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!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Citizens (against) United

Good morning to all.  Nice, warm weather here in central Kentucky is due to be interrupted by some rain throughout today.  But you know what they say about April showers.  My grass is a direct testament to that old adage!

Unless you've been completely sequestered from any news sources over the past couple of days, you are aware of the incident that occurred with a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville (not far from my home area in Lexington) over the weekend.

Anyone who flies relatively often knows that airlines routinely overbook some flights, largely because the no-show rate leaves valuable seats unsold and decreases profit.  The flight in question was such an example, and it was already overbooked when the airline also decided to make some room on board for some of its own employees to be shuttled to Louisville for a flight out the following morning.

I've been in situations where the airlines offered as much as $1000, but not in real money--this was money to be spent on other travel on the same airline, in my experience.  There are often meal or hotel vouchers included.  In a couple of cases where I was on my way home and had my bag with me, I've been tempted to accept such an offer, but the desire to complete the trip and return home generally overrides the willingness to be paid to be inconvenienced.

In any case, it's important to remember that it's legal for airlines to arbitrarily bump passengers at its own discretion, as long as they are compensated for the inconvenience.  This was apparently the scenario on Sunday.

But regarding the United and Chicago airport security employees involved, I am astounded at the total disregard for appearances, as three armed security personnel physically removed a 69 year old physician from a small aircraft, dragging him from his seat and up the aisle.  He apparently got away briefly and ran to the back of the plane, saying "just kill me," until he was reapprehended and removed from the plane.

We know of this because, in today's society, everyone with a cellphone and a social media account is potentially a journalist, and so video and audio of this spectacle was quickly posted and became viral online.

Let's go back a few days--this is the same airline that prohibited girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing LEGGINGS.  The gate agent claimed that she was enforcing a dress code for those flying on United employee/friend passes, but kids in leggings?  I don't know about you, but I marvel at what people wear onto airliners these days....pajamas are not unusual, even for adults.  And I have a granddaughter who fits that age range and I guarantee you that she and my younger granddaughter regularly wear leggings and no one even thinks twice about it.

My personal experiences with United date back several years, when I first began flying regularly.  Twice I was boarding a large and mostly full plane at Chicago's O'Hare airport, positioned in group three or four, and heard the gate agent announce that "all of the overhead bins are now full, so everyone must now check their bags to be picked up at baggage claim at [insert destination]."  The irony is that in both instances, group one had not even completed boarding.  After the second time that happened, I consciously avoided that airline from then on, and only when my employer required the lowest fare did I resume using United.

Airlines have such an overall poor reputation anyway, so it boggles the mind as to why they would risk their already shaky reputations on stunts like what happened Sunday or a few days prior with the little girls wearing their leggings.  United made things worse by releasing a couple of mealy-mouthed statements by their CEO, one to their own employees that contained outright lies about the incident with the removed passenger, and also inflamed things by referring to the process as "re-accommodation."

United's shareholders should "re-accommodate" this CEO while their shares still have some value, and should then hire Tom Peters or another well-known authority on positive customer relations and thoroughly train their employees, at all levels, on proper and positive customer service, so that no one is dragged from an airliner for such a trivial reason.

That last part will never happen, but United would be well served to at least consider it.

If given the choice, I won't fly United Airlines for the foreseeable future, and you shouldn't, either.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

When everyone is in first place

Good morning to all.

We're experiencing the delights of springtime weather here in central Kentucky this morning, as a cold front blasted through last night, dropping temperatures and producing rain, hail, and in some areas heavy winds.  Still blowing this morning and the temperature continues to decline, although we're due for it to recover somewhat over the weekend.

My title today refers to the official start of the 2017 baseball season.  It's the one point in the season where every team is on equal footing.

This year's opening day, which is something of a holiday in my family, was a little different.  If you follow me on Twitter at @richardlexsmith you saw a tweet about this.  My son is generally my accomplice, as we've attended the Cincinnati Reds' opening day game several times in the past, most recently in 2014.  If not in person, we find a way to watch the game together, often taking the day off and playing golf that morning.

In recent years the Reds have begun scheduling their first game at 4:10 PM, for reasons that I have never quite understood.  This game used to always be at 1:10 or so, and also used to be THE first game for all of Major League Baseball.  But no more.  There were three games played on Sunday with the balance of teams playing on Monday, including the Reds.

I may have mentioned this in this space, but my son is attending law school at night at present, nearly finished with his first year of classes, and, as luck would have it, Monday is one of the nights that he attends.  So he wasn't able to be here, although we spoke as the game was starting and he was able to watch a bit while traveling to his law school.

This didn't affect the outcome; the Reds allowed some early scoring by the also-rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies and trailed most of the game, making it interesting late but ultimately losing 4-3.  They won in the first night game (delayed by our bad weather) last night by a score of 2-0.

In other athletic news, the Kentucky basketball team's super freshmen--DeAaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo--all declared for the NBA Draft.  Fox and Monk hired agents, so they're at the point of no return, but Adebayo wisely is not being represented yet, and will participate in NBA workouts (tryouts, really) to help determine where he might be drafted.  And he can withdraw with no penalty and return to school if he chooses.  I hope he returns, he's a dynamic player who has a great deal of unrealized potential.  In my non-expert opinion, Fox and Monk are already prepared to play pro basketball.

And the stunner of the last week in football was that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who lost his starting job to rookie Dak Prescott last year when Romo was injured, decided to retire and enter broadcasting, joining CBS as their top analyst.  He will replace Phil "The Football" Simms, a native Kentuckian who played some years ago for the New York Giants, and I call him this because he always reminds us that a player is throwing a "football," or fumbling "the football" or catching "the football" and so on.

No indication of what happens to Simms, but this is a step in the right direction.

Finally, I don't feel the need to comment on Washington at this moment.  What's happening there, as bizarre as it seems, really speaks for itself.

By the way, as I write this, the Reds are in a three-way tie for first place in the National League Central Division.


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