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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The second package I received 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.

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.

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.

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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Coffeehouse observation No. 208 – National Coffee Day! National Coffee Day!

I’m having computer problems today or I most definitely would have mentioned that today is National Coffee Day! Viva, National Coffee day!

Here are a couple of links to National Coffee Day info. I’m guessing American laborers will never get a day off for National Coffee Day, but perhaps one day it will gain the status of, say, Groundhog Day.

National Coffee Day | Punchbowl

National Coffee Day: Facts you didn’t know about your cup of joe | ThirdAge

For National Coffee Day, Dunkin’ Donuts brews up its biggest coffee prize ever for the ‘Ultimate Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Fan Contest’ | PRNewswire

National Coffee Day | Facebook

10 coffee facts for National Coffee Day | IndyPosted

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Foliage Report for Sept. 22 | Maine.gov

Foliage Report for Sept. 22 | Maine.gov

Maine foilage map for Sept. 22.

Maine foilage map for Sept. 22.

Foliage Report for Sept. 22 | Maine.gov

Camping in Maine in the shadow of Mount Katahdin

Every so often I am reminded that I know some pretty talented people and some of them I’ve known a very long time.

Kelly McInnis was a high school classmate of mine at Ashland Community High School, MSAD No. 32. It was a consolidated high school with students coming from several different area communities. Portage Lake, where I grew up, was one of those communities.

Kelly, who still lives and works in The County, has a practiced eye when it comes to shooting photos. I seem to recall a photo of her from our high school yearbook, her red hair tied back and her wearing a baseball undershirt, the kind with the black three-quarter sleeves. In the photo, if I recall this correctly, she’s holding a 35-mm camera with which many of the other photos in the yearbook were shot.

But that was … holy, cow, about 30 years ago, so my memory may have faded a bit.

Anyway, Kelly shares here photos on Facebook and he graciously allows me to post them on “Letters From Away.”

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly was camping recently at Jo-Mary Lake Campground. The North Maine Woods Inc. at www.northmainewoods.org describes the amenities of the campground like this:

70 campsites along the shore of Jo-Mary Lake accommodate tents or camper trailers and most have a view of Mt. Katahdin. Boat launch, showers, flush toilets, dumping station, Laundromat, ice, fire wood and propane available. Sand beach provides excellent swimming. Five mile long Jo-Mary Lake provides fishing for landlocked salmon, brook trout, white perch and lake trout.

Sounds pretty plush for camping, but Kelly swears she roughed it by sleeping in a tent.

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The campground is within the KI Jo-Mary Multiple Use Forest within 5 miles of the Appalachian Trial, with Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine, just 50 miles to the north. I don’t recall ever going to this campground, but I would now if I had a chance. It appears to be a wonderful spot.

By the way, I believe Mount Katahdin is still considered the official northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, even though as a youth I heard Mars Hill was considered by some to be the end of the trail, as it were.

But earlier this summer I read a wire story about how a portion of the Appalachian Mountains actually may have been left behind on the European continent when the tectonic plates shifted.

Anyway, a couple of Kelly’s photos show Mount Katahdin in the background.

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly didn’t know what the piled rocks were in some of the photos. Perhaps they are the product of a bored pack of children? Perhaps something more natural and mystical, such as the work of local native people? Perhaps something more mysterious still, such as the work of aliens from another planet? I think I’ll just call them the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. I’m sure that will start showing up in search engines any day now.

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Another photo appears to be shot at the edge of a stream or other water source and shows the beginning of foliage changing. It has been a rather dry summer in Maine and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they normally would, as documented by Kelly’s photos and, well, my Mom. She said the same thing when I called her Sunday.

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is a whimsical shot of a dedicated Maine fisherman.

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

These photos were printed with Kelly’s permission.

Coffeehouse observation No. 185

I just spotted two middle-aged white guys fist bump on the patio of the coffeehouse and thought it, um, odd. Is there an age limit on fist bumping? One Facebook friend says that it’s all a matter of “coolness quotient” and she says I am cool enough to pull it off, even if I am 48. Another Facebook friend says 17 is the limit and another says I should find another place to hang out.  But too many pretty college girls come in and it would cut into things I can post here. Oh, the sacrifices I make.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 176

I’m sitting outside Exotic Java with a Red Eye – coffee with a double shot of espresso, not the medical condition – checking email, LinkedIn and Facebook, and enjoying the clear blue sky and gentle breeze. Except for the exhaust from the passing traffic, it’s not a bad place to be.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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What? Your job is to help people find jobs?!

Here’s a little irony for you … well, quite a bit of irony, actually.

I’ve been looking for work for the past 15 months. After 22 years in the newspaper business, I was laid off. Over the course of that 22 years I have been a reporter, columnist, copy editor, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor, website staff writer, and blogger. I’ve been trying to find work, usually via online job boards and websites, networking via friends, LinkedIn and Facebook, and by simply keeping my ear to the ground.

I’ve been pretty open about the experience. At least, with my family, friends, and those of you who have visited “Letters From Away.” I’ve written about the frustration of the job search and the various pitfalls that have occurred in the past 15 months.

But I wasn’t very open with the other tenants of my apartment building. I don’t know any of them very well and I felt uncomfortable opening up about that sort of thing. And apparently some of them have not caught onto my blog, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I was walking down to the basement garage on Saturday when a guy who lives in one of the downstairs apartments came out.

“So, where are you working now?”

“I’m not,” I replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, today makes 15 months since I was laid off,” I informed him. A mix of surprise and shock flashed over his face.

“Listen, I think I can help. …”

I’ve been living in the same apartment building since late 2006 and out of work since March 5, 2009, and I had no idea that my neighbor worked for a county agency that helps people get back to work. One of the programs for which I may be eligible is a six-month, 50 percent salary grant where an employer would be reimbursed for 50 percent of a worker’s salary for six months.

That does a couple of things, of course. It gets workers into jobs, it gives the employer a worker and a chance to see what the employee can do to prove himself or herself in a job and it gives a little time for the economy a little time to come around so that at the end of the six months the employee has a better chance to be held on permanently.

 I’m not exactly sure what else the neighbor or the agency can do to help me, but I have an appointment to talk with the guy tomorrow.

Coffeehouse observation No. 136

I didn’t overhear this at the coffeehouse, but spotted it in a Facebook chain: “My blood type this morning is coffee positive.” I love that!

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Essence of Maine in a Facebook post

Mitchell Montpetit,  who graduated high school with me – Ashland Community High School, Class of 1980 Go Hornets! – may have summed up Maine for this time of year. This is his Facebook post from yesterday.

 In a 4 hour period today I went from sunny and warm, to windy and rainy, then into a snow shower and ended it all by being bit by a mutant blackfly that only got mad when i smacked it, you’ve got to love Maine!

Actually, I do love Maine and for some of the very reasons in Mitch’s post.

Coffeehouse observation No. 99

OK, this really isn’t one of my coffeehouse observation, but his came to me via a former co-worker and Facebook connection who happened to be in the same coffeehouse that I frequent. The guy he is commenting on is a bit, um, unusual. He frequently talks to himself, paces quite a bit – as the observation notes – and he does create some rather detailed pieces with ink on the reverse side of paper grocery bags. Trust me, we are not making fun of his challenges; however, one day I did witness him have an argument with himself … and lose.

“The schizo guy at this cafe is going to make it impossible for me to work here. He’s walking back and forth in front of me and by me, slowly and pointedly, waiting for me to look so he can shove another of his insane scrolls at me. …

“The scrolls are pseudo-magic spells or ancient writing, just gibberish with the occasional bit of legible profanity or some D&D word, like DARKAXE, then every once in awhile, a racial slur. All written on the inside of a paper grocery bag, cut and reassembled to resemble parchment.”

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Learning a few things about being unemployed

First – and probably always – do as I say, not as I do.

My parents used that – “do as I say, not as I do” – on my sister and me while we were growing up in Maine. We didn’t always get the context, but we got the idea.

And I use it now because I’ve learned a few things in the past nearly year that I’ve been unemployed, some of the lessons have come from failures rather than successes.

I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a job in the newspaper industry. I had been in the industry working as a staff writer, copyeditor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant metro editor, and as a staff writer for a newspaper website. I have some pretty varied skills and broad experiences.

Unfortunately, while I was working and achieving results for various small- to medium-sized newspapers in Northern California, I was centered on those tasks and results and not looking far enough ahead in updating skills for the future. I’m paying for that now, but I accept (nearly) full responsibility for that. The rest of the responsibility – and full and complete responsibility for the current crisis in the newspaper industry – falls squarely on the shoulders of publishers, media industry officials, and media stockholders.

I started off with the old “do as I say, not as I do,” simply because I’ve learned what I’ve learned more out of trial and error rather than trial and success. At least, not yet.

Here are a few of those things that I have learned after having been laid off:

1) Do not act rashly. It is demoralizing to be laid off, to be told that your services no longer will be required. There is a practice in human resources that says a firm should carry out firings and lay-off notices on Friday. That gives the person fired or laid off the weekend to cool off and it is supposed to cut the chances of violent retaliation. I think it may be more important for the person fired or laid off to consciously take advantage of that sort of cooling off period to consider what you want to do and what you can do. Take a couple of days to consider your options before moving toward finding a new job, shifting to a new career, or moving to gain the training and skills needed for that new career. But for goodness sake, don’t retaliate; layoffs are, unfortunately, a part of business.

2) Cut spending immediately, as in NOW, and assess your personal financial situation. Know what resources you have in savings. Know what severance you have. Know what other accounts you can access in a real pinch. That said, stay away from dipping into the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for as long as possible. Such withdrawals typically are subject to steep penalty and may not worth the short-term gain and long-term detriment.

3) Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as you are eligible. The eligibility differs slightly from state to state, but typically it is a week or two after being laid off. The application can be done online. It takes some time to fill out the application and you will need financial information, such as salary, severance, and other asset information.

4) Exercise the body. Being laid off is demoralizing. It is depressing. Physical exercise does several beneficial things, including fending off depression. It reduces stress. It makes you feel better because you are healthier. Unless you have health issues that prevent you from physical exercise, get out and walk, hike, ride a bike, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Do something.

5) Exercise the mind. Trust me, the mental stimulation resulting from working everyday and interacting with co-workers and others does a world of good to keep the brain working the way it should. Read, take tutorials for things you think you might need for the future, do puzzles. Do something. I already know that despite doing what I can to stimulate my mind every waking hour, I do not feel as sharp as I did when I was working and regularly interacting with co-workers and others. The situation would be much worse if I did not read and write everyday.

6) Eat right. This is vital to keeping your energy level high enough to do the things you need to do to get your life back on track. Empty calories should be avoided. Eat fruit and veggies. Whole grains. Take the time immediately after being laid off to get your eating habits back in line to help jumpstart your career.

7) Cut the booze. Do not crawl into a bottle. It will reduce quality sleep. It will jeopardize physical and mental wellbeing. It will make you mentally sluggish.

8 ) Remain as positive and optimistic as possible when possible. This is difficult. Hope always should be at a person’s core, but being laid off can be extremely demoralizing and stressful. And the feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. But remembering a mantra such as “everyday a step forward” or “something good will happen soon” can help keep you moving toward recovery after being laid off.

9) Be grateful and thankful. Be gracious and supportive. What do you have to be grateful for? Thankful? Gracious, why? And supportive? You may think that there is nothing for which to be grateful, thankful, gracious? And support, you probably feel you are the one who needs the support. But there is plenty for which to be grateful, thankful and gracious. You are alive and living in a great – albeit flawed – nation with a system in place to help people like you and the others among the 15.3 million unemployed in this nation. People understand that times are tough and there seems to be less “well, he’d have a job if he tried hard enough” or “she’d be back at work if she wasn’t sucking up the unemployment insurance.” Very few people want to be unemployed. It just doesn’t make sense to willingly be unemployed. So be grateful and thankful for that system and the support system you have in place, family and friends. Be gracious to those who were laid off at the same time as you, but who are back to work before you. They deserve to be back at work. Not more than you deserve it, but sometimes that is just the luck of the draw. Understand that. Be supportive of those who have been laid off and supportive of those who are in more dire situations than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or kitchen. Volunteer to help disabled veterans or the elderly. Do something with the skills you have to better someone else’s life while you have a little more free time. Do something.

10) Negative feelings are not always completely negative. There will be times when you will not be able to bring yourself to be positive or optimistic. That is OK. No one has the strength to be positive and optimistic 100 percent of the time. It is OK to take a break from being positive and optimistic. As long as you learn from the down time and the down time does not last too long. You can use what you’ve learned from the negative feelings to make the positive and optimistic times last longer. While it can be healthy to vent from time to time about your own situation, remember that there is a limit to how much your family and friends should be subjected to negative statements. Sometimes you are going to have to live with your own negative feelings and ride them out until you can feel more positive and optimistic. The negative feelings will pass. And then use them to motivate you for positive action.

11) Reconnect and stay connected. You are not alone. There are 15.3 million Americans out of work. That is a lot. And most people who are laid off are not at fault. It was not my fault I was laid off from my job. It was the result of an industry in convulsions. So it is important that people who are laid off to remember that they are not alone and that it is not our fault. It is very important that a laid off person does not cut themselves off from family and friends. Stay connected. I joined the social networks Facebook and LinkedIn and started blogging, all to reconnect and stay connected with family, friends and former co-workers. I have even reconnected with high school and college classmates. Staying connected does wonders for maintaining mental wellbeing.

OK, those are 11 things that I have learned in the past year or so. I started off saying “do what I say, not what I do.” I won’t reveal exactly which of these I learned through my own personal failure, just accept that some of these were learned through painful experience rather than painless epiphany.

47 things to know about me

A friend and former co-worker, Charlie, has a blog she calls domestic rockstar – she’s a mommy, wife, talented graphic artist, and the lead singer for the Las Vegas band bipolar – and she recently wrote “30 things I want to do the year I turn 30.”

I’m well past 30 – 17 years past 30, to be exact – but I thought I could do something similar.

But different.

Here are 47 things you may or may not know about me. If you have any questions or problems, bring them up with Charlie.

I …

1. Am an editor, writer, journalist, columnist and blogger. (Growing up I thought I would write someday, but I never thought I would be paid for doing it. I was paid for 22 years to write and edit.)

2. Am not sure that I will be paid ever again to write and edit.

3. Am guessing anyone who reads this list will skip down to No. 47 to see if I made it that far. (I know I would.)

4. Am more intelligent than some people seem to believe. (At least, I think I am.)

5. Really wish I had a dog. (Apartments are not the place for medium-sized, floppy-eared dogs.)

6. Am balding. (No plugs or rugs for me.)

7. Have hazel eyes. (They become more greenish when I wear green clothing. I’m wearing a green shirt as I write this.)

8. Believe that I often appear more confused than I am actually. (I furrow my brow when I concentrate and people often wrongly take that for confusion.)

9. Want to write a book someday. (The only thing holding me back is that I haven’t a clue what I’d write about.)

10. Am having a difficult time not writing this list in the third person as he would on his Facebook wall.

11. Intentionally used “he” and “his” in the previous line.

12. Am right handed, but most of my girlfriends have been left handed.

13. Throw out far too much food because I unintentionally let it expire/spoil.

14. Have a scar on my chin that I received as a toddler. (My father and I were passengers in a car that hit head-on with a car driven by my mother. We were not wearing seatbelts and my chin hit the ashtray. No stitches. Oh, and it was an accident.)

15. Have a scar on my knee I received one winter while in a footrace with a childhood friend. (I tripped and fell on an icy parking lot and my knee hit one of the pebbles that had been strewn on the ice so vehicles could get traction. No stitches.)

16. Wanted to be a forest ranger, cowboy, superhero or truck driver when I was a kid. Later, I wanted to be a Maine State Trooper. (I am not 100 percent convinced that I know even now what I want to be when I grow up.)

17. Worked as a chamber maid for a summer. I swear, that was the job title – chamber maid. (It was a summer job at the University of Southern Maine, which hosted summer conferences. A hugely fun handful of “chamber maids” learned hospital corners that summer and occasionally were tipped with leftover booze.)

18. Worked as a wildland firefighter while attending college. (I had to do something to counterbalance the whole chamber maid thing. It was a great experience and I very nearly changed career destination because of it.)

19. Have had a mustache since I was 17. (That makes my mustache 30 years old … the same age as Charlie.)

20. Haven’t done nearly as much as I wanted to do.

21. Envy free spirits and “just jump” people.

22. Needed the break from working, but now I am really hungry to get back to work.

23. Like old Western movies. And scifi. And cop shows.

24. Call my mother very nearly every week, even if there isn’t anything new to say.

25. Have never been to a strip club or a Hooters’. (I had dinner one evening with a group of friends and the three women at the table had been to a strip club, but the two men there – including me – had not. Ironic, I think.)

26. Have never ridden in a limousine. (And I’d be OK if I never did.)

27. Have been to Mexico, Africa, Germany, France, Haiti and Canada, but each of the trips were far too brief and most have been for work.

28. Have flown on a B24 and a C5, beside the assorted commercial aircraft of various sizes. (I was on a B24 covering World War II-era aircraft and on the C5 to get to Africa, Germany and Haiti.)

29. Have trouble acclimating to altitude. (I have a difficult time breathing at altitudes over 5,000 feet. There goes my dream of climbing Everest.)

30. Like beer. (I can’t believe I got to No. 30 before I mentioned this. By the way, the green shirt I am wearing is from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)

31. Would wear jeans and a T-shirt over slacks with shirt and tie anytime. (But I really, really like the way I look in a suit and I cut a dashing figure of a man in a tux, if I do say so.)

32. Have big feet. (I am most comfortable in shoes that are 12 ½, but shoe manufacturers rarely include half sizes after 11 ½ so I often have to settle for size 13.)

33. Have been a Boston Red Sox fan since Carl Yastrzemski roamed below the Green Monster and was a New England Patriots fan since Steve Grogan, Russ Francis and Sam “Bam” Cunningham played in Foxboro. (So don’t ever think me a fair-weather fan!)

34. Finds it fitting that the previous line is the same number that Larry Bird wore playing for the Boston Celtics. (By the way, I was a fan of the Celtics when John J. Havlicek and Bill Russell played on the parquet floor, but sort of bailed on them for about a decade. But I’m back!)

35. Seem to recall that I earned 16 varsity letters in high school – four for soccer, four for baseball, two for basketball and six for concert band. (Several of us came up from middle school to supplement the high school concert band and I’m pretty sure music director Larry Hall rewarded us with varsity letters. If I am wrong about the number, is that something that will turn into a scandal that will keep me out of the White House?)

36. Also earned solid grades in high school and was a member of the National Honor Society. (Solid grades, but I had terrible study habits.)

37. Have worn glasses since about the second grade. (I wore contact lenses for a while. It was during a period when the FDA allowed 7-day contact lenses. It’s a big, big mistake to keep any foreign object on your eye for that long.)

38. Once lost a spelling competition in first- or second-grade because I could not recall that the word “happy” has two Ps. (Don’t judge. I was in first- or second-grade, for crying out loud. And, trust me, the class bully hassled me for a while about that. Oh, and spell check hasn’t made me much better of a speller.)

39. Don’t like cats or rats. (I’m allergic to one and am just plain creeped out by the other.)

40. Miss going hiking, camping and fishing.

41. Haven’t been to a movie in a theater in years. (I haven’t been in a relationship for a while and going to a movie by myself is not nearly as fun as it was when I was younger. And money has been pretty tight lately.)

42. Enjoy a good foreign film from time to time.

43. Joined Facebook and started a blog so I won’t go absolutely nuts while looking for a job. (The ironic thing is, both Facebook and the blog have kept me pretty sane and satisfied in what is a troublesome, worrisome time of unemployment for me. Both help fill the void left from the social contact I normally would have with co-workers.)

44. Wish I was taller. (6 feet tall, that’s all I ask.)

45. Wish I was in much, much better shape.

46. Occasionally sneak a peek at so-called reality TV. (But don’t tell my friends. And don’t tell my family. And don’t tell my enemies. And don’t tell the IRS or Homeland Security.)

47. Can’t believe I actually was able to come up with 47 things about myself. (At least one of you peeked down to the bottom of this list to see if I could come up with 47 items to write about myself, didn’t you?)

47.5. Am 47 ½, really, so I thought I’d add one more entry. (I’m pretty conscientious and I didn’t want to short-change anyone. After all, you paid good hard-earned money for this list. … Didn’t you?!)

Bonus: Can’t rap. Well, at least, not well.

There! That’s everything that you ever wanted – or didn’t want – to know about me. Have a lovely day!

Facebook fans help Auburn Police solve crime, again

(Here’s the top of a story about how the social networking site Facebook helped Auburn, Maine, police make an arrest in a theft. I’m somewhat conflicted on this. On one hand, it is definitely great that the community was involved. We need to be more involved. But … I am somewhat uncomfortable. Will the next step be having neighbors spying on neighbors? I don’ know. – KM)

Submitted by Sun Journal on Fri, 01/08/2010 – 10:05

Staff Report

AUBURN, Maine — Their fans on the social networking site Facebook are being credited by the Auburn Police for helping the department solve another crime.

Fan tips made it possible to summons a theft suspect within 24 hours of the crime, Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen said in a prepared statement Friday.

“Facebook is a ‘force multiplier’ for us,” Moen said in a prepared statement. “It is turning out to be a valuable tool for law enforcement. Instead of knocking on one door at a time, our staff can reach out to our entire community – and beyond – to gather information that can help solve a crime.”

Here’s a link to the rest of the story.