Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A wireless rip-off

I’m pleased to say my senior fitness program went very well for me yesterday. The rest of the day was what one might call ‘uneventful.’ Today I’m sort of stuck in the house as I’m expecting a package to be delivered by UPS sometime today. Many years experience in this house tells me that the package won’t arrive until sometime after 4 or 5 o’clock in the evening and that, this time, is almost a good thing. Today my group of fellow retirees has its last Wednesday of the month lunch session and I’ll be there. Gator Wife gets home about ten minutes after I have to leave so I have confidence the package will be covered.

There is a business complex behind my house and UPS delivers there by mid-morning. Since I’m the next driveway, one would think the truck would just come here next. Nope. It usually doesn’t get here until very late in the afternoon. A driver once told me he had to deliver all his business packages first and then make the home deliveries. Besides, he explained, he had a better chance of getting the receipt signatures on home deliveries at that time.

Apparently the other delivery services don’t share that philosophy. When they have packages for me, they get delivered just about whenever the service enters the medical complex behind me.

I did have a telephone conversation yesterday that might be interesting. I got the bill for my cell phone service and on it was a “data” charge. I’ve never had a data charge before and, in fact, have never used data services. I do not have data included on my plan. But there was that charge for data. So I called the company.

Negotiating through their phone tree was an interesting experience. I just love it when they say, “Your call is important to us.” If my call were important to them, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time with three different menus to finally get a human being.

Let me quickly point out the human was just about as nice, pleasant, and helpful as anyone could possibly be with a somewhat irate customer on the line. After I explained I didn’t understand the data charge, she pulled up my account and bill and explained I was charged for several text messages. Since I don’t have a data plan, I have to pay for them per message.

“I don’t do text messaging,” I explained. She said those charged on this bill were all incoming messages. I had absolutely no idea I had any incoming text messages. “Wait a minute,” I pleaded. “Do you mean I have to pay extra for incoming text messages that were neither solicited nor wanted nor used nor read?” It was a simple answer. “Yes.”

Thankfully, my ICD kept my heart beating normally, but I’d bet my blood pressure was a little off the scale. To say I was not a little angry would be a very mild statement. I let her know what I thought of that total rip-off. I asked her how much longer I had on my contract so I could start planning a switch.

She remained very calm and pleasant and said that since I hadn’t even read the messages, she’d take them off the bill and asked if I wanted all text messaging blocked. No brainer there since I don’t text message. So she accomplished that for me.

I could hear the smile creep into her voice as she asked my one final question: “Since your plan is no longer offered and you’re grandfathered in, would you like to upgrade to a modern plan that includes data services? It would be only a few dollars a month more.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said and thanked her for her patience and cooperation and wished her a good rest of the day. The call ended.

I still find the practice of charging for unwanted incoming calls a telephone company rip-off. The technology now exists for companies to send messages to cell phones of passing people with sales offers for the passed business. I can’t imagine how really urinated off I’d be if I were passing store and got charged for a text message the store sent telling me a “terrific offer.”

I think I’m also happy I don’t have teenagers texting all day long every day. How in the world do people pay for it? My suspicion is those data plans aren’t cheap.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's one decision I've made

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty nice day. Gator Wife and I went for a ride looking for some fresh vegetables and the temperature thingy in my car said it was 76 degrees outside the car. When I got home, my own gauge said it was 76, too, but the NWS reading was only 74. But the sun was shining brightly and the air was nice.

We didn’t find any fresh vegetables we wanted.

Today doesn’t look to be quite so nice. We may have some sunshine off and on but clouds will be there, too, along with some showers, possibly rain. The temperatures will be down, also. And we’re in for a couple days of unsettled weather.

I’ll be heading to South Portland this morning for the first of my two visits to the senior fitness place. I got a message yesterday from my Fearless Friend that I was sending a mixed message about the old stationary bike I’ve put into service at home to supplement the spiffy pro model I use during my session. I’m not planning on getting a more modern one, but I will pay some attention to comparing the two. Now, FF, does that further muddy the waters?

I believe we all have only five more weeks to make decisions on the upcoming citizen initiatives and other state issues that will appear on the state portion of the ballot. We also have to learn about what’s on the town’s portion of the ballot for consideration. Discussion of the items on the town’s portion has been very light, but that will change as Election Day approaches.

One of the items on the state ballot is a citizen’s initiative to repeal a state law passed a year ago and already in effect. It is the mandated school consolidation law.

The Legislature under the direction of Gov. Baldacci ordered Maine’s numerous individual school districts into about 80 consolidated districts. The idea of the plan was to cut the cost of education by combining services. It looked like a good idea, on paper. In reality it has brought some mixed results.

The size of the new units was determined by population which meant some of the then existing school systems didn’t need to consolidate. There were some other considerations that allowed a district to remain autonomous, as well. My town didn’t need to change. Therein lies my problem. Like a lot of people, especially in the Greater Portland area, the new law didn’t affect me. That will cause those same “lot of people” not to care how they vote or even if they vote in November.

That reminds me of that old story about apathy. It goes something like this: My neighbor was old and when they came after him, I did nothing. Another neighbor was very rich, and again I did nothing when they came after him. Slowly, everyone around me was gone, but I did nothing. And now they’re coming after me. And there’s no one left to do anything.

For those who want to criticize me for my general picks, I’ve heard the story in many different contexts, including religious, racial, ideological, and others. They all end the same way.

So, I will take my vote seriously, as I take all ballot questions seriously, when I cast my ballot. Generally speaking, the success of the forced consolidation depends on where the school districts are in the state. We have read of some great savings in some places and some even spending in others. Then there are those towns where property taxes will rise considerably, one place I saw was 25%, all because the state said some successful communities had to pay for some less than successful ones.

And there’s the rub. No city or town should be placed in such a situation and they don’t have to be. The cities of Portland, South Portland, and Westbrook, all of which didn’t need to consolidate, have begun cooperative efforts to find ways to share programs and purchasing and other considerations, to save money. They weren’t required to cooperate, but found a way to begin talks on cooperation. And without a state mandate.

That makes me wonder if a different approach couldn’t have been accomplished by the state without the threats, the little time for discussion, the honesty of how the forced consolidation would affect the various cities and towns.

Logic tells me, and I recognize the state doesn’t operate with logic, that if the law is repealed, those districts which are finding success could continue if they so chose, but without the threats and intimidation that brought them about. Perhaps they’d be even more successful. And it would give those districts now being punished with much higher property taxes a chance to regroup, perhaps try a cooperative effort to save money as Portland, South Portland, and Westbrook are working on, and get some relief.

I think any law that is punitive to even some of the state’s residents who otherwise would be law-abiding, is a bad law. And in these tough economic times, if it’s costing the residents more money than they normally would have to spend, it’s even worse.

I’ll give them a chance to go back to the drawing boards and try again and vote “Yes” on the repeal question. I’ll feel equally as badly for people forced into the consolidation and have already begun spending the money. It was a creation by the state and if the repeal prevails, I’ll hope the state steps in to help those districts.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Now I know . . .

We’re in the last three days of September. The last weekend was what might be best described as “very uneventful” in the Gator household. Although the weather Saturday wasn’t too bad and Gator Daughter and her Golden visited us, yesterday was not a nice day. The only good thing about it was we really needed the daylong rain we got.

Saturday GD helped her mother and me move an old stationary bike from the cellar to the first floor of the house. You may recall last week I mentioned that my heart doc wanted me to add a couple of days of riding to the two I do at senior fitness. Considering how often I used the bike when it was in the cellar (never would be a very close guess), we all agreed that if I were to take advantage of it, it would have to be on the main floor.

So I spent a few hours Friday scrubbing it clean and Saturday it made its way to a corner in our bedroom. I put it to use and did my full half hour yesterday. The first thing I discovered was this old bike isn’t the caliber of the professional modern one I use at the Saco Bay Physical Therapy center. Once I get used to it again, though, I suspect it will do just fine. At least I’m fulfilling the wish of my doc.

That was the extent of my Sunday efforts. I did watch the Patriots’ beat Atlanta and occasionally switched over to the NASCAR race at Dover and the Red Sox game.

I think that after all these years, I learned why I’m not a very smart person. My mother used to spank me when I was a little one. A University of New Hampshire professor told us on WCSH-TV Newscenter during the weekend that striking kids when they are in their formative years causes suppressed development. The report also said other experts dismissed the claim as the professor is a known anti-spanking advocate.

I’ll accept the findings of his study, though, because they would explain a lot that I’ve sometimes wondered about. I just know my IQ would have been 20, maybe 30 or even more, points higher if my mother didn’t swat my brother and me with that flyswatter.

She had a wire swatter, as did most families back then, and when Gator Brother, who passed away about 18 years ago, and I did something that she didn’t approve, she’d sit us down at the kitchen table and whack away at the back of our hands. We both noticed, however, that about the time the wire was about to strike, she sort of pulled back and the resulting hit was more symbolic than hurting.

Occasionally she didn’t get pulled back soon enough. Let me tell you, that brought forth an honest “ouch.”

My brother was considerably older than I, well only six years but back then it was “considerably.” About the time I was ten, we were sitting in our usual places at the kitchen table waiting for the swat to come. He looked at me and said, “I’ve just about had enough of this foolishness. It’s time for us to stop it.” So we got up from the table and he picked Mom up. She was a petite person, only about 5’4” or so, and not too heavy. He tossed her a couple feet across the kitchen to me.

I’m not sure which of the three of us were most surprised, but I caught her. “I don’t want her. Here, take her back,” I sort of laughed. I tossed her back to my brother. Well I’m not quite sure I’ve ever seen my mother quite that angry before. What’s that about a wet hen? GB and I were laughing for all we were worth. After a couple tosses, we did stop.

Mom glared at us, then she, too, started laughing. “I guess it’s time to put that flyswatter away,” she said. We were never threatened again.

Now, having watched that report, I know the effects of my mother’s punishment stilted my mental growth. I’d like to think she’d be sorry for that.

Hmmm. Perhaps that’s why my two children haven’t succeeded either. (My daughter is an accountant and my son is on hiatus in studying for his Ph.D. in mathematics.) I did swat them when they were growing up, but it was always in that well padded natural swatting place. They were both competitive swimmers, however, and that place sort of got very hard. By the time we stopped, it honestly hurt me more than it hurt them.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

September's final weekend

The weather people indicate that Saturday would be the better of the two weekend days this weekend. We’ll also see some cool temperatures. They started Friday when the temperature remained mostly in the low sixties. It was also quite windy.

A goodly portion of the state had the killing frost which puts an end to the growing season in those areas. Although the temperatures around the Gator place were in the middle thirties, we did not get the killing frost. That didn’t surprise me as we rarely get that frost this early and usually are behind the rest of the state.

Rain or showers are expected Sunday so Gator Daughter and her dog have plans to stay home for the day. Saturday will be a day for a little light helping work around the Gator homestead as she and her pup will be here for most of the afternoon, beginning with lunch, of course.

So once again we’ll have a light weekend with not too much activity. I hope you enjoy your couple of days. I’ll enjoy mine; after all, a flu-riddled Florida Gators football game against Kentucky will be shown. And that trumps the Sox-Yankees in the Gator TV room.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Yea or Nay on Excise Tax question?

Another nice “fall” day yesterday. It was warm and sunny on the Gator homestead, although we did have a slight breeze. Since summer departed Tuesday we’ve had some of the nicest weather of the year. But, Whoa! That is about to come to a screeching halt. Tonight the state will have a widespread frost, even some spots along the coast. My town will probably escape it as it usually does the first two or three frosts.

I know how I’m going to vote in about six weeks on all but one of the measures facing us on the state ballot. That one remains the citizen initiative on the excise tax. There are good, valid reasons to vote “yes” and there are good, valid reasons to vote “no.” I’m finding most of the arguments on both sides challenging and I think I change my mind depending on whose thoughts I’m reading.

Philosophically I’m in favor of any kind of tax decrease. Cutting the excise tax that about 55% for the first six years is a great idea. The tax is artificial, though, and is only to give the local municipalities, which get it all, a source of revenue. That tax is not dedicated to the roads, however, and can be used anywhere the town wishes.

Why do I say it’s artificial? For openers, it’s not based on what anyone pays for the car but rather for the arbitrarily set Suggested Manufacturer’s List Price. There probably has been someone at some time that paid that price on the sticker, but I don’t know anyone who has. When did you last hear a friend proudly proclaiming, “I liked that price so I just paid it without questioning.”? Some bargain the prices better than others, but almost everyone is proud when they have talked the dealer down to where he expected to sell the car in the first place.

Secondly, I don’t understand why there’s a graduated tax that decreases in each of the first six years then stays the same. No one has ever convinced me that a brand new car causes more road problems than one that is six years old or older and therefore, needs to pay a larger share. I could feel that a fair, even excise tax for road use would be O.K. provided it were based on the actual need for a share of road maintenance costs.

The communities cry that they’ll have to increase property taxes to make up the difference. It amazes me that cutting the budget isn’t in the equation. The voters now approve or disapprove the school budget with an annual vote. Perhaps it’s now time to give the voters the same privilege for the non-school portion of the budget. That, of course, can be done with a “yes” vote in November.

What about the other side of that excise tax issue, big guy? Well, I’m not in favor of the question because of the sales tax and excise tax break it gives to purchasers of hybrids and other energy efficient vehicles. It’s a selfish reason. I’m not convinced I should be subsidizing those sales when the only beneficiaries are the car companies. This country and this state are going broke robbing from the taxpaying citizens to subsidize others.

So I’ll continue by search for truth and answers before November. As I said earlier, most of the questions are easy for me. This is turning out to be tough.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hard work pays off

Fall fell, but it’s trying hard to disguise it. Yesterday, although for the most part cloudy, really was a nice day. The high temperature actually got into the eighties and that made for a pretty darn nice day. It was humid and that took away just a wee bit of the niceness.

The warmth will continue today, but we’ll just have to wait to see how high in the seventies it gets.

For the last two days I’ve been writing about yesterday’s scheduled trip to the cardiologist. I hope you never know how great it is to hear that doctor say that all is well. That hope comes from not wishing you to have to go through heart disease.

I don’t think I ever touched the ground getting home yesterday and the wait for Gator Wife to come home at noon to share the results was one of the longest waits I’ve had. First thing that happened was the assistant taking my blood pressure and heart beat. The BP was outstanding and the heart beat was exactly as my ICD (implanted combination defibrillator and pacemaker) was programmed to maintain. “It’s working perfectly,” she said.

Then it was the doctor’s turn. My heart pump function had been working at the 30% level which was the cause for the ICD. That was about 8 months ago. Today the pump is just a smidgeon below the normal level. He then said the most beautiful words I’ve heard in quite a while. “That means you’ve significantly increased your longevity.”

We had a discussion about my twice weekly exercise sessions. Look how well you’ve done and a lot of it has to do with that exercise, he pointed out. Then he added, much to my chagrin, “I’d like you to increase riding that bike to four times a week.” Ever since my challenges began with that crushed hip in 2000, I’ve been completely cooperative with my doctors and know full well they are working in my behalf.

Nine years later, it’s paying off and I won’t resist the added two days of stationary bike riding. The doc told me he knew I’d do it because I’ve done everything he’s asked of me. I’ll hate every minute, but it looks like an additional two days of some exercise is in my immediate future. It won’t be at the senior fitness place so the rest of my routine will continue to be only twice weekly.

Thanks for bearing with me as I share this new excitement. Now the first part of my season of poking and prodding is behind me. And I do have a few weeks before I face the second part.

Now, let’s see. What shall I bring up today? I did read something today on one of the forums I visit. A poster was lamenting that the electorate listens only to 30-second sound bites and makes voting decisions based on them. Those sound bites are continuing to tell only one small portion of the total story of any issue, whether it be health care reform, gay marriage, tax reform, or any other issue.

The real truth of the items we’re asked to accept lies in the bowels of those proposals and legislation, and it is incumbent on all of us to dig much deeper than those highly prejudicial sound bites. When we educate ourselves and learn truths about legislation and proposed legislation, we will then be able to return our government to “We, the people.”


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Annual heart ordeal off to a good start

Cloudy and warm today. Possibly some showers here and there, but possibly not, too. It’s one of those “depends on where you are” days. Gator Wife was concerned enough about the lack of rain or showers that she had me run our irrigation system last night. The overnight temperatures were good for it, too.

As I mentioned yesterday, my implanted heart device was read with the wand and then the stored up information for the last three months were electronically transferred to the cardiologist’s office. This is really quite a system. The device is located next to my bed and each night, sometime around two AM, it receives a transmission from the device in my body. I don’t even know it’s taking place.

The prime purpose is keeping a record of my heart activity over the three months which it then sends with a “hard” reading via telephone. The hard reading simply means I have to hold a wand over the device in my chest for a few moments; then its reading and the stored ones are sent for reading.

If at any time during those nighttime readings the device detects a serious problem, it will immediately call the doctor’s office with the report. I will then get a call that tells me to either get to a hospital, get to the doctor’s office, or some other instruction like changing my medication. At least that’s what I’ve been told would happen. I’ve haven’t experienced it so I’m just going on what I think I’ve been told.

Of course if the device needs to defibrillate me, I’d know it and would already be at the doctor’s office or, more likely, the hospital.

Handy little device to have stuck in your chest, wouldn’t you say? Oh, why did I go into all this? Simple. I got the phone call yesterday with the results of the morning transmission. Everything is working just like it should and it quietly continues to make sure my heart beats as it’s suppose to beat.

I’ll get the complete report today when I have my annual visit with the cardiologist at his office. He already has the results of the echo-cardiogram test. My only question when I get there today will be to ask if I also have to have a regular electrocardiogram today. The cardiologist I use, and have ever since my heart attack back in 2001, always has every session start out with the EKG, or is it ECG? If I do have to have one today, I’ve found one way that some of that high cost of health care could be lowered.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Annual personal go-around begins

We’ll have some clouds around today but the temperature won’t be too bad. There is a chance of some showers through tonight; but, like just about every forecast says, not everyone will get them. Late this afternoon, another change will take place. The official summer will depart our region and we’ll welcome the arrival of the fall season, or, as we know it, autumn. And just wait for the Wednesday and Thursday temperatures expected into the 80s. Welcome, Autumn.

Another feature of today is my bi-weekly trek to the senior fitness place where a group of fellow retirees who have gone through physical therapy for various reasons get to use the equipment at a reasonable cost for seniors.

Sometimes when we have these fronts passing through, I find the session to be a challenge; but as this day starts, I’m not yet feeling the twinges and twangs weather fronts put on my body. We’ll just have to see how it all goes. My session begins when I get there, usually between 7 and 7:30 AM.

Today begins a somewhat busy week for the old Gator. If you were here a year ago, you already have been told that September begins a series of special medical checkups I have to survive every year. Those checkup are spread way out and don’t end until next February. If President Obama has his way, this could be the last year I’ll have them as his administration doesn’t think we older folk need the advanced care and plans to cut Medicare substantially.

Today is a prelude to tomorrow’s heart checkup with my cardiologist. I had the echo-cardiogram test last Wednesday and today I hold a transmitter over my ICD (combination pacemaker and defibrillator device implanted in my chest) and transmit its stored up three-month readings to the cardiologist. The good doctor will read both results, perform his own little pokes and prods and listen to whatever cardiologists listen to and let me know if I’m still alive or not.

It was this visit just a year ago when he first announced to me, “We’ve got to begin a conversation.” That conversation led in January to the implantation of the ICD. This week I’m kind of hoping he’ll say simply, “Gator, we’ll see you next September.” I like to hear stuff like that. Whenever a doctor says that, it gives hope he thinks we’ll still be around.

A little change of pace Thursday completes the week as I have my monthly blood poke which makes sure it can flow. So, all in all, it doesn’t seem like a full week, but for an old Gator Dude, it is and will be a busy three days.

On the president’s health care reform proposals, although he still doesn’t have his own plan but is relying on what the Democrats put together in Congress, we’re told that Medicare won’t be cut back and we’ll still be able to get care. Yet the president is proposing cutting Medicare funding by several million dollars. If spending is cut then it only stands to reason that care will have to be rationed.

I’d bet there isn’t anyone who rattles around the Internet who hasn’t seen the president himself saying in a YouTube clip that perhaps it’s time for seniors to make a decision and we only give them a pill to ease the pain. That is one mighty scary and ominous clip. If you haven’t seen it, you can do a YouTube search and easily find it.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Speeders beware!

The past weekend was a pretty good one for the Jackson clan. The weather cooperated beautifully both days. It did get a little cool at night. Well, actually it was closer to cold. We got some necessary chores accomplished, and Gator Daughter got a couple of good meals.

I think my lawn mowing days for this year are slowly coming to an end. The nights with temperatures in the 30s, even though they’re the high 30s, are slowing down growth immensely. There are some places around the state that have already received their first frost. The lawn was mowed yesterday, but from a lawn that usually yields four to six trips to the grass compost corner didn’t fill the bags once yesterday.

Today should be another fairly nice one here in Southern Maine. Although they’ve now tempered them down a little, over the weekend the weather people were hinting that we could get into the 80s Wednesday before a front moves through bringing another spell of cooler weather. We also could see some rain or showers Tuesday night into Wednesday, and my yard certainly could use some; but if we do get any, they’ll be few and far between.

A couple of news stories over the weekend caught my attention. Neither really affects me, but I’m still glad to see that they may affect some people.

The first one really arrived in my home last Friday with the delivery of the Scarborough Leader, our weekly free newspaper. There was a story in it about the Scarborough Police Department’s new strong speeding enforcement plan. (You can find the story on the Scarborough Leader website. Once there, scroll to the middle of the newspaper and click “Traps set for speeders” to get a larger version.)

The police are using what they call innocuous vehicles for officers to use with radar guns to record the speed of drivers. In the article, an officer with the radar gun was in a public works vehicle. There were other officers nearby ready to take chase of speeding cars.

I sure do hope they also will be near traffic lights around town, especially lights along U.S. Route 1. There are more times than not when a motorist entering the highway is in real danger as car after car “blow” the red light. Often, it appears speed is involved.

The other story was in yesterday’s Portland Sunday Telegram and on the paper’s It told of the state’s installing new equipment to weigh trucks and to deter overweight truckers from using alternate routes around weigh stations.

New scales and cameras will be installed on selected popular routes used by the truckers to avoid those stations and the picture and weight report will be sent to Troopers. The new, modern technology will also be used a weigh stations to get truckers through much faster.

Now if only State Police cars could be slowed down on the Interstates to set good examples for motorists to obey the law. Too many Troopers frequently travel well over the speed limit even when they are not flashing lights or using their sirens, obviously not on an emergency trip. A retired police officer friend of mine told me they travel that outside lane with relative impunity.

There was a time when I didn’t necessarily obey the speed laws, but at my age I’m always right at the limits these days. It irritates me when cars speed past me, especially when the drivers have those cell phones stuck in their ears, and there are no police officers anywhere around. It’s partially jealousy; I just know if I were the one speeding, I’d get stopped.

And in sports…Great weekend for the Red Sox, lousy weekend for the Patriots, and a fairly good weekend for my Gators.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

A very quiet weekend

It’s weekend time again, and this is the last weekend of the astrological summer. Fall arrives during the coming week. The weather will give us a cool day Saturday with temperatures in the mid 60s in our area. We’re told Saturday night will be the coldest yet around much of Maine. And then we’ll warm up again for some temperatures in the 70s Sunday. Not a bad weekend.

We’ll have a time for some home chores, visits from family members and friends, and some good food. There are no specific plans for the Gator clan this weekend so we’ll just take it easy.

I hope you have a nice weekend as well.


Friday, September 18, 2009

GW wanted an apple

Where you are in Maine today will determine your weather, as is usually the case. We here along the southeastern coast could get temperatures into the low 70s while most everyone else will be in the low to mid 60s. The northern border area will have the best chance for some showers. This coming weekend is looking pretty good.

Except for some necessary very routine trips away from the gator household, I think I’ve been housebound, by choice I’ll quickly point out, for several weeks. Gator Wife has been on the same boat except she does get out a few times a week to work at her part time job.

I’ve kept busy, especially since my new picture scanner arrived and have already converted more than 550 slides to digital format. There are still very many to go; then I have some pictures and negatives I want to convert. My new scanner does a super job printing color negatives out as color pictures.

Yesterday morning when I got home from my senior fitness session, which went quite well, incidentally, WG said it was about time we got away for a short while to break up the monotony of just staying home all the time. She said we needed some apples.

So off we went to find some apples. Now here in Maine it isn’t a very hard task to find apples. Of course they’re plentiful in the local grocery stores, but even local grocery store apples weren’t what she wanted. She wanted some right out of the apple orchard, you know, like the kind one can find at a farm stand.

Naturally, she would have really preferred some of the apples that she could freshly pick right off the tree. But, unfortunately, neither of us would be able to traipse through an orchard to get them. We would have to settle for the ones picked and packaged by the farmers.

Roadside apple stands are abundant here in Southern Maine so finding apples wouldn’t be difficult. We found several, but one in Bethel that suited our purpose. By stopping along the way for breakfast and slowing down or stopping at at every roadside stand we passed, we managed to get to Bethel in just a little over two hours.

To get home, we headed for Gorham, NH, then south on US 16 through North Conway to US Route 302. This is a terrific time of year to drive through North Conway. Although the town did have a considerable number of tourists, we could tell by watching the gawkers along the sidewalks, the road wasn’t crowded and we could get right through.

Before getting to North Conway, we slowed down and contemplated driving up Mt. Washington. It’s been several years since we last took that trek. We decided not to make the climb. But in North Conway a railroad station got our attention. We looked over the brochures there and the maps and decided that the scenic trip through the White Mountain region might very well be a good one if we waited until the leaf-peeping season. We’re waiting.

Heading home we found Maine routes 5 and 113 heading south closed for repairs. Normally I would have taken Route 5, but the detour took us along Route 302 all the way to Bridgeton where we decided to just continue on to Naples and then take Route 114 back to Scarborough.

We got away for a few hours, the routine was broken, and we got some really nice apples. We also got a tremendous “Welcome Home!” from a little Golden Retriever who for one of the few times in her life had been left all day alone at home.

A side note to weatherman Joe Cupo on WCSH-TV: He said last evening that the leaves should be good this weekend in Western Maine and New Hampshire. Well, Joe, we were in those regions yesterday and I seriously doubt they’ll change enough between now and this weekend to be even fair. But I’m not a meteorologist.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A puzzle; and a heartwarming story

I think it’s fair to say some cool weather arrived last night. At least it did on the Gator homestead. Today will be one of the coolest in quite some time; then we’ll be off on a warmer, cooler, merry-go-round right through the weekend. I wish I knew how this cooler temperature will affect my visit to my senior fitness session this morning.

We’re going to be voting on five citizen initiatives and two other items in November. The airwaves and the print media are now getting jam packed with advertising and comments about those items. As one would expect, none of the initiatives is without some controversy.

One of them has caused a little waffling thinking on my part. We will be asked if we want the excise tax we pay on our automobiles to be halved and sales tax on newly purchased hybrids eliminated. I think it’s that second half that has me on the fence.

The purpose of the sale tax elimination, of course, is to promote the sales of the energy efficient vehicles. That leads me to wonder who will benefit from that loss of a sales tax revenue stream, the state or the car companies.

WCSHTV Ch. 6 reported on its NewsCenter program that the “No on Question 2” campaign kicked off yesterday in Portland. The groups opposed to the ballot question, question two on the November ballot, say the revenue loss to municipalities will be devastating. Those groups say they believe communities will have to increase property taxes to make up for the loss.

They say that road improvement projects and other road use projects will have to be cut back because of the lack of funding. It is a specious argument and it is this kind of scare tactic that at first blush makes me want to vote “Yes.”

Excise tax revenue is not dedicated revenue. It goes into the communities’ general fund and can be spent anywhere in the budget. Communities could still cut funding for road projects, but they would be cutting it out of the general fund.

The one area which all three levels of government, local, state and federal, have not done is look at their spending and set priorities so that some spending can be eliminated. You and I have to adjust our budgets during these hard economic times; for some reason governments believe they are exempt.

As I say every time I get on this kick to you who ask me just where I’d make the cuts, I didn’t make the decisions that led to the need. I’d bet I could find some, though, but darn few people would like them.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be internally debating supporting the referendum or going against what I believe, cutting taxes and voting against that referendum. Both sides make good points, and both sides make some specious ones. This one could be a hard decision.

Now to change the pace. I hope you all saw that incredibly warm baseball moment that happened in Philadelphia Tuesday night. I didn’t see it when it happened and first saw it on the NBC Today show yesterday morning. It was repeated on the NBC Nightly News last night, one of the few warm moments that program has had in a while.

A dad, a long time Phillies fan, had taken his three year old daughter to the Phillies’ game. What nearly every fan dreams of when attending the major league games happened. The dad caught a foul ball, a treasure for any fan. After high fiving all around him and showing off his catch, the dad handed the ball to the little girl. She threw it back to the field.

I’m not sure I anticipated the dad’s reaction. First it was disbelief, then a very broad, loving smile crossed his face and eyes and he clutched that little girl very close to him with a huge hug. There was absolutely nothing but the love of a dad for his little girl in that moment. I found it to be a very touching scene.

I only saw a snippet of the story last night, but I think the team sent the dad a new ball. That was confirmed this morning.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Almost a trip down Memory Lane

We’re told by the weather folk that today will be one of the coldest so far as strong Canadian air is taking over our area. It will be short-lived, however, as we should be back into the 70s by the weekend.

Today’s message came very close to being one of my trips down memory lane. I like to take those trips as I have what I consider to be some really nice or fun memories. Today’s trip was going to be about one Gator Wife and I took back in the 1960s, even before our two contributions to the nation’s future occurred.

When I was a youngster like all youngsters back then, I learned about the Pilgrims and how they fled England primarily to escape religious persecution. One major event was their landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I say “one” major event because we all know those English folk landed in other places, too. (Since I’m not sure it’s known today, I won’t use the spelling “Plimouth” here.)

Unfortunately, Plymouth was so close, yet so far. I never visited that famous Rock on which the first Pilgrims set foot on America. What a coincidence that my mother-in-law hailed from there and GW still had, and even has today, family living there. She had been to Plymouth Rock many times.

In 1967 the family had decided to give her grandfather a “surprise” birthday party and, naturally, we were invited. Yesterday, I came across a whole box of slides I took during that trip and that triggered what could have been a nice trip down that aforementioned lane. I converted them to digital pictures, but after all the party shots were completed, I realized they would have meaning only to her family.

While we were there, three of her cousins learned I had never seen Plymouth Rock so after the party, they insisted on taking GW and me there. I must admit I was excited about seeing the great place where the Pilgrims had first set foot. I imagined a huge rocky outcropping that would become Plymouth Rock and anxiously agreed to the visit. It was, incidentally, only minutes away from where we were.

We went to this wonderful park area where, in a fenced area, we saw Plymouth Rock. That great granddaddy of rocks, that magnificent Pilgrim landing place, that history oozing beginning of America was all of three or four feet across. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to step off the Mayflower onto that probably slippery slope as I wouldn’t have fit. That was a huge letdown. I truly experienced an unhappy disappointment.

Unfortunately, the reason I’m not taking a memory lane trip is because the pictures of the pebble aren’t very good quality and it is unrecognizable.

Off a little from the rock was a very good replica of the Mayflower and I did enjoy seeing a replica of the ship that brought those brave explorers across the ocean so many years ago. In part, thanks to them, The United States is the great country it is.

By the way, I am historically linked to that rock. Some of my ancestors were there for that historical beginning. There’s a town near Portland named after one them (My own grandparents hailed from there.) and in Saco is a statue of one.

So that’s the story behind what could have been a Trip down Memory Lane. Unfortunately, my photographic skills back then seemed to be lacking. Can I blame the camera again?

Now, let’s see. What can be our topic for today?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just a Tuesday ramble

Enjoy today. The weather folk tell us tomorrow we’ll see a change to much cooler weather. But then the charts seem to indicate we’ll be back into the 70s over the weekend. This is the kind of weather that brings about colds and the flu. Sometimes we’ll venture outside dressed too warmly and sometimes, not warmly enough.

The body gets confused so it gives us that little cold/flu hint to slow down and take it easy. That’s a rather tough chore for someone like me. I think I’m slow and easy most all of the time.

Yesterday did result in a success. I had mentioned I might get a little personal with my lawn. I did. I must say it looks a whole lot nicer when it’s even. Perhaps that cooler weather coming in, especially the nighttime lows, might slow the growing season down a little bit. Of course it’ll take a frost to end that season for the year.

I hope to have a success today, too. This is one of the two days each week I get to work the kinks out of the various parts of my body. I don't know why I look forward to my senior fitness session each week, but I do. I think today is going to be a good one.

I’ve been mentioning that I’m converting some old slides into digital pictures with a super new device I bought. As I was watching the weather last evening, I learned that the official summer has another week to go. Fall arrives next week. Can winter be far behind? How many of you were around during the winter on 1967. Here’s what our house in Portland looked like:

I didn’t hear enough of the segment to really comment on it, but it was a segment that makes me want to learn more. Talk show host Glen Beck on WGAN Radio was telling about the latest health care reform bill being floated in Washington. He was talking about one provision of the bill which literally gets unions, specifically the SEIU, the union that represents most public employees, out of paying, if I understood the brief comment, for health insurance.

He cited the specific section of the bill to support his statement. I think it was section 167, or perhaps 137, or perhaps one near one of those. I’ve got to learn a lot more about that bill before I can be specific. But my appetite got whetted.

Beck was also going off on the corruption he says permeates Washington. He also mentioned corruption in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. I wish I hadn’t been on an errand at the time and could have heard his whole segment. It did get me to wonder if even a tiny portion of what he said is true, why isn’t the news media investigating it?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the truth about the number of marchers in the Washington D.C. Tea Party over the weekend? I’ve heard from the mainstream news that the event drew anywhere from 10- to 50-thousand people. I’ve heard from other sources that the number was closer to two million. I’d guess it was somewhere in between, but again, where’s the honesty of reporting by the press?

I won’t limit my question to the doings in Washington. Where is the news media honestly doing that which we were taught in my generation that a function of the press was to dig out political stuff in state and local locales as well as the federal government? And the local news organizations wonder why they’re losing readers/viewers.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The mysterious, or is it imaginary, health reform

The weekend didn’t turn out to be too bad, did it? We did had some cloudy weather Saturday and some rain late in the day, but Sunday was mostly sunny. It was a little cool and the weather folk told us that coolness will continue this week as a cold spell of weather arrives from Canada. In fact one of the weather people said the temperature may not even get out of the fifties in some places on Wednesday.

I didn’t get one thing accomplished I wanted to do. I didn’t get to mow the lawn. Although yesterday was sunny for the most part, those temperatures never rose enough for my lawn to rid itself of the previous overnight wetness. As I’ve said too many times, my lawn mower doesn’t like wet. I’m hoping that perhaps the job may be completed today. Or tomorrow when Gator Wife is home to help.

I’m not going to get into a political rant here on so-called health care reforms, but generally when I begin giving my unsubstantiated thoughts on a subject, that subject turns into a rant. I’ll try, but won’t promise, to be good here.

I haven’t watch NBC’s Meet the Press very often since Tim Russert passed away. But yesterday I got fascinated with the discussion of health care reform and watched. Naturally, the Democratic side said we need reform and we need it now or, as one of them put it, it won’t happen at all. The Republicans, on the other hand, agreed reform was needed but didn’t like too much in the President Obama plan.

I really got fascinated by an interchange between Dem. Chairman Howard Dean and former Rep. Representative Newt Gingrich. One of the Dems’ selling points for a public, or government provided insurance, option was the benefit it would provide small businesses. Dean said that under the plan small business owners with fewer than 25 employees would no longer have to provide health benefits to those employees. That, he indicated, would be a huge savings to those owners.

Gingrich asked just how that “free” insurance would come about and Dean responded with it wouldn’t be free. No one ever said it would be free, he seemed to say. Hmmm! I wonder who is going to pay. Well, the idea is to tax people who make more than $250K and certain insurance plans. You and I both know that in the long run, the only ones who will pay for that public option are you and me.

Can you think of anything that the government has made less costly or more efficient than whatever it tried to fix?

Do you realize that in spite of all his proclamations of “my plan” on fixing the health insurance industry, President Obama really doesn’t have anything concrete to offer? It is really difficult to debate or discuss something that doesn’t exist. Not only cannot the proponents of the president’s plan show anything specific about his plan, opponents cannot point out the faults. He has offered no specific legislation and there is no specific legislation yet.

I believe the only “plan” actually on the table so far is the House of Representatives Democrat proposal. I think we’re still awaiting the Senate Democrat plan and all I’ve heard from the Republicans is “we need to do it right.” I have given my opinion of some of the House plan in earlier discussions.

There is, of course, only one health reform plan that can honestly reduce the cost of that care, and that plan is the one I have. And it’s equally as concrete as all but one of the others being bantered about.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another weekend is here

I have had an “interesting” week, but here it is the weekend once again and it seems as if my life has returned to its normalcy, but I’m really not sure just what normal is.

I don’t usually mention political type stuff on weekends, but this weekend I have to digress from my regular family weekend stuff. The Maine Republican Party and the “still fed up with taxes” campaign submitted petitions containing at least 60-thousand signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Augusta Friday.

Just over 55-thousand certified signatures are needed to force a referendum next June repealing the massive tax shift enacted by the last Legislature. The so-called tax reform reduced the top bracket on income tax rates from 8.5% to 6.5% but also eliminated all personal deductions, such as mortgage interest, local property taxes, and medical expenses. In their place, a graduated tax credit was instituted.

At the same time, legislators added numerous items to the sales tax. I think the sales tax portion of the law would have taken effect next week although the income tax part wouldn’t begin until next January if those petitions hadn’t been turned in. Now the Secretary of State’s office will verify the signatures and, if there are more than the 55-thousand plus needed, the law will be suspended pending voter action next June.

This is one time I’m glad to admit I was wrong. When the campaign started, I wrote here that I didn’t think the organizers could gather sufficient signatures to force the voter action. I am happy I was wrong as I have also mentioned here many times I thought the “tax reform” was really a “tax increase” and the combination of the changes would result in most of us paying a lot more taxes. As I said I would back then, I did sign a petition as did both my wife and daughter.

I congratulate the Republican Party, its chairman Charles Webster, State Sen. David Trahan of the still fed up with taxes group, Jack Wibby of the Maine Taxpayers Union, Steven Sharf of Portland, and all others who worked tirelessly to bring success, pending final certification, of this signature drive. Included are members of the Maine Republican Project, a separate group.

And, now as they say, back to a normal weekend post.

Gator Wife and Daughter go out to eat once a week, normally Wednesday. That was put off until Thursday this time and GW wasn’t feeling too well when she got home. By the middle of the night, she was really sick and sleep ended for her. She believes she had some food poisoning, and it really caused the type of dual sickness that usually results from it.

She did head off for her part time job Friday morning, but by mid-morning she was home and slept in her comfy chair with the noise of the TV helping her sleep for most of the rest of the day. After going to bed early Friday night, she felt a whole lot better Saturday morning, but Gator Daughter said she wouldn’t come over here as she does most Saturdays so that her mother can rest. Of course rain and showers would also keep her home.

Sunday is supposed to be the better of the two days anyway, but a decision on a visit probably won’t be made until then.

Meanwhile, I’m having an absolute blast converting some very old slide and negatives into digital pictures with a new scanner I bought during the week. I think the memories those pictures, some of which date back to the early 1940s, and especially the ones of our family together beginning back in 1961, are bringing forth are absolutely priceless. I’ll be continuing my project during the coming week.

I hope you and your family have a great week. The Old Bod willing, I’ll be back Monday.


Friday, September 11, 2009

A chair is fixed; soreness goes away

Hi, there. I’ve sort of taken most of this week off. The sore hip/back problem I’ve mentioned the last few days seems to have been successfully resolved so I thought it might be nice to check in with you.

I have a “lift” chair; i.e., a chair that assists me when I need to sit or rise. Late last week, it stopped working. It was locked in a sort of half way place. I could get in and out of it, but when I was sitting in it, apparently a lot of unusual pressure was being placed in my hip and back. They began to hurt.

I’ve mentioned to you in the past that my right hip was crushed a few years ago and put back together with some steel and a bunch of screws. I’ve always referred to it as my hip, but in fact the actual hip joint itself was not broken which is why I don’t simply have a replacement. The crush came a couple inches away from the joint.

The back part of the pain comes from fusion of the lower vertebrae, a fusion that continues to expand.

So, between then, if I’m sitting in an unusual position, I feel both. That has been the case for the last few days.

The good mechanic from the chair store had to send for a replacement part, but as soon as it arrived, he was here and fixed the chair. It now works properly. Within a half hour of the part replacement, those sore places began to ease. By yesterday, about all the pain I was feeling is what I consider normal pain associated with the conditions themselves.

I did attend both my scheduled senior fitness sessions this week. Tuesday’s session was an adventure, but yesterday’s was almost back to normal.

That incredibly sore hip/back about which I complained this week has rewarded my patience and has allowed me to return to normal…whatever that is.

Thinking she's been all but ignored while the soreness
healed, Gator Golden found something else
to use for comfort as she took her nap.

I did get a new toy this week. In our flood several weeks ago, my slide projector, which I hadn’t used for too many years, was lost to wetness. Gator Wife and I have boxes and boxes of slides that date all the way back to our Day One together. (That first I-think-it-was-an Instamatic camera I had really didn’t take very good slides. I’ll blame the camera; it certainly couldn’t have been the photographer.)

This week I got a picture/slide/negative scanner to change all our old stuff to digital. I can’t believe how well nearly 50 year old slides and pictures are coming out. Gator Wife even had some slides that dated back to her very young childhood (I didn’t know that had slides that long ago!) and those 50-70 year old slides are magnificent.

The digitalizing will take many months, I fear, but I’m having a thoroughly wonderful time processing those memory makers.

I’m not even tempted to do any ranting today on the week’s events. I probably could add nothing new to anything I’ve previously written anyway. So if you are visiting looking for one, this is as close to a rant you’ll get from me today.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The soreness continues

Happy Day.

An incredibly sore hip/back has prevented me from using my mind productively for a couple of days, and that continues. I’ll probably attempt my scheduled senior fitness sessions to see if some good exercising can work out the kinks that are lodged there.

Thanks for checking in.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A hurting Tuesday

Happy Tuesday.

An incredibly sore hip/back has prevented me from using my mind productively for a couple of days, and that is continuing today. I’ll probably attempt my senior fitness session to see if some good exercising can work out the kinks that are there.

Thanks for checking in and I’ll return soon.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

Summer ends this weekend. Well, that’s not quite true in that the astrological summer doesn’t end for another three weeks or so; but as far as Maine tradition goes, this is the last weekend of this summer. Even that has changed a little over the last few years as many schools now begin before Labor Day and for many families the summer season has already ended.

When I was a kid, and even long after I became an adult and started my own family, schools in Maine didn’t start until the day after Labor Day. That was as much of a tradition as the whole summer thing. Labor Day also marked the end of the tourist season and many tourist oriented businesses also closed.

Maine, however, has become a year round vacation destination site as our winter activities now draw thousands each year. But the summer places such as Old Orchard Beach will be shutting down. Some, perhaps most, facilities there will remain open weekends, however, through September.

This hasn’t been the best summer I can remember. Gator Wife and I remained home this year, as we did last year, because travel costs and age have caught up with us. Did we see any sun at all during June, July, and the first half of August? The ending weekend is joining the last ten days or so of spectacular weather.

This weekend always brings back memories of the Labor Day Weekends of the ‘70s and ‘80s for us. Our best friends at the time and their family and the Gator clan had a tradition of going to Sebago Lake State Park to end the summer. My friend left us in the 1990s when he was called to Heaven. But by then both our families had fled the nests and those Labor Day visits to the park had long ended. I probably should mention we started the summer with a similar visit on Memorial Day.

For the four getting older adults, the trip to the park no longer occurred, but it was replaced in October as the four of us took a weekend ride to view the spectacular foliage in Maine and New Hampshire.

Labor Day Weekend is just another holiday weekend now for GW and me. Our daughter will spend part or most of the weekend here, but we don’t have any chores planned. The weekly lawn mowing was accomplished Thursday. I do think GW and GD are planning to get some dirt and spread it in some low areas and, perhaps, put down some grass seed, too. And they may not so it will be just a good time for rest and relaxation. We will have the traditional cookout, probably Monday.

When Gator Son left the nest, he really flew away. He had met a girl on the internet and after college headed out West to meet her in person. They were married and have a daughter and that was way back in the mid 1990s. He has since gone on to graduate work at the state university out there and has a very good job. Unfortunately, time and distance have limited our visits.

It truly looks like this weekend is going to be a great weather one so I hope all of you have a super Labor Day Holiday.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Referendum questions are set for November

If you live just a wee bit inland, you’ll have some absolutely wonderful weather today. Temperatures not far from the coast could reach into the eighties. Along the coast, however, even though it will be a delightful day, expected sea breezes will keep that temperature in the upper seventies.

The election is drawing closer, now just two months away. The Maine Secretary of State yesterday released the order of the ballot questions for the November election. All are extremely important to the future of our state.

Referendum questions are worded so that a “Yes” vote passes the initiative and a “No” vote maintains the status quo. There are five citizen initiatives on the ballot.

By law a people’s initiatives to overturn newly enacted laws appear first. In November voters will be facing one such initiative, a People’s Veto to reject the same-sex marriage law. That law is currently on hold pending the outcome of the balloting.

Advertising has already become rather abundant by those hoping to defeat the referendum that was put the law into effect as passed by the Legislature. You can expect both sides to ramp up the rhetoric in the next few weeks.

The exact question 1 reads: “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?”

The second question deals with an initiative by a people’s campaign to lower the excise tax you pay on your vehicles and to give a three-year exemption for cars using alternative energy (hybrids). It reads: "Do you want to cut the rate of the municipal excise tax by an average of 55% on motor vehicles less than six years old and exempt hybrid and other alternative-energy and highly fuel-efficient motor vehicles from sales tax and three years of excise tax?"

In 2007 the state ordered school district consolidation for what it said would be cost savings. A group of citizens opposed to the consolidation has given us what was drawn as Question 3: "Do you want to repeal the 2007 law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?"

TABOR II is the fourth question. If passed, it would limit state and local government spending and require an approval to go over the spending limits or increase state taxes. "Do you want to change the existing formulas that limit state and local government spending and require voter approval by referendum for spending over those limits and for increases in state taxes?"

Question five, "Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?" would give more medical usage for medical marijuana.

A Legislature requested bond issue is the sixth question and it seeks more than $71-million for roads, bridges, and transportation facilities and funds for the LifeFlight Foundation. Passage will make the state eligible for matching funds. "Do you favor a $71,250,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, airports, public transit facilities, ferry and port facilities, including port and harbor structures, as well as funds for the LifeFlight Foundation that will make the State eligible for over $148,000,000 in federal and other matching funds?"

I believe the actual ballot will also include the amount of interest we’ll have to pay on top of the $71-million if it passes.

The ballot will end with a Constitutional Question about a topic I’ve heard little or nothing. It has to do with the certification of initiative petitions like the ones that led to the first five questions. "Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to increase the amount of time that local officials have to certify the signatures on direct initiative petitions?"

You have probably noticed that the petition drive currently going on to have the so-called tax reform passed by the last Legislature repealed is not among the ballot questions. To have had it on the November ballot, the petitioning groups would have had to turn in their petitions with the required certified numbers earlier this week. They did not.

However, I have been told that petitions containing just over 55-thousand signatures will be passed in by the September 12th absolute deadline. They will probably need closer to 65-thousand signatures to get the right number certified by the Secretary of State’s office. If they succeed, the law will be put on hold until next June’s balloting date.

In an earlier post I hinted how I plan to vote, but at the time I didn’t realize a bond question and a Constitutional question would be included. I’ll probably give my thoughts on these various referendum questions as the weeks go by.

We hinted Monday this would be a slow week here. I somehow don't think I was wrong.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stop for those flashing school bus lights

And the great weather continues. I know it’s sort of selfish thinking, but I love this weather. The greatest benefit for me is the weather will probably mean another fine day for me this morning at my senior fitness session.

I’ve read about it and heard about on the TV for a few days now, but riding around yesterday really brought into reality that schools are open or opening all around the area this week and next. School parking lots are filled with some teachers’ vehicles and some of many parents who are taking their children to school for first time orientation.

The biggest signal is the appearance of the bright yellow school buses. I’m not sure if it were coincidence or not, but in one community I spotted police cars on patrol along routes the buses were travelling. More indications of schools getting into session are the knots of children standing around at bus stops and many of those stops also had parents standing there.

Some, I suspect, were making sure their tots were getting off to school for the first time and to be sure they knew how to act on the buses. Others are making sure of the safety of their children. In either case, they are sure signs schools are either open or opening.

Drivers once again must be aware of the presence of school children getting to and from school. Somehow it takes a different kind of alert from summer care when kids seem to pay more attention to vehicles around them. School is different, though. The kids are often in packs excitedly talking about the day ahead or the one that ended. And about what they would do after then get home.

A reminder for all drivers: We are required to stop whenever a school bus is displaying those flashing lights indicating it is either loading or discharging children. There’s quite a fine for passing one. I came upon my first one of the season yesterday. It was heading toward me and as it slowed down, first the yellow lights came one. I slowed way down as I approached a safe distance. The bus stopped, the flashing yellows continued, but its doors remained closed.

A rather good distance in front of the bus, I stopped. The yellow lights changed to flashing red, the bus’s door opened, and a couple children left the bus and crossed the street in front of it. I commented to Gator Wife that demonstrated why stopping is necessary. Those kids trusted the bus driver had stopped all traffic and skipped across the street without looking either way.

When they were safe, the bus lights went off and the bus slowly moved forward. I was pleased that the driver waved honoring the care I was showing.

I don’t know how many communities, if any, have followed suit of I think it was Bangor concerning school buses. There was a story on the TV a few days ago that the drivers there have had special training in getting both the license numbers of vehicles passing those stopped buses and getting a description of the drivers. Apparently the city will have rigid enforcement. All cities and towns should have similar plans.

Now a couple of quickies: First, I’ll be glad when September 8th gets here. I sure do hope the end of the current campaign for Toyota also ends those terrible commercials that show a clawed crane lifting an old car and a new one drops out. They were kind of neat when they started, but like most commercials these days, that overkill has had a negative effect on this Toyota owner.

And finally, I sure do hope Roger Griswold, perhaps the best meteorologist formerly on Channel Six, will be happy in his new home on Channel Eight. The ratings and the apparent work life span of people working there doesn’t hint of too much longevity. I’ll miss seeing him. Like most Mainers, I rarely watch that station.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Medical Alert Bracelets

The great weather continues. That’s about all I’ll say about that. Except it did accomplish one thing I had wanted; it allowed me to have a very good exercise session yesterday at my senior fitness place.

Sometime around noon yesterday, Gator Wife and I headed out to find some fresh vegetables. Our gardens had a rough, wet summer and produced very little and we both love farm fresh veggies. There’s a huge difference in vegetables one gets from a farm and gets into the belly within hours and what is called “fresh” vegetables in supermarkets.

My Fearless Friend had told me about a place in Windham where he got some of “the best corn we’ve had in a long time” so we headed to that roadside farm stand. GW went into the stand and came out shortly empty handed. The corn they had that day had huge kernels and we like small to medium kernels. We’ll try again another day.

On the way home we found another farm stand on a different road. Again we stopped and GW went inside. The person inside said it was a new type, totally white. GW didn’t like the look of it so still no corn. She did buy some fresh beets, and they were absolutely delicious last night.

One of my fellow seniors had told me of an honor system roadside stand in Scarborough. We found it and corn was there, too. But it was just a little too pricey; even though my senior friend had said she had bought some there over the weekend and it was delicious, we left without any. The prospect of having corn last night was not looking good.

Two more stops before we came home with those beets, some really nice looking summer squash, some carrots, and a couple tomatoes. It was a nice ride, though.

I hope my fellow blogger Tony Bessey understands that copying is one of the finest forms of flattery because I’m about to steal an idea from his August 31st post. Like me Tony has a health situation that could result in an emergency trip to the hospital. He explains his situation on his blog. I discuss mine here incessantly.

We both understand the quicker and easier medical personnel can get medical information, the better their chances are of giving us the help we need and to be sure that the hospital knows about it if we are transported.

He explained in his blog about a medical bracelet he wears to alert EMTs and hospitals of his condition in case he has been rendered unconscious. Called “Road ID,” the bracelet has an ID number, a telephone number, and a web site which a medical person can reach easily to get all the information needed to get the wearer on the road to recovery.

My medical alert is a little different. I have the basic stuff, like meds and conditions, right in my bracelet along with a direction to my key chain. I carry what is called an “e-Med Tag,” an USB folding thumb drive which works in any computer with an USB port. My entire medical history, a listing of all my doctors and medications, and the names and numbers of contact people is on it. All the medical person needs to do is plug it in and it pops up on the screen. No additional software is needed.

Like Tony’s, my system also has a provision for on-line storage for medical personnel.

I completely agree with Tony that everyone, especially those of us with medical conditions, should carry some form of a medical alert system as it could be life saving if those medical professionals don’t have to wait for family to get the information. Parents could take advantage of the on-line storage systems for children and other, healthy family members.

More information on Road ID can be found at

More information on the Medical Alert bracelet/e-med tag can be found at American Medical-ID.

Tony Bessey’s Ordinary Maine blog is Ordinary Maine and is listed as one of the Places I like to visit on the right side here.

Thanks, Tony. I hope you didn’t mind my borrowing your idea.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Forest Fires

The glorious weather continues, and with a couple days now of low humidity I expect that my trip to the senior fitness place will be an easy, complete one. Perhaps I’ll even add a few reps to some of the routines I follow. One would think with this wonderful, inspiring weather I’d be just chock full o’ stuff to write about. Not to be, I guess.

This has the makings of being a sort of boring week. I have nothing on my calendar except my two senior fitness sessions, one of which is today. I guess just about everyone is taking advantage of the great weather we have forecast for this week and staying away from many of the blogs, forums, and news sources I normally visit.

I suppose there are still many things about which I could rant. Health reform, the repeal of the Maine tax shift, the repeal of the Maine gay marriage law, the reduction of excise taxes, a citizen initiative to make simply raising taxes more difficult (TABOR II), and a slew of other things are all in season as the 2009 election season gets underway today.

But the actual ballots won’t be cast for another couple of months so there’s lots of time to rail about those issues. Besides, what can I say today that I haven’t already said in recent weeks? I agree, nothing. So I won’t.

I do watch the news on television and the pictures we’re getting from California, especially Los Angeles, of those huge forest fires makes me happy I’m here and not there. I do vividly remember one forest fire we had in Maine of similar proportions. It was in 1947 when forest fires claimed several lives and destroyed much property in Maine.

Bar Harbor was among the hardest hit, but other parts of the state were also hard hit. My dad’s company had a fleet of trucks and many were volunteered into service to take supplies, equipment, and fire fighters to many of the first in southern and central Maine and to help evacuate residents there. I was too young to be part of the effort but my dad did allow me to ride with him once in one of the trucks.

Seeing huge areas of trees burning beyond control were sights I’ll never forget. We did round one corner to see a small house or cabin fully involved in flames. Dad thought it was getting just a little too dangerous for a sub-teen who just knew he could get out there and join the fight. That was my last trip into the burning woods.

But it does give me cause for sympathy whenever I see TV pictures or read about the huge fires elsewhere.

On Gator Wife’s and my first road trip out west to visit national parks, we arrived at Yellowstone not long after fires had ravaged a part of that wonderful park. The evidence of the destruction was still there and we stopped for a picture taking opportunity. Burned and fallen trees and brush all around us was a staggering reminder of the force and fury of Nature.

While we were standing there amazed at all the destruction around us, another car with tourists stopped. A person in the car shouted out at us, “What is it? Wildlife?” We’ve never forgotten that. Here we were standing in the middle of the worst destruction we had ever seen and all another tourist could look for was a buffalo.

I don’t have a lot here this Tuesday, and the outlook for the week isn’t too great, either. So, I’ll probably be just plodding along.