New Shoes in the Rain

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.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

One thing leads to another

Good Sunday morning, my friends.  Hope you're not experiencing too many inconveniences courtesy of the harsh weather that most of the country has seen over the past day or two.

I returned Friday afternoon from a car trip, which is a little less common than my recent frequent air travel.  I had to visit assigned accounts in northwestern Ohio last week, so I opt to drive when visiting that locality.  My trip began Tuesday morning and ended as mentioned above.

Anyway, I was cruising along 1-75 northbound through Cincinnati and Dayton, the two largest cities through which I pass on this trip, and was about forty miles north of Dayton when traffic came to an absolute standstill late Tuesday morning.

I've learned to watch what the truckers do, as their elevated driving positions give them a better perspective of the road ahead.  Several were moving into the lefthand lane, so I followed suit.  We crept along in a start-and-stop fashion for well over two miles before we could see evidence of the reason for the backup.  Gradually I happened upon the scene of what happened.  It started with some cones to block the right lane.  Then I could see gears and other moving parts, most likely from the engine or transmission of some vehicle.  Finally I got a good look at the accident, which brought out several state police officers and at least one ambulance.

If my speculation is correct, one semi rear-ended another.  The rear truck was bright yellow, and as I passed it was obvious that the majority of it was crushed, indicating a high-speed collision.  About a quarter-mile ahead was the truck with which the yellow one collided.  It was a partially crushed trailer, and there were potatoes everywhere.  They were still falling out of the trailer as I passed, and the road was covered with piles of them.  My biggest question was why were all of these potatoes packed into that trailer loose, and how were they loaded?

Anyway, my fellow motorists and I passed through and resumed our journeys at normal speed.  I later met up with a colleague and told her that the scene reminded me of a song by the late Harry Chapin, entitled "30,000 Pounds of Bananas."  Find that song online somewhere if you're not familiar, your curiosity will be rewarded.  I found it on YouTube to send to my associate to close the loop on that conversation.

I was taking this colleague to the airport early Friday morning about it and just mentioned that that funny song had been rolling around in my mind ever since, and that I was pretty sure that my phone contained at least some of Harry Chapin's music.  I resolved to listen to some of it if I could find it.

So after delivering her for her outbound flight, I did locate what of Chapin's music resides on my phone, and listened to about a dozen songs.

If you're in my age range (late 50's) you probably remember Harry from a periodic hit record.  My limited collection from his catalogue included songs like "Cat's in the Cradle," "W O L D" and "Taxi."  Chapin's music was always a story, and his songs were often too long for mid-70's pop radio.  He died tragically in an auto accident in the early 80's.

I actually saw Harry Chapin in concert once, at Rupp Arena in Lexington.  The show began and after the first song Harry said hello to the audience and marveled at what a big building Rupp was (and is), even saying "this is a gymnasium, right?" He then asked that the house lights be turned on and expressed dismay at the fact that some of the audience was sitting a long way from the stage.  He then ordered that these people be allowed to move closer, that it was silly for them to be sitting far away.  I watched as about a thousand people moved down and forward.  Harry explained that "I rented this place, so they can't stop me" or something to that effect, and when he was satisfied that enough of the audience was gathered around the stage, the show resumed.

In listening to the ten or twelve of his songs that I have, I noted that the continual theme of his music is melancholy.  Most of the primary characters in his songs have undergone some sort of heartache or even actual tragedy, including the obligatory lost loves but they range in other directions, too.  One that I always find especially touching details a dry cleaner who loved to sing in local shows and in church, and so impressed his neighbors that they persuaded him to rent a hall in New York and make his show business debut.  The critics reviewed his performance unfavorably, and he never sang in public again, but loved music and continued to sing when he was working late at night cleaning clothes in his shop.  Because that's something a real person would do, and real people seemed to always inhabit Chapin's lyrics.

Anyway, I always think it's interesting that a random event like seeing the aftermath of a traffic accident (and let's hope no one was seriously injured) can lead to some resurrected memories.

Hope you have a good week.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Tidy

Happy Monday, friends.  First full week of work for many of us in, oh, at least a couple of weeks.  Hard getting back into the swing of things, isn't it?

Since it's a new year and I had mentioned displays of things to help us organize our homes and our stuff in my last post, I wanted to continue on that theme today.

A while back our daughter told my wife and me about an organizational expert from Japan named Marie Kondo.  She wrote a book entitled "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and espouses what she calls the KonMari Method, which indicates that you should discard items that do not "spark joy" but it's also necessary to thank your soon-to-be-jettisoned stuff as it departs.  This has apparently turned into a lifestyle brand, and, yes, now, there's a Netflix series featuring Ms. Kondo (and an interpreter).

My wife and I were always pretty neat in our overall habits, but as I've mentioned in this space in the past, moving to our current home (smaller than the previous one) required some adjustments in how much stuff we could have in hand.  Not only is this home a bit smaller than our former house, but we also don't have quite as many designated storage spaces here.  So transforming from pretty good organizers to ruthless ones was essential.

Our newly formed habits have served us well, but we still find the odd closet or storage area that needs help.  To wit, we were trying to put something into a cabinet we keep in our garage over the weekend.  This is our spot for storing seldom-used kitchen items, like electric skillets, griddles and waffle makers, among other things.  Anyway, I attacked this and spread out many of the items on the hood of one of our cars (with towels to keep all items clean, of course).  My wife and I agreed quickly on what could be tossed and suddenly my biggest problem was carrying all of it to the trash.

After that, we decided to give Ms. Kondo's program a look and watched the first episode.  It seems that the format is much like these shows where someone comes into a house that the owner wants to renovate or improve, and works with them to get it the way they want.  But in this case, it's a top-to-bottom analysis of what a family might have in its bedroom closets, its kitchen counters and cabinets, and its garage.

Drama ensues, as one would expect, but it's interesting to see how people adapt to the process and the outcome.  It really is, if this first episode is any indication.

And, no, this didn't make me want to charge up my attic steps to clean more stuff out.  I know what's up there, and there's not that much of it these days (in fact, every time there's a neighborhood garage sale I do a visual scan of that and other storage areas to see what we might have to get rid of, and am satisfied that we have too little to bother with).

So if you're a Netflix subscriber and have an interest in organizing a little better, this might be for you.  If you're not, I would think there are videos on YouTube or elsewhere.

Good luck.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Undecking the halls

Happy new year to you and yours!

Today's one of those days.  If you are one to make resolutions, you begin the year with something to accomplish or at least something to prove.  If not, you go on, knowing that the calendar has turned over and the slate is clear.

In my case, it's back to work tomorrow.

I've been off for most of the past two-plus weeks, working two days last week.  It's been a wonderful break from travel, e-mails, conference calls and the like, but we'll get back into the swing of things tomorrow with a two-day business trip.  Luckily the flights both ways are direct and relatively short!

I titled today's post to correspond with how we spent part of our Sunday.  We un-decorated our house!

To be fair, we live in a smallish patio home, so we don't have lots and lots of decorations for Christmas.  We have a prelighted tree, which saves some headaches, wreathes on our entry door and the door from our garage, and some other tabletop items.  That doesn't sound like a lot.

But when I took it down, it involved something along the lines of five or six storage containers, plus a  box and large bag for the tree.

The type of tubs we use has evolved since we bought this house some twenty-two years ago, and mostly it's dictated by the size of the opening to our attic space, above our garage.  Luckily I continue to fit through the opening, or we'd have an entirely different problem!

Anyway, we used some tubs we bought at Sears just after moving here for some time.  They were a little thin but were the right dimensions to fit through that opening, plus they were tall enough to hold a fair amount of items.  As they cracked and split (thin materials) we replaced them with Rubbermaid Roughneck tubs, which held up much better.  But somewhere along the line a couple of those were also ruined by temperature extremes and we wound up with a variety of shapes and sizes of containers, the majority of which coming from my mother-in-law's former house.

After wrestling these larger tubs through the opening to remove the contents and to then put them back in the attic empty until after the holidays, I told my wife that we would have to find some better-sized alternatives when we packed it all up.

Thanksgiving weekend turned into the week after Christmas pretty suddenly, it seemed, and I hadn't done a thing toward swapping these out.  So I went to run errands one day last week and stopped by a discount store in hopes of finding the Roughnecks, my preferred container.

Alas, they were nowhere to be found.  Online searches all showed "out of stock" or "not available," although one brave Amazon-connected retailer was charging more than double the original price for his limited stock.  No, thanks.

Before leaving that discount store I bought a stack of another brand of tubs, all of which seemed to be constructed well enough.  But when I got them home I discovered that getting them through the attic entrance would also require the kind of contortions that I was determined to avoid.

So I put them back into the car with the intent of returning them.

Meanwhile, my wife and I decided to go ahead with the purchase of a car seat for our youngest grandchild, as we no longer had the last one.  We had spotted one at Costco on a previous trip, so off we went.

Amazingly, they had a large display of all things organizational, including, you guessed it, storage containers.  Luckily I had the dimensions of the Rubbermaid items that fit, and a tape measure, so measured the options and settled on five tubs (with integrated lids!) that met the size requirements.

Put it all away the following day, and was delighted to find that they worked beautifully, thus making the undecoration project a success with less angst than the previous couple of years!

So I suppose the moral of the story is to persevere, don't settle, and you'll find what you want.  I did!