New Shoes in the Rain

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Retail of woe

Friends, it's still hot here in central Kentucky, but, hey, it's July, so you have to believe it's gonna be this way, right?

We've gotten some local news recently that I found very interesting.  Of all companies, Wal-Mart is closing some stores in our vicinity.  You're reading that correctly.  They're closing the remaining "general merchandise" store in Lexington, which means that the store that's going away isn't a SuperCenter.  I forgot there were still stores like that, given that Wal-Mart was a client of mine some twenty years ago and the SuperCenter was a relatively new concept at that point.

Anyway, this particular location is directly across a major road from a Kroger Marketplace store, and company management apparently determined that they could not adequately compete without adding a grocery department to this store, and that apparently wasn't possible.

They're closing a similar store in Louisville, as well as two of their Neighborhood Markets.  Quick aside--I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, having seen up close how they operate, but I do like the convenience of the Neighborhood Market we have in our area.  Smallish, well-stocked and lots of self-scan checkout lanes make it a good place to pick up a couple of items.

Worth remembering that this comes almost directly on the heels of the final closure of Toys R Us.

The news caused me to think about stores that used to exist and now don't.  Way back when, we had both Best Buy and Circuit City (incidentally, Best Buy recently announced that they're no longer selling CDs but are selling the trendier and more expensive vinyl records, so everything old is new again).  We liked the latter, and they're gone now, at least in the U.S.  There also were both Bed Bath and Beyond and Linens and Things, and, again, we liked the latter, now defunct.  Think how many large department store chains are gone, too, not to mention those that are now Macy's but used to be independent of the larger corporate parent.

There are actual websites that show photos of old shopping malls, in the "before" and "after" states, which are kind of fun but a little depressing.  Think how many mall staples we used to see ONLY in malls, like Thom McAn shoes or Bombay Company or Camelot Music or WaldenBooks and on and on and on.

Yet there are those brave people who are convinced they can enter the retail space and make a go of it.  Since I'm a big fan of my Apple Macintosh computers (yes, that's the "correct" name for a Mac), I was pleased to see Lexington be the home of first one then later a different alternative to the Apple Store, just for the sake of variety and access.  Both went out of business in less than a year.

There's a store not far from our house called Your Name Here.  Their entire business is built around personalized items, which is not a new concept, but certainly a niche.  They're on one end of a secondary shopping center that lacks a major anchor store, so it's a little difficult to tell what kind of traffic they get.

And in a larger center also not far away there's an establishment that sells custom-pressed juices.  I probably sound like a hick when I say this, but that's the type of business that probably thrives in a far more health-conscious area like southern California, but they're still there after almost a year.

I like the concept of "shopping local" but they have to have what you need, of course.

Retail is not dead, of course, it's simply evolving, as I've written here before.  I'm looking for a certain clothing item right now and am a little surprised to find so few places that I can buy what I want, so I may have to take this little wish online to find it.



Monday, July 9, 2018

Cruel and unusual

It's Monday and it's hot again.  Enough of that.

Like most people, I read and hear and see the news and things that pertain to our current President and his administration never cease to astound me.  And the word I keep coming back to is "cruel."

I could just as easily settled on "inept," "indifferent," "inexperienced," "unfeeling," "vindictive," or any number of other single words.

But "cruel" seems to sum up so much of what we're exposed to.

To make my point:

--The Trump administration acknowledged in the past few days that it estimates approximately 3,000 children were separated from their parent(s) when they attempted to enter this country illegally or arrived and requested asylum.  To this moment the Administration also acknowledges that they do not know the precise whereabouts of these children's parents, or whether the parents may have already been deported back to their countries of origin.  This is related to the Administration's "zero tolerance" policy of treatment of individuals who attempt to enter the United States illegally, a policy which now apparently does not include separation of children and their families.  And many of these children, including those under the age of 5, are being compelled to appear in court in proceedings that they cannot possibly comprehend, let alone participate in on a constructive basis.

--In an international discussion of a World Health Assembly resolution advocating breastfeeding, Administration officials not only did not agree with the majority decision on this subject, but actively threatened countries that wanted to introduce the measure with the eventual withdrawal of economic and military aid.  The preferred position of the Administration appears to have been to side with the manufacturer of baby formula, despite there being extensive possible health issues related to the absence of clean water in many underdeveloped areas.

--Recently the Administration announced its decision to withhold billions of dollars in payments to insurers designed to incentivize certain insurers to cover high-risk individuals under the Affordable Care Act, which is still in effect, despite the Administration's and Republicans' opposition to it.  This will force coverage to cost more, cover less and offer fewer choices to those who must obtain coverage from the exchanges that well "Obamacare" insurance plans.  Worth noting that most of the states where high percentages of individuals and families are reliant on ACA plans voted for the current president.

--In May the Administration announced new guidelines for dealing with labor unions that represent federal employees.  Among the new policies that are just going into effect, agencies are to reopen collective bargaining to recalculate the actual on-duty time of employees more closely and to "move swiftly" to deal with poorly performing employees, renegotiating any contracts that make it more difficult to do so or allow any form of progressive discipline.

--In the area of the environment, the Administration and their appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency have done away with a number of policies and regulations designed to monitor carbon production and emissions, protection of endangered species of animals, increases in the standards involving fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles, and ongoing research in the areas of climate change and the prevention of it.

--And let's not forget about Puerto Rico, where a large percentage of that island's population of over 3,000,000 American citizens are still without electricity or clean water due to catastrophic damage to the island's power grid and infrastructure in last year's hurricanes with this year's first named storm already beginning to have an impact on the fragile power systems.

Nearly all of what's mentioned above was deliberate and intentional, not coincidental or accidental.

Hence the title of today's post.  And this is just a partial list.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Lies and liars

Good Monday morning to all.  We're in the midst of a very hot stretch of weather here in central Kentucky, which was nicely broken by a mid-afternoon rain yesterday.  No such luck for a couple of days, it seems.

And I'm being completely honest with you!

How did we get to the point where we are forced to question the honesty of virtually everything that's said to us, that's reported to us, that we see and that we experience?

When famous people say something is "fake news," they're either lying or saying that someone else is lying.  Period.

There are no "alternative facts," as a White House counselor famously stated to a reporter some months ago, when confronted with a blatantly false statement made by a fellow staffer.

When a college football or basketball coach says "I'm not planning to leave" and then announced a new contract with a different university a short time later, he was lying, plain and simple.

When an athlete says "I plan to finish my career in [this city,]" is he lying when something happens that makes that an inaccurate claim, or did he say it in such a way as to allow himself an escape clause?

When a politician says that they are firmly opposed to a certain act or bill or policy and then wind up in line, did they lie or did they simply change their mind?

These are all questions that we'll be left with indefinitely, but where I get really upset is when someone says something on camera or on the record, then claims a short time later that he/she never said that, OK, that's outright lying.

But in our current environment, only certain people are called to task about their dishonesty.  It's my understanding that the current administration has been found to have made misleading or dishonest statements over 3,000 false or misleading statements since beginning their term in January 2017.

Think about that for a minute.

How in the world can we emphasize honesty above all in our children (and more importantly ourselves) when the leader of the free world (well, our government, anyway) is guilty of that.  This man has long touted the value of lying as a strategy in negotiations.

I always remind myself that I'm not in some senior management position with a large corporation largely because I'm not willing to play games with the truth.  That may be the case, but at least I can look myself in the mirror.

Rant over.  Please enjoy your week!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Transitions

Good morning, friends.  Back to work today after a wonderful stay-cation wherein our daughter and her family came home to Kentucky for a weeklong visit!

While they were here they were working on a couple of things that required some followup and it occurred to me that they and a good number of others whom I know are in some sort of transition right now.  Here's a short list:


I have a good friend who's getting married in about a month, and it's his first marriage (and he's 48!).

Our daughter and her husband are selling their current house and buying a larger one, with all of the bustle and activity associated with that process.

Our son is wrapping up summer term of his night law school classes and begins his third year of study in a few weeks.

My mother-in-law just relocated from my brother-in-law's basement apartment into an assisted living community.

A friend and business contact just left her job here in Lexington to return to her home area in western Kentucky and started a completely different job with a company there.

Another friend whose oldest child started college a couple of hours from home last fall now has her middle child starting military service today.


As someone once said, life moves pretty fast, and if you don't pay attention, you could miss it.  How true, but even more so when so much is happening in a compressed period of time.

I'd like to stay and add more to this post, but, as I mentioned, I'm transitioning back to work today!






Monday, June 11, 2018

Meet and greet

It's Monday here in Steam City, otherwise known as Lexington.  It's not even summer yet, and the weather here is already chronically humid and uncomfortable.  At least we're getting rain every few days to keep grass and plants healthy....

Had a couple of experiences last week that were worth noting.  Both involve meeting people, but in different contexts.

The first was a complete surprise to me, as I got to visit with a former roommate, the last one I had before getting married, for the first time in better than ten years!

He contacted me via LinkedIn to say that he was in town for a few days and asked if I'd be available to meet.  It turned out that I had some morning time free last Thursday, so we agreed to meet for coffee that morning.

Here's a little background.  This guy had always wanted to live in Florida, and after I got married, he made good on that intention and moved to the Orlando area, if my memory is clear.  I heard from him occasionally (remember, this was before e-mail or text messages made staying in touch from a distance so much easier) and all seemed to be well.

Then, out of the blue, he called to say that he was a) moving back to Lexington and b) marrying an old girlfriend.  Both surprising, but his call was to ask me if I would be one of his groomsmen, and I readily agreed.

We still didn't see each other frequently, though, by that time, he was working for a local office of a national bank and handled a loan refinance for us.  Then he communicated to me that he had accepted an offer to transfer to a new loan center being started in Houston, and was relocating with his wife to that area.

Next time I saw him was probably 2007 or 2008, as I had a business trip that was going to take me through Houston, so we arranged to meet for lunch and had a great visit.  We would trade messages once in a while, I routinely checked on him and his family following the hurricanes that affected the Houston area, and exchanged Christmas cards annually.

But last Thursday was the first time in so long that I'd seen him in Lexington.  And, as he said to me, our visit almost resumed in mid-conversation, picking up where we'd left off.  His kids are now teens, with one in college, and I now have five grandchildren, so our frames of reference are quite different than they were way back when.

He had traveled here alone to see family, so was heading back the day after we saw each other.  Great visit.

The other meeting was quite different.  There's a person whom I have followed on Twitter for quite a while who's as much a fan of the Cincinnati Reds as I am.  She follows me as well, and through a series of coincidental messages, we determined we would both be at Great American Ball Park for a Reds game on Saturday, so we agreed to meet.  My son and I made it to the area where she and her party were sitting, and we had a ten or fifteen minute visit and conversation.  She is exactly the same in direct conversation as she is online, which is pretty refreshing.

I don't make a point of meeting people with whom my initial contact is online very often, but this was certainly worth a little effort to go and say hello!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

On the go

Happy Thursday to all.  Or, as I've been calling it, short-work-week Tuesday.

This is my second consecutive three-day work week, which is great in some ways but challenging in others, namely in the area of scheduling appointments and such.  Now that I'm just about to get back to normal I'll have another week off after Father's Day!

Those of you who have been visiting this space regularly will remember that in a past professional life, I used to travel by air.  A lot.  Like in three weeks out of five each month.

And I frequently documented my experiences here, because, well, who else was I going to tell about interesting things that happened?

So my air travel is much less frequent these days.  For my current job I've traveled by air a total of three times--once for orientation, and two more times for meetings.  But leisure air travel has become much less common for me, largely because I don't rack up frequent flier miles that can (allegedly) pay for personal flights!

We had occasion to travel to Colorado, where our daughter and her family have resided for some years.  Our grandson had his first Holy Communion on Saturday, and we knew well in advance of the date of this occasion.  So for some weeks I tracked various flight options for price and availability, and finally settled on a set of flights out of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport on Delta Airlines.

Worth noting that this airport actually is in Kentucky, which is a point of amusement for many folks who visit this part of the world only occasionally.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that this was by far the smoothest trip I've encountered in a long time.  We elected to take one large bag, rather than two smaller ones and attempt to carry them onto the plane.  The bag wound up being slightly overweight, but the friendly Delta counter agent in Cincinnati sort of waved off any concern about extra charges, and we headed off to security, with me virtually empty-handed for the first time in forever.

And we scored the TSA PreChek status on this trip in both directions, which saves loads of time in the security line.  No need to produce liquids or remove shoes, although I did have to empty my pockets.  Very nice indeed.

We got to the gate with a good (but not too long) amount of time to spare, and boarded at the designated time.  The seats we selected were toward the back of the plane, but since we had to wait for our bag to get to baggage claim, that wasn't really a problem.  And I chose the same seats on both flights, on the side with only two seats and with limited recline.  Most don't want seats that don't recline, but neither my wife and I find a reclined airplane seat to be very comfortable.

Flights in both directions departed on time, there was virtually no turbulence, landed early and our bag was where it was supposed to be by the time we got to the claim area.

I know, I'm still a little stunned that it worked out that way!

So I'll give Delta a good endorsement here.  I've flown them all three times I've traveled for my current job and now this trip.  Always preferred that airline, but this renewed my good feelings about their service.

For now it's back to auto travel, like today I have to head west about an hour for business.  Saturday my son and I are due to travel north to see the Cincinnati Reds in action.  My first game this year, so I'm pretty excited!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sorry/not sorry

Good Wednesday morning to all.  And, yes, I almost wrote "Tuesday" there, given my general confusion about what day it is.

I love a long weekend, but, wow, do we all pay for those when we have them!  On top of that, I'm going to take a few days off work starting Friday, so I expect to continue to be a little off my game for a few days!

Unless you've been without access to news, you know that comedian and television actress Roseanne Barr learned yesterday that, yes, bad jokes and satirical comments that go too far can and do have consequences.  I won't replay the blow-by-blow timeline of it here, but since her revived television show is aired on ABC, a network owned by the family-friendly Walt Disney Company, the final result was, in my mind, inevitable.

Supposedly since making the comments on Twitter that started all of this, Barr apologized in what appeared to be a "you'd better get online to issue an apology" apology that seemed somewhat insincere.  She has since apologized further, and finally acknowledged that her thoughtless actions cost quite a few people who worked on her show their jobs.

I told my wife that every time something like this happens within a Disney-controlled network or property that Walt Disney turns in his grave, or something to that effect.  And I truly believe that, that Disney so carefully cultivated an image of family and purveying what's best for family consumption that he would have taken the very action that ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey did.

But let's think about some other famous folk who were caught doing something they shouldn't have, apologized and got to retain their positions.  Or didn't ever apologize and got away with it.

If you'll recall, recently Fox News and conservative pundit Laura Ingraham was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, as she said some snarky things about one of the more visible survivors of the Parkland school shootings.  She lost many of her program's advertisers, issued a lukewarm apology, but ultimately Fox News retained her and her program is still on the air each weeknight.

Most everyone who's been swept up in the #MeToo movement and its aftermath has issued an apology of one form or another.  Many lost their jobs and won't get them back, like NBC's Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose, formerly of CBS and PBS.  Others are defiant, like Harvey Weinstein, who was just indicted last week on charges related to some of his past conduct.

This happens to athletes pretty commonly, as they are not camera-ready performers in many cases, and say things in interviews that they shouldn't.  The good ones simply apologize, knowing they're in the wrong, and the lesser ones generally claim they were misquoted and try to move on.

Starbucks has apologized extensively for what happened to two black men in Philadelphia recently, in which they were awaiting the arrival of a friend, denied the use of the restroom and ultimately were asked by police officers who were summoned to the scene why they wouldn't leave.  Starbucks took the additional step yesterday by closing their approximately 8,000 stores to conduct racial bias training for all of its associates.  I'd say that constitutes a proper response to a mistake, but that's just the start.

Then there's Donald Trump.  As several people more famous and widely read than I have already pointed out, Trump championed the "birther" movement, in which he claimed not only that former President Barack Obama wasn't born in this country, but that Trump had proof of it.  This continued for quite a while, and all the while Trump was the star and host of the NBC reality show "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."  Some have offered the opinion that if NBC had held Trump to a standard of conduct requiring him to not only cease and desist but also to apologize or face losing his spot on this program that he might not have persisted so long with these claims, and might not have used it as a springboard into the political world.

That's something we'll never know.