Thursday, October 29, 2009

Improv your life

If you're down and feeling blue,
Here's a fun thing you can do.
BUtterfield 8 this Friday night,
You'll laugh until you feel all right.

World Class Indifference will be in the house,
Doing improv comedy for man and mouse.
They'll make you laugh, they'll make you think;
Here's their Meetup info link.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Reinventing Stamford stuff

If you're a development nerd like me, here's a ton of stuff from the Reinventing Stamford initiative. First is a page from their website chock-full of documents on topics such as proposed and current projects, Stamford's green programs, and the future of the Northeast Corridor. The videos below are from a seminar in Australia where Kip Bergstrom, the executive director of Stamford's Urban Redevelopment Commission, gave a presentation on Stamford's past reinventions and its current status in the state and the region as they relate to "place-making" for Australia's residential college and halls. OK, it's not as exciting as a visit from the President, but it's interesting if you like this kind of stuff.

Reinventing Stamford: Redefining the Recession, Part 1 of 3

Reinventing Stamford: Redefining the Recession, Part 2 of 3

Reinventing Stamford: Redefining the Recession, Part 3 of 3

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stamford's best chili

Today was the 2nd Annual Stamford Pro-Am Charity Chili Cookoff to benefit the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, and man did I enjoy some delicious chilis! Seven local restaurants and seven amateur chefs competed for the title of Stamford's best chili. Did an amateur pull the big upset? Did Monster B's retain the title? Did anybody bring some cornbread????

Here are the results:

Third place - Benny's Fast Break and their Smoky Chipotle Chili! This chili must be awesome on a Benny's hot dog. It was spicy with just the perfect amount of chipotle, which is overused too often.

Second place - Smokey Joe's BBQ and Ma's White Chili! This was a different kind of chili; it had a white cream sauce as the base (faintly reminiscent of stroganoff) and big chunks of smoked turkey and chicken. It had a very nice kick, which is what I look for in chili.

The winner and new heavyweight chili champeen of the woooooooorld is:
Kathy and John Rattner's Quattro Carne Chili! These now-famous amateurs make their chili with chicken, beef, veal and hot Italian sausage, all stewed overnight. It was delicious, with a different kind of spice from the sausage.

Here's a picture of the proud winners:


(Back row, left to right: Kathy and John Rattner, Smokey Joe's, Benny's Fast Break. My apologies to the chefs for neglecting to ask for their names!)

And to answer my earlier question, yes, several people brought cornbread! Nothing wrong with cornbread...

Friday, October 23, 2009

American choppers

After the President's motorcade left Kosciuszko Park, I got close enough (across the water on Harbor Plaza) to take these pictures of Marine One and one of the escort Chinooks. The pictures don't do justice to how big and impressive these machines are.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why does Pitney Bowes hate Stamford?

The postage-meter-maker is whining about traffic in their little kingdom again (as I recounted in one of my early posts on Mr. Stamford's blog, they used the same rationale to prevent Stamford from becoming the home of the now-Bridgeport Sound Tigers hockey team). Why are they so resistant to change? Do they enjoy being surrounded by a post-industrial wasteland? If so, then they should move to Detroit.

Pitney Bowes has been the biggest obstacle to redeveloping the South End for years. I think the city should've called their bluff back then, and they should tell PB to stick it now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hail to the Chief

Get out your signs for or against health care reform, because President Obama is coming to Stamford! He's attending a fundraiser for Chris Dodd this Friday at the Stamford Hilton. I hope he addresses pressing issues like The Hole, people who block the box, and the absence of a single bowling alley in the CTW.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Light rail for NYC?

Let me begin by saying that I'm not yet sure how I feel about the proposed light rail for Stamford. Now let me bring to your attention a seemingly far-fetched proposal to turn Manhattan's 42nd Street into a traffic-free light rail line. Here's the Times article.

Some interesting quotes:
“Real estate people should take a look at what’s happened with real estate values in other cities where there are these walking streets,” said Mr. Durst, who visits pedestrian-friendly Copenhagen frequently, as his wife is Danish. “They’ve increased tremendously.”

Vision 42 advocates said light rail lines in Dallas had stimulated more than $1 billion worth of development. In Portland, Ore., light rail has catalyzed about $1.2 billion worth of development. In Jersey City, about 33.3 million square feet of development is under way, Mr. Haikalis said.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Food, food and more food

If you're still hungry after the Greek festival, carb it up at the Lions Club pancake breakfast on Sunday from 9-1 at the Belltown Fire Department! The firehouse is at 8 Dorlen Road (across from the Newfield Green shopping center).


Once you've digested all that baklava and pancakes, get ready for some hot chili! The 2nd Annual Stamford Pro-Am Charity Chili Cookoff will take place on Saturday the 24th from 12-3 at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Stamford, 20 Forest Street (across from the Avon).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!

Bluto and the other Deltas won't be there, but there's a Greek festival this weekend at Church of the Archangels, located on the corner of Bedford and Third Streets. It'll be a regular bacchanalia, or perhaps a baklavanalia. Mmm...baklava...

Also, it might be a tad chilly to actually wear a toga, at least commando.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Connecticut baseball Triple Crown

Some thought it was impossible. Some thought it was foolhardy. Some thought I would eat too many hot dogs. But I did it: I saw all three of Connecticut's professional baseball teams in one summer. Read on for my thoughts.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)
New Britain is a hike from Stamford, which should show you how much I love baseball and how dedicated I was to this pursuit. It was worth it, however, because going to a Rock Cats game is a fun, affordable experience. The stadium is your typical AA stadium with about 6000 seats and three or four food stands. Seats are around $8.

The Rock Cats have the best souvenir shop of the three. They sell souvenir baseballs in about twenty different designs and colors, including hippie flowers and tie-dye. They also sell giant foam hats, which are doubly awesome at a baseball game because the person behind you can't see a thing.

They also have the best food selection. You can get your typical ballpark fare of hot dogs and hamburgers, but they also have a "grill" out in left field serving chicken sandwiches and other slightly healthier stuff.

Since the players are all striving to make the bigs, the baseball is also pretty darn good.

My only complaint is about the seats behind home plate. They're not your traditional fold-down baseball seats; they're this weird plastic bucket-type seat, kind of like an oversized booster seat. They're not very comfortable and they make you sweat.

Where the Rock Cats truly excel is in atmosphere. They don't overdo it with the sound effects and other annoyances, though they do have a whopping four mascots. It's a fun time, and the fans get into it without being told when to "MAKE SOME NOISE" or "CLAP YOUR HANDS."

Connecticut Defenders (AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants)
Did I say that New Britain is far? OK, Norwich is really far. It's up-near-the-casinos far. Not only is it far from Stamford, it's far from the highway. Once you get off of 395, you then wind your way through an industrial park to get to the stadium, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. This might explain why there were maybe 700 people at the game, making this the most eerily quiet baseball game I've ever attended. I'm sure it didn't help that the Defenders have been rumored for years to be leaving town, which they finally did. I guess my Defenders souvenir baseball is now a collector's item!

Besides all those drawbacks, the game itself was darn good until the opposing pitching fell apart in the seventh or eighth. These players are also AA hopefuls, so they can run, hit and throw.

The Defenders also didn't play too many annoying games or sound effects, which is nice. I know minor league teams do all of this to keep the kids entertained, but a lot of teams go way overboard with the cute crap. The Defenders managed to find a nice balance between watching the game and watching silly sausage races.

They also had the best beer selection, including Sam Adams and Brooklyn Lager.

On the con side, the concession stand behind us on the third base side closed in the fifth inning, and the Voodoo Grill, which serves buffalo wings and crab cakes, never even opened!

Time will tell if Norwich will play host to another baseball team in the future.

Bridgeport Bluefish (Independent)
The Bluefish are right here in the FC, but it might take you just as long to get to a weeknight game as it would to go to New Britain on the weekend. In other words, northbound traffic sucks!! This definitely hurts the Bluefish, though they still draw pretty good crowds. (Now if they had built this ballpark in Stamford as was originally proposed, highway traffic would be going against rush hour, and they would draw from all over the area, including Westchester.)

As for the ballpark's immediate surroundings, don't go there. Literally. BPT might be getting better, but I still wouldn't recommend walking around at night.

The food at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard is subpar, even for minor league baseball. Aside from hot dogs and burgers, everything is fried. I don't go to a ballgame and expect arugula and escarole salad, but some healthier choices would be nice.

A lot of the Bluefish players are former major leaguers trying to get back to the Show, so it's usually pretty good baseball. The crowd does get into it, and there are even a few diehard characters like the guy with the giant sign covered in Bluefish logos and slogans on both sides (I didn't take a picture, darn it).

The one other minor drawback to seeing a Bluefish game is the view. In left field, you've got the Arena, and in center and right you've got the train tracks and the power plant. Blecch.

***********************

OK, final verdict time. For the money and the fun, I have to place the New Britain Rock Cats at the top of the list. It's a nice stadium, the fans are into it, and the baseball is great. If you're itching to get away (but not too far), it's worth the drive up to the Hardware City to see a game.

Second place goes to the Bluuuuefish. It's right here, it's affordable, and it's a good time. If you can ignore the relatively minor inconveniences and don't mind sitting in traffic, check it out.

And last but not least, the departed Connecticut Defenders. Remember the beginning of Major League, when there are a handful of fans in the bleachers and Bob Uecker doesn't even care anymore? That's what a Defenders game is like. It feels like they just gave up, which is kind of sad.

Well, that's the final score of today's game. Join us again next summer for some great baseball action, and please drive home safely.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eats of Stamford: Egané

Last night, the wife and I ate with friends at Egané on Bedford Street, and I only have one thing to say: WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE EATING THERE????

I had the dolsot bibimbop, spicy pork (or beef, chicken, tofu or kimchi) with vegetables and a fried egg over rice in a hot stone bowl. It was just incredible. (If you get this, make sure you mix everything together! I learned that this is how you eat it when I was already halfway done.)

My wife had yookgaejan soup, which is finely shredded beef, scallions, mushrooms and egg served in a spicy beef broth.

Our friends had the authentic Korean BBQ experience. Take a look at this sizzling pork belly and then get your butt over to Egané!

video

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speaking of empty storefronts...

This Time article is about how some cities are repurposing vacant retail space for other uses like art galleries, libraries and ads.

Here's a quote I thought was interesting:
"Nationwide, 10% of shopping-center stores sit empty, according to the real estate analytics firm Reis. That's the highest percentage of vacancies since 1992 — what you get when you mix a bad recession with a commercial real estate bust (thanks to years of overzealous building)."

Stamford's perpetual vacancies were definitely not caused by either the recession or overbuilding. Some spaces have been empty for three or four years, long before the recession. What I've gleaned is that landlords here want way too much rent and/or a particular type of clientele.

Maybe they'd be wise to follow this advice:
"...in the short term, getting creative with commercial space keeps storefronts filled, which helps keep properties secure and community spirit intact, and may even bring in a little money for would-be landlords to offset costs like utilities, taxes and maintenance."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Inconceivable!!

Wallace Shawn, the real star of The Princess Bride will be appearing at The Avon tonight! I realize that it's short notice, but blame The Avon folks - I just got the email about it this morning.

Still wondering who the heck Wallace Shawn is? Well, here's his most famous scene:


Friday, October 2, 2009

Help cure juvenile myositis!!


Kevin of Always Home and Uncool has asked me to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife's birthday.

*

Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skin conditions – none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner – then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source – obvious and otherwise – that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday also happened to be that day.

This was her gift – a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago – Oct. 2, 2002 – the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at www.curejm.org.

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to www.firstgiving.com/rhondaandkevinmckeever or www.curejm.com/team/donations.htm.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sammy's latest arrest...and a wine competition

It would be funny if it weren't so sad: everybody's favorite failed restaurateur Sammy Settembre has been arrested AGAIN. I can't add much to the Advocate story, so here's the highlight:

"Stamford Police Sgt. Peter diSpagna said police got several complaints from companies, including one from Dec. 8, in which a company booked a Christmas party at the restaurant and paid a $4,100 deposit.

The company gave the restaurant a corporate credit card number, and there were unauthorized charges made on the card amounting to $20,000, diSpagna said; the charges went toward Sabatiello's restaurant."

In more pleasant Stamford news, there's a local competition for amateur wine-making! Who knew?

It's the 17th annual event, and it takes place this Friday at 7:30 at the Italian Center, 1620 Newfield Avenue. Here's the Advocate article.

My favorite quote: "Doesn't matter if we win," concurs his son. "Either way, I've got 40 to 50 gallons to myself."