Friday, September 30, 2011

One ends, another begins

When Friday ends, so will September.  The weatherman says it will end on a relatively nice note, but our new month and the first few days of it could be rather damp.  October is a tough month to call.  We've had some of the most beautiful weather of a year, some of the wettest weather, some warmth and some cold, and even snow has visited in years past.

October probably is mostly known for its spectacular fall foliage.  The changeover has begun, but it is usually around the 7th or 8th in our region when the foliage is best.  Gator Wife and I are thinking of taking a short tour Friday afternoon, but the reason for the tour would mostly be to find some apples.  I realize that Maine apples are readily available in the local supermarkets, but there's just something about getting them at an orchard that seems to make them stand out just a little bit.

I'd guess we'll take a longer leaf-peeping trip toward the end of next week.

Speaking of spectacular sights, the City of Portland built a multi-million dollar ship pier last year.  The new megaberth was designed to allow any sized cruise ship to dock at landside.  We've had a few cruise ships over the years, but the larger ones had to drop anchor in the bay and transport passengers to shore on motorboats.

I'd say the new pier is a success as this week, the huge ships have been coming and going daily.  In fact, I think many have come throughout September.  Therein lies the spectacular part.  Those ships are absolutely beautiful in our harbor and tower over most of the buildings in the area.  I've read the passengers spend lots and lots of money in the area, too, which helps the local economy.

GW and I have cruised on a couple of ships, and if you haven't, you should seriously consider a cruise for one of your vacations.  There easily is as much fun on the ship as in ports of call.

The Red Sox season has ended.  Quite unceremoniously I might say.  I'm not going to rant about the Sox as they ended the year just about as they started it.  Now the part I like least; in this day of playing the "blaming game," only the wrong people will get "blamed" for the collapse.  The truth is, the whole team participated.  We know ownership and management won't accept any responsibility so that leaves the coaches, managers and players.  Baseball is a team game and the winter months should treat the Sox as a team.  Forget blame, the team should concentrate on fixing whatever problems exist.

Edited Fri Eve:  I'm saddened by the news late this afternoon that Terry Francona will not be returning to the Red Sox.  He has been a superior manager who has brought Boston and Red Sox Nation much pride in great baseball.  Some of us can't think of a manager Boston has had in the past that was as good as or better than Francona.  The wrong person is taking this hit for the collapse of the Sox this season, and, yes, I've read about the club house problems.

The announcement adds new meaning to our title today.  Not only does one month end and another begin but also one great manager for the Red Sox ends his tenure and another, yet to be named, begins.

Oh, shucks.  I forgot to buy tickets to the Michelle Obama visit to Maine Friday.  In fairness, I probably should mention I forgot to get tickets to Mrs. Romney's visit to Maine, too.  Sorry, I found that last one so interesting I forgot a few her first name and the date/time of the visit.

As we mentioned earlier, this weekend could be a little bit wet but I hope if the forecast holds it won't stop you from having a super weekend.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Texting could be costly

I got my first cell phone back in 2002 after a major medical situation caused me to want to have emergency help relatively nearby.  I had no intentions of using a phone except in an emergency.  While I was at it, I got a phone for my wife, too, so she also could summons help in an emergency.

That phone was long before today's Smart Phones.  It did not have a built in camera, but it did have some texting capability.  I had already bought some minutes, I think it was a 300/month plan, so Gator Wife and I decided that we'd use the phone to let the other know why we may be later than expected at places.  That worked out very well. 

That summer, we had scheduled a short trip to Pennsylvania, one of our favorite vacation places. Gee! We had this cell phone with nationwide calling and only charged for air time.  We had yet another use for it, to keep our daughter informed of what we were doing. 

Then there was another good use for it.  I have periodic blood tests for various reasons and by using the phone from anywhere in the country, we could have draws taken at hospitals anywhere (my doctor had given me a blanket prescription) and then call the doc's office for the results and changes in medications, etc.

The cell phone had become part of our lives.

But we always stop the car if we're driving before we use the phone.

That decision came about because in the early weeks of getting one; I naturally wanted to give it a try in the car.  One day as I was driving to my daughter's house in Portland, I decided to call her to let her know I was on my way.  The call ended as I turned onto her street.  And then it hit me.  I had no idea on how I got there.  The time from when I started onto the Interstate in Scarborough until I reached North Deering in Portland was a total blank.  To this day I only remember the beginning of the call and the end.

I vowed never to fool myself in thinking I could use the phone while driving again.  It is a vow that I've never broken.  I always pull over and stop before attempting a phone call from my car.

I still have just a basic phone.  It is texting capable, but I've had the phone company shut off all texting, both incoming and outgoing, on the phone.

I live on a street that intersects with U.S. Route 1.  A traffic light coordinates the intersection, but everyone in my neighborhood has learned that just because we may have a green light, it may not be safe to go.  I've seen up to four, even five cars drive right through the Route 1 red light without the drivers even slowing or looking.  If three pass, two or all three of the drivers are either conversing on their phone or glancing down as if texting. 

Drive just about anywhere and you'll see the same scene.  The state calls it "distracted driving."  I say it's an accident looking for a place to happen.  Until today the law didn't specifically define texting as distracted driving.  Now texting while driving is a traffic offense punishable by a fine of at least $100.  That new law which bans texting while driving is now in effect and police say they will vigorously enforce it.

Smart Phone users have the ability to get an App to help them avoid texting.  The app determines the speed of a car and either stops the phone from texting or sends a message that the phone is temporarily unavailable.  This description is not exact, but you get the idea.

I think the new law is a good start to solving the distracted driving problem, but I'd like to see the use of phones by drivers outlawed altogether.  This attitude doesn't make me friends, but I'm selfish;  I'd prefer the safety when I'm in my car.

I often wonder just how I made it through nearly three-quarters of a century without having a phone planted in my ear.  I remember when people could have discussions face to face.  Hard to do today.  How many times have you seen people, especially young people, walking side by side texting each other?

Remember, texting while driving is now against the law in Maine.  If you get caught, you will face at least a one hundred dollar fine.


Monday, September 26, 2011

The gambling questions

I hope you had an enjoyable weekend as we head into the final week of September.  I'm not so sure that's necessarily a good time as the arrival of October on Saturday will put us that much closer to the snow and ice season.  And cold; let's not forget that cold weather also arrives.  Those prospects didn't stop yesterday, however, from being one mighty fine day.  On the Gator Homestead, the temperature pushed into the 80s under blazing sunny skies.  Officially, I heard Portland reached 83.  What a great day to mow the lawn and wash the deck!

We're also inching closer to the November elections.  For the most part, this is an off-season with mainly local positions and stuff being decided.  There are three ballot questions facing voters, two of which concern gambling.  The top question concerns a people's veto of a bill passed in the last legislature that would change the voter registration time and the other two, also the product of petitioning by the people, would establish new gambling businesses in Maine.

I've already discussed the voter petition (last Wednesday) and I haven't changed my mind on that one.  I'm going to vote "no" for the override as I think even the slight change to require registration at least two business days before an election is better than same day registration.  However, I feel that like the majority of states, that closing of registration should be much earlier than just two days to give local clerks ample time to check residency.  I also believe that, also like a good number of states, the state should require identification at the polls.

Gambling is the topic of the other two questions.  Gov. LePage vetoed two bills that were the result of a previous petition drive to establish more gambling sites in Maine.  His reason for the veto wasn't necessarily because he opposed them but rather because he said the matters were formed by a citizens' drive and so the citizens should be the final arbitor in the decision.

Gambling is not new to Maine.  Voters a few years ago approved slot machines at harness racing tracks in Penobscot and Cumberland counties and we've had the lottery for years.  Voters in Scarborough, the site of the Cumberland County racetrack, failed to approve that track so slots didn't get here.  Bangor voters, on the other hand, said slots would be a good thing at Bangor Raceway.  I find it interesting, though, that the slots paradise in Bangor isn't located at the race track.

Because of the local disapproval in Scarborough, Scarborough Downs petitioned to have slots allowed in a new track in Biddeford in York County.  If approved, and Biddeford voters have already welcomed the establishment, Scarborough Downs would relocate to a newly created Biddeford Downs.

Lewiston would like a full blown casino with both slots and table games and the Bangor facility wants to include the table games in it's slots facility.  A full casino has already been approved for Oxford County.  Indian tribes in Northern Maine, primarily the Penobscot Nation, want to establish a harness facility and slot parlor up there.

In a relatively low populated state like Maine, gambling facilities may have a hard time proving their monetary worth to jobs and the economy.  Sure, the Bangor facility is profitable, but if the other casinos or, as the racetrack ones are called, racinos do get built, I wonder if there'll be enough business for all to compete.  The argument is that it will draw tourists.  Perhaps a few will come, but other nearby states, primarily Massachusetts, are also planning new gambling establishments. 

I find it hard to believe that gambling tourists will bypass Massachusetts and Connecticut for Maine for gambling.

I'm concerned that the establishment of more gamling houses in Maine could lead to more poverty in the state in spite of the jobs creation touted by the builders.  It's also interesting to read that most of these facilities will be run by out-of-state gambling centers which would cause a good deal of the income to be exported.

The now under construction casino in Oxford County, for example, is to be tied to a Las Vegas facility.  Bangor's establishment has ties to an out of state company, too.  I'm afraid these new facilities will be drawing mostly from Mainers, and Mainers who can least afford to lose their money.  Yes, we do read of a very infrequent "big winner," but the profit margin is already guaranteed for the gambling facilities.

I think I liked the way Gov. LePage put it in his Saturday broadcast last weekend.  I can't quote him directly, but when asked about whether people will make money from gambling, his reply was that yes, good money will be made by someone, strongly hinting that it would be someone other than a Mainer.

Have I ever been in a casino?  Sure.  Gator Wife and I have visited Las Vegas twice and we rode on the old Prince of Fundy once.  All three time we had included in our entertainment budget one roll of quarters each visit.  That's a total of $30 dollars.  It doesn't take very long to go through 120 quarters in slot machines.  And I don't buy lottery tickets.

On a Scarborough Downs note, the first job outside my family that I ever had was at Scarborough Downs.  That was way back in the early 1950s when I turned 16.  That was back in the days when Scarborough Downs was a running horse track.  Six of us teens were hired to be what was called "veterinary assistants."  I won't get graphic, but our job was to collect a wet sampling from winning horses immediately after a race to be tested for performance enhancement drugs.

In my two summers at Scarborough Downs, I never collected a tarnished sample and only know of one of my fellow assistants who did collect one.  Drugs weren't the owners' preference for attempting performance back then, as far as I could learn, but they did use ice amply.  Again, I guess I won't get too graphic.

I have never seen a harness race, except on television, but I think I could entertain you for a full column of Scarborough Downs anecdotes from my two summers there.

All this to tell you what you already know:  I will be voting "no" on both gambling questions as I've seen no argument for racinos and/or casinos being a good benefit for Maine.

Closing with a correction:  I had said over the weekend that the Sox's final season's games were in St. Pete.  Actually, it's the Yankees playing the Rays while Boston is playing it out in Baltimore.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Fell

Happy Weekend, everyone.  At the same time, we wish you a Happy Autumn.  Fall arrived shortly after 5 AM Friday morning and now we can reflect on a summer season.  I don't have much reflection as it was a mostly uneventful one for the Gator Clan.  In fact, I think there were times here that I lamented on how slow it was.

We did have one major event.  Gator Wife got a new car.  She'd be the first to tell you it was not in her plans.  Neither of us needed a new car as the ten/eleven year old ones we had worked just fine.  Neither was costing us much money.  Probably together we hadn't spend more than a few hundred dollars on those cars.  And most of that was in two trips to a local car dealership where she swears she was taken for a proverbial ride.

The place where she  bought the car always seemed to treat her as she perceived to be fair.  That place was sold so GW went to the new one, an established dealership for another brand.  She liked doing business with a dealer as she felt, rightly or wrongly, that it was best equipped to take care of her car.  After two trips, which she terms disastrous, to the new place, she took our daughter's advice and began using a local non-dealership establishment.  She was very happy with her treatment there.

Then came that day when a utility pole jumped out right in front of her.  Her ten year old car and that pole didn't play nicely together, so she now has a new car.

I continue to take my car to it's dealership.  Eleven years later that place still honors all the freebies it offered to sell me the car back in 1999.  Except for a couple tires and a battery, my Toyota has been extremely good to me.

We've made plans for a short summer trip next year and having a new car will make it a much more worry free trip.

That gets us back to this weekend.  I think the showers and occasional rain will keep us from doing too much outside.  The weather folk keep trying to convince us that Sunday will be a nice, sunny day; but we've learned that this time of year it sometimes takes a couple of days for lawns to dry out for mowing.  This could be a two week time between lawn work.

What a season ending way for the Red Sox to draw to a regular season close, three games against the Yankees and then three against the Rays;  six games left and only a two game wild card lead for the Sox.  Considering their history making collapse, one might say it looks bleak for games beyond the St. Pete trip. 

The Gators play Kentucky Saturday.  The Wildcats haven't beaten Florida in football for longer than some of you have been alive.  Edited Sunday AM:  The last time Kentucky beat the Gators in football was in 1986.  During the day yesterday, my Fearless Friend sent me a note that the date probably wouldn't change.  It didn't.  Gators 48-10 last night.

I hope all of you have a really super weekend and are able to keep dry.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The inconvenient voter registration...Not!

We've reached another mid-week and this time that is a signal that summer officially has only two full days remaining.  Fall arrives shortly after 5 AM Friday.  The forecast says today will be rather nice, but Thursday and possibly Friday will see some nice temperatures but they could be wet.

A couple of topics have me thinking this morning.  And they concern the upcoming elections.  There are three items on the state portion of the ballot, two of which concern gambling and one about repealing an election law passed in the last Legislature.

Legislators passed a change in Maine's election procedure which had allowed same-day voter registration.  The new law requires registration to take place at least two business days before an election day, effectively requiring potential voters to register before business closing on Thursday of the preceding week.

A group of mostly democrat organizations successfully petitioned the state for an  citizens' repeal of that change and we will get that choice this November.  Maine is one of only a small handful of states that allows same day registration and those against the change says that has resulted in more voter participation.  Changing the registration time period would, that group says, disenfranchise thousands of people wishing to vote,

I think that's a specious argument.  Mainers have all year to register and there are so many ways that registration can take place that no one can use the excuse they didn't have time.  Those people who own cars, as just one example, can register at the same time they register their cars.  People who move to Maine during an election cycle must register their cars in this state to become residents and that's a good time to register to vote.  Most people only have to register once unless they move. 

I recall when I moved to my present home I went to Town Hall to let officials know I was now here and that, among other things, I was responsible for the taxes.  I registered to vote in this town at the same time. 

What the registration change does do is give local registrars a chance to confirm residency.  As it is now with same day registration along with the hubhub on the voter places, there really is not such chance for checking.  That to me makes the chance for voter fraud to be great.  Does it happen?  I don't know and those against the change say none has ever been proven.  Under Maine law, once a vote is cast it is no longer challengeable thus negating any real chance of proof.

My name and my wife's name remained on the Portland voter list for several years after we left the city.  Someone so inclined could easily spot those names as not having voted and used them to cast an illegal ballot.  Did it happen?  We'll never know.

To my way of thinking the only people who will be disenfranchised or inconvenienced by the new law are those bent on an illegal act.  I will be voting "No" in November.

I also believe we should require an I.D. to vote.  I have to show one virtually every where else I do business.  Showing one on voting day should not be any different.  Not having to show one is just another potential, note that word potential not a real claim, for voter fraud.

I also will be voting "No" on the gambling items.  But I've rambled longer than I had planned on the voter issue so I'm putting this second part of my thinking off until another day.

While I have your attention, though, let me urge every Red Sox fan to "bite the bullet" and strongly yell, "Go Yankees!"


Monday, September 19, 2011

Another 'blah' Monday

I suppose I could discuss some sports. There's the Red Sox. Yup. The Red Sox. This is, I think, one of those times when I'll take a page out of my brother's life which says simply, if you can't say something nice, say nothing. A double header today could . . . No, Gator, you said you'd be good.

Then there's the Patriots. Hmmmm. "There's"..."Patriots." Singular/seemingly plural. Does the word "Patriots" represent several people (plural) or is it the name of one (Singular) team? Does it represent many players or just one bunch of players? Or one group of people. Interesting dilemma, isn't it? So, "Then there's the Patriots."

If Tom Brady continues along the path he's been on the first two weeks of the season, that team will be tough to beat. Perhaps the best game would be one with Brady's Pats playing Rogers' Packers. With a runner like Wilfork, how can NE lose?

My Florida Gators are trying to show the world they're heading in the right direction of returning to be a contender. After whipping a couple of teams from the non-powerful list, the Gators entered the SEC season Saturday. They stopped arch rival Tennessee quite easily.  I must admit I enjoyed that game.

I'm having a hard time getting into political interest so far this year.  It seems to me that, so far at least, nothing is changing from the past few years.  The democrats keep presenting plans that have been and continue to fail miserably while the republicans continue to apparently do nothing but argue.  Perhaps in the next few weeks there'll be change...real change.  I won't hold my breath.

With nothing to say today, I'll end quickly and hope you all have a great Monday.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Not one for my memory

Memory is such a selective part of our being.  We tend to remember things, intentionally or not, that interest or affect us.  It might also be safe to say that we forget some things intentionally or not, that interest or affect us.  The older we get, though, the easier it seems to be to remember things from the very long ago past and have a hard time with things that happened just yesterday or last week.

Here we are now in another weekend and as I watched the weather forecast this Friday morning, one of those memory things came to mind, one I had no interest in remembering.  I still don't, but thinking about unimportant things came to mind.  Why?  The weather forecast touched it all off.

What it touched off was one of those "I can't remember when" items.  It's not going to really affect us here right along the Maine coast, but not too far inland is a "frost advisory" and a "freeze warning" is up for the mountain area.

We're only half way through September, for crying out loud.  And officially it's still summer as the season doesn't change until next week.  I can't remember when it was this cold this early before now.  When I watch the weather later today, I'll see the almanac which will tell me this isn't really unusual and we probably won't set a new low record.  Or even a new low high for this date. 

Nevertheless, this September weekend and into next week will be cool for what I remember as September weather.  Daytime temperatures will only be in the sixties, some days like today the low sixties, for the next several days.

My memory of this time of year, the memory I wish to have, is for nice, pleasant weather this time of year.  I've spent time in my former workplace longing just to be outside.

I'll forget this weekend once it's over because it's not the kind I like to remember.

So, speaking of the weekend, I hope you'll have just a really super one.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Three items of concern

I sometimes head into areas where I may not be knowledgeable.  Shucks.  Some people would say that's most of the time with, perhaps, some exceptions to my personal stuff.  So, with that disclaimer, I'm venturing into areas where all I have is unsubstantiated opinion.

First, the Ameircan Jobs Act.  President Obama is touring the country trying to gain support for his huge tax and spend plan to create jobs.  I say "huge," but it's really not as big as his previous efforts.  His very expensive proposal calls for the creation of many temporary jobs in the public sector, similar to his proposals in the past.

He wants to put Americans working, among other things, building infrastructure.  We need new roads, bridges, rails, etc., but once they're constructed or repaired, the jobs disappear.  And we, the taxpayers, are left with another monster addition to the debt which we already cannot pay.

Previously we "fixed" the housing market, saved teachers', policemen's, firefighters' jobs, bankers, and more.  As a result of the trillions of dollars we're now in debt, how many jobs have been created?  I saw a report on the TV news the other day that the answer is simple:  zero. 

The stimuli given to communities to hire teachers, police officers, and firefighters, among others, was all temporary.  When those funds expired, the communities were faced with crippling additional cuts or debt to continue those positions.  As an example of that failure, there was a report on TV last night about teachers, who are now losing their jobs in record numbers and heading overseas to find employment.

Another question:  with all the money poured into infrastructure over the last couple of years, are our roads, bridges, transportation facilities really any better?  The answer is so easy it's scary.  Just take a drive around our state and see for yourself.

Why on Earth do people think that continuing the same failed plans will result in anything any different than more failure?  And so much more debt that it is putting the future of our country into serious jeopardy?

The jobs must be created in the private sector where investment can be made into growth and more money can be put into our pockets.  The most effective way to put Americans back to work is much less government spending, lower taxes on businesses, and a down-sizing in governments.

For those who ask, "What about all the great programs we have to 'help' Americans?"  I ask, "What incentive do we give those needy Americans when we provide them with everything for not working?"  Only about half of us now provide for all of us and I, for one, am running out of money.  When our money is gone, what then will happen to those programs?

Second, an election in New York.  For the first time since the early 1920s, voters in New York's 9th District have sent a Republican to Congress.  A sex scandal caused the imcumbant Democrat to resign earlier this year, and his seat unexpectedly went to a Republican.  Some pundits are claiming it was a total rebuke of President Obama's policies, both in America and towards Israel.  They are claiming it portends serious trouble for the Dems in the 2012 elections.

I'm not so sure about that.  The GOP isn't exactly make super friends with its lack of any substantive improvements, either.  Republicans got all excited when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts in the last election cycle.  He proves everytime an important vote comes up that having an "R" after one's name doesn't necessarily mean "Republican."  He might be in trouble in Massachusetts.

I should include that a Republican was elected in Nevada Tuesday, too, but that was in a district that has never elected a Democrat.

If the Republicans really want to succeed in 2012, they must get busy on those tasks I mentioned above.

Third, an incident in Portland.  In the first week of school two children were involved in incidents where bus drivers left the youngsters off where no adult supervision was present.  The errors have something to do with who should have been left at the East End Elementary School for after school activities.  One such error is one too many.  Two is unforgivable.  Both the school's principal and the city's school superintendent have said measures have been taken to prevent the situation from happening again.

Yup.  Like many of you, I've made mistakes and generally have paid for them.  I have not read of any consequences for these two major errors.  There can be no excuses.  If a third should happen, and God forbid it does, then the consequences should be swift and dramatic.


Monday, September 12, 2011

A Golden Romp

I spent a while last evening trying to formulate something in my head about which to write today.  During a couple waking moments during the night, again I worked on the problem.  Now here it is Monday morning and I'm no further along than I was yesterday.

I did watch quite a lot of the 911 commemoration on TV yesterday.  Some of it was really quite impressive and well-handled.  I really didn't see anything negative as I think it clearly showed that America was brought together even more than it was before that terrible terrorist attack ten years ago.

I suppose I could offer some comments on the Red Sox.  In all the years I knew my late brother, I never once heard him say anything negative about anyone or anything.  He was the most positive person I've ever known.  So, for once in my life I think I'll take a page out of his book at say nothing about the Red Sox.

We did have one beautiful sight here on the Gator Place Sunday.  As you know, Gator Golden was injured way back last winter and had to undergo some fixing surgery on her knee.  Because she's a dog we had to keep her as quiet as we could for several weeks.  As the warmth of summer approached, we've been encouraging her to return to her active life slowly, but still holding her back.

Well, yesterday we truly and thoroughly enjoyed watching GG and her sister, our daughter's Golden, racing, chasing each other, wrestling, and generally romping around the back yard.  GG, who knows she's out of condition, would occasionally stop herself and lie down for a few moments, but then up and right back at it.  We let them go at it.

I took my outside-unfriendly camera out a couple of times to get some pictures of the girls; but along with a focusing screen that doesn't play nice with outside light, the pups were more interested in me than having their pictures taken.  I failed.

After a while both dogs raced up onto the deck and to the door.  They were announcing that it was time to come in and get some rest.  GG showed no sign on her injury.  After GD and her dog went home, GG headed for her resting place for a nap and she surely did sleep well last night.

Perhaps next time I'll have found something to say.


Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Remembered

This weekend we are remembering and honoring the thousands of Americans who died as a result of the terror attack on the United States on our own soil.  September 11,2001, several men dedicated to attempt to destroy the unity of Americans hijacked four planes and set out on a mission of destruction.  What they accomplished was the creation of a new resolve that strenthened our country.

At least two of the men began their destructive mission right here in Portland.  Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.  Both Towers were destroyed as the giant passenger planes slammed into them.  All the passengers and thousands in the buildings were killed.

Another commercial passenger plane attempted but failed to hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  More Americans died.  It is unclear if the Pentagon was the original target for the hijackers but perhaps the White House or congressional buildings were the real target.

By the time hijackers had taken over the fourth plane, the news had spread rapidly via cell phones and heroic passengers aboard that one took matters into their own hands.  As the plane was forced to turn back to Washington, the heroes forced the plane to crash in Pennsylvania.  All were killed but will remain as heroes to all Americans. 

Everyone who was alive on that fateful Sept. 11, 2001, remembers vividly the details and what they were doing when the United States was forced into a near shutdown.  I was in charge of a computer network at the time and was busily upgrading a bunch of machines when the TV first interrupted with the news.  That news spread fast.

I think most of us believed that America was again in a global war not of our making.  As it turned out, those beliefs were closer to reality than we had hoped.  That war against terrorism continues today. 

America has changed since that fateful day 10 years ago.  Some of the change, perhaps, has been good for us.  Some it it hasn't.

This weekend will see many memorial events, both here in Maine and throughout the United States, to honor those who lost their lives in the attack.  A new tower in New York is nearing completion and memorials to all who were involved, including a big memorial on the site of that plane crash in Pennsylvania, will honor our heroes. 

No doubt you can find an event near to you.

This reflects on my remembrance of those events.  I'll bet you have many memories of your own to think about as we spend this weekend memorializing the worse terror attack America has ever seen.  And while it's all taking place, our nation is bracing to stop yet another threat believed to have been planned for this weekend.  Perhaps the death earlier this year on the mastermind of that attack ten years ago has negated this year's threat.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Living Will

We awoke to rain this morning.  Up until today, my little space has generally missed the rain and shower activity that has plagued much of Maine for the last few days.  But it is wet out there this morning.

When I drove to my senior fitness session yesterday morning, I noticed that gas prices had increased in stations I pass.  Last week, two of the stations were at $3.679/gallon.  Yesterday one of them was at $3.699 and the other at $3.759.  On the way back home I got to thinking about the increase and realized we had just gone through a holiday weekend, almost always a signal for increased gas prices.  I'll have to check Thursday morning when I next pass those places and see if that increase held.

Am I alone in noticing a huge difference in the quality of the NBC Today show when Savannah Guthrie is the cohost?  She takes over quite frequently when Ann Curry isn't there, which isn't often enough for me.  Savannah is a much stronger interviewer than Ann and the whole show seems to by more dynamic.  But that's just one viewer's point of view.

Did you know the "Living Will" law has changed?  I didn't until I met recently with my attorney on an estate matter.  When one reaches the mid-70s, good planning becomes even more critical and it was time to update mine.  I had completed a "Living Will" back in the '90s when I updated my Last Will.  (In case you wondered, "Last Will and Testament" isn't necessarily the last one.  It can be changed, refined, or otherwise updated as conditions change.) 

Gator Wife and I believed, correctly, that we had made it clear what we wanted to happen when "that" day comes.  Because we wanted to make life as easy as possible for our named Executor, we decided a review with the attorney was needed.  People should have occasional reviews anyway just to make sure provisions were up-to-date with new laws and new life conditions.  Our Will was fine, but the attorney suggested some ways we could make it easier after we're gone.

He also pointed out our "Living Will" was outdated.  It would suffice, he said, but it really didn't meet all the requirements of legislation passed since we first made the document.  The new "Advanced Health Care Directive" spells out more definitively just what should happen and when during those final days.

I remembered that time I was rushed to the hospital ten years ago with a burst aneurysm and resulting heart attack.  I'm extremely thankful that the Scarborough Rescue Unit got me to the hospital in the time window and that a fantastic surgeon was arriving at the same time.  As I was being wheeled into the operating room, the last words I heard were the nurse saying, "He has a living will."  I think those are the worst words one can hear when one is on a death spiral.

I didn't know that doctors simply couldn't "pull the plug" and had to do all they can to save a person.  And my super surgeon did all he could to save me.  His efforts are why I'm able to write this today.  The new Directive takes all that concern away.  It spells out specifically who can make medical decisions and under what conditions those decisions can be made.  

Thirty-five years ago, my mother lapsed into unconsciousness a month after my father had died.  Within a week, the doctors in a Florida hospital declared she was "brain dead," but then continued to keep her on life support.  For six months over the objections of my brother and me she was passed from one hospital to another so, as my brother and I could only determine, the facilities could get a share of her insurance money, possibly estate money.

We hired an attorney in Florida to assist us, but he said that under then Florida laws and because she had no Living Will, we had no say in the matter.  They finally let her go after six months, although her soul, we believe, had long gone to its place beside our father's.

A Living Will takes care of much of those decisions, but the new Advanced Health Care Directive closes the gaps and spells out just who can make those decisions and under what conditions.  Updating your last wishes just might be a good idea.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Michelle Bachman, on the basis of her interview on NBC's Meet the Press had taken a 1 to a collective nothing lead in my choices for the republican presidential nomination.  Since then, nothing.  All the candidates in my book are once again tied at zero.  We need new, fresh blood to join the fray, blood not in any of the current political status.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An interesting time ahead

Labor Day itself didn't turn out to be anything special as rain and showers passed through the area.  The sun did shine for most of the day Monday.  All in all, though, I'd call it a pretty decent holiday weekend, at least here on my little spot of the world.

Now the Maine political season can begin in earnest, although there really isn't much locally happening.  I still think it's a little early for the presidential and congressional races which don't face voters for another year and a quarter.  Yet I did read this is the real beginning of the presidential election season. 

There are local races that will be resolved this coming November and the state ballot has two, perhaps three questions facing the electorate.  Two of those involve gambling facilities and the third, if petition signatures are verified, would ask voters to repeal the change in the election law that requires voter registration two business days before an election.

More on those on another day.

President Obama is going to give another of his campaign speeches to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening.  He says it will be completed before the Thursday night opening of the National Football League.  Since the President's only accomplishments seem to be making speeches, I'll probably skip this repeat, too.

The word is he's going to make a massive plea for another stimulus package to drive the economy further into debt.  We seem to become worse off with each of his spending sprees.  And just how many jobs have been created in America because of those proposals?  The monthly job reports don't seem to indicate too many.

The answer seems to always be, "If we could just spend some more money . . ."  Like many Americans, I've learned the hard way that one cannot spend oneself out of economic disaster.  It takes a lot of discipline and huge cuts in spending to get back on a positive economic track. 

We need at least two major changes to get our economy flowing once again:  more money in our pockets and jobs.  With the government taking more and more of our money through taxation, much of which is in the form of other names to try to fool us, we don't have as much to use to contribute to economic growth. 

Government "investment," incidentally, is simply one of the other names for taxation.  Call it whatever you want; but when government takes fees, investment funds, bonds, or whatever from us, it is a tax.

The best way to create jobs, I believe, is for the government to get out of the way.  Let's face it, businesses are in operation for one make a profit.  Capitalism has more than four letters; it is not a dirty word.  Allow the business creator to make a profit and people will be hired to help accomplish the goal. 

I watched a news report over the weekend about a booming economy in North Dakota.  At the time I wasn't looking at the possibility of mentioning here so didn't take notes.  A search of WCSH TV where I saw the report and of CNN which I think originated it failed to find it on line.  I haven't tried a Google search. 

The report was about an oil field near Williston, North Dakota, that has every single business in the area begging for workers.  Of course the oil field work would be the best, but the story even told of local businesses, such as a McDonald's, offering $15/hour or more to get people to work for them.  The government apparently "got out of the way" of that local drilling and the economy and jobs creations are booming. 

Every community in the U.S. can't develop an oil field.  But most of them have something that could lead to prosperity if allowed to grow.  Unfortunately, the so-called "alternate energy" craze is making loads of money for the few able to get some of the government stimulus money, but little for the common man.  Have you been reading on how many of these "green" companies have gone bankrupt and shut down recently?  You and I are paying for them through our taxes.  I believe that if wind turbines and solar power are indeed viable sources of energy, then private industry would be investing in them and not relying on my tax money.

Oh, and a closing note, it's also said President Obama is going to offer a new housing stimulus this week.  If you think the housing industry is slow now, just wait until you hear the details of this plan.  And, don't forget, beginning next year, if you sell you home, you will be paying a 3.8% tax on the sale to help pay for Obamacare.

Unfortunately, I don't see the Republicans, especially the announced presidential candidates, with a plan to change anything.  Sure.  They tell us they agree spending must be cut, but then when it comes to the shove, they seem to do a little caving.

It has the makings of being an interesting year.  I hope my worry of three years ago isn't coming to pass.


Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend has arrived once again.  It's an interesting, non-religious holiday that originally was designed to honor the nation's workers.  It still does that, but it has grown into a huge family weekend designed, in most states at least, to say "Good-bye" to summer.  True, summer will continue for another couple or three weeks, but with the kids back in school after the long break, most families are now settling in for normalcy.

Lots of interesting things do take place this weekend.  Many families will have their end of season get-togethers; camps that weren't shut down for Irene last weekend will be emptied for the season; some vacationers will take short trips, although travel experts predict less than normal travel will take place; and Old Orchard Beach all but ends its season.

Labor Day ends that season we call summer that began on Memorial Day weekend last May.  "Summer" in Maine does not mirror the astrological summer.

Schools will be in full force beginning Tuesday, although most actually began on a limited basis this past week.  It seemed a little strange seeing the yellow school buses on their childrens' routes.  We were reminded that some very excited children were out on the street corners waiting for the arrival of their trip to learning. 

Most of those corners also have parents patiently waiting with the children to be sure they don't do anything foolish.  Children, you know, sometimes forget where they are and just run out into streets.  We are also reminded that we must stop for school buses with their red lights flashing.

Growing up I didn't have to take a bus as my family lived in the Deering area of Portland.  All the schools were within just a short couple blocks walk from home.  And great schools they were:  Leland (I'll bet many of you either have forgotten Leland or never heard of it), Longfellow, Lincoln Junior, and Deering High were all within walking distance for me.  For you still scratching your head, the old Longfellow and the old Leland elementary schools, across a street from each other, one with grades 1 to 3 and the other with grades from K and 4 to 6, were replaced with the now Longfellow School in Deering Center.

We didn't have to be accompanied by our parents, either.  Wow, how times have changed!

Conflicting weather reports for this weekend make it a sort of "play it by the day" type.  The Gator Clan will have its annual cookout sometime this weekend, but we're flexible.  We have no trips, long or short, planned.

I hope you have a super Labor Day Weekend and have the opportunity to spend some happy time with your own clan.