Daily Archives: February 18, 2010

No wonder I’m miserable!

According to a Forbes.com story, the city in which I live is No. 2 on the list of America’s Most Miserable Cities. That may seem like quite a terrible distinction, but Stockton, Calif., was in the No. 1 spot last year, so this is an improvement … I suppose.

And nearby cities of Modesto and Sacramento are on the top-20 list, too.

If it wasn’t winter, I might be on my way to New England to find something a little less, well, miserable. (No New England city made the list. New York and a slew of Midwestern cities were on the list along with Stockton, Modesto and Sacramento.)

The economy, crime and other factors were used to determine the misery of the cities.

Here’s a link to the Forbes story, but be warned that the slideshow is sluggish. Oh, and a warning about the information: The photo used in the slideshow to represent Stockton is a photo of a murder suspect from a different city, not Stockton. At least, that is the photo as of this afternoon. They may change it later, but certainly they should have used a much better photo.

And there is a video about what Stockton is doing to get off the list completely.

Amend constitution to fund Maine’s DIF&W?

Below I’ve linked to an interesting DownEast.com blog by George Smith of Mount Vernon on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and its funding.

Currently, fees from fishermen and hunters alone fund the department that takes on a very broad set of responsibilities. The agency also provides services to Mainers who do not fish or hunt.

A coalition including the Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine is suggesting that the Maine Constitution be amended “by dedicating 1/8th percent of the sales tax receipts to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”

Frankly, I’m unclear if that means an increase in the sales tax or merely a realignment of how the sales tax revenue is spent. I’m guessing it probably means an increase. But it might be worth it given the broad responsibilities the agency takes on and the fact that some Mainers receiving a benefit are not paying for DIF&W services.

By the way, according to DownEast.com, Smith is “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.” He also works for one of the three groups offering the idea to change the constitution, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Here’s a link to George’s Outdoor News blog.

Suspicious minds lead to stolen Elvis items – Bangor Daily News

Suspicious minds lead to stolen Elvis items – Bangor Daily News.

Stimulus dollars headed to Eastport, Searsport – Bangor Daily News

Stimulus dollars headed to Eastport, Searsport – Bangor Daily News.

National report: Franklin County healthiest in Maine

Local public health advocacy credited;

neighboring Oxford County ranks last

A new national report compares county-level health factors in every state and identifies public health assets and liabilities in each of Maine’s 16 counties.

The report, released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranks rural Franklin County as the healthiest in Maine, with the lowest rates of premature death, poor mental and physical health, and babies born at a low birth weight. Neighboring Oxford County is ranked the least healthy.

Hancock County ranks second-healthiest in Maine while abutting Washington County, identified in a similar 2007 report as one of the least healthy counties in the United States, ranks second from the bottom.

“There are no surprises in this report,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Each county in Maine, she said, faces public health challenges as well as boasting strengths and successes.

“Improving economic and educational attainment are very important public health strategies,” Mills said, but Maine’s experience shows that public health is influenced by a number of variables.

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

Updated info:

Here’s a link to the website where you can check out the rankings in more details. Just click on “Find Health Rankings” to the right on the orange navigation bar and input the county or state to get more detailed information. Here’s the link to the County Health Rankings.

After century of business, former Stinson seafood plant closing – Bangor Daily News

After century of business, former Stinson seafood plant closing – Bangor Daily News.

This Maine native just can’t get into the Winter Games

I really should love the Winter Olympics. After all, I grew up in snowy, wintery Maine where winter sports lasted longer in the year than summer sports. Remember, three seasons there – winter, mud and July.

But not so much.

I couldn’t even get into it after a Maine kid, Seth Wescott, defended his Olympic gold medal by winning the cross-snowboarding competition. I still couldn’t get into it after Hannah Kearney, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Shannon Bahrke, Apolo Anton Ohno, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, Shaun White, Bode Miller, and more all picked up medals.

And I really don’t care about the medal count. The Cold War is over. There doesn’t seem much point in waging a Gold War.

As a kid I did frolic in the snow. I did a fair amount of tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. I even ice skated for a while as a child, but I grew tired of falling on my bum. More than once while skating at the rink near the artisan well at the south end of Portage Lake did my feet come out from under me, landing me quite squarely on my tail bone. OK, “tail bone” is not the medical name for that remnant of an ancient tail, but you know exactly what I mean. And I mostly enjoyed the tobogganing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and, yes, even the ice skating.

There is no feeling of peace and aloneness quite like the one experienced after skiing or snowshoeing into the forest miles from civilization to stand and hear the bitterly cold wind blow through the tops of tall conifers and white birches. There you hear the heavy plop, plop, plop sound of snow being dislodged from branches and falling to the snow-covered ground below. It is so peaceful, so alone and so “quiet” by city standards that even the creatures of childhood stories, stories of boogeymen and headless woodsmen, come back to life just a tiny bit.

It was a time that I truly enjoyed the Winter Olympics. I remember rather vividly watching TV coverage of the Miracle On Ice. I recall watching the bobsled competition, the ski jumping and other winter sports, but nothing really took hold for me.

I remember in junior high school participating in winter carnival events – snowshoeing, speed skating, tobogganing – but no winter sport really took hold for me.

In the winter, I played high school basketball for the junior varsity and later varsity teams, and on the weekends I snowmobiled on or around Portage Lake or cross-country ski on some of the snowmobile trails in the forest behind my home on the hill overlooking the lake.

But nothing takes hold for me during these Winter Games in Vancouver. Granted, I watched in envy and awe at the women’s mogul competition in which two Americans and a Canadian stood to receive medals. And I watched a bit of the luge competition. The death of the competitor earlier in the week made it a morbid necessity, I suppose. And I watched a bit of Ohno racing and Vonn rocketing

I was born in Maine about as far north as you can go in this country, to be truthful, but I was born at about the summer solstice. I blame timing and the summer solstice, then, for not being a more enthusiastic cross-country skier or luger or hockey player.

As a child, I loved late spring and summer, running through the fields of wildflowers and mustard plants and into the forest, many times following the trails that had been cut for snowmobiles. All summer long I would play baseball, soccer, golf and rode a bicycle. And when I was not doing that, I was paddling a canoe, sailing a small sailboat or swimming in the cool Portage Lake. All the while, longing for the summer to last just one more day, one more week, one more month.

It doesn’t make me un-American to not care about the Winter Olympics. That might be akin to calling someone un-American for not liking baseball and failing to watch the World Series or someone not liking American football and not watching the Super Bowl.

Maybe next time I will strive to overcome my summer solstice-induced apathy toward winter sports and watch the coverage. Maybe.