Sunday, June 25, 2017

All you need is love. Really.

Happy Sunday to everyone.  We're enjoying some mild weather here in central Kentucky following a heavy dose of rain Friday afternoon and evening (thanks to Tropical Storm Cindy).

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' worldwide television performance of "All You Need is Love," a simple yet wonderful song that speaks so well for itself.  SiriusXM's new Beatles channel had programs that reminded me of this milestone earlier in the week (worth noting that this came on the heels of the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," when so many groups would have stepped back for some well-deserved down time) and I've heard the song frequently lately.  This morning's edition of CBS Sunday Morning, the excellent magazine show, featured a full-length colorized video presentation of the Fab Four's performance.

To say this song has been on my mind lately is a gross understatement.

Everyday life for everyday people is hard enough, but made harder when we are hurt by or cause hurt to those we love and those we hold most dear.  And this so frequently happens for no real reason other than circumstances.  Important that we love everyone just a little more, because, let's face it, we all need it.

Not going down the political road with this line of thinking, except to say that we need to see more love of our fellow man when governmental decisions are made, whether by the executive, legislative or judicial branches.

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi stated flatly that he didn't have to like the men he coached, but allowed that "I must love them as men."  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but it's a powerful statement from a renowned leader of others.

I also recently came across the essay "Pale Blue Dot" by the late astronomer Carl Sagan.  He, too, advocates more love of our fellow man.  Find the video version of Sagan speaking these words from the recent re-do of the "Cosmos" television miniseries, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Thanks for reading this, as it was just something I wanted to share.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Warning--tech reviews ahead!

Good Wednesday morning, friends.  Had a little time this morning and wanted to share my impressions about a couple of items I've added to my collection of tech devices recently.

Allow me to start with a little caveat---I'm a big believer in paying it forward, meaning that when something is no longer of use for me, I try to sell it to someone while it still has life and value remaining.  So both of the items that I've added recently replaced items that were sold to folks who were interested and needed what I had.  Win-win!

Now, here's my pair of non-expert reviews...

I think I've mentioned here that I really like Bose audio gear.  Started with a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones when I began to travel extensively by air.  I will state categorically here that having those headphones made a huge difference in my ability to suddenly tolerate spending eight to ten hours a week aboard airplanes!

This fascination with Bose has continued through the years, as we acquired a three-piece Bose sound system for our television setup and eventually upgraded to their soundbar/subwoofer.  On my desktop my wife generously gave me a Bose Sounddock as a gift, and I kept first an iPod and then an iPhone docked there.  Later I replaced this with a pair of Bose computer speakers, since I went all-digital with my music.  Wonderful speakers, all.

We were in Cincinnati a couple of months ago and stopped by the Bose store in a mall there.  Big mistake.  On display was the new (well, new THEN) Bose Soundlink Revolve and Revolve+.  If you've not seen one of these, they look a little like one of the Google wi-fi speakers you see on TV commercials, where the commercial actors ask Google questions.  The other analogy is the larger Bose speaker, especially, looks like a camping lantern, complete with a loop handle on top.

Anyway, we asked for a demo, and the representative obliged, and, wow.  That's all I can say.  Sound just pours out of both of these things, and they work wirelessly, too, which is a huge plus!  And the sound is just as good in any direction, which is new in my experience.  The rep mentioned that if you place it along a wall or bookshelf that you'll get some redirected sound that amplifies the experience.  So I had to have one, and it more than replaced my Bose desktop speakers (which had to be used in a fixed location).  Carried it all over the house, used it on the patio while grilling, etc.  If you've in the market for a Bluetooth speaker and are willing to pay the Bose price, which is often higher than the competition, go for it, you won't be disappointed!

My other recent acquisition revolves around headphones.  I've had a succession of headphones (earphones, actually) that were originally bought for my wife to use in her exercise routine.  Because she wears hearing aids, we have looked for the right product for her.  First she uses Bose wired earbuds, which were excellent and which I still have.  Then came a pair of Bluetooth on-ear headphones, but she found them to be a little hot when exercising (and I'd agree).  The next iteration was a pair of Bose SoundSport Bluetooth earbuds, which she liked very much.  I thought so, anyway.

I returned home from some work activities away from the house one afternoon and she casually mentioned that she had visited the Apple store and gone through a demonstration of Apple's new but hard-to-get AirPods.  Superficially they look just like the latest version of their earbuds that they routinely include with a new iPhone, but without the cords.  Remind me a little of electric toothbrush heads.

Anyway, she raved about the fit and the quality and the sound, which must have been good for her to like them without any additional amplification.  So we ordered a pair for her, and after a brief acclimation period, she was very happy.

Then our daughter reported that her hubby bought them each a set.  Now, I should point out that while our daughter likes music, she's not a person who always has headphones on and music playing. That's apparently all changed.  She works at home a couple of days a week now and listens to music from her phone and then seamlessly takes and places phone calls using the AirPods.  She also uses them in the car, as her habit is to call us weekly while on her way home from her office, about a thirty minute commute.  Always sounds clear and static-free, which is not my experience with any other Bluetooth earbuds, including the afore-mentioned Bose set.

So just before Father's Day I decided to sell my trusty Bose QC 15 noise cancelling headphones, as they're based on older technology and I no longer fly as I used to.  Prior to that I sold my wife's former Bose SoundSports, too, so once I found a buyer for the QC 15s, I bought a set of AirPods for myself.

Better sound and fit than I would ever have expected.  I get going in the mornings a little before my wife and like to play music at my desk.  Have been using these all week (they just arrived last Friday) each morning and then some and have been very impressed and, I confess, pleasantly surprised, too.

If I were to return to frequent flying my needs might change, but I am oh-so-impressed with both of my latest tech acquisitions.  Unfortunately, I have my eye on a new television (which we do not need, of course) with 4K resolution and HDR picture enhancements.  Probably be a while before we take that plunge!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Exit Father's Day--enter summer

Friends, hope you had a good Father's Day weekend.  If your father is still around, hope you got to spend some time with him, and if you yourself are a dad, I hope that you got to see your kids!

For me, Father's Day weekend almost always marks the point where we know for certain that summer is most definitely here, as it "officially" begins later this week.  Making my point, I played golf with some friends Saturday morning.  By mutual agreement, we all concurred that we should play early to beat the heat.  By the middle of the round we were all soaked with perspiration.  And we started before 9:00 AM, too!

My score was pretty lousy, by the way, but would have been pretty decent had I not lost the ability to play golf the last two holes.  These things happen when you're hot and tired, I suppose.

To add to it, our grandson (the local one, the other little guy is in Colorado) played with his all-star T-ball team (!) in a tournament that included two games late Saturday afternoon and two yesterday morning.  To their credit, the team won the first three they played, but in the fourth they were pretty outmatched.  Waiting for our grandson's game to start Saturday afternoon (by that time of day the tournament was running about an hour behind schedule), I watched the team that ultimately beat my grandson's group and knew they were pretty good.

This bunch had players that hustled constantly, played the game with abandon and were just into it!  In our grandson's team's game their shortstop even attempted to fake a baserunner off second hoping to throw him out.  These kids are seven and below, by the way.  Pretty amazing, but as a lover of all things baseball, I was more than impressed.  It is, after all, the little boys' game!

These tournaments will apparently occur every weekend for the next few weeks, so I expect my wife and I will be bronzed nicely by all of this outdoor time.  My golfer's/farmer's tan is already firmly in place, by the way (happy to show you the contrast by lifting my shirt sleeve a little).

One more clear signal of summer is that we had one of those spectacular summer storms late yesterday afternoon, complete with a deafening downpour and thunder and lightning.  So I'll need to mow my grass sometime, as I was waiting for a little more rain to moisten it up before cutting it.

As a sometime golfer and fan of that sport, I watched a fair amount of the U.S. Open over the weekend, which was won by a fellow named Brooks Koepka.  The guy hits it a mile, putted very well and looked in command of the event from sometime Saturday onward.  A lot of purists were talking about how it wasn't a "traditional" U.S. Open venue, as the event was played for the first time at a placed called Erin Hills north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Scores were pretty low compared to what we often see, but I love it.  All of these golfers play the same course, and the fact that the course claimed the world's three top-ranked golfers tells me, anyway, that it was challenging enough.

I used to wonder how I'd do on a course set up for the Open; at this stage of my life and golf "career" I no longer wonder.  It wouldn't be pretty.....

No need to mention anything regarding politics here, as there's already plenty of content out there. I will say that I appreciate so many members of Congress recognizing that their harsh partisan rhetoric may have contributed to the horrific shooting that occurred last week.  Alongside that, a reporter on CBS Sunday Morning suggested that members of Congress adopt a standing practice from Little League baseball (and the Stanley Cup playoffs in hockey, too, by the way) where after each game the teams line up and congratulate each other on a good game.  I hope the feeling of mutual acceptance, if not agreement, lasts for more than a short time.  We certainly need for it to last as long as it can.








Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's a family thing

Good Thursday afternoon, friends.  We've been experiencing some unseasonably mild weather this week--even cool, based on the chill I felt during my grandson's T-ball game last night!

Fathers and sons and grandsons and the like are the core of my thoughts today.  We're nearing the end of this grandson's T-ball season, so we've come to know (or at least recognize) most of the players' family members who attend.  And we're not the only grandparents who attend, either, which I think is great.

Growing up, my grandparents all lived at least two hours away, and as they aged we saw less and less of them.  One, a maiden aunt who raised my father, never drove, so it was a much greater effort for her to visit, as she would have to either ride a bus or rely on a ride from another family member for transportation.

But for those kids on the team (or in any of our grandkids' schools, for that matter) are so fortunate to have extended family close by.

That said, I don't know that the dynastic approach always guarantees success.  Sometimes it works very well.  A good example for me, anyway, is my beloved Cincinnati Reds.  A couple of years ago the team announced that Dick Williams, who is the son of one of the minority owners of the team, was to take over this season as the team's general manager and president of baseball operations.  In the second year of a multi-year rebuilding effort, the Reds are playing the kind of hustling baseball that fans enjoy and embrace, and were it not for a series of major arm injuries to starting pitchers the team would likely sit atop the Central Division standings.

Another pretty fair example that I can think of is that of is the S.C. Johnson Company, formerly known as Johnson Wax.  The CEO of this company is Herbert Fisk Johnson III, who is the fifth generation of the Johnson family to lead this corporation.  If you're having difficulty placing the company name, look around your house, as you probably have some Windex or Pledge or Ziploc bags or Glad air fresheners or a host of other products.  They have strategically acquired competitors and yet maintained their status as a private company that employs about 13,000 people and sells about $7 billion in goods each year.

The Coppola family business is the film industry, with patriarch Francis Ford Coppola a much-decorated movie director, best known for the "Godfather" films.  His daughter Sofia has overcome the misfortune of being cast in the third "Godfather" picture to become a recognized film director in her own right.

I could go on with more positive examples, but I think the most glaring negative one is that of the family currently occupying the White House.  Donald Trump was elected President, yet he felt it necessary to install both daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as official White House adviser, leaving grown sons Donald Jr. and Eric to run the family business.  Kushner allegedly has a massive portfolio of responsibilities yet I don't know that anyone can specifically identify anything he has been able to accomplish.  Ditto for the First Daughter.

And the Trump sons?  I suppose they've been successful, as the Trump Organization continues to grow and profit despite the absence of their father in day-to-day operations.  What their business is appears to be that of simply making money from spreading the Trump name onto real estate properties and such around the world.

Will there be notable achievements?  Hard to say.  Will there be questions?  Undoubtedly.  Is the next chapter easy to predict?  Nope.

Guess we'll have to see what comes next.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This is where we are

Good morning to all.  Unexpected thunderstorm underway here in central Kentucky.  'Tis the season, you know!

By the way, I hope that everyone was able to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend.  I read about some rather crass suggestions for celebrating the day.  Those who are given to deeper thought appreciate the day off as much as the sacrifices that allow it to occur annually, of course.

Did you read about golfer Tiger Woods?  He was found unconscious in his car in the middle of a street in the middle of the night.  The engine was running at the time.  Arrested for DUI.

I learned of this while playing golf with some friends on Monday.  My first comment was that, well, let's remember that the guy had back surgery not so long ago and likely mixed alcohol with prescribed pain medication.  The police report is due to be released today, I believe.  I think Tiger has a little more explaining to do, even though he's months from attempting to return to competitive play.

Woods' fall from celebrated golf prodigy has been long and painful, as his body and image simultaneously broke down.  In his prime I enjoyed watching him play and watching him make a golf ball do some pretty amazing things.  Will we get to see him play at a high level again?  It's very hard to say.

Big fight in a Major League Baseball game over the weekend, featuring talented but temperamental player Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. His agent is making an argument that he does not deserve the four-game suspension handed down by MLB.  Provoked or not, there are rules against charging the mound, Bryce.

The Reds were showing some fight themselves recently, as they started a road trip on a good note and won their first series in Philadelphia since 2006.  Then they arrived in Toronto and promptly were decimated 17-2 on their first night there and lost narrowly last night, too.  I swear, I'm almost ready to volunteer my services as a pitcher, at the rate they're going they'll need me by the All-Star break.  Absolutely remarkable that this team is as close the the .500 mark as they are, with a starting rotation that has been decimated by numerous injuries.

RIP to sportswriter Frank Deford, who graced the pages of Sports Illustrated for many years before helping start The National, a daily sports newspaper.  You know, back when we used to rely on NEWSPAPERS for our information.  Deford was a frequent guest on ESPN's The Sports Reporters and other venues where his commentaries, which he wrote, of course, were the only thing better than reading his work.  In my lifetime I've had the privilege to read his work and that of Roger Angell, the brilliant writer of baseball and other subjects.  He will certainly be missed.

Speaking of antiquated institutions, I saw just a few minutes ago that CBS apparently decided to remove Scott Pelley as the anchor of its evening news broadcast.  We don't watch CBS News in our home, except for CBS Sunday Morning, but the few times I've seen Pelley he drives me bananas because he speaks so slowly as to be condescending.  Probably not intentional, but that's how I take it.  "I"m going to speak slowly for you so that you'll understand what I'm saying."  He'll still be on 60 Minutes, apparently, another news show which is very long in the tooth.

Have to confess that we watch NBC Nightly News in our household, well, nightly.  Because I spend some time online during the day, I usually know the majority of what will be covered, but my wife still prefers a digested version of the latest news.  Networks will keep putting these shows on provided they make some money, I think, but once the profit motive goes away, so will the programs.

Last comment:  I noticed that the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie made out well at the box office over the holiday weekend, sailing (sorry, bad pun) past the competition, which included a reimagining of the old TV show "Baywatch."  We saw the first three, noted very little original in numbers two and three, didn't bother with the 4th and agreed that this latest one was clearly a cash-in move by Disney, the producers and star Johnny Depp, whose quirky talents have not yielded anything close to a hit in some time.  Hope those who saw it enjoyed it, as I don't plan to.

Enjoy your Wednesday.  And, yes, I almost typed "Tuesday."






Thursday, May 25, 2017

More sorrow

Friends, it's raining here in central Kentucky this morning, which is probably contributing to my mood.

I am still so saddened by the recent events in Manchester, England. but I would add to that sentiment that it's powered by some family information.  In the past year both of my granddaughters, aged 11 and 7, have attended pop concerts by performers not that different from Arianna Grande, whose show was marred by this senseless act of violence.  So I have difficulty not thinking about this.

But it's becoming so much the norm, isn't it?  Think about it:  the TSA just announced a new pilot program where they'll more closely examine all kinds of things that they used to not look at specifically, like electronic devices larger than a cellphone.  Regular visitors to this space will remember that it wasn't that long ago that I flew for business regularly, and became rather numb to the art of getting through security quickly and without needless delays.  First the liquids, then the laptops, and now it looks like tablets and e-readers and portable gaming systems will be subject to added scrutiny.

My son and I attended a baseball game in Cincinnati recently, and I have to say that I was rather nonchalant about the need to pass through a metal detector when I arrived.  That's just how things are now.

At one point in my life I was a voracious reader of certain authors' work, and the late Tom Clancy was at the top of the list.  Clancy was the author of the Jack Ryan books, many of which have been turned into pretty good movies.  In any case, both the novel and film versions of "The Sum of All Fears" centered around a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear weapon at the Super Bowl (the movie did not refer to the game as that, given trademark issues and such).  There were countless mentions in the book particularly about how such an attack would scar the psyche of our country.  Another of Clancy's books, "Debt of Honor," ends with a rogue Japanese pilot deliberately crashing an airliner into the Capitol during a Presidential address.

Those are just the most evident examples of how this stuff is pervasive in our culture.  And it's not that Western nations need to provide inspiration to those who would carry out such acts.

I agree with those in Manchester and Paris and Nice and London and Boston and other cities that the best thing we can all do is NOT allow such possibilities to prevent us from living our lives.  So I plan to continue to do so, but with a more practiced eye toward what might be happening behind the scenes.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

News of all kinds

Friends, it's Wednesday, so we're at about the halfway point of the work week.  And we're approaching Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.  School is almost out for the summer, too.

Let me first make a general comment about what's happening in Washington.  I don't think anyone who visits here would disagree that we're in for some rough times over the coming weeks and months.  I was a young teen when the Watergate break-in, coverup and investigation occurred, and remember well my mom (who was not working at that time) watching every minute of the Senate hearings on the subject.  I don't know if I understood everything that was happening, but got enough of it to know that it wasn't good for anyone.

My take now is that there are now so many media outlets that information is likely leaking from numerous sources, in the executive or legislative branches of our government as well as within some departments.  That's not good, but things are found out quickly in our current 24-hour news cycle and that may mean they resolve quickly.  Hoping that our most important institutions withstand what's happening right now.

Less important stuff to move on with....

It's hot here in central Kentucky.  Really hot.  Damned hot, if you ask me.  This often happens, the weather is fair, damp, often with a cold snap thrown in for good measure throughout the spring, then a switch appears to be thrown and here we are, in blazing heat.  We should be used to it, it seems to happen every year!

Good baseball weather.  Our grandson is in the middle of a good season with his T-ball team and at last night's game he made a very good play from his second base position on a ground ball, fielding the ball cleanly and making a perfect throw to first for the out.  Remember, these kids are four to six years old, so a semi-professional play on a ground ball is kind of a big deal, at least to me.  Our grandson's team has only lost once, but they have a couple of games to make up due to some of the foul weather I mentioned.

The Reds continue a surprisingly good season, too.  Thanks to having lost four straight games, they've fallen back to the .500 mark, but, honestly, rebuilding teams rarely get to that point and stay there, so it's been an up and down season marked with a fair amount of promise for the future.  And all of this with a makeshift starting rotation forced by multiple injuries to several pitchers.

My son and I visited Cincinnati last week and watched the home team beat the New York Yankees in a good game.  Great to be in the ballpark for that!

I've been trying to play some golf, but it seems that it has rained on so many weekends that it hasn't come together as it often does.  Played with some friends a couple of weekends ago, played a decent round with a good stretch of holes in the middle, which is not bad for a complete lack of practice and playing.

One more thing and I'll let you get back to your Wednesday...our family will be growing again in December, as we just found out over the weekend that our son and his wife are expecting their third child!  What a wonderful Mother's Day surprise!




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