Friday, July 31, 2009

Steroids and Baseball

It’s hard to believe that the month of July ends when this day ends. As far as the weather goes, this hasn’t been the best summer month we’ve ever had. In fact, it was one of the worst. Rain. One word just about says it all as it seems we’ve had some form of rain just about every day. Before you form that “He’s nuts” attitude, I do know it didn’t rain every day.

We are, however, just a couple of inches away from being the wettest July ever recorded. Right now, I think this July is in fifth place. Considering the weather forecast for later today, there’s just a chance that this month will move up the list, perhaps even take its place as the wettest.

Yesterday was a great day for me at my senior fitness session. Like I did on Tuesday, I was able to ride that stationary bike at a record pace again. I held my speed at the fastest I’ve ever ridden the thing, and, translated from a stationary position, had more miles than ever before. It was a great session.

Leaving the building shortly after 8 yesterday morning was a complete surprise. The air was so heavy that I doubt I could have fallen down. When I opened that door, the humidity slammed into me and another senior leaving at the same time. Both of us stopped short and uttered an expletive, a polite one of course, and then headed for our cars. Thank someone who invented auto air conditioning. I think he worked for Ford Motor Company.

I don’t know what to say today about the news released by the New York Times yesterday that David Ortiz (Big Papi) and Manny Ramirez both tested positive in that infamous super secret 2003 anonymous drug test conducted by Major League Baseball. I’ll agree with a comment my Fearless Friend made in an e-mail yesterday, “I’m not sure we’re surprised.”

The two men were the back-to-back hitting terrors of the World Series Champion Red Sox. They repeated their feat in 2007. Back in 2003, the use of steroids in MLB wasn’t illegal. In fact, I don’t think it was illegal outside of baseball. That secret test, though, was the initial step in seeing how great the problem was and led to the ban in existence today.

The two Red Sox super stars, of course, weren’t the only ones caught. The reactions of the players whose names were gained by the news media and released has been interesting, along with the reactions of the fans.

Some players completely denied they had used now illegal drugs back then. Most of them are no longer in the major leagues. I’m thinking of such stars as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Both vehemently say they never used the drugs. Both men, along with others, have had their reputations tarnished so badly they never were again welcome back into the game.

Bonds is facing a trial and Clemens is facing an indictment, but, ironically, not for using the steroids but for what officials say was lying to investigators.

Others, such as Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez, along with others, admitted their involvement, apologized to their teams and fans, and continued or are continuing with their games.

After all, as I mentioned earlier, steroids were not illegal in the game six years ago, even the use of the drugs probably lowered the players’ esteem in the eyes of fans. For some, honesty has overcome much of the tarnish.

Ramirez also denied he used drugs, but readily accepted his punishment this year when he tested positive and sat out 50 games, his “sentence.” Ortiz will probably only suffer some embarrassment as he readily admitted yesterday he had tested positive. He said he’d get to the bottom of the situation and keep his fans informed. Red Sox fans will maintain their love for their hero.

It does raise and interesting question. Big Papi was just an average player and hitter when he arrived in Boston from the Minnesota Twins. It was as a Red Soxer that he became the feared hitter he was…until Manny Ramirez was traded to Los Angeles. His struggles since then are well documented. Ramirez, on the other hand, has continued his prowess while a Dodger. Is there some kind of relationship there?

GiM

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Report: 2nd in Nation in Welfare; Tax Action Alert by Republicans

Somehow I don’t think today is going to be a nice one at senior fitness. Yesterday was hot and the humidity was right up there, too. A group of my fellow retirees, including me, had our regular Last Monday of the Month Lunch Meeting yesterday. That was a good time for me as always. But as we were leaving the restaurant, almost in unison we said that it felt like thunder storms were brewing.

The skies, along with the heat and humidity, agreed with us. By late in the day our beliefs became reality as those storms, some rather heavy, rolled through parts of Maine, especially inland. As always, not everyone got them, but they did signal the beginning of a couple of days of unstable weather. Some sun is possible in clearing skies later on today. But heavier rain could be here tomorrow.

Storms, heat, humidity, all sorts of weather events cause problems with my exercise program, which I attend twice a week. I was fooled somewhat Tuesday when weather conditions and the reaction to some weekend work told me that day would be difficult. It turned out to be one of my better exercise sessions as I increased most of my exercise routines and left the gym feeling pretty darn good.

I could be happy if that repeats itself today.

Maine government got some news I’d bet many in government liked to learn. News network CNBC has released a report that only one state has a higher percentage of its people on public assistance, commonly called welfare, than Maine. And that state is the financially stricken California.

Why does Maine have one of the highest welfare enrollments? There are too many reasons to list here, but in Maine for many people it’s that the benefits of welfare outweigh the benefits of working. Maine also has no expiration date or time limit to receive welfare. The federal government suggests that public assistance benefits be granted for no more than five years. The Feds stop paying a portion of benefits to recipients, even in Maine, at the five year mark.

In Maine, the benefits continue and the entire amount is paid by Maine taxpayers, even to people who come to the state from others where their benefits have expired. Government officials tell us that simply does not happen.

Welfare is a major reason why the taxes in this state are among the highest in the nation.

Speaking of taxes, the Maine Republican Party today sent out an Action Alert urging people all over the state to join the campaign to force a public vote on the recent tax increase, which the Democrats say is really a tax reform.

The Alert says that Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Independents from all over the state are coming together to gather the needed signatures to get the tax law out to the voters. The email says it better than I:

Do you know that if the so-called "Tax Reform" that was passed this year goes into effect your:

Mortgage Interest Deduction will be GONE!
Property Tax Deduction will be GONE!
Medical Expenses Deduction will be GONE!

To top it off the State is going to start TAXING the mechanic who fixes your car AND make it MORE EXPENSIVE to send the kids to the movies by TAXING the price of admission!

Oh, and what about that income tax reduction from 8.5% to 6.5%? Well...that doesn't happen until 2010. And - with state finances continually coming in BELOW projections - it is a safe bet that this "tax cut" will never see the light of day because the next legislature will say they can't afford it!

CALL TO ACTION!

The Action Alert from the Maine Republican Party goes on to ask people to either become a signature gatherer or make a donation of $20 to help pay the campaign expenses. It was signed by Charlie Summers, the GOP candidate for First District Congressman in the last election.

If you can help, you can contact the Party at (207) 622-6247.

GiM

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Construction worker stereotypes advanced in So. Portland

It’s not a bad beginning for the day this morning, but the weather folk tell us that “a chance” of showers and/or thundershowers from mid afternoon through the evening. That same weather will continue through the rest of the week. The weather should not ruin today's lunch, though. This is the last Wednesday of the month and a good group of us retirees will be having our monthly lunch session.

I’m about to make a really lousy comment based totally on seconds of observation and no substantiating facts. But impressions, especially the first and only, are important so I would think it would behoove those spending our money be cognizant of that.

What I witnessed as I passed a construction site yesterday was the absolute epitome of the stereotyped road construction worker being paid with taxpayer money. Gator Wife and I were on a shopping trip that took us past the Maine Mall where the Maine Mall Road, former Payne Road in that area, is being ripped up and rebuilt to make it a friend of the environment.

In that admittedly short time it took us to drive by, I didn’t have time to count all the workers on the job, but there were very many. The road is being completely removed and a new underlay of rocks and stuff is being installed. There were many different types of activity present, including truck driving, heavy equipment operating, and a small few doing related jobs.

For every one person actually working, there was a knot of workers doing absolutely nothing except standing in a circle. Those knots varied in persons from three to seven or eight. If there were 50 workers on that job in those few moments we drove past, 40 were just standing around. The ones actually doing something looked like they were very hard at work.

If I had to make a guess about all those workers, it would be that they had specific assignments to be accomplished, perhaps at different times. But that’s not my point here; the point is simply the perception of how public construction workers give the impression of taking four people to watch while one works. When the number of “watchers” was as big as I saw yesterday, it completely emphasizes all those jokes and perceptions of hard working public construction workers.

One of those perceptions was that an awful lot of money was being wasted on that road project.

As I said in the beginning, all this is based solely on a short drive-by of the construction project. We were among a long line of cars passing the work and I’d bet most of the people in those cars had a similar thought about the number of people appearing to be doing nothing. We may have simply caught them in the middle of a break, or in the middle of waiting for their part of the project to need them, or many other very logical, good reasons for their just standing around.

Since taxpayer money is involved, all those idle workers should be aware the people paying them are watching. A better impression might have been an interest in performing some work.

While I’m on a little rant, I have a commercial comment. The bank with which I do most of my business is TD Banknorth. It’s changing its name to simply TD Bank. Not a bad change. But I sure do hope they didn’t spend too much money on those commercials telling us. They aren’t cute or humorous. They’re not even interesting.

GiM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It was a good day even though they plotted against me

It was a fun time yesterday, that dog-sitting business. Thankfully the sun came out and the dogs didn’t seem to need to be around me all the time. Perhaps my totally ignoring them when all they wanted was to be touched had something to do with it. About the only time I didn’t ignore them was when they “asked” to go outside.

And go outside they did. In and out. In and out. All morning long. Mostly out, I’m happy to say. Every few minutes they did need to come in, search the house to see if their women folk were somewhere around here, and finding none headed back out.



What a beautiful day! Gator Golden (left) and
her sister will enjoy being outside today.

The weather cooperated wonderfully. When the day started out, we had some thunder boomers passing by and just a little rain. Only about a fifteenth of an inch fell from Sunday night into the storm’s end yesterday morning. We had also been told that the sun would only heat up the atmosphere bringing on more storms by noontime.

By noontime the sun continued to stream its increasingly warm temperatures into the yard. Even the humidity fell a little bit. Also by noon, Gator Wife had come home and she took over most of the doggy chores. But GW is one of the women folk and both our little four-legged ladies seem to relate more to her.


Who says dogs don’t plot? GD’s golden seems to be
making a suggestion in GG’s ear
on how to “get” the old Gator Dude.

She didn’t keep getting up and down to let them in and out like I did. I’d guess both Goldens are just like little girls everywhere, wrapping themselves around guy’s little finger and spoiling him. Or are they the ones that were spoiled and simply know exactly how to have their way with the old man?

Anyway, the experience was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated and I’m willing to take care of Gator Daughter’s Golden anytime. One day here certainly pales to all the days GG has spent at her house.

Now we’re back to reality. I’ll be off shortly to my regular Tuesday senior fitness session. I have a little feeling it won't be a very good day. All that humidity coupled with what I think is my back catching up to the crawling around the basement floor last weekend has taken a little toll. I awoke this morning with an extremely sore back so we'll have to see what happens at senior fitness.

We’ll also have to see how this day develops before we decide to head out for some pricing and perhaps a stop at our favorite little hamburger place in Falmouth.

See? No rants today, either.

GiM

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dog-sitting, again!

That was a different kind of weekend. Saturday afternoon Gator Daughter and her pup were here. They had come so GD could enjoy a lunch with us. I had been doing some work in our cellar and was rather sore from the activity so GD decided she’d take the tractor for a ride around the yard. It was appreciated as the lawn needed to be mowed and she does a good job.

She was back on Sunday to help Gator Wife and me all but finish a project in the basement and lunch. We are preparing a family room down there to get a new floor. We completed ripping out the old one and all the related tasks connected to doing that and now we’re ready to do some shopping for a replacement.

Some outside critters had built a nest in our downspout drainpipe and heavy rains a few weeks ago had nowhere to go, except into the cellar. Carpet we had in the family room was absolutely soaked, so before it could cause more trouble, we ripped it out along with the padding. Remember a couple of weeks back we had gotten rid of some junk in our cellar? The carpet remains were among that the items that got to the dump.

GW and I have been cleaning the floor by getting the glue, nails and stuff scraped up. That cleaning was what we completed Sunday. Now we’ll move on to phase two, the choosing of a replacement. The room is rarely used so there’s no hurry.

Since about ten before six this morning, I’ve been dog-sitting. That’s always a fun time. Gator Daughter is having a new roof put on her house. The roofer told her that depending on the weather, he would be finished today. The weather doesn’t look like it’ll cooperate today. So depending on how much, if any, the roofer gets done, he may have to finish tomorrow.

That, of course, would mean another day of dog-sitting.

Our dog and GD’s really like each other and that helps. There’s no jealousy displayed and the major activity for me Monday morning is to let them in and out. When it’s nice out, they’re out; when it’s raining they’re in. Gator Wife, of course, isn’t home as she’s off to her part time job in a local market. She gets home around noon and she’ll do all the door openings for the afternoon.

If we do have the dog tomorrow, GW will be home all day.

You may have noticed that I’ve been somewhat like gelatin in today’s post. I wasn’t ready to delve into a Part III on the proposed health care. So I’m not going to mention a Wall Street Journal article a week or so ago where Democrats in Congress said “no” to their participation in a public plan. The article also pointed out how many of their own members would not receive care under the proposed plan, which may have been a reason not to participate.

It’s OK, though, for you and me not to receive certain procedures and medications to keep us alive.

And I’ll refrain from mentioning that the Democrats killed a measure that would have prevented illegal aliens from receiving all the free care they need. The several million of them will have their care paid by you and me.

At least it does appear that no vote will be taken this week before the Congressional Recess. The constituencies will be able to make their feelings known. I suspect the members who are up for re-election this year will be listening intently. All members of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senators will be facing voters.

GiM

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An unstable weather weekend

“The possibility of showers and thundershowers” is the catch phrase for this weekend. Seems to me that has been a familiar refrain all summer long so far. It is hard to make plans when the possibility exists of unstable weather.

We had said Friday that Gator Daughter and her dog probably would be at our house for most of Saturday as a roofing guy is putting new shingles on her house and garage. But it doesn’t usually make sense to tear off old shingles and leave the roof exposed, even for a little while as new ones are put in place. The weather forecast hints roofing work, postponed from Friday, probably won’t take place Saturday, either.

That weekend forecast remains in that unstable category, or “possible” category, right into Monday night. If it holds, I’d guess the Gator dude and wife will be dog sitting at least once again Monday or Tuesday.

Unfortunately, that leaves weekend plans here truly up in the air. If the sun is out, we’ll have company. If the rain is boss, we still could have some company at least long enough for some sharing of eats.

I probably could go on and on with all the possibilities for the weekend, but I’m choosing not to. Probably there’s only one definite: I may not be able to mow the lawn.

If you really care or have a dying need to know what we’re doing, just look out the window. You shouldn’t have a hard time figuring it out.
Meanwhile, we’ll be starting our planning process for the coming blogs and invite you to join us when we return Monday morning to see how that planning went.


GiM

Friday, July 24, 2009

A day of dog sitting

The rain was coming down this morning when Gator Wife and I began our day. Perhaps it will be a little more peaceful than it was yesterday.

You see, we dog sat yesterday. It wasn’t a difficult task as Gator Daughter’s Golden Retriever feels safe and at home here because she’s been here so often. She knows us and she knows her sister, our Golden, very well, too. But having the two dogs around all day was a little tiring for us older members of the Gator clan.

We knew the day was coming, or at least we had assumed the day was coming. The roof on GD’s house has been raining little black beads of stuff lately. Records show the roof was last replaced about 35 years ago so it simply had run its life’s course. She got bids from two or three very reputable companies and chose one to put a new roof on her house.

A date for the second week in August was agreed upon, but the roofer called her Wednesday and explained he had a cancellation and wondered if he could start yesterday. GD’s dog is usually left alone at home all day while our daughter goes off to work. She didn’t want to leave the dog alone at home while strangers were climbing around the house and pounding on the roof, so she asked if we’d dog sit. There was, of course, no hesitation.


I really tried to get some cute pictures of the pups playing, but each
time I showed up with the camera, they went separate ways.
After one hot romp outside, GD's Golden found a good napping place
and she curled up in front of the fan.

The dogs were excellent and we have no complaints. But dogs are dogs. Both of these have been trained to stay within our Invisible Fence area so letting them out was without worry. But one dog wasn’t used to being in a different house when her ‘mommy’ wasn’t there so she wasn’t too happy being outside too long.

In and out. In and out. It seems either GW or I were at the door just about all day. If they were in, they wanted to be out. If they were out, they wanted to be in. And we’re spoiled dog sitters.

To make matters even more interesting, we had a workman here for some minor repair work on our gutters. While he was here, the dogs remained inside, but naturally they needed to keep reminding us there was a stranger outside. Window to window, barking all the while, even the workman was chuckling. I’m not sure we were, though.


After her nap, the visiting pup abandoned her cool, comfy spot
and Gator Golden took a turn cooling off in front of the fan.

When he left, the dogs settled down and spent a goodly part of the afternoon sleeping. Of course if either GW or I moved, both dogs immediately awoke to join us. It was an interesting day to say the least.

Because of the then impending rain, the roofers made sure our daughter’s home was secure and tight and arranged to return, possible to finish the job, tomorrow. That won’t be a problem for GD and her dog as they had been planning on coming over here anyway. This time, however, her dog will be with her favorite person with her.

And that’s the tale of a noisy, fun-filled Thursday on the old Gator homestead.

GiM

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Real state programs budget cuts?????

The mugginess got to me yesterday even though the weather began to clear somewhat during the afternoon. In fact by mid afternoon the sun was shining brightly; but there were times during the day when I thought it would rain rather heavily at any moment. I think it was the clouds and mug that led me astray. We didn’t get any rain.

Those clouds are forecast to be on the increase again today, though, after we do see some sun during the day and the muggy weather is continuing. We’re told the rain, and a lot of it, will arrive in our area tonight and continue most of the day tomorrow. The weekend isn’t looking to promising either.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it many more times. I don’t like this kind of weather. Today is my scheduled bi-weekly senior fitness time at a local physical therapy place. This is the kind of weather that really makes exercising a little less than fun. But I’ll go, I’ll ride a stationary bike, I’ll pull some weights, I’ll balance on a ball, and … well, you get the picture. I think the best part will be I’ll be coming home.

I had one of my really pleasant experiences at a car dealership yesterday. I’ve told you before how much I really like the treatment that Prime Motors in Saco gives its customers. The service writers Ira the owner has greeting people arriving for service starts the experience. He has some truly great ambassadors meeting the service department customers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all the people working there are equally as friendly, but since I bought my car there ten years ago from a different owner, it’s only the service department people I get to know on my trips. This was at the Toyota store so I can’t say all his dealerships on the Auto Mile are the same, but I’d be surprised if he had a different business practice at different locations.

Some people would think I’m crazy still to be taking a ten year old car to a new car dealership for service. When I bought the car, the former owner was, as my Fearless Friend called it yesterday, “giving away the store.” I took advantage of the “deal” then and to Ira’s credit, he still honors it. I’ll bet there aren’t many customers still taking advantage of a ten year old deal.

So, about every six months or so, I give Prime Toyota my whole hearted endorsement. It’s a great place to do car business; and if Toyota isn’t your meat, I’d bet all the Prime stores down there in Saco treat customers the same.

***************

It’s way too early to form any opinions on the Maine state budget, but the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has begun its hard work not only on cutting the current budget but preparing for the next one as well.

Perhaps for the first time, the committee members are acknowledging program cuts must be faced. According to a report on WCSH-TV last evening, probably education and health and human services will face the biggest cuts simply because they consume the vast majority of the total budget. Even some Democrat members of the committee are beginning to recognize that the state simply can’t continue to fund programs it cannot afford.

Governor Baldacci has already ruled out any tax increases and that sentiment was echoed in Augusta yesterday by some legislators. However, we’ve heard that pledge from the governor just about every year in the past and somehow, most of us haven’t seen any fewer or even the same amount of taxes.

I’ll be watching this one carefully and I’m cautiously optimistic that for the first time in recent memory the legislature will begin to make spending priorities. They’ve got a while to work on it so how about simply starting at zero and building a completely new budget after setting those priorities? That’s an idea whose time probably hasn’t yet come.

GiM

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care: Part II

Last Monday I took what I call “a ride around the neighborhood,” my way of saying, “I mowed the lawn.” While riding I wear a muffling device designed to ease the tractor noise in my ears. It also has a radio attached so I can listen to something for the two hours it takes me to mow the lawn.

Monday I listened to parts of the Howie Carr Show on WGAN radio. Apparently Howie is off for a few days for a hip replacement and he had a guest host, Jodie Applegate I think was her name. I got the impression she worked for Howie in the past. Her guest in the first segment Tuesday was former Clinton advisor Dick Morris who has since had an out with the Clintons, especially Hilary Clinton.

Because I was driving the tractor, I couldn’t take notes. I wish I had. I think Morris is even more against the Obama health reform plan than I. One major difference, though, is he has done a lot of homework and cites statistics of just how bad the plan is and how it will affect us.

I’m selfish with this concern. Medicare will be significantly cut back or eliminated completely. Many of the treatments we who are over 65 need will not be approved. After all, we have to face our coming time. More than one Democrat in Washington has expressed that sentiment. I’ll bet those people in Congress who are over 65 won’t face the same dilemma because I’d also bet they keep their Cadillac health plan.

According to Morris on that program and then confirmed by a couple of callers, waiting times for normal preventive treatment in Canada is months. One person mentioned that a relative had to wait for more than eight months for a colonoscopy, for example. Morris said, and these are his statistics and not any I’ve looked up, the mortality for colon cancer is nearly twice that of the United States.

I’ve told you in previous posts about my friend from Canada. One of the stories he told me concerned a relative who needed an MRI to determine why she was having massive headaches. The wait was many months and when her date arrived, she had to be driven more than three hours to get to the nearest MRI facility. When she got there, her appointment had gotten lost so she was told it would be a little more than a year before it could be rescheduled.

Canada now allows its citizens to buy private insurance, but Morris said it could not be used in Canada. My friend’s relative used hers to arrange for an MRI in Portland, came within a few days, had the test which showed the problem and the operation was scheduled for the same day. That never would have happened under the socialized plan being promoted by Obama.

We’ve all read about the doctors and facilities that have gone out of business in Canada because of their government run health care. With each closing both the wait time for care and the travel distance increases. Is this really what we need here?

There are many reasons why the cost of health care is so high. Many of those reasons are because of government regulations. In Maine, for example, those regulations have driven all but a couple insurers out of the state. Am I wrong? Possibly. But if I am, answer this one question for me: Why is the cost of insurance so much lower in New Hampshire than in Maine? Of course Maine law says we can’t buy our policies elsewhere.

I for one need a lot more time to get educated on the need for this change in health care. I hope our Congress holds off on this measure so we all can learn how it will affect us. Most of us won’t like it and that’s exactly what Congress fears. So far, Congress under this president’s directions has rushed through several new laws without any time for study or discussion or, for that matter, even time for senators and representatives to read them. How has all those trillions of dollars of debt helped you out? It’s time to slow down just a little.

To top it off, the six o’clock news last night reported that the great Mayo Clinic staff is telling Congress that the proposed plan will only make health care worse and be much more costly. Certainly another good reason not to rush and hurriedly pass a plan that will come back to haunt us.

Finally today, a sports question: A couple weeks ago we celebrated six Red Sox selections to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. One dropped out and another didn't play, but one was the winning pitcher, too. Now shades of the past, the season has resumed and we're seeing what's happening to the Red Sox. Again. I'm wondering, should that all-star game be cancelled?

GiM

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A new customer service business attitude

Senior fitness day for me. Tuesday is one of the days I visit a nearby physical therapy establishment for a planned routine of exercise. The weather we’ve had for the past couple of days will make this a good day as the old innards have had a chance to dry out a little.

Unfortunately, we’re told by very capable people who know how to predict these things that we have some unstable weather heading our way. Before this day is done, it will be taking its toll on my arthritis, stenosis, hip, and on and on.


I think Gator Wife caught the Golden's attention.

I made a little visit to Home Depot yesterday to buy a few minor items. I’m not sure what I’ve missed over there because I was stopped by associate after associate. “Associate,” you know, is the new politically correct term for the workers who keep the place running, the ones that make management look good.

I really don’t know how many were on duty yesterday morning, but it was impossible to move just two or three feet without having one literally run over to me to offer assistance. Please note here that I’m absolutely not complaining. It just caught me by total surprise. Seems to me that only a very short while after the color changed from Green to Orange in the store, finding an associate was as difficult as finding the product being sought. I almost thought many went out of their way to head somewhere else when I approached.

That was not the case yesterday. One person greeted me and offered to point me in the direction I needed as I walked through the door. That store in South Portland has a little, very short aisle with some specials one passes past on the way into the main aisles. Three, maybe four, feet after the greet person was another employee who wanted to help me find something.

I entered the store with the intentions of buying just two very small, simple items and knew exactly where I had to go. So I just thanked the employee and told him I was all set. I didn’t head to the tool department because I’m always fascinated with their grills and tractor equipment, both of which are right there when one enters. I do not need a new grill nor do I need any tractor stuff nor did I have any intentions of buying anything, but I like to look.

In both departments an associate scurried over to me to offer assistance. I thanked them and dismissed them and headed further down the aisle. Finding nothing else that intrigued me at the moment, I headed back to the front of the store to head to the tool shop. As I turned the corner, yup, an associate wanted to help me find something. I simply told her I was headed over to the tools but thank her for her care.

Now I don’t just walk directly to a location in a store like Home Depot. Heck, no. One never knows what’s there that he didn’t even know he needed. So my walk was very leisurely as I gawked high and low, always intrigued with stuff I don’t have. I may have inadvertently set off a signal. I can’t tell you how many very pleasant associates, both men and women, stopped me to offer assistance finding what I was looking for.

During one stop another customer was passing by when another associate stopped him. This customer knew what he wanted but had no clue where to look. “Oh, yes,” said the employee, “we have quite a selection of that. Let me take you to it.” The customer suggested he just be pointed in the right direction. The employee responded with, “Oh, that’s O.K., sir. It’s right this way. You may have another question when we get there.” And off they went.

My trip to the tool department continued and in two or three more places a clerk wanted to help me. I knew where I was going and what I wanted when I got there, so I continued alone. In the tool department, I quickly and easily found the two items I wanted along with one of those “I didn’t even know I needed it” ones and headed for the cashier.

As I approached my shopping end, two very pleasant young ladies stopped me to be sure I had found all I wanted. I assured them I had and then mentioned all the times I’d been asked if I needed assistance. I told them I really liked the service as there had been times in the past when I really didn’t know where to look for something. They told me customer service was a new emphasis by the company and, if it is successful, will remain.

As I moved into the self-serve pay lane, I told them this customer found it very helpful, even though on this particular visit I didn’t need it. As I said earlier, I don’t know how many were on duty yesterday, but I think every one of them knew I was in the store.

Then I paid with my debit card. I sure do wish those darn debit card readers would be universal so one didn’t have to figure out a new system everywhere one goes. Hmmmm. Perhaps one of those associates would have helped if I had asked.

GiM

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why the hurry on Health Care Reform?

Once that rain got out of the way Saturday and the sun began to show through the clouds by mid afternoon and beautiful sun with low humidity yesterday, we had a pretty good but busy weekend. Most of it was spent in our cellar doing some more cleaning. Once all the big junk stuff had been taken away, we found boxes and boxes of other things. What we’ve learned is deciding to eliminate almost a half century of what has become junk is a lot more work than we figured. And it isn’t over.

Gator Daughter and her dog were here Sunday. Among the accomplishments completed by her and Gator Wife was the planting of the second crop of green and yellow beans. The first crop is now showing beans and we should be eating our own fresh beans possibly as soon as next weekend, if the weather cooperates.

I think Gator Golden knows she's just being used for a transition.

Health care continues to be at the top of the news. Although President Obama’s plan to reform the health care industry isn’t zooming through Congress right now, he insists the Democrats will give him his new way to provide health care by Congress’s August recess.

Speaking with Jon McDonald on WGAN’s weekend show, Rep. Chellie Pingree seemed to be saying that regular folks don’t have to read and understand the health care bill. We folks should just “trust” our representatives to provide a good plan. She seemed to say she favors passage before the recess before members of Congress can get back home and talk with and listen to their constituents. I believe she thinks such discussions will lead to plan failure.

If my understanding is correct, then getting back home to have discussions with constituents is exactly why the measure should be delayed. Once we commoners get a chance to understand that bill, those Congress people will all of a sudden remember they face elections in November. At least some of them will. And that “some” includes First District Representative Chellie Pingree as will all other members of the House of Representatives. Neither of our two senators is up for election this year, but one-third of the Senate is.

My suspicion is that Rep. Pingree doesn’t want to have to face the voters with the worst health care bill that can be imagined.

For starters, it will put this country over a trillion dollars more in debt, debt that your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will face, if the country is still around. Has anyone considered just what would happen if China called in all the trillions of dollars in loans it has made to us? For starters, we just can’t afford this health plan.

Everyone will be required to buy health insurance, either a private plan which probably won’t be available to us, or a government plan which is what the Pingree bunch want us to buy. Anyone want to bet our Congress people will give up their government plan and join us peons standing in line for treatment while a bureaucrat decides if we should get care or not?

What do you mean? Private plans may not be available? The president says we can keep our present insurance if we want. The answer is a paragraph in the new proposed law that says after it becomes in force, private companies can’t write any new policies under existing plans. They will have to have “qualified” plans like the government one. If the companies can’t write new policies to share the cost of care, how long do you think they will continue to honor them?

Almost immediately the new plan would cut payments to hospitals, doctors, clinics, specialists, and all other care providers. We will soon face the lack of facilities and providers as they go out of business, as has happened in all other countries that have gone to socialized medicine.

I have a friend who is now an American citizen but originated in Canada where most of his family remains. I wish I could relay the horror stories he tells me about the very long wait for care and the very long trips for such things as MRI’s, ctscans, mammograms, and the like.

Furthermore, the decision on treatment, even life itself, will be out of the hands of you and your physician. My daughter, who works in a hospital, pointed out to me just yesterday afternoon that if this new plan were in effect in 2001 when I went through a series of events, I would have been denied treatment so nature could take its course. I’d be dead today.

We already have full medical coverage for anyone who needs care in America. By law, most hospitals, for example, must give treatment to anyone who goes to the emergency room whether they can pay or not. I’ll grant that some of the niceties and conveniences aren’t included, but if you’re sick, you can get help.

There is so much more and so little space to include it. You can bet I’ll be back to this topic. Meanwhile, consider that Rep. Pingree is among the Democrats that want this plan passed before, that’s BEFORE, you get a chance to learn about it and how dangerous, costly, and poor it is. That, my friends, is why the Democrat leadership and the President need it passed before the truth comes out.

GiM

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Just another weekend. Will Summer begin at last?

This weekend was off to a rather damp start. Damp? Shucks, a soaking wet start. But the rain has already seemed to have left us and the radar Saturday morning hinted the quarter inch we got may be all we'll get. This could be what could be the start of some summer weather at last. It also begins the Gator Clan’s return to whatever is normal around here as we have our vacation time behind us.

The rain will probably keep Gator Daughter away Saturday even if that sun shows up as expected later in the day. The ground will be wet and we really don’t need a couple of soggy doggies running around in the house.

The Sunday portion of the weekend should be the better half and, if forecasters late last week were anywhere near correct, we’ll be well on our way to that nice, warm, sunny summer weather that brings thousands of tourists into the state. Perhaps this time the summer will last a few days. We’ve already celebrated two summer days, one in April and one in February, this year.


Gator Golden is keeping a careful eye on the Gator Dude who is
pointing a strange thing at her. She should be used to it by now.

About the only real activity we have planned is by the Lady Gators. The first planting of our green and yellow beans is getting ready to provide some nutrition for us so the ladies are planning to start a second crop. It should be ready for picking just about the time the first bunch has completed its tour of duty.

All the rain we’ve had this spring and early summer has done a number on the rest of our crops. A couple days ago we began to think the early work by the Gator Ladies would be totally lost. However, we have notice some blossoms beginning to appear on some of the vegetables so perhaps if we can maintain some warm, daytime sunshiny weather with a little moisture at night, we will be able to salvage some of the crop.


Always one of her favorite toys is very near her.

Not a lot of doings planned for this weekend, but one thing is for sure, for the Gator Bunch it’ll be a very good weekend. I hope it is one for you as well, and we’ll get together once again Monday morning.

GiM

Friday, July 17, 2009

A vacation ends!

All “vacations” must come to an end, so ‘they’ tell me. Technically, I might say that vacations don’t really end until the vacationer has to return to work. But in reality, it ends when the last normal work day ends and the weekend becomes just another weekend. And so it is with Gator Wife. She decided after she retired from her full time job that she wanted to keep busy so took a part time position in a local market.

We have for many years taken the week which contains her birthday off and, along with other vacation time, used it to travel around the United States. The economy changed that last year, at least as far as travelling is concerned, but we continue the tradition of her birthday week being vacation week. She gets more than one week off in that part time job of hers, but she takes the rest of it as days from time to time.

So, vacation week 2009 is ending. She’d say it was a good week as we got a lot of work done around the house, including ridding the place of some furniture and stuff, really old stuff, that should have been eliminated many, many years ago. None of it had been used at least since we moved to our present home about 15 years ago and probably for many years before that.

I’m not sure I’d agree that working in a vacation week is a good week. After all, we threw away stuff that one ever knows if it just might be just the thing we need somewhere down the road. And now we’ll never know.

We did get in a few hours of a drive around Southern Maine. That was a nice trip which got us away from the house for a little while. We had thought we wouldn’t take Gator Golden with us, even though like most dogs she loves to ride and be included, because we don’t leave her alone in the car. She wouldn’t do any damage, but she’s so darn friendly she'd gladly go with anyone who got the door open.

We took her and she was as good as gold. When we stopped for lunch, we sacrificed and GW brought the food outside where GG and I were waiting and ate there.

I guess the only hard part of a stay-at-home vacation is I didn’t get an excuse to take time off from my senior fitness sessions and went to both scheduled ones. Maybe next year I’ll take the attitude that it’s vacation week and skip them. Naw! I could never bring myself to do that. We all know a regular routine that makes the body do things is good.

I was tempted to comment on the new government health care program being forced upon us by the Democrats in Congress. But I don’t want to end on such a down note. That program will end up being the absolute worst thing the Obama administration can do to us and it is going to cost you infinitely more than what you’re now paying for health care. I hope all of you take the time to look at it and see how disastrous it is. Just the idea of having a bureaucrat between me and my doctor scares the devil out of me. Heckuva way not to end on a downer, isn’t it?

I’ll pick a different, milder downer. New England governors have joined together to seek federal stimulus money to add high speed railroad travel through the region. I love taking the train as I’ve said in the past. I’ve also expressed disapproval with the stimulus spending money. But Congress has created it along with the biggest national debt in history, so trains might as well get some of it.

It’s a good thing no one ever criticized President Bush about the size of the national debt his administration created, isn’t it?

GiM

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At last! A Day Away From Home!

Vacation Week is almost over with just today and tomorrow remaining. As I did Tuesday I will take the time first thing this morning to attend my senior fitness session. I heard earlier this week that we do have some weather heading in later today, but it shouldn’t interfere with the fitness session this morning.

Gator Wife and I finally got at least a short day trip into the vacation this week. We spent part of Wednesday driving around Sebago Lake and heading over to Freeport. We got to see firsthand many of the lousy roads that are so prevalent around the state.

On the plus side, though, most of the roads we traveled had work crews hard at work doing some road rebuilding and repairing. One of the longest stretches of work was on the road on the west side of Sebago Lake from Standish up to the town of Sebago. It appears to be in the process of being totally rebuilt and riding on it, even with the two or three construction delays, was a real pleasure.

It was well signed warning of one lane traffic and construction delays and the people on either end of those single lanes keeping traffic safe were doing an excellent job of being fair in both directions.

Another place where heavy construction caused delay was on Route 202 between New Gloucester and Auburn. That one had a rather well marked detour to take us around the actual construction. There was no trouble following the detour, except if we had been on a schedule, we would have quite a delay.

On the other hand, I suspect most travelers in the summertime Northeast are used to construction and plan accordingly. I know we did when we were taking major trips in the past. Road construction opportunity and vacations simply have to coexist.

We did get a chance to ride on one of those roads that can cause damage to cars. Route 126 between Auburn and Freeport, especially approaching Freeport, was a good example of why we said yesterday the legislature put sales tax collection on auto repairs. I’m neither a fast nor foolish driver so we maneuvered on the road without damage. But it was easy to see why cars need such things as alignments after riding on that one. And I understand that didn’t even approach many roads in the state.

It was nice getting away from the house for a little while and having a chance to have some lunch away from the routine.

Did you see in yesterday’s Portland Press Herald about the call for volunteers to test taking more of your money away from you? Yep. Researchers want to install computers and GPS devices in cars to see how much more money the government can collect over the gas tax. It seems the gas tax throughout the country isn’t enough to fix the roads. Instead of charging you by the gallon, they want to charge you by the mile.

We’re told the GPS devices aren’t for tracking where people go but rather to know where the vehicle is to adjust to the current gas tax there for calculation purposes. All the researchers say they want to do is compare the current situation with the new idea.

Of course once those GPS devices get into cars, someone in government will come up with all sorts of new mischiefs. I kept thinking of that story while we were driving around yesterday.

GiM

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm beginning to understand "Tax Reform"

Vacation week continues, although we haven’t done anything away from the house. There had been some plans for day trips, but so far all we’ve done is prepare a truckload of rubbish for our neighbor to cart away for us later this week. Gator Wife, who’s really the one on vacation as she has the week off from her part time job, thought this would be a good opportunity for us to dump many years of accumulation we no longer need nor use. Much of it has been broken for years.

I’m not sure I agree that this is the best way to spend a vacation week. But on we go.

I’m still holding out some hope that later after the “junk” is gone we will have some time for at least one day away from the homestead. Isn’t “vacate” part of vacation? Or perhaps “recreate” as part of recreation? I think I’m in the minority of one in a group of two.

There were a couple of stories in yesterday’s new Portland Press Herald. Actually, I read them on their PressHerald.MaineToday.com website. Since the paper was sold, it seems to be heading in a really positive direction of digging for news facts and stories rather just simply taking the handouts and reporting them as facts. This is a good direction for the paper and one that no doubt will lead them back to being a successful government watchdog.

But I digress. Getting back to the stories, actually one was a letter to the editor, that I found fascinating yesterday. The story began to bring the new “tax reform” in a focus that makes that change by Maine government understandable. It was a story written by their staff writer Beth Quimby concerning car repairs from a report written by the Maine Development Foundation. I’m not sure if that story is still available, but it was here yesterday.

Funding road repair was not discussed by either Ms. Quimby or the report, but as you know, Maine has been charging an ever increasing gas tax for several years, but it seems most of that tax revenue goes into the general fund rather than being dedicated to road repair. Maine also has given bonds for money for road repair and has received a lot of federal stimulus money.

The State still pleads poverty for funds for road repair as the roads continue to disintegrate. I asked recently just where that money had gone. Apparently it hasn’t gone to fixing the state’s roads and bridges.

Now to tie the so-called tax reform and road repair together. The report estimates the poor condition of Maine’s roads leads to an average of more than $280 for car repairs for all Maine motorists. I think the legislators must have known of that before they passed the increased items for sales tax. Among the new things to be taxed are auto repairs.

Wow! A new revenue stream. Now I understand why many of the new items were added to the sales tax. That’s at least about $15 dollars in new taxes for every motorist. That average cost, of course, includes the cost of repair and all motorists. Not all will need to have repairs. I’m one of those as I generally don’t drive enough to get into road hazards. But many motorists will have much higher costs, thus much higher taxes to pay.

Add all that new money to all the other sales tax additions and the State has a pretty good windfall.

The other item was a letter to the editor that reminded me of something I mentioned several weeks ago. The writer criticized Maine’s congress people for voting in favor of the various huge spending packages without ever having read the law. I suspect they still haven’t read those laws and are only relying on what they’ve been told by Congressional leadership on what to say. I wonder if they did read and understand what they were approving if they still would have approved them.

That’s no difference than what happens in Maine’s Legislature. I’ve told you one of that group of retirees that meet each month for lunch is also a legicritter. He told me that the state’s new budget and tax reform laws were both presented to legislators just an hour before they had to vote. Like those in Washington the locals also had no time to read, review, or revise the leadership law.

In both cases, that leadership consists of Democrats.

GiM

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Traffic delays

Tuesday and our vacation continues. I will be taking an hour out to attend my senior fitness session this morning. I’ve discovered in the past that taking just one day off puts one several days behind.

While riding around Portland, we’ve run into a few mild traffic delays as the city is spending a bunch of money fixing some roads that really need some fixing. With the federal stimulus funds, some state funds and a few dollars from the city, the city people have identified several places that need repair. I must admit we didn’t run into those places at prime drive time; the delays we faced were only minor.

Outside of Portland there also are delays on I-295 in South Portland. A new ramp is being built at the Westbrook Street off ramp. Some widening in the road is going to try to alleviate some of the congestion that builds up, especially in the evening drive time, as vehicles leave the highway for Westbrook Street.

Of course the sun is also a major cause of the delay as drivers are heading directly into the sun almost at eye level.

I haven’t seen the plans but it looks like a third lane is being added. It does not look, however, like that lane is going to be long enough to do much good. Looks to an untrained eye like mine can be deceiving so we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

It would be impossible to point out all the places that need major fixing because that would include most of the roadways in the state. One major road, however, is in South Portland on that same aforementioned Westbrook Street between Broadway and where it becomes the Gorham Road. The quality of the road is especially bad outbound toward the Mall and striping is practically non-existent in both directions.

Heading toward the newly constructed on-ramp to I-295 across from the Chevrolet dealership is particularly confusing. There are virtually no stripes at all. At one point, one must stay to the right to enter the ramp, be in the center to go to the right turning Broadway exit, or be on the left to continue straight on Westbrook Street or turn left onto Broadway. Staying in a lane, especially the left and center ones, is a challenge to keep from drifting into other traffic. That new I=295 entrance ramp, however, is terrific.

Speaking of striping, many, many roads in the Greater Portland area are in significant need of white and yellow lines. I know communities are doing the best they can on limited budgets, but it appears that some are doing a better job than others. I’d put Scarborough’s heavily travelled roads in that category.

One day, perhaps two, this week we’ll probably head out for other parts of the state just to take in some sights and get a way even for just a day or two, so I might add to these comments later on. The weather and possible day trips will determine that. Gator Wife just might want to remain home to do some much needed maintenance here.

The City of Portland used designated stimulus money for road repair. I can’t help but wonder where the state stimulus money went. Or all that money from voter approved bonds for the last several years. Or the gas tax collections. Hmmmm! I wonder.

GiM

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, GW!

This was just about the luckiest day of my life way back before World War II, but I certainly didn’t know it then and it was another 20 years or so before I began to figure it out. It was on this day that Gator Wife first arrived in this world. I can’t tell you about her earlier years and they certainly didn’t affect me. Neither of us knew the other existed.

An event changed all that. My cousin got married. I came up from Florida for the wedding and saw her maid of honor for the first time. My cousin took a back seat in importance. A few months later, I had moved back to Maine. The rest, as they say, is history.

So today, I’m hoping for a Most Happy Birthday for Gator Wife. I hope my decision to return to the state has brought her just a little amount of the happiness she has brought to me and I pray she has many more wonderful years.

GW and I are on vacation. We have no specific plans for the week except to “play it by ear.” The weather will have major impact on what we do. On nice days, we’re planning to take some day trips; on less than nice days, perhaps just some local shopping will be on tap. For only the second time in the last about 23 years we don’t have a major trip planned.

The state government gave me a chance for a little rant this morning. Last Thursday we learned that less than 13 days into the fiscal year, the projection for revenue shortfall has already hit 80 million dollars. A good portion of that, of course, is the money the state took from the current budget to pay its bills in the deficit in last year’s budget.

That budget as well a parts of this year’s relied heavily on federal stimulus money to pay bills. That money was supposed to have stimulated the economy. In Maine much of it was simply to pay bills that the state owed others, like hospitals, and to provide funds for welfare programs. It did nothing to help correct the massive shortfall Maine faced except postpone it. And now still faces.

Does anyone see any parallels between the financial condition in Maine and that of California? Sure, California’s problem makes Maine’s seem miniscule, but the population of California also makes Maine’s population seem miniscule. Maine has followed many of the social programs of the western state. As a result both states, along with most of the states, have huge deficits. California is nearing bankruptcy. Maine perhaps isn’t quite there, yet; but unless it makes substantive changes in its spending, it won’t be too long before it is.

Some legislators are beginning to get the hint. The minority Republicans have been calling for spending cuts for years and now some Democrats are in the beginning stages of seeing that light. Taking a good look at our welfare state and ridding itself of some of the give-away programs are a must if we are to get Maine back in order.

The Democrats, and one Republican, believe that increasing taxes to get more revenue is the answer. For some reason every time they raise taxes and reduce the amount of money people have to spend only results in more revenue shortfall. Taxes must be cut, lowered, to get people to spend money. When the people spend, the government’s revenue grows. That simple truism has been proven more than once by both Democrat and Republican leadership. Current Maine Democrats, and national ones, too, have no concept of that simple historical fact.

Governor Baldacci has said again this year that he will not support tax and fee increases to balance the new budget. That’s what he said last year and maintained right up until it was time to sign a budget that included tax and fee increases. Some will say the income tax was reduced, but they don’t take into consideration it now has a flat rate and there are no deductions, like mortgage interest, and only a down-sliding tax credit. With the sales tax increases, the state will get more revenue…if people spend. The governor’s no fees and no tax increases pledge has a familiar hollow ring.

Thanks, Maine, for giving me something to rant about to start this vacation week. Probably much more information will have come out by today, but this was written last Friday so I don’t have that information readily at hand.

And we continue to be on vacation.

GiM

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's lonely on the Gator ranch

The old Gator Dude and his wife are going to have a lousy weekend. Oh, it has nothing to do with the weather, which is expected to be just fine except for a little wetness passing through some places Saturday night. No, it is because Gator Golden isn’t here. She’s spending the weekend with her sister and Gator Daughter. No, GD’s not the sister but owns a Golden Retriever from the same litter as GG.

GD fertilized the lawn for us Friday evening and so the dogs won’t be involved with the grass for at least 24 hours, it’ll be closer to 48 this time; she takes both dogs to her house for the weekend. And there they’ll stay until Sunday evening.

You may wonder why GW and I don’t go there for a visit. We would if GG were coming home with us. We certainly have spent many hours at the daughter’s home. But when GG has been there without us for a while and we show up, our dog gets the impressions she’s coming home with us as she usually does. Excitement reigns.

I’m not sure just what she would think if we showed up and then later left without her. I know she’s “just a dog,” but she’s also family and she could feel really deserted if we left her behind under the circumstances even though she’d be with someone who loves her.

So, unless she is coming home with us, we don’t visit GD’s house when she’s dog sitting.

There are hundreds, yea, thousands, of things we could do this weekend with the dog away. None of them will get done. GW and I will do some normal stuff, but a certain Golden Retriever will be continually on our minds. It’s very close to the feeling we had when our kids used to visit with Grammy and Grampy many years ago.

Gator Wife is on vacation from her part time job at a nearby store. We have taken this week off for many, many years. In the past we’ve added more time to the week with vacations touring the national parks out west, touring San Francisco, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. We’ve taken a cruise coupled with a land tour of Alaska. We’ve even ventured into the very hot season of Florida to visit my parents and, later, just to take in some of the attractions. And, of course, we’ve visited our son who lives on the West Coast.

We’ve taken numerous vacations to Pennsylvania where three theaters, one a dinner theater, and several other attractions such as a fantastic HO gauge model railroad exhibit exist. I was a model railroader until a couple years ago. When I began to have difficulty standing and moving around my RR yard, I gave it up. We took the remnants down just last week.

Last year and again this year the uncertainty of the economy has kept us home. This week also contains the month and date GW first entered this trip a few years ago. Last year was the first time she had celebrated her birthday at home in more than 20 years. We started taking the July vacations when our two kids were old enough to stay home alone, with, of course, some visits by a very interested set of grandparents.

I don’t know if they ever had one of those huge parties kids are known to have when mom and dad are away. I’ve never asked. There hasn’t been evidence of one when we returned. But I’m not na├»ve.

Don’t expect much in the way of postings this week. GW and I are, after all, on vacation. We’ll find a way to have a good one.

And speaking of “good ones,” I hope you are having a good weekend.

GiM

Friday, July 10, 2009

Super yesterday; Mercury in bulbs revisited

Yesterday was a super day. In my little neighborhood a gentle sea breeze kept the temperatures in the low 70s, the sun was extremely nice through those wispy, passing clouds. The best part of the day, I think, was the lack of any rain or shower activity. We could surely use a lot more days like yesterday. Well, in fact, we just may be getting one again today. The whole weekend also looks rather nice, except the weather people warn us of some possible showers or thundershowers late Saturday into Sunday.

The job could have waited until the weekend except another job is planned for tonight. That job, of course, was the mowing of the lawn. I did it probably a couple or three days before it really needed to be done, but Gator Daughter is stopping by after she gets out of work this evening for supper. Yes, we are of the old school that still calls that evening meal “supper” instead of “dinner.”

After we feed her, she is going to use the tractor to tow a fertilizer spreader. Because of the rain, we are running a couple weeks late to put down the #2 step, if you use the Scott’s system. We don’t, but the stuff we put down has the same formula and costs many fewer dollars. Step 2 should have been dropped about two weeks ago in our yard. We will attempt to get back on track at the end of August with #3. The final step will be at the end of October.

GD spreads the fertilizer for us because it’s easier for her to reach back to run the drop lever on the tow behind spreader.

Then, although the package says the stuff is pet safe, we don’t like to take chances with Gator Golden or her dog munching on the grass for at least 24 or more hours to give the chemical a chance to set. So, that’s part two of her visit. She will take both dogs back to her house in Portland for the weekend. GG stays there each time we go through this process as well as when GW and I take our overnight or longer vacations so the dog is very used to being there for a doggy sleep over.

GD will bring the dog back home Sunday evening and enjoy another meal.

Speaking of vacations, next week is vacation week for the Gator Dude and Gator Wife. We don’t have a lot planned for this year except for some possible day trips. GG would accompany us on those. It’s simply getting too expensive for extensive travel for an old retired couple, so we’ll just take it relatively easy for the week.

That does mean that my posts here will be changed somewhat, probably rather generic as I may write some of them in advance. There’s also a possibility I’ll miss a day or two, so just understand next week is our vacation week, we’ll be just fine, and if a post is missing, it’s not portending doom and gloom. (Thursday’s revenue news, however, has given me a chance to start the week with a blast.)

Yesterday afternoon while riding around the yard on my lawn mower, I was listening to the Howie Carr show on WGAN Radio. The radio I use has a two-fold purpose; it is a radio and it is a hearing protector for my ears. At one point, Howie was discussing those CFL (fluorescent) light bulbs I’ve mentioned here a few times.

They contain mercury and we all know mercury is a hazard both to human health and the environment. After my last post, my Fearless Friend took me to the woodshed pointing out that the bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury and the hazardous potential is miniscule. He pointed out that the new bulbs have only a fraction of the amount of mercury thermostats, which are banned in Maine because of the mercury and which I often use to compare the safety of the CFL bulbs and those now banned thermostats.

This is not an authoritative argument; I’m only repeating what I heard Howie Carr say and I don’t remember his citing any authority, either. So you can accept or reject these facts depending on your feelings of Howie Carr.

Howie said a proposal by President Obama would require the use of CFL bulbs everywhere and he himself has ordered all the bulbs in the White House to be changed to the energy saving fluorescents. Here’s the kicker: because of the safety issue, the President’s proposal also would require…that’s how Howie put it, require…every household in America to develop an evacuation plan in case a bulb or bulbs should break.

Every family should already have a plan in case of an emergency and that plan should be practiced so everyone would know what to do. In case of a fire would be one good example of why such a plan might be needed. But a governmental requirement to have a plan in place in case a light bulb containing mercury should break just might cause a lot of people to think twice about those bulbs.

Howie also said the bulbs are made in China, not America.

I reiterate: this is the result of just one, unsubstantiated comment I heard on a talk radio show yesterday afternoon.

I hope you have a super weekend.

GiM

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A nicer day is upon us

We’re supposed to have a little nicer day today. But we sure did get a bunch of rain over the last 48 hours or so. My rain gauge recorded 3.11 inches this morning. I would like the sun to get out early and get my yard dried so it can be mowed this afternoon. It had gone several days before I got a chance to mow…hay it might be more appropriate…last weekend. But once again in the rapid growing season, it needs cutting.

Today, of course, is senior fitness day for me as I head out for a physical therapy center in South Portland that offers a special plan for their former senior patients. I had undergone some strenuous physical therapy about two years ago attempting to get my back working. Medicare doesn’t pay for extensive PT so I had to stop that program. Fortunately for me, the owner of the place has a special plan for seniors who have started there.

Tuesday was a tough day for me, and it was due to my goof, not the weather. One of my activities is a ride on the stationary bike. I forgot to put the seat up to my height and did the first five minutes or so with it set for a five footer. There was a time I thought it was for a two footer, but I don’t think a child that size could ride the thing.

After those five minutes, that chunk of steel in my hip began to hurt big time. I finally realized my error and raised the seat, but by then it was too late. I thought I’d have to quit the bike that day after about 8 to 10 minutes, but I fought through the pain for my full stint. I paid for it the rest of the day, though.

I’ll be sure to make that height change this morning. Perhaps if Lisa, the youngster primarily assigned to watch out for us, had been there, she would have noticed my goof earlier. But she was off on another assignment. She’s expected back today.

Gator Golden, who has been rather soggy for a couple of days, seems to be thinking today is looking a little better.

Just yesterday I mentioned that several petition drives were gathering signatures to get several new laws passed by the state’s Legislature repealed. Yesterday afternoon we learned that one of those drives is coming to a successful conclusion.

WCSH6 NewsCenter reported yesterday that the organizers of a people’s veto petition drive opposing Maine’s new gay marriage law say they have gathered more than the 55-thousand signatures needed to ensure that Maine voters will have a ballot question in November’s elections asking Mainers if they approve people of the same sex joining in marriage. It only took them four weeks.

Although same sex marriage laws are in effect in several states, no state has passed such a law when it went to referendum. Other states have had the law put into force through court action. In states where such a law had been approved by government action, citizens have successfully repealed it.

Petitioners are continuing to gather signatures on a people’s veto attempt to overturn a so-called tax reform which purports to lower taxes by changing the income tax rates and method of determining the tax. Most people don’t understand that law raises taxes on sales, services, and some entertainment. It also raises food and lodging taxes.

One person in the know indicated the other day that the signature drive is going well, but I haven’t seen any definitive indication that it is.

GiM

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

911 call; and petitions galore!

By the time Joe Cupo, the chief weather guy on WCSH6 TV, told me it was raining in our area last evening, my unofficial rain gauge had registered six-tenths of an inch and just over an inch by the time I went to bed. It’s higher this morning at 1.85 inches when I arose. Today should see some more showers and drizzle as a front stalls just about on the New Hampshire border. But it’ll be pushed away tonight and the sun should return tomorrow.

Edited 3:15 PM to add: My unofficial rain gauge has now reached 3.00 inches of rain since it started yesterday. The rain continues to fall lightly in my yard. --End edit.

A few weeks ago, I questioned the wisdom of creating regional call centers for 911 calls. I worried about the little extra time and how that would affect lives. We got a look at the potential for that problem over the weekend when a cell phone call went to the wrong county dispatch center.

A house was on fire near the county line. I think the caller contributed to the problem as I think he reported the fire to be in the town of Weld when it was actually in Dixfield. One group looked for the fire but couldn’t find it and when the error was discovered and the Dixfield department finally was dispatched, twenty minutes had passed.

A home had been destroyed by the fire. I can’t say that 20 minute delay caused the destruction and that it wouldn’t have been destroyed even with a quick response. But had there been any people trapped inside that house, those 20 minutes destroyed any chance of rescue.

There was more than one problem with this situation, but I can’t help but wonder if a major part was the unfamiliarity of the location by workers in a call center away from the town. Could a 911 call answered locally have avoided that problem?


Gator Golden is just patiently waiting for someone to come and pat her.

Driving home from my senior fitness session yesterday morning, I was listening to a discussion on the radio concerning the plethora of petition initiatives we could be facing in November. Some of them are already on the ballot, but there are still several where petitioners are gathering signatures for submission in time for that ballot.

Most are the results of legislative action that has gone against what the various groups think should happen in Maine. Gay marriage, income tax changes, increases in sales tax, and excise tax on vehicles, and school consolidation are among them.

Most of the petitioning groups gathering signatures for what is commonly called a “people’s veto” of enacted legislation say they believe the Legislature went against what most Mainers really want and that legislators are simply out of touch with the regular folk.

The automobile excise tax referendum and the school consolidation referendum are left over from a year ago. The group supporting the first wants the excise tax reduced by about half for most cars and a reward for people who buy the so-called green cars. The consolidation petition is seeking repeal of a mandatory school consolidation law enacted last year. It is already in effect and many school districts have completed their plans.

The gay marriage law and the “tax reform” which Democrats like to call it passed this year and the petitioners want the voters of the state to decide their fates. The signature gatherers have a very limited time to gather the required number of signers for the repeal efforts to make the November ballot.

That discussion I was listening to yesterday morning was about the number of people’s veto drives underway in the last few years. A tax increase last year was defeated by the people’s veto. The two guys discussing it this morning, the host, Ted Talbot of the show and his guest, who’s name I didn’t get, were saying that voters have the control in whom they elect to office.

I think it was Talbot who pointed out that the majority of voters defend their own legislator believing they would have nothing to do with approving such laws. The other person, who may have been the chairman of the Androscoggin County Republican Committee, said he’d gladly give the voting records of any legislator to anyone asking for them. He indicated the locals’ favorites may not be doing quite what the voters think.

There’s going to be a lot more on all of this as the petition drives near their end and as the November elections approach. I hope all of you will become aware of the issues before heading to the polls. I don’t think many people have an honest understanding of just what the “tax reform” law truly holds for their personal finances.

GiM

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Preview your new income tax resulting from new law

The weather forecasts sounds like we could see some showers, possibly a thunder shower or two before this day is over. I guess there’s an even better chance for tomorrow being wet and lousy. But not to worry; we should be back into rather nice weather again Thursday.

As we all know, the last Legislature enacted a change in our income tax collection system and increased sales tax to cover just about everything. It also raised the food and lodging tax. We were told the new law would make tax collections in Maine “Revenue Neutral” compared to past years but would give a fairer tax collection.

No longer will we be able to make deductions on our Maine tax. Rather a complex credits system will be put into place. As your income increases, the credits decrease and at some point no credits can be subtracted from the tax.

I have spoken against this tax as I believe it will make many, if not most, Mainers end up paying more to the state than they now do. The lawmakers say that isn’t true. They say most Mainers will pay less in income tax and that will offset any increases in sales tax. My question: If the new law make revenue neutral, why do we need it? The Democrats have never passed anything that would not give them more money to spend.

As a way to help each of us decide, the Maine Revenue Service has put a simplified tax calculator in its web site for anyone to download. It is in Microsoft Excel format. There are also complete instructions available along with changes in the law and changes in the method of tax calculation. These accompanying documents are also available for download in .PDF format.

I tried it. Using the numbers from my 2008 tax filing, the latest, as they say, available, the spreadsheet told me I’d be getting an income tax reduction of about $75.00. So the lawmakers were correct on that part as it pertains to me. But that calculator includes an estimated increase in sales tax as a result of the changes. It thought I’d be spending about $130.00 more in sales tax. Not much of an increase, but it is indeed an increase.

Why don’t you give it a try and see how it will affect you? Remember, each of us has a different set of circumstances.

The Maine Republican Party is attempting to gather sufficient signatures to force a November ballot question to repeal the new law. If, when, I see one of those petitions, I’ll gladly sign it.

I'm not sure just what Gator Golden was sniffing in our driveway the other day. She could have been figuring out just what had recently passed that spot, or she could have been looking for the scent of her "mommy." However, to find Gator Wife, all she had to do was turn around. GW was trimming bushes just down the driveway.


A couple former Sea Dogs are in the news. Jed Lowrie has returned to Portland as part of his rehab assignment. He played for the Sea Dogs in 2007 and is now on the Red Sox temporary disabled list recovering from an injury. Although he had his first game yesterday in an out of town game, he is expected to be at shortstop at Hadlock Field in Portland tonight. Tickets might be hard to find.

The other is Aaron Bates who began this season in Portland. He was promoted to Pawtucket a few weeks ago and called up to the parent Red Sox where he started last night.

The time is now approaching for me to get ready for my Tuesday senior fitness session. We’ve have some really nice weather recently and that low pressure system now moving through the region shouldn’t slow down my attempts at a good, successful exercise routine.

GiM

Monday, July 6, 2009

What a fantastic weekend!

After a couple of very nice summer days, we will probably have another at least beginning today. There is just that ever present chance of a slight shower this afternoon, but the National Weather Service puts that chance at 20% which indicates many areas won’t seen any.

What a superior weekend we just had! It’s been so long since we’ve had such a great couple of days that I almost forgot what they were like. The Gator Clan spent both Saturday and Sunday getting some long needed outside work done.

First, we got the lawn mowed, twice actually, and the clippings cleaned up. It had been so long since we last had a chance to mow that the grass was very high and thick. So I mowed it once without the bagger attached and with the deck a little high. With the bagger attached, I took another ride and cut it to what I call normal and collected all the clippings both from this trip and from the previous one.

The lawn looks wonderful once again. Now if only the weather allows us to keep it that way.

The next task was the making the green stuff, you know, bushes, shrubs, and things like that, look presentable once again. Several bushes in various parts of the yard and the shrubs along the front of the house hadn’t been trimmed since last summer. They looked like this:

Gator Daughter did the bulk of the work. We have, now had, two shrub trimmers, one battery operated and one electric. The battery one is lighter so is better for high places and places toward the back where she had to reach. The electric one is about 4 inches shorter, but heavier. It is also the more powerful and its motor is about twice as fast as the battery one.

Almost three quarters of the way through, the electric one burned out and will be sent away on the next household collection day. It gave out a loud scream and then the smoke came. It was quickly disconnected from the electrical source. GD finished up with the battery one and when she was finished, those long stubbly bushes looked rather nice:

Gator Wife cleaned most of the trimmings and I did what I do best, a lot of heavy supervision. As you’ve read my saying, I don’t do yard work. But I did keep the electric cord where it was supposed to be and changed batteries when one needed charging.

Meanwhile, the two Goldens paraded up and down the yard keeping an eye on things. GD’s dog is nearest us and that’s GG beside her.

Naturally, we also had our annual holiday weekend cookout featuring nice steaks and my world famous onion rings.

So this past weekend was just a terrific one and I hope your stories are equally as rewarding.

GiM

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Sunday. I’m not going to try to fool you and make you think I’m writing this today, or even yesterday for that matter. As you know I normally write my weekend post Friday night and then put all this stuff aside to let my head clear out for a couple of days.

Yesterday was a very special day so I did change my normal weekend routine and make separate posts for each day.

Since the weather will have changed and this week’s forecast probably is not the same as it was last Friday, I’m not going to mention the weather. Well, I will say all the rain we had the second half of June and the beginning of July was very depressing. I sure do hope I’m joining you this morning awakening to good weather news.

Whatever the weather is today will be the determining factor on the life of the Gator clan. Good weather will bring Gator Daughter and her dog over, primarily so the dogs can get some socializing.
Bad weather will cause them to remain at their own home.

Speaking of Gator Golden, well at least eluding to her above, she had a cute experience the other day. It was just another photo moment where I didn’t have a camera or a camera phone available. GG had gone on an errand with me. While we were riding, I opened a back door window a jar so she could get some fresh air. It’s never open wide enough for her to put her full head through so she is safe.

While I was stopped in a left turn lane for a red light, another car in the through lane pulled up beside us. The young lady in that car spotted GG and started talking to her. Then she started laughing out loud so I had to turn to look. GG was wagging her tail for all it was worth and smiling her big, broad grin at the young lady.
The girl spoke to GG, “Oh, my, what a beautiful smile!” and laughed some more. That naturally caused GG to start a little dance, too. The light turned green and the lady drove off still laughing out loud. GG was a happy pup because a stranger had made of her.

I’m publishing this Friday and cannot preview it to see if the movie works or not. I can preview the whole post, but the links don’t generally work in preview. This is my first feeble attempt at publishing a video. If it works, I’ll try to make a good one off GG for a later post. This is brief and I hope you enjoy it.

Have an absolutely wonderful Sunday and we’ll be back tomorrow.

GiM

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America

Today we celebrate our nation’s birthday so I resurrected today’s tribute from a year ago and made some slight modifications.

Many folk use this day not only to honor America but also to celebrate with family and friends together. The Gator clan will be having its cookout this evening. Celebrations will be held about anytime from noon on and many folks will head out for some spectacular fireworks demonstrations. I understand the fireworks display in Portland will be held as scheduled, weather permitting. Unfortunately, the economy has stopped or slowed down celebrations in many communities around the nation.

On this day, we celebrate the 233rd year of the Declaration of Our Independence from England. We thank and honor all those who have come before us and those during our time that have made sacrifices to make sure our Freedoms long endure. So on this day, let’s all join in and sing Irving Berlin’s immortal “God Bless America”:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains To the prairies,
To the ocean white with foam
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

Happy Birthday, America!
GiM

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Holiday Weekend Begins

I’m not sure the weather folk got yesterday’s weather forecast exactly correct. We were told it would be a cold, damp, drizzly day with some showers and possibly thundershowers. We had also been told it would be rather cool. It was rather cool. In fact, it was rather cold. For the second day in July we set a new low reading record for the high temperature for the day. Has someone mentioned global warming? Surely this qualifies. But it rained just about all day. My rain gauge collected 1.37 inches of rain.

Perhaps we’ll see some improvement today. I’m still hoping that the forecast for the weekend remains relatively as it has been, some sunshine but with a chance of afternoon showers, possibly a thundershower. As of this morning Gator Daughter is still planning to come for our Fourth of July cookout. Gator Wife is planning to bring home some nice steaks today when she gets out of her part time job. Of course if it does rain, we could postpone it to Sunday.

I took the opportunity of the rainy day yesterday to spend some time trying to learn how to put video on my posts. It certainly seems straight enough. I did take a nudnik video of Gator Golden and successfully got it transferred to a Blogger acceptable format to give it a test.

I opened yesterday’s post and edited it to put that video into the post. It didn’t work. I have no idea what I did wrong, but it’s a project worth working on down the road. I understand there’s a possibility we’ll have some more rain next week.

That speedy little foxlike critter and I had a terrible tiff all yesterday afternoon. My Road Runner connection kept coming and going every five or six minutes. It was never out for more than a minute or two, but if I were a drinking man, there’d have been awful lot of consumption. I’m pretty sure it was RR having the problem because it came and went all on its own.

Neither my TV nor my telephone was interrupted.

The three-day holiday weekend begins today. Yesterday afternoon officials in York County were putting out warnings of roads breaking away due to the rain. Arundel was among the towns that joined towns in other parts of the state to see washouts.

Let me repeat a reminder I suggested yesterday. If you should happen upon a flooded road, don’t drive through the water. I don’t care if you have an SUV, truck, four-wheel drive, or whatever, that road you think is under the water may be long gone.

I’ve read that throughout the country, many cities and towns have cancelled their Fourth of July celebrations because of the economy. Here in Maine, the only mention of events I’ve seen was that the fireworks display in Portland was still be held, weather permitting, of course. Channel Six said on its newscast last night that many Maine communities are going forward with their plans. The station said there’s a complete listing on its web site, WCSH6.com.

So, we’ll move on with this weekend and return here Monday.

GiM

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rain. What else is there to talk about?

I’ll be heading out this morning for my senior fitness session. The weather folk say today won’t be much better, probably worse with more showers and possibly thunder storms, than yesterday; but it’ll probably be a gray and dismal day. The National Weather Service said late yesterday afternoon and the weather guy on Channel Six both indicated the weekend might be the break in the weather we’ve all been waiting for.

The Six guy includes the chance of showers or a thunder shower, however for Saturday afternoon. Sunday should see sunshine, too. I’ll certainly welcome it as it could give my bones and joints a chance to dry out. But then the Six guy had to add that the beginning of next week will be more of what we’re getting this week but with maybe a little less rain, more sunshine, and nicer temperatures.

For anyone who may be interested, my unofficial electronic rain gauge recorded a whopping 8.22 inches of rain between that huge multi-inch storm we got a couple or three weeks ago and the end of June. That’s a lot of water. In fact it was almost three times what we normally get for the month of June. And it was a cold month. The last I heard, again on Channel Six, was that the average high for this June was just two degrees higher than the overall average low for June. I’ve reset the counter for July and it has already registered some wetness.

It amazes me when I watch the TV news and see automobiles, mostly SUVs and high-wheeled pickup trucks, driving on flooded roadways. I often wonder if those drivers ever see the pictures of the water destruction on roads throughout the state. Some places have whole sections completely washed away and many others have lost their shoulders.

I’d surely not take a chance to drive on water covered roads. What a horrible feeling it would be to get part way across and discover there wasn’t a road down there anymore!

Another long, holiday weekend is almost upon us. Tomorrow is Friday and if I remember when I worked for a living in my previous life, when a holiday falls on a Saturday, we got Fridays off. Sunday holidays led to Mondays being off. I suppose some places uses the template that holiday on a weekend, Monday off.

I do know that Gator Daughter has a holiday tomorrow off, but she won’t be coming here. She’ll take the opportunity to get needed stuff around her own home done. Gator Wife does work her part time shift tomorrow at a local supermarket. I think her place only closes three times a year; but if she has to work on a holiday, she does get the time added to her “My Time” plan. “My Time” is a combination of accumulated sick leave and vacation time which employees can use any way they wish. Other companies have different names for the plan.

I won’t have tomorrow off from here so I’ll be with you then. I’ll try to get some pictures this weekend for use next week. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had one for here. Now it’s time to head out for senior fitness, get my exercise, and then spend this day feeling better.

GiM