Sunday, April 25, 2010

The temporary bachelor

As I write this, my wife is in Colorado for the weekend with our daughter and her kids, so I'm temporarily a solo act....and it feels a little strange.

To be sure, I travel extensively for my work, and that's almost always alone, at least at night and while the travel itself occurs.  So I'm used to the alone time, but not at home.  That's what feels so odd.

Quick itinerary...I took my wife to the Cincinnati airport early Friday morning for her outbound flight.  We kissed goodbye at around 7:30 or so and I went down the road to a coffee shop with Wi-Fi so that I could work while waiting to make sure her flight departed as planned (also to escape the excessive parking garage fees, as I paid $3.00 to be in the garage about forty minutes.  Clearly, many of us are in the wrong business!).  So I've been on my own since that time.

Friday night my son and I spent and enjoyable if frustrating evening to, at and from Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati to see our beloved Reds get crushed at the hands of the red-hot San Diego Padres.  Despite the lopsided score, it's always a good time at the ballpark, and Friday evening was no exception.  The fun was punctuated by our receipt of the annual Reds team calendar, complete with grocery coupons in the back that must be redeemed in the Cincinnati area.  So we made a stop at a grocery in northern Kentucky and had some scavenger-hunt-style fun locating the free items.

Yesterday I attended Kentucky's Blue-White spring football game, which drew a crowd of about 9,000 despite threatening weather.  In fact, the game was halted with about three minutes to go because of the impending severe weather, which arrived like clockwork about the time I arrived at my car.  From there, didn't do much else, ate some leftovers for dinner and watched some television before retiring.

Here's one of the odd things about being momentarily a solo act....I love to cook, but not for just me.  No way, man. So I just went to the bakery and returned with two bagels and some coffee.  Remember, I work at home when I'm not traveling, so it's not at all a different scenario than a weekday, and I would never go and get breakfast.  But I did today.

My wife returns tomorrow afternoon.  I talked with her each of the last two evenings and she's having a great visit, which is what we both wanted.  But I'll be SO glad to see her!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wheels are turnin'

Recently my wife and I came to agreement about a new form of exercise that we could both undertake and do together.  We both are walkers, but due to foot and shin problems I can't comfortably walk on sidewalks (too hard) and my wife prefers to walk outdoors, so we were stuck.  Then at some point we hit on the idea of getting bicycles.  So, at the ripe old age of 49, off I went, with my wife along, to a local bicycle dealer to learn the finer points of riding at a, well, mature stage of life.

First thing the helpful salesperson said was, "You need a comfort bike."  Can't disagree with that.  We also talked about how and where we'd use the bikes, features, what's changed since my last ten-speed about thirty years ago, and construction (since I'm overweight I was concerned about the durability of a standard bike),.  He then showed us a line of bikes by a company called Trek, which he later explained is one of Lance Armstrong's sponsors (and apparently Lance also owns a bit of the company).  After a bit more discussion he recommended a particular line of comfort bikes, with version 2.0 for my wife and 3.0 for me, mostly for the additional construction elements that would support me properly.

Then he adjusted the seats and collected our drivers' licenses so that we could test-ride the bikes.  For some reason, it never occurred to me that we'd have the chance to do anything more than sit on them in the store, but off we went, down the sidewalk and into a residential area of our home city adjacent to a park.  We both agreed readily that we liked the easy action of the bikes and my wife kept commenting at how light it was.  Since I hadn't been on a bicycle for a good while, I wasn't sure if I was uncomfortable due to nerves or was physically not comfortable, but the word "comfort" and "bicycle" generally don't reside in the same sentence with me anyway.

We returned to the store, the salesperson making a winking remark about how long we were gone, and told him we wanted to think about the purchase.  A week later we returned and bought the very bikes that we had test-ridden.

So now our evening routine includes a bike ride of twenty to forty minutes, never too far from the house, and thankfully we live in a fairly level area.  Despite having many speeds from which to choose, it's still anathema to struggle up hills, and hard pumping really bothers one of my knees.  Regardless, though, we're enjoying it so far, and have not struck any pedestrians (although some of the dirty looks we get from those we ask to share bike/walking paths have been imposing).

The bikes are due back at the dealer sometime in the next week or two for a thirty-day check.  No problems yet, although I did manage to make the chain jump off the front sprockets the other night.  I managed a field repair and no problems from there, save the grease on my hands.

So if you happen to see a middle-aged couple on new bikes with snazzy helmets and a winded look on their faces, that's probably us.  Gangway!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sometimes you just have to experience it to believe it....

Thought the above title would be a good conversation starter for today.  To wit:

I just answered my home phone (I work at home but use a different phone for business, so I know that when the home telephone line rings, it's not a business call).  Said "hello" two or three times and then finally the call engaged on the other end.  Dead giveaway--it's some sort of call center.  A man with a very thick but indeterminate accent asked to speak with me, then identified himself as "Jim."  "Jim" was calling from the "verification center" claiming that an error had been made in my checking account, and, after reciting my correct name and address, he then asked me for the account and routing numbers for my bank account.  I know, I know, and I knew it then, too, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to tweak this guy a bit.  I told him that if he'd be good enough to provide me with his phone number I 'd be happy to call him back once I spoke with my financial institution.  He then protested that I shouldn't need to call him back as we were already in contact, then I asked for his supervisor and he hung up.

The saddest part of that whole exchange is that for everyone like me who sees through this sort of scam, there are a lot of unsuspecting folks who are elderly or otherwise susceptible who WILL believe this is on the up-and-up and WILL give out their bank account numbers.  And I live in a state where we allegedly have a no-call list prohibiting calls from anyone with whom I don't have a current business relationship....

The other thing I wanted to mention that I observed (on television) but didn't experience directly was Tiger Woods and his return to the golf scene last week at the Masters in Augusta, GA.  The week started with lots of mea culpas on his part about what a bad, bad boy he'd been, but by the time Tiger finished his final round yesterday, gone were the lighter expressions, the glad-handing with spectators (sorry, they're PATRONS at Augusta National), the signing of autographs, etc.  They were replaced with him claiming that people were making too much of his pledge to conduct himself better on the golf course (and more importantly, on television), as he let fly with a good many expletive-laced outbursts after bad shots or bad luck.  I played with a group of other hackers on Saturday and I guarantee you that between the four of us we didn't have as many profanities uttered as Tiger did YESTERDAY.

Best to edit yourself, or it will be virtually impossible to recognize you, the high achieving athlete from the other you, whom we've all come to know a bit too much about in the past few months.

Finally, a shout-out to my favorite business author, Tom Peters.  Read him at tompeters.com, as well as his new book, "The Little BIG Things," which I just finished last week.  It's a typically great and inspirational book if you work in the business world and really believe that things could be made better by how we and our employers approach......well, everything!  I guarantee you'll pick up at least a dozen things you can use!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Drivin' my life away (in more ways than one)

Recently a new series (if you can call it that) appeared on the Travel Channel, called "America's Worst Driver."  It's actually a series of competitions in various major cities (so far I can recall San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, and this week's episode was to feature Miami, but we haven't watched yet) wherein people actually nominate friends, relatives or other loved ones as someone who legitimately contends to be that city's worst driver.  There's every possibility that the whole thing is contrived, and what's worse, the "competition" that takes place consists of tasks that GOOD drivers would find difficult or more.

Anyway, I mention this because my work status changed and I'm doing more traveling by car than plane these days, which takes me back to how things were until about 2005.  But as adept and almost anesthetized as I became about air travel (still am, since I can't control any of it, it's just as well), there's no time or room for that when you're driving.

Here's an example.  On a trip several weeks ago I had a choice to driving to my destination through Knoxville, Tennessee or taking what appeared to be a shortcut through parts of southeastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee, so I opted for the shortcut.  Problem is, I passed through a smallish town in Tennessee (remember the credo of this blog, no names) and lo and behold, I was awarded a remotely issues speeding ticket for my trouble as I passed through this burg.  Turns out that the city fathers invested in a camera system that's monitored somewhere in Arizona, and it "detected" me driving faster than the poorly posted speed limit.  Honestly, I recognized I had entered the proverbial congested area and felt that the speed limit should be lower, and at the first point where I noted a sign indicating a lessened speed limit, I complied and slowed down....but, of course, I got ticketed for how fast I was driving BEFORE that.

Anyway, to make a long story longer (as my mom used to say), the increased driving and this show about bad drivers has made me keenly aware of what happens on the streets and roads.  Rolling stops....incessant cellphone usage (honestly, is there anything worse for traffic safety than unlimited cellphone plans?)....lack of turn signals for turns or highway lane changes.....women applying makeup (!)....and the list goes on.

It's not a recent example by any means but my wife and I were traveling to Colorado by car once to visit our daughter and her family, and we actually came upon someone on I-70 READING A BOOK WHILE DRIVING.

As I write this my wife and I have just completed a Lexington-to-Cincinnati-to-Henderson/Morganfield, KY trip starting Friday morning.  Saw a lot of what I described above.  People asleep in the left lane.  People who stopped nearly dead in the street attempting to decide where to go next.  People blocking traffic in a mall parking lot to get our primo parking space a full five minutes before we were ready to leave (if you shop and buy a few things, you have to take the time to arrange your stuff before you take off, right?).

But we're here, safe and sound, so either we were very lucky over all of those miles or I'm an excellent driver.  Either way, I have a trip to Arkansas for business this week, and I'm actually kind of glad that most of it will be in the air.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Your personal April fool here

OK, I couldn't resist the subject line, given that today is, well, you know.....

But today's supposed to be the day that the long, breathlessly awaited Apple iPad becomes available for regular people to see, touch, play with, gawk at, etc.  My lovely wife and I will be visiting Cincinnati tomorrow for a mini-getaway prior to visiting family for the Easter weekend, and one of the stops I have planned for us is a visit to the Apple Store to hopefully see this creation.  I've just read a few of the reviews and they're a little mixed about the product.  But I truly enjoy seeing reader comments about how Apple fans are 'sheep' and will buy anything that this company cranks out.  Not true, I would respond, as I have had a cellphone for many years but do NOT own an iPhone.  Anyway, looking forward to seeing this device, whether this weekend or shortly thereafter.

College basketball's Final Four is this weekend and I'm really not that interested, what with Kentucky having been eliminated last weekend via their poor shooting from the field and the line.  And Kentucky fans are now hearing the inevitable that no fewer than six of this year's players are planning to test the NBA draft.   While I don't think that all of them are ready to play at the "next level," I wish them well in trying.  Good luck to all.

More importantly, next Monday is the "official" opening day of the major league baseball season.  I would argue that "official" fits because ESPN many years ago worked it out to have a pre-opener on the Sunday evening before the "real" opening day.  I'm a Reds fan, and there's really nothing more special in the sports world than Opening Day (note that I capitalized it) in Cincinnati.  School's out, there's a big parade, lots of pageantry, and, oh, by the way, there's a baseball game.  This used to be a lot bigger deal because the Reds were unofficial assured by major league baseball that, as the oldest professional baseball franchise, they would have the honor of being the first team to take the field.  Then somewhere about ten years ago another team slipped in ahead of them, and then all hell broke loose and it seemed three or four games were starting before the Reds' opener.  No matter, as I have always viewed this day with appropriate reverence.  For many years I have taken this day off work, and this year is no exception.  And I've passed this heritage along to my son, who will also be taking a day away from his labors to enjoy baseball, on the one day when everyone is in first place!

I have some exciting business travel coming up....well, maybe not THAT exciting.  I will be joining a sales rep on my team for an association function in Hot Springs, Arkansas next Tuesday through Thursday, then a couple of weeks hence will be visiting Pawleys Island, South Carolina for another similar event with another rep.  No time for golf either place, but hopefully the weather will cooperate.....

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