Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Friends, what goes around comes around.  Or everything old is new again.  Or the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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

Believe it

Just about back to normal after our wonderful week at Walt Disney World.  At some point I'll stop rubbing it in....

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

Magical

Greetings, friends.....my wife and I are just back from a week at Walt Disney World in Florida.  We spent the week with our kids and their families, ten of us in all.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me say that we took our kids there about 25 years ago for three days and didn't stay in a Disney resort property.  Also, I was there for a corporate event two years ago, and spent about two hours in the EPCOT park, but it was very controlled and was part of a group activity.

And I won't make this post the blog equivalent of showing you slides of our vacation, either.  So with all of that out of the way, here are some quick impressions:

1.  Staying in a Disney resort is the way to go.  Your considerable investment to do so includes transportation anywhere on the property, among other perks. To be fair, the buses and monorails and boats are often crowded and may many stops, but it sure beats loading, driving and parking your car or a rental.

2.  You don't even need a car to get there, thanks to the Disney's Magical Express airport transportation system.  Our bags were retrieved by Disney and delivered to our room.  And I dropped them off the morning we checked out and didn't see them again until we reached our destination airport.  Handy.

3.  The food is very good and there are lots of choices.  Sit-down dining all the way down to a box of popcorn, it was all superb.  We experienced a couple of service delays, but given the volume of visitors, that's almost unavoidable.

4.  Service is number 1 with the Disney folks.  I read somewhere that every "cast member," as they identify each employee, refers to all visitors as a "Guest," and that "g" is ALWAYS capitalized.  I have never heard "my pleasure" so much in a short period of time in my life, as I routinely thank people for what they do for me.  And they seem to really mean it, and are always ready to at least attempt to answer any question you might have!

5.  Their MagicBands are very handy, too.  A wristband with a chip that links to your account, issued to every Guest.  No tickets or credit cards.  We had been told that not every food stand or souvenir shop was set up to accept the MagicBands, but they were indeed accepted everywhere we went.

6.  Yes, there are great fun rides, both old and new, and there are traditional and newer Disney characters roaming the property, but it's easy to forget the immensely entertaining and skillfully performed shows and other attractions.  We attended the Lion King Celebration in the Animal Kingdom park and we agreed it was one of the best shows we ever saw!

A great trip (by the way, weather was completely without rain and temperatures in the mid 80's or higher all week) but it's great to be home.  Back to reality tomorrow!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vacating

Greetings from vacation paradise!

Well, not quite yet, but I am off work this morning.  How did you engineer this, you may ask, since you just started a new job recently?   Simply put, it was a commitment from my new employer that I would be able to take this time period when I accepted my new position.  

Now that we have that out of the way....

As is so often the case before a vacation, I just returned from a business trip yesterday afternoon.  Almost didn't return when planned, either.  This trip was out of the ordinary, not for its purpose (a customer meeting) but the travel itself.

My new company requires travelers to use the "lowest available fare" to travel, and, in my case, I also have to consider not only my local airport, but also those in Louisville and Cincinnati.  So this trip required me to get myself to Louisville in time for a 6:00 AM flight to Newark, NJ, then wait two hours for an Amtrak train to Philadelphia.  Then a cab to the meeting location at a conference center/hotel.  Needless to say, my day Wednesday began around 3:00 AM and finally ended a little before 9:00 that night.

Yesterday I was due to fly out of Philadelphia thru Cleveland, and back to Louisville.  Because of bad weather in the eastern U.S. our aircraft was late in arriving, and the flight to Cleveland was delayed nearly 90 minutes.  No alternate flights were available, so the best United could do was to conditionally book me on the later Cleveland-Louisville flight......at 6:20 PM instead of the scheduled 12:15 PM.  I have not wished for a flight to be delayed very often, but was hoping that last leg would be held up....and it was.  I literally went gate to gate, leaving one plane and boarding the next.  Got home pretty much on schedule.  So my vacation got off to a nice start!

More thoughts about this trip.....I have not been to Philadelphia more than two or three times, but have to say that it is a lot like I assumed New York to be via media stereotyping and such.  An old, decaying city with many pushy, impatient people.  I suppose this depends on one's perspective, but from my viewpoint New York has it all over Philly or Boston, the next nearest  major cities.  I like Chicago, too.

But I digress.  Later today our son and his family embark on their first major journey in their new minivan, and tomorrow my wife and I will board an aircraft, as will our daughter and her family.  And we will all come together at Walt Disney World in Florida!

We have been talking about a major family vacation for some time, and things came together for it to happen this year.  Our grandchildren range in age from 8 to 2, so they're all at fun ages and should enjoy this immensely.  For my part, I am truly looking forward to watching the four of them have those "wow" expressions for days at a time!  So my next entry will most likely be about the House of Mouse and our time there!



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

That's that


That's it.   End of the line.  Kaput.  And so on.

The Cincinnati Reds met their season's end last night in much the same way that the past dozen or so games had gone....listlessly.  Whatever happened to these guys apparently is pretty long-lasting, as they finished the 2013 season on a six game losing streak.

Wait until next year.  But that phrase went out with the Brooklyn Dodgers (affectionately called "Dem Bums" by the locals way back when).

OK, enough of that.  I could go on, but that won't accomplish anything.

So, I read today an interesting article about how BlackBerry reached the low point where the company now exists.  It was a fascinating read that detailed a lot of indecision and conflict among their leadership, once the Apple iPhone entered the cellphone market.  I dare say that they aren't the only maker of cellphones whose fate was altered considerably by that invention.

I'm finding it hard to believe that the folks in Washington simply allowed the federal government to shut down, since a deal wasn't struck.  One TV pundit put it nicely....the folks who are holding things up this time are mostly those who are in legislative districts where they're unlikely to lose their seats in Congress, regardless of what they do while in office.  So there's no motivation to compromise anything toward "accomplishment," however that winds up being defined.  So if you're served by a non-essential part of the U.S. government, this may be a while before your service is restored.

I won't go into detail here, but I'm experiencing something of a paradigm shift after changing jobs in the last couple of months.  I tell you, no two corporate cultures are alike, are they?  Not that I've seen!

Samsung is really ramping up the publicity on this new "watch" that links to your smartphone.  Honestly, am I that busy that I can't pull my phone out to look at it, I have to have stuff displayed on the face of a watch?  Huh?

On the plus side, I read that Apple is apparently working on something major....something that will make it less clunky to watch different things on TV, that it will somehow integrate your cable box and your subscription (if you have one) to things like Netflix or Hulu Plus.  All I can say is:  we'll see.

Side note:  We tried Netflix but never found that much that we really WANTED to watch.  We could have watched some stuff, but didn't WANT to watch a lot of it.  But, each to his own.  I will say that we've begun buying movies digitally, which means no disks and no physical storage of said disk.  Kinda nice in a lot of ways, plus it's available to watch from a number of devices, all you need is a Wi-Fi signal.

I can always tell when I'm running out of stuff that's even marginally interesting, and it feels that I'm there.  So we'll see you next time.





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