, on time (thanks to a heavily padded timetable).  We had only two small delays… one caused by another Amtrak train colliding with a truck at a grade crossing (no injuries), the other by a boulder on the tracks that needed to be removed.

Because demand is high and the supply of sleepers is low, fares for long distance Amtrak trains are pricey and booked many weeks in advance. Roundtrip airfare from New York to Dallas is as low as $230.  But one-way on Amtrak is $299 in coach and $700+ in a roomette.  Of course with Amtrak it’s like getting two nights of hotel plus meals, but to me it’s well worth it.

So next time you’re planning a long distance trip, turn it into a journey. Take the train!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: 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, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

Share

Letter From Paris: To Primary or not to Primary, That is the Question … for the French

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

It is an interesting time when the US has started the Primary process and the French Socialists are debating whether to hold Primaries before the 2017 presidential elections.

The French public is following with great interest the twists and turns of the American campaign and was fascinated with the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.  It is surprisingly well informed (mentioning for instance the exact number of delegates each primary will bring to the national conventions).  For a non-American, such a campaign is a real spectacle.

What is appealing to Europeans is the town hall format with a grass roots approach — the open debates when the candidates are bombarded with questions on a wide spectrum of topics.  Besides, the European public likes a democratic process allowing candidates to be chosen by the people and not imposed from the top.

If primaries are systematic in the US, it is not the case in France.  The primary system is already in place for the right wing party Les Republicains or LR, and also for the center, (UDI and Modem).  But it is not with the left.

Thierry Pech, general director of the Think-Tank Terra Nova.

Thierry Pech, general director of the Think-Tank ‘Terra Nova.’

At this time there is an ongoing debate as to whether to make primaries the norm in left- wing politics. This debate reflects the division within the Socialist Party (PS).  Thierry Pech, general director of Terra Nova, a think tank, has been most vocal since 2011 in advocating the adoption of a primary by the left.

The PS is divided since the “Frondeurs”  (rebellious ones) have  become a splinter party.  Furthermore part of Europe-Ecologie les Verts or EELV (the Greens) have deserted the PS.  The fracture within the left appeared quite blatantly during the Feb. 10 vote at the Assemblée Nationale on the inclusion in the Constitution of the dechéance de la nationalité  (the loss of  nationality) for terrorism acts.  Half the Socialist deputies voted against their own government’s proposal.

Recently, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, caused quite a stir when she slammed the door and resigned from the cabinet over her disagreement on that very topic.  Within 24 hours, she was giving a lecture at NYU!

On Jan. 11, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, ex-green European deputy (hero of the May 1968 uprising) and Thomas Piketty, 44 (nominated as the best young economist of France in 2002), headed a group of politicians and intellectuals who  published a manifesto in the daily Liberation.   The manifest called for a primary in order to reanimate a political debate of ideas.

Jean-Louis Bourlanges

Essayist and science professor Jean-Louis Bourlanges

“The quarrel about having a primary …” said Jean Louis Bourlanges, professor at Sciences Po and essayist, ” … reminds me of what Churchill said: democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”  Bourlanges continues, “The Socialist militants are less and less representative.  The proposition is like poker-liar: one pretends to have ideas, then one incarnates those ideas within a person.”

Many Socialists are opposed to the prospect of a president involved in months of campaigning while he should be concentrating his attention on governing the country and jumping into the fray as late as possible.  For the time being, François Hollande is waiting and will not declare his candidacy until he sees a reversal of the unemployment curve.

On Feb. 11, the Elysée announced a government reshuffle. The objective was to remedy some of the internal division of the PS by bringing three ecologists into the cabinet and widening its base. The parity – 19 men, 19 women – is maintained.  Jean Marc Ayrault-  prime minister until two years ago – returns, but this time as minister of foreign affairs. Except for the positive asset of having a German-speaking and pro-European new prime minister, the changes in the composition of the executive were met with disappointment and criticism across the board.

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

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

Share

A la Carte: Pork Roast with Maple and Rum Glaze

Maple-Glazed-Pork-Roast

Maple Glazed Pork Roast, Yankee magazine

Just before I went to bed on a Sunday or two ago, I watched Lady Edith call Lady Mary a “bitch” more than once. (That’s “Downton Abbey,” for those of you not hooked on this Masterpiece Theatre show, which will end maybe by the time you read this. Sob.)

My reading matter was “Five Days at Memorial,” a nonfiction book about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. But before I began the book, I decided to read my new issue of Yankee magazine.

I have been subscribing to Yankee for years and the food editor is Amy Traverso. The recipes she chooses are always good. In the new issue, there is a story about maple syrup season. I loved a feature about two sugar shack competing owners in Vermont and a “flatlander” who decided to move to Vermont just over 10 years ago. (“Flatlanders,” according to Vermonters, are those who haven’t lived for at least a couple of generations in their gorgeous state.)

Dori Ross convinced the two owners to allow her to market their maple products. By the way, Ross, who got this article into Yankee, is a marketing guru because the owners are making a lot more money now.

There were recipes, of course, and reading them had me salivating. I don’t make pancakes or waffles at home, but I am crazy about maple anything. I was planning to make dinner for my neighbors, so when I saw a recipe for a pork roast using maple syrup, I was hooked. I rarely give you recipes I have not tried myself, but, just by reading the ingredients, I know it will be absolutely delicious.

Soon, I plan to make a spinach, feta and grape salad with maple-soy vinaigrette and maple affogato, an ice cream treat, also from that article.

Maple-and-Rum-Glazed Pork Roast
From Yankee magazine, March/April 2016

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 3-pound boneless pork-loin roast, tied at intervals with kitchen twine (perhaps the butcher at the supermarket will do that for you)
2 teaspoons plus 11/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set a rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle pork all over with 2 teaspoons salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Now make the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together syrup, mustard, cider vinegar, rum, cinnamon, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt until blended.

Place the pork, fat side down, in a 9×13-inch roasting pan (Pyrex would be good) and pour the glaze over the meat. Transfer to the oven and cook 30 minutes, basting halfway through.

Remove meat from oven, turn it fat side up, baste and return to the oven. Cook, basting every 15 minutes until the meat reaches 150 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove meat from the oven and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve with additional glaze on the side.


Nibbles: Chicken Fried Chicken

Generally, I avoid medium-sized, medium-inexpensive franchising restaurants, the ones I used to call fern bars. There are a few that are standouts for certain menu items: the Cobb salad at Chili’s and risotto with chicken and butternut squash served with a Caesar salad at Brio. But generally, I would rather get a burger and fries at Five Guys or choose the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.

But now I can add the chicken fried chicken at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub. In the group of $9.99 dinners is the chicken fried chicken, a pounded-thin chicken breast, lightly battered and fried, a lovely mound of mashed potatoes and, for a vegetable, sweet corn. Best of all, like its sister, chicken-fried steak, it is topped with white, somewhat peppered country gravy. No, it is not on my healthy, low-calorie diet, but sometimes one must splurge. This is a nice splurge.

Around the Valley Shore area, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub is at 117 Long Hill Road in Groton. A few Other Connecticut restaurants are in Cromwell and Glastonbury and Norwich.

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. 

Share

Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Wild Places’ by Robert Macfarlane

The_Wild_Places_by_Robert_MacFarlaneLast year, at our son’s suggestion, I read and reviewed with enthusiasm Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways (2012), his recounting of extensive walks in Great Britain, Spain, Palestine, and Tibet (see LymeLine.com review of Oct. 12, 2014) That led me to his Landmarks(2015), and now to an earlier work, The Wild Places.

What begins as a eulogy for our disappearing wilderness becomes an elegy, even a celebration of remoteness, privacy and “the wild.” But the reply of the wild, wherever he finds it, at the remote corners of the British Isles or in his own Cambridge backyard, is “reports of my demise are premature!”

Macfarlane, a don at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, mixes remarkable research, reading and language, to explore both geographic and intellectual wildness. On his perambulations, he is always picking up small rocks, leaves, stems, feeling them, admiring them, and saving them for his library. He links every trek with apt, far-ranging quotations from a global entourage of writers. And his words, what words …

Consider:

  • “ideas like waves have fetches.”
  • The sky a “slurless blue”
  • The “grain of the mind”
  • “a row of hawthorns quaffed eastwards by the onshore winds”
  • the “krekking of a raven”
  • “small waders – knots, plovers, turnstones – form their palping jellyfish-like shoals”
  • “a gang of rooks chakked over the corn stubble”
  • “I had a heptic memory, too.”
  • A rock that was “knapped out.”

Do you recognize any of the places he visited: Ynys Enlli (Scotland), Coruisk (Isle of Skye), Rannoch Moor (near Glencoe), Black Wood (east of Rannoch Moor), Cape Wrath (Scotland north coast), the Holloways (Dorset), Orford Ness (Suffolk), and Burren (north of County Clare, Ireland)? Macfarlane comes to acknowledge that wildness is often found close to home. How many of us know Hog Pond (the old name), Cedar Pond, Brown Hill, Joshua Rocks, Whalebone Creek, Nickerson Hill, Moulson’s Pond, Oliver’s Hole or Rat Island?

Wildness, to this professor, is “a quality to be vanquished and to be cherished.” It has “implications of disorder and irregularity” but it is also “an expression of independence from human direction . . . containing an energy both exemplary and exquisite.” Wild places remind us “of the narrow limits of human perception, of the provisionality of (our) assumptions about the world.” Our response: “a brief blazing perception of the world’s disinterest” in what we humans have created — they give us “this sense of the human presence as being something temporary.”

Fellow wanderers appear. Macfarlane asks a “Helen” to join a walk seeking birds: falcons, tiercels, ospreys, goshawks, and peregrines. None other than Helen Macdonald, also a professor at Cambridge, whose H Is For Hawk I enjoyed earlier this year.

The Wild Places reminded me of my own traipsing along the public footpaths of West Sussex and the South Downs, in the fall of 1978, and along the wanderwegs of St. Gallen and the Appenzell in Switzerland in the 1980s and 1990s. Plus the trails of Nehantic State Forest in the 1990s …

Macfarlane suggests wildness is an attribute to be carefully enjoyed, with both sight and sound: “rooks haggled in the air above the trees … the noise of the wood in the wind; a soft marine road. It was the immense compound noise of friction – of leaf fretting on leaf, and branch rubbing on branch.”

His admonitions: listen and look. Wildness may be close at hand.

Editor’s Note: The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane was published by Penguin, New York, 2007.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

Share

Our ‘Movie Man’ Correctly Predicts DiCaprio to Win Academy Award for ‘Revenant’

therevenant10For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, give Leonardo DiCaprio his long-overdue Academy Award!

This was all I was thinking as I sat through Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film, The Revenant. Apart from the infinite number of beautiful shots depicting the American West through virtually all climates, my attention was fixed on the memorable performance of its lead, our boy Leo. This is not the Leo from post-Titanic Leo-mania, whom my cousins fell in love with and helped contribute to James Cameron’s romantic drama’s reigning status as the highest grossing film of all time until 2010.

This is a gritty and horrific depiction of a man who survives a brutal bear attack and must endure the cold of winter in order to trek across the wilderness in order to fulfill a quest for revenge on John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who decided to leave him for dead.

This is a memorable performance on DiCaprio’s part. And while its acclaim may not be based in eloquent command of speech, as legendary Shakespearean actors like Olivier, McKellen, Gielgud, or the chilling sophistication of Anthony Hopkins as the cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, DiCaprio’s run as Hugh Glass will forever be etched into our minds due to his conveyance of pain. Foaming at the mouth, shouting through his teeth and unable to make intelligible sounds, lighting gunpowder in an open wound on his neck in order to clot the bleeding, this man, we must believe, truly did survive a bear attack. There is no question.

In fact, he does not speak much throughout the movie as he journeys back home. On top of (spoiler alert) pulling a move in which he imitates Han Solo providing a seriously injured Luke Skywalker shelter in a dead tauntaun in The Empire Strikes Back … give him the Oscar right now!

Another performance that must be recognized is that of Englishman Tom Hardy, who takes on a Southern accent and ultimately gives it a creepy delivery, reminding us of the yokels seen in Deliverance or Errol Childress in the first season of True Detective. Hardy has also lent his unique voice to another character best remembered for his speech,  the villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. It is as if the lack of speech on DiCaprio’s part is made up for by Hardy’s yokel delivery.

My complaint about this film is the depiction of Glass’ journey back to his home fort is a bit dragged out at times, and could have been cut shorter.

Award season is approaching us, and DiCaprio has already won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and he has received his fifth acting-based Academy Award nomination, having already lost to Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, and Matthew McConaughey. And we have all seen the internet memes poking fun at his losses, such as placing his head on Mr. Turner in a memorable scene from The Fairly Odd Parents, and losing to Jennifer Lawrence despite being the only listed candidate for an award. Another meme came forward that was not connected to his snubs, but depicted his audience with Pope Francis, in which the Pontiff tells him that he was rooting for the bear earlier in the movie.

Iñárritu may also have a great chance to win his second consecutive Best Director Oscar, having last year won for Birdman. Nobody can argue with his ability to depict the American pioneer life, as well as masterfully paint the picture of Glass’stherevenant10 revenge. But even if Iñárritu wins again, his victory will definitely be overshadowed by the anticipation of Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the finest living actors of our generation.

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

 

Share

Legal News You Can Use: Is My Case a Personal Injury or Worker’s Compensation Claim?

WorkersCompAs an attorney who practices both Worker’s Compensation and Personal Injury Law, I find that many people are confused as to if and where these systems overlap. Although there are many similarities between these two areas of law, there are a number of significant differences that make the representation of clients in either scenario unique.

Personal injury claims fall under the broad area of law called torts, and arise out of what is known as the “common law.” The “common law” is derived from the English legal system and is essentially a set of laws and rules that have developed over hundreds of years of court and appellate decisions.

It is a body of law that is constantly changing as courts review prior decisions and either affirm, or modify the decisions that came before. Although there are certain statutes (written laws passed by the State and Federal Legislatures) that govern personal injury actions, by and large most personal injury actions are based on common law decisions.

Specific to personal injury actions, it is the law of the land that all individuals or entities (like businesses) owe a duty to all members of society to act in a way that is reasonable and does not intrude on anyone else’s safety. If a person or entity breaches that duty and someone gets injured, that someone (who is now a potential plaintiff) has a cause of actions against the breaching party (now a potential defendant). In these claims the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is at fault. If they win, they are entitled to recover money for both economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (including pain and suffering).

In Connecticut these claims can be brought in court if the parties cannot agree to a settlement. There the claims can either be tried before a judge or a jury of six. In the alternative, if the parties agree, the claims can be privately mediated outside the court system. If the plaintiff prevails in his or her claim, most often the damages are awarded all in one shot. No matter what though, eventually every case comes to an end by way of settlement or trial and verdict and very rarely will a plaintiff receive any type of compensation until the case is over.

Although a form of lawsuit, Worker’s Compensation is the exclusive remedy for injuries that occur on the job. Claims are brought before the Worker’s Compensation Commissioner and an injured worker cannot sue their employer at common law. Why? Because around the turn of 20th Century, with industrial production in America in full bloom, workers injured on the job had the right to sue their employers for injuries on the job. As the advent of the contingency fee allowed people who could never afford it before, access to the courts, and employers pressured the legal system to come up with theories to limit recovery, something had to give.

It was actually employers (who wanted to be able to cap their potential exposure in the event they were sued) who pushed for Worker’s Compensation laws. Under virtually every Worker’s Compensation scheme injured workers are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. However, a big difference between Worker’s Comp and personal injury is that Comp is a “no-fault” system. An injured worker need not prove that his/her employer was at fault for his/her injuries. He/she need only prove that they were injured while in the scope and course of their employment. How it happened is relatively unimportant.

If the injured worker can establish that, then they are entitled to benefits. But unlike personal injury, what the injured worker is entitled to is entirely dictated by statute rather than the common law. In addition, because it is “no-fault,” whatever they are entitled to, they receive as soon as it becomes due. The trade-off is that there are built in caps on these statutory benefits.

For example, there is a maximum weekly compensation rate you can receive regardless of how much money you make, and irrespective of how badly you are hurt. Likewise, there are statutory rules governing exactly how much pain and suffering you can receive based on a scheme too complex to explain in this brief article. However, unlike a personal injury suit, a Worker’s Compensation case never has to come to an end. Although Comp cases are often permanently settled, neither side is obligated to do so and the claim could remain open until the death of the claimant.

Regardless of which system you are looking at, as someone who has practiced in both areas for almost 25 years, they represent a good faith attempt to make whole those individuals who unfortunately need to avail themselves of these laws. Although far from perfect, they are part of the fairest and most accessible legal system on the planet.

About the author: Attorney Robert B. Keville is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. If you have questions about these topics or other injury matters, he can be reached via email at rkeville@sswbgg.com or by phone at (860) 442-4416.

Share

Letter From Paris: Aleppo — an Orientalist’s Nostalgia

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Agatha Christie stayed there.  So did T.E. Lawrence, King Faysal from Iraq and General de Gaulle: at the famous Hotel Baron in downtown Aleppo, Syria.  At that time, Aleppo was an exotic and cosmopolitan city where Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian cultures coexisted.

A photo of the Citadel at Aleppo taken by Nicole Logan in 1957.

A photo of the Citadel at Aleppo taken by Nicole Logan in 1957.

The medieval citadel, with the most impenetrable “glacis” ever built in history, dominated the town.  Aleppo was a bustling place, which I was able to witness first-hand during a drive from Ankara to Beirut in 1957.  Vienna was just a comfortable train ride away on the Orient Express as early as 1913.

But all this was before the Syrian civil war.

Another photo of the medieval Citadel, which is now in ruins after repeated bombings, from the author's 1957 trip.

Another photo of the medieval Citadel — now partly in ruins after repeated bombings — from the author’s 1957 trip.

Aleppo, like many other historical Syrian cities, is being crushed by daily bombings.  The devastation is concentrated on this region with the intent of cutting off the road to the north toward Turkey.  Today the Bab el Faraj – one of the main squares – is in ruins; the 11th century minaret of the Omayyad mosque lies on the ground among fallen stones; in July 2015, a bomb placed in a tunnel destroyed part of the citadel.  The second largest metropolis of Syria is now a pile of rubble.

In a few magical pages, Mathias Enard, winner of the 2016 French Prix Goncourt for his novel entitled “Boussole” (compass), brings back to life the colorful Aleppo of a bygone era.  His hero, Franz Ritter,  is a Viennese musicologist fascinated by the Orient.  He belongs to the group of  “Orientalists” –  archaeologists, linguists, historians, architects, diplomats, spies – writes Enard, “found side by side at Hotel Baron dabbling in the pleasure of  Arab grammar and rhetoric.”

Enard’s rambling style, oozing with culture, takes the reader from Austria – the outpost of the West on the edge of the Ottoman empire – to the Middle East.  Besieged by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1529, Vienna was threatened for the last time by the Ottoman Empire in 1683 in its final effort to flood the Danube valley.

Refusing to draw bitterness from the century-long tug-of-war with the Turks, Franz the hero of “Boussole” believes in cross-pollination between the Western and the Oriental worlds.  As a musicologist he is able to detect in the works of Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg or Debussy, the influence of Arabic music’s harmony with its microtones and absence of tonal structure.

"The Moroccans" by Henri Matisse.

“The Moroccans” by Henri Matisse.

There has long been a tradition of literary and artistic attraction by the West toward the Orient.  But it is Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaign to Egypt (1798-1801), which opened the floodgates  and made the 19th century West smitten with the Orient.

John Singer Sargent's "Smoke of Ambergris",

John Singer Sargent’s “Smoke of Ambergris.”

And so were French poets like Chateaubriand or Arthur Rimbaud.  Painters found inspiration in the Arabic world of North Africa or the Levant.  John Singer Sargent’s 1880 “Smoke of Ambergris” – the emblematic jewel of the Clark museum in Williamstown, the 1909 Vassilly Kandinsky’s “Improvisation 3” and Matisse’s “The Moroccans,” are but a few examples of the East and West symbiosis.

The “Orientalists” could be found around some of cultural centers like the French, German, English or American Institutes in Syria, Lebanon, Beirut or Baghdad.  They were a privileged group, somewhat disconnected from the real world.  With some sarcasm but much honesty, the author acknowledges that the “Orientalists” took advantage of the comfort provided by the law and order of the police state of Hafez el Assad, father of Bachar.  The “Orientalists” lived their dream, Enard writes, “under the amused look of the Syrians.”

At the present time Aleppo is at the epicenter of an imbroglio of violence and destruction and caught in the middle, tragically, are the refugees.

Why do we not take a brief pause and return to a more peaceful time when wars and religious intolerance were not destroying societies?

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

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

Share

A la Carte: Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Terrific Winter Comfort Food

Curried vegetarian shepherd's pie

Curried vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I bought a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes, planning to make scalloped potatoes for Super Bowl Sunday. Then I didn’t. I looked at the amount of food I made, which included pink beans (because I love pink beans), kidney beans and black beans for chili; lots of tortilla chips for guacamole; cheeseburger pie; and Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes; plus a pie for dessert. We didn’t need any more starch.

But I still have all those potatoes and I want to make mashed potato bread, so I looked for a recipe I could use up at least some of it. In the new Food Network magazine, I spied recipes for Shepherd’s Pie. One called for just veggies. I made it. It is terrific.

As with winter comfort food, I would add more carrots, maybe more mushrooms, maybe more peas. I find turnips a bit sweet (although I’m not sure many other people find that to be true). I like curry so I might add more. I might use some winter squash …

Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
From Food Network magazine, March 2016

Yield: serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 carrots, chopped
1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced one-inch thick, rinsed well
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup frozen peas
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a separate large saucepan with 6 cups water; add bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, rutabaga, turnip and leeks; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid, then drain the vegetables. Discard bay leaves and thyme. Pat vegetables dry; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms; cook until they release their liquid, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium; cook until liquid is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour, coriander and nutmeg; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved vegetable liquid and ¾ cup half-and-half. Bring to a simmer; cook until thickened, 3 minutes. Stir in the carrots mixture, peas and lemon zest and juice. Return to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and stir in the parsley.

Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly Return to the pot and add the curry powder and the remaining 4 tablespoons  butter and ¾ cup half-and-half. Season with three-quarters salt and mash well.

Spread mushroom mixture in a 3-quart baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top; spread with back of a spoon. Bake until bubbling around the edges and the topping browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Let rest before serving.


Nibbles:  Pat LaFrieda Hamburgers

I believe very strongly that when a restaurant specializes in a certain kind of food, that is what you should order.  There are two restaurants, one in Guilford (Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave at 346 Boston Post Road) and one in Mystic (Go Fish at Old Mystick Village), where I order a hamburger because they serve Pat LaFrieda hamburgers.

Pat LaFrieda and Son Meat Purveyors has been in business in New York City for over 90 years. I am sure all their meat is amazing, but the burgers are beyond incredible. I learned about the company when Pat Jr. was on one of Bobby Flay’s Food Network shows. I had one of his burgers at the Shoreline Diner about 10 years ago. And, while I often have fish at Go Fish and used to eat vegetarian at Shoreline Diner, I just love those burgers.  I order mine medium rare. Just thinking about them makes so hungry.

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. 

Share

Talking Transportation: The Secrets of Riding Metro-North

logoEach week, dozens of people ride Metro-North for the first time.  This week’s column is to let both new and veteran commuters in on the secrets of a successful rail commute.

PARKING:
You can’t take the train if you can’t get to the station, so invest in your commuting future by getting your name on your town’s (and neighboring towns’) waiting lists for annual parking permits. In four or five years, when your name rises to the top of the list, you’ll thank yourself. Meantime, opt for legal day-parking, find a friend to ride to the station with or try biking.  There are free bike racks at most stations.

PLATFORM POSITIONING:
There’s a science to deciding where on the platform to wait for your train. Many commuters position themselves at the front or rear of the train for a quick get-away when they arrive in Grand Central. Contrarian that I am, I tend toward the center of the train because that’s where there’s a better chance of getting a seat.

FINDING A SEAT:
Believe me, your commute will be a lot better seated than standing.  Seats are in short supply, so here’s the strategy.  As your train pulls in, scan the cars that pass you and see how the passenger load looks. As the doors open, move quickly inside, eye-ball your target seat and get there fast. Put your carry-ons in the overhead rack and sit down.  If you hesitate, you’re toast and will be a standee.
On trains leaving Grand Central, you may be able to get onboard up to 20 minutes before departure. Take a window or aisle seat on the three seat side. The middle seat next to you will be the last to be filled.

STANDEE STRATEGY:
If you didn’t get a seat on boarding, don’t give up. A few people on most trains get off in Stamford, so look for them and position yourself to get their seat before it gets cold. Here’s the secret: intermediate passengers have seat checks with a tear down the middle or a torn corner.  Look for them and just before Stamford, position yourself near their row and, bingo, you’ve got a seat!

TICKETS:
Do not make the mistake of boarding a train without a ticket, or you’ll get hit with up to $6.50 penalty for buying a ticket on the train with cash.  But if you’re thrifty, don’t buy a ticket from a ticket window or ticket machine.  No, the cheapest tickets are only available online at www.mta.info. Go for the ten-trip tickets for an additional discount.

ON-BOARD ETIQUETTE:
Train time is not “your own time,” but shared time. So be considerate of your fellow commuters.  Don’t hog empty seats, use the overhead racks. Keep your feet off the seats. If you must use your cellphone, go to the vestibule.  Be like the Boy Scouts:  anything you carry onto the train (including newspapers, coffee cups, etc.) carry off the train and dispose of properly.

If you’ve got your own “secrets” for a successful commute, send them along and I’ll include them in upcoming columns.  Just e-mail me at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: 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, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

Share

Letter from Paris: Europe and the Migrant Crisis

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

During the month of January 2016, 55,000 migrants have crossed the Aegean Sea, or 21 times the number that made the same journey in January 2015. In 2015, a total of 856,000 arrived in Europe, 90 percent of them coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, there is an urgency in the face of this inexorable phenomenon, which is bound not only to continue but also to increase. It is expected that with the spring’s milder weather, there will be a surge of four times that number. The net result — Europe has a window of six to eight weeks to manage the crisis.

Everybody agrees on what should be done to stop the flow of refugees: end the war in Syria; defeat ISIS; provide financial help to the countries that have taken in the most refugees, i.e., Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey; police the Mediterranean by destroying the derelict boats ferrying the migrants and put a stop to the profitable business of the smugglers. But there has been an absence of a leadership in carrying out a common plan of action.

At the outset of the crisis Angela Merkel was the only one to offer a clear strategy. For her, Turkey was the key country to work with since three quarters of the migrants pass through its territory. She even made the trip to meet President Erdogan in Antalya. She supported the European Commission’s decision to pay Turkey three billion dollars for keeping 2.2 million refugees. The Turks demanded that amount every year, Europe settled for a bi-annual payment. Driving a hard bargain, the Turks demanded that Europe wave its visa requirements for Turkish nationals traveling to Europe. Ankara even asked for the resumption of the process of adhesion into Europe – a demand the European Union is refusing unanimously today as it has for 52 years..

Last September, Merkel announced she would welcome 800,000 refugees in Germany but she had not predicted the ensuing surge and her policy has backfired. She has become increasingly isolated as those countries, at first favorable to her policies, started closing their borders, practicing more restrictive policies toward the migrants, and expelling the ones not qualifying for the status of “refugees.”

After the alleged mass rapes of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, German public opinion has become increasingly hostile to the presence of hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men not used to mixing with women in public places. This event was reminiscent of the plight of many German women at the end of the Nazi period. “The collective memory of outrage has overcome the compassion for the migrants,” declared Michaela Wieger, the French correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on a radio talk show Jan. 30.

ARTE, the Franco-German television channel gave an overview of the migrant’s situation on Feb. 2. The three-hour- long documentary takes the viewer from Calais to Montenegro to Spain.

The situation in Calais in northern France is a festering problem. The number of migrants, who live in abysmal conditions, has grown from 2,000 a year ago to 6,000. Their lifeline is provided by humanitarian aid. The mood is explosive and turning ugly. The migrants are endangering the safety of the Euro-tunnel, which has been turned into a fortress.

The picture so far is positive in Germany, which finds in the migrants a much needed source of labor. The town of Passau, Bavaria, which is situated on the Danube, is the hub of communications. This is where the trains full of migrants converge. In an efficient manner, the new arrivals are greeted, trained and encouraged to learn German. In Leipzig, workers are building wooden homes that can house 60 people. The houses come in a kit and can be assembled in one day. A German firm has outsourced the construction of containers – turned into living quarters – to a Polish factory. The units cannot be built fast enough to meet the demand. However, all the people interviewed in the ARTE program say that they have already reached their saturation point and will be unable to absorb more migrants

There is consensus today that the priority for Europe is to protect its external borders. Greece is described as the number one “hotspot” whose job is to screen and process the migrants. This task is colossal and it is understandable that Greece cannot cope. Being reluctant to impose its own sovereignty, Brussels has decided to give the country three months to improve its work. If it does not, a large contingent of European Frontex officials and additional reserves will be sent as substitutes.

In addition, the EU may decide to deactivate Article 26 of the Schengen treaty. This will mean the suspension, for at least two years, of the free circulation of persons, goods and capital between the 28 member states.

Brussels would hate to make that very serious decision.Schengen has been called an “accelerator of growth,” since its creation, says Wieger, but it was intended to function in normal times, which these clearly are not. The cost to reestablish internal borders will reach at least 100 billion Euros a year.But, more importantly, the “Schengen Space”is one of the main pillars of Europe.Indeed, it is a core principle.

“The problem of migrants is, in fact, in front of us,” commented Sylvie Kauffman, senior editor of the French daily Le Monde. “Next, we will have to face massive flows of economic refugees from Africa, due to its demography”.

It is a difficult time for Europe, and for the French in particular, to abdicate sacred principles such as the right of asylum and to see the very existence of Europe threatened.

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

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

Share

Letter from Paris: Marmottan Monet Museum Offers Rare Glimpse Inside Villa Flora

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

It is a well kept secret that Switzerland’s private foundations own a wealth of art works. Swiss law does not require them to be registered commercially and offers them favorable tax and legal conditions, creating thus a “paradise” for art collectors. The Villa Flora, in Winterthur near Zurich, is one of the richest of these family foundations. Since the museum is under renovation this winter, its contents found a temporary home at the Marmottan Monet museum in Paris and currently form the Villa Flora exhibition subtitled, “A Time of Enchantment.”

In 1898 Hedy Hahnloser inherited from her father, a well-to-do textile industrialist, a large house and moved in with Arthur, her husband. For a short time, Arthur practiced ophthalmology in the clinic he installed on the property but soon the couple became fully engaged in the passion of their life, which was to create long-lasting friendships with painters and to collect their works.

Over the years, the rambling house was turned into a studio and an art gallery — every available space was used to place the paintings. Hedy had always been interested in arts and crafts and in the English movement by that name. She decorated her house’s parquets and wainscots with the geometric designs characteristic of the 1897 “Viennese Recession” led by Gustav Klimt.

A trip to Paris in 1908 was for the couple a total immersion into the frantic artistic scene of the French capital. Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubism, while the Fauvist movement was at its pinnacle. The natural flair of the Hahnlosers in selecting art work was sharpened by their contacts with art merchants like Ambroise Vollard and Gaston Bernheim.

During that trip they met and struck up a friendship with Felix Valloton (1865-1925), who became a close friend, spent much time at the Villa Flora and also introduced them to the artistic circles of Paris. They remained friends until his death. For the Swiss couple to welcome artists and hold Tuesday coffees became a way of life.

One can compare their creative and welcoming home with the boarding house in Old Lyme, Conn., where Florence Griswold invited American Impressionists. Or consider Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo who, like Arthur and Hedy, opened their “salon” on 27 rue de Fleurus to artists and writers. And in yet another example, in the late 19th century, Russia also had its own artist colonies, which grew around enlightened members of the nobility. The best known was Abramtsevo, near Moscow, created by the industrialist Savva Mamontov.

Pierre Bonnard, Débarcadère (or L'Embarcadère) de Cannes, 1928-1934

Pierre Bonnard, Débarcadère (or L’Embarcadère) de Cannes, 1928-1934

The Hahnlosers’ collection contained works by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, the symbolist Odilon Redon and many others. But it is the abundance of Nabis’ art, which made it quite unique.

It was a post-impressionist movement in the mid 1890s. “Nabi” means prophet in Hebrew and Arabic. The leading members of this group — Maurice Denis, Felix Vallotton , Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard — considered themselves as the prophets of a new era in the arts. Each one had his distinctive style, but there was always a message behind their way of depicting reality, whether it was religious, intellectual or emotional. They were versatile artists, working in oil, and also lithography, wood cuts, satirical drawings, and book or poster illustration.

Vallotton stylized his subjects and used the technique of “aplats” or flat areas of contrasting colors with sharp outlines. There is a feeling of enigmatic emptiness in his works. “La Charette” or cart drives away on a deserted dirt road, two slender umbrella pines contrast with the darker mass of trees bordering the road.

man&woman
Le provincial,” pictured above, shows a couple in a cafe. One barely sees the profile of the elegant woman wearing a huge hat. The feather on the hat and the ruffled blouse are the only bright notes in this scene of a non-communicating couple in the male chauvinistic society at the turn of the 20th century.

Vallotton’ masterpiece is “La Blanche et la Noire” (The White and the Black). A white woman is lying, unabashedly naked, on a bed while a black woman is staring at her with insolence and a sort of inappropriate familiarity, a cigarette is sticking out of her mouth. The painting is reminiscent of the “Olympia” by Manet but with a different underlying story.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bonnard’s paintings have an effusive and warm quality. His colors are luminous, his brush strokes seem unbridled, full of life. He is inspired by the intimacy of domestic scenes — “Le Tub” is a picture within a picture thanks to the mirror placed at the center of the composition. A plunging angle reveals Marthe, his wife and beloved model, near the tub.

Pierre Bonnard, Le Thé, 1917

Pierre Bonnard, Le Thé, 1917

Bonnard cherished his villa in the Var, not far from Cannes. “Le Thé” is a peaceful scene of young women having tea . He plays with an array of hat colors. The vegetation seems to overflow into the porch. On “Le Debarcadère” or pier, young people lean over a railing, as if frozen in the contemplation of the rough Mediterranean waters.

This is indeed a rare opportunity to see an exceptional private art collection created by two extraordinary citizens, who according to the exhibition’s guide, lived their lives by following a simple mantra, “Living for art. Collecting. Such was the raison d’être of [this] couple.”

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

Share

Letter from Paris: Exhibition Explores the Elegance, History of Louis Vuitton’s Luggage

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The exhibit “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” (Fly, Sail, Travel) at the Grand Palais takes the visitor to the elegant world of travel in the early 20th century.  It is a retrospective of the luggage, which created the Vuitton dynasty’s fame.  Every  item is beautifully crafted of wood, cloth and leather, such as the famous “sac Noé” created in 1932.

caroussel_grandpalais_460x550_v02These luxurious objects make travel by air, train or sea glamorous and modern. The visitor rides an old-fashioned, wood-paneled train and feels transported into the “Out of Africa” world of Karen Blixen, as the Kenya savannah speeds outside the windows.

Several pieces of the Vuitton family’s private luggage — first seen by the public at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World Fair) — are scattered  on sand dunes, evoking the beautifully photographed scene of a couple riding  in the desert near the Pyramids in the 1978 Agatha Christy’s movie “Death on the Nile.”

A huge sail reaches all the way to the ceiling.  On the deck of a yacht are displayed a wooden trunk,  fragrant with camphor wood and rosewood; a “wardrobe” trunk whose drawers and hangers contain  an elegant passenger’s apparel;  a gentleman’s  personal case complete with crystal flasks; and fancy hair brushes.

Luxury goods – labeled as “consumer discretionary” in Wall Street jargon – are an important sector of the French economy.  They combine traditional savoir-faire acquired over many generations (the Maison Vuitton has existed since 1835; the Maison Hermes since 1837) with the creative talent of artists and decorators along with  the highly complex robotic machinery used to fabricate, clothes, bags, shoes and more.

At Hermes, silk screen scarves are made from raw silk spun under the constant scrutiny of a worker; artists, assisted by colorists, create the designs.

For decades, not a single famous woman – from Jacqueline Kennedy to French actress Catherine Deneuve – has been seen without the iconic Chanel purse.  The making of the little black purse, with its gold chain, and its distinctive padded outer shell stitched in lozenges, requires the skilled delicate work of 17 people.

The world of fashion and luxury objects could not exist without money — lots of money.  In 1987, the merger of Louis Vuitton fashion house with Moët et Chandon and Hennessy champagne – produced the LVMH multinational conglomerate.  It brought together 90 of the most famous brands of wines and spirits, fashion and luxury goods, as well as perfume and cosmetics.  Dior is the major shareholder with 40 percent of the shares.

Bernard Arnault is CEO of both Dior and LVMH.  He is the richest man of France and holds the fifth largest fortune in  the world — his worth is about 30 billion dollars.  When Arnault arrived in Shanghai for the opening of a new Vuitton boutique, he was received like a head  of state.

It is not uncommon for a tycoon to be a philantropist and an art collector.  In the late 19th century, two Russian businessmen were instrumental in bringing French art to their home country — Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin introduced Impressionist art to Russia after a trip to Paris, and similarly, Ivan Morozov was a major collector of French avant-garde art.

Arnault won a resounding victory over his rival Francois Pinault when he was able to build his art museum on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.  (Pinault “only” owns a few islands of Venice.)  In order to promote artistic creation, Arnault built a museum, which he called the Fondation LVMH — it was designed by the American architect Frank Gehry.  At the time of its inauguration in 2014,  it was met with a mixed reaction but gradually it has become part of the landscape. It did help rejuvenate the dilapidated  Jardin d’Acclimatation, a 100-year-old zoo and children’s attraction park, beloved by the Parisians.

Gehry created a wild structure of huge, curved glass panels flying in all directions, like spinnakers blowing in the wind.  To create an area of 125,000 square feet of molded glass, 100 engineers were employed who were supported by Dassault Systèmes, the leading French company specializing in aeronautics and space.

The inside structure, called the “iceberg,” is erratic and disorients visitors. Several intricate levels and vertiginous staircases lead to the upper terrace offering  a view over the Bois in which the skyscrapers of La Défense district appear to be framed by the glass panels.

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

Share

The Movie Man: Latest ‘Star Wars’ Extravaganza Forcefully Rebukes Critics

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

A young and ambitious filmmaker named George Lucas created Star Wars, which changed the face of the movie industry forever. Since its release in 1977, the Star Wars universe has expanded into other forms of media, such as books, video games, television, music, toys, and more. It spawned two sequels, which were received as well as the first film, and eventually spawned a prequel trilogy, which, well, did not fare so well, mainly due to poor stories, poor acting, and overemphasis on green screen visual effects.

And three years ago, when George Lucas’ studio, LucasFilm, was sold to Disney, and its new owner announced more movies to come, many of us groaned. How could they take this galaxy to an even lower level after Jar-Jar Binks, and shoddy acting by Hayden Christensen as a young Darth Vader?

This past week changed our opinions. On Dec. 17, the United Kingdom got the first glance at Star Wars, Episode VII- The Force Awakens, directed by big and small screen legend J. J. Abrams. To play on the immortal words of Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of Disney haters were suddenly silenced …”

Yes, The Force Awakens can be honorably added to the Star Wars saga, not out of necessity to tell the backstory of the legendary Darth Vader. Now we get to see the continuity of our heroes Han Solo, Princess – sorry, General – Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker. There are also newcomers to the story, with Oscar Isaac as pilot Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and John Boyega as Finn, and last but not least, Adam Driver as villain Kylo Ren.

All performers do not disappoint … although it is very unlikely in the first place, I would have nominated them for a Screen Actors Guild Ensemble award. And who can forget the new droid, BB-8, who caught our attention the moment we saw him in the teaser trailer released last Thanksgiving?

What’s even more amazing is that BB-8 is not CGI, he is, in fact, built as a real robot. Which is another theme in this film, being that those behind The Force Awakens only used CGI effects when necessary, preferring to use practical effects — similar to those used in the original trilogy — in order to give it a more believable visual feel (the major mistake George Lucas made from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith was using the computers as much as possible).

And, of course, there returns the music legend John Williams to conduct the score

But the big question we have been asking since the second trailer was released this past April is: where is Luke Skywalker? He has not appeared in the trailers since, and is not on the poster for the film? This has spawned many fan theories that he is, in fact, the villain, Kylo Ren, who wears a mask, or that he is dead. When asked by Jimmy Kimmel the reason behind Luke’s absence (on the poster), Harrison Ford quipped, “They ran out of room.”

Readers, your questions will be answered right away upon screening. And you will see that there are many similar events that took place all the way back with A New Hope. You will perhaps see them as foreshadowing events, or even tributes, since the only way one could dislike this film would be if one is a Holden Caulfield hipster, who is critical of anything mainstream.

The film will not disappoint. And (cue the hand wave) you will return to see it multiple times.

And I can state unequivocally, I will return to see it multiple times …

(Heads up: I already saw it twice within 36 hours)

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

Share

Letter From Paris: Welcome ‘Le Grand Paris!’ New Geographical Region Becomes a Reality

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

On January 1st, 2016 the “Metropole du Grand Paris” became official .  This new territorial organization, named Etablissement Public de Cooperation Intercommunale (EPCI),  includes Paris plus parts of three departements Hauts de Seine, Seine St Denis and Val de Marne– with seven millions inhabitants.

What is the Grand Paris ?  Why is it a necessity?  Is it a decisive step forward? Does it have models in other countries?  What are the  problems it is facing ?  Anyone curious to learn how France works and what lies in the future might be interested in having a look at this new concept.

The project was born in 2007 under President Sarkozy’s mandate.  When the Socialists came to power in 2012, they immediately modified the initial proposal.  But the authors of the project kept plodding away.  Its official status represents a progress toward the long term objective, which is to be ready for the Olympic Games in 2024 and the 2025 World Fair, in the event Paris is chosen.

The French capital is choking inside the beltway and something had to be done:  the town of Paris is too small and too expensive even to accommodate the middle class; suburbia, which used to provide a labor force in the former industrial economy, is hit today by unemployment ; this same suburbia feels isolated because of inadequate public transport (if you drive into work you might spend hours in bouchons or traffic jams on the highway).  The RERs (Regional Rapid Transit) are overcrowded and often unsafe.

reseau-de-transport-grand-paris-1

In the new project (see map above), the backbone of public transport will be the Grand Paris Express, six new lines of totally automated trains circling the Paris agglomeration  and connecting, for the first time, the suburbs.  For instance it will be possible to go directly from Boulogne at the west of Paris to Marne la Vallée  (the location of Euro-Disney) in the east.

Until now any change has been hampered by administrative complexity – layer upon layer of  authorities, like a millefeuille  – (a well known and sinful pastry).

The Grand Paris will  include 132 communes.  Mayors wield enormous power in France.  That power is particularly obvious at election time when building permits seem to multiply.  The mayors will have to learn how to live together and adapt to the new administrative structure, which now includes other layers of the bureaucratic millefeuille, namely the departements and the regions (this year they have been reduced from 22 to 13), piled on top.

France is essentially a centralized state.  Culture, finance, education of the elite,  research and development, luxury shops,  are heavily concentrated in Paris and the Ile de France.  Napoleon, Baron Haussmann, General De Gaulle are the great historical figures who left their imprint in the centralization process.  What we are witnessing today is an explosion of the center.  It is even likely that the boundaries of the Grand Paris may expand.

The Grand Paris will be made of ‘clusters’ (in English in the French text) to bring Paris to par with New York , London or Tokyo.  According to the official description of the project, “Greater Paris relies on seven thematic competitive clusters.”  The list includes : Air Space, Trade, Sustainable City, Digital Creation, International Trade, and Life Sciences.  A financial center already exists in the Defense district, which looks like a mini-Manhattan. ,

Saclay, 20 kilometers south of Paris, is the most impressive and modernistic of these clusters.  Until recently an agricultural land, it is now the hub of Research and Development.  Many élite Grandes Ecoles, like Polytechnique,  have  moved there, as well as 23 universities and the headquarters of major companies.  Its emblematic building, spreading over the fields like a giant flying saucer, is the Synchroton Soleil with its accelerators to study light.  Pierre Veltz, an engineer and former head of Saclay, is confident that it will become an European Silicon Valley.

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

Share