Saturday, March 29, 2014

Other Gators (not the one in Maine) are in the NCAA basketball Final Four!

The Final Four!  The Florida Gators are now officially in the Final Four after a 62 to 52 win over the Cinderella team, the Dayton Flyers.  They have until next Saturday to get ready for Connecticut, the 60-54 winner of today's game between Connecticut and Michigan State.  Connecticut handed the Gators one of their two losses during the season.  It's been a few years, but this is not the first trip to the NCAA Basketball Final Four for Florida.  They have been there five times, four of them with two championships under present coach Billy Donovan in his four tries.  The Gators' last national championship was in 2007.

Wisconsin eliminated Arizona in the other divisional final yesterday and await the outcome of today's Kentucky-Michigan game to see who they will mean it the Final Four next weekend.  Now we know, Kentucky held off Michigan 75-72 for the fourth spot.

Next Saturday, The #1 seeded Gators will play Connecticut and Kentucky will take on Wisconsin in the National semi-finals.  The Championship game will be April 7th.  Florida has a tough row to hoe to win.  As I said earlier, Connecticut is one of only two teams to own a win over the Gators this year and as we've seen twice this year, Kentucky drives Florida right to the brink.  And history shows the Wildcats have literally owned the Gators.  It'll be an interesting Final Four beginning next weekend.

Of course, the women's tourney is in its Sweet Sixteen competition, too.  (The winners of the four Elite Eight games become the Final Four.)  One super game to be watching could be undefeated Notre Dame against Baylor.  Naturally, everyone will be watching for the expected clash between Notre Dame and Connecticut, also undefeated so far.  The last four Sweet Sixteen games will be played today.  In today's completed games, Maryland ousted #1 Tennessee while Louisville has eliminated LSU.  Stanford whipped Penn State.  And in the battles of the Carolinas, North sent South home for the year.

The women's tourney continues Monday night.

Along with a bunch of potentially great basketball games today, there's a road race on the schedule that has my interest.  Although I prefer NASCAR races, the IndyCar, Formula One racers, begins today on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.  St. Pete is my old stomping grounds when I wasn't in Gainesville when I lived in Florida.  I like to watch at least part of this race on the Telly to see if I can pick out familiar places.  To be honest, the city has changed so much in the half century since I lived there, I recognize about nothing.  Nevertheless, it's fun trying.  The race, incidentally, for anyone interested, will be at 3:30 this afternoon on ABC.

The weather here in Southern Maine is just plain rotten this Sunday.  Rain here on the coast possibly changing to some ice really late, mix precipitation in the central part of the state, and snow up north.  One to five inches of rain is forecast before it pulls out of the region tomorrow.  Reading the weather forecasts today will make my Fearless Friend think just a smidgeon more about heading back from Florida next week.

Enjoy your Sunday.  And, of course, GO GATORS!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Gators move on! But, can you imagine college teams being unionized?

I don't have much to say as this newest weekend begins.  It is the last weekend in March and we can only hope the new month beginning next Tuesday will allow Spring to actually spring.

79 to 68.  And the Florida Gators move into the Elite Eight with a good win over UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA National Basketball Tourney Thursday night.  I didn't stay up to watch the late game, but, naturally, I was happy to be up early Friday morning to read about it.  I'm not sure it's a good thing, though, that the Dayton Flyers whipped Stanford to also reach the round of eight Saturday.  The Flyers have been upsetting some big, much higher ranked teams in this Tourney heading now to a showdown with the #1 Gators Saturday evening beginning shortly after six o'clock.  Unlike the Thursday late night start, I'll be able to see the game Saturday.

Go Gators!

In another sports development, there's a disturbing situation that is developing at Northwestern University.  The school's football team has been granted the right to form a union for players by an NLRB panel.  The board official hearing the case says there is ample proof that football players are in reality employees of a university and thus, as employees, have the right to unionized and negotiate working conditions.  That, of course, includes pay to play.

Citing the number of hours that football players must devote to their sport along with the scholarship and other incentives granted them by the school along with the amount of money the sport returns to the school, the definition of being employed passes all the tests.  I'd like to point out that NU is an academic university graduating something like 97% of its football players.

I'm not going to review all the conditions as I only know what I've read, thus what the news media wants me to know, so here are just two places you can get the story.  Although each source contains much of the same material, they also offer some added or different material, too.  You can read the news stories here:

CNN News and The Washington Post.

I'm sure you can find many, many more.  Both stories do say that Northwestern will appeal the ruling to the full National Labor Relations Board.

If this ruling stands, and it probably will, it will change college sports forever.  It would be a very nasty and bad change.  For many sports fans such as myself, it will ruin not only college football but also it will grow to other sports and drive them to the sewer, too.  It is just another great American institution going down the drain.  Boy, do I hope I'm terribly wrong.

Maine's gambling situation will remain as is, just two existing casinos, one in Oxford and the other in Bangor, will be battling for Mainers' money.  Six bills to allow gaming to expand before the Maine Legislature in its current session were killed this week by the senate.  Those six bills would have allowed additional gambling places, mostly the installation of slot machines, in other various venues, including Scarborough Downs Race Track.  The death knell was rung for them Thursday when the Senate declined to approve some attempted amendments to save the gaming changes.

At least one good thing has happened.  At last, a Boston team, the Patriots, have made a right decision.  The Pats signed Vince Wilfork to a three year contract.  Wilfork had asked to be traded earlier and reportedly had even cleaned out his locker.  He's one of the best defensive players in the NFL.  Unfortunately his new contract pales beside the new contract of Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers first baseman.  He's due to become the highest paid player in Major League history.

Sort of hints as to where college sports could be heading, doesn't it?

Have a super weekend.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Winter Storm (another miss) and basketball

Talk about hedging weather predictions would lead you directly to the forecasters calling the weather for Wednesday.  Naturally, all the "models" and that ever present "depending on the track" have come into play.  About the only thing this Monday night we can be sure of is that we'll have some weather Wednesday.

Added Tuesday AM:  This day has dawned with very bright sunshine and blue skies.  But it is about as cold as it's ever been in Maine this late in March with temps only in the teens at 8 AM.  The morning forecast says tomorrow's storm will all but miss our area but will be near blizzard conditions Down East.

Perhaps a lot, especially Down East, but more likely a brushing, especially in my area of Southern Maine.  One forecaster says the Down East and mid-Maine coastal areas probably will get plowable snow while the Southern sections will get a dusting to possibly an inch.  The further inland one goes, the lesser the amount of snow.  Now, says that same forecaster, if the storm which will become a blockbuster well to the south of us out in the Atlantic makes a very slight turn to the left, all that will change and we'll all get a blasting.

So, the only thing for us to do is wait until Wednesday and see what happens.  I love those positive forecasts of our local weather forecasters.  One thing that is scary, though, is their track record, especially for this year.  It seems like when a dusting has been forecast, we've had six inches or more and when those six inches or more have been forecast, we haven't even had to shovel.  Ah, the fun and surprises of living in coastal Southern Maine.

Phew!  We waited and now this Wednesday morning at about 6:50 we offer this edit:  The forecasters seem to have hit this one right on the head.  No sign of snow in the Greater Portland area right now and we're told we could get a minor flurry or two before the day is over, but we won't get that blizzard which is still forecast for the Down East area.  Cape Cod in Massachusetts is getting clobbered, but the storm is probably just a wee bit to far south to hit us.  So, those hard working forecasters seem to have nailed this one.  And I, for one, am not disappointed.  And that ends this edit.

Let's turn to some sports.  Did you get to see any of the NCAA men and women's basketball tournaments this past weekend?  I sure do hope so because there were some really great games, like that one between Kentucky and Wichita State.  The undefeated Shockers were shocked when they couldn't the ball through the hoop as the final buzzer rang out.  Wichita State's undefeated season came to an abrupt end.

Syracuse and Dayton was another nail biter as the Orange also could not get the ball through the hoop at the end.  The Florida Gators ousted Pittsburgh from the tourney as the Gators reached the Sweet Sixteen.

Stanford and Kansas was another upset nail biter as was Iowa State against North Carolina State, although in that one, the higher seed pulled it off at the end.

The woman's tourney wasn't quite as exciting and many games were determined almost at there tip offs.  The Florida women's game was one of the upset victories as they beat the Dayton women.  (Edited to add:  Unfortunately and sadly, the Gator Women are heading home after Tuesday's game.)

Nevertheless, all the games were, including those several upsets, made this past basketball weekend one of the best.

Now this old Gator turns his attention to Thursday night when Florida plays UCLA for a spot in the elite eight.  Unfortunately, the game doesn't start until close to 10 PM, and that's past my bedtime.

Finally, next Monday, the World Champion Boston Red Sox open their defense as the regular baseball season will be well underway.  The Sox play Baltimore in Baltimore.

Now, the anticipation of what will or won't be Wednesday begins.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter is over! At least on paper.

Spring is here.  And it's trying to show us just about everywhere.  My driveway and walkways are all clear and dry and the amount of grass that can be seen is growing by the minutes.  We went from one of the coldest, snowiest winters ever to the glorious weather which is spring in one tick of the clock Thursday.

Friday has presented us with clear, blue, sun-filled skies.  The temperature on my deck has climbed into the mid-40s, although that isn't the official temperature which is usually colder than my sun-drenched deck.

We're happy campers in Southern Maine, even if it'll only be for a minute or two.  Yes, that's right.  A minute or two.  Winter refuses to give up, even though the calendar says, "Go Away!"  You see, we have another storm heading here and it could make late Friday and much of Saturday rather miserable.  "Wish me out of here?" screams Old Man Winter.  "Eh, eh, Not a chance!"  Most of this new storm, like the one we had mid-week, will be well away from the coast, which is where I live, so we'll probably see mostly rain.  But it will bring back the frigid, arctic cold.

And to punctuate it's message even more, one of the "depending on the track" storms could bring us another serious snow deposit next Wednesday.  Or, as most of us truly hope, nothing.

Nevertheless, we are officially in the spring season.

A few days ago, I mentioned that my town, Scarborough, which has voted down any casino type gambling several times in the past, faced the probability of finally getting voter approval.  I did point out that I would continue to vote against it if the Maine Legislature did approve a ballot question.  Well, we'll be waiting a little bit longer as that law making body has put the request on hold while it does some studying.  That doesn't mean the approval won't come this legislative session, but it looks like the state is going to have to tighten up some laws first.

I've also been complaining about Time Warner Cable's channel changes.  The company moved the channels all around, clumping the similar ones together, like having the 300 series devoted to sports.  I'm slowly adjusting to the changes, but I can't see where there's any improvement I was told I wanted.

At the same time, TW announced a fee increase in several areas.  We'll see higher prices just for the privilege of using one of their cable boxes.  To use their service, one needs a box.  And, for the first time, we'll be charged a monthly fee for our local, formerly free, network stations.  There are other increases, too.

I called to complain.  I was speaking to deaf ears.  Of course it isn't the phone representative's changes so I tried to be sympathetic to his plight of having to deal with unhappy customers like me; and to his credit, he did his best to try to make me happy.

He didn't.

One of the offerings he had was to offer me three free months of one of the premium movie channels, which I never watch.  Whoopee!  I told him I'd be looking at satellite TV to replace TW. 

So I started my research. I must admit those introductory offers of satellite TV look extremely great and could entice someone to make the switch in a heartbeat.  But then, when I could get the "fine print" close enough to almost read it, that section of the offer sure does put a damper on the offer.  Damper?  Shucks, it floods it out.  The cost seems to be within pennies of TW's prices.  I will, however, continue my research.  (I must admit I really like Road Runner over DSL which I'd have to get from my local phone company.  Fairpoint is not a partner for bundling with DirecTV.)

We did learn of one of the reasons for the TW fee increase, although this is not specifically stated.  The head honcho will get an 80-million dollar "parachute" payout for his negotiations with Comcast Cable for Comcast to buy TW.  An uneducated soul like me might get the impression I have to pay higher prices to make that payoff.  That's another reason to continue my search for a satellite alternative.

I hope you have a great weekend.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Virtual Schools

Public education in Maine is undergoing some changes, and change isn't always for the better.  The transformation of education actually began 25 or more years ago, but the recent ones have become the scariest.  Although we're told the establishment of a virtual school will only make things better for our students, it will also be the beginning of the loss of what little control the local community still has over the education of it's young people.

If I understand the news stories I've read, then the Maine virtual schools will not be under the control of a local board of education, people elected by residents of communities to determine the directions of their schools.  Rather, the new concept has an out-of-state publishing corporation controlling the strings.

Yes, the articles say the Maine Department of Education will have some say, but that "not-for-profit" corporation will be determining the majority of curriculum and materials that will be studied.  Students will not be attending a school but will be doing their learning via a computer terminal which will probably be right in their own homes.

The virtual school will hire some teachers or facilitators which will meet with students periodically in locally leased offices, but the teacher load will make current student/teacher numbers look very pale.  Students will lose the social contact they have through schools and the contacts to help each other.  They will have their parents for help, but curriculum has changed so drastically over the last few years that many parents will know less than the students.

I happen to like computers and use mine daily.  But I do nothing on the computer that I could not do without it.  The computer makes tasks like writing and computation somewhat faster, but to have it do that, one must first understand concepts.

Take this attempt at writing, for example.  I do remember the days when I was in school, yes all the way through college, when to write I had to use a pen and paper or, as I got older, a typewriter to write things down.  After I completed a composition, I had to proof read it, which also required my knowledge of technical aspects, then, more often than not, rewrite the whole thing just to correct a mistake or two.

Writing this has had me make numerous corrections already, but the ease of fixing stuff with a computer makes the process easier.  My word processor does check my spelling and limited checking of my grammar, but it doesn't always find things like agreement, the use of phrases and clauses, well, just about anything connected with writing.  If it did, this might be more interesting.

But even computers aren't infallible.  Daily that is proven when one watches news on the TV.  Have you ever noticed all the mistakes that are made in those printed notes that are often included?  I never miss them.  The persons typing them either have adopted the "they know what I mean" attitude, don't care about accuracy, or just plain have no knowledge of spelling as a result of not being held accountable in school in recent years.

I think the lack of the social interaction in a virtual school is also a major problem with this new change.  Furthermore, as I've said many times here, the failure of many young people to do even simple math like making change is the result of other changes in our education.  (This paragraph is an example of what I'm saying here about writing.  Do you see the problem?)

But worse, perhaps, is the loss of local education control.  The cost of education is the biggest single expense in nearly all communities.  These virtual schools will be using our tax money with us having extremely little or absolutely no input on how that money will be used.

If you agree that our education has been changing over the years with less and less knowledge growth in our schools, just think how much it's going to change with the same publishing companies that supply us now get near, and eventually total control over our young people's education.

We need to study this change very carefully as well as study what we offer our young people.  Change isn't always good and this looks very much like simply passing the education problem elsewhere so we don't have to face it.  For those who will say, "But it will save us money thus tax dollars," I say, I've seen no proof we'll save a dime with Virtual Schools, and just how has all that spending we've been approving actually improved our students abilities?

I hope my community, which will host the virtual school, will fight it for the sake of our young people.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Racinos heading for Scarborough??

Referendum questions in Maine are an interesting facet of political life.  Among other things, some of these questions ask voters to change our way of life.  The interesting part is that they rarely get resolved until the group promoting the change gets the answer they want.

How many times in the past years have questions been asked that were defeated by voters only to reappear in an election or two after seeking passage once again.  The real question is, "When does 'No' mean "No?"  When it comes to making cultural or environmental changes, the answer is easy:  "Never."

In our town, Scarborough, we've faced the question of allowing a combination casino and harness racing track, what we used to call a "Racino," at least two other times, three if you count the double question in 2008.  Each time the majority of us voting said, "No!"  As expected, the margin of that vote decreased the second time around.

There's a good chance we're going to have to vote again on the question.  Officials at Scarborough Downs, the long-time horse racing track in Scarborough, say they need the approval to compete for gamblers  now playing in Oxford and Bangor. 

The Maine House of Representatives voted last week to allow the question to once again go before the voters and the Maine Senate is expected to concur probably sometime this week.  Earlier this year the Scarborough Town Council voted to change a zoning restriction if the voters approve Scarborough Downs to add slot machines.  We've seen in the other two gambling facilities in Maine that once Slots were approved, other types of gambling are quickly added.  That would probably be the case at Scarborough Downs, too.

I don't gamble.  Yes, I've said it before, my first job not given me by family as a teenager was at Scarborough Downs.  Technically, I was called a veterinarian's assistant working for the state racing commission.  I collected urine samples from winning horses for testing.  But I didn't gamble there, partially, at least, because I was a minor, even though I learned of some tricks on how outcomes could possibly be affected.

My wife Sandra and I have been to Las Vegas twice, but we didn't gamble.  Well, that's not totally true.  We did split one roll of quarters for the slot machines.  We just wrote them off as entertainment expenses as we stopped playing when that one roll was gone.  Naturally, it was always gone soon into the session.  I've driven through Atlantic City and past Oxford.  But we don't go in to even see the insides.

I learned early that gambling devices are rigged to be sure the "house" comes out as the winner.  Even when someone gets a decent payoff, the winner will always still be the house.  So I don't gamble on machines or horses, or in any other type of games of chance.  As I said, the "chance" I'll win is a lot smaller than the House's.  Oh, I don't play the lottery, either.

Allowing another casino is just another loss for our culture and a change of a way of life in Scarborough.  I voted "No" each of the preceding ballots and have seen absolutely no evidence I was wrong.  I will be consistent when we go to the polls for another vote.  However, as I think I said during the last attempts to bring casino gaming to our Town, The proponents will keep the votes coming until they wear us down.  I'm afraid enough have been worn down already.


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Gift of Life

Mid-March and another winter storm is behind us.  I'm thankful that my little area of Maine wasn't as hard hit as folks in the far northern areas.  My yard didn't even require plowing we got so little.  In fact, Sandra, my wife, and I had to leave the yard Thursday to visit a doctor.  Street crews were able to take good care of the streets here in Scarborough and in Portland.  When we arrived home, there was, perhaps, a little less than a half inch of sleet still on our unplowed driveway.

We're only a week or so away from the beginning of Spring so I had hoped this storm would be the swan song blast for this season.  No such luck.  "Depending on the track," a popular beginning for weathercasts this season, was heard again today.  Yep.  There's another potential storm heading our way; but if it gets here, it won't be until sometime next week.

I've still had enough.

These thoughts will be around after today, Friday, but the plea remains solid for anytime during the year.  There's a major blood drive in Portland today and it's a good opportunity for you to give to your community.

I'm living proof that the importance of giving blood is very high.  When I had my Triple-A, a burst artery, several years ago, I needed much blood.  I actually bled out while on the operating table and if the hospital didn't have access to blood, I'd have left this planet then.  My personal consolation at receiving the blood was that I had given a lot of it myself in my younger years.  In fact, I was on the blood bank's call list and got the call rather regularly.

I had often wondered if those donations really did save lives or just make us as givers feel good about ourselves.  I got the answer to my question.  I'm sorry to say that a combination of my age and my medical conditions have caused me to no longer be able to give. 

But you can.

The blood is needed almost daily.  The Red Cross blood drives assure that there is blood on hand when it is needed.  Periodically they have dedicated blood drives, like today's, so they can replenish a dwindling supply, especially during high need conditions.  Today's blood drive is at the Red Cross offices on Forest Avenue near Woodford's Corner in Portland so if you are reading this before late Friday afternoon, find the short time it takes to help save a life or lives. 

I promise you it doesn't hurt and only takes a half hour or so of your life and the people at the Center are super people who have the ability to ease any fear you may have.  But don't let the short notice of this dedicated drive stop you or if today has already gone by, the Red Cross Blood Center will make you feel welcome just about anytime during working hours.

By the way, if you're expecting a need for blood due to an upcoming surgical procedure and you really don't want someone else's blood, even though it is carefully evaluated by the Blood Bank, you can give your own blood and stored under your name for your own use later on.  That way you can build up the quantity you may need.  I'm not sure if that can be done at the blood bank or if you have to donate at the hospital you anticipate using, but a quick phone call to the Red Cross or hospital would give you the answer.  You might want to discuss it with your doctor.

I've always been happy with myself for taking the little time necessary to donate this gift of life.  In my case, it took many years to learn it actually works.

I hope you have a super weekend.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hey! Spring is just 8 days away. We don't need more snow!

It's now about 4:45 pm so here's a very quickie update.  My area has seen zero snow so far.  We are getting a very little rain, but no snow.  The current weather radar seems to indicate we won't get any, or, since the snow part of the "massive" storm is almost past us, we'll only end up with a very little.  We may get some sleet and little snow overnight, but the forecast is now down to the "maybe" one to two inches of new precipitation.  Some day, I'm going to trust my own reading of the conditions and radar and simply trust my own forecast.  I'm embarrassed I got drawn into the one below.

On this Wednesday morning, the storm watch is back on.  There's a chance we'll get some stormy weather actually beginning around noon time.  The truth is as we look outside with the cloudy darkness growing very fast, I wouldn't be surprised if the weather arrived within the hour of this posting.

We were warned Monday that a major Nor'easter was heading our way, but then the dire warnings went up and down.  First, my little area could get seven or more inches of new snow.  Then the forecast tempered a bit and we'd get a lot of rain and sleet but only abut four inches of white stuff.  That changed again last night (Tuesday) when only right along the immediate coast (my area) would we get some snow for a couple miles from the coast inland but it probably would change over to sleet, possibly after some seven inches would arrive.

Today, far northern Maine is in line for two feet...not a misprint, feet...of snow while along the coast we'll have two to four inches along with sleet, and a lot of rain.  About all I can say is we'll have to just keep watching and see what does arrive.  If they warrant them, I'll have periodic updates here.

I remember bout 20 years ago when my wife and I decided we wanted a new home and asked a real estate agent friend (my Fearless Friend) to help us find just what we (spell that with an "sh" in place of the "w") wanted.  We took our sweet time, a year or more, of visiting homes, reading about them in real estate printouts, and just driving past them.

One of the tasks we included throughout our search was to park our car near a potential home just to see what the neighborhood was like.  In other words, we were making sure we wouldn't find some condition that would disappoint us and cause us to regret out choice later.  Just as an example, one place we parked outside a nice home and just stayed there for a while.  Holy smoke!  All of a sudden a screaming siren on a pole right next to the car and within a few feet of the house started blaring.  The town had a volunteer fire department and that was how the volunteers were called to duty.  In spite of its purpose, we decided we didn't need to live next to that siren.  We left.

Another place we spent some time was in the big city.  We parked, watched and listened.  It wasn't long before we heard the screaming sound of jet engines going right over the car.  We were in direct line with a major runway at our local airport.  The seeking continued.

I thought of all this earlier this week when a neighboring town council passed a new ordinance to begin controlling a rod and gun club shooting range.  That range was first built way back in the 1920s or earlier in an undeveloped area of the town.  Twenty or thirty years ago, though, as often happens to large open spaces, developers began erecting homes nearby.  The owners of the homes began a campaign of getting the Town Council to control the noise from the shotguns as well as where the bullets were going. 

Remember, this rod and gun club had been using the area for 50 or more years before the development began.  Had I been looking for a home there, I would have parked nearby for a spell and would have learned about the club activities.  I probably would have returned to my home search.

It simply seems to me that it is rather unfair for "newcomers" to be able to dictate what happens in an area where there has been activity for decades.  Those home owners knew what they were getting when the bought their homes.  Or they should have.  I understand their noise and safety concerns, and I honestly only know what the news media wants me to know about the conflict, but it seems to me unfair for one group, almost interlopers, if you will, to dictate conditions to long established users.

I was entertained by a story I saw on the TV about a snow pile at the Portland Jetport.  (Almost every other airport is called just that, Airport.  Even Portland's was the Portland Municipal Airport before someone thought the world was heading to the Jetport designation.)  According to the story, a private parking lot owner erected a new sign pointing his parking area which was less expensive than the parking on the Jetport property.

Not like the competition, the Jetport parking group simply piled snow about 20 feet high in front of the private lot's sign.  It hid the sign well.  Naturally, the owner was unhappy and, through his attorney, wrote a letter to the city complaining.  Naturally, the situation will be corrected.

The part that fascinated me was hearing a spokesman for the Jetport, I think it may even have been the manager of the facility, tell the TV station that it was just some poor judgment on the part of an over zealous Jetport parking lot person and that he, the spokesman, had nothing to do with the decision.

But, if you get a chance to see the clip, just watch that spokesman's facial expression while he's proclaiming innocence of involvement.  I won't tell you what the expression said to me, but it might question some credibility with the statement.

Sometimes, the news is really fun to watch.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Not a scam; requires good consideration, though.

It seems like it's been a very long time since our little neighborhood hit 47 degrees, but that was the high Saturday, both officially and on the gauge on our deck.  One could stand there and actually watch the snow melt.  The sun added to the glory of the day.  It's not going to be a long term trend, though, at least not yet.  We're in for some colder weather developing over the next few days with the chance of some snow showers off and on.  We're told one real snowstorm is a possibility.

But that doesn't change the beauty of Saturday.  Golly, even this inside bound old guy got a chance to get some fresh air into this lungs.  Momma Gator even had some windows open to get the air inside changed.  What a day!

The Gator basketball team should be congratulated today.  They beat Kentucky Saturday in the season finale.  Beating Kentucky itself is a milestone for Florida but that win also gave the Gators an undefeated SEC Season.  No SEC team in history has won all 18 season's games.  The #1 ranked team in the country should now get a top seed going into the NCAA championships in the run for the Final Four.  Of course, the SEC tourney will come first.  The Gators did not produce a complete undefeated season.  Only in the SEC portion of their schedule did they not lose.  The overall record held two losses outside of their conference.

I was watching TV last night when, for at least the many hundredth time, I saw at one of the actors inviting us seniors to take advantage of a Reverse Mortgage.  I'd be very surprised if anyone out there hadn't heard of the reverse mortgage, but simply stated, it is a mortgage on a home that is now either mortgage free or has built up a decent size equity and is used to get some cash into the hands of its owner.

I wish someone would tell me why a reverse mortgage isn't high on the list of scams.  Those ads sure do make it sound nice.  After all, they tout, take out a reverse mortgage, take a great trip, buy a new car, pay off all the bills, or spend the cash just any other way you want.  You will, they tell us, and this is what I consider to be the less than complete honesty part, continue to own your home and live in it until you pass into wherever you'll pass. 

The money is, you understand, a loan and the bank or lending institute will only take control of the home when the last person on the new mortgage passes.  In an attempt to be very fair to the lending institutions, they make that clear in their ads which is how I learned it.  That sounds nice and enticing.  But when that last person does die, the whole dollar amount of the mortgage along with all the interest...Oh, do they ever mention interest in those ads? due.

Most of us who own our homes have already built up a little equity to leave behind for our kids and the house is part of it.  Some of us may even secretly, or openly for that matter, hope one of our kids might even like the place enough to live in it.  My two kids are in their forties.  My daughter already owns her mortgage free home.  My son lives on the West Coast but he doesn't own a house.

They could let the lender sell the house and hope some is left for them, but I'd be lying in that grave twisting all over the place watching them get ripped off.  They could sell the house themselves, pay off the mortgage and split anything left over, if that's the way my will is written.  I don't know how long the lender would give them before taking it over.  In any case, they wouldn't get what we would have wanted them to have.

Perhaps we wanted some money to take the trip of a lifetime or some other expensive project.  In a couple or three years, conditions may change and we might need to move to an assisted living facility, or to move to Florida to get away from this cold winter weather, or some other change in living conditions.  That mortgage would sort of get between us and success.  After all, it would have to be satisfied before anything else.

The reverse mortgage advertisements make it all sound so nice and easy.  I don't think they tell lies; I do think they simply don't tell the whole story.  If a reverse mortgage is in your thoughts, I hope you'll consider the whole picture carefully and not just what that apparently easy money can give you.  In this modern age of instant gratification, I'm afraid too many people have the potential of finding that gratification altogether too short.

And finally today, have you ever noticed that the only time news reported on the TV is important is when there's no sporting events?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Change isn't always good

That was a cute little snow storm we had Wednesday.  It did make the ground white again and covered the less than nice changes the old snow was going through.  Melting began around noon and all the new stuff will probably be gone with the warmth heading our way to melt the rest of the new.  The old is still way too deep in places to leave us quickly.  But leave us it will.  I'd say we had less than an inch of new snow from this last storm.

One of the problems of getting to the north side of the three quarters century mark is not liking change.  Time Warner Cable has taken us through one which, naturally, the company tells us we asked for to make choosing channels easier.  Like I suspect most subscribers who didn't exactly picket the company for the change, I don't like it.  Except for the basic service channels, all the channels in the other packages have changed. 

That means changing channels is no longer an easy thing.  Perhaps it will be once we're used to the new line-up, but I don't like having to look at my channel guide each time I want to change.  They have sort of grouped the offerings into subject matter.  The entertainment channels, for example are all located in the 100 to 150 channel range.  Not all are used, though.  The news and information channels are lumped together as are the sports channels.  There are several other categories, too, but, as I said, not all the channels are filled.

Naturally, since I have more than the basic package, I have many of the channels but I only actually use about 50 or fewer ones about half the time and probably not more than 20 the other half.  But, to get some I do like, I have to have a package that includes all of them.  What I would have demanded would have been having the ability to choose and pay for just those channels I watch.  Can't do that, though, so I have it seems like 50 (a huge exaggeration) shopping channels which I never look at along with dozens of music, entertainment, lifestyle, inspiration, and other channels that have never appeared on my TV.

I suspect the "demand" for change is more of a precursor to the takeover of TWC by Comcast in the near future.  I will probably get used to the new lineup and be able to go directly where I wish to park quickly in the not too distant future.  Meanwhile I have my little channel guide with type I almost can't read to guide me.

I been threatening to give DirecTV or Dish a closer look and I am seeing more and more of their little receivers showing up for quite some time.  I think I could save some money.  When we first moved into this home 20 years ago, we did have satellite TV.  Only then it was what was known as C-Band, a huge dish that we had to move from satellite to satellite for reception.  Hmmmm.  I guess I'll look up the telephone number for the modern dish networks.

A final complaint for today is also about changing times and what's happening to me as I grow older, but, it might appear, not necessarily wiser.  Perhaps it's the adjustment thing.  I was taught that the news is news and not private conversations among news people.  I really don't have much of a leg on which to stand with this complaint because it pertains what is probably the most popular morning news show in Maine.

I tune in the news morning primarily for the weather forecast and that's probably a good thing.  Morning newscasts have very little news in them.  The station I watch does have a couple of new reporters that show a lot of promise to dig out and report actual news.  But the veterans on the station spend way too much time with inside jokes and laughter that is irrelevant to most of us.  If the main news readers, the anchors if you will, were just half as funny as they think they are, they'd win comedy awards.

There are four of them on the morning show I watch most of the time.  Three are long time veterans.  They should be giving us a superior look at real news.  I guess the simple fact is they can only offer what they're given to offer by editors behind the scenes and that isn't much.  In all fairness, however, I should point out that when just the old timers are doing the show, there's a whole lot more news and a lot less giggling.  Says something about modern change, doesn't it?

It looks like the station I watch is taking its lead from the NBC Today Show.  As I mentioned during the Olympics, that crew consists of giggle masters, too.

I'll conclude where I began with the weather.  Friday could be very nice and we just might get into the 40s Saturday.  Now that'll surely bring the good news out of the TV stations.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A strange occurrence out there: We awoke to snow this morning.

I hate to say it, but it's kind of pretty outside this Wednesday morning.  The ground has once again turned a clean white.  Yes, we're getting something different this morning, it's snowing.

Sure, it's a light snow, basically just enough to freshen up the dirty snow that's been lying there for several weeks, but this is March.  Snow is not unusual in March, especially this end of the month, but some of us Mainers are just a wee bit tired of this winter.  After all, we're in the meteorological spring season, although the official season doesn't start until March 29th.  This snow also doesn't . . . yet . . . hint that the plows will be out.

Nevertheless, Wednesday, March 5th, did dawn with snow falling and at least a few of us have had enough.  Even our dog Mariah stepped outside on the still dark porch about 4:30 this morning, stopped short, turned around and glared at us, "What in the world is going on here this morning?"

Not all of Maine is enjoying this morning's snow.  Actually, it's just an area in the southwest part of the state, basically in an area between Portland, Lewiston, Sanford and into Kittery.  Schools remain open and so far, at least, we've seen no parking bans or government or businesses closing.  And I do have to admit, it is pretty with that light lazy white stuff slowing drifting to the ground.

The other side of the forecast coin, however, indicates we'll see a dramatic change in the temperatures later this week.  Parts of our area could even reach into the 40s once this front gets finished with us.  Right now, the temperature in our area is ranging in the mid to upper teens to give you an idea of the change headed our way.  The normal temperatures for this time of the year are in the upper 30s.  The weekend will be very welcome.


Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm sorry. I'm becoming one of the masses.

If you want to play a blame game, then I'm totally responsible myself for neglecting my duty to attend the Republican Caucus in Scarborough this year.  In fact, I don't even know if one was held here.  After the last elections, I had my name removed from the from the Town Party mailing list.  My reason was simple:  the republicans were moving into a liberal spending course which I could not and would not support.  The democrats were already there and as a result, we're seeing higher and higher taxes both in the Town and in the State.

I'm selfish.  I'm retired and have had no increases in income nor benefits for several years.  In fact, both have been diminished.  When I want something, I have to find a way to pay for it and that usually means cutting back on something else.  Government entities in Maine don't do that; they just raise taxes.

That's not true for all cities and towns.  There are couple municipalities in Cumberland County that instead of raising taxes have cut them and modified their budgets so they would live within their means.  It can be done.

No so in Scarborough nor in State departments.

Whenever I make such statements, I'm asked, "Just what would you cut to balance the budget?"  If I had the ambition to do the research, I'd run for office on a platform that would cut the spending and, thus, the taxes.  If I were willing to spend the time researching, I'd bet I could find many ways.  I wouldn't win a government seat, however, as Maine's too liberal leaning has given so many people so many "free" things that there is no longer any desire to save.  Imagine if more people had to contribute to paying for our society how much could be freed up for the workers.

So I withdrew from the mailing list and missed the caucus this year.  Understand, I'm only assuming I missed it and assuming one was held.  Not only was I not informed which was my choice, but also I did not see a word in the town's weekly newspaper that one was being held.  On the news Sunday, reference was made to the caucus season winding down and that both parties now have all, or nearly all, of their caucuses behind them.

I will research any candidates and issues I'll face on ballots in both the Primaries and the Elections as the seasons approach us.  I will cast my ballot as I have done in every election since I turned 21, the magic age then, well over a half century ago.  I can remember only two that I missed.  One thing is pretty much for sure:  I won't be on too many winning sides.

Golly.  Sounds rather negative, doesn't it?  Perhaps it is.  The United States is no longer the great one in which I grew up and lived much of my life.  The day will come when we'll regret letting it slip away.  Unfortunately, I've already begun letting it go.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

March has arrived; Let's hope for nicer weather.

March has arrived.  I'd like to suggest that winter is all but over, but "likes" aren't always reality.  One area which doesn't necessarily forebode well...the month is starting out with sunshine albeit still very cold.  We can't help but think about that old adage:  In like a lamb, out like a lion, or something close to that.

We do have snow showers in the forecast right into the first of the week, but certainly not the chance of the lion's roar which would have suggested a nice ending of the month.  There is a major storm heading across the U.S. right now, but it is expected to go off the Eastern shore in the mid-Atlantic, well below us here in Maine.

So we'll just have to see what this change in months brings us.  At least the end of the winter season is almost here.

I do like March.  The sun, when it shines, is now high and the temperatures, although this year are still well below average, will be creeping up into the comfortable zones.  One of the TV forecasters did point out that we need warmer temps to bring in some snow which will begin the end of this miserable, expensive winter.

Two of the four members of my immediate family celebrate the beginning of a new year, or is it the end of an old year?, this month.  And at least one member of my Fearless Friend's family celebrates hers. 

I certainly hope your month is a super one and I'll have some new thoughts on Monday.