February 28, 2009

Instant Netflix: State and Main

From 2000. David Mamet's quirky film. Philip Seymour Hoffman. William H. Macy. Sarah Jessica Parker. Alec Baldwin. Charles Durning. Patti Lupone. What could go wrong?

CLAS Safety Seminar

Today, at the New England Air Museum. Mostly, a day of hanging out and listening to talks about ballooning and safety. Not a lot of new ground, but a nice refresher. My first such seminar; not sure if I will make it a regular thing, but its a nice chance to catch up with the balloon peeps during the off season.

The keynote / special guest was Don Piccard, who has a bunch of pet projects and associated websites. He is purportedly "The father of modern sport hot-air ballooning." and his biography certainly supports that. His history goes back as far as Lakehurst NJ (remember the Hindenburg?) and although he was a wee bit young for that particular event, he worked there, knew people who witnessed that, and has his theories about the event. So very interesting to listen to him.

He has two pet projects going. The XAP (eXtreme Altitude Project) is a proposed hybrid hot-air / gas balloon intended to fly to 150,000 feet (yes, that's nearly 30 miles up) into the mesosphere. Really interesting stuff (the concept, the technical challenges) although I have yet to really understand the switch-over from the gas bags (which can / will be cut away upon descent) and the hot-air system. Never did quite understand that.....but it sounds like a critical piece.

And finally, he is working on an affordable gas balloon (using Hydrogen or Methane gas) called the Piccard Pleiades - he's quite the salesman for the sport of gas ballooning (far less pedestrian than regular old hot air ballooning).

Hope I'm that spry and have so much passion and drive at 83. It was neat to meet him.

There were other presentations - a piece on crew safety (by local friends), a bit on pilot decision making by Bill Huighes of the Liberty Balloon School, and a nice overview of reading the weather by Mark Schilling, who put together a weather website for CLAS members. And the requisite number of scare stories about various accidents (real and imagined) to keep the pilots and crew honest.

I've been crewing for hot air balloons for almost 25 years, and have never witnessed a serious incident. But things do happen. So best to be prepared.....


Ambassador of India (one of my fave Indian restaurants) has gone out of business - with all four restaurants closing. Kimi sent a heads up; a simple note on their website confirms this.

And who is covering this "sign of the economic times" story? The New Haven Independent, of course. Props to them.....

February 27, 2009

No Relation, I Swear

Family Behind Bars In Plainville

A family of four ended up spending part of Thursday night in the town lockup after a mom and 13-year-old daughter were charged with shoplifting and the father and teen son charged with probation violation when they came in to bond out the women, police said.

Elizabeth Russell, 45, of Cromwell and the juvenile were arrested at 7:30 p.m. after store security at Kohl's Department Store alerted police that a woman and child were stealing clothing and jewelry, Mullins said.

Daryll Russell, 47, came into the police station to free the two and was arrested on a warrant alleging he violated conditions of probation for burglary and larceny case in Cheshire.

Jonathan Russell, 19, came in next to free the three and was charged when police checked his name and found he was wanted for violating probation in a Southington larceny and motor vehicle case.

Not relatives, I swear!

Yoga Sunday

I'm subing for Sharon on Sunday morning - 9:00 am gentle yoga down at the studio. At noon, I'm assisting at the Teacher Training practice (inversions, they need someone with a bit of height I think). And Sunday afternoon, I'm leading the Community Yoga class at 3:00 pm

So if you're free, come on down. I do not get in front of the room on weekends too often, so this is a nice change of pace!

CT Lighter Than Air Society (CLAS) - Safety Seminar

I have been chasing hot air balloons pretty much all of my adult life. I started in 1984 (yes, 25 years ago) when I took a room in a duplex apartment with two women, one of whom was dating Robert, my pilot buddy. After getting off to a slow start (I assumed the propane tanks strapped to the back of his truck were related to welding) - we discovered some mutual interests, chief among them the music of a certain New Jersey rocker. And so began my life as a balloon chaser.

I've always been a bit of an outsider, hovering on the outside of social circles - and the balloon world was no different. For a while I was Alison's roommate, showing up with her. Then I was a last minute crew person when the regulars were unavailable. I got married which took me away from the sport, moved to Danbury, moved to Waterbury. When I got separated in the early 90's, I started to get called more often. When I became self employed in 1996, I became a regular crew person (nice to have someone available on weekend mornings)

Now, in all this time, I have never formally been trained. There is a certain amount of common sense involved (i.e. - do not smoke near the propane) and there is a lot of "checklist" style repetition. And finally, do something long enough, you pick up the tricks. So it's not hard to become a proficient and professional crew person. I'm the one who knows the back roads from Point A to Point B (my GPS helps, I confess). I'm the one who likes to be at the landing site before my pilot even tells me where it will be. And when new chasers come on board, I provide helpful hints, such as "Park the chase vehicle downwind of a light pole because its the one place your pilot will not be landing...."

I've come through a long time in ballooning - in the early days (pre-cell phones, even pre-radio) we'd arrange to call the Southington police if we lost the balloon (hard to believe, but it happens). Robert would keep street maps of the area under the driver's seat, and we'd be digging out the map for Middletown or Durham if the flight seemed like it might go that way. We'd chase for milk runs (north-south flights along Rte. 10) or venture "over the (Metacomet) ridge". We'd tease pilots who never ventured out of their zip codes.

Then we got small two-way radios, and now everyone has a cell phone and GPS are rampant. We had a passenger updaing facebook using a blackberry while in the air last summer. So it's a dIfferent world!

The balloon community is a loose confederation of pilots and crew members, who mostly meet on wet fields in the spring, summer, and fall. We set up, we fly, we land, we toast, we hit the diner for breakfast after. In between - chit-chat on the field, banter on the radio, teasing about a particularly amusing landing or chase incident (much todo about backing up trailers). A few times a year, the community gathers en masse - the annual Plainville Balloon Fest, a winter dinner, and finally, a Safety Seminar.

I've been a late-comer to all the "community" stuff - although the last few years I've been on the winter dinner organizing committee. This year, I'm actually going to the safety seminar (if I feel OK). It's up at the New England Air Museum (never been there before, can you imagine?). Don Piccard, the founder of recreational ballooning in the US, is speaking.

February 26, 2009

And for Roku / Netflix Fans......

Instantwatcher.com - Netflix for Impatient People

They seem to have done a pretty awesome job of categorizing Netflix's "watch instantly' catalog. Nice!

Because I Am Sickly and Hibernating....

U-Haul Lesbian Rap. I'm in Love.

That's What She Said. On Myspace here

February 25, 2009

La Morte du Courant

An expansion on a comment to Colin McEnroe's facebook post, regarding the Mardi Gras Massacre, linked to Dennis Horgan's blog piece naming today's layoffs at the Hartford Courant.

I've been thinking about this myself; I feel bad for not supporting the Courant. I have not had time to read it front to back in years, and feel environmentally bad seeing the pile of unread issues heading out to the recycling bin which, with the variable price for recycled material, might well be heading to the landfill. For year's I'd subscribe to the Suanday paper at a minimum; if I did not get to the paper on Sunday I'd digest it through the week, and save Northeast magazine (and the beloved crossword puzzle) for airplane reading.

And I've certainly migrated - to craigs list, to the online version, to national news feeds, to blogs. I click through to the Courant pretty much every day to check out the local news, but I might read one or two pieces of interest, unless there is something big brewing.

So for someone like me - who would just as soon not have a piece of paper in my hand (for lots of reasons) but would like to support the local news source - what are the options?

I'd be happy to donate the buck or two a week or whatever the Courant is charging for a paper subscription (and having a website "donate" button would be a start, kind of a public radio model) - but I kind of think that's not enough; the real revenue is not the subscription fees but the ad revenue, and they are not getting enough of that for my eyeballs or clicks as it is.

It is sad, like watching a car crash is slow motion. Lot of good people getting hung out to dry in this one. And we're losing a vital cog in our information machinery.

February 23, 2009

Oscar Night - Hartford

A gala evening was had by all! A benefit for CT Aids Resource Coalition (CARC) - a most worthy cause.

First, I have a posse! I have several, really. I have my yoga posse, teacher, fellow trainees, staff and students down at the yoga center. I have my bloggie posse (you know who you are!). And I have a "beautiful people of Hartford" posse (who knew?). I was surprised to find myself cliqued in to a small group of peeps at Oscar Night hartford - who kind of clustered on a few different axes - art, writing, yoga, celbrity stalking. It was fun! So Kim and Sara and John and Anne and Audrey and Rosalie and Colin and Alison and Steve and Christine.....thanks!

So props to Colin (for starting this particular event) and Gwen (who chaired the event and by all appearances kicked ass and took names), Dishes Bar & Grill, all those who donated goods and services, all the volunteers. It was a tad more affordable this year ($45 / head) and quite the social event, not sure it sold out but the restaurant could not have held too many more people.

Some highlights:

* The silent auction seemed to be a hit - I made a few not unsubstantial bids on some things and was outbid significantly. Looks like the art, gift certificates, jewelry, etc. all went pretty high. A really nice assortment of items up for bid - looks like someone really hustled to get donations.

* The food was yummy, plentiful, and nominee inspired. Including shrimp and jambalaya (Benjamin Button) and Indian (Slumdog)

* Anne Cubberly secreted a postcard in my bag, for the opening of her Bone Stories exhibit at La Motta Fine Art in New Haven - March 6th. Lovely art. Anne is most charming and fun!

* Bob Wilson from WTNH-8 was there to do a stand-up; I popped over to say hello, recalling the time he did a Roadside Stories segment with Robert and hot air balloons (I crewed that day, back in Sept 2007). Amusingly, after just stopping by to say hello, Bob chased me down to pass along a message to Robert....kind of fun to be chased across a crowded room a celebrity!

So, a lovely evening. I faded around 10:30 or so, and made it back home in time to watch best actress, best actor, and best film awards snuggled in bed with my best dog. Slumdog swept (no surprise to me).

I am officially withdrawing from the social scene for a while - I need to catch up on work, yoga, health, life. But it's been fun!

February 22, 2009

Busy Weekend

It has been a remarkably social stretch for your blogger....

Started Wednesday; I snuck out of work to go see Slumdog Millionaire (which seems to be sweeping the Oscars as I type this) with a friend. Highly recommended - movie and soundtrack! Later that night, yoga with one of my fave teachers, taking advantage of a school vacation break from my Wed night yoga class.

Thursday was the Creative Cocktail hour, in which I met a new friend (hi Sara!) and saw old ones, and also two unexpected yogi pals dropped in. So I was there relatively late for me (9 pm)

Friday, I taught two yoga classes (a subbing gig at 9:15, my own 12:15 class) and then worked. Stayed in that night, just vegged. Saturday morning, I ended up on the mat with Nykki.

Saturday was "Yogis eating non-organic food IV" where-in 15 of my yoga teacher training pals went out for dinner (Ichiro, in West Hartford). Food was noshed (raw and hibachi'd), drinks were imbibed, a good time was had by all. Some not so embarassing photos have already found their way to Facebook.....

Sunday morning, I ended up on the mat with Christine, then subbed a class for Shankara. Busy morning. And tonight was the annual CARC Oscar Night - saw several friends, some I see often, others I see once a year or so. It was at Dishes Bar & Grill, and it was a gala time. I silent auction bid on a few things (a bowl, some art, and a tattoo gift certificate) and won none of these. But had a lovely time.

Now in bed. Blogging, watching the end of the Oscars. Gently heading towards sleep.....

February 21, 2009

Hartford Party Starters Union

Was handed a flyer with this wounded Hartford icon Thursday at Real Art Ways CCH. The gentlemen in question were also hawking I Love Hartford tee shirts. And flirting incorrigibly (not with me mind you, but I have hottie friends)

The text on the back is amusing, and ends with "We're On The Internet!". Generally this is a good cue for listing a url or something, but not these dudes. They prefer to be mysterious!

Not 100% sure what this is about. But hey, it's something. So might as well blog it! The dudes in questions were not so interested in my story of hearing Chuck Kaiton while visiting clients in Cary, NC - just weird to hear the "voice of the Whalers" after so many years. I was kind of surprised to hear the Hurricane's score a goal and NOT hear Brass Bonanza

Did I ever tell you about the time we got kicked out of the Hartford Civic Center? Right after I moved to CT (circa 1984), a bunch of college friends (from Massachusetts, and die hard Bruin's fans) came down for a Bruins-Whalers games. Even though my friends are mostly professionals these days, there was a bit of a culture class between the somewhat delicate (to our sensibilities) Whalers fans and my posse of rough and tumble Boston fans (used to fisticuffs at the old Boston Garden, among other things). So Tim Gillis was wadding up $5 beer cups and tossing them at some loud and a little fey Whalers fan from the top of the civic center. And he got kicked out (so we all left). As the Civic Center guard came up to evict him, Tim looked dumb-founded, accustomed to Boston Garden "rules of engagement" - where drawing blood would be the minimum level of offense. "You're kicking me out? You're sh*tting me!"

Back to the Hartford Party Starters Union - I did find them on Facebook (where else). I suspect I'm about 20 years too old to really engage with the partiers, but I can live vicariously.

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.

February 17, 2009

Physician Heal Thyself

NEW YORK (Feb. 16) -- The founder of an Islamic television station in upstate New York aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes has confessed to beheading his wife, authorities said. Muzzammil Hassan has been charged with murder in the death of his wife, Aasiya Hassan.

Story here. One would think that beheading is a Muslim stereotype one might wish to counter....

Hulu - An Evil Plot to Destroy the World

I have to admit that when I saw the Superbowl Ad, I just assumed it was a joke or spoof or something.

But Hulu.com actually exists. If having 30Rock, an NBC sitcom about a fake NBC comedy show with a mobius strip of cameos, inside jokes, etc. was not enough, now Alec Baldwin, who is not a real slimy corporate exec but plays one on 30Rock is now shilling for Hulu as a slimy corporate exec who is really a space alien seeking to "turn your brains to mush"

Whatever level of self-referential, snarkiness they are aiming for, pretty sure they are hitting it!

Love the concept, will probably stream an occasional sitcom that I missed or something. But they need to tie in with Roku so I can stream content to my television....cause although I occasionally use my computer to watch streaming video, I really want such content on my television, and the Roku box lets that happen pretty well.

It's Quiet......Too Quiet

Apologies for the silent running of late....

I've been a little under the weather, so not a lot of energy for blogging. And I am working to get caught up on life, with my engineering work continuing to be slightly overbusy, a big website update in the offing, my yoga teaching continuing, and a raft of home / office / life projects needing attention. (i.e. - I need to get my sorry life organized!)

On the arts and entertainment front, I'll be attending a couple of upcoming events:

* Oscar Night Hartford 2009 - a fundraiser for CT AIDS Resource Coalition (CARC) - February 22nd / 7:00 pm / Dish Bar & Grill. Always a fun evening, a chance to dress up and schmooze. And I've seen a lot of the nominated films this year (for a change)

* Creative Cocktail Hour - at Real Art Ways - Thursday 2/19 from 6 - 10 pm. I'm hitting about every 3rd CCH this year, between work travel, yoga, and life. So it's good to have a plan to be there this week.... although if history is indicative I'll get there early and head out by 8 or 8:30, it gets a little loud, young and raucous after that.

February 10, 2009

Our Town at Little Theater of Manchester

Popped over to Cheney Hall this evening for a read-through performance of Thorton Wilder's "Our Town". I am not sure that I have ever seen the play; if I have I've quite forgotten it, especially Act III. Coming off my enlightenment intensive experiences, this particular act, the "living humans have no idea what it is all about" aspect of it. I cried a bit.

For an amateur cast and a read-through performance, it was quite wonderful. Colin McEnroe added some celebrity firepower (and some impressive performance chops) as the Stage Manager, but the entire cast was up to the challenge.

Afterwards, dinner with friends at Corey's Catsup & Mustard in Manchester. The fries are supposed to be stellar (we resisted) but the sandwiches were quite wonderful (I had a turkey burger in a wrap) - each accompanied by a wonderful half-sour pickle and some fresh and crisp cole slaw. Delicious! The band was a little loud for us oldsters (on a Tuesday night even) but definitely a good place for a quick meal east of the river.

And now, since I've actually exchanged words with Dave M, I can heed Facebook's suggestion that I "friend him"

In honor of a lovely evening, Iris Dement and Emmylou Harris, singing "Our Town"

My Birthday is Coming Up



Poor Choice of Words

Spotted on Yahoo's front page this morning. Can you spot the moderately offensive choice of language?

Besides, the "lame" characters seem to be the most interesting, on that show.

February 01, 2009

Hey WHY Teacher Trainees

Tough Weekend, huh? You made it though.....congrats. See you around the studio this week!

I took a few minutes to look over my blog posts for the first weekend of last year's training. See if they resonate:

* First Day of School - Thursday, January 17th

* And so, I am off.... - Friday, January 18th

* YTT - Day One - Saturday Morning, January 19th

* It's By Far the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done - Sunday Morning, January 20th

* Well, I Survived - Sunday Evening, January 20th

* Finding My Voice - Wednesday, January 20th

Interesting to see where I was back then. Yep, those teacher training practices still kick my butt!

Reading the Tea Leaves

Listening to WNPR this afternoon, between BBC World News and All Things Considered. I hear a new sponsor: Dr. Jerry Rosenfeld, the Dentist Who Caters to Cowards.

Dr. Jerry was a longtime advertiser on WTIC - for Colin McEnroe's show in particular. And he was one of the first to pull out when Colin was let go at the end of 2008.

So, what does it mean that a big Colin McEnroe fan is now sponsoring WNPR? Factor in that Colin will be a guest on Where We Live tomorrow? And that Colin "....had my big outplacement meeting at WTIC...." on Friday, wherein presumably the i's were dotted, the t's were crossed, and Colin might now be officially free to persue other projects.

As John Dankosky writes: "It will be the most important event of the winter in Connecticut, no question. Plus, he'll probably make fun of me." I most certainly will be listening, although that is pretty independent of who they have on!