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Only ___ online shopping hours until Christmas (fill in the blank)

Do you shop online? Do you do this routinely, or just at Christmas?
I ask because a big part of the news coverage this holiday season, as it was last year, was how our retail economy is faring in a generally bad economy. And while I don't know anyone personally who's forcibly unemployed, I'm sure that people I know DO know such folks, as you might. So, with all of that going on, the media has been highlighting every trend in retail sales since Thanksgiving, trying to divine some meaning that will tell us where the economy is headed.
And today's morning news coverage spoke volumes about how fragile this economy has become as retailers all along the east coast suffered because of the wintry blast that dumped feet or at least many inches of snow on major cities. But what I didn't see is any mention of a corresponding jump in retail sales by homebound shoppers looking to check off their shopping list.
I actually had a customer once who ran a family-owned business and …

The Christmas-yard dash

My wife and I did our Christmas shopping over the weekend.
You read that correctly. We didn't start the process, nor did we "get a leg up" on the entire shopping list. We completed ALL of our holiday shopping. And did so in a foreign location called Cincinnati, Ohio.
Allow me to explain....
Two or maybe three times a year, we make a trip to Cincinnati, largely because it's the biggest and best city that's less than two hours away by car. Because my job requires me to travel extensively, I accumulate a large quantity of hotel points, so we use those points for a room at a better hotel chain. And because the hotels are really hurting for leisure business, we don't have to pay out as many points as before, and sometimes get free stuff along with our stay. This particular time we were granted a room on the concierge level, so there were fewer people up there, and were comped our breakfast both days. So our primary cost--lodging--is no longer an issue, and on …

Observations on the sporting life

I'm no sports expert, nor am I a journalist of any ilk, but what I am is a very interested observer in many aspects of the sports world. And a few things caught my attention since my last posting, which was about my Kentucky Wildcats of various sports. To wit:
KENTUCKY FOOTBALL LOSES 25TH CONSECUTIVE GAME TO TENNESSEE: What is it about trying to beat their border rivals that causes so much heartache for Kentucky's up-and-coming football program? Around Lexington there was a lot of talk that "this could be the year" and I even encountered a member of Kentucky's athletic administration who gave me a couple of "Beat Tennessee" bumper stickers, which popped up all over town. Yet, once again, the Cats fell short and disappointed fans question coaching decisions, etc. Truth be told, Tennessee's skill players appear to be better, for the most part, than Kentucky's, and in greater supply. Until that changes we can expect this quarter-century strea…

On, on, U of K!!

How about those Cats?
To the uninitiated, I'm referring to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, who are putting together a memorable football season AND are off to a most entertaining start to their new basketball coach's tenure!
Let's first address the basketball Cats, as most folks around the country know Kentucky for basketball first and foremost. New coach John Calipari has done everything right to restore the confidence and enthusiasm of their massive worldwide fan base since being hired last spring, and now that all of the public relations are in place it's time to play basketball! Coach Cal has assembled a great group of recruits, including uber-recruit John Wall and blue-chippers Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and DeMarcus Cousins and they join returning stars Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller. They've played several games, won them all (although one or two were closer than expected) and have displayed brilliance balanced with the need for development thus f…

Returning to my part of civilization

Since I travel quite frequently for my work, trips are pretty much old hat for me. But I'm on the way home from one of the more interesting trips I've taken in a while.
Before I elaborate, note that I'm writing this entry while using a free sample signin for Delta's onboard GoGo Wi-Fi service. Cool, yes?
Anyway, the primary thing that made this trip different is that my wife was already at our destination for a week before me. This was due to the arrival of our handsome new grandson, and my wife had been helping care for the little guy and his mom AND his big sister for the week before I joined the fun last Sunday.
As anyone who travels will attest, the time zone difference always presents some challenges. Making it worse is my stubborn habit of NOT changing my watch when visiting far-off lands such as Colorado or Arizona. This is largely because I need to stay abreast of what time it is when I call home, and because my sleep pattern and my stomach don't recogni…

Stray thoughts

This is going to be one of those catch-all posts where it's not really about anything in specific (is it ever, though?).
I just traveled yesterday to the Denver area to meet my new grandson, and he's exactly as advertised! A very healthy, happy baby, doesn't make a lot of fuss and is very cute indeed. Can't decide which of his parents he most closely resembles, but in my limited experience with grandchildren, that perception continues to change over time.
OK, then.....
As I went to the security line of my local airport yesterday, I noted that there were five foreign women ahead of me and all apparently finding some difficulty with the language barrier. Along with that, all of them had more carry-on luggage than is customarily allowed, and to my utter astonishment, all of them had two laptop computers per person. Frankly, I cannot imagine why one would need two separate computers, but I'm sure it all made sense to them. All made it through the security checkpoint …

A truly growing family!

Just wanted to provide those who pay attention with a quick update....we welcomed another family member overnight on Tuesday, as our daughter delivered a handsome baby boy! Mother and son are doing very well and were already home as of yesterday afternoon.
That, coupled with our now-two-week-and-one-day-old granddaughter, has made these last two weeks very special and VERY memorable! Gram heads out for field support in our daughter's locale and I'll follow about a week later (couldn't get out of a mandatory work meeting). Planning to continue spoiling all of them ABSOLUTELY ROTTEN!
Twizzlers and Mountain Dew can't be far behind..........just kidding. But I love what I've heard from other dedicated grandparents...the best part is giving the kids anything they want, then handing them back over to the actual parents. Very liberating, I think. We're already well into "spoil" mode with our granddaughter, who is so excited to see my wife (and eventually…

Smitty's bargain barn--now open!

In my adult years I've been fortunate to have some pretty good success with garage sales. I'm not a buyer; I'm a seller, and not a bad one, either! I'm so good, in fact, that a pal of mine always refers to my sales as "Smitty's Bargain Barn."
My wife has always marveled at how well we usually do with these sales, wherein one gathers up unused or unnecessary items, making them available for sale. We've had probably a half dozen over the years, and exception we sell most everything that we intend to sell. The trick we've found is to determine what you're willing to get rid of, attempt to sell it, then take what's left to a charitable organization (like Goodwill, the Salvation Army or the like). That way, once you've made the conscious determination to part with an item, it goes away, so you're more ready to sell!
Here's a great example: last time out, I went though our books and DVDs, culling those titles that either didn'…

Gram and Poppy ride again

Our second grandchild arrived yesterday afternoon via Caesarean section. The little doll's gorgeous. She's also enormous, clocking in at ten pounds, one ounce, and the baby girl next crib down in the nursery weighed in at a slightly less impressive nine pounds, fifteen ounces. No boys born yesterday that I saw....they would probably have been afraid of these new, capable women.
But she's absolutely precious. I had the opportunity to hold her earlier today, and, just as with our first granddaugther, the feeling is indescribable. As a card-carrying stepfather I didn't have that opportunity with my kids, but you had better believe I don't miss an opportunity with my grandchildren.
I'm "Poppy," by the way, and my wife has the nom de grandparent of "Gram." She wasn't going anywhere near any name that involved the word "grand," so that's what our daughter came up with when she had her first a bit more than four years ago.
A…

It pays (someone) to be healthy!

My wife and I both work in jobs that are in or related to the healthcare industry. As such, we're a a little better-informed than the average Joe but not experts by any means.
For several years she's carried our medical benefits, largely because we agreed that the carrier whose coverage is offered by her employer is better than mine, or at least it was eight years ago. So we've continued with her coverage for that long, and for the most part, it's been fine. We pay only modest co-payments for office visits and prescriptions, but as with so many of us, the co-payments have increased somewhat in the past couple or three years. We also formerly paid very little in the way of "out-of-pocket" expenses, and were never in a position to have to pay any percentage a hospital stay. And we've been lucky enough to only need a couple of ER visits for a kidney stone for me (what you've heard is true, the worst pain I have ever experienced), so the hospital stay…

Say "cheese," or not.....

Sorry, but I couldn't help the pun with this entry's title....
I don't like cheese. Never have, never will. With the notable exception of pizza (which I believe is an exception because of the way it's packaged, cheese + tomato sauce + toppings + crust), I detest cheese in all forms. So you can imagine that in some cases it's a little challenging to eat out, when restaurateurs are geared to offer so many dishes, particularly sandwiches, that are loaded with cheese.
Recently my wife and I visited a national sandwich chain and I ordered two sandwiches, one for each of us, and asked that they both be prepared without cheese. There was something of a mixup at the counter and the sandwich maker handed responsibility off to the cashier, who verified that we didn't want cheese.....and added it anyway. I still don't know what she was thinking, but after discovering this and removing the offensive material from my sandwich (thank God it was a cold sandwich), I e…

Nothing in particular

A friend whom I told about this blog asked me what it's about. "Nothing," I responded. That's a bit how I look at this blog....no ongoing, consistent subject matter, just whatever strikes me as noteworthy or, in this case, blogworthy (that's not really a word, I don't think.....). So here are some stray observations about things since my last post:
I was in the Atlanta airport on my way home from a business trip and I saw an African-American man in my gate area who looked very familiar. He was wearing a suit and sunglasses indoors, which is always a little unusual, but not as much as it used to be. At this stage of my life I won't intrude by marching up to this fellow or anyone else and starting the "don't I know you" scenario, so I continued to glance in his direction to see if he might do or say something that might ring a bell. No bells. He passed me as he boarded the plane after me, and, again, I drew a blank on how or from where …

In a job search? Help is available!

I know that there are thousands upon thousands of people in this country who are looking for gainful employment and cannot find anything worthwhile. Some of the problem, unfortunately, may be that they aren't sure how to go about it. To be sure, there's lots of information online and from friends/relatives/coworkers, but the best way to conduct a career search is to determine the process and follow it to its logical conclusion!
I spent over ten years in the human resources and staffing field and would like to humbly suggest this:
http://www.ebookmall.com/ebooks/job-hunting---the-right-way-smith-ebooks.htm
Small investment that could pay big dividends! Good luck to all job seekers!

Gone but not forgottten

In my profile I joke that I like a great many different styles and performers of music, but no performers who are younger than I. The problem inherent with that preference is that, unfortunately, all of my favored artists will eventually pass away, leaving behind their recordings to be enjoyed in their absence.
One such performer who's already gone was Dan Fogelberg, who first scored a hit back in the '70's with a folk-rock song called "Part of the Plan" and continued to record and sell records successfully into the early 90's. If you were near a radio anytime during the 80's you probably remember his songs "Longer," "Leader of the Band" and "Run for the Roses," and, if you were a real fan, you know as I do that there were many, many more great songs and great concepts in his albums.
At some point, though, it seems that he was no longer a good fit for mainstream record companies (again, probably because he and his fan base w…

A civil discourse

It's been a tough week or two for good old-fashioned manners.
From my perspective this started with the University of Oregon football player who, after being part of a loss against Boise State, took offense to something an opposing player said at the close of their game and punched that player. The Oregon player was suspended for the remainder of the season.
Then Congressman Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, yelled "you lie" at President Obama in response to a statement Mr. Obama made during his speech on healthcare reform to a joint session of Congress. Rep. Wilson apologized to the White House shortly thereafter but has since refused to apologize also to his colleagues in the House of Representatives and was officially reprimanded yesterday.
Then tennis star Serena Williams completely lost her cool after being called for a foot fault (that's when you cross the back line of a tennis court while serving, if I remember correctly) during a critical point of her U…

The 2009 Valhalla Adventure

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I had the rare opportunity of playing golf at the Valhalla Golf Club outside of Louisville, KY yesterday. For those who aren't familiar with this course, it opened in 1986 and was designed by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. It has hosted the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships (the latter won by Tiger Woods), the 2004 Senior PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup Matches just last year. In short, it's a special place to play golf, despite its relatively young age.
I always consider it both a treat and a privilege to play at a course such as Valhalla. Golf is about the only sport where that's possible; you don't get to throw a pitch at Yankee Stadium or shoot a foul shot at Madison Square Garden unless you're playing for those venues' professional teams, but if you are invited to and are willing to pay the greens fees, you, too, can play golf at a place that's hosted major championships!
Let me add here that the weather was pi…

Observations and an anniversary

Before I launch into comments on other subjects, permit me to share my view of the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. This date holds particular significance for me because it was my daughter's second wedding anniversary (Can you even imagine having 9/11 as your anniversary or birthday? Talk about mixed emotions....). Anyway, I remember very well where I was when word of the terrorist attacks first leaked out....I was in front of our television watching "The Today Show" and the announcers spoke of a small plane having "accidentally" crashed into the World Trade Center. Then they cut to a live shot and we saw the second plane strike the second tower.....and then the Pentagon.....and then we heard about United 93 having crashed in Pennsylvania. My most vivid general memory was sitting in front of the television, hour after hour, astounded that this could have happened. As it happened, I was not working at that point in time, having been…

Signs of the times

I picked up a variety of items from various news sources since my last post that I thought were worth mentioning:
1. President Obama plans to speak to the nation's public school students, and there's outrage? Excuse me, but he's the PRESIDENT, isn't he? This is particularly strange since his message is going to be one of "do your best, work hard, stay in school," and not an effort to sway students on healthcare reform, Afghanistan, Iraq, the bailout or anything else. It's a little hard to oppose that message, but people are managing to do so nonetheless.
2. Somewhere in this country an enterprising group has opened an outpatient center to cure Internet addiction. And this isn't to break people of something like viewing pornography. This is to help people from something called "pathological Internet usage" and obsessive use of video games, texting, social networking sites, etc. It's a private concern, but you just know that somewher…

Happy birthday!

Today's my son's 33rd birthday. In some ways I thought we'd never get here.
Because I was sure I was going to kill him, at least when he was younger.
Let me explain a bit. He's my stepson, the product of my wife and her deceased first husband. When I met my wife and her (now our) daughter and son, they were about a year into getting over the loss of her husband and their father. I never knew this man, but from what I've always heard from my wife, the kids and others, he was a fine man with no obvious character flaws. He was quiet, considerate, exceptionally intelligent and skilled in his work (he was an engineer). In other words, he and I could not have been less alike.
Anyway, when I met my wife and the kids nearly twenty-five years ago, our son was eight, our daughter eleven. As I tell people, I married a family, complete with a dog and a station wagon. We all got along well and developed good family relations. I helped our daughter with her homework (par…

Addition to the last posting

Well, I was able to locate the name of someone at our local newspaper, something that the customer service unit was not willing or able to provide. I sent him a polite e-mail describing what had occurred, and copied his boss. He called back within fifteen minutes of my note, talked rationally with me (speaking negatively about their customer service vendor, which amused me somewhat) and I agreed to continue my subscription after he offered to have someone come to the house with the missing material from yesterday's paper.
He even agreed to contact my wife about the problems that her office has been having with the same organization. Not bad.
So, in the end, if we can complain about bad service, we should take equal effort to celebrate good service. I hope I've done that successfully here!

Modern American customer service

I hate to rant about anything, but I had an experience with which I'm sure many will identify.
We have a single local newspaper in my home area, and for the past few months have been receiving this publication via subscription on a Friday-through-Monday basis. We had gone without a subscription for some months due to my travel schedule and a general lack of interest, but resumed on the basis above. The only day where we really look forward to the paper's delivery is Sunday, understandably, as there's more content, plus we rely on the weekly retail fliers to determine what products might be on sale and we appreciate the coupons that are generally contained therein.
Yesterday during a leisurely breakfast my wife and I were perusing the paper and I could not help but notice that the comics were from LAST SUNDAY. I remembered because I am a Dilbert fan and remembered the previous Sunday's strip. I then noticed that the Parade magazine insert was also from the previous Su…

Time spent on the road

I just returned from a business trip to Las Vegas and observed a few things that I felt warranted comment:
The last three times I've visited Las Vegas I am immediately assailed by cab drivers telling me how bad things are there. I can tell that the volume of visitors is down just by looking around the airport, but I'm still not quite sure what a cabbie would like for me to do about the situation! It's just me back here, pal, and I'd like to help you out, but....
I remain astounded at what folks will wear in a place like Vegas. No one I saw on the streets, in a handful of restaurants, in my hotel or in the airport was dressed in an objectionable way, but here's an example. I was passing through the airport on my way to my departure gate yesterday morning when I saw two men sitting side-by-side at a couple of slot machines (first thing to remember about Las Vegas is that gambling opportunities can be found in MANY places!). As I got closer I noticed that they were…

Lost lions

Politics aside, one has to privately thank the late Senator Edward Kennedy for his many, many years of dedicated public service.
Lots of things have been said and written about him over the years, but, like him or not, he has left an unmistakable record of achievement in issues that affect all of us every day. He was well respected by his own party and the opposition, a rare feat in American politics. I hope that when I reach the age of 77 that I have put together a similarly extensive and impressive body of work.
Speaking of great Americans, I'm in the midst of reading Douglas Brinkley's wonderful book about Theodore Roosevelt, "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America." TR was a fascinating figure in American history and his legacy transcends politics, as this book illustrates so completely. If you like history it's (so far) a great read!
Where's Harry Truman when we need him so?

The risks of blogging

Did you see the news item about the blogger who was sued by someone about whom she commented on her blog? Now the blogger is apparently suing Google (the owner of this hosting portal) for "outing" her. I suppose I'll have to be a little more careful with my opinions than I thought!

Well, here we go

I've read a lot of blogs over the years since they first came into existence. Some are/were good, some not so much, but they've all had at least something that first caught my interest.
I hope that's the case for you with this blog. I'm not famous, I don't have advanced degrees in anything, but I do have 49 years of life experience and I am what I would consider to be a pretty normal person. Hopefully we'll find some common ground.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the blog's name, that phrase has rolled around in my head for a long time. To me, it typifies "real life" in that in "real life" we take the good with the bad. Good: I got new shoes! Bad: I got caught in a heavy downpour IN MY NEW SHOES!
I'll be posting stuff here that I find interesting, amusing or at least worth a comment. I welcome, encourage and even beg for your feedback to anything you read here!
Thanks for visiting. Less about me next time--I promise!