Sunday, January 14, 2018

I just don't know

Greetings, friends.  It's 6 degrees here in Lexington as I write this.  Not much more I need to say, is there?

The title of today's post refers to what we're seeing and hearing in the news, and that's true whether you rely on local and national TV news, newspapers, radio or online sources.  The things that are being reported that were said and done and arranged and kept secret are, well, they're just staggering. I've mentioned here before that I was a young teenager during Watergate, but because news was slower in coming and there was no Internet, the bits and pieces that we received were harder to put together quickly.

Not anymore.  Now we have major newspapers competing with television networks and purely online news platforms, all working diligently to scoop each other.  And the real problem I see is this:  as more and more outrageous things are reported, whether they are related to potential collusion with foreign countries during an election, low or even non-existent standards of personal conduct, yet another change in regulations that will undoubtedly create a disadvantage for someone or something, or statements reflecting not just insensitivity but outright bigotry, our society becomes desensitized to the damage that any one of these things can cause.  And we begin to accept these outrageous things as normal, as acceptable, and as what we would expect.

I truly think that the allegations against so many people, mostly men, regarding their conduct toward others of a sexual nature has reached the point where we're surprised that we're NOT hearing as many accusations as rapidly as we were.

I also think that our President has been exposing us to his way of thinking for long enough now (and let's face it, most everyone knew who he was before he rode down that escalator to announce he was running for office) that it's very easy to shake one's head in amazement or disgust or disappointment.

I don't think I'm that different from a lot of people.  I get a lot of my news from online sources, but also from television network news organizations.  I try to stay informed and aware of what's happening in Washington (and in my state capital, where a less-known version of the President presides as Governor) and keep track of how, if at all, these goings on may affect me and my family.

I think that's a realistic approach.  I could come to this blog site and rail daily but I doubt it would do any good, so I try to be selective in what I mention and how frequently I post here on matters of this type.

Stay informed.  Stay aware.  And be ready for the next thing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Items near and far

Good morning, friends.  We finally came out of the deep freeze here in central Kentucky over the past few days, and it's going to be around 60 degrees both today and tomorrow.  But it won't stay that way, sadly.

Lots of stuff rolling around in my gray matter this morning, with no particular order or priority....

Before we begin, I just want my readers to know that I'm using a bloc of my "executive time" to compose this post.

I read that CBS decided to add a male back to their "CBS This Morning" daily show, choosing respected journalist John Dickerson to join their remaining anchors.  I found this interesting, as NBC elected to make Hoda Kotb, a recent fill-in, the permanent anchor of "Today" just a few days earlier.  Since hearing both decisions I've wondered how both decisions are being received by critics of media companies, given their prior blind eyes toward sexual harassment in their own workplaces....

Speaking of media, it was almost impossible not to hear or read that Steve Bannon is leaving Breitbart News, after triumphantly returning there following his dismissal as Chief Strategist in the Trump White House.  Do I think that we've seen the last of Bannon?  Hardly.  The question then becomes whether or not Bannon can reestablish himself with another media outlet that will condone, if not tolerate, his brand of separatist politics.  I've already read this morning that Fox News, which I would have identified as a possible landing spot for Bannon, has announced they have no plans to hire him.  Suppose we'll see.

Another name back in the news is former Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has announced that he is running for Jeff Flake's seat in the U.S. Senate.  Remember, Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump last fall and is now 85 years old.  I suppose that democracy means that anyone can choose to run for office, so let's just leave that there.

Complete change of subject....we didn't watch the Golden Globes, so I'm curious.  It wasn't a boycott, we just wound up doing something else.  If you watched, did you get any sense that things will be different in Hollywood going forward?  Do you think Oprah is going to run for President?  Did any men say anything as consequential as some of the worthwhile comments from women that I read?  And what was Mariah Carey doing there, anyway?

The funniest thing about the festivities after the Globes was that I read about multiple winners telling the press that they planned to visit In-n-Out Burger afterward.  Now that's a celebration.

Let's stay on fast food for a couple of quick thoughts.  Are you as confused as I am by Taco Bell's latest advertising campaign, concerning what their spots call the "Belluminati?"  Don't they realize that the literacy rate of their average customer is such that they will never, ever get this joke?

And I see this week that McDonald's is capitalizing on its recent success streak by hopelessly complicating the process of ordering from their Extra Value menu, with three tiers of pricing.  Prepare for long waits inside and at the drive-thru as people attempt to calculate which method of ordering is a better deal.

Let me add one more fast-food comment.  My wife and I visit one of the discount warehouse stores every few weeks (empty nesters don't generally need 36 bars of soap at one time, you know) and on our last visit had gone to a nearby restaurant called Freddy's.  Monday evening we went again, and also visited Freddy's.  I'm not sure where this chain is based, but I'll say that they have excellent food, featuring griddle-smashed burgers and crisp shoestring fries served with their "fry sauce."  A very nice alternative to the standard burger chains.

Most of you who visit regularly know that I'm in a position where I travel by car pretty frequently.  Let me just say that I count myself lucky that I have not yet experienced any weather-related problems.  A couple of times I found it necessary to adjust when I would depart for my destination due to fog or a related weather issue, but this deep cold is about all I've experienced.  Just two or three years ago I can easily remember my schedule being a complete mess for two solid months for the same reason, so I'll simply hope for continued good fortune.

With that, I'll wish everyone a happy Wednesday and a good rest of the week!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Off to a good start

Good morning, and happy new year to everyone!

I'm actually taking the day off today, as I had planned to do so between Christmas and New Year's, but had scheduled a few events during that time that I could not easily move.

Anyway, as I write this, my watch tells me it's 1 degree here in Lexington, so what else is there to do but hunker down and share a few thoughts?

Yesterday was the National Hockey League's annual "Winter Classic," made so by an actual game played outdoors, usually in a baseball or football stadium.  My wife doesn't much like hockey in general, but always enjoys this special event, and yesterday was no exception (and our grandson's entry into the sport a couple of years ago probably doesn't hurt, either).

Anyway, the New York Rangers hosted the Buffalo Sabres at the New York Mets' baseball park in Queens, Citi Field.  Temperature was around 12 degrees when they began and the game actually lasted into overtime, when the home Rangers finally scored to win it 3-2.  Lots of fun seeing these fellows who grew up playing hockey on frozen ponds and lakes playing outside.  I suppose the equivalent would be to have an NBA game on an asphalt court in a park somewhere.

So that was fun.  Perhaps even more fun was the see-saw Rose Bowl (also known as the National Semi-Final Playoff Game) between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the Oklahoma Sooners.  My wife commented somewhere along the way that the team who had the ball last would probably win, and she was right, because that game, too, went into overtime, with Georgia finally prevailing.  It was the kind of game where even a casual observer felt badly that either team had to lose.

Georgia is the champ of the Southeastern Conference, throttled my own Kentucky Wildcats in their game in November and looked pretty much unbeatable most of the season.  They'll now face Alabama next week, as the Crimson Tide disposed of defending champion Clemson last night in New Orleans.

I'll briefly mention that Kentucky's men's basketball team had a good weekend, winning convincingly against arch rival Louisville on Friday and then coming back Sunday to beat a tenacious Georgia squad.  The Kentucky football team lost their bowl game to Northwestern by a point, also on Friday, with the game being affected by numerous questionable officiating decisions.

On to other things in the world....

Bravo to the Miss America pageant, installing 1989 winner Gretchen Carlson as its chairperson.  This came after former leadership (men) were forced to resign after multiple e-mails surfaced in which pageant leaders disparaged the appearance and other attributes of winners and other contestants.  Carlson, you'll remember, sued her former employer Fox News for sexual harassment, forcing the resignation of their chairman, Roger Ailes (who subsequently passed away in forced retirement) and gaining a $20 million settlement and writing a book about her experience.  Who better to put things right in that organization than someone who was a part of it in the past?

I also give credit to NBC for realizing that the male-female morning anchor stereotype did not need to be followed, as this morning the network announced that Hoda Kotb will be the permanent co-anchor of the Today Show.  NBC obviously had to do this now, as their splashy Winter Olympics coverage will land on Today, and they didn't want interim people in key roles with big ratings at stake.  It's a good move, and the fact that ratings have actually been better since the dismissal of long-time anchor Matt Lauer probably made the decision easier.

Speaking of NBC and the Olympics, this will be the first Olympics broadcast on NBC without Bob Costas since 1992, as he passed the torch a few months ago to the capable Mike Tirico.  And if you haven't been keeping track, the Russian Olympic team was banned from competing not long ago, due to continuing scandals in the area of blood test results.

Let me leave you with a funny story.  As I've mentioned here, my wife and I have both been under the weather for a while, but are just about out of it.  Anyway, after having our son and his family for dinner and presents Christmas Eve. we enjoyed a quiet day on Christmas Day, speaking with our daughter and other family members by phone.  Toward evening I had mentioned to my wife that some Chinese food might be tasty, and she agreed (this was at the point I was wracking my brain to think of things she would enjoy eating, as I was concerned she wasn't eating enough).  So I called our neighborhood place and was told that they were quite busy and that while they could fill my order, it would take about an hour.  No problem, I said, and planned to make the quick trip there in about that time.

When I arrived the small vestibule was crammed with about twenty people, some waiting for carryout orders and others awaiting seating in the restaurant, which holds a considerable number of diners.  The stream of people entering continued and so did the phone, with people attempting to call for either carryout orders or dinner reservations.  During the 45 minutes I waited, I listened as the staff maintained calm and yet turned away one request after another, as they said over and over that they were doing well to serve those who were already in line.  On top of everything else, they now accept online carryout orders from one or more food portals, which means that people had no way of knowing that they were in for a lengthy wait when they stopped by to pick up their food.

The staff handled this gracefully and with a sense of humor.  A youngish man working there was patiently explaining to those dining in that it might be upwards of an hour before food would be ready for those just seated, and he smiled each time, saying "I just didn't want you to not know that before deciding to be seated."  Likewise, the lady at the main desk said to no one in particular more than once that in the 30 years she had worked there it had never been this 'crazy.'

I left with food after about 45 minutes, as I mentioned, and our order was hot, fresh and exactly correct.  Worth the wait!

Hope your new year gets off to a good (and warm!) start!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New year alert

Friends, I hope that you had the opportunity to spend time with those you love over the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays recently.

I'm working a short week this week, as my current company affords its employees with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day as company holidays.  And given where the days fell this year, I was off last Friday and will be again tomorrow.  Plus I'm taking Tuesday off, so that will be essentially a five day weekend.

Good thing, too, as I'm just about over the nasty respiratory disorder that has had a grip on me for over two weeks.  As reported here previously, my wife has had something similar, was diagnosed with Type A flu and is about a week behind me in terms of the progression of her discomfort.  So the light schedule and extra time off has been very helpful.

The time has also allowed some introspection, as 2017 is almost over.  I made no resolutions, usually don't, but experienced some good changes personally and, of course, were fortunate to welcome another healthy member of our family just recently.

As a society, though, I worry about where we've been, where we are, and most of all, where we appear to be going.  Through whatever means, we elected as President someone who embodies most of the worst personal qualities and yet who also doesn't appear to take seriously the responsibilities of his office.  Along with that, based on the extensive investigative reporting that has come out about the 2016 campaign and events since that time, he and his team appear to have been willing to do about anything in order to gain and retain power, and that's an equally dangerous proposition.

No matter your politics, no matter your personal preferences, this should concern you.  Under this President, the Justice Department is cracking down on all sorts of personal freedoms and activities.  The State Department is led by someone who appears more interested in "efficiency" and offers little in the way of explanation or even negotiation to the rest of the world.  Actions taken by previous administrations are being rolled back or done away with in rapid succession, mostly based on whose name is associated with these actions.

I have a friend who attributes our current politics to a contentious Supreme Court nomination from some years ago, the first such nomination that forced an across-the-board division along party lines.  He makes a good point.

Whether that was already happening or not, I don't have a lot of doubt that our current polarized climate and the candidates produced by it are the result of two major factors:  politically centered cable "news" and social media.

If you don't watch cable news, good for you.  Most folks do, and find some comfort in the reinforcement of their beliefs that they receive from the channel of their choice.

Social media, however, is a lot different animal than we first thought, with "bots" spewing propaganda with astounding speed and frequency.  Last night I read something that I found interesting about the recent special Senate election in Alabama, which, you'll recall, was won by Democrat Doug Jones.  According to a consultant employed by the Jones campaign, 10,000 of these "bots," which are essentially fake accounts manipulated by a common operator, were generating 65,000 anti-Jones tweets PER HOUR.

Do we know that this is true?  No.  But if there's even a shred of evidence, it's one more thing to worry about.  We've also been told by some news outlets that anti-Hillary Clinton tweets and Facebook posts appeared in much the same way and in similar numbers near the end of the 2016 Presidential campaign.  And what's more, they appeared in the most contentious states in the campaign, the industrial Midwest states that were ultimately won by Clinton's opponent.

Politics has always been the art of persuasion, so this is an inevitable extension of that description.  But in my mind it's an unwelcome one, as we have entire generations of people who rely on Facebook, for example, as their source of news reporting.

No quick or easy answers to any of this.  But let's at least hope that the American people get a fair shake all around in 2018, whether in their daily lives, at the polls or wherever there's a question of fairness.  We owe it to each other and our children and grandchildren to make sure this happens.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Just stopped by to say exactly that!  Enjoy the season with those you love!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The joys of being sick at Christmas

Greetings, friends!  Is your house fully decorated?  Gifts purchased and wrapped?  Shipped those that need to go elsewhere?

In today's hectic environment, there are so many things to check off and keep track of for Christmas planning.  We all try to be in several places at once and make it to every party or work/client function.

And that's just a little harder when you're sick.

I had an interesting experience a couple of Fridays ago--the day of my last post.  If you recall, my flight was delayed in leaving south Florida, and, well, it never left.  Not that day or the day after.  I wound up staying through Sunday morning, when I finally was able to get a flight north.

Didn't feel any ill effects from the extra time there until I woke on Tuesday with a sore throat and cough.  Uh-oh.

The disorder escalated from there, and I'm managing the symptoms with a variety of over-the-counter medications.  I usually don't head to the doctor when these things arise, as I would then get an antibiotic that might or might now help.

I'd say I'm about 85% myself, but what's worse is my wife developed roughly the same thing, but it came upon her a couple of days later than it hit me.  So it's been a real treat around our house these last few days, two people wheezing and speaking hoarsely.

But, by golly, we're ready for Christmas!  We finished our shopping last night, and have but a few things left to wrap.  Our box to our daughter's family in Colorado went out last week, and was just delivered, so the U.S. Postal Service tells me.

We've been through this a time or two before in our thirty-plus years of marriage.  The worst we could both remember had us both suffering with horrible colds (traditionally runny nose/coughing/body aches) starting a couple of days before Christmas Day and lasting until New Year's.  There was another time where I was struck with something not unlike a flu bug about two weeks beforehand, and really had no energy at all until about three days before the holiday.

But, as you know, gentlemen shouldn't discuss their infirmities, so I'll leave that topic for the moment.

I suppose it depends on what you're shopping for, but I haven't noticed as many rabid bargain hunters as are depicted in news reporting, at least not in my home area.  And we probably have done a good combination of online shopping mixed with traditional bricks-and-mortar stores again this year.

I sincerely hope that you and yours enjoy the holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas shopping while delayed in an airport!

I used to travel pretty often for work, as long-time visitors to this space will attest.  However, I have been on a weeklong trip to my company's offices for meetings and now find myself with time on my hands.  Not only is it a Friday afternoon, but with weather rolling through parts of the southeast US today, the air travel system is chaotic, at the least!

So what better way to while away some of my delay than by sharing some ideas about Christmas gifts and shopping?

Now, I'm not dumb enough to reveal what those close to me may be receiving for Christmas this year (well, maybe not), but I can tell you somethings I like and I'll let you make the decision.

Are you or anyone you know in the market for a new phone?  I like my new iPhone 8 Plus, as this is the first trip where I've used it.  Love the brighter, more vibrant screen and the speed at which pages and apps load and react.  The sound is also quite something.  Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and I apparently agree on this.  And be assured that the iPhone X is a very nice phone, too, but if you plan to buy it for someone else, you'll likely have difficulty finding one until right before Christmas, if even then!

Continuing the electronics theme, I have really given my Apple AirPods a workout during this trip, and am really impressed.  They sound great, are comfortable for long periods of time and work very well for phone calls as well as for music and movies.  We gifted our son a pair of Bose QC 35 headphones with Bluetooth a few months ago, as he's a night law student and needs ample amounts of quiet time for his studies.  He proclaims these to be a great asset to his equipment arsenal!

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a very nice contact with who had read a prior post of mine regarding tech reviews and provided this link about Bluetooth headphone reviews:

If you're in the market for something like this, I hope you find it helpful.

I could go on and on (and on and on) about tech stuff, but I also have grandchildren, and three of them are of the age that they're not quite ready for heavy-duty electronics.  So for them, game and toys are it, and there seems to be no shortage of Star Wars-themed items, what with yet another Star Wars movie coming out shortly!  I personally like to give games and toys that have at least a little educational value, and we really haven't done our due diligence in that area yet.

And based on a long-ago pact, my wife and I do not give surprise gifts to each other, so no worries on that front, at least not for me!

Oh, and if you keep score of things I mention, we decided to postpone the purchase of a 4K HDR TV.  There's just not enough content out there for it yet, so we'll wait.

Hope this is just a little bit helpful.  Now I have only two more hours to wait until my flight departs!


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