Written by Natalie Ladd
After the craziness of last year's holiday season, column space was dedicated to my top 10 best and worst tips of 2013. Equally as reliable, but not as funny as Bob Marley's Christmas shows, the annual "best and worst of" lists have earned a twisted following of their own. On top of readers expressing amusement and incredulity, a bunch of industry folks chimed in with tipping doozies as well. The result was a follow-up column a few weeks later.
Fueled by fresh activity during the height of the tourist season, a mid-year update is indeed in order. Due to space restraints, the lists are being knocked down to five "best and worst of" tipping incidents each.
The top five best tips of 2014 (thus far) in no particular order:
1) A stack of nine silver dollars from a guy who makes me an origami animal or bird (the two-humped camel is my favorite) everytime he comes up from Rhode Island. The silver dollar tip amount fit the bill nicely, and this gentleman is so eclectic that it's always a pleasure to be his server.
2) Cash is usually the name of the game when it comes to being tipped out, but I recently received a social media certificate for a car wash and oil change that made me happy. Both services were expiring in a few days and I had to scramble, but I also got a free "alpine fir" tree air freshener out of the deal.
3) One of my friends works in a place that serves cream or milk in a small white pitcher shaped like a cow. They also have little pitchers shaped like pigs, and what I think is a goat, but the cows are my favorite. The last time I waited on his fun but raucous family, they left me one of the contraband cow pitchers with a $20 bill tucked inside.
4) Celebrating a job promotion with his wife, one man left a crisp fifty for a dinner tab of $120. The staggering amount was appreciated, but he also left a handwritten note on his new business card. "These are better days!" it said.
Wondering if he knew I was a Springsteen fan (who on the planet doesn't?) his optimism and good fortune carried my upbeat mood for weeks.
5) An appropriate 18 percent tip left by three kids under the age of 16 or so. Bringing their beaming mother in for dinner right after Mother's Day, they encouraged her to have a glass of wine and to order "whatever she wanted for dessert." Making it clear they were footing the bill, it was touching watching them do the calculations and pool their money into an orderly stack of ones and fives. The oldest sibling took the car keys, making sure I knew mom wasn't driving after her glass of white zinfandel.
The top five worst tips of 2014 (thus far) in no particular order:
1) A dog-eared manilla folder with six clippings by former "Portland Press Herald" restaurant critic, John Golden. While not a fan of straight reviews in general, and Golden's work in particular, I was unsure what the point of that "tip" was. Granted the guest was solo at lunch and her bill was under $15, but a few bucks would have been of far more use.
2) A coupon for 10 percent off a nail clipping at a local dog groomer. That guest inquired about my yellow lab dubbed "Bad Dog," expressing concern for her health. While the dog is holding steady these days, that coupon itself made me a bit queasy.
3) A little booklet with all kinds of deals at any neighboring Amato's. From what I understand, the booklet was the end result of a $10 donation to a sports booster club somewhere. As it was a particularly slow evening, I would have been happy to split the money 50/50 with the boosters. Not having that option, I gave the booklet to one of the dish dogs. The truth is, I was only a little ashamed at my disappointment with this creative gratuity for a bill of $47.
4) A half-punched Portland Dine Around Card complete with the book of participating restaurants and the envelope it originally came in. Regifted stuff as a tip is bad enough, but something half-used, and then regifted is extra icky.
5) A little plastic bag full of pens, a small tape measure, a diamond-shaped magnet and a bright pink chip-clip, all embossed with the name of a local business. Granted, it was useful schwag, but not exactly the gratuity I had anticipated. When it came time to tip-out the host and bartender for their operational support, they each received a ballpoint pen. It was the least I could do.
As the days sneakily get shorter and shorter, the end of the year will be upon us all too soon. Along with it will be the next "best and worst of tips" list. Like Marley's comedy shows, they'll be sure to include some classic repeats and some flooring new material as well.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:18
Written by Edward Gleason
Time is not absolute.
This single notion, discussed last column, shocked the physics world when Albert Einstein introduced his Special Relativity Theory more than a century ago. Special Relativity asserted that light speed is constant for both a stationary and a moving observer. Consequently, time dilates for this moving observer. The extent of this dilation increases with increasing velocities. On a vessel traveling at light speed, time stops altogether.
We hasten to point out that this dilation doesn't refer to a perception of time, but to time, itself. Intuitively, we would love to regard this concept as pertaining merely to our notion of time's flow. Instead, speed alters time.
Special Relativity didn't merely dispel Newton's absolute time concept. It also wedded the two hitherto disparate aspects of physical reality: space and time. Sir Isaac asserted that they were rigidly fixed and independent of each other. In his view, nothing one could do in space could possibly affect time and vice versa. Einstein showed they were intertwined into a single continuum he dubbed "space-time." Therefore, a distortion in space can alter time, itself.
This concept leads us naturally into Einstein's next world-staggering theory: General Relativity. Whereas Special Relativity pertains to light; the far more complex General Theory relates to gravitation. Here again, Einstein contradicted Newtonian precepts and in so doing, profoundly altered humanity's view of the Universe.
In his "Principia," Newton described gravity as an attractive force mediated between all massive objects. Einstein's General Theory asserts that gravity results from a massive object's distortion of space-time. Instead of being a "force," gravity is a property of space-time geometry: an indentation in the fabric, similar to the distortion a bowling ball would create in a taut rubber sheet. While Newton would insist that the Sun attracts the planets and keeps them in their orbits, Einstein would say that the planets are trapped within the Sun's gravity well. Moreover, we humans are locked within Earth's gravity well. (Just think: climbing stairs requires exertion because you're living in a space-time indentation.)
Special Relativity and General Relativity both lead to another astonishing concept: that of gravitational time dilation. Clocks run more slowly in regions of higher gravitational potential: the closer one is to a gravitational body, the more time dilates. For instance, a clock at a higher altitude runs slightly faster than one at sea level. While this difference is slight -on the order of nanoseconds- it is sufficiently large that the atomic clock at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in England and another atomic clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., have to be adjusted to take this difference into account.
Gravitational time dilation occurs because any gravitational body, less pretentiously known as a massive body, is an accelerated reference frame. The gravitational force of any massive body accelerates any other object toward its center. Gravitational Time Dilation and Kinematic Time Dilation are not factors in our lives because we live at low speeds in a very weak gravity region. While mountain climbers might balk at that description, Earth is not a gravitationally powerful body relative to other regions within the Universe, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.
Only around black holes are the extreme consequences of black holes made manifest. And it is around these black holes that we'll conclude this three part disaster about time warps.
(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, 28 July 2014 20:22
Written by Robert Libby
The recurring debate about state sovereignty is heating up again. In the constant struggle to gain political control of government functions one group argues against the continued role of national legislation in advancing the general welfare of the nation.
Paul Ryan, former Republican vice presidential candidate and current chair of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, has consistently championed the concept of turning over the administration of most social support programs to individual state governments. In his plan block grants presumably based on population density and perhaps personal income would be distributed to each state government to determine eligibility rules and administrative process.
Some states, disappointed by recent national election results and some Supreme Court decisions, notably the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional because it denied equal rights and due process protections guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to citizens who choose to marry other citizens of the same gender, believe marriage is a state's sovereign decision.
Since Roe v. Wade made it unconstitutional to make abortion illegal, states have chipped away at the practice by erecting limitations on the procedure.
Another problematic issue regulated by states is the use of the death penalty. The Constitution has a clear prohibition against cruel punishment, and recent headlines have again forced an ethical concern about citizens in some jurisdictions being denied basic civil rights protections Statistics about the disparity between races facing execution further cloud the issue.
Two Republican appointee federal judges in a three-judge panel of the First District Appellate Court ruled that health insurance premium subsidies provided to qualifying citizens in state that refused to establish state exchanges are illegal. Another three-judge panel in the Fourth District ruled that citizens in states like Maine that failed to establish administrative exchanges have access to subsidies through federal exchanges. National organizations urged Republican led states to refuse ro establish exchanges hoping to provoke this confrontation in courts.
The concept of state sovereignty was the principle cause of the failure of the Articles of Confederation that led to the creation of the Constitution which greatly expanded the powers of the national government. The Bill of Rights was added to garner support from Antifederalists for ratification. the first century of the new nation faced problems of state sovereignty on issues from slavery, interstate commerce, and expenditures for military and public infrastructure (canals, lighthouses, railroad and steamboat technologies) to the issue of a national bank. The Missouri Compromise that created the state of Maine was an attempt to keep balanced the number of slave states and free states. State sovereignty was the principle cause of the Civil War.
The American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) provides conservative member state legislators with model legislation to reduce the effect of federal legislation; environmental and consumer protection provisions are weakened or replaced. In Maine ALEC member Ann Robinson and former lobbyist DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho are principle advisors to Governor LePage and instrumental in the reversal of consumer product liability standards like environmental stewardship where Maine once led.
ALEC has been in the vanguard of drafting voter identification laws and reducing early voting procedures. States control voting procedures; the Supreme court decision in Shelby County v. Holder has emboldened many Republican-led states to pass restrictive policies that appear to suppress the vote of many citizens.
The new Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce power plant emissions recognizes state sovereignty by asking each state to determine how it will meet the target reduction.
Advocates of state sovereignty are rallying to protest against the Common Core of Learning Standards to which 48 states agreed by suggesting that it is a plot to remove local control of schools.
States and cities all over the country are acting to raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana use, preserve collective bargaining, and weigh religious expression against an individual's right to be private. Vermont is considering a plan to create single payer health care eliminating the need for individual insurance. Western states where 80 percent of the land is under federal management would like to acquire individual state control.
The fourteenth amendment incorporated the individual rights of each citizen in every jurisdiction and mandates a nation of rule of law to which all states must adhere.
(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, 28 July 2014 20:21
Written by Steven Robinson
It has become cliché to note that the Portland Press Herald newspaper is owned by a very wealthy Democratic donor. In light of recent events, however, a refresher seems appropriate.
S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday Media, is a billionaire hedge fund manager who happens to be married to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat.
Mr. Sussman is also a member of the secretive Democracy Alliance, an elite club of millionaires and billionaires who spend mindboggling sums influencing elections and culture. He has contributed a small fortune to liberal Democrat candidates, liberal super PACs and liberal activists. He also happens to be the single largest individual donor to the Maine Democratic Party.
Regarding Mr. Sussman's role in the Democracy Alliance, the New York Times, in January, wrote, "In Maine, a consortium of progressive groups financed by the hedge fund billionaire S. Donald Sussman, an alliance member, is looking to unseat Gov. Paul R. LePage this year and put both the governor's office and the Legislature under Democratic control."
That "consortium" of progressive interest groups includes several organizations that regularly find themselves in the news attacking conservatives.
Maine Equal Justice Partners, a nonprofit that attacks the governor anytime he suggests a change to Maine's welfare policy, gets money from Sussman. MEJP is currently suing the LePage administration because it has stopped the illegal flow of welfare to undocumented immigrants.
Sussman also funds the Maine Center for Economic Policy, a liberal think tank that attacks the governor's economic policies and has lately taken to arguing that Maine's falling unemployment rate is not actually a good thing.
And he's also a donor to the Maine People's Alliance, a controversial "dark money" group whose mission, it seems, is to disparage people who don't agree with them, by hook or by crook.
There's probably more, of course. We'll never really know the full extent of his, er ... philanthropy.
But the question I have for you, dear reader, is whether the Press Herald should be considered part of this progressive consortium looking to unseat Governor LePage?
Let's review some recent stories.
Earlier this month, Kevin Miller reported on a lawsuit MEJP was filing against the LePage administration.
Put differently, a Sussman-funded newspaper wrote about a Sussman-funded group's legal attack on Sussman's enemy. Miller's story failed to include a publicly available memo from Assistant Attorney General Tom Quinn providing the rationale for why LePage's decision to enforce federal law is "probably legal." The story included no disclosure about Sussman's donations to MEJP.
Last month, Press Herald reporters wrote eagerly and at length about MPA blogger Mike Tipping's incendiary political attacks on the governor. Reporter Steve Mistler uncritically reproduced the activist's allegations and made no disclosure about funding ties. Translation: A Sussman-funded activist smeared Sussman's avowed political enemy and a Sussman-funded newspaper splashed the story across the front page with nary a word of disclosure or skepticism.
Intrepid editor, Greg Kesich, even did an interview with Tipping which also failed to disclose that the pair are paid from the same hand.
The dust-up over social security was a real whopper, too. Acting like an arm of Congressman Mike Michaud's gubernatorial campaign, the Press Herald leaped on a poorly phrased sentence in a press release LePage never saw (he was in China at the time) to conclude that LePage thinks social security is welfare.
They knew that probably wasn't the case but printed it anyways. Who cares about the truth when we can cause LePage some headache, right? That's the kind of thinking you might expect from a group that considers itself part of its owner's anti-LePage consortium.
The list hit pieces goes on and on. But the stories the Press Herald doesn't tell reveal more than the ones they do.
Typically, when the governor does something objectively good or kind, the Press Herald will run a short Associated Press blip; staff time is only expended when there is a negative angle.
And when was the last investigative report into Congresswoman Pingree or, for that matter, any Democratic politician?
In fact, although Press Herald reporters have submitted countless Freedom of Access Act requests to LePage and GOP lawmakers, they have not submitted a single one to Democratic lawmakers.
Far be it from me to tell the capitalists over at One City Center how best to get clicks and subscriptions, but I would hope the paper aspires to be more than a Democratic advocacy group or a sensationalist click hole.
There may come a time when the people of Maine need a strong Fourth Estate to hold a Democratic elected official accountable. When that time comes, let's hope the Press Herald puts away its pom poms.
(Steven E. Robinson is a reporter for the Maine Wire, "an online news service provided by The Maine Heritage Policy Center," a conservative think tank. See more at: http://www.themainewire.com. Robinson writes a biweekly column for the Press Herald.)
Last Updated on Saturday, 26 July 2014 15:50
Written by Ray Richardson
Details matter. They always have, but in the context of the American political system, sound-bytes rule the day because details either bore the public or are simply too difficult for members of legislative bodies to digest regularly.
Let us take a look at the details of the latest and greatest dust up over welfare reform in the state of Maine. The progressive element would have you believe that Governor Paul LePage has literally taken food out of the mouths of babies simply because he has said we as a state will no longer seek a federal waiver that waives the work, volunteer or job re-training requirement for able-bodied adults to continue to receive what is commonly known as food stamps. They have said this is just another move in LePage’s “War on the poor.”
If it were not so disingenuous, such a claim would be laughable. The fact is, by opposing the Governor on this issue, progressives in Maine are basically championing the right of the able-bodied, able-minded, capable, competent, childless, 18- to 49-year-old adult to stay on the couch and collect taxpayer-funded social service support. Progressives say this is an undue hardship on the poor and is just part of a concerted effort to attack those who are less fortunate. It is ridiculous the links the progressives will go to in an effort to confuse and frankly, lie to the public to advance the welfare state.
Here are the facts. They are NOT in dispute. The federal government, since the welfare reform act of 1996. has required that capable adults either work, volunteer or enroll in a job re-training program in order to receive what is commonly known as food stamps.
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) commonly known as the Obama stimulus plan, allowed states to seek a waiver of the work-volunteer-job retraining requirement to receive benefits starting in 2010. The waiver must be re-authorized annually and begins with the federal government’s fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.
Maine first applied for this waiver in 2010. Maine has applied for this waiver each year until the present day. With the waiver no longer in place, the old rules requiring work-volunteering or job re-training in order to receive benefits will return and be effective Oct. 1, 2014.
Here is how it works. If you are between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, have no dependents, have no disabilities, are able-bodied and able-minded, the 1996 welfare reform act says you should contribute something to society if you are going to receive tax-payer funded social welfare benefit commonly known as food stamps. The law specifies that you need to either work 20 per week, volunteer at a level of hours commiserate with the benefits or get into a job re-training program so that you can become employed and no longer need the benefit.
This does not affect Grandma. This does not affect a single mother who is barely getting by. This does not affect anyone with a disability that prevents them from working, volunteering or participating in a job re-training program. This law simply says in a nutshell, “If you can be productive in some manner, you should be productive in some manner.”
In 2009, ARRA allowed states to seek a federal waiver simply because there were so many people in need due to the Great Recession, as it is now known. In Maine, since the waiver was granted, exact statistics were not kept on how many people were affected because that statistic was no longer necessary. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has initially identified about 12,000 adults who “could be” impacted by the waiver no longer being in place. The average benefit is about $112 per month. The reason the phrase, “could be” is being used is because some of the people currently receiving benefits who would be impacted by the reimplementation of this law may already be meeting this requirement.
The reimplementation of this law is consistent with the welfare reform efforts of Governor Paul LePage. Contrary to what his opponents say, LePage wants to insure that those who truly need social services support are able to get it by strengthening the system. He believes the way you do that is by prosecuting fraud, eradicating abuse and requiring those who are capable of being productive to play an active role in their own financial recovery.
His efforts are consistent with what has made America great. Helping those who truly need help, the very young, the very old and the disabled and incapable while asking those who are capable, able-bodied adults to do their part when hard times hit.
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of the progressives. While the economy is still not firing on all cylinders, so all who may be affected may not be able to find a job depending on where they live, there are countless opportunities to volunteer in every community in Maine and this volunteerism allows the benefit recipient to meet the requirement and the intent of the law.
It is time for progressives in Maine to stop putting up barriers for those who are struggling. Instead of taking the typical progressive approach and tell the impoverish how incapable and useless they are, maybe progressives should see this change as an opportunity to encourage capable adults to be productive in their communities. No one loses their benefits if they meet the work, volunteer or job re-training requirement.
There is no War-on-the-poor from Governor Paul LePage. There is, however, an effort by this Governor to ask each citizen to do what they can to be self-reliant. Asking able-bodied, capable, childless adults who do not have disabilities to contribute to their own well being is not a heartless thing to do. It is the way to help empower a fellow citizen.
(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, 25 July 2014 00:03