Friday, December 30, 2011

Just rewards

If you've stopped by here once or twice, you know that I travel extensively for my job.  And while that might not mean that I'm traveling across the ocean to Europe or Japan, I'm on the road a LOT.

About the only thing that makes it bearable is that I have the opportunity to collect, keep and redeem my frequent flier and hotel patron miles or points.  I suppose that's the saving grace for most road warriors, though I seldom want to travel very far for leisure.

That said, I've had some interesting experiences in redeeming some of the points I've accumulated over time with various hotel chains and airlines.  Here's a quick sampling of what I've experienced.

DELTA SKYMILES

This is probably my favorite, as I fly Delta just about exclusively (where I start in Lexington, Kentucky, Delta is my best option for booking travel to nearly anywhere).  And I have a Delta Skymiles American Express credit card which I use for all of my business-related travel expenses.  Thanks to Delta and American Express I've been able to "buy" six round-trip tickets over the past year, and have paid the princely sum of a $5 service charge each time.  Friends and relatives have complained about the difficulties of using miles for reward tickets, but I've seldom, if ever, had problems with Delta in this regard.

MARRIOTT REWARDS

Another program to which I am very loyal, choosing to stay in Marriott-branded hotels whenever and wherever possible.  We also have a Marriott Rewards Visa card on which we charge some monthly expenses, like gasoline purchases.  And we generally enjoy four to eight free nights in Marriott hotels annually, though this year we stayed fewer free nights.

This program also offers merchandise purchases by using only points, no added costs or shipping charges.  Recently I acquired a set of Bose earbuds for travel and just today redeemed a few more points for a music-only Apple iPod.  And I still have enough points for another hotel stay!

U.S. AIRWAYS DIVIDEND MILES

The least useful of my accounts, I seldom, if ever, fly U.S. Air, even though their primary hub city of Charlotte is a frequent destination of mine.  Their prices are so much higher than other airlines that I can never justify the added expense associated with the convenience of a direct flight.  And their miles program offers no merchandise rewards that I've detected, save some periodic offers of magazine subscriptions in which I have no interest.  And there's no discernable way to profitably trade these miles for something more useful, at least none that I've determined.

UNITED MILEAGE PLUS

This program just combined with Continental's OnePass program, as the two airlines are now a single entity and are beginning to operate as a single business.  I had miles on both programs, but, unfortunately, not enough for a ticket.  So I reviewed their online merchandise offerings (United is another airline I seldom fly, as they don't serve a lot of the destinations I visit) and found a K-cup coffee maker that might be a nice addition to our kitchen arsenal.  And like the Marriott program above, no surcharges, fees or shipping charges....nice!

HILTON HONORS

Hilton's my first alternate hotel chain; generally, if there's not a Marriott property, there's probably a Hilton hotel where I'm going.  They offer reward hotel nights, but I've never redeemed for one of those.  And recently I explored the merchandise offerings and found they were requiring two to three times what the comparable Marriott program does for the same items.  So I'm still sitting on some HiltonHonors points, and will likely use them for free rooms.

There are others...for instance, Starwood's program encompasses the Westin properties, and I joined their program when I stayed at a Westin a year or so ago for a company function.  But strangely, they don't ever seem to have any record of my stays, so no points ever accumulate.  Odd.

Many restaurants are jumping on this rewards bandwagon, too, and I'm in favor of anything that does not require the member/user to pay a fee to join.  A local restaurant chain operates a pretty good program and my wife and I enjoyed prime rib for next to nothing there a while back!

Very, very, very rewarding!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas....we can still say that, can't we?

Well, we're at Christmas 2011 plus 2 days.  Kentucky is experiencing heavy rain, and has been off and on for a few days.  Not exactly conducive to the holiday spirit, but we didn't find it a damper at all.  In fact, my wife and I commented to each other that this may have been the best Christmas we've had in a long time!

We're really fortunate, in that we have a healthy and growing family, we each have our health, we're both employed (or, as employed as we wish to be, anyway!), and life's pretty good, overall!  As I mentioned in my last post, we all could stand to stop and think about how well off we are a bit more often.

That said, it's been a busy few days, as one would expect.  Despite this, my wife and I managed some recreation by taking in a couple of recently released movies.  Our first choice was "Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows."  This is the sequel to the popular (if not critically acclaimed) release of a couple of years ago featuring Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role, with Jude Law as his faithful companion, Dr. John Watson.  I'm not a veteran of the Arthur Conan Doyle books, but these are meant as entertainment and not a deep meditation on the source works, and they succeed nicely.

Last night we decided to wind up our long weekend with another movie, this time selecting Tom Cruise's latest installment in the "Mission: Impossible"series (no number, this one is called "Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol"), and all I can say in response is WOW!  Great casting, great action sequences, a lot of humor, a great, slam-bang entertainment package directed by a fellow named Brad Bird.  Apparently Bird is an alumnus of TV's "The Simpsons" and had graduated to animated films with Disney/Pixar and others (his animated "The Incredibles" is a favorite of mine).  As I've read recently, why no one gave him the chance to direct a live-action movie until now is uncertain, but this was a great "popcorn" movie and my wife and I were wrung out by the suspense by the movie's end!

I'm most excited about "The Dark Knight Rises," the third portion of Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman trilogy.  Two previews have been released so far, and they're having the expected effect on me.  This film is due to be released on my birthday next summer, so I've already informed my better half that my present must be a trip to the nearest ginormous IMAX screen to see this.

But it's back to work today, for at least a couple of days.  Another four day weekend coming up for me.  Tough, I know, but I'm doing my best to cope.

Hope the holidays were everything you hoped for and more!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here and there

Just back from a nice long weekend trip to Colorado, where my wife and I visited our daughter and her family.  The centerpiece of the weekend was our six-year-old granddaughter's performance in "The Nutcracker."  She was one of the Ginger Snaps who emerge from underneath the skirt of a woman during the second act and, from all appearances, performed her role quite well!

We were delayed a couple of hours leaving the Denver area Monday, not because of the snow that the area was receiving, but because of an aircraft mechanical issue.  Glad that we weren't traveling today, as that same area will be the recipient of six to nine inches of fresh snow.  Great for the ski resorts that dot the mountains outside of Denver, but not so great for the average commuter and certainly not for air travelers.

One of the things I took note of during our extended wait in the Denver airport was a woman who took the opportunity of some downtime (she was apparently flying in from one location and her husband from another, so she was in our vicinity waiting) to write her Christmas cards.  She had what appeared to be a box of about fifteen cards and was handwriting and hand-addressing these cards; she even had stamps with her.  Most impressive.

Each of most of the last twenty years or so we've written and included the "Christmas letter" with our cards.  One year, for a variety of reasons, we decided not to do the letter, and we really heard about it from our card exchangers.  So we've continued the practice since.

For that reason and others, Christmas card effort is seldom a similarly movable feast, as our card list grew with the marriages of both of our children and the addition of their extended families.  We reached a high of sending something like 55 cards a few years ago, and I use the computer to produce labels and our newsletters for legibility and efficiency.  But we've noticed in the last couple of years that we get progressively fewer and fewer cards, and correspondingly, we're sending fewer, too.

My speculation on why we're getting fewer cards--Facebook, e-mail and many other more immediate forms of communication.  By virtue of me commenting so on a blog anyone can see that I am not at all an opponent to social media of various types.  But what I find surprising is that we don't find out information about some with whom we maintain a casual, long-distance friendship until the Christmas card arrives and carries certain news with it.  Like the death of a well-loved aunt from my wife's deceased first husband's family.  This was mentioned casually, as though it was common knowledge, but we knew nothing about it.  Or the cancer that the husband of a college friend of my wife suffered and has apparently overcome.

If you're not in the loop in the normal communication channels (Facebook, I'm looking right at you), you don't find out these things.  We're all so busy and so self-absorbed, I suppose, that it's just easier to post something on Facebook for all to see, rather than get the word out in a more traditional manner.  Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it takes some adjustment.

So at some point we'll inventory the cards we've received this year, and, as we generally do, we'll determine not to send cards to some folks next Christmas.  This sounds kind of punitive, I suppose, but with the cost of cards (and labels and paper and stamps) ever increasing, it's the smartest approach.  So don't be offended if you didn't receive a card from the Smiths.  Fewer and fewer are these days.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the season

Well, just about all of the shopping is finished.  Presents are wrapped and placed under our tree.  Christmas cards were addressed and mailed over a week ago.  My sales team is hosting holiday parties for just about all of our major customers during this week and next.

Yep, looks like we're just about ready for our annual celebration.

This is always a time that tests one's patience and frays one's nerves, if we allow that to happen.  My wife and I always set a budget and nearly always realize there's someone or something that we neglected to identify.  And there's always a relative or two that just swears they're not buying gifts for anyone this year, only to catch us by surprise nearer to the holiday.

We're very fortunate that these are "problems" by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet in the past few years we've found small ways to share our abundance and add to our holiday joy.  A couple of years ago, I found about a local organization that assists the homeless, and they're entirely local, not tied in any way to a larger national or even regional bureaucracy.  So three years ago we began contributing a few dollars several times per year to their cause.  Maybe it doesn't help, but I suppose our modest donations cannot hurt, either.

Our church also does something called the Giving Tree, wherein church members pick up one or more giving tree cards which identify a needed gift for a deserving family or individual, and then contribute the item indicated.  We've routinely done that for the past ten years or more.

And this year the local Salvation Army chapter sponsored something called a Food Angel.  They are available at local groceries and when you buy one the proceeds go toward providing Christmas dinner to a needy family.

I feel good that we do these things, but, at the same time, cannot help but feel bad that such measures are even necessary in this day and age.  And I don't want to turn this into a discourse on the 1% vs. the 99%, but you get my meaning, I'm sure.

If you don't have money to donate, give your time, as many local agencies who assist the deserving can always use an extra pair of hands.  Or two.

Enjoy the holidays!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Randomness

No coherent theme for today's post (honestly, is there ever, really, ONE theme for this thing?).  So I'll scatter some thoughts in no particular order.

Herman Cain, we hardly knew ye.  But, then, I'm a man.

President Obama was asked by a reporter about whether the White House has or had a policy of appeasement with regard to terrorists and potential enemies abroad.  Paraphrasing, his response was something along the lines of "You'd need to ask Osama bin Ladin."  Well done, sir.

Thank you, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, for signing Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals to a ten year contract worth as much as the GNP of many countries.  My Cincinnati Reds automatically surge to the "contender" list in the National League Central Division as a result.  I don't have the precise statistics handy to add, but I saw Pujols' length-of-career stats against the Reds for his 11 year tenure with the Cardinals.  During that eleven years Albert played roughly one full season's worth of games against the Reds, and his offensive numbers were astounding---something like 46 home runs, over 100 runs batted in, and a very high batting average.  Reds fans who are lamenting the team's inability to make a deal for a new player are probably also celebrating Pujols' departure from the Cardinals, from the Reds' division and the Reds' league.

Permit me to brag briefly...we're finished with Christmas shopping except for a couple of small items for our grandchildren, and have already mailed our Christmas cards, too.  But thanks to my crushing business travel schedule over the past few weeks, we didn't go to Cincinnati, as we customarily do, for our shopping this year.  Suppose the merchants of Hamilton County got along without us somehow....

I visited Long John Silver's for a meal yesterday, for the first time in a LONG time.  I hadn't been in some time because, frankly, each time I went I became ill afterward from the excessive greasiness of their food.  Last night's fare was fresh, prepared and served quickly, tasty and prompted no ill effects afterward.  So they seem to be on their game again after a few years in the fast food wilderness.  Now, if Wendy's could get its act back together.....

Somewhere along the line I began exploring Pandora Radio as a potential (FREE) replacement to the satellite radio I use in my home office.  I liked the programming choices available (the system asks you to name artists that you like and assembles programming based on your expressed preferences) but until I can figure our how to stream that wirelessly from my Macbook Air to my desktop speaker dock, it's not worth the change.  Although I wouldn't mind saving what I currently spend on that satellite radio.

Speaking of which, I'm running out of things to sell on Craigslist, so if you know of anything that's selling well that I have an extra one of, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interesting filmed entertainment

On another business trip, this time to Tucson, Arizona for organizational meetings through Friday morning.  So, last night, I had the opportunity to see an in-flight movie for the first time in a while.

I had a number of choices but settled on "Larry Crowne," the Tom Hanks written/produced/directed story of a man who is laid off from his second career in mid-life (his first career having been the Navy).  Hanks almost always plays a nice guy, and this is no exception.  The film features a varied cast of supporting players who were well chosen, but the most obvious good choice was Julia Roberts as a frustrated junior-college teacher (a close second was George Takei, of Star Trek Mr. Sulu fame).  Just a little over an hour and a half, a mostly light entertainment with a pleasant message about the possibilities presented by a major event like being laid off from a job.

Then, in the ultimate irony, I arose early this morning (two hours earlier here in Arizona than at home) and found "Up in the Air" on HBO.  That was a movie that features George Clooney (nominated for an Oscar for this role) as an ever-traveling corporate layoff specialist and what he encounters in his life on the road.  Or, in the air, as he flies from city to city, and espouses his preferences about travel and such.  I heard myself a couple of times in some of what Clooney's character espouses, but since he has no family with whom to share the benefits of his ceaseless travels, I think I have a better idea of the value of elite status on airlines and in hotels (why, I was upgraded on my flight to Tucson last night and hope that I will be equally rewarded on my return flight Friday morning).

What I found especially amusing is that in my company, this time of year used to be routinely the time when we would be reorganizing.  We don't do that much anymore, but you can imagine what I was thinking, after watching two movies where corporate "rightsizing" was such a prominent topic, as I walked into my meetings this morning.

Bonus---it was about 40 degrees warmer here in Arizona than it was back home in Kentucky!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Off and running

I simply cannot believe that next Thursday is Thanksgiving.....can you?

I suppose it's a byproduct of age, but I now marvel at how quickly time seems to pass, compared to, say, thirty years ago.  Simply amazing.

But, despite that, we're off and running with our preparations for the Christmas season.  I have all of my time off requests in for work, and we've already done about 60% of our Christmas shopping.  However, before you start throwing things at your computer screen, note that we started a tradition in our family several years ago of buying a variety of gift cards.  This began because our daughter and her family live in Colorado, and since we're not with them frequently, we had less of an idea of what to get them, so the gift card idea became a pretty practical solution to the gift-giving dilemma.  Plus they're easier to ship than larger presents, and we normally ship their holiday gifts to them.

In fact, I bought about half of what we're giving for Christmas this morning....at the grocery store.  You know, the big display with all of the gift cards on it!  What I particularly like about that is that the grocery store also operates a gas station, and your purchases all give you discount points on gas purchases.  Purchases of gift cards pay DOUBLE, so how about that?

I noticed a couple of years ago a lot of restaurants would give the purchaser an extra $5 or $10 off when buying $50 worth of gift cards.  That's always a pretty good deal, too.  Don't do that as much as we once did, as our kids eat out (except for fast food) much less frequently than they used to....

My next move is to write our traditional Christmas letter that we include in the Christmas cards which we send out. And, yes, we have the cards already, too.

My wife and I normally make a trip to Cincinnati over a weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do our holiday shopping and enjoy a weekend out of town, but it looks like that little tradition may be put aside this year, between my frequent business travel and a trip to Colorado we'll make the weekend before Christmas to see our granddaughter perform in a local production of the Nutcracker.

Regardless, I always look forward to the holidays, and hope that you do, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The cut-off point

Had a conversation with my son-in-law a couple days ago regarding his interest in discontinuing cable TV service.  His argument is pretty sound....they can get network TV over-the-air, and most everything else they watch is available either through a streaming service or via DVD.

In my totally unbiased and non-expert opinion, this is an admirable and worthwhile objective.  Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of reasons why I question whether it will work.

Easy to look at your cable bill and then need to reattach your eyebrows to your forehead.  I don't know anyone who doesn't pay what appears to be an obscene amount in order to receive what Bruce Springsteen called "57 Channels and Nothing On."  Why, even my mother-in-law, who lives in a very small town in western Kentucky and has no pay channels, no DVR box, no high-definition service or anything "extra" pays a ridiculous sum each month for so-so channel reception.

So, you have to ask yourself, what's important about MY cable TV package?  For me, the quick and easy answer is live sporting events.  I LOVE the Cincinnati Reds, and LOVE the Kentucky Wildcats, at least their basketball team (football, not so much this year).  Without cable, I wouldn't be able to see most of Kentucky's basketball games, as they'll appear a LOT on ESPN this season, and would not be able to see the Reds but for a couple of times without either having access to Fox Sports Ohio via cable or buying the Major League Baseball TV package for $130 per season (and that ALSO requires you to buy hardware to receive that transmission).

Oh, and did you know that you have to have a broadband internet connection to do most of this streaming that may replace some of your lost cable programming?  If you have DSL or another slower internet service, I understand it won't work.

Believe me, I don't like the idea of paying through the nose to watch television, but when you consider the alternatives (satellite or the method I described above), you'll still pay a fair amount to watch stuff on TV.

Unless you want to just stop watching.  Anyone in favor of that?  Show of hands?

I didn't think so.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Andy Rooney would be proud

When I heard that just-retired CBS and "60 Minutes" commentator Andrew Rooney died last week, I was certainly saddened, but also glad that I got to hear some of his commentaries over the years that he appeared on and I watched "60 Minutes."

On Monday I host a conference call of my direct reports and one of my folks made a venting comment and then apologized for being such a "curmudgeon" today.  Well, I couldn't help but take that ball and run with it, and then the rest of the call became a complaint forum, as I asked each of my team members what was bothering them that day.  Mostly about work, of course, but some other extraneous comments were heard about sports, household things and the like.  And then I shared a couple of my favorite Rooneyisms.

One concerned the worth of the cotton that used to always come stuffed in the top of any kind of medication bottle.  I saw a clip of Andy with that commentary, saying, "So do they expect us to put it back once we get a pill out of the bottle?"  Good question.  I also read that he was against the Iraq War, the first one, and said that he used to think that he was against all war, but he thought back to when he arrived in Europe in World War II (he was a Stars and Stripes correspondent), and said that when he got a look at the Germans that he realized that we were right to enter the war.

I could go on, but it's easier and certainly better to simply Google him, as there are scores of Rooney clips making the rounds on YouTube and elsewhere.  Writing about the man doesn't do him justice.

Not long after I started writing this blog, a commenter, whom I know pretty well, asked something along the lines of whether that was Andy Rooney she was hearing.  Of course it wasn't, as there was and will be only one of those.

If Andy had come along fifty years later, he'd be blogging right alongside me, I'm sure.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Up to here

Tomorrow is election day in Kentucky, and I, for one, will be most glad when the current campaign is over.  Not because it's been a contentious race.  Not because there has been lots of mudslining.  Both are true, but I actually enjoy some political news here and there and Kentucky's down-and-dirty brand of politics is entertaining, to say the least.  And all of Kentucky's statewide offices, governor on down, are at stake in this election.

No, it's the robocalls that I will be happy to have gone.  This phenomenon hit Kentucky a few years ago, and now it seems that candidates from all parties for all offices are resorting to these calls.  They're annoying, not informative and disruptive to normal life, particularly if you work at home as I do.

What I don't get is how these are permitted, even if you're on the statewide telemarketing no-call list, as we are.  This warrants some investigation......

I have a good friend who makes a point of collecting signs that are illegally placed along the right of way (you know the ones, advertising going out of business sales, pizza places and the like), and I expect I'll see him later this week.  When I do I know he's going to regale me with tales of the political signs he's removed since the current campaign began.

Kentucky football fans are breathing again, as a new quarterback led the home team to victory on Saturday.  This came on the heels of news that our former football coach has decided to leave the area.  Guess he's had enough of the second-guessing that has plagued the team since his retirement.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So much to say

Not really, but at least I thought of a catchy title this time around.....

Greetings from Birmingham, Alabama this evening where a very pleasant fall evening is settling onto what I believe is pretty much the centerpoint of the state of Alabama.  Nice folks here, and I always enjoy my visits here.  I'm here on business until sometime Thursday.

Had a very memorable barbecue meal at a local restaurant chain called Full Moon Bar-B-Q.  Outstanding.  Pulled pork and sliced beef brisket, with baked beans and vinegar coleslaw and a toasted bun.  AND two "Half-Moon" cookies.  Wow.  Check it out if you like tasty barbecue and find yourself in the area!

Speaking of food, my wife and I visited a Wendy's in our home area on Saturday, in order to try the new "Dave's Hot and Juicy Cheeseburgers" (sans cheese for me, thanks).  Don't bother.  Wendy's has taken an above average hamburger and apparently diminished the quality and perhaps the size of the beef patties, and the "buttered bun" is actually toasted with "real butter flavor."  All in all, a disappointment, and one that will probably keep me from visiting Dave's place for a while.  I'm a Five Guys man these days, so when a burger craving hits me and I don't have time to make my own, Five Guys is where it's at for me.

Are you as astounded as I am that Herman Cain and Rick Perry are imploding right before our eyes, and the first primary is still about two and a half months away?  Since the average news cycle is about twenty minutes now, these guys need to pull themselves together quickly if they want to be part of the Republican process.

Kentucky's football team wore black uniforms Saturday night, something the previous head coach would not permit.  Didn't matter, as the new look didn't result in a different result.  The Cats lost again, and they're now 3-5 on the season.

And, finally, let us pause to reflect on the failed 77-day marriage of Kim Kardashian and her NBA basketball player hubby Kris Humphries.  Lots of lists floating around about things that have lasted longer than their marriage.  This blog, for example!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can you hear me now?

If you've visited here at all during baseball season, you know that I am an avid (some might say rabid, even) Cincinnati Reds baseball fan.  By virtue of that and some related factors, I am NOT a fan of manager Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals.  The exception is Albert Pujols, who is simply one of the best baseball players I've had the chance to see in person.  Like him?  Not really, but I certainly respect and appreciate the way he plays the game.

So you can imagine my grin this morning after LaRussa outmanaged himself last night, costing his team a win and giving the Texas Rangers a 3-2 lead in the World Series.

With LaRussa, when something goes wrong it appears there's always a story, an explanation, a reason, but, of course, never an EXCUSE.  Remember, LaRussa is a lawyer by training, should there be any questions about his ability to explain things to the media and by extension the public.

So, in last night's game, after I had to turn it off to go to sleep (they're STILL not starting these World Series games early enough!), LaRussa called for a hit-and-run with a runner on first and Albert Pujols, the afore-mentioned all-universe slugger, at the plate.  Never mind that he is absolutely a clutch performer in such situations.  Pujols swung through the pitch and the runner, breaking after getting the sign, was out at second.  LaRussa indicated in his postgame remarks that Albert put that play on himself.  Huh?

Then we come to the eighth inning, and the short version (ESPN.com can provide greater details than I, since I was asleep when this occurred) is that LaRussa claims to have called his bullpen to ask twice for a certain pitcher, only to get others in each case.  Wrong guy pitching, Texas puts men on base and ultimately pushes two across to claim the win.

After the game, Counselor Tony suggested that it's awfully noisy in that part of the Texas stadium, the bullpen phone is in a bad place, etc., etc.  Said he asked for the pitchers he wanted to warm up and instead got a guy who was supposed to sit (he had pitched a good amount in a previous game), and only discovered this when he arrived at the mound.  "What are you doing here?" was what LaRussa claims to have said to the wrong pitcher.

I'm sorry, but the LaRussa mystique has always escaped me.  And now that obvious mistakes were made by LaRussa and his coaching staff, he isn't adult enough to accept responsibility.

 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kitty boy

We lost a family member yesterday.

No, my wife, our kids, their spouses and our four grandchildren are all fine.

I'm referring to our cat, Forbin, whom we had to let go due to what our vet described as a ruptured mammary gland that had become cancerous.

Forbin's story is a very interesting one.  Our son had just moved into an apartment, first time living on his own (except for student-specific housing) and in a quest for companionship, rescued Forbin from the local animal shelter.  He had been told that Forbin was due to be euthanized the following day, so luck was certainly on Forbin's side that day.

We didn't see this cat very much for the first year or better that our son had him, as he wasn't living with us.  But we heard stories of how he would walk around our son's head while he was asleep in bed, or beg for cold cuts when our son was making a sandwich, or just generally act a little weird.

Then our son got a dog, Rigby, who has previously been noted in this blog, and Forbin was still around but was much more in the background.  At some point later our son moved back in with us, along with Rigby and Forbin, and we already had a golden retriever named Maggie at that point, so we had a pretty full house!

Forbin stayed largely in the background here, too, as the dogs dominated the house pretty thoroughly.  One of the more amusing things we observed him doing is that he would climb onto Rigby's back and start licking and biting him at the nape of his neck, making an odd whining sound while doing so.  We used to laugh that Forbin thought of Rigby as his little brother, as they were less than a year apart in age.  His primary reaction to Maggie, whom he had not been raised with, was to smack at her from under a table as she passed.  The look on her face when this would happen was "what did I do to deserve that?"

Then we lost Maggie to lymphoma, our son moved out and took Rigby with him, and suddenly Forbin was our only pet.  Always found it interesting that he just sort of stayed with us, that there wasn't really any discussion of him accompanying our son to his new home.  It was then that Forbin began to assert himself, being more vocal, more demanding, walking around my wife's head (and mine, though less frequently) during the night, hoping to get her to wake up and come to watch him eat (no, I'm not kidding).  He begged for food worse than most dogs, fattened up considerably from lots of treats and table food, and loved patrolling our backyard (safe because it was fenced).  The old boy really had a pretty good life.  Despite it, I often referred to him as "you little shit" or "you little bastard," which really set my wife off but amused us both.

During all of this he was most cantankerous, did not like most shows of affection from us, abhorred going to the vet (the result of a botched declawing when our son first claimed him from the pound), hissed at EVERYONE but us (and at us, sometimes) who would come to the house, terrorized our older granddaughter, who wasn't and isn't used to cats at all, and, again, generally ran the house.

An aside--I saw a rug or something once that said something along the lines of "In ancient Sumaria, cats were worshipped as gods.  They have not forgotten this."  How true.

In the past few years Forbin lost a considerable amount of the weight we'd packed on him, somewhat due to our decision to try to lengthen his life by not feeding him so much table food, but, as it turns out, also due to hyperthyroidism.  He also lost some of his hair (he was a Norwegian, best we can tell, with long grey and white hair) and began to slow down considerably.

He could still catch a bird or a chipmunk once in a while, even still.

I won't go into the details of what finally ended things for him, but right to the end, he was still as cantankerous and demanding as ever, following us into the kitchen to get a treat each time we went there.   But we loved him anyway.  So long, you little shit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mental floss


Things that have been working to escape my brain recently….

Can someone explain to me the fascination and devotion that many women have to boots?  I was seated on a plane recently next to a woman wearing what looked like well-worn cowboy (or cowgirl, in her case, I suppose) boots that were a suedelike texture.  Woman across the aisle commented, and my seatmate (to whom I had not spoken a word) went on about how they were her favorite, and that she just lived in these boots, and wouldn’t even think of wearing another pair.

Separate example:  I just hired someone in another state, and she appeared for both days of our training wearing boots.  Compared to my seatmate above, though, this gal was wearing dress boots.  I didn’t think much of it until she mentioned how she so much preferred wearing boots to heels because it was easier on her knees (past injury, from what she mentioned).  How?  These appeared to have heels that were comparable in height to a pair of high-heeled women’s shoes.

On a similar note, we’ve been watching “Pan Am,” the new dramedy series on ABC, which features a group of stewardesses and a couple of pilots for the now-defunct airline back in the early ‘60’s.  Most recent episode threaded JFK and the Berlin Wall into the plot line.  But what intrigues me about this program is the accuracy of the costuming, and how everyone who flies, even kids, are well dressed and well groomed.  On my most recent business trip I had the misfortune of again sitting next to a person who looked as though they hadn’t bathed in some time, and smelled that way, too.  Very disappointing that in 2011 we still have people who don’t understand that it isn’t hard not to be offensive.

My company issues BlackBerry smartphones to its managers and folks at levels above mine, too.  My phone didn’t appear too smart yesterday when I received virtually no e-mail messages, nor could I access the Internet for anything.  This was a continuation of a problem that began in Europe and Asia and then struck North America yesterday.  If I were in a stationary location that wouldn’t matter much, but since I was traveling, it was awful!  I saw a note on  Twitter yesterday that Apple should give a $50 break to anyone trading in a BlackBerry on an iPhone, taking advantage of the situation.  Truth is, they don’t have to.  I don’t imagine my company will ever start issuing iPhones to its managers and above, as the BlackBerry security is apparently superior to anything you can do at the enterprise level on an iPhone (or an Android phone as well).  It’s working now, so I’d say the executives at Research in Motion (the parent of BlackBerry) can breathe.

I love and hate baseball this time of year, particularly when the Reds are out of it (which is so often the case).  I root for teams I don’t normally like or care about, and then am a turncoat in the next round, rooting against someone I was just pulling for.  Right now I’m interested in having the Detroit Tigers and the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series, but both are behind their opponents.  The Tigers face elimination at the hands of the Texas Rangers today.

Finally, for the first week in the last several, we know that the University of Kentucky football Wildcats will not lose this weekend!  They're not playing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The good with the bad

Well, friends, I've made some progress on the honey-do list that I mentioned a few posts ago.  I have now painted my office, our downstairs hallways and, as of yesterday, our master bedroom.  What's left on that painting list?  The kitchen and our living room, which are adjoined by a vaulted ceiling.  That will require some help, so it may be a little while before we get around to that.  But my wife and I are both pleased with the results so far, considering we moved into a slightly different color palette than before (more tan than beige this time) and are using a lower-gloss ("matte" is what the Sherwin-Williams can says) finish and a different, more durable paint product.

That said, I don't know anyone in my vicinity who's pleased with the results posted by Kentucky's woeful football team so far.  They are 2-4 so far, having barely won the two games over foes who normally would be easy to beat, and only one of the four losses was a competitive game.  Lots of things that could be argued here, but the bottom line is that Kentucky once again does not have the personnel to be competitive against powerhouse programs like Florida, LSU and South Carolina.  A shame, but I suppose all good things come to an end, and Kentucky's five year string of bowl game appearances will most likely end with this season.

I've been interested to see the reaction paid to the Occupy Wall Street protests (they made it to Lexington on a small scale on Saturday, I saw while out and about) and the self-proclaimed "99ers" (those who are not in the 1% of the richest Americans, myself included).  The right wing is trying to ignore them, President Obama acknowledged them in a news conference last week but you can tell that he's not sure whether to embrace them or wait and see if their movement has any staying power.

I thought it kind of poignant that Sarah Palin announced she's not running for President but will no doubt hold grimly to her fleeting fifteen minutes of fame, and that it was totally overshadowed by news of Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs' death just a few hours later.  As someone said, it feels strange to mourn someone that you don't know, but I certainly did.  It also feels strange to know that someone changed your life in specific and measurable ways yet you never knew him.

We're beginning to experience the onslaught of falling leaves that always accompany cooler temperatures.  No doubt we'll be mowing/vacuuming/blowing/raking/bagging leaves for the next couple of months.  The neighbor's locust tree is the most annoying, as it's not even ours and still manages to clog our gutters and make it appear that a yellow snowfall landed on our backyard.

I'm about to embark on a fourth consecutive week of overnight business travel.  I get a one week reprieve for some days off next week, then it's back on the road again.

Try to get through today in one piece!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

He's out

Did you see where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced yesterday that he will NOT run for the Republican nomination for President?  This guy has been saying this for quite a while, but no one seemed to believe him.  Hope they will now.

One related aspect of this story was that several political commentators noted that they felt Christie, who is a large man, was unfit to be President because he has a weight issue.  As a larger-than-average person that offended me somewhat, but I suppose that it's the job of these commentators to find something to mention, point out, identify or otherwise flog to make their point.  Like Governor Christie, my size has never prevented me from accomplishing anything I set out to do, personally or professionally, and the statements some made that being overweight is a signal of a lack of discipline is actually a not-so-subtle form of bigotry.  And we have enough of that already directed at our sitting President.

So Christie will not be running.  Funny that the majority of Republicans appear to want someone other than the current 46 candidates to be their nominee.  There was an initial rush to Texas Governor Rick Perry when he announced his candidacy, but a few things have come to light since then that have dulled some people's enthusiasm for his chances.  And we know that Sarah Palin is still playing possum with the media about whether or not she'll run.

Someone else who's "out" as of today is former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona (for whom I have a soft spot, as he once played first base for my Cincinnati Reds).  Francona wanted out, apparently, as he felt he had lost the team and they weren't responding to his leadership.  This guy only won two World Series for the Sawx (2004 and again in 2007) after the franchise hadn't won one since 1918 (the year they sold Babe Ruth's contract to the New York Yankees).  So someone will hire him, if he wants to manage again.  And after their spectacular collapse in September, blowing a massive lead in the American League wild card race, whomever follows Francona will have their work cut out for them.

Hank Williams, Jr. didn't sing his trademark theme song before this past week's Monday Night Football game, having said some things that ESPN felt were inappropriate.  No word yet on whether this was a one-time thing or a permanent removal from the broadcasts.  Honestly, does it matter if Hank has political opinions and also sings the theme song for a GAME?

And, finally, I should revise my title to mention that "she's out," referring to Amanda Knox, newly free after winning an overturn of her murder conviction in Italy.  I really don't have any thoughts on whether she was guilty or not, but I think the Italian authorities may have a point that they felt the pressure of the American media in this case.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Gulf Coast

Happy Friday from Biloxi, Mississippi, where I've been attending an industry function since Tuesday afternoon.  If you're a little rusty with geography, Biloxi is on the Gulf of Mexico and was directly in the path of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated this region a little more than six years ago.

This is my first trip to this area, and, I must say, I'm kind of astounded by what I've seen just driving around.  Some of the folks who are regular visitors to the area have mentioned how many large buildings, particularly the casino/hotels (I'm staying in one of them and writing from there right now), were severely damaged but quickly restored.  Yet when I drove around a bit Tuesday afternoon upon arriving the first thing I noticed near the Gulfport (neighboring community) airport was that the roof was still damaged at a National Guard building.  Then, driving along the beach highway to Biloxi, you see new construction alternated with ruined homes and structures surrounded by chain-link fencing.  A couple of blocks in from the shoreline I saw a great many vacant lots, where homes apparently stood prior to the storm.

I had dinner twice in a community east of here called Ocean Springs and have since learned that a number of businesses reestablished themselves there, rather than rebuilding in Biloxi.  Why?  Apparently it's just a little further inland and on higher ground, so that makes living and working there less risky than in Biloxi itself.  A cab driver told me and some colleagues last night that before Katrina he paid $2300 per year for insurance for his home, which was within sight of the beach in Biloxi.  He mentioned that if he had chosen to rebuild in the same location that the insurance company would have required him to elevate the home on pilings by 18 feet and that his insurance would then cost about $19,000 per year.  No thanks, he said, and bought a home inland.

The oddest thing to me about this is that I was just in Destin, Florida earlier in the year for a similar business conference, and because it wasn't affected by Katrina it's a whole different ballgame there than here in Biloxi.  Bustling hotels, retail and resorts, in spite of the BP oil spill impact just a year ago.

The folks I've met who are from this part of Mississippi seem like great people and I have no doubt they're extremely resilient.  I wish them luck, as they most certainly deserve it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I know (or think, anyway)......

On another business trip (first of four consecutive weeks of travel, which will bring the recent total to eight out of nine weeks) and I had some time to commit some stray thoughts to this blog.

I'm actually in Richmond, Virginia today.  Arrived here yesterday afternoon, and leave around lunchtime tomorrow.  This appears to be a pretty nice city; the former capital and in the northernmost of the Confederate States.  I have visited her pretty regularly in the past two years and I like what I've experienced.

My Cincinnati Reds are merely playing out the string, as they're out of contention with little to play for, a lot of guys hurt and fans are turning most of their attention elsewhere.  My son and I made one last trip to Great American Ball Park Saturday night, mostly for Johnny Bench night.  This event commemorated a statue outside the ballpark depicting the Reds' Hall of Fame catcher ("baseball's greatest catcher," we were reminded repeatedly during the ceremonies Saturday evening) throwing out a would-be basestealer, something that happened frequently during Bench's playing career.  It was a great night, made better by a trip to the Hofbrauhaus Newport, where my son and I experienced some German food and beer (it WAS Oktoberfest, after all), then worse by the lackluster play of the home team.  We'll get 'em next year.

Next year may not come soon enough for the Kentucky football team.  They lost to Louisville Saturday night (see where my priorities are these days?) and based on the television recording I watched Sunday morning, did not look good doing so.  And they're heading into a tough stretch of their schedule, so it doesn't get any easier from here.

Love the latest actions by President Obama regarding jobs and the deficit.  Glad he's taking the offensive to get his points across.  High time, I say.

Most of my friends and acquaintances in the Louisville area are having to deal with the closure of one of the bridges across the Ohio River due to structural cracks.  I haven't heard an accurate count of the cars that use that bridge (the Sherman Minton bridge, to be precise) regularly, but it's gotta be a lot.  If the folks in Washington who don't feel that infrastructure investments are necessary would just take a look at that bridge and the car volume it normally carries.....well, you know.

And I don't write of world affairs here all that often, but I don't understand the back-and-forth regarding the remaining two American hikers who've been detailed in Iran for so long.  Their president said (through a translator) on an interview on NBC recently that they would be released soon.  Then the courts there indicated that, no, they would not be released.  Then it came to light that they would be released on $500,000 bail each.  So were they ransomed?  As I write this they're arriving in Oman and have now been released.  Good for them, as we don't want our citizens held overseas without good reason, but what do you suppose all of this means regarding our relationship with Iran?

Well, gee, sports, national politics and foreign affairs.  My work here is done.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The view from the cheap seats

Since so much of my comments here are observational, I thought today's title to be appropriate.  I also considered something else, but realized that journalist David Brinkley beat me to it as the title of one of his memoirs:  "Everyone is entitled to my opinion."

True, true.

OK, first, let's touch on sports.  This is one of my favorite times of the year, as the baseball season is winding down to reveal who will play in the post-season (and confirms what I've known for months, that my Cincinnati Reds will not be playing any meaningful games from here on out), and both the college and professional football seasons are getting underway.  Great time of year to be a sports fan.

Not so great, though, if you're a fan of high-quality professional football, as most of the games that I've watched have involved some pretty sloppy play.  This is undoubtedly owing to the NFL lockout that prevented teams from having "off-season" workouts, mini-camps and abbreviated training camp.  I've come to understand that much of what happens in football is not the result of raw talent or ability, but rather extensive practice and repetition.  And the pros didn't get that.  To be sure, some teams looked pretty sharp offensively (Green Bay, New Orleans and New England come to mind) but others looked like a couple more weeks of practice might have helped.

And then there's college football.  The "experts" were significantly wrong about Notre Dame, as the Irish have now lost two games.  The latest was a massive collapse in the fourth quarter at Michigan last Saturday evening, making Notre Dame 0-2.  I'm sure the Irish faithful aren't happy at all about this.

Kentucky is 2-0, and not because they played so well in either of their games.  But a win is a win, so they say, and Kentucky fans will take it, although they'll not be too thrilled with how things look down the road if things don't improve.

So let's now turn to politics.  Have you watched any of the Republican debates so far?  Looks like the mission of most of the candidates is to tear down the front-runner, Texas Governor Rick Perry (who looks like an odd cross between George W. Bush and a televangelist).  They're forgetting that they will have to run against a somewhat unpopular, but still incumbent, President Obama, so they're probably wasting their ammunition on the wrong opponent.

Speaking of President Obama, it was nice to see him show some fire last week in his address to Congress concerning his jobs bill.  We haven't seen that fire since he was a candidate for his current office, and it's long overdue.  I think he is unfairly criticized for his willingness to compromise and cooperate, but since the conciliatory method isn't working, time to try something else.

Finally, I won't say that I enjoyed the coverage of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, but I watched some of the programming and felt that everything was done very appropriately.  I was and am fortunate that I did not lose anyone on that day, nor have I lost a loved once since in our numerous military deployments around the world.  But I cannot help but feel that the people left behind by those lost on 9/11 have a very different sense of grief and sadness than those who have lost military personnel or others serving in a civilian capacity in a war zone since.  Regardless, it's important to remember them all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Working on my act and taking it on the road

Well, sort of.....just back from a very quick business trip to Charlotte, where my supervisor and I interviewed candidates for a vacant position on my team.  And this morning I decided to move outside of the environs of my home office and am writing from a nearby bakery/coffee shop, soaking up that nice, strong, FREE Wi-Fi.

Weather is an interesting thing, isn't it?  How often do we get what we really want?  Here in central Kentucky, we've been approaching drought conditions for a while (though not nearly the extent that many parts of Texas and elsewhere have experienced), so now with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee parked over our region, it's rained pretty much continuously since last Sunday.  We live on high ground in the city, so flooding really isn't an issue for us.  But it certainly is for those closer to creeks and streams, and there have been many reports of flood damage in our area.  Be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it.

The whole coffee shop dynamic is kind of interesting to me.  I've not been a regular at Starbucks, for example.  Like some of their products, don't have a problem with the environment, but I don't generally think of going there to hang out.  The bakery where I'm perched at the moment is in our neighborhood and many mornings around this time there are groups who are gathered here.  This morning there appear to be two men's bible study groups.  I suppose that community is what places like this are about, but I can't help but feel a little odd when I'm in proximity to a group like this, as though I'm somehow intruding by sitting nearby on my computer, writing this and doing some work.

On my flight from Atlanta (where else?) home last night, my seatmate was a pleasant man who stands about 6 feet, 5 inches tall.  There he was, contorted into the window seat next to me.  Felt worse for him than for me.  Said he didn't fly much and therefore was confounded by the whole idea of the regional jet.  I got over that a long time ago.

Have you noticed that there's a new movie starring Brad Pitt that's out now, or soon, called "Moneyball?" It's based on a very good nonfiction book about how the Oakland Athletics, faced with a lack of money for player salaries, turned to something that's now called sabermetrics to evaluate players.  Statistics replacing baseball scouts' in person impressions of players' abilities.  Very informative and entertaining book, but I'm not sure it makes a good movie.

This time of year is usually kind of a drought for movies that grownups would enjoy, but there are a couple of others coming out soon that appear interesting.  "Contagion" deals with a megadisease and the scientists who apparently discover and attempt to control and cure it.  And Kentuckian George Clooney is out with another picture that he's written and directed, called "Ides of March."   This one is about a presidential candidate.  Well timed.

You probably know that I'm not a Republican, yet my wife and I watched the latter half of last night's Republican presidential debate.  Sorry, but I didn't get any impression that any of the frontrunners look or seem presidential.  Jon Huntsman appears articulate and not without some decent ideas, which is probably why he has no chance of winning.  The funniest thing is that when these folks turn on each other, they're forgetting they have an incumbent, albeit only moderately popular, President against whom to run their campaigns.

The bible study guys nearby are now talking about God wanting us to be better men.  And arguing over which passage best fits a certain scenario.  One of them just looked in my direction.






Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, Monday

Sitting in my office on this sunny Monday morning, thankful that only a handful of friends and acquaintances were caught up in Hurricane Irene's path.  That said, I hope the same for you.

Is it me, or was there a LOT of news coverage paid to this impending/occuring/passing disaster?  I suppose after Katrina, no one will ignore or take lightly a natural force like a hurricane again, but when the major networks have their weeknight anchors on duty on a Sunday afternoon and Matt Lauer is working on the Today set at 5:00 AM on a Saturday, you know it's a big deal.  Made bigger by its impact on New York, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia, to be sure.

The hurricane also had some effect on my Cincinnati Reds.  Their opponents this week (tonight through Thursday afternoon, when my son and I will be in attendance) are the Philadelphia Phillies, who postponed their Saturday and Sunday games due to the weather and spent the weekend hanging out in Cincinnati.  So while the Reds played a 14-inning affair on their way to a series sweep against Washington this weekend, the Phils were chilling and resting their bullpen.  Not that they'll need much bullpen help, with their insanely great starting pitching.

Change of subject....

Did you happen to notice the news last week that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is stepping aside, presumably due to health reasons?  I have a number of wonderful Apple product, am a complete convert to Mac (does anyone actually say "Macintosh" anymore?) computing (even for work, no mean feat in the security-laden environment in which I work) and am just waiting for them to get Apple TV right to take that plunge as well.  Jobs is not a techie but rather an ardent fan of great design with an uncanny ability, most of the time, to divine what people will want to buy.  And find that they cannot live without, strangely enough.  I've read that he's not the easiest guy in the world to work with or for, but he has always enjoyed a high level of loyalty among senior staff.

Oh, and did you know that he was the financial muscle behind Pixar, the animation studio?  Yep, his too.  Almost unfair to be that successful in two totally unrelated walks of life.

I had a strange weekend, as my wife went out of town to visit her mother in western Kentucky, leaving me to the momentary life of a bachelor Friday afternoon through yesterday.  Played golf Saturday morning, played well enough for thirteen holes but forgettably the rest of the way.  Watched a lot of baseball.  Ate some stuff I don't normally (and shouldn't really) eat.  Took care of a couple of honey-do projects (cross the carpet-cleaning off the list for now, thanks) and started planning a couple more.

But I definitely missed my wife, as we really enjoy our weekends.

This will be short work week for me, as I'm seizing the opportunity for a five-day weekend by taking time off Thursday and Friday.  Reds on Thursday with my son (AKA "The Boy," longtime holdover from when he was, well, a boy), then who knows on Friday?  It's the Boy's birthday, so something good will probably happen.  Weekend will probably see me commence to painting, so to speak, and I have a golf game Monday morning.

Anyway, like it or not, another week is underway, so try to make it a good one.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Work to do

In addition to the work that my employer pays me to do, it appears I have a few things pending here at the ranch.

For instance, my wife and I have been talking about painting our home's interior for some time, as the last go-round for the main level was about eight years ago.  Thankfully, our trim is in pretty good shape, and I am usually able to resist getting handprints on the ceilings, so they're OK, but that leaves the walls.  To be fair, I stripped the wallpaper from the kitchen walls within the last two years and painted what was newly exposed, and the upstairs bedrooms have been painted within the last eighteen months as well.  But the downstairs, where we do virtually all of our living, is looking, well, lived-in.  So we're about to start the painting process.

I'm in pretty good practice, as I helped our son repaint the main level of his house in anticipation of the arrival of his son in May.  So I should be able to get right into the swing of things.  And we even picked out a paint color we think we like, so we'll start with a gallon of that and paint things like hallways first, just to see how we like it.

This is present in my mind because we made a trip to Lowe's late yesterday afternoon and bought stuff like masking tape, drop cloths and wall patching compound.  But that will wait for at least a couple of weeks.

Also on the list is some edging for our backyard plant beds.  We redid the beds in the spring and early summer with much success, but didn't provide any kind of edging.  So the mulch we so conscientiously placed in each of the beds is slowly sliding into the yard, and we can't have that.  So it looks like I need to buy or rent an edging machine and address that.  Boy, can't you just feel the excitement over that one?

And finally and more pressing is our carpet.  We have a number of areas that are what I would call "recurring dull stains" that always look just a little darker than the rest of the carpet.  And it's not a path per se, it's patchy and spotty.  My theory is that I used a pre-treating solution when we first bought our current carpet cleaning machine and that I never was able to get it all the way out of the carpet.  So dirt and dust sticks to it, thus discoloring the carpet.

I can run the cleaner and it looks great for a couple of weeks but these places always seem to reappear.  Very frustrating and puzzling.  So if any of you astute readers have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Musings

Well, well, well, here we are again, friends.  Nice to see you......and to be seen, after a fashion.

Traveled to a conference in Destin, Florida earlier this week.  I'm always a bit taken aback by "tourist" towns like Destin, as it's not at all uncommon to see folks who own all or part of a vacation home there side-by-side with folks who scraped together a few bucks to take their kids to the beach for the weekend.  And their dwellings fit that description, too, as you'll see tower upon tower of high-rise, ocean view condos alongside run-down, no-name motels.  One thing's for sure....the ocean doesn't discriminate, you have to want it to find the means to be there.  But the food was good, as I am a great lover of all things seafood and pretty much insist on getting fresh seafood when I'm at or near the water.  And it didn't disappoint.

I'm so relieved that Rick Perry has officially entered the Republican presidential campaign, as now the fur is really flying among the "leaders."  The greatest mistake that these Republicans could make is to spend so much time and effort tearing each other down to win their nomination that they forget that they have to run against an incumbent opposition-party President.  Somewhat similar to the Democratic race in 2004 that John Kerry ultimately won, so that he could then run against George W. Bush.

I keep reading that the University of Miami's football team is in real trouble with the NCAA for recruiting and other violations.  My only question in response is "what took them so long?"  I played in a golf event at my conference and one of my teammates had a cousin, I think, who played football at a perennial powerhouse some years ago.  He told me that the cousin began receiving a weekly envelope of cash right after arriving on campus there, and the envelopes continued during his entire stay there.  And he was advised by teammates not to ever ask what the money was for or where it came from.  And here we thought Kentucky football was bad; we apparently just don't cheat as well as other schools.  And get caught when we do.

In my travels I'm finding that one of my very favorite iPad applications is the USA Today app.  Quick but reasonably informative news items and feature pieces entertain and enlighten the reader without taking too much time or taking one's concentration.  My wife often comments that I must read that a lot when I'm traveling, as I almost always have a handful of tidbits to share.  I remember when that paper was first founded it was derided as "McNews."  Show me a better daily paper in a city smaller than a million people.

Another blog that I have read and enjoyed for some time featured some reader comments recently and the writer committed to "doing better" in response to some criticism.  Honestly, it's a BLOG, it's not scripture.  Sorta like people complaining that they don't like a certain restaurant---if you don't like it, just stop going there!

OK, that feels better.  But I really do welcome comments from anyone who wants to take time to write.  They just may not result in any change I would make to this little online corner.

And that's a wrap.











Monday, August 8, 2011

Off the road again

Finally....a whole week where overnight travel won't be necessary.  I'm plenty busy when I'm in my office, but it's a little less hectic and the chaos is a bit more under control.  Good thing, too, since I will now have to plan on working another five or ten years, what with S&P downgrading the U.S. government's credit rating and what that will do to my (and millions of others') 401K plans....

That said, I should mention briefly why I'm so happy not to be traveling.....last week I spent three pretty full days on the road, going from Lexington to Louisville to Birmingham, AL to Knoxville, TN and back again.  All by car....my trusty Honda Pilot, which is most comfortable for long-distance travels.  Didn't see much bad weather, except excessive heat in the areas south of our home base.  Lots of road construction, owing to the warm weather and the ease of paving in the heat.

Long trip, but a productive one, so I'm back in the saddle here at the ranch, so to speak.  And already planning five more trips over the next sixty days.

Could not help but smile when I read caddy Steve Williams' comments about how he was dismissed by his former boss, Tiger Woods, and how his new pro, Adam Scott, won with Williams on the bag.  Stevie said it was his best week ever.  Take that, Mr. Woods!

The Cincinnati (Sh)Reds limped back home last night, having won only two games out of six against the two worst teams in their division last week.  Injuries have hit this team hard, but they weren't playing terribly inspired baseball before all of these guys got hurt.  Hoping the fresh troops they've brought in will make a difference, but I'm kind of resigned to the fact that it will be nearly impossible to duplicate the magic of the 2010 season.

Kentucky's football team is well into preparations for its season opener but they'll start the season without me working in the radio booth for the first time since 1998.  After fourteen years, I decided last season that it would be my last as a spotter for my very good friend, Tom Leach, the Voice of the Wildcats.  Tom and I grew up together and remain close friends, but it just became so much more difficult to manage the football schedule and my extensive business travel schedule that I felt that stepping aside was the right move.  Plus it gives me more opportunities to spend time with family on the weekends, which I definitely appreciate!

Hope your Monday is going well enough.  Have a good week.




Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Suck it up

Not really, but more in the "can you believe it?" sense.

Just ran across a feature item on a news site that indicated that Spanx, the folks who make slimming garments (these were called "girdles" and such when I was a kid) are now rolling out a line of shape wear that ladies can wear to the gym.

Take a minute to digest that.

Now, the main reason we exercise, in any form, is to look and feel good.  So this Spanx line makes you look good WHEN YOU GO TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU LOOK AND FEEL GOOD?

So why exercise?

Then there were associated articles about the percentage of women who wear makeup when they visit the gym.  It's a lot higher than I would have expected.

This is all an interesting coincidence, as my wife and I took a good walk last night to a local frozen yogurt store, reasoning that we would walk better and further if given the proper incentive.  As luck would have it, we pass by a large workout facility on our way to and from this place, and a few of the folks who've just concluded their workout came to the yogurt place for a frozen treat.  And we both noticed that the men who emerged from this gym were largely dressed, well, to work out.  But the women, for the most part, were well coordinated, with tops, shorts and socks, if not shoes, that match or at least go together.

Harkens back to the dawn of the aerobics era, when I used to play racquetball with a friend on a weekly basis, and we'd see what we both considered the "meat market" at our gym, as there were two large aerobics classes that met on our racquetball night, so you'd see all of the color coordinated leotards, tights, leg warmers and Reebok aerobic shoes, as well as hair and makeup done just right.

To work out.

Spanx also makes a line of items for men.  In addition to the brief, which presumably sucks in a man's gut (and good luck with that), they also apparently make an undershirt that compresses a man's chest and abdominal area.

Hmm.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Bravo to Spanx for identifying these markets and bringing products out that meet certain needs, and for being capitalist enough to make things that people want to buy.

But I think it says something about people that there is demand for any of this.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Going for the bronze

Greetings from steamy Richmond, Virginia, where the high temperature today will reach 101 degrees. No escape from the heat and humidity throughout the Southeast, so it would seem.

On my trip here I took special note of what seemed to be a higher than usual percentage of folks who had submitted themselves to artificial tanning. How do I know this? They're a different shade of "tan" than the farmer's tan adorning my forearms and neck these days (from golf, not farming), a little more orange. Why do people, and not just women, do this to themselves? I suppose my own level of vanity is manageable enough that this would nevr occur to me.

Speaking to tanning, let me now turn squarely to someone who was humorously referred to as "the world's saddest tangerine," House Speaker John Boehner. This man apparently circled August 2 as the target date for his moment in the sun, so to speak, and, instead, we have been subjected to the worst display of political brinksmanship that I can recall in my lifetime. Politics and governing are two different things, of course, but both spaces are occupied by most of the same people. The flaws in the process are not solely Boehner's fault, but he appears to be a big part of the problem.

And for those who don't think they need to care, I heard yesterday that a couple of financial analysts say that if the U.S. government defaults on its loans, there will be worldwide financial chaos not seen since the Great Depression. And even if this gets resolved at the last minute, it could downgrade the US' debt rating, which alone could cause the stock market to fall by as much as 35 percent.

Don't know about you, but my 401k doesn't need another hit.

Enough gloom and doom.

In a classic case of my own inability to plan and anticipate, i flew out of and will fly back into the Cincinnati airport on this trip (ironically, this facility is in Kentucky). And will drive right back up the same road tomorrow with my son to take in a game between my fast-fading Cincinnnati Reds and the defending World Series champ San Francisco Giants (who are no long a team I hate, now that Barry Bonds has faded out of the picture). At least the road construction between Lexington and Cincinnati is largely completed.

Hope your weekend is as good as the one I'm planning.









Monday, July 18, 2011

A pirate looks at 51

Sorry, borrowed the title from an old Jimmy Buffett song I always liked, though he referred to a different point in life than I'm facing.

I turn 51 on Wednesday, and, no, I'm not looking for an avalanche of birthday greetings and such.  Last year I turned 50 kind of quietly, spending the day traveling for business and the evening with a pizza in a hotel room in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina.  We'd already had a celebration of the family birthdays while our daughter and her family were in for a visit, and my wife and I enjoyed a getaway the weekend just before, so the bigger celebrations had already occurred.

And I did what I was supposed to do, as I recently completed the two things I really didn't want to do...I had a physical, which included a prostate examination, and a colonoscopy.  In my mind, as long as I completed these before my 50th year was up, I wasn't untimely in doing so.  And both tests turned out normal, which is exactly what I wanted.  Probably one of the first times in my life where I wanted to be normal.

I'll be at home, not traveling for business, for my 51st birthday, and, unlike last year when it was known I would be away for the big day, my wife is particularly interested in what I'd like to do to celebrate, what I'd like for dinner, etc.  Should be fun, regardless!


In other news.....

Honestly, I don't know which is worse, the ongoing public fascination with Casey Anthony and her recently concluded trial for the murder of her daughter, or the threats and other threatening comments that have surfaced since she was acquitted of the more serious charges she faced.  The best online comment I read was something along the lines of "if most people would pay as much attention to what's happening with their government as they do with a sensationalized murder trial, this would be a lot different country."  Amen.

Speaking of that, I played golf with a friend yesterday and toward the end of our rain-delayed round we began discussing the NFL lockout and how it parallels the stalemate in Washington over the debt ceiling.  Funny that they're both going to get settled at the last minute, most likely at terms that could and should have been agreed upon far earlier.

I was awfully glad to see veteran golfer Darren Clarke win the Open Championship (also known as the British Open to most) yesterday.  Man's been though a lot, having lost a wife to cancer about five years ago.  My favorite quote of his was that his manager said that he "played better fat, so I've decided to adhere to that advice."  Good for you, Darren.

We haven't yet managed to see the final installment in the Harry Potter film series.  That may be on this week's agenda.

Hope your week is a good one, and that you manage to stay out of the heat.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Post vacation ramblings

Good morning, one and all.  Back from a little more than a week's vacation and have a few items to share.

My first comments will be about the visit just concluded by our daughter and her family.  I just want to go on record as saying that our grandchildren are growing up far too fast, and we really see this when our two Colorado-based grandkids come to visit.  It had only been six months since they and their mom last came to Kentucky, but they are both so different in that space of time.  Regardless, we had a great time with them here and enjoyed a lot of wonderful time with them and our son's family (also two kids).

If you're either a NASCAR fan or a Kentucky resident, you have now heard (and perhaps experienced) the mess that occurred in Sparta, Kentucky Saturday evening, in which the Kentucky Speedway, having begged for the opportunity to host a real live NASCAR event, blew it completely by screwing up parking for some 20,000 carloads of race fans.  From all accounts one couldn't see this on television, but I heard on local news that traffic was backed up fifteen miles or more.

I don't follow NASCAR but have been by the location of this racetrack a handful of times.  It's really the only thing in its location, with the exception of a couple of hotels and convenience stores, but it's not in a populated area, and the ramps off of Interstate 71 didn't appear to me to be of sufficient capacity for the sheer volume of cars that would be drawn to that location for such a large event.  Now everyone from the track owner to NASCAR to the governor of Kentucky are promising to rectify this glaring shortcoming.  It may be too little too late, particularly if you're one of the folks who missed some or all of the race.  It reminds me so completely of the mess that occurred at this year's Super Bowl, which was also a first-time venue for that event.

In any case, it's a black eye for my home state and that's a shame, as hard as many worked to make this a great event.

I'm heading off for a business trip today (somehow, this always seems to happen right after a period of vacation), this time to Charleston, South Carolina.  Have not visited there since our daughter and son-in-law lived there for a year and I was there last to help them move away to Colorado.  Will be staying in the downtown area in the historic district, and will be interested to see what's different there.

My Cincinnati Reds limped into the All-Star break yesterday.  Their manager and many of the players continue to act like they're on the verge of greatness, having achieved so much last season.  I hope so.

Last thoughts today are about the fan who, unfortunately, fell to his death in Arlington, Texas last week in an attempt to catch a baseball tossed his way by a player.  What I keep thinking is that while that ballpark may meet local building code standards, perhaps the owners/operators of that facility should think about exceeding those standards.  My most vivid memory of my first visit to new Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field) in Chicago was that the upper deck was about as steeply banked a seating area as I can remember, and that if I tripped while negotiating the aisle steps to go down that there's be nothing to stop me from bouncing over the railing and down into the lower seating area.  Wonder if we're not talking about the same thing in Texas.  I very frequently visit the ballpark in Cincinnati and have not felt that same sensation, but it's probably because I'm there more often.  I'm sure they'll think of something, but it's certainly a shame for anything like this to happen.

I could prattle on further, but that's probably enough for now!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The week that was...

Happy Independence Day to all. Big milestone in our family, as tomorrow my wonderful wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!

Had a kind of hectic week (or a little more, actually) leading up to today. Our daughter and her family arrived in Lexington for a visit on the 24th, the same day that my wife concluded her full-time employment AND the day of my dreaded colonoscopy (and what you have heard is true....the prep is far worse than the procedure). Fun with them Friday night and when they returned Sunday afternoon (went to another part of Kentucky to see my son-in-law's relatives), continuing through Monday night. Family dinners and some good clean fun in the backyard, which we transformed with a kiddie slide, plastic bowling and golf sets and some other stuff.

Then Tuesday I headed out for a business trip to Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. Since I work at home it would have been challenging for everyone had I attempted to work in my office shushing everyone for several days! The trip was productive and enjoyable (would you believe that my Memphis rep and I had some outstanding sushi Wednesday evening?) but I was glad to return home Thursday afternoon.

Then I began a vacation, which will continue through 7/10. Yesterday our son-law, son and our daughter-in-law's nephew went to Cincinnati to the outdoor sauna that was Great American Ball Park to see the Reds fall to the Cleveland Indians. Fun despite the heat and the loss. Postgame we connected with an old friend to enjoy quintessential Cincinnati.....LaRosa's pizza!

Probably be kinda quiet today, as our daughter's gang will be with her husband's family for a get-together. But the fun will resume tomorrow, as we're planning a great anniversary and combined birthday celebration. There are numerous family birthdays in July, so we do this just about every year!

I have to close by saying that times like these make me recognize how incredibly fortunate we are to have a healthy, growing family!



Friday, June 17, 2011

The road less traveled

Back from another brief business trip, again to the Nashville area.  And instead of my usual pattern, I overnighted in Bowling Green, a city a bit less than an hour north of the metro Nashville area, so that I could join a friend and take in a baseball game (nice ballpark in Bowling Green, by the way).

Then I did something very different from my usual travel patterns.  I had noticed on several recent trips to Nashville that the I-65 corridor between Elizabethtown (where I merge onto this highway) and the "cave area" of Kentucky (home of Mammoth Cave and other natural attractions) is rife with extensive construction due to lane additions to accommodate the massive amount of traffic on this road.  My friend from the Elizabethtown area explained that this has been in the "ten-year plan" for about twenty years, but, no matter, when it's completed, it will be much safer and better able to accommodate all of the cars and trucks zooming north and south.

Anyway, I saw yet another miles-long backup when I was heading south on Wednesday, so I began to think about alternate routes.  I don't often do that, as traveling is hard enough without having to think about where you're going.  So I asked my friend and he suggested that I merge onto U.S. 68, a traditional U.S. highway (not an interstate), just north of Bowling Green.  Scenic and much less hectic, and, given the delays I'd likely encounter, probably the same amount of time.  And best of all, the road leads directly to Lexington, so as long as I stayed on that route (paying attention to signage in the many little towns was key), I'd return home safe and sound.

So that's what I decided to do, and it was a marvelous experience.  Let me share some of the things I saw and experienced.

*  I hadn't been on this road for five minutes and I encountered an Amish horse-and-buggy, with a bearded man in "plain" clothes and a straw hat driving.  As I passed he briefly touched the brim of his hat, as I moved around him slowly, and I nodded in response.  I had heard there was/is an Amish community near Glasgow, so there's some evidence.

*  Lots of little businesses, all in the middle of nowhere, with signs advertising antiques, pressure-washing, honey, hairstyling, scrap metals, florist services, and, of course, fresh produce sold from roadside stands.  I didn't stop, but later in the season, where some of the items I like would be in season, I might.

*  Honest-to-God farms, small enough for one family or possibly one person to tend, where they grow, you know, FOOD.  Corn seemed to be a popular crop in the part of Kentucky through which I traveled.

*  Miles and minutes where I saw no cars at all.

*  Town squares.  A vestige of times passed, certainly.  Invariably, the courthouse was at the center.

*  Great names of little communities.  I think "Wisdom" was my favorite of this trip.

*  Small independent grocery stores.  I grew up working in one of those, and that certainly brought back some memories.

I could go on, but it was a nice change of pace.  Along with it, U.S. 68 between Oakland (the town nearest where I entered the highway) and Lexington is largely two-lane, with just a few sections looking remotely like a highway with broad shoulders and passing lanes.  And there were numerous signs pointing to the "county lake" of a certain area.

The most interesting aspect of this was that, despite taking about an hour longer than the trip would have on interstates and parkways during optimal (non-delay) conditions, it was a grand total of seven miles further.

Somehow, given what I saw, it seemed a lot further away.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dad fantasies

As you likely remember, our son and his wife recently became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy.  So now that he is the father of a son, I expect him to go through some of the same stuff I have in being his stepfather.  The interesting thing is that for every real experience we share, it creates a mental image of something else that I either wish I could do or would like to do with him.

To wit:

My beloved Cincinnati Reds (as with most every major league baseball team) operate a "dream week" fantasy camp, allowing regular guys like me the chance to spend a week playing baseball as though he were a member of the Reds.  I love baseball very much and still regret that I didn't get to play more organized ball when I was a kid.  Not that I was that good, I just loved it and still do.

Anyway, for the last twenty years or so I've had this recurring dream that I got to go to the Reds' fantasy camp, but in the last five or more, that dream has included my son going with me.  Many years ago, as he was preparing to enter high school, he decided he wanted to go out for the baseball team.  He had never played ANY organized baseball, so I was his self-appointed coach and tutor.  After considering outfield and infield as defensive positions, he expressed an interest in catching behind home plate, which meant that I also became his practice pitcher.  I'd never pitched, so it was a learning experience for us both.  But we spent one long summer playing catch nearly every night, and still do it once in a while.

So now my Reds fantasy dream would include throwing to my son while wearing a Reds uniform.  Sweet, though it's never happened.

Here's another one:

Several years ago, Golf Digest magazine started a promotion in which entrants could submit an essay and, if chosen, play a round of golf on the same course at which the upcoming U.S. Open championship would be played.  There would be three celebrities in the foursome, and the conditions would be identical to what the entrants in the championship would encounter.  To my knowledge the magazine still does this, although I haven't been a subscriber for some time.

In any case, I entered that first time, and mentioned that it was my stated goal not only to play, but to have my son caddy for me.  I was (and still am) certain that his presence would help me to play better than if I had someone else carrying my bag (I think they use a well-known golf coach or pro for this purpose).  After entering that contest I had vivid dreams about being the chosen participant, but arguing with the organizers that I should be allowed to choose my own caddy, my son.  In a few such instances he was permitted to carry my bag and we both enjoyed the situation greatly.

Of course, some of these dreams become reality.  The Reds began something a few years ago called the Father's Day Catch.  Pairs of entrants (you and your dad, son, granddad, grandson, or someone else) could pay a fee, sit in a specific section for the game, and then have the chance to enter the field and have a catch for 30 minutes.  We were in the first such event, and after circling the bases (everyone did) we headed off to center field, which was then patrolled by former Red Ken Griffey, Jr.  What an experience!  On a major league field, minutes after the completion of an actual game, here we were, tossing the ball just like at the park.

I could go on and on and on with experiences real or imagined, but I'm sure my son already knows what a treat he'll experience for the next thirty or forty years.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I got nothing....

With apologies to a friend of mine who once uttered the title phrase to me after a day of outdoor painting in extreme heat....

But it kind of fits today.  I don't have any great travel stories to tell, no famous people I've met.  The new grandson is growing and doing well, parents and big sister are adjusting to life as a family of four, so that's all good.

But me?  Well, I said it earlier.  I got nothing.

Oh, I've been fighting a respiratory infection or something that's caused me to cough and blow quite a bit, but I think I've just about overcome it.  My wife wanted me to go to the doctor for it after spending a tough weekend a couple of weekends ago, but I felt I was making progress and declined to go.  After all, I was going for a physical the following Friday (6/3) and if I wasn't better by then, well, I'd already be at the doctor's office, so why go twice?

Pragmatism seldom trumps a spouse who's tired of someone coughing incessantly.  I was even banished to the guest room a couple of nights.

But my visit to the doctor went well, he asked me how long I'd had this particular ailment, and after looking at my throat and listening to my lungs (part of the physical) he did not recommend or prescribe anything.

But on the bright side, everything else went well at the physical.  Blood work is underway to ensure that my cholesterol and other metrics were where they should be, and, yes, I had my dreaded post-50 prostate examination.  "It's slightly enlarged," he commented flatly.  No kidding.  I have to get up at least once a night to make a trip to the bathroom, so I already suspected as much.  Hopefully the blood tests will not reveal any problems in my PSA levels.

So, I'm in my office this morning, working on a couple of projects that are not timely, and I got nothing.  Hope your life has more in store than that!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Not sure where to start...

Wow, a great deal of stuff has appeared in the media over the past week or more that deserves comment....

First of all, what's Sarah Palin got up her sleeve?  Crashing the "Rolling Thunder" biker rally in Washington (the organizers were very specific in saying that Palin was NOT invited), visiting the National Archives (what, to check to see if the Constitution is still there?), then on to New York for dinner with the Trumps and on to New Hampshire.  And at each stop she effectively tweaks the collective nose of the press by saying she still isn't sure if she's running for president in 2012.

Suppose the GOP isn't all that happy with the choices it's seeing....a well-heeled Iowa Republican fundraiser apparently had dinner last night with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in an effort to persuade him to mount a campaign in 2012.

I wish 'em luck.

Luck also to Jim Tressel, who completed one of the longest and most blatantly hypocritical stints at the head of a prominent college sports program (in his case, Ohio State football) that I can remember.  Read somewhere that when he was a young assistant Tressel was in charge of a summer football camp for his employer university's football program.  The program would invite a small handful of incoming recruits to attend, but it was mostly attended by kids who never would have the chance to play college football.  Tressel was reported to have spoken to the kids about ethics in the morning and then rigged the afternoon raffle for pairs of cleats so that the recruits, and not the kids who spent their (or their parents') hard-earned money to attend, would win the free equipment.  Nice.  Of course, it doesn't help that Ohio State's star quarterback has been driving on a suspended license since February and is driving a car that's nicer than I'll ever own....and it's not the first time for him, either.  I'm sure that we're going to find out lots more about this as things unfold.

And thankfully, our long national Charlie Sheen nightmare is over....the powers that be at CBS, Warner Brothers and elsewhere didn't cave in to Mr. Sheen, and hired Ashton Kutcher (famous for being famous, mostly) to replace Sheen on "Two and a Half Men."  I'm asked constantly if I watch that show or "The Big Bang Theory," and I watch neither.  Frankly, there hasn't been a good sitcom on network television since "Seinfeld," and I'll stand by that statement.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for my tryout to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds.  They've added and subtracted so many pitchers lately due to injury, overworked relief pitchers and other factors that open tryouts can't be far behind.

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