Monday, March 31, 2008

Non-Latinos Have Problems Too

I expected this Times article to reveal some juicy info. But no.
As Connecticut's largest minority group and the fastest-growing segment of the population here and nationwide, Latinos are an important barometer of the state. According to a comprehensive study... pessimism and concern permeate a population that sees itself as unable to afford the cost of living and are underrepresented in positions of power that lead to change... The biggest concerns among adults were taxes, health insurance, poor public education, and the cost of living.
You didn't need to interview Latinos to find that out. Except for the underrepresented part, they could be talking about me and many other non-Latinos in the FC.

I don't mean to be too flip; I know I don't have the serious problems the study addresses. The survey talks about a 50 percent drop-out rate among Latinos, whereas my concern is having a chance in Hades of buying a house in Stamford. I get that there's a difference, but nothing in this survey was surprising. In fact, everything I'm saying right now is so obvious that I doubt anyone will comment; there's nothing new to say about this!

I hope my post title is not offensive to anyone, but maybe I'll generate some controversy and get press like the guy from the blog I hate.
Click here to read more.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stamford Dog Park Coming Soon...

I’m semi-excited about the dog park. Parks and Rec approved it and chose a site off exit 9, just at the corner of Courtland Ave and East Main. The Board of Reps needs to approve the building of the site, which will cost $40,000 to build. Friends of Stamford Dog Park is trying to raise money so the city only has to maintain the park. I don’t see any problems with the park, as the kind of people who bring their dogs to a dog park are the kinds of people who police themselves.

I haven’t been to the location, but I like the fact that you can get there by back roads if 95 is trafficky. I think the park will be a good way to meet people, and Lord knows Stamford needs that. Not everyone likes the Hunt complex site; read the Times or Advocate articles for more details.

I don’t think my dog will benefit from the dog park, as she doesn’t know how to play. She’s a coonhound, a rescue from West Virginia, and she has the personality of an 80 year-old woman. On weekends, she and I each take a couch and nap the day away.

Two related stories:

- Currently, many Stamford dog owners take their dogs to the dog park at Waveny in New Canaan, or let them off the leash at Mianus River Park on the border of Greenwich and Stamford. Expect mayhem at Mianus. I took a walk with a friend there last fall, and a little Bichon Frise sprinted past, then, unbeknowst to me, raced back toward me, leapt up feet first, and planted a muddy pawprint on each of my butt cheeks.

- My friend’s French bulldog, a brindle named Gilly, lives in NYC. He’s chill, so when he goes to the park, he sits on the bench with the dog owners. Gilly recently started breaking out in eczema-type patches, so the vet tested him for allergies. Gilly is allergic to pollen and- get this- humans. The dog is allergic to humans. This is a picture of Gilly and his sister Laverne fighting over a flower stem. Those colorful scraps are fabric swatches.

I think the dog park will give us some laughs.
Click here to read more.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Human Life-Sized Art Downtown

I am against this project! Bring back the cows!

This line in the Stamford Times was bad news for me: The annual sculpture and photography exhibit, "Art in Public Places," will be on display this summer in the streets of downtown Stamford, featuring life-size sculptures of artist J. Seward Johnson.

I had a disturbing experience with the human statue parade a few years ago. I was driving on Main Street in front of the Ferguson and was startled to see a man in a suit leaning out into traffic... to realize a second later that it was a statue.

What the- don’t they realize we are all distracted drivers? Why place a statue of a businessman who looks like he's in a rush right by a busy street? At least have him turned away from the road, gesticulating to an invisible friend, so no one slams on the brakes because they think he's about to jaywalk.

A few weeks later, in the little park across from the Avon Theatre, I saw a statue of a black man with white albino patches on his face, again leaning into traffic and wearing a business suit. That’s an odd choice for a statue, I thought, but it's cool that the human statue parade has a variety of types of people. Just after I passed the statue, he waved to his friend and crossed the road. Geez Louise. It’s a good thing that person wasn’t banking on me stopping to let him cross, because I would have run him right over.

The line between reality and fantasy is not clear enough in my mind to be able to handle the life-sized people statues. In the past week, a pregnant Angelina Jolie and scenes from Battlestar Galactica Season One have appeared in my dreams. Two months ago, I was dreaming about Sawyer from Lost because I was stressed out that he was stuck in the cage in season three.

For people with overactive imaginations, the human art is not the cute, clever experience it’s meant to be! Let’s bring back the Cow Parade. The colorful cows are more obvious works of art, so no one’s going to mistake them for real animals about to wander into a busy street.

What I do approve of is a photography competition associated with the human statues. See the Downtown Events website for more info and an application. The general idea is to take photos of people in Stamford that are "full body shots of ordinary life and people that reflect Johnson’s Classic series." I can handle photos. They're flat pieces of paper I'm not likely to mistake for real people.

Consider this post your warning to pay more attention when driving in downtown Stamford. Let's just hope they don't place this statue by a road.
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Restaurant Review: Market in Stamford

I wish I could write about food in a calm, self-possessed way like New York Times reviewer Patricia Brooks, but gosh darnit if I can’t help but mention cartwheels and crotch-shots.

I can’t outdo my nemesis in food knowledge, so I’ll just tell you the food is some of the best you can get in Stamford. I’ll also tell you that the strawberry basil margarita is fantastico, and not short on tequila.

Market’s food is fun, almost as fun as Duo’s. For example, I got the veal ravioli… with pistachio cream sauce. Aaahhhhhhhhhh! (That was a scream of happiness.) Six ravioli filled me up and the last two made for a satisfying breakfast. Brooks' review describes it as: “stuffed with veal breast confit, garlicky spinach and herbed ricotta… topped with a sprinkle of pistachio burro fusso (bonded butter and nuts).” Whatever, Patricia; stop showing off, OK?

Our dining companions, the Z’s, rated the meal as one of the best they’ve had since moving here a year ago. Mr. Z reports that Mrs. Z “thoroughly enjoyed her Duck and Fried Rice Risotto and said that the leftovers were great even when eaten cold for lunch” and that the “Tagliatelle Bolognese, featuring their homemade pasta, was melt-in-your-mouth good.” My husband got the rib-eye, which I think was the most expensive meal on the menu at 42 bucks. The one bite he begrudgingly allowed me didn’t wow me.

For appetizers, the School of Tuna (tuna 4 ways- spicy, sweet, etc) is very Duo-ish, but not as good as Duo’s tuna pizza appetizer. Mr. Z. rated it as “only okay.” Mrs. Z. liked the meatballs, and my fish and chips had sweet batter and delicious scallops.

As far as dessert, Mr. and Mrs. Z liked the donuts with ricotta, but my chocolate warm cake in its own tiny skillet was mediocre and not melty enough. Tragic, tragic. Go to Duo or Napa and Co. for your chocolate dessert.

The food is expensive- appetizers 14-ish, entrees 23-ish and above. I’d say the pasta and duck fried rice is the best bang for your buck. I’ll again quote the sensible Mr. Z.: “Prices are high, but that's what I've come to accept in the FC, especially for a high-end place. That said, it was well worth the money. I'd happily go back again.”

Now, the crowd at Market. When I went on a Thursday evening in January, the place had a party of 75 (!) in the main room, so my friend and I squeezed in at the bar between attractive, clean-cut men and a young couple. When I was there last Wednesday, a corporation had taken over almost the entire restaurant. They were a little raucous, snapping pictures under the table like high-schoolers, but a thick curtain closed off their antics (good idea, Market). In the words of Mr. Z., “Service seemed good and friendly once the lecherous private party in the back was sated.” Market’s staff was attentive and adept both times I was there despite the restaurant being totally full.

Sources say that the craziest thing that has happened at Market is people doing cartwheels by the bar at closing time. (No small feat, because that’s not a big area.) Yes, Market's crowd has itself pretty much under control while still having a good time.
Click here to read more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Don't Like 'Stuff White People Like'

Two people I respect have sent me a link to a site that I find despicable. Since the subject of the website is pretty much Fairfield County, let’s see what you think.

When the title of the website “Stuff White People Like” appeared on my screen, I felt a rush of humor and “that’s so funny” that was quickly replaced by the feeling “I will not give this site my time because the humor is based on ideas of race and class that I don’t find funny.” The site struck me as something a 19-year old boy would write.

Haha, white people like expensive lattes and North Face jackets. Actually, that’s what people with money can afford, and it follows race lines because most money lines in the US lie on race because of our history and all kinds of other complicated things. I refuse to look at the site again to think more about why I feel so repulsed by it.

Even if the site is really about socio-economics (as in “stuff yuppies like”), I personally don't find it that funny to laugh at rich people. It's not such a taboo subject for me that I have to joke about it. I can just discuss it.

I just found an interview with the author of SWPL (young white guy, big surprise). I find his comments absolutely stupid. This man needs to take some sociology classes and get a clue.
SWPL: oh yes. this site pokes fun at ME. that’s why I use pictures of myself. those aren’t taken out of irony. this is the shit that I do. I need to call myself out for all of the stupid shit that I take for granted. why do I need $300 bike rims? why is a $10 sandwich considered normal?

It’s fine that this kid is working through his feelings about race and class, but he’s not calling himself out. He’s just making a bunch of jokes. Often humor deals with things we find uncomfortable. I guess that’s what’s going on with the author of SWPL, but I find his writing small-minded, mean-spirited, and not very enlightening.

I'm not trashing the people who sent me the link... but I want to know why people who I know are intelligent like the site. Why do people who care about race and issues relating to race and class find it funny?

Maybe it’s funny to laugh at people, like the one about how all white people think their kids are gifted. But I don’t have to laugh at that- I can just talk about it, because I know those people. When I had just moved up here from Virginia, 8 years ago, maybe I would have found jokes about yuppies funnier. Maybe it’s now too familiar to me to be funny. Or maybe it’s just not funny because the SWPL author is saying nothing new. I’m from an area where the majority of people were white or black, and I took a lot of courses on African-American history and lit in college, so nothing that SWPL kid is saying are things I haven’t already heard in a way more interesting format.

Can someone please tell me why smart people think the site is funny?
Click here to read more.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cool Stuff You (Even Men) Can Buy in Stamford

I have to show you these flowers. They are only 5 bucks with your Stop and Shop card. (At least at the Super Stop and Shop they are.) The darker pink flowers have lasted for over a week. Men, buy these for the lady in your life. You lazy bastards!

I have a phobia of shopping, so most things I buy are from Stop and Shop. I prefer stand-alone stores, as they are easy to escape. This Nalgene bottle is from Eastern Mountain Sports, a stand-alone (well, stand-with-Mrs. Green's) store on High Ridge.

I got it because I don't drink enough water and I thought a pretty water bottle would attract me. Plus, the people on my favorite show, Biggest Loser: Couples Edition carry the bottles around. I got a smaller blue one that fits in the cup holder of the cardio machines. I was tired of using disposable water bottles so I thought I'd invest in these. The big bottle is 8 bucks, and the smaller one 7.50. It's not in the picture because it was in my gym bag.

The coffee mug in this pic is so you can have a sense of the size of the Nalgene bottle and flowers. They're all pretty big!
Click here to read more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stamford School Board: Secretive or Senseless?

An article in yesterday’s Advocate starts:
The Board of Education Redistricting Committee last night voted to close an elementary school in 2009 but delayed a decision on which one for at least a month.
I’m sorry, is that a joke? Have you not been hashing out the same question for six months?

The school board has been delaying the same decision since October, when they first announced their nebulous plan to close a school. In January, the board still hadn’t announced which school would close, despite ominious hints it would be Toquam Elementary. Finally, by early March, the board announced to the parents that Toquam would be closed. They also offered a completely whacked out plan about where the Toquam kids would go.

Last weekend, the New York Times covered the situation, highlighting the fact that Toquam appeared to be an ideal school: small, racially balanced, good test scores, parent support. Two days ago, the board has delayed the decision for a month… the same decision they’d been delaying since October.

To the untrained eye, this looks like a Stooges skit with everyone running around and bumping heads. Many of these untrained eyes are considering buying homes in the area, and they’re thinking, When I have kids, do I want to deal with this? Should I buy a cheaper home in Fairfield, where I hear the schools are good, and just suck up the commute?

In the Stamford Times, A.J. O’Connell writes:
Malloy, a non-voting member of the board of education, told the board at a redistricting committee meeting that more dialogue with the parents, the state and with the community is needed before the board can decide which school to close.

I’m glad he’s stepping in… but hasn’t there been dialogue over the past 6 months? What new info will come forth in this new dialogue, and where was that info last week?

O’Connell reports details that make the situation even more gossip-worthy. The mayor stepped in to delay the decision… by cutting the furniture budget of the new Cove inter-district magnet school that’s under construction (which, try to follow me, is why an elementary school needs to be closed). Cutting the budget means the new school can’t open in Sept. ’09, meaning an old school won’t be closed (or something- I have a really hard time following all of this even though I read every newspaper article at least twice).

He took away the furniture budget so the school board won’t be able to implement the closing? How Robin Hood of him. To the untrained eye, it looks like Malloy thinks the school board is making bad decisions, and the only way he can stop them is with desperate measures like taking away tables and chairs.

I just reread the Advocate article and found a new aspect to an already laughable situation:
Board members agreed to the one-month delay to give Mayor Dannel Malloy time to talk to state officials about how the new school may be populated. Members were told the magnet school couldn't have a traditional attendance district, in which children are assigned to a building based on where they live… Malloy and board members were vague about what they hope to get from the state.

Vague? Really? As a prospective Stamford Public Schools parent, I don’t like to see the leadership behaving so erratically and mysteriously. What’s the big secret, guys?

I like to gossip, but I don’t like to be negative. I only want to emphasize that many people are watching right now. The board’s actions over the next month or two will determine if people see the school system as a bonus to a great city or the biggest reason to go elsewhere.

Related posts:

March 17: Stamford Press: Toquam in the NY Times

March 6: Toquam School Pretty Much Dead

Jan 8: Board of Ed Redistricting Hearing: Test Scores, Money, Suspense!

Oct 18: Stamford School Controversy Part 2

Oct 6: Stamford School Shakeup
Click here to read more.

Headless Chickens in the Greenwich Time

Well. I thought the Stamford Advocate had the market cornered on the strange headlines, but today's Greenwich Time caught my eye with "Headless chickens found behind bank."

The words "headless chickens" certainly must be a rare phrase to find in a newspaper, much less a Greenwich paper. I feel bad for the chickens (although I shouldn't, because I eat them three times a week) but it pleases me a bit to see the area and the newspapers spiced up with some out of the ordinary events. I'm tired of school boards and car accidents.

I chastised the Advocate in January for their horrible headline about a murder, but I can't fault the Time on their choice of headlines. There really was no other way they could have said it. I appreciate that they didn't try to be cute about it; they just gave the news. There were some headless chickens found behind a bank today, and we're not going to try to make it funny, and we're not going to make it into a big drama. Just the news, people.

Update: March 22- Chicken Investigation Continuing

Related posts:

--Bad Advocate headline in "Stamford's First Murder of 2008"
Click here to read more.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Napa and Co: Stamford’s Best $24 Burger

My husband and I got rejected from Market last Thursday, so we headed over to Napa. I intended to get the one affordable thing on the menu: $17 pasta. I took a look at the menu and remembered that a worldly, fashionable ninth grader had told me that Napa had a great burger. At 24 bucks, the burger is one of your cheaper dinner options.

Napa’s burger is the reason I found out about the bizarre ban imposed on the most a la mode restaurant in Stamford. I finally got that burger. I’ll tell you about it here since we’re not allowed to talk about Napa and Co. on the country’s most popular food discussion board, which I will not name! I’m imposing a ban on that site here.

The burger is Kobe beef on a brioche roll, with melted gouda, onions, and black pepper aioli. It’s juicy and fabulous and almost worth 24 bucks. You should try it. My husband got the pasta and it gave both of us heartburn. C’est la vie.

Bonus: the warm chocolate cake, which equals the fabulousness of Morton’s and Duo’s and adds a pistachio gelato. Knock me over with a spoon!

The lunch takeout counter at Napa, called The Pantry, looks to have a very well-priced sandwich menu. I also hear that the flatbreads are good, and a friend said the scallops were the best she'd ever eaten (and she's from Boston!).

Related posts:

--Stamford Steak Awards 2008

--Stamford's Napa and Co: Information Blackout?

--Duo's Fabulous Chocolate Dessert
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Join a Gym, or Stamford Will Make You Fat

This post is in honor of my other favorite show, Biggest Loser: Couples Edition. I once read in Shape magazine that Stamford was one of the healthiest areas in the country. One reason was our high number of gyms. I’m not sure if that makes us healthy, but I know why we work out so much.

It’s hard to find things to do on weeknights in Stamford. The only regular events are trivia, open mics and karaoke. Sometimes you don’t want to go to a bar, so it’s easy to fall back on eating out. With Capriccio’s lemon cake, gigantic portions at Kit’s Thai Kitchen, and Dairy Queen right on the main road, it is near impossible to keep slim.

To that end, I have finally joined Planet Fitness.

Husband: What??? Don’t you already belong to a gym???
Me: Yes, but I have a fabulous rate on it. I’m never quitting NYSC- that gym is the reason we will never move from this area. I joined you up, and I’m going to go as your free guest.
Husband: What? Noooooo!
Me: It’s too late. I already signed you up online.

With the $19.99 membership, you get free guests, so Planet Fitness, here we come. You also get free tanning, but don’t use that. It’s the reason skin cancer in young women is rapidly increasing. If you need a good dermatologist, email me.

Important info for singles: I eavesdropped on someone at my NYSC and she said that Yama Yoga on West Main has more men in their classes. My take: those men are clearly trying to meet women, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Related posts:

--Mystery, Power: Stamford and the Island of Lost- March '08

--I'm Going to Planet Fitness- Jan '08

--My NYSC: Through Good Times and in Bad- Nov. '07

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FC Saves Its Drama for Its Mamas

How many times have you been irritated at headlights blinding you as a car rides your ass on 95, or even a side street in Stamford or Greenwich? And how many times does that car turn out to be a Volvo station wagon driven by a woman? If you’ve been in the FC a while, you’re not surprised. This area revolves around women, many of whom are moms.

There’s a stereotype in this area of a blonde driving an SUV who terrorizes parking lots with her mediocre spatial relation skills. I don’t care for stereotypes. I don’t think that way, and neither should you. Keep an open mind: that woman could have brown hair, or be driving a BMW. Either way, watch out.

Most mama drama occurs in the private sphere, but you can get a glimpse of some major drama on the website I Saw Your Nanny. If people think they see a nanny cheating with a husband, they post a description of when and where. The site happens to be run out of Greenwich, a hotspot for FC mama drama. I found the site in October, when my google search for Stamford turned up a lurid nanny sighting at Crabshell. Da-rama!!!

Other mama drama topic: schools. Men don’t care about the test scores and teacher-student ratios of their kids’ elementary school. It’s up to the moms to rampage about that. Sure, the parent websites for saving Toquam are run by men, but the internet is a skewed sample because it’s dominated by men… men that women shamelessly exploit for their computer expertise. Men are but tools in mamas’ dramas.

If you’re out during the day in Stamford, or in any bar in the evening, you might wonder if some of the FC drama involves men. How could it not, with so many of them out and about? Well, watch those men for 5 minutes and you’ll understand that men, without women, are boring. Men don’t provide drama. They don’t act over the top at bars. They don’t wave their diamond-covered hands as they laugh raucously. They just stand there talking and drinking beers. That’s not drama.

That’s not drama… and that’s OK. Someone’s got to be stable and staid, and someone’s got to be an audience for the drama after 7pm. Someone’s got to drive defensively. Someone’s got to administer the websites. Men don’t provide drama, but you know they're secretly glad to be included.

Related Stamford Talk posts:

--I discover the site in "Blog for Paranoid Parents Across the US"

--I find out it's based in Greenwich in "Nanny Craze Hits Stamford"

--I tell you what you already know (men are helpless without women) in "Stamford's Single Women: Where Are You?"
Click here to read more.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stamford Press: Toquam in the NY Times

The New York Times features the closing* of Toquam in an article called "Stamford Will Close K-5 Magnet School." The article captures the shady reasoning behind the decision to close one of Stamford's four schools (out of twenty) that meets NCLB standards.

As usual, Starr and the school board end up looking weak:
Joshua P. Starr, the district superintendent, said that closing the lowest performing schools may produce worse academic results and that the board has learned from the successful practices at Toquam.

... what have they learned, exactly?

I have never, in all of the newspaper articles from the past 7 months, heard of the school board giving a single example of what they’ve learned from Toquam. In fact, a Toquam parent told me that one reason parents are so upset is that the school board has given no indication of how they plan to replicate Toquam’s success.

If the school board has a plan to implement any of Toquam’s practices, they’re not sharing it. Instead, they’re offering empty platitudes to excuse what appears to be a careless solution to Stamford's budget issues and bad long-term planning in relation to school numbers.

On a possibly more positive note, I am very interested in how Stamford plans to racially balance every single one of its elementary schools. I think it’s an important goal, but can you imagine how many kids they’ll have to move? If they can’t even smoothly close one school, how are they going to shake up all of the eleven remaining elementary schools without creating a big, poorly-thought out mess?

Speaking of poorly-thought out:
District officials say they will keep working with the parents to find a way to keep the Toquam students together even as they integrate into the new school.
“No one wants to be in the position of having to close a school,” Dr. Starr said to the parents. “Moving them is a good idea to maintain continuity.”

That last sentence begs so many questions and “huh?”s.

Past Stamford Talk articles on Stamford schools:

Stamford School Shake Up: SOS- October 11, 2007

Stamford School Controversy Part 2- October 18, 2007

Redistricting: Test Scores, Money, Suspense!- January 8, 2008

Toquam School Pretty Much Dead- March 6, 2008

*Update 3/18: The Save Toquam site notes that the Times said that Toquam is going to be closed, but that the board will not make the final decision until Wednesday.
Click here to read more.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring in Stamford=Illegal ATV Riding

Spring in Stamford means the re-opening of the Stamford Skate Park, buying your $20 Cove Beach Pass, and dusting off your tennis rackets. In my neighborhood, it means something else. The following dialogue is verbatim because I typed it as we were talking.

Husband: Oh by the way guess what I saw on our street the other day.
I shout: Coyote?
Wait, don’t tell me! Turkey buzzard?
A meteor? Girl scouts selling cookies?
The guy in the blue car who always speeds?

K-9 division of the Stamford police?
No. It’s neither beast nor fowl.
The lady with the fox dog?
No. Are you-
No no don’t tell me! I want to keep thinking. Mounted police? Schwann man?

Husband: It’s a harbinger of spring, or summer.
A robin?
It’s neither fowl nor beast.
Hm…. summer, summer, something in summer… a convertible?
It’s a combination that includes a vehicle.
A skidoo?
A camper? The ice cream truck!!!
Shakes head.
The dog catcher? A motorcycle with a side cart? A hovercraft?

I muse aloud: A harbinger of spring… or summer… a snake? A crayfish?
Husband: In the northeast, it’s an indication of spring- in this very particular area we live in.
The book mobile!!!!!
(Laughs) No.

I muse: In Stamford or Greenwich, a harbinger of spring…
Husband: No, like a smaller area.
In Bull’s Head?
Probably even a smaller area than that.
Bunnies? Oh it’s not beast.

Husband: It involves a vehicle and only really involves the street we live on.
Me: But what other vehicle do I watch obsessively besides the garbage truck? OH- the guy with the ATV and the kid!!!

There is a guy a few streets over who rides on a four-wheeler, in the street, with his four year-old kid in his lap, with no helmet of any kind. I’m astounded. People go so fast on our street- it’s a 25 mph street, and people often go 40 or 45. But if off-roading in Belltown means the weather’s getting nicer, well… I’ll let it go.
Click here to read more.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stamford Mall Robbery Times Two

Geez. I didn’t write about Monday's stabbing at the Stamford Mall (aka Stamford Town Center), and as if to make sure it got proper attention, the mall was the site of a robbery Wednesday.
The second attack was actually outside the mall, in a “glass enclosure that leads to the Stamford Town Center parking garage.” I stupidly don’t know for sure where Veteran’s Park is; I thought it was right near the Avon Theatre, but the article says the robbery occurred off Veteran’s Park and Atlantic. I googlemapped it, googleimaged it, nothing. I hope someone can tell me where exactly the robbery occurred so I can put it on my mental map of Stamford crime.

Both victims were teens, and both were attacked by four men. The first was stabbed when he resisted a robbery in a mall bathroom, and the second was robbed at knifepoint. The police did catch one of the four suspects, who turned out to be 17. I’m not a teen, so I hope I’m safe, but still.

The first attack was inside the mall, right outside Saks. I mentioned the first robbery to a friend a couple days ago, and she said, “Oh, in the stairway outside Saks that leads to the street? Yeah I always see a bunch of high school hooligans there doing high school hooligan things.” However, the article seems to indicate the robbery was indoors, on the fifth floor, and not in some sort of outside entrance.

Dammit Stamford! Part of me is annoyed that you are dangerous, and thinks, Maybe I should sell my soul or firstborn child so I can live in Greenwich, but another part of me likes your excitement factor. That might sound sick, but I think it’s human nature.

Me to husband this morning: Hey, another person was robbed near the Stamford Mall.
Well, apparently your dream came true.
Me: What?
You were just saying last night that you wanted something like this.
Me: ...Oh yeah.
(I had said there was no good gossip in Stamford recently.)
Click here to read more.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Remo's Pizza, Peeps, Red Wine, Weight Loss

I had lunch yesterday at Remo's Brick Oven Pizza and was pleasantly surprised. The 12" veggie pizza Napoleonata was piled with vegetables and only 12 bucks. The eggplant was steamed, not fried, the spinach generous, and the cheese light. I would prefer the pizza sauce to be less sweet, but overall, it's a good meal option if you're trying to be healthy like I am.

I had a friend over for dinner, and the leftover pizza fed both of us (supplemented with hummus, carrots, and a small bunless burger). To cap off the healthy evening, we sat on the couch eating Peeps, drinking wine, and watching Biggest Loser: Couples Edition. It's an incredible show, and I feel bad for you if you don't watch it. The new cocoa peeps are worth a try.

So how 'bout that Spitzer scandal? Who saw that coming? At happy hour three girlfriends and I debated if it was worse to have an affair or to see a prostitute. They agreed prostitute, since it meant the person didn't have romantic love for someone else, but I shouted across the table, "At least affairs are legal!!!" The Clubhouse on Stillwater has pretty good happy hour deals, and it's virtually empty if you want some quiet chatting time with friends.
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Connnecticut Film Festival in Norwalk

The CT Film Festival continues into May; this weekend, movies are in Norwalk.

See the CFF homepage for movies and times. I learned about the Stamford dates too late, although I did read about it in the Fairfield Weekly. A reader emailed to tip me off to this weekend's movies, so thank you!

I love film festivals. The most amazing one I ever went to was the Documentary Film Festival in Greenwich in the Fall of 2004. I haven't been able to find it since, though.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bookstore Guide for Stamford Readers

Residents of the FC are notoriously over-educated, and that’s why we like bookstores. Borders and Barnes and Noble are trusty behemoths, but don’t forget the Friends of the Ferguson Library Used Bookstore. I went there today and got 5 books for 6 bucks. The bookstore is attached to a Starbucks with free wi-fi, which might be why the Ferguson is the second-busiest library in the state of Connecticut.

For independent bookstores, the best in the area is Barrett Bookstore in Darien, conveniently located off exit 10. Diane’s Books and Just Books in Greenwich come in 2nd and 3rd because they’re small and don’t have all the great cards that Barrett does. Barrett has cushy leather couches to read on, or you can plunk on the floor in the biography section for an hour and no one will bother you. I appreciate that.

I found this disturbing scene at Borders a couple of weeks ago: a TV on in the magazine section! It was horrible! How is one supposed to thumb trough trashy magazines with Oprah babbling in one’s ear? To me, that TV is a direct assault on magazine shoppers. Borders, I’m going to get you.

A funny post by my blogger friend Sarah got me thinking about bookstores. Read her mini-drama “’I’m Looking for a Book’: Scenes from Retail Hell.” She really is a very clever writer with a knack for capturing human quirks. She has probably had way too much education for her own good, but isn’t that why we’re all here in the FC?
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Stamford Steak Awards 2008

I don’t consider myself a steak expert, but I married into a steak-loving family. I’ve eaten more steak in the past 3 years than I did in the first 28 years of my life. For those of you who are not steak smarty-pants, I humbly offer you my overview of steak in Stamford.

For trendy steak: Dunn’s Loft. This is my favorite place to go for steak. The filet is buttery and awesome. There are creative sauces like peppercorn and horseradish, and they offer Luger’s steak sauce, too. The sides are good and free. The French fries are McDonald’s-esque, and the garlic mashed potatoes are worth the starch. The interior isn’t stuffy, so to me, Dunn’s offers the most interesting eating experience. It’s also cheaper than Morton’s. I went to Dunn’s Loft for my b-day dinner last month and was pretty happy, although I regretted ordering the vegetable side. What was I thinking? Just get the fries! The chocolate dessert, tragically, was not molten enough.

For tradition and for chocolate: Morton’s. I’ve been twice, and I wasn’t blown away by the steak, but other people love it. Morton’s gets minus points for presenting me with a living lobster before I eat, but Morton’s chocolate molten cake is 15 times better than Dunn’s.

For nothing out of the ordinary: Bennett’s Fish and Steak. I went for the first time Thursday. I didn’t love the filet mignon, but I did like the $ 35 prix-fixe meal and the merlot-butter-gravy steak sauce. Bennett’s had nice energy; the dining room was full on a Thursday, and tables are placed at a pretty good distance for eavesdropping. There is nothing exciting about Bennett’s, although Rudy Giuliani and the Dalai Lama have eaten there (separately) and there is an awfully cute little bar. Bennett’s only offers chocolate mousse- what??? Mousse? Where’s the cake? Go to Bennett’s if you’re looking for an ordinary but good experience.

Some steak-xperts here on the couch are telling me that Morton’s is dry-aged and maybe some people like that, and that maybe Bennett's isn't, but that “they’re different types of steak.” That’s fine- I understand that food is often personal preference, but I'm telling you what I like. I'll do a more thorough analysis as I keep eating at steak houses.

For good steak in a non-steak restaurant: Duo. Duo has a steak entrĂ©e; half is braised pulled tenderloin and another half is filet mignon. It’s very good, but comes with no sides except for like, 2 carrots. However, Duo’s chocolate dessert rules this town, so check it out.

My awards are limited to the steak places I’ve been to. Sorry, Giovanni’s II, Anthony’s and Capital Grille. I hear that the first two are regular old steak houses, nothing bad. I hear decent things about Capital Grille online and from some men who I know like steak, so I’ve got an open mind about it. I’ll go once I’m in the mood to pay big bucks for a meal that is in essence, pretty boring.

Steak and potatoes? Give me green tea infused pasta with octopus and vegetables with beet foam! Pad thai with peanuts! Spicy lamb koorma with a glass of white wine! Give me Naan! Ginger noodles in fish sauce! Spicy Garlic chicken sandwich at Layla’s! At least give me pasta Bolognese- Napa and Co has a good one. I just can't do OK steak or it will kill my spirit.

I’m not a doctor, but I just want to end by reminding you that if you eat a lot of steak, you should be doing cardio every week to clear your poor arteries out. Get on the treadmill, you lazy steak-eating men. Turn that meat into muscles for the ladies! Planet Fitness has great rates.

Maybe we should do a Stamford Talk Steak Test one evening. We can split dishes to keep it cheap-ish! And maybe we could get deals from restaurants. Let's ponder this. Any friends who think this would work, email me and we'll see if it's worth getting something together!
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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Trivia at Tigin: Stamford’s Hot Tuesday Ticket

Pub trivia has the virtue of pairing drinking with a somewhat cerebral activity: answering random questions like “which movie beat out Flight of the Hookiepoo in 1938 for Best Film in the Academy Awards.”

I really like the atmosphere of Tigin’s Trivia. Before round one, people run around finding a spot for their team and doing some pre-game trivia trash talking. Some people take that time to ask strangers if they can join their team. Usually people say yes, so gussy yourself up and go make some friends. I did that a few weeks ago and I have this fabulous Nigerian Pancakes team photo to show for it. I’m not in the photo, because I have to maintain my anonymity so Stamford Talk is not vulnerable to outside influences like bribery and blackmail.

During the rounds, of which there are 7, moderators read questions over the loudspeaker. Groups of young adults and middle-aged people, maybe 60 % men, huddle around tables scribbling answers in the booklets. Some rounds are easier than others. The pirate round was a low point for my team, and the "what novels are these first lines from" kicked my English major butt.

A couple people were taken aback that this wasn’t electronic trivia and thought pencil-paper trivia was inefficient and too open to eavesdropping and cheating. Free WiFi on Bedford St.! I agree it’s inefficient, but it’s fun to run your answer sheet upstairs to the graders. You only get 5 minutes after the questions are read to answer them, so it feels like a leg of Amazing Race as you sweep by the other competitors to make sure you’re in line to hand in your sheet in a timely fashion. Don’t worry about cheating. Teams are seated close to each other, and cell phones aren’t allowed out. I’ve seen a hand-held device out once or twice, but those people were looked like they were just texting.

Caveat for the prim and proper: every trivia team picks a name, and some names are beyond sexually suggestive. I’m actually surprised that a public establishment would broadcast them loud and clear, but I love the fact that we have a safe place to be obscene in a good-natured way. I’m sure the moderators have the good sense to censor anything really bad. They clearly relish reading out team scores after each round, and the whole pub gets a good chuckle at the most ridiculous names.

If you want to try Trivia at Tigin soon, I’d go this Tuesday the 11th rather than next Tuesday the 18th. That’s the day after St. Patty’s Day, and I can’t even imagine what the place is going to look like. Head over at 7pm to get a good spot for the 8:30 start time. The place has been jam-packed all three times I've competed.

Related Stamford Talk post:
August 29, 2007: It's Easy to Meet People on Tuesday

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Heaven at High Ridge Starbucks

I recently broke the story that Starbucks now lets you add a second shot to your tall latte for free. Now I’m going to tell you something else, something that I really wanted to keep to myself for fear that there’d be a run on Starbucks… and deplete supplies of pumpkin elixir. That’s right. I’m talking about pumpkin spice lattes 5/1 Update I'm super-angry about: not every Starbucks gives the shot for free..

The High Ridge Starbucks still has some of the pumpkin elixir left. A few other places in the area do too, but the HRS informed me they have 10 vats of it in the back. That’s the only reason I’m publicizing the info. I still feel confident I can get my weekly PSL, and, maybe if we use up all the elixir, that will give Starbucks the message that they should stock up big time next year.

Because when a barista says to me, “We’re out of pumpkin spice,” you don’t even know how crushed I am. Once, they were out of it in December! That was horrible!

Today I got my PSL and asked the barista not to put the top on it because I needed to get a photo of it, so it had to look perfect. He tried to hand it to me without the spice on top- I guess he’s a pumpkin spice novice, but I explained the proper spicing to him.

I usually don’t get whip cream because of the calories, but I got it this time, and wow. Wow wow wow. It makes the drink so much better. This was the first time I’ve had a topless PSL, and it’s fun to drink it that way because you get a whip cream mustache. I wanted to scream “This is so good!!!” and I also pictured tapping the girl beside me and saying, “Do I have whip cream on my face?” I didn’t do either, but that pumpkin spice rivaled the excellence of the first one that I got. Maybe I’ll start carrying my own fat-free whip cream.

I’m going to link to a story about my first pumpkin spice latte so you’ll understand the depth of my feelings. The story is absolute foolishness, so only read it if you care about PSLs. I wrote the piece two years ago, but I revised the first paragraph so it makes sense today. If the blog doesn’t give you a sense of my personality, the PSL story will. You’ll see that I’m a highly excitable person, maybe clinically so. I don’t care. I bound around Stamford with rainbows shooting out of my head, and I’m ok with that.

Long live pumpkin!
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Toquam School Pretty Much Dead

I have a couple of blogger friends whose kids go to school at Toquam Elementary. It's one of only four of Stamford's twenty schools that meets federal No Child Left Behind standards, yet it's the one school that Stamford chose to close to save money. Ya got me.

Toquam is a magnet school, which means kids apply for the program, and rather than going to their neighborhood school, they go to this magnet school. Magnet programs tend to be smaller, which is probably a factor in this magnet's success... and Stamford says the reason they're closing Toquam is because it's the smallest school. Yeah... that makes sense.

My friend Manager Mom wrote a post reacting to last night's meeting in which the board explained to Toquam parents how kids would be transitioned from Toquam into the new school being built down in the Cove. The Toquam parents I've heard from are more rational than you'd expect for people who aren't getting clear answers on what's happening and why. They seem OK with the school being closed as long as the focus is on what's best for kids and for all of Stamford schools.

However, the school board's plan does not address that focus at all, which to me completely ruins their credibility. Two problems:

1. The board has not addressed how this move relates to test scores. Does it matter that a successful school- one of only four in the entire district- is being dismantled? You don't have to be too smart to answer "yes" to that question, so why has the board not talked about it? It seems like they have no answers and no idea what they are doing.

2. The transition to the Cove school sounds messy. The Cove school is an environmental magnet, and kids will come not just from Stamford but from other area schools. The Toquam kids will still be part of the Toquam program, separate from the Cove program. Each year one Toquam grade will be phased out. So, after the current fifth graders move up to the middle school level, no new kindergarten grade will enter the Toquam program since their program is being phased out. Won't the Toquam kids feel isolated, not to mention the teachers, who will have very few colleagues in their program?

To me, it sounds like the school board is trying to slap together a solution to get people off its back. Why else would they come up with such a ridiculous, unrealistic transition plan? Unfortunately, it's going to be the Toquam kids and teachers who suffer through a crappy plan, and the Cove school that's going to have to figure out how to work two programs in one building.

The issue is complicated because it involves money, building resources, and all sorts of board members and finance committees and who knows what else. I wrote a long, informative post about this in January. My brain got so tired trying to understand all of the newspaper articles, but one of the main ideas I was left with after the research was Why would young couples, or anyone with young children, move to a city with a school system in total disarray and with no clear plan on how to improve? That's the one big thing that makes me think twice about buying a house here.

Visit the Toquam parents' site, Save Toquam, for more Advocate info. There's also a blog maintained by a parent that has articles and info.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cheese Spilled at Exit 6: Enough Said

Advocate headline: Crash spills fuel, cheese onto I-95

That headline is obviously funny, so obvious that it's not funny to point it out. Instead, I want to point out that the article about the spilt cheese does not even specify what type of cheese it was! Wheels of brie? Logs of cheddar? Plastic-wrapped Kraft?

It's irresponsible journalism not to report the details.
Does anyone have the scoop on this?

Googling "cheese spill stamford" and "cheese spill I-95" comes up with nothing.
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Coporate Volleyball: Room for All of Us

I have finally- finally!- lied and cheated my way into a corporate volleyball league. I can’t reveal what league or what city my team is in, but if you know the name of this blog, you know where I try to spend most of my time.

Corporate people tend to be pretty efficient, so if your workplace has a team, you should join. You’ll be in and out in an hour, hour and a half max. You’ll leave feeling as if you exercised (you didn’t) and that you’re athletic (you’re not, at least not anymore).

Volleyball will provide you with drama as you sort of spike the ball, or just dink it over the head of some fool who’s trying to block your sort-of-spike.

I’ve never had the deltoid strength to spike, but I can dig like a champ. This week I bravely put myself in the path of the strongest spikes we’ve seen this season. One of my digs impressed my teammates with a sharp smack of ball on forearm heard by the entire gym. That hurt, but the attention I got was so worth it.

Since you can't wear jewelry when you play, everyone appears single. You married people will be treated differently than you're used to. It feels weird, but weird is fun. So, married and single alike, remove all your jewelry for safety's sake. Your corporate volleyball league is the place to be.

Do not forward this post to the captain of your volleyball team. I am sort of legal, although I cannot reveal why.
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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mystery, Power: Stamford and the Island of Lost

Stamford will give you what you want if you ask. It’s just like Lost. Locke has faith that the island will show him the right path, but he takes actionable steps like digging up the hatch and blowing up the submarine.

I took actionable steps in August when I started the blog. I said, “I am going to find the good stuff in Stamford and share it with people so they don’t go through the same devastating boredom I experienced when I first lived here.” I had faith that if I asked Stamford to show me something interesting, it would. I have pursued leads on events and places, creeping around Stamford like Locke creeps around the island.

I'm certain I'm on the right path. I ask for weird events and encounters, and I get them. For example, when I went to the Avon Oscar Film Fest on a Saturday morning, I saw a film crew with loads of equipment. I strolled up, got the scoop on the upcoming Kitchen Nightmares show and posted about it. Zobot responded with the info on how to get reservations. If I hadn’t gone to the movies and approached the camera crew guy, I wouldn’t have had any quality gossip to post. I wouldn’t have known how to reserve a spot, and I never would have met Chef Ramsay and made my reality TV debut. One actionable step leads to another.

Getting what you want requires sacrifice, both of yourself and others. Locke has no qualms about killing other people or letting them die if it means he can further his quest to follow the signs to an ultimate end that he doesn’t know but believes is there. I make my husband do all sorts of things like eat dinner with a camera in his face, sit in the Avon’s horrible chairs, and play trivia with complete strangers. I believe something very good will come of these actions.

All of Locke’s actions, no matter how maniacal they seem, are part of the series of events that have led at least some of the castaways off the island.

When I first moved here in 2001, I just sat on the beach complaining. I didn’t know how to get out there into the jungle and make things happen. I didn’t hunt boar or pursue mystical visions in a sweat lodge. I didn’t even get out to collect sticks to build a baby crib.

I took my first step last summer when I joined, and that little step has led to a circle of talented friends who have added a lot to my life. Little actions matter, and if you keep at it, Stamford will give you what you are looking for, whether it’s adventure or food or friends.

Lost is a puzzle of people and places, just like Stamford. I don’t understand this town yet, but I’m trying.

I’m thinking about Lost today because it’s Tuesday, the day I let myself start thinking about the upcoming Thursday episode, just 2.5 days away. I’ve only watched the show since November. I roared through 3 seasons in less than 3 months on planes, my couch, and the bike at the gym. My love of Lost has corresponded with a surge of happiness in my life in general, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Sawyer is my favorite character. I hope he lives, but I'm pretty sure he's going to die.
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Monday, March 3, 2008

Illegal Immigrants: Not Job-Stealers, but Subject to Raids and Arrests in Danbury

The biggest complaint I hear about illegal immigrants is that they take jobs from Americans and soak up social services like education and medical care. In fact, studies show that in all cases except for low-skilled work, illegal immigrants are a boon to the economy and, over the long haul, give more than they take. In the fall, I read an awkwardly-worded letter to the editor from a man named Paul Streitz. Of all of his points, this is one of the more coherent:

"If illegal aliens are sending back 5 percent of their earnings to Mexico,
the Mexicans are taking billions out of the pockets of working-class Americans… U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro says, ‘We cannot deport 12 million people.’ Why should Americans deport anybody? Dry up the jobs. With the money that illegal aliens have made, they can all go back to their home countries drinking champagne on a first-class airline ticket."

Under the letter, it said “The writer is co-director of CT Citizen for Immigration Control, an Internet organization of residents throughout the state.” My first thought was, If you are anti-immigration, don’t say you’re from Darien, for goodness’ sake. That doesn’t help your cause. Darien has a certain rep that this man is not helping. My second thought was, you sound like a crazy man.

I was dismayed to find Streitz quoted recently in a Stamford Times article about Danbury’s controversial move to give police authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

"Paul Streitz... believes the measures taken in Danbury are a good thing for Connecticut, and he would like to see Stamford take similar steps.
"It makes the removal of illegal aliens with criminal records or who are subject to deportation orders easier (to pursue)," Streitz said. "But, there is not really any solution to removing illegal aliens that have not committed crimes. (CTCIC) has always recommended attrition through enforcement of employment laws. When the jobs dry up, the illegals will go home."

Quoted in the paper? Oh, no! Maybe this man is more legitimate than I thought! I did some research, and no, he’s as off-the-handle as he seemed in his Advocate letter. Jobs aren’t going to dry up unless the economy tanks. Streitz's energy is disproportionate to reality. If his biggest argument is a weak one about “taking billions out of working-class Americans,” maybe his passion about the subject comes from a different source: xenophobia. “The Mexicans?” Dude, most of the Danbury immigrants are from Ecuador! Streitz should do some reflection and ask himself if he should be saying, “It makes me nervous to see people with brown skin in groups speaking languages I don’t understand. I hear they’re going to be 30 % of the population 2050.”

I concede that Streitz isn’t totally insane. I share part of his opinion: police, ideally, would use their authority to deport immigrants who are wanted by their country of origin and/or lawbreakers here. However, the reality is not so neat, as shown by the Danbury police’s sloppy arrest tactics so far.

In September 2006, a Danbury police officer, posing as a contractor, invited 11 day laborers into a federal Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) van, then drove to a fenced lot and arrested them when they turned out to be undocumented. An Advocate article from Feb. 2008 reports that a federal judge ruled that the arrests were not racial profiling, stating that “’solicitation of day labor in our current culture has a strong correlation to undocumented presence in the United States and lack of employment authorization’ and thus it was not unreasonable for police to question the men, nor was it racial profiling.”

Not racial profiling? Are you joking? I know most day laborers are undocumented… so, the racial profile is that Hispanic day laborers are illegal. That’s racial profiling. I think the judge’s ruling will at some point be overturned, because saying it’s not racial profiling is wishful thinking. By that judge's logic, every Hispanic person looking for work or doing menial labor is fair game.

I don’t think many people would say that they are in favor of people being in this country illegally, but I think the steps taken by police under ICE create more problems than they solve. I’m not wild about people flowing willy-nilly over US borders either, but once people are here, I don’t think Danbury police should be raiding apartments in Danbury and scaring the crap out of little kids. By raiding the apartments of law-abiding illegal immigrants (I know, I know), police are alienating some of the only people who would be able to let police know who should be deported. Streitz is gung-ho about this arrest-o-rama, but we’ve seen that his attitude is based not only on logic. To me, the only logical response is to accept the people that are here. It's just too ugly not to. I can't see Stamford doing what Danbury has done.

Related Stamford Talk posts:

--Feb. 22: Day Laborer = Illegal Immigrant?

--Feb. 24: Stamford Day Laborers = Criminals?

Related articles online:

--articles about Danbury immigrant community and arrests

--articles about immigration and jobs.
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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Food Notes: Lattes, Martha Stewart, Prix Fixe

Breaking news 1: You now get two shots in your tall latte at Starbucks for the same price as one.
Breaking news 2: On Thursday Martha Stewart's show filmed a segment at Margot's. I don't know when it will air, so I'm going to set my TiVo to whatever the name of her show is. This picture is of Margot's delicious lattes, but I hate to admit, I get the disgustingly sweet coffee I like from Starbucks because I know it's less than 100 calories. I'm a little ashamed, but I have a sweet tooth from hell.

Quick reminder: Make your reservations ASAP for Winter Restaurant Weeks. If you don't try Duo, I'll either laugh in your face or slap you, or maybe do neither, because that means I'm guaranteed a spot. I don't usually plan too far ahead, so I'm hoping for the best. I'm interested in trying Dragonfly and going to g/r/a/n/d. I used to really resent typing those slashes, but now I sort of enjoy it.

I'll be trying restos on my "Eat at Every Restaurant in Stamford" List, which include Bennett's and Dragonfly.

I'm in New Hampshire today but will be back on my Stamford Talk posting routine Monday!
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