New Shoes in the Rain

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Just the beginning

Happy Tuesday to all....hope you're not digging out from a foot or two of snow, as some of my friends in the East/Southeast are today!

I have to say that I caught a major break on the path and pace of that winter storm.  I made my annual trip to my company headquarters in south Florida for meetings last week and was due to fly out late Friday afternoon, just as I did last year.  This year, the weather in Atlanta was workable and so my flights left and arrived on schedule, delivering me home on time.  Last year a similar winter weather system caused a virtual shutdown of the air traffic system from Dallas to Charlotte, which prevented folks with connections from traveling through to their destinations further north.  I was delayed an extra 36 hours, but finally made it home on Sunday afternoon.

And as a resident of the northern part of the southeastern US, I can vouch.  Despite efforts to prepare and to keep up, our home area is woefully unprepared for harsh winter weather.  And for good reason.  Seems that each winter we receive probably two or three notable snowfalls.  Otherwise it's cold but relatively clear.  But there have been times that it's been worse.

I recall the winter of 1978 pretty easily, as it was my senior year of high school and we missed over a month of school.  Why?  We had deep cold and heavy snow, and every time it began to thaw, we'd get another snowfall and be right back where we were.  With the schools, it's not the urban areas that cause so many closures, it's the rural routes where so many kids are who rely on school buses for transportation.  And if the buses can't run safely, there's no school.

I can only imagine how long the schools in Virginia and North Carolina will be closed.

Worth remembering that this is simply the tip of the iceberg, if you will, as there's lots more of the cold season to come.  That was quite a shock to return from sunny and warm south Florida last week to temperatures hovering around 30 degrees.

So if you're stuck by heavy snow, try to make the most of it, particularly if you have power and heat.  Play with your kids.  Make a game of shoveling the driveway (and be careful, too, since it's easy to overexert in cold weather!), enjoy some family time.

I hope that by the next time you stop by your roads are clear!


Friday, November 30, 2018

These hotel rooms

Friends, I hope you're ready for a good non-Black Friday and an even better weekend!

Have been compiling this morning's post for a while but only now had the opportunity to complete and post it.  As I think I mentioned a while back, I'm again traveling frequently for business, and that means hotels.  Lots and lots of hotels!  I'm not going to lavishly praise or freely bash any particular brand or chain of hotels.  In my experience they all have their pluses and minuses, as one would expect.

The first, and nowadays for me, most important component of a hotel room is a comfortable bed.  Not too firm, not too soft.  For me this is made worse by the fact that at home I sleep on a TempurPedic bed.  Don't see those in hotels too frequently.  So the right firmness will determine how soundly I'm able to sleep, but also how many aches and pains will be with me when I wake up.

The number of comfortable beds has been small over the past three months.  Usually beds are rock-hard, with no give, and I wake up repeatedly with my arm or hip tingling from a lack of circulation.  Doesn't make for a restful night.  In a few cases I've encountered those "just right" beds, and thoroughly enjoy them.

The next issue for me is generally the availability and condition of an indoor pool.  I find this to be a better alternative to a fitness center workout, for a couple of reasons.  Swimming is very good exercise and it's no-impact.  Along with that it requires only a bathing suit, which makes packing a lot simpler.

The only catch is that in many cases, the pool is not functioning correctly and is closed for repairs, or worse is in operation but it's not heated sufficiently to allow someone to swim comfortably when it's cold outside.  That's almost always the norm, unfortunately.

Then there's breakfast.  Ever noticed that the less expensive hotels are the ones that offer a free breakfast?  It's not free, of course, but rather it's included in the overall cost of your room.  My son, the lawyer-in-training, mentioned to me not long ago that he knows of instances where people have eaten food from hotel buffets and become ill.  That's not happened to me, but I try to be somewhat selective about what I eat when offered a buffet for breakfast.

My son and I took two of his kids out of town a couple of weekends ago to a hotel that included breakfast, and they thought that was the greatest thing in the world to have food choices readily available.  I found the same buffet to be so-so and in line with what I see otherwise.

And I generally don't have a lot of interaction with the staff at these places, beyond check-in and check-out.  I entered a hotel this week and commented about the brand-new Starbucks Coffee shop right next door.  He smiled and simply said "I know, right?"  Appropriate reaction from his highly caffeinated generation.

Before you ask, I'll just say that, no, I've never considered using a bed-and-breakfast for business travel, but if anyone from the hospitality industry is reading this, contact me.  Glad to tell you more!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving done differently

Happy Monday-after-Thanksgiving to all!

I hope that if you had to travel home from visiting with family and friends over the long holiday weekend that you made it home in one piece!  I didn't travel over the weekend, but am leaving on a business trip later this morning, so wish me luck!

My wife and I had an interesting Thanksgiving this year.  Our son and his family traveled out of state to spend time with our daughter-in-law's family.  We tentatively planned to visit with my mother-in-law on Thanksgiving but for a variety of reasons did not travel to see her.  So, for the first time in many years, it was just my wife and me for the holiday.

We inquired of one restaurant that had endlessly promoted their Thanksgiving dinner and found that seating was very limited.  So we resigned ourselves to visiting another restaurant that was open for their regular hours and serving a meal especially for the holiday.  Not a bad option, but not quite the special occasion we would have preferred.

Thanksgiving Day in central Kentucky was sunny and somewhat mild, so I decided to mow our lawn one last time, mostly to pick up the leaves deposited by two trees in our neighbor's yard (we no longer have any trees, so it's a little annoying that the house next door, a rental, is currently vacant and therefore the yard untended).  When I came into the house after completing the job, my wife asked me what I thought about going to Shakertown, more formally known as Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.  I responded that it would be very nice to go, but were they even open?

A phone call and we learned that, indeed, they were open and serving a preset menu of turkey and ham and all of the trimmings, so we made a reservation and off we went later that afternoon!

I should explain that Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was a colony of Shakers in the 1800's.  The Shakers were strictly religious and believed that men and women should not live together, but they were very skilled artisans, producing well-crafted wooden furniture and other household items.  They also were known for their farming abilities, as they grew large crops to make their settlements self-sufficient.

I went there once as a child on a school field trip, which was interesting but difficult to understand.  Upon meeting my wife I discovered what a special place it can be for a family meal built around a special occasion and it's still a favorite in our family.

Anyway, we made the forty-minute drive there about an hour prior to our dinner reservation, and walked around the historic and well-manicured grounds.  It was already decorated for Christmas and I took a few photos:




Dinner was as good as we expected, featuring turkey with gravy and dressing, country ham, mashed potatoes and a host of other side dishes.  Plus a dessert of your choice, which meant the Shaker lemon pie for me!

Perhaps the best part was the unexpected nature of our visit to Shaker Village, as we had not planned that until a few hours before actually visiting.  So my wife and I were very thankful for a special way to celebrate our gratitude for all of the blessings that life has bestowed upon us.

Now, back to work!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

After the shouting

Friends, did you vote this time last week?  If you did, you were part of a very large turnout nationally, one of the largest volumes of mid-term election voters in quite some time.

I'm not going to replay what happened, or tout who won because of what reason, but this will make things in Washington very interesting come January.  I read somewhere that when current Congresswoman and former/likely future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi first arrived in Washington that she was among something like twelve women serving.  Now she will be among more than 90 women in both houses of Congress.

That's great, but that's still disproportionate to our population.

There are Muslims who won the right to represent others in the House.  There are openly gay and bisexual persons who won the right to serve.  And there are many others with uncommon traits who will be in the next Congress.  And that's great, and better represents the population of this country.

But let's face it, there are still too many mature white men, and that needs to continue to change.

I was in a hotel room in northern Ohio on the night of the mid-term elections, and initially it sounded as though the experts who predicted a "blue wave" were somewhat disappointed by the overall results.  But now it seems that the disappointment has been tempered by the finalization of vote totals in more states and more races, so the net gain of Democrats in the House is much larger than it first appeared.

And while Democrats lost numerous seats in the Republican-controlled Senate, they gained a few that were surprising, such as in Arizona, where a Democrat was elected to the Senate for the first time since 1976.

Meanwhile, our President went to Paris apparently to participate in marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, but he did not attend all of the scheduled events that were held to commemorate the occasion and left prior to a large conference designed to address world issues.

He also did not travel the short distance to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, perhaps the first time in my memory that the sitting President failed to do so.

We all need to brace ourselves, as the dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the first of what will likely be many whiplash moves to distract the public from the actions (or non-actions) of this White House.

All the while, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team continue to work quietly in the background to determine what illegal acts were committed during the 2016 campaign and afterward.

If you were motivated to act by the midterms, please remain motivated to stay informed about what's happening in Washington in all three branches of government.  It's our country, and we should all try to act like it!




Monday, November 5, 2018

Exercise your rights as a citizen tomorrow

Friends, unless you've been living on a desert island, you know that tomorrow is election day.  And while you likely have a number of local and/or state races for which you can vote, you also have the opportunity to vote for your preferred candidate for Congress.

You should be sure to do so.

According to some information I've read, the last time we had a mid-term election (that is, at the mid-point of a given presidential term), approximately 35 percent of registered voters made their way to the polls to cast ballots.

That's appalling.

Here we are, in a country founded on democracy and freedom of choice, and that large a percentage doesn't feel it worth the time to vote.

I somehow think this time it will be different.

I don't know yet how I feel about last year's tax bill, as 2018 will be the first year where our returns are subject to the new terms.  I'm unhappy with the number of people and groups whose rights are being deliberately and systematically altered or curtailed.  I don't appreciate how those in Washington think that most of us in the middle of the country--aptly named "flyover country" by some political pundit--aren't astute enough to recognize what is happening versus what should or could be addressed.

And I doubt I'm alone.

I'm heading out of town on business, but because of tomorrow's election day, I'm going to go to the polls as soon as they open before leaving Lexington.  Because my voice counts, too, and I have children and grandchildren and their well-being to consider.

The joke when I was a kid was that if you didn't vote, you didn't have a right to complain.

It's not a joke.  It's the truth.  You're either part of the problem or part of the solution, you know.  And once the votes are totaled and we know who will represent us in these various offices, we go forward.  Because we as a country always have.

Lecture concluded.  Please vote tomorrow!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Surreality

Good Monday morning....

I'm really not sure what to even say about the events of the past few days.

We now know that the FBI and multiple law enforcement agencies apprehended a suspect in the rash of pipe bombs mailed to former President Obama, former Secretary of State Clinton, former Vice President Biden, current members of Congress and others who have all been critical of President Trump.  We also know that this suspect has a history of criminal behavior and that he has been a vocal supporter of the President.  And we also know that the President was somewhat dismissive of the validity of the suspect's apparent action, referring to the media's reporting as "'Bomb' stuff" and indicating that his own brand of negativity and divisiveness was in no way related to this individual's apparent offenses.

Less widely reported was something that happened in my home state of Kentucky.  Last Wednesday a man attempted to gain access to a predominately African-American church in the Louisville suburb of Jeffersontown, was rebuffed and then went to a nearby Kroger grocery store and allegedly killed two African-Americans before fleeing and being detained by local police.  He was overheard telling a white customer just after the apparent shootings that "whites don't kill whites."

And Saturday's heartbreaking news of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that claimed the lives of 11 people and wounded numerous others capped off this week of truly depressing and demoralizing events.  The shooter in that incident allegedly told law enforcement officials after his capture that he "just wanted to kill Jews."

And while the White House cannot reverse incidents like this, we're all accustomed to expressions of sorrow and sympathy for the victims and often statements of regret or even outrage at such events.

At least we used to be.

Instead, our current President goes on with his plans, gives speeches at youth agriculture conferences and political rallies, reading half-heartedly from a teleprompter words that he neither composed nor believes, complains that he's having a "bad hair day" from speaking to the press from outside of his Presidential aircraft and later issues a tweet criticizing the manager of one of the baseball teams involved in the World Series.

We also have a scenario in which at least right-wing political commentator felt it appropriate to comment that the equivalency for the pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democratic figures is that certain Republican politicians have been approached in public and verbally reprimanded for their political positions.

I'm a big believer in the power of a well-stated opinion, but even I don't see even an ounce of equivalency here.

Another such commentator persisted in stating that the bomb mailings were all a hoax and were perpetrated by Democrats to distract the public just before the midterm elections.  Presumably the media and FBI and numerous law enforcement agencies were also all in on the hoax.

In response to the horrific events in Pittsburgh, it's worth noting that multiple Muslim organizations organized a fundraising effort for the families of the shooting victims and have thus far raised in excess of $80,000.  And there are countless instances of people risking their own safety to help during and directly after the shootings.

And perhaps the most fitting response to all of this violence and hate was the chant that began at a Saturday night vigil in Pittsburgh, started by a group of young people.  The chant was a single word:

Vote.




Monday, October 22, 2018

It's all about fall

Good Monday morning to you.  I hope that you were able to enjoy a great weekend.

As the old saying goes, fall has fell, certainly, as we're now seeing more and more days where it's appropriate to wear a jacket or sweater, and far more evenings that fit that description.  We always know they're coming, just a question of when.

I've reported here what a strange spring and summer we've had here in Kentucky, with more than ample amounts of rain and temperate conditions.  As I recall, we only had a few stretches of excessively hot weather (every time I opted to play golf this season, if memory serves) and that has contributed to a late fall for us.

The marker here at our house is a large tree in the yard of a home directly behind us.  Seems every year that tree suddenly bursts into flaming orange and red, and often does so before this spot on the calendar.  Our son-in-law is an avid photographer and when he and our daughter and their kids visit in the fall he enjoys photographing that tree.  I had occasion to message with him last week and he asked if that tree had turned yet, and was surprised to hear that it had not.  Yesterday my wife took a picture of it and it's just now showing some tinges of orange.

We've had hard frosts over the past three nights, so I may be finished mowing my grass.  Good thing, too, since I've mowed it every four or five days since March.  Then we winterize the lawn mower by running all of the gas out of it.

On one of my recent trips I was caught totally off guard without any sort of outer garment.  That last day in the Detroit area was just a little on the cool side.

And, of course, the midterm election will take place in just a couple of weeks.  Whatever the outcome, I'm always glad it's over, as the bombardment of negative attack ads can then cease.  We have a contentious congressional race in my home area, as I've mentioned, and the tenor of advertisements from one side, in particular, is pretty revolting.

I've never aspired to political office, but if I were interested in that, I'd be very reluctant to launch attacks on my opponent.  If that's the only way I could win, I don't think I'd really want to.

One more thing, since the World Series starts in a couple of days--today the Cincinnati Reds will introduce David Bell as their next field manager.  Worth noting that Bell is the son and grandson of former Reds players Buddy and Gus Bell (Buddy is currently a vice president and senior adviser to the Reds.

David was first a minor league manager in the Reds' minor league system, and then coached at the major league level with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.  He has most recently been the vice president of player development for the San Francisco Giants.

All of that is an impressive set of credentials, but none of it will matter if the Reds don't acquire the additional players necessary to field a winning ballclub.

And since the baseball season is nearly over, let me close with a favorite quote from the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former commissioner of baseball and a professor of literature and former president of Yale University:

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."

Have a good week.