About This Blog

As time permits, in-depth musings on myriad subjects will be posted. Abbreviated adages will be announced via Twitter.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Saving Face

In the days leading up and since the election, I've made a point to stay away from Facebook as I've a friend list all over the political spectrum. For the most part, it's predictable—who will post/like/share what, much like the content (and I do use the term loosely) itself.

Tonight, however, after finishing up weekend grading duties (except for Friday's timed writing assignment—but I will get to them, I promise!), I pulled a Job and logged in. 

The results were largely as predicted.

There were pictures and shares and pathos aplenty, none of which made for a convincing argument. One exception, of course, being the failed robbery attempt at the mall where I worked eons ago; one person died, several injured, and the entire mall on lockdown for some time. The other being a friend whose family was victim of a robbery when their vehicle was robbed while they were at an event. (Praying for you, Lindsey.)

What I'd found from my Facebook hiatus was that I managed to get a LOT more done over the course of a day or even evening—and I was every bit as informed as I had been, thanks to Google News, Flipboard, and even Twitter. Facebook, it seems, just creates this bubble of familiarity, regardless of how well we try to diversify our likes and such. I'm sure it's that familiarity that keeps folk coming back and others coming into office. But I digress.

Going forward, I'd like to see myself checking in less on Facebook, save the weekly or so updates to the Run EPC page in order to get folk running together and enjoying coffee. Steps to achieve this goal include removing the app from my phone & tablet, as well as downloading a really long, but really good book I've not read since my high school days—Stephen King's The Stand. For many reasons, a reread of it just seems fit for right now. That, and I really like King's style and want to soak in more of him again as I attempt to write more and write more better. (Yes, that was intentional.)

Here's to hoping, then, that we both fare well on goals and resolutions established, regardless of it they were made a few weeks, days, or even seconds ago. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Stride to Stumble

Back in the day, this was the ultimate in kids' shoes:

In the eons since, though, increased competition in the kid shoe market has almost made Stride Rite shoes and store somewhat of a novelty. Indeed, even the pair of shoes we bought for The Boy this past August were the Saucony brand, despite being purchased at what was our nearest Stride Rite store. 

And so it was that the kids found themselves in need of new shoes—and we found ourselves in possession of both gift cards and coupons—so we headed to the nearest Stride Rite store at North Star Mall, where we'd been purchasing our Stride Rite shoes since The Boy got his first pair roughly four years ago.

What should have been a quick morning outing, however, turned into an all-day ordeal.

Because life with MS impacts one's mobility to an extraordinary extent, we structured everything about the trip right down to the parking space. A non-handicapped one when we can help it, for we know there are others with equal or greater than need. 

We rolled out from our home in the burbs, timing our arrival to the mall at just past ten o'clock. We arrived, found optimal parking, and wrangled the kids and ourselves into the mall, which was still waking from its evening slumber. The Stride Rite store, however, was shuttered, with all signage and indeed signs of having once housed a whole lot of children's shoes. 

The better part of the next hour was spent, attempting to determine what had happened to the store: Did they move elsewhere in the mall? Did they move to a different shopping area, in a trendier part of the city? Was the location on the far side of town (La Cantera) still open?

Mall directories still indicated Stride Rite was still in its former location. Google thought the same. Mall security was equally clueless. Only the Stride Rite website indicated what had happened to the store,basically showing it no longer existed. The nearest one was in the outlet stores in San Marcos—forty miles in the opposite direction of our home, nearer to Austin than San Antonio.

By this point, it was getting late, and both toddlers were getting hungry and correspondingly cranky. The plan was modified, then, to rocket us to San Marcos for shoes, pitstop at Jason's Deli in New Braunfels on the way home, and then finally home four or five hours after we had left for what should haven been a 90-minute tops outing. 

Fortunately, traffic was light on the way to the Tanger Outlets, but inside the Stride Rite store, it was pretty heavy. And only one person working, as had frequently been the case at the Northstar store (or what had been the Northstar store), which did complicate things, though no more than the previous complications experienced thus far.

Service, however, was still excellent, albeit delayed, given the volume of customers who were not only regulars to the outlets but also those redirected from San Antonio. We commisserated with many who had also gone to Northstar and were surprised to see Stride Rite was no longer housed in said mall—or San Antonio, for that matter.

We also got the scoop on what had happened: Stride Rite had been sold (albeit in 2012) to Wolverine, a company specializing in work boots, although they also own some other brands. Those folks at Corporate were apparently not too happy about the numbers the two San Antonio stores had been producing, so they shut those stores down, leaving nearly all of the entirety of south Texas without a store specializing in the fitting and selling of children's shoes. Rumor had it, too, that if numbers weren't good in San Marcos, they, too, would be shut down. (One woman who was lost from the Northstar location's closing had been with the company for more than two decades; no algorithm can duplicate that level of experience.)

In the hustle of so many customers and so few associates to assist, one pair of shoes did get left behind. It took a series of phone calls and an hour or two of waiting, but the shoes were located and shipped to us the next day. All said, this was the most annoyingly, inconvenient and outright pain in the rumpus shopping experience in my near-four-and-a-half decades on Earth. 

I get it that businesses need to watch their numbers and profit margins, but the disturbing trend indicates that businesses in nearly every market are doing so at the expense of their customers. Without customers, there are no sales (let alone profits) to report to shareholders. Without properly managed and staffed stores, there are no customers.

The kids are set on their shoes for the next few months, though, so we'll need not brave the outlets for some time. When that time does come, though, we will be checking to ensure that Stride Rite is still open for business. It may seem a trivial inconvenience to have to travel from one location to another, but when young children get thrown in—and an autoimmune disease as dastardly as multiple sclerosis—such an outing becomes an outlandish taxation on a family, on a customer base. If Wolverine's intent is to steer more customers to the Stride Rite website, they are certainly succeeding. They are also succeeding in alienating a customer base that either may not care to shop online or would prefer the human expertise generally available at your Stride Rite store.

Sunday, January 01, 2017


It's a new year. 

Just shy of 24 hours old, and already the myriad media insist that with the new year a new me is necessitated. But I disagree.

Rather than a whole new me (my wife and kids are all type A personalities—as am I—so such drastic changes would not be so easily welcomed), I'd like to think that a few tweaks to the me of the present moment may suffice. So I've made two resolutions for the new year that permit a rippling of improvements across my life as a whole:
1) Ride more.
2) Write more.

Resolution #1 (riding more) is for me to get atop a bicycle three or more times each week. I'll not be too picky in order to leave the window open for commuting, riding the trainer, or riding on roads or trails. Naturally, the latter is my preference, but life has a bad habit of insisting on negotiating one's preferences. Somehow or other, then, I will be on my bike more in 2017 in order to be more active and more mindful of everything from breathing to diet to what ot is I think and feel about any particular subject. 

Riding like that was how I got through my undergraduate years in such a good frame of mind—and with such a high GPA. While there are no points awarded for being a good husband/father/teacher/what-have-you, riding more will allow me the necessary outlet to be better at all of those things. And each could use a bit or many bits of improvement. It's wonderful how far-reaching the simple act of straddling a bike can be. 

Writing is an area requiring even more attention than riding, despite my near-casual consistent pace on a bicycle these days as an English teacher, I should be writing more but tend to produce more excuses than prose (and certainly more than poetry) as to why I don't write more. Resolving to write more will serve as a requisite for staying off social media, thereby theoretically providing ample time to type out what I wish to say on whatever subject I wish to speak—all of which will be shared via social media, natch.

So there are my resolutions. With 2017 now 22 hours and 45 minutes old, I can say that I've managed to do both of my resolutions today. I eeked out 32 miles on the bike this morning and now have my first blog entry of the new year now almost complete. Yay me.

Happy new year, and thanks for reading.