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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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Stuff people write
- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Angus King Urges Interior Department To Reconsider Offshore Drilling Proposal | Mainepublic.org
- Maine Voices: Higher education, employers must work together for bright future | Portland Press Herald
- Stunning reversal: McDaniels turns down Colts’ job to stay with Patriots | The Associated Press via the Portland Press Herald
- Kennebec River water levels could stay high into next week | Bangor Daily News
Tag Archives: New England
Thousands flock to New England this time of year to catch the changing colors at its peak. In the North Woods of Maine, the peak has already come.
Fortunately for me, a high school classmate, Kelly McInnis, shares her photography with her Facebook friends and then I often share them on “Letters From Away.”
I love the yellow leaves against the brilliant blue sky in the first photo. It’s wonderful.
The other three photos are a reminder of my youth. Haystack Mountain – not much of a climb, really – is located along the road from Ashland to Presque Isle. I lived in Portage, but went to middle and high school in Ashland. Presque Isle was the largest city in the area and the location of grocery stores, movie theaters, and other services, so we drove by Haystack Mountain a couple of times a month. And we usually climbed to the top every other year or so.
A high school teacher, Lynwood McHatten, told his students of a time when he was a teen and boys would go to the top of Haystack to set old tires on fire to give the impression that the long-dormant volcano was coming alive. It was good for a laugh.
Northeast officials discuss energy future, economy | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
The educational system in this country is letting down a lot of people. A guy in empresso just now commented on my hat – Boston Red Sox cap – and I said that I had grown up in New England.
“Oh, really! I’ve heard there’s a lot of great music in the UK.”
“No, I grew up in NEW England. Not the UK.”
“What’s the difference?”
“New England. It’s made up of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.”
For crying out loud, people! New England and the Atlantic states are the R&D labs for this experiment called the United States of America. It is a hugely important part of this country.
Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.
[This is a link to a nice profile about a California kid playing in The Bigs in New England. — KM]
Everyone knows that there are many old things in New England. So, it should not come as a surprise that the first American warship to fly the “stars and stripes” comes from New England, specifically Kittery, Maine.
Today’s DownEast.com trivia question has a certain I-have-not-yet-begun-to-fight feel to it.
What was the first warship to fly the stars and stripes?
The Ranger was launched at Kittery under the command of Captain John Paul Jones on May 10, 1777.
I’m in a whoopie pie-induced buzz just now! And I LIKE it!
Two things contributed to this feeling:
1) I just found out that the Trader Joe’s nearby sells what it calls Whoopee Pies – and they are nearly as good as Mom made;
2) I just stumbled across www.whoopiepie.org, which includes historical information, recipes, and even video!
For those of you who have never had a whoopie pie, I am sorry. Sooo, very sorry, because whoopie pies are wicked good. You missed out on a deliciously sweet treat – usually two soft, cake-like cookies with a creamy white filling. Yes, a sugar rush of the grandest kind.
Of course, there are variations on the combination. I’ve had whoopie pies with pumpkin cookies, oatmeal cookies, and even chocolate chip cookies. And the fillings can be peanut butter or maple, too.
The Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies were the basic chocolate cookies and white filling.
Whoopie pies are most definitely a Maine and New England tradition, and there’s even a small whoopie pie industry thriving in New England. Small bakeries ship whoopie pies all over.
This is from www.whoopiepie.org:
Whoopie pies are considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. They’re one of Maine’s best known and favorite comfort foods. People living in Maine often claim that they were weaned on whoopie pies. These treats are more like a cake than a pie, as they are generously sized to be about the side of a hamburger patty. To eat a whoopie pie properly, you need a glass of milk.
A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but made with two soft cookies with a fluffy white filling. Traditional whoopies pies are made with vegetable shortening, not butter. The original and most commonly made whoopie pie is chocolate. but cooks like to experiment, and today pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite seasonal variation.
The Pennsylvania Amish may get credit for developing the dessert, but I don’t know about that. It’lls always be a Maine delight to me. The whoopie pie history on www.whoopiepie.org indicates that the treat was made with leftover batter and that the Amish children would yell “Whoopie!” when they found the dessert in their school lunches.
I pretty much did the same thing in past years when my family has shipped whoopie pies for Christmas.
So, I had to take some of Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies home yesterday and give them a taste test. Frankly, I seriously thought I would be disappointed, but I was not. The cookie was moist and fudgy and the filling sweet. I can confidently endorse Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies as being, well, very close to the real thing.
As the photos prove, I finished off one. The photos do not show that I also finished off a second whoopie pie.
The website warns that eating whoopie pies requires a tall glass of milk. In most cases that is true. But red wine also works.
[There is a note at the bottom of this story that indicates there might be updates to this story. I’m guessing the BDN will localize it and expand the information. At least, that’s what they should do. — KM]
Blooming on the horizon?: Early signs point to an algae threat that could rival the ’05 season | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
A nonprofit health agency says that all six New England states are among the top 10 healthiest states in the country, Forbes.com reported today.
But New Englanders probably knew that.
Vermont took the No. 1 spot in the latest annual ranking by United Health Foundation, which Forbes.com pointed out is funded by insurer UnitedHealth Group. The rankings are based on 22 health indicators, including vaccinations, obesity, smoking, and cancer deaths. And details about each state can be found on the foundation’s website, but the website is not for the patient and some of the links in this entry may be sluggish.
“Vermont ranked first this year thanks in part to its low rate of obesity, high number of doctors and a low rate of child poverty,” wrote Forbes.com’s Rebecca Ruiz. “New England in general sets a benchmark for the country, the report found: All six New England states are in the top 10. These states have favorable demographics and an excellent public health infrastructure, including a large number of doctors per capita.”
CNNMoney.com senior writer Tami Luhby today posted a report that much of New England – including Maine – missed being placed on a pretty unfortunate top-10 list – the top 10 states facing fiscal peril.
OK, so the story was about the top 10 and not on how much of New England missed making the list, but it is true that much of New England did miss making the list. The bottom half of the story also makes a pitch for more federal stimulus money going to states because the federal government did not realize the severity of the nation’s economic problems when the Recovery Act was passed in February.
The story reports on a Pew Center on the States’ analysis of the 50 states’ current fiscal situation based on several criteria – loss of state revenue, size of budget gaps, unemployment and foreclosure rates, poor money management practices, and state laws governing the passage of budgets.
My current home state, California, tops the list and neighboring states, Nevada and Oregon, also are on the list. Rhode Island is the only New England state on the top-10 list.
The online story also has interactive maps to show the percentage of unemployment and the percentage of foreclosures in each of the 50 states. Rhode Island, according to the maps, has 13 percent unemployment and a 7.57 percent foreclosure rate.
Of Rhode Island Luthby wrote: “The Ocean State has among the highest unemployment rates in the nation and among the highest foreclosure rates in New England. High tax rates, big budget deficits and a lack of high tech jobs are hurting its chances to pull out of the doldrums. State government has a poor record of managing its finances.” There is also a link in Luthby’s story to a previous story about the Rhode Island government avoiding closing down, never a good thing for a government.
A chart with the story indicated that the state of Rhode Island’s revenue change is -12.5 percent and the current budget gap is 19.2 percent. Seven other states on the list have a higher budget gap. (California topped that list with a -16.2 percent change in revenue and a budget gap of 49.3 percent. Yep, 49.3 percent.)
According to the interactive maps with the story, the rest of New England is faring better:
Maine: 8.5 % unemployment; 6.83 % foreclosure
New Hampshire: 7.2 % unemployment; 4.89 % foreclosure
Vermont: 6.7 % unemployment; 3.73 % foreclosure
Mass.: 9.3 % unemployment; 6.68 % foreclosure
Conn.: 8.4 % unemployment; 6.03 % foreclosure
By the way, California’s unemployment rate is at 12.2 percent and the foreclosure rate is at 10.81 percent. Nevada is at 13.3 percent and 15.62 percent, respectively. Interestingly, Nevada is the only state on the top-10 list that had a positive revenue change in the budge year – it was up 1.5 percent.
Of California Luthby wrote: “The Golden State’s housing collapse – and resulting unemployment surge – has plagued the state’s economy. The weakening economy prompted revenue to fall by nearly a sixth between the first quarters of 2008 and 2009. State lawmakers have limited ability to deal with California’s massive budget gap due to several voter-imposed restrictions, including requirements that all budgets and tax increases pass the legislature by a two-thirds majority.”
And of Nevada: “Nevada is one of the recession’s big losers as its gaming-based economy suffered. Year-over-year revenue has fallen for two consecutive years, a record. But changing tax laws is tough because some are written into the state constitution.”
I grew up in Maine’s timber belt. I suppose that is much of the state, but I am talking about Aroostook County. And I have heard that high-tech firms are moving up from Massachusetts. So, I was also interested to look at Oregon, which also made the top-10 list, because it also has a timber industry and high-tech jobs.
Luthby wrote: “Oregon’s leading industries, such as timber and computer-chip manufacturing, have been hit hard in the recession. Lawmakers have approved more than $1 billion in new taxes to keep it afloat. But voters in January will have the final say on another $733 million in new income taxes.”
Oregon’s unemployment rate is at 11.5 percent, but the foreclosure rate is a pretty low (comparatively speaking) 4.99 percent. Unfortunately, revenue change for the Oregon government is at -19 percent and the budget gap there is at 14.5 percent.
I am sure these numbers make most people’s head swim. And I know they won’t help anyone pay their bills at the end of the month. But people can look at them simply to compare where their states and regions stand compared to the rest of the country.
Maine and much of the rest of New England may not be in a great place just yet, but there are a few places worse – Michigan, California, Nevada and the rest of those states on that top-10 list. Maybe optimism born from that fact will help seed economic growth in New England.