Friday, March 26, 2021

Insight: Overplayed or overappreciated? 1970s pop music revisited

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

As I’ve mentioned previously, my car radio receives plenty of use as I drive to and from work and the “70s on 7” station on Sirius XM provides the backdrop for plenty of nostalgia for me as someone who survived that decade in American history.

And as a frequent listener to that channel, I’d be remiss not to mention there are plenty of overplayed songs on their playlist. Many of these songs were overplayed when they were first released, and others irritated me from the moment I first heard them more than 40 years ago on AM radio.

Without further fanfare, here’s my list of the most overplayed (and highly irritating) songs of the 1970s and some brief explanation of what I dislike the most about them:

** “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. A depressing saga from 1972 about a man whose girlfriend stood him up at their wedding. And then his mother died, leaving him all alone in the world. Vapid and pure and simple schlock in my opinion.

** “Sometimes When We Touch” by Dan Hill. In a time when disco music ruled the charts in 1978, comes this caterwauling assault on your eardrums in a bogus ballad about a ridiculously sensitive commitment-phobic man. It attempts to tug at your emotional heartstrings but instead leaves one wondering how anyone could be so wrapped up in themselves.

** “Feelings” by Morris Albert. Since 1974 I have wanted to reach out and tell Brazilian crooner Morris Albert what I truly think of this hideous ode to elevator music, but being a Christian, I can’t bring myself to do it. Anyone who professes to love soft rock should be ashamed to say they like this song.   

** “It Never Rains in Southern California” by Albert Hammond. A cornerstone to the “Easy Listening” genre, this 1972 tune about a broke, starving, and unemployed actor contemplating returning home always make me want to vomit, from the first few notes.   

** “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. Even over-the-road truckers cringe when they hear this 1976 country crossover hit that spawned a movie and unleashed a barrage of Citizens Band radio lingo and CB handles upon the civilized world. The “Rubber Duck” says “watch out for bears good buddy.”  

** “I’ve Never Been To Me” by Charlene. Why this 1977 release remains on the playlist anywhere escapes me. It wasn’t a Top-40 hit then and its sappy lyrics about the singer’s banal regret for leading a jet-setting lifestyle and pining away for a simpler life and self-fulfillment doesn’t deserve frequent airplay 44 years later.    

** “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks. A dying fellow bids farewell to his friends, his pastor, and his wife in this 1974 release that ultimately reveals he’s aware of his wife’s affair and forgives her and everyone else who’s wronged him in life. What is it about depression and anxiety that singers like to turn into hit songs?     

** “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. Anyone alive in the 1970s remembers the sheer number of how many times this was played on the radio. It spent 10 weeks as the “Number One” song in 1977 and won all kinds of awards, but DJs wore out the turntable playing this romantic love ballad over and over so often I immediately began changing the radio station whenever it aired. Still do decades later.

** “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer. It was a bad idea in 1975 to wail about how a girl brought “rainbows and happiness” into a bushy haired singer’s life and 46 years later, as Sayer’s high-pitched and nasal voice blabbers on, it still resembles fingernails being incessantly scratched across a blackboard to me. Yuk.

** “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots. This might be the ultimate folly that brought the Age of Disco to an untimely end. Memphis DJ Rick Dees created a satirical novelty song so awful, many radio stations, including the one he was working at, refused to play it. That edict should have been enforced nationwide in 1977, yet somehow all these years later, “70s on 7” continues to torture me by playing it at least once every three hours or so. In my opinion, it’s absolutely terrible and radio abuse in its highest form.

These “gems” make me ponder how I ever made it out of the 1970s with my sanity intact and I thank God for the sheer existence of the “On” and “Off” buttons on my radio today. <

Andy Young: A shot in the arm

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Until recently I had never voluntarily submitted to taking a flu shot. When it comes to health, I’m “old school.” Why fix what’s not broken? Or in this case, why inject a foreign substance into a perfectly functional body? But the major reason for my avoidance of inoculations is an exceptionally strong aversion to being poked with sharp objects.

I like needles the same way Superman likes Kryptonite, dogs like fleas, or 1970s-era Red Sox fans liked George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson.

I dislike getting shots more than John Madden hates flying, more than mice loathe cats, and even more than pediatricians detest a wriggling, thrashing, hysterically shrieking child they’re attempting to supply with a tetanus shot after said cherub had, earlier the same day, stepped on a rusty nail.

Which reminds me, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to the late Dr. Forris B. Chick, my sainted mother, and Dr. Chick’s nurse (who very likely is also no longer with us) for going berserk one day in 1966 (or thereabouts), when it took the three of them to subdue me long enough to stick me with an antidote to death by lockjaw. I truly regret my unseemly conduct, particularly since even after the debacle that saw me trash the good doctor’s examination room, not to mention embarrass, frustrate, and most likely enrage all of the above-specified adults, I was still given a lollipop afterward.

Since then, life experience has taught me that my needlephobia (which according to isn’t a word, even though it ought to be) doesn’t make me even remotely unique. Reluctance to getting jabbed is normal; people who actually enjoy getting hypodermic needles stuck in their veins are the ones we ought to worry about.

A brief Peace Corps stint in Central America earned me a whole battery of needle-supplied inoculations, including several which were painfully delivered in areas other than the arm. But by the time I reached my early 30s, I knew for certain that a 6-foot-2-inch man trembling, flinching, and weeping like a baby prior to getting a shot was both inappropriate and undignified, or at least not as appropriate and dignified as it had been when I was doing it in my late 20s.

I still don’t like getting shots, but since most reputable epidemiologists agree that a good part of the solution to the current international pandemic is herd immunity, I’ve long since decided to take one (or in this case two, since I couldn’t get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine) for the team.

I got my first dosage last week. The whole process took less than 45 minutes, and when it was over I found myself feeling somewhere between uplifted and exhilarated. At the facility where the shots were being given, every one of the dozen or so volunteers I encountered while going through the process radiated a palpable cheerfulness.  I honestly didn’t even feel the needle go in when I got my injection. When I got home and my son asked me about the process, I truthfully told him that every single person I had encountered there was smiling. It was only later I realized that each of those helpful, buoyant, and upbeat folks whose smiles I had “seen” had been wearing a mask at the time!

The tiny bruise that appeared on my arm the following morning was gone by the afternoon. Bottom line: getting my first Covid injection was as non-traumatic as a shot in the arm can be. I do have one tiny complaint, though.

No one gave me a lollipop. <

Friday, March 19, 2021

Insight: Play on words shows subtle differences

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

As someone who works with words for a living, I’ve learned that everyone can use specific terms to interpret different meanings and forms of understanding.

Take the word “hope” for example. To me, hope is a belief that a dire situation or an awful time or experience will improve significantly. Yet being hopeful is different from being “optimistic.”

An optimist can dream of a better life and strive to make it happen, while a hopeful individual focuses on a specific aspect of life, such as hoping to someday fall in love and get married or hoping to get a better job.

Optimists can be the most pessimistic of people and yet also detail for you exactly what they hope to accomplish in life.

In some respects, hope can serve as a prelude to the future or function as a self-expectation about ourselves. While being hopeful about a situation, we express a desire to make something happen and it can lead to self-motivation to make it happen.

Being optimistic though requires little motivation, just a sense that something good lies ahead and it’s probably going to happen.

Other words that writers sometimes tend to confuse, and misuse, is “effective” and “efficient.”

When something is considered effective, it typically means it has accomplished a goal and achieved a desired result. An effective solution solves a problem, an effective vaccine thwarts a virus from spreading, and an effective diet helps weight-conscious individuals shed pounds successfully.

If something is considered efficient, it usually involves the conservation of resources to achieve a desired result. Efficient workers get the job done without overtime, a machine is efficient because it uses less energy while performing essentially the same function as another, and a new efficient method can save time when compared to another traditional way of doing the same thing.

Somethings can turn out to efficient but not effective and vice versa. A new roofing material can be highly efficient for savings when used to cover homes, but not effective because it deteriorates much quicker than other materials.

The same principle applies to using word choices of “benefit” and “advantage” because there is a difference between them.

Both words can be used as both nouns and verbs and each can mean a good thing, yet indeed there is a subtle difference.

Advantage is used to favorably compare one feature or another, while a benefit is a clear idea of something being better than another. For example, studying the driver’s handbook can work to your advantage when you take the driver’s license examination. Extra hints contained in the driver’s handbook can be of benefit to anyone wanting to take the driver’s license examination.

And when you get right down to it, there is a distinction between selecting the word “decision” and the word “choice” which are frequently misused by writers.

Opting to reach a decision implies some sort of analysis or process has gone into achieving a final determination. Making a choice means selecting one method, person, place or thing over another to achieve a final result.

When a business hires a new employee, it means a choice has been made. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a carefully thought-out decision.

The whole concept of writing can be filled with minefields for those who stop and ponder the endless realm of word choice possibilities. Many times, similar sounding words can also mean the same thing, but also can differ slightly, heightening word-choice confusion for writers.

Take the words “attain” and “obtain.” They each indicate possession of something has been realized, yet they are indeed different and hold different meanings.

Attain means an objective or goal has been reached. Obtain means something has been physically acquired.

Through hard work and hours of study, a student attained a master’s degree, compared to I was finally able to obtain a copy of the new Miley Cyrus album on

Writers also sometimes struggle to differentiate between “reluctant” and “reticent.”

To be reluctant is to hesitate or be unwilling to do something. To be reticent is to be reluctant to speak up or show emotion.

For example, he was reticent to express his opinions about renovating the attic, compared to because of my fear of rotten floorboards, I am reluctant to proceed with the renovation of my attic.

Every great writer has boundless opportunities when it comes to word choices. I hope I have been effective in displaying the advantages and helping you decide and obtain a greater reluctance when it comes to choosing the right words. <

Andy Young: I’m fine with my age, nut test massaging sticks

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

I am not overly sensitive about my age, or at least no more so than anyone else who just turned the sum of Willie Mays’s uniform number, the number of children fathered by President John Tyler, and the square root of 625.

And I’m not vain about my body, either. The truth is I’ve got far less reason to complain in that regard than most folks who have just attained the age of four dozen plus a score minus the number of eggs currently in my refrigerator.

Most of my body parts (eyes, ears, arms, legs, knees, etc.) are still functioning, and I’ve got a working brain, plus a keen sense of smell I’m grateful for, except when I’m downwind from a paper mill, or a sewage treatment plant. And with the exception of one titanium hip, all those still-operational items are original equipment.

But I do have one nagging appearance-related complaint.

My fingers are too fat.

There. I said it.

I probably shouldn’t whine about the composition of my hands. My Uncle Eddie told the story of one of his friends who miscalculated the length of time between when he lit the fuse of some fireworks that he was holding in his right hand one July 4th, and how soon they would go off. The aftermath left the man bereft of three fingers, and with a new, lifelong nickname: “Lefty.”

Some years later I had a colleague who had six fingers on each of his hands. He also supposedly had six toes on each foot, but I never had the nerve to ask him to remove his shoes so I could count.

But that acknowledged, certain newfangled technological developments have, on far too many occasions, left me painfully insecure about my own embarrassing physical deformity.

Ordinarily I hate playing the blame game. But when it comes to the cause of my unfairly diminished sense of self-worth, I emphatically point one of my ten sausage-like digits directly at a specific culprit: the fiendish inventor of instant messaging.

For the life of me I can’t figure out how anyone with fingers wider than toothpicks can tap out a mistake-free text message of more than three lines in under ten minutes. But even worse, what sadistic creton laid out the standard keyboard? Why in Heaven’s name is the “I” located between the “U” and the “O”? Having the “M” (that’s also directly beneath the “K”) next to the “N” (neighbor to the “B”) is no bargain, either, and the proximity of the “A,” “S,”, “D,” and “E” to one another can lead to some horrific misspellings, a problem that’s only exacerbated by an execrable component of most cell phones called “autocorrect.”

Who hasn’t sent off a text message to a friend that, thanks to this damnable feature, describes being chilled to the none while out hinting noose in fig that was thick as pea soup? I recently had a promising relationship come to an end when a woman whose companionship I desired received a text message from me telling her that when it came to people that I enjoyed spending time with, she was at the very top of my lust.

But we need to embrace technology, which is why I’ll compose the next line of this essay on my phone, rather than on the usual computer keyboard.

Fist is seize ear then I taught.

Hmmmm. Not bad for someone who just turned the product of all Canada’s provinces and Frank Sinatra’s wives, plus the number of first cousins I’ve got, and the amount of times Jean Beliveau’s name appears on the Stanley Cup. <

Friday, March 12, 2021

Insight: A mechanical mind I have not

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

You’d be far better off asking someone else for advice about a mechanical situation or requesting that I fix or repair something that is broken. I’ve known of my lack of mechanical aptitude and skills since I was a young child, and it didn’t magically appear in me as I got older.

It shouldn’t have turned out this way. When it came to fixing and repairing things, my father was a genius at it. He graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering and at one time held 11 patents for devices and products he had invented or been a part of the industrial team that created them.

He carried around a toolbox in his car to render mechanical assistance to those who had broken down along the roadside and no matter the size or the scope of the project, he could assemble, take apart, discover the issue and induce an appliance, automobile or machine to work again. I marveled at his ability to determine how to do that and willingness to take on mechanical puzzles that few could figure out.

But as for me, not so much. Try as I might, I could not match or even come close to being in the same mechanical league as my father.

Some prominent examples immediately come to mind.

When I was about 6 years old, my father asked me if I wanted to go with him to Woolworth’s on a Saturday morning. It was a short drive from where we lived, and I enjoyed the music that he listened to on his car radio. We climbed into his 1962 Chevrolet Impala and as we headed to the store, Ray Charles was belting out “Hit the Road Jack” on the radio. Both my father and I knew all the words and sang along during the drive there.

My father chose a convenient parking space right in front of Woolworth’s and asked if I wanted to accompany him into the store. I declined and told him I would wait for him in the car outside.

Over the course of the next few minutes, I had a lot of fun pressing the car radio buttons, pretending I was driving and turning the turn signals on and off. Then I spotted the pedals on the floorboard and crawled down there to explore.

Somehow when I grabbed the gas pedal, it separated from its connection and as much as I tried to reconnect it, nothing I did seemed to work. I figured it was the end of his automobile (and me) because without the gas pedal, he couldn’t make it run and we’d be stuck there in front of Woolworth’s waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

I propped the gas pedal up on its stand as best I could and prayed that he wouldn’t be that angry at the loss of his vehicle and disappointed in me.

He got in the car, started it up and then noticed the gas pedal. He asked what happened and I told him. He bent down and with a simple motion reattached the pedal to the floorboard, politely telling me if I wanted to join him on further trips, I shouldn’t touch anything in his car.

Then there was the year in the 1970s I was chosen to assemble stepstools and bicycles on Christmas Eve for my employer at the time, American Furniture. My job usually involved finding boxes in the warehouse and bringing them to the floor for the sales staff, but the store owner wanted to impress his customers and selected me to personally assemble items they had purchased as gifts right in front of the sales counter.

The next two hours convinced me my future was not in assembling bicycles as I fumbled my way along trying to attach horns, mirrors, baskets, and streamers to bike handlebars. The assembly directions were of little help and customers began to complain they were in a hurry and could finish the job at home.

Fortunately, the store owner eventually realized my mechanical ineptitude and returned me to the warehouse and assigned another employee to take on that assembly task.

Years later, I find the ability to read and discern product assembly instructions an admirable trait and through self-realization, I know it’s something I will never possess.

It’s been said that one man’s magic in this world is really just another’s mechanical invention. I’m happy for those blessed with mechanical ability but also feel fortunate that my skills lie in other areas. <

Andy Young: The longest (and smallest) big month

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Ever since the Ides of March in the year 44 BC, when Julius Caesar was struck down by a bunch of Judases, or Brutuses, or Benedict Arnolds, or whatever backstabbers were referred to back then, it’s been plain, at least in the northern Hemisphere, that March is the most-ill-starred, least appreciated month of the Gregorian calendar.

March simply can’t win. Skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobiling enthusiasts resent it because its arrival signals their favorite season is coming to a close. Winter-haters despise it, because to them it’s just a continuation of a cold, dark, wet, depressing season that seemingly won’t ever end. Even those looking forward to spring know that March is when mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks begin planning to make the next eight months a living Hell for the portion of humanity that enjoys spending time outdoors.   

I’ve never been a March fan. But to be fair, the month itself can hardly be faulted for the deaths of Isaac Newton, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Harriet Tubman having occurred during its 31 days. Or that monsters like Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, and Osama bin Laden were all March-born.

But maybe all that infamy isn’t coincidental. The Boston Massacre took place on March 5, 1770. An earthquake on March 27, 1964 killed 131 Alaskans. The most notorious war atrocity of the Vietnam conflict, the My Lai Massacre, occurred on March 16, 1968. (Sudden thought: isn’t “war atrocity” a redundancy? But I digress.) And the disastrous 1979 partial meltdown of nuclear reactor number 2 on Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania? You guessed it: March 28.

March promoters point out that the month contains one of the year’s most festive occasions, St. Patrick’s Day. But that view is selfishly Eurocentric. Sure, St. Paddy allegedly chased all the snakes off the Emerald Isle, and at this writing they’ve never returned. But once ejected, those slithering, fork-tongued reptiles had to go somewhere, and logic suggests it was to another country or countries whose names begin with the letter “I.”  You can bet that in India and Indonesia, where the annual death toll from venomous snakebites can number in the tens of thousands, Saint Patrick is viewed no more favorably today than Typhoid Mary was by New Yorkers in the 20th century’s first decade.

When the 21st century dawned, it was easy to dismiss March’s few advocates as shrill, crackpot apologists whose claims their month was always getting the short straw were as tiresome as they were paranoid. But the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave them a legitimate reason to complain. That piece of legislation pushed the start of Daylight Savings Time in the United States back four weeks from the first weekend in April, when DST had previously begun each year. Officially “springing forward” on March’s second weekend robbed the year’s third month of a vital sixty minutes. So while its 31-day brethren January, May, July, August, October, and December proudly remain 744 hours long, March now lasts for a mere 743, perennially relegating it to the lowly “second division” of months, along with 721-hour November; 30-day April, June, and September; and mini-February.

It’s tough trying to embrace a month that’s constantly providing reminders of its total lack of embraceability. I was going to attempt to list March’s assets this weekend, but I’m afraid 23 hours isn’t enough time to think of any.

My mother always claimed that if I looked hard enough, there’d always be something good to say about anyone or anything.


Okay. March is my second-favorite month of the year.


So which one is my number one?


The other 11 are all tied. <

Friday, March 5, 2021

Insight: A spotlight on the past, a guidepost for the future

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

In our family, since I was very young, I’ve always been the curious one who asked about the people in old photographs and for my parents to tell me more about them.

The rumor was we were somehow connected to John McIntosh, the 18th century Scottish-Canadian farmer who discovered the McIntosh Red apple growing wild on his property near Matilda Township in Ontario. My mother’s grandmother was born with the last name of McIntosh, so about 10 years ago I started to explore through genealogy if there was a genuine family connection to John McIntosh and my own ancestral roots.

I began my search by hiring a genealogist from California who was not very good. I found out more about our family’s origins through online research than he was able to learn during the span of a month’s time. I let him go and proceeded to hire another genealogist, this time one who lived in England and was adept at tracking immigrants to North America coming from Scotland, Ireland and Great Britain.

John McIntosh and his wife, Isabella Rutherford 
McIntosh emigrated from Scotland to Canada in
the 1830s. One of their six children, James
Rutherford McIntosh, Sr., moved to America in
1867 to find work as a mechanic. He was my
great-great-grandfather. COURTESY PHOTO 
She helped tremendously and was able to establish that yes, our family is related to John McIntosh, just not in a way I had envisioned. As it turns out, John McIntosh’s family originally hailed from Edinburgh, Scotland and he was born in the Mohawk Valley of New York in 1777. By the time he found the apple trees, he had moved to Canada and created his own farm at the age of 20.

Word apparently spread of his good fortune all the way back to Edinburgh and eventually his Scottish relatives decided Matilda Township sounded like a great place to live. One of John McIntosh’s cousins, also named John McIntosh, emigrated with his wife Isabella to Matilda Township (Now called South Dundas, Ontario) in the 1830s, joining other McIntosh family members who had moved there.

The original McIntosh apple trees continued to produce fruit until a devastating fire in 1894, but by then their discoverer, the original John McIntosh, had passed away in the fall of 1845.

His cousin, the other John McIntosh, was a carpenter by trade and had married Isabella Rutherford in 1835 before leaving Scotland for a new life. The couple had seven children, five of whom survived into adulthood.

One of their children, James Rutherford McIntosh, Sr., was born in Caistor, Ontario in 1840. He wasn’t interested in becoming a farmer like many other members of his family and showed an aptitude for fixing machinery. In 1867, he moved to America and settled in Rochester, New York where he landed a job as a mechanic at the Bausch and Lomb factory where eyeglasses and precision microscopes were manufactured.

James Rutherford McIntosh, Sr. married Ellen Agnes Duffy, who had moved to Rochester to find work in a factory after growing up near Plattsburgh, New York. The couple had six children, one of whom, Harriet Elizabeth McIntosh, was born in 1874.

Harriet McIntosh was married twice. Her first husband, Frederick John Baker, was a master carpenter by profession and the couple had three sons together. One of those sons, Bernard W. Baker, was born in 1897. He was blind from birth, but married Myrtle Kirby in 1918. Bernard and Myrtle Baker had three children, and they chose to name one of their daughters, who was born in 1923, after Bernard’s mother, Harriet.

Somehow over the year an extra “t” was added to her first name and she became known as “Harriett.” Harriett Elizabeth Baker was my mother and she passed along to me the family story about how we were somehow descended from the farmer who had discovered the McIntosh strand of apples.

Part of my quest to find my roots was because of my mother. She had been suffering from macular degeneration when I started looking into genealogy and I thought it would help to lift her spirits to find some answers to puzzling family heritage questions. I would call and update her through each ancestral discovery made and I was able to outline for her much of our family tree before her death at the age of 95 in 2018.

In each family there are some who seem destined to find their ancestors and try to breathe life into those who have gone before. In a way, I found that genealogy is much like journalism because it is really about telling a compelling story, just a little more personal. <

Andy Young: The literacy gifts that keep on giving

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Thanks to the collectible baseball cards featured on boxes of Alpha Bits, Sugar Crisp, and Post Toasties during my boyhood, I not only learned to use scissors safely at an early age, I picked up reading more quickly than I otherwise might have.

Half the players depicted on those 2 ½ X 3 ½-inch cardboard rectangles played for American League teams like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Kansas City Athletics. The others toiled for National League squads that included the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and the defending league champion Cincinnati Reds. Of course, no one I knew ever completed the 200-card set but trying to do so was both fun and addictive, just as the cereal company’s marketing gurus had no doubt calculated it would be.

There were also cards available on the back panels of Grape Nuts, but neither I nor anyone I knew would have attempted to ingest those pint-sized shards of gravel unless they came inside a box with Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, AND Ernie Banks on its back. But the Post Cereal decision makers were far too smart to let that happen. There were never two superstars on the outside of any one package; If you really wanted a Mickey Mantle card, you had to accept it would be accompanied not by images of future Hall of Fame players like Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, or Harmon Killebrew, but rather by spear-carriers such as Pancho Herrera, Gene Green, or Ken Hunt.

That fall Post came out with 200 collectable football cards on their cereal boxes, but they weren’t quite as popular. Maybe that’s because those football players had names like Jim Mutchscheller, Frank Varrichione, Sam Etcheverry, Andy Stynchula, Dick Syzmanski, Ed Khayat, John LoVetere and Ralph Guglielmi. Those monikers were awfully intimidating to fledgling readers like me. The baseball players answered to names like Joey Jay, Lenny Green, Bill White, Jim Lemon, Gus Bell, Jake Wood, Sam Jones, or Bob Friend. Who knows, had I been introduced to football cards first, I could have given up on reading as too difficult a skill to master, I might never have gotten out of first grade!

Much time has passed since I painstakingly snipped the baseball cards from the backs of those boxes, and inevitably most of the people depicted on them have moved on to whatever comes after their earthly existence has ended. At this writing, just 54 of the 200 individuals whose photos appeared on those cereal box cards are still alive. The oldest remaining pictured baseball player from that year’s set is former Detroit Tiger outfielder Charlie Maxwell, who’ll turn 94 next month. The youngest: Milwaukee Braves catcher Joe Torre, a comparative stripling who won’t even be 81 until this July 18.

But raw data can be deceiving. Just a year ago at this time there were 33 surviving National Leaguers from the set, which was three more than the American League could claim. But since then seven National Leaguers (Frank Bolling, Eddie Kasko, Lindy McDaniel, Hal Smith, Tony Taylor, Mike McCormick and Stan Williams) have died, while only two American Leaguers (Al Kaline and Whitey Ford) went to their reward during that same time period. So now the statistical shoe is on the other foot. That’s why, after exhaustive research, my data-driven conclusion is that the American Leaguers played a healthier brand of baseball in 1961 than their National League brethren did.

And after a bit of extrapolation, I’ve got another hypothesis as well, which is that I’ve got entirely too much time on my hands.

Bill Diamond: Taking an inside look at Maine’s supplemental budget

By Senator Bill Diamond

The past year has had unexpected consequences, both positive and negative, big and small. One effect of the pandemic and our political climate is that most people are more tuned in than ever to what’s happening in their government. With lots of talk about spending at the state and federal level these days, I wanted to share with you what Maine’s budget process is, and where we stand now.

Every other year, the governor proposes a biennial budget, and the Legislature debates the budget and proposes changes before passing a version that gives Maine a roadmap for revenue and spending for the next two years. However, circumstances change, and an unexpected change in revenue or spending means that the Legislature must pass a supplemental budget. This is because Maine’s Constitution requires we end each fiscal year with a balanced budget. Like the biennial budget, the supplemental budget is a proposal by the Governor that the Legislature can then modify before passing. There isn’t a supplemental budget every year, but it happens often.

As we all know, the pandemic and its economic fallout had consequences for Maine’s budget, with the state experiencing a decrease in revenue. Luckily, this shortfall isn’t as bad as it could have been. Before the Legislature adjourned in March 2020, we passed legislation and a supplemental budget in preparation for the economic troubles we saw coming, leaving $106 million in the state’s General Fund to make up for future losses. And in September, Gov. Janet Mills issued a curtailment order to reduce department spending while avoiding staff layoffs and cuts to programs. With curtailment orders, departments are ordered not to use some of the funds that had been allocated to them in the budget, but which they haven’t spent yet.

Even with these measures, Maine is facing a budget shortfall of $255 million for this fiscal year, so in January, Gov. Mills proposed a supplemental budget to address this. This budget is currently moving through the Legislature as we debate how to adjust our spending and where we expect remaining revenue to come from before the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2021.

One part of the supplemental budget that’s been getting a lot of attention is whether the state will tax businesses for forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. I wrote about this issue in a previous column. The federal government decided not to tax these forgiven loans as income, and as part of the supplemental budget, Maine needs to decide if the state tax code will treat them the same way.

Initially, the Governor proposed that all forgiven PPP loans be taxed, which I was opposed to. However, shortly after I wrote my column, the Governor proposed exempting the first $1 million of forgiven loans from income tax for all PPP recipients. This proposal would mean that 99 percent of Maine businesses that benefited from this program won’t have to pay any income tax on forgiven PPP loans. The businesses that have forgiven loans of more than $1 million won’t have to pay tax on the first $1 million, and all businesses can claim deductions on expenses paid for with these forgiven loans. This commonsense compromise by the Governor supports Maine’s most vulnerable small businesses without forcing critical cuts elsewhere. However, my preference is still that we remove the tax for all businesses because that was the intent of the PPP when it was initially passed.

Still, this exemption means a decrease in projected revenue of $82 million that the supplemental budget needs to make up for. The Governor had originally proposed leaving $40 million in the General Fund and adding $40 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund in the supplemental budget, but now proposes using that money to fill the gap caused by exempting PPP loans. It’s worth noting that, due to careful planning and responsible spending, Maine’s Rainy Day Fund remains robust, at an all-time high of $258.9 million. In fact, we have not had to use any money from the fund to balance the budget.

Most other elements of the supplemental budget are straightforward adjustments of department spending due to Gov. Mills’ curtailment order. In the coming weeks, the full Legislature will vote on the supplemental budget, with a two-thirds majority vote needed. It’s important that we act quickly, because many corporate tax filings are due March 15, unlike individual income taxes that must be filed by April 15. Later this session, we’ll vote on Gov. Mills’ proposed biennial budget for 2022 and 2023, which she outlined in her State of the Budget address last week.

I know budget matters can be complicated, and I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on where we are. If you have any questions about the budget, or if I can be helpful to you in other ways, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at or 207-287-1515. <