New Shoes in the Rain

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New year alert

Friends, I hope that you had the opportunity to spend time with those you love over the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays recently.

I'm working a short week this week, as my current company affords its employees with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day as company holidays.  And given where the days fell this year, I was off last Friday and will be again tomorrow.  Plus I'm taking Tuesday off, so that will be essentially a five day weekend.

Good thing, too, as I'm just about over the nasty respiratory disorder that has had a grip on me for over two weeks.  As reported here previously, my wife has had something similar, was diagnosed with Type A flu and is about a week behind me in terms of the progression of her discomfort.  So the light schedule and extra time off has been very helpful.

The time has also allowed some introspection, as 2017 is almost over.  I made no resolutions, usually don't, but experienced some good changes personally and, of course, were fortunate to welcome another healthy member of our family just recently.

As a society, though, I worry about where we've been, where we are, and most of all, where we appear to be going.  Through whatever means, we elected as President someone who embodies most of the worst personal qualities and yet who also doesn't appear to take seriously the responsibilities of his office.  Along with that, based on the extensive investigative reporting that has come out about the 2016 campaign and events since that time, he and his team appear to have been willing to do about anything in order to gain and retain power, and that's an equally dangerous proposition.

No matter your politics, no matter your personal preferences, this should concern you.  Under this President, the Justice Department is cracking down on all sorts of personal freedoms and activities.  The State Department is led by someone who appears more interested in "efficiency" and offers little in the way of explanation or even negotiation to the rest of the world.  Actions taken by previous administrations are being rolled back or done away with in rapid succession, mostly based on whose name is associated with these actions.

I have a friend who attributes our current politics to a contentious Supreme Court nomination from some years ago, the first such nomination that forced an across-the-board division along party lines.  He makes a good point.

Whether that was already happening or not, I don't have a lot of doubt that our current polarized climate and the candidates produced by it are the result of two major factors:  politically centered cable "news" and social media.

If you don't watch cable news, good for you.  Most folks do, and find some comfort in the reinforcement of their beliefs that they receive from the channel of their choice.

Social media, however, is a lot different animal than we first thought, with "bots" spewing propaganda with astounding speed and frequency.  Last night I read something that I found interesting about the recent special Senate election in Alabama, which, you'll recall, was won by Democrat Doug Jones.  According to a consultant employed by the Jones campaign, 10,000 of these "bots," which are essentially fake accounts manipulated by a common operator, were generating 65,000 anti-Jones tweets PER HOUR.

Do we know that this is true?  No.  But if there's even a shred of evidence, it's one more thing to worry about.  We've also been told by some news outlets that anti-Hillary Clinton tweets and Facebook posts appeared in much the same way and in similar numbers near the end of the 2016 Presidential campaign.  And what's more, they appeared in the most contentious states in the campaign, the industrial Midwest states that were ultimately won by Clinton's opponent.

Politics has always been the art of persuasion, so this is an inevitable extension of that description.  But in my mind it's an unwelcome one, as we have entire generations of people who rely on Facebook, for example, as their source of news reporting.

No quick or easy answers to any of this.  But let's at least hope that the American people get a fair shake all around in 2018, whether in their daily lives, at the polls or wherever there's a question of fairness.  We owe it to each other and our children and grandchildren to make sure this happens.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Just stopped by to say exactly that!  Enjoy the season with those you love!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The joys of being sick at Christmas

Greetings, friends!  Is your house fully decorated?  Gifts purchased and wrapped?  Shipped those that need to go elsewhere?

In today's hectic environment, there are so many things to check off and keep track of for Christmas planning.  We all try to be in several places at once and make it to every party or work/client function.

And that's just a little harder when you're sick.

I had an interesting experience a couple of Fridays ago--the day of my last post.  If you recall, my flight was delayed in leaving south Florida, and, well, it never left.  Not that day or the day after.  I wound up staying through Sunday morning, when I finally was able to get a flight north.

Didn't feel any ill effects from the extra time there until I woke on Tuesday with a sore throat and cough.  Uh-oh.

The disorder escalated from there, and I'm managing the symptoms with a variety of over-the-counter medications.  I usually don't head to the doctor when these things arise, as I would then get an antibiotic that might or might now help.

I'd say I'm about 85% myself, but what's worse is my wife developed roughly the same thing, but it came upon her a couple of days later than it hit me.  So it's been a real treat around our house these last few days, two people wheezing and speaking hoarsely.

But, by golly, we're ready for Christmas!  We finished our shopping last night, and have but a few things left to wrap.  Our box to our daughter's family in Colorado went out last week, and was just delivered, so the U.S. Postal Service tells me.

We've been through this a time or two before in our thirty-plus years of marriage.  The worst we could both remember had us both suffering with horrible colds (traditionally runny nose/coughing/body aches) starting a couple of days before Christmas Day and lasting until New Year's.  There was another time where I was struck with something not unlike a flu bug about two weeks beforehand, and really had no energy at all until about three days before the holiday.

But, as you know, gentlemen shouldn't discuss their infirmities, so I'll leave that topic for the moment.

I suppose it depends on what you're shopping for, but I haven't noticed as many rabid bargain hunters as are depicted in news reporting, at least not in my home area.  And we probably have done a good combination of online shopping mixed with traditional bricks-and-mortar stores again this year.

I sincerely hope that you and yours enjoy the holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas shopping while delayed in an airport!

I used to travel pretty often for work, as long-time visitors to this space will attest.  However, I have been on a weeklong trip to my company's offices for meetings and now find myself with time on my hands.  Not only is it a Friday afternoon, but with weather rolling through parts of the southeast US today, the air travel system is chaotic, at the least!

So what better way to while away some of my delay than by sharing some ideas about Christmas gifts and shopping?

Now, I'm not dumb enough to reveal what those close to me may be receiving for Christmas this year (well, maybe not), but I can tell you somethings I like and I'll let you make the decision.

Are you or anyone you know in the market for a new phone?  I like my new iPhone 8 Plus, as this is the first trip where I've used it.  Love the brighter, more vibrant screen and the speed at which pages and apps load and react.  The sound is also quite something.  Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and I apparently agree on this.  And be assured that the iPhone X is a very nice phone, too, but if you plan to buy it for someone else, you'll likely have difficulty finding one until right before Christmas, if even then!

Continuing the electronics theme, I have really given my Apple AirPods a workout during this trip, and am really impressed.  They sound great, are comfortable for long periods of time and work very well for phone calls as well as for music and movies.  We gifted our son a pair of Bose QC 35 headphones with Bluetooth a few months ago, as he's a night law student and needs ample amounts of quiet time for his studies.  He proclaims these to be a great asset to his equipment arsenal!

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a very nice contact with who had read a prior post of mine regarding tech reviews and provided this link about Bluetooth headphone reviews:

If you're in the market for something like this, I hope you find it helpful.

I could go on and on (and on and on) about tech stuff, but I also have grandchildren, and three of them are of the age that they're not quite ready for heavy-duty electronics.  So for them, game and toys are it, and there seems to be no shortage of Star Wars-themed items, what with yet another Star Wars movie coming out shortly!  I personally like to give games and toys that have at least a little educational value, and we really haven't done our due diligence in that area yet.

And based on a long-ago pact, my wife and I do not give surprise gifts to each other, so no worries on that front, at least not for me!

Oh, and if you keep score of things I mention, we decided to postpone the purchase of a 4K HDR TV.  There's just not enough content out there for it yet, so we'll wait.

Hope this is just a little bit helpful.  Now I have only two more hours to wait until my flight departs!