Friday, October 31, 2008


Someday I may learn how to do cutesy and scary things with a blog, but that’s not something I’ve attempted yet. Nevertheless, this is Halloween, a day for ghosts and goblins of all types, sizes and ages. The fun time for the kiddies will begin shortly after the school hour comes to an end in the afternoon, which coincidentally, is about the time darkness begins to set in.

If you happen to be out and about late this afternoon or early evening, please remember that the very little ones will be out, most in a full costume of some sort. Excitement will be controlling their movements even when they are accompanied by parents. They will be oblivious to your presence and capable of darting out at any time.

Please keep an eye out for the little munchkins while you’re driving around. We’d hate to see a wee one, or anyone for that matter, hurt on this fun, exciting night.

Mentioning this special day brings back some memories of my own childhood. I was a “good” boy and did all I could to avoid getting into trouble. But at a rather early age, and I honestly don’t remember that part, I heard my parents talking about what happens on Halloween. Give a “treat” or receive a “trick.” I later learned that they were only having a fun discussion of what could happen. But some sort of destructive mischief was expected.

I smashed our own garage window.

It did not go over very well with my parents and my pleas that I was only doing what was expected fell on deaf ears. They did not laugh and hug me. I never broke another window on purpose.

I have some other good memories of my youthful hijinks, none of which were destructive, and I’m sure you all do, also. This was a happy time of our growing up and a time we all looked forward to. It was a time when we could go safely from door to door and not worry about drugs having been injected into the candy or razor blades being inserted into apples and things. We could eat our candy as we got it and not have to have it inspected at home before we ate it.

Most, if not all of us did our Trick or Treating right within our own neighborhoods with an occasional foray to relatives’ places. In the recent past we’ve seen carloads of kids being driven from neighborhood to neighborhood. I remember my parents, and GW and I at an earlier time, looking forward to the neighborhood kids in their costumes. Part of the great game was figuring out who the kids were and taking great pride when we solved the costume. That’s a hard thing today when we’ve never seen a trick or treater before and probably never will again.

Since we’ve moved to our present home, we don’t get many, if any at all, little kids seeking handouts here. There are only two houses in this place about 350 feet off the road, and they are separated by a water flowing drainage ditch, or, as FF likes to call it, The Canal. Most parents don’t like the idea of their children walking all that distance in the dark alone to get a candy bar or something. We don’t blame them. Even in the “good old times” we wouldn’t have allowed our children to make that trek, either.

So on this day, especially as darkness falls, be extremely careful while you’re out and about. Even though many neighborhoods now have “block” parties for their kids, there will be some being traditional. We want all of them to get safely back home.

Two other little quickies: Remember that Saturday night when you go to bed it’s time to set your clocks back an hour to usher in Standard Time once again. And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday.

Before I go, a fellow blogger, the son of my Fearless Friend, is getting married tomorrow. I’m wishing Eric and Linda a very good and happy life together.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

An early start: Thanks Gator Golden

We, Gator Wife and I, were up just a little bit early this morning. Gator Golden apparently heard something outside and became restless. When GG gets restless that time of morning, it means sleep time is over. We have no idea what she heard, or thought she heard, but we got up.

The good part of that, I suppose, is that I’m getting this post written before I head out for Thursday Senior Fitness. The normal morning activities have been accomplished and I’m here in the TV room, or den if you wish, having my morning cup of coffee, and jotting down these thoughts.

Congratulations this morning to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the World Series Championship last night. Because it was the completion of Monday’s weather suspended game, I got to see the end. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 to win the series 4 games to 1.

Yesterday was the really great day I experience on the fourth Monday of the month. Our little lunch group of retirees met for our monthly talk, eat, and gossip. We were all there, except for the snowbird. One of the group spends a little more than six months in Florida as he has established residency there and spends a little time up here in good weather. He went home a week or so ago.

But the rest were there. Too much to talk about so it seems the gossip part was eliminated. We don’t really gossip, but if someone has decided to stay away from a meeting, he may get just a little fun poked about him. The upcoming elections…we all agreed we were sick of them…and sports…I don’t think we ever tire of sports…were our main topics.

I think I must have gotten a pretty good night’s sleep last night, until GG decided we had enough as my old body feels pretty good this morning. I’m looking forward to my exercise session. In all fairness, I always look forward even when the weather is bad and I know I’m going to feel some pain. I also enjoy the company of my fellow seniors in the program.

As soon as I get home, WG and I are heading out for some breakfast at I-HOP. We’ve been tweaked by some new pancakes we’ve seen advertised lately. The I-HOP over in South Portland near the Mall does an excellent job with its food and service. So today I’m going to splurge and take GW out to breakfast.

I have no clue what’s up for the rest of the day. I think there may be a little shopping. If, and that’s a huge “if,” the leaves dry this morning, I suspect there’ll a little riding around the yard vacuuming up the leaves and trimming the lawn. If we do that, it’ll probably be the last trim of the season. There may be an acorn or two out there that needs to be eliminated.

So, an early start and no particular agenda create a rather light post for this day. So be it. Have a great day and we’ll try again tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A windy night tickles the memories

I think we could safely call that a wild night, although we have had wilder ones. My wind gauge was racing. The worst of the storm, I gather from the morning news reports, was in the mid-coast and Down East areas where many people were without power this morning. I know we occasionally get wind; but when the wind is whistling like that at night, its noise and ferocity seem amplified.

I was reminded of a really big wind our family watched pass us by just a few blocks many years ago. My parents lived just outside St. Petersburg, Florida. In the late 1960s when our daughter was just a very young child, we took her there so my parents could meet, see, and hold her. Gator Daughter was too young to know what was happening, but at least she and her grandparents could spend a little time together.

About the third day we were there, a hurricane headed straight for the Tampa Bay area. It wasn’t aimed directly at my folks’ home, but it was going to be close enough to potentially cause considerable damage. The hurricane slammed into the coast and headed inland and, with the sun still shining, our family gathered in chairs on the front lawn. We saw the blowing winds and clouds approach and the edge passed within several blocks of where we were.

While we were in some wind with the sun still visible, the hurricane passed causing a lot of damage just those several blocks away. Before we left St. Pete for home that year, we toured some of the hurricane damaged area. It was hard to believe that we sat generally in sunshine with some winds while just a few blocks away, Nature was wreaking havoc. There were millions of dollars in damage in the area where the storm actually hit, but that was well outside St. Pete.

And here in Maine, do you remember Hurricane Bob? I worked through that one.

Last night wasn’t nearly as bad and we didn’t get anywhere near the hurricane force winds. But lying in bed last night and listening to the whistling outside brought back many memories of damaging winds we’ve experienced. I don’t like windy nights.

A little conflict this morning in various weather forecasts. The first report I saw on The Weather Channel showed snow showers along with wind today in our area. The local TV station we usually watch in the morning showed those possible showers to be in the north and mountains.

This political season is winding down. Election Day is now less than a week away. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I think it began nearly three years ago and, frankly, I’m very tired of the whole thing. Nevertheless, I pride myself in having missed only one voting day since I first became eligible to vote back in the 1950s. That one miss was just last spring when my town held its school budget vote one week before the June primaries. I had been under the impression the vote would be during the primaries and was surprised when I asked for the ballot. I was not alone. That mess up broke a very long string of voting.

Speaking of voting, I’ve cast my ballot for this year’s elections and referenda questions. If you haven’t, please don’t forget to do so either absentee or in person next Tuesday. We cannot say much about our government if we don’t participate in it, even in this small way.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big decision time approaching on gambling

I can absolutely assure you the weather people are correct. We will be getting some rain in our area today. One of our Senior Fitness group wasn’t at the gym today, but the rest of us are as one in feeling this low pressure system either coming through now or soon to be here. I think the reaction of our innards is the biggest, and possibly the only real, downside of moving through this upper age level. I must quickly add, though, that waking up in the morning is worth it.

October is slipping away. Just like the speed of the week’s passing I’ve complained about often, months seem to be racing by, also. Friday night will be Halloween, and kids will be out in force as a solid demonstration that October will be ending.

We’ve now learned what we already knew. Penn National, the owner of Hollywood Slots in Bangor, is the force behind the drive to put slots at Scarborough Downs in Scarborough. It has not been a secret and Penn National’s name has been prominently mentioned in advertising from The Downs for its development project. What the official knowledge does is confirm that if the slots pass, a lot more of Mainer’s money will be heading to Las Vegas where Penn National is based.

The Scarborough project goes beyond the slots in hopes of gaining town support for the project. The Scarborough Village group promises huge development, mostly on Scarborough Downs land, and, the group says, it will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue. And, of course, create jobs. It’s the same carrot that the Oxford County pro-casino group is dangling in front of the noses of voters throughout the state attempting to get a full casino approved for Oxford.

We seen news reports recently about costs no one wants to talk about in localities in other parts of the country where casinos have been permitted. The infrastructure to support such developments can eat up most or even more of the gain. Such expenses as police and fire support, sewers, roads, and a slew of others need to be considered. In fairness, Scarborough Downs already has access from Route 1 and the Paine Road near a turnpike exit, but whether those accesses are sufficient is not known, at least to me. From the experience of others, they are not. I would think the Paine Road, especially, would need some major overhaul for traffic.

What about all those great jobs? I don’t have a link to a newspaper story I read recently, but all those great jobs in Bangor perhaps are not quite so great at all. One group of workers was making as little as $3.50/hour and depending on tips to bring the wage into minimum category. Many of the workers were averaging about 10 dollars an hour which isn’t any better than what local companies are paying right now. Sure, there were some much higher paying jobs, but isn’t that also true in any business?

There are many jobs in those pay ranges available right now for anyone who really wants a job. Doubt me? Just read the Help Wanted ads in the papers and in the windows of most businesses.

As for the local tax argument, I pointed out a couple weeks ago that in all my years, I can’t recall a single promised development that reduced my taxes. Mostly because of the infrastructure development needed, taxes seem to climb. There are some who would argue that taxes would have climbed even more without that development, but I’m not so sure of that.

So, if you haven’t yet voted on either State Referendum #2 or the Scarborough zone change referendum, be sure to learn all the facts, both sides, before you place your vote. And please, vote.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Successful weekend ends

The last weekend in October has ended. It was a very successful one for the Gators, both the football team and the little homestead here in Maine for a Gator guy. The football team sort of beat Kentucky 63-5 in their homecoming game Saturday. Of course none of the TV outlets wanted to show that game around here. The “Big” game comes up Saturday. The World’s Largest Cocktail Party will be held in Jacksonville as the Georgia Bulldogs and Gators meet.

That name is no longer allowed on the Florida campus because it refers to drinking, a universal college and university problem. The University has even asked the media to refrain from referring to the Florida/Georgia pre-game event as the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. However, for many of us who’ve been to these games, the name is what it is. Naturally, I didn’t drink.

At my home, our completion of the newly braced village frames was accomplished. They are now patiently awaiting a massive decoration project beginning Nov. 11th. As I’ve mentioned, we have a huge Department 56 lighted display, complete with “snow” and trees, houses, businesses, a waterfront, a forest, many accessories, and this year, if we can make it work, a mountain. You’ll be hearing a lot more about the Village in November.

I was going to show you the completed frame sans top in its proper place right here along with showing you the completed long frame behind the couch. “Was going” are the operative words here. But I’ll take a page from my Democrat friends’ playbook and tell you I intended to do it so everything is O.K. Well, not quite. My camera is dead. I’d guess it needs batteries and a quick check showed my stash of them has been used up. I’ll have more when village time arrives, but at 6:15 this morning, I wasn’t going to head out for some.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Wow! Now that’s a trite statement from out of the past. One thing we didn’t get to this past weekend was the outside. The acorns that were there Friday are still there, but it does appear the major drop has ended as there doesn’t seem to be too many new ones. One tree is now totally without leaves. Most of the others around our home are still pretty full. The oaks, of course, probably won’t lose their leaves until snow falls. But the maples and the birches are still pretty full. It doesn’t look like the weekend winds hardly touched them.

Our irrigation system will be shut off today and flushed for the winter. We really haven’t used it since late August, but the company schedules us for late October for the maintenance. We have eight zones but it will take the company less than 15 minutes to complete the process.

Have you noticed that the advertising for Sen. Collins, both her own and related ads, have subtly changed from using the word “Republican” to describe her and now highlight “Independent?” She prides herself in being “be-partisan” and now even has said that Sen. Obama’s health care plan has merit. My guess would be she’s setting herself up to continue to work with the Democrats. I can’t help but wonder how much that has helped either her or Maine in the past. Her “good friends” have been crapping all over her during this election year.

I also wonder how many votes this leaning might be costing her in this election.

I like most traditions, but sometimes they must be revisited. The number of advertisements has grown considerably and will probably blitz the airwaves for the next week. With the unrestricted absentee ballot voting, a lot of Americans have already voted. Including me. So the tradition of a media blitz in the last week might be one of those that need to be revisited. In any case, I hope the next election doesn’t begin on Nov. 5th.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

A weekend construction project

Our reconstruction project is taking much longer than we had anticipated, but there’s a good chance we’ll finish this weekend. That project is solidifying frames for our Christmas Village we light every year. We have more than a hundred Department 56 Victorian and Dickens pieces which allows us to change the village each year without having to redesign the basic layout.

Last year, however, we did a complete overhaul of the layout, including moving displays from the two rooms we had used to just the living room. Now we have a display between the couch and wall, one between the entryway and the other end of the couch, and a third which takes over the area in the bay window. That last one doesn’t change as it is a depiction of Charles Dickens immortal seasonal piece, A Christmas Carol.

Every piece from Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House to Scrooge’s home, to Tiny Tim’s and Bob Cratchet’s house, and most of the other scenes in the novel are on display. It is the most popular display we have and it changes little from year to year.

But I’m way ahead of that story which you can count on reading during the season. Right now we’re just working on the frames. When we redesigned the total layout last year, we did construct new tables to hold the display, but, not being a carpenter of any sort, my tables were rather flimsy. We thought two of them were going to fall over before the season was over. Sheets of plywood are used as table tops on the frames, and then there’s Styrofoam sheets that serve as the snow-covered landscape for the houses, people, and other accessories.

Normally, our villaging begins on Veteran’s Day and the Village is lit ready for viewing during the Thanksgiving Weekend. Gator Wife had an idea to add a mountain to the layout so we decided to get out the frame we would use for that. That required adding a second frame to the base lengthening what was already a very wobbly table frame. So we decided to do it right and start with bracing up the frame.

We did that last weekend. Monday was a very busy appointment day so Tuesday and Wednesday brought about adding the length for the mountain, this time properly braced. Once attached to the old unit, both became extremely stable. We still have to add the mountain.

This is the table on which we're working. It is in this position because we needed some space in which to work. Some more bracing needs to be added left to right and then the table will be moved to that corner directly across from it. Plywood will be added to the serve as the tabletop to hold the Village structures and accessories.

Thursday GW brought up the pieces for the other wobbly table. The legs on that table were rather short which allowed a couple of dog tails to raise havoc with the snow, trees and other small items on the layout last year. We decided then to make it taller and that was our project Thursday. Friday, when GW got home from work, we began bracing those legs to add a lot of stability.

And now the weekend is upon us. Saturday will be devoted to completing stabilization of the biggest table we have. Since Gator Daughter and her dog will be here for part of the day, she’ll give us a very welcome hand and probably we’ll get started on the window frame. That one only has three legs as most of it sits within the confines of the shelf of the bay. With her help we’ll probably have it all completed by the end of the weekend and we’ll feel much better when we start the main project on Nov 11th.

When this year’s activity started, I must admit I resisted because I thought we were getting started way too early. Once I saw how much the strength and stability of the frame was progressing, I quickly changed my mind and have told GW that she had pressed for the correct reason. We will be able to sit back after this weekend until Veteran’s Day and then feel our pride of accomplishment grow as the Village grows…safely this year.

Ours will be a busy weekend but we’ll have fun and enjoy both the work and the company of our daughter and her dog. I hope you enjoy yours as well and we’ll be back on Monday.


A weekend construction project

Our reconstruction project is taking much longer than we had anticipated, but there’s a good chance we’ll finish this weekend. That project is solidifying frames for our Christmas Village we light every year. We have more than a hundred Department 56 Victorian and Dickens pieces which allows us to change the village each year without having to redesign the basic layout.

Last year, however, we did a complete overhaul of the layout, including moving displays from the two rooms we had used to just the living room. Now we have a display between the couch and wall, one between the entryway and the other end of the couch, and a third which takes over the area in the bay window. That last one doesn’t change as it is a depiction of Charles Dickens immortal seasonal piece, A Christmas Carol.

Every piece from Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House to Scrooge’s home, to Tiny Tim’s and Bob Cratchet’s house, and most of the other scenes in the novel. It is the most popular display we have and it changes little from year to year.

But I’m way ahead of that story which you can count on reading during the season. Right now we’re just working on the frames. When we redesigned the total layout last year, we did construct new tables to hold the display, but, not being a carpenter of any sort, my tables were rather flimsy. We thought two of them were going to fall over before the season was over. Sheets of plywood are used as table tops on the frames, and then there’s Styrofoam sheets that serve as the snow-covered landscape for the houses, people, and other accessories.

Normally, our villaging begins on Veteran’s Day and the Village is lit ready for viewing during the Thanksgiving Weekend. Gator Wife had an idea to add a mountain to the layout so we decided to get out the frame we would use for that. That required adding a second frame to the base lengthening what was already a very wobbly table frame. So we decided to do it right and start with bracing up the frame.

We did that last weekend. Monday was a very busy appointment day so Tuesday and Wednesday brought about adding the length for the mountain, this time properly braced. Once attached to the old unit, both became extremely stable. We still have to add the mountain.

Thursday GW brought up the pieces for the other wobbly table. The legs on that table were rather short which allowed a couple of dog tails to raise havoc with the snow, trees and other small items on the layout last year. We decided then to make it taller and that was our project Thursday. Friday, when GW got home from work, we began bracing those legs to add a lot of stability.

This the table on which we're working. It is where it is for space to work, but when it is finished, it will go in that corner straight back. When we finish with the legs, a piece of plywood goes on the top to serve as the table top for the various Village structures and accessories.
And now the weekend is upon us. Saturday will be devoted to completing stabilization of the biggest table we have. Since Gator Daughter and her dog will be here for part of the day, she’ll give us a very welcome hand and probably we’ll get started on the window frame. That one only has three legs as most of it sits within the confines of the shelf of the bay. With her help we’ll probably have it all completed by the end of the weekend and we’ll feel much better when we start the main project on Nov 11th.

When this year’s activity started, I must admit I resisted because I thought we were getting started way too early. Once I saw how much the strength and stability of the frame was progressing, I quickly changed my mind and have told GW that she had pressed for the correct reason. We will be able to sit back after this weekend until Veteran’s Day and then feel our pride of accomplishment grow as the Village grows…safely this year.

Ours will be a busy weekend but we’ll have fun and enjoy both the work and the company of our daughter and her dog. I hope you enjoy yours as well and we’ll be back on Monday.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Are polls accurate?

It’s a cold beginning to this Friday. The forecast that says it will remain sunny, though, is a good one. I’m not sure I like the hint we’ll be getting some rain Sunday and possibly some more next week.

For anyone who may have read yesterday’s post about my dental woes, I think the correction that was made yesterday may have done the trick. The ache and pain seem to be gone this morning. We’ll see.

Do you know who is going to win the elections? Neither do I? We can’t know since we don’t have real information. I’ve read many poll results lately and, although the numbers are extremely inconsistent, the outcome guesses are pretty stable. But I have to wonder who truly is leading in the various races and referenda issues. My gut gives me the answer, but polls are based on statistics. You can get just about any result from statistics you want.

I find it fascinating that one poll can have the Presidential race in a virtual tie. That would be the AP poll which shows Obama leading McCain 44 to 43 percent. Yet many others have the difference anywhere from 4 to 20 percentage points. In races concerning Maine’s congressional races, the Democrats are in full control. Well, Susan Collins is leading Tom Allen and Sen. Collins does have an “R” after her name, but her ads refer to her as an independent.

Speaking of Collins and Allen, they have a battle about party votes in their respective ads. Don’t you find it interesting that Allen says Collins is bad because she votes as a Republican and Collins says Allen is bad because he votes as a Democrat? According to Collins, Allen votes as his party wishes 98% of the time. That’s bad. Allen says Collins is in lockstep with President Bush. That’s bad. We simply can’t have our representatives voting according to the way we think they should, and that would be according to the party we elected them from. Of course, I’m not sure either one of them really does.

According to those polls, the casino referendum for Oxford County is losing. I’ve said here many times it is a flawed law that proponents want passed and even they say it can be fixed by the Legislature. Yesterday a group of lawmakers held a press conference in Portland and said that making those changes wasn’t as easy as proponents would like you to believe. According to the Portland Press Herald reporting on that news conference, the lawmakers said attempts to change the racino law to allow slots at race tracks received considerable exertion by the gambling industry to make their changes. A spokesman for the Oxford casino said the industry supports necessary changes.

And speaking of those Bangor slots, a story this morning on WCSH-TV, Channel Six in Portland, reported that the Bangor Slots wants to increase their hours and open at 8 instead of noon on Sundays. The slots people say they’re losing from seven hundred thousand to a million dollars a year by not opening Sunday mornings. The operation currently closes at 4 A.M. Just imagine all the money leaving Maine for Las Vegas because of Hollywood Slots in Bangor. Imagine all the money leaving Maine for Las Vegas if the Oxford casino referendum passes.

Finally, if those polls are close to being accurate, the repeal referendum on the increase in taxes on beverages and insurance claims referendum is going down handily. No one will lose their insurance if the referendum does pass, but it could lead to a new discussion on the Dirigo health plan and perhaps discussions leading to changing restrictive laws that will allow real affordable health insurance.

Again, though, let me reiterate. Those are just poll results. I believe a goodly number of people respond to polls in one of two ways: they either say what they think the caller wants to hear or they just say anything to get rid of the caller. Today, many polls are conducted by automated callers so those results can also be questionable. The real accuracy of polls, perhaps, can be shown by their predictions. A couple of them come to mind. I remember the first poll when I began to understand polling. Those polls showed Thomas Dewey beating Harry Truman in the 1948 elections. And in all our lifetimes, keep in mind that polls had John Kerry beating George Bush.

The only poll result that counts will be revealed Nov. 5th.

Now let’s get ready for the weekend. The games I’ll be following are Kentucky in the Swamp against Florida Saturday night and St. Louis at New England Sunday afternoon. I might sneak in some World Series and auto racing, too. But a lot of my watching will depend on what Gator Wife has planned for us for this weekend.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

A return to the dentist, part II

What a difference a little weather change makes! Senior Fitness went just fine this morning. In fact, it was one of the better days in recent times. The company person, who must be there for safety reasons, was early today as she had a meeting at nine. She said she was hoping we would be there early as we usually are so she could get out. Only one little glitch which I chalk up to “one of those things” this morning as my knee hurt during those leg lifts. It was the knee, not the hip, so I’m guessing it was a temporary glitch.

All the other stuff I do on that machine went well, as did the weight machine and free weights. Even that semi-ball I complain about cooperated this morning. I even turned my head and talked with people while doing it. You can’t imagine what an accomplishment that is unless you’ve worked that ball. The ball is designed to improve my balance, and I guess it’s working a little. That’s progress.

And now the day takes a momentary downhill direction.

I’m learning a lesson this week on partial denture plates. Today will be the third time I’ve had to return to the dentist for an adjustment. A couple of weeks ago I had a tooth repaired and, at the same time, the dentist filled a cavity on the lower row. I left her office feeling great. Then the Novocain wore off. Holy moly, to use an expression of an old superhero, or at least a young superhero sidekick, I sure enough knew work had been done.

I attributed the pain to it’s just having been worked on and took the plate out to let the gum rest. The next day I had a dull ache on that side of my mouth. It was like a toothache, except there aren’t any teeth there. On the third day, it no longer was an ache. A sharp, piercing pain let me know something was wrong. Biting breakfast was a real adventure. I called the dentist.

She worked me right in. She made an adjustment on my upper partial which was held in place by that tooth she had rebuilt. That got the bite back where it belonged. She then performed some filing on that lower one. After some manipulating, I was feeling no more pain. Happiness flowed through my body. Feeling confident the problem was fixed, I came home.

It wasn’t. The next day was Saturday and when I tried to put that lower partial in place, that sharp, piercing pain returned. It was worse than ever. I could not put the plate in place. So I went through the weekend without it. If you have never experienced false teeth, you can’t imagine just how interesting it is to eat without chewing teeth. I do have some real ones in there so I could bite and if I held the food in the front, I could chew a little. But after more than 70 years, my tongue just automatically moves the food to the chewing section of the mouth where I was temporarily without the chewers.

I’ve had a partial plate ever since 1960 when my brother talked me into getting one to replace a malformed tooth and an empty spot created trying to steal home plate during a pickup game when I was just a kid in the late 1940s. This is absolutely the first time I’ve had this kind of trouble. When I broke that original upper partial during my Triple-A, my dentist replaced it along with a lower that replaced some seriously deteriorating lowers. You can go back a few posts to learn a lot more you probably really don’t care to know about my teeth situation.

So last Monday I headed back to the dentist. She found a spot on the plate and took care of it. We thought. She explained to me that the tooth she had filled earlier was an anchor tooth and she had to get the filling stuff to exactly match the way it was before the work. The wire band that holds the partial in place must fit properly as it was made. So we had some more grinding and once again my mouth felt very good. Again, I was happy.

Then the old aching tooth that isn’t there returned and during the day yesterday, the sharp pain returned. And that leads me to today’s visit. It will be the last. I guess that’s because I have great faith in this dentist. In the 20 or more years I’ve been going to her, this is our first problem. And that’s a great record.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some political thoughts that have meandered in my mind

I had hinted yesterday that I might return to some political discussion today. I do think about what’s coming up in a couple of weeks, but I’ve already voted. There’s nothing I can do about my decisions, even if I wanted to. I don’t, and I’m finding it difficult to remain focused.

It might be good that I’m not following the campaigns quite as closely as I was. The more I learn about Barack Obama the more I worry about what potentially could happen to this nation I love. We will not be the same. I never have learned just what it is about the Democrat nominee that makes him qualified or able to lead the nation. He offers “hope” and “change.” Whoopee! He hasn’t told us how we’re going to reach those goals, except, according to published reports, spread the wealth. Just how has that concept worked in other nations around the world? I think it’s called something like “socialism.”

Democrat vice presidential candidate Joe Biden is warning us that if Obama is elected, we’ll be faced with a manufactured crisis from somewhere in the world within the first six months. I wonder what it is in Obama’s background that allows the thinking he will be able to do anything about it. Now let’s be fair. That test will come if John McClain is elected. It has come with every new president since JFK back in the sixties. Remember the Cuban missile crisis? Embassy bombings? Ship bombings? 9/11? The problem is how this year’s, or early next year’s, crisis will be handled.

I read an interesting article yesterday I saw on As Maine Goes, a popular forum for exchanging ideas on just about anything that affects us. A Democrat journalist gave one of the best explanations I’ve read about the press’s reporting of the current housing/financial crisis. Orson Scott Card writes that President Bush has been taking all the blame for the crisis, but in actuality, the problem began before his administration. Card says Bush tried several times to get an impending disaster corrected but was blocked by Democrats, two specifically. You can read Card’s column for yourself. It first appeared in the The Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro, North Carolina, and quoted in Meridian Magazine, and appeared in a post on AMG. The article is aimed at the press and not either political party.

A couple of referenda questions are heating up. In my humble opinion, the "Fed Up With Taxes" group seeking repeal of a new tax enacted by the Legislature last session to raise taxes has done a much superior job so far of getting its message across than the opponents. We’ve seen some lame press conferences by the “Vote No on 1” group which seems to me to be trying false scare tactics and outright misinformation. I guess they could argue that the 11-thousand Dirigo enrollees constitute “thousands,” but we’ve heard them use numbers as high as 50-thousand people who would lose their insurance. Simply not so. The funding of Dirigo would revert to the way it was before the new taxes. Dirigo has never even approached the results promised us more than five years ago.

The Legislature could, as it should, revisit Dirigo and see how it along with Maine’s insurance laws has caused the cost of health care in our state to become prohibitive and abolish Dirigo. The Legislature first “stuck it to us” with Dirigo and health laws that force Mainers to pay at least 50% more for insurance than nearby New Hampshire and prohibit us from shopping for health insurance elsewhere as we can do with automobile and home insurance. It then repeated the sticking with new taxes, including taxes on claims paid. I hope voters in Maine will return the favor to the Legislature and “stick it to them” with repeal of the tax.

The people seeking passage of a referendum for a new casino in Maine haven’t convinced me there’s anything good that can come from their project. Even they admit it is a flawed law. Several years ago, the summer before Maine’s first casino vote, Gator Wife and I were on one of our cross country automobile trips. We coincidentally, since we didn’t know casinos were anywhere but Nevada, happened upon several in other states. Being me, I casually mentioned to waitresses and other service folk that Maine was considering allowing them. The huge majority of those people told us to vote against casinos. They had not brought the prosperity or jobs promised. At first, they boomed, but soon the glamour wore off, the local people lost a lot of money, and jobs were eliminated. Let me reiterated that this extremely informal survey happened several years ago, but the short stories we heard were enough to keep us from supporting casinos in Maine.

These are some of the things I’ve thought about since I voted. The election is now less than two weeks away, and then we will be able to have some peace from all the advertising. I just hope that it won’t begin a disaster in America and Maine.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Garage Door

It’s a Tuesday which can mean only one important thing for morning time here. I’m back home from my bi-weekly trip to the Senior Fitness session. I frequently talk about the weather, but on days like this I don’t need to see or hear a forecast as my old body tells me pretty accurately what it’s going to be. This morning, for example, the side leg lifts I have to do to try to strengthen my hip complained rather loudly to the rest of my body that I was forcing that hip to do something. I got the complaints again when I switched to the weight machine. It usually doesn’t cause complaints too much, but this day was different. I won’t even go into the semi-ball I try to stand on.

Speaking of listening to weather forecasts, did you hear the weather person swear yesterday? How about this morning? A four-letter word gushed forth from the respected weather people. S-N-O-W. Now that stuff probably isn’t in the cards for those of us who live in Southern Maine, especially on the south side of Route 1. It’s primarily a potential happening for those of you who may live in the north, specifically the northwestern part of the state and through the foothills. But that other four-letter word, rain, will hit most of us before the day is done.

One of the tasks Gator Wife and I set out to do yesterday was successfully accomplished. The dreaded acorns were blown off the driveway and most of them scooped up. The ones that had fallen on the lawn, however, remain, and there’s a whole bunch of leaves out there that will need attention on the next dry day.

I had an interesting experience yesterday morning. Apparently, according to news reports, some animal got into power company substation. We weren’t made privy to what happened to the animal, but about a thousand homes, including mine, and businesses were without power for a while. It was right at the time I had to leave for the first stop on what proved to be a very busy day. I had one problem: the electricity was off so the garage door wouldn’t open.

Now anyone with a garage door opener knows there’s a release switch on the thing which allows manual operation. I opened the door, backed out of the garage, and closed the door. No big deal until I arrived home after completing two of my several tasks. The electricity was back on, but the garage door wouldn’t open. I did it manually but do you think I could get the chain thing connected back to the door? Of course not.

I pushed the button to engage the chain but it wouldn’t connect. So I engaged it again in the other direction. It wouldn’t connect. I rocked it back and forth both manually and electrically. Nothing. Both my patience and my “stand ability” were wearing very thin. When that happens to me, it’s best I stop what I’m doing for a while so I came into the house and did some stuff inside. After an hour, I thought I’d head back out and work on that door. I pushed the button. The door closed. I may have uttered to no one one of those four-letter words. It wasn’t “snow.” (No, wise guy FF, it wasn’t “rain,” either.)

I pushed the button again. The door opened. After two or three repeats of both procedures, I got the hint that the garage door gods had done their thing during that hour break. I have absolutely no clue as to what fixed it. Go figure!

About then, WG arrived home from her part time job. A quick lunch, then getting rid of the acorns, and finallly I was off for some afternoon chores. All were successfully accomplished and I got home in time to watch Judge Judy shout and call people idiots. Most of the day was a success, but we did have one little glitch at the heart doctor. That’s a story, perhaps, for another time.

Some political things have meandered through my simple mind today. Perhaps some of them will be explored tomorrow. Perhaps not. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Boston Bubble Bursts

The weekend was a little cooler than we like, perhaps, but I think it was still just a little above normal. It was just about all sunshine and that’s good. Although our activities here were mainly inside, seeing the sun out there made our tasks that much easier.

As everyone who cares already knows, the Boston Bubble Burst last night in St. Petersburg as the Rays beat the Red Sox 3 to 1 in last game of the American League Championship Series. I thought the game was a combination of a pretty good game and one with the outcome coming in the third inning. I’m not a baseball expert, but even though he was perfect through three innings, Jon Lester looked to me like he had begun aiming his pitches instead of pitching them. I thought it continued into the fourth and that’s when the end began. Lester made it through seven, but without any help from his hitters (only three hits, including a homer by Pedroia), the die was cast. They did well, though, in getting all the way to that game after an injury plagued season. The Rays now play Philadelphia in the World Series.

Today begins my four months of being poked, scanned, rubber gloved, and a bunch of other great things that happen to me every year starting in October and usually ending in February. Both the start and end dates are at least one year and a day from last year’s go around because that’s the frequency of Medicare payments.

Today I visit my cardiologist to see if I survived another year. If all goes as it has the last six years, it’ll start out with a cardiogram and a physical check by the doctor. Naturally, neither will give him enough information for a definitive diagnosis so I’ll have to go back for both a nuclear cardiogram, the one using a dye, and a nuclear stress test. This whole process will take six weeks or so. I’m not sure why it all can’t be done at once, but I have an idea.

Once those procedures are finished, the next visit will be to my internist for a full annual physical exam. That’s always a fun time. I’m not sure if this is my year for a colonoscopy or not, but if so, that’ll get scheduled.

It ends in February with my annual CAT scan of several stents that have been inserted into various sections of my body. I have a tendency to develop little bubbles, aneurysms, in my arteries and veins and those spots get replaced with bypass thingies. It was the one two years ago that has caused some of my mobility problems.

Other than the aggravation of going through all this, it’s nothing new and I think I have learned to read my body so I’m not worried about any of this. This will be the sixth time through the routine and I don’t sense anything different, except my walking distance is decreasing, so I expect this will just be why it’s called a ‘routine’ few months. And it all starts today.

We have a nasty combination that spells outdoors work for me, I’m afraid. Our driveway and its nearby yard are loaded with those darned acorns which just don’t seem to stop raining down and the weather person says we’re going to get some water raining down tomorrow. If we don’t get the driveway cleared today, I’m afraid we’ll have a real mess. So when Gator Wife gets home around noon, we’ll be heading outside for some work.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t do it this morning while she’s at her part time job. Simple answer to that; I’ve got a very busy morning lined up. As we mentioned earlier, I have a doctor complex appointment and that will be followed by my normal monthly blood work on my way home. It’ll be close to noon, probably, before I get home. However, if I should get here earlier, I’ll at least get a start on those acorns.

That’s this day in Gator Country, at least my little part of the country.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Unusual Weekend: GW is working.

Another weekend is upon us. Gator Wife is working both days this weekend at her part time job. She says there are people on vacation which leaves the place a little understaffed and she was asked if she’d work half days both days. She agreed, so this will be a light weekend around the Gator Land.

Since the Gators football team has a bye week, I won’t have a conflict with the Red Sox so I’ll probably watch as much of Saturday night’s game as I can. I’m hoping there’ll be a Sunday series ender as well. We Red Sox fans got our hopes up Thursday night when the Sox came from a seven run deficit in the last three innings to win game five of the best of seven series. The Rays still led Saturday morning three games to two. The winner of this series plays next week against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

Edited to update: Another night Sunday to have to stay up. The Red Sox evened their series at three games each forcing a final game seven in the ALCS. The winner goes to the World Series. Go Sox!

The Patriots don’t play until the Monday night game. I’ll bet ESPN is all excited about that.

I have designed what I believe will be the change in our Village 2008 layout. As I mentioned in an earlier post, GW and I create a rather large Victorian/Dickens display for the Christmas season. All the pieces depict a Victorian scene or a scene from a Charles Dickens novel. This year GW wants to change one section by creating a mountain on one end of a long piece that sits against the wall behind our living room sofa. It is that mountain that I think I’ve got figured out.

Normally, we begin our construction project which takes up three sides of our living room leaving only the fireplace wall uncovered on Nov. 11th and light the project marking its completion during the Thanksgiving Weekend. We picked Nov. 11th to start simply because back when we were both employed in full time jobs, we had that holiday off. The much earlier start this year was to give us time to design and build the frame for the addition.

We should have that project completed this weekend. I’m not sure if we’ll continue with the full project for this season immediately or wait until our usual Nov. beginning. I’m in favor of the latter for a couple of reasons. First, it keeps us consistent with the project and the time between Thanksgiving and the weekend following New Year’s is long enough. I’m afraid we’ll tire of seeing it up if we start putting the pieces together this weekend.

Nevertheless, firming up the design and cutting the wood for the additional platform will take place and we’ll be all ready when the actual construction gets underway.

With WG’s weekend schedule this weekend, Gator Daughter and her dog won’t be over as much as most weekends. Since the weather is going to be rather nice but cool, they will come at least one if not both afternoons so the dogs can have their playtime and romp in the back yard.

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll have this terrific October weather. I believe it’s been above normal just about all month so far. The occasional shower or little rain we’ve had, and are going to have early in the week, hasn’t detracted at all. And it continues this weekend. We’ll be visiting with you again on Monday, so have a great weekend.


Friday, October 17, 2008

What a comeback!

Gator Wife has gone back to work at her part time job. Phew! She has kept me hopping all week while she has been on vacation. Now don’t read that wrong. She has worked hard, too, in fact probably a lot harder than I. But, my goodness, I’ve been doing outdoors work and how many time since I started writing this continuing epistle have I said, “I don’t do outdoors, except for mowing and snow blowing.”

Today, I’m definitively saying, I don’t do outdoors!

This has been quite a week. I sure do thank the gods of outdoors work for all the great weather we’ve had. Yes, yesterday wasn’t so great, but that didn’t stop GW from working me. I was in a more familiar place, indoors. She went to the grocery store while I was at my Senior Fitness program. After we had a breakfast, I found myself slicing, dicing, cutting, pinching, measuring, pouring, you name it. We cooked. We cooked soups, stews, and a chicken among other things. I think we’ve got all next week’s meals in the fridge.

She told me when she dropped her hours down considerably last week that it was a trial to see if she could deal with full retirement. I now believe this vacation week was to give an idea of how it would be if she were home all the time. I think she’d be happier working full time.

What an absolute shock this morning! GW had arisen earlier than I as she wanted to get ready to go to work. When I went to bed last night, The Rays were leading the Red Sox 7 to 0 and the ALCS was all over. The first thing GW said to me when I entered the TV room this morning, “The Red Sox won last night.” No way! Well, as they say, Way! Giving us all yet another lesson on not giving up, the Sox had indeed come from behind once again to win a playoff game. This one sends the series back to St. Petersburg for at least another game in the Sox Season.

Wouldn’t it be great from a Republican point of view if the comeback could be an impetus for the Republicans in the upcoming elections?

Revenue is down in Maine. People are truly feeling the hurt put on us by a declining economy and Maine’s tax structure. Gov. Baldacci has taken the lead by announcing cuts in his department’s budget for the coming year and yesterday the education commissioner said that local school districts can expect a flat line funding source for possibly the next couple of years. All state departments have been told by the governor to reduce their budgets by at least 10 percent.

As individuals and families, we’re all in the process of cutting our own budgets so we can make it through the heat season, continue to eat even though it’ll probably be a little less (which won’t hurt a few of us), and travel to work. I suspect many of us are planning on cutting down our seasonal spending this year as well. My dentist just the other day mentioned her practice is getting more cancellations than ever as her patients are finding ways to reduce their expenditures.

The State, though, still wants to hurt us even more by increasing our taxes. We have a chance to do something about that by voting “Yes” on Question 1 on the November ballot to repeal a massive tax increase passed in the last Legislature. It’s a tax on just about any beverage we drink, and it’s a tax on any insurance claims we pay. A double whammy, if you will. And in spite of the claims by opponents of the vote, no one will lose their insurance because of the repeal.

Finally for this morning, just yesterday the Maine Turnpike Authority gave preliminary approval to a toll increase for the Maine Turnpike. A toll, incidentally, is just a euphemism for use tax, even though in this case it’s only charged by a quasi-governmental body and not directly by the state. One reason for the increase is because traffic is down on the ‘Pike. As part of their cost saving attempts, the people are driving less. I wonder if they’ll utilize the toll highway even less as more cost saving when the higher tolls go into effect.

I know I will. I like the convenience of using the ‘Pike to bypass Portland when heading to Falmouth or the North side of Portland. There will be a time when the tolls make the longer ride just as convenient. Just like the rest of us, the MTA should consider cutting their budget. The MTA won’t miss what they lost from me. But there are a whole bunch of potential “me’s” out there.

The weekend starts tomorrow and it looks like it will be a nice one, even though a little cool.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

A response

It’s going to rain today. The bones and joints in my old body are talking to me. They especially weren’t happy going through their paces on the various machines at the Senior Fitness place. I didn’t do too badly on the weight machine or free weights, but that darned leg lift machine for the side leg lifts was just horrendous. I didn’t do my full three reps because some honest pain set in. I did try that semi-ball, but it bounced me off a little early, too. Happens sometimes. Now I’m wondering how next week’s much colder weather will affect me.

As this week continues, I’m getting more work than I’ve had in a long time. Gator Wife, on vacation most of this week, has me doing, of all things, outdoors work. It started last week with a simple task of volunteering to help her with acorns in our driveway. The darned things keep coming down so that task escalated into several help sessions. It continued yesterday except now Nature has added leaves to the mix. And we chopped up tree limbs for kindling. Have I ever mentioned I neither do nor like yard work? I lied about the first part, I guess. I didn’t think I’d ever find anything good about rain!

Very shortly after I posted yesterday (See post below), I got an e-mail from my Fearless Friend who took me to task for something I wrote. It seems he doesn’t agree with me about disliking the automated telephone answerers on customer service calls. I had said, “I believe that if my call is ‘important to ‘ them, they’ll have a real person answering my call on the opening ring. Besides, think of all the employment doing away with automated call answering systems could create.”

His answer was rather blunt. “Would you rather navigate an answering service or talk to some uninformed, stupid, non-English speaking live person that answers on the first ring? It is a tough call, but I think the automated system might be better and it damned sure is cheaper for the company and should keep costs lower. Just food for thought; of course there is a better alternative and that is a bright, cheerful attendant that knows what he/she was talking about. (Those days are over.)”

Well, FF, how many times have you had that answer machine tell you, “Please listen to this horrible music for a couple of hours while the only qualified person takes a dozen other calls ahead of you. Your call is important to us.”? And when that person finally comes on line, you get, to use your words, “some uninformed, stupid, non-English speaking live person” who’s only flipping pages reading unintelligible answers to questions anticipated because you were foolish enough to call.

FF did point out correctly that using the machines is a business decision to keep costs low. We all know that what we pay for goods and services includes the costs of providing them. I don’t know how much value a business puts on customer service to keep customers happy. I many times believe that happy customers are not a high concern. You see, if my call were truly important to them, they would have sufficient numbers of qualified persons answering the phone. And those persons would be located at the main facility of the company.

I put Time Warner in that class of caring. At least the Greater Portland office of the company. Whenever I call TW, I still get that darned automatic answerer, but with only two questions: Business? Or Residence? Since my pressing a 2 immediately connects me with an extremely knowledgeable, English speaking LOCAL in Portland person, I picked the wrong company as a springboard for my ranting yesterday. For that I’m sorry and I applaud Time Warner for having great, local service.

But that doesn’t change a thing for most service calls I have to make. I absolutely hate having to go through sometimes multiple branches on that automatic tree before I get to the wait music, which keeps getting interrupted with, “I’m sorry. All our representatives are still busy. Please remain on the line because your call is important to us.” Perhaps all the busy representatives should give some hint that the company is providing lousy service.

For anyone of you who may be wondering how much damage this little spat between FF and me will affect our friendship, it will not. In fact, I’d put a nickel down that as he’s reading this, he’s laughing his head off and shouting to Mrs. FF, “I did it! I really did it! I suckered that old man right in! It’ll be a long time before he’ll get to forget it!”

GiM (And thanks, FF, for a topic for today.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday, the middle of the week

Here we are again, Hump Day, the middle of the week, Wednesday. I’m sitting here in front of this writing implement of mine wondering what is shaking me up today. Believe it or not, having Gator Wife around all the time while she’s on a mini-vacation is taking up all my “thinking” time. So I don’t spend a couple hours each day getting worked up over things happening in my world. Not much to say about baseball last night; only one team showed up.

I’ve always liked to think I did my best thinking between three and five A.M., but since last Friday, my wife has kept me so busy I’m still sleeping during those hours trying to keep rested. Other times that various things have jumped into my head are during the hours she’s at work, but that’s not happening until Friday. She’s going back to her part time job Friday. I have no idea why she didn’t take all three days off. When I ask her, the only response I get is, “I don’t know. I just didn’t.”

We had nothing special planned for this week. The company for which she works has this little rule, especially for part timers: Take it during the calendar year or lose it. So she scheduled some of her PTO (Personal Time Off) for this week. She has more coming up later this year. In years past, she’s taken all her time during July when we have taken a two to three week vacation somewhere. Economics kept us home this year. She’s now working on ways to use up that time.

Three. That’s a magic number. It seems like this election season started three years ago. And now we’re down to the last three weeks. Well, three weeks less a day. You’ve seen here my ranting on negative campaign ads, which I swear is 80 percent of them, but I either read or heard somewhere that positive ads don’t get results and that it’s the negative ones that bring victory. Come to think of it, I think it was the Ken half of the Ken and Mike team on the WGAN morning show yesterday who made that comment.

I have no idea what the basis of his statement is, but the more I think of it the more I think he may be on to something. Of course there really aren’t any negative ads for one party. Members of the party or supporters of the candidate using ads applaud their truth about the other side. The “other side” then presents its version of the “truth.” But I’m sick of them anyway. And having already cast my vote, I hate all political advertising even more.

Alaska Governor and Republican vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin will spend a brief moment in Maine tomorrow. She’s going to be a “ticket only” event in Bangor. I don’t know if there are any of the free tickets left, but they were available in most major Republican campaign headquarters around the state. I got an e-mail yesterday saying that a bus would be leaving Portland, round trip only $22, in time to get people from around here to the mid-morning event. I hope it’s full, but I won’t be making the trip.

I had said in a post several weeks ago that it didn’t matter to me which party was involved, if a Presidential candidate should come to Portland, I’d love to be in the viewing area. We don’t get many opportunities to see the most powerful person in the world. Being a Republican, I’d especially like to see Sarah Palin, but she’s not coming to Portland.

I complained one day last week about the number of phone calls I had been getting. I said the next day that I had voted and the calls could end. To my surprise, they did. Until yesterday when one came in. I told the caller I had already voted and she thanked me and hung up. On the other hand, I got a call from Time Warner Cable with a survey about a service call I had made last week. One of the questions involved how easy it was to navigate the automatic answering system. I gave it a zero on a scale of one to ten.

The poor questioner, a non-local person incidentally, was caught off guard and wanted an explanation. I told him I absolutely hated automated answering machines that routed calls. I should mention I had to work with two numbers on the TW call I made. Press 1 for business service or press 2 for home service. I believe that if my call is “important to “ them, they’ll have a real person answering my call on the opening ring. Besides, think of all the employment doing away with automated call answering systems could create.

How did we ever get along “back in the day?”


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Village 2008 Design Begins

Another beautiful, long weekend is over. Although yesterday was just a little raw and there were some showers in the neighborhood, for an October weekend, that one was just fine. We started off this week this morning with our bi-weekly visit to my Senior Fitness Center. I left there feeling like today’s workout was a productive one. Except for those darned side leg lifts and standing on that bleeping ball.

Of course there were a couple of noteworthy events along the way. Among the great events was the Gators big win over previously unbeaten LSU. The drubbing sent the Gators back into the top ten … one poll had them in the top five … in the championship race. The Patriots proved once again that they aren’t in the same class they were before Tom Brady, their quarterback, got injured in the first game. Saturday the Red Sox got their comeuppance against the Rays in St. Pete, and then there was last night –probably best we don’t go into that one.

Our little place had a beautiful weekend for the most part. We, along with the help from our daughter, got a lot of stuff accomplished. Even though it was a little early, the winter lawn fertilizer was dropped and another cart full of acorns got cleaned off the driveway and nearby yard and some leaves got vacuumed by the tractor.

Each year we build a Christmas Season Village in our living room. It is a massive affair which adorns three areas with lighted replicas of a Victorian/Dickens village. Our entire collection is from Department 56®. Normally, we begin building our village, and it gets modified from year to year, on November 11th, a holiday we both had off from work, and gets lit during Thanksgiving Weekend. We only use a portion of our collection each year, so part of the modification is the utilization of different pieces.

This year, Gator Wife had an idea for a construction change in one section which we have located between the back of our couch and a wall. This is what that section looked like last year:

It is the far end of this portion of the display GW wants to change.

Basically, she wants to have us build a mountainous area at the far end so we brought the frame and platform out of storage yesterday. We’ll put it up this week as, you may recall from an earlier post, she is on vacation. We’ll work on a design and then build the necessary parts to see if we can build that area.

I might take a page from the blog of my blogging mentor, Sheepish Annie, and show you progress pictures from time to time so you can follow our progress.

We’ve learned of some fascinating campaign finance information over the weekend. The Fed Up With Taxes organization released its quarterly finance report. We learned the “Vote Yes” on the beverage/insurance tax question, Question 1 on the November ballot, group has raised a lot more money than those hoping to defeat the repeal referendum.

According to the reports, Democrats running in Maine have received 43 percent of their finances from one source, the boyfriend of the Democrat First District Congressional candidate. I haven’t seen a report of the quarterly finances for the Republican, yet.

The Casino “Yes” group seeking to have voters approved an initiative for a gambling casino in Oxford County has vastly outraised and outspent the Casino “No” group. All of the funds for the flawed casino law we’re being asked to approve (Referendum Question 2) came from Las Vegas gambling companies. That raises a question for me at least: Why is a Las Vegas company so interested in what it calls providing jobs, taxes, etc., to help Oxford County, Maine? Oh! Could it possibly be because the vast majority of the money it gets from the casino will go to Las Vegas and not stay in Maine? Hmmmmm?


Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's another long weekend

Wasn’t it just last week we had a long holiday weekend? Over a month ago, you say? Holy smokes! That was a fast, very fast, six weeks. But here we are in another three day weekend. This time we’re celebrating Columbus Day in honor of the explorer given the most credit with discovering this continent. Because of its name, though, we really know it was Americus Vespucci who first explored both continents’ east coasts. Thus North America and South America.

I received an e-mail from my Fearless Friend Friday. He was commenting on how fast his week had passed. He’s younger than I and won’t cross into my decade until next year. I told him if he thought time flew by now, just wait until he hits 70. I’m looking forward to having some fun with him when that move takes place. Let’s see. Is it tomorrow yet?

This will be an easy weekend, I think. After all, it is a holiday one. We’ll have to do some tasks that just seem to approach daily this time of year. Even though we cleaned our driveway of acorns yesterday, that’s a task that will have to be repeated at least once this weekend. It seems like we’ve “de-acorned” once or twice a week for the past few weeks. And then there are the leaves.

We take care of the leaves the easy way. I put the bagging attachment on the tractor/mower and take a little ride around the yard. The mower pulverizes them as it throws them into the bags. Periodically we have to dump the bags in the compost section in the far, out-of-the-way corner of the yard and eventually they will add to the growing dirt there. We put some leaves on our vegetable gardens to help the soil for next year.

We have a giant vacuum/mulcher we bought several years ago to drag behind the tractor. There are several pieces of equipment we’ve bought from the same company that have been excellent and are used every season. Included in the collection is a machine that converts to a mower, cultivator, edger, small tree cutter, trimmer. Every function is super. So when that company offered a very expensive, huge mulcher/vacuum/chipper, we bought one. It may very well be the worst purchase of any type we’ve ever completed. It sits down near compost corner and has done virtually nothing for several years.

Among the things that giant machine with its own engine for its three functions was supposed to do was vacuum up the acorns. It’s probably best I don’t get too descriptive of my feelings about how well it performed that function.

Getting back to a happy weekend, I do believe that our daughter and her dog will be visiting us for at least one, maybe two, or even all three days. We are planning to grill some nice Omaha meat at least one of the days. The two dogs will spend considerable time playing and romping around the yard. Both dogs will be sleeping well nights on days they are together.

This will be a nice, pleasant weekend and it appears the weather will cooperate in making it one. Because weekends are family times and this one gives us three days for just being mostly social, I hope you have a great time and we’ll be back with you on Tuesday.


Friday, October 10, 2008

AARP wants its seniors to pay more taxes

Wasn’t yesterday a great day? The temperature at our home on the South Side of Route 1 reached just over 73. We opened windows throughout the house to clean the inside air. We had noticed that we found ourselves napping more than usual and we had attributed it to the stale air in the house. With just a slight breeze, just enough to move the air through the house, we now have a place full of fresh air, and we didn’t fall asleep in the afternoon.

Gator wife has gone to work this morning. She says she’s going to do some grocery shopping before she comes home this noon. It’ll be close to noon before she gets here. She’s taking a couple of vacation days next week so she’ll be around just about all week. We have no particular plans but if she doesn’t use up her vacation time where she works, she’ll lose it.

I shouldn’t mention GW’s personal things, but this is Cancer Prevention Month so I’ll mention she had her annual mammogram this month. The results were normal, but she said the MMC unit in Scarborough has a new machine. According to her, the new digital procedure was very simple, fast, and painless. I mention this to remind everyone that we all should get cancer exams on various parts of our bodies. My brother passed several years ago because of cancer. He was relatively young, 61, but his diagnosis was simply too late.

One of GW’s dearest acquaintances died of breast cancer not too long ago, and we wouldn’t want anyone to go through her ordeal. So I’m joining the multitude of people and organizations urging people this month to be sure to get a cancer checkup scheduled, and that includes both male and female and is not restricted to the breast. The sooner cancer is found, the better the chance for a positive outcome.

While I’m on the topic of medicine, let me once again urge a “yes” vote on referendum question #1 in the November balloting. I cast my “yes” vote yesterday as I took advantage of the law allowing early voting. Question #1 asks people if they want to repeal a new tax that was enacted in the final moments of the last Legislature. It is popularly known as the “beverage tax” but beverages aren’t the only thing that the tax covers. All your medical payments will be taxed as well if the repeal effort is rejected.

I got a card from AARP yesterday that simply tells lies about what will happen if the tax is repealed. The card says that if the tax, designed as a new funding source for the outrageously (my word, not theirs) expensive Dirigo health plan, is repealed, 18-thousand Maine families will lose their access to affordable care. This is simply not true. First, there are only 11-thousand enrollees in Dirigo and half of them already had insurance before they switched. The rest of the number are people who are eligible for MaineCare, this state’s version of Medicaid, or better known as welfare, and included in Dirigo to inflate the enrollment numbers.

After five years Dirigo has only reached 10% of its enrollment goal and practically zero percent of its self-sustaining funding goal. AARP along with a coalition of other health care providers, the huge majority of which are on the public dole, wants all one million Mainers to pay the insurance of just 11-thousand Mainers. The card, like just about all those who support the tax, calls Dirigo “affordable health care.” It’s more expensive than private insurance was prior to Dirigo. In New Hampshire, comparable health care can be obtained for about half the cost of Dirigo. Only one problem: By law Mainers cannot buy health care from another state. I guess if the Democrats (who passed the tax late at night) call something “affordable,” it must be, right? Only very few can afford it.

You’re going to be inundated with the false statistics and claims from those who want the repeal defeated. Plain and simple, a “yes” votes eliminates nearly 80-million dollars in taxes, or about 62 dollars per person.

Oh, I said at the beginning that the claim the elimination of the tax would not end Dirigo, even though it should be ended. Funding for the program will simply remain as it is now, with a tax on the claimed, yet unproven offset savings resulting somehow, but not explained, in health care.

I can’t help but wonder how an organization such as AARP, supposedly formed to help older people, can consider supporting every tax this state promotes as a benefit to the elderly.

Oh. A sign I saw today: There’s a construction warning sign flashing through a series of informational messages in a construction zone along Route 114 between U.S. Route 1 and Paine Road in Scarborough. One of the pages says, “Go Red Sox.” I heartily agree with that sign as the American League Championship Series begins tonight in St. Petersburg against the Rays. So I’ll echo the sign: Go Red Sox!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Now that's a wheelchair!

We had a good day at Senior Fitness this morning. I’m still having a difficult time on two of my activities. One of them requires me to use a weight machine to do side leg lifts and front lifts using my knee. One of my legs has a steel plate in it which is attached at the hip. It does have a little, sort of hinge in it to allow some movement, but it also restricts the movement.

The other one is a semi ball on which I have to stand. I don’t have great balance to begin with, so once my feet get to bouncing, the ball tries to throw me off. I also am learning to make other movements, like swinging my arms and the killer, moving my head. Thankfully, there’s a grab bar next to me so when the inevitable happens, I have something to grab.

Here’s a notice to all pollsters, telephone solicitors, e-mail spammers, and anyone else who works to aggravate me during this election period. Gator Wife and I took advantage of the laws that allow advanced voting and cast our ballots yesterday. It certainly is an easy process with no lines or tables full of people seeking a signature on one petition or another. And our Town Hall was set up to help anyone who goes early to vote accomplish their goal. Call me and expect the worst.

Yes, I cast my ballot as I’ve urged you to do. I voted “yes” on Question 1, and “no” on Questions 2 and 3. We also had a Town ballot concerning a zoning change to allow Scarborough Downs to have slot machines. That, too, got a “no” from me. These are the positions I discussed a few days ago right here. Please don’t ask me how GW voted as I didn’t ask her.

I also paid my Town property tax yesterday. That’s about all I’ll say about that.

While at Town Hall I saw the very best wheelchair I’ve ever seen. I look at these power chairs because my doc has told me there’s an excellent chance I’ll be a candidate for one in the near future. I talked with the chair’s owner and explained what my doc had said about me. He was super. I think he was pleased he could show off his dream machine. I honestly feel sorry for anyone who has to use one and told him so. He didn’t need anyone to feel sorry for him as he had complete control of his world. I admire him.

That chair he had, though, was something else. It did the traditional moving from one place to another with extreme ease. But when it got to a curbing, up to five inches, a push of a button and the chair climbed over the curb. Need to go up a flight of stairs? No problem for this thing. It would climb the stairs. How about having a conversation with someone standing beside you? A push of the button and the thing rose up on its hind wheels and raises its rider to eyeball level and then balances there while you talk. Do your friends want to walk along while talking? No problem. This machine will go right along in balance mode so you remain at the friends’ level.

One final thing it will do is ride along easily on unlevel ground or a lawn or any place most wheelchairs wouldn’t dream of carrying anyone. And that includes sand like a sandy beach. All the rider has to do is shift into four-wheel drive. Let me tell you, this was one dream machine for anyone like me who has been told he probably will be a candidate for a wheel chair.

There is one small, tiny, insignificant downside, though. It is not Medicare eligible. That generally means that if Medicare won’t honor it, then neither will Medigap (companion) plans. Medicare only allows some assistance only on chairs that simply move someone from one level place to another within a home. The company says it will work with anyone on attempting to get something from insurance companies but will make no promises. The company expects its money, insurance or not and it tells you that right up front. And, the kicker, I could buy a new Honda Accord for less money.

Time to get back to discussing issues, I think. I’ll think about it today and we’ll see what comes tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The telephone seems to just ring and ring.

We’re getting some fairly nice weather this week. Oh, sure, there are possible showers in the forecast, but if any show up, they’ll probably be very few and very far between.

My trip to the dentist yesterday was exactly as I had expected. She’s a super person who really cares for the comfort of her patients. She knows of my childhood history with dentists (see yesterday’s post directly below this one) so both she and her assistant watch my reactions carefully to be sure everything is O.K. It always is. When I left, my tooth had been fixed. Now, when the Novocain wore off, those couple places where the needle went in told me a story. But that’s behind me.

When I got home, the telephone was ringing. I’m beginning to absolutely hate hearing that ringing telephone. It rang all day yesterday. I got absolutely no calls of substance; they all were what I’d call junk calls, you know, sort of like the junk e-mail. Unfortunately, the majority of them, actually probably all of them, were computer generated. I did get a chance of two or three chances to talk with a real person.

Yes, I know. And I do have caller I.D. The calls could get screened and I could only answer any that were known. I could let the phone just ring until the computer decided to try someone else, but that would drive me buggy, too. So I dutifully answer the phone. More than half the calls were empty. At least nothing happened, no beep, no hang up, no person beginning to speak, no recording beginning to spew its message, nothing, on those calls. I politely say, “Hello,” wait two seconds for a response, then count to five and say, “Goodbye” and hang up.

Quite frequently when a recorded voice begins, I simply hang up. If there’s a real person on the other end, I attempt to ascertain the sponsoring group or candidate. I then tell the person to be sure that group or candidate gets my message. “Because you have interrupted the privacy and sanctity of my home, under no circumstances will I support you.” I’m pretending the obvious problem with this attitude simply doesn’t exist.

Starting now, I might consider suffering through the calls and hope I can figure out the sponsor. Some, and I think all are supposed to, identify the sponsor. I’m going to start e-mailing them to let them know they will not have my support.

Since I now consider it extremely rude for total strangers to call me and interrupt the peace of my home to ask me questions that are none of their business, I no longer will be civil, either. I might say very unkind things to the callers or I may simply hang up on them. I know they are just, for the most part, paid workers trying to make a living. But it’s a living they’ve chosen to make and so, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve driven me into the “You called. Live with what you get.” attitude.

Yesterday I was rudely interrupted by at least a half dozen non-calls. I participated in a short survey about my voting preferences in the First District, the Senate, President, and beverage tax. I think I was a little rude to a caller from out of state who was having difficulty with English. I asked her why she wanted to know and all she did was repeat, I think, what she had said before. I disconnected.

I did get my annual call from the University seeking a monetary gift. I had a nice chat with a young man about the football team and the avowed pledge from an LSU lineman that they would “take out” Heisman winning quarterback Tim Tebow.

I will make a couple exceptions to my new “dump ‘em rudely” rule. If I get calls from the new coalition to save the beverage tax, I’ll attempt a dialogue to challenge their statements and give them the truth. I’d also ask anyone from a Democrat campaign to justify any statements since about all I’ve seen in advertisements from that campaign are basically untruths. I might also attempt a dialogue with proponents of the Oxford County casino question on why we should support a flawed law.

We’ve still got close to a month to go before the elections, but those darn phone calls are driving me into rebellion.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Tooth!

It’s going to take a few days to get used to Gator Wife getting home three hours earlier than she has been getting home from her part time job. She got home before noon yesterday and that left the whole darn afternoon for her to think of things to do. I’d like to say I’m really not complaining but it will take some getting used to. It was good, though, having her home so I’ll adjust.

An incredible ninth inning last night and the Red Sox are off to the American League Championship Series against major nemesis Tampa Bay Rays. A botched suicide squeeze attempt by the Angels and a winning slide by the Sox’s Jason Bay put the Sox into the championship series. Sea Dog alumni Lowrie made the game winning hit.

Last month I had my regular visit to the dentist’s hygienist to get my teeth cleaned and inspected. They were cleaned but I didn’t pass inspection. So an appointment was set for Thanksgiving Week to get a broken tooth unbroken. It’s kind of a critical tooth as I wear a partial plate. That tooth is one of the anchor teeth. I got a call yesterday from the dentist that told me she had a cancellation and if I were interested, I could come in early this morning.

So, I’ll be leaving in just a few minutes to have a tooth fixed. There’s something about having a dentist work on my mouth that brings shivers up and down my spine. When I was just a very young little kid, I went to a dentist who I think was a little sick in the head. It was long, very long, before the modern techniques of high speed, Novocain, and the fancy tools and tooth repair material now available. I can remember like it was just yesterday how that guy with nothing to soften the pain put one of those slow speed drills on a cavity and never took it off until the tooth was clean.

I think I may have been too young to know certain vocabulary or physical things that could cause pain. That’s the only explanation of why I only sat there with tears rolling down my face and screaming whenever I could at the pain that will never leave my memory as long as I have one. But by golly I showed him. I literally let my teeth rot. And yes, I lied to my parents about cleaning them. At that age I saw no relationship between my action and the frequent trips to the Mad Dentist who just inflicted more torture.

When I was about twelve, I was playing pickup baseball with a bunch of playground buddies. This was a time long before Little League and youth leagues and the like. We learned the game by playing it. I wasn’t the best player, but I had fun and was always there. In one game I had reached third base but I’ll be darned if I remember how. It wasn’t a common place for me to be. Listening to a game on the radio the night before, one of my favorite players stole home. Well, well, well. If he could do it . . .

I found out long after that in organized ball, the batter knows when an attempted steal is going to take place. In our game I was the only one. My face and the bat crossed the plate at the same time as the batter attempted to hit a home run with my head. I didn’t cry. Crawling around home plate on all fours trying to find my missing teeth, I had no idea what could be done with them if we found them. We didn’t. But then I saw this red stuff dripping onto home plate. That was more than I could take.

My dad was umpiring a nearby game. He rushed me to the hospital, but the two front teeth were gone forever. I always blamed the Mad Dentist who didn’t know how to fix the problem. I went around with a third tooth that grew in to replace the two for several years. After I returned to Maine following college, my brother insisted he knew a dentist who could fix me up. For the first time in my life I went to a dentist who was just super and compassionate. After he got all the other teeth up to snuff, he pulled the one maverick tooth and the gap was replaced with a bridge.

Not only could I smile easily again, I felt good about my mouth for the first time. I took better care of my teeth than ever before, but they were already so far gone I was in constant need of work. I didn’t mind, though, as Super Dentist had the modern tools and the only pain was that initial pinch of Novocain going in. Unfortunately for me, Super Dentist left us to take care of teeth in a better place.

For the past several years I’ve been going to Super Dentist #2 and I don’t even feel her injection of pain killer. When I fell during my Triple-A a few years ago, I hit the corner of bureau in our room. It broke my bridge. SD #2 replaced it, but a couple more teeth had to go because of the fall. Now, seven years later, one of the anchor teeth lost a little chunk. She’ll rebuild the tooth this morning.


Monday, October 6, 2008

One Yes, Three Against!

Now that was a great, productive weekend for the Gator Group. We only set out to accomplish one project and we did, but power washing that deck of ours took longer than we had expected. Fortunately, Gator Daughter was here to give us a hand both days. But the deck sure does look pretty nice now that the task has been accomplished.

We also took the opportunity to clean both Gator Wife’s walk-behind self-propelled machine and the wheels and deck of the tractor. GW’s lawn mower got pretty well clogged up when she mowed last week. The grass was wet and it jammed between the blade and the top. She eventually had to give up helping me mow the wet grass because the machine simply wouldn’t run anymore.

After scraping a bucketful of grass from underneath, we power washed it and now it’s ready for another use. We know it’ll take another cleaning before we put it away for the winter, but that should be just a normal, end-of-season task unless we have to mow wet grass again.

The deck on the tractor had survived the wet grass and a simple power wash took care of it in just a couple of minutes. The wheels were another story. Before we start any mow event, we walk the entire yard to clean up anything the dog may have deposited. After the pick-up last week, Gator Golden must have decided the time had come. Because I was driving faster than usual as the showers were present, I simply didn’t see it. The left side wheels needed cleaning.

A happy moment for me was a Gators’ football win. The surprising Patriots won. And the Red Sox take a two games to one lead into tonight’s American League playoff series game four.

The Maine Sunday Telegram yesterday offered its opinion on three referendum questions facing Maine voters next month. I read their opinions on I’m not sure if they’re still reachable today. However, I agree with the first two of their recommendations but disagree on the third. The newspaper called for a “YES” on Question 1, a “NO” vote on Question 2, and a “YES” vote on Question 3.

Question 1 would repeal a tax on just about every beverage you’d buy and a new tax on paid insurance claims. That tax, you may recall, was passed by the Legislature in the final moments of the last session. It would raise about $75-million to pay for the Dirigo health plan. The newspaper got it right when it said we don’t need any new taxes at this time. I’d add we don’t need new taxes at any time. In fact, I’d say we don’t need the Dirigo health plan. The tax is now law, incidentally, and only awaiting next months vote to either go into effect or get repealed. Vote “YES” on #1.

Question 2 concerns more casino gambling for Maine. The law that proponents want passed is so flawed that even they say the Legislature will have to make adjustments if it passes. Among other things, it calls for a reduction of the voting age from 21 to 19. It would prohibit any other casino establishments in Maine for 10 years. The originator of the proposal included a provision that the head of the casino would serve on several Maine boards and commissions. There are more equally offensive provisions which both sides say have to be addressed.

But if the referendum passes, then it will serve as the basis of the law and there’s no guarantees that the Legislature would make the changes the voters might want. Voters absolutely should not pass a very flawed referendum question, especially when both sides say it needs to be fixed. Reject the question, let the Legislature fix it, and try again next year. Vote “NO” on #2.

Question 3 is a bond question asking voters to approve borrowing for sewer disposal and clean water. The money would generate more from the Federal government. I’m opposed as I am to most all bond questions. Bond questions for most issues are sent to voters every year and routinely passed. I always wonder what has happened to all the money the state has borrowed in the past 30 or more years. I can’t bring myself to blindly accept “it’s an investment” without that knowledge. “Investment” in state parlance is “tax.” Vote “NO” on #3.

And while I’m on it, I’m also urging a vote against a casino question facing Scarborough voters. The proponents want to put slots at Scarborough Downs, the real reason for the proposal, and use the age old argument that all the tax dollars potential development could bring to the town would reduce property taxes. If all the development money that saved my property taxes had saved as much as promised over the years, the communities would be paying us to live there. This proposal which we’re told will bring us millions and millions of dollars will, like the rest, end up costing us lots and lots of money in the long run. Vote against slots in Scarborough.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Small chores for the weekend

We’ve reached another weekend in Maine, and what a beautiful but cold start we had Saturday morning. The week, like just about all of them, seemed to zoom by and now it’s family time once again. Of course being retired just about any time can be family time, except the daughter part of it has to work. She’ll be here this weekend because the sun is shining and our dogs can take great advantage for some socializing and play time. We don’t get to see Gator Son very often as he lives on the opposite end of the country.

We only have one major activity planned and that’s to wash the deck. I remember last year when we did it for the first time how beautiful it looked. One might have thought it was new. I’m wondering if we can repeat that performance this year.

As I mentioned, Daughter Gator and her dog will be over and she’ll give us a hand. Like daughters everywhere, she gets well rewarded for her weekend efforts. WG usually cooks a good meal or we have a cookout or something. Guess who ends up with several meals for the coming week. You know WG prepares just a little more than she needs for the weekend eating.

I’m not going to mention the various sports teams this weekend. The Red Sox. The Patriots, the Gators. They’ll all be playing at some time during the weekend, but since we won’t meet again until Monday, scores, etc., would be rather late. So, no sports this weekend, well, except the Sox won Friday night and now need just one more Sunday to win the series against the Angels. How’s that for not mentioning the sports teams?

Our lawn was getting very tall. Once the wet got into it, it just seemed like it would never dry. So Friday the baggerless tractor and I headed out onto a still wet lawn. WG grabbed her walk-behind to help me out. She did, but the wet grass eventually put her out of commission so we’ll have to spend some time this weekend power washing and cleaning it. The deck on the tractor didn’t clog, but it, too, needs to be power cleaned.

Once the mowed grass dries, I’ll put the bagger back on and take another ride to vacuum it up. There are places where it looks terrible right now. I should have mentioned that towards the end of the mowing job, a shower slipped into our area. I had the tractor running at full speed. The bumpy, uneven lawn caused it to bounce considerably, not comfortable, so the lawn ended up uneven. But at least the grass can lie in the sun and dry.

And then there are the acorns. I won’t get started on those things. I think this has been one of the worst years for acorn drops I’ve seen since we moved into this house some 15 or so years ago. I’ve never had oak trees before, and I’ll never have them again. My Fearless Friend tells me oak trees are why God provided the chain saw. We both had similar experiences with those things Friday.

GW and I cleaned our driveway and part of the yard. Several hundred or more acorns were collected. FF thought the number at his house was at least 500. He went out to a regularly scheduled Friday bowl of ‘chowdah’ and WG and I tackled the lawn. When he returned home, he said he had about 500 new acorns in his yard. After we finished the lawn, we had a yard full, too. FF would be unhappy with me if I didn’t tell you Mrs. FF did her ”fair share” of the cleanup at their home. Reading between the lines in his communication to me, I think there’s a good chance “fair share” translates into “all.”

This weekend is a stay-at-home one for us, and we do have plans for at least one chore. But it still is a whole lot nicer than having to head into Portland to snoop on the world. For those of you who want to take a ride, after our ride Thursday I can tell you that the foliage is absolutely gorgeous.