New Shoes in the Rain

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The question is "why?"

Sorry, folks, but I feel one of those Andy Rooney-style rants coming on.....bear with me while I purge my negativity!

Regarding the NCAA men's basketball tournament, why is there always at least one school that no one has ever heard of who seems to take center stage as a Cinderella story?  This year's wonder is Florida Gulf Coast University (of whom the estimable Charles Barkley asked "Where in the hell is Florida Gulf Coast?"), and they appear to be really something.  Their coach is a gee-whiz kind of young man, and he's married to a former Maxim model.  Pretty good story.  But it makes you wonder where this great team has been hiding all season.

Also in the sports world, why is the media so insistent on asking if Tiger Woods is "back?"  He says he never left, but he does admit that he didn't play all that well for a while.  Golf is still more fun to follow and watch when he's playing well, I say, despite what others might believe.

Why don't people know how to observe basic traffic signals anymore?  In the past two days I followed at least a dozen cars through four-way stop intersections and none of them actually stopped, save for the  "rolling" stop that so many motorists have adopted.  And while we're on the subject of traffic, why don't people seem to know that they're turning right just up ahead, and then force their way from the far lefthand lane into that right turn lane?

Why do people go to the customer service desk to return or exchange an item that they bought and THEN have to work to locate the receipt, which they actually have?  How about being ready when your turn comes, so that others won't have to wait quite so long?

Why do product manufacturers persist in offering coupons with a discount when you buy THREE of a given item?  Unless it's a canned product or something that's not perishable, I don't think so.  Similar to that, a grocery chain highlighted a certain product in their flyer last week, heralding "buy five and save."  Who do these people think we are?

Why would a restaurant server feel the need to shake my hand when he returned with the bill, ready for my signature?  Am I buying a car from this guy, or what?

Why would a medical provider send an invoice for a considerable sum of money, covering a year's worth of medical appointments and treatment, only to back completely away when told that we have proof our our payments and those of our insurance company?  This actually happened.  Gee, and we wonder why the healthcare system is such a mess.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Merciful ending

The calendar says that it's springtime starting today.  I don't know if I concur, based on my furnace running this morning......

If you follow sports to any degree, you now know that not only did the Kentucky men's basketball team fail to be selected for the NCAA tournament (also known widely as March Madness, and I suppose that's trademarked as well), but that they also lost in their opening round game to a little school in the Pittsburgh suburbs called Robert Morris University.

What you may not know is that a great number of Kentucky fans are actually relieved to have this season come to an end, as it's been a struggle.  Here's why:

Kentucky just went through this type of mediocrity four years ago, before the arrival of coach John Calipari and his coaching staff.

Kentucky won the NCAA championship last year, and many of its less realistic fans expected that to be the first of many consecutive championships.

From last year's championship team, Kentucky lost its top six scorers and probably the six players who played the most minutes as well.  So they pretty much started over.

Calipari appears to have tried everything to motivate and get through to his team, but if anything worked, it didn't work for very long.

So Kentucky basketball fans have a couple of things with which to console themselves--there are a number of very high quality recruits already committed to joining the team next year, and two more who are apparently still weighing their decisions.  And the Kentucky women's team is very good and is a number two seed in the women's NCAA tournament.

I'm sure sports talk radio throughout the state of Kentucky was active last night, if a tad impolite.

But life goes on.  And baseball season starts in less than two weeks.  And after the way my Reds closed out their season last fall, with three straight losses, I'm eager for the season to begin.  In my view spring really begins on Opening Day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This I know

Just a collection of random, unrelated thoughts to share this morning.  Writing this from the road, but based on some event of this week and last, I may be able to somewhat curtail my travels in the near future.  We can only hope.

I cannot wait for baseball to begin.  I know, the teams are playing spring training games, and the World Baseball Classic is going on right now, but I mean REAL games.  Games that count.  Can't wait!

During my recent heavy travels I've been watching the brilliant Ken Burns film "Baseball," and am still astounded by its resonance and durability.  The added "Tenth Inning" is an excellent overview of several developments in baseball that occurred largely after the original miniseries was first produced.

Saw "Argo" not long ago.  A good film, to be sure, but I still don't agree that it was last year's BEST PICTURE, per the Oscar it won.

I bought an Apple TV unit last week.  My wife and I have enjoyed watching some of my existing iTunes library, as well as a few things on Netflix.  We haven't explored many of the other available programming options yet.  Tempting to cut the cord and do away with our cable account and its ever-increasing pricing, but that would also prevent me from watching my beloved Cincinnati Reds, so that's probably a no go.

Speaking of Netflix, we followed through on our son's recommendation and have been watching "Downton Abbey" on Netflix.  I never thought I would find a show about the aristocracy of early 20th century England and their domestic staff to be compelling, but it is.  Well written and acted escapist entertainment is hard to beat.

High time that the College of Cardinals saw fit to elect a Pope from Latin America--from what I've read since Pope Francis I's selection was announced, Latin America now represents somewhere in the neighborhood of 41% of the world's Catholic population.  And those who think "they" should elect a younger Pope should remember that he is always chosen from the College of Cardinals, and priests don't generally become cardinals until they have pretty extensive pastoral experience.

Carpe diem, everyone.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The deepening rut

Friends, thanks for stopping by.  I haven't been here myself lately, owing to the extremely frequent nature of my recent business travel.  Went more or less back-to-back over the last two weeks, having traveled Thursday and Friday of last week, then Monday through Wednesday of this week.  Ugh.

I've only had a couple of weeks since the holidays (and I mean THE holidays of Christmas and New Year's) where I've spent the entire week at home.  And on those weeks I had at least one long day trip.

With that I can honestly say I'm sick of

Airplane passengers
Rental cars

I've been through periods like this before, and, as before, it's somewhat because I'm trying to fill a couple of positions that report to me in job.  It'll get better, but probably not before it gets worse.  And me along with it.

So here are a few things I've used to amuse myself during all of these comings and goings.

This week I was in the Atlanta airport (officially the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, if it matters), which is the world's busiest airport.  Flew through there Monday and again last night.  Monday afternoon during a delay for my connecting flight I observed a young woman enjoying a small bag of Cheetos near me in the gate area.  She was happily crunching, occasionally taking a drink from a soda cup and talking on her phone.  She dropped one of the Cheetos, and to my utter astonishment, REACHED DOWN TO THE FLOOR, PICKED UP THE DROPPED CHEETO AND ATE IT.  OK, I know when you have small children around you often are more liberal with the so-called "five second rule" and such, but, come on.  This is most certainly one of the filthiest pieces of carpet you'll ever see, and not because the folks in the Atlanta airport don't try to keep it clean.  It's because there are just so many people walking on this carpet ALL THE TIME.

If I liked Cheetos I might never eat them again.

Ever have a choice of what line to enter, only to see that you mistakenly picked the one that's moving more slowly?  I had this choice yesterday in airport security in Charlotte.  There was a young couple with a small child and carrying foreign passports directly ahead of me in the screening line.  I immediately thought I should wait to see which of the two available lines for the next part of the screening process they would choose, and pick the next one.  I did so, and then found that I was standing still for about ten minutes (not a problem, since I was early for my flight) and watching this couple sail right through security.  The problem in my line?  One of the TSA folks apparently didn't understand how to ask his associates for help, and that caused a personal screening backup.

Kind of the same thing at the Delta counter.  I made the decision some months ago to check my bag rather than dragging it onto and off of planes, and, so far, it's worked well.  And it hasn't been lost or delayed, so I'll likely continue it.  So my habit of checking in online has evolved into doing the same, but also "checking" my bag online, too.  Then I arrive at the airport, go to the Delta "baggage drop" line, which is generally short, show my ID and boarding pass, get my claim check, and I'm off to the races.

But not in Charlotte.

No, friends, these nice folks told me that I needed to go to a self-serve kiosk--you know, that machine where you CHECK IN--and scan my boarding pass.  The helpful agent told me that this would then trigger their equipment to produce the tags and such that are placed on checked luggage.  This would work well in theory, but when there are three-deep lines for the ten kiosks they have available, not so much.  So I wasted about fifteen minutes there.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Business travel is a pain.  Ice cold "heated" pools.  Bad food.  Noisy room heater/air conditioner units.  People in the corridors who have no idea they're walking past countless bedrooms occupied by people trying to sleep.  Countless violations of personal space on overcrowded aircraft.

But I'm home now.  For now.