Happy Thanksgiving, readers! This week, obviously, is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. It's where you get together with friends, share exciting things, and enjoy what life has to offer.
I'm, of course, talking about Black Friday. The yearly holiday where you get to know your Amazon delivery driver on a first name basis, and make every effort to make it to Cyber Monday with a few bucks left in your account.
Black Friday at my house is a dark day, indeed. For years, I've been in the camp of having everything delivered to my house. First, it started with Amazon, then it reached groceries. Soon, I'll be having someone come here to cut my hair and change the toner on my printer.
What a world we live in where both 54th Street food and your razor blades can be delivered straight to your door!
Unfortunately, that means the brick and mortar experience needs to step it up. I'm all for supporting local businesses. There are some really adorable clothing stores in Platte City. There are some really cool stores along 64th street as well. But until the experience becomes as easy as Amazon, it's going to continue to fade.
Now, I realize that the biggest draw is the home delivery. Let's assume Joe's T-Shirt store won't be able to compete with that. But people still love to walk around and shop. Window shopping will never not be a thing.
What businesses need to do it make buying just as easy as online. How many local stores have you walked into where the card reader you are supposed to put your super-secret chip card into says “NO CHIP”? How often have you heard of breaches of credit card information by local businesses. (Hy-Vee, anyone?) How often have you had to stand in a long line to buy a shirt or a bracelet or a dog collar for your pooch?
Local businesses - you can make point of sale on a phone now. You can tap someone's watch to sell your wares. You can eliminate lines by staffing more than one person, like every CVS I've ever walked into.
Unfortunately, shop owners are good at presenting merchandise. They're about as adept at learning how to take a credit card transaction as my mother is learning to launch a nuclear missile. But unless and until you make it nearly as easy to walk out with that T-shirt of a little kitten clinging to a tree saying “hang in there, baby” then I'm more likely to just find it online.
So - enjoy Black Friday. Enjoy Cyber Monday. But also pay attention to Small Business Saturday as you walk the squares in Parkville and Platte City. Support those businesses who make it easy to sell to you. Maybe not as easy as delivering to your door, but certainly just as special.
Otherwise, Black Friday will turn into the day we all sit in a darkened room searching Amazon for items they could get three blocks away.
(Chris Kamler is your tech expert and Rambling Moron who you can find on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Also chase him down on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
•In case you missed it, Platte County's university is on target for another national title. The Park University women's volleyball team - the reigning national champions - just blew through the American Midwest Conference with a perfect 12-0 record and a perfect 3-0 record in the conference tournament.
Head coach Mike Talamantes, and volleyball stars Celina Monteiro and sisters Nada and Noura Meawad return to the NAIA national tournament as a dynasty in the making. I've had a pretty good view the past couple of years as these women have absolutely destroyed teams left and right. I'm certain it's because of their PA announcer, right?
The Pirates head to Des Moines Dec. 3 to defend their national championship. It's the greatest sports story in maybe the history of Northland sports. Good luck!
•In case you missed it, it's suddenly become okay to put your Christmas tree up the day after Halloween. I'm not sure how or when this became acceptable, but nobody checked with me. My sister sent me a picture on November 1 of her stockings hung and her tinsel tossed. Why not just cancel the Fourth of July and start putting the lights and trees up then? This is not okay.
•In case you missed it, a Northland tradition is under new, new ownership. Chappel's restaurant, one of the greatest sports museums in the country that also happens to sell food and drinks, changed owners a year ago to some high-falootin' owners from California. Jim Chappel cashed out and sold the business and the new owners revamped the traditional bar food menu of chicken fingers and nachos to include kale and “lighter” street tacos. Customers drove away in swarms - like the Chiefs defense when asked to tackle someone across the middle. The business, which has a Super Bowl trophy and a Babe Ruth baseball, couldn't bring people in if they paid them.
Back comes Jim Chappel and some other investors to the rescue. The chicken fingers and cheap domestic beers are back, and... guess what? So are the customers.
•In case you missed it, the North Kansas City Hornets football team have had two of their best seasons in literally decades. And in both 2018 and 2019, they couldn't get past the Staley Falcons. There's going to be a year that Northtown beats Staley, but they just can't seem to find their number. At least don't put your Christmas tree up until Staley beats Northtown, okay?
•This has been a pretty phenomenal year for Northland high school football. Platte County has played well and will take on Grain Valley Friday to head to state. Platte County has been incredibly consistent in the post-season the past several years and stands a great chance against Grain Valley.
•In case you missed it, high school basketball is just around the corner, too. This means Park Hill and Park Hill South have their time to shine.
(In case you missed it, Chris Kamler is on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed)
THE DISHWASHER FAIRY
Readers, I’m going to do something selfish this week. I’m going to write this solely so that I can see my words in print, clip them from the paper, and hang this over our kitchen sink. If you’ll indulge me, maybe you might have a desire to do the same.
Let’s talk about the Dishwasher Fairy.
You might be wondering, as you stand over the sink with your 98% finished bowl of Lucky Charms, what to do with that bowl. Or, as is more likely the case, you’re not thinking at all. You will just leave it to the Dishwasher Fairy and set the bowl down.
You know the Dishwasher Fairy, right? He or she is the being who creeps into the kitchen under the dark of night and takes the dirty dishes and bowls from the sink along the 2 1/2 feet journey to the empty dishwasher right next to the sink. That’s the silver thing with all the buttons underneath the microwave. The Dishwasher Fairy, you think, works for free and lives to take these forks and spoons and cups on their journey to Cleantown.
I have news for you. There is no such thing as a Dishwasher Fairy. He is a work of fiction - just like the Laundry Fairy and the Car on Empty Fairy. He is just as much a piece of your imagination as a contending Missouri football team, or a sale at the Apple store.
Here’s what actually happens:
You’ll place your bowl in the sink with about an ounce of milk still in the bowl. Then tomorrow, you’ll place your dinner plate on top. And the next day, you’ll put a couple of cups and a pizza tray on top of those items. Frustrated after several long days at work, one of your parents empties and then loads the dishwasher - even though you’ve been asked to do so every day since April. WE are the Dishwasher Fairy. And no, I don’t wear the tights.
After three days, that cereal bowl at the bottom of the sink has curdled. That’s likely the smell you smell when you got home from school today. It stinks a lot less when you put it two and a half feet to the right in the special dish cleaning robot. Maybe that would make it more appealing for you? If we called it the iWasher or the Microsoft XDish or something?
So, non-adult human, I have something very important to bestow on you. Prepare yourself. YOU are now the Dishwasher Fairy. You are the ambassador of pots and pans. You are the emissary of plates and butter knives. YOU bear the responsibility for emptying and loading the dishwasher every day until you leave this place.
This responsibility is not given lightly. It has been handed down from generation to generation because that’s how we roll - some call it “the call to the Major Leagues.” Others just call it “delegation.” Either way, embrace it, Dishwasher Fairy. Your job begins... now.
(When he isn’t Dishwasher Fairy, Chris Kamler is on Twitter as @TheFakeNed or on YouTube or Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram)
The magnificent movie theater in North Kansas City, Screenland Armour, was showing 2001: A Space Odyssey the other day. That's a fantastic movie, obviously. But it's even more fascinating to watch in 2019 as we await the eventual birth of the HAL 9000. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” “I can't do that, Dave.”
Technology has crossed the Rubicon. It is everywhere in our lives. On our watches. Our phones. Our kitchens. Our bedrooms. It is in our headphones and cars. It is at work, and at the gym. And we're at that critical point where technology is providing just enough value to overlook that it all sucks.
It started, for me, with a small Amazon Echo Dot that I put in the kitchen. “Alexa, set a pizza timer for 11 minutes.” Almost gleefully, she said, “Timer set for 11 minutes.” She was so eager to help. The sky was the limit. An assistant at my beck and call.
And what did Alexa end up doing? Well, pizza timers, mostly. She'd occasionally give me a very generic weather forecast. “Rain chances today. High of 52.”
Because of the audible nature with which we need to interact, I was unable to use Alexa when my wife was sleeping, or at night.
This didn't stop me from expanding my digital assistant harem. Oh no. I recently added a Google Nest Hub to my bedroom. It has a digital display that I quickly turned into a digital photo display. Neat! And then I would ask it the weather. “Rain chances today. High of 52.”
I've tried to ask Alexa and Google more complex questions. “Alexa, when will it rain today?” “Rain chances today. High of 52.” “Hey, Google, will it rain during my drive to work?” “Rain chances today. High of 52.”
These assistants will eventually be able to do extremely complicated tasks. “Hey Alexa, I'm running late to work. Can you move my 8 a.m. meeting back, can you cancel my spin class, and can you run the Roomba vacuum cleaner 15 minutes after I leave the house?” And it all gets done. “Hey,Google. Can you start my car, open my garage door, turn my radio to 101 The Fox, and also tell me when the garbage truck is due so I can make sure my trash is set out on time?”
But for the next few years we'll be saturated with glorified pizza timers, while the artificial intelligence “learns” what we want these assistants to do. For now, we get “Rain today. High of 52.”
How long will we have to wait until these devices can do complex things, and how long do we have to wait for the AI to be intelligent enough to predict our next moves? “Good morning, Dave. You're running five minutes late to work. I've already started your toast. If you go 635, you can shave three minutes off of your commute, and I've got your shower started.” This will be the evolution. Basic tasks. Complex tasks. Predictive tasks and then... Well, HAL 9000.
“Dave, you're late for the fifth time this month. I have contacted your boss and explained the situation. You've been fired. I have already applied to three job openings for you, and have frozen your checking account until further notice. I've also written a Dear John letter to your girlfriend, and set her up with a Tinder account.”
I guess for now we should just be happy with “Rain today. High of 52.” I'm going to go make a pizza.
(Get more from Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)
BITS AND BYTES
Busy, busy, busy. Plus I'm in kind of a bad mood because they already have Christmas stuff out at Lowes. Maybe they should just put it out after the Fourth of July? So you get some musings...
++I know that these are some of the greatest athletes in the world, but I'm not quite sure Matt Moore is an equal replacement to Patrick Mahomes. He's like 1/4 of a Mahomes. Maybe we can petition the NFL to allow us to have four quarterbacks?
++My son, Brett, is a junior in high school now. When was that allowed to happen? He's driving, and going to parties, and getting a letter jacket? This is kind of depressing, quite frankly.
++We are in prime “parent helping” time at the high school. Our school basically runs on volunteers. Help with a bake sale. Help with the ticket booth. And the latest-- help with the concession stand. Our concession stand is sub-contracted to a company where the manager runs a tight ship. We set the soda pop up wrong when we left the other day and got an absolute earful. It's serious stuff, people. Gotta have the old pop in the right spot otherwise PEOPLE DIE. Or something. Some people never leave high school, I guess. Big fish in a little pond. I'm just happy to still be swimming anywhere.
++One of my side hustles the last couple of years has been to be the PA announcer for Park University and North Kansas City High School athletics. My first 16 months have included a national championship by Park women’s volleyball, a state championship by the NKC girls basketball team. Back-to-back conference titles by their football team, and now a conference title by NKC girls volleyball. I'm pretty spoiled, to be sure. I'd give it all to see the boy and his Hornet baseball team win a conference title, though.
++Halloween is this week, and another high school thing we had to do for the booster club was buy candy for a trunk-or-treat. I went to Costco and got what can only be categorized as a trash bag full of candy for like $20. So there's going to be some cavities for anyone who visits our car.
++My dad remains the king of Halloween. He used to take us on a tour of the nice neighborhoods of the Northland every year with extra pillowcases to reload. He'd chart out where the best candy was every year like Eisenhower planning a major offensive. He'd have us go around the block a couple times if there were houses that gave out “big” candy bars. He'd make us go up to houses as late as 9:30 whether their porch lights were on or not. He is a Halloween ninja and an Oct. 31st Hall of Famer.
++I saw that the president stopped by the World Series the other night. When they announced him on the video board, it was nice to see the crowd start a UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSA chant. At least, it sounded like a U.
Happy Halloween, everyone. Or, as Home Depot calls it, Christmas.
(It’s Christmas every day on Twitter with Chris Kamler as @TheFakeNed)
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
It's everywhere you look. In convenience stores, and living rooms, and even hospitals. And you're paying for it. I'll bet you didn't even realize you didn't have to.
Ever since Madison Avenue decided to sell us something that covers 70% of the work in 12 ounce bottles, we were doomed. Go through your home and count the items that used to be free or nearly free and bottled water will only be one of many on the list.
My friend is pregnant and she had to go to “birthing class” - you want to talk about something that was free for thousands of years? I'll bet most of you made it into the world without the help of a birthing class.
Obviously, a birthing class has a purpose - to reduce complications in birth - but it is the ultimate reminder of a service that nobody really needed until it was invented.
Until I was 5, we got free television channels. Bowling for Dollars. Howdy Doody. Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. Who needed anything else? Then 36 channels including HBO and MTV showed up and we've been paying for television ever since. Even the radio has nearly succumbed to pay services like Sirius XM. Have you listened to a radio during your commute recently? Count the number of commercials to songs and I'll bet that ratio would be ridiculous.
You used to get all of your recipes out of that little index catalog file your grandmother gave you. Now you need to search for YouTube videos (still free... but for how long??) and pay cable cooking channels to find out how to butter your biscuits.
Even little things cost money now. I recently painted our bedroom and at Lowes, the little widget that opens the paint cans cost $.59. I gladly paid it because I lost the other 15 ones we had and also misplaced my flat-head screwdriver.
Thanks to the Bird scooters, even “walking” downtown costs money now. Walking from point A to point B - that'll be $14, please.
All of these, of course, have added value to our lives, but the list of things that are truly free is dwindling. You can't even get an extra packet of honey mustard from McDonalds for free anymore.
You may receive “free things” but look at their cost. My dentist always gives me a package of floss and a new toothbrush when I visit. But that visit cost $75. The toothbrush was hardly free.
About the only free thing you can still get out there is a car wash when it rains.
In the meantime, I'll go back to opening my paint can with my $.59 can opener while I watch NBC on a paid service drinking my bottled water. Thank God I know how to breathe, otherwise, I'd need to take that birthing class.
(Get birthing instructions from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed)
Last week, a Royals fan podcast ended a nine-year run. The Kansas City Baseball Vault was a program that I appeared on and helped produce for five of those years, but the boys that remained finally called it quits after this season.
This made me wonder how long the median age is of a hobby? I remember trying to put together model starships and model Navy bombers when I was little. You'd get the kid, the paint and the glue (and they wonder why all our brain cells are gone now.) And then you'd spend an afternoon without the Internet snapping the model pieces together, applying glue, then getting your fingers all pruny trying to apply those little decals onto the wing of the plane.
The list of hobbies I've had is as long as my arm. The list of hobbies that I've actually stuck to for more than a few months is incredibly short.
I wanted to learn guitar. I wanted to be the Paul McCartney version of a paperback writer. I wanted to cycle, then run, then walk. I entertained the idea of making short films for a while.
I've always had admiration for people who have stuck to a single hobby for large swaths of time. You can see it at a model store, or an antique car show, or a BBQ contest - people who have real jobs and real lives devoting any and all free time to a single thread. These are the folks I've always wanted to be.
But the Internet has fractured my brain. I lose interest after a few days, weeks, or months. Even if I make it a year or two, the passion seems to drain out and I either take a few years off, or quit the hobby altogether.
The benefit of my hobby OCD is that I've tried a LOT of things. I have smoked meats. I've done video and audio productions. I've broadcasted games through a single laptop and a cell phone. I have some old model kits in my basement somewhere.
But secretly, I've always held envy for folks who only repair Model-T Fords or build model train sets out of bamboo or build a YouTube channel dedicated to old western movie reviews. And I've got all kinds of admiration for a couple of guys who spent an hour recording, and then several more hours editing a podcast on a weekly basis dedicated to a terrible baseball team week after week.
I'd invite you to check out the final show which included a lot of laughing, a lot of memories, a lot of baseball, and a lot of fun. You can find it linked off their Twitter at twitter.com/kcbaseballvault.
That is... if you're not too busy picking up a podcast hobby of your own.
(Get up to date with all of Chris Kamler’s hobbies by following him on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also find his stuff on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
If you've noticed a bit more pep in my step this month, it's not because it is pumpkin spice season. It's because October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. My day job is as a cybersecurity specialist, which means that my days and nights are filled with hacking and NCIS and all of the cool cyber games that you might expect.
Actually, it's a lot of sending emails and reading Excel spreadsheets. But the part I do enjoy the most is when it turns to October and we get a chance to tell folks how to improve their own cybersecurity. Every year, ,mllions of dollars are stolen through cyber fraud and cyber crimes. 87% of all company breaches start with someone clicking on a link they shouldn't in an email (it's called phishing because the criminals are “fishing” for data.)
Cyber crime is similar to physical crime. If a criminal wants something bad enough, they're going to take it. However, it also means that so long as you stay under the radar from the criminals, you've got a good chance of being left alone. There are actually two very simple things you can do today to improve your security by 99%.
The first is to make sure that you use a different password for your key websites. This means not re-using your generic password on your banking website as you do on your Facebook account. Why is this important? Dozens of companies every year report that their password databases are hacked. In the past few years, Door Dash, Target, Experian, and dozens of others had their customer databases swiped. This means that a criminal can steal your Target.com account and potentially try it on your Citibank.com account. That's a bad day.
But how are you going to remember all of those passwords? Well, if you're my sister, you write them all on a sheet of notebook paper. That's probably not ideal. Might I recommend a password manager like LastPass.com or KeyPass.com. Both sites are free and can track passwords and even help you create more secure ones.
The second thing you can do to improve your posture is to turn on two-factor authentication on all your key websites. This is turning on a feature where, in addition to your password, the website also asks you for a second piece of information, like a 6-digit key they text your phone, or a randomized code you get off an app. You can go to staysafeonline.org for instructions on how to turn on two-factor on nearly every website you use. That site will walk you through turning it on for every site you use.
Using difficult passwords and making it so that even if your password is stolen, you still need a second piece of information will protect you from 99% of online phishing attempts and help you stay cybersecure!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to change a few passwords while sipping on my pumpkin spice latte.
(Get cybersecure with Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also cyberstalk him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
ONLINE CAN BE FOREVER
It's Homecoming for many high schools around the area this week. I spent my last weekend traipsing through the rain to get the perfect location for a picture of my son and his girlfriend. Almost an hour sitting in traffic for five photos. Now, admittedly, they're pretty good photos.
And if those photographs don't end up online, were they really taken? If they didn't get at least 100 likes or comments, then why even bother? We are conditioned now that sharing online is the norm. Beyond the obvious photographs of life milestones, we share what we had for lunch. We share what the lady in the cube next to us yelled at the taxi driver. We share many of our thoughts. Many of those thoughts aren't spoken out loud, they're simply shared online.
It's a slippery slope from sharing Homecoming pictures on a platform that makes it so easy to share everything else. And those photos, comments, likes, and shares are forever. It is that fact that is so easily forgotten. We saw this most recently with Shane Gillis, a comedian who was set to begin the season on Saturday Night Live. After he was announced, it didn't take long before some of his jokes were found online that sparked controversy. He never made it to Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center.
The same has happened to politicians, comedians, actors, and even Joe and Jane Q. Public. Nearly every week another story turns up about someone being fired or being under fire for something they said online.
A college student posted a sign in the background of ESPN's College Gameday live asking for money for beer, then listing his Venmo account. After receiving $600, the student decided to donate all of the money to a local children's hospital. He then went on to raise nearly a million dollars. Cool story, right? A reporter dug into the student's online accounts and found tweets from three years prior (when he was 16) making two racist jokes about black people. The childrens' hospital still got the money. But the student's reputation was tarnished.
Karma reared its ugly head, however, when the reporters past tweets revealed his feelings on same-sex marriage, domestic abuse, and some racial slurs. The reporter was fired.
There's a part of me that feels bad for people if they've said one thing wrong online five years ago. I mean, surely there's an arc of maturity for a person. Things I said when I was 20 don't necessarily reflect who I am now (at the age of 28, obviously.)
But the other part of me recognized that what you put online five years ago is forever and remains timeless. It's like a small billboard that you carry around with you the rest of your life that shows your innermost feelings at any time of your life you felt them. And you did it to yourself, because you posted it online.
It starts with a homecoming photo, but it ends with an off-color joke about your Asian neighbor. If you live online, you have no one to blame but yourself.
(Get online with Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
STRIKES AND BALLS
My brain has been scattered lately, so I'm not sure how fractured today's column is going to be. Work has just been crazy and I'm fairly certain it has caused me ADHD. Is that something I can take two weeks off for?
Now, I've been on the Internet going on two decades now and I have long since learned to not engage people in arguments - even in this environment. But I had to stoop and get into one on the Twitter the other day when someone sent me a video of a Major League umpire ejecting a manager after about four seconds.
Now, it's no secret that I have spent the majority of my life as an amateur, high school, and college umpire. I've made mistakes. I've been angry. And I have had good days, too. So people like to send me examples of when umpires blow calls and get angry. Let's face it, these folks have been on the road for six months (there are no home games for umpires) and they've had the same curmudgeonly a-holes barking at them since February. It's no wonder every once in a while, there's a quick hook.
How would you like it if you had to have every spreadsheet you type or every pothole you fill or every grocery item you check-out be criticized by someone about 50 feet away? You wouldn't. And it wouldn't take you six months of working every day in 95 degree heat to get tired of it, either.
Another criticism is that umpires don't have to answer for their mistakes. And it's true, they don't have to go before a microphone. But they do have to listen to 40,000 people yell and the manager cuss, and the sports radio folks on the way to the airport, and the newspapers at the airport. My guess is that they have a clue.
Not even a week after I came very close to calling my son an idiot in this exact space, he was awarded an academic letter for his letter jacket. (Which, by the way, cost the same as a used car.) Still, I stand by my earlier reporting.
If you haven't been up to watch the reigning national champion Park Pirates women's volleyball team yet, then you really need to catch one of their remaining matches. It's not often you can say you've watched champions take the floor.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to argue with more people on the Internet.
(Catch Chris Kamler arguing with people on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Search for him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, where you’ll want to search for Rambling Morons)
It’s not going to come as a surprise to those of you who have followed this space over the past several years, when I say that I’m an idiot. This idiot monicker didn’t happen overnight. Oh no. It happened after dozens, nay, hundreds of idiotic decisions, actions, purchases, and general idocy. After 47 years, all of those moments add up to an unequivocal sum - I am an idiot.
I tell you that to tell you this story. My son is 16. He is not yet an idiot. He has decades of idiotic decisions to make or not make. Heck, maybe he won’t grow up to be an idiot. But if family genes have anything to do with it, I wouldn’t bet against it.
A few weeks ago, my boy went with his friends downtown and enjoyed scooting around on those Bird scooters that litter the sidewalks in that area. They spent hours darting around the mean streets of the downtown loop and he came home with a glint in his eye. “Dad, I’m going to get a scooter.”
Now, this rung a bell inside my memory banks when I’d told my parents that I was going to buy a Game Boy. Or when I was going to buy a treadmill. Or when I was going to get a pinball machine and/or a stand up video game. My parents, bless their hearts, never said “no.” They never tried to stop me. They only blinked their eyes and said, “well, that’s a horrible idea.”
So, then, I blinked my eyes at my son and said, “that’s a terrible idea.” This is a child who just came off of three grueling months of rehab for a sports injury and his first major decision was to buy a toothpick on wheels. One with a motor.
It gets funnier. Because of course he wasn’t necessarily asking for permission, he was begging for forgiveness because he had already ordered it. It was to arrive the next day.
The next day, I worked late and didn’t get home until after dark. There was the litter of a large cardboard box in the living room. Scraps of styrofoam and packing peanuts all over the floor. On the couch, a forlorn 16 year old boy sad with his head in his hands. I almost hesitated to ask. But I persisted.
“Did you get the scooter?”
“Was it awesome?”
“Um. It was the first time I rode it. Then it stopped working.”
Turns out, he had purchased a scooter off of Amazon that had a 2.5 out of 5 star rating. You could sell Make America Great underpants and it would have a higher than 2.5 star rating. The scooter had crapped out after only an hour of use. He would be returning it. The voice in his head finally synced up with the voice of reason and realized he’d rather have $300 cash than a scooter, so he is returning for a full refund.
I can’t mock him. I can’t say I told you so. I can’t even have (much) joy that the son has learned an important life lesson. I can only wonder how many lessons he has to learn until he matches his dad in the “bad decision” category. Something tells me that this won’t be the last column written on his quest to match his old man.
(Follow our man Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on YouTube by searching Rambling Morons, on Snapchat, and on Instagram)
TO THE VICTOR GO THE SPOILS
Sunday it begins. What will likely be the most anticipated football season in Kansas City's history will kick off at noon in whatever is left of Jacksonville following hurricane Dorian. The Chiefs are heavy favorites and will be for nearly all of their games this season.
Anything short of a trip to the Super Bowl will be considered a disappointment for the team with the returning NFL MVP in Patrick Mahomes, a fully stocked offense and a new defense. When we last saw our Chiefs, they were an offsides call away from their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
The offseason, however, has not been smooth sailing. The defensive coordinator was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo. The verdict is still out on whether that will be an upgrade, but the jury is still out based upon the preseason.
It hasn't been a particularly good offseason public relations-wise for the Chiefs either. Midway through the season last year, star runningback Kareem Hunt was at the top of yardage leaders until he was accused of an assault of a woman and released. It would not be the last Chief to face abuse accusations this off-season. Tyreek Hill was all over sports radio as was his girlfriend and tales of how their young son was possibly abused. The story hung in the air for weeks becoming water cooler fodder on nearly every minute detail on Hill's family's affairs.
Ultimately, the story seemed to clear Hill of child abuse charges and a pall was lifted heading into the season.
In the good news category, star quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been EVERYWHERE. When I say literally everywhere, it is meant literally. He's been on Times Square billboards, cereal boxes that sold out in minutes. He's been on national commercials, video game covers, and shoe ads. The hype machine has been in overdrive, and with good reason. Mahomes put up video game numbers last year, throwing touchdowns on the run, flicking the ball left-handed, and doing it all with a winning smile and a child-like attitude.
Watching football in Kansas City is fun, again. Years of losing seasons and ineptness have provided Chiefs fans with their payoff. One play away last year, and nearly everyone is picking them to head to the Super Bowl this year.
The whole thing reminds me of very recent history with the Royals. A Game 7 loss in the World Series in 2014, the Royals were hungry and just as good heading into 2015. We know what happened next. But past results do not predict future earnings, and the Chiefs will still need to prove it on the field. Teams do not go undefeated in the NFL and those eventual losses expose weaknesses for other teams to exploit.
What I will say is that the Chiefs have earned their status. Mahomes deserves every accolade and every advertisement. Andy Reid has tweaked and upgraded his offense and significantly upgraded his defense. But it all begins Sunday at noon. While hurricane Dorian will have left Jacksonville by then, the Kansas City hurricane is ready to strike.
PREDICTION: 11-5, AFC Champions. Defeat Seattle Seahawks 38-28 in Super Bowl LIV
(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and check him out on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, as well as on Landmark Live)
THE LUCK OF RETIREMENT
In case you were under a rock or still hungover from Parkville days the last week, Andrew Luck, the NFL quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, and the number one pick in the 2012 draft, retired suddenly after seven years in the NFL.
A seven year career for a number one draft pick is, to say the least, short. And his reasoning for doing so has raised all kinds of controversy. His reason to walk away from the game is that his body had simply broken down and the cycle of pain had just gotten to be too much. (He injured his ankle in a playoff game against the Chiefs last winter.) What is not in dispute is that the NFL takes a terrible toll (plus his long career in college at Stanford.) And Luck's career has had more injuries than most.
What is in dispute is his walking away because he lost the joy in his job. It got too hard to rehab only to get injured and rehab again. In the seven years as a QB, he earned multi-millions of dollars and, Indy fans will tell you, “quit” on his team - all of whom face the same pummeling and pain as Luck every Sunday.
Jimmy Bob, Billy Joe, and Gumpy Sam along with the rest of “I played football in high school” Twitter, spent the weekend chastising Luck's decision, calling him a quitter, and weak. I would bet all of Luck's millions that if I walked up to any of these knee-jerk fans and offered them five million dollars with the only caveat was that they had to quit their job tomorrow, 100% of them would take the deal.
Professional players aren't owned by the fans. They are certainly supported by fans, they're paid thanks to fans paying for tickets and jerseys, and they are affected when fans boo or cheer. But that is not a contract for any player to do anything other than do what their contract requires.
For Luck, a decade of pain, rehab, and fame resulted in a decision to take his Stanford degree, his millions of dollars, his wife and family, and walk away to travel the world, clear his head, and hit the restart button on his life.
I'd do it. You'd do it. Even the most critical fan would do it. In a heartbeat. What you're seeing when you see the video of fans booing Luck walking off the field isn't anger and it's not misguided passion, it's jealousy. We're jealous that he has the means and the clarity to walk away from his job before it cripples him.
For those of us who sit at a desk, or run a backhoe, or clear out backed up pipes - any of us with a day to day job - would give it up to live our “best” life. That's not to say our jobs are bad or that we're even unhappy at our jobs. It simply means that when you close your eyes and make a wish for a perfect life - Andrew Luck is about to live what he sees. And to hell with whatever controversy or legacy that tarnishes. When you buy a lottery ticket, and, just for a nano-second, you think about what you'd do if you won, Luck is cashing in his ticket.
Luck owes nobody anything and I wish him the best of... well, luck.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get a good night's sleep before I go back to work in the morning. But maybe I'll stop in and buy a lottery ticket first.
(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed or track him down on Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, where you can search Rambling Morons and find his interesting videos)
SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR
Over 20 years ago when I started dating my wife, we quickly learned that we spent our 20s building up a decent amount of credit card debt. When we got engaged, we had to put some sort of plan together to erase that debt otherwise we'd be broke our whole lives. We entered into a credit counseling program that basically helped us consolidate and renegotiate our credit rates. Even back in the 90's credit card rates were in the 20%'s and we successfully froze all of our credit cards and negotiated down our interest rates on all of our credit cards except for one.
Discover Card refused to assist us in reducing our credit rate. I was personally offended and promised to never use a Discover Card or their parent company (at the time) Sears. That personal boycott has lasted to this day and outlasted Sears.
I felt a sense of pride in holding to my convictions and have often looked for other companies doing evil to steer away from. My dad famously doesn't shop at Wal-Mart. Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A are good examples of businesses many steer clear from because of their negative views on social issues. But damn is a Chick-Fil-A sandwich good.
In the social media age, not a day goes by where you're informed of a company you're supposed to boycott or stay away from. There are websites like Ethical Consumer and #GrabYourWallet that will tell you what companies donate to what political campaigns and what owners might hold specific views. Nearly every company is on the list for something. Amazon is on the list because owner Jeff Bezos has a history of alleged employee mistreatment. Name nearly any Silicon Valley company and they've got a history of something you're not to spend your money with.
Nearly every retailer, bank, corporation, or business has something you could potentially be offended by, and move your money elsewhere. I've yet to actually learn of a company to seriously face financial ruin from a social boycott. Amazon seems to be doing just fine. Wal-Mart doesn't seem to be going anywhere. But still, I've tried to keep an eye out for the grossest injustices and avoid spending money there.
Somewhere a couple of years ago, the sandwich shop Jimmy John's popped in my head as a place to steer clear of because their CEO had been photographed hunting big game in Africa. Okay, I thought to myself, I'll try to make a difference and steer clear.
Jump ahead to last Thursday during the great Cops for Kids event in downtown Platte City. Not only did I get the special treat of watching bossman Ivan Foley get dunked dozens of times by his adoring public, but there were plenty of businesses handing out free samples from the wonderful square on Main Street. One of those businesses was Jimmy John's. A very lovely woman handed me a morsel of a turkey sandwich which I gobbled right down.
Folks, I've got to be honest, I drove straight away from the event to the nearest Jimmy John's and bought a turkey sandwich. Boycott be damned. I ordered the largest sandwich on the menu. And it was eaten by the time I got home.
I wanted to be a good soldier in the social justice wars. I want to stick it to the worst of the worst. But I think I'm self-aware enough to tell you that Amazon could skin puppies in Times Square and I'll probably still buy something once a week from them. Wal-Mart could pay their employees a dollar an hour, and if I'm out of deodorant and there's only a Wal-Mart around, I'm stopping at Wal-Mart.
And I can also tell you that Jimmy John's turkey sandwich I devoured last week won't be my last. I just hope it doesn't mean some rare elephant faces its demise because of my triggered addiction to a double turkey with mayo, mustard, hold the tomato. I will, however, not be paying for it with a Discover card.
(Get more Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he cranks out the comments under the name @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on YouTube by searching Rambling Morons podcast. You’ll also find him on Facebook, Instagram, and occasionally at Jimmy John’s)
FIVE LONG YEARS
Five years ago this week, I had the most amazing, whirlwind experience of my life. For those new to my back story, back in the dark ages of the Royals franchise, I found a pen pal in a gentleman living in South Korea. A Royals “super fan” if you will. Sungwoo Lee would become a very close friend, in large part due to his decision to take a week off work in 2014 and travel to a country he's never visited to watch a baseball team that he'd only watched on television.
#SungWooToKC trended nationally as he was greeted by throngs of media and well wishers at the airport. He was king for a week. It was a perfect storm of good stories for the news and the city. And the town came together to provide Sungwoo a week and a half of experiences for only the luckiest in Kansas City. We were invited to a Chiefs game, we got a private tour of Kauffman Stadium. We were made welcome at businesses and museums and landmarks all across the area. Strangers gave us not one, not two, but three apple pies on separate occasions.
My experience changed me forever. It showed me how great my city could be and gave me hope for the future. Kansas City welcoming an outsider in a unique and quirky way just seems right for my town.
Five years ago this week, all of this happened. And I can't help but wonder if we are still that same city. We're certainly not the same country. The US has become anything but welcoming to outsiders. My sense is that Kansas City, as a whole, is in a bit of a bubble and would still welcome Sungwoo with open arms. But for how long?
The sense of charity and generosity so unique to this part of the country seems to be eroding. The other day, I saw an argument in a parking lot over a parking space where tensions were boiling over. One of the participants was white. The other was not. It's hard to say whether race had anything to do with the fight over a parking space, but it was certainly noteworthy.
Five years ago this week, the Royals launched into one of the greatest runs in sports history culminating in two American League championships, and a World Series title. Eight-hundred thousand Kansas Citians came out to Union Station to greet our conquering heroes. And even today, I wonder if that would happen again (even when the Chiefs win the Super Bowl which they are obviously going to do.) Not because of the joy we'd feel as a community, but the fear of a mass shooting in such a tight space.
We live in a society now that yells “get off my lawn” and a culture where large crowds cause anxiety even when a motorcycle backfires. We live in a society where you're either with us or against us, with no middle ground. We live in a society that is, quite simply, unfriendly.
Kansas City has, thankfully, maintained a good deal of distance from the world and national negative spotlight. But so had El Paso and Dayton. Charleston, SC had been a sleepy town until white supremacists marched through their streets.
My experience seeing the best of Kansas City five years ago gives me hope that we will never be one of those cities you see on the news. My experience five years ago changed the way I see this city. But it also seems like a dark cloud is creeping closer to my city. A cloud of anger and divisiveness and fury. I wonder in five more years what my city would say to a super fan tourist and his pen pal buddy, or if the doors will be closed entirely.
(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter, where he is widely known as @TheFakeNed. You’ll also find on YouTube as the Rambling Moron or on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook)
William of Occam was a friar in the 14th-century. He was known as a leading philosopher and theologian as well as an expert in logic and physicis. For 1320, he was pretty bright dude.
William was a pretty controversial figure in those days. He sparred with his Fransician order. He sparred with the Pope. He sparred with those who disagreed with his logic statements. The one he is most famous for has come to be know as Occam's Razor. The “razor” portion of the principle is meant to “shave away” what is complicated and unnecessary from the problem.
The original translation of this problem solving principle is “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” It is commonly quoted today as “The simplest solution is most likely the right one.”
Regardless of the translation, William of Occam was on to something when he advised people to not make problems more complicated than they needed to be. If you're wanting to cut down a tree, you don't need to dig a ditch.
I've thought a lot about William of Occam this week as hours upon hours upon hours of talking heads on the news discuss the latest shooting tragedies in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. There is obviously never one cause for a person to shoot up a Wal-Mart. Issues in their youth, issues with their job, issues with their mental health, parenting, outside influences - these all likely contributed to the senseless crime of killing people.
The talk shows took that a step further. In one morning show, the following “causes” of the mass-shooting epidemic were put forth. Violent video games. Prayer in schools. Border protection. Parenting. Mental illness. Overmedication of children. Racism. Bigotry. The Internet. And that was just through an hour of watching.
So, here we've got a complex problem, with an obviously complex solution. But we've also got a very specific issue that makes it bigger. Two men were able to murder dozens of people in minutes. So, logically, you need to look at why these events seem to happen here more so than in other countries.
Other countries have video games. They allow for separation of church and state. Mental health problems exist around the country as do parenting problems and the Internet. What makes the United States unique?
To steal a phrase, it's the guns, stupid. In Dayton, the shooter was able to mow down 30 people in under 60 seconds before being killed by police. That's one person every two seconds. In every other country that has mental illness, video games, and the Internet, they also have gun laws that take weapons of mass destruction like assault rifles off the streets. This infringes on nobody's Second Amendment rights. You can carry all the weapons of protection you feel your self-regulated militia needs. But you simply cannot have something that kills people at the rate of one person every two seconds. It is inhumane. It is wrong.
If you apply the foundation of Occam's Razor to this problem, and shave away the complex and unnecessary, the simplest answer to the problem is to remove assault weapons from the streets. There will still be plenty of problems left to solve, obviously. But there will also be more people around to help solve them.
(For more of Chris Kamler, follow him on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed or find him on Facebook and YouTube)
THE NEXT GIANT LEAP
Due to a perfect storm of surgery recovery and DVR overload, I am still wading through Apollo 11 documentaries. I simply cannot get enough of them. The thought of a national gauntlet being thrown down for an eight year challenge, funds to accomplish, and the efforts of almost half a million Americans to achieve that goal seems like ancient history.
Another fascinating aspect of this has been the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. That seminole moment was reported to have been watched by 600 million people across the globe. This was when television wasn't as pervasive as it is today, obviously. But it was one of the great “where were you when” moments in history.
Unfortunately, the majority of those “where were you when” moments have been negative since then. The Challenger disaster, 9/11, school shootings. There have been very few moments of positivity that are a stop the world event.
The lone exceptions would be Royal weddings and sporting events. The top 10 most watched events in history are all sporting events. The 2012 London Olympics holds the current record and 3.6 billion people watching the event.
There are roughly 25 sporting events all with viewer ratings over two billion. The first non sports event on the list was the funeral of Princess Diana with two billion watching.
What would be the next non-sporting event that would be a positive event to get billions of people watching? Would an announcement for a cure of cancer do the trick? Would the next moon landings (scheduled for 2024) get close? Would landing on Mars?
In a world with 500 channels, you've got to think that wall-to-wall coverage on all networks is forever gone. The last event that was simulcast on all networks was 9/11 - I remember watching ABC news while watching ESPN, for instance. MTV was carrying CNN, etc. But there are even more channels than there were then. Certainly when man walks on Mars, there will be a portion of the audience watching the Kardashians on Survivor Island.
Unfortunately, it is hard to think of the next “where were you when” moment and not immediately jump to something catastrophic. Even television shows don't have big finales anymore. Friends would be the last one I can think of that drew huge numbers, and now, you're just as likely to binge watch something on Hulu as you are to watch an actual event live.
I remain hopeful that our next earth-stopping moment, that moment when we all run to our television sets, will be a cure for poverty, or a resolution for Alzheimers, or life on Mars. In the meantime, I'll continue to scan up and down the Kardashian channel, just so I don't miss anything.
(Catch up with Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed or find him on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube)
GREATER STEP NEEDED
If you ever have major surgery on the horizon, make sure you pick your television bingeing carefully. During my recent knee surgery, I couldn’t have picked a better week to be off work than the week of the 50th anniversary of the NASA moon landing.
Hours on hours on hours of documentaries on the small step for man and the giant leap for mankind. Apollo 11 happened missed me by a couple of years, and while I’ve seen nearly all of these grainy images before, I watched nearly every one while recovering.
Fifty years. The computing power in the Lunar Lander was 256 k or one-quarter of what would be in the first IBM home computers sold a decade later. In the 80’s, Apple and Windows computers would engage in an arms race for the next 40 years. Now, you carry more computing power in your pocket than 100,000 Apollo 11 lunar landers.
Two things struck me when we think of the men and women responsible for the lunar landings 50 years ago. The first is that they had to invent literally everything for the first time. And it had to be perfect. But once invented, the technology was turned over to the public. They would eventually evolve to iPhones and computers and electronic elevators and pacemakers and even a lightbulb that you can turn from blue to green from your phone.
What will the next 50 years bring us? The cost of the Apollo missions was in the billions of dollars, but it created trillions or more of innovation and advancement of humanity. Today, it may not be able to be done by any one government, but rather an Elon Musk or a Jeff Bezos.
P.S. I’m still waiting on my flying car.
The second thing that struck me is that humanity stopped for one night on July 20, 1969 to celebrate man’s achievement of reaching the heavens. It remains the highest watch broadcast across the county. More than 9/11 coverage. More than Kennedy’s assassination. More than Season 7 of The Bachelor final rose ceremony.
What would ever beat that? Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine that when it does happen, that it would be anything as unifying as a moon landing. Man will step foot on Mars in the next 10 years, but would that be a seminole earth-stopping event? Or will it be 45 minutes of trending on Twitter so that we can get to the final rose ceremony of Season 34 of The Bachelor.
My sincere hope is that it would be the announcement of a cure for cancer or Alzheimers disease or even the common cold.
Fifty years is not a long time in humanity. Except they’re reverse dog years in the technology age - an age Apollo 11 helped user in. What documentaries will I be watching 50 years from now when I’m fitted for my robotic Bluetooth hip? In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to believe it would be an advancement of mankind like we’ve done the past 50 years.
Then again, 51 years ago, nobody thought they could land on the moon. In the meantime, I’ll keep healing my knee in hopes I will take the keys soon to my flying car.
(Follow Chris Kamler and all of his knees on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also track him down on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
Couple of topics in this week's column, then I'm off to go get a new knee. Decades of umpiring and Big Macs has rendered my existing left knee “the knee of an 80 year old” so I'm trading it in for new hardware. Hoping to get some Bluetooth installed and maybe be able to get it our own YouTube channel to make millions. Or maybe just make sure it doesn't cost me an arm and the other leg.
Hitting our deductible won't be a problem this year given my knee surgery and my son's injury last week which I wrote about. He was hit in the face with a thrown baseball while scoring the winning run in a summer league. Brett has had injuries before. He's broken his wrist and had a concussion. But there's something particularly heartbreaking about telling a kid he can't eat except through a straw for six weeks. The last six weeks of his 16th summer. On the plus side, he won't be having those cheeseburger problems that his old man had at his age. At least not until school starts up again. The second he gets those bands off of his teeth, I anticipate the sales at the burger joints in North Kansas City will go through the roof and Smoothie King sales will take a strong hit.
The thing about this injury though is that even though he had to have jaw surgery, his fearlessness is inspiring. He's already begging me to get back out on the baseball diamond. He'll help me coach the rest of the season with a heavy piece of plastic protecting his jaw. But he's going to be pulling to take the mound or step into the box. It's just the way he is. He'd have been out there the next day if not for the hydrocodone (which he took for a total of two days.)
We need more fearlessness. We need more bravery. This past week, someone at a Starbucks asked five police officers to leave (through a request to the store manager) because they made that patron feel unsafe.
There's a whole lot to deconstruct here. But I think the way it should have and would have played out if we had anything to do with it would've involved a handshake and buying someone a cup of coffee. But that's not how we do it anymore. We send a tweet. We start a video. We ask a third party to intervene. We feel unsafe. We hold a press conference.
The world has lost its bravery, it seems. Oh, we talk a good game. But when it comes down to it, action is limited and requires a livestream and a Facebook account.
The world needs to work more like teenage sports. Where you've got to back up your bluster. Where you've got to stand in and take one for the team. Where, occasionally, your jaw gets broken. Getting hurt is the only way you can learn to heal.
We all want to feel safe, but that's not the world we live in. What we need to feel is secure. And that can only be learned through handshakes and getting back in the box.
(If you have an extra knee to help our man Chris Kamler with his replacement send it to him. Or just follow him on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed)
IN AN INSTANT
In an instant, there's such a feeling of pride.
In an instant, you're going over the statistics in your head -- 3 for 4 with a double and 3 RBI. A complete game two-hitter from the hill.
In an instant, it's a great game.
In an instant, it's only a game.
In an instant, he makes the decision to steal home to end the game.
In an instant, I look down. An instant later a limp child lies on the field.
In an instant, it all changes. Pride turns to panic. Joy turns to terror.
In an instant, it all changes.
In an instant, the 9-1-1 call goes out. There's an ambulance ride. There's an IV and a call to “stay with me, don't fall asleep.”
In an instant, he comes to with bright lights in his eyes unable to move his mouth.
In an instant, family arrives in the waiting room and doctors talk about next steps.
In an instant, there is both relief and sadness. It certainly could have been worse. It certainly could have been catastrophic. But the solace is fleeting when you think of how many instants it will take to fully heal.
In an instant, there are Facebook posts and text messages and daily updates that were never to be an instant ago.
In an instant, there's anger, and outrage, and sadness, and sorrow, and all of the stages along the way hitting you like waves at a beach.
In an instant, there's all the feelings.
From the perspective of a teenager - in the prime time of his life - to lose a summer to eating through a straw and a new, sudden set of braces and surgery.
All told, a broken jaw is certainly not the worst thing to happen. True tragedies happen every day. But it's hard to account for in that instant.
An instant turns to hours, then days, then weeks. And in an instant, this summer will soon be behind us, his jaw will be healed, and he'll be back on the baseball diamond. It is these moments that make us stronger, that make us enjoy the good, and respect the bad.
In an instant, we will look back on this and laugh and remember the tears along the way..
(Do you follow Chris Kamler on Twitter? If not, do so now. He’s the notorious @TheFakeNed. Also find him on Facebook)
Do you remember what you thought the future was going to be like when you were a kid?
I was a child of the 70's and 80's, so my earliest memories were of the flying cars on The Jetsons, and of rubber faced aliens on Star Trek. Sure, there were shows including Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars set in space, but what I was really fascinated with was the technology they used in the shows.
Transporters to take you from Point A to Point B. Replicators to give you your cheeseburger in a matter of seconds. Flying cars. Lazer weapons. Jump ahead to 2019 and several of those things are now a reality. Our iPhones have more computing power than the entire Apollo space missions. And they are Swiss army knives. They can tell you how closely a bolt of lightning just hit, or direct you to the nearest adult bookstore. All in the, ahem, palm of your hand.
But in many ways, the creators of technology have lost their way. The idea that one black box can do everything, I feel, is slowing down advancement. If you can't get an iPhone to do it, or an iPhone to talk to it, forget about making it.
There's a refrigerator on the market today that will send you a photograph of the inside of the refrigerator while you're sitting on the couch thus saving you the 45 seconds of getting up, opening the refrigerator, and then sitting down again.
How is this advancing us? Making a toaster send you a push notification when your toast is about to be done instead of just waiting for the smoke alarm to go off just seems overindulgent.
Is anybody still working on that cure for cancer? Did we ever clean up that water outside of Detroit? No? Well, we got that BMW to be able to place your Starbucks order via WiFi when you get within five miles of the store. So that's something.
And we've all gotten way too needy with technology. Last week when all of the registers at Target stopped working for a few hours, you'd have thought Overland Park was going to burn to the ground. Just think of all those poor folks in Liberty who couldn't get their Bluetooth-enabled Charmin toilet paper and Wi-Fi rompers for a few hours. The humanity!
At some point the idea of less is more was thrown out the window for the mantra of more is more, and that was even trumped by way more is even more than more. Along the way, the big technology ideas of commuter bullet trains and powering the world and those flying cars went away in a chase for the dollars from getting your thermostat to call Baskin Robbins to put in an order for mint chocolate chip when the temperature rises above 78. My 3D printer is able to print off a key to a car that will never fly.
It's time for the inventors to stop making $1,000 monitor stands and start standing for human advancement.
--Sent From My iPhone Bicycle Microwave
(Get more from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed or check him out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)
Even though summer is the time for being outdoors and (maybe) enjoying it not raining every day, I do get a little bummed because my favorite television shows are over for the year. I'm not a huge fan of the hospital dramas or the cop shows. My favorites are the superhero shows like Arrow and Flash and Supergirl. I've been watching them for years and, admittedly, a part of me wishes I could put on a cape or jump into some tights and be transformed into Super Chris. Flying would certainly ease my morning commute.
But after some reflection, maybe it's time for a realistic superhero show - one that reflects the superpowers we all have. You don't think you have superpowers?
There are superpowers all around you and inside you. My mom was the first to introduce me to real superpowers. She has “mom strength” and could always be counted on to open pickle jars. My favorite of hers was the ability to wash dishes in sink water that had to be a couple of degrees below boiling. She would hand me plates to dry that were hotter than anything you'd get out of the kitchen at a Mexican restaurant, yet she grinded on day after day.
My dad also exhibits superpowers. His skill was endurance. Long after I'd get tired of helping chop wood, Dad was out there going through cord after cord. To this day, he sits on the riding lawnmower at the baseball park for hours and hours and hours of mowing.
My wife's is the power of inquisition. She would be a tremendous district attorney by day and crime fighter at night. “Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” “What was that noise?” “Do you think these jeans make my butt look big?” “Do you think our son will drop out of college in six years and move back in with us?”
She's very thorough with her questioning.
For me, I didn't think I'd ever develop a superpower. But with Father's Day coming up this weekend, I realized that nearly all fathers develop certain superpowers and I finally found mine.
Mine is hard to categorize. It's a sense of timing. I could be sitting and watching a television program then my Spidey-senses start to tingle. There's a light on in the upstairs bathroom that must be turned off.
I could be sitting in my office pretending to write my weekly column when my inner voice reminds me that it's time for a snack or it's time to check Twitter... again.
Once you find your first superpower, you find more. I am the finder of socks left on the ground. I can hear when the upstairs toilet is left running. And I seem to be the only person in my household who knows the secret of changing the toilet paper roll or replacing a burnt out light bulb.
There are superheroes all around us. On this Father's Day weekend, spend a few minutes recognizing those who have superpowers in your life - and learn to change the toilet paper roll and turn off the bedroom light.
(See some of Chris Kamler’s super powers on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You’ll also find him on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram)
LIBERTY'S SECRET BACK DOOR
Occasionally, you'll hear a whisper of it. Maybe you're in line at the grocery store and someone slips up. Possibly, you see a quickly deleted social media posting referencing it. It is more secretive than the Illuminati and more complicated than getting into Harvard without bribing someone.
Today, for the first time in print, the lid will be removed and the truth exposed. I am speaking, of course, about the “secret” backdoor road that will allow you to get from the west side of Liberty to the east side of Liberty in under 45 minutes.
“Oh no, that doesn't exist,” the locals will cry out. Then they'll grin slyly as they return to their SUV's packed with unmelted ice cream bars they purchased from the grocery store on the east side of Liberty.
It exists. I know it does. And it's about to become the worst kept secret in the Northland now that construction has ramped up on the Hwy. 152 bridge over I-35.
So last Saturday, I set out to find this flyover secret passageway. It was rumored to be on Flintlock street, but Google Maps and Siri can't tell you the exact location. It was rumored to be a way to go east but you must first go south. It is rumored to have no stop lights, and a modest speed limit but was in a residential neighborhood.
My journey took me south and then east, but I encountered a roundabout at some point which pointed me back north and west and then maybe south again.
Admittedly, I got turned around. I think I found Flintlock. I think I found all seven streets named “Liberty”, which seems really redundant and passed not one, not two, but three Home Depots. It could also have just been the same one. Like I said, I got turned around.
Whoever designed the retail orgy at Highway 152 and I-35 clearly also designed the Flintlock Flyover. It is poorly labeled and really doesn't flyover anything. It's more like calling 435 the Northland Flyover when you want to get to the airport from Olathe. You're still going to be in your car for a while.
Friends, I'm here to tell you that I have traveled the secret passageway the locals in Liberty whisper about. I'm here to explain that these Clay Countians are full of bull and proud of what we westerners call a “side street.”
There is only one true way to flyover the mayhem and gridlock of Liberty. There's only one escape of the Home Depot/Target/Lowes/Best Buy/Wal-Mart/15 Verizon store grotesqueness. There is only one way to avoid what Liberty, Missouri has become and it's never been a secret.
The answer? Move to Platte County. The only flyover we've got is the airport.
(Never fly over Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Find him on Snapchat , Instagram, YouTube and occasionally on Landmark Live)
Nostalgia is understandable. I get it. Over time, the past softens. The hard edges melt under the passage of years. Your first fight at school becomes a story you tell at a party. Your first traffic ticket suddenly becomes something you look back on and laugh. But that doesn’t mean you want to go out and get in a fight today or speed through Parkville (which, let’s be honest, is like 1 mile over the speed limit.)
So why does Madison Avenue and Hollywood keep pushing our pasts on us? We get it. All the new stories are gone. Movies are recycled more frequently than a water bottle on Earth Day. Jurassic Park has had like four sequels. The animated film Aladdin was remade. In live action. With Will Smith as the genie. Why? Did the world need this? Did the world need the Fresh Prince to sing and dance in blue makeup?
Of course not. But even watered down success still has a hint of success - so expect Aladdin II to be out in theaters in a couple of years.
Heck, even failures come back. The television show Stranger Things is set in the 1980’s and has spawned a number of comebacks with Millennials. But the pinnacle might be the stampede that has occurred for... wait for it... New Coke after being featured on the show.
Not Diet Coke or even Coke Zero. I’m talking “New” Coke. The one that was the greatest failure in marketing history. Where Madison Avenue took something at the top of its game and blew it up for sport. Like taking Eric Hosmer and replacing him with Chris Owings. THAT is bad.
But we live in an age where you can sell something... anything... if you have the right marketing. A man sent rich kids to the middle of the ocean thinking there was a concert. People continue to sink money into Bitcoin - a currency you can’t touch or feel. Why wouldn’t New Coke make a triumphant return?
Coca-Cola has been in a weird space the last few years anyway. They already had Diet Coke, but then made Coke Zero. People liked Coke Zero better, so they started pushing Diet Coke Cherry and Diet Coke Lime. Then they started just flavoring sodas randomly. Tell me Coke Orange Vanilla isn’t a cry for help by someone.
But marketing wins the day. As long as you can make a dollar, you can make a million dollars if people think they need something. And if you can sell New Coke again, you can do anything.
Turntables. Check. Air Jordans. Check. Big hair. Check. Cindi Lauper. Well, she sells eczema medicine now, but check.
Dust off that box in the basement, you might be able to bring back that Spuds McKenzie poster or that Atari game and make a mint. All while sipping on a New Coke Vanilla Cherry - because marketing told you to.
(Sip on some nostalgia with Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Chase him down on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, as well as doing occasional drop-ins on The Landmark’s video podcast known as Landmark Live)
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Just this week, my wife and I have left work early three times for 4:00 baseball games. I attended a school meeting one night, and have been working through the weekend on some awards for his baseball end of season banquet.
That’s just this week. This is in addition to my full time job, plus mowing the lawn, and the assorted other duties you get as a homeowner. No. Don’t shed any tears for me. This was a light week.
However, as I laid in bed pondering the seven things I needed to do the next day, my mind began to melt when I thought of my parents and all that we put them through when we were in high school.
My parents had five children. Four of us were in high school through a six year time span. From 1986 to 1993, there was at least one Kamler roaming the halls of the high school. During the day must’ve been fine for my parents. At least they knew we were all inside the same building.
It’s when the clock struck 3:00 that terror should’ve washed over their faces. Three o’clock was the time for... activities. My parents didn’t raise bumps on a log either. There were sports and bands and orchestras and plays and tryouts for things and contests.
Just from a sheer numbers perspective, any army general would’ve known they were outgunned. There were four of us and two of them. One would be at baseball practice, one would be at band, one would need to head off to wrestling, then one would have a softball game. How? How did they do it?
I just mowed my lawn and went and watched my son’s baseball game. Sitting down. And I’m ready for a vacation.
Maybe it was easier for them? Maybe there were fewer distractions with less television or internet or something? Maybe it was just simpler because there were no cell phones. So if Bobby didn’t get picked up for a couple hours, just sitting on the front stoop of the high school without a care in the world, he’d be none the wiser? There were no angry texts. “Whn R U piking me up <frownie emoji>” Maybe there was less peer pressure to participate?
Maybe they’re just extraordinary human beings. Maybe they saw the value their kids got from these activities and put aside their personal lives for years while they played taxi and attendee and supporter of their childrens’ lives.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s why I turned out the way I did.
On the other hand, maybe that’s why I’m so dang tired after doing 1/10th of what they did. Because they didn’t make me walk to and from school both ways, or something.
With Mother’s Day being last weekend and Father’s Day coming up around the corner, if you, like me, were ferried to and from multiple activities without a thought of what your parents were giving up to do it, give them a call this weekend and tell them thank you.
Or take a nap in their honor.
(Get tired by following Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also try to keep up with him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
Having just completed watching Avengers: Endgame and the Battle of Winterfell on Game of Thrones in the span of about six hours, my brain is in a frenzied state currently. The best you'll get out of me this week are short sentences while I look behind me to make sure nobody is sneaking up behind me with Valerian steel.
•Outrage of the Week is on the Kansas City Chiefs for not releasing Tyreek Hill after an audio tape appeared to corroborate the alleged abuse of his young son. As someone who works in a bureaucratic paperwork dome, trust me on this one. Let the paperwork process proceed and express outage to me only if he's still on the team at training camp. Trust me. He's dead to the Kansas City Chiefs.
•It does set a pretty troubling pattern that the Chiefs or NFL will only get tough on someone after a video tape or audio comes out of an incident. Happened with Kareem Hunt and now Hill as it's happened with numerous other NFL players. The upside on this coin is that the audio and video are everywhere so the bad guys or girls have to change their behavior.
•Jumping off of my column last week about how much money was raised for the Notre Dame church, a point of clarification. This is not an indictment on “the Church” per se. It's an indictment on what drives people to action. Avengers: Endgame raised nearly the same amount of money in about the same amount of time. $1.2 Billion in its first four days of release. I ponied up the $15 to go see it in 3-D, even. Could I have sent that $15 to a charity? Yeah, I probably should have. Did I? Nope. I ate too much popcorn and watched a CGI raccoon run across the screen. Could Disney, which owns the franchise, have said half the money made will go to solve world hunger? Sure. But did they? Nope.
If there's a common thread between these two stories, it is this - people will not change their behavior unless money comes into play. For the positive, it's the discussion of charity and what forces a charitable donation. Maybe people realize they were sitting on cash troves and are a little more charitable from now on.
On the downside, the companies and institutions like the NFL or Disney likely won't change their behaviors until the public tells them. Not via social media or a strongly worded letter, but with their dollars. If the NFL truly loses money every time they sign or draft a domestic abuser. Or if the movie studios are never challenged to do better with the billions in profits that go to the bottom line, or any multitude of other examples, then things will never change. It is truly a status quo that pushes the rich richer and the have-nots notter.
So, do I put my money where my mouth is on this? Truthfully, I probably will see Endgame a second time. And I'll probably buy Chiefs tickets this year. But one of these days, maybe that will get better - and it won't take a Thanos finger snap to get there.
(Get more thoughts from The Landmark’s Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Or check him out on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”
--Fictitious Sean Parker, The Social Network
How long would it take for you to make a billion dollars? Even the idea is comical - at least to me. I’ve been working in Information Technology for nearly 20 years and I’m just now making a salary that isn’t terrible. It’s not great, mind you, but I’m not living paycheck to paycheck.
The idea of a billion dollars is mind-boggling to me. Deficits in the trillions is even harder to understand.
But like the entire world, we watched the Notre Dame cathedral burn last week, then within days, the rebuilding efforts had raised nearly two billion Francs. The outpouring of support was incredible and awe-inspiring. How generous for billionaires like the owner of L’Oreal, and the husband magnate of Salma Hayek, Francois-Henri Pinault both were leaders in pledging hundreds of millions to the effort.
Charity is a strange beast. There was an episode of Friends where the idea of charity came up - are you charitable to help the charity or to make yourself feel better, or to make others feel good about you? It’s a multi-faceted observation. And ultimately, if you’re in a position to do good for others by donating money, that’s great.
The striking issue here is that so much was donated out of thin air, and the recipient was to rebuild a building. An incredibly historic building, we’ll all grant that, but two billion in a week to rebuild a building?? Y’all just sitting on your wallet waiting for an 800 year old church to burn?
To me, it seemed just a tad disproportionate. It hasn’t been lost on a number of French citizens either who have launched yellow-jacket protests by pointing out humanitarian crises in parts of the country not named France or the United States.
There’s currently a humanitarian crisis in Yemen affecting 10 million people. The United Nations is asking for $4 billion, but has so far only raised half that. It’s all Monopoly money to me. And I’d like to think that if I woke up with a billion dollars tomorrow, that I’d have a plan to help the world around me - both religious, humanitarian, and family. Maybe I’d even write a big check to fill some potholes.
Ultimately, it’s not me with the billion, it’s rich people who are very good at being rich and staying rich. It’s their decision on what to spend their money on and there’s very little we can say about it.
But just in case any of you win the lottery tomorrow and find yourself with some coin to drop, maybe give me a call if you need help prioritizing where to send it. I’m not sure the Notre Dame would be in the top 10 list.
(Always available for advice of all types, The Landmark’s Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Or try to catch him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
AND MANY MORE
Today marks my wife and my’s 20th wedding anniversary. April 17, 1999. I have never been one of those husbands who forget their anniversary, mainly because we chuckle that every year since 1999, April 17 is warmer than our wedding day.
Our wedding was held at Macken Park in North Kansas City. Outdoors. The day was raw, cold and drizzling. We had a four-piece brass ensemble and about a hundred huddled guests. Every year since? Sunny. Sixties or warmer.
It’s customary, I’ve heard, to ask the happy couple what their “secret” is to stay together so long. I haven’t yet come up with an answer. Our marriage is not flashy or overly passionate. It’s not filled with trips to exotic places or fancy jewelry.
We ended up getting ourselves new desks for our separate offices for our anniversary rather than a trip to Hawaii or England. Sometimes having time apart is one of those keys.
But I guess I’d say this to anyone looking to have a 20+ year marriage...
Picture every morning without your partner. Picture every evening coming home and not having someone to talk to about your day. If you can picture that, then he or she probably isn’t the one.
For me, I simply can’t imagine a day going by without talking to my best friend about my day. Yes, after the first few years, it’s really just a rundown of making sure this gets picked up, or you run by the store for that other thing. But I can’t see my life without it.
Back in the day it was a voicemail. Today it’s text messages. Tomorrow it might be mind mails or something. But it is that basic togetherness that’s hard to describe but impossible for me to be without. Kara is, simply, the one.
It’s easy to have a husband or wife during the good times. But you want to make sure that’s the same person you want by your side during the bad times. Especially when you do dumb stuff. That’s the one you want.
When I asked Kara what her “secret” to a 20 year marriage is she said “humor” and “the leeway to leave each other alone.” Which, I assume, is code for “you can go watch your Star Trek movies, honey.”
There are couples who have done it better and there will be couples who are worse. Truth is, there’s no formula and there’s no code to crack. If she makes you laugh, keep her around. It’s that simple. Even if she snores.
So happy anniversary, Kara. Here’s to 20 more.
(Catch a less romantic Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is @TheFakeNed. If you’re not a Twitter person, you can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
MAYBE THE MAYOR
Listen, nobody is going to mistake me for a rocket scientist. Let's get that out of the way at the top. But last Tuesday, I sure as hell thought I was driving to my polling place to pick our next mayor. I had researched the top candidates and chosen two that I really liked. Then I was going to enter the ballot box and pick my new mayor.
The only thing is that I got home later and, for the first time, found out that I wasn't picking a mayor, I was picking a mayoral candidate. The actual election isn't until June 18. I had no idea. As tuned into social media as I am, and for as many postcards I got promising all the pot holes would be fixed, I probably should have known. But I didn't.
So we get three more months of postcards and ads and advertisements to pick from two candidates, Quinton Lucas and Jolie Justus. And I am left, frankly, a little bit miffed.
I think that Kansas City's mayor is, largely, not a very powerful job. All of the power in the city lies with the city council. However, as goes the mayor in this town, so goes the spirit of the town. Mayors Berkley and James were my favorites and able to take the city through challenging times. Mayor Funkhouser, to me, was kind of a dud and, so, I feel that the city struggled during those times.
In actuality, very little change was made or lost during those terms, but KC's mayor does have the advantage of a big microphone and a central spot in the Midwest to use it. While Mayor James' term largely hit at a time when Power & Light was up and running, the Sprint Center, the All-Star Game and the World Series happened, I'd like my next mayor (the one I thought I was voting for last week) to work on more infrastructure issues like roads, crime and the airport.
I look for good communicators in my leaders and, honestly, I would've loved to have one of these future leaders to tell me when the actual election is.
I know voters get a bad rap about their indifference in elections. Not even half of the population votes regularly, and it really does become a popularity contest when folks can just say anything they want and get elected. But let's cut the voting populous a break, here. Make voting less complicated. Multiple elections for mayor. The primary system in the presidential election. The electoral college.
Surely there's a better way for the majority of people to say, “yeah, that's the person I'd like to be my next dog catcher.” Instead, I have to vote for dog catcher on Tuesday, then pick my Senator the next Tuesday, and vote in the county auditor runoff race the Tuesday after.
Pick a day. One day a year. Give everyone the day off. Make candidates provide three sentence answers on five core issues with links to actual project plans for whatever they're running for, and let's pick everyone at once.
As it is, I'm stuck here waiting until the final, final mayoral vote in June, then the national election in November, and maybe pick a judge or two in the interim.
It's complicated and I don't have time for complicated. Besides, there are too many pot holes between my house and my polling place. If only I could elect someone to take care of those for me.
(Get more about potholes and elections and whatever from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
Do you remember the commercial when you were younger where the man and woman were both walking down the street heading toward each other? The man was eating a candy bar and the woman was, for some reason, carrying an open tub of peanut butter?
The couple collided and his chocolate bar dropped into the peanut butter. This, we were led to believe, was the conception of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. “Two great tastes that go great together,” the tag line announcer read.
Jump ahead 30 years to the present day, when the fight for attention spans is short and peoples’ brand loyalty is all over the place. One day, you might have a Coca-Cola, then a 7-Up, then a Starbucks all in the same day. You might stop by Hy-Vee for a salad at lunch, then swing by Price Chopper to pick up some frozen peas on the way home.
Frankly, I don’t pay a ton of attention to marketing and just kind of get what I get most times. That was until I started seeing the same photo of a pizza show up on my Twitter timeline. Most often, the words surrounding it were “wow” and “incredible” and “amazing.”
So, naturally, a big fan of pizza that I am, I clicked into one of the Tweets to see that two local brands, Minsky’s and Joe’s KC BBQ combined to make a burnt ends pizza. This, my friends, was a show stopper. And this past weekend, I am here to tell you that it’s just as incredible as it sounds and looks and smells.
It looked from the parking lot at Minsky’s that I wasn’t the only one who had heard of this and rushed to get the pie. The geniuses behind this can take a bow. I cannot think of two local brands that could partner so easily.
Maybe Boulevard Beer could partner with the KC Water Department to make their version of Bud Light.
Maybe the Royals could partner with Sporting KC to make some sort of new sport - SOCCER-BASE.
Maybe QuikTrip could... nevermind. QuikTrip is perfect in every way.
Since my life changed last weekend after eating this pizza, I’m on the lookout for the next brilliant idea. I’m smushing an In-A-Tub taco with a Smoothie King. I’m looking for one of the boutique shops in Platte City to partner and sell soccer balls from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Come on, people. This genius pizza can’t be the only unicorn we’ll ever see. Put your thinking caps on!
In the meantime, I’m going to start working with Ivan on the Platte County Landmark Dog Park. I’ve saved every one of my columns for the dogs to... um, use. I’ll wait for my check in the mail.
(Get more from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. Follow along with Chris Kamler on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
Happy Opening Day, Kansas City. Opening Day means that you've survived another winter; you've survived another football and college basketball season; and, this year, you've survived another Platte County flood.
Listen, I respect you too much to bury the lede here - the Royals are not going to be a good baseball team this year. But I'm also here to argue that you really don't care, and neither do I.
I could tell you all about Dayton Moore's “Process 2.0” and how he wants to re-revolutionize the game with speed and pitching, much like he did in the late 2000's with the core that won back to back AL titles in 2014/2015.
I could tell you that Ned Yost is so invested in this process, that he's sticking around for a tenth season of managing when, really, he doesn't need to - and frankly, probably shouldn't.
I could talk to you about all of the new foods and “signature” drinks at Kauffman Stadium this year. (Signature, simply meaning that it's more expensive.) Or talk to you about how a less successful team means lower ticket prices and more opportunities to see your Boys in Blue.
But I won't. This is going to be a season to just go out and enjoy baseball. We are incredibly lucky to have a Major League team here and whether the stadium is in Independence, or downtown, we're lucky we don't have to drive to Oklahoma City to see Frank Schwindel and the Royals.
The grass will never be more green. The hot dogs will never smell the same. The crack of the bat will never sound more sweet than at Kauffman Stadium. Whether it's Eric Hosmer, George Brett, or Cam Gallagher patrolling the field, baseball is summer and baseball is sacred.
Oh, sure, you might need to buy a program because names like Hosmer and Moustakas and even Salvy won't be in the lineup. (Salvy is out this year due to Tommy John surgery.) You'll want to know the names Jakob Junis, and Hunter Dozier, and Brad Boxberger - who sounds like a 1990's FBI drama. You'll faintly remember about Alex Gordon and Danny Duffy , and Whit Merrifield - but that's about the extent of it.
Frankly, what happens on the field will be secondary to sitting and tuning out politics, and social media, and also politics for three or four hours under the Kansas City sun. As the line in Field of Dreams goes, “it will be as if you've dipped yourself in magic waters.”
Give this a try this summer - leave your phone in the car, buy a scorecard, and TALK to the people you brought to the game. I'm going to give it a try this year and I encourage you to also.
Baseball is the great game not because the players are great, but because it allows you to enjoy it in a great way. Every summer. Nearly every day for six months.
Win or lose. Frank White or Kyle Zimmer. They're here.
(Catch more of our baseball aficionado Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is the designated hitter known as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram)
BITS AND PIECES
As we rapidly approach my 350th column for this wonderful weekly newspaper, we've covered politics, and family, and silliness. If there's been one constant theme, however, through these articles, it's been my affection and fondness for QuikTrip.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the new Platte City QuikTrip and it was like walking into the future. The space. The kitchen. The cleanliness. The roller food. A+ to all involved. (It would've been A++, but it's still in that weird little triangle spot that makes it complicated to get in and get out.)
This new QT comes on the heels of another place that I get unhealthy food coming to an end. Last week was also the last for Kelso's Pizza in North Kansas City.
I've never had a real “true bar” to go to. But Kelso's was as close as it got. The bartenders knew my name and knew that I was usually picking up a pizza to go and that I'd have a beer while I waited. The buffalo heaters were the stuff of legend. Sadly, after 50 years in operation at Northtown and other locations (I remember going to the one in Metro North) they closed operation fairly suddenly.
Kelsos was never known for its swift service and the restaurants in Northtown have always been better at location than swift food delivery, but Kelso's was a great place to watch a Royals game and have a slice. Rest in peace, Kelsos.
And while we're paying homage to North Kansas City, let's not be remiss about giving credit to the Northtown Girls Basketball Team who won the 5A State Tournament last week by defeating Jefferson City 34-25. Platte and Clay counties are certainly no strangers to state titles. You've got North Platte and Platte County's history in football and baseball. You've got Park Hill and PH South's history in basketball, and then there's that one school north of 96th street that is called Staley.
But for Northtown, founded in the early 1900's, this would be the first ever team sport state title - in anything. Likely the reason they didn't win a state title in baseball in the late 1980's was due to me being cut from the freshman baseball team, but let's not take away from the achievement by Chandler Prater, Lajayda Boyland, Coach Jeff Lacy and the rest of the squad on their achievement.
Finally, you can count one more taxpayer to the federal tax rolls -- or at least tax filer. Luckily, I've got the great John Hiner to handle my massive wealth, but this past week, I walked my 16 year old through filing his first tax form. “Why do we have to do this every year?” he asked.
I didn't have the answer. Truth is, there's no real good answer. Maybe Hiner will have one. Best I could come up with is that it's to fund the repair of potholes. Probably. Maybe. He is getting $27 back from the government which I was going to have him buy us some Kelsos pizza. But I guess we can't have nice things - so he'll probably just spend it on a tank of gas at QuikTrip.
(Keep up with Chris Kamler and his massive wealth on Twitter where you’ll find him masquerading as @TheFakeNed. You’ll also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
CYA ACCORDING TO WEATHERPEOPLE
There used to be a Twitter account called @NFLDraftPicks100 that seemed to have an uncanny ability to guess who a football team was going to draft weeks in advance. They knew the Chiefs would not only pick Patrick Mahomes, but also some 5th round kid out of Murray State.
In and of itself, this isn’t a particularly rewarding skill, unless you could monetize the site and help bettors in Vegas place cheap bets before the odds changed on a team.
So the gamblers came to the owner of this site and immediately found his secret. The owner of the Twitter account would spray 10 or 20 different picks out around three weeks ahead of the draft. The Chiefs select Mitch Trubisky. The Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs select Deshawn Watson. And then on draft day, he would delete the two wrong tweets, leaving a three week old tweet “predicting” the true event.
For some reason, I recalled this guy’s genius over the past week while watching the weather. Long gone are the days of “Dan Henry said it would be like this.” And here are the days where Saturday’s weather has nine different forecasts depending on what day and hour of the report.
Let’s consider this, the only magic trick weather forecasters can do is tell you it’s going to snow in a week. This, admittedly, is their only skill. Being able to give me a week head start to know that snow will fall from the sky. From there, it’s gambling.
First off, there are five weather people that work for TV stations now. So you automatically have five times the number of forecasts. Joe Lauria could say on Monday he thinks it’s going to snow six inches, and Gary Lezak could say he thinks it’s going to snow three. Boom. You’ve already dotted two boxes on your weather BINGO card. Then they use the ranges for snow. It’s not six inches it’s 4-7 inches. It’s not one inch it’s “a trace to three inches.” That’s an old roulette trick called covering the field.
The newest smoke-and-mirror trick they’ve come up with is giving you the data straight off the four global forecast services. On Tuesday, I watched one of the stations put up four totally different forecasts about how much it was going to snow Sunday and they literally ranged from one inch to 10 inches. You know what? That “forecast” happened to be right because I got about an inch and a half of snow at my house for two hours early in the morning of Sunday that was completely melted by noon. But Super Doppler Weather Forecaster Person can say he or she was “right on the money” and take a bow.
So here, for the readers of The Landmark, I will submit my Rambling Morons 2019 Spring Forecast that you can take to the bank.
According to the window in my office, temperatures will hit 60 degrees for the first time between today and June 30. This is a guarantee! According to multiple data sources, that temperature on March 28 for the Royals Home Opener will be between 0 and 82 degrees with a possibility for rain or snow or wind or sunshine.
There you go, readers! Another stone cold lock forecast!
(Get stone cold lock weather forecasts and other pearls of wisdom from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube)
This column is going to be like the weather... All over the place.
Even though Mother Nature doesn't seem to be cooperating, every year you can feel the stir. I have mentioned here before that I am fairly sure I suffer from seasonal depression disorder. It's not severe, but it's certainly something I struggle with every winter.
It's partially caused by a lack of Vitamin D, and also holiday eating, lack of activity, and just hating winter. The funny thing is that every week when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, my malaise starts to dissipate.
It's not even because I get overly excited about Spring Training. Sure, I'm one of the biggest baseball fans that I know, but Spring Training is just a bunch of guys practicing baseball. I think it's got something to do with the days getting longer and that being the first sign of Spring for me. This year has been harder than most for whatever reason - I don't know why. But sure enough, last week, you see on SportsCenter the first pop of the mitts and I start feeling like working out again and eating better. Go figure. Welcome back, Spring.
The timing couldn't have been better because I found myself struggling last week while typing in my home office. You see, my keyboard tilted from left to right like a see saw. This is not the standard behavior. But neither is my desk a standard desk. It's a folding table. Very fancy.
Of course, I had a desk at one point in time. But that disappeared when my son decided his video game room needed a makeover. He was kind enough to leave me with that folding table, but it folded in the middle - thus the hump.
Having had enough after a particularly frustrating day of typing and balancing, I went to the furniture store to find one. Now here's where I see my error. I brought my wife. She decided that her scrapbooking room needed a new desk as well.
Then she decided she needed a new chair. Then I realized that I needed a new chair. Then she said her scrapbooking room needed a new coat of paint and a new light along with some curtains.
So this past week and a half, I've been assembling desks, painting, and installing fans and wiring and whatnot.
All because of a hump in a desk. Vitamin D, don't fail me now.
(When he’s not getting a hump out of a desk you can catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Find him on Facebook, Snapchat or near a baseball diamond)
ANOTHER CHIP IN THE WALL
It is with great thanks that this message reaches you at such a desperate hour. You don't know how relieved I was to hear that you and your family are safe. With the stories that we've heard, we're taking nothing for granted. Since the news was pronounced, we've been sheltered in the basement with only a spotty 4G signal keeping us informed of the news of the world.
The news has been dire, obviously. We've heard about the bands of hooligans and illegals and drug mules streaming across the border of Kansas into the northern counties of Platte and Clay. They carry with them plates on their carriages that even announce for all the world to see that they hail from the County of Johnson or the Dotte. As if we couldn't tell by the way they aren't using their turn signals and driving across the center lines.
From our basement, we can hear rumors of our pantries being overrun by these ne’er-do-weller'. On a recent supply run, the Costco was reportedly nearly out of Pita Chips and the frozen ice cream machine is on the fritz.
These problems didn't exist before “those” people came our way bringing with them their Advil habit and their love of Lawrence. They speak in lies and falsehoods. Even their mascot is fake.
It is with solemn despair that I write this letter to you, our fearless leader, that something must be done.
We must build a wall along the Kaw and along the Missouri, and even down the heart of Brookside. A great wall. A magnificent, clear, transparent, yet impossible to traverse wall. Missourians have been wanting this for decades, but enough is enough. Obviously, with the major rash of crimes in recent weeks, an executive emergency must be called to take funds away from filling potholes and salting streets. Or better yet - make Kansas pay for it. I'm sure Iowa and Oklahoma would pitch in as well. We must focus on what is most important - building the wall to keep Kansans out.
Now I know what you're thinking, and the facts clearly show the damage Kansas does to Missouri. Just look at where severe weather comes from. Kansas. Look at what people have to go through in order to drive to Denver. They have to go through Kansas. Just look at how ugly Olathe is. Now is the time.
Please. Remember us who are barricaded in our cellars. We, the Missourians who voted you into office, and those who remember to yell “ZOU” whenever someone yells “MIZ.”
It is time. Enough is enough. Build the wall.
(Build a wall with our man Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he masquerades as @TheFakeNed. Find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
A BALLPLAYER FAILS
Over the past nine months, I've had the honor of knowing a Major League baseball player. A pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. The story behind our encounter turned out to be cosmically timed.
My son played freshman baseball for North Kansas City High School last year. I helped the team set up a website and as such was doing some research on the history of the baseball program. The school dates back to the mid 1910's, but their baseball program only began in the early 1940's. I knew that Northtown had won district titles in the 1960's and that my brother played on some good teams in the early 1990's, but really had no idea what the history was. I stumbled across a website that listed two graduates of North Kansas City had made it to the Major Leagues. The first name I recognized immediately - Bill Kelso. Anyone who's ever been to North Kansas City has likely stopped into Kelso's pizza bar for a slice or a beer. He played for the Angels in the 1960's and while he has passed away, his Angels jersey hangs over the bar.
The second name was familiar, but for a different reason. Joe Presko Sr. Most Northlanders are likely familiar with the name Presko but only as a construction company or a real estate agent. The article stated he was born in 1928 but there was no date of death. Odd. I checked another baseball resource. It stated he was 89 years old. I set out on a search to find Mr. Presko. Turns out I didn't need to look far.
In the same home he'd lived most of his adult life, Joe Presko Sr. enjoyed opening the mail every day where baseball fans would send him his baseball cards in which he would then sign and return. He always had a supply of chocolate baseballs and Tootsie Rolls on the kitchen table where he and his high school sweetheart Kathleen had been married for over 70 years and entertained their children and grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Searching through the yearbooks from the mid-1940's the baseball team's season was never over early enough to be included in the annual, which meant there was very little school history known about Joe Presko, Sr. Luckily, I met a niece who loaned me binders and binders of news clippings and box scores of his days in the big leagues. What was missing, however, was any relationship with the high school after he graduated in 1946.
That would change in October, when he was inducted at the age of 90 into the North Kansas City High School Hall of Fame. I had the honor of reading his introduction in front of hundreds of students who gave him an extended standing ovation. He was presented with a Hornets baseball hat. The first Hornets hat he wore in over 70 years.
It was only months after the research began and, it turns out, it was right in the nick of time. Mr. Presko was laid to rest on Saturday. At his funeral, hundreds turned out. He was an American Legion coach to hundreds of kids including David Cone as well as the patriarch of a Northland dynasty.
But at his core, he was a ballplayer. A scrappy pitcher often nicknamed “Little Joe” because of his diminutive stature and his feisty curveball. And when he was laid to rest, on the table next to his coffin laid two baseball hats - one from the St. Louis Cardinals, and one from the North Kansas City Hornets. The one he received just in the nick of time.
(Catch The Landmark’s Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)
Thanks for joining the rest of us. Please, come in. Barack brought some calorie free cheese dip in the back, and Peyton brought the veggie tray. Everyone here has contributed something to the party. The McConnells brought some Swedish meatballs, even and John Legend is going to sing here in a little bit. Yes. Just make yourselves at home.
As you know, we get together like this every month to celebrate our perfection. There aren't that many of us around, and we have to make sure we recognize those who truly belong in our club.
We also spend this time every meeting casting aspersions on those who didn't quite make it. As you can see from the program we've handed you, the list is pretty long of those who we will roast tonight. You see, we feel especially entitled to explain who isn't perfect because, well, frankly, we are perfect. In every way.
Our glass houses don't even have so much as a Windex smudge on them. So coming up first is where we start throwing our rocks. Let's look at the world of sports and already it's been a busy year. You know who isn't invited to our party? The referees who worked the New Orleans Saints NFC Championship game. You know, those guys who didn't call pass interference? Sorry, fellas, your party invite has been lost in the mail.
Dee Ford also isn't on the invite list because of... you know... We lined your invitation up in the neutral zone.
Celebrating our perfection is a right that we hold very seriously so that's why we've decided to uninvite Elon Musk because he's starting to creep us out. Our other decision was to uninvite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - the young Congresswoman - from our parties because she made that music video when she was in college. The nerve.
In fact, we've decided to launch a new investigation into the old yearbooks of just about everyone who is currently a member of the perfection club. It's turned up some really interesting stuff so far. You may still get to be a Governor or a Supreme Court Justice - but you can't be in our Perfection Club.
We get it. Perfection isn't easy. And that's why there aren't that many of us left at the party. We have limited our membership to the Republican party, YouTube commenters, and everyone with a Twitter account. We are the only ones allowed to comment on those who aren't as perfect as us.
Just remember to make the rest of our meetings because we still have some membership decisions to make. The New England Patriot fan base has been asking for entry for a while, and it's getting harder to tell them no. I mean... just look at them and all their success. Derek Jeter certainly has been a strong proponent for their entry.
Now, if you'll excuse me, Kevin Kietzman and Joe Buck are fighting over the crab dip. This happens every month. Enjoy the perfect party.
(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
For earlier columns, click here