Friday, December 30, 2011

One ends, another begins

The weekend brings change in our weather.  How about some snow?  And colder temperatures?  It also brings in a change in years as 2011 travels into the past while 2012 is set to bring us some much needed improvement in the nation's economy.  I hope it brings you a Most Happy New Year!

The Iowa caucuses will be held next Tuesday.  At last!  Was it during the last century that the battle for the Republican presidential nomination began?  It’ll be over very quickly.

My Fearless Friend has joined me in garaging an ICD, an Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator.  That’s a device I wear to more or less regulate my heartbeat.  I’ve had mine for a couple of years.  I periodically transmit via telephone a record of its performance.  I’ve never felt it do anything and I’m not sure I ever do want to feel the electrical jolt.  The doc has told me I’ve been paced a couple of times, though.  I didn’t know when that happened, either.  If his is anything like mine, FF’s experience will be that he’ll be wondering for the next several days just when that jolt will happen.  He’ll never know he has the device after that wait which probably be in vain.

This is the weekend for college football lovers, except New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday this year.  That means the normal Sunday Bowl Games will be played Monday.

Unfortunately, the Bowl Season has changed during the last few years.  There was a time when all the major bowl games were played on New Year’s Day.  Remember how we used to spend much of the afternoon and evening switching among the channels while watching mostly the game that most interested us.

But like most things, the Bowls have gone through a huge change.  The Bowl Season actually began last week and will continue into the second week of January.  Although not every night produced a game, most did and some even had two of them except the two games were at different times, and another day has  four scheduled.  Of course that means the number of games has grown and I think that makes most of the additional Bowls irrelevant, except for the two teams playing and their fans.  It also has opened the Bowl doors to any team that wins a paltry six games during the season.  (That includes the Florida Gators.)

The Gators take their impressive record (not a single win against a top team) into the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, FL.  There is no relationship between the Gator Bowl and the Florida Gators.  They’ll play Ohio State Monday at one o’clock.  One, probably the only, spark for the game is a coach.  Last year, Urban Meyer coached the Gators.  Next year, he’ll coach OSU.

I hope your weekend will be super; it certainly will be for the Gator Congregation.  (BTW:  a bunch of gators in a single place is called a “congregation.”  The name doesn’t truly fit my situation as my clan only has one Gator, me.)


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weather is screwed up!

Winter is now close to a week old.  It’s almost the end of 2011.  It’s December in Maine.  And what do we have for weather?  How about Texas getting snow while Maine gets rain?  That’s what this latest storm has brought.  Who can remember when the temperatures this time of year here have been closer to those of late March or early April than what we should be getting here.

I’m no longer a snow buff although I still like to see some snow.  I usually no longer strike out in my car during snow storms; and when I do, I have my walking stick with me and it has a ice grabber.  Walking is a serious challenge and a scary one for me.  If the snow or ice causes me to fall, I’ll probably break something.  That’s what osteoporosis does to you.  The temperatures and rain we’re getting this season aren’t conducive to ice and snow.

The Maine Legislature returns to Augusta for its second session next week.  Congress folk will be returning to Washington to continue doing nothing.  Republicans have demonstrated they have a tough time sticking together and a tougher time figuring out how get true reform, change, spending/budget control.  Therefore, I have little faith any real accomplishment, less on the federal level, will succeed.

I haven’t seen the list of stores Sears/K-Mart will be closing yet, so I don’t know if any of them will be in Maine or locally.  It is a shame to watch these stores fail and probably heading for extinction.  I’d hate to try to figure out all the things that we have bought through the years from Sears.  Until not too long ago, all our appliances, for example, were Kenmore.  Consumer Reports consistently rated Kenmore brand, even though they were all made be companies will much lower ratings, at the top.

Craftsman stuff couldn’t be touched for quality and longevity.  In fact, many if not most of my tools bought as many as 50 years ago are still in use.

We also loved the local K-Marts (Kresge when they were in downtown Portland) before they were bought out by Sears Holdings.  But along came Wal-Mart.  It appeared to me that K-Mart simply threw in the towel rather than fight to do better than Wal-Mart and the quality of the store, the sales people, and the cleanliness fell rapidly.  And soon the Scarborough store entered history.

Sears (also once in downtown Portland), too, stopped upgrading their stores.  There is nothing exciting or inviting about the store at the Maine Mall.  It has been probably  fifteen or more years since we bought an appliance there.  They drove us away.  That last appliance broke down and we called for service.  By the time the fee for them to answer the phone, the fee for them to write the repair order, the fee for them to send it to the repair shop and get assigned, the time and mileage fee just to come to our home to evaluate the appliance, and on and on, it became painfully obvious that for just a few more dollars, we could replace the appliance elsewhere.  Our appliance business is now with a locally, family owned company.

Earlier this year, we did return to price something at Sears.  We found the item and it appeared to be competitively priced.  We waited for a sales person to help us out with some questions.  And we waited.  And waited.  Nearby was a sales kiosk of sorts.  No one was there.  We left.

From my perspective, if Sears/K-Mart are running out of time, it’s solely because of their own business practices and failure to put the customer into a position in at least seemingly importance. Sears Holdings, it would appear, simply has never entered the 21st Century and now it’s feeling the consequences.

Added Thurs. P.M.:  Sears Holdings announced this afternoon the list of stores to close.  Maine stores have apparently survived this round of cutting.  You can see the list here but expect a loading wait.

Let’s close today with Iraq.  Are we satisfied that “We won” or are we satisfied we left that country in a stable, developing democracy?  It seems to be reverting to “former Iraq” even faster than we expected.


Monday, December 26, 2011

What a nice day!

Christmas Day, of course, is the day I mean.  And it even ended with the swamp all white.  Since that was mostly late afternoon and early evening, I'm really not sure I can say we had a White Christmas.  But we did get the white for a while.

The GiM home was a happy place.  Gator Daughter and her dog, our Golden Retriever's litter sister, came over.  Santa was good to the pups and left them a nice stocking full of squeaky toys and doggy treats.  I'm not exactly sure how they know, but it looked like they remember Christmases and those Santa stockings.  We had five of them up and the only ones the two dogs went to were theirs.  Probably the scent of the treats draws them.

GD and Gator Mom spent a goodly amount of time in the kitchen making pies and a traditional turkey dinner.  It was absolutely delicious as I'm sure your family's was.  We opened our gifts mid day and each of us got exactly what we wanted.  Of course we shopped together to be sure the right stuff was had.

If you haven't set up a new router lately, you're in for a surprise.  I got a new wireless "N" router.  Once we got our network wires in the right spots (We had reversed somehow two cat 5 wires.  The software that came with the router discovered the mistake and suggested we swap them out.  We did.) the new network and configuration zipped right through.  Now that I had a new network, I had a laptop, a network storage drive, and a printer to attach.  I thought.  The printer and external drive found the new net themselves so they were all set.  I think it took about 15 seconds for the laptop to connect to the new network, thus to all the other devices. 

I'm still not in the mood to rant and rave so I'm taking another day off.  We'll see what happens Wednesday, if anything.  I hope your Christmas was as nice as mine.

And in case you can't make it back here this week, I hope you have a Happy New Year.  I do know my Fearless Friend will get his Christmas present of the ages Wednesday and so he will have a very Happy New Year.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The entire Gator in Maine congregation
wishes you and yours
The Merriest of Christmases.

May this day bring you peace, joy, and happiness.

Gator in Maine

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Weekend!

1. Edited Friday Mid-Morning

Thursday, the first full day of Winter, was one mighy spectacular day.  The sun was generally shining although there were a lot of clouds, too.  The temperature on my weather station device got into the 50s as did the official temperature in Portland.  And Winter was fully underway.  What a way to begin!

Now we're into the first Winter Weekend.  The best part of this one, though, will be Sunday's ending.  Christmas Day!  One of the nice things for some people is that it occurs on a Sunday and those folk will be able to take Monday off from work, too.  Of course next week is already a vacation week for most kids.

Driving around our neighborhood, we've seen what we perceive to be fewer decorative lights, but we've also seen some houses with decorations that we couldn't remember seeing in previous years.  Nevertheless, we do enjoy the ride.

I've told the story just about every year of my then 3 or 4 year old son's encounter with Santa Claus during one of those light viewing trips.  We still mention it around here some 40 years later.  I wish I had had a camera with me to record the boy's expression when Santa walked up to our car and spoke with him.  Santa, of course, was a nice person visiting his neighbors with a cup in his hand.  Probably was looking for some eggnog.

Now we are patiently waiting to see if we'll have a White Christmas or not.  All week I think I've been saying we will, then we won't, then . . .  Of course, under all the wonders was a hope we would.  At one point, the Channel Six weather people were promoting the possibility of a Sunday snow.  Then they changed their collective minds.  Since then, the chance has once again popped up.  Of course, a lot depended on "the track" of a storm that should be passing us by Friday.

We did awaken this Friday morning to a little light snow.  We are beginning to see some white in the yard.  According to the Friday morning weather forecaster Kevin Mannix, this will be a "quick hitter" and should be out of here by mid afternoon.  And that ends the snow until next week, except Mannix did keep just a chance of snow flurries or showers Christmas afternoon.

He did say that we in the Portland area could get from 1 to 3 inches of snow, closer to the 1 inch Portland south, but noticeably absent from his early morning forecast at least was the mention of a White Christmas.  So that wait will simply have to continue and Sunday we will have the final answer.

1. Edited to add: 

Some storm, huh?  This is all I see out our front door.

Bumma!  Here on the GiM swamp, a White Christmas is probably out.  The storm fizzled over our place and we only received a crunchy dusting of snow and then it turned to rain for a short while.  What whitening that fell doesn't appear to have any hope of making this a White Christmas here.  However, an email from my Fearless Friend indicated his place got perhaps a couple of inches and his driveway had to have some snow pushed aside.  Good possibility of a White Christmas there and in many other places in Maine, but not here at the coast.  This will be the final and only update of this storm.

With all that in mind and, like a little kid, patiently awaiting for a true white Christmas, I'm hoping you have a real nice Christmas, that you can remember your creator and give praise for all he has done for you.  And I hope you have a super weekend and the Merriest of Christmases.  Always remember, the love we have for our family and friends far outweighs those temporary gifts we'll be giving and receiving on Christmas. 

Merry Christmas, everyone.  (My annual Christmas card will be here Sunday.)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Will Christmas be white?

Christmas is closing in.  Only a few more days to go.  We've made no additions to our present list so it looks like we're all set for the day.

There are so many things happening both in Washington and Augusta that I'd love to offer my unsolicited and just off-the-cuff thoughts, but I'm staying with this celebratory week of being quiet.

From what I hear on the TV weather forecasts, Wednesday won't be too nice of a day as we should get mostly, probably all in our area, rain into early Thursday morning.  Clearing should set for the rest of Thursday, but then the "iffy" arrives.  I've been saying for a couple posts now that it looks like we'll not have a white Christmas this year, but later reports are trying to draw me into a possibility we'll have some white Saturday night into Sunday.  "Later," however, doesn't mean last.  The forecast Wednesday morning indicated that the threat of a Christmas storm has all but gone.

As much as I want a White Christmas, I want even more the safety of our people.  Christmas morning usually has a lot of cars on the roads as families head to gatherings for the holiest of days.  I'd hate to see an amount of snow sufficient to make travel dangerous or non-existant. 

However, we all know how exact those "if the storm travels ..." forecasts are so all we can really do now is wait for a weekend forecast or to see what happens for ourselves.


Monday, December 19, 2011

'Tis the week before Christmas

Christmas is now less than a week away.  I'd say this bunch of gators is about all set.  We haven't hung the stockings with care by the fireplace just yet, but Santa isn't due until Saturday night.  All the decorating we're going to do has been accomplished, including the Christmas Tree and our Christmas Village.  We might take a couple trips to some stores during the week just in case we might see something that we simply must have.  I don't think our Christmas will be a white one this year.  I'll miss that.

On the blog front, in spite of the Washington and Augusta developments, this simply isn't my week to rant and rave, so we'll be back as usual on Wednesday.


Friday, December 16, 2011

A Quiet Weekend

Another weekend and then it'll be Christmas Week. Well, sort of. As the old song says, "Tis the season to be jolly" and jolly we'll be beginning this weekend. After Sunday we'll have our own Christmas Tree sparkling pleasure and joy down upon us. The Old Gator congregation will be having a super weekend, and I hope you and your family will, also.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NTSB says "No" to cell phone use; DHHS budget hearing in Augusta; New source for news

By December's usual standards, our weather remains rather nice.  At least it will be like that through today, but some precipitation is possible in most parts of the state tonight into Thursday. Actually rain or snow is expected to arrive sometime before dawn tomorrow and stay with us through most of the day.  Even the Portland area could see some very light snow on the ground during tomorrow morning's commute.  But the storm should pass us to the west so we'll have mostly rain.

December is supposed to give us snow, not rain.  A White Christmas is looking less probable with each passing day.

The National Transportation Safety Board has apparently read enough reports about traffic accidents by people using their cell phones while driving.  The kicker was a report from the Missouri folk about an accident caused by a teenager, who had sent 11 texts in 11 minutes while driving, who plowed into the back of a truck.  A school bus then whacked him followed by a second school bus into the first.  At least two were killed and several injured.

As a result of that crash and others about which it had been informed, the NTSB is now recommending a total ban on all cell phone use, including hands free usage, surfing the web, checking email, and texting and other uses.  Using a phone in a non-emergency is just too dangerous to allow to continue.

Some states have already acted, most of which with only limited restrictions.  But most states have no restrictions.  Maine's restriction is for texting.  The final word on accepting the recommendation of the NTSB is up to the states and their legislative bodies.  But it is a powerful recommendation.

I've told you my story several times and won't repeat it here, but there's not a time when I'm out in my car or riding with Gator Wife that I haven't seen countless other drivers with a phone up to an ear.  We don't see teens as often with the phone around the head, but they do glance down a lot so it is easy to conclude they are texting.

Maine also has a distracted driving law.  I won't say it isn't enforced, but I only read about drivers getting cited for breaking that law after an accident has occurred.

From my own experiences and observations, I can join in urging Maine's Legislature to adopt the NTSB recommendations.

Last week Gov. Paul LePage called for a massive change in Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Among other things, he is recommending that eligibility for MaineCare, the state's version Medicaid, but cut way back to bring it to national averages.  Maine has 35% more usage of MaineCare than the Medicaid national average.

That change is one of several being considered this week by the Legislature's Appropriations Committee as the state needs to find 220-billion dollars to make up for a DHHS budgetary shortfall in the next year.  Past practices of the Democrat controlled Legislature and Executive Branch of using budgetary tricks and relying of Federal funds which are no longer available, to cover the rising costs of MaineCare. 

Gov. LePage has proposed courageous steps to get Maine's spending under control.  The Democrats have, not unexpectedly, blasted his proposals as irresponsible.  That's no surprise as the Dems simply have to try to justify their outrageous spending for the past ten years.

Hearings begin today in Augusta and continue through Friday.  You will hear some of the most outlandish claims and many just plain lies about the consequences of not getting the budget into line with the state's income.  In fact, they've already begun.  So far, the only alternative the Dems have offered is to raise taxes which most of us can't afford to pay or take the money from other departments, like education, public works, police, etc., to pay for the huge gap they've created in the DHHS.

If you can attend a session or two, they are being held in the State Capitol by the Appropriations Committee in room 228.  The hearings begin at 9 AM.  You don't have to speak unless you wish, but your presence will give encouragement for support of the Governor and his recommendations to make life easier for us in Maine.

Finally today, if you'd like a slightly different slant of the news, we have a suggestion for you.  The Maine Heritage Policy Center has launched a new news offering, The Maine Wire.  Its first effort was released to the public yesterday and has some interesting potential.  It's all explained in the first publication.  Because it's a publication of the MHPC, I'd guess you might be right if you think it leans just a wee bit right and has a slight conservative slant, but Lance Dutson, the CEO of MHPC, has said that it will strive to bring honest, balanced news stories and in depth reports of events in the State House and Executive Office in Augusta that you won't find in the main stream media.  A rather impressive group of reporters, columnists, and guest writers has been gathered for the publication.

If you'd like to see for yourself, you can see the first edition of The Maine Wire right here.  To learn more about the Maine Heritage Policy Center, click here.


Monday, December 12, 2011

A weekend icon loss; Pats might be heading for trouble

The weather is getting cooler.  I'm still using "cooler" because it seems to be unusually warm for this time of year.  It said on the TV the other day that we've had a couple of inches of snow so far, but with the temperatures as they are, that snow didn't last too long.  Here it is just two weeks before Christmas and the ground around my house is still not frozen.  Ski enthusiasts, I'm not one, are still able to get their skiing in as most of the mountains are making snow at night.

And the Monday weather doesn't promise too much change, either.  Nights will be getting colder, but the daytime temperatures will still be nice.  Actually, surprisingly, they're almost normal but without any real cold and without snow, it remains rather nice.  We have only one possible storm on the horizon.  There could be some rain Thursday.

Not a whole lot going on around the Gator Place.  We've completed our Christmas shopping, except both Mrs. Gator and I have admitted to each other we don't have presents for each other yet.  Sure, I've a couple of minor things for her and she's got a couple for me, but that major present remains elusive.  One of the problems of getting to our age, I think, is that we're in a stage of life where it's getting shorter, so if we need something or really want something during the year, we just go out and get it so we can enjoy it.  That makes Christmas a tough time.

We recently bought tickets to our favorite theater in Pennsylvania and we're planning a trick there next July.  Perhaps that trip can serve as a nice present.

There are a lot of people not too much younger than I that lost a television icon over the weekend.  The Ed Sullivan of Portland television passed away.  Dave Astor had his Dave Astor Show on the TV from 1956 to 1971 on first WGAN-TV then on WCSH-TV.  Teenagers were highlighted on the show singing or lip synching to the popular teen music of the day.  Many of you will remember the Saturday night show.  Teens lined up vying for a spot.

Edited at 8:10 AM to correct some information:  I just heard on the radio that the Dave Astor Show actually had its debut on WPMT-TV in 1953.  I would still have been in high school then, and I can almost remember watching it a few times.  However, I'm very unsure if the memory is really from its later years after I returned to Maine.  I do remember the TV station, but there's a chance our family TV couldn't receive it.  I'm sorry for the error in this posting.

I was living in Florida in 1956 and was rapidly leaving my teen years behind.  By the time I had returned to Maine, I was on the wrong side of the age bracket so I never did get involved with the Dave Astor Show.  But I do remember watching it occasionally.  It was a big teen hit of the day.  And it was local.

Dave Astor was 92 years old.

The Occupy Maine group, that bunch that has taken over Lincoln Park in downtown Portland, have voted to sue the City of Portland for violating their free speech and assembly right.  The City has ordered them to leave the park by Thursday.  First up is an attempt to get a restraining order preventing the City from enforcing it's order.

I agree with them that they have the right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  If I lived in Portland I'd be very upset that the City has allowed them to take over public property and pay for the protection and cleaning of the park resulting from the tent city.  I'm not sure that Constitution allows the taking over of public property and creating a small neighborhood.

Municipalities all around the country have taken the same steps as Portland in ordering the end of the encampments.  Others have been much more forceful than Portland.  The Augusta Occupy group did attempt to get a restraining order, but a judge there declined to issue one.  Now we'll have to see what happens in Portland.

The New England Patriots just might be in for a surprise and perhaps a loss this coming weekend.  They'll be facing the Denver Broncos and their phenominal young quarterback Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner and one who led the Gators to a couple National Championships.  When Tebow took over the quarterback spot for the Broncos, the team had a one win, four loss record.  In his first start Tebow brought them from behind for a win but lost his second start. 

Tim Tebow, you'll probably know, was said to not be able to play NFL football.  Bad mechanics, you know.  Well since that one loss, he's won six straight.  It is, however, the way he wins that could cause the problems for the Patriots.  Tim waits until he's behind in the fourth quarter and brings the Broncos out of the shadow of defeat with a remarkable comeback, and wins, frequently in overtime.

If the Broncos can stay within a couple TDs of the Pats next weekend, and having been watching the Pats' extreme difficulty in closing out games.  Sure, they've been doing it, but Sunday's win over the lowly Washington Redskins (which was being quarterbacked by another Gator, Rex Grossman) was a perfect example.  Except for just one bad pass catching attempt by the 'Skin's end as time was running out allowing the Pats to intercept, the outcome might, probably, have been different.

If Tebow can get into that same position next week, the "no pass" defense Pats just might be in big trouble.  Denver, incidentally, was in the race for the first draft choice when Tebow took over the team and now they're in first place and playoff bound in their division.

And another sports spectacular, one that shows the idiocracy of today's rules.  High school and college players cannot show any emother in a game.  That ridiculous rule was called by a referee in a recent game in Boston.  A player racing for the winning touchdown, one that would have given his team an undefeated season and a championship, raised one arm over his head while heading for the goal line.  The ref called unsportsmanlike conduct, called the TD back, and the team lost both.  I think it was a horrible call.  I can't imagine kids not being allowed to be excited while playing a game.  Excitement just might hurts someone's feeling.  Well, such a rule just might hurt someone else's feelings.

I guess it's just like the banning of "Christmas" in schools and stores because the word might cause hurt feelings.  Well, allowing other religions to celebrate just might hurt my feelings; but I don't count, do I?


Friday, December 9, 2011

To Tree or Not To Tree? Not wins.

It's getting closer, Christmas is. Hard to believe it's just two weeks away; well, at least it'll be just two weeks Sunday.

Now we're facing another weekend, and a nice one, but cold, it should be. According to the weather reports, there's no significant storm in sight. That doesn't mean we won't get anything, but if we do it'll be just a quick hitter. The temperatures this weekend, though, are going to be more like December. That stretch of really nice stuff just might be behind us. Or not. We see there's still some warm stuff to the west of us and that could get here for another mild spell. I think the Farmers' Almanac, not sure which one, said we'd have a warm December. In fact, I think it said we'd have a warm winter.

We haven't put up our Christmas Tree yet. The big tree, not the Department 56 one we showed you after Thanksgiving. Both Mrs. Gator and I grew up with our trees being decorated shortly after Thanksgiving and through the first half at least of our marriage we had our tree all prettied by the first weekend of December. 

We haven't done that for a while. After the kids left the nest and there were just the two of us, our old tradition got pushed back to two weeks before the holiday. Now we have a Golden Retriever which has a very active tail. Because of Gator Golden we had to put our village up higher than we first planned because that tail kept wiping the display off the table. 

We put the big tree in a space that blocks off the entry to the dining area, a regular route for GG to her bed. She could get by the tree by charging under it, but you can imagine what that did to the decorations. And she's a mighty happy dog so her tail is in near constant motion. When we're in the living room, that's where she has to be and that tail can do a real number on the lower part of the tree.

So, we now only put that tree up the week before Christmas so we can enjoy it for at least a week. It comes down the day after the holiday. That was a major topic of discussion again this year. Under the old circumstances, the tree would be up and decorated this weekend. We thought about doing it again as both GW and I like the spirit the tree brings. But good judgement won out and the tree will wait until next weekend.

Oh, we do have a gift wrapped very long box that we put behind the tree in the actual doorway. That box has successfully served as a deterrent to GG's trip to her bed. She can and does, however, know she can get there by going through the kitchen.

Like most weekends, I try to keep this along family matters. Weekends are times of rest from the world that affects us. Even though the issues don't stop, I try to relax. And so it is this weekend.

Oh, I would like to make a comment about sports. I find it absolutely obscene that a baseball player can earn a quarter of a billion dollars, that's 254-million, over ten years. I'm sorry, but Mr. Pujols or any other baseball player isn't worth that much money to play a game. Now, that said, I'd be the first to admit I too would take a deal like that if it were offered to me. No chance of that. But I can't fault the player for taking it. If management is stupid enough to pay it, the player is in the right to accept it. That doesn't make him worth it, though.

Another big bucks signer makes me happy. Although I've said in the past that Big Papi (David Ortiz) had peaked and probably should hang up his spikes, I'm glad, especially after last year, he'll be with the Red Sox for at least another season.

And the Gators. Oh, those Gators. I'd be surprised if you hadn't noticed I haven't mentioned them a whole lot this football season. They simply stink. The only surprise is they ended up bowl eligible and will be in the Gator Bowl. No, it's not their own but just another Florida entity with "Gator" in it. But, at least they might get a decent offense coordinator for next year. This year's first year Gator OC has just been named head coach of Kansas U. Their loss, our gain. Charlie Weiss had one of the worst offenses in college football this season.

Now I hope you have just a very superior weekend.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

MaineCare faces huge budget cuts

We have an unusual Thursday comment today only because yesterday’s post was devoted entirely to the date, Dec. 7th, Pearl Harbor Day.  I just thought you’d like to know why we are here today.

Gov. Paul LePage has revealed his plan to begin the seemingly impossible task of getting the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ budget under control.  DHHS is facing a shortfall of more than a hundred million dollars.  MaineCare, Maine’s version of Medicaid, alone has seen its growth from $1.44 billion in 2002 to $2.55 billion this year.  Sometimes a chart is easier to understand than numbers no one can visualize.

It is a spending pattern that the state simply can no longer afford.  Maine has become one of the most generous providers of benefits of all states.

What Gov. LePage is recommending this time around will, he says, get the MaineCare budget under control.  He proposes eliminating the benefits for able bodied adults with no children and to bring coverages for other services in line with what is offered by other states.  The Governor says his proposal does as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable Mainers.

The Democrats, who had been in control of state government for nearly 40 years until Gov. LePage was elected last year, began their protestations even before the governor had ended his presentation.

You will hear opponents saying things like the shortfall was caused by a decline in revenue or because of recent tax cuts.  Of course they would be wrong.  The shortfall was caused by unchecked growth of enrollment and spending for years. 

They will say we need to tax Mainers even more to make up the shortfall, taxes Mainers no longer can afford.  They will also say money in other parts of the state budget must be found to spend on the benefits.  

But the rest of the state budget funds such things infrastructure, roads, bridges, and the like, and schools, municipal revenue sharing and other governmental essentials.  Most of them are also facing major problems because so much money is being spent by DHHS.

The Democrats have used gimmick budgeting, hopeful funding which never came from the Federal government, and other financial tricks in the past.  The failure of the previous administrations to see our current financial problem coming is what has put us into the estimated $220 billion shortfall for next year.

Gov. LePage recognizes the only way to get the state’s finances under control is to stop spending.  Getting the DHHS under control is just the beginning.  One in four people in Maine receive some form of benefits and that’s 35% more than the national average.

It’s not the end of reform for Gov. LePage, however.  He was asked yesterday on the Ray Richardson Morning Show on WLOB (1310 AM) radio when more cuts would be proposed.  The governor said that he already is working on the next proposal, but he won’t go into it until after the Legislature acts on the DHHS cuts in January.

Credit:  The information regarding the DHHS budget and proposed cuts were taken from an email from Jason Savage, Executive Director of Maine People Before Politics.  He urged his email be posted on Twitter and Facebook.  Since I have neither, I took the liberty of using his work here.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And where were you?

Dec. 7th.  This is one of many Most Memorable Dates in our history, a date that President Roosevelt told Congress, "A date which will live in infamy."  And it has.  This is the kind of day when people ask, "Where were you?" or "What were you doing?"

This is Pearl Harbor Day.  It was on this day, except Dec. 7, 1941, was on a Sunday, that Japan rained down a surprising attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  The hope was that it would so decimate the American Armed Forces that Japan would have a clear path to the United States and the world.  It didn't quite turn out that way, though. 

I'll never forget that line the Japanese Admiral said in the movie about the attack, "Tora, Tora, Tora."  He said, "I'm afraid we've only succeeded in awakening a sleeping giant."  The attack not only prevented Japan from conquoring the world but it also prevented the Germans who had begun their own world war from winning, too.  The attack did indeed awaken the United States.

It was four more years, however, before the second war to end all wars ended.  Unfortunately, again all wars weren't ended.

So, where were you?  What were you doing?  I'd be surprised if very many of us can remember.  Most of you weren't even a twinkle in your then very young daddy's eye.  But I'm a 30s (late 30s) child.  So I should be able to easily answer both questions.  Well, I was very young, not even yet in school.  I'm not sure if my memory is real, it probably isn't, or a result of what my family told me and from what I've read over the years.

I'm not even sure I had an inkling to what a war was.  But my folks had kept the newspapers and I do remember the Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor headlines, but probably not from reading them that day.  I think I remember the excitement exhibited by my parents.

What was I doing?  Same answer.  If I could venture a guess, I was probably outside just being a pre-schooler with my neighborhood buddies.  Shucks.  If I'm honest with myself, I really have no clue as to what I was doing on Dec. 7, 1941.  I can say for sure, however, where I was; I was at home with my family.  We undoubtedly spent part of that morning in church; but that would have been a Sunday thing and have nothing to do with the war.  Perhaps the grownups upstairs were talking/praying about it, but in the kiddies' room downstairs, I doubt anything was said.

I do have some vivid memories of those war years, however.  Perhaps another anniversary or event will give me the opportunity to share them with you.  But this is not the time.

So my answer to my questions:  I was, but that's about all there is to it.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Now there are two, maybe three

It would appear that we may be in for one more, perhaps final, week of relatively nice and above average temperatures.  There could be a blotch in the week Tuesday or Wednesday as some showers, possibly snow showers depending on where you live, come through.  But the temperatures should remain in the upper 40s to the 50s most days.  Wednesday or Thursday is giving some problems to the forecasters as a possible storm will be in the area.

Keith Carson, the weekend meteorologist on WCSH6-TV, said Sunday that we should see a colder trend, possibly for the long term, beginning this coming weekend.

Christmas, though, continues to draw closer and closer.  Unfortunately for me, I haven't grown any closer to figuring out a present for Gator Wife.  Oh, yea, I've got some of the usual ones she gets, but that one special present remains out of reach.  I've ordered a new router on line and it will be here well before Christmas, but I'll let GW put it on the tree for me.

There are now probably three viable candidates left in the Republican challenge for a nominee to oppose President Obama next year.  When all of this started earlier this year, there were 17 announced candidates.  As of Sunday, three, Thad McCotter, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain,  had officially withdrawn.  Nine are so near invisible that I suspect you can't name most of them, the exception being Rick Santorum.  Still in are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the two most prominent, and Ron Paul who is a growing strong outsider.  Also continuing to get some press are Michelle Bachman and Jon Huntsman. 

The latest leader in the polls is Gingrich, but now we can begin to watch the major attacks on him.  I'm not sure who's behind those attacks, but as each candidate has risen to the top, the attacks have begun.  Bachman and Rick Perry had risen to the top early on, but neither was the dandy of the news media and the opposition and attacks soon showed them where they belong.  As they fell from grace, Herman Cain rose.  So the attackers turned on him and Saturday he officially put his campaign on suspension, and by doing so, withdrew from the race.

Gingrich has also had some of the negative ads against him, but with the concentration on Cain, Gingrich could get a breath.  In Iowa, Paul has moved up the ladder and over the weekend, at least, was second in the polls.  I haven't seen a lot of negative stuff about him, but the media and opposition apparently consider him so vanilla they've generally left him alone. 

And that leaves Mitt Romney.  He apparently is the chosen one by the media and opposition to run against the President.  Those in control possibly believe he would be the easiest for President Obama to beat next November.

I've read in many places that many people wish Sarah Palin and/or Chris Christie were available.  I guess Republicans now might think one of them might be a shoo-in.

We've still got more time to think about all this, but not much time.  The Iowa Caucus is in early January and the New Hampshire Primary follows a week later.

Unfortunately for Mainers, we won't have much, if anything, to say about who the Republican nominee will ultimately be.  Our primary isn't until next March, and by then the chosen one will undoubtedly already be known.

I never mention the Democrat race for a presidential nominee.  There isn't one.  The incumbant, Barrack Obama, has that party's nomination all wrapped up, especially since he has no contenders.

And those are my thoughts for this time around.


Friday, December 2, 2011

December's opening weekend

The first weekend in December is upon us.  We had a "cool" start to this month and this weekend, but the weather folk are telling us that by Sunday we'll be headed right back into abnormal warm temperatures like we had in November, the warmest November on record.

We're sort of teased with the forecast of some snow in the coming days, but it's mostly up in the Maine mountains and in Northern Maine.  We along the coast will see some cooler temperatures but any precipitation will probably be in the form of rain.  I heard one forecast say there's a good chance December will be warmer than normal with not very much, if any, snow.

I guess we'll know how the month turned out in, say, four weeks.

My router is beginning to quit a couple times a day.  It takes a reset to get it going again.  I'm not sure just how old it is, but it's new enough to be wi-fi if not "N."  My Fearless Friend told me just a couple weeks ago he was having similar trouble.  I guess he put the idea into my router's mind.  Gator Wife has been asking me what I want for Christmas.  I mentioned a new router to her and she said she wouldn't buy one because she just knows it would be the wrong one.  She told me to get one and she'd put it under the tree.  I guess I know what one of my presents will be.  Naturally, I'm only assuming...hoping...the plural use in that presents word is correct.

My 12-year-old car is now nice and legal for another year.  It's been registered and inspected.  Inspections haven't been too tough all those years.  I drive a Toyota that was built when the old man of the company still made the decisions.  He wouldn't allow shortcuts to quality.  In the 12-years I've owned the car, I probably haven't spent more than a couple hundred dollars on the car and all of it on minor stuff like alignments, etc.  I think I've bought a tire and a battery, too.  When I bought the car, the dealership offered an oil/filters, etc., for life.  I doubt they thought too many of us would keep the thing 12 or more years.  My dad always told me, "Keep your oil up to date and the car will take care of you."  Free oil has made keeping it up to date very easy.

I think this is a candy type weekend in the Gator household.  Our daughter will be here Saturday and she and Mrs. Gator will be making fudge, snowballs, bark, and stuff for the holidays.  Some home made caramel popcorn might also be tossed in.  I like the Christmas season.

This is a weekend so I think I'll just sit back and enjoy it.  I hope you can find time to do the same, too, and that you have just a super weekend.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Cain Affair

I’m not sure where I’m going with this as it is just a gut thing with absolutely zero honest research.  But I say my comments are my unsubstantiated thoughts, so here goes.

The nation’s press has once again set the course for discourse.  Apparently not satisfied with the lukewarm reception to the charges that Herman Cain may have sexually abused some subordinates at his work place, the media now has a wowzer on its hands.  It has uncovered a possible long term affair the candidate had recently.

Just like he did with the first accusations, Cain vehemently denies that last one, too.  After reading a news report on the background of his latest accuser, I must say I my thought was, “She sure sounds credible.  Not!”  Now I’m not saying her claim isn’t true; I’m only wondering where all this sex stuff has originated concerning Cain.

Guilty or not guilty means nothing to the news media.  Some people have come forward with claims and claims are good enough for the press.   You’ve read here several times of my belief that one is innocent until proven guilty.  That hasn’t changed with the accusations against Herman Cain. 

What I do know, though, is that his life and reputation have been damaged, probably irrevocably.   The news media has seen to that.  It would be interesting, if I felt moved enough and I don’t right now, to search on the accuracy rate of the claims that have been reported.  As a result of the current one, guilty or innocent, they are claims that Herman Cain will never see end.

As Cain was announcing yesterday that he is now taking his campaign through an assessment on the future viability of his chances to win the Republican presidential nomination, I was wondering just who could be behind all this activity.  It certainly is much more than coincidence these accusations have come out at this time.

I have to wonder just who, if anyone, could have begun this anti-Cain drive.  I ask myself just who might be the most challenged if he did win.  Only one name comes to mind.  Now we have to wonder who’s next?  I know where I’d put my money.

Disclaimer:  I’ve already said on at least one occasion in recent weeks that Herman Cain was not the candidate I would support in the primaries and caucuses.

O.K., Old Gator Dude.  How come you don’t feel the same about those child abuse accusations against the coaches?  I don’t know anything about them, either, except like Cain they’ll never live them down whether guilty or not.  They are not only about claims told to a news media but also have some legal background.  In one case, an arrest was the result of a Grand Jury inquisition.  In the other the Syracuse police have admitted they haven’t investigated reports from many years back.    Both of the coaches’ situations are in the legal system, but, like the Cain cases, all I know is what the news media wants me to know.

Speaking of political campaigns, I have also said here earlier that I wouldn’t support Ron Paul because of something I heard him say during the 2008 campaign.  As I said earlier, I cannot remember what it was but it was something that at the time made me decide I could never support him.

Yesterday I received a rather heavy mailing from his campaign that not only outlined his plan to revive America and the American economy but also included a copy of his complete plan.  I have not yet studied it, but I have glanced through it.  As a result I thought, “Hmmm.  I might have to change my mind about this guy.”  Now I’ll have to study the plan and research if his actions, both past and present, support what he is saying.  As it stands, however, the outline portion would give conservatives something to really give good thought to and provide substance for serious discussion.

It would be nice if the other candidates also sent copies of their plans for America.  Paul has his in writing and is publicly disseminating it.

Finally, a sports update.  Earlier this week I criticized Ndamukong Suh for his actions in pro football game last week I saw on television.  I said he should be severely punished.  The League has given him a two-game suspension, but, as he should have, he has appealed.  Although I think it should have been harsher, I support the League’s decision.  I also support Suh’s following the rules in appealing.


Monday, November 28, 2011

A Monday ramble

Sunday wasn't too bad.  At least in spite of the cloudiness, we didn't get any rain on our little piece of the world.  Three more days and we'll be out of November.  Those three days, however, could be interesting.  Temperatures today, for example, could reach into the 60s.  We appear to be on target to set an all-time record high average for a November.

It seems like this has been a rather quick month.  Perhaps the two major holidays has help speed it along.  The first part of the month Mrs. Gator and I were preparing for our milestone anniversary as the first fifty years of our marriage slipped into the past.  Then came Thanksgiving, a holiday for giving Thanks for all we are together and for bringing back family memories.

Next up, Christmas.

It wasn't too long ago that we would have put up our outside decorations this past weekend, the one following Thanksgiving.  We probably outdid outselves in our former home in Portland as it was ablaze with lights and other decorations.  Once we began there, just about everyone on our street began to put up grand lighting for the holidays. 

The first couple of years after we moved to our present location, we tried to get into the decorations mood for a couple or three years, but we were one of only two houses in our field.  Even the street was a dead end so extremely few passersby got to enjoy our efforts.  The area has since grown up around us and our street is no longer dead ended.  

We turned to the inside.  One day Gator Wife arrived home with a single Department 56 structure and placed it on the shelf in front of our bow window.  It was lost.  So we bought two or three more along with some accessories and our Village was born.  Growth of the Village has been our decoration project ever since.

There are lots of things in the news to mention.  Cities and towns around the country and here in Maine are finally beginning to do what they should have done on Day One and that is push back against the "Occupy ..." movements.  I never understood why the protesters were allowed to pitch tents and other structures and take over public spaces.  Peaceful assembly and speech freedom are Constitutionally allowed.  I've never read in the Constitution where setting up tents and other structures in public parks were permitted freedoms.

The continuing and growing shortfall of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is going to be a costly fix.  Major reform is badly needed.

The term "vocational education" has taken on a very negative image and school districts have long changed any focus on it.  But now under Gov. Paul LePage Voc Ed is being primed for a comeback, only it will be under a different name.  The new name is "Career Education Training," or something close to that.  Education had abandoned a lot of Maine students and the state is now paying for it with unprepared workers.  The rebirth will be a major highway into our economic future.

These are just two or three of the many events around us that affect us.  They, along with many others, just might get a mention or two here with my thoughts and opinions that may or may not hold any water.

Turning to a couple of sports thoughts:  The NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement and the pro basketball season will get underway Christmas Day.  Ho-hum.  I absolutely could care less.  The NBA is just plain boring to me.  It can't hold a candle to good college basketball games.  I even prefer watching the high school games.  I've never understood the popularity of pro basketball.


Thanksgiving Day was hectic.  We had a lot of activity happening here, probably just like most of you had in your homes.  We are early eaters as far as holidays go.  So it was about one o'clock when we sat down to give our Thanks and enjoy the hard work of Gator Wife and Gator Daughter.  By mid-afternoon, the clean up had been completed and our projects done.  We wanted a nap.  GD and her dog headed to their home and GW and I curled up, sort of, in our chairs in the TV room. 

I turned on the TV.  The football game was just beginning the third quarter.  It wasn't long before I saw one of the dirtiest plays I've ever seen in pro football.  There have been many, but this was a pip.  After a hard play Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions was lying on top of a face down Green Bay Packer player repeatedly driving his face into the turf.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing and even said out loud that that guy should be tossed from the game.

He was finally dragged off the downed player but as he was being escorted away, Suh appeared to deliberately throw his leg out in a sideways kick to stomp the other player.  His legged pumped a couple or three times but I'm not sure if he actually spiked the Packer.  News reports later indicated he did not or only grazed him.  But the attempt was unmistakable.  Not only should Suh have been thrown out of the game, he was, but the League should be taking even stronger action.

News reports say the league will be meeting this week to review the play.  From what I saw, Suh's season, possibly career, should be over.  There is no place in sports, professional or not, for that kind of activity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Village is Lit -- A Final Look

Thanksgiving is over.  Ever since I can remember, and that's a lot of years ago, my family celebrated its Christmas Season all the way from what we now call Black Friday through Christmas Day.  Gator Wife tells me her family also began shortly after Thanksgiving.  It is a tradition that she and I have carried on since we were married 50 years ago. 

When our kids were little, we would "park" them at Grandma's House early on the Friday after Thanksgiving and head out for our Christmas shopping.  I honestly don't recall it being called "Black Friday" way back then, but it still was one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  And like today there were bargains galore.  When we had done our job of helping Santa by getting all we could for the year, we headed home and wrapped and hid the presents.  Then, like our folks before us, we headed to Grandma's for supper and brought the kids home.

We haven't done the Black Friday thing for many years, but last year we did go out Monday to help Santa with our daughter's (she's now in her forties) list and was pleasantly surprised at how much money we saved on the technical items she needed.  We just may go out again this coming Monday.

But the real purpose of this post is to tell you that on schedule we completed and lit our Christmas Village on Thanksgiving Day.  It is a project we begin each year on Veterans' Day with the goal of lighting it on Thanksgiving.  It is a two week project.  Our Village is a combination of the Victorian and Dickens collections of Department 56. We've been giving you some progress reports throughout the construction phase.  Now here is a final look at our Christmas Celebration Village.

This is the first table one sees upon entering our living room from our dining area.  It is a table that runs behind our sofa.  As you can see, we have a skirt around the table, which, incidentally, we also constructed, which hides all the wiring and stuff under the actual display.

At the end of this section of the sectional sofa is Kensington Palace, the future home of Prince William and Princess Katherine of England.  It was also the home in which the future king grew up with his mother Princess Diana.  It is the center piece (or corner piece if you prefer) of this year's Village.
The sun was shining in the window and made taking a good picture difficult, but this is a sample of our Window section which is on the window base behind the second section of the sofa.  Every piece in this section depicts something from Charles Dickens' immortal story of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, A Christmas Carol.
We call this our Main Village and it has lots of scenes going in it.  In the rear corner is a mountain; a skating pond is in the middle; a farm dots the far center left, and a river connects this section to the window section running from a waterfall.
And this is our main section leading back to the window section.
One would have to see this village "in person" to really get the feel of its size and depth.  Nevertheless, we are very happy with our celebration of the Christmas Season.  The whole congregation of Gator in Maine offers you this early wish for a Very Merry Christmas.  By the way, if you click on any picture, you can see it enlarged, but, and this is important, it doesn't open in a new window, you'll have to use the back arrow or button to return to the blog. 

We'll return Monday with some regular GiM thoughts including one of the dirtiest plays I've ever seen in the NFL.

As always, we hope you have a super weekend.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Most

Happy Thanksgiving

To You and All

Your Family

From The

Gator in Maine Congregation!