New Shoes in the Rain

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Turning a corner

It's Saturday, friends, and I'm ever so glad to be in weekend mode.  Hope you'll get to enjoy some downtime, too.

I just returned Thursday from a four day trip to the Cleveland, Ohio area for some training for my new job.  Met some interesting people, but what stuck with me the most in two trips into the middle of the city there was the extent of rundown or even abandoned commercial and residential structures. Boarded up, beaten down, depressing scenery, block after block of it.

To be fair, Lexington has that, too, but the scale is so different in a city the size of Cleveland.  I found the same in the Detroit, Michigan area, at least in parts of it, during frequent travels there late last year and early this year.  But it's still something that takes me by surprise, and then leaves me somewhat depressed for those affected by it.

I watched a documentary a while back that spent some of its running time addressing the water situation in Flint, Michigan.  I'm sure you're somewhat familiar with the circumstances--the state ordered the city to switch water supplies, from that which feed the Detroit area to another, less safe, source.  The result has been a high concentration of lead in the drinking water there, leading to developmental disabilities to children and others.  And it appears that the majority of pipes throughout the city are damaged, including those in homes and apartments.

The documentary ran through the chronology of all of this but pointed out, quite correctly, that people are literally trapped there.  Let's say you and your spouse have two children, and you want to get your family out.  Well, if you own a home, you pretty much have to sell that home before you can leave and resettle in another community.  But think--who's coming to Flint?  Who's going to buy that house?

Similar predicaments exist for those in cities where large employers have closed plants, and I feel for them.

But along with the despair that's bound to accompany the very idea of living somewhere like the squalid inner cities I've mentioned, there are pockets of hope.  Ordinary people doing for each other, helping those who need it most.  We don't get to see much of that just passing through, but it's there.  For instance, here in Lexington, there's a woman who's devoted herself to the homeless for well over thirty years, working for a Catholic-based agency.  The numbers served have grown, and she has continued to ensure that additional resources are identified and services have kept up.  Her agency now resides in a much larger space and the community is much the better for having her agency here.

I'll mention one more organization here, and I mean HERE.  There's a mission that was founded here in Lexington and is run by local people, with one couple spearheading the entire effort.  All of the money raised stays HERE.  My wife and I are pleased to contribute in a small way to their good work throughout the year.

I hesitate to sound like Pollyanna here, that there's always a silver lining in every dark cloud, but if you're being followed by one of those clouds, you come to count on those silver linings.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Privileged

Good morning, friends.  We're facing a major weather change here in central Kentucky, with heavy wind and later some severe storms, although it pales in comparison with the "bomb cyclone" that hit the Rockies yesterday!  We received a report from our daughter in the Denver suburbs of heavy snow and wind and cold, such that none of her gang even ventured out of the house!

This week's revelations about the college entrance cheating scandal have been astounding in their creativity and downright meanness, and I have a few things to say on this subject.

First, anyone who does not or did not already recognize that wealth offers certain people discernible advantages over those without it should come to this realization quickly.  Money and the advantages it offers pervade so many areas of our society, from where we live to what we drive to what we wear and how we're sometimes treated based on all of that.

But this whole scenario, which involves a college admissions program that fraudulently helped students whose parents paid gain entry to major, exclusive universities on false pretenses (often helping students pose as athletes to put them into the "admitted" class) was best explained by someone I saw on television this morning.

He said that we have all long accepted that in an airliner that there are multiple classes of passengers, with first class being reserved for those who pay the most or have earned the privilege of a larger seat and more space, with more personalized service.  He added that this scandal means that for some people, first class simply isn't enough.  These people feel the need to pay even more for the chance to sit by themselves, theoretically, and receive the equivalent of one-on-one service.  To me, this is an apt analogy, and it's relatively easy to connect the dots.

Let me take you back some forty-plus years, to when I was a high school student considering options for college.  I had good grades.  I was not an athlete but was active in other areas of student life, editing the school newspaper and participating in speech and drama and a member of the Beta Club.  In Kentucky, back then we took the ACT, unless we were sure we were going to attend a school out of state.  In those days any Kentucky student who HAD an ACT score was automatically eligible to attend any state university.  And I had a very good ACT score.

It wasn't long before I began getting inquiries from various colleges, mostly of the liberal arts variety, and I was fascinated by this.  But with a brother two years ahead of me, I already saw that my father was unwilling to sign financial aid applications necessary to attend such colleges (that's a story for another time), so it did not take long for me to realize and accept, gratefully, that I would be attending the University of Kentucky, a scant twenty miles away in Lexington.

Am I bitter about this?  Not really.  I knew plenty of kids who weren't all that smart whose parents sent them off to their alma mater or some other private school out of state, and they almost all came back because they got themselves into trouble of the academic or behavioral kind.  Most of them wound up working in the family business, because they didn't know what else to do.  I rather like that I have walked my own path throughout my post-collegiate life.

And let's be clear:  it was a given that these other kids would go somewhere befitting people of their station in life, and I would go to little old UK.  I worked an after-school job from the time I turned 16, most of them did not.  And so on.  But privilege wasn't something I never saw.

So back to the scandal in the news.  This is just the latest iteration of the same issue.  Twenty years ago a family would make a sizeable contribution to the endowment fund of a college or university, and magically Junior would be admitted when it came time for him to be educated.  Now, that's apparently not enough to assure a spot.

And meanwhile, so many people, including my two kids, are saddled with seemingly endless student loan debt, repaying for the privilege of having attended these institutions of higher learning.

No, I don't think college should be free.  No, I don't think that student loans should be completely forgiven.  But there is less question than ever that the "system" needs to find a way to level the playing field, at least a little.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Tell me about it

Friends, it's late on the first Monday afternoon of March.  And it's 24 degrees.  And the temperature had to really struggle to reach that level today!

It snowed here in Kentucky yesterday, as it did in a lot of other places.  My wife and I were returning from a hockey tournament in Oxford, Ohio yesterday afternoon and noticed that the further south we went, the worse the roads became.  And there were more cars off the road.  Our son was following with his family a few miles back and he reported that a car lost control in front of him, careened (his word) across all three lanes, and finally came to rest just off the shoulder--facing the wrong way!

So, in other words, while the winter may almost be over, the operative word there is ALMOST!

It's over for hockey, we know, as our grandson concluded his season well with the trip north and a couple of games yesterday morning.  The later of the two was an absolute blowout, which means that the entire team had a big time playing that one.  He's had a lot of fun this year, has progressed nicely (in my uneducated opinion, anyway) but is ready for something else.  My wife asked him what's next yesterday at lunch and without even looking up he simply said "tennis."  Couldn't tell if he was kidding or not.

Kentucky's basketball team hit a bit of a speed bump over the weekend, going to Tennessee and losing big.  This comes after the Cats had beaten the Vols in Lexington just a couple of weeks ago.  And in the same week when they had trouble putting away a lesser team from Arkansas, too.

The weather even affected baseball spring training.  Rain and cool weather plagued most of the training sites throughout Arizona recently, but the teams are all playing now.

I'm just grateful that I was coming home during the foul weather yesterday, instead of embarking on a trip.  Hope you were able to stay relatively cozy, too!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Changing it up again

It's a chilly Sunday morning here in central Kentucky.  Hope the weather is tolerable where you are!

I never mention this until it's already happening, but I started a new job last Monday.  It's still in the same industry where I've been for the past twenty-plus years, but a little different area of the industry than in the past.  New people to know, services to market, responsibilities to meet.  Looking forward to the challenges it brings.

Kentucky's basketball team went through some changes of their own this week, as they lost a nail-biter at home to LSU on Tuesday and then roared out of the gates to beat the Number 1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers last night, again at Rupp Arena.  We here in the Bluegrass State are accustomed to seeing college basketball played at a pretty high level, but once in a while a Kentucky team comes along that seems capable of even greater-than-normal things.  This team might be one of those, as they have a great blend of inside and outside talent, some more experienced players than other recent squads, and, of course, the Big Blue Nation right behind them.  The next few weeks should be interesting, to say the least.

And, lo and behold, the spring can't be far away, as major league baseball pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, with position players all required to be on hand in the next couple of days.  My Cincinnati Reds look like they could be competitive this year, having acquired three different starting pitchers to anchor what's been a revolving door of a rotation.  And the everyday lineup will look a little different with some new players blended into a solid batting order.  Time will tell on all of this and whether young Nick Senzel can master the intricacies of playing center field in the major leagues!

Did I tell you that we've been trying out Amazon Prime Video recently?  Decided to give the free trial a spin, and we like it.  We've had Netflix for some time, but really its heaviest use is by our grandchildren.  My wife and I boiled it down this way--the only remaining program there that we both like is "The Crown," the quasi-biographical show about Queen Elizabeth.  Have enjoyed the first two seasons, would anticipate the same for the next two, but it's a Netflix exclusive.

That's kind of the problem, all of the streaming services have determined the HBO route is the way to go.  Find shows people will want to see and they'll be loyal.  Well, I've tried a few of them on Netflix, and only found a handful that I really liked.

On Amazon Prime, my wife discovered almost instantly that they own the reairing rights to "Downton Abbey," so we started watching it again.  And we've also sampled an episode of "The Man in the High Castle," and are moving through the first season of "Jack Ryan," a stylish restructuring of the Tom Clancy spy novels that have so far spawned five movies.  We've already identified a few other original programs we plan to try, and that seldom happened with Netflix.  So we've ended our Netflix membership--for now.

Oh, and while we don't order a lot of stuff from Amazon, we've ordered a couple of things and I like the free shipping that accompanies our membership.  Apparently we like Amazon better than some of the people in New York who were so against the company locating its "HQ2" there.

I don't think I can wrap this up without at least a passing mention to the national emergency that was declared by our President last Friday morning.  Like so many things undertaken by this administration, this was done in service to his political base, and for no other reason than to say "See?  I tried to give you what I promised, but THEY won't let me."  I sincerely hope that all of the folks who have announced they're running for President in 2020 will not fall prey to the same sense of political obligation.

That's it.  Please return to your regularly scheduled weekend.




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Blissful ignorance

It's Tuesday, friends.  Hope you had a "super" weekend!

By now you know that the New England Patriots won Super Bowl 53 over the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 13-3.  The Patriots have now won six Super Bowl titles with Bill Belichick as their head coach and Tom Brady as their quarterback, and their victory sets numerous records.  Congratulations to the team, its owners and its fans.

For my part, I could care less, I didn't watch a second of the game for the third straight year.

Why?

I suffer from Patriots Fatigue, an ongoing malaise that keeps me from admiring ongoing success by a given team.  I watch a fair amount of professional football every season, but have reached the point that I don't watch the Patriots, since they're often shown on CBS and the games broadcast by Jim Nantz, the openly-Patriots-friendly play-by-play announcer.  Each time the Pats appear on CBS it seems that we're reintroduced to the greatness that is Robert Kraft, the team owner, and the afore-mentioned coach and quarterback.  Not to mention the outstanding culture of winning they have all helped to form.

Let me detail the Super Bowl routine for my wife and me.  Two years ago, when the Patriots qualified, I said to my wife, let's not watch the game.  We used to make a big deal of Super Bowl Sunday, preparing a carefully planned menu of treats and having our son and his family over.  Gradually that kept getting more difficult to plan and now that our son is attending law school at night, he needs that time for studying after a usually busy weekend with his family.

So two years ago we went to the movies.  Hardly anyone there, saw a good movie ("Rogue One--A Star Wars Story" two years ago and "Star Wars--The Last Jedi" last year) and enjoyed the alternative experience.

I have to confess that two years ago, we left the cineplex and I looked at my phone to see that the Atlanta Falcons were comfortably ahead in that Super Bowl versus the Patriots, so decided to watch the rest of the game to see the Patriots lose.

But they didn't.  They came back to win.  All the more reason to avoid them more consistently.

So I didn't watch last year when they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, and I didn't watch this year when they won.

Not for nothing, but my angst toward the Patriots revolves around their apparent and ongoing penchant for bending or breaking rules, some of which may be minor, but in my mind, if you don't play by the rules, you don't deserve to win.  Here are a few of the things for which the Patriots have been investigated and/or punished:


Six times since 2007 they have had players serve suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs

In 2007 the Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets (whom they play twice a year, as they're in the same division) and were punished by the NFL in the form of fines for coach Bill Belichick and the team and they were forced to give up their first-round draft choice

Numerous times during his tenure as head coach, Belichick has failed to list injured players as required by the league on the team's injury report; in response once to allegations of this, Belichick listed THE ENTIRE ROSTER as "questionable" for that week's game

Prior to the Super Bowl in 2002 (I didn't bother to figure out which Roman numeral that game was) the Patriots videotaped the St. Louis Rams' pregame walkthrough, which potentially gave them some understanding of the Rams' intended game plan.  No punishment ensued, as no proof was found.

In 2015 the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts to qualify for the Super Bowl and were shortly afterward accused of using underinflated footballs when they were on offense.  The allegations originated with a beat writer who covers the Colts, and eventually included input from reporters from ESPN and other outlets.  Because this was allegedly done at the direction of QB Tom Brady, there was even more attention paid to this story, and Brady was eventually suspended for the first four games of the following season.  Brady appealed the decision in court, and the case eventually reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, which overturned the suspension.

There have been other allegations over the years, such as the instances when the headsets that coaches wear on the sidelines to communicate with each other and their quarterback on the field cease to work for the visiting team when playing in the Patriots' home stadium.  Or that the Patriots illegally "tamper" with players who are under contract to other teams (this most likely happens uniformly throughout the NFL).  And on and on and on.


To be fair, it's entirely possible that these accusations of rule-breaking of which the Pats have been accused over the years were either fabricated or over-reported because they're so good.  It's equally possible that they're so good because of these activities.  I used to spend my football Saturdays working in the broadcast booth for University of Kentucky football games.  One of the broadcasters when I started was a former NFL offensive lineman.  He told me that he held the man he was assigned to block on every play for the entire 16 years he played in the league, or something to that effect.  In short, it happens, whether it's noticed by the officials or not.

So in summary, that's why I opted to do something other than watch the Patriots defeat the Rams on Sunday.







Thursday, January 31, 2019

Not another post about the weather

Good morning, friends.  We're in the midst of a small heat wave here in central Kentucky, as the temperature has reached 11 balmy degrees.  But I'm not here to discuss the brutal cold that has struck the majority of the country.

No, I don't have any interest in relating tales from contacts in Michigan and other northern localities where the temperature (and not the wind chill) is well below zero during daylight hours.

Not planning to mention some of the stupendously ignorant comments made by our President about this weather and him asking for "good old global warming" to return.

I could give a shout-out to a friend who braved these extreme temperatures recently for a hike in the cold and snow, but not just now.

I could discuss the marvel of physics that allows it to be below ten degrees and yet the sun melts and evaporates snow from driveways and sidewalks, but I won't.

And I didn't know that somewhere along the way our weather experts renamed the "jet stream" and now refer to it as the "polar vortex," but let's not get into that just now.

No, I have better things to talk about than the weather.

Seriously, though, my home state of Kentucky continues to make itself look rather silly.  Did you happen to see or hear the comments made in a radio interview by our Governor, Matt Bevin?  He seems to think that we're getting "soft" when we cancel classes due to the extreme cold.  Incidentally, this is a man who's originally from New Hampshire, where they chuckle at the South's inability to deal with a brief but pronounced sample of harsh winter weather.  And if you're not from Kentucky and interested, he made a pretty substantial amount of money in the investment market.

Back to the "polar vortex," I actually heard a plausible explanation for all of this.  Greenhouse gases have caused a rupture in the normal air mass that constitutes the jet stream and extremely cold air has essentially leaked out and poured southward.

All I know is that it's cold.  It will be warmer today but not until later.

Hope that wherever you are you're safe.  And warm.

Friday, January 25, 2019

How did we get here?

Happy Friday, everyone.  It's cold here in Kentucky, was cold during this week's business travel, too.  Cold in a lot of places, it seems.

Step back from your day-to-day issues and give some thought to the headlines we presently see online, on the evening news, in a newspaper or any relatively current news source.  And just think about this:

"Trump associate indicted on seven counts"

"Officials rejected Kushner for security clearance but were overruled"

"Shooter at large after four killed in Georgia"

"Three-year-old found alive in woods after days missing in North Carolina"

"Trump Administration plans to turn asylum seekers back to Mexico"

"General Mills recalls flour over salmonella concerns"

"Schools closed due to widespread illness"

"Florida secretary of state resigns after photo reportedly shows him in blackface"


Those all were pulled from the website of a major news organization just before I wrote this post.  If you're over forty, would you ever have imagined seeing even half of these types of headlines?  What does it say about our country that these are "normal" circumstances to be reported in a matter of fact way?

One at a time, I'll comment:

The last time an associate of a sitting President was indicted was during the Clinton Administration, and it happened a few times before that, most notably during the Nixon Administration's Watergate scandal.

I don't ever remember there being this much discussion of a security clearance, as elected officials generally choose people who qualify readily for that distinction.

Hardly a week goes by without reports of multiple shootings, whether in public places or otherwise.

Missing kids should be a subject of real concern to officials, as this seems to be a more frequently reported issue.

I don't think I need to comment further about how the Trump Administration has handled immigration issues to date.

Salmonella in flour?  Made by General Mills?  Would never have believed that a few years ago.

While the flu is making its presence felt this year, there are a lot of kids who apparently are not vaccinated by their conspiracy-theory parents, so that seems to be a contributing factor to some of the school-centered illness we hear about.

I don't even know what to say about that last item.

And I long for some good news, but it's awfully hard to publicly identify random acts of kindness and heroism and decency.  But I look for them all the time, and am gratified when I see or even experience them.

So be kind to someone today.  The world needs it.