Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's a slow time

I knew summer would be slow.  I'm not sure I expected it to be as slow as it is, however.  Thinking of stuff about which to write isn't easy when one is really just enjoying living.  I had said right after the June 8th Primaries that I'd stay away from mentioning politics until Labor Day and, except for one little moment, I've stuck to that.

Gator Wife and I have taken just one short trip so far this summer so I don't have travel to mention.  We are considering taking another one later on to Branson, Missouri, but we're only in the thinking/planning stage for that one.

GW works four mornings a week so that cuts down on day trip activities.  Gator Daughter comes over weekends so I get a chance to mention that.  Gator Golden is just Gator Golden.  There's a picture of her just below a bit.

I guess that's just the way is for an older person in his mid-70s. 

I've mentioned several times about the various critters around here knowing the boundary of Gator Golden's territory.  She's bound by an Invisible Fence.  The critters stay just beyond the wire and sort of dare her to come after them. 

The other day a chipmunk sat on a bridge across a brook separating our property and our neighbors'.  The little guy had seen Gator Golden and just sat there as if daring GG to come to the bridge.  Of course she couldn't as it was beyond her wire line.

But that chipmunk did hold GG's attention for a while.  She'd stand in one place for a few minutes, move a few feet to another, and then creep to the line, but wouldn't cross her safe zone.  She entertained us for several minutes before the chipmunk had enough.  Actually, the little critter fled the scene when I moved to try to get GG and her nemesis in the picture together.

Nevertheless, here's GG standing very attentive waiting for another move by the chipmunk.

Next up for us all, a nice, happy Fourth of July Holiday Weekend.


Monday, June 28, 2010

The weekend turned out just about as we had wanted it.  A little rain, actually shower activity, hit the Gator Homestead Sunday so not all of the stuff on the events list was accomplished, but I think just about all was.  Now the weather was forecast to take a little turn for the worse for a couple of day, with most showers but some possibly heavy rain Monday.

Sunshine and mugginess could return by mid week.

The veggie gardens haven't been mentioned lately, and, as they say, no news is good news.  All the vegetables that Gator Wife and Gator Daughter planted earlier in the spring are doing extremely nicely, a far cry from the disastrous summer of a year ago.  The Gator ladies put the second planting into the ground over the weekend so now we should be getting fresh veggies soon into late summer.  Some of the food they planted earlier is just moment away from being ready for this year.

To me the most important accomplishment this past weekend was the trimming of the green bushes in front of our house.  I have no idea what they are except they're green year round.  GW could easily tell you what they are and she's told me dozens, yea, hundreds, of times.  Still, to me they're just green bushes.

We have one bush to the right of our front steps when one is facing the house.  I think it was the most scraggly of them all.  GD, who had never held a hedge trimmer until we bought our current house and only then because I had become incapacitated for a summer a fews years ago.  She has become quite proficient with it and now trims the bushes about this time of year and again in the fall of each year.

When she finished, the picture on the right above shows a dramatic improvement.

On the other side of the front entrance are five green bushes, one of which is the mate to the one on the right.  They, too, were extremely scraggly.  GD found getting those bushes into presentable shape was very difficult as the space between them is scarce.  She needs to work her way into the spaces in order to reach the back of the bushes.
When she's finished, though, they are very nice looking.  There are other bushes, like three burning bushes and others, that dot our landscape.  GD also gets them into shape.

It may appear that the shrubs are uneven.  The are, deliberately.  Shrubs two and four are lower than numbers three and five.  At the far end is an example of how GD improves the looks of the burning bushes.

And for all her hard work, we allowed her to cook us hamburgers on the grill.  What more could a good daughter ask for?

(Some day, perhaps, I'll learn how to format picture and text properly.  Maybe not.  However, on the composing screen, these all fit together beautifully.  Oh, well.)


Friday, June 25, 2010

A Service Guy Who Puts the Customer First

The first day of this final June Weekend will be a rather nice day, but we're getting some mixed signals about Saturday and Sunday. As I understand it, we may get some showers, possibly thunder showers, either day along with some sunshine.

I'm hoping it will be a lot of sunshine but without the mugginess we had recently. Gator Daughter says she's going to pay off one of her promised Father's Day presents. Each year she give a sort of combination Father's Day and Mother's Day gift of an annual car polishing to both Gator Wife and me. She says she'd like to work that in either Saturday or Sunday.

Another of her Father's Day gifts that seldom gets given on the day itself is the trimming of the green bushes in the front of the house. Now if she or GW were here right now, I could ask just what those green bushes are called. As I've explained over the last couple of years, that outside stuff is out of my realm. It's really quite simple; there's the lawn. Some flowers, green bushes and trees are also abundant. We also have veggies.

The green bushes grow to look real scraggly this time of year and GD annually digs out the electric trimmer and makes them look nice for us. Over the years, she's become a really good green bush trimmer.

I was sort of less than nice about my comments in my last post about the waiting and service I got from the cable company and then mentioned another service guy was coming Wednesday. Actually two of them came to sweep my chimney and clean my fireplace. They arrived right on time, bright and early. The head of the crew who has been here each year and knows the system pretty well, started off with a close inspection of the fireplace. Then he peered up the chimney. He went into the cellar for the view of the full chimney from bottom to top, the climbed on the wet roof for a view down.

So far, no sweeping or other cleaning. Ten minutes after he arrived he came to me in the living room. "See you next year," he said. "You're all set for next winter. Just keep burning like you've done the last couple of years." We burn kiln dried hard wood and burn it hot. It's also at least two years old.

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "You haven't done anything."

"I possibly could get a small fistful of stuff out of there, but it really doesn't need any work."

"And how much do I owe you for this inspection?"

He really kept a happy customer when he explained, "Mr. Gator Dude, your business is important to me and I want to keep you as a customer. I didn't do anything so there'll be no charge."

No charge for a service call. You can bet that after next season's burning it'll be A-Top Chimney Sweep in South Portland that gets my call. There's a young man, along with his associate, who puts his customer first and values the importance of good service.

I'm not sure I can say that about the cable company, except the cost of service of their equipment is included in the price of the service.

I hope you have a super weekend and find this first weekend of the real summer to your liking.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A rather bland mid week

This is, as they say, a quiet week in the Gator household.  Tuesday was a busy day, but certainly uneventful.  The practically humidity free weather allowed me to have a real good workout to start the day at the senior fitness place.

That low humidity also provided for a dry start on the lawn, so by nine o'clock I was riding my tractor around the lawn.  That task takes me two hours to complete, but the lawn was dry so Gator Wife and I headed out.  She does some trimming while I mow.

I am getting very tired of mowing this season already, but I must admit a newly mowed lawn, especially when it's mostly a green one, is a beautiful sight.

I remember when a service call was scheduled almost at a specific time, certainly within a half hour frame.  Not any more, I guess.  Now that window is four hours.  Imagine, a company keeping a customer waiting for up to four hours.  That was my predicament Tuesday afternoon.  We had scheduled the cable company to come by to fix a freezing/gurgling picture.

The technician arrived just before 5.  After running all his tests and stuff, he determined there was nothing wrong.  He even climbed the pole to check the connection there.  Still nothing wrong.  I sure do wish he had been here during a Red Sox game, or a College World Series game.  He'd have seen plenty wrong.  He left about 5:45.

None of that is worth mentioning as most of us have been through it; but it was the follow up survey that got to me.  The guy arrived just before the window slammed and left about an hour later.  GW and I then fixed our evening meal and enjoyed the evening conversation while we ate.  We finished just about in time to watch the weather report.  When it was finished, we returned to the kitchen to clean up left overs and dishes.

We had only watched the weather report.  The phone rang and it was a robocall from the cable company with a survey on the technician visit.  As you know, robocalls don't allow any interaction or explanation except to press 1 or 2 or some other choice.  Question #1 wanted to know if all my services, cable, phone, and internet, were working properly.  Press 1 for yes or 2 for no.  Those were my choices.

I've only watched the weather.  Obviously my phone was working.  But were the three service O.K.?  Didn't know, but there was no 3 for didn't know.  Or 4 to leave a message.  I tried to tell the robot that the techie had left only 45 minutes earlier and we'd fixed and eaten supper following that.  I pressed nothing and the robot said that was an unacceptable answer and to try again.  Same question, same incomplete choices, same response from me.

Unacceptable, said the robot and said we would try again.  Not in this lifetime.  I hung up.

Do the services work?  Phone works fine.  Internet works fine.  But both did before the service call.  How about that TV picture breakup (a technician who was here last year called in "Pixelizing.")  and the sound gurgling.  Too soon to answer than one.

Another service person was scheduled for Wednesday morning.  He will leave without difficulty.  We're getting our annual chimney sweep.

Other than that, the Gators' Wednesday and Thursday will be event free.  There is nothing on our schedule except as noted.

Remind me to tell you sometime my opinion of that really awful Maine State Lottery commercial on the TV where a pretty young woman is singing something.  I have no idea what, but it sounds like all she's doing is repeating "La La Lottery" over and over.  It certainly wouldn't entice me to buy a ticket.  But then, I don't buy lottery tickets anyway.

And finally, the College Baseball World Series in underway.  The two teams picked by most to be in the final chanpionship series won't be.  The Florida Gators were the first team to be sent home losing their first two (and only) games.  The second team to head home was the #1 seed, both in the final season poll and in the seeding for the CWS, Arizona State.  So much for the "experts'" opinions.


Monday, June 21, 2010

An unhapy tech user

I'm not really sure if the weekend passed as the weather forecasts had predicted late last week.  I'm also not sure it didn't.  The biggest difference, I think, may have occurred Sunday when we were told to expect showers and possibly thunder storms.

The weather announcement crawls on the television seemed to indicate that some places at least did get storms.  In fact, Gator Daughter, who spent Father's Day with us, called Sunday evening and asked how we had made out in the rain.  Huh?  My little plot of land did get four or five marble sized rain drops, but that was it.  The sidewalk and driveway never showed any sign of rain.  GD said it had rained hard enough to form puddles at her place on the north side of Portland.

It did get somewhat muggy, though.  We had a nice gentle breeze for much of the day and out of the sun, that breeze made living almost comfortable.  But when it dropped down, the discomfort levels rose quickly.

Monday and Tuesday should be nice and I'll probably take my weekly ride around the yard to trim the lawn Tuesday.  The official summer began at 7:29 Monday morning.

I had to visit the Linksys by Cisco tech support page over the weekend as I'm having a problem with my home network.  It may be the singularly most customer unfriendly site I've had the experience of visiting.  I did find the question in a forum that dealt with my problem, but clicking the question only got me to a "Page not found" error message.  I tried three or four other similar topics hoping for a solution.  Same error message. 

I did find a "live chat" link and clicked it and got a pleasant person with whom to chat.  But, after he looked at my serial number, he informed my router was no longer eligible for free support and offered me two choices:  a toll-free phone number for fee-based support or a link to a page where I could find "award-winning support tools."  I asked for both but told him I'd try the tools page first.  The chat was ended.

I tried the link.  There were no tools there.  In fact I was simply back to the page where it all started.  Since it wasn't the link I first opened, I tried the forum questions again.  Same error message.  It was, in fact, the same page but just a different route to it.  I could find no tools.

I realize that tech support is for a lifetime, but my router is only a couple years old.  That chat tech person probably could have given me my answer in less than a minute.  A satisfied customer is a happy customer and one who probably would get a new product from the same company.  I could see the fee-based part if the problem were more complex.

By now the frustration level was rising too rapidly so I ended the session.  Later Sunday I received an e-mail requesting a response.  It didn't ask for anything specific, only gave me a specific place for me to respond.  Since I didn't have a question to answer, I responded with basically what I've written here, except I added that I probably could buy a new Netgear or D-Link router cheaper than their fee-based support.

I did enjoy a super time with my daughter on Father's Day and she and Gator Wife prepared an excellent cook out meal for us, so the day wasn't a total loss. 


Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day Weekend

The weather forecast sure does hint that this is going to be one rather warm weekend.  Both Friday and Saturday could see temperatures hitting 90 somewhere in Maine or New Hampshire.  Even here along the Maine coast those readings will be rather high.

Sunday, according to the people who know at least Thursday night, will also be warm with readings in the high 80s or higher.  But Sunday could be tempered a bit with some shower activity.

Sunday is also the day we dads get celebrated.

The heat will determine what Gator Wife and Gator Daughter do outdoors this weekend.  I know they have some projects planned in conjunction with their gardens, but they won't work too hard in the heat.  That's O.K. with me.  I'd rather have them healthy and comfortable than feel they just have to get some work done.

I do believe they will prepare a feast fit for a king for Sunday for Father's Day feasting.  Probably it will consist of grilled chicken, rolls, and potato chips. 

I've started a new computer project.  As you may recall, my "main" computer got some nasty  bug or something several weeks ago.  It has been replaced.  I have a very old computer still on my home network, but it doesn't like to play nicely, either.  It's just old with an old operating system.  The parts are old, too, so it also can't be updated to a modern system.  That leaves it for preparation for the Old Computer Resting Grounds. 

It will be replaced with my former "main" computer.  That's part of the project.  I will be reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling its XP Pro operating system.  I'm not sure just what programs I'll add to it as my plans right now are for it to become some sort of a server or more likely, a backup device.  No hurry to figure that one out, but all the little germs that somehow got onto it will be cleaned off with the rebuilding of the hard drive.  I hope.

I haven't used anything on the old one being eliminated in years; but just to be sure there was nothing on it, I decided to see if it would still boot and look at the files there.  It booted.  I know the hard drive had been backed up, especially the data files, but the backup disks were put in one of those places we reserve for special things so we'll know exactly where they are.  They're still there.

I decided to make new ones (and I'll know where that special place is when I store the new ones) even though the programs that created the data have long gone by and, even if I had the original program disks, they probably wouldn't work on my W-7 computers.  As I think about it, they might work on the XP machine I'm rebuilding.

I did come across two precious slide shows, however, that I had forgotten I'd made.  One is of my granddaughter when she was only three or four years old and the other was of Gator Golden, my Golden Retriever, in the first six months of her life.  They'll definitely get resaved and, since they're in .pdf (Adobe) format, I think they'll work just fine.  I'll soon know.

This computer project will take a little time to accomplish as I'm in no hurry.  Neither computer is in use right now; one can't be and the other is just plain old.  I think I said that.  But it will give this old mind of mine something to keep it occupied.  And that's a good thing.

I hope all you dads have a super Father's Day Sunday.  I know I will.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Needed improvements begin on I-295

Summer doesn't arrive officially until next week; but Tuesday sure did feel like it was here now.  I tackled my lawn and riding around on my tractor in the bright sun was just plain hot.  I don't know what the official temperature was around here Tuesday, but I don't believe it.  I don't like hot.

Before my temperament took a turn for the worse Tuesday, after a week off from my senior fitness stuff I returned to the physical therapy/gym place.  The temperature and humidity were perfect early in the morning and for the first time in a long while, I had a good session and my body never objected.  I'm not sure if it were the weather or the vacation that turned the tide.

We'll see what happens over there Thursday.

As for the weather, did you see the forecasted high temperature for Friday?

I had said last week that I would refrain from mentioning politics here at least until the first of September.  I'm going to break my moratorium for just a moment to thank everyone for voting against the so-called tax reform referendum.  I didn't want higher taxes.  Now that's not to say we don't need tax reform; we do as we are one of the highest tax states in the land.  But to get a true reform, we need a spending reform, too.  State and local governments have simply got to get the out of control spending under control and then cut our taxes for a true reform. 

That tax reform the last Legislature passed was nothing but a shift in burdon and would only in actuality send more tax dollars to Augusta.

And congratulations to Waterville Mayor Paul LePage for winning the republican nomination for governor.  As you probably guessed, he was the candidate I supported.

Motorists are going to be a little inconvenienced for the next two years while work crews  work on improvements to I-295 through Portland.  Along with resurfacing the highway some improvements are planned for various bridges and ramps.  From what I've read, the Franklin Arterial ramp will get a major overhaul.  That one is seriously needed.

Before I retired in the mid 1990s, that was my major route to and from work on a daily basis.  There were times when that ramp was a real nightmre.  The major problem back then, as I recall, was the backup and tie-up at the Marginal Way intersection.  That's one improvement that's long overdue. 

If the improvement project is planned with the care and motorist consideration that was used for the ramps on and off I-195 at Western Avenue in South Portland where a couple lanes were added and major fixes to the southbound off ramp and the northbound on ramp were made, motorists' inconveniences will be minor.  I think an excellent job was done by construction crews was accomplished there.

The new project will see improvements between Scarborough and Falmouth.  To help control inconvenience, much of the work, especially the paving, will be done at night.

Finally, I'm going to try just three posts a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for a while to see how that works out.  I just thought I'd mention that to you in case you see frequent repeats.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Highway Travel

Gator Wife and I didn't take a vacation last year.  The economy was tanking, the price of gas was rising, and we simply didn't want to spend the money.

We learned from last year that after years of visiting other places and generally recreating is almost a necessity to maintain one's happiness and togetherness.  So this year we decided to return to our old ways and leave home for a few days "just to get away for a while."  Since the Pennsylvania Dutch Country has been for years one of our favorite destinations, we chose it for our time away from home this late spring season.

We drove there.  Driving can be an interesting, or fascinating, experience.  We encountered a few things that might get thinking or talking going.  For example, most of the interstate highways in this half of the country have 65 mile an hour speed limits.  We'd be travelling along quite comfortably on two or three lane highways when they would become four or five lanes in some places.

What would one expect would happen to the speed limit?  Yep! It was lowered to 55 miles an hour.  We'd drive along at that speed on those very wide sections until once again they became two or three lanes.  Yep!  Back up to 65. 

When we were just a wee bit younger, we didn't pay a whole lot of attention to speed limits.  Somewhere along the line I had bought into the rumor that the police would allow up to 10 miles/hr over the posted speed.  Now, though, we tend to stay pretty darn close to the posted limit, but there are exceptions.  It really is much more relaxing that way.  But that brings me to a question:  Why is the speed limit on I-84 from just north of Hartford, Conn., almost to the New York Border 55 miles per hour?

GW and I were in the slowest car on the highway.  Cars were "flying" by us at 75 to 80 miles an hour.  Among those cars was a Connecticut state patrol car.  How do I know those cars were going that fast?  Simple.  If we had been obeying the posted speed limit, we would be putting both ourselves and others in great danger of causing an accident.  We were cruising around 70 and was still the slowest car on the highway.

Our general observations were that when drivers felt the posted limit was fair for the road and conditions, they pretty much stayed within a couple mph of the limit.  When they felt the posted limit was unfair, they moved right along. 

This is, of course, road construction season in our part of the country.  Most places do their best to give motorists a break, sort of like the brake they expect motorists to give.  Some of my pet peeves over the years are miles long construction zones where most states double fines for speeding.  Most of the time there's little construction taking place in the majority of those distances.

I liked the places where those work zone speed limits were controlled by flashing yellow lights.  The message on the signs said, "When flashing."  Sure enough, around the next curve would be workers working on the roadways.  Soon we'd pass another work zone sign with the flashing light turned off.  Still in a work zone, but a safe speed could be resumed.  The interesting part was that motorists seemed to demonstrate that when the state played fair with them, they observed those construction zone speeds.

I liked one little construction sign I saw in Pennsylvania.  Actually, it was a series of signs accompanied by drawings that said, "Right lane closed ahead," then "Merge left," and then the kicker, "Please take turns."

And finally, EZ Pass.  What an easy pleasure it was to drive through the toll both on the Delaware River Bridge in Pennsylvaniua.  65 miles an hour.  On either side of the through lanes were lanes separated by barricades for those who needed to pay or get receipts.  Not quite as simple were the EZ Pass booths on the Tappanzee Bridge in New York.  But that ultra crowded bridge had 35 mph lanes for EZ Pass which were easy to use, too. 

We didn't get to experience the new open road lanes on the New Hampshire Turnpike as they don't open until this week, but if you haven't experienced the open road concept, you're going to love it in NH.  I think I read that New Hampshire converted its toll booths for around five million dollars.  It makes one wonder why the Maine Turnpike can't do the same thing in York and not have to spend 50 millions dollars or so for a whole new palace plaza.  I would think the simple concept used in NH could have open road EZ Pass tolling up and running next year in Maine.


Friday, June 11, 2010

A nice, short vacation comes to an end.

Gator Wife and I got home Thursday night from a week-long vacation in Pennsylvania.  It was so great to just get away for a few days.  This was the first vacation we've taken in two years, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

The highlight of our trip was Tuesday when we attended the performance of "Joseph" at the Sight and Sound Millenium Theater just outside Lancaster in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  That theater and the productions there have been an annual destination spot for several years, except last year was a repeat of a previous play so we stayed home.

It is a Christian theater and so all it's productions are Bible stories.  If my memory is still somewhat sound, all the productions we've seen are from the Old Testament which makes them suitable and enjoyable for more than just Christians.  As a side note, one of it's more popular productions was the story of Noah and the Ark.  That one is currently being presented at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson, Missouri.

It is a giant theater with staging on three sides of the main seating, and with a ceiling more than 40 feet above which allows for huge towers, or mountains, or ship's masts, or flying angels, or a whole host of possibilities.  All, of course, are not in every production, but all the space is fully utilized with each musical production.

If you ever plan a trip to the PA Dutch Country, you really should include the Sight and Sound Millenium Theater or its sister theater, the Living Waters Theater which has productions just as spectacular.  You won't be disappointed.  We certainly weren't when we saw "Joseph."

Just a warning, though.  Even though the productions go from March to November, you will need reservations.  Their online reservations system, included at the link above, is perhaps the best one I've ever used. 

It's a long ride from here to Lancaster and, surprisingly enough, just as long coming home.  I think we both agree it has reached the upper limits of what our old bodies can take. 

And now another weekend is upon us.  Gator Daughter did us a great favor and came over during the week and took care of both mowing and fertilizing our lawn so those tasks don't face me this weekend.  The gardens, however, haven't been tended so I'd guess GW and GD will spend some weather permitting time on the outside.

I hope you have a super weekend.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gator Golden goes on a sleep over.

It's a Thursday, which means my lawn is weather dependant once again.  I'm getting rather tired of all the darned lawn mowing I've had to do this year.  It seems like it all started way back during that first week in April.  Oh, gosh, it did.  Here it is the second week in June and I think I've mowed more this year than  last year.  I have, of course, but only because it all started so darn early.

Gator Daughter is on vacation this week so she'll help out.  Her trip around the yard is to spread the fertilizer.  As I've mentioned before, I use the Scott's four step plan and it's time for the second step.  I do have a spreader to haul behind my tractor, but she has the pattern down to perfection and she can reach back to turn the spreader on and off easier than I.

Gator Golden is spending a day or two with her sister to give the fertilizer and weed control stuff a chance to work into ground before the dogs get eating that grass.  GG will be coming home either late tomorrow afternoon or Saturday.  The two dogs get along fabulously so the togetherness for a couple of days bothers neither.  GG has even learned over the years that when we ask her if she'd like a sleep-over with her sister, she will be spending time away from home and immediately runs to the window to watch for GD to come to pick her up.

There's another signal she also understands.  GG has two collars, the invisible fence one and a travel one that has her license, rabies tag, and identification tag.  That one jingles. GG also understands that when we get out the jingling collar, she's going for a ride in the car.  The dog goes foolish when she gets a chance to go for a ride and not be left behind. 

GG really tries to put us on a guilt trip when we prepare to leave the yard without her.  Unfortunately, it's a trip we have to take frequently.  She also understands the magic words, "We're going to a store," means she's staying home, too.

We'll miss the pup during her absence, but she'll probably only forget who we are.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's a birthday!

It's a mixed day in the Gator household today.  The day is a very happy one because our granddaughter turns 12 years old.  The sadness is because we can't be part of the celebration.  You see, she lives with her parents in a state very far away.

We don't get to see either our son or his family very often because neither of us can afford the cross country trip.  We haven't been to the West Coast in about five years and his family hasn't been here in a couple.  It's very hard to keep up with each other with such a distance between us.  Somehow, e-mails, phone calls, cards and letters just don't make up for the absence.

Back in the 1990s our son began an internet relationship with a young woman he was tutoring in math.  He had just graduated from a university.  After a couple of years, he informed us he was flying west to meet the girl in person.  We took the normal reaction to an announcement that an internet relationship could develop into a real one and offered him all the cautions we could think of why he should abandon this plan.

Naturally, he knew more than we and simply continued his visitation plans.  After being there for a while, he returned home and informed us he was moving to the west.  I found it hard to be critical of his decision.  After all, 25 years earlier I left my parents in Florida to come to Maine.  The reasons were similar.

The girl came here to meet and visit with us for a week or so and so she could accompany the lad on the trip west.  It wasn't long before they were married and both continued their education.  Both ultimately earned their Masters Degrees, his in mathematics and hers in environmental science.  He also was accepted into the Doctorate program in mathematics, but then along came our granddaughter.  Earning a living and supporting his family became more important to him.

We've only seen our granddaughter four times in her twelve years, three times out west and once here.  But she does call us occasionally so we do get to speak with her.  But we don't hold her, hug her, walk hand-in-hand with her, play games, watch her grow, and just plain enjoy her company as grandparents are wont to do.  But she a part of our lives and today we wish our granddaughter a very happy 12th birthday.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finally, it's the day to vote!

The first half of the election season comes to an end today and by this day's end we should know which Republican and which Democrat will join three Independents on the November gubernatorial ballot.  It won't be until then before we'll know just who our next governor will be.

Party nominees for both the First and Second District Congressional Districts will be determined, but I think there's only one candidate for each party in both districts.

We also should know how the six ballot questions will end.  Voters will be asked if they want to repeal a tax change law passed by the last Legislature or allow that measure to become law.  We'll also be deciding five bond issues designed to bring money into state coffers with the taxpayers paying off the loans in the next several years.

Many local communities will also be electing party representatives to vie for the next Legislature.  Like the governor's race, final choices won't be known until the general election in November.

At least one community, Scarborough, will be voting to accept the town's school budget or sending it back to the School Committee for another revamping.  It was defeated once before.  There may be other cities or towns in the same position or with local questions of their own.

For all of this to be meaningful we all must participate.  Sure, there will be results if only a very few voters actually go to the polls.  But if we want our decisions to be truly reflective of our feelings, we need to have as many voters as possible exercise this basic right and obligation of being an American.

Renmember, we only get the government we choose and moaning about the choices because only 25-35 percent of the people voted accomplishes nothing.

I remember when these Primaries were held in September and we only to put up with all the campaigning stuff for two months.  I think I'll simply wait until Labor Day to make more comments on the November elections. 

My final words...I've already voted...If you haven't cast your ballot yet, today is the last day to do it.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Perhaps a nice Monday after a lousy weekend

That didn't turn out to be the nicest weekend of the summer so far. That, of course, was the weekend that just passed. On Friday, we weren't too sure just how yesterday would turn out. I'm not sure I liked its ending.

Saturday was fascinating. Late in the afternoon I turned to a local station that had golf scheduled, but instead ran into major hype about an impending disaster in Androscoggin County. The weather announcer, I think, had a one minute script which he kept repeating over and over and over. Now the area about which he spoke did get some damaging winds and rain, but no tornado ever touched down in spite of his little computer generated graphic showing tornadoes.

All his "exclusive" doppler radars added to the hype. There were also a whole slew of white lines that went round and round, probably trying to make us think they were radar signals looking for the storms. But they were, as usual, doing nothing. I did come to the conclusion that their real purpose was to detract from the guy reading the script so we wouldn't develop any negativism towards his hype.

Yesterday turned out to be about as forecast with some heavy storms, mostly in southwestern Maine, popping up through the afternoon. I was tickled with the first weather on Channel Six yesterday morning. The first thing the weather guy said was that warnings and watches were not the same thing. Apparently one of the stations, possibly his own, used the terms interchangeably.

Keith Carson told us we don't have to run to the basement for a "Watch" which only indicates conditions are right for a possible storm. A "Warning," on the other hand, indicates potential damaging storms are in the area and we should seek shelter.

Today and the rest of the week should be pretty nice.

I can't say they weren't out there, but I was a little surprised over the weekend that our house didn't get visited by a politician seeking my support. Phone calls were also conspicuous by their absence, too. I thought there'd be a big final weekend push, and perhaps there was elsewhere. Gator Wife and I had already voted and perhaps candidates are informed when someone votes so they can take a name off a list.

The cadidates were active, though, with ads galore on the TV. One of the ads got me to thinking. Have those toy manufacturers developed a way to make talking bobble heads? They might be a money maker.

Another political folly that amused me is the number of candidates that so proudly publish a list of politicians who have endorsed them. The only thing those endorsements ever convinced me to do was not to vote for them. Since I think our state is overtaxed, overcontrolled, and overspent, I can't think of any reason to vote for someone who apparently is already part of the establisment. As many, many people have asked, why do people continue to vote for the same people expecting a different outcome?

Don't forget to vote absentee today or at the polls tomorrow, and if you don't want higher taxes, vote "YES" on Question One. If the tax law is overturned, your taxes will not go up one penny. If the repeal is rejected, you will face 102 additional sales tax items.


Friday, June 4, 2010

The first weekend in June

I still can't get over how fast these weeks seem to just fly by.  It seems like this past week just began.  People told me when I retired 14 years ago that the older one gets, the faster time passes.  That was an honest assessment.  That leaves us with another weekend.  I count all weekends as three day ones beginning with Friday.  Truth be known, my weekends are actually seven days long.

The Friday portion shouldn't have bad weather and at least one forecast called for developing sunshine.  Saturday might be the rainiest day of the three while Sunday was still on the fence as I pen this.  It would be great if we could return to the nice weekend weather of the last month.

I would be very surprised if we didn't get a plethora of candidate phone calls throughout the weekend.  This should be the final push time for the eleven people, four Democrats and seven Republicans, who are seeking their party's nomination for governor.  I also wouldn't be surprised if the candidates or their representatives weren't out walking neighborhoods drumming up votes.  Probably not many, if any, would make it to my house, though, as I live at the end of a very long driveway.

It might be too late for the pollsters with the election itself coming Tuesday. 

There has been extremely little push for the bond questions on the ballot.  The State hopes you'll approve putting us another several hundred million dollars in debt.  But if there has been very much publicity either way about those bonds, I've missed most of it.  I have seen a couple stories on the TV giving brief explanations of the proposed spending.

There has been a little more activity over the repeal of the new tax switch law pass at the end of the last Legislature.  Not much doubt on how I feel about that one.  I've already voted "YES" to prevent all those (102) new goods and services subject to the sales tax from taking effect. 

Any calls and visits to either Gator Wife or me will be wasted, however.  As I said in another post, we both have already cast our ballots.

The Clan's Plans are subject to the daily weather.  We'll make our decisions on just what we'll do when we look outside first thing each morning.  I hope you have a super weekend.


*****Please take the time to vote, either in person or by absentee ballot, on Tuesday.*****

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just a Gator Dude personal story

Thursday.  Not a nice one, either.  This is one of the two days a week I go to my senior fitness session for an hour of various exercises.  Those of you who visit me know that this weather is not nice to me.  What a difference a little weather can make!  Just about all during May my sessions were super, almost pain free because the weather didn't get into my joints.  Now June is here and it seems that mother nature has decided to make up for all the good it did last month.  Oh, well.  I guess that's just life.

I usually take a long ride around my neighborhood, actually my own lawn, on Thursdays and leave the grass just a little shorter as I do.  This week I listened to the weather forecast and took that ride yesterday, instead.  After watching the forecast last night, it's probably a good thing I did.  I could have put it off until tomorrow maybe, but if we do get all the shower activity today we'tr told could be headed our way and without the sun tomorrow to dry it off, I wouldn't be able to mow.

The bagging attachment for my tractor isn't too happy when it gets wet and clogs so I have to wait until it is dry before mowing.  With the possibility of more showers right through Tuesday at least, had I not mowed yesterday it could be late next week before I could get to the task.  Of course the longer it grows, the longer it takes to dry.  I'm sure I wouldn't be very happy when I could get out to it.

Not to worry now, though.  It's done for this week and we'll let next week come when it comes.

Last week I got two new hearing aids.  I was asked to wear them for a week and make note of how they satisfied my hearing needs.  By last weekend, my ability to hear was going downhill and by yesterday, when I was scheduled for that follow up appointment to correct any issues I encountered, I was hearing nothing through the hearing aids.

The audiology person remained cheerful when I expressed my feeling of these new devices.  She was confident whatever was happening, or not happening, could be corrected.  She, of course, can check the devices.  The first thing I saw was a look of consternation on her face.  She heard nothing in her device, either. 

She apologized for not explaining to me how to tell when the battery had died.  The hearing aid emits a little beep.  I already know that because both of the ones I replaced beeped to notify me to change the battery.  I told her there was no beep.  "Hmmm," she said and changed the batteries and again used her equipment to test the device.  She heard nothing.

The second obvious reason for not hearing with an aid would be wax.  Ear wax.  The little transmitter hole in the device was packed solid.  She gave me a lesson on changing the wax trap and with a new one in place, the hearing aids worked perfectly.  But before she returned them to me, she checked my ears.  I did have a little soft wax build up but not enough, she thought, to warrant a visit to the ear doc.  I put my aids back in place and, guess what, I heard nothing.

She looked at them again and sure enough, wax was in that miniscule hole.  She had me demonstrate I understood how to change the trap and then suggested I might want to have a doctor give them a good cleaning.  The ear doctor I use will be on vacation for the rest of June after this week so getting an appointment seemed impossible.

I got lucky.  He was free right then.  The doc shares an office with the audiologist.  So I was cleaned and all the soft wax removed.  He then gave me a lesson on how to keep that soft stuff at bay so I wouldn't have to keep returning. 

I put the hearing aids in place and now once again, I was hearing as I was last week:  better than I've heard for a long time.  The best part is, now I know how to keep both my aids and my ears cleaned. 

Yesterday was a happy day.  Then I had to mow that darn lawn.


*****Tuesday is Primary Day in Maine.  Please exercise your privilege of government determination by voting.  You may vote with an absentee ballot today, tomorrow or Monday at your local City Clerk's office or other designated place in your city or town; or you can wait and do it Tuesday.  But please, vote.  And if you don't want to pay higher taxes, vote YES on Question One.*****

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I've filled my obligation. I hope you will, too.

I'm pleased to say that I've accomplished my civic duty and have cast my ballot in absentia for my choice of Republican candidate for governor and my yea or nay on the various bond issues and the referendum question concerning taxes.  Probably it's not hard to guess how I voted on them.

I sincerely hope everyone either votes by absentee ballot or in person next Tuesday.  Unfortunately too many good Maine citizens do not take the time to vote leaving important choices of who will lead us through the next four years, how the state will collect our taxes, and various spending choices to just a handful, usually the party faithful, of residents.

That is true no matter which party you favor, which candidate in your party will lead, or how you feel about taxes and bonds.  Consider that with a modest turnout at the last general election we have a governor who garnered a paltry 38% of those who took the time to vote.

It amazes me how many people can't take the time to vote but then complain vociferously about their government after the elections.  A poll released yesterday indicated there are more "undecided" than "decideds" today.  Therefore, it is extremely imperative everyone gets out to vote by next Tuesday.  At least when I praise or complain, I have already participated in the process.  I hope you will, too.

Speaking of the process, and let me begin by saying that I did not vote for him, but I think Les Otten has done a remarkable job turning one negative into a whole campaign supporting him.  A few weeks ago another Republican candidate had an ad that tore into that candidate's perception of Otten's accomplishments. 

Since then Otten's campaign has evolved into a series of ads challenging what many perceived as a an attack ad.  Watching one of Otten's ads today would lead one to believe that all other candidates have resorted to the negative attacks and he alone is running a clean campaign.  I think his promotional director has done a remarkable job taking advantage of that negative ad.

Unfortunately for Otten and fortunately for me, I had made up my mind long before that stuff began and when I voted yesterday, I hadn't been swayed.

I don't respond too well for those telephone polls.  I got another one Monday and I'd agree I was rather rude to young sounding man trying to do his job.  But then I'd say he was kind of rude interrupting the peace of my home on a holiday.  I think it's those unwanted calls that irk me more than anything else.

He did identify his polling company and he was a real voice, not a computer.  I know he was real simply because we had some dialogue.

"Are you aware there will be voting for governor next Tuesday?"

"You are wrong.  Maine will not be voting for a governor next Tuesday."

"Oh, yes you will.  It's the state's primaries."

"Yes.  We will be nominating a candidate to run for governor next November.  We will not be voting for governor next Tuesday."

"Well, are you a registered Republican or a registered Democrat?"


"And which are you?"

"I'm a registered Republican or a registered Democrat."

"Well, who will you be voting for governor?"

"No one.  I'll be voting to nominate a candidate to run next November."

"Thank you for your time."

"It'll be interesting to read the results of this poorly phrased poll."

He hung up.  Can't say I blame him.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Referendum, Bonds, and a ridiculous immigrant situation

I'd call the Holiday Weekend an excellent one.  Can you remember the last time we had a full weekend with such nice and relatively rain-free weather over the Memorial Day Weekend?  Sure, we had some clouds off and on, especially mornings, but overall I loved the weekend.

In just one week, sooner for those of us who vote absentee, we will be deciding on some statewide questions.  I'm urging a "YES" vote on Question One.  Although the proponents say it would lower our taxes, notably the Income Tax, they continue to fail to point out that the lowering of the rate for high income residents and the raising of the rate for low income residents will actually in two or three years cause most of us to pay higher taxes. 

Those higher taxes become assured when one realizes that those deductions we're use to taking, like property taxes, medical expenses, etc., will be eliminated and replaced with a decreasing household credit that disappears as one's income passes the $40 thousand mark.

Coupled with the new sales taxes on more than 100 goods and services, which the proponents also seem to ignore in their arguments, we are assured of putting more money into the state's coffers and less in our own pockets.

I also will be voting "NO" on all the bond questions, but I always vote against them.  The state uses bonds somehow, but I'm not sure I've ever seen an accounting of them, but I'd not be surprised if very little of the money goes to the advertised purpose.  For example, how much money has been approved over the years for road construction or jobs?  What is the condition of the roads today?  You can answer that by just taking a little ride.  How about the number of created jobs?  56 in ten years.  Yet you'll probably approve those bonds again this year.

Remember, bonds are not free money.  They have to be paid back with your increased taxes.

I read a story in  the New York Times Sunday about a Wells couple being, or has been kicked out of the country.  I think I've read the story locally, too, or have seen it on TV.  It seems this British couple has been in the U.S. for several years on a business visa.

The Visa has to be renewed every two years, but there are no limits on the number of times it can be done.  This year, the application for renewal was denied by the immigration service and they were ordered to leave.  The reason:  The government said their little restaurant business was marginal even though it earned enough money to pay for the establishment and a nearby rental property and four employees.  Their only debt, apparently was the mortgage on their home.

Not good enough, said the immigration people, and the business has been shuttered, the couple told to leave, and the loss of jobs became the fate of their employees.  The Times article says that the situation is facing more and more immigrants in this country legally.

During the same weekend thousands of people were protesting in Arizona over that state's new law calling for the enforcement of a federal law concerning illegal immigrants.  And the federal government seems to be turning its head away from enforcing those illegals who are draining the nation's economy while it kicks out legal immigrants earning their own way and paying their own bills.

It seems like a ridiculous situation to me.


*****Don't raise your taxes.  Reject the increases by voting "YES" on Question One next Tuesday.*****