Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bye, Bye, August!

Wednesday.  The last day of  August.  There has been some excitement this month, but in my world this August was about the slowest month I've spent for a long time.  We did have an auto accident, at least Gator Wife did, but no one was hurt and that was a super plus.  It resulted in a new car for her.  We did have a visit from a hurricane which brought a lot of damage to both our region and the East Coast of the U.S.  But generally speaking, for the members of our little world, it was a slow month.

This last day does bring one of my favorite events.  Since it's also the last Wednesday of the month, a little group of fellow retirees will meet for lunch today.  Our group has shrunk over the 16 years we've been doing this each last Wednesday since we retired, but those remaining still seem to have a good time solving the problems facing Americans and the sports world and our former place of employment.  Unfortunately for all those entities, we're the only ones who know the solutions.

All of our retirement group will remember August 31, 1961, but it's amazing how many people were not even around back then.  It was the day that Portland's Union Station became just a memory.  If you are among the people still under 50, you probably have no memories of Union Station.  It was the passenger rail station to the world.  When it was taken down, passenger rail travel from Portland all but ended for several decades.  It was the Downeaster to Boston and it's new little place near Thompson's Point that eventually returned passenger rail.

My memories of Union Station all date to a time before 1955 when I left Portland (on a plane) heading to Florida.  I have some fun memories of Union Station.  It was the place my Dad, my brother, and I took a train to Boston.  We'd attend a Celtics' game in the afternoon and then a Bruins' game in the evening. 

I remember a rodeo featuring the late Western Movie star Gene Autry when I was a very young, impressionable lad.  After seeing one of my movie heroes in person at the show, Dad and I were riding up an elevator in a nearby hotel to our room.  We weren't alone in the elevator.  When I glanced up, standing right beside me was none other than Gene Autry.  He glanced at my awe-struck face staring up at him, smiled, and asked, "Did you enjoy the show, Son?"  All I could muster was a slow, wide open mouth 'yes' nod.  He chuckled as we arrived at our floor and left the elevator.

I'll never forget that event that took place 65 or 66 years ago.

I also remember a time when as a toddler when my Dad and I were approaching the station.  He made me turn my head as we approached the door.  I never knew why, but just before turning, I saw a man standing facing a corner near the door.  I'll never know what he was doing.

As a teenager before we got our first car, my friends and I used to use the train from Union Station to Old Orchard Beach.  My first car in 1953 put a stop to those train trips.  Remember the old Budliners?

Passenger rail service was already in decline, but I had arrived back in Maine in time to see that symbol of a great era come tumbling down.

Nothing on the political front excites me this morning.  But we all must remember that schools are opening all around the area this week and the first of next.  It's time to start keeping a weary eye open for the youngsters heading to school.  Of course that also brings back one more memory:  my generation used to walk to school.


Monday, August 29, 2011

A major storm slams us; but for the most part, we were prepared

They hyped it for a week, those local and national weather people.  I'm guilty of falling into it myself last week.  As with most of the storms that predict doom and gloom that far in advance in Maine, Hurricane Irene had lost most of her devilish behavior before she entered our state.

I'm not saying she was an angel.  Even though she had been downgraded to Tropical Storm before she got here, she left her mark on a pretty sizable portion of the western mountains part of our state.  She also let the people of York County and parts of Cumberland know she had been around.  But she wasn't nearly as brutal as we were led to believe she probably would be.

Kevin Mannix, the morning weatherman on WCSH6 Newscenter made a pretty good comment Monday morning.  He acknowledged there was a lot of hype concerning Irene before she got here and that the storm wasn't as bad as forecast.  He pointed out that his job, and thus the job of most public weather forecasters, was to prepare people for the potential.  Mannix said his profession would take a lot more criticism if it didn't present the potential of an upcoming storm.  He's correct.  Can you imagine the outcry if the weather folk didn't warn us and we were caught off-guard? 

Part of the reason the damage was not as high as it might have been and the deaths, I don't think I've read of one in Maine, from not being ready were as low as they were, the last figure I saw before writing this was 40, is because most of us took the precautions that were suggested by the warnings.  It is far better to be well-prepared and take extreme caution and be able to gripe about it when it doesn't turn out as bad as the potential.

I feel badly for the almost 300-thousand people who lost their power, many of whom are still in the dark, and I feel equally as bad for the people who had a tree crash into their yard, homes, vehicles.  The damage was severe, but people were watching out and not getting caught by those falling trees.

There are so many parts of a major weather event that I can't mention them all here.  I'm sorry for the inconveniences and costs, but I'm happy that personal tragedy was kept to a minimum. 

Will the weather folk hype another storm?  Absolutely.  Will I complain about all the hype?  You bet.  But in all my griping, I'll remember to take heed of the cautions and do what I can to keep the Gator Clan safe.  And when the next one is over, well, the cycle continues.


We've been good; Irene left us alone

We made it through Irene O.K., as did much of our region here in the southern part of the state.  York County might be the exception as I look at the news pictures this morning.  That was not the case in the Western Maine Mountains, parts of northern Maine, and in New Hampshire and Vermont.  Irene let folks in those areas know she was passing through.

But the little plot I inhabit was relatively unscathed.  Where are the pictures? you may ask.  Sorry, I have nothing unusual to show. 

We did lose our electricity for about two seconds yesterday, but I'd guess it was Central Maine Power's automatic equipment that quickly switched us to another circuit.  Before I could finish a sentence to Gator Wife about it being "our turn," power was back on.  The loss did screw up some electric clocks I have so I had to reset them.  That was so totally minor compared to what many people faced in the hurricane area.

Our only other inconvenience was the cable box.  As soon as the electricity came back after less than two seconds, the cable box automatically began its  rebooting process and a couple minutes later the TV was back running.  All my computer equipment is battery protected and didn't even blink, except, of course, for two seconds we were without a phone or internet.

Our daughter didn't fare quite as well.  She was without power for a few hours near the North Deering section of Portland; and our Fearless Friend was without power for a little while yesterday.  I'd say compared to those closest to us, GW and I made out very well.

I hope your Irene experience was at least close to mine.

I'll let this stand for a Monday morning effort.  Perhaps as I get a chance to check the news and other forums and blogs, I'll have something new later today or Tuesday.


Friday, August 26, 2011

A could be quite a weekend!

Edited in Red Sunday.

Edit 4  Fifteen seconds after I hit the "Publish Post" button, we lost our power for two seconds.  It took longer for the cable box to reboot than the power was out.  All my computer equipment is battery protected so none of it shutdown.  I can also hear some thunder off in the distance.  Now I have to make the rounds to reset clocks because of a two-second outage.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we're not out of the woods quite yet.

Edit 3:  Mid Sunday afternoon.  The weather radar indicates there may be a few straggling showers remaining, but it appears that for our little region, the rain part is all but over.  We are continuing to experience some winds with some pretty forceful gusts.  Maine has had some downed trees and some damage and there are power outages in various parts of the state.  In fact, my Fearless Friend had one earlier today.  Tropical Storm Irene is passing well to the north of us.  I must say the TV stations in our area and the national networks have kept us informed, but I'm not sure Irene quite measured up as the 'experts' though it would, at least in the tiny portion of the world.

I'm now enjoying the final game in this year's Little League World Series.  California (US) is playing Japan (International) for the LLWS Championship. 

This will probably be my last update on what now is Tropical Storm Irene.

Edit 2:  Just a few minutes before 11 A.M. and the rain has arrived.  Right now it's raining very hard here on the Gator swamp.  The winds have picked up considerably, too.  My little wind gauge thingy (yeah, I know the technical term, but I like my all-purpose one better) is spinning about as fast as I've ever seen it spin.  It's generally steady around 15 mph at this hour, but gusts have crossed the 20 mph mark.  This part of this morning's forecast seems to be about accurate.  We were told the winds and rain would pick up around noontime and then grow during the afternoon until they subside this evening.  The best part is tomorrow should be nice and sunny.
Now it's time to head out to the store where Gator Wife works.  She's about to end her shift that she accepted a few weeks ago to help out a vacationer.  We left her new car home so it wouldn't get dinged by flying stuff in the parking lot.  The way the winds and rain are performing now, this could be an interesting trip.
Edit 1:  This is one of those days I almost...almost...wish I had a clue on how to use Twitter or Facebook.  I'd keep you updated as much as I could.  However, I will occasionally update this blog.

By 6 A.M. we were getting only some light drizzle and showers.  We did hear some thunder, but I didn't see lightning, a couple hours ago.  The hurricane is still far to the south of us and by the time it reaches Maine late this morning or early afternoon, it probably will have been downgraded to tropical storm.  Inland New Hampshire and Maine, especially near the western Maine mountains, probably will get the brunt.

My area along the southwest coast will get some winds, forecast this morning to be in the 30-40 mph range, and some potentially heavy rain beginning early this afternoon.

Gator Wife had agreed weeks ago to work at her part time job this morning to fill in for a vacationer.  To help protect her new car from flying objects in the big parking lot, Gator Golden and I took her to work this morning.  We had no problems with driving conditions; in fact, we've seen a lot worse on a cloudy day.  Picking her up late this morning might be fun, though.

When, if, anything develops on the Irene Front today, I'll let you know my thoughts and observactions.  Right now, though, it looks a lot like a typical Maine storm super hype.

The weekend storm news continues to evolve and this Friday morning doesn't give us any definitive answers.  Hurrican Irene is rumbling our way, but just where it'll hit us is still up in the air.  And that landing spot is in continuous change.

Of course the weather people on TV love the new models that seem to change hourly.  Seem?  They are.  Earlier the track to put Irene right through Portland.  Then it began to be projected to move more inland as it comes to Maine.  By Thursday, it looked like it would just clip us in the Maine-New Hampshire-Canada border. 

If that track held, then when it does get here beginning Saturday night with shower activity beginning late in the afternoon, the bulk of the rain would be well west, the wet side of a hurricane, of us.  We on the east side would get some high winds, some rain, and some coastal surging.

Then the models Friday morning moved it back to the east a little bit and now would go through closer to the middle of Maine.  That would put a lot more rain in northern Maine and stronger winds and surges in the south.  One model has it smack right over Portland.  That would be interesting.

What it all seems to mean, though, is that we're going to have an interesting Sunday into Monday with a probably down-graded storm from hurricane to tropical storm.  In any case there are plans and precautions we all should make and take.  You can get lists of these on various web sites with links to them from nearly all communication stations such as,, and  There are government agencies with suggestions, too.

Of course all the local stations will be following the storm closely thoughout the weekend.  Be sure you have a battery equipped radio as some power outages are expected.

For our little family, it'll be a dangerous time.  Gator Wife left for her parttime job an hour early Friday morning as she must make some merchandise for Friday non-storm-related events.  There's a chance she'll have to go in early Saturday as the store in which she works prepares for a potential onslaught of customers preparing for the storm.

Unfortunately for her (us), because of vacation schedules she had earlier agreed to work Sunday morning, too, and, of course, her regular schedule Monday.  That'll give her a couple of days of some dangerous travel, albeit for a very short distance.  The Old Gator Dude won't be happy waiting to learn of her safe arrival the various days.

So I can only suggest that all of you take necessary precautions as it does look like our area is in for a rough time late Saturday into early Monday morning.  I hope you have a safe weekend.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The hype: A storm may be coming

Here we are in the middle of the last full week of our non-eventful August.  Well, I say, "non-eventful" even though we did have one really major event.  Yea, I know "uneventful" is probably a more appropriate word, but I like mine better.  The one event we did have was Gator Wife's still unexplained meeting with a utility pole that ran out if front of her. 

Her car was officially declared "totaled."  It really doesn't take much to make a ten-year-old car get more damage than the car is worth.  As I mentioned over the weekend, we did get her a new one rather quickly and I got to drive it for the first time Tuesday.  New cars surely do drive much more comfortably than old ones.

It seems like only yesterday we began eating the fresh veggies right out of our own garden.  I sure do like them.  Already, though, time is running out for the super fresh goodies.  The weather hasn't stopped them; we've just eaten too darn well.  One bad thing did happen.  Our summer squash plants were blooming abundantly a few weeks ago.  I love summer squash and was looking forward to those blooms becoming succulent vegetables.

It never happened.  They were in a garden off the beaten path at the end of our yard, away from where Gator Golden can leave her scent of presence.  Some unknown critters have completely eaten our summer squash.

I missed it.  An earthquake rocked much of the East Coast Tuesday.  All the way from the Carolinas, through New England, and into Canada.  I heard some people on the local news say they felt the quake here.  If they did, and I'm not saying they didn't, it sure must have been a mighty weak shake.  One building on Marginal Way in Portland was evacuated because it shook for a minute or so.  There was no damage nor injuries.

I have never felt an earthquake.  In fact, according to NBC news, the last East Coast earthquake occurred more than a hundred years ago.  I'm rather elderly, but not quite that old.

I got a new cable box Tuesday as my old one was acting rather funny.  I was sitting in my den setting it up and never knew a 5.8 level earthquake was striking the East Coast until I read about in the news I peruse a couple times a day.  I simply missed it.

Now our attention turns to the new hype threat; a hurricane or at least its remnants may or may not hit this area Saturday night into Sunday.  Irene is a Cat.2 storm this Wednesday morning and could strengthen into a Cat. 3 before it begins to lose some of it power later in the week.  It looks now like it'll miss Florida and nudge the Carolinas before heading straight for New England.  Of course the edges of the storm could cause some problems along the coasts of Florida up to the mid-Atlantic states.

The cone of potential storm travel puts us in that "could go well west of us inland or well east of us out to sea."  If it does turn westerly, it could slam into the U.S. over the Carolinas.  If it doesn't veer one way or the other, the projected track puts us right smack in the path of at least some heavy winds and heavy rain over the weekend.

Now I feel just a little guilty for joining that hype I rail against so often.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A new week is underway

Were you up around 4:30 this Monday morning?  Wow!  We had a huge downpour.  A little light rain or shower activity continued another hour or so, but then clearing arrived in our area and now it looks like a couple of pretty decent days.  If that humidity takes a vacation, I won't be disappointed.  Now the little clan has a relatively empty calendar for this last full week of August.

Through the time I've communicated here, I've periodically mentioned that I love sports played by the youngsters.  About the lowest age levels I get to see with any regularity is the Little League Championships, both the baseball ones in Pennsylvania and the softball ones in Oregon.

Right now it's the boys in Williamsport.  There's just something about the sportsmanship, the intensity, the honesty of the boys playing.  I also like the adult announcers that ABC/ESPN selects every year to call the play-by-play and the color commentary.  They never criticize and can find something good to say about any play; even the most misplayed ball was usually something like "an outstanding attempt."  (Edited Tues:  Perhaps last night's announcers are the exception.)

I like the touch that Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra, a couple former great Major Leaguers, put into the announcing.  They explain what the youngsters will be learning to improve as they move up through the age groups of games. 

And what is more exciting for youngsters playing baseball than a double play off a sacrifice bunt?  It happened in Sunday night's game.

The umpiring is also excellent.  All the umps are volunteers, not only of their time at the games but also of their paying their own expenses to get and stay in Williamsport.  Do they ever make mistakes?  Of course.  But in the LLWS, on a close, possibly questionable call, all six get together to confirm or correct a call.  If that doesn't work, then, in the LLWS level only, replays can help the home plate umpire make a correct call.

If I had a criticism, it would probably be of my own ignorance of the strike zone in the softball games.

In fairness of disclosure of my liking the work of the umpires, I got my start in umpiring in Little League games in Gulfport, Florida, where I lived in the mid 1950s.  I continued calling games  into the mid 1980s.

I don't have a political rant today.  You're welcome!  The major excitement on the Maine calendar is the redistricting public hearing of the state's two congressional districts.  The republicans and democrats have competing versions of a plan to equalize the population representation in our two districts.  Redistricting is mandated to assure the one person one vote rule.  In Maine, however, as it probably is in most states, anyone living in the state can run in either district.  The legislature will have the final say in September.

Enjoy the day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A happy wife

I didn't have to prepare for the day quite as early today.  I didn't have to drive Gator Wife to her parttime job.  She drove her own new car instead.  Her old car, you may recall, was wrecked in an accident a week ago. 

We only visited one dealership and it was a very pleasant experience.  It was willing to provide us with a car at a price we were willing to pay and when the long afternoon was over, GW felt good about the experience.  That, of course, is important. 

In the "old days" we would have visited many different dealerships narrowing the choice down to one that was willing to meet our needs.  But in GW's situation, she loved the all-wheel drive she used to have and simply wanted another one.  There are two dealerships within a few minutes drive from our home and she absolutely refuses to even enter one of them because of a couple past experiences.  So to get the car she wanted, we had to go to the other one. 

The people there, all the way from the salesman to the manager were extremely friendly and helpful.  The saleman, probably because of my advanced age, or perhaps because I told him during the discussion I had no clue on using Facebook, that I was computer deficient.  I told him I did have a computer (and a Facebook page, too, only just didn't know what to do with it) so he gave me a lesson on how to research cars on the Internet to get the best price.

I didn't tell him I had already accomplished that research and was a little surprised he showed me many of the places I had already looked.  His "fair" Internet price was within a few dollars of what I had entered the dealership planning to spend.  That was quickly resolved.

So, about four hours after we entered the dealership (Patriot Subaru in Saco, ME), a very happy Gator Wife drove home in her new Outback.  The old Gator Dude also drove home not quite as happily in his old, very old, car.  He wants a new one, too!

One of the most exciting plays in football is the kickoff and punt return.  I've been watching some of the pre-season games and that exciting play has all but been eliminated.  In its collective wisdom, the NFL has changed to kick off to virually stop any runbacks.  They've moved the kickoff to the 35 yard line allowing those powerful kickers to put it deep or out of the endzone.  I'm surprised the NFL didn't simply place the ball at the 20 and say go for it.  It's all in the name of "player safety," you understand.

We're in yet another weekend.  The Gator Clan has few plans, except probably GW will spend some time learning about her new car.  I haven't driven it yet; I wonder if she'll let me.

You have a super weekend.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another mid-week in August

We've reached another mid-week in August.  The beginning of the month seemed to be rather lazy and simply creeped along.  All of a sudden, the time has returned to pass quickly on the old Gator Stand.  Don't get me wrong.  My August calendar hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot.  It's just that the time seems to be picking up in speed.

We're still waiting around here to learn what's going to happen with my wife's Subaru.  It was sort of dented a bit last week when a utility pole leaped out in front of her.  It will either be repaired or replaced.  I think Gator Wife is hoping for a replacement.  After all, her car was 2001.  On the other hand, it had only been driven 33 thousand miles.  Perhaps today will be a decisive one.

I've completed another of those toys I wrote about a week ago.  I realize they were designed for kids who haven't reached ten years, yet, and I'm just a little over that.  I am learning that 70+ kids have also have fun with construction toys.  This one was a roller coaster, the second one I've put together.  Building the frame for the thing was rather easy, but adding the track was a challenge just as it was for last week's smaller one.

But it's a fun time with some playtime projects to complete.  One thing is for sure, these projects really beat the third, fourth, fifth time summer reruns on TV.

We'll hope today will bring a decision on GW's car.  My broken denture was fixed yesterday, so we're just watching August slip by.  In fact, just a week from today will end it.

And how about Tuesday's Red Sox game?  They lost the game and first place, but they did complete a triple play, always an exciting play in baseball.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Finally, a score: It's 1-0.

As weekends go, that was a weekend.  The weather wasn't as nice as weather we've had in recent weekends, but it was tolerable.  Cloudy for the most part, but tolerable.  As I said in our weekend message, we had planned a cookout.  Well, we had a cookin instead.  I learned a valuable lesson, though.  Gas grills require gas.  By the time we learned we didn't have any of that fuel, it was too late.  The indoor part of the meal was just about ready  We cooked the steaks inside instead.  It ended up being a super meal.

The Ames, Iowa, straw poll was held Saturday.  I didn't see any of it.  It's still way too early for me to get very interested in politics.  After all, the elections are still a year and a quarter away.  My party did gain one and lose one over the weekend.  Candidate for the nomination, that is.  Rep. Michelle Bachman won the straw poll, barely.  But she won.  As a result, Tim Pawlenty dropped out, but Texas governor Rick Perry dropped in.

That huge number of wannabees hasn't changed much.  It will, though, during the next several months.  Perhaps there'll even be fewer before this week is out.

I certainly could be convinced to lean toward Rep. Bachman.  I didn't see any of the so-called debates in Iowa nor did I hear anything any of the candidates said Saturday before the polling.  I did, however, see Rep. Bachman take on David Gregory on Meet The Press Sunday.  As I've said before, he may be the lightest lightweight moderator that NBC show has ever had.  Among my biggest complaints is he never allows a guest to complete a sentence if that guest isn't answering in Gregory's planned response.

Rep. Bachman more than held her own and even told the moderator to let her finish answering his question several times.  His less than happiness was very evident in his body language.  And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get his guest to change her very consistent answers.  And I wonder if he doesn't understand the issues or simply doesn't care about them.

Golly, how I miss the late Tim Russert!

I'm not joining the Michelle Bachman bandwagon just yet, as I'm not joining any of the bandwagons.  There still a very, very long way to go.  But in my book, she gained a point Sunday.  In my book, she now leads the entire pack one to all the other candidates' combined nothing.  However, this game will be longer than a Red Sox - Yankees game.

It was strange this morning having to go out at 5:30.  Normally, Mrs. Gator heads off to work in her own car.  A strange accident last Thursday changed that, at least for a while.  She simply took my car for her final work sessions last week, but I'm hoping for a call from my dentist today to begin getting a broken upper plate fixed or replaced.  I didn't want to be without a car, so I drove the boss of the house to work.

The insurance adjuster called last Friday and we will find out later today if her 11-year-old car is repairable or if we'll spend some time this week car shopping.  We may not have to shop too hard, though.  She really liked the all-wheel drive Subaru she's been driving.  We could be limiting our search to a Subaru dealership on the Saco Auto Mile.  There is one dealership, however, I can guarantee she won't visit.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A weekend in August

This is a kind of "woe is me" weekend. I broke a rather large chunk off my upper teeth. Yea, most of it is a bridge replacing all but four of my own teeth. I have no idea what happened. I was just eating a pizza when I felt something hard. Sure enough, it was a chunk of artificial teeth. The "woe" part is my dentist doesn't work Fridays so I have to wait until Monday for a resolution.

I think if the truth be known, I'd like a whole new upper plate. The current one has been broken before and a couple new teeth had to be added a few months ago when I had a couple real ones removed. The fixes haven't really been comfortable as it feels mushy. So Monday I'll check on the cost of a new one and go from there.

We haven't car-shopped for 11 years when we bought Gator Wife's car. Mine is 12 years old. I think we both thought those two cars would be our last. Her 2001 Subaru only has about 34 thousand miles on it as she only uses it for local commuting and an occasional shopping trip.

She doesn't know what happened. She was coming home from a grocery run and began a right turn onto our road. The car apparently had its own idea and jolted left, crossed the main road, and found a telephone pole.

She wasn't hurt. Thank God. I wasn't there so didn't see the car until I went to the body shop where it was towed to retrieve her stuff. It wasn't a pretty sight. The cost of repair could easily be more than the car is worth and if that becomes fact, it won't get repaired.

We'll know probably Monday and a search for her second final car could get underway. Back in the day, I was a pretty good negotiator for new cars. Since I didn't think I'd ever need to do it again, I put my technique long behind me. I'm not even sure the old ways would be effective today. Shucks, I don't even know if dealers negotiate today.

We have the weekend to get through. It looks like the weather will cooperate and we'll get around to having a good grill-out. What we do doesn't really qualify as bar-b-cue. But we'll include some home made onion rings and, perhaps, some French fries and freshly baked bread. Wow! This could be a great weekend after all.

I hope you enjoy yours.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August Doldrums???

Perhaps.  I awoke this morning still thinking about this little essay.  I'm still thinking about it and haven't come up with any ideas that really interests me.

At least I don't have to wonder if my Social Security check will arrive today following the threat of a week ago that perhaps this month's check would not come.  I don't really know how much not getting it would have affected my life.  It is among the smallest SS checks the government sends out.  I do have a couple of retired friends, though, that get smaller ones.  My wife is among them.  I know one person who receives no check at all.  His SS benefit is so small that after insurance is subtracted, he has to send the government payment for the insurance cost difference.

I no longer need worry about mine, though, thanks to the Congressional non-action on the deficit.  This is my week to receive a monthly check.

Our activityless life seems to be continuing.  I am constructing another of those age 7+ construction kits.  This one, a roller coaster, is just a wee bit more challenging than the Ferris Wheel I constructed last week.  (You can see a picture of that one in last weekend's post.)  The frame of the roller coaster went together very nicely and easily.  All the parts fit properly and it looks just like the picture on the box.

The track for the car, however, has become another story.  I may have expressed a few words  which only our Golden heard.  This thing may be designed for ages 7+ but it sure would probably require help from a parent.  Now if my Fearless Friend were reading this, he'd probably say something like, "Come on, Gator Dude, most kids are a lot more competent than you when it comes to constructing things."  Actually, he might not be that kind.

I'm down to stabilizing one final connection of the twisting, winding track.  I had it connected once, and the chain that lifts the car to the top worked perfectly.  In fact the first time through the course, the car made it perfectly; but when it passed that last connecting point, the track popped off the support.  The lifting chain continued to work, but when the car got back to that point, it slammed into the frame.  I'll get it figured out, perhaps today, but that track has become a challege for this age 7+ Old Dude.

Edited Wed. PM for anyone who's interested:  The Roller Coaster is complete and running.

You see?  I wasn't joking about not having anything interesting to say.  So I'll let this be for the first complete August week.  Enjoy your week.


Monday, August 8, 2011


I'd call that an uneventful weekend. Except for mowing the lawn, which didn't really need it, I guess one would have to call it a "resfful weekend."

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I had decided that we didn't like this non-vacation year. Oh, yes, we did get a lot of necessary things accomplished. We had the driveway repaired and sealed. We go a new stove. Many necessary projects were accomplished but we didn't take a vacation. We've missed it and so, since a new production at our favorite theater in Lancaster, PA is being introduced next spring, we decided we'd bite the proverbial bullet and head there.

Now a little incident last week in Washington, D.C., has got us thinking again. First, Congress failed to resolve the budget/deficit crisis. Sure, a measure was passed and signed into law by President Obama, but it only provided for more borrowing. I've said it here many, many times. One cannot borrow into prosperity.

When our family, and I suspect many of yours, found themselves in serious financial difficulty back in the 1970s, we cut up our credit cards, about all of which had been max'd out, cut our spending dramatically and only allowed the purchasing of that for which we could pay without charging, and over several years, eliminated all our debt. Well, we did have a house payment for several more years, but with the elimination of everything else that payment was relatively easy. In fact the mortgage was satisfied before it was scheduled to end as was a mortgage on a subsequent house we bought.

I'd hate to tell you how long it's been since we've made a car payment.

But now, after all that work, our financial life is once again in jeopardy. And it's all because of the inability of Congress to meet the crisis head on. A leading rating agency has downgraded America's credit. The potential of what that could do to all of us is scary. I haven't paid a credit card interest for many years so that part wouldn't hurt me. Those of you who do pay interest, however, could see your rates rise. Buy a new car or house could also become more expensive, all due to a potential increase in interest rates.

Selfishly, I won't have as much income today as I did a couple weeks ago. With the dramatic fall of investments on Wall Street, my retirement portfolio, like everyone's portfolio whether retired or not, is taking a hit. That hurts.

I could go on, but as you watch prices rise and income fall, just remember what your government is doing to you. Remember when we were faced with a similar financial crisis in the late '40s/early 50's and President Truman called that time's Congress a "Do-Nothing Congress"? Well, some of us are old enough to remember. President Truman's comments are fitting today.

Two things must be accomplished to get us out of this national financial mess. Congress must reign in it's need for spending and it must send a balanced budget Constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. It won't do either.

As I've said in the past, I'm not offering suggestions for cutting as I didn't create the mess. The creators must get us out of the problem. I could offer some dramatic suggestions though, none of which would be politically correct.

As for our vacation next year, we're back in the "let's try to do it" stage.


Friday, August 5, 2011

What's more fun than a new toy?

Revised to add pictures, Saturday AM

It's a weekend and we have only light activities planned here on the GiM's little playground.  Nothing special.

Weather permitting, perhaps the lawn will get mowed, but most of it really doesn't need mowing.

The ladies of the clan may do some gardening work, but that, too, will depend on the weather.

The other day my wife arrived home from a shopping trip with our daughter with a toy for me.  Yes, a real toy, not some adult thing like a new computer or IPad or Kindle or anything like that.  It was a chilld's toy.  She said she was attracted to it because the age range was "7+" and she said at least my age began with a seven so she thought it was appropriate.
Perhaps it's hard to imagine...a 3/4-century Old Gator
having so much fun with a toy designed for a 7-year-old.

I guess it was more appropriate than I probably first thought.  Since it was here, I decided to use it.  "It" was a construction kit for a Ferris Wheel.  I've been having a ball putting it together.  I've had so much fun watching it grow and turn (It's motorized.) that I went out myself and bought a roller coaster. 

The company has another one but it is for age 9+.  I've got another fifteen years to wait before I can make that one.
Meanwhile, there's one member of the family
wondering why she's left out of the fun.

I hope you enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bouncing around

Midweek.  Just another day?  Probably.  The Old Gator Dude doesn't have a whole lot on his plate so here's a quick scattering.

The Congression debt deal is done.  I said about all I can about that fiasco, but I think we Americans are in for a huge shocking surprise.  The news media is making a big deal about it; but in the end, what has changed.  Nothing.  Our debt and deficit will continue to rise and those spending cuts will hardly be noticed for the next few month and future Congresses aren't bound by them.  Have we really seen a change to smaller, less expensive government?  Absolutely not.  Will the budget get balanced like you and I must do to our own budgets?  Absolutely not.  Have our Republican congress critters let us down?  You can fill in that blank.

Speaking of cuts, I got one of those "forwards" in my email yesterday; you know, the kind that get passed along all across the country.  This was one citizen's thoughts on the budget and "sharing."  He pointed out that the President has said we all must "share" in getting the budget under control.  Then he listed all the places Congress and the President seem to be saying, "Well, you share, we'll continue just as we have."  He pointed out that Congress members and the President aren't involved in any spending cuts, like lower salaries and benefits which they're promoting for us to share.  And he pointed out all those expensive trips by the President and his wife we must pay for.  For some of us, it was a good "forward."

Some fun politics are taking place in Augusta.  Former secretary of state Matt Dunlap (D) is accusing present SOS Charlie Summer (R) with political motives in investigating voter fraud in Maine.  Dunlap says an employee had approached him with document concern, but it was about a license, not voting.
Summers says he was approached about voter problems.  There didn't seem to be any indication of whether or not the informant was the same person.

One can't help but understand why Dunlap might be questioning the situation as he is said to have ambitions to run against Sen. Olympia Snowe in the next election.  Well, he is getting some press, isn't he?  One can't help but wonder, though, if, like other Democrats, his protestations don't simply add to the validity of the investigation.  One might think he'd welcome one to clear his good name.  Sort of that "Where there's smoke there's fire" adage, isn't it.

I mentioned last week about Portland's new method of selecting a mayor.  Voters will have to rank the 20 or so candidates rather than vote for just one.  The city hopes to get the mayor elected by more than half the voters.  I said I didn't understand it.  It looks like this weekend we will get a chance to learn more.  One candidate, Michael Brennan, has some volunteers to cover Portland with an issues survey for people to rank issues.  He says he will use the results in his campaign.  I don't know how that'll work, but it might give us a hint into the ranking voting system.

Here's a question:  If the candidates are elected by rating until he receives at least 50%, is that winner truly the candidate of choice of the city's voters?  For example, if Candidate A gets, say 20% on the first ballot, Candidate B gets 16&, C-C gets 9%, etc., through all the potential 20 candidates, and then through rating eventually C-C accumulates 50% and wins, wasn't C-A really the preferred candidate of most people? 

I do think we've ranked issues on surveys many times in the past, though, so that, unless it mirrors the upcoming election ballot, might not give us much help.


Monday, August 1, 2011

An interesting beginning to August

Monday A.M., Edited Monday P.M., and edited again Tuesday P.M.

August First, a new month.  And a good one it promises to be.  You see, football season gets underway.  The pros got started last week with their "welcome to training camp" activities.  College football, which I enjoy, is just around the corner, and in Maine high school sports begin in two weeks.  It's that college football, though, that I look most forward to.  And it begins this month.  (The Gators' first game isn't until Sept. 3rd, though.)

It looks like we're in for a day and a half or so of some unsettled weather.  Some places in Maine could see some pretty strong storms beginning this afternoon and continuing into tomorrow.  Our area is included in the rather large area of the state under an elevated storm warning.

It took a little longer than I thought, but, "I told you so!" (Referring to previous post)

The President has signed the "compromise" budget.  What a great compromise.  The country gets to borrow several trillion dollars, which will add to the deficit, in return for a trillion future cuts and no balanced budget.  Those cuts, incidentally, are for ten years.  Guess what?  Oh, yes, you already knew that once the current Congressional session ends, future sessions are in no way bound by the cuts.  What a great deal!  Once again, we have been shafted.  As for that "no tax increase" you're hearing about...keep your eyes open.

Before this day is done, the nation may have a new budget which includes a resolution to the debt crisis facing the country.  It was a heavy weekend for Congress as House and Senate proposals were debated and then defeated.  The House plan was a Republican one and the Senate plan, a Democrat one.  What it all led to, however, was what I called for last week, a compromise.  President Obama and leaders of both Houses announced a compromise deal had been completed. 

It is far from a perfect bill, but it does have some elements resulting from compromise.  Although it will probably pass in both chambers today, that passage won't be without detractors.  Neither side got what they really wanted and debate could be contentious today.  If, as expected, it does get settled today, it appears to me that possibly the Democrats came out winners.

A couple stories on the Portland newspaper The Portland Press Herald's web site over the weekend and this morning intrigued me.  One concerned the upcoming referenda on gambling and its future; the other concerned the petition drive to get a repeal of a change in election laws passed by the last legislature.

The weekend story was about what would happen to a plan in Oxford to build a big casino resort if Bangor's Hollywood Slots, already open, get the O.K. to include table games along with its slot machines, and voters approve a casino for Lewiston and slots for Biddeford and Washington County.  The Oxford plan included a phased in design to eventually become a casino/restaurant, then a hotel, then a full gambling resort.  But then the other gambling requests surfaced and people are now wondering if the Oxford plan, primarily because of its location, will ever grow beyond the casino/restaurant. 

No matter what happens, I continue to be opposed to gambling in Maine as it attracts people who cannot afford it.  I believe it will send more people into the public assistance lines.  I have no proof this happens and reports from other gambling states are mixed.  My upbringing taught me that we are the happiest and most successful with that for which we work and earn, not from the "easy" attempts at success like gambling.

The other item concerns a people's veto attempt at repealing a newly enacted law that requires voter registration at least two business days before an election and eliminates same day registration.  A coalition of mostly Democrat supporting organization uses a specious argument that it an unfair change.  I had read last week that the coalition had gathered about 60-thousand signatures (They need about 57 thousand.) but were seeking another 10 thousand for a safety valve.  This morning newspaper web site says the group needs to make a decision this week as to whether they have enough signatures to submit to the state by Aug. 9th. 

I suspect part of the problem the coalition is facing is a report from Maine Republican Party Chairman  Charlie Webster last week that he had uncovered proof of same day registration voter fraud.  The coalition had been telling people there was none.  Shortly after Webster presented his proof to the Maine Secretary of State, that department official said he had already been told of potential fraud and an investigation was underway.

The Democrats, of course, continue their talking points that no fraud exists and no proof had been shown.  One must wonder, though, why if none existed just why it is so important for them to keep same day voter registration.

So drama continues both on the national and state stages.  It might be an interesting beginning to August.