Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The weather outside is frightful

Christmas scene
Each year at this time I swear I am going to get a smaller tree next year. I’m not young and spry anymore and hoisting the critter onto the top of the car, wrestling with the saw to clean-cut the bottom and then staggering up the stairs to my second floor apartment with the tree grabbing at every step to prevent me from keeping forward momentum is truly exhausting. So, with JT’s Christmas album on the CD player and the tree now sitting comfortably in its green plastic stand, happily nursing up copious amounts of warm water, I am at rest in my recliner and making these few notes.

It really is a nice little tree, Charlie Brown. I tell the poor, toothless young man who sold me this baby for $28 (I gave him $35) that he could sell this same tree in New York City for a hundred bucks. He gasps in disbelief and I see the remains of his rotten teeth; I’m hoping the takes the extra few bucks and finds a dentist.

I buy my tree from the same place each year, from the same kid, and I tell him the same thing. Fifteen, no make that sixteen years ago that young man was a boy of about 12 years and was shocked when I gave him a tip to carry the tree to the car. He had a full set of teeth then. Years of candy bars and soda pop no doubt. He tells me this year he will use the money to buy something for his unborn baby who will be arriving in the spring. What can you say to that?

I recall the scene in Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story when the family goes down to the local Xmas Tree emporium to haggle with a savvy and feisty salesman. The Old Man thinks he’s getting the better deal, but we know better.

I will have none of that. This tree really is worth a lot more than what I pay for it; maybe not a hundred bucks, but at least $60 - $70. It’s just that we live here in Maine among forest of trees and this baby probably spent its life growing just a few miles down the road.

We had about three inches of fluffy white snow today. Two days ago it rained three inches and yesterday – the transition day back to winter – I was walking around in sneakers. It’s boots and scarves today, the air a frigid 17 and everything white.

My tree was completely covered with the white stuff at the Christmas tree lot so I have it standing in the window with a couple of sheets of black plastic underneath. The sound of the dripping has slowed and the fragrance of pine has now joyfully filled the room.

I am not sure if I will decorate the tree tonight. I may want to let it dry out more before crawling around with electric wires and such. We’ll see.

Well, JT is done and I have to go back out in the arctic freeze to get stuff for supper. Keep warm. I’ll post a photo of the tree when it’s all decorated.

Image credit: Licensed by Creative Commons by Hiking Artist

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas sucker

You may have noticed that cutey little widget appearing on the right panel of my Blogger site for the past week. I was looking for a simply Christmas countdown feature - there are millions of them out there - I picked the first one I found from Widgetbox. Well it was fine for about a week until I looked at it today. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear? An ad...a crummy commercial.

So innocently, I click on the button that says "Remove ads" and what to my wondering eyes should appear....?

"Look, Charlie, we all know Christmas is just a big commercial racket." 

Bye bye widget.

Monday, December 06, 2010

George Bailey needs your help

Jimmy Stewart Museum logo
While attending my last year of graduate classes at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in the Borough of Indiana of Indiana County, PA, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of The Jimmy Stewart Museum. Located on the third floor of the Indiana Public Library, next door to the County Court House, and across Philadelphia Street from where Jimmy's father owned and ran the town's hardware store, The Jimmy Stewart Museum (JSM) opened in the spring of 1995 on Jimmy's birthday. The namesake did not attend the festivities as he was still devastated by the death of his beloved wife Gloria a couple of years earlier. He did send his twin daughters who thanked the Indiana townsfolk for their generosity and honor. The whole town showed up for the parade and gathered in front of the Museum to hear brief comments from the daughters.

I became a Charter Member of the JSM that day and even volunteered most of that summer, working in the gift shop, selling tickets and giving tours of the Museum. I was already a big fan of Mr. Stewart's work, but learned much more about him that summer. My admiration grew. For Christmas that year, my homemade card was a drawing of Zuzu's petals.

So I was shocked to learn today in a story on MSNBC that the Jimmy Stewart Museum was in trouble financially. There was never any big endowment and the Museum has apparently survived these past 15 years on memberships, attendance fees and gift shop proceeds. Read the story for the details.

Like the final scene in the movie that everyone associates with Jimmy Stewart, It's A Wonderful Life, I am hoping that Jimmy/George Bailey's friends come through again and rescue the "Old Savings and Loan."

If you have a couple of bucks left in your pocket, perhaps you could send it down to Indiana, PA. I can assure you it is a good cause.

Oh me? I just sent them a check to renew my membership.

Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Update: NBC's Nightly News Saturday did a great little piece on The JSM. Here's the link:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I’m wearing a colander on my head

man with colander
One of my father’s favorite stories about when he was a young FBI agent in the NYC office was the call he and one of this colleagues made to a man living in a very expensive apartment on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. The man had called the FBI claiming that “the Russians” were spying on him. As my father was on a squad that dealt with Soviet espionage, this was a call directed to them.

They arrived at the very swank abode and were ushered in by the doorman who rolled his eyes a bit when the agents explained where they were going. They soon found out why.

The man was very reluctant to open the door and the agents had to show both their credentials and badges to the man through the peephole before he would open the door. Upon entering my father noted that the man had a metal colander on his head and was wearing only his underwear. Every inch of the walls was covered by aluminum foil and the man had placed a series of wire hangers around the rooms, interconnected and touching the foil in various locations. The man explained that the hangers were used to “ground” the foil as it was absorbing the radio waves that were coming in from “the Russians.”

I believe that my father and his partner left at this point and went back to the office to file their report as a “man in need of a psychiatrist.”

I thought of that story as I read this Yahoo Health missive entitled Is Your Health on the Line? The article details information about the hazards of radiation caused by cell phone use. It goes on to express concerns about many popular household appliances that emit radio waves. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was living in a soup of radiation. With the exception of the “baby monitor,” I have and use all of the devices listed in the article.

Enjoy…I’m heading to the kitchen to get my colander.

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by ortizemj12

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

parade prep
On this eve of Thanksgiving, my thoughts center on recollections of my traditional multiple-hour, exhausting drive to New York City for the holiday. It began in 1979 while I was living in North Conway, NH, the normally six and a half hour drive would usually take about seven or more hours, and on this evening in November, the traffic always is outrageous. I can remember some trips in the 8-9 hour range, sitting in traffic jams in Massachusetts and Connecticut, waiting in line for an hour to get across the Whitestone Bridge.

One year, I had to attend a meeting up “above the notch” – Pinkham Notch, that is - on Turkey Day eve. I chose to leave for New York directly from the meeting taking a route that would bring me over more mountains and into the snowy upper Connecticut River valley. Driving down US 2 to I-91, ambling between the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, I recall with fondness the image of a group of young school children waving goodbye to their teachers as their school bus left some small rural Vermont schoolyard. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a more tender scene.

During the next few years I lived in southern Maine and the trip was slightly easier since I lived close to the Interstate and did not have to begin and end my journey with a 60-mile drive through the narrow, dark, winding roads of the New Hampshire countryside. That annual trip lasted for about ten years and then one memorable Thanksgiving I made the annual trip to NYC from Indiana, Pennsylvania. That eight-hour event was made more memorable by the sudden development of a choking, acrid, smoky smell inundating my car as I approached the George Washington Bridge on I-80. I would discover, three days and $300 later that the smell was due to the accumulation of pine needles collected inside the heater core that had wrapped around the heater fan. I was assured by the Mazda dealer that the there was at no time any danger of fire being caused by the pine needles. This provided little comfort to my pocketbook.

The annual Thanksgiving sojourn to New York City was always a cause for family celebration. I would often be greeted like the Prodigal Son, winning the prize every year as the relative who had traveled the longest to join the family. Every family member would ask if we’d “had any snow” yet, and marvel at the thought - and insanity - of spending eight hours alone in the car.

For a number of years the Thanksgiving Eve celebration required a trip down to Northern Boulevard to visit one of the local drinking establishments and a round of beers and an early bit of turkey tasting. The Little Neck Tavern, legendary for its pre-Thanksgiving, turkey-with-all-the-fixing event was a magnet for local drunks and the college-age crowd home for the holiday. By the time I'd arrive there was often little left but turkey sandwiches; but boy were they good.

In the later years, Turkey Day Eve usually meant just sitting around the house with family and friends getting up-to-date on local happenings and trivia. I remember countless times watching the evening news replete with live reports from Central Park West where the Macy’s Day Parade balloons were being inflated. Yes, I said “Macy’s Day” as that was what it was called in the good old days. Somehow, Mr. Macy apparently believed that his store was more important than the Thanksgiving holiday (a fact confirmed by Wikipedia!). Usually it was Al Roker reporting from in front of the Museum of Natural History with the up-to-the-minute drama and weather forecast. Countless New Yorkers, some with small children, would wave and gawk at the rising balloons – and TV cameras - as one of the more banal and bothersome parts of the New York City Thanksgiving tradition.

My annual drive to New York ended sometime in the early 2000’s. My father’s death in 1996 and stepmother’s slow mental decline brought on by the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease made the trips to New York more painful. Eventually I stopped going altogether.

For a few years I tried something different. One year, my sister and I decided to meet half way - in Sturbridge, Massachusetts - to celebrate Thanksgiving Pilgrim-style. It was nice. . .different. But we ended up only doing it once. The restaurant where we had Thanksgiving dinner served turkey roll instead of the real thing. Pretty disappointing.

The next year, I convinced my sister that Thanksgiving in Maine was the way to celebrate. She dutifully drove up from New Jersey on a dark cold Thanksgiving Eve night after having spent the day teaching kindergarteners. She was not happy with the experience and declined the offer to do it again. Somehow it was okay for me to drive 6-10 hours to see family, but…well, I don’t want to complain.

In 2003, the tradition changed completely. My stepmother had died and I decided to stay home in Maine for Thanksgiving Day. The new Turkey Day Eve tradition now involves watching the local Channel 6 sportscaster Bruce Glazier providing his report and rebroadcast of newsreels and home movies highlighting the annual Deering/Portland HS football game played in Portland for almost a century. The black and white production is meaningless to me personally, but does represent things that are obviously important to the local gentry.

Tomorrow morning I will gather myself in front of the living room and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with the gang from NBC’s Today Show. Al Roker will be there and I’ll drink my coffee and wait for Santa to arrive. In the afternoon, I’ll watch some football and spend the evening dining with my friends, Bob and Gail, savoring free-range turkey and organically grown veggies from Gail’s garden. We’ll top it off with my Swedish Apple Pie and maybe something special this year made with pumpkins. All will be yummy.

I will give thanks for good health and friendships, to family present and past, to old memories and the promise of the future.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Gobble gobble.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The butterfly effect?

What's that thing about the "butterfly effect?" You know, that thing about the butterfly in the jungle of Brazil that moves it's wings and sets of a series of events that leads to a tornado in Texas. Oh yeah, chaos theory.

So what is the relationship between a late night, a blue ink pen and a free battery for my iPod? Here's the story:

I came home late last night from a college basketball game in Boston. In my fatigue, I accidentally threw the t-shirt I was wearing into the laundry basket without remembering to take a blue ink pen out of my pocket. This noon, when I put the laundry into the washer, I neglected to notice the pen, and into the wash it went. The ink stained a blue oxford shirt, one of my favorites, and a white pillowcase. With a combination of anger, feelings of stupidity and hopefulness directed at the magic of chemicals, I brought the soiled clothes back into the kitchen and praying that some OxiClean (TM) and hot water would release the stains. But to do this correctly I needed a wash basin to let things soak.

Under the counters I went in search of the old wash basin that was of course in the very back of the bottom shelf of the most hard-to-reach cabinet. As I pulled out the basin, I noticed, crammed in the corner, a Best Buy receipt attached to an extended warranty. It was for my iPod, the one that was purchased in March of 2009. The extended warranty is good for two years.

Now the back story is that this same iPod Touch which I've used faithfully all this time as my PDA, has developed a weak, dying battery. It will not hold a charge for no more than 24 hours meaning I have to keep it plugging in most of the time; defeating the whole idea of it being a mobile device. But, according to my receipt, battery replacement is covered by the extended warranty.

I had completely forgotten about the extended warranty; something that probably brings pleasure to the Best Buy people. And I would never gave found it if I wasn't crawling around under the cabinets looking for the wash basin. You see, the receipt and the extended warranty had slipped out and fallen into the cabinet down below essentially disappearing until today.

I'll let you make know how I make out when I visit Best Buy tomorrow. Let's hope the butterfly does its thing.

Oh, and the OxiClean was able to remove the ink stains.
By Nevit Dilmen (Photograph) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Separated at birth?

Are movie actor Wiley Wiggins and SF Giants ace Tim Lincecum one in the same? Spooky, huh?

Wiggins was in one of my favorite movies Dazed and Confused, and played a scene where he's a pitcher in a JHS baseball game. Couldn't find a photo of him in his vintage 1976 uniform. Below photo credits: Rocky Mountain Way photo by Tom Walsh. Wiley Wiggins from Zuguide

Time Licecum
Wiley Wiggins

Monday, October 25, 2010

Political Humor?

Politically, I am becoming more of a real independent these days. As both of the major political parties are leaning towards their extremes, we are in a quagmire, and I am standing in the middle scoffing at both sides. Nonetheless, I found the following political joke to be fairly clever.

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?" 

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are -- or where you are going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's MY fault."

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 24, 2010

Common Ground Fair - 2010

This was my first visit to the Common Ground Fair hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). This despite the insistence of several of m friends who have been pleading with me for the past 15 years to attend.

The weather wasn't ideal, but the fair was great anyhow.  Here are some photos. I'll post the short videos on YouTube and all of the images on Flickr.


Common Ground Fair 1

Common Ground Fair 2

Common Ground Fair 3

Common Ground Fair 4

Common Ground Fair 5

Common Ground Fair 6

Common Ground Fair 7

Common Ground Fair 8

Common Ground Fair 9

Common Ground Fair 10

Common Ground Fair 11

Common Ground Fair 12

Common Ground Fair 13

Common Ground Fair 14

Common Ground Fair 15

Common Ground Fair 16

Common Ground Fair 17

Common Ground Fair 18

Common Ground Fair 19

Common Ground Fair 20

Common Ground Fair 21

Common Ground Fair 22

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee

A Pirate
Perhaps it is because today is the first day of the Maine Lobster Festival, but for some reason I have been thinking about a poem I learned as a child many years ago.

Attending St. Angela Hall Academy (elementary school) was a memorable experience and a particularly memorable SAH tradition was The Assembly. An almost monthly affair, The Assembly was organized by the classroom teachers and supported by the music teacher, Sr. Mary Cecilia and the "poetry teacher" - and resident ogre - Miss Looney.

The Assembly took place in school auditorium where all of the elementary grades were marched in - to the sound of the piano playing - and made to sit in orderly fashion; eyes forward. Beginning with prayers and announcements from the principal, the core of the event followed and included a set of performances by the students from one pre-selected grade who gave their recital from the stage. The performances usually included a poem, several musical selections and perhaps a musical solo by one of the students. The whole thing probably lasted for an hour and a half, but the preparation would take months to accomplish. I must admit that I enjoyed the performances as a spectator and particularly as a performer. But I didn't enjoy the preparation.

Sr. Mary Cecilia was a particularly talented Josephite who probably could have been a professional musician had she not "put on the habit." I greatly enjoyed her music classes, but they were too brief and too infrequent; a case of one teacher spread too thin. I think Sr. Cecilia may have seen something in me in terms of musical ability and I think she actually liked me. I had a pure boy soprano voice in those days and on one occasion was selected to sing a descant role in one of the song. I still remember the part. Goodness knows what might have happened if I had had some real music training.

I will save the complete description of Miss Looney for another time, but for the purposes of this article let me provide this imagery. If you have ever had the occasion to see the movies Throw Momma From the Train or The Goonies, you are familiar with the character actress Anne Ramsey. The talented Ms. Ramsey played "Momma" in the former production and the mother of the bad guys, "Mama Fratelli,"the Goonies chief nemesis in the latter. Well, except for the blue Brillo-hairdo and the fact that Miss Looney was a real person and not an actor, they could have been twin sisters.

Looney was a witch. An authoritarian, intractable, just plain nasty - she clearly didn't like children and regularly scared the shit out of me. So it was completely natural that the poem chosen of our 4th Grade Assembly was the Mildred Plew Meigs masterpiece, The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee. In another life, Miss Looney could have been Bluebeard himself.

The learning of the poem for the annual Assembly was the most onerous task. Each week, Miss Looney would terrorize us into learning the selection to perfection. Diction and form, attention to annunciation, execution, proper posture were all emphasized and of course, the whole work had to be memorized to perfection; something lost in today's classrooms. The curriculum of the 50's and 60's were heavy on memorization and drill. It may have been painful, but it worked.

As I sit here nearly 50 years later, I can still remember some of the lines from that poem. I was particularly fond of the line, "And struck in his belt where he buckled it through, were a dagger, a dirk, and a squizzamaroo...", although I remember it as a "squige-a-maroo."

No worry, here is the whole poem for those who just have to read it.

Suggestion, do your best pirate imitation and read it aloud. Arrrrgggggh!

The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee
by Mildred Plew Meigs

Ho, for the Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee!
He was as wicked as wicked could be,
But oh, he was perfectly gorgeous to see!
The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.

His conscience, of course, was as black as a bat,
But he had a floppety plume on his hat
And when he went walking it jiggled - like that!
The plume of the Pirate Dowdee.

His coat it was handsome and cut with a slash,
And often as ever he twirled his mustache
Deep down in the ocean the mermaids went splash,
Because of Don Durk of Dowdee.

Moreover, Dowdee had a purple tattoo,
And struck in his belt where he buckled it through
Were a dagger, a dirk, and a squizzamaroo,
For fierce was the Pirate Dowdee.

So fearful he was he would shoot at a puff,
And always at sea when the weather grew rough
He drank from a bottle and wrote on his cuff,
Did Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.

Oh, he had a cutlass that swung at his thigh
And he had a parrot called Pepperkin Pye,
And a zigzaggy scar at the end of his eye
Had Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.

He kept in a cavern, this buccaneer bold,
A curious chest that was covered with mould,
And all of his pockets were jingly with gold!
Oh jing! went the gold of Dowdee.

His conscience, of course it was crook'd like a squash,
But both of his boots made a slickery slosh,
And he went through the world with a wonderful swash,
Did Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.

It's true he was wicked as wicked could be,
His sins they outnumbered a hundred and three,
But oh, he was perfectly gorgeous to see,
The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.

Poem located at All Poetry
Photo licensed by Creative Commons- Tom Raftery

Monday, August 02, 2010

Maine goes mobile mobile portal
Since having an iPod Touch for the past 16 months or so, I've become a bit of a "mobile" snob. Granted, I am not a "smart phone snob," but I have become a bit (more) annoying.

But there is much to be said about making sure your website design looks good on mobile devices. It is something I have worked on with my own sites and those of my clients.

If you are running on WordPress, there is a free (and a paid) template that is optimized for viewing on mobile devices. Basically, it is another set of style sheets (CSS) that get called up when the server detects that the user agent is a mobile browser. That's geek talk for - it's magic!

Anyway, I am happy to report that the State of Maine's website - is now optimized for mobile devices. And they have taken it a step further by adding autodetect, HTML5 and geolocation so not only does know where you are, it can customize its offerings to show you local treats. And, it will automatically sense your device and provide the proper style.

Read more about's mobile portal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Businessmen in politics

It's primary season in Maine and for the next two weeks we have to put up (again) with the endless barrage of political ads on TV, in newspapers and in the mail. Ah, Democracy!

This year there is a large number of people running to be their party's candidate for governor of the fine State of Maine as the current guy is term-limited out. I've lost count, but there were over a dozen folks running between the two major parties.

Just about all of the Republican candidates are touting their experiences as "businessmen" as the primary reason for being elected. This continues a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember and was most memorable during the presidential debates with Texas businessman Ross Perot. You remember the "giant sucking sound guy...?"

It is absolutely amazing to me that anyone would ever consider that being a businessman was a positive qualification for politics. The organizations (business and government) are diametrically opposite each other.

Hello....Mr. Republican businessman....I hate to tell you this....but businesses ARE NOT DEMOCRACIES!!! Governments cannot be run like businesses!

If you are a CEO you don't do anything by consensus. When was the last time you made a business decision in your organization where you sought the opinions - and VOTES - of all the employees? If you did that, you would be either out of business, or a miracle worker. So what makes you think you have any qualifications to run for governor? Oh, so YOU think that running a state IS just like running a business?

Do you really think by you putting your buddies into the positions to head up the various state departments that all of a sudden all the state workers in those departments and related organizations are going to start to do the things YOU tell them to do?

What a bunch of boobs.

Yes, history tells us that the only "really successful" governors and presidents (and I will not define what "really successful" means) have been "dictators;" albeit benevolent dictators. But it was always because they were unique individuals who were able to persuade large numbers of people (the voters and the elected representatives) to come around to their way of thinking...and that usually required a lot of bargaining and compromise. And that my dears is called politics, not business. In other words, in my estimation, the best governors and presidents have been really good politicians.

The last of the masterful governors who did this well in Maine was probably Angus King. Yes, he was a businessman, and he ran on that. But he was also a TV personality and had that great persuasive know like Ronny Reagan. But even King was not able to change the whole system and was smart enough to choose his battles carefully. But, I'll bet if he wasn't term-limited out, he'd have won again.

There appears to be no one in the current crop of contenders running for Maine governor that appear to have the panache of an Angus King or a Ronny Reagan. I guess we'll just have to see what politics brings.

Oh, and Mr. Republican businessman, good luck with that election.

Image from

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Maya Angelou in Maine

When it looks like the sun wasn't gonna shine anymore,

God, put a rainbow, in the clouds.

This is how poet Maya Angelou began her talk the other night at the University of Maine at Augusta.

I choose to call Ms. Angelou - poet - because, though she has done many things, and has served in many capacities, the role of poet, I believe, is most fitting, and most descriptive.

You can read all about the evening, its purpose, and who was there in the press reports on the local TV station's website or even view a clip of some of the evening's activities on the Kennebec Journal's website, but I wanted to bring you Ms. Angelou's words. So, I transcribed some of them for you here. Feel free to share and comment:

That statement, from a 19th Century slave song, was inspired by a statement in Genesis. In Genesis we are told that rain persisted so unrelentingly that people thought it would never cease. And in an attempt to put the people at ease, God put a rainbow in the sky. That's in Genesis. In the 19th Century, some African-American poet, lyricist - probably a woman, I'm not sure on that - said God put the rainbow, not just in the sky, but in the clouds themselves.

We know the suns, the moons, and stars, novae, and comets, are always in the firmament. But clouds are so lower and loud that we cannot see the promise of light. But if the rainbow is put into the clouds themselves, that means that the worst of times, there's a possibility of seeing hope. I am here because I wanted to come here. I wanted to come to the University of Maine at Augusta, particularly, because I think of your university, your institution of higher education as a rainbow in the clouds.

I had every reason to apologize and not come. This day, these days, I'm feeling the loneliness of the absence of a great woman whose been a mother to me and, uh, my heart is very heavy. But because she has been a rainbow in my clouds, and I would be speaking at her going home services at the National Cathedral on Thursday, I said I must come here, because I know that there are re-entry students who come here. People, women and men, who come here, who may have not had the energy, or insight, or the smartness, or the money to continue years ago. They come back, and they reenter at the University of Maine at Augusta. I said, I must come. I want, I have so much to say to you, and I'm just starting. Really, really.
Image from Kennebec Journal - Andy Malloy

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On ash clouds...

The anxiety currently being expressed about the Icelandic volcano ash, and its adverse effect on air travel, has got my attention. While only a few have apparently speculated about this, one has to wonder what would happen if this thing continues for weeks, months or years?

For the time being, the media seems to be focused almost entirely on the disruption to air travel both between the US and Europe and within Europe itself. But it makes me wonder what other things might be effected.

Of course the first thing that comes to mind is what is happening to the lungs of the 200 million people in the wake of this thing. That can't be good. And while it is understandable that ash in a fanjet engine at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic might have grave consequences, I wonder about other machinery too.

I'm actively wondering if the cruise ship industry is paying attention. It would seem that if this thing goes on for weeks, months or years, that there will be a need for some kind of alternate transportation across the Atlantic. The option of taking the Orient Express to Asia and a plane from there to the US is likely not to be an option. But a return to transatlantic ships and intercontinental trains does hold some romantic notions for me. But then I get thinking that volcanic ash is probably not too good for cruise ship engines or locomotives either.

Of course, most business can continue to function with telephones, e-mail and video conferencing. But the travel industry isn't going to like this, and I had completely forgotten about the postal and express shipping industry. All the more to wonder about that global economy thing. Local subsistence is sounding smarter and smarter.

So, get the Queen Mary 2 spiffed up and get it ready to take on the masses. I'm sure a four day passage to NY would be preferable to sleeping on the floor in Heathrow for another night. Update: Apparently, things are going well for Cunard due to all this - April 22nd passage on two ships is all booked!

Image from Financial Times

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Snow

So, alright already. I overslept this morning. I didn't have to get up for anything.

So, at 7:45 am I rolled over. And I did that again at 8:45.

But then I slept until 10:07 am and had to really drag myself out of bed.

But I almost jumped back under the covers when I looked out the window and saw patches of snow on the ground and the cars in the parking lot covered. I felt like Rip Van Winkle and thought I had slept through the remainder of spring, all of the summer and most of the fall. Was it already late October?

It sure looked like it. Ugh.

Thinking this was just a brief setback, I went out and got bagels. Fortunately, the ice scrapper was still on the floor of the back set of the car 'cause I had to brush off the snow to be able to see.

Throughout breakfast it continued to snow and sleet, but the accumulations had stopped. Then, at about 11:30 am, it started to snow even harder...those big wet flakes that you get in spring snow storms in March.

When it started covering the ground again, I got out my trusted camera and took this video.

I'm thinking about going back to bed...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I am trying out the new Blogger interface thingy...Looking around for cawazeey wabbits!

Image upload doesn't work #FAIL!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Word Play

Someone sent this to me via e-mail. It was pretty neat, but I don't know where it came from. So I am sharing it cause it is cool. If you know who created it, drop me an e-mail or a comment and I will note that info here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Reflections

Dear Dick Ebersol and NBC Executives:

Thank you for the Olympics. They were exciting and even outpaced the over-hype you guys poured out over the past six months.

But you blew it.

I have mixed reports about whether today’s Gold Medal contest in hockey between the US and Canada was televised live on the west coast of the US. If you did not televise the game live: shame on you. Shame on you for all of the tape delayed broadcasts over these past weeks. Shame on you.

In this world of Twitter and Facebook, of internet in your pocket, of round the clock news reporting. In these times where the number of people on this planet connected to the web exceed the number who have running water, you need to get with the times NBC. Never again can you tape delay the Olympics or any other international event. The world demands real time everything.

Admit it; you blew it.

So, as the Olympic torch fades out and the memories of Vancouver 2010 become permanently burned into our brains, let us pledge to all the folks who worked so hard on this event that their legacy will be that they witnessed the last Olympics ever to be tape-delayed.

UPDATE: 3-1-2010

Looks like I am not alone...Did NBC's Coverage of the Winter Olympics Suck?

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I hope someone has checked on the whereabouts of Dave Letterman...


A Framingham man is accused of a bizarre crime at a Springfield mall.

Police said Chamil Guadarrama stuffed 75 bottles of body lotion into his pants at the Eastfield Mall.

The suspect had so many eight-ounce containers that he could barely run, as his pants were nearly bursting at the seams.

Guadarrama also had a tough time getting into the cruiser. Officers had to remove some of the bottles before he was able to bend down to get in the car.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wizard of Young

The Wizard of Young
Last week on the Last Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Coco's final musical guest was the legendary Neil Young. Neil sang one of my favorite post-CSNY songs called Long May You Run. But, more about the music later.

I was thinking that time had not been too good to poor old Neil. He was looking a little past his prime, and the performance was not his personal best. He is "getting up there" after all. Neil turned 64 last November and has led a bit of a "hard life." I'll leave it at that.

But as I watched the performance on Conan that night, Neil - in his current form - had begun to look like some other well known person. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then this morning, there was a piece in the local paper about Neil Young being honored at a pre-Grammy affair last night "for his decades of philanthropic service," according to the news release.

There it hit the photo accompanying the article, Neil was looking almost exactly like ... The Wizard of Oz. I mean, THE Wizard of Oz. The 1939-Judy-Garland-as-Dorothy-and-Toto-her-little-dog Wizard of Oz.

The actor Frank Morgan, who played the part of the Wizard and several other characters in the film you will remember, had those robust pink cheeks and the thinning hair combed straight back. Check out the photo and tell me Morgan and Young are not related.

Getting back to the music, the song Long May You Run was released on an album of the same name in 1976. A final collaboration with former bandmate, Stephen Stills, this was one of the best cuts on the album.

In the summer of 1982, I was driving back east on a cross-country jaunt and decided to head up into Canada for the last leg of our journey back to New Hampshire. Leaving Ashland, WI in the morning, we passed through Sault Ste. Marie around dusk and turned onto the TransCanada. It was well after dark when we passed through Blind River, Ontario and Long May You Run began to resonate in my head. Good memories still to come.

To Conan and Neil: long may you both run.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas has gone back to Banada

"Christmas has gone back to Banada" at my house.

This was an expression used in our family when I was a child. The reference relates to the day when the Christmas tree, and associated Christmas decoration are taken down indicating the official end of the Christmas season. As you can imagine, this was not a happy experience for me as a young child who, like all kids, wanted to have Christmas last all year long. Fortunately, in my family, we were usually often late in this tradition. We would always delay this date until after "Little Christmas" - January 6th - the Feast of the Epiphany, the day Christmas is celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church. Depending on the timing, this meant that the tree may stay up until 12-13th of January. This year, the trip to Banada was January 10th.

The best I can tell from a Google search, Banada refers to the ruins of an ancient abbey dating back to the 15th Century located in County Sligo, Ireland. This figures since my maternal grandparents were all born in Sligo. But other than that, I am not sure of the true meaning of this expression.

But, unlike the days of my youth, I don't take all of the Christmas decorations down at the same time. In fact, I usually leave the window decorations and the ones on the porch up until....Lent? Easter? In any case, it will be months.

I guess I've never really grown up...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Herbie has to go

I followed this story last summer, and I may have even blogged about it, but the death and removal of a 230-year-old tree makes me sad.

The story of Herbie the 230-year-old elm tree in Yarmouth, Maine is better told by the folks at the Portland Press Herald who have been following and reporting on the story of Herbie's demise. It seems the date of the final day has been announced, January 18, 2010 and there is an expectation that a crowd will be there to watch and record the event.

I'm not exactly a "tree hugger," but I admit that I like trees, and elm trees in particular. I remember the good old days when lofty American Elms graced many streets and roadways in America. I particularly loved the stretch of US 1 in Thomaston, Maine where these great giants created an incredible canopy over the road enjoyed by many tourists each year. It was so sad to see them slowly disappear.

So, here's to Herbie and thank you for your good life. Unlike humans, your physical remains will continue to be enjoyed for many years to come. And we're lucky for that.

Friday, January 01, 2010