Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Night Sky Events for August

August holds promise for two events that should be of interest to casual star-gazers like me:  The Perseid meteor shower promises to be a pretty spectacular phenomenon to watch, and there are not one, but two full moons to be seen in the month!

Some meteors from the Perseids should be visible for most of the month but the peak will be on the morning of August 12, when we can expect nearly 60 meteors per hour if conditions are right.  The sky will be especially dark at this time because the moon will be three days past last quarter and won't rise until 1 a.m. on the morning of the 12th, so the meteors should be clearly visible in the dark sky.

As to the moon, the first full moon is on August 1; it's called the Grain, Green Corn or Sturgeon Moon (hey, I don't make this stuff up). The second full moon occurs on the 31st, and because it's the second full moon in a calendar month it's called a Blue Moon (wasn't there a song about that? - yes, there was so let's listen:

So there you have it, star-gazers - all the info you need to get outside on a beautiful summer night and watch the night sky do its magical thing.  I'll be on the pool deck if anyone is looking for me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Implement and Improve" the ACA ("Obamacare")

OK Congressional Republicans, here are the facts:  The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which you derisively call "Obamacare", is the law of the land, duly enacted by Congress, signed into law by the president, and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.  You don't like it but it's time to get over it and move on.  The "death panels" that you so conspicuously (and falsely) predicted have not materialized and the civilized world as we know it has not come to an end. 

You propose to "Repeal and Replace" the ACA, but I wonder why. The key provisions of the law are based on principals which were originally proposed by Republicans and conservative "think tanks", so what is it that you object to, really?  And replace with what - I follow the issue pretty closely and I have not seen a serious proposal for a program to replace the ACA advanced by any Republican politician.  So "repeal and replace" may have a nice ring to it in a campaign speech but it seems like a pretty empty phrase.

I have a suggestion for you:  embrace the ACA as your own; call it "Romney Care" if you want to, because there's really no substantive difference between the Massachusetts health care law that Romney championed and "Obamacare". Then set out on a path to implement the law in a meaningful way instead of putting obstacles in place to delay or curtail its effectiveness.  Nobody thinks the ACA is perfect so there is plenty of opportunity for you to advance ideas to improve the law and make access to affordable health care a reality for all Americans - replace "repeal and replace" with "implement and improve".  Don't do it because it's politically expedient, do it because it's the right thing to do for the American public (you do remember us, don't you?).

Show America, and the world, that you are capable of putting the interests of your constituents ahead of the billionaire plutocrats whose only interest is maintaining the status quo, because it makes them even richer than they already are.  You are capable of that, aren't you?  And if you are worried about losing a wedge issue that can help you defeat Obama in 2012, well the economy still sucks so if you focus on that, instead of "Obamacare", you should still stand a pretty good chance.

An open letter to GOP Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan*

(*I would have preferred to send this directly to Rep. Camp but apparently he only accepts emails from constituents in his own district.)

Dear Rep. Camp,

I recently read in my local paper that you have been diagnosed with lymphoma, and I was sorry to hear that.  I was glad to read though that the disease, which was detected during a recent physical, is a "very early, highly treatable and curable" type of cancer. Surely this is good news for you and I wish you well in your treatment.

Your experience underscores the importance of access to medical care to afford early diagnosis and treatment of diseases that, left undetected and untreated, can often be fatal.  Millions of Americans lack such access but with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) their numbers will be reduced and more citizens will have the opportunity to have their own diseases detected while they are still treatable - surely you would agree that this is an opportunity that should be available to everyone?

I pray that you will use your diagnosis and treatment as an opportunity to reconsider the advantages that the ACA will afford to millions of our fellow citizens who currently have no access to the health care system other than going to the ER when the situation is dire and the outcome is uncertain (at best).  The ACA is the law of the land, and it has been upheld as constitutional, so how about instead of "repeal and replace", which is the current mantra of your party leadership, you lead an effort to "implement and improve"? Nobody thinks the ACA is perfect but it's a start - you could be instrumental in crafting the improvements that make it a vehicle for all Americans to have the same access to health care that enabled the early detection and treatment of your cancer.

I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

Best wishes,  Guy Mainer

Saturday, July 28, 2012


As of 4:00 Pm today, I am officially on VACATION.  I love my job and I only work "part-time" (30 - 35 hours per week) so you might think that a vacation is unnecessary, but I beg to differ.

Today is Saturday, normally my favorite day to work since the usual customers tend to be local home owners who are doing projects around the house or gardening - it's a very social time int the hardware store.  Today was different in two respects:  it began unusually early (for reasons unrelated to work), and I had already put in for vacation for next week.  And so when business was slow after lunch I had no problem asking if I could leave work, and start my vacation, early.
And so it was that I got home earlier than usual today and started my "weekend routine" by doing the crossword puzzle out on the pool deck, with the Brat Pack in attendance.  The only difference is, I don't have to go back to work until a week from Tuesday because I'm on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, baby!  Here's Connie Francis to tell you what it's all about":

There will be beer and bourbon involved.  Beyond that, I am open to suggestions.  Any day the sun shines you will find me on the pool deck.  Do you have any suggestions for a better way for me to spend my V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N?

"What a difference a lay makes..."

I'm too much of a gentleman (i.e., "old fashioned")  to name names or go into details, but I've been humming the tune all day. You know the old standard that goes like this:

 "What a difference a day makes
There's a rainbow before me
Skies above can't be stormy
Since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss..."

Oh, wait - that says "What a difference a DAY makes".  Well that's still OK because it seems to me that a day that could make that kind of difference probably included a lay, too.  Well, I'll just let you listen to the song and judge for yourself.

Sure, she's singing "What a difference a day makes...", but you know there's more going on then just the passage of "twenty-four little hours".  That's what I'm talking about!  I suppose the song wouldn't have gotten much air play it the title had been "What a Difference a Lay Makes" - but I'm pretty sure that's the real sentiment Dinah is expressing, and all I can say is AMEN!

So, what a difference a lay makes, what a difference a day makes, whatever - today was a really good day!  Here's hoping for many more good days to come! (I'm pretty sure there's a pun in there somewhere, but I'm too tired to look for it).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

From today's newspapers (Saturday, July 21)

Headline in Portland (Maine) Press Herald (page 1): "Colorado shootings claim 12, wound 58". Synopsis of story:  "Shortly after midnight Friday, a gunman wearing a gas mask and black SWAT gear set off a gas canister and then opened fire inside a crowded theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and wounding nearly 60 others, authorities said."

Letter to the Editor of the Portland Press Herald:  "After shooting, NRA rushes to solicit gun right supports- At 10:27 a,m. Friday, the National Rifle Association telephoned me, soliciting protection of gun rights in the light of the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo., earlier that morning.
  "Less than 12 hours after the gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater, the NRA is out there to tell me the only right is to protect guns.
  "Many of those who received these macabre phone calls must be appalled. I certainly am.
(signed) The Rev. Dr. James M. Young, retired United Methodist pastor, Portland)"

Commentary:  This should tell you all you need to know about the NRA and their priorities.  When the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" come up against "Second Amendment" rights, you never have to wonder which side of the argument the NRA will come down on, swiftly, even ruthlessly. 

New York Times Crossword Puzzle, clue for 45 down:  "What a gun may be fired at?"  Answer: "Random".  Comments on this clue on the blog "Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle" ranged from this:
"r.alphbunker said...
There are plenty of ways to clue RANDOM without drawing attention to the violence that is plaguing the world today. "; to this:
"Bloggerevil doug said...
Yes, there was a horrible random shooting incident yesterday. Every term in a puzzle can cause someone personal pain or otherwise link to a bad mental place. They're just words in a crossword, so leave your sadness on Page 1 and forget about it when you arrive at the grid."; to this:
"AnonymousPete said...
Is there any way that cluing RANDOM with a reference to gun shots isn't totally tone deaf? None that I can imagine. Anyone know someone who's cancer has been cured by random gun shots? Has any good ever come from random gun shots? Certainly plenty of evil has. Even absent yesterday's horror, there's no way it should have been in there."; to this:
"Anonymousr.alphbunker said...
My guess is why 45D was clued as {What a gun may be fired at?} was because of the misdirection potential. A plausible answer would be TARGET. So from a purely crossword puzzle point of view it was a good clue.": to this:
"BloggerZ said...
Guns aren't often shot at random, although bullets often stop at random, so that clue is off. And with nearly 63,000 people dying from bullets last year, being bothered by 12 more seems, well, disingenuous. That Colorado, the state that experienced the Columbine tragedy, bans the registration of guns is... well I'm speechless."; and then to this:
"Bloggerjazzmanchgo said...
"Gratuitous reference to violence"? Wow . . .
. . . no, it's simply a well-worded crossword clue, written for folks who don't impose standards of ideological/emotional correctness on what's supposed to be an exercise in imaginative wordplay. . ."; to all of which I added this:
"Dirigonzo said...
I'm saving my comments on 45d for my own blog so as not to offend any sensibilities here."

So here is my commentary on the inclusion of that particular clue:  "random" shootings happen in the U.S. with alarming regularity; there are many contributing factors to the problem, including the relentless lobbying by the NRA (see above).  But it does seem to me that given the  myriad ways to suggest the term, the reference to firearms is unfortunate, even without the proximity to an horrific shooting reported on the same day as the puzzle appeared.  Surely the puzzle's constructor or it's editor, Will Shortz, could come up with a less macabre way to clue the word "random".

But really, can't we do something about the NRA?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


(*Anybody But A Republican)

I opined here a while ago that the best thing that could happen for Maine would be for our lunatic governor, Paul LePage, to render himself irrelevant to the political process by sticking to his wacko Tea-Party principals (or is it "principles"? I'm never sure.) so the legislature could go about the business of passing necessary legislation without his participation or approval.  Well, the Governor has upheld his end of the bargain admirably, but the legislature has failed miserably.

To their credit, the legislature passed many bills intended to advance the interests of the citizens of Maine; many were passed with bipartisan support and by margins that were well in excess of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a gubernatorial veto.  And of course the vetos were forthcoming, because Governor LePage doesn't give a whit about the interests of the citizens of Maine (except the ones he likes).

But here's the thing:  when push (the veto) came to shove (the override vote), the republican members of the legislature caved - they put their party loyalty ahead of their loyalty to the interests of Maine's citizens, including its neediest ones.  Legislators who voted for the legislation when they were for it decided they were really against it when it came time to override "their" governor - party loyalty, and all that.

So this fall I will be voting ABAR - Democrat, Green Party, hell even Socialist Party, I'm voting for them.  LePage gets 38% of the popular vote and Republicans don't dare to vote to override his veto of bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support?  Give me a freakin' break!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jump on "The Night Train Show" with me

Every Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3:00 (Eastern Time) Bill Audette fires up The Night Train Show on WMPG Radio (90.9 FM/WMPG.org) to recreate the sound and feel of old-time rock and roll as it was played on AM radio stations across the country.  It's 90 minutes of pure nostalgia as The Night Train travels through time to the period of my formative years in the '50s, 60's and beyond (some might argue that I am still in my formative years, but I view that as a compliment as I hope I never grow "old").

Unfortunately for me, TNTS airs at a time when my work schedule makes it difficult to listen so I usually don't even try to tune the show in. Fortunately for me, and for everyone who has an interest in listening to Bill play the music and tell the history of rock and roll, Bill puts the show up on his website, www.Billsnighttrain.com, so anyone can listen to it at anytime that it's convenient.

I've started a Sunday tradition at my house:  I make a pot of coffee, bring the Sunday paper in, and fire up my media player to listen to Bill play his music and patter his chatter while I relax and take it all in. I always request a song or two by going to his website earlier in the week, and he always plays them - he even mentions the silly comments I often add about the memories that the music brings back to me.  I get a kick of hearing a shout-out on the radio, even if I'm listening to it all by myself a day later.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to climb on board The Night Train Show with me - you can get on wherever you are and whenever you want as the TNTS stops anywhere, anytime to pick up listeners for the ride.  And if you make a request before you get on board I'll bet you'll get a shout-out from Bill, too.  So whether you are in Saco, Maine, listening on the radio, or in Syracuse, Seattle or Singapore listening at www.wmpg.org or by downloading the show from the TNTS audio files, let's ride - we have some rock and roll to listen to!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Peggy Lee recorded this song in 1958, the year I turned 12.  It turned me on then, and it still turns me on now - take a listen and I think you'll understand what I am talking about.

"Chicks were born to give you fever...but what a lovely way to burn".   I've been burned a few times but I keep going back for more.  Watching this video makes me understand why. "Fever if you live and learn, fever 'til you sizzle, what a lovely way to burn".

It's been a long time since I was twelve years old but damn, that song still gets to me!  And I think that photo of Peggy Lee, who is now well into her 70s now, is really hot!  That must mean I'm not getting older, I'm getting sexier, right?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

ACME Fan Club (Reinstated))

Andrea Carla Michaels is once again commenting on Rex Parker's blog on the NY Times crossword puzzle (oh, happy day!) and while it will be a while before her comments appear in the syndicated section, where I usually hang out, I want to celebrate her return with a post here. 

ACME, as she is affectionately known, is not without her detractors.  The most notorious among them, Evil Doug, seems to be withholding his fire but others seem compelled to launch missiles at her because of her indomitable cheery outlook on life and the NYT crossword puzzle.

I was prepared to provide a vigorous defence on her behalf but Andrea proved herself to be more than up to the task.  This is what she wrote in reply to the comments that were critical of her posts:

"I stand by everything i say, including my apologies!

I no more want jfc to be censored than I would want to be...
He shows himself daily for who he is, as, I hope, do I.

I do, however, want to offer my sincere apologies to the sweet folks who feel they have to waste their valuable, insightful, witty posts defending me against cranky acmehaters who seem to feel they are intimate enough with me to know what's in my heart and where I am in my menstrual cycle!"

I'm glad Andrea is back and I'm glad to see her sticking up for herself in the face of negative comments by folks who clearly have a chip on their shoulder.  Brava, Andrea, brava!

So the ACME Fan Club (members - 1) is open for business.  New members are welcome (membership is free) and comments from interested readers are encouraged.  But really, who can not love a woman like Andrea Carla Michaels (Eisenburg).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fireworks on the Fourth of July!

It's Independence Day and of course every traditional celebration includes fireworks.  In Maine the use of fireworks by private citizens is legal for the first time ever and I know lots of folks who have purchased massive stockpiles of pyrotechnics to put on their own display - I hope they are all careful and observe proper safety precautions, but knowing some of them as I do and understanding that beer will be involved I'm a little concerned for the safety of all involved.  We'll have to see how it all works out. I should point out that there have already been injuries and fires attributed to fireworks even before the holiday celebrations began, so I am not optimistic about an accident free holiday.

I'm sure the private displays will be fun but even the most elaborate of them will pale in comparison to the public displays planned for southern Maine.  The city of Portland has been promoting it's activities as "Maine's Biggest July 4th Celebration" featuring "The BIGGEST Fireworks Show In Maine..."  I've attended the Portland display in the past and I have to say they are always impressive, so if this year's is bigger and better than ever it should be something to behold indeed.

My hometown of Freeport also traditionally hosts a fireworks display on July 4, and while not a big and elaborate as Portland's it's still a respectable effort and it's always fun to see all the local folks who have gathered downtown to attend the free concert that LL Bean traditionally hosts and watch the fireworks. But there will be no fireworks in Freeport tonight.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of LL Bean and they are celebrating with a Hometown Celebration that lasts from July 4 until July 7.  The celebration includes a road race, a parade, free concerts, outdoor activities, Maine authors, a farmers' market and much more, and culminates on Saturday night with what has been billed as the largest fireworks display ever presented in Maine.  To quote their ad, "A celebration this special only happens once every 100 years".  [Editorial comment:  I think Independence Day is a much bigger deal than LL Bean's 100th anniversary and should be celebrated for it's own sake on July 4th.  Incorporating it into a crass commercial self-promotion is indicative of what's wrong with our nation today - corporations count for more than people, or even the nation itself! But, hey, they're paying for it so let them have their way.]

But here's my real point in writing this:  as spectacular as either of both of these displays may be, they can't even begin to compare with the fireworks display that Mother Nature can put on  when severe thunderstorms are in the area, as they are right now.  The Portland display is scheduled to start in an hour but I think I can safely say they ain't going to happen - not tonight, anyway.  The lightening flashes and accompanying thunder are creating a display that's more impressive than any pyrotechnics company can produce, so I am content to just sit inside and watch nature's fury from the comfort and relative safety of my home.

Maybe the weather will be more cooperative on Saturday when LL Bean is scheduled to touch off it's "Spectacular Fireworks Display" or maybe it won't.  But there is one thing of which I am certain:  when it comes to fireworks displays, Mother Nature's will be better than man's best effort every time.  Not even LL Bean can fool with Mother Nature.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"The sand is full of many heads"

That was the phrase that an off-blog acquaitance and sometimes visitor to this space used to describe those who deny the impact of human activity on global warming.

I love the passive wording of the description because it shifts the focus from the ignorance of the deniers to the cumulative result of their ignorance - "The sand is full of many heads" paints a vivid picture of those who choose to ignore the plain facts of reality without denigrating or condemning those who subscribe to this view.  It's diplomatic but still accurate - this can be a difficult balance to achieve.

I would have just said, "they have their heads up their collective ass".  But I have never been very diplomatic.

"The sand is full of many heads" applies to any number of situations where one side of an argument chooses to ignore the facts or chooses to have thier own reality - I plan on using it often and I have permission to do so.  But I'll still be thinking, "they have their head up their ass".