Wednesday, December 31, 2014

He Lives! Special Year End Edition of Popcorn by The Colonel

Shake the 2014 bag that was supposed to be empty, and look what falls out. And not even all sentences.

Papa Cork, the benign spirit of New Year's Eve.

Why is the far side of the Moon more crater-pocked than the side we see? Wrong answer: because the Earth shields the Moon from hits from the Earth-facing direction. Right answer: because the crust of the Moon is thinner on the near side than the far, so volcanic lava more easily erupted and covered lots of Earth-facing craters back in the day.

That answer prompts (it does not "beg") the question, "Why is the Moon's crust thinner on the Earth-facing side than the other side?" For the answer to that one, ask not The Colonel, but "The Doctor." ("Who?")

Three riddles with answers, to start the New Year on a stable foundation:

What's hard to beat? 

When I point up, it's light. When I point down, it's dark. What am I?

What starts with an "e" and ends with an "e" but contains just one letter?

Just kidding about giving answers. Let your New Year start with mystery and uncertainty.

Just kidding about just kidding. The answers are: a broken drum; a lightswitch, and "envelope."

"OC-DC": obsessively bisexual.

Best pie chart ever:

Classics rewritten: "'Call me, Ishmael.' She wrote her number on a paper bar napkin, slid it over next to my Tom Collins, and walked out of the joint in a way that could make anarchists wear uniforms."

Fervent wish for the New Year: no "Deuce Ventura" spinoffs.

A new cliche to give an old one a rest: "The cookies you bake, you eat."

Warning or dare? "If you have a mind to write a screenplay of 'Gravity's Rainbow,' go ahead, but you won't have a mind by the end of it." --Anthony Lane

The most practical form of forgiveness is accepting apologies not offered. Forgiveness helps the giver more than the receiver.

"When your wife says, 'Is that what you're wearing?' as you head out, it's not really a question." --Jim Shea

"U.S. farm policy can be understood but not believed." --P.J. O'Rourke

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff. He could have done worse.

"Hello, gentlemen. All your base are belong to us."

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner. Dead.

"South America is a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica."

--Henry Kissinger

"For all sad words of tongue we fear, the saddest are these, 'There's no more beer.'" --apologies to John Greenleaf Whittier ("There may be better poets, but just one Whittier")

"Organizational meeting of anarchists ends in chaos. Details at ten."

"It's been so long since we had any big compromises that we've forgotten how unappetizing they look." --Gail Collins

Otto von Bismarck said there was a "special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America." From his cold, dead lips to God's ears.

January and February were the last months of the year to get names.

"The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches." --Thomas Jefferson. Meaning no disrespect, sir, but freedom can sometimes throw and complete long passes. For all your faults, sir, we think you threw one. Thank you.

Who you are is what's left after you've told all your lies.

"A fool must now and then be right by chance." --William Cowper, d. 1800.

Speaking of Cowper:

GOD moves in a mysterious way,

His wonders to perform:
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

--"Light Shining Out of Darkness," Olney Hymns, 1779 

Everyone's a fool for at least five minutes a day. Some say wisdom consists of not exceeding that limit. That bar's too high. Count a person wise who for five minutes a day is not a fool. By that latitudinarian definition, wise folk are still rare.

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with [bunk]." --W.C. Fields

The first Social Security number in history was assigned to John David Sweeney, Jr. of New Rochelle, NY. New Rochelle was founded by French Huguenots long before Social Security.

Mathematics is as singular as Appomattox.

Etymology is not destiny. Words mean what they mean, regardless of what their ancestors meant.

A chara, Nodlaig mhaith dhuit agus rath agus siothchain san aith-bhliadhain. --Eamonn de Valera

Monday, December 29, 2014


Eleven Middlesex Community College students have been spending a lot of time imagining how they would describe the life they lived – from the perspective of living well into their 70s.  These students, part of MxCC’s Sociology of the Family course, have been studying family memoirs, an important oral and written tradition shared by nearly all generations throughout all of history.  Students have spent time with senior citizens from the Covenant Village community in Cromwell listening to their stories and remembrances, and then created a written “recount” of their own envisioned lives.  On December 16, students visited to Covenant Village to share their projects with residents.

This is the second year MxCC has included this community-engaged learning assignment as part of the course which is designed to be “an examination of the evolution of contemporary relationships such as dating, cohabitation and marriage” and how changes in these relationships affect the individual, family and society.  Talking directly to older generations provides a first-hand perspective of life and society in days past which is crucial to comparing it with today’s world.

“One of the greatest joys and inspirations the older generation can impart to younger people is to share memories of life in the past – how they lived, how the spent leisure time, what they cared about, how they participated in the community,” explained Dr. Rebecca Loew, assistant professor of behavioral science.  “It is mutually beneficial, and a lot of fun, for the younger generation to hear these stories and consider their connection with those who came before them in their family trees and in their communities.”

MxCC student Ebony Beall thought the project was valuable and said, "We need to make sure to instill in the younger generation that they must pay attention to what's going on in the world in order to make a difference."

One Covenant Village resident, Eunice Wiseman, agreed and added, “I'm wondering if a course like this could be taught at the high school level as I think that it could benefit students at an earlier age to consider their future."

This memoir project is only one way MxCC has teamed with Covenant Village for learning experiences.  Students in MxCC’s therapeutic recreation program often complete internships at the retirement community, and Covenant Village residents visit the College to view student artwork and attend special events. 

Founded in 1966, Middlesex Community College ( is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. In all it does, Middlesex Community College strives to be the college of its community. By providing high quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, the college enhances the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. MxCC, recently named a "Great College to Work For" by “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” offers more than 50 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, the downtown Meriden Center, through its shoreline programs at Westbrook High School, and online.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Urge Middletown’s Common Council to Purchase the Pierce Property on Mt. Higby

The January 5, 7 p.m. meeting of the Common Council will be an important one for several reasons and public attendance is very important. The position of Environmental Planner needs to have funding restored. For information on that issue, readers can visit

But right now, let’s focus on Mt. Higby. For many years, even decades, the City of Middletown has worked to preserve completely this dramatically beautiful and ecologically significant area between Middletown and Meriden. In the past, Council Commissions have supported various steps toward the purchase of the 110 acre Pierce Property, high on the ridge above Country Club Road to the north and Rte 91 to the west. This acquisition would finally preserve from development virtually the entire trap rock ridge and allow the Mattabesset “Blue Trail” to follow the ridge line where it was formerly located.  

Now the City can make the dream become a reality.  A purchase price of $686,000 has been negotiated, and a state grant of $234,750 has been awarded. The remaining $451,250 needs to be appropriated by the Common Council for the acquisition to occur.

$451,250 is a significant amount for the Common Council to appropriate, and doing so requires the support of citizens and stakeholder groups. For the past 4 years, a number of nonprofit groups and City commissions – known collectively as the Environmental Collective Impact Network, or Ecoin – have urged the Mayor and Common Council to support an open space bond referendum so that funds for such opportunities would be available. We have not had a voter referendum for open space preservation since 2009; instead, the city’s leaders have voiced a preference to appropriate funds for open space on a case by case basis, as key properties become available. The Pierce Property is such a key property.

Facts and Reasons to Preserve the Pierce Property

·         The property is situated within a Greenway Corridor.
·         City ownership of this property would bring almost the whole of Higby Mountain under City control.
·         The New England National Scenic Trail, which abuts the property, has the potential to be rerouted along the ridgeline.
·         There is strong support from local and state organizations for this acquisition.
·         The property abuts existing City owned property as well as property managed by the Nature Conservancy as a nature preserve. Protecting large contiguous parcels of open space for wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and recreation is a major conservation goal.
·         The property offers unique aesthetic, education, natural resources and wildlife habitat value not otherwise available on a majority of parcels within the City.
·         Connecticut Forest and Parks has express strong interest in assisting the City with trail stewardship.
·         It has been recommended for acquisition since the 1968 Open Space Plan.

Middletown’s 1990 Plan of Conservation and Development states: “Mount Higby, with the possible exception of the Connecticut River, is the most prominent natural feature in the city. From Interstate 91 Higby’s wooded slopes are an easily remembered landscape in Middletown and the state of Connecticut. But even more impressive are the panoramic views from along the ridge at approximately 900 feet above sea level. The mountain has been identified in numerous studies as being of statewide significance and there are numerous informal hiking trails which have been created by hikers over the years. Ensuring that as much of Mount Higby as possible remain in open space will provide for the long-term protection of this significant natural resource.

From the Nature Conservancy website:  A mile-long hike to the top of a ridge on the Higby Mountain Preserve offers wide views to the south, west and north over Connecticut’s central valley. At the summit, a hiker stands near the edge of a geologic fault on a ridge of basalt dating from the Triassic Period some 200 million years ago.) It protects watershed of the City's Higby Reservoirs; it protects the ridge of Higby Mtn and the Blue-Blazed trail system of the CT Forest & Park Association which is part of the New England Trail; The ridge is part of a unique traprock ecosystem which often supports the southern limit of northern species and the northern limit of southern species of flora and fauna.

The Common Council meeting on January 5 begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall, preceded by another meeting called “Questions for Directors” that begins at 6 p.m. Again, this is an occasion when public turnout can really make a difference. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Support Community Radio - 8 days to go

$4k match in effect - Double the impact of your donation to WESU Radio today!!

With the end of WESU’s 75th anniversary year and their annual winter holiday pledge drive in sight, Wesleyan University’s Office of Academic Affairs is currently offering a dollar for dollar match of donations up to a total of $4,000. With your help, WESU can take full advantage of this opportunity and thrust their pledge drive into the end zone! 

General Manager Ben Michael says “The matching gift from Wesleyan’s Office of academic affairs is unprecedented for WESU, and is a huge help as we bring our most challenging fundraising effort, ever, to a successful end.” “Meeting our goal for this year’s winter pledge drive will enable WESU to replace the 17 year old audio mixing console in our air studio, after nearly half a million hours of continuous service.” said Michael, the station’s only full time employee. 

 Community support is essential to covering daily operations at WESU. Donations can be made online at where you can also view examples of limited edition WESU 75th anniversary thank you gifts. Donations can also be sent directly to: WESU Radio 45 Broad St 2nd floor Middletown, CT 06457.

Established in 1939, WESU is the second oldest student owned and operated college radio station in the US and operates as a community service of Wesleyan University. With one full time employee and a staff of over 150 student and community volunteers, WESU broadcasts 6,000 watts at the frequency 88.1FM throughout central CT and southern MA. The station streams live audio and offers audio archives from their website, where you also can find historical articles, photos, and audio including interviews with past station staff, going back to 1939.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Project Feeds 900 Families; 75 Local Organizations Support Massive Effort

More than 75 local organizations contributed to the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project, a partnership of businesses, nonprofits, civic groups, faith-based groups, schools, municipalities and individuals that came together to assemble and distribute more than 900 Thanksgiving baskets this year.

Thank you to the following organizations for contributing to this massive effort: A.R. Mazzotta Employment Specialists; ABC Women's Center Inc.; ACT Group; Aetna; Albertus Magnus College; ARCADIS; AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals; Baileyville Woodworks; Broad Street Books; Brown & Brown Insurance; Central CT Pediatric Dentistry; Change Inc.; Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal; City of Middletown; Community Foundation of Middlesex County; Congregation Adath Israel; Connecticut Valley Hospital; Cross Street AME Zion Church; CT Food Bank; Direct Energy; Elks Lodge #771; Everlasting Faith Ministries; Exquisite Hairstyles; Faith Lutheran; Fellowship Church; First Church of Christ Congregational; Halloran & Sage; Harding Development Group; Heritage Commons; Hintz & Co.; Illiano's; Jackson Chevrolet; Jukonski Truck; Knoll Crest Apartments; L.H. Brenner Insurance; Lawrence School; Lyman Orchards; Mahoney, Sabol & Company LLP; Mercy High School; Middlefield Brownie & Daisy Troop 62199; Middlesex Community College - Human Services Club; Middlesex Hospital; Middlesex Urology; Middlesex YMCA; Middletown Fire Department; Middletown Police Department; Middletown Public Schools; Middletown Surgical Group PC; Neighborhood Preschool; Orthopedic Associates of Middletown; P.J. Mirabelli Enterprises; Pratt & Whitney - Canel Lodge; Price Chopper; Radiologic Associates of Middletown; Rams in Action; RE/MAX Edge; Scott's Orchard & Nursery; Sodexo; South Congregational Church; St. Luke's Community Services; St. Pius Church; State Farm Insurance, Caleb Carney Agent; Stew Leonard's; Stop & Shop; Suburban Stationers; Two Guys in Jackets; Ursel's Web Frame Shop Gallery; UTC Financial Leadership Program; Village at South Farms; Water's Edge Center for Health & Rehabilitation; Wesleyan University; Wright-Pierce; and Xavier High School. Many individual donors also supported the project.

The Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project was established four years ago to ensure that all Middletown families who are struggling can still enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. The planning committee for the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project includes representatives from the City of Middletown, Cross Street AME Zion Church, Fellowship Church, Heritage Commons, Liberty Bank, Liberty Bank Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex Hospital, Middlesex United Way, Middletown Kiwanis Club, Middletown Police Department, Middletown Public Schools, Middletown Rotary Club, St. Luke’s Community Services, St. Vincent De Paul Middletown/Amazing Grace Food Pantry, The Salvation Army, Wadsworth Glen Health Care Center, and Wesleyan University.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Middletown’s Environmental Planner Position De-Funded by Common Council

Recently, it came to light that the City of Middletown’s key staff position responsible for a wide variety of environmental functions – permits, regulation enforcement, grants, wetlands protection, etc. – was actually not funded in the current fiscal year budget. Michelle Ford was hired for the position this past fall. She is widely recognized as a highly skilled and knowledgeable professional. Members of Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) are thrilled to have her on board.  The fact that she was hired without underlying funding in place was clearly a simple oversight by Director Michiel Wackers and Mayor Dan Drew, both of whom have accepted responsibility for the mistake and apologized.

It is unclear how the position came to be defunded.  Was it a temporary budgetary matter, since the position was vacant after the departure of Matt Dodge last April? But what is clear is that this position is critical to the operations of the City and environmental protection.  Especially now, when the city is seeking brownfield remediation grants and redevelopment of the riverfront, it is extremely important that funding be restored. Citizens can send all the members of the Common Council an email through the address  Attendance, support, and testimony for restoring the Environmental Planner position at the Jan. 5, 2015, 7 p.m. Common Council Meeting is strongly encouraged.

Below is an extended excerpt from John Hall’s letter to members of the Common Council on this issue. 

I am writing to you because I believe it is strongly in the interests of our City to restore funding for this position. The staff of the City is already stretched, even with the Environmental Planner, to oversee all that is taking place that could threaten our waterways, wetlands, and the quality of life and health for all residents, human and non-human. But without an Environmental Planner, the City’s ability to implement and enforce existing environmental safeguards will be virtually non-existent.  The grants that the City will receive through the work of the Environmental Planner will easily exceed the cost of the position. Frankly, I cannot understand how or why the position was de-funded, and if you have anything to tell me about that, I would very much like to hear from you about it.

Below is a list of functions that the Environmental Planner performs. Michelle Ford, the current Environmental Planner, is a highly qualified, committed, and widely respected environmental professional whom we are fortunate to have. 

·         Provides project review, applicant assistance, and staff comments to the IWWA for projects within and proximal to wetlands and within the 100’ upland review area
·         Assists members of the public with questions regarding land development and site constraints pertaining to natural resources such as wetlands and watercourses
·         Manages brownfields grants, currently the PCD oversees over half a million dollars in DECD grants. The environmental specialist’s role is to manage the implementation, execution and reimbursement of those grants to ensure that the work is done, done within the confines of the regulations and that the City is reimbursed from the grant.
·         Serves as a staff liaison to the Conservation Commission to assist in Commission projects, particularly open space acquisitions, land management, and grant applications, implementation and oversight.
·         Serves as advisory staff to the Wetlands Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission, Conservation Commission and Mayor’s Select Committee on Waterfront Development
·         Manages open space projects, such as the Wilcox Forest Management initiative which the PCD dept. is in the process of pursuing now with Tom Worthley
·         Reviews Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I, II, and III) documents for environmental compliance, liability, and cleanup goals.
·         Works with other City departments to advocate for and ensure protection of the City’s environmental resources, in particular wetlands, watercourses, and protected species habitat
·         Conducts construction and site inspections to ensure environmental compliance, particularly in areas such as storm water runoff, wetland boundary infringement, etc. This role is to support to ZEO.
·         Seeks new grant and funding opportunities to complete environmental, brownfield, and beautification projects in the City.
·         Delineates and review wetland delineation boundaries on behalf of the City for the Inland Wetland & Watercourses Commission, if necessary.
·         Conducts biological surveys, habitat assessments, and make recommendations on wildlife habitat management, if necessary.

I strongly urge your consideration of this matter, with hope that you will support and encourage other members of the Common Council to restore funding for the position of Environmental Planner. 

Thank you,

John C. Hall