Monthly Archives: June 2011

Maine has highest state rate of casualties in Afghanistan | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine has highest state rate of casualties in Afghanistan | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Coffeehouse observation No. 316 – Sweatpants as a fashion statement

Sweatpants are sweatpants, even if they have pockets and you wear them with a nice shirt. … I’m just sayin’. … I suppose I should mention that to the guy who just walked into the coffeehouse, but I’m not sure he would change his wardrobe or sense of fashion style.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Seasoned writer, editor seeking freelance gigs

Hello world! I’m in between gigs so I am available for freelance writing/editing jobs. Please keep me in mind should you need help with writing/editing projects of any size.

And don’t forget, I can telecommute across the World Wide Web, so projects do not have to be limited Northern California.


Keith Michaud

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Keep your eyes to the ground

I re-learned a lesson over the weekend – when hiking in Northern California in warmer weather, it’s always good to keep your eyes to the ground around you.

I was hiking with a friend in Lagoon Valley Regional Park south of Vacaville just off Interstate 80 and we had climbed the hill overlooking the park and the freeway. We followed a trail on the ridge to a marker there remembering early settlers of the area.

We had just moved beyond the marker and were on the ridge trail as I gazed at a vulture gliding on the warm air above the park. As I turned to resume the hike, I glanced down and very nearly stepped on a fairly young rattlesnake – just four or five rattles and perhaps 16 inches long. They say the venom from younger snakes is more potent than that of older snakes, but I had no intension of finding out.

I just barely kept from stepping forward – and onto the snake – and was able to step back to give it a bit more room. It glided across the trail and into the tall grass on the other side.

It was the first time my friend had seen a rattlesnake in the wild and it startled her a bit. And the last time I had seen one in the wild was while firefighting during my college years; it was a threat to my crew and the snake was dispatched with the sharpened end of a shovel.

We continued the hike, warning another group of hikers that we had seen a rattlesnake and that they should keep a sharp eye out. Well, we warned them and then let them walk on the trial in front of us. … Hey, we warned ’em.

Lagoon Valley Regional Park is a lovely multi-use green area between Vacaville and Fairfield along Interstate 80. There is hiking, running, biking, picnicking, birding, archery, model aircrafts, fishing and more. It is not far from the Pena Adobe, the restored home of one of the founding settlers.

And the rattlesnake was not the only bit of wildlife we spotted along the rest of the hike – birds, horses, turtles and a beaver. Actually, the beaver had succumbed to some illness or attacker so wildlife is not exactly accurate.

But it was a very lovely day, despite the startling encounter with the rattlesnake. And a lesson learned. Again.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Not a miner, but a 49er

Oh, boy! Today is my birthday! I am 49. That’s the batter’s circle to 50!


Oh, birthdays don’t bother me too much. I’ve got other things that take up my concerns, such as unemployment. I’m much more concerned about finding a job and getting back to work than I am about turning 49.

And a birthday this close to 50 is just a reminder how fast employers wrongly believe I’m unemployable, so dwelling on a birthday is just a waste of time for me. Although, having a birthday on the longest day of the year and Summer Solstice is pretty cool, and I do love summer.

But today will be just like nearly every other day since March 5, 2009, the day I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business – I’ll be looking for work and trying to build a network that might lead to work. It’s not much, but at my age, what would you expect.

That “at my age” was a joke, by the way. I have plenty of energy and strength and stamina to do good work and be very productive. I just need a chance.

Temperatures are supposed to reach 100 or more today so I’ll be ordering iced tea rather than hot coffee. I’ll use the coffeehouse WiFi to search job websites, gather information for the job search, perhaps pay some bills and do a few other things online.

Later, I’ll be meeting a friend for an evening of DVDs. Other than that, there really isn’t much planned for my birthday.

And that’s the way I like it.

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Ocean energy conference asks: Why not Maine? | Portland Press Herald

Ocean energy conference asks: Why not Maine?

Some place will be the home base

of a new energy industry, it could be Maine

Ken Fletcher, the director of Maine’s state energy office, got a chance last week to back away from some earlier statements about the future of offshore wind power.

Fletcher had been quoted expressing skepticism about the LePage administration’s interest in a power source that would be more expensive than the above-average prices Mainers pay already. But Fletcher was reacting to a price target from a demonstration project, not the full-scale offshore wind farm that would be built only if the demonstration were a success. That development is projected to produce competitively priced power by the end of the decade.

Such a negative message coming from the governor’s top energy adviser, on the eve of a national ocean energy conference in Portland, could have been disruptive to an industry that is on the verge of viability after a long period of slow incubation.

Fortunately, Fletcher attended the conference, took part in a panel discussion and moderated his earlier comments. He also made a good point that is worth repeating: It’s not just about the power that you buy.

“The real opportunity we see is though our R&D, manufacturing and assembly,” Fletcher said.

Click to read more of the editorial in the Portland Press Herald.

Environmental coalition praises, criticizes lawmakers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Environmental coalition praises, criticizes lawmakers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

LePage signs $6.1 billion two-year Maine budget | Bangor Daily News

LePage signs $6.1 billion two-year Maine budget | Bangor Daily News

Coffeehouse observation No. 315 – This guy is trying too hard

OK, a beret and long hair tied in a ponytail? Really? This bozo is really trying too hard to fit in at the coffeehouse.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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LePage’s ‘Open for Business’ sign disappears from I-95 |Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — In perhaps a sign of the times, the “Open for Business” highway sign that symbolized the LePage administration’s pro-business agenda may have become a casualty of Maine’s increasingly caustic political atmosphere.

The blue highway sign that Gov. Paul LePage ceremonially placed on Interstate 95in Kittery, just inside the Maine’s border, disappeared sometime during the past week. And the Maine Department of Transportation has no idea where it went.

“It has been removed and we did not remove it,” said Mark Latti, a DOT spokesman. “We alerted the governor’s office and reported it to the state police.”

The theft first was reported Wednesday by WCSH-6 in Portland. In fact, DOT staff were unaware of the sign’s disappearance until contacted by journalists from the television station inquiring whether the department had taken it down.

The oversized sign was presented to LePage on the night of his inauguration as a gift from supporters inspired by his campaign pledge to erect an “Open for Business” sign on I-95 if elected to the Blaine House. A group of supporters raised an estimated $1,300 to purchase the sign from a company that makes highway placards.

But the sign also has become a symbol for LePage’s critics of what they say is an administration intent on rolling back widely supported environmental and labor regulations.

Click for the rest of the story by Kevin Miller in the Bangor Daily News.

Coffeehouse observation No. 314 – Lunch doesn’t mean finger food or finger talk

It’s lunchtime and the guy at the next table at the coffeehouse is talking about how one of his employees had a finger amputated. … At lunch you’re taking about amputations?! And in way too much detail?! At lunch?! … Really?!

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Coffeehouse observation No. 313 – Some coffeehouse policies shine above others

“The first refill is free” is an outstanding policy at a coffeehouse. OUTSTANDING!

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Coffeehouse observation No. 312 – It’s worth a conversation about, well, conversations!

I’ve hit onto something, um, different. At Empresso, the coffeehouse I frequent most often in Stockton, I’m among the older patrons. But at my temporary coffeehouse, not so much.

Sure, there are a few who are older at Empresso, no doubt. But it’s pretty obvious to those who see me that I’m graying and balding on top and a bit broader than I once was in the middle.

I’m a middle-age guy. There! I’ve admitted it! Now everyone get off my back! And while you’re at it, off my lawn!

Whew! I better cut back on the caffeine. … Ya, sure, as if that’s gonna happen!

Anyway, I’m away from Stockton for a while and I had to find a temporary port of call to satisfy my caffeine cravings. Actually, I had to re-find this particular port of call.

Pure Grain Café has been around Vacaville for years, but it wasn’t until shortly before I left for Stockton that they opened a coffeehouse in historic downtown Vacaville – coffee, pastries, sandwiches, soup and salads. It is that now-familiar morph between straight coffeehouse and luncheon deli.

It’s a sunny and bright place. The Vacaville city seal is a sun shining down brightly on the golden rolling hills around and outside the city. Pure Grain Café’s interior is painted yellow to match the sun. And many of the patrons are in their sunny golden years.

That means I’m not so much “the old guy” anymore. A couple of times so far this week, I was among the youngest patrons in the coffeehouse!

It was great to sit there enjoying a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin, surfing the Web, and watching a few of Vacaville’s long-time residents. Like many coffeehouses, Pure Grain Café is a place where old friends wave and call out to each other and then plop down beside each other at a table to spend the next few hours talking. Just talking about this and that and the other thing. Talking about everything and simply nothing at all.

It is difficult in this electronic age where lives can change – fortunes forged, fortunes pissed away, careers made, careers decimated, friendships solidified, friendships destroyed, loves gained, loves lost – all in the click of a mouse or in the sending of a text. We seem to have lost the art of conversation. Sad. We miss so much by failing to carry out one of the most human of activities – conversation.

We all should take the time to have long, meandering conversations that seem to go nowhere and everywhere at the same time, conversations that solve the world’s problems, great and small, and conversations in which recipes for “the world’s best chili” or “the world’s best burger” are exchanged with impunity.

We should return to those conversations in which words spoken are as important as the words left unspoken. We should return to those conversations carried out under willow trees dancing in the wind, on boats with water slowly lapping against the hull, in hushed tones of conspiracy or love or both, and conversations accompanied by boisterous laughter.

Conversations should be lively, animated and meaningful. If not, why not just text the person.

I did not eavesdrop – at least, not much – but it was clear that the conversations among old friends going on at the tables in Pure Grain Café were lively, animated … and very meaningful. My table was the only one on which there was an electronic device. Those conversations – those meaningful conversations – required no email, instant messaging or texting. No electronics at all were used to carry out the actual conversations.

Don’t get me wrong! Electronics and the amazing Internet are vital to our world and they will be essential to bringing this country more economic stability. But personal conversations are just as vital.

Let’s talk about it, at least.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 311 – Hot, steamy coffee on a rainy day

The weather in California has been, well, to say the least, weird this year. It’s raining on the first day of June. By now we normally would have experienced a couple of 90-degree days, but I cannott recall even one so far.

It’s been gray, cloudy, rainy and windy today. It truly feels like fall or winter in Northern California.

It’s just the right weather for a hot, steamy cup of coffee enjoyed in an inviting coffeehouse. I’m sucking down the house blend at Pure Grain Café, my temporary coffeehouse headquarters for the week that I am in Vacaville cat-, house- and mansion-sitting. Nothing quite like a hot, steamy cup of coffee – or tea, in a pinch – to chase away the chill of foul weather.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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