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Election Day is finally here! Let's get out there an seal the deal for Trump and the American people! And don't forget to support the CTGOP under-ticket!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Canadian Anglicans reject same-sex unions, but barely

This came my way today. A little late, but noteworthy on the homosexual crisis in the Anglican Communion.

Blessing of same-sex unions defeated

Source: The Anglican Church of Canada
Date: June 24, 2007

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has narrowly defeated a resolution that would have allowed dioceses to decide for themselves whether or not to bless same-sex unions.

Lay delegates voted 78 to 59 in favor of the motion and clergy voted 63 to 53 in favor But the House of Bishops voted 21-19 against it. As a result the motion was defeated, since it required approval by each of the three orders to pass.

The motion read:

"That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of the diocesan bishop, and in a manner which respects the conscience of the incumbent and the will of the parish, to authorize the blessing of committed same-sex unions."

The King's Commentary:
A few things are evident. First, the motion was supported by both the laity and the clergy which is of grave concern to everyone seeking to keep the Canadian Anglican Church in lockstep with God's teachings. Second, the House of Bishops defeated the measure by a mere 3 votes (I'm not sure what happens in a tie). This result may not provide immediate satisfaction for those looking to turn the Church on its axis and ram in their pro-homosexuality agenda, but it certainly gives them hope that they may fare better next year.

All things being equal, those pro-Christian delegates have some work to do on the laity side. Obviously Canadian Anglican parishes are sending liberal activists to represent them at their yearly Synod. This is rare occasion where pro-Christian groups have a slight reprieve - a second chance so to speak, and an opportunity to correct the imbalance within the Synod representation.

As for the clergy vote, there is obviously some work to do there. With a margin of ten clergy in the pro-homosexual agenda column, it looks like we are near or at 45-55 disunity within the local Church leadership (perhaps more). Senior traditional pro-Christian groups should route out those who voted in favor of the homosexual agenda and make their names public so that proper scrutiny can be brought upon those individuals, posing as Christian-rectors. These people are leading flocks right down the street of secularism and new age teachings.

O Canada... you are in a better position than us pro-Christian traditionalists here in the USA, but you aren't far behind. While our traditionalists "slept" and decided to pay no attention to the activists and rebel-rousers, we are now up to our elbows in trouble, and most likely schism. You guys have one year to help correct the problem, or else you'll face the same nightmare that we are facing here. Once new doctrines are entrenched, and your Church invested like termites, you are looking at a situation and doctrine that is hard eradicate.

So its time to become counter-activists and push in the other direction - the one leading toward Christ. Whispering angrily in dark corners of the Church will not help your cause. It's time to get vocal, and while you still have a chance - take a stand for Christ!

Good Luck, Canadian Anglicans. Let God save you from the Devil-owned torment we are facing down here.

Fuzzy Math: West Hartford families to see 4.54% tax increase

As I predicted months ago, during the 2007 West Hartford budget and taxation debate, those seeking fiscal restraint, lower taxes, and spending reductions by West Hartford town officials have been left in the dark. Despite the overwhelming margin of victory and the clear cut message sent by West Hartford taxpayers by referendum two weeks ago that the tax increases proposed are too high, and the spending is clearly unacceptable - we seem to be back in the same place as we were before the budget was rejected by residents - with another large tax increase headed our way.

Property taxes on residential properties are going to go up 4.54% this year which is not a small increase for your average West Hartford family getting by each month. Not everyone receives a yearly pay increase of 4.5% to offset the yearly West Hartford tax increase. And there are people in worse situations then we are in here who will struggle and really feel this as a burden.

Yet, there are still those out there in town and on the web engaged in this debate that attempt to distort away the tax increase as something less than it is - moving numbers around to try to imply that the town is spending less and people will pay less - yes, perhaps on car taxes - despite that the mill rate is still higher than the average neighboring town and is the third highest millrate in the State of Connecticut.

Another ploy is to attempt to finagle the numbers so that there is an implication that the millrate will drop from 44.08 to 27. over five years - which Mayor Slivka has promised (or at least he did at one point). But all of these promises are nothing more than smoke and mirrors meant to deflect from the fact that West Hartford officials can't bring themselves to say "no". They can't bring themselves to do the mature and unpopular thing - cut out the fat. They refuse to say no to the special interest groups that infiltrate the Council's budget process. And quite frankly, by seeing what they offered up in terms of "cuts" this time around, it shows that they aren't willing to do the hard work and dig into the budget "line by line" and make the cuts needed to even start to make the budget reasonable.

Unfortunately, misinforming the public and pretending that we really aren't receiving a 4.54% residential property tax increase this is year is nothing short of -- deceitful. Even the Hartford Courant's numbers differ from that of the Town Manager - so it supposes that something is awry in the numbers process. And the factual reasons for not reducing spending lies in several areas - inability to cut wasteful programs, spending too much on things that aren't necessary (for example, hidden elements to beautify the town), high administrative costs, and the inability to negotiate with the teacher's union and all the other unions in town that seem to get a free pass when it comes to agreeing to their demands.

Harping on the union argument for a minute. Live and on television last week, we all witnessed confirmation that the nurses in West Hartford schools get paid - not just very well - but paid the highest in the region! How did the West Hartford Board of Education respond when it came to a request for pay increases? Well, they gave them a whopping 3.8% increase on the backs of the taxpayers without blinking an eye, despite that a week earlier, the referendum failed miserably.

The only way that you will get true tax and spend reform is to elect fiscally responsible people to the Council and the Board of Education. Anything short of that will only result in the continuation of imposing even higher taxes over an even longer period of time. There is no end in sight to the trend, and the people sitting on the Council and in the Town Manager's office know it!

And putting honest, loyal, and accountable Republicans in office in West Hartford is no easy task. In the end it will be interesting if the people in town can separate their hatred for George Bush, and the emptying of their wallets by the West Hartford Democratically-controlled Board of Education and Town Council.

For those of you who aren't believers... here is what West Hartford residents have seen in tax increases since 2001:

2001: 4.0%
2002: 5.6%
2003: 5.6%
2004: 6.3%
2005: 4.3%
2006: 5.7%
2007: 4.54% (proposed)

Does anyone else see both a "trend" and a "problem"? Makes you wonder what lies ahead in 2008? Don't residents see that they've been conditioned to accept increases of this magnitude year after year without showing REAL resistance. It's almost as if, a spending freeze is completely out of the question, never mind a tax cut.

So what is their yearly strategy? They recommend a much higher increase, we referendum and bark at them, they trim it (marginally), and in they end you still get what you see above.... a yearly high tax increase. It's like anything else - ask for more then you'll know you'll ever get and then negotiate it down to your minimum - still getting what you want from the start - more spending, higher taxes, and unions pay increases! The perfect cycle.

When will we take off the blinders and really make a stand?

So here we are, with the latest tax increase about to be imposed on the residents of West Hartford. And our town officials stand before you - long faced, solemn, and pretending to look exhausted over all the pretended effort and drain its taken on them to produce this "wonderfully balanced" budget.

Meanwhile, after the cameras are shut down, our elected town officials retire to the backroom, yucking it up with martinis in hand, celebrating their victory over the residents of West Hartford - who will see another rise in taxes for the "good of the people".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chris Benoit: Murderer, Coward

Like most of you (yes you, admit it!), I’ve watched wrestling on television over the years, but less so over the past six or so years – maybe it’s that the storylines dished out by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) are not as entertaining as they used to be, or the characters are no where near as funny or compelling as they were in the 80s and 90s. I guess to this point, today’s wrestling show is more cartoonish, and less athleticism then it was years ago.

I distinctly remember cheering for a World Championship Wrestling (WCW) star named Chris Benoit. Benoit was framed as a hard-nosed, serious wrestler with a bit of a Napoleon complex – as Benoit - although 5’10 inches, appeared small against the backdrop the of WCW regulars. I enjoyed watching Benoit for his in-ring technique and for the fact that in the land of wrestling, he brought 100% every time, and played out his role as both hero and heel to the best of his ability. Moreover, he was simply “credible”.

And having been duped by wrestling angles for years (I guess), when I heard the news on Monday, about the murder/suicide, I simply chalked it up to another “work” or “angle” as they call it in their business. It was almost ironic that a week ago, my mother mentioned something to me about Vince McMahon (President of WWE) dying in a limousine explosion. She seemed to think it was serious, and at first I was intrigued. But then she went on to say that wrestlers were being interviewed, some upset and some attacking him – gave it all away as a hoax. So, I dismissed it as simply an attempt to raise ratings, and laughed it off – after all – the “car bombing” was allegedly all on tape with “federal authorities” interviewing wrestlers for information between matches during the show’s taping.

But alas, with stories all over the news, I realized that this awful tale was true. Chris Benoit is dead. And what’s even more shocking is that after allegedly binding his wife, Nancy, he suffocated her, and then murdered their seven year old son, Daniel. He placed Holy Bibles next to each victim. And according to police reports Benoit moved to the basement, and with a piece of equipment from his weight room, took his own life by hanging himself.

When the early story came out on Monday, the WWE was unaware of the murder/suicide aspect, and they cancelled the regular live card in Texas, and put on a three-hour tribute to Chris Benoit in its place. Internet sites have reported that after learning of the circumstances, the WWE apologized for glorifying and eulogizing Benoit in the way it did. I think this was more a timing issue because Monday Night Raw, the WWE’s show, goes on the air on Monday evenings and the initial news came out late Sunday, early Monday. Vince McMahon aim was to give something to the fans and help console their sadness – nothing more or less should be said of McMahon the WWE Corporation in this regard.

While I was driving home yesterday, I was listening to the commentary on 103.7 FM WEEI Radio and the personalities were discussing the situation, and talked at length with callers about the steroid controversy. Many of you have read my take on Barry Bonds and steroids on this blog. Although the Bonds situation deals with dishonesty, baseball, homerun records and such, there is also the connection that some are drawing between his angry demeanor and alleged physical mistreatment of persons with that of Benoit’s criminal behavior. Fans and news outlets alike are linking all of this to ‘roid rage short for steroid rage. We don’t have all of the facts on this, but if it could ever be proven to be true, it would add another element to the use of steroid use by athletes and could have state and federal implications for their overall use.

While authorities struggle with the “why” and the “how”, we are left with feelings of anger and sadness. The sadness is most for a seven year old boy, Daniel, who will never grow up to do all of the things that children are meant to do. The idea that he was only seven and murdered by his father is a terrifying and horrific thought. And we also grief for his wife, Nancy, who’s life was also taken abruptly at the hands of Benoit’s chokehold.

And lastly, we look at Chris Benoit. Whether it was mental state, rage, steroids, jealousy, or a thousand different excuses – we can feel nothing but anger and distain for him. And we have to accept that he is not a victim in any of this, but rather a perpetrator of a terrible double murder. And in the end, unable to face the authorities, or look in the mirror – in a cowardly fashion – took his life.

Years of wrestling entertainment and stardom has gone out the window. Will anyone care? I know I don’t. The only Chris Benoit that we will remember is the coward who in cold blood - killed his family - the man who murdered his seven year old son, and wife.

We can only pray that Benoit is left to answer to a higher authority for his crimes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Field Day a success with W1CWA - BARC!

We had a great time up at Talcott Mountain State Park with the crew from Bloomfield Amateur Radio Club (BARC) under the call sign W1CWA.

Here are some pics courtesy of fellow ham, K1MGM - Dan:

I managed to sneak out of the house on Saturday afternoon and avoid some lawn work to make the trip up to the site on top of Talcott Mountain. The guys were very friendly, and offered me to work 40 Meters phone with one of the guys involved in the set up - who I believe is named, Dan. After we made about 25 or so contacts under very cool conditions from a beautiful perch over-looking the Valley for about 35 miles Northwest.

As Dan and I worked we heard a QSO (conversation) between a Pennsylvania Station and another station in either DC or Virginia, who had the privilege of having the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Governor of the State on the horn. While we couldn't hear the station with with the government officials, but we did hear the station acknowledging the contact, and I have to say the Ham Operator did a very nice fabulous job of representing Amateur Radio operators and talking up the purpose of Field Day.

After a couple hours of getting in some work, I was paged home to help my wife out with the young ones.

But I had such a good time that I was up early on Sunday (thanks to Precious our loud and obnoxious cat meowing away at 5:30 am). Seizing the moment, I decided to get dressed, and head back to the site for the chance at some additional ham operation. I arrived at the site at about 6:15 am. I think the guys were surprised to see me so early in morning, but they were good enough to get the generator up and running so I could operate for a few hours. We tuned up the antenna's and I worked 75-80 meter phone for 100 contacts. Most of the stations worked were in NH, PA, NJ, NY, RI, ME and a few out of Canada with an assortment of other southern stations that were out of VA, LA, and NC.

I can still hear my own voice calling, "CQ, CQ Field Day, this is W1CWA, W1CWA calling CQ Field Day and standing by." And it felt soooo good!

Sadly, by 9 am my cell phone was ringing (another call from the XYZ (wife), and by 9:30 am I was home and set to the task of packing up the kids for our excursion to Essex that we had planned for the day.

But all in all, I squeezed in Field Day and operated for six or so hours, so I can't really complain. Next year, I will have to make arrangements to camp out with the rest of the group and really enjoy Field Day to the fullest extent.

Also, a subnote, the station attracted quite a few curious visitors who took a keen interest in our operation. One of the BARC members (and I apologize for not knowing names) was asked by a visitor what that "sound" was, to which he remarked "Morse Code". Our ham was quick to astonish the visitor by identifying the location of the transmission and region by translating dits and dahs into words lickety split! Even I was surprised and smiled because the rate of code transmission was around 20 words per minute. And I couldn't have copied it if I tried. But, I was happy to know that the code is alive and well and some guys just set the standard.

The BARC crew entertained all kinds of questions about ham radio, so void of really caring about "placement" in the "Field Day contest" - they managed to represent ham radio to the public and demonstrate exactly what hams can do in times of emergency and disaster. And they managed to have a lot of fun.

Thanks the members of BARC for allowing me the opportunity to enjoy Ham Radio Operation.

Friday, June 22, 2007

West Hartford Taxpayer Association (correctly) threatens second referendum!

The West Hartford Taxpayers Association has been keen to watch how the West Hartford Board of Education and Town Council has behaved this past week. My earlier post cites an example this week where highly paid nurses (highest paid in the entire region) were given a 3.8% pay increase without anyone batting an eye.

West Hartford News is reporting this story regarding another referendum in the works.

If the West Hartford Town Council and Board of Education are going to continue to ignore the will of the residents - which is "cut the budget" then we can have referendum after referendum until they get the darn message. For all the good our elected officials think they are doing, in reality they are pushing families out of West Hartford.

Link Source for the story:

Bloomfield Connecticut Amateur Radio Club Press Release regarding Field Day activity - June 23 -24

I try to promote Amateur Radio as often as possible for all the good it does in so many ways. Many Ham Radio operators who are residents of West Hartford are either members of the Bloomfield Club or the Newington Amateur Radio League. (West Hartford doesn't have its own club and there probably isn't a need with two neighboring towns carrying that distinction.)

Here is the Press Release regarding the Bloomfield Amateur Radio Club's Field Day activity:


The Bloomfield Amateur Radio Club Field Day site is at the Picnic Pavilion, about 200 yards south of the Heublein Tower in Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, CT ( .

Access by Foot: Walk 1.5 miles from the Talcott Mountain State Park parking lot, where the main entrance is on Simsbury Road (CT Route 178).

Access by Vehicle: Turn onto Montevideo Road off of US Route 44 at the top of Avon Mountain (right hand turn going west from West Hartford to Avon).

There is 24-hour access to flush toilets and running water. The club applies annually for a permit to use the facilities for the two days of the event.

Field Day setup is at 8:00 AM on Saturday, June 23. This annual operating event starts at 2:00 PM Saturday, June 23, and ends at 2:00 PM Sunday, June 24.

Talk-in is on the W1CWA repeater, 146.82, -600Khz offset, No PL.The station Class for the event is usually 3A and typically there are 4 HF antennas erected. Modes of operation will be voice, Morse code, and digital. HF, VHF and UHF frequencies will be used. Specific equipment will be operated from portable emergency power using antennas erected for the frequencies and modes mentioned.

We welcome you to observe amateur radio in operation and to participate as well.

Please check out the story and photos of our Field Day 2005 at web site:

For further information, please contact Mark Simcik, President, WA1VVB (860-243-1887) or Dan Arnold, Secretary, W1CNI (860-242-4541, W1CNI@ARRL.NET) or visit our web sites: and .


Thursday, June 21, 2007

West Hartford BOE: Are they capable of making decisions?

This entry is a modification of one that I placed on the West Hartford Blog this morning. Sometimes the WH Blog gets inundated with mindless dribble, sarcastic nonsense, or personal squabbling in between valued posts that either point out situations/facts or ask good questions.

And since I think my point is a valuable one, I wanted to call attention to it. Since my post on WH Blog, I did get confirmation that what I thought I saw and heard was absolutely accurate - from the perspective of someone who was actually in the room.

Yesterday, I watched some of the West Hartford Board of Education budget discussion on West Hartford Cable Access, in particular - I viewed the discussion regarding West Hartford School nurse's pay increases.

The dialogue seemed to imply that:

1) West Hartford nurses are the highest paid nurses in the district, and at one of the highest levels in the State of Connecticut.

2) Many of the nurses are in the 9th tier(?) or highest paid tier due to tenure (as it was explained)

3) Notwithstanding, their high wages, the nurses are seeking a 3.7% or 3.8% increase in their wages.

4) The increase was being justified as “cost of living” increase. The increase was NOT based on salary adjustment - meaning, the increase was not to adjust for wages found other towns or cities, etc.

5) Some interesting dialogue ensued between the participants; one concerned about what the Hartford Courant might print today, regarding increasing the nurses salaries even though they are paid the highest in the district, etc. (something to that effect).

6) Despite consensus that they are being “well paid” as stated by the BOE folks in the chamber, and without taking into account budget concerns, referendums, etc - they opted to “approve” the pay increase in a nonchalant voice vote.

When I see this behavior - particularly when we are trying to find ways to reduce the burden on taxpayers - where the evidence and discussion 1) err on the side of caution, and 2) point to the fact that this group is receiving well above-standard wages, and YET the increase simply passes, I begin to realize that those of us who feel that the West Hartford Board and West Hartford Town Council will never make tough choices to protect taxpayer's wallets are 100% correct in our thinking.

A lot of smoke and mirror dialogue comes out of the pro-budget gang. Save the children, save the elderly, and all of that nonsense - instead of facts and figures, and dollars and cents.

This was a case where the BOE could have legitimately said no or pushed back. I can see where the union or employee might fight back if they are clearly underpaid (based on experience, statistical analysis, competitive analysis, etc), but in this case - they are highly paid, in fact - the highest paid in the region, and the BOE didn’t see fit to draw a line in the sand or factor in the taxpayer’s needs.

Given this situation, isn’t it clear that the BOE has no intention in pushing back when it comes to public employee demands? No concessions seem possible, even in the most reasonable of circumstances. I find this hard to believe.

Without getting into a long diatribe about the differences between private and public sector jobs and pay scales, I have to say that there is a lack of balance in the BOE when it comes to serving the public need.

Surely, even those advocates of the budget should see that there is a problem here. And if this is the kind of shoulder shrugging - rubber stamp we can expect from the BOE and Council, then the budget battle will be worse the second time around.

If they can’t see fit to fight where ground SHOULD be held, then they will never budge on the incrementals.

West Hartford: We are in serious trouble with these folks at the helm. They obviously don't care.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cats that look like Hitler

Ok, this has to be God's idea of a cruel joke.

As a cat lover, I have feel some pity for these felines. I mean, its tough enough being a cat and having to rely on lazy humans to make sure you get three squares and a clean poop-box, but these poor kitties really must have a rough go.

Memo to Tavarez: PLEASE don't roll the ball to Ortiz

Big Papi is being stretched as it is.

During regular season play, the big slugger is usually Boston's Designated Hitter, but when inter-league play rolls around, in order to keep his bat alive, the Sox usually make a move to put him at first and slide Youkilis to third (obviously, this is so that the hot hitting Youk can keep contributing as well).

Well, it should be interesting tonight with Julian Tavarez on the mound. Consistently, due to some "head-thing", Tavarez has been noted rolling the ball to first base instead of the customary toss to first that most pitchers make in order to make a fielded play to first.

Now Big Papi is what he is by statue, height and weight. For all the great things Ortiz is as a baseball player, and for all the stats he can boast including often hitting in the game winning RBI, we have to take note of what he ISN'T - which is to say that he isn't the fastest, most agile, or most flexible guy on the field.

And this being the rubber game of a tied series with Atlanta Braves, and the obvious need to hold off the Yankees from making any further gains in the standings, we hope that Julian Tavarez maintains his solid pitching practices, but we ask him for Big Papi's sake:


The last thing we need is to complicate things in the field for a guy that usually DH's, and sweats playing first base. As it is, I expect that the Braves will pull out all the stops including laying down a bunt to first in order to test Papi.

Go Sox. Let's win this series and build on the momentum!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Hi fellow dads!

Just a note to wish you a very Happy Father's Day!

I'll be spending the day with my daughters (aside from a brief refereeing duty - last game of the season today) and enjoying every minute!

I've already received a few great presents this morning .... a popcorn bowl imprinted with both daughter's hands and feet on the side. And a personalized sushi soy sauce bowl and a new pair of chopsticks! My wife had the stuff made at the Claypen here in West Hartford. If you haven't visited the Claypen in West Hartford, then you're missing out.

After the game we are all headed out to my brother-n-law's place for a nice B-B-Q poolside! Should be a great day!

I took my dad out on Friday to a nice steak dinner. We opted to celebrate his Father's Day early because he had some commitments today, but nonetheless - we always seem to fit it in.

Happy Father's Day to everyone! Make it a great one!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bean Barry! Give Bonds* the Fenway Welcome he deserves!

Given all the controversy, given all the negative comments he's had to say about the City of Boston, given that he's one of the biggest cheaters in Baseball History, given that he's about to break Hank Aaron's homerun record - Barry Bonds* deserves the beaning of his life.

Some might get angry at me for this direct and flippant post, and that's fine. I stand by my call for someone to take Mr. Bonds* out of the game once and for all.

Barry Bonds* (asterisk emphasizes the illegitimacy of his so-called baseball accomplishments, i.e. statistics) has done a major disservice to Major League Baseball. His steroid use is well known to team-mates and fan alike, and much has been documented in books penned by those who played with him. He's such a creep that even the United States Congress has been hearing testimony about his drug company - Balco, and his obvious steroid use to intentionally cheat his way to become the greatest homerun hitter in history.
Bonds* is such a dishonest creep, that he's willing to arrogantly cheat his way to the top of the record books. What kind of person behaves like this? And why does ESPN kiss Barry's illegitimate arse?
On par with Bonds* (at least for now) is Bud Selig - our so-called baseball commissioner, who out of fear of intimidation, continues to act like a coward, and allows Bonds* to continue his steam-rolling toward baseball, record-setting glory. Selig should be ashamed for allowing that steroid-enriched body to play on the field with real athletes who are competing on even footing with out drugs.

Red Sox fans: Let Bonds* know he's not welcome or appreciated in Beantown. Not for his attitude, not for his racist remarks, not for his wife-cheating ways, and most of all - not for his steroid use. Boo him, chant against him, bring signs, and come up with whatever creative, visual idea you can imagine with to let Bonds* and the world know what he's really all about.

Red Sox pitchers: If you can spare that extra pitch. Give cheating Bonds* the beaning he deserves. In the name of every heroic Major Leaguer who does and who has played the game fairly, let him taste some leather. Every fan of every team, and every ghost of every player who's gone before will cheer you for letting Bonds* feel justice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dits and Dahs ...

When we hear the phrase Morse Code, most people think of the famed ship Titanic signaling S.O.S. in the northern Atlantic after its fateful appointment with an iceberg during the early hours of April 14, 1912.

And others may think of the importance of Morse Code during World War II which provided solid communication between Allied Commanders and lieutenants on the battle field – particularly in places where normal radio communication via voice (or “phone”) was either limited or impossible.

But the code is still around and kicking today and in active use by Radio Amateurs, who are often referred to as “Hams”. It’s said that “ham” is derived from the “am” portion of the word amateur.

Up until February of this year, Morse Code, also referred to as Continuous Wave or “CW” was a standing requirement for an Amateur Radio license in order to work certain radio bands. Applicants were tested in both radio and electronic theory and code, and had to pass in order to receive a valid license. For a period of time, passing the 5 words per minute exam was a requirement to even become a ham at all. Voice communication was reserved for the next level license which only required additional theory and regulation testing.

As it was arranged, the more theory you learned and the greater your proficiency at code (exam license classes were: Novice: 5 wpm, General: 13 wpm, and Advanced and Advanced Extra 20 wpm) the more radio spectrum you were allowed to work. Ham Radio had its own merit system that rewarded knowledge and ability with additional frequencies to operate on.

The downside to this was that many people simply weren’t born as auditory thinkers, and couldn’t pass the 5 wpm. Sadly, many wonderful people who would have made fabulous hams – some who could run circles around many of us when it came to electronic theory – never had the opportunity to enjoy the hobby. And this is all because the dits and dahs didn’t register in their minds as letters and numbers.

There are hundred of postings addressing the pros and cons of the code requirement out on the internet. And it’s a argument that is as divisive as the War in Iraq is. So, I don’t really want to get into that here and instead I’d like to focus on some of the positive elements of Amateur Radio as a hobby with a slight bent on CW and Phone operation.

My history with Ham Radio / Modes of operation

When I was in junior high after learning about the hobby through my social studies teacher, I made my first bid at passing the Novice exam. I managed to get the 5 wpm, but struggled with theory. Back then the exams were a little tougher and the question and answer pool wasn’t as readily available as it is today.
I didn't do much with the hobby during high school, I think it was probably too "geeky" for me at the time - I was more of a jock who chased girls, etc. Ham Radio didn't have any allure for me at this stage.

Fast forward to college, for whatever reason - probably based on my international studies, I revisited the hobby, studied, and in two weeks managed to take the exam and passed it easily. A few weeks later, I took the Technician Class exam (now defunct) in order to get access to the 2 meter voice band (144 mhz – 148 mhz). The truth is that this mode of operation was probably about the cheapest way to get on the air – as two meter hand-held sets were about a hundred and fifty dollars, and could be used as a potable unit, mobile unit, or as a quasi-base unit. And it didn’t call for an elaborate antenna system which was out of the question at my house.

Two meters also has the advantage of the “repeater system”, where low wattage capability would provide you access to other amateurs in FM quality sound all around the state.

The element I most enjoyed was the use of 10 Meter Single Side Band operation (AM-SSB) where I made voice contact each day with hams in England, Germany, Netherlands, and other European countries. This was a great thrill for me because the notion of meeting people from around the world and getting their insight on many things (non-political) was extremely appealing.

Hams are great talkers and tend to be interested in other people, which lends itself to be a great community for making friends very easily and very quickly.

Today, amateur radio consists of so many types of operation including phone, computer interface, packet, digital, RTTY (television), CW and a variety of others that I’m not necessarily fluent in, but know exist.

By personality, I’m what they call a “rag-chewer” – picking up the microphone and saying "CQ, CQ" meeting new people and blabbing my way through a conversation to pass the time. 2 meters has never been a rag-chewing band, so most of that was done on 10 meters using a converted Citizens Band set - a Cobra 142 GTL. I wasn’t able to tie in a code key do to logistics of the set, so I stuck mostly with phone operation.

Are today’s chatrooms, yesterday’s hams?

To this I have to say a resounding NO. There is a huge difference between radio operators and internet chatters.

Very little of antics found in an internet chatroom would ever be permitted on ham bands, and would most likely result in the pulling of someone’s license – for things like profanity, playing music, and sick talk that goes on. This might resemble more of the CB crowd than anything else. But there is probably more discretion that takes place on the CB band than there is in any internet chatroom.

I’d like to think that for the most part, you are dealing with a good group of folks on the Ham bands, particularly on 2-meters. Part of this is probably due to the fact people use their call signs which are licensed by the FCC and your contact information is readily and publicly available to everyone. This probably helps to keep the conversation on the light side and very polite. Which is sort of the way you would want a conversation between friends to be anyway?

ARES, Contesting. Traffic Handling, Field Day, and Skywarn

Besides chatting away, and making new friends, there are a few other positive elements of Amateur Radio that should be mentioned. Ham Radio operators are also volunteers, who are giving of their time in a variety of capacities.

First, its been well documented – as recently as last years’ set of hurricanes that Ham Radio operators play an important role in support of emergency management when disasters such as storms, hurricanes, or floods. Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) provides communication through hams to send radio communication in and out of sites hit by such natural catastrophes. When expensive, state-of-the-art commercial radios go down, low budget hams often provide communication support in conjunction with local officials. Though I should stress here, we do not take over communications, but serve independently in coordination with local authorities. Here is a good article on Katrina assistance provided by Hams.

Ham Radio is so well thought of and proven, that many state armories and disaster plans incorporate Ham Radio as part of the overall operation. This is a volunteer operation without expense to the city, state or government.

Part of what happens during an emergency is referred to as Traffic Handling – which is as it sounds. A net leader coordinates the passage of reports and messages from one point to another through hams in different locations. Ham radio operators around the globe practice traffic handling on their own networks on a routine basis. It’s something like passing a telegram from one person to another via phone.

Each year in June, Amateur Radio combines its practice of setting up an emergency site with that of contesting - the event is called "Field Day". The goal of contesting (and there are many contests through out the year) is to make as many contacts as possible within a given timeframe under a certain mode of operation. For example, some contests are strictly CW, others are low power contests, and yet others are simply DX (or distance) contests.

Field Day provides and opportunity for Radio Clubs to set up make shift camps to power up radios, set up antennas, and act as mobile sites, while throwing in the element of contesting using a variety of modes of operation on a variety of radio bands. It’s actually a lot of fun to participate in. If you ever wanted to experience Ham Radio for yourself first hand – Field Day is a great way to get your feet wet and learn more about the hobby up close and personal.

Lastly, I wanted to mention a word about Skywarn. Skywarn is a program run by the National Weather Service which uses volunteers in the community to watch for and report severe storm and tornado activity. By virtue of the fact that communication is required, and in cases where power and phone lines are out, Ham Radio Operators have been known to help supply the National Weather Service with timely weather data, information, and reports which are used to NWS officials for various purposes.
So, just to end this little essay, I'd like to offer you an invitation to check out Ham Radio for yourself. Here is a site that will allow you to find a ham radio club in your area. Just put in your zip code and the look up will do the rest.
For those in the West Hartford area, I can recommend the following clubs (by proximity from West Hartford):
Newington Amateur Radio League (NARL) - Newington, CT
Bloomfield Amateur Radio Club (BARC) - Bloomfield, CT
Bears of Manchester - Manchester, CT
Central Connecticut ARC - Plainville, CT
Middlesex Amateur Radio Society (MARS/CARES) - Middletown, CT
* Note: I'm a particularly fond of the MARS/CARES gang. They trained me and helped me get my ticket. I can tell you from a first hand experience that they are a fabulous group of Hams who are friendly and willing to help anyone interested in Ham radio - answer questions or help them get their "ticket".
I also recommend listening to the following sites for real audio of the ham bands:
If time permits, I may set up some separate ham related links on this site... propagation reports, sunspot reports, and other band information. This blog is about everything under the sun. I have to admit, I do enjoy a lot of hobbies, and I have a lot of interests. Seems harder to focus on any of them now with a growing family.
Ham Radio has been the hobby that's really taken a back burner. I haven't the time to really work the bands, and I really need to get my rear in gear and upgrade to the General Class license. I should also put my two meter rig in my car, but that takes bringing it in for installation. Stay tuned. I'll keep you abreast of my progress. But don't expect much - I'm still enjoying my little baby girl, who is fun to hold after a long dreaded day of work!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

West Hartford Budget Referendum "official" results

Here are the OFFICIAL results of the West Hartford Budget Referendum:

Yes: 2939

No: 7893

All I can say is WOW. That is a resounding rejection of the budget! I have to admit, I'm very surprised with the margin of victory for working families!

Thank you residents of West Hartford for making the West Hartford Town Council, Board of Education, and all town officials work a little harder when it comes to spending YOUR money. Perhaps now, they will buckle town and make some real cuts and concessions on the budget.

It's hard for some to understand, but this is a very good thing for all of us. Even those supporting the budget thought it was flawed and lousy. Now they have a directive from the people to go in there and make it right!

Way to go West Hartford! Way to Go!!

Official results will be certified tomorrow.

Monday, June 11, 2007

West Hartford middle class families should vote "NO" on the budget!

On June 12th, West Hartford residents will have the option of sending a message to the Town Council about their inability to create a budget which is reasonable and fair to West Hartford Taxpayers.

A lot has been said in the media and on area blogs about why people should support this poorly developed budget. Most agree that West Hartford taxes have been consistently on the rise for over five years. Each year, a budget battle occurs and does the standard referendum. And each year, West Hartford residents get hosed.

The Democratic plan is always the same -

1) Create an outrageous budget with unchecked spending and tax increases,
2) When opposition mounts, cry foul, and claim that the old and young are being targeted by the rich and the taxpayers union,
3) Slightly reduce the budget, but eliminate no favors and fraudulent spending programs - just make it look like your making an effort to reduce the tax burden,
4) Sell it to the public as a realistic budget and name call those who disagree,
5) Demonize those calling for a referendum, and call the pot black by accusing them of wasting taxpayer's money by wanting a public discussion and vote on the budget,
6) Eventually, win the referendum, increase taxes and spending and further plummet the West Hartford Middle Class into debt - while claiming you have done everyone a favor - particularly the teacher's unions and all other blood sucking unions who care only about improving their salaries and benefits and care nothing for the town.
7) Next year: repeat the strategy

It's an easy game. The sad thing is that the outcome is always the same.

Question: Can West Hartford Taxpayers stand up this time?

Can we show the Democrats on the Town Council that we are done with high taxes and out of control spending?

Or will we let them have their way with us once again?

Please, please - vote "NO". Tell the West Hartford Town Council and their lackeys that we are through with their lazy tax and spend policies.

It's time to put West Hartford families first for a change!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Review of TAPS: Season 3, Episode 7: Lisheen Ruins / Viaduct Tavern

Airdate: Wednesday, June 6, 2007.

We start by being reminded that Steve is a crybaby who is afraid of airplanes. They embarrass Steve further by showing him balling in a van. What nice guys to remind the world what a wuss Ghost-Hunter Steve is.

The team is still in Ireland on continuing their transatlantic mission to hunt ghosts. They start out by visiting with Joe McGowen, who Jason describes as a local folklore expert. But he's upgraded to "historian" as his name is flashed across the screen. So McGowen describes that William Fibbs tore down a lot of people's houses to put up his large house. So an old widow woman cursed him and said that "The day will come when Ireland will be free of the likes of him, and when that day happened, the crow's and the magpies would build their nests in the ruins of Lisheen."

I don't know about you, but I'm terrified already.

Then we learn that in 1855, Owen Fibbs, the son of William, filled the house with Egyptian mummies and Syrian swords and God know what else. McGowen then says that Lisheen means little fort or wrath. We flash to Grant who tells us that wraths are the homes of the fairies. Jason tells us that its bad to build homes in the paths of fairies. Of course, we don't know how Jason has concluded that Lisheen was build in the path of fairies or how anyone tells that they've built a home in paths of faires. But Ol' McGowen assures us that he wouldn't build a house in the paths of fairies. And just how many whiskey drinks does it take to see fairies?

We meet local TAPS member, Barry Fitzgerald. Barry has been to Lisheen several times and tells us that the sounds of mummy murmering can be heard from the basement. He makes sounds like you'd hear in the old movie "Curse of the mummies". Ok, this is getting corny. Barry tells us that when Fibbs left the Earth spirits took over. And walking around them can "lead to trouble".

We flash to Dave stepping in cow poop. Why this matters to us, I don't know. Now Dave is shoveling cow poop. Ok, and the point of this segment is?

We flash to the Leap Castle where Tango tells us that Dave and Dustin got pushed to the ground by a spirit. Dave is ready to investigate despite getting beat up by a ghost during the last investigation. Give Dave credit, he's at least got more sack than Steve who's probably home crying in his crib.

It's 11:55 and Jason and Grant are wandering around with their thermal imaging equipment. They capture an image of what appears to be a person staring in their direction. I'm actually intriged by this segment and watch. Grant yells out "what the frig?" We fade to commercial.

We come back. We learn that they caught a soundman on thermal. Darn! It would have been at least more interesting if it were Joe McGowen stumbling home from the pub looking for fairies.

I'm sure most viewers are by this point - fully annoyed. We move on.

We flash to Lisheen's basement. Dustin thinks he's hearing banging and walking.

We flash back to Jason and Grant in the field again. Jason says that the fairies make tunnels underground and are probably looking up at them. So, now fairies have X-Ray vision.

Grant sees an image following the team off in the distance. And this isn't soundman too? No, this dot splits into three dots and follows the team. As soon as Grant and Jason move closer the dots disappear. This isn't impressive footage. But Jason is impressed.

3:13 am. Brian walks in the field and thinks something wacked his finger. Ho-Hum.

Barry is telling stories in the wrath area. Then he stares off in the distance surprised. The other TAPS members ask him what he's seen and he claims it was a "face" in the woods. Barry chases the face into the ruins, Dustin follows with Dave in tow. Barry feels this is a warning and decides to back off the case - he feels this is a "warning."

I think this is a weird reaction for a TAPS member who thinks they saw something paranormal. What's the point of going there in the first place? So if you find something why would you run away from the investigation? As "investigators" wouldn't that cause you to investigate further? it's clear Barry is superstitious. The rest of the TAPS members, to their credit, hold their ground.

Super Grant sits under the tree and thinks he hears humming, footsteps and voices. Ok, he's delarious. Now he sees little figures moving outside the wrath. Wishful thinking. I thought these guys take this stuff seriously?

Ruining the atmosphere we pan to Dave and Dustin in the basement who are afraid of bugs and spiders. They look more like tweedle dumm and tweedle dee, running from spiders and bugs. This segment is a waste of time, and it tells me that they are using "filler" because the well has gone dry on this investigation.

Jason finally puts this investigation to bed by saying they should break it down. I agree, so far the lack of material out of this show is unbelievable.

We review the only evidence they have... sounds of boots on a floor. Pretty inconclusive. Then we see the video of the one light turning into three on the thermal cam. Again, means little to me, but its exciting for Jason and Grant. Then a clip of a red dot, who Jason believes is an entity following the team. I bet its Joe McGowen stumbling home from the from the local pub.

At least the segment ends by the team capturing the spooky face that Barry saw. I'm suspect because for some reason the team doesn't come across as excited or surprised by the face. Hmmmm? You'd think that this would be a huge find.

Jason and Grant conclude that the place is haunted. I conclude that if the "face" is for real and not a TOPS generated graphic, then its been worth the investigation.

We move on the second half of the program. Jason asked Barry to tag along to travel to London, England for the investigation at Viaduct Tavern.

I hope this segment is better than the last.

The tavern was built in 1869 and sits over Newgate Prison or Gelsberg Prison, its hard to tell which.

We meet Sidonie Ross who's either a barkeeper or manager or whatever. She tells us that she has felt someone pulling her hair behind the bar - it was probably a drunk guy trying to get another drink. Grant says as much. Everyone laughs. She tells use that there are a lot of sightings including a young lady in a white dress who may have been a prostitute and was murdered on sight.

And down below we see the cells and we are told that there is paranormal activity in the cells. Grant tries to be funny. This season so far he's been incredibly corny.

Nice shot of Sidonie from an arial shot view as she tells of 15-20 people were held in the debtor's cells at a time. At this point, I have to ask - what's with the hair? And the clothes? Did anyone tell Sidonie she was going to be filmed for television?

We visit a cell haunted by "Fred" which is supposed to be the most haunted cell, according to Sidonie. But they aren't given anything specific to go on - just "sights and sounds". She also had no clue who Fred is or was.

Grant complains about intestigating where there are mirrors - makes it hard to capture anomolies due to reflection. He's a genious.

Barry makes his appearance. Equipment discussion ensues. This is what I hate about the TAPS show - a lot of time spent talking about equipment and watching them load and unload it. They don't make us sit through this during Most Haunted. Barry is wearing glasses which makes me wonder how he managed to see the "face" in the last segment. Hmmm?

Barry is going upstairs with a less "forceful" Brian to look for the ghost of the murdered girl. He's going to use the "European method". I guess this leaves us to believe that everything we do in the United States is balls to the walls and brash. Barry will teach the TOPS team how to do it right. All this from the guy that thinks he saw a spirit and ran away from the scene at Visheen.

Jason and Grant in the cells. Grant foolishly remarks... "I just don't get where they got the ok to have these things as places for them to stay?". Grant, its a prison, no one cared. They didn't pay their bills or whatever. In 1869, they weren't interested in prisoner's rights. Oh man. Do you think it was any better in the States?

Grant sits in cell and claims its miserable. While leaving the cell he thinks he sees something on the thermal cam... he exclaims... "What the frig?" We got to commercial.

Ok, we were set up earlier in the show at the previous location by a nearly identical situation with Grant saying the same phrase. I'm expecting its nothing having been fooled once already. I think they are just praying no one changes the channel so the ratings dip. This show is becoming more like "Scooby Doo" every minute.

We are back. As expected, Jason corrects Grant and finds it was his own reflection in the thermal scan.

Brian and Barry are upstairs. Barry doesn't want the ghost to feel threatened and scare it away. They hear a noise. Barry gets Brian to "respectfully" ask questions of the spirit in a timid manner. But strange, the questions seem rude... "what is your name, did you die here?" Barry feels a breeze that doesn't register, he suggests retreat. They retreat. I'm confused by the European method where you leave the scene when ghosts are thought to inhibit the area. All this retreating makes for boring show when the goal is to capture ghosts on film.

We are in luck, they return and hope to get further into the room. Brian tries to communicate with the spirit again asking for a sign that the spirit is there. He asks again if she or he died there. The EVP equipment suddenly loses power... pan to Jason who blames it on the ghost.

Dave claims something touched his hand. Didn't he claim that in the earlier investigation too? We have history repeating itself.

Back to Jason and Grant, jabber-jawing about nothing in the cells. They catch up with Barry and Dave and declare that they are ready to wrap it up. I think if somethings going to come of this investigation, it will be caught on tape.

Sidonie draws the conclusion that the investigation sounds like it went well. Seems like she'll be disappointed if nothing is found.

She should have called Derek Achorah. Maybe he could have faked a posession for her.

We waste time by watching the TAPS crew review audio tapes and smile that they think they've caught something. Let's hope so, this investigation has been boring.

Commercial. Another expensive car commercial. Who do they think watches this show?

We listen to EVPs and as Brian is introducing himself, he hears a deep voice say "hi". Another recording is played, Brian is heard asking "Did you live up here" and a deep voice answers "no". Another voice is heard, but no one can make out what is being said.

Interesting, but not conclusive.

Grant and Jason meet with Sidonie to review the results. They dismiss sounds in the cell as coming from outside. They play the EVPs for Sidonie. She thinks the voices are "freaky".

Jason and Grant aren't willing to conclude that the place is haunted. And they say they can't associate names with the spirits. Jason has mixed feelings over the investigation since he had no personal experience, and Grant thinks they made progress but its non conclusive evidence.

Sidonie thinks that the evidence is good enough for her to keep telling her customers that its haunted to keep revenue flowing.

Mercifully, this episode comes to an end.

Lastest comments from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams...

Sharing this tidbit from Reuters on the latest new regarding the coming Anglican-Episcopalian Schism. For what its worth, the Archbishop and the Anglican Communion have been put in a terrible position by the leaders of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA).

I can understand the Archbishop's slant to try and slow the schism or even stop it, but with dozens of churches leaving the ECUSA each month, the schism is - in one way or another - already here.

Here is the article from Reuters, courtesy the AAC Blogsite:

Anglican schism not inevitable says Williams

Source: The Scotsman/Reuters by Michael Conlon, Religion Writer June 7, 2007

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in an interview to be published on Friday, says he is not optimistic about the future of the Anglican Church but adds that a schism over gay issues is not inevitable.

The state of the 77-million-member global church "feels very vulnerable. I can't, of course, deny that. It feels very vulnerable and very fragile, perhaps more so than it's been for a very long time," Williams told Time Magazine.

But he also said:

"I don't think schism is inevitable. The task I've got is to try and maintain as long as possible the space in which people can have constructive disagreements, learn from each other, and try and hold that within an agreed framework of discipline and practice."
Asked if was optimistic, Williams said "I'm hopeful. Not optimistic," agreeing that "hopeful" was a "safer" word.

The Worldwide Anglican Communion, as the church is known, has been shaken and divided since 2003 when the Episcopal Church, its 2.4 million-member U.S. branch, consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in more than 450 years of Anglican church history.

His elevation not only splintered the U.S. church but riled defenders of traditional Christianity in the church's "Global South" -- African, Asian and Latin American congregations that now account for half of the world's Anglican followers.

Some U.S. Episcopalian congregations have already placed themselves under the jurisdiction of conservative bishops in Africa and elsewhere.


The situation became even more strained recently when Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a leading orthodox figure, ignored a plea from Williams and came to Virginia to install Bishop Martyn Minns as head of a new Nigerian-based church branch designed as a refuge for orthodox American believers.

Williams later announced that both Minns and Robinson would not be invited to the Lambeth Conference, a major church meeting held periodically since 1867 and scheduled again next year.
In the Time interview Williams said he did that to avoid the two bishops becoming the focus of the 2008 meeting.

"The mode of their appointment in the face of substantial protest simply means their bishoping is going to be under question in large parts of the Anglican world," he said

"Regarding Robinson, one thing I've tried to make clear is that my worry about his election was that the Episcopal Church hadn't made a general principled decision about the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of people in public same-sex partnerships," he said.

"I would think it better had the church actually taken a view on that before moving to the individual case. As it is, someone living in a relationship not theologically officially approved by the church is elected to a bishop. I find that bizarre and puzzling," Williams said.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Anglicans are organized as a federation of national churches without hierarchical lines of authority, though the Archbishop of Canterbury holds a first-among-equals leadership position.

"It's impossible to get from Scripture anything straight-forwardly positive about same-sex relationships," Williams said.

"Those theologians who've defended same-sex relationships from the Christian point of view in recent decades have said you've got to look at whether a same-sex relationship is capable of something at the level of neutral self-giving that a marriage ought to exemplify. And then ask, is that what Scripture is talking about? That's the area of dispute," he said.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bloomfield Girl Found in West Hartford Home!

This story is enough to make you sick....

The wonderful news is that this young girl, Danielle Cramer, is alive and she has been reunited with her family. It's hard to imagine such a terrible ordeal for the poor 15-year old and her family. It's just horrific!

Now its time to move to the justice phase of the matter. No shrinks, no excuses, no pity me - pity me nonsense. The only real victim is the poor, young girl found by the police, locked in a closet by her captors. Let's move for a swift trial and get those life sentences imposed - or worse - for the scumbag offenders.

Bottom line... there are some trials that should just never happen.

From the WTNH - Channel 8 site:

"Hands cuffed behind his back, 41-year old Adam Gault of West Hartford was taken by police to face a judge this morning. Gault is known to police. He has a drug conviction from 1997.
Also in custody is Gault's common law wife, 40-year-old Ann Murphy, and 26-year old Kimberly Cray. The three are charged with a number of crimes in connection to the disappearance of Cramer, now 15. "

West Hartford residents should commit these names to memory:

Adam Gault

Ann Murphy

Kimberly Cray

Also here is a story on the Newington Road neighborhood reaction. I can only imagine what its like to be a neighbor of these criminals.

If you have any information about any of this, please contact West Hartford Police. We need to make sure that every bit of evidence is collected to make sure that the perpetrators of this heinous act - never, ever see the light of day - again!

To the Hesse Family: Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

West Hartford guide to Sushi, Sashimi, etc (revised)

Since I consider myself a Sushi addict, I thought I'd share a complete rant on my view of West Hartford area restaurants that offer a "Sushi fix" and few points of interest for those of you who seek a quality Sushi / Sashimi experience in the West Hartford area.

For those of you who understand what it's like to have a burning desire to crave sushi then you will appreciate my rant. For those who don't, I recommend trying it and you too can feel the "nicotine-type" craving for raw fish.

There are quite a few places in the West Hartford area that offer Sushi; I'm limiting my comments to components that matter to me: quality and quantity, freshness and taste, cleanliness of the restaurant, customer service, and of course - price. Also, I've included links where available. In order to be fair in evaluating price, I'm going to use the standard "Sushi Dinner" price tag which I will list based on what's shown on the menu (tax not included unless otherwise indicated). As a rule of thumb, Sushi Dinner consists of a tuna or California roll, seven pieces of select fish fashioned over rice, and is usually accompanied by either a salad with ginger dressing, or miso soup.

To level set, I want to mention that everything written here is based upon my own experience with each restaurant. I've visited each of the restaurants at least 10-12 times so I am certainly qualified to report what I've seen and tasted. If you have a different experience, well good for you (or not) - it will not change my rating or view of the restaurant. My ratings are based on consistency and not the one or two good or bad experiences. Every restaurant has its bad days!

Ichiban located on 530 Farmington Avenue in Hartford (just over the Hartford/West Hartford line) is a excellent choice for the Sushi connoisseur. The restaurant is interesting because it offers a blend of Japanese and Korean entrees. I've often visited Ichiban for both lunch and dinner and find the portions more than adequate for the price. The sushi or sashimi is generally fresh and I've not had a bad experience in the restaurant. The service is quite good, and the wait staff is very attentive and friendly. This is particularly helpful when you are rushing at lunchtime. The only negative is that they don't offer a large number of custom sushi rolls. Clean enviroment. Sushi Regular Dinner is $14.95. You are better off ordering from the Dinner menu for lunch or you will leave disappointed and starved.

I love Sushi/Egg Roll Express (no website found) is located on 278 Park Road in West Hartford near AC Petersen's. I used to frequent this restaurant which is primarily take out (one half Chinese - fast food style, and the other half Sushi take out.) This restaurant gets the lowest rating for most categories. My last two visits (2006) gave me the experience of distinctly tasting fish that wasn't fresh and what is worse - finding bones in my sushi. Also, I found that the people preparing sushi are quite young, and the owner is a bit of an ogre to deal with. Also, service is faster in the evening; do not expect to make a lunch run unless you have plenty of time on your hands and your boss won't be looking for you. This isn't to say that I haven't had OK experiences, but enough turn-off experiences to turn me off from going there in 2007. It's a hole in the wall. Sushi Dinner will cost you $14.85, tax incl.

Muraski Japanese Restaurant is located on La Salle drive in West Hartford Center. The very fact that it's in West Hartford Center should tell you something - that its good, no - that its expensive. In fact, its insanely expensive for the minuscule portion you receive. The sushi and sashimi are fresh and of excellent quality, but after consuming an entree, you are left wondering if you've just consumed an appetizer. It's certainly a place for rich West Hartfordites to brag that they go there to sip expensive wine, eat sushi, and be seen. It is funny that the website reference uses a New York Times food editorial that mentions that its a "real find" for the price. They must be comparing the prices to New York prices, because they are clearly over-priced in the market. The service is adequate, but who cares if you leave hungry. The atmosphere is crowded; very tight quarters, but clean. Sushi Dinner will set you back $19.50.

Szechuan Tokyo is located at 1245 New Britain Avenue, West Hartford. The group that owns this also used to own Osaka which was in West Hartford Center until it closed its doors in Winter of 2006-07 (sidebar: Osaka was excellent in all categories, and portions were reasonably sized and the prices were ridiculously low in contrast to Muraski - perhaps that's why they didn't survive, who knows?) Based on my revised appraisal of this resturant, Szechuan doesn't deliver in terms of quality and price. Sushi portions are meager and food quality has dwindled. Sashimi portions are very disappointing. Service at Szechuan is exceedingly poor. Routinely, you are greeted at the desk by an angry looking woman who immediately dispenses with all niceties, and is often seen lording over the staff and yelling at employees. Phone orders are often misunderstood and you feel rushed through the order. Moreover, if you order take out you must be careful to inspect every aspect of the order prior to paying and leaving. Over the last eight visits (I used to eat there weekly until this week's poor experience) I've required modification to my meals every time. I've been forced to inspect take out orders after having experienced the frustrating scenario of arriving to home to find food missing and having to make a second trip (and once a third trip) back. Moreover, do not expect them to keep record of the credit you are owed. This has been lost more than once, and you are made to look and feel that you are trying to pull one over on them. You can avoid embarrassment by inspecting your order before you leave. It is pretty difficult for them to manage an order of two meals. Eat in service is slightly better. Despite it's name, this is a Japanese restaurant in name only; its clearly a Chinese restaurant. Sushi Dinner is only $12, but you are better off ordering Sushi Deluxe at $14.50 to get the experience that is contrasted in competing restaurants. Bathrooms are filthy and disgusting.

Update: 5/8/07: Szechuan Tokya has worsened from two perspectives: 1) My last two times visiting found that in the sushi quality has diminished greatly, in fact the fish "smelled" and 2) the customer service has gone from bad to worse; it is exceedingly poor. The mean lady at the front was seen arguing with customers. Also, she argued with me last week when I told her she forgot something - her reply was that my wife never ordered it. To which I replied, yes she did, I was standing right there. She said it twice. Her reply was "oh yeah?" Rude and obnoxious. I'm so tired of their antics, that they've lost my business. My honest recommendation is for people NOT to eat at Szechuan Tokyo.

Fuji Sushi, 1144 New Britain Avenue in West Hartford. This sushi spot has sky-rocketed to the top of the charts. My first rating didn't include Fuji Sushi because I had not eaten there enough to really provide feedback. But since I started visiting regularly, I can provide good feedback on fish quality and preparation. Prices are average for sushi in our area. The building is ugly and probably doesn't do much for itself being next to a pet store. But the portions are decent and the service is very upbeat and pleasant. Eat in may be your best option due to the small dining area. Kids are welcome.

Ginza located at 14 Witonbury Road, Bloomfield (in the strip mall) and is frequented by many West Hartford residents. While somewhat pricey, the sushi and sashimi are both fantastic - fresh, and give you that "melt in your mouth" experience. There are many options on the menu for the sushi and sashimi connoisseur with special rolls galore. It's worth going as an eat-in experience and deserves the Best of Advocate Awards won in 2005 and 2006. A young friendly guy named Alex greets you at the door, and he's pleasant, and eager to please his guests. The wait staff is pleasant, friendly and helpful (and very good with children). The only other negative is that they used to offer Japanese style ice cream, but removed it as part of the Sushi Dinner. Not that you are there for ice cream, but its hard to take something away that everyone enjoyed as part of the meal. Very clean, and well maintained. Sushi Dinner is $19.

Feng located at 93 Asylum , Hartford. This is supposed to be the high-end Sushi spot based on it's location and atmosphere. However, I recommend going for lunch as the prices jump at dinnertime. The quality was very good when Feng first opened over the winter 2006-07, but popular opinion (including my own) is that over the past month both the quality and freshness of the food, and the service has dove-tailed. On my last two trips, the in-service wait staff has been fairly inattentive with my soup coming after my Sushi arrived (and after I've enquired about it). My last visit showed the confusion between the wait staff and Sushi bar chefs who actually got into an argument about who was responsible collecting the order, etc. The place is clean and well maintained. Sushi Dinner will set you back $24. Again, go for lunch and choose Sushi B for about $15 dollars and change. (A side note is that this group is actually owned by the same group that owns Ginza. They could use a good manager to get the place back in order to where it was when if first opened.)

And lastly, Koji downtown located at 17 Asylum Street in Hartford. Good for lunch. Fresh fish under the banner of "Chef's choice". The only issue is that you tend to get what's available so each lunch is a mystery - sometimes good choices and sometimes a mix. This is more of a hip hangout for folks who like Martini's. Based on my recent experience at Feng, I probably prefer Koji at this point. And for a while I was alternating between the two restaurants. Clean surroundings. Sushi Dinner is a bit expensive for the size portion you receive: $18.

Well, I hope this is helpful. Let the hate mail begin! Seriously, everyone has a select taste and their own experience. I recommend that you try all of these options at least once, and then form your own opinion as to which restaurant is best for you. As for my favorite, well, honestly the jury is still out! But Ginza is certainly hard to beat for eat-in.

In the future I'll write a little more on Sushi etiquette and how to "ease into" sushi for the uninitiated.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Write in Kevin Youkilis as American League All-Star first baseman!

Some guys go to the All-Star game every year based on popularity and not merit. And that's a shame.

Unlike quite a few players this year on the ballot, Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox - who plays every day but is NOT on the official ballot - is deserving of the first base slot on behalf of the American League.

Drawing on statistical facts, take the following as evidence that Youk belongs in the AL Line up: Based on 48 games played, Youk is hitting .354, with an On Base Percentage of .427, and a Slugging Percentage of an incredible .561. With 198 at bats, Youk has 70 hits, 17 doubles, 8 homeruns, 40 runs scored, and 30 RBIs.

As of this writing, Youk has the third highest batting average in the American League, and is on fire with a 21 game hit streak still alive as we head into the weekend series with the Yankees.

Please click here and vote for Kevin Youkilis, he is deserving of the honor!