My pet bird received a pre-approved and prepay Mastercard

And so I opened Chew’s mail.  The first words were:  “Your Prepaid MasterCard Card has arrived!”

Apparently the Palm Desert National Bank. licensed by Mastercard, has deemed my eight year old epileptic Budgie qualified to use a prepaid Mastercard which can be conveniently “loaded” at two convenient locations operated by the “Big Apple” chain of convenience stores.

This scam, or otherwise inept pre-qualified financial institution actually sent a physical Mastercard, complete with Chew’s full name to him at his home address.

Being an English Budgie who is eight years old with no social security number and no employment history, apparently presents no barrier to financial institutions seeking to create revenue through unethical and misguided means.  The fine print even states:  “ATTENTION EMPLOYERS AND BENEFIT PROVIDERS:  The AchieveCard is a reloadable prepaid card that accepts Direct Deposits just like a traditional checking account.”

The fine print further states:  “Palm Desert National Bank is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) and all cardholder’s funds are insured by the FDIC in accordance with the FDIC’s applicable terms and conditions.”

Chew can also earn 5,000 “Achieve Points” by setting up direct deposit which qualifies him to “bid” on “cool stuff”.

Of course, AchieveCard will charge a fee of $9.95 to activate the card (free activation with direct deposit), a monthly fee of $9.95 for simply having the card, limit daily cash withdrawals to $300.00 maximum per day, and limit the transactions to 12 per day.

AchieveCard also promises to share Chew’s personal information with affiliates or non-affiliated third parties, as well as service providers and agents.  Even Chew understands this to mean that if her were to become a sucker, every scammer in the country would shortly know his name, phone number, address, and financial information.

Regardless of the fact that Chew, and English Budgie, is swift enough to know better than to fall for this scam, he is indeed flattered by the offer and is proudly displaying the AchieveCard MasterCard between the rungs of his spacious cage.  He wishes the entire community know and understand the depth and breadth of the research performed by AchieveCard in order to entrust Chew, at only eight years old, with his very own MasterCard with his full name emblazoned on it, pre-approved for a wing tiring workout at convenience stores, casinos, and department stores everywhere.

Chew is a tad concerned the FDIC would go to all the trouble to insure his money and even has a bit of guilt about our Government backing his hard earned dollars, especially when our country’s debt level is so high.  But like any good bird, he wishes to thank out government for insuring his funds and he promises to be a responsible MasterCard user.

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Media, not Politicians, influence “policy”

I cannot help but notice as Maine’s newest Governor begins his adventure that debate over his initial policies has immediately begun a barrage of criticism.  Maybe the the criticism is deserved, but somehow I would like to see a longer than a 24 hour period before staring a media war against his efforts to improve life in Maine.

I did not vote for our elected Governor, but I want to extend him sufficient respect and courtesy so that he can do his best to fulfill his promises to Maine and I wish out newspapers, television and radio stations would do the same.  Working against our new elected leader from the beginning of his term is counter productive and costly to all Maine citizens.

What I do know is that many of our state policies over the past decades have failed to provide the citizens of our state with a regulatory and tax climate conducive to small business, and most business in Maine is small.  I do know that our insurance regulations have resulted in high premiums and less choice for Maine people.  I know we have a high percentage of Maine citizens receiving financial assistance from the state.

If we can bring more jobs to Maine, (the type of jobs that Maine people can perform), we can reduce the costs of unemployment and more workers will share the burden of paying into the state coffers.

If we can increase competition amongst insurance companies operating in Maine we can have more competitive rates and choices for Maine people.  If we can reduce the overall tax burden for corporations operating within Maine we can attract more business to our state and thereby create more jobs.

At one time I had a small business that did a high volume of sales and as such we could offer lower prices than our competition.  Now I have a small business that does far less volume, but is very specialized, and consequently has higher prices.  This evolution sounds much like our state where we have a high cost for living in Maine and small demographic groups receive high benefits and we have less volume of revenue to support these benefits.

State funds should be used for fairly for ALL state residents, not just a few select groups.

I urge our media providers to please give our new Governor an opportunity to succeed if for no other reason than to try a path different than the one which for decades has been leading us down the road to insolvency.

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More than one “Mom”

Over the decades there have been a couple of fine ladies, in addition to my real Mom, who in some way earned “Mom Status”.  This brief accounting is about my “Newton Mom” who had more than enough to handle with her own large and vibrant family but despite all odds was willing to take me under her wing during an emotional and tragic part of my life.

My Dad had been diagnosed with cancer and the odds were clearly stated by his doctor who said that if he survived he would be the first person to beat this particular form of the disease, and thus began almost a year of long trips back and forth between Maine and Boston.

In 1981 my best and closest friend (female) and I had landed at her Mom’s house in Newton, MA.  She was scheduled to depart shortly for a new career and I was to go my separate way with simply an agreement to get back together after we had lived our lives initial journeys.  I was fortunate to have already met my friend’s family a few times and so as I watched my lady leave for parts unknown (for at least 20-25 years I estimated), I was welcomed into her family home by her Mom, and her brothers and sisters.

Her Mom and I quickly became close friends.  I had a car and would take her wherever she wanted to go, run errands, and spend time with her in the evenings.  I then went to Cape Cod and began an adventure there of my own and for awhile we didn’t see much of each other.  Ten months later that would all change.

I went back to Maine in May of 1982 when I learned of my Dad’s renewed cancer and I was the one that drove him to and from Boston every month and sometimes weekly for checkups and treatments.  I was offered a place to lay my head by my Newton Mom, and she took the time to demonstrate to me how much love of life she had, and shared her friends and interests with me.  We got to know each other very well over the next year and my real Mom was extremely grateful for the generosity and support I was given by this wonderful lady in Newton.

My Newton Mom and real Mom never did meet, but I suspect they would have gotten along just fine.  They shared many of the same values and sacrificed their own wants for the wants and needs of their families.  They took the time to be of assistance to others and they also expressed their approval or disapproval as appropriate, and always did so with my best interest in their hearts.

When I read today of my Newton Mom’s birth date, (both Mom’s are now in a better place), I was reminded of how I have to be grateful for and how much I have to live up to in terms of her expectations.  Somehow I suspect she would approve, and so instead of being sad that she is gone, I am inspired by the gift of having known her.

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The “Next Best” is to be cherished.

After the shopping is done, presents opened, and the day relaxes into the gray of the coming evening I am struck with a simple desire to do the impossible.

The phone number still works and the house is still there, filled with love, joy, and family, but it is not the same.  Aunts, Cousins, Uncles, Nephews and Niece’s  are all enjoying family and friends and the joy of giving and receiving but there is still something missing.

The family dinner is “perfect” and we are so fortunate to have fresh food and more than enough of everything.  Music and television are on, and an internet connection so we may share our wealth with friends and family far away.  Phone calls are made and even home movies are put online so they may be shared with our family and friends.  But still something is missing.

Memories of Christmas past and stories of family fun and folly are exchanged. Acknowledgement’s from the online world of shared good wishes are expressed and so we may peek into the lives of folks we may know but a little, and we share some of our lives with them.  But still my wish is to do the impossible…

I wish today, and every day, that I could pick up the phone and call home.  Not “my” home that I am blessed to have with my wife.  I wish not for the house in which I live today or the car I drive, or the trappings of work accomplished, but for a simple phone call.

No matter how much I love my wife, my brother and his family, my friends and extended relations, there is still only one call I wish to make.

It is this brief musing which I settle for to quell the missing piece of this perfect Christmas day.  It is the most simple desire for a son to call home and speak to his Mom and Dad.  This is the one thing that is impossible to do since they are in a better place.  These gifts of family and friends I have today would not be with me except for the teachings I learned from my parents.  It is Mom and Dad with whom I wish I could share this day and the fortune I have gained from their efforts in helping me become who I am.

And so I do my best to honor them by reaching out to others and doing the best I can one day at a time.  Being grateful for what I have. Striving to succeed to better my position in life.  And all the while doing my best to extend a hand and exchange a smile in the hopes of bringing those around me along to share the wealth I have been given.

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Goodbye my faithful car

With anticipation I examined the little green wagon stored behind the newer and prettier cars.  It had some damage on the front fender and the door creaked when opened, probably due to a parking lot incident but the inside was clean and the tires looked new.  There were some worn bumper stickers on the back and the seats looked like they needed a cleaning.  The paint on the hood was peeling and when opened there was enough dust and grime to support a carbon dating survey.

However the little Ford wagon started right up and went around the car lot in fine fashion so I went inside and found the sales lady and made my offer.  It was quickly accepted and then I had to wait while the multitudes of paperwork could be completed.

A few seats down from me I noticed a lady who was purchasing a brand new vehicle.  She seemed very excited about her new car and she proudly mentioned her prior vehicle had lasted over a decade.  I congratulated her on her new purchase and then went about my paperwork details so I could hopefully drive my “new to me” car home.

During my last waiting period for the final paperwork I walked down to the back lot to look at my new purchase and admire the shiny new vehicles surrounding it.  Slowly a brand new car came by driven by the nice lady I had spoken with.  Her new car had temporary plates and she drove it gingerly through the maze of vehicles until she stopped at the car I was buying.

She opened her door and got out of her brand new car.  I saw her take a camera out of her purse and she took a few pictures of what appeared to be her trade in.  She opened the driver side door slowly and grazed her hand on the roof.  She took some more pictures and as she was getting ready to leave for the final time I could see her mouth form words and she patted her old car on the hood as if to say goodbye.

I waited until she left.  This nice lady actually said goodbye to her car which had served her faithfully for many years.  I thought that I was the only person to do this type of thing since I am a “car guy”, but apparently the existence of “feelings” for a mechanical vehicle transcend car guy status and extend to many people.

As I drove off a few moments later in my “new to me” car I whispered to the dashboard that it had found a good new home.

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Christmas Day sometime in the 1960s

Sometimes parents forget what their children view as important and one Christmas evening in Woolwich what had been forgotten was a Christmas stocking.  My cousin Hank had left his stocking behind and we were informed we both would do what had happened before and that Santa would make everything alright.

Our Grandfather had a sense of humor and apparently we were not the first grandchildren to be targeted by his wit and wisdom.  The next morning we found two nylon stockings of the variety worn by ladies in the 1960s hanging from the fireplace mantle.  They were filled with unusual shaped presents and between each gift was a roughly tied knot.  We were “informed” that no scissors or knives would be allowed and we were free to open our stockings before breakfast as was our family custom.

As I recall, the top few items were easy and unspectacular.  I remember an orange and a small tube of toothpaste amongst these items.  It is at this point the knots became far more difficult to untie and I remember working furiously while my Grandfather reminded me to be careful so I might not break anything.

The stockings were so securely bound that breakfast came and went and we were still trying to finish our stockings so we could open the presents under the tree.  What I remember the most however, aside from the anticipation, were two gifts inside that stocking.  One was a beautifully carved reproduction of my grandparents house that my grandfather had hand carved from a single block of wood.  The second was the most unusual gift I ever received:  Inside a flat round plastic container were three 16 penny spikes tied together with a rubber band.

I suspect my Grandfather was trying to provide me some sort of guidance and perhaps a suggestion that I could make something of my life if I worked hard and wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty.  Last week I found these three spikes tucked away in an old box of family droppings and it reminded me of the true spirit of Christmas.

Long after the fancy presents have faded from view or been taken to a charity store, these three simple nails are a gift that would not be traded in for a newer model, have stood the test of time, and for a few moments have brought to my heart so many memories of my Grandfather and the goodness, fairness, and expectations he stood for.  I hope those gifts he gave me, immortalized by those three spikes, are gifts I may be able to pass along to someone else so his spirit may continue to be remembered.

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US Government Seizes Domains

In an article reported on our very own government has decided in its infinite wisdom that “it” has the right and authority to seize domain names in the interest of copyright protection.

Rather than simply re-state the particulars, I am more concerned with the actions of our very own government  in regards to this action and how far this type of seizure will go.  I am all for reducing criminal activity, preventing theft and copyright violations, and making the life of violators more difficult.  I am all for the people conducting illegal activities to justify their actions in front of a jury of their peers and face the consequences should they be found guilty.

However I am against the seizure of domain names because a domain name is simply a translated IP address.  I remember my Mom informing me that a book cannot be judged by its cover and that people are innocent until proven guilty.  I wonder why the people conducting such illegal activities are not the focus of our government actions?  Technology is a moving target and swatting flies with a sledge hammer is not the most effective manner to reduce their population.  Does our government actually believe that by seizing domain names and involving the large entities that provide the internet roadmap that piracy will be significantly resolved?

Seizing certain stops on the internet highway is the equivalent of adding a few more potholes to I-95 and expecting traffic to slow down.  Plus, there is the international issue to take into consideration…  Last I knew, “WWW” stood for the World Wide Web, not the USA Web.  The Federal Government might have as much luck by seizing air from factory smokestacks as a way to try and prevent pollution.  And as far as any sort of imminent threat to humanity these latest seizures in regards to copyright disputes rank far below identity theft, internet based terrorist communications, and child pornography.  Why in the world would our tax dollars be targeting domain name seizures when we can’t even balance the federal budget?

In short, this latest round of seizures will likely keep taxpayer supported lawyers in business for decades while establishing a basis for censorship of the information highway and at a negative return for all but a very few people who already have high salaries and benefits.  Perhaps the RIAA should finance this government action because they are ultimately responsible for releasing materials that can be easily copied and shared to the detriment of the artist community.

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Mom’s Pontiac Bonneville

Throughout the years, almost every car Mom owned had been selected by my Dad or myself.  From the 1968 and 1972 Catalina sedans, the 1976 Buick LeSabre and 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, and a short lived Pontiac Phoenix.  There was a Chrysler E-Class, a Jeep Comanche pickup and a Dodge Shadow somewhere in the mix, but in late 1999 my Mom and her daughter in law found their way to a Pontiac dealer and came back with a 2000 Pontiac Bonneville.

The formula had changed.  For the first time in her life my Mom had selected the car that she wanted and she did it without drama or stress, and with the help and support of her newest family member.  I remember well the look of accomplishment and joy on Mom’s face when she showed me her new car and I was very proud of her and very grateful that my bride had been part of this monumental decision.

The Bonneville had a storied existence for the next five years with my Mom.  It was seriously damaged when it was hit from the side in its first six months of existence but thankfully was able to be repaired.  The Bonneville made trips to New York City, Warwick Rhode Island, and every week my Mom found the time to drive into Brunswick and have lunch with my wife and/or myself.  It was her favorite car of all time and she said she planned on keeping it forever.

When Mom passed away in 2005 my wife became the primary car operator and I somehow believed the car represented the bond between my Mom and my wife.  I guess guys can sometimes be sentimental about cars in a way most females might find difficult to understand.

Today I have cleaned out the Bonneville for the last time.  It is going to a friend who owns an automotive shop and is in need of a safe loaner car for some customers.  He will fix some of the little details that need taking care of in a car over a decade old and will use it in a manner which my Mom would approve.

So Mom’s old license plates are now inside my office, cleaned up, and waiting to be hung on my wall in keeping with paternal family tradition.  I also made certain to polish the engine bay and clean out all the stuff that accumulates over a decade of daily driving.  Every time I see the Bonneville I think of my Mom and how happy she was to have bought it and to have driven it every day right up until the end.  Now the Bonneville will be used as a loaner for people having their own cars repaired and it should provide safe temporary transportation for them for years to come.  I think Mom would be pleased.

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Secret treasures

Mom was a packrat.  When she left this world for a better place we found many pieces of her love tucked away in boxes and drawers.  Five years later I finally had the courage to venture into an old desk which I remember her using from when I first became aware of my surroundings.  If those who have gone before us can truly “see” everything, I am finally going to establish hereditary blame, targeting my Mom, for my penchant for keeping scraps of paper, old magazines, and news clippings well beyond their immediate importance.

To sum up the experience of exploring this archive, is to admit to wishing I had done it while Mom was still physically with us to identify the faces in the photographs, negatives, and slides, and to place old magazine articles with familiar names in context.  Besides such random items as the address of a college sweetheart, recipes, boxes of unsent cards, a paw print from some remembered family pet, what struck me most were the documented interactions of my parents through letters.

In this electronic age of emails, tweets, texts, and the delete button I suspect many of our younger folks will fully experience the joy of finding well written and formal correspondence tucked inside a shoebox.  Letters with my mother’s maiden name and return addresses from places I never knew she lived, caught my eye.  Even letters between my Mom and her sister, with both sender and recipient identified by their shared maiden name  took me to that special place where our elder generation reminds us that they were once just as human as I , and every bit as emotional, impulsive, and explorative as are so many young people.

So this year for Thanksgiving I have cleanup up this old desk.  I have wrapped up the letters and trinkets, selected just a few of the treasured items for sharing, and doing my best to remember that Thanksgiving is truly sharing that goes beyond the trimmings.

If my family and friends take the time to read this, or if you stumble on this brief “paper” through an online search, I ask that you pick up the phone, send an email, or better yet write a real letter to someone you have missed or not seen for awhile.  Take just a few moments of your life to reach out and just be a friend to someone else.  Five years after my Mom passed away, what she has left behind has touched and reminded me of all her gifts and when I share those gifts I am truly thankful and grateful.

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Columbia Avenue, Warwick, RI.

The house was ordinary by any standard, however when it belongs to grandparents it becomes special, especially when my Dad and his brother shared the room upstairs as children.

It was the first house I ever saw that had an archway inside, instead of a door.  I marveled at that archway since I lived in a standard ranch house built around 1960.  The drapes also amazed me since the house I lived in had curtains.  Even today I remember the pull strings on the drapes and the ornate round pulls on the bottoms of them.

Upstairs is where my parents and I slept.  There was no heat and it was so cold at Christmas my Grandfather put his Moxie on the steps going up to the bedroom.  I was always impressed by the blast of cold air that would follow opening the door to the bedroom staircase.

The living room and dining area were together and the kitchen not far behind.  My grandmother seemed to spend all of her time in the kitchen and she always wore an apron whenever I was around.  Being a typical young lad I suspect I made more than my fair share of messes so her apron was probably a very good idea.  My grandfather always had a stump of a Dutch Masters cigar somewhere on his person.  He liked to blow smoke up my sleeves and tell me it was coming out my ears.  To this day the scent of stale cigar smoke makes me feel good and comfortable and every time I see a smoke shop I think of my grandfather.

He had his tools all perfectly arranged in little drawers.  His lawn mower had the off set wheels that are long gone today.  He had a special cabinet for pipe cleaners and smoking materials and he liked those old lighters that were clear and had little mermaids floating inside.  He wore string ties and always had on some sort of hat.  He was the only person I ever met who shaved while smoke a cigar, and would then come into the kitchen to get his teeth out of the freezer (much to the absolute horror of my mother).

Columbia Avenue was a quiet dead end street in Warwick and I could play outside in safety.  The ice cream truck would come during summer and I would be in awe of this event as we had no such legendary trucks where I lived in Maine.

As a middle aged adult, today I realized that what I loved was my family, but what I remember are the details of the “stuff” that comprised that love long after the situations, hugs and kissed, have faded in detail.  Maybe this a “guy thing” or maybe it is because I was a single child for the first dozen years of my life.  I do know it is how I remember what life was like, right down to the batter powered monorail and “Supercar” that arrived under the Christmas tree in 1965 at the house on Columbia Avenue.

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