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Monday, February 28, 2011

Such a Petty Pace

We straddle two months this week, and it gives a chance to look back and forward at the same time, though the municipal meeting calendar really is focused on forward, as it should be.

This afternoon at four thirty in the ground floor conference room of the Norwich Public School's offices across from the Norwichtown Green it's a regular meeting of the Budget Expenditure Committee, whose last posted minutes are over thirteen months ago. Not too much later this week, the Board of Education will want your attention for their next proposed budget, but not too much attention I guess.

At five o'clock, the Redevelopment Agency meets in Room 210 of City Hall. Between the items at the January meeting, see minutes here, and the actions last week by the City Council, this committee has its plate full. What happens next is the most important part, but only as long as no one blinks.

Tuesday has lots to do with the future, both near and far, beginning with next in the series of meetings on Norwich Education EXcellence for Today and Tomorrow's Schools, NEXTT, starting at eight in the morning and lasting until noon in the Norwich Board of Education's offices at 90 Town Street. It might be helpful to review the meetings they've already had on the shape of the next generation of Norwich schools. The website is lacking the February meeting minutes, if there was a meeting that didn't get snowed out but the October, December and January notes are here.

At six, in the Kelly Middle School cafeteria is the first public hearing on the 2011-2012 Norwich Public School proposed budget. It would have been nice had the proposal been available on line, somewhere on the school's website but the site consistently fails to post meeting minutes in a timely (and required by law) manner, so posting the budget is wishful thinking.

That said, this is a good night to listen to the explanations of the requested dollars to support programs. Everyone of us owns the success and failure of the children in our school system. We can't buy education like it was hamburger meat despite simple solutions to the contrary; but the same people who told us there was a correlation between expenditures and test scores now say that math doesn't work. So now what?

At seven there's a special meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development of the Commission on the City Plan. Based on the agenda, it's in the conference room of the Planning Department building at 23 Union Street, though elsewhere on the city's website it seems to be someplace else, entirely.

Wednesday evening at seven, maybe, in Room 335 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee. The note at the bottom of the on-line notice references days and dates that aren't actually real, so I don't know what to tell you. Dress warm? Okay.

Thursday afternoon at 5:30 in the Donald Oat Theater is a regular meeting of the Norwich Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ). Based on recent headlines in both local newspapers, and most certainly NOT on minutes posted on line (good luck finding any less than a year old), we may have reached the desperate times call for desperate measures scenario. I'm still working on the math I never understood about how the downtown arts are an economic development engine (just how much money can four people spend?). As Robert Hunter suggested, 'please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothing new to say.' I suspect we're all out of new on a very old and tired theme.

At seven, in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, there's a regular meeting of the Inlands Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission, and if you think you'll find the minutes of the 6 January meeting on line, you get credit for a good idea which will have to do as there are no minutes.

Saturday morning, starting at nine in the reasonably cozy conference room in the offices of the Norwich Community Development Corporation at 77 Main Street, is the next installment of the Team Norwich community development meetings to which all are invited (someone needs to say it so I shall).

Not just me, I suspect, but we might all benefit from having the minutes of previous meetings posted on line so everyone who's involved can track where they have been and where they are now while those of us just joining can catch up quickly because there's still so much to do and we've been burning daylight for some time now instead of leaving the moon.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Name Is Called Disturbance

There's a story told that Richard M. Nixon, upon meeting Mao Zedong after ending decades of silent hostility between the People's Republic of Chine and the United States of America explained to the Chairman how the US was the original revolutionary society. Oh, the Chairman replied, and how do you know one revolution was enough?

My family and I were still living in Germany (West; a distinction that hasn't been made for decades) when the Warsaw Pact, a fact of life and force of nature since the end of the Second World War, wheezed its last and gave up its ghost. I drove one day from home in Offenbach am Main to see colleagues outside of Kaiserslautern, and everywhere on the A3 und A6 were Trabants and Wartburgs as streams of zukunftiger ehemaliger Ossis inhaled their first Wessi Luft. It didn't take long for euphoria at reunification to sour.

The Revolution that engulfed most of Eastern Europe as the Eighties ended and the Nineties began was peaceful (notable exception was Romania) though the aftermath, to include the disintegration of Yugoslavia into pus pockets of ethnic hatred, has sometimes been less than pacific.

As various forms of communication, cell phone, text, computer, video, and any and all combinations thereof, have continued to converge, the rate and pace of change their convergence creates and its impact on political systems can best be seen in recent weeks across the Middle East where decades, and more, of imposed government are ending, some more rapidly and acrimoniously than others (yes, Libya, we're all talking about you). Turns out the Revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal. Who knew?

Getting gas yesterday at the local Shell station I was treated to a fellow-motorist vocalizing his unhappiness at what he was paying for high-test now as opposed to two weeks earlier. He had a Denali (?) I think, one of the extremely large SUV's big enough to have its own zip code with no one else in the vehicle. Once health insurance starts to cover penile enhancements, sales for these vehicles will drop off precipitously.

The SUV owner was quick to see the unrest in Libya reflected in the price per gallon at the pump in Norwich, CT, and not very happy about it. Not sure he knows anything about the torment of Abu Mohammed in Benghazi who fired on those demonstrating against the regime and its leader who had been his employer until he turned himself in. But all of us use our own experiences and our place in the world as we see it to process events by listening to WIIFM, What's In It For Me?

Insulated by thousands of miles of land and water from ideology and cultures unlike anything we know or have ever known, it's easy for us to fall in love sitting at our TV and computer screens with the bravery of the revolutionary fervor sweeping across the Arab World. I can dimly recall a lot of us following along in the Stars and Stripes newspaper and on the AP teletype machines back in the news department (such was the technology then; are there still news tickers now?) when Iranian students toppled "The Shah."

We went from hui to phooey when the US Embassy in Teheran was seized so I've already started to brace myself for more of the same as the weeks and months of the post-revolutionary spring stretch into the summer. I imagine all this regime change is hard on the folks in Foggy Bottom who have to sort out the good guys from the bad guys as part of their State Department jobs.

How they measure the world and the intentions of those with whom we share the planet are as different from one another as they are from the very people who are judging us even as we judge them. Reaching a conclusion on who to bless and who to blame isn't nearly as scary as acting on it, especially when a compromise solution proves to be neither.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Was More Hairy than Harry

Stumbled over a very economical Facebook post from my cross-town neighbor and fellow volunteer from our days on the Ethics Review Committee on Thursday evening, sharing how he'd had a thisclose automotive call earlier when the brake lines on his truck decided they'd had enough. I can smile, as can he, because the telling of the tale is the worst of what happened.

I flashed on the near rescue of our daughter's stolen Mirage that the Hartford police had found back in September a year ago that, when I drove the car off the lot, went great but didn't do the stop stuff at all (someone had cut the line at the master cylinder). Jetmec's description of the feel when the brake pedal goes to the metal (and stays there) captured perfectly the sick to the pit of your stomach sensation I'd had. He, too, had used his vehicle's manual transmission to get himself through the worst of it and to get his truck to his mechanic for some intensive care.

I especially enjoyed the side-anecdote about the further adventures of one of 'those stubborn french boys' when the brakes on dad's '65 Wildcat bailed after enjoying an evening of sparkling refreshments (little harshes a glow faster than a mechanical failure in the family jalopy for which, rightly or wrongly you'll be held responsible) but it could have ended up like a well known tale in Appalachian country, up near Scranton.

-bill kenny

Friday, February 25, 2011

Degrees of Separation

Habits are actions we take after we've trained ourselves (or others have trained us). Many of us remember as kids when mom would insist that we 'cover your mouth when you cough' or those around us might say 'God Bless' when we sneezed. Perhaps we still do one or both of those actions to this day because what we are now is what we were when.

I was thinking of this yesterday morning as I went to leave the house to go to work. My wife has mounted the monitor portion of our very-super weather station in the hallway from the living room to the kitchen in a very logical spot, beside the closet where we keep all of our outer clothes, coats, jackets, scarves and mittens. Her theory, proven repeatedly in the course of the nineteen plus years we have lived where we do, is you can check the outside temperature as you're readying to depart and keep the 'whoa!' sharp intake of sudden surprise to a minimum when you step out the back door from the kitchen to the landing to the stairs.

I am so gentrified. We called the back landing a stoop when I was a kid in Jersey, which is what it still is. It's not like I live in the part of Connecticut where me and my stockbroker neighbors wash our cars with domestic light beer or are building a twin-hulled catamaran with an eye on challenging for the America's Cup. Yes, we do have a big back yard, but not big enough for a polo pony, so pardon me while I remember to NOT dye my roots but do call things by their real names. I'm thinking Royce would have been a good name for the horse.

Anyway. I can tell the difference between two dollars and two hundred dollars. As well as between two dollars and twenty dollars. Maybe that's habit, too. Worlds collide for me when I look at the outside thermometer yesterday morning around five and it says 16.7 degrees Fahrenheit and I pause, trying to remember what it was on Wednesday morning (18.7) because in and of itself that's somehow important and/or will dissuade me from going outside and going to work.

In terms of Galvanic Skin Response, GSR (not Gun Shot Residue), the skin on my face could better and more easily tell a difference of percentage of moisture in the mid double digits easier than a difference of two degrees (maybe at Kelvin, but only maybe). Do I risk some form of a cerebral surprise if I don't check the gauge before stepping out into the dark and minimizing the possibility of atmospheric ambush? No clue and truth to tell, I don't know why I look, except out of habit.

In the summer, if the display were to be a triple digit reading at the same hour, I don't think I'd remove my trousers and leave them in the kitchen heading to work in socks, sakko and a smile (so ein schmarrn). I can, however, think of one long-suffering spouse who's probably not willing to place money on that turn of events NEVER happening. One of these days letters are gonna fall from the sky, telling us all to go free.

Of course, by then to save money, the Postal Service will have ceased home delivery entirely and to save even more, our schools will have eliminated literacy requirements. Will be curious to see if anyone left can tell the difference or to whom they would.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seems Like I Stand Pretty Much Unseen

You would have no way of knowing this but in the course of the last forty eight hours, I went from looking like Grizzly Adams to Weezer's little brother (when he's asleep). I had what passes for me as a full beard, got tired of it on Tuesday so I shaved it off on Wednesday and followed that by shaving off the most pathetic moustache in the history of hirsutism (and you thought I made it up) the following day.

I almost grow very cool stubble bubble. I get practically on top of the Hugh Laurie look (I already have the limp and the cane; no vicodin and no Olivia Wilde though I am incredibly surly) and then it all turns to crap. The three and a half growth, by day four is too long and I can't figure out how to trim without a whip and chair. I always end up looking like the guy who forgot his squeegee when they were assigning street corners. Picking up a dogshead, Ian, and spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

And yet, instead of dashing and suave, I'm the survivor who wrestles stray animals for first crack at the dumpster. When I looked in the mirror yesterday afternoon, what I had thought was the desicatted carcass of a deceased caterpillar above my upper lip was, in fact, the surprisingly robust remains of my presumed to have been shaved off moustache. Color me abashed (maties!).

I have a history of unhappy encounters with implements with sharpened edges. I cut my right hand so suddenly and so deeply one evening with an apple corer that I had to have my fingertips superglued together after being rushed to the hospital. So that I would be less than successful with the most heavily advertised men's shaving implement since facial hair was invented isn't as amazing as I'd like it to be, so much as less than seldom as well.

As much science as appliance-that's what I fear we are today and I was never good at the first and have come late to the table for the latter. "...Dreams, schemes, moments wasted...Reedited again, then copy pasted." Should all come down to 'to what purpose and for what end' but always seems to be 'who wants to know and why?'
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quod Via Es Nos Praecessi?

Saturday's meeting of Team Norwich at the Central Fire House was front page news, above the fold, in this paper the following day. Readers' comments suggest a tutorial may be in order. Let's look back to move forward, shall we?

"Team Norwich" is an alliance created by the office of the Mayor involving many of the advisories, boards, commissions and committees charged with various aspects of economic development, all working in collaboration with members of the City Council, the City Manager and the Executive Director of the Norwich Community Development Corporation to assist the Mayor in the execution of his charter-mandated (Chapter V, Section 2) mission, economic development of the City of Norwich.

The first meetings were early in January of last year, on Saturdays, and moved to Wednesdays in the spring when more detailed attention was devoted to crafting three specific bonding proposals for targeted sectors of economic development by the voters this past November.

A desire to accomplish the original vision of a city-wide holistic economic development document with the greatest possible resident/elector participation in every aspect from definition, through milestone determination, selection of partners to the timelines of execution, has brought the meetings back to Saturday mornings, twice a month.

They have, and will have, a moderator to keep the communication channels open and the information and exchange of ideas flowing. Sometimes, as happened last Saturday, it's a little like shepherding cats, but with egos checked at the door and ideas, not personalities, being the prized commodity, people got along sometimes despite themselves.

The next Team Norwich meeting is Saturday, 5 March from nine until 1030, but the location, instead of the Central Fire House, will be the meeting room in the offices of NCDC at 77 Main Street. If you are waiting for an invitation, that was it. Feel free to sit alongside of me, all the way in the back so we can best see the room and enjoy the ride. Do NOT tell me you didn't know about the meeting, or its purpose, or the membership in the room, or any of the one hundred and fifty two thousand excuses masquerading as reasons you will try to offer me. I will have none of it.

Offering your opinion in a dogmatic tone of voice doesn't make your observation a fact, nor does parroting someone else's opinion. But if someone isn't paying attention, they can get confused. And when that happens, we all pay too steep a price as we have to step back and correct mis and dis information and begin again. We don't do the 'paying attention' part real well around here and practice doesn't seem to be helping.

Anatole France was correct, 'if fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing' but I'm more concerned we remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation that 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.'
In every communication model, both the sender and the receiver have responsibilities, often simultaneously. When I don't understand or 'get' something, I have to accept that I bear a share of that responsibility and alter my behavior so that we can better succeed. For me to simply blame you, solves nothing and fixes even less, leaving us broken and bent on the side of the road, angry as to how we got here.

I've never understood where the 'for me to look good, you (someone else) need to look bad' mindset comes from or what anyone gains from using it. That's the thinking and the behavior that got us into the mess we're in. If you think seagull management, offering flyover comments about an online news story on an event you did not attend is helping, you really need a new dictionary.

Ignorance is when you don't know something; arrogance is when you're proud of your ignorance. We need a whole lot less of both-that we needed it thirty years ago doesn't make it any less important that we start today. We can do this-not only because we all know we can, but because we all know we must. The fork in the road is approaching-there's the signpost with the age-old question. Why don't you choose for all of us and see how it feels?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Freedom of Speech

I met, so to speak, Anthony Maschek, early yesterday morning when, Lowell, as part of a Facebook 'news feed' offered a post about Maschek's interaction with fellow Columbia University students up on the mean streets of Morningside Heights. In another life, for both of us, I worked with Floyd, who is an alum of the Columbia School of Journalism, so I have a high regard for their students and their program. The story Lowell shared wasn't pleasant and the outcome is less so but what I'm mostly concerned about is what all of it says about all of us.

Disclaimer: If you hadn't already figured it out (and if you've read these ditherings more than once in the last two and half years, you should have) I don't have much use for Ideology (capital letter deliberate) and see myself as a relentless pragmatist, politically. Left and Right are useful when reading a map, but not for creating consensus to govern. You're more than welcome to feel differently, but don't waste my time doing it around me.

Why tell you that? Because as distressing as the story on its face, is, (and there's something 'off' about it, imho; I'm just not sure what) of more concern to me and underlining the growing divide in our culture along 'red' and 'blue' lines, is who, per Google, was following this story.

I ran a search on this story @0846 EST yesterday (numbers now are vastly different and your mileage may vary) that showed 28 entries, to include the source (NY Post), Huffington Post, right of center think tank blogs and just about all the Fox hyper local news sites. My larger point is very few others and none of what the Princess of Wasilla calls 'lamestream media' were covering this.

Detour to explain why my Spidey-senses are tingling: the NY Post article that's the original source of all of this tumult was published on Sunday about an event, an on-campus student forum, that happened the previous Tuesday, the 15th of February. Between the date of the forum and the published account in the NY Post, no one on earth (seemingly) reported anything about any of this to include the Columbia Spectator (you can catch up here now). Yeah, I suppose that is actually possible, but I just don't think it's probable.

Here's what worries me as my turn to ride the ice floe out into the ocean approaches: I've always thought of news as recounting, without bias or blinking, a chronology of events, without ideological flavor or pretense, though I suppose from CBS News and the Selling of the Pentagon onwards, that's become less and less the case until now, under the guise of advocacy journalism, we have talking heads of every flavor pontificating on plasma screens from sea to shining sea.

This is a story that reflects badly on everyone in the information business, to include those of us who see ourselves as consumers rather than participants or producers. The behavior reported in the original report is abhorrent and should cause us to be ashamed of ourselves and of each other.

However, let me offer a thought to Columbia University and other high-minded and high-handed nose in the air institutions unhappy at placing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs on your campus: I'd respect you a LOT more if you'd also renounce the hundreds of millions, running into billions, of dollars of research grants you willingly accept from the same Department of Defense whose ROTC programs you find so odious. And yeah, that has a lot to do with my intense intolerance of those who live by situational ethics and who pretend they don't.

If you wondered where Anthony Maschek got inspiration for his why-are-you-laughing line (from 1:12 through 1:38 in the audio file) look no further than George Orwell who very cogently explained to those willing to listen the difference between living well and sleeping well. Maybe a quarter century or so too late, his vision of who we really are has been delivered but we may be too blind to see it.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 21, 2011

If You're Partial to the Night Sky

Happy Birthday to all Presidents, from George through Barack, since when we say today is Presidents' Day I'm assuming we mean ALL of them and not just the ones some of us like, some of the time. Democracy as a buffet! Like any of us would not head straight to the dessert cart. Not around here, Skippy; when you buy a ticket you get the whole ride. So if you have today off in observance of the holiday, you're part of the Presidents' Day Posse, instead of the other posse. And for that alone, I'm thankful and November's a long way off.

Because today is a holiday, the business of municipal government, at least here in Norwich, Connecticut, takes the day off but come tomorrow, Tuesday, we be jammin'. Though historically it's probably more likely yammin', beginning at five in the City Manager's office in City Hall for a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission.

Judging from the agenda, it looks like we're going to stop talking about making the Harbor a focal point downtown and actually do it. Finally. By the way, there's a vacancy on the commission, so if you're wondering 'when is somebody going to step up?' How about you and how about now? Time to put your application where your cursor is.

At six, across town in their offices at 16 Golden Street, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Norwich Public Utilities Commissioners followed by a regular meeting of the Sewer Authority.

And at seven-thirty, it's a regular meeting of the City Council whose agenda causes me to shake my head as much in amazement as dismay since we continue to have difficulties trying to outrun our own shadows.

I'm hard-pressed to say which discomfits me more, under "New Business": resolution two where we're going to lecture the President about Community Development Block Grant funding when it's the party controlling the House of Representatives who wants to tear up the formula; or resolution number four, about one of my favorite eyesores anywhere in the city and about which we've done nothing for what feels like forever.

Come early for the presentation by the Connecticut Tigers on what's in store for their second season at Dodd Stadium and, maybe just me who's curious, stick around for 'new buisness (sic)' and find out just who's interested in selling drugs and liquor at the same location. Put your hand down. It was a rhetorical question.

Wednesday morning, but NOT listed on the municipal calendar, at ten in Room 335 of City Hall is a regional meeting, sponsored by the Mayor's office, of leaders from across Southeastern Connecticut as well as state and national representatives to follow up on written suggestions on how the area can better position itself to take advantage of growing Chinese markets report, developed some time back by a delegation, led by Representative Rob Simmons, which visited the People's Republic of China. I would imagine one of those suggestions includes doing a better job of sharing information.
Wednesday afternoon at three-thirty, in the Central offices of the Norwich Public Schools is a regular meeting of the Board of Education Building and Space Committee (the goal is to have a Kelly Middle School auditorium on Mars by 2023, with colonization to follow). If you think going to the school's website to catch up on previous meeting minutes would be helpful, you might be correct except there's nothing there, again.

At four-thirty, helping underscore my cynical perspective on a well-known downtown eyesore, is a special meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings about the same building the City Council will, theoretically, create a panel the previous evening to help market. According to the agenda, the meeting is in the building being discussed.

At seven at the course clubhouse, it's a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. There's also a note on the municipal calendar for a meeting of the 751 North Main Street Committee except that makes no sense to me because of the function and mission of that committee.

Thursday morning at seven-thirty, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation Board of Directors, who may well be processing the actions the City Council takes Tuesday night as part of their discussions in the course of their meeting.

There's also a regular meeting of the Board of Education's Policy Committee at 3:30 in their central office (I pretend to tell you there are no meeting minutes extant on the website and you can pretend to be surprised. Ready? Set, Go!)

Very slowly, and as far as I'm concerned far too slowly, interest and involvement in the workings of our municipal government is starting to increase. There's a lot to learn about in terms of meeting dynamics, flow of the agenda, the rate and pace of a particular advisory, board, commission or committee and its own perception of how it fits into the larger view of governance.

Some think part of our problem in recent decades around here has been the independent ops character of much of what we do when we try to work together. I can't pretend to disagree with that, though I'd like to try. Together, we are much better and smarter than we are alone-sometimes the last people to realize how much we need each other turns out to be us. "If it gets to be too much then, you can lend a helping hand." We need all the helping hands, and arms, legs, minds and hearts we can get. Thanks, in advance, for the use of yours.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Of Spring I Sing (okay, not actually...)

Sometimes you learn things from people you know, but don't know-at least that's what I call Facebook (FB) friends. Moment of clarity (I have so few, I hope you appreciate this): for me, most FB friends aren't really they're more acquaintances; for them I was probably a moment of confusion in attempting to select the 'unlike' button.

I understand FB has added nuances over the weekend that better define the dynamic of a particular relationship though I'd have appreciated something between roadkill on the human highway and friend in terms of what we are to one another. The latter has a meaning and context to me that I don't find very often in real life and so using it in cyber space, or in whatever ether FB exists, always feels a bit presumptuous to me.

Bearing in mind the degree of presumption one has to have to be someone like me and type this stuff and then wait for people to read it. Sort of two bricks short of a hod. Tell me about the rabbits, George. I love the color of it all.

And actually that's what a FB friend (of a friend) neither of whom I'll ever meet, nor ever know, (from the formerly divided German nation) helped me learn in order to better get through whatever winter we have left in the Northeast of the United States.

Considering the weather a lot of us on this side of the Mississippi have had since December, maybe the Northeast is a state of mind and not a region. Atlanta has had almost as much snow as Boston so will Braves' fans have to learn to do the Tomahawk Chawp? It may depend on where they pahk their carh.

One of them offered the words, auf englisch, of Ward Elliot Hour, "(t)he color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination." Though that's NOT the image they suggested to complement the turn of phrase; this is the one I found and while it hasn't helped me change my opinion of winter (Too Squared: too long and too cold), it has improved my appreciation of Rilke. "Live your questions now, and, perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."

Why else do you think there's moments of more light with each passing day? We need to see where we're going or how will we know when we're there?
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 19, 2011

At least We Have Our Health

The weather around these parts will be more like February this weekend than the late March days we had earlier in the week. Not that I had a lot from them as weeks after nursing a stuffy nose and post nasal drip I woke up Thursday morning with bronchitis.

Usually the first thing I do when this happens, and it seems to happen every winter, is start patrolling the hallways where I work attempting to plant a big smooch on the lips of all the folks I'm less than happy with (= everyone; but you knew that, right?).

This time around I was disappointed with how quickly people closed their office doors and no amount of blandishment or enticement could get them to poke their heads out. What's the point of having a virulent strain of pork-chop fever or brocolliitis if you can't share it?

Defeated, but unbowed, I actually took sick time to see my primary care physician (if I hadn't my wife threatened me with bodily harm). I have enough things medically wrong with me that I should have my own health insurance company, but one of the nicest things about the insurance I have is that my doctor is in their network.

Some thumping on my back and listening to me breathe with a stethoscope helped him arrive at his diagnosis. That and the fact that every time I coughed, it sounded like I was bringing up not only a lung but also a piece of my spleen and a small pony complete with a saddle.

I'm better today than I was yesterday though I think/hope I'm still 'hot' (or at least warm) because there's a meeting I'm hoping to attend this morning that might be improved through contagion, though I suspect the folks there will feel differently. Unless and until I tell them about Rebecca Wells in Downey (home of The Carpenters), California, who died at her desk in her cubicle and no one noticed until the following day. I'll leave you to do the math on what this may say about us as a people and a culture. I'm still a little too full of antibiotics to think straight-an excuse I intend to use until the late summer.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 18, 2011

Яйца, колбаса, бекон и спама

I'm not the world's best housekeeper, be it a house or anything else. Yesterday I stumbled across within the framework that enables me to 'write' this doohickey, 'blogger.com', a folder labelled 'spam' somewhere in the back office (I have no idea if that's the right term, though, between us, I have the feeling that it isn't) behind the curtain.

All I'm gonna say is if you think some of the stuff I write is goofy, you should be grateful for the Spam I Am, Green Eggs and Ham folder because we're talking Whack Job City (actually more like the suburbs over by the industrial district) in terms of coherence and clarity.

There was a passel of cheap male enhancement drugs at prices too good to be true. I appreciate the Blogger BS patrol picking up that stuff and escorting it to another dimension. Imagine my embarrassment if all of that palaver were posted in the comments section on the day the Pulitzer Prize Patrol van pulled up? I'll bet the committee would wonder why I'm not walking funny since I should have a little something, actually a BIG something, tied to my inside leg. Which helps explain John Wayne's walk-off into the sun far better than anything I've read anywhere else. Tell you what: I won't ever be a Pilgrim; the hell I won't.

Not sure what caused somebody's ad engine to dump every different kind of restaurant recommendation into the comments section of a more recent entry, one at a time, unless it was the word 'breakfast' which, having just typed it make sme wonder if it will happen again. Not sure where all this unwanted ethereal detritus is stored though I'm wondering if it's not in Scandinavia. Bloody Vikings.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Duna Scores a Wingman

Lance Armstrong has left the velodrome. It's more accurate and intellectually honest (and way less dramatic) to use a lower case "v". And in an era where New York baseball writers wear black armbands because Andy Petite has decided he's had enough but their gridiron counterparts have a pool set up for how far into whatever season the NFL next has, before Brett Favre unretires (again), I wonder, based on the headline, if he shouldn't have left before so many wondered why he stayed.

There's always been a disconnect for me with professional bicycle racing (what we did as kids, I hope, is amateur; except for the hitting parked cars part, which I did a lot)--and living in Europe for quite some time (that's a picture of me 'stayed too long at the fair') I came to see a LOT of bicycle racing on TV. Way too much. Never really got it or how you made a living at it.

Actually what I kept seeing was a person checking into a hotel and under 'occupation' writing 'professional bicycle racer' and the concierge smiling wanly and ripping the check-in blank in half. In the interests of furthering Franco-American relations (insert your joke here), I will note, when registering in a Parisian hotel in response to that same 'occupation' question, the correct answer is '1940 until 1945.' Any bets me and Nicky S do NOT go shoe shopping over the Presidents' Day Holiday weekend? He'll probably ask for the Statue back.

No matter how you may feel about Armstrong him as a bicycle racer, this is a large story that overshadows the (nearly as) important smaller stuff. What does he do now? What are you qualified to do after winning the Tour de France multiple times consecutively (seems to me he did that; he kept winning it). Does he have to get a new wardrobe with actual trousers? Can he get an endorsement with one of the shampoo companies that helped him get rid of his 'helmet hair'?

On a more personal note, do you think he has an exercise bike in his basement and will now disappear down there for twelve to sixteen hours a day, coming upstairs for meals wearing a yellow tricot. Who will Floyd Landis point at now when he flunks urinalysis?

Sheryl Crow would've really needed Steve McQueen and a heart like a wheel, and not a bicycle tire, had she reached this point. "See that man-he's all alone, looks so happy but he's far from home. Ring my bell and smile at him-then knock over his garbage bin." Thank God for opposable thumbs! How else would he ring the bell, John Irving?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Asking about the Letter before Z

This morning at 8:30, as part of a regular meeting, our mayor and a contingent of city hall professionals will offer a presentation to a full council meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Councils (SCCOG) on a regional community center.

There’s a version of the proposal on the city’s website, but many feel the data is less than current (and they're right). Quite frankly I'm a LOT more concerned about the thinking and approach that came up with the concept as it's proposed than the lack of current and actual numbers.

Let me illustrate that this is the eleventh year of the twenty-first century and times have changed. Gee, you ask, in what way? I'm glad you did that otherwise I'd be stuck for what to write today. Do you remember growing up and Mom and Dad would rush to get to 'the bank' before it closed? Yep, those were the days...'banker's hours' meant a cushy job when banks opened at nine and closed at three and were never open on weekends or holidays. Your folks knew all the tellers and if you worked it right, there was a lollipop for you in every visit (through high school for some of us).

I, and probably you, haven't been inside a bank more than three times a year, if that often, for most of the last five to eight years. With ATMs, touch tone telephones and computer connectivity why would I need to go into the building, to look at my money? It's not even there.

Don't get me wrong, the 'banking industry' is still vital and vibrant, but how we do much of our banking has changed. All of which brings me back to this beaten up building on the far side of Norwich's downtown, across the street from the former Elks' Club, now the Majestic Rose, which is next door to the soon to be gone US Post Office.

Here's what I want to know to know: why does a ‘community center’ have to be a bag of bricks and mortar at 337 Main Street, when, for far fewer dollars we can operate community programs across our city? Norwich already has facilities to host many of the activities we, the residents, claim to want, to include after-school and weekend athletic as well as academic enrichment programs for hundreds, if not thousands.
Sadly, revenue shortfalls in past years have resulted in the City Council approving budgets that flat fund (or worse, reduce actual dollars) for programs provided by, and supported through, both the Norwich Public Schools and the Otis Library. The latter has actually seen a double digit decline in the level of annual municipal funding in the last half a decade with corresponding and sometimes draconian reductions in operating hours and programming.

Instead of (at least) 800K to buy a darkened building (thus assuring it never becomes part of the grand list through private ownership) and NOT fully rehab it to meet code of occupancy standards, thus requiring (even) MORE funding (not yet identified or available), why not add to the current operating budgets of both the school system and the library? It’s not that we can’t afford it to do it but rather we can’t afford to NOT do it. The infrastructure costs have already been paid-the buildings are there; fund the programming.

Public schools, traditionally regarded as an integral part of our city, are neighborhood assets and should be used to support community based programs and not packed up at the end of the school day with the lights turned out because we claim to have no money. The Otis Library serves a diverse public now-but expanding family-oriented programs for a return to Main Street, will create more people in downtown during the afternoon and early evening hours than is currently the case, which could provide a benefit, through additional foot traffic and enhanced earnings potential, to local businesses.

I don't pretend to know either the scale of investment required or the scope of the return on that investment desired but suspect it's comparable and probably superior to buying a box of broken bricks which is all the YMCA building currently is or will ever be. All we're going to do with those bricks is continue to build a wall that separates yesterday and what we once were (and will never be again), from tomorrow and what we could become. We need to learn from the past, where nothing seems to change, not mortgage our future trying to redeem it.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Plastic Jesus 2.0

I was raised a loyal son of Holy Mother Church. We trudged, as a class (never mind the grade; the nuns believed in putting the suffer in "suffer the little children") down Somerset Street from the school, crossing Easton Avenue where Carroll's Hamburgers was across from Greasy Tony's, and went to the basement of the church every first Thursday of the month for confession before attendance the following morning at First Friday Mass.

I thought about those children's crusades and how far I've come in the five decades since I stopped making that journey when I came across something right of Orwell's 1984. The book always frightened me more than the movie adaptations, because I can be scarier than anyone outside my head. But now that I'm more of a catholic with a small "c" (if I'm even that anymore), the notion of Jesus on a Screen in my living room, and now in my cell phone, is even beyond where I could have forced myself to go.

I'm more than sufficiently afraid of an unexamined life, mostly my own, so the notion of a dummy's guide for an examination of conscience isn't quite the good news that its inventor Patrick Leinen would like me to think it is and I'd say 'God Bless you' but I'm not sure he's sneezed. Based on the NPR account, I suggest we hang around awhile and see if Elizabeth Baker has anything interesting she'd like to share with the class. You Catholic girls start much too late.

It is very comforting to know there's an app for that but both the Act of Confession and the performance of the Penance have no virtual substitutes. Through my trials and tribulations and my travels through the nations; with my plastic Jesus. It's all fun and games until the Heavenly Kingdom at the End of Days turns out to be http 404. Then we're really counting on signs and wonders.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just Another Consensus on the Street

Sometimes we feel as if we can change nothing that everything and everyone else is out of our control. It shouldn't make us angry or sad or fearful-it makes us human which means we have the power to make ourselves into whomever we wish to be. Some of us like to be victims, others prefer to be a light over being a horn.

Where ever you live and whatever you do, you can make a difference and be part of the difference in your community. All you have to do is try. I've been assured by many persons where I live, in Norwich, Connecticut, that I'm one of the most trying people they know. Thanks, I guess.

This week's meeting calendar reflects many opportunities to excel and get involved, starting this afternoon at 4:30 with a meeting of the Budget Expenditure Committee of the Board of Education in their conference room at the Central Office, a/k/a John Mason School, on Town Street. If you have an interest in the City of Norwich's budget, you owe it to yourself and your wallet to get a look behind the Power point slides at what our neighbors on the Board of Ed have to work with in terms of projected expenses and revenues for the next fiscal year.

There are two meetings at five, both in City Hall. The Volunteer Fire Fighters Relief Fund Committee meets in Room 209 (here's their January meeting minutes), and the Ethics Commission meets next door, in Room 210 (NONE of their meeting minutes are available on the city's website. They used to be but now they're gone. Imagine my surprise.)

Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 on the campus of Norwich Free Academy, NFA, in Room 6109 of the Latham Science Center, it's a meeting of the NFA Board of Trustees. At six, in Room 319 of City Hall it's a meeting of the Personnel & Pension Board Regular/Investment Meeting (they didn't have one in January because of the weather).

There's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan at seven in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street. This time last week, it was reasonable to assume the Commissioners might be making like the Village People though I think between (The Lofts at) Ponemah Mills request for modifications and the update on the review of the Five Year Capital Improvements Plan there should be an interesting evening for everyone (maybe just me, but 'This Song Made Me a Man' gives me the willies).

Speaking of weather creating a need to change plans, the City Council will try again at 7:30 in Council Chambers as they meet to start on their evaluation of the City Manager's role and responsibilities as well as evaluate his performance. The last part is an annual requirement that hasn't formally happened in the three years since a previous Council hired the City Manager.

Wednesday morning at eight thirty, in their offices in the Norwich Business Park, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments that will include (see item 8) a presentation on a proposed partnership to reinvent the still-closed Norwich YMCA as a regional community center. Something about Tom Sawyer comes to mind. And if there were ever a property that could use a tall, freshly-painted fence around it, that's the YMCA. Sure hope we don't run out of whitewash before we run out of partners.

At nine, in the Dime Bank (on Route 82) Community Room, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) whose actual website is a moment frozen in time from a couple of years ago, serene, immutable and sadly out of date. I'm sure they do incredibly important things and could do even more, with help from across the community but you'll never know that from visiting their website. A tool without a purpose or goal. The symbolism is striking but there's too many home fires burning and not enough trees.

Thursday at five is a chance to be part of history, well kinda, as the Historic District Commission meets in Room 319 of City Hall. It's their first meeting of the year, so wear something appropriate you wouldn't mind seeing in a time capsule, perhaps.

At six, in Room 210 of City Hall, it's a special meeting (weather has taken its toll on their schedule) of the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority. Also at six, meeting at The Rink, is a regular meeting of the Norwich Ice Rink Authority, none of whose meeting minutes are posted on the city's website and all of whose members' appointments expired years ago.

Saturday morning at nine, in the Central Fire House it's the next installment of the Mayor's Team Norwich meetings, usually held on Wednesdays. So if you've been unhappy about not being able to attend, this is your chance to do so. Or you can continue to carp and complain. Whichever you think is easier (that was unkind wasn't it? NOT untrue, just unkind) than shouting at the ocean.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Republican Gefiltefish

That may have been what the woman at the deli counter in the Stop and Shop ordered a pound of on Friday afternoon. Or not. To tell the truth I'm not sure. But it was memorable, assuming that was what she actually said. Perhaps it was an homage to J. D. Salinger, perhaps not. I was sort of within earshot hovering over the salad bar which is in the back of the store in the same quadrant as the deli which is neighbors with the produce section near the seafood. They can put the seafood section in the parking lot for all I care. Or in Rhode Island, which would be even better.

The deli counter is very nearly Air Age in that you can place an order on a touch screen and then go about your shopping elsewhere in the store. I just realized we can do this probably because we have a Super Stop and Shop and are a planet in a galaxy with a yellow sun. Around here we say, Screw Bob, Jor-El's your grocer. In the course of your outing you'll hear a voice announce 'Deli Order Number __ is ready for pick up at your convenience' Waste of time. If I can pick it up at my convenience, I will; leave me alone.

The salad bar I like a lot as I'm trying to be good about eating healthy (there are many shades of good, at least I'm hoping so) and it's a key ally in my effort to live forever. I won't make it but I'd like to see how close I can get. I have a colleague almost half way round the world in a place that makes 'hostile working environment' sound like a day at the beach who, if I understood her correctly, is involved (for grins and giggles) in a weight loss contest to see who can lose 8% of their body weight first. She only has seven pounds to go, she says (this was as of Friday evening). I'm hoping the winner gets a free dinner.

Actually what I'm hoping is that the group of them involved in this are attempting an escape-they're just doing it a pound at a time. None of the people in the contest are close to heavy, much less overweight, so I'm thinking it's the challenge of trying to go AWOL, absent without leave, that's attracted them to this competition. It's not so much subversive as it is silly. Considering all of them are in combat zone, it's crazy to suggest they're risking their lives or health, since, duh see clause immediately after gerund earlier in this sentence. Left foot, right foot, moving. Get out of your bed, soon you'll be improving. I never saw so many tigers.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shirley Ellis Got Game

Happy Really Lincoln's Birthday to you and yours!
Yeah, I know, the card store doesn't have anything and the holiday itself has been merged and melded to make a Perpetual Monday holiday with George but still....hang on to Lincoln, because we'll need him before the day is through.

Meantime, caa-ching! That'll be four dollars, please. What do you mean 'what do you mean?' Four greenbacks, Sparky, for use of my name-that gaggle of letters right there alongside of my picture to the right of all of this? Yes sir, buddy. Nobody rides for free, nobody.

As Dylan suggested, money doesn't talk, it swears. And one of my favorite public figure pinatas, the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is hoping to leverage Dylan's insight all the way to the bank. I'm using her name as much as I can now for free before she gets it trademarked. I'm being unkind (wouldn't want to break character) with that 'former governor' crack.' Actually I'm being unkind to Alaska.

Ms Palin was its governor for less than two and half years of a four year term of office that included about six months campaigning to be Vice President so I do question her stamina and dedication, but that's just Me* (*patent pending). She devoted some percentage of her time while Governor to looking at Russia (I'm unsure if she did so from her house, or, perhaps, from a friend's). For the record, I concede that I cannot see Russia from my house and that I have no friends, Russian or otherwise.

There was a riddle back when we were kids, 'what's yours, and yours alone, but everyone uses it more than you do?' And the answer was 'your name.' So, in fairness, and in light of the huge bounce that Tina Fey's career got from exploiting it, why shouldn't the former Governor and her still-current daughter, Bristol* (*no relation), benefit from any actual monetary gain from their own names.

As for what should be covered by trademark, I'm thinking not just posters and tee-shirts, leg-warmers or birth control* (*Bristol only), coffee mugs and bumper-stickers but everything, to include even thinking about either of them (or thinking very little of them)--all of that should be protected intellectual property. It's only fair-if they have to put up with all the aggro, they should be allowed to keep the gravy, or should I say gravy, gravy go gravy; bonana banna bo bravy, fee fi fo fravy, gravy? Try that trick with Nick, slick.
-bo bill kenny

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Step Done and Another Begun

For a moment yesterday in Cairo, Egypt, it looked like deja vu all over again. The old 'an enemy of my enemy is my friend' math that brought us Ferdinand Marcos and the Shah of Iran as allies until their own countrymen sent them packing looked like it was adding Hosni Mubarek to the list of the best buddies Yankee Dollars can buy, but President Mubarek then decided that hasty fade to black was not happening until after the summer (I couldn't resist). And then changed his mind (or had it changed for him) yet again earlier this afternoon.

I don't pretend to know enough about Egypt to conclude the current regime is part of the Legion of Hell or if the Nile will turn to chocolate milk if/when the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power. It's nice to read members of the US intelligence community could take a break from their efforts to disassemble Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction long enough to assure me these kids are kool in the kaftan. From Jim Clapper's lips to Allah's ear, as if. Forgive me for hoping Kamel Al-Hilbawi has a sore throat.

Sorry for sounding callous and uninformed. I don't know what the standard of living in Egypt is now, what it has been or what impact any of what is going on will have on the people who live there. I don't care or have any incentive to do so, residing, instead, in a city with palindromic zip code that rarely necessitates a meteorologist to assess the direction and velocity of air movements.

I'm a very simple ship or another and different consonant. I watch for the reaction by the only nation in the entire region associated with a form of democracy I can recognize at fifty meters, Israel. They're surrounded on three sides by hate-filled crazies and on the crazies-free side, by the Mediterranean Ocean. Quite frankly if they arch an eyebrow in concern for their citizens, feel free to release the safeties and then empty the magazines. Lather, rinse, repeat. Parlez Vous Never Again?

I'm keenly aware I'm NOT watching the last act in the passion play that was the end of the DDR. I know how the story comes out in Alexandria if Hollywood is writing the script but the happy ending crayon is in short supply right now, so it's very possible rationing in the short term to get everyone through the long haul may be used. If the horse don't pull, you got to carry the load. Or end up as one.
-bill kenny