Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Has Arrived . . . Finally

Fall weather has finally -- and mercifully -- arrived in Middle Tennessee! We were sitting at Younger Son's football game Friday night. It was Homecoming and I had attended the parade that morning in shorts. I had on similar attire at the game. Temps have been in the mid 90s for the past week.

About mid-way through the third quarter a little breeze began, then a pretty good little shower. Under most circumstances, I would pack it up and head for the car. But when it's my own son playing in his last season, I go to the games equipped with a poncho and umbrella. I'm there for the long haul.

Anyway, the rain lasted for about ten minutes and then it was noticeably cooler. We awoke to a cool, crisp autumn day yesterday morning and have enjoyed a beautiful weekend. Long overdue, I might add.

Wife did the math, and this was our 11th and final Homecoming parade and game at our high school since ours have been students there. One of the cool things about where we live is that we have a lot of the advantages of a big city with Nashville just up the road, but some of the joys of a small town also, and the Homecoming festivities are part of this. There's a big parade on Friday morning with the band, class floats and decorated cars.

There's also the traditional homecoming court with a king and queen from the senior class announced at half-time of the game. Older Son was king his senior year. Daughter always rode in the parade with the class officers and was always heavily involved in float construction for her class, with Wife close on her heels providing food for the workers. Younger Son has always been on the football players' float, except for sophomore year when he was an attendant for his class. So there have been lots of fun times and now we have some great memories.

The game Friday night was great in spite of the brief rain. Younger Son started and had a great game on the O-line, going up against a defender who towered over him and weighed about 350! Younger Son even got some mention in a local online paper. We won big, 42-0, in a game that was expected to be close.

And how in the world did it get to be almost October? If I sit really still, will things slow down, maybe just a bit?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sports Talk

This is the time of year where sports take center stage in our family.

Younger Son is in the middle of his senior football season. Our team is 3-2 and the two losses were heartbreakers. There are five more regular season games and then, should we make it, the playoffs start. We look good right now to be in post-season play come November.

Auburn is 3-0. They won a nail-biter in overtime vs. Clemson this past Saturday. Older Son and his girlfriend went down for the game. Daughter was there, of course, and the rest of us watched it on TV. ESPN "Game Day" was broadcasting from there, so we had to watch that Saturday morning.

(Lest you think I am a total slug, I got up very early Saturday morning, went to the Y and worked out -- to offset the ensuing couch potato time -- then went to a meeting at church. The rest of the day, yes, I was non-productive.)

Sunday afternoon, at the hottest game the Tennessee Titans have ever played here in Nashville, the Titans were pitiful, losing to Pittsburgh in a game where they turned over the ball with regularity. It was not nearly as close as the 19-11 score would indicate. Younger Son went to the game and came home with a very red face.

So we were 2-1 over the weekend, which isn't too bad. We would rather have high school and Auburn victories before a Titans victory anyway.


Not only are we heavy into football right now, but this is when the MLB pennant races get interesting. We're a National League family and the boys are big Atlanta Braves fans. From our door to Turner Field (where the Braves play) is about 3.5 hours so someone in the family usually manages a trip down during the season, if not more. And Daughter can be there in about and hour and a half from Auburn.

The Braves have lead the National League East for much of the season but trail the beginning-to-be-a-dynasty Phillies by three games now. As I write this, they're in Philly playing and are down 3-1 in the 7th. They'll have another three-game series against them in Atlanta later this month. The Braves are leading the Wild Card race right now, but of course every loss will hurt their chances of being in the post-season. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Elsewhere in the National League, it looks like Cincinnati will take the Central Division while San Francisco, San Diego and Colorado are duking it out for the West.

In typical fashion, my favorite team, the hapless Houston Astros, who have spent a big part of the season dwelling in or near the cellar, now is within five games of being .500. That's after making major mid-season adjustments and trading away most of the players (say it ain't so, Lance!) I've followed through the years.

Over in the American League, the Yankees and Rays are neck and neck for the East and whoever comes up short is almost a sure thing to take the AL Wild Card spot. Minnesota and Texas hold comfortable leads in the Central and West Divsions, respectively.


I really need to be resting up because with the Division Playoffs, League Championship Series and World Series, and some major college conference matchups, October will be a busy month.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not There Yet

There are six realms of technology into which I have not yet delved. Here they are and the reasons I am still abstaining:

1. The i-Phone, or any “smart phone” (e.g. Blackberry) via which the owner can send and receive e-mail and access the Internet. I remain the only one in my family of five who does not have one.

I can foresee the day when I am required to have one for work. Until that day comes, however, my little old flip-phone works just fine. I can make and receive calls and also text, though without a “QWERTY” keyboard (I hate that term), there’s a lot of trial and error and it’s time consuming. I can usually make a phone call faster. Honestly, though, I don’t text enough to warrant the upgrade. I don’t see myself wanting or needing Internet access so much that I must carry it with me at all times. The people who walk around and are constantly engaged with these things greatly annoy me.

2. Facebook. Again, I’m the lone family member who is still holding out. And to be fair, I access Wife’s FB page on occasion to catch up with friends and family members who are her “friends” and to look at photos, especially the ones that Daughter posts.

I don’t see myself relenting on this anytime soon. One reason is that I love to keep in touch with people. I know that sounds contradictory but, if I were ever to start the Facebook thing, I could see myself becoming way too obsessed with it. When I do get on Wife’s page, I’ll find myself typing in random names in the “Search” box, just trying to see who might be out there. I think I’m better off just hitch-hiking off of Wife from time to time when she tells me there is a matter of interest and keeping up via my old fashioned blog.

3. Twitter. While I can fathom MAYBE surrendering one day to Facebook (no time soon), I just don’t see me and Twitter ever getting together. Let’s be real. I don’t care what you are doing every minute of every day and I know you feel the same. No tweets needed in my world.

4. GPS. It’s my understanding that a lot of the smart phones have these now. The stand-alone versions have these voices that tell you where to go and how to get there. I have a friend who argues with the voice. In reality, I guess this is a pretty convenient gadget and I am certainly directionally challenged. Call me old fashioned (again), but I’m sticking with MapQuest and Yahoo Maps.

5. iPod / digital music. I can see this coming. I borrowed Wife’s the other day when I had to have some dental work done. She turned it to the Les Miserables soundtrack for me. Combined with the Novocain and the legal limit of nitrous oxide, I was transported. But, still, I see life left in my CDs.

6. Electronic readers like Amazon’s “Kindle.” I get almost all my books from the library so this is really unnecessary for me. Maybe the library will one day be nothing more than a website from which we download books onto our electronic readers (and that will be a sad day). Until that happens, I’m staying with the real thing. I hardly every pay for books now, so no need to get something that will cost me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Costs nothing to be kind

You know, I think there are some lessons to be learned from the economic downturn we have been experiencing the past couple of years.

One of those is how important it is to be civil to our neighbors. By “neighbors” I don’t necessarily mean the people who live by us, although they certainly count, but every fellow citizen with whom we come in contact, especially if that person is working at his/her job. Here are some of the things that got me thinking about this:

I go into a Subway Sandwich Shop every couple of weeks or so. I love their sandwiches because I can dictate exactly how they are made and, since the construction of the sandwich takes place right in front of me, there’s very little chance of it being done wrong. I try to speak clearly and politely to the people on the sandwich line.

Almost every time I go into Subway, though, one or more of the patrons is on his or her cell phone. I’ve talked here before about how people on their cell phones annoy me, but this goes beyond the run-of-the-mill rudeness. People in front of me will inevitably continue their phone conversations while they are trying to instruct the line people what they want on their sandwiches.

What message does this give to the person making the sandwich? This: “I am better than you and my time is more valuable than yours, so I will continue this phone conversation while you conduct the lowly job of making my sandwich.”

Last December, I was in a department store (very rare for me, even at Christmas; I try to stay out of them at all costs). The check-out line was three or four deep. Over to the side was a person who was working another station, like gift wrapping or something like that. The person in front of me decided that she didn’t want to wait in line anymore and went over to this other person doing the gift wrapping or whatever, and began to just go off on her, asking her why she couldn’t help out the overburdened cash register workers.

The store employee politely explained that she had been assigned this other job and did not have the authority to work a cash register. The store customer told her she was just tired of hearing people say "that's not my job" and she would be reporting her to her manager. She then went off in a huff.

Big old tears welled up in the eyes of the store employee. When I had made my purchase I went over to her, took her hand and said, “I just want you to know I think you are doing such a good job. I know it’s hectic this time of year and people are not always kind, but I really appreciate the job you are doing.”

Then the tears just started gushing down her face and she thanked me profusely. I could not have erased the hurt from the words of the other customer, but I hope I helped her out a little bit.

Lest you start telling me what a great guy I am, I am ashamed to tell you that the last example involves yours truly.

I have a lawn service that comes and fertilizes my yard and applies weed killer about a half dozen times a year. I know, I know, I could do this myself, but I live on more than an acre and the fact of the matter is they just do a much better job than I can and it’s worth every penny.

Anyway, this company does a great job but they really call me more than I wish they would. “Just calling to follow up, Mr. McKinney,” one of them will typically say, “and see if you’d like us to . . . (aerate/trim your shrubs/ spray for bugs in the flower bed/ pick your additional service that will cost me more).”

A couple of weeks ago this guy calls, just a few days after one of his colleagues had called me, and I had had enough. I told him I was really tired of the calls, that I didn’t want any additional services and if they kept calling I would just find another service.

The guy on the other end got really quiet, apologized and said he was “just doing his job.” And oh please, just shoot me now. I felt like the biggest heel.

Of course he’s just doing his job. Just like the guy or gal making my sandwich. Just like the lady doing the gift wrapping. It might be that any one of them might wish he/she could do something else, but guess what? Each one of them is working. Each is providing for his/herself and, very likely, a family. They are not collecting unemployment. They might be working these jobs in addition to others for all I know. The last thing someone like this needs is some jerk like me getting in his/her face because I might be tired or having a bad day.

I am blessed beyond measure. My wife and I are gainfully employed. I am going to be kind to my neighbors.