Dodging the Bullet on Black Friday

It’s an absolutely miserable day outside. It’s one of those days when everything is wet, but it’s not really raining.  In fact there’s not even a good drizzle coming down at the moment.  Maybe it’s raining intermittently, but as yet, I haven’t witnessed any actual rainfall all day.

Did I mention that it’s also cold?

One might expect that a gloomy day like we’re experiencing today could easily put one’s overall mood into a tailspin, but not so for me today.

Earlier this morning, I read a report originating with the crack news hounds over at CNN.  They contend that somewhere around 247 million adults actively shopped over the “Black Friday” weekend.

According to the latest U.S. Census, that would mean that every citizen over the age of 14 years old went shopping at some point between late Thursday and Sunday evening.

That’s why, on a dreary day like today, I find myself uncharacteristically buoyant.

If CNN can be believed, I was the only adult male in the entire nation who didn’t unwittingly find himself in a shopping center, mall, or specialty shop over the weekend just concluded.

On the contrary, I occupied myself by watching football while lounging in my recliner as I quaffed brown ale and consumed turkey sandwiches.

What could be better than that! My cup runneth over!  I, for one, am quite content to count my blessings.

Bring on the rain!

An Early Sunday Morning Gone to the Birds

Just in case anyone is wondering, I haven’t decided to turn this into a photo blog.  It just happens that over the past few days, I’ve been more inspired to capture images, rather than align words.

I’m still in search of opportunities to photograph Great Blue Herons.  There are plenty of them around, but so far I’ve struck out at the local watering holes where they normally hang out.  Next weekend, I may try late afternoon for my searches instead of early morning.

Before my camera batteries died this morning (the one in the camera, plus a back-up), I was able to photograph a few birds in the early light.  I really need to become more disciplined about recharging my batteries.

Canadian Geese banking for a landing on the river
More Canadian Geese in formation

Just cruisin’  (Do these guys migrate any more?  The ones around here seem to have taken up year round residence)
A Red-Tailed Hawk looking for breakfast (I’m fairly certain this is a Red-Tailed. He was so fluffed up against the cold, I admit that my identification could be off)

In Search of the Great Blue Heron

I think that perhaps I’ve been watching too many nature programs on the tube lately.

I woke up this morning and, for the second time this week, I had the urge to grab one of my cameras and a couple of lenses and head out for an early morning photo safari.

Now it’s difficult to conduct a serious safari in an overgrown metropolitan area such as the one in which I reside, but fortunately over the past few years, a lot of work has gone into constructing greenways which meander alongside the creeks and through the wetlands which have somehow managed to survive the suburban sprawl which has led to the demise of so many trees.

The diversity of wildlife which still manages to find habitat locally, surrounded by 4.5 million humanoids, is really somewhat amazing.

As I’ve walked down various sections of the local greenways, I’ve come across beaver, mink, raccoon, possum, coyote, fox, and of course deer. It’s not uncommon these days to find deer out in the neighbor’s front yards ravenously consuming their flower beds. And not surprisingly, deer are now considered by many to be little more than “White Tailed Rats“.

Anyway, I went out this morning hoping to photographically bag a Great Blue Heron. They, along with their smaller cousins the Green Heron, frequent ponds and the shallows near the banks of the creeks along the greenway. I did in fact find Great Blue Herons this morning, two to be specific. But they saw, or more likely heard, me before I saw them in the early morning light. Being somewhat skiddish, and disturbed by my clumsiness while approaching their breakfast nooks, both of the herons took off before I could get my act together.

I did manage to capture a shot of a Killdeer. Not the big game that I was in quest of this morning, but I didn’t want to come home empty handed.

I had to satisfy my photographic “jones” by taking a few shots of the autumn flora and landscape along the banks of Big Creek. A few of those images are sprinkled throughout this post.

As far as the Great Blue Herons are concerned, they’re still out there. And they know I’m coming for them!

A Slightly Different Thanksgiving Day

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2012.  Without doubt, I have much to be thankful for and will most certainly be in that mindset throughout the day, but this Thanksgiving Day will be different than any I’ve celebrated in recent memory.

For the past 34 consecutive years, my Thanksgivings have been spent at my father- and mother-in-law’s home along with most of my extended family on that side of the proverbial genealogical tree.  34 years characterized by excessive amounts of turkey, ham, dressing, hot rolls, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, the ubiquitous green bean casserole, pumpkin pies, cherry pies, heavenly hash, and on, and on, and on.

This year, I’ll be spending the day at home by myself.  Now before anyone begins to think that this is about to become a remorseful tale, let me quickly explain that it is not.  My wife has already traveled to her parent’s home where she will be participating in the day as usual and will be representing myself and our sons.

The primary reason for my solo celebration of the day is due to the fact that I’ve recently started a new job which is going to require that I be at work tomorrow morning.  The in-laws live out of state, making a quick commute impossible.  In addition, my two sons now live in Massachusetts where the oldest is employed and the youngest, having recently graduated from college, is doing freelance work while searching for full-time employment.

Obviously, in this economy, we have much to be thankful for today; we just happen to find ourselves in a unique situation which requires us to be thankful in separate locations.

I have to admit that after being a part of 34 consecutive large traditional family-style Thanksgiving Day celebrations, today is going to be unusually quiet and perhaps even a bit of a let down, but I’ll muddle through.  On the way home from work yesterday, I stopped at the local grocery store and laid in some provisions which I believe will allow me to get me through the day.

I have a large supply of buffalo wings which, when you think about it, are very similar to turkey; only smaller.  I picked up a quart of eggnog, which admittedly is more closely associated with Christmas, but has always been a beverage which I can never get enough of.  I’ve also got chips and peanuts in the pantry, and Coke, beer, and pizza in the refrigerator.  Yeah, I think I’ll make it!

If all else fails, there’s also three NFL games on TV.

I hope you and your families, wherever you and they may find themselves, have a happy Thanksgiving Day!

Living Large in a Small Pond

During the first 33 years of my post-collegiate working life, I found myself employed by relatively large corporations.  At its zenith, my first company provided jobs for around 20,000 in the U.S., while my second employer kept over 43,000 souls busy worldwide.

It didn’t take very long for me to realize that my first company was being managed by a nefarious band of pirates and robbers.  This particular senior management team were expert at leveraging corporate assets, including both labor and material, for their personal advantage.

For example, I can recall one executive’s beach house which was entirely built by the maintenance department staff from one of our larger manufacturing facilities and with materials purportedly purchased for renovations planned for that same plant.

Captain Jack Sparrow simply would not have been able to play in the same league as these guys.

Such was their myopic self-interest that they completely failed to recognize that they were presiding over a case study in the promotion of technological obsolescence.  Thus, they managed to mismanage the company into total extinction within 10 years without ever experiencing even the slightest qualm.

After nine years of working there for one latter day “Black Bart” after another, I moved on to what I imagined would be much greener pastures.

And indeed, the first 10 years of my second corporate experience were blissful in comparison to my first.  During those years the company was truly principle centered, exhibited a commitment to high values, and was genuinely interested in its employees.

Unfortunately, during my last 14 years there, a new senior management team discovered that those pesky “principles and values” could sometimes be impediments to ensuring their receipt of large and lucrative annual bonuses.

It was deja vu all over again!

It didn’t take long for them to figure out that reducing headcount resulted in lower labor costs which in turn increased the bottom line and with it the size of the largesse which they could so benevolently bestow upon themselves.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I now find myself working for a very small, but very profitable company.  The future of this firm looks very good; even in the treacherous economic waters we all find ourselves swimming in.  The bloated inefficiencies which exemplified the working environments and culture of my previous employers are nowhere to be found.

I met the CEO the other day for the first time.  Unannounced and unheralded, he came walking into the area in which I work.  The first thing that I noticed was that he wasn’t surrounded by an entourage of “30-something” sycophants eager to impress the headman and thus ensure their personal fast-track to “Bonus Land“.

I must say that was extremely refreshing.  I’m beginning to think that I’m going be very happy here as a small fish in a relatively small pond.

I just wish I’d considered this career path 35 years ago?

Please Sir, May I Have Some More Status Quo?

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Way back around 470 B.C., the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “Nothing endures but change.”  Ever since then, other writers, thinkers, and just plain ordinary folk have been attempting to pen other words which express that same sentiment, but I’m not sure anyone has ever really improved on ol’ Heraclitus’ original pronouncement on the subject.

By the way, is it just me or does that bust of Heraclitus remind you of “The Most Interesting Man in the World?” – “I may not alway react to change, but when I do, I find it enduring.

I’ve never been particularly resistent to change.  In fact, on the whole, I’ve welcomed the changes that have impacted my life more often than not.  But there does come a point where you just feel like crying “Uncle!” and asking for a respite from the incessant onslaught of revisions, transitions, and vicissitudes which seem to be intent on inundating your peace of mind.

That’s where I find myself at the moment.

Sometimes the sheer number of “opportunities” which change so graciously presents to us can come very close to overwhelming our ability to adequately manage them all.  In recent months, my wife and I have both been dealing with serious illnesses which are effecting both of our fathers.  If you haven’t found yourself in that situation yet, let me tell you that, as any psychologist worth his salt will confirm, it’s a chart topper on the Stress-o-Matic scale.

I’ve always read that relocations, as in moving from one city to another, are heavy duty stress producers as well.  Speaking as a parent, I can tell you that it’s no less stressful when it’s your own child, rather than yourself, who’s doing the relocating.  My youngest son, one of many recent college graduates who have been unable to find work, is leaving home to relocate to Massachusetts to live with his brother in the hope of finding greener employment pastures there.

Not to be outdone by my offspring, I find myself in the middle of transitioning into a new job with a new company.  The process of finding employment in the current economic environment has been a Homeric odyssey of uncertainty all by itself.  Now on top adapting to a new company culture, I’m having to deal with learning my new responsibilities while dusting off old, out-of-practice skills to achieve them.

In spite of it all, I’m confident that there will come a day in the not so distant future when I’ll be able to take a deep breath and say, if to no one other than myself, “Phew!  Got through that, I wonder what’s next?

A Few Random Observations on a Friday Afternoon

I’m still trying to absorb all of the ramifications of Tuesday’s elections, but I believe a significant new political reality is slowly beginning to be acknowledged across the United States.  It’s one with which some people will have great difficulty agreeing.

The event which has put this new reality into very clear focus was the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential contest.

I grew up in an America which was predominantly “center-right” in its political orientation.  I’ve heard this assessment made frequently by political pundits over the years, right up through the election cycle we just completed.

If you’ve been around as long as I have, I’m sure you’ve also heard that because of this prevailing “center-right” political orientation, “liberal politicians have to run toward the center in order to be elected at which point they can begin to govern from the left!

I believe that Tuesday’s presidential election results have driven a stake through the heart of that particular political adage.  Say what you will about President Obama, neither he nor the media, presented himself as a “centrist” during the campaign.

If my reading of the political climate in this country is correct, I think it’s safe to say that our nation’s political orientation has clearly moved to “center-left“.  Some might argue that just a simple “left” would be a more accurate description, but I’m not ready to go quite that far as yet.

So where is this shift in our collective political point of view going to take us?

I wish I knew.  My crystal ball is not working that well at the moment.  But I hope that we will be wise enough to avoid repeating well documented mistakes that have already been made by other “center-left” governments around the world. Some might say that’s a little bit like asking a leopard to remove his own spots.  But in truth, only time will tell.  I’ll just have to be patient in the meantime.

More than anything else, I also hope for a significant increase in the level of civility and bi-partisanship demonstrated by our political leaders; particularly from those in Washington, DC.

Certainly I can wish for that, but quite frankly, I won’t hold my breath waiting to see it fulfilled.

Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

This past Sunday afternoon, I was watching the early NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals on Fox Sports.  I must say that I was quite pleased with the outcome.  The Packers easily took care of the Cards, handing them a 31-17 loss at Lambeau Field.

As that game was winding down, I clicked the “Guide” button on my remote to find out which teams were going to be playing in the second game.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that the 4:00 p.m. match-up on Fox Sports would be pitting Newcastle United against Liverpool!

Say what!?

What could be more unheard of than the live broadcast of an EPL (English Premier League) game in a Sunday afternoon time slot which has been a home to the NFL since time in memoriam!

Lions are going to be laying down with lambs any day now!

Given the steady decline in the quality of programming available, my TV generally is not turned on unless I’m watching sports; or unless there’s a new episode of Ancient Aliens airing on H2!

In recent years, as I’ve scanned through the TV listings in search of a good sports event to watch, I have been aware of a slow but steady increase in the number of soccer games being broadcast here in the states.  And I’m not talking about U.S. based MLS (Major League Soccer) games or Mexican league games on Telemundo.

Case in point, Sunday’s English Premier League game was followed up with the live broadcast of another EPL game, Southampton at West Bromwich Albion, on Monday afternoon.  Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, two Champions League games were broadcast live; Arsenal (Eng.) at Schalke (Ger.) and Barcelona (Spa.) at Celtic (Scot.) respectively.

By the way, Celtic put a big-time thumping on Barca in that one! Go Hoops!

Ten years ago, one could not have imagined watching live English football on U.S. television, much less four live European matches in a single week.

I have a closely kept secret to reveal.  For years, I’ve been a closet soccer fan.  I played the game in my youth, long before the arrival of organized youth leagues.  And I’ve been watching games between European teams on the internet for some time.  I even have the Barclay’s English Premier League app on my iPhone so that I can keep up with scores and league standings.  Such is my fervor for the “beautiful game“.

As far as I’m concerned, being able to watch more EPL and Champions League coverage is a positive trend, and one which I hope to see continue.

At this rate, how long will it be before the names Messi, Gerrard, and Rooney are as recognizable in the U.S. as Manning, Romo, and Vick?