Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting the Message...

One of the first things I do upon arriving home from work each afternoon is to listen to the messages on my answering machine. I push the red-flashing button to listen and then move around the kitchen--taking care of my groceries, sorting the mail I just picked up from the box at the end of my road, and occasionally grabbing a pen to jot down the number of someone who needs a return call.

Sometimes, I'm able to wash a sink full of breakfast dishes while listening to the dulcet tones of friends, clients, and associates--as one or two of them are extremely loquacious and they ramble on and on. Most likely, they do so because they appreciate a captive audience…One which doesn’t interrupt them while they speak.

I’m a creature of habit, and I always look for that flashing light as I set my parcels on the sideboard. Once in a great while the button is dark, and for a moment I feel bereft. Wasn’t there anyone who needed me while I was gone?

And once in awhile, I find myself wishing that I’d never pushed that blinking button.

Last Tuesday was just such a day. The message I heard as I put the milk and eggs in the fridge was a recorded one. No live being asking me a question or telling me some news, but a canned soundtrack. It was from my telephone company, informing me that it was imperative that I call the following toll-free number.

Well, what possible urgency could exist which would cause my telephone service provider to leave such a message? I knew for sure I’d paid my bill. Didn’t I? I wracked my brain, trying to recall that happy occasion. I couldn’t remember specifically writing out the check, but I was positive that I would have felt some unease if I was guilty of the offense of non-payment. The problem came when I realized that I didn’t have the checkbook from which that payment would have been written. My husband did. So, I called the number and see what was what. I certainly didn’t want to risk disconnection based on my mental self-assurances. My memory has let me down too many times in the past.

I dialed the number. Not surprisingly—I was greeted by another recording.

The female voice began speaking in English, but promptly switched to Spanish. I rolled my eyes and sighed. I’m pretty sure my telephone company is based in America, and I really didn’t have time to decipher “por (something) espangnol (something something) numero dos.”

So, I didn’t “something something” anything… just held the line and hoped that the robotic voice would revert to my native tongue. After a pregnant pause, it did.

“Please enter your four digit PIN number, then press pound.”

Oh, yeah. My “PIN” number. For the life of me, I had no idea what that might be. None. I remembered getting a notice from my telephone company several years earlier, informing me of that vital combination of numbers, and I’m sure I’d filed it away for future reference. Filed it somewhere. In my office? In mi casa? I had no idea where it was. No idea why I’d need it.

Until now. How would I find out the reason for the urgent call from the phone company if I couldn’t produce that PIN? In another moment, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had options!

“If you do not know your PIN, please press ‘two’, followed by the pound key.”

Okay! I pressed ‘two’ and '#'.... and waited.

“If you are calling regarding an existing residential account, press ‘one’. If you are calling about an existing commercial or business account, press ‘two’.”

Well, heck. I didn’t know WHY I was calling! But because the message was left on the answering machine at home and not at my office, I took a stab in the dark. I pressed ‘one’.

“If you are calling about making payment arrangements, press ‘one’. If you are calling for a new service, a change in service, or to disconnect an existing service, press ‘two’. If you are calling about internet service, press ‘three’.

Didn’t they listen to their own recorded messages? Didn’t the company realize that they hadn’t given me enough information to know WHY I was calling? How much time did I have before making up my mind about which number to press? I could feel a mild panic setting in. Or was it mild irritation?

“If you would like to hear the menu again, press ‘four’.”

Okay, that bought me some time. I pressed ‘four’ and listened to the whole spiel all over again. At the end of the instructions, I took another stab in the dark. I took a gamble on the most likely reason I was calling. It’s not often that I’m the last to know why I make a phone call, but this is the age of technology. I learned a long time ago that I’m almost ALWAYS the last one to understand anything when it comes to ‘modern conveniences’. (And I use that term loosely.)

I pressed ‘one’.

“One moment, please.”

At least the robot was polite. I waited for a human being to answer the phone.

I waited in vain.

“Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

Well, for crying out loud! Hadn’t I pressed ‘two’ just moments ago, when instructed to do so after I ascertained that I didn’t KNOW my PIN number?

Yes, I most certainly had.

“I don’t KNOW my PIN number!” I uttered aloud to no one.

A moment of silence, and then, “We’re sorry. Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

“I SAID I don’t KNOW my PIN number!” I felt idiotic as I spoke to a mechanical being, but what were my options?

“We’re sorry. Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

Exercising my vast reserves of self-control, I kept silent. I seethed—which was, perhaps, an over-reaction--but the thought crossed my mind that this was a ridiculous waste of my time, and as a customer of this company for almost 30 years, I deserved to be spoken to by a real, live human.

I waited.

“Please hold, while we connect you with the next available operator.”

Halleluiah! I was going to speak with a PERSON. I only hoped he or she spoke English…

I heard a click, and then… “Good afternoon. This is Candice. May I have your PIN number, please?”

Oh, for crying out loud. This was ridiculous. I called up faded memories of Sesame Street and growled, “Si. Quatros-uno-ocho-cinqo.”

“Ah. Buenos dias, Senora.”

I hung up.

And sent a new check--just in case.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"The Dreams Stuff is Made Of"...

Where else but on Grumbles and Grins can one find men and women of integrity? Oh, I know... there are a few blogs which might be as graced as GAG. But I lay claim to a monopoly of the coolest of all 'followers' and visitors.

In my last post, I apologized for starting a contest, and then--for completely forgetting about it. It is the mark of a terrible hostess, for sure. I pronounced my friend Crookedpaw the winner--the choice being easy, as the bloke was the only entrant. I promised to mail his prize; consisting of a quart of Maine maple syrup and an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff, post haste. (Punny, huh? "Post" haste. "Mail". Get it?)

Oh, brother. Never mind...

So, that was yesterday. TODAY, I arrived home to find this:

That's right. The quart of maple syrup which I've had for a month--a month during which no one felt the need to touch it--had been opened, and sampled. Used. Poured over French Toast and bacon.

It's not like there were no other options. There were two already-opened plastic containers of syrup in the fridge. One from sap boiled down in neighboring Embden, and one from the maple trees of Strong, a town approximately 40 minutes away. It was local syrup, yes. But it was syrup which was sold commercially. I'd wanted to gift my friend with the product of our own trees, right here in Lexington Township. I wanted to give him some 'marple sarple' made--not to sell--but to be enjoyed by our family and friends.

So, I was grouchy. Slightly grouchy, but in a loudish kind of way.

"Great!" I said to no-one in particular, and everyone within earshot. "Now I've gotta go hit up Cousin Jimmy for another quart!"

Less than ten minutes later, I came upstairs and sat at my computer. I opened my email account. And, lo and behold, there was a note from my pal Crookedpaw, telling me that he couldn't accept the prize. That to do so wouldn't 'sit comfortably' with him. That I should SAVE THE SYRUP (now known as an impossibility) until he wins the next contest fairly and squarely.

Or something like that.


I lucked out. I've been let off the hook. I won't have to go down the road to Cousin Jimmy's, hat in hand, and ask for more syrup. I won't have to endure another quarantine of my packages as Aussie Customs tries to determine if the jar contains whiskey or some other type of contraband. Heh...

CP, you're a prince. You DID deserve the prize, but I'll graciously say 'thank you' and keep (what remains of) my syrup here in Maine.

For the time being, anyway.

Thanks, sport.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oops!!!! Sleeping on the Job!

Hey, gang...

I owe you an apology! I have been so busy (not kidding! I know it's a bad excuse but it's true) that I not only forgot about the ending of my most recent contest, but in between posting it and now, I forgot to promote it, too.

Holy smokes.

It is, of course, obvious that we have a winner. Once again, Crookedpaw prevails. Against all odds and strong opposition, he managed to pull another one out of the bag!

Hehehe........ I feel like such an idiot.

And we really made this way too easy for our Down Under pal. A man with the brains and talent of Mr. paw should have had to work much harder for his victory. (And I should have worked much harder to get others involved, so that he had to.)

A quart of Lexington maple syrup, fresh made six weeks ago by Cousin Jimmy, will be on its way to CP very soon. Since that's a trip of 10,000+ miles, I'll mail a copy of GB under separate cover, just in case the syrup jar breaks, or it leaks, or something. (Won't Aussie Customs love me, then!? We have such a sticky relationship, already!)

Again, I'm sorry I dropped the ball, here. In addition to job and family, I started a new blog, Voices On the Wind (VOW) so that I could keep windy stuff separate from my other writing here on GAG. And I've been very involved in legislation at the Capital in Augusta, along with myriad details having to do with the Highland Wind project. And other projects and people and issues. Like I said, that's no excuse... but it IS my excuse.

Hugs from here,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Royally Skewed

Wednesday’s editorial “Nothing to Cheer About…” regarding Angus King’s temporary withdrawal of his application for a wind turbine development in Highland was published in all three of Maine Today Media’s newspapers. If there were any questions remaining about the bias of this publisher in the matter of industrial wind development, they’ve been answered.

Quote (MTM): “Opponents of wind power are no-doubt celebrating…”

Did MTM editors call any ‘opponents’ to see if they were cheering? I spoke with many--and often, the opposite was true. We aren’t na├»ve, and we recognize that Mr. King is gaming the system. Maine’s Expedited Wind Law is great when it works in the wind industry’s favor, but that abbreviated time-frame proved to be a bane for Highland Wind when their project was challenged by the MDIFW. And lest anyone think this report came as a surprise to the developers, the MDIFW states they “provided technical assistance and consultations to this project since 2007. Despite considerable discussions and previous project modifications, an array of concerns remain unresolved…”

Quote(MTM): “They are not cheering because they love the Roaring Brook mayfly, or are appreciators of the northern bog lemming…”

How are the editors so in tune with ‘wind opponents’? Did they ask how they feel about the ecosystems and environment of Maine? Do they know how many opponents of mountaintop industrial wind are dedicated individuals who appreciate the special qualities of the Maine woods? How many of them guide nature tours in these hills? And are the editors so narrow-minded that they are unable to acknowledge that many other species are affected every time one is endangered or lost? They trivialize a mayfly—but that species has thus far been found only in Maine. Both the above-mentioned species have already been impacted by the Kibby and Sisk wind projects.

Quote(MTM): “opposition has come from people who don't want to look at tall white towers and rotating turbines…”

Quote(Angus King in May of 2010): “It’s all about the view.”

Statements such as those have one purpose: to try to turn public opinion against opponents of industrial wind. To belittle us as selfish elitists who put our ‘back yard’ view above other, more important things.

That is a warped reality.

A view has value, yes. It’s evidenced by the fact that real estate with gorgeous vistas command higher prices on the market, and in towns’ assessment books. “Views” are an integral part of Maine’s celebrated “Quality of Place”, and their value brings billions of tourism dollars to our state’s economy. Yes, scenic value is important. I wouldn’t be surprised if the owners of MTM and Highland Wind LLC enjoy some lovely views from their own homes.

A quick perusal of MTM’s own online comments section would have quickly proven that ‘wind opponents’ have diverse and vital concerns, including Mainers’ health and well-being, protection of our environment, and distress at having to foot the bill for the $1.4Billion transmission costs needed to add ‘wind’ to our energy mix. We are concerned with apparent conflicts of interest as Maine’s leaders chose an unreliable, intermittent, expensive and un-storable energy source which was abandoned 100 years ago for good cause. We are worried about permanently scarring our fragile slopes and ridges, and removing thousands of acres of carbon-sequestering trees. We fear for bald eagles, bats… and yes. Some really are concerned about small rodents and insects, especially as they pertain to the larger picture.

Quote(MTM): “Through the expedited permitting law passed by the Legislature, investors could expect to find a clear path to approval.”

A clear path to approval is exactly what the authors of that law expected, and many of them were heavily invested in the outcome. In a letter from Rob Gardiner (partner to Angus King and president of Independence Wind) to Alec Giffen, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power, Gardiner attempts to influence the writing of the law which gave wind developers the advantage over Maine citizens, forestalling their objections to wind developments.

Gardiner states: “In my opinion, the biggest sticking point is visual impact. Under the standard of "fitting harmoniously into the environment", wind is at a serious disadvantage. Because it involves 250' high structures (King and Gardiner’s are 400+ feet tall) that are usually on high ridges, the visual impacts are significant.”

“An immediate executive order followed by legislation that specifically removes the presumption of negative visual impact from wind farms would go a long way toward setting the stage for balanced regulatory review.”

“A second element of such executive order and legislation should be to declare that reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is a public benefit, and that wind farms can make a significant contribution toward a more sensible energy mix for Maine. Therefore, any regulatory agency should accept these positions and not waste time receiving further evidence and debating them. To the extent that regulators are charged with balancing the benefits of any project against the negative impacts, these beneficial aspects should be "a given" for wind farms.”

“…wind farms ought not to be expected to help purchase conservation lands or do other types of mitigation. Wind farms ARE mitigation for our energy consumption habits and for the impacts of fossil fuel consumption.”

“I understand that preserving Maine's "quality of place" is an important goal for your task force. I fully accept that having wind farms everywhere might ruin that quality.”

"I recognize that LURC feels overwhelmed… This may need attention, but it is a short-term phenomenon. Don't change the rules, provide the necessary resources. The Governor can do that... But creating a new agency or shifting responsibilities will, in actuality, make it harder for developers.”

Yes, investors like those hoping to develop Highland’s mountains certainly expected—and worked hard to get—a ‘clear path to approval’.

Quote(MTM): “any Mainer concerned about an unfriendly business climate and a propensity for over-regulation should look at this frustrating process and wonder if there is anything to cheer about.”

MTM certainly hasn’t supported Governor LePage, but it’s apparent they are attempting to use his administration’s goals of bringing jobs to Maine (and reducing environmental regulations in order to do so) to their advantage. Such statements cloud the issue; but if new, full-time jobs are MTM’s goal, perhaps the editors should read the Highland Wind LLC permit application to see exactly how many will be supplied by this development, and how many American tax-payer dollars must be spent to provide that handful of technical positions.

Maine Today Media has reporters who have been in the field and spoken at length with many ‘wind opponents’. Those journalists know the scoop. MTM’s editorial board would do well to deal in truths rather than biased rhetoric intended to sway the public’s perception of Maine’s wind energy plan.

Top and second Photo: First Wind's Rollins project, credit: Friends of Lincoln Lakes
3rd and 4th photos: Iberdrola Renewable's access point for met towers erected in Lexington Twp., taken by Kaz Pease, November 2010.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


On December 18, 2009, Highland Wind LLC (HW LLC) filed a permit application with Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to build a 48 turbine grid-scale wind energy facility in Highland Plantation. Due to the inappropriateness of the site and due to the negative impacts such a development would have to the local ecology and environment, to the nature-based economy, to the health and quality of life of the area residents, and to scenic qualities of the area near the Bigelow Preserve, the Appalachian Trail and the Arnold Trail, Friends of the Highland Mountains (FHM), along with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) and others, requested intervenor status.

Upon analysis of the application, FHM filed a motion to suspend the review process until such time as HW LLC provided the necessary documentation to meet the completeness standards set forth by LURC. On April 7, 2010, LURC ruled in FHM’s favor, and the review of the permit was suspended.

On December 29, 2010, HW LLC submitted a revised permit application for a 39 turbine wind facility, acceding, in part, to the concerns about the project’s impacts to the Appalachian Trail and the Bigelow Preserve. The application was deemed complete and accepted for processing on February 23, 2011, initiating commencement of the expedited review process once more. Again, upon examining the application, FHM determined several areas wherein the applicant had not provided sufficient documentation for a comprehensive review (including complete Title, Right or Interest; make, model and size of turbines proposed for the project; and sufficient proof of financial capacity) and we once again petitioned LURC to suspend the review process. This time, LURC ruled in favor of the applicant, HW LLC. In keeping with the statutes, FHM and the other intervenors submitted documentation and filings by the deadlines set forth.

On April 13th and 20th, 2011, Agency review comments were submitted to LURC. The comments submitted by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) stated unequivocally that Highland “is not an appropriate locality for an intensive wind energy installation such as that currently proposed by Highland Wind Power.”

On April 26, 2011, the 3rd Procedural Order, including a schedule of events and deadlines, was sent to all parties, and intervenors provided witness lists, as well as the issues they would be addressing at the Public and Technical Hearings, to the LURC staff and the applicant, HW LLC.

On May 2, 2011, Angus King, a principal of HW LLC, submitted a letter to LURC withdrawing his application, with “intent to re-file at a later date”, and stated that those government agency review comments “suggested that additional data would be necessary to satisfy agency concerns.”

The IFW did not suggest that additional data would satisfy their concerns. The IFW stated that Highland was “not an appropriate locality”. "Additional data" will not change the fact that Highland’s mountains are an inappropriate site for a grid-scale wind energy development. In fact, the IFW stated that they have “provided technical assistance and consultations to this project since 2007. Despite considerable discussions and previous project modifications, an array of concerns remain unresolved…”

Highland Wind LLC must permanently withdraw their development permit application to build an industrial wind turbine facility in Highland Plantation. The IFW’s report, in conjunction with the many other issues raised by the intervenors, provides ample reason to abandon all plans to develop the mountains of Highland Plantation.

FHM has conformed to all the standards and restrictions set forth in the so-called “Expedited Wind Permitting Law”. The applicant has pressed for an expedited review, as evidenced in letters obtained through the Freedom of Information Act between Rob Gardiner, President of HW LLC, and LURC. Now that the developers have realized that their project, as submitted, was destined for denial, they are gaming the system. HW LLC has had several years in which to study and ascertain the appropriateness of their proposed development, and has ignored all concerns except those which they determined had the greatest ability to hinder the approval of their project. The Agency review comments submitted by the IFW, an unbiased party, corroborate some of the many concerns which FHM has presented as reasons why approval of this project should be denied. By abandoning their plans to industrialize Highland’s mountains, HW LLC has the opportunity to save Maine tax-payers and individual citizens additional expense.

Mr. King and Mr. Gardiner should publicly and permanently cancel all plans to build an industrial wind facility in Highland Plantation.