Monday, January 26, 2015

Change of plans

Happy Monday to all....I was scheduled to be gone for the day in meetings about three hours southeast of here, but due to an illness among my meeting group, here I am.

Lucky, too.  My, but it's COLD here today!  Temperature still in the 20s, lower if one factors in the wind chill.  I was actually on my way out of town for my meeting today when I learned it was being postponed, so I was out among 'em in the early part of the morning.  Encountered a little black ice along the way....for the uninitiated, that's when there's a slick spot that blends into dark pavement so well that you cannot SEE that it's icy and slick, and often don't know until it's too late.  Anyway, because it was early there were fewer cars out, so this little issue didn't cause me any problems.

One complication that required a little more planning than usual this morning was that our garage door developed a problem over the weekend.  My wife and I were out a good part of the day on Saturday, into the early evening, and when we returned home I pressed the garage remote button on my car and the garage door went up as usual.  But there were a couple of ominous noises along the way, and when I got out of the car, I was confronted with a thin cable hanging loosely from the garage door track.  Turns out that was part of the reel assembly that helps keep the door from being too hard to raise and lower.  The springs that control the tension of those reels (the reel on the other side was unspooled, too) was broken on each side, so that meant a professional service call.

Sunday morning I used the garage door opener to raise the door; it went up noisily and I backed my car out, knowing we'd need to run an errand or two throughout the day and I didn't want to risk having my car trapped in the garage for my planned early departure today.  We lowered the door, again using the opener, and it went down with about as much racket as when we raised it.

Long story short, the repairman came first thing this morning (lucky, as he had a service call scheduled elsewhere in the area and our location was literally on his way there) and presented me a fairly modest bill for parts and service.  You can barely hear the thing open and close now.

Isn't it nice when things work out?

Expanding on my thoughts last week, I still don't have a favorite in this week's Super Bowl.  Looking forward to the commercials (they never have a bad game, do they?) and to see what the halftime show will be like.  I actually like Katy Perry, as it's my belief she can actually sing and is not reliant on endless studio tricks to sound decent.  Last year's act, Bruno Mars, exceeded my expectations quite a bit, so it might be two good ones in a row.

No idea what food we may serve.  A baked bean treatment to "honor" Boston might be part of it.  The only distinctive Seattle food/drink thing I can think of is coffee, which is probably pretty shallow of me.  If you have worthwhile ideas to share, help me out.

I have to attend organizational meetings for work the next couple of days.  I don't often reference my job here, so suffice it to say that things are changing and we'll just have to see where that leads.  I have a feeling that I know...

And with that, I should get back to work.  Have a good week!  And if you're in the path of the cold and snow and ice, stay safe and WARM!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Next....

Happy Hump-day, everyone.  And, no, I'm not going to include a link to that silly commercial with the people saying that to the camels....

Suppose I should begin with last night's State of the Union address by President Obama, his sixth.  I'm always struck by the optics of roughly HALF of the House of Representatives chamber coming to its feet to applaud something that the President says.  Doesn't matter which party holds the office, that's been done for a long time.

Regardless, I thought the President did a nice job specifying some things that had already been mentioned, like middle-class tax cuts funded by additional taxes on the highest earners, free community college tuition (if you qualify), revised trade policies, etc.  Not that anything he put forward has any chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, mind you.  And did anyone else notice that we NEVER saw Mitch McConnell on camera after he entered the House chamber a couple of spots behind the President?  Often we'll see someone in his position reacting (or not) to what the President is saying, but not last night, at least not on the network where I watched.

Anyway, the next two years should be interesting, as those who assumed that President Obama would simply fade into the background as some lame-duck Presidents have previously done are in for a bit of a shakeup.

Here's another reason to dislike the NFL:  there's now been an investigation as to whether the New England Patriots underinflated several footballs during their AFC Championship game with the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.  Seems that when something awful is brought to light, the people in charge apparently were aware DURING the game, but nothing happened.  Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has long been known as one who kind of thumbs his nose at the establishment in an effort to gain an edge.  He was fined $500,000 a few years ago for having an assistant videotape a practice by an opponent, and has been accused of same more than once.  He played with the rules about eligible receivers just a couple of weeks ago, playing musical chairs with his players and hiding receivers amid his offensive line.  And for the longest time, he has been the only coach who doesn't fully participate in the NFL's requirement of reporting injured player status as "probable," "doubtful," "questionable," etc.  When taken to task on this he apparently reported the status of his entire team as "probable" to hide injuries to his quarterback and others.  And to think that people laud this man as one of the greatest coaches in professional football history.

His team meets the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks.  Seattle is coached by Pete Carroll, who failed in his first couple of stints in the NFL, found success through apparent irregularities at the University of Southern California, then left just as the program was to go on probation for rampant rules violations.  Kind of hard to decide which is the "best" team going in.

Some friends and I are planning a guys' golf trip for the spring.  Hard to think about waiting two-plus months for this, since the weather here in central Kentucky has been tantalizing of late.  Anyway, the planning is in its early stages but thus far involves a golf course that one of our crew HATES to play.  Are we wrong to try to subject him to this punishment?  I think not.

Finally, I've started working on my taxes.  Have you?  I'm just about finished, actually, just need data from a former employer and I should be good to go.  Good thing, too, since I just saw last night that the IRS is already saying that refund will be processed more slowly than usual this year.  Assuming we GET a refund, right?



Friday, January 16, 2015

Change is the only constant

Happy Friday to all.  Another week is almost in the books!

A lot of this and that today, so bear with me (or skip ahead) if what I write in one segment isn't of interest.  Sometimes my brain just works that way, unfortunately.

Do you use Twitter?  And do you write much there, or just use it to see where the rich and famous are having dinner?  I do a bit of both, write things mostly in response to what I've seen there.  After the dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris Twitter was the vehicle through which many expressed their sorrow and opinions.  And many responded to those expressions, as you'd imagine.  I won't detail it here, but if you have some curiosity about how to shut someone down on Twitter effectively, Google the search terms "J.K. Rowling Rupert Murdoch Twitter" and that should show you what I'm referencing.

Gee, never thought I'd write those words in the same sentence....

Saw that Major League Baseball is going to be experimenting with a pitch clock next season at the minor league level.  If I understand correctly, a pitcher will have 20 seconds to unleash his next offering to the batter once he's given the ball.  My only question is this--what happens when the batter steps out or asks for time, which happens ALL THE TIME?  MLB is trying to speed up the game to make it more appealing who like other sports better because they move faster, yet the most popular professional sport is the NFL, which contains what George Will once characterized (and I'm paraphrasing here) the two worst aspect of American life--senseless violence punctuated by endless committee meetings.  I like pro football but it's often like watching paint dry.

Speaking of the NFL, isn't it amazing how fast teams will axe their existing coaches and hire new ones?  I don't know about you, but the last time I was offered a job as rapidly as some of these coaches are, I was applying for a job as a bagboy at a supermarket.  The last several times I've been in the selection process for professional employment, it took MONTHS for the process to conclude, whether I was the successful candidate or not.  That's probably somewhat normal, unless you already know the person who's hiring and have an inside track to the position.

Recently I took note on LinkedIn of two or three people that I used to work for or work under who've undergone some career transitions, and they don't look exactly like positive moves.  But I generally don't sit and hope that they'll get what's coming, so to speak.  Life's too short and I've experienced too much of that kind of stuff to get wrapped up in that kind of thinking.

My wife and I went to the grocery last night and spent a more obscene amount of money than usual, but I didn't have the impression that we bought a lot of stuff we don't normally.  Thank God gas is less expensive, since food costs continue to skyrocket.  I have this eerie feeling that food producers will continue to imply that their transportation costs are still on the increase and they're just passing those costs along to the consumer, much as the airline industry has stated again and again, all the while gouging passengers with added fees and exorbitant airfares.  I haven't flown on my own nickel for over a year, and it may be a while before I do at this rate.

Finally, I think I had mentioned recently that I bought a new computer.  Desktop model with an absurdly large display.  We're still getting acquainted, but overall I've been quite pleased.  Speedy, no real operating issues.  Still have to fiddle with my chair and such to do some of the more analysis-intensive stuff, and I tried one of those add-on lens things for my glasses but did not find them to my liking.  So it's an improvement, and that was the objective.

Have a good weekend, and try not to break anything.






Thursday, January 8, 2015

The big chill

Greetings, folks.  Shivering a bit as I write this, as it's only 19 degrees here in Lexington, and was actually below zero last night.  And that's the air temperature; colder when the wind chill is factored in.

And I HATE to be cold.  I'm a big guy, too, but for some reason, I feel the cold a lot more these days than I did when I was younger.  Old age, I suppose, but now when it's cold outside, the last thing I want to do is try to grin and bear it.  Get me into the house, the car, a store, somewhere warm!

Suppose it could be said that Kentucky's basketball team is warming up a bit, but they had to struggle before finally beating Ole Miss in overtime Tuesday night.  This mega-talented team is still searching for its identity, I think, so the more great escapes they can make against motivated opponents can only help them in their conference schedule from this point forward.  And I agree with Coach John Calipari, in that a loss might actually be beneficial for this group from the standpoint of getting their attention and providing some motivation for improvement.

Such a shame what happened in France yesterday.  We take our freedom of speech (which includes this blog, obviously) pretty much for granted in this country, but we all tend to take notice when someone is punished for some self-expression as was the cartoonist who was targeted.  The solidarity of that country and others around the world is the type of response that I would think appropriate.  And I'll say the same regarding the Air Asia flight that went down in rough weather in Indonesia recently.  That part of the world certainly has experienced a great deal of hardship when it comes to air disasters in the past year or so.

Lighter subject--the Golden Globe awards (presented by something called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, I think) are this Sunday night.  Lots of fun, because the audience is a mixture of movie and TV folks, there are separate categories for comedies and dramas, which means more nominees, and, of course, it's in a large hotel ballroom and there's alcohol being consumed by, well, many folks who are either presenting awards or are nominated.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are the hosts (and they say this is their last time) and they're pretty funny in this role.  Not as snarky as Ricky Gervais (whose jokes are very funny, lightning fast, and often over the heads of us poor Yanks) and they're not afraid to make fun of themselves or each other.  Should be entertaining.

Gotta give a couple of shout-outs to merchants with whom I trade periodically.  The first is Amazon, and, honestly, what did we all do before they started selling everything online?  I know that they don't treat their employees (many of whom are temps, by design) all that well, at least that's their reputation, and they've never been profitable, but, man, they have lots of stuff you can't find anywhere else.  I ordered an item for my office a few days before Christmas, knowing it would take a while to get here.  It was sold by a "partner" of Amazon's, but you deal with Amazon in such instances, and they then communicate with and to the "partner."  Anyway, the item did not arrive by the last date it was projected to have been here, so I inquired, and the merchant readily agreed to ship a second item to me.  Supposed to get it today.

The other merchant is a personal favorite, Colonel Littleton of Lynnville, Tennessee.  I ordered dresser caddies for my son and son-in-law as Christmas gifts.  In the Colonel Littleton tradition I had them personalized with each man's initials, and they arrived quickly and well packaged.  Those folks do good work and really take care of their customers.  By all reports, both recipients were quite pleased with their items.

Busy day today, wrapped up two days of overnight travel and will be on the road for the day tomorrow and again next Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  Sure hope it's warmer where you are!




Thursday, January 1, 2015

As we begin 2015...

Greetings to one and all and a very happy new year!

I hope 2014 was good for you and that 2015 will be even better.  I didn't stop by to write about what did or didn't go well for me in the past year.  There could be a lot of details, good and not so much, but the important thing is that I am blessed with a healthy, happy family and that's what truly matters!

Nothing in particular is on my mind this morning, although I had a few stray thoughts that I found interesting.  For instance, I read an article online about someone who has kept his America Online (AOL to those who are into the whole brevity thing) e-mail address active for MANY years, and how he has to explain to many that he is not, in fact, a caveman who refuses to join us here in the early 21st century.

That made me think of how I first used a computer to get online, first e-mail addresses and so on.  I remember making the investment in Prodigy, which was, like AOL and CompuServe, a dial-up service where you essentially joined their community for e-mail, news, message boards and such.  Prodigy, if I remember right, was a joint venture between Sears and IBM, and at some point was included if you bought an IBM consumer-grade computer.  I bought it outright and then got an upgrade when I purchased a PS/1 a number of years ago, probably the early to mid 90's.  My main use was e-mail and message boards, until the entire World Wide Web (remember when the Internet was called that more commonly?) became more readily available.  But I liked it, I remember, although I didn't have major e-mail anticipation cold sweats like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan did in "You've Got Mail."  Still like that movie, by the way.

I just bought a new computer before Christmas, and, no, I didn't really need it, but have been struggling with neck and shoulder problems, and exploring options with a large desktop monitor turned into this computer and all that it could do pretty quickly.  Not complaining, of course, and I am enjoying playing with it.  It's another Mac, this time a desktop model with a large, high-resolution screen.  It and my progressive lens glasses continue to work to get acquainted, and I write this with its razor-sharp images enlarged significantly.

I have been fighting this for some time, as I have been subconsciously adopting a viewing position where I lean forward and then tilt my head backward, in order to see through the reading portion of my glasses.  This didn't really become an issue until I took my current job, which requires significant amounts of work creating and culling data from spreadsheets.

My original solution was to enlarge the type size on each, and that helped, but not as much as I had hoped.  I've also experimented with raising my seat height and will continue to adjust.  Our optician says that I could try simple magnifying glasses for computer work only, but I'd rather avoid that if possible, as I don't want to have to change glasses when I get up from my desk to go to the bathroom, etc.

I even tried a product that essentially puts a reading magnification into the UPPER part of the progressive lenses, but that didn't fit very well and caused some headaches in a short amount of usage.  Talk about a first world problem....but open to any suggestions my readers may have.

Enjoy your day off, if you have one today!  Happy new year!


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