Monday, June 25, 2012

It's quiet now....

It's quiet this morning here at the Smith ranch, but only in anticipation of what's to come.

Our daughter and her family should be arriving here later today.  And, no, they won't be brandishing bullhorns or sirens, but a family of four added to our little empty nest certainly makes a difference.

They'll be here with us until sometime late next week, when they'll start their trek back to Colorado.  They drove east last Thursday, stopping in western Kentucky to see my wife's mother and some other relatives there, then moved eastward past Lexington and on to northeastern Kentucky for two family reunions held on successive days by our son-in-law's family.

So we've been preparing for their arrival, and, ready or not, today's the day!

And because I work at home when I'm not traveling, we have an understanding that I almost always have to travel the first few days they're here.  I'm not comfortable taking two full weeks off from work consecutively (I manage people, and that presents some coverage and other issues), so generally speaking I'm on a business trip during week one of their stay.  This year is no different, I leave for Richmond, VA tomorrow morning around 11:00 and will return home Thursday night.

I feel that I just got back from the road, which is accurate, as I was in New Orleans again for meetings and interviews (another of my team decided to resign---I suppose one might wonder what I'm doing to these people to make them leave, but the departures are generally motivated by finances that our company cannot match) from Tuesday through Friday morning.

No additional pithy remarks about the Crescent City (I wrote a good treatment of Nawlins about a month ago) except it escapes me how a particularly bossy colleague would and could decide that a group of us should go to a dive way on the other side of the inner city for a mediocre hamburger, instead of choosing yet another of the legion of fine dining establishments available within closer proximity.  But that's just me, I suppose.

Anyway, I return home from this week's journey on Thursday evening (routed homeward from Richmond via Detroit, of all places, but it could have been worse, as I could have chosen to travel through New York City, making even less sense) and Friday begin six days of vacation.  Very much looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Broken record

I just saw something online that was essentially a plea for our music-loving society not to forget its roots and go back to vinyl records.  The teaser read something like this:



The real genius of vinyl recrods is the way that they help us actually feel our favorite music. That connection should not be lost.

Excuse me, but when was the last time that you attempted to play a record somewhere other than at home.  Oh, never?  Why not?

Kidding aside, when I was a young pup and feeling pretty good about the quasi-audiophile turntable (we record snobs would NEVER have referred to this device as a "record player") that I had added to my component system, I remember reading about the over-the-road trucker who loved music so much that he had found a way to suspend a turntable to make it unaffected by bumps in the road and such, allowing him to listen to his favorite records while driving.

Turns out he could have bought an iPod and accomplished the same.

Same line of thought....I noticed that Joe Walsh, erstwhile guitarist, sometime solo performer, most associated with the Eagles, just released a solo recording entitled "Analog Man."  A brief interview I saw of him commenting mentioned that he insisted that it be released on vinyl, as that's the truest medium for music.  But despite his comments and the obviously ironic title, the new recording is available on CD (there's also a combo CD/DVD set) and digitally on iTunes and elsewhere, I'm sure.  Don't yell "sellout" in response to this information....Joe's just doing what all struggling millionaires do.

I moved into the wholly digital music world a few years ago.  Inched that way when I sold the last car we had with a tape deck, and started acquiring CDs.  Then, somewhere along the line, my 25-plus-year-old component system just didn't seem that great.  Satellite radio also helped that migration.  In the end I sold most all of my records, gave the tapes to my son, and bought an iPod (later replaced with an iPad, which also serves as my primary music repository.  Then I sold most of my stereo equipment and donated the rest to the Salvation Army (the donation clerk actually said, "Does this stuff still work?"  All I could do not to smack him).

No regrets.  I've finally started buying music digitally, without buying the physical CD (although I can burn one if I like), and am contemplating the same for videos down the road.  I'm not there yet, but I can see that happening one of these days.

On another subject, the U.S. Open (men's golf) will be contested this week at the treacherous Olympic Club near San Francisco.  That should be entertaining, as golf's elite players will be crying "uncle" and complaining of the unfair setup of the course.  What, this is supposed to be easy?

Another golf-related note....Jim Nantz of CBS Sports got married on the 7th hole at Pebble Beach recently, after ending a 29 year marriage a couple of years ago.  Reading between the lines it looks like he married someone who worked for his talent agency.  All I can say is "good luck," and I'm glad that all of the sucking up Jim does during the AT&T National (played at Pebble Beach and owned in part by Clint Eastwood) paid off for him in the form of his nuptials.

Finally, this weekend is Father's Day.  Don't forget...my kids NEVER do!



Friday, June 8, 2012

Whaaaaaat???????

This post is devoted to the items I've seen in the news recently that prompted the title reaction from me.  And from many others, I'd wager.  Let's get started.

Four Cincinnati teens were denied their diplomas at a recent high school graduation ceremony.  No, they weren't under suspension or punishment for bad behavior, poor grades, failure to turn in classwork, etc.  No, the kids' families cheered too loudly at the ceremony and the superintendent elected to punish them for their families being too disruptive.  They're being asked to perform 20 hours of community service before the diplomas will be released. You're reading this correctly.

In a related matter, all of the diplomas handed out in Prince George's County, Maryland last week contained a misspelling of the word "program."




Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/06/07/2215858/word-misspelled-on-md-high-schools.html#storylink=cpy
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been rather unpopular since his election to office for pushing austerity measures that altered the collective bargaining power of numerous state employees, and was ultimately forced to face a recall election (only the third such recall election in American history, I believe).  Despite being so unpopular that people would sign a petition to even force the recall election, Walker wins the recall by a large margin.

DC Comics has announced that the superhero Green Lantern will now be openly gay.

The Miss USA beauty pageant occurred over the weekend, but shortly thereafter, Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, turned in her state crown, saying that the contest was fixed and that a list of those contestants who would be in the top 5 was seen by another contestant prior to the show starting.  What makes this particularly damning is that the list and the eventual top 5 finalists were listed in exactly the same order.  Of course, pageant co-owner Donald Trump says he'll sue this young woman.

An object roughly the size of a tractor trailer has washed up on the Pacific coast and has made it all the way from Japan's tsunami months ago.   One wonders how much more has already made it, and what's yet to come.

A sure-fire college football prospect who was accused ten years ago of kidnap and rape and ultimately served five years due to a plea bargain was exonerated recently and has been invited to the Seattle Seahawks training camp to try out for a spot on their roster.

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman had pitched 29 innings over 24 games and had not given up a single earned run.  Until last night, when he gave up consecutive doubles and a run, allowing the Pittsburgh Pirates to beat the Reds 5-4.  Chapman regularly throws the baseball at speeds of 100 miles per hour or greater.

And since you were nice enough to stick around to the end, thought you'd like to know that a truck carrying a load of pancake syrup blew a tire and crashed just after midnight this morning.  The driver swerved to avoid a car and crashed into the median wall.  But, no, a crew from the local Waffle House did not appear as previously rumored to assist in the cleanup.




Monday, June 4, 2012

The mega toothbrush and other amazing consumer stories

I'll bet that title got your attention.....

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm not always an early adopter of new technology.  We had an "electric" toothbrush when I was a kid, but it felt more like a gimmick than a useful device.

My wife and I have always been interested in good dental hygiene, and have always taken steps in that direction.  We had first tried better manual toothbrushes (angled, different length bristles, etc.), and that helped, to be sure.  Then we added anti-plaque rinse to our twice-daily brushing and flossing, and that helped, too.  Then we began using Listerine, and that REALLY helped (although it doesn't taste good, I don't care what flavor you use).  But the dental cleanings were still indicating that we needed to do more.

Enter the Philips Sonicare.

Both of our dentists recommended this to us, but we only took the plunge last week.  Simply put, each time I use this device, my teeth and gums feel like I just left the dentist's office.  Wow.  Bought this with dividend coupons from a major retailer, so our out-of-pocket was almost nothing.  So we're pretty happy right now.  So wow again!

As I mentioned, I'm not normally a fad shopper.  But there have been other "latest and greatest" things that have been just that.  Scotts, the lawncare company, came out with something called Snap.  It's a spreader that comes with cartridge-style bags of lawn fertilizer, seed, weed killer, pesticides, etc. and it's premeasured, taking all of the guesswork and study out of things.  Lawn looks great, I don't have to joust with a fly-by-night lawncare company, and, most importantly, my wife is very happy with the results.  Win-win!

Here's another one:  Mio.  That's the little squirt bottles of "water enhancer" that was heavily advertised at its introduction, but not as much lately.  I'm not supposed to drink as much tea as I used to (kidney stones and tea are connected, it turns out), so finding other stuff to drink was a priority, and I just didn't feel right about significant increases in my soft drink consumption (although I'm drinking a Coke Zero, my favorite poison, right now).

So I gave Mio a try in several flavors, and it's actually pretty good!  Of course, it's chemical soup, just like a diet soda, but I haven't grown ulcers or the like since I started drinking this stuff about a year ago.  It's also great to squirt a bit into a bottle of water to take with you.  Of their current flavors, I like the lemonade the best, followed closely by fruit punch.  Also like the peach tea, mango peach (and I don't like peach flavored ANYTHING as a rule) and the orange-tangerine.  Try it, you'll like it.

One more:  Pillsbury frozen biscuits.  OK, I admit that I love to cook but am no baker, so canned biscuits were a great boon to me for some time.  But we were visiting our daughter around the holidays last year and she used some of these frozen biscuits, and they're very good!  You bake as many or few as you need, and reseal the bag and save the rest for the next visit.  A great idea, and no worries about expiration dates and such, either!

I'll close with another subject that's not so great.  We live next door to a rental house.  We bought our home 16 years ago, and our original neighbor was so active in her lawncare that we just assumed that she was the owner of the home.  Not so.  She was a renter, as have been the majority of the people who have occupied that home since.  I won't go into detail about these people but we've literally run the gamut of humanity since that time.

And a "for sale or lease" sign arrived in the yard Saturday.  We could be in for some problems, so stay tuned.


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