Saturday, November 29, 2008

November: A very good month

It seems like it was only yesterday when I wrote in October that it was the last weekend of the month. The speeding time isn’t being kind to me. Here it is now, the last weekend of the month. But November has been an interesting month.

First, Thursday ended a nearly month-long construction of our seasonal display with the official lighting of our Victorian/Dickens Village. But I think the incredible cold spell we went through during the month was a factor that made it something to remember. The fierce storm we had this past week was also an unusual event around here.

The month saw the historical election of a new President who will take office in January. Our state was one of the few that returned a Senator with an “R” after her name to the U.S. Senate. We told our Legislature and governor that we didn’t want massive new taxes and voted to repeal a law that imposed them on us. We said “No” to more gambling in Maine and also in our community of Scarborough.

A couple of great holidays sparked the month. First was, of course, Nov. 11th. That’s significant for many reasons, not the least of which was the celebration of Gator Wife’s and my 47th wedding anniversary. It was also the day when we say “Thank You” to Americans everywhere for serving their country and keeping us free. Third, it was the beginning of this year’s village work.

Nov. 27th was Thanksgiving Day, the day we give our thanks not only for the good feast we faced and to the good folk who made it all possible by giving us good food but also for the family and friends we’ve had over the years.

Gator Golden waited patiently right near her toy box Saturday morning. She was keeping a careful watch to see if the old folks 'accidentally' dropped any of their breakfast. They didn't. But GG was ready to try something. Anything.

Now we look forward to Monday as it begins the last month of the year. This month has the makings of being an interesting one for me. The decision process begins during the week on whether I will have a device called ICD, Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator, placed into my chest to control my heart. My cardiologist says I meet the criteria as he sees them, but the final determination will be made by a surgeon who is responsible for working on the heart. That discussion begins later in the week.

We also look forward to one of the greatest days of the year for us Christians.

We have a lot for which to be thankful as this weekend marks the end of one small chapter. I hope you have found November to be a great month, too. Monday will see a new month, and it will have some new thoughts from me.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Village is Lit!

The Gator family will be taking it rather easy today. I think Gator Wife and I are still chock full from yesterday’s feast. The only ones in our family that ate sensibly were Gator Golden and Daughter’s Golden. We won’t be joining the hordes at the shopping places.

But the good news: Village 2008 was officially lit at 2:43 yesterday afternoon. All construction is completed. These pictures aren’t the greatest, as they were hurriedly taken yesterday. I’ll be spending time through the weekend trying for some good representations which I’ll be posting in a slide show on my web site sometime Monday.

Walking into the living room from the dining area gives a full view of the scope of the Village.

Every piece on the Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol display represents something from his classic story of Scrooge learning the importance of mankind over personal greed.

The largest section of the display includes a farm area (lower left), a woods scene (upper left) which includes a skating rink and many forest animals, and a general town scene (right). The woods section is the creation of Gator Daughter.

We create our Village annually to celebrate the Christmas Season. All the pieces, including the "fresh fallen snow" are from the Heritage Collection, specifically the Victorian and Dickens villages, from Department 56(R). The exception is the wooden frame construction and another is the use of the styrofoam.

Construction begins each year on Nov. 11th with the goal of completing during the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year we were just a couple of days ahead of schedule.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

A Gator in Maine, Gator Wife,
Gator Daughter, and
Golden Gator all wish you and
Happy Thanksgiving!
And I'd bet our regulars,
Mr. & Mrs. FF,
would join us in that wish.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The day before Thanksgiving

That was some wind that passed through our state yesterday and early overnight. A quick perusal around our yard in the dark this morning indicated we survived with only a few dead branches down. I’ll take a full go around later when a little dryness has set in. My rain gauge said we got just over two inches of rain in our yard.

Although the winds had begun to calm a little when I went to bed last night, even a little wind will keep me awake. I lie there in the bed imagining every one of those gusts is going to bring something into my house I don’t really want. I suspect the thought of having to re-enter this modern mortgage world to get repairs bothers me. Sure. I have insurance, but how much of Nature’s wrath is actually covered is always a concern even when the issuing company assures me it would be covered.

So I think I’m tired this morning and thus, in a little funk. Gator Wife has left for her part time job, her last visit for this week as she’s taking the rest off to use up some of her remaining earned vacation time. Her company doesn’t carry over the “My Time” hours to another calendar year. Those “My Time” hours are a combination of earned vacation and sick leave hours that many companies use today under various names.

Our Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow will be an easy one. There are only three of us left, the three local Gator family members, to get together. The limited family that we still have all have plans with their families. And Gator Son lives way out West with his wife, daughter and the wife’s family. I guess a plus of the day is that no one has too much work to do.

We’ll have the traditional turkey and all the fixings. GD will be here by mid morning tomorrow to bake her specialty, the pies. GW and I will start the turkey early in the morning and she and GD will get the vegetables ready. My task is to make the bread and rolls. I make good rolls. With only three of us here, cleanup will be rather quick and easy.

While all the stuff is cooking and we’re waiting for the magic eating moment, I’ve heard we’re going to complete the Village 2008 project by placing the final trees, giving it a good “snow job,” and putting the skirt around the bottom. At dusk, we’ll officially light the complete display and the celebration of our Christmas season will be underway.

Every year, that beginning reminds me of my childhood. My mother always put up our family tree the day after Thanksgiving while I was growing up. We were the first in our neighborhood to have the Christmas lights glowing. I guess that old tradition is why we have our Village ready by Thanksgiving Weekend every year. It is the beginning of a celebration ingrained in me since birth.

GW and I didn’t begin the Day-After-Thanksgiving buying binge until we had our two kids. We’d leave them with Grammy, her mother, for the day and head out. By the day’s end, all our Santa Assistance had ended. To say it was a tiring day is an understatement. Now, though, both those little kids are in their 40s and we abandoned the “Black Friday” shopping too many years ago to remember.

I’ve gone through all this Thanksgiving stuff today because Tomorrow is the holiday and old GiM takes such days off. In fact, tomorrow’s post has already been written, and it’s a short one. So, if you don’t peek in, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll try to have something with which to return Friday.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Increase the dole!

We have some wild weather this morning, but it is rain in our area just as the weather folks said it would be. The fact it’s rain is significant to me. Those winds, though, are making it rather miserable. I strongly dislike strong winds. Because it is rain, I took my arthritis ravaged bones and joints to my senior fitness session this morning. Had we had much snow on the ground, I would have stayed home.

Because of my mobility problem I have this personal rule that says if it’s the least bit slippery outside, I won’t go outside. The simple fact: If I fall, I will break something. So this time of year I keep a wary eye on the storm clouds as they gather. I’m in luck today; that precipitation is rain and I can handle rain.

The bad part about rain is the way it affects my bones and joints. Actually, it’s not the rain per se but rather it’s the low pressure that comes in with storms. But I like to fight through it and go through my routine at the Senior Fitness place. Since we won’t be there Thursday, and since I’ve learned that when I miss just one session, the return is difficult, I ventured out in this very windy, rainy morning.

The economy was on my mind this morning during that active moment when I’m using the weights, or ball-standing, or leg lifting. I find myself sort of torn in the auto industry’s requested governmental bailout. On the one hand, the thought of thousands of workers losing their jobs is a tough thought. Mingled in with that thought is that I’ll, and you’ll, be paying for it.

On the other hand, it would make sense to me to let the auto makers go through bankruptcy with the idea of restructuring themselves. There are many cost cutting activities they could go through to get their cars price competitive again. And among those activities are the expenses on the top floors of the administrative buildings.

I don’t like the idea of limiting the income of anyone; but I also don’t like the idea of someone leading a company toward or even into bankruptcy and then getting a multi-million dollar bonus for their work in leading the company, either. I do realize that cutting a million dollars or some from corporate executives is just a drop in the bucket. But enough drops can start filling that bucket up.

About the only thing an auto bailout would accomplish is open the doors to every other industry to seek the same gifts. What would happen in the future? The industry, auto or other, would spend the bail out money and be back for more. Indeed! Already other industries are lining up for “free” government money.

Once free money is tasted, whether it be on a corporate or an individual level, all we hear is the increasing cries of “Increase the dole. Increase the dole.” Other great civilizations before us have fallen as that din gets louder and louder. The history that is no longer taught to us is no longer considered, because we know not of it.

The bail out of the financial institutions isn’t quite the same. It was the edicts of our government that allowed the questionable mortgages that have led to that ruination. You never hear the government talking about that Democrat involvement and the warnings of President Bush as he tried to get the impending doom fixed through his years. Since the government had a hand in it, the government should help resolve it. But that resolution should include the sacrifices mentioned earlier.

Finally today, I’m also opposed to another stimulus package. I’m afraid this time I’ll simply accept any handout, wait for the next one, and join in the chorus, “Increase the dole. Increase the dole.” After all, why work if we can make out better on the government handouts?


Monday, November 24, 2008

Village almost completed

Thanksgiving Week is upon us. Thursday we will gather with family and some of us will include close friends. But that’s still a few days away. Today will be the last day for a couple to see some sunshine. Clouds, according to the weather folk, will begin creeping in later today. There could be some snow showers overnight but tomorrow could be a very wet one, rain in our area.

The weekend kept our Village 2008 right on schedule and we did mostly complete the third and last section as planned. I have a few pictures to tell the story much better than I.

The third section begins (left) with the addition of the base top. Because of the size of the section, we do it in two parts so we'll be able to reach the whole table. After the styrofoam (right) is added, we begin placing structures. The electrical cords are included.

It doesn't take long before the underside (left) becomes a tangled mess. But after a couple of hours, the complete top (Right) has taken shape and is awaiting only accessories, trees and snow.

The pups want to play with us through the whole process. But Gator Wife does a good job keeping them calm (Left). That's Gator Daughter's golden on the left and our Gator Golden on the right. And our village includes its own Christmas tree (Right) which is waiting for its completion.

There’s an excellent chance we’ll have the project of Department 56® structures and accessories completed by the end of Thanksgiving Day, a little ahead of our scheduled completion next weekend. We have to finish putting trees on the layout, pinning a skirt all around to conceal the undersides, have a little “Fresh Fallen Snow” blizzard of sorts, and officially lighting the project. That ending activity will take only an hour or hour and a half.

With the exception of the wooden base table and the skirt, all the structures and accessories, including the snow and a snow blanket, and trees and figures are from the Dickens Village and Victorian Village collections (The Heritage Collection) of
Department 56.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following this construction project we do annually as our celebration of the Christmas Season. Back to the regular stuff I discuss here tomorrow.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Village Construction Weekend

The cold weather forecast for this weekend is a good reason to stay inside. Those people who determine such things seem to think the Saturday part of this weekend will be the bitterest we’ve had, possibly since last winter. Sunday will have less wind, but the temperatures will be right down there in the very cold for November range.

I’ve been discussing for nearly a month now the Gator family village project. This weekend should wrap up the major construction work as we have just one section to complete. It is the largest section and the most complex as it consists of several scenes.

In spite of the cold, Gator Daughter will be here both days to help us out. One of the sections to be completed is hers. She had developed a woods scene each year. Her scene contains many forest figures, usually at least a hunting lodge and a camp or two. There’s a skating scene. We have a Department 56 waterfall, but it doesn’t always make the year’s production.

GD will bring her dog to play with ours, but we won’t let them go outside for more than just a few minutes at a time. It’ll be too cold out there, especially Saturday. They will be demanding some attention inside so that will slow the construction to a crawl. Nevertheless, it should be completed before Sunday is over.

We’ll probably do as we did on the other two sections, i.e., include the accessories as we go and even put the trees in place. As this weekend begins, I think the ending will leave only a small task of filling in any empty spaces, dropping Department 56 “Fresh Fallen Snow” throughout, and putting on a skirt to hide the undersides throughout the project. The snow also covers up joints and flaws on the top side.

That finishing stuff will be saved for next weekend. There is a good chance it will be completed on Thanksgiving Day. The project is officially open for viewing with its lighting, either Thanksgiving Day or the weekend following. The addition of a Christmas tree sometime between the lighting and Christmas Day will make the Gator homestead pretty darn festive.

We’ll have a picture or two of the project as it stands Monday, but now it’s time for Saturday construction to begin. I’m going to have a great weekend and I hope you do, too. I’ll be back on Monday.

This is for Mrs. FF. I tried to get her to smile and she did on command two or three times. But then she'd get up and walk away as much as to say, "I'll smile, but not for that thing in your hand. It doesn't look like a cookie." She's also much more golden than this picture shows.

"It” was 45 years ago today (11/22). Do you remember what “it” is? Do you remember what you were doing?


Friday, November 21, 2008

Interesting times ahead

I would say this is a day to stay inside for this old retired guy. Right now (6:30 AM) the temperature outside my house is 15 degrees. We’re told the wind won’t be as bad to day so the wind chill also won’t be as bad is it has been the last couple of days. In fact, the wind chill here right now is the same as the regular temperature.

Nevertheless, this old body doesn’t take to cold very well. I’m on blood thinners so that makes the cold seem colder. Tuesdays and Thursdays are about the only days I fight through this bitter cold in leaving the house. If the weather gal on Channel Six this morning is anywhere near correct, it looks like a veritable heat wave for Monday with the temperatures climbing into the mid 40s. It seems like only a few days ago when I said temperatures in the 40s would be extremely welcome.

Today we have just a mishmash of stuff for you. Like everything I post here, everything is just unsubstantiated opinion; so here we go.

For the past three years the only definitive promise from our President-elect was how we needed change. That theme of change even became the theme of just about every Democrat running for any office. Now I’m wondering just what that word “change” means to President-elect Obama. So far, we’ve seen only the Democrat same-old same-old. Apparently he’s getting set to nominate Tom Daschle to head the Department of Health. Even his own constituents had voted him out of office.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton being considered for Secretary of State. The voters didn’t favor her to win the presidential nomination. Rather than the change we were promised, it looks to me like the president-elect is just looking for supporters of the same old Democrat policies.

Speaking of old Democrat policies, one of them is universal health care. One of the priorities of just about everyone the President-elect is considering is the development of a health plan that has failed just about everywhere it has been tried. We need to look no further than our own state to see how its attempt to begin universal health has failed miserably. The Dirigo plan has caused Mainers to spend several million dollars we don’t have in an attempt to insure fewer than 11-thousand people. And then there’s our neighbor, Canada. The person who designed the Canadian universal health plan has called the result a disaster.

Here in Maine, the Maine State Government is faced with some financial problems, and the governor’s solution to those problems is reaching down into local government throughout the state. The same people such as the elderly, many in need, etc., that also get hit during cutbacks, are facing fewer funds or longer waits. The governor has ordered $80 million be cut from the current budget. The hardest hits were the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Education (DOE).

These cuts spread cutting throughout the state. For example, the DOE will be sending out notices to local school systems telling them how much less money they will receive from the state. That means local school budgets will need cutting, too. What’s hit? Well, early suggestions include student transportation, extracurricular activities, etc., will be targeted. No mention of administration cuts. The DOE says administration will be cut through consolidation. Few districts in Maine say they will save any money with the state’s consolidation order.

Redundant administration in the DHHS has also not been touched. The cuts will come from reduced or slower services to the people who need those services. Both departments have hinted the cuts will come from the areas they can guarantee will make the most noise at the Legislature.

To make matters worse, the Revenue Department says the revenue shortfall causing the curtailments will be much higher than what the governor has cut. And the outlook for the next biennium is even bleaker with estimates now exceeding $500-million in that shortfall.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Legislature handles these cuts. Will it do what it should by prioritizing the spending or will it just raise taxes on Mainers who can’t afford them now? Interesting times are ahead of us.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The embarrassing moment

I don’t think I like the cold, especially this much a week before Thanksgiving. It was just too darn cold this morning when I headed out for my Thursday Senior Fitness session. I thought yesterday was cold when I headed to the restaurant for the monthly lunch session of our special group of retired people.

Yesterday’s outing began shortly after 11, today’s, 7 AM. It was definitely colder this morning. By the time I got to the therapy center, that cold had gone through my body. Regular readers of this know how my bones and joints react. It slowed me down a little today, but I forged ahead and completed my routine.

But that’s not what this is all about. It’s about yesterday.

My Fearless Friend did come over and we talked almost according to my script in yesterday’s post. It was, he pointed out to me at the lunch, the first time we had gotten together in either of our memories without hashing over politics or solving some computer problem. It was almost entirely about his giving his prized, very old pickup truck to his son, his impending cataract operation, and my evaluation for a heart device.

It was at lunch that the embarrassing moment happened. Last evening, I got an email from FF:

I am expecting some blog fodder with respect to the disappearing desert for tomorrow’s blog. I thought that --- was going to wet his pants with your reaction to the missing ice cream. I was entertaining (Mrs. FF) about the discussion of the day and she was most amused.

We had completed the main part of the meal and, after several minutes of conversation, we decided it was time for dessert. I went to the ice cream machine and made myself a nice sundae with strawberry sauce. I took it to the empty table and placed it at my seat and then headed to another section for a spoon which I had forgotten. One can eat a dish of ice cream easier with a spoon.

By the time I got back, all the others had arrived and were enjoying their respective desserts. I think there was a conspiracy because they all had ice cream with syrup on it. Mine was gone. Disappeared into thin air. I “knew” I was being the butt of some horseplay, but my cup of ice cream never showed up. FF offered to go get me another one, but a combination of embarrassing stubbornness and an honest knowledge I didn’t need the ice cream caused me to decline the invitation. The reaction FF wrote about must have been eye opening.

Two of our group are ushers at Seadogs’ games. Some changes are in the works for them and that prompted a funny exchange. FF continued:

I was entertaining (Mrs. FF) about the discussion of the day and she was most amused. She also had an interesting comment when I told her the story of the numbers that were assigned to the ushers at the ballpark and some of the ushers being upset that -- had number 1 and some others thought that --’s 32 was unfair. Her comment was if an ex-principal was running the place that he probably would just assign every one number 1 next year and keep everybody happy. (She’s a retired teacher.) Her thinking was that a principal would be more likely to come up with that kind of an answer to a non-problem. Or fix something that isn’t broken!

FF ended his email comment:

She also asked if I passed on the request for more pictures of the dog. I assured her that I did. (She also thought that I should be more proactive in finding the missing desert. She didn’t really approve my asking if you wanted another cup and you saying NO!) Oh well, I think that is the only thing that I have done wrong today in her eyes.

That missing dessert was exactly where I had put it when I had returned to the table the first time. I apparently was confused by the tables and simply put it on the wrong one. As we were leaving, we spotted the ice cream sitting patiently, hiding behind a ketchup bottle, on the next table. That, of course, didn’t cause any more frivolity at my expense. Sure! I’ll blame it on my age.

Golden Gator was in "mommy's" chair yesterday. Today she found "dad's" chair. If it's empty in the den, it's hers. She doesn't ever get on the furniture in the living room.

And, Mrs. FF, I’ll gladly get some more pictures of Gator Golden. It’ll be awhile, though, before I’ll be able to catch her beautiful smile.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This will be a good day!

When this day ends for me, it will have been a very good one. I’m not planning anything really different for the day nor do I have any super projects to accomplish. What will make this a very good day, however, is it is a substitute day for the regular last-Wednesday-of-the-month feast. We won’t have as much to discuss today as my Fearless Friend will have spent much of the morning here and together we should be able to find solutions to just about anything. And his visit adds to the goodness of the day.

Because next Wednesday is the day before Thanksgiving and most of our retired group that meets each month for lunch and discussion of sports, our former workplace, and even some things political, will be helping our families with the Big Feast that follows the next day, we decided to move our monthly get-together ahead a week. To today.

I suspect some of our conversation will be about Dustin Pedroia’s selection as the American League’s Most Valuable Player. The Red Sox’s second baseman didn’t have an MVP Bonus in his contract, so even though his teammate Kevin Youkilis will get $100K for coming in third in the balloting, Pedroia will be able to put a trophy on his mantle. I’ll bet the Sox won’t be that cold, though, and will give him some extra cash for his contribution this year.

We’ll also probably give our two cents worth of analysis of the Thanksgiving Day football game between Deering and Portland. We all have some connection with at least one of the two schools. I had a daughter attend one and a son, the other, for example. Deering will be the very heavy favorite to win the Turkey Game.

Gator Golden is all excited and can hardly wait for buddy, Fearless Friend, to come.

Along with the Big Feast this noon at a relatively inexpensive establishment, FF and I will have discussed a myriad of items this morning. We both have some personal issues we will in all probability talk about. Well, “issues” is too strong a word. I think “events” would have been a better choice.

I’d bet he’ll try to convince me that parting with a “dear friend” is a good thing. His plow truck, which he affectionately calls Big Red, bit some temporary dust recently. So FF gave the truck to his worthy and mechanically talented son. I think he helped the son get it almost road worthy again during the past few days. But I’m going to miss the tales of Big Red. All he plowed with it was his own driveway, but I’ll bet that truck has more stories of mail boxes than any of the commercial home plowers around. I looked forward after storms to hear the latest.

Those stories have diminished over the last few years, however. FF sans Big Red began spending some of the winter months in Florida. I’ll bet he’s hoping his son will keep his yard clean this year while he’s gone. He usually leaves in early January, but that may be delayed a little this year. Another of his events is looking forward to cataract operations of both eyes. Oh, the fun of getting older. And he’ll really get the feel of that aging shortly after the turn of the year when he climbs into my decade.

The event I’ll bring to the room is also an operation. I’m currently being evaluated for a device to monitor my heart. If it comes to pass, you can bet you’ll be educated on heart disease here on this blog, and at least one device designed to help fight it. We’ll hold off that discussion for a little while until a decision is made.

The conversation during FF’s visit this morning and the continuing great time we, he’s one of the group, have at noontime will certainly contribute to making this a very good Wednesday.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Senior Fitness

I sort of like Tuesdays. After some juice with which I take my bundle of pills and a cup of coffee, I get to enjoy a sometimes good and sometimes a little less than good exercise at the physical therapy place. We call it Senior Fitness.

I like doing my twice weekly workout at the PT place simply because I did have some physical therapy there and got to know the therapists and trainers who work there. I had learned what they expect and how they expect those of us in the fitness program to perform.

Because we are in this special program, they don’t stand over us to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. They just expect us to work correctly and ask questions when we need to. I’ve added a “we” here because I’m including the several other young men and women (being retired is a requirement).

The whole group gets along very well. We can joke, tell stories, and move freely from station to station. Through it all the group remains focused on why we are there.

I don’t think any of us would entertain moving our routines to a gym type establishment. Each of the members of our group is recovering from, or working to live with some serious problems that had led at one time to physical therapy but continue to need work. We simply aren’t candidates for a gym-type activity.

The Senior Fitness program gives us a chance to both continue to work on routines designed by the PTs for each of us to meet our individual needs and to get some much needed semi-organized exercise activity.

Some of the lives and the stories they tell of the group members would make a wonderful tale here. I not only don’t have anyone’s permission to repeat those stories but I also wouldn’t want to inadvertently embarrass any of them. But with about 400 years of life there, you can imagine what they can tell.

I also like coming home Tuesdays and Thursdays. Gator Wife has the days off from her part time job so we get to spend the day together. I’m not sure what was special about today, though. When I got home, GW had some nice, hot corn muffins and a cup of hot cocoa waiting for me. What’s any better for you after a good exercise session that corn muffins and cocoa?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Village progress continues

The weather good news is that we should be having a relatively storm free week with the possible exception of some areas perhaps getting a little precipitation tonight. The weather bad news is that the weather folk are keeping an eye open for some possible snow next weekend. Now that’s a long way off so we don’t get too excited about it just yet.

As we had said over the weekend, Gator Wife and Gator Daughter joined me in working on the most popular section of our seasonal display, a combination Victorian and Dickens Village from Department 56®. We had completed the first section last weekend. This time through was the Dickens’ A Christmas Carol section. Every piece in the display, except we did use a few other Department 56® characters to give it a busy look, represents part of the story of Scrooge.

We had built a frame last year to hold half the window display with the other half utilizing the sill of the bay window. Like all our frames from last year, this one began out as very wobbly, unstable unit. We added some cross pieces to all the frames. Over the weekend we put the Dickens base in place (left) and added a Styrofoam base for the beginning of a “winter” look.

Not all the contouring was completed when we took this picture (right) of the beginning of the top of the display. We use various sizes of Styrofoam to give the display depth once all the pieces are added. Those layers, most of which are small and only hold one structure or accessory, are added after we place the pieces.

And finally, more structures and accessories (right) are added to the display. Once that is completed, we decide where those small units of elevation are needed to give the final display some depth. More accessories and people get added, eventually along with trees, to fill in “white” spots. “Fresh fallen snow” will be added when the entire display is ready to be lit.

Next weekend we’ll complete the third and final section, which also is the largest. On it will be a woods scene, a waterfront, some village, and a farm. We are at least on schedule this morning, and since we had a little extra time yesterday, we did add some trees to the two completed sections.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Village Weekend

That past week just seemed to zoom through. Now the weekend is here and that simply means that during this time of year, the Gator family will be continuing construction of Village 2008. We hope to have our special celebration of Christmas and the Christmas season completed during the last weekend of this month.

Although we normally begin on Nov. 11th, this year the weather pushed us back to the preceding weekend so that we could use the Holiday to complete some outside activity. We would have cleaned the leaves, etc., during the preceding weekend, but rain put that off until Veteran’s Day.

Our Village consists of three sections. One is a long section resting in a two-foot area between the wall and the couch. We had a couple of pictures of the section in previous blogs. The second section depicts A Christmas Carol, the immortal story written by Charles Dickens. I’d bet there’s precious few folk who haven’t read the tale of the miserly Scrooge and how he became a reformed man or haven’t seen one of the four or five or more movie versions of the classic tale.

Through the years we’ve found that the section we’ll be putting up this weekend is the most popular for our visitors. We have many of the buildings in the story, including Scrooge’s home, Nephew Fred’s home, Belle’s home, Tiny Tim’s and Bob Cratchet’s home among them. We have the Boarding House, Scrooge and Marley’s counting house, the poultry shop, and many more.

In a park at the center of the display is Dickens himself reading his story to the passing people. We have figurines depicting the major characters and a multitude of other people who represent the citizenry. There are street vendors and musicians. Of course, there are dozens of trees dotting the landscape. We’ll drop “fresh fallen snow” throughout the display during that last weekend.

That’s the section of our overall display we’ll be recreating this weekend.

Next weekend’s last section is a conglomeration of scenes, including a woods scene, a farm, some waterfront, and a city scene. We complete our display on the final weekend. We’ll fill in empty spots with people, carts, animals, and things. And trees. Lots and lots of trees. Then comes that snow shower to give it all a pretty winter look. The crowning moment comes as we flip the switch to bring it all to life with lights, movement, and occasional sound.

We take many pictures all through the activity and I’ll show a couple of in-progress shots to you on Monday. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your weekend as much as we’re enjoying ours, and we’ll be back Monday morning.


Friday, November 14, 2008

A couple of successes, but lousy weather

I’m not too happy with this weather. I understand it is rather typical for November, but that doesn’t make it any better. And the weather people on the TV hint that we could have snow by Thanksgiving. I’d just like some warmth and sunshine. The temperatures have been in the mid 40s although it’s 51 degrees at my house this morning, which three months from now would cause us to be thrilled at the warmth. The 40s we’ve had for the last couple of days have been downright cold.

Here’s another very, very short unauthorized commercial for Prime Toyota in Saco. I had my car inspection yesterday. I take my car to the dealer for one very simple reason: I’ve never been cheated there. They’ve earned my business and they get it. Yesterday was no exception. I went there knowing since last summer I needed tires to pass inspection. I also mentioned to them, tell me this isn’t an open invitation, that my brakes were “spongy.”

Since it was just lying there, I read the newspaper for the first time in a very long time. Yes, I know I mention the Press Herald here occasionally and even link you to a particular story, but that is always the on-line version. It was easy to see why the printed version might be losing readership. I tried to watch Rachel Raye on the big screen TV. To say that was boring would be an understatement.

Then the customer guy came looking for me. The brakes had been examined and adjusted. I only needed two tires. The rest of the inspection was flawless. I left for the price of two tires and the state inspection. Now that isn’t bad for a nine year old car, especially considering all I’ve read about super inspection ripoffs. Once again, Prime Toyota has a customer who definitely will return.

That success and surprise pumped me up so much that Gator Wife and I went to Best Buy in South Portland and bought a new camera. My old cheap point and shoot Olympus totally expired a day or two ago. Now I have an inexpensive Nikon Coolpix. It did cost just a bit more than the $25 I had wanted to spend. I haven’t mastered the thing yet, but here’s a close-up picture showing some of the detail in our Village pieces. As you can see, I’ve got to learn to keep the camera straight. The picture isn’t here isn't straight, but I wanted to publish this new camera’s first attempt on our project.

For all of my picture taking life, until yesterday, I’ve used the view finder on the camera. This new one doesn’t have an eye view finder and I have to frame my picture using the screen on the back. As you can see, I need some practice.

The weekend is upon us tomorrow. We’ll be working on the second section of the village and camera and I will have some progress pictures for you Monday.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

I might not like this day!

I’m not sure this is going to be a great day. I’m paying for not attending my Senior Fitness session last Tuesday. I had taken that day off because it was a holiday and I didn’t accommodate my needs by doing any workout type activity at home. So this morning, those leg side lifts complained bitterly. The weight machine said, “So I wasn’t important Tuesday. Let’s see how important I am today.” Even the free weights I use got into the act. And that semi-ball I stand on. I guess I won’t go into that.

Lesson learned. Don’t skip a routine exercise program.

This is has the makings of being an expensive day. A very expensive day. First, I have an appointment to get my annual car inspection. The car won’t pass. I was informed during a routine service call last summer that the tires wouldn’t pass inspection and that I’d really want replacements on before winter, anyway. I suspect that’s going to be in the $500 range. My brakes are squealing and the pedal is sort of mushy. I don’t even want to think about it. Who knows what else they’ll find on a nine year old car.

Then there’s the issue of my camera. It is totally dead. New batteries did nothing. It took a couple of “invisible” pictures last night, then it stopped doing even that. The interesting part of the pictures, I think, is that the flash went off and the completed picture appeared in the viewing window on back. But there was nothing on the memory card. I tried a different card, but it made no difference. Then it stopped even clicking the shutter or operating the flash. I got the message.

I did a little pricing on the Internet last night and there aren’t too many digital cameras out there in the $25 dollar range. Or the $50. I’ll head over to the Mall after I part with all my money at the car place and see if I can find something in a price range I’m willing to pay. After my search last night, I don’t think spending the money getting the car fixed will make any difference. I won’t find a camera I want on today’s foray.

Perhaps I’ll revisit that phone/camera I considered a while back. I can get one of those relatively cheap if I sign up for a new two-year contract. But to do that would require doubling my monthly minutes. I’d be paying for monthly minutes considerably higher than total number of all the minutes I’ve ever used since I got a cellular phone eight years ago. The price of the phone is nice, but the cost would make the cost of a camera prohibitive. I could get a great digital camera for that amount of money.

There are a couple items in the news this morning that are in the “didn’t see it coming” category. Well, some didn’t see it coming, but there were others who warned of this outcome. First, the Portland Press Herald is reporting this morning that the Portland Maine State Pier project is dead, at least for now. The Portland City Council will probably begin the process at its Monday meeting to end the contract with the winning developer. Ownership of the submerged land and a lease to use it appear to be a main cause of the cancellation, but the story hints there are others.

The paper reported yesterday and repeated this morning that its owners, Blethen Newspapers in Seattle has signed a letter of intent to sell all its holdings in Maine to an investment group based in Maine. Those negotiations have been going on for some time and it could still be a few months before the sale becomes final.

Now, I guess, I’d better check my checking account to be sure it’s ready for me to strike out to take care of a safety issue. Considering how much I’ve spent on my Toyota for these years, my overall miles cost of the car will still be extremely low.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And now, back to business!

Good chance I’d put last night down as a cool one. I didn’t get up to see what the temperature was, but this morning it was 25 degrees and usually this is the time when we get our lowest readings.

The Holiday is over and it was a good one. There are fewer leaves in our yard today than there were yesterday. I say “fewer” rather than “no” because we still have a couple of trees still shedding. There is a good chance, though, that those that fall now will have to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, in Augusta, the Maine Legislature has selected the people to lead the respective parties and the Legislature itself in the coming session. The legislators are faced with several problems. Among them, but certainly not the only ones, are a potential revenue shortfall and Dirigo health plan. There are also four new citizen initiatives to be dealt with.

The two big issues, though, could cause considerable headaches for the legislators. Already faced with a revenue shortfall for the remainder of the current budget, Gov. Baldacci has called for every department to find ways to cut ten percent from their current budget. That was for a revenue shortfall of $150-million or more. Some of those cuts may require legislative action.

The other revenue shortfall is for the next biennium. That has now reached at least $500-million and seems to be growing daily. If the projection remains true, the legislature will either have to make drastic cuts in departmental budgets or raise taxes. They tried raising one tax for the Dirigo program last summer only to have the people of Maine reject that measure soundly last week. Will they raise taxes again anyway? Why not? We sent the same people back to the Legislature.

The two departments that consume the most tax money, education and welfare, will probably get hit the hardest. School departments throughout the state are already feeling the pinch. The Department of Education has already notified school districts that the districts will receive much less money this year than earlier anticipated and that the budget could be flat lined for the next two years. This is coming in the midst of a state law requiring even more expenditures to consolidate school districts.

That defeated tax measure was designed to fund the Dirigo health plan. Both the governor and the Democrat legislators say Dirigo will continue. And it could be by a new tax on beverages and insurance claims. But that was just defeated, you say. Ignoring the wishes of the people is nothing new to the Democrats in the legislature.

Then there are those four new citizen initiatives which have already collected the necessary signatures to require action and have been submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation. They include a repeal of the school consolidation law, a requirement to ease state mandates that prevent people from seeking lower priced health insurance in other states, a reduction in excise taxes on vehicles and encouraging the use of “green” cars, and a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR II).

We undoubtedly will offer our simple thoughts and comments on all these individually and much more in the weeks and months to come.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day to Honor Veterans and a Celebration!

Today is Veteran’s Day. This is a day when we honor all persons who have served in the military defending and protecting this great land of ours. As other nations celebrated the end of World War I (11th hour of 11th Day, of 11th month) over the weekend, we prepared to honor all who have served this country at all times.

Nov. 11th began as Armistice Day in the mid-1920s and other countries still have their celebrations honoring it, now usually on a weekend. But we wanted to honor all our service people so in 1954 President Eisenhower proclaimed Nov. 11th as Veterans’ Day. In 1971 Congress decided the day should be changed to the fourth Monday in October. It was part of a movement to change as many holidays as possible to a Monday so they would not break up a work week.

Veterans’ Day was among the few that didn’t survive the change. By 1975 the outcry caused the honor to once again be on the date of its original Armistice Day, thus today we honor our service men and women.

I was a “tweener.” We were between conflicts when I got my draft notice so urgency was not a priority. Still in college, I was deferred to my graduation year when I had to report for that physical. The ailments which I frequently mention here had already begun and those doctors at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station decided the military didn’t want or need me. So I’ve never been in the military.

But I do appreciate, honor, and thank all the men and women who have served, are currently serving, or who will serve in the future to keep America free and safe. This country would not still be here without your sacrifices. Thank you!

On a personal note, I do have my own celebration. It was 47 years ago today when Gator Wife and I became one. We have worked hard through all the good and sometimes rather rough times to be at each other’s side when support was needed. She was my rock just a few years ago when I had my life threatening events and, because of her, I can still write these messages.

Thank you, Gator Wife, for saying “yes” those 48 years ago. I love you and am more grateful than you can ever know that we are able to try for many more.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Another weekend is behind us, and this past one was a busy one. We began putting together Village 2008, the combination Victorian and Dickens Department 56® village pieces. We had planned to use the weekend to clean up the yard of leaves and things, but a quarter inch of rain Saturday and Saturday night made it too damp outside. The tractor bagger doesn’t like damp. So, we moved the beginning of construction up a couple of days.

Gator Daughter and her dog came over both days to help us. Since we effectively had two days to do the work we normally would do in one, we didn’t hurry. But we ran into a glitch. All the Styrofoam we use to give the base a look of being snow-covered, didn’t want to fit this year. Last year we did a lot of improvising from old stuff and, of course, didn’t mark them.

After we finally said, “Stop. Let’s do this thing correctly,” the flow began. We first had to cut all new pieces of base. We added a mountain this year so it had to be cut and formed. By the end of Saturday, all that was completed. It’s kind of crowded in that two foot space between the wall and the couch so getting all the lights into place was a major chore. GD crawled through the space to plug them all in.

We added the structures to be lit and called it quits for the day. I did point my camera at the progress and took pictures of the Styrofoam base, the mountain, the lights peeking through the base, and some structures in place. The flash went off and the picture I took appeared on the screen on the back of the camera. When I went to transfer them to the computer so I could pick out a couple to show you the progress, there were none in the camera. I have zero idea what happened to them, but this rather inexpensive camera has been giving me trouble for a few months.

I did go back this morning for another attempt at pictures and got some of questionable value, but here are a couple of them. At least you can see the base and some of the structures in the left picture.

The one on the right is the work-still-in-progress mountain. We’re heading to the craft store today to get some materials for a potential solution to the sharpness. After the other three parts of the village are at this stage, we’ll add supporting accessories such as people, merchants, carts, trees and snow. That all takes place on the final weekend of construction.

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and we’re hoping the leaves will be dry enough to get collected. That is how we’re planning to spend our day. In the evening, GD is planning to take us out to dinner for a special celebration.

The village will be on schedule, thanks to the weekend work, and next weekend we’ll be putting together the window section, the most popular display we develop. It depicts A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Next Monday, I’ll give you a preview of that portion of the display. That, of course, is conditional on the workings of my errant camera.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Village begins a little early

The weather guy tells us Saturday won’t be a washout, but it will be cloudy with some off and on drizzle until a front arrives later in the day and brings with it a chance of some rain. Sunday might start out less than nice, but there’s a chance for some afternoon sunshine.

Since my leaves and grass were wet Friday and that drizzle Saturday sort of means we won’t get to the leaves this weekend so Gator Wife will prevail. We are beginning our annual Christmas Village construction project a couple days early. We usually get started on Nov. 11th. Our target for completion won’t change, though. We hope to light the Village during the weekend of Nov. 29th and 30th.

For those of you who may be new to my blathering, each year we put up a rather large display of lighted buildings and accessories depicting the Victorian England and the novels of Charles Dickens. All the display is from one or the other. Except we do have one particular section devoted entirely to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The Village takes most of the area on three sides of the room. Only the fireplace wall is left. We used to put up a large, main section in front of the fireplace, but that means we can’t use it. So last year we made the decision to change the layout completely and leave the fireplace free. The new design does make it a little more difficult to enjoy the magnitude of the display, but it gives us the use of the room.

And it starts this weekend. Actually, we broke out some of the table frames a couple of weeks ago. They are “homemade” and, frankly, last year’s new frames were rather flimsy. This old Gator isn’t exactly a carpenter, but he plods along and even succeeds sometimes. All three of our frames were so unstable last year that they could have fallen down. The one behind the couch, which you can see below, actually did tilt to the point the only thing saving it was
that couch.
We put some bracing on the legs and the tables seem to be much better this year. This is what the basic table looks like. During this weekend, we’ll add a base layer of Styrofoam to start the appearance of a snow-covered ground. We add layers of Styrofoam to various sections to give the design some depth. Our mountain on the far end will be made from the base material. The first step will be to put some pads under the legs on the rug to protect the rug. They will also level the table.

We’ll pick out what structures we want in the “city” and begin placing them. They are all electrified so we drill holes in the table to hide the cords underneath. Since we cut out the depth pieces for each design and each building, we’ll be spending most of the weekend on this one project. Even when we get the structures set up, the scene won’t be complete. Accessories, such as people, traders, small merchant carts, and other supporting pieces will be added. Finally, we’ll put in trees and bushes. After all three tables are finished in a few weeks, we’ll add some light, flakey snow to all three.

I’ll include some pictures here to show you the progress along the way. Right now I’m hoping you have a great weekend yourself. And we’ll be back on Monday.


Friday, November 7, 2008

An exciting week!

Friday, the last weekday of an exciting week. We’ve elected a new President, although he won’t take office until January. We’ve defeated two different gambling proposals. We’ve sent a message about taxes to the Maine Legislature by using a citizens’ initiative to repeal a huge tax increase passed by the Legislature last spring.

We’ve elected a new Legislature, although most of those elected served in the previous one. The Governor has announced big cuts are coming to the budget, both the current one and the next one, because the state’s economy isn’t bringing in enough money. Voters in many cities and towns have elected some new and some returning local representatives.

Many school districts have voted to consolidate in an attempt to save money even though many people haven’t seen how those savings will occur. Some school units voted not to consolidate because they say there will be no savings. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State has received petitions with enough signatures, if they all are verified, to force a vote to repeal the consolidation law.

The call to repeal that law is just one of several citizen initiatives that the new Legislature will have to face. Other petitions have been submitted calling for reform in health care insurance, cutting the excise tax on all vehicles and creating a moratorium on those taxes for so-called green cars, and attempting once again to create a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, TABOR, now called TABOR II.

One round of events simply serves to begin another round, and the lives of all Mainers will once again be touched in one way or another.

My life is being touched today. I’ve mentioned in the past this is the season of prodding, poking, listening and examining for me as the several infirm parts of my innards get their annual inspections. Today I go through Part II of the cardiogram business. Part I, a regular electrocardiogram (EKG), was accomplished. As I predicted then, I would have to return for a more concentrated one called an echo EKG (EEKG). That’s been the way it is for the last seven years.

I have a heart disease and the pump function is rather low. Today’s test, and possibly even another next week, will determine if I will have an implant to help regulate the heart. If today’s test indicates such an implant is recommended, that conversation will begin next week.

The most important thing is Life Goes On!

The weekend returns tomorrow. The forecast says it could be a damp one but possibly with some sunshine so that will prevent our plans to do a leaf cleaning ride around the yard. This has been a big week for leaves dropping as our yard around the maples has as many leaves covering the ground today as we had before last weekend’s cleanup after a month of dropping.

If those showers are a reality, then there’s a good probability we’ll move our Village construction start up to this weekend and save Tuesday for the leaf cleanup. That is Gator Wife’s preference so that probably means that’s the plan.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Returning to "normal"

My body is confused. It began a few days ago and I have no idea what’s going on. It used to be a great predictor of the weather. On days like this just about every bone and joint in my body ached and cried out. The worst was my lower back where some bones are fused. A couple of days ago in the midst of high pressure, beautiful sun and nice temperatures, my back was as sore as it could be. Today, with a storm just off the coast this morning and heading for landfall momentarily, my morning workout at the Senior Fitness place was one of the best I’ve had.

The joints didn’t beg for mercy, the back twinged once or twice, but nothing to put me down. Driving home some very light, “fuzz” rain drops appeared on the windshield, but nothing to cause the wipers to be turned on. And I’m still close to pain free. I should be groveling for relief. We’ll see what happens later when the rain comes in earnest.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about “Normal.” I don’t know why, except maybe I’d like to have things here return to “normal.” My problem is, I couldn’t figure out what “normal” is. So I guess I’ll just ramble along as I have been for the last 10 plus months.

As I said yesterday, there were no surprises in the outcome of the election. Well, maybe there were two small surprises. Or perhaps three. None of the people elected were surprises. I didn’t vote for most of them, but you knew that. And the one I did vote for was more of a vote against her opponent than for her. I had said in an earlier blog Sen. Collins credentials as a Republican were very suspect and even pointed out she stopped using that party affiliation in her advertisements but rather called herself an independent.

But the little semi-surprises did please me, as I’m sure you also know. I believed the tax repeal referendum would pass, but I was a little surprised at the margin of victory. I thought it would be a little closer. But that does raise a question. If the people in Maine didn’t want that new tax and were sending a message to the legislature that we can’t afford new taxes, why did they send the taxers and spenders back?

We keep doing the same thing expecting a different outcome. Yet our poor state economy, in spite of Gov. Baldacci’s proclamation it’s because of the national scene, has been going downhill for 30 years under the Democrat control. Elections haven’t changed a thing, except increase our taxes, put the cost of health care out of sight, both drive businesses out of the state and prevent new ones from coming in, and forcing our young people to move elsewhere.

And the legislature is facing a 150-million dollar shortfall this year and possibly more than a half billion dollar shortfall in the next biennium. This could get interesting.

You might notice a subtle change in my layout here. I’ll just tell you the colors of the University of Florida are orange and blue.

Hmmm! Is all this what I consider normal? I don’t know. I do know that yesterday was one heckuva day. When I headed out to a mid-morning appointment, I naturally put on a jacket and prepared for some chilly weather. My garage is cold so I saw nothing different there. Then when I a left my car at the doctor’s office, I let out an audible, “Woooo.” It was gorgeous. Later Gator Wife and I went out for some shopping and it was even nicer.

The clouds soon took over and as the sun became more and more shaded, the temperature began to fall. It didn’t get cold, but it was noticeably cooler.

And now today showers are in the forecast. My back and joints agree with the forecast as I mentioned earlier mentioning my Senior Fitness session. The possibility of some shower activity will continue at least through Saturday, but the temperatures will remain above the November normal. Monday, the return to that normalcy begins.

Hey! At last, I found a “normal” that I can understand.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At last, the election is over, almost!

Edited, 12:30 PM to update Scarborough results.

It’s finally over. That election of 2008 ended with few, if any, surprises. Barrack Obama has won the Presidency over John McCain. Here in Maine, Susan Collins handily whipped Tom Allen for the senate seat while Chellie Pingree and incumbent Mike Michaud won the house seats.

A malfunction in a voting machine in Scarborough has held up some of the final totals. Republican Charlie Summers hadn’t yet conceded the victory in District One to Pingree. He was waiting for the results from his home town, Scarborough, to get counted. Edit: Charlie Summers has conceded to Chellie Pingree.

That machine malfunction is also holding up final tallies on other races as well, but Collins’ victory over Allen is large enough so that the Scarborough results probably wouldn’t change anything. One area that town residents are anxiously awaiting is the fate of the Scarborough Downs racino. The race track wants to have slot machines but need a zone change to accomplish that. We won’t know the results until later today. Edit: The racino question was narrowly defeated, according to WCSH TV.

The tax repeal referendum appears to have won big and early this morning the Oxford County casino approval question appears to have lost but that one, along with the water quality referendum, Question #3, which was narrowly winning, may also have to wait for the Scarborough results.

Depending on what we do today when Gator Wife gets home from her part time job and I get home from a mid-morning appointment, once the results become more or less official, I may update this just a little. It’ll be days before they become really official as they have to be certified by the state.

I’d like to congratulate one member of the group that meets on the last Wednesday of every month for lunch. That group member has won his state senatorial race.

Because we must wait until later today to learn all the results, I can’t fairly comment on them. But there certainly weren’t any surprises, yet. I’d guess the Scarborough vote won’t change the outcome of the First District race, even though it might end up just a little closer. The result of Scarborough’s slots issue was still unknown as this was posted this morning.

I am pleased that the tax repeal referendum passed as handily as it did. The Legislature had enacted a tax increase on nearly all beverages and a tax on paid insurance claims during a late night session without any public hearing or citizen input during the waning hours of the last legislative session. It was designed to help fund the very failed Dirigo health plan. We can only hope now that the new legislature will get the message that such taxes will be looked at closely by the voters. That legislature probably should take another look at Dirigo, too.

It may give hope to three other citizen initiatives that were given to the Secretary of State last week concerning a reduction on excise tax, a new Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR II), and freeing up health care options. The next legislature will decide on passing the initiatives as they are or sending them out to voters next year.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Decision Time

We have finally arrived at Election Day. We will know by late today, or more likely tomorrow, whom we elected to the various offices that govern our nation, state, and locality. We will know if we’re going to gamble or not. We will know if we are going to be paying higher taxes to support the failed Dirigo health plan or not. And we will know the results of other local and state referenda.

I’ve said over the past weeks all I can say about the various issues and I suspect anyone who reads this with any regularity or anyone who cares knows exactly where I stand. Today I will say no more.

Except…you have until your polls close tonight to cast your ballots if you haven’t already done so. I hope you all will have voted by then.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Thank Goodness! It's almost over!

The last full day before the election has finally arrived. Although a huge number of people have already cast their ballots, the polls are expected to be crammed with traditional Election Day voters tomorrow. I’m among those who have already voted.

It won’t be long now before those damnable telephone calls will stop. What a pleasure not to pick up the phone and get dead silence while the computer finds someone to talk. It is during that three or four seconds of silence when I usually hang up. When there is no silence, what happens depends on whether or not the other end is a human or a computer. A computer got a quick disconnect. A human had to put up with my nonsense.

During the last few days I’ve received too many campaign mailings via the postal service. At least sending all that mail to our household was a waste of money. We had already voted. From the lines shown on the television news, I say a goodly number of local folks had voted. Yet the mailings kept coming. None of them got read here for two reasons. We had already voted and even if we hadn’t, we had our minds made up. I can say for sure in this house they were all a waste, and I’d bet even for many households who haven’t vote, they were a waste, also.

What wouldn’t have been a waste would have been a visit from candidates. We could have learned a lot more from an eye to eye short discussion than we could learn from all the campaign literature which only tells us what the candidate wants to tell us. Not one Republican visited my house. Not one. I also didn’t receive any phone calls from Republicans. Perhaps the R’s didn’t care about my vote.

On the other hand, we did get a visit from a Democrat. Unfortunately, he had been here during a previous election, too, and he told me in that eye-to-eye conversation how he felt about issues that interested me. He understood, he said, about my concern for taxes and the cost of health care and would be working to solve the problems in Augusta. I know a politician wouldn’t lie to a constituent. I voted for him that year. He lied. He did not vote in our interests in either of those issues. When he came this year, I told him I would never support him again. And I was true to my word this year.

And we got telephone calls from Democrats along with their late mailings. But the Republicans remained silent in the Gator household. Not so the folks both for and against gambling. Both the statewide question and the Scarborough one sent out a lot of information. I don’t believe gambling is a solution to anything. At least the Oxford people are being honest in that they want a gambling casino. I’d bet not one penny would be spent developing the Scarborough Village if Scarborough Downs doesn’t get its racino.

There was one non-political call that came in regularly. I lost my “last chance” at least 20 times to lower my credit card interest. Those calls, like all computer generated calls, didn’t last very long.

Now it’s all almost over except the shouting, or perhaps some sadness. I honestly hope tomorrow doesn’t mark the beginning of the end of The United States as we know it. I will give the Democrats credit. As deceitful as it may be, they’ve learned how to get their message across.

If you haven’t yet voted, it’s not too late. Make a special effort to be sure you do and tomorrow is your last chance. If you have voted, then you’ve done your part in choosing those who will lead us for the next two or four years.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

November, an exciting month, begins!

November has arrived and the arrival is a weekend, too. I love November. It was in a November many, many years ago that a wonderful young woman and I began talking about getting married. The following November turned out to be one of the greatest of my life as I turned one day and saw the most beautiful sight I had ever seen walking down an aisle to become my bride. That was 47 years ago this month.

November also has a holiday that serves a three-fold purpose. First and foremost, November 11, Veteran’s Day, honors all the great men and women who have served in the Armed Services of the United States. We have special honors for those who have died while doing it. It has not always been called Veteran’s Day as it started out commemorating the end of World War I. It evolved into honoring all veterans in all wars and peacetime. They are all the real heroes of our times and we salute and thank them for their service.

It is also the day that began GW’s and my lives together. We had chosen this holiday because in the jobs we had, we both would always have the day off. There was a short time when Congress changed our wedding anniversary to the last Monday in October. It was not a popular change and was returned to Nov. 11th.

Finally, it’s the day that we begin our annual development of the year’s Christmas Village display. It takes nearly two weeks to put it all together and we aim for the weekend following Thanksgiving Day to complete the project. This year, because GW had an idea for a base change, we started earlier than usual, but it’s now in hiatus until Nov. 11th.

But that’s not all for November. In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday. That happens to be the 27th this year. It’s a great day for families to get together and enjoy a feast of the season. We’ll probably have more about this holiday later in the month.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday in the business world. It begins the traditional shopping season for Christmas and has, in the past, been the busiest days of the year for store’s cash registers. With the economy the way it is this year and with huge discounts now being offered both in stores and on the Internet, we’ll probably still call it “Black Friday,” but it may not be the busiest day this year. Nevertheless, for us older folk, that day will still start the Christmas Season. I have seen that many stores, though, already have Christmas stuff in full display.

Back in 1960, the year I returned to the Portland area, one of the jobs I had was as a Santa’s Helper in a store front on Congress Street, then humming with shoppers. It was long before the Mall. The Chamber of Commerce had asked that only one Santa Claus be available that season and the Portland Press Herald ran it in a vacant store in Downtown Portland. Santa Claus was a giant of a man with a real snow white beard and a Scandinavian accent. He was magnificent. I was his helper.

But that’s a story for another time. This weekend we’re beginning this year’s end of the year funfest of activities. We’re also seeing the final weekend, thank the Heavens for this, of the election activities. I, for one, will be so happy when Tuesday comes to an end. Nevertheless, please be sure to vote. It’s also the weekend we begin Standard Time for the winter and early spring. Remember, we turned our clocks back one hour this weekend.

I hope you enjoy yours and we’ll be back again on Monday.