Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coffeehouse observation No. 247

It seems a bit early, but college students are meandering back to Stockton … and the coffeehouse. (For those of you who do not know, Stockton not only is home to vast home foreclosures, high rates of poverty, crime, and other things not good for you, and the annual Asparagus Festival, but also home to the University of the Pacific, San Joaquin Delta College, a California State University, Stanislaus satellite campus, a private law school, and several business and vocational schools. So there are quite a few college students to go around.)

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Half is cold, half not so much

DownEast.com’s trivia question was kind of fun today.

Where in Maine can you stand halfway between the equator and the North Pole?

Answer
In Perry. In 1888, U.S. Geological Survey employees in Maine, establishing a line of coastal “benchmarks,” placed an additional temporary marker at the point where the 45-degree line of latitude crosses Route 1 in Perry.

Storm dumped as much as 14 inches of snow on Maine | Bangor Daily News

Storm dumped as much as 14 inches of snow on Maine | Bangor Daily News

6 hurt in Sugarloaf accident; Lift was due for 2011 replacement | Bangor Daily News

6 hurt in Sugarloaf accident; Lift was due for 2011 replacement | Bangor Daily News

Monday, December 27, 2010

Maine novelist Pelletier to teach at UMaine Fort Kent | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine novelist Pelletier to teach at UMaine Fort Kent | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

F. Lee Bailey makes case for fresh start in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

F. Lee Bailey makes case for fresh start in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Storm spurs emergency declaration | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Storm spurs emergency declaration | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Teen's bill to ban funeral protests gets attention from controversial church, legislators | Bangor Daily News

Teen's bill to ban funeral protests gets attention from controversial church, legislators | Bangor Daily News

Storm brings blizzard conditions, closes services across state | Bangor Daily News

Storm brings blizzard conditions, closes services across state | Bangor Daily News

Aroostook County native boosts education for NMCC wind power students | Bangor Daily News

Aroostook County native boosts education for NMCC wind power students | Bangor Daily News

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pair of unexpected packages brightens rainy day

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.
The foggy, rainy prelude to an even bigger late-fall storm was brightened considerable on Friday when I received two unexpected packages in the mail.

One was a lovely Christmas card from dear long-time friends Rick and Michele of Vacaville, Calif. I have known the two since August 1990 when I joined the staff of The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif. Rick was the photo editor and Michele was a sales representative for the newspaper. I have spent holidays and vacations with them over the years, and I was the best man at their wedding.

The front of the Christmas card showed a lake with snowy mountains and snow-covered rock outcroppings and their reflection in the water. It is a lovely image. On the inside Michele had written “Recognize this lake?” and a smiley face.

Lake? What? I know this lake? What lake is this?

I had to look on the back of the card to learn that it was Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. I had not recognized the lake even though I have been to its shores and visitor center countless times! What threw me off were the formations in the water; they looked like typical rocks, not the tufa formations for which the lake is known.

Mono Lakes does not have natural outlet and is two or three times saltier than the ocean. It is a natural nesting area for California’s seagulls. Brine shrimp, brine flies and tufa are pretty much all that grow there. The iconic tufa image – very similar to the wallpaper I have on my cell phone screen so I should have recognized the lake in the first place – are more like cylindrical shafts shooting out of the water. The lake was much deeper before Southern California water districts diverted water from the lake decades ago. The briny water caused each of the tufa formations to build onto itself until each reached the surface. The water diversions lowered the lake levels, exposing the tufa. They remain exposed even now even though the diversions have ceased.

In my defense, the photo, which was taken by Roy R. Goodall of Seattle, Wash., seems to have been taken along the east shore of the lake, a section I have not explored as much as the south and southeast shores. And it has been a while since I have seen Mono Lake in snow.

No matter what, it was still a very pleasant surprise. Rick and Michele, I thank you both.

The second package was a bit more of a surprise than the Christmas card. It was from a childhood acquaintance now living in Presque Isle, Maine. Penny is the daughter of pals of my parents and they owned the cottage next to the one where my mother lives now. Penny was a class or two before me in high school and I’m guessing every guy in my class had a crush on her – girl-next-door looks and long blond hair.

She and I reconnected over the summer via Facebook and not very long later she sent me an email that she had come across a few photos of my father, who died in July 1991. She offered to send the photos, but deep down I really did not think I would ever see them. Do not get me wrong – I’m sure Penny’s intensions then were to send them, but I also know the realities of life. We all are pulled in so many directions that it becomes difficult to find time for family and ourselves, let alone mailing photos to childhood acquaintances.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.
 The second package was not just a photo or two of my father, but a stack more than an inch thick! Nearly none of the photos have dates on them, but I am guessing they have to be from the late-1970s to mid-1980s. They show my father, mother, Penny’s parents and others from my childhood. Nearly all of the photos were taken during “down-time” – weekends at the lake or at North Woods cabins, vacations to Florida, on camping trips, and even one taken of my father coming out of an establishment called “Dirty Old Man’s Shop” with additional signage of “Adults Only.” I’m guessing they were seeking out, um, a public restroom or directions. Yeah, that has to be it.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.
 There are shots of my father paddling a canoe and poling a log raft that I have little doubt he probably nailed together on a whim shortly before the photos was taken. He is sitting on a folding lawn chair perched on the log raft, a boat seat pad/flotation device at his feet, and a plastic red cup balanced on the bow in which I’m assuming was a chilled adult beverage.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.
 There are photos of my Dad and Mom together in happier times; they both are flashing genuine smiles. It is nice to see that just before Christmas.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.
There are other photos, too. There are a few photos of my sister – wearing glasses that are far too large for her face, but were the fashion at the time. One of my Mom in a Christmas sweater; I will not comment on the fashion sense involved. There is a photo of a childhood friend, Todd, and what I believe is the back of my head watching a small black-and-white television while on a camping trip, although I cannot recall the location. It might have been at a campsite near Sebago Lake. There is a photo of Penny standing next to my family’s Caprice Classic parked near the family’s tent camper during the same camping trip. And there are several of my Dad and Penny’s Dad, Dana.

It was heartwarming to see some of the photos from my youth. It was a reminder of much happier time.

It was very nice of Penny to send the photos. It was a nice early Christmas gift. Thank you, Penny, and Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Dog rescued from thin ice returned to owner| Lewiston Sun Journal

Dog rescued from thin ice returned to owner| Lewiston Sun Journal

Study: Wind could supply fourth of New England's power | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Study: Wind could supply fourth of region's power | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Loring Job Corps Center students pen over 160 Christmas cards to servicemen overseas | Caribou Aroostook Republican and News via Bangor Daily News

Loring Job Corps Center students pen over 160 Christmas cards to servicemen overseas | Bangor Daily News

Portage to Quebec caravan plans in the works | Presque Isle Star-Herald Bangor Daily News

Portage to Quebec caravan plans in the works | Bangor Daily News

Mainers earn the least in the Northeast | Bangor Daily News

Mainers earn the least in the Northeast | Bangor Daily News

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa, all I want for Christmas is a bit of economic bliss: P.S. And don’t even think about re-gifting 2010 or 2009


Dear Santa:

How are ya, ya ol’ stout coot? I truly hope things are wonderful up at the North Pole and that you’ve been catching a bit of rest before your Christmas Eve jaunt. I know there’s lots of work involved – or so your flack factory spins us to believe – and the schedule must be pretty hectic.

I know it’s been awhile since I last wrote. After all, I haven’t worn footy-pajamas in years. Really. Please don’t take the lapse in correspondence as an indication of some Santa slight. I’ve been busy. Sort of, anyway.

But what you really want to know – and I know you’ll be checking twice – is whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Nice. Very, very nice. I put the “nice” in, well, “nice.’ I’m the nicest guy I know. Really I am. Come to think of it, I put the “nice” in “nicest,” too.

So, let’s get underway on this year’s Christmas list.

First, peace on Earth. Let’s start with peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan and a bit more peace still in Iraq. And good will toward men – servicemen, to be specific, and servicewomen. It still isn’t “Mission Accomplished,” but American servicemen and women have given their all – sadly for some, their very all – and it is time to get them back home. They deserve it. Their families deserve it. This nation deserves it. Sure, it may take a bit longer still, but surely there is something you can do to hurry things along, Saint Nick. Give it the ol’ college try, won’t you.

My family and friends each should have something nice this year. Everyone I know and love deserves good health, much happiness, and abundant prosperity. Everyone I know and love deserves these things because health, happiness and prosperity have been lacking a bit this past year. I hope you can amp up things a bit in the coming year.

Speaking of that, Jolly One, do you take returns? Because someone really botched 2010. Well, and 2009. Come to think of it, Kriss Kringle, someone royally screwed up quite a few years lately when it comes to the economy. Oh, sure, there were massive gifts to the auto industry and to Wall Street bankers and someone seems to have gifted the federal government with a passel of people who can’t seem to keep track of millions and millions of federal money, but what about we common folk? Sure, the federal tax break extension also includes an extension of unemployment insurance. But can’t we see a little more holiday spirit when it comes to the economy? And don’t be re-gifting the past year, either. That just wouldn’t be acceptable.

OK, I’m being a little selfish here. After all, I was laid off in March 2009 and am still looking for a job. But it is time that we get the 15 million or so unemployed Americans in this country back to work. That would be a lovely Christmas present. I could really use a job, Santa. Really.

And one more thing – and this is sort of a request for a long-term gift. The environment has taken some major, major hits since we humans started standing upright. From the North Pole you probably have the best view of the devastation we humans have wrought. So, please bring us cleaner air and water, fewer chemicals in the things we eat, drink, wear and otherwise use every day, and true sustainability in everyday life. Essentially, Santa, I’m looking for you to give us a better future on this marble we call Earth.

Well, Santa, the list is pretty short, but it covers the big stuff – better economy, no re-gifting of 2010, 2009, etc., health, happiness and prosperity for family and friends, a job, and a greener, sustainable future. I suppose if you must whittle down the list, why don’t you keep everything else and give us peace and tickets home for the servicemen and women who have given so much of themselves for the past decade or so.

That’s it, Santa. Say hi to Mrs. Claus and all the elves and scratch the reindeer under their chins. And have a safe journey on Christmas Eve.

Sincerely,
Keith

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Maine jobless rate 7.3% for November | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine jobless rate 7.3% for November | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Feds approve sale of parent company of Maine Public Service Co. | Bangor Daily News

Feds approve sale of parent company of Maine Public Service Co. | Bangor Daily News

State, Roxanne Quimby agree to Millinocket-area land deal | Bangor Daily News

State, Roxanne Quimby agree to Millinocket-area land deal | Bangor Daily News

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coffeehouse observation No. 245

Smoldering jazz inside the coffeehouse and a man standing outside in a fedora and trench coat. … I think I just sat down into a pulp detective novel. And that’s OK with me as long as no one starts shooting up the place with a gat.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Coffeehouse observation No. 244

Watching the Patriots stomp the Chicago Bears. I would not have thought the first half would have gone quite like this.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 243

OK, it appears as if the coffeehouse staff is going through Pandora’s entire disco collection. And it’s rather large. Rather large. “… Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight …”

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Luck holds out for proud leader and his troops | Maine Sunday Telegram


BANGOR – Back in late June, as I awaited my helicopter ride out of a remote military encampment hard by Afghanistan’s rugged border with Pakistan, Maine Army National Guard Capt. Paul Bosse and I had what was for the time being a very off-the-record, very sobering conversation.

It was about the many dangers still facing the 148 members of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Mountain Infantry at Combat Outpost Dand wa Patan – right smack in the middle of a region where the Taliban and other insurgents can be here, there and everywhere yet simultaneously nowhere to be seen.

Less than halfway through its nine-month deployment, Bravo Company had yet to lose a single soldier. But summer was now upon them – and with it, a widely expected uptick in insurgent activity.

“Think your luck will hold out?” I asked Bosse.

“I hope so,” he replied. “But there’s no way I’d guarantee it.”

Thursday afternoon, as the last planeload of Bravo Company’s soldiers disappeared into a wave of wives, children and other well-wishers at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, I sat down with Bosse in a quiet side room and, first and foremost, congratulated the 37-year old company commander on getting every last one of his men home.

Click for the rest of the column by Bill Nemitz in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Art for Haiti’s sake, as sale helps Konbit Sante: Media coverage of the traumatized nation has faded, so the sale in Portland also rekindles awareness | Maine Sunday Telegram


PORTLAND – The holiday season is bustling with weekend craft fairs, but one art sale Saturday served a special purpose.

The Konbit Sante Art Sale had three goals – raise money for the organization, raise awareness of Haiti’s plight and promote the work of Haitian artists.

The idea for the art sale was born when Skeek Frazee of South Portland, a member of the Konbit Sante Board of Directors, asked her women friends in the community for help in raising money.

“Women see it as a win-win,” said Karin Anderson, a principal of the Dala Consulting Group in Portland. In addition to buying art, “You learn through the art and conversations they have (about the art).”

Click for the rest of the story by Emma Bouthillette in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Clawing her way to new heights | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Clawing her way to new heights | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Coffeehouse observation No. 242

There’s an eclectic music selection at the coffeehouse today.  “Peaches” by the Presidents of the U.S.A. was followed by Johnny Cash’s “Will the Circle be Unbroken.” Now, some disco song is playing. See, eclectic.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coffeehouse observation No. 241

Decided to hang out at the library today instead of the coffeehouse and now I’m really missing the caffeine and the peace and quiet. Yes, missing the peace and quiet – two kids plopped down at the desk next to me and have been noisy every since. And a guy at another nearby table is talking loudly in his cell phone. The guard is now cutting him off. I had to turn up Green Day’s “Nimrod” just so I can think.

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