Wednesday, May 27, 2015

That's why they call it "work"

Happy mid-holiday week, friends.  Hope you had the chance to do something fun during the Memorial Day weekend.

This morning's subject is work.  No, I'm not going to address anything specific to my current or past employers.  I made a commitment to myself and to you when I started this little enterprise a few years ago.  But I do want to talk about the state of work in these United States, at least from my own perspective and that of others close to me.

And in the interests of full disclosure, I am indeed grateful that I am not having to perform menial, mind-numbing repetitive tasks like cracking rocks or digging ditches.  There's value in that, to be sure, but I am appreciative of that fact all the same.

The subject came home to me yesterday while talking with a friend and former colleague who, like myself, was recently laid off unexpectedly from the company where we worked together for many years.  He was a solid performer during the time we worked together, prior to that and afterward, too, so his departure was more about company headcount than it was removing someone who wasn't doing a good job.

In any case, we were talking as I drove to Louisville for a meeting and were just going over some of the finer points of job hunting and the networking that inevitably makes that process work better in this day and age.  My friend asked about how long one should keep trying to establish contact or bring about a followup conversation until abandoning a prospective employer, and that began some further thinking on my part.  Which is always dangerous, of course.

So here goes.  I don't understand....

Employers who advertise positions, then ignore virtually everyone who applies for them.  Common courtesy demands at least an acknowledgement, and some companies send such a confirmation but do so via automated means.  THEN they ignore most applicants.  That should change.

My friend responded back to me on a lead, something I had noticed online. He confirmed through a mutual friend that the position title and description are far different from the actual job that's available.  Why use the "bait and switch" technique?  Does a company really have to be evasive in attracting candidates?

I am a former human resources professional and recognize how reorganization or restructuring work, but, honestly, how difficult would it be to sit down with a given employee (in person, but by phone if that's all that can be worked out) and explain what's about to happen?  Demotions, changes in status, reporting relationships and the like would be better accepted by most workers if their bosses were willing to be straightforward and discuss these changes up front.  Instead, all of these "we need to talk" moments engender a lack of trust and serve as major demotivators for most folks I know, anyway.

I could go on, but I think most will get the gist of my comments.  I am reminded of a comment I read online by Richard Branson about how to treat employees.  It says:  “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.” 

Unfortunately, most of us work for folks who are a pretty long way from there.  In any case, have a good remainder of the week.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Fab Four revisited

Friends, it's unusual for me to post on two consecutive days, but I wanted to share a great experience my wife and I had last night.

As a wonderful Christmas present, my kids went together and purchased two tickets to the Lexington appearance of a touring production of "Rain:  A Beatles Tribute," along with a generous gift card for a nice restaurant.  Ready-made date night!

A little background here:  I will be 55 years old in July, so I was a kid when the Beatles were big.  Knew who they were, knew some of the songs, watched the Saturday morning cartoon show, etc.  I think I was about 10 when they broke up.  But in early adulthood I had the chance to listen to some of their recordings (not just what you'd hear on the radio) and was really hooked.  A friend of mine had half-speed mastered British import LPs (records) of all of their catalog, and loaned them to me so that I could listen and make recordings.

Wow!

Time passed, and as I no longer had a cassette deck in the house or either of the cars, I migrated to CDs of the same albums.  And I listen to them frequently when traveling.  In fact, one of my larger gripes with SiriusXM satellite radio is the absence of a Beatles channel, but I have a feeling that's because of rights issues and such.

Anyway, "Rain" was supposed to perform in Lexington on February 17, but was postponed due to heavy snow and unsafe weather conditions until last night.  So off we went, first for an early dinner and then to the Lexington Opera House, which was originally a movie theater ("movie house" was the term my parents used for these opulent, one of a kind venues) but now hosts live performances of various types.  I hadn't been in that building since our daughter was in high school, but that's a story for another time.

We made our way downtown and found a place to park a couple of blocks up the street.  Entered the Opera House and found that we had seats on the ninth row at floor level.  The theater has two balcony levels but I was really pleased to see where we were in relation to the stage.  The performers came on stage about five minutes after the listed starting time, preceded by a video presentation of clips of historical items from the Beatles era.  By design, the performers all looked and sounded like the Beatles, at least passably so, as all could play and sing pretty well.  Costuming, musical instruments, all of it spot on.  And the announcements before the show made a point of saying that none of what we were about to see or hear was pre-recorded, which makes it even more impressive!

Two and a half-hour show, with a brief intermission, an audience spanning four generations, and all of us on our feet at the end singing the "na-na-na" parts of "Hey Jude."  What a great show!

I looked them up online and found that there are apparently two groups of performers who tour and alternate.  This show has also been on Broadway at some point.

One more note--I want to make special mention of the young man who performed at Paul McCartney.  If I have read the group's information correctly, his father has worked for many years performing the same "role."  The son, who is named Paul, and probably not accidentally, has gone to the extreme of learning to play the bass guitar LEFT-HANDED.  I didn't really think anything of this until he was playing an acoustic guitar on "Yesterday" and some other songs that require some intricate playing and doing so right-handed.  Impressive.

Naturally, as I write this, I'm listening to the Beatles compilation album "Love."

Thought you might be interested.  From the "Rain" website, it looks like the current tour will end over the weekend in Chicago.  But I heartily recommend it if you have the chance and the inclination to see and experience this wonderful show!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Driving the green

Happy Monday to all....hope everyone had a good weekend.

I report this morning on the long-anticipated golf trip that I took with a couple of buddies over the weekend.  As I had mentioned in this space previously, we had planned to do this about a month ago, but the prediction of inclement weather made us change our plans (and, as it turned out, for naught, as the forecast for that weekend and location was not accurate).

One of us lives in the Owensboro, Kentucky area, and I and the other traveling companion are in Lexington, so we agreed to meet at Covered Bridge Golf Club in Sellersburg, Indiana for our initial round of golf at 1:00 PM.  We chose courses in the southern half of Indiana to facilitate another mutual interest, minor league baseball.  Our plan was to travel to Indianapolis on Saturday night for a game at Victory Field, home of the AAA Indianapolis Indians.  More on that later.

Weather in Lexington Friday morning was clear with a few clouds and some breeze, so we really didn't have a lot of concerns about the weather.  Picked up my local friend, loaded up his stuff to add to mine and off we went.  Since we were passing through Louisville, we decided to stop in at a favorite barbecue haunt, Mark's Feed Store. We worked together at a company's Louisville location some years ago and used to frequent this place.  It was as good as we remembered.

We proceeded through the maze that is currently downtown Louisville (lots of major road construction there) and then merged onto I-65 North into Indiana and then to Covered Bridge, which is owned and was developed by Masters and Senior PGA champ Fuzzy Zoeller, a native of the area.  My other friend and I had played there numerous times, but had not found ourselves in that part of the world in recent years.  The course did not disappoint, we were able to play steadily and quickly, and I was able to card a good score on our first day, despite significant wind that picked up about the time we arrived.

We traveled north to Seymour, Indiana, where I had found a good rate on a hotel for two rooms.  If you're not familiar with that area, Seymour is about midway between Louisville and Indianapolis and is the hometown of singer John Mellencamp.  We thought this was a good spot for base camp, since we were playing a course north of there on Sunday and were planning to go to Indy for baseball on Saturday evening.  Had dinner at a Chili's, since there were not a great number of alternatives.  We knew that going in, of course, since we all know Mellencamp's song "Small Town!"

Saturday morning arrived and we noted that there had been some rain overnight and about a 50% chance of more for the second course in our menu, Fuzzy Zoeller's Champions Pointe, in Henryville.  We made our way there and immediately noticed that it's also a very nice course, which didn't really surprise us.  Great layout, good conditions and homes that were not extremely close to the course itself, which is always a plus for golfers prone to errant shots!  We had some drizzle here and there early in the round, which was an uneven affair for all three of us, as we all encountered some challenges (some self-inflicted, some caused by the difficulty of the course and others by the slow pace of play in front of us) along the way.

The heavens opened in earnest as we were finishing the 12th hole (it finished me, in terms of being able to post a decent score for the round, as I really had my problems there), and we slogged through the 13th in a driving rain.  Quickly agreeing that we should head for the clubhouse after finishing that hole, I noted that my feet were initially dry but as my socks (garish wool-blend neon green argyle crew socks, selected just for the occasion) accumulated water around my ankles, that water found its way into my shoes.  So we made the mad dash for the clubhouse, where we parked in the barn that the course uses to store and charge the golf carts.  A very nice attendant asked if he could throw anything into the dryer for us, and I gave up the socks and one towel.  Just to show how long we were off the course due to the weather, the sock and towel had time to complete the drying cycle with about twenty minutes to spare!

We spotted our opportunity and went back out, and none of us played well from that point, owing to the standing water and otherwise poor conditions.  It's a great golf course and we all agreed we'll go back, but hopefully we'll get to play all 18 holes on a dry day!

So we all sat in our wet clothes for the trip back to the hotel, During our drive we reviewed the weather forecast for Indianapolis, and when we saw that rain was somewhat likely, we agreed that we should change our plans for the evening.  Hot showers and a dry change of clothes improved our outlook considerably.  We found a Buffalo Wild Wings where we had food, drink and watched the Preakness, identifying readily with the foul weather that struck Baltimore just as the race was about to start.

Sunday came, and, again, we saw that it had rained quite a bit overnight.  By the way, our hotel, like many others in the Seymour area, was the temporary home for numerous Little Leaguers and their families.  Made for a noisy place to stay, with kids running the halls and crowding the breakfast room, but we managed to stay out of their way.

We proceeded north to Timbergate, which was designed by Fuzzy Zoeller (are you seeing a trend?) and another golf architect.  My Owensboro friend and I had played there some years ago but only got to play the front nine twice due to maintenance on the other nine holes.  So we were interested to see the rest of the course and noticed immediately that it was not up to the same standards as our sites on Friday and Saturday.

When we played there several years ago, we could not help but notice how prominent the wind was, and it was the same yesterday.  It essentially ran from south to north, right along the highway, which was right next to the course.  This made for some challenging shots, as you'd imagine, and none of us shot what I would call a good score.  So we all felt some frustrations at times, and made quite a few unforced errors to go along with the shots that the wind affected.

Lunch at a Ruby Tuesday's along the path south was our last stop before heading for our respective homes.  While I won't share a lot of details of the conversations that we had during golf, travel and dinner, suffice it to say that we all laughed a lot at ourselves and each other (and at some of the absurd situations our shots put us into, as well).

Would we do it again?  Absolutely.  Would we go to the same places?  Probably two of the three; yesterday's course was in a lesser condition than several years ago.  That opportunity will come sometime down the road, but, for now, we're all back to work and back to reality today!

Monday, May 11, 2015

First world problems

Good Monday to all.  I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend.

I did, but with a couple of caveats.  We've had a pretty lengthy stretch of really warm weather here in central Kentucky for about two weeks, perhaps a little longer.  That's welcome, after a cold winter and a wet and mostly cool spring.

What's not welcome is when that increase in temperature forces your home climate system to work harder and to ultimately fail.  That's what happened at our house, anyway.  Friday afternoon, I returned home from a meeting and commented to my wife that the house seemed a little warm.  Did a little checking, and the thermostat confirmed that it was warmer than it should be in the house.

I went to the circuit breaker box to ensure that nothing there had tripped, and found it had not.  Then I went to our outside air conditioning unit (in addition to the other unit that is locate in our attic space). Nothing.  Not moving at all.

I remembered a year or so ago encountering the same thing, and the fix then was to spray out that exterior unit with water, to allow it to take in more air.  I did so again, and, still, nothing.  By this time it was around 4:30 Friday afternoon.

So I told my wife we'd leave it alone for the time being, and went off to my grandson's baseball game.  Tried it again when we returned later, still nothing.  So our strategy became "let's call some places in the morning and set up an appointment."  We turned on the ceiling fans on our main level and moved a floor fan into our bedroom for the night, which was a little uncomfortable but tolerable.

Saturday morning I began calling AC servicers, and the first several I called, all of whom indicate 24/7 service, could not get to us until Monday or Tuesday.  All use an answering service, despite their commercial claims to the contrary.  I finally found one that was highly rated online that said they could handle our service call but that it would be Sunday.  OK, fine.  So we waited and waited and waited.  Hotter still in the house and a restless night Saturday night.  My wife and I went out with our son and his family for dinner Saturday night and they wanted to take us to breakfast yesterday, but I stayed behind so as not to miss the AC repair company's call.  No call came, and finally at 3:00 PM I called back.

The answering service indicated that they had no record of my call, and relayed my message to the on-call techician.  He, also, noted that he did not know of our service request, but would do his best to take care of us.  He allowed that he had another call that should be a quick one, then an appointment with a current customer in the early evening, and that he should be able to work us in between those.  He was right, arrived around 5:45 yesterday afternoon.  We had blown fuses, a capacitor that needed replacing, and several wires that had vibrated loose from their connections and touched, which caused them to arc and catch fire.  The unit was also low on coolant.  He was able to take care of everything in about forty minutes, and we paid him for the service.

One interesting aspect of this is that apparently, just recently, in our home area all of the heating and AC companies have moved to a "club" concept, where one pays an annual fee for membership, then gets two maintenance checks per year (which I feel certain don't amount to much), a percentage off parts and service, and "guaranteed" service within 24 hours of a request.  We did not opt to do this, but we also know that with our current AC system being about 15 years old, we're going to have a larger decision to make within the next year or two.  Yesterday's repair bought us some time, we hope.

I must confess that we had a good weekend otherwise, despite the house being less than comfortable. I played golf with some friends (two of whom will accompany me on a golf trip later in the week) and played the best I have in some time.  Had a couple of good meals out.  Spent some time with our son and his wife and two of our grandchildren.  So that was all good.

But I am so grateful to have the house cool again.  Got a really good night's sleep last night, too.

Have a good and comfortable Monday and a good week.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A sunny Monday, for a change

Good Monday morning, all.  Very nice weather lately here in central Kentucky.  Hope the same for your home area.

I've had an interesting weekend, albeit different from most.  My wife is away for a visit with her aging mother and returns today, so I've been a quasi-bachelor since Thursday morning.

As I believe I had mentioned previously, we decided to try out the HBO Now app on Apple TV (and other Apple devices, though we never got that far) and didn't find much we both wanted to watch.  However, there were a few things that I wanted to see.  For example, I managed to binge-watch "True Detective" after my wife's departure, since she watched the first episode with me and did not find it to her liking.  Intriguing mini-series, well acted and written.  Not at all predictable, which was a nice change from so much traditional television drama.  And it had a quirkiness to it that I really liked.

I must be on a Matthew McConaughy run right now, as after watching that I decided to check out "Dallas Buyers Club," for which the actor won an Oscar.  I must say, he gave probably the performance of his life (I'm partial to his work in "Interstellar," which I also watched in multiple installments over the weekend) in this unusual movie.  I read online that the script had made the rounds in Hollywood before being made (with McConaughy's financial help, apparently) and was shot on an extremely small budget.  I saw the word "searing" used in a review of this and I tend to agree.  Outstanding movie, and the other major supporting players, Jared Leto (who also was recognized with an Oscar) and Jennifer Garner, were also top-notch.

One more thing about "Interstellar" that I want to add.  This is my third viewing of the movie, and it never fails to make me feel and think, and that's rare.  I love movies, as you know if you stop by here regularly, but this one is special to me.

Anyway, Saturday was my grandson's Wee Ball game day, so I stopped by there for a time, then had lunch with a very good friend who's experiencing some personal and professional challenges.  Hope things move to a better place on both fronts for her.  Nice bonus, as we went to a place next to our normal spot and I had a bison burger, which is a bit of a rarity in Lexington.  Tasty.  Coupled it with a couple of bottles of Fat Tire beer, straight from Fort Collins, Colorado!

Returned home and began to experience problems with my cable TV box.  Called in, the tech reset it remotely, and then it wouldn't work at all.  My only alternative was to drive across town before their "store" closed at 5:00 and exchange it for another.  That one didn't work, either, until I called back in two more times for technical support.  I complained enough about the entire process that I will now be paying about $12 less per month.  Honestly, how hard would it be to simply have something that works?  And now another problem has cropped up, so I suppose I'll have to get on the phone with them later!

I mowed the lawn and then watched the Kentucky Derby with no knowledge of any of the horses!  My son and I conferred briefly that morning and nothing really made an impression.  The winner was pretty impressive, in the end, and the race was close and entertaining.

Yesterday was a little more normal.  I played golf with a friend in a very slow round (five hours) and hit some good shots here and there, but did not putt well and therefore did not score well.  But it was a beautiful day and the company was good.  We eventually retired to a wings-and-beer joint for some grub and to watch a little baseball.  Came back here tired, sore and full and managed to do laundry and dishes.

Still need to straighten up the house from my riotous weekend, so I'll bid everyone a good day and week!

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