Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Turning ten far from home

Greetings and happy Wednesday!  Hope the week is going OK thus far.  All downhill from here, you know.

Today's our granddaughter's tenth birthday.  And while I don't often recognize my grandkids directly here, I think this warrants some special consideration.

You see, this granddaughter lives in Colorado with her mom (our daughter), dad and younger brother.  And they're in Colorado, and she's here in central Kentucky with my wife and me.  This was due to a quirk in scheduling.  Last summer she was here for a while and then her family came to Kentucky for their annual vacation visit, and she returned home with them.

This year, though, because of some other family events, she's here AFTER their visit.  Which means she's away from her immediate family for a milestone birthday like this one.  Adding to it is that our son and his family, including our two other grandkids, are on THEIR annual vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

So it's just Gram and me to celebrate with her.

Plans for today are somewhat fluid, as one would expect.  I have a midday meeting today, so I'll miss some of the fun, but so far it appears that the birthday girl and her Gram will be visiting the local Krispy Kreme doughnut shop to watch some of those goodies being made and partake for breakfast.  There's also a facial appointment at my wife's cosmetics source (to be performed by the tiny, adorable store manager, who simply LOVES my wife!) and then lunch at the Cracker Barrel.

[Full disclosure---the Barrel is not among my favorite places to eat.  I'll go if necessary, but rarely by choice.  But I would have gone for our granddaughter today, as she loves their chicken pot pie, and it's only served at lunch on Wednesdays.]

Then I'm not sure what the plans may be.  I do know that the dinner site that the birthday girl selected is Red Robin, the "gourmet burgers and brews" place that has been her favorite since she was a very little girl.  I like that place once in a while, too, as I love a good burger.  Plus there are unlimited steak fries, which is never a bad thing.  We may or may not have them make over her there, as she embarrasses easily.

My wife and I decorated last night, huge banner in the kitchen.  Her gift from us is a new pair of earrings (she had a problem with one of her pierced ears early in her visit, but thanks to some quick thinking by Gram that was resolved pretty quickly), a special cake and a pinada to break open!  Poppy has to figure out where to deploy said pinada, but I think that I can hang it safely in the garage at party time and let the birthday girl take her swings at it without busting up the joint too much.

Oh, and she finally lost a loose tooth last night, too, so the Tooth Fairy also visited in the night!

So I'm enjoying a little quiet before things get rolling here.  Join me in wishing our granddaughter a very happy TENTH birthday!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The weekend's too short

Wow, if that's not the most pessimistic thing one can say on a Friday afternoon....?

Seriously, though, I'm very glad to see that the weekend is just about here.  Kentucky appears to finally be through with its unexpected monsoon season, so that means the weather is like it usually is this time of year.  Hot.  Damned hot, if you'll pardon the expression.

I'm scheduled to play golf tomorrow with some friends about an hour from here, the location chosen to accommodate one friend who lives a distance away.  And it's scheduled to be a high temperature of 93 degrees tomorrow.  Oh, well, we should get plenty of roll with the dry conditions, anyway....

Actually, I'm surprised that it hasn't rained in the last couple of days, as I dug deep into my pockets and got the "deluxe" wash at the local car wash.  Interior, too.  I drive so much these last eighteen months that I rarely go to that expense for car washes, since it's going to just get dirty again.  But I was a little tired of driving around in something that dirty, so there.

I'm on another jag wherein I'm borrowing CDs from my local library.  Right now I'm listening to a real gem by Boz Scaggs (remember him, 70s fans?  "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle" and so on) called "A Fool to Care."  It appears to be a blues homage, featuring a few songs I know but most that I don't.  Two duets, one in particular with the underrated Bonnie Raitt, highlight the record, which showcases Scaggs' guitar skills and his unique vocal style.  I've also requested another recent release of his (he has been recording more in the past few years, it seems) called "Memphis," and it's a tribute to some of the great R&B music that's come from that area over the years.

And I continue to enjoy two other recent musical acquisitions, James Taylor's "Before This World" and singer/songwriter J.D. Souther's superb "Tenderness."  More old guy music for this old guy, but if you like either singer even a little, check them out.

Note:  I doubt I would have known about Souther's record without exposure to a couple of songs on satellite radio.  Probably would have about James Taylor's album (yes, they're still albums to me), but most likely the other would have gotten past me.

I saw that a member of the Senate is asking for an investigation of Apple Music, which was introduced about ten minutes ago.  I'm not a subscriber and am not planning to be, but this kind of puzzles me to have this occur right out of the gate.  Apple gets sued and investigated so frequently I'd say their company leadership is pretty well used to it, but, still....

Remember me saying in this space that the Cincinnati Reds were on the verge of trading several high-profile players?  They have not done so yet, but I still expect that they will.  Being this far out of first place with this much of the season left really doesn't indicate that things will get better for them without some changes.  The Reds are in Denver this weekend, coincidentally, which my Denver-area-based-daughter reminded me last night.

I'll end with a baseball comment of a different sort.  The Florence (KY) Freedom are an independent minor league team in the Frontier League.  As it happens, they operate their ballpark to be peanut free all of the time.  This is something I discovered in trying to find another game to which I would take my granddaughter, who suffers from a pretty severe nut allergy.  Anyway, I took her to a game there Wednesday night and we had a lot of fun.  Nice, clean ballpark, with free parking and every seat a good seat; good food and drink choices that were not extremely expensive, a play area for kids, and decent-quality baseball.  My granddaughter got a ball from the visitors' dugout and was able to get the handsome young pitcher who gave it to her to sign it for her, so that's now among her prized possessions!

So it's not quite quitting time here, but it's getting closer by the minute.  Have a good weekend, please!


Monday, July 20, 2015

55 and counting

Good Monday to all.

It's my fifty-fifth birthday today, for those keeping score!

I don't feel any different, of course, but I will admit that I plan to get and use the AARP membership that I feel sure is on its way!  My wife won't, of course, but I'm far cheaper than she is, so we can consider that a certainty!

I did give in to a little middle-age restlessness over the weekend and rearranged the furniture in my office.  I have been thinking of switching a few things around for a while, as I thought moving my pieces (desk and credenza-with-hutch) into an L-shaped arrangement could be good.  I did this Saturday morning, and think I'll be moving it back to the more traditional desk in front of credenza setup.  Gotta try these things, I suppose.

I've been watching the Open Championship (the British Open to us unrepentant Yanks) over these last few days, and can certainly feel for the participants and organizers (and fans, too) having lost most of a day to bad weather, since weather has played such havoc on everything in our part of the world throughout the spring and summer.  I have it on via my computer this morning and am hopeful that the young Texan Jordan Spieth can turn in another quality round and win the thing.  That would make it three majors in a row, with only the PGA remaining for the Grand Slam, something that hasn't been done in a LONG time, not since Bobby Jones.  And what's the story with everyone suddenly referring to that historic golfer as "BOB" Jones?

Speaking of golf, I haven't played in several weeks, with company here and other stuff going on.  I am due to play a round with some friends next weekend, but weather will most likely be a factor, one way or another.

One of my readers told me that a great part of my blog is when I mention "new" stuff---new computer equipment, cellphones, household items, etc.  I have a couple of those types of items to mention today.

The first to mention is Yeti Coolers, a brand of rugged, high-performance coolers and drinkware that I became aware of recently.  I think this line of products has been around for a little while, but because I hadn't visited an outdoor store or department within a sporting goods dealer, I wasn't familiar with it.

Anyway, we celebrated family birthdays while our daughter and family were visiting recently (they've gone, but left our granddaughter with us for a few weeks).  Our son and his wife gave some very nice and creative gifts to our daughter and son-in-law, and one of them was a Yeti Rambler tumbler for my son-in-law.  I remarked that it looked pretty solid, and my son then mentioned that it was highly rated for its ability to keep drinks hot or cold, does not sweat, and is extremely durable.

I then mentioned this in passing to a friend via phone who said that he had a Rambler, and commented that he has filled his with ice and water early in the morning and at day's' end would still have ice cubes intact.  I'm sure I sounded pretty impressed, and we talked further about how hard it is to find a good travel mug or tumbler, etc.  He then mentioned that it's a small part of a line of products that includes soft-side and hard-side coolers, can holders, bottle openers, the reusable ice bricks.  Pretty neat, I thought.

The following day this friend called me back from his home area and asked if I had run out to buy my own Yeti Rambler.  I said that I hadn't, and he said that was good, because there was one on its way to me.  Said he wanted to do something for me for my recent help with a project that he's undertaken recently (I haven't helped THAT much, but he's like that), so I was pretty excited.

It arrived a couple of days later and I washed it out and read the material that came with it.  "Keeping your drink as cold as science allows" was the message of this item.  And my friend knows me well, since he sent me the LARGE version!

I've used it nearly exclusively since then, for coffee, water, soft drinks and iced tea.  All maintain temperature very well.  No carryover flavor or odor from what was previously inside, either.  I have a trip coming tomorrow and am excited to see how it does and what kind of response I get when I walk into a McDonald's and say I want to fill it up with coffee or a soft drink!

Next Yeti item I want to find is the Colster, wherein the Yeti people apply the same kind of science to a can holder that they did to a tumbler!

The other recent enhancement to life at the Smith house is a new variation of the universal television remote.  For quite a few years we've relied on a Harmony universal remote to control our entertainment devices.  I really like the concept...press one button and all of the right items come on in the proper mode and setting for what you may want to watch at a given time (cable, DVD, or something else).  We've had a couple of these, and they all eventually begin to wear down.  The current one, a Harmony One, is no exception.  Our cable system has all of its HD channel clustered in the 900 range of the dial, so, not surprisingly, the 9 key is beginning to give us trouble, sticking, repeating, etc.

I researched this a little bit and looked at some a while back, and finally settled on the newest iteration of this product--the Harmony Smart Control.  This consists of a box not unlike an Apple TV or Roku in size (think tapered hockey puck) and a companion remote that's pretty simple and straightforward.  The kicker is that you can use the remote OR your mobile device, which requires a free application and a signin.  I bought and set this up on Saturday and it has performed flawlessly so far, using all four of our iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) and the remote.  The best and perhaps most ingenious part is that it does not require you to point anything directly at the TV---works through wi-fi.

So that's what's happening here.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take my old-age pills....

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The latest developments

Good Tuesday morning to all.  Sorry for the slightly misleading headline today; this is by no means a news bulletin!

That said, this morning's announcement that an agreement was reached between Iran and the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China is big stuff indeed.  This has been underway for something close to ten years, from conception to agreement, and will now pave the way for economic sanctions against Iran to be lifted, since they have now committed to curtailing their nuclear weapons program.  And apparently this is all subject to verification first, which means that Iran has to do what they've agreed to before these sanctions will be removed.  Time will tell is this measure is useful, successful and wise, or none of these.

I'm sure Donald Trump will have an opinion on this.  Heaven knows that he's expressed himself on nearly everything else, and, despite his bluster, is polling well among likely Republican voters.

Did you see that over the weekend, David Letterman joined fellow comics Steve Martin and Martin Short for a stage show in Texas, and Letterman did so specifically to deliver one of his "Top Ten" lists on Trump?  Nice bit of satire there.

Speaking of Letterman, I happened to see his CBS replacement, Stephen Colbert, on Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" over the weekend.  Devastatingly funny together.  Also watched one where Jerry and his longtime "Seinfeld" costar Julia Louis-Dreyfus appeared together.  Very funny as well.  If you're interested, the free internet channel Crackle is where these can be seen.  If you have a Roku, Apple TV or other streaming box for your TV, it's worth the few minutes to set up an account to see these!

Today's the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, to be played in Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.  Let's all hope for good weather, as tonight's forecast is calling for a 50-50 chance of scattered thunderstorms.  Last night's Home Run Derby did not disappoint and was held in surprisingly good weather.  The event produced large quantities of homers by most participants (not surprising, since the ball really flies out of there during warm, humid weather) and was won by Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds.  Yes, it took about two-and-a-half hours for the entire event, but I know from watching in past years that it seemed to move a bit quicker than usual nonetheless.

We all have stuff that stops working, and right now my two nemeses are the refrigerator ice maker and the garage door opener.  The ice maker seems to have lost all sense of control, as it continues making ice even when the bin is full (just try opening that thing up when it's heaping over with ice and the drive is jammed).  Lately it's better, but it got stuck four or five times leading up to the July 4th holiday.

The other odd thing is our garage door opener.  I think this might be a requirement for newer models, but mine has the sensors at the bottom that will prevent it from closing if anything appears to be in the path of the door.  And if one of those sensors is out of place, the door will behave as though something is obstructing it and it won't close.  This has happened a couple of times of late, of course, just when we're ready to go somewhere.  I've spent quite a bit of time on my knees getting these sensors lined up (one sensor blinks if it's not a good connection, so you have to finagle it until you get a solid red light on it) and it appears to be better.  My wife reported this to me while I was away at meetings last Friday and said that the sensor box was lying on the ground, so it had either worked its way off of its mount or had been kicked or brushed against at some point (we had a lot of company recently).  Anyway, if it acts up again, I suppose a service call will be needed.

Not much else to report from this location.  Summer rains are a strange phenomenon to this part of the country, and I compulsively apologize to those close to me in California, where they can't buy a fraction of the rainfall we're currently receiving.  But there are still plenty of hot, humid days and more ahead.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Self-absorbed mini-vacation post

Greetings from the hot heartland, friends. Taking a few days off to spend with our daughter and her family before they head back to Colorado later in the week.

So far we've tested the capacity limits of our refrigerator and cupboard, explored new and different ways to configure child and adult seating for meals, used our washing machine and dishwasher many, many times (far more than my wife and I, the empty-nesters, do routinely), and generally have had a great time!

We took the gang to the Newport Aquarium yesterday, and had a lot of fun there.  Somehow I like aquariums a little better than zoos, and I don't know if it's because I like the water so much, or if it just seems cleaner when one visits.  Regardless, we were able to see and experience all that that facility has to offer.  Good crowd for a Monday, albeit one just after a holiday weekend.

Along with that, it was nice to be back in the greater Cincinnati area (it always is, in my book) and to see some of the adornments for next week's All-Star Game, which the Reds will host for the first time since the 80's.  Some nice improvements to Great American Ball Park were evident from our viewpoint directly across the Ohio River, and I'm sure the crew there will spend a lot of time putting the finishing touches on a great venue for the game.

And I'm proud of my fellow Reds fans, as we all pulled together and managed to vote Todd Frazier to the starting third baseman slot for the National Leaguers.  He is most deserving, and it will be fabulous to see a homegrown Reds player on the field when the game starts.  His teammate Aroldis Chapman, relief pitcher extraordinare, is also on the roster.  Reds fans have one more chance to recognize a star player, as starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is on the "final vote" ballot.  I've already done my duty, thank you very much.

I have to say that a holiday and three days off from work doesn't sound like a long time, but work is most definitely in my rear view mirror right now. I return to it on Thursday, but the idea of two days of work and then another weekend softens that blow considerably.  And I know that I could have a far worse job than I do....I could be Donald Trump's media relations person, for example.

I don't talk a lot about geopolitical issues here, but isn't it amazing that Greece voted against a bailout, on the basis that it came with too many stern conditions that would restrict its future economic activity?  I don't pretend to know all of the details, but having read a few times about the problems that Athens had in staging the 2004 Summer Olympics (incomplete facilities, unreliable spectator and media transportation, etc.), I suppose it's a little bit expected that the country would rebel against tighter controls by outsiders.  After all, the government that they voted into office somewhat recently ran on an anti-austerity platform.

Finally, a little tip of the cap to the U.S. Women's soccer team, winners of the Women's World Cup on Sunday.  I know little about soccer, but even my untrained eye saw a determined and focused group of athletes who pulled together to accomplish something special.  Bravo.

With that, I now return to my temporary programming.


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