Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rainy Sunday morning musings

Good Sunday morning, all....not going to complain about rain in late July.  Rare occurrence here in central Kentucky.

I have a good friend in northern California who reminded me that the "water police" are out in force there, citing those who ignore regulations about watering lawns, washing cars and such during a severe drought there.  We don't have that here, and probably won't this year, so that's a blessing.

I love quiet Sunday mornings.  My wife is still sleeping, I'm here at my computer with a cup of coffee, perusing the Internet and writing this.  Listening to some music on headphones to keep the house quiet.  We'll enjoy a leisurely breakfast in a while, watch a little television, then decide how to spend the day.  Nice.

Was fortunate enough to play golf with two separate groups of friends the last two Saturdays.  Yesterday's game was an annual treat---a man who's old enough to be my dad annually joins me and a couple of other mutual acquaintances (also young enough to be his sons) for a game of golf.  This guy is a very good player, but we generally manage to bring him down to our level.  Great fun, always nice to reminisce, and I think our friend looks forward to this annual golf date as much as we do.

And I've been playing pretty well lately, which is a nice plus.  Had two consecutive birdies yesterday (for the uninitiated, that means I scored one stroke under par--par being the recommended number of shots it should take to get the ball from the tee to the hole--each time).  Complete luck at my level of ability, but fun and exciting nonetheless.

I mentioned headphones a bit earlier.  I have had an interesting problem of late.  I splurged on a new pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones a while back, which freed up a pair of Bose earphones that I could then use while on my treadmill.  These replaced a pair of Apple earpods for that purpose, and I was excited that I'd have better sound while watching movies and such during exercise.  Since connecting the Bose set, though, I've had to play with the connections to make sure I was getting all of the sound quality, as I'd get most, but not all, of the soundtrack of what I was watching.  Did a little research yesterday to discover that Bose headphones don't like extension cords all that much.  So I'm back to a cheaper pair for now, but am acquiring a genuine Bose extension cord.  Frustrating, but given how Bose is so secretive about their technology and such, I suppose it's not entirely surprising.

I'm a big Bose fan, too.  Using those noise cancelling phones right now, with a pair of their computer speakers on the desk.  And we have one of their soundbars connected to our TV.  Great sound, takes up little space, and it blends right into the TV and stand esthetically.  And my wife approves, which is a major plus for any gadget-oriented purchase.  I'd rank Bose right up there with Apple as products that polarize opinion but are held in high esteem by those who own one or more of them.

Speaking of Apple, we were at the Apple Store last night for our monthly walk-through (as I commented to my wife, it's a minor victory to leave there empty-handed).  I continually find myself fascinated by the iPod Classic.  Pretty rudimentary machine compared to smart phones and the iPod Touch (which I used to have before acquiring my first iPad), as it only plays music and videos.  But it has a 160 gigabite storage capacity, and my mind races to figure out exactly how much of my library of music, movies and TV would fit onto it.  Not something I need, of course, but might be useful in many regards.  Of course, I feel certain that I can justify it in some way.

Oh, and the Reds won a baseball game yesterday for the first time in nearly two weeks.  I love baseball, but it loves me a little less when this kind of stuff happens.

Onward and upward, I suppose.




Friday, July 18, 2014

But what I really wanted was....

Good Friday to all....hope everyone has a great weekend planned.

Thought I'd share some things I found funny and/or interesting this week.  Traveled a bit (just one night) and have been out and about quite a bit otherwise, so here goes!

Boo!  and Hiss!  to American Airlines, who have apparently "redesigned" their full-size airline cabins to the extent that a "normal" coach seat affords a passenger about half of the forward-and-back space as before.  I was treated to a round trip earlier this week in a larger plane (couldn't tell you what make or model, I'm not THAT much of a geek) and found that I had about two to three handwidths between my chest and the seat in front of me.  Luckily, they're also featuring reduced size flip down trays, so that you can still have a place to put your drink....oh, wait, even that's too small for me now!  To compound matters, the gentleman (and I use that term loosely) who occupied the middle seat next to me on my outbound flight Tuesday afternoon made himself comfortable, completely at my expense.  Glad he enjoyed the flight.  I'm still sore from having his joints embedded in mine.

I just had something funny happen a short time ago.  I think I've mentioned that I have an office (really, simply a workspace in the event that I need it) but work primarily from a home-based office or in the field.  Anyway, I had an early meeting at the location of my office with three client contacts, then a phone call.  So I was there for a couple of hours.  I'm meeting a pal for lunch in about 45 minutes, so thought, well, I'll zip into a Starbucks and get a coffee, plug in the Mac and soak up some luxurious free Wi-Fi.  First Starbucks I visited --nowhere to park.  I mean NOWHERE, not even the meters on the street adjoining the parking lot!  So I resolved to run a quick errand and try another location.

Errand completed, I then encountered a McDonald's, embedded in a gas station (seeing more of those now, aren't we?).  I verified that they had Wi-Fi and then scouted for an electrical outlet, since the Mac was down to about 3% battery life.  No outlets in the seating area.  NONE.  And ominous signs everywhere warning that no one may remain seated there for more than thirty minutes.  OK, then, I'm outta there.

Undaunted, I remembered where another Starbucks location was, not far from the site of my lunch.  Parked, went in, scouted out the seating area....only there were no seats.  NO seats anywhere.  Plugs, yes, but no seats.

Hmm....so I decided to venture across the road to another McDonald's, this one a free-standing one, new building (I remember when they started remodeling it), saw plugs, ordered a soft drink, and here I am.  A little weary from my journey of the past 40 minutes, but up and running.  And enjoying a beverage, too.

This is what it's come to.  The search for free wi-fi.  My new company issued me an aircard, a device you can plug into your computer and it accesses a cellular phone company's data network to allow Internet access.  That's great, except the item they issued me does not work with my Mac.  At all.  Even ordered a portable router to use with it, but that didn't work either, AND the Amazon "partner" vendor from whom I ordered it wouldn't accept a return.  Amazon fixed that, thankfully.

So when I use my Mac, I have to find wi-fi if I'm in unfamiliar territory.  I kind of like being a trailblazing explorer, out in the wilds with nothing to rely upon but my wits.

OK, that was a little much, wasn't it?

The only other thing I thought to mention this morning is that I'm now shaving with amazing frequency these days (amazing what meeting with people regularly does for our grooming habits), so being able to remain clean-shaven while not regularly gouging my face has become a bit of a challenge.  But I love a challenge, so have played with my trusty Braun shaver to find a group of settings that I don't find so irritating.  So far, so good.  Will keep you posted.

Oh, and Sunday is my birthday.  Kind of afraid to see that many little sticks on fire in one place at one time.....


Monday, July 14, 2014

A few updates

Happy Monday, if there is such a thing.  I hope everyone had a nice, restful, enjoyable weekend.

Wanted to start with a handful of updates on items I've mentioned in this space in recent posts.

First, in the post entitled "Musical chairs" I noted my renewed effort to capture more music that is traditionally of interest to me.  I appear to have now completed my latest mission, as I now have 2452 individual songs in my iTunes library (and that's after deleting a lot of duplicates of the same recording, from "greatest hits" or "essential" collections).

I also neglected to mention one of my favorite streaming music services, Songza, which I mentioned in a direct communication to a good friend who read this particular post.  Songza was in the news recently because it was just announced that Google is acquiring the company.  It works on a context-oriented scenario.  The system will ask users what they're doing (relaxing, working, concentrating on something for work, entertaining, etc.) and then recommend a number of playlists based on that stated activity.  Pretty useful, and, like many other such services, if you don't happen to like a specific song, you can skip it, but only a few times per hour.  And there are commercials, as there are in the free version of nearly all of these streaming services.  I also didn't mention iHeart Radio, which is 100% free and I believe it's also commercial-free.  Give it a look, too, if you're interested in the whole streaming scenario.

As a corollary to all of this, I read recently that people are struggling to figure out how musicians will make a decent living in the age of subscription-based or free music streaming.  If folks aren't buying recorded music, who pays?  Those who do apparently aren't paying that much, it seems.

Another followup near and dear to my heart is that the Cincinnati Reds have climbed squarely into the race for the National League Central Division championship.  After lagging behind the leaders for the first couple of months of the season, the Reds caught fire and have played very well over the past six weeks or so.  And have done so despite more and more players lost to injury, whether on a short- or long-term basis.  My son and I attended a game Saturday night in Cincinnati wherein they overcame a four-run deficit, only to lose largely due to the efforts of a single Pittsburgh Pirate, Andrew McCutcheon (and what an exceptional player he is).

Saturday night also brought another first.  I walked out of a restaurant due to incredibly poor service.  It was after midnight, granted, but this was a burger place that pretty much specializes in late night dining.  Apparently the staff was totally unprepared for the large post-game and post-bar crowd.  Dirty tables, few servers, etc.  We got our table and were not acknowledged for about ten minutes.  My drink arrived but my son's milkshake was missing in action for over twenty minutes.  When it arrived it was thin and runny, and had clearly melted partially.  We simply got up and left.  Never done that before, and won't go back to that location, despite the fact that I like their food.  No matter, there's another location a couple of exits down the interstate.

Finally, to those wondering, I've just passed the two-month mark in my new job.  Like the change very much, and am already feeling far more valued and engaged than in my last position, which I now characterize as simply a bad situation and a bad fit.

That's all I have, folks.  Have a good week!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Writing it down

Good morning, friends...hope you had the chance to enjoy some time off from your job and have a long weekend.

Here's a little secret...my wife and I were married on July 4, 1986.  What a stroke of luck for me--a date I can easily remember, a day off from work each year to celebrate, and fireworks!  My wife and I enjoyed our anniversary this year, as we always do!

Among our anniversary activities was a movie--my wife particularly enjoys Tom Cruise's movies, so we took in a showing of "Edge of Tomorrow."  Imagine "Groundhog Day" crossed with "Independence Day," and add some well-done action sequences.  Intriguing and entertaining; I like to think at least a little during a movie, and this one had me scratching my head here and there.  It's based on a graphic novel called "All You Need is Kill."  Rather glad they changed the title.

I'm rolling a bit early today.  I have two conference calls to lead this morning, and because we have four more people in the house than usual, and because the first call will occur about the time everyone's trying to get some breakfast, I'm heading to my office for these calls in a short time.  It's not far, and I don't HAVE to go there, but it's easier for me and for the other folks who are with us.  Incidentally, those "folks" are my daughter, her husband and their two kids (one of whom has been with us for about three weeks, and it's been a joy for her to be here!).

So things have been just a little different of late, as I'm in a fairly new job (only two months in), and a lot of travel within Kentucky and otherwise as part of the onboarding and orientation process.  The job is just fine, thank you, if a bit different from the last seventeen years or so!

A brief followup on my remarks here recently about digital and online music...I spent a little time yesterday deleting duplicate songs from my iTunes library.  Amazing how many there were, given that I might have the original album where a song first appeared, then the same song in some sort of "greatest hits" or "essential" collection.  And in the computer, storage space is not something to be wasted, so I was happy to do a little housecleaning.  I will also mention another streaming music service that I passed along to a friend over the weekend--Songza, which is "context-based."  That means that instead of specifying what artist you want to hear, the system asks what you're doing, and will recommend genres of music accordingly.  So if you're working on a project, for example, it might suggest great music to hear in the background of your other activities.  It's free, so if you're so inclined, give it a try.

Try as they might, the Cincinnati Reds just can't seem to make up ground in the standings to the meteoric Milwaukee Brewers.  During the Reds' recent hot stretch, the Brewers played just as well.  And the two teams concluded a three game series in which the Reds won two, but only gained a game in the standings.  So now the Reds need to beat up on the Cubbies a bit, and that should prompt some movement in the standings.

I never really "caught" World Cup soccer fever, but if you did, I hope you're coping well enough.

And our unseasonably mild weather here in central Kentucky appears to be at an end.  Hotter yesterday, hotter still during the coming week and chances of isolated thunderstorms off and on all week.  Thursday through Saturday, especially, felt like early fall around here.

So that's today's update on things that probably could have waited.  Have yourself a good week.


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