Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's Next?

I'll be honest -- even though I know that I'm about halfway to the end of the my working days (ideally), the recent stories about the stresses on the Medicare and Social Security systems have drawn little of my interest. I think -- like I think many think -- that "they" will have it all figured out by the time I get to that point. You know, because "they" have been doing such a bang-up job on the economy, immigration, health care and all . . ..

Completely naive, I know, but that's where my head is at.

Still, although I'm not quite sure how I might pay for it all, I do think about my golden years from time to time. And with 78 million baby boomers on the verge of retirement, I'm not the only one. Traditionally, many people have sought out warmer climates -- Florida, Arizona -- but there seems to be a growing portion of the population who want to stay close to their family. And with everything this state has to offer -- museums and theaters, great restaurants and outdoor activities, the proximity to New York and Boston -- hanging around here is an appealing option.

As such, in the upcoming May issue of Connecticut Magazine, we're taking a look at 20 ideal retirement spots right here in Connecticut. Part of that also is a new online survey where we're asking our readers to tell us, if money was no object, what town in the state would be their ideal retirement destination. If you have a second -- it's only one question -- please feel free to contribute your thoughts.

For the record, I'm partial to the water -- a little house overlooking the Sound in a town like Old Saybrook or Stonington would be acceptable.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deja vu All Over Again

Watching David Patterson be sworn in as governor of New York earlier today, I'm sure I'm not the only Connecticut resident who had flashbacks to July 2004 when M. Jodi Rell ascended to the top office in the state in somewhat similar circumstances. Yes, John Rowland's crimes were significantly different than Eliot Spitzer's, but the bottom line was the same -- an abuse of power and office, a reprehensible lapse of personal judgment and ethics, and an irreparable violation of the public trust.

Today, Albany is full of optimism that the new leadership will be more ethical and upstanding than the prior administration -- much like the Connecticut legislature was four years ago. They are looking for a fresh start, a clean slate, and are hoping that the new governor can lead them to better days. Honestly, I don't know much about Mr. Patterson -- up until a week ago, who did? -- but from what I've seen of him and read about him, he certainly seems to possess the tools and integrity to succeed. I certainly hope he does.

I guess one of the things sort of nagging in the back of my mind is that as sure as I'm typing these words, I have a feeling that it's only a matter of time before we're being dragged into the next political drama where another elected official has taken advantage of his office for personal gain. Then it'll be another couple of days of denials, a media frenzy, public apologies, a forced resignation and the next new hope stepping up. I don't understand why it keeps happening over and over again, I just know that it does.

Yes, history shows us we never learn from history. But is it being naive to hope that maybe we might?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Java Support

As the war in Iraq drags into its fifth year and the situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen, there could be no more critical time than now to show support for our troops overseas.

One organization that's brewed up support for the troops is Holy Joe's Cafe, a coffee house ministry run by military chaplains, supported by the United Church of Christ in Connecticut, in particular the Wallingford congregation, where it was created by Tom Jastermsky.

Basically, coffee donations are collected and sent to chaplains stationed in active military zones, who have created coffee houses as a place for soldiers to relax, and if necessary, unburden themselves emotionally and psychologically. The coffee houses also provide an alternative to other forms of relaxation and give one of the things many servicemen miss overseas—a good cup of coffee and a quiet place to talk.

According to a recent article in the Connecticut Post, Holy Joe's Cafe has collected and shipped more than 85 tons of coffee overseas, supplying chaplains at some 57 military bases across the Middle East. The efforts of Jastermsky and the UCC have been well received by the troops, who of course, are always greatly appreciative of support from home.

If you're interested in donating, please visit the Holy Joe's website.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mastering the Mastery

If you have a child in elementary school, you are undoubtedly well aware that today is the beginning of the Connecticut Mastery Test, the results of which will be used to determine federal funding, per the asinine No Child Left Behind Act.

And I don't use the word "asinine" lightly. As a parent of elementary-school age kids, I've seen how many months have been spent teaching my children to learn to take tests, you know, a practical skill to have as opposed to reading, writing, arithmetic, art, science or any other legitimate school subject. I've also seen how the school administration and teachers have constantly bombarded the students with the "importance" of the test (because their heads are on the line if they lose funding), so much so that my third-grader has told me that he's worried about the test and what's going to happen to him if he doesn't pass it. He was actually very stressed about it until I explained that nothing will happen to him and he's not really the one being tested here.

Look, I understand the law came out of wanting better education for our children, and that testing is needed to measure where their education is at, but if it's gotten to the point that everyone is freaking out about it and not concentrating on actual learning, I have to wonder if maybe the law doesn't need to be tweaked, if not outright scrapped.