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.



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