Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday to holiday

Good morning to all.  I hope that Thanksgiving was joyous, safe and relaxing for everyone.

I suppose that I'm just sort of non-compliant.  I did not go out and shop on Black Friday (though I did stop by the grocery, but that really doesn't count), I did not visit a small business on Shop Small Saturday, and I did not order any merchandise online during Cyber Monday yesterday.

Shame on me.  I'm usually dependable with respect to propping up our economy.  I wasn't a complete laggard, though, as my wife and I put up our holiday decorations Sunday and we began organizing our Christmas shopping, and actually did a little of it already.  But ONLY a little.

Did you know that President Franklin Roosevelt moved the observance of Thanksgiving during his time in the White House?  If I have the story right, retailers pressured him to decree that Thanksgiving be celebrated early, as the year this was contemplated, Thanksgiving came late in the month of November.  So in 1939-41, Thanksgiving arrived a little early, so that the Christmas shopping season could last just a little longer.  Of course, that was in the days when the Christmas shopping season didn't START until Thanksgiving!

Now, on with my usual assortment of random thoughts...

Kentucky won its annual football game with in-state rival and formerly 11th ranked Louisville on Saturday, despite being 27 point underdogs.  Hard to describe quickly how they did it, but most of it was with heart and determination, as the skill and talent level of many of Louisville's players surpasses that of many of UK's team.  But it was quite a sight to see, and for the first time in six seasons, the Governor's Cup came back to Lexington!

UK's basketball team continues destroying their opponents without much effort.  This team is extremely talented but they'll face better competition over the next few games, if the experts are right.  They need to be pushed and tested, so that when they visit the smaller arenas of some of the SEC schools and are confronted with fans who are out of control and teams who are playing their biggest game of the year "because it's against Kentucky," they'll be ready.

The Cincinnati Reds are having their annual off-season fan event, Redsfest, this Friday and Saturday. My son and I have attended once or twice in the past, but probably won't go this year.  The Reds, meanwhile, continue to tweak their rebuilding efforts, exchanging some of their known-quantity minor leaguers for what may be better prospects from elsewhere.  I still think that in a couple of years the Reds will contend for post-season play once again.  Hope I'm right.

I don't follow hockey that closely, but read that the Florida Panthers of the NHL fired their coach, and did so in such humiliating fashion that it got noticed.  They actually fired this man, kicked him off the team bus that was leaving an opposing team's arena, removed his luggage from the bus and left him standing by the side of the building.  Gotta admit, I've been dismissed from employment more than once in my career, but never experienced that.

Speaking of humiliation, it occurs to me that our President-Elect is running a bit of a reality show as he meets with various prospective cabinet members.  Will he choose Candidate A to be Secretary of State?  Or will he surprise everyone with Candidate B?  And don't look now, Candidate C has just entered the picture.  Tune in tomorrow to find out who gets hired!

The public squabbling among the President-Elect's inner circle is fascinating, amusing and terrifying all at once.  It's not hard to imagine the same thing happening once he takes office and something significant occurs, and there's massive conflict about how to respond.

Seriously, though, we can only hope that at least some of these people are up to the jobs that they're agreeing to take.  Our country depends on it.  And I really don't have an opinion on the whole recount issue, nor do I have a worthwhile comment about whether or not some three million votes were cast by illegal immigrants.

I read somewhere that during President Obama's transition into office, he posted but one tweet, and that was to thank his supporters.  Wow, those were the days, right?

Have a good week.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

I am sure that if you're reading this, you have a lot to be thankful for this year.  I know that I do.  And while I won't bore you with a long recitation of the people and circumstances for which I'm grateful, I'll just comment that I am most appreciative of my family and close friends on this day every year, but more than usual during what has been a challenging year for me personally and professionally.  Without them I would most definitely be a poorer man indeed.

So what are you having for Thanksgiving dinner?  Traditional turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes and bread and pie and so much other stuff?  Or are you one of those heathens who uses this occasion every year to rebel, and to make things like turkey croquettes or baked mashed potatoes (I know, a lot of this will happen AFTER Thanksgiving in a lot of households)?

One of my closest friends mentioned to me that she and her gang are not really fans of the traditional meal, so they opted for an early Thanksgiving dinner of quality carryout Italian food!  And I believe I'm correct in mentioning that today is generally the biggest day for pizza delivery in the United States.

We're pretty traditional at our house, when we have the opportunity to have the feast here at home.  For many years it was a given that we would be at my in-laws' house, but after my father-in-law passed and my mother-in-law became less comfortable hosting large groups of folks, we began to be home more frequently.

Some of that desire for traditional Thanksgiving fare is my fault, too.  Growing up my parents preferred to have ham, not turkey, and liked to simply splurge on what they considered "good" ham and have it sliced for sandwiches, eschewing the entire idea of a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner.  Once in a while we'd have the conventional meal, but only if my grandparents were joining us, they being more traditionalists than my folks!

Our daughter gifted us a number of spice-oriented items a while back and we are using the brining kit that she included.  Mixture of salt, sugar, some citrus notes, coriander seed and lots of other good stuff.  I have always believed that soaking any sort of poultry in cold salty water for a time before cooking gives it better flavor and moisture, but this will be my our first attempt at anything with a greater variety of flavorings.  Can't wait to see how it turns out!

Another must that we happened into a few years ago is a product from Williams-Sonoma, the cooking and gourmet food store.  It's their turkey gravy base, comes in a jar.  You add milk and some other ingredients, and the finished product is something close to perfection.  It's always the little tricks, isn't it?  Like Stove Top brand stuffing.  We like it all year, but on Thanksgiving, when you're counting on everything to be great, why risk trying an uncertain recipe for dressing?  Get the stuff you know you like, even if it's a complimentary dish life stuffing!  One of several starches we'll be having today, of course.

Can't leave without discussing pie.  Sorry to say, but I don't like pumpkin OR pecan pie, and they're the ones most folks have to have on this day.  So we're having cherry pie.  So there.

I'll close by thanking all of you who visit this space regularly, whomever and wherever you are.  It's gratifying that you stop by to read my regular expressions of, well, anything and everything.  Have a safe and happy holiday, hopefully with people you love!




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seven days later....

....and we're all still here.

Of course, President-Elect Trump won't take office for several more weeks, but now we've seen a few telling things that indicate how things will be.

The first word that one could use, that HAS been used, is "unconventional."  This guy has no interest in how things have traditionally been done, and based on the recent purge from his "transition team," won't be pigeon-holed into making blah cabinet appointments and the like.

But the sheer lack of understanding of how this has to happen is pretty astounding.  There were reports that his son-in-law and chief adviser blurted out a question about "how many of these staffers will be staying once we take over" while visiting the White House last week.  I have ready unconfirmed items that no one from the Trump team has contacted several major arms of the government, including Justice.  And as one pundit so eloquently put it, Trump is prepared to hand out these positions like so many lollipops, but only to those who have been good.

But, as I noted at the outset, western civilization has not collapsed.  Yet.

Media guy Keith Olbermann will apparently continue his insurgency online.  He posted a video for the last 40 weekdays of the campaign for GQ.com called "The Closer."  This morning he's set to start a new series of online commentaries called "The Resistance."

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is also staying active, and will apparently continue to be so.

I think there's enough points of obstruction in Congress, particularly in the Senate, where blocking legislation has become an art form in the past ten years, that we can't get into too much trouble too quickly.  And if our new President-to-be attempts too many actions via executive order, some of those may be challenged, too.

And I think at this point we can all agree that the Electoral College is an antiquated and unnecessary element of national politics, since this is the second election in 16 years where there were different winners of the popular and electoral vote totals.

But in this country, we've always demonstrated an uncanny ability to go forward, not to be shackled to our past, whether we thought it was good or bad.  And I think we will this time.

Not much else to say on this.  Not yet, anyway.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Now what?

Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

To the utter surprise of many.  I think that, deep down, Trump himself is surprised by this outcome.  Do I think that he believes himself to be the right person to lead?  Yes.  But did he think he would win?  I doubt it.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that political convention has been turned on its head completely in the last couple of years.  Traditional political thinking had us believe that Hillary Clinton would face Jeb Bush in this presidential election, so "inevitable" were both candidates.  Easy to forget that Barack Obama upset similar logic in Democratic circles in the 2008 campaign, and it's forgotten largely because traditional Democratic power bases seemed to have aligned themselves with him as their best chance to retake and hold the White House.  Hillary Clinton got a very nice consolation prize, becoming Obama's Secretary of State and furthering her resume and qualifications to run.

And if you believed most of the media, the Republicans had little chance to win back the presidency this time, because, after all, a Republican-controlled Congress had pushed its obstructionist agenda so far that anyone with that "R" by their name in a national election was bound to go down in flames.

Trump changed all of that.

He was nowhere near anything that had happened politically, so it wasn't difficult for those who don't absorb media-based political thought to identify with him as a change agent.  His public statements that most of us found so disagreeable struck a chord with many who felt the political process had stopped caring about the issues they felt were important.  And his ongoing, open questioning of the legitimacy of Barack Obama's Presidency also resonated with many of his supporters and built him an air of credibility that fell so far outside of the political establishment that it could not have been expected or estimated or countered.

And no one in the polling business had this right, at least not that I know, and not in advance of last night.  Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams had said nearly a year ago that Trump had a legitimate shot at winning, and that was long before he dispatched so many primary challengers.  But none of the "experts" identified this as a likelihood, as the CONVENTIONAL thinking was that most people would compare Trump and Clinton and see a stark difference in experience and temperament and on and on and make the rational choice.

It turns out that, in that comparison, they saw was someone who apparently wasn't beholden to a power structure other than their own.  Someone who was not constrained by political tradition to limit their criticism of others and existing institutions.  Someone who seemed successful and who would bring others along on the road to more success.

This is all fine and good, but soon it will be time to move forward with the Trump Administration taking office and a new but still Republican-controlled Congress.  These are uncharted waters we're entering now, but there is something of a precedent for this.  Think back to 2008, when the Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.  If you'll recall, there were many things put into motion during the first two years of President Obama's first term, but there was also obstruction and challenge, mostly from then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of my home state of Kentucky.

I think we can safely expect something similar from whomever is the new Senate Minority Leader, most likely Chuck Schumer of New York.  I also think that our country's economic situation was so dire that large-scale initiative were necessary at that time, and those are not our current circumstances.

As I'm reminded by different cultural references, the sun came up tomorrow, despite the outcome of yesterday's election.  We all go on with our lives, though it's likely that those lives will be changed in some way by this outcome.

The holidays are coming, and that's a time when many are a little nicer, and a little more generous and and a little more forgiving.  Perhaps it's easier said than done but I sincerely feel that we need this more than anything else right now.

It sounds trite to say "good night, and good luck," but I'll close by simply saying "good luck to us all."


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Closer to normal

Greetings, friends.  I have not posted for a bit, because I began a new job not all that long ago.  And with that has come some, well, changes.

For one thing, I have a schedule now.  It's not a terribly rigid schedule, but after almost seven months of not having a specific calendar to follow, it's an adjustment.  The good news is that what I do and how I spend my time is still largely my decision and I am also again working from my home, which I have done for nearly twenty years.

To be fair, there are recurring events to attend for networking purposes.  The industry I'm now working in has geographic associations of service providers, and I have event for five or six of these geographic areas.  So that provides a little structure.  But unlike my previous position, where there were probably ten to fifteen meetings per month that I had no role in scheduling, this is much more manageable locally.

After just a short time in this role I must say that I'm enjoying the change of pace.  Nearly everyone I've met has been unfailingly welcoming and open, and those who are the exceptions are less unpleasant and more noncommittal.  Again, different.

Enough about me.

A week from now, we'll know who our next President will be.  I don't know about you, but every time I think I've seen it all, something else comes along in this particular campaign.  The television networks have been accused of being "in the tank" for Hillary Clinton (well, all but Fox News) but I think it's in their best interests for the race to appear close and undecided until the last minute.

I won't rehash everything the FBI director and agents have or have not done that may influence the election's outcome.  Plenty of material on those subjects already exists.

The grumbling from Democrats is a little funny to me.  David Plouffe, who managed President Obama's campaign in 2012, reminded people that a similar thing happened to his candidate's apparent support four years ago.  Following Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent comment," the Obama camp was riding high, but their poll numbers began to decline as the election drew closer.  And we know what happened there.

Last night the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, went on a cable news show largely to "vouch" for Hillary Clinton, saying it was high time that someone other than a known Democrat did so.  That party's Presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, apparently was quoted yesterday as saying that Clinton would likely face impeachment if elected, owing to her ongoing e-mail scandals.

It's a world gone mad, isn't it?

And tonight, either the Cleveland Indians or the Chicago Cubs will break a long drought and win the World Series.  I am a huge baseball fan, as all visitors here know, but have not watched continually.  My son and I were discussing it over the weekend and we're both appalled at the quantity of poor play and lack of hustle shown by both clubs.  Not running out ground balls.  Standing at home plate admiring a long drive, only to be held to a single after the ball didn't escape the park.  Failing multiple times, as last night, to call for a fly ball, extending innings for their opponents.

I have a preferred winner but will keep that to myself for now.

One more thing--it's early November and the high temperature here in central Kentucky is again going to exceed 80 degrees today.  Wow!

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