Friday, March 29, 2024

Insight: Indistinguishable from magic

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Last week was not my best experience when having to overcome technical issues in work and at home.

It all started on a Sunday morning when I tried to log-in to my work website from home using my remote connection. No matter how many times that I tried to do so, the remote connection would not let me connect and an unusual box requesting a password popped up each time.

I texted my boss and asked her if she was aware of any issues or problems and she replied that she wasn’t aware of anything wrong and she was able to log-in remotely. She said she was in Italy with her husband and that she would have her husband investigate the problem and he would be in touch in a little while. About 10 minutes later he texted me and I explained to him my issue.

He spent 15 minutes or so trying to explore solutions, but those suggestions didn’t work. He said he had an appointment and would be in touch later.

In the meantime, I was able to use my home computer to save some documents and I arranged with a co-worker to have them set up a file on the work server and save them there when I emailed them to her. That way I wasn’t losing a lot of productivity from not being able to connect to my office computer remotely.

Later that evening, I received a text that we were going to try again to resolve the remote connection technical problem. After working on it by communicating by text messages back and forth for more than a half hour, I began to realize what he wanted me to do was beyond the scope of my limited technical capabilities. Changing user authentication, removing configurations, changing the shared secret and privacy coding and the like exceeded my knowledge. And both of us were tired, in fact, as he tried to walk me through the steps to fix the issue, he mentioned that it was 2:30 a.m. in Italy. We agreed to call it a night and work on the problem the next day.

On Monday morning, I reconnected with my boss and her husband by text, and they wanted to Zoom with me. After resolving a few issues on my machine to establish a Zoom call with them, we started to work on setting up a new remote connection for me. That was filled with having to overcome an array of technical issues and permissions which they were able to walk me through.

Finally, after about three-quarters of an hour of going back and forth, everything was set up for them to take control of my screen from Italy and install a new remote connection, allowing me to connect with my office computer. It has worked tremendously since then and I was in awe of what they were able to do working on a laptop from Italy to fix my issue and grateful for their assistance.

Two days later, I woke up, sat down at my machine, and discovered that our 10-year-old router no longer worked, and I couldn’t connect to the internet. On my way to the office at 7:45 a.m., I pulled over and using my iPhone, I asked Siri if Staples was open. Within 10 minutes, I had purchased a new router.

When I got home from work that night, I followed the instructions and downloaded the router company’s app onto my iPhone and used the simple step-by-step directions to install the router. The final step was creating a 10-character password using up and down letters, and at least two numerals. When I attempted to log-in, I couldn’t connect the router to my computer. I called the 1-800 number for router technical support and was on hold for more than an hour when I gave up frustrated and said I would try in the morning.

The next day, I tried router technical support again and spent an hour listening to some awful elevator-type of music waiting to have my call answered. When a technician took my call at last, I was overjoyed and answered all her questions about the router’s make, model and serial number. She had me try to connect again and it failed again. When she asked if a blue light was shining on the router we were suddenly disconnected, and I had to go through calling the 1-800 number once again.

This time though I spoke to a different technician and had all the serial number info at hand. She put me on hold for a moment and then asked me what password was showing on my router iPhone app. I thought I entered 10 characters with the last one being an exclamation point, but it showed nine characters with no exclamation point. She suggested I enter that, and it worked and lo and behold, I was connected.

Therefore, hooking my wife’s wireless printer up to the router using the correct password was not an issue just a day later when that technical issue arose.

It turned out to be a week of technical obstacles that I would certainly like to relegate permanently to the memory bank.

An unsolved mystery arrives in Maine

By Andy Young

I want people like D and T living in my neighborhood. Each is generous, energetic, kind, creative, determined, attractive, courageous, honest, and fully committed to doing everything they can to make the world a better place for everybody. Together they are a powerhouse.

In order to shield these two wonderful but intensely private individuals from any unwanted attention, I’m going to refer to them by the third letters of their first names. I was going to identify them by using the last digit in their respective phone numbers, but that would make their true identities far too obvious.

After reading my glowing descriptions of I and P (the first letter of the state where each grew up), one would naturally assume that we would spend a great deal of time together. But unfortunately, according to Google Maps their front doorstep is located 825.5 miles from mine, which makes actual visiting difficult.

It would take 13 hours and 16 minutes to drive to their residence, so making a round trip in a single day would be impossible, even if I left on the Saturday night in early November when the clocks get set back to Standard Time.

Every year B and E (the first letter of their respective favorite football teams) call me on a particular day, and after observing a very specific protocol we get down to the business of catching up.

I regale them with only slightly embellished tales of my doings here in Maine, while they update me on what’s been going on in their world. These special phone conversations are never long enough.

Our most recent electronic get-together occurred when they called last month to sing “Happy Birthday,” congratulate me on turning 39 again, catch me up on their lives, and allow me to catch them up on mine.

Even by their lofty standards, last year was a memorable one for B and B (the first letter of their respective hair colors). Always enthusiastic travelers/adventurers, they had toured several African nations, going on a memorable safari while they were there.

But when they asked if I’d gotten the postcard that they sent me from Botswana last July, I quickly changed the subject.

That’s because I didn’t remember getting any postcard, which could only mean one of two things, neither of which was attractive.

Possibility number one: I am in fact a terrible person, since only the most callous, self-centered, egotistical “friend” would fail to acknowledge such a kindness.

Possibility number two: I truly didn’t remember receiving the postcard, meaning that premature senility has arrived even more prematurely than I had anticipated it would.

One afternoon several weeks after that phone call I found two items in my mailbox after returning from work. One was a gentle reminder from the power company to pay them if I wished to continue receiving electricity for my home. The other was a colorful picture postcard with “Chobe National Park” and “Botswana” printed on the front. On its back side was an uncancelled South African stamp in the upper right corner, and handwritten messages from both A and M (last names of a famous Texas university).

There were no postmarks or dates of any kind on either side of the card, which was in pristine condition. In fact, were it not for the writing on the back, the Botswanan postcard vendor could undoubtedly have sold it again, and at full price.

Forget how the pyramids of Giza were built, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and the JFK assassination. The only mystery I want solved is where that postcard spent the past nine months! < 

Friday, March 22, 2024

Insight: A Mighty Rhine Time

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

As a child, I always dreamed of traveling around the world, seeing how other people lived and if the sun looked any different coming up on the other side of the world. In November 1977, as a member of the U.S. Air Force, I got to experience what it would be like to live in another country when I was assigned to serve at a location in Germany.

Ed Pierce, right, visited Oktoberfest in Munich,
Germany with some of his U.S. Air Force friends
in 1978. He was stationed in Germany from 1977
to 1979 just outside Frankfurt.
When I first arrived in Frankfurt and stepped outside the airport, a difference I noticed was the air smelled like vegetables. At that time, German sugar beet farms surrounded the Frankfurt airport, and it was beet harvesting season.

As I settled in to living in another country and didn’t speak German, subtle cultural differences quickly became apparent to me. About a week in, some of my Air Force co-workers stopped to buy lunch at a food truck along a highway. The menu featured several types of “wurst” sandwiches, different kinds of sausages on a hard roll and were accompanied by “pomme frites,” or what we know as French fries. The woman taking orders asked me in German something about my meal and not understanding a word she was saying, I smiled and nodded to her.

When my order was ready, I discovered the waitress had asked if I wanted mayonnaise on my French fries, a common custom there. I had to scrape it off my fries and it wouldn’t be the last time my inability to speak the language led to a surprise.

Several months later after renting an apartment in Frankfurt, I learned that on the other side of the wall to my living room was a pizza parlor. One evening I decided to order a pizza to bring home for dinner. The owner was Italian and spoke little German, but I pointed to the medium pepperoni pizza on the menu and paid him. I sat there while he prepared and cooked the pizza for me.

At some point, he said something in Italian to me and made a motion referring to the pizza slices. I thought he was asking me if I wanted my pizza sliced, so I smiled and nodded in agreement. When I opened the pizza box at home, I was shocked. Apparently, the pizza shop owner had asked if I wanted raw egg on my pizza, which is a popular pizza topping there.

At a local carnival, I purchased a box of popcorn and found that instead of salt, Germans prefer to sprinkle sugar on their popcorn.

When renting my apartment, I learned that the term “unfurnished” was a bit more extreme there than in the United States. When Germans describe an apartment as being “unfurnished,” it’s not only without furniture. “Unfurnished” there means without appliances such as a stove or even overhead light fixtures as there were just wires to hook light fixtures up to. I had to purchase at a department store a toilet seat and door handles. I had to buy a bottle of liquor for the “hausmeister” or apartment manager to obtain a small electric stove for me.

For $25 I bought a second-hand apartment-size refrigerator from an Air Force sergeant who lived in the apartment building but was returning to the U.S. later that week. I found that Germans do not use ice and cook all their meals fresh every day, so they do not have refrigerators in their residences. That goes for businesses and restaurants too. Beer on tap is room temperature and even soft drinks such as Coca Cola are served warm.

Trying to work the stove offered me lessons in the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit and made me appreciate that America did not convert to Celsius configurations for baking when it was proposed in the early 1970s.

Somebody gave me a television set and I tried to watch German drama programs, but the better offerings were shows imported from the U.S. and it was kind of funny to hear Telly Savalas as “Kojak” dubbed in German or William Shatner as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek” giving orders to the crew of the Starship Enterprise dubbed in German. My favorite German television show was the “Hit Parade” on Saturday nights. Many American musical acts appeared on that show, and I could understand what they were singing, although once an American performer named Ken Curtis was introduced and he sang entirely in German. After a minute or so of watching his performance, I realized that Ken Curtis was the actor who portrayed Festus Haggen on “Gunsmoke” on American television.

I loved strolling through outdoor markets in Frankfurt on the weekend and the aroma of fresh baked cakes and cookies during the Christmas season. One time I was amazed to see a pack of dogs sitting together on a sidewalk looking in the window of a shop as I approached. As I got closer, I found the dogs were sitting and looking in the window as a butcher hung meat cuts there. I thought it was a scene my grandfather might have witnessed as a child and now I was observing it too.

For me, living overseas made me grateful for the life we have here in America.

Jane Pringle: Resources to streamline your tax filing

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

As we turn the corner into spring, it is once again time to contend with tax filing season. While filing taxes with the IRS can be complicated and difficult, I wanted to use this space to share some tools and resources that will make the experience more manageable. Tax season can be a time to reflect, take stock of our financial circumstances and encourage us to make the necessary adjustments to promote financial responsibility and growth.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
Last year, my colleagues and I passed a number of pivotal measures to provide meaningful relief and develop a fairer tax structure. As your legislator, it is my goal to always advocate for bills that will put money back into the hands of hardworking Mainers and their families.

For example: We expanded the Property Fair Tax Credit by increasing the qualifying income and assets so that more middle-class Mainers will be able to qualify. We also passed a new, refundable child tax credit to help parents build economic security and to assist in lifting Maine families out of poverty. These credits, among others, are available for folks to capitalize on this tax season.

Additionally, there is an abundance of resources ranging from user-friendly software to professional assistance that can provide guidance and streamline the process. If you are hoping to secure professional help, CA$H Maine is a group of nonprofit and for-profit businesses across that state that work together to provide tax preparation resources and other financial services to those who meet the income requirements.

This year, their services include in-person appointments where you can bring your relevant documents to an IRS-certified tax preparer who will prepare your taxes that same day. If there is not enough time in your schedule to accommodate an in-person meeting, there is a Scan & Go service and a Drop & Go service at participating locations where a preparer will complete your filing and then call to inform you when you can return to pick up your documents.

There is also the IRS tax assistance office. While there are a handful of locations across the state, the closest office to Windham can be found in South Portland at 440 Western Ave. They are currently holding extended hours and are available to accept appointments; to make one, please call (844) 545-5640. Not only do they have a volunteer income assistance program, but the office also offers tax counseling for those 60 or older.

Qualifying individuals include folks who make $64,000 a year or less, those with disabilities and taxpayers who don’t speak English as their first language. This service is staffed by volunteers who are required to meet IRS standards, making it a trusted and reliable source available to answer any questions you may have regarding your taxes.

Locally, there is also an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, which offers free assistance to Mainers who need help filing their taxes. Certified by the IRS and operated by AARP volunteers, the service is open to taxpayers of all ages; AARP membership is not required. The foundation encourages all to file, even if not required, as some lower-income folks might be eligible for additional Maine state refunds for property tax, rent relief and sales tax relief.

To put your name on the waiting list for an appointment for the Tax-Aide’s Windham location at Unity Garden, call 207-518-8579.

By approaching tax season with a positive mindset and utilizing the resources above, it is my hope that taxpayers will be more easily able to navigate the process. The deadline to file is April 15, and there is no time like the present to decide your tax filing strategy in order to maximize potential deductions and minimize possible liabilities. With the proper assistance, individuals should feel prepared to take advantage of any deductions and credits available from both federal and state governments. Happy filing!

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously served from 2012-2014. She is currently a member of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee in the 131st Maine Legislature. <

Andy Young: The wrong man for the job

By Andy Young

I don’t know why I even opened that bit of obvious junk mail last month. But doing so was a big mistake.

What was inside the innocuous-looking white envelope was a form letter from a marketing company asking me to complete an online survey. Doing so would allegedly take under five minutes.

Ordinarily I’d have dismissed such a request out of hand, but in this case, I was compelled to make an exception, because there were two actual one-dollar bills attached to the letter. And while I had no real interest in filling out any surveys, the thought of pocketing $2 for doing nothing didn't seem right, so I dutifully went online.

As promised, the exercise took less than 5 minutes. Knowing I was finished, I donated the $2 to the local food bank and called it a day.

But that old saying about no good deed going unpunished is all too true.

A week or so later a large cardboard envelope marked “Priority Mail” appeared on my front doorstep.

“Dear Mr. Young,” the enclosed letter began. “Thank you so much for completing our online survey. Can you help us now by completing this equally important Survey of the American Consumer questionnaire booklet?”

This time there was a $5 bill enclosed. I felt helpless. Having already established I couldn’t accept $2 for doing nothing, I obviously couldn’t just pocket a fiver, so I resigned myself to filling out the entire 124-page questionnaire.

Fortunately, I was able to omit large portions of the survey. For example, one section asked me to check off the name of every store I had visited in the last six months.

I answered “no” to Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, Bath and Body Works, Big Lots, Bloomingdale’s, Crate and Barrel, Dollar General, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, The Gap, Hobby Lobby, J. Crew, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Pottery Barn, and all 58 of the other listed establishments.

Before beginning the survey, I had no inkling of just how many products exist that I don’t buy.

My bottom line (money spent on listed item) was zero for, among other things, tanning products, electronic cigarettes/vaping, body powder, boxed chocolates, snack mixes, malt liquor, motor oil additives, foreign vacations, cruise ships, fine jewelry, cameras, video games, mobile phone accessories, casino gambling, sour cream, dry cake mixes, frozen hot snacks, dessert toppings, frozen pizza, canned meat, pickle relish, nectars, spray starch, carpet and rug cleaners, cat litter, dog treats, wood pellets, infant cereal, lighter fluid, and approximately 745 other things.

Pages 69 thru 85 asked which cable TV channels I watch. I said no to Netflix, VH-1, Newsmax, Starz, Lifetime, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, MTV, Animal Planet, Telemundo, HBO, Hulu, History Channel, BET, Comedy Central, the Food Network, Cartoon Network, Disney, Bravo, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes, and every other option listed, many of which I’d never heard of.

I’ve never been happier about having a TV-free house than I was when I realized I’d be able to skip 16 pages of that survey.

The seemingly endless personal inventory took parts of four days to complete, but when I finished, I heaved a sigh of relief, earmarked my “free” $5 bill for the local food bank, and considered the matter closed.

By now it’s been established that I am to consumerism what Pee Wee Herman was to bodybuilding.

So hear this, marketing companies: I’m not filling out another survey, no matter how much money you attach to it! There is nothing to be gained by sending me another one.

Unless you’re affiliated with the local food bank. <

Friday, March 15, 2024

Tim Nangle: Working together for a better Maine

By State Senator Tim Nangle

Every day I commute to Augusta, I'm reminded of the incredible power working together has on our state. Maine is our home, a place where we all share dreams of a better future for ourselves and our kids. In my time at the State House, I've seen how much we can achieve when we work hard, regardless of our differences.

State Senator Tim Nangle
This past year, we've made some significant steps toward this future. We've tackled issues that matter to all of us, like making sure as many Mainers as possible have a safe place to live, providing critical support to victims of violence, and keeping our precious waters clean and safe. Today, I want to talk about a few of these efforts and show how bipartisan collaboration is not only possible, but how we can make a meaningful impact for Mainers.

Many of us know how hard it is for folks to find a safe, affordable place to live. That's why I was thrilled to see so many key housing initiatives in the bipartisan budget signed into law last summer. The budget expanded the Housing First Program, providing shelter and comprehensive support services for our chronically unhoused neighbors. Additionally, the budget set aside money for affordable housing programs, including the Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program and the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program. We also invested more funds into the Low-Income Assistance Program, helping families cover the cost of heating and other utilities.

These initiatives will help people without homes get the support they need while simultaneously making more affordable houses available. It's a big win for all Mainers struggling to find safe and affordable homes.

In a crucial step to support survivors of violence, LD 2084, “An Act to Provide Funding for Essential Services for Victims of Crimes,” received unanimous, bipartisan votes in the Judiciary Committee, as well as both the Senate and House chambers. This is a critical bill that will help to fill the gap left by dwindling federal VOCA funds. VOCA, or the Victims of Crime Act, has historically been a lifeline that offers essential services to those affected by violence.

Unfortunately, those funds from the federal government have decreased over the past few years. As a result, Maine is facing a 60 percent reduction in federal funds. By using state resources to fill this gap, LD 2084 will ensure that Maine's support network – ranging from crisis response to long-term aid for survivors – remains robust.

As you may know, I’ve been working on a bill aimed at giving towns better tools to deal with shoreland zoning violations. This was prompted by the challenges in the town of Raymond but will be helpful for all Maine towns. I’m pleased to share that LD 2101, “An Act to Strengthen Shoreland Zoning Enforcement,” received a strong, bipartisan vote from the Committee on State and Local Government and is now heading to the Senate floor for a vote. This step shows our collective effort to protect Maine's shorelands and support towns in enforcing the rules.

If you follow national news, you probably feel frustrated because it seems like partisan arguing gets in the way of any real progress. I hear you. I want you to know that in Maine, hundreds of bills every year pass the Legislature with unanimous, bipartisan support. We work together all the time to accomplish things you sent us here to do.

It doesn't matter if we're Democrats or Republicans; what matters is our shared love for Maine and our commitment to making it even better. The issues I wrote about here are only a few examples of what we can achieve when we put our minds together for the common good.

For young Mainers interested in experiencing the legislative process up close, the Maine Senate’s Honorary Page Program is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. Pages help distribute amendments and deliver messages between Senators in the Senate Chamber. To learn more or apply, reach out to the Senate Secretary’s Office at 207-287-1540 or email

I'm always here to listen to you and work on your behalf. Your thoughts, concerns, and dreams for our state guide everything I do. Let's keep the conversation going. Reach out to me anytime at or call 207-287-1515. For the latest updates, follow me on Facebook at, and sign up for my e-newsletter at

Together, we're building a brighter future for Maine, one step at a time. Thank you for your trust, support, and partnership. Let's keep moving forward together. <

Insight: In search of extraterrestrials

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

If you missed this bit of news last week, a Pentagon study says there is no credible evidence that exists verifying U.S. authorities covered up extraterrestrial life in the form of unidentified flying objects.

This follows decades of persistent rumors that an Unidentified Flying Object crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and an alien spacecraft and deceased occupants from another world were quickly removed and covered up by members of the U.S. military there. A 63-page report offered simple explanations for unexplained UFO sightings and what it says are up to 40 percent of Americans who believe the U.S. has been visited by spaceships containing alien beings.

The report also refutes claims that the U.S. government and private companies have been able to access alien spacecraft and use reverse-engineered extraterrestrial technology for top-secret projects.

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time reading science fiction stories and comic books about visitors from outer space and this Pentagon report got me to thinking about what my life and our culture would have been like without the mention of aliens from other worlds.

Since I grew up watching television, one of my favorite shows as a small child was “The Adventures of Superman” starring George Reeves. Superman himself was an alien visitor to Earth, sent here by his parents as a baby to escape the destruction of the planet Krypton when it exploded. I later had a subscription to the “Adventure” comic book featuring the Legion of Super Heroes who were a group of superpowered alien beings.

Many episodes of sci-fi programs airing in the early 1960s such as “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits” involved scary extraterrestrial visitors in one way or another. And if I wanted a good laugh, there was “Uncle Martin” the Martian with funny antennae as played by Ray Walston on the comedy “My Favorite Martian.”

When “Lost in Space” and “Star Trek” debuted in the mid-1960s, alien characters on television increased significantly. For me, the character of Mr. Spock of “Star Trek” stood out, as Leonard Nimoy portrayed a half-human logical being from the planet Vulcan with pointed ears and green blood. Spock’s popularity opened the door for acceptance of alien characters in further television programs and in movies going forward.

In the 1970s, alien characters were everywhere in entertainment.

Films such as “Star Wars” in 1977 introduced the world to strange creatures such as Jabba the Hutt, the Wookie Chewbacca, and Yoda, a small and wise centuries-old green Jedi. On television, viewers tuned in to Robin Williams as the alien Mork from the planet Ork on the comedy “Mork and Mindy.”

By the 1980s, it was hard to miss the flood of alien characters permeating our world. There was the powerful alien who devoured humans in the movie “Predator,” or a lost extraterrestrial who wanted to phone home in director Steven Spielburg’s “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” In the movie “Cocoon,” the residents of a Florida nursing home discover an alien fountain of youth in a swimming pool. In “Starman” actor Jeff Bridges played an alien creature who inhabits the body of a dead man from Wisconsin while trying to reconnect with his spaceship. TV's "Alf," short for Alien Life Form, was about an alien creature living with an American family. 

On television in the 1990s, hit shows such as “3rd Rock from the Sun,” or “The X-Files” or “Babylon 5” continued to focus on aliens while defeating alien invaders in popular films such as “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” fascinated moviegoers.

And if you’re thinking that the Baby Boomer generation is the only one to be preoccupied by the thought of aliens visiting our world, may I remind you of a story my father told me about when he was in high school in the 1930s and was listening to the radio one evening and a program was broadcast that severely panicked Americans because of its topic.

It was a CBS radio adaptation of an H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel by a troupe of actors led by Orson Welles called “The War of the Worlds” about an invasion of Earth by hostile Martians. Some listeners to that broadcast were convinced that an extraterrestrial crisis was unfolding in America as alien spacecraft were landing in New Jersey that night before Halloween in 1938. My father said that broadcast felt so real, he didn’t know if he there would be school classes the very next morning.

Now as an adult, I must confess that I am not among the 40 percent who believe that alien spacecraft have visited our planet and I find it interesting that funding was authorized by The Pentagon to determine if the government has any sort of evidence or testimony of aliens or extraterrestrial spacecraft hidden away in storage.

That doesn’t mean that I do not wonder if somewhere out in the universe, there is an alien civilization which is like our own. I believe that our basic human desire is to think we are not alone in life, and it has led to the ongoing popularity of television series and films about aliens and space exploration in our culture today.

If the idea of alien existence was not part of our culture, I surely would have spent parts of my life differently.

Andy Young: We're Number One

By Andy Young

Locally there was much joy earlier this month when the Windham High School boys’ basketball team won its first-ever Maine Class AA State Championship.

But it’s hardly the first time the town of Windham has faced stiff competition and emerged triumphant. In fact, Windham, Maine already owns a distinction which the eight other American municipalities with the same name can only wish they possessed.

Some of those envious other places are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to vying for the title of Best Windham. For example, Windham, Iowa is just an unincorporated community that lies 11 miles west of Iowa City, midway between the villages of Frytown and Cosgrove. The United States Census doesn’t collect population data in a way that shows exactly how many people live in unincorporated villages, but in 1925, the last time such numbers were available, Iowa’s Windham had a mere 35 residents.

Oddly, two of America’s eight other Windhams lie in the same state. There’s a Windham Township, Pennsylvania in both Bradford County and Wyoming County, but it’s tough to differentiate between the two. Bradford County’s Windham Township is home to 818 souls, whereas the Wyoming County Windham Township’s population is only 737.

The only other Windhams in America that lie outside New England are Windham, New York (population 1,708) and Windham, Montana, a 267-acre, 43-person CDP (census-designated place) located in Judith Basin County. But when it comes to elevation, the other Windhams can’t compete with Montana’s, which lies 4,264 feet above sea level. New York’s Windham, with a location 1,893 feet above the ocean, stands a distant second in this category. Windham, Vermont takes home the bronze, at 1,759 feet. This particular portion of the Windham decathlon isn’t a strong event for Maine’s Windham, which at 236 feet above sea level lies just higher than the Windhams of Connecticut (233 feet) and New Hampshire (194 feet).

While New York’s Windham, which locals there refer to as “Land in the Sky” and/or “The Gem of the Catskills,” may hold the title of highest-elevated Windham east of the Mississippi, it has a less enviable distinction as well. In 1937 it was home to Camp Highland, a Nazi-sponsored summer camp for German-American boys.

When it comes to population though, Maine’s Windham rules northern New England. The 2020 census says 18,434 people live here, which is 2,617 more than reside in Windham, New Hampshire and 18,015 more than tiny Windham that Vermont contains. But alas, that same census certifies that Windham, Connecticut is home to 24,428, which makes them the top Windham in that category not only in New England, but the entire United States.

However, if size really does matter, Windham, Maine is easily number one. The Iowa and Montana Windhams are mere postage stamps, and the Wyoming County Windham Township consists of just 23.2 square miles. The other three New England Windhams aren’t much bigger; Vermont’s consists of just 26.1 square miles, New Hampshire’s has 27.78, and Connecticut’s is 27.9. The Windham Township in Bradford County, Pennsylvania is a slightly more sizable 32.29 square miles, but that’s dwarfed by Windham, New York’s area: 45.34 square miles.

However, the largest American Windham by far is Maine’s! At a massive 50.15 square miles, the Pine Tree State’s Windham is nearly 10 percent larger than the runner-up Windham, New York’s. And it would still be bigger even if the judges didn’t count the 3.59 square miles of Windham, Maine’s total area that’s water.

Most importantly though, Maine’s Windham owns one other distinction that New York’s only wishes it could claim.

Our state’s Windham has never hosted a Nazi-sponsored summer camp. <

Friday, March 8, 2024

Insight: Time Traveling Yet Again

By Ed Pierce
Managing Edito

The odds are 100 percent that I will not be awake at 2 a.m. Sunday when Daylight Saving Time arrives once more for 2024.

Years ago, I couldn’t wait to lose an hour’s sleep once a year because it meant more time to spend outside after dinner for months. And I didn’t care about gaining an extra hour of time every fall when the clocks returned to normalcy.

But now that I’m older, I question why the annual time change always takes place at 2 a.m. Why not at 5 p.m. on a Monday to trim an hour of work for employees or at 6 p.m. on Friday evenings so Major League Baseball games start an hour earlier?

From what I’ve observed, Daylight Saving Time was set up this way because at 2 a.m. Sunday, most people are home asleep, and it’s the customary closing time for many bars across America. The thought was that making a time change at 2 a.m. would affect the fewest people.

But why make the time change at all? A teacher once told me that Daylight Saving Time was created to give farmers more daylight hours to grow more crops. But that’s not true as farming groups actively lobbied against Daylight Saving Time, saying it gave them one less hour to prepare crops for sale.

During an interview I once had with a dairy farmer in Sanbornton, New Hampshire, he told me his cows were temperamental and were creatures of habit. He said his cows liked to be milked every day at sunrise and disrupting that schedule by shifting to Daylight Saving Time resulted in his cows producing less milk until resuming Standard Time in the fall.

My mother always said switching to Daylight Saving Time was a good thing as it helps us all hold down energy costs. She said if you’re doing something outside after dinner, you’re not inside your home running up your electric bill.

Recently though I discovered that’s not the case because as energy bills have risen sharply across the nation those not outside after dinner tend to turn on air conditioners or ceiling fans to the delight of power companies.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force, where Daylight Saving Time was implemented always baffled me. Some states where I was stationed switched times while others didn’t.

For example, when I was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, that state was warm year-round and didn’t want an extra hour of sunshine every day. And during the summer months there by 5 a.m. it was already 100 degrees outside, so by not changing to Daylight Saving Time, the sun was up at 4 a.m. and you could hear some homeowners out there mowing their lawn at that early morning hour.

I also spent time in the Air Force in Indianapolis, Indiana which didn’t recognize and adopt Daylight Saving Time until years later, yet other parts of Indiana did. I recall making a phone call from Indianapolis to an office at Grissom Air Force Base in Kokomo, Indiana which was not that far away at 4 p.m. but the office in Kokomo was already closed because it was 5 p.m. there.

Lately, some state legislatures have passed measures to make Daylight Saving Time permanent throughout the year or others have passed bills to do away with the time-change practice. I have a hard time keeping up with where every state currently stands.

During World War I in 1918, Americans experienced Daylight Saving Time nationwide for the first time, but by 1919, many states abandoned it. At some point during World War II, it returned only to be phased out again by some states and municipalities after the war, producing a kalidescope of time zones for airline schedulers and weary travelers.

Congress intervened in 1966 and passed the Uniform Time Act, standardizing Daylight Saving Time to start every year on the last Sunday in April and run through the last Sunday in October across the nation. It was not a complete bill though as some states could remain on Standard Time all year long.

Two years ago, the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act permanently moving clocks ahead one hour year-round and jettisoning the practice of switching clocks back and forth twice a year. But that measure has never been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and forwarded to the president to be signed into law.

As someone who walks their dog after dinner during the summer, I like having it light outside to be able to see. It’s much easier than having my dog leash in one hand and the other carrying a flashlight to guide our way down the sidewalk.

Just last week, I read a magazine article suggesting that home break-ins and other property crimes go down during Daylight Saving Time as those crimes typically occur under the cover of darkness.

As for me, I really am ambivalent about the return of Daylight Saving Time. I just wish we could set one time and let it go at that. Changing clocks throughout the house and in the car twice a year is not something I relish.

Staycation for the memory books: Anatomy of a budget friendly day trip

By Michelle Cote
The Rookie Mama  

We keep calm and march on through this month sandwiched between school vacations of epic proportions.

Perhaps, my friends, that’s why we call it March.

And forward, we go.

Our family is coming off the marathon high of back-to-back day trips we took throughout our children’s February break, and so we pause, take five, and gear back up for April’s go-round of staycation adventures.

We have our collectively frugal mindset to credit for a successful tour of outings, which could not have taken place without our being intentionally fiscally mindful.

It was a Presidential birthday bash week to remember, and I cannot tell a lie.

But despite Washington’s commemorative day, we were the ones celebrating how little we used the currency upon which he is a cover model.

Life is expensive, unapologetically so for larger families, rendering us no choice but to work our innovative muscles sometimes.

Every family escapade we plan must accommodate six humans – therefore include six prices of admission, food, other incidentals for all the incidents ­– so we find ways to do this creatively and economically when possible.

And those were our precedents as we planned the birthday week of presidents.

After all, memories are measured in moments, little joys and wonders and snack breaks and dad jokes knit together into core experiences that transpire just as easily without breaking the bank.

Our crew of littles range in age from 3 to 12, and so we began by narrowing down what experiences are suitable for all. Sometimes that alone is most challenging.

To plan February break’s week of escapades, we headed straight to our favorite magical world of everything – our local public library.

I didn’t need the Dewey Decimal system to discover a year ago that our library membership granted us access to opportunities chock-full of free and heavily discounted programming, in addition to unlimited free books, movies, music, armloads which we borrow weekly.

Thanks to public libraries, we’ve been to the zoo, botanical gardens, other places at significantly reduced prices where we would have otherwise paid a mint. I’d rather put the cash toward another mint garden bed.

This past break, we were able to use library benefits to attend a classic movie screening at our local historic theater, spend a day at the Children’s Museum, and visit a large aquarium – all at reduced or no cost.

We spent other adventuring days exploring trails and granite quarries deep in the woods, scooting around solid ice at two separate lakes, discovering animal prints, using long sticks to create large-scale mazes in fresh layers of snow.

We perused our collection of gift cards to treat ourselves for takeout.

We even took our boys to the mall – a place they’ve never been because my husband and I haven’t even been since we shopped at the Gap and cut through the corner Godiva toward the food court to sample free teriyaki chicken bites.

Many things had changed – Some hadn’t.

It was a hoot for the kiddos, because it was new and different.

We also got our steps in.

On our longer stretches of day travel, my husband and I pre-packed a giant thermos of coffee ahead so we could enjoy it on the road home after a full day’s escapade – This has become a time-honored tradition we truly savor, and not only because it’s hazelnut.

Core memories. Joys. Wonders. Snacks. Dad jokes.

No broken banks.

And the options for day tripping on a budget don’t stop there.

There’s joy to be found in walking beaches, hiking new trails, studying up on other local programs that may be free or discounted for your whole gang.

I can’t underscore enough that there is great value in proactively saving up for an excursion, especially if it’s something you know will have unavoidable associated costs out of your regular spending range.

Cost of gas, lodging, passports for longer travels – There are expenditures that can’t be avoided, no matter how exemplary you may be at pre-packing a cooler of snacks or cleverly finding validated parking.

Include a designated adventure ‘bucket’ among your checking account funds to which you pitch in monthly for other expenses such as heating oil or car repairs.

Contribute what you can throughout the year in the lead-up so expenses for your adventures are preloaded, rather than take the credit card hit afterward.

Remember – Big or small, these ventures will be cherished by your family, because they are moments, not things.

Time spent with your loved ones as you wander new places together doesn’t need to come at luxury cost.

Whether you travel far or near, you’ll forever own the experience.

I cannot tell a lie.<

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time!

Andy Young: The Omen That Wasn't

By Andy Young

Some people have the uncanny ability to perceive when destiny-changing good fortune is imminent. I know because I’m one of them. That’s why I was thrilled when I got that magical feeling at 16 minutes before 5 a.m. one morning last week. This sort of thing has happened to me before, so I recognized it immediately as a harbinger of something special. But who wouldn’t have that sensation if their day began with an event that has a less than one percent chance of occurring?

When I started my car to begin my commute to work the clock on the dashboard read, “4:44.”

There are 720 possible numerical readings on a digital clock, but only six of them (1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, and 11:11) contain just one of the 10 possible digits, with none of the other nine. That’s how I knew something amazing was in the offing! But what remarkable event was this portentous “coincidence” foreshadowing? A winning lottery ticket? A Pulitzer Prize? The Congressional Medal of Honor, perhaps? I could hardly wait to find out what bit (or with luck, bits) of good fortune fate had planned for me and my family.

My drive to school that morning was routine. Then after arriving I did what I customarily do: exercise, prepare for the day’s classes, and chat briefly with the morning custodian. Then at 7:15 I reported promptly to the cafeteria, where until 7:40 my assignment was to make sure no one started a food fight, set a fire, or triggered a revolution.

Some 25 minutes later, having successfully staved off unrest, I headed for my classroom, wondering just how the remainder of this soon-to-be-remarkable day would unfold. But the class was fairly typical. Nine high school seniors were there on time, although their ranks had swelled to 16 by the end of the block. That was because, as is almost always the case, seven more subsequently strolled in at their leisure, each bearing a late pass and a large cup of colorful liquid bearing the name of a local purveyor of overpriced caffeinated beverages.

The next class was similar, albeit with fewer late-arriving pupils. And there was nothing remarkable about advisory, the 20-minute break from academic classes that was called “homeroom” back when I was a student (and dinosaurs roamed the earth). Our school’s teachers are encouraged to use this time to meaningfully interact with individual students, which I do every time I can locate one who isn’t being mesmerized by one or more electronic devices.

Nothing unusual occurred during lunch, nor during my remaining classes. But even though the day had been pretty typical, I still had the distinct feeling something memorable was lurking just around the corner. There had to be a reason my day had begun with that prophetic triple-digit omen.

Immediately after school I attended a meeting, and when it concluded I hustled down to the gym to watch our school’s unified basketball team’s game. Afterward I headed for my car, and my commute home, still eagerly anticipating whatever life-altering surprise was in my immediate future.

It turned out there was indeed something out-of-the-ordinary waiting for me. But it wasn’t a big check, a prestigious prize, or a gala reception at the White House.

For the second time that day, when I started my car its clock read, “4:44.” I smiled when I saw that. An unusual coincidence, yes, but hardly earth-shattering.

I understand that not every omen portends a life-changing event. And I’m okay without a Pulitzer. But a few more students arriving on time for Block 1 would have been nice. <

Friday, March 1, 2024

Insight: The Mane Attraction

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I was pleased to learn that in a few months, the U.S. Army will revive a tradition dating back to the 19th century of using horses under the care of the Old Guard unit at Fort Myer, Virginia to lead funeral processions for military service members being buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A plaque at Black Jack's gravesite at Fort Myer, Virginia
tells the story of his service as the 'riderless' horse during
the funeral procession for U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
The program has been suspended for the past year when several horses died from improper nutrition and other horses were suffering from painful conditions caused by heavy and poorly designed Army saddles and harnesses in use for more than 100 years. Now with rest, a better diet and newer and safer equipment, the Old Guard expects to start using horses again for funerals by the start of summer.

When the news about this first broke last spring, it led me to reflect upon the time I spent at Fort Myer in 1980 and a visit I made to the grave of the Old Guard’s most famous horse, a Morgan and Quarterhorse cross gelding named Black Jack, who is buried near the flag pole at Summerall Field there. Black Jack is one of only four U.S. Army horses to receive full military honors upon his death and will forever be remembered as the “riderless” horse during the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

Black Jack was born in Oklahoma on Jan. 19, 1947 and was acquired by the U.S. Army and assigned to the Old Guard in November 1953. He was a large horse at 15.1 hands tall and weighed more than 1,200 pounds. He was high spirited and temperamental and was named for his coal black appearance and after legendary Army General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. From the start of his service at Fort Myer, it was apparent that Black Jack would have trouble fitting in with the other horses on duty there.

He balked at being part of a team of Old Guard horses pulling the caissons carrying caskets to gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery. It’s a ceremonial event dating back to the days of horse-drawn Army caissons carrying artillery. Black Jack proved to be a significant challenge for even the most experienced soldiers who wanted to ride him during parades and for other ceremonial events. He repeatedly kicked his stall door in the Old Guard stables at Fort Myer, refused to wear a harness, and would hesitate at commands given to him from anyone other than his assigned handler.

But after almost a decade of service at Fort Myer, Black Jack had found his niche as the “riderless” horse trailing behind during Old Guard funeral processions. On some days the Old Guard at Fort Myer would work as many as six different funerals a day and by the time his tenth anniversary of service neared in 1963, Black Jack was a part of more than 1,000 funerals at Arlington.

The Old Guard is stationed at Fort Myer and happens to be the U.S. Army’s oldest active-duty infantry regiment, first created in 1784. Besides military funeral services, it provides sentinels for the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery, color guards for events across Washington, D.C., escorting presidential motorcades and handling the caskets of fallen military members who died overseas and were flown home to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

When President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, requested a public funeral for him through the streets of Washington to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. During the first-ever televised funeral of a U.S. president, Black Jack appeared behind the caisson carrying Kennedy’s casket and the horse was decked out in full military dress tack with an empty saddle and black boots turned backwards in the stirrups.

His Old Guard handler led Black Jack through the nine miles of the procession as the horse pranced at times and was difficult to control during the two-hour event. Millions watched and came to admire Black Jack for his unwavering and unrelenting spirit.

Black Jack became an instant celebrity and later served as the “riderless” horse in the funerals of U.S. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur. Thousands of children would write Black Jack letters and a visit to his stables at Fort Myer became a tourist destination for visitors to Washington.

Arthritis and kidney issues forced Black Jack’s retirement in 1973 and on Feb. 6, 1976, he died and was buried at Fort Myer. The beloved horse was given a dignified sendoff worthy of national figures including a ceremonial 21-gun salute.

While assigned to The Pentagon in Washington in 1980, my barracks were at Fort Myer and one day I took a walk through the grounds and met some Old Guard members who were outside grooming horses. They offered me a quick tour of the stables and then an Old Guard platoon leader guided me to the nearby grave of Black Jack and told me his own story of how he helped care for the horse when he became a member of the Old Guard.

Now some 44 years later, Old Guard horses will soon be leading funeral processions into Arlington National Cemetery once again. I believe Black Jack would certainly approve.

Andy Young: The Best Conversation Partner

By Andy Young

There’s a simple act, one that’s existed for millenia, that I never would have engaged in when I was young, and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to get caught doing it openly. In fact, I was still reluctant to try it 20 years ago.

But now I do it all the time, and sometimes publicly. Yeah, I talk aloud to myself. Why shouldn’t I?

When I was growing up people who audibly conversed with themselves were to be avoided at all costs. They were seen as quirky misfits at best, but more commonly as potentially dangerous crackpots, which was why most sensible people gave such individuals a wide berth when they encountered them.

My impression of those who chatted with (or shouted at) invisible partners may have been a bit skewed, since the only times I ever saw them were in sketchy sections of big cities. Their overall aura was borderline frightening, since their vaguely crazed appearance was, if one got close enough, often augmented by an intensely unpleasant aroma that combined the odors of alcohol, unwashed clothing, regurgitated stomach lining, rural gas station men's room, and old-fashioned B.O.

America’s 20th-century attitude regarding those who talked to themselves was typified by the Smothers Brothers’ memorable rendition of “I Talk to the Trees,” a bit of history that everyone should experience. And because of another relatively recent technological innovation (YouTube), they can, at

But thanks to rapidly advancing technology, these days it’s hard walking anywhere without encountering someone with a small bit of plastic in their ear conversing with an invisible partner or two. And the irritation of my having brainstorms occur at random times, but subsequently being unable to recall them was becoming exceedingly frustrating.

Even Thomas Edison, Marie Curie or Albert Einstein couldn’t have implemented theories they couldn’t recollect. Like healthy young plants that succumb due to flood, drought, or disease, some potentially fruitful ideas of mine were failing to germinate due to my inability to summon them.

But then I had an epiphany. I’ve always been a good listener, so wouldn’t it follow that I’d be more likely to remember my own thoughts if I verbalized them? Why should I merely think to myself when I can talk to myself? True, satisfying conversation is difficult when other people aren’t around, since houseplants rarely respond verbally, nor do any of my children’s stuffed animals or the spoon I eat my cereal with every morning at breakfast.

But the unattractive stereotype of audible mutterers as unkempt, unbalanced ticking time bombs is outdated, even though some people still worry about being stigmatized if they talk to themselves. They shouldn’t. When it comes to having one-person conversations, a new day has dawned. Reluctant self-talkers can start slowly by practicing when they’re alone in the car or at home.

Chatting casually in front of a mirror behind a closed door is, for novices, the equivalent of a child first learning to ride a two-wheeler by employing a tiny bike with training wheels.

So now I talk to myself regularly, and I’ve solved more than a few problems by doing so. Pep talks, oral notes to myself, and even occasional scoldings can be impactful in many positive ways. I’ve also found talking honestly with myself is significantly more economical than other, more traditional forms of therapy.

I better not forget to buy bananas and mail those letters later today.

Oh, did I forget to mention I sometimes write to myself as well?

But the best part of talking to myself is when I do it, I know for sure someone will listen to me! <