New Shoes in the Rain

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And so this is Christmas

Merry Christmas, albeit belatedly, to all.  I hope that you were able to enjoy some special time with family and friends during this most festive of seasons.

I love Christmas, always have, but I believe I love it more now that I'm older.  It's especially rewarding with grandchildren in the family, as the wonder and amazement that the Christmas season holds for little ones is unmatched.

I think I gained a greater appreciation for Christmas once I became a parent, or, more correctly, stepparent, which happened virtually simultaneously with my marriage almost 27 years ago.  Once you have others for whom you'll be the primary giver of gifts, it all changes.  And so much for the better!

So we had a wonderful Christmas in our family.  We traveled to Colorado to see our daughter and her family (our granddaughter there is approaching celebrity status, having performed for the second consecutive year in the local production of "The Nutcracker" AND played in a mini piano recital at a local hospital), so we got to see the four of them, and then were able to spend time over the last few days with our son and his gang.  We see them often, since they're in our local area, but it's just more special now.

We also were able to make time to see "The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey," the first of three films based on the Tolkien book.  Very entertaining if you like that sort of thing (and I know that everyone does not).  I can honestly say, though, that I won't be going to see "Les Miserables" (don't like musical theater) or "Django Unchained" (director Quentin Tarantino is WAY overrated and it's far too violent), but still want to see "Lincoln" and Tom Cruise's latest action pic, "Jack Reacher."  Incidentally, in Hollywood tradition, 5'7" Cruise is playing a title character who as written was 6'5".

I can honestly say that I haven't been in a mall in some time.  Not since the day of the eight or nine school buses at our local mall, wherein a school system from a neighboring county apparently rewarded a large group of students by bussing them all to Lexington for lunch in the mall food court.  My wife ultimately went in to pick up three things, while I stayed with the car.  Teachers had to actually assist her in walking through the food court throng to the exit.

I'm also looking forward to going back to Target, since that's another store I've avoided since, oh, about the middle of November.  Busy, busy, busy!  I haven't seen any figures for how the country's retailers did this holiday season, but if our home area is any indication, they did pretty well.

Despite all of this frivolity, I'm reaching the point where it depresses me to read the news, as it seems since Sandy Hook there have been so many more instances where people with weapons have been using them on unsuspecting shoppers, law enforcement and firefighting personnel and others.  Let's think about all of those who've been affected by such tragedy, as most of us have already.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the (St.) Nick of time

Greetings, friends.....just back from a brief trip to Colorado to visit our daughter and her family.  And apparently we got out just in time, as there was a blizzard warning for the Denver area Tuesday night.  Sometimes, advance planning works out just fine!

Our granddaughter (our daughter's oldest) appeared in a local production of "The Nutcracker" again this year, which was the centerpiece of our visit.  And she also played a song from the same ballet as part of a piano recital, so you'll forgive me if THAT SONG is coming through this post and you're hearing it, as I am.

Colorado weather is pretty amazing.  It's very cold there this morning, I'm sure because of the snow that came overnight.  But tomorrow it should be back in the upper 40s.  And with their characteristic low humidity, snow doesn't last very long, at least not like it does when it becomes cold enough to snow here in Kentucky.

But we had a good visit, albeit dampened a bit by Friday's events in Newtown, Connecticut.  I was very glad to be with two of my grandchildren that day, and was thinking of the other two pretty continually throughout the weekend.  Such a shame for this to happen.......again.  We can only hope that those in charge can do something to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Ready to slide off of the "fiscal cliff?"  Looks like that's where we're headed.  Hope it's not a long way down.  And honestly, who looks like the problem here?

We've finished our shopping (I think), so now what's left for us to do is wrap all of the goodies for our family and friends.  I'm taking more time off from work (good time to do it, as there's not much happening right now) starting Saturday all the way through January 1.  Looking forward to a slower pace for a while!

So, if you haven't already, deck those halls and get into the Christmas spirit!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Back among the normal

Good morning, one and all....pleased to be here with the strength to write a little something, as I am just about out from under a very nasty infection that has laid me low in recent days....

I returned from what was for me a quick one night business trip the week after Thanksgiving.  Not far, no time changes, only two flights in each direction.  Simple trip.  Returned to Lexington on that Wednesday night.  By Thursday night I was coughing pretty steadily, and by Friday I felt that I had a full-blown case of the flu.  Know that feeling you get when you feel kind of dizzy, kind of woozy, can't sit upright without feeling sick?  I had that.  Lack of energy?  Check.  Loss of appetite?  Uh-huh.

Suffered through three days of this, and finally began to feel a little better last Sunday night, only to relapse further on Monday night and Tuesday.  During this time my wife also began to feel bad, and I became concerned that I had used her toothbrush in my fog of disease and had made her sick (I still don't know if that happened, but she became sick as well).  Finally, on Wednesday we made our way to the doctor and were examined and treated together (but, of course, were charged individual co-payments).  Both of us were diagnosed with sinus infections and prescribed antibiotics of varying types.

So as I write this I feel MUCH better, but, my God, I ought to, given what I've been through.  I'm feeling just a little dizzy writing this.

Enough of that.  Onward and upward, I say.

Kentucky's got a new football coach, from the coaching Stoops family (Mark is our new coach).  He's already hard at work assembling a staff of assistants and recruiting players.  I cannot remember interest in UK football ever being this high in December on the heels of a 2-10 season.

Many of those who care about Kentucky sports are concerned about Kentucky's basketball team.  Don't be.  They're young, they're underachieving, compared to recent years' teams, but they'll develop if they're meant to.  And, if they don't, well, there are more great players on their way into the program next year.   Coach John Calipari is fond of saying that often he has to convince his young charges that they don't "poop ice cream," to paraphrase his pet phrase.  Suppose the current team now knows this.

Don't look now, but the Denver Broncos are 10-3 and have clinched their division.  That Manning fellow may work out all right after all of those injuries.

Saw that the Cincinnati Reds came to the winter meetings in Nashville and left without completing a single deal.  They did the same last year and then proceeded to make four deals after leaving those meetings, propelling them to the division championship.  I wouldn't assume that nothing's going on.

Are you worried about the fiscal cliff?  In my estimation it's yet another political card game in which others are playing with our money, whether it's current or future money.  Hope they work this out before they break our economy.

I'm taking a considerable (for me) amount of time off around the holidays, and already the list of movies that I want to see is beginning to mount up.  We saw "Skyfall," the latest James Bond picture, when it came out in November, but have yet to see "Lincoln" and "The Hobbit" comes out this week.  I expect there'll be more, which is fine by me.

Better get to work.  I only have a few more days to do this this year!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This and that

Greetings, one and all....thanks for stopping by.  Just a few stray thoughts to capture before getting into the work day.

Just back from a quick-turnaround trip to the northern Virginia area, where I saw an airport, a hotel, and a shuttle van.  When I say "quick," I really mean it!  Actually, my sole purpose for traveling there was to interview a candidate for a position on my sales team, so the trip was useful for that purpose.  With a little luck that was my last overnight business trip of 2012.  Cross your fingers.

During my travels, as so often happens, I noticed one or two things of interest.  First, in the Atlanta airport the PA system is playing very traditional Christmas music.   I have to confess to being a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to holiday tunes.  Not that contemporary singers don't have something to say by reinterpreting "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" but there are older versions, most likely those  that I grew up hearing, that I like better.  It gave me the greatest delight to note to hear Bing Crosby singing for hurrying airline passengers in Atlanta yesterday.

Also, I don't know if it's me, or people are channeling their inner Alec Baldwin, but lately I've noticed a  growing number of passengers on airplanes who simply disregard all of the requests (and eventually demands) to discontinue the use of electronic devices after the plane's boarding door has closed, or after  falling below the requisite altitude.  Case in point:  guy sitting in my row yesterday plugged his headphones into his iPhone before the boarding door closed, and was clearly listening to music because   HE WAS SINGING ALONG, albeit softly.  This continued all the way through until we were preparing for landing (actually, the service crew was preparing....I don't think "we" were) and a flight attendant stopped by to ask if he was "logged off."  He asked her to repeat her question, then, honest to God, actually said "Why?"  Guy knew what he was doing, obviously, and grumbled noticeably when he powered off his phone.  I suppose if you get away with it often enough that you come to think that you can ALWAYS get away with it!

Mitt Romney is to be President Obama's guest for lunch at the White House today.  Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall to hear that conversation?

Did you buy Powerball tickets this week?  We did, only do so every year or so, when the jackpots are so absurdly large that you almost have to buy them, but we were again losers.  Voltaire once wrote that lotteries are a tax on stupidity, and given the astronomical odds of winning, perhaps he was right.  But yet two people apparently bought winning tickets, so I suppose they're smart and the rest of us aren't.  In conjunction with the publicity surrounding this jackpot there were a lot of articles here and there about how winning the lottery has ruined many people's lives.  Somehow I don't think I'd mind finding out firsthand whether this is true.

My wife and I got our house decorated for Christmas last weekend, finishing up Monday night.  Gradual and painless process, but important in our family to have this completed to enjoy for the month of December.  So we're ahead of schedule due to Thanksgiving being early this year.

Speaking of which, our son borrowed a friend's Weber Smokey Mountain smoker and prepared a wonderful smoked turkey to enjoy on Thanksgiving this year.  I highly recommend this, as there's just nothing better than well-smoked meat.

I've leave you with a thought about managing one's e-mail, particularly work-related e-mail.  Google the phrase "inbox zero" and you'll find some very interesting information about how to handle incoming messages.  Turns out I've been doing this right for a while, so I'll continue to pat myself on the back while you research this.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They sure don't make them like they used to

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving, one and all.  Hope you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.

The recent news that Hostess is probably going to liquidate its operations, meaning no more Twinkies, HoHos and Ding Dongs (and, no, I was NEVER willing to call them "King Dons") made me start thinking about things that endure versus things that don't.  Let's start with luggage and briefcases, in a generalized way.  When I was a kid I remember my dad used to travel overnight once in while and would use a medium-brown faux-leather suitcase.  You remember these, semi-hard sides, double clasps, the stiff cloth dividers with the turnbuckle closures.  I happened into a shop recently that sells antiques and vintage items (hard to tell the difference, frankly) and saw a couple of suitcases that looked eerily similar.  And he used an attorney-style brief bag, which he always called his "grip," for work papers and such.  Both appearsed to be made of iron or something similar, as I never remember any difficulties with these bags' durability or functionality.

Fast forward to today, and what I use for my business travels are a Briggs and Riley rolling suitcase and a Tony Perotti TSA-approved leather laptop bag.  Both are suitable but have not been as good as I had hoped.  The suitcase, which Briggs and Riley claims to proudly warranty for as long as I own it (no questions asked, they say), has required repairs FOUR times in the slightly more than four years I've owned it.  Most of the problems have been with stitching that has come undone where the lining meets the frame of the bag.  Nagging but irritating problem.  On the last such occasion, I contacted Briggs and Riley and was told that I would again have to pay for shipping and insurance BOTH WAYS in order for Briggs to repair my bag at their own expense.  Some warranty.  When this bag finally gives up the ghost, which I expect will happen during the next twelve months of typically heavy business travel, I likely won't be replacing it with another Briggs bag.

And the briefcase, which is a very handsome honey color, began splitting along one of the bottom seams less than six months after I began using it.  Since the bag carried a one year warranty, I first contacted the dealer from whom I purchased it, and was told that warranty issues are between me and the manufacturer, which made sense.  So I then contacted Tony Perotti (the company) and was told that if I was willing to ship the bag to them at my expense they'd examine it and then would let me know IF they would stand behind their product and either repair the defective area or replace the bag.  I argued, logically (I thought), that they should at least pay for the shipping, since this was within the warranty period.  No, I was told, not company policy.  And they would not guarantee that they would stand good for repair or replacement, either, and I would be asked to provide a credit card number so that they could charge me with the return shipping costs.  So I took the bag to a local leather shop, who has now repaired this split twice and I've done so a third time.  Not acceptable, so I'm in the market for a good leather briefcase that will accommodate my various travel essentials, with Tony Perotti now off my list of possibles.

Here's another one that we don't think about all that often....vacuum cleaners.  When I met my wife, she was using a Kirby upright vacuum.  If you don't remember these, they were great vacuums in their day, looked like an antique but really did a nice job cleaning the carpet.  Heavy duty and built to last, they were sold door-to-door, which I suppose isn't done anymore.  When we finally realized it was worn out we explored the possibility of buying another, and were stunned to learn that a replacement would be well over $1000, and that parts were becoming rarer all of the time (if anyone knows differently, please let me know, just for curiosity's sake).

So we bought a Hoover WindTunnel.  Then another.  Then a Sears model that was made by Panasonic.  Those three lasted a total of about seven years.  Out of frustration we agreed to spend more in hopes of finding something that would work and that would last, and wound up spending quite a bit for a Miele cannister vacuum from Germany.  That was over five years ago, and all we've done to this vacuum is change the bags periodically and the filters once.  That's it.

I could go on (as I tend to do) but I think you get the gist of my remarks.  And this applies to shoes, clothing, lawn equipment, furniture, and lots of other things we use regularly in our lives.

I swear that a manufacturer of anything could do very well, if only they'd do these things:

Make the product easy to use, yet durable and functional
Stand behind that product in the event that something goes wrong with it
Act as though you care about the customer who buys your product, instead of planning obsolescence

Now, is that really asking too much?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The usual

Morning, all....hope the week is breezing by for you.

Now that the election is over and most people have moved on (save for those pesky yard signs that won't seem to go away), I suppose things are getting back to normal.

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK?  Me, either.  That one slipped up on me rather unobtrusively.

My wife and I had a very nice weekend trip last weekend, with one of the highlights being our viewing of the newest James Bond picture, "Skyfall."  I won't spoil it for any of you who might be planning to see it, but suffice it to say that we liked this movie VERY much.

Our primary purpose with our trip was to kickstart our Christmas shopping.  We've relied on this technique numerous times in the past, finding that if we were out of town we could focus better on the task at hand, and we've had success with this approach.  This trip was no different, as we made a significant impact on our basic lists.

There was one disappointment in our shopping.....Christmas cards.  As I mentioned in my last post, we still send about three dozen cards to various relatives and friends, and will continue to do so until the U.S. Postal Service finally gives up the ghost, I suppose.  But finding GOOD Christmas cards is a lot harder than it used to be, as we looked in several places and had no success.  Finally found some we liked at a bookstore here in Lexington Monday night.

I know what you're thinking....he's already working on Christmas cards?  Quick answer is "no," with a caveat:  as much as I travel, I need to make sure that the cards are here when I am ready to proceed with that project, so now I can rest easy because we have what we need.  Still have to write the ubiquitous Christmas letter, though.

So I've managed not to travel overnight for business last week and this week, and have a single night away next week (and my wife will accompany me, as it's a car trip).  I suppose there's balance there.

I don't know about you, but this whole scenario involving the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus gets stranger by the day.  Makes me feel pretty damned normal, in a strange way.

So far my Reds have been just about shut out of the postseason awards, with only rookie infielder Todd Frazier claiming the top rookie award (as determined by players and coaches, I think) and outfielder Jay Bruce winning a Silver Slugger award.  No Gold Gloves, no Rookie of the Year (different award than that noted above), no Cy Young, no Manager of the Year.  I'd like to meet the hacks who vote on these things.

And the Kentucky Wildcats have begun their "real" basketball season, having beaten Maryland in Brooklyn last Friday night, and losing to Duke last night in Atlanta.  They're a really young team, and this kind of inconsistency is what happens to a young team, I think.  I'd think they'll be fine come March, when things really count.

On that same subject, it was my understanding in promotional information that Bobby Knight (no, I won't call him "Bob") was supposed to have been on the ESPN broadcast team for the UK-Duke contest last night, along with the estimable Dan Shulman and the frenetic Dick Vitale.  The game started, no Knight, although he had called the first game of two from Atlanta with Shulman and Jay Bilas.  No explanation on that, though I did read in the comments section of a blog that while Knight wouldn't even utter the word "Kentucky" last season until ESPN management required that he do so, he did say it last night during pregame discussions but wouldn't say the name of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, referring only to the "Kentucky coaches."  I've never been a fan of bitter old men, but in Knight's case, it's worse, as he's been a drain on college basketball for well over thirty years.

That's enough for now, lest I be accused of becoming what I complained about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moving on

Good afternoon.....hope that you were able to take the time to vote yesterday, regardless of who you supported.  As I get older I feel it's extremely important to exercise our rights as citizens, plus there's the old adage that "you can't really complain if you don't vote."  So there's that, too.

I have to say that I was very invested in the outcome of the election, but now it's over and the folks who were chosen by our cities, counties, districts, states and country can get ready to get to work.  So the rest of us should move forward with, well, whatever.

Thanksgiving is TWO WEEKS from tomorrow.  Boy, talk about something sneaking up on you!  I don't think we yet know where we'll celebrate or with whom, but I'm looking forward to a few days off.

And, of course, following Thanksgiving is the invevitable rush to Christmas and New Year's.  I can say with sincerity and honesty that we're NOT READY.  My wife and I were debating whether or not we had bought Christmas cards last year (they're always cheaper after the holidays, on clearance), and after exploring a few logical storage and hiding places, I have to conclude that, no, we didn't buy cards.  So that's job one for the holidays.

I think I commented here last year that we get fewer and fewer cards from people each year, and I think Facebook and other forms of social media are at the heart of it.  Used to be that the only news we'd get from some people was in the form of a Christmas card, but now people tend to spill their lives onto Facebook or elsewhere and it's generally assumed that those who need to know about things already do.  Call me old-fashioned, but neither my wife nor I have seen the wisdom or value in using Facebook to any extent.  So if you've been getting cards from us, you probably will again this year, whether you sent us one or not.

So there.

Christmas shopping will be a little different this year, too, as we're planning an eventual all-family vacation (us, our kids their families), so I expect that we'll be making vacation fund contributions this year in place of some of the usual gifts and such.

And then, before we know it, it will be 2013.  Wow.

Well, it now appears I have too much to do to continue.  Until next time......

Monday, October 29, 2012

Near the end

Happy Monday, one and all.  Lots to mention this morning....

Let's start with Halloween, one of the odder holidays we celebrate.  And so many safety concerns have robbed kids of the fun I remember having going trick-or-treating when I was a kid.  My most vivid memory was of making a "run" on my home street, coming back to the house to drop off my loot for the night, then embarking on a more ambitious route through a neighboring (and larger) subdivision, going alone (my older brother was a killjoy on these kinds of things) and returning home with such a large load of candy and other goodies that I could hardly carry it!

And what I also remember was my dad used to say, "Let me put all of that into a big bowl so that we can check it to make sure it's OK."  And he would then systematically put aside those items he knew that he liked that we did not.  Only time of year I ever saw him eat candy!

So if you have a little one in your household, make sure they get to dress up and have some good, safe Halloween fun!

Now, on with today's rant....

This is week seven of my seven-consecutive-weeks-of-overnight-business-travel that I've been raging about for a while.  So I'm happy about that, and will be visiting familiar terrain where I know what's available for dining and other options, and I like that, too.  But I had to pass up two local lunch invites, so hopefully I can postpone for next week.

And next week is Election Day, and I don't know what it's been like in your home area, but with all of the hyper-negative advertising that has almost nothing to do with what voters care about, I'll be very glad when all of this is over.  I have even seen attack ads associated with a local city council race, if you can believe it.  Never thought it would come to that.  I suppose we don't need to wonder anymore why the "good" people decline to run for office.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, world champions of baseball for the second time in three seasons.  They finished off the Detroit Tigers (congrats to them, too) in four consecutive games last night in cold Detroit.  Worth noting that they won three straight to beat my Cincinnati Reds in the divisional playoff round, then came off the mat against the St. Louis Cardinals to win the last three of their league championship series and THEN four in a row against the Tigers in the Fall Classic.  Pretty good going to win seven straight postseason games!

Not so for the Kentucky football Wildcats, who are now 1-8 on the season due to youth, injury, ineffectiveness on both sides of the ball, you name it.  They traveled to Columbia, Missouri for a beatdown Saturday by the Missouri Tigers (I know, how can the University of MISSOURI be in the Southeastern Conference?).  Season cannot end quickly enough, and we can then get on with defending our national basketball championship.

Speaking of that, check out "All Access: Kentucky" on one of the seventeen ESPN channels (it runs on various outlets of the Worldwide Leader in Sports throughout each week).  It's a rather interesting inside look at Kentucky's basketball team and coaches, particularly head coach John Calipari.  I don't know how much of it's contrived, but it's good viewing if you even remotely care about college athletics.

I'll close by being serious.  If you live along the eastern seaboard, or have family or friends who do, I sincerely hope that they do not suffer ill effects from Hurricane Sandy, which is bearing down on New Jersey as I write this.  Be safe, everyone.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The long run

Top of the morning, friends....still stinging from the Reds' recent playoff collapse, but we march on, because we must!

I'm in week six of seven consecutive travel weeks.  A rarity for me these days, as I am normally able to control my schedule a little better than that.  But this week is a one-night affair, so I'm heartened by that and the light at the end of next week's travel tunnel as well!

I mentioned the Reds above, and I must add to that comment that I really get a bang out of watching anyone beat up on the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds' mortal enemies.  Extra gratifying that they're now forced to a game 7 in their championship series by the very team who stole Reds' fans World Series dreams....ladies and gentlemen, the San Francisco Giants!

In much the same manner as when they won the whole thing two years ago, the Giants collected some key players down the stretch to strengthen their team and surge ahead in their division.  Good group of players, with unlikely heroes in most of their wins.  And lots of pitching, the sure cure for any problems in today's baseball.

Pitchers, or, more correctly, quarterbacks, would surely help Kentucky football.  They cannot seem to keep a quarterback on the field, as their latest starter had to sit for a time Saturday night with "migraine-like symptoms."  OK, I'm no doctor, but you either have a migraine headache or not.  I work with and for nurses, and have for years, and am still amazed by how many people will talk about their migraine headaches as though they're commonplace and over in an hour.  I've known migraine sufferers, and it's a very debilitating condition for those so afflicted.

I was flipping around the television dial yesterday morning and happened upon a show on a music channel (not MTV) and they were featuring Jeff Lynne, the creative force behind the Electric Light Orchestra.  If you don't remember them, I'd bet that you would recognize ten or more of their songs if they were played for you, and if you're over forty.  The guy is a veritable renaissance man, not only for his ELO work, but also for having produced albums by the Beatles (he did the "new" tracks on their Anthology albums), George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and a number of others, and was a member of the Traveling Wilburys group.  I knew this, but it's funny how artists of all types can drop out of our field of vision for a time.  Anyway, he's gone back and remastered and recrafted all of the great ELO hit songs (I'm listening to it now), as well as to record another solo record (and I believe this means a TRUE solo record, where he plays and sings everything) of old standards.  He did this once before (the previous release was called "Armchair Theatre," I think) and he mentioned in the liner notes that they were "songs me mum loved."  Check it out if so inclined on your favorite online music source.

Wow, it's almost Halloween.  Since I'll be traveling next week during the occasion, I believe my costume will be "weary business traveler."  You can pick up the outfit at any major airport.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The thrill of victory, and, well, you know

Good morning, friends.  Sorry I haven't stopped by in a while, but, well, I've been kinda busy.

A little of it, like yesterday, is the self-inflicted variety, but most of it has been work related, where I've been traveling pretty frequently these last several weeks, and it looks like a week of respite that I had looked forward to is now gone.  So I've been gone at least a night for the past four weeks, and still have three more consecutive weeks of two-nights-or-more-per-week to go before I can back off a bit.

Let me first address the utter collapse of my Cincinnati Reds in the recently completed National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.  In a one-time scheduling quirk the Reds, who had the second best record in all of major league baseball this year, began their best-of-five series with the San Francisco Giants in the Giants' home park for two games....and won both.  This occurred despite the time difference, the opposition's home field advantage, and the loss of their ace pitcher, Johnny Cueto, to injury one batter into the first game of the series.

So the Reds and Giants moved the action to Cincinnati for game 3, with the Reds holding a 2-0 lead, and then the Reds did something they've not done all year.  They lost three consecutive home games.

Each game was different, the Reds had chances to win all of them.  But they didn't, and after a season where the team had found a way to come back from deficits and win so frequently, this was the real shock to me.  There were other factors, in addition to Cueto's injury that I referenced above, but none of those matter.  The mighty (well, this year, anyway) Reds were eliminated from postseason play on Thursday.

Well, there's always next year, as I told my son.  That's the beauty of baseball.  We can always look ahead to next year.  Or, as the late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote, "Baseball is designed to break your heart."

Color me heartbroken.

But I do have a great and funny baseball story to share from my trip last week.  On my way to a conference in North Carolina, I flew out of Lexington and connected in (surprise!) Atlanta to get to my destination.  So I decided to have lunch in the Atlanta airport in the concourse from which my second flight would depart.  I'm standing at a food stand, waiting for my order to be filled, when a man wearing a Washington Nationals baseball jacket walks over, smiles, and in very heavily accented English asks if I'm the father of a man whose photograph he shows me on his phone.  The man who approached me was Latino and so was the man whose photo was shown to me, so I chuckled and simply replied, "Not that I know of."  He grinned, patted me on the shoulder and thanked me.  I glanced to my left and he, the photo subject and two women were sitting together all laughing and kind of pointing in my direction.

Then the two men walked over toward me together (good thing it took a while for my food to be prepared) and the first man explained that the second, who was in the photo, wanted to meet me because we looked so much alike.  I didn't see so much resemblance, but they both did, and the other fellow was wearing a Nationals jacket, too.  So the first man asked if I would pose for a picture, and I readily agreed.  He asked me once more if I were the younger man's father or uncle, and I laughed, saying that maybe we're cousins.  Then the first man produced a business card, and I then saw why he and his associate were wearing Washington Nationals jackets--he's the director of baseball scouting for the Nationals for Venezuela.  Both shook my hand and because I was wearing a Reds shirt we wished each other good luck.

Ironically, the Nationals lost their series in rather disappointing fashion, too, but I sent this fellow an e-mail and he responded last night.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Greetings, all.  Back from yet another business trip, albeit a brief one this week, after being gone for four days last week.  Nothing in particular on my mind today, just a few random observations (what else?) to share.

I don't often supply links to anything but a former colleague sent this to me, and if you are now or have ever been part of a sales organization, you'll find this amusing:

I've also found it a little amusing to see, hear and read all of the advance analysis of the first Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney tonight.  Why, you would think it's the Super Bowl or something!

I think the NFL is glad to have its "professional" on-field officials back on the job, particularly after having replacement officials make a mess of countless games and directly influence (albeit unintentionally) the outcome of several of them.  Goes to show what a friend who used to officiate various sports used to tell me---the worst thing for an official is to be noticed.  Right on the money.

Baseball is drawing to a close, at least for the regular season.  My Reds are playing for a top seed tonight, which will give them home field advantage in the first two rounds of the National League playoffs.  That is, if they survive the first round.  It's baseball, after all, and anything can and will happen.  Old salts like Reds manager Dusty Baker (who is back on the job after a bout with an irregular  heartbeat and subsequent mini-stroke, so here's hoping he's feeling good) often say that players perform as the backs of their baseball cards (their career statistics) say, but that's over a long season, not a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.

Speaking of this, I gained the opportunity to buy tickets to the Championship Series, so I'm all set if the Reds get through round one.  Bought tickets to several games, with the intent of selling those that I cannot attend.  After all, this doesn't happen very often!

Read somewhere that recently the compact disc celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, and, in the article, people were talking about when are where they were when they bought their first, and what it was.  For my part, that's an idiotic subject, because I was so backward I didn't start buying CDs until 2003, when I bought my first car with a CD player installed.  And if you recall an earlier discussion on this, I still had records until just a few years ago.

That said, I honestly don't know how one finds out about new albums from their old favorites these days, if they're not consistent buyers of new stuff.  Could not tell you the last time I perused the music aisles at Best Buy, for example.  Satellite radio helps, but if my favorites aren't played much there, how would I know?

Suppose there are bigger and better things to worry about, so I'll get busy now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What's the good word?

I come before you today as someone who enjoys full and (hopefully) appropriate use of the English language.  I enjoy a well-written book, article, or, given that I work in corporate America, even a well-written e-mail.  I catch myself thinking or occasionally even saying "good word use" in response to something that I might see in print or hear on television or among folks I encounter in my travels.

That said, something I don't especially enjoy is how certain words or phrases appear to be overused in our current cultural lexicon, whether by celebrities, reporters and commentators, sports broadcasters, or the general public.   I'm sure that I fall in love with a "new" catch word or phrase regularly, and substitute something new for that "new" word or phrase just as frequently.  Here, then, are some of my current pet peeves in the area of linguistics:


There must be something about a certain age range utilizing that word all too often, as it seems I hear that most frequently from my thirty-something kids and others around that age.  I hear of people, foods, cars, purses, movies, carpet, electronic devices and all manner of things.  I guess I'm just not that readily amazed, but I find the overfrequent use of that word to be a bit tiresome.


This appears to be a word that was almost invented, as I don't recall ever seeing it, until somewhere in the past few months, it sprang up all over the Internet.  In my experience it's mostly used by folks describing something akin to a storyline, or, as I found on Wikipedia, "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."  Don't feel bad, I had to look it up, too.


Actually, there's no such word that I can find.  I had the misfortune of working for a man many years ago who was not nearly as intelligent or cultured as he would have had you believe.  And the most telling thing was his use--no, EXTENSIVE use--of this "word."  Here's Webster's online dictionary's take on this:

Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is thatthere is no such word. There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.

For the last several years I worked under a person who used this word sometimes, alongside other classics such as "flustrated," "me and ____," "stay ahead of the curve ball" and many others.  Joy.


If you like "Dilbert," as I do, you see certain words and phrases run into the ground on a regular basis.  Ditto the corporate environment.  Here are some of my favorite words and phrases from corporate-speak:

Low hanging fruit
Full transparency
Eat the frog (no, I'm not making that one up)
Circle back

I could keep going, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel (sorry, couldn't resist adding one more).

So if you read my comments in this space now or in the future and feel I'm drifting into this overuse territory I decry so, please call me out on it.  Really.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Duly noted

Here's a roundup of what's been floating through my brain for the last few hours/days/weeks.....

The Cincinnati Reds are 30 (THIRTY) games over .500 at this point in the season.  They enjoy their biggest lead in their division since 1995, and their "magic number" is eight.  This means that any combination of Reds wins and losses by the St. Louis Cardinals (their nearest competitor in the standings) will result in the Reds winnning the National League Central Division championship.  They may well have a Cy Young award winner among their pitching staff (Johnny Cueto) and the Rookie of the Year in the National League (Todd Frazier).  Good times, baby.

I recently considered adding a monitor to my home computer setup (I use a Macbook Air with a wireless external keyboard and mouse here at home and the Air alone when traveling), having played around with the same arrangement by temporarily setting up a small television as a monitor a while back.  I sold the TV but the monitor idea kind of stuck with me.  Then I read about laptop computer stands, which elevate the screen to eye level.  So I examined the possibilities and bought one, thinking that it would live up to its claim of reducing the strain on my neck and shoulders.  Turns out that the stand CAUSED more strain than it reduced, so that little guy (which was quite attractive and matched my Macbook Air) is heading back to Amazon today.

I was traveling by car back from Nashville late yesterday afternoon/early last evening, and stopped in a small town between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown for a quick bite at a McDonald's (stop it, I like McDonald's occasionally).  Noticed two things of interest:  1)  Some McDonald's units have now added calorie information to their menu boards.  Very helpful if you're conscious of same, but a little odd, when you consider that McDonald's wouldn't be your first choice when you're really watching those calories!  2)  It was a little unusual seeing an Amish family (at least I believe they were Amish) drive their horse-driven carriage into the parking lot, walk into the restaurant, order food and eat.  I'm not speaking negatively of the Amish, but since my understanding of their ways come largely from popular culture, I wasn't aware that they would frequent a fast-food establishment.

Who's running Mitt Romney's campaign, anyway, the Keystone Kops?  I know everyone isn't a supporter of President Obama, but whomever determined that Romney and his election efforts would benefit from his campaign's actions of the last 36 hours relative to the tragedy in Libya really didn't think things through.

I noticed online this morning that Jim Calhoun, the head basketball coach at Connecticut, is going to announce his retirement this morning.  It's my understanding that he's experienced multiple medical issues for the past few years, and he's probably reached an age where he just cannot keep up the pace necessary to be competitive.

And that brings me to one Billy Clyde Gillispie, former men's basketball coach at Kentucky and now (in name, anyway) the coach of same at Texas Tech.  Apparently scores of folks have complained about his treatment of players, coaches, adminstrative staff, media and probably the folks who sell the popcorn at the university's arena, too.  The guy had two very rough years at Kentucky and by all accounts here his problems were largely self-inflicted.  He's presently at the Mayo Clinic, allegedly, but it seems to me that he's hiding behind sick leave in order to avoid being fired.  Kind of like a kid claiming a stomachache to avoid taking a test for which he's unprepared.  Kind of sad, really.

During my trip to Nashville on Tuesday I happened to listen to a new channel's replay of the actual broadcasts of NBC's coverage of the events of September 11, 2001.  At first I was afraid I'd feel that I was being morbidly curious, but gradually was reminded of how well NBC (and all news outlets, really) gathered and disseminated information as they received it, working hard to separate fact from speculation, indicating what had been verified versus what was unconfirmed.  Impressive.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A whole bunch of nothing

Once again, no particular subject that I'm writing of today, just a variety of topics that have interested me lately.

I'm not watching every minute of the Republican and Democratic conventions, as I have a life and there's other stuff to do and watch and so forth.  But I have to say that the enthusiasm level appears to be higher at the Democratic function than at the Republican one, at least based on what I've seen.  I'm reminded of something John Lennon said at a Beatles performance for a royal charity many years ago (and I'm going to have to paraphrase this):  "For this next number, we ask for your help.  The folks in the cheaper seats, clap your hands.  And the rest of you, just rattle your jewelry."  Perhaps that's an apt analogy.

Kentucky's football season is off to a....well, it started on Sunday with a loss to in-state archrival Louisville.  I don't know that Louisville's team is that good or Kentucky's is that bad, but that was a pretty one-sided game in many respects.  Kentucky's defense would have difficulty stopping any team, as they are missing some talented defensive players from last year's team.  One game in a twelve-game campaign, it's early, so we'll see how this plays out.

This is not at all the case with my Cincinnati Reds, who continue to lead the National League Central Division by a healthy margin.  And the most astounding aspect of their lead is that they've built much of it without their best player, the extraordinarily talented Joey Votto, who just returned to the active roster yesterday following a knee injury, two surgical procedures and a cautious rehabilitation period.  But they roll on, continuing to win games at an impressive clip and having used the same five starting pitchers all season, something I never thought I'd see.  Crossing my fingers for a nice run in October for this outstanding team!

Made a kind of interesting change in my personal entertainment sources recently.....we have satellite radios in both of our cars and I have one that can be used in the car, house or elsewhere, too.  All of this was a happy accident that occurred when we bought my wife's car, and discovered that it came with a free trial of this service.  Trying and listening is believing, so here we were with three radios.  Decided to explore the possibility of decluttering my desktop and, lo and behold, the company offers an Internet-based option that I can also access from my iPad.  Both methods work like a charm, and it's cheaper by several dollars a month than the traditional route.  Made that transition a couple of weeks ago and am very pleased!

Since I still have over two gallons of high quality paint from my ambitious painting project (covered extensively in this space) I'm looking very carefully at some other small projects around the old homeplace.  The master bedroom closet looks like the next victim of my painting prowess, sometime this week, probably.  That's about the only space in our house (except for the other closets) that has not been painted at least once since we've lived here.

Enjoying a week without business travel, but that ends next week with a trip to Nashville.  Enjoy the rest of YOUR week!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Colonel....a true original

Recently I detailed my recent discovery of Colonel Littleton, Ltd., a specialty company based in rural Tennessee that creates and sells some of the finest and most unique leather goods and other products that I've encountered.

Last week my endless business travels took me to the Nashville area, and I built in some time for a detour south to Lynnville, the home of Colonel Littleton's operations. I arrived there just after lunchtime and was disappointed to learn that the two people there with whom I'd corresponded, the retail store manager (who sent me a very nice e-mail that was not a form letter after my last order) and the company's director of sales and marketing (who wrote to tell me that they'd seen my last blog entry on Colonel Littleton and had shared with the staff) were both absent on the day of my visit.

A very nice woman named Charlene was holding down the fort in the retail store, which appears to be the hub of the Colonel Littleton operations in Lynnville, and she was most friendly and gracious when I arrived, and noted that she, also, had read my last blog entry with her employer as the subject.  She told me that both of my past contacts were out for various reasons, and I looked around the store a bit while she fielded a phone call or two.  I should share with you that the Colonel Littleton store looks and feels very much like an old general store might have seemed back in the 1870s, and that certainly isn't an accident.  Creaky wooden floors, wooden tables and cabinetry to display the various wares, and a lot of artifacts implying the age of the space, if not the current occupant.  Anyway, I finally asked Charlene if the Colonel happened to be around at the time, and she told me that she'd check, and then said he'd be over shortly.

The door opened and a woman entered, followed closely by a very tall gentleman wearing a baseball cap and a distinctive white was Colonel Garry A. Littleton, live and in person.  I introduced myself, he did the same and also introduced his assistant.  He then told me that he had enjoyed my last blog entry and mentioned the same to those around us, and thanked me for my recognition of his business.

Then, to my surprise, he asked me if I had a few minutes, and spent nearly an hour showing me around the store, the stockroom, and the adjacent buildings that house the Colonel Littleton departments that handle such areas as shipping, custom engraving and embossing, customer service, graphic design and other functions.  Everyone I met was not only cordial but friendly and most welcoming (which I found a pleasant change from what I normally see when I tour places of business for my "day" job).  During my tour we stopped for a visit with a genial fellow named Bud, who, it turns out, embossed my initials on my previous purchases and asked me, "How's your conduct?"  As it happens, this is kind of a catch phrase in that part of the world, and the Colonel produced a sticker asking the same question, and Bud later rounded up a card explaining the whole thing.  I now know how to answer that question, by the way.

During the tour the Colonel showed me parts of their storefront operations that have yet to be opened, but there are some exciting plans for new product lines in the works that I won't reveal here, but I will tell you that everything the Colonel showed me or mentioned seems a very natural extension of their current product offerings.

I found all of this fascinating, of course, but the fascination deepened when I accompanied the Colonel across the street to a nondescript two-story building next to the railroad tracks that the Colonel referred to as his offices.  The building is actually a garage where he tinkers with old cars (the most impressive of which was a vintage 1972 Chevrolet Corvette) and uses his massive collection of things old and unique as inspiration for new products to be offered by his company.  Leather samples, saddles, World War II navigator's cases, watch faces and a host of other items frequently lead the Colonel to a new product or a new spin on a more common one.  Quite something.

I told the Colonel on our way back to the main store that I was impressed with his team, and he mentioned that he felt it was very important to treat people the right way, and that shows in the work that they do and their dedication to taking care of customers.  I heartily agree, as I try to employ the same practices in my work as a sales manager, I told him.

We wound up back in the store, where Bud had relieved Charlene for a time, and the Colonel and I said our goodbyes.  He insisted that I "stop in again" if I was in the area in the future, and I promised that I would (and I will).  Then Bud and I began to chat and while I very much wanted to buy one of the wonderful business bags that the Colonel sells, I decided to make my purchase for the day a little more modest, settling on a leather mouse pad.  Bud told me that he would pick out a piece that "has some character" and I confirmed that I wanted this piece personalized, as are my other Colonel Littleton items.  He left after Charlene returned and came back with a wonderfully grained leather mouse pad with a brass medallion bearing my monogram.  I also bought a No. 48 Phone Holster, just like mine, for  a friend, and both were packaged very nicely and accompanied by the Colonel's signature cards explaining things about their company and philosophies, and even a mini Moon Pie with each item.

I'm sure that in a couple of phone calls and upon my return home Friday evening I wore my wife down considerably with my recollections of this visit, but she could certainly see and understand my delight with the experience.

I cannot recommend this "purveyor of fine accouterments in the Americana tradition" more highly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's all relative

Good or bad, stuff happens that makes us shake our heads, doesn't it?  I have a little cross-section of these types of things to share.

For instance, I was on a flight for home from Charlotte this time last Thursday, and while we were taxiing, the plane jerked to a stop and the flight attendant announced that our flight had been CANCELLED.  Not delayed, CANCELLED.  This was due to inclement weather in Lexington, we were told.  I called my wife, who indicated that the weather was clear at that moment and rain was due in the early evening, but that was several hours after my flight was due to land.  

Then when I went to be rebooked (that's the airline terminology for "get me the hell out of here") I was advised that I would have to wait for the same flight on Friday.  So I called our corporate travel agency, who booked me on the first flight out the following morning on a different airline.  But that left me in Charlotte on a day trip without a change of clothes, medicine, toiletries or even the cords to charge my phone and other equipment. 

Same travel agency found me a hotel room with a chain where I have privileges, and that hotel was gracious enough to supply me at least with toothpaste, a toothbrush and deodorant, so that helped.

The original airline?  They still haven't refunded the return end of my ticket as promised a week ago.

Here's another one.  I just returned from a checkup at the dentist.  They always apply fluoride at the end of my visit, yet my current dental insurance NEVER pays for fluoride treatment.  And no dental insurance that I've ever had pays for it.  Wouldn't you think that providing preventative care would be a GOOD thing in the long run?

And another:  I have satellite radio.  Love it, by the way, but love it less when the annual bill comes due.  We started this when we bought my wife's car in 2005, as it came with it and we kept it after the free introductory period.  Then I bought one that I could use as an add-on in my car.  Then I traded that car for one that was also equipped with it, so then I had three radios.  I had planned to cut off the add-on, which I now only use in the house, and only recently found that they have an Internet based option that I can listen to via my computer, iPad or even some smartphones.  And it's cheaper than the add-on radio's service plan.  Guess what I'll be doing sometime soon?

Heading to Cincinnati shortly with my son to see my beloved Reds (or, I should say, my beloved DIVISION-LEADING Reds!).  He has two kids under the age of three, so we don't get to do this as often as we used to.  Looking forward to a good time.  But I went through some confusion regarding the tickets and so forth, as I was using the Reds website to purchase them, but it wouldn't allow me to print them at home (which I prefer to standing in line to obtain tickets I already bought, but that's just me).  So I went to StubHub, where people resell their tickets, and was able to find two at a good price in a good location and I WAS able to print the tickets online.  So hopefully they're not counterfeit or anything.

So, we'll continue to take the good with the bad, I suppose.  What else can we do?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Have you been watching the Summer Olympics in the past couple of weeks?  We have at our house, at least some of the time.  Here are some impressions I've gained....
NBC is being vilified for doing what networks covering the Olympics have done for 50 years....that is, craft the day's highlights into a packaged television show designed to satisfy the largest audience possible.  There are a lot of people complaining in a lot of venues (most of them online) that in this age of instant information and social media and so forth that NBC has an obligation to show everything live, and then still repackage various events for prime time consumption.  Of course, those doing the complaining are the ones who probably have the opportunity to watch, say, track and field live, as it's happening.  Most everyone else whom NBC and its advertisers hope to reach are working during the core hours of the afternoon, so their strategy is still designed for people who can't watch events live.
And you CAN watch this stuff live, just online.  That only happened with these Games.
I tuned in yesterday to watch a bit while I was having lunch and saw some women's water polo (what a physically demanding sport that is!) and a little volleyball (the real thing, not the beach volleyball that's become so popular in the past couple of Games).  Fun.  Particularly since I don't really have an ongoing interest in either sport.
That brings me to another area of concern.  NBC has narrowed things down to so few sports that they'll show during prime time that one wonders if the Olympics consist only of women's gymnastics, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, and a little track and field.  That seems to be the menu most evenings, and it's compelling.  My wife, who's not a real sports fan except for Kentucky basketball, LOVES watching this stuff, giving up an hour of sleep most nights to see who won what.  So I would have to think that the key to ratings success with the Olympics is to create the human interest aspects of these athletes' stories to interest women who ordinarily could care less about sports.
This technique was pioneered by ABC back in the '70's ("up close and personal--the ABC way") and NBC has continued that practice.  Unfortunately, though, it backfires occasionally.  I almost find myself rooting AGAINST someone that NBC has so thoroughly canonized (like swimmer Ryan Lochte) and cheering instead for unknowns or surprisingly great competitors.  In the men's swimming events, it was assumed that Lochte would be the dominant force for the American team.  No, once again, and for the last time, it was Michael Phelps, who had begun to appear that his best days were behind him.  NBC pivoted quickly with their emphasis, but it was obvious.
The American women's swim team was the great revelation of these games.  Mostly young women, all quite talented and most gracious whether in victory or defeat.  They embody all of the best qualities of Olympic athletes.
My comments wouldn't be complete without a couple of thoughts on the women's gymnastics.  Of course NBC emphasizes the American team over all others, since Americans are their audience.  But do they have to make this into some kind of televised catfight between teenagers, that this has devolved into?  It doesn't help that one or two are lionized above the others, and when one of the others is recognized she's simply added to the select group upon whom the coverage concentrates.
And frankly, if I hear one more word from Tim Daggett or Elfie Schlagel about what good sports these girls are, I may have an adverse reaction.  Big time gymnastics is a real pressure cooker, from all appearances, and every one of these girls who reach this stage realize that there are literally millions of dollars in endorsements and appearance fees up for grabs, at least for the American athletes.  Tough environment, made tougher by a fawning and critical media.
So enjoy the rest of the Games....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Colonel

A while back (a month, or more) I happened upon a product that I found surprising and impressive in many unexpected ways.  Allow me to explain....

Some years ago, I bought a BlackBerry Storm smartphone and purchased a holster that was designed for it.  Since that time I have been issued a couple of BlackBerry phones by my employer, and each was accompanied by a holster that I didn't much care for, so I had continued to use my old one for these last two phones.  But the belt clip began to stretch out and not remain secured, and I just got tired of it.

So on a Saturday morning my wife and I were out running errands and I told her that I wanted to visit Lexington's Orvis dealer, a very nice store called The Lexington Angler.  If you're not familiar, Orvis is a purveyor of various men's and women's clothing, luggage and other accessories, and their core products involve fishing and other outdoor living items.  Anyway, I suggested this store because I knew Orvis sells high quality and often unique items, and in we went.

Talked with a very nice man about a couple of items they had in stock and then I began to inquire about leather holsters for phones.  He showed some items from Orvis' website and I spotted one in particular that seemed nice.  Lightly finished brown leather with a ball-stud closure and a design that allows the wearer to run his belt through the rear of the case, ensuring that it won't come off.  Plus, the sales associate told me that they could order it for me, and add my initials, with no additional cost or any obligation to purchase the item if for any reason I didn't find it to my liking.  And I wasn't even asked to pay for it in advance.

As an astute reader, you're wondering what this has to do with a Colonel.  Bear with me.

I got a call that my new leather phone holster had arrived, and it was VERY nice indeed.  My wife went with me and we even size-tested it for an iPhone, which I hope to acquire sometime down the road.  Really impressive.

Then I began to look at this a little more closely, and I noticed some embossed wording on the reverse side of the case.  My new phone holster is actually the "Col. Littleton No. 48 Phone Holster."  Who, you may ask, is Col. Littleton?  I wondered the same thing, so I read some of the literature that came with the carton.  Turns out that Col. Littleton is a person but also the name of a company that started out making custom high-end cuff links and one-of-a-kind pocket knives, but they gradually moved into making high-quality leather goods like phone holsters, wallets, portfolios, briefcases and other related items.

The clever verbage in the inside literature reminded me of a more down-to-earth J. Peterman (not the guy on "Seinfeld," but the real merchant with the exotic product descriptions), describing the product but also how it should make the user FEEL.


They're based in Lynnville, Tennessee, a few miles south of Nashville, just off I-65.

So, needless to say, I was quite pleased with my new case, and enjoyed my first week or two of usage. Then my wife mentioned having seen a really unique-looking iPad case in one of the magazines to which she subscribes (I think it was part of a feature concerning Dad-and-grad gift ideas) and, lo and behold, it was also a Colonel Littleton creation.  I did a little research and found that it's called the No. 5 Pocket for iPad.

Back I went to the Lexington Angler to ask them to order this item for me as well.  I liked the idea of spending that money with a local merchant, yet still getting the quality product that I wanted.  My new iPad case arrived in just a couple of days, and it's another astounding product!   I took it on my last couple of trips and it's with me on my current business journey as well.

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, I'm really interested in one of their briefcases or something equally substantial.  Great workmanship, American-made and products with a lot of character, too!  Check them out online or on YouTube (wonderful product descriptions with ample humor and a great sense of fun).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stories of achievement in the face of overwhelming adversity

Maybe a little TOO dramatic with the subject line today.....

In the spirit of the now-underway summer Olympics, thought you might like to know that others are accomplishing some things.  The Cincinnati Reds have now won ten consecutive games for the first time in thirteen years.  And this weekend my son and I painted the living room of our home, for the first time in nine years.

That doesn't sound like much to a lot of folks, I know, but consider these factors:

*  Neither of us enjoys painting

*  My son is a very busy dad to two kids, both under the age of three

*  I travel very frequently for my demanding job (in fact, I'm leaving today for three nights)

*  Oh, and did I mention that this room has a fourteen foot vaulted ceiling?

Therein was the problem.  Last time around, we used a variety of tools to complete the job, and by our own admissions, we weren't very good at painting.  Using an extension pole to put paint into odd places with rollers, edging tools and even a brush in a few places, we very unskillfully applied a single coat to our living room and kitchen and I have regretted taking short cuts ever since.  Particularly since the living room and kitchen share that dreaded vaulted ceiling.

I had actually repainted the kitchen, up to where the ceiling began, just a few years ago (when I stripped the wallpaper....there's another story I'll tell you sometime), but, being a kitchen, it needed some attention as well.

The catalyst was a 40-percent-off sale at my preferred paint supply store.  Last Monday was the last day of the sale, and I only had a day trip scheduled last week. So Wednesday afternoon I cleared the decks and dived into painting the kitchen solo.  Many hours later I collapsed into my favorite chair and determined that help would be necessary to paint the adjoining living room, so I recruited my son, who was only too happy to help.

And as I am most fond of saying, it often takes longer to get ready to paint than to actually paint.  Moving furniture, cleaning the dust off of the walls, masking off the areas you don't want to paint (trim, doors, etc.), and, in our case, renting a ladder tall enough for the job (which we didn't do nine years ago) all took time.

We secured the ladder Friday evening and began in earnest on Saturday morning.  The biggest single prep task was to repair a full-length crack in the drywall at the very peak of the ceiling, so my son (who has experience repairing drywall, but in a more detailed way) attacked this task while I began painting the cut-ins (the trim areas that needed to be brushed).

I won't bore you with a full blow-by-blow of our day, but the end result was a completely repainted living room (TWO coats of high-quality, well-applied paint), every item in the room put back exactly where it had been (but the items and the adjacent areas much cleaner), two tired but satisfied amateur painters, and one very happy wife.

I was so happy I actually discarded my "painting clothes," an old t-shirt and shorts that were specked with paint from previous encounters.  I can always dig up an old shirt.

Not sure what project is next on the home front, but I'm sure we'll think of something.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Batman

As was reported here recently, my wife and I were in Cincinnati over the weekend and saw "The Dark Knight Rises" on an IMAX screen.  Before I comment on the movie itself, let me offer a brief endorsement of the IMAX concept.  This was a motion picture format that used to be confined to museums and other similar attractions (the first one I saw was at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida some years ago) but in the past few years there have been more and more commercial cinemas with IMAX auditoriums.  The screen is several stories tall and proportionally wide, and the sound is better than any I've heard in a movie theater.

Anyway, without revealing any major plot items, let me say that "The Dark Knight Rises" is a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  "Batman Begins" and its two sequels show its audience what it would be like for a man to decide to become Batman in the REAL world, not a world filled with cartoonish villains who aren't really that menacing.  These are really evil people who plan to wreak major havoc on Gotham City, and Batman is the last line of defense.  Nolan has a great sense of structure and the need to punctuate action scenes with dialogue and vice versa, and these three movies  have a feel to them that's really hard to describe but undeniably appealing.

This movie had it all---well acted, well written, no idiotic dialogue, an intelligent plot that was elaborate but not too confusing, wonderful stuntwork and special effects (hard to tell the difference in modern films), and, well, it's Batman, so that's quite something all by itself.  I could go on and on, but, again, don't want to reveal anything to readers who have not seen this spectacular picture.

in the interests of full disclosure, we saw "The Avengers" when it came out (passed on the 3-D, as I wasn't eager for a headache), and it was very entertaining, but in a lightweight sort of way.  This movie was leaps and bounds better, because it dealt with serious issues and serious characters.  See it, if you're a fan of this genre, and then tell me whether YOU think it's simply the best comic book/superhero movie yet made.

Oh, and Nolan is a producer and creative force behind the latest attempt to resurrect the Superman franchise, if you're interested.  "Man of Steel" will premiere sometime next year (most likely in the summer).

See you soon....same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Friday, July 20, 2012

52 pickup

Good morning, all....and happy birthday to me.  52.  Gotta remember to change my Blogger profile.

I write this having just learned of the horrific mass shooting in a movie theater outside of Denver, Colorado last night at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."  This is a movie that I have anticipated as much as anyone, and my wife and I will be seeing it this weekend (more on that later).  I truly hope that the gunman, whom initial news reports indicate acted alone, was not somehow motivated to these acts of violence by this film.  Certainly will make one think.

Anyway, the day is off to a pretty good start....I just had a nice breakfast, and am watching the Open Championship (British Open to the masses) golf tournament  May be my favorite major champtionship, as it's kind of like four consecutive days of Christmas morning, as a writer recently expressed.  Unpredictable conditions, golf courses that don't look like they've been fertilized and watered into submission, rough as high as one's waist, and knowledgeable (and wearing weather-appropriate clothing, too) fans to see the action in person.  Gotta love it.

It's been a good week, actually.  I managed to play golf twice in the past week, once in a rain-shortened round, and that rain has recurred enough that I actually mowed the lawn yesterday.  Haven't really had to do that for some time.  Prepared a few pretty good meals for my wife and me, since I wasn't traveling this week (and that made it a good week for different reasons, of course).  Had lunch with a good friend this week.

And my Cincinnati Reds continue to be in or near first place in their division, having won eight of their last ten games.  The only area of concern I have for the Reds is that their star slugger Joey Votto will be out for a few weeks with a knee injury.  But that knee injury, which would sideline a nonathlete for quite some time, doesn't appear serious.  Let's hope not.

To cap off this momentous week, my wife and I are going to Cincinnati for the weekend, using some hard-earned hotel points for our stay.  We'll dine, we'll shop, we'll windowshop (more that than real shopping, I'm certain), and we will see "The Dark Knight Rises" on Sunday morning on an IMAX screen, a format where the projection screen is eight to twelve times taller than a standard movie screen, which provides an immersive viewing experience (but a lot more comfortable than even modern iterations of 3D, which I find to be a little annoying, since I wear bifocals).  In reference to what happened last night in the Denver area, my spirits are dampened a little bit but I'm still very anxious to see this, the final installment in director Christopher Nolan's Batman opus.

So I'll bid you a good day and a good weekend, now that I'm just a smidgen closer to official "old guy" territory!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I don't know if you noticed it last week, but actor Harrison Ford turned 70 last week.

That's right....Han Solo is 70.  As is Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Rick Deckard (you know, from "Blade Runner") and all of his other characters.


I mentioned to someone last week when I read this that Ford so often played characters younger than he, owing to his good physical condition and apparently ageless appearance.  Last movie I saw him in was "Cowboys and Aliens," with Daniel Craig.  This picture opened last summer, and was fun, if not enduring, entertainment.  Ford looked a little closer to his actual age in that movie, but that didn't really bother me.

And knowing that an evergreen favorite actor of mine from adolescence is now 70 years of age is simply an indication of my own advancing age, I suppose.  Think about it....I was in high school when "Star Wars" came out and turned Harrison Ford from a serviceable character actor into a box office megastar.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away indeed....

And equally funny was a reference a golfing buddy made last Saturday to his girlfriend not knowing who Sid Caesar is (or was, depending on your perspective).  He's just a little older than I am, but was surprised to learn that his gal hadn't heard of Mr. Caesar, as many of a certain generation have not (ditto for Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and lots of other folks from the golden age of television).  Johnny Carson's been deceased for seven years and off of the "Tonight" show for twenty years.  That means there's a whole generation of folks who really don't know who he was, either.

I've mentioned in this space before my general disdain for music created by those junior to me, and I still feel that way.  I hear something once in a while that I like that's performed by someone obviously younger than I, but it doesn't resonate like something that's more contemporary with me.  Saw over the weekend a feature about the Beach Boys, who are recording and touring together after many, many years of strife and conflict.  They're all around 70 now, too.  But they still can harmonize amazingly well.

One more before I go....same golfing buddy loaned me some CDs that he has, and they're an audio memoir of the late, great baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who has himself been gone for a couple of years.  Probably one of the best radio baseball announcers EVER.  Also gone too soon for whole generations of baseball fans to enjoy.

So let's celebrate those who are "experienced" in their chosen fields and in life.  Their replacements will most assuredly fall short in the comparison.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Here and gone

Back to work today after a week-plus staycation.  Nice to be off work.

Writing this morning about things, particularly businesses, that appear to be here one day, and gone the next.  To wit:

I went to a bakery in an adjacent neighborhood on Saturday, hadn't been there in about a month.  On my way out of the shopping center where it's located I noted that a dry cleaner that had been there seemingly forever was now gone, space vacant and a "for rent" sign prominently displayed on the front windows.  Just down the way another business, which was an eclectic mix of gift items, imported decorative things and a small bistro was having some sort of "house auction" and apparently going out of business.

What I already knew was gone from this center was a high-volume discount gas station which has been located there for about twenty years.  This place was always open, and always busy, and because it was situated right on the corner of the intersection where this shopping center is located (along a pretty busy secondary road), always plagued traffic because of people trying to get into and out of this place.  The lot is now completely vacant, and it looks as though the gas station won't be rebuilding, as the tanks were removed from the ground shortly after the building was razed.

But the biggest shock in this category was that our neighborhood hardware store, which is less than a mile from our house, is going out of business.  Closing forever.  Lost their lease.  Everything must go.

Oh, my God.

This means I'll now be forced to go to a big-box home store, the next nearest place that has what a hardware store has, and troll the aisles hoping to find that odd toilet part or that package of nuts and bolts I need to fix whatever.  When we bought our house, this hardware store already existed, and I have continually told the owners how happy we are that they're nearby.

No more.

My wife and I have speculated that another tenant in the shopping center, an upscale steakhouse with multiple locations and several different dining concepts, wanted more space and that the other merchants who are scattered through this part of the center will likely be relocated to accommodate this restaurant group.

Or not.  Anything's possible.

The moral of this, I suppose, is that you can't really count on anything anymore.  At least not of a business nature.

Here's another example of what I mean.  There was a time that you could bank on your local phone book having complete and accurate information, particularly in the white pages.  Now?  Not so much.  The example I use is that our daughter misplaced an important item while she and her family were visiting with us over the past two weeks.  We turned the house inside out looking for this item, and began to retrace where we'd been with this item, hoping that perhaps it had been found and turned into the various establishments that were visited.  As we went about calling several of these businesses my wife used the phone book, and I used Google.  In several cases, my wife reported that there was no listing for places like the Disney Store, businesses that have existed for some time.  The funny thing is that we noticed over the last few years that the phone book we use (and the other half-dozen we routinely discard) had phased out residential listings, presumably because so many people no longer have a land-line phone and therefore they have no phone number to list (since cellphone numbers aren't available in such a way).  But you'd think that the business listings would be a little more accurate.

Is it a tragedy that a hardware store or a dry cleaner is closing?  It is to the owners and employees.  Always hate to see a family business go under, unless it's totally voluntary and deliberate, and not forced by other circumstances.  But life will go on, whether we like it or not.

Funny how that works.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thinking too much

I'm on vacation from my job this week, but since I'm enjoying a "staycation," I have a few things I wanted to send into the ether for everyone to ponder:

I think Tony LaRussa is a slimeball.  To pass over two obviously deserving members of my Cincinnati Reds simply because he CAN is, well, not at all unexpected.  And from what I just read, I think one of the snubs, Reds' pitching ace Johnny Cueto, will file a grievance, as the reason LaRussa stated for not choosing Cueto is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and their players' association.  Worth noting that LaRussa is now an EMPLOYEE of the MLB hierarchy. Hmmm....

I think "Brave" will be Pixar's latest hit film for Disney.  That makes something like 13 in a row.  I took my granddaughter yesterday afternoon and have been muttering in a Scottish burr ever since.  Oh, and I noticed that the movie theater where we saw this is already selling tickets for "The Dark Knight Rises," the final installment in Christopher Nolan's brilliant Batman opus.  It opens on my birthday, so you can just about guess where I'll be on that evening or the following day.

I think that no one is surprised by the announcement that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting a divorce.  One day, she woke up and was just too old for him.  Wait, that's a line from a movie, isn't it?

I think it's funny how so many prominent Republicans and conservative pundits keep saying "it's not over" regarding the Affordable Care Act, the official name of the health care reform law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama a while back.  Let's see....there was a vote in each house of Congress, and it passed.  It was signed into law.  Then a group of state attorneys general decided to challenge the constitutionality of the law.  The Supreme Court heard arguments and rendered a decision.  So what's left, exactly, besides Rush Limbaugh moving to Costa Rica as promised?

I think I was already tired of hot weather, but when a storm knocked out power to our home last night, forcing us to open windows and sweat in the heat and humidity until around 4:00 AM today, I KNOW that I'm tired of it.

I think that the "lifetime warranty" that covers my four year old suitcase is a bit of a sham, as it is again damaged, and the manufacturer (Briggs and Riley) is only interesting in repairing this thing for the fourth time, with the shipping to have been paid by yours truly.  I attempted to persuade these nice folks to honor their warranty and send me a new case, but, no, I got a return authorization instead.  Decided to take it to a local craftsman who worked on my briefcase recently (another instance where the manufacturer's warranty was absolutely worthless), paid the equivalent of shipping my bag one way, and the work should be better than anything Briggs and Riley did when they made the bag or the last three times they repaired it.

And I think that's about all I have today.  Enjoy the heat!

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's quiet now....

It's quiet this morning here at the Smith ranch, but only in anticipation of what's to come.

Our daughter and her family should be arriving here later today.  And, no, they won't be brandishing bullhorns or sirens, but a family of four added to our little empty nest certainly makes a difference.

They'll be here with us until sometime late next week, when they'll start their trek back to Colorado.  They drove east last Thursday, stopping in western Kentucky to see my wife's mother and some other relatives there, then moved eastward past Lexington and on to northeastern Kentucky for two family reunions held on successive days by our son-in-law's family.

So we've been preparing for their arrival, and, ready or not, today's the day!

And because I work at home when I'm not traveling, we have an understanding that I almost always have to travel the first few days they're here.  I'm not comfortable taking two full weeks off from work consecutively (I manage people, and that presents some coverage and other issues), so generally speaking I'm on a business trip during week one of their stay.  This year is no different, I leave for Richmond, VA tomorrow morning around 11:00 and will return home Thursday night.

I feel that I just got back from the road, which is accurate, as I was in New Orleans again for meetings and interviews (another of my team decided to resign---I suppose one might wonder what I'm doing to these people to make them leave, but the departures are generally motivated by finances that our company cannot match) from Tuesday through Friday morning.

No additional pithy remarks about the Crescent City (I wrote a good treatment of Nawlins about a month ago) except it escapes me how a particularly bossy colleague would and could decide that a group of us should go to a dive way on the other side of the inner city for a mediocre hamburger, instead of choosing yet another of the legion of fine dining establishments available within closer proximity.  But that's just me, I suppose.

Anyway, I return home from this week's journey on Thursday evening (routed homeward from Richmond via Detroit, of all places, but it could have been worse, as I could have chosen to travel through New York City, making even less sense) and Friday begin six days of vacation.  Very much looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Broken record

I just saw something online that was essentially a plea for our music-loving society not to forget its roots and go back to vinyl records.  The teaser read something like this:

The real genius of vinyl recrods is the way that they help us actually feel our favorite music. That connection should not be lost.

Excuse me, but when was the last time that you attempted to play a record somewhere other than at home.  Oh, never?  Why not?

Kidding aside, when I was a young pup and feeling pretty good about the quasi-audiophile turntable (we record snobs would NEVER have referred to this device as a "record player") that I had added to my component system, I remember reading about the over-the-road trucker who loved music so much that he had found a way to suspend a turntable to make it unaffected by bumps in the road and such, allowing him to listen to his favorite records while driving.

Turns out he could have bought an iPod and accomplished the same.

Same line of thought....I noticed that Joe Walsh, erstwhile guitarist, sometime solo performer, most associated with the Eagles, just released a solo recording entitled "Analog Man."  A brief interview I saw of him commenting mentioned that he insisted that it be released on vinyl, as that's the truest medium for music.  But despite his comments and the obviously ironic title, the new recording is available on CD (there's also a combo CD/DVD set) and digitally on iTunes and elsewhere, I'm sure.  Don't yell "sellout" in response to this information....Joe's just doing what all struggling millionaires do.

I moved into the wholly digital music world a few years ago.  Inched that way when I sold the last car we had with a tape deck, and started acquiring CDs.  Then, somewhere along the line, my 25-plus-year-old component system just didn't seem that great.  Satellite radio also helped that migration.  In the end I sold most all of my records, gave the tapes to my son, and bought an iPod (later replaced with an iPad, which also serves as my primary music repository.  Then I sold most of my stereo equipment and donated the rest to the Salvation Army (the donation clerk actually said, "Does this stuff still work?"  All I could do not to smack him).

No regrets.  I've finally started buying music digitally, without buying the physical CD (although I can burn one if I like), and am contemplating the same for videos down the road.  I'm not there yet, but I can see that happening one of these days.

On another subject, the U.S. Open (men's golf) will be contested this week at the treacherous Olympic Club near San Francisco.  That should be entertaining, as golf's elite players will be crying "uncle" and complaining of the unfair setup of the course.  What, this is supposed to be easy?

Another golf-related note....Jim Nantz of CBS Sports got married on the 7th hole at Pebble Beach recently, after ending a 29 year marriage a couple of years ago.  Reading between the lines it looks like he married someone who worked for his talent agency.  All I can say is "good luck," and I'm glad that all of the sucking up Jim does during the AT&T National (played at Pebble Beach and owned in part by Clint Eastwood) paid off for him in the form of his nuptials.

Finally, this weekend is Father's Day.  Don't kids NEVER do!