Friday, July 29, 2011

July screeches to a halt

Happy weekend...again.  It should be a rather nice one once we get through Friday night and, perhaps, Saturday morning.  I'm not sure about the humidity, though.  When I awoke this morning, there was an obvious difference from the past couple of days.  July was a super month, except, perhaps, for a sort of warm spell it had, compared with June.  July ends; now we'll have to see what August brings.

At least after two weeks I might be able to get my lawn mowed.  It's "beginning" to need it.

Dawn broke Friday with that budget debate still in a stalemate in Washington.  Will we finally get a new budget and avoid a possible financial meltdown before the weekend ends?  All we can do is stand by and see.  I'm disappointed.  After both sides offered a plan during the week to get a budget, it all broke down because neither side was willing to compromise.  A major problem, it seems, is one side didn't actually present a plan, only talk of one and comments from that side's leader Thursday was that they would wait for the other to pass its plan then modify it.  Perhaps sometime this weekend potential disaster can be avoided.  Edited Friday night:  The House passed a budget bill; as expected, the Senate rejected it.  The Senate will revise the House bill overnight eliminating the meaningful stuff and inserting the Obama wants.  It'll then be returned to the House.  More drama to come.

There were a couple of interesting developments in Maine Thursday.  First Secretary of State Charles Summers said he would investigate proposed voter fraud in Maine.  Charles Webster, the chairman of the Republican Party, had presented Summers with what Webster called proof that voter fraud did exist.  Summers surprised us with an announcement that someone in his own department had already complained that a previous administration had ordered proof of fraud destroyed.  Summers said an investigation was already underway.

Perhaps all this will lead to the Legislature finally taking honest, real corrective measures and create voter registration rules that require proof of residency and identity.  Then the law should add a requirement for voter identity at the polls.  Considering all the places one must show photo I.D.s, the argument against it is extremely specious.

The other fun story was the tongue lashing Gov. LePage gave members of the news media.  He did point out two or three reporters who do their homework to provide honest coverge of the governor; he also pointed out two or three he literally called dishonest in their reporting.  I first saw it on WCSH6-TV.  You might like to see it for yourself.

And a fun final note for this weekend.  Earlier this month I offered my congratulations to my Fearless Friend and his wife as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, but I didn't know the exact date.  FF is one of the group of retirees with whom I enjoy lunch on the last Wednesday of every month, a ritual we've had for about 15 years.  FF told me the exact date would be this Saturday, so FF and Mrs. FF, let me repeat my congratulations on the celebration of your 50 years together. 

I also learned during that conversation that almost all of us have also reached that 50 year mark this year.  My wife and I will cross the threshhold in November.  It's easy to see why this group of retirees remains so loyal.  We not only share previous work experiences together, we also share good family values.

I hope you have a super weekend.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Popular Mayor?

Mid week.  I'm wondering just what I'm going to mention this day.

Nothing especially shattering comes to mind.  I suspect anyone reading this already knows my opinion on the so-called budget crisis in Washington.  It continues to drag along with some votes perhaps today (Wednesday) on opposing plans.  There is some talk of a short, 30 day extension on the deadline, but it's hard to see just what that would accomplish.  It would only postpone the inevitable outcome and continue to make our Congress critters look foolish.

I guess we'll just see what happens.

Portland has another mayor candidate as Democrat activist Ethan Strimling has tossed his hat into the ring.  For as long as I can remember, the Portland City Council has selected its ceremonial mayor from among its own.  Last year voters in the city chose to have the mayor popularly elected and created a new (for Maine) system of election.  So far, there are, according to reports I've read, 19 announced candidates and one announced "write in" candidate.

I must admit that no longer being a resident of Portland I haven't followed this new method as closely as I should as it might just hit other places in the future.  From what I've read so far, I certainly hope it doesn't come to my town.  The good people of Portland said they wanted their mayor to have at least 50% of the popular vote.  And they wanted just one election to do it. 

It looks to me like voters will have to rate the candidates in order of preference.  If one candidate doesn't get the 50% number, then the lowest vote getters will be eliminated and the rest rated once again.  Seems to me the only way this will work is if the voters rate the candidates perhaps several times on the same ballot.  The elimation and rerating will continue until one winner emerges.

As I said, I haven't followed this procedure very carefully so I guess I should simply keep quiet.  But that's no fun.  I will try down the road to get a more definitive understanding, but first blush seems to indicate a nightmare for both the voter and counters.  If my initial understanding is even close to reality, I can't imagine voters trying to rate 19 or more candidates two or more times on one ballot at one time.  Someone will eventually emerge with that 50% or more number and that candidate will boast how the election was a mandate for his/her plans, but first appearances are that it would be only a massive joke.

I will look into this further just for my own education.  My family lines do have a maternal grandfather who was a Portland mayor in the 1930s and a member of the Portland City Council in the '30s and early '40s.  I don't recall right now if he were among the last of the popularly elected mayors or among the first of the City Council chosen mayors.  Or perhaps both.

A new topic:  I have been a defender of umpires ever since I became one back in the 1950s in Florida.  If you haven't yet seen it, look for a chance to see the final out call in last night's Braves/Pirates game.  The Brave's Julio Lugo (Remember him?  Yes, he's still in the majors.) scored the winning run in the 19th inning.  Or did he?  Watch a replay and see for yourself.


Monday, July 25, 2011

A nicer day? Maybe week?

At last that heat spell appears to be behind us.  And what a heat spell it was!  We saw record breaking temperatures and, at least here on the swamp, we saw three consecutive days of temperatures over 90 which constitutes a heat wave..  I'm not sure the official temps passed 90 three straight days.

Friday was the worst.  The official temperature reached 100 degrees which had never before  happened in Portland.  My little extremely unnoffical device had a high reading of 108.9 that I saw.  I didn't sit here all day long watching it.  The high reading I saw on Saturday here was 99.9, but, again, I wasn't watching it constantly all day.  The official temperature both days were well over that magic 90 mark.

Sunday is the one I'm not sure of as I haven't bothered to check, but I don't think the official reading crossed 90, probably closer to high mid 80s.  My device did gain a 92.1 reading so the swamp had its version of a heat wave.

But Monday we awoke to nicer temperatures, 61 here and in the 50s in many parts of Maine.  This week we may get some much needed rain, tonight into tomorrow and again Friday, and temps will range mostly in the low 80s and upper 70s.  I think that makes it a much better outlook for Maine for the coming week.

We also awoke Monday to a continuing national budget problem.  Pundits are calling the failure of the Republicans and Democrats to reach a budget agreement "a crisis."  I heard some ideas over the weekend which makes all kinds of sense to me on how spending could be cut dramatically and revenues raised at the same time.  I'm sure you did, also.  What I didn't hear was saving any money by cutting billions and billions from spending on illegal immigrants.  That alone might solve the budget crisis.

Of course both parties are blaming the other.  The word "compromise" keeps popping up, but neither side seems willing to compromise.  The Republicans have, at least, offered a plan for a beginning.  But, according to Sen. Susan Collins, that plan has been dismissed out of hand by Democrats in the Senate.  The House Republicans have also presented a plan but, again, the Democrats say they will not discuss it.

Has anyone yet seen any plan submitted by Democrats?  They've said a lot and have been critical of Republican ideas, but what about a real plan on paper?  It's hard to compromise when only one side offers a solution.  We've grown to understand that the spoken words of Democrats and their promises for the future aren't worth too much.  And when was the last time the Democrats, even in a Congress they controlled, were able to even pass any kind of budget under the current President?  Think about that one carefully.

Edited Monday, 4 PM:  As a result of activity today, Congress now has two plans to discuss.  Both the Republicans and Democrats have introduced a plan to pass a budget before next week's "death" deadline.  Both plans also have some flaws and some good points which I'm not going to enumerate here.  The plans are availabe online.  But at least now there's something to discuss.  A couple of problems, the Republican plan won't pass the Senate and there's a chance the Democratic plan won't pass the House.  The Dem's plan also goes against President Obama's insistance of tax increases (or, he politicians prefer to call it, revenue).  So the new budget isn't yet a "done deal," but at least there are plans to discuss and perhaps be the basis for compromise.

Tues. AM:  But no one seems to want to talk.  Both sides look like they've taken a "It's my way or the highway" stance.  So, as it says in the next line .....

The drama, if one can call it that, continues today in Washington.  It really isn't fun watching it.

And a light item or two on the week's beginning.

I have one very simple question about a phrase we hear daily in the news reports.  That phrase is, "Here's the very latest on . . ."  My simple question:  Just how much later is the "very latest" than the "latest"? 

And finally, can't the high paid writers at NBC's Weekend Today come up with a less boring, repetitive to absolute trite degree way to move from anchor to anchor?  It seems like every time the change hosts, it's with the phrase, "Now here's [the other one]."  Hello, 1950s broadcasting.

Have a great day.


Friday, July 22, 2011

What else? It's the weather!

Edited Friday PM:  For the first time ever (at least since records were maintained) Portland hit a temperature of 100 degrees.

My wife gets up early Fridays to head off to her parttime job which begins at six.  I usually arise about 5 AM on days she leaves early so I can spend a few minutes with her and we have breakfast together.  At five o'clock this Friday morning, I was shocked to see 80 degrees in three different places.  That was the temperature on the weather forecast on Channel Six, it was the temperature on my weather station, and the temperature that my computer reads from someplace I don't know, but I think it's the Portland airport.

80 degrees at five A.M. in Maine.  Unheard of!!

Keith Carson, the Channel Six meteorologist this morning, said the "feels like" temperature was 87.  And the sun wasn't even out, yet.  I can't remember when it was this hot this early in Southern Maine.  The forecast says it will get up to 95 today in our area, but parts of Maine and New Hampshire will hit 100 or higher today.

It'll be hot again Saturday before the weather 'breaks' later in the day.  Sunday just might be nice.  Or cold by today's standards.

I feel badly for people who must work outside today.  In my other life, I've done that and it is far from easy.  Outside or inside, this is a day to keep water nearby and keep yourself hydrated.  Can you imagine what those recently graduated high school kids practicing for Saturday's Lobster Bowl football game are going through?  At least the news is the coaches have developed a safe practice program for them.  The kids will go through with the game; it's their last hurrah in Maine high school football and it's to raise money for charity.  Many of the players will be heading off to join college teams within a couple of weeks.

Our air conditioning will be on all day today and probably again through the night.  This is one time I don't think I'll be complaining about my electric bill.

As I've said two or three times this week, do your best to keep yourselves cool and hydrated and rested these days.  Check on your neighbors and family to be sure they're O.K. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mid week...still hot...and it'll be here for a few more days

I've accepted the fact that I'm rarely happy with the weather.  In the winter, it's the cold and snow that gets into me and causes discomfort.  Then along comes spring and they're getting more and more rainy each year.  Yep!  More unhappiness and discomfort.  Well now it's summer.  For the moment it's the heat and humidity that's driving me nuts.

One might think that a person proud to be a Florida Gator would just love this heat.  After all, I have spent summer college breaks working out in the Florida sun installing windows in new construction.  I have to remind myself of those days working outside on the sunny side of a house with the sun blasting me from the back and the heat reflection off those windows blasting me in the front.  But that was more than a half century ago.

The heat we're getting now in Maine doesn't even come close to my memory of those "good old days."  In fact, the heat we're getting in Maine right now doesn't even match the heat being generated in other parts of the country this year.  So I guess, Gator Dude, it's time to "quitcher bitchin'" and just wait a few days when it'll probably pass, at least here.

Nevertheless, I must say that I truly prefer the temperatures to be in the mid 70s with a gentle sea breeze. 

I made a prediction last Friday about Republicans caving in the congressional debate over the budget.  It hasn't totally happened yet, but there's this "Gang of Six" that's trying to make it true.  Right now I don't think anyone has a good solution on cutting.  I can think of a place where they might look.  I'm selfish in that the idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare irritates me as I'm living in that area right now.  But the government could save billions of dollars if it simply stopped giving my hard earned money to people in this country illegally.  There are people getting benefits who have never contributed a dime to the programs, and now the programs are facing the prospect of going broke.  Congress's solution:  cut the benefits of those of use who have worked a lifetime paying for them.

What is it about red and black clothes?  I just watched another car commercial where the ladies in the spot were wearing red tops and black bottoms.  It was at least the third different company where the lady spokespeople were sporting that color combination.  I guess it beats the commercials where the guys were having the front of their shirts ripped off by giant buttons.  Is this color combination particularly effective in car commercials?  I remember the colors; I couldn't tell you the companies.

I mentioned it both Monday and Tuesday, so I'll keep it going.  It's going to be hot again today and the humidity will begin creeping in.  Non-alcoholic and non-caffeine hydration is necessary; water is best.  Keep an eye on your elderly family members and neighbors to be sure they're O.K.  And, Yes! FF, I'm just fine over here.

There's probably a sign of some sort here, but I do remember now and yesteryear much better than the past few years, but I don't remember when my air conditioner has had more use than it seems to be getting this summer season.  I don't think I'm looking forward to my CMP bill.

Stay cool and comfortable.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not much has changed for Tuesday.

It was just too darn hot to try the thinking routine Monday.  The only difference today may be a lowering of the humidity level along with, of course, that ever present chance of showers or thundershowers depending on where you are.  Also, there might be a chance for a decent night's sleep tonight.

Take it easy and keep hydrated. Check up on your elderly neighbors, and stay calm and cool.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Just plain too hot!

It's just too darn hot to try the thinking routine today. 

Take it easy and keep hydrated.  Check up on your elderly neighbors, and stay calm and cool.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Half way through July

Well, now, just in case you've never stacked firewood, let me give you a small warning.  It comes very close to being work.  We took delivery of our winter wood today and now it's all stacked neatly, sort of neatly at least, in its storage place.  It will be nice and dry for the winter burning.

Since we no longer have kids living with us, my wife and I had to develop a system to do the work ourselves.  So, the wood guy delivers it.  This year he dumped it on the lawn because the driveway had just been fixed and sealed.  My wife loaded it on a cart, one cartful at a time, and delivered it to me in the stacking place.  I stacked it.  And now it's done for another year.

Begs the question, doesn't it?  Don't you wish you still had kids around to do the work for you?  The simplest of all answers:  No.  We do love the two sort of middle aged adults we do have, but I certainly wouldn't want to be starting over in this evolving culture.

There is a good thing about the wood.  It completes our summer projects.  When late spring approached, we made a list of things we'd like to accomplish this summer.  Today we crossed off the final entry and all the tasks we had planned have successfully been accomplished.  Lists do wonders to help get things done.  Of course, once the list is made, the things have to get done and there's been more than once I've made a list only to toss it away at the end of the summer.  Not this time, though, the list is complete.

Naturally that doesn't mean there's nothing left to do this weekend.  There's still a lawn all around the house and wife and daughter are going to accomplish the second planting of our beans.  Those events, though, are just normal tasks.

Even the weather seems to be coorporating this weekend.  So far, and the forecast says it'll continue, this has been and is going to be a wonderful weekend.

On Monday I won't be able to say, "I told you so" unless I tell you so.  I'm predicting the republicans in Congress will cave on the debt situation.  Republicans simply don't have the intestinal fortitude to fight for what's right.

I hope you have a superior weekend and all goes as you planned for it go go.


Wood coming, no time to write a post

What a fantastic July weekend we have in store for this weekend.  As it starts, my wife and I will have a very busy Friday morning, thus my weekend post here will be delayed. 

Early Friday morning we're taking delivery of our winter firewood.  It will be dumped early; then Wife and I will be stacking it in our wood storage place.  It's early now, but the wood is only a short time away and, since my garage door will be blocked, we want to get it properly placed as soon as possible.

Therefore, in order to get ready for that delivery, I'll say now that if time and mood permits, I'll give a better post later on today.  And in case I miss that,

I hope you are able to enjoy what should be a fantastic July weekend.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's mid vacation week.

I'm late getting started again this morning.  My wife and I are sort of on vacation and we took the opportunity to "sleep in."  Well, I did.  We have a Golden Retriever who is about as predictable as any dog can be.  She has her schedule and she doesn't want anyone messing around with it.  It is real vacation time for my wife, but I think I'm on vacation all year long.

Four days a week, usually including Wednesday, her "mommy" needs to get up in the 4:30 range so she can get ready for her part time job.  She's on vacation and even stayed up later Tuesday night thinking she could sleep in.  We also get up early the other two days so I can go to my exercise routine at a physical therapy/gym place.  We all take off Sundays and the pup even lets us sleep later, at least to six o'clock.

The Golden doesn't understand vacations so she believes her job is to get us up early.  Besides, she's learned to have her  breakfast at 5 AM.  Yep!  About 4:45 the dog began to fulfill what she believes is her job.  So much for sleeping in during vacation week.

Speaking of vacation, we, all three of us, went for a ride Tuesday, our first just plain "ride" in a very long time.  With gas prices edging back up, we decided that we deserved at least a couple of hours away from the house.  All we had to do was hint at that word "ride" and the dog began to go foolish.  She loves to be included when we leave the house.

It really was a nice time away but we sure did learn again what I think we've known for years.  Summer isn't the best time of year to tackle Maine's roads.  It is difficult to find a highway that isn't undergoing at least some form of construction activity.  Of course we had no destination in mind and weren't on a time schedule, so those slowdowns and single lane passes didn't bother us too much. 

Speaking of road construction, have you yet experienced a ride through Portland?  Just about any ride through the city?  For us Tuesday, it really wasn't difficult, just slow with the diverted traffic.  I don't have to use it on a daily, or even a weekly basis, but I'm impressed with the smooth, slow movement of traffic on I-295 through Portland.  (Our daughter would disagree.  She commutes on that road and normally would use Exit 8.)  Before the exit was closed to Interstate traffic, I frequently used Exit 8 onto Washington Avenue.  I use that exit whenever I visit our daughter or my dentist. 

Washington Avenue is also state route 26, a heavily travelled one for traffic heading toward Lewiston/Auburn.  We weren't travelling in commuter time Tuesday, but I found getting off at 6B and following the detour signs was rather easy.  The state might have found a better route than Ocean Avenue to head back to Rt. 26, though.  I'm not sure which it would be.  I do know the next time I need to go over that way, I'll try either Forest/Allen avenues or Baxter Boulevard.

This has been a rather productive vacation for us so far.  We've had our driveway fixed and resealed.  A couple of Grand Canyon cracks had developed.  That, of course, might be a slight exaggeration, but for us they were pretty big.  A paving guy came and dug them and surrounding areas out and repaved the voids.  After that new tar had set, the sealcoating guy came and completed the improvement.  For you wondering why I don't do it driveway is more than 300 feel long and I have a big parking area near the house.  With my mobility issues, I wouldn't be around here long enough to complete the big project.

Last week, over the Fourth weekend specifically, we began enjoying the fruits of our vegetable gardens.  And Friday of this week we'll get delivery of next winter's wood.  Once we get that stacked, we will be able to say this was a very productive vacation couple of weeks even if we didn't get to take an annual trip.  We have, however, already begun the process of planning one for next year, especially if prices improve then.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, part of our annual vacation period includes my wife's birthday.  So on this Wednesday as I put these words down, I'd like to offer a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my bride of almost 50 years as she crossed into her next decade this morning.

And, lest I forget it, I believe later this month my FF (Fearless Friend) and Mrs. FF do reach that 50 year of marriage milestone.  So an early Happy Anniversary goes out to them, too.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Budgets and pitching stats

That turned out to be one mighty fine weekend. Yes, I know that there were some scattered showers around Maine, but my little spot got nary a drop. If we did get one, it was after bedtime at night and the landscape hid it the following morning. Saturday was just an ideal day with temperatures in the 80s and virtually no humidity. Some of that humid air did begin to creep in Sunday.

This is almost a full vacation week for Gator Wife.  “Almost” only because her boss asked her, if she had no other plans, if she’d be willing to help out Monday only.  We have no other plans so she swapped the day for one later on.  Last week and this week have been our main vacation weeks ever since we were married.  But high prices and age is catching up with us so this year we’re staying home.  It will be only the fourth or fifth time GW has spent her birthday at home.

As everyone, I think, knows, there’s a giant budget battle taking place in Washington.  Time is running out as the United States could be in loan default by Aug. 2nd without a budget to pay its bills.  It’s nearly impossible to comment on the negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans.  There are times when I wonder if the problem isn’t a gigantic power struggle between Democrat President Obama and House Republican Speaker Boehner. 

The President can’t admit that perhaps it was his huge spending plans during the past few years that have strongly contributed to the current mess.  Not too many people think his massive spending was very successful.  He wants the budget outcome to include tax increases to. 

On the other hand, Speaker Boehner wants no tax increases but rather spending cuts to reduce the deficit causing the budget problems this year.  My personal political persuasion tends to have me come closer to agreeing with the Speaker.  Selfishly, however, I think there are many, many other ways to cut that spending than be reducing benefits we seniors have earned over the years.

The costs of welfare and non-citizens come to mind as places for reform, especially the latter.  Probably that same personal political persuasion could think of others, too.  But, as I say, that’s probably a selfish view.

However, unless spending is dramatically cut with no increases in taxes, we can’t get out of this recession we seem to be in.  In truth, tax cuts should be included.  They have worked in the past under Presidents of both parties.  And most of us aren't flying around in corporate jets.  What an attempt at obsfucation that argument is!

Negotiations continue.

I love baseball. Over the weekend I learned about a pitching stat that I honestly don't think I'd ever heard of before. Too many years ago when I lived in Florida, I was involved in Little League Baseball. Along with being an umpire, I maintained team statistics for the league. I never computed the stat I learned about this past weekend.

Until he retired a few years ago, I maintained the statistics for a coach friend of mine who coached a high school team. Again, I didn't know about "Held." Even when I was an umpire in Southern Maine, that statistic eluded me.

You know the pitcher on the mound when the winning run is scored gets credit for a "Win." Of course he must have gone at least five innings if he was the starter. The winning run is the one that is scored and never caught or passed. It's possible the winning run is scored in the first inning. The losing pitcher is the one that gives up a run that's not caught or passed by the other team. Thus the Win/Loss records.

The "Save" is given to a pitcher who pitches the final inning and keeps the other team from tying or scoring a winning run. There are, of course, many more factors, which I'm sure you know, but that's the idea of a "Save."

Reading the stats for the Saturday and Sunday Red Sox games, I noticed a different designation. "H." I've never seen it before, but you other baseball fans are probably just laughing at me right now. Nevertheless, the "H" is for held. The pitcher comes in with his team ahead, usually in the mid innings, and keeps the other team from tying or scoring the winner.

Daniel Bard of the Red Sox, for example, has recorded 21 H's so far this season and has 65 in his career. Other pitchers, of course, have H stats, but it was seeing that H next to Bard's name that caught my attention. In Sunday's game, Aceves was credited with the W, Bard, the H, and Papalbon, the S.

I learned something this past weekend. And anytime one learns something, it is a good time.

Speaking of pitching stats, though, it has always intrigued me that pitchers get credit for wins and losses. Baseball is a team sport. Take the other eight players off the field and let the pitcher go at it alone and he'll never get the first out.

Finally, also in baseball, I think the Boston Bean Fest over the weekend was unfortunate.  After the Friday night fiasco, the umpires had no choice but to take total control for the other games.  Unfortunately I’m not sure I agree that all the rejections Sunday were necessary.  One, perhaps, the ball thrown behind Ortiz, might have been, but the others I think were in situations where the pitcher wouldn’t want to put anyone on base intentially by hitting him.  Sometimes a pitcher just loses the ball.  But, after the situations in earlier games, the umps had no choice but to make the choices they made.  That’s just what it was.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Ah, Fresh Veggie Season!

Oh, boy!  Another weekend.  Except now the weather has taken a summer turn, a turn that just about everyone in our region is very happy to see.  At long last, July has brought the pleasant temperatures that seemed to be just washed away in June.  And May.  And April.  And . . .   Mostly sunny, but there is that ever present chance of showers Friday night and perhaps thunder showers Saturday.  But it's the kind of forecast that doesn't say everyone will get them. 

I have a hip, the one crushed back in 2000, that seems to dislike this summer humidity even more than it dislikes the winter's stormy cold. 

The best part of this time of year, though, is the transformation into the fresh veggie season.  Yes, I know that we can get what are called "fresh" in the supermarket all year long.  But most of those 'fresh' veggies are at the very least several days old.  I like the veggies that get picked, prepared, and eaten within just a few hours.  The fewer, the better. 

It was Gator Wife who got me hooked on the fresh vegetable craze.  I had returned to Maine after graduating from university and met GW late in 1960.  Back then, vegetables were vegetables.  I didn't care, actually didn't think about, whether the came from a can, the freezer, or from the loose vegetable aisle in the grocery store. 

Behind her parents' home was a huge vegetable garden.  You name it, the family grew it.  My then-future mother-in-law "put up" enough veggies to feed the family all winter long, all the way into the next season's crop.  The family had begun as farmers in Franklin County so the hard work of a garden was natural to them when they moved to this area during WWII.  The move was needed so GW's dad could find work in the shipyard in South Portland.   When the shipyard closed, they stayed.  Since I eventually met their daughter, I'm glad that was the decision they made.

When I started accepting invites to dinner at their home, I noticed the veggies tasted a "little funny," but I never said anything about that.  I did not know they had come from their own garden.  I don't recall how long it was before I mentioned the taste to my girl friend.  Sbe laughed, thinking it was funny I didn't know the difference between fresh and store bought.  "Wait until next summer," she said.  "You'll really see the difference."

Our lives had begun a dramatic change be the time that summer of '61 arrived.  She was sporting a Cracker Jacks box ring and a date had been set.  And I was part of the family.  Part of that was the expectation I'd join in the gardening.   I did and worked hard (for me) and enjoyed the summer's output.  I'll never forget the first ear of corn I had that was cooked within five minutes of picking and eaten within a half hour or less.  Today we only eat farmer's market or roadside stand corn that was picked the day we bought it.  We have a short corn eating season.

But it wasn't just corn.  I developed a taste for the other absolutely fresh vegetables and that season has now started here at the swamp.  GW continues to plant vegetables here, but I must admit I never did become a farmer.

We're getting lettuce regularly out of out plot.  We've had some beet greens and beets.  The green and yellow string beans will be available, possibly by next weekend.  Our potato plants are three or four feet tall, and we'll have cukes, tomatoes, green peppers, and summer squash soon.  We did not plant corn, but we know a roadside stand nearby that picks it fresh daily once it's ready.  That isn't far away.

So, like this weekend shows, July has turned the tide for our weather and good food.  And I like that change.

I hope you have a super weekend.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Haboob and Verdicts (not related)

Those giant sand storms really aren't rare, but the haboob that covered the Phoenix, AZ, area Tuesday was something else.  I probably have seen pictures of them before, but none made a big enough impression on my memory to recall them.  That storm was memorable.

Several miles wide and several miles high, the sand simply took over the area leaving some destruction and dust behind.  Watching the pictures of the storm on the news and on YouTube video postings showed how dramatic the storm was.  In some places, the picture was totally blacked out and watching the cloud race across the area shutting down all visibility was mind boggling.  News reports said that visibility was two feet or less in some places.

We have had some disastrous storm here in Southern Maine.  We have had hurricanes, or remnants of them, from time to time over the years.  A few minor tornadoes have set down.  And who alive back in the late 1940s as was I will ever forget those fires that ravaged the area. 

It sure does seem like this year, with the tornadoes in the south and midwest and the huge forest fires in various parts of the country, and now the haboob in Arizona, we've had some of the worst overall weather in many years.  With each of those national reports comes the realization of just how lucky we are to have chosen this area in which to live.  Let's hope I haven't jinxed us.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her little daughter Caylee.  I'm not going into facts of the case here, only mentioning that in spite of all the negative rhetoric from the so-called experts, I'm among those that believe the jury probably got it right.  I know many of us "just know" she's guilty of killing that child.  It's a gut feeling, and the circumstantial evidence certainly points that way.

I wasn't at the trial.  I haven't heard all the gut wrenching evidence that was given to the jury.  I haven't heard all the presentations, both by the prosecution and the defense.  I haven't spent 100 percent of my time on this case with no outside contact for, what was it? six weeks.  I know only what the news media wants me to know and I've only seen the video clips of what the video people wanted me to see.

And that's the situation with most juries.  Like many of you, I have served on juries, even as foreman once.  I remember as the jury pool members began arriving at the check in place.  We didn't know what to expect, didn't know what type of a case we'd decide, or even our fellow pool members.  Mostly out of self defense, frivolity was evident in the room.  Our major concern seemed to be how long this was going to take.  After all, we had other, important things to do, like earn a living.

Then we learned of the cases and many of us expressed only to each other which we wanted nothing to do with.  Next up, the courtroom where we were questioned (voir dire) about a case and the people involved.  The anxiety came when the jurors were selected.  It was the third or fourth case before my number came up.  One by one we filed into the jury box. 

That's where the transformation began.

All of a sudden we no longer were joking around.  We no longer were thinking of ourselves.  The realization that the fate of a fellow human being was being put into our hands took over.  The seriousness of that service took over.  We listened carefully to the presentations and to the judge's instructions and then filed into the private jury room for deliberations.

All 12 of us remained serious.  We discussed the case and the evidence presented.  We listened to those members leaning one way.  We listened to those members leaning the other.  The demeanor, the discussions, the entire deliberation process remained serious.  Votes were taken.  Deliberations continued.  Finally, it was time for us to return to the courtroom.

Each of the juries in which I participated were the same, and I'd bet most all juries could make the same claims.  And I'd bet that the jury in Orlando that found Miss Anthony not guilty was just as committed.  The judge's instructions were crucial; and in the end, the jury listened carefully to the judge's instructions, the reading of the law, and then after discusssing the evidence probably made the only decision it, in good conscience, could make.

I won't be critical.  They heard it all, every minute, of the case.  I didn't; so even though I have my feelings about the mother's guilt or innocence, I believe it's just possible the jury was correct.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Way, way too long!

The holiday is behind us, but that Republican presidential circus rages on.  I've said many times here that I hate the length of the modern election season.  In recent years, that season has increased to at least two years and in some cases four or more.

I have said that I wouldn't comment on elections until at least the end of the summer before they take place.  That would put off my discussion until the end of summer 2012.  But this Republican cycle has been in full swing since the last election in 2008.  What have we learned so far?  Simple.  Nothing.  Do you realize there are, as of last night anyway, seventeen announced candidates for the party's presidential nomination?  Seventeen already announced.  And there are another nine biding their time teasing us from the sidelines.

If they all should eventually decide to enter the race, that would make it 26 vying for spots in the caucuses and primaries.  We should also point out that another 13 others have indicated they are not candidates.

The good part of all this activity is that we have a very long time to study the candidates to decide our choice to represent the party in November, 2012.  I'm among the many who won't spend all that time thinking about that election.  I'll probably wait until, oh, say, perhaps, next summer before I start getting curious.  Probably by then the field of 17, or 26 if you include the potential ones, or 39 if any of the decliners change their minds, will have wittled itself down to a managable number, especially since both the caucuses and primaries around the country will have already been held.

Here's a little quiz for you.  Name without looking them up now the 17 announced candidates.  How far did you get?  Now name the nine on the fence.  I won't ask you for the 13 non-candidates, but many of those names are whole lot more familiar.

I can honestly say at this point there is not one candidate that has even upped my excitement level.  As I look over the list, all I can think is, "Who are these guys/gals?"  There are at least four, probably more, announced candidates that would cause me to write in my own name before I'd color in the box next to theirs.

Right now I'd say if the Republican goal is to cut President Obama's presidency to one term, the party had better start searching the woodwork for someone who has a chance to beat him.  Yes, I know I shouldn't be critical unless I can offer a solution.  I can't make such an offer, but perhaps a couple of the announced non-candidates should be pushed a little.  The list currently available to us is just a wee bit discouraging.

Oh, the answers:  The 17 announced candidates are:  Michele Backman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Andy Martin, Thad McCotter, Jimmy McMillan, Tom Miller, Roy Moore, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Vern Weunsche.  Now, how many of them can you tell what their "claim to fame" is?  Yes, I knew some of them.

And those potential candidates are:  John Bolton, Scott Brown, Rudy Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, Joe Scarborough, and Allen West.

If you'd like the background on any you don't know or the list of the denials, you can visit this website which is, of course, where I got my list.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

Today we celebrate our nation’s birthday so I resurrected today’s tribute from previous years.

Many folk use this day not only to honor America but also to celebrate with family and friends together. The Gator clan will be having its cookout this evening. Celebrations will be held about anytime from noon on and many folks will head out for some spectacular fireworks demonstrations.

On this day, we celebrate the 235th year of the Declaration of Our Independence from England. We thank and honor all those who have come before us and those during our time that have made sacrifices to make sure our Freedoms long endure. So on this day, let’s all join in and sing Irving Berlin’s immortal “God Bless America”:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains To the prairies,
To the ocean white with foam
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

Happy Birthday, America!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Holiday Weekend is upon us!

Another weekend, not just "another" but a holiday one is upon us.  That, of course, makes it a long weekend.  The nation celebrates its 235th birthday Monday.

The weather forecasts this morning indicate it will be a relatively nice weekend, too.  Part of it will probably be rather humid, which this old bod absolutely dislikes, and there are some chances of some periodic showers or thundershowers in various parts of the area.  But it appears the sunshine will mostly prevail making this a good family weekend.

I'd bet Saturday will reverberate with the sounds of lawn mowers and the like in much of the area.  We, and that includes the Gator Clan, will probably do much of the necessary yard work Saturday so that families can spend as much nice summer time Sunday and Monday together.  Unfortunately for Gator Wife, like a lot of other Mainers, she will have to work Monday morning.  At least her job is a parttime one so she'll only be putting in a half a day to help other locals and visitors with their cookout needs.

I just heard a report on the morning news that the cost of a cookout will be about 12% higher this year than last.  I wonder how much of that can be traced to the forced use of ethanol in gas.  Ethanol has taken a goodly portion of the corn crop, which supplies much food to people and animals (perhaps I should say, "used to supply. . .") out of the food chain and into gasoline. 

This could be the last "quiet" Fourth of July Weekend in Maine.  The Maine Legislature has passed a law which will allow the use of fireworks after January first next year.  Mainers will be able to legally buy and use many of the things, both on the ground and in the air.  That also means that Mainers who travel to New Hampshire or pick up the noisemakers on their travels in other states will not have to worry about having them confiscated, possibly their cars taken, and huge fines when they return to Maine. 

I'd suspect that many Maine neighborhoods will be celebrating noisily next year.  The same suspicion includes the probability that none will originate on the swamp.  I'm not opposed to them; it's just that I think my age and mobility will prevent my using them for safety issues.  However, I do have memories of a happy youth many, many years ago when we could shoot them off legally. 

Since I do have some neighbors within a few hundred yards of the swamp that have set off "roaming" fireworks every Fourth since we moved here, I'd be surprised if we didn't hear any again this year.  It could be a real blowout next year, though.

I hope your Holiday Weekend is a fantastic and safe one.