July 16, 2019

Toy Soldier Collection on Display at Acton Library During June

The Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook will be hosting a display of Jerry Basil’s toy soldiers for the month of June. Basil has been collecting different kinds of toy soldiers for many years and has an impressive collection.

The Acton Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.

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Marine Art Exhibition on View at Lyme Art Association Through July

Lyme Art Association (LAA) presents its summer exhibition, American Waters, in the LAA’s sky-lit galleries from June 12 through July 31. The exhibition will feature work by the country’s premier maritime artists, who are members of the American Society of Marine Artists as invited guests, alongside exciting marine work by LAA artists.

An opening reception for the exhibition will be held Friday, June 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LAA, 90 Lyme St., Old Lyme, Conn. All are welcome and refreshments will be served.

'Marshall Point' by Kent Winchell.

‘Marshall Point’ by Kent Winchell.

Russ Kramer, an internationally recognized marine painter, will jury the exhibition. Kramer comments, “What better place for an exhibition of marine-inspired art than the Lyme Art Association?” continuing, “It is a true landmark in our region’s artistic history, whose proximity to the Lieutenant and Connecticut rivers and Long Island Sound has inspired artists for a century. These new works in the exhibition American Waters are by many of the finest practitioners of marine art working today. To think the same subjects continue to inspire us 100 years later is testament to this area’s enduring, irresistible allure.”

'Afternoon Light' by the late Yves Parent.

‘Afternoon Light’ by the late Yves Parent.

Concurrent with the American Waters exhibition, the LAA presents a large exhibition of Yves Parent maritime paintings. Many of these paintings are of coastal landmarks, recognizable to boaters who have spent time in the waters around the New England coast. This will be the final opportunity to view and purchase paintings from the estate of Yves Parent at the LAA.

Lyme Art Association Board President, Katherine Simmons, states, “American Waters continues an LAA tradition of exhibiting the very best of fine contemporary American marine painting. We are grateful to the members of the American Society of Marine Artists who are joining us as invited guests, and we would especially like to thank our premier media sponsor, The Day, and our presenting sponsor, Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law, along with juror Russ Kramer, for making this exhibition happen.”

The LAA was founded in 1914 by the American Impressionists and continues the tradition of exhibiting and selling representational artwork by its members and invited artists, as well as offering art instruction and lectures to the community. The Association’s home is a building designed by Charles Adams Platt and located within a national historic district.

Admission is free with contributions appreciated. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.

For more information on exhibitions, purchase of art, art classes, or becoming a member, call (860) 434-7802.

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Gorman’s Woodcarvings on Display at Acton Library Through May

The Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook will be hosting a display of Ed Gorman’s Wood Carvings for the month of May.  Gorman has been working with wood for the past seven years.

The Acton Library is open from 10am-8:30pm Monday through Thursday, 9am to 5pm Friday and Saturday, and Sunday, from 1-5 pm through May 17.

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Eastern Connecticut Ballet to Perform ‘The Magic Toy Shoppe’ This Weekend

Ellie Weise of Old Lyme

Ellie Wiese of Old Lyme stars as a Bird in ‘The Magic Toy Shoppe.’

On Saturday and Sunday, May 9 and 10, which is Mother’s Day weekend, Eastern Connecticut Ballet (ECB) will stage two matinee performances of “The Magic Toy Shoppe,” a playful, vibrant ballet that will delight all ages.

Matinees will be held at 3 p.m. on both days in the Lyme-Old Lyme High School auditorium. Each audience member who donates a new toy to the Spring Toy Drive (coordinated by Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau benefiting area children’s hospitals and shelters) will earn a chance to win an American Girl Doll or a prize from the event sponsor, The Bowerbird.

The ballet’s story unfolds in a small shop where, each night after closing time, toys from around the world come to life. The characters include two classic French clowns, dancing Scottish girls, Cossack ponies, a tarantella dancer from Italy, a bevy of fairies and the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. Dancers also portray ballerina dolls.

Gloria Govrin, artistic director of ECB, coordinates all of this creativity onstage. A soloist with New York City Ballet, who studied with the legendary George Balanchine, she is known for her own imaginative choreography. Where does she turn for inspiration? Govrin says that it all begins with simple listening.

“Whatever I hear in the music is what we’ll do,” she says. She creates each piece to fit the talents and level of each individual dancer or group.

As Govrin explains, a ballet such as The Magic Toy Shoppe is never performed the same way twice. It changes and evolves each time it comes to the stage. Originating as “La Boutique Fantasque,” The Magic Toy Shoppe had its world premiere in London in 1919.

At that time, the dancing of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, choreography by Léonide Massine, melodies by Rossini adapted by Respighi, and colorful sets and costumes by the artist André Derain all combined to give the one-act ballet its charm. According to The Times of London, the audience was “sent off its head with delight” after the first performance. The work continues to captivate audiences today.

After the Old Lyme performances, children are invited onstage to take photos with the dancers, and each will receive a special toy to take home.

Eastern Connecticut Ballet, a school for classical ballet, based in East Lyme, attracts students from more than 40 towns throughout eastern Connecticut. Known for its annual production of The Nutcracker in New London, ECB brings other original works to the stage throughout the year and performs with local orchestras as well.

Advance tickets for The Magic Toy Shoppe are $12 for children and $18 for adults and may be purchased at ECB’s studio, 435 Boston Post Rd. in East Lyme, or The Bowerbird Gift Shop in the Old Lyme Marketplace. Tickets at the door are $14 for children, $20 for adults. Children aged three and under are free if sitting on a parent’s lap.

For more information, call 860-739-7899 or visit www.easternctballet.com.

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Carney, Formica’s Joint Town Hall Meeting Tonight Cancelled

Rep. Devin Carney

State Rep. Devin Carney

State Senator Paul Formica

State Senator Paul Formica

State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23) and State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20) have cancelled their town hall meeting scheduled for this coming Thursday, April 23, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Acton Public Library, due to a legislative session being called for that day.

They will release an updated date and location for the postponed event at a later date.

If you had a particular question or concern you were hoping to see addressed Thursday, call 1-800-842-1423 or email devin.carney@housegop.ct.gov to reach Rep. Carney or call 1-800-842-8800 to reach Sen. Formica.

Visit www.RepCarney.com or http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/home-formica/ for more information and updates.

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Child & Family Agency’s 61st Annual Tag Sale Continues Today

Items for the Child & Family Agency 61st Annual Sale will be collected at six “Intake” locations along the shoreline and then transported to the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, 189 Fort Hill Road, Groton, CT for this extraordinary tag sale, to be held on April 16, 17 and 18. All proceeds will support Child & Family Agency programs and services for children and families. 

Items for the Child & Family Agency 61st Annual Sale will be collected at six “Intake” locations along the shoreline and then transported to the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, 189 Fort Hill Road, Groton, CT for this extraordinary tag sale, to be held on April 16, 17 and 18. All proceeds will support Child & Family Agency programs and services for children and families.

GROTON, CT — Child & Family Agency is gearing up for its 61st Annual Sale, which has earned a reputation for being one of the “Largest Tag Sales in New England.” Donated items are sorted, boxed and transported to Groton for a bonanza, 3-day fundraiser.

This year’s 61st Annual Sale will be held at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School at 189 Fort Hill Road in Groton from Thursday, April 16, through Saturday, April 18.

Today, Friday, April 17, items are at cost and the sale is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 18, opening hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., when most items are half price.

The motto “Bring the Best and Leave the Rest” has made the town of Essex a standard bearer for “quality” donations, which help to provide for an increasingly successful fundraiser. Donations are tax deductible, for which receipts will be issued at the “Intake.”

Proceeds go directly to support the many extraordinary services provided by Child & Family Agency, a non-profit organization that has served Connecticut families for over 200 years.  Last year over 17,000 children and their family members in 79 towns were helped by the agency’s staff of 190 dedicated professionals.

For more information about the work of Child & Family, visit www.childandfamilyagency.org.

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Old Lyme Country Club Trial Memberships for 2015

Try Old Lyme Country Club (OLCC) for the 2015 Season and enjoy full use of a wide range of sports and social activities, including golf, tennis, swimming, dining and more.

“Absolutely convenient. No tee times.” That’s what OLCC golfers appreciate the most. This family-friendly, low-key course is easily accessible, but sporty and challenging!

“Absolutely convenient. No tee times.” That’s what OLCC golfers appreciate the most. This family-friendly, low-key course is easily accessible, but sporty and challenging!

A limited number of trial memberships are available for the 2015 Season. This plan offers affordable dues and no first year initiation fee.

The OLCC pool continues to be the best kept secret in the Shoreline area. The sparkling pool provides a wonderful variety of activities for adults and children, and the pool terrace is a favorite spot for relaxing, entertaining, socializing, partying and dining.

The OLCC pool continues to be the best kept secret in the Shoreline area. The sparkling pool provides a wonderful variety of activities for adults and children, and the pool terrace is a favorite spot for relaxing, entertaining, socializing, partying and dining.

To obtain all the details on this remarkable offer, email the membership office at admissions@oldlymecc.com or visit the membership page on the OLCC website at www.oldlymecc.com/Membership.aspx.

Members are involved in year-round racquet sports at the OLCC where there are four Har-Tru Tennis courts and two Platform Tennis courts to keep them active through the whole year.

Members are involved in year-round racquet sports at the OLCC where there are four Har-Tru Tennis courts and two Platform Tennis courts to keep them active through the whole year.

 

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How to Raise a Drug-Free Child: Country School Holds Parenting Event, April 9

MADISON – The Country School presents How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: THE STRAIGHT DOPE FOR PARENTS, an evening of conversation with Dr. Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Yale University psychiatry experts.

On April 9 at 6 p.m. in The Country School’s DeFrancis Gymnasium, join Dr. Califano, former US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, founder of The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), and author of the new completely revised and updated edition of How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents, as he provides insights on how to help get children through the dangerous decade from 10 to 21, those formative pre-teen, teen, and college years.

Topics covered will include: legalized and synthetic marijuana, social media, the prescription drug epidemic and abuse of ADHD medications, rampant drinking and drug use on college campuses, and the latest findings on the critical connection between teen brain development and substance use.

Dr. Califano’s talk will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A session with Yale psychiatry experts, including his daughter, Claudia Califano, MD, Adolescent and Child Psychiatrist, Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale Child Study Center, and a Country School parent; Joseph L. Woolston, MD, Albert J. Solnit Professor of Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center; and Greer Richardson, MD Psychiatrist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University.

The panel will be moderated by Samuel A. Ball, PhD, President and CEO of The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

This event, part of The Country School’s Teacher Institute-Partnering With Parents Initiative, is supported by M.A.D.E. in Madison (www.madeinmadison.org), a coalition of community members striving to promote positive youth development. The evening is free and open to the public, but all attendees are asked to RSVP ahead of time.

Email beth.coyne@thecountryschool.org by April 2, 2015, with your name and the number of guests joining you (limit four people per RSVP). All attendees will receive a copy of Dr. Califano’s book. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

The Country School thanks Dr. Califano, the panelists and moderator, and M.A.D.E. in Madison for partnering with the school in the search to improve lives through education. Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool through Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus. The Country School is located at 341 Opening Hill Road in Madison. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Letter From Paris: ‘French-Bashing’ Doesn’t Add Up If The Numbers Are Wrong

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The latest round of “French bashing” has been circulating on the internet, touching a nerve among the French social networks .  On January 3rd, Newsweek journalist Janine di Giovanni  published on the magazine’s website (Newsweek has ceased to appear on news stands for around a year) an article titled, “Fall of France.”  She is a successful correspondent covering the war scene in the Middle East, but her only qualification to write about France is that she has been living in Paris for 10 years.  Two days later, the Newsweek editor reiterated its attack on France in another article, this time, “How a Cockerel Nation became an Ostrich.”  That article, in fact, repeated the recommendations addressed by the European Commission to the nine countries of the EU (European Union), France among them.

Di Giovanni’s general message is that the decline of France has greatly accelerated under the Socialist government of François Hollande and that the “French model” of a providence state (the author calls it a “nannie state”) is not sustainable.  This is not an original point of view and the French themselves are frequently criticizing their own system and trying to modify it.  The American-born journalist has written an entertaining and clearly poorly researched article.  She backs her arguments with a mixture of true, false and, sometimes, outrageous information, which make the piece quite entertaining.

Challenges, a well-established French weekly magazine dealing with economy, and reliable web sites, such as Decodeurs.com, have gone to the trouble of analyzing point by point di Giovanni’s story.

The most glaring mistakes she makes concern the excessive taxes.  She writes: ” Since the arrival of the Socialist President François Holland in 2012, the income tax and social security have rocketed. The top rate is 75 percent and a great many pay in excess of 70percent.”  In  fact, in 2011 (that is under Nicolas Sarkozy) the top income tax bracket was 43.7 percent and today it is 45 percent.  The tax of 75 percent is only paid by the very rich with an income of over one million Euro.

By decision of the Conseil Constitutionnel, the tax of 75 percent  is not considered as a separate tax bracket.  It has only been paid by 11,960 households.  Furthermore, the tax is not paid by the individuals, but by the firm which employs them.   Finally the Newsweek journalist may have mixed up income tax with the amount paid by the employer  (including social benefits), which resulted in a doubling of the numbers.

Commentators had a field day with some hilarious statements made by di Giovanni.  There is no word for entrepreneur in French, she claims.  Apparently she forgot that the word entrepreneur is French!  Another is quoting the price of a liter of milk as being six euros when it is only 1.33.  An online reader commented that the author must shop at the most expensive gourmet Grande Epicerie of the luxury department store of Bon Marché.

From her bourgeois apartment near the Luxembourg garden in the 6th District – the most expensive in the capital – she has a strange perception of what real life is like for the working population.  Talking about nurseries, for instance, she writes that they are free, can be found in every neighborhood and provide free diapers.  In fact, only some 13 percent of the middle class can afford nurseries and they have to pay roughly 9 percent of their income for using them.

The French seem to regard such “bashing” as stimulating … and it certainly keeps them on their toes.

About the author:  Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter.  She will write 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 will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe.  Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents.  Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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5th Annual Vista Tour de Shore Reaches New Heights

Vista 2013

On Sunday, October 20, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center held the 5th Annual Vista Tour de Shore cycling event. This year’s Vista Tour de Shore featured more than 270 riders on a beautiful fall day and raised significantly more funds than in previous years. Total funds raised exceeded $90,000. The event was sponsored by Essex Printing, Zane’s Cycles, Shore Publishing, Thomson Tours, Wells Fargo, Wilcox Energy, WebNow1, The Tolland Fund, Essex Savings Bank and Gowrie Group.

Starting and ending at the Westbrook Elks Lodge, The Vista Tour de Shore featured rides of 5, 25, 40 and 60 miles throughout the Connecticut shoreline communities. Big names in the world of cycling in attendance at this year’s event included Olympian Tim Duggan as well as USA Cycling’s CEO and President Steve Johnson and Director of Development Steve McCauley.

Net proceeds from the Vista Tour de Shore benefit the Endowment Fund of Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc.

Based in Westbrook and Madison, CT, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center is a 501©3 nonprofit organization. Vista’s mission is to provide services and resources on an individualized basis to assist adults with disabilities to live independent and successful lives.

For more information regarding Vista, please visit www.vistavocational.org

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Before You Know It, There Will Be Two Emergency Medical Centers Off I-95

The management team directing the construction of new Westbrook center (l to r) Tim Know, Project Manager, Whiting-Turner Construction; Jack Xenelis, Xenelis Construction; Noel Bishop, Westbrook First Selectman; David Giuffrida, PE, Vice President, Middlesex Hospital; and Harry Evert, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations, Middlesex Hospital.

The management team directing the construction of new Westbrook medical center (l to r) Tim Know, Project Manager, Whiting-Turner Construction; Jack Xenelis, Xenelis Construction; Noel Bishop, Westbrook First Selectman; David Giuffrida, PE, Vice President, Middlesex Hospital; and Harry Evert, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations, Middlesex Hospital.

There are now two emergency medical centers along the shoreline. One is the “grand daddy of them all,” the emergency medical center in Essex operated by Middlesex Hospital. This medical center has been serving emergency medical patients from its Essex location since 1975.

The second emergency medical center on the shoreline is located in Guilford off I-95 at Exit 59. It is operated by Yale New Haven Hospital, and it opened in 2004.

The Good Old Days for the Essex Medical Center

For decades the emergency medical center in Essex had the shoreline emergency medical center practice pretty much to itself. Patients from Old Lyme to as far as Branford, and all towns in between, had only one choice for emergency medical care, and that was in Essex.

The present Emergency Medical Center in Essex

The present Emergency Medical Center in Essex

However, after the Guilford center opened in 2004, many Essex patients, especially those from the towns of Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton and Westbrook, had a new alternative. That was the Guilford medical center, which is just off I-95 at Exit 59.

The entrance of the Emergency Medical Center in Guilford

The entrance of the Emergency Medical Center in Guilford

Certainly, it is quicker and easier for residents of these towns to go to the Guilford medical center along I-95 than to go to Essex, whose medical center is reachable only by a twisting local road, three miles down from I-95.

Middlesex Hospital Fights Back

However, Middlesex Hospital could see the handwriting on the wall. It soon realized that an emergency medical center located right off I-95 was bound to attract more emergency medical patients than one several miles away from the Interstate.

Wall poster in the Essex Medical Center showing its future center in Westbrook

Wall poster in the Essex Medical Center showing its future center in Westbrook

So Middlesex Hospital, under the leadership of Executive Vice President Harry Evert, committed itself to building a new emergency medical center in Westbrook, just a short distance from Exit 65 off I-95. It is now being constructed on an expedited basis and is scheduled to open in April 2014.

Although Middlesex Hospital’s new emergency medical center will not be located quite as close to I-95 as the Guilford medical center, there are attractive expansion possibilities at the largely vacant Westbrook site, which are a plus.

Working weekends to complete construction of new Westbrook medical center

Working weekends to complete construction of new Westbrook medical center

Who Invented the Emergency Medical Center Concept?

If you listen to Middlesex Hospital’s plain spoken, Executive Vice President Evert, it was Middlesex Hospital that first developed the idea of building an emergency medical center to serve shoreline communities away from the sponsoring hospital.

Evert says, bluntly, referring to Yale New Haven Hospital’s emergency medical center in Guilford, “They were copying us.”  True enough, Yale New Haven Hospital, by building an emergency medical center in Guilford, may well have been “copying” the success of Middlesex Hospital’s emergency medical center in Essex.

However, it is equally true that Middlesex Hospital is now “copying” the concept of the Yale New Haven Hospital, which is to place its new emergency medical center close to an exit off I-95.

Both Hospitals and Patients Are the Winners

Both the two hospitals, as well their shoreline patients, are the winners in this matter. In fact, the only real losers are the residents of Essex. They will soon lose having a major medical care facility right in town.

Furthermore, Essex residents in the future could also lose local access to the physicians’ offices, Middlesex Hospital’s physical therapy center, and other hospital related facilities, which are now clustered around the Essex facility. Although some Essex residents decry the emergency center’s moving out of town, clearly, there is no turning back.

The bottom line is that the shoreline will have by spring of next year two, 24 hour, seven days a week, emergency medical centers, and both  will have easy access from I-95.

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Tag sale At The Company of Fifers and Drummers

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CT Watchdog: Customer Service

When I judge a company’s customer service, I look not only at the number and kinds of complaints, but at how the firms respond.

 All companies make mistakes, employees have bad days, and there can be communication problems.

 But once someone at the top is made aware of a problem, it needs to be resolved real soon to get an A from me.

 The following are two examples of companies that deserve praise for the way they have handled complaints:

 Mike Bennett of Windsor Locks wrote to me about a beef he had with Puritan Furniture of West Hartford.

 Bennett  paid $2,000 for what the saleswoman promised was a large, well-built reclining sofa with a matching loveseat two years ago. A month later, a clip that had held a spring failed. Puritan sent a repairman out and fixed it. Sixteen months later the stitching began to unravel on one of the footrests, and then the recliner mechanism wouldn’t work.

 “Unfortunately, the sofas have only a one-year warranty on labor. Puritan does not fix sofas, nor do they involve themselves in the process, instead they give you the phone number for someone that does,” Bennett wrote me in his complaint. “I called the repairman and I was told that it was going to cost us $40 just to have someone come look at it, we would then have to pay even more on top of that to have them fix it. I realize that this is not the repairman’s problem and that he surely deserves to be paid for his time, but we do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on fixing our new couch.”

 “The people at Puritan were completely unbending when it came to offering any help. They are your best friend when selling you the furniture, but boy are things different when there is a problem! You’re on your own then,” he wrote asking for my advice.

 I looked up Puritan on the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) site and saw that the company, which has been in business for more than 70 years, had only a few complaints filed against it and had the highest possible rating.

 I suggested to Bennett that he write to the president of the company, Bruce Singer, and to give him a chance to make amends.

 “Well, as I expected, your advice was spot-on! I got a phone call from Mr. Singer and he was very pleasant with me. He apologized for my troubles and offered to replace the mechanisms on both sides of the couch, plus fix the stitching in the footrest, all at no charge,” Bennett wrote me.

 Town Fair Tire stores have an excellent reputation for customer service. My friend Denis Horgan recently had a relative visiting at his West Hartford home. The relative’s car had flat tire and Horgan, our travel blogger on CtWatchdog.com, took him to the West Hartford store. For $4.95, they fixed the flat; no charge for the two coffees Horgan had.

 But that is not the experience that Kevin and Melanie Logan of Colchester had at the Norwich store. The Logans, longtime customers, say they had a terrible encounter on July 30th when the two complained about wear on their tires.  They said they got into an argument with the staff and were treated rudely by an employee when they asked for a partial refund, which was denied.

 The couple wrote a letter to the company president:

 “You need to seriously consider sending in someone qualified to re-train your staff, because this behavior is unacceptable and we simply cannot be the only ones to have been abused by him or others in this location before. I would not be able to rest if I did not bring this to your attention as I not only felt like I was being verbally abused, but his physical demeanor was threatening as well. If I were there alone, without my husband, I would have been not only shocked, but also scared for my own well being. He was menacing, simple as that. He would not provide us with his last name… however he did wear a ring with skulls on it if that helps,” the couple wrote.

 No one responded so the couple asked me for my advice. I contacted Rich Allen, customer service coordinator in East Haven, who conceded that the letter did not reach the president. But he quickly reacted, apologized to the Logans for their experience, and offered them a refund much larger than is provided by the firm’s warranty.

 Frankly, I think the Logans are still so furious that they won’t be back to Town Fair, but I would recommend the company to anyone that asked.

You can reach The Watchdog at George@connecticutwatchdog.com and he will answer as many emails as he can. Please check out his site, www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, media, internet, computer, travel and education tips.

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CT Watchdog: How to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft

The call from Tyler was scary. He had been in a car accident in a rental car in Montreal and needed money to pay an attorney and fly home.

Dorothy Cheo, 81, of Niantic, was so upset on hearing her grandson was in trouble that she couldn’t think straight.

She quickly went to a local grocery store and wired $935 to Montreal through Western Union.

It was only after receiving the second phone call asking for more money that she began to question whether she had really talked to her grandson.

Nope. According to East Lyme resident state police Sgt. Wilfred Blanchette, she was at least the second local victim of this type of scam in the past year.

Cheo contacted me, asking that I tell her story as a cautionary tale to other parents and relatives, and she had a suggestion that Sgt. Blanchette endorsed: create a secret word for the family to use only if they are in trouble.

Cheo said she fell for the scam because the boy identified himself as Tyler and was coughing so hard it was impossible for her to know that it wasn’t really him. And then, when a second person got on the phone explaining he was Tyler’s attorney, she knew she had to act fast.

“If he had said ‘this is your grandson’ I would have been suspicious,” Cheo told me. “But he said he was Tyler and he sounded sick.”

After wiring the money, Cheo said she called her son, but couldn’t reach him. And the more she thought about it, the less sense it made. Her grandson was only 16 and she wasn’t even aware that he had a driver’s license. And what was he doing in Montreal instead of being in Massachusetts.

So by the time the “lawyer” called back saying he received the $935 but needed more money, she said no.

“Somehow the caller knew my grandson’s name and relation to me, so pretended to be him with a bad cough and desperate sound. Then a so-called lawyer explained that he was in jail in Montreal due to an auto accident that was not his fault.”

She then got contacted her son, who reassured her that Tyler was safe at band camp and had never been in Montreal.

“It was dumb,” she said, “but I was so worried.”

She said if they had set up a secret code word, this would not have happened.

Cheo said she has no idea how the scammers knew her telephone number and her grandson’s name.

She filed a complaint with the East Lyme police, and Sgt. Blanchette said he wasn’t surprised.

With so much personal information on the Internet, he said, it’s easy for crooks to put family information together, especially using sites like Facebook.

But, he said, “so far, how they picked out this family is a mystery.”

He said the first complaint he saw was very similar, where the call also came from Montreal.

“This is the crime wave of the future,” he said, adding that similar scam take place with hijacked email accounts.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST ID THEFT

Thanks to Consumer Reports for its effective suggestions on how to diminish ID theft.

I will start with my personal recommendation, which may be counterintuitive for those who don’t trust the Internet to do on-line banking.

Use on-line banking to pay your bills. Its free (nothing is really free but most banks offer it as long as you meet other requirements like automatic deposits). Effective. You have all your documentation in one place.

And you can set up alerts – this is crucial – to tell you when a new payee is added or a payment is made. It’s a tremendous way to have instant knowledge of what is happening with your bank account.

Other suggestions from CR – the trusted place for consumer tips:

Do not fill out surveys on warranty cards beyond your name and address and product info.

Stop unsolicited pre-approved credit card offers at www.optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688.

Put your name on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry at www.donotcall.gov or call 888.382-1222.

When you move only fill out a temporary change of address with the U.S. Postal Service that lasts for six month.

To get your name off mailing lists, go to the Direct Marketing Association’s consumer web site, www.dmachoice.org. Click on “Register for eMPS” to opt out of unsolicited junk email.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse lists data brokers that offer opt-out policies at www.privacyrights.org/ar/infobrokers.htm.

You can reach The Watchdog at George@connecticutwatchdog.com and he will answer as many emails as he can. Please check out his site, www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, media, internet, computer, travel and education tips.

 

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Between Us – Porching It

Trish Bennett is an award-winning journalist and the former assistant editor of Main Street News.  She holds a master of science degree in journalism and was adjunct professor of media history at Quinnipiac University before relocating Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  Her latest work appears in the up-coming volume of “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” slated for publication in association with National Public Radio this Fall.  She can be reached at pwbennett@verizon.net

American poet Robert Frost is famous for—among other things—penning the line, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

Frost’s lines concern a stand of birches observed in winter, bent down, as those trees tend to be, by snow and ice. It is as if, Frost observes, a small boy had shinnied up the trunk, and, with the bravado of the young, reached the end of the tree, and flung himself, clutching its topmost branches, feet-first into the blue winter sky and “ridden” the tree to the ground.

The image of the birch-swinger is a metaphor for the poet’s on-again, off-again relationship with the world: “It’s when I’m weary of considerations,” he writes, “and life is too much like a pathless wood…I’d like to get away from earth awhile, and then come back to it and begin over.”

Now given the fact that it’s July in New England, as opposed to January, I will make bold to offer a seasonal amendment to Mr. Frost and note that, fine as birches are, one could also do worse than be a sitter of porches.

Bear with me, and I may actually get you to believe that homely, un-“hot” objects like birches and porches can actually be the stuff of meaning, allowing us to revel in life rather than merely regarding it as a conquerable commodity or something to be endured.

Porches are ephemera to many modern home builders and largely to the 21st century mindset in which everything seems to require justification via a specific purpose.

Real porches–and here I exclude so-called “three-season rooms” which are made practicable,  and therefore justifiable, by insulation or infomercial awnings; and “decks” which many times dangle in space supported only by four by fours and which function as a grilling stations and occasionally collapse, sending bratwurst, steaks and grill person into the sump-pump bog some 18 feet below—are, like summer, short-lived, sloth-inducing, and community-inviting.

And to have one, especially a front porch, is to be blessed.

First, porches represent the once-upon-a-time in architecture. A time when folks strolled streets after dinner; a time when neighbors knew their community as faces and names met over day-to-day dealings; a time when social interaction was spontaneous rather than marked on an agenda three weeks in advance.

So once upon a time, after supper, you spied Fred and Mabel over your flower boxes and invited them up to your porch for ice cream and/or gossip.

Porch furniture, likewise, embodies a largely abandoned approach to existence: It does not warm, vibrate or advertise as orthopedically approved. Rather, it rocks, but back-and-forth; it swings, but in the wind.

So once upon a time, Junior de-camped to the porch and poured over Treasure Island, or Pop left the edging until tomorrow and expended his strength willing Ted Williams to first base while downing a lemonade.

“A good porch,” notes writer Garrison Keillor, gets you out of the parlor; lets you smoke, talk loud, eat with your fingers—without apology and without having to run away from home. No wonder that people with porches have hundreds of friends…Me and the missus float back and forth on the swing, Mark and Rhonda are collapsed at opposite ends of the couch. Marlene peruses her paperback novel in which an astounding event is about to occur…the cats lie on the floor listening to birdies, and I say, ‘It’s a heck of a deal, ain’t it, a heck of a deal.’ A golden creamy silence suffuses this happy scene, and only on a porch is it possible.”

As I said, one could do worse than be a sitter of porches.

Happy summer.

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Between Us – “Fine, and You?” (Or maybe not so much)

Trish Bennett is an award-winning journalist and the former assistant editor of Main Street News.  She holds a master of science degree in journalism and was adjunct professor of media history at Quinnipiac University before relocating Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  Her latest work appears in the up-coming volume of “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” slated for publication in association with National Public Radio this Fall.  She can be reached at pwbennett@verizon.net

Fine, and You?” (Or maybe not so much)
 
It is the absence of the “fine” in our kids’ lives—deliberation and discernment skills—that worries me:
 
To the ever-expanding pile of words denuded of practically all meaning, I’d like to add “fine.”
 
Witness the range of synonyms offered, for example, by my Macbook onboard thesaurus: “very well,” “well,” “all right,” “okay”: which is a little like saying “thriving,” “healthy,” “so-so,” and “breathing, but little else” all mean the same thing.
 
Show me a med student who maintains that “thriving,” “healthy,” “so-so,” and “breathing but that’s all,” are interchangeable descriptions of a patient’s state, and I’ll show you next week’s road crew member.
 
What got me ruminating on “fine’s” decline is several recent examples that demonstrate how very absent from our children’s experiences are the word’s other uses.  That is, “fine” as in “subtle”; “delicate”; “refined.”
 
Now before I am accused of advocating that kids be inculcated with the rituals of high tea at four o’clock, and the care and feeding of Granny’s bone china, allow me to explain.  Or perhaps paint you some word pictures.
 
I volunteer in an inner-city Philadelphia school built in the 1920’s.  The library, where I help teach first, third and fourth graders is a relatively bright oasis of clean, sturdy tables and raspberry-hued upholstered chairs.  Outside the library, strong-armed, alarmed doors keep intruders out of the sunless halls where rusty pipes often leak into containers meant for recycled paper.
 
To many of my kids, the library can mean “fine” in the sense of an alternative: one of only a few places regularly available to them where nursery rhymes, biographies, and Harry Potter can offer beauty or delicacy in contrast to the gritty realities posed by poverty and absent parents.
 
Since school began, though, my volunteer friends and I have been alternately surprised, bemused and discouraged by our students’ choice of books.
 
Call it “elitist” if you will, but we can sigh when there are tug-of-wars over the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Captain Underpants” series while grade- and ability-friendly volumes featuring Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein and Anne Frank seldom get a glance.
 
Is this “fine” in the sense of just okay (“hey, at least they’re reading”)?  Perhaps.  Is a steady diet of only pop culture and familiarity helping these kids to develop finer qualities like critical thinking and subtle reasoning?  I think not.
 
And lest you think that disadvantaged kids are the only ones who lack for examples of higher aspirations, come west about nine miles to the quite advantaged Main Line where the children of privilege, like their 8- to 18-year-old counterparts country-wide spend—according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation—more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a smart phone, computer, TV or other electronic device.
 
For the moment, leave aside concerns of rampant childhood obesity and the 47 percent of “heavy” media users who, according to the study, had mostly C grades or lower.
 
Instead consider the example of Baby Trey, who, the New York Times related, was parked by his well-meaning mother in front of Baby Einstein videos and “Dora the Explorer.”
 
“By the time he was 4, he had all these math and science DVDs…and he learned to read and do math early,” said Trey’s mother, Kim Calinan.  But now that Trey is 9, Calinan observes, video games have displaced after-school activities, and her son shows little interest in any social interaction or independent exploration—such as reading—that might cut into his gaming time.
 
“[Heavy media use has] changed young people’s assumptions about how to get an answer to a question,” says Donald F. Roberts, a Stamford communications professor emeritus who is one of the authors of the Kaiser Foundation study.  “People can put out a problem…and information pours in from all kinds of sources.”
 
And as a former communications professor myself, I can attest that even college age students, while they may be whizzes at harvesting factoids, are becoming less and less adapt at culling and discriminating between the finer points in that information avalanche.
 
To some degree my privileged former students are no further along in their ability to engage in refined, subtle thought than my challenged present charges.
 
So what we have here may be “fine,” in the sense of “okay” for many: Democracy is not yet threatened by many kids’ hampered ability to reason.
 
But it is the absence of the “fine” in our kids’ lives, represented by deliberation and discernment skills, that worries me: the impetus to be curious beyond the familiar; to be enlightened beyond the obvious; to consider rather than simply emote; to be educated rather than simply amused.
 
And absent those fine points of the human experience, we and our children are not fine at all.

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