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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Darwin Day Dinner Celebrates Science and Humanity

Darwin Day Dinner Celebrates Science and Humanity
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Fairfield, CT – There’s a movement afoot, spurred by supporters of science education, who have declared a “Darwin Day” to celebrate their ideals. A good occasion to bring together like-minded local folks for an exchange of ideas, it also provided an excuse for a pleasant sit-down meal.

Held Saturday evening at the Inn at Longshore, 260 Compo Road South, the Darwin Day Dinner drew 140 people of varied professional backgrounds, who also enjoyed a cocktail hour, science quiz and presentation by Rene Almeling, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Yale University.

“This is our 4th annual event,” noted Cary S. Shaw, co-chairman of the Southern Connecticut Darwin Day Committee. “The first was in 2009 and marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.”

Darwin first described biological evolution via natural selection.

“Our mission is to celebrate science, promote science education, celebrate the benefits that rational thinking and scientific endeavors have brought to mankind and mark the birth of Darwin,” Shaw elaborated. “Last year, we had a professor talking about viruses; the previous year, astrophysics; the first year, sexual selection.”

Shaw thought it ironic that, “Americans have holidays that celebrate various aspects of our national life but none that mark rational thinking with the aim of helping mankind. Darwin Day is that representation and it’s growing nationally and internationally. In the New York Metro area, there are now five such celebrations including ours.”

The evening speaker, Almeling, has just published a book titled Sex Cells: The Medical Market for (Human) Eggs and Sperm. “I went to egg agencies and fertility programs around the country and interviewed staff to do research on how we value eggs and sperm,” she said. “I look at the way our ideas about gender – namely the ways women are expected to be altruistic and caring and men are expected to be devoted to the workplace – and fuse the market for eggs and sperm. Egg donors and sperm donors are paid to provide sex cells -- for women this is considered compensation for the gift of life; for men, it’s payment for a job well done. Reproductive technologies are helping to reshape how we define motherhood, fatherhood and the meaning of family.”

Mitch Kalmus, a biology teacher at Carmel High School, developed the science quiz for the Dinner. Consisting of 10-15 questions, it is given to each table, who must agree upon their answers. Answers are reviewed via a PowerPoint follow-up.

Teaching Darwinism is a touchy pursuit in this day and age, Kalmus pointed out. “It’s ironic with all the new evidence we have that supports the theory of evolution that we are still in a hostile climate about teaching it in public schools,” he said. “I’m aware of teachers prefacing its teaching with an apology.”

Among the Dinner crowd were several public high school students with a thirst for this information. Kate Buellesbach, 17, from Brien McMahon High in Norwalk, was one of them. “I’m taking a couple of a.p. classes and plan to pursue biomedical engineering,” she said. “A program like this is very interesting.”

Families Show Their Love at Vintage Valentine Workshop

Families Show Their Love at 
Vintage Valentine Workshop
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Fairfield, CT – Valentine, won’t you be mine? That question and other phrases were tipped into clever cards being lovingly created at the Westport Historical Society Saturday afternoon.

A special “Valentine Workshop” held in the lower level Newman Room at the 25 Avery Place facility allowed children and adults ages 4 to 104 to make loved ones handmade one-of-a-kind heirloom quality Valentine cards. Participants could also enjoy a display of vintage cards on loan from George Dragone.

“This is my first experiment in multi-generational programming,” said program leader Elizabeth DuVoll. “Why should kids have all the fun?”

A wide array of materials were spread across three long tables in the basement space, which was decorated with Valentine décor. Materials included old-time, vintage and retro graphics, doilies, glitter, fabric, lettering and even rose petals.

“With any of my programs, I like to give participants a lot of choices of materials rather than dictate a certain approach,” said DuVoll. “It lets them use their imaginations.”

Kids said with other kids, parents and even grandparents, collaboratively working away with glue, scissors, tape and crayons, creating clever collages for their special family members.

“Today, I’m making a nice card for my mom,” said Leora Wong, 11, of Westport. “I like art but I’m not a very good artist. I like to glue stuff down though.”

One of the moms attending, Holly Maybruck, of Westport, had received an email about the program and came with her daughter and another mom with daughters. “We all love to do art activities,” she said, “and because this is vintage, we thought it would be fun for the girls to see – the gimmicks, typefaces and slogans.”

A card example of which DuVoll was particularly fond was one her daughter, then 12 and now in college, made a number of years ago for her. It proclaimed, “I love you more than a hamburger,” and showed a hand-drawn picture of a hamburger.

The message was as punny and corny as the vintage cards belonging to Dragone, which were reportedly just a small sampling of a larger collection of vintage items. “Some of these are very clever for their time, with moving parts and fun messages,” DuVoll said.

As cards took shape, you could see the careful touches put into each – personal, thoughtful and meaningful expressions and images. It was enough to make one exclaim, “Eat your heart out Hallmark!” --- pun intended.

Saturday Snow Arrives but Doesn’t Stick Around Long

Saturday Snow Arrives but Doesn’t Stick Around Long
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Snow arrived in the overnight period as forecast but you had to be quick to catch sight of any accumulations Saturday morning. By 9 a.m., a dusting had mostly disappeared and any flurries that continued to fall rapidly liquefied as they made contact with ground surfaces.

Locals had buzzed about and braced for up to three inches of snow along the shoreline, as predicted by the National Weather Service and regional meteorologists. But above-freezing air temperatures made it impossible for the fluffy stuff to stick around. The precipitation falling Saturday was of the wet variety and only served to make roadways a little slick, barely affecting traffic flow around town.

The flurrying also didn’t deter joggers, walkers and dog owners from making their usual rounds. They were sparsely dotted around the area, following their routes along side streets and along the beach.

With a warming trend forecast for the week ahead, it continued to seem to many as if Winter had decided to quietly pass on through, much in contrast to the brutal season – marked by heavy continual snowfalls – that we experienced last year.

Osborn Hill Struts Its Stuff at Annual Variety Show

Osborn Hill Struts Its Stuff at 
Annual Variety Show
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Dancers, magicians, guitarists and more. Almost every Vaudeville-style performance you could think of was represented, and each performer did his or her very best to entertain the audience.

The grand event was the annual Osborn Hill Variety Show and the setting was the auditorium at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. Several hundred people gathered to enjoy 43 acts rendered by Osborn Hill Elementary School students in Kindergarten through 5th Grade. The concluding act was a 5th Grade number titled “Party Rock Anthem”.

“This has been done for many years and is just for the kids to show their talent,” said Elisa Grignano, the ticket manager, about the show.

And there was certainly no lack of talent. Eight-year-old Sam Frank strummed out an Eric Clapton guitar medley like a pro. Precocious Kelly Westerback crooned “White Horse”. Robbie Donahue, Robbie McIntosh and Tommy Melvin, sporting slicked back hair and karate uniforms, performed a “Kung Fu Fighting” number. Campbell and Hayden Mattus made the audience smile as mock senior citizens singing “Get Your Bingo On.”

As their children appeared on the stage, parents rushed to the head of the aisles with various recording devices to capture all the action, while other family members cheered from their seats.

Sure enough, Osborn Hill’s got talent.

Dads and Daughters Cut the Rug at Westport Y

Dads and Daughters Cut the Rug 
at Westport Y
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Dressed to the nines and surrounded by pink and red balloons, local dads and their daughters stepped out on the dance floor at the Westport Weston Family Y Friday evening.

The occasion was the Father-Daughter Valentine’s Dance, the second year the 59 Post Road East facility has held the event. Two dozen dads and daughters enjoyed deejay music, punch, heart-shaped cookies and brownies, and Valentine’s Day décor arranged on walls and tables throughout the Bedford Room and the adjacent lobby area.

“The idea behind the dance is to bring fathers, who are typically not in the building, together with their daughters,” said Tasha Dennison, the event coordinator and the Senior Director of Child Care and School Age Programs at the Y. “Last year, I had several dads say, ‘This was great, let’s do it again next year.’”

Paul Walton, with his daughter Faith Rose, was among those that had attended last year. “We loved it,” said Walton. “Faith won the limbo contest and we had free pizza. We were inspired to return again this year. Faith’s mom bought her a special dress just for the occasion.”

Marcus Forman had not one, but two daughters – Emae and Haley – in tow. “I grew up at the Y,” he said. “When I heard there was a Y dance, I said we had to go. The girls take ballet here. I was really looking forward to dancing with my daughters.”