New Shoes in the Rain

Friday, October 12, 2018

Powering through

Happy Friday to you all.  If you or anyone you love was/is in the path of the recent hurricane I certainly will hope for the best for you and yours.

I'm delighted that this work week is nearly over, and I'm sure that those of you who are Monday-through-Friday people are, too.

I'm in my third week of traveling in my new role with my company, and am meeting new people in pretty significant numbers.  Wisely, I decided not to try to memorize everyone's names.  But I think most know MY name now!

This was one of the more peculiar travel week's I've ever experienced.  My early-week destination was a community in western South Carolina, so my optimal travel path was to fly to Atlanta, rent a car, and make the nearly three hour drive into SC.  That was Monday afternoon and evening, and I did the reverse Wednesday morning, flying out for three days of meetings in the Detroit area, where I am now.  Flying home this afternoon.

The only other instance of a schedule this odd was when I had first assumed responsibility for a sales region some ten years ago.  I had openings in both New Mexico and Nevada, so left home, flew to Albuquerque, conducted two interviews, went back to the airport and flew to Las Vegas, conducted two more interviews the next day, and then flew home the following day.

I'm sure that this is really not a big deal to those who cover a large geography but for me it's a bit peculiar.

The one saving grace this week (and should be for the foreseeable future) is that all of my travel has been in a single time zone.  Far more taxing if you're going from zone to zone, in my experience.

In addition to the hurricane, some other news caught my attention, namely the notable drop in the stock market this week.  As someone who has all of his retirement money tied up in plans which are, in turn, tied to the market, I hope these are temporary corrections and not permanent adjustments.

I also noticed that the states of Georgia and Indiana are reportedly conducting orchestrated voter suppression activities.  No coincidence that the Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia is that state's current Secretary of State and therefore responsible for conducting elections.  Those who cry foul are right to do so.

And for some inexplicable reason, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced her resignation at year's end.  Why she's leaving and what she'll do next are a good question.

For his part, President Trump has appeared at campaign rallies (in the midst of the devastation of Hurricane Michael), claimed to know more about monetary policy than the Chair of the Federal Reserve in complaining about the stock market declines, and welcomed rapper Kanye West to the Oval Office.  He also isn't backing away from an arms sale to Saudi Arabia despite that country's possible involvement in the killing of a dissident journalist who was a permanent U.S. resident.

And for my part, that's about all I have to offer this morning, so I wish you a good day and a better weekend!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tales of travel

Good morning, friends.....hope it's not raining where you are.

I've just returned from a major event for my company that was held in the Dallas area over the past few days, ending yesterday.  If you've visited here for a long time, you know that I often will recount my travel experiences in this space, and, since I'll again be traveling a bit in my work, I'll resume that practice with some observations today.

First and foremost, my current company is not based in Dallas, but chose to hold this major event there because of its central location and the abundance of flight options into the area.  Since our event included over 1,400 attendees, it made sense to do this.

But I used to work for Dallas-based organizations and have watched the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport evolve over the years.  It looked to me that the evolution is completed for now, and that was a nice change.  My last instance of traveling there was in the fall of 2015, and the concourses that I visited were marked heavily with construction.  Not so this time.  To the relief of passengers.

This airport does have one feature I found intriguing and yet infuriating.  When you go to move through security, you see a stack of bins for the stuff you have to take out of your bags (laptop computers, liquids and your pocket contents).  At DFW they want everything in a bin, including your bags, and have large bins.  That's good.  But they're dispensed by a system that is at least faulty.  And the process is accompanied by some confusing TSA instructions and you add that to the volume of passengers and you have a process that is easily disrupted!

Before this large event this past Friday through Sunday my work group had two days of meetings.  And it's seldom hard to tell who arranges the group dinners (outside of the hotel, fortunately).  I suppose we all do things in our own image and this was no exception.  The person who selected both restaurants chose places that were far too small for our large groups and were, shall we say, rustic.  One of these venues was built of cinder blocks (but recently, not an old building) and appeared designed to look like your grandmother's unfinished basement.

I boarded my flight home yesterday and was settling in and between a wanted-to-be-chatty seatmate and a screaming child directly in front of me (who fortunately calmed down completely once the plane became airborne) I was convinced that I would have a less-than-wonderful experience.  Luckily that wasn't the case.

I must look like I know what I'm doing, as several people in the airport asked me where to go for certain things or what stop to take for a certain terminal.  I'm not sure, except I was still wearing my business casual outfit from the meetings when these people encountered me yesterday.

My wife is trying to persuade me to buy a new set of noise-cancelling headphones and a new suitcase, since I'm again embarking on regular travel.  Not sure I want to do either.  I bought the Apple AirPods some time ago and like them very much.  You've seen them, they look like the earphones that come with a new iPhone, but without the wires.  I frankly don't remember the wired version feeling this comfortable or sounding this good.  So I'm undecided about that.

Regarding the suitcase, I invested in a new bag in 2008 when my travel last ramped up.  Have beaten the daylights out of this bag since, with ample help from the airlines.  Invoked the company's lifetime warranty twice and paid a leather repair shop to stitch up a broken seam another time.  It's not expandable, but I managed to get clothes for my five day trip into it this past week.  The wheels still roll smoothly and quietly, the handle still telescopes, and nothing falls out.  So another on-the-fence issue.

I'm traveling to northern Ohio this Thursday, this time by car because of the need for greater schedule flexibility on Friday.  So that should also bring some interesting stories.  See you after.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Space program

It's raining here in central Kentucky, friends.  I'm not quite sure if this is related to Hurricane Florence, which is stalled somewhere in the Carolinas, or a separate weather system, but it's raining here.  Again.

As reported here on our last visit, my wife and I had the task of determining how we would use our now-vacant front room.  I sold my old, bulky office furniture recently and that set into motion a chain reaction that leads us to today.

Our planned first step was to move our current kitchen table into the front room (which was designed to be a dining room) and give that a look to see what we thought of it.  So Friday I did just that.  This involved removing the legs from the long table, then scooting it into the other room, protecting it and the floors with towels underneath.  Then I reinstalled the table legs and put it upright.  I initially liked how it looked, both from the standpoint of size and of color.  But as the day wore on (I didn't have any outside appointments Friday) it became clear to me that the space and the table were not a good fit for one another.

My wife came home and looked at it for a long time and deduced the same thing.

So we then agreed that it should be returned to its former purpose, that of a home office.  I'm still going to be working from home in my new position (sorry, no details, except that my current company promoted me into different responsibilities) so having a good place to work is important.

We had already done some scouting at Pottery Barn, where we've bought small decorative items but nothing as large as a piece of furniture, so went back there Friday evening for a closer look at several of the options they had on their sales floor (and we're pretty happy that there's a Pottery Barn location in Lexington now, too, as it used to be that Cincinnati was the closest store) and identified a couple of good options.

As you'd imagine, the one I liked was the one that my wife felt was a little small for me.  Not for my work, but for ME.  The one she preferred seemed too much like a redo (in a different finish) of what I just sold.  So we were not convinced either way, but decided the next morning to go back and look again, as we needed to get this show on the road!

I got up early Saturday and looked at some other furniture websites and landed on the site for Arhaus Furniture, a store from whom we've bought a fair amount of furniture over the years.  And on their site I discovered that a set I always liked, back when I wasn't even looking for office furniture, is presently available at a significant discount.  So I relocated our kitchen table back into our kitchen, and off we went.

Picked the desk easily enough, but wanted an accessory piece and had some difficulty deciding.  Finally arrived at a decision and even added a bench, as this area is also our entryway, so it will be good to have a place for folks to take off and put on their shoes as well.

But this morning I walked into that space and began looking at it critically.  Got the tape measure and saw that the desk will be fine where we intend to place it, but the accessory piece is too long!  So we need to go back to our original idea of an upright piece.  Which means I need to go back to Arhaus and change out what we're ordering.

Best part is that all of it will be here in a couple of weeks.  You have to understand, this is record time for us to make a decision about furniture.  Even with this change....

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hold tight

Good Friday to all.  And to those in the path of Hurricane Florence, I wish you the best as you work to avoid or endure this powerful storm.

Another standard potpourri of thoughts and comments, so here goes....

Did you know that the Department of Homeland Security has apparently diverted almost $170 million from other programs it oversees to ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency?  I didn't, either, until yesterday.  There were mentions about $10 million being directly diverted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is governed by the Department, and with Florence making landfall today, one would hope that FEMA has appropriate resources to assist residents with recovery efforts.

Reports indicate the remainder of that money was also diverted away from the Transportation Safety Administration (the TSA, the folks who oversee airport security), the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Has the additional ICE funding been well spent?  Hard to say.

Barring something remarkable, Brett Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But not without some difficulty, as more negative information continues to surface on this candidate.  This is the third time the U.S. Senate has evaluated him for confirmation to a position on the federal bench and by far the turn with the most scrutiny.

If you live outside of my home area in central Kentucky, you would not know that we have a rather nasty congressional campaign underway.  Incumbent Republican Congressman Andy Barr is being opposed by a retired Marine fighter pilot, Amy McGrath, who has never sought nor held public office.  This was already interesting, made so by McGrath's unexpected primary win over two-term Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, the Democratic party's hand-picked candidate.  But the party got behind McGrath quickly and appear to be mounting a good effort to unseat the GOP loyalist Barr.

Barr's campaign went negative almost immediately and McGrath won't play along, although a SuperPAC has funded a series of ads reminding us of what's wrong with Barr and his consistent party-line voting record.  Get the popcorn, this could be very interesting indeed.

Our neighborhood garage sale is tomorrow, and I briefly considered participating, since homes up and down our street (the main one through the neighborhood) will be having sales.  But my wife and I looked around the house over the last couple of days and realized that we're in pretty good shape, we don't seem to have a lot of unwanted stuff lying around that needs to be moved out.  So that's good, right?

We do have a separate issue pending, though.  I think I mentioned that I was in the process of selling my office furniture of 15 years, and we completed that transaction this week.  The buyer arrived to pay the balance owed and movers came and collected these large furniture pieces in short order.

So now the front room of our house is empty, except for a floor lamp, a coat tree and a bench from our kitchen dining set that I moved into the room to get an idea of how it would look.  The table will require more effort to move into that space for a tryout but I hope to complete that in the next day or two.  Then we'll know if we want to use that space for dining or for another purpose.

So that's that from here.  Have a good weekend.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Trying to reason with the wet weather season

Today's title with apologies to Jimmy Buffett....

It's not raining right now, but our summer of rain resumed late last week and we're due to get rain off and on all of this week, too.  I was talking with someone last week and we agreed that usually, by this time, those of us without irrigation systems had long stopped mowing our lawns regularly.  Not this year, as I'm still mowing every five days or so.

There are far worse problems to have.  It would be wonderful if we could transfer this rain to the areas in the western U.S. that are being besieged by yet more wildfires.

A couple of sports items to mention--the Kentucky football team managed to snap a 31 year losing streak to Florida on Saturday night, and in Gainesville, Florida, no less!  I won't bore you with what a gallon of gas cost and such the last time Kentucky managed that feat.  Here's hoping it's not 31 years before the NEXT Kentucky win over the Gators!

I don't follow tennis at all but it was awfully difficult not to hear about Serena Williams and her issues with the chair umpire during the women's final of the U.S. Open over the weekend.  I can't quite decide if I agree with her or not.  She was penalized for receiving coaching from the stands, a charge that her own coach acknowledged was happening.  She subsequently got two more penalties, each more severe than the last, and was fined $17,000.  All through this she contended that she was being singled out and treated as such because she's a woman.  I wasn't there, I wasn't watching when it happened and all of the television highlights have been out of context at best.

Serena has her story and she's sticking to it, which is a little more than one could say about certain aspects of the Trump Administration, which is now under siege from yet another interview-filled tell-all book, this one written by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, as well as an editorial piece written anonymously by a current Administration official and detailing an internal resistance to the overall activities of the Trump Administration.  I'm sure that the private finger-pointing is rampant right now, but the President is working to discredit Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and now wants the Department of Justice to investigate the editorial writer--for treason.

One more tidbit to pass along--today I'll be selling my home office furniture that I've been using for about fifteen years.  Time for a change, as I don't really like the heavy to-the-floor style of the outgoing set.  The buyer is a doctor who's setting up a new practice, so I'm glad that the items will be going to a good new home!

I'll be writing about my NEW furniture as soon as my wife and I decide where the office will wind up being located.

In the meantime, if anyone knows how to unseed clouds to ward off rain, I'd be really interested.....

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The unofficial end of summer

Happy day-after-Labor-Day, friends.  I hope that your work schedule allowed you to have a day off to reflect on the value of the labor movement in this country yesterday.

I started my weekend a little early, as I also took last Friday off work.  Good thing, too, as I was in the worst stage of an upper respiratory disorder that was, well, inconvenient on that particular day.  Feeling quite a bit better now, although I'm not quite 100%.

So this is the "unofficial" end of summer, you know.  The kids are back in school, so family vacations are over for now (unless families seize the relatively new phenomenon of "fall break" for some time away).  We actually have about three weeks of summer left per the calendar before fall arrives officially.

I enjoy time time of year, and I'll gladly share why:

First, it marks the return of college football season.  I watch the pros, too, but since I worked with the University of Kentucky Sports Network's broadcast team for thirteen seasons, this past weekend always marks the start of the football season.  I enjoy pro football to some extent as well, but really like the college game quite a bit.  And, no, I don't want either of my grandsons to play football, any more than I allowed my son to play.

Also, this is when the baseball season winds down for the non-contenders (like the Reds) but competition heats up for eight teams in the major leagues.  We're nearing the time when anything can happen, like a team that won 116 games not getting out of the first round of the playoffs, or a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs catching fire at the right time and winning the whole thing.

One more sports thing--fall golf.  I played with some friends yesterday (including a fellow I had not seen since high school, but we didn't take long to resume our prior relationship) and while we enjoyed our time on the links, it was uncomfortably hot most of the day.  As a result, none of us played especially well, despite the fun we had.

And with this being a Ryder Cup year, the professional golf scene is a whole lot more fun to watch for the month of September, at least.

And I have to say that I appreciate the change of seasons that we'll experience here in central Kentucky.  Yes, I'll still prefer to wear shorts much of the time that I'm at home, at least until it turns cold, but the idea of going out and taking a jacket is appealing after a long hot summer!

I came home from golf yesterday afternoon to see that my wife had done her fall decorating while I was away.  Pumpkins and other fall-ish items all through the house and outside, too.  The woman loves a special occasion, one of the many reasons why I love her so!  And our grandchildren always get excited to see Gram's decorations, so that's a nice bonus, too!

So it's not fall yet, but it's coming.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Time for a change (or two or three)

Good Monday morning to you all!  Summer took a brief hiatus around here, with comfortable morning lows and temperate afternoon highs for a few days, but in recent days Mother Nature reminded us who's in charge, as we had one of those stiflingly hot and humid days yesterday.  Oh, well, it IS August, after all...

Given the time of year, no surprise that the most significant change is that our grandchildren have gone back to school, at least the four that are school age.  Our Colorado branch did so from a new home that was purchased in mid-summer, so I'm sure there were some adjustments associated with that, yet the kids both attend the schools where they already were.  Local kids went back to their school, too.  And our son returned to his night classes in law school last week.

Part of the local school dynamic is that I pick up the kids a couple of days a week, when my schedule and whereabouts allow it.  Fun for them, more fun for me, since they're a couple of little comedians.  I was relating to someone recently that in the short trip from their school to their house (where my wife is keeping their little sister, who'll be nine months old soon) they usually entertain me so completely that I barely remember who I am, let alone more specific things than that.  Luckily I haven't received any important phone calls during this trip to their house!

Also, I'm writing this from a new office location.  No, my wife and I didn't also move to a new home, but rather I've relocated my office space from the dining room, the FIRST room you see when you enter our house, to a part of an upstairs bedroom.  I've been thinking about this for a long time, as we so easily run out of dining space when our entire gang is here for a meal.  Recently I came to agreement to sell my massive office furniture (desk, credenza, hutch) to a former military doctor who's setting up a private practice, this after some months of concerted effort to do so.  She and her fiancee looked at the furniture one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, even going to the extent of paying a deposit of about 40% of their total purchase price.  They still haven't arranged for the furniture to be moved to the new office, but by mutual agreement they'll pay the balance (which they communicated that they have in hand) when they collect it.

So the offshoot is that my wife and I made a couple of trips to Cincinnati over the past few weeks, the first being our semi-annual shopping and leisure trip (a day trip this time) and the followup for purchases at IKEA.  If you have an IKEA location within a comfortable distance, I highly recommend a trip there, if only to see how others might furnish a room or a home.  I've long been fascinated by the IKEA ethic of good space utilization, modest construction and cost (you put their furniture together, if you're not familiar) and contemporary design.

Anyway, our return trip produced a desk and a drawer unit, and I have both set up in the room where our grandchildren sleep, as a niche there yielded exactly the right amount of space for the furniture needed for the job.  Last week I moved everything out of my old office furniture, which was quite a job (thirteen years of accumulation) and found new homes for everything, whether I use it frequently or not!  Still making adjustments to little things, like where to put the bills that need to go to my office to be paid, but overall I'm pleased with the result.

So what's the plan behind these room changes at the Smith house?  Well, we have always lamented how small our kitchen is, but never used our dining room space as, well, a dining room.  That will likely change, as our kitchen table is a nice casual set that will look good in the other room, and our plan is to buy a SMALL set for the kitchen, large enough for two or three people but no more.  We'll see how this evolves.

I'm also going to be experiencing a change of one kind or another in my job status.  As is my custom, I won't be sharing any specifics, but I'll just say that in the next sixty days my working life is going to change.  For the better, either way!

You know what they say, that change is the only constant.  Seems so true, especially at this stage of my life.