Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Firefighting women of Portage Lake

[My father, Louis Michaud, was a local volunteer firefighter for years when I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s in Portage Lake, Maine. I recall that he was the fire chief for a time and was in charge of fire suppression at Pinkham Lumber Mill in nearby Nashville Plantation. He worked at the mill, first in the yard, later as the dry kiln operator and foreman, and then he was in charge of the mill’s cogeneration plant. The fire suppression job came along with the territory. And in a small town like Portage in those days, everyone came running when the siren mounted on the Town Hall sounded. It was always exciting when the siren went off, often in the middle of a family meal. He would jump from whatever he was doing and drive off in his pickup to the Town Hall to jump into the fire engine parked in the hall’s basement. While attending the California State University at Chico, I was a wildland firefighter for three fire seasons. I even considered joining the fire services as a career. What I did not seem to know – at least, not until I stumbled across a story in the town’s history, “Portage Lake: History and Hearsay – Early Years to 2009,” was that my mother, Diana (also called Diane) Michaud, also had firefighting training. Other women mentioned in the story are mothers and other relatives of my childhood friends. Bea Cormier used to cut my hair and I played with her sons throughout my adolescence and in high school sports. The story that follows is in a section of the Portage Lake history covering 1970 to 1979 and was likely written by Rachel Stevens, a local woman who also happened to be my first school teacher. Her Maine sense of humor is woven into the writing. The story is on Page 57 of the history, for those of you who have a copy, and it mentions an earlier story in The Bangor Daily News, but fails to mention the date of the story. – KM]

FIREFIGHTING WOMEN

The Fire Department in Portage was a volunteer organization, which meant there was always a need for more people to help at fires, being willing to be trained in using the equipment and showing up at meetings. At the time, many of the men who were active in the Fire Department worked out of town and were not available during the day. If a fire broke out mid-afternoon, it had a good start by the time someone reported it and the men could get away from work, get the truck and get to the fire.

A group of women, most of them wives of firemen, decided to help. They were all in Portage during the day, so they were immediately available if there was a fire. In a Bangor Daily News article about the group, Diana Michaud said, “We felt we ought to know what to do if a fire broke out.”

Bea Cormier organized the group, which included Diana Michaud, Barbara Paradis, Grace Nason, Shirley Nason, and Avis Bass. They received training from Roger Marquis, a firefighter from Presque Isle, and learned how to operate the truck and the pump. The training included use of a respirator, resuscitator, and inhalator.

Grace Nason described with satisfaction being able to demonstrate how to pop the clutch when taking the fire truck up Hayward Hill. And they put their training to good use.

The Bangor Daily News article described a Monday morning fire when there were more women than men: “Those present have a lasting memory of Mrs. Cormier’s arrival in high boots and hair rollers with axe in hand.” In an interview, Bea, Diana, Barb and Grace agreed the training made them confident. Hearing the siren no longer seemed frightening when they knew they could do something.

Every call presented an adventure. One of the first ones occurred when the information Bea Cormier received had her taking the truck up the West Road, only to have Rena Boutot race out to stop her and tell her the fire was on the Cottage Road. Bea realized with horror that she had to turn the truck around, something she had never done. Fortunately, she was able to drive through the loop at the artesian well and reverse direction.

There was the time they responded to a fire at a camp. A 100-pound propane tank in a shed blew as they were arriving, going straight up and straight down. They were all shaken, but went on setting up. Diana went back for the Jeep, the men arrived and they put out the fire.

On their way to a possible drowning on the West Road, Diana’s car hit a low branch, but she never stopped. When she came home, however, she found her spaghetti sauce burned and the house full of smoke.

This group of women provided a useful service, and was an important part of the Fire Department. They were able to get equipment to a fire and have it ready to work when more helped arrived. Because of what they did, property was saved and less damage occurred.

Coffeehouse observation No. 234

Probably a short day at the coffeehouse today. I forgot the power cord to the laptop. Grr!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Writing in a circle, from surprise start to ironic finish

For as long as I can remember, I knew that I would be a writer. I just did not think early on that I would ever make a living at it. I thought it was something that I would do on the side, for myself and no one else.

And, now after 22 years as a professional writer and editor, I may never write and edit for a living ever again simply because of the economic atmosphere in which we live.

Such are the circles of life, I suppose.

As a youngster, I wrote stories in a form that most resembles storyboards, sort of a cartoon or graphic representation of a tale. Storyboards are used to outline television commercials, TV shows, movies or other video presentations. My fictional stories – which included plots and characters plucked from the latest adventure television programming – were for fun and to pass away the time during long, cold winters in the North Words of Maine or long, rainy days during summer vacation.

Later on, my high school English teacher, Janice Webster, occasionally encouraged me to write beyond the journal entries she assigned. But a high school boy more interested in sports and girls was embarrassed by the recognition and I mentally shoved aside the idea of writing beyond regular English assignments. Continuing a private journal was one thing, but being a professional writer on any level was out of the question.

Besides, there were far more practical pursuits on which to concentrate – studying for a profession or vocation – but writing was not one of them.

But college professors at the University of Southern Maine where I attended from 1980 to 1983 also were encouraging in critiquing my written work for courses in various areas of study, including English. It was comforting, but it still was not enough to spur me to write more than what my college courses required or what I cared to jot down in my personal journal.

I still have some of those early journals and marvel at how utterly terrible some of my writing was then. There are times I have considered finding an open spot and torching a pile of those journals so that they do not fall in the hands of even mildly intelligent people who will recognize the writing for what it is – dung.

Going west

While I loved the University of Southern Maine and Southern Maine in general, I felt a bit adrift there after three academic years. I was not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, let alone what I wanted to study to get there.

So, almost reluctantly, I took the advice of several fellow USM students just returning from the National Student Exchange program. The program allowed students to attend courses for either a semester or complete academic year at other universities throughout the country, and then return to the home university. I picked California State University at Chico in Northern California.

Chico is north of Sacramento, but still well within the state’s prime agricultural area. Besides agriculture, the economy was centered on the university, a nearby community college, a major regional medical center, retail outlets, and, because Chico is the county seat for Butte County, social services.

Modern-day Chico was founded by Capt. John Bidwell, who in 1841 travelled to the West and for a time worked for John Sutter. After the discovery of gold, Bidwell tried a hand at gold prospecting. He eventually bought and sold a couple of land grants, eventually buying the Rancho Chico, the basis for modern-day Chico. He became one of the state’s largest landowners and wielded his political influence running for several offices, including for president of the United States.

Bidwell’s mansion is a state historic park on the edge of the campus. He also gave the city land for what was then – and very probably now, as well – the third largest municipal park in the country. Bidwell Park is a lush sanctuary that starts near downtown Chico and meanders along either side of the Big Chico Creek into the lava-formed foothills. Bidwell Park has a couple of swimming holes, bike and running paths, horse trails, ball fields, a fairy tale-themed children’s playground, nude beaches, hiking trails and more. The city’s municipal golf course is in Upper Bidwell Park.
I have not been to Chico in years and that is a shame since it is a fantastic place.

I originally planned to attend Chico State for a semester and then return to USM to finish out my college career. But, as such stories go, I fell in love with a woman. The problem was, of course, she was not interested in me. So, I arranged to stay for the entire academic year, I suppose in the hope of winning her heart.

I did not win her heart, but Chico won mine. I fell in love with the university, the city, and the outdoor activities in and around Chico. So, I settled in and became a wildland firefighter for the summer following my first academic year at Chico State. I was a wildland firefighter for two more summers while attending Chico State, rising from firefighter/sawyer/swamper to squad leader to crew leader my third year.

I very nearly made firefighting my career and still occasionally feel regret that I did not give the idea more thought. By now I would have nearly 30 years in the fire service and would be planning my retirement, whether as a transition into another career or as a transition onto a tropical beach. That – and the fact that I did not really pick a major until they forced me to – might indicate how conflicted I was in trying to pick a career.

Picking a path

Yes, they forced me into picking a major. They forced me because I could not seem to do the deed.

My academic adviser John Sutthoff, a professor in the school of communications, finally put down his foot and insisted that I pick a major. He asked what I enjoyed doing. I thought about and said I enjoyed writing, because I did enjoy writing in my personal journal and enjoyed the positive feedback from professors when it came to writing for my coursework.

He said that the school had public relations and journalism majors and both required much writing. Not wanting to be a public relations practitioner, I said I would try journalism.

I was not sure even then that I would end up being a professional writer.

With several of the basic news writing and editing courses down, I ended up on the staff of The Orion, the campus newspaper. There was only a part-time staff writer position available, but I was able to get full credit because I also became an assistant to the production manager. That meant that I was able to learn a bit about being a reporter and a bit about physically putting together the newspaper, which was much different than it is done today.

Then, the story was reported, written, edited and outputted on a strip of photographic paper. That paper as developed, trimmed to the width of a newspaper column, waxed and then put onto a blue-line grid sheet matching the newspaper page. Headline, cutlines, photos and ads were done separately, waxed and then attached to the grid sheet in the appropriate places. A photo of the page was then taken by a large camera, the negative transferred to a metal plate that was processed and then placed onto the drums of the printing press. Pressmen, who to this day keep secret the exact manner for placing plates on the press and for weaving the web – the rolled paper magically threaded through the press that will become the newspaper – then run a section of the paper. That was taken by conveyor belt to the circulation department where the various sections were combined – either by hand or by machine – to form the complete newspaper.

Now, software allows for stories, complete with headlines, subheds, cutlines, photos and ads, to be placed on an electronic page and output to plating as a single page before converted into a plate, saving much time and effort on the editorial side of the production.

First big story

Even as a part-time staff writer, I ended up with some exciting stories. I was interviewing the campus police chief one day about crime stats or something as banal, when a campus police sergeant came in to update him on an upcoming operation. The chief introduced me and the sergeant asked if I was coming along.

I was stunned, really, because they had been talking in police-speak and I was not clear on what they were talking about. The chief told me a bit about what was going on and said it would be OK if I wanted to come along with a photographer.

As it turned out, there was a ring of Chico State and Butte Community College students who were going onto the Chico State campus and elsewhere to steal coins from vending machines. They also were stealing other property, as it turned out, including stereo equipment and bicycles. (Chico is a big bike town, especially for college students. There used to be an annual road trip to Davis, another bike-friendly college town, to, um, borrow bicycles from University of California, Davis, students. Davis students would return the favor, of course.)

One of the members of the ring, Chico State football player Steven Crittenden, was nabbed doing something else and he pretty much gave up his crew. Officers went to the apartment of the gang and found a pile of coins, bicycles, stereos and other stolen property.

That was my first big story. Front-page of The Orion with photos. It was fun, especially since I believe we beat the local newspaper, The Chico Enterprise-Record. I sort of caught the bug then.

[But the story goes on a bit. Crittenden, the guy who tipped off police about the vending machine thefts, later was arrested in a rape. And then charged, tried and found guilty in the January 1987 double torture homicides of a prominent Chico physician and his wife, Joseph and Katherine Chiapella, in their Chico home. Crittenden’s trial was moved to Placer County, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. He remains on California’s death row. Here’s a link to a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals response to a filing for an appeal in the case with a description of the homicides. WARNING: The descriptions and other factual information are fairly graphic.]

I was the editor of The Orion the next two semesters. I wrote columns and editorials, mostly, and made sure we had enough stories to fill the pages. It was an eventful two semesters, but I think I would have been better served if I had been a writer for a full semester instead of being the editor. Some of the other writers from that time went onto great things, from working in journalism to writing and producing television dramas.

The Real World

After graduation, I hung around Chico for about a month before getting a job as the editor of The Mendocino Beacon. That began my professional career as a writer and editor.

From Mendocino, I went on to be a staff writer at The Ukiah Daily Journal, The Woodland Daily Democrat, and The Reporter in Vacaville. I stayed more than 13 years in Vacaville, moving up to copy editor, assistant news editor in charge of special sections, columnist, and opinion page editor. In a desire to make more money, I moved onto The Record in Stockton to take a job as an assistant city editor.

I stayed with that a couple of years until a newsroom reorganization resulted in me being reassigned to being a staff writer on the newspaper’s website. I was disappointed. There was no other way to look at the reassignment except as a demotion, a demotion not because of my work, but because of someone else’s inability to lead.

However, the year or so I spent working on the website was very beneficial. My main duty was to update content on the newspaper’s website, send out news alerts to mobile subscribers, and write breaking news. It gave me many new skills and helped me refresh old skills.

It was going well – or so I thought – until I was laid off March 5, 2009.

As past readers will know, I have been looking for work ever since. I have been looking for employment in conventional newsroom settings and online news services, and writing and editing opportunities for the federal government, nonprofits, and green industries. So far, a couple of interviews, but no offers.

I know I will find a job – eventually. I just wish it would happen already, especially since I’m quickly running out of unemployment insurance benefits. For that reason, I may have to take any job, whether it is in writing and editing or not.

And that is why I feel that I may not write as a professional ever again. It just may not be in the cards for me.

Epilogue

Irony is wonderful, isn’t it? I wrote this mostly string-of-consciousness blog entry after starting to re-read Rene J. “Jack” Cappon’s 1991 version of “The Associated Press Guide to News Writing,” a manual on how to best write clear, concise news stories. The irony is, of course, that I wrote an entry that is more than 2,000 words; there is nothing clear or concise about that.

Coffeehouse observation No. 233

A guy just walked by the coffeehouse wearing a worn hoodie and a makeshift cape. I’m thinkin’ he’s a down-on-his-luck superhero. ... And I have no idea what his superpower might be, so don’t ask.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 232

Attractive new table umbrella at empresso swaying slightly in the wind.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

USM team holds DNA clues to spill's impact on whales | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

USM team holds DNA clues to spill's impact on whales The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

DEP: Vinalhaven wind turbines too loud | Bangor Daily News

DEP: Vinalhaven wind turbines too loud | Bangor Daily News

With economy improving, more Mainers hit the road for holidays | Bangor Daily News

With economy improving, more Mainers hit the road for holidays | Bangor Daily News

Coffeehouse observation No. 231

Hmm, the coffeehouse seems to be playing old police-PI TV show theme songs. “SWAT” was earlier, followed shortly by the theme from “Shaft.” Go figure.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tides of promise: Tidal power could help restore economic sustainability to eastern Maine | DownEast.com

Tides of promise: Tidal power could help restore economic sustainability to eastern Maine | DownEast.com

Surrendering in the face of overwhelming odds | DownEast.com

Frankly, I hadn’t heard this story, but the locals seemed to understand the concept of fighting another day. Here’s some Maine trivia from DownEast.com

What gained Fort Sullivan fame in 1814?

Answer

Built in 1810 as a battery and blockhouse in Eastport, the fort gained fame in 1814 when a dozen British warships loaded with two hundred guns came into sight. Against such overwhelming odds, the fort’s six officers, eighty men, and nine guns surrendered upon demand.

Peak preserve: Beech Hill in Rockport beckons with its gorgeous views, charming old tea house. | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Peak preserve The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram



IF YOU GO

WHAT: Beech Hill Preserve, Coastal Mountains Land Trust's cornerstone preserve and an unusual place in the midcoast region.

WHEN: The preserve is open year-round; the hut is open two days a week from May through October.

WHERE: In Rockport off Beech Hill Road, between routes 1 and 17.

HIKING IT: It's just three-quarters of a mile on the old farm road from the parking area to the stone hut.

WHAT ELSE: Walkers must stay on the path and dogs must be on leashes. This is important to allow the land trust to continue the organic farming effort on the blueberry fields.

LEARN MORE: Go to tinyurl.com/39lo27r and maineolmsted.com/ad/heistad.html.

Quimby's subdivision plans stun locals | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Quimby's subdivision plans stun locals The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Deer's abnormal antlers stop traffic | Bangor Daily News

[I could be wrong about this -- so hunters, please feel free to correct me -- but I believe hunters in the eastern United States count all the points on a buck's antlers, while the western United States count one side of a rack. Either way, a 20-point rack is imipressive. -- KM]

Deer's abnormal antlers stop traffic | Bangor Daily News

100 Classic Hikes a treat for the eyes, feet | Bangor Daily News

100 Classic Hikes a treat for the eyes, feet | Bangor Daily News

Coffeehouse observation No. 229 – Hope carried on the wobbly legs of toddlers

Hope is at the very core of what we are as humans, but it can be such a fleeting thing.

One moment a person feels hopeful that strong feelings will blossom into true love. The next moment that all comes crashing down. One moment a person feels hopeful that hard work will be recognized by supervisors. The next moment a co-worker claims the work as his own. One moment a person sees hope in the eyes of another. The next moment that hope is taken away.

It is not always easy to hold onto hope when things are not going as they should. Like so many Americans, I’ve been out of work for much longer than I ever expected I would be. It has been more than 20 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business. It has been a demoralizing struggle to find work and so far it has been an unsuccessful search.

I have spent much of the time since being laid off in public libraries, bookstores and coffeehouses drinking coffee or green tea and scouring the Internet for employment opportunities. (OK, let’s face it – I’ve spent most of that time in coffeehouses.) I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages and filled out countless applications.

And still no luck.

But I have never really lost hope – not even now – that I will find work again. Part of that comes from my belief that if I work as hard at finding a job as I did working at my previous jobs, then I very likely will find something even better than I had before. Persistence and patience – two traits of which I have abundance – will help me ride this stretch of misfortune and help me find work.

Another thing that has helped me cling to hope for myself is the expression of hope others have displayed.

I’m not talking something spectacular. I’m just talking about life, simple, everyday life.

As I sat in those public libraries, bookstores and (mostly) coffeehouses, something struck me – people were living their lives. Auto industry collapse, banking greed and collapse, housing market collapse, joblessness, two protracted wars, threat of terrorism – all of it be damned. People were living their lives despite these problems.

The most striking aspect was that young people – men and women couples, same-sex couples, single adults – seemed to be going ahead with having families. They were having babies. What greater sign that the future will be better is there than to go ahead with plans to have children, children who will live in that future?

No matter how terrible my job search was going on any given day, my mood always improved when I spotted a pregnant woman walked into the coffeehouse, either alone or with her partner. The fact that there were people still on Earth willing to chance it – were hopeful enough to have children – made me more hopeful, made me more willing to carry on with my own life.

Now, of course, part of that message of hope comes of the wobbly legs of toddlers who were born since my job search started. It is difficult to completely lose grip of hope when a young child looks up and beams a smile for no reason whatsoever and then waddle off for some other toddler adventure.

I do not know how long I will be able to hold out hope. The time is nearing when I will be without unemployment insurance. Without that very threadbare safety net, I do not know what happen.

But I know that hope – and persistence and patience – will be part of what gets me my next job. I get that from the message of hope in young parents and on the wobbly legs of toddlers.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 228

Just heard a Christmas commercial. The music was just too freakin’ perky.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coffeehouse observation No. 227

Hey! … Hey! Yeah! You, you over there wearing the incredibly asinine hat and with the asinine facial piercings. Don’t you think you could possibly – just out of common consideration for your fellow coffeehouse patrons – use your freakin’ headphones while you watch – at full volume – asinine YouTube videos of the “Jackass” cast performing asinine, potentially testical-threatening stunts?! I mean, really?! For four hours straight?! … Idiot!

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Crossing fingers after phone interview marred by no bars, technical problem

I had a fairly good telephone job interview this morning, despite equipment problems on both ends.

And despite me stumbling over some of the questions.

Some of the problems started this morning when I tumbled out of bed and checked my cellular phone to make sure that it had charged overnight. I was immediately troubled to see no bars, not one.

“OK, don’t panic,” I said to myself, of course, leaving out here the expletives. “I’ll just whip up some congee, grab a shower, and check the bars again. Perhaps a T-Mobile tower is down or something and it will take a bit of time to get it up again. If all else fails, I’ll make a run to Starbucks, troll for a cell signal, and pirate some Wifi. And just sit in my CRV for the interview.”

Yes, I do sometimes have extended conversations with myself.

Congee, check.

Shower and shave, check.

Car keys, check.

Laptop and cell phone, check and check.

Cell phone bars, not so check. Still no bars.

So, off I went for the Starbucks. As I drove closer, I checked the bars and the signal seem to be coming in strong. Great!

I circled the Starbucks in the Miracle Mile in Stockton and head back to my apartment to go over notes before I planned to return to the Starbucks in time for my interview call.

Funny thing, though, as I drove back to the apartment – I started getting more bars. Eureka! A strong signal. Perhaps, just, perhaps, T-Mobile fixed the glitch and I’ll be able to receive the interview in a non-stressful environment sitting at my writing desk in the living room of my apartment.

There I sat for more than an hour going over “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – of which, the interviewers would later ask only one of the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – and tried to relax just a bit before my 9:45 a.m. call.

Everything was going well enough when I took another look at my cell phone at 9:30 a.m. and – PANIC! No bars, again! Ugh!

I scooped up my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, and my cell phone and headed downstairs to the garage. There I jumped into my CRV, cranked up the engine, and headed – at only slightly excessive speed – to the nearest Starbucks where earlier I had found a strong signal and where I could pirate WiFi. (I say “pirate,” but Starbucks provides free WiFi. Using “pirate” is an attempt at making me more edgy. Did it work?)

I parked in the same spot I had earlier, but the cell signal was at only two bars. I didn’t want an every-other-word experience during the interview. I drove around the block trolling for a stronger signal and found one – very nearly in the same spot I had been before going around the block. Time: 9:44 a.m.

OK, quick drink of water. Pull out the computer for the notes on the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview.” Pull out the pad of paper to write down the names of the people on the search committee conducting the interview. Go online for a quick check of email.

It was then that the phone rang. I let it ring again, popped open the cell phone, paused – “Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Nothing. Great! Well what else can go wrong?

I tried dialing back a couple of times, but all I got was the ear-piercing tone of a fax machine. Great!

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic … DON’T PANIC!

Oh, wait, the phone’s ringing again.

“Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Oh, crap, not again.

One more attempt to call them. More piercing sounds. OK, OK, OK, I’ll shoot an email to the person who arranged the interview. Under the circumstances, maybe – just maybe – we can reschedule the telephone interview.

The email was very nearly set to send when the phone rang one more time. By this time it was five or 10 minutes after the scheduled appointment

OK, don’t panic. Let it ring again.

“Hello”

“Hello, Keith. Sorry for that bit of technical problem …,” said the woman on the other end.

Sheesh, that was close. I’ve been out of work for 20 months now and I cannot afford to miss an interview for any reason.

The half-hour interview went well enough, I think, especially since it took place over the phone as I sat in my CRV with a laptop balanced on my knees.

I stumbled on a few questions. It’s a marketing job and my experience is in straight-up journalism, but several of the interviewers have newspaper experience, so they may have cut me some slack. They gave me verbal feedback and laughed where they should have, so it wasn’t all bad at all.

The job would be with a leader in its field and I think skills I honed as a columnist, opinion page editor, editorialist, and essayist could come in handy. The problem would be in having time to write about all the positive aspects. That’s a bit of a change considering all my work experience is in newspaper where much of the news is not good.

Well, I’m crossing my fingers. It appears it will be about 30 days before I find out if I was selected, so I’ll be patient and continue my search in the meantime.


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Coffeehouse observation No. 226

OK, tell me if there is something wrong with this picture. A guy on a motorcycle drives onto the sidewalk outside the coffeehouse – he’s riding a Harley-Davidson, wearing a Nazi SS helmet, and a skull mask to protect his face from the wind. Here’s the catch: He just walked out of the coffeehouse with an iced drink with drizzled chocolate and wiped cream on top. I’m of the school that the drink tells much about a person, much more than any mode of transportation. And an iced beverage with drizzled chocolate and whipped cream on top simply says sooo much and pretty much blots out the whole biker image. He and his biker pals probably sit around knitting, sipping chardonnay, and listening to Michael Buble. … But don’t tell him I said that.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whoopie Pie Throwdown airs Dec. 8 | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Whoopie Pie Throwdown airs Dec. 8 The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Quimby parks post stirs controversy | Bangor Daily News

Quimby parks post stirs controversy | Bangor Daily News

Coffeehouse observation No. 225

They put up Christmas decorations in the coffeehouse several days ago. I think it far too early. … And before anyone gets their Christmas stocking in a bind, I am not a Grinch for thinking that Thanksgiving should be the debarkation point for all things Christmas.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Rediscover recycling and reuse | Bangor Daily News

Rediscover recycling and reuse | Bangor Daily News

U.S. Patent official says Maine one of most innovative places in nation | Bangor Daily News

ORONO, Maine — Maine has several advantages that could help the state develop its innovation-based economy, the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said Wednesday morning.
Under Secretary of Commerce David Kappos spoke at the Invention to Venture conference, held at the Black Bear Inn and organized by the Target Technology Center. Roughly 120 people were in attendance, including students from the University of Maine and from the Maine Maritime Academy, faculty members, inventors, entrepreneurs and experts up and down the entrepreneurship food chain.

Kappos has a second home in the Rockport area, and said he’s been intimately familiar with Maine for about a decade.

“Mainers have a very special innovative capability that is as good or better than anywhere else I’ve been in the world,” said Kappos.

The state has a “terrific can-do attitude; people are natural problem-solvers,” said Kappos.

Click for the rest of the story by Matt Wickenheiser in the Bangor Daily News.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

[Sorry for not getting this posted earlier. I was working on another project and simply could not get to this until now. Here are links to some of the stories presented in the two major Maine newspapers on this Veterans Day. You don’t have to like war to deeply appreciate that young men and women are willing to put down their lives in defense of this nation. I thank all who have worn the uniform or otherwise served in the defense of this country. – KM]

More than 1,000 remember fallen Marine and a ‘life lived full throttle’ | Bangor Daily News

Editorial: Veterans Day 2010 | Bangor Daily News

Maine soldier was killed by small-arms fire in Afghanistan | Bangor Daily News

Veterans Day: Old Town students offer thanks | Bangor Daily News

Veterans honored at Machias high school | Bangor Daily News

Korean War veterans honored in Dover-Foxcroft | Bangor Daily News

Brewer ceremony recognizes military service | Bangor Daily News

SAD 4 students thank veterans in moving assembly | Bangor Daily News

Video: Injured Gulf War veteran finds solace in seclusion | Bangor Daily News

Parade, ceremony honor veterans in Portland | Portland Press Herald

Mainers across the state thank vets today | Portland Press Herald

Nemitz: ‘The memories don't leave you’ | Portland Press Herald

Editorial: Veterans Day honors all who wore the uniform | Portland Press Herald

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Hikers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Happy Hikers The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

U.S. senators stranded by weather join Maine Troop Greeters | Bangor Daily News

[I spotted this story yesterday, but here’s a longer version. The Maine Troop Greeters are great. POV did a documentary on them a few months ago. – KM]

BANGOR, Maine — Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Waylaid in Bangor by bad weather farther to the north and east, a political Who’s Who of high-profile travelers greeted troops at Bangor International Airport on Friday night and livened up the local downtown scene before flying out early Saturday.

En route to an international security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado found themselves stranded at Bangor International Airport late Friday afternoon because of high winds and overcast conditions in Halifax.

The six senators were the first to straggle in to BIA, landing in a private military plane shortly after 3 p.m. after their pilot attempted twice to land in Halifax.

They didn’t know how long they would be grounded in Bangor. So they did what anyone would do. They contacted a friend.

“I looked at my e-mail and there was a message from Barbara [Mikulski],” said Sen. Susan Collins on Saturday. “She said, ‘You’ll never guess where I am.’” The group, accompanied by an entourage of aides and security staff, was in the coffee shop at BIA, waiting for the weather to clear.

Collins was at her home in Bangor, anticipating a phone call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I was in kind of a quandary,” Collins said. “I didn’t want to miss her call, but I had six friends stranded at the airport.”

Click for the rest of the story by Meg Haskell in the Bangor Daily News.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My best hasn’t been good enough – yet

Today marks 20 months since I was laid off.

There are times it feels as if it happened just yesterday. Or a million years ago.

And there are other times when it feels as if this is all part of a very, very bad nightmare from which I will awake.

Eventually. Soon. … Anytime now.

In those 20 months I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages, filled out countless applications, and uploaded my resume onto dozens of websites. I put in at least six to 12 hours every day seeking suitable employment. I look and look and look. I network. I blog. I lament.

And, so far, that effort has resulted in a handful of face-to-face interviews, a couple of phone interviews, and a few thanks-but-no-thanks rejection letters.

But no job offers.

Yet.

As it has been for so many Americans – still nearly 15 million Americans, in fact – finding work as been elusive – frustrating, maddening, demoralizing – and it doesn’t seem as if things are getting much better. The national unemployment rate is stuck at 9.6 percent and I live in a county in Northern California where the unemployment rate hovers at 16.6 percent.

I blame the Republicans. I blame the Democrats. I blame Wall Street bankers. I blame greedy industrialists.

I blame everyone, including myself.

After all, I should have peered into a crystal ball and seen coming the collapse of the newspaper industry – and the housing industry and the automobile industry and every other industry that isn’t Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft or … . Well, you get the point.

I blame myself because while I was working for a living, I neglected to take time off from work to train to be proficient in the latest necessary skills I might or might not need sometime in the distant or not-so-distant future.

Of course, “the latest necessary skills” fluctuate every couple of years so I suppose I could have worked for a year and taken more time off for training in “the latest necessary skills” and continued that cycle.

But no. I worked. For 22 years. In an industry that continues to undergo convulsions.

And now I have little to show for those 22 years of hard work. No income. No health insurance. No prospects.

And dwindling hope that I will find a new job before my Unemployment Insurance benefits expire at the beginning of 2011.

In the past 20 months people have told me “You have to reinvent yourself,” “You have to be entrepreneurial,” “You have to start your own business,” “You should write a book,” “You should …”.

You get the point. All great ideas, but reinvent myself into what? I don’t even balance my checkbook, how could I be an entrepreneur or start a business? And don’t people realize how many books are written and how very few are actually published?

But even after all the disappointment, all the setbacks, all the failed efforts, I still believe I can contribute in some way. I continue to seek suitable employment in newspapers or using my skills working for a nonprofit or in green industry or government. I keep seeking any escape from the way things are now so that I can get my life back on track.

I continue to follow the mantra – one step forward every day. One step forward today, tomorrow and the next day.

Coffeehouse observation No. 223

Oh, my freakin' word! “The First Noel” is playing in the coffeehouse. If you see someone running down Pacific Ave screaming, it just might be me!!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 222

Lesson learned: Don’t sit next to a table at the coffeehouse where an Aflac sales team is discussing sales and presentations and other sales team stuff. They just have too much fun and are just too loud.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Get your deer yet? | DownEast.com

Get your deer yet? | DownEast.com

Coffeehouse observation No. 221

I very nearly had to shush three retired guys making far too much noise in the coffeehouse. What is it with today’s seniors, anyway?!

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Bangor election warden dismissed over cop-gun flap | Bangor Daily News

Bangor election warden dismissed over cop-gun flap | Bangor Daily News

Char, trout restored to remote pond | Bangor Daily News

Char, trout restored to remote pond | Bangor Daily News

Portage Lake axes indicate trade link | Bangor Daily News

[This is a cool story for those who know Portage and Portage Lake. Of course, "portage" is the French word used for the act of carrying a canoe or other boat overland, which would happen when travelers had to move from one body of water to another. This is where I grew up. Jim Dumond was a longtime game warden in the area and I believe owned Dean's Motor Lodge for a while. And the Gagnon name is a very familiar one in Portage. It will be interesting to see just how far back they can track these artifacts and if there are any more there. -- KM]

PORTAGE, Maine — Every object passing through a person’s hands has a story to tell.

Sometimes those stories are centuries in the making and take years to tell themselves. Just ask Jim Dumond and Antoine Gagnon of Portage whose story of trade between two nations and two hand-forged axes dates back to the mid-1600s.

The axes initially were discovered in the 1950s on a piece of land known locally as Indian Point on the banks of Portage Lake.

“My grandfather Fred Cliff was clearing some land in between two camps, and the fellow he hired to pull stumps turned over some dirt and there were these old iron axes,” Fred Edgecombe of Kure Beach, N.C., said during a phone interview Saturday.

Now retired, Edgecombe owns one of those camps and has one of the axes.

“In the late 1970s my cousin got the larger of the two axes and I got the smaller one, and we’ve been sitting on them ever since,” Edgecombe said. “Nobody had much of an interest in them and all of sudden, it’s like, ‘Wow, people are interested.’”

In fact, Dumond and Gagnon are very interested in the axes and what they represent.

Last summer the two men got a good look at the old tools and, thanks to some intensive research on the Internet, were able to match the symbols on the blades, indicating they had been crafted from iron ore mined in Spain around 1640.

“These trade axes are just awesome,” Gagnon said. “They looked like a metal hatchet, [and] on the sides were stamped a cross within a circle.”

According to Dumond and Gagnon, the trade axes — so called because French and British trappers and colonists traded them for furs with the area’s Native American residents — probably found their way to northern Maine thanks to the Acadians who came to Maine around that time.

Both men say they have Acadian and Native roots in their family genealogies and are fascinated by what the blades represent.
Click for the rest of the story by Julia Bayly in the Bangor Daily News.

Coffeehouse observation No. 220

Is it just me or does a woman who is already well over 6 feet tall really need 4-inch heels? I’m just sayin’, she may be worth the climb, but really …

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