Monday, September 29, 2014

Ending well

Good Monday morning, everyone...hope you all had a great weekend!

A few things rattling around pertaining to things ending, and I suppose I should start with my beloved Cincinnati Reds, who ended their baseball season yesterday.  162 games filled with injuries and uneven performance, ending with a record well below .500 that did not qualify the team to play in the postseason, as they had three of the past four years.

But just in case you think that the last few games were downers, it's worth noting that on their way to wrapping up the season the Reds won Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers, ending that team's postseason aspirations, and over the weekend won in come-from-behind fashion on Saturday with an extra-innings grand slam, no less, and then yesterday their wonderful pitcher Johnny Cueto drove in what would be the winning run to assure himself of a 20-win season, the first by a Reds pitcher since 1988.  As I am fond of saying, baseball is the greatest game of them all, as they were playing a Pittsburgh Pirate team that had only lost four times during September coming into the weekend, and won two of three.  So there you go.

Another ending was a Southeastern Conference losing streak for the University of Kentucky football team, as they outlasted Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon by a score of 17-7.  Not a pretty game, from all accounts, but it tallies the team's third win of the season nonetheless.  The Cats had not won a conference game in over two years, by the way.

Luckily for me, I appear to be ending a nasty cold or sinus disorder, which often happens to me in the spring and fall, when allergy sensitivity is at a high point.  Hacking and blowing, lots of fun for those around me, I'm sure, but if it's not over, it's pretty close.

My wife went out of town to visit her mother over the weekend, so I used some solo time to catch up on some TV that I knew would not interest her.  Via the PBS app on Apple TV, I watched "The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History" in fits and starts throughout the weekend wrapping that up last night.  Fascinating look at three very influential people, Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  And even though I'm something of a student of history, I learned a fair amount about each during the course of the miniseries.  Ken Burns is a remarkable maker of these types of films, by the way; I still watch his "Baseball" masterpiece every spring as a tuneup for the baseball season!

Finally, my work situation has been interesting lately, as we hire three new team members, and it has fallen to me to train and orient these folks, one each for the past two weeks, and the third person starts this morning.  Once that's done, things will change, as I've been juggling multiple responsibilities in anticipation of these folks joining our team.  So I suppose that's one more thing that will end well!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Falling

It's fall, campers, as of around 10:30 last night.  It's felt more like fall in these parts for some time, so appropriate it's now official.

And with that, I have my traditional fall cold.  I have been fighting allergies for some weeks, which is also characteristic of this time of year, but what I have suffered has morphed into a full-blown cold.  Congestion, some coughing (though thankfully not so much that I can't sleep) and general aches are its hallmarks.  How nice.  Using some over-the-counter stuff to fight back, but, as we all know, it generally just has to run its course.

We had our twice-a-year neighborhood garage sale Saturday.  I put out a few things, plus a couple of pieces of furniture that we no longer wanted.  Made less than $50, but that's better than the last time I did it, when I made about $15.  Sold a blender we haven't used in years, a weed trimmer that does not run, and a soap dispenser that clogs at the drop of a hat.  Plus a few other things.  

And as usual, folks came in asking for various stuff.  The first man who appeared said he was interested in finding some tools.  My bet is that he got lucky once and is hoping for history to repeat itself.  Not here, friend, I don't have that many tools, I thought.  

The furniture is now resting comfortably on Craigslist, until I can find time to haul it to a couple of places that buy used stuff.  Almost all of the rest of it went straight to Goodwill.  We've found that a good rule of thumb---if you're willing to sell it, donate what you don't sell, rather than returning that stuff to your other belongings.  When you live in a smallish house, important to fight clutter where you can!

Depressing times around here.  The Cincinnati Reds will NOT have a winning season, let alone participate in post-season play.  They begin their last six games of the season tonight, all at home.  May try to get up to the ballpark for one, since there won't be anymore until next April.  And that's what's depressing.  This time of year I think of the quote from A. Bartlett Giamatti, who wrote:

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

I don't think I can say it any better than that.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday, Monday

Good Monday morning to all.  Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!

Later today I'm going to be helping to orient a new employee (note that I did not use the non-word "orientate."  One of these days I'll do an entire blog entry on the fingernails-on-a-blackboard feeling I get from numerous very common grammatical errors.).  I'll be doing this each of the next three weeks.  I've done this many, MANY times, but I cannot say that I've done it when I myself have been this "new," having only started my current job in May.  But it will be good to fill out our team completely!  The only hiccup thus far is new hire #1 had difficulty finding our offices elsewhere for the HR portion of her orientation, but I was just advised that she arrived.

Had a couple of pretty awful customer service experiences recently, and while I could provide endless details of each, let's just say they were totally different from one another and involved completely different industries and products/services.  It's just sad that we more or less MUST expect customer service to be poor overall.

Have you seen "Guardians of the Galaxy?"  I have not, not sure if I want to, but in a mediocre summer for movies, it's apparently the box office champ.  Just wondering....

Isn't it funny how free, strong Wi-Fi makes about any place of business better, especially the ones that invite or encourage staying a while?  I took my wife to a medical appointment (involves her eyesight, so they require that the patient not drive afterward) this morning, and am cohabiting at a coffee-and-sandwich place.  One that's known for their wi-fi and lengthy customer stays.  I will be here for a bit, so it's fortunate that the Wi-Fi is good here.

I saw something that kind of amused me last week.  A former employer, which has been through an acquisition and is now apparently being sold to a large venture capital company, is now looking to ADD management talent to its ranks.  Presumably the new owners realize that the former ones thinned the ranks a little too much.  I love corporate America!

Confession--I watched the entire Apple presentation about their new products and services.  Ready to add to my existing arsenal of Apple products, but will wait until the right point (and contract interval, regarding a phone upgrade).

Last night my wife and I were scanning the television dial looking for something to watch.  The NFL game of the evening held no interest, so we wound up watching some stuff on the Cooking Channel.  Watched an episode of a show entitled "Carnival Eats," and it's about exactly that.  We saw, among other things, apple pie fries, smoked macaroni and cheese, a deep-fried cheeseburger, and a sloppy joe sandwich on two glazed doughnuts instead of a bun.

Then the next show was about sweets, forget the name, but the segment we watched before heading to bed concerned a candy shop in Portland, Oregon that makes their own caramel popcorn, infusing actual bits of popcorn into the caramel itself.  Then they make gumdrops from smoked sugar.  Quite something, I'm sure.  I was awake an extra hour from the indirect sugar rush.

All blogged out for now.  Have a good week!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Transition time

Good Tuesday afternoon to you all.

Fall has not fallen in most parts of the country.  In fact, given how wet our weather in central Kentucky has been up to this point of the year, we may not see the evidence of fall in the form of brightly colored leaves for a while yet.

But it's transition time for other reasons, too.  For example, in the past couple of weeks, both college and professional football began their 2014 seasons.  Always an exciting time for fans, since every team is in first place at the start of a new season!  And don't look now, but Kentucky won their first two games of the new season, and have already equalled their win total for the previous two seasons. A much tougher test is ahead Saturday, as the Cats travel to Florida to take on the Gators, but who knows?  Anything can happen.

My beloved Cincinnati Reds are also in transition, as they will most likely not play in the postseason this year, something they've managed to accomplish three of the last four seasons.  Injuries, lack of hitting (timely or otherwise) and some very poorly timed losing streaks have doomed my favorite team to mediocrity and a losing record.  But, as stalwart baseball fans always say, wait 'til next year!

Movies begin to transition from lightweight, youth-oriented summer fare into more adult-appeal films.  Have seen some advertisements for a few new films coming out soon, and, as with anything, some look better than others.  I am very much looking forward to Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" later in the season.

My work team is going to grow by about 300 percent in the next couple of weeks, a welcome addition.  We've been doing all right with things, but having staffing at the levels that were originally intended will make a big difference to our customer.

Will you get a new iPhone?  Think about it?  I won't, at least not yet, as my current cellphone contract isn't up until next June.  But my wife is probably going to be among those who get the new phone when it becomes available.  The announcement event is occurring as I write this, so Apple may be bringing out more neat stuff with the new phones.

Recently we bought some new furniture.  Liked all of it in the store, but it all looks and seems different here in the house. So we're working with the retailer to see what can be returned, exchanged, etc.  Wish us luck getting all of this worked out to our satisfaction!

One last thing to mention---next month my wife and I are planning a trip to Tennessee, where we plan to meet up with a former coworker and very good friend whom I have not seen in several years.  And I just found out that she's bringing her grandson with her, so the two of them will tour Tennessee from the western end in Memphis all the way east to Gatlinburg, where we'll see them.   What fun!

But that comes later.  For now, back to the grindstone!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another long, strange trip

Good day, one and all.  I write to you from the heart of southeastern Kentucky, London, to be exact.  I am here in this locale today to conduct some meetings for my company and am writing this on my well-deserved lunch break.

The London area is only about an hour from my home base of Lexington, but I elected to come down here last night, just in case.  My plans were justified to an extent as I encountered some road-construction-related delays last night during my trip to the area.  I would not have wanted to have begun my workday this morning by sitting in traffic, wondering if I would make it to my first appointment on time!

Things are a little strange with work right now.  We started out in May with a team of three people to handle a given amount of work.  Through various circumstances, my two associates have left the company, leaving only me for the moment.  Replacement staff is on the way, as is an additional team member, but it may be a while before they're in a position to be productive.  So it's catch as catch can for now, lots of meetings and activities in the field.  I enjoy all of the interpersonal contact, to be sure, but anything can be a grind if you do it too frequently.  I will probably be pretty close to my saturation point by the time that our new people are fully able to contribute!

Conversely, the Cincinnati Reds appear to be going nowhere fast, much to my disappointment.  They have simply not played well since the mid-point of the current season, and are now well out of real contention.  The white flag move appeared to have come over the weekend, when the team traded a key member of the bullpen for players to be named later.  The explanation at the time was that it would free up much-needed salary space to sign some of their existing players to new contracts.  But they traded this player to another team in their own division, so that tells me it was more about moving this player and his contract than any other factor.  Wait 'til next year, as they say....

Kentucky started their football season with a bang on Saturday, scoring 59 points on a hapless University of Tennessee-Martin team.  Another lesser opponent this weekend, then the REAL test begins with conference play.  We'll see how well they hold up then.

Less baseball lately has resulted in some different viewing habits at home, and we've been through some of the archives for entertainment recently.  We've watched all three "Jurassic Park" flicks, all good (though the third one is my least favorite).  Also watched three of the four Batman pictures that predate Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" masterwork trilogy.  My wife simply will NOT watch "Batman Returns," as it features Danny DeVito as the Penguin.  Too gross, she says.  And Michelle Pfeiffer's nice work as the Catwoman apparently does not offset that feeling.  They weren't bad upon revisiting, but none hold a candle to the gritty realism and tension that the "Dark Knight" films convey.

We will probably watch "Ghostbusters" sometime soon, too, since it was just rereleased into theaters. I remember when that came out--had never seen anything quite like it.  The "action comedy" became a staple of American cinema for a while thereafter.

We've had some really strange weather lately.  Lots of rain, which we normally don't see in August or early September.  Grass is green and growing, instead of the earthy color we normally have by this point.  I'll bet the winter will be most unforgiving this year.....

My son is celebrating a birthday today.  He reads this diatribe periodically, so I'll add my birthday wishes for him here, too!

Lunch break is just about over, so I suppose I should get back to work.  Have a good (and hopefully short) week!

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