Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Title optional

Writing on a Tuesday this time around, folks.  No particular reason behind it, though.

I want to begin my comments by noting two very unfortunate stories in the news currently.  The first is here in our country, as the city of Baltimore, Maryland is being torn asunder in the latest instance of a minority suspect being treated badly at the hands of local police.  The funeral of Freddie Gray ignited numerous protests in the Baltimore area, many of which became violent.  Numerous individuals, including about fifteen police officers, have been injured in the violence and looting.  It now appears that social media successfully circulated word about the value of rioting just after Mr. Gray's funeral.

However it came to be, I sincerely hope that calmer influences win out.  As Mr. Gray's pastor said on the news last night, the riots, looting and violence have NOTHING to do with the tragic death of this man while in police custody, and that these actions do not represent justice.  No one really gains anything in situations like this, of course.

The other scenario I mentioned above concerns the mountain nation of Nepal and the massive earthquake and aftershocks that have been felt there.  I am far from expert on world geography, but all indications are that the country's largest city, Kathmandu, was filled with buildings that were either very old and in disrepair, or poorly constructed.  The death toll from this catastrophe keeps climbing, but as it's been described, the country needs funds and supplies and not more people to help.

That said, we're in the throes of springtime around here.  Mowing the grass at least twice a week.  Talking with my wife and what to plant or replant in the yard (she's worried that the azaleas we planted late last spring aren't going to fully come back, as they're still a little thin in spots).  Fretting about the Cincinnati Reds (more on that below).  Struggling to get control of my golf game, such as it is.

On the subject of golf, I played with a good friend on Sunday, and while there were a few signs of hope in my game, I need a LOT more practice!  That will come soon enough, but my golf trip with other friends appears to be back on in a couple of weekends.  We've pivoted northward, owing to the availability of hotels and a minor league baseball game in Indianapolis on the weekend of this great event.  We'll be revisiting a couple of courses that some of us have played and enjoyed in the past.  Suspect that a good time will be had by all!

I had to go furniture shopping yesterday.  My company sent me a new, rather large, laser printer, a year into my tenure.  Glad to have it, of course, but needed a place to put a big black cube.  The solution came with an inexpensive table from a discount store, and I was able to fit it into a corner where it's mostly out of the way, but close enough to access for printed copies and such.

Two of my friends are coping with the rapid aging and decline of a parent.  One had just moved to a retirement community, while the other is in a full nursing home.  I feel so badly for both of them (one is here in my home area, the other many miles away).  But having been through it, I know there's not much anyone outside of the situations can do, except be there when needed.  So I am.

Regarding the Reds, not only have they been mostly without the services of their stud catcher Devin Mesoraco for about two weeks (a hip "impingement" is the cause, and while I don't know what that is, it sounds painful) and now comes news that a veteran pitcher, Homer Bailey, who just had surgery last fall on a flexor mass near his pitching elbow, is now out again, with another elbow problem.  The whispers online indicate it's serious, but no direct announcement has been made.  Let's hope that it's not, for the sake of the player, the team, and the fans.

Last random subject...we live across the street from a complex of townhomes.  I am not sure when they were constructed, but they are probably older than our house, which was built sometime in the '80s.  Anyway, there has been work proceeding on one townhouse for several weeks.  It looked like the windows were being replaced, or a new patio door was being installed.  Yesterday, I went to our community mailbox (sixteen slots just next door to our house) to pick up the day's mail and noticed that ALL OF THE SIDING was gone from the upper floor on one side.  I have to wonder if they've had termites, water damage, or even a fire to warrant that extent of work and repair.  My wife says she's going to march over and ask.  All I know is that there are tools to be heard from about 7:45 AM until 5:30 PM nearly every day when the weather allows.

Let's have a good remainder of the week, shall we?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spur of the moment

Happy Monday to all.  More rain here in central Kentucky today and for the next few days.  It's April, you know....

In my last brief post I noted that my golf buddies and I elected to postpone our golf trip last Friday through Sunday, as the area to which we were traveling was predicted to have poor weather.  Much like what we're having in Lexington, actually.  It turned out that the weather wasn't all that bad at our projected destination, but we had already agreed to cancel before that became apparent.

So I had the day off from work on Friday, and decided to keep that time off in place.  But what to do?  I discussed it with my wife on Thursday and we decided to make one of our periodic trips to the Cincinnati area and agreed we should leave Friday morning and return Saturday afternoon.  Found a hotel where I could use loyalty points (better still, I had a certificate for a free one-night stay banked in my account that I had forgotten about, so the night's stay didn't even cost us any points) and mapped out a basic set of things we wanted to do.

We began our day Friday with a nice breakfast at the Keeneland Race Course Track Kitchen.  It's a must if you're coming to the Lexington area---a horse racing devotee introduced me to this great place, and I encourage you to visit Keeneland's website to find out more.

So we were on our way, and stopped at a favorite shopping spot, the Kenwood Towne Centre.  They have a Tesla dealership, but while that intrigues me, I'm reluctant to walk into that and ask a boatload of questions about a $60,000 electric car that I'm not about to purchase.  We walked past three that are in the mall parking garage, presumably for test drives.

A preferred spot in the mall is the Apple Store, which is roughly three times the size of the same enterprise here in Lexington.  To our astonishment, the Apple Watch was on extensive display, and in talking to an associate about it we learned that they did not have a full schedule of try-on-experience appointments that morning.  So I quickly signed my wife up for the full tour, and she had the chance to play with one, try it on, and learn more about the various features.  She was nearly ready to buy one then and there, but restraint took over and now we're thinking about it!

Our afternoon culminated in a late-day visit to a local restaurant, the world-renowned Montgomery Inn, which is actually in the suburb of Montgomery, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati itself.  We splurged and had their famous barbecued ribs, Saratoga chips and other goodies, which were all quite tasty.

We ended our day out with a tour of the Cincinnati area IKEA showroom, then went up the street to our hotel to collapse.

Saturday morning we got a little extra sleep and made our way to the Findlay Market, an ancient indoor-outdoor shopping area just north of downtown Cincinnati.  We had never been, and we were floored with the number of shops that are permanently located there, selling everything from organic poultry to high-quality meats and seafood, cheeses and baked goods.  There are seasonal vendors, too, and we stopped at one such stall to buy a cookie and a lemon bar (and now we know where their store is, too!) and later sampled a pizza baked in a PORTABLE brick oven!

It was very interesting to experience this.  We didn't give into the temptation to buy some of the meat and other perishable products, as we were simply too far from home for that to be safe.  But what struck me was that the adjoining parking lots were filled with mostly nice cars, yet this market exists in the midst of one of the poorer areas of the Cincinnati inner city.  Strange contradiction.

So that's our little travelogue.  We found the experience to be energizing and satisfying, as we did a few things that weren't part of our usual itinerary.  You know what they say about the road less traveled!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Epilogues

When I tell a story, good or bad, about some set of circumstances that represent an unfinished situation, I suppose that sometimes you might be interested in knowing how things came out in the end.  So here's a quick summary of some of those situations.

CAR ISSUES

Remember me mentioning that I had had some difficulty with my wheels being improperly balanced, and that it was finally addressed?  I wanted to give some credit on this, as not only is the car functioning as intended since that time, but the company, Tire Discounters, sent an e-mail asking me for my mailing address.  They said they wanted to send me something "for your trouble."

A few days passed and I received a very nice, handwritten note of apology and a card entitling me to some complimentary gasoline.  How about that?

FLOORING

At last report we were awaiting a visit from the floor crew who installed our hardwood, in order to fix five or six issues that had either never been addressed or that had cropped up following our installation.

There was something of a mixup in getting this handled, as the crew leader (if that's the right term) called a couple of days before the scheduled appointment and appeared surprised to learn that we would expect him and his associates on the appointed day and time.

That day came, and he arrived several hours late with some excuses about his day.  The night before I had moved furniture, lamps and such to make this work go faster and easier, so by the time he arrived, my wife and I were rather tired of having the house in such disarray.   But arrive he did, alone, and within about three hours he had everything completed to our satisfaction.  Finally!

CABLE TV

The cable provider honored its commitment and reduced our pricing.  Of course, that's reduced from the increased price, so the net effect is that our bill went UP by about four dollar.  The price of progress.

HBO NOW

We're trying this for at least the first (free) month and so far we still have not found that much that we both like.  I don't object to violence and profanity, but my wife can do without it, so that limits us a bit.  So this may not be a keeper.

GOLF TRIP

My friends and I who were to go on a golf trip tomorrow conferred by iMessage (great to have tech that works) and agreed that we should postpone.  Why?  The weather forecast for that part of the world calls for significant precipitation for just about the entire weekend.  We knew this was a risk scheduling relatively close to home in April.  So we'll see about another attempt in a few weeks.

That's about all to tell you....until something else happens!

Monday, April 13, 2015

In season

Good Monday morning, all.  Hope everyone had a great weekend, as I know that I did!

Let's get some sports out of the way first....the Cincinnati Reds and the rest of Major League Baseball are off and running.  The Reds started fast, winning their first four games before cooling to a pair of tough losses over the weekend.  The "experts" have picked the Reds to finish last in their division.  I'm sure that the entire team and management would like to prove them wrong, so if they can keep doing what they did last week--timely hitting, good starting pitching and a decent bullpen---they have a good chance to do so.

Congrats to Jordan Spieth, who's now the second youngest man to win the Masters golf tournament.  He did so in record fashion yesterday, playing with youthful (21) bravado and fearlessness.  Kind of reminds me of someone named Woods who was pretty good in the past.

And the University of Kentucky men's basketball team, still smarting from losing that national semifinal game about ten days ago, announced that SEVEN players from this year's team will make themselves available for the NBA draft.  Good luck to all.  From what I hear from a reliable source, coach John Calipari has reinforcements ready and on the way.

With that said...

My wife and I decided to give the new HBO Now streaming service a try, prodded by a free month of the service.  So far she watched a pretty old movie while I was traveling last week, and together we've watched episodes of several of their series.  I won't say which ones, but let's just say that we have not found any that my wife really enjoys.  That will ultimately decide whether or not to invest the $14.99 per month for the service.

I read that the Apple Watch, in all of its various incarnations, is sold out until June, and that instead of the bizarre lines that usually form outside of Apple Stores on "launch day" of a new product, most of the commotion this time was online.  That's better for everyone, really.  I have only bought accessories at the Apple Store, we've bought my wife's first and then current iPhones onsite.  My Apple "equipment" comes from an electronics big-box store with better financing options, but I love to go and look and think and play and ask questions.

Speaking of iPhones, I received a notification from my carrier that I could "upgrade" early by getting into an alternate program wherein I receive a service discount, then make 24 monthly payments on a new iPhone of my choice.  Went to an authorized reseller for this carrier I did a little math and some exploration online and determined, eventually, that this is actually a lease program that's called by another name.  I would have to surrender my current iPhone 5 to start this off, and then after the 24 months was up I would have to do the same to get a new phone.  I don't think so.  Mine is working fine, and I like my Colonel Littleton holster, too, so I'll stand pat for the moment.

I'm going with some friends on a golf trip this week.  We're meeting up with another friend of mine in a town that's pretty much equidistant for all, about three hours from home.  Not long to get there, courses that I have not played, some good company, and a reasonably short journey home.  We'll all be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The plan now is to play a round Friday afternoon, then retire to the hotel and then out to dinner (we've scoped out a couple of walking-distance options, which is preferable in a strange location), then a game Saturday followed by a minor-league baseball game.  Sunday we play right across the road from the hotel, which will be followed by lunch and then the road home.  Weather permitting, it should be great fun.

Oh, and Hillary Clinton is running for President.  Didn't we already know that?

Have a good day!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The most wonderful day of the year!

Happy Monday, campers!  I have a little extra spring in my step today, despite Kentucky's loss in the NCAA Final Four on Saturday evening.

Why, you ask?  It's OPENING DAY of the baseball season!

This is a big deal in my family.  I am an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds, as regular visitors to this space will attest, and, in Cincinnati, this is a REALLY big deal!  How big?  School is out, and they actually have a parade--the Findlay Market Parade!  For the uninitiated, the Reds played for many years at a location in the city near the Findlay Market, which is an indoor/outdoor marketplace that operates to this day, hence the parade name and location!  The parade generally features a couple of members of the current team (easier this year because the Reds don't play until 4:10 PM today) and the grand marshal is often someone with a historical connection to the team--former player, broadcaster, etc.

Anyway, my local tradition began not long after my wife and I married nearly 29 years ago.  Because the city of Cincinnati (which I proudly point out is the city of my birth, by the way) more or less shuts down, I do, too, so that I can enjoy the day without the distraction of, you know, a job.  So I'm off work today, for the umpteenth year in a row.

I can recall a Grinch-like boss who was up to no good and insisted I join a "critical" conference call this day a few years ago (it was far from critical) and then board a plane DURING THE GAME in order to be in position for a meeting the following morning.  The real shame of that was that my plane was delayed enough that, had I known it would leave Lexington late, I could have watched the entire game!

Not expecting any such complications today.  My current company has a policy that frowns on people working during company holidays or paid time off, so I expect to be left alone in that respect!

But let's consider why this is such a great day---it's the return of the baseball season, the six months of the year that I prefer to the OTHER six.  Every team has a chance to be a winner, as almost all have a won-lost record of 0-0 (the heathens of ESPN and MLB insist on playing an opening game on the Sunday night before the first Monday of April, so the Cubs and Cardinals played last evening).  Ballparks don't have that lived-in feel yet, so everything is clean.  There's a good crowd on hand to see every game today, which won't be the case in some towns in just a couple of weeks.  And it just FEELS like springtime!

I've had the honor of attending the Reds' Opening Day game three times, but other than last year, I could not tell you the years.  Once was when my son was just a kid, and the Reds played in Riverfront Stadium, which opened in 1970 and was where my baseball obsession grew up.  We got a little mixed up and were on the wrong side of the afore-mentioned Findlay Market Parade, and by the time we got back to the waterfront area and parked and into the ballpark and in our seats, the game was JUST about to start!

The second and third times were more recent, and both were at the Reds' current home, Great American Ball Park.  I won a lottery that allowed me to buy tickets and did so a few years ago.  The Reds played the New York Mets that day, and came from behind in the bottom of the 9th inning to win.  I remember distinctly that we had moved down from our original position to the left-field stands, where we saw the game-winning homer by Joe Randa sail over our heads to the left of us.  Last time I picked up my son in a bear hug, too!

As I mentioned we also went last year.  I happened to be transitioning to a new job and was off work that day.  My son called from work and said, you're not going to believe it, but I just got offered tickets for today's game, and my boss is letting me off work.  So we went, and while the Reds lost to the hated St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 1-0, it was just wonderful being there with him (as it always is).

My son's son will turn four in a month or so.  He's playing Wee Ball this year for the first time, and because his dad and I are such baseball fanatics, he is, too, and already has pretty good skills compared to the other little guys and gals he plays with.  Soon this tradition will expand to include him wherever possible.

I'll say one more thing about the folks who run Major League Baseball--Opening Day used to kind of BELONG to the Reds, in recognition of the team being the oldest operating professional ballclub.  They were always afforded the honor of starting first.  Fifteen or so years ago, another team started five minutes earlier than the Reds, and once that happened, the Reds were not considered that special, except that they always open the season at home.  I suppose that's something.

So if you can, get yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack and take in a ballgame today, whether in person or on TV from your home.  It'll do you good!

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