Wednesday, October 18, 2017

All in the family

A very good Wednesday morning to all, at least at the time of this writing....

I want to first say "thanks" to those who have discovered this blog over the past couple of weeks.  I have taken note of a much larger group of viewers than previous entries had enjoyed, and I appreciate more people reading and hopefully enjoying these posts.  Please feel free to comment as you like.

We just said goodbye to our daughter and her family, as they came to visit a couple of Fridays ago and left last Saturday.  I've mentioned here before that this branch of our family tree resides in the Denver, Colorado area, and we used to see them two or three times a year.  But between the high cost of air travel, their kids both being school-aged and the fact that I no longer travel by air for my work and collect frequent flier miles to use, those visits are now annual.

And it's probably for the best, as we heard what our "Colorado grandkids" (my colloquialism, not my wife's, as she hates the term "grandkids") are into on a regular basis, over and above being enrolled in a very good and challenging public school.  For instance, our granddaughter, who just turned 12 in July and is now as tall as my wife, is playing volleyball on her school team AND will be doing the same for a select group later in the fall.  Games and practices for both, and she also has a couple of other extracurricular activities.  Our grandson is involved in taekwondo, and really enjoys it.  He is now a green belt, but despite frequent playful wrestling during their visit, he did not use any of his expertise on me.

We helped our daughter and her hubby move to Colorado (twice) and they've called it home pretty much since she completed her education.  So these visits are very special to us.  We learned a few years ago that it works much better not to plan too much or too far ahead.  About the only thing we did wrong in that regard is we overbought milk, but we were able to share that with our daughter-in-law for our local grandkids.

I threw a wrench into things when I accepted a new job in late July, so would have been off work for the week they were here.  But I was able to shuffle my schedule a bit and ensure that I didn't miss anything really good, as my new boss was very quick to say "family comes first" and that meant a great deal.  So we attended two volleyball matches featuring the nationally ranked University of Kentucky team (they won both), the visiting party shopped for UK souvenirs and saw some of the local sights, enjoyed some good family meals and capped things off with a great dinner at a local restaurant, celebrating two grandchildren's birthdays (our "local" granddaughter and our Colorado grandson).

The most amusing aspect of all of this is watching my wife, who again had people in the house to care for (apparently I'm not enough of a challenge!).  She does this routinely for our son and his family, helping them keep up with laundry and housecleaning and picking up their kids after school.  But she was in her element with our daughter and her gang visiting, cooking breakfast and serving lunch most every day (I handled dinners that we had here at home) and just generally taking care of everyone.

So we miss them, certainly, and while we'll see them on FaceTime and on the phone and via messages, it's just never the same.  Suppose absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The more we listen...

...the more we realize that what we hear is real.

How true is that?

Well, for instance, President Trump is now tired of waiting for Congressional Republicans (those in the Senate, specifically) to deliver to him a bill that will, once and for all, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.  Yesterday he signed an executive order that will allow government agencies to relax restrictions on health plans that don't cover certain conditions or those that exclude pre-existing conditions.  And he appears ready to follow that by withholding funding to insurance carriers who are providing coverage to low-income people.

Remember, he's been saying he would do this for some time.  The House passed a bill and the Senate tried more than once to follow suit.  Did the spectre of a Democratic bill co-sponsored by some TWENTY Senators force the hand of the President and/or Republican Congressional leadership?

Disaster relief came relatively quickly to those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but those in Puerto Rico, struck head-on by Maria, have not seen nearly the same kind of mobilization of help and resources.  Clearly President Trump hears the criticism, as he has attempted to squelch negative views of what his administration hasn't done there, and accuses the mayor of San Juan of playing politics when she's out in chest-deep water looking for survivors.  Who's in the right?  Are that commonwealth's citizens worth less effort because Puerto Rico is not a state, despite being populated by American citizens?

Regarding the President, I won't detail the number of items he has referenced in various tweets on these subjects and so many others, it's just too much.  But I do think that right-thinking people should be concerned when he tweets or says that he doesn't much like that the media can write and report issues that disagree with his world view, which he expresses often.

People in the entertainment world are shocked, SHOCKED at what movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been recently accused of doing over a long period of time.  A group of women, led by the example of Kentucky's own Ashley Judd, among others, have come forward with details of harassment, objectification and worse.  Now the avalanche has begun, and such A-listers as Meryl Streep, Gwynneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are coming forward with what they experienced or at least what they knew.

Apparently this is one of the worst kept secrets in recent Hollywood history.

Outspoken minorities have gone on record for quite some time about how they're treated unfairly by law enforcement personnel in cities and communities across the country, and we all heard their claims but nothing really happened.  But with police wearing body cameras and police cruisers equipped with dash cams, and with anyone with a cellphone and a conscience now able to serve as an on-the-scene reporter thanks to social media, we now see evidence that this has been the case and in greater numbers than one might have expected.

But now it's turned into an argument over whether professional (and other) athletes have the right to kneel or sit or otherwise protest the playing of our national anthem.  Is that what we should be debating, or the actions that prompt these athletes to protest in the first place?  And how many people who join the discussion understand that in most cases these athletes aren't necessarily protesting how they themselves are treated, but rather the treatment received by those without a public forum?

I didn't stay awake long enough to see all of it, but it appears that a couple of potentially questionable calls by the umpires may have affected the outcome of the Cubs-Nationals game last night, which the Cubs won late.  Are the fans who say that the Nationals were victims right?  Were the umpires?  How about the replay officials "in New York," as they say on virtually every baseball broadcast?  Frankly, I liked it better when a call was made, managers came out and raged briefly and then the game went on, no change of a bad call.

Last one....Apple just brought out a couple of new phones, with a super-duper one to come in a few weeks.  There have been reports that a few of the new models are affected by a bulging battery.  Would that deter you from buying the latest and greatest iPhone?  Personally, I think that buying any engineered product in its earliest days of actual production can be perilous.  But bad battery or not, will that phone change your life and make things better, as we've been told by experts and reviewers?

No wonder we're all so tired all of the time.  Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This must stop

Sunday night's horrific events in Las Vegas are dominating the news, as they should, as this is now the single most severe mass shooting event to take place on American soil.

We have a major problem in this country, and I'm not the right person to adequately detail all of the varying aspects of this maze of issues and positions and policies.  But what I do know has already been said by people far smarter than I am:  we need more than the "thoughts and prayers" of our representatives in Congress to address this insanity once and for all.

I honestly thought that the shootings at Sandy Hook in 2012 would finally be the tipping point, where a man who was determined to be suffering from severe mental illness opened fire on a group of children and their teachers.  And it seemed at the time that something positive would come from that unspeakable tragedy.

But members of Congress stayed true to form, cowed by the financial shackles placed on them by substantial financial contributions from the National Rifle Association and other like-minded organizations and threatened with these same entities bankrolling a strong opponent in the next election cycle.  And while they talked a good game for a time, they ultimately did NOTHING.

As I recall, the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando more recently did not prompt a renewed public debate on the issue of controlling assault weapons, either.

And now we've learned that an unassuming 64 year old retiree had amassed a cache of weapons and ammunition and had apparently refitted at least some of his weapons to fire in an automatic fashion so that he could spray gunfire onto a crowd of outdoor concertgoers some thirty floors below.

I won't attempt to debate the Second Amendment here, but I feel compelled to add that the words written therein were put to paper in the late 1700's, when there was a need for a state militia and citizens to join with others to protect their homes and communities.  Here in 2017 we're in a far different place than the framers of our Constitution were.

Certainly, there are many people who are responsible gun owners and use their weapons for the purposes that they are intended.  And I'm not naive enough to think that regulation will come with a crystal ball so that those in charge will be able to determine who will use their assault rifles and high-capacity magazines for constructive purposes and who will not.

But I am idealistic enough to believe that a constructive dialogue can be had, that people in positions of influence can discuss the number of military-style weapons in the wrong hands and identify some possible solutions that everyone can live with.  The NRA would do well to participate in such discussions in a contributory fashion, instead of simply saying that any controls or restrictions violate our Second Amendment rights.

I'm so upset by this, but I'm also most grateful that no one I am close to was affected directly by this heretofore unimaginable violence.  And I am sick and tired of using my small platform to express this sentiment whenever events like this take place.  And we all should be, because we shouldn't be afraid to attend a concert or a football game or any other event where people gather in a smallish space.

This must stop.  Period.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finding our happy place

Good Thursday morning, friends!

My schedule has been so haphazard lately that I really don't have any kind of pattern of when I find time to post, so I hope that this hasn't been an issue for any of you super-organized types out there.

Interesting times we're living in within these United States.  We have one active war, two other conflicts in which we're involved overseas, humanitarian disasters in Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico and yet our leader seems obsessed with petty grievances with other politicians and with professional athletes electing not to stand for the National Anthem before their games or to visit the White House.

This same leader is being investigated by no fewer than four congressional committees and a special counsel for, well, a lot of things.

Talk about leadership.

Closer to my home we have the former basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, now the head coach at in-state rival Louisville, having been effectively fired yesterday over the school's identification (as "University-6") in an FBI investigation into bribery of prospective student-athletes.  This is the coach who is credited with resurrecting Kentucky basketball following its own shameful scandal some thirty years ago.

On the flipside, Kentucky's current coach has staged various events lately that raised money for hurricane victims a considerable distance from home.

We also have a state government retirement and pension system that is absolutely broke and will require billions of dollars to put right, while our governor and attorney general, who are of opposite political parties, cannot agree on anything regarding the pension or otherwise.

Specifically at my house all is well, thanks, so that's what I try to keep in mind right now.  Not much we can control outside of our immediate view, and even then control is a bit of an illusion.  Our family is all well, we'll be visited by our daughter and her family in the next few days, and later this year we'll welcome another grandchild to our family.

So that's not so bad, when put into the proper perspective.

I've had friends mention that they cut off political news from their Twitter feeds (and who's happy about doubling the number of characters that users can include in a tweet?) and I'm not quite ready to do me it's important to know what's going on, and sometimes finding out via Twitter is a little quicker than looking through more traditional sources.

I also have heard of people who simply don't watch the news, that it's too depressing.  I'd echo my own thoughts from above.  Important to know what's happening.

But perspective seems to be the key, so I'm going to do my best to keep everything in its proper place.  And I'm sure that you will, too.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Saw this on TV, too

Happy Monday, everyone. Hope your weekend was smashing, and that all of your teams won if you're into that sort of thing.

One of our teams was struggling last night, as it got close to bedtime, so we watched a bit of the Emmy Awards ceremony. You know, the awards for stuff and people on television. Important to note if Shailene Woodley is reading this, since she made it abundantly clear to a reporter prior to the ceremony that she does not own a television, she READS BOOKS. So there.

Anyway, I wanted to tune in because I like Stephen Colbert when he's not on so late at night (old guys can't stay up like they used to). In the twenty-five minutes we watched I saw him twice, once to say "Good night!" So that was a bit disappointing.

And as the public address announcer, the show employed some standup comedian who apparently specializes in imitating another comedian, Chris Rock, as this guy sounded like him and all of his comments about presenters and winners alike were probably designed to be funny to someone, but we found nearly all of them unintelligible.

The ceremony was down to the awards for limited series and dramatic series by the time we joined in. Big stuff. By then Julia Louis-Dreyfus had won her sixth straight award for "Veep," which is funny but largely unknown to us since we don't have HBO. "Saturday Night Live" was recognized for its political spoofs, and the performers who played the candidates, Kate McKinnon (HRC) and Alec Baldwin (Trump) both won awards.

Anyway, the limited series that got so much attention was "Big Little Lies," a drama that apparently centers around an honest depiction of domestic violence starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, won for series and for Kidman's role. Kidman spoke twice and I was honestly concerned that she was going to impale herself or someone else with the pointed part of the Emmy statue both times.

"The Handmaid's Tale" was the big winner in the drama category, with star Elisabeth Moss winning best dramatic actress and the series winning for best dramatic series. That show is on the streaming service Hulu, which we also don't have. And we likely would not have watched it, as the stated subject matter is this, according to IMDB: Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship."

Wow, sounds like fun.

Anyway, good for the folks who create and appear in these programs, as they do address issues that need to be dealt with in some way for most people to understand.

The worst thing I saw was a young man who is one of the large cast in "This is Us", Sterling K. Brown, won for his role in that program, and was delivering an eloquent, entertaining and heartfelt acceptance speech. And they struck up the orchestra to get him off the stage, right in the middle of the speech. As someone observed online, Kidman spoke for a lot longer, and was never threatened with being played off. And this actor had just won an award the previous year for his role in the "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," so it's not like he doesn't already have industry credibility.

I saw this morning that the ceremony recognizes the odious Roger Ailes among those who passed away in the last year, but opted not to mention performers like Dick Gregory and Harry Dean Stanton who also were involved in the television industry. And they also somehow worked Sean Spicer, yes, THAT Sean Spicer, into the show someway.

The thing ended at two minutes after 11:00, which is a rarity in the awards show business.

I suppose that illustrates that HBO still has clout (and without "Game of Thrones," which did not air during the period for which the awards were given) and that big numbers of nominations (19 for "Stranger Things" from Netflix and 22 for HBO's "Westworld") don't guarantee wins, as both of those programs were shut out. Haven't seen either of these shows.

I don't know that I am now inspired to watch anything I wasn't already watching, but that's what voters liked and recognized. And now we return to your regular programming....

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Credits and debits

Good Thursday morning to everyone.

Here in my area, we're getting that promised portion of the remains of hurricane Irma, but a fraction of what folks further south experienced.  My thoughts are certainly with those affected in Florida and the Caribbean.

The Equifax hack that we all learned about late last week is more evidence that nothing and no one is entirely safe online.  Try as we might to be cautious and use the kinds of safeguards that make the most sense, someone's always out there trying to extract information from banks, retailers and now credit reporting services.

A good friend works in compliance and security for a regional bank and is a certified auditor, so I consulted him for advice.  His comments were simple and straightforward--freeze your credit reports immediately and consider a security product to protect your information from such attacks.

I spent a fair amount of time Sunday evening moving gradually through all three credit reporting bureaus' websites (Experian, Trans Union, and of course Equifax) and all were structured a little differently.  In doing so I found a few minor errors on each report, so I submitted requests for correction while I was in their processes, and all have reported removal of the erroneous information.

So I should be protected from people trying to pose as me and opening credit card and other accounts in my name, as no one, not even me, can access those credit reports without me lifting my requested freeze.  We're not planning any major purchases just now, so this isn't much of a hardship for us.  But if we needed to buy a car, for example, the freezes would need to be lifted to facilitate a credit application for that purpose.  And then put back into place.  At $10 per instance, I found.

But let's be frank about this--if hackers can get into other systems with this kind of ease, what else are they getting into?  It's not about MY information, of course, it's about as many people's info as can be obtained.

My son in law works in fraud detection for a financial institution and he's told a lot of stories about how hackers can intercept the wireless transmission of transaction data from department stores.  When you swipe your card at the gas station, it's being transmitted by satellite to your bank to verify the funds.  And as we've seen from ominous commercials, what's to stop a retail clerk or food server from cloning your card when you make a purchase?

I should add to all of this that Monday I received a fraudulent text message claiming that my Chase debit card was locked and that I would need to call a certain number to release the lock.  And I don't even bank with Chase.

And isn't it interesting that several Equifax executives dumped large amounts of their stock right after this breach was discovered, but right before it became public?  So much for "women and children first..."

So take care with your information and freeze your credit reports.  That's the one universal advice I've yet seen on this entire mess.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

21st century consumerism

Good Tuesday morning....and, yes, I actually typed "Monday" before catching my own error.

I had the pleasure of playing golf with some friends yesterday.  One is a friend through golf whom I had not seen in some time, the others I see regularly.  Somewhere along the way through our time together our conversation turned to golf courses in our home area that are no longer in operation.  We collectively agreed that those who were now out of business had flaws and issues that likely accelerated the circumstances that led to them ending their operations.

The comments continued, and we began to collectively name restaurants and stores that have left the scene over the past few months.  It's a longer and longer list, and while new shopping areas open frequently, many bringing with them new retail and dining choices, some of the old stalwarts continue to leave.

For instance, here in Lexington we once had THREE K-Mart stores.  I was just saying to a friend of mine that when I was a kid, growing up in neighboring Paris, KY, the big treat was a chance to go to Lexington to K-Mart and then maybe eat at McDonald's!

That K-Mart store has been out of business for quite some time, and the building now houses a Goodwill thrift store and an operations unit for the local telephone company.  The one that opened last went out of business several years ago, and is now the home of a Burlington Coat Factory store (and, no, they don't make coats there, if you're not familiar with the brand).  The third and last one standing is on Nicholasville Road, a major thoroughfare and retail corridor.  Yet it's set to close by year's end.

As I mentioned, restaurants are a big part of this process, too.  I was never a huge fan of Applebee's, but others apparently were for a long time, as opening an Applebee's location was often a sure bet for success.  Now, two have closed within a few months of each other.  The original Logan's Roadhouse (not just for Lexington, but the entire chain) is now shuttered.  We had not patronized that place in a long time, either, but it's still a little strange to see it happen.

Newer restaurants come and go as well.  There's a condo development not far from the University of Kentucky campus that formerly housed a Firehouse Subs, Jamba Juice and Smashburger.  All three closed at one point or another, although the Jamba Juice location reopened not long ago.  The Firehouse spot was one my wife and I enjoyed, and they always seemed to do steady, if not spectacular, business.  No more.

I've read recently, as you likely have, that J.C. Penney and Macy's are both closing stores at a noticeable pace.  Both of those outlets still exist here.  A Rite Aid Pharmacy closed not long ago, one that never seemed busy but had been in its former location for what seemed forever.  Yet Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreen's have all opened pharmacies (mostly on busy corners) in significant numbers over the past few years.

And there has for some reason been a proliferation of mattress stores here in our area.  Why?  Someone in the local media postulated that buying a mattress is an "impulse" buy.  Really?  I'd just be driving down the road and decide "it's time to get a new mattress?"  I don't know, but to me it seems deciding to buy a candy bar is an impulse purchase.  Buying a mattress requires a little more thought.

I recently did something I've never done--buy something from someone who advertised on Craigslist.    I have been the Craigslist seller countless times, but for the first time, I bought something that was advertised.  My new job required the storage and organization of a pretty wide variety of printed materials, so needed a place to keep all of that.  So I bought a five-drawer lateral file cabinet from a very nice woman who's a work-at-home accountant.  Her husband and I loaded it into my SUV and it's in my garage as I write this.  That fit the primary qualification--something of the type that would be easy to clean if purchased from someone else.  That also explains why I would never buy upholstered furniture that way.

Yet I advertised something recently and a respondent to my advertisement actually asked me if I would "deliver" the item.  I responded that I would meet him in a public place, but he has yet to get back with me, as I assume he wants the Amazon treatment.  You know, order it, agree to pay the price, and have it on your doorstep.

Perhaps that's what's happening with retail.  And Amazon can buy Whole Foods but I can't imagine going there more because they sell a few things cheaply.  And I can buy an Alexa while I'm there.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The storm(s) and what followed

Greetings to all.

Sincerest sympathies to those in Texas and elsewhere in the path of Harvey who have lost loved ones,  property and all semblance of normalcy.  Things will get better, I'm sure, but not quickly enough.

Here in Kentucky we're getting some wind and rain, but not so much as was seen and experienced elsewhere.

We're in a strange place as a country right now.  We're in a position where the people whose lives were upended need help in the worst way, yet the second-highest-ranking member of the Executive branch of our government lobbied AGAINST relief after Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago, on the basis of what it would do to our deficit.  Both he and the President have visited Texas, as that's now an expected element of disasters and recoveries.

It appears that we're going to be hearing a lot about tax reform, though I don't yet have a clue if MY taxes will change or if that "reform" will extend only to those who most likely don't pay enough taxes now.  And the government is going to have increase the amount of money it can legally borrow to stay in business, or else it will have to shut down.  And our President has implied he's prepared to allow a shutdown in order to fulfill one or more of his major campaign promises.

And lest we forget, an unfathomable number of Congressional and other investigations about the current President's campaign and its possible collusion with Russia may be intensifying, creating even more havoc in our government.

But putting all of that aside, each day we see more and more evidence of the strength and goodness and resilience and generosity of the people of this country, providing for those in need.  I donated to the American Red Cross (despite some of these grumblings about there being better places to donate); you can, too, via a number of processes online, through a text message and otherwise.  Actress Sandra Bullock has donated $1 million for Harvey relief.  The Kardashian/Jenner clan, astoundingly, have donated $500,000.  Houston Texan football player J.J. Watt has raised about $10 million thus far.  The University of Houston's basketball and baseball coaches are asking for donations of clothing and shoes from their fellow university teams, and getting them in large quantities.  The New York Mets arrived in Houston yesterday for a weekend series against the hometown Astros, and were reportedly planning to spend today volunteering where needed.

People are taking strangers into their homes.  Multiple families with nothing.  Why?  Because it's the right thing to do.  This morning's news featured a Pizza Hut manager who waded through chest-high water to deliver pizzas to those without power, whether they could pay or not.  An armada of boats of all manner came into Texas from Louisiana to help with rescues and evacuations.  A Kentucky company called Alltech (fascinating company, check them out online) has donated a certain amount of cash and a larger amount in the form of animal feed and crop products, because those areas need assistance, too.  They're also sending a team of employees to help rope cattle that have scattered as the result of the storm and subsequent flooding.

Simply put, America doesn't need to be made great again, it's already pretty damned great.

Enjoy your long weekend, if you have the opportunity.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Travels and tales

It's me again, friends.  Just have a little more to say!

I was on the road in Louisville for work yesterday, in the process of returning to Lexington and decided to jump off the interstate to get something to drink, as I had spent the better part of my work day talking (but I'm in sales, so that happens)!

As I reached the top of the ramp, my car kind of bucked and sputtered and then THREE warning lights illuminated on the instrument panel!  I chugged into a gas station lot, the nearest place I could go.  Pulled out the manual, and by this time I was down to just one light, the engine symbol.  Remember, this car is ten years old with almost 160,000 miles.  Manual says it could mean MANY things and that I would risk serious damage by driving it while the light was illuminated.

I called the dealership in Frankfort, where we bought the car (new owners now, though, but they had provided service on it a little less than a year ago).  Roughly halfway to my house, they said I could drive it there safely as long as that light wasn't blinking.  And they'd provide me a loaner vehicle.  So that was my target destination.

When I arrived and explained what happened to my service guy, he was amazed.  "This just happened?"  I nodded and he kind of grinned.  "Good timing," he said.  I countered by saying that I was on a car trip to Alabama (more on that below) last week and decided at the last minute to rent a car.  "Good choice" was his only comment.

The initial diagnosis, based on the terminal they connect to cars, was that the throttle position sensor was malfunctioning.  I suppose that means that the car could not tell when I was depressing the accelerator.  Anyway, it should be ready today, with a nice dealer bill to pay!

This was the conclusion of a whirlwind trip to Louisville in which I met a total of six of my new company's affiliates.  In keeping with my tradition of not talking specifically about my work, I'll stop with that information, but let's just say that each was a pretty different personality.

My trip to Alabama was interesting, to say the least.  I talked with my boss about that before heading there.  From where I begin, there isn't an expedient way to get there by air, as I'd have to drive to another city to take a direct flight, or connect through a hub airport.  I'm new enough in my job not to have a lot of time pressures, so I decided to drive and to rent a car.

Our company has a national relationship with a rental company, and they charge the same for a mid-size car as for a full-size.  So I was pretty certain of a decent car, but wound up with a Ford Expedition, massive SUV.  My experience with the UK Radio Network had me driving similar vehicles all over the southeast, including to Birmingham, so this was something of a homecoming for me!

I did made a side trip along my path south down I-65, into Lynnville, Tennessee, home of Colonel Littleton, maker of excellent leather goods and other interesting items.  I had decided to commemorate my new position with a piece I could use in my work, so went there to see some of the choices in person.

As always, everyone there was just wonderful to visit and work with, offering choices and on-the-spot personalization of my final choice, a No. 30 Composition Journal that I highly recommend!  And I finally got to meet someone from the organization with whom I've had a lot of contact over the past several years, too, so that was indeed a very nice bonus!

The trip involved shadowing my counterpart in Alabama for a couple of days and served its purpose, and was pretty uneventful overall.  My only complaint is that I stayed in the same hotel where I suffered through a kidney stone attack about five years ago!

This is a little unrelated, but let me share a couple of things that have happened online.  I'm an active Twitter user, more reading other people's tweets than posting my own.  Two things occurred recently that are worth noting.

The first was a blatant and unnecessary attack by someone who writes humorously about Kentucky sports.  He wrote something downright mean about a famous woman with Kentucky roots who commented online about her treatment as she passed through security at a major airport.  She didn't name names, indicated that she spoke with management and that was that, but this sports tweeter called her an idiot and such, and it just struck me the wrong way.  I commented to him that perhaps her opinion in all of this counted for more than his, since it happened to her.  I received numerous positive comments, but none from this boor.  That's disappointing.

The other was a person I formerly followed, who is a self-proclaimed expert on a certain subject pertaining, again, to sports.  Not life and death, right?  Anyway, he posted something and I asked him a question, thinking he had inside knowledge, which he routinely implies on Twitter and elsewhere.  Instead of an answer to my question, I got a three part lecture about being too lazy to look thinks up and so forth.  Again, others commented that he could have just answered my question, and he responded to them about "give a man a fish or teach a man to fish."  Must have been having a bad day, but I certainly won't waste my time on his waste-of-time subject matter anymore.

More indications of the death of civility, I guess.

Anyway, that's the news from here.  Wish me luck with that car problem!

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.


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