Tuesday, December 31, 2013
This is always an odd time of the year, to me, anyway. We're now beyond the hustle and bustle of Christmas, which is wonderful because of the occasions we have to see people that we care about and that we may not see as frequently as we'd like. Most non-retail businesses are in kind of a holding pattern, as no one wants to get into anything major until the new year. And with Christmas and New Year's occurring on Wednesday this year, most business things will actually wait until next Monday, January 6, which starts the first FULL week of the new year.
So, did you have a nice holiday? See folks you wanted (or even needed) to see? Were you able to find that 'special' gift for each of those on your holiday shopping list? I'm fortunate that I can say "yes" to all of those questions, so I hope that you are, too.
Not such a happy new year to all of the NFL coaches who were fired yesterday....one was even canned Sunday night. I couldn't tell you whether those six men deserved to be relieved of their duties or not, and most of the official statements from the teams who parted ways with their coaches indicated the need for a change, new directions and so forth. In other words, more of the kind of corporate-speak that so many of us get tired of hearing. Personally, I'd like for one team owner or official to come out and say "He just didn't get the job done, and I fired him because of it." But in this era of hyper-political-correctness, that will simply not happen.
Speaking of things corporate, have you ever wondered what happens to someone like Bill Gates, the co-founder, former CEO and chairman of Microsoft, when he steps away from the company he started and ran for so long? I saw a headline online last week that mentioned that he is involved somehow in an effort to develop batteries that are powered by human urine. I swear I'm not making this up! He also has devoted a considerable amount of time and effort (and presumably some of his fortune, as well) to developing a better and more efficient toilet. I believe that both undertakings are ostensibly directed at or to the third world, as ways of giving people in less fortunate circumstances a leg up. And I know that Gates and his wife Melissa have given generously to many worthwhile causes, so I can't completely dismiss his efforts or intentions.
And that makes me wonder what would happen if everyone who's so concerned about helping those with little or no means would then direct their efforts to helping people here in this country. It occurs to me that we could end childhood hunger, homelessness and all kinds of other problems if we could just keep those resources within our own borders.
I just try to do my little bit, and hope that it makes a difference. If we all did that, imagine how many more of us would indeed have a healthy and happy new year.
Monday, December 16, 2013
No, actually, I want to mention some holiday acts of decency and kindness that I have been a party to over the years around the holidays.
First such instance was when I was a kid, probably eight or nine years old. I liked accompanying my mother to the grocery, for some reason (and wound up working in a grocery store for almost six years through high school and college). One such occasion we were making the rounds through the aisles of the long-gone A&P in Paris, Kentucky, my hometown, and I recall finding an envelope on the floor. I showed my discovery to my mom, who looked inside the envelope and said that I should go to the office at the front of the store and turn it in. I was pretty sure there was money inside, but had no concept of how much paper money was a lot (most of my experience with money at that point was in coins, of course). The person up front took the envelope and said they would try to find out who lost it.
Not long after that, a middle-aged African-American woman came up to my mom and me, asking if I was the little boy who found her money. Turned out that she had cashed her weekly paycheck and a small Christmas bonus, so that was all of the money that she had in the whole world for groceries, other bills and for Christmas gifts for her family. She was crying, thanking me and Mom over and over again. And she hugged me and gave me a $5 bill and kind of ran off. I will never, ever forget that moment.
Fast forward about twenty two years. I'm now married, stepfather of two, and my wife and I had volunteered to purchase and deliver Christmas presents to a needy family through our church. We went to deliver their gifts to their home, which was a dilapidated mobile home. The entire family was not at home when we visited, but those who were appeared to be in dire need of as much assistance as we (or anyone) could provide. That shook me up pretty thoroughly.
Not long thereafter, I remember driving to work one morning near Christmas. At that time I was feeling pretty trapped in my job of that time, with no opportunities for advancement and one or two people whom I would rather not have been involved with as my coworkers. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Then the Band Aid song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" began playing on the radio, and I began to cry. Weep. Hard. I knew that song, which had been released as a way to raise funds to fight famine in African countries, but had obviously not stopped my self-absorption long enough to really take in the words and their meaning. I was VERY ashamed of myself, and I have to confess that while I enjoyed Christmas a lot up to that point, it took on added meaning for me thereafter, as I was much better able to recognize the life of privilege that I and so many of us lead.
My last anecdote occurred just two or three years ago. My wife and I were preparing to have family over for dinner and presents just before Christmas, and I had made a quick run to the grocery to buy what was on our current shopping list. I breezed through the store, picked up the requisite items and a few more, and arrived at the checkout to empty my cart. It was only then I realized that I had run out of the house without my wallet, and, therefore, without any money. So I sheepishly admitted my error to the checkout clerk, apologizing that I'd have to come back after making a quick trip home. The man immediately ahead of me in line heard me, said something reassuring me that I shouldn't be embarrassed, and then INSISTED ON PAYING FOR MY ENTIRE GROCERY ORDER. I protested, begging him for a business card or some other evidence of where and how to reimburse him, but he just smiled, and said, "You seem like a nice guy, and I have to say, life has been very generous to me, so it would be my pleasure. Merry Christmas!"
So I went home, still a bit numb from this experience, and decided to donate the exact amount of our groceries to a local charity. Paying it forward, I guess. We still contribute to that charity a few times a year to this day.
So, when I say "have yourself a merry little Christmas," you know that I mean it.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
We're in full holiday prep mode at my house, and you may well be in that state yourself. So as a slight diversion from that, here are twenty questions, some with actual answers, other rhetorical, that should tickle your brain a bit....
Does anyone know why Santa Claus is fat? I don't think I've ever heard, not even in the old stop-motion animation "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" television special....
Who's with me in being sick of references to Black Friday, nearly two weeks AFTER Black Friday?
Are we in another one of those years when every contemporary recording artist releases a mediocre Christmas music album?
Why are people being so negative about NBC's live presentation of "The Sound of Music" last week? I watched it with my wife and thought it was actually pretty good, given the performers could not go back and do scenes again, as they could have if it had been recorded.
Why do we care about the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York? My wife was very eager to see this, always is.
Why is such a big deal being made out of one man shaking the hand of another whom he did not know until that moment? At a funeral?
Word is that President and Mrs. Obama were accompanied by former President George W. Bush and his wife and by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on their trip to South Africa to pay their respects to the late Nelson Mandela. Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall for that flight?
And is Hillary running for president in 2016? I can't quite tell....
Now that the General Motors stock owned by the federal government has been sold, and they're naming a woman as their next CEO, does that make you more or less likely to buy one of their cars?
Agreeing with one of the folks I follow on Twitter, is there a worse winter weather term than "wintry mix?"
Why do people still go bananas at the prospect of bad weather and all run to the grocery for milk and bread? Do they not have other food in the house?
How great is it that Pope Francis is sneaking out of the Vatican at night to minister to the poor of Rome?
Why are we, as a society, more geared to giving to the poor and homeless during the holidays, when these people need our help all of the time?
And why do celebrities get involved in "causes" overseas, when there are plenty of people who need assistance in our own country?
Now that the city of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, will this become the model of how city and county and other public entities minimize their exposure for having an underfunded pension model?
And has everyone forgotten that New York City went through bankruptcy in 1975?
Who's going to see "Anchorman 2" that didn't see the original mediocre movie? I thought so. That will answer my next question:
Who thinks Will Ferrell is funny?
Why can't we just buy subscriptions to the cable TV channels we watch, instead of having all 188?
And, finally, are you going to have a Merry Christmas?
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Lots of assorted stuff in the news....
Seems that certain kinds of stories come in bunches, and with the train derailment outside of New York City over the weekend I was reminded of this. Third major derailment incident in recent memory, although one was in Europe. But it was reported that the train was going about 80 as it approached a curve that required a much lower safe speed. No way to know what was happening, neither you or I were there. But a shame nonetheless, four people dead, many others injured.
I also took note of a story that actor Paul Walker, known for his role in the recurring "Fast and Furious" movie franchise, died in a car crash. Lots of conflicting information on this, as well. But an actor who's probably best known for playing a high-performance driver on screen dying in an auto accident is most ironic indeed.
Oh, and did you know that racism has ended? According to the Republican National Committee, Rosa Parks ended racism when she refused to move to the back of the bus all of those years ago. I think we've all heard enough revisionist history to call BS on this one.
Kentucky's football season has mercifully ended, 2-10 record, just like last year. Fans hope that the cavalry (in the form of additional, more talented players) is coming in time for next year. We shall see.
Despite the fact that the World Series ended over a month ago, baseball manages to still be in the news, if you're looking for that kind of news. Mostly concerning contract issues this time of year, and the "winter meetings," where team officials meet mostly to discuss official rules changes but unofficially meet to discuss trades and free agent signings, are coming soon. And this Friday and Saturday my Cincinnati Reds host their annual winter fan event, Redsfest. It's a sort of fan convention with activities and meet-and-greet opportunities included. Fun, but tiring because of the difficulty in navigating through the large crowds and smallish aisleways. My son and I have been twice in the past, were supposed to attend on a third occasion but for my first kidney stone!
The house is decorated for Christmas, we've finished about 2/3 of our shopping and the Christmas cards have been mailed. No time to take it easy, though, we all have less time after Thanksgiving than usual. So if you haven't started your holiday preparations, you had better get busy!
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
But I do want to say that I'm very thankful for my wonderful family, for my many friends, for my health and for my prosperity.
Have a nice Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 25, 2013
Starting with last night's NFL game between the Broncos and the Patriots....NBC persisted in calling it "Manning vs. Brady XII" or somesuch, identifying the quarterbacks for each team. To be fair, New England's Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts and now of the Denver Broncos, have played against one another numerous times, but they have something like 48 teammates, so it's not a solo act on either side. Plus, since they're both quarterbacks, they don't technically play AGAINST each other, but that's quibbling.
I'm already sick of Black Friday and it isn't even here yet. My wife asked me over the weekend why they call it that, and I used to think that it was some sort of overdone ominous thing. Turns out that it's significant of the day when many retailers move "into the black," or profitable performance, for the year.
But if you've noticed, whether on TV, in print or online, Black Friday "deals" and such can be had NOW and I'd bet some sale events after that particular day will be called "Black Friday" events nonetheless. For my part, there's one item that I want to buy for a family member that is a Black Friday special, and it's a legitimately great deal under the item's regular price. So imagine my relief when the retailer in question offered to let "select" customers buy it online now, rather than trekking to the store on THAT day.
And one more thing. That "DAY" starts Thursday night as early as 5:00 PM at some retailers. Yes, that means that retail clerks, who don't make enough money to begin with, are going to have to give up at least part of their Thanksgiving "holiday" to work. Dig around online, as I know that I saw a list of the national retailers who are NOT going to open at any time on Thanksgiving Day. They get first preference.
I also saw a headline online about Kim Kardashian having some sort of online auction and making a big thing of donating some percentage of the proceeds to Philippines typhoon relief. Um, Kim, why aren't you donating ALL of the proceeds?
And if you've not donated to help those in that calamitous situation, you can even donate to the American Red Cross through Apple's iTunes, quick and painless.
The United States Senate's Democratic caucus went "nuclear" last week and voted to successfully change the filibuster rules that have tied up that body for five years. About time.
Finally, this is the time of year when I start missing people whom I don't see enough or at all, due to distance and other constraints. I'll bet that you have someone in your life who fits that description, too. Make sure to get in touch soon, don't wait, you'll benefit from having done it!
That's enough for now!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Here in the central Kentucky area we were very fortunate not to have been affected by the recent spate of severe weather that struck about a dozen states. My mother-in-law's home county in western Kentucky saw some heavy winds but none close to where she lives, thankfully. And while I don't know anyone in Illinois who was affected, here's hoping those who were can find some positives in their current circumstances.
Now it's cooler again, which I suppose is appropriate for mid-November, but after seeing high temperatures in the mid 60's recently, it's a bit of an adjustment.
And nightly I feel just awful for those in the Philippines whose home area was ravaged by the recent typhoon there, as I watch the latest news reports about relief and recovery efforts there. The company for whom I work, along with many, many other American entities, have some business installations in the Manila area, and from all reports that area wasn't heavily affected.
I'm not participating in Movember, where men don't shave to call attention to specific men's health issues. But I've enjoyed watching the men of the Today Show let their beards grow. Matt Lauer's looks the best, in my opinion. I'm sure he and Al Roker are both a little wistful that their facial hair so heavily overpowers their lack of HEAD hair. Our son usually is a participant in this or Septembeard, which I believe is a little bit similar. This year his growth was during September.
Listening to Elton John's latest, entitled "The Diving Board," as I write this entry. Probably among Elton's best in quite some time, and in the same vein as his joint effort with Leon Russell a couple of years ago. Check it out if you're a fan. Unless, that is, you don't like "sleepy music," as my granddaughter characterizes nearly anything that isn't very uptempo!
Giving in and going along with the holiday spirit, as my wife and I have already begun to discuss the holiday shopping lists, Christmas card lists (shorter each year, as I've written in the past) and charitable contributions. The latter has changed a little with the typhoon, but we usually manage to give to a local rescue organization, knowing that the money we contribute stays in our home community.
I just booked a business trip to Philadelphia in early December. Amazingly, airfares from the Louisville airport, some 70 miles away, were about $400 less expensive than those from my home airport in Lexington or the Cincinnati airport (which is actually in northern Kentucky). Not sure what they're doing there that the other two airports are not, but my company requires the least expensive airfare, so it's a flight from Louisville again for this trip.
My wife and I will be traveling closer to the holidays, as we're going to be with our daughter and her family in Colorado for Christmas this year. Always interesting to be in airports that close to a major holiday, and I'm sure that this year will be no exception.
Have to hand it to Kentucky's first-year football coaching staff. The team is now 2-8 with two games to play, and the players are still playing hard and giving a great effort and the coaches routinely express frustration that this effort isn't paying off with wins. It's a shame, but they apparently just aren't talented enough to be competitive in many of their games.
Not so for the men's basketball team from Kentucky, off to a pretty good start, despite losing to an older and more experienced Michigan State team last week. A bunch of freshmen, again, but by the spring they will most likely become a substantial force in college basketball.
Stay out of trouble!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Woke up to a very pretty layer of snow on the lawn this morning, although there's not enough to cause road problems, even here in bad-weather-challenged central Kentucky. It IS November, after all!
Was talking with my daughter last night and she mentioned that she has a couple of friends who went to Walt Disney World this week or last week. Apparently all said that the weather was much more agreeable than during our week there recently, less hot and humid. Also, my daughter indicated that according to her Disney Experience smartphone app (I had this while we were there but deleted it as we left Orlando), the wait times for various popular rides and attractions were a fraction of what we experienced!
Since our return from vacation I can add another worthwhile skill to my portfolio....product tester. My friends at Colonel Littleton asked me to use and evaluate a couple of their new products, and offer my opinions of them. So I spent a couple of weeks with these items, one a product for a tablet computer and the other a larger version of a phone holster I already own. I recorded my observations, good and not so good, and supplied them to the Colonel's marketing department. Since the holidays are coming, take an online stroll and visit colonellittleton.com to see some unique gift items for folks in your life or for yourself!
Speaking of the holidays, my wife and I just spent a little time over the weekend doing a little planning of our shopping for family and friends. Gotta have a plan, you know. And, in my case, having a budget is useful, too, although it's kinda hard to stick strictly to it when you're doing for people you love! But we have some ideas now, and will be doing the shopping thing gradually over the next two or three weeks.
And I'm a little disappointed that the mass retailers can't wait to open their doors for sales and events, so desperate are they to make their sales goals. Now the biggies are going to open Thansgiving evening at 6:00 or so. Suppose it's understandable and inevitable, but it still bothers me a bit.
Thanksgiving is coming, too, lest we forget, and already we're seeing signs all over Lexington of hotels and select restaurants that are serving Thanksgiving dinner. One of the better things we have seen is by an upscale steakhouse group with three locations. Apparently they're having a "complimentary Thanksgiving dinner" for "those less fortunate" at their main location on Thanksgiving Day. Wonderful way to give back to the community.
We actually went to volunteer at one of the larger functions of that type one year, and they were so overrun with volunteers that no one knew what we could do to help. So since then we've contributed financially to a couple of causes that serve our location community, as our dollars are probably more helpful than our time.
Have a good day, and try not to break anything.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Blockbuster announced that it's closing its remaining 300 or so stores by early 2014. I worked for a videotape rental store in the early 80s. Honestly, if you had told me then that people could rent a movie by clicking a couple of buttons on their TV remote, or, better yet, visit a vending machine to pick up a movie to watch tonight, I would have thought you insane!
Hard to imagine a professional football player being bullied, but that is exactly the scenario that's playing out in Miami right now.
Rand Paul apparently wasn't graded hard enough when he wrote term papers in school, if he's this willing to use other people's words without proper attribution.
Someone else whose work I read mentioned this, but the NFL really is all about the quarterbacks. In Monday night's game between Chicago and Green Bay, both teams were forced to use their backup QBs due to injuries to the starters. Didn't hold my interest at all.
Prechopped frozen onions and green peppers have become a nice go-to for starting a meal at our house.
I just found out that, at my current income level, I make more money than a large percentage of other Americans. I don't know how that's good news for them OR me.
Did you see the story about the two planes full of skydivers that collided in midair? Miraculous that no one was seriously injured....
I noticed that Colorado is now going to tax the marijuana that it legalized a while back. Experts have said for decades that the way to control drugs is to legalize and tax them, removing the criminal element. I'm not sure if that's so, but I suppose we'll find out something about this as things unfold in that state.
Multiple stores will give me a gift card if I trade in my existing iPad and buy a new one. If they'll give me 90 cents on the dollar of what I paid, then MAYBE.
The NBA regular season just began. Yawn.
Kentucky's college basketball team begins its season later this week. All right!
The Cincinnati Reds made a "qualifying offer" to free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo of $14.1 million dollars. He apparently has seven days to decide whether to accept. I guarantee you it wouldn't take me nearly that long.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Here in Lexington, KY, a city of about a quarter-million folks, things change, but not at a breakneck pace. But recently, a LOT is changing, and I suppose we'll have to see how much of it is for the better.
For instance, it was announced not long ago that the local Sears department store, which has existed in the Fayette Mall (original name, right?) since it was built in the early 70's, will close at year's end. Now, I don't know about you, but Sears has been a retail presence in my life for as long as I can recall. Growing up in Paris, a town about twenty miles from Lexington, I recall having a Sears catalog store that also sold appliances, tires and some lawn equipment. Bought clothes from them via their catalog for some time, until I found better alternatives. My parents always bought Kenmore appliances from Sears, and my wife's car right now has a Sears Diehard battery in it. Sears used to stand for good value, in my view.
Nowadays, Sears is kind of a retail afterthought. We go there mostly because they have a Land's End store on the premises (until 12/31, anyway) and my wife buys a lot of their clothes. They don't stock my sizes onsite, but they do handle returns and exchanges. And there was a time that we bought our larger electronic items, TVs and such, from them, but no more. Last thing of consequence I bought there was a lawn mower a couple of summers ago.
J.C. Penney is in the same boat, in trouble with no end in sight. It will be interesting to see what changes come to both.
Anyway, since Sears was an original anchor tenant of this mall, the plan apparently is to demolish the store (it's the joining point between two wings of the mall, so I'm not sure how this will play out) and build a Cheesecake Factory. We like that restaurant (I know, food's not good for you, etc., but it's GOOD) and it will be a welcome addition to the local scene.
There's also a Long John Silver's that was built when I was a kid, on the same main road as this mall, although about a mile apart. It closed a year or more ago, and has sat vacant since. But recently a sign sprung up saying that it was soon to be the home of a Noodles and Company location, another restaurant chain we like that didn't previously exist in Lexington.
And also within a mile of one another, both the McDonald's and the Burger King are closed for renovation. They're also pretty old buildings, so it's probably way past time. I don't frequent either, but it was interesting to see them both shut down at the same time (the McDonald's drive thru is still open, oddly). Likewise, the Wendy's a bit further up the road was torn down and replaced within the last couple of years. This is apparently more common these days, wherein fast food companies are beginning to require their operators to renovate or rebuild.
I can think of a Pizza Hut and an Arby's that closed and were razed in pretty short order in the past few months, too.
My own household is a little left out of this, so I'll just mention that about a week ago we had two trees removed from our front yard. So there's that.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This morning I have a hodgepodge of this and that, so bear with me....if you don't like one item, hopefully you will like the next one a little more.
I'm shocked, SHOCKED that McDonald's has elected to stop serving Heinz ketchup, since a former Burger King executive is now running Heinz. I mean, really, if they're worried about corporate espionage, there are scores of hourly workers who have worked for one and then went to the other. Seriously, though, this is one more thing against Mickey D's fries....first, they changed the formula of oil they're fried in (used to be a mix of vegetable oil and BEEF FAT), now they're going to let us slather them with an inferior brand of ketchup (or catsup, even).
Speaking of Burger King, I'm surprised they haven't changed the name of this establishment....have you walked into one of these places lately? In addition to burgers, they have numerous varieties of chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, chicken tenders and even seasonable items like pork barbecue sandwiches. And coffee drinks, desserts, etc. Hardee's, too (east of the Mississippi, west it's Carl's Jr., I think), has an expansive menu that doesn't seem to specialize in anything.
If you follow me on Twitter (and you couple dozen folks know who you are, but if you'd like to follow me, I'm @richardlexsmith) you saw my comments about Harry Connick, Jr.'s performance of the Star Spangled Banner at last night's World Series game. Did a good job. Unfortunately, James Taylor, one of my favorite singers, got a little confused on the lyrics in Boston last week while attempting the same. I suppose it happens.
Are you planning to run out on 11/1 and buy a new Apple product? There are a bunch! For my part, I was fortunate enough to update my Mac with the new operating system, named "Mavericks," as well as a couple of Apple productivity applications. All free of charge. Nice move by Apple to enhance the user experience. And the new iPad appears to be a nice improvement, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with my third generation device.
Finally, the Cincinnati Reds named their pitching coach of the last four years, Bryan Price, as their new manager, the 61st in team history. I had announced my candidacy, but to no avail. So I'm holding out to be baseball commissioner.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Friday, October 11, 2013
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Starting with baseball (naturally), as my Cincinnati Reds cannot win their division (the St. Louis Cardinals have eliminated the Reds mathematically) but they can at least host the single-game wild-card playoff they'll most certainly have with the Pittsburgh Pirates by winning two of three games this weekend from those same Pirates. The games are in Cincinnati, so my son and I are trekking north to lend our support tomorrow.
While we're in town we plan to visit the world-famous, legendary Montgomery Inn. Haven't heard of this? Then I'd guess you aren't from the midwest. This place is so well known that Bob Hope actually did their radio and television commercials years ago. The ribs are baked, not smoked, but slathered with a unique sauce that contributes heavily to many other items on their massive menu. They have multiple locations, including a very scenic one on the banks of the Ohio River, but we're going to my favorite, the original in Montgomery, Ohio, a township northeast of the main part of Cincinnati. Filled with endless sports souvenirs, jerseys and photos. Sort of like eating in a sports museum!
I love a good customer service story, since they're kind of rare. And if you visit here periodically, you've read my impressions of Colonel Littleton, Ltd. of Lynnville, TN. I have many of their products, most of them personal leather goods. A while back I added their brass luggage tags to my collection and one has "lived" on my Saddlebag Briefcase since it arrived. I was in an airport Tuesday evening and discovered that my tag had separated from its hardware and was nowhere to be seen! I was NOT happy, mostly because I liked that tag and it was beginning to show some age and gain some patina.
I sent an e-mail to one of the nice folks at the Colonel's operation and she told me that someone from the returns department would be in touch. Instead, I received an e-mail from a parcel company with a tracking number....they already have a replacement on its way to me! How's THAT for service?
If you've been living in a cave without media available, you don't know what the rest of us do, that the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, takes effect on Tuesday. Confusing for some, depending on circumstances, but if you'll visit healthcare.gov, you can probably get most of your questions answered. And Texas Senator Ted Cruz will not be the one answering them, most likely.
Have you sampled any of the new TV shows? I had lunch with a friend yesterday and we compared notes about a few. He saw a couple of sitcoms which he said weren't good, and he's watched one show that my wife and I have yet to watch from the DVR, "Hostages." He said it was pretty good. What we have watched are "Marvel's Agents of Shield," which was not bad, but should get better as we get better acquainted with the numerous characters. And we also watched "The Blacklist," which was VERY good indeed. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't watched, but it's well written, well acted, and contained a most unpredictable plot.
My new company requires that we travel using the lowest available fare, which makes a lot of sense. But when I traveled to Chicago earlier this week, that meant that I didn't take one of the two airlines that offer direct flights to Chicago from Lexington. No, I used a different airline, albeit my preferred one, to get there and back. One hour trips turned into five hour processes with changes and layovers. But it's their money, so that's how it is.
I saw a few of the new iPhones on this trip, including a gold one being used by a young woman at a restaurant in downtown Chicago. I updated my devices to the new iOS7, and I like it for the most part, although the differing appearance is a little jarring at first. A friend is trying to migrate from an iPhone 4 to the new 5s and he's not having a good time of it, unfortunately. But he's an IT professional, so I'm confident that he'll get it whipped into shape.
OK, back to work. Have a good weekend, go Reds, and we'll see you next time.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
When my wife and I purchased our current house, we traded a somewhat rural environment for a more urban one. That is to say, our old house was in a development about five miles from Lexington, and we now live within the city of Lexington itself.
We wanted to live in the city, as that put us both closer to our jobs and a lot of other things we needed or wanted to have nearby, like shopping, dining, etc. We also bought a newer house, which we felt would give us some advantages in the way of maintenance upkeep costs. And we were also glad to be connected to a central sanitary sewer system, instead of the septic tank and field drain bed setup we had at our previous home.
But one thing we did NOT count on was insects. Bugs. And I don’t mean your garden variety flies or mosquitoes or even bees and wasps. No, I’m talking about all kinds of critters that we had never seen in our years in the country, near a farm. These creatures must surely originate in the sewer system and use our drains to enter the house, as we almost always see them in the bathrooms.
We see such exotic varieties as craneflies, harvestmen, centipedes, beetles, moths and a host of others for which I don’t know the names. And I stand by my assertion that they enter via the sewers, as I routinely spray the perimeter of the house each spring and fall to ward off ants and other traditional pests.
I suppose we’re used to it now, just reach down and grab the offending parties and return them to the drain with a little water behind them for incentive to move on. Just so surprising that we would have MORE pests in an urban setting than we did living adjacent to unused farm land for many years. Back in those days, if one of us referred to a “pest,” we were most likely talking about a gopher or mole, not a bug or something akin. To be fair, those required some effort to eradicate, too, but they were much less frequent than the centipedes (I think the correct name for what we see is “house centipede”) or other creepy-crawlies that visit us now.
I think I’ve mentioned in this space that my wife became fond of feeding the local birds soon after we moved in, and we have continued this practice for about fifteen years. Among these birds were and are cardinals, bluejays, robins and finches, as well as the generic black birds that come in bunches and generally make a mess of the yard. The list of animals receiving food expanded to also include the local squirrels and chipmunks, although recently we stopped buying separate products for them to eat. About the only thing that keeps the birds away (the squirrels do not) is a hawk that visits our yard periodically. My wife will often comment that the hawk must be nearby, since the birds aren’t coming around.
Just yesterday she tapped me on the shoulder and told me to quietly look outside, and, sure enough, there was a young hawk perched on our fence. He was watching our yard VERY intently. Back when we used to have a cat and would allow him to rove around the backyard, my wife worried that a hawk (most likely an older, bigger model than the young one who just appeared) would grab our cat and carry him off for dinner! Fortunately, that never happened, but we still talk about it.
So if you receive an invitation to visit, please don’t assume that you’ll need a beekeeper’s suit or a falconer’s glove.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Friday, August 16, 2013
And it's just a little strange to be back here at home, in my home based office that I occupied for ten years. New job yet so familiar. Lucky that it's not entirely foreign to me, I suppose!
Enough of that. Lots going on in the world that warrants comment.
My heart truly goes out to the people of Egypt. Whichever side of the dispute you come down on, and I frankly can't quite decide who's right and who's wrong, you have to feel for a nation that by all outward appearances is tearing itself to shreds. Death, extensive injuries, complete chaos and not much in the way of order is no way for anyone to live.
I also have been astounded, as I always am, at the heroism of the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to attempt to protect property and communities from deadly and unpredictable wildfires. There are quite a number burning right now, mostly in the western states, but what these people attempt to do, and often succeed in doing, is remarkable and should not be overlooked.
Everyone who reads this space regularly knows that I'm a huge baseball fan, and I have to say that I was totally fooled by Alex Rodriguez ("A-Rod"), the ailing third baseman of the New York Yankees. When he arrived on the scene as a skinny teenaged shortstop for the Seattle Mariners, I thought he was something special. But as time went on and his accomplishments were gradually tempered with the knowledge that he, as so many other prominent major leaguers of the past fifteen years, was using performance-enhancing drugs to increase his productivity, I lost all respect. So imagine my astonishment that he recently threatened Major League Baseball with a lawsuit if their recently assessed 211 game banishment (which Rodriguez is appealing) isn't rescinded. I read last night that it's been strongly suggested that he gave up other players' names in an attempt to save himself, or at least lessen his punishment, and that's wrong, too. No way to know how this plays out, but it cannot go away soon enough.
And don't look now but my Cincinnati Reds have won five games, and closed to within 2.5 games of the lead in the National League Central Division. Despite their excellent win-loss record, the Reds haven't been this close to the lead in a while. Should be fun to watch a three-team dogfight between the Redlegs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates down the stretch.
And we're excited here in central Kentucky about our up-and-coming football team. They may not win many more games than last year's group, but with an all-new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes and a great new attitude, they stand to be more compelling that last year's team.
That's good for the moment. Have yourself a good weekend!
Thursday, August 8, 2013
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