Monday, February 28, 2011

February ends as it began -- with a storm

February draws to a close at midnight and much of this day will be very unpleasant.  We've already had some snow here on the Maine Gator Swamp.  It is forecast to change over to sleet, freezing rain (Is there a difference?) and then all rain before it ends early evening.  Actually, the forecasters say it could end in our part of the state earlier.   Nevertheless, a miserable end to the month!

The storm is not bad enough to close businesses and schools in our region, but many, mostly schools, have closed elsewhere in the state.  It appears from reading the "closed" announcements at the bottom of the TV screen that most of the businesses that have closed are the service oriented, mostly public funded ones servicing children and the elderly.  But that's just an observation.  Most of the schools, not all, are in districts which generally require much bussing.

March should arrive tomorrow like a lamb under pleasant sunshine and nice for this time of the year temperatures.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Slow February drawing to a close

Edited, Friday, 3;30 pm
The snow began about 6:15 in our area this morning.  I'm not sure we wanted it, but snow's beauty cannot be denied. 

This month's very slow posts continues into the final weekend of February.  I can't remember a month so full of nothing as this one.  Not even news events have caused any interest in me.  March could be better.  If nothing else, I'll cross into another year.

Gator Wife is getting just a little antsy about getting new stuff into the ground.  Of course she'll have to wait until many inches of snow decides they've had enough of this season.  At least with March comes spring.  With the sun getting higher every day the snow is disappearing.

GW has spotted something called "Grow Beds" in the Gardeners' catalog.  She loves fresh vegetable in the summer.  So do I, but she does all the work.  These grow beds appear to give her more control than just digging rows in her garden area.  They didn't do too well last season.  The grow beds would keep the good dirt in one place and not get washed away during storms.  They also help maintain some wetness and warmth in the growing area.  She's trying to find out just how affective they might be.  There's a small chance we'll get one for this season to try it out.

February is poised to leave just about the way it came in.  Stormy.  Friday's forecast calls for snow to begin shortly after midnight or even before, become sleet and freezing rain during the day and then end as snow Friday night.  And if that doesn't sound too bad, snow showers appear to be heading our way for Sunday and then more stormy weather is expected Monday into March.
Gator Golden limped outside and looked around.  You could almost hear her thinking, "Come on!  I thought we were done with this stuff!"

But we can't lose sight of that spring arriving in just a few weeks.  I hope you have a super weekend, in spite of the lousy weather in Maine.

Hey, hey, hey!  The comment below "forced" me to edit this a little.  My Fearless Friend is looking forward to March's arrival next week.  He picks this time of year to be in Florida so he can attend some spring training baseball games.  (He's got at least one Sox game on his schedule.)  And, as he points out in the comment, that season begins Tuesday, March 1st.  Enjoy them, FF, and I'm sorry I forgot.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Thankfully, the end is approaching for a boring February!

Our part of Maine and points south are getting just a wee bit of snow this morning, but not very much.  Probably less than an inch.  Then we'll have just the windy cold weather until our next potential dusting Friday and during the weekend.

The only excitement we have on our plate this week includes a visit to the vet's today.  Gator Golden, she only knows one speed, raced around the house the other day to find her sister, our daughter's Golden.  She slid on some ice and has hurt a hind quarter.  She couldn't walk it off, so today we hope she can visit the doc.

Then Wednesday is our monthly lunch with some fellow retirees, always a fun, happy occasion.

And that's all the excitement we'll find this week, I think.  Thankfully, March arrives next week.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Presidents' Day Weekend

My slow month continues.  Actually the best day of this month comes up Wednesday when a small group of fellow retirees, all from the same work place, meets for its monthly "last Wednesday of the month" lunch.  We all won't be there, of course, as two of our group spends at least part of the cold winter months down in the Sunshine State. 

This is Presidents' Day Weekend.  It doesn't seem to be as big a deal in this very modern era, but I recall when it was a "big deal" indeed.  The automobile deals for what was then called the Washington Birthday Sale were outstanding.  I bought at least two cars during those old sales.  Now automobile sales are just a matter of everyday life.  Sure, "great deals" are offered but they are really no different that the "deals" offered all year long.  Auto companies offer new sales just about every three or four weeks; and when "last day" ends, the deals continue under another name the next day.

Just about everyone has learned that auto sticker prices and the now advertised dealer invoice prices are bogus and good, old-fashioned negotiations can usually result in a good buy just about anytime of the year.

But back in the day, some extremely good bargains could be had as businesses everywhere had sidewalk sales or special areas set aside inside stores where usually discontinued items could be had for an incredibly good price.  Gator Wife and I used to take advantage of the deals and bought many items for our home during those sales.  Sure, the items were all discontinued, but they were new, most came with their warranty, and we could get them for 50% or, usually, less than their former advertised prices. 

Although many stores continue to offer sales for Presidents' Day, it's been many years since I've seen offerings like those of "the good old days."

Meanwhile, here in southern Maine our roller coaster weather continues.  The high reading Friday was 55 degrees in Portland and today, Saturday, we've already hit our forecast high of 34 degrees.  I guess the only good weather news is the only snow in the forecast is some possible light stuff Monday.

I hope a most pleasant weekend envelops you and your family.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A slow week continues

The Gator Clan's slow week continues.  We have nothing on our schedule for this week except our normal Gator Wife work schedule at her part time job, which she continues to perform I think to get away from me, and my visits to the senior fitness place I use to get weekly exercise. 

I probably haven't learned nearly as much in my many years on this earth that I should have learned and I'm probably nor nearly as smart as I probably should be, but there is one truism that I have learned.  The weather we're having in southern Maine this week is the kind that just invites colds and the flu. 

We started out Monday with temperatures reaching the 50 degree mark, remember this is winter in Maine, then Tuesday our high was 20, at least in the Portland area.  Wednesday is forecast to be in the thirties, then back into the 40s for Thursday and maybe 50s again Friday.  Once again colding sets back in for the weekend as we drop back into the twenties before we could climb back into the 50s next Monday.  The evening weather guy said Monday's temps would be in the 30s.

This roller coaster temperature ride is what my grandmother always taught brought about illness season.  Her solution, and it works for GW and me, is to simply maintain constant winter dress.  We continue to wear our winter coats and other winter stuff, even when the temperature momentarily slips into those 50 degree readings.  When we do get near people who haven't followed Nana's Rule and get exposed to sneezes and sniffles, the cold we get is usually mild.  Neither of us have had the flu since we stopped getting flu shots.

Now since I've made that proclamation here, you just watch a cold or flu come and bite me right where I sit down!

Nevertheless, it always amazes me when I go out in the winter when the temperatures have climbed into the almost beautiful range and see, especially young people, out in light jackets, or just shirt sleeves, and sometimes even shorts with the snow still pile two, three or four feet high. 

'Tis the season for the flu and colds.  I surely hope you escape them.


Monday, February 14, 2011

A slow week

Now that my newly assembled stationary exercise bike is working just as advertised, riding that three times and a couple days at the senior fitness place I visit each week is all that fills a rather empty schedule this week.

We don't even have weather to talk about this week, except those temperatures could approach 50 at least one day later this week.  Edited Monday night:  Shucks, that temperature almost hit 50 today.  The swamp recorded a 48 degree reading this afternoon.  That, of course, is an unofficial temperature.

Edited again Tuesday morning:  According to the TV weather this morning, the temperature in Portland officially was 50 degrees yesterday.  It was a beautiful day.  Today, though, is a different story.  Right now we have a temperature reading of 19 with a howling wind chill hovering around zero.  The AM TV reports said today's high will only hit about 20.

So that's the way it is this very slow week on the swamp.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bike assembly completed, now making it do something!

Putting my new exercise bike together turned out to be a relatively easy job once I made one minor adjustment to the directions.  I had been warned by reviewers on that the bike was an excellent one once it had been assembled.  The assembly, however, they said almost to a reviewer, was very challenging due to small, ambiguous pictures in the small assembly instruction booklet.

Those reviewers weren't exaggerating, especially to an asssembly challenged individual like me.  The bike arrived right on schedule late Friday afternoon.  For a couple of hours Gator Wife and I worked on the project.  We didn't get very far, primarily because we had  hard time deciphering the extremely tiny print and very small pictures.  All the print did was identify a part and didn't explain how to put the part onto the bike.  That was the picture's duty.

We finally gave it up for the evening and I went to the manufacturer's website seeking better instructions.  I found the same manual but in .pdf format.  I downloaded it and printed it on regular 8x11 inch pages.  What had been difficult on the small manual pages became clear as a bell on the large pages.  It all made sense and the bike flowed together in a relatively short time Saturday morning.

And, son of a gun, the darn thing even works.

This is what my new stationary exercise bicycle looks like:

It does have some extensive electronics.  The bike measures just about all exercise functions like pulse, heartbeat, speed, distance, calories burned, and more.  It also has 17 fitness programs and a bunch of resistance levels from which to choose.  I have yet to tackle using those functions except to make sure the console mounted on the handle bars did, indeed, show those things.  That console appears to be working just fine. 

Now my construction weekend has changed from assembly to figuring out how to program it.  I did notice that the small user manual that came with the machine is also replicated in the larger .pdf format.  I think that'll be my first task, getting it so these almost 3/4 century eyes can read it.

The rest of this weekend here will be fun.  I hope yours is, also.


Friday, February 11, 2011

A busy, constructive weekend

Last Tuesday I purchased a new exercise bike to replace one that had died last fall.  I was sort of under doctors' orders to get back into more exercise along with my normal two days a week at a senior fitness place.  Although I tried very hard to buy locally, I simply could not.  At several stores I visited, only one had a clerk who could talk with me and he knew nothing about exercise equipment.  The other stores totally ignored Gator Wife and me thus signalling us they didn't want our business.  So buying locally demonstrated one reason why business is apparently off, in spite of what government people tell us.

I turned to  A bike I wanted and at much less cost was there.  I figured the cost savings would be taken up by shipping costs.  And it would have been except for a small feature at called "Super Savings Free Shipping."  There seemed to be only two conditions to that type of shipping.  First, not all items were eligible for the free shipping.  The bike was.  And second, the shipping would be by ground service and take an estimated eight to ten days.  I could accept that easily for both the savings and considering I had already been without an exercise bike for at least three or four months.

I ordered the bike with the free shipping.

On Wednesday, I got an e-mail from Amazon that my bike had been shipped and was given a tracking number so I've been following my bike's trip to Maine.  This morning, just three days later, UPS's tracking site said my bike was "out for delivery."  It said it will be in the swamp sometime this afternoon.

It weighs 85 pounds so getting it into the house might be a fun task.  Even more daunting, however, were all of the reviews I read on Amazon about the product.  Virtually to a person, the reviewers loved the bike.  Also, virtually to a person, was the complaint about the "some assembly required" instructions.  I've been well-warned that the instructions are ambiguous at best and mostly just pictures.  The reviewers warned that assembling the bike is a huge, confusing task.  But once completed, it is a super stationary exercise cycle.

So there's the busy part of this weekend.  Perhaps my smart daughter will come over and give us a hand.  In any case, especially since I'm picture instruction deficient, it is going to be an interesting adventure.  (Shucks, to be fair, my Fearless Friend would probably pipe in here that I'm construction deficient using either written or picture instructions.)

For anyone who may be interested, I'll let you know here how we made out once the project is completed.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I didn't want to get back to ranting on this blog, but, golly, trying to buy something in various stores has become one heckuvan exercise in futility.  So here I am getting this off my chest.  Sorry.

I had my semi-annual heart checkup a couple weeks ago.  The check up was just fine, but my cardiologist was disappointed that an exercise cycle I had been using three days a week at home had completed it useful life.  Actually, the bike's electronics gave out after about 30 years of use.  It became virtually impossible to make the wheel go round and round.  My next door neighbor was making a run to the recycle place late last November and he let us toss the dead bike on the pile.

I do go to a local fitness/rehabilitation center where I ride a stationary bike twice a week.  If you've read this spot in the past, you've seen my mentioning of my senior fitness routine.  Those two days include other exercises as well, but they're all done machines I don't have at home.  So, to fill in the week, I at least rode that old, sick stationary machine at home.

My cardiologist had been somewhat happy with that schedule.  He was not anywhere near happy when I told him the three days at home were no longer being accomplished.  I got the lecture.  I tried to appease him by saying I'd "see what I could do" about getting a replacement.  I think he totally understood.

Unfortunately for me, my doctors all talk to each other; at least they send reports about my visits to each other.  I had my annual rubber glove visit with my personal care physician last week.  I have to have this annual physical in order to get my cart full of prescriptions renewed each year.  The physical went just fine.  Even all the numbers of the many blood results I had had earlier were in the "normal range."  You know, the cholesterol and the other lipids, the blood sugar, kidney and liver functions, et al.  He may have mentioned I could lose a pound or two.

Like all physicals, the exam ended.  But the doc didn't.  Remember I mentioned my docs communicate?  Well, the PCP looked me right in the eye and said, "I agree with [Doc Cardio guy].  Two days a week of fitness routine isn't enough.  You've got to get more exercise."  Damn!

The worst part is I know they're both right.  Even with my hearing aids off, I could tell Gator Wife was telling me she agreed, too.

So today we bit the bullet.  We decided to get a new stationary exercise bike.  I searched on line and did my homework very carefully and picked out three or four I thought would do the trick.  But, although I buy a lot of stuff on line, an exercise bike was something I wanted to sit on and try before parting with my money.  So off to do some shopping GW and I went.

The first place we visited was a national sporting goods chain.  The company's web site had said it sold at least one of the bikes I had picked out.  We went to see the bike first hand.   The store wasn't exactly filled with customers.  Nor did there appear to be many employees, either.  In fact I only saw two other customers and four nice people to help us.  GW and I found the bike with ease as the greeter headed us in the right direction.

And there was the bike.  It was exactly what I wanted.  I sat on it, tried it, and looked for the manual.  There was none.  We waited for a worker to appear to see if we needed help.  None came.  Finally, GW returned to the front of the store and asked for help.  We waited a little longer before a clerk appeared.  Gator Golden knows more about stationary exercise bikes than that clerk.  He tried to bluff his way answering our questions but couldn't.  He also looked for that manual.  It still wasn't there.  Off he went to get the answers.  He returned with none.  We left.  The answer to a couple very simple questions, one of which was, "Does the power supply come with the bike?", would have seen us leave with a new exercise bike in our car.

The next stop was another huge national department store chain.  It didn't have the same bike we had just seen, but it did have one of the others I had researched.  Unfortunately, no clerk was to be seen.  Again, we left without a purchase. 

Nothing changed in the third store we visited.  One or two customers were there along with two, perhaps three employees.  No one spoke to us.  We found the fitness section and yes, one of the bikes was there.  But the customer service wasn't. 

We didn't bother with a fourth store on our list and simply came home.  It wasn't too long ago when one couldn't get inside a major store before a clerk, or 'associate' as they're now generally called, was right there to offer help.  If that person was dismissed, several others were right there for assistance.  It would appear those days are over.  We haven't experienced such poor customer service as we had today in a very long time.  If our experience was anything like the norm, it is easy to understand why stores are in such trouble.  It'll probably be a very long time before I return to one again.

One store, Home Depot, comes to mind as an exception.  Whenever I go there, the first person who asks if I need help not only points me in the right direction but also accompanies me to the item for which I'm looking and makes sure all my questions are answered before heading off to help another customer.  I could name some stores in South Portland's Maine Mall area that could use some training at their nearby Home Depot.

As for my exercise bike, it'll be delivered in a few days.  And I saved more than  a hundred dollars and got free shipping.  At least the stores I visited today gave me the chance to see and compare the bikes in person.  The one I bought was the model with which I wanted to leave that first store. 

My love for has been affirmed.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gator Golden's snow story

The northern part of Maine has gone through a huge weekend storm.  Twelve inches or more of snow fell in northern Maine.  Meanwhile, in the south, the storm was mostly sleet, freezing rain, and rain.  The Gator's Swamp here got mostly rain so we didn't get any additional accumulation, except for an half inch or so of frozen rain.  It was easy to clean up and our driveway and walk area are already just a wet black.

This little mound lets me see over the plow pile to see the rest of my neighborhood.

Getting up this big pile isn't as easy as it looks.

But here I can watch 'Mommy' clean the walkway.
Here's an idea of just how tall that pile is.  And I have another just like it off the driveway to watch the other side of the yard. 

The only snow forecast for this light stuff Tuesday.  This is becoming an interesting winter.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We've got a lot of snow!

By mid afternoon Wednesday, the massive storm which rolled into our region earlier in the AM hours had rolled through and had ended, at least on the Swamp.  There's a lot of snow out there and now the yard awaits that clean up job.  The weather radar shows no activity between our location in Southern Maine all the way to Florida.  There is some activity between Chicago and Northern Maine, but that's mostly along the Canadian border.

I should point out the meteorologist on Ch. 6 says we'll get more snow this evening, but I'm not sure if she meant here or in Northern Maine.

Edited Wed. eve:  The Ch. 6 meteorologist knows more about reading maps than I.  Another inch or so will fall tonight and the latest radar map confirms the forecast.

Edited Thursday AM:  Another inch or so of new snow fell overnight bringing our total for yesterday's storm to about 10 inches, just a wee bit shy of the 12 to18 that had been forecast.  But coupled with the Tuesday storm, that total did cross the foot mark.  A beautiful sunshine is blessing us this morning so we can get a full clean up accomplished.  Nice day Friday before another storm, forecast this morning to bring 4 to 8 inches of new snow, hits Saturday.

The only one in our family that likes the snow is Gator Golden.  She can climb very high and get a much better picture of her world.  This picture starts about half way up the pile of snow which grows with each driveway plowing or snow blowing.  Here's a little longer look of our precious Golden.
That's two storms in two days that's now behind us.  The weather folk continue to tell us another several inches could arrive in storm #3 Saturday.