Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Not fit for print

I read today that Knight-Ridder newspapers' fourth quarter earnings were down 22% from last year. It turns out that the shareholders of the company will only get a paltry $1.24 for every share they own instead of the healthy $1.38 they received in the fourth quarter of 2004.

I happen to own 10 shares of Knight-Ridder, so you can imagine how disappointed I am. I really had plans for that extra $1.40 (I've got my eye on the Wendy's 99-cent menu).

But I guess it just goes to show that you can't hold back progress, what with the growing number of blogs and consumer media which do a better job reporting than the so-called journalists. The shareholders of the horseshoe nail manufactures probably felt the same way when the automobile came along. ("Automobile" is another word for "car." Gotta explain these things for people like Tony).

And, when all-around smart guy Dave Berry proclaims that "newspapers are dead," well you pretty much have to stand up and take notice of that.

Of course, I'll keep my newspaper stock. I might have lost that $1.40 over last year's earnings, but I still earned 12.4 junior bacon cheeseburgers.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

YouTube Tuesday: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of the reasons I love using my iMac is because it's so easy to create cool things... like this music video I did of our 3-year-old daughter. Enjoy.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

How to eat Freyed Oprah

Ms. Oprah Winfrey blasted James Frey the other day on her show. Frey, you may recall, is the author of A Million Little Pieces, the tale of a reformed drug addict and his epic struggle to return home after being lost in the Alaskan wilderness (at least, that's what I understand from reading the cover of the book).

The book so moved Oprah that she vaulted it to the top of her Oprah Winfrey Book Club back in September, stating that "I laughed, I cried. It was better than Cats."

Of course that was all before intrepid Web reporters discovered that most of the book was a complete fabrication. It turns out, for example, that Frey didn’t really lasso a tornado and tie it down with lightening bolts with the help of Babe the Big Blue Ox as he claims in the book.

Now Oprah claims she feels betrayed by Frey, and that Frey betrayed “millions of readers.”

And to add exclamation point, Frey and his book have been kicked out of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. Take that, you lying bastard.

For his part, Frey was contrite.

"I made a mistake," Mr. Frey told the New York Times, adding that he had developed a tough-guy image of himself as a "coping mechanism" to help him deal with the psychological damage he suffered during a cold night spent in the company of a couple of cowboys on Brokeback Mountain.

Frey also expressed regret at being kicked out of the book club.

"There's no comfort in knowing that the 14 million members of Oprah's book club have already bought out the first pressing of the book at $20 per copy," Frey said, adding "Oh, wait, yes there is."

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

From the new Moleskine

Here's a quickie sketch I did from a pic I took during a trip to SF last summer. It's amazing how much fog they have in the summer.

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Old school blogging

These days if you mention to someone you keep a journal, chances are that whomever you mention it to will ask for the URL, inferring that you are talking about a blog.

But a recent experience has taken me back to the old-school version of blog. An actual written journal (you know, hand written with a pen on actual paper).

I recently received a Moleskine notebook as a small token from some business associates.

At the time, it struck me as a small, but appropriate, gesture. The kind of pleasantry you might expect to a businessman to give one of his big clients (in addition to meals, entertainment and etc.).

Well, I started using the notebook a few days ago, and I’m becoming more and more impressed.

Sure, you say it’s just a notebook. How impressive can it be. And that’s what I thought, too.

But after using it for a couple of days, I really came to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into putting these together. It turns out that these are the same notebooks used by the like of Earnest Hemingway, Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh. Furthermore, there’s only one place in the world where these things are made, a small factory in northern Italy.

There are so many details that you just don’t find everything from the fine stitching to the built-in bookmark, the folder pocket in the back and the elastic band that slips over the cover to keep it closed. This thing isn't just old-school, it's old world.

Anyway, I highly recommend these things (not a paid endorsement, unfortunately). I plan on buying a box and giving them as gifts and using them in the office for ever day note-taking.

The only problem is that now I don't have an automatic spellchecker.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kansas City B.S.

Ask anyone in Kansas City what the local food specialty is, and they'll tell you it’s the barbecue.

Barbecue is big in Kansas City. But I didn't realize just how big a deal it was until last weekend. I attended a meeting of the Kansas City Barbecue Society with my dad, who has really gotten into barbecue over the past few years. He now wants to organize his own barbecue contest, so he came to the Mecca of smoked meat.

So I attended the KCBS annual meeting near the sports complex. Let me tell you, these people are passionate about their pork (and other meats). The KCBS is one of the biggest, most influential sanctioning bodies in competitive meat smoking.

That's right, competitive meat smoking.

There are huge contests where the object isn't only so smoke a mean Boston butt, but to win fabulous cash prizes, trophies etc.

There's even a NASCAR-style points contest. Of course to score points in this type of contest, you have to compete in events sanctioned by the KCBS. And, just in case you thought you would have to drive a long way to find such an event, it turns out the organization sanctions events in pretty much every state in the union from Vermont to California to Florida. There are even a few in Canada.

And talk about passion. This group spent upwards of an hour discussing the merits of allowing meat taste judges to take home doggie bags of un-eaten meat after the contests. As if anyone could manage to eat any more brisket after chowing down on smoked hog and steer for four hours.

Needless to say, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to be a part of this strange subculture. I mean, I like a good pulled pork as much as the next guy, but I feel like I have inadvertently stumbled into an exclusive smoke-filled club.

Let's just hope the beer is cold.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hookah brotha up

NCTRNLinKC recently posted about his (her?) first experience with the hookah, saying he went along for the ride but, like a recent former president, didn't inhale.

It's a pretty cool post, and I mention it because I recently smoked the hookah during an after hours with some business associates during my recent trip to Manhattan. It was the first time since my college days.

I wanted to tell Nctrnl that you didn't miss much. Tobacco, even the black licorice-flavored kind that we had the other night, never really did much for me either.

Now, if it would have been a little of the "holy herb" it might have been a different story.

But then again, it was a business trip.

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YouTube Tuesday: East Coast West Coast

Put on your flack jackets and load your Gloks, because it looks like the rap wars are heating up again.

The viral popularity of The Chronic(What!)les of Narnia, produced SNL's Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg was the newest salvo to rekindle the East Coast/West Coast rap war that costs us the lives of hip hop heroes like Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

And in response to the Parnell-Samberg opus, L.A.-based Mark Feurstein, Sam Friedlander and Adam Stein have fired back with Lazy Monday.

Oh, when will we learn to come together as one world-wide artistic community. Haven't we seen too many good people die and good Cadillac Escalades riddles with bullet holes?

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Midnight myths in Manhattan

I returned from my business trip to the Big Apple yesterday and wanted to share my impression.

Stayed in The Millennium Hotel on Broadway, about half a block from Times Square. Nice hotel. Not great, but not grungy either. About what you'd expect for a 3-star hotel in Manhattan.

Now some caveats: First, it was raining the first night we were there and most of the next day. Second, I was in business meetings most of the time and didn't have a lot of time to site-see.

Having said that, I'm eager to return on a more informal basis to see what New York really has to offer.

Times Square? Not all that. Unfortunately, (and I don't know what I was expecting) the "busiest intersection in the world" is busy because of all the tourists. The tourists have attracted and are attracted by all the touristy businesses. I mean, do I really want to go to New York to eat at The Olive Garden?

The city that never sleeps? Another busted myth. My colleagues and I dined at a dim sum/sushi place the first night and then headed back to the hotel for a few after-dinner drinkies. After the hotel bar shut down, I went out in search of a nice blues or jazz club, since it was only about 1:30 or 2 a.m.

Granted, as I said earlier, it was raining slightly by this time. But as I walked around Times Square and the few blocks around my hotel, all I could find still open was a couple of Irish Pubs. I still had a few drinks, but unfortunately, no live music.

However, I did see one thing that I expected. As I made my way home, stopping beneath the pale glow of a streetlamp to turn my collar to the cold and damp (thank you Simon and Garfunkle), a silver sedan rolled by with the window down with a pair of "working girls" inside.

They offered to show me a good time for a price, which made me feel good. But since I had business meetings in a few hours, and since I was low on cash, and since I'm married and don't really roll that way anymore, I declined.

But it's good to see that I can still get a come on from the whores on 7th Avenue.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Perish together as fools

I know I should have something important to say today, MLK day.

But the truth is that the biggest impact it has on me is that I get the day off. Martin Luther King was a great American. Maybe the greatest. So it's appropriate to remember him the way we remember other great Americans like Lincoln and Washington. Unfortunately, as I've said before, I don't really think focusing on race is a good way to end racism.

Also, I'm not so sure that there is really a focus on ending racism on this day. For some reason, I get the feeling that it's all about political opportunism and power grabbing.

The excellent blogger at Tony's Kansas City has a great post about the real meaning of MLK day (along with some impressive eye candy, as always).

One of my favorite lines...
All of the senseless speeches and scenes of churchgoing today is so much propaganda that we all tolerate in the name of diversity. I contend that the only unifying principle of the whole day is that almost everyone finds the platitudes about racial equality laughable.
So I guess I'll enjoy the day off, hit a few sales and get some projects done around the house. I know, I'm an arsehole.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Icing on the cake

We celebrated an historical event yesterday.

For the first time in 31 games, my alma mater Kansas State Wildcats defeated in-state rivals KU Jayhawk on the basketball court. Final score, 59-54.

But it came after a long 31 games. That was the losing streak. The longest intraconference losing streak in college basketball.

Such an event demanded celebration, so in honor of the victory (which neither of us had anything to do with personally), my supermodel wife and I went out for diner with some inlaws at the excellent Genghis Khan Mongolian Barbeque.

Genghis Khan is situated right across the street from KU Med Center in KCK. It's a pretty popular restaurant district so parking was pretty tough to come by. I mention this because it's a central fact to what happened after our dinner.

We take our time dining. I wear my K-State pullover and get a few comments from some KU boosters, all very gracious in defeat.

But when we're done with dinner, I'm taking our tired three-year old out to the car while my supermodel wife pays the tab (hey, I'm a modern guy). So on the way to the car, I have the great pleasure of seeing one of KCK's finest standing guard near a red BMW that is illegally parked (since there was no where else to park, see I told you that was important. What? You didn't believe me?).

As I walk past the police officer, three-year-old in hand, he nods toward the BMW as he barks "This ain't your car, is it?"

I take another quick look at the BMW to make sure I'm not confusing it for our silver Honda CRV and that's when I notice the KU vanity license plate.

Glancing a the K-State logos on my pullover I reply simply, "Nope," with a big smile on my head.

K-State beats the Jayhawks and a KU alumn gets his beamer towed.

Icing on the cake.
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Friday, January 13, 2006

Drug of choice

Dave at To Be The Man writes that he has vowed to give up caffeine and quit going to Starbucks this year.

My only question is... Why Dave? What do you got against caffeine?

Among all of the addictive substances, caffeine is pretty minor. I mean, it is the most popular drug in the world. Ninety percent of Americans consume it in some form every day. And besides, you're not really at risk for any long-term affects of too much caffeine.
Long-term effects of a toxic nature do not appear evident when regular caffeine use is below about 650 mg a day - equivalent to about eight or nine average cups of coffee.
So what, is it just the financial impact of having coffee at Starbucks? Is that it?

If so, let me direct you to a recent article in The Slate that might ease the financial pain while allowing you to continue to imbibe in your vice. According to the article:
They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barrista will comply without batting an eye.

The drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino"—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the "tall," and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the "customer-preferred" size, the "Venti," which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one.

So, Dave, don't give up on the dream. You can and should stay addicted to coffee. Quick, get me a shot of espresso. Make it a double.
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Would you like Pommes Frites with that?

I'm a huge fan and avid reader of the waiter's Waiter Rant. This guy really has a great writing style, and I feel like when I'm reading it I have to be careful or -- as Bill Cosby would say -- I might learn something.

So I'm pretty excited to be taking a business trip to Manhattan next week. With any luck, I'll be able to get a reservation, meet the waiter and leave a nice tip.

Does that make me sound like a stalker?

Anyway, I have just one small qualm with the waiter, and it has more to do with the restaurant he works at. He has mentioned many times that it's an Italian restaurant that serves Tuscan cuisine. Why then is it called "The Bistro"? Isn't "bistro" a French term?

In my view, it would be more authentic to call it a "trattoria" or "osteria"? Granted, I'm neither an restaurant owner, nor Italian. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions of places to eat/things to see in Manhattan (I'll be staying near Times Square), let me know, just in case this Bistro thing doesn't work out.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Evil Kyle

I bumped into my friend and co-worker Kyle near the elevator in the parking garage the other day. Literally, I was walking along reading my cell phone, not watching where I was going and I bumped into him.

Sorry dude.

Anyway, I hadn't seen Kyle in a few weeks, maybe even a month, so it surprised me to see that he had grown a goatee.

Then it struck me. Remember all of those old Star Trek episodes where the crew would enter some kind of alternate universe and meet their evil doubles, and you could tell which one was the evil Capt. Kirk because he had a goatee?

Same thing happened with Kyle. Turns out it was the Evil Kyle, and I bumped into him as he was planning to take over as evil overlord. The only problem is that the Evil Kyle really isn't that much more evil than the ordinary, everyday Kyle.

So Kyle, in an effort to help your career as an evil overlord, here's a link to some helpful advice from Peter Anspach, an aspiring evil overlord himself.

Here are a couple of my favorites:
  • "My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones." (That's just obvious)
  • "I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded." (Good advice for all do-it-yourself projects)
  • "I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them." (Mama always said good manners were important)
I'm sure a lot of people have already seen this, but hopefully, you'll remember me and my help when you have achieved your goal of ultimate domination.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I get it

It took me a while, and I'm not even blond. I have to admit that the best blond joke ever that Blandwagon links to it pretty freakin' funny.

If you've already heard/read this one, please don't give away the punchline. If you haven't check it out. It's hilarious.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Nattering nabobs

The leader of a women's group in Pennsylvania has just set her own cause back at least 15 years.

According to the Associated Press
, the leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of NOW thinks Penn State's coach for the last 40 years should retire because he wasn't critical enough of the actions of a player of another team.

The bitter shrew, named Joanne Tosti-Vasey, understood the senile Joe Paterno's incoherent gibberish as a voice in support of Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson, who was accused of sexual assault before the Orange Bowl.

The AP quoted Paterno as saying
"There's some tough -- there's so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?"

Nicholson was sent home and not allowed to play in the game. So much for innocent until proven guilty. I guess I'm a little touchy about the subject because a similar incident that happened to K-State QB Ell Roberson during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Roberson was later cleared of the accusation, but many (including myself) attribute the fiasco to the lackluster play that allowed Ohio State to squeak out a win that year.

All that is beside the point, since it was a pretty innocuous statement by Paterno about a player that isn't even on the Penn State roster.

Tosti-Vasey should ratchet down a few notches from Sphincter Level 10 and put her efforts toward something that could really help her cause, like adopting an even-tempered rational demeanor, avoid making mountains out of mole hills, and desist from flying off the handle.

Whether Paterno should retire or not is another question.
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One word: Plastics

So we're sitting around on new year's eve - or rather, I'm sitting around while my Supermodel Wife and my neighbor's wife clean up after dinner - when I was hit with my next million dollar idea.

Indicator Plastic Wrap.

Now, stick with me on this. The neighbor pulls our some plastic cling wrap to cover some dishes of leftovers. My wife, being fashion conscious as always, had bought green-colored plastic wrap for the holidays. The neighbor hadn't seen this before and wondered if there was something special about it.

I said that it starts out green and turns clear over two weeks, so you know how long your leftovers have been in the fridge. My neighbor was amazed.

Even though I was putting her on, that is a great idea. Why not have some kind of indicator strip that shows how long the plastic has been in the fridge? You could do it with plastic wrap, freezer bags, even plastic bottles of milk, juice, etc.

So anyway, I'm working on making this idea happen. Of course this idea, like all other content on this blog is copyright to me and I retain all rights to the development of this product.

If you want to buy it from me, post a comment with you contact info and I'll be in touch.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nascarpe Diem

It looks like the Mullet Powers That Be have decided Kansas City isn't quite hick enough to be home to the Redneck Hall Of Fame.

According to the NASCAR high-ups, the stock-car racing organization has chosen to stay with its Southern white redneck roots for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, instead of going with the Midwestern white rednecks in Wyandotte County.

I have to say that, even though it means the loss of billions of beer-soaked bucks, I'm a bit relieved that this project is missing this area. It's bad enough having to look at all of the NASCAR billboards and NASCAR hats and seeing the NASCAR commercials on every cable channel and hearing all of the NASCAR talk on the radio.

I'm sure there are a lot of people who follow and enjoy this so-called sport - hell, there are even some in the redneck branch of my own family. I guess this post speaks more about me than it does about them.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Here's one for the 'Cats

I was at a graduation ceremony for my little sister at my alma mater a few weeks ago and snapped this pic of renovations and expansion of the Vanier Football Complex.

The expansion will include new end-zone seating and scoreboards and video screens for Snyder Family Stadium, a hydrotherapy training center as well as office and locker room renovation. Total cost is projected at $4.3 million with Via Christi Health System donating three quarters of a million ducats.

Here's some more info if there are any interested Wildcats reading.
Oh, yeah. I guess I should say congrats to the Texas Longhorns. Um. Congrats on winning the Mythical National Championship. I'm glad it's back in the Big XII.
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Swing and a miss

While we're on the subject of news media, let's hand it to the national "journalists" for the great way they handled the announcement of 12 survivors of a collapsed coal mine in West Virginia.

Oh, um, er wait a minute, now that you're celebrating, make that 12 dead coal miners.

Sorry for the bad reporting miscommunication.

Bravo, guys. Really, top notch.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stop the presses

C.W. Gusewelle is afraid he'll lose his job. And with good reason.

Gusewelle, a long-time columnist for the KC Star, recently wrote about the pending sale of the local fish wrap and how it's the fourth time in 50 years and it's bad for the employees, community, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

As a former cog in the daily newspaper machine, I guess I can sympathize with him. There's a saying that you can make a small fortune in the newspaper business, if you start with a large fortune. And that's why I'm a former cog in the daily newspaper machine. Even eight years ago, I could see the writing was on the wall for the traditional print newspaper.

Don't get me wrong, there's still a place for the printed word. I don't think there will ever be a time (at least in my lifetime) when we won't have printed newspaper.

But there has been a steady decline in newspaper subscriptions for years. The simple sad fact is that newspapers just can't compete with the immediacy of broadcast and the Internet, nor the depth of magazines and books. And while there are still a lot of advertising dollars to be had in newspapers, online and mobile media will continue to erode this revenue base.

All of this doesn't even factor in the growing irrelevance of the content of all traditional media as media consumers become more and more savvy and skeptical of the political and corporate interests at play. And the fact that so-called journalists think themselves important enough to devote 30 column-inches to the plight of the local rag is an example of the pompous audacity that so many of us find off-putting.

So now is a good time for Knight-Ridder to cash in on their investment. As for Gusewelle, I'm sure he'll ride out the storm for a few more years and then retire to a teaching position at a nice liberal arts college.

The rest of Kansas City won't even notice that there's been a change.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

That didn't take long

After notching an impressive 127 homicides in 2005, Kansas City, Mo., is off to try to beat that record in 2006.

The first murder of the new year happened just an hour and a half in to 2006. It came in the form of a severe bludgeoning (is there any other kind) in the 1600 block of Topping Avenue on, you guessed it, the city's east side.

But the city does have some catching up to do. By the second day of 2005, Kansas Citians had already killed 5 people. So come on east siders, let's get with the program. Those victims aren't going to murder themselves you know.

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A good year so far

Happy 2006!

My supermodel wife and I had planned a quit New Year's Eve with our neighbors. We figured their two kids (5-year-old and 2-year-old) would have a good time playing with our 3-year-old daughter while we played cards, watched the ball drop, drank Champagne, etc.

Little did I know that there's no such thing as a quiet evening with my neighbors' kids.

I swear this is not an exaggeration. Within five minutes of the kids coming over, they had every single toy, crayon and stuffed animal my daughter owns out on her bedroom floor. You couldn't walk through the room. You could barely open the door.

Five minutes. It was like the Tasmanian Devil went whirlwind in the room.

Now don't get me wrong, we've got great neighbors. Terrific people, you couldn't ask for better neighbors to live next door to. But man, those kids.

Anyway, a quiet night at home wasn't to be had. But regardless, it has been a good year so far.

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