Friday, September 12, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Great Sports Channel

Hard to believe, the SEC Sports Network featuring SEC teams is on Channel 384 on Time Warner Cable.  Not that this is a good year for the Florida Gators Football team, at least they're on TV, sometimes like this Saturday, 9/6, here in Maine.  BTW...Don't let today's blowout fool you into thinking this will be typical Florida


Friday, August 22, 2014

Home, at last!

What's any better than a good vacation?  is what I've been asking for a few weeks, now.  Little did I know that the answer to the question would be, "Living."  I've been in the heart wing and now at rehab center.  But now I have that new answer to keep going.

But it hasn't been fun.  Two plus weeks in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit alone is a near nightmare.  But at least I got my colonoscopy out of the way as the colon was a potential source for what was causing me to be there.  The only pollup found proved to be non-malignant, so that wasn't the problem, but it was a good thing.   I've spent the last six weeks at a rehab center learning little things that had been affected, like standing up, walking.  But today (8/22) I was cleared for release and now I have to work at regaining strength at home.  Whatever it was I had, I was miles from being the most fun thing I've ever gone through.  But, as the old saying goes, "There's no place like home!"

To keep your memory alive, here are my favorite puppies:
That's our 13 year old Golden on the left, and our daughter's 1 year old on the right.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What's any better than a good vacation?  is what I've been asking for a few weeks, now.  Little did I know that the answer to the question would be, "Living."  I've been in the heart wing and now at rehab center.  But now I have that new answer to keep going.

But it hasn't been fun.  Two plus weeks in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit alone is a near nightmare.  But at least I got my colonoscopy out of the way as the colon was a potential source for what was causing me to be there.  The only pollup found proved to be non-malignant, so that wasn't the problem, but it was a good thing.   I've spent the last six weeks at a rehab center learning little things that had been affected, like standing up, walking.  But today (8/22) I was cleared for release and now I have to work at regaining strength at home.  Whatever it was I had, I was miles from being the most fun thing I've ever gone through.  But, as the old saying goes, "There's no place like home!"

To keep your memory alive, here are my favorite puppies:
That's our 13 year old Golden on the left, and our daughter's 1 year old on the right.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What's any better than a good vacation?

What a great way to end the month of June!  We're streaming through some of the best weather we've had for a very long time.  I love it.

I had some news Friday that I knew was coming but really didn't want to hear.  I've known about some cataracts for quite a while, years, in fact, but now they're interrupting my vision.  I had a regularly scheduled appointment with my eye checker and told her my vision had changed.  I was having a hard time focusing in a distance and had to take my glasses off to read.

She gave me the full exam and much to my surprise, there's no change in my prescription.  Cataracts, said she.  She went through a full explanation of what was happening and I mentioned I had several friends who had gone through them, and none had the kind of symptoms, or problems if you wish, that I am having.  She told me I am a different person and cataracts can act differently.  Then she said that she'd bet I'm a lot closer to what those friends faced than I believed.  She first warned me of the cataracts a few years back, so this didn't come as a surprise.

She's giving me a little time to adjust my thinking about cataracts and didn't want me to change my July vacation plans.  But when my wife and I get back home, seriously think about the eyes and give her a call.

Absolutely no one I know who has gone through this has said anything bad about it.  If I mention this to my Fearless Friend, he'd tell me, again, that I'd probably be looking up at a blurred ceiling when all would go black and a minute later be able to count the holes in the tiles.  A couple days later, I'd be wondering why in the world I put it off.  Several other people have told me basically the same thing.  One woman I know faced the same trepidation I'm facing, went through with it, and was so happy with the results she called to have the second eye fixed as soon as she could.

I'm not going to let my fears keep me from having a great time on our vacation, but for this blog, the vacation is beginning right now.  I'll be taking the month of July, or a good portion of it, off.  A little bit of it will be a trip to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Lancaster) where we have tickets to a great production.  I hope you continue to enjoy your summer.


Monday, June 23, 2014

The slow times continue.

I just realized the last, beautiful weekend is over.  Goes to show you, doesn't it, just how uninvolved in about anything right now I am.

My wife has had her schedule at her part time job changed, at least for this week.  She now works Friday through Monday with Tuesday through Thursday off.  She's giving this schedule a chance, but she certainly isn't too happy about management changes at her work place.  She has asked how much time she must give to quit.  The standard two-week notice is necessary, but she can include upcoming vacation time in those two weeks.

The pollsters are driving me nuts.  I get at least one call, usually more, each day, including Sunday.  I hope someone is paying for the time.  About all I do is either just hang up or get very rude, which, as you know, accomplishes nothing.  I don't think just hanging up accomplishes anything, either.  Sunday's call was a very long one and I was bored with the television, so I answered about 50 questions concerning just about every issue, including moving the Boston bomber trial to Washington.  It only consisted of pressing one to four for the usual choices.

I got the gals in my life a little upset with me over the past weekend.  I reminded them that in just nine days (from then) I'll be able to say,  "Thankfully, the football season get underway next month."  The Florida Gators, who I had been following very closely, open with a game at the end of August.  I doubt I'll be following them quite as closely during this coming season.  They still have the coach that has destroyed the once Mighty Gators.  Last year was the worst one in several decades as the non-coach led the team to a very losing season.  Not much hope for this year, either.  It appears the school's AD is having a hard time facing the fact he made a really bad decision hiring the coach.

A sign of the times:  There's a commercial on the Telly showing a young man and a young woman texting each other on a telephone trying to reach agreement on a vacation.  The camera pulls back and shows the two sitting at the SAME table touching elbows.  Texting to each other.  Whatever happened to the ability to hold a conversation?

I think I've sent just two text messages in the dozen years I've had a cell phone.  The first one was to my Fearless Friend that simply told him I was seeing how the thing worked.  The other was seeing if I could text while driving.  That was close to a disaster.  I've not sent another text message since that I can recall.  I still have my original phone, and I got it long before the so-called Smart Phones came into being.

I got my phone shortly after my heart incident back in 2001 just so I'd have a way to get help in case of an emergency.  40 days in a hospital will do that to you.  But once I got it, naturally I had to try it out.  Now my phone is never on unless I need to initiate a call, like one to my wife if I'm going to be late so she won't get worried.  Only about five people, two of them outside my family, have my phone number.

This is the week with the last Wednesday of the month in it.  I'm looking forward to going to lunch with my fellow retirees again.  I missed the last two sessions while I was attending my balance workshop.  It'll be good to try to get back into the conversation stream again.

I hope you have a good, productive rest of the week.


Friday, June 20, 2014

What a great stretch of weather!

Another weekend is upon us and we're looking at another great summer weekend.  All this past week has been really good, although I must admit the humidity made the mid-week a little dicey.  There are times when I'm really, selfishly?, happy I live in Maine and not in the mid-west.  We do complain when the short summer is interrupted by a storm, but then we watch the visuals from the middle part of our country.

We are prepared for a little heat, though.  My house has central air-conditioning and it was checked out and started up for this season recently.  We really don't run it very often, however.  One can almost hear the little wheel in the meter spinning when we're drawing electricity for the A/C.  I'm really not sure our so-called Smart Meter has a wheel as I've never bothered to check; but when that electricity bill comes, in our case at the end of the month so one will be here next week, the difference between months when we don't run the A/C and those when we do is dramatic.

When the temperature is reaching into the high 80s or low 90s, though, I don't hesitate to turn the cooler on, especially at night so we can get some sleep.

Nothing was wrong when it was checked this year, so now we'll just hope we don't have to use it too often. 

Wouldn't it be nice if the summer just merrily rolled along with sunny skies, temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s, and a very gentle breeze off the ocean?  Now that's the kind of weather I really like.

You've read here many times that Sandra, my wife, works part time to get away from me.  She could have retired with full retirement benefits ten years ago, but has chosen to work into her mid 70s.  There have been some changes at her workplace and she no longer comes home smiling and happy about what she's doing there.  First, I was hearing about how the mood where she works was changing and now it seems to be getting worse.  Her schedule has been all screwed up and the number of hours reduced and she's beginning to question whether or not continuing is worth it.  From what she says, it's the same "wonder" her fellow workers are expressing.

She has a couple weeks of vacation coming up in July and, she says, they could become permanent.  Then she says she'll give it into August to see if the place returns to the happy, nice place to work it was until some management changes were made.  I'll support whatever decision she makes, but I sure do hate seeing her come home from work as a very unhappy person.

I'm glad I got that off my chest.  Now let's settle down for another nice weekend.  I hope yours is, anyways.  My wife has a new work schedule and it includes both Saturdays and Sundays.  That makes us both unhappy.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Break time!

My wife was on vacation all last week, but she's back at work this week.  Time for me to take a break.  I'm still looking forward, however, to when she will finally hang up her work clothes and enter the wonderful world of retirement.  Can she now?  Of course.  She has a birthday next month and will hit the mid 70s.  When people ask me why she still works, I say, "Simply to get away from me."  She did say last Friday, though, after a week off from work, "I could get used to this."  We'll take her next vacation together.  In July, we'll be heading to Pennsylvania just to get away for a few days.  We both are looking forward to that.  But right now, I'm taking a break from being kept busy by her being home.

Oh.  I got my certificate of completion last week when my eight week balancing workshop, A Matter of Balance sponsored by the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging, ended.  I feel it was a successful workshop as I did learn some balancing tricks and met some super people.  I also learned of various ways of getting up if I do fall again.  Any senior who has any balancing or falling difficulties should attend the workshop .  The SMAAA holds that workshop as well as many others to assist seniors in different locations throughout Cumberland and York Counties.  Their main office is on Route One north of Oak Hill in Scarborough where you can get all the information and locations near you.

Enjoy your week.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

The weekend started out with a little rain, well, quite a bit in some places.  Let's hope it all clears out for your family celebration of Dad.  I have seen one hint that the warm, sunny day originally expected, might not turn out quite so well.  Nevertheless, it's time for our families to tell us what great dads we are. 

Happy Father's Day, everyone.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thank you, Scarborough!

I have just a couple of things on which to comment this time around.  One of them was an activity at the voting place in Scarborough today.  We can't often tell of a really nice thing a town does for its residents, but on voting day my town did.  So I want to say "Thank You" to whoever in Scarborough thought of and arranged assistance for handicapped people at the voting arena at Scarborough High School.

I am mobility impaired and need some sort of assisting device in order to walk.  Sometimes for short distances I simply use a cane.  For moderate distances I have a four-wheel walker which most people call a "rollator," but my spell checker says I've spelled it wrong and has no suggestions.  And for long distances, I have a wheel chair.

On this voting day, I chose the walker as I had to get from the school's parking lot to its gym.  The moment we pulled into a handicap marked parking slot and hanged the placard, one of several folk came toward the car.  The people were all well-marked as helpers, probably police officers or trainees.  Their mission was simply to assist us mobility challenged to get into the voting room.  They had wheel chairs and other things at the ready.

By the time he got to our car to offer his assistance, my wife had already removed the walker, but the friendly helper guided us to the gym and gave us all the assistance we needed.  As we left the gym, there he was again to help us get back to our car.

I really appreciated the effort.  Perhaps they've been doing this routine at each election for a long time.  I hadn't run into it before probably because I usually vote absentee.  This is one super service given by the Town of Scarborough to its residents.  It's the kind of story about which we never hear and should get a lot more positive publicity.

Again, Thank You, Scarborough, for working to meet the needs of your challenged residents.

The other item concerns one I read on-line.  Apparently some British schools are seeing serious indoctrination creeping into their curriculum.  As a result one officials has now called for all schools to teach traditional British traditions, values, culture as a major part of the curriculum in all schools, public and private, secular or religious.  On the surface I thought this was a good idea.  I wonder if it also wouldn't be a good one for American schools, too.  We need something to bring our country back to its stated Constitutional way of life.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

A slow week but at least balancing is improving

It's been rather slow around here since we last met last week.  About all that has taken place is my attending my next to last session of "Matter of Balance" workshop at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.  It was one of the better sessions as an occupational therapist was there for half the two hours to help us learn how to get up if we fall, a major concern for those of us in our senior years.

She did recommend we get one of those alert devices where the person presses a button to summon help.  She did not recommend one brand over another, just that the people who monitor them are very pleasant and helpful.  She did stress, without a brand name, the one that calls for help by detecting a fall and doesn't rely solely on someone pressing the button.

Unfortunately, those devices to have monthly monitoring fees and I'm not yet willing to pay such a fee.  Probably should, though.

Our two leaders, Donna and Ted, continue to guide us through interesting balance exercises and discussions.  I'm not sure I can say that after only seven weeks, I can see a lot of improvement in my capability of balance.  Some improvement, yes; but mostly I seem to be gaining confidence that I can take on normal activities with a knowledge of looking for "fall-ty" conditions and dealing with them.  The exercises haven't been accomplished long enough just yet to really demonstrate their strengthening of muscles used in balance, but for the first time in many, many years I am doing some real exercising regular, actually daily except my day off, Sunday.

The last session next Wednesday is partly review and wrap-up with a small partyish get together for the final half hour.

But that's about it for this week.  The weatherman says our weekend should be very good one so I hope you enjoy yours.


Friday, May 30, 2014

I've received a denial, and I don't like it!

Every once in a while I read something that has made me say, almost out loud when I'm alone, "I wish I had thought of that."  I've recently had one of those moments.

I received a letter from National Government Services, the outfit that takes care of Medicare claims and payments.  The letter said that a claim that had been submitted by my doctor had been denied.  The letter went on to say that the NGS's (Seems to me this used to be CMS) investigation showed I either knew or should have known that Medicare did not cover the procedure outlined in the claim.  Naturally, I disagree.  I had been told that the procedure was covered which is the only reason I accepted the doctor's advice.

Among other things, the letter told me that the committee that looks over claims decided I didn't need the procedure.  It would appear that this "committee" which doesn't know me and which has never examined me now knows more than my doctor who has taken care of me for more than 10 years.  So far, appeals have been denied.

Then, perusing a Maine Conservative website, The Maine Citizen, I came across a thread concerning the current controversy in the Veteran's Administration handling of veterans' seeking medical help through the VA.  The member who started the thread directly quoted a column by economist Lawrence Kudlow.  I didn't find a source for the Kudlow information and, I must admit, I've been lazy and haven't searched for it.

(I reread that last sentence and said, "Come on, Dave, that's not like you.  You can do better than that."  So here's a link to Mr. Kudlow's column.)

This what he has to say:  "The VA problem is not Shinseki; it's socialism. The Veterans Affairs health care system is completely government run. It is a pure single-payer program. ...National Review editor Rich Lowry calls it "an island of socialism in American healthcare. . . . The long waits for treatment, with excessive delays resulting in as many as 40 deaths, are a tragically predictable outcome. This is the result of bureaucratic rationing, price controls, inefficiencies and the inevitable cover-ups. ... So if Congress thinks it can find somebody who can tame the VA bureaucracy, it should go right ahead. But the statist VA health care system, which in so many ways mirrors the government-run health care problems in Britain, Europe and Canada, must be completely changed."

The column goes on to say that these kinds delays and medical care by committee, not necessarily medical professionals, is where we are headed with the Affordable Healthcare Act.  I remember back when Obamacare was being debated by Congress I told the story of a friend who has relatives in Canada.  A relative came to Maine for treatment of a potential fatal medical condition and paid for it out of his own pocket because he would have had at least a six month wait in Canada.

Remember when Pres. Obama first ran for this highest office in the land?  He was critical of Medicare then and proposed cuts, many of which have now come to fruition due to the AHC, which put us seniors at even greater risk than nature gives us.  If I recall correctly, those of us over the age of 75 would get the biggest "hits" as we have become expendable.

Sure, the current AHC plan gives us insurance choices, sort of, but the penalties for not following the government's desires are substantial and having insurance is now mandsted.  The government has all but told us its eventual goal is for a single payer medical plan similar to those in Britain, Europe and Canada.  I've now experienced that "medical need by committee" and now I'm beginning to worry about what's ahead for me down the road.  I don't like the vision.

I've never been a single issue voter in spite of my party affiliation.  Now I think my "X" would be in the box before anyone who runs to fight this very costly and dangerous Affordable (not) Healthcare Act and work for its repeal.

With those happy thoughts, I hope you have a great weekend and welcome in a new month on Sunday.  June is just about always a happy month.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer has "officially" begun!

That wasn't a bad weekend here on my little swamp.  The weather wasn't perfect, but it was more good than bad. 

Gardening got seriously underway as plants and vegetables got planted.  We're trying a new method this season using various containers for most of the vegetables.  We haven't had great luck for the past two years with putting them directly into the ground, so a change became a necessary experiment.

The Red Sox showed up for scheduled games.  Well, some of them even if not enough to put on the field showed up.  The rest that played, I think, were borrowed from the kids' league someplace.  Pretty old kids, though.  I think they're suffering from letting certain players get away during the winter.  One might think they should have at least picked up some pitchers in the off season.  Oh, well.  Is it too early to start the "wait 'til next year" rant?

Old Orchard Beach is now open for the season.  I don't go there very much anymore, but it is nice it's there.  We do like the onion rings at Bayley's on the Pine Point Road and the French fries at the Pier Fries.  We like Bill's Pizza, too.  But the rides?  Well, we stopped "riding" many years ago.

It was the traditional weekend for opening summer camps for the season.  Here's my deep past remembrance for today.  I saw an ad the other day for a camp on Little Sebago Lake for sale for just 375+ thousand dollars.  It was a lakefront property.  It brought back an opportunity I had about 50 years ago.  Some guy was breaking up his kid's camp property on Little Sebago Lake.  I could have had a lakefront lot with a sandy beach for just about ten grand.  I didn't think I could afford it.   I hate to think what that lot might be worth today.

I can't help but wonder if we'll ever see some real, nice traditional Maine summer weather.  Sometimes I can't help but wondering if maybe there might be something to this climate change stuff going around.  Every time I start wondering about it, though, I get reminded the change is, in spite of all the hype, just normal changes our planet sustains.  After all, where I am right now was a couple miles below the ice and snow a few million years ago.  I wonder what humans did then to cause all that melting.  Never mind humans hadn't been invented yet.  Small technicality.  But have you ever seen an explanation?

We Mainers don't pay a whole lot of attention to calendars sometimes.  This past weekend was a traditional one here, the "official" start of the summer season.  The season will last until Labor Day, again we'll pay no mind to dates.  There is at least one other fun weekend just a few weeks away.  The Fourth of July Holiday Weekend starts on a Friday this year, so we'll be enjoying those snaps, whizzes, bangs and booms for three whole days, most of which will be legitimate.

I love this season.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Enjoy your weekend

I hope you have a superior Memorial Day Weekend.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Nasal strip triggers a memory from the past

That was an interesting weekend of sports.  I think I watched more college softball games than I've watched since last year's championship season.  The Gator Gals easily made it through the regionals without a loss.  Next up for the Gator women, and the women from the other regional championships, are the so-called Super Regionals.  Florida will play Washington in the best of three series this coming weekend.  Then it's on to the College Softball World Series.  I hope the Gators will be among the advancers.

Perhaps the most excitement of the weekend was the running of the Preakness, the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown.  It may have been anticlimactic.  California Chrome, the winner of the first leg, the Kentucky Derby, once again dominated the field and has now won the first two races in the three race series. 

Now the suspense begins, although it might be over before even today is over.  And, indeed, it was over today (edited late afternoon to add that the strips have now been approved for all horses running on New York tracks and negates this and the next three paragraphs)That third race isn't until June 7th, but a wrinkle in that race has developed.  California Chrome might not run.  You see, he wears a nasal strip when he races and nasal strips haven't been approved for the Belmont.  A nasal strip, in case you aren't familiar, is a strip of tape across the nose to keep the nostrils clear for breathing.  We've seen similar strips advertised for people, primarily to help them sleep at night without snoring.

Apparently the owners didn't realize that the stewards of the Belmont only allow normal, natural additions, like saddles, etc., to horses in that race.  Even though it is non-medical and, therefore, non-narcotic, it is not a normal addition to a horse's equipment.  I've read Chrome's owners probably will petition to the stewards to allow the nasal strip.

A vet has reportedly said the strip has no real affect on California Chrome and the horse could run the race without it.  Or, if the steward's don't grant the owner's request, the horse could be withdrawn, thus ending another triple crown bid because of, according to one horse pundit I read, the racing gods have chosen to control the triple crown once again.  As you probably already know, several interesting events have caused potential crown winners to withdraw in recent years.

Personally, I'd like to see the race run.  I haven't seen too many Triple Crowns in my lifetime, and only since the advent of television, but they are exciting.  I'd even give up the College Softball World Series game, even if Florida were playing, to see an attempt this year.  Well, I've got lots of time to ponder that.  Shucks, neither event could take place.

Horse racing, as I've said here several times, has been part of my life, although only in my memory for the last 60 years and thus part of those old memories I occasionally pull up.  The first job not given me by my father was at Scarborough Downs way back when I was in high school and the horses raced with riders on their backs and not being pulled in a buggy.  Technically, I guess, I worked for the Maine Horse Racing Commission, not the track.  I collected a sample from winning horses so they could be checked for doping.

One thing about racing I learned:  there are many ways horse owners, trainers, and others can use to affect the outcome of a race.  I never learned of any illegal activity, except the possibility of doping, that would have such an effect.  I never did get an altered sample in my collections but one or two others in the workgroup weren't quite as fortunate, but I only know of those one or two.  I do not believe the track was involved in that activity.

There was one situation that occurred regularly and I never did learn how it worked, if, indeed, it was a "fixing" activity.  And I'm not going to explain it here, but once I heard some horsemen in the barn area talking about it and tried it, I could have made a whole lot of money betting at the window.  Except for one small technicality, I wasn't of legal age to bet.  We had been warned in the training sessions never to attempt to place a bet as we would be involved in a "discussion" with appropriate people.

Several years later, a local radio station, WPOR, was broadcasting the Saturday races from Scarborough Downs.  I was asked to fill in one Saturday.  Just for chuckles, I tried out that secret I had learned from my days at the track.  Before each race, I told the announcer back at the studio which horse I predicted would win.  I'm not a gambler and would never place a bet on a horse race.  I literally drove the studio announcer nuts as he begged me to place bets.  We would have won every race.

I never heard a suggestion that the races were "fixed."  I don't believe they were.  I only know that at least one "system" for predicting an outcome worked for me.  And remember, this was long before harness racing entered the picture at The Downs.  I doubt the system would now work.

So, let's keep watching for an outcome to the nasal strip situation.  See how such a little potential event can trigger an old man's mind from the past?


Friday, May 16, 2014

Rainy early Saturday; scattered dampness for the rest of the weekend.

The weekend has arrived once more.  That simply means I've celebrated more than4900 weekends.  Wow!  That's a lot of weekends!

This one will see some rain and be generally unsettled into at least the first of next week.  I doubt my lawn will get needs mowing...this weekend.

I've had a somewhat unexciting few days.  The only real activity has been my weekly visit to the Southern Maine Agency on Aging balance workshop.  That's really a fascinating workshop as it leads those of us participating into facing our fears of falling.  Anyone who know me knows I've been afraid of falling for several years.  I have a disease that would probably cause a bone to break if I did fall, and, indeed, I've broken some bones, most notably my hip, in a fall.

I've been a real hermit in some of those winter storms we've had.  I no longer go to senior exercise sessions at the physical therapy place, but I had a standing note there that if we had measurable snow or ice on the ground, I would be staying home.

The exercises we're doing at SMAA are totally different from those I did at the PT place.  The exercises I'm learning now are designed to strengthen muscles used in balancing.  They are also designed to get us into the habit of doing some, preferably each day, at home.  I have been a good boy and have done my exercises daily since I started.  Naturally, I do have a self-imposed rule variation as I have decided to take Sundays off from the routine.

The exercises are rather simple ones.  One, for example, is to stretch the left arm across the body several times alternating with a similar stretch by the right arm.  We have leg lifts and knee lifts and even a waltz step routine.  Altogether there about ten or twelve different simple exercises to be accomplished each day.  They do not have to be done all at the same time and may be split into three sessions if we want.

It's kind of funny doing them at home.  My Golden Retriever has never seen me do these kinds of movements before.  She tries to help out by bringing me toys to play with or tries to hold my arms still.  All just very friendly dog games, but they do get me chuckling.

I'm told there's an absolutely brutal bug going around.  Both my Fearless Friend and Mrs. FF have been bitten by it.  Mrs. FF seems to have gotten the worst of it this time around.  Apparently it is not the simple flu, if a flu can be simple.  They were mostly home contained for several days with the thing.  They have been under the care of their doctor.  I won't go into FF's description of what has been happening as a result of this little go 'round, but, trust me, it ain't pretty.  I hope you don't get it.

That leads me to hope you have a super weekend and I'll try to get motivated by something between now and Monday and be back then.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Computer Spam--it's terrible meat!

I'm getting annoyed, but, unfortunately, I have no solution to my problem.

My E-mail inbox is getting saturated with what I consider to be just plain spam.  Spam e-mail is simply unwanted e-mail, usually advertising something I neither want nor need.  The amount of this spam to me has now grown to somewhere between three and four hundred a day.  Might be a slight exaggeration as I've never counted them, but they're now coming in four to eight at a time just about every ten to fifteen minutes.

Another type of spam is the occasional plea from some foreign country "official" that says some potentate or very rich person has died and left millions to someone who doesn't want to pay taxes on it.  So he sends me, or you, or both of us, an e-mail that says he's split the millions with me if I'll just open a bank account for him, or something like that.  Of course, I need to deposit, or send him a check, for, oh, say, five thousand dollars to pay for the costs.  I can think of more productive ways to rid myself of $5,000.

The only way I could stop the practice of receiving spam would be change my e-mail address.  Since I own my own domain with many addresses available to me, changing addresses would be a simple task.  There are just two problems:  I'd have to continually notify legitimate senders, like friends and family, of the new address.  I'm sure they'd get rather tired of having that exercise too regularly; and the spammers would very soon get that new address and just continue filling it as if nothing had changed.

At least one spam e-mail tells me of a business offer where I could get addresses to start my own advertising business.  That will never happen.  Other offers include getting free coupons for various businesses.  Open that letter and then see how many more of such offers quickly begin pouring into your mailbox.  I get many offers of meeting new "friends" and even offers of pictures of the chicks in my area.  I get 10 or 15 e-mails daily with offers to "increase my wife's bedroom pleasure."  I must admit at almost 80 years old, those e-mails are tempting. 

On and on I could go with these things.  I'm sure, though, you get enough to know what I'm saying here.  There are many ways that one gets on those mass mailing lists.  Reply to one of them and see how many more you get that same day or no later than a day or two.  Open one from an unknown sender and a small bit of language tells the spammer and you're there forever. 

It's easy for spammers to send out hundreds of e-mails at a time.  I'd bet most of you reading this, like me, have at least one and probably more distribution list where one click will send a message to family members or friends with like interests.  There many ways to get on spam lists.  One of them, believe it or not, is clicking on the message's "unsubscribe" button.  That is a absolute guarantee you'll end up on more spam lists and, usually, not get unsubscribed to the original list.  Now that is only when it concerns spam, or unsolicited, e-mail.  Unsubscribing to most legitimate business will usually work.

I get one spam almost daily from someone who identifies herself as an admission's person from the University of Maine.  (In case you see this, there's no one by the name of "Dylan" at this address.)  She identifies herself, I think, but then tells me I opted in to receive those e-mails by opting to unsubscribe from some other list.  If I believed the address she gives was legitimate, I'd be tempted to write to her that I'm not Dylan and, especially considering my age, I'm no longer a high school student looking for a university and she's simply wasting University money. 

Another way to identify spam:  Look at the sender's address.  If it is totally unknown, then you should consider three times before you open the e-mail.  Also, if it looks ridiculous or has a long list of numbers with, perhaps, a few letters, that's another hint.  Or, like one I received just today which included (edited here to eliminate most of it to protect you from accidentally hitting it) a mascot name incorrectly spelled.  " gater.standsxxxxxxxxxxxxx Or write to: (a street address) in Gainesville Florida."  I'd find it hard to believe anyone in the home town of the Florida Gators couldn't spell that name correctly.

I do have a super spam finding program that tells me when I have spam or other e-mail I've identified to it as spam has entered my mailbox.  A quick press of a button erases it even before it hits my computer.  But it's not totally foolproof and, as I mentioned earlier, it is that program that tells me I've got all those messages just waiting to be erased.  It is annoying.

I'd like to send each of the companies the spammers are advertising that their irritating messages have caused me to stop using their services.  Other than that, I'd love to learn of a way to permanently stop those very unwanted and useless spam messages.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The cost of renting/owning a home

I now live a self-imposed somewhat sheltered life.  I do the sheltering.  A news story on WCSH6-TV the other day really caught my "Wow.  Times have certainly changed" attention.  The story concerned an "affordable" housing project near Downtown Portland.  This concerns an older man now living in the past.  There's a name for that when one gets to my age, isn't there?

Ground has been broken for construction of a 39 unit apartment complex.  When completed, the condo-quality apartments will rent for $1300 to $2200 per month.  Holy smokes!  This story has pointed just how far in the past I'm living these days.  I can't imagine throwing away $2000 a month for rent.  I call it "throwing away" simply because when one leaves a rental unit, all one has to show for it is a stack of rent receipts.  That's a potential of more than $25000/year with only a little stack of paper to show for it.

It's been 20 years since I've been in the housing market, but even then when my wife and I ended up buying our current home, I couldn't imaging spending that much money, or comparably economically for the times.  My realtor friend, also my Fearless Friend,  who helped us find a suitable home spent more than a year getting me to visit some suitable homes for sale at that time.  He tried his darndest to find a place within the range we had said we wanted.  Actually, that range was, to us, outrageous.  He also found our range outrageous, too, but in the other direction.

When Sandra and I were married over a half century ago, we did live in an apartment for a while.  It cost us $50 per month.  Of course income was more in line with that amount at the time but it was probably at the limit of what we could afford on my $3700/year salary.

A year later, our landlord, who was a super person and great landlord, had to raise the monthly figure to $55/month.  Sandra and I, probably more specifically "I," was outraged.  We had to pay an additional $60/year just for an apartment we didn't own.  He had to go up another $5 as the third year rolled around.  That was it.  That was the limit we would be willing to pay for rent.  We decided that if the following year rent were raised again, we were "outa there."  It was and we immediately began looking for our first house.

At 1964 prices we figured we could easily buy a $10,000 house.  Yes, houses for that price were on the market back then.  After looking at three or four places, we knew our apartment was still a much better deal.  Nevertheless, we went to a loan officer at the then Maine Savings Bank to see what a truly reasonable monthly pay on a house loan would be.  When he told us that, considering our earning potential over the years since I had a very stable job, we could easily afford more than what we thought.  We had told him not to consider Sandra's income as our plans were for her to become the traditional at the time stay-at-home Mom to raise the children we planned.

With the new figure and a loan virtually in hand, we continued our search with a more reasonable price expectation.  Our first house was in the North Deering-Lunt's Corner corridor of Portland.  Our monthly "rent" went from $65/month to an outrageous $82/month plus escrow for city taxes and insurance.  But we owned a house and had something that was ours to show for the expenditure.  We stayed in that house for more than 25 years.  The last ten years or so it was totally ours.

An unfortunate circumstance with Sandra's widowed mother caused us to examine our future and we decided we needed a new home with everything on one floor.  We asked our Fearless Friend, the realtor, to help us find such a home.  Of course he pointed out he would be the seller's agent and not ours, but he did agree to steer us to homes and make arrangements to tour some.  I think he began to question our sincerity as after more than a year, we had rejected every place he had found for us.

He then gave me basically the same lecture that banker had given us earlier about being able to afford more than what we were wanting to pay.  Finally, after doing some math we gave in to his efforts and raised our expectations.  He wasted zero time, in fact told us later he had picked out the house several months earlier that he knew we'd like.  He told us he had the house and took us to see it.  It was a few dollars more than we wanted to pay, but his estimate of what we wanted was straight on.

After "the walk through," and we prepared to leave the home, FF had gotten into his car and we ours and were alone when Sandra looked at me, "I want that house!" was all she said.  It seemed like an hour later, but actually it was a few weeks, when we sold our Portland home and moved in to our new one in Scarborough.  That was, believe it or not, 20 years ago this month.  Sadly, it was only a day after we laid her mother, the woman who's plight started the quest, to rest. 

The point of this way too long story is when one buys thus owns his own home, he is building equity.  It was the equity gained from the sale of our old home that allowed us to have sufficient money for a down payment on our much nicer, better, and bigger home.  It was paid off early so we've owned it outright for several years.  If we had to sell it today, we have a lot more equity, possibly enough to pay for a year of nursing home care.  Naturally we're hoping we never come to that.

It also brings me back to that news story on Channel Six.  I would make all kinds of sacrifices before I'd spend up to $2200/month on rent, condo quality or not.  But the developer would tell me I'm living in a fantasy world; that's a "market price" in that section of Portland in today's world.  No wonder the cost of living is so high.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Fun Day

Sometime this summer, Sandra and I are taking a short trip to Pennsylvania to see a production in a theater we really like visiting in Lancaster.  It's a long, 9 hour drive to Lancaster from here, and for the first time Sandra will have to drive the whole distance.

So, we've planned a series of day adventures between now and the trip to give our sit-down places a chance to get prepared for the trip.  Other muscles also are getting some practice in long rides, too.

Tuesday was one of those planned days.

I had fun.  Sandra was glued to the steering wheel.  I dug out my Garmin and my computer software Delorme's Street Atlas and planned a trip to Berlin, New Hampshire.  Now don't misunderstand me; I've been to Berlin so many times in my life that I probably could have guided her blind folded.  There is a super restaurant called Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar just outside Berlin that both of us absolutely love to visit.  The food is simply wonderful and, for the most part, prepared like home made.

We set the restaurant as our destination point.  To put the mapping software and the Garmin to work, we designed a trip that had many local state roads.  Naturally, it wasn't the most direct route.  Both the software and hardware guided us directly to the restaurant with no difficulty.

We designed a much more direct route home and, although I could do it without the use of the Garmin (My computer battery expired so the software was done) but guiding Sandra using it was certainly keeping me from getting bored.

WCSH -TV6 and probably many other places are telling us about some group's challenge to find the worst roads in Maine.  There's a prize for the eventual winner of just under $300, the estimated cost of repairing a car that is damaged by the condition, mostly potholes, of Maine's roads.  Naturally, although I don't have a smart phone camera nor did I take my Instamatic so I couldn't take pictures with which I could enter the contest, I did keep my eyes open for some of the really bad roads.

I didn't find any.  At least 90% of the roads we had chosen were in remarkably good shape; not perfect, perhaps, but very good.  I'm not trying to say all Maine's roads are great; they are not.  It's just that the ones we were lucky enough to travel this day were just fine.

Until we headed home.  As we crossed into Maine just west of Fryeburg on Route 302, we found out why that contest was being held.  At the border, there was a sign, "Welcome to Maine, where life is like it should be."  Well, U.S. Route 302 west of Fryeburg is about as far from a "Welcome" as a welcome should be.  If I had been from away, I might have thought twice about continuing in this state.  We left 302 in Fryeburg and found the roadway, Route 113, to be in very good condition.  The rest of the roads getting home were enjoyable.

Our sit-downs survived the trip easily and gave us confidence the trip to Pennsylvania will be O.K., even though long.  I can't speak for Sandra, but her reactions certainly hinted I could make good guesses.  I, on the other hand, must admit to some very stiff joints, especially my legs and knees.  I'll have to work on those.

Timing on that is pretty good.  We are now in the exercise phase of strengthening the body in my weekly Balance Workshop at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

We'll try another, perhaps a little longer daytrip sometime in the near future.

By the way, Mount Washington with its snow capped peaks was just simply beautiful in this early May.  We were blessed with no showers, just sunshine as we drove past the mountain.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Maine, where life is like it should be

A national poll released in the Bangor Daily News Thursday written by Seth Koenig shows that Maine is tied for first place in the states where its residents least want to move.  Three other states, including Hawaii, were tied with Maine which showed that only about 23% of Mainers, both from away and native, would like to pick up and move elsewhere.  Compare that with Connecticut, for example, where nearly 50% of the residents would like to move away.

The Gallup Poll results really aren't surprising especially considering all the complaining people like me do in these blogs and in daily conversations away from the Internet.  Many Mainers who do leave end up returning here to live.  I'm among them.

It was nearly 60 years ago that I left this state to move to Florida.  I had just graduated from high school and move to St. Petersburg to live with my parents who had moved there a couple years earlier leaving me here to live with my grandmother so I could "graduate high school with my friends."  Moving to Florida didn't turn out to be a "bad thing."  I was able to land a job there with a now defunct evening newspaper.

I did learn from that experience that I needed a college education to move ahead in this world.  Here's the best part:  Residents of Florida at that time could go to college virtually free.  Of course, once in those same students had to maintain the grades to stay in or be dismissed.  I had lived there for more than a year before I decided to give college life a try and so by then I was a resident of that state.  Of course my parents had already become residents long before, but I'm not sure if that would have transferred to me or not since I was, at that time, still a minor.

When I applied, an official in the admissions office went over the rules for me and, since he had never heard of Deering High School in Portland, Maine, I was admitted on academic probation.  I couldn't believe that someone had not heard of one of the very best high schools in the country, but I accepted the conditions.  One of my happiest moments early in school came at the end of the my first semester when I took my grades to that same admissions officer and requested to be taken off probation.  I was on the Dean's List.

Believe it or not, all this is leading up to the BDN story.  But not until four years later.  I became an official Gator (earned my degree from the University of Florida) and within two months had made the decision that Maine, not Florida, was my future.  There was one more element in that decision, though, an element named Sandra. 

I didn't become rich by returning here, but I honestly believe I've been successful in a variety of jobs and activities.  Don't read anything negative in that last statement, I retired from my full time job and at the same time, from my part time job more than 35 years after I started them.  Of course, Sandra's and my greatest successes came from raising two productive children, although one of them has moved away from Maine to the West Coast.  He has not expressed a desire to return.  Yet.

So, like most Mainers, we like Maine.  I'm not in the least bit sorry I left for a few years, but I am extremely happy I returned.  Yes, I complain about our increasingly socialistic government and the constant raising of taxes to pay for everyone who simply doesn't want to work but live on my money, but 90% or more of Maine life cannot be beat.  It might have been easy to move my family down to Florida, but Florida isn't Maine.

Now, at my age, winters have become a challenge; but even rough ones like we just had remind us that Maine still is a great place.  My Fearless Friend and his wife head to Florida every winter, snow birds they're called, but about the first thing they write in emails from their home there is "xxx days before we head back to Maine." 

The story of the Gallup Poll is a nice read.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Balance: The learning has begun.

We can't help but wonder if May will bring us some really nice (Maine) weather and free us up of all rain, cold, and even a little snow that April delivered to us.  The first day Thursday certainly isn't giving us any hope, but then a warming trend might get started.  Wouldn't that be nice? 

I had my second Southern Maine Agency on Aging Balance Workshop Wednesday.  I entered this program of learning how to manage my balance last week with great trepidation.  But when that session ended, I had gained an equal amount of hope as it was a super first session.  This week's activity wasn't quite as good as I had gone through just about all of it in other programs I've taken since my balance got shaky about 14 years ago.

However, next week's session should be much better as it'll be devoted to simple exercises that can be done at home as well as at the Workshop.  I'm looking forward to that session as I gave up my trips to the physical therapy/senior exercise place earlier this year.  I do have a stationary exercise bike at home and have attempted to maintain a somewhat regular routine on it.  But one can ride an exercise bike just so long before utter boredom sets in.  So a wide variety of exercises, like simulating a rowing machine, or leg lifts, and other such activities may be just what I need to get back to movement.

That's the purpose of the exercises we'll be starting next week.  Session Two was devoted to discussing among us the fears we have of falling and some ideas on how we can overcome those fears.  One of the best ways is to gain some strength to help get moving.  It is the normal type of strength  that will be emphasized in our Workshop rather than the body building kind.  Studies by the folk at Boston College that developed this Balance Workshop have shown that getting to move by seniors is about the best thing we can do.

I'm looking forward to it.  It would be nice to put that darned bike down cellar and forget it for a while.

The second session was designed for us to exchange stories and offer some common sense possibilities for solutions.  One of the things I ended up with is something I'm not sure was new or simply an awakening to times past.

One of the suggestions by several participants was to look at our pets, dogs and cats specifically, and see how they get up from a lying position.  Each time they stretch.  Yes, simple stretching gets the muscles a little looser and gets the desire for movement flowing.  I hadn't thought of that.  Stretching is really not new to me.  I never started working a game when I was an umpire without stretching first.  I can't tell you why I didn't carry that into my post baseball life, but I didn't.

This morning as I arose for the day, I did a few simple stretching exercises and, son of a gun, I felt like moving again.  Even the inside of my head seemed to be working at a slightly better pace.  Those stretches didn't take very long, a minute or two, but they were the first step in gaining some desire and strength to get on the move.  I'm sitting here now jotting down these thoughts and another channel of my mind is working on things I could do today.

Now that slight change has already begun giving me some confidence that perhaps the Workshop is going to help make my life better.  It's not so much what the participants are doing as it is transferring those actions in my life.  The vast majority of what we'll begin are activities that we probably used to do when we were younger before we started thinking about age and how had to slow down.  Slowing down can be speeded back up and that's where we're going to regain some of that balance we need to prevent falling.

Those simple exercises we're beginning next session seem to be more important.

I had written a little earlier here that the second session wasn't quite as good as the first one, but I think I might have entered those thoughts just a little too quickly.  Sorry 'bout that.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nothing here today

The education comments have been up here long enough.  We have some things in mind to take up today and Wednesday I have my second session on learning how to balance.  I've completed my home work for that session so it'll probably be after it that I next offer some thoughts.  Have a super Tuesday and Wednesday.

Oh, I do have one question now that the EBT cards in Bangor are being voluntarily adorned with a picture of the user.  Is the state also installing cameras and software that read faces and compare the cards with the actual users in ATM machines or in those instant checkout machines in super markets and other stores?  If not, the expense of those pictures just might be tough to justify.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Perhaps Education is more successful than I thought!

Education has been fairly heavily publicized in the news media over the last three years or so.  Most of it seems to have been rather negative.  I'd say most of the negativism was attempting to make a case for massive reform, and I must admit I've also favored some of the reform.  Most notably on my part is not liking much of the content reforms.

I've ranted for the past several years about students in high school or graduating from them not even able to do simple math, like make change.  The failure of many young people today to have even a small understanding of the Constitution of the United States or the Maine Constitution is another concern of mine. 

Geography and especially real history, not the newly manufactured history being taught today, are other areas of concern.  Without a good understanding of the history of this world we are destined to make the same mistakes that have ruined many nations and cultures in the past.  Indeed, we seem to be seeing those mistakes taking place again today.

A major concern is the failure of the schools to teach vocational education and it appears that many of the jobs being promoted today require some knowledge of how things work and are made.  My brother-in-law was a vocational teacher.  He is now retired and so is his program at a local vocational school.  Among other things, he taught students how to program machinery to customize making things metal.  Not every student was successful, but just about all those he could tell prospective employers were very good or excellent were employed. 

His students took pride in their accomplishments, as did many students of other vocational education teachers.

And then the emphasis in education changed.  No longer were students held responsible for learning.  Parents had attempted to become, mostly unsuccessfully, friends to the young people rather than parents, teachers were forced to adopt the same attitudes.  If a student didn't learn, it was the school's fault or from teachers, the parents' fault.  The students were no longer held accountable. 

Thus the problems I cited early on here.

Then the state decided to do something.  It wanted to grade the schools and even watered down curriculum was created accomplish that.  Maine even instituted a "report card" for schools which right from the beginning has been and continues to be criticized.  It's measurements often are of areas over which a teacher has no control, like support from parents.

As a result, many schools received some rather poor grades; some were not graded; and in some cases no explanation of a grade was given.  Many educators and fewer taxpayers even had an idea how that grading system worked and why schools were downgraded.  We even wonder if the State knew why it rated some as it did.

Now, a new report has been issued that says Maine high schools are tied with California for being among the best in the whole country.  In fact, in that often (by me) criticized math, Maine leads.  The report was revealed in the Bangor Daily News in an article by BDN staffer Christopher Cousins.

Even some of the schools that Maine's ranking system labeled mediocre were included among the nation's best.  Maine's first "charter" school located in Limestone, which emphasizes math and science, was about the best in all the land.

This article has got me thinking anew about our education system in Maine.  I do believe we will still need to return to curriculum more designed for the abilities of the individual student.  When I went to school, for example, we had four major divisions, college prep, business, general, and vocational (which we used to call "shop").  The level of academics was set for the learning level of the individual.  Yes, it too had problems, but most of us left school with a good understanding of the world around us. 

Today, the appearance in education is that we're simply teaching to the middle and many go through school without being challenged.

I still wonder why in this day an age do we continue to read about the very high percentage of youngsters needing remedial classes when they get into higher education.  I guess I'm still looking for an answer to that.

There's one other area we may be failing and that's teaching responsibility, both parental and school system's.  That also goes to our failure to teach about history repeating itself.  The Westbrook School System comes to mind.

Nationally, there's been a big cry against guns and schools have been taking extreme actions even if the object in incidents is fake.  Well, when will the outcry begin about outlawing knives? 

My comments here by the nature of the beast are about education in general, that education that affects the majority of our students.  We all know about truly superior youngsters who both succeed and lead in their young lives.  But they aren't the majority.  We should be striving for all students to reach the levels of these superior ones, not the level of mediocrity.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Balance Workshop might help alleviate a concern

A brief update is included at the end of this story . . .

Wednesday will be a different kind of day for me.  In fact, the next eight Wednesdays could be interesting.  I really have precious little of knowledge about what's going to be happening during these Wednesdays because I'm going to be attending a workshop like I've never attended before.

I'm going to learn how to maintain my balance.  At least that's the goal of the workshop.  I've been told, too, it's a full class of other folk that are or are approaching my longevity on Earth.  What I really don't know is what is going to happen at this workshop as I've never even heard of a balance workshop until now.

This all began for me in early March when I went to my personal care physician for my annual checkup.  I have had an annual physical exam for many years, but the non-doctors now determining Medicare decided that once a person hits a certain age such physicals are more or less a waste of time.  After all, keeping us in our upper 70s or even higher, is a very costly expense for the government. 

It's all part of President Obama's "reform" the our health care system.  I still remember when before Obama was president, a candidate commented that folk our age should just be given a pill.  It was never clear to me if that pill was to slow down any pain or illness or it was meant to mean to help end a life.

Anyway, now under the Affordable Health Care, we seniors do not get a paid annual physical exam each year.  Now to be fair and honest, most doctors had to rely on some technicality to get Medicare to pay for the physical.  Most easily could as most of us do have some condition that requires a full exam.

My doctor tries to obey the rules and regulations and I support him for that.  So now I get a "wellness conversation" with the doctor.  Of course, if something major develops from that conversation, the doctor can treat me or refer me to a specialist.  The wellness thing is completely compensated by Medicare.  That's what the government means when it tells us there is no cost to us. 

It was in early March when I had my "wellness conversation."  The conversation started out when a multipage questionnaire was sent to me by my doctor's office.  It was packed with questions about various aspects of my health and mental condition.  I thought some of the questions, frankly, were just a little too invasive and I handled them accordingly.  Since I've been going to the same doctor for many, many years, he already had the records of just about everything, including major illnesses, operations, medications, etc., that are or have been in my past.

My PCP is part of what I consider to be the best medical team in Maine and they all share all the information about me.

However, there was a full page of questions about balance, which I understand we older folk seem to develop as we approach the "other end."  Fair enough.  I honestly don't recall ever discussing balance with my doctors before other that to mention almost in passing that I occasionally lose mine.  I had to admit that my concern has been increasing in recent years as it doesn't take much for me to almost fall.  In fact, I have fallen down a few times in recent years and one of those falls resulted in the heart member of my team to suggest I consider giving up driving.  I listened to him and no longer drive a car.

I have fallen a few times in my own home.  And, like that advertisement we see frequently on the TV, there have been times when I couldn't get up without help.  I'm also concerned that my falling could lead to my breaking something, like a hip, or a back, or an arm, leg, or just about anything else that could break.  For the first time, as a result of that wellness form, I did have a serious talk with my doctor.

He suggested I attend a workshop held frequently by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging which is located in my home town of Scarborough.  When I got home from my visit with the doctor, I called the Agency to inquire about the balance workshops.  The young lady with whom I spoke was extremely pleasant and helpful so I enrolled in a balance workshop.

It begins Wednesday.  I understand it includes some discussions, lectures, and exercises.  The exercises are designed to be done at home and should strengthen my joints and muscles so that I can stand more easily and can control that balance issue.

I won't know until after the first class just what I'm getting myself into, but it'll be shortly after it when I decide if, indeed, the balance workshop is for me or perhaps might not fit my needs.  I'd be surprised if somewhere before it ends, if I do stick it out, I'll be hearing about those life alert devices we see advertised on the TV.


Update:  I did attend the first session of the Balance Workshop held by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.  Nervously I entered the workshop room and instantly a very personable and friendly member of the staff greeted me.  After a couple of friendly words, others began to arrive and she met then equally as friendly.

The Workshop was more than I had anticipated.  The first session was devoted to what I would call a normal first session.  There were the introductions, the meeting of  other participants, and a full discussion of what we each expected.  And I did learn that those of us who are just a little up in age have that fear of falling in common.  Once we understood all of us were in the same state of nervousness, we settled down and the meeting grew from there.

I had wondered if I felt this group thing would accomplishment anything for me.  It most certainly did.  I actually left at the end of the very, actually too fast, two hours.  The first thing I told my wife who now drives me around was that I was very happy and satisfied and now truly wanted to continue in these sessions. 

I'll have just one more decision when we get to week 7.  That'll be on the last Wednesday of May so I'll have to decide on Balance or Retired Group lunch.  Right now, I think I'll be missing my second lunch session.

Stay tuned.  I'll periodically pass along what I'm learning about balance and falling as the Workshop wends its way through these eight weeks.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Is the health care law a success? And, another school officials really overreact to toy guns?

I have just a couple "wonders" for today.  Both are sort of political.

First, President Obama declared the affordable health care plan, possibly better known as Obamacare, to be a success.  "It's working," said he.  He based that proclamation on what the government says has been at least eight million people enrolled in the plan.  Somehow, that doesn't seem anywhere close to what is needed to fully fund the government's venture into health care. 

We know how it works.  Or at least how it's suppose to work.  People are mandated to own health insurance, either government sponsored, employment sponsored, or through private ownership.  The income and huge increases in taxation should pay for everyone's health care.  Although I haven't actually read this, I think the cost of the insurance to the individual is based on that person's income.  The "pay what you can; consume what you need" system.  In my day we called that socialism or communism.

I'm digressing.  Is the plan truly working?  I've seen no indication it is or isn't, but shouldn't we wait until people begin filing claims or seeking permission for medical procedures and how long they have to wait and just how much co-pay they will have?  In my many years walking this earth, I've joined things or accepted things thinking they will work.  In the end, it seems there have been a lot more that haven't worked than have become successes. 

Just because a paltry 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare doesn't even come close to showing the success or failure of the plan.  How are we going to feel when we're told, as have people in other countries that have tried socialism, that we will have to wait for several months before we can get high enough on the list for treatment of some health issue.  I know folks who have relatives in Canada, for example, that have had to come to the U.S. on their own dime to get heart care.  The relatives had been told the wait in their place was at least 10 months.  They would have died before then.

How many of the enrollees have now faced paying their co-pays and discovered that for the first time for many the fees are very high.  How many people have yet to discover all the various tax increases put upon us to help pay for the plan.  For example, when, if, you sell your home, you will now be taxed an additional five percent federal tax for health care.  I'm not even going to try to mention more of these instances; I can only wait for the real reaction of the enrollees and the ultimate determination of success or failure of the plan which probably is a few years away.

I find it hard, though, to absorb 8 million enrollees as "success" right now.

The other issue sort of questions my claim to be a conservative, but I'm not too sure about that.  Did you read or hear on TV about the teenager in Bangor who had been suspended from school for ten days because he brought a bright yellow toy water pistol to school?  My first reaction was, "Oh, boy!  Here's another case of school officials totally overreacting to a toy situation." 

School systems all across the country have suspended children for "endangering" fellow students and/or faculty with some rather outrageous toys.  One very young person was suspended because he pointed his finger at someone and said, "Bang!"  There simply have been too many of these over reactions to mention them all, but I think most of us have thought that the ridiculous rules in this country have simply gotten too far our of control.

That was my first reaction to the plight of that northern Maine youngster.  But then I heard another side of the story.  I guess there's always another side.  It seems the teens in his school play a game called "Assassination" where the group's members choose another student to be "assassinated."  That does simply mean, by the rules of this game played there, that the marked person will be squirted with water with a squirt gun.

I'd hate to try to  remember how often I'd been squirted as a youngster back in the 40s and early 50s and how many I've squirted.  Shucks, I think in relatively recent years that the squirting game has been played at summer camp or visits to the lake.  I know my own kids would take advantage whenever they thought they could get away with it and squirt me.  There's a slight chance I've squirted them, too.

And it was all in fun.

Maybe its the name of the game in Bangor that caught my attention, and that could be a problem for many.  I think even I would have objected to being "assassinated" even though it was just in a squirt gun stream.

"Assassination" sort of gives a totally different impression of the deed and perhaps even leads to a much deeper problem.  That caused me to change my mind about the total absurdity of school officials' reactions to what in my day was just an innocent poor judgment of a youngster.  In my youth, a squirt gun in my pocket would have been just an innocent deed.  In today's society, I'm beginning to think the depth of the situation does need more exploration.

I hope your weekend is a super one.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Winter returns, albeit for just a short while

In case you haven't noticed it, I seem to be in a dead zone for ideas.  Nothing really interesting has entered my head for quite a while.  Some folk might say, "Nothing has entered that blank spot for years!" 

We awoke this morning to a surprise.  That winter we thought was finally out of here decided to give us a reminder once again that this is still Maine so it sent us a visual reminder.  Snow, yes, snow, covered the ground.  Now in my little chunk of the world, it wasn't deep but it had turned everything white.  I suspect it'll all be gone perhaps as early as mid day today.

But it did affect the whole state.  The speed limit early this morning for the whole length of the Turnpike was reduced to 45 mph.  Of course, once the sun comes out, and that could be momentarily, it'll be returned to normal. 

Flooding is the major problem today and some streams and rivers have already reached or slightly exceeded their flood stages. 

My Fearless Friend arrived back in Maine after his winter stay in Florida last weekend.  I guess today was nature's design to give him a small reminder of what he had left behind.  Welcome home, FF and Mrs. FF.

How about those Red Sox?  They're not getting off to quite the start they had a year ago when they ended up winning the World Series.  What seems typical of Boston teams, no matter which one, they don't seem to want success or know how to handle it. 

We watched all winter as the Sox let last year's major winners walk away or get traded away.  Of course most of them who were injury prone remained.  And many are already on disabled lists for this season.  It looks like we're now learning just who was responsible for last year's success.  As they play for other teams now, the Sox are struggling.  I'm not sure "struggling" is a strong enough word.

Boston's primary need was not fulfilled during the winter break.  The pitching staff just plain is terrible.  Some of the promising rookie future super stars should still be in the minors.  And with a few exceptions, more and more players are deepening that path to the doctor's office. 

It's too early to give up on the Sox, but that little gets littler every day.

We've seen what happened to the Celtics with all the changes this year.  And that story on the Patriot's coming year has a lot of development needed for success.  The Bruins seem to be doing pretty well, though.

And in the college ranks, after reading more and more about my Gators after the winter break, I have little hope for a successful football season. 

2014 might not be the best year for the sports teams I follow.

Finally, how stupid was it for some jerk in Boston to leave a backpack behind near the finish line of the Boston Marathon honor celebration for last year's survivors?  A second backpack was left behind by a news guy, another dumb boo-boo.  At least that first one appears to be just a hoax.  I'm afraid I'm not impressed with his attempt.

Have yourself a great day.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A lost opportunity...and a lost employee/teacher

An article in the Press Herald on line web site caught my attention Thursday morning.  Written by Steve Solloway, the article asked if the sudden resignation and message of the former Westbrook School Department Athletic director will be noticed by a cultural deficient Westbrook community, especially the school system.

The problem began last fall when then AD Marc Sawyer suspended several students for knowingly being at a party where alcohol beverages were served.  If this were true, the action violated a school system policy concerning the activity.  Some of those suspended were members of the football team which was about to play in a state playoff game.

Pressure from both the community and inside the school system itself caused the reinstatement of the players in time for the weekend game.  If I have correctly understood both Mr. Solloway's story and previous stories concerning this matter, a major contributor to the pressure was the mother of one of the players.  The part that makes the situation even much, much worse, in my humble opinion, if it is true, is that mother is on the Westbrook School Committee.

So Marc Sawyer, who had taken what he called "his dream job" only last year, resigned.  Mr. Sawyer was proud of the opportunity to return to his native Westbrook where he played sports and help direct the athletic program and form the future for its participants.  Mr. Solloway quotes from the resignation letter:  "He couldn’t continue in the position he once considered his dream job because of the 'incestuous culture of the community, individuals placing their own needs ahead of the overall group."'

When a similar situation happened later in the Boothbay Regional High School's basketball season and six players were suspended just before the championship playoffs began, the players didn't play in the championship games.  Boothbay was a high ranking team with a chance to win the state championship, but the players' actions caused new players to try to win.  They didn't. 

Those regional communities stood behind the suspensions and then drove a nail into coffin when asked about Westbrook's lifting of their suspension.  "We're not Westbrook," said the populace.

Our jobs as adults and teachers is to teach our kids about our culture, including what's right and wrong and the penalties and rewards of actions.  I feel badly for the young people from Westbrook who, apparently, aren't being taught their lessons.  As Mr. Solloway put it, "Westbrook fumbled its opportunity to teach."  I'd add that the city also lost a very capable teacher/AD.  I wonder how it will affect future hires.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

UConn completes the championship basketball sweep!

Congratulations to the University of Connecticut Huskies.  Both the men's and women's basketball teams have won the 2014 National Championships in the NCAA basketball tournament. 

The women swamped the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame last night to complete a perfect 40 win with no losses season.  We call that undefeated.  The Irish didn't quite make it to the end as they finished with just one loss, last night to UConn. 

I watched the first half of the game and it was very obvious to me as I headed off to bed that UConn had their second consecutive national championship well under control.

One thing special about the win was it came on the heels of their men's counterparts winning their national championship Monday night.  It was must the second time two teams playing the same sport have won the basketball national championship in the same season.  Ironically, it was the UConn teams about ten years ago that first accomplished the feat.

So, finally in the sport this season, once again, congratulations to both Huskie teams for their remarkable accomplishment.

Right about now, my Fearless Friend and his wife  are in his, as he calls it, "Hoss" heading home to Maine from their winter home in Florida.  His care is bright red Ford Mustang.  The will spend some time with members of his family along the way home and should be back in Maine over the weekend.  They will be welcome home.

Enjoy your Wednesday and we'll have thoughts on other topics in the coming days.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn Men are #1; Can UConn Women follow tonight?

60-54.  The University of Connecticut has won the men's national NCAA basketball championship and completed part I of the UConn dream, both the men's and women's team winning a BB title in the same year. 

I did watch only the first half of the game and when I headed off to the dream land, I honestly didn't have an opinion on who would win even through the Huskies were leading Kentucky University.  Early on, in appeared UConn was going to run away and hide, but then the Wildcats began to close the gap.  And I must admit I think I was pulling for the SEC team to win.  Yet it is impossible to be saddened by the Huskie victory, especially after reading (I'd bet most of you heard it first hand) what the Connecticut players had to say about their coming together after the two years academic team suspension.

So, congratulations #1 to the UConn Huskies for the men's title. 

Now, like last night, I won't see the whole game tonight, either, but now I'm pulling for the defending national champion Huskie women to repeat tonight when the take on Notre Dame.  Both teams enter the game undefeated for the season and post season play, a first for the women's national title game.  I want Connecticut to repeat, but those Fighting Irish women sure do look like they're battle ready.  It should be one heckuva game.

There is one real disadvantage in being an Old Fart living in the East at times like these.  At my 75 plus years of age, I find it more and more difficult to stay up for late games, even when my Gators may be playing.  I appreciate that fans on both coasts have an equal right to be able to see championship games and one end of the country or the other must make sacrifices.  But, gee whiz, it must be easier for the West Coast fans to see a game start at 5 or 5:30 so we here on the East Coast can see it closer to 8 or 8:30.  Please, I fully understand this is just an old man complaining and would probably feel a lot differently if I live out West.

Enjoy tonight's game.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Connecticut Men vs. Kentucky tonight; UConn Women vs. Notre Dame tomorrow.

We had no surprises this Monday morning when we began checking the overnight scores.

I'll be very brief for now as it's too early on the first day of the week to try thinking.  As we had expected, it will be two undefeated women's teams facing each other Tuesday night for the Women's NCAA National Championship in basketball.  The undefeated Connecticut Huskies will take on the also undefeated Notre Dame Fight Irish.  I believe this is the first time that two undefeated teams will have faced each other for the national title since the current system began. 

Tonight's final will be the Men's National Championship in basketball as Kentucky will meet Connecticut.  Unfortunately for me, it'll be the second game of the night so I won't be staying up to watch it.  If one of the teams in the earlier consolation game, the Gators of course, were playing in the title game, I might have stayed up.  

Seems to me only once before have two teams, both the women's and men's basketball titles, from the same school won the national championships.  Naturally, why I say "naturally" I really don't know, those two teams were from Connecticut as well.  What is "naturally" is my wishing an SEC team would win a title so I'd have to be cheering for Kentucky in tonight's game, but I also think it would be neat if both Huskie teams win again this year.

Now I'll put on my thinking cap and see if I can come up with something to add for this day.  I hope you have a great one.


P.S.  I didn't come up with anything.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Weekend

Edited Saturday night:  The end came tonight for the Florida Gators.  Connecticut ended up being the bread around the 30 game Gator basketball win streak.  The were the last team to beat Florida in December until the two teams met again tonight in the NCAA Final Four semi-finals.  I had been worried about Connecticut for a couple of weeks and tonight, my concern proved to be accurate.  The Score, incidentally, was 63-53.  It sure was great watching the Gators while it lasted.  The Huskies will take on the winner of tonight's other game, Kentucky and Wisconsin.  I think I had said in an earlier posting that Kentucky was the team to beat.  Not so sure now; if the Wildcats do get into the finals, it'll be one heckuva game.

And again Sunday morning:  Kentucky indeed will be in the national championship game Monday night after a close 74-73 win over Wisconsin.  And it was an exciting finish with the win coming on a last moment three-pointer.  Monday's game will be the first for a championship between a #7 seed (UConn) and a #8 seed (Ky).  It might be one very good basketball game.

But first, the women's Final Four tonight:  Maryland vs. Notre Dame in the first game followed by Stanford vs. Connecticut in the nightcap.

And in Baseball...the Boston Red Sox aren't off to the start for which they hoped.  They lost to Milwaukee for the second time last night.  The two teams play again this afternoon at Fenway.

And a weather update...Although a few showers are mixed in, the forecast for all this week has the temperatures in the 50s.  We haven't seen that for a very long time.  The weather gods must be celebrating the return of my Fearless Friend from his winter home in Florida next weekend.

So far, April is turning out to be just a wee bit better than was March.  So far.  That could come to an end over this weekend, although it also could be a brief end.  Right now we've been experiencing some pretty nice stuff with temperatures even hitting the 50s out on our deck, which it did about an hour ago.  That, of course, is far from an official temperature gauge. 

But some much less than nice weather is heading our way and should get here by evening.  The good part of this weather is that it'll be over, possibly by early to mid morning Saturday in our area.  And, here is our section of Maine, it'll be mostly if not all rain.  Not far inland, though, a winter storm watch is in effect for snow, sleet, ice, and freezing rain.  The weather guy on Channel Six says northern Maine could end up with one to three inches of the frozen stuff and it will last well into Saturday.

The temperatures into next week, once this newest storm gets out of here, will be bouncing back into the 50s.  One might say that we have finally reached the spring season.

Great weekend for sports on TV.  Although they lost the season's opener to Baltimore in baseball, the Red Sox won the opening series.  Today Milwaukee will help Boston open it's home season at Fenway Park.

Speaking of the Red Sox, how about that game Henry Owens pitched for the Sea Dogs yesterday...a no hit shutout (11-0) over Reading Thursday.  It was only for six innings in a game called because of rain, but it was his second no-hitter over the Fighting Phils since last season when he combined with another Sea Dog for a full game no-hitter.  Owens is considered to be one of the top Red Sox pitching prospects.  He's well on his way to a quick trip to Boston.

Of course also this weekend will be the final two games of the NCAA basketball tourneys, both men and women, will be played.  Technically the men conclude Monday night and the women end Tuesday.  The team I follow the closest plays the first of the series Saturday night shortly after six against Connecticut, one of the only two teams and the last one to beat the Gators this season.  The women's semis will be tomorrow.  And in the first game, as expected, Notre Dame blew away Maryland and will play the winner of the second game Tuesday.  I'll have the second game winner tomorrow morning.

And the Maine Red Claws ended their 2013-14 season last night.  They will not be participating in the NBA D-League championships.

Well, a little weather and some super sports begin Friday night for the weekend.  I hope you have a great one.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Road Signs

There has been a news story on WCSH-TV the last couple of days which I find interesting.  It concerned road signs, specifically signs on the state's Interstates, including the Maine Turnpike (I-95) and free roads (I-295).  The Maine Turnpike Authority wants them removed or changed.  I think it would be a big mistake.

Peter Mills, the MTA head honcho, says the signs don't meet federal highway guidelines and the state could lose millions of dollars if they remain as is.  I say to Mr. Mills, work with our congressional representatives to get the law changed.  To travelers, highway signs are important and the ones in Maine, in my humble estimation, are particularly useful.  They're big.  Whizzing along at 65 mph (or higher) one gets to see the information on those signs in time to learn from them safely.

I remember several years ago when signs were all but eliminated from roadways across the nation.  Although the days for such trips are ending for us this summer, my wife Sandra and I have traveled by car through every state except Hawaii and Alaska, although we did tour Alaska by bus.  The signs that remained were extremely helpful in getting us to our destinations. 

We especially liked the signs coming into interchanges that told us what food or lodging was available there.  We did comment many times on how we wished the signs were larger so we could see them longer.  When five, six, eight or more establishments were crowded onto a sign, it was nearly impossible for our growing older eyes to process them.

Some states even had huge billboards remaining along the way.  Yup, I'll agree those huge signs were a blight on the landscape, but nevertheless, they did make finding and deciding on destinations much easier.  I didn't really miss the signs until we began to travel and find ourselves looking for answers.

Mr. Mills suggested in the WCSh6 story that the most of the needs were resolved as most travelers now use smart phones, or GPS systems to guide them to various places.  I don't have a smart phone but I do have both a DeLorme GPS receiver connected to a laptop computer and now the even easier to use Garmin.  I did like the DeLorme mapping program on the computer better than the Garmin only because the display was bigger.

Nevertheless, I still, and did with the electronic helpers too, rely on the signage to help me find destinations.

Mr. Mills and his group are not saying that all signs must be eliminated but there's quite a list that could disappear.  That list was published late Wednesday on the Press Herald's web page.  I think you can find a story about the signs there, also, but you may have to do some navigating to find it.

Many of the signs are for schools and businesses but I personally don't find them objectionable.  Many of them are for places not really close to an interchange but so what?  They are where they tell me it's time to leave the Interstate to find them.  The ones I see are mostly informational.  If they once again become those huge gaudy signs, then I might change my mind.

Naturally some communities and businesses are objecting to the potential loss of the signs and I don't blame them.  The solution, if Mr. Mills and his group want a way out, is to get our congressional critters to do something for Maine and get the rules changed.