Thursday, July 31, 2008

WOW! Governor says we have affordable health care.

Here we go again. After a really nice and warm day yesterday, it appears we’re back in the throes of that “unsettled” weather pattern. Yesterday was almost too hot, but it was a pleasant respite from the previous couple of weeks of rain and showers. The forecast this morning, however, indicates that parts of Maine are already back to the showers and thundershowers, and we in Southern Maine can look forward to being there this afternoon. And, says the weather guy, we could be in it through the weekend.

As it does more often than not, the humidity this morning hindered my workout at my Senior Fitness session. Anything I had to exercise that was somehow connected with that hip of mine told me just how much it appreciated the workout. I know this sounds like complaining, but it isn’t. I would much rather put myself through this Senior Fitness stuff than what the alternative promises. The only problem is that after a year of being part of this twice-weekly lift, twist and turn business, I wouldn’t call myself even close to being “fit.”

As I said yesterday, I really enjoy visiting with my fellow retirees at our monthly lunch. Since it is possibly the most informal meal anyone could ever have, it’s more appropriately called a lunch than luncheon. Only two were missing yesterday and I suspect the price of gasoline was at least part of the reason one wasn’t there. She has to travel from her summer camp and we suspect she just didn’t want the travel expense.

Manny Ramirez was one topic of conversation. I think our consensus was that he has outlived his usefulness for the Boston Red Sox. He is a major distraction. The Sox have been steamrolling downhill, it seems, since Manny started this year’s little tantrum. Update: Ramirez was traded today to the Dodgers.

Here’s one to file under “WOW! What world is he living in?” category. Gov. Baldacci nominated several people to serve on the Dirigo Health Advisory Board yesterday. The announcement is on the web site. In the announcement, the governor is quoted as saying:

“Maine proudly leads the nation in addressing access to quality affordable health care,” said Governor Baldacci. “We must maintain this positive momentum. Healthy families and healthy businesses make a healthy economy.”

“Quality affordable health care?” I guess he doesn’t have to pay for his. The “quality” part is probably there. I wouldn’t argue that healthy families and healthy businesses make a healthy economy. Does he call the nation’s highest taxed state which is in debt for millions of dollars a “healthy economy”? Wow! I wonder if there a state, possibly New Jersey I think, that has higher health care costs.

While we’re mentioning political stuff, here’s a comment on the current TV commercial by Maine Sen. Susan Collins. She’s running for re-election against Dem. Tom Allen. In the ad, she says Republicans must negotiate and compromise with the Democrats to achieve bi-partisan goals. That usually results in a negotiation and then a compromise to the Democrats position on any issue. That means, of course, that the Democrats can then claim their bad bills are bi-partisan. I sure do wish Maine had a Republican senator.

Sen. Collins has a new ad now telling us what we need to do to solve the energy crisis. I generally agree with her, but she doesn't tell us how she will transform her nice words into real action.

And the Press Herald web site, when you can get on it, says we may be about to say goodbye to the Blethen Family’s ownership of the newspaper. A local investment group head by Bill Cohen and Bob Baldacci have received a letter of intent from Blethen to sell the paper to them. Might be good news.

Today I guess would be a good one to find a way to stay dry. Enjoy your day.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lunch time on the Last Wednesday of the Month

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking that this month seemed to be just dragging along. Now it seems like it must have caught fire and just flew by. It’s the last Wednesday of the month again so today a group of fellow retirees meets for lunch, conversation, and friendship. It’s a ritual we follow on the last Wednesday of every month and have since it all began way back in 1996.

We got the idea for this monthly reunion when several of us left our jobs at the same time. For a few of the following years we invited others who retired from the same workplace to join us. There are no formalities to our group, no dues, no minutes, no business meetings. We each pay for our own meals and I don’t think any two of us choose the same thing. The purpose is very simple: meet, eat, converse mostly about sports, and just plain have a good time.

The number of folks participating has remained relatively stable through the years. We do have people miss a session or two, sometimes more, when someone is on a vacation or spending the winter or part of it in Florida. Two of our group work at Hadlock Field during Sea Dogs games so they will miss a session if the Sea Dogs are playing an afternoon home game. Illness has kept one or two of us away for periods of time, but generally we’re all there.

And today’s the day. I look forward to it.

For the first time my old school stomping ground has been named Party School of the Year. The University of Florida has been in the top 15 for the last 15 years and has a reputation, probably because it’s in Florida, of being a party school ever since I attended the place back in the 1950s and first half of 1960. I honestly don’t recall, but I suppose it’s possible the reputation began even before that. Some of the people have been quoted as saying this year’s rating is a result of the many parties that were held recently as the Gators won national championships in football and basketball and high rankings and finishes in many other sports.

What the party school designation doesn’t emphasize, however, is the reason there are more than 51-thousand students there. It’s also a top academic school. I can’t speak for today, but for several years there were more National Merit Finalists at UofF than were enrolled in any other public university. According to a student at the school who was quoted in the CNN article, the average weighted grade point average is 4.1 (seems a wee high unless they’ve changed the 4.0 scale used when I was there) and the average SAT score is 1300 (which seems right on considering the number of Merit Scholars and the school’s high SAT requirement for admission).

Did you see in the news yesterday that the number of food stamp recipients is almost 178-thousand people? That’s an increase of more than 13-thousand people from just a year ago. That’s an expensive program. From our state government’s point of view, though, it’s probably a blessing. The more that are dependent on government the more powerful government can become. It’s just another reason why our welfare state is the highest taxed state. How much more can we stand?

As I was finishing up this morning’s comments, an e-mail came in from my Fearless Friend. He sent me an article he found written by Jim Mahoney/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press. The article was about a national restaurant chain that has closed its doors and goes on to include many, many businesses that are either just closing or entering bankruptcy. The story, incidentally, was also on the WCSH6 Morning News this morning. You may recall a few days ago I did a post about the new minimum wage that just went into effect and the potential it had for raising havoc with businesses causing some to close and many people being put on the unemployment lines.

It’s happening. Here is what one expert quoted in Mahoney’s article had to say about the restaurant closings:

“The closings are ‘something we’re going to see more of over the next 6 to 12 months,’ said Amy Greene, a director at Avondale Partners who tracks the restaurant industry.

“ ‘The companies have been getting squeezed from all directions,’ Ms. Greene said. ‘You have had minimum wage go up again, commodity prices continue to go up.’ “ (Emphasis added.)

Enjoy your Hump Day.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

That Darn Ball! A Call from Democrats! Another Commercial!

Have you ever tried to stand on a ball? Or at least a half ball? I’ve been doing it for about a year now. The purpose of the ball is to gain better balance, and balance remains one of my major problems. That ball work is by far the most exhausting part of my entire Senior Fitness routine. The ball has a diameter of about three feet and the routine for me is to stand on it for three reps of a minute each. I’m generally O.K. for the first 30 seconds, but once I have to move for the first time to correct a balance issue, it just plain goes downhill as I bounce all over the place.

Today one of the interns from the Physical Therapy center where I do my Senior Fitness came over to me to give me some help and some ideas on changing my routine around a little. I was a-huffin’ and a-puffin’ and sweating profusely when I finished. Now that was some routine on the ball this morning. I’ll have to give it another go Thursday.

I got a fascinating telephone call last night. My caller I.D. said it was from the Democrat Party and indeed the person identified himself by name and that he was a volunteer for the Democrat Party. This may come as a surprise to you who have read this site for a while but I’m not a Democrat. I tried to be pleasant and said I’d find it hard to support a Democrat considering that since they took over in Congress, gas has gone up two bucks a gallon, heating oil is out of sight, I’m having a hard time paying for groceries and I could go on and on, but won’t.

“Oh, I understand completely,” he said.

So I quickly added just a little and pointed out that here in Maine we are the highest taxed state in the nation and that health care costs are prohibitive. Neighboring New Hampshire has the same insurance policies for half as much. We honestly don’t need any more Democrats.

“Oh, yes, I understand,” he said.

I jumped in again before he could start his pitch. Since you agree with what I’m saying, I guess the purpose of your call is simply to convince me not to support Democrats. Wow! You’ve been a total success. I certainly won’t. Now you can tell your leader you were a complete success on this call. He gave a very lame chuckle and thanked me for my time and the call abruptly ended.

The next two paragraphs just might be a little objectionable to some readers, so be forewarned. You might want to skip them altogether.

Periodically I make a comment on a commercial I’ve seen. There is one currently running on television for a sandwich shop. Although I’m not totally sure of which one, I think it might be Subway. Since I can’t absolutely say which, it gives a hint on how effective I find the commercial. I think you already know I have a hearing problem and do wear hearing aids. I have a particularly difficult time picking up the female voice because most are in the pitch range that I have lost. I’ve heard all the jokes about selective hearing so I can ignore my wife, but the simple fact is I have a hard time.

This particular commercial has a car at the drive-through order window. The male driver orders three or four items of just plain fat. Then the female passenger leans over and says something like, “I’ll have the same, except instead of the blubber can I substitute thunder thighs and a donkey donk part?” I can’t swear that’s a direct quote but it is what I hear. She must be hungry. The commercial ultimately goes on to say that the sandwich shop doesn’t really have those things and that most of its food is extremely healthy and very low in fat.

The Maine Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Independent senatorial candidate Herbert Hoffman could not appear on the November ballot because of petition irregularities. Hoffman had been a Democrat but switched to Independent to run for the Senate. He would be an anti-war candidate and chose to run because Democrat Tom Allen didn’t fit his ideals. The Democrat Party challenged his petitions and won yesterday. But until their challenge, not many people had even heard of Hoffman so what the Democrats did was give him a lot of name recognition.

Hoffman won’t do it, but I think if I were in his shoes, I just might start campaigning for Susan Collins, the Republican candidate, just to spite his former party. The diversion has kept the party from having to answer one question: Just what has Tom Allen accomplished in Congress, especially for Maine? They now need another diversion.

My wife has informed me today will be a shopping day so we’re off for a round of catching up on some stuff we’ve been needing for a while. You have a great Tuesday.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Lousy weather last night!

Wife Gator and I were sitting here talking this morning before she had to leave for her part time job about the thunderstorm that passed just kissing distance away from us last evening. We were mentioning that we don’t remember when we’ve had the frequency of thunder/lightning storms prior to this summer. Of course, there have been other summers with frequent and numerous storms and in a couple of years we’ll have forgotten this one. But there sure have been a lot of them.

We were watching the morning news on WCSH and the news pair, Lee Nelson and Sharon Rose, began talking with weather guy Kevin Mannix about, of all things, the frequency of the storms this summer. At that time, Kevin didn’t know off the top of his head what the record number was and soon after WG left for work, I turned the TV off so I don’t know if he ever did that research. But record or just many storms, it sure does seem like we’ve had our share this year.

On our South Side of Route One plot of land, we have had neither the number of storms nor the amount of destruction that other areas in Maine and New Hampshire have experienced. But the one that rolled through here last night was memorable, at least for a few hours. I think the first rumble began with a couple pretty good flashes way off in the distance, as most have this summer. But that first rumble just seemed to continue to roll for the next hour and it came closer and closer. The flashes became brighter and brighter.

It probably wasn’t and I don’t make mental notes of the length of a thunder roll, but this one seemed to be the longest I can remember. WG would tell you my memory is excellent for, oh, maybe two or three minutes. It was only the second time we’ve completely shut down our computer equipment and the TV during a storm this season. All our equipment is, incidentally, powered through battery backup surge/power protectors.

About an hour after it all started, the rumble moved back off into the distance and faded away. We did get some rain accompanying the storm, but I think it may have been the closest we’ve gotten here so far this summer. And the season is only about half over.

The Red Sox finally beat the Yankees last night, but Red Sox Nation is now in the middle of its annual “Manny being Manny” chapter. He could earn a measly 20-million dollars next year if the Sox pick up his option. But the poor boy is “unhappy.” He’s so unhappy with his plight, he took himself out of the lineup a few games ago but when tests showed he wasn’t injured as he claimed, he demonstrated his unhappiness on the field. He spouted off again yesterday and, apparently, got it out of his system as he seemed to be back to his old Manny productive self last night. Even the ESPN commentators mentioned that perhaps Manny has it out his system. At least for a while.

I do know that I’m among a few folk who are beginning to believe the Sox might be just as good without him and his annual distractions. At least this year, for now anyway, his little tantrum only lasted a few days. If it is indeed over. Last year, you may recall, he was out for nearly the last third of the season.

Ye Olde Governor Baldacci and his very carefully chosen cohorts are trying to fool us once again. The offset payment tax charged to insurance companies has been set at $150 million. The insurance commissioner has to review the SOP, but she is among those carefully selected appointees chosen to support the governor’s attempt to fool the public and bring universal health care to Maine. If you think we’re high taxed now, wait until you see what UHC would cost. I wonder if we’ll be given specifics on where all that savings was made from servicing 12-thousand insured on Dirigo. Oh, yes, I remember, the state didn’t pay all its health care bills last fiscal year, did they? I think the state is calling it provider voluntary contribution, or something like that.

Another Monday has arrived and the sun is shining brightly out there this morning. We do, apparently have a reprieve from the storms for a little while, at least a few hours. And I’ve got to head out for my regularly scheduled blood test. I hope you have a great day.

Edited when I got home: Where’d all the sun go? It’s now cloudy again and there are some rain droplets on my driveway and car. I’m not sure this day is going the way the forecasters thought.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Simple Little Weekend

My goodness! What a glorious beginning to this weekend! The sun is shining brightly, there are no rains in the forecast for at least the daytime, and the temperatures should be rather nice. It is a Maine weekend beginning as a Maine weekend beginning should be. Unfortunately, the weekend may not end quite as nicely. We’re could be seeing an unusual event Sunday: Rain.

This is a stark change from what we went through during the week. Much rain, heavy thunder/lightning storms, and even a tornado visited the Northeast throughout the week. The destruction was horrendous in some places, especially in neighboring New Hampshire where the tornado touched down causing loss of homes and one life. My little spot was spared. We did get some of the heaviest short bursts of rain I’ve experienced in a long while, and the wind whistled through for several moments. Except for some small dead branches we survived with no destruction.

It’s been a couple of weeks since our daughter and her dog last visited us. They’re expected to be here this Saturday afternoon for a visit and some dog romping. Wife Gator is inventing a new meatloaf and DG said she’s willing to give it a try. I’m a little surprised a grilling meal isn’t on the menu, but it isn’t. I’d bet the gals will spends some time in the gardens getting them back into good shape.

We did have some beans WG picked Friday night for Friday’s evening meal. My goodness, they were good. I’d be surprised if the Saturday meal also included some fresh vegetables which may be the reason for the cooked meal rather than the grilled one.

Our dog knows it’s a weekend. She’s already camped out by one of two windows when she’s still inside looking for her sister to arrive Saturday. She doesn’t understand why her visitors haven’t already gotten here. As soon as that telephone rings and DG lets us know she’s on the way, our Golden will be pacing and gazing until the familiar car is coming down the driveway. When she’s outside, she parks herself right at the corner of the Invisible Fence line and the driveway where she can see an approaching car with ease.

I may get a chance to mow my lawn for the first time in two weeks. That will be fun. Read that last sentence with a sarcastic tone.

Do you know what’s really good about this weekend? The football season has begun. Both the pros and the colleges are now in preparation for the coming season. The team I’m most interested in, of course, is the Florida Gators. Led by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, the Gators will take the field for the first time on August30th against the University of Hawaii. The game will be played in Gainesville. Now’s the time to forewarn you, in case you haven’t already figured it out, my posts will be dotted frequently with my Gator comments.

Since this is a weekend, I’ve decided to forego any political comments, although the opportunities to make them are abundant. There’s always Monday. I hope you have a great Maine weekend and we’ll return Monday.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Hard work better than minimum wage

It appears that the savage weather that has ravaged us for the past couple days is now over. In many parts of Maine and especially New Hampshire a long cleanup is beginning. My little place got by with just a lot of rain and no damage. And today should bring some sunshine which could last at least into tomorrow. It will be a welcome relief.

The Federal minimum wage went up yesterday. It rose to $6.55 an hour and next year will go up again to $7.25 an hour. The Federal increase won’t affect Maine which already has a minimum of $7.00. The purpose of the minimum wage is to assure a “livable” wage. It’s really more of a political “feel good” raise than one that creates a “livable” wage. There are some outcomes of changing the minimum wage.

Some low income wage earners are let go from their jobs. That minimum wage, you see, doesn’t take into consideration the ability of a company to pay it. So quite often to maintain a payroll that it can afford, especially small shops such as the Mom and Pop convenience stores which are abundant in Maine, have to adjust the size of their workforce. So as that minimum wage goes up, in some instances employment goes down, and with it goes some customer relations.

For small companies that can’t afford to layoff any more workers, prices have to be raised so that the company’s income remains consistent with making a payroll. That may have the consequence of causing less business and, therefore, possible personnel cutbacks. Workers who have received a minimum wage increase so they can now buy more goods soon discover that nothing has changed, except they along with everyone are now paying more for goods and services.

Who really benefits? No one, except the lawmakers who now “feel good” because they’ve increased the minimum wage and have thus purchased the votes of people who think they are now better off. Wages should be established by the companies themselves. An applicant can either accept or reject the offer.

“Hey, Gatorman, how about you? You probably have no idea what it’s like to earn a minimum wage,” you’re probably thinking. Sorry, I have. Except I must admit I’ve never earned a mandated minimum wage as my entering the workforce was before such things existed. My first post high school full time job was at a newspaper in Florida. I earned a whopping 85 cents an hour delivering newspapers to advertisers for the paper’s advertising department.

My daddy had taught me, though, that hard work and loyalty to a company would lead to advancement and mine came less than a year after I started working. I received a promotion to lay out the advertising on the paper’s pages. I had to determine the amount of space the ads needed and then proportionately determine the number of pages the next edition would be. Once the newsroom was notified of the number of inches it had to fill, I then had to draw in the ad inches on dummy pages. The newsroom then used those dummies to place its material and the completed project was the “blueprint” for the composing and printing rooms.

Even though my pay went well above a dollar an hour, I quickly learned that I needed an education to really move forward. I had a couple of things going for me. I lived in Florida where, at that time, all residents could attend the University system virtually free and I had parents who were willing to help me out financially. That education wasn’t totally free as we did have to spend a couple hundred dollars a semester, but by today’s standards it was free.

I helped out by working menial low paying jobs both during summer vacations and at the University during the school year and, although a little later than my high school classmates because of the time I had taken off from learning, I earned my college education.

My low wage didn’t end with that degree, though. My first job after I returned to Maine was only part time, but it was less than a dollar an hour. I had met the girl who would become Wife Gator and we dated and began saving on my tiny wage and her pay which wasn’t a whole lot better. I did enter my chosen career before a year was over, but that entry pay was just about as minimal as one can imagine. We both knew, however, that with hard, dedicated work, and in my case some more schooling at what would become USM, we’d be O.K. And we were and have been now for more than 48 years, almost 47 of them as a family. Sometimes I think she grew more than I in our chosen fields.

You’d be hard pressed to convince me that an artificial wage will really help anyone. I honestly believe that only hard work and dedication to task will result in financial success. Promotions and pay increases come with proof to an employer that the goal of what you do is not only to improve your own lot but also that of the employer.

Free handouts and artificial minimum wages aren’t going to do it.

Enjoy your weekend.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

News? Does it still exist?

I saw the sun this morning. It was beautiful. Of course it was only out for about 90 seconds, but that was enough to give us some hope. It would appear that we’re in for a spell of seriously wet weather. WCSH weatherman Kevin Mannix said this morning that our area should expect about 30 hours of this rain. Since around suppertime last night when I was sure my electronic rain gauge was reset, we have recorded 1.16 inches of rain on my weather station.

Big Papi David Ortiz was able to thrill the Red Sox fans at the Portland Sea Dogs game last night by his presence. I wasn’t there, but the game was delayed several hours by weather. When it did begin the big guy’s thrill was restricted to the presence as he didn’t exactly contribute much before he left the game permanently. He is now in Boston to rejoin the Sox.

I think I’ve waited too long to tell those of you who might have read yesterday’s post about Wife Gator’s anxious time. To be fair, it was an anxious time for me, too. But she worked her full day yesterday and came home still full of P and V and even went out with our daughter for a Dine Around meal. She stayed away from heavily spiced food.

Just like it usually is when the weather is as humid as it is today, I had a rough time at my Senior Fitness session this morning. The primary culprit for my discomfort and difficulty was my hip. As I’ve mentioned, I have a steel plate in that thing and when the weather gets working on it, it severely restricts my activity due to the quickness of the walking pain. Don’t feel sorry for me. A couple years ago I was told I’d be in a wheelchair by now. I’m not, so that’s a good thing.

The news this morning is severely lacking items that interest me, at least new items. Most of the stuff I write about is also mostly a rehashing. The newspaper is reporting that the anti-tax people raised a lot more money than the health organizations. But that’s “news” from two or three days ago. Obama is making gaffs on his tour. But that’s not news. Collins has released her latest ad that plays to moderates. There’s nothing new there.

We seem to have entered a slow news time. But with the impending death of the local daily newspaper and the failure of any of the TV stations to find and report news, the slow time will continue. I remember when newspapers and TV stations hired real investigative reporters. They would dig deep into a story and kept people really informed of the happenings of government and business. Those days seem to be gone.

It would have been virtually impossible to tell the political persuasion of reporters. Sure, the news outlets would present their opinions on clearly marked editorial or opinion pages, but today we get the side of a story according to the beliefs of the reporter alone. And most of the “original” stories we read are nothing more than publicity handouts.

It will be nice if local news organizations ever do real reporting again. But then even that name “local news organization” is rather misleading. None of the major ones, neither the daily newspaper nor the three major TV stations are owned by local folks. The days of my memory are from a time when they all were real “local news organizations.”

Stay dry and enjoy your day.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A worrisome experience!

We’ve hit the hump day again. Wednesday. The middle of the week. The day that begins the output’s slow fall into the weekend. Well, at least for anyone who works for a living. There’s a few of us who are on a permanent vacation. We’re retired so hump day is just another one when we can choose what we want to do and when we want to do it. That doesn’t change its being mid-week, though.

I didn’t mention Wife Gator’s rough day Monday before now because we didn’t know what was happening. As it turned out, nothing serious. But when she came home from her part time job Monday afternoon, she sort of staggered into the den clutching her chest and the first words out of her mouth were, “Shut up! Call the doctor for me!”

We’ve been married for almost 47 years and that’s the first time she’s ever asked me to call the doctor for her. Having been there, the clutching of the chest was also a scary thing. I didn’t hesitate and picked up the phone. The doctor, of course, wasn’t available; but the person on the other end of the line was very helpful, calm, and seemed to know just what to do.

Meanwhile, WG headed for the bathroom. I have no idea what went on there because I stayed in the den on the phone. But apparently there was a huge release of some sort, not orally. Meanwhile I was answering a battery of questions from the doctor’s office. None of the usual symptoms indicated a heart problem was there. No pain radiation. No shortness of breath. No light headedness. Etc. She returned to the den and sat back in her recliner.

I was a go between for a while. The office person asking, my relaying to WG, then my relaying WG’s answer to OP. That seemed senseless with her sitting right beside me so she took the phone and answered for herself. But whatever that release was seemed to help her out. She appeared to be approving by the second. That massive pain she had had subsided. She said she felt much better.

Nevertheless, the OP gave her three choices: go to the doctor’s office and wait until she could be seen and under the circumstances it probably wouldn’t have been a long wait; go to Brighton First Care (a division of Maine Medical Center) where they could give her an instant electronic appraisal and where the doctors probably would send her anyway if she chose the doctor’s office first; and since the problem had subsided, wait until the following morning and visit her doctor.

WG, now really feeling a whole lot better than just a half hour previously when she arrived home, elected to see her own doctor the following morning.

I’ve been there with a heart problem. In fact, the massive series of events I had a few years ago are still affecting my being today. I was worried about WG. My first instinct was to grab her by the hair and drag her to Brighton. Or even the ER at MMC itself. But her color had returned, her breathing was natural, and it was after going over the episode once again with the doctor’s person, she made her choice. I gave in and honored it.

But I was watching carefully and already knew the first new sign would result in a trip to the ER. I didn’t sleep very well.

Yesterday morning, we were in her doctor’s office. Since it didn’t open until 8:30, I reluctantly had acceded to her insistence she was feeling just fine and to her wish I go to my Senior Fitness routine. But I didn’t take the full time there and was home in plenty of time to get her to the doctor.

I went into the exam room with her. I wanted to hear firsthand what she and the doctor discussed. And after 46 years, it wasn’t a problem. We both often visit the doctor together so we both can know what’s happening and perhaps ask a missed question.

She got a pretty good exam and the doctor determined from her questioning that WG’s problem was probably a big gas blockage from the spicy food she had eaten Monday while at work. She had tried a new diet dinner that was much spicier than most and had more spices than she is accustomed to eating. She described that release the day before as, “…not a burp.” There were two other possibilities as well. One, of course, could have been a heart problem and the other was something I not only cannot pronounce but also I cannot spell. But it started out as a congroit……. but the doctor sort of dismissed it as her pain had come on too quickly for that.

She got an electrocardiogram and the results were exactly as one she had during her annual exam a few weeks ago. So that was ruled out. We came home with the instruction to call if it happened again, but for now, not to worry.

And today, WG has gone to her part time job as usual. But Monday afternoon through yesterday was an interesting time for Old Gators.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The State shows us how to make a surplus!

Yesterday didn’t turn out to be as bad as we had feared. Although a few areas around here did get some rain, including a quick shower in my yard late yesterday afternoon, I wouldn’t put the day down here as anything but a fairly nice one. We had lots of sun, too. Looking at the weather radar from AccuWeather around suppertime, I mentioned to Wife Gator that it looked like we were in the clear for the rest of the night. We were. From what I gather from the morning report, today could be a repeat. At least the sun is shining.

I just reread that opening and saw I used a term that probably dates me just a whisker. Suppertime. Yea, I still call that evening meal ‘supper’ even though most folks, I guess, now call it ‘dinner’ and dinnertime. I eat dinner at noon and breakfast in the morning. Lunch is a hold-me-over meal when I don’t want a full dinner.

I didn’t go, but I would have liked to have had tickets to last night’s Sea Dogs game that featured David Ortiz on rehab from the Red Sox. Big Papi filled the place and within minutes of the announcement he would be in Portland all available tickets were gone. A few years ago my then best friend had season tickets to the Sea Dogs’ games. Quite frequently when his son had a conflicting work shift, my friend invited me to fill his second seat. Probably if he were still with us, his son would find a way to get to these games, but I can dream he might have asked me to one. From what I’ve seen/read this morning, Papi didn’t disappoint.

Exercise. Exercise. I must do my exercise. Well, not quite correct as I’ve already done it. I have no idea what brought that ancient little ditty into my head. I was sitting here writing away and for some reason it just popped in. If I had to make a guess, and I certainly don’t but I will, it’s probably because this was one of the few times I didn’t mention my Senior Fitness visit to the physical therapy center to open a Tuesday or Thursday post. Suffice it to say that even though the air is a little damp and heavy, I had a good hour. And the sunshine helps.

My fearless friend has a couple billion dollars worth of high tech exercise equipment. Well, that might be just a slight exaggeration. He does his workout at home three days a week. He said he did it yesterday but was in a “funk” mood and didn’t quite hit his norm. I hope he’s feeling better today but I think it’s all this lousy weather we’ve been having that is affecting both of our well used bodies.

The news this morning was interesting. Governor Baldacci announced the state ended the last fiscal year with a surplus. Fifty-six million dollars was the amount he used. Doesn’t that sound like great progress? I was impressed, until I started thinking about it. One should never think about government spending because it’s very depressing.

First, I read last month that the state was holding off paying Medicaid hospital and doctors bills until this month. Other June expenses were also put on hold until this month. I guess if I put off paying my bills for a month, I could also develop a pretty fair surplus, at least for me. The state already owes more than 300-million dollars to the state’s health providers. It owes several million dollars to the state’s worker retirement fund. And that list goes on. Some surplus!

So I guess the answer is simple. Just don’t pay your bills and develop a surplus. Makes you look good and there are thousands of people who will accept it. Hmmm. Perhaps I’ll hold off paying my state taxes for the rest of this year. Shucks, that wouldn’t work. The State can get away with it, but that same State would probably put me in jail. And other creditors might get a little cranky. At least New Hampshire isn’t too far away.

Enjoy the day.


Monday, July 21, 2008

A State Visitor Today!

That was some doozy of a weekend we just had. The storms which periodically roared through were really something. Wife Gator and I were lucky in our little plot of land. We only saw a deluge of rain here, but thunder and lightning passed not too far away on some occasions. We did get some wind. Our daughter didn’t visit. She felt the humidity was too high much of the time for our dogs to do their usual yard romping. The weather forecast for today, and in fact for the rest of the week, isn’t too much better.

WG did get into the vegetable garden for some food gathering. The products of her efforts are really beginning to pay off. There’s nothing better than veggies so fresh they’re eaten within an hour of picking. She says, though, there’s a possibility of one of two outcomes resulting from our storms. She’s concerned there’ll end up being too much water and we lose some crops due to ‘drowning.’ Or, she says, if the sun should come out for any length of time, the vegetables will race to complete fruition and we’ll end up with too many all at once.

The price of gas remained relatively the same last week, although some pumps saw a drop of a penny or two. It seems when the oil producers announce a price increase at, say, noon, by two o’clock the pump prices have already climbed three or four cents or more; and within a day or two those prices have set new records. Yet when the oil producers announce a lowering of prices, it takes three or four days for just a penny to come off the price, several days for more than that unless the producer’s prices rise; then the pump price heads back up.

Of course we all understand there’s no collusion or gouging, don’t we?

We have a visitor in Maine today. Republican presidential nominee-to-be John McCain is in the state on a fund raising trip. He’ll spend some time at the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport today and meet with special visitors (big donors), others who want to be attend another reception (little donors), and then he’ll travel to South Portland to visit the Maine War Mmuseum. I hope Mainers take advantage of this visit if only to see a presidential –nominee. We don’t get this chance very often. By the way, I’ll feel the same way if, when, Barack Obama, the Democrat nominee-to-be comes to Maine.

I’ve seen many candidates and even Presidents over my years, and I’ve been proud to be an American every time. These people include both Republicans and Democrats. I still remember the first Presidential candidate I saw way back when I was a student at the University of Florida early in 1960. Richard Nixon didn’t succeed; in fact, and my memory is a little hazy here, he may have withdrawn from the race shortly after his visit.

That, of course, was in a time when schools and universities fostered a pride in being an American and pride in the process of selecting leaders. Ironically, it may also have been the time when Richard Nixon may have been a part in the turn to the non-education we have today.

Today’s weather doesn’t promote too much activity. I hate thinking what my lawn is going to look like when I can get back to mowing it. Today WG is working so Dog Gator and I will spend much of the day keeping dry. I hope you enjoy your day.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Boomers; Can we find the truth?

The weekend has once again taken over. For some, it’s a time of fun and games. Others take care of chores around their homes. And some have to report for work. The way this weekend started out last night, that last group might be the luckiest.

The forecast for the weekend isn’t a whole lot better, but at least we probably won’t have the destruction from any storms like that which came with the ones late Friday afternoon. So far the Saturday radar doesn’t show any real storms heading into the Greater Portland area and those to the west of us appear to be heading into extreme southern sections. But, as we saw Friday afternoon, it doesn’t take long for that radar map to undergo a major change.

My little plot of ground got some extremely heavy rain and some very loud boomers passed somewhat near. I didn’t see any major lightning, except for a few flashes, until early evening and then they were sparse. But I listen to a police monitor and the reports of lightning strikes and major damage came from several communities. The Saturday morning news confirmed the savagery of Mother Nature.

I would guess one of the two sides in the People’s Veto debate is lying. Either we who opposed the tax increase are doing it to boost big business interests or the claim by the tax proponents that repealing the tax will jeopardize the insurance for 50-60 thousand needy adults and children is true.

Let’s look at it. As the last session of the Legislature ground to an end, the Democrats meeting with the Governor very late at night agreed on a tax increase on beverages, just about all of them except milk products. They included a 1.8% surcharge, another name for tax, on paid insurance claims. Not much has been said about that last one, but it simply means that if you do have insurance now and visit a doctor, or a specialist, or a hospital or other medical facility, you’ll find the cost has increased. Technically, the insurance companies will have to pay when your claim is honored, but is there anyone who thinks that cost along with administrative costs won’t be passed on to the insured?

The combine beverage and insurance tax was then passed by the full legislature just before adjournment. There was no public hearing nor public input. I heard a person who identified herself as a doctor say Friday night on television that the measure had months of public input prior to the passage. I was blind and deaf to all that input.

The People’s Veto did have the backing of much of the beverage industry, but also was supported by the Maine Chamber of Commerce, dozens of small “Mom and Pop” stores, 90-thousand petition signers, and more. On the other hand, I heard a report Thursday morning on the radio where the governor is alleged to have said if the tax is repealed, 58-thousand adults and children could lose their health insurance and that lady on the television last night used the number 50-thousand. Since Dirigo has only 12-thousand currently enrolled (That new figure was also on the radio Thursday), it puzzles me where the 50-thousand or more figure comes from.

At least now we know two of the main talking points that will be spread by those favoring this huge tax increase that every man, woman and child in the state will have to pay to raise the 75 or more million dollars to pay for insurance of 12-thousand people, half of which already had their own private insurance until the state offered a plan where it would pay for at least part of it.

The two points: The People’s Veto is brainchild of a big out of state beverage industry to save them money, how I don’t know since the taxes will be passed to consumers, and the figure to be used is somewhere around 50-thousand people even though the total enrollment of Dirigo has never even approached that number.

Or, and more likely, is the welfare industry afraid its free ride is in jeopardy? We have learned recently that the Dirigo plan also covers some people on MaineCare, Maine’s version of Medicaid, and other state welfare services. Is fear of a weakening of our welfare state the real reason behind the opposition to Mainers facing a massive new tax in spite of the increasing hardships of making ends meet? Are these “medical professionals” afraid the repeal of this tax just might start a tax revolt that will affect their income? Hmmmm? Something to think about, I think.

Time now to enjoy the weekend. Is this the sun I see on this Saturday morning? Enjoy your weekend and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Ponder Ideas

My roof is completed. The roofer, as expected, completed the project and packed up his gear shortly after noon yesterday and went home. He said he was looking forward to camping over the weekend with his family.

Wife Gator has gone back to work today after a mini-vacation. She’s had a very busy week working in our gardens. She got some new glasses Wednesday and yesterday she and my cousin went to Pine Point for lunch. She, even though we didn’t get a day trip as we had sort of hoped, has had an opportunity to do some things away from the house. Except for trips to Senior Fitness I basically stayed home to keep an eye on the roofer, not that it would have helped if he needed help. Well, I suppose I could have called the rescue unit if he fell off the house. He didn’t.

One petition drive was a huge success. Another was a failure. The drive for signatures to get a tax increase on beverages and insurance claims repealed was successful. The drive to get a different law that changed Maine’s drivers’ licenses to closely align with the federal Real I.D. fell short. I’m happy with the success of the first; I didn’t agree with the second.

Earlier this week, President Bush ended his ban on off-shore oil drilling. The Democrat-controlled Congress, along with a few Republicans including both of Maine’s, has said Congress will not lift its ban on the drilling. I think Congress is giving the Republicans a mighty big battle cry for the November elections, if the Republicans grab the gift. The huge majority of Americans want the drilling to take place, not only off-shore but also in various land locales.

Congress already has a small 9% approval rating so its members are going against the will of the people who elect them. Meanwhile, President Bush’s action has already caused the per barrel price of oil to drop by about $14 as of yesterday. There were some folk who said drilling wouldn’t accomplish anything. Many of us countered with just the threat of loss of sales would bring the price down. Down it is coming.

Possibly the Congressional Democrats, and a few Republicans, are so deep into the pockets of the environmentalists, who absolutely do not want any drilling, that changing their positions is a near impossibility. In any event, I would like to see the Republicans use the situation to begin a battle cry for November now.

The two Presidential candidates-to-be are split. Republican John McCain has reevaluated his position and now favors drilling. Democrat Barack Obama has evaluated his position and continues to be opposed.

Interesting story in this morning’s Press Herald. The state has commissioned a 48-thousnd dollars study to try to learn why Maine is 43 percent higher in the use of hospital emergency rooms than the national average. I think I could save the state that money. Care in the ER can be free to folk without insurance. Doctors expect payment. Many Mainers simply cannot afford insurance because of state laws, so they go to the ER. Simple, isn’t it? Worth $48K? Of course if the study did show that state laws have caused the increases in policy costs in the last several years, it might be worth the expenditure so the Legislature could reverse some of those laws.

In the weather, I understand today will be going downhill with some heavy humidity poised to arrive here this afternoon. We could get some thundershowers before the day is done and some reports say tonight’s sleeping conditions won’t be pleasant. But, alas, the weekend arrives tomorrow and the forecast for the weekend indicates it might be a nice one for the most of it.

Stay comfortable today and if that heat and humidity does arrive where you are, be sure to take in many liquids, water is best I’m told, and check on your elderly neighbors. We’ll all enjoy the weekend beginning tomorrow much better.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Roof about finished; Deceptions on Dirigo begin!

Today will be the final day on my roof. The roofer was here as I left for my Senior Fitness session this morning. He indicated he’d have the job completed probably by noon or early afternoon. He has taken this long to complete the job simply because he works all alone. But he doesn’t appear to take shortcuts and seems to make sure everything is right. I’ll miss the noise. Sure, I will.

This was a good day, but not the best, at my fitness place. For some reason, I’m beginning to feel the incoming humidity sooner than usual which simply means much of today’s session was work rather than pleasure. But I accomplished it all and am now looking forward to the weekend.

Today also marks the last day of Wife Gator’s vacation as she’ll return to her part time job tomorrow morning. She still has some days left which she’ll be taking either in September or, more likely, October when we can take a leaf peeping trip. She’s had a very busy week, though. She spent most of her free time working in her various gardens.

Speaking of gardens, we had our first serving of super fresh vegetables Tuesday night. I had some beet greens, which probably raised holy moly with my blood level. I do care, yet I don’t care, as beet greens just may be my favorite vegetable. That’s probably because I only get them for a very few short weeks each year. I’ve been spoiled by WG with fresh veggies and only want certain ones in the picking time frame. Beet greens are among them. We didn’t have enough for both of us which was O.K. with her. She had one of her favorites, Swiss chard.

We don’t have a huge garden so once the vegetables come on, we run out rather quickly. The important part of the two we had Tuesday was the beginning. We should have beans by the weekend or early next week. She has enough tomatoes on four plants to feed the neighborhood when they get ripened. I’d guess that we’re still a week away, however, from most of the stuff that’s been planted.

What a shock we all got yesterday when it was announced that the price of virtually everything has gone up or is about to climb. I’ll bet you noticed the differences in the supermarket where you shop. The report also said that the price of durable goods also climbed. Household things like washing machines, TVs and the like are now more expensive than they were just a little time ago. I don’t recall if the report gave a reason or not, but I’d put my money on transportation and other energy costs. The price increase of vegetables probably can be attributed to the requirement that we use ethanol laced gasoline and so farmers are switching to growing corn.

In Maine, state and local taxation is contributing to cost problems. And Mainers may be giving a hint they’re fed up. If one reads the comments on the news story about the success of the petition drive to get a tax increase passed at the close of the last legislature on the ballot, you will see that the vast majority of posters said they hope the Democrat legislative leaders get the message that we’re too highly taxed. The quotes in the article by those leaders strongly suggest they haven’t a clue. The story and comments were on the Press Herald/ website yesterday, but I haven’t checked this morning to see if they’re still there.

I also heard on the radio while driving to my fitness workout this morning that the governor is saying that if the tax is repealed, 50-thousand people will lose their insurance. That same radio report also said that there currently are only 12-thousand people using Dirigo and more than half of those already had insurance before they took advantage of the state’s assistance. I would guess the governor’s figure will become the talking point for the Democrats. If you hear it, just chuckle knowing it’s a false claim. One of many you’ll be hearing.

Finally this day, I got a new type robo phone call last night. A robo call is an advertisement of sorts generated by a computer. I hung up on last night’s call so I don’t know from which group it was. But the difference in this one from those I’ve received earlier was that the very computer sounding voice greeted me with my name. When I answered the phone, there was a short pause, possibly while the computer decided it heard a male voice and switched to my listed first name to say, “Hello, Gator in Maine, I know how annoying these calls are, but . . .” First, it did use my real name, but I did ‘gently’ replace the handset before it got to tell me who was annoying me. I wonder if WG had answered if it would have greeted her by name. Technology continues to evolve, and has now found another way to turn me against the caller.

Now it’s time to watch the roofer finish the work. As I said, I’ll be glad this project is behind me.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tax doomed; Is Dirigo in trouble?

I’d call this a good day for the people of the State of Maine. A People’s Veto drive has been successful in gathering sufficient signatures to force a referendum in November on a tax increase. Campaign organizers had just a few weeks to gather more than 55-thousand signatures to force the citizens’ vote in November. Yesterday the organizers turned in petitions containing more than 90-thousand to the Secretary of State.

The group was alliance called Fed Up With Taxes and was a coalition of the Maine Chamber of Commerce, several beverage groups, the Maine Taxpayers United, and many small stores and restaurants around the state.

The group was put together following the passage of a tax on most beverages, except milk products, and a new tax on paid insurance claims. It was designed to raise more than 50-million dollars to fund the state’s failed Dirigo health plan. The Legislature passed the tax in the dead of night as the last Legislature was ending. Although proponents of the tax claimed public hearings on a similar measure two years ago was sufficient, the coalition and many Mainers felt there was no public hearing or public input into this increase.

It was scheduled to take effect 90 days after adjournment, but because of the petition drive to veto it the increase is on hold until after the elections.

Reading all the comments on the website leads one to believe there is a growing feeling that Maine, already the highest taxed state in the nation, has had enough taxes. The vast majority of posters yesterday indicated also that the Dirigo health plan itself should also be dumped. It is, of course, the signature event of the Gov. Baldacci administration so I’d expect the governor and his supporters to simply find something else to try taxing to raise the money.

I’ve been calling the Dirigo health plan a failure for weeks. Some simple facts support that stand. When the governor first proposed Dirigo, the state’s initial entry into an eventual single payer health system similar to the one in Canada, we were promised that within five years Dirigo would have enrolled more than 35-thousand previously uninsured Mainers and that it would be self-sustaining. Now five years into the plan, there are fewer than 15-thousand enrollees (The number changes from 18-thousand to 13-thousand depending on who’s talking and the audience listening.) and half of them already had private insurance.

It is not self-sustaining. I don’t remember all the funding plans, but the one currently in use and the one that will continue because of the veto drive is one where the Dirigo board makes up a number it says it has save Maine in health costs and charges that amount to insurance companies. The name of the payment is SOP, Savings Offset Plan. It has never, at least that I have ever read, explained just what those savings are. The charge does not fully fund for Dirigo.

Then in that midnight decision last session, the Legislature came up with the tax on nearly all beverages except milk products and a tax on paid insurance claims to raise somewhere between 50-million dollars and $75-million, depending on whom you’re listening to. Those are taxes that will hit every single man, woman, and child in Maine one way or another. And it was all to fund the failed program to insure 15-thousand people. It may have been less expensive to simply buy private insurance.

And another signal of failure is that Dirigo is not currently accepting new enrollees and the board was counting on the tax to at least open it up to some small businesses.

The very best solution is one the governor probably doesn’t have the courage to take. Simply admit it didn’t work, suspend Dirigo long enough for the enrollees to find new insurance, then deep six it altogether. That could be a positive legacy the governor so dearly craves.

We do need insurance reform in Maine. The one policy fits all fits practically no one. Under current rules, we 70+ year old men have to have pregnancy insurance. My wife tells me she can no longer get me pregnant. And there are numerous other requirements that make no sense. If people could buy the insurance they needed and wanted, as they can in most other states, our costs would drop dramatically. A simple comparison of insurance rates with those in neighboring New Hampshire would be an incredible eye opening experience.

But reform will have to be the topic of another discussion. For today, Mainers have a chance to decide for themselves if they want to fund Dirigo through beverages in November. I’ll be voting for repeal, and if the comments on the newspaper website are any indication, so will many other Mainers.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A simple Tuesday -- BULLETIN: See Below!

What a beautiful start to this day! The sun is streaming into the yard, the humidity is rather low, and the forecast says it’s going to be a near perfect day. This is the way Maine should be, although personally, I might prefer just a wee sea breeze, which may come later today, and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. Nevertheless, I’m not complaining about what we’ll have today. Even the birds are out there cheering it on.

I had a great hour at my Senior Fitness place this morning. There is, you know, a direct correlation between workout success and weather. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the difference in the weather, either. The whole group was more active and thus livelier this morning. I came home feeling really good.

The roofer was up on the roof as I drove off around 7 this morning. He is making excellent progress considering he works all by himself. I suspect the main house will be completed by late today or in the first part of tomorrow morning at the latest. He’ll then have just a small breezeway and a small piece of the garage to finish. There’s a very small chance he’ll be done tomorrow, but more likely it’ll be sometime Thursday.

Wife Gator continues her garden work outside. She was outside before I left this morning taking advantage of this weather. She’s trying to get caught up on some weeding. It’s a lonely job for her; as you know, I don’t do outdoors except for a couple of regular chores. I am selfish in that respect though as I freely admit I love the vegetables her efforts bring to the table.

Some items in the news this morning: The wait for the final outcome of the People’s Veto petitions to get an initiative on the November ballot to overturn the massive beverage tax and tax on insurance claims imposed by the last Legislature continues. All the petitions have to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office by Thursday. Petition drive organizers appear confident. The Secretary of State’s office, regardless of the issue or political party involved, has demonstrated a great proficiently for honesty and fairness in its decisions. It may be among the best in State government.

Bulletin: According to a post on As Maine Goes and also on the Press Herald site, more than 90-thousand signature petitions were turned in today to the Secretary of State's Office. Slightly more than 55-thousand were needed to get the question (See above paragraph) on the November Ballot. More tomorrow.

Just this week, for example, a Superior Court judge has upheld a decision by the Secretary of State’s office that a Maine politician has successfully submitted sufficient petition signatures to appear on the November U.S. Senate ballot as an independent. He would oppose both incumbent Republican Susan Collins and Democrat challenger Tom Allen. The Secretary of State is a prominent Democrat and it is the Democrat Party that’s challenging the petition. The party is afraid the Independent will take votes away from Allen.

With a whopping nine percent approval rating, Congress has decided that it’s best for us to continue to suffer with high energy prices. The Democrats in Congress say they will not lift the ban of off-shore drilling or drilling anywhere else, for that matter. It is true that the drilling would not get us less expensive American oil and gas for several years, but at least it would be a start at getting us energy independent. And it just might cause the current oil producers to lower their prices hoping to keep us from drilling.

Why do we need energy independence? I think that’s a no-brainer. Right now much of our oil money is lining the pockets of leaders of the producing countries. Most of those same countries want to use that money to destroy us. I would agree this has the look of a red herring, but just think about what all that money could be doing if it stayed right here in America.

That was the topic of conversation this morning at Senior Fitness. The consensus was that we retired folk are in for a very expensive winter and the only way to even begin to do something about it is to change just about everyone in Congress. Of course that can’t be done as only a third of the Senate members are up for reelection. And, like human nature everywhere, most people believe that none of the people we elect in our districts and states are responsible for the problem. Only those elected elsewhere are and they are the ones that should be replaced.

It’s getting very noisy up on the roof. The guy is currently working directly over my head so I’ll say good-bye for today.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Belated Happy Birthday, World Series, Petitions

I think I forgot over the weekend to give a public Happy Birthday to Wife Gator. She’s a year older now, but that detracts from nothing. I have noticed that she is having a little more difficulty getting moving after sitting for a while. That doesn’t bother me too much as I am in the same condition. Possibly a little worse. The affliction is called “Age.” Our daughter came over yesterday and brought a cake and some garden additions. The plants were not planted yesterday because they were not planted. WG will put them into the ground sometime this week, but probably not today because of the weather activity.

We do have a confused little pup this morning. WG is on vacation for most of this week so she didn’t have to get up early. As I’ve said before the dog knows days of weeks but I don’t know how she does it. What she does know is WG goes to her part time job on Mondays. Today she’s home and the dog is having a tough time understanding it. She did her usual job of trying to be sure WG was up in time to head out this morning, but all that happened was the dog was told to lay down and be quiet. That started the confusion. Now she makes periodic trips to WG, stares at her like she is asking, “What are you doing here?” Then throws herself down in her corner to think about it.

The Red Sox for the fourth year in a row reach the halfway mark in the season in first place in the American League East. Just one week ago they trailed by five games, but went on a winning streak while the previous leader, Tampa Bay which plays in my old (50 years ago) stomping ground St. Petersburg, went on a wild losing streak so the Red Sox jumped over them yesterday.

The so-called All-Star game is tomorrow night. Even though Major League Baseball found a way to add just a little excitement to the game, I won’t be watching it. I rarely if ever watch so-called All-Star games, just like a rarely if ever watch inter-league games. But by giving the winner of this game the home field advantage in the World Series, MLB has at least forced me to read the outcome Wednesday morning.

My definition of “all-star” is the designation should represent the best of the best. It doesn’t in baseball but only represents the fans’ favorites through fan voting. Now this sounds like a great idea, but the larger markets can control the elections. And fans choose as many, if not more, sentimental favorites as they do true best of the best. I must admit that nearly everyone I know who likes baseball likes these games and I’m almost alone in my feelings. That’s O.K. It’s simply the way it is.

This is the week we’ll find out if enough signatures were collected to force a referendum on that huge tax on beverages and insurance claims the Legislature passed in the final moments of the last session. A “People’s Veto” was started almost as soon as the session ended and the organizers had to collect more than 55-thousand signatures by July 17th to force a delay in the law and send the measure out to vote by all Mainers.

July 17th is Thursday and most of the petitions are now in local election offices for signature verification. I read in yesterday’s Maine Sunday Telegram that organizers of the effort are confident they have the number of signatures. If they are correct, then the Secretary of State will place the question on the November General Election ballot for consideration by all Maine’s voting citizens.

The petition drive was the result of the Democrat controlled Legislature’s last minute midnight passage of the tax increase on most beverages and insurance claims to pay for the state’s failed Dirigo health program. There was no public hearing or input into the tax designed to raise about 70-million dollars a year. It’s easy to call the Dirigo program a failure because after its supporters said it would be self-sustaining and would insure more than 35 thousand Mainers who previously had no insurance within five years, the program has fewer than 15-thousand enrollees, most of whom were previously insured on private plans, and is now not accepting new members. It certainly, as the need for the new taxes shows, is not self-sustaining.

Thursday could be an interesting day as we learn if enough signatures were collected. We’ll then have to wait a while for the Secretary of State to certify the required number.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


Another weekend has arrived. The roofer guy said he would like to work Saturday if we had no objections. Since I didn’t know of any plans for the day, there were no objections. He hopes to finish the project early next week.

What that does mean, though, is that we won’t be getting a visit from our daughter and her dog on Saturday, but they are planning to come over Sunday. We don’t have any plans for the day, so we’ll probably just enjoy a nice lunch and the ladies will do a little work outside. I’m not sure if that’s because there’s a little work needed or if they know the two dogs play much better when they’re outside, too.

A little water works wonders. Friday afternoon WG headed outside to tour her vegetable gardens. A second planting of beans had taken place a while back and she was particularly interested to see if they were making progress. There was no sign of them, but she did learn by feeling the ground that the garden was bone dry. So she put a sprinkler on that garden for an hour or so. In just that little time she discovered when she went back to shut the sprinkler off, those darn beans had sprouted and were already more than an inch above the ground. Gardens love water.

So Friday night we turned the irrigation system on and made sure all the gardens and the whole yard got a much needed drink.

Democrat Party chairman Howard Dean was in Maine proclaiming that the country needs change. He was in the state lending support to the candidacies of Chellie Pingree for the House of Representatives and Tom Allen for the U.S. Senate. Dean’s theme was that the country needs change. I’m not sure anyone has defined “change” as it applies to this campaign. Barack Obama has been proclaiming a need for change for months. Has he defined what he means? I guess I missed it.

Seems to me four years ago the Democrats called for change and got themselves elected to the majority of seats in both houses of Congress. Nothing changed so they again called for change two years ago. Again they won the majority in Congress. Did that result in any changes? I’ve heard a lot of talk and seen a lot of posturing; but change? I guess I missed it.

Of course even though they were the majority party in both houses, it was President Bush that kept change from taking place. Many Democrats blame the Republican minority in the Senate to block any meaningful action. I guess the Republicans learned the delay lesson well that was taught to them by the Democrats.

Now that I think of it, there has been change over the last four years. We’re now paying more for oil and gas. We’re paying more for food. The housing industry has tanked. But I guess we can place the blame on the White House. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to say “We intended … but…” than to actually accomplish something.

Another election approaches and for the third time, the call is for “change.” We’re never told what was changed the last two times, but by repeating the theme over and over, the American public will buy into it once again. We’ll hear the cry again in two years, and again I’ll be wondering, “What changed?”

I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll be back again Monday.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Roof, Cong. Allen, Government dependency

Yesterday became a little cooler as it passed by but noticeably less humid. I guess that combination was all the roofer guy needed as he made fantastic progress. He arrived right around 7 AM yesterday and went right to work. After a short break for lunch, and I mean short for a workman working directly in the sun all morning, he was back on the roof and continued his progress until 4:30 PM when he called it quits for the day.

Gotta tell ya! In the first couple of days, my roofer guy has totally impressed me with his work ethic. And so far, the job isn’t shabby, either.

He was back on the job about 6:45 o’clock this morning. His first question to me was, “Would you mind if I worked on Saturday?”

I look forward to visits from my fearless friend. Today I’m getting one of those visits. FF has a standing Friday appointment when he another associate of his head to a local fish restaurant for a dip of fish chowdah. His associate works across and just up the street from me so FF occasionally stops by here for a visit before chowdah time. I have no computer issues for him to help me with so I’m sure we’ll have all the problems of the world solved in the couple of hours he’s here. He is bringing a Bluetooth device for me to try.

Congressman Tom Allen continues to try to convince his constituents that he is working for the benefit of Mainers. Now I can’t give you a source for this next statement except that I’ve read it in several places. It may or may not be true that Congressman Allen has never had one of his bills passed in Congress. I’d bet he has co-sponsored some that have passed. Anyway, I received another email from him yesterday seeking my feelings of various issues. I’ll probably not return the survey because I doubt he really cares.

He does ask and give me options on various questions. He wants to know if the current oil/gas pricing has affected us. Actually his choices on most were pretty reasonable. For example on the first one he asked, Have I been affected? Have I changed my home heating and driving habits? Have I been affected and am I worried about the winter? And have I not been affected and am not worried? Probably the only ones not affected are Congressmen who get a really nice income and have all their costs paid by you and me.

His survey also covered strategies for resolving the energy crisis, what we should do in Iraq, expanding funding for higher education, concerns about the health care system (and, yes, one of the choices was for universal health care), the effect of the housing crisis on you, homeland security, transportation problems, and the most important issues to you, with choices for all the topics, of course. We’ll see a report down the road on the results of the survey and I’d bet the results will echo just about what he could support.

I was just listening to a couple of guys on a morning talk show on WLOB Radio and Fox 23 TV discussing the contrast between New Orleans and the Midwest. It brought back to mind an email that made its way around the globe not too long ago where the creator was asking why there was no hullaballoo about Iowa like there was New Orleans. And both the email and the talk show hosts were right; there wasn’t any. No celebrities were running around blaming the U.S. government on its response to all the flooding there. There were no calls for investigations of FEMA and its failure to respond. There were no calls or demands for the government to come in and save the day. But the Iowa flooding and Katrina ravaged New Orleans were about the same.

I think the talk show guys hit that nail on the head when they pointed out the differences in the two societies. In New Orleans (like Maine is becoming) the people were totally dependent on the government and government handouts to survive for years and years before Katrina. When the hurricane hit, all they could do was wander aimlessly lamenting the lack of government action.

In Iowa, where the people have learned to be self-dependent, the people joined together both to help each other, to battle the raging Mississippi River, and to plan for their future. They simply went against the socialist dependency and fought back themselves. I wonder what would happen here if we faced a similar disaster. Would we be able to be self-dependent or would we be wandering aimlessly looking for the government to bail us out?

I think I know the answer.

I hear the pounding up on the roof so I think I’ll head out to watch working taking place.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Elections and Windmills

I felt a lot of pity for the roofer guy who began the process of putting a new roof on my home yesterday. He got here about 7 AM and began work almost immediately. Shortly after 8 o’clock a big truck arrived with the shingles and lifted them up to the roof for distribution. I had pictured our roofer person taking many, many trips up and down a ladder getting the shingles up there. It had never occurred to me that a big lift on the truck would do it for him.

But it was hot up there. Completely in the sun, the temperature rose above 90. And the roofer guy never slowed down. He had told me he was going to begin on the garage because of the thunder storms forecast for yesterday afternoon and evening. He had hoped to be able to complete it before the rains came, although he was prepared with tarps. He didn’t get the garage finished. About 2:30 he came to the door and said he was toast for the day. I was amazed he made it that long in that heat.

We passed each other in the driveway this morning. I was heading out to my Senior Fitness Class when he arrived. Wife Gator was here, though, so he wasn’t held up at all. He expects to make a little better progress today with the oppressive humidity now history, at least for now.

I mentioned the other day about the length of the Presidential election, and although we know who they are, the candidates haven’t even been nominated by their conventions yet. That’s not the case for the U.S. Senate seat being contested in Maine. Both incumbent Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Tom Allen were selected by their parties during the June primaries. I think most of us had accurately predicted the primary outcome long before the voting.

But that still doesn’t change my mind about the length of the campaign season. When the season was much shorter, seems to me I remember it being between Labor Day and November, the candidates had to spend their time talking issues. No more. Now with the internet and the huge amount of money available from all over the world to control the elections, we have to spend many extra months with the lies, distortions, and extremely few facts about the candidates.

Although I’ll never see it again, I yearn for the day when Mainers could determine the results of elections in Maine and that all the name-calling would stop.

Energy is a top topic just about everywhere on the globe. Primarily here in Maine we’re concerned with the price of heating oil next winter and the price of gasoline right now. Those two get the brunt of the concern, but I was talking with a fellow Senior Fitness guy this morning and he was lamenting the price of K-1 he needs for his home. It looks like propane isn’t a cheap source, either, if one compares prices on the internet. And electricity isn’t a great bargain, either.

At least the state is making one little bit of progress. The Land Use Regulatory Commission has approved a wind farm along the Canadian border. I remember a few years ago when WG and I were on one of our motor trips out west. We went around a curve in the road and before us was more windmills than I had ever seen. A huge wind farm covered acres and acres with most of the blades revolving slowly. I didn’t find them objectionable at all.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if someone put one of those huge wind farms in my neighborhood. Those things are huge and I’ve read about some windmills already in use in Maine that are rather noisy with a “whomp, whomp, whomp” sound as the blades whirl. I wouldn’t like that. But I’ve also seen some smaller, home/business size ones that I don’t find objectionable at all. The one I’ve seen most is just off the Turnpike around mile 50.

There are some in homes in Maine as well. If I could afford one of those to help out with my energy costs, I’d welcome it in my back yard. But those unbelievably huge wind farm windmills like approved for the Canadian border? I’m not so sure.

Time now to return to the outside and watch work being done. I sure do love work, when I’m not doing it.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Roofing Project Begins!

I don’t envy a roofer who’s coming today to at least begin putting a new roof on my house. The one being replaced is somewhere around 25 years old. I’ve found grit from it on the ground around our house. Twenty-five years for shingles installed 25 years ago is a very long time. And now that time has come to replace it.

But today is forecast to be very hot and humid with some pretty strong thunder storms brewing up for later today and tonight. My two major concerns for this day are the poor guy working up on the roof with this kind of weather and what will happen if he gets shingles off the existing roof and the storms come up.

In fairness, the roofer is not a fly-by-night contractor who happened by and stopped in to tell me he had some shingles left over from a previous job and noticed I needed a new roof. This guy owns a company begun by his family many, many years ago and has a terrific reputation for quality work. I’m sure he has seen the same forecast as I and knows how to do his job. But I don’t. So not knowing causes my concern. I guess I just need to keep faith.

Yesterday I mentioned what I called a do nothing Congress. It would appear that I’m not the only one who thinks our Democrat controlled Congress is accomplishing very little. A recent Rasmussen Poll shows only nine percent of Americans approve of Congress’s actions. Just 9 percent. It is the lowest Congressional approval rating since Rasmussen began making these surveys. My comments yesterday were about Congress continuing not to allow oil drilling on American Soil. The Rasmussen Poll released yesterday showed Americans believe only 14% of Congress critters genuinely want to help Americans.

There’s a thread in the Public Square on As Maine Goes this morning that comments about car sales being down and dealerships shutting. The thread is based on a news story in the Kennebec Journal and repeated on Some contributors point out that, in fairness, that the trend nationwide is the same and that Maine actually hasn’t been hit as hard as other areas of the country, so far at least. Some contributors point out that when car sales are down, revenues from both sales taxes and excise taxes are also down. There is some concern that the loss of revenue will result in higher property taxes to make up the difference of the loss on the local (excise) level and eventually higher taxes on the state (sales) level.

One of the contributors, Tony Bessey, echoes a theme I’ve here many times in the past several months, “It is funny how we live on a budget, but the government does not.” All through the latter half of the last legislative session as the legislature was trying to balance the state’s budget with a promised No Tax Increase, I was pointing out, along with many other bloggers and forum contributors, that balancing the budget requires the government to set priorities and fund only those top priorities that are absolutely necessary for the state to maintain the essential services. That would be true for local and county governments, also.

But in the end, the government passed massive tax and fee increases in spite of the calls of Mainers that they simply can’t take any more. Some of those increases are some many of you probably don’t even realize you’re facing. They include increase costs of car registrations, drivers’ licenses, excise tax on car purchases, and many more. They also include those we’ve mentioned here a few times, including the beverage taxes and the insurance claims tax.

As Mr. Bessey pointed out, most of us can’t adjust our incomes on a whim and have to prioritize create and live within a budget. When the state or locals governments want more money, they don’t have to make those priorities; they just raise taxes. In the past, I’ve said I know there are elected officials who would simply ask me where I’d cut government budgets. I’ve pointed out I didn’t create the mess so it’s not my responsibility to correct it. Besides, most government types would not at all like the suggestions I would make.

Tony Bessey, incidentally, is a regular contributor to As Maine Goes. He also has a non-political blog of his own where he displays some snippets of ordinary life in Maine. There’s a link to it on the right of this page. It’s called Ordinary Maine.

Aah! Life in Maine! I’ll sit back now and patiently await the arrival of the roof guy and settle in for a day of scraping and pounding above me. Ooooh! 7: AM and roofer arrived.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hot, humid weather and a do-nothing Congress

Yesterday didn’t turn out to be a very nice day, at least in my way of thinking. I had a couple of errands to do first thing in the morning and got home sometime around mid-morning. The day simply went downhill from there. I absolutely do not like hot and humid. Actually, it’s primarily the ‘humid’ part that bothers me the most.

Shortly before noon, a plumber showed up to help me with a problem. I went outside to talk with him as the problem was outside. He asked me to go back into the house to perform a task. We communicated through a window after that. You read about my hip previously. Once that humidity gets into it, I’m done walking for the day. And yesterday’s blast took me out early.

Early indications are today isn’t going to be any better. At least I did get to my Senior Fitness class early enough to be able to complete it; but it was a challenge toward the end. I don’t plan to do much today, either, and Wife Gator is joining me on taking it easy. I love to invoke the warnings during these heat spells that give steps for us older folk to follow to keep safe. One of the steps has never happened to me: No one has checked in on us to make sure we’re O.K.

Now that’s probably not a completely fair statement. We do get phone calls from our daughter from time to time. But we get those in any weather. And my fearless friend likes me to check in with him daily so he’ll know everything is O.K.

We’re in the second half of the year already. Next November we’ll be electing a new President, a senator, and two representatives along with a whole bunch of state legislature creatures. One would never know that neither party truly has a presidential nominee yet as neither nominating convention has been held. I know this year the convention is just a formality as state primary elections and caucuses have picked the convention delegates according to how the candidates ran in the states. That means after next month, Barack Obama will be the Democrat nominee while John McCain will get the nod from the Republicans.

There are two parts to this whole process I truly don’t like. I think this presidential campaign has been going on since the Day President Bush was sworn into office three plus years ago. I don’t remember a longer campaign season. The other part is all the negativism. In this day of instant communications, internet blogging, and money raised that could just about end all poverty in the United States, we don’t get very many nice things said about any of the candidates on either side.

Publicly, the candidates are saying pretty much what they think we want to hear and then, behind the scenes, they send their attack dogs out to point out all the problems of the opponents. And there’s one question I haven’t seen answered yet: Do the Democrats even know President Bush is not running this year? Considering they’ve been in power for a couple years now and absolutely nothing has changed, I wonder what they think they’re going to accomplish after this election. My guess is more of the same: nothing. Hmmm. I’m sounding like the negative people I dislike, aren’t I? Perhaps the parties will tell me what they’ve done that’s positive.

And speaking of doing nothing, much can happen in the next few weeks the change the trend, but I read yesterday that despite oil prices heading out of sight, the price of gas affecting every aspect of the country, and the polls showing that the huge majority of Americans want this country to open oil drilling sites, the Congress is remaining to be a do-nothing Congress and is willing to let Americans simply continue to suffer. And the sad part is, those running for re-election will win again and we’ll continue down this punishing trail.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Government logic: Those darn CFL Bulbs

I just love the logic of Maine State Government. The national one isn’t much different. There’s a front page story in today’s Portland Press Herald about steps that Ecomaine is taking to recycle those new CFL light bulbs we will be required to buy in the near future. Many, according to the report, which can be read on PressHerald.MaineToday.Com, have already been sold.

These new light bulbs contain mercury. There isn’t much in each light bulb, but the article says Mainers have bought millions in the last three years. That amount of mercury can add up. What confuses me logically is that in the year 2010 Mainers and Maine business have to reduce their mercury emissions from 35 to 25 pounds a year. And soon the only kind of light bulb to be sold has the potential of adding mercury emissions.

Of course a U.S. Congressman spoke before the House of Representatives a while back spoke on the House floor pointing out that every single CFL bulb sold in the world is made in China. He also outlined a rather significant process to be followed if one breaks in your house. We know how safe those Chinese products are and now we’re required to buy them. That’s required, not an option. At least it will be soon. (See my June 16th blog.)

In fairness to Ecomaine, which handles much of the home recycling pickups in our area, the newspaper article pointed out that the company has already reduced its emissions to that annual 25 pound limit; but, the article tells us, now that an even larger flood of the bulbs is expected in the recycling stream, the challenge to the company could grow.

Some stores have opened up recycling bins to for people to use to dispose of dead bulbs. I have seen such bins in a couple of stores at least around our area. But a major problem and a potential cost increase for the recycling company is the homeowner disposing the bulbs with the family waste. That’s another step in checking the waste when it gets to the company.

I’d be willing to bet a doughnut that most families will not change their habits of simply tossing dead bulbs into the family waste as they have the old iridescent bulbs. I’d also be surprised if most families even realize there is a potential mercury problem with the new bulbs.

I’ve also read reports of the new bulbs causing other physical problems with humans, such as causing headaches, because of the slight sound the bulbs emit. I have no direct knowledge of such problems nor do I have a link to which to point you for the facts. Nevertheless, the complaints are there.

There are times when I think government’s right hand and left hand have no clue what the other is doing. I’m talking actions here, not political stands. On the one side, we’re told that to save the environment we much conserve energy and using CFL bulbs is one step in that desire. On the other hand, we told that we have the potential of causing irreparable harm to the environment and the health of our people if we use those bulbs. Sure does make a lot of sense, doesn’t it?


A busy Monday AM

It’s early on this Monday morning as I make my observations to start the day. A busy day it’s going to be, at least a busy morning. Wife Gator has already left for her workplace, but today she’s driving my car. And that’s why I’m beginning this day early.

My first stop is at a local blood testing center for my regular test to make sure the blood continues to flow correctly. I have to have this test at least monthly, sometimes every three weeks, and occasionally when I’ve been a bad boy and eaten some green stuff, every two weeks. Getting the test is really no big deal. After 7 years it’s safe to say my arm has gotten used to the poke.

Most of the time, I get a really good person, one who can get the required draw in a first try. In fact, my favorite poke person does it both painlessly and first time every time. One time a couple of years ago, I got an older person whose attitude instantly was, “I’m good. Don’t give me a hard time.” Whenever I get someone new, I do pass along what works for most of the phlebotomists and what doesn’t in my arm. The lady pulled out huge needle and I thought I was just being informative when I told her most people have the best success with what is called a butterfly.

She quickly informed me that she’s been doing blood draws for 25 years and didn’t need anyone to tell her what to do. She poked once. It hurt. She didn’t find a vein. She poked a second time with the same results. I informed her she just ran out of tries and I wanted someone who knew what she was doing. I didn’t make a friend as she stomped out of the room. A few minutes later, my favorite one came in, stifling a laugh, and informed me I just called out the manager. One very quick and painless poke got me out of there in less than a minute. I haven’t seen this “manager” since.

The place opens at 7 AM and there’s always a line there of people with regular draws that have to report to work. That means I’ll need to be there much earlier. It is necessary because I had failed to check my calendar when I made another appointment for this morning, and that brings me back to why my wife is using my car today. I have to take hers to the shop. It was almost a year ago when she last got an oil change. She hasn’t gone over the 5000 miles but we thought it might like a fresh drink. When I had mine done a few weeks ago, it dramatically increased my MPG.

She also has a very expensive sounding noise coming from the car, especially on acceleration. But it can also be detected at steady speed. I suspect her 7 year old muffler might be saying, “Enough, already.” I’m having that noise examined and fixed during this visit. I’m expecting to be at the fix place for quite a while this morning.

When I get home, I’ll be able to spend some time perusing today’s news and I’ll bet there will be stuff in the news that will get me excited. I might mention one or two of the items tomorrow. But now it’s time for me to begin my morning adventures.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

The weekend after the holiday

I trust you all had a wonderful Fourth of July and that you have arrived at this weekend, the rest of the Holiday period, safe and ready to return to normalcy, whatever that is.

The Gator family didn’t do very much celebrating Friday. In fact, we did none. Not because we don’t have much joy for this great nation, but because one of us was scheduled to work and another took advantage of the day to get caught up where she works. Wife Gator is scheduled to work three days a week at a store which doesn’t do a whole lot of celebrating, so, since Friday was a normally scheduled day for her, she spent most of the day at the store. Daughter Gator decided to take advantage of her employer’s work option for the holiday and get caught up on some of her work stuff.

So this old Gator spent the day being tormented by the pup which somehow knew it was a holiday and couldn’t figure out why I was the only one here. Even our only neighbors left for the weekend to spend it at their family’s camp. I guess one might say “quiet” was the descriptive word of Gatorland Friday.

Saturday was scheduled to be our day. After a morning for WG to catch up on some rest and for both of us to get caught up on some work around the house, Daughter Gator and her dog are expected for an afternoon of visiting and an early evening cookout. We had some steaks left in our freezer before we shut it down a few weeks ago. They had been moved to the refrigerator freezer for use this weekend. DG is the grilling expert in our family and we expected her Saturday results would be excellent.

Of course the dogs didn’t care if this is a holiday weekend or not. As we mention just about every weekend, they love to romp and play in the yard. Actually, their little dance amuses and entertains all three of us for quite a spell.

Another day of visiting was planned for Sunday. Although no work is scheduled, you can bet both ladies will be in the vegetable gardens checking on the progress there. I’m not sure what the meal will be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if pizza didn’t get included somewhere.

Because of the nature of the beast, this is just a simple, light holiday weekend for the Gator family. I’ll most likely get back to my ranting when I return Monday. Until then, enjoy whatever is left of this great Birthday weekend for America.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America!

‘Tis a holiday and the first day of a long, three-day holiday weekend.

Many folk use this day not only to honor America but also to celebrate with family and friends together. Because my wife has to work at her part time job today, my family is saving our cookout for tomorrow, but most folks will be celebrating later today and many will head out for some spectacular fireworks demonstrations.

On this day, we celebrate the 232rd year of the Declaration of Our Independence from England. We thank all those who have come before us and those during our time that have made sacrifices to make sure our Freedoms long endure. So on this day, let’s all join in and sing Irving Berlin’s immortal “God Bless America”:

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

Happy Birthday, America!