New Shoes in the Rain

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.

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....