Monthly Archives: May 2012

We Are Going to Dralion by Cirque du Soleil at the Verizon Arena Manchester

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

We are off to see Dralion by Cirque du Soleil at the Verizon Arena Manchester. In the end we could not resist and the kids really wanted to see it.

He are hooked. Just a few weeks ago we saw Mystère in Las Vegas. To say it exceed expectations would be inadequate. The kids are veterans of Barnum & Baily and the Big Apple Circus. I have seem circuses all over the world. But, this was special.

I am not sure why but Mystère was my first Cirque du Soleil experience. It isn’t as if I don’t go to big shows and there was a time when I was in Vegas, albeit on business, at least 3 times a year. Yes, I do remember that in 1996 or 1997 I was given tickets for Mystère in Vegas but couldn’t make it because I had other things to do. So we are kind of trying to catch up. After a quick chat with the kids we decided we will still go to see Barnum & Baily, at the Verizon, per our annual tradition, in September — always the last show of the trip, on Sunday so we can stay to watch the elephants walk to the train.

The Verizon is small enough that you don’t need expensive seats. So you don’t have to spend a real lot of money — though Cirque shows are, alas, expensive. Tickets in Manchester are much cheaper than the cheapest seats in Vegas, even through, which I will henceforth recommend. They do deliver.

We Now Get Electric From N.H. Resident Power.

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Prior post: A Plug For N.H. Resident Power. Yes, We Signed Up.
April 19, 2012.

Given our pay date is around the 19th of the month, today I got notification of our PSNH ‘May’ bill, payable in June. [I have been with paperless billing with PSNH for eons.] Given that Resident Power had said that it would take 2 months for their service to kick-in, it was about the right time given that I had signed up in mid-April. Sure enough page 1 of my PSNH bill, on the left-hand side denoted that I was now getting power from ‘PNE Energy Supply LLC’ — which is Resident Power. I was happy.

Yes, I am no longer getting power generated by PSNH.

I then looked at page 2 of the ‘May’ bill. Bingo. That was the rate they had promised me.

My new Kwh rate from Resident Power.

I then went and looked at last month’s bill when I was still getting electric from PSNH.

Last month’s bill when I was still getting electric from PSNH.

Yes, the rate has gone down.

Yes, I used 31 less Kwhs. About 25 of that is because last month’s was a 31-day cycle; this month 30. Not sure where the other 6 Kwh went. Maybe the heating system was still kicking in in March-April.

My bill for electric for May with PSNH would have been $63.07.

So, I saved $5.37. Will not make me rich, but it is better than a kick in the teeth. Cost me nothing. Really didn’t other than maybe 40 minutes of my time.

So, with luck, over the year I will be able to save about $65. That sounds better. That will pay for a meal (sans tax and tip) at the ‘Red Arrow Diner‘ in Manchester. That is how I am going to look at it.

1 year Resident Power = 1 free meal for 4 at the Red Arrow Diner (plus points on my VID card).

WordPress, the free platform I use for this blog, provides a built-in ‘Stats’ feature. That shows the ‘search phrases’ [i.e., what you type into Google, Yahoo, BING or any other search engine] that resulted in viewers visiting this blog. Of late the most frequent phrase is: ‘resident power scam‘. I can empathize. As I said in my prior post, I too did a search on ‘scam’ and ‘trouble’ before I signed up with Resident Power.

As far as I can see Resident Power is NOT a scam. Period. I could be wrong.

Given that I have got this far, not sure how they could scam me. Yes, they have me locked in for 12 months. So, what is the worst that can happen. By some miracle, PSNH, that just increased their rates, is going to cut their rates and I will be paying a higher rate for (11-x) months — 1 month of the 12 having already passed, so to speak. Yes, pigs may fly.

If Resident Power is a scam, it has to be very sophisticated. They never asked me for any financial details. The info they got from me is basically public domain stuff. And as an IT person with over 35 years experience I know that Resident Power can’t invade my privacy, hack into our PCs, intercept our encrypted network, listen to my brains waves or give me brain cancer over the power lines. So, no worries there.

I don’t know anybody else who uses Resident Power. I also don’t know anybody who works for them. So, I am on my own when it comes to Resident Power. If I find that I was scammed, I will, of course, let you know.

Why Is The Grass Greener In Coos County, New Hampshire?

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

The green, green grass of Coos County, or ‘Coors’ County as I call it.

On our way up to the Balsams Grand Resort auction last Saturday, May 12, I, for a change did most of the driving (rather than read or nap while my wife does most of the driving). As is to be expected I tend to notice more of the scenery that we are going through when I am driving as opposed to having my eyes glued to a book (with reading glasses on) or having them shut.

I enjoyed the drive. I expected to see more hills, but I guess once you go past the White Mountains I guess you leave most of that terrain behind you. Having grown up in two countries noted for their verdancy, I tend to notice shades of green (often tinged with nostalgia because in my mind there is nothing more peaceful and beautiful as the deeply rich green grass of England, especially when seen from a plane as it banks to land at Heathrow Airport).

As soon as we got on Route 3, just north of the now gone ‘Old Man of the Mountain‘, I started noticing a change in the grass by the side of the road. By the time we got to ‘Twin Mountain’ it was inescapable. Then it became a feature for the rest of the drive through Coos, or as I fondly call it (for obvious reasons) ‘Coors‘ County. The grass was greener than in central NH — by a long chalk (and talking of chalk, lime may be a factor here). The grass is different. It is finer and of a lighter color. But it is devoid of bald spots and weeds as is often the case in Belknap. [Talking of which, on Thursday of this week I saw a large truck, not belonging to the town, spraying the lawns by the side of Alton Main Street. Not sure what that was all about and what budget that was coming out of. How come they don’t spray my lawn? Plus, what are they spraying? Will it make my Golden turn green?]

Furthermore, most of the grass was already mowed. Coming back that afternoon seeing people mowing was common, some with tractors others with push mowers. On one farm I saw two lawn tractors being used in tandem to mow. Was I impressed. Back home I had only seen one person mowing their lawn and he is retired ‘snow bird’ who appears to be compulsive about moving is lawn and blowing away leaves from his drive. He seems to do it everyday. All his lawn mowers (and he seem to have one for each day of the week) and his leaf blowers have defective mufflers, which is kind of ‘OK’ with me — but here is the funny part. The guy is deaf as a lamp post and wears hearing aids in both ears. I always wonder whether he has ever made a connection between his lack of hearing and the defective mufflers.

So what is the deal here. Per my limited knowledge of horticulture the grass should not be greener in Coors. They have a longer winter. My wife reckons that the snow might help. It is marginally possible that the cooler temps up there prevent the grass from getting burned (as it does down here). That could be a factor. I would have thought that the soil was worse up there than here; but I could be wrong on that front. I am sure it is a different type of grass and in general, from what I could see, the type of grass and its quality was consistent across the county. It was like they laid a fine green carpet. I have talked to a few people this last week, at hardware stores etc., as to why the grass is greener in Coors. Some say that it is because the properties along Route 3 (that I was driving on) are ‘old money’ and as such have well established lawns. That is possible, but Belknap isn’t all red neck country either. So if you could shed some light I would be most interested and grateful. Thank you.

I Am Genuinely Sorry To See Steven Ross, Assistant Principal, Leave Alton Central School (ACS)

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

I have known Steve Ross since 2007 when my then 7-year old daughter started attending Alton Central School (ACS).

Since Steve was in charge of discipline, I soon got to know him; my daughter far from an angel. Steve Ross was always fair, understanding and even fun. Yes, we crossed swords once, but we were both cool. We continued to ‘josh’ with each other when we met in the parking lot or at a school event. He would tell me about his son who used to visit China on a regular basis.

I would like to have seen Steve as the new Principal. He told me that he would not apply because he was extremely happy with his current job. That is why I was shocked to read yesterday, in the BaySider newspaper, that he was leaving.

I sent him an e-mail this morning and basically echoed the sentiments I am posting here. He was a good ol’ fruit, and despite some differences we have had, I will genuinely miss him. I felt a sense of safety with Steve being there; you could always tell that deep down, despite what he might try to portray, he cared — he was a caring father.

Not sure what is happening. Though he thanked me for my kind words he would not tell me why he was leaving. I am hoping that it has nothing to do with the new Principal.

I also see we are getting a new Superintendent. I don’t know him, but I hope he at least knows that Pluto is no longer a planet. [See this post for background.] I have read that he is a big athletics coach. I just hope he is not just a jock. I wish him all the best. He doesn’t have a very high bar to clear. I just hope he really cares about the kids, their education and well being, rather then being a self-serving politician, who specializes in euphemisms to brush off the real issues facing ACS. In reality we don’t need two full time administrators to do that.

We Went To The Balsams Grand Resort Auction

It was fun. We had never been to the Balsams. I have stayed at the Mount Washington a few times (twice for Thanksgiving I think) but had never made it to the Balsams. Actually I had never been further than Errol. So this was an experience. I was suitably impressed with the Great North Woods.

The Balsams looks spectacular from a distance. It had to have been quite the resort. Obviously it is not at its best right now.

The inside was depressing, cold and musty. Though it was the nicest day, weather wise he had had in weeks, it was chilly inside the hotel and I (usually warm blooded) kept an insulated vest on all day.

There was a lot of people. Parking was crazy though we got there by 9am. Everybody though was in good cheer and convivial. It was a party atmosphere. We enjoyed the experience and was glad we made the effort to drive the ~160 odd (and some of it was indeed very odd) miles.

The auction, however, was appalling, both in terms of organization and execution!  I can’t claim to be a connoisseur of auctions but I have been to some. This was beyond a joke. It was like a parody of an auction; a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit making fun of us yokels in NH trying to hold an auction. I have no experience of North Country Auctions, but they should be ashamed. When I heard on WMUR this morning that the auction made around $250,000, after selling ~2,400 items, it confirmed my worst fears.

I had, as is my wont, visited the North Country Auctions ‘Web site’ twice before we set off. The Web site looks like it was designed in the 1950s by color-blind, visually impaired wall-paper hanger with just one good arm. Huge type in red seems to be their idea of finesse. Technology was conspicuous by its absence. In August 1967, when we were leaving Ceylon to move to Buffalo, my parents auctioned off the contents of our (fairly large) house in Colombo. The auction yesterday, in terms of technology, was no different! All they had was a portable sound system. There were no laptops, let alone iPads and no jumbo displays to project the items being auctioned. It was pitiful.

I remember at least 4 auctions that were arbitrarily re-called and redone. If I had been the winner of one of those I would have been very upset. There was confusion as to prices and actually what was being auctioned. They claimed they were auctioning 4 lots of 3 antique movie projectors. That was supposed to be a typo! They only had 4 projectors. It was pathetic.

We didn’t bid on 2 many items. I bid on the 2008 Presidential tally board — from when Obama was elected. I went up to $300. It eventually sold for $400 (according to WMUR), though I though it stopped with the bid after mine (and I kind of suspected that the house was bidding against me). I also tried to bid on a plastic Coke bin. Though I was standing up on a chair waving my card, they ignored my bid and sold it to a lady for $10. C’est la vie.

After the auction I am not impressed with the business acumen of the two (supposed) businessman who are the new owners of the Balsams. Their choice of Auctioneer let a lot to be desired. Organization was dreadful and while I know that that far up north there are very few laws, I am sure that they still managed to violate a few (but, I could be wrong). With all those people in attendance, I did not see a single uniformed policeman, a security guard or an ambulance (and I walked the entire perimeter of the hotel twice). There were a lot of old people there. Security was bad! Items were being taken from rooms and job lots. All they did was make announcements pleading with people not to steal. I did not see any checkout process. This was a joke. They could have done much better.

Squam Lakes Science Center — Always Uplifting And Relaxing

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

I have been visiting the Squam Lake Science Center since at least 2001. Typically we try to go at least once a year – last year being the exception when we didn’t make it up there at all. In the Summer of 2009, Teischan and I used to go for a 75 minute visit one or twice a month, well into October! We had Boston Museum of Science (MoS) membership that gave us free admission, and Deanna had a part-time, bi-weekly, 90 minute, merchandizing gig in Meredith. We would tag along, drop her off in Meredith and go to the Science center. So we know it well.

This Saturday was their annual, ‘New Hampshire’ day — $3 entrance for all NH residents. Bar last year, we typically try and make it for this ‘special’ day. The weather cooperated, partly because we planned to get their around 1pm which is when the clouds were supposed to clear. It was glorious. Sunny and high 60s. It wasn’t too packed, most having left by the time we arrived.

It is always such a pleasant, uplifting experience, especially the walk back through the meadow (other than the time when a Kestral being shown to the guests by a volunteer, flew off his hand and attacked Teischan who was 3 years old at the time and was sitting in a stroller — luckily doing no harm other than scaring all of us).

They now have 3 Bobcats, two males and a female (and no, we will not see any kittens because, alack, they are, for their own reasons, not a breeding facility). They only used to have one. Teischan likes the Bobcats. Once, when there was just one in the enclosure, it came down to the glass and tried to play with the strap of our camera. It was memorable.

We were there when the two Mountain Lion cubs were brought to the center c. 2004 (or 2005). So we have seen them grow. One of them has also ‘played’ with us through the glass on one of our many visits. I am never sure about the black bear exhibit. Something about it. But, overall, a wonderful, always educational experience.

Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH – Well Worth A Visit, Small, But A Resplendent Gem

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Jan Gossart

Yesterday we visited the Currier and had a wonderful museum experience. It is a small collection, but they have some outstanding works (by the likes of Monet, Constable, Degas, Picasso, Edwin Church, Homer, O’Keeffe, Wyeth), very well presented in a tranquil, conducive setting. I had been to the Currier before, but that was about 6 years ago. I was suitably impressed on that visit too. Since then they have done some major renovation. I had remembered the ‘man with a hat’, the Gossart, from my prior visit. I was looking forward to seeing it. I was not disappointed. I love the way the texture and the decorations on the hat are captured. I always find Constable arresting; the brushwork is divine.

Emile Meyer

To my delight I discovered another painter, the French Emile Meyer,  of amusing cardinal pictures to complement Francesco Brunery. There European collection, though limited, is a gem. I could spend hours just in that gallery.

Siri, by Wyth. Not at the Currier. But she is my wife’s Aunt.

My wife got a kick from seeing a Wyeth; a 1950s painting of an ol’ rowing skiff used for lobstering. She, a daughter of lobsterman, as a ’10 year’ old knew Wyeth who was a neighbor in Cushing, Maine. Wyeth used to give her quarters to buy candy. ‘Siri‘ that he often painted, c. 1970, was her Aunt by marriage. [Talking of ‘regional’ art museums I am a great fan of the Farnsworth in Rockland, ME (Wyeth’s museum so to speak) — and wish they would let me write a book about how they acquired their initial collection thanks to a little red checkbook.]

My favorite, serendipitous, find yesterday was James Aponovich, a local, still alive (5 years older than me), still-life artist. There were two of his works on display and they took my breath away. Wow. I became an instant fan. Came home and bookmarked some of his works. This was one of the two that were on display yesterday.

The bottom line here is that I strongly recommend that if you like art and want to have a glorious few hours in a quiet, airy, beautifully laid out museum think about visiting the Currier in Manchester. It is ‘inexpensive’ too — with many specials that you can find on the Web (such as two for $10, with kids always free).

In case you are wondering what experience I have of art museums, other than the Farnsworth, I will have to confess that as somebody who has lived in Paris and London, and used to bum around the worlf quite a bit since he was 14, I have done my share of museums, especially art museums. I was trying to work it out; I am sure I have visited the Lourve at least 25 times. I even used to have a 17 minute tour of the Lourve for visitors from Ceylon who wanted to say that they had ‘done the Lourve’ but didn’t want to spend too much time doing so. I was at the d’Orsay shortly after it opened. I have also toured the Hermitage. Closer to ‘home’ I visited the Getty the year it was open and go to the Met whenever I can. I once had to write an IT Case Study on MoMA and enjoyed visiting it after I had written the piece. As with the Met, I am no stranger to the museums on the Mall in D.C. Off the top of my head I also know that I have visited the key art museums in Brussels, Geneva, Albany and Boston. So, I have seen enough art museums to have some appreciation. All the best. Cheers.

P.S., I have also written a children’s book on artists, ‘Teischan’s ABC Book of Great Artists‘.