Saturday, February 28, 2009

In like a lion . . .!

Another weekend and so another light offering to you. I’m never sure on weekends that are split between months are the last weekend of one month or the first of the other. There’s always the possibility it’s neither but rather just a plain old weekend. In any event February ends and March roars in this Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday should be a rather nice day but somewhat windy. The overnight rain heading into the weekend has ended. The hedging continues of the Sunday weather. It has gone from a coastal storm to one that probably will be too far below us to do anything. We’ll just have to see what Sunday brings. A bigger storm could arrive Monday.

The store where Wife Gator works has an order in her specialty for Saturday so she’ll be spending a little time at work. She says they won’t take too long to put together. When she gets home Saturday morning, she’ll be calling Gator Daughter to see what the plans are for the weekend. Naturally we hope the girl and her dog will pay us a visit. Gator Golden has missed her sister for two weeks so she’ll be especially anxious to see that Corolla coming down the driveway.

This is a travel weekend for my Fearless Friend and his wife. They left Saturday morning for their vacation in Florida where they’ll spend the better part of the next three months. I call it a vacation but I’m not sure they would characterize it that way.

They own a home down there and FF messages me regularly about fixing this, replacing that, generally doing all the things one does in a home here. Except those “thises” and “thoses” have had nine months to develop and all the work needs to be done before mid-May.

He says he’s not planning on going to as many Spring Training baseball games as he has in the past. I’d bet it’ll be pretty darn close once he gets there. One of the major league teams, unfortunately not the Red Sox, trains just a few miles from his house. He told me a while back that he and Mrs. FF plan on doing some of the other things available down that they haven’t done for a while.

I certainly hope his drive down is safe and uneventful. He wasn’t sure how long he would drive each day as that would depend on how his new eyes adjust. Like me, he usually keeps his driving in the eight hour or so range; but if his eyes permit, he could make it a little longer.

I’m not really sure now how long it takes, but in my youth and before Interstate highways, I could drive between Portland and St. Petersburg in 25 hours. Yes, I’ve done it. I wouldn’t even think about trying it now. A nice, relaxing, comfortable three-day drive would suit me just fine.

We don’t have any real plans for this weekend except hope GD and her dog are able to visit us. If we should end up with some snow Sunday, I’m sure there won’t be a visit.

I hope you have a great weekend and I’m thinking I might have some comments Monday on President Obama’s budget proposal. You probably already know how I feel about all that spending so maybe I’ll find something else. We will keep good thoughts for the weekend and see you again Monday morning.


Friday, February 27, 2009

We need a wise parent in Washington

Way back last spring or summer, I said that I was against then President Bush stimulus plan in which the federal government sent just about everyone up to six hundred dollars to help stimulate the economy. I warned that all it might stimulate would be more and more requests for “free” money. As I said then, it stimulated nothing concerning the economy.

It only took a few months for the requests to begin. First banks and mortgage companies said they needed to be stimulated to stay alive. Then along came the auto industry to climb onto the band wagon. There were others, too.

Again I warned that these bailouts and stimulus plans would only cause more clamor for that money which all of us, you and me included, must pay each year in the form of taxes. The banks got their bailout. Absolutely no one knows what they did with the money. We have read stories of some banks throwing huge, expensive parties in resort areas for their employees, but we’ve only heard of a small number of those.

Where else the money went hasn’t been revealed. The banks now tell us the money is gone and they’re still in desperate trouble and need billions more. The government is on the verge of giving it to them.

The auto industry was given some of their request, and guess what? They’re back! And that original free money is paled by the amount they are now seeking. After making waves of maintaining control and the appearance of keeping track of the money, the federal government will probably give in once again.

Will these billions and billions of dollars be the end? Of course not. The taste of free money is now well entrenched into the businesses. Even President Obama admits what is being proposed probably won’t be enough. It’s simply what happens when we get something for nothing. We don’t take care of it and then demand even more.

I remember when I was a teenager and got my first driver’s license. What always follows a teenager getting a license? You betcha, I wanted a car. My dad said I could have one. All I had to do was earn the money to buy it. I was a teenager so that last part went in one ear and right out the other side. All I heard was I could get a car. I went car shopping and found just the right one, a 1941 Ford Coupe. What a car! I couldn’t wait to get home to tell Dad and get my money.

Whoa! He said. He explained once again that I had to earn the money. Fortunately for me, he was in a position to give me a summer job to earn the money. But earn it I had to do. There would be no handout for a car, even one a dozen years old. I ranted back then. He could afford to give me the paltry sum for that car. But he wouldn’t. And he didn’t.

As the summer came to a close and school was soon to open, I had saved enough money for the car which was still on the used car lot. Happily I told Dad the good news and he simply asked if I also had enough money for the insurance. Huh?

Eventually, I got that car. Let me tell you there wasn’t another 12 year old car that had better care and love. It wasn’t a “freebie.” I had to earn that darn car and it meant more to me than anything else I had. When it’s time came, I actually unashamedly cried as the tow truck carted it off to waste land.

It was a lesson I wish our Congress Critters and the President would learn. Shucks, I wish our own state lawmakers would learn it, too. We are developing a whole nation of people who have not learned the pride and joy of working for and earning what they want and need. And now that development is moving into the business section.

As a result, I wish I could say our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will be paying for this year’s spending, bailouts, and stimuli. That would be true assuming we haven’t gone the way of the ancient Romans who increased the dole into oblivion.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

And they all showed up!

We had a great lunch yesterday. The entire winter group resumed the monthly get-together yesterday as each of us arrived at the lunch place with the same question: How many will show up after such a long layoff? The answer was: All of us!

We are a group of retirees who all left the same workplace about a dozen or so years ago, some a little earlier, some a little later, and decided it would be great to join together once each month, we chose the last Wednesday of the month for ease in remembering the time, just to get caught up on our lives, local sports, national sports, world events, etc.

We’ve met in several places over the years but have settled in on one place for the past few years. We know what the food will be like there and the prices fit into a retiree’s budget. Our winter group meets year round, but we’ll be joined for the summer months by at least one, sometimes two, snowbirds…Mainers who go to Florida for the winter months.

Actually, both snowbirds have become residents of Florida and are there for more of the year than the few, summer months here. We also have a member of the State Legislature as a member of the group. He can’t come during months the legislature is in session, like right now.

We don’t meet in December because of all the holiday activity and the difficulty of finding parking places in the same county as the restaurant. We changed our November meeting to the third Wednesday as the fourth was the day before Thanksgiving. Then in January one of those numerous January storms ventured into our plans. We didn’t officially call off the meeting as each person decides if conditions allow travel.

This year, all but one of us decided conditions didn’t warrant heading out just for a lunch meeting. That one had to be in the neighborhood of the eatery anyway so he went there only to find himself all alone. He went in and ate anyway so he maintained the integrity of the group.

So it had been several weeks, since way back in the middle of November since we held our get-together. I guess the whole group missed our sessions as much as I. We had a lot to catch up on. It was a good meal, a good discussion, and at least for me a good time.

We’ll be down one at the end of March. My Fearless Friend, one of the charter members, becomes a snowbird, or perhaps a ‘spring bird,’ Saturday.

Naturally, one of the topics of conversation was the economy. I think it would be safe to say we were in agreement that it isn’t the best we’ve ever seen it. It was pointed out, and not by me, that since he took office, President Obama’s several spending plans (the group was kind and called them stimulus or bailout plans), as sent stocks/bonds plummeting like rocks. That topic is important to all of us as we each of some at least of our retirement income coming from IRAs or 401k plans. Like everyone, we are taking huge hits.

Today the President presents his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. It is expected to contain lots of social programs, universal health comes to mind as just one of them, along with tax increases on businesses and the so-called rich. He is also expected to pledge cutting the federal deficit by at least half in the remainder of his term. Reports say he is earmarking more than $650 Billion in reserve to help pay for his health care proposals.

But my comments are based solely on speculation offered by the news media of what the budget address will contain. I’ll hold off my unsubstantiated ranting and raving until we see definitively what his plans contain.

I don’t think they’ll paint a rosy picture for the future. Of course he is a great orator, so they very well could. But I’m always reminded of a lesson my Dad once taught me, words are easy but only the results of the actions are what count. And it’s those potential results that scare the devil out of me.

The weather people say we’re in for some weather tomorrow. All rain in my neck of the woods, and probably throughout the state. I don’t like the hedging that’s included in the discussion of a Sunday storm.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another "last" guest post from FF

During the end of January and the first of February we had the saga of my Fearless Friend as guest posts. FF has now all but completed his ordeal, although he’d probably say it was more of an inconvenience than an ordeal. As his last post said, he is on the mend, almost mended, from cataract surgery on both his eyes.

He said in his last post that it was his final word and I told him then there’s no such thing as a final word when it comes to blogging. Sure enough, he has another final word and I’d still say there’s no such thing. The difference now is he no longer is facing a surgeon but rather just his regular optometrist whom, he points out, he’s been visiting for 33 years.

The surgery was not total perfection, but certainly perfect enough to make him a happy camper. He was told from the beginning there was a good possibility that, because of his pre-surgery eyesight, he might have to use reading glasses at least for the rest of his life. Monday that possibility became a reality. In his own words and with his permission, here is another of his “last” guest posts:

If you are interested in a more full report from the optometrist Monday revealed that my vision in the right eye was 20/20 and the left eye 20/25. I do have a slight astigmatism in my right eye. It is not a big problem now although he did correct it in my new glasses.

I have a family history of glaucoma and he will monitor that yearly. One of the glaucoma versions hits between the ages of 70-80. My eye pressures have been the same for 30 years and did not change with the surgery. This particular glaucoma is not related to eye pressure, as I understood his description.

20/40 is the cut off for driving restrictions and I am well within those parameters. The 20/25 in the left eye means (in my case) that I can read the 20/20 line with difficulty on some letters such as “V” and “Y.” In other words I went from a –8.75 correction in that eye down to a -.5 correction in that lens in new glasses.

He made it clear that I could actually just use drug store reading glasses now and probably the rest of my life, but I could reduce eyestrain in some situations if I wore the prescription glasses. This was exactly in line with my thinking. I will make a decision with respect to wearing the glasses all the time or part-time as I move forward.

While it has been fun to not be required to wear glasses all of the time, look at and buy sunglasses, and only wear readers to read or use the computer, I suspect there is going to be a time in the future where that “fun” will wear off and I will just hang glasses on my head in the morning and leave them there for the day.

As a continuing note of the entire process, this examination was much more comprehensive vision exam than the one in the surgeon’s office. They had checked my vision in each eye every time in the follow-up after the surgery. As I am not a full time patient of the eye center, Monday’s visit is called a “post cataract surgery follow up exam.” It falls under the entire cataract process and is covered by insurance as such. I was very pleased with the coordination between my regular guy and the eye center.

The other day when I was taking my radio station apart for travel I was switching back and forth between my two reading glasses (computer and reading) and told my wife that I was going to get some glasses with either bifocal or progressive close-up when I went to the doc no matter what was suggested.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but FF is a HAM (amateur) radio operator and has been for many years. He has an extensive “ham shack” in his home and a yard full of antennae. I have mentioned that he is leaving this weekend for his home in Florida where he spends about three months a year. This is a late start for him as he usually goes right after Christmas to have the cold months down there. That surgery caused him to postpone the trip to now.

He takes at least some of his gear to the south with him so that he can have his daily contact with friends around the world. It’s not quite as extensive as all the wires and poles and stuff he has here, but he does have a rather elaborate antenna down there to handle the sometimes vicious Florida winds and rain.

He mentioned the other day that Mrs. FF had been urging him to begin packing his personal belongings for the trip. FF was concentrating on his “toys” (which he probably would take exception my categorizing that way) as, like just about all men, they are much more important than clothing. He has given in . . . a little . . . to Mrs. FF:

Since we last spoke, well communicated via this thread, I have started packing and I am really just about done. Packing for me is limited to getting out what I want to take. My wife can make my pile of stuff condense into a pile 2/3 smaller than I. So, I’ll leave the final inserting my mound into my suitcase to her. That way everyone is happy.

FF will be able to get me back today at noon as we both will be attending our Last-Wednesday-of-the-Month luncheon with a group of fellow retirees. That’s a great time of conversation among some men and women who all retired from the same place some dozen or more years ago. We both look forward to it.

By the way, he got his new progressive reading glasses yesterday.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Petitions in Maine and the National Economy

For many of us the beauty that was yesterday morning is behind us. There are, of course, still some folks primarily away from the coast that are still experiencing the beauty along with some of the difficulties that come with such storms.

It sure was pretty here yesterday morning, but by the time the sun had worked on it for a little while, most of the snow had fallen off the trees. Shortly after noon time, thanks in combination of neighbor Ed’s plow and Gator Wife’s hard work, our driveway was black once again and the porches, steps and deck had been cleared of snow.

And life continues.

The Maine Legislature now has four citizen initiatives to deal with this session. The Secretary of State’s office has certified petitioners have successfully gathered the more than 55-thousand signatures to force some action, but a fifth didn’t meet the technical criteria. The Legislature now must either pass the requested law or change in law as presented or send the measure out to popular vote. My bet would be the latter.

Successful were petition drives calling for a new Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a reduction in the excise tax charged on vehicles, a repeal of the school consolidation law, and an act to approve the use of medical marijuana. Failing mostly on technical reasons was an act to promote affordable health care.

I’ll have my thoughts on these issues as we move down the road.

President Obama will address Congress and the nation tonight about his efforts to restore the economy. One area in which we must concede that Presidents excels is his ability to speak. A problem he is facing is turning his words into positive action. I’ve been told I should give his spending package a chance. It is hard to give a flawed plan any chance.

As I’ve and hundreds of others have attempted to point out, you can’t borrow your way out of debt and that’s just what the President is trying to do. I think I read either yesterday or over the weekend that Secretary of State Clinton, during her visit to Asia, has encouraged the Japanese and the Chinese not to stop lending to us.

All that debt must be repaid and the repayment will be the responsibility of several generations coming along long after President Obama is no longer in office.

Later this week, Thursday I think, the President will once again go before Congress and present his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. We’ve read that one element of that budget will be a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit by at least half and possibly more by the time his term ends. I applaud that goal but look at it with a somewhat jaundiced eye.

Every couple of days he puts us further into debt with his bailout and spending plans. And the word is he is planning to add even more by beginning process of bringing universal health care to the United States. We’ve seen how well that works here in Maine and how much it has cost Maine taxpayers. I guess the rest of the country is about to get to pay it, too. And the federal deficit will grow even more as taxes dwindle, making it even harder to reach his goal.

He will either have to significantly cut the federal budget, raise taxes dramatically, or propose a combination of both if he truly wants to achieve his goal. Congress is comprised of a majority liberal Democrats so it will love the idea of raising taxes, even though publicly they’ll say they don’t before they do it. They will fight cutting any of their favorite programs. So the President’s goal could be way beyond reach.

The greatness of America developed as a result of free enterprise. It will not grow on taxation. Soon we will have no more money to pay. Just look at what’s happened to our economy as stocks and bonds plummet and how they’ve plummeted since last fall when it became apparent who the next President was going to be. They fell again yesterday. Just wait and see what happens tomorrow when President Obama announces more taxes on business tonight.

One day, and very soon, we’ll simply have to stop listening to the rhetoric and clear our vision to see what is really happening.


Monday, February 23, 2009

More snow! What else would we expect in February?

Power lines are down all over the place and most schools are closed today. We got a snow storm over night. It was beautiful which means it was destructive. I’m getting to this very early because power is going out all around me.

Although this started out as rain in my area, by early evening the changeover to snow had been complete and by nine last night, tree limbs were bent down to the ground.

There’s a lot of snow on those limbs this morning and the weight is taking them down across power lines throughout the region. The storm has ended here, but it left very heavy, wet snow in its wake.

I did get a call from Gator Wife indicating she had gotten to her part time job this morning, but she said the driving was very rough and the parking lot where she works was very treacherous. She asked me to stay in.

Gator Golden loves being outside as she looks around at all the freshly fallen snow.

Gator Daughter has checked in. To use her word, the roads “soouck”. She agreed with GW…I’d better not venture out. As you have read, if I fall, there’s an excellent chance I’ll break something.

It certainly is pretty outside.

You know how I occasionally like to mention commercials we see on TV. I’m fascinated with them although I’ve never sent for anything. I must admit that there have been some temptations that have caused me to pause and give it a thought. But then I wonder why most of those “As seen on TV” products aren’t available in stores. Some are, of course, and there are stores that have complete sections of such products.

But they try to make us believe that the offer is only available if you give up your credit card number or checking account number to a complete stranger. Perhaps most of them are actually very legitimate, but I suspect most are just junk. I know the few items I have seen “in real life” in the stores were nothing I would want.

A few weeks ago a worker in a place I had to visit and I got talking about some of those commercials. She told me she had bought the ShamWow! towel/sponge. And she said she really did say, “Wow!” when she used it.

When the huckster showed up on our TV over the weekend, I decided to watch it more carefully, keeping in mind what that worker had told me. Boy! Does that advertisement come close to being a sham without the wow. Next time it’s on, watch it carefully.

There’s one scene where the guy demonstrating it takes a small piece of carpet and pours some liquid, soda I think, on it. There’s so much it soaks right through the rug. He lifts the piece to show us how saturated it is and a big puddle of liquid that came through the sample. He then quickly replaces the square, grabs his product, and in a flash has it all cleaned up.

This is where you should watch. You will notice that when he replaces the square back on the table, the puddle is no longer there. He magically presses his product into the carpet, then squeezes all the liquid out to show us the miracle of the product. Only there was nothing under the sample to squeegee out.

I quickly lost interest in that product.

While on the TV subject, I have a question. For what seems like an eternity but at least several years, the promotional announcements on Channel 26 (USA Network on Time Warner Cable) all end with either “characters wanted” or “characters welcome.” I’m not sure which. I guess that goes to show you how effective it has been here. Now my question: What on Earth does it mean?

Last week when we had a little storm, mostly rain here, I had wanted to take pictures but the battery in my camera had ended its charged tour of duty. Thursday I found a battery on the internet for much less than I’d have to pay locally. I don’t buy too much on line because I don’t like to put my credit card information out there.

But I needed a second battery and the price was right so I ordered it. That was Thursday. Thursday night I got an e-mail from the camera company that the battery had been mailed and got a USPS tracking number. That evening I checked the USPS tracking site and learned my battery had left that local facility. Friday night that site informed me it had arrived and had left the Scarborough distribution center. I interpreted that to mean it was on the truck for Saturday delivery.

Sure enough, Saturday’s mail came and there was my package. That, my friends, is just absolute superior service. I think has become my new favorite on line site.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just an easy weekend!

Most of the time I like weekends. It hasn’t always been this way. In my other life I worked every weekend at a part time job. My full time job, of course, was for the five weekdays. Neither one of those jobs paid enough to support my family, but together, along with the money Gator Wife brought in, we managed. Now we’re both retired, except GW is the one now with a part time job.

This is a weekend I might not like. Although the dogs will be disappointed, our daughter has decided to stay home, at least Saturday and probably Sunday as well. Her Golden has developed a little red hotspot on the tail and, although it seems to be on the mend, she doesn’t want to take a chance that the dogs playing together could aggravate it. I agree with her; it’s better to be safe that sorry.

Sunday remained a “little iffy” as I jot this down early Saturday morning. The forecast calls for some snow or changing to rain Sunday. We won’t know until the day is actually here what it will bring for visitors. Friday night GD wasn’t too enthusiastic about bringing the dog over. Of course it will depend on the condition of the tail. If we do get precipitation, she won’t come.

The hard part for Gator Golden is somehow she’ll know this is a weekend and her playmate sister normally comes over. She’ll start watching out the window almost exactly at ten o’clock for a familiar car to be heading down the driveway. I know it’s a useless exercise, but I will try to explain it to her. It could be early afternoon before she understands there’ll be no visitors.

Seems to me I’ve heard or read somewhere that the Academy Awards will be given out this weekend. Whoopee! I wonder how long they’ve been televised. It’s about that long that I’ve never seen them. I think some of the shows recently have mentioned some of the nominees. I’ve never heard of at least 80% of them.

I’m looking forward to the return of the monthly lunch meeting of my retired friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned the fourth Wednesday of the month session. It was cancelled in November because that fourth Wednesday was the day before Thanksgiving and also cancelled in December because of all the holiday activity and the difficulty in finding parking near the eatery.

I don’t know if anyone showed up at the January session or not. That last Wednesday arrived with a rather messy storm, and most of us retired folk don’t like to fight storms unnecessarily. I stayed home. I know my Fearless Friend, one of the group that normally meets, also stayed home because he had just undergone the cataract surgery on one of his eyes. He didn’t think navigating around in a storm would be too good of an idea.

He’s since had his second eye done and he’s virtually all back to normal, except he can see. That might not be good as he’ll see what he’s eating. I know he’s planning to be at the lunch Wednesday. I only hope the rest of the group remembers the session. In case you’re new to me or have a short memory, we are a group of retired folks who basically entered the world of retirement from the same work place at about the same time a dozen or more years ago, or within a year or two of each other.

It’ll also mark the last lunch FF will be with us for a while. He leaves next weekend for the sunny south and his annual three month vacation.

But that’s not this weekend’s stuff. This weekend we’ll be just resting and relaxing and wishing GG’s sister a quick recovery. I hope you enjoy your weekend and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, February 20, 2009

A morning surprise!

What, in the name of all that’s good, happened overnight? I awoke this morning, as did just about everyone, to a bunch of snow on the ground. When the Gators went to bed last night, all the blacktop surfaces in our yard were black. We got just a smidgeon of snow in that last storm but in our little corner it mainly just rained.

I know these look like earlier ones, but, honest, taken this morning.

As a result, after neighbor Ed moved the slush off the area with his plow, we had nothing else left to do. Then I woke up this morning to the “beep, beep” of trucks backing up and looked outside only to see a bunch of snow on the ground. Now that was a surprise. Trucks were plowing a nearby business complex.

Neighbor Ed did make a pass or two through our yard before five this morning as he plowed his yard. We appreciated that because Gator Wife leaves for work before six, so she was able to get out OK. She gave me a call after she got to her workplace and said we weren’t the only ones caught by surprise. Plows, she said, were in just about every driveway and business parking lots trying to quickly get the cleaning done before the cars got out there.
Even Gator Golden looked around with a "What's this?" expression.

I had thought we had gotten off rather easily from yesterday’s rain and then to awake to this mess. The morning weather gal said we’d have a beautiful day tomorrow, but then more snow could arrive for Sunday. I certainly should have known better after all these years of seeing Maine winters, but I had gotten my hopes up that this season was ending. Not funny!
I should mention that by seven this morning, the sun was out.

I’m tempted to comment on my feelings of the mortgage bailout plan, Ill. Sen. Burris, and the erosion of rights, but I think I’ll take a vacation from ranting until next week. Besides, I’m simply not in that mood this morning.

I’ve been a little remiss in not mentioning the Maine high school basketball tournament now playing out in three locations: Portland, Augusta and Bangor. I love watching the kids play from Little League (in baseball) right through College. College level begins to wear off a little, though, as those men are a long way from being kids. But the high school tourney going on right now is all innocence. Both the young men and young women are playing these games the best they can and all in the name of their schools.

The best part of the basketball tourney is that most of the games are broadcast on MPBN, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network) and when more than one is going on at the same time in Augusta and Portland, Time Warner Cable makes its Channel 22 available. I believe the games in Bangor are also televised in Northern Maine and we only see them when both Augusta and Portland are idle.

Of course this school vacation week in Maine isn’t just for basketball championships. The state champions in all the winter sports are also determined this week. The skiing, swimming, track, cheerleading, wrestling, and the others don’t get anywhere near the attention basketball gets. Nevertheless, they are just as important to their participants.

Right now, though, basketball rules. It’s being shown on MPBN, so you know where most of my viewing this week has been and will continue into the weekend. The Class A champs won’t be decided until next weekend, but those games will be televised, too.

Speaking of weekends, we have another one here beginning tomorrow.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The storm that wasn't, at least at my house

I guess the storm along the coast could have been worse. Inland it was. But we on the south side of Route One had a hard time getting out of above freezing temperatures, and that caused some problems for the snow. Like falling as snow!

The TV this morning indicted that the snow was wet and heavy inland and causing many power problems along with some tricky driving. There have been a few accidents. But outside my house, it looks like it was 90% rain. When I went to bed last night, the temperature was still above freezing and was there when we awoke this morning. In fact it had climbed to 37 degrees.

My neighbor was kind enough to include my yard when he pushed the slush, what little of it there was, out of his yard, so we don’t have the heavy stuff to move. I doubt my snow throwing tractor would have moved it as it simply doesn’t like slush. Gator Wife went out and moved about a quarter inch, she said, of slush off the steps.

We have no pretty scenery out there. Virtually nothing except water shows on our trees and shrubs, but the TV did indicate about 75 people in the Portland area were without power. I’m glad we don’t have anything to do, but I kind of would have liked to have had a little fresh white.

I did learn a lesson. Cameras bought in November and that have taken more pictures than I can count, mostly of our Christmas Village and the dog along with a few outside shots during the storms, need to have their battery charged occasionally. I grabbed mine this morning to take pictures of the nothingness we received and discovered the battery was dead. So, no pictures, but it is charging now. I’ve got to keep a closer eye on that one.

One praise I’d like to offer, although it’s not a dramatic one. Tuesday the weather folk, at least the ones I heard on Channel 6, were saying the storm would start in the Portland area about seven o’clock last night. None of them wavered during the day yesterday and just a couple of minutes after seven last evening, snow was falling into my yard. It quickly changed to rain.

It reminded me of several years ago, long before the “computer models” dictated what the weather would be. There was a weather forecaster, I’m not sure he even was a meteorologist, who consistently said what time storms would arrive. But that was in another era.

Sheepie. You think that AGK is big? Channel Six has a mascot cat, Togus, a yellow Coon cat owned by one of its reporters. While the reporter, Don Carrigan, reports storm stuff from his home in the mid-coast section, Togus the cat sits with him. Togus makes AGK look small, very small, but it has generally the same coloring as AGK. For you who are uninitiated, AGK stands for Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty. Sheepie is Sheepish Annie, a blogger who paints terrific word pictures.

Togus also dwarfs BFK (Big Fluffy Kitty). I think both could hide behind Togus. Carrigan almost can.

I’m sort of not missing my Thursday visit to the senior fitness place today. The place is closed to have for some alterations. It seems the physical therapy people wanted a different type of floor. So today I’m not feeling guilty about not being there. I still have one more week to get through before my heart doctor will let me return. His note says I can go back on March 3rd.

I sure do hope the size of the new place and all the new toys available to us hasn’t changed the closeness and camaraderie of my little group. When I visited last week I was impressed with all the equipment, but the stations my group uses seemed to be a long way from each other. Part of the fun of the serious work we do was being able to solve the world’s problems while doing it.

Did you see where General Motors is asking for more bailout money that the company is worth? When asked by a Congressman about the money, the CEO reportedly said it would cost more for the company to go through bankruptcy to reorganize. It would be awfully strange not to see Chevrolets, Cadillacs, and the other GM vehicles on the road. But I’d hate to put my little granddaughter out west into debt for the rest of her life.

If you live where the snow did build up, it is heavy so take it easy today cleaning it up. Wife Gator tells me that with the temperature where it is and with Neighbor Ed’s plowing, we’re simply going to let Nature do the work for us.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That goal didn't last long! Another visit re: Branson

We awoke this morning to what surely looks like another nice day, but that old adage “Calm before the storm” quickly comes to mind. The weather people tell us today won’t be too bad, but watch out for tonight? At least one forecast said that from three to six inches of snow could fall after dark tonight making tomorrow morning’s commute rather tricky. I understand inland areas could get a rather big bunch of snow tomorrow while we along the coast probably will see a changeover to rain.

My fellow blogger, and the youngster who helped me get started in all this, Sheepish Annie, will probably get a nice storm day off tomorrow. Oh, wait! The teacher is on vacation this week, isn’t she? Too bad. Tomorrow could be one of those days teachers and their students look forward to. Speaking of Sheepie, her blog has a clean, neat new look. If you like knitting and haven’t been there for awhile, give it a visit. Along with knitting, she lets us follow the travails of a teacher through work days, too. Sheepish Annie is always a fun read.

I was going to try to avoid mentioning the government spending package as long as I could and that attempt lasted only one day. Yesterday. I am mentioning it today, however, but not the package itself. Wife Gator and I were half listening to the Today Show on NBC yesterday morning. The show’s resident economist pointed out some interesting pieces of information.

Now, please, understand I was only half listening, partly because I don’t like the Today Show because of its extremely biased presentations and partly because I was reading news on the Internet. So what I think I heard isn’t gospel and I wanted to be straight forward with that at the outset.

But the lady said that one good thing that will come from the spending bill is a tax cut. Every taxpayer will have an additional $13 dollars/paycheck to spend. Imagine how big of a hole those thirteen dollars will burn in your pocket! I’m already working on my list.

Then she said that this spending package coupled with the rest of the budget deficit will leave every American with a $36,000 dollar debt that will eventually have to be paid back. Let’s see. If I pay that back with just one paycheck tax savings of $13, I’ll have my portion repaid in just 2,769 years.

Since I was only half listening, I probably have this all wrong.

It might also appear my saying the spending package wouldn’t create jobs was a little off, too. Several states have already announced they are hiring people to manage the state’s portion of the package.

Just a quickie update on yesterday’s post regarding Branson, Missouri. During the morning, the head of the Branson Chamber of Commerce commented saying not buying into the pitch was probably the right decision; but, he wrote in his comment that Branson was a great vacation destination and encouraged me to take a look at it.

You can read his comment at the end of the yesterday’s post below.

I also got an e-mail from my Fearless Friend about Branson. He said his sister and her husband have spent some time in Branson and they had a wonderful time.

I hope I didn’t paint a negative picture of Branson as I’ve never been there. I was only poking a little fun at the phone call. I did take a quick gander at the Chamber of Commerce web site and I must say I just might give it another look and some serious thought for a future vacation.

It certainly didn’t take newly elected Congressperson Chellie Pingree to get on the free travel bandwagon, did it? The Maine Democrat is on a “fact finding” mission in Asia.

I’m not up too much on things financial. I should be as it’s things financial that keep me solvent. At least so far. Then last week I had an occasion to visit with the person I trust does know about things financial to watch over my investments and my retirement account. I’m down nearly 30 percent. Now even financial ignorants like me know that can’t be good.

I heard on the news yesterday afternoon that Wall Street dropped another near 300 points after President Obama signed the new government spending package. From what I learned last week coupled with this week, the stock market has now lost about two thousand points since the President was elected.

I guess the point of this is that you should look over your things financial to see where you stand now. I don’t like what I see. Do You?


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Trip to Branson? I guess not!

Another Tuesday without my senior fitness program. I can do some of the things right here at home, but it’s simply not the same. Of course I don’t have the equipment available to me at the physical therapy center, but I could walk a little. I do have some weights, but the doctor doesn’t want me to lift them for another couple of weeks. The exercise cycle I have is older than the hills and doesn’t work very well anymore. So I’ll be here until sometime between 7 and 7:30 this morning thinking of what could be.

We have a storm still forecast to begin late tomorrow and last into Thursday. It will probably start out as snow but change over to rain, especially here along the coast.

My regular blood draw to check certain things is scheduled for Thursday. I’ll probably use the “window” and have it done this morning to avoid the storm.

I got what turned out to be a rather fun marketing phone call yesterday. Some guy who said he was calling from Branson, Missouri, was calling to offer Gator Wife and me a four-day vacation out there for some ridiculously low price. What was fun about it was he sort of knew right from the moment I answered the phone he didn’t have a sale.

I’ll give the guy credit, though. He did go through most, and I mean most not all, of his spiel before we said goodbye. I don’t know why I was in such a good mood. I’m usually cold, sarcastic, and mean when I get such calls, but this guy was so congenial I just fell into a trap. Well, at least I talked with him.

He said we had been referred by old friends of ours, and then he made a huge mistake…he didn’t know that friend’s name. “It was Victor, er, Victoria Mich…” and he fell apart. “I don’t seem to be able to get that last name.”

“You don’t seem to get that first one, either,” answered I. “No matter, I’ve never heard of that person. I’d guess you never have, either.”

We then had three or four minutes of laughter filled banter.

He finally got around to telling me, “The reason for the call is to ask you to come visit us in Branson. We have dozens of shows, several nice hotels and motels, and restaurants galore. Included in your package for only . . . I forgot the price, but it was under $500 . . . you get four days and four nights, tickets to two shows, a chance for some great shopping, and a visit to an amusement park.”

“I do no business I do not originate,” was my simple statement.

“Huh? What does that mean?” he asked. I thought I was talking to another product of today’s education.

“Do you have any idea what your chance of getting me to buy into your package?”

“Probably not too great,” he correctly guessed. He then went to the backup page of the presentation. “Do you and your wife like to take vacations?”

“Certainly,” I responded. “In fact we try to get away for a month or so every year. But, unfortunately, Branson has never been on our list of ‘Places We’d Like To Visit’ list. And after this call, I’m afraid it’s still not on the list.”

“We really want people to come and enjoy Branson,” he said. “How about if I cut a couple hundred dollars off the price?”

“That would be a horrible mistake because then I’d get nasty and rude and tell you less kindly than this that I could never accept now because I’d always wonder how much lower I could have gotten the price.”

He laughed, again, and said the company had never mentioned that one to him. “It is a great point,” he added.

A few more moments of joking, laughing, and conversation led to his thanking me for my time and we ended the call. He never did get to the part where all I had to do was spend a few hours listening to a time share proposal.

For brevity’s sake, I’ve really left out at least half of the call, but it was fun. For once, I didn’t get nasty.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday stuff

The Gator family had a very nice weekend. Although Saturday was somewhat breezy, Sunday was a beautiful day. Our daughter and her dog spent a goodly amount of time here and that’s always nice. The pups apparently liked the weather a lot, too, as they spent considerable time outdoors. The softening snow made it somewhat difficult for them to romp; but being Golden Retrievers, they are outdoor dogs and seemed to enjoy themselves.

The weather gal this morning on Channel Six said the temperatures this week will remain in the low to mid 30s range so that will be good for melting snow. There is one blip on the horizon, however, as there’s that infamous chance of snow or mix precipitation changing to all rain along the coast Wednesday night into Thursday. That very familiar “depending on the track” will determine when any changeover will occur and how far inland it will go.

Okay. We have a new spending package out of Washington. We’re going to stimulate our economy by spending 800-billion dollars, about 15 percent of which will go toward projects that will actually create jobs. Most of the rest is going to bail out failing state spending and welfare programs. No one seems to want to address what will happen when the money runs out and these programs are still failing.

The President and Congress are pleased to call it a “bipartisan” package because all of three, count ‘em, three Senators, including the two from Maine, were the only Republicans in either House that supported it. Considering who they are and their political leanings, I cannot agree it’s a bipartisan package.

I do find one report in this morning’s news fascinating. The President hasn’t even signed his massive spending package into law and reports say he’s already looking into changes. The one being discussed this morning involves the CEO pay for bailed out industries. Those news stories say the President wants to ease the limits.

And he says he no longer will seek a “Car Czar” to oversee the bailout of the automobile industry and will put that into the hands of the Treasury Secretary and an advisor. Interesting. One can’t help but wonder how many more changes will come about in an already bloated government spending bill. I guess we here in Maine can all give a great big “Thank you” to our two Senators, two of only three Republicans in either house who supported the bill.

I probably won’t be able to succeed as I’d bet more and more information will come out to challenge my attempt, but I think I’ll try to be a “good” boy and not discuss this package for a while. After all, as of now it’s a fait accompli so I’ll sit back for a while and watch what happens. Most Americans now are saying it won’t work, but we’ll see. As I said, I probably won’t be able to keep quiet.

If I heard the news report correctly, I have a question to which I know not the answer. I think I heard late last week that the price of crude oil had dropped to about $35 a barrel. If what I think I heard is true, why, with the price of crude very low and continuing to go down, is the price at the pump climbing? I’ve seen it over two dollars at some stations with most of them in the $1.95+ range.

The reputation of the State of Illinois for its questionable political activity grows. That senator that now impeached and ousted governor Rod Blagojevich appointed to replace President Obama has now admitted that the former governor’s representative, his brother I think, had approached him for a campaign contribution before the appointment.

Roland Burris says he didn’t accept the invitation, but his new revelation contradicts that to which he testified earlier. Now the new Illinois governor wants Burris to give the people of Illinois a full explanation. The Illinois Republican leadership goes even further and is calling for the new senator’s resignation.

It all continues to make the Illinois story a fascinating one to follow. Sort of reminds me of how well the state did when it hired fired Florida football coach Ron Zook. Zook has led the Illini with pretty much the same leadership as . . . Oh, I’m sorry. I digress. Most of you have never heard of Zook. The Zook story is a story all unto itself and doesn’t belong here.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

A nice, loving weekend

A lover’s weekend has welcomed us into its heart. Saturday is the day that lovers everywhere find a way to express their feelings to the person in their lives that has that deserves this special day. In my family, that special person is Gator Wife.

Now that doesn’t mean that Gator Daughter isn’t special to me. She most certainly is. Our little granddaughter way out west has her special place in my heart. Can dads include sons on that list? Of course. But none of these people are in the little corner that is reserved exclusively for GW.

GW first found that spot way back in 1960 when I returned to Maine. We hadn’t known each other for long before I crossed that line where a man simply stops looking for anyone else. She’s still stuck with me.

Speaking of Gator Daughter, she and her dog will spend much of this weekend with us as they spend most weekends. You’ve read here many, many times how wonderful it is for her dog and Gator Golden to have some time together. Let’s be a little realistic. By now both dogs have no clue that they are sisters from the same litter. At least I think that’s a realistic thought.

But the dogs get a chance for some socializing, interacting with another animal. It’s just about their only chance. GG lives in an electric fence controlled area and she never challenges it. At least we haven't seen her challenge it in more than four years. GD’s dog spends most of her time inside the girl’s house while GD is away at her job. So neither of them gets a chance to play with other pets.

I seriously doubt they’ll exchange Valentine’s cards.

This weekend marks the half way point of February. Although there’s a chance we’ll still get some snow before this winter is over in another five weeks, the days are getting longer and the sun is getting higher in the sky so most of the precipitation we get from here on should be rain. We usually do, however, get one or two pretty decent snow storms before February finally gives up the fight.

I’d be rather surprised if I didn’t hear GW and GD start planning the gardens which will be planted in the Spring.

Except for it not being Valentine’s Day, Sunday won’t be much different.

I did hear from my Fearless Friend Friday after he had his final visit with his eye surgeon who had removed cataracts from both his eyes. FF was about as happy as I’ve known him to be with the news he got. Everything is perfectly normal. He has been totally released with the exception of having to see his regular optometrist within the next several days.

But the best news he got was clearance to head for Florida at the end of the month. He and Mrs. FF like to spend about three months down there each winter, but this year the eye event kept him in Maine two months past his normal departure. He’ll still spend the better part of three months on his vacation with just one minor difference from the past several years.

He’ll see his Florida home and surroundings in a much brighter, more colorful manner. It’ll be a great time for him.

I hope your weekend is full of wonderful things and fun times. We’ll be back with our ranting and raving Monday.


Friday, February 13, 2009

A small, understandable setback

Here’s a brief report on my doctor’s visit yesterday. It was a visit I hoped I’d be released from most, if not all my post-surgery restrictions. I was, except for one. I will be returning to my senior fitness program the first week in March, but I’m still restricted on the use of my left arm. I can neither lift with it nor raise it up over my head. And the doctor wants the restriction to remain until mid-March at least and until the end of March if I can.

I feel great, the surgical spot is healing great, and the arm is back to normal except for one small thing: lifting heavy things and using it over my head would keep the wires inside my chest that connect my new ICD (Implanted Cardioverter Device) to my heart need the time to acclimate themselves and become stable. Movement could cause them to detach from the heart and that wouldn’t be good.

Throughout these months of discussion and through the surgery itself, if the wire situation was explained to me, it didn’t register. It does, however, make sense and I certainly don’t want to disconnect the wires. So, all my restrictions have been removed except that one, but it’s worth following the doctor’s orders for my own good.

There are things at the fitness place I’ll be able to do without using that arm. I’m looking forward to giving some of those things a chance to help me when I return there in a couple of weeks.

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn his nomination as Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration. He cited severe differences in some policy matters, including the spending package and the Obama desire to move the 2010 census from the Commerce Department to the White House among the reasons.

The story I read about his withdrawal last night in the Los Angeles Times tried to make it appear as if he was pushed out by the administration. I think there’s a better possibility he became a Republican again and realized he didn’t want to be part of the ship potentially destroying America.

The recent polls have shown that the majority of American seems to agree with me that the spending package is not good for our country. It cannot stimulate the economy because only a real small percentage of the package is for the kind of programs that create jobs.

I hope you folks were watching last night’s news (I saw it on NBC) when the spending breakdown was shown. The vast majority of the money will go to welfare programs and I don’t believe welfare programs have ever created jobs, except for the agencies running them. I’d like everyone to ask their representatives in Congress what is going to pay for all those programs when this spending package runs out of money.

At least with the creation of programs that lead to the creation of jobs, the money workers earn will go into the economy thus strengthening it. As the economy grows again, more companies will need to hire more workers at the companies’ expense to produce the goods. That, in turn, grows the economy even more and the cycle continues.

I wonder how many of you have noticed another not often mentioned provision of the spending package. It calls for the creation of a health czar to oversee the medical profession. That health department will determine what treatment people should get and take any decisions away from you and your doctor. My guess is that it will create long waiting lists of good Americans waiting for permission for treatment. We read regularly about the horror stories in other countries about these waiting lines and the many deaths before treatment can take place.

Imagine a Tom Daschle type person deciding if you’ll live or die. I find that very scary. Senator Specter says that will never happen and Congress will make necessary changes. But once that bill is signed into law, it’ll be way too late. Getting that one out of the package should take place before the law is enacted.

The spending package…yes, I know, the President and Congress calls it a stimulus package but it will stimulate nothing…is very, very bad for America. And I’d bet we haven’t said or heard the last word yet.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Scattered Thoughts

At least it’s not snow. I’m among a growing number of people who are getting just a little tired of all the snow we’ve had this year. I still have some pretty tall snow banks in front of my house. This recent weather, including today’s rain and showers, will go a long way to a melting down.

I think the cold weather has frozen my head, too. Today we offer some reading material, but once again I wouldn’t spend too much time on it.

I won’t be going to my senior fitness session again today as I’m being restricted from many of the things I do there, like lifting things. I do visit my cardiologist this morning and I’m hoping for a few things. I’d like most of my restrictions lifted. Actually, it would be nice if they all were, but that’s not too realistic less than two weeks after surgery affecting my heart.

There’s also this thing about being sure the incision area is completely healed before I do too many things with that left arm. Perhaps, though, some restrictions, including the lifting of weight no more than that of a gallon of milk one, could go away. That one, though, I’d guess would only be an increase in weight.

When I left the hospital a week ago Saturday, one of the items on the discharge orders was to watch my weight. The medical folk didn’t want it to increase more than two pounds. Today my weight was identical with that at discharge. Personally, I don’t think that’s too shabby for relative inactivity.

I feel great and seem to have more energy that I had in the weeks and months leading up to the ICD placement. I jokingly tell people it isn’t working because I haven’t felt it. The only thing that would be felt is the defibrillator function smacking my heart. I guess the fact I haven’t felt anything is a good thing. I really do think it is working, though. I have better physical color and, as I just mentioned, I have more desire to be doing something.

Let’s move on.

The dollar has again spoken in Maine. Citing all the new revenue that could flow into Maine’s coffers, the state’s gambling board has approved a request by Hollywood Slots in Bangor let people pull the paddles on Sunday mornings. Until now, gambling wasn’t allowed so there wouldn’t be a conflict between the slots and churches.

Our Congress took another step toward socialism yesterday and there’s a small possibility that step will become a giant one today. The House and Senate conferees have agreed on a nearly 800 billion dollar spending package that will stimulate precious little of the economy. But it sure does help out the social programs. If you doubt me, take a gander at the bill itself yourself.

The House is expected to give final passage today and the Senate will soon follow. It could be on the President’s desk for signing tomorrow.

It’ll be interesting to see how this spending package can, as Senator Snowe says, create millions and millions of jobs. Only a small percentage of the money goes to stimulating the economy.

Two satellites collided in space overnight. It is believed the crash of the defunct Russian Cosmos series orbiter and the U.S. communications satellite is the first ever between man-made satellites. The Russian loss will be meaningless as it was abandoned a few years ago; the loss of the U.S. communications satellite, part of the Iridium communications venture, will be minimal.

As I understand it, the Iridium system was hoping to become the world’s best cellular phone system but lost out to the GSM roaming system.

If you’re running out of good blogs to read through today, you might try Sheepish Annie’s discussion of how a very bad cold can affect a usually very nice young woman. I should warn you, though, it is rather graphic.

One thing I won’t have to do when I get back from the doctor’s office this morning: shovel snow. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say help Gator Wife with snow cleanup. She’s already got the last storm cleared away, with a little help from neighbor Ed’s plow, and it doesn’t take a shovel to move rain.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'll refrain from commenting on spending package for now

The final big government spending package hasn’t been completely finalized yet or at least early this morning, so I’m generally refraining from giving my thoughts on it. They aren’t good. Only about 15% of the Senate version of the bill will do anything for our economy. That’s about all that’s devoted to actual jobs creation by improving the country’s infrastructure.

The rest is primarily destined for social, or as we better know it, welfare situations. And a huge amount of it will be going out of the country. They may pour more money into the programs, but they don’t create jobs, thus they don’t make a dent on the economy.

There are a lot of good folk out there who have bought into the President Obama message and simply accept what he says as gospel. Before you start criticizing this message deliverer, though, please take the time to review the contents of the spending package. Just like our Congress people, however, none of us would be able to take the time to read the whole thing. Try just some of the subtitles.

I for one would be hard pressed to debate the validity of providing condoms to poor people overseas, for example, as being an economy builder.

Now the bill does contain some very high ideals for improvement. Who can argue against aid for education? I can’t. But I can in this package simply because there are already ways for Congress to give such aid. Being part of this package won’t stimulate the economy. And that’s just one prominent example of the speciousness of the Senate approved President Obama spending package.

We certainly knew Senator Olympia Snowe would be one of the three Republicans who would support the package. After all, it appears that she has her eye on becoming a part of the Obama administration. The acceptance by our other senator, Susan Collins, though, is a mild surprise but it does solidify our contention she’s no longer a Republican but rather a self-proclaimed Independent.

Three hundred thirty words on a topic I am refraining to discuss at this time. Not bad. I probably will return to this topic after it’s finalized by both houses and signed by the President.

Here’s another one. I call it corporate murder. Another plant of the Peanut Corporation of America that is thought to have triggered salmonella poisoning throughout the country has been shuttered. The Texas plant has been found to have salmonella tainted peanut products just like the plant in Georgia earlier.

So far, a little fewer than 2000 suspected cases of salmonella poisoning throughout America have been reported and about 8 deaths are suspected to have resulted from that poisoning. All have been traced to peanut products produced by the company.

What’s worse is the report that the products were shipped after the company learned of the suspected salmonella. If indeed this report is proven to be true, then I believe the corporate leaders should be prosecuted for murder and attempted murder. There should be prison time for those leaders. Furthermore, the company should have to pay any expenses incurred by the victims, including a payment for the families for the deceased.

Of course the peanut products have been recalled, but they never should have been distributed in the first place. This was corporate greed at its worst.

Perhaps the Chinese had the idea. They gave the death penalty to corporate managers responsible for tainted milk outbreak there earlier this year.

No one in the peanut case has been found guilty of, or even charged with, anything; but if those charges come and are proven in a court, the people responsible should be shown no mercy.

I visited the new home of my senior fitness center yesterday. I’ve never seen so much unbelievable exercise and therapy equipment in one place before. I must admit I’ve never visited a commercial gym type place so I can’t compare, but I have rehabilitated at four different physical therapy establishments.

Three of the four have been specifically for P.T. for various physical ailments and the other was a heart rehabilitation center. The new Saco Bay center, where my senior session is held, is the second for that branch of the company as they moved earlier this month. Comparing the old with the new might be like a mid-19th century facility with a mid-21st century one. Yes, I know, we haven’t even reached the mid 21st yet. Saco Bay has several other locations in the area.

I had been sent to Saco Bay by a spine center to work on the beginning of spinal stenosis. Unfortunately, Medicare only authorizes a small number of visits for physical therapy. In some circumstances, the number can be increased upon an appeal. My visits ran out, but Larry, the boss, told me about a program he had for his patients who have run out of insurance but need, or could use additional work.

He calls it the Senior Fitness Program. It is not an open gym type activity. All of us are simply continuing the exercises we had learned while undergoing the therapy and it’s by invitation. This new facility, which was opened in conjunction with a local corporate entity for its employees, also provides benefits to those employees as there are physical therapists and athletic trainers on hand for the employee fitness program as well. Of course, it also serves as a Saco Bay physical therapy center.

My group made my visit there yesterday extremely welcoming. I’m hoping they were genuinely happy to see me following my surgery, but I suppose being the great people they are, they could have been just being polite. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to get back after my chest heals and try some of these new “toys” in my approved routine.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Final word on FF's cataract surgery

My Fearless Friend did me a favor without realizing he was doing one for me. He sent me what he calls his “Final Post” regarding his cataract surgery. FF has given us some guest posts over the last three weeks. He has told us what cataract surgery entails and the preparations for it. He has told us the results of his first adventure, some early reactions to the results, the preparation for the second eye, and more very positive results.

Today, he gives some final thoughts in his own words:

This is the 4th and final guest post describing my experience with cataract surgery. I have now had both eyes done. The first was a couple of weeks ago and the 2nd was done last Thursday. My experience with the 2nd eye was really a duplicate of the first and you can read about that in earlier posts.

At my first follow-up on Friday the 2nd eye checked out at 20/20 with no problems with respect to the surgery – the same as the first. The surgeon was please and it goes without saying that I was thrilled. I can now see clearly with both eyes for the first time in many years and my vision is excellent without glasses.

I do have another follow-up on Friday and expect that things will still look good. I am not sure if there will be any further follow-up with the surgeon or not. I do have to visit with my regular optometrist in a week. Post-surgical care is limited to eye drops 3 or 4 times a day, which is done at home. Limited lifting or straining for the first couple of weeks is recommended.

I can assure anyone facing this surgery that it is nothing to be feared. The time in the operating room was about 15 minutes for each eye. Again, the procedure is painless. A driver is needed on the day of the surgery and the first follow-up. If everything checks out okay driving can resume after the first day. There probably are exceptions; that was my experience.

This is routine surgery and I am told the most common and successful procedure done in the United States. I knew that before the surgery.

People who say they don’t have at least some reservations about having an incision in their eye, the lens removed, and having it replaced with a piece of plastic before experiencing the actual procedure is probably not being totally truthful. I know that I certainly was apprehensive. I can assure you, based on my experience, it was in fact painless and the results are immediate and remarkable.

Thanks to all the great professionals at the Maine Eye Center in Portland, Maine.


Thank you, Fearless Friend, for sharing these times with us (but no post is ever a “final” post). I know I am probably facing this same procedure but, my optometrist says it won’t be for another year or year and a half. The words you shared with us has made looking into that future an easier task for me.

I especially liked that part about an apprehensive anticipation and then your assurances that it is painless. I know I and anyone else reading your guest posts will still have some apprehension. That is only natural. I will, however, be prepared on that first day the optometrist tells me we, as my heart doctor told me, “. . . must begin a conversation” that I won’t have to have a long one.

Again, thanks for sharing.

Now on to the mundane: You may wonder why I have posted so early this Tuesday, one of the two weekdays I normally would be going to my senior fitness session. Because of my own surgery last week, I’m on hold right now as I can’t do 95% of the exercises I’d normally do for another several days. I do have a follow-up appointment with my cardiologist later this week and I suspect, considering the way I feel and am acting, that many if not all of the restrictions will be lifted sooner than the month order.

Gator Wife and I are visiting the fitness center for a while this morning. It moved at the first of the month to a new location. This visit will give GW a chance to meet my fellow senior fitness people and some of the guys and gals that staff the place. It will also give me a chance to check out the new location.

We have a couple of other stops on our morning agenda and I wanted to get this out there early. So, an earlier than usual Tuesday post. Enjoy your day and we’ll be back tomorrow with the regular stuff.


Monday, February 9, 2009

A baseball rant!

We are facing another good weather week. Today will be a little colder, but then the temperatures will return to the thirties and possibly forties we had over the weekend. Only a couple minor weather events are predicted for this week. Tuesday, with the temperatures in the thirties, we’re expecting some rain or sleet or possibly snow showers. The same forecast on Thursday probably will be mostly rain in our area as those temps again could be in the forties.

I’m going somewhere now that I really have no business going as I’m about as far from being an expert as one can get. But I do love baseball, especially youth baseball, so I have some personal thoughts on the revelation of allegations that A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) of the New York Yankees used steroids in the 2003 season.

It is a disappointment, but it was not illegal nor against any baseball rules in 2003. Several other major leaguers also used the now-baseball-illegal, performance enhancing drugs in 2003 and before. More than a hundred have been determined to have taken them, although only a very few have been publicly identified. Some continue to fail mandatory drug tests.

At least a couple former major leaguers are now facing prosecution in court over lying concerning the use of drugs. But in both cases, the prosecution is not because of the drugs but because they allegedly lied to investigators about them. Several others simply openly admitted using them, apologized to their fans and teams, and life continues.

Those high profile cases and now A-Rod have put a cloud over Major League Baseball. All three were not only headed for the record books but also to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But their records and performances have been tainted. Did they have the fantastic successes they had because they were simply better than the rest or was it because they were doped up?

I don’t have the answer as I’m not involved in the investigations. I only know what the news media wants me to know. My opinion is that if indeed they were under unnatural construction, then they deserve not to be in the record books or in the Hall of Fame. That is also true for any of the other players who may fall into the same category.

My concern is the effect this doping action may have, probably already has, on today’s youth. If Major Leaguers can literally get away with the activity today, then our youth athletes will believe it’s perfectly O.K. and find themselves their own sources of performance enhancing drugs. That would be good for neither today nor the future.

I believe that any professional athlete, and specifically in the case of baseball since 2003, who tests positive for using performance enhancing drugs should be banned from the sport and any and all statistics about that athlete be tagged with a drug use tag if proven true. I could be a lot more forgiving to amateurs and give them a couple strikes because of their youth, but the professionals need to be examples of both good athletes and what happens to the cheaters.

Thinking about that last statement has given me pause. The simple truth is: a cheat is a cheat.

And then along comes Michael Phelps. He’s an icon in a sport in which my kids excelled, especially my son. I’m not sure the use of marijuana is performance enhancing, in fact it may be performance detracting, but he is model for all swimmers and, therefore, should not be given a pass. And he’s hardly an amateur.

And that’s my Monday morning rant.

A quick update on my tax experiment. In the weekend post below I explained how I was doing my on taxes for the first time in years as I’ve been using an accountant. I bought a software package and computed the taxes with it. During the weekend, I completed doing the whole thing again, the old fashioned way, filling in the forms and using a calculator.

As I was going along, I found my work and the work completed by the software package to be identical. That was also the final result after my weekend work, with one small exception. We didn’t agree on the amount of tax I owed. So I did a page by page comparison and found the software had completed a form I had missed.

After carefully reading the instructions, I learned that the software was smarter than I. I recalculated using that form which I downloaded and the software and I totally agree.

I still have my quandary on whether or not to ask my accountant to give it a try and see what happens or just accept the software’s work. I’ll let my mind work on that one for a few days. Right now I’ll give Intuit’s TurboTax just a little credit.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

For me, it's Tax Weekend

This weekend should give us hope that this seemingly very long winter is nearing its end. Sure, we still have most of March, along with the rest of February, to go, but it seems like winter began two years ago. The hard part to believe is what I saw on Fonzi Cupo’s weather forecast the other night…this winter’s snowfall is actually below last year’s, although both winters are/were above normal.

We’re led to believe the weather Saturday will reach into the thirties and then Sunday, oh, boy! Sunday could reach into the forties. The temperatures will return to the twenties Monday and then back into 30s and 40s; those readings will be a whole lot nicer than the teens and below we’ve experienced this past week. Old Fearless Friend has a fantastic success and look at the weather that brought!

My Fearless Friend got the expected good news Friday that his second eye cataract surgery went extremely well. He is so happy he can see clearly out of both eyes. Of course there is a time of recovery and the doctor told him it usually is eight weeks. But FF wants to get to Florida and there’s an excellent chance he’ll be heading there long before those eight weeks are up.

This should be a happy weekend in the Gator household. Gator daughter and her dog will be over both days. The weather will be wonderful for the two dogs, hers and ours, to romp around the yard, chase each other, and probably even do some wrestling on the snow. They will probably be a little wet, but both can use the exercise. We have nothing else planned and no work for GD to help us with.

I mentioned a while ago that I was doing my own taxes this year to see how that would work out. I’m planning on completing the process this weekend. For several years I’ve taken my information to an accountant to do them for me. I’ve had some complex situations that would be best resolved by a professional.

Most of those situations have come to an end and, with the economy tanked the way it is, my investment income is also down. With not much else to do, this seemed like a good year to see how I’d make out if I did the taxes myself. I bought a tax preparation software package to see how it worked. Very simple is my experience. Just answer a few questions, give it some numbers, and voila! tax done.

Since I haven’t relied on a tax software package, I figured I’d do it the long way, too. So far that’s proving to be a waste of time. Every single piece of information and every calculation I’ve made in a tedious exercise has completely reflected the results of the tax software. I’ll be completing my part of the task this weekend and I’ll be totally surprised now if my end results are different from those of the software.

I haven’t yet decided, however, if the results of either of these efforts will be the ones I file or if I’ll end up returning to the accountant for his effort. I might have him do it at least one more year and compare his results with mine.

Speaking of taxes, if you’re a senior I hope you are familiar with a new senior standard deduction. It is significantly higher than the regular standard deduction. I’ve always itemized my deductions, or I should say my accountant has. Because of changing conditions I barely exceeded the old standard with our itemized deductions and the new senior standard one, which includes a provision to include some of real estate taxes, gives me a very nice break.

Seniors who do their own taxes or family members who help out their senior relatives should visit the I-R-S web site and download Publication 554 Tax Guide for Seniors for use in preparing 2008 forms. Maine also has an increased standard deduction for seniors. The booklets one gets from both the federal and state revenue services with the tax forms also covers the new standard deduction for seniors.

I’d like to believe that the various agencies in our state that offer free tax help for seniors completing their forms are very familiar with the senior deductions. If you use one of those services, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask and make sure.

By the way to all you youngsters: I’m of course referring here to “seniors” in age, i.e., 65 and older, not to seniors in school.

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


Friday, February 6, 2009

Another thought on WCSH Good Story

The weather has been cold the last couple of days and we did get just a whisker of snow on Wednesday, but now we’re told a warming trend will bring nicer temperatures for the weekend. We could, perhaps, even cross the 40 degree mark Sunday. That could mean a nice weekend is ahead of us.

If you read my guest poster yesterday, you know my Fearless Friend had cataract surgery on his second eye. The first one was a fantastic success and he wrote to me after yesterday’s procedure indicating he thought the second was a complete success, also.

Said FF last night, “A nice rest in my chair and some supper has perked things up and now I feel back to normal.
My right eye’s pupil has returned to nearly normal, the irritation of the incision is almost gone and I can already tell that this is going to be a great outcome. It sure does feel good to have two equal eyes again. In short, I am feeling great and I am thinking that this surgery is going to be as good as the first one. I’ll know for sure in the morning when I can get rid of this shield.”

He will be visiting his doctor today to get the follow-up report and he expects good news.

He’s now more than a month passed the date he heads for Florida for two or three months. He stayed here later this year so that he could get that surgery behind him. The doctor told him it takes up to eight weeks for cataract surgery to fully heal, but if the second one does as well as quickly as the first, the doctor said he might not have to wait that long before heading south.

FF won’t go against his doctor’s advice, and he will do all that he’s told to get that eye better quickly. I think he’s getting just a little antsy about getting to the Sunshine State. Don’t be fooled. It’s not the getting away from the cold he looks forward to (some Florida overnight were below Freezing), although that helps, he’s a baseball nut and loves to attend those Spring Training games. If all goes well, he’ll get there just about the time they begin.

It has become a near weeklong event, that great story out of Greely High School about a senior with Down Syndrome who got to play in a basketball game. I first saw the story on WCSH-TV, Channel 6, in Portland. It was a heartwarming story about Patrick Thibideau who, after several years of being the basketball team’s manager and had practiced drills with the team, got a chance to play on Senior Night.

The story was repeated on Channel Six many times and yesterday it made the NBC Today Show. There were many, many heroes that night. Coach Ken Marks gave the boy a chance to play and it was Sam Thompson who gave up his starting position on the team so Patrick could be a starter.
I watched the story several times and commented to Wife Gator each time that I loved that story and was impressed with all the heroes. When the story appeared on the Today Show yesterday, for some reason I paid a lot more attention to the supporting players. They, too, deserve a lot of credit.

The rest of the Greely team made sure that Patrick was included and made sure they gave him the high fives when he scored his two 3-point baskets. They carried him off the floor in true heroic sportsman fashion. And then there were the players on the Gray-New Gloucester team who knew what was going on. Those gallant young men gave Patrick the kind of pressure he needed to be able to really feel like he was part of the game.

Then there were the student fans who “demanded” with their chants that Patrick be returned to the game at the end when he swished his second basket.

The story has focused on Patrick, as it should have. But there were many “heroes” in that game Tuesday night and they should get their recognition as well.

I think the Republicans have at last stolen a page from the Democrat play book. You probably have noticed in the past that when the Dem leadership has put out a talking point, virtually every Dem uses the basic same phrase sometime in their public discourse.

Now the Republicans are picking up the talking point phrase. Nearly every Republican speaking recently about taxes has used the same basic terminology. They are trying to convince Americans that the Democrats, which control both Congress and the White House, want to raise taxes. “Why not support raising them?” ask the Republicans. “They don’t pay any.”

The reference will be a talking point right into the 2010 mid-term elections. It refers, of course, to all the President Obama appointees who have been shown not to have paid thousands of dollars in taxes over the years. And the new treasury secretary is among them. At least two have withdrawn from consideration as a result of the disclosure.

But the Democrat chairman of the Senate’s committee that oversees taxes also is accused of not paying back taxes. I guess we’re learning now how Congress people get so darn rich while serving. I’d be willing to bet without any proof that there just might be a number of Republicans on the same ride. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they’re the ones that have been opened to the talking points, at least so far.

On a related topic, whatever happened to President Obama’s no lobbyist in his cabinet pledge? Makes one wonder just what “hope and change” meant.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chapter 3: FF’s first day of clear sight without glasses

My Fearless Friend is having the cataract removed from his second eye today. Here are some thoughts he sent yesterday as he prepares for the surgical procedure.

Regular readers of GiM’s blog will recall that he and I both had medical procedures at roughly the same time. My good friend, GiM (the OLE GATORDUDE), thought that it might be fun to share our respective experiences. His procedure was much more serious than mine, although both are considered routine and low risk these days. This is the third description of my treatment, a procedure that has stretched over two weeks, and I’ll have some closing thoughts next week.

My situation was the formation of cataracts in both eyes. Actually I had a cataract in my left eye for a couple of years. Doctors prefer very nearsighted people to wait for both eyes to form a cataract as they have a much better outcome when they can change both eyes in the same time frame. By doing them together, actually 2 weeks apart, they can balance the vision.

I should add here that in addition to removing and replacing the lens in the eye, they can correct vision at the same time with a lens that is made to focus the image on the retina properly giving near 20/20 vision. As I have been very nearsighted most of my life, this was good news for me.

My work was done at the Maine Eye Center in Portland Maine, a large practice specializing in treatment of eye problems. My experience with the Maine Eye Center has been outstanding. Although I will not share the name of my doctor/surgeon here, I would be happy to recommend him to anyone who asks. The staff, including the surgeon, all gave me the impression that I was the only person that they treated all day even though dozens of patients go through their doors daily.

This lens is called an intraocular lens implant (IOL). The Maine Eye Center has an excellent web site that explains this procedure. In short it replaces the hardened and yellowed lens in your eye with a new lens that is clear and also corrects your vision. Like any implant the lens has a model number and serial number. The patient receives a card with the pertinent information as you would with any implant.

I’ve had some interesting experiences in the last two weeks. Remember that I suffered from nearsightedness for most of my life and have worn glasses for about 60 years. Now, with the left eye corrected to 20/20 and my right eye still nearsighted and with a cataract, somewhere in the area of 20/300 or worse the fun began.

For the first couple of days I thought that I would just take the left lens out of my old glasses and let my right eye live happily with its lens for a couple of weeks and the “new and improved” left eye could do its thing without assistance. After all it checked out 20/20! What a great idea!

The doctor had told me that probably would not work well as I would see double. This was reinforced by one of the technicians. Anyone that knows me knows that I am going to try it and I did. It worked great after I adjusted the old glasses --- worked great as long as I looked straight ahead and did not move! Any movement and I saw in double vision. Not only double vision but also any movement and the double vision danced all over the place. I guess that the folks at the Eye Center know what they are talking about.

So, I gave up on that idea and just went without glasses and let the new 20/20 left eye do the work and the half blind, cataract infested right eye do whatever it could. This actually worked out quite nicely up to a point. I had to pick up some reading glasses in order to read and use my computer.

The doctor had already told me that I could drive, and although I really did not have anywhere to go, I did ride up and down my street just to be sure that I felt comfortable. After a couple of days my right eye seemed to decide that it could and should help out. It was particularly noticeable when I saw colored lights. By blinking or winking that eye I could make the effect go away, but it was not a pleasant feeling.

As I waited for the 2nd operation to correct that eye, it became obvious that my eyes were trying to develop a new “normal.” I only tried to drive at night a couple of times and lighted, especially colored, signs and traffic lights created a very different view. Although I never felt that I was not in control, I decided that I didn’t have to drive at night.

Viewing just about everything, especially bright snow, my “new” eye showed it bright and white. My still uncorrected eye shows everything with a brown haze. It also was interesting, to me, that my uncorrected right eye suffered much more eye strain than the surgically repaired eye.

This is where I stand today. I am looking forward to getting the other eye done today and I’ll have some final comments sometime next week.


Edited at 3:15 PM by GiM: I have received an e-mail from FF who tells us his second cataract operation has been completed. As best as he can tell in this short time, he says he believes it was a complete success.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WCSH has heart-warming story

We awoke this morning to a little snow that fell overnight. There’s not a whole lot out there, but there is enough to cause a little clean up activity. Wife Gator has pleaded with me not to go out on the tractor until I get the doctor’s go-ahead. The discharge nurse over the weekend said she thought driving the machine as long as the controls weren’t over my shoulder would be OK. Naturally I accepted that as permission.

WG, however, says she doesn’t want me to take any chances on damaging the wound area until it is much closer to being healed. I explained that would leave all the cleanup to her and she said that would be better than my developing complications. She has done a great job getting me this far so I don’t want to go against her wishes. I’ll wait until after the follow up visit with my heart doctor.

It is so nice being able to print anytime from anywhere with any of three active computers. Since he was in the neighborhood for another reason, my Fearless Friend dropped by yesterday and together we set up two of my three computers in service to print through the wireless network.

In all fairness to the printer, it was extremely easy to get running. It took about five minutes to effortlessly set up the printer itself. It asked how I wanted to set it up. I chose wireless network. It then searched and quickly found my home network. It wanted me to enter my passkey which would give it access to the network. The printer told me it was successfully connected to my network.

I had to use a software CD on each computer to actually get the computer to find the printer, but that was an easy task, too; but it did take some time with all those pesky questions about other software it wanted to install. Nevertheless, it was an easy install.

I’ve never had a printer that could print as fast as this one. The colors on the test picture were beautiful. I printed a four page document in less than 10 seconds. My old printer would have taken six or seven minutes to print those four pages.

Between pauses to answer the software questions FF and I talked about his cataract surgery. He gave a guest post a week ago describing the event, but his description yesterday and because he could answer my questions immediately painted a completely new picture. I must say cataract surgery is an operation that anyone who needs one should not fear. His second eye will be corrected Thursday.

That concludes the saga of the printer. I already wish I had done it long ago.

WCSH-TV had a wonderful, eye-dampening story on its morning news today. It was a fantastic story about a young man with Downs’s Syndrome getting his chance to play a little basketball for his high school team. Patrick Thibideau is a senior at Greely High School in Cumberland. He’s been involved as a manager for the basketball team for several years.

Patrick loves the game of basketball and has practiced drills during team practice, but has never had a chance to play. On Senior Night, the coach, Edited at 8 AM, thanks to Mrs. FF (comment below) and FF via e-mail to add coach's name: Ken Marks (I had forgotten it for original post), decided that Patrick should get a chance to play in a game he loves so much.

There was a simple problem: one of the starters would have to sacrifice his start to make room for Patrick. Another Greely hero stepped forward and Sam Thompson gave Patrick his chance.

There was another problem. Patrick’s dad, Perry Thibideau, had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital. The doctors were told of the situation and they let the dad out long enough to see his son play in the “big game.” Mr. Thibideau returned to the hospital after the game but is expected to be discharged today.

Mom and dad had the opportunity the parents of all the senior players had: spend a moment in a picture session at center court with their son.

Then the game started and, probably being very nervous in his first and possibly only game, Patrick missed his first shot. Determined, the young man had another chance a few minutes later and, as they say, it was all net. A three-pointer at that. He returned to the bench and will continue his duties as manager for the rest of the season. But what a night it was for a good, dedicated kid with a disability but determination!

It was also a great night for a dedicated coach and a wonderful young man who made a sacrifice for Patrick to play. And kudos to Channel Six for giving us the opportunity to share this wonderful story.