Friday, February 12, 2016

Meet Australian Princess Shrimpon deBarbie -- The Colonel Carries On #18

by Macolm “Mal” Tambien-Gracias

Epigraph: “You have no idea how much it contributes to the general politeness and pleasantness of diplomacy when you have a little quiet armed force in the background.” --George Kennan

“A plan is what you have till you get punched in the face.” --New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, quoting Mike Tyson, philosopher

There’s an establishment near the new Costco: “Seoul BBQ & Sushi.” Good name for a law firm.

The new Costco is a little farther from Middletown than the Sam’s Club we frequent, but the Costco is bigger and fresher, so for now we’re switchers. Maybe the Sam’s Club will “up its game” to fight the new competition.

Correction: last issue’s extract from Colcannon’s Wake by Shamus Shoyce was from Chapter MIXLID, not Chapter MILDIX. The Colonel regrets the error; he is désolé (Fr., adj.: fishless, shoeless, or both).

How cheery the propane fire in the fireplace insert in the three-season room that one looks into when washing dishes by hand in our kitchen. Since Rani Jahlers keeps a few plants in that room during winter, we have a thermostat. When the room falls to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the fire comes on, runs till the fans push enough hot air into the room to reach the required temp, and goes out. For some reason, I find it hilarious, the way babies like peek-a-boo.

"The West gave the East computers and plastic, and the East gave the West gunpowder and silk, but undergraduates have given us nothing." --Roy Marshrigger

The Superbowl seemed endless. For reasons I never bothered to learn, our neighborhood had a 20-minute power outage during the game. When the power came back, the game was still going on. At 9pm, we switched over to Downton Abbey, watched the hour-long episode, and went back to the game, still in progress. The commercials were disappointing, too. Baby-monkey-puppy? No more GMOs, please.

Maine is the only state whose name has one syllable and which borders just one other state (New Hampshire). Otherwise, Maine is surrounded by Canada and ocean.

A smartphone zombie is called a “smombie.” I didn’t make that up, but it's feeble enough to be one of mine.

Moïse Kapenda Tshombe (sometimes written Tshombé) (10 November 1919 – 29 June 1969) was a Congolese politician, in the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is what he looked like at one time:

“The invention of the Buffalo chicken wing came about because of the delivery of some chicken wings instead of the backs and necks that were ordinarily used in making spaghetti sauce.” --Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker, 1980

The past tense of “chide” is “chid.” Or “chided.”

The novel Infinite Jest was published twenty years ago. Its author, David Foster Wallace, died by his own hand nine years ago, a victim of lifelong depression. Nobody today writes sentences like his. Two examples follow.

“The second shift’s 1600h siren down at Sunstrand Power & Light is creepily muffled by the no-sound of falling snow.”

“But he was a gifted burglar, when he burgled -- though the size of a young dinosaur, with a massive and almost perfectly square head he used to amuse his friends when drunk by letting them open and close elevator doors on.”

“Comedones” are the skin-coloured, small bumps (papules) frequently found on the forehead and chin of those with acne. A single lesion is a “comedo.” Open comedones are blackheads; black from surface pigment (melanin), not from dirt. Closed comedones are whiteheads; the follicle is completely blocked.

“Non-comedogenic,” seen on some makeup labels, refers to a product that doesn’t block the pores and so doesn’t risk the appearance of blackheads. Other works say that the more usual medical term these days is “comedone,” not "comedo," a fact the OED hasn’t yet got around to noticing.

You’d think that “non-comedonic” would be be better than “non-comedogenic,” but who knows? Maybe the word “comedonic” is needed elsewhere, to mean “funny, but sardonic.”

Do you really trust the translators of the 20th-century Chinese literature you read? Neither do I. If the translation is faulty or biased (remember: “all translation is vandalism”), you and I may not have a fully rounded view of Chinese literature of that period. So let's keep our voice down when the subject comes up at cocktail parties and quilting bees.

Have you a towering pile of books to read, and little progress to boast? Are you looking for books to skip entirely? Well, if you dislike eye-gouging, excessive violence, raunchy language, sexist attitudes, tasteless humor, adolescent clowning, general vulgarity, and characters named Weasel and Booger, skip Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale. If not, not.

“Let’s kill the romantic view of the alcoholic writer. Let’s never pretend that the booze is any less a threat to the work than to the body. In particular, let’s knife the idea of the booze as muse. The booze has its own voice but it’s not the voice of the writer. Nor is the booze an enabling buffer that lets the sensitive writer work with otherwise too painful material. Maybe some great work was made possible by alcohol, but what made the work possible also damaged it. The booze always deeply compromises the occasionally glorious fruits of alcoholic composition. Let’s face it: alcoholism is not a portal to the world’s dark truths, but a deforming force and a protracted form of suicide.” --after Leslie Jamison

Zen P.S.: “When you reach the top, keep climbing.”

Mitch Hedberg P.S.: “I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn’t have one. So I bought a cake.”

"Shrimp on the Barbie"


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Board of Education Topics: Redistricting, Sodexo and the Budget

While most of the discussion at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday February 9 was on the topic of remote attendance at Board meetings, and a policy which would allow such attendance, other important topics were addressed by the Board, and the public.


While no vote was taken on the topic, Superintendent Pat Charles reported to the Board on the recommendations of the Redistricting Committee.

Charles indicated that the goals set by the Board were worthwhile but sometimes contradictory.  She also noted that while two public hearings were scheduled, three were actually heard because of changes demanded by the public.

Charles said that the recommendations of the committee were not to redistrict at all for the 2016-2017 school year.  However, the lack of redistricting would not solve the problems of overcrowding at Farm Hill and Macdonough Elementary schools, and so the Farm Hill portable classroom would remain on site at the school.  The portable was put in place as a short-term solution to overcrowding and at the time it was approved by the board, a duration of one year was planned.  In addition the ICM program would move from Farm Hill school to an elementary school with more room.

At Farm Hill and Macdonough, kindergarten enrollment would be capped, forcing parents from those school districts to choose to have their children attend one of the other elementary schools.  Siblings of those kindergarteners would also be allowed to switch schools.  The Board of Education will have to absorb transportation costs for those children.

The committee also recommended remaining a committee to continue discussing the need to solve the problems of overcrowding and racial imbalance at Farm Hill and Macdonough, in light of the work a newly-assigned building committee will do to study the need to build a new middle school.

Several parents spoke in opposition to any redistricting now, or in the future, saying that the redistricting committee should be dissolved.

"A building committee has just been put in place," said steadfast redistricting opponent Catherine Roberts.  "Should we let that work happen first befoe we have the redistricting committee waste their time?"

"It's my opinion they've completed their task," added redistricting opponent Chris Bonsignore.

Redistricting advocate Cathy Lechowicz continued to urge the Board to do the difficult work of holistic redistricting.

"I urge you to do it once, and do it well," Lechowicz said.  "The idea of a "neighborhood school" is a misnomer.  We don't have neighborhood schools, we have student concentrations around the school."

Lechowicz explained that in some neighborhoods, like those adjacent to Snow and Macdonough schools, students already travel to schools distant from their neighborhoods.

A vote on redistricting did not take place at the meeting.


While the budget was not discussed at length, Superintendent Pat Charles delivered some bad news, indicating that insurance costs for prescription medicines came in at a 26.52% increase over last years' costs instead of the expected 12% increase.  The difference in increased budget dollars is more than a million dollars.

The BOE shares the prescription plan with the city, and also shares claims experience, which affects increases.

Charles delivered the sobering news, that the increase, in an already tight budget year meant that more items would have to be cut from her proposed budget in order to keep the total school increase under 5%.


The company which provides food service and building maintenance came up twice during discussions.

In a discussion of an RFP (request for proposal), Sodexo was named as one of the companies that would be bidding for the contract to provide food services to the schools.  The company is the current vendor.

Under and agenda item, titled "Sodexo Criteria Update," Charles reported that Sodexo had performed well in transforming their relationship with the district and with union workers who staff the building maintenance crews.  Charles did indicate that financial analysis of the contract with Sodexo indicated that the district could save somewhere between $220,000 and $240,000 a year if the district returned to having its own facilities manager.

"Those numbers don't tell the whole story," Charles said, indicating that school facilities are in much better shape since Sodexo took over.

Board member Chris Drake indicated that facilities staff and cafeteria staff were city employees, and were hired, and could only be fired by the city, and that contract negotiations with the unions these employees belong to were held without Board of Ed involvement.

Meeting Length

Tuesday's meeting was the first to begin at 6:30, and the public portion of the meeting ended at just before 9, as the Board breezed through agenda items which had previously been stumbling blocks. The Consent Agenda, Department Reports and Committee reports were notably shorter than at previous meetings.

According to one board member, some of the time was saved because of "Sunday caucuses at Vinnie's house," (Board chair, Vinnie Loffredo) indicating that Democratic members of the board met and discussed board issues in private.  This board member indicated that questions were raised and discussed at the caucus, and that those discussions would have otherwise taken place at the meeting, in public.

Freedom of information laws allow political parties to caucus in private, unfortunately this prevents the public from being a party to those discussions.

Governor Malloy To Hold Town Hall Tuesday

Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman will hold a town hall forum in our city on the evening of Tuesday, February 16, 2016, to discuss Malloy's budget principles, his proposals for adapting state government to a changing economy, and other issues concerning the future of the state.

The forum will be held from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Middletown City Hall inside of the Common Council Chambers (245 deKoven Drive, Middletown).  Residents who would like an opportunity to ask the Governor a question should arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event to submit their name on a sign-up sheet.  The forum is open to the public.

Our city's event will be the second stop in a series of town hall forums that the Governor and Lt. Governor will be holding throughout the 2016 legislative session.

Malloy held a well attended forum such as this in 2011 (EYE coverage), also to discuss the budget process. At that event, hosted by Mayor Giuliano, Malloy dismissed partisans on both ends of the political spectrum. When someone accused the Democratic legislature of profligacy, he shifted the blame to the previous 20 years of Republican governors. When a progressive called for higher taxes on the rich, he stated that he preferred a more moderate approach.

Additional information is available on the Governor's website at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

As You Wish: New Time for THE GRAYS with Guest Performer: Bob Nasta

As requested by fans, the start time of the Hump Night series by The Grays is moved to 7:30 pm. They'll perform two sets of high energy, jammin' music until 9:30pm.
"The Grays will be back for our third appearance at our favorite new hangout at The Buttonwood Tree, Middletown's jazz and community oasis. We've been utterly seduced by the fantastic energy of the past two audiences - such beautiful, heartful people, many great musician friends coming out, and the great energy of Middletown's diverse community." Justin Good

This show will feature special guest artist Bob Nasta. Bob Nasta is gifted multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist, music professor at MxCC and musical director of Artists for World Peace. Check him out 

As we continue to hold sacred acoustic space at The Buttonwood, we invite to you come join us, to listen deeply, interact with us emotionally and rhythmically, to channel together the voices of our hidden selves.

"Each time the human being falls asleep and loses consciousness, his astral body emerges from his physical body. In this state man is certainly unconscious but living in the spiritual world. The spiritual sounds make an impression on his soul. The human being awakens each morning from a world of the music of the spheres, and from this region of harmony he re-enters the physical world. If it is true that man's soul experiences Devachan* between two incarnations on earth, then we may also say that during the night the soul feasts and lives in flowing tone, as the element from which it is actually woven and which is the soul's true home."
Rudolf Steiner

The Grays is an original jazz-funk music project, which mixes electrified gypsy jazz with odd-time tribal funk beats. The group features Justin Vood Good on guitar, Hans Lohse on percussion, accordion and vocals, Tracey Kroll on drums and electronica, Pat Burro on acoustic and electric bass, and Steve Fava on ambiance sculpting and sound production. Grays offers deep grooves and dynamic improvisation for listening as well as dancing, and encourages audience participation.

$5 suggested donation

*Devachan is regarded as the place where most souls go after death where desires are gratified, corresponding to the Christian belief in Heaven. However, Devachan is a temporary, intermediate state of being before the soul's eventual rebirth into the physical world.

The Buttonwood Tree is located at 605 Main Street, next to It's Only Natural market. Plenty of free parking after 6 pm. 860.347.4957   See our website here

Lots of Love at The Buttonwood Tree

February 10-16
The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center
605 Main Street / PO Box 71, Middletown, CT 06457 / 860.347.4957  
Happy Valentine's Day!
Did you know that more than 8 couples who met at TBT are now married or engaged
The Buttonwood Tree has great date nights all week long, and a Valentine's Day special for members!  We'll help you find that special someone!

Wednesday, February 10 @ 7:00 pm $5
Electric Gypsy Tribal Jazz
The Grays will be performing on the second and fourth Wednesdays this spring starting January 13th sharing original works-in-progress and jams. Featuring special guest artists and dancers in a high-energy but chilled out vibe, in a cabaret style jazz lounge for a Get-over-the-Hump Midweek Date Night

Friday, February 12 @ 8:00 pm $10
Cold Duck Time will bring its mix of Bebop, Funk, and Traditional Jazz.
 Paul Fadus on Trumpet,  Darren McGuire on Tenor Sax, Gary Shure on Piano, Michael Paez on Electric Bass, and Bob Paquette behind the drum kit.
Join us for a Toe Tapping Date Night. 

Saturday, February 13 @ 9:15 am

 Saturday, February 13 @ 10:30 am
Heart Matters with Annaita Gandhy 
Saturday, February 13 @ 8:00 pm $10
The 2nd Line Jazz Quartet puts a fresh spin on the Great American Songbook.
Vocalist Sue Lopes was educated at the Hartford Conservatory. She has thrilled crowds from Hartford to New Orleans over the past 15 years with her distinctive, polished renditions of the jazz canon. Double bassist Jim Daggs has performed professionally since the age of sixteen, after learning the art of jazz bass from his luminary father, Richard Daggs. Jim has appeared on stages with Maynard Ferguson, Stefon Harris, and Tony Zano. Drummer Josh Briley brings the insights of Berklee greats Neil Smith and Kenwood Dennard, yet his musical and personal roots incorporate the energy of New Orleans. Pianist and composer Jerry Aiyathurai adds a formal touch, drawing on his eight years with the ABRSM program of the Royal College of Music (London) to provide musical direction to the ensemble.
It's a Special Date Night!
We have partnered with ION Restaurant (It’s Only Natural) to give MEMBERS a $10 gift certificate to ION if they attend our lovely jazz show on February 13th with the 2nd Line Jazz Quartet. Dancing in the streets is optional
ION patrons can receive a free beverage or dessert on February 13th or February 14 (for our IMPROV show) at The Buttonwood Tree by showing their dinner receipt dated anytime from Feb 1-Feb 13th.
Sunday, February 14 @ 7:00 pm $5
Join us for a special Valentine’s Day show where we improvise scenes based on your suggestions!
GMBS and Breakup Tattoo will perform, together with a special performance of a classic GMBS form, It’s A Date!, a spoof on all your favorite dating shows!
*** PLEASE NOTE you don’t have to be a lover to attend. Bitter exes, friends w/ benefits, coworkers w/ sexual tension, ALL are welcome.
Monday, February 15 @ 7:00 pm $5
Hosted by John Way
Let your performing arts flourish in all their weird and wonderful forms!
Tuesday, February 16 @ 6:00 pm Donations Welcomed
Some benefits of laughter yoga include: Easy and fun exercise for health and happiness, reduces stress instantly, strengthens immune system, keeps you in a good mood and cheerful throughout the day, oxygenates your brain and makes you feel more energetic, keeps positive mental attitude in difficult times, burns calories and even increases memory. 
 Tuesday, February 16 @ 7:30 pm 
Hosted by Lou Sorrentino, sound healing combines psychological therapies with music to heal the body. With instruments such as Crystal Bowls crafted for perfect resonance, Lou restores energy flows to their proper states and bring peace to our bodies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Board Members Accuse Each Other of Politicizing Electronic Attendance Issue

Board members traded barbs over the contentious issue of allowing members to attend meetings remotely, using phone conferencing.

"I've been told this is not a partisan issue," Democratic Board member Chris Drake said after offering a rewrite of the policy that would allow members to attend via electronic means.  "But it's beginning to feel like one."

As evidence for his claim, Drake cited emails, and testimony of Republican Common Council members opposed to allowing electronic attendance.

The controversy stems from a Board policy that had been altered to allow new board member Deborah Cain to attend meetings while at work in Britain.

"I'm very disappointed in that comment," Republican board member Sheila Daniels said, addressing Drake's criticism. "It's not about a person, it's about changing a bylaw."

"It's beginning to feel like a Sharks versus Jets issue," Drake said, making a Broadway reference.  And when Daniels scolded Drake for making it political, Drake interrupted loudly, shouting "I made it political?  I made it political?"

He was gaveled back into order.

In the end the Board voted along party lines to accept Drake's rewrite of the policy, with Board member Franca Biales abstaining.

The meeting began at it's new early start time of 6:30 with members of the public coming down on both sides of the issue.

Republican Common Council member, and former mayor Seb Giuliano, was opposed.

"As part of the Common Council, it's not something we'd ever do," Giuliano said.  "If you're 5,000 miles away I don't know how you'd get a sense of what's going on in the community."

Resident Bethany Ty countered by saying: "I think it's important for anyone elected to the Board of Ed to have that access."

Her opinion was echoed by city personnel director Faith Johnson who called Cain her mentee.

"She's over in a different country so she has no choice but to teleconference," Johnson said.  " I commend her for being up at midnight and doing her due diligence."

Drakes rewrite of the policy included several provisions which would limit the opportunity for any board member to take advantage of attendance by teleconference.

Among the requirements:
 - There must be a physical quorum at the meeting
 - Members may take advantage if they are ill, disabled, unable to attend because of employment, family or emergency
 - Any one member may take advantage of remote attendance only twice, unless given additional dispensation by majority board vote
 - The remote member must be heard, and be able to hear all other board members
 - All votes must be roll call votes when a member is attending remotely
 - Electronic failures may disavow participation in related agenda items
 - And electronic failures will not delay board business

Cain herself said she researched other Boards in Connecticut which allow electronic remote attendance.

"To my surprise there were many of them," Cain said.  "I think it's fair and balanced that we have the electronic equipment to make it work, so we should move forward."

Daniels noted that the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education recommends against the practice, and that the fact that the city's Common Council does not allow it should set precedent.

Drake countered that what the Common Council does is irrelevant.

"I think we should take our lead from the State Board of Education which allows the practice," Drake said.  "And not what the Common Council does."

The amended policy will be on the agenda for the next Board of Education meeting in March for a final vote.

Cat Tales ~ KITTEN of the Week ~ BLAKE!! 4 month old, black RESCUE kitten, plus 30 days FREE of Trupanion with my adoption!

Cat Tales ~ Kitten of the Week ~ BLAKE!!

Gender:  Male
Breed:  DSH
Color:  Black
Age:  4 months old

I'm a handsome boy. I am very playful and like to be pet. I will let you hold me for very short periods of time when I'm in the mood. I'm very sweet but still a little shy. I was found on the streets of Middletown as a stray in an apartment complex. I need a quiet home with a patient person, so I can get used to things in my new environment. I’d be so grateful for a forever home with you!  Cat Tales has partnered with Trupanion, a Medical Insurance plan to provide your newly adopted cat complimentary health coverage for 30 days!  Please adopt me today!

No Dogs / No Children


Monday, February 8, 2016

History of Russell Library, Part IV

Part 1 of this history covered the period from the establishment of Russell Library in 1876 to the resignation of its second Director, Willis K. Stetson, in 1887.  Part II covered the Library from 1887 to 1926, under the leadership of Laura F. Philbrook and Edna H. Wilder. Part III covered the administrations of Nathaly E. Newton and William Van Beynum, extending over 50 years from 1926 to 1978.

Part IV covers the period from the appointment of Arlene Bielefield through the end of Stuart Porter’s administration in 1997.

Arlene Bielefield, May—June 1978

After a prolonged, controversial search process in the spring of 1978, the Board of Trustees offered the position of Library Director to Arlene Bielefield, then Assistant Librarian.  She initially accepted, but soon resigned to become the head of the Connecticut State Library’s Division of Reader Services.

Linda Rusczek
Linda Rusczek, June – December 1978

In June 1978, Russell’s Film Librarian Linda Rusczek agreed to serve as interim Director while the Board conducted a new search. Under Rusczek’s able leadership, the Library continued to provide excellent services to the Middletown community. Trumbull Huntington, then President of the Library’s Board of Trustees, praised her work highly and expressed gratitude for her willingness to lead the Library through the transition.

Stuart Porter, 1979—1997

Stu Porter
In December 1978 Stuart Porter was selected by the Board to be Director of Russell Library. During his tenure the Library computerized its systems and services, and underwent a major renovation of the facility.

In Porter’s first long-range plan, he proposed the implementation of a ‘Computerized Circulation Control’ system. By 1983, the Library had partnered with several other libraries to establish LION (Libraries On-Line), and began converting from a card catalog to an online catalog system. By 1995 the catalog was fully computerized. The Library’s first public computers were installed in 1984, and a generous patron donated an Apple 2E to the Children’s Department the next year. By 1996, the Library offered a variety of electronic resources via CD-ROM, including a magazine index and dictionary.

In 1980 the Friends of the Russell Library was re-established after being on hiatus for a number of years. Their support and assistance proved invaluable in gaining public and municipal support for a major building renovation. The four-year, $3.5 million Library building renovation was completed in 1985. Two of the original stained glass windows were reinstalled in the new main peak and in the Children’s area. The combined buildings created a beautiful inner courtyard, and outside gardens were lovingly maintained by the Middletown Garden Club.

The Bookmobile had quickly become a very popular service after the service was established in 1969. However, the cost of maintaining the vehicle was prohibitively high, and in 1983 the Bookmobile was discontinued.

The Library grew with Middletown, and also faced some of the same challenges. Two fires were set in the Children’s Library in the summer of 1980, costing $20,000 to repair. Periodic problems with vandalism, phone and computer abuse, and other criminal activity led in 1990 to the hiring of two part-time security officers. However, Russell grew in popularity as well, with over 275,000 patron visits to the Library in Porter’s final year as Director.

In late 1996 Stuart Porter announced his retirement effective April 1, 1997.

--End of Part IV--