Category Archives: Totally random

It’s Not A Bird. It’s Not A Plane. It’s … ?

Alert — and uncertain — “06880” reader Lara Willis just sent this photo:

She took it at 12:10 this afternoon, in the parking lot behind Trader Joe’s.

Five minutes later, it was gone.

She’s pretty sure it’s not a rainbow. Hey: It didn’t rain.

If you know what this was, click “Comments” below.

If you just think it looks gorgeous, click “Comments” too.

Pics Of The Day #416

Natalie Kroft says: “The other evening, my family and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We came across this ‘Little Free Library’ on a side street off Imperial Avenue, so neighbors can share books and magazines with each other.

“It was complete with free doggie treats and water bowl. Next to the post was also a wooded bench for readers to take a seat if they please.

“I never knew these existed. But I love the idea. It’s just another reason to show how wonderful our Westport neighbors are!”

Westport Shoes: Gut Für Das Wasser

Alert “06880” reader Kate Comstock Davis was looking for a local store. She googled “Westport shoes.”

Which brought her to “WestportShoes.com.”

That’s the name of an entire line of boat shoes.

Surprised you’ve never heard of them?

Well, you might have. If you live in Germany.

“Westport Shoes” is based in Munich. Which is why the website proclaims, in somewhat garbled English: “Shoes that walk you to the best places!”

The site adds:

Westport Original boat shoes is an authentic brand that has made significance all over Europe since its establishment 10 years ago. Our shoes are designed for people who love sailing as much as staying stylish. Westport shoes are made of natural and comfortable fabric, making sure no synthetic fabric contacts your feet. The top of the shoes are made of 100% real leather guaranteeing you to feel extremely comfortable taking them on and wearing them all day.

Westport shoes are perfect for every kinds of weather because of the special technique that allows them to let the water out from under the shoe itself. Also the sole of the shoes are designed in a wavy style so you don’t have to worry about the risks of slipping either. The collection contains many styles from classical to modern, in a wide range of colours. You can always count on Westport in finding the shoes perfectly matching your personality, whether you’re looking for functional boat shoes or fashionable footwear.

They sound great! And they look pretty cool too.

Prices range from €79 to €95.

Naree Knows Trader Joe’s

In 1994, Naree Viner was a new intern at the Getty Museum. Her family was back in Indiana, so her colleague Madeleine invited Naree to her parents’ home in Pasadena for Thanksgiving.

“You’re going to Trader Joe’s house!” her co-workers exclaimed.

Naree had no idea what they were talking about.

Joe Coulombe and his wife Alice welcomed Naree with a flute of champagne. Each course had a different wine, which Joe described. The Coulombes were Francophiles so the main dish was goose, not turkey.

Joe and Alice Coulombe

It was a delightful day. And — as Naree learned — Joe Coulombe was also known as Trader Joe.

The Trader Joe.

A Stanford Business School graduate and serial entrepreneur, in 1967 he’d turned a poorly performing Pasadena 7-Eleven into a new kind of grocery store.

The target market was “people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees who made teacher’s salaries,” Naree says.

The concept caught on. By the time of that Thanksgiving dinner, there were Trader Joe’s — the store’s name — across California. Joe Coulombe had already sold the company to German conglomerate Aldi.

Last year, Joe Coulombe celebrated the 50th anniversary of Trader Joe’s with his son Joe Jr., and 2 employees.

In 2012 Naree and her husband moved to Westport. After leaving the Getty — armed with a master’s in art history — she became a headhunter. Specializing in museum directors, she’s worked with institutions like the Smithsonian and Yale Art Gallery.

She’s still friends with Madeleine. And Naree has never forgotten that Thanksgiving as an intern.

She marvels at what Joe developed. He thought of tropical costumes for employees, and created a corporate culture that celebrates smiles and good fellowship.

As she studies organizational culture for work, Naree is amazed that the now-national grocery chain has managed to maintain so much of its original charm.

Naree Viner

Today Naree lives just a mile from the Westport Trader Joe’s. She loves finding new items there, and is not disappointed when favorites (like mango lemonade) disappear. One of the keys to Trader Joe’s success, after all, is low inventory.

Naree has told a few of the very cheery Westport crew that she knows the real Trader Joe — and that at 87 he’s alive and well, still painting and gardening.

“They’re amazed and amused,” she says of the local store staff.

Still, Naree wondered, why did I think this would make a great “06880” story?

“It’s fun and quirky,” I said.

Just like Trader Joe’s.

Image

The End Of The World: Now On Display At Whole Foods

Strange Object Spotted In Sky

Westporters were stunned a few minutes ago, when they looked up and saw this:

Apparently, it is something called “the sun.”

Not to worry. A few minutes later, the sky was back to normal.

The ABCs of “06880”

Last summer, Shelly Welfeld’s mother passed away.

She sought solace in morning prayers at Beit Chaverim synagogue. Then she’d walk down the Post Road, along Riverside Avenue and downtown.

Along the way, Shelly noticed various objects that looked like letters. She took photos — and soon had enough to complete the alphabet.

Out of Shelly’s mourning came a creative and gorgeous collage:

(Photo collage by Shelly Welfeld)

It’s so beautiful, I asked Shelly to share it here.

And so much fun, we came up with a great contest idea.

“06880” readers: Identify the locations for all 26 “letters.” The first correct answer wins a $50 gift certificate, generously donated by The ‘Port restaurant. (HINT: One of the images above comes from the National Hall building.)

Email your entries to dwoog@optonline.net. Deadline is noon on Wednesday, May 23. If no one gets all 26, the person with the most correct answers wins. The decision of the judges (Shelly and I) is final.

Get to work, “06880” readers. The answers are right there, under — and above — your noses.

Jeffrey Pogue’s Quixotry, Muzjiks-Filled Scrabble Championship

Alert “06880” reader/tech guru/proud father David Pogue writes:

When I grew up in Cleveland, my parents regularly brought out the familiar Scrabble set — 100 letter tiles in a bag — as a family activity.

But competitive Scrabble is a different world, and around here, Cornelia Guest is the doorway into it. She’s a Scrabble champion in her own right, a real aficionado, and she runs a weekly Scrabble club at the Ridgefield library. Over the years, she’s cultivated a number of Scrabble champions.

My older son Kell joined her club for a couple of years. That’s how we discovered the Hasbro North American School Scrabble Championship, an annual 2-day tournament for middle  and high schoolers. (There’s a Rubik’s Cube championship held concurrently.)

My youngest son, Jeffrey, is 13 and a 7th grader at Bedford Middle School. Last year he entered the Championship in Boston; he and his partner came in 10th. “I was a bit upset that I didn’t do as well as I hoped,” he says. (Yes, I interviewed my own kid for this story.)

“But I also learned what it’s like, and how to study and practice. This year I studied a lot more. I used a study program called Zyzziva.”

Only months before the North American Championship, Jeffrey found himself without a partner. “Cornelia has a lot of contacts in the Scrabble world. She found Noah Slatkoff, a Canadian kid. In a previous tournament he placed 2nd in his division against a bunch of adults.”

Jeffrey met him online, via Skype. The video didn’t work for the first month or so, so Jeffrey never knew what his partner looked like. But they screen-shared, and played online games of Scrabble a couple of times a week.

Jeffrey Pogue (right) and Noah Slatkoff.

Jeffrey says that their skills matched up nicely. “Noah is really good at getting us out of sticky situations — like if there are a few tiles that are hard to fit onto the board, he’ll find a place to play them — whereas I like finding high-point plays. So if we have, like, the W or the F tiles, which are worth 4 points each, I try to find a place to play them where they’ll be worth 30 points.”

Incredibly (to me), the 2 boys never met in person until they arrived at the Championship in Philly past this weekend.

It’s an unbelievable event. Hasbro runs it (the ulterior motive is probably to foster a new generation of Scrabble fans). But it’s warm, well-run, and spirited. It feels like a friendly sort of nerd Olympics.

Hanging out at the North American Championship.

The event was held at Lincoln Field, where the Eagles play. Not on the field itself (Scrabble isn’t that popular), but on the mezzanine areas inside the stadium. Huge banks of tables are set up with Scrabble boards, score sheets, and timing clocks.

Family members sit in a different area, so we can’t watch the games. But during each of the 9  rounds, we can watch one particular game — the matchup of 2  current leaders, for example — on big screens mounted through the area. There’s an overhead camera for the board, a manned TV camera trained on the players, and sneaky little surface cameras to show the players’ Scrabble racks.

Jeffrey and Noah in mid-match. Note the chyron at the bottom of the screen.

Professional commentators deliver play-by-play, just like on ESPN. It’s amazing. “Oooooh, that’s a brilliant play! They managed to dump those extra vowels, and landed on the triple-word score square. Now the Scrabbula team is at a huge disadvantage. The only question is, will they realize that ‘outgets’ is not actually in the Scrabble dictionary? Will they challenge?” And so on.

By the end of the first day, the Rackmasters — the Jeffrey-Noah team — had won all 6 of their matches. Undefeated! We, their parents, were freaking out.

“Before every single game, Noah and I got really nervous,” Jeff says. “A lot of the players are older than us. ‘Oh no, these opponents look scary! Do you think we can do this?’ And when we finally realized, ‘Wait a minute, we’re going to the finals!,’ we both got really excited. It was crazy.”

As Day 1 ends, Hasbro throws a huge party for the competitors and their families: face painting, a DJ, dancing, sketch artists, giant Jenga towers, Nerf football toss, food for all the competitors. Suddenly the competition is forgotten, and they’re all just kids. It’s kind of awesome.

On Day 2, Sunday, there are 2 more matches. Each new opponent is tougher than the one before. The Rackmasters had won Game 6 by only 27 points. It seemed improbable that our boys could sustain their incredible momentum.

Game on!

But sure enough they won Game 7, and then Game 8, guaranteeing a slot in the final playoff.

This final game pairs the top 2 teams. It’s winner take all. Doesn’t matter what your record is from the weekend so far; whoever wins this game wins the $10,000 first prize.

The tournament is livestreamed online, so Jeffrey and Noah’s far-flung relatives and friends all tuned in to watch. These kids are so advanced, you probably wouldn’t even recognize half of what they played as words. Aurei? Tavs? Agee? Ferin? Zori?

After 45 minutes of intellectual battle, the Rackmasters played their last tile, signifying the end of the game.

Jeffrey and Noah’s final board. How many of these words do you know?

“At first my brain didn’t register it,” Jeffrey says. “We shook hands with the other team, and the room was really quiet for a bit. Then we’re like, ‘Oh wait — we have a few more points than they do! We… WON!’ I gave Noah a little hug. It was crazy. My mind was racing.”

His mind, but my heart. The competition was thrilling to see (you can watch the final match online here), and of course I’m proud enough to burst. These kids really worked for it — Jeffrey sat on the couch, night after night for weeks, teaching himself every possible 7-letter word from the 300 most commonly-drawn sets of tiles — and it’s my hope that they’ll take away some good lessons in the value of preparation, good sportsmanship, even money management. (Jeffrey plans to invest some of his $5,000 share and give some to charity.)

In the meantime, Cornelia welcomes anyone in grades 3 to 8 to join the club, which meets at Ridgefield Library every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. (Email her at corneliasguest@gmail.com for details.)

Who knows? Maybe one day soon, it could be your kid scoring 126 points for QUIXOTRY or MUZJIKS at the North American Scrabble Championship.

Jeffrey Pogue and his proud dad, David.

Barnes & Noble Celebrates Easter And Passover

 

We’re Not Sure What’s Right. But This Is Definitely Wrong.

It’s a never-ending debate: Green’s Farms (with an apostrophe) or Greens Farms (without)?

There’s even a sign that says Greensfarms.

But everyone agrees there was more than 1 farm.

Except this, on the Post Road near South Turkey Hill: