Monday, December 28, 2015

Ready or not, 2016 is coming

Merry post-Christmas, and Happy almost-New Year, everyone!

This is one of the oddest times of year for me, when we're in that time period between two holidays that are close together.  That said, I hope that you and yours have a lovely Christmas!

I'm fortunately on vacation until NEXT Monday, so I'm enjoying some down time with my family.  But the treadmill will begin again in about a week.

Do you make New Year's resolutions?  I try not to, as I don't like to set a course that I either won't hold to, or set myself up for failure and disappointment.  But I'm certainly thinking of things I'd like to do in the coming year.

One is to eat better.  That's a personal choice, and a particular weakness of mine, as I so often will take the path of convenience instead of the better, healthier alternative.  I've been through long periods of vigilance where diet is concerned, but, unfortunately, have been on a more lax regimen for some time.  Need to change that, for all of the right reasons.  And it all relates to what I eat outside of my home, so that's clearly a poor set of choices on my part.  Resolution or not, that's what I'll do.

Until this recent period, I had also increased my exercise frequency somewhat, and I want to continue that trend as well.  That's also a matter of personal discipline and scheduling, but I am committed to this, again, for good reasons.

I feel that I do a pretty good job staying in touch with my geographically scattered group of friends and close associates, but I would like to see them more frequently.  Many are former professional colleagues, so if I don't have a business need to be in their part of the country, or they in mine, it's hard to engineer an opportunity to meet.  I managed to visit with one good friend in particular when she came to a wedding about three hours from here last year, and while we only spent a day together (and she finally got the chance to meet my wife, which was wonderful in itself), it has buoyed me considerably since.  I'd like to replicate that same feeling if I could!

I'd also like to read more, and by that I mean read BOOKS.  I find myself reading a lot but it's almost all online content, where I go from item to item, site to site, and am not reading much with any coherence.  Subject matter is usually the challenge, as I prefer non-fiction, but am also a bit picky with which authors I like to read.

I could go on about how I'd like to see the Kentucky basketball team win the national championship, or the Cincinnati Reds make it through the 2016 season without losing 100 games, but that's a fan's interest, and not really something that I can personally aspire to accomplish.  Doesn't mean I wouldn't delight in either happening, though!

With that, I'll leave you to ponder how you would like for 2016 to transpire for you.  Happy New Year!




Monday, December 21, 2015

'Tis the season!

Greetings, friends!  This will likely be my last post before Christmas, so let me first say that I appreciate your visits to my blog page.  I hope that you find this as enjoyable and interesting to read as I do to write!  I also hope, for you and yours, that you have a safe and happy holiday season, without travel difficulties, family illnesses or other things that can limit our enjoyment of such a special time of year!

That said, I want to share a quick "naughty or nice" list, in keeping with the Christmas season!

NAUGHTY:  The Democratic National Committee, for grossly overreacting to an apparent data breach that allowed members of Bernie Sanders' Presidential campaign to see voter information from the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  The DNC chair was Secretary Clinton's national chairperson in 2008, so this strikes me as a conflict of interest.  So she's naughty.

NICE:  Jeb Bush, for finally referring to Republican front-runner Donald Trump as a "jerk" during a campaign event.  Saying what we all think here, I believe.

NAUGHTY:  Pete Rose, who was again denied reinstatement into baseball.  Sorry, Pete, but you signed an agreement acknowledging things that you have since said were not accurate or didn't apply to you.  You knew what you were agreeing to, so you have no complaint coming.

NICE:  Todd Frazier, the former third baseman of the Cincinnati Reds.  Frazier said only positive things about the Reds after they traded him to the Chicago White Sox, and he's a new dad, too, so there's that!

NAUGHTY:  The maker of those hoverboard things that are apparently catching fire due to cheap, defective batteries.  SHAME ON YOU!!

NICE:  Anyone who contributes to a worthy cause during this time of year.  My wife and I found a local organization wherein all donations stay in our home community.  Nice!

NAUGHTY:  Anyone who robs (or attempts to do likewise) a Salvation Army kettle.  I know times are difficult for many, but this is really too much.

NICE:  The volunteers who ring the bell at those kettles.  Apparently there are fewer than ever this year.

NAUGHTY:  People who allowed themselves to be caught on camera fighting over merchandise during Black Friday sales.  Again.

NICE:  The lady who let me in when I was trying to enter the mall parking lot not long ago.  She could have ignored me like the previous five or six motorists, but she didn't.

NAUGHTY:  Any store clerk who is less than cheerful, regardless of how many hours they've worked recently.

NICE:  The same group who are friendly in spite of their current stress and exhaustion levels!


I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The discovery process

Monday again, folks.  Hope you had a good weekend!

My wife and I did, and accomplished a few things.  Our Christmas shopping is done, thank you very much, and everything is either wrapped and under our Christmas tree or on its way to family in Colorado.  The need to ship always accelerates our process, and this year is no exception.

But that leads me into my stated subject--discovery.  For instance, I didn't realize until Saturday, when I shipped our box to our daughter and her family, that the U.S. Postal Service prices parcel shipping in such a way that you almost have to use Priority Mail.  Oh, the old standby "parcel post" still exists, but when they project six to nine days of delivery time, the sender gets a little uncomfortable with the idea of waiting and hoping that the item will make it to its destination on time.  Besides, if you add insurance or other components, you may as well pony up for the slightly higher price of Priority Mail.  I did, influenced or not.

I've also discovered gradually that the state of officiating in nearly every team sport is so poor right now that we might as well let players call their own fouls, balls and strikes and penalties.  I don't think I've ever seen so many goofs by football officials at all levels as I have this season, with teams getting the benefit of phantom penalties, extra time outs, bad placements of the football, etc.  I think I had already expressed this during baseball season, but it appears to have moved into other sports.  It's also prevalent in college basketball, though I cannot speak for the pro game, since I don't follow it.

Here's another one--a decent cast and a reasonably creative director will NOT guarantee the success of a movie.  Example:  we rented the recent "The Man from UNCLE" recently.  Mildly entertaining, the European scenery was pretty and there were a couple of good car chases.  But the rest was pretty dull, despite current Superman Henry Cavill and brilliant character actor Jared Harris among the cast.

Peter Jackson, who won many, MANY awards for "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, admitted recently that when he was directing "The Hobbit" movies that he often wasn't sure what he was doing.  Quite an admission from a real auteur who appears to control everything, and a little jarring to a fan of these movies, which I am.  But the project was originally to be directed by someone else, and it was delayed extensively in court and otherwise.  Original director quit, Jackson stepped in quickly and off they went.  I liked these movies, personally, but Jackson is right to say that he didn't put the same extensive preparation into them as he did "The Lord of the Rings," for which he and his team prepped for a full three years!

I'd also like to say a word or two on the subject of holiday decorations.  I like things simple but I also know that some like to really go overboard this time of year.  You know what?  We're both right.  However you like to do it is the "right" way.  I do business with someone who said very matter of factly that she and her family have five indoor Christmas trees at their home every year, and outdoor decorations to go with them.  She mentioned something about the large windows of her home and how they just need something this time of year.  That's normal for her, so I'm not about to say that doing more or less is good.  Or not!

Finally, back to movies for a moment.  I have discovered, regrettably, that I am a little tired of hearing about "Star Wars--The Force Awakens."  I know, we waited for a long time for this movie to come out, and to make us forget about George Lucas' strange and sometimes uninteresting prequel trilogy.  But now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise it's so completely overexposed that I am just ready for the hype to stop.  And for the debating to begin.



Monday, December 7, 2015

Current conditions

Happy Monday, everyone.  Here's hoping that you had a good weekend.

I want to start by indirectly mentioning a good friend who got some great news last week.  He and I were colleagues (I was his manager) a few years back and formed a friendship through common interests.  Anyway, he was displaced from a long-term employment situation some months ago.  He dutifully trolled the marketplace for new opportunities, cultivated one such possibility but courageously declined it because it just didn't feel right, but ended up getting the job he's wanted for a long time last week.  He starts that job soon, and I know that I speak for many friends in common when I say how happy I am for him!

As regular visitors know, I don't talk much about my own work here.  And it's a good thing, too, as that would probably be the dominant theme of this and many posts.  Let's just say that it's good to have a job and leave it at that.

My wife and I have apparently finished our holiday shopping.  We found the last items online over the weekend (hard to find, these were) and that finished off the list.  But we've overshot our budget, such as it is, by quite a bit.  Not a ruinous overage, mind you, but our planning didn't really help us here.  But it IS good to be finished!

We were out and about briefly Friday and Saturday and while there were lots of people also out, it wasn't as chaotic as it will be soon enough.  Traffic was a little worse than usual, and parking at more of a premium.

The main thing I feel right now is that the weather doesn't really feel like Christmastime.  Here in Kentucky we have a temperate climate, so not a lot of cold weather this time of year.  So it often doesn't FEEL much like Christmas here.  Rainy today but it's supposed to be clearer with temperatures in the 60s later in the week.  My friends in California will feel at home with that, but those in colder areas would not.

And with the house already decorated, thanks to our efforts of the previous week, we can enjoy the holidays.  For us, that will include some pre-kindergarten or preschool events, which are always a lot of fun.

So it's all good, at least for now.  Be well, be careful, and be patient as you shop for that perfect gift for a special family member or friend!






Monday, November 30, 2015

Coming and going

Happy post-Thanksgiving Monday to all.  Hope you had a nice holiday and were able to spend time with those you love!

We were certainly blessed in that regard, as our daughter and her kids made a visit to Lexington the weekend prior to Thanksgiving.  They returned to Colorado just in time for temperatures to drop significantly amid significant snowfall.  While they were here, we had an early Thanksgiving dinner with them and our son and his family, and really had a great time throughout their visit.

But the world kept turning, even as I enjoyed a weeklong break from work.  The events in Colorado Springs are yet another reminder of how easy it is for guns to find their way into the hands of those who are not capable of owning and using them responsibly, and my heart sinks each time I hear of another such tragedy.

Business mogul/presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican primary race, but his lead appears to now be shrinking.  I saw on the news last night that he continues to persist in his stance that "hundreds of thousands" of Muslims were seen celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.  Trump also managed to insult a reporter with a medical condition during a speech last week, and is now denying it.  Given how uninformed our electorate is, I doubt that this will have even the smallest effect on his poll numbers.

No issue in the NCAA basketball polls, though, Kentucky is number one at present.  While I've always believed that teams (in any sport) should not be ranked until the season is half over, Kentucky has looked impressive, but have only played one quality opponent, Duke.  But the way that they dismantled Duke when they met recently in Chicago was indeed impressive.

Not so with the Kentucky football team, whose season ended with a thud Saturday against in-state rival Louisville.  After building a 21 point lead through solid offensive play and taking advantage of three Louisville interceptions, Kentucky failed to get out of its own way the rest of the way and watched Louisville pull ahead and win by a wide margin.  There's always next year, I suppose.

How are you doing with your Christmas shopping?  Thanks to our visit to Cincinnati on Tuesday, we're almost finished, with just a few finishing touches.  That makes the season so much more enjoyable, when the time pressure of last-minute shopping is out of the way!

That's it, gotta get to work!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Festivities!

Happy week-before-Thanksgiving, everyone!

You know, it’s that day that comes between Halloween and Christmas, where we all gather with family and other loved ones and give thanks for our many blessings.  What, you forgot?  I know, it’s because of the rapid onset of Christmas music and decorations in the stores, in television commercials, and so on.

But it’s important, you know.

I’m particularly thankful this year because our daughter is coming home for a long weekend visit, bringing her two children.  Her hubby is staying at home to man the fort, so to speak, and to take care of their dog!  The traveling party arrives tonight (at midnight—long time from right now as I write this!) and departs very early Tuesday morning.   Quick turnaround, but it should be a wonderful visit.

And, yes, our clan will be celebrating Thanksgiving during their visit!

My wife and I aren’t sure what we’ll do on the actual Thanksgiving Day, a week from today.  My only stipulation to her is that we not be in a position to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Denny’s.

On top of the wonderful surprise of our daughter and grandchildren visiting (this fell together very recently, by the way, owing to an airfare sale), I’m taking off work starting tomorrow and will be away from the job all the way through the Thanksgiving weekend!  So I’m definitely looking forward to a break!

Hard to believe, but the college basketball season has already begun.  I had lunch with my sports announcer friend yesterday, and he’s in that annual stretch where the football season is winding down and basketball is getting underway.  Kentucky has won two games at home against minor opponents (I always think of these as “laboratory” games, wherein the coaches can experiment with different player combinations) and a rousing neutral court victory against archrival Duke Tuesday night.

The football season is nearing an end, as Kentucky plays a non-conference opponent at home Saturday night.  A good chance to end their current losing streak, it appears, but they’ve just announced a change at the quarterback position, so we shall see how much difference that actually makes.

My announcer friend and I were talking about presidential politics briefly yesterday, and we came to the conclusion that Donald Trump may be for real as a candidate.  Not so much because he’s such a great candidate, but it’s because his Republican rivals don’t appear to create that much excitement among the party and its members.  If that holds up, and we’re a long way from the nomination, and the Democratic race continues to be Hillary-Clinton-and-a-couple-of-guys, the general election campaign could be quite interesting.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some cleaning to do….

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sadness

Good Monday morning to all.

I’m sure that, like me, you’re still working to process what happened in Paris on Friday.  I was sitting in a cafĂ© working through some e-mail between an all day meeting and a compulsory dinner meeting of my work team when I first saw the news.

Shortly thereafter, a work associate called me and that was the first thing she said, how awful this is.  The dinner meeting went on as planned, and the events from earlier in the day in France were mentioned in passing, but other than my seatmate, there was little discussion of all of this.

I finally arrived home around 10:30 Friday night, and our grandchildren were there for a sleepover.  They were both sleepy but had stayed up to greet me.  My granddaughter’s hug felt so good then.

My wife had been with the kids all afternoon and evening and had not seen any news, so she didn’t know anything about all of this until I told her.  She was just as shaken as I was.

Saturday evening we watched some extended reporting on television about what happened, the sequence of events and other related material.  And while 9/11 was a jarring event for all of us in this country and elsewhere, the attacks in Paris carry a different meaning.  The perpetrators looked their victims in the eye in many cases before carrying out their plans.  And the victims knew what was about to happen. 

I saw last night that French forces, joined by the U.S. and other countries, launched several air strikes against ISIS targets and also conducted some 150 raids throughout France.  Somehow I think we’ll be hearing that more in the coming days and weeks.


I don’t think there’s much else I can add to these thoughts, other than “vive la France.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

Searching for civility

Happy Monday to one and all.  Here we are again, those of us who have jobs to do, places to go, people to see, kids to raise, and so on. 

I had my annual visit with the cardiologist last week and decided shortly thereafter that I needed to build in more time in my schedule for regular exercise.  It’s often easier not to, when I leave the house for a distant location early in the morning, but something that I still should do.  So I did that this morning, and feel a bit better for having done so.

I attended two things over the weekend that prompted my title today.  The first was a fundraising event where my employer bought a table to benefit our client, which is a non-profit organization.  The second was a movie, specifically the new James Bond picture “Spectre.”  Let me share some details about both experiences.

The fundraiser was held in downtown Lexington, which is not overcrowded by any means, especially on a Saturday night where Kentucky isn’t playing basketball at Rupp Arena.  The location of this event was the adjacent convention center.  I and my associates were told that valet parking would be complimentary, which I found interesting but a little suspicious, since projected attendance at this event was going to be around 350 people.  We were also advised of a “black tie optional” dress code and were given pretty specific instructions on what we should wear, etc.  The parking turned out to be complimentary parking, but not valet, and since I parked on the street, that presented no issue for me.

When I arrived at the event (thanks to several well-attired young people who were posted along the route to ensure that attendees knew where they were going, which was a nice touch) I registered and was told to get a silent auction number and told to buy a raffle ticket for a ladies’ watch.  I did neither, but that was my first signal that things were not going to be as good as they could have been. 

I found a couple of my work associates and chatted with them and someone from our client who was at our table as our guest (why she wasn’t her own organization’s guest is a bit mysterious).  During that time the crowd built somewhat and as it did, scores of people were moving around the room to see people they knew, inspect the auction items and, apparently, drink.  I’m pretty sure that my foot was stepped on at least five times during that forty minutes, mostly by women who backed into me while I was stationary.

Later in the evening, some of the same clumsy people made their way to the dance floor and were no more graceful there than in the outer area.  At least they were stepping on other people’s feet by that point!

During dinner, which was surprisingly good for banquet service and hotel food, I asked three different times for a glass of iced tea that our server apparently did not understand that I did want.  Also had to ask for coffee.  When one of our senior people stood and said she was calling it a night, I did the same.  I suppose the rest of our group stayed there until the place closed.

My other public experience was to see “Spectre” with my wife early yesterday afternoon.  We went to the local movieplex and didn’t realize that the noon showing was in the “extreme digital” theater, which is an enormous IMAX-style screen with lots of speakers.  Cool, liked that.  What I didn’t like was the woman to my left whose phone vibrated every five minutes, and then she proceeded to text repeatedly and step out at least once for a phone call that she initiated before leaving her seat. 

The folks behind us kept kicking my seat, and only after I asked the third time did they stop.  My wife asked why I didn’t go get an usher, and I responded that I had already been disrupted from enjoying the movie, why miss part of it, too?

I also continue to be amazed at how many people are up and down during a movie.  And this wasn’t a cheapo matinee price, either.  Regular tickets for this particular auditorium go for around $12, at noon on a Sunday.  So all of this milling around is self-inflicted.  I just don’t get it!


Anyway, I suppose rudeness is everywhere, like it or not.  I try very hard not to be one of  “those people,” so if you bump into me somewhere, hopefully I’ll be that much more polite as a result!

Monday, November 2, 2015

The winners and everyone else

Good Monday morning, first Monday in November and the first of “standard” time.

Oh, boy.  Nothing like months of darkness starting before 6:00 PM.

And let me also add that yesterday was such a long day that it felt a bit like a death march.  I arose at around 6:20 by the new clock, and stayed up until well after 11:00 PM, since there were, you know, important sporting events being played at that hour.

But I digress.  I think that the twice-a-year time change is kind of silly, in the overall scheme of things.  If memory serves, the revised schedule of when our clocks are changed was part of a former president’s energy program, so there you go.  How that affects energy consumption is beyond me, and, no, I’m not talking about my own energy here, either.

So let’s talk winners here.  Like the Kansas City Royals, who play baseball games like a dammed up river and when that dam breaks, look out.  As it did last night, when they came from two runs down to win the deciding game of the World Series over the New York Mets.  Not only did they erase a 2-0 deficit by tying it up in the ninth inning against the tough Met pitcher Matt Harvey, but they erupted for five more in the top of the 12th and put it away for good.  Drama suits these guys, who are all simply ballplayers—hardworking guys who grind out hits and runs and pitch and field and throw well.  Congrats to them.  If the Reds can’t win, nice to see a team that isn’t often in that position do so (meaning not the Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox and Giants).

And what about all of that talk about Peyton Manning being washed up, despite the Denver Broncos being 5-0?  Last night he and his teammates dispatched the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers with some Peyton of old—passed zipped as though on a wire, long downfield throws for long gainers, passes fired into small spaces for big gains, you name it.  Not sure if Manning can keep that up, but, if he can, the AFC West race is all but over.

And lastly, let me just say that while I’m not a big horse racing fan, I am so pleased that American Pharoah did what he came to Lexington to do and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Saturday.  And did so in style, leading all the way and pulling away at the end.  After he won the Triple Crown (first time in a long time that any horse had) and then lost a race in early fall, I think we all knew that this was it, and he did it. 

Side note:  as a nearly lifelong resident of the Lexington area, I am so proud that Lexington and Keeneland Race Course put on a good show for the horse racing world with the entire Breeders’ Cup event.  Keeneland is supposed to have a capacity of around 20,000 under normal conditions but adapted with some temporary viewing areas to bring capacity to around 50,000 for this event, and did so extremely well.  Kudos to them!

Not everyone whom I favor competed successfully over the weekend.  Kentucky’s football team continued an uninspired stretch of football and lost big at home on Halloween night to border rival Tennessee, who appears to have found their footing.  First time in a long time that UK didn’t close the season (or at least the conference season) by playing Tennessee.  It didn’t matter, it was a beatdown, any way you look at it.


Finally, I played golf with a friend Saturday afternoon, if you can call it that.  I played the same course fifteen strokes better a week ago, if that tells you anything.  Some days, you just can’t get it going, and Saturday’s round was that for me.  Here’s the clincher:  Not just once, but twice, I found my ball nestled between two tree roots, with the trunk of each tree directly between me and the hole.  If that’s not the very picture of futility, I don’t know what is!

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