Tag Archives: Opinion

Sirens in the Night

sirenI was awakened at 4:57 am this morning by the tornado siren in the neighborhood directly behind our own.

If you’ve never heard a tornado siren sound off, it’s something similar to the horn that a freight train blows as it approaches a railroad crossing or the horn that sounds (repeatedly) when the home team in a National Hockey League game scores a goal.

I was confident that no one had scored in the other neighborhood, at least not at that hour of the night, but being as I was awake away, I decided to get up and check the radar app on my iPhone to see what was going on.  The radar revealed a band of bright red, orange, and yellow directly above my location on the map.

This in turn led me to do something that in recent years, I’ve typically avoided at all costs.  That is, to turn on The Weather Channel to see what they might be reporting.

I’m old enough to remember when The Weather Channel actually reported on the weather, rather than show documentaries about Australian photographers tramping around in the Outback or endless shows on “The Top 10 Most (fill in the blank)“.

When The Weather Channel does get around to discussing the current weather, they do so in the most melodramatic and outrageous manner possible.

Who hasn’t seen the endless pronouncements by their “meteorologists” instructing us to “never go outside in conditions like this“, while they, in fact, are outside in conditions like this?

Who can forget the scene in which one of their reporters was shown desperately holding on to a tree, leaning forward, and bracing himself so that he wouldn’t be blown away by the dangerously high winds; only to have that moment spoiled by two guys wearing shorts, casually strolling down the sidewalk behind him?

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen!

Anyway, I turned on The Weather Channel.  It came as no surprise that my expectations were immediately confirmed.

There she was, their leading early morning host, gleefully talking about the dangers associated with the weather system making its way across the southeast.  She was positively bubbling over as videos of downed trees and houses without roofs filled the screen.  She was barely able to control her excitement as she reminded her co-host that there had even been fatalities associated with this storm.  Thankfully, he had enough presence of mind to change the subject as rapidly as he could.
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In disdain, I immediately turned off the TV.

I returned to the radar app on my iPhone which provided me with immediate and accurate information regarding the current weather conditions.  And it did so, without melodrama, outrageousness, and without needless embellishments contributed by faux celebrity meteorologists.

A plague on pollen and all other allergens

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In terms of being sensitive to, or even aware of, those mostly invisible foreign irritants which float around in our atmosphere, I led an idyllic childhood.  My brother suffered from recurring bouts of asthma and both my mother and father from seasonal allergies.  I, on the other hand, seemed to be immune to all such maladies.

That is until one fateful Spring day during my freshman year in college.  That was the day that Bobby Bumbles walked into my dorm room carrying a kitten.  His real name was Robert, but due to his proclivity to spontaneously disrupt the general welfare of those with whom he came into contact, Robert became known to all as Bobby Bumbles.  No doubt, he probably still is.

A perfect example of his impact on others was evidenced by his acquisition of the kitten.  No good can come from attempting to discern why he thought that having a kitten in a college dorm would be practical, much less a good idea.  There’s simply no reasonable explanation for that.  Nor is there an acceptable reason for why he began playing with the feline as he sat on my bed; rolling the kitten around, bouncing it on my blanket, and in the process dislodging copious amounts of cat hair, fur, and dander.

Within an hour, I began to feel as if someone had sprinkled tiny particles of sand under my eyelids, my breathing became labored, and a vile and noxious fluid began draining down the back of my throat.  That was the day that I learned that I was allergic to cats.  And I remain so to this day.

Thank you Bobby Bumbles, wherever you are.

I’m fairly sure that the initiation of my cat allergy also served as my personal Pandora’s Box in terms of the advent of other allergies.  Within a year or two, I found that I had become susceptible to various forms of pollen based hay fevers.

At first, my reactions to pollen seemed to occur on an every other year basis and were limited to short-term bouts of itchy and watering eyes, repetitious sneezing fits, and dull headaches.  But within a few years, I also began to develop nasal congestion, a scratchy throat, and tiny but incredibly itchy bumps on my fingers and hands.  A dermatologist told me that these bumps were known as vesicles, that they were related to hay fever, that they can develop within a very few minutes, last several weeks, and were essentially untreatable.

Did I mention that with my ever advancing age, my hay fever is no longer biennial, but now an annual affair?

As noted above, today’s pollen count is 10.1 – High.  I have no idea how that assessment is derived, nor do I want to have it explained.  I’m just glad that it’s less than the 11.0 – Extremely High levels that we’ve had here for the past three or four days.

img_0254I’ve tried using the common over-the-counter allergy medications with limited or no success.  These days, I tend to just stay indoors until the pollen counts subside. 

This has the added benefit of limiting my exposure to those other irritants in the environment such as urban sprawl, endless and unoccupied strip malls, traffic jams, and their basic root cause – people who have absolutely no clue how to drive a car!

Happy days!

 

Technology is my Friend

A couple of nights back, my wife and I were watching a show on the TV when she made a comment about my aging Apple iPad Mini 2 which happened to be laying on an end table between us. I can’t remember what inspired that topic of conversation, maybe it was a commercial, but to my surprise, she said something along the line of, “You know, maybe it’s time for you to upgrade to a better iPad and then I can have the Mini 2?” She even suggested that I should get one like that which our youngest son had recently acquired.

To be honest, I had been feeling a bit constrained by my iPad Mini 2’s somewhat minuscule 16GB of storage. So it didn’t take a lot of persuasion for me to pursue that line of reasoning. You might say that my reaction was similar to that of the old firehouse horse who, on hearing any alarm, immediately springs into action!

To make a very brief story even shorter, in less than 36 hours, I had in my possession a shiny new iPad Pro with 256GB of storage. I’m still trying to figure out what I did to have been granted such amazing good fortune. If I ever do, I’m going to bottle it and save it for use sometime in the future.

I became a techno-geek years before that terminology was even imagined, so it’ll come as no surprise that I keep up with the latest advancements in computer/tablet technology. I also knew that my son had indicated that since acquiring his, he was now securely joined at the hip to the iPad Pro.

As soon as I opened the box and extracted my copy of this amazing device, I immediately felt it interfacing with my hip as well. I’m fairly confident that I also heard a monotone voice whispering, “Resistence is futile. You have been assimilated.

By itself, going from 16GB of storage to 256GB is a life changing event. It put an end to the revolving door of apps coming and going on my Mini 2 as I came across new, untried applications and uses for that device. With the iPad Pro, I’m now able to install and utilize apps with impunity. But that’s merely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Some reviewers have indicated that the iPad Pro, along with a Bluetooth or Smart keyboard, can replace the need for a laptop computer. I’m not sure that I’d go that far, but it is a computing powerhouse. For those so inclined, countless reviews of the iPad Pro can be found on YouTube.

Suffice it to say, that I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of getting mine configured for my usage and learning about all that it can do.

Once again, I find myself in techno-geek heaven!

Learning from Past Mistakes

Well now, it’s been entirely too long since my last blog post – which seems to be a common complaint among the WordPress faithful.  But one of the major problems with being retired and having a very large number of interests is in finding the time to satisfy the demands that all of those interests place on your schedule.

But I digress. The topic of today’s post came to me about a week ago as I was working out; something I now do 3 to 4 times per week.  I was doing my cardio workout, pedaling to beat the band on a LifeCycle and keeping my heart rate well up into the cardio range, when I noticed a news report on one of the 14 or so TV’s hanging from the ceiling just in front of me.

Through the magic of subtitles, I learned that medical researchers have now determined that the commonly held belief that there are health benefits to be gained by consuming one or two glasses of red wine per day is now believed to be without merit!  Shocking!

The reporter strongly implied that the belief that red wine consumption, in moderation, is good for you has possibly been the work of elements within the French government who are interested in promoting that nation’s wine industry.  Doubly shocking!

I’ve never been a big wine drinker, but if I do drink the stuff, it’s the red variety that I go for; so I’m not overly disturbed by this revelation.

All I can say is, “Don’t be funding any studies into the health effects of dark beer! ” Just leave all of those Stouts, Porters, and Brown Ales well enough alone.

Dr-adThis whole episode reminded me of some advertisements that I came across years ago during my college days.  I was holed up in the university library and for some reason, now lost in the mists of time, I was looking at old Life and Look magazines from the 1940’s and 50’s.  Particularly at the full page cigarette advertisements in which doctors, as in physicians and MDs, were extolling the benefits of smoking cigarettes!

It’s hard to believe in our sanitized and now virtually smoke-free world that doctors could have believed that smoking cigarettes, especially the brand that they personally preferred, was an activity to be so strongly promoted.  But there you have it.dentistreccomendedL

I wonder how long it will be before new research pops up which causes us to rethink our views on the use of tobacco, or the consumption of heavily sugar-coated breakfast cereals.

Hang on Fruit Loops, Sugar Pops, and Frosted Flakes; your day may yet come again!

Retirement = Free time …. not necessarily

Before I retired, I never really gave much thought to what I’d be doing with all of the “free time” which retirement was supposed to place at my disposal.  Based on the number of hobbies and pursuits that I have: such as ham radio, reading, photography, writing, etc., I suppose I assumed that I would occupy most of my time in the pursuit of those activities.

After nearly six months of retirement, that’s not been the case.  Bummer? Well, maybe.

raquel-martinez-96648-unsplWe all know that those two evil twins, Accountability and Responsibility, will raise their ugly heads when and where you least expect them!  Paying bills, balancing the checkbook, buying groceries, doing laundry, cutting the grass, running errands around town, and other mundane, yet very necessary tasks, fill as much of my “free time” as those aforementioned hobbies and pursuits.

Quite frankly, I believe that’s the way it should be.

It turns out that retirement is not like being set free on a giant playground with no responsibilities and no time constraints.

That said, I’ve recognized that retirement grants you, and you alone, a great deal of freedom in determining when and how you choose to address those things which still demand your attention and for which you are still responsible.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

It took a while, but over the past few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest reward of retirement is simply having:

           Freedom of choice when it comes to the deciding when to do those
           tasks you need to do versus those activities you want to do.

toa-heftiba-362237-unsplashIf you manage that freedom properly, it’s still possible to find yourself with an abundance of free time to do whatever it might be that you want to do each day; or conversely, to elect to do nothing at all!

And what a joy that last option can be!

I’ve come to believe that success in having an enjoyable and rewarding retirement will be determined by how well individuals balance this new found freedom with their on-going responsibilities.

In retirement, you really do become your own boss and take it from me, that’s real freedom!

That’s why, when others ask how I’m enjoying retirement, I tell them that I feel as if I’m residing in a very pleasant Alternate Universe from the one in which I existed during my working life.

And make no mistake, it’s a very satisfactory universe at that.

Photos by Toa Heftiba and Raquel Martinez on Unsplash

Principles vs Personalities

In church this morning, our minister asked us a very straight forward question, “Can you name someone who you look up to?”

I’ve been thinking about that question ever since, for the simple reason that I have a difficult time thinking of anyone who I can easily single out for that honor.  It’s not that I haven’t had people in my life who have had a significant impact on me.  It’s just that my life experiences have led me to place more value on the principles which people regularly practice than on the individuals themselves.

During my career, I spent several years working in a long-range planning and development role with the objective of not only ensuring business success by focusing on the things all businesses seek: ensuring product quality, profitability, and customer service for example; but perhaps more importantly on building an organization which would support and sustain long term, on-going world class performance.

Over time, we recognized that we were attempting to develop a Principle Centered organization, rather than one which was Personality Centered.

TeamworkOur model of a Principle Centered organization was one in which all employees knew, understood, practiced, and embraced the values and core principles of the organization; as well participated in the identification and achievement of the organization’s long term goals and objectives.

By contrast, a Personality Centered organization was one in which business success was largely a function of the ability of a limited number of key individuals to determine its goals and objectives and then to lead the rest of the organization in achieving them.  The problem with Personality Centered organizations is that it’s not often clear to the rest of the organization what, if any, principles guided the decision making process.

In a nut shell, we recognized that well defined and understood Principles can have an extraordinarily long life, whereas the Personalities within an organization typically change with surprising speed and regularity.

In other words, the goals, objectives, and vision of Principle Centered organizations were more likely to remain in tact in the event of personnel changes, while those of Personality Centered organizations were very likely to change as new leaders exercised their managerial prerogative to take the organization in a different direction.

You might be asking yourself, “Were we successful in building this organization?”  The answer is, “Yes and No.”

We were working within a single division of a very large corporation made up of several other divisions.  The Personality Centered model outlined above was successfully implemented within that division and for a span of 10 or so years it resulted in significant performance and productivity improvements, as well as the development of a workforce which felt very empowered.

the-bossOver time however, key individuals within our division who had participated in the creation of the Principle Centered organization moved on and were replaced with individuals from other divisions who had not.  As they began to implement changes, the focus on our core principles began to erode, productivity and performance began to lag, and the organization slowly shifted back to the Personality Centered model.

So where does that leave me?  Well, if I’m faced with having to make a choice between principles or individuals, I’ll go with the principles that I embrace every time!

(And also with the individuals who practice them!)

Photos by RawPixel on Unsplash and Lukas from Pexels

Give ’em an inch…..

redlightI’m old enough to remember when drivers did not have the freedom to pull up to a traffic light which happened to be red and then make a right turn after coming to a complete stop.

Generally known as “Right on Red”, this rule of the road was legalized in all 50 U.S. states way back in 1980.

I’m curious.  Is there any state in which drivers still routinely come to a complete stop before exercising their prerogative to turn right on red?  I didn’t think so.

It appears that most drivers currently interpret “Right on Red” to mean that it’s totally acceptable for them to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll through red traffic lights as long as they meet the minimum requirement of executing a right turn in the process.

stop-signAbout now, someone is probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?”  Admittedly, this may seem like a very minor bending of the “Right on Red” statue.  Except for the fact that many drivers, at least where I live, are now also applying the assumed freedom to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll to the act of making right turns at Stop signs.

From there, it’s a very short step to assuming that if one can make right turns when the traffic light is red, why isn’t it also permissible to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll straight through red traffic lights as well?  Assuming of course, there are no other cars attempting to make it through the same intersection at the same time under the auspices of a green light.

Based on my own casual observations while driving locally, it appears that most drivers have long ago deemed the yellow caution traffic lights to be a nothing more than a nuisance and the need to pay attention to them to be completely optional.  Gradually, that same mindset is being applied to red lights.

Just the other day, I observed three cars driving back-to-back through the red light at a very busy intersection near my home.  To be clear, they were not attempting to sneak through the yellow light only to be a bit late in doing so.  No, all three cars drove straight through the traffic light clearly after it had already changed from yellow to red.

Seeing one car zip through a red light has unfortunately become commonplace, but to witness three at the same time left me utterly dumbfounded.  It’s one thing to care so little for your own safety and well-being, but to rashly jeopardize that of other people is totally unacceptable.

I’ll complete the well known axiom that I used in the title of this post, “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”  Or maybe it’s two.

Human nature is alive and well and, often to our detriment, being generously applied in the interpretation of the rules of the road.

Be safe out there and remember to drive defensively!