Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I waited patiently, as did my fearless friend.

“Waiting” can easily be put into the classification of “Bummer.” I hate waiting. I hate waiting for that important phone call. I hate waiting for that certain piece of mail. I hate waiting in lines to be served food. I hate waiting for just about everything. Today, I especially hate the wait for my new TV to arrive.

You have to know me, which you probably have already figured out, I’m just a kid. I’ve been one for more than 70 years. When I order a new toy, I want it now. I really want it yesterday, but it has to be purchased first. When I buy a computer on-line or by telephone, like to Dell or Gateway, or someplace like that, I want it delivered before the day is over. Never mind it probably has to come from Taiwan or some other faraway place. I want it now.

I bought a new television set last week. It’s supposed to be delivered today from Manchester, NH. So here I am, waiting. And even though the delivery time frame hasn’t even begun yet, I want my TV now. >>>>>Pause<<<<<

>>>>>Resume<<<<< Wow! My time frame for delivery was 9:30 to 11:30. At 9:34, the doorbell rang and a couple of really nice, helpful young men moved my old TV to the garage and installed my new HDTV. So here I am taking a little break in playing with the new buttons and features. This might end being fun.

The important part is that the wait is over.

My good friend is also in a waiting mode today. And from what he says, I’m not too sure he’s very happy about it. He ordered some memory for his wife’s computer and it was being delivered from California by one of the Big Three. He tracked his purchase and knew when it was shipped and had an expected delivery day.

But, surprise! Tracking the package on line, he learned that the company had flown it from the West Coast and it arrived at the Portland airport two or three days before the expected delivery date. But the tracking said it wouldn’t be delivered for another couple of days. He called the delivery service.

My fearless, no nonsense friend also takes no prisoners. I would have loved to have been in on that conversation. At least listening to it. I believe his account simply because I’ve never caught him telling anything but the truth. He said it went something like this:

FF (Fearless Friend): I see my package has arrived from California a little earlier than expected. Can you tell me what time it’ll be delivered today so I can be home?

DS (Delivery Service): Let me check, sir. Well, it won’t be delivered until its scheduled date, May 2nd, since you had ordered ground service.

FF: Now wait just a minute. Are you trying to tell me that you could get that package 3,000 miles from California in just two days, but it’ll take another two or three days to get it the last 6 or 8 miles? Does that make any sense?

DS: But sir, remember, you weren’t expecting it until May 2nd and that’s when it’ll get delivered. Right on time.

FF: (Edited for content) You explain to your boss the contents of this conversation and that it’ll be a very long time before I use this delivery service again and I certainly will tell everyone I know about it. You see what happens when you allow tracking and let recipients know where a package is? There is no reason to hold mine hostage.

My friend told me he has since been notified his package is on the truck, “Out for delivery” today.

And now, this is the last Wednesday of the month. I love these last Wednesdays. As I’ve mentioned before, a whole bunch of us, including my fearless friend, meet for a nice lunch and conversation. It’s usually a good time for all and I expect this one to be no difference. And most of us will have a good story about the month’s events.

I can hardly wait.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A stormy Tuesday brings reflections

Hmmm. I just woke up from an afternoon nap and realized I haven’t even thought of anything to write about today. In fact, I haven’t even thought of writing today. I’ll blame it on the rain. Storms always drain my feeble body of any energy and strength it may have.

I did go to my Senior Fitness therapy session this morning and I worked rather hard while there. But everything called a “joint” in my body, and a few places that don’t move around screamed at me. I’ve learned over the years that I generally don’t need a weather person to tell me what the weather is. My wife is the same way; and from what I hear from many folk, we aren’t alone.

I think it would probably be just one of the reasons we don’t live in Florida where I lived for several years. She hates the place but humors me every few years to go down . It is a must for me as my parents are forever there. At least a spot I can pay my respects is there so we do visit Pinellas County. That’s where I lived when I was down there, except for the school time in Gainesville.

I’m not sure anymore when it is a good time to visit the place. We’ve been there at various times of the year and always find the humidity to be terrible. The summertime, I think is worse, as many years ago when we took our then very little children down to visit with my parents, it was almost impossible to go outside in the daytime and almost impossible to sleep at night. It was just plain oppressive.

That brings me back to today’s weather. This rain has gotten into my old body almost as much as that humidity did. Walking, bending, sitting, simple moving are all adventures. I have no one to give me any sympathy as my wife is feeling all the discomfort as well. So we’ve spent much of this day pushing forward not letting the discomfort get us down.

We have a new TV coming tomorrow for our den and over the weekend we dismantled our fish tank. It seems like a good time to complete the spring cleaning in this room. That’s what we’ve been doing, except the windows will wait until after the storm. I suppose we could have done the inside glass; but since they tilt in for cleaning the outside, it’s just about as easy to tackle the whole window at the same time. Heavy rain isn’t that time. Sheepish Annie sent me a few of her thoughts about using the tank void for knitting stuff. Thanks. I might not give my wife a spinning idea.

Changing the topic here, for many years I was involved in youth sports. Even today if young people are playing a game of just about any kind on television, it is the game I’ll watch even ahead of the Red Sox, the Celtics, Bruins, or Patriots. There is a story on today’s about a young woman playing college softball. She is a senior and only a small role player for her team with only an occasional game experience either in the field or at bat.

In a recent game she hit her first and only home run and there were two runners on base but threw out her knee going around first base and could run no further. If anyone on her team touched her while she was crumpled on the ground, she would have been out. The best she could do would be to crawl back to first base, touch it, and be replaced by a pinch runner, but her home run wouldn’t count.

It was here that two opposing players showed what I consider to be the ultimate show of sportsmanship. They picked the girl up and carried her around the bases making sure her toe touched each base. When they crossed home plate to a standing ovation from the small crowd, they passed her over to her own teammates. That home run proved to be the winning hit.

I don’t know how long it will be there, but if you’d like to read a heart wrenching story, you can find it on ESPN.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Some changes at home

The weather gods are taking a little longer than expected to get us some rain, but this time, if one looks at the radar, it definitely seems to be on the way. In fact, by the time you read this, it’ll probably be here. Should be a good gully washer overnight and tomorrow, I guess. I’m not complaining. My yard needs that nourishment badly. The 11 or 12 drops we got yesterday did precious little.

Dogs sometimes can be very funny. While ours was visiting her sister for a couple of days, my wife and I dismantled for the final time our fish tank. We’ve had a tank for, oh, I’d say 40 years. Not the same one, mind you. We haven’t added any fish to it since we moved to our present home some 15 years ago. Not one fish, yet the tank was teeming with “feeder” guppies and one bottom feeder. All a dull gray, as any of you with fish know, and really nothing to look at.

So, with a little sadness, the tank’s place in our home came to an end. I must say we don’t miss it, but it did leave a void along one wall in our den that we now need to fill. My wife hasn’t decided just how she’s going to do it. She’s seriously thinking of moving her sewing machine to that now vacant space; or, since she loves doing puzzles and things like that as well as sew, she might want to put a table there. And Yes, Sheepish Annie, she loves to knit, too. But I’m not sure how she could fill the void with knitting needles and yarn.

We had another “near death” over the weekend, too. Our TV, another 15 year old super-when-new model, has decided it is getting too tired. After all, it has been on a good deal of the time since I retired, even though it’s mostly just noise in the background. But up until very recently it had a great picture and sound. It certainly wasn’t HD, but we subscribe to Time Warner Cable and had been assured our TV would still work after the changeover to all digital next year.

We have funds set aside for such contingencies so our decision to buy a new TV over the weekend had nothing to do with the perhaps-coming stimulus check. I don’t even know that we’ll get one or for how much, so we wouldn’t plan on it. In fact, we had already decided that if we get one, it’ll be banked and used towards next year’s oil supply. Nevertheless, the timing looks suspicious, doesn’t it?

I started all this by mentioning how funny dogs can be sometimes. We had moved her toy box out of the den into the living room along with a rack on which we keep a quilt and used to keep a cloth to cover the fish tank when the sun was streaming into the room. When we brought the dog home yesterday afternoon after her two day stay at our daughter’s house, she ran down the long back hall and turned into the living room.

It was a sight to see. She put on the brakes and all four legs locked up as she spotted the toy container and rack in the living room. The hair on the back of her neck bristled, she gave out a little growl and backed out of the living room. I thought my wife was going to fall down with laughter at the antics of the dog. After just moments, though, Momma Gator gently led the dog back into the living room to show her everything was really OK and then into the den where the dog immediately saw the void. Another funny moment for us as the dog carefully examined the emptiness.

Our gentle Golden simply doesn’t like change and she stayed as close to us as she could for the rest of the day.

And so it goes.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sub? Italian? Good food!

We awoke on this Saturday morning to beautiful sunshine, but the temperatures weren’t so beautiful. At my house, it was in the low 30s at our wake up time and even now in mid-morning it’s only 55. It’s a cold 55, though, very much unlike the nice weather of the last couple of weeks. In fact I remember just a few days ago when 55 seemed like a beautiful day. What’s worse, we’re heading into a week of showers with one day of rain coming Tuesday. I guess Wednesday might be clear, but the morning TV weather gal said that beginning tonight, every day except that Wednesday will be showery.

I’m not complaining…yet. My yard is powder dry and if I want my lawn to even think about turning green, it must get some moisture. The lawn is too large to water by hand and the irrigation guy won’t be here until late next week to turn on and check my system. I think showery weather will be just right. It’ll rain for a while, then stop so it can sink in before starting again. That cycle will be repeated all week, except possibly Tuesday, so I think it’ll do more wonders for the lawn and gardens that a downpour which would roll off.

Since this is a Saturday, we know our daughter will be over with her dog. She gives her dog the chance to romp and play with ours and she and my wife will spend much of the day outdoors where the dogs can keep an eye on them. The dogs seem happier outside when they have human company.

I suspect my daughter will use my lawn tractor to tow around our fertilizer spreader and put the spring feeding down. Although I mow all summer, it’s easier for her to do the fertilizing as she can reach behind herself to manage the controls. Back problems hamper me.

That’ll be the last task she accomplishes. First she and my wife will till the vegetable gardens for the first time this season. That’ll loosen the soil for the showers. The garden will be tilled again next month before they plant the veggies. My wife, being the good farmer, always waits until after the May full moon before putting the veggies into the ground. There are some, like tomatoes, cukes, etc., that she seeds earlier but keeps then under protection until transferring them to the gardens.

Meanwhile, my job for the day is to make Italian sandwiches. My daughter loves they way I make them and her only request to work around here today was I make them for lunch. My sandwiches aren’t true Italians, but they contain the same ingredients. For anyone who may be reading this, I have learned that people in other parts of the country have a different name for those sandwiches which are slightly different than the famous ones invented by Amato’s in Portland.

You may recall my discussing my son’s and his family’s visit a month ago. When he called from Boston to say his plane had landed and he would be here about supper time, I asked if ‘Italians’ would be satisfactory. He said they would be most welcome but not to call them “Italians” with his sub-teen daughter around as she wouldn’t have any idea what they were. They were ‘subs’ to her. After being here for a day or so, she found the ‘Italians’ better than the ‘subs’ primarily because in the difference in the bread and a few of the ingredients.

“Subs,” incidentally, as you know, are also available around here. But a ‘sub’ isn’t an ‘Italian.’

Our dog will be happy for a few minutes as our daughter prepares to head for her home. Doggy Gator is heading for a sleepover with his sister. DG loves going to daughter’s house, but when we head over there the next day to pick her up, she’s ecstatic to see us and races to the car for the ride home. It’s probably not necessary, but we like to give the fertilizer at least 24 hours before our dog is on it for a variety of reasons. Health safety is the primary one.

Thus is another Saturday in Maine’s Gatorland. Hmmmm! Gatorland. That brings back very long ago memories of a little establishment in Gainesville. But I’m off the track.

Enjoy your Sunday and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Just another Friday!

It’s hard to believe that yet another Friday is upon us. What may be even harder to believe is the super weather of the past couple of weeks is continuing, at least through most of this weekend. I credit our super weather on an event that took place just a couple of weeks ago. My fearless friend returned from a few months in Florida. It seems that ever since he returned that string of just awful stormy weather came to a sudden end.

He and his wonderful wife did us all a favor. Not only did the weather break but he’s helped me out on a couple of computer problems I had encountered. He came back again today to help with a couple situations we didn’t get finished last week.

Speaking of computers, my main printer told me yesterday that it was tired and had enough. Like me as I grow older, it developed the shakes. Yes, I’m beginning to notice some shakiness in this old body, but as long as I wake up in the morning, I’m not concerned. The printer, on the other hand, is another story. I have all my computers attached to it for printing. But a few days ago, I noticed that much of the printing was coming out rather blurred, like it was shaking as I sometimes do.

My wife reminded me that when I bought my other laptop, a free inexpensive Canon printer was included. I bought that little computer several months before MS Vista came out. That new Canon printer was XP compliant, but it did not have any Vista drivers. I didn’t realize that when I opened the box for the first time. It never occurred to me; in fact, I even had forgotten it was pre-Vista.

The old printer was disconnected and removed from its resting place. My wife, who was giving me a hand, said, “Have you ever dusted this shelf?” I think there was a message there. The new, at least new out of the box, one went to the shelf and all the connections were made. I set to sharing on my home network and began to try it out. All my XP machines found it easily and printed to it. I was amazed at its speed, probably at least twice as fast as my 15-year-old HP printer.

But my Vista computer was another story. It not only wouldn’t print to it, it couldn’t even find it. For the first time I’d found something that wouldn’t work on the Vista computer. The solution seemed simple; a visit to the Canon web site to unload Vista drivers would resolve the situation. Well, it didn’t. I chose “printer” as the choice for the driver I wanted. But then my printer wasn’t listed. A little message said that if my printer weren’t listed, no Vista driver was available.

Well that was a real let down. After stewing about it for a couple of hours, I decided to give the search a second try. This time I noticed on the selection list something called “Combination.” I tried it and Voila! There was my printer. This new printer is a “combination,” a combination printer, flat bed scanner, and copier. Not bad for the price. I got the Vista driver and loaded it. Looked for the printer on my network and found it. Connected to it and it prints like a charm. That was a fascinating learning experience.

My fearless friend and I did get all my left over situations fixed. We did have a “wonderful” time getting Outlook to work the way I wanted. He knew what had to be done, but he had never worked in Vista before and so it took a whole lot of trial and error to accomplish what he called a very simple task in XP. He actually did the same thing in moments on my XP computer, but translating that to a slightly different make of Vista was a challenge.

One more day left in this week and it sort of looks like the weather gods which blessed my friend’s arrival back in Maine have decided enough is enough. The showers that may beheading our way for the weekend and into next week won’t be storms like we had a few weeks ago, but we will get a little much needed dampness for our lawns.

And all is good!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

If the petition comes, I'll sign it.

Sometime, probably next week as the deadline for action approaches, we’ll find out if there’s enough anger in Maine to get a “people’s veto” on the November ballot. The discussion that’s going on in many places on many levels concerns the Democrats, with one Republican, enacting a law that increases the taxes we pay on beer, wine, and soda. Included in that are just about all other types of bottled drinks. There are several exceptions. The Democrats are desperate to find a way to fund their five year Dirigo insurance failure.

If the decision is made to go forward, the groups circulating petitions to get the veto on the November ballot will have just 90 days from the adjournment of the Legislature to gather nearly 56,000 signatures. That puts it into mid-July. The next “if” is, if they do get that many signatures, then the new taxation law will stop and funding Dirigo will return to the system that is currently failing.

Along with the doubling of the taxes on beverages, the new law also levies a tax of 1.8 percent on paid insurance claims. That is one element of the new law that gets swept under the carpet in discussions, but if you think 1.8 percent is insignificant, it will raise about 65-million dollars a year for Dirigo. That’s 65-million dollars out of all Mainers’ pockets to pay for insurance for just 14-thousand people.

Dirigo is the legacy program of Gov. John Baldacci. When the Democrats late at night without any public hearing or input passed the tax increases, the governor signed it into law almost immediately. Representative Hannah Pingree (D) said she was pleased that the legislature had continued the Dirigo program as it was setting the standard for universal health care for the nation. I think she may be right. It is the standard for failure, and the governor will be remembered for it.

I’m on the fence on the People’s Veto. I’ve jumped back and forth on both sides…do it to repeal a terrible tax and force the legislature to understand the people have had enough tax and spending on the one side, and it will be a waste of time and effort and the Republicans should spend their time campaigning for new legislators in November on the other. But as the arguments come more and more prevalent, I’m beginning to determine my final position.

Ninety days is a very short time to gather 60,000 or more signatures with the extra needed for those the Secretary of State will throw out. If the effort does not pass, it could open the door to more reckless, if the Democrats can get more reckless, spending in the next legislature. And because one Republican voted for the plan, the Democrats are claiming it was a bi-partisan effort.

On the other hand, success in getting the veto on the ballot might send a clear message to the Democrats that we cannot afford their tax and spend ways. If the signatures are gathered, it will give Republicans some impetus to spend much campaign time between July and November pointing out the recklessness of the Democrats and the pension they have for meeting late at night without notice or public involvement to have their way.

This tax is to fund Dirigo, which, incidentally, isn’t accepting any new applicants at this time and is thusly frozen at about 14-thousand enrollees. When it was first passed, we were told that within three years, more than 300-thousand people, many of whom did not have any health insurance at all, would be part of Dirigo and it would be self sustaining. Now more than three years later, only about 14 thousand are enrolled and an estimated upwards of 10 thousand of those already had their own private insurance.

And Dirigo is far from self sustaining, thus a tax on imaginary savings in health costs which did not meet the needs and now these new taxes. In my opinion Dirigo is going to be the defining failure of the Baldacci administration.

So, if I see one of the petitions, I will sign it and give it a chance for all voters to decide on a People’s Veto next November.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A success: The return to life of an old laptop!

We have crossed into the 80 degree range here on the south side of Route One. I put this down in my Glorious Day category. The sun is blazing away and since it’s still shy of noon as I begin this little missive, I think the temperature will continue to climb for another couple of hours at least. Let me remind you the temperature isn’t official but rather taken on my home weather station, which is safely out of the sun.

I now have two working laptop computers. Well, actually three but one of this is so slow I can brew a cup of coffee and, if I smoked, have a cigarette while that third one booted. But I had an inexpensive one for about a year before it slowly began to die. Even its internal wireless connector stopped working. Before it completely left me and after my wife had listened to enough groans and moans, I bought a new one. I must say I love my new Vista controlled laptop.

Today I decided to take a look at the other one and see what I might be able to accomplish to make it at least usable as a backup if anything happens to the new one. First I ran a registry cleaning program and cleaned out a whole bunch of invalid entries. Next, it was the add/remove programs. First to go were several AOL entries. I don’t think I’ve used AOL for several years, at least, and don’t even have an AOL account. I may even be one of the few people in the world that doesn’t use AIM, too. So all the AOL stuff is gone.

Of course my big nemesis Norton Internet Security was on the computer. With it still running, I downloaded a popular free anti-virus program that has received great reviews. I know better than to have Norton running with other anti-virus software so I held it for later installation. Then I began the arduous task of getting Norton off that computer. Somewhere around an hour or hour and a half later and multiple reboots I think Norton was gone. That included, I thought, registry entries which my registry cleaning program had cleaned.

Another registry scan showed that I still have bunch of entries with “Norton” or “Symantec” in them. They’re still there. I’ve got to work up some courage to do any more eliminations. Perhaps I’ll wait until my fearless friend visits again.

But the best of all happenings, the network connection on that computer once again roared into life. The computer boots quickly and easily and I think It’s working better than ever. Without Norton. I’m not sure my wife is going to be happy when I tell her how well it works now, especially after I shelled out some bucks for this new one.

I have grown to like my new laptop, though. I know there are many people who hate MS Vista OS, but it has given me no trouble at all. It has never had Norton on it and I think runs faster than my XP computers. Vista does take a while to get used to, and I suspect purists who like to go deep into a computer’s system find it difficult. My fearless friend is also an amateur radio buff, Ham, and he says his fellow Hams tell him that connecting Vista to the radios is a very daunting task. I have nothing like that and all my programs and peripherals are post 2003, so I’ve had no trouble so far.

I am a happy person today as I’ve had what I call a success, and at my place in life a success makes a great day.


Post note: I never saw a temperature higher than the 80.4 I recorded as this was started. It is now falling through the 70s. The TV temperature at noon was only 73 and right now it’s 74. But that doesn’t take away a thing about this being an absolutely glorious day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One dog, Great! Two dogs, Interesting!

I completed my normal workout this morning at the physical therapy place. The owner has really created a great opportunity for several of us seniors to have a place that is lightly supervised to be sure we’re working the equipment correctly and getting the proper conditioning. It is strictly for seniors who have been to him for doctor ordered therapy and have run out of insurance. Medicare, you see, has some restrictions. He chooses who he will invite to these early morning sessions, and none of us misses except under special circumstances.

I mentioned my neighbor came over with some power equipment and cut down the wild rose bushes along our driveway. My wife and daughter had begun the project last week and it was about 20 percent accomplished after two long, grueling days. It isn’t easy cutting down extremely thorny bushes by hand. Neighbor Ed did the whole task in less than 10 minutes. Today, the two gals are making several trips to the recycle center to dispose of the cuttings.

Daughter Gator brought along her dog, our dog’s sister, for me to “doggy sit” while they did the work. It’s very easy work when the gals are here loading the back of Momma Gator’s small SUV; but when they drive off to the recycling place, daughter’s dog gets just a little crazy. And very demanding. We get along fabulously so she’s no trouble. She just wants attention every minute her “mommy” is away. Our dog looks at her as if to say, “You dummy. They’ll be right back.” Of course, ours also would like to play.

They’re rather calm right at the moment. I’ve asked them both to just lie down and be patient. Much to my surprise, both dogs immediately lay down and are trying to be calm. I’m occupying my time here jotting down this post hoping the calm will continue if I sort of ignore them. Both dogs certainly are cute, Golden Retrievers from the same litter, but when their mommy people are away, they can be very trying.

When the day is done, the gals will have taken six or seven trips to the recycle center. But all our winter’s yard rubble and garden cleaning will have been accomplished. The stuff will either be composting in our composting area or at the recycle center’s composting place. We didn’t put the rose bush clippings on our spot because of the thorny stems and Momma Gator didn’t want more wild rose bushes.

Now those bushes along the driveway will have a chance to come back to life and multiply. If the tasks of past seasons are any indication, it really won’t be long before we have beautiful red and white roses along the driveway and new shoots will have spread even further toward the street, closer to the driveway, and down the embankment to the drainage ditch.

Meanwhile, my wife will take a short time off into May when she’ll begin preparing her two vegetable spots for late May planting and doing whatever she needs to do to her flower gardens to make them friendly for flowers. One of the gardens, incidentally, is in full bloom right now with the early spring flowers.

And the dogs are beginning to show signs of restlessness and it won’t be long before they are up and romping around once again. Ah, life in the Gator in Maine’s family.


Monday, April 21, 2008

All's well on this Monday, and I'm well protected!

Although we had a sea breeze here on the south side of Route One yesterday, it was a very nice day. Saturday my wife and daughter spent some time on a rather large wild rose garden we have alongside our driveway. Between Thursday and Saturday they got about a quarter of it cleaned up (they’re cutting down which will let new growth take over and spread) and carted off to the recycle center. They had planned to take yesterday off, and they did.

However, our neighbor dropped by for a chat and said he had just the tool to take down the rest of the bushes. Understand, my wife and daughter had been cutting them down one sprig at a time and that was very time consuming. Great, exclaimed my wife and the neighbor returned with a power tool. About ten minutes later, the remaining bushes were on the ground. They’ll be taken to the recycle center tomorrow. It’ll take three or four trips.

For you gardeners who want to scream that cutting the wild roses like that will ruin them, I should explain this is an annual ritual and they’ll come back more beautiful and more abundant than ever. And the garden will continue to consume the area we want filled in. It might be wrong to mess with my wife when it comes to her gardening skills.

Like at most Maine homes some of the weekend was spent cleaning up the yard, too. All the winter’s dog’s leavings are now gone, all the sticks from the trees are gone, anything else that collected since last fall has been put on the compost plot. And the dethatching of the lawn has been completed and the remnants of that also put out for composting. So, after Tuesday when the rose branches are taken to the former dump, our yard will be ready for full greening. I’m glad my wife and daughter like working outdoors.

Now if only we could get some much needed rain. Who’d a thunk after the winter we had we would now be wishing for some moisture!

Today is another story. My wife has gone to work at her part time job. My daughter is on vacation from her full time job but is staying at her home today to prepare for a major certification test. I’ve had my normal blood test this morning, even though the doctor won’t give me the results until tomorrow as, like many professionals and government people, this is a holiday in Maine (and Massachusetts). Most other Americans have no clue what Patriots’ Day is. In fact, I’d bet many people in these two states don’t, either. Perhaps the Mass people know but many Mainers have no clue we celebrate the day because our state at one time was part of Massachusetts.

I’m protected though. My great watchdog is right on task protecting me from all intruders.

Ever alert! It would be very hard for any intruder to invade our home.
Sometimes a truck or airplane passes near the house. See how she looks around to be sure we’re safe?
Huh! Did I hear something? Did you move, Dad? Remember, I'm right here ready for action.

It’s a great day in Maine. Again. Without Momma Gator’s guidance and with solid protection from my guard dog, I can take it easy.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just a typical Maine Saturday!

Wow! This weather we’ve been having, and will continue to have for another week at least, is the kind of weather that makes Maine Maine. It is beautiful as we finish out yet another week. Golly, it’s hard to believe just how fast these weeks fly by when one crosses into the seventies. I thought when I retired I’d have a hard time filling the time. Now that I am retired I’ve learned that there simply isn’t enough time to accomplish everything. These weeks should slow down just a little bit.

Our Saturday is a typical one for our family. My daughter and her dog are spending a good portion of the day helping my wife clean the winter out of her gardens. Momma Gator has most of the work around the perimeter of the house completed, but we have a rather large, and growing naturally, wild rose garden that started out about three feet long by maybe two feet wide. Over the years it has grown to about 8 feet or longer long and fills in much of the area between the driveway and a runoff drainage ditch that borders our property. The area is probably six or more feet wide, so those roses really took off and are doing exactly what my wife wanted, fill in the area along the driveway.

One major problem with the bushes is the thorns that leave absolutely zero room for fingers. And the bushes have become rather tightly compacted over the years. So for the two women to clean them out and cut them back is a very slow, sometimes painful process. Yes, they do wear garden gloves but the thorny bushes have been known to reach out and grab their legs, arms, and everything in between.

We have a large area at one corner of our yard that was just overgrown mess. A few years ago the girls cut down much of the overgrowth and began chipping their remnants into the area. Those discarded materials have become, and are still becoming, really nice dirt and that area in another two or three years will be ready for planting. It already is looking pretty good and I can back my tractor well into the area to dump my grass clippings, adding to the composting.

I’m not sure if Momma Gator is planning another veggie garden or a flower one. In either case, the newly formed soil is going to work out well.

How come I’m only telling you what the girls are doing out there? You ask. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do outdoors except mowing the lawn. (Momma Gator might say I don’t do indoors, either, but I’d have to dispute that. I might lose.) So what am I doing this last day of the week? I’m working on my computer, making bread, playing chef for lunch, and a bunch of things like that. I may, probably won’t, head into the garage for some work there. The computer work has been successful as I’ve successfully establish sharing on my network. It isn’t as easy in Vista the first time as it is in XP.

Daughter Gator, who is the best griller in the family, will cook us some steaks for supper. Yes, we older Mainers still call it supper. Inside, I’ll probably make some world famous onion rings to go with it. They’ll probably have a salad, too, but greens in salads contain vitamin K and that raises havoc with my blood. I must say I occasionally have a salad, but Monday is my blood test day, so I don’t want to mess it up before then. I hate those doctor lectures.

So, just another day in Maine and in the Gator family, not at all unlike the day that many Maine families will have when the weather is this great.

Have a great Sunday and we’ll be back again Monday.


Friday, April 18, 2008

A friend to the rescue!

A few days ago I mentioned I was extremely happy to have my friend return to Maine from his three plus month stay in Florida. He owns a home there, too, which makes it rather nice. But my friend, who is fearless when it comes to computers, likes to help just about anyone who needs help with computers. Most importantly I was happy he is now home because he is my friend and I get great pleasure when we can get together. But I also wanted him to help me with a couple of computer problems.

He only returned last weekend so I was extremely pleased he could find some time to work with me this morning. He arrived and we spend the first half hour or so just getting a little caught up. We have been exchanging e-mail rather frequently, so there really wasn’t a whole lot of catching up to do. But just sitting in the living room face to face was a pleasant return to visits.

He knew I had some problems with my computer and my home network so after those early few minutes, we headed to my computers. I had two items that I deemed to be critical. One was to get rid of Norton Internet Security 2008. I’ve been a long time Norton user and have been quite pleased with the various Symantec programs. But it has become a system hog and I’ve discovered its anti-virus protection has become unreliable. At least it was unreliable on my computer.

Removing Norton from a computer is no easy task. The removal software leaves many little beasts behind that tend to raise havoc with a computer. My friend has had experience removing Norton so I was waiting for him to come here and guide me. Boy, he wasn’t kidding. Removing the program was rather easy, although it kept trying to tell me I should reconsider because I still have four days of my subscription remaining and I certainly didn’t want to waste that money. It was hoping I’d renew instead.

Once the program was eliminated, we had to clean the registry of all little things Norton “just knew” I needed and wanted. The registry is a very daunting facility to tackle. We used a registry cleaner program to help us out. MSConfig was also brought into play. It actually took quite a while before we were satisfied Norton was gone. Of course multiple reboots were required throughout the process.

I would have bet a doughnut hole we were successful in ridding that computer of Norton. But lo! and behold! while we were installing a replacement suite of programs, up popped a Norton LiveUpdate popup reminding me my subscription expired in just four days. Since it couldn’t find Norton on my computer, it further offered suggestions on how I could download a new, updated version. I declined, but that left proof that all our previous work had still left behind a tick. We found it and it is now gone, but I can’t help but wonder how many more are still lurking.

My friend had been telling me ever since I had previously upgraded my Norton suite and subsequently lost my home network connection that the problem was with Norton. I’d never had any network problems with Norton before so I dismissed his claim completely. I hated to admit to him today that I was wrong and he was right. After Norton was eliminated, at least mostly eliminated, he suggested we just try the network to see what would happen.

Two of my computers immediately found each other. They are currently the only ones on my network. When I bought a new router/access point a few weeks ago, these are the only two I’ve set up to work. After all, the network didn’t work so why try to connect computers that wouldn’t work on it anyway? I’ll get to that task very soon.

I primarily need the network for printing. So I set up my printer on my laptop and sent a test page. It printed so now I have printing once again on the network. I successfully moved a file from one to the other. I have about 90 percent network functionality. The rest will come when I’ve made a couple of adjustments on the computers.

So, now thanks to my fearless friend who doesn’t hesitate to dive right in, I’m once again a happy computer camper. Thank you, my friend.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nice day, lousy tax

It’s a sunny beautiful day today and so Momma Gator is outside working in her garden areas in the back of the house. She has the front completed. Later on, if time permits today or one day next week, she’ll tackle the rose garden along our driveway. Of course pup gator is out there with her having a great time. The pup has a small soccer ball toy that is the treasure of her outdoor life. MG occasionally gives it a kick and the dog just loves that. She has figured out how to carry that ball in her mouth and parades all over the yard with it.

As usual on Tuesdays and Thursdays my day began at my senior fitness class at a physical therapy center. I got introduced to that place early last year when I needed physical therapy and to learn how to walk with a couple of diseases. The therapist was outstanding and in only two sessions I had stopped using a cane to walk short distances. I still need it for long treks and the therapist told me that didn’t surprise him.

After my Medicare ran out, he invited me to join his senior fitness group which I did. It is a great bunch of people who are more or less on their own in exercising. The therapist has set up a routine and there is at least one therapist on duty all the time we’re there, but basically we go from element to element on the honor system. I know of no member of the group that doesn’t follow his or her personal routine set up by the therapist.

This is called a topic change. The Republicans are literally up in arms over the Democrat taxes passed at night without any debate or public input to raise the cost of beer, wine, and soda. I suspect it will become a rallying cry for the November elections after the full impact of the new taxes sink in to the populace. Living in a very expensive state will just get much more expensive when the new taxes take effect 90 days after the close of the legislative session.

This insidious tax will hit the Democrat base very hard as teenagers, young and old adults, the poorer members of our society, and everyone already faced with the highest taxes in the nation begin to realize what the Democrats have done to them. And this is one the Democrats won’t be able to duck. The vote was 18-17 in the Democratic controlled state senate with all Dems voting in favor and all non-Dems voting against.

It is designed to help fund the state’s failing miserably Dirigo universal health plan. It is a failing example of a poor governor’s plan to give single payer, universal health insurance to everyone. When the plan was proposed, it promised that 33-thousand uninsured Mainers would be part of the plan in the first year and by the third year that number would in about 167-thousand. Now in its third year there are 14-thousand members of the plan, although the leading Democrat proudly claims there’s 18-thousand. 10-thousand already had their own insurance before joining Dirigo, so that leaves fewer than 5-thousand of the promised 167-thousand enrolled in Dirigo.

It is costing Maine taxpayers into the millions of dollars, at least 167-million but the secrecy of the plan keeps the real numbers from being known. And it is growing.

The Republicans are talking about starting a “People’s Veto” to get the tax repealed or stopped. Some Republicans feel that instead of the People’s Veto, the energy should be put into the upcoming primaries and the November elections. I think anything the Republicans do to keep the Dirigo failure before the voters will be a worthwhile effort.

And this is the signature plan on which our governor is counting on for his legacy. If his signature insurance plan is a failure, then I guess the governor will end up being a, well, you fill in the blank.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

State wants more of our money!

I’ve been pretty proud of myself for the last little more than a week. I haven’t mentioned state government or the state legislature. But my patience and good behavior has been seriously challenged. So today I must rant just a little on the governor and legislators, the Democrat ones, who want to take even more of my money. Remember, folks, only one other state at last check paid higher taxes than Maine.

I was listening and watching WLOB radio/Fox 23 TV morning show when Governor Baldacci proclaimed that he would not support any new taxes or tax increases to balance the state’s budget. Like most people, I failed to remember just how shifty this governor is and recognize that he was only talking about fixing the revenue shortfall that faced the state and not for considerations after that shaft had been completed.

The budget was fixed, although many of us believe only temporarily as the Democrat controlled legislature and the governor did not fix any of the problems that led us to the oversized budget. Almost simultaneously with the passage of the budget fix the Democrats introduced new taxes and increased fees in the Legislature. And the governor went along with them.

At stake was the Democrat showcase Dirigo health plan, now in its third year. That plan was passed with the promise that it would be self-sustaining as it would make “affordable” insurance available to everyone. It promised, if my memory is anywhere near correct, more than 33-thousand enrollees of previously uninsured Mainers in the first year. So far, only about 15-thousand people have joined and of those, an estimated 10-thousand did have other insurance first. The costs of the Dirigo plan are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Doesn’t seem too cost effective to me.

Since the enrollees in Dirigo can’t even come close to meeting what has become a very expensive insurance plan, the state had to turn to taxation and fee increases to meet those expenses. Can the state admit it has made an expensive mistake? Absolutely no! Instead in seeks additional taxation and fee increases to pay for this debacle. And it’s you and I that are faced with the bill.

This time around, first it was an increase in cigarette taxes. That caused such an uproar that now the legislature is considering withdrawing that proposal and increasing beer and wine taxes. Please understand, I don’t smoke nor do I drink beer or wine. I gave up smoking back in the late 1970s with the finality in 1980. I probably gave up beer in the late 1980s and the only glass of wine I’ve ever had was in the first month of my marriage almost a half century ago.

Hidden in the bill, both with tobacco increases and now with beer and wine increases, is a little discussed provision to levy a 1.8 percent tax on paid insurance claims. That means higher premiums, higher doctor bills, higher hospital costs, higher just about anything connected with insurance. In other words, higher health care for residents of the state with among the highest health care costs in the nation.

These are not the only increases. We’re faced with increases in license costs, registration plates, and other areas of our lives. The school consolidation law is going to increase your property taxes considerably. The jail takeover will result in higher property taxes. The temptation to blame your local councilors/selectmen and school committee people will be great, but the actions in Augusta, along with other unfunded mandates are the driving forces. It’s time for all this spending madness in Augusta to stop.

There’s only way it can be done and it’s entirely up to you. If you are tired of being highly taxed and want more of your own money to spend on yourself, you have to change the legislative membership. Your and my neighbor and friend aren’t doing us well. It’s time to look at what the promised and what they’re doing now. If they’re not doing what they promised, and the Democrats are not, we must make changes at the ballot box next November.

Edited Wednesday afternoon: You are going to be real happy with a bill being signed this afternoon by Gov. Baldacci. Along with doubling wine and beer taxes, you're now going to be paying 42 cents per gallon for soft drinks. And that's not all. Wait until the full bill comes out or you may be able to find it now on


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A nice, sunny day provides lots of energy!

I can’t help but talk about the weather each day right now. It is sunny and pleasant, albeit a little windy, outside today. I guess from what I heard on the weather forecasts this morning that this is about how it’s going to be for the next several days. Less windy after today, though, except we on the south side of Route One will probably have some afternoon sea breeze to keep us a little cooler than most of the state.

My Tuesday started off as it usually does with a trip to South Portland for a session at my Senior Fitness class at a therapy center. I passed a milestone today. One of my exercises is re-teaching me balance by my standing on a stationary big round ball. I have been able to do it as long as I remain focused on a particular spot in the room, don’t move my head, or talk. Today that all changed.

One of my fellow exercisers working away from me and to my side asked me a question. By golly, I turned my head to look at him and then even answered his question. We even talked for a moment or two and I didn’t fall off the ball. I must admit I was somewhat excited. Even the therapy person came over to pat me on the back and issued a smiling, “Well done. I’m proud of you.”

Then home I came for my usual cleanup after the session. My friend and I refer to this as accomplishing the 5 S’s. I don’t shine my sneakers, however.

My wife then invited me to join her in the garage to begin the winter cleanup there. I reminded her I don’t do outdoors and she reminded me that garage is not outdoors. So we headed for the garage. The first task was cleaning my mower deck to swap with the snow blower on my tractor. I’d forgotten how dirty that thing was when I made the fall swap. At that time I just sort of slid it under my workbench with the idea I’d get to cleaning it later. Later came this morning. It was a mess. Now, though, it’s ready for the changeover.

Speaking of that work bench, it had become a repository for just about everything and anything that needed a place to be put this winter. We got a start on it, but it’ll probably Thursday before we get back to it. Most of the stuff was just boxes that needed to broken down for recycling, broken small appliances like an old toaster, tools not properly returned to their resting spots, and things like that. Once we get the stuff gathered, broken down, etc., we load a car and take it to the recycling center in Portland. That probably won’t be today, though.

We love this little hamburger joint in Falmouth, so I’ll let you imagine where we went for lunch today. Since visiting the place is easier if we use the Turnpike to get there, their inexpensive hamburgers get just a little on the expensive side. But they are the size we like. Most people like big fat ones. There are excellent places around Greater Portland that serve them. We prefer the little place over in Falmouth.

Momma Gator does like working outdoors and our dog loves it when she’s outside working. The dog spends all the time out there, too, and romps and runs to her hearts content. MG is outside. It’s amazing how much energy one gets and how much one not only needs but wants to accomplish when the weather cooperates. There’s nothing like good weather to revitalize the soul.


Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm glad my friend is back home.

The weekend is over and a rather nice one it was. The awful weather that we were told would envelop us didn’t occur. Although it was Cloudy, it was relatively nice. Daughter Gator visited us along with her dog, and hers and ours just had a wonderful time chasing Momma Gator and DG around the yard. The girls had spent some time making plans of what has to be done in the yard.

But that was yesterday and today is the first day of my next weekend. Being retired, I’m generally free to do what I please every day. Ah, the beauty of retirement.

My best friend arrived safely back from Florida last night. He and his wife finished their trip driving to Maine from the Outer Banks in Virginia where they had visited his sister for a couple of days. So the snowbirds are back from more than three months enjoying the sunny south, except this year they had some pretty decent storms to contend with.

One reason I’m happy to have my friend back is he’s fearless when it comes to computers. I’m having a slight problem or two with mine. I need to rid myself of my allegiance to Norton protection. It doesn’t protect. One would think that just running the “remove programs” facility would take care of the problem. But it doesn’t. Norton doesn’t clean completely and leaves behind little registry entries that can raise havoc. This is where my friend comes in. He really doesn’t know a whole lot about registries, but, as I said, he’s fearless and will dive right in.

He’s also cleaned his computer of Norton and has an inkling of what to look for. That helps.

I’m not kidding about Norton’s not protecting my equipment. One day last week I ran a full scan of one of my computers using Internet Suite 2008. It found three tracking cookies that were easily deleted. Then I ran a full scan using a different program and it found 147 intrusions, including three that were identified as Trojans. The other program did clean them all out; at least it said it did. But it was then my final decision to end my many years relationship with Norton.

I’m also having trouble with my home network. That isn’t a nice thing for a retired network administrator to admit, but I like to chalk it up to changing times since I retired. Again, my fearless friend won’t hesitate to just dive in. He believes that the newest version of Norton is the root of my problems and thinks once that’s changed, the network will glow back to life.

I’m hoping he’ll be able to find time to spend here sometime in the next two or three weeks. He first will have to get his Maine routine back to normal, his home back to normal, and make visits to various places people have to visit after a quarter of the year away.

Friends are so good to have. Welcome home, by friend.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Not quite as bad a day as was forecast!

GiM’s late note: This post was written much earlier this morning, but Time Warner’s Road Runner service decided to take a little vacation in my neck of the woods. It just returned. That’s why the posting time and events times are not in sync.

As this day dawns, the best thing I can say is that it isn’t raining. At least not right now. The weather man says this is just a lull and some more wet weather will be coming through the area off and on into tomorrow. My dog, though, came in from her morning outdoor examination of her world still dry, except for the paws.

My wife works part time at a nearby supermarket. She’s a specialist of sorts. One of her specialties is making platters that have been ordered. Quite frequently when the store gets a bunch of them ordered, she is asked to go to work early to make them. Early is five a.m. usually, but for special times, like the Christmas season, she generally works all night. Some part time job. The important thing, I must say, is she likes doing it.

Today is not one of her normal days, but nevertheless she was asked to go to work at 5 A.M. That’s where she is as I write this thing. She’ll come home when she’s finished, somewhere between nine and ten this morning she thinks.

Our dog, a precious Golden Retriever, is slowly learning the difference between work and non-work days for “momma.” The dog gets her up around 5 o’clock on her three work days and lets her sleep the other days until, oh, 5:15 or 5:30. The dog has developed the desire to take care of her own needs outside about 5:30, although we normally wait until first light to let her out. I’d hate to have her run into woods creatures which are in abundance around here in the dark.

The dog doesn’t like cats so I’m sure she’d let a skunk, for example, know it wasn’t welcome in our yard. I have this strange feeling the result just might not be nice. We do know of that old probable myth about tomato juice and keep some on hand “just in case.” I’d be somewhat surprised if in this day and age there aren’t other more effective ways of treating skunk on a dog. So far our plan of waiting for first light has been successful, at least for the dog’s first four years.

The little lass treats me a little differently in the morning. My wife stealthily left the bed this morning to prepare for work. Although I usually get up with her, on these 5 A.M. days she lets me stay in bed. The pup got up with her for a short time; but when she smelled the work clothes being put on, she knew momma was leaving her. She hung her head and climbed onto the bed. She laid down in my wife’s spot, I guess so she could feel close to her. She is, after all, my wife’s dog.

She took a look at me, feigning sleep, gave a big doggy sigh and put her head down for the long wait. She will not get me up, at least she hasn't during her first four years, as she does my wife. I slipped back into sleep. I’m not sure if the dog heard mommy leave or not; I didn’t. The dog never stirred until after six o’clock when I began to stir. Only then did she come over to me with that sigh that asks, “Now?”

Our daughter usually brings her dog over on Saturdays to romp and play and release some energy with our dog, which, incidentally, is her sister. Do dogs have sisters? I doubt they realize it. Today will be difference as our daughter and her mother will be going to a skating show (Scott Hamilton’s ‘Stars on Ice’) tonight in Portland. Youngster knows her mother had to rise early and will stay home to give her a chance to nap before the night.

So this Saturday which was forecast to be a very rainy one isn’t. We did get some rain overnight and we will probably have some showers in our little section of the state for the next several hours, but at least nature’s newest tradition of stormy weekends is continuing somewhat.

Have a good Saturday, a better Sunday, and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, April 11, 2008

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday’s glorious day is now in the past. Today isn’t quite so glorious, although it did start out rather well. My weather station reported the high temperature today as 60 degrees. Now that’s not official but my thermometer is in a sheltered area, simply meaning it’s carefully hidden from the sun at all times. This Friday started out with an abundance of sunshine and, if we hadn’t seen the morning weather forecast, we might have thought today would be a repeat of yesterday.

But out there in the mid west there’s a rather huge storm. In fact, blizzard conditions have been reported in some areas. I was watching the Weather Channel on line ( a little while ago, and it showed some video on trailer trucks and cars off the road and people working hard to stay ahead of the storm.

That storm is heading for Maine and should arrive here by mid to late afternoon. We will luck out somewhat, however, as it should be all rain here in the southern part of the state. This morning’s forecast hinted at some snow in far northern regions of the state.

That forecast appears to have been spot on. The sun began fading around my little place in the world about 10:30 this morning, and by one o’clock it was all but gone. As the clouds take over, we know that rain isn’t far behind. Just what else can we expect for a weekend in Maine. After all, it seems like it has either rained or snowed every weekend since Thanksgiving. Now I know that’s an exaggeration, but not a big one.

There were many weeks in a row when a storm could be almost guaranteed for both Wednesdays and weekends this winter. We finally broke the Wednesday string and now we need to find a way to break this weekend one.

I guess we can chalk up our persistent storminess as part of a cyclical climate change. For a while we were told we were in the throes of a global warming because temperatures had been climbing ever so slightly for the last several decades. We were urged to take steps to stop polluting the atmosphere. Then the long trend began to wane so the environmentalists changed the name to climate change.

Unfortunately for those trying to make a buck on the environment the four most noted agencies that record the temperature worldwide have discovered that in the last year the temperature has risen enough to wipe all the warming of the past hundred years. So much for global warming. But it has been, and continues to be, an expensive non-solution for all of us.

That’s not changing our climate for this weekend, though. We will have a definite climate change from yesterday’s spectacular day to a cold, wet weekend. From what I heard this morning, most of the rain will be here tomorrow with a just a chance of showers Sunday morning.

I think I said once before, as much as we want a sunny, warm weekend at least Mother Nature gives people like me something to say nothing about.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

What a day in Maine!

What a glorious day we’re having in Maine! The weather man said this could be the best day we’ve had this year; so far, he’s right on the money. The sun is blazing away through a mostly blue sky, but there are some clouds about.

As I begin this in the morning, it is already 63 degrees outside my home on the south side of Route One. I think the temperature nudged 60 once earlier this year, but this temperature just keeps climbing. Later on I’ll mention how high we got, but it probably won’t be the same as the official temperature. I do have a sheltered weather station so I’m rather confident my temperature is correct for this location.

When I left the house this morning to go to my “Senior Fitness” session at a local physical therapy center, the weather was already becoming beautiful. That was at seven o’clock this morning. When I left the therapy center, that little temperature thing on my car had crossed the 50 degree range.

I came home to pick up my wife and together we headed to I-HOP for breakfast. I think this was the first day of the year she didn’t wear a jacket. That breakfast fit right into the mood being set for the day. It was hot and delicious. We both had stuffed French toast and the portion was perfect for our aging innards. The best part, also in keeping with the mood, was the tab. Breakfast for two with coffee and tip was only $15. Sure can’t go wrong with that.

We stopped by a local supermarket on the way home. She went inside for just a little shopping so I stayed in the car. For the first time this season, I had the car windows wide open enjoying the gentle breeze that was wafting through. My car’s outside thermometer was climbing into the upper 50s. At last Spring was really springing.

My wife now is outside in our yard doing whatever wives do outside doing yards. I don’t do yard stuff, except drive my tractor around mowing the lawn. I’m not an outside yard person. She has a half dozen flower gardens and two vegetable gardens she tends. Sometimes our daughter comes over with her dog so our dog and hers can romp around and get some energy worked off. The two women get a good time together working in the gardens.

I hate to admit it, but even though I don’t do outdoor stuff, I do absolutely love the results of my wife’s hard work in the veggie gardens. There’s nothing any better than picking or pulling any fresh vegetable, popping into a cooking pot, and eating it right away. But now I’m just dreaming a little as that won’t be happening until this summer.

By mid afternoon, the temperature hit it’s high for our place. We had begun hoping to break 70 as the numbers crept through the 60s. But, the highest we could get here was 68.3, but even I went jacketless on a trek to the local post office.

So, Maine had a celebration today. We celebrated our Spring. Now we can look forward to our summer day in a few months. And today’s time was magnificent. There’s rain heading our way for the weekend. Naturally, with Saturday coming, a storm must be, too. Along with the rain will be slightly colder temperatures, as well. Saturday and Sunday will be in the low to mid 40s. By the way, that rain heading our way is from the storm that is creating a forecast of blizzard conditions in the Midwest.

But the rainy weekend cannot take anything away from this glorious day in Maine.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'd hate to live in that neighborhood!

I wasn’t quite sure yesterday if a building I was in was getting ready to plummet due to an earthquake or if a plane was about the crash into it. And there were no windows in the room where I could see what was happening. As it turned out, it was only a test, but what a test it was.

I was in the examining room at my neurologist’s office. It is located on the top floor of a medical building directly across Congress Street and Maine Medical Center’s newly constructed parking garage in Portland. On top of that new garage is a new heliport, a place for emergency helicopters to land when bringing critically injured or ill patients to the hospital. Maine Med, you probably know, is one of the best hospitals in the country.

Apparently Life Flight helicopters have been using the new heliport for some time. A person who works there told me they hardly know when the Life Flight machines come and go. But the heliport, apparently from what I was told today, had never been tested for military copters, especially the ones used for search and rescue at sea by the Coast Guard.

Until today.

As I was patiently waiting for my doctor to come in for the examination, I heard what sounded like an aircraft approaching. Now normally an aircraft flying by wouldn’t be unusual as the Portland Jetport, airport in most cities, is just across the river from the hospital. But this one today wasn’t just flying by.

I had no way of knowing what it was, but my thought was, “Either that plane is going to land on the roof of this building or its going to try to fly through it.” The noise was deafening and only kept getting louder. And louder. Then the loudness became steady until after what appeared to be several minutes, it quieted down just a bit.

At the height of the noise, the whole medical building was shaking as if it were in a hurricane or earthquake. I don’t recall ever being in a building shaking like that before. As the noise level dropped some, the building stood still once again. That’s when I wondered if we had been hit. But no one came into the room to see if I were O.K. Now that might have been at least a nice thing to do, even though they knew about the practice landing and there was no danger. We in a room with just four walls didn’t know that.

About then my doctor came into the examining room as if nothing was happening. He took a look at the results of the blood pressure and temperature checks the assistant took when I first arrived and started to talk to me. He was all smiles and happy, opened right up with “I’ve looked at your CT results and last year’s aneurysm has shrunk considerably. That’s excellent,” said he.

“Hey. Wait a minute! “said I. “What in the name of heaven was all that noise? This building was shaking. Is everything all right?”

“Oh, sure. That was just a Blackhawk helicopter doing a test landing at the heliport across the street.” This was when I learned about the construction on top of the parking garage. “Come on, I’ll show it to you,” and he led me across the hall into his office. Sure enough, on the heliport was a clearly marked Coast Guard helicopter with its rotors still churning. He explained about the test as this was the first time a military helicopter had landed there. The authorities wanted to be sure it would work if there were a tragedy at sea. I wished I had my camera with me.

We returned to the examining room and all was well.

But I sure am glad I don’t live in that neighborhood. The sound of that Blackhawk in the middle of the night just might wake me up.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I think I've got another year!

There’s just something nice about getting a “medical” morning behind you. That’s what this Tuesday did for my wife and me. She completed her rounds of annual stuff for this year, with just one minor exception. Unfortunately for me, my rounds of medical stuff never stop, but the “biggies” are behind me.

Her long time doctor decided to call it quits last year so she had to find a new one, which she easily did. She asked one of the doctors at the medical group I use if new patients were being accepted and they were. But, even though she had all her records transferred to the new doc, a very nice young woman by the way, the doc wanted to see for herself so a very comprehensive physical exam was scheduled.

Not having heard my wife’s heart before or not having seen her blips on the ECG printout, naturally the new doc found a slight irregularity and didn’t know what to make of it. So a session with a cardiologist was scheduled, including the dreaded stress test. Now my wife has passed that age of Medicare eligibility, and even though she works part time, she isn’t in the best shape in the world. She flunked treadmill.

The heart guy wasn’t concerned about the blips mentioned earlier, but he did want that stress test. Today she underwent what is called a nuclear stress test where drugs are used to control the stress on the heart. Although the cardiologist will give the results a closer scrutiny to be sure, he said he saw nothing today that would indicate a problem.

She came home a much happier woman with no further tests scheduled for the next six month. At that time, she will have a lipids repeat so her new doc will have her own final figures.

Somehow we had let our respective schedules get away from us and so I couldn’t accompany her to her test this morning. I had to visit my neurologist at the same time. I have a bunch of stents in my body to replace little bubbles (aneurysms) in my arteries. Today was my annual neurology exam to make sure the little critters were behaving properly.

I had a CT scan last week to give him the visuals he needed. That was the exam that led to the huge bruises on my arms from the I-V needles. (You can see pictures of them in yesterday’s post right below here.)

He was all smiles and happy. Opened right up with I’ve looked at your CT results and last year’s aneurysm has shrunk considerably. “That’s excellent,” said he. Naturally I had to ask if he found any new ones. None. He then went through the touchy feely part and pronounced me as good as I can be under all the circumstances of the last few years.

Then the best news of all. He wanted to see me again and go through it all over again next year. He knows because of insurance requirements, I have to wait a year and a day unless I develop a problem. In that case, I should call him immediately. But, I don’t think he would have scheduled me for next year if he didn’t think I’d be around to make the appointment.

I call that “good.”


Monday, April 7, 2008

Will those marks ever go away?

A few days ago I wrote about what then was a pleasant experience, if you can consider having a needle injected into your arm as pleasant. At the time it was pleasant as I never felt the needle break the skin. The ugly leftover today, though, has erased all that pleasantness.

Because of a medical condition, I get poked about 20 times a year for blood tests. I don’t have a communicable disease; but I do have heart disease and other internal problems that require my blood to undergo periodic tests. Getting poked is not an unusual or scary event for me anymore.

Two of my doctors, specialists, need to test me at least annually. The third member of my medical team has me poked rather often to keep tabs on my blood and lipids. Since I have a plethora of stents inside me, my neurologist asks for one of the annuals. This year he decided I needed to be hydrated before the CT scan I was to undergo, so off to an I-V Therapy unit I went for an hour’s injection to help flush my kidneys after the scan dye.

The nurse who poked was, at the time I thought, one of the best I’ve ever had. She tried my right arm, and even though I had warned her I have “rolling” veins, she couldn’t find the one her preliminary exam had indicated was a good one. She moved the needle around inside the arm some but still not connection.

When the needle was inserted, I felt nothing. But the nurse only nicked the vein. A day later I wasn't quite as happy with her work.
So she asked if she could try the left wrist. Why not? She hadn’t hurt me at all and I had to have the I-V thing so I told her to go ahead. Again, I felt nothing. She was the best poker I’d ever had. This time she found a vein, connected the I-V thing, and began the pump. An hour later I headed across the hall for the CT scan.

She made a connection on the other hand, this time using the wrist area, but the remnants of her work are still with me. Not a pleasant experience.

Following the scan was a return to the therapy room for a second dose of the flush stuff, a basic saline solution. When it finished, I mentioned to the nurse I thought there was a little lump at the first spot on my right arm. She confirmed there was but said it would go away in a day or two.

It’s now been more than a day or two. My arm is ugly. My wrist is ugly. And I withdraw all the nice things I’ve previously said about the good poke that nurse gave me.

My visit with the neurologist is tomorrow morning. I’ll be interested to hear what he might say about a nurse that apparently knew more about my body than I and just poked because she knew what she was doing.

I tell the phlebotomists at the regular blood testing place about my floaters and they listen. They usually get the vein on first try every time. I do feel a slight pinch, but that only lasts for a moment. I’ll take that moment anytime over the ugly marks I now have that will take quite a while to finally go away.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Saturday Ramble

Golly, these weeks just seem to be flying by. Seems to me when I was a lad, weeks could take an eternity to pass. Now sometimes I think the week lasted just a nanosecond. Here it is Saturday once again. Like most Saturdays the past several months this one began with a storm, rain this time. Unlike most Saturdays in recent weeks the storm didn’t last long. By mid morning the rains had passed and during the afternoon we caught some sun.

Did you see in the news today that since they left the White House just about seven years ago, Bill and Hillary Clinton have earned 109 million dollars? The income was mostly from personal appearances and book sales. No matter if Hillary gets elected or not, it looks like they’ll be able to put food on their table, gas in their cars, and not even notice it. Must be nice!

We need a new roof. I hate going through the estimate/proposal process. Yet simply picking someone without the process might be counter-productive, too. But there’s so much that has to be compared, like product, cost, warranty, expected length of service, contractor’s past performances, and on and on. With each visit, I have a new “This is the one” visit. Now we’re spending the weekend pouring over the details trying to figure out just which one is The One. We’ve even solicited help from a friend in Florida. One thing is for sure, though, having a home reroofed isn’t an inexpensive event.

We were first introduced to a restaurant named Texas Roadhouse during one of our cross country trips a few years ago. That first stop only because it was near to our motel set the stage for many more visits. The steaks are the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant, anywhere. Since that time, if we find a Texas Roadhouse on an annual trip, it immediately becomes a must. We do go to the Lancaster, PA., area every year to visit a couple theaters there we like. And there is a Texas Roadhouse there. It sees us every year. Until a week ago, there wasn’t one here in Southern Maine. Then one opened in Scarborough. We ate there a couple of nights ago and it didn’t let us down. The best part is the prices which are very reasonable. Only problem is it has filled up and had waiting lines every night since it opened. It is designed to be noisy.

This is the season of pot holes in Maine. Some of them are pot caves. I don’t think there’s a road, street, or highway anywhere in this state that isn’t laying a trap for a car. So far, this year has been kind to me. Last year at this time I hit a cave I just plain didn’t see on the Interstate. I’m surprised it didn’t do major damage to my car, but it did cost me a new tire. I’m watching more carefully this time around, but playing “dodge the hole” sort of makes me a lousy driver. If a cop were watching, I’d probably be put through the sobriety tests.

I guess it’s time to toss my estimates/proposals for the roof down the cellar stairs. The one that lands nearest to the top and therefore makes me work the least will get the nod. Now tell me that’s not a great scientific way to pick a winner.

Have a great Sunday. I’ll be back Monday.

G.D. (I’m thinking of changing my signature to G.M. for Gator Maine)

Friday, April 4, 2008

A reprieve for Real I.D.

We mentioned it the other day. Maine blinked. Gov. John Baldacci has agreed to send legislation this session to the Legislature tightening up the requirements to get a driver’s license in Maine. As it stands now, thanks to a Baldacci Executive Order, anyone can get a license in this state with virtually no questions asked, except those on the test.

As a result there are several licenses issued with the applicants using 999-99-9999 as their Social Security numbers. How many of these were illegal immigrants we do not know, but it might be safe to assume that nearly all of them were. What is so important about the driver’s license? It opens many, many doors as legal identification. Want to join MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid? The license is identification as it is also for about any other form of welfare benefits in this state.

The Federal Government in the form of the Office of Homeland Security has called for a new form of identification called Read I.D. It set specific guidelines to states to conform to Real ID. and a date by which states had to indicate they would conform or seek an extension. Some state’s didn’t like the idea of Real ID. and got permission to alter their own issued driver’s licenses. Others said they would join the program. A small few indicated they would not participate.

Four states, Maine included, held out almost to the end. Before the March 31st deadline, however, all but Maine had received extensions. Maine alone was facing the wrath of the federal government. One problem in our state was a law enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor that prohibited Maine from participating.

Maine was notified just before the deadline that failure to conform would mean that Maine drivers’ licenses would not be accepted as identification to board airplanes or enter federal buildings after the first of May. We would have to provide other forms of ID and undergo closer scrutiny and background checks resulting in longer delays. Gov. Baldacci sent a letter asking that the Feds reconsider their special treatment of Mainers.

In response, the Office of Homeland Security set five conditions Maine must meet: receivers must be legal residents, immigrant documents must be checked with a federal database, any licenses issued to legal non-residents must be set to expire when the legal status ends, license photographs must be taken at the beginning of the license process instead of the end, and facial recognition software must be installed to prevent a person from getting multiple licenses under different names.

When Gov. Baldacci answered the conditions, he said he would submit legislation this session to change Maine’s law to meet them. But, he pointed out, the Legislature isn’t in session much longer and he wasn’t sure that the Legislature had time to act in the short time remaining and it could be the next session that begins in December before any final action could take place.

The letter worked. The Feds granted an extension into next year to give the lawmakers time to meet the requirements. The governor indicates he is preparing the law now. It is unclear to me as I haven’t read nor heard why the simple cancellation of that Executive Order wouldn’t have accomplished nearly the same thing.

It’s not a done deal. There is opposition both by some Democrats in the Legislature and the MCLU and it will be interesting to follow. The Republicans in the Legislature has praised the efforts of the Democrat governor in getting the situation resolved.

But, at least for now, Mainers travelling via air will not be treated any differently from their fellow travelers.

I don’t live in Portland, but the City Government axed 98 jobs today, including two department heads, Transportation and Recreation. Dropping revenues and increased expenses were given as the reason.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cloth bags being promoted to replace paper, plastic.

The rules keep changing and it seems to me the only reason is to make more money for environmentalists. As one of their programs begins to work, the rules seem to change. The only reason I can see is that with each new change, or reversal of a previous change, someone is in line to make a bundle of money.

This time around, it’s the bags we use to bring goods home from stores. Paper bags were once the favored way for stuff we bought at grocery stores. Paper bags had many uses other than just toting stuff home. In my home, we put empty bottles in bags to take them back to stores for deposit refunds. This was just one use for the paper bags.

Still popular, the paper bag
Then we were told that paper bags were killing too many trees. We were never told by the promoters of the cause that America has more trees today than we had in the 1700s because tree plantings outnumbered those felled by industries. So, we were urged to switch to plastic bags. Reluctantly, for the most part, we did.

The bags were terrible. Still are. They didn’t hold as much as the paper bags. They easily ripped spilling contents all over the place. Some of us asked for paper when given that choice again. But a change in paper bags made them more brittle and rip easily. Double bagging became necessary.

Little gadgets, which my wife and I never bought, were invented to carry more plastic bags at once by slipping into the handles on those bags. Paper didn’t have handles. We tried. Honestly, we tried to make the switch, except in the winter when we preferred paper. You see, we could put little twigs into paper bags and use the combination to easily start fires in our fireplace.
Very flimsy, the plastic bag didn't carry as much without breaking. We never liked them in our family.
But then plastic bags became the rage. Many people used them and one had to ask specifically for paper bags. Someone needed to make more money so did a study that indicated that we should use “reusable” cloth bags. Now instead of getting the bags at the checkout counter, we were told we should buy these new cloth bags. One bag maker at least is attempting to convince stores that advertising on the bags would give long term benefit to the stores and the bags could be given free.
My wife likes the cloth bag and would use it if her memory were just a little better.

I think much of this recycle stuff is sort of like all the food scares we’ve had over the years. Remember, for example, when cranberries and bacon would cause cancer? I don’t recall the exact numbers, but it was pointed out that if you ate something like 500 pounds of cranberries every day for 30 years or 500 pounds of bacon every day for about the same period, you’d have a chance of getting cancer. I think we still eat cranberries and bacon. Let me acknowledge, incidentally, my figures might be exaggerated. But not by much.

I’m not sure just what all the ramifications are of paper and plastic bags. But I’d bet as soon as the cloth ones stop being bought with regularity, we’ll face another environmental crisis and something else will be introduced.

My wife does have a cloth bag which she uses when she remembers to take it into the store. But she still prefers paper bags. But she says she likes the cloth bags and doesn’t mind using one. It’s a trial each of us should take and then decide. Earth Day is just three weeks away and the use of cloth bags just might be a benefit, even though I’m not yet convinced.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Did Maine Blink?

Edited at 4:10 to add resolution: Gov. Baldacci announced today that the state has received an extension from the Department of Homeland Security. According to an update on, the governor said in a letter he would present legislation to the Maine Legislature that would require proof of U. S. Residency to get a Maine driver's license. End of update.

Maine may be blinking. The federal government has told the State that Mainers will undergo much more scrutiny when they fly or enter federal buildings unless the State complies with provisions of Real I.D. Real I.D. is an attempt to give all Americans a uniform identification procedure. The Maine Legislature has passed a law that forbids the State to join the Real I.D. plan.

Maine had a deadline of March 31st to request an extension of the rule. It did not meet that deadline. But late last week Gov. John Baldacci requested Mainers not be treated differently than any other resident. Homeland Security extended the deadline for Maine until five P.M. today (April 2nd). But it also gave the guidelines needed for an extension approval.

Maine is well known as a sanctuary state. No questions about immigrant status are asked here for anything. Immigrants can come here, get on welfare programs, get drivers’ licenses and no one asks if they are residents. All this because of a Gov. Baldacci executive order forbidding the asking of such questions.

The Maine Legislature then enacted a law that says Maine will not join the Real I.D. requirement from the Department of Homeland Security. The state cited costs, privacy and other reasons for not joining. 49 other states have now either accepted the federal requirements or have indicated an attempt to conform. Maine alone did not meet yesterday’s deadline.

The governor did send a letter to Homeland Security requesting that Mainers without an acceptable Real I.D. identification but a valid Maine license not be treated differently. The response came back that a couple major problems still faced Maine. The feds said Maine must either stop issuing licenses to illegal aliens or issue them a separate type of license that indicates that status.

Yesterday, Gov. Baldacci blinked. He is expected to tell Homeland Security today that it is too late for this year for Maine to change its rules as the Legislature, scheduled to adjourn by mid-April, doesn’t have time to debate a new law. The Legislature doesn’t convene again until mid-December. He said a new law will be drafted for debate at that time.

Two recent situations, one of which was last week, have put the problem to the forefront. Earlier in March, a man from New Jersey was arrested transporting illegal aliens (because of the illegality, I refer to them as alien, as alien to American law as opposed to immigrant, the many people from other countries who have followed our laws to gain entrance to the country) to Maine specifically to get drivers’ licenses. Then just this past weekend, a Massachusetts man was arrested for transporting an illegal for the same purpose.

Along with Maine being the jump off point for several illegals who hijacked aircraft on 9/11 and crashed them into buildings in New York and Washington, these current incidents have highlighted the problem of illegal aliens getting Maine licenses.

It will be interesting to see how the feds rule on this one, but the results won’t be known for a few more days.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I wonder how long the state budget will last!

April Fools’ Day. And Maine’s Democrats say we are the fools. They have passed (one Republican crossed over the line) what they call a budget fix to get the state’s budget back into balance. A shortfall in revenue had put the state roughly 200-million dollars in the red. Understand, though, that the budget had increased by almost 500-million dollars, so the state is still spending more this year than last.

I’m not going into all the band aid changes that make up the new budget. A couple items need mentioning. First, the one legislative group that finds savings in state spending has been all but axed. OPEGA, Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, has shown savings of nearly 20-million dollars in the past couple of years and consistently under spends its own budget. It would appear the Democrats don’t like to find ways to save money, especially if their programs are affected.

The budget has cut 34-million dollars from the education portion of the budget. It certainly doesn’t take much effort to figure out where that money will have to come from in local budgets. Yep! Property tax increases. The state may save it, but the people of Maine certainly won’t.

But no where do the Democrats address the root problem. Spending. Reducing the welfare accounts to get them just a little closer to national averages could save many more millions than the shortfall. Reducing the size of the Department of Health and Human Services by staff reductions, especially in the upper echelon, would certainly help. Like many Mainers, I believe nearly every department could be reduced for huge savings.

Sadly, there’s an excellent chance the problem hasn’t been corrected. There’s still more than a year to go for this budget. Spending by the citizens continues to drop so there’s a very good chance there’ll be more shortfall within the year, perhaps even before this fiscal year ends in June. Then what will the good Democrats do?

After ramming through their budget, and the Democrats own the whole thing no matter how they may attempt to spin it now, the Legislature adjourned. Governor John Baldacci, who is in joint ownership for the budget, signed it into law. The governor then called the Legislature back into Special Session this morning to deal with the other potential laws that have been submitted. That was part of the gimmick about which I wrote a few weeks ago.

Someday, Mainers will realize that they pay more taxes than people in 48 of the 49 other states. We pay higher welfare costs than anyone else. We have the highest insurance rates than all but one other state. We have one of the poorest business climates in the nation which is the main reason we don’t have higher paying jobs here. The list can go on and on. There is, of course, a solution. Stop looking at our legislators as friends and neighbors. We must realize that it’s not just the other guy’s legislator who’s costing us all this money. It’s ours, too.

Examine their voting records and if you want to have a better standard of living for yourself, try a new batch of legislators in November. Start now and become involved in your local politics. That’s where it begins. Learn more about your representative and senator. And vote in November. A non-vote is just as powerful, but only for those who want to tax and spend.