Monday, December 29, 2014

Freedom (but only for a week)

Good post-Christmas Monday to all.  Hope you had a great holiday, and that, like me, the giving was more enjoyable than ever!

I titled today's epic diatribe thusly because I decided to take a well-deserved break from my current job that began at 2:00 PM local time on Christmas Eve and will have me returning to work, eventually, a week from today.  So I am free for the week!

So far the thing I've noticed is that I am sleeping better and longer.  I cannot recall if I've mentioned it in this space previously, but for about a year and a half I've had difficulties getting back to sleep during the night, on those nights when I wake for a trip to the bathroom.  And unlike my mindset in my former job, I am not lying awake agitated by the job or my responsibilities.  So this is likely some physical change that I have not yet fully identified.  Therefore, I keep my iPad close by and read a few articles until I feel a little drowsy.  Far better than staring at the ceiling or the clock.

Back to Christmas for a second--my kids used some great creativity and pooled their resources for my Christmas gift, giving me (and my wife) tickets to a Beatles tribute show called Rain that will appear here in Lexington in mid-February.  This group is supposed to be the best of those that do what they do, and, as I believe I've noted here, I am a HUGE Beatles fan.  They also added a gift card to a nice restaurant to make it a very complete date night.  Really great gift, and I'm excited for the date to arrive!

I don't follow the NFL that closely (no fantasy football for me, or baseball, either) but I think that a few coaches will receive pink slips and some nice parting gifts.  The day after the regular season ends is now known as Black Monday, and it has nothing to do with holiday shopping.  I told my wife last night near the end of the Denver Broncos' disassembly of the Oakland Raiders last night that I felt it was possible that eight coaches would be shown the door.  I know of one who's already agreed mutually to leave, combative Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers.  How would you like for your job to work that way?  Things don't go that well, and you're out--but with a year or two (or more) of pay.  Not bad, eh?

I'm pretty active on Twitter and periodically adjust my feed to add or delete people who either aren't adding anything or are adding too much.  I recently dropped a famous business writer whom I respect greatly, but because he would ask open ended questions and then retweet EVERY RESPONSE HE RECEIVED I could go less than an hour between times I viewed my timeline only to find 200 new items, most of which were related to one of his statements/questions.  So I bade him adieu.  Likewise, someone local in sports media whom I do not like or respect wrote something that made it indirectly to me:  "So, Twitter is like an ongoing election.  You and only you make hits.  Just ignore what you don't want to read that raises your blood pressure."  Despite being incredibly self-absorbed, this man made some sense to me.  I probably change that feed more than I used to for that reason!

I have to confess that, other than trips to the grocery, I've managed to avoid the retail scene for a few days, opting to let the furor of merchandise returns and gift card spending to wain a bit before dipping a toe back into those waters.  I have a couple of items to return to a couple of adjoining stores, so that will probably be the first return.

Finally, will be working to catch up on some movie viewing in the next few days.  My wife and I took in a showing of "Exodus:  Gods and Kings" on Friday.  Dandy retelling of the Moses-frees-the-slaves-from-Egypt story from the Bible, and, more commonly, Cecil B. deMille's epic "The Ten Commandments."  This version is a little less self-impressed and, of course, chock full of modern special effects that enhance the story.  Christian Bale made for a muscular and effective, if somewhat doubting, Moses, and Joel Edgerton was quite good playing the thankless role of Ramses, the Egyptian ruler with whom Moses clashes.  Good picture.  "The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies" is most likely next.  And, just to recap, the third "Hunger Games" picture was very good, and I am still thinking about "Interstellar" six weeks later, if that tells you anything!

Enjoy your week--I know that I'll enjoy mine!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nearly there

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.....and so on!

Hope you're ready for Christmas, because it will be here on Thursday, whether we're ready, or not!  I think we're ready, but I've experienced a couple of instances this holiday season when I thought my wife and I had completed our shopping and preparation, only to find that we have more to finish!

Have you noticed some of this year's holiday advertising varies greatly from charming and fun to downright puzzling?  For instance, the Lexus commercials, showing their various models wrapped in a large bow have been around for a while, as have the Mercedes spots with Santa driving a team of red cars in lieu of reindeer.  I particularly like the Apple commercial that's running right now, showing an older woman enjoying and becoming emotional over a long-forgotten piece of music.  There was also a TV ad for a regional healthcare provider in my area that conveys a simple message of peace for the season.  Barnes and Noble has used a very tasteful series of ads to highlight what it's like to shop at their stores, narrated by veteran actress Sigourney Weaver.  The funniest I've seen is a spot for a video game store, wherein a group of elves hijack a truck full of games and equipment for Santa to deliver to good girls and boys.

Some of the misses, in my opinion, include Big Lots, the seller of discontinued and odd-lot merchandise.  They have some sort of faux Motown girl group singing very aggressively about "nailing this Christmas" and buying "real gifts" at their store.  The singing is OK, but the lyrics are a bit off-putting.  Wal-Mart has blitzed us with ads featuring former TV star Melissa Joan Hart and current performer Anthony Anderson (an odd coupling if ever there was one).  Not awful, but their chemistry is a little lacking.  And I'm kind of tired of the Soma ads for pajamas and other intimate clothing.  Just a little too in-your-face.

We've been out among the shoppers here and there of late, and the reports that people are spending less this year may not apply to my home area, judging by the crowds.  People are being pretty nice to one another, but that may change as time and tempers get shorter!

Let me share a quick story of humility.  My wife and I attended church yesterday morning, and as we were leaving saw that the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus were selling bags of kettlecorn to raise funds.  So I stopped after mass to purchase a bag, and noticed another man doing the same, only he paid quite a bit more for his bag than I did and indicated that he was happy to donate his change to the Knights.  I recognized him immediately, as he's a local celebrity, but the Knight who waited on him apparently did not.  I overheard them engaging in some chitchat, as another person walked up and spoke to this person, addressing him as "coach."  The seller said, "Are you at Kentucky?" and meant the University. The man acknowledged that he was.  "And what do you do?" the seller asked.  "I'm the head football coach," responded Coach Mark Stoops, with an enormous grin.  The seller apologized for not recognizing him, but it was a very nice moment that ended in a handshake.

I so much prefer that to a "don't you know who I am?" moment that might have happened with another person!

So that's that for this morning.  Hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Ever closer

Friends, we are FAST approaching Christmas and that means that everyone is really rushing around, getting things done, crossing items off their Christmas shopping lists, going to parties, and so on.  Let's all make a pact that we'll be patient and tolerant of others.  Makes things so much nicer, don't you think?

My wife and I visited a handful of retail establishments over the weekend, and while many were crowded, the patrons were still well-behaved, and there was no apparently fighting over limited quantity items or close parking spaces.  Yet.

I want to pause for a moment and thank those who contacted me with such positive comments about my most recent post.  Always nice to hear from those who read and enjoy this blog!  If you have comments, whether positive or negative, don't be bashful about sharing!

I made it through a particularly trying week last week.  Lots of travel and a lot of events scheduled, but here I am, safe and sound.  This week stands to be busy, too, but less traveling to go with it.  The good with the bad, right?

I'm still enjoying my experimentations with Spotify, by the way, but I cannot see myself ever paying for this service, which a good many people do.  Great way to listen to a few things that I either used to own but no longer do, or was undecided about whether to add to my collection.  And the sound quality is pretty good, so there's that.  Right now I'm listening to a new album (yes, they're still ALBUMS to me) by the stalwart Neil Diamond.  I heard a few songs from this on his SiriusXM channel recently and they were pretty good (first original songs in some years, apparently).

Speaking of music, we had two musical experiences yesterday.  First, our two "local" grandchildren (not to be confused with those from the Colorado branch of the family!) have been participating in a music program called "Music and Moves."  They seem to have enjoyed it quite a bit, and their instructor held a recital of all of her students, and they were both a part of it, and my wife and I were on hand, too.  Great fun, and nice to see kids really enjoying and connecting with music!

The second such opportunity was a University of Kentucky-based event last night, involving voice students, a youth chorus, a pretty funky brass band and a couple of immensely talented soloists who appeared as guest performers.  This was held in what many years ago was the "furniture block" of Lexington, turned into an enclosed shopping mall (with only limited success) a few years ago.  There are numerous levels to the atrium area where this was held, and the performers were even stationed on different levels.

Seating for this even was at such a premium that we all (our son and his family, in addition to my wife and myself) wound up sitting on a stairwell a level above the main orchestra area and watched it on a large television monitor.  I have to confess that I don't normally enjoy sitting on the steps watching TV, but this was worth the effort!

I hope that I just got over my holiday cold.  Came upon me about nine days ago, with the usual suspects (runny then congested nose, cough, etc.).  Based on my most recent experience and others in the recent past, I am now a firm believer in the power of saline.  Whether you apply this with a simple squeeze bottle, the aerosol variety or a Neti pot, it works.

OK, now that I've provided perhaps a little too much information, I'll close for today.  Have a fabulous week!



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thinking about what I've done

Good Tuesday morning, one and all.  I come to you today suffering from a cold or something, so bear with me!

Today's title was a kind of nod to what our parents used to tell us when we would be sent to our rooms (before "time out" was a thing, of course).  "Go in there and think about what you've done!"  Whatever that was.  I have two brothers and growing up, we brawled constantly, so what I had "done" was often what I was involved in, along with one or both of them.

But I've been traveling a lot by car lately, so when you're on the endless road, the mind wanders far and wide, and that phrase came back to me for some reason.

I was talking with my wife the other night about something and said that I should document all of the silly things I did when our kids were growing up that we all found so funny.  But since they both visit this space sometimes, I won't torture them further than I already have!

But invariably, we DO start thinking about things that have happened in the past, some great, some not as much. Loved ones who are part of our daily lives, and those now departed.  Friends we've known and have lost touch with.    Jobs we used to have.  Places we used to live.  And on and on.

I don't habitually keep a lot of stuff, don't maintain a scrapbook or a journal (except this blog, of course), and my photo library pretty much starts when our first grandchild was born (thankfully both my son and son-in-law are major shutterbugs).  But it's all in there, somewhere, amid the movie lines and baseball statistics, crew listings from the Apollo missions, song lyrics, etc.

But I like the randomness of it, how I will suddenly and for no reason think of my sixth grade teacher.  Or that time the prettiest girl in school came to my house to join a bunch of the neighborhood kids in climbing our friendly willow tree.  Or the occasion of meeting a Senator at a speech tournament while in high school.

You get the picture.

Lots of these experiences are interesting and memorable only to me, of course, and I think I like to keep it that way.  We're all the sum of our personal experiences, of course, so each of these little snippets contributes to the whole in some way.

Will I remember things that happen now in twenty years?  I hope so.  My grandchildren constantly do  and say things that make me laugh, make me think and make me FEEL, and I hope that never changes.  My wife and I already reminisce about our oldest grandchild, now nine years old, as though SHE'S old!

So I suppose today's another day to experience more stuff.  Make the most of it!






Monday, December 1, 2014

Time between the holidays

Good Monday afternoon to one and all.  As good as a Monday can be, anyway!

I hope that you had the chance to spend Thanksgiving and the day or two afterward with people you care about, as I did.  Managed not to do much shopping but did pick up something on Saturday morning that I had "pre-purchased at Black Friday prices," whatever the heck that meant.  All I know is that I saved some money on it, and went in to pick it up before the crowds descended on this poor defenseless retailer.

Did you know that last Saturday was designated as "Small Business Saturday?"  On that day small businesses ask that you not forget to patronize them.  We did, and normally do.  I like dealing with locally owned operations, as you pretty much know the money you spend will largely stay in your home community.  One of my primary outfitters these days is Colonel Littleton, Ltd., in the small town of Lynnville, Tennessee.  I don't live there, but buying from the Colonel always makes me feel good for many of the same reasons.

Other than that and a couple of other things, I didn't shop much in the past week for anything but groceries.  Fine by me!  I just returned from a frustrating chat with a retailer that makes a big thing of their "price match" policy, but they are somewhat inconsistent in applying it.  Asked on person on the phone about it, and she said that they don't price match their own Black Friday pricing, then when I visited the store today I was shown the policy, and in teeny tiny print it indicates that they do not match ANYONE'S Black Friday prices.  Oh, well.

My wife and I watched a movie with our son and his family Thanksgiving night.  According to the grandkids, we were treated to a screening of "The Wizard of the Voz," which was indeed quite a movie.  They came to our house to spend the afternoon the next day and we watched it again, but now it was called "The Wizard of the Oz."  No matter, we enjoyed it both times.

Speaking of movies, the next couple we want to see will be out shortly..."The Hobbit--The Battle of the Five Armies" and "Exodus--Gods and Kings" will both be released in a couple of weeks and my wife and I are looking forward to both.  I'm sure there are others that will be released that may turn out to be worthwhile, but none are as compelling to me as those are.

We're making progress with our Christmas shopping and other processes.  Just about have the Christmas cards ready to stuff and send.  And we have to have our shopping done for the Colorado branch of the family done early so that we can pack and ship it.  Can't get everything from Amazon, after all!

We're having typically unpredictable weather here in central Kentucky.  A cold rain is falling and the temperature is in the high 30's.  And I have to travel by car over the next couple of days.  Oh, joy!

That's it.  Get back to work!


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