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 topic...do 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.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My officiating conundrum!

I've been trying ever since Sunday night to think of something that interests me enough to spend some time writing about it.  Unfortunately for me, nothing has come.  I'm still wrapped up in the NCAA basketball tournaments and would much rather be a non-expert in those events than in other things right now.

For example, several times I've mentioned I really don't understand basketball rules even though college basketball is on my list of favorite sports to watch.  I watched the Notre Dame-Baylor women's game last night.  Sometimes I think the gals play a lot rougher than the guys.  There were a couple of times I wanted to yell through the TV to the officials to watch the darn game; they were missing a good one.

Let me interject right here that I honestly believe the Fighting Irish would have won the game even if I did understand the officiating.  But even the reaction of the two coaches indicated they were watching the same game I was, the one the officials were napping through. 

Just what makes a player controlled foul and what makes a blocking foul?  This is one conflict I haven't been able to resolve in my mind is why an offensive player can, for example, drive an elbow into a defensive player, knock her down, and have that whacked player charged with a foul because she didn't have her position established.

It seems to me that the real foul is committed by the player who initiates it.  But, no.  I'm dead wrong.  If that defensive player is in exact position and virtually motionless, that person is in the wrong. 

How many times do you see an offensive player, usually the center or forward, dribbling while backing up, bouncing into a defensive player shoving the defense out of the way, then turn and make a layup and having a foul called in the defensive player? 

Shucks.  I could go on and on about what appears to me to be really lousy rules on a whole host of plays, but that wouldn't change a thing, would it?  It reminds me of the days when I was a sports official.  For several years, I umpired baseball and officiated at swim meets.  I never officiated a basketball game. 

It always amazed me how different a game looks when one is up close and personal and sitting in the stands, and in the case of this missive watching on TV.  The games are very, very different when seen up close with a limited field of vision and from a distance when one can see the whole play.  I suspect my perception of a charge or defensive interference may be different in basketball if I were looking at the game up close and personal.

But since that will never happen, I'll still have to rely on instant replays offered in TV games to see what really happened.  Unfortunately, though, a lot more often than not, my initial confusion of fouling is confirmed.

And then when we can watch both...yes, both...coaches look as confused as I, I again feel my reaction was relatively accurate.  So then I find myself getting disturbed at what I had perceived as a really rotten call only to be made worse because the officials can't be wrong.

I'm glad I never made a mistake while officiating. 

Connecticut also won last night leaving both undefeated teams  with one more victory each needed to meet in the women's game of the year next week.  I let my blood pressure rise again tonight when the final two elite eight games are played to determine who will face the Irish and Huskies next weekend.