Thursday, December 28, 2006

Home Again

After a brief trip to the land of the Big Apple, I have returned once again to Maine. It is still green here, but at least it has cooled down and feels more like December.

I posted the Christmas Eve at the Smith's place on the website. Enjoy.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

I know I showed you those nice snowy pictures of my backyard a few weeks ago, but the summer weather has returned and we are now "enjoying" temperatures that would remind you of April rather than December. No one is dreaming of a White Christmas this year as that is clearly not a possibility unless you are in Denver or Minnesota.

I'm in New Jersey with the relatives and the temperature in Morristown was a balmy 62 yesterday. Lawns are green, golf courses are open (well they're open here year-round anyway) and my sister tells me there are cherry blossoms blooming at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens!

So here's wishing you a wonderful Christmas from the tropics of the north east US where global warming is making us the sun and fun Christmas capital of the world. Ho-ho-ho?

Check out that link to the right about "An Inconvenient Truth." The perpetual "summer" is not a good thing.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

21st Century Schools

I will comment on this topic on the Maine ASCD Blog after the holidays. Just looking for a place to keep the link for now.

21st Century Schools - QuickTime Movie [requires plug-in]


Time Magazine's Person of the Year is Me

Yes, it's true.
I have been named Person of the Year by Time Magazine. Rather, it's not I, it's actually you. Uh, I mean, not You - you, I mean ME - you. Got it.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Wait a Minute...

We have an old expression in New England that, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."

People I have met from the mid-west claim the adage as their own stating that it is an "old farmer's expression."

Well it might be true in Illinois, but it was definitely true here in the Maine over the past week or so. Our thermometers have been getting a real work out with ranges from the teens to 50 degrees (F) up and down within 4-5 days. Yesterday it was 50 and I was walking around in a light jacket. I drove home from Portland in a rain storm that seemed to be growing in intensity, despite predictions of a "chance of a passing shower." I watched the temperature gauge on my car drop from 43 to 35 and about fifteen minutes after I got home, it was snowing.

And this morning, it looked like this.

And if you need to see this in moving images, you can download this 9MB Quicktime movie.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" has recently been released on DVD. I had not had a chance to see it in the cinema when it was release last spring.

All I can say is, now I know what everyone is getting for Christmas.

Buy it, see it. Do something about it.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkeyman, He's Everywhere

There were two wild, wild turkey stories to report this week; one from Maine, one from New Jersey.

It seems that wild turkeys have become a nuisance everywhere these days and may even have become vicious....well, maybe just a little aggressive.

The Portland Press Herald story on Wednesday notes that the turkeys on Mackworth Island are attacking SUVs. In New Jersey they are taking the commuter rail and heading north!

Reading the comments on the PPH site are precious.

Gobble Gobble


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble Gobble

It's Thanksgiving Day morning and I am watching The Parade, catching up on yesterday's newspapers and just finished baking m Swedish Apple Pie. The house smells wonderful.

Despite the forecast for showers and rain, the sun is shining in Augusta and a slight breeze is stirring the pines.

I'm heading to Bob and Gail's for Turkey Day fare later in the afternoon; the apple pie is my contribution along with a couple of bottles of wine.

Random Thoughts

I'm happy to see that I am now driving around in Motor Trend Magazine's Car of the Year. My 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid was selected for this prestigious award; well not my car, but the model. I knew it would be a good choice and I am still thinking that this is the best car I've ever owned.

Yesterday I hit the malls to get some things for our Northeast ASCD Affiliate Conference which takes place next week. I had to head over to Staples to get some printing done and I also bought some last minute items at Hannaford. I know there is this phenomena called "Black Friday" or something which relates to the fact that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. I think the "black" refers to the financial figures expected as a result. Well Wednesday before Thanksgiving might qualify for the second busiest shopping day...the stores were mobbed especially the Christmas Tree Shops and Bed, Bath & Beyond which opened this week at the Turnpike Mall. Those Christmas Tree Shops are a "license to print money!"

We'll Santa should be appearing in Herald Square in a few minutes so I had best get into the shower and ready for the rest of the day.

Wait a second, there's Mr. Potatohead - He's from Maine too!

Best wishes to you and yours!

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, October 28, 2006

No More Bull

My 2000 Taurus
The last Ford Taurus rolled off the line in Georgia yesterday ending a 21 year history. My last Taurus (actually a Mercury Sable) “rolled off” this past summer when I traded the 2004 Sable for a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The price of gas had just peaked past $3.00 a gallon and I had been sniffing around hybrids since they appeared a few years ago. Had Ford come up with a reasonable hybrid – instead of the ridiculous SUB hybrid (that got almost the same gas mileage as the Sable), I might have bought one.

I owned three Taurus/Sables over a ten year period. The first, a 1996 was my favorite. Unlike the average person, I loved the oval shape and Star Trek interior. I know that the radio button drove everyone crazy, but I loved them. This was my first automatic transmission in many years, and after as few weeks of driving, I had no interest in returning to the stick. Yes, the gas mileage compared to the 1991 Mazda Protégé (4-cylinder) was striking, but in those days we weren’t too concerned about these things.

The 1996 Taurus started to nickel-and-dime me at around 100K. First the heater core (all three had the same problem), the brakes (again all three had the same defect) and then the catalytic converter. I had dumped $2500 into it in six months and it needed a thousand dollars more work to make it last another year. I used that as a down payment at bought a 2000 Taurus. By then the Ford engineers had bowed to the “complaints” of the old farts running the company and had ruined the design to a box. The novelty and forward thinking elements were all gone. But it was a comfortable and relatively safe car.

At around 100K this one started to misbehave like the last one and my extended warrantee had expired. After breaking down on a road trip to DC and having to pay $500 to have it fixed, I drove back to the dealer and got the 2004 Sable.

The Sable was a step up in terms of creature comforts and I loved some of the higher tech gizmos – my favorite was the self-dimming rear view mirror. But with each successive Taurus/Sable, the gas mileage dropped. The Sable only got 26 mpg on the highway (although it got 29 mpg when we drove to Florida in spring 2005). In the winter, the best I could hope for was 24 mpg.

I reflect on this because I think it is symptomatic of what was happening to Ford in general. Their business plan was becoming more Republican with no regard to gas mileage issues and more interest in continuing to promote large gas-guzzling behemoths like the Explorer and Expedition. I was increasingly becoming ashamed of driving a Ford product and it was clear the company had no interest in changing.

So, the death of the Taurus and what it represented are clearly symbolic of the demise of Ford Motors. They have now dropped behind Toyota and are threatened with extinction.

We’ve owned Ford products in my family since the 1930s. When my father steered away in the late 70’s to Chrysler, he regretted it. But he never bought another Ford. I’ve owned seven Ford/Mercury; most bought new. But, I’ll tell you, without a major turn around in their corporate mindset, I think I’ve bought my last.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Maine Mystery Beast Returns

It seems the Maine Mystery Beast that was all in the news a few months ago (see my blog entry) now has its very own poster.

Figures it would show up just in time for Halloween.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Arming Teachers

While scooting through my Bloglines collection of education sites I found several references to school violence and the recent shootings in schools around the nation. But when digging further, I discovered that a Wisconsin state lawmaker has proposed the arming of teachers as a solution to gun violence in schools. I intially thought this was some kind of a joke, but then found the interview with the lawmaker on several website including a site with a link to ABC News.

But the best review is Stephen Colbert's Colbert's Report


Sunday, October 08, 2006


Bill Nemitz, a regular columnist for the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram had an interesting piece in today's MST regarding the "pessimism of Mainers." The column struck a note and I think Bill is on to something.

His piece deals with a Brookings Institution report that was released this week called "Charting Maine's Future" which provides a reasonably upbeat perspective of Maine's current economic picture. Coming in at this time of negativism - something always associated with the annual elections season - I found this report particularly refreshing and the Nemitz piece particularly relevant.

Nemitz based part of this column on the comments of former governor Angus King who, for the sake for full disclosure, was involved in the funding of the report. King has been reported in the media this past week as praising the report and is quoted in the Nemitz piece as saying: "That's their stock and trade, telling people how bad off they are." This is in reference to the nature of partisan politics that, as Nemitz states, "run increasingly on pure negatives."

If I see one more TABOR ad or one more for that Woodcock telling us that Maine is the "most highly taxed state in the Union," I'm gonna throw up. All I can say is I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and brother you do not know what taxes are. Long before there were sales taxes or rooms and meals taxes in Maine we had them in New York. And we paid them. I'm sure there were people complaining about them 50 years ago, but they didn't have an ad on the TV every five minutes. Geez, people might actually start to believe that nonsense.

All I can tell you is that a couple of years ago I attended a wedding in Plymouth MA for the son of one of my cousins. Attending the wedding were the groom's aunt and uncle who live in Westchester County, NY. These are people I remember meeting at family gatherings 40 years ago and I know them to be good Westchester Republicans - at least that's what mother used to say. Well they are very well off; he a retired VP from some multimillion dollar international company; she a socialite, and the live in one of the more high priced areas of Westchester. At the wedding, we got talking about local real estate and they were absolutely astounded at the fact that they had gone and looked at several beautiful new homes being build along the Massachusetts shore with price tags in the close to a million dollar range. They expressed their surprise that the taxes on the properties were only about $6,000 per year. According to the rich cousins, a similar property in NY would be taxed over $10,000. I guess it's all relative.

One of the more enlightening pieces of information coming from this Brookings report is the fact that the Maine population is actually growing. And our population is not growing because we are being overrun with Mexicans and migrant workers from Third World Countries. Maine's population is growing because rich retired people are coming to Maine because of our beautiful way of life. Imagine that.

Don't they know were the most highly taxes state in the nation? I guess not.

Or, perhaps they know what I know. That the Woodcocks and the Republicans and the pro-TABOR people are just a bunch of rich farts that want more money for themselves and they are trying to convince the few folks whose houses are in areas of Maine where there have been incredible increases in value of the land and are being "taxes out" that it's those "devils" in Augusta that are doing this to them and that by voting in the Pubs and TABOR all of their problems with go away. Sorry sister, TABOR ain't gonna do anything to save your house.

Nemitz best comments come at the end of the column:

King, who helped fund the Brookings report, likens Maine's funk to the advice he received during a motorcycle safety course: Focus on the road ahead and that's where you'll go. Stare too long at the roadside ditch, on the other hand, and guess where you'll end up?

"Maine looks in the ditch all the time," King said. "And lo and behold "

Oh, as lest you believe I am a Angus King fan, I'm not. I was one of the thousands of State workers who were fired when King came into office.


Saturday, September 30, 2006


I wish there was some way I could capture this and post it... I was just cruising MSNBC's video selections and the story about the Congressman from Florida sending inappropriate e-mails to a 16 year old boy popped up first - but not before an advertisement for medication for erectile dysfunction.

You don't supposed they did this intentionally?

Hi Ho


Fall Color

It's that time of the year when Mother Nature provides us with the most vivid colors.

The leaf peepers are arriving like the swallows at Capistrano and the Fryeburg Fair starts tomorrow.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Where the Heck Have I Been?

We did come home from Canada. And, I had hoped that I would be blogging almost daily from the Maritimes. But life got very busy after I returned and work occupied all of my time.

I heard from an all college friend (I was almost going to say "college chum" - eeek!) who was involved with me in a loose band of "hippie types" at St. Francis College. We called ourselves "Treaty Stone" and our main claim to fame was the fact that for about six years we hosted a series of "folk festivals" on campus. They were usually on a Friday night and drew a nice size crowd who drank cheap wine and cheese and crackers while we watched and listened to each other play guitars and attempt to sound like the leading folk rockers of the time.

My own specialty was doing covers of Stephen Stills. I parted my hair down the middle and tried to perfect that slighty pre-nasal, Texas voice. It all seems rather silly now, but we had fun at the time.

Many if not most of the "musicians" continued to play and I even enjoyed a brief stint doing the bar scene in Brooklyn and at some other similar college affairs. In the early 80s I even was involved with a musical duo and we played in bars in the Mount Washington Valley of NH. That too was short lived as I moved away and basically lost interest.

Now all of my music is played at the 5:30 Saturday Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption here in Augusta. I think my skills have actually impoved over the years.

So, I responded with some enthusiasm when John Kiely contacted about a reunion of Treaty Stone. In all of the excitement of nostalgic replay of the past, I offered to create a website for the affair and have just starting collecting stuff for what will likely be a blogged site. This will allow for multiple users to access and update the information and unlimited resources for posting images and other files. So, stay tuned.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Hanging Out in NB

On Wednesday we made the trip south to Houlton from PI and crossed over into New Brunswick, Canada. The weather was beautiful, albeit at bit cool. The clouds had that “wintry” appearance and the brisk northwest wind had a taste of autumn.

We took Canadian RT 2 to Fredericton and much of this road is under construction. The Canadians apparently anticipate that the Americans will be sending more business up through Maine and have the superhighways ready for all the added traffic.

Fredericton is a happening’ place with lots of new development and people plus a great historic downtown. The main attraction downtown is an 18th Century garrison which now provides places for lots of tourist activities and shopping. The Canadians are masters at tourism. Every town, no matter how small, has some historic and tourist related attraction; all the information is published in full color tourism brochures provided by the provincial government and free to tourists. The US could learn a lot about tourism from the Canadians.

One of the neatest attractions in beautiful downtown Fredericton is the Lord Beverbrook Art Gallery which contains three masterpieces by Salvatore Dali. This summer they are also boasting an exhibit of Rodin sculpture. It is absolutely amazing that a small city like Fredericton could have a treasure like this. With a population of under 50,000 the town has a nice feel and good combination of things to do and places to see.

We hit the Mactaquac Provincial Park and played golf on Thursday. A splendid 18 hole course with beautiful views of the Mactaquac dam and hydroelectric facility. The dam holds back the St. John River which flows from northern Maine to empty in the Bay of Fundy in St. John, NB. Good golf – I shot a 104.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hanging out in PI

I've been hanging out in Presque Isle, ME since Sunday as the first leg of my golfing vacation with my friends Bob and Kathy. Bob and I played PI Country Club yesterday in the rain. It was cool in the temperature sense but we didn't get too wet.

The course was in excellent condition and relatively empty. I shot a 105 which is good for me and didn't lose any golf balls; a rarity.

Today we played one of the most unique golf course in the world. Aroostook Valley Country Club actually straddles the Maine/New Brunswick border. That's right, the course runs through the U.S. border with Canada and there are no customs stations or guys with walkie talkies in site.

AVCC was built during Prohibition and has the club house in Canada so the locals could come over and play golf and drink legally. People still do. I shot a 106 and lost two golf balls. The course is much more challenging than PICC and very slopey...not sure if that's a word. There is a lot of slope which basically means there are lots of hills and valleys.

After our round and a couple of Alexander Keith's on the deck, we drove over to Perth, NB and had dinner at York's Dining Room. York's is also rather unique because it has a "fixed price" menu that includes everything from soup to nuts as well as an opportunity to sample one of the other items on the menu. Good food and lots of it. We always make a stop at York's when were in The County.

Tomorrow we move on to Fredericton, NB and plan to play three different courses there. See you later.



I just switched over to Blogger beta and re-set the template. It deleted some of the customization I had on the page. We'll see how this works. Taking it for a spin...


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mystery Beast

It must have been a slow news day today.

The buzz was regarding a strange "mystery beast" that was killed in the western Maine town of Turner. Apparently for 15 years the locals have reported seeing a strange beast and now question if this is the "monster."

The Animal Control and State Wildlife people think its a mix-breed dog. This thing looks like it has human teeth!

Here's the news report


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fall is in the Air? Maybe

When you live in Maine, you get use to long winters and short summers. About ten days ago we were all crying about the excessive heat and humidity, the dew points, the oppressive conditions. We had forgotten momentarily where we live. We forgot that old adage about New England: "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"

I never really gets hot in Maine. I think the all time record in Portland was 102 and I can only remember twice in the last 30 years when it was at the century mark. We also know that August is one of the greatest months in our state because every year, just about now, the middle of the month, we get that first blast of sweet Canadian air, dry, and crisp.

So, it came as no real surprise when I ended up closing the windows last night after a particularly wild thunderstorm. I had missed the storm in July when the trees were blown down, but this one was up there in severity including strong winds, small hail and, as the weathermen like to say, frequent lightning. It was very concentrated and lasted only about 30 minutes. But the temperature dropped about 10 degrees in that short period and never recovered. It was a right bit nippy last night!

But, it was perfect sleeping weather and I woke late and refreshed.

Ah, Maine!

Here's a little picture of the fuschia on my porch after the thunderstorm, as well as the rainbow that followed.

~ j

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coffee Break No More

I was saddened to read an obituary in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram about the passing of Margery Eliscu. I am actually surprised the newspaper didn’t have a featured story about Marge, but perhaps they are working on that now.

Marge wrote a weekly column in the MST which I must admit to enjoying on many occasions. Like me, Marge was born in New York City and, according to the obituary, grew up out on “the Island” – Long Island, NY for those of you not from the area. Also like me, Marge fell in love with Maine and came with her husband Larry to live here permanently in 1970, which interestingly is the year I first came to Maine and fell in love.

For 20 odd years, Marge penned the Coffee Break column which was a short personal reflection of her times and activities. In it, we regularly heard stories about Larry, their children, grandchildren, and particularly her daughter, “Kathy-the-nurse.” Her column had an Erma Bombeck quality, but it was always with a Maine flavor and I looked forward to reading her entry each week where she would sometimes rant about something; but always in good style and with lots of humor. In some ways, Marge wrote the first Maine blog, as her commentary had the same tone often found in blogs – but without all of the techno stuff. She was a writer ahead of her time.

I suspected something was not right when after a short hiatus early this year, her returning column referred to some medical issues which in typical form she dismissed in importance.

Then in July, the column disappeared completely and only a short note was found indicating the column would be gone “until further notice” or with some other ominous wording. I kept watch each Sunday following, hoping for the return. So, I guess I was not really surprised by the obituary today.

It looks like Marge Eliscu lived a long, full and happy life right to the end and was surrounded by her many friends and family. There are a couple of references in the obituary suggesting how Marge would like to be remembered:

“In her last days, her daughter Kathy (the nurse) asked if she had any wishes. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that everyone should be happy and well.’

“In Marge’s memory, it is requested that everyone who reads this hug their loved ones and laugh together!”

Consider it done, Marge.


Brooklyn in Maine

There is a "Brooklyn" in Maine, but it's spelled Brooklin. Located downeast near Blue Hill, it's a lovely area. I think I've passed through it once; quite remote.

But the picture in last Friday's Kennebec Journal was the other Brooklyn, the real Brooklyn, the place of my birth. Why it was included in a story about "housing starts" and a title "Big ticket durable goods orders rise" is beyond me. But the picture was interesting nonetheless.

This picture of Grand Army Plaza is not far from where I grew up in Clinton Hill. Not included in the picture, but just to the right of this scene is the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library where I spent may hours in my youth. In fact, we often took the Vanderbilt Ave bus (Route B69?) up Vanderbilt to GAP and then crossed in this very cross walk pictured. It is also right next to Prospect Park, the greatest urban park in the world (sorry Central Park enthusiasts).

The building shown in the picture being build is on an open lot which I remember being there as far back as the early 1960's. It's hard to believe that it has remained open all this time. But then again, this section of Brooklyn has seem more deterioration than building growth - until perhaps the last 10-15 years. Glad to see the neighborhood is growing in a positive direction.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Congratulations Tiger

Congratulations, Tiger Woods - 2006 Champion of the British Open


Bloglines is looking for some feedback (codeword: "freedback") on their service and have asked folks to blog their comments. So this entry is in response to that request.

Bloglines is great.

For those who don't know what Bloglines is (are?), basically it is a RSS aggregator that allows you to track and read various feeds. When Bloglines was first introduced, the primary source of RSS feeds were blogs. Now, many websites are providing RSS feeds including news services, weather and sports sites. So, Bloglines now becomes even more valuable since you can track lots of information on one page quick and easy. Also, because the application is web-based, you can use any browser, from any computer, to check your "lines." A great advantage. And, of course you may organize your feeds into catagories and even share them with others.

I've used several aggregators before Bloglines, but stopped looking once I found this service.

And, did I mention it was free?


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Clean-Up

It didn't take long. The trucks and chainsaws have been rumbling and buzzing all day.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No Wicked Witch - But Ding Dong Anyway

I need to get the song correct:

"It really was no miracle, what happened was just this....
The wind began to switch,
the house to pitch.
And suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.
Just then the Witch,
to satisfy an itch,
went flying on her broomstick thumbin' for a hitch.

And oh, what happened then was rich.
The house began to pitch,
the kitchen took a slitch.
It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch.
Which was not a healthy sit-
uation for the Wicked Witch..."

More pictures on the KJ Newpaper site. The E/PRO building and the Capital Buffet are all within 200 yards of my house.

Also in that article is a quote from my next door neighbors who were here with the winds flew (their's is one of the porches you see in my photos below). Here's the quote:

Laurette McGuire, of Old Winthrop Road in Augusta, said she lost four large poplar trees in her yard as the wind and rain kicked up very quickly -- almost out of nowhere, she said.

" 'Oh my Lord,' I told my husband," McGuire said. "It looked like a tornado, so I told him, 'Let's hit the decks,' you know? The trees were just lying down like dominoes on the ground. And, of course, there I was trying to rescue my plants on my deck. My husband said, 'Get in here, you ding dong.' So I did."

More pictures coming of the cleanup....vroom, vroom.


A Mighty Wind

I wasn't home when the "House began to pitch, the roof to hitch..." And there were no dead witches anywhere to be found. But these trees didn't make it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hot Fun in Summertime - Not!

Those who know me know I am not a fan of hot sticky atmospheric conditions. The primary reason for moving from NYC to Maine nearly 30 years ago was to find someplace that was cold most of the time. Until this past decade, Maine fit the bill.

Thanks to Mr. Bush and his conservative cronies, the consequences of Global Warming are becoming quite evident.

Last winter was one of the mildest on record with limited snow and temps never going below zero farenheit here in Augusta. This had been preceeded by the wettest year (2005) on record and followed by the wettest spring (2006) on record. Flooding caused havoc in the southern part of the state and the months of May, June and now July are recording excessive amounts of rain.

The ocean temps off of Portland - which by the way are reported every evening on the local weather - are running in the low to mid 60's, That is totally unheard of in these parts of the world. In a "regular" winter, the ocean temperature off Portland gets down to the very low 30s. Sometimes it even crosses over to below 32.

In the "good old days" the locals tell us the bays would always freeze and that you could often walk across Portland harbor to South Portland. Mind you, that was a very long time ago.

But seriously, I can remember many summers in the 1970s and 80s when you really could not go into the ocean off the coast of Maine until late July when the temps got into the high 50s. By comparison, the ocean temps in Florida are in the 70s in the winter and much higher in the summer. Maine is simply not a place where you spend a lot of time swimming in the ocean except in the southern most reaches of the state, and even then always for brief periods of time.

Being a bit of a weather buff (I believe all true Mainers are), I've made it my business to follow the various statistics. My family in NYC loves to kid me about this by asking if the tide is coming or going; something I almost always know. So, I predicted that this summer in Maine was going to be hot and damp. So far I have been correct. And, the predictions for this weekend are HHH. Ugh!

While Maine is the nation's Vacationland - at least according to our license plates - there is not much escape from the summer heat unless you own a camp on a lake or a place near the ocean. In central Maine, there are limited swimming pools and public beaches. The nearest is in Jefferson about 20 miles away and usually crowded beyond belief when it gets this hot.

So, crank up the A/C - thank God I have A/C - and look forward to the fall. Thankfully, it should be here in a few weeks.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Omar Ricardo and His Many, Many Women

I just got back from Johnson Hall in beautiful downtown Gardiner where I witness the featured performance by the legendary, Cuban ex-patriot Omar Ricardo.

What a show!

How can one describe Omar Ricardo? With the phrasing of Sinatra, the sexiness of Tom Jones, the power of Bobby Darin, and the talent of Elvis, Ricardo is a force to be reckoned with. Awarded the American Freedom Medal by President Reagan in 1983, Omar Ricardo is the greatest Cuban exported talent since Ricky Ricardo (rumored to be distant cousin).

From the Johnson Hall’s website, you can read the citation from President Reagan:

"Omar, your long, sometimes painful journey here from the collapsing casinos of Havana and the clutches of Castro's Communism was the very salvation of sensational Las Vegas showmanship. Your example has inspired untold millions of washed-up has-beens, outmoded amateurs, and penniless social ciphers to follow you into the ranks of show-biz luminaries who make life so worthwhile…

"Fellow Americans, this little mother pulls more weight with your President than an entire twenty mule team. It is with pride and pleasure that I present you, Omar Sanchez y Sumadre Diaz de Ricardo with the American Freedom Medal. Thank you, Omar. You are a beacon in a dark world.”

I am blessed.

For those who could not be there, pictures and a video (Warning: 52 MB) are available on the website of the Gaslight Theater.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hurray for Bill

Bill Gates
The news this week that Microsoft (MS) co-founder Bill Gates was leaving MS to spend more time with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should not really come as a surprise – in spite of what the national news media thinks.

It was either a slow news day on Thursday when NBC Nightly News heralded the news as their lead story, or they have not been paying much attention.

The Gates Foundation is of course well known here in Maine for funding a number of projects associated with everything from public libraries, to Maine’s Promising Futures, to the George Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute (and Great Maine Schools project) to laptops in schools.

Despite Apple Computer’s foothold with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), Gates and his dollars have been extremely beneficial to the schools and citizens of Maine. I just wish the Apple Nuts would appreciate this as well.

So, good luck Bill and Melinda. And, thank you!


Sunday, June 11, 2006

My DaVinci Code

Can you handle one more review of the film, The DaVinci Code?


I liked it.

I suppose there is are few people on the planet who have not heard at least some of the hype about this book and new movie. Probably most of the information out there is distorted to some degree. Having personally not read the book, only reading countless reviews and op pieces, seeing the movie, and viewing umpteen "unlocking" videos and specials on The History Channel, I guess I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie, and story, more compelling and interesting than I had expected.

Yes, from all of these other sources, all of the "mystery" and suspense of the story line was already well known and I did find myself predicting correctly the outcomes and even some of the dialogue (not a very difficult task). But, I clearly enjoyed the action and pace of the film and found some degree of suspense after all.

I actually received a copy of the book when it first came out and was quickly rising to the top of the NYT's best sellers list. Around the same time I discovered the first "debunking" website which even included a game element of having to search through "clues" to find additional "facts." So, I was a skeptic from the beginning and figured I would save myself from the chore of reading the book. I lent it to some friends who read it, loved it, returned it and then sent it off to other friends who have read it, loved it and not returned it. I'm not sure I have any interest in reading it now except that the movie is confusing in the story.

Now for the review of the film. As noted, I liked it. I thought the acting was better than I expected. Tom Hanks did not deliver his most striking performance and understandably did not appear to be very enthusiastic with the character. I agree with the mainline critics that the little girl Audrey Tautou who plays the female lead character Sophie Neveu, was pretty poor.

My favorite character - played by an actor whom I believe is quite masterful in his own right - was the hero/villain Sir Leigh Teabing played by Ian McKellen. Delightful. Most will recognize him from the X-Men and The Lord of the Rings movies, but clearly one of his best performance in recent time was as James Whale in Gods and Monsters. Go rent that movie.

Decent performances were provided by notedFrench actor Jean Reno superb in The Professional (a.k.a. Leon) and Paul Bettany playing the evil monk Silas.

So, if you are looking some something decent in the theaters these days, check out The DaVinci Code. I think you'll like it better than the critics.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Not sure if it's appropriate to wish someone a "Happy Memorial Day." Being a bit of a solemn occasion, perhaps "happy" is not the correct word.

I always think of my Dad on this day. Like most of his generation (a.k.a. The Greatest Generation), he served in the U.S. Army during WWII. But he also was a Special Agent in the FBI, so I guess you can say he served his country for pretty much his entire life.

Memorial Day in Douglaston, Queens (NY) where he lived from 1972 till his death in 1996, was the occasion of an annual parade that always drew large crowds from all over the borough and I believe remains one of the largest, if not THE largest parade in that part of the city. When I lived there from 1972 to 1978, I became involved with the Little Neck-Douglaston Volunteer Ambulance Corps as an EMT. And, every year on Memorial Day, we would put on our dress uniforms and march proudly in the parade. Heck, they even have a website for the parade!

So, the flag is flying on my porch in Augusta. The day is hot and steamy - perhaps an omen for a hot, sticky summer - we're overdue. And I'm thinking of "my old man."

Happy Memorial Day.

~j The LN-D Ambulance Corp

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's Official

The new and improved is up and running thanks to the excellent work of Wayne the Tech Man at Applied Innovations. I must admit that after three previous attempts at getting a CMS installed, I was starting to think it would never happen. But Wayne made it work, so now it's there.

This time we installed DotNetNuke (DNN) which is an open source CMS built on the Windows Server platform. I am pleased with the way it operates, but now the fun begins...making it work, and making sure it's accessible.

The former seems to be going well, the later, well, we'll have to see.

There is an Irishman in Sweden who claims to have developed a XHTML valid & compliant "skin" for DNN. His site is indeed compliant, and I have downloaded the skin, but I can't get it to load.

One of the features of the new system is the ability to install my own blog...which of course I have already done. You can check out the new blog here. But I am not comfortable with that one quite yet, so I will be posting in both locations for a while.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Frustrations

After more frustration with the CMS on, I have uninstalled Etomite and moved on to try one built on ASP. There seemed to be endless problems related to making a CMS app designed for UNIX to run on Windows - despite the assurances to the contrary.

So dotnetnuke comes recommended by the tech folks at my host. So far I have not been able to get this one to run either. So much for simplicity.

We'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New - Microsoft Expressions Web Designer

Fresh on the heels of the merger of Macromedia and Adobe, Microsoft has positioned itself to give Dreamweaver a run for the money.

MS just released its beta version of Expressions, a completely new web authoring product to replace FrontPage. Built around SharePoint Designer, the new product is already being described as a noteworthy opponent to Dreamweaver. Here is a good review to start learning about Expressions. [Warning: Lots of pop-ups on this site.]

And MS FrontPage MVP, Cheryl D. Wise who is a GWADS member and concerned about accessibility issues, has started her own testing and review, all posted on her website.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Sounds like a made-up word. The kind of thing Time Magazine was famous for doing. Perhaps this will enter the lexicon.

I trying a new web application called Performancing which is designed to allow you to cruise around the blogosphere (in Firefox) and when you see see something you like, blog it on the spot!

We're trying this out now to see if it works.

Here were go....


Saturday, May 13, 2006

My IE 7.0 beta Review

I just listened to a totally useless podcast of NYT reporter David Pogue's review of the latest version of MS Internet Explorer (IE 7.0 beta) browser. Pogue complains that IE 7.0 is not as good as Firefox (FF) but never states why or how. Like most Anti-MS pundits, he alludes to the fact that 85% of the computers in the world run IE and suggests these people are all stupid because they don't know there are alternatives. What a moronic thing to say. Hey David, maybe people like IE? [Who wants to bet Pogue is a Mac Snob?] Scratch that bet, here's the proof.

I've tried them all, Mozilla, Opera, FF, - I've even played around with Safari on a Mac. I see no big difference between or among them. Yes, FF is a bit compulsive and will render things correctly based upon valid HTML and CSS, so there is some value in testing websites in FF before publishing. But for 99% of the websites out there, they look pretty much the same on every browser regardless of o/s. The differences between browsers are more related to the widgets and gadgets that run with the browser, and much of that may be simply a matter of taste.

Yes, FF was among the first to have the very popular tabbing feature (the ability to open multiple webpages within one browser session) - and now IE 7.0 has that too. I like the tabbing feature very much and I've already begun to put IE tabs through their paces. But both of these tabbing systems ultimately fail in my book because linked content continues to open up new browser sessions. The tab feature would be infinitely more powerful if it automatically opened up a new tab rather that forcing open a new window session.

The tabbing system could also be made to work more smoothly in IE (and FF for that matter). At least in IE, you can see the tabs at the top of the screen at all times. I'm not sure how I would make it better. Maybe when you open a new web address (CTRL - O) the browser could offer you the option of opening a new window/browser or a new tab? I'd vote for the latter.

The major reason I use IE as my default browser is because it opens faster and generally runs faster. I'm glad MS built it into the O/S and hope they continue despite the critics and lawsuits.

Now, here are my negative criticisms of IE.

BTW, I did try to provide some of this feedback via the MS IE beta website, but am not sure it got through.

1. When IE 7.0 beta installed on my machine (which, BTW went incredibly quickly and smoothly) it automatically installed a default setting to use "Clear Type" which made all of the text on all of the webpages I looked at very blurry and distorted.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Clear Type, this was a circa 1999 invention intended to make text on the screen (particularly on laptop screens) easier to read. I remember when it first came out, e-books were the rage and everyone was talking about getting rid of paper and reading their daily news on the john with a laptop on their knee. Never happened.

Frankly, Clear Type sucked then and still does. I'll let you look up the description on what it is supposed to look like. Suffice it to say - it ain't CLEAR!

Being a bit annoyed and initially not able to figure out why the text in the new browser looked so blurred and hard to read, I dashed off an angry note to MS. I then remembered Clear Type and spent about a half hour trying to find a way to turn it off. I could find the switch to turn it off in Windows XP, but it continued to run in IE. After I sent off my complaint to MS, I was finally able to find the switch in Internet Options> Advanced> last switch in Multimedia (dumb location) and turned Clear Type off.

So now I am happy. But MS should let people know how to turn this off, or better yet, keep it off in the default settings.

2. Putting the Favorites button right underneath the browser directions arrow was very dumb. They are simply located too close to each other. I've already click the wrong button about 20 times in two days. The size of the button should be bigger for us old farts with poorer eye-hand coordination.

One thing I like about FF (and I think Opera has this feature too) is the ability to install on different "skins." If you don't like the default colors and layout of the browser, you can change it very easily. Maybe MS will get smart and add this when they get closer to production.

I will say that the idea of having the little drop down arrow which allows one to see the list of current and already viewed pages is more elegant in IE7.0 than in the older versions of the browser where you had two drop downs, one for the right arrow (forward) and one for the left arrow (back).

3. The location of the home button, pages and tools are obscure and I've stumbled a few time to find what I need. I think this will simply be a matter of getting more familiar with the layout and location of the buttons.

4. I'll include this anti-Phishing filter thing on the neg list for now. I'm not exactly sure what it does and so far it has just managed to slow down the loading of a number of websites. I would presume it was a smarter device and would be designed to learn from the behaviors of the user or simply cache its results rather that re-testing every page. But right now it seems to want to filter every page and it does slow things down. We'll see.

Now, here are my positive criticisms:

1. I like having the Google search box on the desktop. Good idea

2. I love the Quick tabs. Great idea.

3. I love the larger screen area, especially the truly FULL screen setting. Fantastic idea

4. Despite the location of the Favorites buttons, I do like the Plus Sign used to add items to the Favorite, but I think they could still make it even faster and better.

5. I like the RSS feed button, but I'm still not sure how this works. I prefer Bloglines since I can sort and do other things.

So, that's it for now. I'll probably have more to add in the future as I have more time working with this baby.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Norton Hears A Who?

The folks who make Norton Anti-Virus should be ashamed. They have taken a great product – one that historically won the PC Editor’s Choice Award year after year – and ruined it. I used to love Norton, now they are on my blue list for endangered species.

It started a few years ago. I noticed that among other things, the AV programs they were bundling were getting clunkier and clunkier. They took longer to load and used up far too many resources. And, they would crash. At least in those days you could easily find a phone number or e-mail address to contact customer service. I remember spending about an hour one time with a fine tech while we re-wrote the registry on my computer after it choked on a particular upgrade.
But they have only gotten worse. Granted many, perhaps most IT companies are outsourcing tech support to Asian companies, most commonly in the Sub-Continent. But, it seems Norton is not at its best these days.

Last week, my bookkeeper’s computer in my other office was indicating that it had not uploaded the NAV definitions for two weeks and that I should urgently do so. I thought this was odd since that computer and the identical one I run in the next office are set to automatically update this file whenever the computer is on. And mine was running just fine. Long story short, I was not able to get the update and kept getting error messages with cryptic and frankly frightening descriptions of what was happening i.e. YOU ARE INFECTED!. The proposed solution was to run the “intelligent” updated – note the quotation marks, it is not a very smart program despite its name. Needless to say, more error statements and even more ominous warnings. Now I was being told the computer has a Trojan and I was advised to download and run this Trojan removal program. An hour later I was still getting errors, no Trojan could be found so I tried to contact customer service through the help screen. “This version is no longer covered by support” the screen hissed at me. Whadda ya mean? I think. This is version 2004. It’s only two years old. I just sent you guys a bunch of money to continue the subscription.

Being somewhat compliant, I headed off to Staples and purchased two copies of NAV 2006. Armed with a fresh new CD, I spent the next hour trying to get that program to load, update and scan. The computer in my office went through the motions fairly smoothly, but did give me a statement indicating that the latest definitions were corrupted or unavailable. That’s odd. Could it be that all along the problem was not with my computers but with those big servers in the sky?

It was now 7:30, I left the creature to scan itself, headed to Wendy’s for dinner, came back and got the same error….latest definitions corrupted…Hmmm.

Finally, I find a phone number (well hidden on the help website and only after agreeing that I would be charged for a service call) and speak to Aaron in Bangladesh. His English isn’t too bad, but we do struggle to communicate. He reads my incident report and tells me – get this – there is a problem with the server – all of the customers are getting this error – please try again in 24 hours.

I felt like that character on Seinfeld – Aboo – and wanted to shake my finger at the Norton screen…”Norton Anti-virus, you are a very, very bad program! Very, very, very bad!”

So four hours, $80 and the damn thing still did not work. There’s got to be a better program out there.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blogging From the Porch - aka Spring is Here

When you live in Maine you have to really enjoy the outdoors in all seasons. If you are one who salivates over long stretches of hot steamy weather, you're out of luck. Some say we have three seasons, winter, mud season, and huntin' season. Others would add "fishin' season" to that mix, but few if any would talk seriously about summer. Yes, we have summer in Maine, and it is quite wonderful, but it is very short.

So all the more reason to welcome a warm spring day when the temps are predicted to go to 70. This is a bit rare for early May, but then again this has been an unusual year weatherwise. No boring details. Suffice it to say, all those who prayed for a mild winter got their prayers answered.

About six years ago the landlord of my apartment development decided it would be a great idea to add porches/patios to all of the apartments. They had someone draw up a rendering of what these would look like and posted copies in the vestibules of all of the buildings. The tenants, mostly "little old ladies" clicked their teeth and shook their heads. "What's do we need porches for?" was the general sentiment. After all, we would only be able to use them for about 8 weeks out of the year. I wryly responded that they could store their snowmobiles out there!

When it comes to building things around here, we don't move too swiftly. The landlord has a small army of Frenchmen who work for him and do the maintenance of the buildings. They actually do quite lovely work, but they take their time. This is primarily because they don't ever work from plans.

When I moved in there, ten years ago, they had just finished a complete renovation of this apartment. Everything was replaced except the bathtub and the air conditioner (it was only a year old). The stripped the walls to the studs and even changed the floor plan. It was gorgeous, still is, albeit a bit more cluttered and soiled. Mine was the first apartment with this new configuration and, in keeping with tradition, it was all done with out a written plan. As a result, for the next three years, as they continued to gut and renovate apartments as people moved out, the Frenchmen would knock on my door and ask to take measurements. It's amazing that the building is still standing.

So, it came as no surprise that the porch project would take about four years to get done. That's another story, but I am enjoying the fruits of their labor on this delightful spring morning in Maine. I've had my coffee and read the newspaper and now am blogging from the porch. The robins, sparrows and crows are busying about, chasing each other and looking for grub.

Well, time to get in the shower and off to work. Enjoy your day.


Frustration Central

The saga continues with the website upgrade. I'm on my third system and still trying to get one to work. Not sure if is the fact that I am running on a Windows server and all of these systems are designed to work on LAMP. They all claim that they should work fine as long as I'm using PHP4 and MySQL4.

I've encounted headaches at every turn, and because this is mostly open source stuff, there is no customer service folks to call and get help.

Part of the purpose of this exercise, in addition to upgrading the server, was to learn, and in that regard, I have to admit that I'm learning a great deal about PHP and MySQL. Unfortunately, my basal knowledge base in this area is quite low so this makes asking for help rather difficult. I don't really know what to ask. And some of the answers are like reading Martian. If I ever figure this all out, I'll have to become a consultant.

There is also the distinct possibility that this is all related to the gremlins that have invaded my house in the past two months. The hard drive, wireless router, and cordless phones snafus are all related, I'm sure. The planets are out of alignment and there are excessive sunspots.

It can't be luck.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Trial and Error

I will admit, I am sleep deprived. Those who know me know I do not function well when I don't get my "beauty sleep."

So, I decide that this would be a perfect time to install a Content Management System (CMS) on my server. Sure, piece of cake! Do this while you are juggling 12 jobs in the air.

The short version of the "long sad story" is I decided at this very busy time of the year to upgraded my hosting contract to add databased capability and install a CMS. There were a few hiccups with this part of the process, but it seems to be working. Then I disassembled to clear space and avoid conflicts with the new app. Then after much searching, I selected a CMS that was promoted as "easy." It was anything but. Four hours and I was lost. So, I deleted that and went to my next choice. This one is "open source."

For those unfamiliar with the open source concept, simply this means software that is being developed in the open market with lots of players who are doing this work for free. The advantage is you get cutting edge technology at essentially no cost. The downside of course is you often get what pay for. There is essentially no "customer support" since to play in this field assumes you know what you are doing (and that you are ultimately contributing to the great good). Dangerous assumption. I know just enough to be dangerous.

You know all that money you play to Microsoft and other software companies? You know what you're buying? You're buying ease and peace of mind. Easy in installation - yeah a monkey can do that! - and piece of mind that some technogenius in New Delhi will get you out of a jam at 2:00 in the morning. You are paying for thousands of beta tests and insurance that the application will not crash the rest of your system. And you are paying for simple maintainence - most things are easy to fix, there are usually lots of co-workers who can help, and there are mega resources to help you when you get into trouble.

So, now I am looking for a good samaritan to help me get this thing installed. I am, as I put it tenderly on the discussion board of the group that puts this app together- " I am the lone voice crying out in the darkness - Help!!!!!!!!"

There has been a lot of trial and error. Partially because I don't really know what I am doing and am learning on the job. But I have successfully installed other PHP/MySQL apps before (see the lovely Moodle site on or the PHPbb discussion group at the same location - stunning. These were simple by comparison.

Since there is no investment here in money, it is just time. Oh, and no sleep.

More later


Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Brooklyn Eaglet

This was the name of our “family newspaper” when I was a kid. I remember there was initially a contest to name the paper, confidently published by my older sister and me on our two typewriters with copious amounts of carbon paper. The second-place finisher was “The Clinton Hill-Eaglet” as I recall, but that was difficult to pronounce and lacked the panache of the winning entry. This moniker was an affectionate nod to its famous ancestor, the Brooklyn Eagle first published when Brooklyn was still an independent city in 1841. It went out of business for certain in 1955 so in many ways, The Brooklyn Eaglet could be considered the direct offspring. According to Wikipedia, there is a new claimant as the successor, published since 1955 as The Brooklyn Daily Bulletin. But that does not count.

The Brooklyn Eaglet was the true successor, published just blocks away from the site of the original location on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights. Being that we lived on Clinton Avenue, in the Clinton Hill/Ft. Green section of Brooklyn (hence the name referenced above), it was indeed fitting and proper that we be the true heirs.

Presently, I can’t give you the exact years, dates or further descriptions of our tabloid. Thanks in part to a doting Aunt Anna who, like me, never threw anything away, we were able to recover at least some of the issues. The one I have in my hand is the “Summer Special” published in June-July, 1970. I would have just graduated from Bishop Loughlin MHS, and indeed the lead story is about the various family members’ graduations that year.

Of more interest is the volume number – Vol. 7 - in the heading suggesting that the original issue was published by my sister and me sometime around 1963 – me being the ripe old age of 10. This fits with my recollections. Although the Eaglet was my sister’s idea, I, having already mastered the two-finger typing technique that would serve me for years, was eager to use my newfound skills to greater ends. I guess the reason why the writing of blogs and endless newsletters for the past 30 years comes with such ease is related to this early training. I might add that even at ten I was probably a bit overbearing and insisted on being the one to script the front page complete with its hand-written banner and logo.

But that’s not why I am writing today, though I promise I will return to the Brooklyn Eaglet to fill you all in on dirty details. No, the reason for today’s muse is due to a Portland Press Herald article about the real thing – real eaglets – Maine eaglets.

According to the PPH, Maine is now home to three fuzzy little birds, the children of Mama and Papa Eagle nesting 70 feet up atop a white pine tree somewhere in Hancock County. While having eaglets in Maine at this time of the year is no surprise (we do celebrate the fact that the breed is returning from almost extinction due to the DDT poisoning of the 1960’s and prospering all over the state), what is of merit is the fact that these critters can be seen live on the Internet. The Maine Eaglet Cam may be found on the website of the BioDiversity Research Institute. And making this apparently an even more significant and rare event is the fact that there are triplets. Yup, that’s right – three eaglets.

So check it out. And make sure you take a look at the archived images – lots of beauty there.

And, stay tuned for more about the Brooklyn Eaglet.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Moving Too Fast

Okay, who knows what "mwah" means?

As luck would have it, I found this expression on two blogs, back-to-back. Two completely unrelated blogs, different topics, authors, etc. So what could this mean? I could not figure it out given the context of the use of the term.

So I googled it.

Here is the Urban Dictionary's entry.

I know, I know, every one knows this except me.

Ugh, the world's moving too fast...


Sitting on Sugar Cubes

Found this photo on David Weinberger's blog referencing the Milliken Global Conference taking place this week. Weinberg was one of six panelists discussing "Blogs, Wikis, MMORPGs, and YASNS: Shaking Up Traditional Education". Yes, I admit, I had to look up those two acronyms. But at I least I knew what they were after I found out what they meant.

Anyway, this image was at a exhibit set up AOL. I have to confess it appeared a bit creepy to me. Somehow it reminded me of the 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T. I still have nightmares from seeing that on the Point O'Woods Beach 45 years ago.

See full version of photo on Flickr


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kicked the Bucket

I spent this week trying to nurse my HP Pavilion back to good health. She started getting sick about two months ago with a boot error telling me there was something wrong with the hard drive. This is the same hard drive that I had replaced only 10 month earlier. I was convinced, despite the obvious symptoms that it was anything but a bad drive.

One techie told me he thought it might be “flaky memory” sticks. Another thought it might be a bad IDE cable. No one wanted to believe that this pretty new Maxtor hard drive installed in April 2005 could have been the culprit. But it was.

Well many hours of nursing, diagnosis and some procrastination, the drive ultimately gave up the ghost this past week. In the end, there were almost continuous lost data files, reboots with CHKDSK, and ultimately WinXP could no longer move files or delete files when asked – except in Safe Mode or using the DOS command function. In the end, I was desperately trying to save my contacts and backup from Outlook before she died. I was successful doing this from the command line. Trying to remember the DOS line command for changing directories was interesting. In the end, the creature was vibrating terribly and making a groaning sound when it started and stopped. I was inclined to take a hammer and put her out of her misery.

To play it safe, I replaced all of the RAM sticks as well as the hard drive – this time with a Seagate, the same model that the box came with. I am hoping for better luck this time. Fortunately, the new Circuit City located here in Augusta had all of this on the shelf.

The fun, of course, comes with the re-installation of the o/s and all of the programs and data files. Last year when this first happened, I smartly invested in an external hard drive to use as a back up, so the data files were easy. But it still took about nine hours to install, update and set up the o/s and all of the programs. Downloading and recreating local versions of all my websites and getting all of the settings the way I want them, will take even longer. I guess the next step is to look into creating the ability to create an image file of the whole hard drive and keep that somewhere for when this hard drive dies.

Life marches on!

Happy Earth Day

Those of us who spend a good deal of our time in cyberspace may have missed the fact that this weekend marked the 26th anniversary of Earth Day. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the first Earth Day in 1970. I was a senior in high school and we had celebrated by having a special schedule that day that included shortened classes and a rock concert in the auditorium for most of the afternoon. I did the light show. Seems like yesterday.
Anyway, PC Magazine had a good tip this week regarding conserving power when your beast is not operating. Seems they make some pretty smart power strips these days. Check it out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

TV Wars

You may have seen the full page ads in the Portland Press Herald this past week and wondered why someone would spend large amounts of money to apparently attack the Cable TV industry. So, who are the people behind these ads which ask, "How much did you 'tip' your cable TV company every month?"

Let's find out.

I for one am outraged at the cost of cable in my town of Augusta, ME, especially given the atrocious service and almost annual fee increases. BTW, I am now paying $75 per month for the pleasure of having digital basic. No internet, no premium channels, no "TiVo" - basically broadcast, about 200 garbage channels and "nothing on..." When I started this level of service about five years ago, the price was around $60 per month, about $10 more than the previous, non-digital service. And there has been no positive change in the service. If anything, there are now fewer choices (see my previous rant). Oh, wait a second, we now have "On Demand" which lets me watch repeats from DIY whenever I want.

The people behind the full page ad are calling themselves TV4US and have a website at . Apparently was being used by a German company that sells kiosks.

A little snooping and I found an article in The Hill - "the newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress." In their article, Phone Companies Battle for TV Access it looks like the telephone companies may be behind this, at least in part:

The effort by the major telephone companies to pump television programming into consumers' homes over the companies' own networks has become a politicized issue for lawmakers facing reelection.

TV4US, a coalition of 30 companies and interest groups led by AT&T and the National Association of Manufacturers, is pressing selected members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support franchising legislation.

The article goes on to point out that there is a movement afoot in Congress to pass legislation to allow the telcos access to this effort by revising FCC regulations written in the 1960s at the beginning of the Cable TV industry. The article suggests an uphill climb for similar efforts in the 1990 failed.

Few lobbyists expect Congress to pass legislation this year because the franchising issue forces lawmakers to choose between the cable and telephone industries, picking winners and losers. But postponing a choice lets lawmakers play the cable and telephone industries off each other to rake in campaign contributions, some on K Street suggest.

Given the intensity of the rivalry between the industries, a telecom lobbyist said, the scenario is "a dream match-up" for lawmakers' fundraising.

"They can milk this through the year," he said. "It's the oldest parlor game in D.C. to play industries with deep pockets against each other."

But a new bill may have more success since there are several states where reform has already taken place.

We'll be watching


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On the Value of Web 2.0

I know, I know, Web 2.0 is a fad, a fraud, a fettish….how many more f-words can I string here.

Anyway, this is a nice entry on the topic which reflects what I am feeling about the trend. And the author has a good response to the Anti-Web 2.0 crowd.

Joshua Porter talks about listening to James Surowiecki’s talk on the Wisdom of Crowds and the most profound aspect of Web 2.0. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the social elements, the trends that people follow. Witness the explosive interest in blogging and podcasting, the MySpace thing and all those various new web toys we've grown to love.

Why have these things become so popular and will they endure?

Good questions.

Oh, and read the comments as well. I know who Huey Long was, do you?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Laptops are Conspiring to Take Over the World

It’s true.

I just read an article in PC Magazine which confirms what I have suspected for some time. The laptops are talking to each other. What could they be saying, and, are they talking about me?

I’m not paranoid; I just read it in PC Magazine a qualified trade magazine read by geeks and technology cuckoos around the world.

The scoop is when a laptop with a wireless card installed cannot find a local wireless network to “talk” to, it apparently gets lonely and starts to send out laments to anyone who will listen. And if there is another laptop in the area, it will try to connect to it.

During recent travel, researcher Mark Loveless started poking into the reasons why a large number of laptops at any given airport were broadcasting common network names, or service set identifiers (SSIDs), such as "linksys" or "dlink." He gathered similar data on four flights. He found a significant portion of laptops are configured by default to seek out and connect to common SSIDs. If no such network is around, many computers create their own wireless network using one of those names. Without any sort of malicious intent, wireless laptops were connecting to each other, he found.

“…without malicious intent…” can we be sure?

Maybe they will get so lonely they’ll start to attack their owners like in the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s just a matter of time.

Shhh, what’s that. It’s my laptop. It’s, it’s looking at me. The lights are blinking, it’s, it’s, it’s……aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggg.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the Ides of March

Most people are getting tuned up to celebrate St. Paddy's Day on the 17th, but today is the Ides of March - so beware.

The term comes from the early Roman Calendar and the expression, "Beware the Ides of March" was supposedly said to Julius Caesar.

According to the About website:

The ominous warning, "Beware the Ides of March," originated with the Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, who was assassinated on the Ides of March - March 15, 44
B.C.E. If you've heard the ominous warning, then it's most likely due to William Shakespeare and his play, Julius Caesar.

The warning itself was made famous in Shakespeare's play on Julius Caesar, when an unidentified soothsayer tells Caesar, who is on his way to the Senate (and his death), "Beware the ides of March." Caesar replies, "He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass."



Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm Losing My Memory

Well not in the neurological sense, thank goodness.

The HP Pavilion is sick and apparently getting sicker. It started a few weeks ago with an unusual boot error - "...Cannot find the hard drive..." but it was still there and working. F2 and we boot fine. Hmmm.

The Maxtor people say it's the computer - probably the BIOS. HP says it's not covered by warranty and probably a IDE cable. The PC Doctor in town thinks it was "flaky memory." The HD test that Maxor gave me says the hard drive is fine - how convenient. None of the Windows diagnostics find anything wrong with the hardware or software.

I think it's gremlins.

This happened almost exactly a year ago. I know because I was trying to do my income tax return when the whole thing got up and died. That time it was clearly the hard drive - a Seagate no less - and a few dollars later I was back up and reloading the multiple gigs of programs and files. Fortunately I had purchased an external hard drive and had all the "mission critical" stuff saved. Except of course the tax stuff so I spent some time recreating all that. Ugh.

So it's tax time and here we go again.

Tax gremlins.

The memtest that the doctor gave me turned up one error after 8 test cycles and nearly two hours of looking. According to the documentation, there is no proof this means I have bad memory. Thank God the memtest people don't make cancer detecting equipment.

Today, we had FTP problems that I think were probably Verizon's problem, but I did start to get some hard drive errors and suggestions to run chkdsk, which is what I'm doing now while I blog on the laptop. And, I am also multitasking by doing the laundry.

Ain't technology great?


Friday, March 10, 2006

I Hate The Cable Company

Ever since I met that company in Pennsylvania, the one that lost their founder Phil, I've hated them.

My first encounter was in Indiana, PA in 1994 when I tried to have cable installed in my new apartment. "No, we cannot come to install it..." the curt customer service rep said. In fact, they wanted me to drive 20 miles to their office to pick up the unit and drive 20 miles back to install it myself. And on top of that, they wanted an installation fee and a deposit. I don't remember the exact amounts, but it wasn't chump change.

After holding for the supervisor to get on the line, I succeeded in getting the installation done by them and not paying the deposit. But when I ended service and moved a year later, I still had to return the box and put up with the 40 mile round trip.

It seems the city of Indiana is a "college town" and they assumed I was just another college a*hole who would do it their way, pay up and not complain. Hey, I was born in Brooklyn, watch out, I know a rip off when I see one.

When I returned to my beloved Maine, I discovered the complete opposite in the local, family run State Cable right here in beautiful downtown Augusta. Four years later, my happiness was turned to pain when I learned that Adelphia - those cretins from PA - were taking over.

Umpteen fee increases, crappy quality and horrid customer service, I am now paying over $75 per month for the worst crap to travel our airwaves. I don't have the time to rant about the 200 channels I never look at, but my sentiments are reflected in an article I read today in the newspaper (yes, the newspaper which still costs only 60 cents).

Cable Firms Prefer One Choice - was published by the Free Market Project. I'm not sure about the FMP, they may be coo-coo's too, but at least I agree with Dan Gainor on this one.

Read it and weep.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oh Goodie!

"World population to hit 6.5 billion on Saturday" - this the headline of a MSNBC news story. In fact, according to their projections, and my watch, we are well on our way to 6.6 billion. Sorry, had I known, I wouldn't have slept so late.

This will actually be good news for my landlord. He has at least four open apartments in this building alone. In the 10 years I have lived here, I can only remember two brief periods when all of the apartments were filled.

So bring it on, and tell those new folks there is space in Augusta, Maine.

BTW, according to the article, there are 261 people born globally every minute. By my calculations that mean there has been over a 1,000 new babies born in the time it took for me to write this posting.

Don't blink, there goes another 50!


Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Couple of Queens in West Hollywood

Jay Leno should have fun with this!

So it must be some kind of poetic justice that the first real attempt at posting to this blog resulted in a crash.

You know that experience you've all had when you first started working on a computer.... You work for hours on some homework project and you write and write and then something happens....the power goes off, press the wrong button, ....the cat chases the dog and crashes into your computer table pulling all the wires out.... You know that experience., right?

It's like Kubler-Ross' Stages of Death. First, there is Denial. It's not possible. You look at the blank screen, "It's got to be here somewhere?"

Next comes Anger. You scream at the dog, shout at power company, beat your head on the keyboard.

Then there's favorite..."Please, please, just give me one page, one sentence, one word, electron....!"

Then comes Depression. This can last a while. It can be followed by recurring nightmares and insomnia.

Finally, Acceptance, and with this perhaps an opportunity to learn from this experience.

You quickly learn to hit Ctrl-S about every 15 seconds to save what you are writing. You activate the "backup" feature of the software so it is automatically backing up your documents every 3 microseconds. And if you get really neurotic, you start making backup disks, and backups of backups. At one point I had my dissertation chapters on four sets of floppies and two computers. Just in case!

Well seasoned bloggers probably know that with these appliances there is no such save feature. Such was the case late last night when I poured my heart and soul into some highly creative message only to hit some combination of keys and the computer ate my blog.


Well, my Acceptance was actually a form of intellectualization. I have convinced myself in the past 24 hours that what I had written was really crap and God was saving me from embarrassment.

We'll see. I'm gonna push the Publish/Post button now.

Wait, there's a Save as Draft button.....mmmmm, I wonder what that does...