Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dog days

Here we are, friends, panting our way into the Labor Day weekend a couple of weekends from now.  August finally arrived here, from a weather standpoint, in central Kentucky, with all of the heat and humidity and discomfort that we normally expect.

It always feels this way, yet I marvel at how things seem this time of year.  My Cincinnati Reds are in "rebuilding" mode (hopefully there's an almost completed structure by now, but I kinda doubt we're there yet), so they're not competitive.  So my interest in baseball wanes.

College and professional football will be here soon.  My teams (college: Kentucky, professional: Denver Broncos) have some uncertainty surrounding them.

The bigger movies have come and gone (not that I went to see any of them) and the fall will bring some bigger releases, but most are the variety that is designed to build critical acclaim, at least until Christmas, when it's presumed that people go to the movies and the more popular fare comes out.

Congress isn't in session, thankfully, but our news is filled with what our President said or did (or didn't say or didn't do), both in real time and in the past.

School is back in session in our part of the country.  My law school student son has returned to his evening classes for his second year.  My wife is back to helping out by picking up our grandchildren from school on some days.

And even the eclipse is over and done with, although some reports indicate that there are still people stuck in traffic in some places!  Well, not really, but a baseball player who makes his off-season home in Nashville got stuck in traffic leaving town to meet his team in Cincinnati.  The reason?  Exiting eclipse celebrants!

So now we have another holiday coming up, and it seems like a long time ago that we celebrated Independence Day.  Hope you and yours have the chance to do something fun.


Monday, August 14, 2017

America first

Good Monday morning from central Kentucky, where it's been raining.  One of the oddities of life as it stands now, is that we're getting semi-cool weather with ample rain.  In Kentucky.  In August.

I call your attention to the title phrase for today's comments.  This phrase has been coming up again and again, mostly in our political discourse in this country, for a couple of years.  But what does it mean?

Apparently, that depends on your perspective.

As I understand it, those who were protesting in Virginia in the first place believe it's important to preserve certain aspects of American history that others feel are best put aside, at the least.  Others seem to define that term as denoting the importance of keeping people from other countries and other cultures and religions out of our country, keeping our current America as it is, or, better yet, taking it back to how things used to be.

Here's how I define it.

I want an America that tries to live up to the lofty ideals of the founding fathers, who, as it turns out, were visionaries about the content and value of a true democracy.

I want an America that values and protects its citizens, regardless of what their origins are, who they love or how they worship, but I want those citizens to also value and protect MY rights equally.

I want an America where being a member of any political party says nothing about me other than my political preference, and that I am not automatically someone's enemy simply because they belong to a different party.

I want an America that has found a way to build good roads and airports and finds a way to pay good people worthwhile wages to work in key professions, such as teachers, firefighters, police officers and other first responders.

I want an America where my kids won't have to bankrupt themselves to send their kids to college, or for my grandkids not to have thirty years of student loan payments after graduation.

I want an America that recognizes its history of immigration, addresses the current situation effectively and fairly, and applies reasonable controls to the future.

I want an America where people can express themselves in public or online and not be beset by rudeness, bullying or other negative response.

I want an America where people no longer commit heinous crimes against others in the name of their love for this country, because they understand that, in America, we literally are all in this together.

Perhaps I ask too much, but I know there are people who feel as I do.  A lot of them.  And I think that, when you cut through the party-loyalty bluster, a lot of the people in Congress share many of these sentiments, too.

Let's hope so.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Journeys and rewards

Hello, friends.  Spent a good part of last week on the road for my new job.

I'm way out of practice as a regular air traveler, but most of the older habits tend to fall right back into place when you resume a formerly common activity.  For instance, I always managed to get to whatever airport I was departing well over an hour before my flight.  Why?  Well, for one thing, you just never know how long it will take to get through TSA security screening.  Now that people are being asked to separate their tablets as well as laptop computers and liquids from the rest of their carry-on baggage, there's a lot of stopping and starting in the security lines.

Anyway, this trip had me traveling to a location in south Florida, but for reasons I still don't quite understand, my itinerary went from Lexington to Atlanta to Key West, Florida and then to Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood.  First two legs were no problem, both flights departed and arrived on time.  The second plane landed in Key West a few minutes early at that.  But at that small, SMALL airport, passengers deplane onto the tarmac and then walk through a cordoned path.....straight into baggage claim!

That sounds nice if that's your final destination, but in my case, I still was to board one more flight.  So I had to exit the terminal, make my way through the parking garage (which, incidentally, was larger than the terminal), up an elevator and then into security for ANOTHER screening! All of this with about forty minutes between flights, too!

I reached the gate (remember, small airport, there are only seven in the entire place) and saw on the board that they were boarding my flight, so I got into line.  Once I reached the front of the line a very put-upon gate agent informed me that they were not boarding THAT flight and that I needed to sit down and wait!

Well, then!

So I did, after a quick visit to the restroom to towel off.  Forty-five minutes later we boarded, after the gate agent apologized for being so short with me, and said that their entire flight schedule the previous day was cancelled due to a tropical storm.  Understandable.

We arrived at my final destination airport, but, wouldn't you know it, there was a LIGHTNING warning, and the plane could not park and allow passengers to deplane.  We sat on a taxiway for what appeared to have been about an hour.  THEN we parked and deplaned.  By then it was raining again, but they proceeded anyway.

I won't go into detail about my first Uber ride, except to say that in the airport where I landed, Uber and Lyft riders are picked up where commercial vans and buses pick up their passengers.  Took my driver forty minutes to travel six miles as a result and longer for us to locate each other.

On my flights home there were a couple of other but different incidents.  Our plane was taxiing to take off from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood when an announcement was made on the PA system inquiring about a doctor on board.  We stopped and stayed in place for about twenty minutes, we were thanked for our patience and went on our way, with the pilot even making up the time lost.

Finally, on my flight from Atlanta to Lexington, I was seated next to a large man (bigger than me, and that's saying something).  I said "good evening" and he just scowled.  When all of the passengers were on board the flight attendant came and asked this man multiple times if his name was "Jones" before he finally answered "Yeah, so?"

The guy was in the wrong seat.  He apparently decided to sit somewhere other than his assigned seat and hope they never caught it.  He was instructed to go to his ticketed seat or risk ejection from the plane.  He grudgingly moved, but that was OK with me, as it gave me more space.

Oh, and when that flight landed, the pilot said that the ground crew was confused about which flight we were and stopped us before directing us to the wrong gate.

Once on the ground nothing else happened.

I'm due to travel to another destination in a couple of weeks, so I've elected to drive.  Hope that turns out to be a good decision.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Making the transition

Good Saturday morning to all.  We're supposed to have a couple of great weather days here in central Kentucky, with moderate temperatures and somewhat less humidity.  And we actually had some rain a couple of times in the past week, which is a rarity this time of year!

I thought I'd post this morning concerning my work status.  As you know, I don't delve into specific names nor do I often talk about my occupational life very often.  But this is a little different.

For the first time since 1996, I voluntarily left a position in order to accept another.  Between then and now, though, I've involuntarily left five positions, mostly due to the sales or reorganizations of my employers.

Not this time.

I have been exploring the market to some degree for a while, as I'm still working to recover the ground I lost during an extended period of unemployment last year.  The job I was in was satisfactory in most respects, but its compensation was considerably lower than what I had done previously, so financially it wasn't what I wanted.

I learned of the position I ultimately accepted about two months ago, and applied formally at the beginning of June.  I went through their extensive selection process and was offered the position on July 19, and gave my notice to my now-former employer on that same day.

The most interesting part of this process is how unsettled I've felt.  Not because I felt I was making a bad decision; quite the contrary, my new position will put me in touch with many of the contacts I've cultivated over the past nine months, and will offer growth opportunities that my former position could not.

And one of the oddities of this scenario is the former company's policy requiring a four-week notice of resignation, due largely to the type of business they're in.  This also ensures a full payout of accumulated but unused paid time off, no small thing for someone who has not taken much time off in his tenure but has accrued a fair amount of time off.

Anyway, the limbo was because I knew that my new employer wanted me to begin work sooner than later, but I didn't know what my old employer would do regarding an early release from that notice.  But yesterday we worked it all out and I finished my employment with the old employer and officially start with the new one on Monday, but won't really do anything until I start training in south Florida on Wednesday.

Do I regret not having some time in between the two jobs?  A little, but since giving my notice I've been kind of marking time, careful not to start anything that I could not finish in my remaining time with the former company.  I've had a fair amount of down time in the past couple of weeks.  So I don't feel that I've missed the opportunity for a mental health break, particularly since my former position wasn't all that stressful.

So I'm relieved, excited and optimistic.  In the last twenty years, the relief is usually the overriding emotion, as I was seldom expecting to change jobs.  This has been a different experience, of course, but made gratifying by the many good wishes I received from the business contacts with whom I've worked for the past nine months.

So on we go.  Will keep you posted!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Spectrum of negative experiences

I have been a Lexington cable television customer since the days when the provider was known as Telecable, and have continued using this service since that time.  During the years I have had this service, I would characterize service as uneven, pricing as endlessly escalating but overall have been more satisfied with this service than the few viable alternatives that have existed.


When Spectrum became the owner of the local system, I was concerned, because I had already read that its parent, Charter Communications, was well-known for poor service, particularly poor customer relations.  Not long after they assumed control, my service plan rate increased by nearly twenty dollars per month, and when I called to discuss this change with customer service I was cheerfully told that “oh, you must have been moved to a Spectrum rate plan.” And there was apparently nothing to be done.

Not surprisingly, Spectrum offers tremendous deals to prospective customers to entice them to sign on, and then raises fees after the promotional period ends.  I have repeatedly illustrated this fact to whomever I would speak with at Spectrum and its predecessors, as it makes little sense to continue raising rates for long-term customers and continue subsidizing low prices for new subscribers who may or may not remain customers.

To add insult to injury, when we bought our home over twenty years ago we knew that we had the neighborhood cable, telephone and electrical junction boxes in our back yard.  This means that anytime a house in immediate proximity to our home has a service issue or a new installation, a technician must access our property to get to the junction box.  And the cables associated with these installations often lay atop the surface of the yard for several weeks before a different contractor comes to bury them.

This is the most recent disagreeable issue that occurred in my long history with Lexington cable television.  Late last week a neighbor apparently had a service issue, and a Spectrum technician came to our door (I work from home so I happened to be here at the time) to let us know he would be in our backyard, a courtesy which I appreciate.  In summary, he apparently got the issue resolved by laying a new cable which went from the pedestal in our yard, through and around my next-door neighbor property and to the affected neighbor’s home.

On Monday I was outside and notice two men in a van pulling up near our house and I called out to them.  They confirmed that they were there to “finish the installation” and bury the cable.  I nodded and told them where access to our yard was and didn’t think much about it.  When they left, I had no service, as in burying the newly installed cable, they also apparently cut our cable that provides cable television and internet service to our home.

I called Spectrum to report the outage, told them what I suspected happened and was told that I could expect a call from “dispatch” in an hour.  Four hours later, I called back, reported all that I had discussed earlier, and was told, again, that I would receive a call in an hour.  Two and a half hours later I received a call from a different representative, who was laughing at the time of her call to our home.  She explained that they had been “so crazy busy” and that no one would be able to come to restore service until the following day at 11:00 AM.  Coincidentally, this was offered to me in my original call, but I pressed for more immediate service.  I replied that I had been waiting for most of the day to have service restored, that there was a time when a customer reported an outage that early in a given day and efforts were made to address those sudden issues, particularly when they were likely caused directly by a system employee.  The representative laughed again, said they had been “so crazy” that day and that I’d have to settle for 11:00 AM the next day.

It’s worth noting that our grandchildren were with us that day and the next, so we were pretty much counting on cable and internet to help entertain them during their visit.

In fairness, when the technician arrived the next morning I was not present, but my wife said that the technician confirmed that a) our line was cut, albeit accidentally, b) that he was pretty sure that technicians were probably available and c) he had our service restored in a short time.  And he was very apologetic about our experience.

I should also note that I posted several negative messages about Spectrum on Twitter that morning, and received a message from someone at @AskSpectrum suggesting I follow them and that he would direct message me thereafter.  All he did was confirm our existing appointment and espouse the company line.  After I pressed him he agreed to a one-day credit in our service charges, which I question whether I will ever see.

In closing I'll just mention that I sent roughly the same information to the Kentucky Public Service Commission and the office of the Mayor of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government a short time ago.  Approved or not, there's not reason for any company to treat its customers so disrespectfully.  We'll see if anything comes of this!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

57 years, 3 days

Greetings, everyone.  Writing on an early Sunday morning, as I was again awakened by some respiratory congestion that seems to be endless, but it's only been about ten days.  I blame our native climate and the mold and allergens that it promotes.

I had a birthday on Thursday, if you're keeping score.  57 years young.  Or, as one of my grandchildren pointed out when discussing this milestone, "wow, Poppy, you're really old!"  Not really.

I don't dwell on things like this very often, but my father died when he was 56.  For all I knew as a young adult,  he might as well have been 86 at that time.  He just SEEMED old to me, always did.

Do I feel old?  No, but I know that I'm well into middle age, at least.  Do I look old?  Probably not, and that's mostly because I'm heavier than average, so my face is filled out and therefore does not show a lot of wrinkles, except around my eyes.

This must have been the year of the pop-up greeting card, as the cards I received from my wife and my kids were all pop-ups of one kind or another.  Our son and his family gave me a Star Wars-themed card with the entire cast of characters depicted to wish me a happy birthday.  My wife gave me a very nice card that shapes out into a sailing ship, and our daughter and her crew send a really neat card that folds out flat and produces a colorful sailing ship.

I like ships, in case you had not detected that.

Two of the cards contained gift cards that are always welcome, from Fandango (you know, the online movie ticket seller) and iTunes.  Neither is burning a hole in my pocket, so I'll get around to spending them sometime soon.

My wife took me to a local spot we like for breakfast, the Keeneland Track Kitchen.  Keeneland is the very old and traditional horse racing track that isn't far from our home.  A friend tipped me off to the Track Kitchen a number of years ago, as it exists mostly to give the people who work on the premises a place to eat breakfast and lunch.  It's a family favorite and always a treat to visit!

The cutest thing about my birthday was that our "local" granddaughter is well aware of my penchant for chocolate, and began promoting the idea of having my birthday dinner at a local barbecue restaurant (part of a regional chain that we all like) and indulging in their tasty chocolate cake.  So that's exactly what we did, and I reveled in the occasion, with a grandchild on each side of me.  The food was pretty good, too, and that cake is always delicious!

The other notable activity of my birthday was a local business open house that I visited in the afternoon.  This was a grand opening of sorts and most of the people with whom I do business were there.  A surprising number knew it was my birthday, so I received a lot of very nice birthday wishes. Same goes for LinkedIn, where members are encouraged to post their birthdates.  Received a great many birthday greetings there as well.

So it was a very nice birthday.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I think I'll do it again next year!




Monday, July 17, 2017

Oldies but goodies

Good Monday to everyone.

We're right in the middle of the steamy season here in central Kentucky.  It IS mid-July, after all, so not unexpected that we'd have uncomfortable heat and humidity right now.  I worked for a bit Saturday morning at an outdoor event (our company was exhibiting there) and because it had rained Friday evening, the air was heavy and I don't think my glasses became completely unfogged until about an hour after arrival!

Saturday afternoon and yesterday my wife and I attended our younger grandson's T-ball tournament in a nearby community, which has been a pretty constant feature of our recent weekends.  Anyway, the team had some time between games and my son and I went out and bought fried chicken and some other stuff at a nearby grocery store, as we had all had enough hot dogs and such.  Nice change of pace!

Anyway, while we were hanging out, my younger granddaughter got her dad's phone and started playing music (note:  it still amazes me that these kids, starting at five or six years old, can access a mobile phone or tablet with very little assistance, and make it do as they wish!), ending up with some Taylor Swift songs.  She asked me if I liked that and I said that she was a little young for me.  Ever inquisitive, she asked me what I meant, and I told her that she's very talented but that people my age often don't enjoy her style of music as much as younger folks do.  "Oh," she proclaimed, "like old music!"  Riiiiiight.

I make jokes about not liking any musical performer who's younger than I am, and that's still pretty true.  The introduction of the afore-mentioned Beatles channel on satellite radio affirms that even more, as that's almost always on in the car, at least for the moment.

Interestingly, I sit here at the computer right now and I'm listening to Neil Diamond's original concert recording "Hot August Night," which I believe was recorded in 1972.  Low-tech, and the first of MANY concert albums Diamond has released.  I hear to this day that he is still a great live performer, one of the few that I would have liked to have seen and have not.

I don't think it's quite true of movies, but recently, over several days, I watched the John Wayne movie "The Cowboys," which depicts The Duke having to use young boys to help him with his cattle drive.  It was made in 1972, when Wayne was aging but was still most definitely The Duke.  They don't make them like John Wayne anymore, you know.

My wife and I explored a few of our movies over the last week (no baseball for about a week, you know, due to the All-Star break) and wound up watching four different movies featuring Russell Crowe.  Crowe has been recognized for some of his work, including some of those films we watched, "Noah," "Gladiator," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and "Robin Hood."  Crowe seems to be settling into middle age, taking more character-oriented parts.  It's my understanding that he plays Dr. Jekyll in the latest incarnation of "The Mummy," which came and went before we saw it (monster movies are a tough sell with my wife as well).

I have to say that I don't feel the same connection with old television shows as I do with music, in particular.  I enjoy old "Star Trek" episodes and still enjoy watching "The West Wing," which left the air some years ago.

Circling back to the start of this ramble, my granddaughter also reminded me that my birthday is this week, and we began to talk about how old I am.  When she finally guessed it right, she crinkled her nose and said "Really?"

That's kind of the way I feel.  I'll be 57 on Thursday.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The little boy's game

Good Monday morning, everyone.  Hot here in central Kentucky these last few days.  And, yes, it's not just the heat, but the humidity!

I have something on my mind this morning regarding the great game of baseball, which most regular visitors to this space know is near and dear to my heart.  I've been a lover of the game since I was a kid, and was lucky enough to pass this love on to my son, who has, in turn, given the gift of baseball to HIS son, my younger grandson.  Baseball is nothing if not dynastic, I've come to understand, so seeing how much my grandson loves the game really touches me.

This grandson has been playing tee ball for a couple of years and this summer, at the conclusion of the regular season (a season in which his team won the league championship tournament, by the way) he began playing on a league all-star team.  This team has traveled to nearby communities for tournaments on three of the last four weekends, so the team and their families all head to these points out of town, as do other teams.

And the results have been good, as this team placed second in their first such tournament and won them each of the last two weekends.  But I'm more than a little disappointed in some of what I've seen in these weekend tournaments.

The first and perhaps greatest issue facing these kids is that many are playing for coaches that were unfamiliar to them.  There are practice sessions scheduled each week, but it seems that weather has prevented many such practices from taking place.  So the kids who are playing for several coaches who formerly coached their opponents are now taking direction from new coaches.  And there is a head coach, but there are also four other "official" coaches and several others helping, including my son.

That's a lot of voices to listen to.

One of the biggest dampers we noticed early on in our grandson's baseball "career" is that some coaches challenge umpires, argue with them and their opposing coaches and set a generally bad conduct example for these kids, who are all somewhere between 5 and 7 years old (our little guy just turned 6 in May).  With these tournament games having a somehow greater value, the least little thing triggers descent by these "official" coaches on already beleaguered and overworked umpires, and these protestations are generally long-lasting and in my estimation set the wrong tone for children trying to learn fair play and sportsmanship above all else.

Parent (and grandparents, including myself) often don't help, as we, too, want to see these kids play well and win, but I've been trying awfully hard to keep my comments in the "encouragement" column.  But more than once I've pleaded (loudly) for our first and third base coaches to "take care of our baserunners."  Kids get on base and they get too much information or too little, and mistakes happen.  One of our grandson's teammates has a father who is hypercritical of his son to the point of it being funny, telling his son to "back up" and accusing him of "dogging it" and saying to no one in particular that he will make him run after the game to see if he keeps doing this then and so forth.  His son is probably six or seven and is one of the better players on the team, and clearly performs better when his dad either keeps quiet or at least waits until a later time to provide instruction and criticism.

This happened yesterday and struck very close to home, as in the course of winning the tournament yesterday my grandson was on first as the result of a base hit.  His base coach (who is one of the "unofficial" coaches, it's worth noting) said something to him, and the next batter popped the ball up. I believe someone shouted the word "go" and my grandson began to run to second, realized the ball was going to be caught, and tried to get back to first but was too late and was out.  His head went down, he knew he'd made a mistake and shuffled back to the dugout, which was on the first base side.

Making matters worse, the head coach, whom my wife and I already disliked because of his penchant for pacing in front of the dugout during each game, bellowed at him about running on a popup.  The same coach who bellows at nearly every kid on the team not to look at the ball.  How's a kid supposed to see that the ball is caught when he's also being told not to look at the ball?

Not a big surprise what happened next, and the coach apparently felt bad about yelling at him and was much more conciliatory next time our grandson was on base.  Our son recognized how furious this made me and tried to assuage my anger,  I'm sure to prevent me from confronting this man during or after the game.  I wanted to but didn't, our grandson's emotions returned to their normal state soon enough and team won the game and the tournament.

Here's the rub.  These kids are playing a GAME.  That's what it is and how it should be treated.  If they win, great.  If they don't, we'll still love them and tell them that we'll get 'em next time.  Those of us who have lived longer know that life is this way, too.

I take sports too seriously, too.  And let's remember, I write this from Kentucky, a state where some of its citizens actually made death threats against a basketball referee who made some questionable calls against the University of Kentucky basketball team in last year's NCAA tournament.  Great to be a fan, as I should well know.

But these are little kids.  They need to learn and to grow and come to understand and love this game, not be afraid that each little mistake is going to cause Mount Vesuvius to erupt each time something happens, whether that volcano is in the bleachers or in the dugout.  And not be reminded of their failures or shortcomings, but be helped to recall the positive contributions that have helped their team.

To me, this is the greatest irony:  at the park complex where the tournaments were played on the last two weekends, a placard is on display in several places.  Here's what it says, better than I can:

He is Just A Little Boy

By Unknown

He stands at the plate,
with his heart pounding fast.
The bases are loaded,
the die has been cast.
Mom and Dad cannot help him,
he stands all alone.
A hit at this moment,
would send the team home.
The ball meets the plate,
he swings and he misses.
There's a groan from the crowd,
with some boos and some hisses.
A thoughtless voice cries,
strike out the bum.
Tears fill his eyes,
the game's no longer fun.
So open your heart
and give him a break.
For it's moments like this,
a man you can make.
Please keep this in mind,
when you hear someone forget.
He is just a little boy,
and not a man yet.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Phoning it in

Good Friday morning, campers!  Aren't these holiday-shortened weeks strange?  This week has been for me, and I'm only working three days this week!

I've been thinking a lot about the telephone and how my relationship with it has evolved over time.  Not uncommon that my relationship has changed; everyone's has over time.  But in reading about the forthcoming Apple iPhone 8, as well as watching some different programs on television, I began to think a bit more specifically about this.

I'm almost 57, so my earliest memories of a phone are of one located somewhere in the center of the house.  The one we had was a rotary phone, naturally, and was black and heavy.  I always wondered if they didn't make phones out of the same material as a bowling ball.  And my earliest memory of a phone was one located on a stand in our dining room in the house where I spent the majority of my upbringing.

We moved to that house when I was seven, I think, and that was the same phone that occupied that location until I was out of the house in my early twenties.  It was at that time that the phone company pretty much got out of the phone rental business and "allowed" people to choose their own phone hardware.  Of course, the phone company (South Central Bell, in our case) had to come and retrofit your wiring to allow a "modular" phone installation.

When I moved out I shared a house with a friend and he was already in an apartment, so he simply paid to move his phone to our house.  Then he moved back in with his parents, and I took over the phone account.  Years later I got a somewhat frantic call from "the phone company," though I don't know which one it was, telling me that I had failed to pay for a phone that was owned by first my roommate and then me.  Not clear on how, but that got settled without any major problems once the situation and explanation was made plain for everyone.

I met my wife about 33 years ago, and she had one phone in the house, a wall-mount phone in the kitchen.  Not long after that we got a cordless phone, and that was a revelation!  You could now walk around beyond the boundaries of a phone cord and still TALK TO SOMEONE!

Unlike many folks with teens in the house, we never had to resort to a separate line for one or both of our kids.  And around that same time, I began to play around with the Internet, using a service called Prodigy to visit websites, chat boards and the like.  All done via a dial-up connection, which, of course, tied up our phone line.

I got my first cellular phone when I took my first job that required travel.  My territory was the state of Kentucky, and this was when roaming was common, meaning that you were paying extra to use your mobile phone outside of your designated service area.  I was never shown the potential problem with this, as I was on the go every day, and would spend time making calls while driving to set up the next week's appointments.  Little did I know that making phone calls while ripping down the Daniel Boone Parkway in southeastern Kentucky would be so expensive!

This evolved into consolidation of the cellular phone industry into the three or four major national carriers we have today, and, with that, roaming just kind of went away.  But your minutes package was crucial.  I remember attending a conference in Traverse City, Michigan and playing golf with an attorney.  Great guy, quite the raconteur, and he was on his phone every few minutes, mostly to answer calls about active cases handled by his staff.  I asked the guy what kind of minutes package he had, and his answer floored me.  He said he paid for 1500 minutes per month, and often used them all.  Do the math and think about how long that is!

My first "smart" phone was the venerable BlackBerry 7200, which had the classic click-wheel on the side to navigate an onscreen (but not touchscreen) menu and to scroll up and down through your list of e-mails.  What a great innovation!  Suddenly I was freed of lugging a heavy laptop all over the country, as I could get all of my e-mail messages on a handheld device!  Magic!

This was probably around 2005 or so, and I continued using BlackBerry branded phones until around 2011, when I got my first iPhone.  Mine was a corporate issue, but my wife had had one for a year or two by then, so I became familiar with the ins and outs of using an iPhone that way.  Luckily, I was able to help my employees with their iPhones, too, so that was a big help.  I've had an iPhone of my own or one issued by my companies ever since.

The newest version allegedly will include an OLED screen (old hat for Samsung and other phone makers, but a good step forward for Apple) and may even involve facial recognition instead of the Touch ID feature.

They're no longer phones, you know, but rather pocketable computers that also let us make a phone call now and then.  And, yes, my wife and I are old-fashioned to still have a land-line, at least for now, but we only use it to speak to our kids or my wife's mother, as they're about the only meaningful calls we receive or make.

I thought that rather than becoming bigger again, as people want that larger screen on their smartphones (myself included, as my eyesight isn't what it used to be), that we would instead move toward what's shown in movies like "Minority Report," where it's essentially a self-contained earpiece that makes and receives calls.  Shows what I know.

Sorry, gotta run, my phone is ringing.....




Sunday, June 25, 2017

All you need is love. Really.

Happy Sunday to everyone.  We're enjoying some mild weather here in central Kentucky following a heavy dose of rain Friday afternoon and evening (thanks to Tropical Storm Cindy).

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' worldwide television performance of "All You Need is Love," a simple yet wonderful song that speaks so well for itself.  SiriusXM's new Beatles channel had programs that reminded me of this milestone earlier in the week (worth noting that this came on the heels of the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," when so many groups would have stepped back for some well-deserved down time) and I've heard the song frequently lately.  This morning's edition of CBS Sunday Morning, the excellent magazine show, featured a full-length colorized video presentation of the Fab Four's performance.

To say this song has been on my mind lately is a gross understatement.

Everyday life for everyday people is hard enough, but made harder when we are hurt by or cause hurt to those we love and those we hold most dear.  And this so frequently happens for no real reason other than circumstances.  Important that we love everyone just a little more, because, let's face it, we all need it.

Not going down the political road with this line of thinking, except to say that we need to see more love of our fellow man when governmental decisions are made, whether by the executive, legislative or judicial branches.

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi stated flatly that he didn't have to like the men he coached, but allowed that "I must love them as men."  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but it's a powerful statement from a renowned leader of others.

I also recently came across the essay "Pale Blue Dot" by the late astronomer Carl Sagan.  He, too, advocates more love of our fellow man.  Find the video version of Sagan speaking these words from the recent re-do of the "Cosmos" television miniseries, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Thanks for reading this, as it was just something I wanted to share.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Warning--tech reviews ahead!

Good Wednesday morning, friends.  Had a little time this morning and wanted to share my impressions about a couple of items I've added to my collection of tech devices recently.

Allow me to start with a little caveat---I'm a big believer in paying it forward, meaning that when something is no longer of use for me, I try to sell it to someone while it still has life and value remaining.  So both of the items that I've added recently replaced items that were sold to folks who were interested and needed what I had.  Win-win!

Now, here's my pair of non-expert reviews...

I think I've mentioned here that I really like Bose audio gear.  Started with a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones when I began to travel extensively by air.  I will state categorically here that having those headphones made a huge difference in my ability to suddenly tolerate spending eight to ten hours a week aboard airplanes!

This fascination with Bose has continued through the years, as we acquired a three-piece Bose sound system for our television setup and eventually upgraded to their soundbar/subwoofer.  On my desktop my wife generously gave me a Bose Sounddock as a gift, and I kept first an iPod and then an iPhone docked there.  Later I replaced this with a pair of Bose computer speakers, since I went all-digital with my music.  Wonderful speakers, all.

We were in Cincinnati a couple of months ago and stopped by the Bose store in a mall there.  Big mistake.  On display was the new (well, new THEN) Bose Soundlink Revolve and Revolve+.  If you've not seen one of these, they look a little like one of the Google wi-fi speakers you see on TV commercials, where the commercial actors ask Google questions.  The other analogy is the larger Bose speaker, especially, looks like a camping lantern, complete with a loop handle on top.

Anyway, we asked for a demo, and the representative obliged, and, wow.  That's all I can say.  Sound just pours out of both of these things, and they work wirelessly, too, which is a huge plus!  And the sound is just as good in any direction, which is new in my experience.  The rep mentioned that if you place it along a wall or bookshelf that you'll get some redirected sound that amplifies the experience.  So I had to have one, and it more than replaced my Bose desktop speakers (which had to be used in a fixed location).  Carried it all over the house, used it on the patio while grilling, etc.  If you've in the market for a Bluetooth speaker and are willing to pay the Bose price, which is often higher than the competition, go for it, you won't be disappointed!

My other recent acquisition revolves around headphones.  I've had a succession of headphones (earphones, actually) that were originally bought for my wife to use in her exercise routine.  Because she wears hearing aids, we have looked for the right product for her.  First she uses Bose wired earbuds, which were excellent and which I still have.  Then came a pair of Bluetooth on-ear headphones, but she found them to be a little hot when exercising (and I'd agree).  The next iteration was a pair of Bose SoundSport Bluetooth earbuds, which she liked very much.  I thought so, anyway.

I returned home from some work activities away from the house one afternoon and she casually mentioned that she had visited the Apple store and gone through a demonstration of Apple's new but hard-to-get AirPods.  Superficially they look just like the latest version of their earbuds that they routinely include with a new iPhone, but without the cords.  Remind me a little of electric toothbrush heads.

Anyway, she raved about the fit and the quality and the sound, which must have been good for her to like them without any additional amplification.  So we ordered a pair for her, and after a brief acclimation period, she was very happy.

Then our daughter reported that her hubby bought them each a set.  Now, I should point out that while our daughter likes music, she's not a person who always has headphones on and music playing. That's apparently all changed.  She works at home a couple of days a week now and listens to music from her phone and then seamlessly takes and places phone calls using the AirPods.  She also uses them in the car, as her habit is to call us weekly while on her way home from her office, about a thirty minute commute.  Always sounds clear and static-free, which is not my experience with any other Bluetooth earbuds, including the afore-mentioned Bose set.

So just before Father's Day I decided to sell my trusty Bose QC 15 noise cancelling headphones, as they're based on older technology and I no longer fly as I used to.  Prior to that I sold my wife's former Bose SoundSports, too, so once I found a buyer for the QC 15s, I bought a set of AirPods for myself.

Better sound and fit than I would ever have expected.  I get going in the mornings a little before my wife and like to play music at my desk.  Have been using these all week (they just arrived last Friday) each morning and then some and have been very impressed and, I confess, pleasantly surprised, too.

If I were to return to frequent flying my needs might change, but I am oh-so-impressed with both of my latest tech acquisitions.  Unfortunately, I have my eye on a new television (which we do not need, of course) with 4K resolution and HDR picture enhancements.  Probably be a while before we take that plunge!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Exit Father's Day--enter summer

Friends, hope you had a good Father's Day weekend.  If your father is still around, hope you got to spend some time with him, and if you yourself are a dad, I hope that you got to see your kids!

For me, Father's Day weekend almost always marks the point where we know for certain that summer is most definitely here, as it "officially" begins later this week.  Making my point, I played golf with some friends Saturday morning.  By mutual agreement, we all concurred that we should play early to beat the heat.  By the middle of the round we were all soaked with perspiration.  And we started before 9:00 AM, too!

My score was pretty lousy, by the way, but would have been pretty decent had I not lost the ability to play golf the last two holes.  These things happen when you're hot and tired, I suppose.

To add to it, our grandson (the local one, the other little guy is in Colorado) played with his all-star T-ball team (!) in a tournament that included two games late Saturday afternoon and two yesterday morning.  To their credit, the team won the first three they played, but in the fourth they were pretty outmatched.  Waiting for our grandson's game to start Saturday afternoon (by that time of day the tournament was running about an hour behind schedule), I watched the team that ultimately beat my grandson's group and knew they were pretty good.

This bunch had players that hustled constantly, played the game with abandon and were just into it!  In our grandson's team's game their shortstop even attempted to fake a baserunner off second hoping to throw him out.  These kids are seven and below, by the way.  Pretty amazing, but as a lover of all things baseball, I was more than impressed.  It is, after all, the little boys' game!

These tournaments will apparently occur every weekend for the next few weeks, so I expect my wife and I will be bronzed nicely by all of this outdoor time.  My golfer's/farmer's tan is already firmly in place, by the way (happy to show you the contrast by lifting my shirt sleeve a little).

One more clear signal of summer is that we had one of those spectacular summer storms late yesterday afternoon, complete with a deafening downpour and thunder and lightning.  So I'll need to mow my grass sometime, as I was waiting for a little more rain to moisten it up before cutting it.

As a sometime golfer and fan of that sport, I watched a fair amount of the U.S. Open over the weekend, which was won by a fellow named Brooks Koepka.  The guy hits it a mile, putted very well and looked in command of the event from sometime Saturday onward.  A lot of purists were talking about how it wasn't a "traditional" U.S. Open venue, as the event was played for the first time at a placed called Erin Hills north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Scores were pretty low compared to what we often see, but I love it.  All of these golfers play the same course, and the fact that the course claimed the world's three top-ranked golfers tells me, anyway, that it was challenging enough.

I used to wonder how I'd do on a course set up for the Open; at this stage of my life and golf "career" I no longer wonder.  It wouldn't be pretty.....

No need to mention anything regarding politics here, as there's already plenty of content out there. I will say that I appreciate so many members of Congress recognizing that their harsh partisan rhetoric may have contributed to the horrific shooting that occurred last week.  Alongside that, a reporter on CBS Sunday Morning suggested that members of Congress adopt a standing practice from Little League baseball (and the Stanley Cup playoffs in hockey, too, by the way) where after each game the teams line up and congratulate each other on a good game.  I hope the feeling of mutual acceptance, if not agreement, lasts for more than a short time.  We certainly need for it to last as long as it can.








Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's a family thing

Good Thursday afternoon, friends.  We've been experiencing some unseasonably mild weather this week--even cool, based on the chill I felt during my grandson's T-ball game last night!

Fathers and sons and grandsons and the like are the core of my thoughts today.  We're nearing the end of this grandson's T-ball season, so we've come to know (or at least recognize) most of the players' family members who attend.  And we're not the only grandparents who attend, either, which I think is great.

Growing up, my grandparents all lived at least two hours away, and as they aged we saw less and less of them.  One, a maiden aunt who raised my father, never drove, so it was a much greater effort for her to visit, as she would have to either ride a bus or rely on a ride from another family member for transportation.

But for those kids on the team (or in any of our grandkids' schools, for that matter) are so fortunate to have extended family close by.

That said, I don't know that the dynastic approach always guarantees success.  Sometimes it works very well.  A good example for me, anyway, is my beloved Cincinnati Reds.  A couple of years ago the team announced that Dick Williams, who is the son of one of the minority owners of the team, was to take over this season as the team's general manager and president of baseball operations.  In the second year of a multi-year rebuilding effort, the Reds are playing the kind of hustling baseball that fans enjoy and embrace, and were it not for a series of major arm injuries to starting pitchers the team would likely sit atop the Central Division standings.

Another pretty fair example that I can think of is that of is the S.C. Johnson Company, formerly known as Johnson Wax.  The CEO of this company is Herbert Fisk Johnson III, who is the fifth generation of the Johnson family to lead this corporation.  If you're having difficulty placing the company name, look around your house, as you probably have some Windex or Pledge or Ziploc bags or Glad air fresheners or a host of other products.  They have strategically acquired competitors and yet maintained their status as a private company that employs about 13,000 people and sells about $7 billion in goods each year.

The Coppola family business is the film industry, with patriarch Francis Ford Coppola a much-decorated movie director, best known for the "Godfather" films.  His daughter Sofia has overcome the misfortune of being cast in the third "Godfather" picture to become a recognized film director in her own right.

I could go on with more positive examples, but I think the most glaring negative one is that of the family currently occupying the White House.  Donald Trump was elected President, yet he felt it necessary to install both daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as official White House adviser, leaving grown sons Donald Jr. and Eric to run the family business.  Kushner allegedly has a massive portfolio of responsibilities yet I don't know that anyone can specifically identify anything he has been able to accomplish.  Ditto for the First Daughter.

And the Trump sons?  I suppose they've been successful, as the Trump Organization continues to grow and profit despite the absence of their father in day-to-day operations.  What their business is appears to be that of simply making money from spreading the Trump name onto real estate properties and such around the world.

Will there be notable achievements?  Hard to say.  Will there be questions?  Undoubtedly.  Is the next chapter easy to predict?  Nope.

Guess we'll have to see what comes next.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This is where we are

Good morning to all.  Unexpected thunderstorm underway here in central Kentucky.  'Tis the season, you know!

By the way, I hope that everyone was able to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend.  I read about some rather crass suggestions for celebrating the day.  Those who are given to deeper thought appreciate the day off as much as the sacrifices that allow it to occur annually, of course.

Did you read about golfer Tiger Woods?  He was found unconscious in his car in the middle of a street in the middle of the night.  The engine was running at the time.  Arrested for DUI.

I learned of this while playing golf with some friends on Monday.  My first comment was that, well, let's remember that the guy had back surgery not so long ago and likely mixed alcohol with prescribed pain medication.  The police report is due to be released today, I believe.  I think Tiger has a little more explaining to do, even though he's months from attempting to return to competitive play.

Woods' fall from celebrated golf prodigy has been long and painful, as his body and image simultaneously broke down.  In his prime I enjoyed watching him play and watching him make a golf ball do some pretty amazing things.  Will we get to see him play at a high level again?  It's very hard to say.

Big fight in a Major League Baseball game over the weekend, featuring talented but temperamental player Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. His agent is making an argument that he does not deserve the four-game suspension handed down by MLB.  Provoked or not, there are rules against charging the mound, Bryce.

The Reds were showing some fight themselves recently, as they started a road trip on a good note and won their first series in Philadelphia since 2006.  Then they arrived in Toronto and promptly were decimated 17-2 on their first night there and lost narrowly last night, too.  I swear, I'm almost ready to volunteer my services as a pitcher, at the rate they're going they'll need me by the All-Star break.  Absolutely remarkable that this team is as close the the .500 mark as they are, with a starting rotation that has been decimated by numerous injuries.

RIP to sportswriter Frank Deford, who graced the pages of Sports Illustrated for many years before helping start The National, a daily sports newspaper.  You know, back when we used to rely on NEWSPAPERS for our information.  Deford was a frequent guest on ESPN's The Sports Reporters and other venues where his commentaries, which he wrote, of course, were the only thing better than reading his work.  In my lifetime I've had the privilege to read his work and that of Roger Angell, the brilliant writer of baseball and other subjects.  He will certainly be missed.

Speaking of antiquated institutions, I saw just a few minutes ago that CBS apparently decided to remove Scott Pelley as the anchor of its evening news broadcast.  We don't watch CBS News in our home, except for CBS Sunday Morning, but the few times I've seen Pelley he drives me bananas because he speaks so slowly as to be condescending.  Probably not intentional, but that's how I take it.  "I"m going to speak slowly for you so that you'll understand what I'm saying."  He'll still be on 60 Minutes, apparently, another news show which is very long in the tooth.

Have to confess that we watch NBC Nightly News in our household, well, nightly.  Because I spend some time online during the day, I usually know the majority of what will be covered, but my wife still prefers a digested version of the latest news.  Networks will keep putting these shows on provided they make some money, I think, but once the profit motive goes away, so will the programs.

Last comment:  I noticed that the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie made out well at the box office over the holiday weekend, sailing (sorry, bad pun) past the competition, which included a reimagining of the old TV show "Baywatch."  We saw the first three, noted very little original in numbers two and three, didn't bother with the 4th and agreed that this latest one was clearly a cash-in move by Disney, the producers and star Johnny Depp, whose quirky talents have not yielded anything close to a hit in some time.  Hope those who saw it enjoyed it, as I don't plan to.

Enjoy your Wednesday.  And, yes, I almost typed "Tuesday."






Thursday, May 25, 2017

More sorrow

Friends, it's raining here in central Kentucky this morning, which is probably contributing to my mood.

I am still so saddened by the recent events in Manchester, England. but I would add to that sentiment that it's powered by some family information.  In the past year both of my granddaughters, aged 11 and 7, have attended pop concerts by performers not that different from Arianna Grande, whose show was marred by this senseless act of violence.  So I have difficulty not thinking about this.

But it's becoming so much the norm, isn't it?  Think about it:  the TSA just announced a new pilot program where they'll more closely examine all kinds of things that they used to not look at specifically, like electronic devices larger than a cellphone.  Regular visitors to this space will remember that it wasn't that long ago that I flew for business regularly, and became rather numb to the art of getting through security quickly and without needless delays.  First the liquids, then the laptops, and now it looks like tablets and e-readers and portable gaming systems will be subject to added scrutiny.

My son and I attended a baseball game in Cincinnati recently, and I have to say that I was rather nonchalant about the need to pass through a metal detector when I arrived.  That's just how things are now.

At one point in my life I was a voracious reader of certain authors' work, and the late Tom Clancy was at the top of the list.  Clancy was the author of the Jack Ryan books, many of which have been turned into pretty good movies.  In any case, both the novel and film versions of "The Sum of All Fears" centered around a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear weapon at the Super Bowl (the movie did not refer to the game as that, given trademark issues and such).  There were countless mentions in the book particularly about how such an attack would scar the psyche of our country.  Another of Clancy's books, "Debt of Honor," ends with a rogue Japanese pilot deliberately crashing an airliner into the Capitol during a Presidential address.

Those are just the most evident examples of how this stuff is pervasive in our culture.  And it's not that Western nations need to provide inspiration to those who would carry out such acts.

I agree with those in Manchester and Paris and Nice and London and Boston and other cities that the best thing we can all do is NOT allow such possibilities to prevent us from living our lives.  So I plan to continue to do so, but with a more practiced eye toward what might be happening behind the scenes.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

News of all kinds

Friends, it's Wednesday, so we're at about the halfway point of the work week.  And we're approaching Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.  School is almost out for the summer, too.

Let me first make a general comment about what's happening in Washington.  I don't think anyone who visits here would disagree that we're in for some rough times over the coming weeks and months.  I was a young teen when the Watergate break-in, coverup and investigation occurred, and remember well my mom (who was not working at that time) watching every minute of the Senate hearings on the subject.  I don't know if I understood everything that was happening, but got enough of it to know that it wasn't good for anyone.

My take now is that there are now so many media outlets that information is likely leaking from numerous sources, in the executive or legislative branches of our government as well as within some departments.  That's not good, but things are found out quickly in our current 24-hour news cycle and that may mean they resolve quickly.  Hoping that our most important institutions withstand what's happening right now.

Less important stuff to move on with....

It's hot here in central Kentucky.  Really hot.  Damned hot, if you ask me.  This often happens, the weather is fair, damp, often with a cold snap thrown in for good measure throughout the spring, then a switch appears to be thrown and here we are, in blazing heat.  We should be used to it, it seems to happen every year!

Good baseball weather.  Our grandson is in the middle of a good season with his T-ball team and at last night's game he made a very good play from his second base position on a ground ball, fielding the ball cleanly and making a perfect throw to first for the out.  Remember, these kids are four to six years old, so a semi-professional play on a ground ball is kind of a big deal, at least to me.  Our grandson's team has only lost once, but they have a couple of games to make up due to some of the foul weather I mentioned.

The Reds continue a surprisingly good season, too.  Thanks to having lost four straight games, they've fallen back to the .500 mark, but, honestly, rebuilding teams rarely get to that point and stay there, so it's been an up and down season marked with a fair amount of promise for the future.  And all of this with a makeshift starting rotation forced by multiple injuries to several pitchers.

My son and I visited Cincinnati last week and watched the home team beat the New York Yankees in a good game.  Great to be in the ballpark for that!

I've been trying to play some golf, but it seems that it has rained on so many weekends that it hasn't come together as it often does.  Played with some friends a couple of weekends ago, played a decent round with a good stretch of holes in the middle, which is not bad for a complete lack of practice and playing.

One more thing and I'll let you get back to your Wednesday...our family will be growing again in December, as we just found out over the weekend that our son and his wife are expecting their third child!  What a wonderful Mother's Day surprise!




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Same as it ever was

Good morning, everyone.  And on a Tuesday, too!

Our schizophrenic weather continues here in central Kentucky.  Hot, then mild, then downright cool, and now warming up again.  Rain and then dry and then drizzle and so on.

Enough about that.  I come to you today regarding a musical oldie-but-goodie.  And unlike so many of my preferred artists, this one is not so old.

I refer to the dynamic late-70s to early-90s group Talking Heads.

The four members met in art school in New England, as I have read, and combined new wave rock, funk, pop and performance art into a driving form with undeniable rhythm and catchy songs whose words are, well, interesting.

I began to think of them recently upon learning of the death of film director Jonathan Demme, better known for directing the acclaimed "Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia," but whose roots were in documentary filmmaking.  Demme collaborated with Talking Heads for a concert movie entitled "Stop Making Sense," the title lifted from a lyric in one of their songs.

I have a copy of that movie and watched it recently, and despite its age (made in 1983, I think), the film and concert both hold up well.  Talking Heads' music was always an acquired taste, with lead singer/songwriter David Byrne's vocal style intriguing and challenging to the audience at the same time.  Demme and Byrne cooked up an interesting film that relies mostly on photography of the band (and crew, for once) at work, with long shots of secondary players like a rhythm guitarist or percussionist and almost no displaying of the audience or their reactions.

The Heads played at the University of Kentucky when I was not long out of school and performed pretty much this same show here in Lexington at Memorial Coliseum, the one-time home of the Kentucky men's basketball team.  The entire show was performed with the house lights on, which probably diminished the impact of the show, but I learned later that someone had called in a bomb threat and the campus police would only allow the show to proceed (with a lengthy delay) with those lights still on.

It was a great show, and it still is quite entertaining.  The level of intensity by Byrne and his bandmates, with the lineup expanded for live performance, is evident throughout, but this bunch always seemed to enjoy it.  I suspect this film is available online in different places, so if you like music from that era, give it a look.

I must be reliving that part of my life recently, as I caught myself listening to the Police recently, too.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Seeing it on TV

It's Monday, everyone.  Which means, here in central Kentucky, that it's raining again.  At least the rain bookended the weekend, which allowed a steamy round of golf Saturday and grilled dinner last night!

I come to you this morning prepared to discuss several aspects of the television industry.  There have been items mentioned in the national media, and locally as well, that made me want to share some of this information.

I'll start with ESPN, the self-proclaimed "worldwide leader in sports," a phrase co-opted from ABC Sports, which used to make the same claim.  Last week ESPN very publicly thinned its workforce in announcing layoffs of many recognizable on-air personalities like Andy Katz, Jayson Stark, Ed Werder, Trent Dilfer, Jay Crawford and a number of others, as well as a number of writers who seldom, if ever, appeared on camera.

ESPN, and its parent The Walt Disney Company, took this action after a workforce reduction just a year or so ago.  They indicated that this was in response to changing viewing patterns, which is probably true.

ESPN was a neat-o thing for me when I first had access to cable TV back in the 80s.  Why, the very idea that there was a channel that had all of the highlights of all of the games on THAT NIGHT!  Of course, now, virtually ALL of the games in EVERY sport are on somewhere, so I saw what I wanted to see already.

Thus the changing viewing patterns.

That leads me to my next point.  Our local newspaper featured a story yesterday about customers of our local cable TV company, now called Spectrum following the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, finding that channels went dark suddenly because Spectrum determined that these customers weren't paying enough for their programming.  Worth mentioning that in Kentucky cable TV is controlled by the state's Public Service Commission, regulated just like any other utility like electric or gas or water.  And a single entity is allowed to provide service in any geographic area, so there's no competition.

I experienced something less jarring but no easier to accept recently, when our overall Spectrum bill jumped about twenty dollars from one month to the next.  In our case it was a revision of fees for the rental and USE of a cable box/DVR combination.  Yes, a charge to rent the box, and a separate charge to USE it to record programs.  I know, defies logic.

Just as the man who was heavily quoted throughout the newspaper article, I called Spectrum in hopes of negotiating a somewhat better deal, which used to be common with Time Warner and its predecessors, but now their approach is to explain what services can be removed in order to achieve a financial objective.

I left my package as is for now, opting to leave it alone.  Eventually, Spectrum will begin monitoring and either capping or throttling Internet usage, so until then at least I can stream and browse endlessly.

My final set of comments regard the traditional television networks.  Every year, my wife and I review new shows to see if there's anything we'd find to be worth watching.  And every year we wait to see if the new shows we've been watching will return in the fall schedule.  I don't know this, but it seems to me that the networks used to be a little more definitive about shows that were cancelled vs. shows that were returning.  Now it seems that shows just sort of fade away, never to be seen again.

Let's remember, the original "Star Trek" television series lasted barely three years, but has lived on in syndicated reruns, sequels, spin-offs and movies since the late 60's.  So you have to believe that the folks who decide on these things are simply guessing and hoping they're right.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading to my treadmill for some exercise, where I'll use my tablet to stream Netflix to pass the time while walking.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Making it work

Happy Monday to you.  

Did you get rain over the weekend, as we did here in central Kentucky?  I realize that this IS spring, and it IS routine to see ample amounts of rain this time of year, but why, oh, why, does it have to seemingly ALWAYS rain on the weekend?

My wife and I elected to give ourselves a change of pace from our respective routines over the weekend, and traveled to Cincinnati, our preferred getaway destination.  As I've explained in this space before, we love Cincinnati because it's a larger city than Lexington but is only a little more than an hour's drive away, so we can spend less time getting away and more time BEING away!

That sounded a little like a tourism commercial, but no matter.

We normally visit a specific shopping mall that has some things we don't have, and also better versions of what we DO have, here in my home city.  For instance, we love visiting the Apple Store in the Kenwood Towne Center.  Why?  It's substantially larger than the one at Fayette Mall here in Lexington, so it holds more people and there are more staffers there.  So a large crowd here disperses well into a larger space there.

But one place we almost always enjoy visiting is IKEA, the Swedish-based furniture and home store. The nearest one to us is in West Chester, Ohio, just north of the city of Cincinnati.

We've probably been there a dozen times and I can count on one hand the number of things I've bought there.  We bought guest room nightstands (that we later sold on Craigslist when our living room end-tables became available to replace them) and a matching dresser, also for that same guest room.  And we bought ramekins there a few years ago, and they've been invaluable in serving small portions of food, especially to our grandchildren.

But the area of IKEA that endlessly fascinates me is the office furniture section.  From the time I was a kid I've always liked desks, bookcases and the like, and still do.

Full disclosure--I bought "traditional" office furniture for my home office twelve or so years ago, opting for a large wooden desk with a matching credenza and hutch.  I used to also have a matching bookcase but we sold that to clear out more visual space in my office, which was originally a dining room and is the first room one sees when entering our home.

Having that office furniture does not stop me from spending a good amount of each visit to IKEA's office furniture department.

At some point I became fascinated by the "modular" style that one can create, using multiple tables, drawer units and legs to create a system that provides working and storage space.  That fascination has now grown to include sit/stand desks, some motorized and others manual-crank-operated.   We're all learning, after lo these many years, that remaining in a sitting position at a desk, particularly in front of a computer, for extended periods of time is NOT good for us.  So mixing sitting and standing is now a trending but valuable practice.

Another point full disclosure--when I began to work at home full-time in 2003 my first purchase was a Herman Miller Aeron office chair, which can be adjusted in a variety of ways to ensure proper ergonomics.  I've improved the lumbar support and added a headrest since purchasing it, but it has never ceased being comfortable and supportive, and I had back issues long before spending countless hours at a desk.

Anyway, the myriad solutions available from a place like IKEA start my mind racing with possibilities, and since my office is perfectly square (on three sides, anyway) with no windows, arrangements are infinitely flexible.  My ideal solution would probably now be an open table, rather than a weighty traditional desk with drawers, with storage nearby for the shrinking amount of paper materials that I keep.  In my mind's eye this open table would be about the size of my current desktop, or perhaps even a little bigger, and would adjust in height, too.

Realistically, after investing in "good" but traditional furniture a few years ago, it makes little sense to chuck it in favor of something new, and I've posted this set on Craigslist more than once and received a lot of vague interest but no specific offers.

So for now my vision will have to stay in my mind's eye, I suppose!


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