Friday, February 24, 2012

Just passing through

On my way home after a successful trip to Richmond, Virginia this week.  Had to postpone this trek due to, what else, a respiratory infection.  Seems there's a lot of that going around in my home area, and I'm sure the volatile weather has a little to do with it.  It's predicted to be 80 degrees here in Richmond today.  Today.  February 24.  WINTER.

Are you planning to watch the Oscars Sunday night?  I probably will for a while, if only to see Billy Crystal do his thing. Older folks talk about Bob Hope and Johnny Carson (who I admit was good) but no other host has the whole package like Billy always has.  And it's not like his career is that demanding these days.....

I don't follow professional basketball, even though now there are numerous former Kentucky college players in the NBA.  But this story of Jeremy Lin has been somewhat interesting.  How so many "experts" missed out on him is pretty amazing.

Speaking of Kentucky basketball, more and more folks who know I'm from the Commonwealth ask me if our team can be beaten.  The answer, of course, is "yes," although no one has managed the feat since last December.  Would be nice if that continues and the Cats can hoist another championship banner.  One of my best friends is the radio voice of the Wildcats, and I know how happy he was to call a Final Four game last year.  But to call a game that won Kentucky the national championship would be even better, I would think.

And Kentucky's women's team has bounced back after a late-season swoon, and they're back in good form, so the collegiate basketball post-season could be pretty interesting indeed for Kentuckians!

But the real story is that spring training has begun, the Reds (and the other major league teams, of course) have begun getting into baseball shape (whatever that actually is).  I know this because my son and I had a conversation last night about Reds tickets, the surest sign that the season is coming fast!

Did you watch the latest Republican presidential candidates' debate Wednesday night?  With all of the problems facing this country, how in the world they spent any time discussing contraception, earmarks and other non sequiturs is completely beyond me.

I don't mention this very often, but I absolutely love my Macbook Air.  Very lightweight and a seriously long-lasting battery, too.  I'm an Apple fan (just brought my wife into the fold with an iPhone) and don't mind giving that company a shout-out.  In fact, if anyone at Apple is reading this, I'd love an iMac to use at home.  Anyone?

Enough begging.  Gotta catch a plane shortly.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I am SO old

Did you happen to watch the Grammy awards last night?

We watched some of it, mostly because Bruce Springsteen was rumored to be kicking off the show.  He did, as he and the E Street Band (with a large string section, no less) presented a rousing version of the new song "We Take Care of Our Own" from his forthcoming "Wrecking Ball" album (I still refuse to refer to these things as CDs).

Paul McCartney performed, Tony Bennett sang a duet with Carrie Underwood (someone had to REALLY be thinking hard to come up with that pairing) and there was a tribute to ailing Glen Campbell in which Glen joined in.

Other than that, unfortunately, most of the performers who sang or were otherwise identified as presenters or nominees were largely unknown to me.  I know who Katy Perry is.  Adele is astoundingly talented as a vocalist. And I know that Lady Gaga was "born this way," to borrow a phrase.

To wit:  I was in New Orleans last week, out with a group of work associates, and we wound up at an interesting place with a very eclectic jukebox.  Each of us contributed to feeding it, and my selections were a mixture of the Beatles, Dean Martin, Elton John, Al Green, Neil Young, Talking Heads and a few others.  Only upon hearing Patsy Cline or the Eagles did I perk up.  Otherwise, I was totally lost.  By the way, the highlight of our trip to this spot was my acquaintance with the house cat, a grey boy named Mr. Wu.  Handsome little guy, fun to watch him beg for chicken fingers from one of the employees.

This is something I knew would happen, as I've inadvertently become my father where modern music is concerned.  I have no regrets about this, as it's generationally inevitable (of what my kids like, I like some REM and some Dave Matthews), but it hadn't really hit me that it was this bad.

So I'm an old fart, I admit it freely, and will listen to any suggestions of "new" music performers I might like.  Not that you're likely to convince me, of course.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The latest thing

Are you one of those people who almost always likes or even needs to be the first in your circle of friends to try a new product or service?  Or are you one who waits to see if it's a passing fad?

I'm kind of in the middle on this subject.  For instance, we were a little slow to move from VHS tapes to DVDs, largely because we had such a substantial number of them.  Then we were just a touch slow to move into Blu-Ray high-definition discs, but in that case I was waiting to see if that format, or the now-dead HD DVD would "win" the competition to be the primary high definition format out there (if this doesn't make sense, think about the VHS-vs.-Beta debate in the 80s).

We still don't have caller ID on our home phone, and, in fact, since we HAVE a home phone, I suppose that indicates something about my rate of adaptability.

So, with all of that in mind, there are a few newer products and services that we've tried recently, and here's a small sample:

BRITA FILTER WATER BOTTLE

Great concept, a water bottle with a built-in filter.  They even have a clever commercial showing an Eskimo, one presumes, drinking highly pure glacial runoff when he is approached by a stereotypical middle-aged woman.  She presents the bottle, says that it's water from the drinking fountain at the mall or some such, and he drinks, smiling approvingly.

The commercial does not adequately depict what I call the "hernia effect" of this bottle.  Damned near impossible to drink from it without drawing hard on the bottle, and that really takes some effort.  Takes all of the pleasure out of taking a drink, too, in my opinion.  That bad boy will be in our next garage sale.

KEURIG COFFEE MAKERS

Both of our kids have these, have had for a year or more, but we finally acquired our first one before Christmas.  Amazingly convenient, almost no cleanup, which is nice (our "regular" coffee maker was a grind-and-brew setup that required a lot of cleanup for each use), and most of the coffees we've tried taste extremely good.  The maker of these machines is also in the coffee business, naturally, and some of their brands of coffee have been quite tasty.  We can also brew tea (drink it hot or iced) and other hot drinks.  We liked this concept so much that we bought a nicer machine with more features about a month into our experiment, and will gift our original, smaller-capacity machine to my wife's mother, who currently uses a single serve machine for which she has trouble finding the coffee to fit.  This should be easier.

NETFLIX

I know, this isn't new, but it's new to us, since we've just now decided to give this a whirl.  Decided to try this out largely because I was hell-bent on discontinuing cable TV service (more on that another time) but relented.  So we're about halfway through a month's free trial and we're using the streaming service only.  Available content isn't bad, quality is better than many cable channels that claim HD service.  We've reconnected with a few older gems from years ago, like "Ally McBeal," which my wife and I both liked very much.  It's $7.99 per month to continue, so we may or may not stick with this.

JET'S PIZZA

We love pizza at our house, and Jet's is the newest carryout/delivery pizza brand to reach our area.  Best out there among their ilk.  Great crust, good toppings generously applied, and fast.  Not exactly cheap, but I'll pay a little more for good food and service.  They're definitely a winner.

BLACKBERRY CURVE

No, this is far from new, but when my work-issued Blackberry Tour began showing some signs of age and wear, it was replaced with the afore-mentioned Curve.  Not a bad phone, but not really great, either.  Seems to get confused occasionally and halt whatever it's doing (except for phone calls, thank goodness).  Keyboard is way below the standard set by my Tour, if that means anything.  But I didn't have to pay for it, so there's that.

APPLE iPHONE 4S

Not mine, it's my wife's.  We got her first smartphone about eighteen months ago, and it's been kind of love-hate since then.  However, I can happily report that the iPhone 4S has been a real hit with her, ease of use, simplicity and dependability of operation, etc.  She visited a store that carries phones from all major carriers and the rep there was trying to convince her that she would be better off with the latest Android 4G phone, but I kept telling her that she's been wanting an iPhone ever since we decided to get her a smartphone (at the time, our carrier didn't offer them).  So this one is a definite hit.


So, if you're from a company that makes electronics, business accessories or other consumer goods, odds are we'll take a look at your product at some point soon.  And if you want to provide evaluation models for us to try out, well.........

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On and on

Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican primary last night, but Newt Gingrich vows to fight on, adopting the new slogan "46 states to go."  So nothing has been decided.

As someone who does not lean in the general direction of the GOP, I can't quite decide how I feel about this, or what I would prefer to happen.  What I do know, though, is that I am kind of amazed at how these SuperPACs are now dominating the political landscape, and making it even harder to persuade good and decent men and women to seek high office in this country.

Can't fix it here and now, so I suppose the theater of the absurd is destined to continue for a while yet.

Anyway.....

Kentucky's basketball team certainly appears to be on its game about now, and common thinking has always been that a team that's good in February is a lot more dangerous than one that's good in November. Should be a very interesting couple of months ahead for the Big Blue Nation.

Speaking of Big Blue, I favor the other team that's called that, the New York Football Giants (I love writing that phrase, even though the BASEBALL Giants left New York in the mid 1950s).  I HATE the New England Patriots, HATE their sanctimonious coach, Bill Belichick, who will do anything to get an edge over his opponent.  And I hate their quarterback, characterized by one national sports commentator as the "impossibly handsome" Tom Brady.  He is an attitudinal extension of his coach, I suppose, so that's probably why I'm not fond of him, either.  So go Giants on Sunday.

The real fun of the Super Bowl is always the commercials, and I am avoiding YouTube this week, where I believe that some of the upcoming ads can already be viewed.  That ruins the surprise, and that's half the fun.  Keep score while you're watching.  Not planning to watch the halftime show, as Madonna has never been among my favorites.

I think it's funny that the national news programs are paying so much attention to the winter that wasn't this year.  No complaints here, I hate cold weather.  But the amount of airtime devoted to this aberration has been kind of interesting.

OK, let's get to work.

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