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Meeting adjourned

Any business or operation employing one or more people requires the occasional staff meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page. Meetings are for updates on business projections and sales trends, sharing of creative ideas or suggestions and introducing new products. Meetings are to discuss policies that have fallen by the wayside and to lay down the law about procedures that are blatantly abused or ignored. Organizational communication experts say most meetings follow the "sandwich method." ladd-natalie

Less tasty than an actual pastrami on rye, the "sandwich method" is when the owner or manager starts off saying nice stuff about everyone, then brings up the "opportunity areas," and then closes with a rah-rah push of encouragement. In the 9-to-5 business world where employees don't wear black bistro aprons, group staff meetings are a regularly scheduled occurrence and follow an agenda. The participants, Chiefs and Indians alike, know what to expect. In the restaurant business, this is usually not the case.

For clarification, the daily pre-shift tasting of dinner specials and to go over reservations or anticipated kinks, does not constitute a meeting. Mention may be made of a fully committed reservation book or the fact that someone in the kitchen called in sick, but those details are part of the day-to-day communication. Restaurant staff meetings are something entirely different.

According to some of my Greater Portland hospitality friends, last minute staff meetings have been all the rage over the past few weeks. Most of us dread those meetings because our owners and managers are hospitality workers, not MBA's with a certification in facilitative leadership. Due to the nature of our varied hours, the meetings are "decide and announce" affairs, scheduled at the most inopportune times. We also dread them because they are called when a thing or two has gotten out of hand, or there's going to be a big change coming down the pike none of us want, agree with or like.

One of my friends was telling me about a meeting that focused on all the bad things previous employees had done. Since none of the current employees were participating in the noted behavior, the meeting was essentially useless. Another complained about a staff meeting that was held early afternoon to sample several cocktails going on the list. While daytime drinking is often fun, everybody had to be working on the floor in a few short hours. Still another meeting was held midday on a beautiful Sunday to accommodate the managers' sailing addiction. In one of my favorite breakfast places, all hands had be in attendance prior to the morning prep. Prior to the morning prep meant 5:30 a.m.

Restaurant staff meetings are most efficient when there's separate agendas for the front of the house and the kitchen, but in addition to finding available time slots, payroll rarely allows for that. It's too bad because servers don't care about the proper technique to avoid cores being left in the Romaine lettuce (unless it ends up in their guest's Caesar salad) and, in turn, the dish dog doesn't care if servers take out their nose rings when waiting on the symphony crowd.

"Meetings are just a drawn out version of the employee handbook," one long time pro said. "Or they turn into a bitch session, like a passive-aggressive afternoon of finger pointing. It's nice to be informed of what's going on, but can't that be done on a sticky note or something? It just seems like a waste of time when half those kids are going back to school and the other half just see it as a part-time job." My friend is right in many ways, but the organizational communication experts, owners and managers might not see it that way.

While I, too, complain about last minute mandatory meetings, I also like getting together with my co-workers for the good part of the sandwich. I'm just glad I don't have to do it at 5:30 a.m.

The Down Low: While not an actual middle of the summer (or maybe ever) destination, many people find themselves en route to and fro, via US 495 and Rt. 2, to various places in Massachusetts, and beyond. Should this be you, I highly recommend making an extra turn or two and landing at 14 Mill St., home to Backstreets Pub in Fitchburg, Mass.

Experiencing a much needed revitalization, Fitchburg, located an hour northwest of Boston, is making an inner-city comeback. Included in the action is Backstreets Pub (formerly The Wine Cellar), which is a great little watering hole complete with an outdoor patio offering live music on weekends.

Open just a short time, owner Tom Kelly is a local boy with big plans for the pub's growth. Granted Kelly is a Yankee's fan, but this minor flaw is offset by his love of all things Springsteen (hence the pub's name), and a blue-eyed, boyish charm that has me swooning.

While those latter attributes may not be enough reason for most to check out the pub, the fresh decor, ice cold beer chilled in buckets, and memorabilia of all types may be. Throw in live music on a soft summer night and it's a no brainer.

Visit Backstreets Pub on Facebook for directions and upcoming events.

(Natalie Ladd is a columnist for the Portland Daily Sun. She has over 30 continuous years of corporate and fine-dining experience in all front-of-the-house management, hourly and under-the-table positions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 02:35

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Time Warps I

How disquieting a notion it is that time, that pervasive, yet intangible fourth dimension, could be bent, contorted, and disarranged as though it were malleable metal. Even more disconcerting is the idea that in the Big Bang, time, itself, could was created, along with space, with which it is inextricably intertwined.

A corollary to this concept is that nothing existed before time's creation because the very word "before" is temporally relative. As Stephen Hawking once quipped, "Asking what was
before the Big Bang is like asking what is one degree north of the North Pole?"

Yes, if you're reading this article now, I would like to ask your indulgence. Though you might be sitting on a park bench, an office chair, or even in some café on a lovely and ordinary day, I'd like you to accompany us into a wondrous realm that seems wholly fanciful, but is, in fact, rock solid science: the world of the time warp. It's feasible that we'll return before we left and therefore you will have never have had the experience in the first place.

We begin conventionally, with what's defined as "Newtonian time," the regular, immutable progession of equally spaced moments that no external force can perturb. It is the "intuitive" time that we experience daily and that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) rigidly defined in his laws of motion and gravitation. Newton's philosophy divided physical reality into four components: the three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension. Any extant object, one that takes form in our Universe as opposed to being conjured abstractly, requires breadth, length, width and duration. Nothing can exist unidimensionally or instantaneously.

Newtonian physics also held that space and time were separate and absolute: neither space nor time could be either compressed or elongated.

Newton's model held sway over physics throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as it seemed to describe nature so precisely. For generations of physics students, unchangeable space and regular time were regarded as such absolute truths as to be self evident. A tectonic paradigm shift occurred early in the 20th century when Albert Einstein (1879-1955) introduced his two Relativity Theories. First, Special Relativity in 1905 and then General Relativity in 1916.

Special Relativity was the first theory to suggest that time is mutable: that external influences could alter it. This assertion, initially dismissed as absurd, relates to one apparently simple statement: that the speed of light is constant in all inertial reference frames.

Phrased in a more friendly fashion, this means that a stationary observer's measurement of a light beam's velocity is the same as that of an observer moving either toward or away from it. This constancy is unique to light. Your measurement of a massive object's speed depends on
your motion relative to it. It would appear faster if you're approaching it; slower if you're receding. One consequence of this constancy is that time must dilate when you move: the time within any vessel depends on its speed. The faster it moves, the more time dilates. If — and this is the ultimate "if" — a vessel could move at light speed, time aboard that vessel would stop. (We haven't come close to constructing vessels capable of such velocities.)

This time dilation, properly called "kinematic time dilation," has been experimentally verified many times throughout the century following its formulation. Most notably, the Haefele-Keating Experiment (1971) noted time reading differences between two synchronized atomic clocks: one on the ground; the other on an aircraft that flew around the globe. Though
this difference amounted to less than 300 nanoseconds, the measured effect was consistent with Relativistic prediction.

Physicists now acknowledge that time is mutable and velocity dependent. Of course, such effects are negigible for the vessels in which we travel. Somebody driving 80 miles an hour down the freeway is theoretically experiencing lane, but their time streams are practically equal. The motorist would have to attain speeds approaching that of light (670 million miles an hour) for relativistic effects to be significant.

We should note one glaring error that those delightfully creative science fiction writers often incorporate into their work: the notion that vessels can travel back through time provided they move faster than light speed. The problem with this idea is that no massive object should be able to attain even light speed. Even if it did, time aboard the vessel would stop altogether. Nothing would happen aboard that ship, Kirk, if it's moving at Warp 1. The realm beyond light speed is imaginary and unattainable.

Ten years after Special Relativity perturbed the planet with its mutable time aspects, Einstein produced the General Theory, a comprehensive model of gravity. Whereas SR showed that time changes with speed, GR went further and told us that time changes depending on where we're standing.

We'll save that horror for next column.

(Edward Gleason is an astronomer and manager since 1999 of the Southworth Planetarium in Portland. He also was employed at the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium in Orono. Gleason writes the daily e-mail article, “The Daily Astronomer.” Visit http://usm.maine.edu/planet for more about the planetarium.)

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 20:37

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Voters: Don't get distracted

William Jefferson Clinton once famously said about a fellow politician, "It takes a lot of brass to attack your opponent for doing the same thing that you propose to do." Increasingly it appears the Republican party is becoming a brass band.

Speaker of the House John Boehner is preparing a law suit against the President of the United States for failing to faithfully execute the laws of this nation. The principle example offered to justify the suit is the alteration of provisions of the Affordable Care Act responding to difficulties encountered in the initiation of the law. Ignoring the vocal complaints of the most conservative members of the Republican party in the House of Representatives for the past four years that the mandatory requirements were a job killing and onerous burden on individual freedom, the suit would claim that the president was not executing the law as written by Congress. Yet there is ample precedent for the executive branch to use discretion in implementing and administering laws.

The Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 gives flexibility to the executive branch for the implementation and administration of laws as long as the end result is consistent with the intent of Congress. In Chevron v. NRDC (1984) the Supreme Court affirmed the administrative discretion of the executive branch in implementing laws. Observers have also noticed that President George W. Bush changed the mandate and extended the deadline for compliance with the Part D Pharmaceutical provision of the Medicare law. Despite screams of protest by election minded right wing populists and claims of a new imperial president,

President Obama has far less used the tools of executive privilege and executive order than his recent predecessors. In recent crises of foreign policy many Republicans have criticized the president for not acting more aggressively to advance national interests in Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine. When the president suggested that he would seek Congressional approval before committing American troops to battle, he was chastised as weak and indecisive.

Who is the lawyer for this lawsuit? What court will be chosen to have jurisdiction to hear this case? Who pays for this action? To many it appears that this suit is merely an election year publicity stunt by the Speaker of the House trying to appear forceful to appease his right wing critics that often threaten the impeachment of the president. What is the likely impact of such a suit if it goes forward? Certainly if challenged, the executive branch will mount a strong defense of its positions, hundreds of lawyers will spend thousands of hours preparing briefs and if the approached court does not dismiss the suit and renders a verdict, certainly there would be an immediate appeal. And would the Supreme Court rush to consider that appeal as it did in Bush v. Gore (2000) and NLRB v Canning (2014) ? When might that outcome be decided?

In the meantime while the press covers the impending lawsuit, the continuing eighth hearing on the Benghazi tragedy, and the continuing investigation of IRS procedures for handling tax exemption status for social education organizations, no debate or action is being considered on the floor of the House of Representatives on immigration reform, minimum wage laws, gun control legislation, or reauthorization of the Highway Maintenance Trust Fund. At the same time many Republicans are criticizing the president for not sending the National Guard to El Paso so there are more troops on hand to welcome the children arriving and turning themselves over to the Border Patrol. He is also accused of not executing this law although there is ample evidence that his administration is performing to the letter of the law.

Serious citizens must not get distracted by this sideshow. We must consider the crucial issues facing this country and the world. We must ask candidates for public office where they stand on the issues of public health, tax reform, environmental protection, educational opportunity, deterioration of public infrastructure, protection of individual rights to privacy, and consumer protection from unscrupulous commercial interests. In four months the next election cycle will determine how well the incumbent politicians have distracted us from the real issues facing this nation. Ask questions. Demand coherent answers. Register and vote.

(One Man's Island columnist Robert Libby of Chebeague Island is a teacher, writer, organic gardener, executive director of the Maine Center for Civic Education.)

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 20:39

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Why Grass is the Asphalt of Nature

Here's this week's episode of Season 3 of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing story of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense attorney, and her friends and family, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:

Why Grass is the Asphalt of Nature

"He says he's going through something personal," Grace said, putting her phone back in her pocket. She'd recently started dating a guy she met at her summer job.

"What could it be?" June asked, shredding lettuce over the kitchen sink. She had to freak out for both of them, since Grace wasn't freaking out enough even for one person.

"I don't know," Grace said, "but he said he's bringing burgers."

June checked a lettuce leaf for worms. "You don't think he slept with someone else do you?"

"If he did that why would he bring burgers?" Grace asked.

I saw her point, but June was still skeptical. Regardless of whatever Dave might be going through, she objected to him for being privileged and elitist, among other things. The other things were he didn't get along with her boyfriend Dale, who was more a man of the people.

"What are you going to do if he's in a bad mood again?" June asked.

"I'll take it one Dave at a time."

That seemed like a good approach to me, but June still wasn't sold. She and Dale watched from the kitchen window as Dave cut across the neighbors' lawns with his dog as though he owned the whole world.

"Dude, there's a sidewalk," Dale said, while Dave put his free-range burgers in the fridge.

Dave shrugged. "It doesn't matter if you walk on the grass. Grass is the asphalt of nature."

That only made things worse with Dale, since the word nature obviously has a liberal agenda. I hoped maybe the dog would lighten the mood, but Dale objected to him, too, for getting moisture on his pants with his nose.

"He has allergies," Dave said apologetically, handing Dale a handkerchief.

Unfortunately Dale didn't believe in allergies or handkerchiefs, same as nature. He brushed his pants off with his tattooed hand.

"They're especially bad for dogs," Dave said, stroking his dog's head.

"Why?"

"Because they can't talk."

But Dale didn't feel that sorry for Horace despite Horace's disabilities. It turned out Dale didn't like dogs, even mutts like Horace that couldn't really be considered privileged or elitist. Even though Dale had been raised with a dog he never bonded with him.

"I couldn't walk the dog because I didn't walk him long enough," he said. He couldn't load the dishwasher either because he didn't clean the food off the plates first and he couldn't do the wash because he didn't make sure it was dry before he took it out of the dryer.

Dave tried to make up for the damage Horace caused by offering Dale a pair of shorts he'd brought.

"I bought a pair of pants on the way over here to try to look better since I was meeting Grace's family for the first time," he said, pulling the tag off his pants. "It's a lot of pressure and I wasn't sure what to wear."

"It's just a barbeque," Dale said scornfully.

"I'm okay with it though," Dave continued, undaunted. "I need to do things outside my comfort zone and I'm definitely not going to be comfortable in these pants."

Not surprisingly, Dale didn't want the shorts. They were another thing he didn't believe in, like handkerchiefs and allergies. In his view, shorts were to pants as handkerchiefs were to toilet paper.

He wasn't impressed at Dave's nervousness about meeting us either, even though I thought it was sweet. "I think it's good your mother knows about me," Dave told Grace shortly after they met. "It shows I exist."

Meanwhile, Dale scowled at Dave while he put on sunscreen before going out to the grill the burgers. Sunscreen was another thing Dale didn't believe in.

But Dave wasn't picking up on it. "I just got back from deep sea fishing with my dad," he said innocently. "It was my sister's and my birthday present to him. She paid for the trip so I had to pay with my time. The crew didn't speak English and was drunk the whole time. My dad and I were basically refugees on the boat. Anyway, there was no shade and I'm pretty sure I got cancer so I'm trying to make up for it now."

It wasn't a good story to tell Dale considering his sensitivities about privilege, but fortunately he was still fixated on the sunscreen.

"You look like a mime," he snapped.

Dave tried unsuccessfully to get the excess sunscreen off with his handkerchief but only managed to highlight his thick waves that stood in stark contrast to Dale's severe buzz cut.

"Why don't you wear a hat?" June asked, trying to support Dale. He always wore a baseball hat, something he strongly believed in.

"It would mess up my carefully arranged topiary," Dave said, running his hand over his hair.

Judging from Dale's expression, he wasn't a big fan of topiary. Fortunately Dave didn't notice because he was looking for his dog. Finally he found him laid out on the porch, with his head on Dale's duffel bag, panting profusely in the heat after running around after our cats.

"It's probably the coolest place he could find," Dave said. "He went around with a thermometer and here's where he ended up."

He couldn't budge Horace off Dale's bag. "He's exhausted. It's not every day you meet a member of another species."

It applied equally well to him and Dale.

But Dale wasn't quite as amused. He yanked his duffel bag out from under Horace and flung it violently in the garbage with the dog hair and slobber still on it. I figured it was better than if he'd actually punched Dave in the nose.

June recovered first. She took the duffel bag out of the garbage and pulled out a t-shirt to show Dale his clothes weren't ruined. He was supposed to be staying over her house after the barbeque.

"So I'll come to your house instead," she said, when he wouldn't touch the shirt. "I have my toothbrush. I've been thinking I should keep one at your house anyway."

"Yeah, what's next tampons?" he asked.

That got Grace's attention quickly. "Or maybe she should just let her teeth rot out of her head so you can keep your masculinity."

"We were supposed to head upstate for a long weekend tomorrow," June said sadly.

"Where are you going?" Dave asked. He was oblivious to the tension, maybe because he was still absorbed with his personal problem, whatever it was.

"Up near Howland," June said.

Dave slapped his thigh excitedly. "I was up there a couple weeks ago. We were somewhere in the woods near Howland with no food or water, nothing but bandaids and Neosporin. We stopped off at a gas station to ask if there was a restaurant anywhere and the lady behind the counter with half her teeth missing is like, 'A restaurant?' as if she never heard of that, like they just eat fish out of a stream."

Then he stopped, suddenly realizing his mistake. Grace hadn't been at Howland with him.

"I'm from Howland," Dale growled.

But nobody heard him, not even June. We were all looking anxiously back and forth between Dave and Grace. It seemed June had been right, Dave really had been sleeping with someone else. Suddenly his personal problem was very public, everything that had been so endearing about him was far less so, and part of me wished Dale had punched him in the nose.

Shortly thereafter Dave took off with his topiary and his allergic dog across the neighbors' lawns back toward town. He couldn't even look at Grace, but he did get in a last dig at Dale.

"I better go, dude," he said. "I forgot my tattoo at home."

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 16:56

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Mayors do the right thing, in the end

A few weeks back, I wrote about Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton and Portland Mayor Mike Brennan setting a poor example as elected officials by announcing they would simply defy a Maine Department of Health and Human Services directive to no longer provide financial aid to people who are in our country illegally. This directive would make Maine compliant with a 1996 federal law that states that people who are in our country illegally are not eligible for financial aid. rayrichardson-ray
Instead of taking the correct approach by seeking a court injunction for relief and filing suit against the state so that a judge could settle the issue, Hilton and Brennan said they would simply defy the law. Even if their intent was noble, their actions were wrong and inconsistent with the oath they swore to uphold our laws.
Fortunately, they came to their senses and have now had their respective cities join in a lawsuit seeking relief from the directive from the state and asking the court to sort out the issue. Although they were both late to the party, I applaud them finally doing the right thing and letting the court address this matter.
Let's face the truth. This is not an easy issue. If we use employment law as an example, the court looks at two things. Most businesses have an employee handbook. They also have the practical application of how they do things day-to-day. If their actual practice is inconsistent with their employee handbook and the issue goes to court, the judge typically sides with the day-to-day practice as opposed to a written policy that is not enforced.
The various governments of Maine have not complied with the written policy, the law, for over 18 years. These various government entities have given out millions and millions and millions of dollars of general aid without any real restraint on their activities (we do general aid backwards in Maine, but that is a discussion for another column).
Governor John Baldacci attempted to turn Maine into a full sanctuary state. He actually signed the Executive Order that made us a sanctuary state, but later had to amend it because it was not well thought out and hampered the ability of law enforcement officials to do their jobs.
Further, due to the antiquated and ridiculous manner in which we give work permits, many people who come here seeking relief from the hellish lands from which they came, cannot legally find work. It leaves them desperate. Without family to turn to, their only option is to seek relief from the government, usually the local government at town hall.
Philosophically, I agree, we should NOT be giving financial aid to people who have no legal right to be in our country. It is crazy that we even have to have such a conversation. People who are here legally work hard for their money. When they see it given to people who have no legal right to be here, it rightfully makes them resentful. They have to work harder only to have their government take more of their hard-earned money, money that could go to giving their family members a better life, to give to people who should not be here in the first place.
There is a philosophical issue here, of course, but there is also a practical issue to deal with. When a person shows up at town hall seeking financial aid and they are in crisis, that is where the rubber meets the road. These people are not simply ideas, numbers or people who have no legal right to be in America. They are people who need help, who need food, shelter and clothing.
They come here seeking relief from the hell they have known. They risked everything, including separation from their family to escape hell on earth.
We should help them, but the help should be temporary and the help should require them to become self-sufficient within a specified amount of time. That is not currently happening.
As Christian people, we are called to help those who are less fortunate than we are. Help is not merely throwing money at someone with no end in sight. Help also comes in expecting that a person who receives help, uses that help to become self-sufficient. Treating someone as though they are nothing, incapable and therefore can only survive through government dependence is not help. In fact, it is just the opposite of help.
For some reason, that part of the discussion, the responsibility of the person seeking help, is never talked about, and that, my friends, is why we are in the mess we are in.

(Ray Richardson is the host of the Ray Richardson show, heard weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on the flagship station 1310AM News/Talk WLOB in greater Portland and the LOB Statewide Lobster Radio Network. He can also be found at wlobradio.com and rayrichardson.net.)

Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 00:31

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