Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's almost over

Good morning to all.  I hope that your holiday celebrations were joyous and safe!

2016 is almost over, thank goodness.  I don't know of another year that I have found so punishing in so many ways.  But let me start this discourse by expressing my sincere gratitude that no one in my family has experienced any major health issues in this tumultuous year.

I don't think I need to replay my own professional challenges in 2016.  After being unexpectedly laid off from my former employer, I was in the career market for more than six frustrating months, but am now working full-time.  So I suppose there is some recompense.

In my last post I mentioned how few Christmas cards we had received this year.  Sadly, a couple of those cards contained news of the death of 1/2 of the couple with whom we correspond.  Both of those who departed this world had experienced health challenges in the months leading up to their deaths, but that does not make it any less jarring.

And we've received endless reporting in the national media about more prominent people who have passed on during 2016, culminating in the deaths of actress and writer Carrie Fisher and, one day later, her mother, actress/singer/dancer Debbie Reynolds.  These were the latest in what seems to be an endless recitation of public figures who are no longer with us.

Since Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack while traveling last week, I've been mentally hearing the 1970 Neil Diamond tune "Done Too Soon."  In that song, Diamond details a long list of people who died at a relatively young age, mentioning Jesus Christ, Genghis Khan and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, among others.  Makes you think a bit.

I was particularly saddened at the passing of former astronaut and Senator John Glenn, and although it's agreed universally that he lived a long and extraordinary life, we don't consider that he wouldn't always be among us.  Much like when John Wayne died in the late 70s, Glenn was an icon, a fixture in the social consciousness of people of a certain age.

I wasn't a huge fan of singer George Michael, but he died far too young at 53.  Same with Prince, passing at the age of 57.  David Bowie managed to complete an album of new music before his death from cancer early this year.  A friend of mine and I were discussing this, and it's when the figures that were important to us in our formative years begin to leave this world that we take notice.  At the ripe old age of 56, that's now starting to happen to me.

I'm saddened when I hear that a former teacher dies, though I don't always hear about it right away.  Same with parents of my friends and classmates.  It's a piece of my past that will now be missing, or at least less connected.

On the flipside, I saw a recent interview with the Dalai Lama over the weekend.  Despite being the leader of a government in exile for nearly his entire life, persecuted for his religious standing, he handles everything with grace and humor and an awareness of the world that would benefit us all.

I don't even want to go near the political landscape of this country and what 2016 brought us in that regard, except to say that the media now takes on a greater importance than ever, that we as citizens have to know and understand what's happening in Washington and at more local levels, and that we have an obligation to be as informed as possible.

Because anything can happen.

Happy new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A wet Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone.  Hope that you'll have the opportunity to be with people you love over the next few days!

We're expecting several days of off-and-on rain here in central Kentucky.  Granted, our climate here is usually rather temperate, but a lot of folks, namely my wife and grandchildren, really like to see a white Christmas.  Maybe next year!

I think at this time last year that I noted that we're receiving fewer and fewer Christmas cards.  The trend has continued this year, as it appears we've received eleven thus far.  I was telling a friend not long ago how our mailing list swelled to something close to 60 households a few years ago, after first one and then the other of our children were married, so we gained more extended family.

My theory remains that people rely much more heavily on social media than traditional holiday greetings to say hello, wish others a happy holiday season, and stay in touch.  We're old-fashioned enough that we send out a holiday letter in lieu of actual cards, have done so for the past couple of years.  The letter details mostly what the kids, and now THEIR kids, have been up to in the past year.

I started that over twenty years ago, and somewhere along the line we didn't include such a letter in our cards, and roughly a dozen people responded asking why there was no letter!  So we still do the letter for the purists, for those who rely on that letter and card to know what's happening with our family.  And for what it's worth, we receive quite a few such letters, too.

Sadly, though, more than one of our cards received has carried news about a death, as so many of those on our list are mature or older.  As with other aspects of life, this will become more and more commonplace as we go on.

Sorry to see that actress and author Carrie Fisher suffered what appears to be a severe heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles yesterday.  There has not been much news since the initial reports, so here's hoping that she recovers from this.  She is only 60 years old, which is hard to believe, given how long she's been a part of our popular culture.

Here's one for you:  what if you were elected President, and decided to throw a party and no one wanted to come?  Our President-Elect is facing something pretty similar, but mostly in the area of entertainment for the series of inaugural balls that routinely take place on the night of the inauguration of the new President.  Most notable is that the Radio City Rockettes (still impressive, despite their act being very, very traditional) have apparently been booked to appear at one or another of these events, but many of the women who perform with them don't want to do it.  But don't worry, Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are enthusiastically planning to appear.

As I write this fairly early on Christmas Eve morning, I think we're finished shopping.  I certainly hope so, as the main thoroughfares to and from the more concentrated shopping areas have been challenging over the past few days.  I still have friends who shop late, some out of necessity and others out of habit and preference.  I wish them well today, if they still have shopping to do!

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (or a happy Hanukkah or a happy Kwanzaa, depending on what you personally celebrate) and the blessings that come with it!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Do not adjust your set

Good Friday morning to all of you.  Hope it's not too cold where you are!

Let's start there.  At the ripe old age of 56, I can confirm how much I HATE being cold.  I dislike being hot, have for virtually my whole life, but the hating to be cold is a more recent phenomenon.  After experiencing heart issues some years ago, I noticed how much more affected I was by cold temperatures, indoors or out.  Continues to this day.

Our grandson (the local little guy, not the one in Colorado) is following in his dad's footsteps, or should we say skate tracks, and has been involved in classes designed to teach kids how to play hockey.  He really likes it, too, and we went to the first couple of classes way back to encourage him, but now he routinely asks my wife or me if we are "coming to see me play hockey."  So we do.  Not so bad normally, but this stretch of classes has been held in a rink where there is no spectator area, so we stand at ice level watching.  And freezing.  Takes a good couple of hours for my hands and feet to feel normal again.

And our outside temps have been a lot like that the past couple of days, with daytime high temperatures in the low 20s.  Very cold for Kentucky.  It's 15 degrees right now, but today's high is predicted to be around 40, so that will seem like a veritable heatwave.

Crazy weather all over, it seems.  One of my dearest friends and I exchanged texts yesterday (belated happy birthday to you, kiddo!) and she reported from northern California that it was raining torrentially there.  That's a pretty rare occurrence in that locality, from what she's told me.

One thing that the cold helped with was that we just received a new refrigerator yesterday.  I may have mentioned this, but our ten-to-eleven-year-old model started developing some problems that appeared to relate back to the control board, the computer "brain" that controls everything.  I researched this a bit and when I saw that it was going to be several hundred dollars to replace, we decided to replace it.

Yesterday the guys from the selling dealer called to say they would arrive by a certain time, and we emptied out most of the stuff that would break or get damaged in moving the old fridge to the garage (and that's a story I'll tell below) so it went into a cooler and onto the back patio.  These guys came, measured, removed the front door, and CARRIED the old fridge to the garage, using a system that involved body harnesses and large straps that go underneath the item to be carried.  Looked like very little effort on their part, compared to what my son and I experience when we move furniture.  Same scenario when they brought the new item into the house and into the kitchen.  Neither touched the floor from about a foot from where the original item sat.  Simply amazing!

So after they left (they discovered a scratch on one of the door handles, so they will replace that) I ran water through the dispenser as directed to remove impurities in the filter and allowed the new item to make ice, which I just pitched this morning.

The old fridge is in our garage, and to my surprise, one of the technicians noted that old refrigerators tolerated that kind of usage very well, but newer ones do not, owing to the way that compressors now operate.  He advised that we keep an eye on it to make sure it was still working properly.

And we're also trying to figure out the best way to place it, as this is by far the largest, deepest item we've placed in our garage, aside from our cars, of course.  Right now it's out in front of my car, so I can open the right side refrigerator door, and partially open the freezer drawer.  Can't open the other side at all.  So I think we'll end up shifting it to the right just a bit, so that we can access everything all the time.  But that will create a chain-reaction of where to place the other items that were already along that back wall.  I'm sure we'll figure it out.

Not my time for devices lately, it seems.  I bought a monitor to go with my Macbook not long ago, liked the whole setup until the headphone jack, which I used to connect the entire setup to my speakers, worked and then didn't, and and over again.  So that went back.  I may get another monitor later, but I haven't quite decided yet.  And it's kind of messy with this particular Macbook as it's the newer one with a single USB-C port, so I have to use adapters to connect it to most anything.  Rather unsightly!

And over the past six weeks, I renewed our subscription to satellite radio for the cars (call me a sucker, but it's built-in to both cars, which are eleven and nine years old, respectively, so easier than paying to install USBs to connect our phones and listen to music that way) and shortly thereafter began to experience repeated signal drop-outs, but just in my car.  Tried refreshing the signal, that didn't help, so yesterday I did an online chat with a customer service rep and she gave me a number to their technical support line.  I refreshed it again while I was out (can't do the refresh in a garage, which may be why it didn't work before) and it seemed better, but I still lost my signal a handful of times.

Everything else seems to be working, for now.

With that I'll leave you and wish you a good last-weekend-before-Christmas

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The spirit is willing, but....

Greetings on a rainy Tuesday morning, friends.  We're due to have a day of rain here, and then a couple of days hence, it's gonna be COLD here!

There's an old saying that a gentleman never discusses his ailments, but let me begin by mentioning that I have had a stubborn upper respiratory disorder for more than a couple of weeks.  I feel bad, then improve, then I decline again.  Right now I feel pretty good, but in twelve hours, who knows?  My wife is in what we hope are the final stages, too.

Important to note because here we are, December 6, and we've done very little regarding Christmas.  Oh, we've decorated our smallish house, with my wife and I finding the final touch over the weekend, replacing a lighted wreath for the front door wherein the old one gave out when we plugged it in.  Actually, SHE found the final touch yesterday, as she came in with a bow for the new model.

And we've planned a bit of our shopping, just about all of it for immediate family.  But we aren't IN the Christmas spirit, you know?  Neither of us has felt 100%, I'm still not fully in a routine after being in my new job for only about six weeks, and I suppose the post-election malaise is also somewhat to blame.

Here's another area of concern, if you will....I think I've spoken up here in the past about online shopping, particularly with Amazon, which sells, well, just about everything.  Our daughter, who lives in Colorado, is good about suggestions for her kids' Christmas presents, as we've only been with them once on Christmas morning, so she knows, as we do, how much better it is to give something we know they'll enjoy AND to have the ability to ship it gift-wrapped.  We ship them another box, but to have at least some of it taken care of is, well, great!

So we got a couple of initial suggestions from her, and the item she suggested for her son was available on Amazon, but available less expensively elsewhere, so I opted for another seller.  That worked fine, the item arrived, but the problem is that now another online retailer is bombarding me with e-mails.  And not just a few.  I mean three or four a day since I purchased this item!

The other suggestion our daughter offered, this one for her daughter, was NOT available on Amazon. This is an item that comes in several colors, and only one color had a promised date of availability.  Not again!  So last night I had to return some items to a big-box retailer in the area, and, amazingly, they had the item in all of the colors, especially the one recommended.  Problem solved!

Our Christmas card list has dwindled over the past few years, as we've lost touch with some recipients and other have passed on, which is generally what happens.  I also think a lot of folks just don't send Christmas cards anymore, since they stay in touch via Facebook (and I've expressed my thoughts previously in that area).  Those with whom we annually exchange cards always like the fact that we started including a Christmas letter MANY years ago, and really heard about it the year we omitted it.  We get a couple that are very self-centered, but ours talks mostly about our kids and THEIR kids, which is what our target audience really wants to read anyway!

Last year we ditched the cards altogether and bought Christmas letter stationery and coordinating envelopes.  Saved quite a bit over the cost of actual cards, and they take regular postage (more than once we picked out pretty cards that required extra postage, which didn't make me all that happy, and one year all of them came back as lacking sufficient postage, which REALLY didn't make me happy).  We have 40 sheets left from last year, but we have not managed to go out and either pick out new stationery or get envelopes that go with what we have.  So that's still sitting.

I guess we'll get going soon.  Pretty much have to.  Maybe this really cold snap will help!

In other news, Kentucky basketball played, well, like a bunch of freshmen, and lost their first game over the weekend.  The football team accepted a bid to play New Year's Eve in Jacksonville, Florida in the TaxSlayer Bowl, which for most of my lifetime was called the Gator Bowl.  Side note--I imagine that tracing the heritages of most of these now corporately-named bowl games is kind of interesting.

And it appears our president-elect is considering everyone but me for the position of Secretary of State.  There is even one corporate CEO supposedly on the "short list."  Frankly, I'm stumped as to what will happen once this man takes office.  In Europe a movement similar to the one that drove our election results was turned back in Austria this week.  So there's that.

Not much else to add, except to wish everyone a good week.

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