Monthly Archives: February 2010

Two dozen running, and the first big test is ahead | Bangor Daily News

Two dozen running, and the first big test is ahead – Bangor Daily News.

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Super Bowl of oil-spill drills coming here | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Super Bowl of oil-spill drills coming here | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Power restoration efforts continue; nearly 70,000 still out | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Power restoration efforts continue; nearly 70,000 still out | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Sometimes you just have to whack it

This is not adult  entertainment, so get you heads out of the gutter. This isn’t about whacking that “it.”

Readers – from Maine to California and back again – know I’ve been out of work for the past year. So, cable and satellite TV both have been well out of reach financially.

And, frankly, the cost of both even before I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a newspaper job after 22 years of experience in the industry kept me from paying for either just on principle alone. The cost was and is unreasonable.

So I went with a digital TV converter and rabbit ears antenna. Rabbit ears were good enough for generations of TV-watchers, it was good enough – sort of – for me. It was not nearly acceptable for someone who loves to watch sports, movies and the assorted nature programming, but I had to make due.

When “broadcast” TV went digital, I requested and received a government coupon and then purchased an APEX DT250A TV Converter.

As such electronics go, it was inexpensive and cheaply made. Cheaply. And when I use “cheaply,” I mean the box the size of a hardcover book was a truckload of yak dung.

It worked well enough – as long as the rabbit ears were just so – for a couple months.

But Thursday night the box failed right in the middle of the “NCIS” rerun I was watching. Know this: No one comes between me and “NCIS,” not even NCIS Special Agent Jethro Leroy Gibbs. OK, maybe Gibbs might do it, especially after one of his trademark slaps to the back of the cranium, but you get the point.

But on Thursday evening the TV screen went snowy. Not just a flurry, but a storm the likes of those that have hit the East Coast this winter.

I did not have a remote in my hand – no, really, I didn’t have a remote in my hands – so I figured I had not mistakenly hit a button that might have caused the snowstorm. I checked the cable connections, the antenna connection, the power source, and then rechecked them twice. I was resigned to give up for the evening – it was late enough that going to sleep was a better option than obsessing over it any longer.

The next morning I took off early enough that I did not watch TV. I was off to the Empresso coffeehouse on Pacific Avenue in Stockton to continue the job search and blogging efforts. I have two versions of “Letters From Away,” one on WordPress and one on Blogger, and another about what I see at various coffeehouses I patronize, especially Empresso and Exotic Java, that I named “Coffeehouse Observer.”

After going through job and news websites, blogging a bit, and getting a few other online tasks done, I returned to the apartment in the early evening. I was in the middle of some mundane tasks – as if watching TV isn’t mundane enough – when I remembered that I would not be able to unwind watching TV.

I also remembered that there was one thing that I had not done the previous evening – whack it.

I turned on the TV and the APEX box, picked up the box, and gave it a couple of good whacks.

It worked.

I am watching an episode of “Criminal Minds” on the ION network as I’m writing this blog.

There you have it. Sometimes it simply pays to whack it.

Comfort food helps ease the sting of rejection

I’m feeling a little piled on lately when it comes to rejection. I batted 1.000 at the end of this week – a rejection notice each on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

I’m not sure if it would have been any better if they had all arrived on the same day or if they had come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or if one of the notices had arrived today, Saturday.

I might have taken it hard – at least, harder than I am anyway – if I had not already moved all three of those jobs into my “REJECTION” folder on my laptop. I give jobs – or, rather, the agencies, organizations or businesses posting a job opening – about one month or so after applying for the job before pretty much giving up on that job. If I don’t hear back from them, I then move the job from “PENDING” to “REJECTION.” It had been a month or longer for all three without hearing anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Note to human resources officials: Let job seekers know if you receive applications and resume packets, and give them a reasonable timeframe in which the hiring process will be carried out. That is especially true when the economy and jobs outlook is so tenuous, as it is now. It borders on cruel and unusual behavior to not contact people who are so very desperate.

I know, I know, I know, some openings draw many applicants. One of the rejection notices I received this week noted that the agency had received about 400 resumes for one opening. But some online or email application processes include an automatic reply that applications or resumes have been received. Including a mention in the email of a hiring process timeframe seems a reasonable request.

To be fair to the three organizations that rejected me last week, others did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of applications and resume packets. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Listen, we jobseekers knows that you receive hundreds of applications and resume packets – we know, because we are the ones sending out hundreds of resume packets. We’re not asking for false hope, we’re just asking to be given word within a reasonable time whether we can expect to hear about our chances.

Note to human resources officials: I know there must be a reason – low-balling applicants seems the only reason, but there may be real reasons – for not including the salary range on job notices. But including such information helps a jobseeker sort through the openings he or she plans to apply for, thus eliminating for some potential employers a bit of the flood of applications and resumes for certain jobs.

Jobseekers’ time is valuable, too. It is incredibly demoralizing to go through the process of writing a cover letter, individualizing resumes and arranging references for a job opening only to find out midway or later in the process that the salary range cannot support a jobseekers’ cost of living.

I’m not talking extras, just the cost of living. In the past year I have applied for several jobs for which I later learned the accompanying salary would not or would barely cover just basic expenses, let alone health insurance or investment in retirement accounts.

OK, enough of the mini-rant on the job search. I remain optimistic that I will find a job, but not as optimistic as I once was. I am concerned before I find a job I will be forced into to find training for a career change. Which might not be a bad thing.

Oh, how did I handle the rejection? I made myself a very nice, hearty meal that turned around my attitude so I felt considerably – quite considerably – less rejected.

Here’s a tip, if you’re feeling a touch low, sauté some turkey sausage and onions and throw in some legumes, rice, spinach, carrots, garlic and chicken broth. Let it simmer so the aroma fills the home and then serve yourself a large bowl. Top with croutons and Asiago and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Comfort food is there to comfort, so let it do its work.

Coffeehouse observation No. 66

It’s raining outside the coffeehouse and I’m on foot. It looks like a walk in the rain … whether I want to walk in the rain or not. 😦  It is good that I am fortified with caffeine.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Coffeehouse observation No. 65

I’m not sure what is worse, the woman who was sitting nearby earlier and clearing her throat every 15 to 30 seconds (Take a drink of water or something, for crying out loud!), the guy who has the every-other-word phone plan who replaced her (Dude, really? How many times to you have to say “Hello? … Hello?” to figure out your phone dropped the call?), or the loud, obnoxious woman who is starting to move tables around the coffeehouse. And she doesn’t even work here (She is just plain too loud and her being here may cause me to leave for the day).

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Acadia Park slows down marine proposal | Bangor Daily News

Acadia Park slows down marine proposal – Bangor Daily News.

Coffeehouse observation No. 64

There is a rather thin woman – I’m guessing she’s a college student – sitting at a nearby table. She very probably does not weigh 100 pounds. But her voice has a certain raspy quality that makes her sound much larger and older and a career smoker. She has on a hat similar to a Greek fisherman’s cap and ass-kickin’ boots. Oh, and a dark top and blue jeans, but the hat and boots very much go with the voice.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Study cites Maine’s progress on income, insurance coverage | Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA, Maine – The state needs more college-educated workers, lower energy and health care costs, and more investment in research and development, according to a report to lawmakers.

The Maine Economic Growth Council, a 19-member panel with business, labor, education and legislative representatives, released its 2010 Measures of Growth report to legislative leaders released Thursday.

The report examines the state’s progress on 24 indicators, awarding gold stars for progress and red flags for areas that need attention. It’s designed to help lawmakers and the governor’s office consider long-term implications as they make decisions on legislation, said Laurie Lachance, president of the Maine Development Foundation.

“No single indicator tells the whole story of Maine,” she said. “This report looks at long-term, more structural issues. It’s not meant to be a judgment of what’s happening today.”

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Susan Cover in the Kennebec Journal.

Yes on 1 funder loses bid | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

Yes on 1 funder loses bid | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

Two snowmobilers go through open water on Moosehead Lake | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

Two snowmobilers go through open water on Moosehead Lake | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

The Maine Warden Service offers these tips for ice safety:

• Never guess the thickness of the ice. Check it in several different places by making a test hole, starting at the shore and continuing
as you go out.

• Check the ice with a partner. If alone, wear a lifejacket.

 • If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots.

Students collecting 1 million vitamins for Haiti | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Students collecting 1 million vitamins for Haiti | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Wind-whipped storm wreaks havoc in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Wind-whipped storm wreaks havoc in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Crews working to restore power throughout Maine | Kennebec Journal

Maine tussles with mix of wind, rain and snow | Bangor Daily News

From the Bangor Daily News, Mainers are reminded to:

• Monitor weather forecasts closely for expected conditions in your area.

• Stay clear of flooded roadways. Respect all barricades, and report flooded areas to local officials.

• Use extreme care driving in wintry conditions. Stay off the roads if possible.

• If power goes out, use generators and alternate heat sources safely. Never run a generator in a basement or attached garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning may result.

• Continue to keep roofs clear of snow. Snowfall may be heavy and wet. Make sure heating system vents are clear to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up in the home.

• Protect outside oil tanks from snow and ice falling from the roof. Serious oil spills can result.

• Check on neighbors, family and friends who may need special assistance to clear snow and to weather the storm.

Sea Hunter awaits OK to dock in Haiti | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Sea Hunter awaits OK to dock in Haiti | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Wind ban wrong | Bangor Daily News

Wind Ban Wrong – Bangor Daily News.

Local missionaries heading to Haiti to help children

PERU, Maine – Marilee Colpitts and Jamie Dennett had planned a missionary trip to Haiti long before the devastating earthquake on that island nation in January.

Their trip now will include their original goals, as well as helping some of the many children who have fled the capital of Port-au-Prince for Terrier Rouge, a city in the northwestern section of the country.

“We want to bring money for food and other things for the people who are fleeing Port-au-Prince,” said Dennett, who is making her fourth trip to Haiti. “Here, in this country, people go to the state. There, they go to the pastors.”

She and Colpitts, who is making her second trip, are among 14 people, mostly from Maine, who are representing His Hands for Haiti, a nonprofit Christian group based in New Vineyard that finds sponsors for some of the thousands of children who do not have enough food or cannot go to school.

Click on the link to the rest of today’s story by Eileen M. Adams of the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Hannibal Hamlin in Paris … South Paris, that is

I went to the University of Southern Maine with a guy named Dean Lachance. That has nothing to do with the DownEast.com trivia question today, except that he came from South Paris. Or, at least he came from one of the towns with Paris in the name.

Either way, it did not help me in answering the trivia question. Here it is:

Who is South Paris famous for?

Answer:

The western Maine town was the birthplace and early residence of the Honorable Hannibal Hamlin, governor of Maine, United States senator, and vice president under Abraham Lincoln.

Mainers protest Anthem rate hike| Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — From Presque Isle, Deer Isle, Camden and Mapleton, Mainers traveled to Bangor Wednesday afternoon to protest the latest health insurance cost increase requested by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine.

“The hogs have come to the trough to feed again at the expense of those who use the coverage the least,” said lobsterman Leroy Bridges of Deer Isle, who purchases individual coverage for himself and his wife, with a $15,000 annual deductible each. “If they’re allowed a rate increase even close to what they’re asking, we’ll have to let it go; we got no choice.”

Bridges did not say how much his high-deductible coverage costs, but others at the meeting said similar policies cost close to $500 a month.

Anthem says the 23 percent average increase in the cost of its HealthChoice and Lumenos plans — for people who purchase health coverage individually instead of through an employer or other group — is needed to offset the growing cost and use of health care services and the unique challenges of the insurance market in Maine.

About 11,000 Anthem policyholders would be affected by the increase, which would take effect July 1 if approved.

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Meg Haskell in the Bangor Daily News.

Blooming on the horizon?: Early signs point to an algae threat that could rival the ’05 season | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Blooming on the horizon? | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.