August 13, 2017

When Your Cup Is Empty …

Please, Pour Me a Refill

Poor service permeates our lives these days. It may be poor service at a restaurant or lousy customer service at a convenience store. I don't think the people I talk to on a regular basis are regular complainers, but it sure seems there are a lot of people talking lousy service.
Last week, we ate dinner at a place that highlights its great deal on a fair meal. The meal is decent, the atmosphere good, but the first thing the waitress says is, "It's going to be an hour before you will be served." I made mention that maybe she could have said that in a little more polished way. One of the folks we were dining with, though, said, "You never apologize for being busy." Touché.

We stayed because we enjoy getting together like this occasionally, or weekly. We don't mind the wait. We enjoy chatting and talking up the latest events in life. However, it is great when the waitress checks back in, keeps the table informed, or at least fills up beverages.

Do You Know Good Service When You See It?

I'm not an expert so I might not even be able to discuss customer service. I just hope that the service improves because I would be disappointed to see another restaurant fail. We know that the more times we experience bad service, the less likely we are to go back. Imagine that this wasn't a standing event in our lives, but the first time we stopped in. We likely wouldn't return. And we would tell others, and they would never go, either.

This all leads to another issue. Everyplace has a "help wanted" sign in its window. It's becoming difficult to find help, let alone good help. So, if someone shows up to work is that good enough? If you have someone to take care of business, is that good enough? Our conversation the other night led down this road? One of the diners I was with said, "At least leave a dollar tip because she showed up for work." A couple of others said, "No way." We tipped in the end.

Is showing up good to work enough, or is it a start?

July 13, 2017

the Need to Write

Writer's … block

Some days, I know I should write before deciding to write on Rick's Writing Again. I need to clear out the many different thoughts in my head. There's just so much going on during the summer … Usually, I use the morning pages to clear my head, and I guess I'm going to have to get back into that habit. The idea behind the morning pages is to clear your head so you can be more creative. I can't even find a starting point to write anything coherent this morning.

Part of me wants to write something about how the beginning of the second half of the baseball season is the beginning of the end of summer. Another part wants to write about the state of education currently, and how so few kids are going into education as a career these days. Then, I could also write about the projects we have going on at the house. Or maybe I could write about our efforts to walk more this summer.

There's so much to write about. I've been enjoying podcasts again. I especially enjoy Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, The Art of Manliness, The Truth Barrel, as well as others. I also like to dabble in what Mike Rowe, the Art of Charm, and Dave Ramsey have to say. I wish that some of the podcasters would produce less content because it's hard to keep up with, and I end up skipping podcasts that sound "less interesting." Sometimes the podcasts that don't sound interesting end up teaching a great deal.

Anyway, I don't know if I said anything constructive today. Check out a couple of the aforementioned podcasts. They usually have something of value to share. Thanks for hanging in there. (I'm heading to Lansing for a conference. Ah, summer …)

July 11, 2017

Born in the USA

The Boss 

Today, I'm trying to think of something different to write about. I have been writing about baseball lately. I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen, The Boss, on my Amazon Alexa. In the '80s, I wore out a cassette version of Springsteen's seminal classic, BORN IN THE USA. The LP came out in one of my favorite years, 1984. The album contained basically became a "greatest hits" collection itself. Seven singles from the album charted, and the B-side to the final single, "My Hometown," contains my favorite Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Live)." Springsteen was rolling in '84-'85, nearly a decade after his "breakthrough" platter, BORN TO RUN.

Springsteen still records and tours today. Allegedly, he puts on an incredible stage show that lasts several hours. When USA came out, I was 12 years old. I didn't realize the social commentary The Boss was making; I didn't understand that until a good decade or so later. I liked singing along to the songs — and couldn't believe that so many good tunes were on one cassette. Granted, my favorites at the time were John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Bob Seger, and Jimmy Buffett. If that doesn't prove that the music you listen to when you're young greatly influences your later listening habits, I don't know what is … I own many of Springsteen's recordings, but nothing is nearly as good as the "comeback" from 1984.

My favorite song on the LP is "Darlington County." I've always liked the music and the lyrics and feel it tells an interesting story. The song was not one of the aforementioned seven singles, either. Most of The Boss's best work tells stories. One of the best stories I heard about him is at the Fox Theater in Detroit during his Ghost of Tom Joad tour in the mid-'90s, the crowd was cheering and he told them to "hush." He was on a unique (at the time) folk tour to support the LP and wanted the crowd to listen to the music and lyrics. I always thought that was cool.








July 10, 2017

The All Star Game

The Mid–Summer Classic

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved the Major League Baseball All Star Game. I looked forward to it because the only time we used to be able to watch baseball games was when our local team had a rare telecast and on the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC. It was right after This Week In Baseball. At the All Star game, we could see all of our heroes and what they were looking like at the time. Baseball and life has changed greatly. We have constant access to so much via the Internet.

Baseball didn't market itself the way it does now. There was no show that told us who the All Stars would be; moreover, there was no vote for the final player. Heck, starting pitchers sometimes pitched more than one inning. It was a different time. The Classic is much different now. Back in the '80s, it was our one chance to see Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines on the same field; Gary Carter and Lance Parrish as the catchers ... Now, we know the players better than we ever have before, but it's a much different game. If I'm correct, when the game was in National League parks, the pitchers batted.

Ah, once again ... what a great game!!!

July 09, 2017

Supply, Demand, & the Future of the Detroit Nine

THE LOST SEASON

As you've read here and everywhere else recently, this is a lost season for the Major League Baseball team in Detroit. The Club is struggling. You could argue that this team is more talented that the 2006 club that had a great manager and a hunger — not to mention just three seasons removed from a 119–loss debacle. A season that, in retrospect, was more enjoyable than the current season. And I'm not just saying that. That team was bad, and we knew it.

MIRACLE WORKER

I don't know if Al Avila can pull off any miracles. I'm not talking about a miracle to save this season because I don't think this season can be salvaged. This team is a mess from the top down. Brad Ausmus has not made good choices on his coaches, and perhaps we was guided by management in making those decisions. Jeff Jones was ravaged often as the pitching coach; however, Rich Dubee seems to have messed things up majorly. In fact, you can see that Anibal Sanchez went down to Toledo and came back improved, but that didn't happen while working with Dubee in the cities with the tall buildings. Of course, Lloyd McClendon just seems to wander back to Detroit regularly. You have to wonder why Wally Joyner left the organization (in a timely manner). The hitters have regressed this season, which may be natural.

MAYBIN

The Tigers miss the energy of Cameron Maybin. Maybin has been moved a great deal in his career, so he may be more of a burden than his leadership seems to offer. You can't help but wonder why people are frequently traded during their careers, you can only make assumptions. You have to go back to December 2, 2013, to understand the unraveling of the Detroit Tigers. That's the day the Tigers shocked everyone by shipping Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol. The Tigers quickly soured on Ray and shipped him out in a deal that netted the Tigers Shane Greene. Now, Ray is an all star for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I site that day as a watershed moment in the Tigers unraveling. The 2013 season should have been one that we celebrate forever; however, the Boston Red Sox pulled off a big series win and ultimately won a World Series. I can't complain too much about ?Dombrowski's trades because he somehow jettisoned Prince Fielder (and his contract) to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler on November 20 of the same off season.

CHANGE THE TIMES, CHANGE THE OUTCOME

Can Al Avila do anything to initiate change to the organization? Rumors persist that a couple of teams are interested in last year's American League Cy Young runner up, Justin Verlander. Verlander is not having a good season in 2017; however, he may be valuable to a contending team like the Chicago Cubs or Las Angeles Dodgers. It's a shame the team couldn't move him in the off season because his value was high. Maybe one of the teams could send us a prospect or two to the Tigers for a future Hall of Famer. Something might be possible. JD Martinez should command three decent prospects in the right deal; perhaps a return to the Houston Astros. He's a slugger who will immediately help a contender. Justin Wilson is a perfect fit for another trade with the Washington Nationals. I don't know that the Nats have any prospects they could ship our way, but they need to figure out how to acquire Wilson. He'll be lights out in D.C. and help carry the Nats over the Dodgers in the NL. The Nats absolutely have to find a closer and his name is not K–Rod, who they signed (and are having the Tigers pay). Justin Upton is having a great season, but it's unlikely anyone would want to trade for him because of his opt out possibilities after the season. The Tigers could deal him for little in return, as well. Jose Iglesias could also bring something in return.

BUILD AROUND THE MOUND 

The Tigers' young pitchers have good futures. Michael Fulmer is a certain ace and Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris both have upsides. I believe the first round draft pick Alex Faedo also has a solid future. The Tigers have to build a bullpen, as well. You've certainly heard that before. Finally, the Tigers have to build a team for Comerica Park for the first time in 17 seasons. The Tigers home ballpark is one that should require excellent defense and a quick team; however, the Tigers currently have three of the slowest players in baseball. The Tigers need to acquire or promote a fast center fielder who can leadoff and make things happen from that spot in the batting order. They then need to find someone who can play defense at third base. I don't know if Nicholas Castellano will develop as we have expected. He's on a pace to hit .245 with 20 HR and 90 RBI, but his defense hurts the team overall. Kinsler has had a great career, but Omar Infante could man second base during a transition period. The team can't move the legendary Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez has cement holding him to his contract in Detroit (one more season at $18 million with a full no trade clause).

ALBATROSS

The off season will also help, as Sanchez's contract will be off the books at a cost of a $5 million buyout. Kinsler has a club option for a $10 million contract which would be worth doing if they don't move him prior. Jordan Zimmermann is signed through 2020 at nearly $20 million a season — a contract that is an albatross. The Tigers also owe the Rangers $18 million toward Fielder's contract. The Tigers have only seven players signed for 2018 and the amount of salary there is already $150 million. Cabrera, Verlander, Zimmermann, Upton, Victor Martinez make up much of that. Kinsler and Sanchez are also factored in to that cost and it could change. The Tigers have to find a way to pare some salary and begin building for a sustainable future.

July 07, 2017

Social Media & It's Relation to Nostalgia

Social Media & Nostalgia 

It's been a couple of months since I decided to make a change.

Aimlessly Surfing 

One morning, I spent 15 minutes aimlessly surfing Facebook and Twitter on my iPhone; I realized that I waste a lot of time surfing through strange articles, columns, and information (as well as comments, rants, etc.). I was an early adopter of Twitter because I love the way it quickly links to information. I decided, though, to remove both apps from my phone. If I need to see something on either one, I can login to my Safari app and go to Facebook or Twitter. I also deleted Instagram and Snapchat. I haven't missed Instagram because I never found a good use for it, but my family insisted that I add Snapchat back because we use the app as a messenger.

Apps That Work

That one morning wasn't the only time I surfed aimlessly. The apps we have available have great power for us. Heck, I'm still amazed at what we can do while sitting on a couch. I used to have to go to the library to find the information that is now literally at our fingertips. Think about the amount of music and entertainment that we never have to leave home to find. Yesterday, I signed up to Amazon Unlimited Music because they're running a great promotional deal. I've had David Lee Roth's Skyscraper in my wishlist for a couple weeks, so now I can listen to it for "free."

Social Media Stars

Truly, this video from last night's John Mellencamp concert in Philadelphia is "free" on Youtube. My music on Amazon Unlimited is not actually free but "you know what I mean." How cool is it, though, that John Mellencamp's Twitter link sends out a concert video from last night's show. There are definitely advantages for authors, artists, etc. to communicate with their fan base. Jeff Pearlman has done a great job promoting his upcoming USFL book on his Twitter account.

Google Reader

I still visit Feedly every day for my blog fix. Am I the only one who misses Google Reader? Hard to believe it's been gone for four years because it was such a solid program to keep updated on a great amount of information. The aimless surf has value. Don't get me wrong ...  Everything leads to nostalgia, as you can see. Listening to a 25 year old album by DLR, a classic from JM still played live 30+ years later, and awaiting a book about the history of an amazing league are all about touching the past.

June 30, 2017

John Cougar's "Cheap Shot"

"Cheap Shot (The Record Company Song)"

Imagine a virtually unknown John Cougar singing the following song on his second major commercial release (and fourth or fifth album overall). John Cougar was the Indiana Bob Seger — unknown outside of Indiana and the general midwest region. He didn't really break through until American Fool arrived in 1982, on April 1.

Nothin' Matters and What If It Did is actually a pretty decent LP. It has some good rockin' songs, uses some inappropriate language (before it was mainstream), and actually spawned a hit or two. But the song "Cheap Shot" made it on to the album — and it's amazing that it did. The song, which slams record companies, is about 25 years ahead of itself.

Check it out!