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April 15th, 2014

Back From Another World

From John

I spent the last week in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoying memories with Becki who will be there another week. While driving south on El Camino Real (equivalent to the Boston Post Road out there) she asked, if cost was not an issue, would I want to live in the Bay Area. Although I like the Quiet Corner I said that I am not tied to Woodstock. We have settled all of the reasons for moving here in the first place - mainly the preservation and liquidation of my parents estate and father’s corporation. The issue preventing a move back to where we came from is cost, of course. I could not have imagined that I would find a job here that would last for 18 years - a job that’s still works for me. We have also been sustained by UConn men’s and women’s basketball, something they don’t have at Stanford. I also am reminded of the blimp that would hover over Stanford football stadium at UCLA games with a big sign stating ‘Important in your own minds only’.

I moved to Palo Alto CA in December 1981 to take a job at the Pauling Institute down the street from Stanford University. Stanford has the most picturesque campus I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had moved to a very special place that became like heaven as time went by. I had only been back to the Bay Area once around Christmas in 2003 after leaving in late December 1995 but we found ourselves up in Napa for most of that week.

There are only three ways to sustain a life on the pennisula: (1) either be rich, (2) be grandfather’ed in by living in properties handed down in the family, or (3) join the faculty at Stanford which doesn’t last for ever. Some locals find a way to survive like two of Becki’s talented brothers who developed serious skill as mechanical ‘engineers’ self-taught without degrees. Jim maintains a fleet of planes and cars for one of the richest men in the world. Tom builds special cars for the wealthy while maintaining the machinery for a well-known major engineering firm. It’s impressive what they do. Both have lived in the family home in Burlingame for a significant time but Tom has since moved to Pacifica just south of SF over looking the Pacific. Becki’s sister, Barbara who held the high school discus record for three decades, and third brother, David, have done well also. David and Gloria’s daughter, Hannah, is an impressive gymnast with possibly of an Olympic future. Chris, their son, is no less impressive.

Becki and I got together in September 1986 and were living together in the yellow house below by January 1987. I had made a risky move from a secure position in government at the National Institutes of Health to a high-risk senior position at the Pauling Institute spun off from Stanford. Linus Pauling basically supported the Institute staff with his fame which led to large donations. I wasn’t going to rely on that and managed to get NIH grants to stabilize my own funding like professors at Stanford.

The yellow house was our home for five years and then we moved next door (to the left) for four years where there was a brown house which was basically a replica of the yellow house. Mariah was born when we lived in the yellow house. After we left the brown house to drive to Woodstock, the new owners knocked it down and built the mini-masion that is there now and then sold it for $1.2 million. Between the two houses we had a grapefruit tree, an apple tree, and a loquat tree each loaded with fruit, and also a giant palm and large eucalyptus trees which were knocked down when the mini-mansion was built. This environment has a wonderful aroma. During our first winter in the yellow house we hardly ever closed the back doors to the gardens. Becki’s family home in Burlingame has orange and lemon trees. In this part of the world spring comes in January with the yellow flowering of the Acacia trees where the yellow pwtals fall instead of snow. November and December look like fall in areas where residents have planted eastern trees. On rare winters you will see some snow caps on the hills to the west and east.

My commute was to walk or bike to the Pauling Institute. There was no reason to leave town for anything except to visit the family in Burlingame. Later when I took a position as Director of Research at Adeza Biomedical I would ocassionally bike the 11 miles down to Sunnyvale.

The special thing we do out there is walking the Golden Gate Bridge; and then there is seeing my Rowayton CT (home town) friend Diane who has posted here at the Cafe. Diane found her way to Mariposa CA, south west of Yosemite many years ago. She sustained a life in CA that I could not.

So here is Becki’s family grandfather’ed in and enjoying life to the hilt. They have no idea what it is like on the outside but I am envious.

April 15th, 2014

Mariah Asks For Help for a Submariner Down in Groton

The Brian Osborne Fund.

“Hey Daddy, can you share this on the Cafe? He is a sailor on Zane’s boat and a single father of a 12 year old girl and an 8 year old boy. Their house is directly behind ours (in Gales Ferry next to Groton). They lost EVERYTHING in a fire that just destroyed their house. Mariah”

April 1st, 2014

My Most Satisfying April Fools Joke

from John

This was on April 1st 1987. Becki and I had moved into our first house in central Palo Alto. We had only a few pieces of furniture but the winter was warm and we were joined by Becki’s beloved German Shepherd Chewbacka and cockatiel JD. Becki for some reason had concluded that JD was a boy, so we were quite surprised to find a small egg in ‘his’ cage a few days before April. JD’s cage was mounted high on the wall so you had to stand on a stool to see the bottom of the cage. So while Becki was not around on the morning of April 1st, I took a chicken egg out of the fridge and placed it in the bottom of the cage. When Becki came into the living room, I got up on the stool, peered into the cage, and reacted like an academy award winning actor … “my God, JD laid another egg!” Becki rushed over and stood up on the stool to see this new wonder. For a second or two the expression on her face was most gratifying. While I was across the room revelling in laughter, Becki reached into the cage, grabbed the egg, and started chasing me around the house… only then, in the frenzy that ensued, did I learn how successful the prank was. Thinking that the egg was raw, I did my best to avoid the curveball that was thrown which I was able to deflect with a flat hand.

…it was hard-boiled. John

My partner in crime. The bird and I got along quite well.

(Left to Right) Becki at the Pauling Institute plotting my future a few months earlier. Read the rest of this entry »

March 26th, 2014

What Happened at the BOF Meeting

From Steve Smock

Thanks to everyone that came out tonight to the Board of Finance meeting. Our letters, words & faces played no small part in convincing the Board of Finance to put forth the maximum Prop 46 allowable budget to be voted on by townspeople at Referendum. It will still be a very tough Education budget as ~$725,000 is required to be cut…that’s a lot! Now comes the hard part – getting enough folks out to the polls to vote for the budget Referendum. Trust that you will hear more from me as the date approaches. Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow it’s back to work.
Thanks again!


March 14th, 2014

Your Attendance is Needed at the Board of Finance Meeting on Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall Basement

Dear Woodstock Friends,

This is a challenging budget year.   We want to be sure you are aware of the state of the education budget.
  There is a shortfall to the combined education and town budget, requiring an over $700,000 reduction to the education budget.  

  The greater than $700,000 reduction is IF the Board of Finance votes to put forth the maximum budget to referendum.  If the Board of Finance decides to put forth a lower budget, the education cuts will be even greater.

  The effect of these numbers on the education budget is devastating.  The proposed increase this year is approximately $1.4 million.  98% of the increase is due to mandated increases in special education, health care, Academy tuition increases, contractual increases and other insurance increases.   The Board of Education is required to fund these expenses.  Therefore, cuts will have to be made from other parts of the budget.  Even if the budget passes at the maximum limit, we are still facing large cuts at this point in time.  
Please send an email to the Board of Finance via Donna Stefanek (treasurer@woodstockct.gov), with copy to the Board of Ed (bernardim@woodstockschools.net ), requesting that they send the budget to referendum at the maximum limit allowed by law.  (Feel free to use the template below for your correspondence.) Note in the email subject line “Board of Finance Correspondence for the March 25th meeting).  Please send your email no later than Friday, March 21st.

You are not required to speak at this meeting, but your attendance is needed to show your support of a referendum vote at the maximum limit.  

We will see you at this important meeting, Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall basement.

Please forward this email to any Woodstock community members in your address book.  
Thank you,
Steve Smock

Dear Woodstock Board of Finance,
In light of the current budget challenges, I urge you to please send the 2014/15 budget to referendum at the full Prop 46 limit, and give the people of Woodstock the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove the maximum amount legally allowed. 
March 5th, 2014

Woodstock Academy Lost to Windsor in the Quarterfinals of the State Class L Championships 77-64 – This fine season ends with a 20-6 record

From John

Class L QUARTERFINALS, March 14 at 7 p.m.
No. 16 Maloney (16-6) at No. 9 Bunnell (17-5)
No. 5 Woodstock Academy (18-4) at No. 4 Windsor (18-4)
No. 2 Career Magnet (19-3) vs. No. 10 Avon (17-5) at Floyd Little Athletic Center, New Haven, 6:30
No. 11 Farmington (16-6) at No. 3 Bristol Central (19-3)

Wednesday, March 12
Avon 52, Darien 42

Bristol Central 72, Middletown 59
Bunnell 62, Wilbur Cross 53
Career Magnet 66, Kolbe Cathedral 60
Farmington 66, E.O. Smith 49
Maloney 80, Capital Prep 67
Windsor 92, Stratford 66
Woodstock Academy 60, Daniel Hand 55

Monday, March 10, 7 p.m., unless otherwise noted
Top bracket: No. 32 Fitch (8-12) at No. 1 Capital Prep (18-2); No. 17 Rockville (14-6) at No. 16 Maloney (14-6); No. 25 Wethersfield (10-10) at No. 8 Wilbur Cross (15-5), 6 p.m.; No. 24 St. Joseph (10-10) at No. 9 Bunnell (15-5); No. 29 Trinity Catholic (9-11) at No. 4 Windsor (16-4); No. 20 Stratford (12-8) at No. 13 Pomperaug (14-6); No. 28 Branford (10-10) at No. 5 Woodstock Academy (16-4); No. 21 New Fairfield (12-8) at No. 12 Hand (14-6)

Bottom bracket: No. 2 Career (17-3) vs. No. 31 Naugatuck (8-12) at Wilbur Cross, 7:30 p.m.; No. 18 Kolbe Cathedral (13-7) at No. 15 Kaynor Tech (14-6); No. 26 Darien (10-10) at No. 7 Guilford (16-4); No. 23 Bulkeley (11-9) at No. 10 Avon (15-5); No. 30 Classical Magnet (9-11) at No. 3 Bristol Central (17-3); No. 19 Notre Dame-West Haven (13-7) at No. 14 Middletown (14-6); No. 27 Cheney Tech (10-10) at No. 6 E.O. Smith (16-4); No. 22 Torrington (11-9) at No. 11 Farmington (14-6)

March 4th, 2014

A Simple Kid From Woodstock Deals With Adversity and Unfairness in the Professional World

From Con

I’d add one more to your list of what American idealism of Equality also entails (speaking to LibDem): the freedom to all be treated equally, regardless of, well, most anything. This is a little different than the good list you describe.

One quick example I remember from Law School – whenever I met a certain type of person, they always seemed to ‘look me up and down’ and I could all but see the wheels turning in their head while they decided how to treat me based on how they found me. I found this despicable, for while we all may be guilty of this to some extent, when these people did it they sort of filed it all away and used it as a permanent reference regarding how to treat the person they met – this, in turn, colored their perception of this persons going forward. Can they help me? Are they someone who can benefit me in a kind of sleazy way? That is, how can they help my career and will knowing them be worth my while or ‘valuable time’? What I hated so much, was how they would not waste any time on someone who they reckoned could not help them nor benefit their career, they were not important, from an important family and offered no kind of mercenary quid pro quo instead of that which I valued – simple human interaction in which, to be hokey and quote John Lennon, “we all shine on”.

I could not stand being looked up and down like that and this showed, because a few more blatant types instantly rejected them – that is, until Interviews with big NYC Law Firms were publicly posted and they gleaned by my name on so many lists that I must have been in the top 5% of my Class – this changed everything for this type and they suddenly saw me in a different light. I definitely indulged that kind of immature feeling of superiority, even smugness, that I was a better person because I took people for how I found them and refrained from that smarmy up-and-down evaluation.

Smarmy – that’s how I still think of those who fail to treat people equally, giving them that valuable equal treatment not just under the law, not just with regard to all those on that good list, but also according to that simple, but ineffable kind of idea that we are ALL of us American and by virtue of that alone, or collectively if you will, EQUAL.

As discussed above, that unequal treatment with regard to wealth, power, etc. that is so important must be distasteful – for those judged and for those indulging in judging. I cannot stand it, like so many of us. Society teaches us over and over how wrong it is, yet it’s utterly pervasive and The Way of Life in America. What kind of Society has such innate hypocrisy? What does it say about us?

As a Lawyer in a huge Boston Law Firm I could see the change in people’s entire demeanor when I handed them my card, but after they got that first impression of me – kind of a simple kid from Woodstock with shorts and sandals in the summer, jeans and old, often torn clothes otherwise. Never buttoned-down, well-spoken, but not as though someone gave me a vocabulary for Christmas. Yet if asked, I could go on and on about IPO’s and Mergers & Acquisitions and Venture Capital Formation and Series A, B and C Investments in High-Tech Rt. 128 Firms during the Salad-Days of the roaring 1990′s. All to say, I never got used to that feeling of being judged on more what I did, how much I had than, as the ultra-cliche goes, WHO I really was.

To be treated equally in accordance with the true ideals of the Constitution, but more so traditional, school-taught (not Society taught-by-bad-example) ideals, etc. seems to me to be one of the most important aspects of this Nation – it at least starts with that idea that human interaction is possible, interaction that can truly have so very many opportunities for, again, all those tacky cliche’s we learn growing up (‘beauty on the inside’; ‘money means nothing when it comes to character’; etc., etc.).

Having seen, in my limited way, both sides of this type of society, been treated as either / or depending on how I choose to present myself up front (either as a scholarship ‘Law Fellow’ at some highfalutin and kind of famous Law Firm, known for running prominent IPO’s and top-secret Mergers & Acquisitions when NASDAQ Trading had to be suspend pending announcements and then made front-page news, etc. OR just some kid in torn jeans from another small town in Northeast CT who could easily affect having no money (having grown up this way) – to see the abject difference in not only how I was treated, but seeing those wheels turning and (unfairly) guessing them thinking “how can this person help me?”

AND having already had the seeds of social injustice planted in me during some really great college courses with truly enlightened professors and then more of the same but on such a higher plane at Columbia for 2 years – all of this rendered me jaded more than I cared for, and it stuck with me all this time and has become part of me that I cannot change, even if I wanted to. In many ways, I consider it like a Mule pulling a plow – not only doing all the work having to do with this kind of unfairness, but always driving me in ways that I can hardly control at time (and often unfairly, especially when it comes to the anger at bullies – true bullies who don’t just pick on those weaker, but take advantage in every way, ESPECIALLY financial, on those weaker, on up to the cliche’ CRONYISM that we all can despise utterly as long as we’re not benefitting from it all).

Well, this got far more personal than I intended and I could go on forever – but I’ll leave what I wrote and just cut it short, hoping I made some small bit of sense… Thanks.

March 4th, 2014

Scolding the Skeptic

From Con

I acknowledge my own presumption saying so, but even your chosen name (Doubtful) bespeaks a rather easy way out insofar as your questioning can often avoid the Socratic method, but instead belies a set of skeptical assumptions and conclusions – this is easily interpreted as someone whose already made up their mind and is less inquisitive and more pedantic. Someone who knows better and seeks more to instruct than learn; to pursuade in what can sound more like a passive-agressive instruction to those who must be corrected than honest discourse seeking mutual learning. When limiting one’s self to questioning more akin to interrogation than asking because one truly seeks another’s try opinion. Without expressing your own conclusions and making your case, continually asking seems a way to challenge that of others (that is, what you assume is the opinion of others, which may not be correct). It’s easier to find fault with some of these ideas than to present your own counter-point. This can seem like a passive-aggresive way to disagree without just saying so and backing that up. I think it’s much harder and courageous to simply lay one’s own ideas out in the open and allowing others to examine them closely, rather than shrouding them in questions to which there can be many interpretations – it’s safer that way.

In that way, I found your comment / questioning to be based on your own assumptions rather than what was actually said – erroneously so, in my view. Why was it your tendency to a) accept and believe such a fundamental assumption rather than b) taking the time and effort to first determine whether it’s true and viable and your correct in basing your own seemingly biased questioning? Admittedly I’m (unfairly?) using your comment as an example of how one way a mutually respectful manner of discourse can so easily be run off-track, whereby we’re no longer pursing one line of ideas, but instead defending the idea itself in rather wasteful exercise debunking what you incorrectly identify as what LibDem has said, was thinking when he wrote it and as if you posses the ability to read into it all so much that could or could not be even correct? So many online comments read this way to more of an extreme, as though the writer could read minds and is a kind of know-it-all, not open to learning or challenging one’s own ideas. I don’t see your comment this way, but it does remind me of them (just see so many comments under, say, CNN Article Comment’s sections).

You certainly may be right, but rather than making a naked kind of accusation, why not first determine whether your own assumption is truly correct and pursuing it all from there? It’s seems easier to pull something down than to take the time to ask a series of questions in the Socratic method aimed at determining whether it IS, in fact, correct. It’s just more intellectually honest.

Anyway, that’s truly just my 2 cents worth. I obviously think that jumping in to think out loud and off the cuff this way has it’s own value, though it has it’s own inherent intellectually dishonesty of it’s own – if I’m of the mark, I use that as a kind of lame excuse. Either way, I appreciate being able to do it without worrying about walking on eggshells, afraid to offend. Thanks.

March 2nd, 2014

The Skinny on the Crimea – Ukraine – Russian Situation

See this article at Forbes

Also, What happens after Putin Invades the Ukraine

“Today, the international community, the European Union, and the United States face the greatest threat to world peace since the Cold War. After all, if Putin can get away with Ukraine, why would he stop there? If the West will not respond forcefully to such imperialism in a country as large as Ukraine, it is unlikely that it would be ready to stop him on behalf of tiny Estonia and Latvia. The world should have learned from World War II that stopping aggression before it spreads is the best way to prevent geopolitical and humanitarian catastrophes. The West cannot close its eyes to fascistoid imperialism. It must express its full support of Ukraine and tell Putin, in no uncertain terms, that only an immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops can forestall Russia’s transformation into a rogue state.” Alexander J. Motyl, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Newark

February 28th, 2014

Are Chiral Aliens Out There?

from John

In basic chemistry we have something called “chirality” which refers to a molecule with two possible non-superimposable configurations. One way to picture this is to look at your hands and place one on top of the other (not palm to palm) – your left and right hands are essentially the same shape but their shape is reversed. At the molecular level we can use one of the main building blocks of all proteins and all life, the amino acid alanine in the picture below to examine handedness. The diagram shows the arrangement of atoms of two alanine molecules, both of which exist in nature, arranged so that they are mirror images. They are the same molecules but if you turn the one on the right around so that it is facing in the same direction as the one on the left, the R (a single carbon atom in alanine with three bonded hydrogen atoms) on this alanine molecule faces toward the palm of the hand and the COOH moiety (a carboxyl group) and the NH2 moiety (an amino group) face outward away from the palm. Mo matter how you rotate the alanine on the right, you can’t get the three moieties attached to the central carbon to line up in the same position as the alanine on the left. Likewise, you can’t get those hands to super-impose each other no matter how much you twist and turn them. So the alanine on the left is called L-alanine (levo- for the direction the molecule rotates photons) and the alanine on the right is called D-alanine (dextro- for the direction the molecule rotates photons). They are called “enantiomers” of alanine or chiral isoforms and both exist in nature both with identical chemical properties except for the way they rotate polarized light.

There are 20 natural amino acids which are the building blocks of all proteins. Of these 20 only glycine is symmetrical around a central carbon atom and therefore glycine has no enantiomers. The other 19 can exist in the L- and D-conformation.

Funny thing though, only the L-enantiomer is used to make proteins by our protein synthetic machinery – the protein synthetic machinery of all life-forms from single cell organisms up to humans. It’s quite easy to understand why one enantiomer is used in life over random use of either enantiomer. The pictures below show the three dimensional globular structure of human beta-actin on the left and architectural arrangement of this actin in the cytoplasm of a cell. The protein composed of 374 amino acids has an intricate folding pattern with coils which would not be possible if both amino acid enantiomers for the 19 amino acids were randomly incorporated into the protein. This three dimensional structure has to be preserved in order for actin to perform its dynamic architectural function inside living cells shown in the picture on the right. The coils are possible because the amino acids are all L-amino acids and glycine is neutral. Otherwise the protein would behave like a wet noodle. The precise structure of the actin protein determines its function which has been preserved and conserved since the beginning of all eukaryotic life-forms (cells with a cytoplasm and a nucleus). Understanding the atomic forces that fold proteins in a unique shape is what Linus Pauling got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for in 1954.

It is not well known that Linus Pauling was an avid reader of science fiction. During the 1960s in an interview he described his motivation to write a science fiction novel. The story line was to be the discovery of a human-like race from another planet that had evolved to use only D-amino acids (D-humans) rather than the L-isoform (L-humans). He explained that he never got around to writing this novel because the real science he was doing took all of his time.

If our L-humans merged with those D-humans, what consequences would there be? What we would see in D-humans is people virtually indistinguishable from ourselves – that is, barring the possibility that these extraterrestrials evolved out of some unearthly environmental niche. However, no mating, blood, or tissue sharing would be possible between these two races.

To explain this, consider the experience you have had when you accidently put your hand in the wrong glove. As you know, this doesn’t work well. All protein interactions and reactions catalyzed by enzymes require a direct fit to work. Substrates of enzymes have to fit precisely into the catalytic active site of the enzyme like your hand fitting into the right glove. Since L-humans have a different chirality from D-humans, nothing would fit and be transferrable because of asymmetric incompatibility between L- and D- macromolecules. Even the food on our planet would not likely be nutritious for D-humans because all living things on Earth are L-organisms. In D-lifeforms the actin coils would coil in the opposite direction and the DNA double helix would have to spiral in the opposite direction as well; otherwise the analogous D-proteins would not bind/fit on the chromosomal DNA.

It seems reasonable that D-humans might be found on other planets if you consider how life got started. By a quirk of nature on Earth, L-amino acids got a head start and self-assembled into peptides (small proteins) when this essential process in life as we know it got started. The assembly of only one enantiomer isoform into a peptide may have been favored thermodynamically over co-random assembly of L- and D-isoforms. This essential process evolved into a well-organized membrane-protected, energy-driven protein synthetic machinery in single cell organisms like bacteria. Today humans have essentially the same protein synthetic machinery that evolved in primordial bacteria and all life-forms on Earth have the same genetic code.

There are two essential enzymes that work together to catalyze protein synthesis in all living cells. One enzyme, called aminocacyl-tRNA synthetase, binds the amino acid to a transfer RNA molecule (there is one of these enzymes and a specific tRNA for each of the 20 amino acids). The second enzyme, peptidyl transferase, catalyzes the formation of a peptide bond linking two amino acids at the start of a chain and does this over and over again until the full length protein is synthesized and folded into its functional conformation. These two essential enzymes do not recognize the D-isoforms of the 19 asymmetric amino acids. Thus, our chiral L-specificity has been preserved since the beginning of life.

I can’t think of any reason why the D-amino acids would not support life, but it has to be one isoform or the other, not both. Apparently Pauling felt the same way. D-humans will be interesting to meet and they will be equally interested to meet us hopefully without mutual disappointment.

February 20th, 2014

Woodstock Academy Men’s Basketball Loses Final Game at NFA 45-54 to Go 16-4

From John

Congratulations to Headmaster Christopher Sanford for cleaning up the Academy website and making it functional for the first time. The new motto reads, RESPICE FUTURUM; may we all “Look to the Future.”

Academy Mens’ Basketball Schedule

12/18 7:00p @ Ellington (Ellington, CT)Location: Ellington High School Score W 58 – 55, Lowry 17 pts.
12/20 7:00p Ledyard (Ledyard, CT) *Location: Woodstock Academy Score L 58-63, Lowry 24 pts.
12/23 7:00p @ Suffield (West Suffield, CT)Location: Suffield High School Score W 44-39, Lowry 16 pts.
12/27 5:00p Waterford (Waterford, CT) Valley Regional E.C.C./Shoreline Challenge Score W 56-52, Lowry 20 pts
12/28 7:15p Valley Regional (Deep River) E.C.C./Shoreline Challenge Score W 74-58, Lowry 18 pts and Bourgeois 30 pts
01/03 7:00p @ East Lyme (East Lyme, CT) *Location: East Lyme High School Score W 54-32, Lowry 17 pts
01/07 7:00p Stonington (Stonington, CT) Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 73-55, Lowry 15 pts, Converse 18 pts.
01/10 7:00p @ St. Bernard (Uncasville, CT)Location: St. Bernard High School Score W 71-53, Adam Converse, 18 pts, Trent Peters, 15 pts, John McGinn, 13 pts, Will Bourgeois, 12 pts, Chris Lowry, 9 pts.
01/14 7:00p Fitch (Groton, CT) *Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 72-43, Adam Converse, 10 pts, Trent Peters, 18 pts, Will Bourgeois, 22 pts, Chris Lowry, 13 pts.
01/16 7:00p @ Bacon Academy (Colchester, CT) *Location: Bacon Academy Score W 46-45, McGinn, 11 pts, Will Bourgeois, 10 pts, Chris Lowry, 14 pts.
01/18 12:00p @ Putnam Vo-Tech (Springfield, MA)Location: Putnam Vo-Tech High School Score L 45-77, Converse, 14 pts
01/24 7:00p @ Montville (Oakdale, CT)Location: Montville High School Score W 95-64
01/28 7:00p Norwich Free Academy (Norwich, CT) *Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 58-48, Will Bourgeois, 22 pts, Chris Lowry, 9 pts, McGinn, 9 pts.
01/31 7:00p @ Ledyard (Ledyard, CT) *Location: Ledyard High School Score L 91-77, Converse, 25 pts
02/04 7:00p East Lyme (East Lyme, CT) *Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 61-22, Converse, 24 pts, Bourgeois, 10 pts
02/07 7:00p @ Fitch (Groton, CT) *Location: Fitch High School Score W 78-55, Converse, 27 pts, McGinn, 17, Bourgeois, 14 pts, Peters 13 pts.
02/11 7:00p Bacon Academy (Colchester, CT) *Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 62-48, Lowry 17 pts, Converse, 14 pts, Peters 17 pts.
02/17 7:00p Killingly (Killingly, CT)Location: Woodstock Academy Score W 66-41, Will Bourgeois, 18 pts, Chris Lowry, 12 pts, Converse, 12 pts.
02/18 7:00p @ Tourtellotte Memorial (North Grosvenordale, CT)Location: Tourtellotte Memorial High School Score W 66-63, Will Bourgeois, 19 pts, McGinn, 18 pts.

02/21 7:00p @ Norwich Free Academy (Norwich, CT) *Location: Norwich Free Academy

Read the rest of this entry »

February 18th, 2014

Abuse of Capitalism

From Con

As you and I have discussed a few times in other ways (and contexts), so-called ‘Capitalism’ in America has not only lost it’s way, it has totally lost it’s very meaning (speaking to LibDem). So much of what you describe and we’ve talked about isn’t, I believe’ the result of Capitalism, but of the ABUSE of Capitalism.

Using the Wal-Mart example (which is all it’s good for, but it is a most excellent example – one of the very best!) as associated with so very many of the enormous and enormously unfair problems created by such a Company, their behavior and all manner of repercussion – nearly all negatives point to an Abuse of Capitalism rather than it’s comprehensive practice. One such element is how Wal-Mart has managed to create in itself a state-sponsored monopoly and uses this power for all the bad reasons monopolies are anti-free market, anti-capitalism and “anti-American”.

How did Wal-Mart obtain this franchise? By corrupt means; by buying and selling Congress in the same way done so today by rampant cronyism and especially the Defense Contractors and the Trillions of tax dollars involved and up for grabs. The revolving door by and between Defense Contractors, Companies like Wal-Mart (and Haliburton, which does far more than Defense, like making and selling concrete and Oil Platforms which destroy lives and, oh, the Gulf of Mexico incidentally, all without consequences and at enormous continued profit!) – the revolving door between them AND Congress, the White House and the Pentagon is an excellent example of how these companies succeeded wildly not because of Capitalism, but because of it’s very Abuse.

The list goes on and on and on (and is absolutely infuriating once we look at it and know ‘this is America!’). When we look at the true tenets of true Capitalism, there is far less to indict than one may think. Certainly there are aspects that are imperfect, that are wrong-headed and that are harmful, but for the most part it actually is supposed to be a system based on Fairness, Freedom and Behaving By the Rules on an Even Playing Field – and these Rules have a fundamental and classic basis in Fairness, Morality and, yes, the Christian ethic – but that can also mean the good stuff the Pope has highlighted recently, none of which is new and all of which has (like those good aspects of Capitalism) been distorted and twisted by the Spin and wrong-headed criticism of pompous buffoons like Rush Limbaugh.

Without listing example after example and speaking a little in shorthand because I know you understand the references and allusions, one other good example is the wage depression issues we’ve discussed recently. That is not a result of the practice of Capitalism, not at all. The classic benefit that comes from the Fair, Honest and By The Rules Capitalism is not only Wage Fairness, but eventual worker-owned businesses as a result of their value contribution and the relative success of the given enterprise. That and that kind of thing has gone completely out of the window in America and is even labeled (by people like Rush, who are totally wrong and small-minded, but highly influential) as being anti-Capitalistic. Those kinds of examples, where average citizens and average workers are the very ones benefitting the most – and instead of Owners and the Wealthy who are doing so today – are the very heart of True Capitalism.

So instead of wholesale rejection of the system, I consider modifications with the best of these given systems, because each one tends to actually incorporate the best of others (or if I read it correctly, the best of True Capitalism as I understand it, has been incorporated into Distributism). Thanks.

February 17th, 2014

Not Defending Pedophilia in the Church

From Newcomer

Well if you’re looking to me to defend the Church against pedophilia and its coverup, you’ll have to look elsewhere. It’s a shameful, not to mention criminal stain on the Church and will always remain so. The Church, as an institution founded by Christ, is holy. The people who make up the church are anything but. We are all sinners. We are supposed to be sinners who are working on not giving in to the temptation to sin. We are supposed to be sinners who are striving to be and working to become saints. But clearly that does not apply to every, single person who identifies themself as a Catholic. There are problems and problematic people within the church and some of them even seem to be working to bring it down from within. The percentage of priests and bishops who are criminals was/is thankfully small compared to the number of priests and bishops that exist overall. There are many more good priests who are dedicated to Christ and are striving to serve Him and their fellow man day in and day out. I will add that as a result of the sex abuse scandals in the church, much work has been done and continues to be done to protect the innocent from such an evil happening again. As a result and a precaution, now the church has swung the other way. It is now common to see good, holy priests who are innocent of sex abuse allegaions be taken out of ministry and have their good names tarnished for life in the face of unproven allegations. From time to time someone who has not been abused will make an accusation to try to get a settlement out of the church and take down a good, innocent priest in the process. That’s not to down-play the very real cases of abuse that did occur and were covered up, but there are false claims made as well. The point is that you take people as you find them, whether they are members of the priesthood, nuns, or Catholic laity. If you do, you will find good people and bad as in any other religion and as in any walk of life. These days, even a parent is not supposed to be allowed to volunteer in their child’s religious education classroom without first taking a training class about signs of abuse to look for and how to report them if found. Every church employee as well as priests, deacons, and religious must take these same “safe environments” training classes. Moral people take responsibility for their immorality and take steps to correct it and to make amends for it as best as the circumstances allow.

As for the pope emeritus, all I can tell you is that I’ve read quite a bit about him by fans and critics alike. If any of them could have proven that pope emeritus Benedict was a Nazi sympathizer, it would’ve come to light by now. I have yet to see any credible proof of such a thing. What I have seen is rumor and innuendo, none of which is backed up by any evidence. Benedict was and continues to be a target of hate-mongering, even from within the church and IMHO he bears it with patience, love, and humility.

In any event, if you check out the links I provided above, but especially the link that LibDem provided (his comment #10), I think you’ll find some of your concerns addressed.

February 17th, 2014

What’s in a Good Argument When Preaching About the Football Program

From Con

As a reader whose not really that involved or well-informed on WA Football programs, I could use some specifics and concrete examples of what we’re really talking about here (talking to William and Frankincensed).

I found William’s initial comment provocative (which is usually good, depending), but right away I wanted to know both what specifically John wrote in his comment to which William objected and specifically why, with examples and a line of thought/argument that is well reasoned, backed up by logic, reason, etc. instead of vague assertions. That is – it was a good start, but left me wanting more and I wanted William to know that not everyone has strong feelings on the subject one way or another and part of the role he (and anyone commenting here) can play is to inform and possibly persuade those of us who are ignorant or uniformed.

Given that, I then found frankincenced comment in which he rightfully states that to William that “…We enjoyed having you…share your thoughts.”, but gave what I thought was the wrong advice that William was “…wasting your breath.” – erroneous advice that seems rooted in the buried, incorrect assumption that “…We know that but others think it’s just too expensive, gets too much attention (that’s actually funny), is too loud, and is the ONLY reason WA built the new fields.” This is the basis for classic mistakes commentators make when posting on most any subject or issue that’s controversial: that the writer KNOWS what I or others am thinking and builds an actual argument based on that erroneous assumption, meaning he/she is starting off with fallacious basis on which to build ANY argument, pro or con.

We know that all good arguments, discourse and classic examples of effective persuasive writing begin with the idea that the Reader is a blank slate about whom NO assumptions must be made, lest that Bias in an of itself, renders the comment merely an expression of emotion and prejudiced description of the situation. How can a reader be expected to trust any comment that is admittedly biased?

Whether deserved or no, the best comments and the most effective arguments and persuasive writing will always give the Reader the benefit of the doubt, make no assumptions except that the Reader is capable of listening/reading and digesting the comment in the spirit in which it is written; that the Reader is at least as capable of the writer to logic, reasoning, rhetorical methods and the slow, scrupulous development of an argument based on facts, examples, well-reasoned lines of thought, etc.

When a comment tells us outright that he/she has already concluded that most everyone listening has a closed mind, will not even listen to what’s presented and that they are so stuck in their close-minded OPINION that “It is folly to try to convince them otherwise.”

I think we are all guilty to an extent of allowing our personal bias and emotion-based Opinions on a given subject to affect our comments – I think it’s impossible to avoid this. However, from the Reader’s perspective I found that the most persuasive comments are based on a respect for the Reader’s ability to be open-minded and definitely capable of challenging their own assumptions, ideas and conclusions when confronted with an argument that contains all of those classical elements of a Good Argument.

This almost always means either admitting one’s own bias and how that may compromise the comment, being specific and using examples as the excellent tool it is to support an argument, basing the argument on Fact, logic, reasoning, etc. and giving the Reader at least as much respect and benefit of the doubt as the writer would ask for themselves as readers.

I’m sorry to be so preachy and know that this stuff is both fundamental and probably doesn’t need to be explained to anyone, but when the situation calls for it, it doesn’t hurt to state the obvious. Please don’t assume you know what I am thinking and pretend I have not formed an Opinion or conclusion on the subject that is implacable. If you feel your opinion/conclusion on the subject is the correct one and is opposed by incorrect ones, please go ahead and persuade me specifically Why and How and exactly In What Manner?

After all, that’s why I’m here – that’s why, as a Reader, I take the time to read what others have written on a given subject or Issue, especially the controversial issues. Imagining what it is about the opposing arguments that is incorrect, based on erroneous assumptions or ideas, etc. and then setting forth in a clear, reason based argument not only why they are incorrect, but what the correct conclusion is and on what exactly it is based – THAT is what readers are looking for and is the most effective way to dispel erroneous ideas and persuading us of the correct ideas.

The Football Program seems to have a lot of moving parts, each subject to their own description and opinions. It would help to be educated on the subject about which we are discussing, but only if I can trust the writer to do so impartially, as objectively as possible and in a way that illustrates that I’m not wasting my time merely reading someone’s Opinion based on personal Bias, illogical emotion or any of the many weaknesses that make persuasive, argument-based writing so difficult and time-consuming. Thanks.

February 15th, 2014

In Favor of Paid Services Rather Than Volunteer Municiple Services

In my experience, the volunteer fire departments and emergercy services do a lot of fundraising for their units and for other beneficiaries. I was also very impressed with their performance after my mother had her stroke at our house (she died 12 days later). John

From LibDem

The volunteer model of providing fire and emergency response services works as well as it does because of the personal motivation and altruism of the volunteers. I respect that.

However, does it work as well as having a dedicated paid service? It would be interesting to look at staffing patterns, response times, patient outcomes, skill level, etc of volunteers vs. paid staff.

Lauding of volunteers is a wonderful feel good thing, but it cannot be the only argument to support a volunteer model of fire/rescue. When it does, it comes across to me as being a red herring.

I remember going to a Woodstock town budget meeting many years ago and timidly asked a few practical questions about the fire department budget. Instead of answering them, Delpha Very began lauding the volunteers- bringing emotional distraction into the conversation and diverting from having to challenge the fire department. I resented her for doing that. [Delpha Very also proposed bird feeders for the town :) ] My intention then and now was not to undermine the volunteers, but rather to question the status quo- and not just for my sake, but for the sake of the community and for the volunteers themselves.

IN my previous statement, I simply said that asking volunteers to fund raise was inappropriate. Would you ever think of asking teachers to fundraise for new books in their schools? NO. But we ask this of our volunteers because it is thought we can appeal to their altruism (or their ego) and get away with it. What volunteer would say “No” ? Whether they realize it or not (and I’m sure many do and that is why we don’t have enough volunteers), their good will is being exploited.

You ask, ‘Why would volunteers perpetuate a system that not only doesn’t benefit them, but actively manipulates and exploits them?” Good question, but boy is that loaded. I’m tempted to broaden the sphere of this conversation by asking in return why people support a capitalistic system when clearly it doesn’t benefit them. Or why does anyone who works for a living vote Republican? But I won’t go there. These are not easy questions to answer without getting into a polemical argument, but I will say that most people don’t think any deeper than what an immediate situation does to benefit their egos.

Egos aside, I believe we should get rid of the volunteer model for community service and create jobs for men and women. Taxpayers pay their salaries and for all the equipment needed to do the job right. I think this would go far in providing consistent services and holding people accountable for quality outcomes. We can extend this not only to Fire and EMS, but also to Town Boards where finding qualified volunteers is becoming harder and harder. Ask yourself why this is and how this detrimentally effects our town. Wouldn’t paid positions bring out the best and brightest? Isn’t that what we want? In the long run, wouldn’t that be most fiscally prudent?

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