Friday, August 27, 2021

Insight: Possible pre-requisites for matriculation

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

Right now, many students in Maine and across the nation are preparing to head back to school and some of them are wondering what classes they will be signing up for this fall. 

Back in my final year of college at the University of New Mexico, I had already wrapped up the requirements for both my major (journalism) and my minor (history), so I had my choice of five three-hour elective courses to complete my studies and earn my Bachelor of Arts degree.

In looking over the list of available courses and discussing it with my friends and family, I was faced with a tough decision. I could either load up on fun and easy classes or try to learn something meaningful and make it worth the cost of my tuition. I decided to choose courses that offered me opportunities to relate to my daily life and upcoming professional career in journalism.

My schedule included an internship in the newsroom of the Albuquerque Journal newspaper starting at 3 p.m. every day, so my college classes needed to be mostly in the mornings. I enrolled for Spanish, Introduction to Astronomy, Film Appreciation, History of Native Americans, and American Constitutional Law.

I figured that each one of these courses would be challenging, but each one also would give me some basic knowledge to use going forward as a newspaper reporter. 

The Spanish class came very early on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7 a.m. The Spanish instructor was the daughter of an American diplomat and had lived in Panama growing up. She was patient and funny and frequently would include singing in her lessons. Just imagine a room of adults swaying and harmonizing to “La Cucaracha” early in the morning and you’ll get the picture. Whatever she did, it worked because almost four decades later, I can still remember basic Spanish words and what they mean.

Astronomy was a large class of about 300 students and was held at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a large science lecture hall. It included a large theater-sized projection screen for our professor to show us slides of stars and galaxies that he was talking about during each session. From that class, I carried away a rudimentary understanding of astronomical terms such as what is a quasar, where to find the Big Dipper in the night sky, and that one of Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede. is the largest moon in our solar system, has its own magnetic field, and is bigger in size than the planet Mercury.

In Film Appreciation class, we watched and discussed some all-time classic movies, many of which I had never seen before. We learned about film directors, film genres and techniques used by filmmakers to tell their stories. As a huge fan of Westerns, I recall watching “Shane” for the first time in that class and being enthralled with the cinematic landscape of frontier Wyoming that director George Stevens and cinematographer Loyal Griggs depicted in that film. It’s a great story too, especially the showdown between good guy Alan Ladd and the menacing villain of the movie, Jack Palance.

The History of Native Americans class turned out to be one of my favorite courses I ever had in college. The professor was eccentric and dressed in an unusual fashion. (Think German lederhosen outfits if you know what those look like.) But he was a masterful teacher and I learned so much about Native American culture and tribes that it left me wanting to know more about the original inhabitants of the North American continent.

I learned about ancient burial mounds, inspiring Native American leaders such as Sequoyah, Tecumseh, and Black Hawk, and elaborate systems of government such as the Iroquois Confederacy.

In American Constitutional Law, I gained understanding of the structure and functioning of the U.S. government, what a tort is, and studied famous U.S. Supreme Court decisions. To this day, I can tell you why “Miranda warnings” are required to be given by police officers during an interrogation, or that in the 1963 landmark case, Gideon vs. Wainwright, the court ruled that all defendants have the right to an attorney and must be provided one by the state if they are unable to afford legal counsel.

Each of these elective courses served to broaden my education and helped me to better understand the world I live in. If I had to do it all over again and was back in college and faced with a decision about what to take, I would probably follow the same path and enroll for those same elective courses once more.

In my opinion, the purpose of education is not merely to accumulate useless facts and knowledge that you may never use again, it’s really all about growing as an individual and learning to think critically to make informed decisions later in life.

Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everybody had some valuable insight about the subject or subjects that they tend to spout off about? <

Getting ahead of the game

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

The only thing less enjoyable than visiting a mall is doing so on the day after Thanksgiving, or anytime during the holiday season, for that matter. Obtaining the perfect Christmas gift for a loved one is far easier when you don’t have to vie for personal space with uncontrolled hordes that confuse providing joy for others with blood sport.

Finding inspiration is significantly less stressful in uncrowded conditions, so last week I visited a local, stand-alone shopping emporium, sensing there would be a smattering of browsers there, rather than multitudes of individuals foaming at the mouth in their eagerness to consume.

The store’s extensive clothing section included a ton of activewear that predictably featured the insignias of the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics. But there was also collegiate apparel from Virginia Tech, Dartmouth, Michigan, and Vassar, not to mention both kinds of Patriots (New England and Gray-New Gloucester), the Maine Black Bears and the Maine Red Claws. Other T-shirts touted Mountain Dew, the Baltimore Ravens, Bar Harbor, the U. S. Olympic Team, and some familiar-looking polo ponies that are probably some big company’s trademark.

Anyone desiring a T-shirt sporting the name of any humongous corporate sportswear producer (Under Armor, Reebok, Nike, Cabela’s, and Starter, for starters) could have procured one; however, those not desiring to pay for the privilege of being a walking billboard for someone else’s products could acquire generic t-shirts there (in several different colors) with no logo at all on them!

There was also a wide variety of headwear for sale, although judging by the amount of pink camo hats available (and their reduced price), I’m guessing that very few deer hunters are choosing to top off their outfit with that particular chapeau this fall.

The housewares section featured an extensive and varied collection of salad bowls, frying pans, decorative platters, coffee makers, blenders, stockpots, water bottles, toasters, breadmakers, fondue sets, colanders, soup ladles, cookie jars (the one shaped like a pig wearing a chef’s hat was my favorite), teakettles, water bottles, bamboo placemats, turkey basters, kitchen timers, and muffin pans.

And there were plenty of scouring pads, silicone gloves, cleansers, hypoallergenic stain removers, trash bags, and similar products for those concerned with keeping their domicile clean. 

Also in the store: welcome mats, area rugs, paper shredders, staplers, citronella candles, earrings, batteries, bandages, cell phone chargers, shoehorns, bird cages, picture frames, tin signs (Examples: Spiderman, Superman, and “These grounds protected by Smith and Wesson”), fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, space heaters, tables, chairs, pillows, mirrors, file cabinets, lunch boxes, backpacks, sketch pads, magic markers, reading glasses, mesh laundry bags, bike helmets, Halloween costumes, sunglasses, reading glasses, notebooks, swimming goggles, golf clubs, flower and/or vegetable seeds, skis, lacrosse sticks, baseball gloves, soccer shin guards, and a wide variety of books and DVDs.

There was also quite a selection for anyone with a coffee drinker in their life. Mugs bearing the words, “Happy birthday,” “Dad, you’re out of this world,” “A hug for my grandmother,” and several different designs of “Boss Lady” were just the tip of the iceberg.

For imbibers of other liquids there were glasses trumpeting, among other things: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, A & W Root Beer, and 7-Up; New Brunswick, Canada; Indian Head Resort; the Liberty Bell; a stylized letter L, and “Happy 35th anniversary.” 

I can’t say I got all (or even most) of my Christmas shopping done last week. But for anyone wishing to get the jump on their holiday acquisitions, here’s a tip: if you can’t find at least one thing for someone on your list at a Goodwill store, you probably aren’t trying very hard. < 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Insight: Insect prognosticators or creepy crawler folklore?

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Seems every time I visit one of my favorite British tabloid websites online lately, there’s always a headline and article about how insects have predicted a sudden storm or a weather catastrophe somewhere in the world.

I’ve been reading newspaper articles since I was young, but I’ve only noticed this story subject appearing on that tabloid’s website just in the past year or so. Can there really be something to this or is it merely playing on reader’s worst fears about intelligent insect life plotting to undermine human existence by predicting the weather?

Here in Maine, dealing with insects and arachnids is a fact of life for many of us. We’ve got an abundance of ticks, black flies, mosquitos, caterpillars, moths, bedbugs, beetles, millipedes, stink bugs, fleas, cockroaches, gnats, spiders, ants, earwigs, and many more creepy crawlers sharing space with us in the Pine Tree State.

But have you ever heard of a local insect species accurately predicting an unexpected summer downpour or an early fall snowstorm? I certainly haven’t, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some merit to that notion.

My father grew up on a farm in New York state during the Great Depression and I recall him telling me once that if I ever see a bunk of houseflies clustered together on a window screen or the outside of a door, it probably means cold weather is right around the corner.

When I was living in New Mexico, I heard some old folklore stories passed down through the generations suggesting that honeybees and butterflies know when it’s going to rain and find suitable places to hide to stay dry. That’s why you never see bees when it’s pouring outside or hear of people being stung during a rainstorm, according to that folk legend.

A real estate inspector in Virginia once told me that termites can sense the season by the temperature and ramp up their activities in the summer to take advantage of peak season warm weather. Because it’s so cold in the winter in Maine, pesky ants and stinkbugs can tell when the temperature is dropping and usually make a beeline for the first convenient opening they can find into your residence.

Then there was an article in The Old Farmer’s Almanac claiming that woolly bear caterpillars are capable of forecasting winter weather. It says this type of caterpillars has black and brown bands and according to folklore, more black than brown bands found on a woolly bear caterpillar indicates a harsh, cold winter, while more brown than black bands on a caterpillar means a much milder winter.

Again, I do not put much stock in old wives’ tales, but who’s to say these stories didn’t have some legitimate basis for being perpetuated through the centuries?

A little internet research confirms that ticks employ a sophisticated detection system to latch on to new victims. Ticks are known to find their hosts by detecting an animal or human’s breath and body odors, or through sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some ticks are even able to select a place to patiently wait for new prey through the identification of well-traveled paths by potential hosts.

Another article I read this summer on that same British tabloid website mentioned that a 2014 study in North Carolina found that some honeybees spend a great deal more time out of their hive looking for nutrients on sunny days than on days when a substantial rain is about to fall. This must mean that honeybees are intuitive and somehow know when it’s going to rain, the article speculates.

From everything that I’ve read about insects and weather forecasting, I’m convinced that British readers must have a profound fascination with both insects and weather to find this topic so compelling that it’s appeared more than eight different times since 2019.

Not so much across the pond though. It’s been my experience that the most widely read newspaper or magazine articles about insects and arachnids in America typically are negative and include details about harmful species, swarms of flying grasshoppers, destructive aphid attacks, chirping cicadas, Bugnados, invasive fire ants, murder hornets, emerald ash borers and toxic browntail moth caterpillar hairs.

Negative depictions of insects have permeated throughout our culture too, including popular films like “Silence of the Lambs,” where the sinister serial killer Buffalo Bill leaves African death’s-head hawk moths behind in his murdered victims’ throats until he is stopped by the heroic FBI agent Clarice Starling.

In my opinion, insects receive little credit for all the good they do, such as pollinating crops, providing a food source for fish and birds or helping the environment. The world is a more beautiful place because of colorful butterflies or lightning bugs. Not really a fan of wasps, hornets or spiders but I’m sure they do serve some sort of constructive purpose in nature.

As for insects predicting the weather, my contention is that a much more reliable result is probably available from an app on my smart phone. <

Andy Young: The time has come

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

My team’s Greater Portland Senior Softball League season ended earlier this month with a 23-10 drubbing in the loser’s bracket of the post-season tournament. Our two straight playoff losses were unsurprising, given our regular season record of 16 defeats in 17 games.

How does a team allow 23 runs in a seven-inning contest? Very easily, as it turns out, and were it not for the league rule limiting scoring to five runs per inning (until the final frame), we’d likely have surrendered another dozen or so before our opponents got tired from all that running around the bases.

When I began playing men’s slow-pitch softball, I was a fleet-footed outfielder who batted leadoff, or somewhere else near the top of the order. The truth: I was really good.

But … the whole truth: that was nearly four decades ago.

I stopped playing the game in the mid-1980’s when complications involving employment intervened. (Translation: I finally got a real job.)

But a few years ago, circumstances changed again, and when a friend asked me to join his team in the over-50 league, I couldn’t resist.

At the first practice the guy running things asked me where I played. As a newcomer I sensibly responded I’d go wherever he wanted me to. I wanted to add that if he asked me to play catcher, I’d know it was time to call it a career, but it turned out there was no danger of that, since in the senior league there’s no shortage of physically limited players who actually want to play the game’s least demanding, least interesting position.

A softball field looks a lot like a baseball diamond, but that resemblance is misleading. Slow-pitch softball is to baseball what checkers is to chess. Or maybe what “Candyland” is to chess.

Young slow-pitch softballers who can’t maintain a batting average of at least twice their weight (or three times their weight if they tip the scales at less than 200 pounds) will be hitting at the bottom of the order, assuming they can locate a team weak enough for them to merit any playing time at all.

The only necessity for anyone over 50 wanting to play softball is the desire to have fun, and thankfully all of my teammates had that prerequisite.

Whatever requirements that players possess even a modicum of athleticism pretty much evaporate once one qualifies for the senior league; that’s how someone like me can still participate.

Some modifications help level the playing field: for example, anyone can request a pinch runner at any time, first base and home plate have been altered to help avoid collisions, and pitchers have to duck behind a screen after each delivery, lest they get separated from their senses (or some more tangible body part) by a line drive hit up the middle.

Everyone on a 1-18 team bears some responsibility for the squad’s dreadful record, and this summer I was no exception. Because of arm issues I could no longer play shortstop, and when circumstances dictated my return to the outfield, the infielders serving as cut-off men had to run halfway to the outfield fence to relay my anemic tosses back to the infield. (Update: when I saw my doctor, hoping to improve the situation, his no-frills diagnosis was: “You’ve got a really old shoulder!”)

I won’t be holding a formal press conference to announce my retirement, but if I did, I’d paraphrase renowned 20th-century philosopher Yogi Berra, who moonlighted as a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees. One of his oft-quoted declarations was, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

It’s over. <

Friday, August 13, 2021

Insight: A half-century of fashion faux pas

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

At this stage of my life, I can barely recall what I had for dinner last night, let alone remember what I was wearing 50 years ago. But it looks like I might have to.

Earlier this year, I received an email from my high school classmate Janet Magraw Howland, who’s organizing our 50th Class Reunion to be held in Rochester, New York on the evening of Friday, Oct. 29. The Class of 1971 at Rush-Henrietta High School was supposed to hold our 50th Reunion in July, except those plans were scrubbed by the pandemic and pushed back to October.

In her email, Janet mentioned that reunion attire is expected to be clothing styles of the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, the last of those debonair duds disappeared from my closet by the early 1980s as my waistline continued to expand as I got older.

The more I think about it, much of what I wore back then would probably not be suited for a reunion type of event. I remember really being into simplicity after graduating from high school and wearing colored T-shirts and denim farmer’s overalls throughout much of college. I also owned a snazzy pair of light purple Levis casual slacks which I threw away one summer about 1975 after I stained a redwood fence while wearing them and a lot of redwood stain ended up on them instead of the fence.

Now that I think about it, I also purchased a pastel pink sportscoat resembling one worn by Don Johnson on the Miami Vice television show, but that was in the mid-1980s, and I don’t think it would officially count as 1960s or 1970s clothing anyways. Seems to me I remember parting with that jacket after a can of motor oil inadvertently leaked on it in the trunk of my 1974 Honda CVCC.

Many of the fashionable shirts of the day for young men my age featured dazzling colors and bold patterns and were typically made of polyester. I wasn’t a fan of polyester because it was too hot and felt like I was wearing Saran Wrap. This was also the heyday of extra-wide bellbottoms and tall platform shoes, and I confess to owning some of those.

In 1973, I had purchased a pair of cherry red platform shoes from Kinney Shoes that I got married in and I never wore them again, although they sat on the floor of my closet for more than a decade and a half before I realized they weren’t coming back into style, and I relented and gave them to the church thrift store.

My collection of extra-wide bellbottoms was extensive. I had some in blue, green, brown plaid and a rusty orange shade. The reaction I got from my U.S. Air Force instructors at basic military training when I showed up wearing bright banana-yellow extra-wide bellbottoms was priceless though. They nicknamed me “The Disco Kid” which I grew to despise, and I made sure that the first chance I had to dispose of those bellbottoms, they found their way into the dumpster at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.  

When I graduated from high school in 1971, men’s shirt collars were long and pointy, and it was the height of fashion to wear a shirt featuring a paisley pattern which sort of resembled small amoebas. The last time I noticed anyone wearing a paisley shirt was the character Huggy Bear on the old Starsky and Hutch television show from the late 1970s.

Giant belt buckles were a trendy fashion statement for men in the 1970s. I had several metal-cast belt buckles, one which said “Coors” and the other with a running horse. 

I do know I still have some western shirt button covers which I used to wear when I went dancing on Friday nights at the discotheque. The button covers were made of molten nickel and remolded into a sunflower design. They clasped over the existing button and were prone to falling off, especially if an intense disco tune like “Funkytown” was played, meaning extended time on the dance floor. They have been in my jewelry box since 1987.

Like many other men of that day and age, I owned several double-breasted suits to wear to job interviews and weddings. These days the only time you see a double-breasted suit is in an old James Bond movie with Roger Moore.

And to go with my suits, I had a generous assortment of neckties, many of them nearly as wide as the lapel on my suitcoat. Most of those neckties were made of polyester and came in wild shades and styles. My first job working for a newspaper after getting out of the Air Force in the 1980s required me to wear a tie every day and I preferred the post-disco one-inch leather ties or woven fabric ties that were squared at the bottom. That was about as fashion conscious as I got back then.

So, it’s with some trepidation that I start thinking about what to wear to this 50th reunion. Polyester and bellbottoms? A belted sweater? Probably not. <

Andy Young: How different readers mark their page

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

It periodically occurs to me that downsizing would be a good idea. I’ve got more than enough “stuff,” so ridding myself of some of it (and perhaps getting it into the hands of someone else who’d enjoy it more) makes eminent sense. 

But for me getting out from under a certain type of possession is easier said than done. My efforts to divest are constantly being sabotaged by unplanned trips to establishments that sell used books. I just can’t get out of one of those places without purchasing something. And once I’ve impulsively bought a book or three, I invariably flip through the pages, which in most cases haven’t seen the light of day for quite some time. I got in that habit thanks to a veteran teaching colleague, who advised me to do so when collecting books at the end of the school year to make sure the texts being returned were in reasonably good condition.

But there’s another reason to give those pages the once-over: it’s a good way to discover and remove any makeshift bookmarks the book’s user, giddy about their impending summer vacation, might have inadvertently forgotten about and left behind.

One year I discovered a three-month old paycheck for $80 inside a copy of The Kite Runner. I returned it to the student whose name was on it, expecting an effusive thank you. What I got instead was a moderately surprised, “Wow! So that’s where that went!” If I had lost an $80 paycheck when I was in high school, I’d have taken my residence, my place of employment, the school, and if necessary, the entire town apart trying to find it. Of course, that never could have happened, since back then my paycheck for 40 hours of labor was nowhere near $80.

Most pieces of paper I’ve discovered inside used books were pretty random. I’ve found numerous cocktail napkins, some cash register receipts, and even an occasional matchbook cover.

I once found a ticket to a 1976 Pirates-Phillies baseball game at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium inside a used copy of The Glory of Their Times. That made perfect sense, given that the book’s subject was baseball.

But what made no sense at all was the ripped quarter-of-a-magazine-page I found last week inside a copy of a biography of the 19th president of the United States. When I unfolded it, I discovered the impromptu bookmark had been torn from a publication that was quite plainly pornographic.

I don’t have to resort to improvised page keepers, because I’ve got my own impressive stable of dedicated bookmarks. My favorite is one I manufactured myself. It features photos of three professional baseball players who played crucial roles in an unusually memorable Florida State League game I attended in 1992.

Making unique bookmarks is easy. Obtain copies of the desired picture(s) or drawing(s), cut them to the appropriate size, glue stick them onto a piece of sturdy cardboard, laminate it, snip off the sharp edges, and -voila - a unique, practical gift that invariably delights its recipient! Personalized bookmarks featuring photos of parents or grandparents with their youthful offspring make dandy birthday, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day gifts, and receivers of such items will treasure them for a lot longer than they would a necktie or a scented candle. Or a scented necktie, for that matter.

The holiday season is closer than it seems, so last week when I was feeling creative, I produced a dozen or so one-of-a-kind bookmarks.

Now I’ve just got to decide who gets the one with Miss October and Rutherford B. Hayes on it. <

Friday, August 6, 2021

Insight: Creative grocery minds working overtime

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I discovered that new products are hitting the shelves this summer faster than I can keep track of them. 

The creative departments at Kellogg’s and General Mills decided that this was a perfect time to introduce a range of new mash-up cereals featuring familiar tastes. Shoppers can now choose between mash-up combinations such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks, or new concoctions from General Mills that feature a mash-up of Trix and Cookie Crisp or Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes cereals.

Not to be outdone, the Kellogg’s braintrust also has jazzed up its line of Pop Tarts this summer with three new bakery treats including Peach Cobbler, Banana Crème Pie and Lemon Crème Pie.

For fans of Thin Mint cookies sold annually by Girl Scouts, I’ve noticed Keebler has now come out with a line of Girl Scout Thin Mint flavored ice cream cones. And the never-ending lineup of exotic Pringles’ potato crisp flavors now includes Wendy’s Spicy Chicken, Wavy Pineapple Habenero, and Scorchin’ Sour Cream and Onion.

Cashing in on the smartphone emoji craze, Eggo waffles has introduced “Eggoji waffles” with playful animated faces on each waffle. Then there’s also a new line of limited Hostess Cupcake summertime flavors such as Key Lime Pie and a returning summer flavor, S’mores.    

Traveling down the soda pop aisle, shoppers can’t help but notice the brightly colored yellow, green and orange cans of new Mountain Dew Baja flavors. The yellow can is pineapple coconut and Mountain Dew called “Baja Flash,” while the green can is called “Baja Blast” mixing traditional Mountain Dew with a lime flavor. The orange can is “Baja Punch” featuring a mix of Tropical Punch and Mountain Dew.

These may not necessarily be new products, but I just observed several items I’ve never seen before in the pancake aisle while shopping last weekend. My grocery store is now selling Cap’n Crunch’s Berrytastic Pancake Mix and Cap’n Crunch’s Ocean Blue Maple Pancake Syrup. The Cap’n Crunch’s Berrytastic Pancake Mix combines Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancake mix with colorful Crunch Berry cereal-inspired bits and Cap’n Crunch’s Ocean Blue Maple Syrup is a sweet topping with Crunch Berry blue color.

Nearby in that same aisle, I saw several kinds of new Aunt Jemima microwave pancake cups in chocolate chip and buttermilk and maple flavors. Each cup contains enough pancake batter that when mixed with water can be microwaved for an on-the-go pancake treat.  

Lay’s Potato Chips has three new flavors out for a limited time this summer including Chile Mango, Wavy Jerk Chicken and Summer BLT. According to the package, Chile Mango combines mango and chile pepper tastes; Wavy Jerk Chicken features the authenticity of spicy, sweet and smoky jerk chicken; and Summer BLT chips combine bacon, lettuce and tomato flavors.

Plant-based burgers and meats have been on grocery shelves for a while now, but during my weekend shopping trip I noticed a product line of plant-based fish in the frozen food aisle for the first time. Good Catch has a line of frozen fish sticks, frozen fish fillets and frozen crab cakes out now made entirely from plants.

It’s also hard to miss BirdsEye’s line of bright green packages of meat-free offerings in the frozen food aisle. BirdsEye’s Green Cuisine line sells a variety of plant-based chicken strips, plant-based chicken nuggets, plant-based sausage and plant-based meatballs and I suspect plant-based fish sticks will not be very far behind those products on grocery shelves. While discussing new BirdsEye products, I couldn’t help but notice a bag of frozen rainbow-colored BirdsEye Steamfresh cauliflower that I imagine some mothers will want to purchase to entice their children to try that vegetable.

Skittles has introduced several new candy products that have arrived on my grocery store candy shelf including Skittles Gummies and single-serve boxes containing only lime green Skittles.

Venturing over to the condiment aisle, I noticed that the classic line of Old Bay crab seasoning now includes bottles of Old Bay Hot Sauce. And Heinz now offers a product called Honeyracha, a blend of ketchup and sriracha sauce.

Choosing a jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has never been harder. My grocery shelf now includes Classic Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise; Vegan Hellmann’s; Avocado Oil Hellmann’s; Canola Cholesterol-Free Hellmann’s; Organic Spicy Chipolte Hellmann’s; Homestyle Hellmann’s; Low-Fat Hellmann’s; Hellmann’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise; Extra Creamy Hellmann’s; Light Hellmann’s Mayonnaise; and Hellmann’s Relish Sandwich Spread.

I attribute all of this proliferation of new items hitting supermarket shelves this summer to grocery product developers stuck at home last year during the pandemic who experimented with an array of flavors and tastes while restaurants were scaled back, and Americans were cooking at home more than ever.

I may not ever try Veggie Goldfish carrot crackers, Cookie Pop Oreo-flavored popcorn, Pringles Wavy Deep Fried Pickle potato crisps or Pepsi marshmallow Peeps, but it’s nice to have a selection when shopping, isn’t it? <

Andy Young: On to Bristol

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

The Saco/Dayton Little League All-Star baseball team won the Maine state championship last Sunday in Old Orchard Beach with a walk-off 7-6 victory over Cumberland/North Yarmouth.  

The come-from-behind triumph completed a most impressive feat; Saco/Dayton had to win or go home in four straight games on four consecutive days, and that’s exactly what they did. The final two victories came against the team that had sent them into the losers bracket earlier in the tournament.  

Being Maine state champions entitles the Saco-Dayton youngsters to travel to Bristol, Connecticut this weekend for the New England regional tournament. The winner there gets a berth in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which will take place Aug. 19 to Aug. 29. 

The LLWS expanded to 16 teams in 2001, doubling the previous number of participants. That guaranteed a spot for the champion of the newly created New England regional.

Previously whoever emerged from the northeast had to survive an “East Regional” against teams from as far south as Maryland to get to Williamsport, which is why the LLWS was played without a New England representative 19 times between 1955 and 1999. 

But now the newly crowned Maine champs face a daunting task. In the 20 years since the new format began, a Maine team has advanced to Williamsport only once. That was in 2005, when a plucky Westbrook squad lost its first three qualifying games but won their last one, which improbably propelled them into the semi-finals against a Farmington, Connecticut team that had won all four of their qualifying games, outscoring their opponents 39-2 in the process.

But Westbrook beat them 6-4, and then topped Cranston, Rhode Island the next day to advance to Williamsport. They played well there, but lost to teams from Vista, California (approximate population 101,000) and Lafayette, Louisiana (126,000) before winning a consolation round game against Owensboro, Kentucky (57,000). Westbrook’s population at the time was approximately 16,000.

New England’s 21st century representatives have excelled in Williamsport on several occasions. In 2003 a Saugus, Massachusetts team won four straight LLWS games before bowing to Boynton Beach, Florida in a semi-final contest. (As punishment for eliminating the New Englanders, Boynton Beach was routed by a Japanese team in the championship game, 10-1.) Other New England teams that managed three victories in Williamsport were Worcester, Massachusetts (2002), Westport, Connecticut (2013), and Fairfield, Connecticut (2017).

Given a variety of factors, it’s understandable Maine has produced just one regional Little League championship team in 19 years. That’s equal to New Hampshire (Portsmouth, 2006) during the same time period, and one more than Vermont. Oddly, Rhode Island, with a population barely 79 percent of Maine’s, has won five of the last six regional Little League championships. Connecticut, which has nearly as many residents as Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island combined, understandably has produced five 21st-century New England winners. However, Rhode Island’s having eight in that same time span is nearly as hard to explain as Massachusetts, with a population nearly equal to that of the other five New England states combined, having accumulated merely four titles, and none since 2009.

The weather in northern New England makes playing baseball against teams from warmer regions an uphill battle. It’s too bad there’s no Little League World Series in certain other sports. Let’s see how Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma would fare in the Little League Hockey World Series. Or better yet, in the Little League Ice-fishing Derby.

The bottom line: the Saco/Dayton boys are already winners. The fun they’ll have in Bristol, not to mention any additional victories, is all gravy. <

Bill Diamond: Supporting Maine’s businesses and investing in our workforce

By Senator Bill Diamond 

On July 19, the Legislature met for a final time this session to allocate the nearly $1 billion in federal funds sent to our state as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, also known as ARPA. These final discretionary funds were in addition to other, targeted aid that our state, our counties, our cities and our towns received to help them recover from the pandemic. Distributing these funds was a big responsibility, but it was a great opportunity to help make much needed investments in our people and our economy. In addition to investing in affordable housing, Maine’s heritage industries, access to health care and expansion of high-speed internet, the Legislature used much of this funding to help support Maine workers and small businesses. I’m happy to share some information about these critical investments with you here.

Maine’s small businesses were hit hard during the pandemic, and though there were many state and federal grant programs to help, many businesses still need assistance. That’s why the Legislature allocated $20 million for economic recovery grants for Maine businesses, targeting businesses that may not have been eligible for previous grants. To make sure businesses aren’t paying the price for the economic downturn that led to high unemployment rates, we’re putting $80 million into the Unemployment Trust Fund so businesses don’t see a rate increase. Finally, we directed funding to support entrepreneurship and new business ventures by investing in research and development grants, offering technical assistance, and cutting down on red tape.

Direct aid to businesses is necessary, but we also need to be strengthening our workforce so that businesses can hire trained, talented workers and so workers can get in-demand, good-paying jobs. Many of these jobs require education or training beyond high school, and we need to make sure Mainers young and old have access to that training. To help young Mainers see all the opportunities they have for a successful and prosperous future right here in Maine, the Legislature directed $20 million in ARPA funds to the Maine Career Exploration program to help educate them about these in-demand careers.

Maine’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers are key to training our workforce to meet the demands of our changing economy. These CTE centers, including the Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples and the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, exist all over our state to help Maine students get the hands-on learning they need to prepare for jobs in the building trades, electrical, childcare and more. These are fields where we desperately need trained workers, and CTE centers help make sure Mainers are prepared to fill those jobs. That’s why we allocated $20 million to help update the facilities and the equipment at these centers, to make sure Mainers have access to the training they need. We also dedicated $45 million to the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems for workforce development programs and invested in apprenticeship programs through the Maine Department of Labor.

As senate chair of the Transportation Committee, I was also pleased to invest in improving our infrastructure, including our highways and bridges. Five million dollars will go toward adaptation improvements to support public safety, emergency management and infrastructure resiliency. We also directed $2 million to fund workforce transportation pilot projects to make sure that workers, especially those in rural areas, are able to get to the employment opportunities near them. Finally, we included $3 million for more electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout our state, which is important as more Mainers make the switch to environmentally friendly electric vehicles.

I’m proud that we were able to direct these funds in ways that I believe will make a real difference for Maine people, and that the Legislature had bipartisan agreement on the overwhelming majority of these measures. If you have any questions about ARPA funds or about any other work the Legislature did this session, please reach out with your questions. Even though the Legislature has officially adjourned for now, I’m still here to help however I can. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email at or to call my office at (207) 287-1515.  <