Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas hustle and bustle

The shopping is done, the wrapping is completed, items to loved ones a distance away have been shipped, the Christmas cards have been written and mailed....now all there is to do is wait.

Which gives me an opportunity to ask some valid if rhetorical questions about the holiday season.....

Do people wait to see whom they receive Christmas cards from to decide to whom to send cards themselves?  My wife and I review our received cards each year and occasionally remove people from the list if we've not heard from them in some time (possibly due to an inaccurate address or a general lack of  contact outside of the Christmas season).  When my wife and I met I knew that there were a good many people with whom she and the kids exchanged cards because of her first husband's past relationships (friends, classmates, coworkers).  And we've maintained contact with many of those folks, even though I've not met many of them.

The unfortunate part of this scenario is that some of the contacts are now dying.  We have received word from no fewer than three such people this season that their spouses are no longer among us due to illness in some cases or traffic accidents in others.  Sad, but unfortunately a part of life.

Does driving ability diminish around the holidays?  You couldn't prove otherwise to me, as people attempt things with their cars at this time of the year (weather notwithstanding) that they'd never do in the middle of summer....well, they might, at that, but not as routinely.  Take a look at the parking lot of any major shopping area or mall, or even your local Target store, and you'll see cars squeezed in between other incorrectly parked cars in such a way that you have to wonder if the driver escaped his/her own vehicle through the window!  And there appears to be a seasonal disregard for things like crosswalks and stop signs, too.  Gangway!

Are people in the holiday spirit or are they in a hurry?  Sometimes it's hard to tell.  I know that retail clerks of all ilk appear to ALREADY be fed up, and it's just now December 15 as I write this.  Patience, people!

And, finally, are you ready?  I am, we are, and I hope you are, too.  Bring it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another gadget

I bought an iPad last weekend.

There, I said it....I've done my bit to stimulate the economy and get my jollies, all at once. The worst part was that I bought it Friday night during the annual Christmas shopping trip my wife and I make to Cincinnati, and it never occurred to me that I would need a computer in order to activate the damned thing. I did, so it sat tempting me until I got it home Sunday afternoon. It is SO slick, I simply cannot tell you. In fact, I'm writing this post on it.

Thought briefly that this little guy could replace my laptop when I travel, but alas, no such luck. While I am fortunate enough to be able to use my Mac for work (good thing, since my company issued computer is circa 2003 and looks/feels it), I was unable to get past my employer's restriction on company e-mail on a personally-owned portable device.

That's the rub...it's as though this thing is an overgrown cellphone, given that limitaton. Far more than that, obviously, but it's kind of cool to have something that defies description.

Having a bit of trouble finding a case I like, and there's the matter of typing on a glass surface virtual keyboard, but here I am, getting a real bang out of this.

Grown men shouldn't have this much fun playing with inanimate objects.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I've been wondering.....

....about a number of different, unrelated things.  Here's a sampling:

I've been wondering why we're all asked to help the homeless and the needy during the holidays.  Don't those people need help all year?

I've been wondering why University of Kentucky sports fans are so frequently among the most loyal yet the most fickle known to the sporting world?  A new football coach takes a team with a talented offense, yet a largely inexperienced defense, makes changes in several key coaching positions, and still comes out with a record equal to last year's, and he's considered a failure by many?  Or a basketball coach, in only his second year leading the program, and finding it necessary to replace just about all of the all-universe talent he recruited before last season, is now being roundly criticized for having lost ONE game...in November?

C'mon, people, please.  Give these guys a chance.

I've been wondering how the Republican party leaders and prominent members can continue to ignore the elephant in their room....Sarah Palin is very popular, so the party establishment (including talk radio) is unwilling (or unable) to criticize her appropriately, which only makes her next set of remarks all the more inflammatory.  And damaging to their 2012 presidential aspirations.

I've been wondering who's watching "The Event" on NBC.  My wife and I gave up after one episode and the first five minutes of the next installment.  I suppose the American television way is now to be spoonfed a complex and wholly unbelievable plotline, so that the masses can understand it, a la "Lost," which we also discarded after a short time.  But the damned thing just didn't make a lot of sense to me.

I've been wondering why we should care....AT ALL....about the Kardashian sisters.  They seem to be everywhere right now.  Why?

I've been wondering how the Wikileaks leader can sleep at night, knowing he's endangering people and nations by persisting in exposing classified documents.

I've been wondering how anyone can stay on a diet anywhere between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

I've been wondering how NFL players are fined and suspended now for helmet-to-helmet hits, whether intentional or not, but how two players from the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, respectively, both took off each other's helmets and started slugging each other during Sunday's game....but neither was suspended for deliberate acts of violence.

I've been wondering how an airline (we won't name names here) can cause numerous delays and furnish me with a nice bunch of extra miles for my trouble, yet jack up the miles-needed price of a couple of free tickets because we waited an extra two weeks to purchase the tickets.  But I still appreciate the ability to use miles to buy tickets for myself or loved ones anyway.

If you happen to know the answers to any of these questions, please contact me ASAP!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sick of being sick....

I know, it's just the start of the "cold and flu" season, but I am already tired of not feeling 100 percent.  Permit me to vent for a moment (they say it's good for your health, you know) on the reasons.....

Ongoing business travel....I spend six to twelve nights away from home each month for my job, and that doesn't even begin to account for how many days I'm out of the confines of our humble abode.

Lots of contact with the public.....honestly, I don't know where you've been, or if you've EVER washed your hands, yet, here I am, with my hand extended to shake yours.  And vice versa.

Eating strange things at strange times.....now, there's a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen.

Oh, and I travel a lot by plane.  Yessir, nothing worse than an airplane cabin full of others who are in various stages of distress of one kind or another.

What I have right now are the last vestiges of your garden-variety cold.  Started with some back-of-throat discomfort last week, as I was prepping for an important meeting with my superiors (a kind of 'defending your life' exercise, or so I suspected).  Exacerbated by cooling my heels for three or four extra hours while flying to Tampa last week, blossoming into full cold by Thursday night and spent the weekend with a number of medications to treat my symptoms.

And, despite my wife's protestations, I'm not one to go to the doctor unless the thing hangs on for days and days and days.  If I'm still puny by the end of the second week, it's not just a cold, and I freely acknowledge and address it accordingly.  But I'm just about at the one week stage, and am ejecting a lot of material right now (and that's as much detail as I should give in my "PG" blog).

But I feel like it's been ages, not a little less than a week.  And I'm ready to feel better.  I mean, come on, there's turkey and stuff to eat in just a couple of days!  And football games to attend this weekend!  And then more business travel after that!

I'll live, but may not live very well for the next day or two.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nothing in particular

Here's an entry that very nearly defies description, as indicated by the riveting title of this post.....

Clint Hurdle will be named manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the next day or two.  Wish him and the team well, but this organization has been mailing it in for so long they have a longer futility streak than my beloved Cincinnati Reds broke this past season.  Hurdle's a good baseball man and I thought he'd get another shot at managing.

Are you as puzzled by the Dallas Cowboys' strong play yesterday under their new interim coach (and former offensive coordinator), Jason Garrett?  Where was all of this wide open offensive creativity when Garrett was working under Phillips?  Why are the players playing better for him?  Will it continue?  Who knows?

And in the "who cares?" department, we have Brett Favre, who threw three interceptions in the Vikings' loss to the Chicago Bears yesterday.  And then told the press he had no regrets in coming back, etc.  He's setting the stage for his exit, whether due to age, infirmity or a league suspension for the misconduct of which he's been accused.

Heard a great story about a bride who was essentially left at the altar.....and then decided to donate the food from the reception to the Salvation Army.  Well done, young lady.  See, fellas, there ARE good women out there!

Had a great conversation with a good friend while I was driving home from a business trip Friday night. This lady used to work for me but we've become pals since our reporting relationship ended and she ultimately changed employers.  As I told her, I would not have believed that I'd have (and so much enjoy) a chat that concerned cars, grandchildren and bodily functions with a woman to whom I'm not related.  All while driving 80 miles an hour.  Is this a great country, or what?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sports stuff!

Busy few days in sports, if you've not been paying attention.

The Dallas Cowboys, who were thought to have at least a shot of being the first professional football team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium (this season's version will take place in the mega-Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX), instead have posted a 1-7 record and yesterday bade farewell to Wade Phillips as their head coach.  Phillips' pedigree indicates that he's a talented football coach, having successfully coordinated defensive units in Denver, San Diego and elsewhere.  But he's never translated that to head coaching success, at least not to the extent that he's one of those coaches who everyone reveres.  One sports pundit observed some time ago that he resembles "the guy who delivers your mail," but being an ordinary-looking and, by all reports, an exceedingly nice guy didn't serve him well trying to form a team of the players acquired by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  The job now goes to Jason Garrett, who just a couple of years ago was turning down head coaching jobs elsewhere to stay and be an informal "coach-in-waiting" in Dallas.  Good luck, Jason, you're going to need it.

I'm not sure what to make of the sudden attention to all of the helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL, either.  This isn't exactly new, but I guess that there's more understanding of the nature of concussions and their lingering aftereffects.  Concussions forced Steve Young and Troy Aikman out of football, if I remember right, and they're just two of the more visible victims.  Anyway, I'm glad that there's more being done, but the best thing that could happen is to SUSPEND, not fine, the offending parties, and their forfeited pay being donated to entities that specialize in research on brain injuries. Commission Goodell, I'm available for consultations.

ESPN announced yesterday that they were parting company with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who had been the primary announcers for their Sunday Night Baseball franchise for over twenty years.  Miller's a real pro, and wonderful to listen to whether on TV or radio (I hear him occasionally as the voice of the San Francisco Giants via XM Satellite Radio).  Morgan, though, wore thin some time ago, at least for me.  He's an intelligent and informed observer of baseball, no doubt, but he suffers from an apparent excess of ego, feeling the need to explain the simplest things repeatedly until driving a relatively knowledgeable fan elsewhere.  He's become somewhat active with the Reds over the past couple of years, so perhaps he'll find a role that suits him.

And it looks like the bandwagon against Auburn's breakout quarterback star Cameron Newton is gaining size and speed.  On the heels of implications that someone was shopping this young man to various universities in expectation of receiving payment from the successful school, last night the news broke that he was apparently on the verge of expulsion at the University of Florida for academic infractions.  I don't know how true any of this is, but it's kind of unfair.  Newton almost singlehandedly defeated my Kentucky Wildcats and their furious comeback, so I have a fair respect for his athletic prowess, and you just know that none of this would matter if he weren't having such a good season on the field.

Friday, November 5, 2010

So long, Sparky

George "Sparky" Anderson, former manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers, died yesterday at his home in California at the age of 76.  He was a more important figure in my adolescence than I thought at the time, as he managed the "Big Red Machine" edition of the Reds from 1970 through 1978 and was unceremoniously fired after finishing second to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second straight year in 1978.

Prior to that, though, he presided over the single best period of any Reds team (and likely any National League team at that) in history, winning two World Series, four National League pennants, and five National League Western Division championships.  But, at the time, "the Main Spark" didn't impress me all that much, as I had no clue about how difficult it often is to manage people (I know now, from professional but non-baseball experience) and thought that the great players on that team would have been equally successful without Sparky.

Boy, was I wrong.

Certainly, the Reds went on to another divisional championship the year after Sparky's departure, but began a slide into the cellar the next couple of years (although they did post baseball's best record in 1981 but got nothing to show for it, as that was the season that was actually two seasons, and the winners in each "half" went to the playoffs.  The Reds finished second in both segments, if memory serves, but were locked out of the postseason).  Sparky, though, became the manager of the Detroit Tigers just after leaving the Reds and within a couple of years had them in contention, ultimately winning the World Series in 1984 and the American League Eastern Division a couple of years later.

Sparky was a true original.  In the latter stages of his career he began to remind a lot of people of Casey Stengel, the successful Yankee manager who concluded his career leading the hapless New York Mets in their early years.  Like Casey, Sparky had a unique way with the English language, but was not afraid to share his opinions on, well, anything.

I always heard what a gentleman he was, and that even if he was arguing ferociously with an umpire over a bad call, Anderson was always careful not to use profanity.  There's a great piece of film of him from the 1970 World Series arguing a call but his first instinct was to get his player out of the argument first.

They just don't make them like that anymore.  Rest in piece, George.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The election's over....now what?

After a weekend trip to visit family out of state and a day trip to Charlotte, I watched the local, state and national election returns with some interest last night.  Changes are coming, whether I/we voted for them or not!

In our home area of Lexington, KY, an openly gay man was elected mayor, ousting a first-term incumbent who had previously not run for anything.  Turns out that your record is your record, good or bad, and the outgoing mayor had some items in his term that must have led voters to choose otherwise.

Our local congressional district will apparently continue to be represented by Ben Chandler, grandson of the late and hyper-popular former Governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler.  The younger Chandler really had problems defeating his opponent, who at this writing was just a few hundred votes behind.  Needless to say, he's not conceded.

And now we know that in Washington, the House of Representatives will be Republican-controlled and a new speaker, John Boehner (he of the frightening perma-tan), will take the reins.  He's already said that he and his fellow party leaders will work with the White House ONLY on their issues, not on what President Obama considers valuable.

But the Senate will remain under Democratic control, albeit a smaller majority, and will continue to be led by Harry Reid, who survived a Tea Party Republican opponent's challenge and retained his seat.

And what of the Tea Party?  Looks like their results were mixed, having won some races handily (such as the hotly contested Senate race here in Kentucky), winning others narrowly, and losing others.  It'll be interesting to see how many of these "smaller government" advocates are able to stick to their principles once they reach Congress.

Finally, this apparently wasn't a good year to try to buy office, as wealthy candidates such as Carly Fiorina (late of Hewlett-Packard), Meg Whitman (eBay) and Linda McMahon (WWE--wrestling?) were all unsuccessful in their bids for the Senate or state houses in their respective home areas.

I'm no political expert, but I firmly believe that the next two years will be more interesting than the last, that's for sure!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The view from the road

I've been on the road quite a bit lately, and about to embark on two more trips, but more on that later.  Suffice it to say that I still believe that whatever doesn't kill us indeed makes us stronger, so I'm rapidly gaining strength in that model.  I had a very interesting day of travel two Mondays ago, starting with a call around 4:00 AM from Delta Airlines' computer.  I was being informed that my flight, scheduled to leave at 7:15, would now leave at 8:52.  Nice to know, but the auto-message didn't detail my newly changed itinerary.  The repeat call at 5:45 told me that, so I decided to give up and get up after all.  That flight was diverted from to Knoxville en route to Atlanta (from my home base in Lexington, KY) due to a mechanical issue, and I waited there until late in the afternoon to get to Atlanta and connect to my final destination.  Despite these inconveniences, the Delta staffers with whom I dealt all were uniformly pleasant, friendly, and as helpful as circumstances allowed. 

While on that trip I had the chance to play golf with an old friend whom I don't see much.  We used to work together and we now work for competing companies in the same industry.  He's a great guy and played pretty well, despite the obvious handicap of rented clubs.

This week was a car trip to Nashville for some sales calls and quality time with two of my sales reps.  Next Tuesday more of the same on a day trip to Charlotte.

But the best thing is that tomorrow my wife and I will be flying to Denver to spend the weekend with our daughter and her family!  Our grandson celebrates birthday number one on Saturday, and we plan to be there to mark the occasion, as well as to trick-or-treat with both of our Colorado grandkids!

Should be fun, if all goes well and we don't have any flight issues.  But who knows?  Sometimes, that's what makes traveling a REAL adventure!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Seen and heard, just not believed

Commenting on a few unrelated things noticed over the past week or two.....

Did you hear about the flap over the Gap's proposed logo that was suddenly ditched in favor of keeping the current, navy blue box with "GAP" in thin white letters?  Apparently the image of the new logo (you'll have to find a news item somewhere to find an image) popped up somewhere online and people actually debated this via Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, and public opinion was so heavily against the new logo that the Gap announced they're withdrawing the new logo and retaining the current one.

Honestly, people, do we not have anything better to do than spend online time arguing about the validity of a retailer's corporate logo?  And what does this say about a company the size of the Gap, which also operates Old Navy (and thus are responsible for those absolutely stupid television commercials) and Banana Republic, that they would be cowed by what I suspect is limited public reaction to a graphic design?  Not the clothing they sell.  The logo on the outside of the store and all of their advertising.  Come on.

Speaking of Twitter, I noticed a blurb on one of the online news sites that says that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore like to tweet each other.....while they're sitting face to face.  There are commercials that make fun of people who elect to communicate via such methods rather than actually talking, and the commercials are funny.  This isn't.

My beloved Cincinnati Reds were undone in their first playoff appearance in fifteen years by the defending National League champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, who displayed all of the qualities a good baseball team must have....excellent starting pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.  Sadly, the Reds did not, but gave a good effort against a very good team.  Great American Ball Park was sold out, naturally (record crowd for that building!), Sunday night, but there just wasn't much to cheer for the home crowd.

But I saw on one of the Reds-centric websites that I visit that at least one Philadelphia writer wrote a column making fun of the city of Cincinnati (the city of my birth, I should point out in the interests of full disclosure) and essentially putting it down in favor of Philadelphia.  Now, I know a few people from the Philadelphia area, and think of it much as I do the city of Boston.....I don't get it.  Yes, it's old.  Yes, there's history there.  But what I've seen in my limited time in each place is that the cities are decaying, dirty, and populated by folks who are generally rude (which is not uncommon in larger cities anywhere, actually).  Perhaps if I spent more time in one city or the other I'd understand better.  But I like Cincinnati.  So now they can write about me.

I like how the Tea Party candidates were initially avoiding any media outlets that appeared to be part of the "traditional liberal mainstream media," but now are appearing and arguing with hosts on many programs and failing to answer even the most basic of questions.  Stick to those talking points, candidates, so that no one can "trick" you into espousing your true opinions, as I'm sure New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino felt happened to him over the weekend in making comments about a gay lifestyle being an untenable choice.

In my home state of Kentucky, Tea Partier Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is the Republican candidate for a Senate seat, and is opposed by the state's Attorney General, Jack Conway.  Yesterday I was driving home from a business meeting in Louisville and passed the Kentucky Democratic Party's headquarters.  The marquee on their sign read "This sign has been in Kentucky longer than Rand Paul" and I found that truly amusing.

Finally, the miners who have been trapped underground in Chile for all of these weeks are going to be brought out starting sometime tonight.  And what's the offshoot?  They're arguing about who'll be the LAST to be rescued, as that person will apparently be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Please.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eastbound, down the highway

For the first time in almost nine years, I made a trek into the southeastern part of Kentucky for business purposes.  And I'm always struck by the natural beauty of Kentucky's "mountain" region (trust me, these aren't really mountains, but for local purposes they'll do nicely), particularly in the early fall when leaves are just starting to turn.  Yesterday was no exception, and here's a sampling of what I saw:

The Mountain Parkway is still a two-lane road for a bit less than half of its length, so windy is its path that an added passing lane is all that could be built to resemble a modern, four lane highway.

There are passages (in some cases several miles long) where the highway rests literally at the bottom of the hollow ("holler" if you're from eastern Kentucky), and still winds significantly.  One has to look upward quite a bit to even see the sky!

Despite some of the natural beauty, there is still quite a lot of evidence of poverty and disadvantage among that region's residents.  Not at all uncommon to see a nice, even contemporary family home and directly next door sits a vacant, rusted-out mobile home.  I even saw one trailer which had been covered by a carport-like structure, presumably because the original trailer roof had begun to leak.  An interesting solution to what I would imagine is a common problem.

Because cable TV still doesn't exist outside of the towns in the eastern part of the state, satellite dishes sprung up all over when they first came into consumer existence.  And I don't mean the modern, two-foot-wide grey ones that dot rooftops all over suburbia.  I'm talking about the eight-foot-wide babies that would pick up almost anything, before it was all decoded and sold directly through subscription.  Still a good number of those, but no way to know if they're functional.

Trucks.  Everywhere.  Not just pickup trucks, which are very common in such a rural area.  No, I'm talking tractor-trailers, hauling everything you'd normally see, plus coal trucks, log trucks, metal salvage trucks, you name it.  Thank goodness for the passing lanes.

Lots of burning of trash, cleared brush and even material collected from flooding that hit that part of the state.  The oddest instance was within about 100 yards of a Wal-Mart store, making me wonder (from a distance) if the store was on fire!

But I have to close with this observation:  the people from this area are among the nicest and most genuine you'll meet.  They may be a little suspicious of people from outside of their immediate area, but I think we're all a bit that way.

Hopefully it won't be nine years before I go back.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RED October!

They did it.  Earlier than anyone thought they were capable.  The Cincinnati Reds are the CHAMPIONS of the National League's Central Division.

Thank GOD!

It's been difficult to watch this team play well most of the year, swoon a bit recently (only to have their archrival the St. Louis Cardinals swoon even more) and get tantalizingly close to their goal.....but not that quickly!  But they got there last night, in dramatic fashion with a walk-off home run by a homegrown player, Jay Bruce.  Fitting, I think.

And I also think that a lot of teams don't really want to play the Redlegs in the postseason.  Why?  Here are a few reasons:


1.  Joey Votto is supernatural at the plate, and seems so often to come up with a big, run producing hit just when the Reds need it most.

2.  Defense...the Reds are at or near the top of the National League's standings when it comes to defense.  And you can certainly do yourself a lot of good when you catch the ball consistently.

3.  Clutch hitting, which has been somewhat AWOL lately, has been a hallmark of this team all season.  And most opponents know that.

4.  Pitching.  Starting and relief, the Reds are solid up and down in the pitching department, and we all know that good pitching wins games.  PERIOD.

We don't know when the Reds will play in the postseason, but what does it matter?  They WILL be playing postseason baseball games for the first time since 1995.

How about that?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The vagaries of blogging

I work for a company that has a policy specifically written in reference to blogs and other online commenting mechanisms (Twitter and the like, I would think).  This policy expressly prohibits employees of the company from mentioning or speaking about the inner workings of the company on personally maintained weblogs or other online journals.  Funny, I find the very act of blogging to be a nice departure from thinking about work, so the last thing I'd want to do is blog about work.....

And in the year-plus I've blogged here, I can honestly say it's been fun and a real pleasure and something of a creative release for me to post my thoughts and comments here, regardless of the limitations my company places on me and my fellow employees.  And I don't think I've yet posted anything just because I felt it was time to put up a new entry, or that I owed it to my readers (whomever and however many you are) to blog.  If you sense that to be happening, call me on it.

I read numerous other blogs, too.  Most are from folks far more professional than I, or those who have insights on some of my favorite subjects that I do not have.  And I think those authors follow the same rules of thumb that I do.

That said, I also have a Twitter account, and my postings there are almost always one of two things:  1) a link to this blog, and 2) a response to something posted by someone whom I follow.  But I suppose one could consider Twitter a microblogging vehicle, though I've never used it as such.  Perhaps I should.

I looked back at some of the more recent posts I've made here, and the subject matter is pretty diverse.  More diverse than I am, probably.  Hope that keeps things interesting for those who read it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sports of all sorts

This is a great time of year to be a sports fan....college and professional football are both underway with their new seasons, while major league baseball is heating up its various divisional races.

All the more exciting for me this year, since my beloved Cincinnati Reds are closing in on their first divisional title in well over ten years, and my Kentucky Wildcats are now 3-0 on the football field.  That's the first time a new Kentucky football coach (Joe "Joker" Phillips) has started his tenure with three consecutive wins since the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant did so WAY back (NOTE:  most who are not Bryant historians or Kentucky football fans would not have known that the Bear began his collegiate coaching career at the University of Kentucky).

Back to baseball for a moment....my son and I participated in an interesting phenomenon Thursday, as we partook of "all you can eat" seats at the Reds' Great American Ball Park.  Simple premise:  for the price of your ticket ($20 for this mid-week day game promotion), not only do you get a seat for the game, but all of the hot dogs, chips, popcorn, peanuts and soft drinks you care to enjoy.  There were three sections set aside for this in the further reaches of the left field corner, all in the upper deck, and they were sold out.  LONG food lines for those who wished to indulge.  But the crowds were well behaved, the food was good and as the game progressed the lines became a little shorter and more manageable.  Fun to try this once.  Most parks are going to this on at least a limited basis, so if you love major league baseball but not the prices of admission and concessions, this could be a good deal for you.

And with the Reds approaching postseason play we did something else last week that we've not done in some time--purchased post-season tickets.  I know, they're not there yet, but the Reds were permitted (along with a number of other teams) to begin selling conditional tickets, which, of course, would be refunded if through some quirk the Reds did not qualify for the playoffs after all.  First time I had bought any postseason tickets since 1990, when my son and I attended the first game of the World Series (won in four consecutive games by the Reds).  We went through a lottery process, and finally had the chance to buy two lower-level tickets in the right field corner for a LOT more than regular game tickets.  But we aren't going to miss this....no way!

Do you follow the NFL?  As a fan, or as a fantasy league participant?  Either way, hard to figure anything out right now.  The "good" teams are not all playing that well yet, and there are teams that weren't expected to be competitive who won their first games.  Give it four more weeks to see who's who.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A handful of little things

Funny, when I have a few odds and ends to post, I have the hardest time deciding what title to use for that particular post, and today's is no exception.....

My Cincinnati Reds are not having much fun on their current business trip.  After winning many games in a row, they visited St. Louis Friday through Sunday and came away with one win.  Better than some trips, but I was hopeful that their play would be a little better.  But a win's a win, no matter how you slice it.  Then they traveled to Denver, a city near my heart because our daughter and her family live in that area, to face the Colorado Rockies for a four game set.  No better.  The Reds have not won in Colorado since 2008, and the futility continues.  Most of the Reds regular players aren't hitting, except all-universe first baseman Joey Votto (so much for the Sports Illustrated jinx), and the pitching has been less than great, too. One more game out yonder, then the boys head home for the healing salve of playing the Pirates and the Diamondbacks over the following few days.

My son and I will be present in Cincinnati a week from today to indulge in what I'm terming a social experiment.  As other teams have done, the Reds last year began offering 'all you can eat' seats in a specific part of the ballpark (i.e., a part of the park where they seldom sell the tickets).  For the princely sum of $20 per person, we receive a seat (aisle seats at that, the ticket agent told us!) and a wristband which will entitle us to visit the designated concession stand and enjoy all of the popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs and soft drinks we desire.  Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love of popcorn, and if you give me enough soft drinks to wash it down, that could be monumental.  And peanuts and hot dogs, too!  Thankfully, beer isn't part of the promotion, else we'd have to get hotel rooms and a cab ride to them!

I'll report back here after the festivities.

I have XM Satellite Radio, which I know now to be part of the Sirius/XM system, and have had for about five years.  I have a unit on my desktop, and both of our cars are thusly equipped (that's what started it).  And, true to my profile's mention of me liking a lot of music but seldom by performers younger than I am, I stick to channels that will play stuff I like.  There's a Bruce Springsteen channel which is kind of my go-to channel, and I also like the '60's and '70's channels, too.  Once in a while a channel I listen to will play something I've never heard, but I'm never moved to go out and buy a CD (or download it, in the current parlance).  Suppose that's what my subscription replaces---the $20 or more per month I used to spend on recorded music.

Anyway, I was thinking about this because in my iPod recently I happened upon a great old song by Elton John called "Roy Rogers," from the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album.  I suppose that you could say no one's writing songs like that (written by Elton and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin) anymore, and more's the pity.  Go check it out if you're unfamiliar.

Speaking of iPods, I don't do playlists.  Ever.  I like to put an album on, like I used to do when I owned albums or as I do if I pop a CD into the car player, and listen to it.  But I'm a pretty good DJ when I feel eclectic, so I suppose I could invest some time in that playlist assembly process, but why?

The University of Kentucky is looking for a new president, as of yesterday.  Our outgoing president set his goal for UK to be in the top 20 in the country.  Last rankings I saw, we still hadn't cracked the top 100.   Hmm.....could our inability to retain staff due to budgetary reasons have something to do with our lack of progress?

Seen any good movies lately?  Last one I saw was "Inception," so good I saw it twice.  Read an article about how few movies come out that appeal to adults, and isn't that the truth?

That's enough for now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here's what constitutes a "good" weekend

Morning, all.....just a few comments about this and that today.....but mostly revolving around the recently completed three-day Labor Day weekend, the unofficial signal that summer is over, for all intents and purposes.

Our weekend started with a nice dinner out at a favorite restaurant, and a trip to Target that didn't blow our budget (always a nice surprise).  Then on Saturday, Kentucky played football at the University of Louisville's newly expanded stadium.  Both teams had new coaches on display and the weather was absolutely perfect--mid '70's, breezy and sunny.  In other words, the kind of day you want to bottle and save for later.  Anyway, Kentucky played masterfully during the first half, not so much the second and came out on top.

Sunday we had our granddaughter for the afternoon, then her parents had dinner with us when they came to retrieve her.  Again, another nearly perfect day weatherwise, so great weather for grilling.

Yesterday I was scheduled to play golf with some friends, but my sports announcer friend asked if I could instead join him at the radio station from which his daily radio program originates for some on-air banter and companionship.  His show is fairly new and he wanted to try out the dynamics of having a second voice in the studio with him.  The larger net effect, though, was that instead of being gone for five hours or more yesterday I was free by 10:30, which meant I could treat my wife to a day of running around and dining out, or what she refers to as a "Rick day."  We went and looked at paint samples (about time to repaint the house interior and the exterior trim), got some shoe insoles and socks, had a sandwich out and picked up a couple more things.

Wound up at home watching my Reds go down in defeat to Colorado 10-5 (third loss in the last four games, all against top-shelf pitching), and then we ordered a pizza.

Just about perfect.  So good, in fact, that I want to do it again next week.  But we can't, as we'll only have two days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The people you meet

In my travels for my job I often find it interesting and a pleasant way to pass the time when I meet new people.  And I'm not one of those who interrogates his seatmate every time I get on a plane....I've been victimized by enough of those to last me a lifetime.  But I just returned home from a business trip and found a couple of the people I encountered to be interesting.

For example, on my flight home the lady who was scheduled to sit with me spoke up, politely, and asked if Lexington was home for me.  I answered that it was, and then asked her the same question.  "Louisville," she responded, and that led to about fifteen minutes of chatting about airports, travel, jobs, etc.  Turns out this lady is the mother of three, ranging in age from 17 to 9, was in the ministry (!) for seven years, and now is in marketing for some sort of collective buying cooperative that sells primarily to non-profits and church-related entities.  And we also established that she, as I, matriculated at the University of Kentucky, graduating in the same college (Business and Economics) as I, but seven years later.

The best part about this chance encounter is that our chat ended when the plane took off and we both settled in for our flight (Atlanta to Lexington, only an hour flight), I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and fired up the iPod, and she reached for a book.  No pressure to continue talking, no one got their feelings hurt, pleasant conversation, wished each other a good evening, and went our separate ways.

Same trip, first flight yesterday (if you live in Lexington, there are almost always two or more flights to reach any given destination).  Changed flights on very short notice to get home early (thanks again, Delta!), so I was stuck with a window seat on a commuter jet.  Cramped for a guy my size, but doable.  Anyway, a soldier boarded with his enormous standard-issue backpack.  I asked him if he was coming or going (meaning to or from active service) and he explained that he was heading home to Utah.  We'd just begun chatting when the ground crew called his name and he arose as though he expected the call, said, "Well, I guess I'm not going home after all" and left.  Left me with a vacant seat, for which I was grateful, but I would probably have enjoyed more conversation with him while waiting to take off.

Once, many years ago, I was on a plane home from Richmond, VA, where I'd traveled for a job interview with a company for whom I really didn't want to work.  But I'd just been laid off from a job and was feeling the pressure of locating a new opportunity.  Happened to sit with a gal who simply commented that it looked like I had a lot on my mind, and so I discussed briefly my reason for being in the air, etc.  I remember so well her advice---"Never settle."  Good advice if circumstances allow.  The other thing that stands out is that she was not quite five feet tall but insisted on storing and retrieving her massive computer bag from the overhead compartment without assistance.

And in a business context I met about a dozen people with whom I was not previously acquainted on this trip.  Learned a lot about people's feelings about grown children who return home after a divorce, post-partum depression, how readily some people will allow a two-year-old to sleep in their bed, that racing midget cars is an all-consuming passion for some kids and their families, and so on.

The next trip may hold more possibilities.  Or not.  I suppose that's the fun of it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gathering a few stray thoughts

It's Friday, and we're heading toward the Labor Day weekend, slowly but surely.  Time for a bit of a brain dump with some random comments about random subjects.

Has it been hot where you live?  Excuse me, I meant to say "HOT."  This has been a summer of ridiculous temperature extremes in central Kentucky, and I know from traveling it's been that way in a lot of places.  You know it's hot when dedicated golfers elect not to play on a Saturday.

For the first time in a number of years, the Reds are in serious contention to make it to post-season play (we used to simply say "the playoffs" but now there's more than one round of playoff series leading to the World Series), so baseball has a different significance for me this year than in years past.  Usually, at this point, I'm interested to see the prospects that the Reds have promoted to the big club to see how they perform at the major league level, as they're often hopelessly out of the pennant race.  Not this year.  The Reds are a team of grit, heart, and perseverence, which is the way baseball should be played.  Hard.  All the time.  And I love it.

Oddly, though, football is about to start, and I'm a little ambivalent about it.  The University of Kentucky's football fortunes have been led by the sturdy Rich Brooks for the past seven years, with the last four ending in a bowl game (three of those wins).  But Brooks has now retired, and former offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips takes over.  Some changes in the coaching staff have occurred, but it looks like most everything else will continue as it has.  But, frankly, it's hard to divide one's concentration between my Reds and my Wildcats.  But I'll do my best!

Business travel is dicey this time of year, since there's such a continual threat of severe weather throughout the southeastern US.  And from Lexington, where my flight plans originate, all roads (well, most, I guess) lead through Atlanta.  Returned from a trip Tuesday night with both outbound and inbound flights being slightly delayed, although not due to weather.  Gotta love flying through Atlanta, as with an airport that large you see all manner of people and things, most of which leave you either chuckling or shaking your head.

Rental cars are a bit of a pet peeve for me, too, and fresh in my mind, since I just had a rental Sunday through Tuesday.  My company has a preferred company for car rentals, and I have elite status with them, which means I should simply be able to show up, prove my identity and drive away.  Not so on this trip.  And what passes for an "intermediate" car is most definitely open to interpretation.  This week's rental was a Volkswagen Jetta, a brand and model of car that we used to own.  "Used to" being the operative phrase.  Not much headroom or hiproom, and a smallish trunk.  Not a good combination when traveling with golf clubs.

I suppose that's enough complaining.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Flying the "friendly" skies

As I believe I've noted here before, I fly a fair amount for my work.  Not traveling this week, thank God, or else all of the talk in airport gate areas and on planes would surround Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who lost his cool and stormed out the rear of an airplane onto the inflatable slide and into airline folk history, as well as custody.

Most of my travels are on Delta and its affiliated regional carriers, and that's largely by choice.  From my home in Lexington I have far more options to get just about anywhere when I fly Delta than if I use competing airlines.  But let's be clear, I've flown most every airline that services the state of Kentucky, and have had what I would charitably call mixed results in terms of service and cooperation from flight crews.

For about two years I traveled long distances regularly, as I managed a sales territory in the mountain time zone of the western US.  That meant a flight to a hub, then on to cities like Denver, Phoenix or Salt Lake City (and sometimes beyond).  So on each given trip I would have a commuter flight with one attendant, then a large aircraft with as many as six or eight attendants (I don't do headcounts, but that's my recollection), so the quality of service rendered can vary greatly by the passenger-to-attendant ratio.  And my thoughts have been colored more and more by upgrades to first class, where the attendants simply cannot do enough for you, as they have far fewer passengers to serve.

But I want to make it clear that I've seen more polite, helpful, friendly and cooperative attendants from just about all airlines than I have those whose behavior is less positive, boorish, confrontational and the like.  I was on a commuter jet recently from Columbia, SC to Atlanta, and the single attendant on that flight was very much like a drill sergeant, if a little quieter.  She sternly instructed my seatmate to do or not do several things during a tarmac delay, and was equally abrupt with several other passengers within earshot.

But on the connecting flight home to Lexington (which was also delayed significantly by weather in the Southeast US) the attendants could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and they were held up themselves in much the same way my flight from South Carolina was.

How does this happen?  How is it that some people wear a bad day on their sleeve, while others could have a bucket of water dumped onto their heads and never lapse into a frown?

Not sure, but I like to think, at this stage of my life, I'm more the latter category than the former.  And when one travels, one has to accept what's within and not within his control.  With practice, I've done that.

It's a shame that Mr. Slater didn't master that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reality, indeed

I don't watch very much "reality TV," unless you count HGTV (my wife's favorite channel), the Food Network and the Travel Channel among that category.  No, I'm referring to shows like "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" and others that run on the big four traditional networks, as well as some of this other unscripted stuff that pops up on MTV, VH1 and the like.

But, first, a quick aside....does anyone remember when VH1 launched?  It was supposed to be music videos for the rest of us, that is, those of us over 20 years of age.  And their original lineup of veejays included such luminaries as Don Imus and Rosie O'Donnell (no, I'm not kidding).

But I digress....

A couple of stories in the news recently made me think a little harder than usual about reality television.  One was the arrest of someone called "Snooki" from a show on MTV called "Jersey Shore."  Now, I've never watched this show, but have recently seen some clips on various news programs, mostly on cable.  Snooki apparently also announced recently that "Obama" (note:  not PRESIDENT Obama, or even Barack Obama) was the party responsible for taxation of tanning beds or the use of them.  If I'm not mistaken, this was part of the recently passed healthcare reform bill, and the tax was a kind of sin tax, not unlike taxes placed on cigarettes or liquor.  But Snooki went so far as to say "Obama put the tax on tanning against us," or something similar.  Now, let's think....this show is about some young people who happen to be on a reality show on a somewhat minor cable channel, and many of the show's cast indulge in tanning, but for her to think that the President of the United States would do ANYTHING as a direct affront to this group of people is pretty silly.  Even for this group.

There's another young man who's in the cast of this show whose nickname is "the Situation."  I have no idea what that means, nor do I really want to know.  At all.

The other reality star who's been in the news the last few days is Michaele Salahi, who's 1/2 of the White House state-dinner-crashing couple that were in the news a while back, and who's now a member of the cast of yet another of the "Real Housewives" franchise, this time in D.C.  Apparently some or all of the cast were on "The View" this week and Mrs. Salahi was making some point or another and Whoopi Goldberg, one of the talkers on this show, emerged from backstage and tapped Mrs. Salahi on the arm to get her attention.  Sometime later Mrs. Salahi publicly accused Whoopi of hitting her.

Really.

Apparently this gal has a history of this, as I read this morning of a similar instance in a courthouse somewhere in which Mrs. Salahi accused someone of striking her, when they were simply tapping her on the shoulder, again, to get her attention.

Touchy.

The other more distasteful instance of reality television influencing, well, reality, was the "balloon boy" incident a few months (or more) ago in Colorado.  Apparently that child's parents, particularly the father, had been trying desperately to get the attention of one or more reality TV producer and determined that this stunt, which did NOT endanger the child as originally thought, would be the way to go about it.

These reality TV folks don't know what they're missing.  Why, they could come to my house.  Right now.  And film me for a couple of days.   Working, talking on the telephone, writing E-mails to my employees, co-workers and friends.  Exercising.  Showering.  Eating.  Sleeping.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  I suppose "The Truman Show" isn't as far off as it seemed when that little gem of a movie first came out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Promises, promises

Today's installment is about commitments we make to others, and how unimportant they appear to be to some people and entities.

First, let's all give a round of applause to British Petroleum, the fine folks who brand their overpriced gasoline as BP and who have been promising us for over three months that they're doing EVERYTHING they can to stop the uncontrolled flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.  A lot of blathering, a lot of bumbling, a lot of excuses and one CEO later, it looks like that might finally be happening.  And to make matters worse, what we've been hearing for some time is that BP is trying to coerce Gulf are residents (particularly those who operate businesses adversely affected by all of this mess) into accepting lump-sum settlements with the added provision that the recipients of these settlements WILL NOT SUE.

Don't sign them, people, I don't care how much is offered.  We just don't know what the long-term effect of this disaster will be, so signing away your rights for any future compensation probably isn't a good idea.

Now let's turn to the former First Daughter of Alaska, Bristol Palin, and her would-be husband and baby daddy Levi Johnston.  They're a committed couple.  Wait, no they're not, Levi is a selfish jerk who should surrender his parental rights.  Then they get back together, and now comes news that Bristol says it's over (again) and that she was "played."  Ironic that this comes right on the heels of mom Sarah's pronouncement that the female governor of Arizona is, shall we say, better genitally equipped than the male President of the United States.  Anyone else a little uncomfortable with the entire Palin clan?  In the Andy Warhol parlance, I'll be glad when the family's fifteen minutes of fame are up.

And now we come to the man who is so indecisive that he should own a Waffle House franchise, Brett Favre.  Somehow I remember writing something like this about a year ago, but here we are again, listening to all of sports radio and television breathlessly await his retirement decision.  Just like the last three year.  Give us a break, Brett.  Play or don't, but make up your mind.  Oh, and if this is all designed to have people make you feel wanted, you're rather pathetic, despite all of your career accomplishments.

All of that said, I promise that I'm finished.  And I am.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back to business

This 50th birthday thing has been pretty interesting.  My wife engineered a celebration well in advance back during the weekend of July 3-4, because our daughter and her family were in town for a visit.  So we had a cake, I received some cards and even a gift!  Nice, right?

Then last weekend, in advance of the grand occasion (which occurred on Tuesday), my wife and I went to Cincinnati for a weekend of R&R.  We had originally planned to go to Chicago, which would have been great fun, but given the distance and travel cost, we were probably better off visiting some of our favorite dining and shopping spots in the Cincinnati area.  Our argument has always been that you can be there in just a couple of hours from Lexington, and since we visit regularly we know what's there, what we like, etc.  We both got shoes at a store in West Chester that specializes in those with foot problems (which unfortunately includes me and my wife), had some nice meals out, did some other "power shopping" and even caught a movie ("Inception," a mind-blowing action drama).  Then back home and, as today's title indicates, back to business.

I spent my actual birthday traveling to Charlotte for business, spending some time with one of my direct reports visiting clients and then spent a couple of hours doing some mutually beneficial coaching with him. Then I had a pizza delivered, ate some of that and went to bed.  Exciting, eh?  Had some difficulty returning home Wednesday due to weather in the Southeast (always the chance one takes flying through Atlanta during the spring and summer months), but finally returned home Wednesday.

But the celebrations weren't over yet, as my son and his wife and adorable baby daughter treated me to lunch yesterday, and showered me with even more gifts!  My wife was out of town for her mother's birthday (she left Thursday evening, so I've been a semi-bachelor since that time) so I told her by phone that I didn't want the birthday celebration to end, it's been so much fun.  To cap things off my son and I braved the heat and took in a Lexington Legends minor league baseball game last night.

But now I'm a little tired from all of this revelry.  I have a dirty house, laundry to do, etc., etc., etc.  So back to work!

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's coming....

....and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.

I'm talking about my 50th birthday, which will occur next Tuesday.  Ironically, I'll be on a plane to Charlotte that morning, as I have business there that day and in Columbia, SC the following day.  Great way to celebrate.

But I'm not depressed, at least I don't think I am.  Mostly, I'm grateful to still be here, after a major heart attack at 32 and a coronary bypass at 34.  I'm grateful to have a family who loves me and tolerates me, in that order most of the time!  And I'm most grateful to my wife of now 24 years (I must remember to change my profile), for being there always.

And like so many people, my first 50 years have been marked with challenges, triumphs and setbacks, but I wouldn't trade any of it.  Well, I might trade the last few days, when I've been slowed by what I think was a case of food poisoning that is still hanging on four days on.  Just about out of the woods, so to speak, but there were times I began to wonder.....

I remember my father when he was 50.  Unfortunately, he died at 56, a brittle diabetic who did not take care of himself and paid the price.  As Kevin Costner's character says during "Field of Dreams," "...by the time he was my age, he was ancient."  Hopefully I don't seem too ancient to my kids.  I certainly don't feel it.

My firm belief is that age is largely a state of mind.  I tell my wife this a lot, because she's a little older than I am, and my foolishness probably keeps her younger than she'd otherwise be.  And my state of mind these days is one of "I can do that" more than "you have to be kidding," which I would think is largely a good thing.

So, if you're approaching a milestone birthday as I am, embrace what's about to happen.  The best is yet to come!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder....

If you recall from my last post our daughter, her husband and their two kids had just arrived at our home for a ten day stay.  They all just returned home yesterday afternoon, and I must say that our house seems awfully large and awfully quiet today, as I've also returned to work after vacation.

Our grandson was an absolute delight, as he's now at the age where he recognizes people more readily and was lots of fun for all.  Perhaps the most enjoyable occasions were when he and our local granddaughter, who's exactly two weeks older than he, were together, as it's always fun to watch babies try to figure each other out!

We did some rather touristy things while our visitors were here, but all were enjoyable and we caught a break on the weather, as it was probably about fifteen degrees cooler for parts of last week than it is now or will be during this week.

And, as planned, both he and our younger granddaughter were baptized in a joint ceremony last Saturday.  That occasion allowed members of our son-in-law's, our daughter-in-law's and our family to meet and mingle a bit.

I spent a little time putting things back as they had been pre-visit this morning, and it all just seemed kind of odd.  We'll see them again soon, and we'll probably go to their home location next time.

On top of that, our son and his family are out of town for a vacation of their own until Saturday, so it's REALLY quiet now.  But it was certainly nice having the whole family around, at least for a little while.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Generations

I'm not quite to "geezer" status, but I'll be hitting a pretty big milestone in about a month when I turn 50.  And some events of the last week have me thinking about that and what it means....

I spent most of last week traveling to and from and attending some organizational meetings in Florida for my employer.  Not exciting stuff, but a chance to see a few people I like and enjoy, coupled with the dreaded all-day meeting scenario.  I can honestly say I didn't learn a great deal from these meetings that I did not already know, but I think a few people learned some things about me.

I continued to make the point with almost everyone who asked (and many who didn't) that, at the conclusion of the trip I would be starting a ten day vacation and that my wife and I would be joined for nearly all of that time by our daughter and her family, visiting from Colorado!  The enthusiasm for this visit was etched on my face, I suppose, because nearly everyone could not help but comment positively, and many congratulated me for my ingenious scheduling and such.  I had nothing to do with the planning, I told them, it was all based on the best deal that our daughter's family could find for airfares and some events within her husband's family that had already been scheduled!

So I traveled back from the Louisville airport with a carload of folks and a whole bunch of luggage in the back.  And it's been fun since then, but I still think my favorite set of moments were when my granddaughter spotted me in the airport terminal and ran, full speed, into my arms for a long and satisfying hug.  And seeing my grandson for the first time since Christmas....a big, dimply smile, laughing and grabbing.....wow.

So, as I told someone whom I don't know well but with whom I spoke on Friday, I'll be playing the role of Poppy until July 5.  Manning the grill, entertaining the troops.....all in a day's work!  Child's play, actually!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's new

Now that I've finally completed a start-and-stop project for work I have a little time to post here and regale you with what's been happening on my end of the connection.  The answer, simply, is "not much."

But what will be happening next week should be something great.....I return from a business trip and about twenty minutes after my plane lands in Louisville (not my home airport of Lexington) our daughter and her family should also arrive, and I'll be bringing them back home with me for a visit that will last through July 5!

And we're going to have a huge DOUBLE baptism on July 3, so we should have a lot of fun with the little ones here (oh, and their parents, too).  Can't wait to see our Kentucky granddaughter and our Colorado grandson crawling all over the place!

But we have lots and lots of work to do to prepare, since I have to leave on that business trip on Monday.  Shopping, cleaning (carpets cleaned Wednesday, and just in the nick of time!), arranging furniture, changing out bed linens, you name it.  We're planning to be BUSY over the weekend!

Yesterday I played in a golf scramble put on by a professional association of which my company is a member.  Now, if you don't play golf, this will be lost on you, but the organizers somehow decided that the men should play from the back tees (the furthest from the hole) and the holes were placed in some of the most awkward and inaccessible places I've seen on this particular course.  It's a really great course, but making it harder for a "fun" event didn't make a lot of sense to me.  My associate actually decided to leave midway through her round when she saw that it was going to take a while.

And that was a good call, since my group took nearly SIX hours to play a round of golf.  I love the game of golf, but maybe not that much.

Wonder how Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson feel about golf this morning?  Both managed to complete their first round in the U.S. Open, "golf's toughest test," without a birdie between them.  I'd say they're not too happy, but it should be interesting to see if they channel that anxiety into better play today.

Have a good weekend and I'll try to report back on how our weekend went.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ren-o-va-tion!

Well, well, well....the Smith manse is looking a bit spiffier these days, with the addition of new countertops in our galley kitchen!

The genesis of this started, oh, years ago, from our obsessive viewing of HGTV (and it's not just my wife, as I like many of the design and real estate programs) and the desire to update our kitchen.  You see, we attempted to sell and relocate a couple of years ago (a story I'll tell at length at some point in the future), and while our kitchen contained a new-ish fridge, range and microwave, the countertops, primary lighting and wallpaper were original equipment from our home's construction in 1987.  And at the suggestion of our realtors, we did nothing to it except clean thoroughly, as our realtors felt that most homebuyers could look beyond any dated decor and foresee placing their own stamp on the space.

So we were unsuccessful in selling.  Then, in the early part of 2009 we decided to strip dated wallpaper from our downstairs bathrooms and our kitchen.  Thankfully, our son and his wife had bought a wallpaper steamer when they purchased their current home, so I could use their device and take my time.  Over the course of about six weeks I completed all of the stripping and repainting, finishing with the kitchen.  My wife and I both liked the outcome but kept thinking that the counters were really dulling the effect of our efforts.  So we looked and thought and looked and thought and did.....nothing.

Not because we didn't want to, but because we couldn't really justify granite countertops, even in such a small space.  But somewhere along the line we were at a home improvement store on one of our wandering Saturdays (my wife calls them "Rick days") and happened into the kitchen cabinet section and found a decent selection of countertop pieces with the laminate surfaces already affixed.  And to our surprise, many of them had the look of stone, but at a fraction of the price.  We agreed that this would be a worthwhile undertaking to inexpensively facelift our kitchen a bit further, but time passed and we occasionally saw these prefabricated countertops again and picked up a few surface samples to look at in our kitchen.

Gradually we settled on the color choice for WHENEVER we decided to go forward.  And more time passed....

But a couple of weekends ago we accompanied our son, his wife and our adorable granddaughter to IKEA, north of Cincinnati.  If you're not familiar with IKEA, look them up online.  It's a veritable Mecca of home furnishings and fixtures, and they have many, MANY kitchen models set up to show how easily you, too, can remodel.  The kids obviously plan to redo their kitchen, but that probably accelerated our interest, and, before you know it, the following Tuesday I was removing the backsplashes from our counters (they were separate from the countertops).  My wife questioned my motives and, indeed, my sanity, as our daughter and her family will be visiting for a spell later this month.  I explained that I had to sand and paint the walls behind these backsplashes and that I would see to it that it looked presentable.

In truth, that sanding and painting job was a little easier than I anticipated, so my next step was to see if our son, who had worked in residential and commercial construction during and immediately after college, would be available to assist (which is pronounced "do it for me") that weekend...LAST weekend, to be precise.  He was, so now we were heading down that road and gaining speed!

Friday night I cleared the space beneath the sink and removed it and the garbage disposal (we had decided to keep all of that).  Then I called our preferred home improvement store to ascertain which location had the goods we needed, and on Saturday morning our son and I set sail to buy it all.  But first we had to unload the truckload (I'm not kidding) of tools and aids necessary to this job.  And our son bought a table saw for the occasion, and assured me he would be using that device for lots more than our little kitchen job.

Removing the old countertops was really not difficult.  What was difficult, though, was dealing with the walls in our kitchen.  The house was constructed by an independent homebuilder with, shall we say, liberal definitions of quality control.  So my running joke is there isn't a square angle in the entire house, and the walls of the kitchen were no exception.  And the countertops we bought had the backsplash already built into them (four inch height), so there was no allowance for a slight curving of the backsplash to hide imperfections in the plumbness of the wall.

So, to make a long story short, after about eight hours of effort on Saturday and another five or six on Sunday, our kitchen renovation was complete.  We were absolutely stunned by the results, and since I had removed the plumbing, I insisted on replacing it myself (after all, I had to so something on this job, right?).  All went well, except....

....a guyser when we went to use the dishwasher.  A vent piece that sits atop the sink (most everyone has something similar) had fallen out of the cover and thankfully we were standing by when Old Faithful appeared, so that we could shut everything off.

....the seal around the garbage disposal decided that now would be a good time to fail, so a couple of abortive efforts and finally the purchase of some plumber's putty did the trick.

Am I happy?  Absolutely!  Did the job come in under budget?  We really didn't set a budget, but the whole job was completed for just over $300, which ain't bad, regardless of how you count the money!  And is my wife happy?  Oh, yeah!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Good sports....well, mostly

A few sports observations in today's post....

First, farewell and congratulations to Ken Griffey, Jr.  He announced very quietly and very indirectly this week that he was retiring from major league baseball after 22 seasons, eight of which were spent with my Cincinnati Reds.  Now, let's be fair...Junior got a lot of flak from fans and the media while he was with the Reds, because his contract was so large that it prevented the Reds from acquiring other players, and he began to physically break down and experience major injuries for the first time in his career.  But when he was healthy, my, he was something to see.  Even after he had lost a step he was still capable of producing thrills on the field, smashing majestic home runs with that oh-so-sweet swing of his and robbing opposing batters of home runs with electrifying catches at or even over the outfield fence!  He was a quiet, private guy, from all reports, but loved and respected the game and his teammates and I wish him well in the next phase of his life!

I would also like to congratulate everyone except Commissioner Bud Selig for their respective roles in the perfect game that wasn't a couple of nights ago in Detroit.  If you missed it, a pitcher for the Tigers named Armando Gallaraga was about to pitch that rarest of feats, a perfect game (no hits, no walks, no batters hit by a pitch, no errors).  Last batter grounds to the first baseman, who flips to Gallaraga covering first, and that's that, but umpire Jim Joyce calls the runner safe. And a short time later admits a mistake and that the runner should have been called out.  Since that occurred, Joyce showed a tremendous amount of class and grace, as did Gallaraga (who received a new Corvette for his almost-perfect game) and the Tiger fans, who could just as easily attempted to boo Mr. Joyce out of the state of Michigan when he reported for home plate umpiring duty the next day.  But the Commish decided that, no, the "human element" has always been a part of baseball, etc., etc.  Another gaffe by Bud Light...one wonders if the game will implode before he exits the stage, ever so reluctantly.

Now, before I close, I want to comment on the latest situation surrounding Kentucky basketball, coach John Calipari and departing guard Eric Bledsoe.  Mr. Bledsoe's grades weren't great in his junior year of high school, but he changed schools and his fortunes improved, allowing his new school to compete for the Alabama state high school championship and for him to be recruited by major universities, ultimately signing with Kentucky for the most recent basketball season.  But it seems that the NCAA is now investigating his classroom improvements in his senior year of high school, despite having cleared him (academically) to play college basketball.

Universities have to rely on the NCAA Clearinghouse to approve players for competition, but apparently the investigative arm of the Association reserves the right to check things out after the fact and second-guess their own Clearinghouse, which is what appears to be happening here.  One would hope that the NCAA will eventually clear their own house of this inconsistent procedure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drive (and park) at your own risk

My home city of Lexington, Kentucky has always struggled with finding an identity for its downtown area.  When I was a kid I remember the phrase "urban renewal" being thrown about pretty regularly, and gradually a few new office buildings, a couple of hotels and Rupp Arena, home of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, all were built.  A few other developments have taken place in the the thirty years since all of that development, but not all that much.  But things appear to be moving along now.


The catalyst?  An upcoming event called the World Equestrian Games.


Now, to be fair, I'm not a devotee of equestrian sports.   My understanding is that this series of events involves a great deal of training and dedication, and I do not wish to demean anyone who participates in this sport.  But the Lexington area is making significant investments in infrastructure in order to accommodate the large numbers of visitors (competitors and spectators, one would assume) who are expected to visit the area during this event.


As a result several major thoroughfares look like war zones at present.  One major artery has had several blocks between the University of Kentucky campus and downtown Lexington closed for months, while work was performed on storm sewers and other utilities.  And just today I found lanes closed on three different streets, making it difficult to escape the downtown area, where I lunched with a friend.


That brings me to the fly in the ointment for today.


I learned today that in 1983 the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government set up provisions for a downtown parking authority.  Apparently this concept is popular in other cities, but this was completely obscure until 2008, when the authority came into reality and began charging exhorbitant rates for metered parking.


Why do I know this, you ask?  Because I got a parking ticket today.


Yes, I inserted well over a dollar of coins to ensure that I was parked legally on a side street adjacent to the site of today's lunch.  As my friend and I emerged from the restaurant I saw a parking enforcement worker ("meter maid" is a little outdated, I would think) and I actually commented to my friend that I hoped I got to my car before did.  I then heard laughter as this parking person walked away from me down the street.


And then I arrived at my car and saw something stuck in the windshield wiper.  A citation for $15.  Turns out that the chap who enforces parking on that street---a street upon which mine was the ONLY car parked when I arrived and when I left--had, in fact, arrived on the scene no more than two minutes before I did.


$15.


That's not all.  The citation goes on to say that if it's not paid in ten days, the fine DOUBLES.  Instructions were provided on appeals and such, and there was a phone number, so in order to allow myself time to cool off a bit I elected to wait until I arrived back at home before calling.


When I called I spoke with a pleasant woman, who after hearing me rattle on for a minute or two suggested that I speak with her manager.  He came on the line and was a little too chipper for my liking, and apparently had heard all of this before....the outrage of paying so much for metered parking and STILL getting a ticket.  How this discouraged people from visiting downtown.  How it would be a LONG while before I parked at a meter unless I had absolutely no choice.


This fellow then explained to me that the Lexington Parking Authority, or LexPark, is a self-supporting entity, and that their existence is owed to the merchants of Lexington's downtown area.  Turns out that these merchants apparently felt that too many office workers were hogging up all of the parking meters, as that's cheaper than buying a monthly spot, so these merchants BEGGED the city leadership to put something in place to reverse the trend.


If you're a resident of the Lexington area and find this parking nonsense as disagreeable as I do, the executive director of LexPark is Gary Means.  He can be reached at 859-231-PARK.


Well, now that I've had my "get off my lawn" moment, I feel so much better.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reflections from the road

As I write this post, I'm sitting in a bakery in Montgomery, Alabama, in a behind-numbing chair that apparently has seen its better days.  I've just about concluded a three day road trip for my company and my fourth travel day of this week.  This trip involved sales calls and representing the organization in a charity golf event outside of the city here.  With all of that in mind, I have some open questions I'd like to pose to no one in particular....

Isn't it nice to hear everyone (or nearly everyone, anyway) speak with a lilting Southern drawl?

This part of the country has endured some pretty serious rain over the past several weeks.  With that being the case, how can a golf course have such rock-hard ground all over it?  About the only thing that was soft were the greens.  Everything else was hard-pan with very short and spotty grass.

Why do certain parts of the country NOT restrict smoking in certain places, like restaurants?  The information on the health risks of second-hand smoke are available for all to see, isn't it?

We had good, if hot, weather for our golf event yesterday.  Then last night a major storm system blew through the southeast and dropped significant rain on the Montgomery area.  How, then, did the power in the hotel go out THIS MORNING?


OK, enough questions.

My beloved Cincinnati Reds have been a great source of pride over the past couple of weeks, winning the majority of their games and surging briefly into first place in their division.  They lost two heartbreakers in Atlanta over the past couple of days (one more question--why was the Reds-Braves game not televised Wednesday night in the Montgomery area?) but I'm very hopeful the boys will shake it off and resume their mostly winning ways.

Saw a blurb this morning that Tiger Woods' apparently estranged wife Elin is going for the fences, asking $750 million and FULL custody of the couple's two children.  Pay up, Tiger.  Allowing this sordid set of circumstances to drag on cannot be good for anyone involved.

And, with that, it's time to head to the airport to head for home.  Have a good weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2010

If you build it, they will......sell it?

Just saw this news item reprinted from the Des Moines (IA) Register and paraphrased here:



Iowa's world-famous “Field of Dreams” is for sale.  The field featured in the 1989 move is part of a 193-acre tract that the Lansing family have had in their family for more than 100 years.They're asking $5.4 million for the field and surrounding farmland plus the house used in the movie.
The sale will be conduced without stipulations, meaning the new owner could potentially plow under the field, just as the fictitious Ray Kinsella was urged to do by his bankers in the movie.

Now, if you're not a baseball fan, or a movie buff, or a Kevin Costner fan, perhaps you've not seen this gem from 21 years ago.  But if you are any of those things, then you know that this is almost sacred ground.  Because I've actually been there!

One of those odd convergences of circumstances wherein our daughter was moving to Denver for a residency in her field, and so my one and only condition of helping was that my wife and I return via Iowa so that I could see this sight for myself.  And it didn't disappoint, save for the fact that the corn was only ankle-high at the time of our visit.

My wife is not really a baseball fan, but thankfully she's a big Rick fan.  So if that's what I wanted, she was all for it.  And so we trekked eastward from the Denver area, north into Wyoming, then east through Nebraska and Iowa until we got within fifty or so miles. We were among the first visitors that day (a Friday, if I recall correctly) and we were there a couple of hours.  By the time we left there were about twenty or thirty people there, mostly families, but all delighted to see a baseball diamond amid cornfields.

I had a ball, a bat and a glove, and my wife threw me a pitch that I couldn't help but rip into left-center field so that I could run the bases.  One of my favorite photos of her depicts her sitting atop the bleachers from the movie (they're still there, too) with a big smile.  Probably amused at what a goof her husband became the minute we arrived.

Speaking of smiling, I don't believe I stopped grinning until we hit a major traffic jam outside of Rockford, IL later that day on our way into Chicago.

The field was at one time owned by two families, the Lansings, who owned the house and the majority of the field itself, and another family who owned the left two-thirds of the outfield.  Rumor has it that at one time the latter group actually plowed under their share of the field and then came to their senses and helped restore the field.  Later the Lansings bought out the other family, so it's all theirs until they find a new owner.

Amazingly, there is no charge to visit, despite the Terrence Mann comment that "they'll hand over the money and not even know why they were doing it."

My most cherished reminder of that visit is a framed poster showing the house and field from a somewhat elevated view.  It hangs in our garage to this day.

I wouldn't presume to tell the Lansing family what to do, but here's hoping that the next owners recognize what a special place this field has to some of us and keep it as it is, for all to enjoy.

After all, "if you build it, they will come."  We did.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of sleeping ballplayers, torn Tigers and others

Lots of fodder in the recent sports headlines to chew on....

First and perhaps most disappointing if true:  there are reports from anonymous sources (is there another kind in a situation like this?) on the Seattle Mariners that Hall-of-Famer-as-soon-as-he-retires Ken Griffey, Jr. was not inserted as a pinch-hitter in a recent game, ostensibly because he was ASLEEP in the clubhouse!  Frankly, Griffey always seemed to have enough respect for the game that I find this hard to believe, but you just never know.  And the players were supposedly younger players who like and respect Griff, so, again, it's hard to tell what's what.  Very telling, though, that both Griffey and the team's manager were very quick to refute the report.  What IS true and not in dispute is that Griffey's offensive production is so poor that he doesn't even serve as the designated hitter in every game.  He's batting around .200 (that's not very good, for any non-baseball fans reading this) and has not hit a home run this year.  If your heart's not in it, Junior, retire with your dignity intact.

Someone who apparently has less and less of his own dignity these days is Tiger Woods.  As someone wrote online recently (and I'm paraphrasing), every time you think this guy has hit bottom something else happens or surfaces to make things even worse.  And Tiger not only was a non-factor in the recently completed Players' Championship (won by diminutive first-time winner Tim Clark), but he withdrew mid-round Sunday with some sort of neck injury that he now says has been bothering him for over a month (but that he didn't mention at the Masters, apparently).  Then news broke Monday night that Hank Haney, the architect of Woods' most recent swing rebuilding project, had decided to end his relationship with Tiger.  I heard a former pro golfer comment that the "swing coach" role is highly overrated, but it's no secret that several golfers, including Phil Mickelson, enjoy a new level of success after changing "swing coaches" from time to time.  If I'm Tiger and half of what has been printed about me is true, I simply disappear from golf AND public view.  For at least a year.  But that's me.

Happier subject, for me, at least.....if you're scoring at home, the Cincinnati Reds have won 10 of their last 14 games and their starting pitching is FINALLY looking like many of us thought it would this season.  And they're producing offense, which is a nice treat after squeaking out wins with little or no offensive production for so long.  Hope they can keep it up through Sunday, when a couple of friends and I will trek to Great American Ball Park to see the Redlegs play the Cardinals.

Now, let's be careful out there.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The whole wide world

This entry isn't about any one subject....

First, I find it repugnant that BP is acting as though it's not REALLY their responsibility to clean up the massive and ever-growing oil slick that threatens to contaminate the Gulf of Mexico's coastal areas for the next several years.  Simply put, you break it, you bought it, in my opinion, so in that context it IS BP's responsibility.  But this doesn't really strengthen anyone's argument that "drill, baby, drill" is going to be the answer to our domestic energy needs, at least not without destroying the environment in any part of the country where drilling will take place.  

This, of course, does not in any way contemplate what happens to those who work the ocean for their livelihood, namely the commercial fishing and shrimping boats.  And I agree with those who wrote that they don't understand why this event has caused gasoline prices to spike 10 cents a gallon.

Glad to get that off my chest.

Saw that last night an unruly fan at Citizens' Bank Park in Philadelphia was tazed by police after he entered the playing field, a definite no-no.  This is the same place where a man deliberately vomited on neighboring fans after those neighbors saw to it that the man's friend was removed for bad behavior. Turns out the victim was a police officer from a neighboring community, out with his daughter.  And lest we forget, this is the same city where fans once booed Santa Claus.

The Kentucky media and blogosphere is up in arms after John Calipari's first Kentucky basketball team turned in a less-than-stellar classroom performance, among the lowest ranked in the Southeastern Conference.  I'm afraid it's this simple--you can have stand-up student-athletes who perform well in the classroom and play hard on the field or court, or you can have absurdly talented ballplayers whose primary interest in college is the athletics, and not the academic benefits.  Just can't have both.

The local newspaper just detailed some comings and goings from local television stations' news/weather staffs.  Really, can you imagine anything more thankless than having to pay dues at a small market or lower rated station, and moving very slowly and gradually up the ladder to bigger and bigger markets (if your talent allows)?  Good thing most businesses don't work that way, or else we'd all give up and work retail or something.

My blogger buddy from The Queen's Ramblings (check out her blog, there's a link here somewhere) is beginning to worry me with all of this talk about dresses, handbags and now mascara.  I mean, you'd think she's a GIRL or something!

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