Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Economy III

This little snowfall we’re expecting this morning in Southern Maine is giving me a small headache. Because of my mobility problems, I normally don’t venture outside in snow. But I’ve been waiting for nearly six months for this day as I have an appointment with my ophthalmologist. Or is it with my optometrist? I get these two mixed up. Anyway, I have an appointment with someone to prescribe some new glasses for me.

As I begin this morning, it’s six A.M., snow hasn’t yet arrived yet. But Ch. 6 weatherman Kevin says we are on the fringe of up to about 4 inches, if the storm tracks as forecast. From Portsmouth, NH, on south and through the Boston/Cape Cod areas, a foot of new snow is possible. Portsmouth is in the six inch plus area.

Gator Wife takes real good care of me. She has arranged with her boss at her part time job to go in early this morning, get the work she is assigned done, and come home early so she can drive me to the eye exam place. Her car has all-wheel drive so this little snow probably won’t slow it down too much. From what Kevin was saying this morning, we’ll be heading out right around the storm takes hold here.

I’ve been offering my unsubstantiated opinion of the state of the economy for the last couple of days. Maine is not immune to the problems facing the nation and other states. The economy here is in deep trouble, too. Our state legislature has approved spending, and more spending for the last 30 or more years.

It seems just about any time any group wants more money, our state simply enacts a new tax or increases an existing one to pay for it. As a result, we’ve become one of the most socialist states in the nation and our taxes are near the highest of all the states.

Now the state must cut its current budget by more than $100 million between now and June 30th due to a projected revenue shortfall. To make matters even worse, it is now projected that the state will fall short by nearly a billion dollars for the next two-year budget. The choice it must make is simple: cut spending or increase taxes.

I read an editorial last week in the Lewiston Sun-Journal, I think it was last Monday, that offered a suggestion for the state. It was a combination of spending cuts and a stimulus package. Those last two words caught my eye because in general I’m opposed to such packages. Giving away “free” money simply doesn’t work. And the state is hoping the federal government gives away some of that “free” money to states.

All government money, whether federal, state or local, is our money, money we’ve given to them in the form of taxes. Without new sources money will eventually run out. That editorial stimulus package pointed that out. It suggested that along with those suggested spending cuts, the state should also cut some of its taxes. It primarily mentioned the income tax rate.

That’s the type of stimulus package I could support. Leaving me more of my money to spend as I wish can only help out the business community to invest in its products and services thus creating the potential for increased employment. That, in turn, would create more income tax revenue for the government. The economy would slowly climb out of its current abyss.

The success of the formula has been proven. Two of the most notable leaders to employ the formula were Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Ronald Reagan. George Bush One tried but then he gave in to the pressure of the Democrats and went along with raising taxes. He was defeated in the next election.

The Democrats want to follow a formula of the 1930s where government stepped in to hand out the “free” money with bailouts. Most economists say that only prolonged the Great Depression. And so the handouts and bailouts will only prolong our current recession. We simply do not learn from history. And that’s a waste.

2008 is drawing to a close. So has this little three day personal expression of the economy. I hope the year is leaving you and your family with good health and we will all now look to a Happy and More Successful New Year.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Economy II

A little light snow overnight made the roads a little wet this morning, but they were black all the way to my Senior Fitness Program center. My driveway had perhaps a sixteenth of an inch of new snow on it, so travelling to the street was easy. The parking lot and walkways at the complex which houses the Physical Therapy Center where the Senior Fitness is held are among the best in Southern Maine. That complex does an absolutely fantastic job in maintaining safety for its visitors.

I guess you know by that introduction that I did go there today and, although I did use a little less in the weights department, I completed all my routines. So that was good. Getting back home was as easy as getting there so my experience indicates there are few if any travel problems this morning.

As we mentioned yesterday, our economy is at the lowest point in many years, possibly decades. There are many reasons for the decline into recession. Some blame the war in Iraq. Others say the banking crisis is a fault. The auto industry has taken it on the chin coupled with the credit crunch. I think a major reason is the mortgage crisis which has led to the failure of the lending institutions is as much the reason as any of them.

The mortgage crisis began many years ago, even though it only erupted in the last year or two. The government stuck its hand into the business of mortgages for housing. It required the lending institutions to change their criteria for mortgages to give more people the opportunity to reach the American dream of owning one’s own home.

Warnings by the Administration that the lending practices were heading for disaster met deaf ears in Congress and nothing was done. As predicted, people who were given very questionable mortgages could not pay them back. Foreclosures erupted.

Lending institutions fell into bankruptcy. Credit became harder and harder to get even by financially sound individuals and businesses. At least partly because of the lack of credit, the automobile industry headed for bankruptcy along with other businesses, including builders.

Now I have to point out for anyone who already doesn’t know it that this is a very short discussion of the problem and probably an oversimplification; but I have spent complete posts in the past discussing my opinions on these issues. Now the government is seeking a way out. Government should be protecting us from forces from outside the U.S. It should be guaranteeing those rights granted to us by our Constitution are upheld.

I’m not going to review my copy of the Constitution for this post, but I don’t recall anywhere it calling for Government to stick its hands into business. But it is now. Big time. With bailouts and stimulus packages galore. They won’t work.

“Free” money without any conditions for major changes will only lead to the call for more free money when this round runs out. Doubt that? Let’s just take a look at one instance, one that occurred this year. The Government gave all of us some “free” money in an attempt to stimulate the economy. How successful was that? Did we see any great stimulation?

Now look at all the calls for more of that money. And look at where those calls are coming from. Banks. Other financial institutions. The Big Three auto companies. Individuals. Housing builders. And more. And they all want the money with only minor changes in the ways they do business. Without major change, what’s going to happen when any of these entities again run out of money? You bet. “Give us more money!”

Do I have a solution? Of course not. But then I didn’t get us into this mess. What I do believe, though, the solution isn’t in the hands of Government. However, I might start with letting those of us who EARN money to keep more of it, spend it judiciously on our needs and wants which, in turn, increases the income of business which, in turn, makes more employment available, and on and on.

And, as previous administrations, both Democrat (JFK) and Republican (RWR) among them, have demonstrated, lowering taxes also results in increased income for Government giving it the ability to stick its hands where they do belong.


Monday, December 29, 2008

The economy I

The final week of 2008 has arrived. Actually, including today, there are only three days remaining. What a year it has been! Our economy, both nationally and locally, has all but gone into the sewer. Banks and other lending institutions have failed or gone into bankruptcy. Record setting fuel, both for our automobiles and our homes, have devastated our family incomes. We’ve elected a new President, and an historic selection that was.

In Maine, the state government has not received the money it expected in fees and taxes and so state agencies are faced with millions of dollars in shortfall revenues over the remainder of this fiscal year which ends June 30th and hundreds of millions for the next biennium.

Hundreds, probably thousands, of jobs have been lost in our state which further complicates the state’s revenue stream. Naturally, as the state is forced to cut its budget, the cuts trickle down into the local community budget. As local school and municipal budgets lose money from the state, both entities, the state and local, are faced with a bad choice: cut their local services or raise taxes.

That trickling down doesn’t stop with governments. Rising fuel costs caused rising prices in just every aspect of our lives. As a result, we’ve had to adjust our living standards to pay for those necessary goods and services we need for existence. We don’t have the ability to raise additional money.
This is all too complicated. Gator Golden believes all situations can be easily solved with just a good belly rub.

As our families have to adjust, their abilities to pay even slightly more taxes decrease which exacerbates the problems facing government. Maine is already among the highest taxed states and most of us simply can’t afford any more. Perhaps the overwhelming defeat in the ballot box of the last Legislature’s huge tax increase on beverages and insurance has sent messages to our state and local leaders that we cannot afford new taxes.

I doubt it.

Our socialistic Democrats love giving away your money to virtually anyone who seeks it. Over the years that’s how they’ve developed the voter base to keep getting elected. They will find it very difficult to cut those services which now are used by more than half of the state’s population and growing daily. They’ll have to raise taxes/fees to feed the ever increasing hunger for handouts.

Those increases will cause more and more businesses to cut back or close, causing more and more people to lose their incomes, causing more and more people to turn to the government for help. It’s a vicious cycle that will end when the source of funding ends.

There’s a lot more to this story, and we’ll continue tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I missed my personal blogging milestone last Friday. It was the one year anniversary of my posting. I’ve had 320 postings since I began and only missed designed Sunday posting and have made abbreviated ones on holidays. We’ve ranged from political rants to personal health, to little trips into the past, and to tales of my family. The biggest benefit to me has been the ability to keep my mind working; and when one reaches the advanced years, keeping the mind busy is as important as keeping the body busy. So, on we go.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

The last weekend of 2008

It’s hard to believe that another year is almost behind us as we are now in the final weekend of 2008. The great Christmas Season is waning and many of the presents have been packed away or put into use. We spend a little time contemplating the events of the year and then we start thinking of the new year about to make its entrance.

Way back when I was a kid, my mother was always the first in our neighborhood to get the Christmas decorations up. She usually did it the day after Thanksgiving and that was a signal for the neighbors to get started, too. If she happened to miss starting it that day, the neighbors seemed to wait for their signal and as soon as Mom got hers up, the neighborhood began to glow once again.

She was also the first to take them down. Rarely did any of our decorations last past Dec. 26th, and never the Christmas tree. I think it came down before breakfast. It wasn’t because she didn’t like the tree; it was because it had been up for a month and its spills were dropping fast. The trees in those days also had rather large tree lights which gave off heat, a real danger to a dying tree. More often than not, our tree was turning brown under the lights and could catch fire about anytime.

So it was a safety issue to get that tree out of the house as soon after Christmas as possible. It is a rule that was ingrained in me and continues today. Thankfully, Gator Wife grew up in a similar household where the tree came down soon after Christmas so it was no problem for her. This year’s Christmas tree is down. It caused no, or very little, fire potential as it had tiny lights on an artificial tree to which we switched just last year. So the tree has been packed for another year.

Our Village is also in its final hours. It will probably be down by next weekend, although we don’t have a time table for it to be put away for another year. I personally think this year’s Village was among the best we’ve made through the years. But it has been completely up since Thanksgiving and its time has come.

Some pretty nasty weather is forecast for Saturday so Gator Daughter came over yesterday to give the pups a chance to run off some energy. They will not come Saturday, and Sunday remains “iffy.” They were just here last Thursday, but, nevertheless, we also look forward to her being here. Gator Golden also looks forward to having her sister over. I have absolutely no idea how dogs tell time or know the days of the week, but both dogs know when it’s a weekend and it’s play together time. Ours paces and stares out the window. GD’s sits in front of her back door and gently whimpers.

So as this last 2008 weekend passes by, we start looking forward to a New Year and it will begin mid week as we officially say “good-bye” to one baby that has grown into old age and a new baby arrives to take its place. It will be interesting to see what it grows into. And we’ll resume our place here on Monday.


Friday, December 26, 2008

It's the day after Christmas.

What a great day yesterday was! I love Christmas and this year I wasn’t let down. None of us had anything unexpected on the tree so it’s not the presents that get me excited. I just love having Gator Daughter, Gator Wife, the two dogs and the Old Gatorman together for a day dedicated just to our family.

I think about the only thing that could have made it better would have been have our son and his family here to celebrate with us. But that’s not possible as he, his wife, and daughter all live in a West Coast state. None of us have the money to travel, so we have to rely on the old telephone for a short visit. And a wonderful visit it was.

GW and I had our turkey in the oven by nine. GD and her pup arrived about 9:15 and the meal preparations began in earnest. The ladies created what turned out to be delicious pies and I prepared the dinner rolls for the meal.

We opened our stockings that Santa had filled sometime during the night. As we had expected, the pups (they’re five years old) got all excited over their stockings. After we assisted them in getting the toys and doggy treats out of them, they each picked a toy to play with while we attacked our stockings and presents.

GD put her dog’s toys in the basket she used to transport her presents over her. And that’s when Gator Golden decided the grass was greener elsewhere. She raided her sister’s toys even though both dogs received identical presents. Their four year tradition of entertaining themselves with their toy of choice came to an end. There was no animosity between the animals, but when GG ‘stole’ a toy from her sister’s pile, sis decided she wanted one of GG’s. I must say their antics were far funnier than what this description may read like.

I counted two items I had gotten earlier this month as Christmas presents, so I made out like a bandit. I had gotten a new camera/phone, a goal I had for several months, and a new camera to replace one that had taken its last picture. Since their purchases were so close to Christmas, it seemed only natural to include at least their empty boxes on the tree.

GW received a present that will be hers exclusively, especially since I’ll never use it. I got her a new riding thing that she can sit on and move around her gardens without having to get on her knees. She did have one, but its wheels were only about three, inches in diameter and when the ground was soft, it was hard to move while on it. Her new one accomplishes the same thing, but the wheels are 10” pneumatic ones. As you know, I don’t do outdoors so she has an exclusive.

After denuding the tree of gifts, the gals set out to finish off the veggies, etc., for the meal and I put my rolls, and a loaf of bread, into bake. Everything came out perfectly as the food all finished being cooked within minutes of each other. And it was one heckuva meal.

GD headed home late afternoon and all the cleaning up was finished. I think she went home to do the same thing GW and I did here. We found our mud puddle.

Since the few pieces of clothing exchanged all fit, none of us need to make a trip to a store today, so that’s good. We do have one task to accomplish, though. By the end of this day, our Christmas tree will have been packed away to honor our living room another year.

I hope you had a great day, too.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Entire Gator in Maine Family
Wishes you and yours

A Very Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house . . . Oh, wait! I think that’s already been used. This is a happy time of the year. If you are fortunate to have kiddies in your home, it’s even happier. For the very young, and even for the young at heart, the day before Christmas is full of anticipation and joy. For Mom, it’s an especially busy day making all the final preparations for tomorrow.

Here’s a little question to get your literary juices flowing: What famous literary character uttered the famous and oft used words, “Woe is me”?

Gator Wife has gotten home from her part time job. She doesn’t normally work on Tuesdays, nor does she normally work late at night; but the company where she works prepares, among other things, food platters for various parties, including Christmas office parties and even some home get-togethers. As she does a very good job at making platters, she, along with three others, began work last night at ten and worked through six this morning putting together this year’s orders.

Now she’s home and she doesn’t have to return to work until next Monday as she’s taking the days after Christmas as part of her vacation time. The overnight work also replaced her normal Wednesday schedule. She’ll spend this day preparing the house for our celebration tomorrow.

I love Christmas Eve and Christmas. I’m long past wondering and hoping what will be in my stocking tomorrow morning and I will have a stocking tomorrow morning. So will GW and Gator Daughter who will be spending the day with us. Are you ready for this? Gator Golden and her sister, GD’s dog, will also have stockings.

After the dogs’ stocking unloading, each dog gets to choose one item from her stash to have right then. It might be a doggy treat or a new toy, but they get to choose. Somehow, and I honestly don’t know how because it was never taught to them, they understand that this will be their only choice at opening time. They then will bide their time, enjoy their selection, and let the rest of us enjoy our Christmas morning.

One of my happiest memories of Christmas happened almost 35 years ago. Every Christmas Eve one of the “musts” was a ride around the area looking at Christmas lights. I still love that ride. My favorite one, though, was a Christmas Eve back in the 1970s when GW, our two children and I were riding through a nice Deering neighborhood. That’s in Portland.

As we drove down one particular little neighborhood street, Out of nowhere Santa Claus appeared. He saw the look on our son’s face, eyes taking up the whole face with his mouth resting on the floorboard. The lad was only about four years old, possibly a little younger. Santa motioned for the car to stop, which it did, and he came to the window to talk with the kids. He told the children he was out checking on which boys and girls were good and which were bad.

Because of his age, the boy was the most impressed. Santa told him he should be thinking about getting home, getting to bed and asleep before he got to his neighborhood. I’ve never seen a little boy get as excited as our son got. From that moment on, the ride was over and all we could do was get home so he could go to bed.

Before we drove off, Santa came to my window and very quietly while the kids were gibbering in the back explained there was a neighborhood party going on and he was doing the honors. Obviously he loved children, no matter whose they were or where they came from. I thanked him and we headed home. Our son wouldn’t admit it today, in fact I’m not even sure he even remembers it, but for that one Christmas Eve so many years ago, he was the most excited kid I’ve known.

And the car’s back seat remained dry.

I probably didn’t fool anyone with my Christmas Eve question. The character to which I’m referring on this seasonal day is The Ghost of Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. That little seasonal story is a center piece of our annual Christmas Village.

Merry Christmas, Everyone. I hope Santa visits you tonight.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back to the old grind--sort of!

The series of storms is giving us a little break today, but the temperature gods certainly are not. If you don’t have your yard clean by now, you will be able to get outside today to perhaps get it finished. But it will be cold out there. According to the morning weather reports, a little snow will begin falling again tonight, but, unlike the weekend blizzards, this one will turn to freezing rain and then rain by tomorrow morning. Some serious rain could fall in most of Maine during the day tomorrow and tomorrow night.

It should all be out of here by Christmas Day.

Today is a little milestone for me. For the first time in nearly a week, my cardiologist says I can drive a car today. He also gave me the OK to go to my Senior Fitness session at a physical therapy place. He did suggest I take it a little easy there, even though he likes the idea of the exercise. But he doesn’t want me to exacerbate the condition of my heart.

So I went. Under the circumstances, I think I had a good session. I only skipped one of the exercises that have been designed for me. That was the side leg lifts, not one of my favorites anyway. I wasn’t told not to do them, only decrease the weight a little. I’m afraid I succumbed to temptation and just didn’t do them at all.

My rationale was simple. Aren’t all rationales simple? My heart procedures last week started in my groin and I didn’t want to take a chance of slowing the healing process. Shucks, it’s virtually all healed and the reduced weights would have been OK. I just didn’t want to do them.

I did attempt my other less than favorite exercise, standing on that blasted half round ball to work on my balance. I didn’t stay on it the full time, though. My other exercises are all involving the use of weights and I did reduce the weights a little. They were done with relative ease.

The next session would normally be Thursday, but that’s a holiday and the center is closed. In all fairness, I wouldn’t go on the holiday anyway, so Senior Fitness is now on hold for a full week.

Gator Wife will spend most of today in a resting mode. Many local businesses and families like to hold Holiday Get-togethers, sort of parties if you will, on Christmas Eve Day. The place where GW works makes food platters and this is the busiest single time of the year. The company has orders for dozens on platters for tomorrow so GW will join three others for an “all-nighter” to have them ready.

That means she goes to work tonight at 10 and works through the night. She’ll get home tomorrow morning about six, the time she would normally have reported for work on a Wednesday. The good part of that is she has already taken Friday off as part of her vacation time, so when she gets home tomorrow morning, she’ll be home until next Monday.

I’m going out on a little limb here to tell you what I think my Fearless Friend considers to be a happy story. I don’t have his permission to share it, but he won’t be angry long. I told you several days ago that both of us were going through anxiety waits for bodily procedures. He got the word yesterday that his is a “go” and a January date has been set.

FF has had to admit that getting into the seventh decade has drawbacks, but fortunately the one he faces has a good solution. He has developed cataracts. FF is the type of guy that reads incessantly. Or at least he did until his eyes no longer could stand the type. He has also noticed many other drawbacks, such as the difficulty of night driving, watching TV, and just about everything involving the eyes.

So, he’s heading for cataract removal next month. Both of us have friends who have had this operation and we know it’s generally painless, easy, and relatively quick. When it’s over and the eyes have healed, he’ll be able to see better than ever. And that’s a good thing.

Christmas Week continues. We do have some more precipitation heading our way, but nothing like the record breaking foot plus of snow we had over the weekend. For you last minute shopping folk, you might want to consider moving that minute up to today to avoid getting wet late tomorrow.


Monday, December 22, 2008

The Monday After!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many more times: With all the problems it can create, Nature can be beautiful. And so it is with our weekend storm. Maine is beautiful this morning with all that fresh, white snow. Some places got up to a foot and a half. Our little area got close to a foot. I think Christmas will be white this year.

Today is a tough one for many folk. Yards still need cleaning, yet jobs, some of which had late beginnings today, still call employees. So it is in our little Gatorland. Neighbor Ed has done a superior job of helping us out from this storm. He put a little extra effort into plowing our yard, but Gator Wife had to go to her part time job this morning, so she’s facing porch and deck shoveling when she gets home late this morning.

Gator Golden would love it if we would spend the whole day outside with her. (Although the post was written a couple hours ago, I waited until the sun came out for the pictures.)

I offered last evening to go out on my tractor/snow blower today to help her out, but she insists I adhere to a milder routine ordered by my cardiologist following a heart procedure last week. I can’t find the words to describe how badly I feel having to have her do all the outside work. After all, like me she long ago crossed over that age 65 threshold. I want desperately to help her; I want desperately to live.

Wow! How’d I get off on that morbid track? Switch has been thrown and we’re back on the right track. Sorry about that.
Those little storm announcements at the bottom of the TV screen are interesting this morning. Many schools, including most of the Greater Portland area, are closed today. One district is opening two hours late this morning, and another had made no announcements as of 6 AM. An interesting part of the school situation is most of the York County schools are on a two-hour delay and many of the highest snowfall totals this morning were in York County.

A large number of businesses and government offices, including the State Government, are delaying opening this morning.

GW called to let me know she had arrived safely at her work place and said the roads weren’t too bad, but the parking lot where she works is a glare of ice. Of course she only has to drive about a mile and a half.

I’m in a little quandary this morning, especially after GW said the roads weren’t too bad. I’m not supposed to drive until tomorrow, but today I have to get a blood test because of last week’s procedure. Unless I get the draw this morning, the doctor won’t get the results until tomorrow. So, my quandary is to either drive the short distance to the blood place this morning or wait until this afternoon and have GW drive me in her all-wheel drive car.

While writing that, Gator Daughter called to tell me she had gotten to her work place safely, too.
She advised me to wait until tomorrow for the blood draw, or at least until GW could take me this afternoon and let the doctor get the results overnight. I think that’s now my plan of action. So cancel the quandary.

It looks like the Patriots and the Playoffs come down to one game. In order for the Pats to get into the playoffs, they must beat Buffalo next week and the Jets must beat the Dolphins. That would give the Pats the division title. If Miami beats the NY Jets, it’s all over for this season.

Be careful out there today.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

A snowy weekend

The weekend is upon us once again. But this weekend is just a little different than most we’ve had in the last several months. We have snow. Lots of snow. Probably enough will have fallen to all but assure us of a White Christmas. We’ll have to hope the expected rain Christmas Eve won’t wash it all away.

Friday night was the second of three good snow storms that were expected. The first was Wednesday, and although we did get a goodly amount of snow, our area of the path didn’t suffer quite the wrath that others did. The plows were out early, but yard only got two or three inches. Thankfully my neighbor Ed helps us out a little with his plow truck.

Taken just before dawn, this is what the front of my house looked like. That pile of snow is on a bush. Because of my mobility/balance problems, I don't venture into this stuff which is why most of my pictures are from my front porch.

I do have a snow blower on my tractor, but some mitigating circumstances this week are preventing me from using it. Ed and his wife are those great neighbors that everyone should have. They never hesitate to help out when their old folk neighbors, we’re the only neighbors they have, need some assistance. And so it was with the Wednesday storm.

He was here before dawn this morning, actually before two AM, to plow our yard. Gator Golden announced his arrival with a light growl that something outside was different. I should point out that Ed has several plow customers so he starts early to get everyone out, including us. His work left Gator Wife with only the two porches to clean and they are small. She also cleans the deck so she can get out to our compost bin and to keep some weight off the deck.

Of course, Gator Golden has to check out where Ed's plow truck went.
Southern Maine got the brunt of the latest storm. The weather gal on Ch. 6 this morning reeled off the depth in several communities. If I remember correctly, Sanford got a big hit, about 10 inches, while Portland had six. It looks to me like we got a little less at our home.

More snow is forecast for Sunday and so all the cleaning needs to be repeated. A problem is the storm Sunday is forecast to be the biggest of the three. Ed’s got a monster that rids the driveway of the snow and he’s done it for years. It’s almost a show in itself to watch him maneuver that truck. But those porches and the deck will give GW a good excuse to head to bed early Sunday night. The Ch. 6 report this morning indicated there is a possibility Sunday’s snow will turn to freezing rain or even rain close to the coast, but the rest of the area could get up to 10 more inches.

And there’s a good chance all the cleaning will have to be repeated Monday.
Also from the front porch, we take a look down our very long driveway.
There are times when a grown man feels just a little inadequate. This weekend is one of those times and I truly feel sorry that I cannot help GW with the yard cleanup. I have serious heart disease and my cardiologist has me on some limitations at least until Tuesday, and possibly until I have a cardiac defibrillator (ICD) implanted as soon as it can be arranged. Meanwhile, I can’t do much to help out my wife, and that’s a Big Bother.

Christmas week begins. And it looks like it could be an old-fashioned white one. I hope you remain safe and well this snowy weekend and know your own limits when your shoveling begins. I’ll be back Monday.


Friday, December 19, 2008

There's some snow in our future!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing heart disease today. But you have read that I was in the hospital yesterday having what has turned out to be the final test before a decision on an Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) is made. My heart is not in good condition and an ICD will be implanted in four to six weeks. Leading up to that event, I will give some specifics on heart disease and how it has affected me. In the meantime, this is the happiest season of the year, and so we’ll try to make our postings here consistent with that season.

We are in a happy season, but I’m not sure later today and especially Sunday into Monday will be very happy. Except, perhaps, for skiers, snowboarders, and other really outdoors people. The problem is that four letter word: snow.

The storm we had just the other day wasn’t too bad. Today’s could leave up to four or more inches, but that one coming in late Sunday could leave a foot or more inland and just a little less along the coast. Now tell me that isn’t an exciting thought.

Gee, Gatorman, I thought this was going to be happy. Well, golly, some people really like snow.

We’re told that today’s storm will begin sometime this afternoon. Greater Portland this morning was in the National Weather Service’s “Storm Watch” area, but York County was in the “Storm Warning” area. We got that “depends on the track” bit from the weather gal on Ch. 6 this morning. I’m not sure if she was hinting we’ll get the blast or if she thinks it may miss us by just a wee bit. In any case, we’ll probably end up with plowable snow.

Sunday’s big storm still remains a distance away and we all remember seasons past when “big” storms were forecast well in advance and then, especially in Greater Portland, just fizzled. We’ll hold off on too many comments about that one right now. Perhaps we’ll be able to have more on the Sunday storm in the weekend post.

Gee, Gatorman, I thought this was going to be happy. Well, golly, some people really like snow.

I must admit, there’s still enough “kid” left in me so that I enjoy it, too. I’m especially happy when we have honest prospects for a While Christmas. They’re the kind I grew up with, at least they’re the only ones from my early years I remember. I think this year has a good chance of once again presenting us with a “White Christmas.”

There is one downside for me this weekend. My doctor yesterday gave me some instructions to follow for the next five days. One was a lifting restriction and another was a driving restriction. That means that Gator Wife will be left with the steps/deck/front of garage cleanup if we do get snow. My neighbor Ed has a plow truck and he’ll make sure the huge bulk of our yard is cleaned up. But last time I looked, his plow was too wide for the two porches. He gets as close to the garage doors as his equipment will allow, but there’s always a little left to be cleaned up.

I can’t drive my car until next Tuesday, which, if conditions permit, will allow me to attend my Senior Fitness session. And the Doc gave me the OK to do that. Maneuvering the tractor with the snow blower is a no-no. Because of certain medications I take which affect blood flow and healing, I’m not supposed to aggravate my procedure from yesterday.

Gee, Gatorman, I thought this was going to be happy. It is. I'm a man. I love being pampered.

I hope you stay warm and dry as these weekend storms pass through. And don’t forget to check on your elderly neighbors to be sure they’re OK, too.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A little time off!

One week before Christmas and I hope you have a great day.

There will be no post today, other than this little explanation which was written for automatic future post last weekend. The Old Gator is taking a little vacation, resting today after a heart procedure at a local hospital. Theoretically, I should be released late this afternoon.

I haven’t decided, yet, if there’ll be a Friday or Weekend post this week. It all depends on what happens Thursday.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A stormy Wednesday awakening

It wasn’t unexpected as the weather people told us of it yesterday, but we did awaken to light snow this morning. At least it isn’t much, so far, in my yard. As I prepare this little note, darkness still prevails so I can’t really see just what the weather is providing. We may be getting some light sleet or freezing rain mixed in here.

The weather folk tell us this is just the beginning of a series of three storms which might, note that word “might,” give us a White Christmas next week. The current storm, although “storm” is a rather harsh word for what’s happening outside in relation to, say, last week’s ice storm, should drop an inch along the coast to up to 5 inches well inland.

It looks like we’ll get a day off, at least from the wintry weather, tomorrow before yet another storm arrives Friday. Ch. 6’s Kevin Mannix said this morning it could be a little stronger than today’s, but, he warns, storm number three arriving Sunday night into Monday could be the biggest of the three and even hit Nor’easter levels.

Let me remind you, last year most of those “big” storms forecast this far in advance never really materialized. We’ll just have to wait and see what, if anything, the weekend brings.

Today we’ll be deciding how to deal with today’s accumulation. We’re told the storm should be out of the Greater Portland/Southern Maine area by late this morning or early afternoon. Depending of the depth of the snow and its wetness, I’ll decide then if my snow machine will get its first seasonal workout.

My machine doesn’t take too well with wet snow, so the water content will go a long way toward that decision. Oh how I wish I had my single stage snow blower back. Nothing, not even two inch deep water at the end of the driveway slowed that thing down. A mechanical problem did, however.

I’ve told my story to my fellow Senior Fitness, or as some have come to call it, The Breakfast Club, members. One of them bought a new snow thrower for his tractor last winter. You’d be amazed how much joy he gets of reminding me he has a single stage thrower and nothing slows him down. He lives well inland where more wintry stuff falls and he has already been out on his machine. The razzing has already begun. We don’t have breakfast there, so I don’t know how it got that nickname.

Just in case you’re wondering, as I understand it, the difference between a snow thrower and a snow blower is the way it handles the snow. The single stage thrower has a high speed auger that throws the snow great distances. My two stage blower has a slow moving auger that draws the snow into a fan type wheel that then blows the snow away. My Fearless Friend has a thrower as I, but he says the use of Pam or some other greasing element allows him the same ability as the single stage. I’ve tried it, but with less success. My experience with both types leads me to highly recommend the single stage variety.

Now after all that, I wonder if today will be the one that gives my machine its first seasonal adventure. I’m sure one of the storms, if indeed they come, will certainly get it out.

I’m heading to the hospital very early tomorrow morning so I’ll be away for at least one day. The results of the stuff tomorrow morning will determine if it’ll be more than one day.

Be careful in today’s storm; I hear on the police monitor that it’s already getting a little slick out there.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Picasa Test!

There is no significance to this particular post. Today's normal post is below. But I discovered a program on Google that many have been using for a while, but only tried out by me yesterday. The program is Picasa, a photo/video editor available free from Google. I wanted to see how well it seams with Blogger. If you haven't tried this program, I urge you to as it can do more with saving and publishing pictures than any I've tried before. There are no new pictures here; all have appeared on my blog previously. As I said, I'm just trying out the program.

Posted by Picasa

Breaking a funky mood

I might be feeling just a little sorry for myself today as all my thoughts seem to be on Thursday’s adventure in a local hospital. I don’t like this mood I’m in very much as I don’t think it’s the kind I normally have. I’ve been living with my heart disease and doing all the things I should be doing for several years.

Yet having to return for a short hospital stay, probably just 8 hours or so, for yet another procedure is beginning to sit in. The procedure is usually very non-life threatening, but I’m not looking forward to it. So today I’m fighting my way out of those mood lows.

I did maintain my Tuesday morning routine. I think that helped, too. I went to my Senior Fitness class at a local physical therapy center and completed my normal routine. I complain about the weather frequently, especially on these Tuesdays and Thursdays when I attend the class. We have a front passing this morning and it probably will bring some snow tonight into tomorrow. Weather guy Kevin said this morning, we could have up to a couple of inches of snow on the ground tomorrow morning.

You know that has affected my bones and joints. Those of you who are considered “elderly,” whatever that means, will understand, especially if like me you suffer from arthritis along with all those other ailments that come with age. I like to think the only time I’m “elderly” is when I seek my Senior Citizen discount at various locations.

I still remember the first time I got that discount. Gator Wife and I were on one of our summer trips several years ago and stopped by an eatery from our meal. When the waitress brought us the check at the end of the meal, she very quietly said, “I hope I haven’t insulted you, but I subtracted your senior citizen discount.” It may have been the first I really knew of such a discount. I wasn’t insulted.

This will be a slow day, I think. The Christmas shopping is complete. The presents are wrapped. Our tree is gloriously sitting in the living room, our Christmas Village is on display, the candy has been made, the cards have been sent. What else is there to do?

The best part of all this is, I think taking the time to write this morning has gotten me out of that funk I was in. The exercise probably helped, too. GW is home today so what started out as less than nice has become a good day.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Nature provided a busy weekend

I continue to be awed at the combination of beauty and destruction that Nature provides. The ice came in last Friday and its weight bent trees over, felled trees, brought down branches and wires and raised havoc throughout the state, especially Southern Maine.

Power outages caused considerable discomfort to thousands of Mainers, not to mention the thousands of dollars in damage by falling trees into cars, houses, and businesses. Let’s not forget the thousands of dollars in lost business, too, by businesses unable to open due to power failure.

Gator Wife and I were rather lucky on our little homestead. We did lose a few small branches but we never lost our power. I think we were among the blessed few in our town that didn’t lose power. My Fearless Friend and Mrs. FF were without power for several hours. They have a generator so they did have enough power to maintain essential services.

Two (a married couple) of my Senior Fitness Group members were witho
ut power for more than 28 hours. When they finally got back on line yesterday, they sent me some spectacular pictures of their area in an adjacent town. I have not heard from other members of the group to learn how they made out. I’ll probably be caught up on them tomorrow.

Saturday and much of Sunday brought bright sunshine to the area. That sunshine showed the beauty of Nature’s storm. With so much ice on the trees and bushes, the sunlight turned them into colorful prisms. All around the East side of my house the dazzling colors turned our yard into a Christmas Wonderland.

The pictures you see scattered throughout here today were taken Saturday off my front steps. My new little camera really doesn’t do justice to the beauty we had; but they will give you an idea of the view from our little corner of the state.

Clouds rolled in yesterday afternoon signaling a change in the weather. The temperatures rose through the night into the 30s and we told they could be in the low 50s today. Along with that comes some more wet weather. It’ll be showers later today, though, with just a weak "perhaps some light snow."

This will be one of those “worrisome” weeks for me. The next event in the series that will determine if I get an Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator or not is scheduled. I’ll be having a cardiac catherization Thursday. That probably will go a long way toward a decision. I think it would be safe to say I’m not exactly looking forward to this venture.

I like what I consider to be clever commercials. A good one is the AT&T cell phone commercial using a track runner to illustrate the speed of the company’s 3G network. The top half of the track man looks like he’s virtually standing still as he thumbs a text message and his legs are going a mile a minute. “Really fast,” he says of the new cell phone network.

Those are my thoughts early this morning. We’ll try again tomorrow.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Weekend After The Ice Storm

The weekend began with fantastic beauty with Nature's massive destruction all around. I always find it amazing just how Nature is able to mix its beauty with its show of power.

The sun shining through the ice covered trees and bushes greeted us in our little spot of Maine.

K-thunk! K-thunk! K-thunk! That’s what we listened to all Friday afternoon. It wasn’t a pleasant sound, but others in Maine were in a worse predicament. They had no power. Many still didn’t Saturday morning.

The Ice Storm of 2008 came, wreaked havoc throughout the state and left. And now we have the weekend to try to get some of that ice and those downed branches cleaned up. We were lucky in our little Gatorland. The trees around our home were covered with ice and a few of the smaller branches broke free from their trees. But the ground was all they hit.

Both Gator Wife from here and Gator Daughter from her home in Portland made it to their respective work places without incident Friday and then spent Friday morning listening to the reports of more and more branches down, taking power lines with them sending more than two hundred thousand Mainers into wondering when their power would return.

Some of the results of all that "k-thunking."

The storm had left our part of the state by noontime and by early afternoon the sun had come out. The melting began. All afternoon that “K-thunk!” repeated itself over and over in my yard. At first I thought limbs were hitting the house, but a check outside showed it was only ice dropping off the trees slamming into the ground.

I feel badly for my neighbors all through the state that are spending this weekend on major cleanup and repair chores at their homes. Trees, limbs, power lines all slammed into homes and business in various parts of the state with Southern Maine apparently the hardest hit. Cars were hit along with other pieces of personal and public property. And now the cleanup is well underway.

This weekend is forecast to be a real temperature ride. We’re told Saturday will have rather cold temperatures and they will moderate considerably for Sunday. This was a storm that we’ll be talking about for a while, but it probably didn’t equal the destructive Ice Storm of 1998. It was, however, a big storm for 2008. The news this morning said it was the worst storm in 30 years in some parts of New England.

The sun continues its dazzling display in another part of our front yard.

More of our Christmas coming to life is taking place this weekend. Our Christmas tree will be stood in its place of honor and decorated. We already have a foot tall Village Tree that has been lit since we lit the Village a couple weekends ago, but this weekend’s addition is a full size tree for Santa to visit in now less than two weeks.

We hope you have made it safely through the storm and have been able to fight the cold Saturday and milder weather Sunday to get your homes straightened out. And we’ll be here Monday for another visit.


Friday, December 12, 2008

I dislike Ice Storms!

Edited at 8:45 A.M. to add pictures
I would have liked to have had better pictures, but by the time I was able to record these, the melting had already begun. Nevertheless, they'll give you an idea of the scene outside the Gator Homestead.

The ice has come. There are power outages all over Southern Maine as the massive storm that was forecast arrived. It is now heading away and should be gone from our area later this morning. I’ve heard from both of my girls. Gator Wife arrived safely at her part time work place. She said she didn’t have any trouble as the roads were relatively bare. But there are trees down all around her little mile and a half trip.

Gator Daughter also made it safely to her work place. She said the roads in Portland weren’t too bad, either, but intersections were still a little fun to travel through. She did say she’s been without electricity, along with a goodly portion of the city, since 2:30 this morning. The City has set up portable stop signs at the intersections because many lights are out.

Nearly all schools are closed in the Greater Portland area and throughout much of Southern Maine. Many streets in the area are closed due to downed trees, limbs, power lines, and fallen transformers. I haven’t heard about too many accidents on the police monitor so far (6:10 AM), but the calls are almost continuous for downed lines and trees and road blocks.

I saw announcements on a local TV station yesterday that I absolutely don’t remember ever seeing before. The TV station was crawling a list of “no school” activities on the bottom of the screen. There were announcements of early school closings and cancelled afternoon and evening activities. At least half of the announcements, and that’s only a guess as I didn’t count nor do any calculations, announced “open” schools.

Way back in the 1940s and 50s I’d join just about every kid my age to listen to the “no school” announcements on our local radio station. Since I have either listened to the radio or watched TV in the mornings just about ever since, I’ve heard the no school announcements through the years. Shucks! I’ve even delivered them.

Never before have I seen or heard of announcements like “Cape Elizabeth Schools – Open” or “Falmouth Schools – Open.” I think it was always a “given.” If schools were “closed” or have “delayed” openings, they were “Open.” I don’t usually watch these things in the afternoon so perhaps they’ve been there all along and I’ve simply missed them. But, I absolutely cannot recall ever seeing them before.

All is not bad today. I thought I'd include a cute picture of Gator Golden sitting in "dad's" lap this morning.

If you have to travel outside the safety of your home today, especially this morning, please take it real easy and be extra careful. There’s someone who wants you back home safely.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

I don't like stormy weather.

The trip this morning to my Senior Fitness group was easy. I had been listening to a police monitor which had indicated the roads were setting up and getting slippery. I don’t like ice, but since most of the trouble seemed to be well inland, I ventured out. I assured Gator Wife I’d call when I got there. There was no trouble at all as the roads were bare and there was no precipitation.

The session went as usual in this kind of weather. My back, hip, bones, and joints all let me know they weren’t happy, but I didn’t take the easy way out and completed my routine. I called GW to let her know I was heading home. She warned me of many accidents and, indeed, people arriving for their physical therapy indicated the roads outside Portland were getting very slippery. I headed home and again found the travel to be rather easy, although the Scarborough Connector to I-295 was a parking lot. I was coming the other way so didn’t have a problem.

The weather forecast this morning makes it a good thing to be retired. Although I did go out this morning, now that I’m home I can stay here in the “warmth” and comfort of my home through the predicted very bad storm heading into our area. Later on today, the rains, some snow, some mixed precipitation, and some ice will be heading into Maine.

I know Gator Daughter made it to her work place this morning without any difficulty, but she’ll be heading home this afternoon in the teeth of the beginning of overnight storm. Both GD and Gator Wife will be expected to head out into what forecasters say could be very icy conditions in the morning. GW only has a mile and a half to drive but the youngster will have some treacherous travel that includes a bridge, the Interstate, and Portland’s hills.

I’ll be sitting here very anxiously awaiting their confirming calls of safe arrival.

This season is really flying by. I’m sure you realize that Christmas is just two weeks from today. I think we have completed what shopping we’re going to do this year. GD and we were discussing what we were going to do for Christmas this year and came to the conclusion that all through the year we simply get whatever we need. So we’ve decided that since that takes place and the economy isn’t the strongest we’ve ever seen that we’ll keep our giving very simple this year.

I do have a son who lives on the West Coast, but it is very hard knowing what he and his family out there needs so we’ll send them a check and hope they can get something they all need. Last year, we understand, our cash present helped them take a little vacation, and that was good.

The state’s civil engineers have called for major spending on roads and bridges giving Maine a grade of C- on the conditions of the state’s infrastructure. Legislators say they’re hoping President-elect Obama will make good on his promise to stimulate the economy by helping to fund infrastructure construction. Reporters in Maine don’t do any investigative reporting so in those stories about the need for road and bridge funding, we never are told of where all that bonded money from the last several years has gone.

I’m not suggesting it hasn’t gone to construction; I simply don’t know where it did go. I don’t listen very often, but a Portland radio/TV talk show host has said in the past that he was going to monitor how that money was used. He may have kept his listeners up to date in the many hours I haven’t listened, but I haven’t heard any reports from him.

I hope you and your families and friends stay warm and safe during this stormy couple of days.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just a simple ramble!

This Wednesday has gotten off in an interesting way. First the temperature at my house was well into the 40s when Gator Wife and I arose and now, a couple hours later, it has crossed into the 50s. Drizzle remains, if the back of Gator Golden was any indication when she came back in this morning.

I watched the weather forecast in three different places this morning, and they weren’t exactly in agreement, although not too far apart. The consensus seems to be that we’ve the potential for a pretty good storm heading our way for late Thursday into Friday. One of the stations indicated there was a chance that we’d get icy conditions from the impending storm.

That storm is developing today off the southern coast and the warm weather will bring a lot of rain toward us. The kicker is, though, another very cold mass is heading our way from Canada. So the race appears to be on. Another of the stations indicated that snow could begin in northern Maine beginning late tomorrow afternoon and slowly move its way toward the coast.

It looks like it’s going to be an interesting Thursday and Friday, and I guess even today might try to get into the mix. Selfishly, only tomorrow morning could affect me personally, although my daughter will have to travel to work and her home both Thursday and Friday and GW will have to make the round trip to her work place Friday. That always causes me to worry until I hear from them that they have arrived at either place safely.

As I said, I could be affected only tomorrow as travel conditions could affect my trip to my Senior Fitness place. Because of my unstable balance, I don’t venture out of the house if slippery conditions could lead to my falling. If I fall, I probably would break something so I stay at home when conditions that could lead to falling exist.

Before you say how foolish this is, I recognize that someone could fall anytime in any conditions. The difference with me is that I don’t want to invite that fall.

Here are a couple bits and pieces for a Wednesday, which really means I don’t have anything particular I want to rant about. First, for you who read yesterday, my trip to the doctor was a huge success. As I had hoped, he talked to me in English, told me of some of his patients, no names of course, that have the ICD and their success with the device. He answered all my questions openly and honestly, at least it sure did seem that way, and I left with a much more positive feeling about the potential operation.

At one point he said that the device tries to prevent instant death with a heart rate using a technical term I’m not even going to try to repeat here. I said to him that I wasn’t sure I like the talk of death. “Why not?” he asked. “You’ve been there and look at you now. It doesn’t seem to have stopped you.”

I saw a very old former TV show over the weekend. It was an episode of the original Knight Rider series. There was a line in the show that I just loved. The hero had a gun pointed at another person who begged, “Please don’t shoot me. I have a dog at home.”

I hope you stay dry today and be careful the next few days.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Adventure Continues!

If I had to make a wild guess, I’d say later today and especially tomorrow aren’t going to be really great weather times. A little light snow has arrived here today and some warm weather should get here overnight. That’ll set up a wild, rainy day for tomorrow. To top it off, the weather folk are “watching a potential snow storm” for Friday.

I went to my normal Senior Fitness session this morning. The most of the group was there. A couple of the others suffer from arthritis as do I. I can’t really speak for them as they appeared to react normally, at least as normally as their own conditions warrant. But by now you know what happens to me when the weather is going downhill.

My bones and joints just let me know they don’t like exercising on days like this one bit. But, just a little bit half-heartedly, I plowed through my routine. It’s an event that’s on my mind that caused that little half-heartedness.

Part I of the possible event was last week when I visited a heart surgeon to start an evaluation to see if I would benefit from an implanted cardiac defibrillator. Although he said he was pretty sure I would be getting one, there were some tests I needed to go through first. My cardiologist says he believes I am a candidate for an ICD.

I’ve asked both the cardiologist and the surgeon, who calls himself the electrician of my team, to send their notes to my primary care physician. I hope they did as I’m meeting with him this morning. I just want his opinion and input into this potential adventure. That’s Part II.

Part III will be next week when I have an internal heart study by the cardiologist using a catheter.

My Fearless Friend gave me the highest praise a little while back. He said he admired the way I was handling all this and continuing to do all I can. I appreciated his comments but explained to him that I’ve been through worse, and if all this will add just a few minutes to my life, then it’s all worth it.

So on this Tuesday, there’s nothing profound in my head, not there very often is. So I’m off heading to my doc for a consultation. I hope you have a great day.


Beat Oklahoma for NCAA Championship!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Season Is Here!

It was a great weekend. The University of Florida Gators won the Southeastern Conference football championship Saturday by beating the previously unbeaten University of Alabama 31 to 20. Then Sunday, what everyone had both hoped for and expected came to pass. The Gators will meet the University of Oklahoma, the Big 12 Conference champions for the NCAA National championship, January 8, 2009. Both teams are 12 and 1 on the season. Go Gators!

The Christmas Season is really here. If you doubt me, take a look at the commercials on television. The first indication I recall seeing this season was the Clap On Clap Off ad. It may not have been the first that was on TV, but it was the first I recall seeing this year. Clap On Clap Off is an interesting way to turn various electrical units on and off in your home.

The ad hints it works great with Christmas trees. It has a new feature this year, a switch that can be used instead of the clapping. I’ve always thought the device is interesting, but I’ve never bought one. I’m not 100 years old just yet and the commercial seems to indicate one has to be rather ancient to need the use of one.

Another annual commercial has also hit the airwaves rather heavily. The Chia Pet. What would the Christmas season be without that adorable little pet that grows grass or weeds or something on a pre-molded chunk of clay? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chia Pet up close and really have no desire to own one, but they’re a Christmas fixture. Like the Clap on Clap Off item, there’s a new Chia this season. It has a light for its new Christmas Tree.

And how about those dancing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” chocolate kisses from Hershey? That commercial doesn’t seem to change at all year after year. I have no desire for either of the other two I’ve mentioned today, but I must admit chocolate kisses are very good. I’ve never had one dance, though.
(Right: Gator Golden would like a dancing chocolate!)

And we seem to be getting inundated with those “Not sold in stores” gadgets. I wonder just how virtually every company settled on that $19.95 plus shipping and handling price? Of course with each one, you can get many, many dollars worth of “free” stuff included. The total “worth” of the package often seems to be two or three times that $20 figure; and have you noticed that much of the “free” stuff also has shipping and handling charges? Don’t you just love “free?”

I’ve often wondered just how good those products are, but I’d never spend the money, or more importantly, I never give my credit card number out to one of those companies, on stuff I couldn’t get in a store after seeing, handling it, etc. I have seen some of the “not sold in stores” items in stores. I’ve bought a couple of them and sure enough, pure junk.

Not all things hawked by peddlers, however, are junk. More than 30 years ago when my children were just toddlers, I took them to Old Orchard Beach. Back then it was a great play place for families. There was a peddler on the pier selling kitchen knives. The kids’ mother was about to have a birthday and a knife was $3.00. We bought one for the youngsters to give Mommy for her birthday. It was just a long, serrated do-everything knife similar to the set Chef Tony sold on TV a while back.

That was more than 30 years ago. That knife is still today the most used and best knife we have in our kitchen. It has cut just about everything in those thirty years from every kind of food in the kitchen, to leather and plastic things elsewhere in the house. It is as sharp and works as well today as it has all along. A person installing a stone countertop a couple years back spotted the knife. He told us not to use it directly on the stone as it would cut it. (Left: The knife)

A few years ago, Gator Daughter saw the knife advertised on TV and bought one for herself. It came as a pair so she gave one to us. It is just as good as the original so now we have two. Whenever I see something that looks interesting on the TV, I am reminded that not all those inexpensive things are junk. I’d be lost without our OOB $3 knife.

I still don’t want a Clap On Clap Off or hairy pet.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Gator Weekend (Fla 31, Ala 20)

NCAA National Championship Game, Jan. 8, 2009:
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Florida Gators
Edited, 8:30 PM, Sun., Dec. 7th

Already a weekend is here again. This one does have some significance as Sunday is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the day that went down in infamy. I wasn’t very old in 1941 and I’m really not sure if I remember the day or if my memory has been helped by reading about it since. I do remember the war that the bombing drew America into.

Hawaii is the only state that Gator Wife and I haven’t visited and the prospects of our ever getting their dim with each passing day. But if I were to go, you can bet one of the places I’d visit would be the Pearl Harbor Memorial. I haven’t checked the TV listings for this weekend, but I’d be surprised if the tube isn’t filled with Pearl Harbor and old WW II films.

The weather people tell us we may see a little light snow Sunday. Just how much remains to be determined because, like all storms forecast for this area, “It depends on the track.” Southern Maine could get anywhere from none to three inches, depending on whom you listen to. I’m prepared, though. If it does give us any depth, my tractor snow thrower is at the ready. If it should be in the four or more inches variety, my neighbor will be ready with his snow plow.

At this time of year, however, more often than not nothing has to be done. If it does snow Sunday, the chances would be good it would all be gone by day’s end Monday. I’d like to have a dollar for every time I’ve shoveled or used a snow blower or thrower over the years only to have the melting snow almost beat me to the cleaning up. On the other hand, folklore says that if the storm turns to rain, then nearly all our storms this winter will turn to rain. That, of course, depends on whether this becomes an official winter storm.

The Gator Group doesn’t have much planned for this weekend. Of course Saturday one of us will be glued to the TV from four o’clock into the early evening for the Florida/Alabama SEC Championship Game. In all probability the winner of the game will play for the NCAA National Championship in January. Alabama is undefeated this season and the #1 ranked team in the country.


Gator Daughter will spend some time with us Saturday as she and Gator Wife will continue with their seasonal cooking (candy making). Sunday’s activity and possible visit will depend entirely on the weather.

One of my faithful regulars likes me to include a picture of Gator Golden. So here it is:

She’s just chock full of energy this morning.

That’s it for this weekend. I hope you have a great one and we’ll be back bright and early Monday morning.


Friday, December 5, 2008

And the wait continues

Did you hear that four-letter word that the young weather gal uttered on the television this morning? Snow? She confirmed what last night’s weather guy said about Sunday. There’s a possibility of some snow coming into our area, possibly as much as two to four inches depending on where you are. It will be cooler getting into Sunday, but we should be getting a plethora of sunshine until at least late tomorrow.

Today is Friday and my wait for a decision continues for at least another two weeks when I’ll have more tests. You may recall my cardiologist has said I’m probably a candidate for an ICD, Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator. I met with another doctor yesterday, the one who would actually make the implant if it becomes a go.

He reviewed all my tests of the past several years, especially the ones over the last month and a half. He said I was in a “gray” area of need, a place where Medicare requires more definitive tests before they’ll approve the device. The doctor suggested we go the longer route to be sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed but, he said, based on what he now knows, he’s leaning toward recommending the device.

So, in two weeks, I’ll be heading to the hospital for the first in what could be a series of tests. I will have my heart examined inside, both for its mechanical and electrical functions, by my cardiologist looking at it through a catheter connected to a device that reads what’s happening. I had this same procedure back in 2002 following my heart attack. That one led to a quadruple by-pass.

I’ll be growing in anxiety as the day approaches. I always get anxious when I’m facing these things, even though the one I had then, with this same cardiologist, was totally painless, except for the little incision they make to insert the catheter. In fact, since I was awake through it all, I could have watched the whole procedure on a monitor beside my table. Unfortunately, there was a technician standing between me and the monitor so I only caught quick glimpses. Fascinating.

The results of that test will determine if I’m definitely heading for a device or, perhaps something else. That ‘something else’ could be more tests, including a nuclear stress test, or a test where a machine like a CAT scan machine will take a look, or both. Or, of course, there’s always the possibility that nothing else will happen and I won’t get the device or they’ll find something and admit me right away for some procedure. That’s two weeks away.

I did learn a little bit more about the device yesterday. It’s a defibrillator with a pace maker included. It basically watches my heart beat and changes it as needed. If my heart should stop, I won’t have to wait for an EMT or someone to arrive who can use the paddles as this device will do that as soon as it’s needed, possibly saving my life.

We’ll have Part III of this little episode later this month. Now, let’s get ready for an interesting weekend ahead which possibly includes a little snow.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thursday has arrived!

Thursday is here and I’ve just completed perhaps one of the best exercise sessions I’ve ever had at my Senior Fitness program place. That stuff I normally complain about aching and hurting didn’t this morning so it was just a little more vigorous workout. I felt really good, tired but good, when I left there this morning.

From what the weather gal said on the Telly this morning, we’re in for a rather nice day today with temperatures reading into the 40s. She said the north and mountains did have a chance of some rain or snow or both this afternoon. Here on my little patch of Earth the temperature is just a tick below 40 this morning. From what she said, though, it would appear this will be the last “warm” day for quite a while.

This might be a good place to stop reading this morning.

I’m just a little bit anxious on this day today. And so this message will rather short. You see, the beginning of a decision begins today. My cardiologist has told me I should consider an implanted device to help control my heart. He set me up for a consultation with a heart surgeon. My first appointment is today.

It will be only the beginning. He’ll evaluate all the tests I’ve had in the past year, maybe do his own, listen, and then talk with me about my options. One of them, of course, will be to forget the whole business. There is also the possibility that after his initial evaluation, he’ll decide I’m not a candidate for such a device.

If we are to go forward, then there’ll be other consultations I’ll make myself. Among them will be a visit with my primary care physician, the one whose hands I’ve been in for a very long time. He’s the leader of the team of five doctors (one of them now retired) who has kept me alive for the past six years. I will want his honest opinion before I move on.

My cardiologist says if I get the implant, called Implant Cardiac Defibrillator or ICD, I have a chance of living a few more minutes. In fact, if I should happen to have an incident in, for example, a department store, the device would take over and perhaps save me.

Depending on the outcome of today’s meeting, you may be reading about heart disease and one way to treat it.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No crowds at stores I visited yesterday

The temperatures were still in the 20s when we arose this morning. We were told by the weather people on the television that today and tomorrow may have some cloudiness with an extremely slight chance of some showers, mainly in the mountain areas, but the temperatures will be pleasant. Both days will be in the 40s, we’re told. Remember when the 40s would be considered cold?

Then a cold front will herald in a cold snap and the temperatures will begin plummeting on Friday. Roger Griswold on Ch. 6 even said there’s a hint of some snow possibly here next week as a series of storms lines up to head our way.

Yesterday was a fairly nice day, too. Gator Wife and I decided to take advantage of a nice Tuesday to do some Christmas shopping. It was the day to do it, at least the late-morning to early afternoon time we chose. There were very few shoppers for us to compete with. Like what we hear on the TV that most shoppers have, we had a specific list of items we wanted to buy and the exact stores where we felt we could find the items.

We were able to find our items right where we thought they’d be. Navigating the aisles was extremely easy as they were relatively clear. What we thought would be a two and a half venture turned out to be about an hour and a half. Parking was easy everywhere. The longest line we had at a checkout counter was two people in front of us. And they had small loads.

GW knows that I’ve wanted a new camera/phone so she steered me to a phone store. I’ve been resisting getting one because I’m cheap and didn’t want to spend any more money than I’m now spending for wireless. We looked at phones with the assistance of a very nice young man who seemed to not only know his product but also the ability to work with an older person and make suggestions to meet his needs.

When he discovered I already had a plan with his company but didn’t want to upgrade my phone because I didn’t want the number of minutes required, he asked for a chance to work the system. To make a story shorter than I usually do, I left the store with a new camera/phone, my current minutes plan, and no cost to me except for a memory card for the phone.

I had great personal service, no pressure, and a most satisfactory outcome. And after Christmas Day, I’ll have a new cell phone. That was the only part of the deal I didn’t win. GW had offered to get me a phone for Christmas if I’d pick out the one I wanted. I bought the memory card so the phone cost her nothing; yet she insists it started out as a Christmas present and a Christmas present it will be.

I have just a short couple of comments on sports today. First, the Plaxico Burress situation really dramatizes how much money professional athletes make. Those contracts in the millions of dollars don’t hit home as most of us can’t truly visualize millions of dollars, except as a dream. Burress has been suspended by the New York Giants Football Club for the rest of the season for shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub. The suspension will cost him about $206,000 per game. Someone gets $206K, and some even more in various sports, for playing one football game.

How long would most of us have to work to get more than $200K? Then, on the other hand, I can’t run down a football field nor could I catch a football while covered by someone else making a ton of money. Hmmmm. Perhaps I could make a lot of money from people wanting to see me make an absolute fool of myself so maybe there’s hope. Not.

And finally, I feel a little sorry today that the Sox have only offered arbitration to Jason Varitek and have denied arbitration to Curt Schilling. They both were heroes for the Sox. I was among the many who said last year Schilling should have retired then while still a hero. I hope retirement is the route he’ll take this year. Varitek, the Captain, on the other hand, probably still would have a role for the Sox, even if he were just a backup catcher working with the young ones coming up. His bat might contribute, too. For all he’s done, I believe he has earned the privilege of staying with the Red Sox.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Golden Smile!

A Gator Golden Beautiful Smile

First a moment of truth: This portion of the today’s post was written last night, but I’ve mentioned on many occasions that Golden Gator smiles. I’ve been trying for several days to get a picture of that smile, but always when she sees the camera, any smile halts and she heads immediately to see what that thing pointing at her is.

Last night I got her so excited about it being supper time, which absolutely always brings smiles, that she lost track of what the right hand was doing. I didn’t have to see her in the screen to be sure I had her on camera as this new one of mine sends out a focus beam and when I saw it on her face, I knew I had the picture.

The uninitiated might argue that what you’re seeing here is not a beautiful smile but rather is a vicious snarl. I’ll grant there is a fine line between the two, but GG will be growling before she snarls, and I think I’ve only heard that kind of a growl once or twice. Most of the time her growling sounds are her way of showing pleasure with whatever is happening.

I don’t think she has a vicious bone in her body. Even when we are playing with or making of her sister, Gator Daughter’s Golden Retriever, GG will either just totally ignore us or go over to play with GD. Even when she lightly growls at GD because GD is annoying her sister, GG draws more laughs than anything else.

I remember one time when a UPS truck came into our yard. As the driver was climbing out, GG raced over and smiled at him. I quickly assured him she was only smiling and not vicious, but he just laughed and continued to climb down. He said he too had a smiling Golden and knew exactly what she was doing. GG also knows that UPS drivers carry little doggy treats and GG quickly became a very happy pup.

When clearing her smile, she sneezes. And sneezes. And sneezes. What you see here is her clearing last night’s supper time smiles.

Clearing the smiles with a big sneeze

I wrote at the beginning that I was writing this portion of today’s post Monday night. It turned out to be longer than I had anticipated, so it’s turning out to be the whole post. We’ll just assume that today’s Senior Fitness went well and that last night’s weather forecast was correct; we’ll have some relatively nice weather today.

I hope you enjoyed this tale of a Golden Smile.


Monday, December 1, 2008

The Day After

The weather people got this one right. We woke up this morning to see that some rain fell overnight here on the south side of Route 1, but other parts of the state got some ice and snow. Actually, it was raining when we went to bed. My Fearless Friend had sent me a message last night that said it was snowing in his little corner on the north side of the Turnpike. I haven’t heard from him yet this morning to see if it lasted, but here the rain has stopped and we’re expecting some sun in a little while.

We didn’t get the white stuff to shovel, or snow blow, or plow; but the Gator family is ready for when it does hit our area.

Thanks to my super neighbor who made the changeover for me, my little machine is gassed, oiled, and greased and ready to head out when that first storm comes. That effort, I think, tired my neighbor and his wife considerably. They left shortly after for a vacation at Sugarloaf.

Meanwhile, while neighbor guy changed over the tractor from lawn mower to snow blower, Gator Daughter and Gator Wife cleaned the gutters around the homestead Saturday. The front ones weren’t too bad, but the back side ones were packed with dirt and ice. I think we didn’t clean them last year.

My Fearless Friend said he had his gutters replaced last year, but the new ones are a new sort of gutter system. A series of screens keeps the big stuff out completely but allows very small particles to be trapped until they decompose and drop down into the gutter where rain water takes care of them. FF told me it was a little more expensive than he wanted to spend but well worth it now that he’s gone through a cleaning season. I might have to look into that.

My gals spent yesterday making candy fudge for the season. The two goldens never seem to learn, though. They were in the kitchen and dining area (above) anxiously awaiting something to drop. They don’t get “people food” and especially we wouldn’t give them anything chocolate, so they had a futile wait.

GD and GW continued after lunch and made a pretty good sampling of their candy and fudge. It hasn’t been finished yet, so I don’t have a sample picture. Perhaps after next weekend when they finish the cooking part and assemble the present part, I’ll be able to show you.

The two dogs between periods of hoping against hope for a handout that never came spent quite a long time outdoors, romping, chasing and wrestling. By mid afternoon, GD and her pup had left for the day.

And Gator Golden stuck a toy in her mouth, rolled over in one of her favorite positions, and took a nap.

And so another week begins.