New Shoes in the Rain

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Consumer affairs

Good Wednesday morning, friends.  The rainy season continues here in central Kentucky.  Still.

Today's diatribe addresses a variety of topics, loosely related in that they are all related to consumer goods or activities.  The idea for this post came from a business function I attended last week.  At that event I wound up sitting with a couple of people I knew pretty well and others I didn't, but we turned somehow to the subject of restaurants in our home area that have either closed recently or appear to be on the verge of doing so.

The conversation started with someone commenting that "they're finally getting started building that Chick-Fil-A that replaced that old Applebee's."  Therein is one of the issues---that some food chains are going great guns, while others have fallen on hard times.  Applebee's locations have been closing in significant numbers in our area, and while that is rather meaningless to me (never was a fan), this changes the dining landscape for many.  Folks in the Lexington area are creatures of habit to a certain degree, which would explain the ongoing popularity of chains like Olive Garden and Red Lobster, but does not speak to how people swarm to newer spots as they open in prominent locations.  The category that is being left behind is the broad-menu casual dining chain, like Logan's (the original location here in Lexington closed a few months ago), T.G.I. Friday's, O'Charley's and the afore-mentioned Applebee's.

I was in Louisville for business last week and had agreed to meet some contacts for lunch.  They suggested Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe.  I agreed, as I hadn't been.  And was immediately sorry, as I didn't care much for their food.  Ironic that the franchisor who once owned so many Applebee's locations successfully sold a lot of those restaurants and now owns the regional rights to Taziki's.  Good luck to them, as selling Greek and Mediterranean food in a meat-and-potatoes region like central Kentucky will be challenging.

On the other hand, there's a regional chain called Vinaigrette that seems to be growing like crazy.  Started in the downtown area, which was smart because of the high density of office workers who can come there on foot.  Their primary menu features a variety of salads and soups which are very good, and now they appear to be expanding into wraps and bowls.  There are now four locations in Lexington and one in Louisville, and all appear to be thriving.  One of these is pretty close to our house, and, as a result, my wife has now jumped aboard the bandwagon, getting carry-out from there several times for herself and for the two of us.  And it's good.

There are a couple of other regional chains that we'll start seeing here in Lexington in a few months.  Skyline Chili and LaRosa's Pizza, both stalwarts of the Cincinnati dining scene, are going to open adjoining locations here in Lexington in the near future.  Hooray!

I read a piece online that addressed how food delivery services like Grubhub (with their very funny commercials) are changing the dining landscape, turning every restaurant, theoretically, into a pizza delivery chain.  There are certainly times when carryout from Restaurant X sounds really good, but we haven't gone in that direction.  Yet.

Slightly different subject, but I read something else that spoke of Coca-Cola's sales having surged in the past quarter.  This occurred largely on the strength of a) repositioning Diet Coke by adding a couple of new flavors and selling the product in skinny cans, and b) reformulating Coke Zero into Coke Zero Sugar.  The latter change was something I was against, but I have to say that the new version is very good (if you like that sort of thing) and my taste buds have adapted.  But along with that, I would also say that I drink more water than I used to.

The funny thing is that less than six months ago I read that Coca-Cola was on the ropes, that people were drinking less soda and therefore they were in danger of some hard times.  Guess not.

Finally, we have something that's unique to central Kentucky called Ale-8-1.  It's a ginger flavored soda that is HEAVILY caffeinated and a popular choice among many in this area, particularly those who work long hours in outdoor jobs like construction and landscaping.  In recent years they've diversified into a diet and caffeine-free varieties, and now have introduced a cherry flavored soda.  And instead of asking relatives to ship this stuff (which is sold not only in cans but also RETURNABLE bottles) to them in distant locations, the Ale-8-1 folks will now sell you some online.

I've never been a big fan of their products, but I have to admit that it's been a long time.  Perhaps the next time I stop into a convenience store....


Friday, April 13, 2018

Enough

This is not designed to be an update or rebuttal to January's "State of the Union" address.

But the flurry of news items, information, accusations and leaks to the media make it almost impossible to read or watch news for any length of time without being exposed to the all-consuming subject of the Trump Administration and the campaign that preceded it.

It's not enough that an investigation about the Trump campaign and potential association with Russians (and other bad actors) who wished to influence the outcome of the 2016 election began BEFORE THIS PRESIDENT EVEN TOOK OFFICE....

It's not enough that, in addition to somewhere around twenty women who accused this man of sexual misconduct of varying types prior to the election, we have since learned of at least two women who were paid to maintain their silence....

It's not enough that this president appointed two avowed opponents of protecting our environment and natural resources are currently in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior....

It's not enough that the White House and Cabinet are staffed with people who can't satisfy their petulant boss despite their best intentions to serve their country, or are there to enrich themselves with first-class travel and excesses of office....

It's not enough that a tweeted accusation against someone who injured the President in some way turns into an actual executive order, as the Administration's order of a review of the U.S. Postal Service and its contracts (not named but specifically aimed at Amazon.com, a favorite target of the President's in recent days)....

It's not enough to tweet about pending missile strikes and other military action WITHOUT CONSULTING THE LEADERS OF OUR MILITARY OR OUR ALLIES....

It's not enough to not only parrot what's said on Fox News but also to tweet promotional announcements about upcoming programming on that channel....

No.

We have a President who seems to think it's permissible to decry actions taken by the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys in the course of ongoing investigations of wrongdoing on many fronts.  And that it may be permissible to fire those responsible for green-lighting specific acts designed to seize compromising and potentially incriminating materials.  And that it's acceptable to say that these actions are "an attack on our country," when they're simply an affront to him and those closest to him.

We have enough sustained threat of the firing of more key people involved in these investigations that members of Congress are rapidly assembling bipartisan legislation designed to prevent the President from firing the Special Counsel who's charged with investigating all of this.

We have civil litigation pending against the President of the United States regarding alleged past sexual affairs and his efforts to ensure that these affairs would stay private.

The Speaker of the House announced a couple of days ago that he plans to retire from public service later in the year.  If you're constitutionally aware, you already know that the Speaker is third in the line of succession to the Presidency.  So perhaps that's his way of expressing that he does not want to be in that line of succession.

The FBI Director whom the President fired about a year ago is about to release a memoir in which he states that the President conducted himself much like a Mafia boss, as this former Director prosecuted many mob figures in his career in the Justice Department.

Finally, we have a President who, despite claiming for months that he was eager for the chance to meet with and be interviewed by the Special Counsel, will now not do so, as the negotiations regarding the timing and conditions of such an interview have broken down, according to media accounts.  Correspondingly, it was also leaked that the Special Counsel is prepared to move forward on completing a report that outlines four distinct areas in which the President would be accused of obstruction of justice.

All of that barely scratches the surface of what we're facing as a country.  Our democracy has a gift for self-correcting to a great extent, and it appears that there will be a "blue wave" in this year's mid-term elections that will shift the balance of power in Washington to some degree.

What happens between now and then will define where we go from here.




Monday, April 9, 2018

Your run-of-the-mill catch-all blog post

Good morning, friends.  I wish that I could say that spring has sprung here in central Kentucky, but, wouldn't you know it, we had another touch of snow last night!  But warmer days are ahead here, at least until it cools off again.  Mother Nature seems to have a sense of humor, at least.

The baseball gods apparently do not, however, as the Cincinnati Reds finally had a complete game, with good pitching, decent fielding and timely hitting Saturday night, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates on a cold night in western Pennsylvania.  Then yesterday these things happened:

They allowed five runs
They managed ONE hit, and that was by their starting pitcher
They lost their third baseman, Eugenio Suarez (who hit a go-ahead three-run home run Saturday night) to an injury, as he was hit by a pitch and fractured his right thumb
And they lost

If you follow the Reds at all you're bound to agree with me that we've seen this movie before.  Hoping the ending is different than the last few times.

Patrick Reed awoke a happy man today, as he outlasted an aggressive field and won the Masters golf tournament yesterday.  It's always been said that when a golfer wins a major championship that his life is then divided into two segments, his life before and after winning that first major.  So he'll now experience that.

Multiple major winner Tiger Woods managed to play well enough to qualify for the weekend and finished at one-over-par, which is not bad for a fellow who couldn't get out of bed without help just a few months ago.

I read last night that Facebook hired a media expert who worked with former President George W. Bush, and this expert has been working intensively to help CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepare for tomorrow's testimony on Capitol Hill about Facebook's inability to safeguard the privacy of its users and related matters.  Apparently Mr. Zuckerberg is loath to speak in public and the purpose of this crash course is to help him convey charm and humor, instead of his normal approach of detached arrogance.  He'd better do something if he doesn't want the wrath of the federal government to interfere with his plans.

[Full disclosure--I'm not a Facebook user, never was and certainly don't plan to become one now.]

It's gotten so bad that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that he's deleted his account.  Woz says that (and I'm paraphrasing) while Apple will sell YOU a great product, with Facebook, you ARE the product.  Interesting observation.

I'm sure the White House is a busy place this morning, what with a brand-new National Security Advisor starting work this morning, and multiple vacant positions for which secretaries need to be confirmed, and the spectre of more vacancies right on the horizon.

Last night MSNBC aired a very interesting biographical sketch of Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director who's currently the Special Counsel to the Justice Department, charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.  Generally any news about that investigation is met with some sort of reaction from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so I wouldn't expect this to be any different.

We were looking for something to watch before that aired and spotted (but didn't watch) a four-part series on Donald Trump.  No idea who put it together, but it's segmented into logical parts.  If I wanted to know more.....

Suppose there's real work to be done so off I go.









Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The most elusive season

It's supposed to be springtime, right?  The calendar says so.  Easter and Passover were just celebrated.    But this morning it's 35 degrees here in my home area.

This is why our grandmothers used to warn not to plant anything, ANYTHING, until Mother's Day!

Since spring appeared on the calendar we here in central Kentucky have seen rain, snow, high winds and a mixture of all of the above.  That's probably pretty normal, actually, but it's no less jarring.

So we continue to watch the weather to have some earthly idea of how to dress day by day!

The Reds were in a bit of a pickle last Wednesday.  They were scheduled to open their season Thursday afternoon, and the weather forecast predicted 100% chance of rain.  So instead of trying to play the game in conditions miserable for players and spectators alike, they simply postponed the game until Friday, when there was an open date on the schedule, and although the team lost to Washington, the game and related festivities went off without a hitch.

But they were rained out again last night.  Such is springtime in the midwest.

That's nothing, though, as the Yankees were scheduled to open their home season Monday and it snowed several inches in New York.

You may wonder why there's so much havoc in the baseball schedule already.  Well, the lords of Major League Baseball and the Players' Association agreed that they should start the season a little sooner to ensure more days off for players during the season.

Once upon a time this was achieved by each team playing a few doubleheaders, where patrons paid one price and were treated to two games.  When I was a kid that was the only way my dad would take my brothers and me to a game---better value, you know.  Now, a doubleheader only happens when rain forces it, and the games are split up into two different admission costs.   Gotta make that money, you know.

At home, I have a few projects I want to tackle, but am not going to dig up more plants until I'm ready to replace them, so I'm in a holding pattern with my yard.  I have mowed once, though, and need to do it again, but our on-again, off-again rain seems to get in the way.

At least I've inspired both of my neighbors to trim their lawns....