Friday, July 19, 2019

Insight: To swallow the sun

By Lorraine Glowczak

If you do any form of online shopping, products similar to what you ordered (or simply even took a moment to look at) appear in your social media feeds or other website searches. The same goes for certain information you search online – those similar topics of interest will suddenly appear in other internet platforms.

Often referred as the filter bubble, it is based upon a website algorithm that takes personalized searches and “selectively guesses” what information you’d like to continue to see. This can come in handy for online shopping by saving time searching for the products you prefer.

The downside to the genius of algorithms is that it also feeds us information that we have already developed an opinion about. This additional “information” continues to confirm our points of view – misleading us into believing we are more “knowledgeable”. But, perhaps worse yet, it can deceive us into believing that we are more “right” about our perspectives than we actually are. So right, in fact, that we scarcely listen to an opposing point of view, claiming others as closed minded, lacking intelligence, or not considering all the facts.

But, of course, we – on the other hand - are certainly opened minded and have considered all the facts ourselves. Afterall, the information confirming our perspectives is endless.

And, here I go – speaking of facts and online research, University Professor of Law, Business and Economics at Villanova University, Brett Frishmann had this to say about the subject in the scientificamerica.com online article, “Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb”:

“I believe we may be making ourselves dumber when we outsource thinking and rely on supposedly smart tech to micromanage our daily lives for the sake of cheap convenience.
The internet provides us with seemingly limitless data…that could in theory enhance our intelligence and enable us to become more knowledgeable, to be more skillful or to otherwise use actionable intelligence. Maybe we could improve our decision-making, reflect on our beliefs, interrogate our own biases, and so on. 

But do we? Who does? Who exactly is made smarter? And how? And with respect to what?  Do we find ourselves mindlessly following scripts written or designed by others?”

Frishmann admitted that there are two sides to the story, and in some ways, the internet isn’t always making us dumber. And, for me, that’s the whole point. There are two sides to every story, and each contain some form of what is right, correct and true.

Author Barbara Brown Taylor stated in her book, “An Altar in the World,” that knowing what is right and true for oneself involves practice. “Wisdom is not gained by ‘knowing’ what is right. Wisdom is gained by ‘practicing’ what is right and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.”

For me, claiming to be 100% correct in any one perspective is equivalent to swallowing the sun (to borrow an analogy from author Elizabeth Gilbert on a different subject). Its action is impossible. So, I suppose I will practice listening to the other side of the story. And I will continue to practice – until I can swallow the sun.


Letter to the Editor

An Op-Ed by Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond

Funding transportation in Maine

This year, the Legislature unanimously passed a two-year Transportation Budget, which is separate from the General Fund Budget. This is the budget dedicated to repairing Maine’s roads and bridges and supporting transportation infrastructure like our railroads and ferries. There is nothing we use more than the transportation systems that connect us all, which is why transportation gets a budget of its own.

Not only did all legislators agree on the Transportation Budget this year, we also agreed that it needed to be increased. State funding in this Transportation Budget will be about $679 million, up from $655 million in the previous cycle. Most of the revenue that supports the Transportation Budget comes from fuel taxes (about 70%), but funding also comes from vehicle license fees, title fees and other fees and permits.

Even with this budget increase, more funds are needed to invest properly in our transportation needs. On our last day of session, a bond package with more funding for transportation was presented to the Legislature. That package received bi-partisan support and a majority of our legislators’ votes, but bonds need a two-thirds vote to make it to a referendum. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach that two-thirds threshold, and the bond package failed. The good news is, while we didn’t reach agreement before adjournment, there is a significant chance we will hold a special session to enact a bond package in time for a public vote this fall, and I am hopeful a compromise can be reached.

To be clear, bonding to repair our roads is not a sustainable, long-term solution. I believe we have to think hard and find new ways to fund critical infrastructure needs. But in the short term, we need immediate help for the projects that have been neglected since the great recession and revenue cuts. We simply cannot live with pot-hole ridden streets, broken stop lights and unsupported bridges.
Here in our district, I promise to keep focusing on the improvements we need now. I’ll continue advocating for road safety, better public transportation and transportation for older residents. This fall I will be moderating a forum sponsored by Age-Friendly Raymond to gain input from the community about what they see as the most pressing transportation needs in the district, and I hope to see many of you there.

A strong and safe transportation network in Maine is absolutely critical to the economy of Maine and the wellbeing of our people. We cannot wait to fund improvements or do the work, and I’m proud that we’re taking steps in the Legislature to take care of those projects here and around the state.

Fay is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland and Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Insight: New dreams, summer dreams

By Lorraine Glowczak

“Absolutely stunning” are two words I would use to describe the past couple of weeks. There is nothing more beautiful than summers in Maine – and, generally speaking, there is something about summers that are unique no matter where you live in the U.S.

Summers, it seems, bring out the child in all of us. In the past two weeks, I have played in the sun as if I were a 16-year-old – carefree with nothing but joy as I hiked, kayaked, ate watermelon by the picnic table and read a book while falling asleep in a hammock by the lake.

Is it just me, or do you also long for the carefree days of your childhood when you spot a child or two playing in the water or riding their bike? What is it about summer that pulls the youthfulness out of us, creating a nostalgia that last forever?

In her online article for fastcompany.com entitled, “How nostalgia fuels creativity: Looking back may help you look forward”, author Annie Sneed stated that nostalgia makes us crave the past, bringing back fond memories of the good old days. What is interesting is she said that wistfully looking back can deepen our experience in the present moment.

 “It seems counterintuitive that such a backward-looking emotion would inspire original ideas, but that’s exactly what new research has found. It turns out that nostalgia may actually make people more open to new experiences, and this effect can boost creativity,” Sneed wrote.
She went on to write that nostalgia once had a bad reputation. In fact, psychologists viewed the emotion as a psychiatric disorder in which one was avoiding the present moment by yearning the past. “But recent research has shown that nostalgia can have positive effects, like making people more optimistic about the future and more willing to set new goals.” Sneed continued.

This brings me to a moment I experienced last week on the Portland waterfront while waiting in line for a whale watching tour. As I was standing there, watching people come and go, I noticed a group of senior citizens stepping off of a tour bus, some needing assistance with walking. One individual, moving very slowly, had to use a walker in order to get around. As she was taking her feeble steps, I overheard someone say, “When I get like that – it is over for me.”

I wonder, was it the nostalgia of summers past that gave the woman with a walker the will to keep having new experiences, despite her challenges? Is it possible that looking back at times gone past inspired her to live more fully in the present moment?

Most of us hope to live a long full life without too many hardships. But, I for one, also hope that despite any challenges I face in the future – my reminiscence of summers past will always inspire me to fully live with optimism in the moment with new dreams to look forward to.
I’ll end my editorial with a few stanzas from one of my favorite songs by Joni Mitchell. “The Circle Game.”

The chorus begins with, “And the seasons they go round and round - And the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time. We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came - And go round and round and round in the circle game
The song goes on to say, “So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty. Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true. There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.”

Pondering tree leaves and needles

By Robert Fogg

The leaves or needles on a tree have many functions and purposes.  They absorb energy from sunlight, draw oxygen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pull water and nutrients from the soil. The combination of these functions enables the tree to add layers of growth cells. 

Leaves and needles also act as shelter and screening or camouflage for small birds and animals.  Leaves serve as food for various browsing creatures, even as buds, during the winter and spring, before they mature. The shape of each leaf dictates how it will react to weather conditions.  Have you ever seen and heard Quaking Aspen leaves rustling in even the slightest breeze?  Have you ever seen maple leaves turn upside down, exposing their lighter underside, as a telltale sign of an approaching thunder shower? Every tree species has its own signature leaf pattern, enabling us a clue to identification. 

No two species’ leaves are identical. And, come fall the colors are just as different. Apparently, each species of leaf has its own taste too as evident by the preferences of certain insects. I’ve always marveled at the fact that a Gypsy Moth Caterpillar prefers pine needles to maple leaves.  If I’m ever given a choice between eating pine needles or maple leaves, you can bet I’ll choose the maple leaves. Wouldn’t you?

The Author is General Manager of Naples-based Q-Team Tree Service and is a Licensed Arborist. You can contact him at 207-693-3831 or at www.Q-Team.com

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Representative Patrick Corey of Windham has once again showed his support for Maine's economic development and the future of our planet by voting in support of LD 1711- An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine. Rep. Corey was the only House Republican to vote in favor of the bill which continues his long tradition of voting with common sense rather than with the party line when it comes to Maine's renewable energy future. He also supports a bill to bring Maine to 80% renewable energy by 2030!

Mainers spend more than $5 billion each year to import out of state fossil fuels including the cost to bring electricity generated by fossil fuels to Maine.  With eight years of strong political headwinds under the Lepage administration, Maine has stayed firmly in last place in solar implementation in New England, so our state has been unable to move the needle on that $5 billion. With leadership from Representatives like Patrick Corey, Maine is well on its way to preserving our environment, battling climate issues, creating jobs and reducing the cost of electricity for all ratepayers.

Maine is finally standing behind our state motto "Dirigo" which is Latin for "I lead" with respect to renewable energy. Based on Rep. Corey's long-standing support of solar in Maine, I wouldn't be surprised if he has Dirigo for a vanity plate or perhaps its tattooed on his arm.  On behalf of my wife and two young children, my five colleagues in the solar industry who also live in Windham, and every Mainer who wants to see a bright, clean future powered by the sun - our most abundant natural resource - Thank You Representative Patrick Corey for your support.

Enjoy the Sun!
Nate Bowie
Windham resident and life-long Mainer


Friday, June 28, 2019

Insight: Living like salmon


By Lorraine Glowczak

The living room was in disarray as we were moving old furniture out and new furniture in. Once my husband and I returned order to the room, I noticed a small, delicate folded piece of paper with various shades of purple laying haphazardly on the coffee table. The thin paper, made of a cotton-like material, had a vague familiarity. I picked it up to unfold it – and as I did – memories fell out.

Image from Institute of Creative Research
That small piece of artwork was a homemade note from a friend. It simply said in silver ink, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” followed by her signature. Somehow, that note had slipped deep into the creases of the old sofa – and just as mysteriously, slipped out and back into my life. As it did, I remembered my promise to her. This December will mark 14 years that ALS took my friend’s life at the age of 36.

The promise occurred on a cold December evening at a Christmas party. She was two years into her ALS diagnosis and had just published her book. There were many things we had in common, and writing was among them. One conversation that evening centered around all things writing. We first talked about her new book, but she quickly shifted the conversation to me.

“How is your writing going,” she asked. I wasn’t doing much to reach my own publishing goals at the time and I don’t remember the answer I gave her. Through my response, I suspect she saw the truth in my lack of dedication and said: “I want you to promise me something.” I leaned forward to capture her words as ALS was beginning to rob her of her speech. It had already taken away her ability to type with her hands – she used her eyes through technological advances to finish the final edits of her book. “I want you to write in my place when I can no longer do so.” I promised her I would.

And that is the reason why I’m here as a managing editor and writer for The Windham Eagle newspaper as a step along that promised journey.

I have mentioned in previous Insights that it is my goal to also publish in mainstream media. But some days it feels like swimming upstream. For every instance I try, a hurdle is placed in my way. I jump over that successfully, only to be met with another, taller hurdle.

“Are these challenges suggesting that I go in another direction or is reaching my goal like salmon swimming upstream and I need to continue, despite it all,” I recently asked a new friend. Her response: “One way to help you determine the answer to that,” the wise beyond her years 30-year-old advised, “is to ask yourself whether or not you’d regret it if you didn’t proceed.” I had my answer. I will continue jumping the hurdles to published writing on a national level until I can no longer do so.

What I have discovered is that sometimes living like salmon is a part of life. Author Julia James had this to say about the subject: “When we think of salmon swimming upstream back to their place of birth or the thousands of miles birds travel to migrate, we see them as enormous undertakings. 

However, I wonder if it is even possible for healthy salmon to choose not to return to the river that is their spawning grounds? Could a healthy migratory bird think ‘hmmm, maybe I’ll just stay put this winter here in Canada, rather than flying all the way to Mexico’? It is natural for the salmon to swim upstream. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but this energy is expended in a manner that maximizes life fulfillment.”

In addition to living the life of my dreams – for me, swimming upstream is keeping a promise. In this particular circumstance, I will live like salmon.



Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor,

I would like to say kudos to the organizers, staff and sponsors of this year’s Windham Summerfest held last Saturday at the Windham High School. It is a pleasure to see the fruits of many labors come to fruition and the growing number of participants who come to take advantage of this iconic festival. Many new additions were evident and obvious making this yet another growing success. The weather wasn’t half bad either. Again, hats off to all who made this possible.

Stephen Signor
Windham  


Dear Editor,

On behalf of our 230,000 members statewide, AARP Maine applauds our state legislators and Governor Mills for passing a strong package of bills to make prescription drugs more affordable and more accessible in Maine.  Thousands of Mainers take prescription medications.  For many, there is no alternative to alleviate crippling pain or manage chronic illnesses.  For others, prescription drugs literally keep them alive.  This legislative package could not come soon enough.

As a proudly non-partisan organization, AARP Maine thanks our state legislature for working together for the people of Maine and taking a stand against Rx greed. Senate President Troy Jackson, Senator Eloise Vitelli, Senator Heather Sanborn and Senator Bob Foley deserve special thanks for their leadership on this important issue. Our elected leaders clearly recognized that prescription drug price gouging is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. They decided to put people before profits.

Many Mainers were instrumental in bringing this important legislation to the attention of their elected leaders. Advocates from across the state testified in Augusta and followed up with their legislators back home. Heartbreaking stories of Mainers struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of their medications became the heart of the campaign. AARP Maine thanks each one of you for your courage and conviction. You made it possible for this critical legislation to become a reality.

Maine is once again leading the way, but we need Congress to follow that lead.  Members of Congress must come together to pass bipartisan legislation to lower Rx prices across the country.  The pharmaceutical industry has made it clear that they intend to fight hard, but we must fight harder.  While we celebrate our win in Maine, we must keep the momentum going in Washington. Now it’s time to urge Maine’s Congressional delegation to Stop Rx Greed.

Patricia Pinto